Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Wholesome Junkies Arndale Food Market Southside Manchester 28th May 2019

Wholesome Junkies is owned by Chelsea, who I have been following on social media for awhile and whose food I have had the pleasure of eating at various Manchester events.   Chelsea was on Million Pound Menu last year and caught the eye of investor Chris Miller from White Rabbit Fund, who became her mentor.

Chelsea has just moved into a permanent new home in Arndale food market and I was excited to visit for lunch, as they only opened last week.   On Million Pound Menu Chris Miller suggested Chelsea ditch her tie dye t-shirts, which are iconic to the Wholesome Junkies brand, so I was pleased Chelsea and Jack, also working that day, were still wearing them.   I only managed a couple of snaps of their unit, in between the constant stream of people queuing up and was lucky to get these two photos without anyone being in the way.

There is no chalk board or printed menu, as Chelsea always adds a quirky twist to everything, as in the wire frame with pink pegs holding menu cards and photos of the dishes, which I thought was brilliant.

I have been drooling over the photos on social media of the Tater Tots, so I ordered them with buffalo sauce and Steven chose the Korean Seoul bowl, with two cans of water.

The Tater Tots are awesome, a big pot for £3.50 with buffalo sauce is great value for money and they are satisfying, scrumptious and moreish, I could easily munch on these every day, loved them.

Steven loved his Korean Seoul bowl of rice, vegetables and tempeh, packed with flavour and loads of texture, brought together with a soy and sesame dressing.

I love that the food packaging, including the cutlery, is made by Vegware who make 100% plant based compostable products, so good for the environment too.

If you want to follow Wholesome Junkies they are on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and get great reviews on Happycow.

Wholesome Junkies will be a big hit with vegans and non vegans alike, as their food is so delicious and tasty it appeals to everyone.   I am dying to revisit and if there was nothing else on the menu apart from Tater Tots I would be in vegan heaven, but Chelsea is renowned for her KFC burger, which has to be on everyone's to eat list and after seeing other customers munching on it, I need to try it again.

I cannot recommend Wholesome Junkies highly enough, I think they will smash it as part of Manchester's vegan scene.

Top Tarallini Italian Snacks

Top Tarallini is the inspiration of Barbara Longo Flint, originally from Puglia in Italy, who now lives with her husband in Whitley Bay.

Tarallini are a traditional Italian snack, similar in texture to a breadstick and are briefly boiled before being baked like a bagel and can be sweet or savoury   The tarallini come in various flavours in 40 g pots, ideal for carrying in your bag when you want a healthy snack when out and about.   The are vegan friendly and the pots are made from PLA (compostable plant starch) so no polluting plastic, once you have eaten them you can put the pots in your compost bin.

Barbara kindly sent me some samples to try and they were an ideal nibble, on a wet Sunday afternoon, with a glass of crisp Prosecco, a perfect combination.

The tarallini are crisp, dry and crunchy and I liked all the flavours, although the sweet chilli needs more fire for me, but my chilli tolerance is so high, I doubt anyone else would be able to eat them.   My favourite was easily the cajun flavour with a good punch of spices, followed by the turmeric and paprika in that order

The tarallini are perfect for dipping in the likes of pesto, houmous, guacamole, romesco, aioli, mayo, or cream cheese like Violife, in fact no reason why you could not dip the original flavour in a chocolate or toffee sauce.

If you fancy a change from crisps, nuts and the like give Top Tarallini a try.

Disclaimer:  I received free samples of this product  and have not been paid for this review and all opinions are my own.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Lazy Vegan Natural Chunky Pulled Peaz

Lazy Vegan are a Dutch company, who have capitalised on the nutritional benefit of the humble garden pea, to make a high protein meat alternative.   They also make frozen ready meals for consumers short on time, which can be cooked in 8-10 mins to make a protein packed meal.   The products have the added benefit of being soya and gluten free, a massive bonus as Steven is gluten free and I am eating less and less gluten based products, as well as being allergic to soya.

I bought the natural flavour in Sainsburys to replace tofu in a dish I was making, when my neighbours came for dinner and wanted something with texture.   I have tried various meat alternatives like Quorn chunks (did not like the texture) and made seitan in the past, but found it did not agree with me, so I had high hopes of Lazy Vegan.

I like the chunks are made from natural ingredients, no preservatives or additives, low in fat and packed with protein, with a 70 g portion containing 42% of your daily requirement.   The only slight negative is its salt content, however I do not use much salt in my cooking, so for me it is not a problem.   The packaging is made from 60% plastic made from plants, which I would like to see increased to 100% in the future, as I am very conscious about plastic pollution.

The chunks are not as big as I expected but think this is due to it being frozen, when you cook them they rehydrate and expand.

I added the chunks to some roasting broccoli in the oven, mixing it with a chilli soya free miso dressing when cooked.

I love its texture and chewiness, so has a good bite to it and as seen in the photo the miso dressing permeated into the open texture soaking up the flavour and adding to its deliciousness.

I cannot wait to try the pulled pea chunks in other dishes like stir fries, as a filling in a wrap with houmous, salad and chilli sauce, pasta dishes like lasagne or any dish needing a meat substitute.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

Ao26 Vegan Food Project Vitor Cordon Lisbon 10th May 2019

I have been to Ao26 Vegan Food Project before and it should be on every vegans list to visit, when in Lisbon, so was the obvious choice for lunch whilst exploring the city.

Ao26 opens at 12.30 pm so I booked a table as I know how busy it gets, a good move as the place was packed by 12.45 pm.

There is a specials board on the wall over the open kitchen and a small concise menu, which I think helps with quality, freshness and consistency.

We both chose cream of pumpkin and ginger soup to start, a lovely light flavoursome soup and not too filling before our main course.

I chose Croque Monsieur made with bechamel sauce, cheese and vegan meat, it was too hard to resist.   Steven chose creamy polenta with caponata, tofu and tomato sauce off the specials board, with a side of potato chips with mayonnaise, thinking they were chips but were actually crisps.

The Croque Monsieur was all I expected and more, it was gorgeous, creamy and scrumptious, I was blown away it was that good.

I would have made by eyes bigger than my belly by ordering chips, so the crisps were a perfect accompaniment, nice and crisp but not greasy.

Steven loved the polenta dish, it was a substantial portion and even though he is not a huge aubergine fan, the caponata won him over it was so well cooked and packed with flavour, he left a clean plate.

We were too full for dessert, so chose camomile tea to finish, served in beautiful cast iron tea pots, which weighed a ton and kept the tea nice and hot.

Ao26 Vegan Food Project is one of the best vegan restaurants in Lisbon and I cannot wait to return next year.   Highly recommended.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

The Glasshouse & Sindhu P&O Aurora 28th April & 10th May 2019

The Glasshouse and Sindhu are two select dining venues on Aurora, where you pay a supplement or cover charge, so passengers can have a different experience, rather than going to the main dining room (MDR) every night.

We decided to visit The Glasshouse first, so our Head Waiter Mrinmoy contacted Manager Michelle and sent her a copy of my dietary requirements.   The Glasshouse used to be Cafe Bordeaux and to be honest I preferred it as it was and having walked past a good number of times during the day and evening it was always very quiet

The menu is not vegan friendly, but I spotted a couple of dishes that could be tweaked, so called round to discuss my requirements and chose two starters to share with Steven and a main course, but left dessert as nothing looked remotely veganisable.

We arrived at 20.30 pm and the place was dead, except for a table of four officers and two couples, so the atmosphere was not great with dance music playing too loud.   I love dance and heavy rock music and everything in between, but the play list was not suitable for a dining environment, more a night club.

We had a table of two and thought most of the furniture unsuitable for dining, with chairs more suited to sitting back and relaxing having a drink

We ordered a bottle of The Holy Snail, which is one of my favourite vegan wines, whilst Steven looked at the menu to choose his main course.

The polenta chips made with Violife cheese were excellent with the romesco dip, as was the houmous dish, so good in fact, we could have easily eaten another portion of each.

Main courses arrived of pearl barley risotto and vegetable bake, both made using Violife cheese  (having vegan cheese available makes such a difference).

We enjoyed the main courses, they were delicious, although a little finesse would have been nice, grating the cheese instead of having big chunks thrown on.

We ended the meal with a pot of camomile and peppermint tea.   The Glasshouse was good, but would we go again, probably not, it just lacked something in our opinion and whoever thought the furniture was good for dining must never have sat there for a meal.

Sindhu hosted a tasting dinner priced at £22.50 per person, so Mrinmoy emailed Manager Vani with my dietary requirements.   I met her and chef to see what vegan options they could create from the vegetarian menu (unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the menu).   Due to my poor experiences in the MDR up to this point, the meal was complimentary courtesy of Rajeev Kumar Senior Restaurant Manager (this was due to all the issues I had in the MDR read all about it here).

Sindhu on Aurora is much nicer than on Ventura or Azura, where the restaurants run parallel with a very busy walk through, so sitting nearby detracts from the dining experience, whereas on Aurora it is much more private with good lighting for dining.

We arrived at 20.30 pm to a busy restaurant and shown to our table, with our waitress being unaware the meal was complimentary and knew nothing about the Kung Fu Riesling vegan wine Rajeev had ordered for us.

I thought a printed vegan menu would be left on our table as a memento, but sadly only the normal menu was left on the decorative dinner plate settings.   This also meant that I had nothing to refer to, to remind me what I ordered, as it was such a long time since we discussed the vegan options.

The starter plate would have fed two, it was not the small tasting portions I expected.   I was nervous after having issues in the MDR and anything I was suspicious of I left, although I would have struggled to eat it all.   The dish was very tasty, beautifully presented and cooked although no idea of the description of each component.

I think the soup was a delicious Malaysian laksa and once more was a good sized portion, so I left some of this too.

The tomato salad with red onion, mango and peanuts was okay, but I am not keen on raw onion and again too big for me.

The main course was the filling from whatever the vegetarian option was, if I recall it was a pastry roll, this was delicious, yet I still left some as I was getting rather full.

A shame I did not take a photo of the dessert, before our waitress poured hot chocolate sauce over the top, as it was spectacular.   However when I saw a white mousse inside, I chose not to eat it concerned it was made with the non dairy creamer I refer to in my review of dining in the MDR.   I ate the caramelised oranges and Steven ate some of the chocolate part, but there was no way I would eat it.

We both ate far too much, so did not have tea or coffee and found it strange, that even though the meal was complimentary, we were charged for a bottle of sparkling water.

The food in Sindhu is well presented and tasty, with big portions I presume to warrant the charge, it certainly was not tasting menu portions.   I can only presume other diners have much bigger appetites than we do, as we felt over faced.