Monthly Archives: March 2013

A kingdom for a fridge

So not a kingdom, but a bucket load of money.

We haven’t had a fridge for about a week. First the fridge got warm, then the freezer became the fridge and the fridge got useless. We managed to eat things before anything went bad, but then we had no where for fresh vegetables.

For a week, we ate:

Sorka (I have no idea how Ben spells it). Besan (Chickpea flour) pancakes. Hmmmm… I will have to put a recipe up, it’s very addictive!

Mi Goreng. Shut up. I never buy them except for emergencies.

Baked potatoes

Fruit

Rice cakes with peanut butter

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It was a bit repetitive. By the end of the week, I was CRAVING fresh vegetables and green things, and did a big shop over the weekend so we can give our bodies a bit of a carb-overload rest. Lots of stir fries with tofu or cashews, Buddha bowls and smoothies.

I’ve decided, in honour of me honouring my kidney, liver and bowels this week, I’m going to take a picture of my dinner and post them here daily. Plus, after eating so many addictive, scrummy simple carbohydrates, it will keep me honest!

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Blackstar

So… Blackstar. A West End institution. A boutique coffee shop that started the Brisbane boutique self-sourcing, self-roasting and, for cold drinks, self-bottling trend. There are many gorgeous coffee houses in Brisbane but Blackstar has always stayed independent and different over the years. I first fell in love with bottled iced coffee- plain, black and soy are offered (I know to look for “my” label now). Although offering shade (which has been known to fall over in windy conditions causing hilarity. Well, I found it funny) and protection from the rain, the seating is outdoors and open to the elements. Mounted bar heaters and fans help things out, but you have to be prepared to be of the weather, which can make it unappealing in the height of summer. Luckily for Woodfordians, Blackstar often closes shop over New Years and heads to the weekend long Woodford Fold Festival (Australia’s biggest and I think the best). So you can patronise other air-conned cafes without guilt over the height of summer, but come back once poetry slams or other evening gigs occasionally kick in.

Breakfast quality has dropped off a little from what it used to be (Avo toast with ½ an avo with black olive tapenade and dukkah was to die to). Breakfast and Lunch are served with nice options, including vegan options, but let’s face it, you come here for the coffee. Over the last year, the sweetener in cold pressed coffee changed (from Maple to Blue Mexican Agave Syrup), which took a couple of bottles to get used to. Always a solid cup of coffee to be had. Still lovely people working there, still busy on weekends if you arrive too late. I’ve never encountered a surly barista or waiter there in all my time drinking there (about 4 years).

Order food or hot drinks during busy times and you used to be given a toy instead of a table number. This was FASCINATING and makes the time until you eat go very quickly, as time spent making your robot climb Ben’s shoulder and shoot the sugar bowl always flies by. Nowadays, expect a playing card, which is still cute and makes me break out in Red Queen quotes from Alice in Wonderland. Whatever passes the time…

This is one Brisbane institution that doesn’t rest on its laurels- it knows that coffee has to remain good in West End to keep customers coming back. If you’ve never been, wander down Vulture Street from the Vulture/Boundary intersection and at the Vietnamese bakery, hang a left onto Thomas and you can’t miss it. A sandwich board is always left out if it’s open. It’s a place with ambience, you can feel comfortable whether it’s packed or you’re the only one there and there’s consistent coffee and pleasant staff. Oh, and they have a cold drinks stall at the Davies Park Markets on Saturdays. What more could you want from a coffee house?

If you’re around, try it out this weekend.

Blackstar Coffee on Urbanspoon

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Spider!

I’m too scared to take a photo of the spider on the balcony. Because spiders are scary and can fly through the air and land on your face.

So I hear.

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Eating Out with your Vegan- Part 2

Fed your vegan Indian? Good noms. Time to explore other yummy countries.

EVERYTHING ELSE IN ASIA

Don’t assume that other Asian food places will be as vegan or vego friendly. Asian restaurants are as diverse as the huge continent from which they come, so if you’re booking for a party that has a vegan, ask if meals can be made without egg or fish sauce in the least. Your vego friend can figure it out from there. I have to admit, I HATE asking questions about food at restaurants- I want to be a diner, not labelled as “the vego table”. I have happily eaten Chinese, Thai, Korean, Malaysian, Indonesian, Japanese and a whole lot of other cuisines asking minimal questions and knowing the potential pit falls. As a host, you don’t have to know everything that could stop your vegan friend eating, but it helps to know a few.

In Asian cuisine, the most common unveganising factors are:

-egg (many menus don’t mention it in a dish. I just always say “no egg” when ordering, even if it shouldn’t have it).

-fish sauce (laksa and east Asian curries)

-tofu made with egg

-ham in fried rice (obvious but it happens)

-mayo in avocado/vege sushi

-fish and shrimp paste in miso

Don’t worry, your vegan friend can handle themselves, but knowing to ask one or two questions on the phone about removing one or two ingredients from otherwise nommy dishes is super considerate and will make your vegan love you.

OTHER CUISINES

-Ethiopian can be vegan friendly (and very trendy and exotic right now in Brisbane. Try out places on Beaudesert Road in Moorooka).

-Many burger places bind patties with egg, so check if there’s a mushroom burger option

-Pacific Islands eat a lot of seafood and pork, but baked taro in coconut, salads and *sigh* chips will still get you where you need to go.

-Try Buddhist restaurants- you can get amazing mock meats and fresh veggies. A non-Buddhist restaurant chain that is all vegan is The Loving Hut. They’re even in Paris. But they’re also in Mount Gravatt (slightly less exotic).

-Do the call ahead, like, a week. I’ve had beautiful vegetables (admittedly, that’s all they were, but they were great) made up for me at the Lyrebird restaurant at Queensland Performing Arts Centre because my mum called ahead (thanks Mum). Just make sure sides of vegetables are not cooked in butter, or can be flavoured with an alternative.

LESS FRIENDLY CUISINES

-You know, you can totally get vegan friendly Italian, but not normally (in my experience) at the best Italian restaurants. Good fresh pasta has egg. Unless that restaurant is super duper awesome and committed to making a vegan dough, you might be better off going somewhere a little down market where the pasta is dried or packet. Sorry. That, or hope your vegan gets to love cheeseless bruschetta.

-Greek. GREEK! Although I KNOW there are awesome vegan Greek things out there, in restaurants the options are usually vego-only. Because of feta. You magnificent bastard. You could ask for a Greek salad without feta, but it’s probably pre made and will result in fury or picked out cheese- neither so good. Common vego options are: Greek salad (feta), dolmades (cheese sometimes!), spanakopita (cheese), haloumi cheese or vege moussaka (cheese). You can see the trend. Unless you can get cheeseless dolmades, and some gigantes (big baked beans things in a tomato sauce), it’s actually quite a hard cuisine from which to order off the menu. Be nice to your vegan and maybe avoid altogether, or try Turkish (there’s some cuisine overlap but generally less cheese).

-German or Bavarian. Be kind. Don’t book. We don’t want to watch you shovel thousands of calories of spatzel into your mouth while we drink schnapps. There is usually nothing at all on the menu, unless it’s green salad or chips or you’ve called ahead and discovered your chef is from Berlin and therefore kinda cool with vegans. Oh well, at least your vegan will get drunk cheaply.

And you know what? Chances are, that you’re already a pretty neat friend/relative if you’re reading this to help you understand eating out with your vegan, but when in doubt, ask. I’m sure you’re vegan would rather chat about it than eat chips.

Again.

QUESTION: Do you have any tips you can share on eating out with vegos, vegans or other people with dietary needs?

PS- The 14th is my birthday. Happy birthday to me 🙂

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Eating Out with your Vegan- Part 1

So you found yourself a vegan. Good for you. Now, you must look after them if you hope to not appear to be a jerk.  You may be lucky enough to live in a super veg-friendly city. Chances are, if someone close to you is simply vegetarian, eating out is not even an issue. In gastro-snob Paris and even in pork and seafood heaven (literally if heaven is a real place, because if they’re there, they’re dead meat!) Samoa, eating vegetarian is ususally easy. I have to admit, in Samoa I ate a LOT of chips and my group all fell upon restaurants with fresh vegetables with gay abandon. Hmmm… I don’t have pictures, but perhaps I should do an article on eating vegetarian in Samoa?

Anyway! Unless you are at a very up-market restaurant with an over inflated opinion of itself, eating vegetarian out is easy. Despite this, it is a pet peeve of mine to look at a menu online or on a walk-by and see vegetarian appetisers or entrees, no veg mains, and have the restaurant self-proclaim to be “veg friendly”. Yeah. Right.

But still, vego brothers and sisters can almost always order off the menu- pizza, curry, pasta, sushi (most of the time), bruschetta, salad, pie, burgers, veg stacks, crepes… crepes… crepes…what was I saying? Oh yeah, vegos have it easier.

Having been vegan for three years and still eating a lot of vegan food, I found that eating vegan is a different matter. Eating vegan with friends requires skill. Being the non-veg friend of the vegan requires a touch of sensitivity and loveliness, but I know you’re up to the challenge.

THE AWESOMENESS OF INDIAN

Dahl Makhni and roti

Dahl Makhni and roti

Absolute easiest vegan eating out/taking out option: Indian. By far. Not only will your subcontinental staff understand what the hell a vegetarian is, they will possibly already have vegan, vego and jain food labelled on the menu. You don’t need to ask about egg or eggless tofu and fish sauce (Thai) or can you get this without cheese (Pizza and Pasta). If anything, you might need to ask whether they use Ghee or Veg oil. Ghee is clarified butter, so avoid. And this isn’t a weird question, just a standard “I want to know about the food” thing anybody could ask.

The other lovely thing about Indian is never having to encounter eye-rolling and explaining everything you’ve ever eaten in full. Your vegan will love not having to put up with/do this.

Of course, eating out isn’t all Chai and Dosa (unfortunately), so stay tuned for the rest of the world and cuisines to avoid to make your vegan a happy camper.

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Spring Hill Deli and Produce

So I had a lovely brekkie for a friend’s going away send-off at Spring Hill Deli and Produce. As you walk in, gourmet grocery goodies greet you, many of which feature in their café menu (hot chocolate spoon, anyone?). The atmosphere here is really lovely: homey, fresh, oozing quality. People were here for good food, and with home baked goodies and lots of locally sourced produce I think Spring Hill Deli and Produce delivered.

Fresh flowers on the table? Yes please.

Fresh flowers on the table? Yes please.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The street location was quiet on a Saturday, the comfortably full cafe mostly serving locals within walking distance from what I could learn from eave-dropping. My party had a table booked and we were shown to a semi-detached room where we had our own space but were still part of the café. Like many shops and cafes around Brisbane, this café had once been residential and the size and shape of many of the rooms, plus the central hallway helped to create the relaxed charm.

I was hungry as I walked to the café and ordered poached eggs that came on sourdough with relish. I was surprised at the price of the eggs (over $10) but pleasantly so when three eggs were served and I discovered that all of the breads are made on the premises (like many of the cakes and sweets). Ben stole an egg, as I would never have been able to eat all of them no matter how well they were cooked, and I had coffee- a soy iced latte, which unfortunately, like many of our table’s coffees, took a while to arrive.

 

Coffee descriptions differ from city to city and café to café, but most of the time, if you want a cold drink without the ice cream and cream, order an iced latte, not an iced coffee. Don’t you hate ordering an iced coffee on soy, only to get it with cream and iced cream? Such a pain (and really dumb on the part of the person who took your order and didn’t think to check). There were no issues like that, and everyone got their fancy, finicky and particular orders correctly made.

My friend ordered the fruit salad with Greek yoghurt and really enjoyed it. We whiled away lots of time and coffees reminiscing about her new start in a new place and our plans to go kayaking which we were planning on doing for 2+ years and never got around to doing! For someone on the other side of the river, it was definitely worth the walk over the bridge and up that bloody steep hill behind Roma Street to get there, and would be a great exercise/coffee combo on a Saturday morning.

I can’t wait to go back and work through the brekkie and lunch menus. You can check out their facebook page and pictures of their creations here.

Spring Hill Deli and Produce on Urbanspoon

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Food Porn

Some beautiful things that have been created over Xmas or at our new place. Please let me know if you’d like any recipes.

For copyright reasons, I can’t share any Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation recipes. But they’re pretty to look at!

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Koncept Fusion Bar and Restaurant

Recently I was asked to find a restaurant in the Mr Gravatt area to have a catch up dinner with a couple of friends. Not knowing the area very well, I did a lot of urbanspoon hunting and found Koncept.

Eating out in smaller, local areas that aren’t foody-centric can be tough, as some places that cater to a large amount of people can get lazy (that Thai place near you, you know the one I’m talking about. But not mine, my local Thai place is YUM). There was just enough competition around to suggest that Koncept needed to stay on its toes.

I had made a booking, and we were seated quickly, although were still waiting for the last of our party to arrive. It was a quiet, mid-week night, but there were still about 3 other groups of people there- all Japanese or Asian. I admit, I am one of these people who gets a good first impression of an international restaurant positively if I see people from that country enjoying the food! Later, an anglo family joined us all.

We perused the menu until our friend arrived. Veggie options included dumpling, tempura and sushi. It wasn’t an exhaustive list, but was rather nice. The prices and sizes were small- think tapas bar, where you really need to buy two-three things to fill up. After the last person arrived, we ordered. I wanted to try the vege dumplings, as I was avoiding fried food, but they were out. I had veggie sushi, agedashi tofu and ordered edamame for the table. My friends ordered sushi and one ordered something fishy. Literally, but I just can’t remember what.

Agedashi Tofu

Agedashi Tofu

Devouring our sushi

Devouring our sushi

Edamame

Edamame

The timing of our food was a little slow and erratic. Things we thought would come out together came out last, or we had to ask for it. The wait staff were consistently pleasant and attentive. When the food did arrive, we weren’t disappointed. Everything was beautifully presented and very fresh. The presentation was very western styled, which was some of the fusion of the restaurant, I suppose. The edamame were delicious and salted a perfect amount. I normally am not a huge agedashi tofu fan (pictured) but this was good.

The thing to write home about here are the DRINKS! The DRINKS, children! Fully licensed, Koncept has cocktails based on traditional spirits, as well as saki and umeshu (plum wine. Well, technically not plums, but close). I had to drive, so couldn’t immediately jump into all the delights on the menu, but bevvies started from $5 to the more typical $15 for cocktails. Lots and lots on the drinks menu were $7-8 dollars. On the drinks specials menu, they were $11-12, but also a bit fancier. What you see here is a mojito, a pink mess (not its name, just can’t remember what was ordered) and a cosmo made on plum wine.

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Everything I ordered came to just over $20. For a drink, sushi, agedashi tofu and a share of edamame, I’m impressed. If the food timing can be sorted out a bit, this would be a fantastic place for a light, yet satisfying meal (with drinks!).

Kampai!

Koncept Fusion Bar and Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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The Decision to Earn Less, But Live More

After the unhappiness binge that was 2012, I wanted 2013 to be better. Anyone who knows me would tell you that I’d not exactly one to sit around and do nothing if I feel something needs to be done. Oh, the pity party continued, but in my head while I did other things. I decided that I would ask my boss if I could go part time for one year. She was very cool about it, saying that she’d rather let me recharge than change jobs or go crazy at work.

And have the time to chill with Confucius.

And have the time to chill with Confucius.

It wasn’t an easy decision. The feeling that if I had this conversation with my boss, I would be seen as a failure was one I wrestled with for quite a while before I talked to her. Would she think I couldn’t handle the pressures of my job, would it limit me for future projects or promotions? Would she just think I was a wimp?

Luckily, she didn’t (openly) think any of those things. I still work five days a week, but I have two mornings off. One I spend on mundane, happy things: running, pottering around the house, reading and generally fighting back against stress. The other, I spend doing some academic and conference writing, hoping to get published based on my conference workshops later this year or early next year. Funnily enough, it seems I’ve had to take time off work to potentially advance my career…

I’ve taken what I’ve witnessed from other part time colleagues and come up with a plan that works for me. Apart from my two mornings, I use my time at work very carefully so I don’t end up doing extra work anyway- very common for part-timers in my profession. I’m super busy at work, but, apart from key busy times during the year (usually about 6), I should have little work to take home. I still stay at work after hours a few days a week, but I’d rather work at work than at home.

This of course meant accepting a pay decrease, which happened to coincide to moving to a new place where I now pay $45 more per week. Ben works part time, but his work doesn’t bring in much and can be sporadic. He’s also on a uni prac, which limits shifts.

So why accept less- less work, less money, fewer opportunities? To live more. I realised that working for tomorrow all the time- that potential job, that potential project- meant that I wasn’t in the moment. I wasn’t enjoying today. Today, with my lovely husband, my supportive friends, my beautiful city. I wanted more, so I settled for less. In fact, it isn’t settling, it’s having the best.

I see my city and my relationships in a new way- the natural and structural beauty, which is free to view, the simplicity of having friends round for a rustic meal rather than an impressive dinner party or expensive meal out, walks with Ben that don’t have to end in coffee.

I haven’t been happier.

The path to happiness. Well, a vintage clothes shop anyway.

The path to happiness. Well, a vintage clothes shop anyway.

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