July 24, 2016


A Little What I Ate

Another late What I Ate and not much to show as I’ve been having a fair bit of juices and smoothies again or meals that look blergh photographed. Juicing results in a lot of pulp and I never throw it out. Here’s a ‘carrot cake’ smoothie made with carrot pulp, banana, cinnamon and porridge grains...
Continue reading »

Posted July 24, 2016 03:39 PM

July 19, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

A Fan's Notes II

July 9, 2016

We had a pretty decent breakfast at A Fan's Notes last year, but it was a pretty low-key brunch place at the time, so I was surprised when I read on facebook that they'd started doing fancy degustations on the weekends. They take it week about: meaty one week and vegan the next. I hit up the vegan night with a couple of friends to try things out.

You get five courses for a very reasonable $40, and they've got a good selection of vegan beer and wine to accompany the food. The staff are casual and friendly, and the atmosphere is still more dive bar than fine-dining, which suits me down to the ground.

Onto the food! The first course was a sesame and peanut crusted rice paper roll, with enoki, pickled cucumber, burnt eggplant and miso dressing. This was a fancy twist on a a classic - crunch from the cauliflower and peanut, and a lovely mix of smokiness and umami from the eggplant and miso. 

Next up was probably my favourite dish of the night: heirloom carrots, polenta, zucchini & pinenut puree with olives and seeds.

This dish really lets the veggies shine, with the polenta chips adding some salty goodness. Simple, but effective.

Next up was a butternut and caramelised onion agnolotti with smoked hazelnut pesto, artichoke and white bean puree.

This felt like the most 'fine dining' dish of the night - dustings of powders, dabs of pesto and micro-greens garnishing a soft and sweet agnolotti and a wedge of caramelised onion. Fancy.

The last of the savoury dishes was a crispy fennel-stuffed onion with potato puree, toasted corn and truffle.

This was another winner - the little roasted ball of fried goodness sitting on top of a smooth smear of creamy potato, all backed up by the salsa-esque corn. 

The dessert course finished things off: an apple and date trifle with coconut custard, pistachio crumb and mandarin.

This was another lovely mix of textures and flavours - not too sweet and with plenty of fruit, but still indulgent enough to be a worthy ending to a fine meal.

At $40 a head, this is a really good value meal - among the best value vegan meals in town. Ray's vegan degustation was cheaper, but it's been discontinued (at least over winter), meaning only Shu is really offering a similarly-priced vegan degustation. It's a lovely venue, with great staff, good music and a really fun atmosphere. Hopefully A Fan's Notes keep these degustations running - you should really get along as soon as you can to make sure they do.

Read about our last trip to A Fan's Notes here. I can't find any blog reviews of the degustations yet - hopefully the buzz will keep building.

A Fan's Notes
787 Nicholson St, Carlton North
9943 8373
our menu (it changes every fortnight)
facebook page

Accessibility: There's a flat entry way to a slightly crowded interior. You order at the table and pay at a high counter. We didn't visit the toilets.

Posted July 19, 2016 08:42 PM by Michael

quinces and kale

the glass den 2


After arriving home from Europe, I caught up for brunch at the Glass Den with my friend who had been housesitting while I was away.

I chose the Glass Den because I love it and it caters to both vegans and non-vegans alike.

The food is modern, delicious, beautiful to look at and a cut way above your average cafe.

I chose a vegan “chicken” burger and my friend had the porridge. Both were great. The porridge was so beautifully decorated with fruits and flowers. The burger was enormous and I foolishly fell for the “Would you like fries with that?” up sell and ordered the sweet potato fries which were excellent. The tomato relish on the burger was swoon worthy.

vegan chicken burger with sweet potato fries

I’ve also included a photo of a breakfast udon noodle dish that I ate on another visit that I didn’t blog about. It gives you an idea of the range of creative food that they do. Udon noodles with kale and crumbed mushrooms. For breakfast. Delicious.

breakfast udon noodles with kale and mushrooms

The coffee is great too.

I really cannot fault the Glass Den, it remains high on my list of favourite places. I have never had a disappointing meal.

15 Urquart St,
Coburg, 3058
(03) 9354 5032

Posted July 19, 2016 10:46 AM

July 17, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Washington, DC II

July 4-6, 2016

This year I was in Washington DC for the 4th of July. Lodged in a hotel just blocks from the US Capitol, I anticipated garish, crowded celebrations and mawkish patriotism. I found little of it, just the floats pictured above and a glimpse of the evening's telecast. At this time of year the National Mall actually hosts a Folklife Festival that casts a spotlight on another country and culture.

In 2016 the festival presented Basque culture. We witnessed metalsmithing, pottery, stone-cutting, boat construction, weaving, painting, cheese-smoking, sports, singing and some truly unique performance. It was tough to imagine what was to come as we watched a troop of men (pictured above, click to embiggen), in what looked like petticoats and soft dancing shoes, lacing each other into furry coats as if they were corsets and strapping enormous bells onto their backs. Joaldunak proved very entertaining, and gave a friendly, generous translated interview about their village traditions, the family connections among the team, and the new all-woman group that's started up in their region.

Jovial cooking demonstrations ran throughout the day, with at best half of the jokes making it through to those of us who don't understand Basque. It was hard for me to imagine recreating any of their dishes at home, as they prepared fish three ways, and later added four kinds of red meat to a breakfast skillet. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the demonstrators' banter and pride in their traditions.

We did manage to find a few veg options at the Basque food stall. A cold bean stew didn't sound so exciting but was actually rich and well spiced, colourfully garnished with pickles and peppers. My hosts urged me to try Basque ciders - they have a particularly astringent aftertaste, ranging from sour to olive-y. The almond custard pastry we shared for dessert was a much more typical crowd-pleaser.

I spent rest of the week seeking veg-friendly dinners around the city centre. We, The Pizza was located just around the corner from my hotel. It's a bright and casual spot with an eye-catching display of enormous New York-style slices. A US$4 (~AU$5.30) slice of Forest Shroomin' Pie was enough to call dinner, but I grabbed a nice little Farmers Market Salad to diversify my veges (and took a slice of Spinach & Artichoke Pie away for next day's lunch). I also liked that they make a range of sodas with their own syrups. The Co, Co Nut Soda (US$3 ~ AU$4) was unusual and refreshing, but not a great match for cheesy pizza.

Happy Cow pointed me towards British-themed pub The Alibi. Their credibility was somewhat undermined by the inclusion of Cinnamon Sugar Sweet Potatoes with Vanilla Icing, Shrimp Po' Boys and Gumbo on the menu, but I was there for Vegan Fish And Chips (US$13 ~ AU$17.20).

These guys got the plate off to a good start by using Gardein mock fish - I reckon it's the lightest, flakiest fake-fillet on the market. The triple-cooked chips were a respectable tribute to the mother country, and the tartar sauce was much appreciated. (Honestly, I would've loved some green veges on the side.) Unfortunately my ginger soda (US$4 ~ AU$5.30) lacked both bite and bubbles.

Located in the business district, the pub was comfortable but a little cheesy, a spot for after-work drinks and tourists rather than neighbourhood residents.  While I didn't have the stamina for more than one pub meal in a week, it might have be fun to try their other veg options, including sausage rolls, devilled eggs and mushroom burgers.

As the week went on I honed my hipster-vege eating, so stay tuned for few more DC eateries.

I also visited and blogged about Washington DC two years ago!

Posted July 17, 2016 08:41 PM by Cindy

July 14, 2016


New Vegan Menu At Ray in Brunswick

Back in March, I blogged about a vegan mezze evening held by Ray in Brunswick. Ray has very recently introduced a new fully vegan breakfast (served all day) and lunch menu. The new vegan menu is one of those where you see the vegan options have been well thought out. I was impressed enough with the vegan...
Continue reading »

Posted July 14, 2016 04:30 PM

July 12, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Seattle & surrounds

June 28-July 3, 2016

I didn't just cloister myself away in Seattle's all-veg restaurants (or indeed, the city itself) during my stay. I was also inducted into the world of baseball, witnessing the Seattle Mariners defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates. I'd expected that the refreshments would be restricted to hot dogs and beer and I swooped on these Dirty Tots as soon as I saw them - the 'tater tots are scattered with surprisingly sharp, soft cheese, pickled peppers and, if you're not me, bacon. I washed them down with the smallest Mountain Dew I could find and tried not to notice the oil pooling in the bottom of the tray.

Actually, there was a broader variety of food than I'd expected - I noticed wood-fired pizzas, tacos and even a Thai noodle stand further around Safeco Field. I was delighted to match up the real baseball experience with what little I'd learned from The Simpsons - the organ music, the spruiker throwing bags of peanuts and, on my way out, evidence of a stand selling nacho hats.

As well as the Mariners, Seattle is the home of Orangette, a food blog I've been reading for nigh on a decade. Its author Molly Winzenberg and her husband Brandon own a pizza restaurant with a bar next door; these venues were on my wish-list for the trip. Three of my Aussie friends obliged in joining me there one night.

I assumed that Delancey and Essex would be located on a hip retail strip and was surprised to see them nestled unobtrusively in a residential area. This didn't seem to dim their popularity - we put our names on the waiting list at Delancey and settled in with drinks and bar snacks at Essex. I had a potent little cocktail called Cedro in Thyme (US$12 ~ AU$16) and made from vodka, Salers, pear brandy, Acqua di Cedro, and a house-made thyme tincture.

We nibbled on bright, sweet Castelvetrano olives (US$4 ~ AU$5.30) and an intermittently hot and sugary snack mix of cashews, rice bubbles and flaked coconut flavoured with vanilla and Aleppo peppers ($US6 ~ AU$8).

Delancey didn't keep us waiting any longer than we'd been warned, finding us a table for four in the back corner. It was a little loud and dimly lit. The pizza menu has the very American style of just a small number of toppings per pizza, although here they take extra care and pride in sourcing high-quality ingredients from local suppliers.

The bases were relatively thin, crisping up at the edges and softened with sauce in the centre. The white pie (above left, US$16 ~ AU$21) was a festival of cheese with house-made ricotta, fresh and aged mozzarella, Grana, and a bit of garlic. The Crimini (above centre, US$14 ~ AU$18) was generously scattered with its namesake mushroom, a little thyme and a strong whiff of truffle oil.

To drink, I tried a non-alcoholic house-made beetroot shrub (above right, US$4 ~ US$5). It was such an unusual, almost savoury soda, and it suited the pizzas well.

We opted to pack up some of the pizza and order some desserts to share. Delancey is known for its chocolate chip cookies sprinkled with grey salt (US$3.50 ~ AU$4.60) - so much so that you can eat them baked, as dough, and/or matched with a Ramos Pinto 20-year tawny port. My companions tried every combination! Preferences for baked vs dough varied, but we agreed that we preferred mixed-in salt to the concentrated sprinkle here.

I had my eye on the bourbon roasted peaches (US$9 ~AU$12). Although I expected more fruit and more syrup on my plate, I nonetheless enjoyed their combination with crumbled corn cookies, anise hyssop leaves and brown butter icecream.

Neither Delancey nor Essex are really designed for vegetarians (and I don't think vegans would have much fun there), but I was very glad to visit them - I think I'd be a fan even if they didn't have a blog connection that's special to me.

On my last day on the west coast, my mate Kim and I ventured out of Seattle, and she suggested the Black Diamond Bakery for a breakfast stop. The bakery's brick oven was built in 1884, but the adjoining cafe serving breakfasts is a youthful 25 years old by comparison. The menu is a classic diner selection of eggs and bacon and chicken fried steak, pancakes and French toast and hash browns. Everyone is served half a canned peach in syrup and a miniature blueberry muffin to begin.

There are a few incidentally vegetarian options, and they'll also happily omit the meat on other items (like Kim's burrito). I took on a veggie and cheese omelet (US$11.99 ~ AU$15.80), a brightly yellow egg batter wrapped around sauteed spinach, capsicum, onion, mushroom, tomato and a long, stretchy thread of orange cheese. I must admit to being more enamoured with the sides, a huge serving of home-made crispy edged hash brown and, in preference to toast, a gorgeously fluffy biscuit spread with butter.

On a clear day, the Black Diamond Bakery supposedly has a view of Mt Rainier, but we weren't blessed with one of those. We thought their garden was charming anyway.

We did eventually find our mountain views, though, and a waterfall too before we turned back to town (see pics below). Here we queued up for one of Seattle's other attractions - the original Starbuck's.

I'm not much of a coffee drinker (much less at 5pm) so I revelled in Starbuck's diluted conception of this drink, ordering a 'tall' (i.e. small) S'mores frappuccino. My straw first hit on a thick chocolate syrup base before working through a sweet, milky vanilla coffee; I could barely suck the 'marshmallow-infused whipped cream' through my straw and, honestly, I didn't really want to. 

To finish, here are a few snaps of the more natural beauties of Washington state...

Posted July 12, 2016 12:40 PM by Cindy

quinces and kale

berlin – kopps for dinner

white grilled asparagus, broad beans, leek and potato cake, truffle foam

I’m now running behind terribly on the blogging of my trip. I’ve been back for two weeks, but in that time I headed to down to Hobart for 5 days for a series of workshops to sing the Bach St Matthew Passion with the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra and Chorus as part of the Festival of Voices.

So I’m now heading back to Berlin (virtually) to review the last of my food highlights there.  Having sampled and LOVED brunch at Kopps I was keen to go back there for dinner. I was also keen to compare it to my other fine dining experience at the Lucky Leek.

Kopps do a 3, 4 or 5 course menu with or without matched wines. I was on my second last night in Berlin before heading back home so I decided to splurge on the 5 courses with matched wines. It saves agonising over what courses to choose. 🙂

Here’s what I ate:

This was a lovely amuse bouche of a tiny raviolo with a leek cream.

amuse bouche - ravioli with leek cream

Next up was a dish that sounded more promising in theory than it turned out in practice, coconut polenta balls with avocado and sesame crisps.

It was very pretty and pleasant enough, but lacking in real flavour. The sesame crisps were great though. Accompanied by a lovely late picked riesling from the Rhine.

coconut and polenta balls with asparagus puree and sesame crisps

The soup that followed was delicious, which is not something I’d often say about zucchini soup but they had the seasoning in this one just done perfectly. The soup was in fact zucchini and okra with tomato jam and the contrasting crunch of some raw kohlrabi spirals. The wine with this was a German white burgundy.

okra and zucchini soup with tomato jam and kohlrabi

Next up was a pea ravioli dish with pea puree and a mint and coriander foam. Nice enough but not earth shattering and the pasta could have been more delicate. And so far there had been foam on three out of four dishes! This was accompanied by a lovely buttery French chardonnay.

pea ravioli, pea puree, mint and coriander foam

Next up my definite favourite of the night. Asparagus season was in full swing in Germany while I was there and they favour big fat white asparagus. It was on the menu everywhere, including here. This dish was just perfect. Grilled asparagus, potato and wild leek cakes with broad beans and another foam. This time I could forgive it because it was black truffle foam. This came with a beautiful crisp white from Austria.

white grilled asparagus, broad beans, leek and potato cake, truffle foam

And then on to dessert. This dessert could have been great, if only the chocolate elements had been dark. I’m being picky, it was faultless in most respects, but it just needed that great bitterness that dark chocolate gives. It was accompanied by a lovely Austrian dessert muscat, not sticky like a lot of Australian dessert wines but light and floral.

choc mousse, choc parfait, strawberry salad and sorbet, mint pesto

And finally a post meal amuse bouche of a small bite of apple strudel. Delicious.

apple strudel post meal

It was good, with a couple of slightly disappointing dishes, but I’m glad I did it. Kopps is still the hands down winner in the perfect brunch category though.

For fine dining I enjoyed my meal at the Lucky Leek more, mostly because it was more varied and just a bit more refined.

I waddled home to my hotel glad that the tram took me right to the door…

Linienstraße 94
10115 Berlin-Mitte


Posted July 12, 2016 10:38 AM

July 09, 2016


What I Ate: Kitchen Cleanout Edition

This What I Ate post is really the past fortnight. I’ve been doing a kitchen cleanout and have vowed to use up ingredients I’ve found before going shopping for other stuffz. We’ve also cleared out our little upright freezer, so I had even more stuff that needed to be used. We had family over and...
Continue reading »

Posted July 09, 2016 04:31 PM

July 08, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne


June 25-30, 2016

Hello from the U S of A! I'm visiting four places for a week apiece for work reasons, and finding scraps of time around that for sight-seeing and fun eating. My first stop has been Seattle, a new city for me. I was based in the U(niversity) District, which had a relaxed school's-out-for-summer atmosphere and affordable, veg-friendly restaurants. Here's a run-down of the exclusively-vegetarian places I checked out.

I arrived on a Saturday evening - the late sunlight allowed me time to shower and get my bearings, then settle in for a modest meal at Chaco Canyon Organic Cafe. With mosaics on the walls and sprouts on the menu, this place has clear hippy roots. It offers the distinctly American suite of soups, sandwiches and salads, plus some bowls and breakfasts. There's French toast and a little seitan, but the vibe is overwhelmingly wholesome.... just what I needed after 26 hours of airports and planes.

I tried an Artichoke Melt half-sandwich (US$10.20 ~ AU$13.60), a comforting savoury concoction of artichoke pate, vegan cheese sauce, veganaise, cucumber and sprouts between slices of lightly toasted and perfectly unAmerican sourdough bread. It was served with a big house salad full of leafy greens and sprouts lightly dressed in an apple garlic vinaigrette. To drink, I nursed a mug of hot apple cider (US$3.85 ~ AU$5.10), an apple juice spiked with ginger topped with frothy pulp and cinnamon.

By the next night, I was ready to embark on something more uniquely American. I found it at Pizza Pi, a vegan pizzeria located at the northern end of the restaurant strip on University Way. It's intended for take-out more than eating in, but my two game non-veg companions and I were able to grab a flour-dusted table and settle in 'til closing time.

As is usual here, the salad came out before the mains - this large house salad (US$6.75 ~ AU$9.00) was based on lots of greens, and was dotted with tomatoes, cucumbers and some great crunchy croutons. We picked the honey mustard dressing and dabbed at it judiciously.

My least hungry co-diner ordered a half-serve of the mac'n'yease (US$6.50 ~ AU$8.70) - it was a nice, Daiya-based version that was light on the sauce.

As for the pizzas, the range is somewhat overwhelming and tends towards the outlandish and the mocking. Phoni-pepperoni, Aloha, Indian Curry, BBQ Chicken, and even a mac'n'yease pizza... it was tough to choose. (I didn't even entertain the appetizer, sandwich or calzone options!) My second co-diner went with a small Bruschetta Delux (US$8.25 ~ AU$11.00) and I was really impressed by its thick layers of white garlic sauce and cashew ricotta topped with a piquant bruschetta tomato mix and a little sliced field roast.

Its lurid orange-green counterpart up there is the saucy and spicy Buffalo Chicken pizza (US$8.25 ~ AU$11.00). Here the white garlic sauce was overwhelmed by the Buffalo-style chicken and a pourover of ranch dressing. Fresh celery pieces are true to the theme, but didn't really appeal to me as a pizza topping.

As well as Pizza Pi, Seattle obsessive @dimsimkitty recommended Wayward Vegan Cafe. It was a longer walk away from my base, but I gladly made it twice. This diner is lodged in a boxy commercial building but the internal soundtrack of Elastica, The Breeders and Hole assured me that I had definitely come to the right place. Wayward boasts another enormous menu: several dozen different breakfast fry-ups, over a dozen sandwiches and subs for lunch, plus salads, bowls and miscellaneous other plates for dinner.

For my late, large breakfast, I focused on the fact that they do American biscuits (8 ways). The Backwoods Biscuit Stack ($9.00) was really a big fat sandwich made from a fluffy herb biscuit and stuffed with a small vegan omelet, crumbed 'chiggen', strips of tempeh bacon and country gravy. It was all very salty, and I was glad for the equally-enormous side of garlic steamed greens.

A couple of days later I returned for a late lunch. They were all outta ribs so I satisfied myself with a Wayward Burger (US$9.00 ~ AU$12.00). The accompanying French fries were tired and floppy, and the burger had a nicely charred patty but was similarly lacking liveliness. The staff kindly comped my drink after I had to wait awhile for my meal. While the Wayward menu holds a dazzling array of vegan diner foods, the execution seems uneven - for me, it was worth it for the biscuit.

My final veg-specific stop was at Araya's Place, a vegan Thai restaurant I'd spotted nearby Pizza Pi. It's got the fried noodles and rice, green & red curries and spring rolls we've all come to expect, plus a few interesting additions. The appetiser list goes pan-Asian with Chinese leek-stuffed rice cakes, pot stickers and veggie tempura; there's a fried Brussels sprout salad, and curries containing mango, avocado or banana.

I bravely took on the latter option, a Massaman Banana Curry (US$13.95 ~ AU$18.60). The few banana chunks noticably infused the sweet-and-sour coconut sauce, and I enjoyed sifting through it for fried tofu slices, decoratively sliced potato chunks, capsicum and peanuts. Unfortunately the accompanying roti was woefully undercooked, little more than rolled-out dough without a sliver of flakiness.

Though the meals were mixed, I had fun exploring the veg-focused eateries of the U District. They fortified me for some long work-days and scattered city sight-seeing, including a night at the Spaceneedle and another viewing a Wearable Art exhibition at the EMP Museum.

Posted July 08, 2016 12:47 PM by Cindy

July 06, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Cheesy broccoli beer soup with smoky sunflower chorizo

June 24, 2016

Cindy bought me a copy of the Cinnamon Snail cookbook for my birthday (and whipped up an amazing meal from it while we were in Stockholm), and I wanted to take it for a test drive before she jetted off to the US. Melbourne was turning on typically soup-friendly weather, and this broccoli/beer soup seemed like something I could tackle on a Friday night. 

It came together really easily - you can cook the soup while the 'chorizo' is cooking. The sunflower seed chorizo is worth the effort too, smoky and spicy with a little bit of crunch. This recipe made way more than we needed, but I enjoyed the soup so much that I made a second batch straight afterwards to use it up. The soup itself come out nice and thick thanks to all of the blended up potatoes - it's part soup/part mashed potato, with the nooch adding some cheesiness. Ours didn't come out the kind of vibrant green that was pictured in the book - the broccoli colour was swamped by the beer and tamari, so we got more of a khaki. 

This is a solid winter dish - it'll slot into our regular soup rotation for sure. 

Cheesy broccoli beer soup with smoky sunflower chorizo

(adapted from a recipe in Adam Sobel's Street Vegan)

Sunflower chorizo
1.5 cups sunflower seeds
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning (we found some in Woolies)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons tamari
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1.5 teaspoons liquid smoke
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons fennel seeds

3 tablespoons peanut oil
2 shallots, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (don't be heavy-handed with this, the cayenne really packs a punch)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons tamari
1 head of broccoli, roughly chopped
1 stubby beer
2 cups Massel 'chicken' stock
3 small potatoes (the recipe specifies Yukon golds, we used Pontiacs I think)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast

The first step is to make the chorizo. 

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and line a baking tray with baking paper sprayed with oil.

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse for about a minute - you want to combine everything and break the seeds up a bit, but you don't want it to grind to powder or anything.

Crumble the mixture over the baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes, until just before it starts to burn - if you've spread the mixture out it should go a bit crispy.

Then, onto the soup.

Heat the oil in a big pot and saute the shallots, garlic and celery for about 4 minutes. 

Throw in the mustard, cayenne, paprika and tamari and stir-fry everything for another couple of minutes. 

Stir in the stock, beer, broccoli, nooch and potatoes. Cover the pot and bring the mix to the boil, cooking until the potato chunks are soft (about 15 minutes for us).

Allow the mix to cool a bit to lower the burn-risk and then blend everything up with an immersion blender. 

Serve, topped with a generous sprinkling of the chorizo.

Posted July 06, 2016 06:51 AM by Michael

July 05, 2016


Trippy Taco Lunch In Fitzroy

Trippy Taco is one of those dependable places for me, where I know I will enjoy my food and walk out happy. I’ve reviewed Trippy Taco’s Fitzroy outlet long in the past but thought I better do it again because I really like this place and my past reviews and photos are pretty piss-poor. We always...
Continue reading »

Posted July 05, 2016 02:05 PM

July 01, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Very Good Falafel

June 23, 2016

Cindy and I had a short overlapping window between my return from Sweden and her trip to the US and we were keen to squeeze in a quick visit to Very Good Falafel, a much-hyped new place in Brunswick. The duo who run it - Shuki and Louisa - have made their name serving up falafel pita pockets at markets all 'round Melbourne, and this is their shot at a permanent base.

The menu is pretty simple: falafel, sabih (and eggplant and egg dish) or ktzizot (a lamb dish) served either in a pita or as a plate. You can also get a plate of their rotating selection of salads, with or without falafel balls, or hummus/babaganoush-based plates. 

I couldn't resist the salad plate - green beans and Brussels sprouts in tomato and capsicum sauce, roasted pumpkin with kale and freekeh, cabbage, kohlrabi and sultanas - plus three falafel balls and tahini ($13). 

This place really does live up to its name - these falafel balls are very good indeed: crispy on the outside, tender and spicy on the inside. They've really nailed their recipe. The salads were great as well - a nice mix of different vegetables and flavours. At $13 this is a very impressive plate of food.

Cindy ordered the straight-up falafel plate ($10), which is basically a deconstructed falafel roll - pickles, hummus, spicy green chilli sauce, salad, onions and the same excellent falafel balls. It was a bit heavy on the red-onion for Cindy's tastes, but otherwise this hit the spot superbly, all carried by the great falafel balls.

There's something a bit weird about this hipster-ish place plonking itself right in between A1 and Tiba's and trying to sell falafel. In some ways it feels like another sign of the neighbourhood's steady gentrification, but the food is great, the prices pretty reasonable and the whole venture pretty unassuming. We'll almost certainly be back.
There are a few rave reviews out there already - see Veganopoulous, Green Gourmet Giraffe, Fitzroyalty and Eat My Street.

Very Good Falafel
629 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
9383 6479
menu, salads

Accessibility: There's a flat entry into a spacious interior, with a mix of low stools, high stools and bench seats. Somewhat oddly, there's no toilet in the premises - they send you up the road to the Edinburgh Castle, which is not ideal.

Posted July 01, 2016 07:37 AM by Michael

June 28, 2016

quinces and kale

berlin junk food, momos and a turkish bath


My holiday posts are a bit out of order, so here I am back in Berlin, at least on the blog page. In fact, I am at home, writing up my blog posts that were plagued by some terrible wifi and difficulty uploading photos while overseas. I was also busy doing things rather than writing blog posts about them. 🙂

While I was in Berlin for a week, I ate both junk food and did some fine dining. There are great examples of both. The fine dining meals deserve posts of their own, I’ve already reviewed the Lucky Leek and there is another post coming up about dinner at Kopps.

On the junk food front, one of the yummiest things I had was a double cheese meatball sandwich with a beer at an all vegan bar called Chaostheorie, a five minute walk from where I was staying in Prenzlauerberg. It was really tasty even though it was inexplicably served on dreadful square white sliced bread. Germany has such great bread, so it is really hard to know why. It would have been really spectacular on a crispy roll. The bar staff were friendly and there was a bonus of a dog sleeping next to my table, though she was more interested in tidbits than smooching. They have limited food and most of it isn’t going to win any awards but the sandwich I had was perfect with a beer.

image Dog at chaosthorie

Now, speaking of junk food, we need to talk about currywurst. It is an obsession in Germany, Berlin in particular, and it is really hard to know why. There are stands and shops selling them everywhere. So against my better judgement I tried a vegan one.

A currywurst, for the uninitiated, is a sausage cut into sections, sprinkled with curry powder and drowned in ketchup. If you say you like it spicy they’ll throw on some chilli flakes. It is hard to know what kind of mind dreamed it up. I can only assume it started life as a late night food for drunks.


For the record it was bad. Worse than bad. Just inexplicable. Once I’d sampled a couple of bites, for science only, I threw the rest in the bin.

I had booked in for a Turkish bath at a hammam for women that is situated in an old chocolate factory in Kreuzberg that is now a women’s centre.  I’ve only had one other Turkish bath in my life and that was in Turkey. They are a wonderful experience and so I was delighted to find one in Berlin and booked immediately. I spent a few hours steaming and pouring warm and cold water, getting scrubbed and soaped and doused and emerged relaxed and sparking clean and soft. if you ever get the chance, I can highly recommend it.

Later that night I grabbed a quick dinner at Momos (not junk food at all) where they make 6 kinds of vegetarian dumplings, 4 of which are vegan. I ate 3 kinds: pumpkin and chickpea, potato and mushroom, and tofu, broccoli and shiitake with a couple of dipping sauces. I demolished 18 of them (pictured above), half steamed and half fried at the tiny shop.


Delicious. They were so good that I went back a second time later in the week.

Schliemannstraße 15, 10437 Berlin, Germany


Fehrbelliner Strasse 5, 10119, Berlin


Posted June 28, 2016 10:00 AM

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Vegan jaffle party!

June 19, 2016

This idea popped up while I was hosting that Family Favourites picnic potluck in the summer. I was probably telling someone about how my family called jaffles Hot Ones (thanks to toddler-me) and got to thinking about how fun a jaffle potluck could be. A few irons in a row, a pile of bread, and everyone brings a filling. Hot Ones all round!

I waited until the cold weather rolled in, when toasty carbs bring the most comfort. My dozen-plus guests definitely brought the goods - extra jaffle irons, numerous vegan cheeses, home baked beans, mock meats, canned spaghetti, the last of a garden's basil... even sweet stuff like caramel bananas and chocolate chips.

For dessert, I had another family favourite to share - this one's something my mum would occasionally make for dinner guests. It starts not with bread, but with puff pastry. Yep, you just thaw out a sheet of puff pastry and cut it into two rectangles. Fill the rectangles will sliced banana, chocolate chips and marshmallows (these ones are vegan). Fold the pastry over into a square but don't fuss about pinching the sides - a good jaffle iron does all the shaping for you! These pastry pockets take longer to cook than your average bread-based toastie but they do eventually puff up golden and flaky, with sweet molten filling.

I candied some oranges Cinnamon Snail-style, then teamed them with chocolate spread and cinnamon for punderful jaffa jaffles. Others paired the chocolate spread with Turkish delight to great effect. It was a sweet way to pass a Sunday afternoon.

Posted June 28, 2016 01:55 AM by Cindy

June 26, 2016


What I Ate

It’s been a week of relatively simple vegan eats at home. I already blogged about my lunch at Shakahari Too in South Melbourne where I enjoyed this lunch special combination of a satay style seitan skewer and the steamed rice ‘gnocchi'” I’ve been messing around with my grandmother’s carrot cake recipe and trying to cut...
Continue reading »

Posted June 26, 2016 04:25 PM

June 24, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

The Dojo Ramen Bar

June 18, 2016

The Dojo Ramen Bar comes recommended by High St vego-in-the-know Erin; their veggie ramen is her favourite comfort food at the end of a bad day. Last Saturday night we confirmed that it's also a suitable spot for good times, when everyone's looking forward to a gig at the Northcote Social Club. We filled out the bar's communal table with a reservation for twelve and maintained the cheerful, chattering noise levels already established by the other patrons. The staff were friendly and flexible in the face of our large group and staggered orders.

Sake cocktails and Japanese spirits are displayed most prominently on the drinks menu, but Erin actually prefers the Calpico grape soda and I went for a Ramune (Japanese lemonade, $4.50). It doesn't taste so different from a Sprite, but the pop-the-marble top is novel and very Japanese.

As far as food goes vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options are marked well, although they weren't all what we expected - thankfully the staff provided knowledgeable back-up. I thought the vegan gyoza ($8) filling was a little mushy and generic, but the dumplings were perfectly pan-fried and they're always improved with soy-vinegar dipping. The other eye-catching option was a plate of cheesy rolls, a curd-based riff on deep-fried spring rolls.

And what of the ramen? It comes in seven varieties, three of them vegetarian. (Unfortunately for vegans, the noodles contain egg, but the rest can be served with a side of steamed rice.) On Erin's advice I ordered the standard veggie ramen ($13.50). The noodles are nice, and nestled in a creamy, comforting broth made with soy milk and nut extract. On top there's tofu, spring onion, bamboo shoots, two-tone sesame seeds, a sheet of nori and - my new favourite ingredient - benishoga, a vermillion shredded pickled ginger. The other vego bowls stir miso or shoyu into the broth, mix up the veges and lack the benishoga.

It's spot-on mid-winter comfort food, and good value for money. If there's a drawback, it's that the resulting feelings of sleepy satisfaction aren't exactly conducive to late night live music. We were lucky that Olympia has the kind of talent to jolt us from a ramen stupor.


The Dojo Ramen Bar seems to please every blogger who visits, from veg Ebezilla's Food Blog to omnis Two Bears And A Fork, Sweet and Sour Fork, The Spice Adventuress, foodie about town, Vetti Live In Northcote and Fitzroyalty.

The Dojo Ramen Bar
333 High St, Northcote
9482 1247
meals, drinks

Accessibility: There's a small lip on entry (here's a more thorough review of the door). Tables are a mix of high and low heights with backless stools, arranged at average density with clear walkways through the middle of the restaurant. We received full table service. I didn't visit the toilets.

Posted June 24, 2016 07:56 PM by Cindy

June 23, 2016


Lunch At Shakahari Too, South Melbourne

Shakahari Too often comes up when someone asks for recommendations on a nice, slightly fancier vegan restaurant. I’m gonna lose vegan points by admitting I haven’t been to long time veg*n favourite Shakahari in Carlton (I did go once but it was closed). Today though, I was around the corner from Shakahari Too on a...
Continue reading »

Posted June 23, 2016 03:11 PM

Thoughts Of A Moni

Rustica CBD

A while ago I visited the original Rustica Canteen in Fitzroy with the other half, for breakfast. We were both rather impressed with the food and so, when my girlfriends wanted to organise a girls brunch sans boys and kids, I quickly suggested the Rustica branch in the CBD. Like many cafes, Rustica don’t take bookings for weekend breakfasts, but I was assured that the wait for a table on a Sunday morning wasn’t usually more than 15 minutes.

I had already checked the menu and it seemed that there were lots of common items across the two outlets, and given that I had massive food envy on my Fitzroy visit, I thought it would be a good opportunity to sample some other things.

Like most groups of more than 4 women (we were a group of about eight or nine) we ended up arriving one at a time for about half an hour until we all got there! Rustica were kind enough to not make us wait for the full group before they sat us, and instead gave us a big high table at the back of the café which we all joined as we arrived. However, they also took our order as we arrived, which meant that our food was arriving at all different times, and chaos ensued.

I chose to order the chilli scrambled eggs on their infamous Rustica sourdough but minus the bacon. I had ordered almost immediately after I sat down, and about twenty minutes past before I had received my drink or my meal. As I looked around, I realised that people who had arrived after me were having their meals served, so I flagged down a waiter and asked him if my order had been missed. I think he might have been knew, because he took my query to another waitress, there was some discussion between them, and then he came back to tell me my food was on its way. Fast forward another ten minutes and the senior waitress comes to me and tells me that my order has been mixed up and to confirm what I ordered. I tell her that I ordered the chilli scrambled eggs and she tells me she will be back. This time she returns quickly with my meal, chilli scrambled eggs, but with bacon. When I tell her that I had specifically requested for the bacon to omitted, she looked really confused. I did eventually receive my correct meal, but it was about an hour after I placed my original order. Don’t get me wrong, the food was delicious, but I could have done without the delay and confusion!


Luckily I was the only one on our table who had a mix up with their order. Everyone else’s food arrived on time, and correctly, and everyone loved their meals. As expected, the bread was the highlight, but equally important were quality ingredients and punchy flavours.

Rustica Canteen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted June 23, 2016 08:30 AM by Moni

June 22, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Stockholm, weeks 7 & 8

May 29-June 17, 2016

My last two weeks in Stockholm were light on the blog-worthy eating - I enjoyed return visits to Maxos and Greasy Spoon, but didn't hit up too many new places. I managed to take a quick lunchtime jaunt down to Hornstull to visit Seyhmus, a veggie buffet place recommended to me by Jess. It's really only open for lunchtime (or a very early dinner), but it's definitely worth the trip.

110kr ($18) buys you access to a very impressive array of hot dishes and salads. The  hot dishes included a fantastic spinach curry, a couple of different beany stews, some falafel balls and a delicious spinach and cheese pastry, while the selection of salads, dips and breads was just out of control (the chilli marinated mushrooms were probably my highlight). Herman's has a better view, but this place wins the battle of the buffets hands down.

My other blog-worthy meals were at Reggev Hummus, a teeny little restaurant right by my apartment that serves exclusively hummus-based meals. It was recommended to me by a few people and, while the idea of a hummus restaurant initially struck me as odd, it fast became a favourite option on nights that I was feeling lazy.

The concept is pretty simple - you get a couple of bits of bread, some pickles and a bowl filled with hummus plus some toppings. I had the hazilim (grilled eggplant, tomato and paprika, 95kr/$15.30), the foul (fava beans with tahini and egg, 85kr/$13.70) and the baz-veg (tomato and paprika sauce, with egg and tahini, 95kr/$15.30). They were all excellent, with the hummus a perfect vessel for the simple, tasty topping ingredients. The bread fell a bit short of the excellence you might get at somewhere like Mankoushe, but I still went back again and again when I was after a speedy takeaway meal on a lazy work night.

I had a wonderful couple of months in Stockholm - the availability of vego food is much higher than it was on my previous trip in 2009 and, even if nothing quite lives up to Smith & Daughters or Wide Open Road, I really enjoyed checking everything out. Besides, it's a gloriously beautiful city in spring and summer time - I can't wait to go back.

Posted June 22, 2016 08:25 PM by Michael

quinces and kale


Thai yellow curry

I spent 5 days in Leipzig for the Bach festival, an annual event dedicated to the music of Bach. In that time I attended 5 major concerts, 3 church services, and 6 smaller concerts. Leipzig is a smallish, manageable town with a pretty historical centre and I walked everywhere between my lovely apartment and 4 different venues.

nikolaikirche nikolaikirche ceiling Thomaskirche nikolaikirche

The only thing I did while in Leipzig, other than music,  was visit the old Stasi headquarters which is now a museum run by volunteers. It absolutely demonstrates the banality of evil, some of the spying techniques would be ridiculously comical, if only they hadn’t had such a brutal impact on people’s lives. The people of Leipzig are justifiably proud that the uprising against the authoritarian East German regime started here.

I hadn’t really given a lot of thought to food, but Leipzig apparently is one of Germany’s most vegan friendly cities. They do have a Veganz supermarket with a Goodies Cafe inside, but the other handful of vegan restaurants I found are several kilometers outside the city ring. I didn’t get to them as I was too busy racing from one concert to the next.

Eventually, I worked out what they meant by vegan friendly. I’m a compulsive menu reader and almost every mainstream restaurant has a couple of vegan dishes on the menu that are clearly marked.

I had a small kitchen in my apartment so I stocked up on both breakfast and sandwich making ingredients at Veganz. Breakfast has been lots of strawberries which are in season right now. They are not like the varieties we get at home. They are quite fragile, very sweet and aromatic.  I made my lunch most days.

One of my favourite spots to eat has been a salad and curry place called Dean and David just a couple of minutes walk from my apartment. They are part of a chain that is all over Germany. They have vegan curry and soup on their menu every day as well as build your own salads. My favourite was the Thai yellow curry pictured above.

Nikolaistraße 53
04109 Leipzig

dean & david
Höfe am Brühl
Brühl 1
04109 Leipzig

Posted June 22, 2016 03:30 PM

June 19, 2016

quinces and kale

berlin – the lucky leek

Ginger carrot with pistachios, tempura asparagus, white asparagus, bok choy, asparagus purée and a minty pea dumpling

On the second night I was in Berlin I dined at the Lucky Leek. I had booked before I left home to make sure I could go. I had high expectations and I wasn’t disappointed. The service is friendly and relaxed, I was treated well as a solo diner and given a nice table in the window. The food is refined without being so posh and minuscule that you end up hungry.

I had a choice of a 3 or 5 course chef’s menu. I chose the 5 courses. It cost 55 euros.

Here is what I ate.


Amuse Bouche of smoked tofu on a red pepper and lentil pilaf. This was accompanied by a sushi roll that had been fried in tempura batter and topped with something delicious that I couldn’t identify. Both were delicious.

smoked tofu on rice and lentil pilaf and tempura sushi roll


The first real course was a very pretty salad with a gratin of vegan feta on pumpernickel. It came with strawberries, pickled turnip and delicious apple purée and dried apple. Really good.

Gratin of feta on pumpernickel with salad, apple purée, green peppercorns, strawberry, radish and turnip

It is full on asparagus season in Europe at the moment and restaurants everywhere are featuring it on their menus. Here was no exception, where it came as a creamy asparagus soup with a wonton filled with potato and garnished with parsley oil. Simple and good with the crunch of the wonton perfect with the velvety soup.

Asparagus soup with a potato wonton and parsley oil

This course was probably my favourite. Ginger cooked carrot with pistachio, asparagus purée, sautéed bok choy, white asparagus, tempura green asparagus and a pea and mint dumpling. Plate licking worthy food.

Ginger carrot with pistachios, tempura asparagus, white asparagus, bok choy, asparagus purée and a minty pea dumpling

This course was mixed for me. Tempeh, gratinated eggplant, sweet potato and cheese croquette and cabbage with pepper and beetroot sauces. The tempeh was a dead loss for me as I can’t bear it unless it is thin and crispy. But the eggplant and the croquette were wonderful and the cabbage delicious. The sauces were not that thrilling. But I’d have eaten this dish for that croquette alone.

Tempeh, cabbage , cauliflower, sweet potato croquette, eggplant, pepper cream

Dessert was a fruit tart, with an apricot curry mousse and a lemon cheesecake icecream. All good and surprising the mousse with curry worked!

Fruit tart, apricot curry mousse, lemon cheesecake ice cream


I’d go back to the Lucky Leek anytime. It is high end, delicious vegan food without being stuffy and it is good value for the quality.

Lucky Leek
Kollwitzstraße 54
10405 Berlin

Posted June 19, 2016 09:46 PM


What I Ate: Some Celebrations

This is a What I Ate based on a few weeks of eats. Again, I didn’t do my planned weekly What I Ates because I kinda feel stuff is so boring for the blog, or the better stuff was eaten for dinner when there’s no good lighting at this time of year (and the photos...
Continue reading »

Posted June 19, 2016 04:02 PM

June 18, 2016


Vegan Oil Free Chocolate Malt Cake

Malt is one of those flavours I have always loved from childhood but alas, two of my favourite malt products contain dairy which rules them out for me. I’d love a vegan version of Milo, a popular malted milk powder in Australia. Johanna from Green Gourmet Giraffe is hosting this month’s We Should Cocoa challenge which...
Continue reading »

Posted June 18, 2016 05:34 PM

June 16, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Orange baked tofu

June 13, 2016

In the spirit of celebrating old favourites this winter, here's a recipe that we've been making for five years. It's the Zesty Orange Mojo Baked Tofu from Viva Vegan!. (Yeah, we did write about it back in 2010 but omitted instructions.)

This is a nifty foundation for a weeknight meal. First the tofu slices get baked in a little oil and tamari for seasoning. Then they're baked a second time in lots of orange juice, a bit of lime and some garlic until most of the liquid is evaporated. The bright flavours cling to the tofu, and the slices condense down to chewy bars. We've often served them as a meat substitute alongside grains and vegetables.

This week I held back just a bit on the second bake, keeping the tofu more tender. I've been folding it into tortillas and layering it up with avocado, a simple cabbage salad, and a herb-oil I made from parsley, coriander and dill. The vibrancy of this meal felt almost summery, even as I relied on early winter veges.

Orange baked tofu
(slightly adapted from a recipe from Terry Hope Romero's Viva Vegan!)

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon tamari
500g firm tofu

juice of 2 oranges
zest of 1 orange
juice of 2 limes
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt and pepper

Preheat an oven to 200°C.

Place the olive oil and tamari in a large, high-walled baking tray and whisk them together with a fork, spreading them evenly across the base. Slice the tofu into 1 cm-thick rectangles and arrange them in the tray so that they're not overlapping (they can cram right up side-by-side, though). Bake the tofu for 20 minutes.

While the tofu is baking, prepare and whisk together all of the marinade ingredients. When the tofu has had its 20 minutes, retrieve it from the oven and flip over each piece. Pour over all of the marinade and return the baking dish to the oven to bake the tofu for a further 30 minutes, until the tofu is chewy and most but not all of the marinade has evaporated.

Posted June 16, 2016 07:58 AM by Cindy

June 15, 2016

quinces and kale

kopps and viasko – the Berlin vegan brunch battle

Pancakes with fruit and custard, chocolate waffle with berry yoghurt

I ate brunch at Kopps on Saturday and Viasko on the Sunday while I was in Berlin for a week. Many people have sung the praises of both. I had to try them. Both are good.

The range is possibly slightly less at Kopps, but who is complaining when we are talking more than 30 dishes? There’s no way you could eat them all anyway.

Kopps brunch

The ambiance of the two places is very different. Kopps is light and spacious with a modern feel, while Viasko is gritty, grungy and dark. The crowds are very different too, I don’t think I saw a single tattoo at Kopps. 🙂

I sat outside in a pleasant sunken courtyard with greenery all round at Viasko, I don’t think I’d have stayed as long as I did if I’d been indoors. It was pretty dark. Perhaps I’m just getting a bit too old for the grunge vibe.

The food was good at both places but I have to give the win to Kopps for their more refined food and atmosphere and in particular the magnificent baked layered potato and sweet potato dish. I had two serves. Pancakes were excellent at Kopps too. But Viasko had a fabulous chocolate mousse and excellent spring rolls. The bread was better at Kopps too. Neither of them do decent coffee, but nobody does in Germany, apart from a couple of specialists.

Sadly, I was so excited by the food at Kopps that I completely forgot to photograph it and took a couple of hasty snaps of my half eaten dessert plate and some of the buffet on the way out. I’ve shamelessly taken a photo of the buffet from their Facebook page to show what it looks like as my photos don’t do it justice at all.

It was too dark to photograph the buffet at Viasko, so I just snapped a couple of my plates.

Viasko brunch Viasko brunch

I’m declaring Kopps the winner by a fair margin, both for refinement in food and the atmosphere. I’m back there for dinner soon too.

Linienstraße 94
10115 Berlin-Mitte

Viasko – Bar & Restaurant
Erkelenzdamm 49
10999 Berlin

Posted June 15, 2016 01:34 AM

June 12, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Twenty & Six Espresso III

June 5, 2016

I've been taking it gently as a I settle back into wintery Melbourne. I've been choosing old favourite recipes and restaurants that remind me what I love about home - baking granola, cooking lentil tacos and eating the leftovers in toasties, slurping up legume noodle soup. There's been porridge specials at Wide Open Road, dinner after work at Good Days, and Friday nights in local pubs.

Visiting the Queen Victoria Markets is another Melbourne staple. I picked up some soup ingredients there on a cold, wet Sunday and resolutely took myself across to Twenty & Six Espresso for a treat afterwards. They do Mörk hot chocolates including a vegan one they call the Bounty ($6). It's based on coconut cream and their house-made almond milk. Its richness comes more from the distinctive silkiness of that coconut cream and less from the light cocoa content; it's just a little frothy on top. I rationed it out slowly, with a sweet little (non-vegan) pumpkin cake ($4) decorated with just the right amount of cream cheese icing.


You can read about our previous visits to Twenty & Six here and here. Since then it's received positive reviews on confessions of a little piggy, Yellow Eggs, Concrete Playground, Mango Macarons, gochiso, Food Fable, Addicted to the Sweet Life, Eat. Play. Shop., Snow Crab Nebula and Big Hand and Little Hand. As counterpoints, there are mixed reviews on melbourne brunch scene, Eve Lovelle and GOOD FOOD GOOD MOOD, and negative reviews on Dammit Janet I Love Food and www.bleedingwineonmylips.com.

Twenty & Six Espresso
594 Queensberry St, North Melbourne
9329 0298

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry (although there are also some outdoor tables). The interior is pretty cosy and the toilets are out the back via the courtyard (which we haven't explored). I ordered at the table and paid at a low counter in the front room.

Posted June 12, 2016 08:20 AM by Cindy

quinces and kale

dresden (via cologne) and then to berlin

Past and future vegan platter

I made a short stopover in Dresden on my way from Brussels to Berlin. Really, Dresden contains my two most hated styles of architecture: hideous East German Workers Paradise grimness and the vastly different but also hideous overblown Baroque. So, on paper, I shouldn’t really have gone, but my sister encouraged me. I’m glad I did.

Reminders of the two World Wars are ever present in Europe, from fields of poppies and vast war cemeteries in Belgium to bombed and bullet scarred buildings that remain today, with commemorative plaques recognising events and injustices everywhere.

For me Dresden is a triumph. The city suffered appallingly with six days of firebombing at the hands of the Allies near the end of the war for no good reason other than terror. The historical centre was reduced to rubble. At least 25,000 people died in the inferno and those that survived lived under the gaze of one of the most efficient and brutal authoritarian secret police that ever lived, the East German Stasi.

Dresden has been rebuilt and many of the original historic buildings restored. The Frauenkirche, a magnificent piece of baroque engineering was rebuilt stone by stone after the reunification of Germany. It is just astonishing that it was done.

The city is set on the banks of the Elbe and is stunning viewed from the opposite bank in a scene pained by Canaletto.

Semperopera Dresden zwinger Dresden image image

On the way to Dresden I had a long wait for a sleeper train connection in Cologne, so I grabbed dinner at the Past and Future vegan restaurant, an unassuming home style place ten minutes walk from the centre of town. For around 11 euro I had a plate full of food from a buffet which was a strange cross cultural mix of salads, sushi, lasagna, German food and Thai. Hearty home cooking and tasty, but not stellar. I went for some salads, lasagna and a German bread dumpling with a creamy mushroom sauce, all pictured at the top of the post.

There was also a vegan restaurant in Dresden (The False Hare) which I had intended to try, but I never made it. Instead, I ate some tapas outdoors, with a beer on a lovely warm night in the fading light at 10pm. Summer days are so long here! Dresden was also my first sighting of the charming East German traffic signals. After reunification East Germans were fond of very little of the old, but apparently they fought a battle to keep their traffic signals. There are now shops selling all kinds of paraphernalia depicting ‘Ampelman’.

East German traffic signals East German traffic signals Old east German traffic signals Old east German traffic signals

After a day and a half in Dresden I set out for Berlin. I am wildly impressed with the public transport and the food so far.

My first day I had to do some long overdue laundry so my food choice for dinner was based on its proximity to the laundromat! Huong Sen is a vegan Vietnamese restaurant, which to be honest I wasn’t expecting to be wowed by as we have a large Vietnamese community at home and I’ve eaten some great Vietnamese food there. I was wrong. I was wowed. I had the most delicious spicy coconut curry soup with noodles, soft and crispy tofu and vegetables, washed down with a wheat beer while my clothes washed a five minute walk away.

Curry soup

After the war Germany needed guest workers to help rebuild so Turkish people arrived in West Germany and Vietnamese people in the East to work. So there are quite significant populations of both in Berlin. There are vegan versions of both cuisines to be found. I’m hunting down a vegan doner kebab…stay tuned.

Huong Sen
Danziger Strasse 42
Berlin, Germany

Past and Future Vegan Restaurant
Hamburger Strasse 2A
Cologne, Germany

Posted June 12, 2016 04:52 AM

June 10, 2016

quinces and kale

amsterdam to bruges by bike and onto brussels


One of the many highlights of this trip was an organised bike trip, riding from Amsterdam to Bruges with a small canal barge to sleep on at night. The cycling was great even though the weather was poor some of the time. The route is dead flat which made it easy. I had the added advantage of an electric bike which gave me some assistance for my dodgy knee and helped eat up the miles. They made a decent effort with the food on the boat but it wasn’t worth blogging.

We stopped in some great places on the way, among them Antwerp and Ghent. Belgium is such a well preserved incredible chocolate box of old buildings, everywhere you look is old, gilded or sometimes both. Speaking of chocolate, it is everywhere, in all shapes and sizes as the photo at the top of the post shows.

Lock keeper's house Bruges Bruges Bruges Bruges canal Basilica of the holy blood Bruges Chocolate Antwerp station Me cycling in holland windmills at kinderdijk

After the fantastic week of cycling I bade farewell to the group and headed to Brussels by train. I arrived and was well prepared with directions to my accommodation. The only problem was I couldn’t find my tram! On paper it runs along the main boulevard outside the station but it was nowhere to be found. I eventually asked a woman in my dreadful French who answered me, the only part I caught was ‘en bas’. I’ve discovered that some of the trams run underground.

Brussels is lovely too. It is a manageable size for walking most places and with both French and Flemish influences. It is a riot of guided splendour in the centre as well as a treasure trove of art nouveau and deco buildings further out.

Brussels art nouveau walk Brussels Royal gallery St Hubert Brussels Brussels art nouveau walk Brussels art nouveau walk Brussels art nouveau walk Brussels art nouveau walk Brussels art nouveau walk Brussels art nouveau walk Brussels art nouveau walk Brussels art nouveau walk

Vegan food was pretty thin on the ground, so I made my home away from home at Exki (the I in their name is a carrot) a cafeteria style sandwich/salad/soup/ready meal place with plenty of vegan options clearly marked. I pretty much lived there for breakfast and lunch.

Exki food Coconut red lentil and veg curry

Even the fries (that staple of a vegan when all else fails) aren’t safe in Belgium, they are cooked in beef fat. Sigh. Happily dark chocolate and the beer are vegan and Belgium excels at both.

Onwards to Germany, much more friendly vegan territory.

Exki Agora Branch
Rue du Marché aux Herbes 93,
1000 Bruxelles, Belgium

Posted June 10, 2016 08:31 AM

June 08, 2016

Thoughts Of A Moni

Victorian Wine Centre

I have often said that eating breakfast out is a huge indulgence. A meal which normally costs about $1.50 a home, can often increase to over $20 when you eat out. But admittedly, the options you receive at a café far outweigh the bowl of weet-bix I would ordinarily be having. So when you receive a message on a busy Saturday night asking if you want to catch up for breakfast on Sunday, it’s an offer I rarely turn down. After all, how can you say no to indulgence?!

A bunch of us met up in Middle Park with no clear plans of where we were given. I was happy to take a back seat and let someone else do the organising. Given how windy it was, there was a general consensus that we should avoid the beach and instead strolled along Armstrong St trying to find somewhere that looked exciting. We were a group of 7, so we needed a place that had a free table that was large enough for all of us, and we came across the Victorian Wine Centre.

At first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that this was a bar, or a wine shop, but it is infact a café or restaurant that takes their wine very seriously. However it was only 10am, and it would have most likely been frowned upon if we started our day with a champagne so we stuck with the traditional approach and ordered coffees.

Run by Italians, the Victorian Wine Centre clearly take pride in their coffee. Between us we ordered a variety of coffees including a flat white, a latte and a macchiato, and everyone was impressed.

The menu was heavily focused on eggs, with a few sweet options, but as usual I was in the mood for a savoury breakfast. In the end I chose a breakfast wrap. When it arrived, it looked huge! It was definitely not a wrap I could pick up, a knife and fork was essential.

Whilst the wrap was nothing exciting it was still nice. There was eggs (duh), cheese, salsa, and a dollop of sour cream. The serve of eggs was super generous but the cheese was not as apparent. The salsa was described as spicy, but it was fairly limited with the heat. Despite this, it was still an enjoyable breakfast, but nothing spectacular.

The other half chose to have house eggs. Served on a slice of sour dough was slices of tomato, spinach, feta, and two poached eggs. The plate was dressed with pesto and there was dukkah sprinkled on top. The dish was a flavour hit however it was deemed to be a little on the small side. However, we have big appetites, so perhaps it isn’t fair to use us as benchmarks!

Our morning at the Victorian Wine Centre was a good one. The company was great, the food was good and the coffee was excellent.

Victorian Wine Centre Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted June 08, 2016 08:30 AM by Moni

June 07, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Stockholm, weeks 5 & 6

May 15-28, 2016

Between our joint trip to Helsinki and Cindy's sneaky side-trip to Denmark, the last couple of weeks of May didn't turn out to be massively exciting food-wise in Stockholm (at least until the 28th!). Cindy made sure she got to sample Sweden's own mock-meat invention, Oumph! (pictured below). It's a soy-based product with a pretty impressive range - we had the thyme and garlic version, stir-fried to serve alongside a quinoa salad. It's a decent attempt - a chicken-y texture and some nice flavours make this a rare mock-meat you can eat without added sauce. Good job Sweden.


We tried to drop in to Herman's to show Cindy the view one Friday night, but the line was too long and we gave up. With Cindy's time in Stockholm fast running out, we wound up heading back on one of the few non-sunny evenings we've had here lately, which slightly dampens the experience.

The buffet (120kr/$20.05 per person) remains a solid dinner option in any weather, with quite a few variations from my earlier visit. The fresh bread and associated bean and avocado dips were probably my highlight, but there was plenty to enjoy.

Cindy convinced me that we should sample from the dessert cabinet, which has a very attractive array of options. She settled on the apple pie (50kr/$8.35) which was an excellent choice, having buttery pastry and an excellent filling. Her huge, cream-topped hot chocolate was vegan too! The quality felt like a step up from the buffet-style savoury dishes, so it might be wise to ease off a bit on the savoury plates (if you can restrain yourself) and leave room for some sweets.


Next up came the festival of Michael, starting with my birthday dinner at home on Friday night, and continuing with brunch at Louie Louie in our neighbourhood. The brunch menu kicks off at 11am, and things were pretty quiet when we arrived bang on time (it got busier by the time we finished at around midday).

The basic brunch plate is on the left below: sausage, scrambled eggs, chickpea salad, a parmesan and chilli scone, sun-dried tomato mayonaisse, roasted pumpkin, fig jam, a mango-orange smoothie and unlimited coffee refills, all for 150kr ($25). We decided to split a side of the waffles with berries and cream (30kr/$5 extra). It's a massive meal, working a very brown/yellow colour palette. I was really impressed by the 'chorizo', and enjoyed all the trimmings that came along with them. The waffle was mercifully thin and added the appropriately celebratory touch to start my birthday right.


We spent the day wandering around the city and then taking a nap to prepare for our late dinner at Fotografiska, a photography museum with a fancy restaurant overlooking the water. We strolled through the exhibitions and still had time to squeeze in a drink in the neighbouring bar.

The big windows really show off the restaurant's incredible view - we were lucky enough to get shuffled to a window seat early in our meal meaning we spent most of the time gawping out the window as the sun slowly went down (see also the pic at the top of the post).

The restaurant has a real buzz (at least on a Saturday  night), and almost all of the tables were full when we turned up at 8:45. The exposed beams and open kitchen are typically on trend, but it's really all about the windows and the view.

I ordered the cocktail of the day, a carrot and citrus based drink with gin and some other kind of booze involved (142kr/$23.70). It came out alongside some wonderful rye bread, served with pickled Swedish turnip, onion mayo and butter. I happily accepted a second round when they offered.

The menu proper has a strong vegetable focus, with four cold and four hot dishes, all with vegetables as their main component, but some with non-vego add-ons (all can be done vegetarian). The staff suggested four dishes each (they're 125kr/$20.90 each), so we ordered 6 of the 8 possible dishes and saved room for dessert.

The first four were: asparagus with fennel hollandaise and tarragon (above left), potatoes in browned butter with cold smoked sour cream and tapioca (replacing the roe, above right), spring weeds with a herb marinated egg and a light broth (below left), and ramson pasta with fennel (below right). All four were fantastic - I think the asparagus and the potato were the stars of the first round, but there were no weak links.

The final two savouries were salt-baked beetroot with a smoky potato puree (below left) and a baked yellow onion with mushrooms, Jerusalem artichoke and truffle (below right). These two took things to even higher levels - managing somehow to be surprising and comforting at the same time.

We had to see whether the desserts (again 125kr/$20.90 each) could possibly measure up to the savouries, splitting a Jerusalem artichoke pizza with caramel and elderflower...

... and a serve of the birch ice-cream, with sorrel ice, meringue and liqourice.

Again, these were inventive and delicious - the kitchen at Fotografiska churns out some brilliantly thoughtful creations. 

We had friendly and efficient service - there was a screw up with my coffee, which they promptly rectified and then didn't charge for - and the setting is to die for, but the food managed to outdo them both. It's not obvious how well they'd manage vegan food, although the website is very clear that they're happy to cater for any requirements given enough notice, so it would be well worth a try. The food we had was so vegetable-focussed and creative, that it seems likely they'd come up with something worthwhile. I'm really glad we chose Fotografiska for our one properly fancy meal in Stockholm - it's a total winner.

This was our last meal together before Cindy set off home to Melbourne. I might make one more round-up of Stockholm eats before I, too, head home.

Posted June 07, 2016 06:48 AM by Michael

June 06, 2016


In My Kitchen June 2016

My favourite season is over and we’re now in winter (my second favourite season. Summer comes way last). Except I feel like there wasn’t much of an autumn, or perhaps I just didn’t get out as much as I hoped! In autumn I like to go and take photos of the trees, especially in the...
Continue reading »

Posted June 06, 2016 06:08 PM

Thoughts Of A Moni

In My Kitchen - June 2016

June is so full of birthdays for me, which means that a lot of meals are consumed at restaurants outside the kitchen. This is great because I love eating out, but it also means the potential of leftovers is significantly reduced which is a problem because leftovers are my staple food for work lunches. I spent the bulk of this weekend cooking up big batches of food that I can freeze to last a little while.

I made these infamous fake sausage rolls that I have blogged previously. I made a double batch of the filling, and froze half of it, so I can pull it out when I need it. These sausage rolls are always a hit with vegetarians and meat eaters alike, and are pretty healthy too. I can’t go without crediting Where’s The Beef, which is where I originally found the recipe, and years on, it is still a staple dish in my kitchen.

Winter has well and truly started in Melbourne, which means that winter vegetables are in season. I picked up a couple of heads of broccoli at the market. I had plans to make Ottolenghi’s broccoli and gorgonzola pie, but I didn’t have some of the ingredients, so instead I decided to make a big batch of pasta. It’s a pretty easy recipe, and was a bit of a crowd pleaser.

2 heads of broccoli, cut into small florets
500g of pasta, I used spirals, but I’m sure you could use anything
A generous amount of olive oil, say about 60ml
3 or 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 chilli (or more if you like the heat), sliced
About 60g of parmesan, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

1.    Put the broccoli in a big pot of salted boiling water, and cook for about 3 minutes. Once tender, remove the broccoli with a slotted spoon and set aside.
2.    In the same pot, cook the pasta according to the directions on the packet. Once the pasta is cooked, drain, reserving about ½ cup of the water.
3.    Heat half the olive oil in a large frying pan or skillet.
4.    Add the garlic and chilli, and fry off.
5.    After a few minutes add the broccoli and fry off for another few minutes.
6.    Add the pasta to the pan, and mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste.
7.    Add the remaining olive oil, the water you had set aside from cooking the pasta, and almost all the parmesan. Mix well. The parmesan should melt and coat the pasta.
8.    Serve into bowls and sprinkle with remaining parmesan.

My batch was enough for about 4 serves, but bear in mind we eat large serves. You probably could have easily made it five serves. You could also add a few extra flavours like capsicum or wilted spinach. It’s a great way to incorporate more veggies into meals, which is something I am quite conscious of doing.

I found this amazing Connoisseur Murray River Salted Caramel and Macadamia Nut ice cream. This is usually quite a pricey ice cream, definitely reserved for special occasions, but I managed to find it on a super special, and we’ve been devouring it after dinner almost nightly. It is bloody delicious and I might have to stock up the next time I see it on special.

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series hosted by Maureen from the Orgasmic Chef. Head over to her blog to see what is going on in other people's kitchens!

Posted June 06, 2016 08:51 AM by Moni

June 05, 2016


Shopping At The Source Bulk Foods In Brunswick

One of my favourite stores to shop at is The Source Bulk Foods in Brunswick, currently the biggest specialised bulk food retailer in Australia. The Source has many outlets around town and also around the country. They are a plastic bag and packaging free store and encourage customers to bring in their own containers. The products are...
Continue reading »

Posted June 05, 2016 12:56 PM

June 03, 2016

Thoughts Of A Moni

Rice Paper

China Town is generally the go to place for Asian in the CBD, but unless you’re having dumplings, these places aren’t usually very vegetarian friendly. As a result, we decided to venture down to Swanston St so see what we could find. We were going to go and see The Sound Of Music, so we were on a strict time schedule, and only had about an hour for dinner.

We had no plans of where we were going, but instead hoped that we would stumble upon something that appealed to us. As we walked along, we came across Rice Paper, which was unrelated to the very popular Rice Paper Scissors where it is close to impossible to get a table on a whim!

With a sign that said they specialised in Vietnamese street food, and a menu that had vegetarian options, we decided this was the place for us!

Rice Paper had an ordering system that was very similar to Pappa Rich. There was a menu for us to peruse, and a note pad and pencil on every table where we could write down our order. I made a quick decision and settled on the vegetarian spring rolls with vermicelli. This is usually one of my go to dishes when we go to Springvale for lunch, so I was keen to try it out somewhere different.

The service was super quick, and our dishes arrived in a matter of minutes. The serving sizes were generous, and my vermicelli came with a side of flavoursome nuoc mam sauce which I drizzled over the top. I was impressed with the ratio of spring rolls to vermicelli which is always my first concern. But I was equally impressed with the flavours and freshness that the dish contained.

My dining partner ordered char grilled pork on vermicelli, which some additional chicken spring rolls. Whilst she enjoyed her dish, she did comment that the pork didn’t have the authentic charred taste that she was hoping for which was a little disappointing, especially when you can usually count on street food for smoky, charred flavours.

Nevertheless our dinner was an enjoyable one, and I will definitely put Rice Paper on the list of quick dinner venues in the CBD.

Rice Paper Vietnamese Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted June 03, 2016 10:14 AM by Moni

June 01, 2016


Cookbook Review: Chloe’s Kitchen

Chloe’s Kitchen: 125 Easy, Delicious Recipes for Making the Food You Love the Vegan Way is the first cookbook written by chef Chloe Coscarelli. Chloe was the first vegan to win a cookery competition on national (USA) TV, taking out the winning spot on Cupcake Wars. Since her big win, she has released three cookbooks...
Continue reading »

Posted June 01, 2016 09:21 PM

May 31, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Mandarin-chocolate ganache tart

May 27, 2016

This year we celebrated Michael's birthday in Stockholm. I had organised a couple of gifts for him while I was in Melbourne and he was already travelling. I hid a proudly home-sewn shirt for him in the lining of my backpack, but didn't want to carry the weight of the cookbook I'd ordered all around Europe. Instead I photographed a few of the recipes that might plausibly be made in a small foreign kitchen, and prepared a couple of them for him as a birthday preview.

The cookbook was Street Vegan, a collection of recipes from the Cinnamon Snail food truck that won Michael's affection and appetite in New York City two years ago. There's a detailed review and recipe trials on Veganopoulous posted late last year, and she kindly let me browse her copy while we were hanging out around then. There's lots of tasty-looking seitan that draws on our whole pantry-full of supplies and an entire doughnut chapter. It'll be fun stuff for weekend cooking projects at home. I wound things back a little in Stockholm, but was still able to draw on some specialty vegan groceries thanks to the nearby goodstore.

For dinner, I embarked on beer-battered Buffalo tofu with roasted garlic ranch dip. Sobel suggests serving it with stewed collard greens and vegan mac'n'cheese. Echoing his way, I used handfuls of kale-based salad mix and a just-add-soymilk packet of vegan mac'n'cheese. Add a couple of beers from the Systembolaget and we had a pretty great celebratory dinner.

For dessert I skipped over the doughnuts and made a mandarin-chocolate ganache tart. It has a base of crushed Oreos and a silky-smooth filling of dark chocolate, coconut milk and orange juice for a creamy jaffa effect. I reluctantly left out the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom due to my kitchen sitch and reckon I'd enjoy some spicy complexity. The impressive flourish is the candied mandarin slices on top, skin and all, baked for just 10 minutes, all chewy and brightly flavoured.

The local pie dish was very wide and shallow - I struggled to stretch my crushed biscuits across the base, and was a bit haphazard in my measuring. As a result my tart slices didn't hold together, and we didn't mind spooning through sloppy slices of biscuit-crumbed ganache one bit. I guess I'll just have to try this recipe again, as Sobel originally intended, when I'm back home.

Mandarin-chocolate ganache tart
(adapted from a recipe in Adam Sobel's Street Vegan)

candied mandarins
1/4 cup golden syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon water (added by me to thin out the glaze)
4 mandarins, washed

154g packet Oreos
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for greasing tray

200g dark chocolate
165mL can coconut milk
165mL orange juice (probably too much)

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Line a baking tray with foil.

In a small bowl, whisk together the syrup, salt, oil, vanilla and water. Carefully slice the mandarins into rounds, as thin as you can get away with while keeping the pieces round and whole. Dredge each mandarin slice in the syrup and place them on the tray without overlapping. Bake for 10 minutes. (I turned the oven off and let them sit there as the oven cooled, to caramelise further and dry out a little.)

To make the crust, crush the Oreos and place them in a medium bowl. Stir through the oil. Lightly grease a pie dish, then press the biscuit crumbs into the base and up the sides of the dish - I use the back of a spoon to smooth them out. Refrigerate the crust while you make the ganache.

Roughly chop the dark chocolate and set it aside. In a medium-large saucepan, stir together the coconut milk and the orange juice. Bring them to the boil and then turn off the heat. Whisk in the chopped chocolate until smooth. My mixture was very runny, and I allowed it to sit and thicken for about 20 minutes. Retrieve the pie dish from the fridge and pour the ganache over crust, smoothing over the top as needed. Refrigerate the tart for at least an hour.

When the ganache has begun to firm up, arrange the mandarin slices decoratively over the tart. Refrigerate the tart for at least another 4 hours, until the ganache is firm enough to slice.

Posted May 31, 2016 07:43 AM by Cindy

May 26, 2016

quinces and kale



I had the good fortune to find a relatively cheap(ish) business class fare from Melbourne to Amsterdam. After vacillating a lot, I decided to splurge and paid the price. I have never slept on a plane before but this time I slept beautifully, arriving refreshed and ready to go. Oh how the other half live!

The food in business class was also a cut above usual airline food, but that isn’t a high bar. I was travelling on China Southern so I ordered a VOML which is the code for a vegan oriental meal. Sometimes Asian interpretations of western food are bad and I figured this was safer.

I was served a couple of noodle dishes, Asian flavoured salads, pickles, lots of nuts and fruit platters, great veggie dim sum for breakfast and a beautiful coconut rice pudding with mango and pistachios.

image image image image image image Airline food

I am staying in an Airbnb near the lovely Vondelpark in a street lined with restaurants. On on my first day here I walked the 30 minutes into the centre of Amsterdam with its lovely canals and bridges and spent 4 hours at the Van Gogh museum on the way. The people here are super friendly and helpful and almost everyone speaks English, which is fortunate as my Dutch is non existent.

image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image image

Brunch was a salad roll. Dutch bakeries are excellent with really good bread, and I ate a late lunch at the Food Crib stand in Museumsplein that serves a vegan burger – The famous Amsterdam Hemp Burger – made of hemp seeds as well as other seeds and beans. It was tasty enough but not thrilling.

image image

That night I ate a pizza at a local wood fired place and it was stellar. I’ve yet to find much vegan food here, there are a few places either health food focussed or ‘lentil as anything’ style with a grittier edge. The latter are booked over the phone on the day and places are limited, selling out quickly. They are in some cases run in conjunction with squats.

So it looks like salad rolls for me for now. Lucky they are delicious.

Amsterdam is a wonderful city for walking for the same reason as it is great for cycling. It’s dead flat. If you get tired the trams run every few minutes, about the time it takes to walk another stop. As for cycling, it is astonishing here. I’ve NEVER seen so many bikes. They’re chained up everywhere by the thousands possibly millions, there are special bike lanes separate from the traffic, and people riding, young and old with not a speck of Lycra to be seen. They all ride comfortable upright posture Dutch city bikes in work clothes. In vain some fences have no bike parking signs on them, but it often gets ignored.  The only drawback with all the bikes is I am still getting used to looking the other way before crossing and I’ve nearly stepped in front of a bike a few times because they’re silent! Crossing a cycle path can be harder than crossing the road! The roads have traffic signals but the bike path bit needs to negotiated first. Waiting for a break in the bicycle traffic can be lengthy, a bit like crossing the road in Vietnam if you’ve ever done that. I’ve come to the firm conclusion that there are more bikes than people in Amsterdam.

The streetscapes here are lovely, they remind me of New York, not the buildings which have a style of their own, but of the village feel in a city. Long terraces of skinny houses, all with trademark hook for hoisting things to the upper floors (although I did see a more modern way of moving), they most often are duplexes with pairs of entry doors, some beautifully decorative, some surrounded by tile work. The quieter streets are full of planter boxes with flowers and seats for resting.


Today I started with a breakfast of toast and sides at Anne & Max, a good local coffee place and then spent 6 hours in the Rijksmuseum and, you guessed it, ate another salad roll for lunch.

This evening I decided to make a bit of an effort and I ate dinner at a modern Indonesian restaurant called Blauw, just a few doors down from where I am staying. I had checked out the menu in the window on the way home and they serve a vegetarian rijstafel, rice with masses of side dishes, which while not all vegan, all but two dishes were. Not having the two dishes with egg in them was not a problem, there was so much food I didn’t feel deprived. It was delicious, but pricy. At least more expensive than a salad roll! The dishes were a range of curries, satay, fiery chilli sambals, fried banana, roasted coconut, steamed and fried vegetables, all great.

image image image

I waddled home to be greeted by the two resident cats in the Airbnb where I am staying. I’d only met Kiwi before, but another cat appeared tonight draped on the stairs and showed no signs of moving, so I had to step over him on my way to lie down after all that food.

Anne & Max
Amstelveenseweg 196
1075 XS Amsterdam

Amstelveenseweg 158-160
1075 XN Amsterdam

Posted May 26, 2016 12:39 PM

May 25, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne


May 14-19, 2016

As we've hinted in our last two posts, Michael has some colleagues in Helsinki. They welcomed us to their city for touring, eating and working, and we set aside extra time for our own exploring. I've got a couple of Finnish colleagues of my own, and they were wonderful sources of information for sight-seeing and vegetarian food. We lodged in Kallio, less than a block from its striking Lutheran church (pictured above).

Our first stop was Kahvila Sävy. Here Michael was glad to buy the kind of coffee he drinks daily in Melbourne and I enjoyed dark, frothy hot chocolates that are harder to come by back home. Most customers are here for the hot drinks (and perhaps the wifi), but there's also a small selection of sandwiches, pastries and cakes for the hungry. We shared a sweetly homely apple slice with vanilla sauce on our second visit.


Michael did just enough forward planning to secure us a 2pm Saturday booking at Sandro Kallio. While we would surely have eaten well there at any time, this booking coincided with their weekly Vegan & Veggie Garden Brunch. For 28.50€ (AU$44.30) each, we were handed glasses of sparkling wine and provided a two-hour slot to feast on a staggering buffet.

A candle-lit bench groaned with Ottolenghi-style salads, breads, pickles, freshly cut fruit, pastries and jams. It took two plates to cover these bases, and still there was a further section of 'mains'. These took the form of half a dozen tagines featuring braised vegetables, lentils, stewed seitan and tahini-drizzled felafel. At the bar, we were free to help ourselves to sparkling water, berry smoothies and ginger shots. The dessert table was right by the entry, so we knew to save space for a little cheese and a sample of the cakes.


Elsewhere in the neighbourhood, Just Vege offered more low-key meals. The staff preferred to speak in English and had easy-to-read menus laid out in two languages with clear vegan and gluten-free options. Though they boast about their felafel, we both preferred to try their mock meats.

Michael laid into hot'n'spicy burger meal (11.90€ ~ AU$18.50), a slightly less sugary, disposable version of what he'd order at Lord of the Fries. It came with extra coleslaw, shredded lettuce, and some knock-out seasoned fries.

I chose the schnitzel (11.90€ ~ AU$18.50), a slim and crunchy-crumbed cutlet that came with blander 'carved potatoes' (I may have taken Michael's dipping sauce), ratatouille, coleslaw and shredded lettuce.

Throw in a Club-Mate to drink, and Just Vege had us feeling rather nostalgic for the vegan fast foods we ate around Berlin four years ago.

On Michael's way in to work we stopped by Good Life Coffee for a small breakfast and a flat white (!). The menu - written decoratively in English on two mounted skateboard decks - includes granola & yoghurt, steamed eggs with avocado, avocado on toast, and (pictured above) peanut butter, sliced banana & maple syrup on toast (4€ ~ AU$6.20).

I worked quietly from our apartment and took myself out to lunch at a Vietnamese vegetarian restaurant I'd walked past a couple of days earlier. The menu of 3 lunch specials was written in Finnish, but the staff behind the counter didn't mind verbally translating the options. I ended up with rice vermicelli noodles stir-fried with tofu, carrot, mushrooms and either cabbage or iceberg lettuce (8.40€ ~ AU$13 for a 'small' [actually huge] serve), and a complementary bowl of salad with distinctly non-Vietnamese green olives.

The meal lacked the vibrant herbs and seasonings of the food we've enjoyed in Vietnam and, indeed, Melbourne. It was a reminder of just how great we have it at home.

For dinner after work, we retired to trendy pub Kuja. Vegetarian options rotate haloumi, eggplant and other roasted veges through burgers, crepes and 'white pizza's. We tested two of the burgers. Michael's vegan one (14.90€ ~ AU$23.20) featured a sweet potato-lentil patty that came off too mushy and messy; my haloumi one (14.50€ ~ AU$22.50) fared better with a thick slab of cheese offset by tangy pickles and chilli mayo. With a sturdier bun, mine just about held it together to the end.

With bags packed on Wednesday morning we fueled up at Silvoplee, a large, casual vegetarian buffet Michael had spotted earlier in the week. It's clearly a popular spot for healthy and varied lunches, where you can pick through dozens of salads and hot dishes, plonk 'em on a plate or in a takeaway container, and pay by weight (the ones above costs 16€ ~ AU$25 on the left and 8€ ~ AU$12.50 on the right). I most enjoyed the stuffed mushroom and the avocado hummus.

Kallio was definitely Helsinki's cool spot for coffee, veg-friendly eating and hairdressing. It seems that Europeans are fond of a good buffet and we've found that they're a great way to access a variety of vegetables and fruits. Though it's tempting, we can't survive this trip on haloumi alone.

Posted May 25, 2016 06:38 PM by Cindy

May 23, 2016

Thoughts Of A Moni

Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been lucky enough to see a couple of great musicals. I saw Singin’ In The Rain, and also The Sound of Music. Both were great, and you should take the opportunity to see them if you can! This also meant that I had to find options for quick, pre-show dinners in the city and we managed to find some good offerings.

Down on Swanston St there are a couple of Asian restaurants that I like to put in the cheap and cheerful category. Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar is located just near the Lonsdale St intersection and is spread across two levels. There is counter, a small amount of seating and the kitchen downstairs, and upstairs there is more seating. One the night we went, I was starving, and I was willing to settle for anything that was affordable and had vegetarian options so I was more than happy to give Your Thai a go.

The menu is set up like a typical Asian menu, with lots of pictures, and very affordable prices. Myself and the other half both decided to opt for rice options. I chose to have the vegetarian tom yum with Rice whilst the other half went for a beef massaman curry.

True to the cheap and cheerful tag, both meals were served on plastic melamine dishes that were sectioned into to compartments for the rice and the curry. Tom Yum is one of my favourite flavours, and true to expectation, my dish packed a good amount of punch. It was also quite generous with the amount of vegetables and tofu through the sauce so I was happy.

The other half was also reasonably pleased with his dish. Again, there was a generous amount of meat through the sauce and a good amount of flavour so he couldn’t complain.

Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar is not a restaurant you would go to for a fine dining experience, or to impress a date, but it definitely does a decent meal at a good price point. The service is quick, the décor is basic, and the quick turnover of tables means that there are a lot of Melbournians who appreciate what they have to offer.

Your Thai Rice and Noodle Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted May 23, 2016 11:55 AM by Moni

May 20, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne


May 16, 2016

Before we cover eating around Helsinki, I want to talk about Tallinn. It turns out that Estonia's capital is no more than a two-hour boat ride from Helsinki and our airbnb hosts and Michael's Finnish colleagues urged us to take a day to visit its Old Town. Indeed we were completely charmed by Tallinn's architecture, from its 13th century walls (pictured bottom of post) to the well-maintained pastel-hued shops and the orthodox churches.

Happy Cow also pointed us towards the instructively named Vegan Restoran V for lunch. Even as we arrived at their noon opening their cozy indoor seating was almost booked out - clearly they have a good reputation.

We started out with bubbly drinks in fancy glasses and distinctly Estonian nutty brown bread; Michael made sure this was all gobbled up before our meals arrived and the staff kindly supplied more.

As we picked through the rest of the menu, I wasn't sure what to order. The dips and cashew cheeses of the starters list appealed to me more than the salads, soups and main courses. That is, besides the seitan dish that Michael had already claimed - I wasn't in the mood for barley or quinoa or even a burger.

In the end I followed my instincts and ordered two starters. The beetroot ravioli with cashew cheese (4.90€ ~ AU$7.60) was a lovely little plate with skins of beetroot and generous lashings of tangy cheese garnished with fresh spinach leaves, sprouts and a little pesto.

Even better was the snack platter (7.90€ ~ AU$12.20), where I picked my way through spicy crumbly wedges of tofu, cheese cubes, olives, sundried tomatoes, more sprouts and spinach, and the two best components - grilled zucchini sandwiched with more cashew cheese, and pumpkin hummus on fresh bread. These dips were beautifully seasoned with garlic and salt, and I'd have gladly made a meal of them (and really, I just about did, didn't I?).

Meanwhile Michael took on the grilled seitan with parsnip carrot puree and red wine beetroot sauce (8.70€ ~ AU$13.50). It was a gorgeous, full-flavoured rainbow of a plate with two tender 'steaks', a comforting mash and fruity sauce, lifted by fresh asparagus, cherry tomatoes, radishes and herbs.

As we spied on the meals served to other tables, it was evident that there were no wrong orders from this menu. What didn't quite excite me on the page was consistently vibrant on the plate. The selection of vegan cakes by the counter were cute, too, but we didn't have the appetite or the time (our table had a reservation attached to it).

With English menus, professional staff and favourable prices, we couldn't fault our short lunch at Vegan Restoran V. The restaurant and Tallinn as a whole were unexpected delights that we'd enthusiastically recommend to anyone visiting northern Europe.

Posted May 20, 2016 06:18 PM by Cindy

quinces and kale

transformer 2


I had the absolute pleasure of eating at Transformer again last night. Like last time, we opted for the ‘Feed Me’ option, which is a bargain at $45. I hadn’t really intended to blog the dinner because I just wanted to relax and enjoy the company of a couple of interstate friends I hadn’t seen in a long time. I didn’t take any photos except for one – dessert.

This time I was prepared to call an earlier halt to the endless parade of dishes in order to leave room for dessert.  I am so glad I did. Even though we had stopped after about 7 or 8 plates, we were still pretty full, so we opted to share one dessert between the three of us. We chose the brownie.

This brownie comes beautifully presented with chocolate ganache, soil, salted coconut icecream and cherry gel. It is rich, but not too sweet and the sour cherry gel is a fantastic foil to the richness.

I felt like the dessert deserved a post all its own, so here it is.

I’m about to head overseas for five weeks, so stay tuned for lots of travelling and eating posts from The Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and China.

99 Rose St
Fitzroy, 3065
9419 2022


Posted May 20, 2016 04:07 PM

May 18, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Stockholm, weeks 3 & 4

May 1-14, 2016

Weeks 3 and 4 of my Stockholm trip were split by Cindy's arrival and our long weekend in Basel. Before we met up I ate my way through a big pile of leftover Singapore noodles and squeezed in a couple of quick outings.

I worked at home on Wednesday and wandered the neighbourhood in search of lunch, settling on Bengali street food at Gossip. It's run by the same people who run Shanti (see below) and was buzzing at 12:30 on a sunny Wednesday. I nabbed a seat in the window and ordered the Monsoon rain sabji from the lunch menu - it's a combination of veggies (carrot, zucchini, sweet peas, pumpkin), lentils, papaya and a mildly spicy sauce, served with salad, rice and a fried egg. The standard lunch also includes a mango lassi and at 90 krona ($15), it's pretty decent value.

That evening I met up with some work friends for a speedy bird photography outing to Djurgården and we continued on afterwards for dinner together at Calexico's in Hornstull. It offers the kind of trendy Mexican food that Melbourne's been pumping out for the last five years in a bright, airy space down by the water.

My chimichangas with sweet potatoes, black beans, grilled veggies and a mild salsa verde (178kr, $29.50) were an excellent vegan option, and the atmosphere and company made for a lovely outing. 

My last meal before heading to Basel was a return visit for lunch at Chutney - Cindy followed suit soon after we arrived back in Stockholm, breaking up one of her days working from the apartment.

I'd eyed off the veggie burger (120kr, $20) on my previous visit and really enjoyed it on this visit - the patty is 'meaty' and rich, and the burger is a delicious mess of sauces and salads. The side spuds were fantastic as well - it's a hearty lunch though, so make sure you're hungry. On Cindy's trip she ordered from the set lunch options - for 98kr ($16.30) you get your choice of one of three main dishes, plus salad and bread. She ordered the tikka masala, a creamy dish of beans and veggies on some A-grade fluffy rice. Chutney isn't going to blow too many minds food-wise, but it's a reliable lunch place in a very convenient location.

We came back from Basel on a Sunday night and lacked the energy to shop and cook something for dinner. Luckily, Shanti is just down the street - it came recommended by a colleague at work and my successful lunch at Gossip (above) meant I had high hopes.

The menu is impressively varied - we could easily come back two or three more times to try all the dishes on our wish lists. We started out with a serve of the palak paneer pakoras (80kr, $13.30), an innovative attempt at combining two of my favourite Indian dishes. It worked brilliantly too - these crisp little balls are probably the best way to enjoy palak paneer. Cindy ordered the nawabi kofta, fried veggie balls flavoured with ginger, garlic, chilli and coriander, served in a creamy korma sauce. I managed to sneak a taste, and was impressed by the fresh veggie chunks evident in the kofta balls.

My main was the sak sabji dal - a similar dish to the great lunch I had at Gossip, with papaya, lentils, spinach, potato and coriander in a spicy curry sauce. It was superb, although the pick of all the dishes was probably the standard dal that came with both mains - a simple but perfectly spiced lentil curry. Shanti is a step above most Indian places we've been to - the veggies feel fresher and more central to the dishes - it's easy to see why they've built a little empire in Stockholm.

Tuesday night we took advantage of the late hours at Moderna Museet for a quick wander through their collection, before stopping for a pizza on the way home. Denniso Pizzeria is recommended on Happy Cow for its separate vegan menu, so we decided it was worth a visit.

There are five vegan options, with three relying on mock-meats and a couple of more vegetable-focussed offerings. We split the difference, with a funghi (mushrooms, red onion, vegan cheese, 100kr/$16.50) and a kebab (seitan kebab meat, onion, tomato, iceberg lettuce, pepperoni and garlic sauce, 120kr/$20).

These were decent vegan efforts - nice thin bases, a bio-cheese style cheesiness and a decent array of toppings. The recreation of a classic kebab in vegan pizza form was particularly impressive - the garlic sauce and chilli peppers gave this a very authentic kebab vibe.

The final blog-worth meal of the fortnight was all Cindy's - a solo lunch at SoderManna, another nearby casual vego place.

The menu offers a standard range of burgers, wraps and salads, mixing up mock-meat, haloumi and falafel as the main ingredients. Cindy ordered the veggie burger, with a side of potato wedges and salad (59kr/$10).

The thick potato wedges and garlicky dip were the best parts of the plate, with the burger a decent 'meaty' patty generously slathered in tomato sauce. Sodermanna isn't sophisticated or fancy, but it's super cheap and you won't leave hungry.

We skipped out on Stockholm after this meal for a long weekend in Helsinki - stay tuned for a quick tour through the veggie restaurants of Finland (and Estonia!).

Posted May 18, 2016 03:45 AM by Michael

May 17, 2016

Thoughts Of A Moni

Singin' In The Rain

This sponsored post is brought to you by Nuffnang and Singin’ In The Rain. 

We often forget how lucky we are in Melbourne. We have some of the best restaurants, an awesome laneway culture, great shopping, and these days we are also privileged to have some of the world’s great musicals play here.

I was fortunate enough to go and see Singin’ In The Rain last Friday. After a sold out West End season, four Olivier Award nominations and a major UK tour, Singin’ In The Rain is set to delight Australian audiences starting with Melbourne, and following with seasons in Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth.

Admittedly, I didn’t know much about the musical. I had never seen the movie, and my entire knowledge of the show revolved around the title track, after all who hasn’t seen a clip of Gene Kelly singing and splashing about in the rain?! I could have done some research and read up on the story before I went to see the stage show, but I decided to go in blind so that I could get a genuine experience without any preconceived expectations.

Her Majesty’s Theatre is one of Melbourne’s grand theatres, and as we walked in to the hall, I thought of all the hundreds and thousands of performers who had graced the stage there. Like I said, we are certainly lucky to be in Melbourne.

Singin’ In The Rain tells the story of two silent movie stars, Don Lockwood played by Adam Garcia, and Lina Lamont played by Erika Heynatz, whose careers coincide with the cusp of the sound being introduced to the movies. Don and Lina are famous as the ‘it’ couple of the silent screen, but alas, Lina’s grating voice and inability to sing means that their time as a duo is looking shaky. Enter Kathy Selden played by Gretel Scarlett who is enlisted to be Lina’s voice behind the camera, throw in a love triangle and some comic relief from Cosmo Brown, played by Jack Chambers, plenty of 1920’s glitz and glamour, and you have yourself a great musical!

Adam Garcia draws on his dancing skills that led him to being one of the founding members of the Tap Dogs, and in Singin’ In The Rain, he is given the opportunity to showcase his talents. The star of the show is however, Erika Heynatz. She perfected Lina’s grating voice to a tee, and when the other half turned to me and said, ‘man she’s annoying!’ I knew she had mastered her role!

The trademark scene where Don Lockwood is singing and dancing in the rain is done superbly. 12000 litres of water are used each show (don’t worry, the water is recycled and reused!) and the first three rows of the theatre have been dubbed the ‘splash zone’ with patrons being given ponchos to protect themselves from the splashes! It certainly makes for a fun experience, and a word of warning, the splashes travel further than just the third row!

Playing for a limited season in Melbourne, Singin’ In The Rain is definitely not to be missed!

Posted May 17, 2016 08:45 AM by Moni

May 15, 2016

vegan about town


I'm a little bit obsessed with this jambalaya that I modded from The Gumbo Pages. No photo because it's not attractive, but it's so tasty and not that involved and makes heaps and it's so good. SO GOOD. Being Azn-Australian I dunno how proper/right my version ended up being, but it was really tasty so here's hoping.

Vegan Jambalaya
modified from Creole-style vegetarian jambalaya at The Gumbo Pages

Takes just over an hour; serves 8-10 portions.

half cup olive oil
1 brown onion, diced small
1 red onion, diced small
1 red capsicum, diced small
half butternut pumpkin, peeled, cubed
2 carrots, diced small
2 cups worth of sweet potato, washed but not peeled, cubed
1 zucchini, diced
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tins crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
2 tablespoons chilli paste (or MORE if you think your housies won't notice)
some paprika
some salt
half teaspoon dried thyme
half teaspoon oregano
4 cups jasmine rice
several cups vegetable stock (6-8)
half cup tomato paste
300 g soft tofu, cubed
3 vege sausages, chopped

Heat the oil over medium heat, add onions and garlic and saute for five in SO MUCH OIL; then add capsicum, pumpkin, carrot, potato, zucchini for another five. Then add all the spices and the bayleaves, fry up, then add the tomato paste, followed by a bit of stock to deglaze. Add all the tomatoes, bring to a boil, then add the stock and the rice and the tofu and the vege sausages.

If you don't have a pot big enough to contain ALL OF THIS DELIGHT, leave the rice out, and just add as much stock as needed to cover what's in the pot. When you're prepping your rice in your rice cooker, add a scoop from your cooking pot to the rice water. This will help carry some of the flavour across.

Cook the mix for about 35 minutes, without stirring (this is especially important if the rice is in the pot!).

Remove from the heat and let sit for five minutes before serving.

Posted May 15, 2016 11:56 AM by steph

May 14, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Sauteed vegetables with mock chorizo

May 9, 2016

In Stockholm Michael's been living in a cute airbnb lined with books. The kitchen is small but handy, and a much cheaper alternative to eating out. There's a supermarket just across the street. On my first full day in town he set off to the university and I stayed in to do my own work, agreeing to organise dinner. 

I noticed that Michael had a packet of mock chorizo sausages in the fridge. They inspired me to do something I don't do often at all - look up recipes that contain meat. A page on BBC Good Food gave me a pretty good idea of what omnivores tend to do with chorizo. The recipe that most appealed to me seemed intended for brunch. It's a simple but substantial saute of baby potatoes, capsicum, onion and chorizo, all topped with a fried egg. It reminded me of the fabulous hashes served up at Smith & Daughters.

Since we didn't need to eat all four serves straight up, I did all of the chopping and potato-boiling but held over half the ingredients for a later meal. My fried eggs were ugly but did the job. I added some mixed greens and cherry tomatoes to the plate for some extra freshness, and the greens wilted nicely on contact with the sauteed vegetables. The chorizo played a pretty minor role in the end, but I like its spiciness and was glad for a colourful, vege-filled plate.

Sauteed vegetables with mock chorizo
(adapted from a recipe from BBC Good Food)

500g baby potatoes
2 onions, sliced into strips
1 red capsicum, sliced into strips
1 green capsicum, sliced into strips
200g mock chorizo, sliced
100g mixed green leaves
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
4 eggs
olive oil
salt & pepper

Chop the potatoes into bite-sized pieces. Place them in a saucepan and cover them with water. Boil the potatoes until tender, about 15-20 minutes. Drain the potatoes.

Cover the base of a large frypan with a thin layer of olive oil. Saute the onions until soft. Add the capsicums and continue to saute until the capcicums are soft and the onion is beginning to brown around the edges. Tranfer the capsicums and onion to a plate and return the frypan to the heat. Add the potatoes and chorizo to the pan, allowing them to brown a little before turning them. When the potatoes and chorizo have developed a crust that you like, add the capsicum and onion back into the pan for a minute or two. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Share the green leaves between four plates and top them with the sauteed vegetables and chorizo. Distribute the cherry tomatoes across the saute. Fry the eggs and put one on top of each plate. Serve.

Posted May 14, 2016 04:29 PM by Cindy

May 12, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne


May 5-8, 2016

Michael and I have reunited in Basel, sharing a long weekend with some old friends who've been living in Switzerland for a decade. It was especially warm and sunny so we went on walks, visited museums, played games in parks and indoors with cards. We ate barbecued vegetables, breads and cheeses and ice creams.

We also ate out a few times - here are the cafes and restaurants we tried.

While the kids had swimming lessons, Michael and I roamed the town, taking in the markets, the architecture, and a youth choir festival running events in numerous nooks. We stopped strategically for lunch at Tibits, a chain of vegetarian restaurants with outlets all over Switzerland, plus one in London. Most of the food is buffet style and many labels included English translations on the back. It wasn't too daunting to pick up a plate, serve ourselves what appealed, and pay by weight at the counter.

I was pleasantly surprised by the variety of fresh, colourful vegetables available, having eaten some very yellow meals in years gone by. Grain salads, pomegranate seeds and hummus have made it big, and there's still room for more traditional quiches and mock-meatballs. Our highlight was the crumbed and cream cheese-stuffed jalapeno poppers. Meals don't come cheap in this part of Europe, however - we paid AU$47.40 for these two plates.

With a babysitter arranged, the four adults booked in a fancy meal at Cantina Don Camillo in the repurposed Warteck Brewery. The 2nd floor courtyard was summery and contemporary, and the menu prides itself on international and vegan cuisine. With English menu translations available, it was easy to pick through the dedicated plant-based menu sections; even so, Michael just went with the set 3-course vegan meal (CHF55 ~ AU$77).

Entrees were light and fresh (pictured top row, left to right): a frothy broccoli mousse with grapefruit segments and candied peel for Michael, and a savoury celery cannelloni for me (CHF16 ~ AU$22). The mains (our pictured bottom row, left to right) tended to use carbohydrates rather than protein for bulk, with minor exception of Michael's nut roast in spicy sauce. My filo pyramid (CHF27 ~ AU$38) had the stand-out presentation, and flavour to back it up - inside was a filling of curried leeks, a cairn of steamed veges and all around was a creamy potato sauce.

I still had an appetite for the dessert sampler (CHF19 ~ AU$27), picking my way through (clockwise from top left) a chocolate brownie square, vanilla icecream garnished with chocolate, baklava, chocolate icecream, passionfruit coconut cream catalan and ginger icecream. While everything was lovely the seasonal specials, passionfruit catalan and ginger icecream, came through as table favourites.

The kids joined us for our final expedition, a brunch at frühling. It was trendy but relaxed, and a nice spot to bring children. Though the setting would sit as well in Melbourne as it does in Basel, the menu is devoid of our typical poached eggs, avo on toast and pancakes. Instead there's a more low-key list of muesli, pastries and breads served with spreads, cheeses, meats and a boiled egg at a stretch. 

We muddled our way through the drinks menu, finding a good coffee for Michael and a pot of rooibos tea for me. Luckily for us, the menu included a page in English as well as German.

We happily settled on the vegetarian breakfast for two (CHF29.50 ~ AU$41), and with surprise saw it served in tiers like a high tea. It was a pleasure to work slowly through the layers of light and dark bread slices, soft and mature cheese, hummus and chutney, butter and jam, honey, chocolate spread and spiced candied nuts.

Eating out in Switzerland is such a rare treat. Obviously distance is our greatest barrier to the wonderful baked goods, cheeses and chocolates but restaurants are also very costly. We loved splashing out with dear friends but would have to keep a tighter hold on our wallets if we were to stick around longer.

Posted May 12, 2016 02:18 AM by Cindy

May 08, 2016


What I Ate: Greek Easter Sunday Edition

The Greek Orthodox Easter was on May 1st this year. My parents always have lunch at their house so this week’s What I Ate is based on that, because there were quite a lot of leftover dishes! For Easter lunch my mum made ‘yemista’, which are stuffed vegetables. She makes them vegan for me, but people...
Continue reading »

Posted May 08, 2016 02:34 PM

May 07, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Good Days

April 29-30, 2016

Good Days has opened so unobtrusively next to the Cornish Arms that I was at risk of overlooking it. Luckily for me, several friends tagged me into their Broadsheet coverage so I was soon in the know. I even managed to catch a cold, all the better to assess the restorative properties of their vegan pho.

The menu and venue are both small but carefully curated - there are rice paper rolls, pho, noodle salad and chicken rice, with well-marked vegan options on the former three. No hints for coeliacs; I'm hopeful the rice paper rolls might suit.

On my first visit I tried the mushroom pho ($15). The overall effect was very gentle, from the subtly flavoured broth to the lightly braised and grilled mushrooms, bean sprouts and herbs (there was chilli and a lemon wedge on hand for a bit of bite). My favourite part was the thick, slippery noodles.

I was also delighted to order and pour my own Vietnamese iced coffee ($4.50, pictured back). It wasn't as bitter as I've encountered elsewhere.

I returned the following day for the tofu & mushroom noodle salad ($13) and an iced jasmine tea ($2.50). The salad was a huge bowl with lots of trimmings - the tofu & mushrooms were inside the fried spring rolls, there were spinach and iceberg lettuce leaves, cucumber, herbs, peanuts, fried shallots, and a lovely carrot and daikon pickle that I made sure to spread through the thinner vermicelli rice noodles. The garnishing cassava cracker was fun, too.

The staff welcomed me warmly when I entered, which really put this lone diner at ease. I snuck up to fetch my own missing spoon on my first visit, went without a napkin and couldn't attract a water refill, but everything was running much more smoothly just one day later. I think this eatery will only get better because it's early days for Good Days, after all.

Good Days
165 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
9041 2000
food, drinks

Accessibility: Entry includes a shallow ramp and green push-button to open the door from the inside. There is a mix of high and low furniture and all chairs have low backs. Furniture is densely packed with a clear corridor through the middle. I ordered at the table and paid at a low counter. I didn't visit the toilets.

Posted May 07, 2016 06:19 AM by Cindy

May 06, 2016

Thoughts Of A Moni

In My Kitchen - May 2016

Given the warmer weather was still hovering late into April, perhaps it is not surprising that my kitchen was still full of garden produce.

Firstly, the avocado tree at my parents’ place was fruiting like crazy this year. I think there was about a hundred fruit picked in total, with the tree still full. It’s just that the fruit was way too high to reach, even with a ladder. The thing about avocados is that they don’t ripen on the tree. They need to sit in a bowl for about a week until they are ready to eat. This means, that you will go from having no avocados, to having a bowl full of avocados that need to be eaten ASAP! Having said that, avocados are worth close to their weight in gold, so when I started handing out avocados to my work colleagues to ensure nothing went to waste, I ended up being very popular!

My parents’ chilli plant is also full of fresh, and super hot chillies. I have been packeting these up and giving them to family friends who I know love hot food! In the Bengali culture, we have a superstition that chillies should not be gifted to anyone. The story goes that if you give someone chillies, the heat and fire from them will translate into the relationship and the friendship will be in jeopardy. To circumvent the superstition, Bengali aunties ‘sell’ their chillies for a small fortune of 5 cents. The monetary transaction means that it is no longer a gift, but a sale, and the friendship is not risked! It’s funny, the logical part of me knows this is completely ridiculous, but yet, it is something I have seen since I was very young, and so the practice is almost inherent in me! I still have lots of chillies left for myself, so I’m thinking about turning them into a chilli paste or chilli sauce.

At the start of the year I spent a whole month strictly shopping local. Whilst I can’t say this practice has continued 100% (it’s just not always financially practical), I have made some changes to some of the products I buy. One of these products is milk. I did a lot of research, and came to the conclusion that milk from St. David’s dairy was the best choice for me. The cows from which the milk is sourced are located mainly in Eastern Victoria and the dairy is located in Fitzroy where the milk is processed and bottled, which means there are very few food miles. It is not a cheap milk, at $3.80 for 2L, but given that it lasts me about 10 days, I feel like it is worth spending the extra money on. On a side note, it is also bloody delicious. I can definitely taste the difference between St David’s and the el cheapo supermarket milk.

This post is part of the In My Kitchen series hosted by Maureen from the Orgasmic Chef. Head over to her blog to see what is going on in other people's kitchens!

Posted May 06, 2016 08:52 AM by Moni

May 05, 2016


Very Good Falafel in Brunswick

Shuki and Louisa, famous for their falafel and dips, have today opened their Very Good Falafel shop in Brunswick. I’ve been a fan of their falafel in pita for a while now, happily queuing for fifteen minutes at their stall on Wednesdays at the Melbourne University Farmers Market. It’s a fifteen minute queue sometimes, because...
Continue reading »

Posted May 05, 2016 09:57 PM

Thoughts Of A Moni

Sister of Soul

I pride myself on knowing the dedicated vegetarian restaurants around Melbourne, so when a friend suggested we have our regular catch up dinner at Sister of Soul, I was blindsided! I had never heard of Sister of Soul, and a little Zomato research revealed that it was a vegetarian restaurant! I had been blindsided! But on this occasion I was happy to have been blindsided, because I love discovering new places!

Located on Acland St, just across the road from The Vineyard, and on the diagonally opposite corner to the newest vegan café, Matcha Mylkbar, Sister of Soul is named so because it is a run by some of the team from the previous vegetarian institution, Soulmama.

We were there on a Wednesday night, and when we got there, the restaurant was relatively empty. I had a quick peruse of the menu, which read very much like a fusion menu. The dishes were a mixture of Thai, Indian, Mexican, a little bit of Italian, and some American. I’m usually wary of menus that are so diverse, I feel like if they do too many things, they end up doing none of them properly. Still, I took a plunge and ordered a Thai sounding curry, the Jungle Madness, which was served with rice.

The first thing I noticed about my dish was how generous the servings were. I was super hungry, so this made me very happy and my first box was already ticked. On the surface the dish looked hearty and wholesome, filled with lots of vegetables, big chunks of tofu, and lots of chilli. There was also a wedge of lime which I squeezed for added freshness and zing. When I tasted the dish, I knew I had made the right choice. It was full of flavour, and the sauce was thick and creamy. The ratio of sauce to rice was also appropriate, and it was clear that nobody was skimping on the curry. Overall I was very satisfied with my choice, and my meal made me very content.

My dinner date also made an Asian choice, The Green Sister Stirfry. This dish was filled with all the standard Asian green suspects, gai lan, wombok, bok choi, as well as tofu and cooked in a choice of sauces - satay was the sauce of choice on this occasion. Rather than being served with the standard jasmine rice, this dish was served with brown rice, making it a very healthy option. It was declared to be delicious, so it was evident that Sister of Soul definitely do Asian food well.

We decided to indulge and share a dessert between us. I am not a big fan of vegan desserts, especially when they try and replace the dairy component with tofu (think tofu cheesecake – gross), so we decided to try the Not So Rocky Road. This dish came out as a deconstructed rocky road, and looked gorgeous on the plate. There was a scattering of house made vegan marshmallows, cherry jelly, fresh strawberries, dark chocolate ganache, salted chocolate dirt, toasted almonds and coconut. When we put a little bit of everything on the spoon and into our mouths, the flavours combined beautifully together. Dessert was definitely a big hit!

Overall I was quite impressed with Sister of Soul. Having never heard of it before, I will now be adding it to my list of go to vegetarian restaurants! I have also dismissed my initial reservations about the diverse menu. Perhaps next time I go, I will have to try something from a different culture!

Sister of Soul Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Posted May 05, 2016 08:45 AM by Moni

May 04, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Stockholm, week 2

April 23-30, 2016

Week 2 in Stockholm involved a little less eating out - I cooked up a few old favourites in the kitchen at home, but still found time to get out and about a bit.

I took advantage of a gloriously sunny afternoon on Tuesday to revisit Herman's - a classic stop on any veggie tour of Stockholm. The key attraction is the beautiful view over the harbour, but the 120kr ($19.70) buffet is excellent value as well. I had two full plates of deliciousness, including a couple of different curries, some pizza slices, lasagne, salads, veggie sand some weird little sweet mock-meat cubes. There's nothing fancy about the Herman's dining experience, but there's a huge range of food and the prices are very reasonable (at least when you approach with the two-plate enthusiasm that I did).

Wednesday I had a gap between work and netball, so I dropped by Lao Wai to see if it was still as excellent as I remembered it. It's definitely still as popular - even turning by myself at 5:30 I was almost turned away. I luckily snagged a table and ordered a serve of the Jia Chang Dou Fu (220kr/$36.10). This is a spicy Sichuan dish with smoked tofu, taro, shiitake mushrooms, veggies and fermented black beans. It's a huge serve of food, and quite pricey, so you'd be better off taking a bunch of people and sharing things around. It's an excellent dish though - spicy and rich, with loads of interesting textures. Lao Wai is one of the few all-vegan places in town too, so it's definitely worth a look.

I had another quick dinner later in the week at FLFL, an all vegetarian Middle Eastern joint near my apartment. It's popular and dim, so the photos aren't much chop, but the food was great - this is the FLFL 'Meatballz Surprise' (145kr/$23.80). It's a veritable feast - two little bread pockets stuffed with meatball-textured falafels, slathered in a spicy tomato sauce, a half eggplant with salad and tahini, your choice of salads and a big bowl of hummus.

When the weekend rolled around, I decided to head out into Sodermalm in search of brunch. It's Stockholm's hipster neighbourhood, and Greasy Spoon would fit right in to Brunswick or Fitzroy - there was a queue out the door at 9:00, and the menu was stuffed full of smashed avo and fancy pancakes. I ordered the full veggie (155kr/$25.40), a massive plate of sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, eggs, beans, toast and a house-made rosti.

Added bonus: the flat whites are great, I'll definitely be back.

Once brekkie had settled, I kept up my hipster-heavy Saturday and wandered down to the food truck market on the Hornstull strand. There are a couple of entirely vegan trucks, and most of the omni ones have good options, so it's a great place to head for lunch.

I went to Vegan Soul Train and sampled the Pamela Anderson burger - a fish patty with a chilli and lime sauce, some salad and some veggie caviar (80kr/$13.10). It was messy, delicious junk food, made all the better by the burst of sunshine and relative warmth that accompanied it.

I'm really enjoying my time here so far - the city is beautiful and veggie food is plentiful. Plus there are tons of wonderful birds to track down - this green woodpecker is the trip highlight so far. 

Stay tuned for weeks 3 and 4 - the food posts might get a bit more expansive once Cindy arrives!

Posted May 04, 2016 07:05 PM by Michael


Loving Hut Northcote Visits

Loving Hut in Northcote is a favourite of our family. I’ve never disliked a meal there and service is always friendly and helpful. I’ve reviewed Loving Hut Northcote in the past, but I’ve had so many return visits that an update is in order! The layout has been pretty much the same since it opened, with the...
Continue reading »

Posted May 04, 2016 03:40 PM

May 02, 2016


In My Kitchen May 2016

In My Kitchen is a monthly blog link up hosted by Maureen at The Orgasmic Chef. I’m submitting this blog post of mine for May 2016. While not a vegan-specific event, anyone can join in and you can also discover new blogs, recipes, products, etc! With my favourite season here (it’s autumn!) comes the slight feeling...
Continue reading »

Posted May 02, 2016 07:02 PM

May 01, 2016


What I Ate These Past Few Weeks

Now that we’re well in to autumn, I’ve been putting slightly more effort in to cooking. I still meal plan for myself, often cooking for about three or four days in a row. I’m trying to be a little more creative as well, in the hopes of finding a dish both kids like. So far,...
Continue reading »

Posted May 01, 2016 08:23 PM

April 30, 2016


Vegan Shopping At Coburg Farmers Market In Late April

Hurrah for the Coburg Farmers Market now being held weekly! Previously I’d be waking up on a Saturday planning to go then realising it wasn’t on that day. Then I’d forget to go the following week. And so on and so on. I last blogged about my visit to the market back in mid 2014...
Continue reading »

Posted April 30, 2016 03:05 PM

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Gingerbread layer cake

April 25-27, 2016

I've had a jar of molasses in the cupboard for a while, and I've spent that time trawling for suitable recipes and excuses to bake with it. It's taken a few months to get it into this gingerbread layer cake, baked to share with our cat-sitter and friend, Tash.

The recipe comes from Smitten Kitchen - I know that Deb Perelman is a bit of a perfectionist with her recipes, and I like that she takes understated, realistic food photos in her own small home kitchen. (They're still a good deal prettier than mine, I know.) I trust her to bake a good cake.

In fact, I think I just entrusted her with baking my first layer cake. The batter was pretty well-behaved; with oil and not butter for the fat, it didn't even need creaming with an electric beater. It just called for a bit of patience as I baked and cooled the three layers, one at a time, late on a Monday night. I whipped up the mascarpone cream on Wednesday morning and stacked up my cake with care, ignoring Perelman's cranberry garnish entirely.

For a vegan version, I'd recommend replacing the eggs with ground flax seeds in the cake batter. I'm not sure how best to replicate the whipped dairy cream, but I reckon coconut cream or yoghurt is the best bet.

Here the cake and cream have a surprisingly light texture. With a cup of molasses, a cup of brown sugar and a cup of white sugar in the cake batter, it's as sweet as Kimmy Schmidt. It's also got Kimmy's brutal aftertaste, a heated, malty mix of molasses, stout and ginger that depends on the triple-layered whipped cream to remain palatable. A small slice goes a very long way (and here it differs from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, because I polished that off in just a few days).

Gingerbread layer cake
(a recipe from Smitten Kitchen)

1 cup stout
1 cup molasses
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup caster sugar
3 eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups plain flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of ground cardamom
spray oil for greasing cake tin

mascarpone cream
500mL cream
1/2 cup icing sugar
120g mascarpone

Place the stout and molasses in a large saucepan and bring them to the boil. Turn off the heat and whisk in the bicarb soda - the mixture will froth up but hopefully be contained by your large saucepan. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.

Preheat an oven to 180°C. Trace and cut out three pieces of baking paper to fit the base of a springform cake tin. Line the tin with just one of them, and lightly spray the tin inside with oil.

Place the sugars in a large bowl and whisk in the oil. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time, until smooth. Whisk in the cooled stout-molasses mixture until smooth. Sift over the remaining cake ingredients, and stir them into the batter until just combined.

Pour one third of the cake batter into the tin and bake it until it passes the skewer test, about 20 minutes. Allow it to rest in the tin for 5 minutes before gently turning the cake onto a cooling rack. Repeat twice more with the remaining cake batter to form three cake layers.

To make the mascarpone cream, pour the cream into a large bowl and sift over the icing sugar. Whip the cream with an electric beater until soft peaks form. Add the mascarpone and whip it into the cream until well combined.

To assemble the cake, carefully transfer one cake layer to a serving plate. Pour a generous cup of the mascarpone cream onto the centre of the cake, spreading it out but leaving about an inch cake border. Transfer a second cake layer onto the top; its weight will push the cream out towards the edge. Repeat the process with another generous cup of cream and the final cake layer. Make the top layer of cream thick and wavy and spread it right to the edge of the cake.

Refrigerate the cake for at least an hour before slicing and serving, with any extra mascarpone cream on the side.

Posted April 30, 2016 07:51 AM by Cindy

April 27, 2016

where's the beef? Vegetarians in Melbourne

Stockholm, week 1

April 16-22, 2016

I'm spending a couple of months in Stockholm for work - a good excuse to add another country to our restaurant review map. Most of my meals out so far have been lunches, with work colleagues picking out some highlights around the centre of town and me doing a bit of weekend exploring further afield. The food scene seems very veg-friendly - everywhere I've gone has had prominent vego/vegan options, and there are a decent number of totally vegetarian places.

I had my first meal of the trip at Hermitage (Stora Nygatan 11, Gamla Stan), a vego restaurant that Cindy and I visited way back in 2006. Its buffet-style lunch of old-fashioned vego food powered me up for a big day of walking, with a mock-meat and chickpea stew, a big chunk of vegetarian lasagne, potato salad, bread, rice and some hummus. For 120kr (~$20) with a coffee, this is pretty decent value for money as far as Stockholm lunches go. I went back for seconds to make sure I really got my money's worth.

On Sunday I met up with a friend for lunch at the nearby Chutney (Katarina Bangata, Södermalm) a place I visited on my last trip. They do a 98kr lunch set, with a choice of four dishes plus salads, bread and coffee.

My nasi goreng was excellent, with a rich peanutty sauce accompanying it and a few tasty chunks of mock meat to mix up the texture. This is right around the corner from where I'm staying, so it's going to get some more visits.

I started work on Monday and quickly fell into a lunch routine with colleagues - they go out every day and have a strong selection of local options. First up was Maxos (Scheelegatan 13, Kungsholmen), probably my favourite place so far - it's basically a felafel bar, but the vibe is a bit nicer than that implies and the food they serve up is brilliant. I had the combo (95kr), which is the best way to sample all the great salads and sides on offer with the felafel.

After work on Wednesday I went for a birding walk in a nature reserve near where I'm staying, turning up some decent birds and stunning natural scenery. I stumbled out of the forest starving and stumbled straight into Max, a burger chain (I went to the one at Lugnets Alle 22, Hammarbyhöjden), to see if they could feed me.

Amazingly, there were tons of options, with the highlight being the vegan bbq sandwich (based on Oumph!, a Swedish mock-meat). For 75kr (~$12) I got an excellent burger, some so-so fries and a coke. There's nothing fancy about this place, but it's super convenient and impressively veg-friendly.

Another lunch highlight was Minh Mat (Odengatan 94, Vasaparken) a popular Vietnamese joint. They do a limited lunch menu of three dishes per day, with at least one vegan option. Thursday is banh xeo day, and the vego version didn't disappoint - chunks of tofu and fragrant salad in a crispy-fried rice batter pancake shell. 

The final meal of my first week was at the nearby Ringen shopping centre, in the recently opened upmarket food court. There are street food stalls from lots of famous restauranteurs, including The Plant (inside Ringen, Götgatan 132, Södermalm), supposedly Sweden's first vegan fast-food place. I tried the Hammer Burger, with a pulled-mushroom based pattie, chilli mayo, pickles, and a side of mini boiled potatoes with impossibly creamy mayo (115kr [~$18] or 145kr [~$23] with a beer). This was really impressive - it's another option very close to my apartment, so it's sure to feature again in the coming weeks.

I'm really enjoying exploring Stockholm - there's tons of good veggie food and the city itself is stunningly beautiful (especially when the sun comes out). I'll post semi-regular food round-ups here, but anyone interested in more of the scenery/bird life should head on over to my instagram page.

Posted April 27, 2016 08:25 AM by Michael

April 24, 2016


What I Ate: The Glass Den Edition

The Glass Den in Coburg continues to be one of my favourite places to eat. I first reviewed The Glass Den in October 2015 and blogged about another visit. Since then I have enjoyed many more meals alone (that’s my ‘me time’!) or with family. Here’s a look at some of my favourite meals since...
Continue reading »

Posted April 24, 2016 06:28 PM

April 23, 2016


Lunch at Cuppa Cha in Camberwell

DeeW and I went on a little adventure yesterday to visit family. My sister in law suggested lunch at Cuppa Cha on Burke Road in Camberwell. Cuppa Cha is all things tea– it’s a tea bar, a tea shop and cafe specialising in loose leaf teas as well as stocking lots of lovely teaware from...
Continue reading »

Posted April 23, 2016 12:17 PM