Thursday 23 October 2014

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I have big exciting news that I quite literally can't hold in any longer! If you can't deal with people abusing exclamation marks I'd just close this now and move on, I'm probably gonna be expressing my excitement via the medium of punctuation a whole lot...

In January I'm leaving Brighton and going travelling indefinitely!!! INDEFINITELY! Such a huge word needs caps lock. After months of talking this over with Nick, throwing around ideas and making plans, the reality of just how big a deal this is has only sunk in in the last week. It's been my dream to travel, and not just to go on holidays and sojourns away from home, but to really travel, since I was a teenager. And it's happening. Like, really seriously actually happening. Flights have been booked. Backpacks have been purchased. I'm spending more time than usual devouring travel blogs and guide books. I'm in possession of a head torch and I'm so ready to add some more pins to my map. Although there won't be a map because I won't have a pin board. Or walls.

The wheels are in motion and I'm having so many feelings about leaving Brighton. Aside from the missing my favourite people issue weighing on my heart I didn't think I'd be all that bothered about leaving Brighton. I've been here for ages and it's definitely time for a change but I am definitely bothered. I've lived here for over 12 years, I moved here when I was 19. I made best friends here. I removed toxic people from my life here. I met Nick here. I discovered feminism and veganism here. I grew up here. I became me here. Hell, the name of my blog says everything about how attached I am to this place! To me Brighton feels like a huge vegan friendly village and I adore that feeling. It also feels like my home...I guess it is my home, my roots are tangled all over the place.

There are so many amazing memories attached to Brighton and it's going to be hard to leave.

I've already put Operation Icing on an indefinite hiatus (which I totally feel guilty about btw - I hate disappointing people and I know that people love cupcakes!) because there's just so much to do before I can just up and leave. A whole lot of work needs to be done to make my house rentable, Nick and I are in the middle of it now hence the lack of blogging in the last week or two, painting and sanding and sorting and having builders and scaffolders in and out of the house the whole time is exhausting and dirty (I'm a total clean freak, I'm not ashamed to admit I cried about the amount of dust everywhere last week) and not conducive to creativity at all. Hence this blog post, I need to focus on why I'm doing this! I want to see the world. I want to step way outside my comfort zone. I want to experience new places and smells and tastes. I want to meet and engage with new people and spend time with friends who are scattered around the globe.

Where am I going? Bangkok to start with to take on SE Asia. I depart mid January (My SAD is very happy about the shorter winter!) and will be heading straight to Thailand's islands for some relaxing beach time. It seems like the perfect way to ease into this new lifestyle. A month later I'll be at Elephant Nature Park, somewhere I've wanted to volunteer at ever since I heard of it's existence. Next I'll be travelling around Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia for sure, Indonesia, Malaysia and more if there's time.

I'm speaking at Vida Vegan Con in Austin (about travel of course!) in late May and to make the flights super worthwhile I'm going to be sticking around for five weeks before flying back to the UK to pick up a camper van (a teeny tiny camper van!) which I'll be living in and travelling around Europe in all summer...or until it gets too cold to be living in a van with no heating. Currently my plans look like this but I'm sure they'll morph into something a little different once we're on the road.

Then where? I'm not sure! Maybe back to Thailand for the Vegetarian Festival, Tesagan Gin Je, and to explore some of the parts of SE Asia that I didn't get to on the first trip. Maybe Australia and New Zealand. Maybe Central or South America. Hawaii? China? Fiji? The possibilities are endless and not knowing where I'll be this this time next year is part of the appeal.

I'll be doing all of this with Nick and I'm so excited that we're ready to embark on our next adventure. He's one of the main reasons that, to channel Chandler Bing, I couldn't be any more excited about this trip - I'm going to be spending every day having amazing adventures with my bff4lyfe and it's going to be so fucking rad! We both juggle anxieties (and I'm allergic to chilli!) so I don't for a second think that our journey is going to be easy or stress free but I want to be challenged, I need to do something new. Whether we're gone for one year or ten I'm ready.

Of course I'll still be eating all of the vegan food I can find and writing about it here. I'm working on some fun updates and tweaks to the blog but the name and site are staying the same, moving my real location is enough upheaval without moving my virtual locale as well! I'll always be Vegan in Brighton in my heart even if my physical self is elsewhere. 

Thursday 9 October 2014

The Scoop on Almond Dream!

Excitement levels are high with ice cream fans in the UK this week because Almond Dream is finally here! For some reason when UK based companies make ice cream they go with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry almost every time. I can't lie chocolate is right up there with my favourite ice cream flavours but I already have a favourite chocolate ice cream (Booja Booja) and I don't feel the need to try every other brands version. This on the other hand, this is exciting. Almond Dream, which is now being sold at Waitrose stores all over the UK (Check hannahbananabakery's Instagram for the full list), make Mint Choc Chip, Salted Caramel and Praline Crunch alongside their Velvety Vanilla.

I found out about this thrilling development whilst I was on some serious sedatives in hospital (I'm fine!) and the first thing I did was call my local Waitrose to see if they had it. I figured Nick was driving me home from hospital anyway so obviously if there was ice cream to be had we should go home via Waitrose despite my body still feeling like it was made of cotton wool - they gave me the good stuff! Sadly my local Waitrose told me they didn't have it and didn't know if they were getting it. The sadness! The upset! But then, a new twist! The next day still blurry from the drugs they gave me (I was beginning to understand why I wasn't to be left alone!) I saw pictures of people in Brighton buying and eating the ice cream!! Waitrose lied! Okay, they probably didn't lie they just messed up but that sounds more dramatic! But now we had no car and Nick was (unsurprisingly) not up for hiring another one just to go to Waitrose so I waited. And waited. And felt jealous of everyone all over my Instagram eating their amazing ice cream. Yesterday, finally able to walk places alone, I set my alarm and got to Waitrose bright and early to get my paws on the good stuff. I wasn't gonna wait a second longer than necessary, I knew that the Twitter and Instagram storm surrounding this product was going to be making it fly off the shelves! I knew people would be all over this stuff! I picked up both the Mint Choc Chip (one of my all time favourite ice cream flavours) and the Praline Crunch. I would have got Salted Caramel too but my little cool bag only had space for two tubs. Decisions had to be made.

Knowing that Nick was as excited about the frozen fun as I was instead of tearing into the tubs as soon as I got home I waited (and waited!) for him to get home from work at 7:30. We even waited a little longer and ate a proper dinner first (summer rolls, so yum!) but then we settled down on the sofa, popped New Girl on the telly box and dug into the tubs with gusto. And spoons.

It's been years (years!) since I chilled on the sofa with a whole tub of ice cream and this stuff didn't disappoint. The Mint Choc Chip was decent but almost too minty, a little toothpastey, and there were nowhere near enough chocolate chips for my liking. I think this'll be great covered in chocolate sauce (I think Tate & Lyle make a vegan one) or some homemade magic shell but as is it wasn't quite hitting the spot. The Praline Crunch on the other hand? OMG! This is seriously one of the best ice creams I've ever eaten! Sweet but not overwhelming and with the perfect amount of praline pieces scattered throughout. There's also something about the familiar tub size reminiscent of the Häagen Dazs binges of my teenage years that was just perfect. The price point of £3.74 also makes these ice creams a somewhat realistic weekly treat, as I said before I love Booja Booja's Hunky Punky Chocolate but at around £7 a tub I can't justify it too often - don't get me wrong I don't think that's too expensive for what it is. The raw ingredients that go into it are pricy and Booja Booja are a small company who need to make some money from their product, but the price makes it an irregular treat. Sadly for Brighton peeps where Almond Dream is concerned Waitrose (as of around 7pm last night) is down to vanilla only. If you live here and you want to see it back in stock asap call them! The more enquiries they get the more likely they are to get loads in stock next time and then we can all have our ice cream and eat it whenever we desire.

Saturday 4 October 2014

Recent Brighton Eats: Casa don Carlos and VBites

Aside from being situated in the very same city these two restaurants have absolutely nothing in common. VBites is entirely vegan, Casa don Carlos doesn't even have v's marking the vegetarian items on their menu. Why, you might ask, would I even bother visiting the latter when the former exists? Well, it's my dad's favourite restaurant and last night was the night my family got together to celebrate his birthday. Usually we come to some kind of dining compromise and end up at Pizza Express but on my 30th we all ventured to Terre à Terre so for my dad's 70th it seemed only right that I back down and venture into his preferred restaurant.

Things didn't start of overly well at Casa don Carlos, there was no online menu for me to scope out but, as I had to go in at lunchtime to confirm our evening booking, I took that quiet opportunity to warn them that there were two vegans in our group and was handed the gluten free menu. This is something I've heard much talk of, the confusion people seem to have between the two vastly different dietary restrictions, but it had never happened to me until now. After some explaining the proprietor told me that it might not be very exciting but that I wouldn't starve. Just what every paying diner wants to hear!

The olives we started with were far from unexciting though, in fact I'd go as far as to say that they were ridiculously good, some of the best olives I've ever eaten and by far the best I've tried in the UK. These were green and not at all oily and I polished off at least one dish full all by myself. There is no picture as the first plate was demolished almost immediately and the placement of the second meant there was no good meat-free shot and nobody wants to see that. I also dived headfirst into the bread which I ate with olive oil rather than the garlic mayo it was served with. I do not understand the appeal of mayo on bread. Chips, sure, bread no. I didn't feel like I was missing out! I also ordered the Potatoes with Mojo Sauce, the Gazpacho and the Garlic Mushrooms.

We were told that the Mojo sauce on the potatoes was going to be very hot but I wanted to give them a whirl as I thought the dish looked to be one of the more exciting ones on the vegetable side of the menu. These were really delicious, the potatoes were perfectly cooked with their skins on but the sauce was not at all spicy, as you might've heard I'm very sensitive to chilli based heat and these didn't even register. I'd totally order them again but if spicy is what you're looking for this isn't going to be the dish for you. The gazpacho was great, it's pretty hard not to impress me with gazpacho though. I love it and I've never met one I didn't like. I was pretty excited when I heard that the Garlic Mushrooms were cooked in oil and not butter but I was less impressed when, upon tasting them, they tasted nothing like garlic. I mean, I could see plenty of garlic bit the dish was pretty flavourless. Next time I'd skip this one and try something else but I'm happy to report that there will be a next time. My dad will be pleased! We'll definitely avoid friday night next time though, the incredibly loud group of 30 or so throwing things at each other from table to table, drunkenly shouting and inappropriately groping each other on their way to and from the bathroom was annoying to say the least.

VBites is an entirely different dining experience to Casa don Carlos, partly because they're entirely vegan and partly because you can't eat there in the evening even if your dining companions are up for a vegan meal. VBites recently extended their opening hours until 7pm but despite trying to eat there at 6:17 one day I was told that the kitchen was closed. This seems pretty stupid, nobody who finishes work at 6 could get there much before then which crosses VBites off of the list for the post-work crowd. I was actually wondering why I don't eat at VBites much after this delicious meal and I realised it's totally because of the hours, I tend to eat out, or get take out, with Nick and as he works pretty regular retail hours we hardly ever get to go to VBites together.

Anyway, my vegan meet up group met up last sunday for a spot of adventure golf which is essentially sport and therefore makes you hungry. Fish and Chips was on the specials menu and I couldn't resist despite also being tempted by my regular order, the Hickory Chick Burger, or one of the pizzas.

The Fish & Chips comes with two fishless fish steaks, hand cut chips, minted peas and tartare sauce. They also happily gave us a generous amount of mayo and ketchup for the table with no charge. I'm always pleased when places do this as charging for condiments just makes a place look cheap.

This was legit delicious, the fishless steaks are one of my all-time fave' VBites products but they really need to be eaten alongside chips which I can't often be bothered to cook at home. I was suspicious about the minty peas as I'm not usually a fan but, despite there being a little fresh mint in there, they really didn't taste very minty - this will be either a positive or a negative depending on your opinion of minted peas! The chips were amazing and there were the perfect amount of them, one of my fellow golfers suggested the meal would have been better with half of the chips but they clearly aren't as committed to carbs as I am - this was perfect, don't go changing! I also happily polished off all of that tartar sauce as well as a decent helping of mayo with my chips. I really want to go out and eat this again right now but obviously by the time I manage to put on a bra and grab some shoes they'll be closed so I'll just have to cook my own damn dinner.