CAFÉ GROUND EFFECTS
- 6622A 20A St SE, Calgary
- (403) 236-9003
- Hours: Monday, 7am-3pm; Tuesday-Friday, 7am-5pm
- Cash only
Wow. To say I am impressed with this Café is a gross understatement. I came to see and sample Ground Effects’ wares, and to see how they might fit in with this book, and came away extremely impressed. What started as a desire to promote fair trade through a business venture, this café has gone far beyond that; it engages in sound environmental practices, provides nourishing vegetarian and vegan foods created using, as often as possible, locally sourced organic goods, all the while providing fair trade coffees and teas, and using fair trade sourced dishes and more.
This venture started way before the eventual opening of Ground Effects in 2004, through the hard work of the three partners in the business, Marie Landry, Michael Landry and Derek Sharp. They found a space for what was at first thought to be a coffee shop, with the emphasis being on the fair trade coffee, finding one right in the heart of the Lynnview/Ogden area of the city, and setting about transforming that former diner into a warm, cozy and casually earthy café, where they could sell their ideals one coffee at a time. Discovering, and dealing with the lumbering bureaucracy of the city delayed the opening of Ground Effects to the summer of 2004, but those days are long since past, and the ideals of Ground Effects have both expanded and become further entrenched.
Ground Effects is as close to being 100% vegetarian as the provision of one tuna dish will allow; all else is not only vegetarian, but so much of it is, in fact, vegan, including all the baking and most of the cooking too. Dairy is used sparingly, as in the case of cheese, and that is all ‘vegetarian cheese’, that is to say cheese that contains no rennet or animal derived enzymes. They use cheese in sandwiches, their macaroni and cheese dish, and the pizza(s) they make, in particular the ‘beef’ and cheddar cheese pizza, that uses the Yves veggie ground round instead of remnants of animal. Soups are generally vegan, and vary from day to day.
They use mostly organic ingredients in their dishes, as possible; winters make fresh organic produce a costly and difficult undertaking to achieve, so they do as they are able to. The same applies to using locally sourced ingredients. They do purchase their grains from local organci farmers and ground it in the back of the café, ensuring the freshest of flours.
Marie does virtually all of the baking, and makes the most amazing chocolate brownies and sticky buns, from recipes she was able to develop that added much needed flavour and durability to the doughs; one complaint made of some vegan baking is that it tends to crumble or last for less a time, and often there seems to be a decided lack of flavour to them. Not here; in fact Marie is experimenting with taking her wizardy with the dough she made for the sticky buns, and applying it to bread recipes. She is also quite keen to provide baking that satisfies special dietary requirements, such as celiac, nut allergies, among others.
The coffees they use are from Café San Miguel in Victoria, who sell only fair-trade organic coffees, and their teas are also fair trade organic, including the herbal ones, from the Verde Herbal Tea company.
They sought companies that could supply them with biodegradable paper and plastic cups for those who were ordering drinks to go, and found a distributor that supplies them with biodegradable paper cups, and also plastic ones made from organic corn starch, There exists a company called Nature Works, that makes plastics, not from the traditional petroleum sources, but from renewable resources such as corn, in this case organic corn sources. Ground Effects may very well be the only café in town, perhaps in Canada even, to use these products.
I am quite excited to know that Café Ground Effects not only exists, but is thriving. That they are located in what would seem to be an offbeat area for a shop that has very strong ethical values, seems to not matter; they make an excellent cup of coffee, and their meals are simply delicious. In the end, for most people out there, can one really ask for anything more?
GOOD EARTH COFFEEHOUSE AND BAKERY
- 10 locations in Calgary, one in Red Deer and one in Edmonton (see website for exact adresses)
- Original Cafe address 1502 11th Street SW, Calgary
- (403) 228-9543
- Hours: Sunday to Saturday, 6:30am to 10pm.
- Cash, Debit, CC
- Take out and catering
The Good Earth is perhaps the one café that best exemplifies the concept of bringing ethics to business and making a positive impact and a success to both. Good Earth is not 100% vegetarian or vegan, but it has sought to offer compromise as a means of ensuring exposure to its predominantly vegetarian selections without creating an intimidating atmosphere for the non-vegetarians, thus being able to gently encourage people to eat more vegetarian comfortably. It started out as a café and bookstore, with an emphasis on environmental and related books, at its original location on 11th Street SW. I remember how we would often gather at the original location, discussing actions and views on issues with members of the Calgary Animal Rights Coalition, other times perusing the selection of books and magazines available, the focus of them being mainly environmental and social justice topics.
The concept, its naissance and growth are thanks in large part to Nan Eskenazi the owner and visionary. Back in 1991 Nan opened the first Good Earth Coffeehouse, her intentions being to offer good wholesome and healthy foods to be served alongside the best coffees possible. She held onto an idea that food could be prepared using the most natural and fresh of ingredients without compromising on taste; many cafes and restaurants tended to be less committed to natural foods at the time.
The concept has stayed true to its origins, to be as sensitive to the environment as possible, and to provide as natural of foods as possible while maintaining a high calibre of quality and healthiness to it. The actual locations have a design that reflect that too, in the warm earth tones, the rich reds and browns and woods used; the original café has retained its charm and all the subsequent locations have patterned themselves after it as much as possible, even those located in hospitals and other institutions.
The Good Earth serves only fair trade coffee that is both shade grown and 100% organic, having found the ideal company to ensure the quality, and ethics and quantity they require to meet the needs of their many cafes, that being the locally situated Fratello Coffee Company. They have always used Fratello Coffee and through working together were able to go completely organic, fair trade and shade grown in 2005. Being shade-grown means that the coffee plants do not require the clearing of forests and overgrowth-the habitat of many species of animals, and being organic it hasn’t been genetically altered or induced with all kinds of toxins and pesticides. The fact that it is fair trade means too, that the growers and harvesters get a fair remuneration for their beans; entirely a win/win/win situation.
The food served centres around good wholesome dishes, most of them being vegetarian, with a smattering of meat dishes and some vegan as well. While the original location has stayed, it has transformed into a bakery as well as the main kitchen for the entire chain of cafes, doing the major baking for all the locations along with the foods. This makes for consistency of baking, but also it answers the very real concern for kitchen space issues; some of the locations are quite intimate, such as the one located in the main branch of the Calgary Public Library, and another in the Foothills Hospital. What baking cannot be done in house is contracted out to other bakers who use Good Earth recipes to supply them with their breads. The rest of the baking, such as the scones, muffins, cookies, sweet rolls, fruit loafs, squares and cakes are made at the 11th Street location.
All of their foods are made from scratch, to guarantee control of quality, using whole food ingredients for the optimum in health benefits. There are always vegetarian options as well as vegan ones, and for those who require it, low fat options too. Currently, all of the baking is vegetarian; no lard is used at all, with the Pumpkin Muffin being vegan. There is also a wheat-free muffin made from barley flour, for those who cannot tolerate wheat.
All of the soups are made using a vegetable stock, with three options available daily, including an Autumn Vegetable with Barley, Cream of Cauliflower, Minestrone, among others. Salads selections are varied too, with Pasta Salad, Marinated Vegetables, a Fresh Fruit Salad, Broccoli Salad all featured, along with a Whole Grain Salad. All recipes are unique to Good Earth, so many of the dishes have no comparison elsewhere.
I have enjoyed some of their sandwiches, including the Tuscan Vegetable Panini; other selections include the Grilled Vegetable and Feta Cheese Panini and the Great Canadian Grilled Cheese Sandwich as well as the Tarragon Egg Salad Sandwich.
The entrees include a vegetable stew each day, such as the Lentil Stew, as well as the Pasta Pie done in a cream sauce, a Vegetarian Lasagna, their Veggie Chili, Moroccan Vegetables served on rice, their famous Mac ‘n Cheese and many others, prepared on a rotating basis so as to keep the taste buds excited.
Good Earth does breakfasts too, with what is known as the Southwest Breakfast Bake, similar to a frittata, with potatoes, spinach and cheese all cooked with eggs, their own homemade Granola, served with fruit and yogurt if desired, or Fresh Fruit and Yogurt. Of course there are the fresh baked goods, perfectly complimenting the delicious coffee selection.
Catering is also available, with the foods being available for pick up at any location or through their delivery service, to ensure it arriving fresh and timely. The information is available by calling 1.888.294.9330 and asking for Kim.
Good Earth is going through a growth spurt currently, the result being a new, much larger bakery and kitchen facility under construction to accommodate the needs for the current coffeehouses, and the new ones in the works. One can expect many more Good Earth Coffeehouses in the future.
For Good Earth locations see website at www.goodearthcafes.com
- 825 1 Avenue NE, Calgary
- (403) 263-4567
- Hours: Monday through Friday, 8am-8pm; Saturday & Sunday, 8am-6pm.
- Cash, Debit, CC
The Heartland Café sat, nestled in the Sunnyside/Kensington community, one of the more established and socially progressive areas of the city, and two blocks removed from the 10th Street hub of trendy boutiques and restaurants. It was located in the Vendome Building, an Alberta Heritage site, built in 1912 as a commercial building to serve the growing community of the time.
Heartland has now since relocated, thanks to the disappearance of the General Hospital and the subsequent rebirth of the Bridgeland community. Nestled among the new townhouses and businesses lining 1st Avenue NE it became the second Heartland Café, having just opened in the summer of 2006. In 2009 the original Heartland closed shop, due to be re-opened as the Vendome Cafe at some point in the near future. One holds the hope that it too will be vegetarian friendly, as its predecessor.
Heartland had its beginnings in 1988, when a couple of enterprising individuals, Witold Twardowski and Eric Sundstrom, started work on transforming the Vendome Building into a warm and earthy refuge for the soul, while preserving the character of its past. In the course of six month’s work the vision became complete, the Heartland Country Store opened for business. The mandate to maintain the integrity of the building’s past wound up being retained in regard to the premise behind this venture, in particular with the foods prepared and offered: “Our foods will be whole foods without additives, and will be made with the utmost of freshness and taste.”
Eric and his partner Nonie became the managers of this beautiful store and, through the hiring of Alice Kichuk, as chef, the Heartland Country Store was up and running, at a leisurely pace, well suited for the Sunnyside Community. A success from the start it became apparent that there needed to be more access to its wonderful foods, and thus came about the idea for a cookbook, offering up the recipes that made Heartland a vital part of Calgary’s natural foods scene. The cookbook is still available at Heartland more than 10 years later.
While the original visionaries of the Heartland Café departed back in 1994, having sold the enterprise to Ron and Cecile Swartz, the philosophy has been carried on to this day, even as the location has now changed to the Bridgeland site. It retains the comfortable ambience of the original even though it has become less like a general store, with a much more contemporised atmosphere.
Foods are prepared from scratch, daily, with freshness being the key to ensuring the quality of the dishes offered. People who patronize this place tend to be loyal customers who frequent it on a regular basis, a sure sign of its excellence, and its friendly, open, inviting ambiance.
As I mentioned, the foods are prepared from scratch, with only the freshest ingredients used, many of them organic. The new location carries on the tradition of baking and preparing wholefoods; even the teas are created using all natural spices. The menu is approximately 80-90% vegetarian, with a small amount of it vegan, so it is well-suited to most vegetarian diets.
Heartland was the first place to introduce soymilk for coffees, something that is now available in virtually every café in Calgary. I suspect that many of the cafes here have borrowed more than a few ideas and inspirations from Heartland.
- 5618B 4th Street NW, Calgary
- (403) 275-8842
Owned by David and Debbie, and located in the Thorncliffe area of Calgary, it is a labour of love for these two vegans, to create a meeting place for people who want a cozy refuge from day to day stresses, with an emphasis on vegetarian and even some vegan options, while also being sensitive to those who have other dietary needs, such as diabetics. The Javalounge came into existence in October 2003 after starting out as the Javahut.
An eclectic kind of café, the Java Lounge accepts Calgary Dollars as well as Canadian Tire money. The coziness is to be found in the décor, the sofas and armchairs where, if one closes one’s eyes one can be tricked into believing they are in the comfort of one’s own home, with the aroma(s) of fresh brewed coffees and a variety of baked goods tickling one’s senses and palate.
For those who come in with a group of friends, there are numerous diversions, such as games-everything from Chess and Checkers and family-oriented games, to a dartboard. As well, there are newspapers, both local and English(did I forget to mention that David hails from England?), such as the weekly Telegraph and the International Express, should a person prefer their own company, along with quite an array of magazines, including the Utne Reader, as well as more mainstream mags. For those who may be so inclined, there is also available both free internet and computer use.
They have a mobile coffee shop that is set up for community events in keeping with their vision. Dave and Debbie compost their coffee and food scraps, as a way to minimise their ecological footprint, with the scraps going to an organic farm for composting.