March Round Up

How have I felt?

I went and had some blood tests for the fatigue I’ve been experiencing and I’ve started to receive treatment and will continue to be monitored. I have had an appointment with a herbalist student at the College of Natural Medicine to do all that I can be to be helping myself.

What new foods have I been trying?

I picked up some new products in Sainsburys, the Quorn nuggets and the Cauldron burgers and sausages. I had the nuggets with curry udon that my Husband made. They are nice to have in the freezer for emergencies but I think I need to do a taste test to see whether I prefer these or the Fry’s ones!

I had the sausages which are tomatoey and beany with mash and veg. They are nice and a bit different to other sausages and because of the flavour not the most versatile. I haven’t tried the burgers yet.

We went down to Ramsgate for the weekend so I marinated some tempeh to have with breakfast. This was from the cookbook Baconish, I really liked the flavour but I think I’ll need to try and get the tempeh thinner next time!

I had a great lunch which I blogged about here.

I had some lemon and blackcurrant sorbet at a parlour on the front.

I completely stuffed my face at Seaside Cake Parlour in Margate and brought home some cakes too!

I went to Glasgow for work and ate dinner at Mono with my friend Christine which I wrote about here.

I went to The Gate in Hammersmith and had a fabulous meal which I wrote about here.

What have I been enjoying?

I started off the month with a bang and went to see Cabaret vs Cancer Ashes II Ashes David Bowie tribute with my Mum. There were singers, dancers and all sorts of performers. It was like nothing I’ve seen before!

As I’ve previously mentioned we had a lovely weekend away in Ramsgate and stayed at a lovely cottage available to rent here.

I took part in the UN day against racism by marching in London and I shared some photos of the day here.

We went and saw the fabulous Postmodern Jukebox and I was amazed at the skills of the performers.

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I can’t believe I’ve done so much in March. It’s definitely been a busy month!

Plans for April

April will be a quieter month. I did have plans to go on holiday but unfortunately those had to be cancelled. I plan on doing some vegan activism and hopefully will spend some time with my cousin and his wife. We haven’t got any plans for Easter yet but it should be a nice break.

How has your March been? Let me know in the comments.

Plumes x

March Round Up

Review – The Gate Hammersmith 23rd March 2017

On Thursday my Husband and I had tickets to see Postmodern Jukebox at Hammersmith Apollo so we booked in for dinner at The Gate.

I haven’t been to the Gate in Hammersmith for a while, I usually go to their branch in Islington when seeing shows at Sadlers Wells.

For starters I went for the miso glazed aubergine. The sticky glaze was gorgeous and so flavourful. I’ve made this dish at home before and it’s one of my favourites.

There were a couple of vegan mains on the menu but I didn’t fancy either of them. I think they could easily make some of their vegetarian dishes vegan by tweaking a few ingredients. I went for the dragon salad. The marinated smoked tofu on top was amazing and I could have done with a bit more of it!

I suggested to my Husband that we have the coffee cheesecake to share but he was adamant of having his own so we got one each! This was tasty but I felt it could have had a thicker base and not so much mousse on top.

All the food was fantastic but I feel they could have had a couple of extra staff on for the number of covers there were. You have to book to get a table so they were aware of how busy they were going to be. We had to wait quite a while to place our orders for both starter/main and dessert and it’s not nice feeling edgy when you have somewhere to be afterwards.

There is currently an offer in Timeout to have a three course meal with a glass of Prosecco at their Marylebone branch for £24 if you want to check it out.

Have you been to The Gate? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Plumes x

Review – The Gate Hammersmith 23rd March 2017

Review – Mono Glasgow 21st March 2017

I had to go to Glasgow this week for work so I headed back to Mono with my friend Christine for dinner.

I’ve recently seen people enjoying “pizza crunch” from Mono which is a slice of Magherita pizza battered and deep fried so I knew I had to give it a go. I also went for the fava bean dip and battered sausage, chips and minted mushy peas. Christine had the Hawaiian pizza.

The pizza crunch was really good and I would recommend you try it if you get the opportunity! The battered sausages were ok, they used Linda McCartney sausages which I am not particularly fond of. I also wasn’t that fond of the chips, could definitely have been cruncher. I enjoyed the fava dip, it was a bit looser than others I have tried but was still damn tasty. Christine couldn’t finish her pizza so I took the last couple of slices into the office the next day which was great for elevenses.

I would definitely head back to Mono when I’m next in the area.

Have you been to Mono? What did you think? Let me know in the comments below.

Plumes x

Review – Mono Glasgow 21st March 2017

Review – 26 Harbour Street Ramsgate

My Husband and I have come down to Ramsgate to belatedly celebrate my birthday. We arrived yesterday about 1.30pm, dropped off our bags at the cottage we are staying at and then headed out to grab some lunch.

We are situated close to the harbour and the High Street and I had noticed the cafe 26 Harbour Street when we were walking to our cottage, mainly because it had a lovely sage green paint job (my fave and current colour of my living room!) I took a look at the menu outside and after reading that the second item on the menu was a Chipotle seitan in tamari sauce bagel with vegan mayo I knew this would be where we would be lunching!

This is a cafe that serves meat/dairy and alcohol. It states on the menu all the meat/eggs are free range and as many ingredients as possible are sourced locally.

I really liked that the vegan options were the first two items on the menu. I don’t think I’ve ever been to an omni eatery that has done that, the vegetarian options are usually the last on the page just before the drinks or desserts!

I also like that these were well thought out options. All their lunch options can come as sandwiches or bagels and gluten free options are available. The first item on the menu is a tofu scramble sandwich/bagel. The second and the one which I went for was the Chipotle seitan in tamari sauce on a bagel. Seitan is a protein made from gluten that has been separated from the starch in flour. I wrote about making seitan here. This came with kale, peppers, onions and vegan mayo and a side salad. I also had a pot of Earl Grey tea with soya milk.

The bagel was full to brim, so much so it was a bit difficult to pick up! It was really tasty, although the kale was a bit wet and dripped onto my hands as I was eating. It was nice to have a vegan option that wasn’t an afterthought and I was a bit surprised 26 Harbour Street hadn’t come up in my vegan research on Ramsgate.

I have tried to rectify that for other visitors by submitting an entry on Happy Cow (website that features vegan and veggie restaurants and veggie friendly restaurants and health food shops around the world).

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Have you visited 26 Harbour Street? What did you think? What’s your favourite local cafe that offers vegan options? Let me know in the comments below.

Plumes x

Review – 26 Harbour Street Ramsgate

Review and Interview -Solkiki Chocolate

In December my Sister-in-law and I went to the Animal Aid Christmas Fayre which takes place each year at Kensington Town Hall. While we were there we met Bob from Solkiki Chocolate and tried many samples of their chocolate! I could listen to Bob talk about chocolate for hours, he is so passionate and I learned a lot about chocolate making in those few minutes we spent with him! I bought some chocolate for my Sister-in-law as part of her Christmas present and as it was birthday recently I asked her and my Brother to return the favour.

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Solkiki make dark, milk and white vegan chocolate, they also sell cocoa beans, cocoa butter and cocoa nibs. I chose a dark bar, two milk and one white bar.

I will start right to left with the dark Maranon 68. I find when tasting these types of (actual) chocolate (not confectionary) that are complex you have to treat it like wine tasting and proper think about what you are tasting and all the different flavour notes. This is not a bar I could just munch through but have a square or two at a time and really enjoy it.

The next bar is the Maranon 60 salted caramel dark mylk. This uses the same bean as the previous bar. This is a milk chocolate but has a high cocoa content so is darker than your typical milk chocolate. I find it so amazing that this bar doesn’t have any additional flavourings in it and it is simply the process of the chocolate making that brings out the caramel flavour. A little salt is added to compliment the flavour.

The next bar I chose was the Bocas Del Toros 49% Mylk Notes of Sweet Coffee and Cream. This is another delicious rich milk bar. I’m not sure what percentage of cocoa milk chocolates usually contain but I certainly know it’s not as high as 49%! When you buy commercial confectionary you are tasting milk and sugar, to actually taste the chocolate you need to get your hands on some proper chocolate people!

Lastly we have the Hazelnut Cream White Piedmont Gianduja. This is a newer bar which I hadn’t tried before. I love iChoc’s White Nougat Crisp bar which was my previous favourite white chocolate but this has now superceded it! This is deliciously creamy and tastes like the centre of a praline. This also reminds me of the mini vegolino chocolates from Vego. This is could seriously munch down in one sitting but I am rationing myself!

I also received some cocoa butter which I think I want to make into a body butter, I just need to look up how to do it!

I wanted to wax lyrical about how Solkiki work and their ethics but I knew I couldn’t do as good a job as Iris and Bob themselves so I reached out to them with a few questions which they obliging answered.

What does the name Solkiki mean?
-It means The Sun and The Godess of Nature.
What made you want to be chocolate makers?
– We couldn’t find high quality vegan chocolate and we couldn’t find chocolate that was ethically produced to high enough standards.
Can you briefly explain how your production chain works from bean to bar?
– EVERY step of the process has a BIG impact on the flavour of the bar!  Our farmers carefully choose the correct time to harvest, and immediately begin fermenting their cacao beans.  It’s very important to ferment cacao beans correctly and how this is done is greatly dependent on the type of cacao. They then guage quality of their fermented and dried cacao and set their price.  If we like it, we buy it.  If it’s not perfect we have to walk away.  We inspect the beans in our workshop and clean them thoroughly.  We often roast the cacao to develop flavour, but this also degrades the nutrients slightly, so sometimes we prefer not to roast. Also, sometimes cacao is really interesting and delicious before roasting, so we like to show off the flavours of the unroasted cacao sometimes too. Either way, we then get rid of the husk and grind the cacao into a paste before adding sugar and maybe other ingredients.  When the chocolate is ready we temper the chocolate liquor and pour it into our bar moulds. When bars are set, we heat seal each bar and box it individually for unbeatable flavour protection.  Then we’ll write the best before date on each box, and if we’ve been so fortunate we add an award sticker to the front of the box. As one of the UK’s very few bean to bar chocolatemakers, we have complete control over every aspect of the process.  Any change to any aspect of the process will influence the end result, it’s very creative and exciting, often frustrating too, but mostly fun!
What makes you different from other small/artisanal chocolate makers? Every chocolate maker has their own techniques, experience, approach, range, recipes and preferences. We think that is great, because we all come up with different results because of this and you can out a lot of creativity in the chocolate. Also, there are 2 full time, full spectrum chocolatemakers at Solkiki.  Both Iris and I can perform all steps of the process from bean to bar which works very well for us and allows us to be very productive and step in and help each other out when we need to. We learned everything in chocolate making by a lot of trial and error. There is a lot to learn about making chocolate, but not many places where you can learn this, so our experience is very valuable to us. We’ve been making chocolate now for about 9 years, but officially as Solkiki since a a year. We are one of a handful of global teams who make 2-ingredient dark chocolate, with no added fat, and we use different processes for each bean.  We’ve also got a big range of very high quality internationally recognized bars.  We have now over 20 different bars and just this year we have released 2 full time bars, 1 limited edition and 2 exclusive bars for our subscribers.
Why is it important for you to only sell through independent shops and directly through your website?
We like short-chain and direct trade.  We can all change the world based on what we consume and how we spend our money. We feel everyone carries a part of this responsibility.
If someone was new to your products what bar would you recommend they start with?
All our bars are all beloved for different reasons, but they’re all delicious.  Maranon 68 and 60 will redefine dark / dark milk chocolate for anyone.   Toasted White is immaculate and a relatively simple white chocolate, Tahitian Nougat is balanced and complex flavoured white chocolate! Castilllo 85% unroasted is totally unique… a real eye opener!  Hazelnut cream, Bali White, Chilli mint… luxuriant, retro-style, innovative…It’s impossible to recommend a single bar, but I would mention that Maranon took us many months of experiments and was a real challenge that tested both of us and taught us much.
What is coming up for Solkiki in 2017?
New bars!  New equipment!  New collaborations!  Maybe even a surprise that ISN’T a bar of chocolate!

Solkiki sell directly through their website and independent shops/traders. They also attend many vegan fairs all over the country. Just looking at their Instagram feed I can’t believe how far and wide they manage to spread themselves!

Photos swiped from their instagram.

If you have tried Solkiki Chocolate let me know what you think in the comments below. If you haven’t tried them yet head over to their website and let me know which ones you would try first!

Plumes x
Review and Interview -Solkiki Chocolate

International Women’s Day 8th March 2017

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There are lots of things I could write for International Women’s Day but I just wanted to share this poem by Maya Angelou.

Phenomenal Woman
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I’m not cute or built to suit a fashion model’s size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I’m telling lies.
I say,
It’s in the reach of my arms,
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It’s the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can’t touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them,
They say they still can’t see.
I say,
It’s in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Now you understand
Just why my head’s not bowed.
I don’t shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing,
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It’s in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need for my care.
’Cause I’m a woman
Phenomenally.
Phenomenal woman,
That’s me.
Maya Angelou, “Phenomenal Woman” from And Still I Rise. Copyright © 1978 by Maya Angelou.
international-womens-day
Plumes x
International Women’s Day 8th March 2017