Last week in Melbourne

I’m back almost. I just got back from Melbourne last night but off again tomorrow to a Rainforest Retreat at Murwillumbah. This week has been a big week for me. We have been celebrating birthdays and spending time with family. Sometimes coming to Melbourne feels like its a working holiday. It’s not that I am doing a lot, but I trying to make sure I see everyone and spend enough time with them. I have missed a few people, so have to make up for it next time. Family time can also be very stressful when everyone wants to catch you up on who and why they aren’t talking to someone else. So looking forward to go and relax in a nice hotel for a few days with Marco.

This post is about my last experiences in Melbourne. There were alot of highlights and I am really happy I got through my first holiday trying to stick to my vegan lifestyle diet. I was good for the most part and feel quite good even though I did indulge a lot.

Last Friday night we had my mums birthday dinner at 400 Gradi  in East Brunswick. I ended up having Linguine Pescatore. Besides having vegetarian pizza with no cheese, there was really nothing else on the menu that was vegan. I haven’t been eating seafood everyday but I have been finding it the easiest alternative and am really struggling to give it up permanently  I don’t know at this point whether I will ever be able to. I really like it and I don’t feel heavy after I eat it, like when I eat meat and whole eggs. I think probably will just avoid, so it doesn’t become an every substitute to meat. For Italian food this place was really, really good. We got told about it from some people we meet at a BBQ the night before. The food was the closes thing I have had to Italian since leaving Italy. I love pasta without too much sauce and thin wood fire pizzas. So I recommend to others who eat meat and seafood.

Anyway after dinner we went out for gelati at Gelobar, which was across the road. This place was packed with people and had a line that went all the way through the store. Price wise they were very good 1 flavour for $3 and 3 flavour for $6 (usually price of 1 scope). All of the sorbet was dairy free, so I got lampone (raspberry).

Gelobar

Gelobar

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For  my mum’s second birthday dinner, for everyone that couldn’t come before, we had dinner at one of my aunts. My cousins girlfriend, Tanya made her famous Crunchy Asian Salad and Uncle Joe Benich  made his Artichoke and Rocket Salad. My mum and I prepared the roasted vegetables of potato, sweet potato, pumpkin, capsicum  onion and eggplant. So there was plenty for me to eat.

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Tanya’s Crunchy Asian Salad

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Uncle Joe’s Artichoke and Rocket Salad

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Roasted Vegetables

Tanya’s Crunchy Asian Salad I found out wasn’t actually created by Tanya. But she has become known for making this salad. I am addicted to it and thought it was worth talking about. The recipe is on the back of the packet of Chang’s Fried Noodle, which you can find on Chang’s website.

Uncle Joe’s Artichoke & Rocket Salad (gf, sf, nf) is a simple recipe but a good one. All you need is a can or jar of marinated artichokes, a packet of rocket or baby spinach and store bought or homemade Greek Salad dressing. It is zesty and delicious.

Since I didn’t want to have the roasted chicken or bbq meats I bought Fry’s Original Burgers. I haven’t tried them before, but I am happy I did. These are the closest thing that I have tried that tastes like a meat pattie. They have a meat like texture and has the smokey, beefy taste. They do not taste of soy at all. If I didn’t know, I would think they were beef. Since the box said the best thing was to grill them, I got my cousin to put them on the bbq. I should of put some oil on them first, but I didn’t so when they were cooked they looked a bit white. Still tasted good though.

The next day I ended up making a toasted ‘beef’ sandwich for me and little cousin Mia. Instead I cooked in a pan with oil for 10 mins and this gave them more the look of a meat patty. She had no idea and really liked it. This will definitely be a something I will purchase again. I also added store bought Sicilian braised eggplant, ajvar and tomato with toasted wholemeal bread.

My vegan lunch with Fry's burger

My vegan lunch with Fry’s burger

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On Tuesday we had a big cook up for my cousin Adam’s Birthday. My Uncle Joe came and he loves seafood. So he brought a heap from a Vietnamese store in Richmond and made a few different dishes. There was baked mackerel, mussels cooked with tomatoes & chili, squid with shallots, baked baby octopus roasted with onions & tomato, penne frutti di mare, roasted capsicum, baked eggplant with onions & garlic. We also had Tanya’s Crunchy Asian Salad and Uncle Joe’s Artichoke & Baby Spinach Salad. I couldn’t help myself and did eat lots of seafood. One serve was enough though, I felt really full. I think I’ve had enough for a while after that night. What was great about this dinner was that it was made with lots of fresh basil, parsley and mint and lots of garlic.

For the vegetarian dishes I loved the Roasted Capsicum we made. We did them in the oven so they were a lot softer then when I did it on the stove flame. We then just added fresh garlic and olive oil. I also really loved the Baked Eggplant with Onion & Garlic. We just cut them in chunks with olive oil, garlic, onion and baked them for half and hour. Then we added fresh Italian parsley to serve. These are too things that will be a must at our next celebration.

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Second big cook up

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Roasted Capsicum

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Baked Eggplant with Onion & Garlic

On Wednesday we went to Bendigo to visit some family of my Uncle’s partner. I was surprise how much of a beautiful city it is. The Sacred Heart Church is amazing. I never get bored of churches and this was one of the must spectacle I have seen in Australia.

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On the way we stopped at a bake house and there was no sweet or savoury pastries that were vegan. So I ended up waiting. By the time we had lunch/dinner  it was 5 pm and I was starving. We ended up going to Grill’d for burgers. I ordered my favourite  the Garden Goodness and the chips. Their vegetable patties and bread are all vegan. The only thing that isn’t is the cheese and herb mayo. I usually leave the mayo. Still one of my guilty unvegan pleasures. It has no dairy but it does have eggs. Grill’d are popping up everywhere now in Australia. They are a great healthy alternative for eating in and take away.

Garden Goodness (veggie pattie with beetroot, avocado, salad, relish & herbed mayo)

Garden Goodness (veggie pattie with beetroot, avocado, salad, relish & herbed mayo)

On Friday I visited my grandmother, grandfather and great grandmother in Brunswick. I already had seen them for a few hours last week. So on this visit I went out with my Nona for a few hours to the  famous Queen Victoria Markets and the CBD. I have been to the markets many times over the years, so I didn’t really look around. We just checked out the food section. Everything looked really beautiful and fresh.

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For lunch we went to Cafe Bisqui in the CBD. The owners are a young couple, who I know from my church years ago. I have been looking forward to visiting their cafe for a while since I saw it on facebook. Simone is always posting pictures of the freshly baked muffins and cakes that she makes. I was very impressed with their cafe it was very classy and the staff were really lovely. On the menu they have panini’s, salads and other light meals. They had a few vegetarian options. I got this the Roasted Pumpkin Salad, which was vegan. It was very fresh and filling. Their was roasted pumpkin, rocket, baby spinach, mint, red onion, almonds, cherry tomatoes, cucumber and an orange balsamic glaze. My Nona had a Chicken Panini and she really liked that too. After that we had coffees, which were also spot on. Very happy I tried them out and I really recommend them if you come to Melbourne city and want to quick, cheap delicious lunch, away from the hustle and bustle.

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Later that day I went to Woodstock Pizzicheria at East Brunswick, with a friend from my old work and my mum and uncle. Mark was my manager when I use to sell satellite television at the shopping centre. He moved here a couple years ago and I was happy to see him. He’s moving back to Brisbane in a few months so looking forward to going to some nice restaurants with him. Woodstock was also another restaurant that those people at the BBQ recommended. I think this is their second location. They serve really rustic traditional Italian food. For entrée I shared a pizza with everyone. I had to push the cheese and ham off, but it was worth it to have the nice thin base dough and artichokes. For my main ordered the Garganelli alla Puttanesca. It was simple, but beautiful. The olives and Sicilian capers tasted amazing. The sauce was just a light, red sauce that coated the pasta. I don’t like heavy sauces any more, so for me this was the perfect dish.

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After this delicious dinner we went to Gelobar again, since it was across the road from the restaurant. I got mirtillo (blueberry) gelato. I never tried this flavour before so that was a nice treat. It did leave my teeth a bit purple after. As you can see my mum indulged a bit more then me. She is not meant to have dairy either, but she’s not as strict as me.

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On Friday I hung out in Craigieburn, did a bit of shopping at the Broadmeadows. I have an Aunty and a cousins that live here, so it was the last place I expected to get a takeaway vegan dinner. Lucky for me their local Noodle Hut has many vegetarian and vegan options. One of my favourite dishes of all time is Char Kwai Teow, which is a typical dish you will find in Malaysian or Singapore. It is a stir fry with flat rice noodles, seafood and dark soy sauce. It often has egg and pork. They had a vegetarian one, so I had to try it. Besides the seafood taste, it was pretty close to the real thing. I didn’t feel jealous when I looked around the table at everyone else’s  It was pretty cheap too. $10 for a large. Probably didn’t need to eat the whole thing but I was very hungry.

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Saturday was my last day in Melbourne. I had a night flight, so I had the day to visit my Nona & Bisnonna’s graves in Carlton and have a last lunch. I was a bit worried what I should chose, since I know the rest of my family really, really love their animal foods. Luckily it was only me, my mum, one of my aunt’s and her daughter who came. So I took them to Shakahari Vegetarian Restaurant at Carlton. I have seen online that it is often rated as the best vegetarian restaurant in Melbourne. As far as I know it really is. If you didn’t know about this place, you might miss it if you walked pasted. From the front it looks like a small terrace house, but once you walk down the hall way it looks more like a trendy restaurant. On the advice of some customers sitting next to us, we ordered two Avocado Magic to share. This were amazing, so I can see why its their signature dish. It is  avocado & red capsicum  rolled in eggplant and fried in tempura batter with a sweet coriander sauce.   I also shared the Satay Shakahari with my mum and the others shared the Croquettes Cassava. The satay sticks were great. It was seitan and bean curd with a delicious thick satay sauce. I never tried seitan before. I never been able to buy or make it, but I really liked it. The dish was well balanced with plenty of vegetables. I also tried their Croquettes and they were also amazing. They were good on their own, but with the sauce made them even better.

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AVOCADO MAGIC ( V, N-D, G-F )
Avocado wedges and red capsicums rolled in thin eggplant slices then ‘tempura’ fried in a rice batter, served with a jade green sesame coriander puree.

SATAY SHAKAHARI ( V, N-D )Deep fried skewers of beancurd,seitan,onion and capsicum dressed with a mildly spiced peanut sauce. This dish comes with pickles, blanched greens and turmeric rice. A house classic.

SATAY SHAKAHARI ( V, N-D )
Deep fried skewers of beancurd,seitan,onion and capsicum dressed with a mildly spiced peanut sauce. This dish comes with pickles, blanched greens and turmeric rice.

CROQUETTES CASSAVA ( V, N-D, G-F )Crunchy patties of steamed cassava, yam, potatoes,roasted macadamia nuts and high-protein black quinoa. Served with steamed greens, kim chee and a mild lemongrass capsicum sauce.

CROQUETTES CASSAVA ( V, N-D, G-F )
Crunchy patties of steamed cassava, yam, potatoes,roasted macadamia nuts and high-protein black quinoa. Served with steamed greens, kim chee and a mild lemongrass capsicum sauce.

This is a place you have to visit if you come to Melbourne. My cousin and aunt are not vegan, but they loved it. The dishes were also gluten free and after we ate them we felt really good. This is probably one of the best vegan restaurants I’ve ever been to. So this was a really great end to my holiday.

For dessert we ended up getting Soy Lattes at Degani’s. This is second time I had coffee here and its very good. No vegan desserts, but didn’t really need it.

Coffee's at Degani

Coffee’s at Degani

Hope you all enjoyed my trip as much as I did!

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