A Vegan in Central Europe: One week in the Holy Land! »
December 17 marked the end of my four months living in Prague (sad face), but marked the beginning of a cool weeklong journey to Israel. While all of my friends heading back to the states were dealing with this load of bullshit, I was flying almost worry-free to the Middle East. What do I think about this paradise? Yeah, lots of tension, especially in Jerusalem, but some of the BEST FUCKING FOOD YOU WILL EVER TASTE. If you ever make the trek, you need to try some authentic Middle Eastern yum-food. Some key phrases: Ani tivoni (“I’m vegan”); blee beitzim, khalavi, kharvi (“without eggs, milk, meat”).
If you make it to Jerusalem, you will probably hang out on Ben Yehuda, or at the Shuk, which means you’ll be within spitting distance of a Moshiko. BEST FALAFEL EVER. The ironic thing about eating vegan in Israel is that you’re best off going to a place with meat, because then you know that all of the veg accoutrements are parve, i.e., without dairy. You can ask about eggs with yesh beitzim? If you’re vegetarian (boo), you can probably find some good dairy eateries in the mostly kosher city. In the lovely bad boy pictured, you got the delicious fried falafel, hummus, red cabbage, tahini, spicy-ass-muhfuckin-sauce, and salat. SO FUCKING YUMMY, and it costs like ₪14 ($3.88 U.S.).
Haifa, an ancient sea port, also has much by way of delicious dining. I made it to Café Louise (the sign of the place is in Hebrew), an organically minded café in the Mount Carmel area of Haifa, very close to the Baha’i Gardens on the 23 bus. Pictured is their Indian-style sandwich, filled with roasted parsnips, yam, and cauliflower with tamari-tahini sauce, and a side-salad with balsamic dressing. The total: ₪45 ($12.50 U.S.). I also got a yummy shake made with melon, mango, coconut, soy, and originally honey—d’vash in Hebrew, so say blee d’vash for “without honey”—but they were able to substitute maple syrup in for me. It was Uhhh-mayzing with a capital U. Damn, those Israelis know how to make a good shake.
Probably my favorite city was Tel Aviv. My first time stepping into the Mediterranean was so pleasant; in December, the water is still warm enough to walk through, and the weather was about 70 F—beats the 20 F/snowing/icy in Prague! I recommend is the Dizengof and Ben Gurion instersection, accessible by the 5 bus from the new bus station. There, you’ll see a smoothie shack on the corner (YUMMMM). Go a few stores west on Dizengoff and you’ll get to this amazing all-hummus place. ALL HUMMUS. JUST HUMMUS AND PITA. They put paprika, olive oil, whole chickpeas, tahini, and lemon salt in mine, topped off with some cut parsley, for ₪22 ($6) including unlimited pita. While I couldn’t finish the whole plate for fear of exploding, I definitely got my fill. And it felt great. Sort of. Back to the shake-shack thing: YOU NEED TO GO. They have these places all over, and their shakes are entirely fruit-based and yummy as shit. I tried the coconut/pineapple/banana mix and the pineapple/banana/orange mix, and they were both awesomeasfuck. And vegan as fuck, too.
Another food-related note, regarding Israel in general. Pictured to the right is a shuk, or market. They have these in almost every major city, and they’re all great. This one is the shuk in Jerusalem; you will definitely go there if you ever visit the city. They have stalls filled with the freshest vegetables and fruits all grown locally (Israel doesn’t import for the most part), dried fruits and nuts, small coffee places, yummy juice places where you can get yummy aforementioned shakes, and even ceramic artist collectives. This is where you can attempt to haggle, taste everything you see—mostly—and experience mayhem like you’ve never experienced before. I’ve heard it gets especially crazy on Friday mornings when everyone’s trying to get their shopping done before Shabbat.
[Hebrew translations and all photos by Brianna!]
A vegan in Central Europe: Vienna, Krakow, and Budapest! »
When I go on crazy trips, the first thing that pops into my mind is “WHAT AWESOME VEGAN FOOD AM I GOING TO TRY?!” I guess I’m special that way. Picture it: Vienna, Krakow, and Budapest. Nine days, so much awesomeness.
First stop in Vienna: Formosa. It’s off of the Neubaugasse shopping strip, and it’s magical. A family-owned grocery/cafe with… get this—VEGAN BOBA! And they sold Go Max Go chocolate bars and Primal Strips. The food I got (a chicken sandwich) cost 3,90€ and was all right, but nothing to write home about, though I guess I am anyway? Definitely worth a visit, more for the boba and available grocery items than for the food.
The star of Vienna was for sure Bio Bar. It’s significantly fancier from the order-at-the-front café style of Formosa. I think the place is run by a man in the front and his wife in the back. We loved the food so much we went two nights in a row!! I got gnocchi with pesto and artichoke hearts the first night; the gnocchi was a little gummy, but I thought the flavors were spot on and I finished the entire plate. On the second night I got a gluten-free meal: a soy patty with a scoop of mashed potatoes. The spices in the patty were fucking incredible, and the whole meal was so filling. Their chocolate cake wasn’t all that great. I think it had some sort of agar-agar-based filling, and I was expecting more of a mousse texture. Overall, the atmosphere was perfect. Entrees cost from 8€ to 15€ and it was around 2€ to 5€ for dessert.
Another place you might want to stop by while your there: Maschu falafel. It’s REALLY good falafel, not so good service. And while we didn’t get a picture of the food, we certainly filled up on it.
Next stop (don’t question our trip-planning) was Krakow. I felt it was the smallest city of the three that we visited, so it was pretty easy to go to the edges of the city to try amazing vegan food. We went to four places: Vega, Momo, Green Bar, and Mlynek Café.
Vega had a really really nice atmosphere: tables with linen cloths and candles in the center. You order at the front and pick up from the bar. The menu they give you is sort of useless; it just gives you an idea of what kind of food they have. The food they actually serve changes daily, and my planned meal wasn’t available when I went. For 19zł (around $7 US), I got a plate of vegetable goulash with rice, bean salad, and lentil soup. The food was so-so, the bean salad was the real winner I also ordered a vegan smoothie which was basically a bunch of fruit juices, for 9zł. SO YUMMY. It had blueberries in it. It’s been ages since I’ve had blueberries!!! We weren’t impressed with this place overall and didn’t make a return trip.
Momobar was next on our list. It’s in the Jewish quarter of Krakow. The interior is very humble and the atmosphere is pretty casual. Their cuisine is described as Tibetan fusion. Most everything there is vegan, except for a couple of cakes. We tried the two available vegan cakes, and ate them first, obviously. I tried an apple-crumble-type thing with sunflower seeds on top; my friend got their banana cake (pictured).
The cakes were both SO yummy; flavorful, spot-on texture, I could have eaten them for millennia. The dish I got was the place’s namesake. Momo was Tibetan dumplings filled with finely chopped vegetables and lentils, served with a spicy sauce. I licked my plate clean. My friend tried their hummus and toast and found the hummus to be a little weird, texture-wise. I remember paying about 20zł for my delicious dinner. This was definitely one of my favorite places the whole trip.
After a draining day visiting Auschwitz, we stumbled into Green Way to unwind. They had limited vegan options, but really tasty orange juice and enchiladas. The side-salad sticks out more in my memory than the actual enchilada—the dressing was THAT good. Again it cost around 20zł, but the meal fell a little short because of how fast the food was. It is given to you literally seconds after you order it, so the components of the meal are pre-made, then assembled as you order. I think it made the food a bit generic, and I wouldn’t recommend for anything beyond a really quick, assuredly vegan meal. There are certainly better businesses to patronize in Krakow!!
Our last stop on the trip was Café Mlynek. We saw these 10 percent discount cards for the place all over the city, which made me a little skeptical, but I so shouldn’t have been. It was far and away my favorite restaurant of the entire trip. Candle-lit, beautiful ambience—The only veg Krakow restaurant where we didn’t order food up-front. There are limited vegan options, but I got to try the cheesecake they recently veganized and a veganized traditional
Polish Hungarian* food: lecso (LETCH-oh). We had cake first, obvs. The cheesecake was beautifully presented, but could have been a little sweeter/more flavorful. It cost 10zł and I would probably order again. The lecso was fucking INCREDIBLE. It reminded me a lot of channa masala without the indian spices: tomato and chickpea stew with garlic and onion, served with a side of bread to dip and enjoy in. I wanted to bathe in this dish, basically, it was so hot and fresh when I got it…. Oh man, just remembering it makes me hot. It cost 15,50zł and was worth every goddamn penny. IF YOU GO TO KRAKOW YOU MUST MUST MUST GO TO MLYNEK CAFÉ! That is an order!
On to Budapest. Unfortunately, my camera broke a couple months ago so I was borrowing my friend’s. Then her camera ran out of juice partway through our trip, so you’ll just have to use your imaginations. If you like falafel nearly as much as I do, you’ll love Hummus Bár. We went there like three times, not joking. They have two locations; the one closest to our hostel, the Kértész location, was completely vegan; the other one was not. The food? SO yummy. A student-discounted meal cost 720Ft (Hungarian Forint), which is around $3.70! Pictured is a shot of a laffa-wrapped falafel. Their falafel is so fucking flavorful, I miss it so much.
We also tried Napfényes Étterem. I think they were having an off night or something, because our service was fucking atrocious. But to their credit, the food they served was phenomenal. I got their special for the night, which was a Thai rice curry. While I didn’t really get any Thai flavor-notes, the food was extremely well prepared. And in a huge-ass portion; it was crazy. The star of the night was the vanilla cake I got there. IT WAS SO GOOD. They top it off with some Soyatoo whipped cream. I almost died. I loved it so much, I dragged my friend into the outskirts of Budapest to visit their bakery.
The bakery. The lovely lovely bakery. I am a fan of baked goods. A fanatic, even. And this place was fucking…ridiculous. I wish we had had a camera!! But look at their homepage: their pictures don’t exaggerate how great the food was. They had all sorts of goodies: oatmeal-cherry-raisin cookies, coconut-chocolate millet balls, lemon cake with a thick creamy frosting (I got the pleasure of trying it, and I don’t care how fat my ass got), the same vanilla cake I got from Napfényes Étterem, crème-filled phyllo squares…. I could go on, but I don’t want your food boner to break your computer screen. PLEASE GO THERE IF YOU ARE EVER IN BUDAPEST. It is amazing. And pretty cheap, as most everything in Budapest is. It’s a completely vegan bakery. Completely vegan. They even have some savory pastries using Cheezly, they’re that fucking crazy awesome. We were smart enough to walk there and back to burn off the insane amount of calories we must have inhaled.
So, that concludes my crazy Central Europe adventure. Aside from the fact that I’m still living in Prague for a while longer! Lots of veg food from this side of the world coming your way! And I’m checking out the Mecca of Maoz in a few days: Amsterdam!! Lastly I wanted to plug HappyCow for helping me with my vegan journey.
*Our Hungarian pal and sometimes contributor Vi Z. informs us that lecso is in fact a tradional Hungarian dish. Thanks for keeping us culturally and culinarly accurate, Vi!
A vegan guide to Prague: Having a Clear Head »
I’ve been in the most beautiful city in the world for over a month now. Really, look at how beautiful my beloved Praha is!
The first bit of Czech I learned was, predictably, Jsem veganka (or Jsem vegan for you dudes out there). The first restaurant they told me to go to was Lehka Hlava; it means “Clear Head,” and it has easily one of the dreamiest interiors I’ve ever had the pleasure of witnessing. My first time there, we were seated in the very intimate one-table room called the Rainbow Room.
The menu is mostly vegetarian, but the vegan items are clearly marked with a handy-dandy symbol, and the vegetarian-that-can-be-made-vegan meals are also clearly marked. I decided to get bulgur risotto with stir-fried tempeh, spring vegetables, and sun-dried tomato and peanut pesto.
The portion size was like, double that of my head—that’s when you know you’re getting bang for your buck (I mean, think of any nice restaurant in the Bay that will give you two heads’ worth of food for 135 CZK, or just under $7 US). I mean, really, two heads’ worth of food; look at the tomato slice for scale! Though the pesto was super-intense and there was a lot of it, I cleaned my whole fucking plate. I gained like five pounds by the time I finished, but it was soooo fucking worth it, and I felt it was sort of nutritionally balanced because they didn’t skimp on the tempeh, which was perfectly seasoned, by the way.
My friend and roommate (gluten- and dairy-free) got a tabbouleh salad for under $5 US. I didn’t try any, but was assured by both her and her empty bowl that the salad was super-filling and delicious.
As you can see, Prague is CHEAP AS FUCK. As in, this is a beautiful, fancy, sit-down-for-at-least-two-hours kind of joint, and the most you’ll pay for an entree is about $8 US, if you splurge. But they do charge for water (unless you’re smart enough to get the lunch special, which is $5 US for soup, entree, and water, but isn’t always vegan). I have since visited Lehka Hlava for Sunday brunch twice, and its sister restaurant Maitrea thousands of times for lunch, but my camera broke. So further pictures will have to wait!!
Lastly, to the haters that said I couldn’t be vegan and live in Prague: you were categorically wrong. There are many many lovely establishments, and, my Bay Area friends, I will show them all to you! In due time. When I get my mom’s camera in the mail. Which could take a while, but I’ve been czeching every day (zing!).
[all photos by Brianna]
A vegan in Paris, part three! (Super!marchés) »
When you’re tired of shelling out lots of money for a lovely vegan meal and want to just cook yourself, it’s time to go shopping for vegan groceries in Paris. It’s easier than you might think!
You might see Naturalia all over the city; with a tag line like “ingredients for life,” how can you go wrong? They carry tofu, tempeh, and overpriced seitan—no really, how could they possibly charge over 25€ for a fucking package of seitan?! IT’S JUST GLUTEN AND WATER, PEOPLE! Depending on the size of the store you stumble into they also have a small assortment of alimentaires bio, a.k.a. organic food. I would definitely stay away from their almost inedible prepackaged meals; I got a tofu-bulgur dish that was positively vile. That said, Naturalia is a great place to get all of the specialty vegan/gluten-free/healthy items that “normal” groceries don’t carry. A similar bio market you might want to try is Hédonie, located by the Rennes metro.
But if you don’t have time to look for a boutiquey, small market and want to visit some huge-ass shopping center like, say, the Galeries Lafayette, you’re in luck! Boasting a full organic section and an assortment of soy yogurt, I was sold. But maybe it was their loose spices or the vegan cookies in their bakery that made me swoon. Regardless, it would take a lot to get me to elbow through a mound of tourists to get to the checkout counter more than once.
I only go to supermarkets when I need specialty items I can’t get elsewhere. When you’re in Paris, you need to enjoy the wide availability of the freshest, most delicious produce ever. A guide like 20 Little Cities has a comprehensive listing of open-air farmer’s markets throughout Paris. I had the opportunity to go to the Marché de Cours de Vincennes (pictured), which had a huge assortment of the most delicious-looking and -tasting produce I have ever had the pleasure of getting my hands on. The vibrant colors and hustle-and-bustle atmosphere are sure to make any foodie quiver in her panties.
I’ll leave you with a picture of the most delicious strawberries I have ever eaten in my life. Unphotoshopped, I swear, and taken with a point-and-shoot Canon Elph.
A vegan in Paris, part two! (the make-you-super-jealous edition) »
23 rue des Vinaigriers
Open weekdays from noon to 2 p.m., weekend brunch from noon to 6 p.m.
Every once in a while, you step into an establishment and you just put your hand on your heart and swoon and feel good about the world. Voy Alimento is one such place, nestled in the 10ème arrondissement of Paris. It’s a shop that sells supplements and specialty food products native to the South American continent. They also serve COMPLETELY VEGAN (not one of those half-assed vegetarian-with-vegan-options kinda joints) lunch from a modest kitchen. I think what was amazing about this place is it’s really unlike anything I have ever seen or experienced, and it’s done well—superbly, even.
Pictured above is who I believe to be the owner in the kitchen. Not only was he really knowledgeable about what he was serving me, he was super-excited to engage in conversation with me about the food. He went on to describe everything on my plate (a bunch of which I forgot, because there were like a thousand ingredients and he was talking in French):
In the center, curried rice with a spirulina-based sauce. Two side salads of alfalfa sprouts, bean sprouts, carrots, and red sprouts of some sort. At the top, a melange of sauteed veggies, including red peppers, zucchini, onions, and aguaymanto. He was nice enough to bring out three extra sauces for me to try to shovel atop the already delicious and flavorful food. So yummy.
I couldn’t resist getting something on the menu labeled milkshake (it’s a rarity in Paris). I opted for bananas in mine for an extra euro (a small price to pay for deliciousness); you can choose to have your shake with maca or klamath. I chose maca because it promotes mental and physical vitality and regulates hormones. Surrounding the fucking delicious shake (that has an oat milk base, if you were curious) are more of those yummy aguaymanto berries and yacón (which kind of tasted a bit like dried mangoes).
So when I was done with my meal, the kind man asked if I wanted to try dessert. Still enthralled by this completely foreign cuisine, I was like FUCK YEAH. And he was nice enough to offer to let me try a taste of the two types of desserts offered so I could make an informed decision. I chose correctly, a cacao-based pudding. The cacao nibs were ground up and provided a coffee-grounds kind of texture, but so much richer and lovelier. Adorned with beurre de cacao around the edges. Topped with an aguaymanto berry and some more of those yummy dried yacón.
Despite being full as fuck (and having finished EVERY LAST MORSEL I JUST SHOWED YOU FUCKERS), the owner/nice man offered me a free tasting of Xocolatl, what chocolate (supposedly) tasted like 5,000 years during the Aztec civilization (a 3,5€ value, on the house). It was a hot drink and looked a lot like hibiscus tea, but tasted like… spiced chocolate. Comprising cacao nibs, urucum seeds, bird’s eye chili, cinnamon stick, and white and black peppercorns, and then sweetened with agave, it’s the original Mexican hot chocolate. They sold a “kit” for this drink for 5€ which I had to get.
This restaurant is a Parisian gem. I still can’t believe how fucking amazing this place is, and I recommend you all visit (and everyone on Happycow agrees with me). I spent probably two hours enjoying the food and examining their wares and talking with the owner/kind man (in Franglish, though his English was way superior to my French). I guess what really struck me about this place is how full of love all of the food is, definitely my favorite food of my entire trip thus far. And I doubt I will ever get the chance to try food from a similar establishment. And neither will you, unless you visit.
[all photos by Brianna!]
A vegan in Paris, part one! »
I am excited to announce that my broke college ass ended up in Paris for a whopping two weeks before my semester in the even less-vegan-friendly Prague [Ed.: For more advice on visiting vegan Prague, check out Melisser’s chronicles.] And to every asshole in my life that told me I would have to give up veganism to enjoy Paris: t’es un putain de merde. It’s helpful that I have a two-burner stove kitchenette with the appropriate accoutrements, but I’ve found it easy as hell to eat in lovely vegan(-friendly) restaurants. Oh, and the baguettes are vegan, and probably the most important food group ever. Here are a few suggestions:
41 rue des Bourdonnais
Open daily 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 11 p.m.
Saveurs Végét’Halles (get it?) is an adorable little mostly-vegan restaurant in the heart of Paris. The cuisine is described on HappyCow as having an “Oriental feel”, and I agree with that sentiment. For about 18,90€ you can get the dîner formule: an entrée (starter), a plat principal, and a dessert. There’s a cheaper with one fewer dish, but you’re in Paris! Go big or go home. I opted for the salade mixte aux coeurs de palmiers (salad with hearts of palm), assiette légumes vapeur minute (steamed veggies with a tofu chive sauce and some mashed peas), and crumble aux pommes (apple crumble YUM). Here’s the photos (the lighting inside was mood lighting, not so great for food lighting).
The salad was a salad; there isn’t wasn’t any special dressing beyond vinegar and oil, but it was well balanced and full of fresh and yummy veggies. The main course was exactly what I was in the mood for: really filling and satisfying food that feels healthy. Unfortunately, some of the veggies weren’t steamed properly, especially the carrots. The tofu-chive sauce was delicious, and tasted great with everything on the plate.
The crumble aux pommes was the star of the meal. I’m definitely one of those bitches who will melt for any apples prepared with cinnamon (gimme that shit over chocolate for V-day any day), and I have to say, as an apple-crisp lover, I’ve never had it accompanied with a raspberry coulis! INGENIOUS. They took two amazing fruits and put them on the same plate. LOVED IT GIMME MORE.
Le Potager du Marais
22 rue Rambuteau
Open daily noon to midnight; last seating/reservation at 10:30 p.m.
Le Potager du Marais, which specializes in French cuisine, is definitely one of those fancy-shmancy places you do not go for a casual lunch (like I did). It’s super-tiny with limited seating, so they recommend making reservations (as I went lunchtime, I didn’t bother). My lunch, a plat and dessert, cost 24€. For lunch. For just me. It’s pricey as fuck, but again, GO BIG OR GO HOME. Here’s the rundown on this place: beautiful atmosphere, nice music choices and volume, and a really friendly, eager-to-please waitstaff. You get what you pay for I guess.
I ordered a cassoulet de la mer gratinée aux noisettes (16€), which on the menu was described as a type of casserole with smoked tofu, mashed peas, bits of seaweed, and topped with crushed hazelnuts (to balance out the mushy texture). Flavor-wise, I felt the casserole was a little on the bland side. However, it was so rich and the texture was spot-on, I finished every last morsel. It was also served with an impressive side-salad, with a wide assortment of lettuces and sprouts and perfectly julienned carrots.
For dessert, I got a Tarte Tatin et Chantilly à la crème d’amandes (8€). Arguably the most beautiful looking dessert offered, it fell far short of being yummy. I was expecting a really sweet and rich end to my meal, and instead got a slightly bitter fruit topping with a difficult-to-cut-with-a-fork pastry bottom. I so wish I had gone with the chocolate mousse.
Le Quartier Juif in Marais
Rue des Rosiers between rue Vielle du Temple and rue Payenne
If you are craving some authentic Middle Eastern food and don’t want to pay more than 5€, this stretch of Jewish highway is your place. I got by ordering my falafel in Frebrew, this new pidgin language I started (but not really). I ordered just a plan old pita and falafel, and was assured in two different languages that there was indeed no dairy or eggs in any of the products I was eating. It was soooo yummy, street food at its finest (and a great alternative to Maoz).
So that’s all for now folks!! More Parisian food porn to come, I promise!
[all photos by Brianna!]