Rainy friend date in Manchester

Last weekend, I played tourist in my own town. Manchester has so much going on, it’s easy to live here for years and still say, ‘oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to go there, I heard it’s good’. Add that to the new things that are opening all the time, new pop up shops, restaurants, gigs and art nights, and you could stay up all night every night and still not see the whole city.

On this occasion, we started with the Makers Market. This is a regular event that tours round parts of Manchester, including the Northern Quarter, Spinningfields, Didsbury and more recently, Chorlton. There’s a good mix of food and drink vs other arts and crafts, and all the traders are excited to talk to you about what they’ve made… and share some samples. I had a pumpkin samosa with sweet potato fries on the side (carb heaven) to wash down some amazing rhubarb gin tasters. There were loads and sweet treats, cookies and brownies, but not much for the vegan sweet tooth waaaa.

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Nordic Muse necklace and packaging – so cute, we can ignore the extra D in badass

I’d only recently been complaining that all my jewellery is cheap, years old and is getting a bit tarnished. I don’t really have much ‘grown up’ jewellery. I like the unusual, but not too gimmicky – which is why I found and fell in love with the Nordic Muse stand. Based on geometry and using a combination of metals it’s really simple and really striking. I treated myself to a little gift from me to me.

After nosing our way around every stall, from Beauty and the Beast style rose-in-glassware necklace, to paintings and postcards of local artists, we crept our way out of the drizzle and to Pot Kettle Black on Deansgate. The only thing missing from the Makers Market was vegan brownies (*sigh*) and after seeing just about every other brownie variant there I had a hankering. I like good coffee, and though I don’t pretend to know much about it, if you tell me you love Starbucks, I will judge you. The guys at PKB are lovely, knowledgeable and do a great brew if real coffee. The whole experience is considered, with your espresso served with a wafer and lemon water, and it’s all situated in the grand Barton Arcade, just off Deansgate. As it was a Saturday afternoon, we went for espresso martinis. Yes, they have an alcohol licence. Ready to take your money.

From PKB we went culturing – I’d never been to the John Ryland’s Library even though I must have walked past it more than a 1000 times. Even though it’s a functional library, you can visit as a tourist to see the exhibitions and the architecture, it’s not just for taking out a book and sneakily checking out the vaulted ceilings. Anyway, at the moment they have an exhibition on magic, demons and witches through history, as well as history of printing. After years of living here and never having stepped inside it didn’t disappoint, with gargoyles on the walls, artwork on show, and a scrap of paper from the earliest copy of the New Testament ever discovered, dated between 2 and 3 AD. I’m not religious, but that’s pretty cool. Free entry too guys. And their gift shop is full of macabre, weird and wonderful stationery, candles and books.

As we left, the rain kicked in again (classic Manchester) and we moved on to Nexus Art Cafe in the Northern Quarter, which is also home to the Salford Zine Library (not in Salford). A zine, in case you don’t know, is basically a self-published magazine. The library has more than 1500 on all sorts of topics, typically a5 and printed in black and white for ease of self-publishing. Check out some of the titles and topics on their site.

Anyway, we were fortunate enough to get the Nexus tea garden to ourselves – even though it was raining (still), there was a covered section which was perfectly dry. While we sat there, a church choir were singing across the way, which felt very surreal.

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Final stop was Dough. I’ve written about Dough before, they’re great for catering to every dietary requirement you could possibly have, but they’re just not actually that great at the dough part, which is ironic. If you like a very thin & crispy pizza you’ll love it. But I’m more of a chewy dough gal.

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Vegan cheese veggie pizza at Dough

 

I’d love to hear your recommendations on best things to do – the more unusual and undiscovered the better! Bonus points for vegan brownies. xxx

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Being a better vegan: I’ll take the ale without the fish, please

I believe that being vegan, veggie, plant-based or environmentalist, we should all do the best we can, and not feel guilty when we’re not perfect. We all make occasional slip ups, forget to ask the question, or forget how certain products even have a chance of animal ingredients in them (pork in your mascara, anyone?)

Beer

Anyway, even when I was vegetarian, I often turned a blind eye to animal ingredients in my booze. I had my excuses: “I’m doing enough already/they’re only waste products/it’s not actually in the drink, just used in processing” etc, etc. The real reason was, that I couldn’t be arsed – I love a boozey Friday and I didn’t want anything getting in the way of that. Finally, I realised I was no different to the people who claimed it’s too hard/inconvenient/expensive to give up meat, and if I’m going to call myself a vegan it’s time to drink responsibly.

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Dizzy blonde

Putting theory into practise: time to drink some beer

To celebrate a new level of discipline I headed down to Runaway brewery‘s monthly Grub Fair. Runaway are pretty awesome, they set up in 2014 to brew great beer how they wanted it, and set up in the Green Quarter in Manchester. The third Saturday of every month in association with GRUB, they get local food traders in and set up gazebos and benches in their car park for the Grub Food Fair. It’s a very relaxed atmosphere, where you can while away the afternoon in a beer and food coma. Which is how I spent my Saturday this week.

The event caters to all, and looks to make sure their mix of traders includes veggie, vegan and gluten free options, Yes there’s also a lot of meat, but at least you can bring the whole family without any complaints. This month I sampled the leek and aubergine stir fry stew from Maiden Taiwan, followed by some fresh mini vegan donut bites with cinnamon sugar from Fritto Italian Street Food.

Vegan beer at home

Unfortunately, we can’t spend all our weirdly warm but rainy days in Manchester beer gardens. So for the other days of the week, I found this excellent resource called Barnivore that collates information from most beer, wine and spirits brands on whether animal products are used. I’m a big ale lover: I love a strong German Weissbeer, a gentle session bitter, or a lovely blonde (LIKE ME!)  I’ve collated below a list some of my regular UK beers that turn out to be vegan (phew). These aren’t particularly the best (although many are delicious), they’re just easy to find, the sort you can stock up on in advance, grab from your local, or always have on hand:

Vegan lagers:

  • Corona
  • Sol
  • Stella Artois
  • Becks
  • Carlsberg Export
  • Grolsch
  • Brewdog This is Lager

Vegan ales:

  • Robinson’s Dizzy Blonde (my favourite and my namesake)
  • Brewdog Dead Pony (ironically)
  • Black Sheep Golden Sheep (BOTTLE is ok, cask is NOT OK)
  • Marble Beers (not the honey versions obv)
  • JW Lees: everything except the standard Cask Bitter
  • Obviously Runaway brewery

I have heard that as a rule of thumb, smaller microbreweries are less likely to feel the need to use random animal parts in brewing – this may or may not be true.

The above list has a strong Manchester skew as I love to support our local brewers, but the Barnivore search list is completely global.

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Runaway brewery

All this has made me thirsty now: long legs, green heart, full glass…

Do share your favourite vegan beer finds or non vegan warnings if you have any!

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