From Guilt-Free Chocolate Mousse to Churro Balls

“If you have a second dessert stomach” – Check! –  “this guilt-free chocolate mousse will definitely fill it.”

So says Brad Hill – publisher and photographer behind the latest volume in the Foodie series: the Plant-Based Foodie Vancouver. This offering of delicious recipes from popular Vancouver restaurants follows his neighbourhood-based cookbook series: North Shore Foodie, East Van Foodie and Gastown Foodie. Writer Chris Dagenais is once again part of this installment.

The Healthy Chocolate Mousse you see pictured above hails from The Black Lodge, located on East Broadway in Mount Pleasant. We spoke to Hill about his latest cookbook …

 i. What is unique about Vancouver’s Plant-based Foodie scene? How would you characterize it?

I can answer that two ways.
Firstly, when I first moved to Vancouver 4 years ago, I was blown away at how fit and healthy most people were. I’ve always been very active and saw myself as above average in health and fitness, but noticing that my Vancouver friends could hold a conversation while climbing a hiking trail without gasping for breath was telling. It’s easy to forget how unique it is to live in a city with such easy access to such amazing landscapes. Having this high base of fitness and connection to nature directly links to other choices we make in life… food being an important one.
The Mint Chip Smoothie. The Juice Truck
Secondly, Vancouver’s location on the other side of the mountains from the rest of Canada has created a history, identity, and politics of something like progressive libertarianism… we question everything closely. One of those things is our relationship to food and especially the animal food industry. It’s pretty clear to anyone paying attention that the standards we expect from the animal food industry and associated government regulations are not being met. The easiest way to avoid complicity in this is not eating it.
As a result of both these points, BC has the highest percentage of vegans and vegetarians of all Canadian provinces and as a result of this we have the best innovation in food techniques and diversity of options.
I know all this because I have been changed by Vancouver myself in the past 4 years. After making 3 omnivore books (The North Shore Foodie, The East Van Foodie, and The Gastown Foodie), whose mission was to bring people closer to real food and the people behind it, I realized this was not enough. I was already vegetarian at home so making the switch to vegetarian (almost vegan) was easy. The Plant-based Foodie was part of this change.
ii. Design a meal plan for a day to showcase Vancouver’s impressive Plant-based options:
> Breakfast
Carrot Lox with Cashew Cream ‘Cheese’ on a bagel or sourdough from Roots and Fruits
and if loading up for a hike, bike ride or ski I’d wash it down with…
Mint Chip Smoothie from the Juice Truck.
I normally don’t get too excited about veggie dishes that try to ape meat versions, but this Carrot Lox is amazingly tasty in its own right. If you like that chocolate buzz but are trying to cut back, I have two words for you: Cacao Nibs, yum.
Coastal Macro Bowl from Kokomo
The Grove Bowl from Buddhaful
Cauliflower Miso Ramen with garlic truffle oil from the Workshop Vegetarian Cafe.
Bowls are awesome. So many flavors and textures in one place, a really well-crafted bowl leaves you wanting for nothing… not too heavy not too light. I have also literally had dreams about the Miso Ramen.
BBQ Jackfruit Pulled ‘Pork’ Bao Buns from The Arbor.
Purple Sweet Potato Soup with Crispy Lotus Root chips from Indigo Age Cafe.
A Cheese Platter from Blue Heron Cheese.
> Starters should be surprising and inspiring so they set the scene for a meal. These Pulled-Jackfruit Bao won the best Bao in a Vancouver Magazine competition up against meat versions. The bright purple soup (below) looks amazing and is hearty and moreish. Even if you are a hardcore diary cheese lover, I implore you to give Blue Heron’s nut cheese a try, especially the deeply veined rich and fruity Blue.
Veggie Lasagna from The Naam
Lemongrass Curry from Lotus Seed
Cauliflower Steak from Heirloom
The Lasagna and Curry are sooo good and easy weekday dishes. For something a bit special, the ‘Steak’ is a show stopper.
Lemon Blancmange from Vegan Pudding & Co.
Churro Balls from MeeT Restaurants
After such a big meal, I’d only need something light for dessert so this citrusy Blancmange fits the bill. For that second dessert stomach, these rice pudding Churro Balls, though very un-traditional, will definitely fill it.
3. What’s next for the Foodie Books?
I’ve released 4 books in 4 years and since I do almost everything from concept development, the photography, editing, recipe writing, to the distribution it has been a crazy busy few years.
While I love the Foodie Books concept, the budget and time restrictions are really tight. Book margins are razor thin for everyone in publishing. For example, all of the photos in the book were shot in under 2 hours with only minimal pre-planning, usually you’d allow a day for this with lots of planning.
So I’m not going to release a new book this year and I’m actively looking at other potential projects and collaborations. I’m really looking forward to stretching my creative legs. That said, one option is expanding the Plant-based Foodie concept to other cities so I’ll be working out the logistics of this too, hopefully for a 2020 release.
Indigo Age Cafe Purple Soup
Photos Courtesy of Brad Hill

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