Sunday, 1 July 2018

Chow Down - June

A little while ago, the people behind Leeds Indie Food announced that they were planning a new series of food events at The Piece Hall in Halifax. Halifax is just down the road from where I live, so this peaked my interest. When they announced that 25% of the stalls at each event would be vegetarian / vegan, I was sold.

Mr Hatter and I were so excited for Chow Down that we planned to visit on the Saturday so that we could make an afternoon of it, sampling a variety of food and drink and chilling out (or warming up I guess...) in the sun.

We arrived at around 11:50 (the event started at 11) and had a nosey around. On first inspection, we couldn't see many vegan options. On our second lap of the stalls, we still couldn't find any of the savoury vegan food that had been advertised, so we asked someone from the 'colour your own tote' children's play tent, as they looked like the people most likely to know something.

Unfortunately, they were Piece Hall staff rather than Chow Down staff, and couldn't tell us much. (The lady we spoke to was lovely though and helped us as much as she could.) Luckily, someone from the festival happened to be passing while we were speaking to the Piece Hall staff and she flagged her down to make some enquiries for us. After watching her make some phone calls, we were told that three quarters of the stalls we had come to visit were not ready yet (Froconut, Rockin Buddha, Golden Balls... the fourth was Drizzle City Bakes, who were open). Some were in the process of setting up, some hadn't arrived yet.

We were pretty disappointed by now, as the festival had been going for an hour but there had been no warning on social media that not all the stalls would be open from the start. It was also difficult to find someone to ask - we didn't spot anyone in a Chow Down t-shirt, so we had no idea who the organisers were or if there were any stewards.

We decided to get a drink (as it was now after 12, so acceptable - yes?) and have another look around.

Mr Hatter wasn't excited by the beer choices but picked one to try. Upon trying it, he decided that if he wanted another later on, it would be at a local bar instead...

I, on the other hand, was looking forward to trying the selection of "Gin Twists" that were on at the cocktail stand. I opted for a Passionfruit and Peach - at £6, I assumed this would be a craft gin. It turned out to be Bombay Sapphire with passionfruit juice/syrup and a slice of peach. This was pretty disappointing, as I don't like Bombay Sapphire and I do like craft gin. The slice of peach looked a bit worse for wear as well, so after a few sips the whole thing ended up in the bin.

By this time, we were getting hungry and the savoury stalls we were waiting for still weren't open, so we decided to get some cake to keep us going.

Drizzle City Bakes had a lovely selection of cakes, around half of which were vegan. I got a Rose Lemonade Cupcake (below) and the rest of the group opted for Peanut Butter Banana Brownies (I didn't get a photo...). Everyone was very satisfied!

After some more wandering and waiting, we spotted one of the team members from Rockin Buddha, so decided to loiter near their stall until it looked like they were serving. We finally managed to order some savoury food - Rockin Buddha were ready first, so they got our custom. (Golden Balls were still setting up at this point. I had initially planned to try something from both stalls but didn't get around to Golden Balls in the end.)

I chose the meal deal, with Pan Fried Dumplings and Rockin Noodles. The dumplings were good - nicely flavoured. The noodles were really tasty... but room temperature. By this point we were all hungry and I couldn't be bothered going back to complain, so I ate enough of the not-hot noodles to be not-hungry and dealt with it. I would probably give these guys another go, as the food was tasty - but it was another disappointment on a day that we had been looking forward to.

Next came dessert:

Luckily, we had saved the best for last. I was originally planning to come to this stall first to make sure I had plenty of room for it, but with the late opening, they ended up being last (which was probably for the best as it meant we ended on a high point). This place was amazing. At first I couldn't decide which topping combo I wanted to try:

And then I spotted this...

How could I resist???

Mr Hatter chose the chocolate Froconut and I chose the vanilla. Both were fantastic. Mine was a really light flavour, which let the flavour of the biscuits shine through. Mr Hatter was really pleased with his chocolate because it just tasted like chocolate (rather than chocolate and coconut like some coconut-based treats). These Frowiches were seriously epic (and HUGE!).

So, all in all, we had a pretty disappointing experience - but it was brightened by our visit to Froconut. We will definitely visit again if we see them at another event!

Chow Down is set to be a monthly event over the summer, and we were originally planning to try to get to all of them. However, I think now we will only be visiting if there is a vendor we really want to try - and we will make sure not to be there in the first hour or two, just in case!

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The New BOL Range!

A couple of months ago, I received an email offering me the chance to try some of the products from the new BOL range. BOL Foods made the following announcement in March this year:

BOL Foods has announced that it will be removing dairy from all of its products this June (following its drop of meat and fish in 2017), becoming 100% plant-based and the first FMCG brand in the UK to do so.  

Dropping all dairy means that six of BOL’s current recipes will be reinvented to be entirely plant-based. The new globally-inspired recipes will be as colourful, nutritious and delicious as ever, developed in collaboration with a series of chefs and award-winning nutritionist Ian Marber to guarantee both health and flavour.

This is fantastic news! There are more and more companies dropping animal products, and it's so great to hear! (I also love getting to try them all!!)

As I live outside of London, BOL decided to send me some vouchers instead of the actual products - which means I got to choose what I wanted! (Coincidentally, we picked three of the images from the stock photo above...)

Even the vouchers are awesome...
We picked two soups and two veg pots:

We tried the soups first - both sounded tasty.

Our take on a classic: this hearty vegan-friendly soup is a warming mix of protein-rich red lentils, carrots & kale, gently blended with a spice mix of cardamom, sumac & curry leaves, all using our secret plant-powered BOL stock. 

Our take on this classic soup is bursting with sun drenched tomatoes but also features lentils, sweetcorn and turmeric. It packs 21g of plant protein to help keep you powering on through the most demanding of days.

The soups were both good, and the amount of protein packed into them is fab. I would consider buying these again for a quick / post workout dinner. Although they were tasty, we did feel like the flavour could have been a little deeper - but perhaps I'll just add a little salt or pepper next time to boost the flavour!

Next up were the veg pots - I like that they have some fresh veg on top.

We added some chopped up Quorn fillets to boost the protein. The Sambar actually had a great amount of protein on its own but we wanted to add a bit to the Curry.

Deliciously balanced, our Thai Coconut is a tasty plant-powered curry with the potential to soothe your soul. Our version of this classic combines crunchy baby corn, crisp water chestnuts and fresh pak choi with fibre-rich wild and brown rice. Stir the veg into our aromatic coconut sauce to experience the fragrant flavours of South-East Asia. 

Our wholesome Sambar pays homage to its Sri Lankan and South-Indian origins. We’ve teamed florets of chargrilled cauliflower, carrot, crunchy red pepper and butternut squash with a subtly-spiced turmeric and ginger coconut cream. This dhal-inspired stew is brimming with Beluga lentils for an earthy boost of plant protein and topped with a layer of fresh spinach, naturally high in vitamin A.

Oh. Wow.

These were fantastic! I was expecting them to be nice, like the soups, but we were both pretty blown away by how good they were. The flavour profiles on both of them were spot on, and they were filling enough to have for an evening meal. We will definitely be looking out for these again! The fresh veg was a definite bonus too - all too often when you have ready meals, it feel like it's lacking that freshness.

I was hoping to try one of the salad pots but unfortunately couldn't find one anywhere we went. I will be keeping my eyes peeled from now on though!

The Soup Jar range can be found in Tesco, Ocado and Amazon Fresh. RRP. £2.75

The Veg Pot range can be found in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, and on Ocado and Amazon Fresh. RRP. £3

The Salad Jar range can be found in Waitrose, WHSmith, Planet Organic, As Nature Intended, Wholefoods, Ocado and Amazon Fresh. RRP. £3.50

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Adventures in Stockport

A couple of weeks ago, I ended up with an impromptu day to myself in Stockport. What did I do with my day? Why, discovering new food, of course!

I started off at Owl's Nest, a not-for-profit Harry Potter themed cafe, with gift shop next door (called Hoot). They don't really have any vegan options but I was chatting to the lady in the shop next door and she recommended trying the butterbeer without cream, as she was vegan herself. I asked in the cafe whether they had any vegan cakes and they said not yet, but they were planning to start selling some soon! The butterbeer was nice but very very sweet, and pretty pricey for what was essentially a pint of pop. If they got some vegan cream in though, it might be worth the price! It was good for the novelty value though!

Next up was The Maker's Market, which was a lovely collection of stalls ranging from food to alcohol to crafts. I managed to find quite a few vegan treats here!

Vegan Pakoras and Samosas from Perfect Samosa - yummy!

Vegan fudge from Melting Pot Fudge - very tasty but super sweet!
Vegan pies from The Veggie Pie Company
We got the Balti pie and the Mushroom pie.

They were really good.
I even managed to find some vegan, cruelty free skin care from Man Polish for Mr Hatter!
By the time I had finished strolling around the market, it was lunch time. I headed over to Withington to visit somewhere I have been drooling over on Instagram for such a long time... Boho Utopia!

This is such a cute little cafe. It has a lovely atmosphere and is lovely and bright. I ended up spending a couple of hours here reading my book - it was great!

The menu looked so good, I really struggled with what to get...

In the end, I went for the mac n cheese, facon, and onion toastie. Who can resist mac n cheese?!

This was really tasty, and it was a good portion size as it didn't leave me feeling absolutely stuffed after all those carbs! Which of course, meant I had room for dessert...

(Who am I kidding, I would have had it anyway!)

After much deliberation, I picked the Rapper's Honeycomb Delight smoothie. They were out of brownies but were just about to make a new batch. I was given the option of choosing a different cake to top my smoothie or to wait for the fresh batch. I chose to wait (hence the slippy slidey cream in the photo). Wow, was that the right decision?! The fresh brownie was amazing (as was the smoothie itself).

I'll definitely be going back to Boho Utopia - and maybe I'll even take Mr Hatter with me next time!

I made a stop at Unicorn Grocery on the way back towards Stockport, as I had heard great things about it. It was really busy when I was there and I didn't enjoy my experience at all. It felt like I was in everyone's way (the customers) and I ended up just getting around as quickly as possible so I could leave. It looked like they had some good stock, and I would like to check out the deli on a quieter day.

I drove back over to Stockport (where I was meeting Mr Hatter later). When I got out of the car, there was a cat strolling around the car park - so naturally I went over to say hello.

Half an hour later...

Anyway, once I had been released by my furry captor, I headed back into Stockport to visit Hillgate Cakery for some treats to bring home.

My friend recently discovered this little gem when looking for a birthday cake that she could share with us. The cake was fantastic! So when I was in Stockport, I knew I had to go and get more. And just look at this Nightmare Before Christmas window display!

The staff were lovely - very friendly and we had a good chat while I was trying to decide what I wanted. (It took a while.)

This is just some of what was on offer. There was also a selection of layer cakes...
 I ended up choosing two items each:

Coffee & Walnut Cake for Mr Hatter

Cherry Chocolate Cake for me

Millionaire's Shortbread and Red Velvet Cupcake - to share
These cakes were fantastic, and this will definitely be on the list every time we go to Stockport from now on!

All in all, I had a grand old day exploring. There are still a number of foodie places in the area that I want to check out (and some I want to go back to). Stockport - we will return!

Sunday, 13 May 2018

#LIF18 - Knave’s Kitchen x Oporto

The wonderful Leeds Indie Food festival has returned this month and I am SO EXCITED! They hold a whole host of fantastic food events over the course of 18 days in May. Each year, more and more of the events have vegan options, or are entirely vegan. There is so much I want to try this year that I'm not sure how I'll fit it all in!

I started this year's festivities with an impromptu lunch time visit to one of the pop-up residencies that is happening during the festival - Knave's Kitchen x Oporto.

Knave's Kitchen provide 100% vegan junk food and they have a temporary residency at Oporto Bar on Call Lane in Leeds. They are serving food 12pm-4pm until the 28th May, so you have plenty of time to go check them out!

The event description:

Head to Call Lane’s Oporto to sup on some vegan and gluten-free beers courtesy of Magic Rock and Northern Monk, whenever you buy a meal bundle from vegan junk food pop-up, Knave’s Kitchen, throughout the festival.

Free (Unticketed)

20% off these beers (when you buy a meal bundle) for Festival Passport holders.

The menu:

They also had some specials:

I went for the Mill Hill Special:

The 'Mill Hill' Special - Grilled Seitan, hummus, lettuce, pickles & extra chilli sauce bro'

This was soooo tasty. The seitan was a great texture and the combination of flavours really hit the spot. It felt healthy whilst simultaneously hitting that junk food craving. I was planning just to have this, but I couldn't leave without sampling the dessert...

Cookie Dough Balls (Peanut Butter & Choc) with Blueberry Yogurt sauce

DAMN, this was good. I hadn't realised that the cookie dough balls would be fried, so when this appeared I was very excited! They tasted great, were surprisingly non-greasy, and definitely felt like junk food!

This was my first time visiting Oporto, and I really enjoyed it. It had a lovely chilled out vibe, and a cute decor style. I will hopefully be back to try some more of this menu before the month is out!