I’m not a vegan.
Hang ups about people choosing to eat a plant based diet, a pescatarian, vegetarian or paleo caveman diet can be left at the door. You do you.
One thing I do believe in wholeheartedly is in trying new things and never, ever knocking something till you’ve given it a go. Especially if you’re the kind of person who doesn’t feel satiated until they’ve had meat with a meal. This one’s for you.
Last weekend, I found myself at not one, but two vegan Melbourne Food and Wine Festival events.
If you love meat, bear with me, I guarantee the following will encourage even the most blood thirsty carnivore to give some mock meat magic and dairy free delights a red hot go.
Melbourne Moonshine and a back alley BBQ
Secreted away in a back alley of South Melbourne, Melbourne Moonshine churns out some remarkably tasty barrels of, well… hooch. Moonshine, a mysterious and somewhat misunderstood liquid. I’ve crossed paths with it a few times on my jaunts with The Whisky Social, and I haven’t met a shine they’ve brewed I haven’t made friends with yet.
As guests entered via the mysterious wooden doors of Melbourne Moonshine, they were greeted with a tasty bloody mary and Tarantino movie-esque beats. Herded past large stills and walls of barrels into a brick-walled back alley, the smell of smokey BBQ meat and the inviting view of hot sauces and large grills covered in food greeted us. A more Melbourne scene I can’t imagine.
What’s in the picture below?
I guarantee that if I fed you a taco with the above ‘brisket’ in it and didn’t tell you it was a wheat and soy based protein you’d never notice. The wizards at Smith and Daughters have been concocting plant based meats for years now. They’ve turned it into an art-form and we were lucky enough that they were the brains behind the food of the evening.
Having tried their famous palm heart prawns, bloody beetroot burger and non-blood pudding in the past, I was expecting good things, but the above brisket in collaboration with BBQ and slow cooked meat masters, Fancy Hanks, really was something special.
It had everything a slow cooked bbq meat needed. A smoky flavour, juicy texture, the right amount of springy-ness vs falling apart in your mouth. Smothered in pickled cabbage and salsa it was utterly mouth watering. It also smelled like meat, which I’m fairly certain is a mixture of clever chemistry and voodoo magic?
For the love of bacon
“I could go vegan, but I just can’t give up bacon”
It’s almost like a mantra that meat eaters (myself included) seem to repeat ad infinitum, echoed around the globe regarding the struggle of eating a plant based diet.
Replace “bacon” with “cheese” and you’ve covered 80%* of the reasons not to give up animal products.
This (terribly photographed) Jalapeno, covered in cheese and wrapped in the saltiest and crispiest bacon (all mock), tasted EXACTLY like delicious dairy and sweet cured pig product? Crunchy, salty and extremely more-ish.
It’s astonishing really. I thought they were taking the piss serving only one jalapeno per person. With 250 people tucked into an alleyway, I realised quick smart I couldn’t request (or steal) a plate of bacon wrapped bites. So I shed a silent tear and moved on.
Discussing the pro’s and cons of dairy-free cheese brings me to the second event of the weekend, held at one of my fave haunts The B.East. Whilst not known as exclusively for their vegan fare as S&D, their meat free Monday’s are pretty popular amongst the vegan locals, and it’s certainly a place where meat and plant lovers collide in wonderful (pub band) harmony.
Their “Vegan Down South” menu boasted quite a few cheese products. One being a steadfast reason I hear people say they can’t go vegan.
The good old mac’n’cheese.
The mac and cheese was stuffed with jalapenos and fried in a croquette, which therefore means crunchy, cheesy, spicy heaven. If you thought it was dairy, you wouldn’t flinch. You’d shudder in pleasure at the oozy goodness and be sad when you finished it in two bites. Extremely sad.
Fuck off that’s not chicken?!?
That was the number one catchphrase of the day. The B.East do a mean mock chicken. Just take a look at the cross section…
If that’s not chicken breast (well it’s not) then what is? I don’t know the process making non-chicken fillets, and I’d love for someone to fill me in. That fake meat is so darn real it’s freaky.
With a faint fatty residue, the meat is tender and juicy with a realistic resistance then yield to chewing, just life a real piece of chicken breast. Crumbed in southern style herbs and spices and it makes KFC look like bin juice wrapped in styrofoam. Oh no, that’s just KFC 😉
As a bonafide meat eater who enjoys biting into a juicy steak and doesn’t get squeamish at the strangest of bites, I’m encouraging you to try a vegan meat fix.
Check out the full menu’s, pics of the food and incredible vibes of both events in this cheeky little video wrap:
Fake bacon, non dairy cheese, mock chorizo, vegetarian gravy and cheat cold cuts can be just as good as the real thing. There are a number of documentaries that encourage and educate us on the benefits of a plant based diet (What the health comes to mind).
Even if you don’t relate to the proposed health benefits, denying the environmental challenges that livestock farming raises is difficult. So, if you do choose to lower meat consumption or take up “meat free Mondays”, you don’t actually have to give up eating “meat”… even if it’s made of plants.
BONUS: I have it on good authority from Fancy Hanks they will be bottling their “whisky barrel hot sauce” for sale. I’ve never tasted hot sauce like it, and I guarantee when you get your hands on the second batch (I’m buying all of the first one) you’ll it on everything. Including your ice cream and coffee. It’s better than sex.
*Statistics completely and utterly pulled out of my arse.