Iku Wholefood-the good and the waaah bad :(

I was very excited to learn that my hotel was right around the corner from an Iku Wholefood outlet, the Darlinghurst store to be exact.  I had been itching to try it and so one morning when Husband took the kids to find some breakfast, I skipped along to Iku, looking forward to the many fantastic sounding options.

I arrived at 9:20am and the ‘closed’ sign was on the door, next to one of those “we open at…” clocks, which was set to 9:30.  The stores open at 9:30 so I wandered off down Oxford Street and returned at 9:38.  The door still had the closed sign but someone was inside so I went in to ask what time they’d open, so I could go back in.  It looked like the woman was busy (I mistakenly thought she was on the phone as I couldn’t see her as she was bending down) so I looked over at the fridge.  Then, in a fine display of the worst customer service I’ve experienced in a long time, she snarled “we’re not open yet”.  Now, imagine wanting to give someone you dislike the filthiest look possible. A look that shows your level of disgust with them.  That’s the look this woman gave me.  I replied that the website mentioned 9:30, and I was going to say how I actually wanted to ask what time they open, but she cut me off with more death stares and death tone of voice.  Now, I like to think I’m assertive but this upset me so much I just walked out of there.  What should have been a lovely, peaceful morning was completely ruined.

I don’t get people like this– people who deliberately attempt to make others feel crap.  They certainly shouldn’t be dealing with the public with attitudes like that.  So the Darlinghurst outlet of Iku Wholefoods gets a negative six billion rating.

On a more positive note, I visited two other stores.  One was at the Pitt Street Mall and the other was, I believe, the AMP Plaza.  Staff there were lovely, especially the bubbly lass in the Pitt Street store.  From AMP Plaza I got this delightful wrap.  I can’t remember what was in it but it wasn’t the millet option.  I think it was the rice ball.  Anyway, it was delicious:

iku3

I followed it up with a little vanilla friand (top left, below), YUM:

iku2

From Pitt Street Mall I went for the Sesame Fudge Tart.  The texture was more custardy than I expected which was a surprise but not an unpleasant one.  I was asked if I wanted the cream and I said yes and it came drowned in it (again, not unpleasantly so!) and this cream was rice milk and sago:

iku4

Despite the horrible experience with the Darlinghurst store, I was very happy with the other two stores.  I was just very annoyed and disappointed that the store around the corner from me was a no go zone after the rudeness I experienced.

iku1

I definitely recommend you check Iku Wholefood out if you have the chance, but if you go to the Darlinghurst store you might want to wear an asbestos suit.

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Bodhi in the Park, Sydney: SAD FACE.

I’ve just returned from a family trip to Sydney (more on that soon) and naturally I did my research on all the vegan options before I left!

One place that sounded great was Bodhi In The Park.  Located right near beautiful Hyde Park, I was plenty pleased that I was within good walking distance.  The reviews I read seemed mostly favourable so when Husband took the kids off to Darling Harbour, I went off to get lunch (we’d been at the Australian Museum all morning and I went without food until 1pm so I was ravenous and would have eaten my children).

Bodhi wasn’t that difficult to find and the set up outside is quite lovely:

bodhi1

When I went up to look at the menu, I  was looking at the mains menu when a waiter seated me outside and told me it was yum cha service. I don’t know if that meant yum cha was the only option for lunch but I’ve never had all vegan yum cha before, so I thought why not?  I love yum cha.

First up was the mock bbq pork rolls. These were tasty but could have done with more filling:

bodhi3

Next was spicy tofu with mashed potato which seemed interesting enough. Tasty but nothing mind blowing but as I waited twenty minutes for this to come out after the pork rolls, they seemed full on gourmet:

bodhi2

And now for all the downsides.  This is where SAD FACE comes in to it.  So get your tissues ready.

Service was slooow. I mean painfully, crying-inducing slow.  When you go to yum cha you kinda expect the food to come thick and fast. Instead I watched as wait staff brought out two or three baskets of yum cha and asked the tables near me if they wanted anything. The answer was always yes which meant I was never offered anything and had to wait. And wait. And waaaait. Why on earth would you bring two baskets when eight tables are waiting and there are more than two people at each table?  It got to the point where I was beginning to feel quite angry about it– I’d see a waitress approach with two baskets on her tray (and each basket often contained three items of the one recipe) and I was there for over an hour WAITING.  And the staff would go to other tables in a random order, offer them the food and of course they’d take it because we were all bloody hungry.  So it meant the rest of the tables had to wait.  Diners around me were quite vocal (to eachother) about their dissatisfaction and a few had to ask the waitresses if more food was coming out (the answer was “yes, more food always comes out”…).

Lunch shouldn’t take over an hour where 95% of that time is spent watching the staff sail by you and serving the people who arrived long after you. What should have been a lovely outdoor vegan dining experience was just full of delay and confused staff who were not always able to answer my questions.

In the end I got so frustrated because I waited well over an hour between my first dish and when they came back out with a loaded tray (yippee!) it only contained the dishes I’d already had. Boo CRY SOB.

So I did what I usually do when I’m feeling crapski. I asked for the dessert menu.  I figured I might have better luck if I ordered something off the menu.  The friendly waiter brought out the dessert menu.  Then he disappeared.  And I waited again.  And waited.  AND WAITED.  Staff seemed oblivious to my “excuse me waiter” face.

In the end I had enough, went to pay the bill and was asked what I had to drink.  I said nothing because I wasn’t even asked!  I did have the glass of water come out and it was refilled and I could hear the other diners being asked if they’d like anything to drink.  But not me.

It was such an incredibly disappointing experience.  To spend an hour and a half at yum cha, only to have two dishes come out (or other dishes, half an hour later when I’d already had them) was beyond a joke.  So unfortunately I can’t recommend Bodhi at all which is a real shame, as I’d love to plug vegan yum cha in gorgeous surroundings.

Bodhi in the Park is located at 2-4 College Street, Sydney to the east of Hyde Park (right near the Cook and Phillip Park Aquatic and Fitness Centre).

Thank you to Mister Nice Guy and a few ‘what I ates’

We haven’t visited Mister Nice Guy’s Bake Shop in quite a while.  Well, to be fair Husband did take the kids recently but he forgot that the Bake Shop is closed on a Monday, doh.  After the kids beat him up for it, they took it well.

Arthur’s birthday is this week and it appears he has refused my order to stop growing up.  I don’t think that will stop him writing stories for me on my birthday with titles such as “how to cook a butt” (actually that one was a graphic novel complete with recipe instructions).

For a pre-birthday treat, Husband took Arthur and DeeW to Mister Nice Guy’s today and he came home bouncing around in excitement, because of this lovely thoughtful gesture:

bun2

Arthur was given a cinnamon bun for his birthday-in-advance and declares it one of the best presents he’s ever received.  I haven’t had a cinnamon bun myself in ages so asked Husband to get one for me and it was every bit as delicious as always:

bun1

A very mega thank you to Mister Nice Guy and the Bake Shop crew!  Best customer service ever!

Okay, here are a few “What I ate this week” tidbits.  There aren’t many because I’ve been sick with no appetite and when I felt okay to eat all I wanted were the oranges and strawberries and bananas.

First up, the Mushroom Pecan Burgers from Dreena Burton’s ‘The Everyday Vegan’. I’ve never been lucky with things made from mushroom.  I like whole or sliced mushrooms but if it doesn’t look like a button shape to begin with, I won’t eat it.  I can’t bring myself to eat enoki, it falls too much in to the category of alien space food.  I’ve never been interested in turning mushrooms in to something else (like a burger), instead just preferring them sliced and tossed through pasta or on a pizza.  And that’s really about it. Arthur and DeeW won’t go near mushrooms so I thought I’d be sneaky and whiz them up and put them in burger form.  The recipe was very easy and contains tahini and hoisin sauce.  I used oats instead of the breadcrumbs:

mushroompecanburgers

I liked them but the kids weren’t keen which was pretty frustrating as this is a really good recipe.  I suppose they may have eaten them in a bread bun but I want to avoid giving them bread (or gluten, specifically) wherever possible.  It’s worth noting Dreena includes a ‘version 2’ recipe in her book Let Them Eat Vegan and you can see those burgers here.

Still, it means I got to have the leftovers to myself, this time in corn tortillas with salsa and vegan sour cream with coriander:

mushroompecanburgers2

 

For the first time ever, I made myself tofu scramble.  Up until now I was never truly convinced that ‘tofu’ and ‘scramble’ belong in the same sentence.  Kind of like apricot chicken.  Or any of those ‘fruit’ flavours in the Cadburys family block.  I had some tofu that had been defrosted and pressed (I think it was firm tofu) so I just crumbled it and fried it up with a pinch of curry powder and black salt.  I haven’t used my black salt much and boy when I added it to the tofu scramble, could you smell egg!  It smelt and looked so much like scrambled eggs that I had to sit there for a few minutes trying to will myself to eat it.  I added some of the coconut bacon I’d make and some rocket (I love rocket, yeah-eh) along with a little bit of vegan mayo. Delicious!

tofuscramblewrap

More burgers from Let Them Eat Vegan!, this time the Lentil Walnut Burgers.  The recipe calls for green lentils but I only had brown and they still tasted great.  There’s also diced apple (though I grated it) which adds a little sweetness without being too sweet.  I really liked these:

lentilwalnutburgers

I saw these green curry soups at Aldi.  I love green curry but not as a soup so I put most of it (but not all the liquid) on brown rice.  It wasn’t very good, a bit too sweet and the vegies too blergh looking and I gave up after a few spoonfuls.  Then felt a bit crappy because I’d put a couple of these soups (the red curry variety as well) in a bag of goodies for my sister’s birthday:

aldisoup
Woolworths sell these pakoras in their freezer section and they were over a dollar off so I grabbed some as a snack to have back at my mum’s house.  They tasted fine enough but were too dry when reheated:

pakora

I made the Pecan Date Nibblers from Let Them Eat Vegan! as an experiment for a short family holiday we have coming up.  The sweetness comes from the dates and maple syrup though next time I will cut the maple syrup way down as they were pretty sweet.  Arthur loved them, DeeW not really.  I added pumpkin seeds to the mix:

pecandatenibblers

I made my sister a lemon slice using Mel’s recipe but because I was plain old lazy I didn’t include the dairy free margarine and instead just dumped the condensed soy milk in without heating it.  I’ve never used the vegan version of condsensed milk and like the dairy version it’s basically massive sugar overload in canned form.  Does it stop one from having a big spoonful?  Not usually:

soymilke

I’m hoping that my food blog posts (well, my cooking I should say) for September will be far more interesting because of Vegan MoFo.  I’m looking forward to trying lots of recipes from my cookbooks, especially raw recipes.  See you then!

Rocket, YEAH-EHH!

Rocket, YEAH-EHH!

BBQ Sunflower Tofu from Let Them Eat Vegan!

This is one of my favourite tofu recipes for two reasons: 1) it is both easy to prepare and delicious and 2) ARTHUR LIKES IT. In my kitchen, that’s all I need for a recipe to be on regular rotation.  It also helps when I’ve been struck down with a nasty tummy/nausea bug (like right now) and I don’t have the energy to cook!  And it also helps me finish off the sunflower seed butter.

The Dreena Burton recipe for this baked tofu is simply a case of mixing the ingredients together (easy, just measure out in to a baking dish), put your sliced firm tofu in (I leave mine to marinate a few hours at least) and bake.  Serve to very food fussy child and marvel at how he is actually eating tofu.

The only thing I do differently to the recipe is add a splash of water to the baking tray before baking, just to prevent things drying out too much.

In the past I’ve sliced the leftovers and put them in wraps and have also made rice paper rolls with the tofu strips.  Arthur prefers his plain with swirly sauce:

bbqsunflowertofu

 

 

The one-year-and-almost-a-half Vegan Anniversary

I’ve been vegan since around March or April 2012.  I thought I’d post a bit of a question-answer, based on questions I have been asked but before I do, if there’s one thing, one thing at all I’d like to tell the world about being vegan, it’s this.  I never wanted my blog to be ‘preachy vegan’ but I gotta get this one out because I’m asked all the time in real life and sometimes it does my head in.  Ready?

YOU DON’T NEED TO EAT ANIMAL PRODUCTS FOR PROTEEEEEEEIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNN.  Or iron, or calcium or whatever despite what tv ads tell us.  Robert Cheeke and Billy Simmonds are vegan body builders and there are raw vegan body builders and atheletes too, winning titles and proving people wrong all the time:


robertcheeke

billysimmonds

Isn’t it really hard to be vegan?

Not at all!  In fact, I’ve found it easier.  I always considered myself an adventurous cook and love many different cuisines of the world.  But that knowledge back then does not compare to the knowledge I’ve gained since.  Knowledge is power, and I have absolutely no trouble or difficulty whatsoever with being vegan.

But aren’t you tempted by anything?

Nope.  I’ve never had a single temptation.  And to all those people who say that veg*ns secretly crave meat… well, there’s a lot I say to that but I prefer to keep my blog polite  😉  No, I do not crave meat or any other animal products.  I recently had to help with the washing up at a barbeque and the animal fat on my hands and the smell made me feel sick.  I had completely forgotten about the greasy washing up, the film of grease on the kitchen sink, the smell of it on tea towels and so on.

What about cheese?  Don’t you miss cheese?

This is a popular question put to vegans.  For me personally no, I don’t miss cheese at all.  I do believe I have a dairy intolerance as I never felt good after cheese or yoghurt.  I’d switched to soy milk years ago and never liked cows milk since and felt sick if I had some.  But as for cheese, well I was very fond of a mountain of parmessan on pasta but I’m now more than satisfied with vegan alternatives.  I did enjoy a good gorgonzola now and then but I was always mindful of fat, cholesterol etc and steered clear of the brie and camembert Husband always bought.

What about eggs?

I never really liked them much to begin with.  I used them all the time in baked goods but I love vegan baking and the many ways of including egg alternatives.  And I especially love that my children can eat cake batter without raw egg  🙂

Are you a vegan for health or ethical reasons?

When I began, it was definitely more health focused.  Now, I’d say equal parts but leaning more towards ethics. I’ve learned too much about animal cruelty and suffering in the production of food to ever be tempted.

But what if you were trapped on island with no food but there were wild pigs…

Did you know this is one of the dumbest questions vegans are asked?

Do you feel better/worse?

Honestly, I feel much better when I eat well (as in, (vegan) whole foods).  When I tried mostly-raw for three weeks I felt amazing.   Since cutting out animal products specifically, yes I do feel better overall and less ‘heavy’.  Even in to adulthood I’d get acne outbreaks and the odd boil-like lump now and then, but they have all disappeared.

However being vegan does not mean one necessarily eats zero crap.  At the start I was a bit of a junk vegan, as I was so excited about vegan this-and-thats.  Pies, cakes (especially cheesecakes), pancakes,waffles and so on. When I eat that kind of stuff, usually containing gluten or sugar or oil and I have too much of it, I don’t feel well.  When I eat unprocessed, healthful foods I feel fantastic.

What have been some of your favourite discoveries?

Ooh!  Nutritional yeast (nooch) which is the yellow stuff and not yeast you bake with.  I love kale, especially dehydrated kale chips.  Hemp protein, hemp seeds, milk made from different nuts are all fab.  Making my own alternatives to things like Nutella, or treats like biscuits and muffins.  Raw foods and places that serve raw.  I love going to vegan places to eat and  I also love veganising Greek dishes, though I have been slack with that and it was a reason I started this blog.  Oops… And oh my goodness, did you ever guess there’d be an amazing number of egg alternatives?!?!

Is eating out difficult?

Well, yes and no.  If I go out to eat I just stick with the places I know, or places I haven’t tried that I know do vegan.  In Melbourne we have so many great options that finding a place to eat isn’t that difficult.  It seems more vegan places are popping up, or more venues are offering vegan dishes.  However there are some times when there really aren’t any food options for me if I want to eat out (hello Apollo Bay…).  In those cases I just have to be better prepared.  If I go out somewhere with a bunch of people that aren’t vegan, I have to look through menus in advance and work out what I can eat.  But I used to do that anyway before I was vegan so it’s no big deal.  There have been a couple of frustrating moments when people in a group said there’s no way they’re going to a vegetarian place.

Have you converted anyone?

My sister has eliminated meat from her diet which is a huge change for her, as it was for me.  My mum is not cooking with meat as much (though she is still omni).  Some of my friends and relatives have read The China Study, I don’t know if it has influenced them but they’re reading it and that’s great (if you haven’t read The China Study, I encourage you to do so or check it out on YouTube).

What are vegans… you know… like?

I’ve met vegans of all ages and backgrounds.  There are vegan medical professionals, teachers, top level athletes, students, body builders, writers, parents, kids, grandparents, personal trainers, bankers, chefs, programmers, research scientists.  When I attended the Ban Live Exports rally, there were great grandparents there holding up signs.

How has it been for your family?

For Husband, not so fun.  He is an extremely fussy eater (not in his eyes, ha ha…) and really does not like a lot of what I make however this also applies to my pre-vegan cooking. He only eats about five different vegetables and prefers most of those raw.  Which is great, but when it comes to cooking a veg stew or curry, I still have difficulty with what veggies to put in as he doesn’t like cauli, broccoli, pumpkin or sweet potato.  He’s all about the potatoes.

As for the kids, Arthur (nearly 9yo) and DeeW (5.5yo) have adapted well.  Arthur was initially extremely upset at the prospect of me not making him toasted cheese sandwiches or Hawaiian (ham-pineapple) pizzas.  He swore he would not eat vegan pancakes if they didn’t have dairy milk, which was his favourite.  Now, he looks through my vegan cookbooks (well, the cookies and pies ones) and has no problem whatsoever with vegan alternatives.  As for the toasted cheese sandwiches, he barely remembers them and never asks for one.  Oh hang on, yes he did ask the other day and I said it’s vegan cheese or no cheese and he didn’t argue. Yay to no cheese in the house!

The kids, especially Arthur, have gone from not trying anything to now willingly trying a bit of almost everything.  They’re not quite there with lentils and chickpeas yet, but when you have children with sensory based food sensitives, it can be extremely difficult!  Some of the healthier recipes that have worked wonders are:

Oven baked tofu nuggets from Vegan Dad.  I could not believe it when Arthur ate these in one go and asked for more.  Folks, this was massive in my house.  Truuuust meeee.  I now make different versions using almond meal and nooch instead of breadcrumbs.

Vegan sausage rolls from Where’s the Beef.  A fantastic recipe!  I now use oats instead of breadcrumbs and I also add cauliflower that has been finely chopped in the food processor.

– baked tofu that has a little maple syrup in the marinade (though I’m trying to cut that down).

– biscuits (cookies) made with nuts and dates as the sweetener.

– DeeW likes my tomato pasta sauce that is made with cooked sweet potato that gets pureed along with the canned tomatoes, lentils, onions and garlic.

Whew okay!  I think that’s about it for my reflection! Thanks for reading 🙂

This blog post is dedicated to my buddy Tah-tahs who used to put up with my “but I still need meat for my proteeeeeeeeein” pre-vegan whines  😛

PatrikBaboumian