Seitan Ribs

Seitan Ribs Mise en Place | thelittleredspoon.com

Gather together a couple things from your cupboards and buy a bag of vital wheat gluten on your next grocery shopping trip – it’s time to make vegan ribs!

These ribs are made of seitan which is also known as “wheat meat.” You are basically going to be making “ribs” out of gluten that have a nice meaty texture.

You start off by whisking together a couple of simple ingredients, adding the gluten, and forming a strange looking loaf like so:

Seitan Ribs Loaf | thelittleredspoon.com

Score the loaf into “ribs” by cutting lengthwise and then into 1″ pieces. You don’t have to cut all the way through (it’s tough cutting through all that sticky gluten), but enough that they will be easy to separate.

Seitan Ribs Loaf Scored | thelittleredspoon.com

Cook the ribs in your oven or toaster oven for a few minutes, then smother in a tasty BBQ sauce and grill. I used a grilling pan to give mine nice grill marks, but these would do very well on an actual barbecue, or on a regular pan.

Seitan Ribs and Sides | thelittleredspoon.com

I went all in and paired my ribs with some freshly made coleslaw and potato salad. And some of Minimalist Baker’s Best Damn Vegan Biscuits which were seriously easy and quick to whip up.

Seitan Ribs BBQ plate | thelittleredspoon.com

Head over to Baked In’s website for the recipe for these tasty ribs. I also used this recipe for the potato salad (using Veganaise in place of real mayo), and followed along with this video from Brothers Green Eats Youtube Channel (which I highly recommend), replacing mango for some shredded apple.

Seitan Ribs Zoom | thelittleredspoon.com

Overall these ribs turned out really great! They are NOT mushy, they have a great amount of tooth to them and really stand up to a fork. It’s all about the sauce anyway, so buy or make a great BBQ sauce and don’t be afraid to try these vegan seitan ribs for yourself.

Chicken Pot Pie

This recipe is based on a very cute chicken pot pie in a mug recipe I saw on another blog – see the recipe here. I decided to veganize it and I bring you the results here:

Chicken Pot Pie Mise en Place | thelittleredspoon.com

If you have some Tofurky Chick’n Strips and vegan puff pastry lying around (and, you know, some other staple pantry foods) you can probably make this easy, delicious chicken pot pie recipe. You can even put it in a teacup and it will be suuuper cute! Chicken Pot Pie Mirepoix | thelittleredspoon.com

Start off with some basic mirepoix. (That’s sauteed carrots, onion and celery.)

Chicken Pot Pie Mirepoix with Herbs | thelittleredspoon.com

While you have that going in some oil, add your herbs. This part smells amaaaazing, if you live with someone, they will probably come into your kitchen and ask what smells so damn good.

Chicken Pot Pie Mirepoix with Chicken | thelittleredspoon.com

Add your Tofurky chick’n and frozen peas. (See? This is easy. You’ve got pre-seasoned, pre-cut “chicken” strips and frozen peas!)

Chicken Pot Pie Filling with Broth | thelittleredspoon.comAdd some flour to that mixture and cook for a minute or two, then add your veggie broth. For rich, creamy goodness add some coconut milk and coconut cream. (But that part’s optional.)

Chicken Pot Pie in a Mug | thelittleredspoon.com

Top with a piece of thawed, frozen, vegan puff pastry cut into the shape of your container and toast in the oven until golden brown.

Chicken Pot Pie Zoomed | thelittleredspoon.com

Chicken Pot Pie
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3 Servings
 
Ingredients
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 1 medium carrot
  • ½ medium onion
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Big pinch savoury
  • Big pinch herbs de provence
  • small pinch garlic powder
  • salt/white pepper to taste
  • 1 package Tofurky lightly seasoned Chick'n Strips
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 Tbsp all purpose white flour
  • ½ cup vegetable stock
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • canned coconut cream or coconut milk to taste
  • 1 or ½ sheet thawed frozen vegan puff pastry
Instructions
  1. (If your puff pastry is in the freezer right now, thaw it on the counter for 30 minutes while cooking. Ideally it should be thawed the night before in the fridge.)(Also preheat your oven or toaster oven to 400F)
  2. Sautee mirepoix in light-tasting oil of your choice until soft. (I used coconut oil, you could also use grapeseed or olive oil)
  3. Add herbs and seasonings until fragrant.
  4. Add chicken strips and cook until golden brown. Add green peas. Add garlic and cook until fragrant and slightly golden.
  5. Add flour and stir until mixed everywhere. Cook for 1-2 minutes. This should really thicken up your filling.
  6. Add stock and stir until thickened. Cook another 5-10 minutes.
  7. Add coconut milk if desired. (I did and I don't regret it. If you think you have added too much liquid you can try using a cornstarch slurry at this point to thicken it again)
  8. Roll out thawed puff pastry on floured counter and cut into desired shape. Take whatever container you want to use, lay it on the puff pastry sheet and cut around the container leaving a bit of clearance.
  9. Fill desired container with chicken pot pie filling. A teacup or cute jar works well here, but you can use a ramekin or anything else oven-safe.
  10. Brush or dab edges of pot pie filling (on the inside) with cold water and press against the edges of your container. Make sure to cut a small slit in the pastry.
  11. Cook in a hot (400F) preheated oven or toaster oven until GBD - Golden, Brown, Delicious. If desired, take out a few minutes before finished and brush or dab with butter flavoured olive oil or other tasty oil and sprinkle with salt.
  12. Let cool 3 minutes before eating.

Chicken Pot Pie Overhead | thelittleredspoon.com

If you’re a filthy hedonist like myself, you can even brush the top of your pastry crust with some butter flavoured olive oil towards the end of cooking and sprinkle with truffle salt. That brings it to another level.

Nuts For Cheese

Nuts For Cheese Board Spread | thelittleredspoon.com

Nuts For Cheese! A great vegan cheese company from London, Ontario. Find these ridiculously delicious cheeses at the Western Fair Farmer’s Market in London – and luckily you can also find them here in Toronto at Urban Acorn, Yam Chops and on the V Word Market website.

Margaret Coons is the owner of Nuts for Cheese and was the former chef at Veg Out on Richmond Street in London, which has been permanently closed and replaced by Glassroots vegan restaurant at the same location. (run by Chef Yoda who is also super awesome )

Nuts For Cheese Packaging | thelittleredspoon.com

We bought these cheeses 3/$25 at the Toronto Veg Food Festival 2016 which was on at the Harbourfront Centre from September 9-11 this past weekend.

Margaret was there giving away free samples of all the tasty cheese and was definitely drawing a big crowd. It was great to sample a couple different kinds (like the super “blue” – vegan blue cheese! how cool ) but I already knew before I even got to the festival I was going to have to make a beeline for this place and get some fresh flavourful cheese to bring home.

Nuts for Cheese Packaging Sticker | thelittleredspoon.com

Vegan, gluten-free and made from organic cashews

Nuts For Cheese Nutrition Label | thelittleredspoon.com

Each box also had an ingredients list and nutrition information sticker.

Nuts For Cheese Brie Packaging | thelittleredspoon.com

I just love the cute packaging! Individually wrapped in cheese paper and closed with a sticker, then tucked in an adorable wedge-shaped box. So cute, I felt like I was unwrapping a delicious Christmas present.

Nuts For Cheese Chipotle Cheddar | thelittleredspoon.com

Ta-da! Looks so tasty I could just bite into it! Love that chipotle smell that just hits you right when you open this one.

Nuts For Cheese Board | thelittleredspoon.com

Step 1: assemble a fancy cheese plate like you used to do when you were a cheese-obsessed vegetarian.

Nuts For Cheese Brie Sliced | thelittleredspoon.com

Step 2: demolish said cheese plate like the hungry cheese-loving vegan you now are!

(This may remind you of that time I had a hella good cheeseboard at Glassroots – that’s cause it’s the same cheese! Go try a cheese board of your own there and get a vegan glass of wine to go with it. And post pics cause I want to eat that with my eyezzz )

Nuts For Cheese Brie on Cracker | thelittleredspoon.com

Oh god, so creamy….

To the people who are like “wah but I could never go vegan I’d miss cheese too much!” – seriously? You don’t think you could eat this? Now you CAN go vegan because of fucking wonderful people like Margaret who make the world a better place with their completely cruelty-free vegan cheeses. Hallelujah!

Nuts For Cheese Board Slicing Cheddar | thelittleredspoon.com

Chipotle “Cheddar” flavoured wedge – “Bold and spicy. Marbled with crushed chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.”

Ohhhhh yesssss. Get that chipotle adobo goodness in my mouth…

Nuts For Cheese Cheddar Spread on Cracker | thelittleredspoon.com

Words are failing me right now. I hope these pictures are helping you to understand how fricking tasty all these cheeses were. Because I literally can’t even.

SO. GOOD.

ALL OF THEM. WERE AMAZING.

AND I NEED TO BUY THEM AGAIN.

This shit’s on another level, people. This ain’t no nasty Daiya. This is the real deal for real fancy cheese lovers. You could serve these to anyone and they would not complain.

Nuts for Cheese Board Overhead | thelittleredspoon.com

Make an incredible fancy cheese board of your own with Nuts For Cheese vegan cashew cheeses and impress your friends! Let me know what you think of these (and other) wonderful dairy-free cheeses in the comments.

“Chicken” Salad Sandwich

So you may remember from previous posts that I’m basically obsessed with Tofurky. I had a couple packages of Tofurky lightly seasoned chick’n strips in the fridge and had a craving for a tasty sandwich so I thought I’d show you guys this easy peasy chick’n salad sandwich I made.

Chicken Salad | thelittleredspoon.com

"Chicken" Salad
Author: 
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1 serving
 
Ingredients
  • ½ package Tofurky lightly seasoned chick'n strips
  • 1 stalk celery
  • 2 baby dill pickles
  • 3 Tbsp Veganaise (vegan mayonnaise)
  • ½ Tbsp lemon juice
Instructions
  1. Finely dice celery and baby dill pickles and add to a bowl.
  2. Slice/chop chick'n strips into even smaller pieces and add.
  3. Add a few scoops of Veganaise and lemon juice and mix well.

This sandwich seriously took like, 5 minutes to whip up. And it definitely satisfied my craving for chicken salad. You could very easily substitute some mashed chickpeas for the chick’n strips in this recipe and still have a really great sandwich topper.

Chicken Salad Close Up | thelittleredspoon.com

I hollowed out the inside of my baguette and toasted it for a little extra crunch.

The tofurky strips come pre-seasoned so there should be no need to add much seasoning, however do taste and decide for yourself. Some paprika would probably go well here, as would some extra black pepper or raw diced onions if you’re into that sort of thing.

Serve on a really nice piece of bread with some crisp lettuce and you’re good to go. A pickle on the side of a good sandwich never hurt, either.

Chicken Salad Sandwich | thelittleredspoon.com

What do you think? A vegan chicken salad sandwich that tastes pretty legit! Great for a super quick and lazy work lunch. Leave a comment below to let me know your favourite way to use Tofurky’s lightly seasoned chick’n strips.

Veg Food Fest 2016

Yay it’s Veg Food Fest time again! September 9-11 at the Harbourfront Centre, you TOO can join a huge obnoxious crowd of people and annoy others with your bad manners, line cutting and extremely slow inconvenient walking! All for the low, low price of free admission!

veg food fest 16 field roast samples | thelittleredspoon.com

Seriously, if you get on over to the harbourfront now you could push your way into a long, poorly-formed, slow-moving line to get a sample of some tasty Field Roast veggie burgers. That’s what some cranky old Chinese lady behind us did, and she got into a fight with the fat old white guy she tried to cut in front of.

Veg Food Fest 16 Field Roast Burger | thelittleredspoon.com

The burger samples were tasty but I’ll never get those 5 minutes of my life back that were spent listening to that woman’s shrill bitching. It was really cool that they had Field Roast Chao cheese though! If you haven’t tried Chao slices you really should get on that! They’re really delicious vegan cheese slices you can get at Whole Foods. If you think you hate vegan cheese because you’ve tried Daiya, don’t worry, because they don’t have the same taste or texture at all. (Personally I don’t hate Daiya but I know it’s nothing like real cheese)

veg-food-fest-16-hibiscus-ice-cream-thelittleredspoon-com

Anyway you could also come for samples of other things. Like samples of these vegan ice creams. Since the festival is free I think most of the people obnoxiously blocking other people’s way around all the booths and tables were just lurking around trying to get as many free samples from as many places as possible. I mean, can I complain about this behaviour? I don’t know. I like a free sample as much as the next person. But I’m also not the type of jerk-off to be blocking everyone’s way while I’m hunting my samples down. For example if I know I’m not trying to spend money on something, I stay out of the way of people who might actually spend money. In other words, I typically try to stay aware of my surroundings, especially when in a large crowded area. The same can’t be said for all the other people moseying around the harbourfront center during any of these random little festivals they throw during the summer. (It’s not a Veg Food Fest thing. It’s a festivals-in-general thing, I’ve found. Especially in Toronto.)

veg-food-fest-16-tofurky-thelittleredspoon-com

Samples of Tofurky Ground Chorizo – not bad!

veg-food-fest-16-bunners-thelittleredspoon-com

Bunner’s had some amazing-looking vegan cupcakes – Chocolate potato chips, s’mores, funfetti, pizza buns… Yum
veg-food-fest-16-cosmic-treats-thelittleredspoon-com

Cosmic Treats had some amaaazing looking treats

veg-food-fest-16-cosmic-treats-candy-thelittleredspoon-com

Vegan candy bars – I wish I could have tried them all.
veg-food-fest-16-nuts-for-cheese-thelittleredspoon-com

Seriously, if you’re going to Veg Food Fest you need to buy some Nuts for Cheese cashew cheese! We sampled a couple and bought three cheeses for $25! Great deal!

veg-food-fest-16-nuts-for-cheese-line-thelittleredspoon-com

There was quite a crowd to try the cashew cheese samples there. Everything was really great and I’m glad I could pick some up at such a great price! We bought chipotle cheddar, artichoke and herb and un-brie-lievable.

veg-food-fest-16-apiecalypse-now-menu-thelittleredspoon-com
The Apiecalypse Now! food tent was actually our last and most important destination. We tried stopping by the shop near Christie Station on Friday only to see a sign saying they would be at the Food Fest all weekend! We had a craving for killer vegan pizza and Simpsons donuts so we knew we had to stop by to get a slice.

veg-food-fest-16-apiecalypse-now-feast-thelittleredspoon-com

We decided to go for two $5 slices – Zachos, which had sweet chili heat doritos, black beans, sour cream, cherry tomatoes, green onions (basically your standard nachos toppings), and Fat Mac which was basically a vegan Big Mac on a pizza, with hamburger meat, lettuce, thousand island dressing and cheese sauce. Soooo goooood.

Both were completely amazing. I’m going to have to start adding sweet chili heat doritos to all my pizzas now. I used to love adding nachos to my pizza in high school and college, it’s a great combination of textures. You really can’t go wrong with an extra hit of salty/crunchy flavour on almost any food either

I would have to say though, that between these two slices the Fat Mac was the winner. Really great taste and it was LOADED with toppings.

veg-food-fest-16-apiecalypse-treats-thelittleredspoon-com

We also added a couple of vanilla and chocolate dunkaroo cookie sandwiches ($4 each) to our order, along with a fresh tasty Simpsons donut ($3) which are only made on Fridays and Saturdays. So good.
Overall I would say the Veg Food Fest isn’t doing too bad considering this is only the second year they’ve been running. Things certainly seemed to be going a little better this year compared to last. However there’s just way too many slow-moving, obnoxious, rude people crowding this place up. I get it, it’s a nice Saturday in downtown Toronto and people want to crowd around in the hot sun to get some samples of things they’re never going to buy.

I almost wish there WAS some kind of entrance fee to keep out the fricking rubberneckers that could give less of a crap that this was a vegetarian/vegan food festival. ANY amount of money is bound to keep out the people that are just there to clog the place up for no reason, and the money could be donated to animal rescue for all I care.

But that’s just my crappy attitude because I hate being surrounded by people stepping all over each other while it’s boiling hot outside. I still had a great time and I’ll still go back next year. But I’ll probably still be grumbling about it.

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Hero Shot | thelittleredspoon.com

Recently my mum and I (and Shaggy) were near Christie Pits Park around lunch time on a beautiful weekend at the end of summer and thought – we need to have a picnic in this park on this gorgeous sunny day.

Well, I’ve wanted to try Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu since moving to Toronto and my mum is up for anything, so we decided to walk over and get some takeout to bring back to the park.

Picnic Table | thelittleredspoon.com

Shaggy and I waited outside on a small bench while we ordered a mild #6 from the menu – Vegetable Soon Tofu + Dolsotbab. ($7.97 + tax) It was ready very quickly and they brought it right out to us in a plastic bag with some spoons, chopsticks and napkins. Cheap, quick, easy, delicious – that’s my kind of food!

We found a cute little green picnic table in Christie Pits park and laid out our feast.

Picnic Table Graffiti | thelittleredspoon.com

Some cute graffiti on the picnic table. You can tell I didn’t write this because of the grammatical errors although I support the sentiments expressed.

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Food Laid Out | thelittleredspoon.com

Oh god, this was SO GOOD. Let me just go ahead and stare at this picture for a while. In fact you can take your time and zoom in, here. It’s worth it. I’ll wait.

It was so much fun sharing all the banchan (side dishes) together. We had such an amazing little picnic! I can’t recommend this place enough and the fact that it’s beside a park and extremely close to the subway station just makes it even better.

Ready for some close-ups?

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Bean Sprouts | thelittleredspoon.com

I believe on the left was kongjorim, or braised soybeans, which had a nice toothy texture. Almost like they were slightly undercooked. I liked this slight al dente kind of chewiness, my mum wasn’t as much of a fan. Regardless they had a great flavour that was savoury, sticky and a little bit sweet.

On the right is kongnamulmuchim, or marinated bean sprouts. These were really nice to add that crisp, fresh, watery crunchy texture.

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Bap | thelittleredspoon.com

The dolsotbab (cooked rice) was great, it had beans in it and was tinged slightly purple which was interesting. We fed some to Shaggy with a little broth poured over his and he loved it, too.

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Soup | thelittleredspoon.com

Of course the Vegetable Soon Tofu soup is the star of the show, here. It included mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, onions and the most delicious soft tofu I have ever tasted. It was silky smooth, creamy white and had a melt in your mouth amazing texture. 10/10 would slurp that tofu down the hatch again any day.

The veggies were great as well, perfectly cooked, good proportions of everything, beautiful colours and everything was fresh and delicious.

There was also a raw egg popped into the soup which my mum slurped up. In the restaurant the soup is served in a hot stone dish which is very, very hot and continues to cook the food inside it. If you let the egg sit for a few minutes it would continue cooking, or you could poke the yolk and mix it around. If you’re vegan like me, you could just ask for it without the egg like I plan to do next time.

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Kimchi | thelittleredspoon.com

In this container we had traditional kimchi which was super tasty and not too spicy at all, and I believe on the right side is musaengchae which is a sweet and sour shredded radish salad.

Can you believe I’d never tried kimchi before? I was nervous because I’ve heard kimchi can sometimes be very spicy, but this kimchi was very mild! It had a great flavour that was kind of sweet and spicy and pickled. Very well-rounded and interesting.

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Bottom of the Bowl| thelittleredspoon.com

I wish I had a picture of a scoop of that wonderful delicious tofu on it’s own but I was so busy scarfing everything down once we started eating that I couldn’t stop myself! Towards the end of our meal we ended up mixing everything together and eating with our spoons like a stew.

You will have to try this place for yourself to understand just how dreamy soft and silky that wonderful tofu is. Don’t be intimidated if you have never tried Korean food before – the menu is only one page and I doubt you can go wrong here. Just eat everything that gets served to you and you won’t regret it.

This place was very affordable, we were both able to share one veggie dish and all the side dishes (and were full after) for about $12. (that’s including tax and a tip)

I will definitely be visiting this place again and bringing Mr. Spoon with me, who loves spicy Korean food.  It’s very easy to get to on the subway, and you can swing by Apiecalypse Now on your way back to Christie Station to grab some vegan donuts or soft serve for dessert

Buk Chang Dong Soon Tofu Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Cauliflower Steak and Mash

Not sure what to do with that head of cauliflower you brought home from the grocery store? Use the whole thing up by making a couple of cauliflower “steaks” with a side of mashed cauliflower “potatoes”!

Does it taste like the real thing? No, not really, but it’s always fun to try new ways of cooking common ingredients. Vegans can do a lot of things with cauliflowers. Plus they’re low-carb Cauliflower Steak and Potatoes with Oyster Mushrooms | thelittleredspoon.com

This meal idea is basically adapted from Laura Miller‘s Raw. Vegan. Not Gross. video for cauliflower steak.

Cauliflower Steaks
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 head cauliflower
  • soy sauce
  • liquid smoke
  • salt and white pepper
  • chili powder
  • cumin
  • paprika
Instructions
  1. Cut a cauliflower in half from north to south. Cut a thick slab from the center of each cauliflower half (parallel to the original cut), leaving the stalk intact, to get two cauliflower "steaks".
  2. Mix above ingredients and marinate steaks in a sealed container for 20 minutes.
  3. Drizzle coconut oil on a pan and roast steaks in a hot oven or toaster oven until cooked, approx 10-15 minutes, flipping halfway through.

I used the rest of the cauliflower head to make a mash. The texture really does turn out surprisingly like mashed potatoes. You could also make cauliflower rice if that was more your thing, but I think the mash goes well with the “steaks” here.

For the mashed cauliflower, I cut the rest of the head into small florets (make sure there aren’t many stems) and steamed in a pot with a small amount of veggie broth, which adds a nice extra dimension of flavour. Once the florets were very soft (easy to poke with a fork or knife), I mashed them in a large mixing bowl with a potato masher and added in some vegan butter, salt and white pepper to taste. I like to keep it simple but you could add any herbs or spices you like here, or a big bunch of roasted garlic.

The king oyster mushrooms are a recipe of Mr. Spoon’s to which I added some miso. Melt some vegan butter in a small pot or saucepan with some white miso paste and a teaspoon (or more) or garlic. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and slightly golden-brown. Add the mushrooms which have been cut in half and scored through the flesh and cook another 2-3 minutes. Serve by drizzling the extra miso butter on top.

Of course this plate is looking pretty white – a nice hit of green beans or spinach would also do well here. I just happened to cook with what I had on hand for this meal.

Try cauliflower steaks and mash for yourself and let me know what you think. I thought everything on this plate turned out really delicious so I wanted to share. Do you ever just love having a big pile of mushrooms as a side dish too? Let me know in the comments

 

Cactus Club Cafe

Cactus Club is a chain from out West that I saw during my recent visit to B.C.
They’ve recently opened a location here in Toronto in the financial district. Mr. Spoon and I decided to stop in for a leisurely, light Sunday lunch as we were walking past.

We immediately noticed as we walked up that they have a rooftop patio so we asked to be sat up there since it was a lovely August day with lots of sunshine and not too much humidity. Luckily I was wearing a nice dress so I didn’t feel too underdressed. The waitresses were walking around wearing very form-fitting matching dresses and all looked very put-together with heavy makeup and fully-done hair so I’m glad I didn’t stand out too much. Mr. Spoon mentioned he felt a little too casual rolling in with a T-shirt on but there were plenty of other people wearing very casual clothing for their Sunday brunches.

Cactus Club Summer Drinks | thelittleredspoon.com

We decided to sample some cocktails, Mr. Spoon tried the “Summer Smash” which is gordon’s dry gin, cucumber, thai basil, ginger, lime and soda. Now I’m not a gin person, I thought this drink was pretty good but I wouldn’t be able to finish it. Mr. Spoon finished two. Nothing like a nice cool, refreshing drink with cucumbers and booze in it to sip while you’re relaxing in the sunshine and warm breeze, right?

Cactus Club Bellini | thelittleredspoon.com

I tried the Passion Fruit Bellini – smirnoff vodka, passion fruit and sparkling wine. Apparently these drinks are part of a promotion and are only available for their “98 Days of Summer” drinks menu.
It was really good, more of a thick slurpee consistency than what I was expecting. The flavour was great, a nice bold fruit flavour and I could barely taste any alcohol. It did give me a bit of a brain freeze, though, and I thought the presentation was beautiful but a bit impractical. (I may have accidentally knocked that short, poorly balanced straw out with my hand while talking. Twice.)
Cactus Club Edemame | thelittleredspoon.com

We wanted to split some munchies and keep it simple. The prices were pretty steep at this place as well (I was having sticker shock looking at the menu) so we wanted to just sample some stuff. There was a limited menu for Sunday lunch. Some stuff that could be made vegan but not really too many options. Nothing I’m not used to.

The edemame here was perfect, not a single bad one and a good sized portion. I think it could have used a touch more salt but that’s just me talking.
Cactus Club Truffle Fries | thelittleredspoon.com

We also shared some truffle fries with truffle, herbs, grana padano, garlic aioli. Of course Mr. Spoon ate the ones with the cheese on top and I dug around for the naked ones underneath.

What can I say? A girl can’t resist a nice salty, crispy, truffle-y french fry. They were absolutely heavenly. Good enough that it made me wonder if maybe this place would be worth coming back to eventually.

However I did get a very strong whiff of pretentiousness from this place. Of course it’s a chain restaurant from the West coast situated in the heart of the financial district in downtown Toronto, so without a doubt they are catering to people with a LOT of money. And I think they are very successful at doing that. It seemed that a lot of the other guests were there to blow a huge stack on a boozy Sunday lunch in a private booth in a glamorous restaurant just to prove they could. I’m sure the rest of the (expensive) menu is very delicious, but I didn’t get that welcoming feeling that I was among other foodies enjoying food. I felt like a regular person surrounded by rich people who enjoyed spending money just to show that they could.

I suppose there need to be restaurants like Cactus Club Cafe in the world. I don’t have anything negative to say about my experience there, in fact I quite enjoyed everything about it, I just got the feeling that I did not belong in that world.

What do you think? Would you fit in at a place like this? What’s more important to you in a restaurant – atmosphere, food, drinks, service or something else? Leave a comment and let me know.

Cactus Club Cafe Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

The Hogtown Vegan

So many wonderful vegan comfort food spots in Toronto, not enough time to try them all! I finally got myself over to the Vegan Hogtown on Bloor (between Dufferin and Ossington) after living downtown for almost a year. Vegan chicken and waffles? Mac and cheese? Chili cheese fries? Yeah I definitely knew I had to hit this place up at some point and I’m glad I did.

Hogtown Vegan Menu | thelittleredspoon.comHogtown Vegan Apps Menu | thelittleredspoon.com

We decided to try the fried shiitake clams, nachos, and fries supremacy.

 

Hogtown Vegan Beverages Menu | thelittleredspoon.com
As for drinks, we drank whatever on tap that was on special that night. I forget what it was but it was a local craft brew and I do remember it was quite good and reasonably priced.

Hogtown Vegan Sandwiches Menu | thelittleredspoon.com

So many choices! I love a good vegan philly cheesesteak or pulled pork sandwich but we opted to order off the (non-sandwich) entree list not pictured here.

Hogtown Vegan Cutlery and Water | thelittleredspoon.com

Nothing fancy for the cutlery and water.

Hogtown Vegan Shitaake Clams | thelittleredspoon.com

The fried shiitake “clams” were delicious. They came with a chipotle ranch dipping sauce that disappeared quickly. We really love shiitake mushrooms so these were probably the hit of the night.

“Why bother calling them clams? They’re just fried mushrooms. Why not call them that?” Mr. Spoon wondered.

I don’t know why, I guess it’s just part of the shtick. Why call any vegan food anything, really? I know some people hate when vegan food is named after what it’s meant to resemble, especially when it’s not a super accurate recreation. Why call it “pulled pork” when it’s really pulled mushrooms? Well, why call pork “pork” when it’s really a pig? Who knows why, that’s just what people call it. I’m fine with people naming vegan food after “normal” food (obviously) but I guess it’s not for everyone.

Hogtown Vegan Chili Cheese Fries | thelittleredspoon.com

The fries supremacy were pretty good. I wouldn’t say they blew my mind but they did all get eaten. Personally I don’t find yellow nacho cheese sauce all that exciting so perhaps we should have opted for the chili cheese fries that had different toppings. But we were already getting nachos with all the nacho toppings anyway so figured this would be fine.

Don’t get me wrong, they were good, and the cheese sauce and vegan sour cream were both pretty realistic. But even if these were vegetarian and I still ate dairy I probably still would’ve been a little “meh” on them. That’s just my personal taste and not a reflection on the dish itself.

Hogtown Vegan Nachos | thelittleredspoon.com

Nachos are where it’s at, though, am I right? I love a good nacho plate.I liked these nachos. What more is there to say? They were crunchy, thoroughly topped and there was guacamole. Maybe a bit heavy on the beans but otherwise A+

Hogtown Vegan Peppersteak and Dumplings | thelittleredspoon.com

Mr. Spoon’s dad tried the “Peppersteak and Dumplings” TVP (textured vegetable protein) steak and dumplings in a mushroom-beer gravy, with collard greens and sweet potato mash on the side. I have to say that’s quite a sloppy presentation. The steak, dumplings and gravy met everyone’s approval. Mr. Spoon thought the gravy might’ve tasted like a packaged mix of some sort, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t but at least it tasted all right. Everyone found the collard greens a little bitter but that’s just the way they are. I had some with my dish as well and found them okay, I just added a little extra salt.

The sweet potato mash was definitely quite sweet for me. I have more of a salty tooth than a sweet tooth but I think it was a good match for my dish of chicken and waffles, which came drenched in syrup.

Hogtown Vegan Caesar Salad | thelittleredspoon.com

Mr. Spoon ordered a caesar salad and it was quite disappointing. I don’t see many “fakin’ bits” or much “creamy Caesar dressing” in this picture but I guess there was a little bit… The thing is, this is a guy that really likes Caesar salad, he appreciates a GOOD Caesar salad, so to be served this… Well it seems a little half-assed, to be honest. I really hate to be harsh, especially to a vegan restaurant, but this was just gross and pathetic. Some of the lettuce (which you can’t see in this picture, it was buried) was wilted and rotting. Like, not just a little old but actually melted and slimy in some parts. And it wasn’t just a tiny bit, it was a fair amount of slimy lettuce. That’s fricking gross.

It took a while but we eventually flagged down our waitress to send it back. She did ask if he wanted a replacement but obviously he didn’t. I would expect a way better salad from a vegan restaurant to tell you the truth.  Even without the rotten bits, the presentation was boring, the salad was bland, the lettuce seemed like it was from a bagged mix, the almond dust “parmesan” on top was nothing special, there wasn’t much taste or pizzazz… What’s the point, really? At least the waitress took it off our bill but it was definitely a let-down.

Hogtown Vegan Chickn and Waffles | thelittleredspoon.com

I would say overall my meal was probably the best one. Slightly less sloppy, and definitely more interesting. I love a good fried veggie chicken. Here the texture was nice and crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. I liked the combination of flavours and textures on the plate. Getting a forkful with a little bit of everything on it was quite nice.

I’ve never had chicken and waffles before so I was really looking forward to this. Everything was really tasty and I definitely enjoyed it. The only problem is I was super full from trying all of our appetizers and sampling everyone else’s food (visiting a vegan restaurant is the only time when I get to sample other people’s food so I always take full advantage ) that I had to take most of it home for leftovers.

Hogtown Vegan Leftovers | thelittleredspoon.com

Luckily my leftovers were just as good for lunch the next day, maybe even better because the syrup had really soaked into the waffles and I drizzled a little extra on top. Yum.

Overall, though, I don’t think I would go back to the Hogtown Vegan after our first experience there. It was interesting and I’m glad I got to try it, I thought the prices here were pretty reasonable (except the $10 disappointing Caesar), even our pints were only $5 that day. However, the service was really not that great and we could’ve had a better time.

One thing that was annoying was we ordered three appetizers to share among us, and after a few short minutes (we weren’t even halfway through them) ALL three of our entrees came out as well. So the table was absolutely crowded with all of our dishes and all of the food was going cold before we could finish eating anything. This place is meant to be casual, but I’m sure this is still a pet peeve for anyone, regardless of whether they’re in a pub or a fine dining restaurant.

This place is really not that close to me either, so for me personally that’s a factor as to why I most likely won’t make the trek back out. I could potentially see myself popping in here for a beer and to split a plate of vegan nachos again but I wouldn’t tell someone from out of town “oh, you HAVE to go here!”

If you’re really keen on checking out their signature dish of chicken and waffles, I would say go ahead and try for yourself. I truly did want to like this place and maybe one day I’ll give it a second chance, but for now it’s not on my short list of places I need to go back to or tell everyone about.

Have you been to Hogtown Vegan in Dovercourt Park neighbourhood? Know a different cool vegan joint with kick-ass chicken and waffles? Leave a comment to let me know about it.

The Hogtown Vegan Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Sushi on Bloor

This place was so cute! Popped in for lunch on a work day and tried their lunch special. Right away we were served water, green tea, salad (not pictured but it was a basic iceberg lettuce salad), and miso soup.

Sushi on Bloor Lunch Menu | thelittleredspoon.com

I chose to order from this menu and got and Oyster Mushroom and Avocado roll from column A and a Sweet Potato Maki roll from Column B.

Sushi on Bloor Lunch Menu P2 | thelittleredspoon.com

You could also order non-sushi lunch meals but what fun is that?

Sushi on Bloor Miso Soup | thelittleredspoon.com

The miso soup was nice. Perfect temperature for sipping right away and I like a good amount of seaweed. Yum.

Sushi on Bloor Lunch Rolls | thelittleredspoon.com

The rolls themselves were great! This was the perfect amount of food for a quick work lunch. We had an hour break and were able to make it back just in time.

I would definitely go here again. It was quick, tasty, and definitely affordable. Check out Sushi on Bloor if you’re ever in the Harbord Village neighbourhood.

Sushi On Bloor Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato