June was a busy month at work, but I also managed a cheeky weekend away. It was good to get some warm, dry weather at last, and so I managed some time out in the garden. I can definitely feel my energy returning with the warmer weather. In June I loved the following:
Earth Kind – In my effort to cut down my plastic use I am always on the look out for hints and tips. Earth Kind provide a consultancy service to help you reduce your plastic use. Definitely worth getting in touch if you would like a helping hand in moving towards a zero waste lifestyle.
We managed a few days away in Cornwall and were taken to The Coddy Shack in Looe. This is a fish and chip shop which also has a fully licensed restaurant. It sells more than just fish and chips and has a really good vegetarian menu. The cakes are good too!
Brewers Fayre – On our few days away we ended up staying at a Premier Inn with very little food choices nearby. However I was pleasantly surprised by the Veggie/Vegan offering from Brewers Fayre. The price and portion size were good, and there were even starters I could eat (one for Beefeater to take note of!)
Greggs Vegan Sausage Roll – another reflection on time spent out and about! I finally succumbed at a motorway service station and tried the vegan sausage roll. I have to say I was not expecting to like it, but now if I am hungry, and in a hurry, it will probably be my go to ‘on the run’ snack. The first time ever I have liked something in Greggs!
I have just had the most glorious few days away in Spain.
A great trip with the right combination of relaxation, exploring and cultural delights.
When we arrived my partner and I were both exhausted. We had worked or volunteered almost every day in the previous couple of months, so a break was needed. We gave ourselves permission to recuperate. This meant having a decent amount of resting time. This started on the first day fo our city break. We had breakfast and then went back to our room and back to bed for a few hours. We slept solidly, so must have needed it.
Our days were filled with visiting the local tourist sites and then sitting in a local park for the last part of each afternoon – refreshment and kindle in hand.
The evening food foray was probably the most stressful part of the day. Despite thoroughly search Trip Advisor, restaurants mentioned as being “vegetarian friendly” were not always so, and also the opening hours mentioned did not always tie up with reality.
The biggest thing that became apparent was that Spanish customer service is quite different to that in the UK. Staff attentiveness to customer needs was quite rare. One restaurant we went into we were greeted and seated, and then watched as the same member of staff washed the floor before handing us a menu or asking if we would like a drink. The arrival of another member of staff did not improve things. She merely washed the same floor as had been done when we arrived.
This lack of attentiveness was apparent is almost every establishment we went to. As for the young lady in the local supermarket we visited most days, she did not crack a smile once. She could give you a look of “how dare you interrupt me” as you stood patiently at the till. Her colleague on the bread counter was the complete opposite.
Finding vegetarian food was a bit of a challenge. Although there is a vast array of veggie friendly Spanish food it appeared to be difficult to track it down. Tapas menus would be lengthy but veggie options often almost impossible to find. We did find food and it was lovely. I guess I always think it is a shame that in a large city it is difficult to experience the vegetarian food that fills the cookbooks.
This is something I have experienced on many trips. I wonder if people visiting London find the same thing?
Another cultural difference was the size of the beer glasses. Used to ordering pints, we had to quickly get used to the smaller serving sizes. Not wanting to resort to going to the usual Irish Pub we persevered with the local bars. Not once de we find a pint glass, or anything near it. The locals seem very happy having small servings and having repeated trips to the bar. You could buy larger servings by going to the supermarket and buying cans or bottles there.
We were also intrigued by the fact that you could sit at the park and buy a beer at any time of the day. Perhaps these smaller servings of drinks breed a better respect for alcohol. The smaller servings did not just relate to alcohol. After a particularly warm walk I sat down looking forward to a refreshing orange juice. Imagine my surprise as my juice arrived in a small tumbler. Coffee also arrived in much smaller amounts than I am used to.
On the plus side the proliferation of coffee shops and the more relaxed lifestyle, meant that vey few people had take-away coffee and you rarely saw used cups in bins. In fact I saw very little plastic waste as we walked around the city. Where I live the increased number of coffee shops has led to an increase in waste.
I love to travel and experience different cultures. It does leave me wondering what visitors to England think of us. Is there anything they see that they would like to ee in their own countries? Or anything that they find more difficult when visiting?
May seems to have happened in the blink of an eye – it must have been all those bank holidays!
Zoom – this video conferencing software is transforming my life – giving me more time in the office and getting me out of the car.
Bagels – I had forgotten how good bagels are for lunch. Avocado, tomato and olive is my current favourite filling
The British Library – They have an interesting mix of exhibitions and information, plus an excellent small business support hub. Makes me wish I live in London so I could attend the seminars more easily.
Magnesium Supplement – transforming my sleep pattern and helping my recovery from a shoulder injury.
Do you ever go out to eat but feel let down by the portion size? Now I don’t want you to think I am a greedy person with ‘eyes bigger than my stomach’ (as my mother would say). Its just that sometimes the portion size of veggie food is so much less than that of the meat and fish options. It just leaves you feeling short changed. And hungry.
One of the first things you get asked by non vegetarians is ‘where do you get your protein from?’ Sometimes I sit in restaurants and ask myself the same question.
On a recent visit to Champneys one of the evening meal options was teryaki braised tofu. I thought this sounded wonderful as I love tofu. So I ordered it. The portion of tofu that turned up was miniscule. There was one small two inch strip of tofu on the top of some noodles. By contrast those that ordered the meat equivalent had 4-5 similar sized pieces of meat. They looked at my meal and all commented on the lack of main ingredient.
This isn’t the first time I have noticed this. Wagamama has done the same in the past. The tofu portion size has always been small in comparison to the meat equivalent. I am glad to report that this has improved with the latest menu.
A local Michelin starred restaurant I went to served up one duck egg in a jus with a baby leek as a vegetarian main. The meat eaters had two slices of meat, plus veg and potato.
But it isn’t necessarily about protein. Eating out one Sunday at a local gastro pub I ordered a main of pasta. My other half ordered their famous roast dinner, which cost £15 – only £3 more than pasta dish. The extra £3 made all the difference – the roast dinner had 3 times the amount of food. My pasta dish consisted literally of a plate of pasta. No side salad, or bread. And it wasn’t a big plate. I finished my dish quite quickly and watched my other half continue to wade through his pile of food. My pasta dish was about the size of the side of veg he had. And, apart from feeling hungry, I was left feeling slightly ripped off. £12 for a plate of pasta that probably cost £5 to make.
I don’t know why some restaurants seem to think that vegetarians have smaller appetites. I have not met one yet. Vegetarian food is much cheaper to buy so why charge the same for smaller portions size, and often less complex dishes. Is it a lack of understanding and thought or is it greed – of the money kind?
April – a month of holidays, warmer weather and a special party
Seville – My partner and I managed to escape the cooler weather and spent 6 nights in Seville. It is a lovely city, easily discoverable on foot (and lot of trams to get around on) plus great train links to other cities. We also managed a day trip to Cadiz by train. Eating out as a vegetarian was interesting but not overly difficult. The restaurants in the centre generally had a better vegetarian choice. The restaurants used by the locals were more limited, but did have better atmosphere. Our hotel also had an excellent environmental policy……
Dance In The Hurricane – I am a big fan of Toyah and have been since 1980. Her latest album, In The Court Of the Crimson Queen, is a great re-working of a previous album with some great new tracks added. Dance In The Hurricane is probably my favourite new track. It is deeply personal and poignant and brings back memories to me of my own family.
We celebrated my Aunt Meg’s 90th birthday, and I was put in charge of organising the cake for the party. To be honest I was a bit daunted by this. I love cake and am great at eating it, but cooking or ordering one was a whole new world for me. I also had to please both my sister and my aunt. No pressure then. Making it myself was an immediate no go. Time constraints and my inability to cook any cake that doesn’t come our brick-like were my biggest issues. But trying to find a cake maker who could do produce one was much more of a struggle than i expected. Apparently they get fully booked up months in advance. Luckily for me I found Putty Cakes, who produced the most amazing cake, beautifully decorated and conveniently located on the way to the party venue.
Wow what a month February was. It started with snow, and then a mini heatwave, then cooled back down to near normal temperatures. I think this gave us all a pre-spring lift. So this month I was grateful for:
Signs of spring – Daffodils, snowdrops and crocuses have brought a lovely splash of colour to brighten up these winter days. The longer daylight hours are also making the walk to and from work much more enjoyable.
Bel and Dragon – this small chain of hotels and restaurants may not be the cheapest but the venues, food and service are lovely. Not the best veggie menu in the world (very cheese orientated), but still worth it for a treat. I was lucky enough to be taken for a weekend to celebrate my birthday!
Quiet Time – As you will see from my blogs I have discovered the joy of quiet time and switching off.
Lentil Dahl – a dish that is very simple to make, full of flavour and perfect to have as a main meal or a light lunch
Moving Office – my company has moved office to a much more modern, insulated building. My morale has definitely lifted as I now don’t feel cold at work all day, and I have a window to look out of.
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…..
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.
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.
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).
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!