Novotel Avista Resort (Kata Beach)

The absolute peak season is coming very soon - the period around Christmas and New Year is very very busy for me at the dive shop .. already busy now! Personally, I think home is the place to be for Christmas, but seems that thousands disagree and want such strange things as sun, sea and sand. And of course, a nice place to stay. It's odd that with the so called global recession over the last 2 years there are still new hotels popping up in Phuket. It's hard to keep up sometimes with the new hotel names.

I had already read about the Avista Resort and noticed that it was due to open in November. Some customers from the dive shop were staying there a couple of weeks ago. I drove them to the resort, only a few minutes drive from the dive shop and my first thought was "wow, this really does look new!" I reckon the paint had hardly dried, everything was immaculate. Our customers might have been the first to use their room! Also I was struck by the open plan of the hotel, lots of space, lots of fresh air - it's slightly up the hill from Kata beach, built into the hillside.

My customers were impressed by Avista, said it was very modern and technologically advanced with very friendly staff. The reviews on Agoda are decent, though mention a few flaws that will surely be ironed out - and I think the early customers can't complain too much as the hotel was doing a rather good soft opening offer. Looks like a top choice for a hotel around Kata Beach.

Novotel Avista Resort - Booking & Reviews

Avista Resort - Info and Reservations
Avista Resort - Hotel Reviews

Avista - Photos

Restaurant at Avista Resort

Suite Room at Avista Resort

Phuket Hotels - More Info & Online Booking

Jamie's Phuket Hotel Recommendations
Top 10 Phuket Hotels 2016
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It's a Wrap!

So it's like 20-something degrees here in Memphis. That's soup or casserole weather in these parts, but for some reason, I've been craving tofu egg salad ever since the mercury started to drop. Weird, I know. But I enjoyed every bite of this Eggless Egg Salad Wrap today, despite the frigid temperatures:

This recipe is also going in my cookbook. It was originally a Seitan "Chicken" Salad, but I wasn't feeling the seitan in the same way that I was feeling tofu in cold salad sandwich spread. So I subbed out firm tofu, keeping the rest of the ingredients the same as they were when I developed the recipe with seitan ... oh, I did add one secret optional ingredient.

I served the salad on a Flatout Flatbread in Light Original. These are totally new to me, but I'm so in love with them. They're like really soft, whole wheat tortillas! And each wrap is only 90 calories.

I enjoyed the wrap with a snack-sized bag of Zapp's Hotter 'n' Hot Jalapeno chips (the official chip of New Orleans) that I picked up in New Orleans in October. Yep, I totally stocked up on all flavors of Zapp's in NOLA, even though I can buy them in Memphis too. I feel like they taste more authentic having come directly from New Orleans.

UPDATE: One of my commenters, Shannon, pointed out that Flatout wraps contain L-cysteine, which is derived from animal proteins. Suck! I didn't even know about that ingredient not being vegan. But I double-checked on my Food Additives iPhone app, and it says L-cysteine is a flour treatment agent derived from animal proteins (including hair). I'll probably finish the ones I purchased because I don't like to waste food, but I will certainly not be buying them again. Damn.

Healthy-ish Biscuits 'n' Gravy

Classic Southern-style biscuits and gravy isn't supposed to be good for you. But while my version isn't exactly health food, it's way better for you than something you'd be served in a typical diner down here. Here's my Whole Wheat Butter-Soymilk Biscuits with Sausage-Sage Gravy:

The biscuits (and the gravy recipe) are going in my cookbook. I've been perfecting these biscuits for quite some time, and I think I've finally mastered a fluffy whole wheat biscuit. Of course, they do contain a little soy margarine and non-hydrogenated veggie shortening, because you can't make fluffy, soft biscuits without those things. But at least I'm using the trans fat-free stuff.

As for the sausage-sage gravy, you'd never believe it's actually low-fat! Most gravies contain a mixture of fat, flour, and liquid (like milk or broth). But my gravy has no oil, grease, or butter. The only fat comes from a small amount present in the soymilk and vegan sausage. I use Gimme Lean (it's extremely low in fat and calories), which is mighty tasty mixed with gravy and served atop a split whole wheat biscuit for breakfast!

Season's Greetings...

Perhaps it is the time of year, but I have been thinking about all of you lately.  You have me at a distinct disadvantage, being able to drop by any time to see what I am up to.  In the spirit of the holidays, why not drop me an email or a comment and give me an update.  Let me know what you are up to this time of year. 

If you have never written, take this opportunity to say hello for the first time.

Nuts for Pasta!

Last night, I tried another delicious recipe from the Nut Gourmet by Zel Allen — Almond, Mushroom, and Spinach Over Pasta with Savory Cashew Cream Sauce:

It's whole wheat penne pasta topped with a creamy cashew "cheeze" sauce, sauteed spinach, almond pieces, mushrooms, carrots, and diced red bell pepper. Delicious! I love this sort of pasta dish that includes all my food groups in one plate!

Zel Allen's Nut Gourmet book (published by the Book Publishing Company in Summertown, Tennessee) is really awesome. Though I am calorie-conscious, I know that nuts contain good fats and are super-healthy in moderation. Her book includes tons of delicious and nutty dinner, breakfast, special occasion, and dessert recipes.

Allen also goes over the health benefits of individual nuts — like almonds, pistachios, and walnuts — in the book's intro. And she provides tips for cracking, blanching, and sprouting. The book is really worth checking out for loads of delicious recipes made with a great alternative protein source.

Soup and Salad

There are few lunches more satisfying than the classic soup 'n' salad combo. It's light, healthy, and yet still manages to soothe the soul in the same way that much more fattening comfort food does.

Today was chilly, but this Spicy Pumpkin Soup from Vegan Comfort Food warmed me up:

This spicy-sweet soup only contains a few ingredients, yet its flavor is pretty complex. Pumpkin puree meets coconut milk, red chili flakes, and agave. Yum!

Between warm bites of soup, I crunched on this Caesar Salad from Vegan Comfort Food:

It's also pretty simple — a homemade vegan Caesar dressing, romaine lettuce, vegan Parmesan, and whole wheat croutons. The dressing — made from a base of olive oil, Vegenaise, capers, and some other stuff — is a spot-on recreation of the classic Caesar dressing.

As for the croutons, I subbed whole wheat bread for the sourdough bread called for in the recipe because I try to avoid the white stuff at all costs.

Raw Food Thursday!

I typically do my monthly all-day raw food cleanse on the first Tuesday of every month, but I had plans to eat dinner at a delicious vegan-friendly soul food restaurant that day. So I pushed my mini-detox back a few days.

I welcomed my raw day with this most delicious Coconut Almond Butter Smoothie:

Raw almond butter, a frozen banana, shredded coconut, flax seed, and water combined to make a super-creamy, coconut-ty breakfast drink. I love fruity smoothies, but I think I like the nutty, creamy ones even better.

Before lunch, I snacked on a crisp red pear and a few of these Cashew Cinnamon Bun Babies:

The recipe came from the lovely Chocolate-Covered Vegan (a.k.a. CCV). It's one of several in her line of fudge baby balls, a delicious homemade take on the classic Larabar. I used her recipe for Cashew Cookie Larabar Babies and added cinnamon for cinnamon bun-like taste. I only allowed myself three of these all day since each ball was about 100 calories, but I could have eaten the entire batch in one sitting.

Lunch was a Deconstructed Salad with Carrot-Miso Dressing:

The dressing recipe came from Gena's Choosing Raw blog. It's almost oil-free (with just a teensy drop of sesame oil), so I ate a ton of it. Instead of pouring it over my veggies, I used the dressing for dipping romaine leaves, red bell pepper, cucumber, celery, and cauliflower.

My mid-afternoon snack was the highlight of my day — a square of raw chocolate!

And this wasn't just any raw chocolate. I made this stuff using a Nativas Naturals Organic Superfood Chocolate Kit! They sell these kits for $10 at Whole Foods and each contains a block of solid cacao butter, a packet of organic cacao powder, and an add-in (either cacao nibs, goji berries, or golden berries). I purchased the "cacao nib" kit (those little dark spots in the chocolates pictured above are the nibs). It's so easy to make, and the chocolates are melt-in-your-mouth amazing. But it is super-dark chocolate (80% cacao!), so it's not for the faint of heart.

I snacked on an orange and some more cashew cookie babies before hitting the gym. Dinner was a satisfying bowl of Raw "Peanut" Noodles:

Another Gena recipe from Choosing Raw (her stuff is always so amazing!). This dish doesn't actually contain peanuts (since they're not raw), but it tastes just like peanut noodles. Granted, I added a couple tablespoons of raw almond butter to Gena's recipe, even though it wasn't called for in the recipe. That may have added to the nutty taste.

I also cut the oil down from one cup to a 1/4 cup and subbed water for the rest. The sauce was incorporated into "noodles" made from zucchini, carrots, red bell pepper, and cucumber. And I topped it with a little crushed red pepper flakes to add some spice!

Burger 'n' Rings

Though I'd like people to believe I cook everything from scratch, I actually enjoy a frozen veggie burger every once in awhile. I love Boca's vegan patty and they're cheaper than other brands like fancy Amy's brand burgers or Gardenburger. But a plain Boca is, well, kinda plain. So I like to jazz 'em up, and I always welcome new ideas.

That was the case with this Teriyaki Burger from Vegan Comfort Food by Alicia Simpson:

Though Simpson's book features plenty of from-scratch dishes, she also includes a few ideas for dressin' up a plain-jane veggie burger. The teriyaki burger featured a homemade teriyaki sauce (so yea, I did make that from scratch ... the recipe is included in Alicia's book) and grilled pineapple rings. I served it on a whole wheat bun. The burger was delicious, and I'd certainly never think to include pineapple on my burger without Alicia's suggestion.

On the side, I wanted to make the homemade onion rings from Simpson's book. But I couldn't bring myself to deep fry them as the recipe called for. Normally, I'm all about the deep fryer, but Thanksgiving just happened ... so I needed a junk food break.

Instead, I opted to use the instructions for baked Onion Rings in Skinny Bitch in the Kitch:

The result? A little drier than fried onion rings. But the lack of grease was worth it, knowing that I could indulge in as many rings as I wanted without the guilt. Oh, and I dipped these little guys into my new favorite condiment — sriracha ketchup! I mix a couple tablespoons of organic ketchup with a generous squirt of spicy sriracha.

Sweet Tater + Almond Butter = Breakfast!

Nora from Pride & Vegudice has been blogging about her love for baked sweet potatoes with nut butter for some time now. I swoon every time she posts one of her gorgeous photos of a soft, orange tuber slathered in almond (or recently coconut) butter. So I finally decided to stop dreaming about the damn thing and eat a Baked Sweet Tater with Raw Almond Butter and Cranberry Sauce for breakfast:

Oh, holy crap! This is such an amazing, wholesome, delectable breakfast. First of all, this was my first experience with "raw" almond butter. I've been too cheap to shell out the $10 for a little jar, so I've stuck with good old-fashioned roasted almond butter for way too long. The Maranatha brand raw butter has a dramatically different (and far improved) taste than its cooked counterpart.

The cranberry sauce was leftover from Thanksgiving. It's a recipe my mom made from a Food Network magazine that includes fresh cranberries, orange pieces and zest, apples, and pecans. I only have a tiny bit left, but I wish I could keep this stuff stocked for baked taters and toast-spreadin' all year round.

Phuket Philatelic Museum (Post Office Museum)

Now I'll admit that a post office museum may not be top of many peoples top 10 things to do in Phuket list, but 'tis the nature of this blog to avoid the crowds, plus this little museum is in Phuket Town, which I like, and .. come on, admit it.. who didn't have a stamp collection when they were little? Within the history of stamps you can find the history of a country. Kings heads, famous people, historical buildings and even countries changing their names - before 1939, the word Thailand did not exist - the country was called Siam, and this of course is reflected in old stamps. Yes, as a kid I had stamps, inherited from older family members, and I do recall the name Siam.. but could not find it on a map.

Phuket Town has several small museums - there is the Thai Hua School museum, and a neat little collection of old stuff at the Thavorn Hotel. I like the town, a welcome break from the tourist beaches. The old town is great, lots of old buildings, small cafes, interesting shops, alleyways and markets, Chinese shrines and Buddhist temples. Phuket Town always has something interesting to find.

So, some weeks ago, while on a mission to get a new internet connection from the C.A.T office, I had a spare 20 minutes, and took a 3 minute walk around the corner to the main post office in Phuket town, on Montri Road, just east of the old town, or a block west and north of the main bus station. The old post office is right next door and houses the Phuket Philatelic Museum.

Phuket Post office - old and new

Phuket Philatelic Museum entrance

Now, in some way this is a "let's put some old stuff in some old rooms and call it a museum" kind of place. First room I looked into had the following exhibit...

Writing desk at the Phuket post office museum

Yes, a "Writing People Table"... a wooden desk where people can write their letters or postcards or telegrams. Worthy of a museum? You be the judge. There are a couple of rooms full of old junk, old phones, scales for weighing parcels and even a (fairly modern) teletype machine.

Some old stuff at Phuket post office museum

Teletype machine

But where are the stamps? Well, there is a sizeable display with old stamps and a history of the Thai postage stamp. History buffs and philatelists will enjoy. A reminder that Phuket does have some history... tourists only appeared at 11:55pm on the history clock.

Postage stamps from Siam

Phuket Philatelic Museum

The museum is open Monday - Friday, 8:30am - 4:30pm; Saturdays 9am - 12pm. Closed on Sundays. If you happen to be in town, well, why not. Entry is free. Have a look around town, I do recommend getting off the tourist beaches sometimes. Life is happening all around.

A few related pages on Jamie's Phuket:

Old Phuket Town
Thai Hua School Museum
Phuket Town Photo Walk
Explore Phuket Town
Thalang National Museum

My 5th Vegan-iversary

Black Friday isn't just some crazy excuse for mass consumurism. It's also my vegan-iversary! It all started in 1994. I ate turkey on Thanksgiving Day and something just didn't set right in my 14-year-old mind. I'd already gone "semi-vegetarian" by then (eating only poultry and an occasional piece of fried catfish ... never cared for seafood even when I ate meat), and seeing that giant turkey carcass on the kitchen counter really grossed me out that year. So I went vegetarian on Black Friday in 1994.

Fast forward to 2004. In celebration of having 10 years as a vegetarian, I decided to try veganism on the day after Thanksgiving. It was really just a month trial run ... to see if I could do it. Thirty days later in late December 2004, I realized how easy being vegan could be. So I made the decision to be vegan forever.

This year, Black Friday marked my 5th vegan and my 15th vegetarian anniversary! Since my mom and I have started a new tradition (as of last year) of doing our holiday shopping on Black Friday (because we're crazy enough to fight the crowds for a good deal!), I've also began a new tradition of dining with her at my favorite Memphis breakfast joint for a vegan-iversary brunch.

Here I am at Brother Juniper's, about to stuff my face with the most delicious tofu scramble:

And here's a shot of my vegan-iversary brunch plate — the "Fahim's Special" at Brother Juniper's:

Fahim's Special is a crazy-good tofu scramble made with a balsamic vinaigrette, kalamata olives, portabella mushrooms, and other veggies. It's served with tasty garlic home fries and whole wheat toast with all-natural strawberry fruit spread! I couldn't ask for a better post-Thanksgiving, vegan-iversary, Black Friday brunch!

Thanksgiving Redux

Ya'll know I love food ... more than one probably should. But on most days, I carefully watch what I eat. I count calories. I work out. I plan meals by the week, all to ensure that my love of food doesn't turn into a full-on food addiction. But Thanksgiving is one of the few days of the year when gorging oneself is not only accepted ... it's encouraged. So every year on the last Thursday of Novemver, I stuff myself until I can't breathe. Here's a shot of my first plate at my family's Thanksgiving dinner this year:

Top (left to right): Vegan Mac & Cheeze, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, Corn, Vegan Cream Cheeze Mashed Potatoes. Bottom (left to right): Greens & Turnips, Mama's Best-Ever Vegan Cornbread Dressin', Homemade Cranberry Sauce, Slices of Field Roast Celebration Roast, and Marinated Slaw.

Except for the turkey, my mom and Granny make everything vegan. I get my own casserole dish filled with my mom's famous vegan dressin, and my mom uses Earth Balance in all the sides. She even used Tofutti sour cream and cream cheeze in the mashed potatoes, and none of the omnis could tell a difference. I made a small pot of vegan mac & cheeze, so I could eat it while everyone else ate baked mac & cheddar cheese casserole.

I used to cook a Tofurkey, but for the past several years, I've been baking a Field Roast Celebration Roast instead:

I like the texture and taste of the Field Roast better, and it's smaller so that means less leftovers. Nothing against leftovers, of course. I've been eating Thanksgiving plates all weekend! But Tofurkeys are so big that I'd have more leftovers than I could eat in a week.

My second plate was filled with one slice of all three of these delicious vegan pies. Granny brought a Vegan Pineapple Marshmallow Cream Pie:

She used Soy Whip, Dandies vegan marshmallows, and crushed pineapple in a graham cracker crust! I'm definitely stealing this recipe from her for my cookbook.

She also brought over one of her famous Old-Fashioned Coconut Pies, another recipe she developed for my cookbook. This is my favorite pie in the whole world ... ever:

And I made a Smlove Pie from the Veganomicon:

I've made this recipe several times before, and this rich chocolate tofu pie with peanut butter caramel, candied pecans, and chocolate ganache is always a crowd pleaser.

Though I thoroughly enjoyed the gluttony of Thanksgiving Day (and the days of leftover gorging that followed), I'm ready to get back into my old healthy-eating habits.

Hey testers! I FINALLY posted another recipe on the tester site — my Choco-Choco Praline Pecan Cookies. Check it out when you get a chance!