Virtuous Pie

Vegan pizza with nut-based cheese in Vancouver's Chinatown.

So you thought vegans couldn't eat pizza with cheese, you thought wrong. Situated in Vancouver's historic Chinatown, Virtuous Pie is pumping out a variety of plant-based pizzas all with cheese on top. Whether it's the line out of the door, the bright neon light or the window where you can see the chefs putting the finishing toppings on, you will be enticed in.

The interior is minimalist and simple with exposed bricks, wooden tables, marble counters and hanging light fixtures. Dotted around the space is an array of green plants, on shelves and in picture frames. Virtuous Pie claims to be fast-casual and that's exactly what it is. From when you order at the counter, take a seat, have a sip of your beer (33 Acres and Four Winds bottles are available), and have a deep and meaningful about cheese, you'll hear your name being called for you to collect your pizza. 

Virtuous Pie uses a number of nut-based cheeses; think cashew mozzarella and almond ricotta, which are delicious and lighter than your regular mozzarella, making the pizza at Virtuous Pie possibly the healthiest pizza ever. The classic Margherita hits the spot but it is the Ultraviolet with its walnut pesto, oven dried tomatoes, caramelised onion, kale and pine nuts that steals the show. 

The guys at Virtuous Pie also have a creamery where they make their own 100% plant-based ice cream. Try some of their unique flavours, some of which include Coffee and Donuts, Basil and Peach Jam, and Hawaiian Vanilla.

Embrace that plant life.

www.virtuouspie.com

583 Main Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6A 2V1

 

Aperture Coffee Bar

Cosy coffee bar on a bustling West Broadway. 

Nestled on a busy main road in Mount Pleasant, Aperture Coffee Bar manages to slow everything down. Exposed brick walls, higgledy-piggledy furniture and bookshelves more stacked than your local library, Aperture makes you feel right at home without actually being at home. Snuggle up on the sofa with your morning cuppa, get some work done at a high top or catch up with some friends on the big wooden tables.

Despite the plethora of roasters in the city, the guys at Aperture use Intelligentsia beans from Chicago and make a damn good cappuccino. After 4pm, it's Aperture Dessert Bar time which means you can eat all of the affogatos you want, in any flavour you want. With seven to choose from, including London fog, lemon, ginger, chai, mocha, matcha or classic espresso, you'll be coming back to try them all.

There is also a selection of breakfast and lunchtime sandwiches as well as sweet treats made by Olivia Wu (founder of Cannele & Honeybun Bakery). Make sure you try one of the cookies - these things melt in your mouth.

Aperture has one of the best loyalty schemes we've ever heard of. At the back of the café, there is a dartboard. Once you've filled up your coffee stamp card (ten coffees), you get three shots to win a prize. A polaroid of you is then added to the 'Winner's Wall' and you are entered into a championship match.

Get cosy at Aperture Coffee Bar and you'll never want to leave. 

www.aperturecoffeebar.com

243 West Broadway, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5Y 3L1

 

Buntzen Lake

Buntzen Lake is so beautiful, it's hard to believe it's man-made.

You may not believe this (because this lake is so god-damn beautiful) but Buntzen Lake is actually man-made. Created in 1903, the Buntzen Lake hydroelectric project was the first hydroelectric generator to provide electricity to Vancouver. Back in the day, the lake used to be Vancouver's main source of electricity. Nowadays, the lake produces less than 0.4% of the power created by all BC Hydro generating stations. In 1972, BC Hydro completed the development of the Buntzen Lake Recreation Area and to this day still maintains the trails within the area. 

One of the most popular trails in the area is the Buntzen Lake Loop. With a distance of approximately 8km, an elevation gain of 100m and a return time of 4 hours, it is the perfect cruisey day hike. We opted to go clockwise. Follow the 'Bunzten Lake Trail' signs and you will weave along a path parallel to the water. Shortly after beginning your hike, you will reach a floating bridge. Walk across this bridge and turn right onto a gravel road. Follow this gravel road until you arrive at a pump house. Turn right again and you will be back on the Buntzen Lake Loop trail, which encircles the lake in its entirety. And about halfway through the hike, you will reach North Beach - a quieter beach compared to the one near the parking lot.

The Buntzen Lake Loop trail allows you to walk between magnificent Douglas Fir trees and mighty Cedar trees, almost through small trickling creeks and over a number of wooden bridges that look like they could be pieced together to form an old school rickety rollercoaster. All the while (or most of it), the trail offers spectacular views of pristine water, dramatic mountains and the occasional kayaker. 

Being only a 45 minutes drive northeast of the city, Buntzen Lake makes for a great day trip.

NB: A more challenging and uphill hike in the area is Diez Vistas. Suitably named as its Spanish translation is 'ten views'. We will definitely be coming back to do this one.

www.bchydro.com/buntzen_lake

Buntzen Lake, Anmore, Greater Vancouver, British Columbia

Meat & Bread

Serious meat sandwiches. Simple.

A trip to Vancouver's Gastown is not complete without a sandwich from Meat & Bread. These guys focus on two things and two things only - meat and bread. If the minimalist signage doesn't entice you to step inside and find out more, then the smell of roasted meat wafting out of the door will. 

As you enter this industrial-feel sandwich haven, you'll see exposed brick walls, hanging light fixtures and a leather boxing bag swaying near the back. Within seconds, your eyes will quickly fixate on the roasted pork under the chef's knife - and you'll forget to even look at the menu. This roasted pork makes Meat & Bread's signature sandwich - the Porchetta. Freshly made bread (still warm from the oven) is stuffed with a sizeable amount of juicy pork, crispy crackling, herby salsa verde, complete with a squeeze of mustard. Made as you pay means that you'll have one of these bad boys in seconds. Other sandwich options include a daily special, meatball or a good ol' grilled cheese. And if you can't get enough of their sauces, you can buy some sambal, salt rub or mustard to take home.

Beer, wine and soda are also available. And it's good to know that they stock 33 Acres West Coast Pale Ale - one of our favourite craft beers from Vancouver.

www.meatandbread.ca

370 Cambie Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V6B 2N3

 

Lighthouse Park

Easy hiking trails with beaches, coves and ocean views in West Vancouver.

Just a 30 minute drive from downtown Vancouver lies a Pacific Northwest Rainforest oasis - Lighthouse Park. The 185 acres of forested land boasts some of the city's last remaining first growth Douglas Firs as well as a variety of excellent hiking trails that are easily accessible for all to enjoy. 

Lighthouse Park's coastal temperate rainforest is home to some of the tallest trees in the world. First growth Douglas Firs, Hemlocks and Redcedars are around 500 years old and stand over 200ft tall. That's a lot of age and a lot of height. Stand anywhere in the forest and these trees will tower above you whilst you're surrounded on ground level by wet moss, fern trees and other vibrant greens. Amidst all of this rainforest lies the Point Atkinson Lighthouse. Originally built in 1874 and then renovated in 1912, the lighthouse highlights where Burrard Inlet (coastal fjord) meets Howe Sound (a network of fjords). It's these kinds of fjords that make the Vancouver landscape an incredible sight to see.

Within Lighthouse Park, there are a multitude of trails through the forest but for more coastal scenes of cliffs, coves and beaches, we suggest following Juniper Loop, Shore Pine Trail, Valley Trail and Arbutus Trail. Along these trails, you'll find various viewpoints including Juniper Point, Shore Pine Point, Eagle Point, Starboat Cove, West Beach and, of course, the Lighthouse Viewpoint. At Juniper Point, you'll often see rock climbers abseiling over the edge, scaling the walls and popping their heads up as they reach the top of their ascent.

Have a look at the trail map here and get exploring.

www.lighthousepark.ca

Beacon Lane, West Vancouver, British Columbia, V7W 1K5

 

Earnest Ice Cream

Seriously good ice cream in scoop or pint form.

Ice cream is no longer just for kids. Earnest Ice Cream is showing us just this. And so is the queue out of the door.

Like the name suggests, these guys are serious about their ice cream. Walk into their exposed brick wall space with high ceilings and big windows and choose wisely from the chalkboard menu. Earnest always has a variety of classic flavours on offer (Whiskey Hazelnut, Tahitian Vanilla and Matchstick Espresso Flake) but their focus on small batch is where it's at. This is where the guys get experimental with their ingredients and create rotating, seasonal flavours as well as any specials they think to conjure up. Toasted Marshmallow, Rhubarb Oat Crumble, Blueberry Lavender, Pumpkin Pie and Spruce Bud are just some of the options to whet your appetite. Or maybe beer-infused ice cream is your thing, then we'd suggest the 33 Acres of Malt made with the help of 33 Acres Brewing Company.

And it's not just ice cream that Earnest dreams about all day, their commitment to the environment also plays a huge role in how they do business. Ingredients are sourced from nearby local vendors (think juicy sour cherries from the Okanagan, bittersweet cranberries from Pitt Meadows and coffee from Matchstick Coffee Roasters in Vancouver) and their cute little takeaway ice cream pints are packaged in returnable and reusable glass jars.

Grab a scoop at one of their locations or pick up a pint at one of these independent shops.

www.earnesticecream.com

1829 Quebec Street, Vancouver, British Columbia, V5T 4S6

 

33 Acres Brewing Company

Nestled in-between the temperate Vancouver rainforest and the Pacific ocean, tucked away neatly in the up-and-coming Mount Pleasant neighbourhood, lies 33 Acres Brewing Company. Founded in 2013 by Josh Michnik, 33 Acres' vision started out of pure enjoyment for the binding elements of life. His idea is simple - with the natural elements of our surroundings and the spirit of community sharing (whether people are drinking, eating, chatting, working or reading) creativity is able to flourish and high quality products can be created. This vision can also be seen in the minimalistic, open and inviting layout of 33 Acres' beer tasting room. Crafted by Josh Michnik himself, the beer tasting room allows for simple and clean aesthetics. Wood, stone and white walls are balanced by the natural vibrance of neatly situated green plants for all to enjoy (my personal favourite is the cacti on the huge sharing table).

33 Acres Brewing Company's first product was beer. Nine beers and one cider to be exact. All of which are named after a certain element of life - 33 Acres of… life… ocean… sunshine… darkness… euphoria… nirvana… köbes,… welkin… sole (see photo below). I'm a big fan of Pale Ales so 33 Acres of Ocean was the choice for me. The golden-coloured brew managed to encapsulate everything I could want from a West Coast Pale Ale and more. It was hoppy (but not too hoppy) with a big floral flavour and notes of pine. Despite the high carbonation, this beer went down super smoothly and ended with a clean finish and a light caramel aftertaste. The beer tasting room allows everyone to enjoy these beautifully crafted craft beers. Most beers are available in glasses (12oz), growler fills (32oz, 64oz) or bottles (4 or 6 packs) - all of which are reasonably priced (see photo below). 

In 2015, 33 Acres expanded to the next best thing… coffee. And boy did they do it right! A smoothy and creamy latte (my go to at the moment) is served up perfectly on a logo-printed wooden block. The delicious coffee beans come from Heart Coffee Roasters (Portland, Oregon). HCR's focus is on uncompromising quality and this is seen in their use of green coffee, sourced from Central America, South America and Africa, which are then roasted to pure excellence. 

And it's not just liquids that 33 Acres flawlessly produce, they also have a simple yet delicious food menu divided into early, mid, and late options. Whether you're wanting a hearty brunch for the day ahead, a locally-made lunchtime sandwich or late night snacks consisting of cheese, meat and pretzels, 33 Acres has you covered. We were hiking the Grouse Grind that day, so brunch was in order. Served everyday until 2pm, the brunch menu is minimalist (toast, biscuits or granola) with an emphasis on quality over quantity. I opted for 'The Loaded', which consisted of creamy avocado, runny poached eggs, juicy honey ham and smoked cheddar served with a side of chilli jam atop of freshly baked sourdough bread from local artisan bread-enthusiasts, Nelson the Seagull. The portion was more than enough and presentation of the food was aesthetically aligned with the surrounding environment.

I'll definitely be heading back to 33 Acres Brewing Company when I'm next in Vancouver!

For more information, check out their website here.