belated birthday celebrations

Tuesday was my birthday (and also my birthday twin Anna Wintour’s, so happy belated birthday to her as well), but because the Captain and I were both so busy we decided to celebrate today instead. Something that we’ve both been wanting to do is go to Bounce, which is an indoor trampoline park, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to go.

I haven’t been trampolining since I was about fourteen and managed to trigger a dormant bout of food poisoning by jumping on a trampoline in a friend’s backyard, so I wasn’t sure how good I was going to be at it. It was super fun though! We got an instructor to show us some (very basic!) tricks and we immediately decided that we’re going back next week as well. We got super sweaty and gross as well, so it’s obviously a pretty good workout. This form of cardio is way more fun than jogging, just saying. I really hope there’s something like this in London as well!

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After that we went back to Smith and Daughters because we knew we’d be able to get a kickass birthday dinner there, and they didn’t disappoint. I even got a pin of their awesome neon “eat vegan” upside down cross! All in all this birthday gets 10/10, would definitely do it all again.

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world vegan day in melbourne

Today is World Vegan Day! Merry vegan Christmas to all my fellow plant munchers. I celebrated by going to the vegan fair in the Melbourne show grounds – I nearly gave up so many times on the way, but I persevered!

I was going to go by bike, but I realised it was a lot further than it looked on the map, so I gave up and was going to go to Starbucks and play with my phone instead. I have a tendency to just do the same thing all the time that I’m really trying to break, so I was pretty disappointed in myself. I am trying to work on not being so negative about new experiences! So I decided it was a great opportunity to do something new, even if it did turn out to just be ok. So I hopped on the tram instead and made my way to the show grounds after all!

All in all I think it took me about an hour and a half, so when I walked in I was definitely hoping for something amazing to make it worth my while. My friend who had been there earlier in the day said that it was pretty poppin’, so judge my surprise when I walked in and there was just one guy talking about animal rights to a crowd of about fifteen people, some Falun Gong practitioners, and three non food related booths. My disappointment was tangible. I did the quickest rounds around the room ever, and was just going to go back to the city – I was telling myself to be proud that I didn’t flake out, at least.

Luckily, on my way out I heard some music, and I thought I’d go and explore where it was coming from, and it turned out that all the fun stuff was actually in a different part of the show grounds. There were all the food booths I’d been wondering where the hell they were! I strolled around for a bit and just basked in the atmosphere – I’ve never been that close to that many vegan cakes at the same time. It’s a pretty beautiful experience.

I don’t know how much I actually enjoyed it – it was nice to get me some of that cake, and being able to buy some things that aren’t widely available (I got some vegan meringues!) but there wasn’t that much more to it, I thought. I might just put it on the list of things I’m glad that I tried and leave it in the past!

top three fruits ever

First things first: I love cake. Cake was my last stand against going vegan; I told myself that I couldn’t do it because I would have such a hard time finding cake (which is increasingly wrong – many mainstream bakeries now offer at least one vegan item!). There is nothing I hate more than when people say that “fruit is nature’s candy” – no. Fruit is fruit, and it will never be equivalent to candy, and especially not to cake.

That said, damn, there are some delicious fruits out there.

1. Dates

I used to think I didn’t like dates. I had somehow got them mixed up with plums, which I genuinely don’t like, and so I never bothered trying them. I don’t know why I didn’t realise that since sticky date pudding was so delicious, surely dates would be delicious as well? But I guess I just wasn’t thinking clearly. I went to dinner at a friend’s house once, and she had got me some dates for dessert since she wasn’t sure what else would be a good dessert for a vegan – so obviously, out of politeness, I tried one.

I weep, now, for all the dates I’ve been offered and declined through the years. If I only knew what deliciousness I was allowing to pass through my fingers! This is the one fruit I would forgive people for calling “nature’s candy,” since it actually is that sweet and delicious. I am still a bit fearful of having too many at a time, but I like to push my limits and live on the edge.

2. Rock melon

This is another one that I thought I didn’t like. Thinking back on my life, I should probably stop saying I don’t like something if I don’t know for sure. I think it’s a holdover from when I was a picky child – there are a lot of things I genuinely don’t like, but that doesn’t have to extend to things I haven’t even tried.

I have always loved watermelon, but all other types of melon were outside my scope. We just never had them in the house when I was younger, so I assumed that I didn’t like them. Obviously, when I was flying to Australia about a month ago and realised that my dessert was a fruit cup made up of only different types of melon, I was pretty disappointed. However, when you are on a plane, I feel like the best course of action is to eat whatever is put in front of you, no matter if you like it or not, because you know you’re not getting that much food, and you know it’ll be hours before they offer you anything else. So I tried it, and… it was the most beautiful thing I’d eaten in a long time. I actually prefer rock melon over watermelon, now.

3. Avocado

Obviously, everyone who is anyone already loves avocado. I don’t need to tell you that it’s the most delicious fatty fruit (or berry? Don’t ruin this for me) on the planet. But what you might not know is that it is absolutely delicious with nutritional yeast on top!

For those of you who aren’t already vegan, nutritional yeast sounds like a strange thing that no one should have to be subjected to. If you only knew, though; it’s a yellow flaky powder of cheesy, nutty deliciousness. It goes amazingly on avocado with a sprinkle of salt! I urge everyone to try it ASAP.

Avocados are also super bomb with marmite; I already eat marmite straight out of the jar, so when someone told me avocado and marmite were a match made in heaven, I was instantly on board. I think what they mean when they say that avocado and marmite is a good combination is that you should try it on toast, but who needs bread? Not me, that’s for sure.

Smith & daughters

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Every hipster and vegan in Melbourne knows and loves Smith and Daughters. Every time someone mentions that place there’s a chorus of “have you been? Oh my god you have to go! It’s sooo good!” And part of me is always like if that many people like it, it’s probably down to some mass delusion rather than actual quality, and part of me is very intrigued. They serve tapas, and while I do enjoy the whole idea of sharing food between you, tapas would never be as interesting to me as dim sum.

Nonetheless, I wanted to try it at least once, so tonight I went there with some friends, and I have to say – the next time someone mentions Smith and Daughters, I’m gonna have to join that chorus. It was so good! We had some cashew cheese and bean dip with nachos, some smoked paprika mushrooms, a leek and potato bake, and potatoes with chimichurri. Oh, and a vegan blood sausage that I refused to try because… blood sausage? Come on. All the food was just so delicious and flavourful, I definitely understand why people love it so much.

After that we went to get crepes at Rue de Crêperie, which is just up the street. I got a salted caramel and banana crêpe, which is my absolute favourite flavour! I love that Fitzroy has so many different vegan restaurants and cafes. Thank you Fitzroy!

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Yuck

Every time I order dumplings, or anything else where you can’t actually see what’s in the food, I’m terrified that they’re going to give me the meat version. It normally doesn’t happen; I’ve been vegetarian for thirteen years, and I can only think of three times someone actually gave me the wrong food. But today it happened; I ate a dumpling and thought it was just a really gross mushroom one. But no. It’s been hours and I still feel so grossed out, I might cry.

On a practical level, I’m pretty scared I’ll get food poisoning; on an emotional level, I can’t actually remember this ever happening to me before, and I feel tainted. I think the worst part is that I did think it tasted like meat, but because we’d ordered veggie ones and my friend didn’t seem to think there was anything wrong with it, I thought I was being silly. Turns out, I should have just trusted my first instinct and spat it out!

I suppose the only thing I can do is try to forget it, and think of all the yummy food I’ve been having lately; yesterday, I made this peanut stew from the vegan stoner – although I prefer actually boiling the potatoes rather than making them in the microwave. If you chop them up before cooking them it’s 300% quicker! If you have some broccoli and zucchini lying around, they go great in this recipe as well. I didn’t know until recently that if you mix up tomato sauce and peanut butter, you get a creamy tomato sauce. How awesome!?

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Image from The Vegan Stoner (click through for post!)

Madame K’s redux

When I left Melbourne a little over a year ago, one of the things I knew I’d miss the most was Madame K’s, or, as I like to call it, the best restaurant ever. They serve vegetarian Thai food, which doesn’t sound like it’d be that hard to find, but so many Thai restaurants use fish sauce in their curries and for some reason can’t leave it out, so it’s nice to go somewhere where you don’t have to worry about that!

I have been longing for this panaeng curry since the last time I had it, right before I left. It is a thing of beauty and I want to marry it. I don’t know if they actually have changed the tofu, or if it is just my memories painting their food in an even more flattering light, but I swear the tofu used to be even better.

No matter. It is still the best, and they have the most delicious roti with peanut sauce, as well. If they delivered, I would live on Madame K’s alone.

Itadaki Zen

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I have a tendency to go to the same three veggie restaurants all the time, because I basically never go anywhere but central London. That’s a really bad habit which I am now doing my very best to break, though! There’s so many places to go in London that it seems like a horrible waste to only ever go to a few of them.

Basically, when I say I never go anywhere but central London, what I mean is that the only two tube stops I ever go to and from are Bond Street and Piccadilly Circus. So while Kings Cross might not seem like such a way off the beaten path, in my case it almost is! I decided to make the effort because there’s a vegan Japanese restaurant in Kings Cross called Itadaki Zen which I really wanted to go to.

I’ve been once before, but it was ages ago so I couldn’t remember what the food was like at all. I love Asian food, and I’d like to become more familiar with Japanese food in particular, but I found it really hard to get any veggie food at all when I was in Tokyo – partly my own fault for not doing research, I’m sure, but they did seem to put beef broth in many places where it definitely did not have to be.

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I love sharing food and maximising potential in meals, especially when you go somewhere new – if you can try three dishes instead of just one, why not!? So we opted to share some spring rolls, miso soup, tofu steak and some okara no iri-ni which… honestly I am still not sure what it is. Soy bean pulp and vegetables? It was perfectly okay, but I preferred the tofu steak and the spring rolls.

Final verdict is that the spring rolls were delicious, the rest of the food was good, and I’d definitely go again! I think in the end I do prefer some of the more fragrant cuisines like Indian and Thai, but I don’t have any real complaints. And as always, it’s such a relief when you go somewhere and you don’t even have to ask if the food is vegan because it all is! More like that, please.

Ruby’s of London

Today was a pretty wonderful day, despite the gruesome weather; I went to Greenwich market with some friends and had a vegan cupcake picnic by the observatory! Bit of backstory here: I’ve been mostly vegetarian since I was 13, fully vegetarian for the past three years, and mostly vegan for the past year. A few weeks back, I decided to take the plunge and become fully vegan – by that point, the only thing left for me to eliminate was non-vegan dishes when eating out, and cake. I have a sweet spot for cake! I know pretty much all vegans go crazy for a good vegan cake, but I didn’t understand it until I myself was in the position of having to pass up delicious looking cake that had not-so-delicious sounding ingredients.

I was very happy when a bit of googling around led me to Ruby’s of London in Greenwich market. They’re open from 10 am – 5.30 pm every Saturday and Sunday! I immediately rounded up some of my girls and demanded that we go try everything they had.

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I started out with a strawberry and vanilla cupcake that had unfortunately been a bit smushed by the time that I got around to taking pictures, but even though it wasn’t very photogenic anymore, it was super delicious! I also got the vanilla/blueberry drizzle that is posing so attractively above, and my friend had that sexy, sexy carrot cake loaf lounging beside it. The only downside to this beautiful cupcake stall was that it was so hard to walk away from the flavours I didn’t pick! I was very sad to leave, but luckily I’ve already had a request from a friend who couldn’t make it this week to bring her there next week. Not exactly a hardship!

melbourne restaurants

One of the good things about Melbourne is that there’s a pretty good variety of vegetarian restaurants. I rarely bother going out to a nice restaurant unless it’s vegetarian – depending on country, you might have one to three choices that are meat free, and one of them will invariably be a boring salad. The second one is usually pasta with red sauce and three pieces of vegetable.

Luckily, Melbourne has heaps of good veggie restaurants, and that’s one of the things I will definitely miss the most about it!

MADAME K’S (367 Brunswick street, Fitzroy)

When I die, bury me at Madame K’s. They have the most DELICIOUS tofu on the planet. I would literally get on a plane right now and go to Melbourne overnight just for a chance to eat here again. Without question, this is one of the best restaurants I have eaten at ever. I think a lot of their clientele is people who come in because Veggie Bar was too full and it’s the closest veggie restaurant (just across the street), but I can’t imagine anyone ever regretted it. Most of the food here is Thai or Thai inspired, and it is all cooked to perfection. I’m actually feeling a bit weepy just thinking about it.

VEGGIE BAR (380 Brunswick street, Fitzroy)

This is one of the most popular restaurants in Melbourne, full stop! I downloaded a travel guide to Melbourne, and they listed this as one of the five best restaurants in Melbourne (it was the only veggie restaurant to be included on the list). I do like it, and one of the things that might push it into the top spot over Madame K’s for other people is that it has a lot more variety when it comes to cuisine. If you want Asian food, Madame K’s wins easily, but if you’re out with people who are not so keen, and would rather have a burger or some other type of western food (which is your problem, really, why are you even friends with them?) Veggie Bar might be a better alternative. The biggest downside is that because it’s so popular, if you get there after 6.30 on a weekend, you will be waiting for a table for at least half an hour. I’ve never actually braved the wait because I know there is a slice of heaven waiting for me just across the street, so I can’t tell you if their prediction is accurate or not. Well worth a visit, but get there early!

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Me @ Veggie Bar with the Duo – delish

POSITIVE EATING VEG OUT TIME (366 Chapel st, South Yarra)

This is barely a restaurant, to be honest, but it is probably the place where I’ve had the most meals in Melbourne (including my own flat). It’s a bit of a hole in the wall on Chapel street, and many people would probably pass it by, but they do not know what they are missing out on! The food here is delicious, cheap and filling, and if I was just out for lunch this would definitely be my first choice, always.

birthday shenanigans

Last weekend was my birthday weekend! My actual birthday is November 3 (same as Anna Wintour, for the record!), which fell on a Sunday this year, so all weekend was devoted to parties and other fun stuff!

On Saturday, we went to a lesbian halloween party dressed up as slutty Aladdin and slutty Jasmine! It was alright, but kind of small. I feel like it was a good way to start the birthday weekend, at any rate. I don’t think I have any pictures of just me in my costume, but that’s okay –  my favourite was the one I wore on Monday, anyway. We didn’t win the costume contest even though we were obviously the best dressed! But the girl who won brought all her friends to cheer for her, so… I’m not bitter, I swear.

On my actual birthday, I had decided that I wanted to go rock climbing! I’ve never done it before, and I am absolutely terrified of heights. It seemed like a good way to live up to my motto and keep challenging myself! We went to Hardrock in the city, and it was absolutely amazing. I was so terrified! I was shaking, hyperventilating, almost crying, but to my everlasting pride, I managed to climb all the way up to the ceiling! I asked them how high it was, after, and they said it was 18 metres! I’ve been telling everyone I know about it (and even people who I don’t know, who strike up a conversation with me) just because I’m so proud of myself. Conquering my fears, birthday style!

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To get our strength back, we went to Vegie Bar in Brunswick, and I don’t think I can fully express to you how amazing the food was. I had two types of daal with rice and roti, and I am basically drooling right now just thinking back to it. I wish I lived next door – I swear I’d be in there twice a day! For dessert I had an amazing dark chocolate cake which I couldn’t quite finish just because it was so rich, but I remember it fondly. And it was all vegan! I didn’t quite realise life could be this good, before.

To top it off, on Monday night we went to yet another lesbian halloween party, this time dressed as slutty Captain America and slutty Riddler. I was way more pleased with this costume! I found the party a bit better as well, so we went out with a bang.

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Here’s an instagram shot of my makeup!

And here’s my full costume! I was also wearing slutty American flag shorts – not sure you can tell in this photo, but they looked awesome. I definitely feel like my birthday was celebrated properly and in style!