Nac Mac Vegan: adventures in rabbit food

06/06/2011

Heavenly, Glasgow

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , — Feòrag @ 13:16

Menu at Heavenly, GlasgowHeavenly is a new stealth vegan café in the centre of Glasgow. You’d never know from their website, which is useless but very pretty. I note it’s improved a little over the last couple of days in the time between my checking it before my visit, to my checking it now to put the link in. It now mentions that the café is vegan, but there’s still no online menu.

This place is so new it smells of woodworking. It’s clean, modern and very, very green. The menu is basic and short, and clearly designed to appeal to non-vegans, which is good because the omni partner is with me.

Heavenly Tofu Burger
I ordered the Heavenly Tofu Burger. My partner opted for Bangers and Mash. They also stock the Samuel Smith Organic Wheat Beer, so I had an enjoyable swift half.

The burger was a ciabatta bun stuffed with grilled tofu and roast veg. It came with proper chips, a tasty green salad and onion rings. The latter were, unfortunately, fried at too low a temperature and were therefore oily. I’ll be giving the tempura a miss in future.

The (tofu) bangers and mash came with onion gravy. The omnivore proclaimed it to be okay, but would not be drawn further, other than it was not as filling as you might expect.

Dessert was something rarely found in vegan form: rice pudding. And it was nothing like I expected. The brown rice pudding had been formed into a cake and dressed with poached pears, blueberries and chocolate. Fabulous!

Rice pudding at Heavenly

Heavenly, 185 Hope Street (nr Junction with West Regent Street), Glasgow G2 2UL. Tel: 0141-353 0884. Open 11am – midnight, 7 days a week. Last food order 8pm.

Advertisements

17/02/2011

Exki, Paris CDG Terminal 2E

Filed under: Airline food, Eating out, Supermarkets and convenience stores — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 10:15

Exki, T2E, Paris CDGI’m passing through Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport on my way to Boston. Last year, when I was in Antwerp, I made much use of a Belgian chain called Exki. They specialise in natural foods and have lots of vegan options. Imagine my joy therefore, to discover a new branch in Terminal 2E.

Now, I’m feeling a little paranoid. I did not see any reference to my special meal request on my boarding card. So, I’ve bought a couple of items (to go with the hummous sandwich and fruit salad bought at EAT at Turnhouse) – a rice salad with stir fried veg and tofu, and a wakame salad. Both contain a substance called Légumaise, which I am assured does not contain egg.

Food from Exki

Air France came up trumps, and the food they provided was spectacular. I haven’t eaten the stuff from Exki yet, so consider this a placeholder. The US Customs were happy to let it in, so I’ll be having it for breakfast.

31/01/2011

Caffè Nero Red Pepper Penne

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 18:29

I’m at London City Airport awaiting a flight home. It’s usually a desert for vegans (except those excessively fond of fruit), but I noticed Caffè Nero had a pasta dish labelled as being vegan.

Caffè Nero Penne

I was hungry enough to give it a go. It scores poorly on presentation, being served in the plastic container in which it is displayed. But, it’s not bad at all. One of the best ready meal pastas I’ve ever had, and better than some Italian restaurants. The pasta was al dente, and the sauce just spicy enough to be worth bothering. The peppers were a bit mushy, though, and the portion size reflects the price – about £3.50 at an airport. Still hungry.

One point – they will offer to put cheese on it for you. If they don’t, ask them not to.

29/01/2011

Veggie Hut, Wembley

Filed under: Eating out, Food Courts — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 13:58

Veggie Hut, WembleyOnce upon a time, there was Oriental City in Colindale, a fabulous East Asian shopping centre with a big supermarket and a food court. Then the developers moved in and got the place closed down so they could build flats in an area now devoid of any facilities other than ASDA.

Pacific Plaza, right by Wembley Stadium, is the reincarnation. It’s much smaller, but the food court contains an entirely vegetarian outlet, Veggie Hut.

The food is mostly South Indian, and is ludicrously cheap. I splashed out on the lunch special, which cost a princely £3.50 and included a plain dosa, one vada, two idli, two chutneys, a bowl of sambhar and a drink of my choice.

Veggie Hut Lunch Special

All this for £3.50!

The dosa was a touch on the oily side, but that’s as far as I am going to complain. The chutneys were the traditional coconut plus a tamarind one, both spicy and making no concessions to English tastes. The vada was crispy on the outside, soft within and the idlis were so delicate I needed to use a spoon. The sambhar was filled with vegetables, interesting ones.

There are vegetarian options at the other stands, notably Hot Korean and Nambu (Japanese) both of which indicate what’s suitable, or can be made so, on their menus. The supermarket is due to reopen here soon, too.

Oh, and the redevelopment of Oriental City? After taking so much trouble to close it down, the developers have done precisely nothing with the site.

Veggie Hut, Pacific Plaza food court, Engineers Way, Wembley, London HA9 0EG. [Map – note that it’s not where Google thinks it is, but over the road among the collection of outlets]. Open 10.00 till 22.00 daily; last orders 21.00.

21/01/2011

Review: Stereo, Glasgow

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 15:26

Farinata at StereoThe conditions of a cheap day return meant that eating in Glasgow was the most sensible option last Wednesday, and I used it as an excuse to visit somewhere I wanted to try out.

Stereo is entirely vegan, and the sister restaurant to Mono and The 78. The menu is a lighter one, with plenty of tapas, plus a selection of mains. There is a strong Mediterranean feel, but they’ve clearly trawled the world looking for interesting ideas for vegan dishes. Weirdly, they don’t mention anywhere that all the food is vegan. They don’t even mention that it’s vegetarian, though that would be obvious as soon as you scan the menu.

I went for the farinata, an Italian gram flour baked pancake (see photo). Usually served simply with salt and pepper, here it had been turned into a meal with the addition of borlotti beans and fried porcini mushrooms, and served it with a green sauce which I think was basically basil. It worked well, having the satisfaction level of a pizza (vegan pizza and calzone are also on the menu), but with the hope that it might be vaguely healthy. My partner chose a selection of small dishes. The Patatas Bravas met with his approval, the flatbread contained more garlic than bread, and the olives were devoured by both of us.

There was even dessert, though only a couple of choices, and there was no way chocolate orange cake was passing me by! Drinks-wise it was unimpressive. The only beer worth drinking was the superb Samuel Smith Wheat Beer, and the home-made sodas you get at Mono were absent. I also think they exaggerate the pedigree of their building. Charles Rennie Mackintosh did, indeed work on it, but mostly on the tiling at the back.

Stereo, 20-28 Renfield Lane, Glasgow G2 6PH. Tel: 0141-222 2254. Full menu served noon-9pm daily; tapas served until midnight daily.

16/01/2011

Auld Hoose Sunday Lunch

Filed under: Eating out, Pub grub — Tags: , , , — Feòrag @ 15:33

Auld Hoose vegan Sunday LunchUsually, when I go to the Auld Hoose on a Sunday afternoon, it’s for breakfast. This week, I thought I’d try the Sunday roast. I commented that the vegan meal was presumably the same as the vegetarian one, minus the Yorkshire puddings and Jonathan, behind the bar, informed me that they had vegan Yorkshires. That I had to try!

The meal consisted of a classic nut roast with the traditional trimmings. The nut roast itself made no attempt to disguise its main ingredient, and was excellent. The roast potatoes were crispy on the outside, and melty within, and the Yorkshire puddings made my day. The main disappointment was the offering of vegetables, mostly frozen I suspect. There again, it’s not the season for anything other than cabbage and spuds right now.

It did lie a little heavy on my stomach afterwards, but that’s the idea isn’t it?

02/10/2010

Airline lounges and other hazards.

Filed under: Airline food — Tags: , — Feòrag @ 18:37

I’ve pondered for a long time whether or not to make this post. It could be easily taken the wrong way, seen as some sort of conspicuous consumption on my part. But, the truth is that I do a lot of travel on business and sometimes, not that often, I get to go business class. Part of that experience is the lounge, with food and drink for which you’ve already paid in the fare. Here are a couple of meals I had on my way to Australia.

CDG Air France Lounge meal

Vegan meal in the Air France lounge at Paris CDG.

This first tray is from the lounge at Paris Charles de Gaulle. The sandwiches were explicitly labelled as vegan (in French), and contained roast vegetables. Sometimes they have another vegan sandwich containing guacamole with chunky tomato. They’re both pretty good. Most of the biscuits on offer contained egg (mentioned in the traditional 4pt type, in French only), but the ginger ones shown are fine. Fruit salad is boring, but good, and if there’s dairy in that chocolate, I don’t want to know. The coffee is from a bean-to-cup machine and is excellent.

Hong Kong QANTAS Lounge mealA 12 hour flight and some footering at the transfer desk brought me to the QANTAS lounge at Hong Kong. At first I thought the pictured offering was all they had for me – Vietnamese spring rolls with a sweet peanut sauce and Tsingtao beer – but they also had a carrot and coconut milk soup which I found later.

On the way back, we were on a flight that left Melbourne at about 11pm, so there was very little food in the lounge. There was bottle-conditioned beer though, and I did want to sleep on the flight. We’d had a blow-out meal at Enlightened Cuisine (strongly recommended) before leaving for the airport. The Air France lounge at Hong Kong is completely useless for vegans. Even worse, every morning at 6am, several 747s arrive from Australia and disgorge their passengers for an hour while they refuel. This is why none of the shops or restaurants open until 7am. We were there for longer, but the only vegetarian-friendly eaterie I could find was landside, where I could not go.

This was particularly frustrating as the only reason I’d had anything to eat on the flight had been because another vegan on board had not been hungry and refused their meal. It did not go to waste. One big problem with Air France is that they don’t pass on special meal requests to codeshare partners, not even KLM who are the same company. On the way out, I’d asked about my meal at the transfer desk at Hong Kong, and fortunately they only need a couple of hours warning there so it was fine. But as I was an Air France passenger, it was not possible for QANTAS to add a note themselves about it.

The leg from Hong Kong to Paris was Air France though, and the food was excellent. I needed it.

12/08/2010

Edinburgh for vegans

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: — Feòrag @ 13:59

If you’re here for the Festival and Fringe, you might like to know I have just added a new page: Vegan-friendly Edinburgh. It’s a listing of those eateries which are not vegetarian, but where a vegan can eat well. Such places tend to get missed out of specialist vegetarian guides, and the general guides tend not to be too good at knowing what makes a place vegetarian- or vegan-friendly. The listed restaurants, cafés and pubs are all places I frequent. There are bound to be gaps, especially on The Other Side Of Town, and I’d be glad to hear of other places.

10/07/2010

Review: Trader Joe’s Vegetable Panang Curry with Jasmine Rice

Filed under: Products, Supermarkets and convenience stores — Tags: , , , , — Feòrag @ 22:56

I’m on the road again, this time in Massachusetts, at a science fiction convention in the middle of nowhere near Boston. Despite the best efforts of the convention organisers, the hotel isn’t too good for vegans, but the room does have a microwave oven and a fridge freezer. I also realised food would be a problem here, and rented a car for the duration so I could escape to eat.

I’d brought along some crispbread and hummous and other cold bits but was getting fed up of that. There are two Whole Foods Markets and a Trader Joe’s in the area. I’m unhappy with the way the staff at US branches of Whole Foods Market are treated and I’d heard many good things about Trader Joe’s, so that’s what went into the borrowed satnav.

Trader Joe’s is very, very good about marking stuff up as vegan (and vegetarian, and gluten-free and a number of other things that people might take into account). They’re clueful enough to know that refined cane sugar in the US is not suitable for vegetarians. There wasn’t much of interest in the freezer section, but I decided to give the Vegetable Panang Curry a try. It’s also gluten-free as well as vegan.

It was thoroughly overpackaged, with one more layer than you’d get in a British supermarket ready-meal, and the tray itself was more substantial (a good thing, in my mind). It took about a minute longer to cook that claimed on the box.

But, oh! If you’re used to what you find in the freezer section of a British supermarket, you will be impressed. The meal could have come from my favourite little Malaysian eaterie in Amsterdam (near Nieuwmarkt) — it tasted authentic and full of flavour, with no skimping on the spices. And what’s best? According to the receipt, it cost me $2.49 (about £1.80).

Recommended. I think I’ll go back and get the Vegetable Pad Thai for tomorrow.

19/05/2010

Vegan cakes!

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , — Feòrag @ 20:20

The other day I went for a walk around the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. I popped into the café for a drink, and was surprised to see this:

Vegan cakes at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh

Not the cheapest, but I had the Date Slice and it was delicious. They also sell gluten-free cakes now.

09/05/2010

Sankō-in: a culinary pilgrimage

Filed under: Eating out, Reading matter — Tags: , , — Feòrag @ 16:52

The sign at the gate to Sankou-in.Within my cookbook collection, there is one tome that stands out above them all: Zen Vegetarian Cooking by Soei Yoneda, the late abbess of Sankō-in, a Zen Buddhist temple near Tokyo, and Kōei Hoshino, who is the abbess now. It’s my favourite cookbook ever and my copy is well used. My World’s Best Inarizushi was derived from a recipe in this book (my main changes were to use brown rice and to use an expensive, naturally sweet mirin instead of sake and sugar) and whenever I post a picture of my lunch here, several of the items shown will have been made using recipes from the book.

The style is shōjin ryōri—Zen temple food. It’s completely vegan, and emphasises seasonality and balanced flavours. The presentation is exquisite, and it produces the best food in the world. I love cooking the recipes from the book, but there’s one hitch—I’d never had genuine shōjin ryōri (it’s expensive) so I didn’t know if my efforts were any good.

My plans for my recent trip to Japan trip included having at least one genuine shōjin ryōri meal, and hang the cost—it’s a special treat. Thanks to a very helpful member of staff at the hotel, I obtained a reservation for lunch at a Buddhist temple. The cost would be 5800円 (about £40), but I really didn’t care—the temple I was going to was Sankō-in.

Koganei is an ordinary suburb to the west of Tokyo, not a destination a tourist would happen upon, nor have any interest in. A busy place with downmarket department stores, made more mundane by the overcast sky on the day I visitied. Sankō-in is a tricky place to find, especially as the map in Japan Vegan Restaurant Pocketguide neglects to mention the small Shinto shrine on the corner where you are meant to turn right. It’s also behind a large modern supermarket, not the sort of place you expect to find such a sanctuary. But when you go round the back of the supermarket, there’s the gate, with a few of your fellow diners gathered, waiting for the right moment.

Gathered at the gate to Sankō-in

A jolly female statue by the dining hallThe dining hall is round the back of the old wooden temple building, past a small cemetery. I paused. Soei Yoneda is almost certainly buried here. I also stopped to admire the delightful feminine statues dotting the grounds, a permanent jolly note, regardless of the weather.

I entered the vestibule of the dining hall, removed my shoes and donned the provided slippers, before entering. On giving my name, I was taken to my table—a fairly low and sturdy affair, with five miniature tatami mats taking the place of a cloth. My name was written on paper and weighted with a stone at one corner. A single red lacquer tray was placed upon the table.

The food is prepared by local women who are interested in learning shōjin ryōri and experiencing some aspects of temple life. The courses were brought out one at a time, and the signal to start eating was after one of the women had said a few words about the food.

The first course was a sandwich biscuit containing sweet red bean paste. The biscuit was very light and barely there, almost as light as the polystyrene outer of the Flying Saucer sweets I remember from when I was young.

Next up was tea—a supremely frothy, virulently green and bitter matcha served in a deep blue bowl. This shock to the palate ensured no sweetness lingered, a nuclear option to provide clarity for the subtle delights coming up.

The third courseChopsticks were delivered in time for the third course. There was a wonderful familiarity as all the dishes were featured in the book: Mountain yam rolls (p.135), simmered pumpkin (p126), burdock with spicy sesame dressing (p.152), and simmered dried-frozen tofu (p. 178). I’ve tried to make three of those dishes myself and, while my efforts were reasonable—a credit to Yoneda and Hoshino’s writing— they lack the subtlety of the real thing.

The fourth course can be found on page 195. Sesame “tofu” in a thick sauce, served with a knob of grated ginger. Non-tofu tofus are a staple of zen temple cuisine, and are made by thickening sesame milk or juice with kūzu then letting them set. Sesame tofu has a much softer texture than even silken tofu, making this a challenge to my chopstick skills.

Very fresh bamboo shootsCourse five wasn’t in the book—konnyaku and bamboo shoots dressed with sweet white miso and yūzu. The bamboo shoots were the freshest I’ve ever had, with no hint of woodiness. Looking out of the window behind me, I saw newly disturbed earth in the bamboo grove. Could they be that fresh? I think they were.

The sixth course was another classic, a slight variation on the recipe for aubergine with miso sauce in the book. Instead of using halves of aubergine, a small aubergine had been grilled whole then slit almost all the way through. The white miso sauce was then applied and grilled some more, producing a melt-in-the-mouth delight, and another chopsticks challenge.

Next was a simple clear broth containing a single horizontal slice of the same fresh bamboo and sansho leaf, and the eighth course was something I did not recognise at first. It appeared to be a yellowy-green non-tofu tofu on a slice of daikon, topped with darker green stuff and surrounded by broth. Earwigging on the next table (a party of journalists from a Hong Kong travel magazine and their interpreter), I learned it’s something else on my Japan hit list—awa-fu! I’ve been experimenting with making this mixture of cooked millet and wheat gluten, and am pleased to report that my latest effort is spot on. The miso-based sansho topping is another recipe in the book and the broth was exquisitely simple with no dashi.

The ninth course was three pieces of lotus root tempura. To make each piece, very thin slices of lotus root had been quartered, then three of these quarters layered on top of one another before battering and deep frying. The lotus root remained crispy.
Rice, tea and pickles

Course ten was rice, tea and pickles—a respectable lunch in its own right. The rice contained slithers of the fresh bamboo. The three pickles were ume, layers of dashi-simmered konbu with sansho (a variation on p. 108!) and something I did not catch at first but which was a finely minced daikon pickle. The tea was hojicha—roasted green tea.

The eleventh and final course was a mystery—a special tea to be drunk in a special way which involved not removing the lid! Not even for a peek. It was very bitter, very cleansing and a perfect finale to a very special meal.

Mystery tea

22/04/2010

Public Service Announcement: Goodness Direct

Filed under: Eating out, Shopping — Tags: — Feòrag @ 01:32

I do not usually use this blog for political issues, or for discussion of the ethics surrounding veganism. I especially do not use it to discuss religion, but today I will make an exception.

Some religious groups, notably the 7th Day Adventists and some Buddhist organisations, operate vegan businesses. These groups tend to be open about who they are, and you will find material about their beliefs, and how veganism or vegetarianism fits in with them, and yet they tend not to be pushy about them (it would drive away customers, especially me).

They weren’t always so, of course – a quick look at the introductory material in many 19th century vegetarian cookbooks will reveal many pious assertions. While there are always the fringes, these groups are “mostly harmless”, and the businesses primarily staffed by people trying to live by their own principles. There have been allegations of the exploitation of illegal immigrants in some businesses (see the first comment to this entry), but this shit is rife in catering generally.

There are other places that are both by religious groups and are openly used by those groups as a means of recruitment. Again, they’re open about what they’re doing, and I quite simply avoid those restaurants as I find such behaviour incredibly annoying.

There is a third category of business, not limited to the vegan and vegetarian market, which are operated by some of the more dubious religious organisations as a means of raising funds or of gaining access to vulnerable people. They rarely mention this, or will couch it in weasel words, because they know potential customers will be put off. Lists of businesses that are fronts for various organisations of concern can be found easily online.

Today, I learned that special diets foods retailer Goodness Direct is a front for the coercive cult, the Jesus Army (some of the comments might be triggering, so tread carefully if you have issues). Now, this is the type of religious group to which I really object and do not want to fund in any way. Even the Evangelical Alliance won’t have anything to do with them! I haven’t used the site myself, but I know many vegans do and that many vegans also try to use ethical businesses wherever possible.

I am privileged to have a reasonable (for the UK) whole foods shop close to where I live, but for more unusual animal-free products, I have good personal experience of shopping with Vegan Store, which appears to be a small, independent, vegan-owned company.

And now I shall resume normal service. I’m still in Japan thanks to that unpronounceable volcano, and have a backlog of restaurant reviews.

10/04/2010

Japan: Hotel breakfast buffets

Filed under: Eating out — Tags: , , , , , — Feòrag @ 01:24

I go to a lot of science fiction conventions, all over the world, and the breakfast buffet is something I universally avoid unless I’m really starving and need some beans on toast. All there is for me usually is cereal (if I’ve remembered some soya milk), the toast, beans, hash browns and maybe the mushrooms depending on how they’re cooked.

I am currently in a hotel in Ōmiya, a little north of Tokyo. I already know that the traditional japanese breakfast is miso soup, rice and pickles, plus some leftovers, and breakfast is included in the room rate so I thought I’d give it a go.

Today’s breakfast was: simmered silken tofu topped with ginger; various pickles including a bright blue plum of some sort; hijiki salad; herb konnyaku with mustard, some toasted nori (sprinkled on the second batch of tofu) and a bowl of multigrain rice. If I had brought my little bottle of shōyu with me, I’d have had nattō, too (suspect fish in the little sachets provided). To drink I had acerola juice and the coffee, which was naff, so I changed to hojicha (roasted green tea). I will be buying stocks of hojicha when I get home!

I will also be eating breakfast this weekend.

Older Posts »

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.