Friday, April 13, 2018

My Trip to Dr. Pogo - Berlin's Best Vegan Grocery Store


After being in Berlin a month, I'm finally starting to find my favorite products and shopping spots. Berlin shops are interesting because you can go to 10 different stores and not see the same smaller brands. It seems that many specialized products have deals with grocery chains to only sell exclusively. So my favorite new vegan brand Terra Vegane, for example, is only at Denn's Biomarkt and Dr. Pogo and no where else! One of my new favorite sparkling mates, Lamate, is only at Rewe, and I've only seen some special Mexican products I know from the US at Edeka. You really have to shop around to find that favorite item. 

At first, I was mostly shopping at my local store, Rewe, but after visiting different stores around the city, I realized I was missing out on a ton of products. I thought the vegan chain Veganz would have all my favorite products, but I found out since they closed most of their stores, they are focusing on their own brand and reducing competing vegan products - making it really hard to find the best brands there! I found the veganz options for seitan and cheeze to be absolutely terrible and I started making my own...until I found Dr. Pogo. 

Dr. Pogo is a small shop in Neukölln and has every product I was looking for. I ventured all the way out there, but it was worth it. It is a small shop that sells all vegan products from food to cleaning products and even has a little cafe and baked goods. I went this week and stock piled my favorite Terra Vegane products including a really mind blowing seitan/lupine salami that is my new fav. They also have every VioLife cheese imaginable, so you don't have to eat that plastic shit cheese anymore. They have a semi-okay coffee whitener/creamer called Whity...hmm...and that cute package was a fantastic little chocolate/nutty/caramel bar. Finally, they have one of the best chocolate croissants I've had here so far. Take some cash with you because they don't take your dirty credit cards, obviously. 


Saturday, March 31, 2018

Grocery Shopping in Berlin

We've been here two weeks now, and I've been to a lot of Berlin grocery stores and markets, so I wanted to share my experience so far! First off, having to Google Translate for an hour to go shopping in the beginning is a must - and I must look ridiculous - but I don't know what a bunch of items are and add on top of that my usual label reading in search of vegan products, and you have hours of translating fun! Some items can't be translated however, because they use a different name here so I'll cover a few I've decoded. The good news is, most things are labeled really well, I've found every ingredient (except one) I've searched for, and the bread is outrageously good. So here we go!

Grocery Stores:
Mostly everything has a green little vegan sticker so it's pretty easy to shop. This includes mostly all the organic shampoos, conditioners, and all food products. All grocery stores have options, so I've shopped around a bit. My favorites are Rewe, Bio Company, and Veganz. Since I have a baby fridge, I've noticed that I shop at least 3x a week and buy for the next two days only. I've ended up wasting less and eating less junk because I only have room for the necessities!

Baking Products:

Here is an assortment of items I got mostly at Rewe, Edeka, Veganz, and Bio Company. I had to research these items since there is not a literal translation for some. For example:

Baking Powder = Backpulver
Baking Soda = Natron
Arrowroot/Cornstarch = Saucenbinder Hell
Nutritional Yeast (Nooch) = Engevita
Chickpeas = Ceci or Kikkerrwten
Chickpea flour = Kichererbsen Mehl
Vital Wheat Gluten = Seitan-Basis

Foreign Items:
For foreign items, I read a lot online that certain items were unattainable in all of Germany. As usual, most of that is wrong as long as you look in the right places. Being from Los Angeles, I was craving some good Mexican food and the packaged German Mexican salsa made me cry. However, they had imported authentic brands in some stores. 

Edeka has La Costena brand and they sell canned chipotle and other canned salsas and hot sauces. Tortillas are easy to find at any store, but I haven't tried them yet. Cilantro (called Coriander), chills, avocado and lime are available at most stores as well. I made vegan empanadas from scratch from all these ingredients and some chipotle mayo on the side to make it super non-authentic. 

No American Products: 
Getting a damn normal jar of peanut butter has been hard so far. I got a jar with something that translated to American Peanuts with the statue of Liberty on it. But then it had lots of oil fillers making it less rich and not really good. Forget about ever seeing a jar of Skippy in your life, most American brands are not present. Even when I see a real Coca-Cola and not hipster German cola I'm surprised (lack of American products are all good except shitty peanut butter and seriously horrible packaged seitan but I'm still on the hunt). I can't find ANY coffee creamers to save my life. I accidentally got Hafermilch Cuisine, which is really a non-dairy suuuper thick creamy soup ingredient. They call them Coffee Whiteners supposedly, but I must be looking in the wrong place. 

American Product Replacement Update:
Found a legit peanut butter from Holland (Pinda Kaas) that is only sold in Asian markets. Half way found the coffee creamer replacement, but it's super wasteful. Veganz sells these little one-time-use soy milk creamers that aren't so bad and only 50 cents for 10. Finally, I found a great meat replacement made right here in Berlin called Terra Vegane

Local Products I Love:
  • ChariTea Sparkling Mate and Lamate! (The sparking mate with way less sugar than 'Merica)
  • Super healthy German bread (with seeds, nuts, and carrots inside) from the local baker..yumm. They have the best bread in the world here.
  • Suppengrun! German's answer to the Mirepoix from France. They package up carrots, celery root, leeks, and parsley wrapped in a little band and you go home with one serving of it ready to go. I created a simple recipe I will share soon!
  • Weird-ass potato fingers aka Schupfnudel (Germans say they created it before the Italians created gnocchi...hmm)
  • Souppen! German soups are the best, and they are really cheap. Also, when it's snowing outside and they sell the best soup you've ever had with that dense bread, it kind of feels okay for like a second
  • Hafermilch - Oat milk is everywhere here and almond milk is not..but Oat milk is fluffier and has a microbubble index of 5,000%*
That's all the shopping I'll cover for now, but I'll update the list as my hunt continues! Tschüss!

Friday, March 23, 2018

We Moved to Berlin!



We Moved to Berlin!
So it's been a week since we moved to Berlin and I thought it was time to start writing about our experience moving abroad and some of my first impressions of this city!

Why?
Before discussing my thoughts on the city, I thought I would answer the why. A lot of people were surprised by our move - but mostly jealous. However, this is something we have wanted to do for basically forever. Almost every year, we would take our one big vacation in Europe. We always travel how a local does - we stay in Air BnBs, cook at home, go to meetups, and hang out like we would in LA. That way we can get a good feeling for how living in the city would be. Paris is beautiful but too traditional/strict, Italy is amazing and relaxing but tech is way behind, Scandinavia is cool but didn't blow us away...but Berlin was so different. 

We heard the rumors and stats of Berlin and it hit everything on the Über Checklist - most green city, most vegan city, super tech startup city, English-friendly, family friendly, no Trump, etc. So after years of being Euro-curious, we made the leap and moved here. 

What's It Like?
Americans don't know much about Germany except the stereotypes. I was told I would only be able to eat sausage and beer, and that everyone is cold. After visiting and moving here, I can definitely say that both are ridiculous generalizations. Similar to saying Americans only eat hot dogs and smile too much - kind of true - but too simplified. 

In reality, LA and Berlin are similar in a lot of ways - and in many ways they are different. Both cities are a bubble - they have liberal, alternative people mostly living in them, there is always something to do, there is great food, culture, and people. Berliners have been more friendly, social, and open-minded than their LA counterparts. Even just this week, we have met lots of friends, went to an impromptu dinner with four people we just met, and met people from all over the world doing something similar to us. 

For the day-to-day, I find Berlin to be much safer, QUIETER, super walkable, and healthier. 

Safety - no weekly school shootings, drugged up transients in my doorway, and even small children take the subway alone with no problem. 

Senses - It's so quiet it's actually scary/I love it. LA was ridiculously loud. With the constant helicopters or screaming people in the streets, neighbors with loud music and TVs until 2am.. Berlin is super quiet. Ride the subway at rush hour in a packed car and people are whispering and no one is playing a loud boombox. At home, it's so peaceful I don't think anyone is alive. For the smell - I'm not missing Eau de LA (weed/urine/body sweat mix) in all the streets...but that always reminds me of home. 

Walkable - I lost 3 pounds during this week, just living like a German. I don't have a car and I have a mini-fridge (aka a normal German size fridge). So I am walking everywhere and going to my local store a few times a week. I only get the necessities to cook for the next few days and don't waste anything. 

Health - Everyone is really healthy here - except for the constant smoking/drinking. We went to a local hackerspace on the weekend where we all stopped what we were doing at 5pm, walked to the store, bought groceries and cooked a healthy vegetable stir fry and salad together. The other hackerspace cooked a vegan tomato soup for everyone last time we were here. The food doesn't have as much added sugar as the US so we've reduced our salt and sugar intake by just leaving the states. We can even walk across the street and get a healthy homemade vegan meal or hearty soup for 4 euro any time of day. 

Final Thoughts for Now
So far I'm really liking my new town. I really needed a change and even though I wanted to take a Trump detox (which isn't working because he's prolific) I'm loving the lifestyle here. I'm excited for 6 weeks of vacations, summertime, and more fun events to meet all the amazing people here. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

About Me

About Rachel

Rachel travels the world in search of the best vegan food to eat and write about. Since 2010, she has traveled from China, all across Europe, and middle America to prove that great vegan food can be found everywhere. Skeptical people say that vegans will die in places in the middle of Texas to the middle of France - but she traveled to major cities and remote towns alike to survive and write the tales of the great vegan options so you can do it too!



Romatic Road Vegan Restaurants - Romantische Straße

Romantic Road Trip with Vegan Eats

The Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) is a 220 mile route through old German towns in Bavaria. We traveled almost all of it going from Nuremberg to Rothenburg ob de Tauber to Augsburg to Fussen and finally driving back to Munich. There are some beautiful towns along the way and some secret vegan spots too. We took the train from Berlin to Nuremberg, rented a car (got a crazy fast BMW), got on the Autobahn, turned on Kraftwerk's "Autobahn" on repeat and drove 1 million mph/kph. Here's what we did, ate, and stayed on our trip. Ridiculous people will say vegans will die on this trip from hunger, but obviously that's not true. Stick to the restaurants and cities we stayed in, and you will have fantastic food, meet great people, and see the old Germany along the way. 


 


Nuremberg: 
Our first stop from the train was in Nuremberg (aka Nürnberg). This is a modern city that has some beautiful bridges and churches. But of course, I'm there for the the true beauty - vegan cat cafes! Katzentempel is a vegan restaurant chain / cat cafe that is growing all over Germany! The Nuremberg location opened only a few weeks before we arrived and it was fantastic. They have homemade coffee drinks, seitan sandwiches, burgers, and cats roaming around to greet you while you eat.



Rothenburg ob der Tauber:
We got the car and drove to Rothenburg ob der Tauber that same night. This is an amazing, beautiful, old city. This is the city you think about when you think old German town. You can roam around the fortress walls, through the cobblestone streets, and visit the Christmas stores all year round. The food is pretty bare here, but we managed to get some sandwiches and soup at Cafe Einzigartig and visit the little vegan store in town for some homemade vegan chocolate gingerbread cookies and other snacks at Lebe Gesund

To stay - We stayed in a cute hotel when you go right inside the walls of Rothenburg. It's called Prinzhotel Rothenburg. It was well located, and did the job for the night so I would recommend it during your stay.


Rothenburg sites

Lebe Gesund
Lebe Gesund

Cute streets of Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Augsburg:
K-41 became one of our favorite restaurants in Germany. It's all slow cooked, homemade food that is a random mix of Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, etc. The owner is a super nice guy who just cooks a bunch of dishes overnight, and serves a soup, huge plate of food, and small smoothie dessert at the end. Everything is 7 euro - which is super cheap for what you get. We ended up going there for dinner and lunch the next day because the food was great and the owner was nice too. 

To stay - We stayed in a kinda funky hotel that was cheap, but worked out. I don't think I would recommend it, but it was super convenient and walkable to K41, the main city, and a church that has the oldest stained glass in the world. InterCityHotel Augsburg. 
K41 mixed plate
Oldest stained glass windows

Fussen:
The final destination of the trip was Fussen - the beautiful city where Neuschwanstein castle is (near). It's a city on the border of Germany and Austria and is a spectacular place to see the view, drive by grazing cows, and enjoy the huge forests lush with trees and rivers. The air smells of manure all the time on the way there, so roll the windows up and enjoy the view from the inside :) . We walked from our hotel to Beim Olivenbauer which literally blew my mind with the - best beer - I'll ever drink along with fantastic vegan options all in a weird/quirky German restaurant. We were fighting over the Potato Croquettes and the Carrot Zucchini Burger with potatoes for sure - it sounds boring but it was (as usual in Germany) a nice, homemade vegetable concoction with tons of flavor. Get some hot tomato soup. Then drink my favorite beer, the Tante Paula, which is a light beer that was super smooth, felt like drinking water, yet made me buzzed in 10 seconds lol. 

On the way out, we had our final meal at a nice cafe/restaurant called Bio Cafe Baumgarten which has a vegan crepe and will make a nice oat milk cappuccino right in town. 

To stay - We stayed at Hotel Fantasia in Fussen. I really loved staying there because it's walking distance to our favorite restaurant in the city, it's a few mile drive to the castle, and it was great for walks to the forest and short hikes on the Austrian border. 
Bio Cafe Baumgarten
Crepe at Bio Cafe Baumgarten
Austrian border and walking path
Beer at Beim Olivenbauer


Potato Croquettes at Beim Olivenbauer
Carrot Zucchini burger - Beim Olivenbauer


Neuschwanstein Castle


Cows of the Romantic Road

Munich:
We ended the trip in Munich, dropped off the car and stopped listening to Kraftwerk on repeat after the millionth time of hearing "Autobahn" while driving 8 million miles an hour. We again ate at Katzentemel this time in Munich. They have the same food options, different cats, and it's just as nice as Nuremberg. We grabbed coffee at this amazing vegan cafe with coffee and pastries (chocolate croissantssss) called Lost Weekend - just always get the oat milk iced/hot lattes everywhere. The best restaurant we had was Max Pett. It's more expensive than most restaurants in Germany (more LA prices) but they have great brunch, dinner and desserts. 

To stay - We stayed in the main city area where all the hotels were - but that was a mistake. That place is crayyyy and has a lot of strip clubs and crazytowns. The hotel was fine, but I would stay at an AirBNB somewhere closer to the city center next time. It's called Cocoon Stachus if you're up for it. It's walking distance to the main railway station and easy to get to the airport. Run by Backwerk for some borek spinat (spinach pastry) on the way to the train too.
Curry at Katzentempel Munich


Max Pett

Max Pett - Omelette brunch

English Garden

 

Monster Pretzels of the English Garden
















Monday, July 3, 2017

Vegan in Germany



Our 2017 vacation was to the great country of Germany! Vegans may know Berlin as one of the world's most vegan-friendly cities..and it's true. There are over 50 vegan restaurants in Berlin alone and that doesn't include the vegetarian and vegan options in almost every restaurant you pass. I will write about my favorites on the trip including some on the Romantic Road (Romantische Straße) in Bavaria and Munich. Germany is not just sausages - just as America is not just hot dogs and hamburgers...it's a young, changing city with great food, coffee, and people from all over the world. 

Berlin Trip

Berlin Restaurants

Romantic Road Trip & Restaurants



Top Ten Vegan Restaurants in Berlin

The rumors are true - Berlin vegan food is some of the best in the world and super abundant. With over 50 fully vegan restaurants to choose from, what do you choose? Here's my top ten vegan restaurants you have to try when you're traveling. There were so many more I didn't get to visit, I just have to go back and visit the other 40 missing from the list!

Kopps

Kopps is a fancy vegan restaurant that has the most spectacular all-you-can-eat brunch for €15! I had a huge selection of options from a croquette with gravy, fresh bread and cheese, eggy hot dishes and cold pasta salads. Plus desserts, coffees and even beers. You can go up there as much as you want (and no one changes their plate like in the U.S.) and it always seems to be hot food and full. We ate here with a fantastic vegan meetup group, so we had a big table, lots of food, and great conversation with people from five different countries. 

I haven't tried the dinner which is completely different, but it's a set menu and much more expensive. I will definitely come back here to try both dinner and brunch. 

Viasko
Viasko is a vegan restaurant that plays punk and dark wave and won't let you in with faux fur, for reals. The staff is super nice and helped my terrible German become a little bit better at least in ordering food the right way! There was a short menu, so the best thing on there was the schnitzel (seitan) with white asparagus. It was my one and only schnitzel experience, and it was really well done. I hear their brunch is even better on the weekend and the tiramisu dessert was absolutely amazing. 

No Milk Today
No Milk Today is a cute all vegan cafe in Kreuzberg. They serve fantastic lattes with croissants, quiches, bagel sandwiches and salad. It's a casual place to hang out in the cute library in the back or outside on the patio or beach chairs on a beautiful day. Try their Vietnamese coffee with a croissant for a special treat. 

Sfizy Vegan
Sfizy Vegan is an all vegan Italian pizzeria from real Italianos. This is the best pizza in out of Italy because there are so many fantastic flavors that I was never able to try in Italy. This is the best pizza place I've ever been to because the dough is exceptional and they serve soft calzones stuffed with sausages, cashew cheese and spinach that are to die for. Pictured before the calzone is a pesto pizza with eggplant and peppers. They speak German, Italian and English here and the environment is that of a small family-run Italian restaurant with random tables and chairs and old Italian portraits on the walls. They serve great wine and sparkling Mate. I didn't try their homemade tiramisu, so I will need to travel back here to get it because it looked amazing as well! Don't skip this place, and make a reservation!

Voner
Voner wins the prize for the most surprising meal of the trip. For only €4.50, you can eat an insanely massive vegan doner with freshly made sesame bread, seitan from a spit (that thing in doner place with the fat meat hanging from a pole), vegan yogurt sauce on top of fresh vegetables. The place is small and the food is cheap, but damn was this place surprising, filling and a fantastic find in the arty district of Friedrichshain. I was disappointed that we didn't find more wall art in this neighborhood (more graffiti) but the doner and club mate made it all better. 

GaYaYa
GaYaYa is "pan-Asian" vegan food located in Mitte. I'm guessing this is a mix of Cambodian and Malaysian food, but I've really never had anything like it. The food was absolutely amazing, and I've never had these flavors together. We both got the 3 course meal which consisted of their two top dishes, a curry and noodle dish with an amazing coconut milk and mango dessert. I can't really describe the dishes, but as you see in the picture - there is a lot going on! This place is across the street from Sammlung Boros, an old Nazi bunker turned POW Russian prison, turned banana storage, turned 90s underground rave, turn modern art museum that we toured. We ran into this place accidentally, but it turned out to be one of my favorite spots!

Momos

Momos is the first place we stopped after the long flight from LA to Berlin. 15 hours of travel to get vegan dumplings filled with potatoes, carrots, and some with tofu. After we ordered the 18 momo plate with all the vegan options and sauces, we saw that we could have ordered a plate with over 30 for a little more money. I would definitely come back here, get the 30 plate and stuff my face with it. This is also a moment where I want to acknowledge Momos being our first ever ChariTea Sparkling Mate experience which basically changed our lives. This is not a product in the states, unless you want to pay $10 a bottle to importers on Amazon, so drink up! This was my first Mate out of the next 20 or so that would follow for the 2.5 week trip. Note - This place is a vegetarian dumpling place, but everything is marked vegan or not.

Brammibal's Donuts
Brammibal's Donuts was similar to the vegan donut shops in LA like Donut Friend or Donut Farm. It's a coffee bar and donut shop where you can drink tasty lattes with oat milk along with your boston cream pie donut on the right (which they call Dulce de Leche) and the pistachio rose water donut on the left. The difference here is donuts are half the price of the US (at €2.50 each instead of the LA $5 vegan taxed donuts) and you can walk right outside to watch the swans swim by on the Landwehr Canal which the Germans are sunbathing all day on the nice days. 

Louloute Gourmet Brunch

This was one of my favorite memories from the Berlin trip. Louloute Gourmet is not a restaurant, but instead a private three-course vegan meal made at the chef's house! I found this Saturday morning brunch on Meetup.com, but you can RSVP on the site too https://www.louloutegourmet.com/ . We showed up to an intimate table to seat four and we could choose between coffee, chai, three different mimosas with fresh orange juice and custom homemade flavors like infused Earl Gray syrup, or a Bloody Mary for drinks. Next, we had an appetizer course shown here with my favorite dish, vegan lox. We had a main course which was a middle eastern spicy tomato dish and freshly made chocolate croissants for dessert. The best thing about the visit was meeting fellow local vegetarian/vegan people and meeting the chef. This is highly recommend and a unique event to meet new people and eat great food!

Lucky Leek
I almost didn't want to put Lucky Leek's review on here because of the just annoying experience we had here, but I will put it because it's on my traveler's lists for a vegan Berlin trip. This is basically the only all vegan fine dining experience you can have in Berlin, it's €50 per person for a 5 course meal..this would actually be the normal price of many dining experiences in LA, NYC, or San Francisco and the food is definitely nice..but not worth the pain. We were stuck in our seat for over three hours while they slowly brought out each tiny dish. They didn't offer any water (usual Germany style), but after hours of entrapment, I just wanted to run out of there and go to Momos where I could get 30 dumplings for like $15 or something. Maybe go to this place once their service improves and they learn how to not trap their guests. Also - Cash only for a €100 meal is pretty ridiculous, so come prepared with a sack full of coins and you'll be good. This is a hit or miss place, so come without being in a rush, bring your own water, and you'll probably be happy.