Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Minor Place IV

October 19, 2014

On Sunday morning we wanted to head up towards Albion Street to scope out a rumoured new veg eatery that a friend had spotted (Little River, coming soon) and figured we'd start things off with brekkie at A Minor Place, an old favourite. The menu at A Minor Place has been pretty stable over the years, with most of our more recent visits going unblogged as we ordered old favourites like Henry's white beans and the New York bagel. We were pretty surprised to turn up and see that they've made sweeping menu changes in our absence (although don't be alarmed, the two dishes mentioned above remain available).

There are a few promising new dishes to add to these classics - a white bean ragout with poached eggs and goats cheese (with a vegan option, $16), a harissa scrambled eggs ($15.50) and a super salad with quinoa, kale, wild rice, corn and jalapenos among other ingredients ($16) all caught my eye. Things are well labelled - V for vegan and VO for vegan option, with everything else pretty self-explanatory.

Cindy was thrilled that they'd finally changed up the sweet options, promptly ordering the housemade pancakes with mixed berry compote, strawberry mascarpone, pistachio praline and berry maple syrup ($15.50).

Look at that mountain of decadence! Cindy loves a good berry-based sweet treat and she was very happy with this - the mascarpone was generously proportioned but not particularly strawberry flavoured and the pistachio praline was a mix of pistachio slivers and chunks of very sweet toffee.

I went for the vegan open chickpea sandwich, which is an almond-crusted chickpea patty with vegan mayo, caramelised onion, tomato, spinach, pickled carrots and tomato relish on wholegrain toast ($16.50).

First up, a minor complaint: why on earth do people insist on stacking meals such that two pieces of toast are on top of each other with basically nothing in between? Nobody wants to eat toast like that, you just wind up having to awkward tip things off the toast while trying not to embarrass yourself by smearing relish all down your front. Anyway. Structural frustrations aside, this was a damn fine start to the day - the patty was hefty and delicious (although not quite as crunchy on the outside as I was imagining from the phrase 'almond crusted'), the onions were soft and sweet, the relish had a nice sneaky spiciness to it and the whole package was a massive, messy food explosion. If you turn up at 10:30ish like we did, this will hold you until dinner (oh okay, we did have some sneaky pub chips at about 4:30).

A Minor Place is reliably impressive - the staff are friendly and efficient, the coffee's top notch, the food is always great and the atmosphere is a bit less stressful than a few years back when the Sunday queue would take up most of the block. If you haven't been for a while, now's a good time to go back and check out the new menu.

Since our last visit (way back in 2011!), A Minor Place has been reviewed positively by veg blogs The Good Hearted and Tempeh Tantrum and by more general bloggers Sharking for Chips and Drinks, dear melbourne, Gagwood Blog, EggsWithSides, things i see, eat and think, MelbourneChaiTimes and the spy machine.

A Minor Place
103 Albion Street, Brunswick
9384 3131
menus: food, drinks

Accessibility: You've got a few steps up to the front door and to the outdoor tables down the side, although there are a couple right on the street as well. Inside, things are fairly spacious around the counter, but get a bit crowded in the second room. The toilets are tucked away in the back courtyard and aren't really designed with accessibility in mind.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Cocoa granola

October 12-13, 2014

With tea and toast and boxed supermarket cereal, I worked myself back into a breakfast rut these last couple of months. I was just about ready to bake up a batch of my favourite granola recipe when Heidi posted this one on Apples Under My Bed

Now it's been years since I've read about chocolate granola on Orangette, and I've even sampled some out and about, but I was wary of extending my well-established chocolate habit to breakfast. But Heidi's recipe is different - it's got the deep roasted flavour of cocoa without the richness of cocoa butter, and offers the freedom to tinker with the sweetness as needed. I appreciated Heidi's recipe notes - it's tempting to over-bake this mixture, but it crisps up while cooling and doesn't need more than 25 minutes in the oven.

I think this granola is at its best with berries and coconut yoghurt, while Heidi recommends teaming it with banana and milk. I might have some other serving suggestions soon, as I've found myself baking two further double batches for friends (and for me too, sure) since the first trial I photographed above.

Cocoa granola
(slightly adapted from Apples Under My Bed)

3 tablespoons coconut oil
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
generous shake of salt
3 tablespoons cocoa
2 teaspoons ground coffee
3 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat an oven to 160°C. Line a large baking tray with paper.

Gently melt the coconut oil in a small saucepan and set it aside to cool a little.

In a medium-large bowl, stir together the rolled oats, almonds, sunflower seeds, salt, cocoa and coffee.

Whisk the maple syrup and vanilla into the coconut oil. Pour the oil mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine. Pour the granola onto the baking tray, spreading it out evenly. Bake the granola for 20-25 minutes, stirring it at the 10 minute mark. Be careful no to burn it.

Allow the granola to cool before storing it in an airtight container. Serve it with yoghurt and fruit.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Chickpea & artichoke salad

October 12, 2014

After a weekend of hotdogs, snack platters and mock-chorizo breakfast sandwiches, I was in a salad frame of mind on Sunday night. This one takes inspiration from a chickpea and artichoke salad posted on Vegan in Melbourne and the fried capers in Smith & Daughters' own artichoke and chickpea salad, to which I added big handfuls of green leaves and some leftover vegan parmesan.

This is a fine light dinner, with plenty of protein from the chickpeas and almonds. The artichoke hearts are fleshy and juicy, the garlic and vegan parmesan set a savoury tone, and the capers and lemon juice add a sour edge. It was quick to cobble together and a pleasure to gobble down, leaving us with plenty of time to cycle to Fitzroy for a Dan Kelly gig, thus squeezing every last moment from the weekend.

Chickpea & artichoke salad
(slightly adapted from a recipe on Vegan in Melbourne,
with added inspiration from Smith & Daughters)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
340g jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
2 tablespoons capers
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups mixed green leaves
juice of a small lemon
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 cup roasted almonds, roughly chopped
1/3 cup vegan parmesan (optional)

Place a large frypan over medium-high heat; pour in a tablespoon of the olive oil and add the chickpeas. Cook them for 5-10 minutes, stirring them only occasionally, until they start to colour up a little. Remove the chickpeas from the pan and set them aside.

Return the frypan to the heat. If the artichoke hearts are marinated in oil, pour a tablespoon of it into the pan; otherwise use more olive oil. Add the artichoke hearts and capers, and don't disturb them too much - it's good to get a few golden frying marks on them. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute, then turn off the heat.

In a large serving bowl, toss together the green leaves, chickpeas and artichoke mixture. squeeze over the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to your liking. Scatter over the roasted almonds and the vegan parmesan, if you're using it. Dig in.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

True North II

October 12, 2014

Because Cindy and I are home-owners these days, we occasionally find ourselves heading up to Coburg to visit Bunnings (real talk: we have been planning some sort of cat shelf system for Zimbra for more than a year and are finally making progress). A visit to Coburg is an excuse to branch out from our usual Brunswick haunts - to hit up Half Moon instead of Mankoushe, or Little Deer Tracks instead of A Minor Place. On this occasion, we opted for a return to True North, the vegan-friendly, diner-y Coburg cafe that wowed us earlier in the year.

Not much seems to have changed - the staff are still super friendly, the menu loaded up with vego and vegan dishes and the atmosphere buzzing without being so busy you feel rushed or crowded. Oh, the other thing that hasn't changed? They still sell out of the waffles pretty early, so Cindy's heart was once again broken (and not healed by the fact that they were also fresh out of pies, leaving her forced to forgo breakfast sweets). When she recovered, she ordered the vegan bagel - a 5 and dime bagel, filled with avocado, herb-infused oil, lemon and chilli ($9.50) plus an orange juice ($4).

The traditionally boiled bagel proved a trial for Cindy to cut with the cutlery she had, but once she figured out how to actually eat it, this was an impressive mix of perfectly ripe avo, a decent chilli hit and a good mix of herby flavours, all slathered in oil. The kind that's good for you though, I'm sure.

I nearly went back for a second round of baked eggs, but instead tackled the Hot Poppy (chorizo, haloumi, spinach and avocado on toasted ciabatta, served with corn chips, $13). 

I veganised the chorizo, but not the haloumi (they have an option apparently!) and found this a delightful sandwichy breakfast - their mock chorizo is nice and spicy, and combining it with haloumi and more perfect avocado is always going to be a winning move. Plus: corn chips for brekkie!

True North hit the mark for us again - great, affordable food, excellent coffee and friendly staff - it's a pretty safe formula for success. I just really hope that they can hit Cindy up with something sugary next time we go back - I'm not sure she can handle more disappointment.


Read about our first visit to True North here. Since we stopped by, Veganopoulous, Quinces and Kale and The Good Hearted have all enjoyed True North's vegan delights and Cate's Cates and A Place a Day have given the eggy vegetarian dishes the thumbs up.

True North
2A Munro Street, Coburg
9917 2262
menu: 1, 2 (they've just advertised a new menu on their facebook page, but the main change seems to just be a shift from the specials board to the main menu for the Hot Poppy).

Accessibility: There's a small step on entry and a pretty crowded interior (especially on the weekends when the stools at the bar are in use). You order at the table and pay at a medium height counter. The toilets are out the back via what looked like a carpark - we didn't visit, but they'd require negotiating a step or two at least.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


October 11, 2014

We were completely unaware of Vegilicious, and owe it to Berk and Clamps for leading us there in between the bands we were seeing on our day by the green. I've since learned that Vegilicious has been run as a vegetarian food stall and catering business for years and before recently opening an expansive restaurant and bar on Carlisle St.

Surrounded by timber furnishings, tropical plants, and warm lighting, I felt like I was stepping into north Queensland's coolest vegetarian hang-out; I hear the courtyard's lovely too, though it might not have the humidity to preserve my delusion.

The menu tends toward the homespun and hearty, free of mock meat but offering plenty of tofu for protein. Vegan and gluten-free items are well marked and capture most of the menu, from fritters and rice paper wraps to pastas, burgers and curries. I appreciated their extended list of non-alcoholic drinks, selecting a mineral water flavoured with home-made orange passionfruit syrup ($3).

The potato wedges ($8) are tender and bountiful, sprinkled with rosemary salt and served with a side of tofu mayo and sweet chilli sauce.

Otherwise we shared the Vegelicious Extravaganza Share Platter ($36), ordering the two-person vegan version for the four of us (...Clamps and Michael had little appetite). It's a fair sample of what the menu offers - cauliflower fritters in a cumin seed batter, thick okonomiyaki topped with pickled ginger and shredded nori, mild mixed vegetable skewers, rice paper rolls, lentil patties, dips and a sprawling salad. We liked some elements more than others but never had a chance to tire of anything.

Purely for completeness, we shared a dessert too. The vegan option of the night was a raw chocolate and cashew cake served with a scoop of So Good brand icecream ($10). While the icecream was utterly ordinary, the marbled mock cheesecake marks a pinnacle for raw desserts - beautifully constructed and devastatingly smooth, with a satisfying chocolate flavour and a little something else that could've fooled me for a shot of Baileys. I assume they're ordering these in, perhaps from Pana or A2G.

The menu at Vegilicious doesn't break any new ground but it's generous in its style; inclusive of special diets, with home-made touches and lavish portions. I reckon this restaurant's warm, relaxed atmosphere is even more appealing than its cashew cake.

118 Carlisle St, St Kilda
9537 3820
specials, starters, mains, drinks, alcohol

Accessibility: Most tables are quite densely packed but there's a clear corridor through the middle and a bit more space by the kitchen. Toilets are individual unisex cubicles and at least one of them is fully accessible. We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter.