Tuesday 12 April 2011

One Lovely Blog Award.

I recently received a One Lovely Blog Award from Jill over at the Vegan Backpacker blog, that jogged my memory & reminded me that Claire at Nothing Happens Unless We Dream also awarded me the One Lovely Blog Award at the end of last year so thank you ladies.

This means that it's my turn to share seven things about myself & to pass the award on to some new bloggers.

1. I eat a much more varied diet since becoming vegan. Before I went vegan I couldn't cook, at all. I literally ate either spaghetti with pesto or microwave meals every day!

This picture is of the vegan Thanksgiving we had last year. The seitan en croute from 500 Vegan Recipes is SO delicious, if you haven't made it yet do it now!

2. I love to travel. I know that's no secret, I often blog about food I've eaten in other countries, but I mean I REALLY love it. I think I could happily travel around the world in a van trying delicious food in other countries every day for the rest of my life.

This is the Fakin' Fish Burger from Yellow Sunshine in Berlin.

3. On another travel related note I love everything about flying. I love the excitement of being at the airport, I love seeing what the airline's idea of a vegan meal is & I love the in flight magazines. I even love having to set an alarm to get a really early flight & I always always hop right out of bed on those days.

4. I play drums, I'm not brilliant & I'm definitely still learning but I love it.

5. I have a vegan tattoo. Veganism is really important to me & it's through being vegan that I've met some of my best friends. I got the broccoli because I just really love it, I probably eat it every day.

This picture's from when it was just done so it certainly doesn't look this puffy anymore, also the shading on the banner's chilled out a bit.

6. I would love to rescue a dog or a bunny but I don't feel responsible enough. Raystede are my local no-kill animal shelter & I often go there just to look at the animals.

7. I would move to New York City tomorrow if I could, I think it's my favourite place in the world.

I took this picture walking across the Brooklyn Bridge in May 2009.

I'm passing the one lovely blog award along to these lovely bloggers whose blogs I adore.

If you wish to continue here are the rules:

1 - Make a post & link back to the person who awarded you this award
2 - Share seven things about yourself
3 - Award 15 great bloggers
4 - Contact these bloggers & tell them they've won

Thursday 7 April 2011

Pho & Mildred's.

Regular readers of the blog'll know that I'm a big Pho restaurant fan. They were really great the first time I visited. They happily answered all of my "is this vegan?" questions & even went out of their way to veganise one of their desserts for us so I was pretty happy when friends suggested we meet up there for lunch. Pho aren't a vegetarian restaurant, they're a chain with restaurants in London & Brighton but the staff at all the locations I've visited have been very knowledgeable about what is & isn't vegan.

I decided to go crazy & order something I hadn't tried before, I usually order a big bowl of Pho but this time I went for the Pho Xao Chay, wok fried rice noodles with tofu, mushrooms & vegetables.

This came topped with peanuts & with sides of beansprouts & a soy and ginger sauce. I really enjoyed it & it somehow seemed lighter than the Pho soup I usually order. I'll definitely be getting this again.

That weekend I also ate at Mildreds, for those of you that haven't heard of it Mildreds is a vegetarian restaurant situated in Soho, central London. They've been around since the late 80's & they're always busy. They don't take reservations so it's best to get there earlyish to get your name on the list for a table. If you do have a bit of a wait they'll happily start you a tab at the bar & there are plenty of nearby pubs. I'd visited Mildreds before but ended up ordering something that, whilst it came highly recommended, wasn't really to my taste. I was really excited to go back there & this time the food was great.

I ordered the burger of the day which was courgette & carrot.

The burger comes topped with relish, rocket & tomato and with a side of basil mayo & fries. I paid the £2.30 extra for sweet potato fries instead of regular potato because that's how I roll sometimes! I was really glad I did too because they were SO good. This whole plate of food was exceptional, from the lightly toasted bun & the succulent burger, to the amazing basil mayo which was just basiley enough & not completely overpowering.

I can't wait to head back to Mildreds to try their next burger of the day.

Sunday 3 April 2011

The (Prince) George

So, eating out as a vegan is often based upon trust. If you aren't eating at an entirely vegan establishment (and sometimes even if you are!) you'll probably have to ask a few questions & just trust that people are telling you the truth. You'd look a bit crazy if you insisted on inspecting the kitchen or asking your waiter to bring out any packaged food they use so that you could inspect the ingredient list.

This weekend I decided to give The Prince George (formerly The George) one more chance. The George used to be a great place for vegans but after they changed hands in early 2010 they decided that they didn't want to use any pre-packaged foods, something I don't disagree with per se but they were still happy to use cheese, sour cream & Quorn just not their vegan counterparts.

I even had a conversation with the new manager where he told me that he wanted to move the pub away from veganism because vegans, get this, don't spend enough money on alcohol. Apparently the pub was always full of vegans sitting around eating & taking up space that could have been filled with regular pub goers!

That was the first time I decided to stop going to The George but today I decided I'd give them another chance. Their menu had been looking more vegan friendly lately & as 2009 pub quiz champion I was missing quiz night!

Today this is the second time I find myself saying I'm never going there again, today they put one of my friends in hospital. We spoke to two members of staff about the ingredients in some of the menu items both because we are vegan & because one of the group has a serious nut allergy. We were assured that the Sweet Potato & Ginger Wellington did not contain nuts, we asked whether he was very sure because our friend has a nut allergy, he thought for a while, told us that they use nuts in the kitchen so they have to say that any dish could contain traces of nuts but that this dish definitely did not contain nuts.

Unfortunately, after just one mouthful when her tongue started to swell & ache, our friend realised that the dish did indeed contain nuts. We told one of the members of staff, she seemed very apologetic (although quick to blame the problem on the new member of staff - who was lovely & certainly didn't do anything wrong) and went to get the man in charge - unfortunately this was the man who had told us the dish did not contain nuts.

Whilst he was a little apologetic he didn't really offer to do much, our nut allergic friend's girlfriend suggested that he refund the price of all of our meals & drinks (only two beers!) & he said that he'd refund the food but not the drinks. Thankfully my friend is incredibly assertive & insisted that as he had essentially ruined everyones day that he should refund everything. He did but I think it would be a stretch to say that he did so happily, he kept pointing out that he'd told the kitchen staff that they have to write nuts as an ingredient of every dish that contains them on the menu so he assumed that as they were not listed they wouldn't be present. He did offer to pay for a taxi to the hospital. Sadly at this point our friend was still being sick & felt terrible so headed back to the hotel she was staying in to lie down, unfortunately later this afternoon she had to go to A & E at the hospital and later on this evening she had to go back there again, in an ambulance.

Now, I decided to give The Prince George another chance today because I wanted to support a vegetarian business, especially one with a decent selection of vegan options but I wont be going back there again now. I just don't trust them. How do I know that when I ask questions about the ingredients of their dishes that they aren't just taking a wild guess as to whether the cream used is vegan or not, or whether there is non-vegan alcohol in the gravy on the Sunday roast. And more importantly, they put my friend IN FUCKING HOSPITAL.

I feel I should include a quick review of the food here to show that you really wont be missing much. I had the Chestnut Mushroom & Spinach Nut Roast.

This came with sides of roasted fennel, roast carrots, spring onion mash, roast potatoes, soy braised spring greens, real veggie gravy & a homemade yorkshire pudding - that last item is left off if you're vegan.

The roast potatoes looked good & it was great that you got a decent amount of them but sadly had clearly been roasted a few hours ago & reheated as they weren't even remotely crispy, the actual nut roast was good & I did enjoy the mash.

My husband went for the All Day Brunch, for your £7.50 you get 3 veggie sausages with homemade baked beans in a tomato & basil sauce served with toasted ciabatta & free range fried or scrambled eggs - if you're vegan you get an extra sausage & some extra beans.

If you know your UK vegan products you'll see that those are clearly Linda McCartney sausages. Now Linda McCartney sausages are fine & all but from a pub that stopped serving the amazing Fry's chicken burger with Cheezly because they wanted to move away from processed & packaged foods and towards fresh & homemade food it's pretty crap. It seems like they just couldn't be bothered to either make their own sausages or to spend a little extra money on really great pre-made vegan food.

I can only assume that the people running The George still don't really give a shit about vegans (or people with allergies!) or that the people running the kitchen aren't vegan or aware of all of the awesome things you can make vegan, hello tofu scramble, seitan sausages, waffles & really damn good cake! As my husband said even if the whole nut allergy thing hadn't happened we wouldn't be rushing to go back. If you're reading this people at The Prince George, you really need to sort it out.

Friday 1 April 2011

Ms Cupcake.

So, I know I said I'd be handing my next blog post over to Nick for a guest post but he was too slow & today was too exciting a day not to share it with you immediately.

Today was the opening day of Ms Cupcake's first store. It's in London, Brixton to be precise. I've been a fan of Ms Cupcake's cakes for ages & as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to get to work with her at Brighton Veg Fest, she's one seriously awesome vegan lady & I'm so excited for her & the rest of the cupcake crew!

I went to the opening with my friend & fellow blogger Kip from brilliant vegan recipe blog Messy Vegetarian Cook, here we are outside the store.

Kip, you're one of the only people who can make me look tall!

Of course what you really want to see is cake, right? This is just half of the counter, the cake options rotate daily and there are over 70 flavours to choose from.

As you can see it's not just cupcakes. Ms Cupcake also makes cookies, cookie sandwiches, cup-a-cupcakes, layer cakes, puddings, lemon curd & scones. I've even heard a rumour that Friday is going to be pie day so people can just swing by on their way home from work & pick up a delicious pie to take home with them.

Todays scones were Fruit, Butter and Cheese & Herb, yum. Of course I bought a Cheese & Herb one, it would have been rude not to!

Here are
Ms C's delectable Pina Colada cupcakes.

It took me a very long time to pick out some cupcakes but I eventually settled on the Ferrero Rocher cupcake, it's my favourite & I will probably snap one of these babies up every time I see them!

Of course I didn't just pick one cupcake silly, I popped a Strawberry Chocolate cupcake in my Cup-a-Cake carrier to save for later.

As I said earlier Ms Cupcake doesn't just do cake, or baked goods for that matter. The shop is full of great stuff. Kitsch ceramic cupcakes & baking sets share the shelves with aprons, cookbooks & of course Ms Cupcake branded t-shirts & mugs.

They also sell marshmallows made by Sweet Vegan which come in five flavours, Original, Strawberry, Banana, Coconut & Chocolate. I think strawberry might be my favourite.

The shelves are also piled high with vegan treats such as Nakd bars, Organica White Chocolate, Moo Free Easter Eggs, Goody Good Stuff sweets & Dairy Free Fudge.

Obviously I got fun treats to take away, cookie sandwiches in fact. Chocolate Chip with Vanilla Frosting & sprinkles ...

... and Chocolate Chip with Chocolate Frosting.

The Ms Cupcake store is in a great location right by Brixton's bustling market. You could easily pop to Brixton eat cake & do your food shopping whilst you're there. The store has undercover outdoor seating which is shared with the cafe next door (I've heard they do great coffee with soya milk) and there's even a pizza place next to that, Franco Manca, that does a cheeseless vegan pizza on a sourdough base - I haven't had the chance to taste it yet but it looked pretty amazing. Brixton also has the plus point of being on the victoria tube line which means popping there from central London or the South (Brighton people I'm talking to you!) is as easy as pie!

I think what I'm trying to say here is that the Ms Cupcake store is amazing and that Ms Cupcake & her cupcake crew are fabulous so you should pay them a visit as soon as you get the chance.