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By Alexis Baran

What if cheese wasn’t made from dairy? Would it still be cheese? This cultured snack favourite can be buttery, sweet, herbal, earthy, pungent, bitter, footy, even barnyardy. It’s one of the few foods that people will gladly eat even (or especially) when visibly laced with thick blue mold and it is a staple of modern dining. For centuries it’s been made using cow, goat, sheep and other animals’ milks – but who’s to say milk is the only thing that can create a fantastic cheese?

The assumption that animal milk must be the base for cheese is a notion that Chef Karen McAthy, the founder of Blue Heron Cheese, has been challenging. She’s aiming to change how consumers, as well as the food regulators, think about these wheels of flavour, all from her store and creamery on Vancouver’s Main Street.

A completely plant-based board

Blue Heron Creamery opened in Vancouver in early 2018 to block-long line-ups and a sold-out shop. The nut-based cheeses are so popular that Blue Heron is currently only open one day a week, for five hours. During that time customers often line up for their turn in the tiny storefront, and by the time they’re closed they can pretty much turn off the refrigerator – everything is gone.

When I sat down with McAthy and asked about her cheeses in comparison to “real” cheese, I clearly mis-spoke. “What is real cheese anyways,” questioned McAthy with a challenging grin, “a lot of cheese makers wouldn’t call a lot of what we buy at the grocery store ‘real cheese’.” Peruse the cheese aisle with that in mind and you’ll see what she means. Refrigerators are full of processed spreadable “cheeses” and other products that are made to taste like cheese but have never been fermented or cultured.

“I wanted to make real, non-dairy cheese, and I didn’t love the recipes I found. There was no troubleshooting advice, so I started looking into the methodology of how dairy cheese was made and applied that to cheese made with other proteins.”

Shore cheese by Blue Heron

Dairy cheese is made by culturing the animal fats and proteins found in milk. To make the non-dairy cheese at Blue Heron, McAthy and her small team cultures fats and proteins found in other places, such as coconut milk, walnuts, cashews, almonds and other nuts. The result looks and feels the same as dairy cheese, with its own variety of tastes – some being close in taste to mild diary cheeses such as brie. Others have a flavour all their own, such as Cormorant, a black ash-covered cashew and coconut milk cheese with a sharp taste, sweet coconut notes, and a spreadable chevre-like texture or Shore, a smooth and mild cashew cheese made with caraway and whole pink peppercorn.

Burrata classic cheese by Blue Heron

“If you look at the name of cheeses – some are named for the culture that creates it, not the milk. Camembert, for example, is from the penicillium camemberti culture. I can use that same culture to make a camembert with cashews and coconut” says McAthy. “I’m also using the same culture in a cambazola I’m working on.”

Is there a flavour difference between Blue Heron’s cheese and dairy cheese? Of course, but there’s also flavour differences between the myriad of varieties of dairy cheese as well. Whether you’re looking to replace dairy cheese or you’re interested in cultivating some new flavours into your platters and recipes, plant-based cheese is real, and it’s delicious.

Blue Heron Creamery
2410 Main St.
Vancouver, BC
blueheroncheese.com

By Ashley Lockyer

Few places on earth let you enjoy freshly made food from the city in the quiet wilderness of a rainforest: Vancouver’s North Shore is one of them. At places like Lynn Canyon Park, you can take in sweeping horizon views, test your fear of heights on the suspension bridge, or simply wander in nature with friends and family. Start your adventure at the Lonsdale Quay Market and pack some unique treats for the trail.

 Bowen Island Pizza Company

Beware: Thin crust pizzas (in flavours like pear and brie cheese with caramelized onions) will attract envious looks on the trail.

Crack one of these mild pepperoni whip sticks to keep you moving on the trail. They are best described as a “snappable” snack because of their crunchy casing. Try one to see!

Kin’s Market

Stroll through a farmer’s field of fresh fruits and vegetables, and harvest a few for a healthy trail bites.

El Dorado Pies & Treats

Chicken empanadas and a selection of portable hand-pies from El Dorado Pies & Treats are backpack ready for your trailside lunch .

The Salmon Shop

Enjoy BC’s finest smoked, candied, and seasoned salmon jerky to get your protein fix.

Olde World Confections

Grab some crunchy clusters or bark made with dark chocolate and nuts for an energy filled trail snack. It’s pretty much a protein bar, right? The ones above are from Olde World Confections.

You’ve stocked up, now it’s time to head into the wilderness.

The North Shore’s Lynn Peak hike is one of many of Vancouver’s North Shore hiking trails, and has been described as more natural and sometimes less busy Grouse Grind. The rugged summit has views that span Vancouver Island, Vancouver tri-cities, the Fraser Valley, and Mount Baker in the USA.

Lynn Valley Suspension Bridge can be just as awe (or ahhhh!) inspiring as Capilano Suspension Bridge. If your heart can handle it, you could easily take in both in one day on Vancouver’s North Shore.

On you’re way back, you’re bound to be hungry again.

Cob’s Breads

Savour sweet victory after your hike with a fruity, flaky, freshly baked danish.

Zen might be achievable when you pair scrumptious artisan foods with the silencing beauty of the forest. Lynn Canyon Park is a place to feel awe-inspired by nature and flavours fresh from the Lonsdale Quay market.

More information:

Lonsdale Quay Market
123 Carrie Cates Court
North Vancouver, V7M 3K7
lonsdalequay.com

By Lenée Son

Wondering where to go for the best vegan and vegetarian friendly eats in White Rock? Finding meat-free options can be difficult when you’re not sure where to start, but we’ve got you covered.

Whether you’re looking to eat veggie to save the planet, improve your health, protect the animals, or all of the above, one thing is for sure – these plant based meals located in this beach-side city are guaranteed to make your taste buds happy.

PG’s Jamaican Takeout

PG’s Jamaican Takeout brings the cuisine of Jamaica’s beaches to White Rock’s own beach. Their veggie patties are freshly baked and the turmeric-hued pastry crust is perfectly flaky. Biting into a veggie patty reveals the delicious filling, which is savory with spicy notes. On Tuesdays, PG’s special is their Veggie Roti stuffed with potatoes, bell peppers, and spices and served with a side of steamed vegetables or a mixed green salad. Their vegetarian appetizers include plantains and fried dumplings. PG’s also brews their own ginger beer and sorrel.

1387 Johnston Rd, White Rock
604- 541 – 7289
pgsjamaicantakeout.com

Yucca Tree Café

For the best vegan and vegetarian friendly breakfasts and brunch in town, make a stop at the Yucca Tree Café. Yucca Tree Café offers plenty of healthy homemade vegetarian selections but a favourite among vegans and non-vegans alike is the Vegetarian Chili and Toast. Packed with beans, vegetables, and the right amount of heat, this meat and diary free chili is full of flavor.

1347 Johnston Rd, White Rock
604-536 – 3703

Punje Spice Indian Restaurant

As soon as you walk into Punje Spice Indian Restaurant, the aromatic savory scent of coriander, turmeric, and saffron is enough to get your mouth watering. The vegetarian menu at Punje Spice Indian Restaurant has familiar Indian vegetarian specialties such as Aloo Gobi, vegetable Korma, and Palak Paneer. Their Channa Masala, a chickpeas dish cooked with ginger, garlic, tomatoes, and a perfected blend of herbs and spices, is arguably the best in the city.

1558 George Street, White Rock
604-560 – 6284
punjespice.com

Uli’s Restaurant

This waterfront eatery has been a town favourite for over thirty years. Located on the White Rock strip, Uli’s serves European inspired food made from fresh, high quality ingredients. Vegans, you won’t regret ordering a vegan version of Uli’s Paella – Uli’s take on this national Spanish dish uses founder, Ulrich Blume’s classic recipe. This flavorful rich dish is topped with sliced red peppers, onions, olives, celery, olives, and cilantro. Uli’s veggie burger is another meat-free favourite, which features a crispy house made quinoa patty topped with shallots, tomato, and a kick of Sriracha mayo, all served on a potato bun.

 15023 Marine Drive, White Rock
604-538 – 9373
ulisrestaurant.com

Uli’s Paella. Photo by Lenée Son
Uli’s Paella. Photo by Lenée Son

Leela Thai

If you can’t go to Thailand, go to Leela Thai for a taste of authentic Thai cuisine. Leela Thai was voted “Best Asian/Thai Restaurant” five years in a row and they have tons of vegan and vegetarian options to choose from. All of the plant based friendly items are marked with a “V” on their menu. Try their gang dang, a spicy red curry cooked with fresh coconut milk, bamboo shoots, tofu, and Thai basil. Order a side of fragrant steamed jasmine rice to generously spoon your vegetarian curry over. For dessert, indulge your sweet tooth with sweet rice and fresh mango. Each bite will have you dreaming of the Ko Phi Phi Islands.

1310 Johnston Rd, White Rock
604-541-9631
leelathairestaurant.com

By Alexis Baran

Coastal and multicultural are the flavours of Vancouver’s most recognized specialties. To get to know the unique bites (and sips) Vancouverites love to munch, start with these eleven favorites:

JapaDog

Vancouver’s original most-talked-about food cart serves Japanese-inspired hotdogs. Bask in the salty, sweet, and spicy tastes of seaweed flakes, teriyaki sauce, miso, wasabi and kimchi. There are multiple locations in downtown Vancouver, including an indoor location at 530 Robson.

Japadog | Photo: are you gonna eat that | Flickr
Japadog | Photo: are you gonna eat that | Flickr

B.C. Rolls

British Columbia’s signature sushi roll is done in many ways, but the one consistent ingredient is grilled savoury and chewy salmon skin. Get them at just about any sushi joint in Vancouver.

B.C. Rolls | Photo: Leila Kwok
B.C. Rolls | Photo: Leila Kwok

Coffee

Busy Vancouverites are often particular about their favorite liquid pick-me-up, and love their pour-overs and flavoured espresso drinks. Some local chains to try are Milano Coffee, 49th Parallel, and JJ Bean. But don’t forget the many cozy independent shops to be found who take their coffee very seriously. Try soy or almond milk to replace traditional milk and cream at almost any place you find – dairy-free options are standard here!

Coffee | Photo: protographer23 | Flickr
Coffee | Photo: protographer23 | Flickr

Salmon Candy

B.C. smoked salmon glazed with maple syrup or local honey is smokey, salty, sweet, and impossible to stop eating once you’ve started. If you want to save some as a gift for family back home, make sure you get a little extra for yourself – more than you thought you needed even, It is seriously addictive! You can find it at Granville Island Public Market and Fish Counter on Main Street.

Salmon Candy | Photo: Carol M Chan
Salmon Candy | Photo: Carol M Chan

Spot Prawns

These beautiful pink creatures are large, sweet shrimp fished in the waters surrounding Vancouver in the month of May. Most fine restaurants in Vancouver serve fresh prawns when available, such as Yew at the Four Seasons Hotel, and the annual Spot Prawn Festival is held every year on Granville Island.

Spot Prawns | Photo: West Restauraunt
Spot Prawns | Photo: West Restauraunt

West Coast Oysters

West coast oysters are a taste of the freshness of the ocean itself. Kumamoto, Kusshi, and Fanny Bay are some of our local varieties, and oyster houses will have a variety to try, along with knowledgeable servers who can recommend a type for every taste. Joe Fortes Seafood & Chop House, Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar, and Merchants Oyster Bar are excellent places to start.

Oysters | Photo: Joe Fortes
Oysters | Photo: Joe Fortes

Dungeness Crab

Large meaty crabs are harvested along the west coast, and trapping them yourself for dinner is a local pastime, but you don’t need to get in the water to enjoy them in many local restaurants. Some great places to try Dungeness Crab are Blue Water Café & Raw Bar or Hawksworth.

Indigenous Cuisine

Salmon, fiddleheads, elk, and other native west coast foods make for a warm and hearty meal. Indigenous foods are proof that the land was rich with delicious ingredients and diverse flavours long before we called it “Vancouver.” One place to try it is Salmon n’Bannock Bistro.

First Nations Cuisine | Photo: Degan Walters
First Nations Cuisine | Photo: Degan Walters

Chinese Cuisine and Dim Sum

Richmond, where the native Chinese languages-speaking population is over 40%, is considered to have some of the best Chinese food outside of China. In Vancouver, you can get a taste in Chinatown. Places such as Floata Seafood Restaurant serve excellent dim sum as well as a variety of traditional and modern dishes.

Chinese Cuisine and Dim Sum | Photo: Tourism Richmond
Chinese Cuisine and Dim Sum | Photo: Tourism Richmond

Japanese Ramen and Izakaya

There are few things cozier than tucking into a steaming bowl of ramen, or gathering with friends and sharing hot sake and a table full of various izakaya dishes. Izakaya is a tradition originating from sake shops in the Edo period (1603-1867) where customers could sit down for drinks and bites. Today in Vancouver, izakaya is a range of diverse Japanese bites with a flourish of Japanese spirit -infused beverages. You can find it all over Vancouver, but particularly in the West End neighbourhood, at places such as Kingyo on Denman.

Izakaya | Photo: Kingyo on Denman
Izakaya | Photo: Kingyo on Denman

Famous Cuisine: Vij’s Curry and Tojo’s Sushi

Vikram Vij and Hidekazu Tojo are two of Vancouver’s most iconic chefs, lauded by everyone from Anthony Bourdain to Martha Stewart. Vikram Vij has restaurants in Vancouver and Surrey. Tojo’s is located in West Broadway in Vancouver.

Tojo’s | Photo: Leila Kwok
Tojo’s | Photo: Leila Kwok