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32. Surviving in Bulgaria

2014-02-05 PS3

You might have wondered why my last entry was written using a tablet. Reason was that I was in Borovets, Bulgaria on a week’s holiday, celebrating my Hubby’s 40th Birthday.

The big day isn’t until March, but we wanted to make sure that we didn’t miss the snow since we were mainly going for the snowboarding. Ha! They’d had the worst snow in years so only the red runs were open. Fine for him but terrifying for a novice like me! Still, I managed to survive with only a bruised bottom and a bit on a bruise on my arm…

I was worried about what the food was going to be like, especially since we were going half board at the hotel we were staying at. I had visions of it not even being veggie friendly, let alone vegan friendly. Fortunately I was pleasantly surprised. First off however, I will describe the food I had on the plane.

For our Honeymoon back in May last year we flew with Thompson and since it was a special occasion, we upgraded to Premier Class. At the time I was only veggie but since I was offered the option of a vegan meal, I took it out of curiosity. At the time I was SO glad that I was “only” veggie because basically flying both inward and outbound I got a vegan hot dish, and everything else was the same as everyone else’s meal: 2 x cheeses; pack of cheese crackers; 2 x dairy pudding pots; and a bread roll with dairy butter…! And since the flight was around nine hours we got a snack later on. I got handed an egg butty heading out and a cheese and tomato hot roll coming home! Needless to say I complained on my customer service form, not that I ever heard back.

Anyhow, we flew with Thomas Cook this time and I have to say that I was rather impressed. I got the same meal both inward and outbound but it was tasty so I didn’t mind. I was given a vegetable tagine consisting of some sort of squash, red kidney beans, tomatoes and mushrooms, along with a side of vegetable couscous. I also got two wholemeal rolls, a pack of vegan friendly marg, an apple, a little pack of Sun-maid raisins, a pack of water crackers and a mini pack of Marmite. Lovely! (Well, apart from the Marmite, bleurgh!)

Back to the hotel, we stayed at the Festa Winter Palace. I can’t be bothered writing a big review on the accommodation but it was nice, spacious and for the price we would recommend it to someone with the right budget. I can however be bothered to review the food in detail:

Breakfast was a bit of a chore as the choices were the same every day. Mostly there was bacon, frankfurters, scrambled egg, boiled egg, cereals with cow’s milk and also French toast…but luckily there was also normal toast, jam and beans. To be truthful, seven days of beans on toast or jam on toast was a bit of a tedious challenge. There was also fresh fruit so I enjoyed a juicy orange for the first two days, but then they started to add bananas to the fruit bowl. Anyone who knows me will know that I’m a bit banana-phobic, so I was unable to touch any of the fruit after witnessing this horrific scene!

Lunchtimes weren’t included in our package so most days I took a vegan bar up to the slopes whilst the Hubby took a chocolate bar. One day we had chips at one of the slope side restaurants. Another day I was desperate for a change so I gambled and ordered a “vegetarian burger”. The gamble didn’t pay off as the burger came and was basically a mass of feta cheese moulded into a patty and topped with a cheese slice in a bun with some salad. The waitress didn’t speak very good English (and who can blame her) and I hatehatehate to see food go to waste – so I ate it. Luckily I have only been eating a completely 100% vegan diet for just over a month now (been totally vegan at home for months now, but have previously struggled at business lunches and people’s houses) so I saw no ill effects. BUT I did feel pretty guilty. I also have to admit that I caved and had a couple of hot chocolates because I was cold and at the time felt that I needed a hot drink. I had already learned the hard way that the black coffee was pretty gross, however once I realised that they served hot wine, I stuck to that in the hope that it wasn’t made with any gross fining agents.  Although I feel bad for slipping up, it has made me more determined to do a better job of being vegan from now on – I don’t want to be a “transitioning vegan” forever! I do think though that I need to persevere with black coffee until I develop a taste for it, it would prevent a lot of trouble during refreshment breaks.

Teatime was the easiest meal to get through; in fact I did pretty well. The Hubby was sick of the sight of tough pork and chewy chicken by the end of the holiday, whereas I was quite enjoying my evening meals. There was always at least plain pasta or a vegetable rice on the buffet and every night they served a versatile sauce made of pureed aubergine, tomatoes, sweet potato and peppers. There was also plenty of salad: green peppers; black olives; beefy tomatoes; sweetcorn; red onion; jalapeños; and white beans. They also served something called “Royal Salad” consisting of raw carrot, cauliflower and white cabbage in a tangy vinaigrette which was surprisingly flavoursome. I had no problem combining ingredients to create nice vegan friendly meals. The only downside was that most of the food was served lukewarm. I’m not sure I would make a very good raw vegan as I was really beginning to crave a plateful of hot steamy food.

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My cravings were however fulfilled on the last day of our holiday. We booked a trip sightseeing round the Bulgarian Capital, Sofia. I had researched a vegan friendly bar and restaurant on www.happycow.net , so when the group moved on to visit a shopping centre we slipped away for a spot of lunch. My dish sounds really boring – basmati rice with onions, peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, cashews, ginger and avocado – but it was piping hot and fantastically balanced. The Hubby bless him has been going around telling people that the best meal he has all week was at a vegan restaurant, so I had to remind him that a) it was a normal restaurant that happened to also cater for vegans and b) that his dish had bacon and cheese in it!!! Still, I really appreciated him missing out on a shopping trip to go somewhere I wanted visit.

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If anyone is likely to visit Sofia, the restaurant was called “Cabra Natural Foods and Bar”. The food was fabulous and super cheap, and the girl who served us was warm, friendly, efficient and spoke good English. Also the local beer was lovely, even though I’m not a lager person. 

They are on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cabra-Natural-Foods-Bar/164478763618155) but since most of the posts are in Bulgarian, I have to admit that I haven’t bothered to like the page…

So there we have it, my vegan triumphs and failures whilst visiting Bulgaria! I’m off to Germany, France and Hungary soon so I’ll have to swot up on my Vegan survival tactics – any advice would be greatly received!

 Flash-Gordonette…x

 

 

 

 

 

 

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21. Vegan las Amsterdam!

So last week I spent 3 days in Amsterdam on a work related trip.

Fortunately I randomly got upgraded to the Executive floor of the hotel I was staying in.

Unfortunately I have really bad vertigo at the moment and wasn’t really able to enjoy it L. No prostitutes or Lazy Js for me.

However, ill or not I was determined to try out some of the local vegan haunts. My hometown is so crap for anything vegan / veggie and so I wasn’t about to miss out because of a bit of dizziness!

PS station

Amsterdam Centraal Station

PS moar bikesPS bikes

Sounds daft, but I was honestly amazed at just how many bikes there were!

Terrazen Centre:

One night I managed to pull myself together enough to go for a little walk to find a vegan cafe I had found on www.happycow.net

The café was called the Terranzen Centre ( http://www.terrazencentre.com) and had some mixed reviews if I’m honest. But a bit of research showed that the biggest problem people had was the slow service but everyone reported how great the food was. I don’t mind waiting for good food, so armed with my e-reader, off I trotted!

The café was fun to find, tucked up a narrow little side street – I almost walked past it. It was cold outside so it was a relief to walk into the cosy friendly atmosphere of the café. I was welcomed warmly by both the chef/owner and the waitress. The waitress was clocking off but she still took the time to wish me a nice meal and night. I ordered a hot chocolate soya milk and a crispy tempeh burger which the chef made whilst singing along to the same reggae track which seemed to be played on continuous loop the whole time I was there. I couldn’t help but smile inside!

   PS terranzen counter PS terranzen

The hot chocolate was very nice and I enjoyed sipping it while reading my book. I had just finished it when my burger arrived. I’d never had tempeh before, but based on my experience I would definitely order it again. It was indeed crispy, and there were several slices placed on-top of a salad on-top of an extremely yummy brown sub roll. The salad consisted of lettuce, spring onion little sprouted things (like mung beans but smaller), sesame seeds, chunks of a soft fruit-like thing that I didn’t recognise and a really tasty sauce. Despite my ignorance towards some of the more “exotic” ingredients, everything worked really well. The burger was crunchy, yet saucy and fresh without ever being dry or drab in taste or texture. Had I been well, I may have asked exactly what I was eating, but what is life without the odd little mystery?

PS choco soyaPS Tempeh burger

I guess the food did take a little while to arrive at the table, but I was having such a nice time reading and drinking my drink that I didn’t mind at all. However the chef still came over and apologised for the wait and explained that he likes to take his time making sure the food was perfect. Mission accomplished, my good man!

Maoz:

http://www.maozusa.com/restaurants/locations/amsterdam

Why the hell do we not have one of these in the U.K???!!!

O.k., so when I was an omnivore, I loved nothing more than a big fat donner kebab with a ton of salad and dirty sauce on it, especially after a drunken night out. Now that I don’t eat meat, such a takeaway is obviously out of the question – but my goodness is this the next best thing!

Maoz is basically a falafel bar. I have had falafel in swanky Lebanese, Greek and Turkish restaurants, but I can safely say that this was the tastiest falafel I have ever had.

PS falafel

Like a donner, I still had the salad (which happened to be all you can eat), I still had the pitta and I still had lots of dirty sauce (chilli, coriander salsa and tahini sauce in fact!).
However, instead of strips of a greasy sheep/Alsatian/retired race-horse combo, I had 6 perfect crispy little balls of falafel ♥
 bliss.

The salad was fantastic as well. Choices included cauliflower, couscous, tomato, cucumber, aubergine, onion etc etc. There was coleslaw and various mayonnaises too but I avoided these due to the dairy content.

PS falafel counter copy

And the best part? My uber “kebab” came to a grand total of €4.90. Bargain!

A quick search of the web reveals that there are plenty more vegan digs in Amsterdam… I think I need to find another excuse to visit!

 

Flash-Gordonette…x

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3. Vegan Mac and Cheeze

Mac n Cheeze

Just a quick blog before I clean my ratties’ cage out!

I just made mac and cheeze for my tea following this recipe:

http://www.fettlevegan.com/4/post/2013/08/mac-and-cheeze.html?

and oh my goodness was it scrummy! So “cheesy” and satisfying, and took barely 15 minutes to whiz up. Perfect after a hard day’s work!

I had some breadcrumbs leftover from my vegan fishcakes so I sprinkled them on top before grilling for a few minutes, then served with cauli and broccoli. I am so full and content now that I’d be quite happy just sitting on the sofa feeling smug all night….

…but my smelly little fluff-balls are calling!

Flash-Gordonette…..x

 

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