Amazing eats at Butcher and the Vegan

I am a meat lover. I try to limit my intake but when I eat out, I rarely order a vegetarian option. So when James Kayser, the owner of Butcher and the Vegan in Hamilton, Ontario, invited me and my friend Cara, of Talk That Talk, to join their Kitchen Party, I was a bit skeptical. After eating everything on my plate, I am now eating my words.

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Every month or so, the restaurant hosts an evening of music, great eats and delicious beer pairings. This month, Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party were featured and Kayser created a “kitchen party” inspired menu to suit the music. Think impromptu gathering with great tunes and whatever happens to be in the refrigerator spun into a an artfully creative meal. To top it off, Collective Arts Brewing, also based in Hamilton, paired each course with one of their unique beers.

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Butcher and the Vegan serves both meat based and vegan meals. At the Kitchen Party, we dined strictly vegan. After a tasty little nibble of roasted chickpeas, out came the appetizer board. It included a play on a caprese salad, with avocado in place of buffalo mozzarella, a mediterranean layer dip on freshly fried nachos, an amazingly flavourful mostarda crostini and some delicious artichoke nibbles with a “butter” dipping sauce. Everything was fresh and had incredible depth of flavour. The nachos and artichokes were definite highlights!

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This course was paired with Saint of Circumstance Blonde, a citrusy, light beer that goes well with anything you might squeeze a lemon on. It cut through the buttery flavour of the nachos and artichokes wonderfully. While we digested our appetizers, Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party did their thing. The music set the perfect tone for the evening. Carefree and intimate with a bit of quirkiness. You can check out their tunes here.

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The main course was where the “kitchen party” theme really shone. It included “last night’s chinese” glass noodles and veggies, “cold pizza” (that was really quite warm), spicy vegan chili with killer sourdough bread and fried brussels sprouts dusted with citrus thyme salt that I am still salivating over. Not one animal product on the plate and I didn’t even miss it. Who knew brussels sprouts could be such a star?

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This course paired with Rhyme & Reason, a Collective Arts standby. It’s an extra pale ale that goes with just about anything. In 2014, it won best North American Style Pale Ale at the Canadian Brewing Awards. Go beer!

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We barely had room for dessert, but you can always find a little extra space, right? We finished the meal off with vegan sugar cookies topped with whipped “cream” and chocolate sauce. So good!

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To wash down dessert, we had the Stranger Than Fiction porter. It’s a dark looking, light tasting beer that’s full of coffee and chocolate flavour. A great match!

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While Freeman Dre and the Kitchen Party finished their set, we polished off the last beer on our paddle, the Collective Project Black IPA. It’s a limited edition beer created by the head brewmaster at Collective Arts and it’s exclusive to select bars and restaurants. A great way to finish the night!

Luckily, the Butcher and the Vegan team were sympathetic to our full stomachs and wrapped up everything we couldn’t finish (plus a little extra :)). Next month’s musical guest is Hachey the MouthPEACE – he’ll be playing after Art Crawl on March 11th. Be sure to follow Butcher and the Vegan on Twitter to stay in the loop!

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Photos by Cara Cameron and Elise Copps

Meatless Monday: Butternut squash polenta

I love a good hamburger as much as the next girl but there are so many reasons to eat less meat. Producing meat is pretty hard on the environment and as food prices increase (especially up here in Canada), it’s becoming less affordable.

I’m not suggesting you go full-on veg, but devoting even one night a  week to eating meat-free can make a difference. This butternut squash polenta is a great example of how meatless meals can be filling without the usual culprits like tofu and beans.

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If you’ve never tried it, you’ll be amazed by how easy it is to make polenta. It’s very versatile and forgiving. And when you’re not having a “Meatless Monday” it’s the perfect vessel for a hearty beef ragout.

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For now, let’s stick with the butternut squash version. This recipe serves 4.

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 1.5 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 cups chopped kale
  • 1 cup polenta
  • 2 cups stock (vegetable, or chicken if you feel like cheating)
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 tsbp butter
  • 1/4 cup cream (or more milk if you’re keeping it light)
  • 1/3 cup goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
  1. Preheat your oven to 400 º F. Peel your squash and cut it into 1cm (1/2″) cubes. Toss the cubes in 1 tbsp of the cooking oil of your choice, cumin, salt and pepper. Roast them until brown and tender, about 25 minutes.
  2. When there are about 10 minutes left on the squash, combine your stock and milk and bring them to a gentle simmer in a large pot. Whisk in the polenta. Stir until it begins to thicken- this will come together quickly. Turn down the heat and allow the polenta to cook for about 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat your remaining oil in a skillet on medium and toss in the chopped kale. The pieces should be bite-sized. Turn the heat to low, season with salt and pepper and toss occasionally.
  4. Once your polenta has cooked for a few minutes, add the butter and cream and season to your liking with salt. If the polenta is too thick, you can loosen it by whisking in a bit of warm water.
  5. Ladle a large scoop of polenta onto a plate or shallow bowl and create a hollow in the centre using the back of the ladle. Spoon on 1/4 of the kale and squash. Top with 1tbsp of crumbled goat cheese, 1 tbsp of pepitas and 1tbsp of dried cranberries.

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Do you have a favourite meat-free meal? Share yours in the comments below!