Being vegan in Georgia? Almost impossible.

  I am starving. I didn’t think it would be this hard. There are always salads and French fries if the going gets tough I had reassured myself. But I hadn’t considered the incredible heat that would make ferreting out new places so difficult. 

There is very little to eat here if you’re vegan. Georgian’s are huge cheese lovers. Cream is slipped into everything. The main food, a bread, is stuffed with cheese. And I’m jealous because everything looks amazing – Georgian food is rated among one f the world’s best cuisines.

Certainly, spice carts sit on the corner of every street filling the air with a fragrant, saffron air. 

 I found a Thai restaurant last night and ate a vegetable curry but was hungry two hours later. I suppose in a way, I’m lucky it’s so hot. I’m far from feeling hungry, but I feel the lack of food sapping at my energy, inducing lethargy. 

  
After a fruitless hunt for two places which apparently served vegetarian/vegan food, I settled on the Green Cafe on freedom square, where I’ve ordered a salad and, you guessed it, fries. After some furious googling, I found out that Mushroom Khakali – dumplings – are also vegan, so I ordered two of these as well. And the salad is excellent, covered in thyme and a salty walnut paste. I’m glad I’ve finally found a hint of Georgian food I can enjoy. And hopefully not die from …

Jackson and Rye, London

  

I’m off to the Arctic for the next four weeks, which means that my partner and I won’t see each other for a very long time. We took the day off work today (Friday) and set out to do some tourist London exploration, because I realised that I never, ever big up my home town enough.

I reckon that’s because the vegan food offerings here just aren’t very good. Why not? The centre of London has a dearth of places that serve vegan breakfasts. Vegetarian food offerings are awesome, but if you have allergies or have cut out animal items from your diet totally, London is not the best place for you.

That said, I live here, so make do I must. Tibits is great for some vegan food, Inspiral is super, and unintentionally vegan ethnic offerings are plentiful. But it’s no New York (hello vegan Chinese) or LA (they have a vegan CHEESE SHOP). And this continues to make me sad.

So we took the day off work and this took us to Jackson and Rye because I was determined not to go to Hospital Club AGAIN (my fail safe brunch location). It sucks for vegans. And for anyone with allergies. But it’s glorious inside, and their country style potatoes with caramelised onions may well be one of the most delicious thins I’ve eaten this week.

I literally have a plate of avocado and some green juice, but hey, the tiling is nice and they have a bottle of Tabasco, so life’s not all bad.

And if you’ve got a meat eater in your life, I imagine they would be a huge fan.

Vegan hotdogs in Santa Cruz, Tenerife

With four hours left before my flight home and having finished all the work I’d come to Tenerife to do, I decided to locate Santa Cruz’s vegan offerings. This is Northern Tenerife, well away from the crowded high rises and apartment blocks of Los Christianos. 

  
I’d been really surprised by Tenerife. For a start, I’d spent the last four days cowering from the freezing cold weather – in early June, fog and wind had been the order of the day. This is an island of microclimates, and my trip had taken me away from the sunshine. First up to El Teide, a mountain in the centre (fog), and then along the northern coastline which is reminiscent of California’s craggy Route One.

  
The purpose of the trip (oh the hardship), was to track down gourmet Tenerife – the culinary heart of the island. Over the last few days I’ve tasted some incredible wines and eaten a vegan menu at a two star Michelin restaurant. But now, with a few hours to myself, I left the comfort of the hotel’s saltwater pool and comfy loungers, to find Burger Mel, a totally vegan hamburger joint in Santa Cruz.

  
The fact that such a thing even existed surprised me for many reasons. The main one is that Spain is not known for its veggie friendly cuisine, and yet, according to Happy Cow, there seem to be about five Burger Mel’s. She offered me vegan mayonnaise but normal cheese (possibly – my Spanish is mediocre and she didn’t speak English), so it might be worth double checking before you go faux-dairy crazy.
I had absolutely no idea what I just ordered until she just brought it just now. I seem to have got a hotdog with vegan mayonnaise, salsa, onions, and topped with avocado. It’s awesome. Best of all is how cheap Tenerife is away from the tourist areas – it’s incredible.

  
I packed nine euros (now worth about 5 pounds) in my purse worried I wouldn’t have enough and the whole meal including a piña (pineapple juice) came to 4 euros. Amazing. It’s good too. It lacks a little texture but  made a nice change from Tenerife’s high end restaurants. And perhaps the meat-free wind is starting to blow here. 

Vegan hotdogs in Santa Cruz, Tenerife

With four hours left before my flight home and having finished all the work I’d come to Tenerife to do, I decided to locate Santa Cruz’s vegan offerings. This is Northern Tenerife, well away from the crowded high rises and apartment blocks of Los Christianos. 

  
I’d been really surprised by Tenerife. For a start, I’d spent the last four days cowering from the freezing cold weather – in early June, fog and wind had been the order of the day. This is an island of microclimates, and my trip had taken me away from the sunshine. First up to El Teide, a mountain in the centre (fog), and then along the northern coastline which is reminiscent of California’s craggy Route One.

  
The purpose of the trip (oh the hardship), was to track down gourmet Tenerife – the culinary heart of the island. Over the last few days I’ve tasted some incredible wines and eaten a vegan menu at a two star Michelin restaurant. But now, with a few hours to myself, I left the comfort of the hotel’s saltwater pool and comfy loungers, to find Burger Mel, a totally vegan hamburger joint in Santa Cruz.

  
The fact that such a thing even existed surprised me for many reasons. The main one is that Spain is not known for its veggie friendly cuisine, and yet, according to Happy Cow, there seem to be about five Burger Mel’s. She offered me vegan mayonnaise but normal cheese (possibly – my Spanish is mediocre and she didn’t speak English), so it might be worth double checking before you go faux-dairy crazy.
I had absolutely no idea what I just ordered until she just brought it just now. I seem to have got a hotdog with vegan mayonnaise, salsa, onions, and topped with avocado. It’s awesome. Best of all is how cheap Tenerife is away from the tourist areas – it’s incredible.

  
I packed nine euros (now worth about 5 pounds) in my purse worried I wouldn’t have enough and the whole meal including a piña (pineapple juice) came to 4 euros. Amazing. It’s good too. It lacks a little texture but  made a nice change from Tenerife’s high end restaurants. And perhaps the meat-free wind is starting to blow here. 

With four hours left before my flight home and having finished all the work I’d come to Tenerife to do, I decided to locate Santa Cruz’s vegan offerings. This is Northern Tenerife, well away from the crowded high rises and apartment blocks of Los Christianos. 

  
I’d been really surprised by Tenerife. For a start, I’d spent the last four days cowering from the freezing cold weather – in early June, fog and wind had been the order of the day. This is an island of microclimates, and my trip had taken me away from the sunshine. First up to El Teide, a mountain in the centre (fog), and then along the northern coastline which is reminiscent of California’s craggy Route One.

  
The purpose of the trip (oh the hardship), was to track down gourmet Tenerife – the culinary heart of the island. Over the last few days I’ve tasted some incredible wines and eaten a vegan menu at a two star Michelin restaurant. But now, with a few hours to myself, I left the comfort of the hotel’s saltwater pool and comfy loungers, to find Burger Mel, a totally vegan hamburger joint in Santa Cruz.

  
The fact that such a thing even existed surprised me for many reasons. The main one is that Spain is not known for its veggie friendly cuisine, and yet, according to Happy Cow, there seem to be about five Burger Mel’s. She offered me vegan mayonnaise but normal cheese (possibly – my Spanish is mediocre and she didn’t speak English), so it might be worth double checking before you go faux-dairy crazy.
I had absolutely no idea what I just ordered until she just brought it just now. I seem to have got a hotdog with vegan mayonnaise, salsa, onions, and topped with avocado. It’s awesome. Best of all is how cheap Tenerife is away from the tourist areas – it’s incredible.

  
I packed nine euros (now worth about 5 pounds) in my purse worried I wouldn’t have enough and the whole meal including a piña (pineapple juice) came to 4 euros. Amazing. 
It’s good too. It lacks a little texture but  made a nice change from Tenerife’s high end restaurants. And perhaps the wind is changing here. 

The mission burrito: vegan style at El Casa Mexicana, SF

The mission burrito. It had to happen. It’s a behemoth that puts all other burritos I’ve eaten to shame. It looks more like a brick than a food stuff, and after eating a quarter of it, I feel that the whole pound of burrito that is left could feed a small family for a week.

  

Although everybody says you should go to Mission Street to get the burrito if your dreams, we obviously didn’t do that, and went to a road about five blocks west, closer to Duboce and Castro than Mission. I wanted to go in because I am perennially afraid of beans being cooked in pig lard, and Casa Mexicana had an enormous range of vegetarian options including tofu. This sounded like the worst option, so I opted for that to see if they could make it work.
Like everyone in the world, they couldn’t make the white flaccid tofu work, however marinated it had been in Mexican flavour sauces. But the rest of the burrito was incredible.
First she coated the tortilla bread in a layer of rice, added black beans (with an elaborate wrist-flick) and scattered a few chunks of tofu (regret). Then a generous handful of lettuce, guacamole, hot sauce, and chopped tomatoes before packaging it all up – envelope style – and thwacking it on the plate.
If this sounds bland – thank you for your concern, but don’t panic! There was an enormous station of condiments, sauces, limes, and chopped onions to pour and drizzle over, which made the whole experience far more verdant and tangy.
I’ve been carrying around the amount of burrito I didn’t finish for about an hour and I’m concerned about developing repetitive strain damage. For $5.50, that’s an insane amount of good, tasty food, from not quite in the mission district and a free helping of some of the best tortilla chips of all time.

Buddha Bodai: eating vegan in NYC’s Chinatown

  

Vegan Thai and Chinese restaurants in big American cities are ten-a-penny, but I was keen to revisit a vegan Chinese restaurant in New York after a previous disastrous attempt with my parents.

My dad knows what he likes to eat – tofu carved into the shape of a chicken is not one of these things. We went expecting chow mein and we left slightly startled and still hungry. I fear that experience has put him off Asian eating for life. 

Although I’ve travelled to China since – and really enjoyed the choice and tastes of vegetarian food – I’ve always been a little unnerved by fake meat and things that are meant to resemble chicken feet or intestines but are actually tofu. 

We poked around San Francisco’s Chinatown – at 24 blocks, it’s the largest Chinatown outside of China, but already full and rolling from a hefty brunch at Herbivore we just couldn’t make room for dim sum. 

  

So an opportune day trip to New York arose in the form of a lengthy layover at JFK, and we decided to fully embrace a trip to Chinatown to Buddha Bodai to give vegan Chinese another go.

For $7.50 you get unlimited hot tea, a starter of soup or spring roll, rice, and an enormous plate of main meal (19 options!). These ranged from the weird (chicken nuggets in sauce, to the delicious, normal sounding broccoli and deep fried shiitake mushroom in sauce. 

  

It’s canteen style, with tables relatively close together and a busy, impersonal service, but the food is phenomenal.

I have never eaten such an incredible sweet sour soup in my whole life, and Sam, who eats meat, agrees. It’s a little over-thickened and the texture is a tad gloopy, but who the hell cares? It’s warm, and spicy, and sour without being rich and without any hint of that sticky red sweetness that constitutes a sweet and sour soup in London’s Chinatown. 

  

The spring roll had that pleasing crunch of pastry and slight ooze of oil that you hope for in a spring roll. Even better, you could taste the vegetables inside it – they were crunchy too and hadn’t just been denigrated to a slimy mush. 

The mains were a slightly mixed bag, but that’s only because I wanted to try the plate of bean curd skin, and in reflection, that was a mistake. The mushrooms and broccoli was a dish from another world. I hadn’t quite realised the mushroom would be deep fried and coated in a sticky, gelatinous sauce, so it was crunchy and sticky at the same time. 

  

Too tired after my bumpy-non sleeping night flight to even chew, (#firstworldproblems), Sam polished off most of two mains and the two starters and tea. 

  

It was a noble effort, and we waddled out of Chinatown and towards the subway, where I promptly fell asleep.