Tag Archives: review

Graze Restaurant Review

Graze Perogies
I had really high expectations for Graze – a completely vegan, upscale restaurant that opened in Vancouver a few months ago. There is a lot to like – the service is excellent, the atmosphere is relaxed, the portions are huge, and the prices are reasonable. The downside? I found their take on comfort food to be uncomfortably heavy, and my wife got sick afterwards from what she thinks was bad fiddleheads.

Graze TartBetween four of us, we ordered a tart, ravioili, two orders of the perogies, and a dip board to start. The dips were all a bit dry and hard to spread. The entrees were good but rich and very dense. Maybe that’s what comfort food is supposed to be, but I could have used some fresh vegetables.

The perogies were my highlight. I’ve searched long and hard for vegan perogies and these were excellent. Although after 10 dense perogies smothered in a rich cheeze sauce I was ready to burst, so I never got a chance to try any of the desserts.

I want to go back and give them another try, although my wife can’t forget the bad fiddleheads. I think part of the problem was what we ordered. If we replaced one of the entrees with a salad we would probably have been ok. I noticed the new Meatless Monday fixed price menu options are a lot more balanced.
Graze Menu Graze Meatless Mondays Graze on Urbanspoon

Slow Bean – Cheap Vegan Eats in the DTES

The Nines Slow Bean & Culture Club

As of May 24, 2013, The Slow Bean is closed.

I noticed this new vegan restaurant on Pender a month ago, but I’ve been afraid to go in. Maybe it’s the setting (a former car rental shop in the downtown eastside) or the signage (what’s with the giant cat?), but something made me hesitate. I’m pleased to say my fears were unwarranted.

The Slow Bean Menu
I finally ventured in last week. The inside of the restaurant isn’t nearly as sketchy as the outside. It’s actually relaxing and comfortable, which is good because you’ll need a minute to read the super confusing menu chalked on the wall. I couldn’t figure it out, so I let someone else order first and then said “I’ll have what he’s having.”

Sammie and Soup
What I got was a vegan sammie (a.k.a. grilled vegetable sandwich), a side salad, tortilla soup, and a muffin. All of which were excellent. The food is healthy, filling, and most of all flavourful. My order took a long time to prepare (20 minutes), and apparently the nachos take a lot longer. I think the two young women who run the restaurant have some process kinks to work out, but they do know how to make good vegan food.

A few notes on the menu:
– It says “soy cheese”, but they actually use Daiya Cheese (at least on my sandwich), which doesn’t contain soy.
– Contrary to the giant “Vegan” sign on the outside, not everything on the menu is. The quiche contains eggs (but it is vegetarian), which confused the lady who ordered after me.

I liked the Slow Bean, and I’ll be back. I’m sure the menu and ordering process will improve as the owners gain more experience.
The Slow Bean on Urbanspoon Meow?

Eating Vegan on Kauai

Vegan Pizza at At Merriman's
We had no problem eating vegan on Kauai. I was prepared to add some seafood to my diet, but it wasn’t necessary. There are lots of restaurants with good vegan options. A lot of the best restaurants we ate at championed farm-to-fork eating, serving up ingredients grown locally.

We often cooked two meals a day for ourselves (one benefit to staying somewhere with a kitchen) and ate out once. We bought fruit at the farmers markets and most of our groceries at the Papaya’s Natural Foods in Kapaa. They have an amazing selection of vegan products and local produce (which is surprisingly hard to find), and the prices weren’t outrageous. They carry a lot of products made in Kauai, including a vegan pudding that Emily fell in love with.

Here are the restaurants that have the best vegan options, listed by preference:
1. Postcards CaféPostcards Café on Urbanspoon – A charming restaurant in Hanalei. Their menu doesn’t have any meat (only fish) or refined sugar, and they use a lot of fruit they grow themselves. The Sombrero was probably the best meal we had all week. (Tripadvisor)

2. The Garden Cafe at Common GroundThe Garden Cafe at Common Ground Kauai on Urbanspoon – You don’t get more local than eating on a farm. The Garden Cafe serves up amazing fresh food a picturesque open-air cafe. The taro fries were to-die-for and the daily special salad was extremely flavourful. (Tripadvisor)

3. Merriman’sMerriman's Poipu on Urbanspoon – A mostly seafood restaurant, but they have a few vegan options that surprised us for their quality. They’re located in an upscale outdoor mall in Poipu. The Vegan Pizza and Portobello Burger were both excellent. We added avocado and pineapple to our burger which made it comically difficult to eat, but very tasty. (Tripadvisor)

4. Caffè CocoCaffè Coco on Urbanspoon – A quaint vegetarian and seafood restaurant hidden off the road in Kapaa. They have the most vegan/vegetarian menu items of any restaurant in Kauai. We really enjoyed the Coconut Macnut Tofu, Vietnamese Summer Rolls, and Thai Curried Pumpkin Soup. The Purple Sweet Potato Samosa was disappointing – it’s just mashed taro in a pastry shell. It could use some texture and spices. (Tripadvisor)

5. Beach HouseBeach House on Urbanspoon – One of Kauai’s fanciest restaurants with amazing sunset views. And they have a vegan menu! Emily really liked the Grilled Tofu and the curry sauce it was served with. I was disappointed with my Roasted Beet dish – it lacked flavour and the steamed arugula was gross. (Tripadvisor)

6. Tiki TacosTiki Tacos Kauai on Urbanspoon – We went here to try the fish tacos (breaking our vegan diet for one meal), but we were disappointed. The “Best Fish Taco” was ok, but it didn’t have a lot of flavour. The vegan Tiki Fire Vegetables taco was a lot better. (Tripadvisor)

7. Shivalik Indian CuisineShivalik Indian Cuisine on Urbanspoon – Average Indian food. Nothing that special. They do have a number of vegetarian options and the prices are reasonable. (Tripadvisor).

The Sombrero at Postcards Cafe Awesome Lunch at the Garden at Common Ground Caffe Coco Dinner Portobello Burger at Merriman's Vegan Food at the Beach House Restaurant Tiki Tacos Homemade Dinner and Wine Hawaiian Smoothies
The Garden at Common Ground

Board Game Reviews: King of Tokyo, Urbanization, and Race for the Galaxy

KingOfTokyoKing of Tokyo (BGG)
King of Tokyo is an awesome game. It’s easy to learn, quick to play, loads of fun, and has enough depth to make you want to play repeatedly. Up to 6 players can battle their super-monsters for control of Tokyo. It’s a quick game with lots of tense moments as your monster flirts with death and collects power-ups. I highly recommend this one for everyone’s game collection.

UrbanizationUrbanization (BGG)
I was an early-bird backer of Urbanization on Kickstarter. I loved the game idea – an urban planning board game – but it’s been a real disappointment. Some of the game play works well – the increasing price of land as it becomes scarce, the food system, and the population growth factors. But there are two aspects that feel awkward – giving the losing player a free point every round (which I would just remove) and the work order/factory system (which is fundamentally broken). I’ve played twice now, and neither time was very fun.

RaceForTheGalaxyRace for the Galaxy (BGG)
There’s a lot to like about Race for the Galaxy. The theme works well, it has deep strategy, and the mechanics are clever but simple. You spend your turns settling planets, developing buildings, producing resources, and collecting points. My one complaint is how isolated the players are. There’s a lot to keep track with your own cards, so you often ignore what’s going on around you, which makes the game seem less of a race and more of a bunch of disconnected journeys. If you want to try this game out, you can play against a computer AI – after 5 tries I’ve yet to win a game.

You can find all of my board game ratings on Board Game Geek.

Heirloom Restaurant Review

Heirloom Restaurant
To celebrate our 9 month anniversary, Emily and I braved the snow and public transit to have a romantic dinner at Heirloom Restaurant – one of Vancouver’s newest vegetarian restaurants. We’ve been meaning to go since they opened a few months ago but haven’t found the time or the need to venture over to Granville.

Well, it was worth the wait. The food was great, the atmosphere was relaxed but upscale, and the service was the best I’ve ever had at a vegetarian restaurant. The menu had enough vegan options that it took a while to figure out what to order.
Heirloom Dinner

We tried the:
Avocado Frites – Amazing. You can’t go wrong with rich, deep-fried avocados.
Rawzoto – A mix of cauliflower, pesto, and walnut cheese. Very tasty and good to share, but I wouldn’t want to eat a whole serving by myself.
Daily Soup – A nice creamy, vegan cauliflower soup with sunchokes.
Butter Chickpea Curry – Served with a papadum and apricot chutney. It was ok, it could have used a bit more spice.
Vegan Bloody Mary – Disappointing. Emily is the connoisseur and didn’t like it.

The prices are reasonable, especially for the quality of the food and the size of the portions – the appetizers were surprisingly large. We ordered 3 appetizers and a main, and had more than enough food for two people.

I feel blessed to live in a city with such awesome vegetarian dining options. With Heirloom joining The Acorn as new, upscale vegetarian restaurants, 2012 was a good year to be a vegetarian in Vancouver.

Heirloom Menu Heirloom Vegetarian on Urbanspoon

New York: Best Vegan Restaurants and Bakeries

New York Vegan Food Collage
While Emily and I were in New York for Ben and Brittany’s wedding, we did our best to eat at the best vegan and vegetarian restaurants. New York has several upscale restaurants that are strictly vegan, and we spent hundreds of dollars trying most of them. The only notable one we missed was Dirt Candy. Here are reviews of the 8 restaurants and two bakeries we ate at.

  1. Pure Food and Wine on UrbanspoonPure Food and Wine
    A raw food restaurant that impressed us with the quality and taste of the food. We ate a portobello and hemp burger and the brazil nut and sea vegetable croquettes, washed down with a bunny brew and red ginger pressed juice. Everything was extremely flavourful. It’s expensive, but well worth it. Everything is completely vegan, soy-free, and mostly gluten-free.
  2. Blossom on UrbanspoonBlossom
    An upscale vegan eatery in Chelsea (close to the High Line). I really enjoyed my phyllo roulade and the coconut crème brulée dessert was to-die-for. Emily enjoyed the ravioli with a cashew cream sauce, but her soup was bland.
    Blossom Dinner Blossom Vegan Coconut Crème Brulée
  3. Candle 79 on UrbanspoonCandle 79
    Another vegan fine-dining restaurant. I was blown away by the food when I ate here in 2005. It was my first introduction to upscale, vegetarian dining and it set the bar that I compare every restaurant to. This time we ordered the nachos, seitan steak, and raw enchilada. It was all good, but we probably should have ordered an appetizer that wasn’t so similar to our entrees.
  4. Sun In Bloom on UrbanspoonSun in Bloom
    A funky vegan restaurant in Brooklyn with lots of raw and gluten-free options. We went for brunch and tried the pancakes (tasty) and a tofu, squash tart (good but dry). There were lots of menu items that I’d want to go back and try. We sat at a big communal table and got to listen to the crumbling relationship of the couple next to us. It was awkward.
  5. Tiffin Wallah on UrbanspoonTiffin Wallah
    We had a tasty Indian lunch buffet here before we had to fly back to Vancouver. It was the cheapest meal we had in New York. Everything is vegetarian and mostly vegan.
  6. Red Bamboo on UrbanspoonRed Bamboo
    A Greenwich Village vegetarian restaurant specializing in mock-meat dishes with a range of flavours. Almost everything has soy, but I managed to find a black bean vegetable stir-fry that I could eat. This was one of Emily’s favourite restaurants and she really enjoyed the mock salmon and quinoa dish she ordered.
  7. Quintessence on UrbanspoonQuintessence
    A raw bar that we checked out for brunch. We had granola with coconut yogurt, walnut banana bread, and a savory crepe (tasty and impressive for a raw food restaurant). The clientele on a weekday morning were bizarre, but it’s exactly what I expected in the East Village.
  8. Caravan of Dreams on UrbanspoonCaravan of Dreams
    Another East Village vegan restaurant. We tried the raw quesadilla and seitan taquitos. Unfortunately, it was all a bit bland. It could have used more spice and flavour. The prices were similar to Candle 79 and Blossom, but the quality wasn’t nearly as good.

There was no clear winner in our vegan bakery contest. Both Babycakes and Blossom Bakery were amazing. The only difference is the part of town they’re located in.

  • Babycakes NYC on UrbanspoonBabycakes
    Located in the Lower East Side, Babycakes has a retro diner atmosphere and is loaded with vegan treats. We tried a doughnut and brownie, and they were amazing. They have lots of gluten-free and sugar-free treats.
    Babycakes Bakery
  • Blossom Bakery on UrbanspoonBlossom Bakery
    A block away from the Blossom restaurant in Chelsea, the bakery serves up sweet delights. We ate a pain au chocolate and coconut creme sandwich. Both were excellent.
    Dessert from Blossom Bakery

We also had really good vegan empanadas from the Nuchas food truck and vegan pizza and pasta from Nick’s Pizza.

Fighting for the Iron Throne


A Game of Thrones is one of my new favourite board games. I played two quick games last night, and I’m hooked. (And by quick, I mean they only lasted 90 minutes instead of the expected 3 hours.)

Now this game isn’t for everyone, you have to enjoy deep strategy games and knowing the difference between a Lannister and Stark definitely adds to the experience. Once you figure out all the rules (warning: there’s a lot), the game play is lots of fun.

A Game of Thrones reminds me of Diplomacy (especially being able to support other players in battle), but doesn’t suffer from the grinding paralysis that every game of Diplomacy I’ve played devolves into. All of the games elements – alliances, secret orders, leaders with special powers, warfare, and power and influence tracks – really complement each other well and create a complex, but extremely fun experience.

I did well in both games we played, as House Greyjoy in a 4-player match and Baratheon in a 3-player game. Ultimately I lost to rapidly advancing opponents from Baratheon and Stark. I can’t wait to play again in a full 6-player match, and see what House Tyrell and Martell have to offer.

The only game play problems we ran into was it was too easy for Baratheon to take over neutral territories in the 3-player game. And in both games, the uneven distribution of Muster and Supply cards screwed us over (all mustering in the first game and none in the second).