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♥ Vegan Las Vegas – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

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So, the end of August was my birthday. But not just any birthday, it was the big 3-oh! Can’t believe that I’ve been on this planet for 3 decades!!!
(And what’s even more unbelievable is that I ate animals for 2.5 of those decades 🙁 Still, shows it’s never too late to change for the better!)

Anyway, in order to celebrate, my lovely husband had planned a semi-surprise trip to Las Vegas. I ate sooo much amazing food whilst I was there, most of my clothes are too tight now!
#noregrets.

A lot of people had “warned” me that I’d really struggle out there… but they were so wrong, just check out Happy Cow and the PETA “Eating Vegan at Fast Food Chain Restaurants” guidance.

Not all the food was great though, so I have split my review into the Good, the Bad and the Ugly:

The Good

Nacho Daddy
I’ll start with the best, Nacho Daddy was SO good that we went twice!
Although this Mexican restaurant is a bit of a carnist’s dream, it has an entirely separate vegan menu and it is aaaaamazzzing! They even do vegan queso and sour cream <3
On the first visit I went for the quesadillas and a side of chips. And on the second visit I went for the loaded nachos. Holy guacamole, my mouth is watering just thinking about it.
They also do tacos, burritos and fajitas. In fact I think the only thing that was missing was a chimichanga (my absolute favourite).
They were open until 1am as well – making it a perfect stop after a few drinks on Fremont Street or after seeing a show.

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Loaded vegan nachos

Quesadila

Quesadila

Ronald’s Donuts
Ronald’s Donuts is a little place that not-surprisingly serves donuts as well as coffees.
What was surprising was that over a third of the donuts were vegan! And it was here that I lost my bear-claw virginity. I also had a gorgeous raspberry and a custard donut. They were REALLY good. But it was a REALLY bad idea to go on the rides at Circus Circus afterwards, eeeeeurgh!
I thought the donuts were very reasonably priced as well – cheaper than a Krispy Crème with the added bonus of being cruelty free.

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Bear Claw!

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Custard donut

Pop Up Pizza
Pop Up Pizza is a little pizza bar located in the Plaza hotel. The plastic furniture and casino surroundings don’t make for a romantic meal setting, but its well worth a visit. Or, they deliver if you’d rather eat in the comfort of your hotel room.
They have various vegan toppings – including Daiya cheese- that you can use to create your own (massive) pizza, or if you are passing by, you can pick up just a slice or two of their “Soho” which is vegan mozzarella, spinach, roasted mushrooms, artichokes, and roasted bell peppers. Bellissimo!

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The Soho

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Komol Restaurant
Another place which is good for pleasing carnists and vegans alike is the Komol Thai restaurant.
They have a really extensive selection of tofu and mock meats – including vegan shrimp which I added to my veggie chow mein (made with rice noodles). It was sooooo tasty and I really like the fact that you are asked how spicy you would like your order. The portions were mega generous too – I had my leftovers doggy bagged up so I could give them to a homeless person (there are a lot of people sleeping rough in LV).

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Chow Mein with rice noodles and faux shrimp

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Red 8 (located in the Wynn Hotel)
The Wynn and Encore hotels are awesome for vegans. Every restaurant has a separate vegan menu!
Red 8 is located in the Wynn and offers an Asian style menu. It is a little pricey but the food is very good and the restaurant makes a great location for a special date night.
I had the Gardein Cashew Chick’n with Celery, Mushrooms and Ginger. The Chick’n was so realistic I had to get the hubby to try it and convince me that they hadn’t messed up my order!

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Gardein Cashew Chick’n with Celery, Mushrooms and Ginger

Rainbows End
Rainbows End is a fantastic vegan and veggie store with a café attached. I spent most of my spending money in here! Unfortunately the café was closed when I visited but luckily they have a chiller full of burritos, hummus pots, potato salad and other yummy treats to take away. I went for the burrito and also bought a ton of treats to bring home, including jerky, blue tortilla chips, Dandies marshmallows, Chao cheese and some Tofurkey sausages (luckily the aircon in the room was so cold that everything kept!)

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Shop front

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Burrito

Einstein Bros Bagels
So no, the vegan friendly bagels here weren’t the most interesting food I ate during my visit, but what vegan doesn’t love PB&J?! (Except maybe one with a peanut allergy…)
I used this site to check out what was safe, there are quite a few options, including hummus 🙂
Don’t be afraid to order what you want if that particular combination isn’t given as an option on the menu.

PB&J

PB&J

Chipotle
I never thought for a second that a fast food joint like Chipotle would have a vegan option! But they do and it was yummy! I had a tofu sofritas taco with guac and I loved every second of it.20160830_135017 20160830_135025

Amorino Gelato
These gelato bars are actually all over the place (including Europe) and there is more than one in Vegas itself. But the first time that I ever saw one and realised that they did vegan sorbet was at the Las Vegas North Premium Outlets. They offer various different vegan flavours, including pistachio and blood orange and ginger (the two that I picked) as well as mango, chocolate and banana.
Pricey but definitely made trainer shopping with the Hubby more worthwhile!

Blood orange & ginger and pistachio

Blood orange & ginger and pistachio

American Airlines
So, American Airlines didn’t provide me with the best meals of my life, but the food I received was at least vegan and was neither bad nor ugly. In fact it tasted pretty good!
For dinner I receive a yummy veggie tagine as the main, with a fresh salad on the side, a bread roll, a nice vegan marg (wish I could remember the name – I also had it on my trip to Kos), a jam, some crackers and a reasonable sized bottle of water. Unfortunately the pudding was the dreaded fruit salad (I HATE melon, good people of the world – please use your imagination and stop offering me this as a dessert!!! I want cake dammit!), but otherwise I was very impressed.

Breakfast was some mini hash browns, mushrooms, tomatoes and spinach. Again, not gourmet but I did enjoy it.
Such a shame that we only flew with this company in one direction!

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American Airlines vegan meal

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American Airlines vegan breakfast

Starbucks
Starbucks is Starbucks….. but as far as I am aware, we can’t get the infamous “pink drink” in the UK! Order a Strawberry and Acai Refresher – but ask for it to be made with coconut milk instead of water. This was such a delicious treat 🙂 probably for the best that I can’t get one over here. All that sugar, I’d have no teeth left!

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The Pink Drink!

The Bad

Wendys
Hahah, oh Wendy’s!
I followed PETA’s advice and asked for a “veggie sandwich” – which I thought was going to be a bread bun filled with a bit of salad and pickles. I had planned to fill it with French fries to make a chip butty…
The lady who worked here was so super lovely, she said she would make the sandwich herself to make sure that the new person “didn’t mess it up”. She did mention that the tomato and pickles would be wrapped up in lettuce… but I hadn’t twigged that the lettuce was substituting the bread!
Most.tasteless.lunch.ever! To be fair, I could also have had a plain jacket potato or a salad… but maybe I’ll just not bother with Wendy’s again unless it’s an emergency!

Wendy's

Wendy’s

Ihop
I saw that Ihop did grits and so I told the hubby that we could go there for breakfast. But I couldn’t find them anywhere on the menu!!! So I made do with hash brown, an un-buttered English muffin and some avocado. The avocado was beautiful, but I was paranoid that I could taste burnt meat juice on the hash brown. It didn’t look like it had been cooked on a dirty meaty grill but I just couldn’t enjoy it.

Hash brown, avocado and English muffin

Hash brown, avocado and English muffin

107 Sky Lounge
I got a little bit tipsy when we went to the 107 Sky Lounge in the Stratosphere hotel (where we were saying). I was getting a little peckish whilst looking at the stunning views when I saw that they had hummus and lavosh on the menu…. (Let’s forget that I’m pretty certain that I have a chickpea intolerance!) I ordered and was well excited to see that it came served in a Martini glass! Classy as f*ck!!!! But my excitement was short-lived when I saw that the lavosh bread came with cheese on it 🙁 So I sat there, in a swanky bar eating a Martini glass full of hummus with a teaspoon – not my finest moment!

Hummus cocktail :')

Hummus cocktail :’)

The Ugly

British Airways
We flew with British Airways for the journey home. This airline claims that “your sense of taste changes when you are flying at 30,000 feet” and that “After conducting extensive research we have improved the food and wine we offer, so it tastes even better in the air than it does on the ground.”

Well I don’t think for a second that anyone tested the vegan option before selling it – either in the air or on the ground!!! Bleurgh.
I was given a tray that was marked as vegan, but the main hot dish was labelled as being lacto-ovo vegetarian… also there was a carton of milk for my tea and a salad dressing that contained milk as an ingredient. Good job I am suspicious of everything and checked! So I called the air steward over and asked her if I had received the correct meal. She said “yes, it’s marked as vegan”. To which I replied “no – it’s labelled as vegetarian”. So it got taken away and brought back to me and I was told “It was just the main meal and the milk that wasn’t vegan so we swapped the meal and removed the milk”.
Err no, the salad dressing?!
Seriously, I could have eaten that – what if I was allergic?!

So, alongside my dry salad and cup of black tea, I got some veggies, some rice and some brown stuff. Controversially, I usually quite enjoy airplane food… but this had a really weird aftertaste to it. Not nice at all. And the dessert didn’t make up for the disappointment of the main – whilst everyone else chomped down on a piece of cheesecake, I got the usual crappy token fruit salad. Booooo.
I got excited when I saw breakfast consisted of a huge slab of tofu, spinach and potatoes. But again, there was a weird aftertaste and everything was coated in oil. Seriously, spinach is the wettest vegetable ever, why the heck did it need so much oil?!

Must do better, BA! If you need someone to give you some ideas and taste-test your offerings, drop me a line! :’)

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BA vegan meal

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BA Vegan breakfast

 

 

Whilst I’m still typing, I HAVE to give a mention to the following establishments:

Others:

Veggies House
I’m sooooo sad that we didn’t find the time to visit this place. The menu looks amazing and the reviews I read were really good. If we are lucky enough to visit Vegas again, we are 100% giving this eatery a try! If you’re into your mock meat, I definitely think Veggies House will be a winner!

Vegan Bites Bakery
Another place I’d really wanted to go to. I’d planned to make a stop for some cookies, or maybe a brownie. But after that bear claw I just didn’t fancy it 🙁 I regret it now!

Six Flags Magic Mountain
Ok, so 6 Flags Magic Mountain is most definitely not in Las Vegas. In fact, it is in Los Angeles. It’s a four hour drive away – 7 hours if you get stuck in a horrific traffic jam coming back like we did. BUT I think they deserve a mention for having a clearly labelled vegan option at the “Go Fresh Café” stand – AND ITS NOT SALAD!
I had some Gardein crispy tenders and fries (although I could have had fruit or baby carrots if I’d have preferred). I was well impressed! External food and drink isn’t allowed so I’d honestly thought I was going to starve to death 🙂 Good job Six Flags! I hope you continue to impress us by extending your menu!

 

So here we are at the end of my Las Vegas adventure! Still alive, not protein deficient and once again proving that it really isn’t that hard to remove cruelty from your plate 🙂

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Giant Harley

View from the hotel

View from the hotel

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Along the Strip

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

 

Flash-Gordonette…X

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♥ Dining in Düsseldorf

How awesome is Düsseldorf for vegans?! Seriously!

A couple of weeks ago I flew to Düsseldorf for a boring work meeting. Since it was a Friday I decided to stay on and fly the husband over for the weekend. Originally I had wanted to move onto Berlin, as it has recently been named the “vegetarian capital of the world”, but the flights were expensive so we decided to stay put.
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At first I was a little dubious. I mean Düsseldorf is beautiful and there is loads of amazing buildings and plenty to do… but it was hard to ignore all of the places selling fur, bratwursts and veal. Not to mention the millions of buttery looking bakeries.

But, a quick search on Google maps reassured me that I was not going to starve during my visit (seriously, search it!). There were so many fun and tasty places to try out that I think I must have put on a stone in weight! Worth it though ☺

Husband didn’t arrive in Düsseldorf until late on the Friday night, so we stayed at the Maritim hotel which is right next door to the airport. And what an amazing hotel it was! The room was lovely but even better was the choice of 5 restaurants and various bars downstairs.

The Maritim hotel website boasts about its vegan and vegetarian options (even the magazine in the room mentioned vegans) but unfortunately the Düsseldorf Airport branch doesn’t have many choices available. However the staff were very accommodating and went to a lot of trouble to make sure I was well fed.

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Vegans get a mention on the front cover of the Maritim hotel magazine!

We picked the Bistro “Bottaccio” restaurant as it seemed to have the most adaptable menu. After negotiating with the waitress I had a blood red tomato soup (served with bread and plenty of olive oil) followed by a very nice tofu Thai green curry with wild rice.  We were too full for dessert so we headed for the bar and had a few cheeky gin martinis instead, lovely! Overall it was a bit on the pricey side, but we accepted that we were a captive audience and just enjoyed the experience.

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Tomato soup

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Thai green curry

On the Saturday we skipped breakfast, jumped on the train and headed straight into Düsseldorf itself. After dumping our stuff at the hotel, we wandered around the shops and ended up at an amazing buffet style restaurant called Sattgrün. Husband was very reserved and just had a bowl of sweet potato and coconut soup (which was absolutely divine) whereas I went for the buffet and LOADED my plate full of seitan, tofu and vegetable dishes ♥ Every single thing I ate was so delicious that it brought a wee tear of happiness to my eyes. I REALLY wish we had a place like this at home.PS17

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Sattgrün

There are quite a few health shops in Düsseldorf. I visited two – Bio Park and Vita Nova. In Bio Park I just bought some crisps and an iChoc, Choco Cookie bar (which to be honest I can get at home). In Vita Nova I could have spent a million pounds but unfortunately I’d only brought a small suitcase… I got a white chocolate bar which to be honest was disgusting, but I also tried some cheeses I’ve never had before and some veggie bratwurst which were AMAZING. Also I had the best vegan sour cream I have ever tried – it was super realistic.

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Chilled vegan selection in Vita Nova

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Vita Nova – not everything was vegan but there was still a lot of choice

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You can get this in the UK, but sometimes you just fancy something familiar 😉

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Bratwurst, cheeze with tomato and basil, cheeze with mushroom (best thing ever), amazing sour cream and not so amazing white chocolate

All that shopping tired us out so we visited a gorgeous little coffee shop called Carrot Cake. I had a whacking great slice of stodgy pumpkin cake and Husband had a Halloween chocolate cake (with a red raspberry filling). We both had a latte which came with a cute little biscuit. Everything was to die for and in my opinion, ridiculously cheap! No wonder the place was full.

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Pumpkin cake

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Chocolate Halloween cake

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Oat milk latte

In the evening, despite the fact we weren’t particularly hungry, we paid a visit to a place called “What’s Beef”.  I know this doesn’t sound particularly vegan friendly, and perhaps it isn’t the best choice for the more sensitive vegan… BUT they do a veggie beet burger on a vegan bread bun with tomato, lettuce, cucumber, onion and homemade tomato sauce and it was gorgeous!!!  Especially since I asked for extra avocado on top. Win.

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On the Sunday we again skipped breakfast and enjoyed a lovely autumnal walk around the “posh” part of Düsseldorf. We were surprised to find that most of the shops were shut but luckily the weather was good so we enjoyed the fresh air and picturesque views. We cut through a shopping centre where the corridors were being used as a catwalk for some fur-clad models *vomit*. I managed to get myself punched in the face by one of said models – which Husband found hil-ar-ious!

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I was so traumatized that we were forced to head to Space Burger so I could recuperate! Like What’s Beef, this burger place also sells meat so won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. BUT, they have a separate menu for vegans with lots of choices! I went for a Mexican themed burger called “El Vegano” which comes with avocado, guacamole, salsa, faux cheese and nachos. I also had some fries and curry sauce on the side, it was bliss ♥

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Space Burger sign

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El Vegano!

Again, in the evening we were far from hungry but we couldn’t resist trying out What’s Beef’s sister company, “What’s Pizza”. This place does a “meatless Monday” but what really caught my attention was the option to have “vegan mozzarella” on my pizza! Unfortunately the mozzarella just turned out to be silken tofu, but it still worked really well with my mushroom, spinach, olive and chilli combo. The pizza bases were lovely as well – it was a joy to eat my crusts.

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It was very fortunate that we ate so much during our stay because on the Monday we headed straight to the airport where our flight ended up being delayed. Luckily our newly acquired fat reserves kept us going for the journey back, ha!

So, if Düsseldorf is this amazingly fantastic for vegans, I really really really can’t wait to pay Berlin a visit!

Bis zum nächsten Mal….

Flash-Gordonette…X

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♥ The Vegan Venue – Warrington

*20/06/2019 – Note that the Vegan Venue is now called “The Green Room”*

I live in Warrington, a town in the North West of England, almost halfway between Liverpool and Manchester. Warrington is famous for its Rugby team (the Warrington Wolves), steel wire and the famous song “Zombie” which was written (and performed) by the Cranberries, about the IRA bombing of Warrington in 1993.

Warrington however is not exactly on the map for being a vegan hotspot! But perhaps times are beginning to change… hooray!

I was so sad that I nearly cried when our first and only vegan restaurant, “Shambala” closed down. But today I nearly cried because I was so happy after visiting Warrington’s newest vegan joint, “The Vegan Venue”!

Rumours of this new takeaway / shop crept onto my Facebook page late last week and it didn’t take me long to discover that its ONLY 2 FREAKING MILES AWAY FROM MY HOUSE!!!! I cycle further than that to work! So today being Saturday, there was no way that I wasn’t going to pay a visit.

Placed in Padgate, The Vegan Venue is fairly easy to get to and has a sizeable car-park across the road. First impressions when you enter the building is that it’s CLEAN! Now I’m not saying that all vegan eateries are dirty (V-Revolution in Manchester for example is spotless). BUT, I’m sorry to say that are lot are grim. Not that mucky cutlery and sticky menus puts me off tasty cruelty free food….

Anyway, I wasn’t expecting much from such a new business (they’ve not even been open a week yet) but I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had a pretty impressive menu! (I’ve posted a photo of it below). They sell everything from fresh juice to “bacon” bagels to calzone to burgers, pies and wraps. They also have a daily specials board and a cabinet with the most gorgeous looking vegan cakes you have ever seen!

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So what did I go for? I chose the daily special – a huge, great, massive, big-as-my-head burrito (and my head is pretty big!) It was filled to the brim with rice, marinated “beef” strips, lettuce, tomato, courgette, black beans and freshly homemade guacamole.  It was deeeeeelicous!

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It’s huuuuuge!

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Serious, even my massive mouth couldn’t get around it!

I also bought a piece of orange and pistachio cake. OMG! Yet again it was huuuuuuuuge! And so amazingly, mouth-wateringly yummy.

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Drooling just looking at this photo! (Orange and pistachio cake)

AND I picked up a pack of ten acres crisps and a very nice vanilla Nespresso latte (would deffo recommend!)

One of the very best parts about the shop however was how lovely and kind the owners are :o)
(Not to mention how reasonable the prices are!)

I really hope all the vegans and veggies of Warrington and its surrounding areas make a special effort to make sure that this place does well. Would be great to see them be able to extend their opening hours and get permission to transform from a takeaway to a sit-down café!

So, massive thanks to The Vegan Venue! You made my Saturday :o)

Flash-Gordonette…x

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♥ Roaming round Romania

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I had to go to Romania with work the last week. When I think of Eastern European cuisine I (used to) think of rich meaty stews and hunks of flesh served with cabbage. However, I was pleased to learn that wasn’t necessarily the case in Bucharest.

Remus and Wolf

Remus and the Wolf

A fact I didn’t know – around 87% of the Romanian population are Orthodox Christians. What is the relevance of this? There are times of the year where Orthodox Christians undergo a strict fasting period which basically means they follow a vegan diet! (More information here). So although I found that most restaurants didn’t understand the term “vegan”, they knew exactly what I meant if I mentioned fasting! And in some cases there was even an extra menu dedicated to this.

Not everyone in Romania is oblivious to veganism however. Whilst I was there I visited one vegetarian restaurant called Barca which had a very extensive menu, entirely vegan apart from the occasional guest-appearance from honey. I had falafel with a chopped parsley salad and it was very tasty and light. The restaurant itself was also very clean and fresh-faced. I wish more UK vegan joints were like this!

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Falafel and parsley salad

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Inside

I also ordered takeout from a place called Biofresh. I had a salad consisting of courgette, tofu, dill, wheat germ and garlic with a dressing made from tofu, basil, pine nuts, olive oil and spices.  It sounds like such a simple meal but it was so delicious I was inspired to make my own variation when I got home. It was just a shame that nearly all of the desserts from these places contained honey (miere).

A non-veggie place I visited was a restaurant called “Caru’ cu Bere” (or “The Beer Wagon” in English). This place is one of the oldest beer houses in Bucharest and although it was a bit of a carnivore’s paradise, it was amazing! There were traditional dancers performing at regular intervals and it was heaving with people, even on a Wednesday night. I shared a loaf of bread with an aubergine dip and a traditional dip made from a variety of vegetables for starter, followed by a traditional vegetable stew with polenta for my main course. Both were hearty and delicious! I didn’t really have room for a pudding but then I got passed the “fasting menu” and discovered that they had egg and dairy free pancakes!!! Nom!

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Starter

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Main

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Pudding!!!

Dancing Romanian stylee!

Dancing Romanian stylee!

Should my Romanian hosts happen to stumble across this post, I would like to thank them wholeheartedly for looking after me so well and going to such lengths to ensure that I was happy and well fed! ♥

Flash_Gordonette…X

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♥ Lemon and poppy seed cupcakes

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Have you ever booked a weekend away and picked the hotel purely on the basis that it was in the same city as a café that sells vegan cupcakes…. only to find out that the café was sold 2 months’ earlier and now isn’t even vegetarian?!

That was my valentine’s weekend, haha! Aww well, we still had a lovely time 🙂

Anyway, hubby bought me a silicone cupcake kit for Christmas so I decided to christen it by making lemon and poppy seed cupcakes. I loosely based the recipe on this non-vegan version and I have to admit that I was pretty smug about the result! Seriously soft and fluffy but delightfully tangy and not too sweet… I ate 7 out of 12, whoops! And my favourite part? They rose! It might be pancake day today but these beauties were most definitely NOT vertically challenged!

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Super fluffy! ♥

Lemon and poppy seed cupcakes:

Ingredients (Makes 12):

  • 13/4  x cups self-raising flour
  • 1 x tbsp. slightly toasted poppy seeds*
  • 3/4  x cup sugar
  • Zest of 2 un-waxed lemons
  • 3 x tsp No-Egg  in 6 x tbsp. water  (whisked together until white and frothy)
  • 1 x tsp baking powder
  • 1/3 x cup soya yoghurt (or any other dairy-free variety)
  • ½ x cup vegan friendly marg
  • 1/3 x cup soya milk (or any other dairy-free variety)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 12 x cupcake cases ( I used silicone).

*(Toast in a dry frying pan on a medium heat for 1 – 2 mins)

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 180oC.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the flour, zest (reserve a quarter for decoration), poppy seeds and baking powder.
  3. In another bowl, electric-whisk up the No-Egg and water before adding the marg, followed by the sugar, yoghurt, milk and finally the lemon juice.
  4. A spoonful at a time, add the dry ingredients into the wet and gently fold in. A silicone spatula is great for this
  5. Using a couple of teaspoons (one for scooping, one for scraping), distribute the mixture evenly between the 12 cupcake cases.
  6. Put in the oven and bake for 15 mins or until golden brown. A skewer should come out clean when inserted into the centre of each.
  7. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

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These cakes are so tasty that they don’t really need icing. However, just to pretty them up, I added a small swirl of the following onto each and topped with some extra poppy seeds and a sprinkling of zest:

Icing

Ingredients:

  • 4 x tbsp. icing sugar
  • 1/3 x cup vegan friendly marg
  • ½ x cup vegan cream cheese (I used Violife)
  • Juice of ½ lemon


Method:

  1. Whizz together the marg, cream cheese and lemon juice using an electric mixer.
  2. Whizz in the icing sugar, cover and pop in the fridge for 20 mins or so.
  3. Once the cupcakes are COMPLETELY COOLED you can either spoon or pipe a small amount of icing onto each cake.

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Perfect with a cup of tea!

Flash-Gordonette…X

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♥ Brackenborough Arms (Louth)

*Note – since writing this blog, the Brackenborough arms have introduced a Vegan menu!*

I had a bitter sweet day today.

We’ve hung onto my little brother’s, Nan’s and Grandad’s ashes for a few years now, wondering what to do with them. Finally we decided that we would sprinkle them into the pond where my Granddad was chairman. We had many a happy time sitting in my Grandparents’ little caravan, eating our dinner and watching the wildlife.

So off we trundled to Lincolnshire. Fortunately the weather remained dry and although it was a sad occasion, it was still nice to spend the day with my family.

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My mum had booked us into the restaurant at the Brackenborough Arms Hotel in Louth for dinner. When I found out I Facebooked them and asked if they’d be able to cater for a vegan. The lovely Lady who replied was very helpful, answering all my questions and discussing my dietary requirements with the chef.

I was provided with the following food and couldn’t have been happier. It was so refreshing not to be offered the usual veg soup starter, aubergine/ courgette based main and soggy fruit salad pudding.

 

Starter:

To begin with I was presented with a lovely tomato and parmesan-free basil pesto salad. Sounds a little boring but the tomatoes were a traffic-light display of red, yellow and green slices, perfectly seasoned with sea salt.

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Main:

Main was a five bean cassoulet served with wild garlic & olive oil mash. I’m not usually a mash fan but you could really taste the garlic. The cassoulet was very tasty; I think I could have eaten another two portions!

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Dessert:

Pudding was fantastic! A lime and coconut pannacotta – made with coconut milk. Being paranoid I asked them to confirm that it wasn’t set with gelatine and was happy to find out that agar agar was used. Fabulous!

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So to summarize, I just wanted to share my positive experience. It’s nice to know that with a little notice, some main-stream restaurants are more than happy to cater for vegans. Even better when they put as much effort into providing an original and interesting meal like the Brackenborough Arms did for me 🙂

 

Flash-Gordonette…X

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♥ 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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♥ 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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