Sunday, 5 January 2020

Three tried and tested places on Teesside to visit during Veganuary

At the start of a new year, everyone starts to eat a little greener, some even go full vegan for the month that is dubbed, Veganuary. Although I'm far from a Vegan, I've tried some delicious places on Teesside that specialise in fully plant-based cuisine. For anyone trying Veganuary this year, it might be wise to check these places out to try some yummy food and get some ideas to cook up yourself. Although no meat will be dished up at these places, your carnivore friends should definitely visit with you as they won't miss not having it on their plate with the culinary delights they'll be served at these three places.

First on the list is Alkaline Kitchen, a fully vegan health cafe located on Middlesbrough's up-and-coming Albert Street. Opened early last year, the cafe offers innovative food which is oil-free, preservative-free, gluten-free, soy-free and refined sugar-free. I've been on two occasions now and the food is always colourful, full of goodness and delicious. Offering a varied menu from lunch until teatime, everything about the food options is creative and exciting. There is so much goodness on the plate and it all works so well together. If you're looking to try something unlike anything you've had before, this is definitely the place to go.

Vegan tacos at Alkaline Kitchen, Middlesbrough
Vegan nachos at Alkaline Kitchen, Middlesbrough

Next up is The Waiting Room situated in Eaglescliffe right next to the station, not far from Preston Park. I've written about this place before as I've been a few times now and although I haven't been for a while, I'm eager to get back. The Waiting Room is promoted as a vegetarian restaurant, however, the staff here are happy to make most dishes vegan where possible, so vegans will have lots of choices when they visit.

Here you get some fantastic food that feels homemade and cosy. As it is all made with vegetables, everything you eat feels filling and good for you, although some dishes can be quite hearty. What I love about this place is that their menu changes depending on the season, although some dishes such as the enchilada stay year-round. Even from season to season they change up what they offer so often if you go back you probably won't recognise the menu.

Food at The Waiting Room, Eaglescliffe, Yarm

Now it's time for dessert with Ellephant Vegan Bakery, a fairly new business established in 2019. Elle and her partner Alex whip up some amazing vegan treats from cupcakes and cookies to pizza rolls and quiche. Now with a unit in Stockton, they sell their products at farmer's markets and events across the region and take orders to collect. Their cakes are literally to die for, so rich and moist. You won't be able to tell they are vegan. 

Christmas cupcakes from Ellephant Vegan Bakery, Teesside

There are plenty more vegan spots in the area and also places that cater heavily to people on a plant-based diet. With the popularity of this way of eating on the up, I can only see more places offering more delicious vegan grub. Do you have a favourite spot in Teesside for vegan/vegetarian food?
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Thursday, 5 December 2019

Trying alternative parmos at the Prickly Pear Bistro, Middlesbrough

Today I've got my first food review as This Northerner, and I'm pleased to say it's a good one.  Last night, I went for tea with my friend to a fairly new restaurant which is a based out of town in a local business centre. The Prickly Pear Bistro, located in the TAD Centre in Middlesbrough, has not been open very long and has already made my hit list of places to try. I've been following their Instagram closely over the past couple of weeks and I was excited when an opportunity to visit recently came up.

We went to the restaurant straight from work and it was relatively quiet until around 6.30pm. The space itself is beautifully decorated with lots of greenery, wooden beams and well-placed lighting.

As well as its normal menu, the Prickly Pear Bistro has a separate menu that displays its 35 different parmos which take inspiration from locations across the world. There's even a map on the back which shows you the place each parmo hails from. Among the countries which inspire the humble Teesside delicacy to step it up are the USA, China, Italy, Greece and Japan.

For any readers outside of Teesside, the parmo is a Middlesbrough staple which involves deep-frying a chicken breast covered in breadcrumbs, slathering it in bechamel sauce then covering it with cheese and sitting it under the grill to make it oozy and gooey. They are so delicious but so very bad for you.

After much deliberation, I decided to go for the Tropicana inspired by Hawaii, which is topped with ham and pineapple, whilst my friend chose the Mac Attack, taking inspiration from the UK, which was topped with macaroni cheese and bacon.

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Tropicana Parmo

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Menus

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Mac Attack Parmo

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Tropicana Parmo

The Prickly Pear Bistro Middlesbrough Bar

I try to be quite cautious when it comes to picking items from a menu as I've had some terrible meals when I was trying to be adventurous, so I was worried about my choice. I've never had any other parmo than just an original and I thought the extra toppings may have ruined it. How wrong I was.

When it arrived the portion size was massive and it was accompanied by chips and a decent-sized salad. Although a bit pricy for a regular-sized parmo at £13.50, you really did get value for money with the quality and quantity of food. On request, we were provided with garlic sauce, although it was a shame to learn this was an extra 50p. When I dug into my parmo, I was so pleased with my choice. The chicken was fresh and perfectly cooked and it was topped with thick ham, bechamel sauce, two pineapple rings and heapings of cheese.

I'm already a fan of pineapple on pizza, so pineapple on parmo seemed like the obvious next step. Oh my, it was so tasty. The combination all worked so well together. I don't know if I can go back to a normal parmo ever again. The parmo topped with macaroni cheese that my friend ordered was also delicious, so I'm told, although I didn't actually get a bite! It definitely looks like one I would order myself in the future.

Although a bit out of the way, I would recommend a visit to The Prickly Pear Bistro. Although the menu is heavy on the parmo-front, there are a few other options that should keep everyone happy. With so much choice, I'm already planning my next visit and whilst I do, I'm whittling down the parmo that I want to try next.
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Sunday, 24 November 2019

Crafternoon Tea at Daisy Doodle Paint a Pot Parlour, Northallerton

As you can tell, I've rebranded my blog. Gingerbread Smiles started in 2013 when I was 21 and a lot has changed since then, so I think it's time to have a more grown-up name. I'll definitely miss my old name, but we're starting fresh with This Northerner. I wanted to ensure my name had some relation to where I live, and this seemed to fit the bill. Now we've addressed that, on with today's post.

Daisy Doodle Paint a Pot Parlour is a quaint store/workshop located in the small market town of Northallerton, about half an hour from me. Here you can paint all sorts of different ceramic 'pots' however you'd like and the staff will get this fired up for you so you can keep your creation forever. The store is filled with lots of different options at different price points so there is something for everyone to get involved with.

As someone who loves a craft, we visited last month for Daisy Doodle's first 'crafternoon tea' which involved painting your 'pot' whilst enjoying a lovely afternoon tea. Two of my favourite things mashed together, how could an afternoon get any better? We enjoyed it so much that we went back for a second time.




When we arrived at around 2pm on a Sunday afternoon, it was very busy but luckily our table was secure, so we scoured the room for our next pot to paint whilst we eagerly awaited our afternoon tea. I decided on a pen pot to use on my desk at work, whilst Mum chose a milk jug to accompany the teapot and sugar bowl she painted last time. Unless you have a specific vision going into this kind of thing, it is a struggle to first pick what you are going to paint, and then how you are going to paint it. I had a little Google for inspiration and finally decided on the tried and tested galaxy effect.

We picked our colours and got to work painting our chosen pots whilst being supplied with copious cups of tea, and before long it was time to tuck into our afternoon tea. We had a selection of mini sandwiches including Coronation chicken, ham and chutney, and cheese and chutney along with a cheese scone and fruit scone each and a selection of treats. These included a sponge cake with jam, a mince pie and a meringue sandwich with a cream centre. Per person, Daisy Doodle charges £10 for this fantastic feast which you pay as your deposit to secure your place. The only additional cost when you arrive is the cost of the pot you chose to paint.



As with the last afternoon tea we had here, it was all delicious. Made by the owner's mother, who is a fantastic cook, she bakes and makes everything herself. Mum especially loves her Coronation Chicken recipe, so was happy these were on the platter once again. Even though I'm not much of a meringue fan, I do love these little sandwiches, they're so light and chewy. My other favourite was the fruit scone, a great texture which didn't break when we applied our toppings, but wasn't a rock either.

Once polishing off what we could, we wrapped the remainder ready to tuck into later at home. We then finished off our pots ready for them to be set aside to finish up in the kiln. This, unfortunately, isn't done straight away but is usually done within a week of your visit. They just ask you to leave a name and number and they will contact you when it's ready to collect.

I can't wait to see what mine turns out like and I'm sure I'll post it on Instagram when I finally get it back. If you are interested in going along to Daisy Doodle for one of their crafternoon teas or just to simply paint a pot, check out their facebook page. The people who work there are great and super friendly.
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