Thursday, August 14, 2008

Noo Yawk Rawks, or: I pound the streets, eat the food, buy the shopping, and can't find any Internet cafes

Ahoy from Noo Yawk, where the streets have no name and apparently no Internet cafes either. Due to this unforeseen technical hitch (and the fact that I am sitting in the crappiest, most bizarre little cafe in Chinatown with a total hobo next to me who is kicking chairs around) there will be no picture posting until I get home, or maybe to London.

The culinary and shopping delights so far have been swoon-worthy. As I am paying by the minute here, I'll summarise in telegraph-ese bullets ...

  • Moo Shoes. Two pairs of vegan J-41s purchased and fallen in love with. Like little squidgy bliss on your feet. One pair olive and pistacchio Aquarius, one pair black and grey maryjanes. Shop has five cats residing - and was tickled to see that the clothes on display were covered in their hair. Lots of great pamphlets and a Vegan Restaurant Guide to NYC which does not leave my side.
  • Te Casan - Natalie Portman vegan range. The joy of holding high-quality, beautifully made vegan shoes in hand... I suspect that it's something like holding your firstborn in your arms ... kinda. Two gorgeous pairs purchased - one pair of 'snakeskin' flat shoes with toe holder and ankle wrap strap; one pair goldiegold going out heels. Made sure to extol virtues of high quality vegan shoes to shop lady to help ensure future buying. Pricey but definitely worth it.

  • WholeFoods. Am obsessed and in love. Just so so many things labelled vegan, including curries at the buffet bar (US$7.99 per pound. Today I paid $22.65 inc tax for my lunch. You do the maths. It was 2.61 pounds. I just couldn't resist trying everything! Curries, salads, tofu galore, endamame, quinoa ... ). I also bought two types of soy cheese not available in Aus - disappointing but so exciting to see so many varieties. Going to try Tofurkey. Also fantastic range of makeup (including No Miss nailpolish and Zuzu Luxe) and blue chips! Woah Nellie! Pictures of levels 1 and 2 of my buffet food-mountain.

  • Candle 79 - fine dining organic vegan. And boy, fine dining. Have left carefully copied out list of what we had at hotel, but suffice it to say that we both left stuffed and sugar rushing. Service and ambience just perfect. We had a friendly, informative and just plain ol' nice waiter, and no one commented that we turned up in Havaianas, shorts, t-shirts, and all tired and dirty from a long day pounding the streets of New York City and getting caught in a downpour. The food was exquisite and I was greatly satisfied that Buzz really enjoyed it too. I had to get on the bandwagon and explain to him (as he patiently listened yet again to me drone on about veganism) that when you know that food like this exists, to see the paltry offerings normally available, to constantly order chips'n'salad, to have people assume that you aren't interested in food, is supremely frustrating. I am vegan because I am interested in food, and I am interested in food because I am vegan.

So to sign out .. Noo Yawk rawks. It just needs more Internet Cafes (and signage for the subway.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Black, Black, Black, or: I am Gutted

Reliable sources (ie aduki) have informed us at the PPK that the Kolios Greek fasting cheese is not vegan. It contains casein, that bane of soy cheese.

Ode of Sorrow

O Toastie
You were
(and how I wish you were still)
The meltiest, saltiest, cheesiest, tastiest
of not-cheese I ever put 'twixt two slices of bread.
You are gone
And I am bereft.
I open the refrigerator door
Looking, searching, yearning for
Your golden glow amidst the cold blue fridge light.
I close the door;
The light goes out (or does it?)
And I am still
A toastie.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Citrussy Cakiness, or: I Go To War and Eat Cake

After doing bloody battle with the gorgon*, I triumphed after many days of war, victorious, brandishing my dread sword and holding aloft the head of mine enemy.

I deserved cake.

Citrus cake from Great Earth (with yet another mmm-mmm coffee from Cafe 53).

*gorgon: a feared and most hated telecommunications service provider

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The Napier's Tofu Burger with Chilli Jam, Watercress and Tofu Mayo, or: I am deflated

Seeing as this was my first foray into public food photography, I was hoping it would be accompanied by a post raving about not only how brave I was to whip out the camera at the table, but that it was well worth it to bring you sensational photos of wildly outstanding food that made me weep with spiritual revelation. It will now come as no surprise to you that I did not like this meal.

A pub meal was planned for Saturday night as a low-key general catch up-slash-dinner before Buzz and I go overseas next week. I was suggested either The Napier or the East Brunswick Club, being bold enough to say that I was sneakily suggesting them for my own benefit. Everyone else kindly agreed to the Napier, so I feel somewhat abashed about now writing this post.

I ordered the vegan option - a tofu burger with chilli jam, watercress and tofu mayo (I suspect they meant soy mayo, but never mind).

Although all up it was an average, ho-hum, not-particularly-bad meal, I feel the only way to properly describe it is to list my disappointments. And so:

Numero Uno: Turkish Bread. It took me a few bites to register what this was. I promptly discarded the top as I was pretty sure that they hadn't scoured Melbourne to source Turkish bread without an egg glaze, and if they had, I figured they'd be advertising it.

Zwei: The Tofu. It was a slab of wobbly, squashy, unflavoured, lightly fried tofu, and that's it. It was a couple of centimetres thick and had nothing to recommend it except the very thin layer of crispy fattiness. It's tofu served like this that gives tofu everywhere a bad name.

The Third: The Salad. I know it's a pub meal. I know it, I know it. But for the love of all that is holy, a packet of mixed salad (mostly rocket), with two quarters of crystally, thawed-out tomato, a couple of slices of hardcore red onion and two measly pieces of cucumber, drizzled with some generic balsamic, is really poxy.

IV: The Chips. Blah. So average I almost couldn't be bothered eating them. And that's really saying something.

Now here's the bit that's making me screw up my face and go "ernghhhhhh". I love that they bothered to make a vegan burger. I love that they remembered to veganise the mayo. And I know that just cos it's specially vegan doesn't make it good, and I know that my meal wasn't particularly better or worse than anyone else's, and I know that it's a lot to ask for anything more, especially considering that there weren't even many vegetarian options on the menu.

But "ernghhhhhh!"

There was nothing beyond the unforgettable side of average here, and that's disappointing not just as a vegan but as a customer.

Many thanks to Buzz who gamely held up the top of the burger to help me photograph it, despite his embarrassment. There'll be many more.

Medium Skinny Soy Latte and a piece of Date and Pecan Loaf, or: Suffer In Ya Jocks, Stupid Anti-Soy Attitude Man

A proper coffee from Michelle at Cafe 53, made with skinny soy no less (a rarity, and real VitaSoy to boot), and a piece of date and pecan loaf from Wild Earth in the food court of Collins Place. I'm not really a cake person but seeing as it's there I feel that I am obliged to regularly eat all vegan goodies to prove that there's a market out there... yeah!

Great Earth also have citrus cake, no added fat crumble (in two flavours), two kinds of muffin and a Ghana Dahl roti wrap which are A-OK for vegans.

Cafe 53: 53 Flinders Lane, Melbourne. Ph 9662 1655
Great Earth Cafe: Lower food court, Collins Place, 45 Collins Street Melbourne. Ph 9654 8790

Friday, August 1, 2008

Eggplanty Fritters on Toast, or: I Spit On The Art of Subtle Seasoning

I'm sorry to report that I overdid the Maldon sea salt (which is otherwise perfect in every way) and this dish ended up totally over-seasoned. I am generally quite the over-seasoner anyway, partly because my palate is nowhere near developed enough to appreciate delicate flavours, and partly cos I'm just the kind of girl who likes to season the beejesus out of everything she cooks. This time, however, it was definitely too much.

That said, this dish (whatever it is) definitely has potential and I'll have another crack at it.

I cut four chunky slices of eggplant and seasoned them with Maldon sea salt and cayenne pepper. I laid them down on some Kyneton Olive Oil (the garlic-infused kind; also a mistake I think - too many pungent flavours. Next time I'll use plain olive oil) which was heating in Magic Pan*, and drizzled a sizeable amount of oil over the top. I let the eggplant slices fry on each side, turning them every couple of minutes.

I think there's a delicate balance to be achieved there. Remembering some eggplant I'd prepared a few weeks earlier I laid off the olive oil, as on the first occasion I'd really let it flow and although the eggplant tasted great, it fell apart easily and was definitely too oily to feel good about. However, this time I ended up charring one side of the eggplant slices, which is not what I'd intended. I wanted golden roasted toasty flesh, not blackened and barbequed.

I diced some zucchini, red onion and fresh chilli very finely and put it in the pan. I let it brown and soften a little (maybe a little too much as the smokiness of the chillies is very dry and eye-burning, and it lingered in the kitchen for quite some time even after the pan was off the heat).

Meanwhile, I toasted two pieces of Pott's Sourdough. A note on Pott's - apart from their Fruit Bread which contains hugely massive chunks of apricots and is bloody fantastic, I like to support Pott's because they specifically label their breads as vegan. 'Nuff said.

I placed two slices of eggplant on each piece of toast, letting the olive oil soften the bread. I put a bit of the zucchini mix on the eggplant, and the rest on the side of the plate.

I topped each piece of bread with some crumbled pieces of the Greek fasting 'feta', which melted a little in a very satisfactory way, and some fresh coriander.

I spooned out the last of the King Valley Coriander Pesto (vegan and divine and totally recommended but don't try the Pistachio Pesto please) and proceeded to gobble it all up, over-seasoned or no.

So next time: plain olive oil, less sea salt, chillis added to zucchini mix at the end of the cooking process, and a little more attention to the cooking of the eggplant - I wouldn't like to add any more oil, but I also want to prevent any more burning.

Post Script: I did make this again, using far less salt and a little less oil. However I cut the eggplant slices much thinner, so they fell apart easily and were less substantial. Also as I made them as a quick lunch for me and Buzz, they didn't look all that fantastic (although they tasted really good). I'll keep trying...

*Magic Pan is my Circulon saute pan. It's big, it's non-stick, and it's the best kitchen implement I've ever bought. I love it so dearly! It's the right shape to simmer, stew, stir fry, boil, fry, or just plain cook. I've had it about three years and although the outside shows some wear, the inside is as pristine as the day I got it. The only problem with it is that it's so big that it encourages me to wildly overcook, and then I wildly overeat. If I could find one exactly the same but about a half to a third smaller, I would pay rubies for it (it's not a frying pan by the way; it's a saute pan with a lid. That's why I have trouble replicating it although there are some excellent non-stick frying pans around. What I really want is a MiniMe Magic Pan).