Monday, November 23, 2009

More lemon in my meringue please, or: Tart'n'Round, Northcote on a Friday night

My ability to consume Tart'n'Round Cherry Bliss and Peanuty Caramel chocolate balls is second to none. To none! Having been well behind the eight-ball on this one, with Kristy, Cindy and Michael, Johanna and Steph all having visited already, I went to the Tart'n'Round cafe in Northcote with the lovely Miss Jose.

We started with chocolate soyshake, which was made of ickysoy (*a technical term), was not very chocolately at all, and had one huge floating chunk of soycream with almost condensed chocolate flakes in it. Given that a good whizz of So Good or Vitasoy chocolate or vanilla soy milk, with some So Good soycream, makes a pretty thick and cocoaey soyshake, I couldn't drink more than a few sips of this one.

Our mains were an improvement, especially Miss Jose's. She had the vegie burger which came on some flat bread (I think because it was gluten free), and was filled with diced veggies. It wasn't really a burger but more of a veggie mix, but we rated this one.

My lasagne was also nice, although a little too potatoey for me. I couldn't really taste any different vegetables; the layers seemed quite squasyh, perhaps leading to squashification of individual flavours. Nonetheless, it was hearty and enjoyable.

Knowing that I am not a cream-liker, I bypassed the Black Forest cake, and another very creamy looking cakey thing, and ordered the lemon meringue for dessert to share. It looked fantastic - heaps of whippy cream and a homemade pastry cup. I chose choc-orange soycream to go along with it, and I am happy to say that the soycream was seriously good, with a lovely soft - but not soft serve soft - texture and a very well balanced, un-Jaffa-like flavour.

Upon some digging into the meringue. we discovered that the cream on top descended about 6/8 down the shortcrusty pastry cup, which was pretty diappointing given that the lemon part underneath was fabulous. Smooth and tartly sweet, it was our mutually-agreed favourite bit. After a couple of bites I could clearly taste Nuttelex in the whippy cream, which was offputting (and I have a terrible palate, as if I 'd been a two pack a day moker for 30 years. At a recent ill-begotten trip to the Vegie Bar where a few of us were served the dairy and eggy chocoate cake instead of the vegan one, when everyone else could taste the animal products, I was blissfully unaware). The pastry crust was dry and crumbly; perhaps a result of it being gluten-free, but enough to cause sticking-in-the-back-of-the-throat coughing. We left quite a bit of it which was sad as we knew that Tart'n'Round is rightly famous for its ridiculously delicious desserts.

So, it was hard to reconcile my passionate, greedy love of the Tart'n'Round chocolate balls with the just-slightly-off dishes I tried at the cafe. That said, eveything was nice and the service friendly; I just think it still needs a few tweaks. You can't help but respect a company that is vegan, wheat and gluten free, and I hope that the cafe, in its excellent location and with a store of ready-made fans, really takes off.

Followers, or: hey hey

I tend not to officially follow blogs; I just read the ones I like. So I'm also kinda slow off the mark at noticing my own followers (I feel so important saying that!).

I just noticed I have a few who I don't recognise, so hiya, and in the word of Patsy, yeah, cheers, thanks a lot.

Togg, or: Tofegg, or: Eggfu, or: Tegg

When I was a Little T, my family always called eggs 'oggs'. In fact, Mrs T still does. I don't know why; perhaps it was a nod to our Cornish heritage, or just one of those family words that passes into lore. Nonetheless, it was oggs.

And here, I present: Togg.

Readers will know that I am much more in favour of shoppering and eatering than cookering, and my skills in the kitchen reflect my preferences. Today, however, as I ruminated in a very boring gym class about what to have for dinner, a recipe popped into my head unbidden and complete, and it was Curried Togg Salad Sammywich.

I don't crave eggs, and even though I enjoyed them, I certainly can't abide how they get to be fried, scrambled, poached or boiled on a breakfast plate. But I was immeasurably happy to recreate an egg salad sandwich, a pregan standby and especially welcome on white bread.

This is what you'll need: (plus some soy milk)

Mush up some tofu in a bowl and sprinkle some curry powder though it. I think that you can't really get away from using something to flavour the tofu, but I guess you could use stock cubes if you wanted to. I used a little too much powder, and next time will make it a less flourescent shade of orangey-yella. Splash a little soy milk round to help it stick together, and lightly warm the mixture in a frying pan just to kick it off.

In a bowl - the same one if you like to minimise washering up - mix up some vegan mayo and mustard. Choose whichever you like; I'm a fan of chunky grainy, in-ya-face mustard, but I also whizzed in some Frency Dijon.

I added some spring onion, because it was on hand and seemed appropriate.

Combine the mustardy-mayo mix and the tofu mixture. You have Togg! I chopped my lettuce and stirred through, but you could also keep the Togg separate and layer it on top of lettuce.

And voila, Curried Togg Salad Sammywich.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Eating good things in a good place, or: The Moroccan Soup Bar.

To use a whole lot of non-vegan phrases, what really gets my goat; what really irritates the monkey on my back; and what puts a bee in my bonnet, is restaurant reviews who say something like: “Even though it was vegetarian, it was really good”; or: “Even meat lovers will agree this vegetable dish was tasty”; or “For a vegetarian restaurant, the food is great”; or “I’m a total idiot with no imagination and deadened tastebuds” .. oh, that was me translating what those kind of writers really mean.

It was with great annoyance that I read a couple of such reviews of the Moroccan Soup Bar, a vegetarian, alcohol-free venue on St Georges Road. Not only did the Moroccan Soup Bar’s hefty reputation precede it on my first ever visit, making me envious of the food which inspired the rave reviews I had read, but I like a restaurant with a bit of grunt. And by grunt I mean ethics.

The Moroccan Soup Bar is run with some down-to-earth principles about eating local food; employing women who can benefit from the experience and training; and not charging the bloody earth (or using plastic containers for the stream of take-away orders that file in and out. People bring their own, which can lead to the amusing sight of two large empty vodka bottles being carried in; for what, I’m not sure).

I was not entirely ready for the onslaught of patrons and queue-jumpers who alighted from the 112 tram and teleported themselves to outside the restaurant at 5:55pm. I had heard you had to be speedy to snare a table, and was able to stake my claim while I waited for the others to arrive. with some judicious application of the hip'n'shoulder.

The verbal menu at the Moroccan Soup Kitchen, delivered by staff while you sip sweet, gently minty tea, is designed to allow for discussion between waiter and eater. Buzz and my dining companions were old hands and wisely counselled us to forgo hearing the a la carte menu and just go for the $20 banquet.

I also like a restaurant where when I say that I am vegan, the response is “That’s fine”, and nothing else. We know what you want, we can make it, it will be delivered to you. Done!

The entrée plate (mine was separate and generous) contained a hummus base with smaller dips and similar pastes surrounding it, with pickled carrot and pita bread. It was a lovely cold plate for a hot day, with a soft and runny hummus and some excellent antipasto pieces.

My entree plate - bright and beautiful

The mains arrived in a flurry of bowls, five in total of which four were vegan. Score!

A potatoey curry with saffronny rice.

Vegetable chunks.

The rices were cooked with individual flavourings and the slightly baked, tomatoey one (with eggplants perched on top) was a little bit crunchy and a whole lotta good. My favourite rice was cooked with tumeric and saffron, and came with some simply cooked brown lentils.

Brown lentils and yellow rice.

Incredibly soft, sliding eggplant with fresh salad.

Desserts were a little oasis of hot nights in the desert. The vegan option was a beautifully soft and squidgy piece of Turkish Delight, which reminded me all over again of how much I like it.

Puffy powdery Turkish Delight.

... and with bite marks.

The sweets were accompanied by thick, goopy, sweetened black gold coffee poured from a brass coffee pot, which was more strong caffeine that I’m used to but which I shotted to get into the spirit of things.

Full and content, only $20 per person poorer, and with plans to return with our own plastic containers for takeaway soon, we enjoyed not only the simple, unpretentious and satisfying food, but we also felt like we had had ‘an experience’, and that we’d done something good.

The end.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Dear ShoeSellers Betts, Novo and Zu: I Want To Shop

I wrote to the Shoe Elves about their sneaky practice of slipping leather quarterlining into shoes that are otherwise all synthetic and vegan-ok, but the force of my tantrum and the flood of my tears as I rejected pair after pair of shoesies that I wanted to wear to weddings, parties, anything, was not enough.

So I wrote to their bosses at various shoesie emporia.


I would like to bring to your attention an issue about the labelling of some shoes in your stores.

As a vegan I do not use any animal products, including leather, and I am always pleased to find a wide range of synthetic shoes in your stores which look great and suit my needs. However, I have noticed that a number of shoes which state that they are made from all synthetic or manmade materials have leather quarterlining, which is not disclosed on the shoe.

It may be that product disclosure laws only require manufacturers to state the composition of the main lining material, but for people like me who avoid leather and suede it is terribly frustrating to discover that an apparently animal-free pair of shoes in fact has leather quarterlining.

I urge you to contact your manufacturers and suppliers and request that they use non-leather quarterlining on shoes that are otherwise all synthetic. As well as broadening your market it would ensure that the actual components of the shoes match the product disclosure, and bring consistency to the labelling of your shoes.

I look forward to hearing from you,

Yours sincerely,

Miss T
Shoe Enthusiast and Lover of All Things Shiny

Monday, November 2, 2009

Letter to Madison magazine -

Dear Madison,

Thank you, thank you for your feature on the animal rescue organisation PetRescue. Anyone fortunate enough to share their home with an animal knows the joy that connection can bring, yet so many companion animals are killed each year, sometimes abandoned or abused by humans, or dumped from pet shops when their cuteness factor expires.

Pet shops that sell animals are responsible not only for many of the thousands of unnecessary animal deaths each year, but for the cruel puppy mill industry which provides a never-ending stream of puppies and kittens for their windows, most of whom will not find homes and will be put down once past their ‘use-by’ . I urge all Madison readers to boycott pet shops, and when looking for their next animal friend, to bypass the shopping mall and look to a rescue organisation instead.

It’s wonderful to see a magazine such as Madison highlight these serious and heartbreaking issues.

Yours with thanks,

Miss T