True North Cafe, Coburg

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It is not unusual to find myself out of the office around lunch time, despite efforts to avoid letting anything get in between me and my lunch. At the worst of times, it can mean struggling to think of a suitable place to grab something to eat. At the best, it can mean this – a quick drop in to True North in Coburg.

Prior to starting my current job, I did not often head out to Coburg and could only dream about these illusive places people talked about. But now that I’m out and about, that’s all changed. I finally got to visit Half Moon Cafe. And then I visited again and again and again. For a while, we were actually coordinating client visits out that way pre or post lunch so that we could schedule some falafel time. If colleagues were lucky, we would return triumphantly to the office with armfuls of caulibaba wraps. Anyway, this post is not supposed to be about Half Moon…

True North have been open about a year, and they caught my attention last year after seeing visits from Johanna at Green Gourmet Giraffe,  Faye at Veganopoulous and Cindy and Michael at Where’s the Beef? The menu is short and sweet, consisting of a handful of brekkie options and a bunch of sandwiches for lunch, most of which can be made vegan. Never having had a Reuben sandwich before, I grabbed one to go.

20150115_112926Excuse the lap shot.

Firstly, I love the pickle and corn chips. I love any extras! The sandwich, a combination of vegan pastrami, sauerkraut, mustard, mayo and cheese on toasted sourdough, was deliciously tangy.

20150115_112939Not the most appealing looking sandwich, but tasty nonetheless.

True North Cafe
2A Munro St, Coburg
Mon – Fri – 7am – 4pm
Sat – Sun – 8am – 4pm

Fruity Leathers

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Since my parents invested in a dehydrator, whenever I’m going on a camping trip I like to pop around and make up some goodies (only to have to return a day later to retrieve them). I usually do a couple of variations of crackers, a few variations of fruit leathers and some fruit or veggie crisps – it’s a great way to pack nutritious snacks that are easy to transport and keep well, and the sky’s the limit when it comes to making up different flavour combinations.

fleather1These are my latest three fruit leather blends. Instructions are very straight forward and apply to whatever combination you go with. I’m still working out some things with different fruits producing different textures – when I’ve used apples the mix tends to separate a bit and crack, others produce a stickier mix – regardless, all I’ve done have been tasty.

Cherry Vanilla Fruit Leather
(makes 1 sheet)

2 cups fresh cherries, pitted
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp chia seeds

fleather2Apple, Pear and Cinnamon Fruit Leather
(makes 1 sheet)

2 pears, chopped and cores removed
1 apple, chopped and core removed
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp lemon juice

fleather3Banana Berry Mint Fruit Leather
(makes 1 sheet)

2 x bananas
250g strawberrys, hulled
1 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp fresh mint

fleather4Instructions:

Chuck all your ingredients in a blender and whizz until smooth and of spreadable consistency. If it is too runny, try adding some chia seeds, and likewise if too thick add some liquid – either citrus juice or a spash of water. Pour mixture onto a teflex sheet on a dehydrator tray and spread evenly, to about half a centimetre or just a little more in thickness. Dehydrate at 60C for 1 hour, then reduce to 40C and continue to dehydrate for about 8 – 12 hours. The time will vary depending on the fruit, thickness, etc, so just check in every now and then to see if it’s ready.

I have seen some people instruct to peel and flip the leather part way through – I have not tried this method yet, but can verify that it seems to work just fine leaving on the one side.

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Vegie Bar and Three One 2 One

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Walking up and down Brunswick street always gets my tummy rumbling. I recently popped into Vegie Bar with my mum for a quick snack in between some seriously successful browsing.

vegbar2“This is not the time for dumplings” said nobody ever. Quite thick skins on these ones, I can’t remember what the filling was made of, it wasn’t remarkably tasty but nothing a good dunking of sauce cant fix.

vegbar3Along the same vein, I will never pass on wontons. I really liked the broth these were in – gingery, garlicky with some fresh coriander…heavenly match.

vegbar1To top it off, I had a matcha milkshake. I have not forayed very far into the world of matcha, so the taste is quite unusual to me still. I did enjoy this, but perhaps not quite what I was craving at the time (read: ice coffee).

This next visit goes back some time. As in possibly last year. Three One 2 One is a little cafe on Bridge road in Richmond, with a funky rhino on the side of the wall.

threeone2one2Upon first glance at the menu, it is not super vegan friendly. There are plenty of cheesy and eggy vegetarian options, though nothing strikes my eye. The lunch menu is mostly paninis and sandwiches, and after asking the waitress, she pointed a few things that they could alter for me. I went with the pumpkin and gruere sandwich with candied walnuts, caramelised onion and rocket (minus the gruere), which came with a side of “chubby chips”.

threeone2oneThe chips were yum! The sandwich was a little strange – the candied walnuts making for a very sweet addition. I found them quite hard little nuggets in the sandwich, providing an almost tooth breaking crunch. With pumpkin not being my top choice of vegetables to put in a sandwich, this didn’t really impress. I did however enjoy the experience and the service, which led me to go back two more times since then, however unfortunately it just hasn’t quite cut it on the follow up visits. Once for brekkie I had quite a plain avo on toast, and the next time I tried to customise my own vegan sandwich, and despite the girl acknowledging and trying to advise what I could eat (though appearing confused at what vegan actually means), my sandwich came out with mayonnaise and most likely butter-cooked mushrooms. Despite my average experiences, my non-vegan dining companions really enjoyed their meals.

Vegie Bar
380 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Mon-Thurs – 11am – 10pm
Fri – 11am – 10.30pm
Sat – 9am – 10.30pm
Sun – 9am – 10pm

Three One 2 One
424 Bridge Road, Richmond
Open every day 8am – 4pm

Work lunches: Fatto a Mano and Storm in a Teacup

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Working just off of Smith st, I tend to be spoiled for choice when it comes to buying lunch. While most days I take my own lunch, it’s easy to forget it when there’s so many good options about. Fatto a Mano is a favourite among many at my work (and everywhere else if you judge by the line going out the door most days at lunch time) for their delicious organic baked goods. For some reason I always crave something from Fatto on Mondays, the only day in the working week that they AREN’T open. What is up with that?!

The following pictures are from a range of different visits to Fatto over the past 6 or so months (although most definitely not all of the visits that have taken place, wink wink).

fatto1The spelt pizzas are a favourite as they are a quick and easy option, and very reasonably priced at around $4. There is always a variety of vegan pizzas to choose from, looking beautiful with their symmetrical toppings.

fatto3From the pizza slices I’ve tried, I prefer the ones with tomato or capsicum, or as many veggies as possible. The potato and olive one shown here was okay, but a little bland.

fatto2This one wins the award for best variety, with a combo of pumpkin, zucchini, capsicum and potato. These are a great quick lunch to eat on the go, but I find it best if they are slightly warmed as the base can be quite chewy.

SAMSUNGThis is one of the vegan, gluten-free pies. When I tried this one, I found it hard to believe it was vegan as the top had this real cheesiness to it. Upon further inspection, I discovered what I think might be grated potato? Delicious!

fatto5Fatto a Mano have other savoury vegan options, as well as a range of vegan sweets. It tends to be different from day to day (and depending on how early you make it in). Above is some kind of peanut butter caramel ball, it’s kind of like a rice krispie treat with a light rice bubble filling. At various times they have also had variations of crostata (fruit pie) – I can confirm the deliciousness of a few versions of these, giant choc chip cookies, and cherry coconut balls in a similar style to the one above.

On a more recent note, I popped into Storm in a Teacup, a cute little tea shop and cafe on Smith st for the first time the other week after remembering hearing that they had vegan toasties on offer. I walk past the shopfront every single day, but had not yet been in. The day I ventured in, there were no toasties in clear sight, however I was met with this wonderful veganised green machine salad.

stormPacked with rocket, spinach, sprouted chickpeas and green lentils, zucchini, fennel seeds, tuscan kale, sunflower seeds and pomegranate, with a big dollop of Botanical Cuisine nut cheese (lemon and dill from memory). Seriously delicious, satisfying and kept me going all arvo. Unfortunately I did not have time to sit and enjoy their main pull – teas, but now I’ve tested the waters I will have to arrange a tea date to follow up.

Fatto a Mano Organic Bakery
228 Gertrude St, Fitzroy
Tues – Sat – 6am – 6pm

Storm in a Teacup
48A Smith St, Collingwood
Mon – CLOSED
Tues – Sun – 10am – 6pm

Veraison, Balnarring

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Continuing on with our Mornington Peninsula getaway, the family booked a table at Veraison restaurant in Balnarring for a happy 55th wedding anniversary lunch for my grandparents. Last time we were on the Peninsula for a special occasion, we dined at a fancy restaurant which introduced us to foams as foods (!) – I felt a bit like a fish out of water.

veraison3The difference I noticed immediately at Veraison was the relaxed atmosphere – the lady who welcomed us was friendly and warm, and cracked a few jokes that instantly made everyone comfortable. Veraison have an A la carte menu, as well as a weekday set lunch menu, from which you can choose two or three courses for $45 or $55 respectively and according to their website, they source their produce from local Balnarring suppliers when in season, or from the organic veggie garden out the back. My family had called ahead to confirm they could cater for vegans, which thankfully they could. While the others had a few dishes to choose from, the bear and mine were set for us which was fine by us – as long as we were getting fed!

veraison1First up, we were served some lovely mushrooms stuffed with quinoa, some vegetables and capers, and topped with some fresh rocket. My memory fails as to what this was flavoured with, but I recall salty capers and what seemed like different textured quinoa – some well cooked and some lovely and crunchy that popped between your teeth. Bear sways more on the vegetarian side, and his was topped with goat’s cheese.

veraison2Next up, another stuffed dish! You all know how much I love food stuffed in food right? This was a cooked tomato filled with a creamy risotto and topped with some wilted tuscan kale. Simple and satisfying. I would have loved to see some crunchy texture with this – perhaps some toasted pine nuts – to top it off.

veraison5My dessert was a little less inspired, particularly compared to all the creme brulees with little biscuits and sorbet – perhaps they hadn’t planned I would make it this far. Despite my initial disappointment, the flavour of the sorbets (cherry and raspberry from memory?) was beautiful, and the lovely seasonal berries were juicy and ripe, a great clean end to a meal.

We spent a good few hours enjoying our meals and drinks and chatting away, and I think everyone walked away happy and satiated and ready for a GU (that’s guts up in our family!). I can definitely recommend Veraison to anybody looking for an enjoyable, quality meal in a beautiful yet relaxed atmosphere.

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Veraison
269 Myers Rd, Balnarring
Normal year:
Thurs – Mon – 12pm – 3pm
Open 7 days all Jan – 12pm – 3pm
Fri & Sat – 6pm – 11pm

Veraison

Shell’s Cafe, Sorrento

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Prior to Christmas, my Dad’s sisters and parents came over from W.A to celebrate my early Christmas and my Grandparents’ 55th wedding anniversary. In order to maximise celebrations, the family booked a house down in Rye and we spent a couple of days wandering, eating, spa-ing and other such activities.

On one of the days, we spent a little bit of time wandering around Sorrento until we were peckish for some lunch. We stopped in front of Shells Cafe, and after a quick google discovered a pretty low Urbanspoon rating. We remembered the Portsea Hotel up the road, so jumped in cars and headed over there. Unfortunately when we arrived, there was some kind of event going on at the hotel and it was not open to the public. With limited other options at that time of afternoon, we shipped back to Sorrento and ended up back at Shells, our tummies willing to give it a try.

shellscafeA quick look at the menu presented a few potentially veganisable options. After asking the waitress, I was told the dish I wanted couldn’t be veganised, but the Asian mango coleslaw salad could be made with tofu instead of chicken. I hid my disappointment (I’m not the biggest mango fan), and agreed to give it a shot.

And boy am I glad that I did. The mango was shredded finely amongst the coleslaw and so was not overpowering, instead offering a slight sweetness to an otherwise savoury salad. Lots of crunch (my favourite texture) from cabbage, bean sprouts, capsicum and carrot, and delicious fried shallots on top. Fresh and satisfying!

I’m sorry I prejudged Shells on some poor reviews, our experience was definitely pleasant.

Shells Cafe
85 Ocean Beach Rd, Sorrento
Open breakfast and lunch

Orecchiette with Lemon, Mint and Peas

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This seems more like a spring recipe to me, but with the weather we’ve been having here you would hardly know it’s summer so I’m going to sneak it in anyway. Spring is usually when gardens have an abundance of lovely fresh peas, so if you have some growing, you might want to make use of them in place of the frozen ones I’ve used here.

I love the fresh flavours in this dish, and I especially love that it can be thrown together in no time for a satisfying weeknight meal. Almost a year into my ‘real job’, I’m really finding the value in speedy weeknight meals. Gotta love some down time in the evenings!

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Orecchiette with Lemon, Mint and Peas
(serves 4 – 6)

500g dried orecchiette
1 Tbsp rice bran oil (or other cooking oil)
2Tbsp shallots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of one lemon
1 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups frozen peas
2 cups rocket
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tsp chili flakes
Pinch salt
Pepper

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, and add orecchiette. Cook according to packet directions, then drain.

Meanwhile, heat rice bran oil in a pan over medium heat. Add shallots and saute for a couple of minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and cook for a further minute.

Add peas to the pan, and cook for a couple of minutes – until heated through – then remove from heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together lemon juice, zest, olive oil, salt, pepper and chili flakes.

In a larger bowl, combine drained orecchiette, pea mix and lemon juice blend and stir to combine. Add mint and stir through. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Separate into bowls and top with a handful of rocket before serving.

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CBD Eats: Supercharger and Raw Trader

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The Emporium kind of terrifies me. I have been in there three times now – once to check it out, and twice to eat at Supercharger. Each time I have been in, I feel disoriented and unable to find my way out. One of the times I was there, the alarms went off and I was worried I would not be able to get out (particularly with the lack of panicked people running for the door. Seriously, what is going on people? Alarms mean GET OUT!!). Regardless of the fear I feel from the Emporium experience, I find myself returning, simply because I know I can get a filling and nutritious vegan lunch at a reasonable price.

The deal is this: a whole array of vegan options that you can piece together to make your perfect bowl (and side bowls). It’s canteen-style ordering which makes it simple for them as well as gives you time to co-ordinate your meal (trust me, you’ll need it with all the options!) This style of eating really appeals to my love of bits and pieces, mix and match, fresh and cooked, texture extravaganzas and wanting to have it all.

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So you can choose a base with 4-6 items. Of course I had to try one thing from each section, so went with the base + 6 option. Here I have a ‘base’ of steamed quinoa and fresh baby spinach, a ‘smash’ of green pea and avocado with coconut oil and mint, a ‘raw’ of shredded beetroot, carrot, apple and ginger with apple cider vinegar (I know, I CHOSE beetroot – WHAAAAT?), a ‘ferment’ of red cabbage and caraway kraut, a ‘simmer’ of mild eggplant and potato curry with tomato ginger and lime leaf, a ‘protein’ of fresh tofu in tom yum broth and finally a ‘sauce’ of fresh tomato and chili salsa with red onion and coriander. All that for a very reasonable $14. And look at all that colour, heck yessss! Don’t you feel good just looking at it?

Supercharger also have a bunch of delicious looking smoothies, juices and raw desserts that I would love to give a try, however my dining companion and I had earlier visited Raw Trader and felt we could not face any more sweets.

Raw Trader is a tiny cafe tucked away in a little CBD street. It has a huge array of raw cakes, slices, balls and more, as well as coffee, tea and smoothies. It’s kind of overwhelming seeing the display of pretty treats, they look almost too good to eat and near impossible to choose.

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We took a painstakingly long time to pick two desserts to share. This is the cappuccino cake. It had a lovely creamy texture, and I love the white layer like froth on top of a capp. I would have liked a stronger coffee flavour, as I found it a bit mild, with the rich nuttiness and coconut flavour coming through more prominently.

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A small dense piece of lemon slice – I actually preferred this one, as the zestiness of the lemon really shone through. I guess the trouble with raw desserts becoming so popular is that they have to be pretty special to impress me now. I would like to go back and try some of the other desserts that took my fancy like ice creams and mousses, as I feel that there is definitely potential, but I just wasn’t blown away with the options that I chose. Regardless, Raw Trader is a great place to meet a mate for a coffee and cake if you’re in the CBD area.

Supercharger
Level 3, Emporium
287 Lonsdale st, Melbourne
Sun – Thurs – 11am – 7pm
Fri – Sat – 11am – 9pm
Raw Trader
10 Sutherland st, Melbourne
Mon – CLOSED
Tues – Thurs – 7.30am – 8.30pm
Fri – 7.30am – 10pm
Sat – 10am – 10pm
Sun – 10am – 4pm

Brother Burger and the Marvellous Brew

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Woah, hey! I have been slowly going through the annual motions of new-year cleaning, decluttering and organising, enjoying starting afresh. I spent today cleaning, clearing, packing away physical things, and I this evening I have moved on to the dreaded computer clean up. My usual attitude is one of ‘if I just don’t look at it, I won’t know how bad it is, and therefore it is fine”, but enough is enough. It’s time to back up, clear up and speed up the old lappytop.

In doing this, I have discovered more photos of places visited that I have NOT shared with y’all than I ever realised. As a result, I’m going to try and bang out some short sharp posts, clear this clutter and move on with my life. Stop weighing me down, maaaaan.

This piccy is from December – the bear and I had been running errands and getting shiz done when we started getting peckish. We were just across the road from Brother Burger and the Marvellous Brew – the name is a bit of a mouthful, but I kind of like the fairy-tale feel of it. It is what it sounds like – a burger bar – with a fair choice of burgers (including two vegetarian options), as well as a few sandwiches and salads. One of the burgers is listed as vegan, and there is also a menu of mix and match-ers that you can customise your own burger with. The drink list has plenty, from shakes to teas to cocktails and wines, and there is apparently a whole separate menu for beers. We bypassed the drinks and went straight to burgerville. I went the easy option and chose the vegan burger – a mung bean sprout and kidney bean pattie, lettuce, asian slaw, pickled onions and chili jam. Bear went with the magic mushie (not vegan), and we ordered some french fries (there are also fat chips and onion rings on offer). After taking the order, the friendly girl came back and advised that the bun on the vegan burger is not in fact vegan, but can be exchanged for the GF bun, which is. Strange that the vegan bun is not the standard on the vegan burger, but anyway…I guess it’s a good excuse to make an extra $3 on the bun.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the bun – I didn’t even notice the gluten-freeness of it! The pattie was solid and filling, with distinguishable veggies and bits in it – yaaaay (down with mush!) and it was overall decent. Unfortunately, the burger was a little dry and there wasn’t a huge flavour punch, something that a heavier serve of pickled onions and chili jam might have remedied – I am a condiment fanatic though. Regardless, it filled the hole alongside the salty french fries. Bear raved about his burger, which you can just catch in the background, the dollop of cheese and juicy mushroom really hit the spot for him.

Brother Burger and the Marvellous Brew
Side of 413 Brunswick St, Fitzroy
Sun – Thurs – 12pm – 10pm
Fri – Sat – 12pm – 11pm

Hello 2015 and Tangy Edamame Buckwheat Noodle Salad

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Hellooo everyone and happy 2015! I’m back! I was never really gone, but I’ve had a busy couple of months – moving house, festival-ing, having family over from Perth, going on a mini-holiday, Christmas, New Years, ALL THAT JAZZ. It’s hard to believe that one and a half months slipped away from me just like that, but it’s been lots of fun and I’m now feeling a lot more relaxed and grounded in my new home. Our house has lots of light, lovely floorboards, a rocking kitchen, an outdoor patio and a BACKYARD. I am still very excited by this and I have been here a month now.

I have so much to share with you, but I’m trying not to get too overwhelmed with it today and instead I’ll just hit you with a lovely simple noodle salad recipe. This is a great one for summer because there is pretty minimal cooking involved. In the coming weeks I’ll be sharing a bunch more summer-friendly recipes. I’ve always been a fan of stronger flavours, and this one packs quite a tangy punch thanks to the combination of rice wine vinegar, sriracha and ginger. Nothing like a good hit of ginger to boost the old immune system!

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Tangy Edamame Buckwheat Noodle Salad
(serves 4)

3-4 carrots
1 medium red capsicum
6 spring onions
2 cups frozen edamame
2 cups snow pea tendrils
200g buckwheat soba noodles
3 Tbsp black sesame seeds

Dressing:
4 Tbsp soy sauce
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp sriracha
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 clove garlic, minced

Prepare your veggies – using a julienne peeler, a mandolin or a really sharp knife and a bit of patience, cut your carrots and set aside. Julienne the red capsicum, and chop your spring onions into 1cm chunks.

Cook your noodles according to instructions, and in the final minute or two, throw in the edamames.

Meanwhile, whisk together dressing ingredients and set aside, and lightly toast sesame seeds in a pan over low heat until fragrant.

Drain noodles and edamame, and place in a large bowl along with carrot, spring onion, capsicum and snow pea tendrils. Pour over dressing and toss to combine. Top with toasted black sesame seeds.

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