Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

California in Instagram

Would everyone just die of embarrassment if I did a “California in Instagram” post? What if I include some macarons, a picture of my toes in the Pacific ocean and a pastel coloured cocktail in a jam jar?

Enough being hilarious, I’m doing it.

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Pumpkin ale in my face every day because everyone keeps saying “Fall is in the air” even though it’s about four hundred degrees out and I smell of old sweaty bloomers.

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Brunch. I did brunch! I’m a lady what brunches! It was so SATC I can’t even stand it. Incidentally, this buttery fried farro dish will haunt me for the rest of my days.

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Farmers’ market tomatoes in every tomato hue imaginable. I love tomatoes – room temp, or lightly warmed by the sun. Refrigerate a tomato and forever suffer the consequences.

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We didn’t buy any tomatoes at the farmers’ market though because my pal Brett grows them himself. If somehow the scientists could put a pin in saving the planet and curing insufferable diseases, I’d really like a tomato-vine perfume. Thanks.

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This photo is allowed because those aren’t yo mama’s macarons. Those are Bouchon macarons. They were better than the best Parisian macarons that have ever touched my lips, and when I go to Paris pretty much all I do is walk around in a beret Instagramming macarons. Leftie is raspberry and rightie is fig. Thank frig for fig. I think this whole trip thus far has been sponsored by figs.  Figs and tomatoes. I love a good fig. I mean frig. I mean fig.

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If you want to gain twelve stone in one sitting, I recommend you make friends with a pastry chef. It’s okay if you follow up with a gin and tonic (with homemade tonic) because everyone knows G&Ts are counter-calorific.

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Isn’t Natalie just beauty personified.  Honestly, just stick her in Napa and call her Dionysus.

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This photo is after I regained my composure and got back to the serious task of drinking tasting free wine. The sommelier was like, “Are we ready to get started on the red?” and Brett’s boyfriend said, “Well, we’re already deep in the pink so what’s stopping us?” and I was near hysterical for far too long for a grown up. (Also, check out those Smokin’ Tofu earrings from Black Heart Creatives!).

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HASHTAG NO FILTER. This was my first night in Oakland. The clouds looked like they were on fire. I took this photo whilst Brett ran to get his neighbours. Whilst he was gone, the dryness of the ten hour flight caught up with me and my nose burst into a glorious nosebleed. It was either the dryness or the beauty of the sky, not totally sure.

Anyway, it’s 8.30am in Oakland and I have a bag to pack… because later today I’m heading to New Orleans. I feel like I’ve only been in California for five minutes and I’m already preparing to leave. I could live here. I say that every time I travel, but I could honestly live here.

You can follow me on Instagram here btw.

Oh, and also: this is my 100th post on Smokin’ Tofu – and hasn’t it been a wild ride. The blog is almost one year old, and I’m feeling sassy, so please don’t forget to vote for Smokin’ Tofu at the Vegfest UK awards. Muchas gracias!

Cookbook Reviews, Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

Cookbook Review: World Food Café: Quick and Easy Recipes from a Vegetarian Journey

World Food Cafe Quick & Easy

Uh huh. Check out that bad boy, all lime green and bright fuchsia up in your face. I know Miley isn’t twerking on it, but it is still worthy of your attention. The nice people at Frances Lincoln sent Smokin’ Tofu a copy of World Food Café: Quick and Easy Recipes from a Vegetarian Journey so I could slap on my bitch face and judge it to hell.

It just so happened to arrive the day I had tickets to a triple screening at the Prince Charles Cinema. My boyfriend and our pals Richard and Natalie hit the Before trilogy running, armed with vegan snacks from Cookies & Scream, courtesy of Natalie. I hadn’t seen any of the Before movies, but here’s an interesting little side note for you. Writer and director Richard Linklater (A Scanner Darkly, Fast Food Nation), is a vegetarian. Throughout the Before trilogy, you see the characters eat and drink all sorts of things, but never a morsel of meat touches the lips of either character. I am so into that.

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Anyway, each film is set in a different part of the world (Vienna, Paris and the Greek Peloponnese peninsula), much like each chapter of this wonderful book. Each chapter covers a different trip undertaken by the couple – Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Chile, Cuba, Japan, Laos, Helsinki & Lapland, Namibia, Syria and Vietnam.

A week after the movie marathon, Brendan and I finally had the chance to knuckle down and do some serious eating. World Food Café by Chris and Carolyn Caldicott is a travel book as much as a cook book, and we loved poring through each chapter, trying to decide what we wanted to eat first and where we’d most like to visit.

The recipes are quick and dirty – expect lots of butter, feta and yoghurt – but, for the most part, they’re very easily veganised. There are also a good handful of vegan recipes, and very few of the non-vegan recipes hinge entirely on the dairy ingredient(s). Each page is beautifully illustrated with colourful, glossy photos of both the food and the country of origin. Admittedly, I wish there were a few more of the recipes themselves, but we can’t have everything, can we?

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The writing and photography are certainly evocative. I can practically smell those paper bags of freshly fried nachos, taste that Vietnamese café au lait. From avocado shakes to za’atar spice mix, I’ve learnt a little about the cuisine of twelve countries that I haven’t stepped foot in (and, in turn, I’ve added to my travel wish list).

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In the end, we settled for three dishes: buttery Bhutanese asparagus with crumbled feta; apple, saffron and honey butter rice (also from Bhutan), and Bengali curry in a hurry, which was quick, simple and exquisitely spiced. It was a cinch to throw together all three dishes simultaneously, and the sweetly spiced buttery rice will be an autumn hit in Smokin’ Mansions.

If you fancy World Food Café: Quick and Easy Recipes from a Vegetarian Journey, you can get yourself a sweet little discount of 20%. No, really. I insist. Give Bookpoint a bell on 01235 400 400 and quote the code 46WORLDFOODCAFE (offer code is valid until the end September 2013). It’ll be yours for £16 and a song, which is £4 off the RRP. Then you too can eat sweet buttery apple rice from the pan and dream of greater surroundings.

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Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

New Orleans Countdown: 2 Weeks

So, last month I said I was venturing to San Francisco in September, and then travelling on to a second mystery location. Well, I leave for SF a week today, and two weeks today I will be preparing to fly to…

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… New Orleans to see this lil son of a bitch:

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New Orleans is a brilliant city, bursting with live music, macabre history and awesome cuisine. Last time around, I ate white bean gumbo, held a baby alligator, drank daiquiris for breakfast and generally had a whale of a time.

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It will be a totally different experience to my previous two trips. The first time around, I packed drunk and forgot my camera charger. People who turn their noses up at holiday photos baffle me because I literally remember jack from that trip as I have almost no photos to jog my memory. Anyway, we were only in town for a few days before hitting the road and driving all the way to California. The second time around, I went with my brother on our Great American Adventure of 2011, and we had an absolute blast eating beignets in Café du Monde, taking ghost tours and vampire walks around the French Quarter and drinking ourselves into early graves.

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This trip will be totally different though, as this time I’ll be with my girl Nisha (who possibly has the best Instagram feed in the world, FYI). Nisha is New Orleanian born and bred, and I can’t wait to experience the city from her insider perspective. And to eat ALL THE VEGETARIAN THINGS.

Also, last week I was blogger of the week with Quill, a company I frequently write for. Go here and read an interview with yours truly about Smokin’ Tofu!

Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

World Food: Le Pain Quotidien, Amsterdam.

P1020727Isn’t this just the best window in the world?

P1020728 Hostel cat looking out the window thinking hostel thoughts. We stayed at the International Budget Hostel IstanBlue. Great location, but unfortunately we came home one night to find a sign stuck on our bedroom door asking us to report to reception. “Emergency building work” (aka bedbugs) meant a member of staff had to move our shit from our room whilst we were out. Niiiiiiiice. It wasn’t the end of the world but it was a pain, we had to share a single bed for the rest of the trip and our new room mate was the Loudest Man On The Planet.

P1020759Anyway, Amsterdam is a brilliant city. It’s vibey and beautiful, with its khaki canals and constant whir of bike spokes. We spent most of our afternoons drinking sugar-water slushies and playing pool, exploring the different neighbourhoods and checking out the veggie eateries. Sadly there isn’t a brilliant selection of vegan-friendly restaurants and most veggie options tended to be heavy on the cheese-front, but we had a great lunch at La Pain Quotidien.

P1020755Vegan items are marked on the menu with a little carrot symbol, so I enjoyed a thick black bean hummus on toast with fresh raw veg and my boyfriend had quinoa salad with hummus and roasted veg. WE ATE LIKE KINGS.

Of course, one thing Amsterdam does really well is falafel via Maoz, but as there’s one in London I decided against doing a Maoz Amsterdam post, even though we ate there like three times in five days (and I hate to say it, but the salad selection is better in The Big Smoke so…).

Le Pain Quotidien Website | Happy Cow

(EDIT: It’s an international chain. I had no idea! Hurrah.)

EDIT 2: I FORGOT TO GIVE YOU MY AMSTERDAM JAM:

Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

CLOSED: World Food: Café Lebensfroh

**This café is now CLOSED**

This is literally just a food porn post, as the café is now closed for business. My brother and I spent the middle chunk of our Berlin adventure staying in the awesome Jetpak Alternative Hostel (which was absolutely brilliant, I can’t recommend it enough. Particularly as the owner was kind enough to set me up with a bottle of fizz as a thank you for mentioning our booking on Smokin’ Tofu before we set off – a really lovely gesture that set us up for an excellent stay. Also, whilst I’m talking about Jetpak: gotta love a hostel that provides a proper serious big boy shower. No pressing buttons every five seconds and then squeezing into damp knickers at Jetpak, ho no).

A few doors down, we spotted a vegan café called Café Lebensfroh. We thought a raw vegan lunch would be the perfect hangover cure, but were dismayed to discover the imminent closure of the café. This basically means this post is totally useless for those visiting Berlin and it’s really just to show off how awesome our lunch was. Ha.

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Although actually, this is a great opportunity to recommend a kickass android app my brother used to translate our way through Berlin’s menus. Word Lens Translator is like, £3 or something and totally kicks ass for decoding menus. I’ll never travel without it. You simply point your camera at the menu (or sign, etc) and the app translates the words. Not always totally accurate, but good enough when ordering lunch.

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Raw vegan kholrabi pasta with cashew pesto and salad.

P1020243Warm vegan tomato, black olive and rosemary scone with amazing raw salad.

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Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

World Food: Yellow Sunshine, Berlin.

“I trust you’ve already tried vegan currywurst,” a twitter pal tweeted me whilst I was in Berlin. Ridiculous question. Of course I hadn’t tried vegan currywurst: I wasn’t organised enough to research where such a mysterious beast resided.

Anyway, comedically, it turned out we could nosh on a vegan currywurst – a sort of curry-ketchupped sausage extravaganza – less then ten minutes away from our hostel at Yellow Sunshine, a bio fast food joint. There isn’t much to say about Yellow Sunshine because reader, I was hungover. Very hungover. The reason I was hungover can be explained in one picture:

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You see that happiness in my eyes? That’s the happy-go-lucky expression of someone who thinks they’ll be fine after chugging four beers and two jagers and then staggering home singing in the snow. For reference, I have small girl-child hands and that beer is bigger than my face. The end.

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The menu was 100% organic vegetarian junk and it was magical. We had burgers (pictured: vegan chicken burger) and then my brother spotted the vegan currywurst on the menu so we shared one of those too, even though that was more food than any human needs after consuming 809398 calories in beer the night before.

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Keep your peepers peeled because I’m working on a healthy version of vegan currywurst for dinner tonight. I’ll post the recipe if it works out!

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Yellow Sunshine Website (German) | Yellow Sunshine on Happy Cow

Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

World Food: Emma Pea, Berlin.

Berlin is like a crème brûlée for the timid: one must crack the surface to get to the good stuff. “Cracking the surface” involves cutting through graffiti-daubed parks that seem a bit shady, snaking down grim alleys spattered with paint and dog shit and marching under shady bridges to reach the belly of the beast.

I’m not a risk taker at all though, and I believe in trusting your instincts. I have a reputation with one group of friends for bailing on a night out right before the evening turns sour. I would say it’s like a ~6th sense, but I get pick-pocketed all the fucking time so fat lot of good it is to me. My top tips are to always know where you’re going and always know what you’re looking for. If something seems off, even if you can’t pinpoint exactly why, take a step back, stop walking or change direction.

Berlin felt like a really safe city, and I only mention the above because if I had been alone, I would have changed direction and missed Emma Pea because I had no idea what I was looking for.

P1020265Before my brother and I left for Berlin, we created a map of veggie hangouts, rock bars and interesting cultural stuff like museums dedicated to computer games, so whenever we were in a new area, we could check our map and see if anything awesome was nearby. One evening, we were trotting around Friedrichshain, somewhere between our hostel and our aunt’s flat, when we realised we should probably eat. We checked our map, and a vaguely bland-sounding veggie café was right on the street we were standing on. “Excellent!” we exclaimed, and then we walked up and down the street and found nothing. “It should be right here,” Henry said, pointing his phone at a large impenetrable stretch of wall. Eventually, we found a gateway and were immediately offered marijuana. “Seems legit,” we thought, and continued on into the belly of a warehouse district. Sheet ice glimmered across the concrete and in the distance, we saw a light.

P1020266Opposite a late-night climbing club packed with people scurrying up climbing walls, we found this tiny little café-bar serving up Mexican-style veggie cuisine. It was cheap, warm and vibey, with a separate bar area open until the early hours. We tucked into a tortilla and a vegan bean burrito (although it came with unvegan dips – my bad though, I could have asked what it came with and ordered guac or salsa instead).

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P1020275I’m not even sorry for the terrible photos, because it’s really uncouth to use flash a) when photographing food and b) when in a small dark atmospheric bar.

I’ll be honest: the food wasn’t mind blowing, but it was cheap and hearty and fresh as a daisy. The atmosphere of the place was second to none, though and the staff were great. Definitely worth seeking out for the spirit of adventure and rest assured – the location is perfectly safe.

Emma Pea Website (German) | Emma Pea on Happy Cow

Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

World Food: Home Cooking in Berlin.

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I’m back from my travels and fat with experiences (and vegan bratwurst and beer and love for Berlin). Before we left, my aunt warned us that it was pretty cold in Berlin, with a bit of snow. By the time we landed, Berlin was a winter wonderland with milky skies and frigid, leafless trees. In March. Scary, yo. Scary but also stunning. It also occurred to me that etymologically speaking, icing and frosting of the cake variety both relate to features of cold weather. Cupcakes always look wintry, like they’ve been left out in the snow. I have spent a lot of time staring at snow-topped monuments and thinking about cake (standard).

Anyway, I totally forgot the clocks went forward so it’s actually 2.41am as I write this and that’s a stupid hour to be writing cake thoughts on the internet but remember kids: at any moment of any day, someone, somewhere, is staring at a snowball and wishing it was a cupcake.

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We stayed with my aunt and her husband in their flat, nestled relatively central in Friedrichshain, for the beginning and end of our trip, and spent the middle chunk in a hostel. This is just a little foodie post about my aunt Dolores and her husband Harvey. Both pescetarians and excellent cooks, I was actually staying with them for a weekend in their Carlisle home when I decided to try veganism. It hasn’t been easy and I’ve dropped off the bandwagon, oh, thousands of times, but I’m feeling really determined and inspired post-Berlin to knuckle down and ditch the dairy for good. I know, riveting shit. I’ll do a proper post about where I’ve failed at some point this week, but for now, my aunt Dolores. An organic addict and queen of good old fashioned health, she is an absolute culinary hero. Breakfast usually consisted of a selection of wholegrain cereals, rehydrated spiced figs and fresh berries with soya milk. I never eat breakfast because I don’t believe in rising before lunch time unless I absolutely have to, but I ate this shit every single day.

P1020158They welcomed us to Germany with a selection of vegetarian German staples: kartoffelpuffer (fried potato pancake), baked spinach pancake, vegan bratwurst-style German sausage, sauerkraut (pickled cabbage) served with a squeeze of ketchup and a dollop of sweet mustard. I’m still dreaming about that sausage.

 

 

Travel, We Are Adventuring: World Food

World Food: Cafe Mlynek, Kraków.


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My mother, brother and I went to Kraków last September for a weekend break. Between wondering around the breathtaking Wieliczka Salt Mine and visiting Schindler’s factory, my brother and I wondered how we’d fair as vegetarians in Kraków. Answer: awesome.

Okay, so I’ve actually blogged about Café Mlynek in Kraków before, but I never got around to posting our second meal there so I thought now was the time to bestow upon you these really grainy photos. It was a late night supper in Kazimierz following and preceding LOTS OF BEER. The photos suck because I’m a terrible photographer. And maybe I’d been drinking. There, I said it.

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It was late, so I ordered a really simple shredded tofu and rice dish topped with vegan parsley pesto, washed down with a pint of Zywiec (standard). I still dream of this dish. I’ve tried to recreate it but I just can’t quite nail it.

S5000063My brother bringing his best “Come at my, bro” game on face to Polish dumpling-eating. These veggie polish dumplings, called pierogis, are boiled then fried, similar to Japanese gyoza. Nestled inside was a delicious umami filling of chopped mushrooms and sauerkraut, served with a big pile of sprouts and sour cream.

Incidentally, if you find yourself planning a weekend sojourn somewhere in Europe, Krawów is awesome, affordable and veggie-friendly. I have one more Kraków post up my sleeve so hold onto your hats.

Cafe Mlynek: website | Happy Cow

Booze & Beverages, We Are Adventuring: World Food

World Food: Booze in New Orleans

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New Orleans is one of my most beloved cities. I have a vague aim to hit Mardis Gras in 2014, to hang out in the street, catch the parade and get shit-faced with my girl Nisha. Yesterday was Fat Tuesday, and I had a nice little 4am drunk dial from Nisha to remind me that it was party time in NOLA. Needless to say, I slept through it but still felt the love in my slumbering heart (sorry bb).

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Mardis Gras seems to be about booze for breakfast, to set a precedent for the rest of the day, so I thought I’d write about three boozy beverages I enjoyed necking in New Orleans. Abita is a locally brewed beer perfect for swigging in the late afternoon sunshine. During the spring, strawberry and raspberry varieties are available, brewed with fresh seasonal fruit.


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“Have a hand grenade, New Orleans’ most powerful drink.” Don’t mind if I do. Confession: we drank three one night and I nearly died and that’s that. Classy, eh?  I’d like to say I was channelling some Mardis Gras spirit but actually those green slushy drinks are just killer and I’m a weakling Brit used to carefully measured 35ml shots.

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This was breakfast one day: a pineapple daiquiris slushy slurped from a huge polystyrene cup.