When I finally made my way back to Vancouver for a visit, it basically became my mission to make contact with Karen of Blue Heron Cheese so that I could find out what all the cheezy buzz was all about. What ended up was basically pure magic. Not only did I meet Karen and eat her cheese, I also got to spend several hours (basically the whole day) with Karen and the ZenD Lounge team (where Karen is executive chef) eating, chatting and diving deep into conscious conversation. I always say that one of my most favourite things to do when I get to a city is to explore (or in this case re-explore) the conscious businesses and plant-powered food spots. Although I was able to visit ZenD several months ago when I was last in Vancouver- I didn’t get to truly experience the magic until my visit last week.
After contacting Karen (after finding out about her amazing monthly cheese subscription in Vancouver) she quickly (literally, within 5 minutes) got back to me to invite me to Zend Lounge to meet her and eat some of their delicious creations. Of course, how could I say no. So, one afternoon last week my friend Mel and I arrived at the sliding door of Zend only to be greeted warmly by new manager and beautiful lady, Ashleigh. Two and a half hours later we left with full bellies and full hearts.
Steve, The Inspiring Man Behind the Project
There are a lot of beautiful reasons why Zend is such a wonderful place. Owner, Steve Curtis, is quite an inspiring young man (hint: he’s climbed Mount Everest!) and funnily enough we both attended the Summit at Sea conference- which furthered the reason why I absolutely had to go for a visit. Steve is a true believer in natural medicine and at the young age of 19 he started Zag Group, an international consumer products company with the purpose of innovating to enhance the way people enjoy their lives. In 2005, Steve was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and in his typical curious and re-search minded way- he focused all of his energy into healing his body through natural medicine.
This is also when Steve became well-acquainted with Kava, a traditional herb from the South Pacific Islands, which Steve now swears by and has dedicated his life and work to spreading awareness about globally. Kava, for those of you who don’t know, is a root, that is traditionally used by Islanders as a medicine and in ceremonies for centuries. Brewed as a tea, kava has a calming effect, producing brain wave changes similar to changes that occur with calming medicines such as Valium and anti-anxiety medications. Kava is not addictive and there is research supporting it’s effectiveness with muscle relaxation.
It’s no surprise that Zend Lounge carries a variety of kava kava beverages, including their signature Zend blend, which you can not only order at the restaurant, you can also buy bottles of (think wine bottles) to go and enjoy at home with your people. The concept behind Zend is purely around creating a unique space where people can enjoy organic, vegan (and raw) food and non-alcoholic beverages at any time of the day and feel completely satisfied. Zend has truly created a communal atmosphere, with large booth style tables and a lot of opportunities to connect and dive deep into spiritual conversation, thanks to the Zend cards (think table conscious table topics).
So, as you can tell- a lot of thought and attention has been put into creating a space that is meaningful. As if it was not already enough, Steve Curtis has created a not-for-profit business model, and 100% of Zend profits go towards charities, which are selected every month (feel free to suggest a charity you know and love). More so, every Tuesday, Zend opens their doors to “Zend Talks”, where a local speaker from the community comes in to discuss their passions and expertise to the masses (fellow Holistic Nutritionist and Meditator Master, Larry Li is one of the many amazing speakers). Again, it is all about increasing awareness and supporting conscious conversation and connection.
Ok, let’s get to the goods. The food. First off, wow. Taking one glance at the menu, you can tell that there is a lot of finesse and creative innovation that takes place in it’s development. Concepts such as seasonal and local are absolutely considered, and as I mentioned, you will be wowed at any time of the day. The incredible brunch menu (which I have yet to try but look forward to soon) is served till 2pm and includes items such a buckwheat pancakes, matcha crepes, a sunchoke and potato rosti benny, a featured quiche (we had and it was amazing) and more.
Mel and I were excited to sample the day menu, starting out with the amazing quiche plate. The featured quiche was a sunchoke and roasted yam quiche and it came with a vegan house-made sausage (beet, black bean and sage sausage), vegan bbq sauce, orange marmalade, coconut butter, gluten-free bread (so good) and sliced avocado. This was a true party in your mouth- and would absolutely please a carnivore in your group. The coconut butter on the gluten-free bread with the marmalade was seriously to die for.
Our next stop on the menu included a favourite (and must have at any vegan spot): The Kale Caeser. This delicious caeser salad made with oat cheese parmesan crisps, garlic amaranth croutons, and a garlicky avocado dressing. We devoured this. Being holistic nutritionists, we are quite the kale salad snobs- and it’s not everyday that we give the kale salad our stamp of approval.
The tacos, was probably our favourite of all the courses. These “defried beans” raw tacos were so special. Made with a completely raw (dehydrated) “shell” that was the perfect texture (not too hard, not too soft) and contained the inner defried beans, pico de gallo and cashew queso. All I’m going to say, is that you’ve got to go and try these yourself.
To our surprise (and our bellies’ shock) Karen came sliding out of the kitchen carrying another plate of food. Thank goodness this wasn’t my first rodeo and I skipped breakfast. This was probably the most creative and interesting of all the dishes. It was a featured Sweet Potato Noodles in a kale mint pesto, topped with a really delicious and earthy celeriac puree. I was very intrigued by this dish and although surprised by the flavours, truly enjoyed it. A wonderful winter dish with the addition of the delicious and creamy celeriac puree.
Last and certainly not least, the Coffee Cheesecake. This precious raw vegan cheesecake tart had the creamiest coffee filling and was topped with a delicious coconut cream and dark chocolate sauce with additional orange notes. Despite being completely satiated, Mel and I inhaled this dessert within minutes of it appearing on our table, thanks to Chef Karen’s attention to taste and plant-based detail. Yum.
We finished the incredible meal off with a shot of the ZEND blend kava as well as a blended elixir of a kava smoothie. As you can tell from Mels’ expression, we truly loved it, all. What’s wonderful about the kava experience is that you can ask for a kava beverage that is tailored to your current needs (energising, calming, focused, etc.). Just ask your server for guidance!
As if this was not beyond enough, Karen sent me home with samples of her monthly vegan cheese subscription, which today included:
A semi-soft single cultured almond, garlic and caper cheese
A smoked cashew cheddar
A coconut & almond blue cheese (aged 2 months)
By the way, I have started calling Karen the Vegan Cheese Queen/Master. I am sure you can assume why.
The rest I will leave to your own curiosity. I highly recommend a visit (or two, or three, or four) so you can truly understand and absorb what is going on inside the doors of Zend Lounge. Also, if you are interested in joining Karen’s Blue Heron Cheese monthly vegan cheeze subscription, shoot her an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.