Friday, January 13, 2017

Melbourne Part 3

Going back to my Melbourne trip in November. For dinner on Saturday we went to Fina's 2 in Fitzroy. This was my second trip to Fina's, which has a giant vegan Vietnamese menu.

We started with some rice paper rolls, because I love fresh rice paper rolls. I skipped the dipping sauce, though. It was too chili for me!

Rice Paper Rolls at Fina's 2

For drinks Ashleigh had their Lemon Lime & Bitters and I had the Taro Frappe. I get so excited when I find vegan taro drinks, they are purple and they taste like cookies. So good.

Lemon Lime & Bitters; Taro Frappe at Fina's 2

Ashleigh had the Bamboo Noodle Soup (which is what I had last time, though she had to get it gluten free so it didn't have the different mock meats in it). And I had the pho. These are both huge and delicious bowls of steaming hot and tasty soup. So big that we couldn't quite finish them! But they were good, so we pushed it as far as we could.

Bamboo Noodle Soup at Fina's 2

Vegan Pho at Fina's 2

We waddled home with full tummies, but still managed to have a bed dessert picnic while watching some RuPaul Drag Race season 1. We had a GF Chocolate Strawberry Brownie from Smith & Deli (so good, they make the best fruity brownies) and a slice of GF Apple Berry Pie from Fatto A Mano (adqueate, nice tart filling but the pastry was so so).

GF Chocolate Strawberry Brownie from Smith & Deli; GF Apple and Rhubarb Pie from Fatto a Mano

For Sunday morning breakfast, I tried somewhere new. We headed out to Little River Cafe in Brunswick for breakfast with Leigh. I started with a quite nice soy chai.

Soy Chai at Little River Cafe

They were launching their new menu that morning, and had a special of vegan waffles with ice cream, peanuts and chocolate syrup. Leigh braved this, along with a side of hash browns. But she reported that it was way too sweet for her (she suspected as much, but was lured by the waffles anyway). For morning sweet tooth lovers only!

Vegan Waffles and Hashbrowns at Little River Cafe

I ordered the pancakes, which came with ice cream and berries. And I got a side of hash browns and a side of vegan bacon. I was excited about the ice cream because they told me it was soy based, however when it came it was clearly coconut based. And the sort of gross too fatty coconut type, so I had to scrape it off. But the pancakes were good, and the hash browns were good. The bacon was OK, though I just don't love vegan mock bacon, I am a tempeh bacon girl forever.

Vegan Pancakes with Hashbrowns and Vegan Bacon at Little River Cafe

Ashleigh had the Hash Brown Wrap with tofu, which she said was good but needed more sauce.

GF Hash Brown Wrap at Little River Cafe

After brunch, Ashleigh and I headed into the city to see Kinky Boots. It was a lot of fun! To sustain ourselves, we picked up a couple of sushi rolls from a place in the city. No photos. They were just OK sushi. But it got us through the afternoon.

That night we had a truly special dinner at the recently opened Transformer in Fitzroy. This is a fancy place, with fancy food! We requested the vegan and GF 'Feed Me' option, which is $45 and they bring you several dishes to try. The only downside was that they took our menus away quite quickly after confirming this, so I didn't get a chance to notice the fun non-alcoholic and non-fizzy drinks they had. Oh well, water is always good.

The first dish was Organic Popcorn with Japanese Spiced Sea Salt and Nori. Normally I am not a fan of popcorn, except for that sweet and salty stuff that I can never seem to put down. But this was delicious. Wonderfully seasoned, and without that annoying texture that normally turns me off popcorn.

Oragnic Popcorn with Japanese Spiced Sea Salt and Nori at Transformer

This was followed up by an Artichoke and White Bean Dip with Caperberries, and a truly excellent GF flatbread for dipping. Of course, as always, we wished there was more bread!

Artichoke and White Bean Dip with Caperberries at Transformer

GF Flat Bread at Transformer

The Mozarella, Zucchini, Mint and Pea Salad with Currant Puree was refreshing, with the creamy mozarella and the sweet currants. My tummy can be a bit iffy with raw zucchini (zoodles are a no go in my household), but they managed it perfectly.

Mozarella, Zucchini, Mint and Pea Salad with Current Puree at Transformer

The Steamed Broccolini with Pumpkin Seeds, Barberries, Saffron infused feta, and Pecans was OK. I didn't think the flavours worked together as well as some of the other dishes. Plus they had made it quite oily.

Steamed Broccolini with Pumpkin Seeds, Barberries, Saffron infused fetta, and Pecans at Transformer

The Cumin-Braised Eggplant, Chermoula, Smoked Labneh, Quinoa Crisps and Mint was amazing yet problematic. The eggplant was divine, it just kind of melted in your mouth. Beautiful. And the crisps were fun as well. However the sauce was really just too spicy for both of us (even though I had been assured at the start that there was nothing in that night's feed me menu that was very spicy). I scraped off the sauce for the eggplant underneath, but it was spicy.

Cumin-Braised Eggplant, Chermoula, Smoked Labneh, Quinoa Crisps and Mint at Transformer

My favourite dish of the night was the Three Rice Pilaf with Lentils, Chickpeas, Pomegranate and Fried Onions. I loved the crunchy texture and the sweetness of the onions and the tartness of the pomegranate seeds. I could have eaten a huge bowl of this.

Three Rice Pilaf with Lentils, Chickpeas, Pomegranate and Fried Onions at Transformer

Of course we had to try their desserts (not included in the price of the feed me menu). Only two of their desserts were vegan, and only one of those was also GF for Ashleigh. So she had the Warm Chocolate Brownie, Salted Coconut Ice Cream, Cherry Gel and Hazelnut Ganache. This was incredibly rich, I tried a bit. The coconut ice cream was of course way too coconut fatty for me, but I scored a lot of her cherry gel which I enjoyed.

Warm Chocolate Brownie, Salted Coconut Ice Cream, Cherry Gel, Hazelnut Ganache at Transformer

I know you are confused as to why I also didn't get the above dessert, I am not shy about my love for cherry and chocolate. However I (rightly) suspected that the coconut ice cream would be gross for me. Also, I was intrigued by the other vegan dessert. Pistachio Cake with Saffron Poached Pear, Star Anise Meringue, Almond, and Lemon Thyme Sorbet just sounded too different and interesting to pass up! It was really good (and the sorbet was refreshing and not coconut fatty at all, though they put it on the side for me just in case). I especially loved the poached pear.

Pistachio Cake with Saffron Poached Pear, Star Anise Meringue, Almond, and Lemon Thyme Sorbet at Transformer

Transformer was a really delightful experience, and I would highly recommend it to everyone. I would like to go back sometime and order off the menu itself, because there are lots of yummy things on there.

One more Melbourne post to go! Then I will get to Christmas.

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post: Sahara Update


Someone decided to pull out some sutures, and so is now wearing the neck tutu. Sahara's final results came back, confirming that the mass in her colon is indeed lymphoma. As I mentioned, this is the 'best' sort of cancer to have, out of a bunch of shitty options. But obviously it is still cancer, and I am devastated that my little bear has this going on inside of her. We can't take out her stitches until the 25th, and will be starting her first week of chemo then. I really hope it works.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Cruelty Free Shop January 2017 Mystery Box

A quite break in the Melbourne posts. This is a nice short post, which I can manage easily. An update on Sahara is at the end of this post, with her cute kitty photo.

For Christmas this year I again got a six month Cruelty Free Shop Vegan Mystery Box subscription. The first box turned up this week. And this is what was inside.

January Vegan Mystery Box

  • Orgran Outback Animals Chocolate Cookies: I haven't had these before, but I have had a lot of the other Orgran products including their vanilla kids cookies. They are in cute animal shapes, which makes me feel a bit weird eating them, but they are fun for a snack.
  • Nature's Charm Jackfruit: I enjoy making assorted jackfruit dishes, and while I have a few tins in my cupboard already I am always happy to have more. Pulled BBQ jackfruit is very delicious.
  • Global Organic Black Beans: I was low on black beans, so this is very handy!
  • Just Wholefoods Lemon Jelly Crystals: I don't know if lemon would be my choice, I much prefer strawberry or raspberry, but I am planning to use this in some sort of fun dessert. I do find that sometimes this brand of jelly sets very soft, so just be aware of that if you are using it to make anything that requires a form to be held.
  • The Chocolate Yogi Astral Cruch: I am generally pretty pick about raw chocolate, except for Loving Earth with is the best. But this is meant to be very good. It doesn't have coconut oil in the ingredients, so I am keen to give it a try.
  • GoMaxGo 2Fer Bar: I was cautiously optimistic when this first came out as I used to love Twix bars. Unfortunately this was nothing like a Twix bar, and I am not a fan.
  • Eco-Vital Fruity Gummy Bears: These seem like a fun snack or decorating option.
  • Hurraw Almond Cardomom & Rose Lip Balm: I love the flavours and smells or Hurraw, though generally I don't find the lip balm itself strong enough for my dry dry lips. But this sounds delicious... must not eat it.
  • Emma & Tom's Cocoa and Coffee Bean Life Bar: I love Emma & Tom's bars, though will be gifting this one because I do not love coffee.

This month's box is nice, though there is nothing particularly stand out for me. I have five more boxes to go, and will continue to share with you!

I do just want to make a note as well regarding chocolate. This year I am striving to only buy fair trade chocolate (see theFood Empowerment Project's Chocolate List for more information). Obviously when signing up to boxes, I am not in control of what is put in the box. I know that GoMaxGo chocolate is not fair trade. I am not sure about The Chocolate Yogi or Emma & Tom's. Orgran is on their approved list. I am planning on doing a post at some point about my adventures in fair trade chocolate from an Australia perspective (a lot of the brands on the approved list are not available here).

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post: Sahara Update

Sahara home from surgery

Sahara had her surgery on Thursday in the end, the surgeon was sick on Tuesday. The surgery itself went well, and her recovery from it has so far been good. She was in hospital for two days, but came home with me yesterday afternoon. She seems fairly well in herself considering she had major abdominal surgery three days ago. On the good news side of things, the liver lesions are benign changes. That has been confirmed on histopathology from the lab. Unfortunately the mass in her colon is definitely cancer. Most probably lymphoma, though I am still waiting on the final final confirmation from the lab. Lymphoma is the best option in a long line of crappy options, as it tends to have the best response to chemo (though the drugs that she has been on to control her IBD for the last four years may interfere with that, we just have to wait and see). I'll update you again when the final result is in.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Melbourne Part 2

Hey everyone. I've had a pretty light on posting month for December. I guess I needed a little break after MoFo. I barely turned my laptop on for the last week, except to download new podcasts (current favourite is Babes Watch Buffy). Things are pretty tense for me at the moment. Those of you who follow my Twitter and Instagram will know that Sahara had an ultrasound last week that found lesions in her liver and a mass in her colon. She is going in for surgery tomorrow to get biopsies. These are not good things to have. I am a bit of a wreck, so my blogging will probably continue to be sporadic. Or maybe I will blog heaps to try and distract myself from things. Who knows. Anyway, I had mostly written this second post about my November Melbourne trip, so here it is. I am going to try and finish off Melbourne before I talk about Christmas food, which may mean a while until I post, but rest assured we had an excellent Christmas feast.

Back to Melbourne! We had already managed a fairly substantial day of eating, but then it was dinner time. We had thoughts of going out to a vegetarian/vegan food truck out in Preston, but we were tired after a long hot day of walking around and the wind was getting up so we decided to go closer to home at one of my Melbourne staples, Yong Green Food, and glad that we did as things got extremely gusty and it would have been very unpleasant in an outdoor food truck situation.

We shared the Mock Tuna Nori Rolls and the Buckwheat Pancake Roll to begin with. The nori rolls were OK, but the buckwheat pancake was outstanding!

Mock Tuna Nori Roll at Yong Green Food

Buckwheat Crepe at Yong Green Food

We also refreshed ourselves after our hot sunny day of walking with some Watermelon Crush drinks, which are watermelon crushed with lemon and ice. So sweet and cooling.

Watermelon Crush at Yong Green Food

For our mains, Ashleigh had the Raw Kelp Pad Thai. Unfortunately the chili cashew sauce was a bit beyond her spicy tolerance (and definitely way exceeding mine), so most of this got left behind. It is just a big hunk of all the same flavour, nothing to break it up, so only pick this if you are into spicy! I ordered the Yin and Yang Charger, which is a combination of different things. Overall it was really nice, though the batter on the oyster mushrooms was tasteless and I pulled it off and just at the mushrooms, and the sauce on the tofu was sweet but a bit too spicy.

Kelp Pad Thai at Yong Green Food

Yin and Yang Charger at Yong Green Food

Yong Green mostly tends towards the raw dessert side of things, which does not float my boat. However earlier at Friends of the Earth I had picked up a beloved sourdough cinnamon sugar doughnut made by Crumbs Organic Bakehouse AKA the best doughnuts ever. It was delicious.

Crumbs Organic Sourdough Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut

The next morning it was back to Smith & Deli. Saturday is croissant day there, and I was so excited. Originally they used to make their croissants with coconut oil, which were a no go for me. However they now make them with a vegetable blend that is perfect for me! The croissants aren't ready first up, you need to go a little later. I was still too keen and early, so I decided to have a pre-breakfast snack of a chai and some fruit. But fruit I mean a Strawberry and Cream tart, of course.

Strawberry and Cream tart, Chai from Smith & Deli

We ate our breakfast in the park (even though it was a bit nippy), and then had a stroll around Carlton Gardens to pass some time.

Carlton Gardens

Carlton Gardens

Then it was croissant time! They have a few different flavour options, so I got a chocolate, and almond, and a pizza croissant to take away for freezing and transporting back to Brisbane. And I got the Croissantwiches of Eastwick to eat then and there. This is a croissant with ham, cheese and mustard actually baked into it. It was amazing!! Best croissant pastry ever as well.

Croissantwiches of Eastwich from Smith & Deli

And of course I got some stuff to take away. Including a Blueberry Danish. And, oh look, a strawberry and cream tart!

Croissant; Blueberry Frangipane Danish; Strawberries and Cream Tart from Smith & Deli

There was actually a vegan beer and food festival on this day, though as it was cold and raining and we didn't want to get stuck with crowds we went and met with Leigh for lunch at Ray's Cafe in Brunswick (which was actually just around the corner from the festival). This was a solid plan. Ray's is not vegan, but has an exciting vegan menu.

All three of us started with the Beet Roots and Manuva Smoothies (Beetroot, Raspberry, Banana, Pure Maple, Hibiscus, Date & Coconut water).

Beet Roots and Manuva Smoothies at Ray's Cafe

Ashleigh had the Steam Funk for her starter (Steamed Edamame, Coriander Salt & Lemon), as it was gluten free.

Steam Funk at Ray's Cafe

Leigh and I shared the Fries Against (Beer Battered Fries, Aioli & Pickles + Vegemite Gravy, Miso Cheese & Pickles) and oh my gosh this was AMAZING!

Fries Against at Ray's Cafe

For mains, Leigh for the Beast of Brunswick (Crispy Mock ‘Chicken’, Miso Cheese, Avocado Raita, Baby Cos, Pickled Adelaide Tomato, Pickle Aioli & Apple Relish in a Toasted Sourdough Bun)

Beast of Brunswick at Ray's Cafe

Ashleigh got the Rojo Mojo Juju (Smoked Tofu, French Lentils, Roast Baby Potatoes,Pickled Brussel Sprouts, Almonds, Basil & Mojo Rojo).

Rojo Mojo Juju at Ray's Cafe

And I got Rage Against The Tagine (Mushroom Tagine, Charred Quinoa Bread, Greens, Cauliflower Hummus, Garlic Crumbs, Smoked Tofu, Pickled Shiitake & Pea Tendrils), which was delicious!

Rage Against The Tagine at Ray's Cafe

After this, we strolled around Brunswick for a little bit. There is a bakery called Choukette that has some vegan things, and Leigh and I both got some macarons. Do not do this, they were disgusting and awful and left a foul taste and texture in our mouths. Gross. Leigh was house and cat sitting, so we went back to meet the kitties. Morgan and Buster were both delightful, especially given that I was missing my own kittes!

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

2016-11-05 15.54.37

This is the black beauty named Morgan. She is a very glorious girl!

Friday, December 16, 2016

Melbourne Part 1

In November I went back to Melbourne (my third visit for the year) to spend five glorious days eating and having fun. And also to turn 35. I traveled with my friend Ashleigh, and we had a marvelous time and ate a lot of food.

We flew with Qantas, that does have a meal service. I had ticked the vegan box, and Ashleigh had ticked the fruit plate box as she is vegan but also gluten free. The vegan option ended up being a gluten free toasty, complete with vegan cheese, which was pretty nice. So we shared the toasted sandwich and the fruit plate.

Plane snacks

After the SkyBus dropped us off at Southern Cross station, our first stop was Lord of the Fries so Ashleigh could get some gleegan burger goodness. She got their chicken burger, made GF and vegan, and love it. I had a little bite, and the GF bun was actually not bad. Regular readers will know that I am frequently underwhelmed by LotF, though I do enjoy their French Canadian (aka Poutine) fries (as long as they manage to cook the chips right). I have several people recommend the Italian one to me, which is napoli sauce and cheese, so I thought I'd try that. Alas, underwhelmed again. And yet again the fries themselves were not great. Oh well.

Napoli Fries and GF Chicken Burger from Lord of the Fries

The important thing was that they did not fill me up too much, because it was Thursday night. Thursday night in Melbourne means I go to The Cornish Arms for trivia and ridiculous vegan food. (Like really ridiculous... their current special is a mac and cheese burger where the mac and cheese is the bun! I have seen photos and know people who have had this.) We started with some gravy and cheese fries (delicious, I could drink the gravy) and some buffalo chicken (way too hot for me, I just had a nibble).

Cheese and Gravy Fries at Cornish Arms

Buffalo Wings at Cornish Arms

A bit earlier in the year I was rewatching Gilmore Girls (preparing for the revival) and for Lorelai's 35th birthday Rory organised her a giant pizza. So the idea of celebrating my 35th birthday with a pizza part seemed appropriate. Though Lorelai has her life way more together at 35 than I could ever dream of. Although Thursday was not my actual birthday, it was actual Pizza Party Birthday night. We ordered four of the pizzas off the menu to share. First up, the Meat Loathers (A BBQ deluxe! local 'Two Broke Guys' vegami, coal roasted sausage, facon, mock chicken and house-made smoky BBQ sauce). This was a popular favourite at the table, and was indeed delicious. It only needed some pineapple to make it perfect.

Meat Loathers Pizza at Cornish Arms

The Vegan Special of the fortnight was a Stroganoff Pizza. This was nice, though I expected it to be creamier. The sauce was more like gravy. I had also secretly hoped it would have actual pasta on it for extra carby goodness, but alas no.

Stroganoff Pizza at Cornish Arms

My favourite pizza was the Souvlaki Pizza (Spiced fried seitan, tomato & onion, garnished with chilli sauce, garlic sauce, & tabouleh), but we got the chilli sauce on the side to make it Susan friendly. This was just so nice and fresh, definitely welcome with all the richer food on the table.

Souvlaki Pizza at Cornish Arms

The final pizza was the Vegan Porchetta (Vegan pork belly, popcorn 'rib', cherry tomato, pear and red onion finished with crispy crackling and aioli). Unfortunately this was a bit of a flop with all of us. I think because of the pear in the description we were expecting a sweet undertone, instead this was just all fat and salt but not in a great way. The pear was barely noticed. We wouldn't get this again.

Porchetta Pizza at Cornish Arms

Because Ashleigh is GF, none of the pizzas were suitable for her (they don't do GF pizza), so she ordered another vegan GF chicken burger. This one was very different from LotF one, more like fried chicken. She liked it, but not as much as the LotF one.

GF Chicken Burger at Cornish Arms

The next morning we were planning on having breakfast at a nearby cafe that had several green things on the menu. But alas, they were unexpectedly closed! Thankfully Smith & Deli was just down the road, and was our next spot to visit anyway. I got one of their delicious chai lattes, and everything bagel with dill cream cheese, and a strawberries and cream tart. So, let's talk about this tart. At first I assumed it would be coconut based and would probably make me sick, but when I asked I was told that there was no coconut even in it. And I am so happy, because this is the best thing ever. I almost cried when I ate it. I just loved it so much, it was perfection. The strawberry cream filling was light and not too sweet and perfection. I weep just thinking about it.

Strawberries and Cream Tart; Everything Bagel with Dill Cream Cheese; Chai from Smith & Deli

Smith & Deli was also our lunch stop, and I met up with my friend Leigh. First up, let's take a tour of their bakery cases!

Jam and Cream Buns from Smith & Deli

Bakery Case from Smith & Deli

Bakery Case from Smith & Deli

For lunch, I had to get another Straberry and Cream tart! I also got the Anaphylaxis of Evil sandwich (satay tofu, bean sprouts, picked daikon and carrot, cucumber, fresh chili, coriander on a roll), but I got them to leave off the chili. This was so good and fresh and delicious! I think maybe my favourite sandwich from there to date. And I also got a green juice.

Strawberry and Cream Tart; Anaphalaxis of Evil; Green Juice from Smith & Deli

Anaphylaxis of Evil from Smith & Deli

Leigh got the Hail Seitan (salami, ham, turkey, pineapple, BBQ sauce, which I is definitely on my list of things sandwiches to try!

Hail Seitan from Smith & Deli

And Ashleigh got Buffalo the Vampire Slayer (buffalo tofu, ranch, shredded iceberg, carrot, red onion and celery) made gluten free. I love the name of this sandwich so much, Buffy being my favourite show ever, but it is too spicy for me.

Foghorn Legless from Smith & Deli

After saying goodbye to Leigh, Ashleigh and I went for a walk down Gertrude St to Smith St to check out the shops and vegan offerings. It was really hot. I stopped into Pressed Juices to pick up a silly but refreshing beverage.

Pressed Juice

We also stopped into Donut Shop Fitzroy, Fatto a Mano and Friends of the Earth. I didn't get anything from Donut Shop (they had two flavours of vegan glazed doughnut, but they didn't grab me), I picked up some treats from the other places that I will share later.

Cute Kitty Photo of the Post

Shop Cat

We ran into this friendly and sleepy shop kitty in a vintage shop!