Vegans of Melbourne: I'm letting the cat out of the bag. We've tried to keep it our dirty little secret for far too long. Miaow.
There's a little place where things are cheap. Cheap, tasty and vegan. Cheap and plentiful. Cheap and delicious. Really, really cheap.
La Panella in High Street, Preston, has long been the northern vegans' secret stash of cheap-as-chips bakery treats. Doughnuts, pies, sausage rolls, apple slices, adorable little jam tarts in two flavours, coffee scrolls, pull-apart fruit buns ... no animal products, no fuss, no sky high prices.
Buzz and recently 'found' ourselves nearby (read: I planned our route that day specifically so we'd be passing by at lunchtime. I make no excuses and feel no shame) and the drizzly, rainy day meant that we ended up eating in the car like deros, or Biggest Loser contestants in their application video. Awesome.
Another word about cheapness (cheapery?). I'm not sure if it's the combination of the state of Preston real estate or La Panella's devotion to Supreme Master TV, or perhaps both, but La Panella's prices remind me of 1986 when lemonade icypoles cost 10 cents from the tuckshop, or 1993 when you could get a little paper bag full of Mates from the milk bar at the bus stop for 20 cents, or 1996 when I could (pregan) get a packet of sour cream and chives chips and a Freddo Frog for $1 from the canteen. Last year I took in doughnuts to work for my birthday, and fed 25 people on $17. As the Birthday Cake Monitor, I can confirm that the usual birthday cake required was about $35, so a win for vegan eatering there!
So back in the car, Buzz and I probably didn't need a pie and a doughnut each and a sausage roll to share. Shut up please. But my goodness... I'd never had one of the pies before and was more than taken aback at the TVP recreation of gristle and mince - Buzz so much so that he closely examined a number of little lumps in minute detail before declaring himself satisfied. Sweet!
The pie pastry is a little wholemealy and I have to admit that I don't really remember what a meat (bone/sinew/gristle/innards/bones) pie tastes like, but I know that this one made me think about cold days at the footy which is always a positive sign of pie authenticity. The inside was saucey-gravy-like and quite chewy, and I had to stifle an inner urge to start screaming about white maggots and yelling "Baaaaaaallll!" (I do that at the footy anyway; this was just me accessing my inner bogan).
The sausage roll (that's a sossy roll to you) was lighter coloured inside with a lightly chewy texture enclosed in flaky pastry. Unlike the Fry's version which is more pig-in-blanket, this one is all mushy and incorporated. Devastatingly, we hadn't rationed our tomato sauce properly and were left a little unsauced for this one (the picture above is of Buzz's half. When I said that "we" failed to ration the sauce, I meant that "he" failed to ration the sauce and that "I" subsequently missed out), but I found it lightly spiced with a well textured sausagey part, and fantastic flakiness.
And a choc jam doughnut ... let's face it, doughnuts rock. Boiling hot from the fryer with sweet soft dough, the constant expectation of an explosion of dribbling jam at any moment and a cool, sickly sweet icing top to sink your teeth through with purdy lil' sprinkles on the side, they are the best kind of junk food - there's absolutely nothing redeemable about them at all (c'mon. We've all pretended that pizza is bread and veggies and that chips are potato). This one was everything I remembered about them, including the mild sense of regret coupled with a strange sense of sugar-rush satisfaction at the end.
A number of other bloggers have expressed their heartfelt and humble appreciation of the mighty La Panella: Pip, Lisa, and Cindy and Michael amongst others (I'll just note here that Michael is quite right when he says that Cindy's homemade sossy rolls are better; Buzz believes the same and even rates Cindy's over the meaty version). I strongly suggest that you read these blog as well to convince yourselves that I am not over-exaggerating the wonder of cheap, plentiful, vegan bakery goodness.