Thursday, April 2, 2009

The Great Vegan Sleepover Potluck continued, or: Himalaya Bakery, Dayslesford, and the Chocolate Mill, Mt Franklin

After more than two hours of yoga, the thought of the promised tofu scramble at Himalaya Bakery caused me to bolt with shameful haste to the car. Emily had talked it up and I, poor vegan, had never had fuscram before. The Himalaya, in the main street of artsy Daylesford, thoughtfully labels all its yummeries as vegan, gluten free, spelt-y or sweetened without refined sugar. The service was friendly and vegan-aware, although the poor girls were perhaps a bit over-burdened on a busy Sunday morning. I ordered the tofu scramble with mushrooms and a side of tomatoes, and a chocy-oaty biscuit. My soy latte was pretty strong but very welcome - I did not feel like treating my body as a temple after the yoga; more like I needed to artificially kick-start it with caffeine and a nice serve of savoury.

The meals took quite a while to arrive, as we shuffled seats and donated chairs to the neighbours who requested them but then didn't use them and wouldn't give them back ... while poor Craig had to sit alone for lack of seating, and Michael and Cindy were placed within waving distance. This is hardly the Himalaya's fault, but a word to parents with toddlers in a pusher who are chair stealerers - you are not cool. Luckily Mike had the presence of mind to whip an outside chair inside so Craig was able to rejoin the circle.

My fuscram finally arrived, with a little pot of what we confirmed was Nuttelex, long after my coffee was drained. I was ready to use 'hunger is the best sauce' to devour my meal with gusto, but it needed a bit more sauce than that. The fuscram was on the bland side, and I was glad of the acidic tomatoes to liven things up. The tofu was chunky and mostly intact, meaning that the large pieces were untouched by the mushrooms and therefore relatively unflavoured. It was presented on some good but not outstanding bread, and all in, the meal was not what it was cracked up to be (Emily swears it was better before .... but I think Lisa's description of her own homemade version will lead to me asking for her catering services!)

Kristy's choice - onion, baby spinach and tomato on toast with a white-bean (?) spread went down well, and I rather think that the fuscram would have benefitted from some of the bright veggies on her plate.

I was more than ready for my biscuit (when I asked for it to come to the table, what I really meant was: you'd better not have sold the last one in the jar because I paid for it 40 minutes ago). I had originally intended to save it for later and leave all my chocolate-in-my-tummy space free for the later trip to the Chocolate Mill, but the fuscram experience demanded rectification. Oaty, sticky, a little bit chocolatey, and very nice - but not better than I've had at potlucks.

Kristy got a pretty damn good-lookin' pastry - can't say how it tasted, but the pastry looked flaky and the fruit juicy. Cindy and Michael ordered a danish - I'm not sure if it's the same as below - but they gave it rave reviews so it's on my list for next time.

After a trip to the markets - where we saw some honest to god Deliverance style families who stared in a spooky slackjawed toothless way at us - we drove to the Chocolate Mill, some 15 minutes out of Daylesford and again, talked up by Emily as offering a hot chocolate that was more chocolate than liquid.

I was pleased to see that, like the Himalaya, the Chocolate Mill clearly marks what is vegan in both blocks and the individual gourmet pieces. The effect is slightly reduced by large signs on every available surface saying something like "no manners = no service, for adults and children". Sounds like they've had some issues in the past ... but I'm not sure that -worthy signs are the way to go.

I tried a little pair of cherry filled lip-shaped dark chocolates and a little mint leaf (no photos; they just didn't live that long). They were made with quality ingredients and it was great to have a number of vegan options available in the fancy cabinets as well as in the standard dark blocks.

The dark blocks came in different degrees of intensity, which Michael is working his way upwards through over here.

The sun wasn't conducive to hot chocolates, but nonetheless Lidia and I were unable to let it go and shared the dark chocolate-soy version, also helpfully labelled (Bec and Craig didn't have as much luck with the vegan milkshakes; and someone overheard the staff commenting that it was little more than flavoured soy milk. Well make it differently then or don't offer it!).

The hot chocolate came in lovely organic handle-less bowls, encouraging a very wintery cupping to sip. The foam was thick and required satisfactory amounts of stirring before we saw the liquid below. It was made with a proper chocolate base and the amount of thick melted un-syrupy chocolate at the bottom was very gratifying. Lidia and I are very proud about the lack of fighting between us to slurp the bottom.

Satiated and satisfied, we piled back into the cars for the trip back home. Despite the improvements that could be made at Himalaya, and the excellent standards at the Chocolate Mill which are on par with but not exceeding that of Melbourne choclatiers, how marvellous that in regional Victoria there are a number of businesses that happily serve and promote vegan options. There aren't many regional areas that could say this, and I'm sure to return for more.

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