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My Favourite Restaurant

Of all the things people ask me about moving home from “the big city,” two questions come up over and over:

1) Aren’t you going to get bored?
2) How will you eat??

The answers are actually quite simple.

First, a girl can make her own fun wherever she is. Trust me. It’s pretty darn simple to be in a big city with a million things to do and still feel bored and lonely. Sometimes you just have to be a little more creative in smaller towns ;)

Secondly, one word: Calactus.

Actually, one of my best friends told me that I won’t miss any of those Toronto restaurants because Moncton’s Calactus is all I really need.

Exaggerated, yes. But still not that far from the truth.

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I’ve been blogging about this place for years now. It’s my favourite restaurant. Ever. And all right here in my hometown.

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I first started going to Calactus over a decade ago when it was in a small old house on Mountain Road. It was around the time my family first started eating vegetarian, and this vegetarian/vegan restaurant helped introduce a whole new style of eating to me.

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Calactus is also home to the world’s best veggie burger. Seriously. This coming from a girl who spent eight years as a vegetarian and has choked down a lot of veggie burgers in her day…

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But the even better thing about this restaurant, is that they are more than just one standout dish. Everything is good. All house made, fresh, flavourful. The kind of meal that doesn’t weigh you down, but leaves you feeling healthily satisfied.

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Like with they’re Burrito Bandito.

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Or their extravaganza pizza with tomato sauce, veggie pepperoni, falafel, red onion, green pepper and cheese. Along with a beet and goat cheese salad.

I have yet to try their pakoras, but their munchables are amazing.

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The Thousand and One Nights with chapati bread, feta cheese and olives, falafels, hummus, tofu cream and veggie sticks.

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Their falafels are the bestest. Perfectly seasoned, crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, without being greasy. Their tofu cream still alludes me. They put it on a lot of their dishes. Like a garlicky tofu hummus or tzatziki of sorts.

My latest visit to Calactus was on Saturday for lunch and my midday cravings wanted something rolled up in bread.

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I went with a “Flute” which is essentially a wrap. Falafel flavour, because as I said, their falafel is out of this world.

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With sprouts, lettuce, red onion, tomato, and a drizzle of that savoury tofu cream. My oh my it was good! Their house made chapati bread never ceases to amaze me. Always so soft and fluffy. A million times better than the usual flour tortilla.

The tabbouleh is something to write home about as well. Rather than being pre-mixed, it’s couscous with the dressed parsley and tomatoes dolloped on top. Tastes almost like a bruschetta on couscous.

Then of course there’s Christie and Tiffany.

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My Calactus lunch-mates on Saturday. We’ve lunched manymany times together over the ooohhh 20 years (?) we’ve known each other.

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They’re both living back at home now too. So the three of us live just down the street from each other like we did growing up!

Except you know, with a few extra stories to tell from along the way.

Told ya, a girl can find some good fun and good food just about anywhere ;)

Vegan For a Week Challenge

No, I am not cracking down on my eats after a booze and donair filled weekend. I don’t roll like that. But I am kindasorta taking part in Morgan’s Vegan For a Week Challenge.

And by “kindasorta” I mean I’m going to Ottawa on Thursday and there is no way I’m going to have my favourite poutine there without cheese curds. At least they use mushroom gravy! ;)

Instead I’m making a concerted effort to choose foods this week that are animal free. Perhaps this seems like a huge departure for my burger-loving self. But I actually spent one month as a vegan six years ago. Otherwise known as “the dark period.”

It was during my 8-year stint as a lacto-ovo vegetarian. I found out my favourite beer was vegan and decided to give it a shot. I was ill prepared. My body wanted to know where the eggs went. I spent a lot of money on nutritional yeast and gomashio. There was a vegan mayonnaise disaster that leaves me gagging at the thought of apple cider vinegar or silken tofu to this day.

But I’m all about the second chances. I’ve now got an arsenal of amazing vegan bloggers and their recipes behind me.

To start, my fellow Torontonian and New Brunswickan – Angela. I’m determined to use up what’s in my cupboard for vegan eats this week and not spend any more money than usual. Thankfully I stumbled across a recipe of hers that allowed me to use up both bags of lentils and walnuts I had taking up space in my cupboard.

Lentil Walnut Burgers from Oh She Glows.

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I made a few changes based on what I had on hand:

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 cup 1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
  • 1 piece bread, toasted OR 1/3 cup breadcrumbs 2 wasa crackers
  • 1 tsp 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 chia/flax egg (1 tbsp ground chia or flax + 1/4 cup water)

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I otherwise followed the directions, baking for just a smidge longer to ensure they hardened up. They turned out awesome. I ate some crumbled on top of a salad with a lemon/mustard dressing and loved it. A texture similar to falafels, with a sweet/spiciness thanks to the roasted walnuts and cumin.

I’m going to test out new vegan recipes this week (including for Waffle Wednesday!) but here are some of my favourites. They get my stamp of approval both as a former vegetarian and a current carnivore who loves bacon and cheese with just about everything.

Tofu Balls from the Post Punk Kitchen.

Actually pretty much everything from The PPK. That site is a goldmine of delicious vegan recipes.

Tofu Balls are meant to replace meatballs in pasta, but I liked them best cold and dipped in Averie’s peanut sauce.

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Traditional Scottish oatcake. Just replace the “bacon fat” with something a little nicer like coconut oil or margarine ;) I make these all the time with the addition of soy protein powder and peanut butter to make a filling breakfast out of it.

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Peanut ButterNut Squash Muffins.

My favourite muffin recipe of all time.

Simply Bars!

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Vegan and gluten-free. Cathy doesn’t pay me to say that, I just really love them.

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Mama Pea’s Pumpkin Spice Roasted Chickpeas.

The Fitnessista’s Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili.

Wonkynut Squash Soup (by me!).

Best Vegan Mac and Cheese in the entire world….seriously.

Yummy Vegan Maple Baked Beans.

Italian “Pizza Cheese” from Choosing Raw

Dreena Burton’s Super-Charge Me! Cookies.

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And if all else fails, there’s always Froot Loops.

Yup, completely vegan. Pair it with a splash of almond milk ;)

 

Question of the Day: How about you? Are you/have you ever been vegan? What’s your favourite vegan meal or snack?

 

You can follow the Vegan For a Week Challenge on Twitter under #7dayvegan and join the Facebook page!

The World’s Best Veggie Burger. Ever.

Hello everyone! I don’t know what it’s like where you are, but the Maritimes are getting pushed around by a nasty storm today. Rain, strong winds, overall ickyness. Fret not, I spent most of this Tuesday in my pyjamas watching Dexter. Followed by an amaaaazing hot yoga class with the bestie (more on this new hot yoga later).

But I’m not here to talk about Tuesday because you’ll probably be reading this on Wednesday, or Thursday. Or maybe next January. So let’s just get to Monday, shall we?

Monday is a day worth blogging about. On Monday, I ate the best veggie burger in the whole wide world.

Well, in my humble opinion anyways.

Remember when I rambled on about my favourite hamburgers? Well I’ve got a top veggie burger list too. And as hard as Toronto tries, it still can’t trump the ones being served up at Moncton’s own Calactus.

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Unlike Toronto, Vegetarian/Vegan restaurants are hard to come by in these parts. For a long time, it was the only place in Moncton that offered a wide range of veggie options. Which was important to me in my vegetarian days.

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Back in high school, Calactus operated out of a little colourful home on Mountain Road. Since then, it’s classed up with a larger home on the corner of Church and St. George.

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They were also one of the first restaurants in Moncton to serve up fresh, organic, local food. Back before hummus became a mainstay at the local pub.

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I’ve tried almost everything on this menu by now. The flutes are fabulous, the pizzas delicious and the burritos hit the spot. But the one item I order again and again is the Big Marc Burger. This has been the subject of dreams for over a decade now.

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Our famous all-dressed veggie burger with cheese. Served with oven-baked potatoes and Caesar salad.”

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I arrived here after a noon-hour spin class with my dad. The old man out-spun me, again ;) First things out of his mouth after class were “Chocolate soy shake.” Mine were “Big Marc Burger.”

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Pops, ready to dig in.

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Me, with an old friend.

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Word on the street is that Marc, the burger’s inventor, used to sell these puppies while living in Europe. He then came home to Moncton to open his own restaurant and these became the star of the menu.

As far as I can tell, it’s a patty very reminiscent of veggie pate. Topped with their signature tofu cream sauce, mustard, sprouts, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and cheese melted into crisps.

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I opted out of the potatoes and got all salad. I love this caesar salad. Topped with that tofu cream dressing and these little vegetarian bits that taste just like bacon bits. Textured vegetable protein or nutritional yeast perhaps?

In case you are wondering here are the runners up for “Susan’s Top Veggie Burgers”:

2. Q.M. Burger from Queen Mother Cafe

A high protein vegetarian patty of grains, nuts, herbs and mushrooms, covered in melted cheese and served in a whole wheat pita with our own special sauce, romaine lettuce and tomato.

3. Deluxe Burger from Fresh

“Our high protein almond, grain, tofu & vegetable burger is grilled and served with a side of slaw.” Toppings are tomato, lettuce, red onion, alfalfa sprouts dill pickle & vegan mayo.

So you see, yes, I will never compare a veggie burger to a real hamburger again. But that doesn’t mean I still don’t appreciate a kick ass veggie patty ;)

 

Question of the Day: What’s the best veggie burger you ever had?

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