Cactus Jam

Cactus Jam 1
Cactus Jam
50 Liebig Street
Warrnambool
VIC 3280
AUSTRALIA

Mr. AA was kind enough to book us a short holiday in Warrnambool – his ulterior motive was a sci-fi exhibition at the local art gallery, which he made up for by booking us a room with a spa (ha!). Both Google and Happy Cow left me feeling fairly nervous about my food options, but thankfully the strip of restaurants a block from our hotel wasn’t quite as dismal as I expected.

Cactus Jam 2

We stopped in at Cactus Jam for lunch today. All signs on Google point to this being a Taco Bill restaurant, but it’s not. From what I can gather, it used to be (?). It’s fairly big inside and I’m pretty sure they need the space because when we walked past last night, it was busy.

Cactus Jam 3

Upon arrival we were greeted and seated with a trusty bowl of corn chips and salsa. These chips were really thin and crispy – definitely not the standard supermarket variety. I’m glad the bowl was small, because I could have easily filled up on them!

Cactus Jam 4
Vegetarian tostada without dairy – $9.90

It’s slim pickings for vegetarians, with only two options for lunch and just a few more for dinner. The nachos wouldn’t be the same without cheese and sour cream (or some kind of vegan substitute for them), plus I was in the mood for beans – so I ordered the tostada without dairy. It’s served on a corn tortilla, so it’s gluten free. Tortilla types aren’t specified on the menu, so you’re best off asking the wait staff about this – Mr. AA’s fajita was served with a flour tortilla.

Taste-wise, it was exactly what you’d expect and what you see is what you get. The only thing it really needed was some spice/heat in the pinto beans. They were fairly plain, so if you’re not already a bean lover, you might find yourself sorely disappointed. On the up side, Mr. AA was impressed with the fajita and the service was perfect. The girls were there when we needed them without us having to look around for their attention and they didn’t linger or pester us.

Cactus Jam 5

Cactus Jam is a licensed venue, so there’s a fairly good drinks menu – including Mexican beers and an impressive variety of margaritas! I ordered the mango and Mr. AA ordered the lime.

Cactus Jam 6
Mango Margarita.

It was about 36C outside when we stopped for lunch and this drink was SO PERFECT. It was ice-cold and smooth; we agreed that these were far too easy to drink so make sure you walk here, don’t drive. You’ll want to sample as many flavours as possible. Both the mango and lime were excellent.

Taco Bill Mexican Restaurant Warrnambool on Urbanspoon

Grumpy’s Green

Firstly: Happy international day of the nacho, y’all! Not only is it world nacho day, but Melbourne is also celebrating Mexico’s “Day of the Dead” festival – for a week. Click here for info on events.

Today I went on a mission for Mexican food. Radio Mexico wasn’t opening until 4pm (I was only in town for lunch) and Trippy Taco had crowds of people wandering in, despite there being no tables available – so Mr. AA & I went for a little wander and ended up eating at Grumpy’s Green – a vegetarian, eco-friendly lounge/bar.

Seating Area
Grumpy’s Green
125 Smith Street
Fitzroy VIC 3065
AUSTRALIA
Ph: (03) 9416 1944

Don’t let the name put you off – these guys aren’t grumpy at all. In fact, they’re pretty upbeat. The main bar/lounge/band area is dimly lit – which I imagine is great in the evenings, but it’s a little hard on the eyes during the day – So Mr. AA and I walked through the naturally lit dining area (pictured above) into a small, four-table intimate court yard.

Menu
The menu isn’t big or even largely varied (from memory, about a quarter of it was dedicated to pizza options), but it was all tempting. We actually ate here quite some time ago with a few very hungover friends (in my pre-blogging days) and liked the food, but the menu has changed since then. I was very adamant about eating Mexican food today, so our order was a no-brainer.

Nachos
Nachos.

Mr. AA ordered the nachos, which were an impressive man-sized meal (this would easily feed 2 females!). Thankfully we were warned about the size of the meal and Mr. AA was discouraged from ordering a side dish to go with them. The cheese and sour cream on these are made from dairy; there isn’t a vegan subsitute, so the vegan version omits these ingredients. We were both impressed by the fresh ingredients piled onto this dish – the tomatoes and coriander were a great alternative to the sugary salsa from a jar that some restaurants try to pass off as authentic!

The guacamole was something both Mr. AA and I commented on to each other – it was delicious! Smooth, creamy and not too sour. It was strangely understated but really stood out.

Quesadillas (without the queso)
Quesadillas (without the queso!).

These were superb, even though they’re nothing like a traditional quesadilla! I was up for a lighter meal and the quesadillas with salad sounded perfect. I asked for them without dairy (vegan) because the regular option on the menu contains cheese. The filling was mainly black beans in a tomato sauce with a bit of tempeh, carrot and onion dotted through it. The flavours were fairly simple but worked well with the crispy tortillas, salsa and guacamole. The side salad was nice and had the dressing massaged into the greens, so there wasn’t a pool of it spreading across the plate. This is a huge plus – a lot of restaurants don’t do this and it’s definitely a hinderance – especially when salad dressing spreads and turns something crispy into something soggy!

There was a small hiccup during our visit that I feel I should mention in the interest of being completely honest in my review. Both mine and another person’s order had accidentally been made with dairy – however neither of the meals were served to us. Instead, the waiter offered a sincere apology and our meals were very quickly re-made. The girl behind me was clearly irritated in a strange bubbly way, however I wasn’t too worried. I’d much rather wait a little longer for a meal that’s right than be served the wrong thing.

I’d defintely eat here again and if I was local, I’d be keen to grab a beer and watch some bands in the evening – the place really has a great feel to it that I can’t describe with words. The menu is vegetarian and most (if not all) items can be made vegan. There’s some gluten free options and the venue has a great attitude both towards its customers and the environment.

Savoury Corn Muffins & Bean Salad

These corn muffins have become a favourite of ours and I make them often. They’re great with bean salad on a hot day or chili on a cold day. Initially we used to just spread vegan margarine on them, but now I prefer them with avocado; try both!

Savoury Corn Muffins
Serves 4

Savoury Corn Muffins

1 C Polenta
1 1/2 C Plain Flour or Gluten Free Alternative
1 TBSP Caster Sugar
1 TBSP Baking Powder
1 TBSP Flax Meal
1-2 TBSP Canola Oil
1 3/4 C Water + 1 TBSP
1/2 t Dried Parsley Flakes
1/4 t Salt
2/3 C Corn Kernels (I used frozen)

  • Pre-heat oven to 200C.
  • Stir together dry ingredients.
  • Add wet ingredients & corn kernels. Mix well and leave to sit for a couple of minutes. The flax meal will cause the mixture to thicken.
  • Grease muffin tray(s) and fill 12 muffin cups with batter. These won’t rise much, so you need to be generous with the batter; fill them to the top.
  • Bake for 20-22 minutes in a fan forced oven.
  • Leave these in the tray for a few minutes to cool, but don’t leave them in the tray too long or the bottoms will become tough/chewy.

 

Bean Salad
(Sorry, this one will be a bit vague – I didn’t measure everything out.)

1x 400g Tin of Mixed Beans
2 Truss Tomatoes, diced
1 TBSP Red Onion, Finely Diced
1 TBSP Sliced Spanish Olives
Juice from 1 Lemon
Fresh Parsley
Drizzle of Olive Oil
S + P

  • Toss together all of the above ingredients. Leave to marinate for 5-10 minutes, then serve. There will be liquid at the bottom of your bowl – try to drain the scoops of salad a little before putting on a plate.

Amigo’s Mexican Restaurant

Amigos1

Amigo’s Mexican Restaurant
329 Elizabeth Street
North Hobart, TAS 7000
AUSTRALIA
Ph: (03) 6234 6115

As we arrived at Amigo’s, we realised we were in the heart of Hobart’s restaurant district – some information that would have been helpful to us in advance. As you enter this restaurant, your senses are tantalised by the rich spices that fill the air.

Amigos2

The menu is available on their website, broken up into three pages. There’s a vegetarian section with two vegan options marked and two gluten free options marked; I thought with my Mexican food knowledge I could wrangle a vegan version of a couple of other menu items, but disappointingly it didn’t work out that way. More on that later!

Amigos3

These salsas were pretty amazing. Mr. AA’s favourite was the corn salsa which admittedly was pretty good but no better than the one I make at home, so I wasn’t quite so excited by it. The other two salsas on the other hand… WOW.

The green one is a tomatillo salsa, which was heavy on the lime juice but light and refreshing in flavour. The only thing I would have added to this is chili – that being said, I can understand why it’s served as a mild dish. Not everyone likes to have tingling gums like me!

The red one was (obviously) a tomato salsa. I loved how rich and sweet this was and the texture was a perfect balance between chunky and smooth.

All of the above came served with a fairly decent sized basket of thick corn chips; we shamefully ate the lot!

Amigos5

This was the vegan chimichanga, which was actually pretty tasty. The plum sauce was a little sweet for me and the potato filling was a bit heavy in my belly, but as far as decadent vegan mains go, this was right up there.

Unfortunately it wasn’t my first choice from the menu – not only because I tend to avoid deep fried foods but also because I *really* felt like eating beans that night. I found out after trying to order the tostada and then the burrito that the beans at the restaurant are mixed with cheese. If I had one complaint about the restaurant, this would be it. Vegans need beans! OK – well THIS vegan needs beans, anyway… Life wouldn’t be half as fun(ny) without bean induced gas. GO LEGUMES.

Amigos4

The kitchen staff were kind enough to improvise and throw together this salad for me and I seriously applaud anyone who puts up with me asking for special things at a restaurant. I try not to be too much of a pain but I knew I was going to need something fresh to go with my deep fried main. This was perfect. Thanks guys!

Amigos6

This is a photo of the “fireballs”, which Mr. AA bravely ordered. They’re not vegan or vegetarian and they’re super duper spicy. Not for the faint hearted!! Mr. AA gave these guys a run for their money when all he left on the plate was a little bit of rice (I won’t tell you how much his face was sweating). As you can see, the serve was monstrous!

On the whole, we really liked this place and would definitely go back (why on earth didn’t I order the guacamole??? *facepalm*). The staff were really friendly and helpful and the manager was happy to chat with me and let me take photos; he even recommended an excellent Mexican beer to drink with our meals. The ONLY let down for me was the lack of vegan meal options with beans.

Amigos on Urbanspoon

Bean Tostadas / Mexican Pizzas

Bean Tostadas
Serves 2

Base:
2 Corn Tortillas
2 tsp Tomato Paste
1 C Kidney Beans
1-2 TBSP Water
5 tsp Taco Seasoning*

Topping:
1 + 1/2 C Shredded Baby Spinach or Cos Lettuce
1 + 1/2 Diced Tomatoes
1/2 C Diced Capsicum (red & green)
1/2 C Cooked Corn Kernels
1 Sprig of Spring Onion, sliced on the bias
1/2 Fresh Lime
Chopped Coriander + Sprigs for Garnish
1/2 Avocado, diced or roughly mashed
S+P

  • Preheat over to 200C.
  • Puree 1/2 C kidney beans with water & taco seasoning. If you don’t have a food processor, you can do some rough mashing with a fork instead. Next, stir in the remaining 1/2 C kidney beans. You want a mixed texture here.
  • Smear 1 tsp of tomato paste on each of the corn tortillas, then top each tortilla with half of the bean mix.
  • Bake in the oven for 12 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, combine in a bowl: the diced tomatoes, capsicum, corn kernels, spring onion and chopped coriander with the juice from half a lime. Toss and season with salt & pepper.
  • When your tortillas are ready, place them on plates and top with 3/4 cup shredded greens each, half of your tomato salsa each, 1/4 of an avocado each and some fresh coriander.

*If you’re using a store bought taco seasoning rather than my recipe, the amount you will need here will vary.