Review: The new Pure Kitchen Ottawa


I make it to Westboro every couple of months. It’s not so much that it’s far, but it hasn’t had something to bring me there regularly.  With Pure Kitchen recently opening right in its heart, there’s a chance of that changing.

The yoga and veggie worlds have been abuzz about Pure Kitchen opening for a few months now. Nobody had many details and it was all a bit of a mystery. I wasn’t even sure if it was real. But I went last night to try it out, on its third official day open, and I can assure you, it’s 1

When we arrived at 8 pm, the restaurant was about half full. There were many staff members, all wearing Pure Kitchen t-shirts with cute expressions like, “Give peas a chance.” The space was bigger than I expected. When you go in the door, there is a juice bar straight and to the right, and to the left is the main dining area. The decor is modern and a bit funky.  Light floors, light walls, and a funky and colourful print along the back wall.

Pure Kitchen is a vegetarian restaurant. It has many vegan options; most of the menu could be described as  vegan, but with various non-vegan add-ons. Mostly cheese.  It is reminiscent of Fresh in Toronto at which I have eaten many, many times. It also has an undertone of Aux Vivres (Montreal). There are creative appetizers, noodle bowls, meal salads, and wraps/burgers.  There’s an extensive juice bar, and wine/beer (although no cocktails.)  Dessert is currently limited, but I know they’re planning to stock an array of vegan goodies soon.

The menu is divided into a few different section – the appetizers, wraps and burgers, bowls, and meal-sized salads. I saw several appetizers that looked good before I even moved on to the rest.  It took us a while to order though; a number of items were not available, and there was a lack of clarity around the veganness of others (despite the menu having tiny icons intended to identify the status).  My dining partner had to change her entire planned order as a result.

"Playful" onion rings, Pure Kitchen.

“Playful” onion rings, Pure Kitchen.

I ordered the “playful” onion rings ($9), and my friend ordered the “grounded” poutine ($9). We had a dialogue with the server about the vegan status of the poutine, as the menu indicated it could be vegan, but wasn’t automatically so.  She was a few bites in before she realized that she was NOT given a vegan poutine. It took a few minutes to flag someone down, and a new poutine was brought out.  To Pure Kitchen’s credit, she was not charged for either poutine. The onion rings, on the other hand, are automatically vegan.  I asked – and was assured – that both dipping sauces that came with it (chipotle avocado and spicy mayo) are vegan.

The onion rings themselves were absolutely delicious and quite creative with a puffed quinoa coating.  The dipping sauces did the job, but were not terrific. I am not sure which was which, but one was a bit acidic (as though it contained a fair bit of vinegar) and the other was very spicy but without a huge depth of flavour.  That could just be my own taste preferences though.   My friend thoroughly enjoyed her vegan poutine, once it arrived.  It doesn’t use a “faux” cheese like Daiya, but rather, small marinated tofu cubes.

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“fantastic” noodle bowl, Pure Kitchen

Deciding on a main course was pretty easy; I don’t eat salad unless I have to, I didn’t feel like a wrap or burger, and I love “bowl” style meals. The “fantastic” noodle bowl (s $11, l $15) sounded like something I would create myself. Rice noodles with spicy peanut sauce, veggies (broccoli, bok choi, red peppers, sprouts) and tamari maple tofu.  I ordered the larger sized one, and regretted that because the onion rings were very filling. The peanut sauce was fantastic, and the vegetable portion was generous.  I couldn’t finish all of the rice noodles.  The tofu was a bit bland; I could taste a bit of sweetness, and the grill marks are always a nice touch, but it could have benefited from a longer period of marination.  Overall it was a nicely balanced dish, that I would definitely have again.  My dining partner ordered the mushroom burger with a side kale caesar salad. That dish is automatically vegan.  She gave it a thumbs up.

My friend Amanda is a server at Pure, and she told me that there are three types of nut-based tart currently available. We were contemplating which of the three to share (we were stuffed!) when the manager (co-owner?) presented us with a platter which had one of each, on the house. Wow! Somehow we managed to find the room to eat them all. I loved the chocolate and salted caramel tart the best, and my dining partner preferred the strawberry vanilla.  Each had a slightly different crust. I really enjoyed the texture of the crusts – they weren’t mealy or damp as some raw vegan crusts can be. I don’t know what the cost is; they weren’t on the menu, and we had the privilege of enjoying them complimentary.

photo 4At the end of our meal one of the owners (a gentleman) came to chat with us about our experience.  He told us that they had done some trial runs with friends and had received overwhelmingly positive feedback, but wanted to hear honest, even critical feedback so that they can continue to improve the restaurant.  He mentioned that they hope to implement brunch at some point soon, but that their current focus is fine-tuning the existing menu.  He also mentioned that they are very sensitive to the needs of vegans and gluten-freers in particular. Their fryers are completely gluten-free, and different pans are used for anything containing non-vegan ingredients.

I am really pleased to see a restaurant like Pure Kitchen open in Ottawa. It fills a bit of a void – there currently isn’t anywhere that offers this kind of hearty but healthy fare in a casual environment. While I ate in the sit down area, I love that there’s more casual seating for if you just want to pop in and eat a quick noodle bowl or juice. It provides a nice complement to the existing offerings, and since it’s tied to a yoga studio, hopefully it will draw in a lot of non-veg people without drawing too much away from the amazing veg restaurants that are already serving us.

A word of warning though for vegans: This is not a vegan restaurant. It mostly is. If you order coffee, you will be served cow’s milk unless you specify otherwise.  You do need to be on alert, at least until staff are more up-to-speed.  For example, my dining partner was considering ordering the dumplings, and discussed it with the server.  While we’d already established clearly that we are vegan, she was advised that the dumplings were not currently available, however, not that they aren’t vegan. We learned that when another diner we know mentioned it later.  This is not a deal breaker or a huge deal, but is just a reminder that this may be new terrain for some of the staff.

Additionally, I found the vegan/vegetarian/gluten-free icon system a bit confusing and difficult to follow.  My suggestion to Pure Kitchen would be to make it a bit more prominent, and a bit more clear.  One possible way to approach it would be to make the vegan option be the default, with vegetarian options, rather than the reverse.

Overall though, it was a pleasant experience, the food was very tasty, and the staff were eager to please.  Go give them a try, and tell them I sent you. :)

Pure Kitchen

357 Richmond Road


(613) 680-5500

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Goodbye, Mooey.


I’ve been re-living my entire adult life for the past two days.  It’s amazing how these things can resurrect feelings and memories so vivid that it’s as though you’re actually experiencing them again.  It was just shy of two days ago that my little boy cat, Mooey, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away at 13.5 years.

Mooey memorial

My husband’s beautiful memorial to Mooey.

Mooey, the cat I thought would live forever if only to spite others.  Mooey, the little boy who I adopted with my ex-partner as a Christmas gift for one another back in 2001.  The cat who wooed every visitor to our home, who terrorized our dog (who weighs 5x what he did), who would cart around objects large and small most nights, his yowls directly proportionate to the size of his prey.   Mooey, who at 13.5 could still leap to the top of the fridge from the floor in a single bound, and who hadn’t had a single sick day in his life. He was the longest, leanest cat I ever met, and that elicited comment from nearly all those he met.

I adopted Mooey as a kitten from the Ottawa Humane Society.  He was plucked from their depressing Champagne Avenue shelter. I stood in their cat room, tears streaming down my face, devastated for the cats I’d have to leave behind.  He was vocal and active from the moment I met him.  I remember for a long time thinking he was a very lovely and social cat, but maybe not very bright; then one day, realizing he had managed to teach himself how to open a closed door using his paws and thinking, “that cat is a genius.”

Mooey represents the thread that ties together all of the chapters of my adult life.  He was there through all of it, purring, biting, and howling. He provided affection, entertainment, and would greet me at the door most evenings.  When my previous relationship ended, we split up the cats.  There were three; I took two – Mooey and Chewy; he took Pesto, who died just a few months later of a known (but undiagnosed) illness. After we buried her we never spoke again; it’s been nearly six years.   Mooey’s death resurrects the pain associated with those losses as well.  It reminds me of past poor behaviour and mistakes, and of the fleetingness of life. It reminds me of how lucky I have been to have the unconditional love of both people and animals.

yves mooeyMy husband Yves and Mooey had a special bond. Yves would often walk around the house with Mooey draped around his neck. If the number of Facebook profile photos you post with someone means anything, then Mooey occupied a a place at the top of the hierarchy.  Five of Yves’ profile pics have included Mooey. One has included me.

It was Yves who cried first when we realized that Mooey had reached the end of his road.  The whole ordeal lasted just less than 24 hours; other than that, Mooey lived about 4,927 healthy and happy days. On Sunday evening, we noticed he seemed weak and lethargic.  Figuring he had eaten something he shouldn’t have, we decided we’d take him to the vet if we didn’t see improvement by morning.  For part of the night, he slept peacefully on my chest, with Freyja the dog lying uncomfortably beside us.  We called the vet first thing in the morning when it was clear he was not improving, and I took him in at 1 pm.

The vet identified his ailment immediately (a urinary blockage) and I elected to have him unblocked (the other option was euthanization).  They took him into the next room and his cries were blood curdling.  I sat there wondering if I’d made the right decision to prolong his misery, while also berating myself for not bringing him in sooner.  Even now, I wonder if bringing him in sooner would have made the difference.  I agonized over walking that line between providing him with responsible care, and engaging in futile (and expensive) attempts at heroics that would possibly not even be in his best interest.

Mooey was stabilized, but at 5 pm I received a call from the vet. Mooey had taken a turn for the worse and was now on oxygen because he could not breathe on his own.  We had a few options, but only one did not involve further agony for my little boy, and the other two still had more or less the same result – a prolonged death. We headed to the vet’s office to say goodbye.

We live only five minutes away, but Mooey died before we arrived. I know they did everything they could for him, but his little body couldn’t take it anymore. We had an opportunity to say goodbye to his corpse, and the tears flowed freely.

Later, my husband posted the following tribute to his Facebook, and I think it’s beautiful.

“The Moon tonight is a single cat’s claw. Mooey preceded us today into the oblivion in which we will ultimately join him. He’ll continue to live on, in our thoughts and memories, until we too are claimed by non-existence, and not a trace of his, or our, passage remains. That will do nothing to diminish the value of his company. He made us feel a little less lonely, and we loved him for it, even when he was irritating, which was often.”

Rest in Peace, our little boy. <3

mooey alone

Mooey: Sept. 2001 – Feb. 23, 2015



Introducing PlantKind – Please join us!


You may have noticed that the blog has been pretty inactive for the past few months.  There’s a reason for this.  I have recently launched the first stage of a new initiative, and that is taking up most of my “spare” time.  That initiative is called PlantKind.  I am hoping that many of the Mindful Maven blog subscribers will consider subscribing to receive PlantKind updates.

PlantKind is was founded by myself, and another long-time vegan advocate Kyle den Bak. We noticed that many people who believe in vegan ethics of kindness, compassion, and valuing the sentience of all animals struggle to not only become vegan, but also to stay vegan for many reasons such as social pressures, information overload, and lack of support. We noticed that many vegans over-complicate their diets, becoming hung up on micro nutrients, super foods, and eating gourmet at most meals. Others become overwhelmed with the powerful emotions that can come with a vegan awakening, and struggle to be effective, positive advocates.



Clockwise from top left: Pamela Tourigny, Kyle den Bak, Jane Kearnan den Bak, Susan Macfarlane



As long-time vegans with successful professional and athletic track records, we decided to join forces to create something that would simplify the vegan lifestyle, making it easier to become vegan, adopt vegan practices, and stay vegan.  PlantKind evolved out of months of discussion, research and observation.  Kyle’s wife, Jane, a cardiac nurse, and registered dietitian Susan Macfarlane were attracted to this concept and have joined as founding contributors to PlantKind.

PlantKind will offer a range of products and services, aimed at simplifying vegan living.  PlantKind offers an approach that covers not only nutrition information, but also offers practical advice and support to help people to be happy and healthy vegans in their daily lives, even as they go against the grain in a meat-centric world.

Here’s my first original PlantKind blog post, as well as one by Kyle about the very simple diets of elite Kenyan runners, and one by Susan about food security and making peace with our diet.

I hope that you will join us.

My Healthwise Ottawa feature


I was very honoured a few months ago when Healthwise Ottawa editor Judy Field got in touch seeking to include a profile about me in the magazine’s winter issue (link to the full article is below).

Healthwise Ottawa has been around for seven years, and is a well-produced publication that covers health and wellness news in the Ottawa area.  It is distributed mostly through the Ottawa Citizen and reaches 75,000 people.

The feature covers my work at terra20, my volunteer endeavours, and my current role as an ambassador for Nature Canada’s Women For Nature program (along with some crazy accomplished people like Elizabeth May, Margaret Atwood, Leanne Cusack and Michele Valberg). Kudos to writer Nicola Maule, and photographer Jamie Kronick, who both did a terrific job, and made the process fun.

healthwise article

Interestingly, the process of developing the article and taking the photos occurred at a time when I had just disengaged from a number of my volunteer pursuits, so I felt a bit undeserving.  However, as my friends and family remind me, everyone needs to take a break sometimes, and the break will no doubt give me the energy to find the next way to make my mark, and do so with the enthusiasm and commitment for which I’m known.

You can read the whole article here:

A Love Letter to Lilac


Dear Lilac,


Not long after we brought you home.

A year and a half ago I agreed to foster a senior dog who had turned up as a stray at an area shelter.  You were described on the rescue’s Facebook page as a “depressed lab.”  It turns out you aren’t a lab, but you were definitely depressed.

You arrived to our home overweight, covered with paint on one side, and despondent.  Your tail was planted firmly between legs. You moved slowly, with the energy of a being who had given up hope. Your estimated age: 10 years old. We named you Lilac.

What we understand happened is that after you turned up as a stray at the shelter, your “owners” called, and said “Yep that’s my dog. We’ll come get her.”  They never came back for you, though they must have known that a dog of your age in a shelter doesn’t have a great chance of making it out alive.

And so you were pulled to safety by Sit With Me, and came to live with us, and our forever dog, Freyja.  Your previous owners must think you’re dead. I’ve wondered over the past 18 months if they ever feel guilty about that, or if they miss you. Do they mourn your passing?  Of course not only were you not dead, Lilac, you’ve been having the time of your life with us.  You’ve won the hearts of so many; we could not have made you whole without the contributions of your extended family, including your uncles Vincent and Al, and aunts Joanne and Jenn.


At the Sit With Me annual picnic.

And now, you have found your forever home with a lovely woman named Kris. Your adoption was finalized today. I wasn’t sure if I could ever say goodbye to you, but knowing what a good guardian Kris will be has made it much easier. There’s a piece of my heart that you took with you, but it’s a small price to pay for knowing that I helped you to find happiness.

You’re lucky, Li. That’s actually an understatement, because this isn’t how it plays out for most animals who end up at the shelter. Sadly, most won’t walk out alive. You’re so extraordinarily fortunate that compassionate Sit With Me volunteers were in the shelter at the exact right moment to grab you, and ferry you to a better life.

But let’s be very clear that it’s not the shelters that are to blame, it’s

You were a bridesmaid in a wedding.

You were a bridesmaid in a wedding.

people. The people who dump off their animals when it’s no longer entirely convenient to care for them, or who buy a dog without realizing what they’re getting in to and then dump or let them run off.  The people who recklessly breed their dog when there’s a dearth of animals being put down in shelters. Someone else’s problem, right?

Lilac, you’ve taught me a lot. I’m a bit hardened and cynical, but you are so trusting and giving of your affection. It has softened my heart to be the recipient of that, and has resulted in me being more willing to open my own heart and let others in. You taught me that it’s okay to give people the benefit of the doubt, even when past experience says that sometimes people don’t deserve it.

It has been wonderful seeing your personality emerge and manifest itself. Like how you like the grass, but LOVE the snow. It was so beautiful seeing you – once despondent and depressed – face dive into it and roll around like a pig in a mud bath.  And you’ve given us great amusement with your love for singing, as you dueted enthusiastically with Freyja every time we approached the dog park.

Cottaging this past June.

Cottaging this past June.

I have watched you evolve from a dog who really wasn’t sure how to interact with other dogs, to a dog who joyfully although often clumsily interacts with every dog who crosses your path. I’ve laughed at your love of food, and how you drool uncontrollably when you know dinner is on its way.

More recently, as you’ve slowed down a bit, I’ve valued the cuddle time. The mornings when you climb into my bed and literally pin me down with your paws so that you can give me cuddles and kisses. When you look at me with those doughy, inquisitive eyes, and I can’t help but feel safe. And have I told you that you have the prettiest smile.  Everyone who has met you has melted into a little puddle because you’re so damn cute.

I will miss all of those things, and in fact, have cried through writing most of this. There have been many times throughout our time together when I was pretty sure that you would be with me until the end of your days. But this isn’t about me. It’s about you, Lilac. You’ve won the lottery! While thousands of dogs are euthanized for no fault of their own, because of a lack of space at shelters and in homes, you have found the most welcoming home, with a most amazing and caring woman. How could I be a barrier to that?

Saying goodbye while dropping you off at your new home.

Saying goodbye while dropping you off at your new home.

You’ve given me so much, and made me a better, more patient, and more loving person. I can only hope that I have given you the sense of stability and security that you needed to become the best Lilac you can be. From the way you’ve won Kris’ heart, I think I just may have done my part.

And now, I know that I can love a dog and let them go, which means I can foster again.  Because I was able to let you go, another life will be saved.

Love always,

Your foster mom

The best Mother's Day greeting.

The best Mother’s Day greeting.

A Compassionate Thanksgiving: How I Ate Vegan On a Meat-Heavy Holiday


The Thanksgiving tradition in my family is to have ham. I don’t know how this came about, but it’s what has been done. The tradition of eating turkey, or some other kind of meat is very commonplace for Thanksgiving, unfortunately. This year is the first that I’ve lived with my vegan partner and not my omnivore family. We decided to have our own meal that would reflect our values and also be super delicious! There are many options when cooking and baking vegan, but I wanted to share with you what we chose.Zengarry's Holiday Brie

We started out the day by having brunch with my family. My mom was very thoughtful and provided Yves breakfast sausages, fresh bread, and sliced melons for us, along with coffee with almond milk and a few other things. We also brought along Auntie Loo’s pumpkin spice scones and cinnamon buns. We shared some Zengarry Holiday Brie as well – a big hit with my sisters. I found that spending time with my family over brunch rather than over a turkey dinner was easier for me. Less cooking birds, and more talking and catching up! Our little rescue dog, Démo the Pekingese, also came with us. We enjoyed a walk at the dog park near my parents’s place after eating way too much.Pumpkin Pecan Pie

When we got home, I started on a pumpkin-pecan pie. The recipe was graciously provided to me by someone on the NCVA Facebook page. I love getting recipes that are tried and true already! We went with a pre-made crust and it turned out amazing. This was my first attempt at any sort of pecan pie, vegan or otherwise, so I’m excited to make some modifications to the flavour and try it again.   Once the pie was out of the oven, I threw in a Celebration Roast from Field Roast. Field Roast products may not be widely available in Canada soon, so we figured we’d better make the most of it now. We actually have another one in our freezer for Christmas! Gotta plan ahead for family holidays.

 Anyways, while the Field Roast did it’s thing in the oven, I started boiling potatoes to be mashed into Isa Chandra’s “Fluffy Mashed Potatoes” recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen. I can vouch for the fact that they are fluffy. Very delicious and simple recipe, and we skipped the gravy. I’m a mushroom-hater at heart.

The full meal!Meanwhile, my partner sliced up kale and prepared a dressing for Oh She Glow’s “The Best Shredded Kale Salad”. We made a few mods. We skipped the pecan parmesan and added almonds to the cranberry garnish. It was a light and tart dressing that went well with the cranberries, and was also a good way to get some raw greens into our very rich dinner. I would make this again, but I’d love to try the pecan parmesan next time too! I have some nutritional yeast from VegFest Montreal that I’m itching to use.

Lastly were the Brussel sprouts. These I pulled from Isa Chandra’s “Isa Does It” cookbook. They’re in a recipe for a sweet potato gnocchi dinner, but I just made the tarragon cashew cream and seared Brussel sprouts. This was a more complicated part of our meal, as I find the recipes from this book tend to be. The pay off is huge, though. I’m so glad that I was leant this cookbook! It’s taught me a lot about vegan food prep that I didn’t know, and has certainly provided me with some impressive recipes to add to my repertoire.

Everything worked out well, which we were thankful for. I tried a few new recipes for our Thanksgiving meal and new recipes don’t always look presentable the first time. I hope that you and yours had a restful holiday, and I’d love to hear what you made for your “alternative” Thanksgiving feasts!

Montreal Vegan Festival Round-Up!


Hello readers!

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the first ever Montreal Vegan Festival! In addition to brushing up on my French, I basked in a crowd of ethical people, and ate my weight in vegan food. In this post I’m going to be highlighting my favourite parts, but you can find a complete list of exhibitors on the Festival’s website, here.

Free vegan cookies!

Free vegan cookies!

My friend and I took the train from Ottawa at arrived at noon in Montreal. The festival was only a twenty minute walk from the train station, located at the Coeur de science, a UQAM building on Sherbrooke. This gave us a chance to stretch our legs and see the city. We approached the entrance table and were given a Sophie Sucrée molasses cookie just for showing up! A two dollar donation towards the costs of running the festival also got us a reusable Natura bag. Admission was free. We were already some happy vegans.

We then headed off to the exhibitors section. Full disclosure: I attended none of the talks given. The complete list of what talks were given is on the website.

FEDJA's table display!

FEDJA’s table display!

First impressions: it was packed! The first room seemed to be mainly animal advocacy groups. The first table we approached was FEDJA (Fonds étudiant pour la défense juridique des animaux). The students manning the table had very informative pamphlets that approached animal activism from a legal standpoint. They had painstakingly flagged pages of the Criminal Code that applied to animals, and were both very knowledgeable and passionate. We also checked out the APFA (The Association for the Protection of Fur-Bearing Animals), where we found some cute buttons and stickers available by donation. To access the next room, we walked across a small courtyard.

This is where we started to get into the food items. This room was even busier! I think it’s safe to say the festival had a good turnout. Right by the entrance was the Sophie Sucrée table, where I couldn’t resist purchasing their banana chocolate chip loaf. I shared it with my partner the next day it was still moist as ever! Next, we sidled over to the Giddy Yo-Yo display. Any other chocoholics out there will understand why this was exciting to me! I ended up only getting some of their chocolate-scented lotion, as their products (all raw and vegan!) are widely available in Ottawa as well.

Lola Rosa's lunch offering.

Lola Rosa’s lunch offering.

At this point we were starting to want lunch. It was around 1:00pm, and we had spent the morning traveling. The first both we saw was the tried and true Lola Rosa. There, we had a taco bowl with beans and other vegetables on it. This ended up being messy, but so worth it. We purchased what look and tasted like cookie dough bars from them as well. We ended up getting one of the last taco bowls, they had to send someone back to the restaurant to get more! We checked out Chef Veganessa next. Chef Veganessa provides meal delivery and cooking classes, located in Beaconsfield, Quebec. The business is run by owner Vanessa Percher, a certified nutritionist and natural food advocate. Luckily for us, they had their food available for us to try. I purchased Power Balls, a delicious chocolatey date and nut ball, as well as a rice wrap with cashew. My friend and I ate our rice wraps on the train and found them to be filling and miraculously not soggy, despite our long day.

Mouton Vert's Mouthwatering Products

Mouton Vert’s Mouthwatering Products

One business that stood out to me was Mouton Vert. They’re a bakery and restaurant located in Montreal that offers Mediterranean vegetarian and vegan food. I had never heard of them previously, but they had a variety of Greek food, veganized! I was offered a ginger cookie that was crispy and spicy. Of course, I purchased other Greek treats and was told that the owners’ mother actually made a lot of the treats herself. How cute is that? I can’t wait to try them out next time I’m in town.

Now on to a few other tables we visited briefly. Macatruffe, where I purchased decadent mint rose truffles, and Druide Cosmetiques, where I found vegan cinnamon toothpaste. I have a lot of trouble finding vegan toothpaste that I find actually works, so I’ve been encouraged by the Druide brand so far. I quite like it! I’m upset I only purchased the smaller tube. I was glad to be able to find some new vegan brands to try outside of the Ottawa Scene.

Pamela Tourigny of the NCVA and Ottawa Veg Fest, and Nadia Mohabir, who played a big role in organizing the Montreal Vegan Festival. Feat. Paradis Végeetarien's kebab.

Pamela Tourigny of the NCVA and Ottawa Veg Fest, and Nadia Mohabir, who played a big role in organizing the Montreal Vegan Festival. Feat. Paradis Végeetarien’s kebab.

And finally, we reached the last room. We were greeted by the famous Paradis Végétarien’s booth, with some bizarrely meaty mock-meat products. I tried the kebab and was a little weirded out by how meaty it was. Take that as you will, but I think I’ll be sticking to other brands for now. Moving down the aisle, I found Auntie Loo and Zengarry of Ottawa fame! Both were doing incredibly well, with exclamations of “yum!” being heard from the crowd. Auntie Loo’s was offering samples of their coffee cake that people seemed to love. I shared the pumpkin cake with my friend on the train home, even in Montreal we had to get our Auntie Loo’s fix!

Librairie Zone Libre's spread

Librairie Zone Libre’s spread

The last booth I’d like to mention is Librairie Zone Libre. They carried a lot of titles surrounding animal rights and ethics. Although they mainly had French titles, I purchased a copy of Ecofeminism (edited by Carol J. Adams!) in English. It’s great to have a booth like theirs to round out all the food and cosmetic booths. I can’t wait to dig in to my new book while munching on Sophie Sucree banana bread.

We spent about 3 hours there total. By the end, we exited and sat in a courtyard and had a drink, it got really hot in there! I’m so pleased with how the festival turned out, it was very well organized. I am eagerly anticipating next year’s festival already.

A peek behind scenes: The Montreal Vegan Festival, Saturday Sept. 26-27



I have been super excited about this upcoming weekend for many months now. After nearly a year of planning, the Montreal Vegan Festival will be happening in downtown Montreal.

One of my best friends in the whole wide world, Nadia Mohabir, has played a big role in organizing it, and the really cool thing is that she was also there – back in 2009 – when we launched the very first Ottawa Veg Fest (which I co-founded).  We put on five highly successful Ottawa Veg Fests before skipping this year (totalling more than 15,000 visitors), so it’s perfect timing for Montreal’s big event.  We’ve always had a contingent of Montrealers come to Ottawa for ours, and I’m thrilled now to be attending theirs. (If you’d like to become involved with organizing Ottawa Veg Fest 2015, see here for more information.)

Montreal is only a couple of hours away, so there’s still time to make plans to go. Taking the bus is dirt cheap, the event is free, and the part with exhibitors and demos is happening this Saturday, Sept. 27 (a talk by Ottawa Veg Fest alumnus Dr. Michael Greger kicks things off on Friday, Sept. 26). I hope to see some of you there!  I’ve got some serious eating planned, and I can’t wait to celebrate with the Montreal team!

I asked Nadia – who has been vegan for nine years – to answer a few questions about the Montreal Vegan Festival.

PT:  How did the festival come about?

NM: The Montreal Vegetarian Association was founded in 2005. While membership gradually increased throughout the first few years after its inception, the last couple of years have brought about an exponential increase in membership and general public interest. The growing demand for a Festival resulted in the creation of an Organizing Committee for the first Montreal Vegan Festival. In October 2013, 15 core volunteers came together to initiate the project. The event will focus on the health, environmental and ethical reasons surrounding veganism via a series of conferences and panels, cooking demonstrations, exhibitor booths and community organizations.


Nadia at the very first Ottawa Veg Fest in 2009.

PT: Tell us about your involvement with it.

NM: As a member of and volunteer for the National Capital Vegetarian Association in 2009, I was fortunate to participate in Ottawa’s first Veg Fest. Within a few years, momentum in the worldwide vegan movement brought about enough interest in Montreal to warrant a Festival, and this is when I became involved. As Director of the Montreal Vegan Festival, it is my pleasure to work with a talented group of volunteers who are dedicated to the cause, including:

  • Sameer Muldeen, President of the Montreal Vegetarian Association (MVA), former Director of Operations for a renowned vegan restaurant;
  • Anne-Marie Roy, Vice-President of the MVA, co-founder of the MVA, dietitian-nutritionist and founder of the 20 year-old vegan clinic La Clinique Renversante;
  • Alexandre Gagnon, Webmaster for the MVA, co-founder of the MVA; and
  • Elise Desaulniers, author of Je mange avec ma tête (2013) and Vache à lait (2011), speaker on food and ethics.

PT: What has inspired your participation? Why do you think this event is important?

NM: My own transition to vegetarianism (2002) and then veganism (2005) required a host of resources and information in three different cities: Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. As an individual, I found the challenges to being veg*n were education and accessibility.

When I joined the Vegetarian Associations in Ottawa and Montreal, I found the support that I needed and met many new friends and peers with the same values and interests as myself. The first Ottawa Veg Fest encouraged the normalization of veg*nism and discouraged the marginalization of individuals who choose to be veg*n for a panopoly of reasons. Inspired by my positive experience as a volunteer and participant in Ottawa, I hope to help bring these values to Montreal.

PT: What are some of the event highlights?

NM: I am personally very excited about so many elements of the Festival! Some of the incredible successes we have had began prior to the Festival, with the 21-Day Vegan Challenge (in French) which has been undertaken by nearly 2,000 individuals to date. We also held a sold-out screening of Cowspiracy (2014), followed by a Q&A period with the director Kip Andersen, as a fundraiser for the Festival. (Don’t worry if you missed it – a second screening will take place a the Festival! Admission is FREE!) So much more is yet to come!

The Festival opens on Sept. 26 with a talk by the American physician and nutrition expert Dr. Michael Greger. Every year, Dr. Greger, in collaboration with the Montreal Vegetarian Association, fills an auditorium of 700+ seats by presenting the year’s latest scientific research in nutrition in colloquial language. Empowering the general public with access to credible resources, Dr. Greger encourages everyone to make informed decisions about food choices. And his talks are always fun and engaging!
nm2On Sept. 27, Adrian Copeland of Sel Noir will be presenting Molecular Cooking on the Chef’s stage. Veganism and modern food techniques unite for those who are looking for a more advanced repertoire in the kitchen. All food demonstrations will be followed by tastings so come with an empty tummy!

Follow your tastebuds with what else but… more food! A quick snack from Vega, or a more elaborate experience at the exhibitor booths of some of the best restaurants in town will provide enough energy for you to enjoy the rest of the day. Invitation V and Sophie Sucrée will both be present so you can get your savoury and sweet fix!

Finally, for those who are more interested in the ethical implications of food choices, several panels and talks will take place throughout the 27th, including panels addressing animal advocacy and animal rights. More information on scheduling is provided at

PT: What have you learned so far through your involvement with organizing the festival?

NM: I’ve learned that there are lot of people who care a lot about veganism in Montreal and elsewhere in the world, and that the strength of the community is greater than the strength of one. The volunteers in our organization have devoted more than a thousand hours to make this event happen. The work of these volunteers is a mark of dedication to the cause: they answer emails at midnight, take phone calls during their day jobs, and make many sacrifices because they are driven by a deep-rooted desire to help newcomers in the vegan community.

The gradual shift towards veg*nism is palpable in Montreal and elsewhere, and we continually receive messages from the public about their excitement for the Festival. This excitement and encouragement from vegans, vegetarians, foodies, environmentalists, the veg-friendly and the veg-curious alike keeps us forging ahead!

PT: Anything else?

NM: Admission to all Festival activities on the 27th, from 10am to 6pm is free for all. Join our Facebook page to keep up to date . Challenge yourself and get the chance to win some great prizes by joining our 21-Day Vegan Challenge.  Support the mission of the Montreal Vegan Festival by inviting your friends and family to attend the Festival with you.

PT: I am so proud of you NM! xo

A star is born: Meet Erika of Erika’s Vegan Catering


ericaOttawa vegans are a-buzz about Erika’s Vegan Catering; now, we too have a rising star.

Erika’s Vegan Catering is the project of 16-year-old Erika LeBlanc, who is as straightforward and sensible as her aptly named business.   A vegan of five years, and life-long vegetarian, Erika is no stranger to the vegan world and has already had years to perfect her craft.  She launched her catering business several months ago, focusing on comfort foods and convenience – she even delivers! A portion of all sales support Westminster Pet Sanctuary, a registered charity that her family has run for nearly two decades.

Online reviews from patrons have been overwhelmingly positive.  “I have found the best caterer ever! Erika’s and family from Erika’s Vegan Catering are the absolute best at customer service and most importantly she is the greatest chef ever. I have eaten all over the world at some of the best restaurants and I have never left so satisfied and happy as I did after experiencing this,” wrote one on the NCVA Facebook group.

We decided to learn a bit more about Erika.

PT: What is the concept behind Erika’s VeganCatering?

EL: I created my business mostly to educate people on veganism and to also to recreate classic meat dishes and make them vegan.

PT:  How did your business come into being?

EL: Family and friends gave me the idea to start my own business, so I did.

PT: What are some of the biggest milestones you’ve experienced with your business?

EL: I would have to say my biggest milestone is converting meat eaters to vegetarian/vegan, just by educating and letting them try my food.

PT:  Is cooking something in which you have had a longstanding interest?

EL: Yes, I’ve been cooking since I was very young and I’ve always wanted to be in the food business. It’s my passion.

erica food1PT: What are some of your most popular products?

EL: My most popular products would have to be the my lavender cupcakes and “egg” salad.

PT: How can people buy them from you?

People can simply go on my Facebook page (Erika’s Vegan Catering) and send me a message, or send me an email at and place their orders there, and I will be happy to deliver the food right to their door.

erica food2PT: Anything else people should know?

Although I’m only 16, I have a lot of dreams like attending a vegan culinary school in the United states in the year 2015. But for now, I’m working on my catering buisness and saving all the profits toward my tuition for culinary school.

Erika has some really exciting projects coming up, but can’t share the details yet.  Stay tuned for more on this ambitious – and compassionate – young lady!

Lather up! Sud With Me initiative helps dogs in need


aniaI want to tell you all about Ania Kemp, who has recently become a soap making maven, all in the name of raising funds for Sit With Me dog rescue.

Ania is vegan (as are her products), and now sells her soapy creations exclusively to raise funds for the rescue.  They are made of pure, safe ingredients, and sometimes even decorated with images of adorable adoptable dogs.

The next place where she will be selling her products is  at the “BBQ for rescue” at the Bells Corners Animal Hospital, 2194 Robertson Rd., from 11-3 on Sunday Sept. 14.

I asked Ania some questions so we could learn more about her initiative, Sud With Me.

PT: What exactly is Sud With Me? What is the concept?

AK:  Sud With Me is my little fundraising business where I sell natural products and donate profits to rescue. I sell natural soap, deodorant, bug spray, chap stick, and solid perfume. I plan to make other products in the future, such as paw chap for dogs to help with cracked paws in the winter.

sudwithme1PT: How did Sud With Me come to be?

AK: I’m on the fundraising committee for Sit With Me Shelter Dog Rescue (SWM) and I’ve been trying to think of things that I can do to help raise funds for rescue dogs. I tried making other items without success, but when a friend showed me how to make soap and other natural products, I thought I could try to sell them and donate profits to a rescue. I enjoy making the products, so it’s a hobby with a purpose.

PT: What are you hoping to accomplish with Sud With Me?

AK: I’d like to sell as many products as I can make so that I can donate as much money to rescue as possible.

PT: Is soap making etc. something in which you have had a longstanding interest?

AK: Nope! I’ve been interested in natural products for a while, but I really only became interested in making them when a friend and I got together and started talking about it. She has a small business where she sells her amazing products and she offered to show me how to make them. Mary, the founder of Filthy Pig Soap Co., also loves to help animals and donates her products to different SWM events. She was more than happy to show me how to make and label everything. I’m still really new to this so I hope my products start to look better with time – but they work great!

sudwithme2PT:  What are some of the most popular products?

AK: The soap is the most popular product to date, but I’ve only started to sell the other products recently. The solid deodorant has been going fast as well.

PT:  How can people buy them from you?

AK: People can order my products from me from my Facebook page, but they’ll need to come by my place to pick up. Otherwise, I try to go to as many SWM events as possible and I sell my products there. I post which events I will be going to on my Facebook page as well.

PT:  Anything else people should know?

AK: Many products are tested on animals, which is cruel and unnecessary. With all the harmful chemicals being put into personal and household products, I think it’s important to think natural.  Most household items that we buy can be made at home using natural ingredients. I encourage people to give it a try – it’s fun and rewarding! If you don’t have the time to make your own products, look for the leaping bunny when buying any store-bought product, read the ingredients and learn what you are putting in and on your body, as well as in your home.

A gallery of Sud With Me products – including prices – can be found here.