Monday, December 5, 2016

Vegan Mofo Day #20: Beter + Leuk

In my Vegan Mofo 2016 Finale, which is better late than never I suppose, from Africa to the land of the Dutch, I had this amazing five hour layover in Amsterdam. My good friend met me at the airport with muffins as mentioned in Notes from the Plane.  We went to Rijksmuseum to check out Veermeer and Rembrandt paintings.
Vermeer is one of my favorite painters of all time. Of course, I relished being able to stand by four of his works, especially 1669's The Milkmaid. Like most of his works, small scale and intimate, this showcases precise technical precision in ways figure's skin, her clothing, and every item on the table is rendered. The quality of Vermeer's painting skills profoundly captivates the mind.
Conveniently enough, Rachel Ruysch, one of few women painters in existence here, had a gorgeous, impressively blooming painting seeming to burst from its simple golden frame. Entitled Still Life with Flowers in a Glass Vase, painting has signature alluring beauty to assure a viewer that it is indeed a Ruysch. She was last year's focus on last year's Vegan Mofo post-- a theme on female painters.
Fresh flowers, sugar cubes, and teas decorate our painted green wood table.
For cafe lattes, cappuccinos, and other stylish hot drinks, they have options of almond and oat milks for dairy free alternatives. Other vegan treasures include smoothies, acai bowls, pancakes, sandwiches, and desserts.
She got the latte. I got the mixed berry smoothie. (Yes, I love mixed berry).
We munched on fantastic Dutch Weed Burgers-- a savory delicacy found in select Amsterdam locations! Don't worry these babies are drug free. On The Dutch Weed Burger it says, "with seaweed as the key flavour maker. The juicy patty is made of briny soy shreds and Royal Kombu, a tasty and healthy winter weed, sustainably cultivated in the Dutch region of Zeeland. The crispy O-mega bun colours bright green, due to the superfood chlorella, a microalgae packed with nutritious proteins and Omega acids. The finishing taste touch is done by our Weed Sauce, enriched with Sea Lettuce, a fresh summer weed that brings a nice freshness to this healthy snack. The burger is vegetarian, vegan, kosher and halal." Thus, the patties are moist, tender, and juicy with crisp fixings and an irresistible secret sauce better than anything McGarbage invented. Plus the buns are superb. I loved the heck out of this unique meal experience-- very artistic in a way. Plus, my friend and I discussed possibly traveling next summer-- looking at art and eating vegan food! I think this would be a solid plan. I'm on board.
Not just a foodie and coffee haven, Beter + Leuk also serves as a mini thrift shop. Sweaters, jackets, books, magazines.... and little handmade gifts galore surround the shop.
Traveling companion seated on the pretty table.
They also have high tea and brunch.
Right nearby is their other location-- a larger shopfront dedicated to indie Dutch loving needs.
There we are! A year and nine months ago, we met in Philly and enjoyed Vedge. Now we spent an amazing day in Amsterdam, but it's definitely not the last time for this dynamic intersectional vegan duo!
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Vegan Mofo Day #19: Airport Vegan: Johannesburg Edition

For Vegan Mofo #19, I rather enjoyed my stay in Johannesburg. A beautiful, charming, unbelievably sublime place filled with too many sights to see on so short a visit. After escaping off airplane shuttle van, having told the driver I planned to return next year, I was in O. R. Tambo International Airport for a majority of a Sunday. First thing I did-- headed to the fancy-schmancy Woolworths for breakfast, finding a package of tasty Hot Cross Buns-- 100% vegan. I would love to make my own vegan hot cross buns someday. They're divine.
This is my first time having them! These cute, small buns were easy to break apart for ravenous devouring. Currants, raisins, cinnamon, and all kinds of holiday reminding flavors crept onto tongue and stayed between satisfactory chewing.I could have eaten the whole six pack.
See the softness?
In between window shopping at souvenir shops and free standing kiosks, travel companions are excited about lunch-- despite one not being able to consume. The mixed berry smoothie is the start off.
Vegetable korma curry and vegetable rice.
I am a little questionable about the vegan authenticity of this dish. My waiter claimed there was no butter or milk in this. Perhaps he was right. I could barely taste the coconut. I've had plentiful coconut dishes in my six days and had yet experienced something lacking that strong, present taste. Yet, I asked another waiter and he sad, "yes. There is butter and milk in that." So..... Although, my waiter came back and repeatedly rested his case, I couldn't finish my meal. I didn't have the usual stomach symptoms when having an accidental dairy moment, but couldn't fathom how one waiter insists that it's 100% vegan while another waiter is clearly unsure what's in the food. Maybe I was being too severe and feel a little guilty, but I wanted to be consciously aware as opposed to not being entirely certain.
An hour before boarding the plane, which would be leaving at 11:30PM, I discovered Mugg & Bean, a coffee bar restaurant near the gate. From the Mexican Style Street Food Menu, I ordered the pan friend mushroom torta (excluding mozzarella) with garlic, rocket (arugula), tomato, and fresh basil and a side of hot, chunky cut, rosemary-salted fries and bottomless lemonade.
Mushrooms were flavorful between warmed bread-- just needed a bit more. Fries were delicious. I'm thankful to have eaten this prior to boarding Dutch airline-- an all out cheese fest failure. Something needs to be done about KLM that's for sure.   

Monday, November 28, 2016

Vegan Mofo Day #18: The Greenside Cafe

For Vegan Mofo #18, Joburg's The Green Side Cafe in the Greenside neighborhood (near Conscious 108) offers a range of burgers, pastas, pizzas, and milkshakes. In other words, it's another vegan comfort food haven. They also have a meditation center-- how thoughtful! I caught an Uber here on a Friday night, set on painting the city red with plant based spirits.
Their menu had mouth watering appeal such as Phyllo Delight Stew (tofu and sweet potato stuffed napolita), whole grain sushi, mince and vegetable pie, raw maple cheesecake, and so much more.
This is the yummylicious Lazy Boy Smoothie consisting of coconut milk, almond butter, dates, and vanilla bean.
I ordered Lasagna a la Tegan-- pumpkin, mushroom, tomato, sauteed tofu, and macadamia nut and rosemary cashew cream. It comes out in the pan it was baked in-- nice and hot. Kind, gracious waitress, with shaved sides and dyed green, short length straight back braids, also brought a degree of spunk to the place. In fact, I rather liked each individual woman walking to and fro, there was something special about them.
I felt incredibly blessed to have dinner at such a charming dining establishment, a place finer than a lot of places I've frequented in the states. Fine quality food, fresh flowers in clear water filled vases brightening every table, and affable beautiful staff.... I couldn't have asked for a better spot.
I found it impossible to finish this rich, incredibly savory dish that tasted of autumn delight. Even though at one moment, all of the restaurant's power went out and waitresses scrambled over to tables with tea light candles, I continued eating in darkness, with eyes closed, humming over such divine comfort. Sadness did arrive when the waitress said, "I hope you come back." I really, really want to.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Vegan Mofo Day #17: Matlombe Lounge: A Divine Culinary Experience

For Vegan Mofo post #17, I wasn't particularly interested in taking lunch vouchers at the conference. My mind imagined meat sandwiches and cold salads with honey dressing. I didn't want to take chances. So imagine the surprised look on my face as while walking to Newtown Junction Mall with two other conference ladies, we spied a sign for Matlombe Lounge-- a new vegan/vegetarian restaurant. While the ladies continued for the mall, I headed towards this establishment-- giddy and excited.
When I ordered falafel, I hadn't expected it to arrive like club sandwiches. It was a terrific surprise! Grilled pita bread with flattened falafel patties, pickled crisp mixed vegetables, and avocado inside. If anyone had told me this was a falafel sandwich, I would deem them lies. I'll see if I can mimic this delicious creation at home-- so good. 
While the sandwiches were indeed incredibly scrumptious, the fries were lukewarm and greasy.
This is decaf Gingerbread Latte with Soya Milk-- fantastic and so much better than expensive Starbucks red holiday cup.
Varied sugars inside a red and white beaded cup.
They also cater for events.
Before I paid my bill, the waiter asked, "how was everything?"
"Incredible!" I told him.
We high-fived each other-- both of us happy and proud. 

Saturday Morning Breakfast

"I remember you here from yesterday," said the brown eyed waiter, dressed in clean, starched black uniform.
"You do?" I asked, surprised. I hadn't recalled seeing him.
Inside, I also hoped he didn't see me mauling falafel as though it were my last meal on Mother Earth.
"Yes," he said, offering a polite smile.
"I just love the food."
"I see that. Thank you for returning."
I grinned.
Such a wonderfully cordial exchange.

The next day, before conference's final day, I ate breakfast at the lounge, having enjoyed last visit. I started off with this awesome Nutty Banana Smoothie.
The Sunrise Breakfast Platter contained vegetable tofu scramble, grilled zucchini, sliced tomato, avocado slices, and hearty toast.
Ravenous and blissful, I devoured my morning meal with ease. Although I picked out black olives (I will never ever like olives), the vegetable tofu scramble fulfilled appetite. Pieces of mushrooms and green and red peppers tasted
Naturally, I spread avocado on the toast instead of the two butter options. I think I made right decision.
This breakfast truly fit well together! I was well satisfied on final conference day.

Vegan Mofo Day #16: Conscious 108

For Vegan Mofo post number 16, is a first of several restaurant reviews-- each one peppered in adventure and mayhem. According to Google Maps, taking a walk from Protea to all vegan, HappyCow recommended Conscious 108 was supposed to be an hour and a half. I left hotel around noon. When I sat at the restaurant, rounded wall clock read 3:15PM. Yes. It took over three hours to get there. In between walking up and down hills, taking sun reflecting photographs, smelling fresh scattered lavender perfuming pavements, I believe it was well worth the journey.
The black and white menu, chic and adorable, reminded me a little bit of Chloe.
The dessert menu is always the most difficult. From cakes to ice cream to tiramisu, I admit wanting to try them all out.
Raspberry cordial (very, very sweet) paired with Schweppe's lemonade to temper down sugary syrup flavor.
The Conscious "Cheese Beef" Burger is a massive soy wheat patty topped with their house made cheese sauce, juicy tomatoes, grated carrot, caramelized onions, and pickled cucumbers on a plump whole wheat roll. This was definitely the bee's knees. Tasty and hearty, cooked to perfection, I thought it was one of the most amazing vegan burgers ever eaten. The cheese sauce is unique and takes some getting used to after being accustomed to Daiya and Field Roast Chao.
Thick cut, naked sweet potato fries-- delicious component that doubled as cheese sauce scoopers.
Oryx Sea Salt and Oryx Black Pepper, when ground out, let big crystallized flecks and sparks escape, coarsely pouring over food-- a tiny bit went a long, flavorful way and glorified eating experience.
Corinne Bailey Rae's "Put Your Records On" played, a song I had once badly sang in karaoke, soft guitar strumming to romantic lyrics chirping on about loving afro hairdos and summer tasting like cinnamon, I dug into this beautiful slice of sugar free, gluten free carrot cake.
To this day, I'm not sure how I felt about the cake. Without sugar, it certainly lacked for something. I couldn't even describe how enticingly dripped icing tasted. Maybe Rae's ginger tune was seducing me, but I did honestly enjoy cinnamon notes inside moist, fork tender cake and sprinkled sparsely on white plate. That's for sure. On the other hand, I definitely ate more walnuts than needed and can vaguely remember carrots. I recall the carrots in my burger more so than in this cake. Also, soy milk was a heavy flavor here. Still, I ate the whole slice and wondered if over sugared American lifestyle had tarnished my eagerness to try sugar free dessert.
Doodles of crumb coated plates, sweet guilty pleasures, and adult contemporary music track lists.
A selfie inside space where natural light came shining through. Simplistic aesthetic of the restaurant's interior design provided comfortable, relaxing atmosphere. Plus my funny, inquisitive waitress thought I was spying-- taking a gazillion pictures of food and layout in every single instance. Afterwards, I picked up groceries and traveled three hours back to the hotel, skipping along and taking more photographs.