The Guacamole salad, Mexico

Hands up who doesn’t love guacamole? The creamy avocado, the crunch of red onion, the sweetness of chopped tomatoes, a squeeze of tart lime, and the fragrant balancing act of the coriander? Exactly. To not like guacamole would probably be travesty.

  This is my fourth time in Mexico, and for the first time ever, im struggling as a vegan. Normally, it’s all about corn tamales filled with veggies and smothered in a habanero sauce (the hotter the better). That, or tacos piled high with frijoles, strips of avocado, and doused in jalapeños. Yeh yeh, it’s ALL about spicy food 🙂

This trip a few people have tried to sneak cheese into my food despite a “sin queso” plea accompanied by a winning smile. This winning smile has got me approximately nowhere. Also managed to buy a bottle of soya milk in the supermarket that was apparently only masquerading as soya milk. “Contains 2 percent cows milk” the ingredients said in tiny tiny lettering below the rest of the ingredients. Why? What anti-vegan jokester is enjoying their elaborate practical joke from their millionaires milk mansion?

  Fast forward to El Tabano, an open-kitchen food joint on the beach road in Tulum. Tulum’s a strange place. With the central town, (home to more backpackers types), to the low-slung beachfront all-inclusives (for the most part sympathetic with their surroundings), it’s divided into local v tourist. The food by te beach tends to be super over priced and a bit same-y, but this Guacamole Salad meant that El Tabano deserved a mention.

It’s not really that much different from guac, but the avocado is beaten so that its creamier, there are olives, which give it that umami, cheesy taste, and there are young sprouting leaves and big chunks of tomato in it.

  When the sun’s beating down and you’ve got a chilled margarita in hand, this is the sort of light, filling salad that vegan avocado lovers crave. And El Tabano have nailed it. 

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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 …

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. 

Michelin star vegan Tenerife – At the Ritz.

I am not a dressy person. Dressing up for me means brushing my hair. So when I remembered two kilometres away that I was heading to the Ritz for a two Michelin star dinner I panicked. I’d memorised my itinerary (very badly) apparently and I was now changing rapidly in the back of an empty minibus in a layby while the driver shielded her eyes.
I’d been invited to sample some of Tenerife’s gourmet food. Initially sceptical that I would be able to eat anything at all, time and time again, I was proved wrong.
There were five others in the group I was travelling with, all of whom were meat eaters. Not only do I not eat meat, fish, or dairy of any sort, my gluten intolerance had recently kicked back so I’d had to recut bread out of my diet AGAIN. And I looked like a tramp to boot.
But I was kinda surprised (and delighted, Obvs) when the chef (Basque chef Martin Berasategui) had prepared me a special menu. 

Yes, there were a lot of textures of tomato, but him and his team had gone to a lot of effort to make me feel like I wasn’t missing out.  It was two Michelin starred food, but meat free, which was super exciting. 
  
We started with breads. He brought me rice crackers with different flavours and the things that look like crayons on the table are in fact flavoured butter.

  
Strawberry daiquiri ice cubes arrived next, moulded into the shape of berries. They were incredible – an alcoholic sorbet to cleanse the palette before nine course tasting menu. In reality such a long menu is just an excuse for a chef to show off, but if he continued  showing off like this, fine by me.

  
A series of amuse bouches-esque things arrived next and this was the only bum note of the meal. Spherication had happened here, and it really shouldn’t have. A luminous blob of green didn’t look appetising. It did what it said on the tin – exploded with liquid as I bit into it – but the taste was like chewing on one of those berries from a tree that would kill you. 

It was bitter and left a lingering and hideous aftertaste. That said, it was the only bum note of the meal, but man, it was weird. After eating quite a lot of swish meals, I’ve realised that texture really is important to food. This is where nature excels and sometimes chefs should leave well alone. An example is an apple. It’s crunchy and soft at the same time. Genius. Don’t mess with that.

  
I was then served textures of tomato (which were delicous) while everyone else got slightly cooked oysters cooked in a broth that smelt of the sea. It was served in a dish that looked like a volcano and it smoked…

  
I was grateful for a respite as the chef was unable to come up with nine things that were vegan, so I sipped an amazing gin and tonic while everyone went mad for their next dish. After that, I was served a simple salad with vinaigrette. For anyone who has battled through a tasting menu, you’ll understand when I say that as delicious as everything else was on the table, everybody was envious of my salad.

  
The standout dish of the menu followed – white asparagus tips with a rich mushroom sauce. It was decadent and everyone else was served the same dish, which suggests just how good it was.

  
Then came an egg in broth with salty girolles. 

  
Then gorgeous artichoke hearts, wonderfully turned with a type of Palm syrup and more mushrooms.

Desert was Unphotographed because my phone died and British Airways doesn’t have charging points, even in business. (Gah). But it was lemony, zesty, with lots of sorbets, sugars, and an amazing lime and apple and mint granita sauce. Delish.

Maxim’s, Paris

 

 A hallowed shrine to the Belle Époque, somewhere held in esteemed reverence by historians, artists, and food traditionalists.

Just off the Champs Élysées, Maxim’s is a cathedral of decadence and gluttony – mainly of the meat variety. A main course starts at 78 euros and climbs to 95 euros. This isn’t a place to take a spendthrift. Nothing is restrained about Maxim’s, from the elderly waiters with perfectly starched outfits who all look as though they are playing the part of servers in a silent 1920’s flick, to the stained glass mirrors which line the room. “So delicate are these windows”, we are told by our host, “that a crack team of cleaning specialists have to come in from the Louvre.”

There are no windows in the main salon. It is the embodiment of a place where the party didn’t have to end just because it got light. Names are reeled off about the famous visitors: “Fitzgerald, JFK, Woody Allen.”

It is almost oppressively warm on this unseasonably sunny April day, yet I am imagine nowhere nicer than in December, surrounded by flowing wine and witticisms, songs and dancing when the tables are pushed back against the walls. It’s a space that seems to mourn the past – no smoke clouds the mirrors and clings to the upholstery; no after-dinner cigars are leisurely consumed; and it all shuts up at a respectable midnight. 

Despite its decadent evocation of private dining and the Belle Époque, the vegan food choices were une catastrophe (if we’re going French). I was there as part of a press trip, and they had been forewarned that I had (for France) weirdo dietary requirements. I was first handed a plate of langoustine, to which I just look bemused. While everyone else was eating the crustacean, they hurriedly prepared six trunks of over-cooked asparagus (a miracle as it was done so quickly) with a vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was delicious – tangy and smooth and rich as a runny egg yolk. 

  

Beef was proffered twice for my main, until I described my predicament and they rustled up some vermicelli with mushrooms. To their credit, this was done with incredibly short notice, but the seasoning was totally missing. Absolutely bland. But delicoius mushrooms. Can’t win them all!

This isn’t meant to be a review of Maxim’s, because what they do – classical, rich, decadent French food, looked marvellous, and it was getting lots of praise. But it’s more of a comment on France in general, and how frustrating eating out can be for vegans. You’re looked at like a total freak, and to their credit again, the waiters at Maxim’s didn’t treat me like I was missing the right side of my head but were courteous and accommodating.

I’m sure that with a little more notice they could have come up with something truly evocative of the golden age, only a cruelty-free version.