Sunday, 28 September 2014

VegMel Picnic!

VEGMEL IS FIVE. It happened about two weeks ago, so five and a bit, but birthdays can last for ages.

To celebrate, as we do every year, we are having a picnic!

Come for vegan noms, friendly vego faces, and to talk crap. We'll be in Princes Park, up near the bowls club and the pond. Bring a vegan plate and a picnic blanket, or just yourself.

This event is open to all, not just bloggers. It's always fun! (I promise)

Sunday, October 5
1pm - 4pm
Princes Park
near the bowls club

Facebook event

Monday, 11 August 2014

comfort, lazy noodle soup and other favourite comfort foods

A friend asked me for my top five favourite things to cook, and I listed them as follows:

Laska
Kari Kapitan (often with oyster mushrooms and firm tofu instead of the mock chicken)
Lentil Ragu + long pasta (sometimes also with tempeh)
yellow Dahl
Pasta Salad made with whatever is in the house (and, hopefully, five spice tempeh)

However then I realised I had missed one, because I have never previously blogged it; mostly, because I have never considered it worth blogging. Here, then, is one of the laziest things in my cooking repertoire: noodle soup.

Please note that when I say lazy, I mean it is lazy for me. Your laziness may vary. It is also a very flexible, forgiving recipe. You can add and subtract as you deem necessary (though I really mean it about the star anise).

makes: about two portions

ingredients:
2 star anise
1 carrot
2 or 3 bok choy (or a whole lot of chinese cabbage)
dark soy (you don't want it to go dark brown but you want it shaded - 3 tablespoons? less? something like that)
2 fresh chillis
5 cups water
1 tsp dry powdered stock, if you have it
1 inch fresh ginger, washed but not peeled

whatever noodles or tofu or frozen dumplings you have lying around the house, suitable for 2 people
any other vegies or whatever that you deem appropriate

method:
Bring water to a boil in a pot. In the meantime julienne the carrot, saving the ends; cut off the ends of the bok choy. Throw these ends, plus the star anise, soy, chilli, stock and ginger into the pot. Reduce heat and let simmer for twenty minutes, lid on but ajar. When it smells AMAZING, add your vegetables and noodles and dumplings as appropriate. I like to use a stick of rice noodles and two cakes of yellow mee, already soaked in hot water and rinsed to remove the starch. If I'm using firm tofu I'll add it at the same time as the carrots to give it the opportunity to soak in the flavour. Add the bok choy leaves and stems separate from each other, but near the end. But not so near the end that they're not soft. SOFT BOK CHOY/CHINESE CABBAGE IS LIFE.

Ahem.

Remove the star anise, carrot ends and ginger before serving, unless you really want to eat boiled star anise (I don't recommend it).

I often eat with extra soy+chilli sauce that I make at the beginning of the process, which gives the chilli and the soy time to infuse each other.

This stock, with the same things but bigger proportions, is good for all sorts of chinese vego cooking. Also add garlic cloves (peeled) and oyster mushrooms to the stock while it's going for a fuller flavour. Very authentic. TRUST ME. TRUST THIS AZN FACE.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

bare burger [various locations, nyc]

My first and last nights in NYC saw me dining on food from Bare Burger. After being collected from La Guardia and depositing my belongings, I walked with my hosts to Bare Burger in Astoria, where the staff were friendly and delightful, offering advice, opinions and the ingredients list as required.

We started with two serves of fries: one sweet potato (or "yam", which is often not actually yam), and one of not sweet potato. This is served with a whole lot of sauces, which our waiter kindly replaced with some other options, more vegan, for me.

Bare Burger has a whole lot of options, but both times I've eaten there now I delighted in the Barest of Burgers, which is where you get to pick everything! I went with the wholemeal bun and filled it with this amazing black bean patty, smoke house sauce, avocado, tomato, spinach and mushrooms.

I'm not ashamed to say that tonight, my last night in NYC, we stayed in to do some work and ordered delivery from Bare Burger and I ordered something very, very similar. It was a good nom choice, as they also do gluten-free and were totally lovely. (Also there is vegan cake on the dessert menu)


Bare Burger
33-21 31st Avenue (also has other locations)
Astoria

Thursday, 3 July 2014

grasslands [toronto]

I know it’s a big call, but breakfast at Grasslands was the best meal I had during my time in Canada, despite the amazing pie at The Wallflower. 

At first we were really only going because it was one of the few places that could cater for vegans and coeliacs and also took bookings. But it was so good. SO. GOOD. 

Having had a big night before (we got back to our accommodation at well after midnight, having consumed many alcohols, spent the day in the sun, and hung out in an indoor hotel pool for many hours), it was with a gentle stride that we navigated our way on public transport to Grasslands, located on Queen Street West. 

We arrived to find a beautiful puppy lying across the doorstep, and I fell upon a lovely coffee. 

I wanted to eat everything on the menu, but in the end went for the Hangover Helper, on the grounds that I was a bit delicate. The Hangover Helper is comprised of scrambled tofu (with mushrooms and daiya cheese), salsa, guacamole, spinach (which I asked to be withheld), toast, chips, salad and watermelon. The tofu was a lovely texture with the daiya adding a slightly cheesy creamyness. The salsa and guacamole added a nice little flavour, and then I added a big of sriracha sauce for a little spice and it was perrrrfect. The salad was bland but a nice addition to the friedness of the rest of it, and finishing it off with three slices of watermelon was just right. 


ALSO AMAZING: the bite of french toast I had; the bite of gluten-free waffle I had, so light and fluffy and, as Dr F said, you couldn't tell it was gf + vegan at all (unlike the pancakes at Fresh, so sad). 

I am disappointed that I didn't get a chance to return to Grasslands. If you get a chance, HIGHLY RECOMMEND. 

478 Queen St W
Toronto

Stairs to enter and down to the toilets. Payment at the table. CC accepted. Lighting okay but it was daytime.  Get there on the streetcar. Service really helpful and lovely. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

fresh on bloor [toronto]


Being located close to my Toronto accommodation, and being a vegetarian restaurant with a weekend brunch option, we ended up at Fresh on Bloor. Fresh has four locations and makes some really interesting dishes and juices, with a menu I was super in to.

So, after a morning wandering the queer area of downtown Toronto and getting interviewed on Toronto TV re: Pride (during which I admired a unicorn costume as "like being bi, because we don't exist, we're either one or the other" and said "Canadia"), Tris and I wandered down to Fresh and met up with some of the other members of our girl gang. 

Several Australians insisted I order a “bowl” at Fresh, and despite Fi demanding I order the beach bowl, instead I was drawn to the green goddess bowl, with broccoli, tempeh, sunflower seeds and kale and bok choy in tahini and ginger tamari sauce. I ordered the baby size, with udon noodles. It was SO GOOD and the perfect size and I must make it as soon as I get home, I loved the sauce and the beautiful fresh raw broccoli and the sunflower seeds. With warm udon but raw veggies, it was perfect for a humid Toronto afternoon, before we adventured on to the Bata Shoe Museum (also an excellent use of my Toronto time). I also went with the gingersnap power shake, matcha, ginger, strawberry, blueberry, banana, maple syrup and almond milk. It was very unexpected and strong but I loved it.

We noticed a breakfast menu and returned when Fresh opened at 10:30 on Sunday in order to sample it. After the amazing lunch on Friday, followed by a stunning brunch at the vegan Grasslands on Saturday (more on that in another post), I had high hopes. Sadly, it was not able to reach the heights of the previous meals, with my banana nut pancake platter (2 pancakes, tofu scramble, tempeh bacon) a bit average. The pancakes were vegan and gluten free and, as much as it pains me to say it, you could tell; and my coffee was sickly sweet. 

So, Fresh. I would go back for lunch, to eat many of the things on the menu, and also for dinner; but I’d rethink the breakfast. 

326 Bloor Street West
Toronto

(also other locations)

Toilets down a flight of stairs. Step to enter; tightly packed tables. Ordering and CC/payments at the table. Good lighting. 


Sunday, 29 June 2014

magic oven [toronto]

Retrieved from the plane and escorted via PT to my home for my stay in Toronto, I gathered with my international girl gang at Magic Oven on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. Magic Oven is a delightful pizza restaurant that caters to a variety of diets (including vegan and gluten free), lets you modify anything as much as you wish, and allowed us to ask a million questions and stay for a long time as we drank wine and ate pizza.

Despite the presence of several good looking vegan pizzas on the menu, I decided to build my own. I went for a wholemeal base, with tomato + garlic sauce, daiya, sweet potato, thyme roasted mushrooms, and something infused spinach (I can’t remember, it was three days ago). It was so gooooooood. It was a really happy introduction to Toronto’s vegan food. 

There was also vegan cake and vegan mousse available but regrettably I was too full to even consider it. 

No pictures because you know what pizza looks like. 

798 Danforth Ave (and other locations)
Toronto 


Stairs everywhere. CC payment at table. Okay lighting. Super accommodating. We have started calling it Magic Coven and I like it. Would eat there again. 

Thursday, 26 June 2014

the wallflower [vancouver]

I found out about The Wallflower by accident, trying to find somewhere to eat in downtown Vancouver. Immediately I knew it was something I wanted to try: their vegan shepherd’s pie, the internet said, was EXCELLENT. (And it was)

Overwhelmed by choice, E helped me out by suggesting we share a small poutine, which we did: as first poutines go, it was pretty excellent. I spent some time asking questions about how it compared to actual poutine and what an actual poutine contains (the closest I ever come is the Lord’s French Canadian), and A, an unrepentant meat eater and on-off resident of Canada for some time, says that it was pretty close. 

I also ordered a small mac and cheese, and, of course, the vegan shepherd’s pie. I couldn’t finish either, and I was worried I had made a mistake, but oh, my quokkas, I had not. The leftovers went into the fridge but they didn't remain there for very long, and it was with great delight that I ate them (and am thinking about that mac and cheese even now).

The shepherd’s pie was heavy and meaty and filled with mushrooms and something ground, and gravy, and topped with a crispy, cheesy potato. The filling was peppery and spicy, and I usually hate pepper but it worked perfectly with the filling so I couldn’t help but want more. The mac and cheese was cheesy and creamy and I wanted to eat more but I also wanted to save it for my lunch the next day! 

The side salad was fine but covered in a grossly sweet vinegarette. Ugh. The salad did not come home with me.

SO GOOD. RECOMMEND. Don’t look too closely at the wallpaper: it’s covered in wall flowers. The decor is oddddd but the toilets are nice and non-gendered. Service is pleasant. 

2420 Main Street
Vancouver

No bookings same day. Make sure you specify when you’re ordering vegan and they’re so good for it. Non-gendered toilet. Payment at the table, not sure about entry. Wide passage; booth seats available. 



Tuesday, 24 June 2014

bandidas taqueria [vancouver]

Arriving at 11:00 on a Sunday morning we were in for a 15 minute wait for our party of 3, but after a little wander down the street (and an opportunity for me to look inside a Dollar Tree store) we were seated and served and out of there by 12:00 and I was pretty impressed. 

I couldn’t find this on the website but I was super excited to get to Bandidas Taqueria to discover it can all be veganised! At which point I struggled and struggled, and it was with some difficulty that I picked the muffins (two corn bread muffin tops, topped with guac, cheese, and fried tofu), to which I added roasted sweet potato + potato and veggie sausage. Please note: where the menu says ‘yams’ it lies; it means sweet potato.

THIS WAS SO GOOD. I have been thinking about these corn bread muffins all day, thinking about making them when I get home, thinking about going there again, thinking about how much I love salsa and corn and guacamole and everything that this dish chooses to be.

Also they don’t do takeaway unless you bring your own; they emphasise their bike parking; their toilets have notes about bikes on them. And their cocktails sound delicious. If I had been with drinkers, I would have had something, never mind it being 11:20 when we ordered. 

Outside, we saw this ghost; maybe zie was hungover from haunting in the shortest night of the year. 

2781 Commercial Drive
Vancouver

Website says lots of bike parking out front but there could be more. Step to enter, noisy, hard to navigate. Visited in daylight so not sure about lighting. Can get there on PT as it’s close to Commercial-Broadway Station. 

Monday, 23 June 2014

3G Restaurant [vancouver]

MY GLOB I LOVE YUM CHA

We went to 3G in Vancouver and when we arrived at 11:30 on a Saturday morning it was EMPTY so I was unsure but Alex and Liz assured me it would be good and it was. 3G is a vego Chinese restaurant with clearly labeled vegan options (good work). 

3G is fill in the boxes rather than come around with trolleys; we picked a selection of yum cha and lunch items, though a few (GLUTINOUS RICE WITH CHICKEN) were unavailable. From the yum cha menu we went: prawn dumplings (steamed), fried bok choy dumplings, fried tofu skin, sesame balls, char siu bao, fried meat puff and spring rolls. From the lunch menu we got chicken drumsticks and a fried noodles dish. 

This was a lovely start to my first full day in Vancouver. The chicken was very crispy, and surprisingly made of gluten rather than tofu skin (as I’m used to). The tofu skin fried was a highlight, it was like a murtabak in many ways, so light and crispy and filled with something delicious.

Baozi was light and fluffy and not too doughy, a nice ratio of dough to char siu. 


The sesame balls and the meat puff were not my thing, made of that really chewy flour that I haaaate enduring at yum cha. 

Only one photo because you know what yum cha looks like: it looks like fried and/or steamed things. YES. 

3424 Cambie Street
Vancouver

Ordering at the table, toilet hard to get to, no step to enter (I think? Maybe). Menu in English + Chinese characters. Not really much GF. 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

vegan about the world: the naam [vancouver]

First meal on the Great North American Adventure (more a medium-sized adventure, I guess, three cities in three weeks) was at The Naam, a 24 hour vegetarian restaurant in Kitsilano, Vancouver.

SO MANY OPTIONS. Also my mind is blown by it being 24/7 vego food. I went for the Asian Noodle Bowl, because a) noodles and b) you could get it with tempeh. I was awfully confused by the addition of grated beetroot to the raw toppings upon it (the grated carrot made more sense) (WHY RUIN THINGS WITH BEETROOT), but the broth was beautiful and I loved it. 

I also got a blueberry soy shake (with tofulati ice cream) and we got two pieces of pie to take home with us. The pies we selected were the Noh Pie (no sweet, no eggs, no dairy, no wheat, banana-date-nut cream pie) and an apple blueberry pie. These were super tasty! The Noh Pie was more like a cheesecake kind of thing (best cold), and the apple blueberry had a lovely crust and was not too tart. 

The atmosphere is very laid back and casual, and it's exactly the sort of place I'd expect to be down the road from a weed shop.

2724 West Fourth Ave
Vancouver
open 24-7
Accepts cards

One step to enter; didn’t check the toilets. (Alex says “accessible is not a word I would use to describe it”)

Sunday, 6 April 2014

white pasta sauce (also good for hot chips)

I've never been very good at white sauces: they're not a thing I ever ate as a child (unless they were part of a hor fun, which is a different kind of white sauce all together), and I considered white sauce a different, unusual, completely foreign thing. It was a special treat, and certainly not anything I had any experience with at home. 

Since I've been vegan I've failed at every recipe I've turned my hand to; so it was with great delight that last week I was feeling lazy and magically a white sauce appeared as my dinner. 

So I stole this from Emma in talk and texts, and turned it into a recipe. On Friday it was leftovers of pasta with this sauce plus hot chips + potato cakes from the local fish and chippery; tonight I fried thin strips of tempeh and thinly sliced mushrooms in some teriyaki sauce to top it all with. It's versatile and delicious, and next I think I'm going to try it as a béchamel on a lasagne. 

There are no pictures because you've seen an ugly brown/cream sauce before. 

So I present to you, a super delicious but relatively easy white pasta sauce. 


Dice half a brown onion, and brown it (ha!) in 2 tablespoons of nuttelex/margarine, before adding a minced clove of garlic and half a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes. Careful with the chilli, I basically killed my flattie Bella this evening by choosing to use about two tablespoons of chilli. I just like chilli, okay?

When it's all brown and delicious smelling, add a heaped tablespoon of (vegan, obvs) powdered chicken-flavoured stock (ILU, Massels), and 2 tablespoons of plain flour. Mix it all in, add a dash or three of milk, stir again, add some more milk and maybe some water and create a roux, then dash to the sink as you hurriedly drain and rinse a can of cannelleni beans. Add these to the pot, then stir and let simmer. Simmer simmer simmer, adding more water or milk as necessary, until you're happy with it. Mash some of those beans up, then simmer a bit longer. Hurrah, a sauce!

Tonight I also added teeny tiny diced carrots in the latter stages, simmering them until softened, and some frozen peas to the cooking pasta spirals, and of course the fried tempeh and mushies. Emma definitely had fresh spinach, basil and kale, all added after the sauce was taken off the heat, and also probably some other exciting things because I remember it being quite bulky. I would love to try this as a sauce over cauliflower and sweet potato. 

Thursday, 3 April 2014

tea adventures at travelling samovar

Last Saturday Emma and I took Puppeh for a walk down Rathdowne Street to Travelling Samovar, a tea house we've both been meaning to visit for about a year, since it first opened.

Travelling Samovar has a wide range of teas and tea sampling. The staff are super helpful, and knowledgeable, and are happy to provide hot water to give a second (or, in my case, with my pu-er, fifth and sixth) brew.

I was intrigued to learn that not many people know what pu-er is! But Travelling Samovar has an extensive pu-er range, so I totally went for a loose leaf that comes packed in a dried tangerine skin. It smelt amazing, like jaffas, and although I'm not sure the tangerine skin impacted the flavour of the tea it did enhance the overall experience, so I'm into it. I did the full gong fu with my pu-er, until I was tingling from being tea drunk.

Emma went the tea sample option (called a tea-ser), picking darjeeling because she loves it. This came in three pots: a Gielle 1st flush; an Oaks 2nd flush; and a Risheehat 2nd flush. This was a great way of knowing what one likes and trying it until the perfect one is found, which I appreciate.

Emma's tray of teas included timers, clear pots, and extra hot water. Combined with my gong fu, this was an excellent experience because I appreciate being given responsibility over my tea. There are other tea houses in Melbourne which are fun, but the thing I love the most about my tea (especially my Chinese tea) is the ability to experiment with it, to control the steeping and the pouring and also the drinking of it as I want.

This was a fun morning. Although at first I was offput by the cost - $10 for my pu-er - the fact that I could basically drink it until I was tea drunk means it was a price I was in the end content with.

Travelling Samovar
412 Rathdowne Street
Carlton North

Sunday, 30 March 2014

the brunswick mess hall, brunswick

March is a swathe of birthdays for me, across the city, the country and the world, I feel like every day I am crying out "Happy Birthday!" or "生日快乐" or "I'm sorry I forgotttttttttt." So I can never make it to all birthday celebrations, but this year one celebration I made it to was Ash's 30th birthday dinner, at the Brunswick Mess Hall.

Arriving quite late, as this dinner was one of three events I needed to make it to this chilly Thursday evening, my ordering was a bit of a mess but I did seize quite shortly upon the Bramble Fairy cocktail, because a) it's a bramble fairy! and b) it contains jam. This was excellent, and the Mess Hall has a large array of very excellent cocktails for ordering and some lovely, helpful bar staff. Look at that adorable little pink thing! So pink. And a spotty paper straw.

Sadly, the enthusiasm I felt for the cocktails could not be continued over to the food menu. In the end I settled on the pad thai, which they cheerfully made vegan for me; and it was perfectly servicable, and when it took a million years to appear and only came out after Ash yelled at someone, they also refunded me so that was some excellent service.

The atmosphere is lovely, and I did enjoy my cocktail, so it's a shame that there's a second sadly. Let me recite some of the cocktail names for you: The Saigon Colonies Cocktail; The Ping Pong Special; Samurai's Mist. Good work, everybody! Good, racist work. With their food coming from the "Lucky Panda" kitchen and this frustrating, pan-asian and also appropriative (there's a pinata there somewhere) menu and packages, I'm probably not a return. How many appropriative and upsetting restaurants can Melbourne really support? Apparently like a poo-million (a word I stole from Hayley yesterday and do not plan to return).

The Brunswick Mess Hall
400 Sydney Road
Brunswick

Ordering at tables, eft/cc available, didn't check the toilets. Forgot about the entry. GF available.

Other Melbunnies: Cindy + Michael (ps there were DEFINITELY no 油条 on the menu; Melbourne Mademoiselle.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

hungry birds, brunswick

A quick flyby post: spicy pinto beans with tortilla chips and rye bread and a side of avocado, for brunch with friends on a rainy Sunday morning. SO TASTY. Such a lovely morning, sitting in an art gallery. I wouldn't want to have sat outside, I bet it's lovely on a sunny day. $21.50 for beans + avo plus SFW.

Steps to enter, split bills. Didn't check the toilet. Down a little alley.

Hungry Birds
242 Victoria Street
Brunswick


Saturday, 25 January 2014

the bear cafe, fitzroy

Because what Fitzroy needs is more reasons for me to lament that I live a whole 1.5km away from it, yesterday Danni and I visited The Bear Cafe, on Brunswick Street.

The Bear Cafe is an all vegan cafe, aside from the dairy option they offer in their coffees and hot drinks. Their menu is classic cafe, with scrambled tofu, vegemite and cheese toasties, and a soup of the day, but who cares about those things when I can order a Big Breakfast?!

The Big Breakfast comes with scrambled tofu, mushrooms, spinach, chilli guacamole and beans on your choice of sourdough. The beans were out for the day (to be fair, we were having lunch at 1430), so I got extra fuscram, on a pumpkin sourdough. This was delicious and exactly what I wanted, but I wish there was a little more of the promised chilli - I couldn't taste it at all, though I could see it. Some of us are Malaysian and need our chilli every day!

Danni went with the Double Down, which is essentially the same as the Big Breakfast but encased in three slices of olive bread, and in her case also included the melty vegusto cheese, which she declared delicious. Despite its size Danni hoovered this straight down.

The Bear Cafe has a coffee delivery service within 1km, which is what first attracted us to the cafe; the coffee was indeed, as promised on their facebook page, pretty good (their sign says 'best coffee in the universe' but I take my signage with a grain of salt). Service is laid back and lovely and friendly. They also sell Neo Tokyo items, bamboo toothbrushes (panda friendly), and fresh fruit and vegies. Their photos lead me to believe sometimes there are puppies, but I didn't spot any on this visit.

We think it used to be a dry cleaners; agree?

The Bear Cafe
439 Brunswick Street
Fitzroy

Get there on the 112 (the stop is directly outside). Toilet wasn't working so no assessment. CC available. GF options (including GF bread) available.