Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Dining Out in London - Food for Thought

Sign at Food for Thought Logo London

Spinach Cauliflower Dal with Brown Rice & Potato Salad with Garden Salad
Food for Thought

Vegan London Dinner Crowd at Food for Thought
Dinner Crowd at Food for Thought
I'll keep this one short and sweet, because sadly Food for Thought will be closed by the end of June after more than 40 years in business. It happened to be my favorite vegan food in London and the most conveniently located, close to both my office and my hotel, in Soho. Tucked away on a small cobblestone street, it always attracted a crowd in the early evening. People just like me enjoyed their delicious savory, hearty meals. It tasted like home cooked food and the servings were always generous. Not everything they served was vegan, but they had a few vegan entrees to choose from every night and for a combo meal adding a daily salad option was easy as all of them were vegan. 

One of my favorite entrees was the Spinach Cauliflower Dal with Brown Rice. I ordered salad to go with it and got a mix of vegan potato salad and garden salad with a yummy tomato dressing. The Dal dish was creamy, perfectly seasoned and fresh. On other visits, I also tried the Stir-Fried Vegetables with Brown Rice, the Pickled Vegetables, an Avocado, Corn and Black Bean Salad. One more stand out was the dessert I tried on my last visit. The Apple Pear Crumble was jam-packed with fruit and deliciously cinnamon-spiced. Every meal I enjoyed was takeout, but as shown in the photo they do have a few tables to dine in for a small price increase.
Stir-Fried Vegetables with Brown Rice Food for Thought Vegan Blog
Stir-Fried Vegetables with Brown Rice
Food for Thought

The limited, constantly changing menu might frustrate people, especially when you find a favorite, but considering how good the various options were, I enjoyed the surprise and variety! It was cash only, but this is far more common in London than back in the states so I was used to it. If only a place like this existed in New York, where you could get a vegan meal that tastes like home and satisfies you like no other! 

Vegan Takeout London Food for Thought
Butterbean Pie - Food for Thought

Taste the Rainbow!

Food for Thought
31 Neal Street
Covent Garden
London, UK WC2H 9PR

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Dining Out in London - Cookies and Scream

Cookies and Scream Logo London UKBaker Girl with Cookies

Vegan Gluten-Free Blog Cookie Dough Balls Shake - Cookies and Scream London
Cookie Dough Balls Shake - Cookies and Scream

Cookies and Scream Camden Lock London Vegan Gluten-Free
I scream, you scream, we all scream for Cookies and Scream, because it's just that good! I had this spot on my list for must-visit vegan spots in London and it was reconfirmed when my London-based friend said how delicious it was. I went to the Camden Lock Market after my slight disappointment at Borough Market for the lack of vegan options. Camden was a lot more crowded and dirtier than I expected. It's got a sort of punk rock vibe going on and the streets are overrun with souvenir shops and wandering tourists. I shuffled around in the food tent area for a while searching for Cookies and Scream until I finally had to ask for help. Turns out it's actually tucked away inside, with a permanent stake in a small building called the Dingwalls gallery area. This dessert bar is not only vegan, but also gluten-free! When I discovered them I realized I wasn't alone in my excitement. The other customers were equally overwhelmed by the looks of the freshly baked, heavenly treats for sale. The staff works in a tiny kitchen area right behind the counter and I commend them for working wonders in such small quarters.

Tiny Kitchen Space at Cookies and Scream

Vegan Gluten-Free London Bakery Peanut Butter Cookie Veega
I ordered a Chico Cookie, which was a large peanut butter cookie with chocolate chips. It was super moist, gooey, and rich. I greedily also ordered a liquid dessert, the Cookie Dough Balls Shake thanks to a tip from Fat Gay Vegan and got a Gosh! Brownie to-go, which of course lasted a total of four hours post-visit. As I was drinking my shake all I could think was how unhealthy it must be because of how incredibly sweet and creamy it was, and I got a kick out of the "low-fat" label on the menu board. The huge chunks of cookie dough made it a more exciting and indulgent treat. Excluding my minor stomachache from all the (unrefined) sugar, my only complaint was that the baked goods were a little too moist and fell apart pretty easily. 

Vegan Gluten-Free Blog Brownie Cookies and Scream London

It was worth it, whatever damage Cookies and Scream did to my diet. Thank you for the delightful desserts, I will miss you back in the states!

Vegan Gluten Free Shake Menu - Cookies and Scream London UK Veega
Low-Fat Shakes?! Don't mind if I do...

Cookies and Scream LondonVeega Blog

Cookies and Scream
The Market Hall
Camden Lock Place
London, UK NW1 8AF

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Dining Out in London - Manna

Manna London

Sticky Toffee Pudding - Manna Vegan Blog Veega
Sticky Toffee Pudding - Manna

Manna is an all vegan restaurant located in Primrose Hill, a pricey more residential part of London compared to busier parts like Soho and Bloomsbury. I loved walking in this sleepy, quaint neighborhood with white townhouses and boutique shops. I met with a friend from the US who moved to London over a year ago, her vegan friend joined us for dinner. From my research I knew this historical (celebrating 47 years!) restaurant offered some of the traditional British fare, things I had never tried before even in non-vegan versions, like Bangers and Mash and Sticky Toffee Pudding, but even with the unknowns I was excited for a sit-down meal with good company. Manna is a small restaurant and although I called and couldn't get the reservation I wanted, there were empty tables throughout our dinner (a bit frustrating). 

Manna Mezze - Manna Veega Blog
Manna Mezze - Manna

Vegan Arancini - Manna
Manna Mezze, Arancini - Manna

Baja California Plate - Manna Vegan London
Baja California Plate - Manna
We started with the Manna Mezze to taste a variety of appetizers. I got to try the Arancini, Vegetable Tempura and Indian Pizza. All of them were delicious, though the Arancini and Indian Pizza were more unique and exciting. I enjoyed the sauces paired with each one. Though their menu changes often, the Organic Bangers and Mash is a constant. I ordered this dish for my entree, again I didn't have much to compare it to because I'd never tried the non-vegan version before. Sadly I wasn't in love with my dish, but it was good. It contained organic fennel and pumpkin seed sausages, on a parsnip and carrot mash with a red wine leek and thyme jus with onion rings. The vegan sausage had lots of seasoning and flavor, but the texture was a little too grainy. I of course loved the fried onion rings that topped the dish! My dining companions both ordered the Baja California Plate (sadly no longer on the menu) and really enjoyed it. Their meals were slightly more fresh and colorful than mine. Although already full, for dessert I had to get my hands on the Sticky Toffee Pudding. Luckily I was able to share it with my friend. It was presented beautifully with a flavor that was decadent and very sweet, certainly happy with this choice to end the meal!

Overall I enjoyed the appetizers and dessert the most. For this more relaxing, quiet dining experience compared to what I experienced in the city center, I would return here. The quality of food was high and service, despite being slow, was decent. In comparison to US prices, this wasn't a cheap meal, but I didn't feel like I was overpaying.

Organic Bangers and Mash - Manna Vegan London British
Organic Bangers and Mash - Manna
Mains, Entrees, Dinner Menu Manna Primrose Hill

Dessert Menu at Manna in London Vegan

4 Erksine Road
Primrose Hill
London, United Kingdom NW3 3AJ
Manna Restaurant London

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Dining Out in London - Ms. Cupcake

Ms Cupcake Bakery London Vegan UK
Jaffa Cupcake - Ms. Cupcake Chococlate Vegan Blog
Jaffa Cupcake - Ms. Cupcake

I had this on my list of places to try thanks again to Chef Chloe Coscarelli. She did a cookbook tour in Europe and actually hosted a book signing at this bakery, the first vegan bakery in London! It was far from my hotel but I went along my route home from Paris. They recently started selling their products in Whole Foods so I'm sure many more vegan-curious folks will discover them soon. The baked goods were so fun and colorful! It was hard to pick what to bring home.

Vegan Cupcakes in London Veega

I had been indulging a lot already so I opted not to get a box of cupcakes, knowing I had very little self control! I picked up a Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookie for my friend (who excitedly reported back it was very delicious!) and for myself I got a Jaffa Cupcake, something I had never heard of before. It was a chocolate cupcake coated in an orange marmalade and then topped with vanilla-orange and chocolate frosting swirl, with a candied orange piece on top. The cupcake was moist, not overly sweet, frosting was plentiful and I enjoyed the sweet, tangy orange jam that gave it a more unique flavor than the average chocolate cupcake. Two thumbs up. I also saw on their website one of the more popular flavors is the Ferraro Rocher inspired cupcake, called The Ambassador, I was never a fan of those hazelnut chocolate balls so I decided not to grab the last one on the tray. Instead I ordered the Double Chocolate Cookie Sandwich, based on looks alone. My gut instinct was right, this was my favorite pick! I really liked the large, chewy cookies and the buttery, sweet frosting. I should know now that whatever I buy from a vegan bakery will get devoured in one day, just as these did. It's both a good thing, for my wallet (these were pricy) and waistline, and a bad thing, for my taste buds, that this place was outside of my central London location.
Ms Cupcake Double Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwich Vegan LondonVegan Strawberry & Mango Cupcake Veega

In the storefront they are stocked with loads of vegan products, from cheeses, meats, ice cream, snack bars, candies, milkshakes, to baking ingredients and decorations. The baked goods case included many cupcake flavors, brownies, cookies, scones, and muffins. The prices of the baked goods were a little steep, when converted to USD so I didn't stock up. I got a good sense of their product though, and agree this was a great pick! Not too many vegan bakeries exist here, so they take the cake :)

I LOVED Raisinets as a kid,
these made me so happy!

Vegan Cheeses for Sale in the Cooler

Ms. Cupcake Vegan Bakery in Brixton London

Ms. Cupcake
408 Coldharbour Lane
Brixton (in South West London)
London, United Kingdom SW9 8LF

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dining Out in London - Tibits

A Mix of Delicious Vegan Dishes - Tibits London Buffet
A Mix of Delicious Vegan Dishes - Tibits

Buffet Food at Tibits London

I learned about Tibits from Chef Chloe Coscarelli's list of "must dine at" places in London. I was out and about on the Bank Holiday (May 4) enjoying the beautiful weather when I came across the lovely alley, known as Heddon Street with a handful of restaurants that had plentiful outdoor seating. Tidbits founded by three Swiss men is a vegetarian buffet-style restaurant that is pay-by-weight. I'll admit, this turned me off a bit before going. You might assume (like I did) when the kitchen tries to create so many dishes, 40 in total, and keeps them out for everybody to pick at, that the quality suffers. It did not, let me tell you! I enjoyed my meal so much that I cleared my large plate then went back for takeout on both dinner and desserts. I think I shocked the cashier when I downed so much food! I made sure to come back for another visit later in my trip, too.

Vegan Herb Dressing from Tibits London Veega
The rare find, a vegan creamy dressing!
Tibits offers a ton of vegan and gluten-free options, everything is labeled and it seemed at least 90% of the options were vegan. You'll find a mix of hot and cold sides and entrees. Some of the highlights on my plate were the Swiss Chard Lasagna, Orcchiette Pasta with Tofu, Japanese Noodle Salad, Creamy Herb Dressing, Gnocchi, Falafel, Red Pepper Hummus. For dessert I was already thrilled to have more than one vegan option so I took a whole box home with me of Sticky Toffee Pudding, Chocolate Chai Cream, Rhubarb and Apple Crumble and Victoria Sponge Cake. I also ordered a fruit juice that sounded appealing, named Tutti Frutti, with orange, kiwi, apple, pear, banana, and sea buckthorn syrup (what's this? I didn't know either, it's an herb with many health benefits including vitamin C)!

Tutti Frutti Juice - Tibits
Tutti Frutti Juice - Tibits

I could eat here almost everyday, but cost-wise, it can get expensive if you're not careful, my first plate cost about $15 USD. There is so much variety, so much to choose from, and everything I tried was delicious. Buffets can be overwhelming, so given more time I would soon discover my favorite items, until next time... or maybe a trip to Switzerland?

12-14 Heddon Street
London, England W1B 4DA
Tibits Website

Tibits on Heddon Street in London

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Dining In - Kate Middleton's Pasta Alfredo

Kate Middleton's Pasta Alfredo - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen Veega
Kate Middleton's Pasta Alfredo - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen

I first made this dish last December for Christmas. I had just gotten Chloe Coscarelli's new cookbook Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen (buy yourself a copy here to fully enjoy!) and was rapidly making my way through it. My mom helped a lot with this one! It makes a huge batch when using one pound of pasta so get ready for leftovers, or feed to a large group.

I just made this again for dinner for my boyfriend and I. With a reminder on the taste, I can say it's on the sweeter side because of the caramelization of the vegetables. It's not your traditional alfredo sauce and without any soaked nuts to add fat it left me wanting a slightly creamier, more satiating sauce. Regardless it's still a good dish and with the added homemade vegan Parmesan (a little on the sweet side, as well) it was enjoyable. I don't know if it lives up to the adorable name, but for how easy it was to prepare it's worth a try!

Pasta Alfredo
Cauliflower on a Kitchen Scale
12 oz. cauliflower florets, fresh (use a kitchen scale to measure)
5 garlic cloves, whole
1 onion, sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
1 pound fusili pasta (I used Trader Joe's Gluten-Free Brown Rice Fusilli)
2 cups almond milk
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Ground black pepper
Italian parsley, fresh, for garnish

Parmesan Topping
1/2 cup blanched almonds
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon maple syrup

To Prepare Pasta Alfredo:

Cauliflower, Onion, and Garlic Cooking in Pan
Cauliflower, Onion, and Garlic Cooking
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Mix cauliflower, garlic, and onion with olive oil in a large baking pan, season with sea salt. Cook for 30 minutes, stirring a few times, and remove from oven when vegetables are fork tender.

While vegetables are cooking, prepare the pasta according to package in salted water. Drain and rinse, particularly if using gluten-free pasta as the water gets cloudy.

In a blender, add in cooked vegetables, almond milk, lemon juice, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt. Blend until smooth. Toss sauce with the cooked pasta and add pepper to taste. Top with parsley garnish and Parmesan topping.

Cauliflower Alfredo Sauce Veega Blog Vegan Recipe

To Prepare Parmesan Topping:
Skinning Almonds Veega Blog
Making Blanched Almonds

In a food processor, combine blanched almonds, nutritional yeast and sea salt. Pulse until it forms a crumble. Add in maple syrup and pulse again. Use this to top each serving of the pasta alfredo. 

Parmesan Topping - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen Veega Blog
Parmesan Topping - Chloe's Vegan Italian Kitchen

Leftover Parmesan Topping!

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