Oooey-gooey grilled cheese, hefty burgers, chocolatey cupcakes, creamy milkshakes, and all with a twist: they’re vegan. That means the kitchen used no animal products. All ingredients are plant-based.
Daniel Wiseman owns Blue Apples Natural Products on Blowers Street. He uses the term vegan so people know what he’s talking about, but it’s not about the name. It’s about the thought put into the food, and how it affects a person’s wellbeing.
“I always said to everyone working in the kitchen that our food has to be about health first,” he says, “and quality and sustainability, and real issues that are at hand that obviously veganism is concerned with.”
Wiseman wants Blue Apples to be a space where “every group of people, especially ostracized groups of people, or minority groups,” can feel safe. It combines a vegan café and a wellness centre that offers herbalism, massage, acupuncture, and traditional Indian medicine.
It was a work in progress for six years. Wiseman discovered herbalism in his late teens. He started harvesting his own herbs and making medicines for friends and family.
In 2012, Wiseman started a hobby project selling bulk herbs and natural products through an online store. A couple years later this grew into a stand at the Alderney Landing Farmers’ Market in Dartmouth. By 2015, he moved into a shared space on Quinpool Road. Less than a year later, he moved into a room on Blowers Street. Less than a year after that, he leased the old Paper Chase café location across the street.
“It was very loose the way it came together,” Wiseman says. “This business has always been about things I’m passionate about, and now the group of friends that I work with are passionate about and I like keeping it that way. If I were looking to make a lot of money with something, this would not be the thing I would be doing.”
Halifax’s vegan community continues to expand every year. There are four core vegan restaurants and cafes in the city, like enVie a Vegan Kitchen, and several others offer a mix of vegan and vegetarian dishes. Few offer both vegan and non-vegan food; the Foggy Goggle on Gottingen Street does.
Natalie Dugie, co-owner of the Foggy Goggle, has been a vegetarian for 33 years, and gluten free for the past three. Her diet has consistently influenced the restaurants’ approach to food. “When Julie and I started the Goggle, the premise for it was we want it to be a place that we would want to go to.”
“When I can get a vegan meal out or a vegetarian meal, to me it’s like this personal little victory,” says Dugie. “There are so many good meals that are vegan and vegetarian and people have no idea.”
Dugie says a lot of staff that work both in the kitchen and front of house are either vegan or vegetarian, or come with a variety of allergies. Dugie says there’s a lot of thought that goes into the menu.
“It’s nice to be able to take care of everybody,” Dugie says. Every Monday, the menu at Foggy Goggle is entirely vegan. And the rest of the week always offers a vegan choice.
Blue Apples focuses on using as much local and organic products as possible. The process in the café involves making everything from scratch, soaking all the grains overnight, not using granulated sugar, and sticking to a high standard.
“I think what’s worked best for us is to have really tasty food, and not talking about the vegan thing very fiercely,” Wiseman says.
Wiseman says most of the diners are specifically seeking vegan; the location brings in a lot of business people looking for healthy alternatives to the fast food and pubs that dominate downtown.
“If I was going to do something extreme I wanted it to also be inclusive, as much as it could be,” Wiseman says. The menu might mimic some western cuisine, but it also offers transitory food for vegetarians, and accessible food for vegans.
“We’re either going to succeed doing it right, or fail doing it right,” says Wiseman. “[We’re] sticking to that standard of providing the good stuff, making our decisions based on what’s right and not always about business.”