Sailing the aegean sea, slow & blissful

Sailing the aegean sea, slow & blissful

We leapt at the opportunity to co-charter a 58-foot yacht, gently sailing around the southern coast of Turkey while  hopping to occasional Greek islands.

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It was slow, beautiful, and such a worthwhile experience. As with any experience though, one learns a thing or two…

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Mother and City get to ‘veg out’

Mother and City get to ‘veg out’

Undeniably, Cape Town (a.k.a. the Mother City) has an abundance of beautiful natural attractions to keep residents, holiday makers and tourists coming back for more. Aside from boasting some of the world’s best beaches, waters and nature reserves, this harbour city caters to energetic outdoor enthusiasts. Hiking, biking, walking and surfing seem to be daily priorities.

I did nothing of the sort during my recent 7-day visit.

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Baboons, pesto and rose petals

Baboons, pesto and rose petals

If you go down to the woods today, you’re in for the best meal of your life. Well that was my experience on our recent holiday near the Knysna forests, Garden Route, South Africa.

Brett Garvie, the unassuming proprietor and talented chef, has built an atmospheric culinary gem in his little home cottage. Our evening there was outright charming, which took us far beyond what we had might have expected and served up the best food I’ve ever enjoyed in one sitting.

VegTable, secretly nestled among a Pecan nut orchard on a farm (charmingly called Mother Earthworms), offers its patrons the best of what vegetarian mealtimes should capture; authenticity, passion, love and a deep respect and intimate knowledge to masterfully combine the best seasonal, locally grown fruits and vegetables.

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As we arrived at the cottage, Brett, warm and friendly, welcomed us into his 16-seater hub of culinary activity. The cracking fireplace and restored, hard-at-work Defy Jewel wood stove, together with an array of mis-matched antique crockery, cutlery and table settings (all sourced from charity stores) had us feeling instantly at ease and comfortable.

In fact it took my daughters only an instant to recognise this as an experience to be celebrated! Brett, having not realised that two of the four vegans at our table of five were children, had prepared a deliciously hearty, albeit a somewhat spicy, creamy potato soup. Yet the girls were too charmed to forgo the love and effort put into each fiery serving!

With the kitchen incorporated into the rustic gourmet setting, the girls accompanied Brett to see our second plate of the four-course menu being garnished, and played servers as they brought the dukkah-crusted baby beetroot kebabs to our table. Served with cashew nut sauce on rocket with the most sensuous citrus dressing, this too tantalised our taste buds.

Botany buff, Brett told us of his dedication and passion in finding the best produce. His know how is expansive and catchment area abundant; like the concession he’s granted to rummage for Porcini mushrooms on a nearby farm, to refuting the trends of buying mined-for Himalayan salt, in preference to locally sourced sea salt from Coega saltworks.

He tells us of the resident baboons who strip all the orchards, all but two trees closest to his cottage. From these two pecan nut trees he gathers ample. By the light of the moon he also discovered that there’s more than enough to go around, as he quietly watches a family of wild boar enthusiastically rummaging for fallen nuts.

 

The penultimate course had us savouring a green pea risotto, accompanied by baby broccoli and green beans, served with the most heavenly pesto. The girls pleaded for bigger tummies, (stating the obvious; that dessert has its own special ‘tummy drawer’). The three adults gallantly ate from their plates for the satisfaction of pure taste.

 

Dessert. Oh goodness, the girls’ imaginations were ignited at Brett’s promise of roses, glitter, moonshine and delight. The Rose Geranium Sorbet arranged with floral-shaped pieces of pear, occasional rose petals and Turkish delight, enchanted us.

While Brett admitted that a full vegan offering seemed initially daunting to formulate, he and all his patrons had to concede that any vegetarian, and even veg-curious visitors, would surely be delighted with our evening’s custom-created 100% plant-based menu.

In the local Afrikaans language there’s a saying that goes “magies vol oggies toe”, meaning “stomach full eyes closed”!

Thank you Brett. You’ve shown us how real food, love and consciousness bring beauty to ones heart, mind, soul and satisfied tummies!

Moving, from dust bowl to salad bowl

Moving, from dust bowl to salad bowl

Our decision is made and plans are well underway for yet another country relocation.

In spite of wanting to loosen the breathlessness of such a profound move, I restrain my urge to breathe deeply. This in favour of keeping my mouth and throat tightly sealed from the dust storms that typically engulf me. Why, you ask? Because I currently live in the very dusty Doha dessert. Our home. Our dust bowl.

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Let’s taste more of London

Let’s taste more of London

Serendipity surrounds me. Arriving in London at the start of National Vegetarian Week 2013 seemed most fortuitous.

However, after a quick online search, I didn’t see any ‘must-do’s’ built around this initiative. So I decided our family’s restaurant experiences would be our celebratory support.

With two intentionally vegan meals under our belts, we headed for Tibits. Centrally located off the bustling shopping district of Regent Street, this little self-service buffet gem is tucked away in a quieter courtyard.

 

If you’re lucky enough to catch a few rays of sun, and don’t mind smokers puffing away while you eat your healthful plate of goodness, then enjoy their umbrella-covered patio.

The restaurant isn’t small, with a down stairs area catering to private parties and a kids’ play area, but without windows it feels a tad oppressive.

Once comfortably seated near the boat-shaped buffet, Tibits‘ relatively small, but surprisingly diverse, selection of vegetarian and vegan options, fresh, tasty and healthful, delighted us. Once self-plated, it’s up to you to weigh and pay, or keep a bar tab running as we did. Desserts were as delicious as the rest!

TibitsThere’s plenty for everyone and their graphic icons, displayed alongside each dish, makes for easy dietary selection.  Tibits shouldn’t be miss, while take-outs offer busy office workers and tourist on-the-go a healthy boost to the day.

Our last night, being a Sunday, was more tricky to find an open plant-based eatery. Luckily enough though, Amico Bio had extended their hours that evening, catering for a party of 20. We arrived and quickly placed our orders before the kitchen got too busy.

This little Italian restaurant felt nice with its large product and messaging photographs on the walls and stencilled name on the table tops.

I kicked off with a glass of vegan Cabernet Piave which was much enjoyed with our table’s sharing of Bruschetta al pomodoro. Served on a wooden cheese board gave it an authentic touch.

Even in a vegetarian restaurant, it’s always a good idea to reconfirm that a dish is vegan. While clearly marked as vegan, my first choice of starter, the Patate al forno, cipolle e scamorza, wasn’t vegan after all. I then decided on the Cuoppolo di verdure fritte, which wasn’t quite as good as Manna’s equivalent, but tasty nevertheless.

The gnocchi was flavoursome, but we were pleased we’d decided to order several dishes to share, as its taste might have become a little one-dimensional, as was its colour.

The pizza didn’t quite live up to Italian tradition. The base a bit tasteless and their choice of vegan cheese not the best we’re tasted. I believe my home recipe far surpasses it!

All in all Tibits comes out tops but, alas, none of the five eateries we ate at mirrored the overall high standards set by those I frequented in NYC.

The great news is though, we haven’t exhausted the London-based veggies options, and here are some of the restaurants which we didn’t get to visit; Vanilla Black, Orchard, inSpiral, Maoz, 42°Raw, Itadaki Zen and Mildred’s.

An eye on blissful bags & bread crumbs, reluctant grub & grotesque design

An eye on blissful bags & bread crumbs, reluctant grub & grotesque design

It’s a long shot analogy, but nevertheless one I’m going for; just as the London Eye gave us a pretty spectacular view of London at a glance, I’m summing up a couple of my fashion finds, food choices and fun things experienced while in this fine city. Here goes…

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London’s menu x two

London’s menu x two

Just the prospect of four days in London got my taste buds all worked up in anticipation for another big city’s intentional vegetarian cuisine.

I had escaped Doha’s desert twice earlier this year, delighting in some gastronomic plant-based meals at eateries in New York and Paris. So I was ready, and expectant, for more of the good stuff!

Of the five restaurants we ate at, and I’ll review them all, these first two left us roller coasting on some highs and lows. Here’s why…

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