Saturday, 29 April 2017

Food review | MOD Pizza

Wandering the new food court at the Metro Centre, Gateshead, weary from a day of work and shopping, I stumbled across MOD Pizza. Glancing at the menu I was astounded to see that it included a choice of dairy free cheese. I enquired as to whether the bases were suitable for those seeking a dairy free pizza experience and was assured they were. And so I had my first vegan pizza!

The menu is made up of 10 pre-designed pizzas which you can MODify any way you like. Or, you can opt to create a pizza from scratch which is what I did. I opted, obviously, for the dairy free cheese over the red sauce. I then went a little bit OTT with the toppings, adding just about every veggie option they had! This made the pizza quite heavy when it arrived and I ended up eating it with a knife and fork because the topping kept dropping off. This was definitely my own fault for being a little piglet! The base was thin and crispy which suited me perfectly, although it was a little soggy due to my overindulgence (hence the knife and fork!)

Aside from the ability to customise your own pizza the best part of MOD is that all pizzas are the same price, no matter how overboard you go with your choices. Cheese and tomato? £7.47. Every meat known to man? £7.47. ALL THE VEGGIES? Yes, you've guessed it: £7.47.

The staff were really helpful and patient with me as I ummed and ahhed over every decision. I was really impressed that not only did they change their gloves, but they used fresh ingredients from under the counter to avoid cross contamination.

11" double crust!

At MOD you can also create your own salad, indulge in cinnamon strips dipped in a number of different sauces, and choose from a delish variety of home-made teas and lemonades. Gluten free bases are also available at an additional cost. The strawberry lemonade was so moreish that I think I drank about three pints of the stuff before heading home in a sugar daze.

The restaurant itself is stylish and modern. The wash-rooms are unisex; there are separate cubicles but the hand washing facilities are shared. The staff are really helpful and are happy to offer advice about dietary requirements. I've been back since and I only wish it was close enough to order a pizza for collection (although my waistline and arteries are probably pretty relieved!)

Inspired by MOD I've been making my own pizza at home using Sainsbury's cheddar style dairy free cheese on their thin and crispy base almost weekly:

And on that note, I'm off to erm... make a pizza!

Monday, 24 April 2017

40 by 40 | Update - row a boat

Due to the fact that I stopped blogging for over two years I have quite a few updates on my 40 by 40 alternative bucket list to get through!

In June 2015 I visited the beautiful village of Pooley Bridge which is situated by Ullswater, the second largest lake in the Lake District. I've always wanted to row a boat (hence why it's on the 40 by 40 list) but I'm afraid of large open expanses of water for reasons I can't discern.

 Our vessel!

At the time it cost £12 to hire the boat for 30 minutes, which was more than long enough for me. I wasn't brave enough to take the oars for more than a few metres, but I did technically row the boat at some point so I'm quite content to say I've done this! Hopefully I'll row a boat again and more convincingly, but it'll probably be on a boating lake in an urban park!

 I took this pic whilst holding the oar, to prove I did it!

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

40 by 40 | Update - climb to the top of Durham Cathedral

A couple of years ago I posted my 40 by 40 alternative bucket list - things I wanted to do before the big 4-0! Since then I've only posted one update but I've managed to cross a couple of things off the list, some more than once...

In May 2015 I climbed to the top of Durham Cathedral with a friend. The tower is over 66 metres high and has been in place in its current form since 1484. The weather was pretty grotty and once at the top it was very windy, but the views were spectacular and we could see for miles, although on a clearer day I'm sure the views would have been more impressive. It was great fun trying to peer into the prison, spotting where I used to live when I was at uni, and watching people milling around in the historic city below.

At the time of visiting it was £5 to climb the tower, but at the moment the tower is closed for renovation work. It's still well worth a visit to this beautiful building, where you can see the finished Lego Cathedral which is finally complete after three years.

I've always felt an affinity with Durham; my dad is from Durham and I went to university there (which was not a nice experience, but that's a story for another day!) I like to attend the Miners' Gala each year and there's nothing like walking along the banks of the river Wear on a sunny Autumn day!

Here are a few snaps from the day:

 Only 325 steps to the top!

 View of Durham Castle which is home to University College, Durham.

You can just about make out Penshaw Monument on the hill in the distance, which is about 9 miles as the crow flies (yes, I used Google Earth...) 

Here we have Durham Prison, which has in its time been home to such lovely folk as Rose West, Ian Brady, Ronald Kray and Raoul Moat... I've always wondered what it must be like living in the houses adjacent to the prison, which is smack bang in the middle of a housing estate...

And finally, this is where I used to live whilst I was in my first year at uni. Hatfield College. I'll say no more!

Friday, 14 April 2017

Food review | Sunday lunch at The Ship Inn, Newcastle

The Ship Inn is located in the Ouseburn area of Newcastle. It's Newcastle's first vegan pub with all their food being 100% meat, egg, and dairy free. Some of their beers may not be suitable for vegans but they're clearly labelled and the knowledgeable and friendly staff are on hand to help.

Having read so many great things about this pub on the vegetarian / vegan Facebook groups I belong to I couldn't wait to try it out. I contacted them via their Facebook page and booked a table on Mother's Day for myself and a meat loving friend. I booked about a month in advance as I thought it might be busy on Mother's Day but there were still a couple of tables had we not booked.

By the time the day arrived I'd been called upon to deliver some training in Lincoln for work so I knew that I had to eat and dash. Upon arrival at midday we found our table and perused the menu. It was an absolute pleasure to know that all of it was vegan!

Now, on to the food! The menu stated the soup was beetroot soup, which we both opted for and then were then informed it was actually butternut squash soup (£5). This didn't bother me at all as I prefer butternut squash soup and it turned out to the one of the tastiest I've ever had! It was such a treat to get bread and 'butter' too. I followed that with a suet pudding filled with mushrooms and chestnuts (£10). The veg was delicious, the potato was lump free and the gravy was tasty, although very watery (this is personal taste, of course!) My friend opted for the pie (£10) which he enjoyed. Although I was pushed for time I still ordered a dessert of sticky toffee pudding with ice cream which was without doubt a real treat! I finished off the meal with a soya latte.

The best thing about Sunday lunch at The Ship is knowing that everything you order is vegan without having to check. It's a pleasure to not spend ages looking at allergen information to decide if a roast potato is safe to eat. The food service was a little slow, with it taking two hours from arriving to actually leaving. This didn't bother me (despite me having a 3 hour drive ahead!) but it's something to bear in mind if you have something else to do!

I was so taken with The Ship that I convinced my meat loving dad and brother to come with me and my husband last weekend. Again I booked a table via their Facebook page. Unfortunately my family were no longer able to make it so I informed The Ship and asked for a table for two. The reply I received was quite surprising, stating they don't reserve tables for two and to just show up. This was somewhat confusing as they had reserved a table for two only a fortnight before... It also meant we weren't able to go for dinner again at The Ship because we live too far away to turn up on the 'off-chance' of a table.

All vegan menu
Delicious food
Presentation of food
Informative and knowledgeable staff
Great selection of drinks
Friendly atmosphere
Great beer garden

No website = no online booking
Watery gravy
Don't take bookings for two people (at least from me!)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

It's been a while...

When I say it's been a while it doesn't seem like it's been that long since I last blogged, but apparently it's been 26 months! Oops!

I'm going to be honest about why I stopped blogging... I started writing an epic post about my mother's death and I just crumbled. I'd been making notes on my phone for two years, knowing that I one day wanted to tell my story, but when I came to write it I couldn't write more than a paragraph without breaking down, and so I did what I do when things are hard: I ran away.

Before, when I was blogging, I always did so with the audience or potential audience in mind. I didn't write for myself. I just wanted people to write what I wrote and so I wrote what I thought people wanted to read. I'm forging ahead with this blog for me and me alone. I'm still hoping to write the epic post that thwarted my blogging for nearly two years, because I'm stronger now.