Tuesday, 31 July 2012

UK Vegan Food Swap

Earlier this month I took part in the first UK Vegan Food Swap organised by the lovely ladies over at vegan lifestyle blog To Happy Vegans. I've taken part in swaps on the Post Punk Kitchen before but I've never swapped with someone in the UK.

I was lucky enough to get paired up with swap organiser Mitsu from To Happy Vegans after my first assigned partner never contacted me. Mitsu had just come back from America so my package was stuffed full of exciting goodies.

I was super excited to see these Luna bars as soon as I opened the box, I'm a big fan of Clif bars but for some reason I'd never tried a Luna Bar.

My favourite was the Caramel Nut Brownie closely followed by the Chocolate Peppermint Stick. Strangely as much as I love the Peanut Butter Crunch Clif bar the Peanut Butter Cookie Luna bar was my least favourite of the three, not bad but no Caramel Nut Brownie!

This jar of Speculoos Cookie Butter was an incredibly exciting thing to pull out of the package. I've been a fan of Speculoos for a while, although not as big a fan as Nick! The huge jar we have in our cupboard is just running out so nice mind reading Mitsu!

As well as visiting America recently Mitsu had also been on a shopping spree at Kosher Kingdom in North London. Kosher Kingdom, as you can probably tell by the name, is a kosher supermarket and it's full of many exciting vegan goodies including Tofurky slices & sausages, Almond Dream ice cream and many other exciting treats like these Nutty Chews. These are like a Peanut Chew which is like a mini snickers bar. Yum!

This bittersweet chocolate reminded me of my very favourite Moo Free easter egg...

...and last but by no means least this huge bag of Sour Cream and Onion mini snack crackers came outa the box.

These are insane! I can hardly believe they're vegan, they taste just like I remember Sour Cream and Chive Pringles tasting. I'm glad the bag's so huge because it means I've been able to share them with some of my local vegan friends.

My other swap partner, the person I sent a box of goodies to, was Jenny from Spice Box of Earth. Head over to her blog to check out what I sent.

If you live in the UK and would like to take part in this swap then just click here to read all about it. Sign up and maybe we'll get to swap soon!

Monday, 30 July 2012

Salem to Northampton - The road trip continues.

I don't know when or why my obsession with Salem started, maybe it had something to do with watching The Craft too often as a teenager, but as soon as I knew we were going to be near Salam I insisted that we went!

We visited all of the main witchy tourist attractions including the incredibly kitsch Salem Witch Museum which included a puppet show of sorts which explained the history of the Salem witch trials.

It was a cute town and I even found another new type of root beer!

After this brief trip north of Boston I was still dreaming about that Lemon Meringue Pie so we turned back south and headed for Veggie Galaxy again!

Nick ordered the "Eggs", Toast & Home Fries...

...and I went for the Baked Mac & Cheese.

I hate to say that the Mac & Cheese was bad but it really wasn't what I consider a classic diner style Mac & Cheese. I'm just as big a fan of nooch sauce as the next vegan but this was a little watery and there was so much pepper in there that I could hardly eat it. The vegan eggs Nick ordered were great though, like a couple of mini tofu omelettes, and unsurprisingly the home fries were delicious.

I stopped caring about this sub par mac & cheese pretty fast though because this was what we were really there for, more lemon meringue pie!

This is still the best dessert I've ever eaten, this photo doesn't do it justice AT ALL so check out my last post if you haven't already!

That night we ended up in Northampton. We heard that it's a really awesome, liberal, artistic town full of women's colleges which sounded pretty rad to us. When we arrived we noticed that women seemed to outnumber men at a ratio of around 4:1! Kinda cool! It turned out that loads of Smith College alumnae were back in town for reunions that weekend and there were loads of fun things going on like choirs singing and orchestras playing in the street!

We chatted to a couple we bumped into in the street who stopped us because their young daughter wanted to ask me some questions about my piercings. I really loved that they were teaching their child to be respectful when people look different. It's awesome to be asked questions about why I choose to look the way I do rather than just having people pointing at me & making comments which they think I can't hear!

When we told them we were vegan they pointed us in the direction of Green Bean, a veg friendly lunch spot, where we had an excellent slice of raspberry vanilla cake.

Green Bean is located on Main Street which is also where we found an adorable sweet shop called Sweeties.

I loved that they had a great vegan beacon right there in the window, we probably wouldn't have bothered going in to investigate if I hadn't spotted that sign.

Inside the store the vegan options were clearly marked & I took home a bag of chocolates which included some of these Hazelnut Crisps...

...a few of these Hazelnut Cream Cats, yes, cats...

...and some heart shaped strawberry creams. Sweeties also has a vegan list on the wall telling you which sweets and chocolates are vegan.

I love it when businesses go above & beyond like this so I bought a cute Hello Kitty Lunchbox from them too, well, I needed somewhere to put my chocolates!

We also managed to squeeze in a visit to Herrell's Ice Cream parlour. We'd heard about Herrell's on Happy Cow and we were excited to try their legendary ice cream!

We both got cones with chocolate ice cream and chocolate sprinkles.

These were the perfect treat on a hot summer day. Before leaving this part of the North East we swung by the all vegan Cafe Evolution for sandwiches and yep, more root beer!

I didn't get a picture of my sandwich but it was an awesome grilled Tofurky and vegan cheddar affair on seeded bread with an good amount of salad, sprouts & Veganaise. I loved Cafe Evolution, everyone working there was super lovely and it was just a really nice chilled out space.

I really liked Northampton, it reminded me a little of Brighton with its chilled out vibe, high concentration of feminists, and fun vegan options on every corner. I'd definitely love to go back one day.

Next time we go driving around Vermont and meet up with my friend, and ex-blogger from Where's the Revolution, Bazu!

Friday, 27 July 2012

Providence and Boston.

After spending four amazing days in New York City we picked up our hire car and headed East towards Boston. We planned in a couple of stops along the way and the first was at the Pez Factory in Orange, Connecticut.  I've been collecting Pez dispensers for about 12 years so I was super excited to get to visit this collectors mecca.

I spent a silly amount of money in the gift shop & got incredibly overexcited when I spotted this picture & signed Pez gun from the band that started the obsession, Less Than Jake. Less Than Jake are still in my top 5 favourite bands of all time and I really wanted to break the glass & do a runner with that ray-gun!

We stopped in Providence, Rhode Island that afternoon and quickly found a cafe bar with free wifi so that we could fire up the internet & work out where to find food.

Happy Cow came to the rescue as always and this time it directed us towards Thayer Street where we found Nice Slice. There were two vegan pizza options that day. First I picked this mushroom, red onion & BBQ sauce topped slice...

...and then after realising that these guys make damn fine pizza I grabbed another slice. This time, Arugula and Cherry Tomato. Both pizzas had the perfect amount of toppings and had my favourite super thin crust.

I loved that you could get vegan pizza by the slice here, so many places sell by the slice but if you want something vegan you have to order a whole pizza. I loved it even more when the dude behind the counter gave me two slices for the price of one because they were the last two slices of that pie, score! I was surprised to find that the Arugula & Cherry Tomato slice was my favourite & I really hope that I find myself in Providence again one day so that I can try some more of this awesome pizzerias slices.

After our late lunch we turned left on Thayer Street and almost immediately stumbled upon the Like No Udder vegan soft serve truck. We knew that the truck would be somewhere in Providence but we were't expecting it to be right there!

Like No Udder sell vanilla and chocolate soft serve, milkshakes, floats, Go Max bars and vegan jerky. They have loads of great toppings including peanut butter sauce, coconut shreds, Oreo crumbles, coffee syrup & sprinkles. I got a chocolate soft serve in a cone topped with Oreo crumbles.

This ice cream was so much more epic than I was expecting! It was huge & I loved that the whole thing was rolled in the Oreo crumbles. The woman working at the truck was super friendly and helpful too, she gave us some great tips on eating in Boston and was just super lovely in general.

The next day we were due to check into our hotel in Boston, we hadn't really planned to book hotels along the way but when we realised that our visit coincided with Harvard university's commencement weekend we thought we'd better get on it! We drove by Harvard Square and decided to stop & have a wander around, it was pretty fun because it was super busy, full of excited looking students and proud parents & it was cool to see a real American university, or should I say college, campus.

We managed to work up quite an appetite walking around Cambridge which was perfect because we had Veggie Galaxy plans! Veggie Galaxy is your classic American diner minus the meat, this all veggie diner even has an entirely vegan bakery.

Unsurprisingly for this trip I started the meal with a root beer.

This was swiftly followed by a build your own omelet. I chose to fill mine with tempeh bacon, leeks and home made vegan cheese. The omelet came with two sides, toast & home fries.

Such perfect breakfast food, I loved how stuffed my omelette was and I think crispy home fries have to be one of my favourite ways to eat potatoes. This was from the all day breakfast menu which is one of my favourite kinds of menu, I always get so sad when I see a great looking breakfast menu that stops at midday.

I knew as soon as I sat down and glanced at the menu that I would be ordering the Lemon Meringue Pie for dessert. Lemon Meringue pie was my absolute favourite dessert before I went vegan, I've always been too lazy to attempt to make it myself despite my best intentions so this is the first time I'd eaten it in around 6 years. Honestly, this is the best vegan dessert I've ever eaten. Ever. And I eat a lot of dessert.

This perfect pie has an untraditional but nicely crisp biscuit base and the tart lemon curd filling comes topped with tonnes of fluffy meringue. Of course I got a second slice to go! If you're ever in Boston, hell, if you're ever in the North East, I would insist that you take a trip to Veggie Galaxy to eat this dessert.

After that amazing lunch we finally drove into Boston, checked into our hotel and headed out for a walk around beautiful streets...

...with one destination in mind! Somewhere I've always dreamed of visiting, the Cheers Bar!

I got to drink a beer sitting in Norm's spot at the bar! It was pretty cool! 

After a whole lot more exploring we settled upon My Thai Vegan Cafe for dinner, mainly because it was right around the corner from where we were standing when we realised how goddamn hungry we were!

My Thai Vegan Cafe is located up a somewhat dubious looking stairwell in Chinatown and because we arrived shortly before they were due to close we had to move fast, we skipped a starter and ordered two dishes to share. We picked the Tofu and Vegetables...

...and the Pad See Ew with veggie chicken.

Pad See Ew is quickly becoming my favourite noodle dish, I love the version from Pukk in NYC but this was also excellent. I really liked their veggie chicken, the thick rice noodles were cooked perfectly and there was plenty of broccoli. I enjoyed the Tofu and Vegetables dish we ordered even more though, this dish came with steamed jasmine rice & whilst it sounded pretty unassuming the mystery sauce coating the tofu & veggies lifted this stir fry to another level. I loved the slivers of soft tofu, they'd clearly been deep fried before being sliced up & thrown into this tasty stir fry & the veggies were some of my favourites, carrot, broccoli & mange tout...we won't talk about that damn baby corn! I'll definitely re-visit My Thai next time I find myself in Boston and I really must learn how to make Pad See Ew at home.

Sadly we only had a short amount of time in Boston, as is often the way with a road trip, so we got up bright & early and headed out to check out the harbor.

It was a beautiful day and we managed to find time to grab lunch at Clover Food Truck before heading to our next destination. This vegetarian food truck can be found in several locations around Boston & we found them by Summer Street & Atlantic Avenue. I was amazed at the huge line of people queueing up for the truck but we happily waited as a line that long can only mean one thing, great food. The line moved really quickly thanks to the super efficient staff and the great ordering system they have set up. I was just planning to grab a sandwich but I spotted someone else's Rosemary Fries and had to get a portion for myself.

These were seriously good fries, I love fries, or chips, that are fancied up with a topping like cheese or gravy (or both!) but tossing them in salt & herbs isn't something I'd ever considered before. Delicious.

I picked the Chickpea Fritter sandwich after asking advice on what's best and this was definitely a great choice.

This is essentiallly an enormous falafel sandwich stuffed to the brim with delicious vegan coleslaw and tahini sauce. The bread was amazing and the chickpea fritters were perfectly crispy. We really enjoyed sitting on the patch of grass near the food truck and doing a spot of people watching. It was lunchtime & it was cool to watch people in their fancy work gear eating, chatting & playing frisbee during their midday break.

After filling up on food we headed to Salem to check out spooky witchy things but that's a story for next time!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

NYC - Part 2

This post follows on from my last post about New York City, you can find that right here.

After our ride on the Staten Island Ferry we hopped on the L train to Brooklyn and went in search of lunch. 

We'd been wanting to try Foodswings for years after seeing pictures on blogs and Twitter and we'd spent an extraordinary amount of time drooling over the menu online. Foodswings certainly didn't disappoint, it's exactly the kind of food I love and I went a little crazy! 

I ordered the Drumstick Combo Platter with a side of Creamy Mac n Cheese. 

This was ridiculously awesome, I loved the mac & cheese which was indeed creamy and the seitan drumsticks were the perfect texture & I liked that they even had a "bone"! Unfortunately I kinda regretted ordering the buffalo style drumstick...I had no idea what buffalo sauce was when I ordered it but apparently it's incredibly spicy!! The southern fried drumstick was totally perfect, I loved it and to be honest I was SO stuffed that I don't think I could've managed that third drumstick anyway!

To go alongside this I ordered the Punk Fries, fries with cheese & bacon bits.

Obviously these were amazing, I love chips (sorry, fries!) topped with stuff and next time I want to try the Disco Fries, fries topped with gravy & cheese - yum! Wow, just looking at these pictures is making me really hungry!

Somehow, after quite a lot of walking & shopping, we decided we could squeeze in dessert & we headed for Dun-Well Doughnuts. We got a box of four doughnuts to go and I grabbed a Pride doughnut to eat right there and then.

This turned out to be my favourite out of all the doughnuts I tried. The texture was perfect and I loved the strawberry icing.

I also tried a Brooklyn made Sarsparilla soda. I'd never heard of Sarsparilla or tasted anything like it before but I really liked it. After a little googling it turned out that Sarsparilla is actually Root Beer and this drink started a trip long obsession with the new (to me!) fizzy drink!

The next day, after another morning of exploring and posing by fun American things like this school bus...

Why are school busses in the UK not this fun looking?

...we decided to have a healthy lunch and headed for Angelica Kitchen

I started with a Carrot & Apple juice...

...this was a little heavy on the carrot for me but I was happy to be eating some fruit & veg! Next up, some Miso Soup. This was great, I always love miso soup and this had a decent amount of tofu in it.

I also had the Norimaki...

...it was my first time eating brown rice sushi and I have to say that I didn't love it. I think I'm a bit of a sushi purist these days and I might stick to ordering it in Japanese places!

I'd definitely go back to Angelica Kitchen though, sometimes you just order the wrong stuff! It was a nice chilled place to hang out. Does anyone have any recommendations for what I should try next time?

On our last day in NYC we finally made it to Blossom, we picked Cafe Blossom on Carmine because we fancied somewhere a bit more relaxed than we thought the fancier uptown Blossom location might be. I started the meal with a China Cola, I love trying fun new brands of cola when I'm travelling & I needed the sugar hit because I was starving!

We ordered these Herbed Cashew Cheese dumplings to share to start with and they were fantastic. I was pretty sad that we could only have two each and I was definitely tempted to order a second plate!

We deliberated for a really long time before deciding on our mains because the whole menu looked amazing. We eventually decided to share & chose the Tofu Benedict with housemade cornbread, grilled asparagus and ham...

...and the Southern Fried Seitan with herb and cheese biscuits, gravy and sautéed dandelion greens.

This is seriously one of the best meals I've ever eaten. Just looking at it's making me want to fly to New York so that I can eat it over & over again. I've never had a tofu benedict on anything other than an English muffin before and I have to say that the cornbread is a genius idea, it was perfect. The grilled asparagus was wonderful, I sometimes find asparagus a bit hit and miss and this was definitely a hit. I loved the slightly smoky ham and the cheesy sauce too... basically the whole plate of food was brilliant, BUT I think that the seitan dish might have been even better! I have honestly never eaten such amazing seitan, the texture was so close to the texture of chicken that if we handn't have been at a veggie restaurant I'd have insisted that it was real chicken & sent it back...I'm almost kidding, but really, it was crazy good! The breading on the seitan was wonderfully crispy, the herbed cheese biscuit was fluffy, the gravy was great, everything was perfectly seasoned and I'd never tried dandelion greens before so that was fun too!

I think that Blossom on Carmine is definitely at the top of my list of favourite NYC places to eat, it was upscale food in a relaxed atmosphere which reminded me of one of my Brighton favourites Terre a Terre. I can't wait go back to try all of their other locations!

Next up on our awesome American adventure we pick up the hire car & head for Boston...