Thursday, 19 October 2017

Food review | The Bohemian

Although there are now lots of high street restaurants that are making eating out easier for vegetarians and vegans it's nice to find a restaurant that caters solely to the meat free demographic in Newcastle. The Bohemian is one such establishment. Nestled unassumingly on Pink Lane, The Bohemian is a restaurant, bar, and record store. The atmosphere is quirky, warm, and welcoming.

Keen to try it out we headed here for a pre-gig dinner (Rumours of Fleetwood Mac at The Sage, since you ask!) You can book online, which is always a bonus, and their menu is also available to peruse which saves valuable time if you're in a rush (as we were!)

Upon arrival we noticed a very small sign in the window alerting us to the fact they don't take card payment. We then had to pop to the cash point before eating which, when you've got a date with The (faux) Mac, was frustrating to say the least. It would be great if the online booking system could display a message stating it's cash only along with your booking confirmation. I've since been informed that they now take card payments. Yay!

The Bohemian serves a wide range of cocktails (all vegan friendly!) and I opted for a dark and stormy, which is my favourite cocktail of all time so I was so pleased to see it on the menu. The cocktails are all £6.95 which is reasonable for a city centre venue.

We opted to share the nachos which was a mistake as the portion size was not enough for two people with a large appetite. Never mind, we'll know for next time! I plumped for the BBQ pulled jackfruit kebab whilst my partner-in-dine went for the black bean and walnut cheese burger. The food was well presented but we both felt the portion sizes were small, especially for the price. I personally didn't like the jackfruit; it tasted like fruit covered in BBQ sauce and I can't help but shake my head every time I read that it's a plausible substitute for pulled pork. The rest of the meal was tasty and I did eat all of the jackfruit because I was hungry, but it's not for me and I wouldn't order it again. This isn't a slur on the restauran; it's a slur on the jackfruit!

Despite being in a hurry I still ordered a dessert of vegan cheesecake. Again, we opted to share but the portion was very small so I would advise a starter and dessert each if you're a piglet like me! Through ordering the dessert we ended up missing the start of the concert. There's a lesson about gluttony in there somewhere...

The staff were friendly and made a real effort to answer our questions about the gluten free options. Whilst we were there many people were turned away without a booking, and this was a Tuesday evening, so I would highly recommend booking a table. Whilst the first visit was a mixed bag (food wise) I've been again and can vouch for the deliciousness of the chilli cheese chimichanga!

Monday, 29 May 2017

40 by 40 | Updates!

I published my 40 by 40 - alternative bucket list in 2014 and since then I've not really managed to cross that much off it, sadly.

So far I've blogged the following:

I have, however, managed to cross a couple of other items off the list but as they are really not rather blog worthy and there aren't any photographs to make them slightly more interesting I thought I would simply give a quick roundup!

#14: Get promoted. Well, I've actually done this twice now. I was temporarily promoted a few weeks after writing the 40 by 40 list and in January 2016 was successful in securing a permanent promotion. Only a few months later in November 2016 I started my current role (again on promotion) which, following months of specialist training, has just started in earnest. Go me! With just over 6 years left until I'm 40 I really do hope I can earn another promotion or two...

#15: Own a designer handbag. Yes, it's shallow but I love bags (and clothes, and shoes, and scarves, and... you get the drift!) I always thought I would tick this off my list once I owned a Mulberry handbag, but now that I'm vegan (see below) that's not going to be possible. So, I'll have to settle with saying this beautiful Kate Spade counts as my designer handbag (I bought this prior to being vegan and it's wasteful not to use it.)

#35: Be vegan for a month. In April 2016 I decided to be a vegetarian (for ethical reasons, should you be interested). It wasn't overly difficult to not eat meat so this January I took the plunge and pledged to do Veganuary. Aside from the difficulty finding a milk replacement for my coffee I found it relatively easy, and at the end of the month I decided to continue with it. Four months in and I feel great; I can honestly say I don't miss meat, dairy or eggs. Yes, it is a pain having to read ingredients lists in supermarkets, and it can be hard to agree on a place to eat out with friends, but those are not deal breakers by any means.

Having joined lots of vegan groups on Facebook I was worried that friends and family wouldn't be supportive. I heard horror stories of people being mocked and ridiculed for their choices but my friends and family have been nothing but supportive and encouraging. I didn't tell anyone at work about it until very recently because I was sure there would be some teasing but I was surprised to find they were all very interested and asked me lots of questions without telling me I'm stupid (at least not to my face!) One colleague did say "so what do you eat?!" and I just said "look at me mate, does it look like I'm struggling to find things to eat?!" He got the point. Even my dad went out of his way to make me vegan Yorkshire puddings for Sunday lunch!

So, what do I eat? Well... pretty much everything. Here are some pics of all the 'rabbit food' I eat on a daily basis (aka why I'm still fat!)

So, with only six things crossed off the list I really need to get cracking...

Thursday, 25 May 2017

Food review | ASK Italian

I'm not usually a huge fan of chain restaurants, especially Italian chain restaurants, as they can lack charm and flavour. However, I heard on the vegan grapevine that ASK Italian had introduced a vegan menu and wanted to check it out. It's so rare to find a restaurant with one option that can be veganised (i.e. a veggie option minus the cheese!) that finding a restaurant that had an entire menu I could choose from sounded like a dream!

I dragged Mr Thirty Something OAP (I'm being kind, he's actually 40!) to the recently opened ASK Italian in Grey's Quarter, Newcastle. We were given a table near the window looking out over what was once 'hippy green' which prompted me to regale my husband with tales from my youth (whatever happened to Kathmandu and where are all the goths?!) Anyway, I digress...

Upon arrival we weren't offered the vegan menu, so after perusing the normal menu for a while I had to ask if they actually had a vegan menu. The menu arrived and I was pleased to see 'breads and nibbles', 'starters', 'sides', 'pizzas' and 'desserts' as well as the obligatory pasta dishes. I was instantly impressed to see that the dessert options weren't both a form of sorbet, as is usually the case.

Whilst waiting we both ordered a glass of their home-made raspberry lemonade, which we had been given a sample of upon arrival. It was deliciously refreshing but for £2.50 I'd have liked a little bit more.

I opted for vegan baked dough balls to start, followed by vegan fettuccine con verdure. The dough balls took 25 minutes to arrive, and the Mr's starter failed to arrive at all. The waiter was very apologetic and when his pepperoni dough balls were placed before him the waiter informed us she would remove the starters from the bill, which was a kind gesture.

The dough balls were really lovely; squishy on the inside and crispy on the outside, just how I like them. The pasta dish was topped with an olive tapernade which when all mixed up gave the dish a wonderfully rich flavour.

Having not eaten any lunch I needed no persuasion to order the blood orange and chocolate tart. Sadly it arrived a little melted from the heat from the pass so it looks slightly lopsided in the photograph, but it tasted divine. The chocolate was rich and decadent, and the base crisp and nutty. Sadly there was very little orange flavour in the tart, save for a couple of orange shavings on top. The raspberry sorbet was delicious and I devoured every single last bit.

After the initial issue with the starter the service was spot on; our waiter was chatty and pleasant, and was as outraged at Shauna being booted off Masterchef as I was! The portions were generous, the food was tasty, the atmosphere was lively, and to top it all off I didn't have to pay a penny as my husband reached for his wallet long before I pretended I was looking for my purse!!

Sunday, 14 May 2017

First Impressions | The Vegan Kind Lifestyle Box May 2017

The Vegan Kind Lifestyle Box offers 5-8 cruelty free vegan products delivered to your door every month for £10 per month (plus £3.15 P&P). Generally the items are food related, which is the reason I subscribed to the box in the first place, but lately there have been items such as hair conditioner and hand cream. When I first subscribed there was often a mug or badge with vegan slogans, which I wasn't keen on so I'm glad there haven't been any of late, but other people loved them and it's hard to please everybody all of the time!

This month's Lifestyle Box arrived earlier in the week so I thought I would give you a quick run down on what I received.

The box was quite heavy so I anticipated lots of yummy goodies. I was pleased to find a binder to hold the recipe cards that come with each box. I've been subscribed for a while now but with nowhere to keep the recipe cards I had been putting them in the recycling box. Now, with a binder to keep them in, I'm far more likely to actually make the delicious recipes each month.

The box always contains a run down of the contents as well as information about the chosen charity for the month. This month 10p from the sale of every box will go to Willows Sanctuary in Aberdeenshire.

Organica Hazelnut Nougat Delight Bar 40g R.R.P. £0.99 - Touted as a cross between a Mars Bar and a Snickers I really can't wait to try this. I've amassed quite a stack of vegan friendly chocolate but nothing like this. I can't see it lasting long!

Humble Brush Bamboo Toothbrush R.R.P. £3.99 - I usually use an electric toothbrush but when I travel for work I tend to take a normal brush so I don't have to pack a charger. This will go nicely in my overnight bag! It's fully biodegradable and an eco-friendly alternative to the plastic brushes that will end up in landfill.

Hippeas Cheese & Love 22g R.R.P £0.99 - I am a sucker for anything cheese flavoured as invariably they contain milk so I was thrilled to see these chickpea puff snacks in the box.

Terra Vegane Egg Free Omelett Mix 250g R.R.P. £4.00 - Fellow vegans tell me they miss egg most of all so this should satisfy those who are looking for an egg fix. Although intrigued to try this I'm not really in any hurry as egg is literally the thing I miss least, taste wise, about being vegan.

Bute Island Creamy Original Sheese 255g R.R.P. £2.30 - I love making 'cheese' based sauces and have been impressed with the offering from Sainsbury's, so I'm looking forward to trying this spreadable vegan cheese from Bute Island. It has been recommended so many times on vegan forums but I've never got around to buying it so I was thrilled to find this in May's box!

Angelic Gluten Free Cocktail Oatcakes 150g R.R.P. £2.60 - These will go perfectly with the Bute Island Sheese!

Vita Coco Coconut Oil (sample sachet) (£4.99 for 250ml jar) - Everyone I know swears by coconut oil, either as a makeup remover, moisturiser, hair mask, or even in recipes. Personally I find it too oily for my skin type so I'll probably use this on my parched hair to help restore some moisture.

The verdict? A good selection of products that I'm looking forward to trying. The value of the full size items in the box is £14.87 so not a lot of saving but it's good to have a selection of new products and brands to try delivered straight to my door.

Do you subscribe to The Vegan Kind? Let me know what you thought of this month's box!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

First Impressions | The Cruelty Free Beauty Box May 2017

The Cruelty Free Beauty Box have just launched two monthly subscription boxes that are both cruelty free and suitable for vegans. Their first box has just arrived so I thought I'd give you my first impressions!

The company offer two different boxes: The first, 'The Makeup Box' is the one I ordered and contains, you've guessed it, makeup products only. The second, 'The Beauty Box' contains bath, body and skincare ranges as well as the occasional fragrance and makeup product. I opted for the makeup box because as a new vegan it can be really difficult to decipher the world of cruelty free beauty and discover new products.

The 'About' section of the company's website details why they decided to launch a cruelty free box (the TL;DR version is they're against animal cruelty and wanted to make it simple for customers to enjoy a box without wondering if the products really are CF. Very admirable!)

So, without further ado, let me show you the first 'Makeup Box' from Cruelty Free Beauty.

The box itself is recyclable cardboard (woo!) and just the right size to fit the items. There are so many subscription boxes that send shoebox sized boxes for no reason. Measuring just over 7" across, the company have ensured there is no unnecessary waste. The box has a glitter logo and the brand information card is right there on top when you open the box. The packaging inside is shredded paper which can also be recycled (woo again!)

There are six items in the box, one of which is a 'bonus' item for those who were first to subscribe. The value of the six items is £39.37! Let's take a closer look at what's inside:

Bellapierre shimmer powder R.R.P. £12.99 -  This shimmery loose eye-shadow powder in the shade 'lava' is a deep bronze colour and looks highly pigmented. I've heard great things about this brand amongst the vegan community so I'm looking forward to testing it out. I just hope I don't end up with glitter all over my face!

Benecos sponge applicator R.R.P. £4.95 - Not really anything I can say about this other than it's a sponge applicator. I don't use sponge eyeshadow applicators, but this might work well with the shimmer powder. Again, I'll let you know!

Love Maja Eyelash / Eyebrow Thickening Serum R.R.P. £8.50 - This is the only item in the box that isn't full size but it's still a really good sized sample. Containing coconut oil, vitamin E oil and castor oil this serum is designed to be used as an overnight treatment. I can't wait to use this.

Fairypants Vegan Lip Paint R.R.P. £4.99 - In the colour 'Rita' this looks, in the pot, to be raspberry coloured, with a hint of glitter running through it. The information states it can be applied once for a 'laid back look' or layered for an 'intense hit of colour' but I'm not entirely convinced. When swatching I couldn't get my finger in the pot very well which is a shame. I'll do a full review and report back.

Benecos Natural Black Kajal Eyeliner R.R.P. £3.95 - I don't use black eyeliner at all, only brown and sometimes plum, because I'm very pale. I will however endeavour to give this a go, particularly as it's a nice pencil and I prefer pencil eyeliner as it's easy to blend and create a smoky, natural effect.

Fairypants Lip Balm Cocktail Range R.R.P. £3.99 - I received the flavour/scent 'Mojito' and it certainly does smell of my favourite cocktail! I imagine this will be perfect as an overnight treatment so I'll keep it by the bed. It smells divine and my mouth watered a little bit when I opened it.

The Cruelty Free Beauty Box 'Makeup Box' was £14.95 (inclusive of postage) at the time of ordering. The company have now put the price up to £19.95 for new subscribers due to underestimating the cost of raw materials to begin with. The 'Beauty Box' is still £14.95 and both are available on rolling subscription.

I am looking forward to trying all of the products in the box and I can't wait to discover new brands with future boxes. Did you sign up for The Cruelty Free Beauty Box? What are your first thoughts?

Friday, 5 May 2017

Food review | Toby Carvery

I bet you thought Toby Carvery, self appointed "home of the roast" would be the last place to find a full vegetarian and vegan menu. Well, you'd be wrong! Toby Carvery have been offering vegan options for quite some time now and with the change of the seasons there has been a slight change of menu so I headed to my local Toby with a friend for a catch up.

First things first - the menu! There are three permanent vegan options and one seasonal option at the time of visiting. I didn't notice the seasonal dish at first as it wasn't on the main menu. The allotment pie sounds delish, and I'll be ordering it next time.

On this visit I opted for the portobello mushroom tart. As stated on the menu I asked for freshly steamed veggies as the ones at the carvery station are cooked using butter. The waiter didn't inform me this time that the roast potatoes were suitable, but every other time I've visited I've been assured they're dairy free.

Aside from the leeks, which I can't stand eating on their own, I was happy with the veg selection I was given (and the amount too!) The tart itself was nice, with a rich pastry and tasty filling. It isn't anything to write home about and won't win any awards but it was good home cooking style grub. Sadly once my meal arrived I had to get up to get some (veggie) gravy, so it would be nice if they could just bring you a jug of gravy with your food, to save you wandering around the meat counter looking for it.

The previous Toby menu had a vegan chocolate and cherry torte, which was to die for. The vegan dessert offering is now a rice pudding made with coconut milk. This sounds lovely but it's more of a winter dessert than a spring/summer pudding so I'm very disappointed that the torte was booted in favour of a winter time favourite, not least because the portion size was abysmal.

Upon arrival I thought the bowl it came in looked very small, so I tipped it out on to the plate the dish came on (which was only slightly larger than a side plate!) There was literally three spoonfuls of pudding. I admit I'm a piglet when it comes to food and often eat far more than should be humanly possible, but I was genuinely disappointed with the meagre portion of pudding before me. How did it taste? Like rice pudding! The compote (raspberry, I think?) was very sharp and overpowering. I wouldn't order this again, and appeal to Toby to bring back the torte!

Overall the Toby Carvery vegan offerings are welcome and adequate. It makes it relatively easy to find a casual venue that vegans and omnivores alike can agree on for a pleasant afternoon catch up!