Friday, December 19, 2014

Calgary Vegan Cheese Options!

I've done a few other posts on vegan finds in Calgary and area including; Alberta's First Vegan Store (Cochrane)Top 10 Vegan Eats in Calgary, & Vegan Field Trip Around Calgary. Well a lot has happened since these posts so it's time for an update. My first update is all about Vegan Cheese!

There are some great new vegan cheese options available in Calgary. A long standing favourite is the soft cashew based vegan cheese by Basic Roots, made locally in Calgary, and available at Community Natural Foods.

A new comer is the lovely Banff based Glowfood, available in dishes at Nourish Bistro, also in Banff, or by special order. Also check out Glowfood on their Facebook page. Glowfood cheeses are beautiful with unique and complex flavours. A wonderful local product. From their website "At Glowfood, we use only the best organic, raw tree nuts to make our vegan cheeses. The spices, herbs, fruits, vegetables and salts that WOW your taste buds are hand selected.  Sourcing quality is really important to us. All we are saying is that . . . we did some research and we ate a lot of cheese. Our quest for greatness spanned far and wide across the continent and this is what we have to show for it. The proof is in the details. Dairy Free. Soy Free. Gluten Free. GMO Free. Bad for you free. Artisan vegan cheese. Cultured in small batches. Hand-crafted by the owner."

Another option to get your vegan cheese fix is to special order the USA based Vtopian Artisan Cheeses (and on Facebook) by phone via the Surrey, BC company, Antony & Sons. Description from the Vtopian website "All of our cheeses are dairy-free, vegan, and handmade in Eugene, Oregon. We enjoy making innovative special cheeses to please palates. All ingredients are organic whenever possible, which is the case for almost all our ingredients. All of our major ingredients, such as cashews, oils, herbs, spices, fruits, and tofu are always organic. The cheddars, bries, and Borealis spread contain probiotic cultures. All the cheddars and bries are gluten free. All the cheddars and bries are soy free except for the Spicy White Cheddar (a small amount in spice) and Dark Chocolate Strawberry Brie (a small amount in chocolate)."

I first tried these cheeses on a trip to Portland, Oregon, and these are definitely some of my favorite vegan cheeses! They even have a seitan cheese ball for the holidays! I recently ordered a great selection and they were easily UPS shipped to me with a cold pack. They arrived in great & tasty condition. They also stock other vegan treats including one of my favourites, Cocomels Caramels, and some faux meat products too. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Alberta's first vegan store!

Today we drove out to Cochrane, Alberta, a short and pleasant drive from Calgary, to visit the brand new vegan store; VegOut Boutique. From their VegOut Boutique Facebook page, they describe themselves as "A health boutique that is dedicated to protecting your health, your planet and improving your quality of life." It is owned and operated by a lovely and passionate couple. The store is bright, well marked and with ample parking.

The store is amazing. The store stocks a wide variety of vegan items, some not found anywhere else in my travels in the Calgary area. They have a frozen & refrigerated food area with a large selection of Sweets from the Earth baked goods, tofurkey products (including the pizza pockets and quiche which I have not seen anywhere else in Alberta), raw foods and desserts, fillo dough, yoghurts, non-dairy spreads, assorted prepared meals and much more. 

There are 3 aisles of other goods including clothing, purses, yoga items, shoes (including Cynthia King vegan ballet slippers!), dried/canned food items, cosmetics, condoms, mushrooms, an impressive selection of books and DVDs, chocolates, snacks, Sea Shepherd products, and so much more! I spoke with the lovely owners and they also have plans to soon stock the line of Earth Balance snacks, Go Max Chocolate bars, & Premium Chocolatiers candies. If there is a vegan product you'd like stocked be sure to suggest it!

So with all this awesome inventory, what did we buy? I fell in love with the gorgeous recycled rubber fringed purse from the Canadian company, a super warm Sea Shepherd hoodie with embroidered logo, tofurky pizza pockets and quiche, vegan probiotics, mushroom soup and gravy and powdered peanut butter. 

The store is amazing and we are lucky to have a vegan resource like this in the province. Get out there often and support this fabulous local business! Better yet make a day of it and have a meal at the nearby vegetarian (and mostly vegan) Thai-Onzon Veggie Restaurant. (Note Thai-Onzon is closed for vacation for the month of August 2014).

Friday, May 30, 2014

My Guest Post on "Will Travel for Vegan Food" - Germany’s Vegan Paradise + Tips from Expert World Travelers

I am very excited to have a guest column on the fabulous Will Travel for Vegan Food, a wonderful vegan and travel website. The website started as a project chronicling Kristin's 2 year epic vegan trip that took her to 48 states, 547 restaurants and 39,000+ van dwelling miles.

My guest blog is a summary of all the amazing vegan dining and shopping we experienced during our April 2014 trip to Berlin, Germany. Check the article for great tips, reviews, photos and insider tricks on travelling with ease:

Germany’s Vegan Paradise + Tips from Expert World Travelers

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Entering the Gates of Hell

We’ve been back from Germany for a few weeks now. It has taken me this long to be prepared to reflect on our visit to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, now a museum and memorial, located 35 kilometres outside of Berlin. We felt it was important to bear witness to the persecution, imprisonment, torture, and murder of Jews, Romani people, people with disabilities, gays and lesbians, and other groups, under the Nazi regime. “Recent estimates, based on figures obtained since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, indicate some ten to eleven million civilians and prisoners of war were intentionally murdered by the Nazi regime” (Source: 

We took the train to Oranienburg and walked for about 20 minutes to the gates of Sachsenhausen.  “Sachsenhausen ("Saxon's Houses", German pronunciation: [zaksənˈhaʊzən]) or Sachsenhausen-Oranienburg was a Nazi concentration camp in Oranienburg, Germany, used primarily for political prisoners from 1936 to the end of the Third Reich in May 1945. After World War II, when Oranienburg was in the Soviet Occupation Zone, the structure was used as an NKVD special camp until 1950” (source: 1936 and 1945 over 200,000 people were imprisoned in Sachsenhausen.

As we entered the gates we saw the expansive grounds and several buildings. There were barracks, a mortuary, crematory, guard towers and assorted buildings. Some were original buildings and some re-built, all housing written and visual histories of the camp and its’ prisoners. There were stories told of unimaginable terror, abuse, murder and stories of resilience and survival. The stories, photos and artifacts were overwhelming. There were stories of medical experimentation, castration of gay men, starvation, torture and murder. One artifact was the gallows where many lost their lives by hanging. The inscription read “There is nothing that injures humans feelings so deeply as being forced to watch a fellow human being executed” - Heinrich Lienau, a German political prisoner, in Sachsenhausen,1939-1945. 

I recall a story of remarkable bravery, in which a prisoner working in the woodworking shop,  falsified records so he could order in additional linseed oil which was used to oil the wood. He ordered more so that he could feed the linseed oil to other starving prisoners. Another story was of Frieda B. who snuck bread to some of the 200-300 prisoners who marched through town on their way to forced labor making aircraft parts at the Heinkel Factory in Germendorf.

In one area we came upon a large pit and my stomach immediately knotted up and my eyes brimmed with tears, which gave way to uncontrollable sobbing. The pit was used to execute groups of prisoners by shooting. Another building housed barracks, a latrine and small closet like room. As I read the inscriptions I learned that the closet was stuffed with prisoners to the point of death by suffocation and that people were drowned in the latrines on the whims of the guards. I was overcome by the feelings, the smells and the claustrophobic space and had to leave in tears. As I write this I am crying again thinking about the heaviness of this place.

Public remembrance of WWII and The Holocaust, is evident throughout Berlin in museums, monuments, and memorials. In addition to the Sachsenhausen memorial and museum, we also spent time bearing witness and learning more about this history at the Topography of Terror, and The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out-- Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.”

By Martin Niemöller, a German, Anti-Nazi, Luthern Pastor, and prisoner at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Walking a half marathon in Berlin

We have walked 28 kms over two days of adventuring in Berlin!

Yesterday we spent the day checking the area near a portion of the Berlin Wall called Eastside Gallery, which is a 1.3km international memorial to freedom. We plan on renting bikes and checking out more of the wall later on. Near this portion of the wall we checked out the fantastic vegan grocer, Veganz, the adjacent vegan cafe, Goodies, and the upstairs vegan shoe shop, Avesu, and finally the upscale vegan restaurant Mio Matto. What a day in vegan paradise!

We also spent quite a bit of time in this large abandoned/repurposed warehouse complex. Some portions are empty while others have breathed new life with coffee shops, a skate park and a crossfit studio. It's interesting to see a few businesses sprinkled among abandoned buildings, squalor, broken glass, and extensive graffiti. I have mixed feelings of the epidemic of graffiti in Berlin. I enjoy photographing the very well done pieces, but do not agree with the vandalism. It is particularly sad to see sculptures, murals, and heritage buildings vandalized, and generally done so by "taggers" with no aesthetic appeal.

Today started the morning with breakfast of tofu quiche and bagel at the vegan cafe No Milk Today. We also purchased one week metro passes, which cost about $28 euros each, and explored further afield. We went to the Hamburger Bahnhof Contemporary Art Museum. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and perhaps I've been spoiled by so many other fantastic museums, but I was not moved by much of the exhibits. I did enjoy the Marx collection which included some Andy Warhol pieces as well as the sound installation by Susan Phillipz.

Ah if we could only spend everyday strolling, viewing art and enjoying wonderful food...

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Monday, April 7, 2014

Ferret kisses and other adventures

We arrived in Frankfurt on Saturday April 5, 2015. The hotel I picked out, Neue Kraeme was perfectly situated to interesting architecture, public transportation and a 30 minute walk to the vegan grocery store, Veganz. We spent the first afternoon getting a lay of the land, wandering the nearby streets. We picked up a SIM card for my iPhone for about $30 euros which comes with 3GB of data. Having a phone with internet has totally changed travelling! It's so convenient to use maps/GPS, metro apps, and to find sites and restaurants.

Sunday we woke very early in Frankfurt and wandered the streets for a while checking out a large square and a bridge covered in lovers locks.

We made it to a quaint vegan bakery, Edelkiosk before heading to the train station for our trip to Berlin. At the station we chatted with a homeless man with two ferrets. After giving him some change I had intended to snap some photos of the ferrets scurrying around on the floor. However, the gentleman excitedly insisted he place them on my shoulder for J to take a photo. The photo was not flattering as I looked both perplexed and fearful as one of them starting kissing/tasting my face. You will just have to use your imagination.

We were pleasantly surprised to find vegan labelled lunch options in the train station, although we had packed snacks just in case. (In a previous trip to Bhutan, the tub of peanut butter we hauled around had been a life saver). We purchased our tickets online (after correcting my first mistake of buying tickets from Berlin to Frankfurt instead if the other way around). Using the very helpful we deciphered our tickets as car 2 and seats 25 & 26. Unfortunately the big 2 I saw on the outside of the train was for second class not car 2, which meant I inadvertently roused a sleeping woman who was "in my seat". She was thankfully nice when we realized the mix up. With our backpacks on, we then weaved up and down the bouncing and lurching train, through the dining cart twice, until we finally found our seats, probably moments before J would become sick. Settled in, we made the 4 hour trip and arrived in Berlin Sunday evening, to our lovely studio apartment on the fourth floor of a typical German walkup apartment. We used AirBnb which allows you to rent vacation rooms or whole apartments around the world. We like it as it is more affordable than a hotel, you can have a kitchen, you get to live in a local community and the great mapping features allow you to pick out a rental according to the area amenities you desire. This one is 500 meters from a yummy vegetarian restaurant, Yellow Sunshine, where we ate great vegan burgers soon after arriving. We again got the lay of the land by wandering several blocks before going to bed.

For my photos check out

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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Off to Germany!

We arrive in Frankfurt on April 5 and stay one night before departing on the train for a 4 hour tour of the countryside to Berlin. We will spend 11 nights in Berlin in an Airbnb vacation rental apartment before coming back to Frankfurt for our final 2 nights.

I've been preparing for the trip by reading the English Berlin magazine; The ExBerliner, chock full of articles on events, dining, shopping, entertainment and culture. Another helpful guide is Timeout Berlin, with great tips on attractions and museums.

So why Germany? So many reasons! It is a direct flight; no exhausting transfers or lay over. Berlin is full of amazing history, architecture, art and museums. We also adore vibrant cities and just spending time wandering the streets snapping photos, window shopping and checking out the local cuisine. Ah the food; Berlin is becoming known as a Vegan Mecca. This is a great article on the many vegan offerings Travel Guide: Vegan Berlin. And of course the always helpful HappyCow, the worldwide vegan friendly listings, has lots of suggestions for Germany. There is even an all vegan grocery; Veganz.

Adventure awaits!