THE COUP, Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Food style: Farm To Table
Veg Scale: all vegetarian, very vegan friendly, GF labels
Part of town: 17th Avenue AKA “The Red Mile”
My mission on this, my second trip to the Beef Capital of Southern Alberta: find a deliciously ironic veggie restaurant at which to expose Chris’ family to the delights of true vegan cuisine. The Coup & Meet Restaurant and Lounge delivered just that and Chris’ mom even said she would come back for another meal with her boyfriend! Beyond their incredible menu, their forward-thinking, sustainably green mindset blows me away.
The Coup sticks close to the heart of its surroundings, basing its menu on the seasonal output of the local, organic farm that supplies the ingredients for it’s satisfying offerings. Most impressive to me is that they are able to run a farm in this varied climate year-round that sustains the restaurant through all the seasons including the harsh winters.
Situated in a young, trendy part of town, it’s not wanting for clientele, but we were able to walk right in on a Monday afternoon and grab a table on their cozy front patio in order to enjoy some people watching with our meals.
The ambiance is modern with a comfortable, indie vibe. Tattooed, dreadlocked hipsters sit next to manicured young businesswomen lunching with friends and colleagues. Locally brewed kombucha from Happy Belly is on tap and the daily smoothie is a secret that will be disclosed as you arrive at your table. Placed in front of you will be a seasonal menu complete with an assortment of both classic and specialty cocktails inspired by local produce. It was a breezy day and I was craving a warm drink, so I ordered a mug of the Hot Ginger Pear Cider. Warm and comforting, the tart tang of the ginger was perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the pears and the impossibly thin slice of sugared ginger rimming the glass was an excellent chaser. (pic below)
The three of us ordered the Eggplant Sleeping Bags (GF) to start, mostly because the name was so adorable. I always wonder if the kitchen knows how many people are at the table when this happens, but exactly three pieces arrived arranged neatly on a colorful plate. (pic below)
Delicately thin slices of chargrilled and chilled eggplant wrapped around a savory tapenade of fresh herbs and spicy cashew pesto nearly explode over your tongue on the first bite. Their tiny size belies their massive flavor, the seasonings bringing to mind the rolling hills and robust scents of northern Italy. Somewhat saddened to only have a small taste, my gluttonous tendencies were quickly assuaged as my main entrée arrived.
My next course was The Sacred Lotus (GF), deceivingly listed under the salad portion of the menu. I’m always more comfortable ordering a salad at a vegan restaurant because I find they are much more balanced and fulfilling than at most non-vegan restaurants. After all, we’re vegans, not rabbits :). This place was no exception.
More of a deconstructed veggie stir fry than salad per say, the wilted Asian greens consisting of flavorful baby bok choy, crunchy broccoli rabe (rapini) and sweet cherry tomatoes were warmly tossed with a light chili-lime ponzu sauce and topped with crisp shaved carrots, toasted pine nuts, fresh pea shoots and black and white sesame seeds. Leaning up against this delicious emerald mountain were perfectly steamed slices of lotus root drizzled with the same ponzu sauce. On the other side of the plate stood two triangular slices of some of the most dense, flavorful tofu I’ve ever tasted. Described on the menu as “crispy tofu”, these three-cornered pockets of protein were coated in what tasted like a mix of corn and coconut flour then baked, not fried thus avoiding the typical over-oiling I’ve found in similar dishes elsewhere. All the flavors and textures of this dish complemented each other perfectly and left me feeling highly satiated. (pic below)
Chris ordered the vegetarian Grilled Panini (one of the MealShare options on the menu) with a side of the Soup of the Day, vegan Cauliflower & Roasted Garlic (GF). His plate held two rustic slices of ciabatta bread overflowing with a tangy cherry confiture slathered atop a layer of oozing St. Angel Brie and Avonlea Cheddar cheeses. Leaves of peppery arugula added a splash of green. The hearty soup wasn’t overly heavy and had a satisfyingly creamy texture broken up by soft pieces of cauliflower and zesty roasted garlic – the perfect balance for a garlic lover such as myself. (pic below)
Barb ordered the Grilled Treehouse Sandwich, served open-faced on slices of rye bread and accompanied by a spring mix side salad tossed with a light house dressing and topped with raw shredded beets and carrots and a sprinkling of pine nuts and pumpkin seeds. A generous shmear (or “spread” for all you non-Jews out there) of pesto aioli was topped with an avalanche of smoky, house-made coconut bacon (one of your three choices including smoked tofu or egg) partnered with lettuce, red onion and slices of tomato seasoned with ground peppercorns. A final layer made up of thick shavings of 4-year Canadian reserve cheddar top this sandwich off. For a sweet finish, Barb ordered the savory, thyme-infused Chèvre Cheesecake that was served deconstructed in a mason jar drizzled with local honey. Spare the rose shortbread cookie and this dish becomes a gluten free, vegetarian option! (pics below)
For dessert I took the waitress’ suggestion of the Chocolate Torte (GF), a drool-inducing chocolate mousse pie held together by a chickpea brownie crust. The mousse filling had a decadently smooth consistency with a milky chocolate flavor that was not quite as dark as I usually like, but would most likely be rich enough for most chocolate lovers. I am one of those loonies who go for the 99% cacao bars after all – the more bitter the better! The crumbly yet gooey brownie crust almost had the mouth-feel of a fig bar and was the perfect dark chocolaty complement to its milkier chocolate stuffing. Topped with fresh organic blueberries and chocolate drops and accompanied by seasonal fruit preserves, one slice of this delectable dessert could have been a meal on its own but luckily for me, I have a second stomach entirely for dessert! (pic below)
Worth a trip to Calgary solely for vegan foodie tourism’s sake alone, this place is a great stop both for the local culinary adventurer or vegan Calgarian alike. Needless to say this establishment will be a regular haunt for yours truly on my visits up north to visit Chris’ family. I’ll split a smoothie of the day with you next time out on the sidewalk patio!
I am an actor/writer/content creator based in Los Angeles. I travel extensively both as the host of the new vegan food travel show The Road Less Eaten and on my own. This blog will chronicle my journey around the globe as I hunt down all the vegan options in every part of the world, no matter how big the city nor small the town.
Copyright © Ally Iseman 2016. I own my awkward. Thanks for enabling me.