Last week I was trying to decide what to do for my birthday, I felt overwhelmed with options and that's when I realised that I haven't spent my birthday at home in Brighton for six years. Six! My last Brighton based birthday celebration was before I'd even started this blog! So crazy. I can't believe I've been lucky enough to celebrate my birthday in such amazing places recently, the Monkey Sanctuary in Cornwall (which I'll be re-visiting this summer), London, Berlin, Millencolin Fest' in Sweden and last year's 30th birthday extravaganza in Spain. I adore Brighton so I was super excited to plan a fun day here and Nick and I started with a lazy morning together at home. When I came downstairs there was a helium ballon waiting for me, I love helium balloons, I'm not really sure why but I think they're just super fun and cute!
Nick sneakily bough some Hello Kitty stickers in Japan for decorating future cards and gifts with, he's so adorable!
For breakfast Nick made us our favourite green juice from 365 Vegan Smoothies, it has banana, orange, kale, grapes and lemon juice and I love how frothy it gets. You'd think you wouldn't need a recipe book for smoothies but I'd never made a green juice this good until I bought it so I think it was a good investment! We also had Jus-Rol croissants with loads of Vitalite, two of my favourite accidentally vegan products!
Of course there were presents! Nick gifted me some graphic novels which I was super excited about, I read them so quickly that I find it hard to justify dropping the cash on them so they make excellent presents. He also got me some gorgeous Oracle brass ear weights, I'd been coveting them for a long time so I was super excited and I've been wearing them almost every day!
After our lovely slow start to the day we grabbed a Car Club car and headed for Raystede Animal Sanctuary. It's one of my favourite places to spend time, Nick and I visited last year for an Animal Carer Day and I try to go back whenever I can. I'm looking into volunteering there right now but it's surprisingly difficult to get to without a car.
Our first stop was the cattery, you can't go inside but you can peer through the windows at the kitties being all adorable. I always get so sad reading the reasons why cats end up at the shelter but it made me extra glad we decided to foster Rorschach until we were able to find him a perfect forever home. Our second stop was the goats. Best photobomb!
After a walk around the lake we checked out the donkeys and ponies. I love this part of the sanctuary, it's so beautiful and there are some really little ponies who are obviously super adorable.
Look at their ears! I love donkeys, they're like an extra fluffy horse!
On the way home we listened to one of my gifts, the latest Me First and the Gimme Gimmes CD. I love this band, they play punk rock covers of classics and this has to be the best album they've released for ages. There's even a cover of Cher's Believe complete with ridiculous synths and auto-tune!
We were starving by the time we got back into Brighton so we headed for VBites for one of my favourite meals, the 3Bites plate! It comes with one each of the VBeefy, VFishy and Classic Beefy burgers and a side of fries. I blogged about it with a better picture here, they've definitely made the burgers smaller since the trial period but it's definitely still one of my favourite meals to eat in Brighton right now.
Obviously everyone needs cake on their birthday, or ice cream if that's more your style. One year I'd love to have an ice cream cake, I've never tried one but they sound perfect! I'd had breakfast at Infinity Foods Cafe with some friends a week or so before my birthday and the cakes looked amazing so I was excited to go back. I chose the Chocolate Cheesecake and Nick went for a slice of Chocolate Chip Banana Cake.
I'm not normally the biggest cheesecake fan but this one was tofu based and very mousse like, I really enjoyed it and I'll definitely be going back for more soon. Nick loved his cake too and the little piece I tried was super moist and bananaey with huge chocolate chunks throughout.
That wasn't enough cake for one day though so we wandered down Kensington Gardens and picked up a slice of Lemon, Poppy Seed and Polenta cake and a piece of Chocolate Tiffin from Iydea and a Chocolate Raspberry cupcake from Cloud 9.
I loved the tiffin, it was ridiculously rich and chocolatey and full of chunks of biscuit and cherry. I'll definitely be buying it again. I was a little disappointed by the other two though, the lemon poppyseed tasted strange and I think for me there were just too many poppy seeds which gave each bite an odd mouthfeel. The cupcake from Cloud 9 was ridiculously dry and crumbled as we tried to eat it, the frosting was nicely flavoured but texturally it didn't hit the spot. Cloud 9 have only recently started making vegan cakes and I've seen a promising looking Oreo mud cake whilst walking past so I will be giving something else there a try soon. My recommended spots for cake right now are definitely Infinity Cafe, both of the slices we tried there were excellent, closely followed by the cake we ate recently at Our Cornish Pasty Shop. I'll also give a little shout out to WaiKikaMooKau who stock my Operation Icing cupcakes but don't go out to eat my own cake, that'd just be silly!
After a long day of adventuring in the sun it was time for some quiet time and I read books on the sofa for the rest of the afternoon. Hunger struck early evening and Nick and I got into the kitchen to make some serious birthday food, mac & cheese pizza!
This isn't the greatest pic but as you can probably imagine this pizza was totally ridiculous and delicious and an awesome end to the day!
We'd made the Roasted Red Pepper Mac & Cheese from Isa Does It the previous night so we just needed to slather some jarred pizza sauce on to a store bought base (the Sainsbury's hand stretched kind is my favourite), top it with the mac and then top that with the last of the Follow Your Heart cheese we brought back from NYC in January. For some reason if you shred a block of Follow Your Heart and freeze it for around 6 months it doesn't melt anywhere near as well as before so next time we'll just buy the pre-shreded bags. It was still gooey and close to melty though so it was all okay!
Don't think that my celebrating ended there though! I'm a firm believer in the birthday week especially when your birthday falls on a Tuesday so come Friday evening it was time for the extravaganza to continue. I met Nick when he finished work and we walked down Western Road to Gourmet Pizza Kitchen, a cute little pizzeria that I only heard about a few weeks ago.
GPK have one vegan pizza on the menu, the Vegan Pesto, and then they have vegan cheese so that you can veganise some of the veggie options or create your own. I picked the Vegan Pesto and Nick ordered a Margherita with veggie pepperoni. My vegan pesto pizza was covered in a generous amount of toppings which, as well as the pesto and cheese, included caramelised red onions, black olives (my faves) and cherry tomatoes. I enjoyed it although I think Pizza Face currently holds the best pizza in Brighton crown. The Margherita was definitely slightly lacking in the topping department, I think pizza should be almost drowning in tomato sauce especially if the toppings are as simple as cheese and pepperoni and I think the lack of marinara sauce resulted in a slightly dry pizza. I would definitely go back to GPK, I can't think of many places you can go out to eat vegan pizza in Brighton in the evening (I think it's just here, perhaps La Cucina and Pizza Express where you'd need to take your own cheese or go cheese-less ) and I would order the vegan pesto pizza again, the crust was nice and thin and I liked the restaurant itself.
It was definitely a good plan to fill up on food because our next stop was Boho Gelato's frozen cocktail night held at Slice Sussex. I've been to this event a couple of times before and I last blogged about it back when the event began. I've always thoroughly enjoyed it and this time was no different. We were meeting some of the friends I've made in the last year from the local vegan group on Meet Up and I'm still so glad I bit the bullet and joined last year. Working from home isn't the best way to make local friends and whilst I have some amazing buddies scattered all over the world I felt like I was lacking in local mates to grab food or beers with on a regular basis.
The menu at the cocktail night is always split into two, dairy and non-dairy. Non dairy doesn't always mean vegan but they'd done their research and knew that the Campari in the Boho Aperitivo needed to be replaced with something else.
I love lemon so the Limoncello Classic seemed to be a good place to start the evening, this gorgeous frothy delight definitely ended up being my favourite cocktail of the night. I think I could drink these all day. I won't, but I totally could!
The next drink I tried was the Hendricks + Cucumber Slushy and before the event it was one of the drinks I was most excited about. Unfortunately I think it worked better on paper than in reality. It wasn't a slushy and I think the rose in the rose and cucumber sorbet distracted from the gin cucumber combo that should have been delicious.
Lastly I tried the Boho Aperitivo which consisted of blood orange sorbet, limoncello and gin. This was apparently better than the kind with the Campari which I'm counting as a win for veganism.
This night's not only good for the drinkers among us though, the guys behind the bar were quite happy to whip up some non alcoholic cocktails for the sober among us and they were a super bargain at £2!
My third and final birthday celebration took place yesterday afternoon at the lovely Terre à Terre, somewhere I will always find an excuse to visit! Nick and my bff's Tabitha and Sal were more than happy to accompany me for afternoon tea. The vegan friendliness of the tea is pretty new and we were all excited to try it. Sal and I upgraded our tea to prosecco for £6 extra which is a wonderful choice for anyone celebrating something or for people like me who just dislike hot drinks!
I won't give you a full run down of everything on the tiers, some people will want to be surprised and the rest of you can read the full descriptions on the online menu here. The tea is designed to move from salty to sweet to sweeter and I loved this approach.
The savoury tea layer included some beautiful local heirloom tomatoes in a multitude of colours which accompanied some of my favourite nori crackers. There were also sesame crusted tofu bites and one of my favourite menu items, the Arepas Chilli Candy which even I can manage to eat as long as I remove the biggest chunks of chilli from the sticky sauce!
The sweet tier came next and I was so impressed with it that I took a picture of it separately. You can also see the gorgeous hand painted card Tabitha made me in the background, she's ridiculously talented.
There were a couple of mini churros each, and the two little polenta cakes, one with an orange filling and one with a chocolate filling were delightful bite sized treats. I enjoyed the snappy pistachio wafer way more than I thought I would and the little chocolate cake with freeze dried raspberries was also delightful.
Lastly we ate the scones, two little ones each which was perfect. They were served with almond cream and homemade jam. I would have loved to see some homemade vegan butter here as that's how I usually roll with crumpets but this was still wonderful and everyone else agreed that the cream / jam option is more traditional.
I had such an amazing birthday week surrounded by friends (human and animal), eating great food and generally living it up! I also really appreciated everyone who tweeted or instagrammed birthday wishes in my direction, you're all lovely! Bring on 32, who knows where I'll be!