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Beans! Often vegan brunching in this fair city can feel like one long parade of the ‘musical fruit.’ I never thought I would get sick of ’em. I did. Whoa! No need for the dramatic worldwide (really, I flatter myself) collective intake of breath vegan comrades! I’m not about to give beans the it’s-not-you-it’s-me speech. I just wish Melbourne chefs would consider concocting something a little more exciting for the cruelty-free brunch hunters among us.

That bean said, I have had some of these little legumes served up to me in some of the most deliciously rich sauces — smokey, sweet, spicy, salty, slide down your throat and warm your very soul. I have been lucky enough to stick my fork into some of the best beans in the city, so, now I reckon I’m a wee bit fussy.

That may be why the beans at Fitzroy’s all-day breakfast institution, Marios’ Cafe, didn’t knock my socks off. There are no vegan-ready dishes on Marios’ (named after two Marios, nope, not a Luigi in sight) menu but they are happy for you to build your own breakfast — hold the dairy! I ordered baked beans on toast with a side of grilled tomato. The beans were in a rich and tasty tomato sauce, the bread was generously thick and the tomatoes were sweet. It may not have given me a When Harry Met Sally moment (if you want that kind of beans experience go to Ray or A Minor Place) but it was a nice meal.

Despite the lack of vegan-friendly creativity it’s worth a trip to Marios’. It is, after all, a Fitzroy institution and where else do you get to sip delicious coffee, served up by waiters in waistcoats with a front row seat to the theatre show that is Brunswick Street.

Vegan options: You can build your own breakfast. The ingredients will be simple but well prepared.
Coffee: The two Marios are very serious about their coffee. They have their own blend, roasted in Fitzroy and it’s top notch.
Soy: Bonsoy (I think)
Moola: $15.80 for breakfast and a coffee
Ear candy: A little bit o’ gypsy. Why not?

Do you have a favourite vegan-friendly Fitzroy cafe?

Have you caught wind of The Vegan Box yet? Boy, oh boy have I got news for you! There’s a new product out there that will excite and delight you my little compassion-fruits! A box that arrives on your door step every month full of snacks, health food, natural skincare and eco lifestyle products — all 100% cruelty free! That’s right! Cue, Mary Poppins heel clicks!

My very clever friend, Hannah from Let Food Be Thy Medicine has put together this wonderful service — and it’s going gangbusters! It’s obvious this is exactly the kind of thing we’ve all been waiting for. Within minutes of launching the project she had her first orders and within weeks she went international! The Vegan Box is now delivered throughout Australia, New Zealand, the USA, the UK and Canada. And the list keeps growing.

Captain Someone and I signed up for a six month subscription. Each month there has been a combination of full size, travel size and sample size vegan goodies to fight over. The contents of each box are a surprise so there’s more than a little bit of excitement every time we dive into our box.

IMG_0558Hannah is an animal-cuddling, earth-loving, vegan naturopath who really cares about the product she is sending out to the world. You can tell that love goes into each and every box — she even types up a little info on each of the products for you. And there are hints and tips on how to use some of the items on The Vegan Box Facebook page. And you can even ask that your box be entirely gluten-free!

You can try just one box or you can sign up for three month or six month subscriptions. I recommend you try a box and get behind a great little Aussie company spreading a lil’ bit of cruelty-free love throughout the world.

Where it at? Click here for the website or click here to find The Vegan Box on Facebook.
What’s the damage? $26.95 for a one month subscription, $77.95 for a three month subscription, or $151.95 for six month’s worth of happy little surprises!

Have you tried The Vegan Box yet?

You thought you knew peanut butter. Standing alone in the kitchen with no-one to judge you. Just you and a spoon and a jar of good quality peanut butter — heaven, right? Wrong. You don’t know how good peanut butter can be until you’ve had homemade peanut butter. And one step better than that is the taste and texture of homemade peanut butter without having to lift a finger — or a peanut. Enter Wide Open Road.

I believe this Brunswick café and roastery may just be home to the best peanut butter in Melbourne. So now that I have made a grandiose claim and featured the words ‘peanut butter’ more in one paragraph than ever before — onto the dish! You can get your fingers sticky with two giant hunks of Rustica sourdough slathered (thick! the chef may have dabbled in brick-laying in a past life) in house-made peanut butter and topped with fresh banana and agave nectar. A lot of thought has gone into building this simple little slice of heaven. The peanut butter is just the right side of salty to pair perfectly with the sweetness of the banana and agave. And none of that super-pasty-stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth-forever business either! Wash it down with one of Wide Open Road’s near perfect Bathysphere blend coffees and you have a very filling, delicious Sunday starter for just over twelve bucks!

IMG_0559And the good news doesn’t stop there. There’s a second scrumptious vegan option on the menu. Portobello mushrooms, skordalia, smoked almonds, currants and pickled cauliflower with a slab of Rustica sourdough. Big, fat, juicy mushrooms, crusty bread, creamy potato and garlic puree (the skordalia), smokey almonds, sweet currants, slightly sour and slightly crunchy cauliflower. You guessed it, this dish is a flavour bomb. The textures are great and the flavour combination is adventurous which really reflects the kind of menu Wide Open Road delivers. Add to that great service, a bright and breezy atmosphere and killer coffee and you can see why it’s one of my new favourite haunts.

IMG_0525Vegan options: There’s the two you see here and there are also changing specials which may sometimes be vegan-friendly. They also do a vegan slice.
Coffee: The coffee is outstanding. The Bathysphere blend is roasted onsite (they supply the same blend to A Minor Place). They also do drip and filter.
Soy: Bonsoy
Moola: $12.50 for the first dish and coffee. Or $20.50 for the fancy mushies on toast and a coffee.
Ear candy: Always a good mix tinkling in the background.

Where’s your favourite vegan brunch?

Well, hello stranger!

I know, I know it’s been ages. You are looking well though. Have you done something with your hair? Come here you! I missed you.

Tempeh Tantrum HQ took a bit of a blogging break after Christmas to concentrate on other writing projects. But I’m back! And keen as mustard to share loads more reviews and recipes with you lovely vegan folk — and, of course, your veg-curious friends and family.

It was my two-year veganniversary last week. I celebrated with a heavenly vegan banquet at Rumi in Brunswick. And I thought telling you all about it would be the perfect way to get the blog rolling again.

I’ve been to Rumi before. Not only has the Middle Eastern fare always been delectable, the service has always been impeccable. And this time was no different. I asked them if they would mind putting together a vegan version of their banquet and they were more than happy to oblige.

Captain Someone and both my folks (who were visiting from Sydney) are omnivores — but they oohd and aahd and smacked their lips right along with me through all four courses.

The first course was a selection of deliciously exotic finger food. Lebanese and Iranian pickled vegetables and olives, fresh radish and cucumber and beautifully soft and warm flat bread to mop up the rich white bean purée and tangy hummus. The second course was three plates: smokey braised greens in a tahini dressing; chickpeas in a rich roasted tomato sauce, topped with crunchy fried onions; and one of my Rumi favourites, fried potatoes in lemon, garlic and sumac. The aroma that clung to these dishes had me piling them onto my plate with the enthusiasm of a puppy at his bowl. So please forgive the photo which was quite frankly an afterthought and an inconvenient pause in my plan to devour all three dishes in one very unladylike plate-vacuuming. This was my favourite course. Apparently Rumi was a 13th century Persian poet. I’m telling you, get a wee bit of each of these dishes on one flavourful forkload and you have pure poetry folks. The raunchy kind.

The third course was also three plates: fried cauliflower with caramelised onions, currants and pine nuts; oven roasted baby tomatoes in za’atar; and a shaved cabbage salad with soused onions, raisins and almonds. The rich flavours again were a delicious combination of salty, sweet, tangy and fresh.

IMG_0534IMG_0537The fourth course was a cos and herb salad with a sweet and sour dressing, a freekeh and almond salad and slow-cooked brussel sprouts in almonds, caraway seeds and fresh dill. You’re getting the idea right? Enormous flavour with every course — and never the kind of thing you’d whip up in your own kitchen. These brussel sprouts were the tastiest I have ever eaten (and I’ve had them smothered in vegan butter and cheese before, so that’s sayin’ somethin’).

Brussel sprouts, RumiFreekeh SaladAnd then, despite being sinfully full, we couldn’t resist trying some of their vegan-friendly Turkish Delight and pistachio halva. Oh. My. Persian. Poet. Ah-may-zing. There is something very special about freshly made Turkish Delight. It’s light and delicate, sweet and sticky and leaves delicious white powder all over your face. And Rumi’s Turkish Delight was the perfect ending to a very memorable meal.

Turkish Delight, Rumi banquetVegan options: if you don’t fancy anything as flash as a four course feast there are plenty of other options at Rumi. One of the best things about Rumi is how friendly and accommodating the staff are. They’ll be happy to talk to you about their cruelty-free options.
The wet stuff: there are plenty of vegan-friendly alcohol options here as well as delicious Turkish tea or Lebanese coffee
Moola: the four course banquet is $45 a head — and would please any carnivores you might have in your group
Ear candy: didn’t notice — had too much to catch up on with my beautiful mum and dad

Do you know of any other vegan banquet options in Melbourne?

Merry Christmas blog buddies!

I hope the week ahead is full of cruelty-free Christmas fun for y’all.
I have been busy putting together home-made, compassionate Chrissie gifts for friends and family — and preparing for a vegan feast this weekend. Once the Christmas chaos fades to leftover mock turkey sandwiches in front of my parent’s tele, I’ll be sure to blog about my silly season. But for now, here’s a quick little vegan product review.

I’ve taken a wee break from present wrapping to wrap my laughing gear around a spoonful (or seven) of CocoLuscious Ice Cream’s special limited edition ‘Christmas’ flavour.

This does, indeed, taste like Christmas. And Christmas is delicious folks.

Brandy-infused dried cherries and dried canberries, chocolate chips, and coconut flakes are mixed through CocoLuscious’s creamy, organic, gluten free, dairy free, nut free, and palm oil free ice cream.

Check out the chunkiness! No, really, check it out. Grab a tub while you can. Yum!

Where it at? I got my tub at Organic Wholefoods on Smith Street, Collingwood
What’s the damage? $15 for half a litre

What’s your favourite vegan ice cream?

I stumbled upon Gypsy Hideout on a wee excursion to the Fruit Peddlars in Northcote. I knew that if I was about to buy my body weight in Vegusto vegan cheese (holy wow! A review on this cheese-prayer-answering product coming soon), CoYo ice-cream, and activated nuts — I best be fuellin’ myself up so as to have the strength to carry it all.

This café, nestled in the Westgarth strip of Northcote, is bright and breezy with a white-washed interior and a cute little courtyard out the back. The service was friendly and my waiter was happy to offer a suggestion for veganising one of the interesting dishes on the Mediterranean-infused menu. I was served Greek Yemista — plump, roasted tomatoes stuffed with rice, garlic and herbs — on a bed of baby spinach with crusty sourdough and baba ganoush. The serving was mammoth. I couldn’t finish it. And that never happens to this little plate-scraper. I would recommend sharing this with another — or taking a hangover with you. The tomatoes were tasty but the chef’s unique baba ganoush was the star of the show. It was creamy and chunky and unlike any other baba ganoush I’ve smeared on sourdough. And I’ve done a lot of smearing.

I recommend giving the hideout a shot. The coffee was rich, the service attentive and there are nice little details about the place like Gypsy Elixirs that come in chemistry flasks and vintage souvenir spoons to stir your hot drinks.

Vegan options:  No obvious vegan options on the menu, especially in the brunch category but they were more than happy to veganise this dish for me so it would be worth asking what they can do.
Coffee: The coffee was great, this I remember. But I lost my notes so I cannot tell you the usual tidbits: which coffee, which soy, what it all came to and what kind of tunes tinkled in the background. Forgive me!

Do you have a favourite vegan-friendly lunch spot in Northcote?

Apologies for my absence bloglemen and blogettes, I have been a little unwell of late. That hasn’t stopped me from keeping my promise to you, however. I have still managed to drag myself out to a few vegan-friendly establishments to have my thirst quenched and belly filled — such is my undying commitment to finding the best places for you to eat and drink around this fair city. Can’t you feel my love? I mean, really, what I put myself through for you.

Ray on Victoria Street, off Sydney Road, recently served me up a vegan brunch that is now ranked as one of my favourites. This café is small in stature but big on flavour with delicious coffee and lip-smacking Middle Eastern inspired dishes served up for the Brunswick crowd.

A quick peek at the menu showed no obvious vegan-friendly meal so to save time I asked the friendly waitress for a suggestion. She proposed the Baharat baked beans without the labne and with some of their roasted garlic mushrooms on top. Now I know I eat a lot of beans. They seem to be the breakie prescription doled out to us vegans by the omnivorous chefs of this city. But I don’t care. I love ’em (luckily). These beans, however, were something else! They came to me in a rich, spicy, smokey tomato sauce sprinkled with dukkah — and they stood apart from the millions (only a slight exaggeration) of other before-noon bean dishes I have been served. And the mushrooms! Oh dear breakfasting Gods, those juicy, garlicky ‘shrooms. Not to mention the crusty Turkish bread. There was drool folks, I don’t mind telling ya, drool. Get down to Ray’s and wrap your laughing gear around these beans — and make sure you ask for the mouth-watering mushies on top or you’re a fool. Ya hear me?

Vegan options: I think there may have been a couple of easily veganised sweet options on the menu. But don’t waste your time with those. Grab yourselves some beans and ‘shrooms kids!
Coffee: The coffee at Ray is outstanding. Not surprising given it was the first café opened by Mark Dundon (Brother Baba Budan and Seven Seeds). The new owners maintain the café’s reputation for brewing sensational beans with their special roast, Tiger Ray by Atomica.
Soy: Bonsoy
Moola: Excellent value at $15 for breakfast and a coffee
Ear candy: I heard The Strokes and The Ramones and was a happy little brunch muncher

Where’s your favourite vegan brunch?

Captain Someone and I headed north to Sydney recently for a friend’s 30th. My hometown, St Clair, is at the foot of the glorious Blue Mountains so I took the Melbourne-born Captain up for a look around.

The Blue Mountains are spotted with art galleries, wellness centres, spa retreats, candle and incense distributors and tarot readers. My brother explained to the Captain in genuine bafflement, “it’s freezing up there but they all wear bright clothes, you know, *almost disgusted now* really bright clothes.” I think he was referring to the kind of rainbow clothing you find in a hemp shop.

Okay, I’m playing up to a stereotype here – it’s not all patchouli oil and folk music. There’s much more to the place than that. But that’s my favourite part.

Anyway, we came across a gorgeous little store called iKOU in the town of Leura and I was thrilled with the find. It’s the kind of store that puts you under an aromatic spell, music tinkling, you become convinced all your problems would be solved if you could just spend $500 filling your house with candles that smell like seasons and emotions.

iKOU is a japanese verb meaning to rest, relax and restore and their range will help you do this by burning scented candles or filling your home with beautiful organic linens. And here’s the best part: their products are not animal tested and almost 100% vegan (they use honey in their lip balms). Their candles are completely plant-based and sustainably sourced — no beeswax. Their makeup is 100% vegan and paraben-free. I thought I would try their natural mineral bronzer.

I’m really happy with it. It’s feels really light on and hasn’t given my super sensitive skin a reaction like most makeup does. I will be grabbing one of their foundations when I head home for Christmas.

iKOU is worth a look if you’re in the area. They also sell tea, perfumes, skincare and household cleaning products. It’s great to see a little Aussie business making a genuine attempt to be green.

Where it at? You can find iKOU on the main strip of Leura
What’s the damage? My bronzer was $39.95 — you can check out their 100% vegan makeup range on their website. Here’s the link.

What’s your favourite vegan makeup range?

You know those advertisements that sell flights or alcohol or perfume by painting a picture of the most perfectly exotic location where everything is just sexier, even sweat-soaked people? The kind that draw you right in because you know that things as dull as loan repayments and finding gym motivation just wouldn’t exist in a place so exciting and exotic. You find yourself wishing for a teleportation device.

That is what eating Lebanese food does for me. And that is why it is one of my favourite cuisines. The food is fresh and flavoursome and very vegan-friendly.

Collingwood’s Bayte provides the brunch-hunters of Melbourne with Middle Eastern tastes to kickstart the day’s eatin’— bringing something different to the city’s café scene.

And it seems chef, Julie Touma doesn’t mind whipping up something delicious for us cruelty-free crew either. While there was nothing vegan-ready on the menu, our friendly waitress returned from the kitchen with the news that the chef was happy to put something together for me.

Every mouthful of my breakfast was a wee trip to Lebanon and was followed with exclamations like,”oh my god, so smokey,” “oh my god, so tangy,” “pomegranate is definitely underrated,” and, “no you cannot have a second try of that one” (this was directed at Captain Someone).

The freshly baked flatbread was warm and soft and the babaganoush rich and smokey. These were paired with pumpkin kibbeh (a warm slice made with pumpkin, pine nuts, burghal, onion and spices) and nestled next to a zingy Mograbieh salad (the giant chewy Lebanese version of cous cous, with pomegranate, red onion, pine nuts, dill and roasted zucchini). I loved it. For a breakfast spot with a difference you have to check out Bayte.

Vegan options: While there are no vegan-ready dishes on the menu, Julie was only too happy to whip something up. I recommend asking for exactly what I had.
Coffee: A very good kiwi drop, Allpress
Soy: Bonsoy
Moola: Very fair for this kind of fare, $18.50 for breaky and a coffee
Ear candy: I enjoyed the fact that they were playing the lovely Beirut in a Lebanese café

Where’s your favourite place to brunch in Collingwood?

Some of the best things in life come in a bowl: delicious, warming soup; hot and spicy noodles; creamy curries and lovely, velvety soy lattes (ok, soy lattes don’t come in bowls, but I believe with all my heart they should).

Today I had lunch with some sassy vegan bloggers — Hannah from Let Food Be Thy Medicineher skilled vegan-baking sister, Sarah and Vegie Head‘s Adele — and experienced a Munsterhaus bowl for the first time. My taste buds are still thanking me for the rainbow of fresh, healthy and delicious vegetable dishes and salads that were (for a very short time) piled high in my bowl.

Fitzroy’s Munsterhaus is an all-vegetarian, vegan-friendly, Deco-inspired café on St Georges Road.  The concept is simple: you choose a bowl size, whichever combination of vegie delights you’d like crammed in that bowl (and they ain’t skimpy), and whichever delicious dip you’d like to crown the whole lot with.

A small bowl is definitely enough for a meal, a medium bowl is for the hungry and the large bowls are for lumberjacks and girls that are going through a breakup.

I said, “I’ll have some of everything that’s vegan please.” Except it sounded more like, “I’ll have some of everything thas veg pleh,” because I had already started drooling down my top.

I won’t try to break down the different elements of my lunch (there were about ten) but I will tell you magic happened in that bowl of mine. Standouts were the quinoa salad, the tangy glass noodles and the creamy tofu dip. For a big ol’ bowl of seasonal and flavoursome food you can’t beat Munsterhaus — with good value and friendly service to boot.

Vegan options: Plenty! I think all but four of the buffet-style dishes were vegan
$10 for a small bowl, $14 for a medium and $18 for a large
Ear candy: 
The conversation was so stimulating I didn’t notice the tunes this time.

What’s your favourite way to fill a bowl?