Vegans on a Plane: Vegan Food on Scandinavian Airlines (SAS)

I’ve copped to it in the past, and it’s still true: I secretly enjoy airline food. There’s something pleasing and special about getting served a meal 30,000 feet in the air. Pleasing, special, and absolutely necessary during long-haul trips!

Perhaps I should rephrase, though: I enjoy the concept of airline food. In practice, it’s often difficult to literally enjoy the taste (Turkish Airlines’ yummy options being a rare exception). That was certainly the case with the vegan meals on SAS, aka Scandinavian Airlines. I first flew them in 2018 during my trip to Tallinn, which began with a long-haul leg from Washington Dulles to Copenhagen (and then a short meal-less skip to Tallinn). I flew SAS again last month for a stay in Copenhagen itself, taking the same flight from IAD to CPH and back again. Both trips included nearly identical meals, so I’m pretty confident what I’m about to share with you is the standard offering on an IAD to CPH (and vice-versa) flight on SAS. Spoiler: It wasn’t great. Sad face!

SAS airline plane wing over a snowy and icy landscape

First, a note on how to request vegan meals on SAS. I booked both SAS flights through the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal, yet I was only able to request a vegan meal when booking my trip to Tallinn. The interface might’ve changed since then, or I might’ve just missed it when booking my flight to Copenhagen, but I was not able to request a vegan meal when booking my most recent trip. After logging in to the SAS website itself, I searched fruitlessly for a place to put in my request but found nothing. (No surprise; it’s a buggy website overall.) There’s an option to upgrade to a special/premium meal (one of which is vegan), but you’ll pay extra for that. Instead, I had to call SAS customer service and request a vegan meal (code VGML). After the call, a “vegetarian meal (non-dairy)” listing showed up on my booking reservation. I was a little worried that it didn’t specify VGML, but I did indeed receive a fully vegan meal on my flight. Whew! (Of course, if you book directly through the SAS website, you’ll probably be able to specify a vegan meal then.)

So, on to the food itself! On the 8-hour flight from D.C. to Copenhagen (and vice versa), you can expect two meals: dinner and a pre-landing snack. Let’s talk about dinner first.

On the D.C. to CPH leg, I was treated (ahem) to a rice and veggie dish, served with the barest minimum of tomato sauce. The highest praise I can give this meal is that the rice was cooked well. Beyond that, there’s not much to say: The veggie portion was comprised mainly of flavorless zucchini and summer squash, alongside a few bits of tomato and onion. It was certainly edible, but not memorable, and the lack of protein meant it didn’t really stick. The main dish came with a somewhat respectable side salad (served with a lemon-balsamic dressing, meh), the ubiquitous fruit salad (flavorless honeydew galore, alas), and a decent bread roll with margarine. There’s also non-dairy (and vegan!) coffee creamer in this photo, though I didn’t use it.

On the CPH to D.C. leg, I received a very unfortunate pasta dish. Unfortunate because (1) the pasta was overcooked and a bit gag-inducingly soft, and (2) the spinach-mushroom-tomato topping was simply flavorless. Ugh, what a textural nightmare! And look at that sad side salad. Whereas the previous salad at least had some color (and legitimately crisp lettuce), this one was so pale and limp and lifeless. And what are those bizarre pale sticks on top?! They had the texture of jicama but the flavor of nothing. Just sad. As was the dressing; that tube contains a vile, sweet, oily dressing that I hope never to encounter again. Even the roll was lackluster. (YMMV; the first time I flew this route, the roll was fine.) Redemption came in the form of dessert, a rarity on VGML orders. This chocolate-coconut ganache was legitimately delicious and legitimately rich, and I was so pleased when I saw it on my tray during the Copenhagen trip — I remembered how lovely it’d been from my last trip! It’s topped with toasted coconut flakes and truly makes up for the rest of this sad meal.

Don’t expect anything quite so lovely on your pre-landing snack, however. Especially not on the IAD — CPH route!

This meal includes applesauce (unsweetened if you get Lucky Leaf brand; sweetened if you get Mott’s), orange juice, a tiny sandwich, and either fresh fruit or a bag of extremely sweet dried fruit. And margarine, for some opaque reason. Maybe it’s meant for the sandwich? Butter would certainly improve it, because the sandwich is a big stack of nothingness, just bread stuffed with cucumber, tomato, lettuce, and some kind of flavorless spread. Seriously sad.

The pre-landing snack on the CPH — IAD route is marginally better for one reason only: cold-pressed juice. Legitimately delicious strawberry-apple-blackcurrant juice that I would pay real-world dollars for. Sooo good and tasty, a nice blend of sweet and tart. I received this juice both times I flew this route, and I was thrilled to see it again on my tray. The sandwich, not so much. Though you’d expect that dark, seedy, rich-looking bread to have a robust flavor to match its appearance, in truth it was quite flavorless. Perhaps we can blame the altitude, or the fact that it was served quite cold (urgh). The lackluster bread was filled with equally lackluster ingredients, so lackluster I cannot even recall them properly. Lettuce, perhaps? And a flavorless spread you can just see in that photo. Meh.

In summary, the vegan options on SAS exist, but they are not terribly exciting. They are, however, redeemed by a few true highlights: cold-pressed juice and delicious chocolate ganache. Both of those were served on the route originating in Copenhagen, so you can thank European air catering for those.

Have you flown a different SAS route? What was your meal experience?

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Ethical Product Review: Will’s Vegan Store Biker Boots

Will's Vegan Store biker boots // govegga.com

Badass black boots: It’s my personal belief that every lady needs a pair. Put ‘em on when you need an extra boost of confidence or a reminder that, yes, you can do whatever it is you need to do today!

I haven’t had a real good pair of badass black boots in a while, but that changed when I purchased these kick-ass vegan biker boots from Will’s Vegan Store (formerly known as Will’s Vegan Shoes — they’re expanding!). I had actually been eyeing the work boots but didn’t love that the tread was so deep; it seemed a little at odds with the more delicate, slender profile of the work boots. If I’m gonna get a pair of boots with big, deep, treads, I want a similarly badass design to match! So I turned my attention to the biker boots, a style that hadn’t previously been on my radar. With an autumn trip to Estonia and Finland coming up fast, I knew I needed a sturdy pair of boots for city tromping and bog hopping, so I took the plunge and bought a pair.

Truthfully, I was dubious. I have skinny ankles and calves, and I kind of thought my legs would look like little sticks poking up out of the wide openings (hence my initial interest in the narrower work boots). But as soon as I received these suckers and zipped ‘em on, I was in love. Yeah, they opening is a little wide for my legs, but that’s the style. Plus, all the more room for slouchy, cozy socks!

Just as I did for my dock boots, I figured I’d write up a Will’s Vegan Store biker boots review for anyone who may be considering a purchase. Please check out the dock boots post for a little more info on Will’s in general, including why it’s one of my  favorite ethical vegan shoe companies.

Will's Vegan Store biker boots // govegga.comHow do Will’s Vegan Store biker boots fit?

I have a few different styles of Will’s shoes (bought both new and used), all size 39. )For reference, I wear a size 7.5 U.S.) I do find the sizing a little uneven — while my dock boots were snug from day one, the footbed sandals are a little loose and long, unfortunately. The biker boots are somewhere in the middle. The width works fine for my narrow feet, but when I first got them, my heels would sort of lift out of the back because they were a tad large overall. The solution? Add some soft gel insoles. They both provide comfort and take up a little room in the shoe. Doing that (and tightening the buckles) made a huge difference, and they fit perfectly now.

I also tend to wear these with cozy thick socks (like these) for maximum comfort and  warmth. (Note on those socks: I looove them and thought I’d read they were ethically made in the USA, but now I’m not so sure! Sad face.)

How is the quality?

I think Will’s in general are well made, and the biker boots are no exception. I’ve had them for about six months and wear them multiple times a week, and they’re not scratched or showing much wear. I will say that the soles have pulled slightly apart from the shoe proper in a couple small spot, but that hasn’t affected their watertightness. I’ll update if something changes, however!

Are the biker boots comfortable?

After adding a gel insole to perfect the fit, the biker boots are super comfortable! Not that they were problematic to begin with, but insoles make most shoes better. I wore these almost exclusively during my trip to Tallinn, where I was walking 7-10 miles each day, with no issues. I did make sure to break them in first, but even then only got one tiny little blister on my ankle (?!) that hasn’t bothered me since.

How warm are the biker boots?

I’ve worn my boots on and off through this winter, and I’ve never been cold — even though they’re not insulated. If I’m wearing a thin pair of socks, I occasionally double up, but I do that with most of my shoes. :) I wore these for one night during a trip to Montréal last December, and my feet were plenty warm — even though the temperatures dropped to 5˚F that evening!

Will's Vegan Store biker boots // govegga.comAre they waterproof? How sturdy are they?

These are sturdy shoes. Will’s markets them as water-resistant, not waterproof, though I’ve worn them in plenty of yucky conditions (see photo at left!) with no ill effects. Plus, because they have super deep treads, they provide great traction. I’ve worn them in light snow and rain, and they helped me complete a very muddy, very slippery, very steep hike in Austin on New Year’s Eve without falling once.

Are there any downsides to the biker boots?

If you’re planning any sort of maneuver that requires stealth, seek alternate footwear! Here’s why: The biker boots squeak. Not a lot, but noticeably. I don’t quite know why, but I do know that whenever I walk down the hall during an (uncharacteristically) quiet moment at the office, I feel very conspicuous. No big deal when you’re strolling down a busy city street, but not ideal for moments that require silence and/or stealth.


What did I miss? What else do you want to know about these fab vegan biker boots?


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Review of Will's Vegan Store biker boots // govegga.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer: I was not provided with free shoes from nor compensated in any way for a review. (Although I would happily try another pair to review!) I simply bought the shoes and wanted to share my thoughts in a Will’s Vegan Store shoe review. This post does contain an Amazon affiliate link, however.

7 Practical Travel Tips for Tallinn, Estonia

Sign post in Tallinn, EstoniaInexpensive — yet well-curated — museums. Vegan food everywhere. Fairy tale-esque medieval architecture with surprise pops of Art Nouveau. Tallinn has it all! Yet somehow it remains just under the radar, popular with savvy travelers yet relatively unknown to the casual trip-taker. (Well, those based in the U.S., at least — I hear it’s a popular stag party destination for Euro bros!) Let me assure you: traveling to Tallinn is well worth your time. I thoroughly enjoyed my trip to Estonia last year, and I’ve put together seven practical travel tips for Tallinn to help you make the most of your time in this enchanting city. Read on, and let me know what I’ve missed!

Skip the taxi and opt for a 1€ tram ride into the city.

Although I wouldn’t call myself a budget traveler, I do prefer to splash out on the parts of my travels that really matter — memorable vegan meals, fun day trips, entry to interesting museums — while conserving cash elsewhere. That’s (partially) why I opt for public transport rather than an Uber or a taxi, and when possible I prefer to walk rather than take a bus, metro, or tram. In tiny Tallinn, you really can walk almost everywhere, but you’ll definitely want to seek transportation to and from the airport. Here’s the good news: You can buy a tram ticket from the airport to the city center for 1€. Yes. ONE SINGLE EURO. That is an AMAZING deal, especially considering that other European cities ask you to pay upward of 15€ for the honor of hopping on a crowded bus for your ride into the city. (Dublin, I’m looking at you!)

Tram tickets cost 2€ when purchased from the driver, but you can buy a QR ticket ahead of time for 1€. Simply download the pilet.ee app and purchase it there (international credit cards accepted). The ticket is good for one year from the time of purchase, so you can even buy it before leaving home. To use your QR ticket, enter the tram through the frontmost door and scan the QR code in the reader. (I took a screenshot of the ticket on my phone since I turn off my phone’s data/cellular plan when I’m abroad.) So easy and so cheap.

Note: You can also buy QR tickets for bus rides, and the same usage guidelines apply. Be sure to enter through the front door; the scanner in the middle of the bus doesn’t seem to accept QR tickets.

View of Tallinn from Toompea Hill

Don’t worry about being disconnected — free public wifi networks abound.

Start doing even the most rudimentary research about Estonia and you’ll quickly realize that Estonia was an early adopter in terms of internet connectivity. In 2005, Estonia piloted an online voting scheme, making it the first country to do so. Many other government services are available online, so it makes sense that Tallinn also provides plenty of free wifi hotspots around the city. You can find a map of these locations here; once you connect to the TallinnWifi network once, your phone should recognize the network the next time you pass through it. It’s a great way to check directions on the go or look up the hours of your dining destination. ;) (Of course, this is an unsecured, open network, so keep that in mind and maybe don’t email your banking password to someone while you’re logged on?!)

BONUS TIP: If you’re going to use your phone on the go, consider bringing a portable charger so you don’t run out of juice while navigating to your next destination.

Take in the view — and get a history lesson — on the KGB tour.

Though it might sound a little cheesy, the KGB tour at the Hotel Viru is a decent way to spend a few hours. In the 1970s, the KGB installed a monitoring station in the top floors of the Hotel Viru, which was essentially a state-run hotel where visitors from outside the Soviet Bloc were required to stay. Though the KGB officially denied that the floor housed anything beyond regular utilities and storage space, everyone knew KGB agents were stationed there, using listening devices planted throughout the hotel to monitor all the goings-on.

Today, some parts of the monitoring station have been preserved in a modest museum— and you can see them on a tour (11€) that departs from the ground floor of the hotel. The best part of my tour wasn’t the reconstruction of a Soviet office or the other artifacts from the period; truth be told, the museum itself is a little lackluster. What I really enjoyed was the history lesson. Our tour guide had grown up during the Soviet occupation and shared plenty of real-life anecdotes and stories that brought depth to the facts, figures, and dates.

But what really earns the KGB tour a spot on my list of travel tips for Tallinn is that it comes with a fabulous view. The Hotel Viru is one of the tallest buildings in the city center, and you’ll have ample opportunities to snap photos from the balconies. Although it was rainy and grey during my visit, I still captured a few neat shots.

BONUS TIP: If you do opt for a KGB tour, buy your ticket in advance! You can stop by the Hotel Viru and go to the front desk to make a purchase, or order online. The tour meets and begins in the lobby (look for the signage), and on the day I took it, a few people were turned away because they hadn’t bought tickets in advance and the tour was full.

Find a (nearly free) concert to attend.

Many of my most moving and lasting travel memories include music, from stumbling across an outdoor opera concert in Rome to serendipitously visiting a cathedral in Vienna just as a traveling college choir began an a cappella performance. And then there was the moment when I — traveling alone for the first time, grieving the sudden death of my dog — became besotted with a busker playing a full grand piano in the middle of an Antwerp pedestrian plaza, sending both classical songs and pop music soaring into the air and providing a moment of calm in a busy city.

While I can’t promise you’ll have an equally moving experience in Tallinn, I can tell you that there are worse ways to spend a half hour than timing your visit to St. Nicholas’ Church (also called the Niguliste Museum)  with a free organ concert. You’ll find the church in Toompea, a hilly section of the city that houses Toompea Castle and offers plenty of great views. The museum houses both temporary contemporary art exhibits along with more permanent exhibits, including a fantastic Danse Macabre.  Entrance to the church/museum is 6€; half-hour organ concerts take place on Saturdays and Sundays at 4 p.m. and are included in the price of the ticket.

BONUS TIP: Tallinn’s Dome Church also offers organ concerts on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. as part of a (free) prayer service and on Saturdays at 12 p.m. with a small donation.

Seagull on the ferry from Tallinn to HelsinkiIf you’re taking the ferry to/from Helsinki, know your terminal.

One of the best overnight or day trips from Tallinn is a visit to Helsinki, Finland’s capital. Three companies — Eckerö Line, Tallink, and Viking Line — operate ferry trips across the Baltic Sea; you can compare prices and book your tickets here. (Don’t be afraid to mix lines to save money — I traveled on Tallink to Helsinki and on Eckerö back and found no real difference between the two.) After booking, make sure you look up which terminal your company leaves from! While the Tallinn port is not huge by any means, there are separate buildings for the different lines and they’re maybe 5 to 10 minutes apart on foot. Save yourself the stress of ending up at the wrong terminal and look it up in advance.

BONUS TIP: Once you get to the Tallinn ferry terminal, you’ll need to print yourself a boarding pass if you’ve purchased your ticket online. If you have a digital version of your ticket stored on your phone, you probably won’t be able to check in using one of the digital automated kiosks because your digital ticket won’t have a security number on it. Instead, head to the ticket office staffed by a real live person — they’ll get you sorted! (This applies to Tallink tickets; I’m not sure about how the other lines operate.)

If you travel during the colder (or shoulder!) months, wear layers.

I visited Tallinn in early October and was treated (ahem) to some chilly temperatures. Nothing terrible, but there were some rainy, windy 40˚ F days that made me real glad I’d packed a warm jacket, a scarf, and my fingerless gloves. Here’s the thing, though: Many museums and restaurants seemed to overcompensate for the nippy weather outside by keeping things quite toasty inside. Now, I’m the type of perpetually chilly person who’d rather be overheated than cold, so I didn’t mind at all. But if you get cranky when you’re hot, you might want to wear layers so you don’t become miserable while wandering around, say, the Tallinn City Museum for a few hours. (Note that most museums have coat racks or lockers, so you can shed your layers  while you get cultured.)

Get out of the city!

You can easily while away a few good days in Tallinn. But don’t limit yourself to the city — get out of town and experience some of Estonia’s beautiful natural lands. I booked a day trip to Lahemaa National Park with Traveller Tours and Day Trips and had a great time. These tours include a driver and a small group; mine included two women (also from Maryland; go figure), an older British man with plenty of travel stories, and a young German teacher taking advantage of a school break. Our tour guide was entertaining in a wry, dry Estonian way, sharing tidbits about his own life and his take on Estonian culture while giving us the broader historical context for the country’s past.

We stopped at Estonia’s largest waterfall (all of 8 meters/26 feet high!) as well as a little coastal park, where we walked to the sea and felt the salty, cold air whip our faces and hair. Then we headed to a derelict manor — a relic of the time Sweden ruled over Estonia — and wandered the grounds. Next we visited a little fishing and maritime museum run by an avid artist and fisherman. His wife made and served us lunch; I’d told our guide that morning that I was vegan, and she provided a simple yet tasty vegetable and bean dish for me while the others had fish.

Our main stop for the day was Lahemaa National Park and its 1.5-mile bog walk. Tramping on the wooden footpath over the spongy bog, our little group breathed the clean Estonian air and got lost in our thoughts. Estonians love spending time in nature, according to our tour guide, and make trips to the forest to hunt for mushrooms or just take a hike pretty regularly. The bog walk was an otherworldly experience, and although the cold damp air seeped right into my bones and left me chilled for the rest of the day, I’m so glad I opted for the day trip.


Thanks for reading these travel tips for Tallinn, Estonia — and let me know if you decide to go!


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Seven practical travel tips for Tallinn, Estonia // govegga.com

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How to Make Vegan Minestrone: Easy and Pantry-Friendly!

A quiet sort of chaos reigns in my household these days. We’ve been fostering a super sweet hound mix named Margaret for four (!) months, and she’s got all sorts of fun little health issues that keep cropping up. The latest? Polyps in both ears, requiring an expensive, complex surgery. As the rescue tries to find a surgeon who’ll offer a discount, they’re fundraising to mitigate the (substantial!) cost of the surgery. (Margaret isn’t in pain, by the way, but the polyps are causing chronic ear infections and could become malignant. She is truly the gentlest, sweetest little girl, though, and I hope an adopter steps up soon.)

For the last two weeks, we’ve also been dealing with a (human) health crisis on Steven’s side of the family. The details aren’t mine to share, but we (mostly Steven!) have been making lots of long trips to the hospital and dealing with the uncertainty of a potentially serious affliction. It’s been draining and scary and exhausting.

And on top of all that, our beloved Prius started making some seriously odd noises — like a prop plane taking off. Our mechanic thinks it’s caused by low tire treads and hasn’t been able to find anything more serious, but as someone who deals with car-related anxiety, the noises leave me discomfited.

Basically, we’ve got a lot of ongoing, unresolved issues. For two chronic worriers prone to anxiety, it’s… stressful.

In times like these, healthy eating tends to fall by the wayside, even for the best of us. We haven’t meal-planned in weeks, grocery trips have taken a backseat to hospital trips, and we’ve been relying on a combination of leftovers, whatever we can scrounge (hey-o, random pot of black-eyed peas, kale, and pizza sauce!), and the occasional dinner shared by our super thoughtful friends who happen to be vegan and live just down the street. Things are finally getting back to normal, but we’re not quite back in our regular meal-planning mode yet.

Collard leaves from the gardenI have managed to make one solid meal in the past couple weeks, though: minestrone. A steaming hot, big ol’ pot of veggie-laden soup, perfect for delivering a dose of the nutrients we’re sorely lacking. I put it together with all sorts of scraps found in the fridge — half a jar of canned tomato sauce from god knows when, baby carrots, a jar of roasted red peppers, some sad little garlic cloves beginning to shrivel and sprout. I didn’t have celery, so I forewent the traditional mirepoix base. I added some little collard leaves picked from the garden; thank goodness for cold-hardy vegetables! Green beans and broccoli — the only fresh veggies in the fridge — went into the pot, along with a small can of diced tomatoes and a big can of cannellini beans. A liberal dusting of herbs, plenty of nooch, and some veggie bouillon rounded out the flavors, and elbow macaroni provided the pasta component. A nice long simmer while Steven drove home from his hospital visit helped meld all the flavors, and we sat down to big bowls of surprisingly delicious soup two Sundays back. A brief moment to catch our breaths, and much appreciated.

So, today, in the style of my template for making lentil soup, a template for making minestrone with whatever you’ve got on hand. Start with these five tips for homemade minestrone, and then read on for more detailed instructions

Cook your pasta separately.

My texture issues might be speaking here, but who wants to eat leftover soup laden with soggy, bloated pasta? Avoid that nastiness by cooking your pasta separately (in bulk) and adding individual portions to each serving of minestrone.

Embrace liberalism (with your seasonings).

Do not skimp on the herbs! Big scoops of dried basil, oregano, parsley, and thyme make all the difference. I’d opt for at least one teaspoon of each herb per 3-4 cups of liquid, but don’t sweat the measurements.

Say yes to yeast.

A big scoop of nutritional yeast adds a funky kick you’d get from parmesan in a non-vegan minestrone. Don’t skip it!

Get creative with your veggies.

Do not feel beholden to traditional minestrone recipes that “suggest” a very particular blend of vegetables! Instead, feel free to add whatever’s in your fridge or freezer. Aim for a blend of veggies with different sizes and shapes to keep things interesting.

Take your time.

Tempting thought you might find it to dig in to your minestrone as soon as you’ve dumped all the ingredients in the pot, give it some time to rest! Simmer your soup for at least an hour to build and deepen your flavors. (If you’re using any veggies that are prone to sogginess, feel free to add them closer to serving time.)

Vegan minestrone soup // govegga.com
One-Pot Vegan Minestrone

Serves 4-6

The basics

  • 2 T olive oil (you can use more if you prefer, or even just water-sauté the veggies if you want to avoid added oil)
  • Diced onion, carrot, and celery (the amounts don’t really matter, but aim for about 1/2 cup of each)
  • 3-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • A small shake red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 3-4 cups vegetable broth (I like Better than Bouillon)
  • 14 ounces diced canned tomatoes (if using whole, smash them up a bit)
  • 14 ounces crushed tomatoes (optional but recommended; use 8 ounces tomato sauce and a little extra broth in a pinch)
  • 14 ounces cannellini beans (or other white beans)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 ounces small pasta, like ditalini or elbows

The veggies (choose 2-3)

  • 1/2 to 1 cup green beans, ends trimmed and sliced into 3/4″ inch pieces
  • 1/2 to 1 cup small broccoli florets
  • 1/3 cup roasted red peppers, roughly chopped
  • Additional 1/2 cup sliced carrots
  • 2 cups greens, roughly chopped (kale, collards, spinach)
Method

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot on medium. When it begins to shimmer, add the mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) and garlic. Heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing burns, until the onion is translucent.

Add your spices and give everything a good stir, then add all remaining ingredients except pasta. Bring everything to a boil, give it a good stir, and then turn it down to low. Let simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

While the soup is simmering, cook your pasta according to the package’s instructions, then set aside.

After about 45 minutes, check to ensure that all veggies are nice and tender. Season with salt, pepper, and more nutritional yeast to taste. Serve piping hot, with 1/3 to 1/2 cup of cooked pasta per bowl. Top with additional nutritional yeast or vegan parmesan as desired.

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How to make vegan minestrone soup // govegga.com
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Raaka Unroasted Vegan Chocolate Review

Among Steven’s many excellent qualities is one that makes birthdays and holidays extra fun: He is a terrific gift-giver. He’s the type of person who keeps a running list all year long, adding ideas gleaned from offhand comments or the merest suggestion. His gifts are always thoughtful and frequently generous. For my 25th birthday — a year in which I’d come up with a list of 25 goals to accomplish — he made what was essentially a birthday advent calendar, with one box for each goal. Once I accomplished the goal, I’d open the box to find a trinket to commemorate my success: a sachet of saffron for a cooking-related goal, that sort of thing. For my 30th, he gave me a generous gift certificate to a local photography school so that I could take classes, a nod to my desire to improve my photography and to my desire to focus more on experiences than physical things. Steven derives genuine joy in giving the perfect gift, without expecting the recipient to reciprocate with something equally perfect. (Although I was pretty proud this Christmas when I got him a handmade Slytherin robe, which seemed to delight and surprise him.)

All this is to say that even my stocking is a thrill to open come Christmas morning. This year, along with some other lovely stocking stuffers, Steven included three chocolate bars from Raaka, an ethical chocolatier that produces some truly wonderful vegan chocolate bars. The gift ticked all the boxes for me, a lover of high-quality dark chocolate who tries to support small companies that incorporate transparent, ethical practices in their supply chain. I hadn’t heard of the brand before I received Steven’s gift, but I was glad to learn about them.

Raaka differentiates itself from other chocolatiers by focusing on single-origin unroasted beans and by being truly transparent about their processes. I received three bars, which came packaged in a nice little muslin bag I’ll happily use to stash toiletries during my travels. Here are the bars I tried. Spoiler: I love them all.

Vegan Raaka chocolate bars


Bourbon Cask Aged

Raaka describes this bar as their “tuxedoed sophisticate,” and they’re not wrong. The company barrel-ages their single-origin cacao in bourbon casks, imbuing the chocolate with a deep, rich, complex flavor. Would I have described this chocolate as bourbon-infused had I not read the label? Probably not. Is it still delicious? Yes, it is.

Pink Sea Salt

I am fully here for the trend of sprinkling salt atop an otherwise sweet chocolate! This bar fulfills all my salty-sweet dreams, with a grains of sharp pink salt liberally dashed onto a 71% cacao bar of chocolate. It’s utterly delightful.

Coconut Milk

This is easily the best vegan chocolate I’ve had in a long, long time. It hits a perfect balance between milk and dark chocolate, melting on the tongue like a milk but with the complex flavors of a dark, and very little actual coconut flavor. It’s light and smooth, a creamy delight that goes down easy. I’m exercising restraint and making this bar last as long as I can!


Vegan Raaka chocolate bars

If you can’t tell, I’m officially a Raaka convert. This is quality chocolate prepared with love and respect. I’m not sure that I’d identify it as unroasted if I didn’t know it in advance, but whatever they’re doing, they’re doing right. Plus, the labels are pleasing to look at and the price is comparable with other artisanal chocolate bars (which is admittedly steep). It’s chocolate to be savored, eaten slowly a square at a time. My kind of chocolate.

Raaka has quite a few other flavors, and I’m looking forward to trying them. I love the idea of the cab sauv bar, and they just introduced an oat milk bar (!?!) that sounds really interesting.

Let me know your favorite ethical vegan chocolate brands… if only to give Steven ideas for my March birthday! :D

Vegan Afternoon Tea at Le Parloir in Montréal, Canada

I’ve finally achieved a dearly held dream: enjoying a full vegan afternoon tea!

Vegan afternoon tea at Le Parloir in Montréal, CanadaFor years I’ve read fellow vegan blogger Jenny’s accounts of the vegan afternoon teas she’s enjoyed all over the world (okay, mostly the UK) and wistfully wished for a tea of mine own. I’ve salivated over the savories and pined over the pastries, dreaming of a day when I’d get three tiers of treats all to myself.

My chance nearly came this past spring. For my birthday, Steven’s mom very sweetly gifted me (and Steven!) passes to enjoy a special vegan afternoon tea being offered at a tea shop in Ellicott City, a nearby historic mill town. The shop doesn’t typically offer vegan snacks but was partnering with a local vegan society for a one-off event, and I was quite excited to attend. Then the owner had an emergency in the family and had to reschedule the event, understandably. Before she could reschedule, climate change took its toll: A series of horrific floods swept through Ellicott City, and the tea shop flooded and had to close, likely permanently. Sad for me, but truly tragic for the town. My afternoon tea dreams were on hold.

And then Steven and I booked a winter trip to Montréal. I’d been itching for a December trip to somewhere in Europe where we could visit Christmas markets, but it wasn’t in the cards this year. A long weekend in Montréal was a more than passable substitute, and when a search for “vegan afternoon tea in Montréal” led me to discover that sweet tea shop Le Parloir offered a vegan afternoon tea, I was sold. I made a reservation and counted down the days till three tiers of treats would be mine.

We’d booked our afternoon tea for 1:00 p.m. on a Saturday and found the tea shop about half full when we arrived. After being seated, we waited about five or so minutes before getting the menu and a run-down of how to order, and that’s pretty indicative of the overall pace at Le Parloir: relaxed! This is the time to chill out, get cozy, and while away a few hours. (We were glad to escape from the biting cold outdoors; the temperature hovered around 5˚F on that day!)

Vegan afternoon tea at Le Parloir in Montréal, CanadaWhile you can order vegan a la carte options, we went straight for the full three-course vegan afternoon tea, served on (yess!) a three-tier cake stand. Priced around $25 Canadian, it was a bargain thanks to the favorable exchange rate for us Americans. (How rare it is I get to say that…!) Steven opted for a black chai blend, while I chose a jasmine green tea. Our piping hot iron pots arrived in short order, complete with hourglasses to time the steepage. Steven enjoyed his chai; my jasmine wasn’t quite as flavorful as I prefer, but still fine. We sipped our teas and did some covert people-watching while waiting for our trays. Interestingly, of the three other pairs of diners present during our meal, at least two people ordered the vegan tea, and one ordered a vegetarian spread. :)

A woman who I assume to be the shop owner delivered the vegan tray to a lady sitting behind us, explaining each dish, but we unfortunately didn’t get the full run-down when the waitress came with our cake stands a bit later. No matter; the food didn’t really require much explanation.

Vegan afternoon tea at Le Parloir in Montréal, CanadaFor the savories, we enjoyed five tidbits: a savory tart with walnut-mushroom pâté, a slice of toasty bread with beetroot hummus and radish slices, a (heart-shaped!) open-faced cucumber-cream cheese sandwich, two egg-salad finger sandwiches, and — my favorite — two tangy, mustard-y, pickle-laden sandwich triangles. I’m not sure exactly what the filling was on those latter two sandwiches; I’d guess it might’ve been chickpea-based, but it was really tasty, especially served on a soft, nutty wheat bread.

We slowly munched our way through the savories before moving on to the middle tray: the scone course! We received one towering scone apiece, and a good ‘un it was. Flaky, nice and tall, just barely sweet, with a tender crumb. Scone perfection, just about. The scones came with a small pot of blueberry compote, which I found just a tad too sweet. (A bit of cream would have helped cut through the sugar!) The tray also included a cute little pot of panna cotta, the only misstep of our entire afternoon tea. I think this dish relied on agar to thicken it — too much agar. It was basically a solid, flavorless white block — not terribly appetizing. I dutifully dug through mine to discover an absolutely perfect mango-passionfruit coulis at the bottom, a tangy-sweet sauce that paired really nicely with the toasted coconut flakes sprinkled atop the panna cotta. This would’ve been really lovely if the middle layer were a softer vanilla pudding!

Vegan afternoon tea at Le Parloir in Montréal, CanadaAt last we reached the dessert plate. Stomachs straining, we indulged in three treats: a tiny vanilla cupcake with almost painfully rich and thick frosting, a sweet little berry mousse tart topped with fresh berries, and a few candied orange jelly slices coated in rich dark chocolate. I could take or leave the cupcake, but not through any fault of its own; I’m just ambivalent about cupcakes in general these days. The other two sweets were lovely, and the dark chocolate oranges made for a wonderful last bite. I was pleased to pace myself enough to finish everything — it was a lot of food, all told!

I’m so glad we were able to make it to Le Parloir to enjoy a vegan afternoon tea in Montréal! I enjoyed the whole experience, from the kitschy-cute décor to the slow pace to the tasty little nibbles we enjoyed. And it’s fair to say that my appetite for afternoon tea will only increase now that I’ve had my first taste!

IF YOU GO

  • You don’t need to make a reservation at Le Parloir, but if you’re going on the weekend, you might want to do so just in case — they sometimes host bridal and baby showers, which can take up a large portion of the tea shop. You can call or send a Facebook message to make a reservation.
  • You don’t need to reserve a vegan tea in advance, but when I messaged the owner to make my reservation, she said it’s helpful for them to know in advance if multiple people will be ordering vegan teas. So you might as well specify when you make your reservation!
  • Take your time! Of the three pairs of diners who were there when we arrived, two were still there when we left.

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Vegan afternoon tea at Le Parloir in Montréal, Canada // govegga.com

Where to Find Ethically Made Vegan Winterwear

Original photo by Roberto Trombetta on Flickr // vegan ethical fashion

Original photo by
Roberto Trombetta on Flickr

A few weeks ago I stumbled across a big ol’ master directory of ethically made winterwear, listing everything from thermal undies to big puffy parkas. And while it was a pretty comprehensive list, it was also not entirely relevant to me as a vegan: If I wanted to see which brands had products free of down or leather or wool, I had to click through and do my own investigation. Plus, it didn’t include a few all-vegan brands that I know produce their products ethically. I sighed and thought to myself, why not compile my own list of brands producing ethically made winter clothes without animal products? And thus, this list.

I’ve categorized this post by product type to help you find the specific items you need, so some brands are included in multiple sections. I’ve also marked fully vegan winterwear brands in case that’s important to you, and I’ve included what rating the company gets from Good On You, an app that evaluates brands’ ethics in terms of labor, the environment, and animal welfare. (Learn more here.) The app is fairly new and has mainly focused on Australian brands, so not all brands mentioned here are rated. That doesn’t mean they are not using ethical practices, however!

Let me know if I’ve missed your favorite brand!

Where to find ethically made vegan winter coats

Brave Gentleman (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer: Don’t let the name fool you: Brave Gentleman doesn’t just produce vegan clothing for men. According to its FAQ, the brand is “geared toward individuals who enjoy menswear aesthetics because there is a disproportionate emphasis on femme lifestyle products in the “eco”, “green” and “ethical” realm.” Fair enough! As of November 2018, the brand has just a few vegan jacket styles, but this tweed-y double-breasted overcoat is a great option if you’re looking for a classic overcoat style. (It’s also available in houndstooth, plaid, and solid colors.)

Why it’s ethical: Brave Gentleman ensures that workers receive a living wage and healthcare coverage. All styles are vegan, and the brand works to minimize pollution and use sustainable materials.

Good on You rating: Not yet rated

How to save: I haven’t seen Brave Gentleman offer sales, but I don’t follow this brand terribly closely. Checking BG out on social media might be your best bet.


Finisterre

Who they are and what they offer: Founded with the goal of producing sustainable garments for British surfers (yes, really), Finisterre has a few solid vegan options among its wool-heavy line. The packable Nimbus is available for both women and men, and many of the parkas are also free of animal products.

Why it’s ethical: The company uses eco-friendly materials like recycled polyester, and it was founded with sustainability as a key practice. It’s also a B Corp. Finisterre doesn’t use leather, fur, angora, or down.

Good on You rating: Good

How to save: Sign up for the mailing list for a discount, and be sure to check the sale sections.


Hoodlamb (fully vegan)

Hoodlamb's sustainably made vegan Nordic puffer

Image copyright Hoodlamb

Who they are and what they offer: This cheeky Amsterdam-based company relies on hemp — that darling of the sustainable fashion world — to create parkas, bombers, hoodies, sweaters, and more for both women and men. Need something über-warm to get you through a Nordic winter? Try one of the thigh-length puffers. Seeking something more casual to wear indoors to avoid cranking up the heat? Check out one of the long hoodies.

Why it’s ethical: Clean-growing hemp is the backbone of most products, and the company uses certified organic textiles in its shell fabric. All products are vegan, and Hoodlamb carefully chooses the factories that produce its garments (see more here).

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Full-price items are not cheap, but sign up for the mailing list to get access to sales. You’ll find deep, deep discounts in the off-season.


Patagonia

Who they are and what they offer: This well-known activewear brand offers plenty of vegan options for men, women, and kids. The Nano Puff jacket protects you from winter and water; try the Snowbelle jacket for a versatile, 3-in-1 option.

Why it’s ethical: Patagonia is arguably a pioneer in the realm of ethical activewear; it uses eco-friendly materials, has a repair and reuse program, incorporates many sustainable practices, and is quite transparent about its supply chain and workers’ wages. It’s also a certified B Corp.

Good on You rating: Good

How to save: Check out the web specials section or shop for Patagonia projects at various outdoorsy stores. Moosejaw, REI, and Sierra Trading Post all sell Patagonia and have clearance/sale sections.


Save the Duck (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer: An Italian brand, Save the Duck makes down-alternative coats, jackets, and vests for women, men, and children. You’ll find both puffer styles and parkas in just about every color.

Why it’s ethical: Save the Duck uses no animal products and says its garments are “environmentally friendly.” (See below for more info.)

Good on You rating: Not good enough
(Save the Duck claims to use sustainable practices but hasn’t provided enough information for Good on You to fully evaluate those claims. I’m not sure I want to keep Save the Duck on this list, given those concerns, so let me know what you think.)

How to save: You’ll pay top dollar for brand-new items; sign up for the mailing list for the occasional sale. (Last Black Friday, discounts peaked at 40%.)


Vaute Couture (fully vegan)

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture; Belden coat

Photo by Anthony TwoMoons for Vaute Couture

Who they are and what they offer:  Founded by designer Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart, this fashion-forward brand made its name offering hand-sewn, ethically made vegan winterwear for women and men. The Belden is a classic women’s style, and I love the Charles for men. Vaute even makes gender-neutral styles! (I’ve also written more about Vaute Couture here.)

Why it’s ethical: This vegan brand relies on sustainable materials and ensures that all its products are made in the USA by employees making a living wage.

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Check out the clearance section for discounts, and sign up for emails to get notified.

Note: Vaute Couture will be on hiatus after this season as Hilgart figures out what to do with the brand and tries to scale up. Read more here.


Where to find ethically made vegan winter boots

While many ethical footwear companies offer vegan boots, I’m only featuring styles that are specifically designed for winter. So you won’t find vegan dock boots, work boots, Chelsea boots, etc. on this list. As such, please consider this a curated, highly subjective list, and know that more options exist if you don’t need heavy-duty winter boots designed to keep out the snow, keep you warm, and keep you from slipping on ice!


Beyond Skin (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer: A vegan company offering dozens of styles for women, Beyond Skin‘s has baked ethics into its business philosophy. Serious vegan winter boot offerings are scarce, but check out the Misty vegan sheepskin boots (also available in black) if you want an Uggs-esque look. (Note that as of November 2018, Beyond Skin only offers women’s shoes but says it’ll be launching a men’s collection soon.)

Why it’s ethical: Beyond Skin strives to use recycled materials when possible and produces its shoes ethically in Spain.

Good on You rating: It’s a start

How to save: Check the sale section!


Bhava Studio (fully vegan)

Photo copyright Bhava Studio

Who they are and what they offer: This small, woman-owned vegan company produces a limited line of fashion-forward women’s shoes — including some extremely stylish winter boots. Check out these faux fur-lined combat-style winter boots and these winter platforms (!) in particular.

Why it’s ethical: Bhava uses recycled materials and organic cotton and manufactures its shoes in Europe under fair labor conditions. It’s also committed to promoting a healthier approach to fashion, focusing on the idea that less is more when it comes to your closet. Learn more here.

Good on You rating:  It’s a start

How to save: Use my referral link to sign up for Bhava’s rewards program — you’ll get $30 off your first purchase. Once you’ve joined the program, you can earn points by completing relatively simple tasks (liking Bhava on Facebook; completing your profile) and redeeming the points for gift cards. And be sure to follow Bhava on Instagram for access to special pre-order sales.


Jambu

Who they are and what they offer: Sporty shoes with a bit of style is the name of the game at Jambu. While winter boots don’t make up the majority of their line, you’ll still find a few vegan styles for the colder months. (Note that although Jambu does offer some men’s shoes, their selection is very limited — women will have better luck with this brand. )You’ll find all the vegan options here;  try the Evans boot if you’ve got light winters, and check out Lorna if you need serious warmth and traction.

Why it’s ethical: Jambu has an impressive variety of animal-free shoes for all seasons, and they say their manufacturers in China are “strictly monitored.” (I can’t find much information on their overall sustainability practices, and I’m a little skeptical about their manufacturing. I’m not 100% sure they belong on this list and will reach out to the brand for more details.)

Good on You rating: Not rated yet

How to save: Check the sale section for deals. (Also, fellow vegan blogger Amey is a Jambu ambassador and frequently offers special discount codes — check out her vegan Jambu reviews for details!)


Kamik

Kamik vegan winter bootsWho they are and what they offer: A family-owned Canadian brand, Kamik sells winter boots (along with rain boots and sandals) for men, women, and kids. A vegan filter makes it easy to find animal-friendly options; there are plenty of vegan winter boots for women this season. Options range from these no-nonsense tall snow boots to this fun pair — they look like moon boots to me! (I own an older style and really like them — they’re cute without being too trendy, and they have nice sturdy treads perfect for icy conditions.)

Why it’s ethical: Kamik is working toward a zero-waste production facility, uses recycled materials in their boots, and makes the majority of their products in North America. Plus, they offer a recycling program so your old and well-loved footwear doesn’t end up in a landfill.

Good on You rating: Not yet rated

How to save: Subscribe to their email to get deals or check the banner near the top of the page for special sales. You can sometimes also find marked-down boots on Amazon.


Vegetarian Shoes (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer: An OG vegan shoe brand based in the UK, Vegetarian Shoes offers plenty of styles for men and women — including a few winter-appropriate options. The unisex Ice Patrol style is a great no-nonsense option, or try the Caribou if you live in gentler climes.

Why it’s ethical: Vegetarian Shoes uses no animal products and ensures that workers are treated fairly. That said, I haven’t been able to find much information about the products and materials they use — I need to look into this a little more!

Good on You rating: Not yet rated

How to save: Check the sale section!


Where to find ethically made vegan winter sweaters/jumpers

American Giant

Who they are and what they offer: American-grown cotton and American-made garments for both men and women are at the center of American Giant‘s business model. Check them out if you’re in the market for casual apparel — think sturdy pullovers, heavy-duty (yet stylish) moto sweaters, and cozy hoodies. The company offers free returns on any item at any point in time for any reason, a quality guarantee that demonstrates how strongly they stand behind their products.

Why it’s ethical: Everything is made in the USA, and the vast majority of products are made of cotton. (American Giant just introduced a merino-blend sweater.)

Good on You rating: Not yet rated

How to save: Discounts are rare, but sign up for the mailing list so you get first dibs on their yearly sale. New customers can also score 15% off with my referral link.


PACT Apparel

Who they are and what they offer: My favorite source for fair-trade, organic cotton basics (think hoodiessocks, and undies) for men, women, and kids, PACT also recently introduced a line of sweaters. This cable-knit tunic sweater looks lovely and cozy, but I really like the oval cardigan. In fact, I recently took advantage of a sale to buy it at half price. The thistle heather color is just gorgeous!

Why it’s ethical: Organic cotton, fair-trade practices, and no animal products make PACT one of the best options out there.

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Use my referral link and get 20% off your first order! Then sign up for PACT’s mailing list for frequent discounts, like the aforementioned half off a single item.


Vaute Couture (fully vegan)

Who they are and what they offer:  Founded by designer Leanne Mai-Ly Hilgart, this fashion-forward brand made its name offering hand-sewn, ethically made vegan winterwear for women and men. Although Vaute primarily offers coats and jackets, you can find a smattering of beautiful sweaters too. This cabled aran knit style is beautiful, as is this cocoon-like cardigan. (I’ve also written more about Vaute Couture here.)

Why it’s ethical: This vegan brand relies on sustainable materials and ensures that all its products are made in the USA by employees making a living wage. Most sweaters are made of recycled materials.

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Check out the clearance section for discounts, and sign up for emails to get notified.

Note: Vaute Couture will be on hiatus after this season as Hilgart figures out what to do with the brand and tries to scale up. Read more here.


Where to find ethically made vegan winter hats, gloves, mittens, scarves, and more

Hoodlamb (fully vegan)

Hoodlamb's sustainably made vegan infinity scarf

Image copyright Hoodlamb

Who they are and what they offer: This cheeky Amsterdam-based company relies on hemp — that darling of the sustainable fashion world — to create parkas, bombers, hoodies, sweaters, and more for both women and men. Happily, they also offer some lovely accessories, including a few for children. I love me an infinity scarf, and this faux fur-lined hat looks so cozy. Shopping for kiddos? They’d look adorable in this cute beanie!

Why it’s ethical: Clean-growing hemp is the backbone of most products, and the company uses certified organic textiles in its shell fabric. All products are vegan, and Hoodlamb carefully chooses the factories that produce its garments (see more here).

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Full-price items are not cheap, but sign up for the mailing list to get access to sales. You’ll find deep, deep discounts in the off-season.


Where to find ethically made vegan socks and vegan base layers for winter

Why lump vegan base layers and vegan winter socks together? For one, they serve a similar purpose in my mind. But also… there just aren’t a lot of ethical companies making vegan versions of these items! Yes, you can find vegan socks pretty easily, but few are what I’d call winter-specific. Honestly, I usually just double up on my socks if I really need to keep warm in the winter! 

PACT Apparel

Who they are and what they offer: PACT offers fair-trade, organic cotton basics (think hoodiessocks, and undies) for men, women, and kids. I think you could also get away with using their leggings as base layers.

Why it’s ethical: Organic cotton, fair-trade practices, and no animal products make PACT one of the best options out there.

Good on You rating: Great

How to save: Use my referral link and get 20% off your first order! Then sign up for PACT’s mailing list for frequent discounts, like the aforementioned half off a single item.


Patagonia

Who they are and what they offer: This well-known activewear brand produces some of the best base layers for vegans looking to avoid wool. Patagonia’s Capilene base layers come in myriad weights, styles, and sizes for women, men, and children and use a recycled polyester fabric to keep you cozy. Just be sure to avoid the Capilene Air line — that one is blended with merino (boo!).

Why it’s ethical: Patagonia is arguably a pioneer in the realm of ethical activewear; it uses eco-friendly materials, has a repair and reuse program, incorporates many sustainable practices, and is quite transparent about its supply chain and workers’ wages. It’s also a certified B Corp.

Good on You rating: Good

How to save: Check out the web specials section or shop for Patagonia projects at various outdoorsy stores. Moosejaw, REI, and Sierra Trading Post all sell Patagonia and have clearance/sale sections.


A few notes and thoughts
  • I think there’s a real discussion to be had about the ethics of recycled wool vs. synthetics. Read any list of recommendations for winterwear and wool gets rave reviews: It wicks away moisture, it keeps in heat without getting you sweaty, and it doesn’t trap stinkiness. As an ethical vegan, though, I haven’t worn wool in years because the industry is absolutely horrendous from an animal welfare perspective. But to be honest, the alternatives — synthetics or cotton — don’t quite measure up. Cotton tends to get a bit sweaty, while synthetics are produced at quite a cost to the environment (as is non-organic cotton). Recycled or secondhand wool may be the way to go if you’re comfortable with that option, though I’m still not quite comfortable with it for myself.
  • Many of the points above also apply to recycled down. Patagonia offers a recycled down collection, but I personally don’t feel comfortable using it.
  • This is a very truncated list — I will add more to it as I do more research!

Bear in mind that I am just one person trawling the internet, so I’m sure I’ve left some brands out! Please leave a comment if I’ve missed your favorite ethical vegan brand and I’ll add it to the list.

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Where to find ethically made vegan outerwear // govegga.com

5 Caffeine-Free, Alcohol-Free Hot Drinks to Keep You Cozy

It’s here: the end of daylight savings time. Goodbye, drives home from work in the slanting golden rays of a sublime autumnal sunset; hello, evenings where the transition from work to home happens under cover of darkness.

For those who rouse themselves early, the changeover at least provides a little more light in the mornings. But for dedicated sleepers like me who see few dawns and can find the snooze button without opening an eye, the benefit goes unnoticed.

And so, on these darker evenings, I find myself turning to all things comfy and cozy and hygge, to sweatpants and hot mugs of something steaming: a bracing cup of English breakfast tea, served black and unsweetened, bitter and tannic on the tongue. Carafes of coffee made strong and shared, poured out still steaming. Hot buttered rum so rich your belly aches, decadent hot chocolate thick as liquid fudge… the list goes on.

But what to sip late at night when the merest milliliter of caffeine would spell disaster for my sleep schedule? What to enjoy when a sensitive tum rejects anything a bit boozy?

The question came to me last weekend when I wanted something un-caffeinated to sip but wasn’t satisfied with the standard mug of green or chamomile tea. Oh, I thought. I should write a blog post about that. So, here we are: Five ways to satisfy your craving for something hot without resorting to caffeine or alcohol.

Hot Molasses Mug

1. Hot Molasses Mug

Filling and iron-rich and shockingly satisfying, with an almost salty note that you can temper with a little extra sweetener, should the mood strike. (Maple syrup or agave would work fine.) Personalize yours with spices that speak to your soul; ginger is an obvious choice, but go wild and see what works!

Feeling boozy? Try this spiked maple-molasses mug for a little extra kick.

2. Golden Milk

While I’m sure many of you are familiar with this turmeric-infused hot beverage, the uninitiated may (rightfully!) wonder why anyone would want to drink something flavored primarily of a golden root more frequently used in curries and other savory delights. The most common answer peddled by many food bloggers will almost certain include the following phrases: superfood! anti-inflammatory! health benefits!

Well, dear reader, I am not that food blogger. As my go-to source for Real Science states, “…the scientific evidence for turmeric is insufficient to incorporate it into medical practice. As with so many supplements, the hype has gone way beyond the actual evidence. There are some promising hints that it may be useful, but there are plenty of promising hints that lots of other things “may” be useful too.”

So, instead, drink golden milk for the simple reason that it tastes good. This recipe from Minimalist Baker is a great one to start with, though you can just as easily make it up as you go, flavoring your golden elixir to meet your personal preferences.

3. Spiced Apple Cider

No recipe for this one because it doesn’t need it! Simply heat your favorite apple cider (I like a high-quality, fresh-pressed one from the farmers market) with a few spices and enjoy. If you’re short on time, nuke it in the microwave and then add a cinnamon stick for flavor and festivity. If you’ve got a few extra minutes, heat it on the stove in a small pot with mulling spices (I like cinnamon sticks, cloves, nutmeg, star anise, and ginger, but you can go wild.) Strain and enjoy!

Feeling boozy? Add a shot of your favorite bourbon or whiskey!

Hot pumpkin molasses mug

4. Hot Pumpkin-Molasses Mug

Another take on my molasses mug, this one incorporates pumpkin for an even more seasonally appropriate hot drink! Swap the cinnamon and nutmeg for your favorite pumpkin pie spice mix to make it even easier (and even more delicious).

5. Hot Pumpkin Mug

Dubious about sipping on a molasses-infused beverage? Go simple with Kathy’s hot pumpkin mug. This bright orange hot bevvy is the perfect choice for you hardcore pumpkin lovers, and the cheerful, sunny color is sure to brighten up those dark winter nights.

Bonus!

Though I haven’t tried it myself, this caffeine-free hot carob milk could hit the spot when you want something along the lines of hot chocolate but don’t fancy the idea of a sleepless night.

~~~

I hope this list helps you find a caffeine-free, booze-free beverage to warm your hands (and heart?!) as winter descends. For added fun and deliciousness, top your drink of choice with any of the many (!) vegan whipped creams that now crowd supermarket shelves. (Well, you may want to avoid whipped cream if your drink of choice is hot cider.) And let me know which other hot caffeine-free, alcohol-free beverages I’ve missed!

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Five caffeine-free, alcohol-free hot vegan drinks to keep you cozy // govegga.com

Vegan in Tallinn

Picture this: It’s 4:45 in the morning and you’re at the Tallinn airport, having gotten up at an ungodly hour and walked there from your airport hotel in a cold, dark, drizzly fog to catch your flight back to the United States. You’re looking forward to getting home and petting your pups, but you’re also sad to leave the city that’s captured your heart. You wander through the small but charming airport, smiling at the thoughtful touches — a small lending library, the free-to-use gym equipment, the sweet kids’ play area — and feel a little cheered. You walk past one of those ubiquitous airport food stalls, the kind with plastic cups of yogurt parfaits and crinkle-wrapped ham and cheese sandwiches. But something catches your eye: the word VEGAN, sprayed across a label on a croissant breakfast sandwich. You double back. You can’t believe it. Whereas you’re hard-pressed to find ready-made vegan snacks and meals at many U.S. airports, this tiny airport in Tallinn — with just 18 gates! — has a vegan croissant breakfast sandwich.

You can never eat breakfast this early. You buy the croissant anyway. You smile. You are completely infatuated with Tallinn. You can’t wait to return.

I think this experience is quite an apt encapsulation of my time in Tallinn. I found myself charmed and delighted by so many things: the architecture, the prices, the pedestrian-friendliness… and the vegan freakin’ food. After reading Amey’s paean to Tallinn last year, I knew I was in for a treat in this small city, but I still found myself surprised by how incredibly vegan-friendly it is! Heck, I even found three flavors of vegan ice cream cones in a tiny gelato stall in a mall by the airport! So of course I have to share. Read on for tips on where to find vegan food in Tallinn, Estonia. But maybe pause and grab a coffee or a beer or something first, because… I got wordy with this one. #sorrynotsorry

Vegan Inspiratsioon // Tallinn

Vegan Inspiratsioon

After checking in to my cute little Old Town hotel on my first night in Estonia, I was hungry. It had been a long day of traveling and I hadn’t had a solid meal in nearly 24 hours. (Though I secretly love airplane food, it doesn’t quite count.) After perusing the handy Google map I’d loaded up with attractions, sites, and vegan restaurants in Tallinn, I decided to head just up the street to Vegan Inspiratsioon for dinner. And when I say “just up the street,” I mean it: It was a straight shot from my hotel, barely a five-minute walk. This, I’d find, would define my time in Tallinn: Everything was close and vegan food was everywhere.

Vegan Inspiratsioon doesn’t look like much from the street; there’s a sign and not much else. You’ll need to walk through a darkened vestibule before you enter the restaurant proper, but when you do, you’ll be greeted with utter charm: stone walls, an assortment of cozy booths and tables, fairy lights strung everywhere, soft indie music, tea lights on the tables… and all authentic, not like it’s trying too hard to be Instagram-chic. Sit yourself at a table, grab a menu, and wait for someone to take your order. Service might be a little slow, but all the better to enjoy a long, lazy meal.

When I arrived close to 7 p.m. on my first night, the spacious restaurant was pretty empty. Gradually, over the course of my dinner, small groups arrived and filled in. But it remained quiet, and I felt utterly comfortable taking my time over dinner.

Vegan Inspiratsioon // Tallinn

Unable to choose among all the tasty-sounding dishes (and feeling a tiny bit of post-travel queasiness), I decided to hedge my bets and go for the Inspa Special Bowl, a hodgepodge of healthy-sounding menu items thrown into one well-packed dish.

The bowl included two decently sized beetroot-lentil-buckwheat cutlets, a generous portion of sweet potato fries, zucchini noodles, tofu egg salad, sauerkraut, traditional creamy Estonian potato salad, roasted chickpeas, hummus, dill-parsley ranch sauce, and a big pile o’ sprouts. All this for under €10, too!

I really loved those beetroot cutlets; they provided a nice flavor and texture to anchor the dish agains the lighter elements. I found the tofu egg salad almost shockingly tangy — I’m not sure what was in it, but it had quite a kick! I didn’t actually care for the potato salad, though; it was just way too creamy for me. (I’d almost ordered a full bowl of it along with soup — glad I didn’t!) The sauerkraut was excellent, and the hummus had a nice rich flavor. I found the sweet potato fries a bit oily and soft, unfortunately.

I also ordered a peppermint-ginger lemonade to settle my stomach, but alas — I tasted very little ginger and very little peppermint; it was quite sweet instead. Skip that one! The post-dinner herbal tea I ordered was much more to my liking. (According to the tour guide on my day trip to Lahemaa National Park a few days later, Estonians love herbal teas and will make them with just about any root, shoot, or leaf they can pick!)

On that first visit to Vegan Inspiratsioon, I somehow resisted the siren call of the dessert case. I was so full from that scrumptious bowl! But I made sure to leave room on my second visit (!) a few days later. On that night, ravenous from a day of walking my tootsies off all over Tallinn, I opted for the I’m Quite Special Burger, another beetroot-based patty. This one also featured lentils and buckwheat, and was served with tomato, fried zucchini, that tangy tofu egg salad, dill-parsley sauce, and some pickle relish on classic Estonian black bread. Boy, do I love black bread! This was a tactical and practical order on my part: I’ve learned my lesson about those massive Euro-style burgers served on brick-like buns; you’re pretty much required to dislocate your jaw to take a bite, and I always end up with a TMJ flare-up when I order one! So the black bread was much more manageable.

I adored this burger. Every little bit tasted delicious (except the tomato, which was frankly unnecessary!) and came together to form the perfect burger bite. The pickle relish was lovely, the patty was delicious, and the bread did not hurt my delicate mouth. The burger comes with coleslaw on the side, but it was unlike any coleslaw I’ve tried, almost curry-like in flavor and quite sweet. Tasty, though! I ordered an Estonian brown ale, and it was practically a second side dish: toasty, malty, and satisfying.

Somehow, even after all that, I had room for dessert. I opted for the raw raspberry caramel cake and was glad I did. I suspect it was nut-based with a date crust, but it somehow avoided becoming too heavy and rich like many raw cakes are. I didn’t quite taste caramel, but the raspberry was bright and the slice was nice and big: No measly, overpriced treat here.

All in all, I’d say Vegan Inspiratsioon should definitely make the list of vegan restaurants to visit in Tallinn. It’s relatively inexpensive, cozy, and situated right in Old Town… yet not close to the town square, which can get a bit rowdy. Save it for a night when you want to be left alone to eat your meal at a slow pace.

Vegan Restoran V // Tallinn

Vegan Restoran V

Okay, so, you know how I said that Vegan Inspiratsioon was barely five minutes from my hotel? Well. There was another 100% vegan restaurant also just five minutes from my hotel, but in the opposite direction. I WAS SURROUNDED BY VEGAN FOOD. This second spot — Vegan Restoran V — turned out to be my absolutely favorite eatery in Tallinn. And actually, I think it qualifies as one of my top-five vegan restos of all time. I’m not sure I can express how smitten I became with this tiny, cozy, super sweet spot, but I’ll try.

On my solo trips, I’m always seeking out spots where I can enjoy a long, lingering dinner and not feel conspicuous. I have no qualms about eating alone as a rule, but there are definitely some eateries where I might feel uncomfortable or out of place sitting with a book or my Kindle, sipping a glass of wine or a mug of tea long after finishing my meal. To be honest, one big reason I like these long dinners is because they fill what can be a dull time. Don’t get me wrong; I rarely get lonely when I travel alone. I’m pretty solidly introverted, and I don’t crave companionship until I’ve been fully alone for quite a while. But even I don’t want to sit alone in a hotel room from dinner until bedtime! So I like to fill that awkward time with a long, late meal, often followed by a nighttime wander around the city to get a sense of what it’s like after dark. (I’m still working up the courage to go to a bar or pub by myself. That one’s a harder sell for me!)

Vegan Restoran V is the perfect spot for a long, indulgent meal. On my first visit, the place was pretty full. (In fact, they recommend making a reservation because it’s a small spot, with fewer than 10 tables.) I had no reservation, but luckily there was a table for two open in the middle of the restaurant. I didn’t love the spot, though; it felt very exposed and conspicuous. So when a couple finished their meal and vacated a more secluded table by a window, I asked to switch and the waitress graciously assented. From there, I settled in for arguably the best meal of my trip.

Vegan Restoran V // saladOn that first visit, I wasn’t terribly hungry, so I opted for a glass of wine and a salad. Now, I normally do not order salads at vegan restaurants; it just seems like a waste when there are other, more creative dishes on offer. But my stomach was a little unsettled, so I wanted something simple. And you know what? I made the perfect choice. Bright, crisp, fresh lettuce leaves formed the base, and they were topped with a plethora of goodies: pecans, grapefruit slices, strawberries, cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced radishes, sprouts, and pomegranate arils, all drizzled in an amazing strawberry vinaigrette. If you’re a longtime reader, you’ll know that I am not a fan of vinegar or vinaigrettes, so the fact that I loved this dressing speaks volumes. It was almost creamy, and just the right amount of sweet. So, so good. I savored that salad for a while as I read on my Kindle and surreptitiously people-watched. A couple seated near me ordered the snack platter as a starter, and it looked phenomenal: a gorgeously plated smorgasbord of nuts, veggies, housemade cheeses, and dippers.

Vegan Restoran V // mini pavlova

Afterward, I ordered a second glass of white wine (it was nothing special, but it was inexpensive!) while perusing the dessert menu. Vegan Restoran V offers two set desserts and a rotating selections of cakes, and I opted for a mainstay: a mini pavlova with avocado cream and strawberry sorbet. Oh. My. Goodness. The aquafaba-based pavlova was melt-in-your-mouth meringue perfection, with a beautifully rich avocado cream that managed to harness avocado’s creaminess without a too-strong flavor. And the strawberry sorbet was a delight as well, a nice cool, light dish wholly infused with strawberry flavor. Already a little in love with Vegan Restoran V, I was even more thrilled when the check arrived and it was just under €20 for what I considered a stellar meal and a perfect dining experience. To that latter point, the service was attentive without being overbearing, and I didn’t feel at all uncomfortable to be a single diner taking up a table. In fact, I even felt welcome. (There was one other single diner, and he seemed equally welcome.) I left dinner that night full but not uncomfortably so — the ideal state.

Thrilled with my first dining experience at Vegan Restoran V, I made a point to return again. This time I snagged a seat in the small area off the main dining room, and the servers graciously pulled apart a large table to give me my own. While this spot wasn’t quite as ideal in terms of people-watching, I loved how tucked away and cozy it made me feel. It was also quite toasty, so bear that in mind if you prefer a cooler dining experience! (My perpetually cold self found it perfect.)

Vegan Restoran V // tofu-potato casseroleTempted though I was to order the snack platter and enjoy it as my main meal, I wanted something a bit heartier after spending a full day tromping through Lahemaa National Park in the rain with Traveller Tours. I chose the week’s special, a potato-tofu casserole with pumpkin sauce (!), and a glass of local rhubarb sparkling wine. (I knew I was taking a risk with the latter; if it had been sweet and overly flavored, I would not have enjoyed it. Luckily it was quite subtle; I wouldn’t have marked it as rhubarb-flavored had I not known. ) Now, about that casserole… “layered pastry confection” might be a better descriptor! This dish featured flaky pastry layered with tofu, potatoes, zucchini, and other veg, topped with a mass of sprouts, pomegranate arils, and various other colorful leaves, all swimming in a pool of creamy pumpkin sauce. Rich, filling, and super satisfying, if a little salty for my tastes. I was actually a little surprised at how heavy this dish felt, but I guess my previous dinner point of comparison (a salad) was the exact opposite of casserole. I managed to finish and leave juuust enough room for dessert, however.

Vegan Restoran V // plum ice creamThis time around, I intended to order one of the daily specials. There was a chocolate-rum ball that looked quite intriguing, along with other raw and baked cakes and tarts. But then, at the last second, I chose the second regular dessert, described on the menu as plum ice cream with raspberry-marinated plum compote, topped with crispy oatmeal crumbs and a tuile pastry. Aaaaghhhh. What arrived was slightly different from the menu listing but equally amazing. I got a big scoop of fruity, almost buttery plum ice cream, along with marinated plum slices and a crumble that seemed to include freeze-dried raspberries (genius!). The whole thing was topped off with a crispy tuile wafer, adding just a little crunch. Amazing. And so rich. I practically rolled out of Vegan Restoran V. No regrets!

If I haven’t made it clear, I adored Vegan Restoran V. Everything about it hit all the right notes for me: the small but thoughtful menu, the ambiance, the service, the prices… and, of course, the food. It offers a slightly elevated dining experience that still remains low-key and cozy. Just perfect, really.

Psst… sorry these photos are so crap. The low light at Vegan Restoran V makes for an über cozy meal, but does not do much for food photos when you’re shooting on your phone!

Tokumaru

With locations in Tallinn and Tartu, this small Estonian chain is a super convenient place to get really yummy vegan Japanese food. While it’s not all vegan, the menu is very clearly labeled and there are lots of veg options available. On my first full day in Tallinn, I spent the morning doing a tour of the KGB’s old headquarters in the Hotel Viru, after which I was famished. Luckily the Solaris shopping center was just down the street, and I knew it housed a couple of veg-friendly eateries, including Tokumaru. Given the grey, chilly weather, I opted for a steaming hot bowl of tantan vegan ramen. When I placed my order, the waitress asked whether I wanted a small or large bowl. “Oh, large,” I said, as if it were the obvious choice.

Vegan ramen at Tokumaru // TallinnREADER. IT IS NOT THE OBVIOUS CHOICE. Do not order a large bowl of vegan tantan ramen at Tokumaru unless your stomach is prepared to hold perhaps a quart of super-rich, peanutty, miso broth, along with a goodly portion of noodles, mushrooms, tofu, bamboo shoots, and — oddly enough — greens. The dish might look average-sized in that photo, but I swear it was like the Tardis of ramen bowls. I could not finish my ramen, not by a long shot. Oh, the hubris. It hurt. (Literally. My stomach was bursting.) I mean, don’t get me wrong: This ramen was fantastic. So well-flavored, with lots of plump juicy mushrooms. But good god was this serving large. And salty. My mouth was so dry by the time I finally waved my proverbial white flag, put down my spoon and chopsticks, and declared myself defeated by the broth. It didn’t help that the communal water jug is far too small for the size of the restaurant, and the servers either ignored the fact that it was empty or just didn’t notice. By the time they refilled it, my mouth was a desert. I slunk away, ashamed at my failure to finish.

On my last night in Tallinn, I returned to the same Tokumaru location, mostly out of convenience. I’d just gotten off the ferry, back from a quick one-night stay in Helsinki, and the Solaris location was in the direction of my airport hotel — and conveniently located by a bus depot that would take me there quite quickly after dinner. I contemplated a couple dishes (vegan tempura?! sushi?!) but ultimately chose a starter of seaweed salad and vegan ankake yakisoba — featuring fried whole-wheat noodles,  mushrooms, carrot, napa cabbage, and greens — for the main. While the seaweed salad was nice (if large), I was a little disappointed with the yakisoba. I’m not totally sure what ankake sauce is, but I couldn’t discern much flavor in it. I regret not getting the tempura! Especially because I also couldn’t finish the yakisoba. This time I took the remains to go (…and then proceeded to leak the mysterious ankake sauce all over the bus, ooops) and ate a bit more as a late-night snack at my hotel that night, but it was even less tasty when cold. Sigh. So, if you do visit Tokumaru in Tallinn, I recommend skipping the yakisoba and trying one of the other vegan options. You can’t go wrong with the tantan ramen (…unless you’re allergic to peanuts). Just remember to order a small.

Veg Machine

Though Tallinn’s Old Town is undeniably picturesque and perfect for exploring, don’t spend all your time there! Walk a little north past the city walls and hit up Balti Jaama Turg, a massive three-level indoor/outdoor marketplace where you can easily idle away a few hours. Along with deceptively large and labyrinthine antique stores, tiny design-focused shops, and a grocery store (see below), you’ll find more traditional market vendors offering veggies, fruit, and plenty of non-vegan unmentionables. But the best part (in my opinion) is the first floor, which features nearly 20 street-food-style food vendors and stalls. It’s like a food truck park, but without the possibility of inclement weather! And with better seating! Yasss.

Pressed sandwich at VegMachine, TallinnFeeling peckish one afternoon, I headed to Balti Jaama Turg for a light lunch at one of the two (!) all-vegan stalls. I opted for VegMachine, lured by the inexpensive prices and the creative menu. These to-go dishes skew toward warm, healthy-ish comfort food, with burgers, sandwiches, wraps, and other mainly handheld delights. I chose the tofu croquette toastie, a pressed sandwich served piping hot. At just 4€, this was a steal! I appreciated the contrast between the soft filling and the slightly crispy bread. Although there were no real standout flavors, this was a wholly filling, warming, savory sandwich, perfect for my late (and light) lunch. I know it looks very yellow and (perhaps) unappealing in the photo, but I promise appearances were deceiving in this case!

Epic Coffee

Chilled through after a particularly drizzly, windy morning on my second full day in Tallinn, I sought comfort in caffeine. Down a side street off the Viru Gates I found Epic Coffee, a hipster-friendly coffeehouse serving locally roasted beans and offering plenty of non-dairy milks. I chose an oat milk latte, because I’ve got to get my Oatly fix when I’m in Europe.

Oat milk latte from Epic Coffee // Tallinn

The barista didn’t bat an eye when I asked him to fix my drink in my KeepCup, which was great. Even greater? My discovery of vegan goodies in the pastry case! Although a cookie was appealing, the slice of cake looked even better — especially after a disappointing breakfast at the hotel’s free buffet. (Fruit and rice cakes do not a nourishing breakfast make.) I got a slice to go and was surprised by how delicious it was — chewy and just a little dense, almost marzipan-y in flavor, and bursting with nuts. The perfect snack to tide me over during an extremely enjoyable few hours wandering through the Tallinn City Museum.

Bear Farm Chocolate, aka Karu talu šokolaad

Did I purposefully choose a hotel just three minutes’ walk from an all-vegan chocolate shop? Yes, yes I did. Did I have visions of stopping by every afternoon for a sugary, caffeinated pick-me-up? Also yes. Did I then only go once during my stay? Alas, yes.

Bear Farm Chocolate is, as mentioned, an all-vegan chocolate and pastry shop in the heart of Old Town. It is adorable, with an old-fashioned cash register, mounds of myriad flavored fudges and chocolate confections, and a small selection of pastries. It also has hours that were not conducive to multiple visits during my stay in Tallinn, opening late and closely early. I ended up stopping here just once, opting for an amaretto chocolate that was both inexpensive and far too large for consumption in one go. Yet I ate it all at once, while walking somewhere, becoming queasier and queasier as I went. Ugh, regrets. Honestly? It wasn’t that good. I expected dense, rich fudge, and instead I got a kind of dry-ish cross between fudge and a traditional chocolate bar, with a slightly sickening almond flavor and way too much decorative silver glitter that attached itself to my fingers and refused to leave. It turned me off from the shop just a bit, and I never made it back to try one of the pastries that were on offer. (I was also sad because their hot water machine was broken when I stopped by, foiling my plan to get a tea and a pastry for a more leisurely afternoon snack than my rushed gobbling of a less-than-stellar piece of chocolate.)

Don’t let my experience turn you off, though: Plenty of reviewers love this place, and I suspect I just chose poorly… and ate too much in one go. Plus, they are unashamedly vegan for the animals, which I just adore.

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Other vegan options in Tallinn

My trusty personalized Google map was totally filled up with vegan spots in Tallinn! Here are a few I didn’t get to try or weren’t worth writing about in more detail.

  • Biomarket. This small chain of health food stores carries a respectable selection of vegan products, including tons of non-dairy yogurts. Locations abound in Tallinn, including one in the aforementioned Balti Jaama Turg market hall and a smaller one in the aforementioned Solaris shopping center. Also a great place to find Estonian food products to bring home as souvenirs; I picked up some herbal teas.
  • Rataskaevu 16. This well-regarded Old Town eatery is not entirely vegan or vegetarian, but it does offer some creative-looking vegan options in what appears to be a really lovely setting. This would be a great choice for a mixed crowd of diners.
  • Reval Café. Alas, this was perhaps my biggest food-related disappointment of the trip. I’d read in many vegan-in-Tallinn roundups that Reval Café — a small chain of coffeehouses with light dishes — was great for vegans. Unfortunately, I didn’t find that to be the case. I stopped in to a few locations (there are 12 around Tallinn) and made a beeline for the pastry case, having heard that they typically offer at least one vegan option. Yet nothing was listed as vegan. At one location, I asked the lady behind the counter if any of the pastries were vegan, and she hesitated for a second before pointing to a chocolate cake and saying it was. Hmm. I was dubious. She may very well have been right, but it was not labeled as such, which seemed odd for vegan-positive Tallinn. I skipped it, opting for an oat milk latte and no accompanying pastry. In terms of savory options, the one consistent vegan choice was falafel. No offense, but snore. If you’re in a pinch or traveling with omnis, Reval Café might be a solid option (especially since there are locations everywhere), but given the abundance of top-notch vegan food on offer in Tallinn, I wouldn’t make it my top choice.
  • Rimi supermarkets. Every savvy vegan traveler knows that it’s more than respectable to stock up on veg products at the local supermarket if vegan food will be scarce. I thankfully didn’t need to do that much this trip, but I did stop in to a Rimi Express one morning, looking for snacks before heading out on a day trip. Alas, this small location didn’t have my trusty standby (Alpro soy yogurts), so I had to settle for some nuts and crackers. (Bizarrely, it did carry some barista-style plant milks.) But the larger locations should carry more vegan options.
  • Toormoor. Another vegan food stall in the Balti Jaama Turg market hall, Toormoor focuses on healthy, mostly raw dishes. You’ll find both savory and sweet items, along with coffee and tea, and there’s a cute indoor seating area that takes you out of the hustle and bustle of the surrounding market.
  • Vegan Italy. Pardon me while I shed a tear for not getting to visit this all-vegan Italian restaurant. Located about 2.5 kilometers outside the Old Town, Vegan Italy was just a little too out of the way every time I was deciding where to go for a meal. I intended to go on my last night, because it was close(ish) to my airport hotel, but when I realized the place closes at 7 p.m., I changed my plans in a fit of pique — it would’ve been cutting it close after a 5:30 p.m. ferry arrival, and I didn’t want to feel rushed. Plus, dinner isn’t the optimal meal to take at Vegan Italy: You’ll want to go for the 9€ VEGAN LUNCH BUFFET. I mean, really. Unlimited pasta! Arancini! Bruschetta! Etcetera! INCLUDING DESSERT! The more I think about not visiting this spot, the sadder I get. Moving on.

This is, as always, not an exhaustive list. I’d love to hear your favorite vegan restaurants in Tallinn, so do share!

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Vegan in Tallinn, Estonia // govegga.com

Not-so-Kitchen-Tour | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Thirty (!)

Sunday 30th: Kitchen Tour
Now the month is concluding, show us where the magic has been happening!

Wow, here we are at the end of September and this year’s VeganMoFo! I have to say, my laidback approach to the themes this year made it all so much easier and more enjoyable. I never felt crunched for time or stressed to come up with a post. What a relief! Who could’ve guessed that going easy on yourself and not requiring perfection would make for a more enjoyable experience?! <insert eyeroll emoji, because duh>

Anyway, today is the odd day out; it’s a Sunday and thus the start of a new week (and theme), but also the last day of MoFo. The provided prompt asks participants to give a kitchen tour, but I did that pretty comprehensively last year. Not much has changed since then, except for one minor tragedy.

Dining room detailsSo… about those custom-built, super-neat corner shelves. Turns out they maaay not have been securely fastened to the wall. One day late last year, we heard a massive crash come from the dining room. We rushed in to survey the damage and found that the top shelf had fallen off the wall, releasing the big red Pyrex casserole dish (which had a pretty Friendship pattern on the lid) and the smaller Fire King casserole dish to meet their makers upon the floor. Luckily, the glass used in Pyrex (and, apparently, Fire King) dishes doesn’t really shatter, so we were able to pick up large pieces of the broken crockery rather than need to sweep up tiny shards. (Good news for our pups’ delicate paws, of course!) We cleaned up the mess relatively quickly and then made sure the shelves were more securely fastened. Since then we’ve had no mishaps, and I replaced the casserole dishes (RIP) with two small Butterprint-patterned dishes on that top shelf.

Otherwise, the kitchen is mostly the same as in those photos. We’ve added two more wooden spice racks from Ikea, and the beverages that top our bar have changed a bit, but we haven’t done any major remodels. (We’ve only been in the house for two and a half years, and the kitchen is still very modern and functional.) We’re hoping to replace the floral canvases in the dining room with a gallery wall in the next month or so, but we don’t have quite enough photos to respectably fill the space yet, and I don’t want it to look bare.

So, that’s the kitchen (and dining room)! And with that, VeganMoFo comes to a close. I’ve got some great posts planned for the weeks and months ahead, so don’t worry; I won’t be going silent. I’m also heading to Tallinn and Helsinki later this week, so you can expect full reports of the vegan options on offer in those two cities when I return. :) Happy MoFo, y’all!