Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Rolling Into Santa Cruz

Before Nick and I had even started planning our trip to the Bay Area I knew that some side trips were gonna be happening. I'd wanted to visit Yosemite for as long as I could remember, Nick had been obsessed with Vegas for years and I wanted to see sandy beaches and drive down the Pacific Coast Highway. With this in mind Santa Cruz seemed like the perfect destination. We stumbled upon this beach on our drive, I loved running barefoot through the sand.


As soon as we arrived we dropped our things off at the guesthouse we'd booked and headed out for a walk. We stumbled across Buttercup Cakes and almost as soon as I saw the sign saying they had vegan cupcakes I was inside buying a Double Chocolate Cider cupcake.



I ate it wandering the streets and it was the perfect post drive pick me up.

After walking for a while we spotted Saturn Cafe and couldn't resist popping in for a drink and a little sit down outa the sun. I had a root beer (of course!) and Nick had a vanilla shake.


Soon after this we found Amey and the next two days where a whirlwind of fun...so much fun in fact that I hardly took my camera out of my pocket! We had dinner at Cafe Gratitude, I took one of her yoga classes, we walked her pups Snoopy, Stevie and Dotty in the woods together, ate yummy lunches all over town, played with the kitties at her house and ate pizzas and drank beers (of the root variety!) at Engfer Pizza Works. We also went on a super cool kayaking adventure and saw a whale. A freaking whale!! I never expected to see a whale! It popped it's head right out of the water 10 feet from our kayaks. It was so amazing! We also saw harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions and pelicans. I'll remember that day forever.

I'm in the blue kayak and Nick's in the red one.

On our final morning (or so we thought!) we had a super fun farewell breakfast at The Bagelry in Santa Cruz. We bought bagels and Amey picked up some muffins on her way and brought a huge bowl of the most delicious watermelon I've ever tasted.

This may be one of the worst pictures I've ever posted here!

After breakfast we took silly pictures outside and then Nick & I headed back to San Francisco for a night before hopping on a plane and heading to Las Vegas! You can read about that part of our trip here, here and here.


After Las Vegas we spent some more time in San Francisco (blog post coming soon!) and then we made our way to Yosemite, if you read my last post you'll know that that didn't go so well but the upside to the stupid government shut down was that we got to go back to Santa Cruz! Yay! We immediately went to Saturn Cafe to get a burger. I know that a lot of people aren't fans of Saturn Cafe's liberal use of Gardein products but I'm all for it. This stuff's delicious and I would definitely order this Vegan BBQ Ranch Chicken Burger again


Saturn also had pie on the menu and I can never resist pie. I'd never tried peach pie before but it was just as delicious as I'd imagined. 


Peaches are super expensive here so I'll probably have to wait until I'm back in the US before I can experience this deliciousness again!

As well as getting to see Amey again (mega yay!) we spent time hanging out reading on the beach...


...went kayaking again, daydreamed about renting a beachfront cottage in Capitola for a whole summer, and ate ice creams from The Penny Ice Creamery.


After actually saying goodbye to Amey and Santa Cruz we drove back to San Francisco via San Jose to get our Veggie Grill fix. I'm a bit in love with Veggie Grill, I first tried it last May in Seattle and then again in Portland and it's one of the many places I would love to see open up over here. I tried one of their newest menu items, the Savoury Kale Caesar. I added the grilled chicken to make this salad feel like more of a real meal to me...can you tell that I'm not a natural salad girl? I can get down with lettuce if it's covered in a tonne of other delicious things like croutons, avocado, tempeh, veggie chicken and a delicious creamy dressing but otherwise keep it the hell away from me!


Obviously you can't just have salad though, no matter how much you pump it up its still salad! So I had a side of the chill out wings. I switched the chipotle ranch they're usually paired with with VG's creamy ranch dressing because that's how I roll.


I looove these, super crispy fried coating and the creamy dressing is the perfect accompaniment. I think these are another Gardein thang. I think I might be a little in love with Gardein products... Gardein if you're reading this please come to the UK soon!

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Yosemite

If you've been paying any attention to this blog, my Twitter feed or my Instagram account you'll know that I'm pretty focused on seeing as much of the world as I can. My life appears to be a constant cycle of travel, home, travel, home... which is, for now, exactly how Nick & I are juggling our wanderlust with our lives in Brighton. Life hasn't always been like this though, as a teenager I wanted nothing more than to take a gap year but after getting thrown out of home at 17 I spent the time when my closest friends were backpacking around South America and teaching in Uganda working a series of shitty, underpaid jobs to pay rent. That and getting drunk all the time. Fun, right? Nope.

Top of my gap-year-dream-trip list was California and heading up my California list, alongside the pacific coast highway, sandy beaches and Hollywood was Yosemite. Finally late last year I made it to Yosemite...right at the beginning of the government shut down. How's that for good luck? 

Nick and I literally arrived at the lodge we were staying in two freaking hours before the shutdown was announced. Yeah, I totally cried. But we were pretty damn determined to make the most of our time and went to sleep assuming that as we had 48 hours to vacate the park we'd still be able to rent bicycles, hike trails and do all of the outdoorsy stuff we'd planned just in a much shorter time frame. 

That's not actually how a shut down works though... almost everything had shut up shop by the time we woke up bright and early the next day. We jumped into the car and headed for one of the trails I was most excited about, Tenaya Lake. Despite being a city dweller I'm happiest when I'm surrounded by nature. Trees, check. Mountains, check. Lake, check. This was a perfect morning



We were super lucky to sneak in there before the car park was roped off, we saw one, maybe two other people the whole time we were there and when we got back to our car rangers were already moving people on. We tried our luck at a couple more trails, going as far as to try to hide so that we could sneak onto one once the ranger had left, with no luck - turns out we're a little conspicuous! The rest of our drive around Yosemite was met with more and more of this. Yellow tape everywhere.


Before our trip we did a little research into vegan eats in Yosemite and were satisfied that we didn't need to stuff our backpacks full of food but we were surprised at the sheer amount of vegan options at every store we went to. The Village Store had the most options and we spotted hummus,


Toffuti cream cheese and sour cream,



Earth balance,


Tofurky slices,


Clif bars,


Newman O's,


Mc Dougall's noodle soups,


Amy's non-dairy burritos,


Ready meals,



and even ice cream sandwiches!


Everything was pretty pricy but Yosemite might just be more vegan friendly than a lot of UK towns!


I feel like I have some unfinished business where Yosemite's concerned and I'll most definitely be heading back to California to try again. One day I'd love to plan a trip to Yosemite, Big Sur & Sequoia in a little RV. Something awesome came out of the government ruining my Yosemite fun though, I got to head back to Santa Cruz to spend more time with my friend Amey which was so, so fun! More on that next time peeps!

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Operation Icing Valentine's Cupcake Boxes.

This year my bakery Operation Icing is doing a Valentine's Day cupcake box and I'm pretty excited about it!

These limited edition cupcake boxes are perfect for anyone you want to show some love to this Valentine's Day - your sweetie, your workmates, your family, even yourself! My minimum order is usually 6 cupcakes of one flavour but with the Valentine's box you get to try three flavours and one of them is my famous mini doughnut cupcake!! Hell, even if you hate the schmaltz of v-day this is a rad opportunity to donate money to charity. Yup, that's right, my business is not-for-profit so every penny made from these cupcakes will be donated to our charity of the month the East Sussex Wildlife Rescue and Ambulance Service who provide a front line rescue service for wildlife casualties. ESWRAS, based in Whitesmith, East Sussex deal with calls from both the public and other animal welfare organisations and are staffed entirely by volunteers.

The Valentine's boxes contain:

Two Sweetie cupcakes decorated with heart / love themed sweeties.
Two Double Chocolate Dream cupcakes.
Two Mini Doughnut cupcakes.


The boxes are available for collection in the North Laine area between 5pm and 7pm Thursday Feb 13th and 8am and 10am Friday Feb 14th. You can order via e-mail to jojo(dot)huxster(at)me(dot)com or via the "contact me" button on the Operation Icing website stating your preferred collection time.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

A Winter Adventure in New York City - Part 2

Last week I posted part one of my wintery NYC adventure, there was epic pizza so you should totally read it if you haven't already!

We were lucky enough to meet up with our friend Randi whilst we were in the city and we had the best day. Firstly she took Nick and I for our first ever knishes at NYC institution Yonah Schimmel.


Both myself and Randi chose spinach knishes and Nick went with plain. I honestly had no idea what a knish was until recently so just incase you're not sure either it's a type of dumpling wrapped in dough and then baked or fried. These were the potato filled and baked kind and I certainly enjoyed my first knish experience.


Secondly Nick & I got to see our first ever Broadway show thanks to Randi's epic cheap ticket obtaining skills! We all love musicals so A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder was a cute, fun first Broadway experience.


Lastly because we were freaking starving and all love sushi we headed to Chelsea Market to check out all vegan sushi joint The Green Roll by Beyond Sushi. The wait was a little long for a hungry person like me but it was all worth it in the end because this sushi was off the hook. Beyond Sushi stray pretty far from the traditional white rice / nori setup which is really fun and totally sets this place apart from any other sushi place I've tried, look, the sauces to top your sushi with even come in little squeezey tubes. Adorbz!


I actually squeaked (and immediately messaged Randi) when I saw that January's roll of the month involved grilled aubergine (okay, they called it eggplant) and Kalamata olives - two of my favourite veggies...wait, is an olive a veggie? Nope, Google says it's totally a fruit. Anyway, the roll of the month (above left) features black rice, grilled aubergine and English cucumber and is topped with curly parsley, tahini and kalamata olive sauce. I also ordered the Crunch 'n Munch which, again, has black rice and is filled with English cucumber, alfalfa sprouts and baked tofu and is topped with kiwi and a white miso mayonnaise. I grabbed a couple of their pieces too, one seaweed and one piece of the month which comes filled with black rice and aubergine caviar. I loved my choices so much that I ordered them all again on my next visit plus a Mighty Mushroom which I found too overpoweringly mushroomy with it's accompanying shiitake teriyaki sauce but adored once I topped it with the miso mayo that came with the Crunch 'n Munch roll. Just writing about this place is making me tempted to pop out for a combo of Namul's (Korean black rice bowls) and Moshimo (sushi) so that I can fuse the two together.

We also went to a little bakery in Chelsea Market after our sushi fest' to try some of Randi's favourite fennel and sultana bread but I can't remember the name of it and apparently I was too busy stuffing bread into my face to snap a picture.

The next morning we went to a super fun PPK meet-up at Champs Family Bakery in Brooklyn. I'd been dying to visit Champs since some pals of ours from Brighton went to NYC and Instagrammed a whole load of amazing pictures of their breakfasts. Champs has one of the most epic breakfast menus I've ever seen, it's on par with the one from Wayward Cafe in Seattle which made it super hard to choose. Nick suggested the Pancake Slam, hold the salad add a side of home fries and half of our table went for that. Winners.


It looked damn good and made me really glad that I ordered a pancake on the side of my Croque Monsieur.



Holy crap you guys, I don't think I can even explain how amazing this combo was. Seriously it's the best breakfast I've ever had. Their pancakes are perfect and that's a freaking fried cheese and ham sandwich on french toast! What more can I say!

I made everyone take a group photo outside in the cold because I never remember to take pictures of all of the amazing people I meet when I travel - my 2014 resolution, more pictures of people. Watch out!

L - R (This'll make sense to PPKers!) Me, joyfulgirl, blondiefk, RandiJM & xstartxtodayx.

After brunch we took a quick trip to Dunwell Doughnuts because we were in the area and who can resist doughnuts?


The 49ers were playing that day so we took our doughnuts to vegan bar Pine Box Rock Shop to watch them beat the Panthers - no discussion of what happened at the next game, thank you! Everyone at Pine Box is super friendly and I loved not having to google to work out which drinks are vegan because they all are.


A perfect post beer Peach Cola doughnut, this is my favourite out of all of the doughnuts I've tried from Dunwell.


We also ate plenty of crisps (chips!), which I totally needed to soak up the three afternoon beers, and we only held off on Empanadas because by the time they smelt ready we were minutes away from leaving to head to Foodswings.


I was so sad when I heard that Foodswings were closing down, I loved eating there last time I was in NYC so of course I ordered the same thing I had then - the Drumstick Combo Plate with mac & cheese as my side.


YUM! As you can see I very much enjoyed using the drumsticks to spoon the mac into my mouth!


I really, really hope that Foodswings manages to open it's doors elsewhere by the time I get to visit NYC again. My fingers and toes are firmly crossed!

Because we were staying in Union Square Whole Foods was a super convenient place to grab some breakfast on our last full day before heading out to explore the city. We grabbed a few things from the bakery section...


...and a green juice from the bar upstairs and found a spot by the window with a cool view.


Honestly, aside from the potato roll, these baked goods were pretty blah. On the dry side, not overly flavoursome, and given some of the amazing muffins and scones (not to mention doughnuts) we ate at Whole Foods stores all over the West coast it made me wonder what the hell went wrong here. After breakfast we walked across the Brooklyn bridge, a nice dude took our photo after he saw us trying to take a ridiculous selfie, and then we explored Chinatown and the LES.



We met Marlowe the kitty at Moo Shoes

We used the Happy Cow app to find somewhere we were close to when we got hungry and picked Pan-Asian veggie spot Wild Ginger because I loved the sound of their set lunches. Their are 16 set lunch options which all come with miso soup, a spring roll and a slice of pumpkin. I went with the Sweet Soy Protein with Kale which I think was a total bargain for $8.50. It was super filling meal and I actually struggled to finish it - there's a lot of soy protein on that plate!



Nick ordered a starter and main from the regular menu and whilst he enjoyed it he thought that the set menu seemed like way better value for money.

After lunch we popped to Babycakes to get dessert for later. I wasn't the hugest fan the first time I visited back in '09 but I wanted to give them another try, the store is super adorable and I always want to support vegan businesses. We decided to grab doughnuts because it was the icing on the cupcakes that I didn't love last time. I grabbed a salt caramel and Nick went for sprinkled, he ate his before I could take a picture!


I really enjoyed my doughnut, the texture was spot on and I'm totally on Team Baked when it comes to doughnuts (I know, totally out of character!) but it didn't taste of salt caramel at all, it tasted like lemon! I asked Nick how his was and he said "It was good but kinda weird because it tasted like lemon"! Why do all of their doughnuts taste like lemon?! I mean, it was delicious, I'd buy one again because I love lemon flavoured baked goods but they probably need to start holding off on the amount of lemon juice they're adding to their doughnut batter if they don't want it to overpower the other flavours.

After dinner on our last night (Beyond Sushi again!) we went to check out Times Square, I love the ridiculous bright lights, neon and hoards of tourists taking pictures. Obviously we had to join in with that. It was a cool place to get a little taste of what Shinjuku at night will be like. I can't believe we're actually going to be in Japan in just over two months. It's been on my dream travel list for so long that I can hardly believe it's going to become a reality.


Our flight was later than I thought on our last day so we actually managed to fit in a decent amount of eating before heading to the airport. We brunched at Champs again, after how awesome out first meal there was how could we not pay them a second visit?

I picked a sandwich again, this time the Croque Madame and I got a pancake on the side again. Nick ordered the French Toast slam with a side of home fries, hold the salad again because really who wants salad at breakfast time? We also got a side of Sunshine Toast because we're sensible and restrained when it comes to food.


The Croque Madame was a helluva lot bigger than the Croque Monsieur but I managed to polish off the whole thing and a syrup drenched pancake because I'm a winner. I ate quite a bit of the Sunshine Toast too but I was hoping it would be filled with some kinda vegan fried egg rather than tofu scramble so I left most of it to Nick - I love scramble but theirs was a little peppery for me. 

Last but by no means least we squeezed in a slightly hurried meal at Peacefood Cafe because we realised we were about to be hella early to the airport and I'm trying to be a little more relaxed about that kinda thing! Every single person who told me I had to eat a Peacefood also told me that I had to try the cheesecake. Sadly, I hate cheesecake. I've tried but ugh, cheese in cake? Just no. So I took a picture for alla the cheesecake lovers out there, it certainly looked great.


We shared the Baked Soy Nuggets and a portion of Pan-Seared Shanghai Dumplings because we didn't want to spoil our appetites before the in flight meal, haha, kidding, we had bagels and cookies for the plane!


These tasty nuggets came with a super delicious herbed mayo dipping sauce which we loved. We also really enjoyed the part steamed part fried dumplings, a mix of both of our favourite dumpling cooking methods.

I loved that they had a huge dessert case right upfront so that you could see what you were ordering and I grabbed a slice of Key Lime Pie...


...whilst Nick stuck with tradition and ordered a slice of Chocolate Ganache Cake.


We were both a little underwhelmed by our choices, my feelings came mainly from the fact that however hard I try I'll never love a raw pie as much as I'd love a cooked one. I ate the majority of the tangy lime filling and left most of the raw crust. Nick thought his cake was okay but not amazing, he's become super fussy about cake in recent months and I worry that I'm spoiling him with my ridiculous cupcake creations!! Peacefood was definitely a good last minute discovery, we noticed a really great looking specials menu on the window on the way out and I can't wait to go back and try their cheeseburger.

NYC as always was a total whirlwind and I loved it, I hope I don't have to wait too long before I can return.