Apr. 11, 2012 - Issue #860: Beowulf
Double-header business fills culinary void
One part gourmet pet bakery and one part vegetarian cafe, Food Dish Wishes and The Clever Rabbit are serving up a double hit to Edmonton's culinary scene.
The businesses are spearheaded by dynamic sister duo Ashley and Tessa Lee. Tessa was running a residential painting company and Ashley was working as an administrative assistant when they decided to launch new career paths and go into business together full-time. They'd already had a taste of working as partners through running the Whitecourt Homeless Animal Rescue Foundation (WHARF) for four years, which they are still heavily involved in, often taking in animals themselves while they look for foster homes.
"The pet bakery was Ashley's idea and then I wanted to open a restaurant, and when we found this building, we decided just to split it in half and do both," Tessa explains.
Food Dish Wishes opened its doors on January 10, 2011, with The Clever Rabbit opening for business on March 4 of this year. The bakery and cafe have since filled what the Lee sisters saw was a void in the city's culinary landscape.
"I really don't think there's enough vegetarian places to eat in the city where you're getting something other than salad, falafels or chili," Tessa says of The Clever Rabbit. "You can pretty much eat anywhere, but you can only eat the same things, so we wanted to put things on our menu that you can't really get anywhere else, at least on this side of the river."
The Clever Rabbit's menu isn't a lengthy one, but it boasts hearty, homemade vegetarian and vegan lunch and breakfast offerings. By accident, half of the lunch menu also ended up being gluten-free, which Tessa says comes as a shock to their gluten-free diners because they're not used to having choice. The menu items, which also cater to those with dairy allergies, are creations concocted by Tessa and Ashley, who handle all of the food preparation for both businesses.
The breakfast menu offers three items, each priced at $9, including the popular tofu scramble or granola and yogurt, which can be dairy or non-dairy. Lunch offerings are all set at $12 and Ashley says a popular item is the walnut chickpea burgers or the seitan vegan donairs. The cafe also boasts an ever-changing lineup of homemade soups, which are vegan and predominantly gluten-free.
Rounding out The Clever Rabbit's lineup is a delectable variety of vegan baked goods, including donuts, cinnamon buns on weekends and carrot cake.
On the other side of the wall, Food Dish Wishes is all about providing pet owners with all-natural, made-from-scratch confections for their furry friends. Three quarters of the treats are aimed at dogs, with a variety of pastries, ice cream and special order cakes for special occasions.
Tessa says pumpkin and peanut butter banana are two of the most popular ice cream flavours among the bakery's four-legged clientele.
"We also do a strawberry banana and blueberry maple for the ice cream," Ashley adds. "For our treats, we cover pretty much everything. We do a duck, we do ham, we do cheese, vegetable ones and then there's some wheat-free ones for people who want wheat-free for their animals."
Specialty confections also include peanut butter cups, cupcakes and mini banana loaves. While the majority of these treats cater to canines, cats aren't forgotten. Felines can indulge in treats like organic cat nip or dehydrated fish jerky.
Since the pet treats involve meat, all of the baking is divided up between Ashley and Tessa and completed at home on their "day off." They say there isn't a lot of extra consideration that goes into pet baking in comparison to baking for humans, aside from some of the obvious don'ts, like including chocolate. This is substituted with carob in some of the sweeter creations. Sugars are also a no.
"Instead of sugars, we use honey and yogurt," Ashley says.
To keep the treats as healthy as possible, there is no added fat, preservatives or artificial colours. Items like cake frostings, which are cream cheese based, are coloured by blending up fruit rather than using food colouring.
"We started baking because Ashley's dog actually has severe allergies and she can almost eat nothing," Tessa says of their decision to keep everything natural. "She's actually allergic to every ingredient in the bag of hypoallergenic dog food, so Ashley started cooking for her ... there's lots of people out there whose animals can't eat regular treats."
Food Dish Wishes/The Clever Rabbit
10724 - 124 St/10722 - 124 St
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