Years ago, when I used to post on this blog more regularly, I would dream of an Edmonton with a rich and varied vegan culinary scene, the kind I indulged in during travels to other cities. At this moment I can feel the city I call home, somewhat to my amazement, finally beginning to crest that beef-laden mountain of unfriendly food options. There is so much happening that I believe a full rundown of developments is in order, but that is not the focus of this post. Today I am dedicating the resurrection of my blog (again) to an addition to our city the likes of which took me completely by surprise, and is about as creative and indulgent as you will find in any of the vegan meccas I’ve traveled to. Creole Envie cajun restaurant has become the latest vegan friendly establishment in Edmonton, and not just with a few phoned in options, but with a full, entirely vegan second menu!
There began some buzz surrounding Creole Envie a few weeks back when I started hearing rumblings through twitter about vegan chicken & waffles, and a vegan option for their monthly back alley po’ boy night. Something was happening, and I was going to get to the bottom of it. I hopped on my bike and rode up to Highlands (Creole Envie is in the space Bacon, Culina Highlands, and Highlands Kitchen used to call home) to check out the vegan pulled pork po’ boy they had on offer. I had suspicions of jackfruit, and they were correct, but I had no preconception nor baseline with which to comprehend the enormity of this sandwich. You’ll notice one of the commenters on this Instagram screenshot compared the sandwich to the size of one of my limbs.
I can’t believe I ate the whooooole thing.
This was not an exaggeration nor a trick of camera perspective. This sandwich was the size of my forearm. I don’t remember the exact price, but I know I got this family sized meal and a beer for under twenty bucks. Sure, they serve them off the back porch, outside of business hours, providing an atmosphere of living in some horrible era of sandwich prohibition, but that’s part of the fun.
I’ve made a number of things with jackfruit in the past, and tried a few restaurant renditions, but I believe this was the best implementation I’ve tasted yet. I think it all comes down to the bbq sauce, which is made in-house and has my preferred balance of spicy and sweet. There were also sweet pickles stuffed inside, which I found really tasty alongside what I recall to be some sort of spicy vegan mayo. Really an outstanding sandwich, there is no way I’m missing next month’s back alley po’ boy night, which is on June 11th. I got the inside scoop on what the vegan option will be; trust me, you want to go eat it.
Now, while this sandwich alone is enough to get really, really happy about, it was the things I learned while dining on the aforementioned sandwich that have me especially excited. Creole Envie’s sous chef, Laurel, happens to be vegan and, as I’ve been told, had been pushing for more vegan options in the restaurant for a while. She got her wish, therefore giving me the benefit of attending a menu launch sampling with about 10 other lucky folks. She did good, check it out.
The taste test party was on the house, directing all the more budget towards delicious cocktails. I began with a bloody Mary, which according to their menu is made with Clamato. They had tomato juice in the kitchen and were able to swap it in for a more proper and vegan friendly rendition. Even with the delightfully appropriate garnishing of pickled okra, the bloody Mary was only okay. Not bad, just lacking in the expected spicy, savoury flavour. That’s fine, it was still full of vodka.
The first item to hit the tables was Laurel’s slightly different take on the pulled pork po’ boy. It wasn’t as intensely saucy as the one from back alley night, but it had a nice lighter flavour with the same excellent texture.
Next up was a creation completely new to me, and seemingly true to what it was attempting to recreate, deep fried pork skin. Rather than pork skin, these were made with bean curd sheets, deep fried and seasoned. These tasty, and rightfully fatty crisps melted into pure delicious the moment they hit your tongue.
Following the bean curd we were served red bean patties. The flavor in these was great, but I would have liked a slightly crispier texture. Others were praising their softness, so I think it comes down to personal preference on this one. Either way, they were smothered in a fairly intense mustard sauce that everybody, myself included, loved.
Next we had chicken fried portobello mushrooms with a gravy sauce. I missed the rundown on how these were prepared, but the mushrooms had the taste of being marinated in red wine or red wine vinegar, which I thought was a good compliment to the fried batter coating and gravy. The batter could have been thicker and crispier to really champion the chicken fried title, but they were quite excellent as prepared. This is also available in po’ boy form, and may be found being hustled in a back alley sometime in the near future.
What followed was probably my favourite dish of the night, not only for novelty value, but also because it’s something I prepare myself from time to time as I really love the combination of flavours. I am pleased to say that I can now go out for vegan chicken and waffles whenever I get the urge! They really nailed this one. The waffles were crispy in that way you can only really get from a restaurant. The house made seitan was excellent and breaded just the way I like it. Really looking forward to having this again, and again, and again and so on and so forth.
The last item up for the evening was Jambalaya, including house made andouille sausage, and the same chicken style seitan from the chicken & waffles. I’ve only ever had jambalaya that I’ve made myself, so I don’t have a great reference for authenticity on this one. I found it much lighter and less homogenous than I expected, which was a nice surprise. It seemed delicately prepared, with more care than I thought to find given to jambalaya. We were warned that the andouille was made with too much pepper, and it was very peppery, but still enjoyable. I think it would be bang on with a little reduction in the pepper levels.
Over all, I was incredibly impressed with the food put together for the event, and will be trying the rest of the menu options at the earliest opportunity. It honestly kind of boggles my mind that within all the great vegan options in this city we now can include a full creole menu with battered and deep fried goodness. Dream come true, keep blowing my mind, Edmonton!
Check out the Creole Envie vegan menu here, and I’ll see you in the back alley on June 11th.