You just never know where vegan tourism will take you. For most of my life, all I knew of New Westminster was the BC ferry named after the place, which I’d often ridden to or from Vancouver Island. Come to find out, New West–as many locals call it–was not only the first capital of British Columbia, but it’s also a remarkably hospitable place for vegans.
I learned this last bit due to the efforts of one of New Westminster’s biggest fans, Melissa Balfour (aka The Hungry Taurus). Melissa had the brilliant idea to compile her favorite vegan spots in town into a little bike tour, and then invite the vegans and veg-curious. The ten spots on the tour (at $24 per person, which must have just covered costs for the things we got at each stop) were snapped up in two days, and on Saturday the rain clouds held off during just the right time for those of us lucky enough to participate. For those who didn’t make it, here’s a recap:
Melissa looked after the bikes on our first stop, since racks weren’t close by.
We started at Shine, an elegantly comfortable space filled with daylight, vintage furniture, and a mix of teas, sweets and skin care products. The business also hosts a yoga studio and a handful of independent massage practitioners. Predicting (correctly!) food-and-sweet overload on the rest of the tour, I did not try any of their food items, though the chocolates and the cupcakes looked really good. However, included in the price of the tour was a trial pack of three of their products. The scents on all three products are really nice blends of essential oils that don’t hit you over the head, and they all feel good on your skin. At only $5 for all three trial products (which would fit easily in a purse; larger containers are also priced very reasonably for the type of products they are), I’d definitely recommend picking some up for yourself or a nicely packaged gift.
The one thing that hit a bit of a sour note for me on this stop was lots of proselytizing about health benefits of various products they sold, which often seemed more opinion than fact. I want my health information from medical professionals, and not from laypeople who are trying to sell me things. Still, Shine had many other lovely things to offer, and I’m already trying to figure out how long I can make that Luminance sample last.
Moving on from Shine, it was time for lunch at Ziada, an Eritrean and Ethiopian restaurant with a vegan veggie combo: a couple of nice lentil stews, sautéed spinach, yellow split peas, and a couple other vegetable combinations, all neatly arranged on huge platters of injera. The food was all good, the service was friendly and informative (with a little prodding to let the server know that we really were interested in knowing more about the food), and the large table gave us participants a chance to get to know each other a bit. Ziada clearly needs to be better known, as later that day I ran into two local vegans who had never tried Ethiopian food and were excited to learn of a nearby opportunity to do so.
The food also provided a nice base in our bellies for the wine we tasted at Pacific Breeze Winery, a garage winery tucked away in a little industrial area. Despite the utilitarian surroundings, the tasting room was pleasant, and the wines–all of theirs are vegan–were quite good.
They opened up the garage so we could stash our bikes amid the tanks where they make the wine. Here Jennifer is talking to Ashley (right), the force behind Sprout Vegan Bakery.
The first pour was a Sauvignon Blanc, and also my favorite although I usually prefer reds. It was dry, crisp and refreshing.
Most bottles we tasted were in the $20-$25 range, but they also make pricier bottles and have a wine club and various events for those who like to keep tabs on new and small-batch offerings.
I could have hung out sampling wine for a while yet, but we had more food to eat! Our next stop was at the quay, at Crepe des Amis:
This place was on the tour specifically because of Melissa’s prior efforts to make the business vegan friendly, and boy had they come through! We sampled seven items from their savory and sweet vegan menu (plus one not yet on the menu) and only got through half of their offerings. The crepes themselves impressed even omnivores in the group, and the fillings were varied and creative, like the peanutty Malaysian Spicy Salad filling, courtesy of one of the owners, who is Malaysian. The hands-down winner, though, was the one not yet on the menu: chocolate with soy-nut butter:
The coveted last bite of the favorite crêpe at our table: chocolate and soy-nut butter.
I hope it’s made official soon so everyone can try it! If we hadn’t been completely desserted-out by that point, several of us would have liked to try the two flavors of vegan “Tofulati,” their soy-based frozen dessert.
Seattle, are you gonna keep letting New Westminster be the closest place to get vegan crepes? Hmmm?
We were pretty darn full by that point, but Melissa’s well-planned route had us going either downhill or flat almost the whole time, so getting to our final stop of Karmavore was no trouble. Karmavore is kind of like a mixture of Portland’s and Seattle’s vegan retail stores, rolled into one. In addition to clothing, shoes, cosmetics and a grocery section they have a small deli that offers goodies from Sprout, a variety of savouries from Field Roast (including their hard-to-find chao cheese balls), and some items like sandwiches that seemed to be house-made. They had chocolate croissants, which I must say were right up there with the pain au chocolat from Seattle’s Bouteloua Bakery. At Karmavore we got a little sample pack of bite-size desserts from Sprout, all of which I can enthusiastically recommend. Perfectly seasoned pumpkin cheesecake? Check. Gorgeous little mini-cupcakes, in vanilla-lime and maple-walnut? Check. Something for the peanut lover and the carob lover? Got those, too. Expertly prepared and beautifully finished, all of them. You can find Sprout goodies in lots of places around the Vancouver area, and you should not pass them by if you find them.
It was an afternoon well spent, and a great chance to meet some cool people and discover some hidden gems in a place I honestly probably wouldn’t have made it to any time soon. The little historic downtown area where Karmavore is located is really pretty and would be nice to walk around if you weren’t on wheels. We also covered much of the waterfront on the boardwalk, lined with beautiful flowers and views of a picturesque, working waterfront (sorry, no pictures since we were on the move). Northwestern vegans would be well advised to follow Melissa on Twitter for any future events she puts together, as she clearly has both excellent taste and a knack for organization. And meanwhile, include a stop in New West next time you’re in the Vancouver area!