PB Eats… New York

After a few days working in New Jersey (lots of sandwiches and pasta, nothing to write home about), I was all set to go to New York for just a couple of days.  I absolutely love the city, the buzz, the madness, everything.  I stayed in Manhattan – the Hilton Garden Inn on West 35th Street – what I think is a lovely area and a great location.  The last time I was there I stayed in the Bryant Park Hotel and that was stunning, but this time it was almost double the rate.  Rather save some money for food, eh?

 With limited time, too many options and just one stomach, I had to be selective in what I eat.  So first things first, off I went to Whole Foods in Columbus Circle – next to Central Park to stock up on some yogurts and cereal bars for breakfast, looking for brands that I don’t see in London.  I went for a couple of So Delicious yogurts – blueberry and chocolate which were both scrumptious.  I also got a few Kind bars.  But I think the find of the day were these Jalapeno flavoured Kettle crisps (or should I say ‘chips’).  If you like heat, and not a little tickle but a nice kick – these are the crisps for you.  I just need to track them down in the UK.

So onto the food.  I did have a look at Happy Cow (go Happy Cow!) but with literally 2 days – I Thursday afternoon to Saturday afternoon, I decided to stay pretty local and made a reservation at Hangawi, a vegan Korean restaurant.  Whooo!  I loved the decor – all wooden and dark and very traditional.  Even the cutlery was wooden.  So beautiful!  Walking in, I was asked to take my shoes off and was led to a table with a sunken chair essentially.  There was enough light to read the menu, and I ordered a cocktail to start – the beautiful sounding Zen Blossom, made with soju, lychee, lychee wine, and elderflower.

Delicately perfumed with an underlying hint of soju, it was a perfectly balanced drink, and a wonderful start.  I thoroughly enjoyed it, and it was enough to last me through the meal.  Being a solo diner meant I had to choose what sounded like the most tempting option to me – so I chose the organic avocado stone bowl – a speciality of the restaurant.
What was presented before me was a wooden cube with a heavy stone bowl, full of vegan wonder.  My server kindly mixed everything for me – and ooh boy, there was a lot of everything.  It was full of veggies, plump juicy mushroom, creamy avocado, soft rice at the top and crispy rice at the bottom.  And because the stone bowl was hot – the food stayed hot and the rice kept on getting crispy.  Accompanying the dish was a bowl of gochujang (by the end of the meal, it had all been mixed in) and 2 bowls of kimchi.

I’ve found it hard to find a tasty kimchi without any fishiness but that search can stop now.  One bowl of kimchi was chilli, the other plain.  The chilli one was spicy, hot and perfectly crunchy.  The plain had so much flavour, just as good in its own way.  Oh! I still think about them both…

I cleared the kimchi but could only get through half of the stone bowl.  They kindly packed it away for me, and it served me well as dinner on Friday night, with a handful, no, bagful of those jalapeno crisps.  Lush!  The other reason why I only had half (it was a massive portion) was because I wanted to try dessert – and there was only one thing I was hankering after…. cheesecake.
The ice cream was OK and was a cooling vehicle for the creamy cheesecake – but that was it. The cheesecake on the other hand.  That cheesecake.  For you UK based peeps who like the Pizza Express cheesecake – this was exactly like that – creamy, soft, beautiful base… yummy yummy yummy.  At one point I had to ask the server if it was really vegan. Loved it! I also ordered a shissandra chinesis, described on the menu as “a popular Korean herbal tea that refreshes and revitalize the body from fatigue”.

I’m not quite sure what was in it, but the first few sips were lovely – deep flavour and tasty.  I had to stop after half a cup because all I could taste was sweetness – dates or brown sugar or something – was too overpowering.  My server did confess that he would never drink it that sweet, and I think it would taste much better with virtually no sugar.
Hangawi isn’t the cheapest place but it was on my list of to try restaurants, and I’m glad I did.  There are so many wonderful sounding options on the menu, I’ll just have to come back, as part of a larger group so we can work our way through it…. yes – I will definitely return!

 I also ventured to China Town where I got a killer foot and back massage for just $39, and found this amazing restaurant that did tasty hand pulled noodles on Doyers Street, called, yes, you guessed it.. Tasty hand pulled noodles inc.
I would have walked past, thinking it is just a hole in the wall – but I’m so glad I stopped.  I then realised how popular this place is – virtually every seat was taken, people coming in to pick their takeaways.. wow.  Thankfully there was room for me on the singles table… all solo diners bundled together on one table to optimise bums on seats.  I ordered a plate of noodles with veggies.  When I got my order, my first thought was, bugger, how boring.

I started eating and oh wow wow wow.  Chewy noodles with a lovely mouth feel, slivers of veggies and this barely there sauce.  I hoovered them in.  They were only about $7!!!!!! Wowza!  A few glasses of free tea and I was ready to continue sightseeing.

My last meal in New York was lunch on Saturday before I headed to the airport later that day.  This actually would be my last meal if I were ever to be in that situation to request one (hopefully not).  So there are a number of Blossom du Jour eateries in NYC, and I basically googled the nearest one, which turned out to be in Chelsea on West 23rd Street.  I got there not knowing what to expect, and it turned out to be a tiny fast food joint, focusing on takeaway with seats enough for 7 – 8 people.  This is not a place where you linger over a burger or bowl – you order and take away, or you order, eat and leave.  So New York-esque.

So there was only going to be one thing that I was going to order from the menu. I have been seeing this on blogs and you tube, haven’t had the chance to make it myself.  The spicy buffalo bun with buffalo cauliflower, ranch and lettuce.   Here, have a look at it:

  Now have another look – inside…

Holy Moley.  What a burger!!  Soft cauliflower, still crunchy batter, dipped in hot sauce – check.  Cool ranch – check.  Crisp lettuce – check.  Soft bun – check.  Seriously folks.  This was one of the best things I have eaten!!  Messy, creamy, hot, I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful.  I ordered the Green Giant smoothie with mango, banana, spinach, kale, flax and almond milk.
Very delicious, but it did tip me over the edge and I literally had to spend the rest of the afternoon walking it off – so now you know why I didn’t want to eat in the lounge!!  All in all, I think I did well in Manhattan – and I didn’t even hit Brooklyn – but there is always a next time eh?

PB Travels… in style

So as I mentioned in my opening post, I’ve travelled quite a bit this year, both for work and pleasure.  I flew to the US a couple of weeks ago, courtesy of work, which meant that I got to fly with my favourite airline – Virgin Atlantic, and that too in style! So I wanted to share my experiences of the lounge and the flight.

Now for those who have experienced the Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse at London Heathrow will know how lush it is… lots of nooks and crannies, lots of comfy sofas, lots of space, lots of food and lots of alcohol.  I got there pretty late, with less than a couple of hours to spare. The first thing I do is go to the spa and book in a complimentary treatment – usually the facial.

While waiting for my treatment, I ordered a G&T (oh! such a hard life) and ordered a few nibbles. I didn’t take pics of the menu (I should have… but wasn’t in blogger mode). To be honest there were a number of veggie options, but all with cheese – however I did spot a few I could eat – and they were delicious!  I ordered one, maybe two, alright! three portions of the hummus and veggies.

Loved the presentation, and the balance of veggies and hummus was just right – so you can see why I ordered three!  I also ordered this roasted green bean salad with extra avocado (terrible pic, I know).

This was a stunning combination of green beans, salad leaves, roasted tomatoes, avocado, sesame seeds and micro greens – so tasty, and a generous portion.  I had enough time to enjoy this, go for my facial and run to the plane..

I ordered a special meal for the flight.  I did get the Upper Class treatment and they did confirm that my ‘meal was on board’ whoo!  Saying that though, I always travel with a stash of food (nuts, seeds and bars), just in case of my VGML going AWOL.   I chose the red pepper bread. Yum!

First course was a butternut squash soup – very enjoyable, full of flavour and a beautiful sunshine yellow colour.
Mains was essentially a ratatouille, or rather an aubergine curry, which was quite horrible   I must have had a couple of bites, after which I had to stop.  Undercooked aubergine gloop and acidic tomato sauce – not a good combination.
As usual, the dessert expectation was fruit. Let’s be frank, I knew I would be getting fruit at some point on the flight, but thankfully it wasn’t after that horrible main course!  I was presented with this interesting looking jelly..

It turned out to be this intensely flavoured berry jelly.. soft and slippery in a good way, and before I knew it, the plate was clean.  A meal with ups  and downs, but I was full enough, so that was OK.  An hour or so before landing, a snack was served – which to be honest, I didn’t eat – well, I ate the fruit and drank my green tea.

The wrap itself was thick and doughy, and there was too much of it.  The filling was supposed to be roasted veggies I think, but in all honesty, there was a lot of the aubergine from lunch time in there (sans sauce).  Not nice.

Coming back from New York was a 6 hr night flight. To be honest I didn’t eat in the lounge. Reason why?  I had the BEST BURGER I’ve ever had – a buffalo cauliflower burger (will post about it soon).  I did look at the menu in the JFK clubhouse and there weren’t that many vegan options – none marked anyway.  They did have the hummus and veggies. There was a field mushroom burger, veggie curry and if all goes wrong, chips would always be there to save the day.

All in all, a most enjoyable experience – I’m not going to complain.. this is what I live for!!

PB Eats… Ham Yard Bar & Restaurant

The fact that I don’t eat meat or fish or have dairy issues has never stopped me from enjoying my food.  I’m not super fussy -if there is one dish that I can eat on the menu – it’s mine.  So I regularly frequent the likes of Wagamama, Zizzi, Pizza Express, Ping Pong.. But I did keep away from the higher end restaurants, assuming that I wouldn’t have much choice.

Until I stumbled across Ham Yard Bar and Restaurant back in August 2016.  When making the booking, they confirmed that they have a three course vegan /vegetarian/gluten free menus – with multiple options !! – available for dinner.

I met up early with my partners in crime for a quick drink in the Ham Yard Bar.  Now this hotel is one of those super trendy hot spots, full of suited blokes, high heeled women….and us ;).  We were quickly led to our table when it was ready, and while the girls got their omni menu, I was graciously presented with mine.

I am a happy go lucky, quickly click before digging in kind of girl, but the more I look at my photos – the more I think – I have to improve for the sake of this blog!!  So please bear with me…

So…the starters were:
– White bean soup with truffle salsa
– Roast squash, mixed leaves, gremolata and pumpkin seeds
– Beetroot pakora, mango and spiced chickpeas

I will always make a beeline for anything truffle-y on a menu, so I went for the soup.

Mains were:The soup was velvety and the flavour was subtle – I was expecting a strong bean flavour – but it was so well balanced.  The truffle salsa – more like chopped truffle bits with truffle oil – was lovely and added to the flavour profile, but I could have done with at least three times the amount.

– Roast celeriac, dressed lentils and spinach
– Wild mushroom broth, kale and tarragon
– Roasted spring vegetables with wild garlic dressing

Although it being the middle of summer, I went for the roasted spring vegetables as I wanted something light, and I wanted to keep some room for dessert.

The veggies were lovely, the dressing vivid and super tasty.  I did have to season it a bit, and I did push the slightly burnt potato crisps to one side.  Moving onto what is usually the best part of the meal.  To be honest, I had almost accepted the responses of ‘sorry, no options’ or the plate of berries or fruit salad as the standard dessert – but today I had two choices – including the plate of berries!!
– Chocolate and avocado mousse, strawberries and nut crunch
– Seasonal berries and raspberry sorbet.

Now who would go for fruit when there is chocolate! I obviously went for the mousse.

What arrived looked like a granola pot, and to be honest, the topping on it’s own was a bit like having breakfast – but eaten with the strawberries and mousse – it was beautiful. Soft, smooth, crunchy, tasty – and not too sweet.

We ordered coffees – I had a fresh mint tea – at the end of the meal, and the girls got a single petit four with their hot drinks – a mini cone with a meringue.  The lovely waiter saw that I didn’t have anything, and minutes later, put this in front of me – how sweet!

It turned out to be a honeydew melon sorbet – yummy!   I would definitely recommend this place – and I will go back, especially since I found out that Ham Yard Bar & Restaurant does a vegan afternoon tea – birthday plans sorted!

PB Eats… Ceviche Soho

I visited Peru in 2005 – spent three glorious weeks there and it was one of the best holidays I have had. I remember trying ceviche, and eating potatoes and avocados with every meal.  So when my friend suggested we meet up at Ceviche in Soho to plan our Tromso trip in December, I couldn’t say no!
Ceviche Soho is a small narrow restaurant with back to back, shoulder to shoulder tables – a bit too close for comfort, or the perfect position for eavesdropping, take your pick.  So onto the food. I started off with a cocktail – the Spiced Impostor Mai Tai, with spiced rum pisco, orange infused pisco, lime and orgeat – a syrup made from almonds, sugar and orange blossom water. Strong but oh so delicious! Yum Yum!!
The food menu is clearly marked with vegetarian and gluten free options – but not diary free options.  When I did ask, the lovely waitress pointed out all the stuff I could eat –  Cancha, Causa La Buena Vida, Ceviche de Beterraga, Ensalada de Quinoa and Verano Limeno. Whoo!  I chose the Cancha for nibbles – basically deep fried corn kernels, nothing great, but they did go down nicely with the cocktail.
I wanted to try ceviche – so I chose the Ceviche de Beterraga, which was, and I quote “fermented heritage beetroos, amarillo chilli tiger’s milk, grapefruit, sweet potato puree, baby watercress”.
This dish was GLORIOUS.  The here were at least three different kinds of beetroot, all marinated in this tangy, sour, sharp dressing, with a lovely kick of chilli.  Soft puree, crunchy sweet potatoes – this dish had the perfect combination of texture and flavour.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The second dish was the Ensalada de Quinoa.  Quinoa and butter beans sitting atop a lime and chilli dressing, scattered with tomatoes and red onion. There was a nice thick layer of avocado right at the bottom.
I loved the way this dish sounded on the menu, – but I found this dish to sweet. I think it was the dressing, and after a few mouthfuls I had to pimp the dish with the sharp, tangy dressing of the beetroot ceviche – which made a big difference – in a good way.
Sadly no desserts I could eat or wanted to, so we wandered to Yorica which was a five minute walk away to indulge in some frozen yoghurt… no complaints there.
Ceviche Soho – I’ll be back. Delish!

Hello People!

So here it goes, my first blog post.  There are two things I love, and save all my money to spend on – travel and food.  I love eating, and am planning my next meal while having the current one. I love travelling, experiencing new cultures, meeting new people and am always researching where to go next. 

So why this blog?  I just wanted to share all my experiences with whoever wants to know about them.   I also want to use this blog as a way to talk about my travels. So far this year, I have travelled to Canada (Toronto), the US a few times (Princeton, New York and Chicago), Kenya (Nairobi), Madagascar (all over). 

I had some AMAZING experiences, and realised that I want to spread the word!! It is also a good memory bank for me – so I can look back and see where I’ve been. Only wish I had started doing this sooner! 

Although I’m not going to go back in time and write about where I’ve been, I will be writing about where I’m going, what I eat, and what I get up to.  So enjoy 🙂