Sunday, July 2, 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 Stra├če) 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: Coming Soon

Romantic Road Restaurants: Coming Soon

Munich Trip: Coming Soon

Munich Restaurants: Coming Soon



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. 

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Berlin Trip Highlights



We stayed in two neighborhoods in Berlin for a 10 day trip: Kreuzberg and Prenzlauer Berg. These are always on the top list for hippest parts of the city. Kreuzberg was just ok. The highlights are some of the best restaurants like Sfizy Veg, Brammibal's Donuts and No Milk Today. Some of these are in the neighboring area Neukoln. It was a run-down area before because it was at the border of the wall. After the wall fell, the best techno clubs and artists moved in. Prenzlauer Berg is a much better neighborhood IMHO because it's more central, has better food and coffee. The area is Germany's number one fertile neighborhood, so kids and families are everywhere. I've heard the streets of Prenzlauer Berg as the "Stroller Autobahn" and it's true. 

My first impression of Berlin was just shock. It's so different than every other European city I've seen. Because of WWII and the DDR, the city was completely re-built. It's the newest old city because mostly everything has been built after the 1950's...even the beautiful Tiergarten park. There are so many stats that come from Berlin: #1 vegan city in Europe, #1 green city in Europe, #1 start-up funding in Europe. It's an oddly perfect city for us. We love parks, vegan foodz, and tech. It has 25% non-Germans, so it's full of expats and English speakers. I met a lot of people who packed-up and moved to Berlin including many Canadians and people all over Europe. 

The best part of Berlin is just riding your bike through the windy streets, stopping by to get some vegan dumplings and Momos or some vegan donuts from Brammibal's and laying down in a beautiful park with birds chirping everywhere like Tiergarten...while drinking ChariTea Sparkling Mate our favorite drink. 

We went to a bunch of meetups because the vegans and techys are thriving there. First, there was Romy's amazing Secret Vegan Dining meetup where she cooks an amazing 3-course meal with drinks and desserts at her house. Next, we went to the monthly vegan brunch meetup at Kopps (best all-you-can-eat vegan brunch in the world for 15 euro). During the week, we went to a barcamp style meetup at Wikimedia called the Social Digital Innovation meetup. The next day was an IOT meetup with a panel of three German start-ups and the craziest pretzel spread you've ever seen. Finally, we went to the C-Base hackerspace for a Crypto-party night...in a crash-landed spaceship that lives beneath the entire city :) 

Berlin is a pretty bad place to visit if you're looking for tourist attractions. There is Checkpoint Charlie that will entertain you for 1 minute. There is the Brandenburg Gate which is beautiful. There are many memorials for the horrific history and there is Parliament. There are probably a few more things, but Berlin has no f-ing Eiffel Tower. It's just a crazy city that was rebuilt after the fall of the wall and re-invented itself in the last 28 years. 

This is not the old Germany that people think it is. People told me Germans are cold. Germans only eat sausages and I'll die of starvation. None of that's true of course, and the country is really diverse. Berlin doesn't even care about the Bavarian pretzels and beer, so there you go. 

Germans were so nice to us and Berlin was so young and thriving, I kept forgetting I was in Germany. I was surprised multiple times when I heard people speaking German because I thought I was at home. I thought it was Los Angeles. This is a place I would live in or visit more often, so my advice is to definitely travel here. 


Saturday, September 24, 2016

Downtown L.A. Walking Tour 2016 - Eat all the vegan food, drink great coffee, see historic sites!

This is an updated version of my 2014 LA Walking Tour with the same purpose but with updated fun things to do!

I have a common walk in downtown LA that I like to do and decided to put my common walk and food, drink and shopping spots on a map. In between this walking tour there are amazing views of downtown, the arts district, and less views of creepy-town USA spots and "pee-pee" corners (no joke). This is a fun walk that I bring my visitors when they want to see our favorite spots in LA. Have fun! See my notes below the map for secret tips!




A. Union Station: Beautiful, historic train station. Walk in the halls and stare at the ceiling. Don't forget to see the outside gardens too!
B. Olvera Street: This is literally the oldest place in Los Angeles and has cute Mexican markets, an old church, and even a cemetery. Pick up a sombrero for the rest of your walk, why not?
C. Burgerlords: Pick up the most fantastic vegan burger with vegan animal fries in Chinatown. Oh yea, there's Chinatown there too! They film a ton of shows and movies in this location, so enjoy.
D. Grand Park: Grand Park is a wonderful, newish park right in DTLA. They have tons of free events for music and food, so check out their site to see the schedule or you may just walk into a cool event by mistake.
E. Grand Central Market: Yes, this place is also historic and really cool now. Honestly, I didn't go here much until they changed up some of the restaurants for new ones like Ramen Hood (all vegan ramen!) and Golden Road (brewery with amazing pub pretzel, vegan mac&cheese, and perogis!) and the best coffee in LA, G&B (get their almond/macadamia nut milk sweetened latte - iced. You will be very happy.
F. Angel City Brewery: You just ate and got hopped up on coffee, so grab a beer too! Bring your dog and baby too apparently.
G. Shojin: Take a walk around Little Tokyo and the Arts District, and then you'll be starving and can head over to the best vegan Japanese restaurant ever. They have the best sushi and ramen, and don't forget dessert.. Pomegranate makes it, and it's fancy and good.
H. Poketo: Fine, I'll put some non-food stuff. This place is cute and you should go.
I. Van Leeuwen Artisanal Ice Cream: They have 10 flavors of bomb vegan ice cream and can even do sundaes. Enough said.
J. Stumptown Coffee: Portland's best coffee shop is in LA too. Now you don't have to quit your job and live the vagabond life, just go into far-off DTLA.

Best Vegan Desserts in Rome, Italy! Fratelli Piermattei

Fratelli Piermattei - Best Vegan Bakery in Roma!

Rome, Italy has one of the best vegan bakeries hidden in a suburb. Fratelli Piermattei is owned by a family who had kids with allergies and decided to make a bakery for people with allergies (and vegans) to eat their amazing baked goods, cookies, cakes, and coffee. The guy who was working their that day (I think one of the brothers) doesn't speak a word of English, but that didn't stop him from bringing his Italian charm as we spoke with hand gestures and yelling out "Vegano!" and pointing to everything. To my joy, it was very inexpensive, super tasty, and the guy was super nice. I highly recommend checking this place out on your next trip!

Try their custard filled donuts, they were to die for too!
All of this for less than 10 euro...amazing.


Me with all the fantastic noms

Pasticceria senza latte e uova! Roma, Italy. and yes, that pastry in my hand is as big as my head.




Thursday, September 1, 2016

Kindred - Food Review - San Diego, CA

Kindred - San, Diego, CA

Kindred is one of the most magical places I have ever visited. San Diego usually pales in comparison to the LA vegan scene, but literally no other restaurant tops the ambiance of this place. Plus the food and drinks and high-class, interesting, and really tasty!

There is so much to say about every detail of the decor of this restaurant before talking about the food. There is an overall Neverending Story theme, but it's also just kind of eclectic. There is a massive Wolf head with snakes wrapped around it in the back of the restaurant. There is even a table you can get right under his head! The checks come in old Choose Your Own Adventure books, the two-seat tables they have are custom designed so the table spins out so you can get in and it looks like a middle eastern theme (to me), the walls are all covered in pink wallpaper with intricate designs and the restaurant has these big garage-door style openings so everything is open to the fresh air. I loved this place!

Now...let's talk about food. To top off this beautiful restaurant, this is all vegan. They serve weekend brunch, lunch and dinner. I went to dinner and got the seitan skewers with chimichurri sauce which were to die for and as big as a full meal. For dinner I got the highly celebrated  seared cauliflower stake with beet sauce - the other half got the Tempeh on Rye with homemade chips. For brunch we got the sweet crepe and the tofu scramble. Everything was super good, and if I had to choose I would pick dinner over brunch. I would also go back for the popcorn appetizer, the sandwiches, and the soy curl dishes.


Skewers:

Tempeh on Rye:

Seared Cauliflower Steak:




Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Deshima - Healthy, Tasty Vegan Food in Amsterdam

Deshima
Deshima is a vegan, macrobiotic restaurant in Amsterdam that blew me away! They are a lunch place only, but close around 5pm, so we snuck in for the last items they had available. Even so, they had really healthy, amazing food. We had the seitan roles which looked like little empanadas and were extremely good. It was paired with two soups of the day, a miso/mushroom/Japanese soup and a pea soup. There were also these little crunchy bites made of (tempeh?) and a SUPER good blueberry and cream tart. 

Now, if that whole meal sounds weird and thrown together, it was, but it all tasted amazing. The meal was super healthy, made me feel full but without a greasy/tired feeling. The prices were extremely good and the place was cute and pretty close to the center of town. I would definitely come back here again and again if I could!