Tuesday 30 December 2014

Top Ten Eats of 2014

I don't really believe in new years resolutions. If I really wanted to do something why would I wait until the new year to start doing it? It makes no sense to me! I do like to look back over photos and flick through my journals and reminisce about the year that's just gone by though so instead of a list of resolutions I write an Awesome Achievements & Wonderful Memories list at the end of each year. I think that I do this to remind myself of the little successes that could get forgotten otherwise and to make myself focus on doing more of the stuff I love in the year to come. I haven't written 2014's list yet because who knows what could happen tonight and tomorrow! One fun new thing that literally just happened is that I've given the blog a new look that helps illustrate the journey I'll be going on as I leave Brighton to travel full time early next year. My adorable new header was designed by fellow vegan and lovely human Amanda Chronister, you can check out her other work here.

Despite refusing to take part in creating a list of resolutions I do love a good list so I thought I'd put together a Top 10 Eats of 2014 list and wow, this was one of the hardest things I've ever tried to put together. I've eaten so much amazing food this year and I had to make serious cuts to the list as I travelled to some of my favourite places and ate some of my favourite things this year. The Pad See Ew from Pukk in NYC and the Formosa Pancake from Formosa in Vienna, to pick a couple of examples, have been on my favourites list for years so I had to discount them. So ruthless!

So, in the order that I ate them because rating them 1 - 10 would have been far, far too difficult, and all in one post because this isn't driven by an inherent need to flood your timelines with click bait, here we go...

1- The Mac Attack from Vinnie's Pizzeria in Brooklyn

This amalgamation of my two favourite foods pizza and mac & cheese was always going to be a winner and I can't believe it took me until my third NYC trip as a vegan to try it. It was a thing of much beauty and wonder! Vinnie's also serve up BBQ Chicken pizza, amazing (and amazingly cheap) garlic knots and because they sell by the slice you can try all of the vegan options in one evening if you so wish.

Vinnie's Pizzeria 148 Bedford Ave, Brooklyn

2 - Crunch 'n Munch Roll from Beyond Sushi in Manhattan

The kiwi topped Crunch 'n Munch which comes stuffed with baked tofu, english cucumber and sprouts only just pips January's roll of the month, the Grilled Aubergine and Kalamata Olive roll, to the post by a hairs breadth because, as that one was limited edition you can't go and eat it yourself right now. The Crunch 'n Munch also comes with my favourite of Beyond Sushi's mayos, the miso mayo, which I would happily put on everything everyday forever.

Beyond Sushi at Chelsea Market, 75 9th Ave

3 - Croque Monsieur from Champs Diner in Brooklyn

Back in January I described this sandwich as The Best Breakfast I've Ever Had and I stand by that to this day. I mean it's melty cheese and mock meat sandwiched between two slices of French toast, I'm not sure it could ever be beaten especially if you order a pancake on the side like I did!

Champs Diner, 197 Meserole Street, Brooklyn

4 - T's Shoyu Ramen from T's Tan Tan in Tokyo

This simple but flavourful ramen is spot on perfect. Nick and I ate it for both our first and last meals in Tokyo and a few more in-between of course. T's in located in Tokyo station so it's easy to get to and it opens at 7 so it's perfect for early birds or jet lagged travellers!

T's Tan Tan Tokyo Station, 1F Keiyo Street

5 - Margherita Pizza from Vegans Cafe and Restaurant in Kyoto

As you can see this pizza is so much more than a margherita, it has potatoes on it for gods sake! It also has spinach and a creamy homemade soy cheese and I am to this day kinda amazed that one of the best pizza's I've ever eaten was from a vegan cafe in Kyoto. I loved it.

Vegans Cafe and Restaurant 612 - 0029 Kyoto-shi Fushimi-ku Fukakusa Nishi Uramachi 4 chome 88

6 - Three Bites Platter from VBites in Brighton

As soon as VBites put this on the menu I was right there ordering it. No joke. I live 10 minutes away. This platter includes their Hickory Chick Burger (my very favourite if I'm being pushed to choose only one), a fish burger with tartare sauce and capers, and a classic VBeefy burger with ketchup and mustard. There are also fries. So. Freaking. Great.

VBites 14 East Street, Brighton

7 - Vegan Terre à Tier Tea from Terre à Terre in Brighton

As you can see by my list it's not usually the upscale stuff that wins me over but Terre á Terre's afternoon tea was one of the fanciest things I ate all year and I adored it. It was also a birthday celebration with three of my favourite people which made the experience extra special. The tier's are made up of a savoury tier, a sweet tier and a scone tier. I was particularly enamoured by the sweet tier which included churros, filled mini polenta cakes and a divine chocolate raspberry cake.

Terre à Terre 71 East Street, Brighton

8 - Brownie Ice Cream from Veganista in Vienna

An all vegan ice cream store just hours away by plane, I'm there! I'm lucky to have wonderful friends in Vienna and I couldn't resist a visit after hearing all about Veganista. They have about 20 rotating flavours and brownie was my favourite. Other standouts included Matcha and Hazelnut. I will definitely be trying out some more flavours next summer so stay tuned for updates. 

Veganista Neustiftgasse 23/3, 1070 Wien

9 - The Classic Cheese from Via 313 in Austin

"How did a third pizza make it onto the list?" I hear you ask, well one, I'm obsessed with pizza! And two, this pizza's amazing. It's Detroit Style which means that it's deep dish style and it's baked in a super well oiled rectangular pan which means there's a crisp almost fried thing going on with the crust which, when you add marinara and Follow Your Heart cheese, makes for pizza perfection.

Via 313 @ Violet Crown Social Club, 1111 East 6th, Austin

10 - The Del Ray from The Vegan Nom in Austin

If I was rating these from 1 - 10 this would probably have to be numero uno. This is, in my opinion, the greatest taco of all time. As a chilli allergic vegan tacos can be a minefield fraught with hurdles and disappointment but this is spot on delicious and needed no modifications. Crunchy cabbage, breaded faux fish, avocado, a perfect lime crema and plenty of black pepper meant that this taco rocked my world. I ate it more times that I can count on one hand on my last trip to Austin and I'm hoping to be counting my Del Ray encounters on both hands and feet during my next visit.

The Vegan Nom 120 E Northloop, Austin

And the honorable mention goes to... 7/11 onigiri

Without the help of Shawn and Chiaki from Vegan Japan my travels in their country would have been tougher for sure. They helped me suss out which convenience store foods were suitable for vegans and both Nick and I ate our weight in delicious 7/11, Family Mart and Lawson onigiris. You can check out my pictorial guide to Japanese convenience store food in my post Planning Your Trip to Japan.

Saturday 20 December 2014

More Awesome Austin Eats.

I think the fact that I still have Austin eats to post is a testament to just how many vegan options Austin has, well that and how much hard work fixing up a whole house that had taps held together with gaffer tape and a leaky roof really is! I feel like house stuff has been non-stop since we made the decision to head off travelling in January. We have tenants lined up to move in now (yay!) and I've been Gumtreeing and Ebaying like crazy to make some extra cash. I've even packed my Pez collection, that's how you know shit's gotten serious! Anyway, enough about me let's talk about Austin!

Kerbey Lane Cafe is somewhere Nick and I visited last time we were in Austin because not only do they have a whole lot of vegan options for an omni diner spot but they're also open 24 hours a day! 24 HOURS A DAY!

I'm sure some of my Euro friends can understand the "OMG, woah, amazing" shock factor of this! In the UK, or at least in Brighton, almost everywhere serving food in a more casual atmosphere that isn't a pub closes their doors sometime between 4:30 and 6. Just when everyone's finishing work. It's so stupid. And one of the many reasons why I'm excited to get the hell outa here. A few weeks ago Nick and I went out to see a movie at 8pm, it was sold out and we thought surely there must be somewhere we can wander to to get some cake and a hot chocolate or something but nope. Only pubs or restaurants. Ugh! You can get huge pancake platters, tofu scramble and home fries anytime at Kerbey Lane. It's brilliant.

The day we went the pancakes were lemon drizzle and they were super delicious and, perhaps more importantly, absolutely fucking huge. The scram and potatoes were both too spicy for me because I'm silly and I forgot to ask whether they had any chilli going on but I will most definitely be getting middle of the night pancakes with some of my favourite people in Austin next May when I'm there for Vida Vegan Con

Another rocking vegan friendly breakfast focussed spot is all-veggie spot Bouldin Creek Cafe. I always get the Garden Breakfast because it has tomatoes which are far better in Texas than they are in Sussex. It also includes Bouldin's famous noochy tofu scramble, spinach and toast. I always go for sourdough because it's the best.

We also went there for pie once at 11pm (hence the lack of a pic, it was really dark. I think they call that mood lighting) and they thought my slice was too small and brought me a second one for free making it one of the best days of my life so far. I'm not kidding!

Veggie Heaven was a kinda new discovery on this trip, and I'm so, so sad that I only made it there once because I just heard that they're closing. Veggie Heaven was a vegetarian, mostly vegan, Chinese restaurant that sold copious amounts of mock meats. Fried. You can see why I'm so distraught about them closing right?!

I read on a blog that the best dishes were to be found on the "Top 5 Vegan Dishes" page so the Protein 2000 I spotted there was the obvious choice. Mock meat, broccoli, steamed rice. Sold!

This meal is exactly the kind of thing I love eating, it was the perfect size and this spot was cheap too. Also note that this is a classic "How Jojo eats veggies" meal, pop them on the side of some deep fry and I'm sold. I hope somewhere else like this pops up in Austin soon.

One event that I was super excited to be in town for was the Vegan Sunday Brunch at Mr Natural. It happens once a month and as soon as I saw an example of the menu I knew it'd be right up my street. We were also lucky to have a tonne of great company to go with the great food including Joanna and her family and Marie and Daniel, the lovely peeps behind Red Hot Vegans. It was so much fun!

The brunch which is served canteen stye came with so many of the things I love, biscuits and gravy, tofu scram, fried chicken, pancakes. It was totally ridic!

The fried seitan chicken came with this totally delish agave mustard sauce and the biscuits and gravy were pretty spot on, the gravy could have done with a touch more black pepper, but other than that there were no complaints. There were also cheesy Daiya spinach puffs on my plate as well as some grapes (for health!) and a slice of delicious lemon chia bread. I also went for a piece of Boston Cream Cake because everyone told me I should and holy wow was this a strong piece of cake.

I loved the chocolate glaze, the moist vanilla sponge, light cream and slivered almonds - I wish I was eating this right now.

Sometimes I do choose fruit over cake or fried everything especially as juice is so perfectly refreshing when it's hot... and it's Austin so it'll be hot. Nick & I swung by the Juiceland near to Barton Springs countless times on our trip and I'm excited that our Air B&B for next year's Austin adventure is located right near both Barton Springs and Juiceland. Yay!

The Peachy Green smoothie made with green apples, peaches, spinach and kale ended up being both of our favourites but I also loved the Rosie Cheek which has watermelon, raspberry, lemon and rosewater because it was super refreshing. 

Juiceland also do some food which wasn't to my taste as it veered way too far into just a salad territory. I don't think it helped that it almost all had chilli which, although I didn't realise I had a serious allergy to it then, I knew that it broke me out in a rash and made me feel like a sad panda in the stomach region. Really the allergy should have been spotted earlier but my GP told me there was no such thing as a chilli allergy so I just kept on eating it. Ugh! The Everything Bar was probably my favourite thing they sold (aside from juice obvs) as I do enjoy a flapjack on occasion.

We ended the trip the exact same way we ended our last visit with dinner at Frank's, a bar with a veggie hot dog menu, that we really enjoyed last time we were in the city. 

I went with a classic order of a sauerkraut dog which I added cheese to expecting it to come melted, it didn't but that meant I could put the majority of it on the waffle fries which was a truly excellent decision as the piping hot fries made it get a little melty and unmelted Daiya really isn't a good idea ever!

Next time I'm in Austin I'm going to have a kitchen which means I can try all of the amazing looking Tofurky and Gardein products I always gaze at in stores whilst wishing they'd made it home in one piece. I can't wait!

Monday 15 December 2014

Freedom Mallows

If you've spent much time with me (either online or in real life) then you probably already know how much I love marshmallows. When I was a teenager I used to stick them on the end of a nail file and toast them over a candle whilst obsessively re-watching Clueless and wishing I had Cher's life. I'm different now, classier, I have skewers. I'm also switched on to what gelatine actually is these days so vegan mallows are the only way to go.

Freedom Mallows have been a favourite of mine since they first appeared in stores and I was stoked when they agreed to send me their new repackaged and rebranded marshmallows to try and review. 

I've always been a bit of a mallow purist picking up the white Vanilla Mallows every time. When something's this good it's hard to break away from it. These are perfectly sweet and pillowy and I love them. They aren't as puffy as Dandies, which aren't available in the UK yet, and they remind me a little of flumps, remember those? I loved those.

Next I tried the yellow coloured Vanilla Mallows which, if I'm totally honest I don't quite understand. I've always been unsure about purchasing these in the past assuming they must taste strange but they taste exactly the same as the white version. Do people have childhood memories of yellow marshmallows that I've missed? I have puffy pink mallow memories but nothing's ringing a bell with yellow. Do the people at Freedom Mallows just think yellow's a fun colour? I don't know, I do know that it didn't stop me eating them.

The Strawberry Mallows turned out to be a total revelation. Whilst I had fond teenage memories of eating pink marshmallows I had no recollection of them tasting like strawberry. In fact I found the idea a little odd at first but after my first taste I realised I'd been so, so wrong. I ate the whole bag in one go, they're so freaking good.

I was ridiculously excited to try the mini mallows but I wanted to hold out for an occasion, mini mallows aren't just for shoving into your mouth in handfuls y'know... Okay, okay, I totally did that but only with half of them.

I took the mini vanilla marshmallows along to my favourite local hot chocolate spot, Chocaffinitea. They do spanish style single origin hot chocolate which is always hot, always vegan and always and ready to go. It's pretty great as is but the marshmallows make it extra special. I kept adding more and more.

I had something special in mind for the mini pink & white vanilla marshmallows too, Krispie Cakes. I hadn't made Krispie Cakes for a long time, probably ever since Kellogs screwed up all of the vitamin D in their cereals and made them non-vegan, and I'd never had them with mallows. Randi and Sal were coming to sleep over so I veganised this recipe but with added mallows and chocolate krispies so I think I've changed it enough to feature it below.

Double Chocolate Marshmallow Krispie Cakes

  • 90g Doves Farm Cocoa Rice Cereal
  • 100g Dark Chocolate (try to find something hovering around the 50% cocoa mark)
  • 60g Margarine cut into small pieces
  • 3TBS Golden Syrup
  • 1/2 bag Freedom Mallows (divided)
Melt the chocolate in a bain marie stirring constantly to avoid burning. Add the margarine and stir until melted. Add the golden syrup and stir in. Gently fold in the cocoa rice cereal and just under half of the bag of mini marshmallows. Spoon into 12 cupcake cases and top with the remaining marshmallows. Leave in the fridge to cool for around an hour and then eat. 

The finished product! Nick, Sal, Randi and I devoured these pretty fast. They were most excellent.

Freedom Mallows are available from Infinity Foods in Brighton, The Health Store in Nottingham and Edinburgh's Real Foods as well as UK wide at Holland and Barrett, Whole Foods UK locations and many other independent retailers. Online stockists include Vegan Store and the Viva! Shop and if you're in Aus you're in luck because Freedom Mallows can be purchased online from both Vegan Perfection and Green Edge. Freedom Mallows have recently made it to Sweden too, you can pick up a bag from Astrid Och Aporna or some ICA and Coop supermarkets, hopefully the rest of Europe won't be far behind. 

If all of this marshmallow talk has your craving a s'more or yearning to whip up a batch of my marshmallow krispie cakes then I have good news for you. I'm giving three people the chance to win two bags of mallows (white and strawberry) and a promotional Cedric the Sloth shopping bag. Yay!

To enter just leave a comment telling me what you'd do with your marshmallows. Winners will be picked at random. The giveaway closes on December 19th at 12pm GMT. This competition is open to residents of the UK and Sweden only. Please be sure to leave your contact details, e-mail, Twitter, Instagram, or your blog profile work for me! 

The giveaway  is now closed, congrat's Imogen & Loz.

Thursday 11 December 2014

Itadaki Zen, London

Life's been super hectic recently and I've been neglecting everything that isn't packing, fixing my house, talking to estate agents, franticly eBaying all of the things I've realised that I no longer need, tying up loose ends and spending every spare second with the friends I'm going to miss once I'm no longer on this island. I have been managing to eat though so you don't need to worry about me. I always have time for food! 

Yesterday saw me heading to London early to get my My Little Pony tattoo touched up by the artist who did it for me at the Brighton Tattoo Convention back in February (see what I mean about tying up loose ends?!) and meeting my oldest friend for a much needed catch up - I last saw her at my wedding which was almost five years ago now but thankfully when you've known someone since you were three picking up exactly where you left off is easy. 

In-between all of that I managed to catch the one and a half hour lunch window (12:30 - 2) at Itadaki Zen which, as I'm missing Japanese food always, I was stupid excited about. I almost skipped there despite the tattoo pain!

The lunch menu is small but despite that I still had trouble choosing between udon dishes and donburi and I eventually settled upon the Tempura Bento set which came with miso. They were super accommodating about my allergies and were able to leave the peppers out of this dish for me.

The miso was warming and didn't scrimp on the tofu and the bento itself came with light crisp tempura vegetables, a fantastic spring roll (one of the best ever), rice with vegetables which included the teeniest little mushrooms, sesame green beans, a salad which had the most perfect soy based dressing and sesame tofu which I could eat for every meal and be happy. 

Everything about the meal was wonderful, it was really light but filling and it transported me back to Japan at first bite. I ate at Itadaki Zen once a long time ago, maybe six years, maybe more, and I don't remember loving it anywhere near this much. Now I'm wishing that I lived in the Kings Cross / Caledonian Road area so that I could eat every meal there. If you haven't been yet I would highly recommend it. It's also not far from Cookies & Scream either which is where I headed for dessert, their warm cookies are amazing on a cold day. Or a warm day. Any day really!

As well as packing, eating and running around to see friends I've been finding the time to get pretty festive! This might be the last Christmas Nick and I spend in our cute little house for a while so we've been making the most of it. The tree is up, the mince pies have been eaten and the non-alcoholic punch has been mulling away on the stove. We won't be exchanging presents this year but we will be taking part in all of our favourite traditions: visiting the beach on Christmas morning, eating an excessive amount of roast potatoes and watching as many christmassy movies as possible, Love Actually, Elf, The Holiday and Miracle on 34th Street are my favourites what are yours?

I have a great competition coming up next Tuesday so watch out for that and I've been diligently eating chocolate so that I can give you the lowdown on some great new products before I leave. Not long now!