An introduction to “Pizza goals” #1

I’m sure you all feel the same way as me. When you are vegan, have a dairy allergy, wheat/gluten intolerant etc etc you hear from all your mates about the wonder of this delicious looking and smelling thing called Pizza. The thing you are not allowed to ingest for many reasons. And has got to be one of the worst things you crave when you have eating issues right? It certainly did for me when I found out I was allergic to dairy when I was 12. When you have something then it’s taken away from you. I would never have dairy now anyway, but that time, school dinners of Pizza and Chips looked so appealing.

So for many years after, I had to accept that I would never have Pizza again. And being Pizza free had become a way of life. I had never given this much thought until I went to New York for the first time, which was my goal after being Cancer free back in the summer of 2010.

In my research of places to eat, which is standard for anyone with dietary requirements, I found Vinnie’s Pizza in Brooklyn which did VEGAN PIZZA! This was my first time tasting such a thing and this is where my obsession and desire for Pizza began again after being deprived of it for so many years. I swear after that night I thought about the massive Pizza I shared with my friend there, every day! This Pizza was so huge, we couldn’t’ finish it between the two of us so took back to the apartment for breakfast the next day!

Vinnie's

On my return from New York, and still thinking about Pizza, I was determined to find somewhere in England where I could taste something like I had that night in Brooklyn. And the on the 2nd September 2010 (I don’t know how I remember these things. But when food is involved you know….) I travelled up to Leeds to the Grove Café with one my best friends to try the Soya Delight, which was an absolute massive delight with some Garlic Supreme bread. It is well worth a visit if you are in Yorkshire, as not only to they do curries but a huge of range other Vegan Pizzas from the Soya Delight to the Ammazoni to the Foragers Favourite. The main draw, being vegan was certainly the Pizzas as they included Vegan Cheese so you don’t have to request a sub standard  “Pizza without cheese” when you go to other outlets. I visited here about 3-4 times per year back then as the food was so delicious and the owners so hilarious.

Grove Cafe Garlic Bread Supreme and Soya Delight

When I was getting my head around that, BOOM Wheat Intolerance struck so had to step up the search further. And that’s where PIZZA GOALS has begun. Of course I have all the usual life goals like nice house, car, job yadayadayda… but now added to that list is to find THE BEST VEGAN AND WHEAT FREE IN THE WORLD! It’s going to happen. Right here on this blog!

Let’s get this party started with the first one..

Stingray Café

135 Fortress Road 

Tufnell Park

London

http://www.stingraycafe.co.uk/

Stingray

You want Gluten free Italian and Mediterranean in London? You got it all right here! They have a passion for this sort of thing and it’s evident all over the website and menu. Pizza, Pasta and even desserts! That Vegan Mango sorbet will be mine one day! I didn’t know that a traditional Pizza is 14 inches so when my Pizza arrived, I had a MASSIVE SHOCK. Vegetariana was crunchy, dense and fillings with my taste buds experiencing crazy things. Even with an added £2 for a gluten free base, I felt the total cost was a very reasonable price for a Pizza of this size. I really loved the friendly and relaxed nature of the staff at Stingray who were very accommodating to me. As it was cheeseless, they very kindly swapped the 2 cheeses for different toppings for no extra cost; Spinach and Mushrooms  It was great to have soya milk for my brew even! Make sure you pick up a loyalty card when you visit and check out the vast number of special offers Stingray run during the week.

York…

York is a place I have been to many times in my youth. But a place I have visited under the cover of darkness to go to shows or club nights at York Fibbers. So I was very excited to spend a couple days up in York as I was then for my some of my best friends wedding.

Whenever I go to a “new place” it’s standard that I will ask around for things to do. Obviously it’s very naïve to rock up into a city, having problems with eating and not researching where you will eat and drink coffee. That is just silly. But I was also told that York is a small city and ideal for just wondering around and exploring. This was out my comfort zone somewhat as I like to plan what galleries and sights I am going to see. So after going defeating the story in my mind of “I’m going to get lost and miss the wedding!” I found York pretty easy to navigate when plenty to see and do all around you.

It helped that the 4 places I planned to eat and drink at were all spread out and some tucked away so it was a nice challenge to find them all.

After checking in at my hotel I took a nice stroll into town and my destination for lunch was El Piano. El Piano is place which is so intriguing. You really have to experience it to be believed. For people like us, it’s perfect. It’s fully Vegan, gluten free, nut free, palm oil free and has it’s roots in Spanish cooking, but influenced by dishes from all around the world. They are proud to source ingredients within 30 miles and give you a percentage of how much the dish is! Talk about attention to detail  I had no idea how they could make it all work but they really do.  On paper it sounds a bit bonkers but it is like no other.El Piano front

When you enter the restaurant, it was quite overwhelming for me. You are met with the open kitchen, tonnes of certificates El Piano has received proudly displayed,  the louds sounds of the hustle and bustle of the people inside with the incredible waft of food. It was a Saturday lunchtime and the downstairs was heaving but luckily for me, I was taken upstairs into a smaller room with you guessed it, there was a massive brown grand piano inside! Along with Guitars hanging up on the wall really creates a welcoming atmosphere. It had a chilled vibe up here over looking the street below.

 

The menu is jam packed full of information and it’s clear they take allergen sufferers very very seriously in El Piano. Dishes containing Soya, Coconut, Sesame and Mustard are highlighted too as they come from the allergens list. And to take it further, it clearly states that other dishes can be amended to for other allergens too! I don’t think I have been to a place where such consideration to our needs it taken.

To drink, I had a Hot Granada Chai, which they have kits on sale that you can take home and prepare. It contained all the components that I would need for the day ahead. Spices, Chilli and sweetness  energised me after the drive from Birmingham and set me up nicely for the meal ahead.

And what a meal it was! How the mains work is that it’s 9.95 and consists of a principal dish, fritter and cold salad. So when you order, you have this responsibility to chose the right 3 things to work together. Which is fine by me!

I chose Thai style Tofu, Sweet Potato Croquetas and blanched greens. As you can see, I did a pretty good job of combining the three. The salsa to dip the Croquetas in was a nice touch and added some more flavour to them. A note of warning though. I really wasn’t expecting the dollop of hot sauce in the middle of the dish. I dived straight in, much to my burning regret!

With all the endless combinations on the menu, you would keep coming back to try everything else on the menu. But even if that isn’t enough for you they have a cooking school and sell cook books teaching you how to make things from the menu!

My next stop was Bishopthorpe Road, or “Bishy Road”  as it is affectionately know by the locals, on the way back to my hotel for a brew and cake. Bishy Road is a haven for independent businesses, where I spend most my time through out the week. They even have their own website. Pubs, cafes, restaurants, home stores, they have got it all.

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I visited the stylish Stanley and Ramona on Bishy Road and discovered it was their first birthday that day which was proudly celebrated with balloons and the promise my free birthday cake. The shop is more of a takeaway place I feel, as it only held a handful of seats inside and out and not really designed to work for hours on end. But despite this, the coffee was ace and had a latte with Origin Brazilian Fazenda.

IMG_3450

But the absolute star of the show was the cake cabinet. Listen to this ALL gluten free and a few dairy AND gluten free. My massive gripe in the free from community is finding cake that is both dairy and gluten free, so was astounded to see some wonderful treats on sale in an independent coffee shop such as Stanley and Ramona. This selection was great to see and I wasn’t complaining at all.

On the Sunday morning after the wedding, I dragged my very hung-over friend across York to a coffee joint, the well established Spring Espresso which was very busy despite everything on Fossgate being closed at this time, so we had a good feeling about the place. She had what seems like the worlds biggest mug of Tea while I had a soy latte from the guest roaster.

Spring Espresso Spring Espresso

The York City Walls and seeing York Minster was next on my plan for the day in the pouring rain. I found the City Walls a great way to walk around the city with out getting lost, and viewing landmarks from different heights and viewpoints. I sure there is a ton of history surrounding the Walls, but my History A level only taught me so much!

My final stop was for lunch and the quite excellent Goji Café which I had high expectations for. Even after viewing the website, you find a wealth of colourful photographs documenting a history of dishes they have created for the customer, along with a wide range of special events. Goji are very proud and passionate about their food which really came across in the meal I had.

Goji

While waiting for the waiter to seat you, downstairs has a massive deli counter, with a huge selection of dishes. Not just your standard sandwiches and salads. Roast vegetable with smoked tofu and tomato anyone? Yum!

I was taken to my seat on the second floor and a door opened to a cosy room full of diners which presented a homely and comfortable atmosphere to me. .

The food menu was very vast and much like El Piano, it was clear that they have created satisfying meals with all needs in mind. Which is why it took me some time to decide what to drink, let alone eat!

Staff were very polite and attentive when I told them about my dietary needs, and I ordered a large pot of the house Goji caffeine free Tea which was floral and comforting to warm me up after a cold time walking around York.

Goji

For my main, I ordered the Sweet Potato and Quinoa on a bed of Polenta. In between the polenta and the burger, leaves were places quite carefully which gave the dish a nice texture. It was welcome as the burger (to me anyway! And have to note I don’t do spice very well these days!) had a sharp spice to it, with the place having a light dusting on Paprika, The meal was so filling!

So that was York! A place which I was a bit worried about visiting and eating, but found these creative places in amongst the wild time we had at the wedding and night out!