Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Coup on the Company

Business travel can have it's perks, especially when the destination includes veggie restaurants and the tab isn't on you!! I am spending the week in Calgary, home of the Stampede (more on the rodeo in Houston in a few days), Alberta beef, and big (heavy) oil. Amidst all of this is The Coup, a mostly organic &local, vegetarian establishment with a devoted following. I was so impressed the first night, I went back for seconds. There is something kind of fun about sitting alone in a bustling restaurant, ordering multiple courses all the while jotting down notes and reading a book. Made me feel like and undercover food critic (and in some ways I am!). Since both nights I ordered a starter, main course, and dessert, I'll present them in a head to head comparison. But first, a Calgary photo montage for fun...

And the restaurant entrance, adorned with a recycled metal sign and the only bike racks I saw on the block.
First up, drinks. Now this wasn't much of a competition, because I got ginger ale both nights (best I've ever had!), but I thought the pictures were kind of cool.

I had read several online reviews raving about the pseudo sushi, so on Night 1 this was the first thing I tried (though I'm not sure what was pseudo about it). I have always wanted to make my own brown rice sushi because of it's healthier attributes, but have feared it would just fall apart mid-roll. Their rolls were filled with yam, tofu, veggies, and, according to the menu, seasonal fruit (which I couldn't quite place). I had to hold myself back from gobbling these up in a matter of minutes! Night 2 I had a craving for some protein, so I chose the cajun tempeh sticks, served with a side of dijon maple sauce (which I swear had wasabi in it, but maybe it was just the dijon). These were lightly battered and fried (I think) on the outside and moist inside. Although I didn't really get the cajun flavor, these were quite enjoyable and hit the spot. Winner? The sushi.

On Night 1 I had a major hankering for sweet potatoes (aka yams here in Canada). The upstream burger is a blend of yams, tofu, and pumpkin seeds, plus it came with a side of yam fries! The fried were a bit of a disappointment; they were wedges, i.e. no crispy outside. The burger had a wonderful blend of flavors, especially with the garlic aoili and dill, but it kind of fell apart in my hands. Still a great alternative to the standard veggie burger. For Night 2 I was in the mood for pasta, probably due to the disappointment at lunch where I was supposedly served a vegan meal that was pasta laden with a creamy, parmesan scented sauce. My waitress promised me a very creamy (thanks to coconut milk), guaranteed vegan sauce on the magic mushroom pasta. Along with the sauce and kamut noodles was spinach, sun-dried tomatoes, red onion, and cubes of smoked tofu. I struggled a bit eating pasta with chopsticks, but I managed. The verdict? A draw.

I had to stop short of finishing both meals in order to save room for dessert. With several vegan desserts to choose from, on Night 1 I had the waitress pick her favorite. She must have been reading my mind because she picked the chocolate torte. Made with silken tofu, but you'd never know because it was so rich and chocolatey. I especially enjoyed the accompanying raspberry sauce that I dipped each bite in. Now I must be honest, if I wasn't doing this for research (i.e. blogging) purposes, Night 2 would have been a dessert repeat. But for those readers who aren't chocoholics like me, I had to be fair and give the apple pie a chance. I actually wrote most of this post on the back of my printed Calgary maps while waiting for this to be baked in the kitchen, listening the the girl at the table next to me snort with laughter :-). Topped with tofulatti soy ice cream, I appreciated the temperature contrasts and the fact that I was eating fiber via apples... but I think you know where I'm going with this. The chocolate torte won over my taste buds for sure.

Whew! I'm full. Good thing though because tomorrow night is a work dinner at some steakhouse I'm sure, so I need to store some extra calories. Back to my home, kitchen, and honey in Houston on Friday.

28 comments:

Ruby Red Vegan said...

What a great review! I love your side-by-side comparisons. You are so thorough. Oh I envy you so, to have 2 three-course vegan meals, all on the business's tab! Your post gave me a great idea - I need to find a job after college that lets me travel...in order to take advantage of vegetarian/vegan restaurants!

I experience the same lack of crispiness you found in your yam fries when I make baked sweet potato fries. And I'm so, so jealous of both of your desserts! The apple pie crust looks particularly appetizing...

Romina said...

I'm so happy you enjoyed the Coup! Now I must go there myself. I've read their menu online at least 10 times, and have drooled all over my keyboard in the meanwhile, but I just can't seem to get anyone to go with me. A week ago however I found out that one of my non-vegan friends (who ALWAYS asks me what I eat, how I can be vegan, etc) goes there often. I was so excited, that I told her we must go. But it's great to hear that you can go on your own. That was my biggest fear. The food looks fantastic. Just as superb as I imagined it.

I hope you enjoy your stay in Calgary! If you get the chance, check out "Amato Gelato" on Kensington road. They have authentic Italian gelato/sorbetto/tofulati (my profile picture). And there's a fantastic little restaurant called "Pulcinella" nestled in Kensington that has authentic Napoletana pizza! I always get the marinara. =)

the little one said...

Nice way to do a review! Everything sounded delicious.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to Calgary!
Thank you so much for posting about The Coup. I too have looked at their menu several times but have no one to go there with. Your post has made me want to go on my own anyway!

Enjoy the rest of your time here and hopefully your dinner tomorrow night is alright!
Good luck!

Sarah

Theresa said...

Aw yum. How cool that you got to go two nights in a row! I always wonder if bad reviews are the result of a bad night, funny tastebuds, or what, but I think you balanced that out in your review. I wish I had a job that would pay me to eat at veg restaurants!

Vegan Girl said...

Wow lucky you! All that food looks so good! I love yam fries! I make mashed yams with coconut milk. Just like mashed potatos

Anke said...

great review and nice pics. this food looks mouth-watering. I'm glad for you you got to enjoy nice vegan food on a business trip for once :-)

Jenny said...

Great review! I like how you put the foods side-by-side! Glad you found a great restauant on your travels!

Jennifer said...

I love the photography, and really dig that 'bikes not bombs' sticker.

And that food all looks fantastic, you lucky vegan you!

Cakespy said...

DAMN GIRL, looks like a culinary feast--for the eyes (for us) and for reals (for you!). Looks really fun!

textual bulldog said...

Your restaurant adventures sound great! What a cool way to make a work trip into a "vegan vacation" ;)

jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

I love travelling for business, and rarely get to eat that well when I do! Kudos!

Shauna said...

-Makes me miss Calgary! Hope you're having a good time & See ya soon!

LizzyQ ~ Vegan Mother said...

You've Been Tagged!!!

Check out my blog, I hope you'll play along :)

VeggieGirl said...

I've never been to Calgary, but have always wanted to go - after reading through your restaurant review, I know that I HAVE to get The Coup once I get to Calgary! :0D

ChocolateCoveredVegan said...

Woah, I would've done a repeat of that chocolate torte too, especially since it came with raspberry sauce ( does a better combination exist?!). But I'm glad you didn't, because it meant more pictures for us bloggers to look at.

I wish I could've gone, but since I'm stuck in snowy (!) Texas, I'll just have to live vicariously through you. Hope you don't mind! ;)

Animal-Friendly said...

Those desserts look delicious! And the idea of a sweet potato burger is actually really interesting- it'd probably be fun to experiment with that now that I think about it....

Glad to hear you enjoyed your trip!

Melisser; the Urban Housewife said...

I love a good restaurant review!

pleasantly plump vegan said...

fun! makes me want to go!!!
i want both of those desserts. i want to start making more silken based desserts and that chocolatey one looks wonderful. at heart though, i am a apple dessert kinda gal.

julie hasson said...

Your restaurant reviews are the best!

Thanks for sharing all of your yummy eats and pics with us!

meg said...

vegan chocolate torte? whoa!

LK said...

Great review! I so want to go to a vegetarian restaurant! It's always nice to try new creations that you couldn't make yourself.

By the way, thanks for the comment on our blog!

Billy said...

Hi! I came across your blog via Chocolate Covered Vegan's blog. There are so many of us vegan bloggers out there! I've added you to my blogroll.

And, wow, that must be tough being vegan in Houston. I can't imagine. I'm spoiled rotten here in Seattle.

Ricki said...

Sounds like a fabulous place. Nice to know that I can now visit Calgary and have somewhere great to eat! Love the sushi (and it's pretty easy to make it yourself, so don't worry!).

stonielove said...

wow, what a nice review! the sushi looks really good... mmm...

Billy said...

Hi, thanks for your posts on my blog. I replied.

kindkitchen said...

YUM! Everything looks great.

Oh, and I have made brown rice sushi! It's awesome and doesn't fall apart. I used the PPK tutorial.

vko said...

that is some good eating for a business trip!