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ravenousveggie

Thoughts on veggie food, work, play and life in general

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Eating Out

Monthly Loves – January

January – the month of setting resolutions and getting back into work after the the Christmas break.  The days have been dark, and although the daylight hours are increasing, the temperature is dropping. It’s not my favourite month – the dark days do sap my energy, but there are the signs of longer,warmer days to come.  However I have come across a few lovely things this month…..

  • Beautiful lace like jewellery from Ruth Mary Jewellery.  Stunning pieces made by a very talented lady
  • Naughty but nice – my local corner store has started stocking a Mexican Mix by Silver Palm Foods.  I love the dried corn snacks you get and this has a mix of corn, dried beans and crisps in a spicy covering.  Naughty and very moorish!
  • The veggie/vegan options at Las Iguanas.  Great choice of food which made my meat eating friends a little envious!
  • Graze Veggie Protein Power Snack –  a much healthier option than the Mexican Mix with a great flavour.  A good go to elevenses pick me up.
  • Taking time out to have some quiet time.  A recent trip to a spa made me realise that there is too much noise and too many distractions in my life, which stop me concentrating.  But more of that in an upcoming blog…..
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

Breakfast

Breakfast – seen as the most important meal of the day, and probably one that we often have the least amount of time to have.

In the hotel industry breakfast is probably the busiest time of day – the majority of your guests will book in for breakfast.  It is also the time when your guests potentially have the least amount of time. So breakfast needs to run smoothly and cater for all dietary needs.

So why does breakfast in a hotel frequently turn out bad?  I have seen a full hotel with queues waiting for breakfast because of understaffing and a lack of coordination.  

In some cases there seems to be a lack of attention to how quickly food needs to be replenished and tables cleared

I have been left hungry due to lack of communication of how long the vegetarian breakfast would take to cook – having to leave before it is ready.  

I used to attend a breakfast networking meeting at a 5 star hotel which has 89 rooms.  In our networking group there were usually about 20 of us each work. The hotel claimed it was too much work to provide 20 individual breakfasts (which were all pre-ordered).  Instead it was either a full cooked breakfast, or a continental offering (which was one pastry and some fruit). I always used to wonder how they coped if all the rooms were full and breakfasts not pre ordered if they couldn’t cope with 20 pre-ordered meals.

I understand that staff not turning up on time cannot be planned for, however managing expectations can.  As a guest if I know there is a problem in the kitchen, an ingredient isn’t available, or something takes slightly longer to prepare, then I can make my food choice  according to my time restraints. It is all about managing expectations.



Photo by Sonnie Hiles on Unsplash

I once worked in a hotel for a year.  Breakfast always ran smoothly as the head waiter would give training to the staff the day before and then watch like hawk as to what as going on.  He would give firm, but polite, instructions, so as to ensure smooth running and that guests left satiated and happy.

Looking at hotels now I rarely see anyone who appears to be in overall charge.  When there is they don’t appear to have the attention to detail and focus that I trained under.

I never know why there is so much secrecy over breakfast.  I’m not sue if there is a worse time of the day in which not be on top of your game, or not be communicating with your customers.

I’d love to know what your experience of hotel breakfasts has been.

A Fair Price

As a vegetarian its fair to say a number of people have commented on how much cheaper it is to eat out than a meat eating diet.

Most of the time I agree – vegetarian meals tend to be cheaper.  They have cheaper ingredients and tend to be quicker to make. However sometimes I think vegetarians pay over the odds for what they get.  

Today I went to a pub for lunch with friends.  They fancied a proper Sunday Roast and I knew that the chosen place did good roasts and also usually has a good choice of vegetarian meals.The selection was good, however the meals are on the pricier side – roasts stat from £15 and the vegetarian mains from £12.

But what do you get for your money?  For the roast you get three veg, the most enormous Yorkshire pudding, roast potatoes, gravy and of course the meat.   For the veggie meal I had a bowl of pasta with mushrooms and a a sauce. Not the most exotic or expensive ingredients. I declined the parmesan that came with it on the  grounds that A) parmesan is not vegetarian and B) I can’t stand the taste of it. And that was it. No side salad or veg. No bread nothing. My friends thought I was starving as the food disappeared so quickly, but the truth of the matter is that it was really difficult to eat a bowl of pasta slowly without it going cold. And the size of the roast dinner portion meant that you needed a good twenty minutes to eat it.  I admit finishing my main and feeling hungry – longing for the desserts (if only I could be sure which ones were veggie friendly from the menu).



Photo by Adam Jaime on Unsplash

I have been to some similarly priced establishments where the size of the salad justifies the price and you do feel that you have eaten a satisfying amount, had more than three ingredients. and still paid less.

I pointed this out to my friends and you could see the penny drop and general agreement around the table.  When it came to puddings the vegetarian friendly options were the same size as the other. So why the discrepancy for the main meal?  People don’t mind paying more when they feel that they are getting quality and value for their money.

More and more as a vegetarian I feel I am loosing out in restaurants, and that the price I pay does not reflect the portions I receive when compared to the carnivores.

 Just because I am vegetarian doesn’t mean I am not hungry!

Monthly Loves – December

December – that month of cramming in work, parties and shopping before a long break (if you are lucky) where time seems to stand still and days become one big blur..  

  • Christmas Festivities – although Christmas has changed for me a lot over the last few years, I still enjoying to see the energy and enjoyment it brings to so many people.  
  • I had a lovely Christmas meal with a client at The Half Moon at Warninglid.  Probably the best veggie meal I hd out this month. Not sure what the usual menu is like, but I know my other half will love the food there, so planning a trip back at some point.
  • Hot chocolate made with almond milk.  The best dairy free alternative and flavour combination I have found to date.
  • Mal Maison – probably my favourite hotel chain who also cater well for vegetarians.  The staff are always welcoming and the decor is sumptuous. Don’t visit very often but I am never disappointed.
  • Christmas Dinner – I made a simple but gorgeous veggie main using Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s receipe for baked mushrooms with kale and walnuts. It went perfectly with all the roast veg and trimmings and was really filling. And it to no time to prepare and cook! Find the receipe in his River Cottage Much More Veg book
  • If you read my latest blog you will think I did nothing over the Christmas break, however I did spend a good few hours planning my business for the next 12 months.  Business planning sounds quite boring, but I am now focussed on what I want to achieve, and how to achieve it. I found it a very energising process and am looking forward to 2019.
  • Presents – my lovely friends and family showered me with an array of environmentally friendly and home-made gifts, helping my journey to reducing plastic and treading more lightly on the earth.

Monthly Loves – November

November seems to have gone by in a flash.  I was lucky enough to have a few days off work, which resulted in some great restaurant finds!  

  • Winchester -lovely place for a short break.  Beautiful architecture, great museum and lovely shops.  Mkre sure you go when the market is on – a lovely mix of stalls.
  • River Cottage Kitchen – I love Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s Much More Veg cookbook so took the opportunity to eat at his Winchester restaurant.  The food was amazing, although most of the veggie/vegan food options are side dishes. But don’t be disheartened. The portion sizes are good and the variety of choice leaves you wondering what to order, and hoping your meat eating  companions will order some of the sides so you can try them.
  • Incognito Cocktail Bar – An interesting and quirky cocktail bar, serving a lot of different drinks, with modern twists on your old favourites.
helena-yankovska-434536-unsplash
  • Kinder Tech – This is a small, local opportunity to have your tech issues answered and fixed for free.  Run by volunteers from the people behind The Kinder Living Show, this twice yearly event gives you the chance to find out what is wrong with your tech, possibly get it fixed and find out if it is worth fixing.  They will also take your old tech and make sure it is recycled.
  • I was lucky enough to attend the Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall.  A beautiful, emotional and humbling evening.
  • Green People shampoo – the only shampoo I have used that means I don’t need conditioner.  My hairdresser is amazed by it and is looking to get it stocked in the salon.

Food on the move

You have been working hard all morning.  Flitting between meetings, telephone calls and getting to through the to do list.  You then realise that you are hungry and forgot to pick your lunch up. Or your day has changed and you no longer have that lunch time meeting that was in the diary.

 

What to have for lunch?  You don’t have time to get to your favourite cafe or sandwich bar.The only other alternative is the sandwich van that comes round, or the local supermarket.

 

For me this fills me with dread.  The lack of variety for food on the go for vegetarians is depressing.  The usual offering of egg mayonnaise or cheese sandwiches – stored to such a cold temperature that they don’t taste of anything. Then you spot it.  A lovely looking salad – tomato, rocket, pasta – yum! Then your heart drops as you see it has chicken with it. Bowls of lovely looking noodles and pasta but all with added chicken, feta or tuna.

 

I love noodles and pasta.  The only vegetarian pasta offering is cheese and tomato sauce, or the joy of more feta.

 

It goes back to my previous blog talking about how difficult it is to get a vegetarian salad.

Food on the move
Photo by Alice Pasqual on Unsplash

This got me wondering how difficult it would be for the companies to produce a pick and mix salad selection?

 You choose your bowl of basic salad, then add your carbohydrate – pasta, noodles, potato, couscous – and then your protein option – nuts, breads, fish, meat.

 

Ok this will be a nightmare on the packaging front, but from a hunger satisfaction perspective this would be great. If you go into a service station or supermarket late at night you will see all these bowls of food sitting there.  By splitting out the ingredients you could make them more attractive to the person who just wants a quick ready made salad to go with their planned evening meal.

 

Its just a thought to make food on the go just a bit more inspiring.

 

Monthly Loves – October

What an interesting month October turned out to be.  It started by working for a client in Berlin for a few days and ended with some exciting changes on the job front.  In October I also loved the following:

  • The Ethical Consumer Conference – I have been meaning to go to this for the last few years and this year it happened.  A really interesting day covering various topics from fashion to plastic. It was also very inspiring to see so many women keynote speakers who are running their own ethical businesses.  Ethical Consumer

 

Monthy Loves - October autumnal colours

 

  • Autumnal colours – we have had quite warm weather this year which was abruptly stopped by a cold spell.  I thought I have just missed the opportunity to go out walking to see the changing leaves, but luckily managed  a f
    ew hours enjoying the seasonal changes of colour

 

 

  • A fabulous meal at Sagar Restaurant.  A refreshingly different vegetarian/vegan Indian restaurant with three branches in London.  Sagar

 

  • After a particularly long and testing day at work on a very cold day getting home toIMG_0611 make my favourite comfort food – chickpeas, garlic and pasta – or Tuoni E Lampo as it is sometimes known.  I found this recipe many years ago in Rose Elliot’s book ‘The Bean Book’. Quick and easy to make. You can also add chilli, broccoli and
    pine nuts to make it into a more substantial meal.

 

 

 

 

  • This recipe for baked gnocchi from The Green Roasting Tin. A fabulous cookery IMG_0606book with both vegetarian and vegan dishes.  Will definitely be making more dishes from this book.

 

 

 

 

 

  • The Forge, Slindon, Sussex – I met a client here and we had the most wonderful lunch.  All freshly made, sourced locally and with with a veggie/vegan range of cheeses. It is also the village shop and well worth a visit.  

Just Desserts?

I have a really sweet tooth and I always look forward to dessert.

 

At home I like old fashioned desserts such as banana custard, apple pie or crumble, and rice pudding.  All the warm, comforting dishes of my childhood.

 

However eating out can be a bit more tricky.  Not from a decision making point of view (well sometimes!), but from identifying if any of the desserts are veggie/vegan friendly.

 

This is one of the things that annoys me the most, next to places only offering a vegetarian starterDessert Menu.  Some places are really good at identifying the vegetarian/vegan/gluten free options on their starters and mains.  But when it comes to desserts this information is frequently missing. The waiting staff, when quizzed tend to give you a blank look as they don’t know, and then have to quickly scuttle off to the kitchen to ask.  

 

For a while I assumed that if nothing was marked as being suitable for my dietary requirements then there was nothing I could eat.  And I wouldn’t ask, and the restaurant would miss out on selling more food.

 

I went to a new dessert restaurant this week that has opened up near where i live.  I was amazed to find that the extensive menu had absolutely no allergy/suitability information on it.  I asked the staff what was suitable for a vegetarian. The young chap said nothing was suitable as everything contained milk.  I politely corrected him and said that’s ok, I’m not vegan. Then I quizzed him about he marshmellows and the cheesecake. He was quite vague, but was saved by a co-worker who seemed to know her ingredients.  

 

I asked why there was no information on the menu and he replied that their suppliers change all the time so they can’t guarantee what ingredients are being used from one week to the next.  In view of the recent issues with Pret, and the staff member’s lack of understanding of dietary requirements, I did find this a little worrying. I doubt i will rush back and will definitely tell all my friends who I know have food allergies.

 

So not labelling menus is not only a pain for the customer trying to decide what to eat, leading to potential loss of business, but could also lead to a medical emergency for those not wary enough to ask.

Veggie Christmas Menus

Its that time of year when the Christmas party is being organised.  Desks fill with seemingly endless piles of menus. This time last year I wrote about how much cheese seemed to be on the menu for vegetarians.

So once again I start the sifting of menus.  Hopes being filled by lovely starters, only to see the same thing rehashed as a main.  Or goats cheese and blue cheese being snuck in where, quite frankly, it isn’t required.  I have even come across three venues that have no vegetarian or vegan option at all.

Overall tVeggie Christmas Menushis year’s offering seem to be a bit better though.  A move back to the days of nut roasts (hope they aren’t as dry as last year’s) and a move to root vegetables in various forms.  but most of them still have cheese attached to them in some form or other.

One menu I have come across has lovely starters and desserts, all marked as vegetarian, but no main course.  There is the option to have just two courses, so should I go for starter and dessert? Or ring them and see if they can do a veggie main? The first option would be better for the waistline.  The latter option will make me feel like the awkward one, but probably make the evening go by more easily. Decisions, decisions.

All the menus I have seen so far are very ‘brown’ looking.  None of them reflecting any of the colours we like to fill our homes with at this time of year.  

I would still like to see something like a spinach and mushroom roulade, a chickpea wellington, cashew nut and red pepper roast or spicy butternut squash with chickpeas.  All these go well (in my opinion) with the traditional Christmas veg.

Despite all the moves this year to vegetarian and vegan diets becoming more mainstream the Christmas offering does not seem to have kept pace.  Alas the world of variety of food for vegetarians at Christmas is one that continues to pass the majority of caterers by.

I would love to know what disappointing menus have you come across this year.

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