Cookbook of the Month: Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro

Review of Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle's Plum Bistro //

If you asked me when I visited Seattle for the first time — and when I dined at Plum Bistro — I’d have a quick answer: “Oh, a couple years ago.” Well, color me surprised when I looked back into the ol’ blog archives and discovered that my first trip to Seattle was just about five and a half years ago. Sigh. Insert cliché about the passage of time here.

If I visited Plum more than five years ago, I probably received its owner’s cookbook just a year or two later. My brother Ian gave me Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro for Christmas one year, since he and his girlfriend brought me to the restaurant in the first place. It’s a gorgeous book, and I’ve leafed through it admiringly more than once. But I have to admit that I rarely cooked from it… making it a perfect choice for my June cookbook challenge! I was excited to give Makini Howell’s creative recipes a fair shake. Here’s how it went down.

Recipes from Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro

Avocado Salad with Seitan Bites from Plum cookbook // govegga.comEager to hit up our local farmers market when it opened in early June, I selected the leaf-free Avocado Salad with Seitan Bites (p. 36) for a Saturday lunch. Cucumbers, red onions, tomatoes (I used cherry since the big slicers weren’t in season yet), and avocado jump in a bowl with seitan chunks and a simple dressing to make a shockingly filling dish. (We used Upton’s seitan, but you could surely use homemade) The salad was quite tasty, if surprisingly heavy: The dressing calls for 1/2 cup of oil! I reduced it by half(ish) and still felt it was a little bit much. We had quite a bit of salad left over after lunch, but unfortunately it didn’t keep well; everything kind of lost its liquid so that the leftovers I brought to work the following Monday included browning avocado chunks swimming in dressing, tomato juice, and who knows what else. It was, frankly, unappealing. I opted for a sandwich from a local shop instead and foisted the leftovers on Steven, who has a mercifully less picky palate. Overall, though, I really liked this idea; I would never have put together these ingredients. Seitan in a salad?! Madness. But it works. I’d like to play with this concept, lightening up the dressing and maybe adding some arugula for bite and a little extra nutrition.

You’ve had barbecue jackfruit, barbecue seitan, barbecue lentils (just me?). But now, enter barbecue mushrooms! In Howell’s Barbecue Oyster Mushroom Sliders with Pickled Onions (p. 62). recipe, meaty oyster mushrooms get sautéed with garlic in barbecue sauce, then nestled in burger buns with a scoop of barbecue-infused mayo and a forkful of pickled red onions. I opted for regular buns instead of sliders and used the barbecue sauce recipe from The Homemade Vegan Pantry. I really enjoyed this new take on a pulled pork-esque sandwich. I’m excited to play around with oyster mushrooms in other recipes, too. My only quibble? They were a little oily, even though I reduced the 1/4 cup called for. Howell’s recipes are rich!

Although a classic corn chowder was a semi-regular dish on my family’s dinner rotation while I was growing up, I was never a fan. Something about the sweetness and creaminess of the dish was anathema to me. So when I saw the recipe for Creamy Millet Corn Chowder (p. 41) — an elevated take on the classic dish, made hearty with the addition of millet — I knew the time had come to try corn chowder again, this time as an adult with a more appreciative palate. Steven put this one together one evening, and as he got ready to serve the finished product, he gave it a taste. From the living room, I heard him curse. Alas, the single jalapeño rendered the chowder surprisingly spicy, overpowering any nuance of flavor. It was certainly edible, but not ideal. Still, this updated chowder was a definite improvement on the chowders of my youth, and I’d love to make it again without the jalapeño. (I should note that the leftovers were less spicy, although they soaked up all the liquid and turned into more of a chowder-y mashed potato dish than a stew. Not that I was complaining; it was quite good!)

Seitan Steaks from Plum // govegga.comAlthough I have no objections to seitan, I really don’t cook with it all that often. The store-bought variety is pricy, but if you want to make it at home for a specific recipe, you need to plan ahead. Yet two out of the four recipes we tried from Plum were seitan-based! True to its name, the Oregano and Parsley Grilled Seitan Steaks (p. 81) require you to marinate juicy seitan steaks in a slurry of oregano, parsley, red wine vinegar, and other spices to give them a nice fresh kick. I used the seitan recipe from It Doesn’t Taste Like Chicken, which was really juicy and toothsome. After steaming the steaks per Sam’s instructions, I switched over to the Plum marinade and let the steaks soak up those flavors overnight in the fridge . Then they just needed a little time on a cast-iron pan to heat up. (Alas, I have no grill handy.) I served them along with millet and kale for a super filling dinner. I enjoyed the herby marinade as well. We have oodles of oregano out back, so I appreciated the chance to use lots of it up at once.

 Overall thoughts on Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro

Aesthetically, Plum scores plenty of points. I appreciate that although it’s a hard cover, it has no dust jacket; they seem impractical for cookbooks. The design is relatively simple yet elegant, with a fair amount of photos sprinkled throughout the recipes. Charity Burggraaf’s photographs are thoughtfully composed, with just enough style to avoid coming off as forcedly rustic.

And the recipes themselves? So creative. Makini Howell has a masterful understanding of flavor, and she combines ingredients in surprising ways to create both fresh takes on familiar recipes and inspiring new dishes. Although I didn’t make too many recipes from this book, the ones I tried were memorable. Yet the fact that I didn’t burn through these recipes is telling: This is  not a book for the casual cook just hoping to get a quick dinner on the table. The recipes aren’t exactly pantry-friendly; rather, they require you to plan in advance and shop for ingredients with care. Once I put my finger on that nuance, I understood why Plum sits on my cookbook shelf without getting frequent use, and now I know exactly when to bust it out: When I’m planning a dinner party or other gathering and want to wow my diners with inspiring, gratifying vegan food.

The verdict? Plum is a worthy addition to your cookbook collection, but not a necessity. Best for advanced home cooks who want to experiment with new flavors or who have dinner guests to impress.

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Small-Bite Sundays: June 3, 2018

Small-Bite Sundays

A year ago today, I was nervously setting off on my first wholly solo travel experience to the Netherlands and Belgium. It was just a few days after Luna had passed, and I had no idea how I would feel during the trip. I ended up being so, so glad I hadn’t backed out; it was the perfect time to get away from home and to distract myself with all that Amsterdam and Bruges had to offer. It also confirmed a fact I’d long suspected, but hadn’t had enough solo travel time to confirm: I am my own #1 travel partner. No disrespect to the many family members and friends I’ve travelled with, but I freaking love my own company! As if I needed more confirmation that I am an introvert through and through. (Steven, for the record, is my #2 travel partner. He’s also an introvert. We can feel alone even when we’re together.)

I haven’t got any solo travel plans this year… yet. I’m always on the lookout for cheap flights, and I’d love to book something for Labor Day weekend. I have managed to get a little traveling in during the first half of the year, though; I went to New Orleans with a couple friends (loved it!), spent five days in Kansas City for work (a surprisingly neat city), and went to Chicago for a quick weekend trip to visit some friends and meet their baby (<3 Chicago, and the baby was pretty cool too). I’ll be in Rhode Island next weekend to hang out with family members visiting from across the country (and meet another baby), and then I’ll be in South India for two weeks in July to celebrate my brother’s wedding. I’m counting down the days ’til this trip, although it’s going to be wholly different from the aforementioned solo travel experience: We’re going with my immediate family, various partners, and my cousin, and we’ll be traveling together for most of the time… not to mention attending the wedding ceremony/reception and various events with my sister-in-law’s family. Lots of socializing, basically. Gonna have to carve out some introvert recharge time!

Anyway, on to the small bites for this weekend.

Small bites: to read

Food52 has been publishing some really lovely pieces lately, including this sweet little story of a fig tree cutting that traveled from Sardinia to Dallas and helped the author’s two sets of grandparents bridge a linguistic divide. Valerio Farris’ description of eating a juicy, swollen fig makes me wish I liked the fruit!


A thoughtful analysis of Solo, the new Star Wars movie that gives us — at long last — Han’s back story. I’m not sure I agree with every point here, but it does help explain why the film felt a bit flat. Which is not to say I didn’t enjoy it; it was entertaining enough. But it didn’t feel like a real Star Wars movie in the way The Force Awakens did, and it’s certainly nowhere near as solid as Rogue One. The frenetic pace, unnecessary subplots, and quick tour through lots of locations with no chance to get to know them were just a few reasons I disliked The Last Jedi, and unfortunately Solo has similar issues.


I’m a newcomer to Jack Monroe’s work, but I enjoyed this piece on the privilege inherent in going vegan and the damage the so-called “militant vegan” can do for folks who are curious about plant-based eating. While I personally find it very difficult to understand self-professed “animal lovers” who eat meat, and I have a negative gut reaction to someone who eats vegan 90% of the time yet consume the occasional meat or animal product,  I also know that someone eating vegan 90% of the time is someone who is drastically cutting down her consumption of animal products… and isn’t that what we all want? There are entire books to be written on the tired debate about the labels we use and what “plant-based” vs. “vegan” means and whether a “part-time vegan” can actually exist (*eye twitch*), but overall I think we need a hefty dose of both pragmatism and empathy in this movement. Jack’s piece speaks to that need.

Small bites: to watch

The Office, as usual! I just discovered that Michael Scott and I share a birthday. I can’t believe I didn’t realize that until now.

Small bites: to eat

I’m not one to eschew rice for any reason, but I am one to eat cauliflower as often as I can get it! Therefore, this cauliflower rice kitchari from Minimalist Baker sounds excessively tempting.


Spoiler: We’re cooking through Plum: Gratifying Vegan Dishes from Seattle’s Plum Bistro for our June cookbook challenge, and yesterday I put together a seitan, avocado, cucumber, and tomato salad that was shockingly filling — and tasty. Our first recipe from the book was less successful, so I was glad the salad was satisfying!


I am (quite literally) salivating at this strawberry margarita pie, featuring cashews and lots of coconut. The perfect summer dessert?!


Aaand that’s all I’ve got for you today. Let me know if you’ve read/watched/eaten anything of note lately!


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A Year Without Luna

Today Luna has been gone for a year. I can’t say it or think it without a little catch in my throat, still. A year without getting to pet — ever so gently — her bony little back, feeling the knobby rises of her spine and the strange, hairless plane of her hips. Seeing her increasingly bare, almost scaly tail and feeling both immensely protective and just a little repulsed. Hearing her coughs and hacks and those surprising rare sharp barks. Cleaning her mukes, even. Staring into her unblinking, too-large eyes and feeling such a rush of tenderness.


I can look at photos of her just fine, usually. Yes, they fill me with a bittersweet sharp longing, but seeing her face is better than the alternative. I can even watch the videos, watch her perform her bizarre roll on the rug to scratch that bony back. I can engage in a staring contest with past-Luna that I know ends when she gulps and looks away. Remembering her spirit, the idiosyncrasies of her movements, is better than the alternative.

But what I can’t handle is thinking about the day she died. I watched a documentary recently and suddenly, without warning, there was a euthanasia scene. All of it, down to the dog’s tongue lolling on the table when it was over. It hit me so hard.

Because what haunts me now, one big reason my throat catches when I think of her, is the fear that we made the wrong decision. That we could have saved her. It all happened so fast — she was swaying on her feet, we took her to the emergency vet, the vet delivered the news, we had to make a decision. Her kidneys were failing and they didn’t know why. She was septic and wasn’t responding to fluids. They could have admitted her and put her on an aggressive treatment plan for the sepsis, but even if she had come through that (which was unlikely), there were still her failing kidneys to deal with. Given that fact, given her other ailments, I asked the vet, “Are you saying we should euthanize her?” Not unkindly, the vet told us that was probably the best thing we could do for her.

But of course now I wonder, could they have treated the sepsis? Could she have gotten more time out of those kidneys? Did we do wrong by her? She was so tough. She fought through everything else; why not this? We could afford it. It wasn’t about the monetary cost.


One of my last photos of Tunie.

In the moment, though, here is what we pictured. We imagined her getting admitted for sepsis treatment and being confined to a crate. We imagined her hooked up to IVs and monitors, getting blood draws and injections. We imagined her not making it through the sepsis. We imagined her in unrelieved pain, dying alone in a cold crate at the emergency vet. Without comfort. Without us.

And that, I know, would have been unbearable. For her and for us. More unbearable than this continued worry that I still have, that maybe we didn’t make the “right” choice. I didn’t want her to die alone, in pain, without her people.

So instead she died with us, literally in our arms, swaddled in a blanket and placed on a pillow like the princess she was. My little baby. She was out of it, but she recognized us. I want to imagine that seeing us was a comfort, that she slipped away feeling a measure of relief. That she felt our love, not our worry or our guilt or our pain.

It was about the incalculable, unmeasurable, indefinable cost of her comfort. We all throw around the term “quality of life” in discussions like this but I don’t know how to define it. Maybe she had kidney disease. Maybe kidney disease wouldn’t have been so bad. Or would it? My childhood chihuahua died from it, a long, slow, drawn-out disengagement with the world that ended with her slipping away in my sister’s bed. Was that our alternative? Fighting the sepsis, stabilizing her, bringing her home, giving her comfort until her organs, finally, gave out? Would a death at home have been “better” for her than one at the emergency vet, wrapped up and bathed in our tears?

Of course there is no “right” answer here. Of course I say this with a secret and shameful desire for absolution, for compassionate people to tell me that we made the best decision for our girl so that she wouldn’t suffer. It’s what I would tell anyone, any friend, any person I cared about, anyone who told a similar story to me. And of course that doesn’t matter; we judge ourselves far more harshly than any loving friend or family member would.

Luna burrito

Luna burrito

I don’t want to be haunted by these regrets. I don’t want them to color my memories of Luna, which are plentiful and sad and painful and happy and every other adjective. They are rich. She was so special. It’s difficult to articulate why, but if you met her, you felt it. Like many small dogs, her personality outstripped her size. But she had none of the swagger, the bluster, many small dogs seem to adopt. She was serene and accepting. Put her in a front pouch and carry her around that way for 30 minutes after she ate? No problem. She didn’t struggle. Wrap her up in a blanket burrito after a meal? No problem. (Though she did, occasionally, bust loose after a while.) Yet she was so strong. She didn’t bark or bare her teeth or growl often, but when she did, you had to back off. You knew she meant it. She didn’t show affection often, but when she did, you cherished it.

Her influence lingers. I know I am more patient because of her, because of the constant mukes we cleaned up, because of the recurring health problems we had to diagnose and treat. I know my patience isn’t perfect; the weekend before she died she was extra gurgly and I was so, so annoyed that I had to keep cleaning mukes off the sofa. I hope she knew my irritation was transient, that affection and love and a fierce protectiveness could overpower any negative emotions I felt toward her. I like to think she did.

A year later and I feel like I haven’t properly memorialized her, like I need to ink her into my skin to keep her with me. Instead, this. A reflection, a few words.




And a photo. It was uncanny how many people commented, upon meeting Luna, that she reminded them of an AT-AT. Even folks who weren’t Star Wars super fans would do a double-take then say, “She reminds me of something…” Inevitably, that something was an AT-AT. Especially when she started losing fur and all her angles came through. But it wasn’t just her looks. It was also the way she carried herself and the way she walked, sometimes.

So, for Christmas a few years back, I commissioned this amazing Etsy artist to make her into one for real. I had a couple prints made and gave one to Steven, framed, for Christmas. It’s too good not to share.


I did mention the painting, briefly, last year. But it deserves to be shared again. The print is up in our living room now, in a little memorial area with Luna’s tiny collar. (We used a cat collar on her, a little pink one with a bell.) I smile when I look at it.

Cookbook of the Month: Isa Does It

Isa Does It cookbook review //

When fellow blogger Jenny Marie suggested a monthly cookbook challenge earlier this year, I was immediately into the concept. I’m not the worst offender when it comes to ignoring my cookbooks, but I could certainly use a little kick in the pants to crack them open more often. Yet because Steven was still doing most of the cooking, I didn’t participate right away — I didn’t want to impose a challenge on his cooking or place any limitations on his meal-planning.

But then, a couple weeks ago, Steven mentioned that he was feeling frazzled by his solo dinner prep duties. Not by the cooking itself, but by the meal-planning. What timing! I happily volunteered to take over, recognizing it as a perfect opportunity to join this cookbook challenge. Now we’ve reached what I think is a really lovely equilibrium, and perhaps one that will work in the long term: I meal plan on the weekends (usually for just three to four meals, because we typically have a leftovers and/or fend-for-yourself nights every so often) and make the shopping list, one of us does the shopping, and then we jointly tackle the weeknight cooking. Although Steven still does the majority of it, we’ve found a great compromise that gets me back in the kitchen without overwhelming me: Since Steven works from home, he can do some prep during the day (chopping veggies, measuring ingredients, generally getting the mise en place ready), then one of us can just put it all together when I’m home after work. It makes everything SO much easier, especially for me. If we keep up with an arrangement like this, I hope to never experience that horrible cooking burnout again.

But I digress. Back to the cookbook challenge! This May, I opted for a criminally neglected book on my shelf: Isa Does ItGifted to me by Steven’s mom a year or so ago, I flipped through it upon receipt, dog-eared a few pages, and then… really didn’t cook from it much at all. Given my belief that Isa can do no wrong, I had to rectify that mistake. So! Together, over the month of May, Steven and I cooked the hell out of this book so that I could write up a long-overdue review of Isa Does It. (Incidentally, Jenny highlighted the very same book back in February; check out her post for even more recipe reviews.)

Recipes from Isa Does It

Cheddary Broccoli Soup from Isa Does ItFor years I assumed all cheesy broccoli soups were just variations on a slightly boring theme. Tasty enough, and definitely something I’d whip up occasionally, but not a recipe I’d seek out. But Isa’s Cheddary Broccoli Soup (p. 53) proved me wrong in a major[ly delicious] way! Whereas I tend to add almond milk to my ad hoc broccoli soups, Isa relies on cashew cream to great effect. We blended this one just enough to destroy any big veggie chunks while still leaving lots of texture. It made a marvelously satisfying meal served alongside sourdough chive biscuits. (And yes, I did top my soup with sprouts in direct replication of the photo in the book because I am unoriginal. 10/10 would sprout-top again.)

A tipsy bake while I was home alone one weekend night (hold your tongue), the Chai Spice Snickerdoodles (p. 276) proved a simple and satisfying treat. A relatively straightforward sugar cookie dough gets rolled in a bath of flavorful spices, including cardamon, ginger, cinnamon, and cloves. Easy to make and easy to eat.

I think chickpeas might well be one of my top five ingredients. I’ll eat them in anything! They work especially well in the simple, satisfying Chickpea-Rice Soup with Cabbage (p. 32), where they’re paired with cabbage (as mentioned), carrots, and just a few seasonings (think thyme and dill). Isa describes this chunky, hearty style of soup as “babushka-style,” and I know exactly what she means. It hits the spot. It especially hit the spot when I came down with a cold over Memorial Day weekend (…) and needed something simple to soothe my throat. Steven suggested using wild rice instead of the jasmine rice recommended in the recipe, and it was a good decision: The wild rice provided a nice toothsome element. I paired my soup with some rye crispbreads and was quite satisfied with the choice. (I will note that there was an element of this soup that hit my palate the wrong way. Nothing overpowering, and I can’t put my finger on what it was exactly, but something to note. I’ll play around with the spices next time I make it.)

One reason I am so into the cookbook challenge concept is that it forces me to dig deeper into a cookbook rather than simply preparing recipes that jump out at me upon first thumb-through. For example, the Curried Peanut Sauce Bowl with Tofu & Kale (p. 199). Now, we make bowls like this on a near-weekly basis, and I would usually never think to use a recipe for the sauce. But because I had already exhausted my top choices from Isa Does It a couple weeks into May, I started choosing recipes I might otherwise have ignored. And that was a good thing! This curried peanut sauce is solid, even if Steven and I had a minor communication breakdown while preparing it. But the sauce withstood my skipping a few steps and turned out just fine. Otherwise, this bowl is just rice and tofu and kale, which is a classic combination that needs no elaboration.

After a painfully long and lingering winter, we skipped spring and jumped into summer (for a while, at least) in early May. Temperatures jumped into the upper 80s/low 90s, and what did I decide to make? Stew. Dilly Stew with Rosemary Dumplings (p.  151), more specifically. This was one recipe where Steven did the chopping and measuring prep during the day, and then I put it all together after work. I highly recommend that approach, if possible, because this isn’t the quickest recipe: It takes a while for the stew components (namely celery, garlic, carrots, and Yukon Gold potatoes) to cook through, and then you add the rosemary dumplings and let them simmer for another 15 or so minutes. The long lead time is worth it though; we both loved this recipe, even though we were eating it in the middle of a heat wave, and even though the dumplings never really cooked through. Whatever; they still tasted fine! This was not an appealing-looking dish, however… hence the lack of photos. But it’s tasty AF. Make it.

Roasted Fennel Salad from Isa Does ItAlas, a (minor) dud: the Farro & Fennel Salad with Oranges (p. 70). Incorporating roasted fennel, chilled farro, arugula, orange segments, and toasted walnuts all tossed in an orange vinaigrette, this salad unfortunately did not impress us. Perhaps the proportions were slightly off, but the dressing was barely noticeable — only the orange segments provided any real orange flavor. (Admittedly, I did reduce the red wine vinaigrette ever so slightly. I DON’T LIKE VINEGAR; SUE ME.) And although the fennel was lovely and flavorful right out of the oven, it seemed to lose flavor when it hopped into the salad bowl with the other ingredients. The toasted walnuts and orange segments, on the other hand, did provide a lovely textural contrast and burst of flavor. We made this recipe in tandem, with Steven getting the fennel into the oven to roast, getting the tofu a-marinating (see below), and toasting the walnuts before I got home from work. I then took over and finished up from there, making the vinaigrette, slicing the roasted fennel, baking the tofu, and assembling the whole shebang. We served our salad alongside the Classic Baked Tofu (p. 238) because I wanted to make it a more a filling meal. While I am typically wont to throw together my own mish-mash marinade of an evening, I decided to give Isa’s a try because it’s always nice to jazz up your marinade game. Unfortunately, we both found it overwhelmingly salty. Steven did admit to dumping in a bit more Bragg’s than the recipe required in order to finish up our bottle, but even accounting for his addition this was far too salty. Umami overload!

Puffy Pillow Pancakes from Isa Does It

Isa’s Puffy Pillow Pancake (p. 253) recipe is also available in Vegan BrunchVegan with a Vengeance, and online, but you can’t fault her for quadruple-dipping this one: It’s a solid pancake recipe to keep in your arsenal for Sunday mornings. I’ve made these pancakes prior to this cookbook challenge and will make them afterward as well. They are fluffy, puffy, and just sweet enough. You can’t go wrong.

I feel like nobody actually eats fava beans; we all just make “…and a nice Chianti” jokes about them. Well. I am here to tell you that I will now add fava beans to my regular bean rotation. I just adore their obscene size and nice toothsome bite! They play a starring role in the Lemon-Garlic Fava Beans & Mushrooms (p. 152) alongside chopped mushrooms and a garlicky sauce, which gets reduced and turns into a sort of gravy with the addition of breadcrumbs (!) and time. I thought this was a smart and unexpected dish, although Steven was not as thrilled with the favas as I was. (He didn’t care for their somewhat tough skins.) We paired the beans with Garlicky Thyme Tempeh (p. 236), a solid preparation for this oft-overlooked protein. (No fresh thyme? No worries. We used dried and it was fine.)

Time to get our summer burger-makin’ on! I chose the Island Black Bean Burgers (p. 90) as our first homemade veggie burgers of the year. Featuring both black-eyed peas and black beans, this is an all-around solid bean-based burger. Note that it doesn’t hold together particularly well, so if you are the type of vegan who grumbles when your burger crumbles, you may want to augment the recipe with an additional binder. But the flavors were quite nice, especially when topped with the accompanying Nectarine Salsa (p. 90). We opted for mangoes instead of nectarines since I don’t care for out-of-season stone fruit, and it was an excellent substitution.

I have never been much of a raisin fan, especially in cookies. Give me chocolate chips over raisins any day! But you know what? I now (partially) understand the appeal of these wrinkly buggers, and I getwhy oatmeal-raisin cookies are a thing. That’s thanks to the Jumbo Oatmeal-Raisin Cookies (p. 275), a recipe I made twice during the month. Yes, I had to dig out an expired bag of raisins from deep within the pantry, but they still couldn’t diminish the deliciousness of these cookies! They’re everything I want in an oatmeal cookie: texturally diverse and sweet with just a little cinnamon spiciness. They’ve also got that buttery, melt-in-your-mouth smoothness that makes them go down easy. I also love that this recipe uses both oil and applesauce; it made me feel slightly better about chomping on two of them for breakfast one day at work when I’d run out of healthier options! :D The only issue? They were a little crumbly and might benefit from a little more ground flax. I might also reduce the sugar next time I make them; they were verging on too sweet for me!

I’m not quite sure why, but I never think to make chocolate cookies. Maybe I assume they won’t taste chocolatey enough, so I might as well eat straight-up chocolate instead? Regardless, after the massive success of the oatmeal cookies, I decided to try the Kitchen Sink Chocolate Cookies (p. 278) as well. In my attempt to be faithful to Isa’s recipes as written, I quashed my growing alarm as I poured mix-in after mix-in into the bowl. The result? A cookie dough positively exploding with raisins, chocolate chips, and peanuts. This is an unruly dough; as I tried to corral spoonsful onto the baking pan, I had to fight chocolate chips and peanuts that wanted to pop out every which way. I was worried there wouldn’t be enough actual dough to rein in all the mix-ins once baked, but luckily they stayed together fairly well after about 12 minutes in the oven. That said, I would likely reduce the amount of mix-ins to 1/3 cup each rather than 1/2 cup, and I’d roughly chop the peanuts as well. Steven also didn’t care for the raisins in this cookie; I could take them or leave them. Overall, a cookie that was surprisingly chocolatey, yet not quite as satisfying as the oatmeal cookies. Ah well.

Marbled Banana Bread from Isa Does ItMy go-to banana bread is the lower fat version from Veganomicon, but I was excited to mix things up and try the Marbled Banana Bread (p. 268) from Isa Does It. I wish I had a photo of the bread after I baked it, but you’ll just have to settle for the before shot to get a sense of how visually appealing this quick bread is. And guess what? It tastes as wonderful as it looks! I whipped this up the night before Mother’s Day, and Steven brought it over for brunch. (I, alas, was en route to Kansas City for a work obligation and only got to try a butt-end piece.) He reports that his mom loved it! And who wouldn’t. It’s chocolate bread! I also tried to make this again for a Memorial Day weekend cookout, but I was in a cold-induced haze and screwed up the recipe. I won’t bore you with the details of my mistake, but suffice it to say that you do, in fact, need to split the six tablespoons of boiling water between the two batters, and you should not, in fact, add more water to compensate (!?!) unless you want a stodgy bread that will never cook through. Sigh.

Quinoa Caesar Salad from Isa Does It

Isa describes the Quinoa Caesar Salad (p. 61) as a bit much for weeknight cookin’, and she’s not wrong. The recipe itself isn’t too complex — it’s a salad, for crying out loud! — but it does have quite a few components. There’s quinoa, marinated tempeh “croutons,” and a homemade cashew-based Briny Caesar Dressing (p. 62) that incorporates a head of roasted garlic. Yet Steven managed to pull it all together on the Friday before Memorial Day weekend, giving us a nice healthy start to our holiday. I would’ve helped, but alas — the aforementioned spring cold had me feeling a bit run-down. The verdict? This is a solid salad. It will fill you up thanks to all those proteins (quinoa, tempeh, cashew dressing) and nice healthy fats (avocado!). However, we do recommend omitting the raw garlic in the dressing; it added a slightly unpleasant bitter tang and overpowered the briny flavor that should’ve come from 1/4 cup of capers. Steven upped the arugula to counteract the dressing, and that helped. (Yes, this caesar salad includes arugula, but don’t worry… it also calls for romaine for all you purists!) He also recommends reducing the Bragg’s in the tempeh marinade, as it was quite salty.

We made the Sweet and Sour Brown Rice Salad (p. 78) during that early May heat wave, and it was a much more seasonally appropriate choice than stew! I made both the rice and the sweet chili sauce over the weekend, and then Steven assembled it all before I got home from work one day. This chilled salad features adzuki beans (we subbed small pink kidney beans), mung bean sprouts, peanuts, scallions, and LOTS of fresh mint and cilantro, dousing them all in a sweet and sour chili sauce. Interestingly, I halved the sauce recipe — intending to halve the entire recipe — but Steven missed my cryptic note on our meal-planning notepad  and prepared the rest of the salad to full proportions. It still worked, and I almost think the full amount of sauce would’ve been overkill. It could’ve used some additional lime juice, however, because the sour aspect was not noticeable in the sauce.

Technically we didn’t make the Smoky Incan Stew (p.  165) during May, but it’s a recipe Steven has put on our roster of favorites because it is fantastic! Quinoa, sweet potatoes, black beans, corn, and tomatoes comprise the bulk of the stew, and they’re dressed up with lots of smoky spiciness from chipotle peppers in adobo and a hefty sprinkling of cilantro. Although I have to give the “Incan” adjective in the recipe title a bit of side-eye, this is a winner. The recipe produces a ton, making it a great bulk cook for lunches and leftovers.
Tabbouleh of the Sea from Isa Does ItUnlike Isa — who admits as much in the headnotes to her Tabbouleh of the Sea (p. 74) recipe — I quite like traditional tabbouleh. Therefore, I don’t exactly need a flavorful spin on the dish to render it palatable. In fact, if I consider this recipe against traditional tabbouleh, it falls short: I prefer the standard recipe to Isa’s take, which subs whole wheat couscous in place of the traditional bulgur wheat and adds smushed chickpeas and capers  for a briny take on the dish. Best to consider the recipe as something separate, with “tabbouleh” removed from the title. Do that, and the dish comes into its own as something wholly unique and quite satisfying, with the capers adding a lovely little briny bite. Maybe not my absolute favorite from the book, but definitely a dish I’d make during the summer for easy cool lunches and leftovers. It’d also hold and transport well, making it an excellent candidate for picnicking. I particularly want to make this one again so I can use my own home-grown tomatoes and cucumbers; we had to rely on store-bought tomatoes for this one, and they were just sad. I typically avoid tomatoes during the winter, but I wanted to follow the recipe closely for accurate judgment. Since it was May when we made this, and Steven chose some lumpy, heirloom-y tomatoes that seemed vaguely promising, we had high hopes, but, alas, they were bland and flavorless. I’m holding out for home-grown! (On that note, you should give the Go Vegga Instagram feed a look for garden-y goodness! This year, I’m documenting my rough-and-tumble garden for your viewing pleasure.)

 Overall thoughts on Isa Does It

This is a gorgeous, hefty hardcover! I love the full-color matte photos, which are plentiful and inspiring. For the most part they seem true to the recipe, although Isa specifically recommends making the dilly stew in a cast-iron Dutch oven yet shows the recipe in a cast-iron sauté pan (with FAR FEWER than the estimated 14 dumplings the recipe makes!). The instructions read clearly, and the headnotes have that signature Isa voice. Vegan with a Vengeance was my first-ever vegan cookbook, and I love how Isa’s tone hasn’t changed too much since then.

I also really appreciate Make Ahead tips sprinkled throughout the recipes. I’m usually pretty well able to plan out my cooking steps in a time-efficient way, but I still like seeing time-management suggestions provided for me.

Looking back, I’m actually quite impressed that we cooked so much from this book, especially since I was out of town on a business trip for five days, and then we were in Chicago together for a weekend! I guess it helps when you use it as your single source while meal-planning. :D

The verdict? Isa Does It is a winner! What are your favorite recipes from this one?

Note: This post contains a affiliate links. If you purchase something through my links, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies to help cover hosting costs.

Vegan Travel: An All-Vegan Cruise in Norway

A little over six months ago, Steven and I were drinking our weight in vegan Irish coffees, gorging ourselves on all-you-can-eat vegan food, and enjoying some of the most breathtaking scenery I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing.

We also happened to be on a cruise.

All-vegan cruise in Bergen, Norway
Which, if you know me, may seem like an odd choice. For one, I’m a bit of a control freak enthusiast when it comes to traveling, preferring to make my own plans and set my own schedule. (And, as an introvert, I prefer to spend a decent amount of that schedule alone!) Plus, I’m frugal. “All-inclusive” and “luxury” are not exactly in my personal travel vocabulary. And finally, I’m leery of the environmental effects of cruises and of their less-than-savory reputation when it comes to how they treat their employees.

So why, then, did Steven and I put down a big chunk o’ change to spend a week WITH OTHER PEOPLE on a CRUISE SHIP that was essentially ALL-INCLUSIVE?!

Well, friends, we were on an all-vegan cruise, where we could stuff as much vegan food as we wanted down our gullets before spending our days immersed in pristine, gorgeous nature. Curious? I don’t blame you. Settle in, because I’ve got a LOT to say about this experience — all completely candid, of course.

What is a vegan cruise? Who operates them? Why would I want to join one?!

Eidfjord, Norway -- all-vegan cruise of Norway

The first time I heard about Vegan River Cruises (aka Vegan Travel), a German company that organizes all-veg cruises throughout Europe, my ears perked right on up. (Or rather, my eyes bulged — I’m pretty sure I saw it on Reddit first!) I’d always been more interested in the concept of river cruising than ocean cruising, because the boats are smaller, newer, and more eco-friendly, and I loved the idea of seeing European cities from a new perspective. But I’ve always hesitated when it comes to all-inclusives (including cruises) because I don’t want to miss out on the food. Sure, the kitchen might be able to churn out a vegan meal each night, and yeah, you might have access to a salad bar, butttt… let’s be honest. That is NOT the equivalent of the buffets and smorgasbords that characterize most cruises. I would be a grumpy vegan if I had to watch people stuffing their faces 24/7 while I twiddled my thumbs and counted down the hours till dinner. So, when I realized that literally ALL THE FOOD on the VRC ships would be vegan, I was instantly tempted. And when I learned that all toiletries on these cruises are also vegan and cruelty-free, I put another tick in the “SIGN ME UP NOW” column.

Let me backtrack for a second, because it’s important to understand exactly what Vegan River Cruises does. The company itself does not operate or sail ships. Instead, they make arrangements with existing cruise companies to run one-off all-vegan sailings, typically on the company’s existing routes. The boats are still captained and serviced by their regular staff, but behind the scenes, the folks at Vegan River Cruises work super hard to make sure everything is vegan. Well in advance of the trip, they work with chefs — often bringing in an advisor or consultant — to help veganize existing meals and dream up new veg options. They also recommend cruelty-free toiletry brands to stock the bathrooms and vegan vintners to stock the bars.

I’d been monitoring Vegan River Cruises’ upcoming journeys for a few months when I saw a new one pop up: their first-ever cruise of the Norwegian fjords. These majestic soaring mountains and their pristine waters had been on my must-visit list for a while, and I’d always heard that the best way to experience the fjords is by sailing through them. (That’s why many tour companies in Norway offer day-long sailing trips from popular ports.) So, we figured,  why not make a week-long trip of it, hitting up quite a few of these picturesque ports and gorging ourselves on endless amounts of vegan food?

That’s just what we did. We booked our tickets in January 2017, and in September, we hopped a flight to London and prepared to set sail.

Are vegan cruises a good value?

This is definitely a “your mileage may vary” question! Compared to my typical vacation style, the cruise was definitely more expensive. (We did cut down on costs by booking round-trip tickets to London, from whence the cruise departed, on airline points.) We paid £1,249 each for our cabin, which had a really nice-sized window. (No balcony, but it was chilly anyway!) That’s roughly $1,700 a person with today’s exchange rate.  (I’m wincing just thinking about that price. This was a splurge for us!) This price included seven nights of lodging and all our meals (including breakfast the day of departure) and averages out to about $250 per day per person. We stopped at four ports: Eidfjord, Flåm, Nordfjord, and Bergen. (We were scheduled to go to Geiranger rather than Nordfjord, but weather conditions prompted a change of plans.)

Vegan meal at Kaf in Bergen, NorwayFor a trip to Norway, this was a decent value… but that’s because Norway is notoriously expensive. In fact, the one day we had lunch off the ship at a cute place called Kaf in Bergen, we were pretty shocked at how much a relatively small — albeit delicious — meal cost: nearly $50 for both of us, including a drink for Steven. (Grainy photo at left!) Had we paid for lodgings, all our meals, and transportation to all the ports we visited in Norway without being super frugal, I have no doubt we would have spent nearly as much as our cruise cost. Plus, there’s the intangible benefit of not having to worry about finding food, booking lodgings, and arranging transportation… and I think that does count for something!

It’s worth noting that the smaller — and more traditional — river cruises tend to be less expensive. VRC just started advertising a December cruise of a few Christmas markets in Switzerland and Germany (!!!), and it’s actually quite reasonably priced; twin cabins start at just 499€ for five nights, and obviously that includes all your meals as well.

What does a vegan cruise include?

Vegan Irish coffee on all-vegan cruise

See above — a cabin and all your meals. You can also tack on a drinks package with unlimited beer, wine, and cocktails, but Steven and I did the math and realized we would have to drink quite a lot each day to make it worth our while. I know myself — and my desire to make every penny count — so I knew I might get a bit obsessive ensuring that our drinks package was worth it. Not wanting to force myself into drinking more than I might want/need (always a good strategy, eh?), we forewent the drinks package and just told ourselves we could splash out on drinks as desired. They were relatively inexpensive anyway, and we never felt deprived.

The cruise also includes all onboard entertainment… and yes, that did mean we had — gulp — a cruise director. He was exactly what you would expect, and he seemed a bit puzzled by the whole vegan thing, as evidenced by his embarrassing garbling of the word “quinoa” at one point. Come on, quinoa is like the least bizarre thing vegans eat! It’s mainstream now! Ahem. Other onboard entertainment was more targeted to the audience; Vegan River Cruises had booked the likes of Macca-B, Dr. Michael Greger, Joyce Tischler (of the Animal Legal Defense Fund), Gene Baur, and Tobias Leenaert (the Vegan Strategist). There were multiple talks and panel discussions each day, many of which were stimulating and inspiring.

Cow in Olden, NorwaySo, other than drinks, what’s not included? Optional gratuities for cabin stewards, of course, although tipping culture is not as big a deal in Europe as it is in America. Transfers to and from the Tilbury port, which you could arrange on your own or pay to join a coach from Victoria Station. You will also need to pay for shore excursions, if you’d like. Steven and I researched each port and discovered that most of them had gorgeous hiking trails just literal steps from where our ship would dock, so we only ended up booking two days’ worth of excursions (we stopped at four ports total). As mentioned above, rough seas prompted a rejiggering of our itinerary and we didn’t end up stopping at one of the planned ports, so we got our money back for that. We also ended up canceling our second one because we loved the DIY approach: disembarking on our own time and choosing our own activities. (An absolutely gorgeous hike in Olden, Norway, gave us spectacular views… and a chance to see a few grazing cows. <3) We also independently booked tickets on the Flåm Railway, an absolute must-do. We could’ve booked them through the cruise, but it was less expensive to just do it ourselves! On that day, we rode the railway up to its highest point, turned around, then got off a few stops later and hiked down the mountain ourselves, along with some newfound vegan friends who wanted to do the same thing. It was a great decision: we were almost entirely alone in the middle of towering forested mountains, passed by the occasional blur of a biker going downhill.

I feel pretty good about our choice not to do any excursions. While I’m sure some of them were really neat, and they gave you the chance to go a bit further afield, our hike-heavy independent excursions satisfied me just fine.

What kind of people go on a vegan cruise?

You probably know the stereotype: Only wealthy elderly folks take European river cruises! That was not the case on our vegan cruise. We had quite the mix of folks of all ages, from hippie families with young kids to a seventy-plus-year-old grandma who had raised all her kids vegan (and without ever going to see a doctor, butttt that’s another story entirely). I would guess that the average guest was middle-aged, probably white, and probably vegan for health reasons. Which leads me to my next point…

What types of vegans go on a vegan cruise?

Oh, I was so ready to indulge in a favorite habit on this trip: people watching! I was incredibly curious about the kinds of vegans who’d take this trip… and they were all over the map. There was the 20-something Dutch couple we chatted with at dinner, comprised of a vegan nutritionist and her not-quite-vegan partner who was gamely enjoying his animal-free dining experience. There was the middle-aged Liverpudlian couple we sat with during another dinner, chatting about vegan food in Liverpool and their (extensive!) travels throughout the United States. There were lots of Brits, since the cruise left from London, and many Europeans. We met some Americans at Tilbury Port — from Alabama, of all places — and they told us this was just one of many trips they’d taken with Vegan River Cruises.

Will's Vegan Shoes dock boots review // govegga.comAnecdotally, it seemed that many, if not most, of the guests were vegan for health reasons. Which is not to say that they didn’t also care about the ethics, but it seemed that many guests were relatively new vegans who’d been inspired by Forks Over Knives or similar documentaries. In my extensive creeping on observations of the guests, many seemed ready to buy in to the most outlandish, non-scientifically-valid theories, i.e. the idea that veganism is a panacea. I personally find settings like this uncomfortable and off-putting, where the general attitude is that veganism is the One True Diet and that it will Cure All Your Woes, and people indulge in a sort of cultish celebration of their superior life choices. I heard a fair few people complain that the food (more on that below) was too unhealthy, with too much fat, sugar, and “processed” ingredients. To which I say: SHUT YOUR TRAP AND LET ME STUFF MY FACE. IS INDULGENCE NOT THE ENTIRE POINT OF A CRUISE?!

…so, overall, there was some anti-science bullshit that turned me off, yes. But on the flip side, there were plenty of animal welfare-driven, more old-school vegans to balance it out. Plus hearing from folks like Joyce Tischler and Gene Baur — people who have dedicated their lives to protecting animals in one way or another — was a wonderful experience and a humbling reminder of why I’m vegan.

What is the food like on a vegan cruise?

The million-dollar question, right?! The food on our cruise was best described as hit or miss. There were some really delicious dishes — especially the sweets! — and some that fell flat, occasionally because they were bland and occasionally because they didn’t seem coherent. For example, every morning, the breakfast buffet included a tofu bacon/sausage (really not sure which) that was more or less a stick of tofu, marinated in something extremely salty, then dehydrated (?!?) till it was incredibly dry. Not chewy or toothsome, just dry as a bone. I kept taking one for breakfast because I thought they would improve their cooking method, but no — it was always the same dry stick of tofu. Bizarre.

On the other hand, I loved nearly all their afternoon tea selections! The tea buffet always included a mix of savory and sweet, with little finger sandwiches, scones, biscuits, and other lovelies — along with vegan cream for topping. Mmmm. There was an almond scone that I particularly enjoyed. And because everything was bite-sized, I could really fill up my plate and try them all!

Like most cruise ships, this one offered either a buffet or a sit-down restaurant experience for dinner. We availed ourselves of the sit-down option twice, and found it wildly erratic. My first main dish was a seitan-based stew that was, not to mince words, pretty gross: The seitan was far too spongy and the broth lacked flavor. It was, quite frankly, difficult to finish this dish.

The buffet was a safer bet, because there were always dozens of options — everything from a massive salad bar to multiple hot mains. One winner was a whole-grain risotto, which I’d never even thought of trying. I want to recreate it at home! The buffet was available for all three daily meals (plus afternoon tea), or you could custom-order something at the outdoor junk food bar (my words), like a pizza, hot dog, or hamburger. I only ever got a veggie burger once, but I enjoyed it — it was nice and soft and veggie-filled. Overall, the buffet had something to offer any style of eater, and I never ever left hungry.

Two anecdotes: First, this ship did a great job of labeling what was oil-free (thanks for that, One True Diet vegans!) but was horrendous when it came to labeling anything that contained nuts! Are nut allergies just not a big deal in Europe?! I kept thinking about my sister — who is extremely allergic to cashews, walnuts, peanuts, and other nuts — and what she’d do on a cruise like this, when nothing was labeled but they were presumably using nuts in a fair few dishes. How exhausting to have to ask about each dish.

Second, something more positive: During breakfast on the latter half of the trip, I overheard a family sitting next to us chatting about the food. The dad had seemingly just realized everything was vegan, and was asking his daughters about it. “Yeah,” one of them said, “Do you not see all the signs?! It’s all vegan.” This was interesting for two reasons: One, because how on earth did they book an all-vegan cruise without realizing it?! (My hunch is that Cruise and Maritime Voyages, the operator for this particular cruise, had some extra cabins to sell close to sailing and offered them at a discount… perhaps without highlighting the vegan aspect. Yikes.) Two, if it took this family three to four days to figure out they hadn’t been eating animal products, the food must’ve been pretty “normal!” (…or maybe they were just unobservant. And considering that all the signage at embarkation included “SAIL AWAY THE VEGAN WAY” in massive lettering, in truth all signs point to blissful ignorance.)

What is the ship like on a vegan cruise?

Time to ‘fess up: My Norway cruise was not actually a river cruise; it was a true ocean cruise. In fact, it was Vegan River Cruises’ first-ever ocean cruise, and I admit I didn’t really digest what that meant until Steven and I were at Tilbury Port, just outside of London, staring at a honking, massive, legitimate cruise ship. We had seen the ship in pics but hadn’t appreciated how large it was until we saw it in person.It’s difficult to get a sense of scale in photos, y’know? If you’ve ever been on a traditional Caribbean cruise, it was just that type of ship. Ahem:

All-vegan cruise in Norway

Honestly, I was a little disappointed… but I have only myself and my (willful?) ignorance to blame. I had been looking forward to seeing a smaller, more modern river cruise ship, but we were instead on a very large, very regular cruise ship.

And… it wasn’t great. The Columbus was built in 1987 (hey, just like me!) and it was showing its age (…I set myself up for this one…). Vegan River Cruises typically works with newer, smaller ships on their river cruises, and this one was not the norm. It felt dated, from the layout of the cabin to the overall decor. From what I’ve seen of the typical VRC ships, they make excellent and strategic use of space, so even a small cabin feels (relatively) spacious. Not that ours felt particularly cramped, but the overall style was just… bland. Dated. Plus, while newer ships are built with energy efficiency at top of mind, this one had one of those massive smokestacks that blasted out smoke into the otherwise pure Norwegian air. Not a pretty sight, and I cringed every time I saw it. That said, the ship had just that year been retrofitted and redone to meet new environmental standards, so presumably it’s about as good as a 30-plus-year-old ocean ship is going to get!

(On the related topic of working conditions, I have to admit that I didn’t investigate this as much as I should have — and I feel quite guilty about it. I know typical Caribbean cruise lines have pretty bad reputations, but I’ve always had the Pollyanna-ish assumption that European lines would not be so horrible, and that river cruises in particular would be much less stressful for staff. But this wasn’t a true river cruise, and this was a massive ship, so who the hell knows.)

What is the vegan cruise experience like, overall?

Path in near Norway's EidfjordIt’s actually a bit difficult to describe. For one, the entire experience was a little disorganized, on the part of the cruise line itself and on the part of Vegan River Cruises. The cruise line, for example, sent out horrendously incomplete and oblique emails beforehand, and it was painful to try to figure out how to book anything. Their website was a beast to navigate, a personal pet peeve. And the Vegan River Cruises staff seems quite small and overworked, so getting answers directly from them was also difficult. Many of us relied on a Facebook group to crowd-source answers, which is never what you want to have to do as you plan a wincingly expensive vacation.

That said, this was absolutely an amazing way to see Norway, and I so enjoyed the absolute indulgence of all my meals.

Should I go on a vegan cruise?

If you can lean in to a somewhat quirky and a little disorganized experience, go for it! If you enjoy VegFest-type experiences — and especially if you’re the type of person who attends lots of talks at VegFests — you would probably enjoy it! If you prize efficiency and getting the absolute best bang for your buck, maybe plan your own vacation, or opt for one of the company’s less expensive options.
Kelly and Steven in Norway
I will note that although there were quite a few Americans on our trip, Europeans really get the better deal here. Most cruises are charged in euros (ours wasn’t because it departed out of London), so you won’t have to deal with the nasty exchange rate that we did. Plus, you won’t have to pay for transatlantic flights to get to your port! We also met a few people who booked their trips at the very last minute (as in, a week or two before departure!) and scored solid deals on their cabins, which you could probably not do as an American who would also need to book flights across the pond.

Personally, I would love to try a more traditional river cruise… and quite honestly, I’m seriously considering the Christmas markets one next December! I’ve been to Germany before, but I’d love the chance to tick Switzerland off my list. Plus, Steven and I had already batted around the idea of a Christmas market-focused holiday trip, and this could be a fun way to make that happen. Who’s in?!


Vegan travel: What it's like on a vegan cruise in Europe //

Disclaimer: This is a wholly candid and unprompted review! We paid for our vegan ocean cruise and have no affiliation with Vegan River Cruises.

Vegan-Friendly Restaurant Review: Barking Mad Café in Gaithersburg, Maryland

I’m not usually a burger person. Sure, I’ll order them every so often at veg restaurants if the mood hits, and there’s definitely an uptick in my patty consumption during the summer months, but in general I could take or leave them. When I do take them, I typically opt for a burger that’s more veggie than meaty.

At least that was the case until I tried my new favorite restaurant meal: the Beyond Burger, served with tempeh bacon, sautéed mushrooms, BBQ sauce, and all the veggie fixins on a big ol’ wheat brioche bun.

Beyond Burger at Barking Mad CaféIt might look like your average veggie burger, but oh. my. goodness. It is phenomenal, and I’ve eaten it an embarrassing number of times over the past few months. It’s juicy, sweet-and-savory, and full of so many delicious textures… and it’s served alongside my favorite style of french fries: skin-on, nearly shoestring, with just enough salt.

It certainly doesn’t hurt that the restaurant that serves this burger par excellence happens to be located just 10 minutes from our house, and just a couple minutes down the street from my office. The place is called Barking Mad Café, and it boasts an impressive range of vegan options on the lunch and dinner menus. Aside from my beloved burger, plant eaters can also enjoy a soba noodle bowl, a pizza (with mozz, caramelized onions, figs, tempeh bacon, and arugula), a farro salad, a kale salad, or a quinoa salad. I’ll be honest: I’ve only ever ordered the burger. But Steven had the pizza and was impressed, and another friend loves the soba noodle bowl. Plus, Barking Mad has a vegan affogato on the dessert menu, and you can veganize the fried cauliflower appetizer with spicy avocado sauce. (We did try the latter once, and I wasn’t impressed — too oily and not enough flavor.)

Fried Cauliflower at Barking Mad CaféBarking Mad does both sit-down meals and take-out, which is a boon for those of us who live close and prefer to eat while wearing jammies. I’ve only done a sit-down meal once, on my birthday, and found the ambiance and service a bit mystifying. There’s a back bar section, which seemed quite busy, and then a surprisingly massive table section with chrome and hot pink accents and a big window opening onto the kitchen, with the massive brick oven taking center stage. Although the bar was hopping the night we went, the rest of the place was not full by any means, yet the service was surprisingly slow. It took me an age to get my old fashioned (meh), and our food was similarly delayed.

On the plus side, in warm weather you can sit outdoors on a lovely — and large — patio. Barking Mad is situated in a fairly new mixed-use complex, with apartments facing a small retail development. There’s a splash pad, community lawn, and “performance park” in the central shared area, though I’ve personally never seen any “performances” other than dogs straining to have a pee on the artificial turf!

All in all, while the service may be disappointing, the vegan food at Barking Mad is anything but. And the restaurant itself is a great addition to the dismal vegan scene in Gaithersburg. During the warm months, their cold-brew nitro coffee is my occasional morning splurge on the way into work: It’s gorgeously smooth and a perfect, hyper-caffeinated start to the day. Now if only they’d add some vegan options to the brunch menu!

Small-Bite Sundays: February 18, 2018

Small-Bite Sundays -- winter

Happy Sunday, all. I know I’ve been pretty silent lately, but for once I have reasons beyond personal laziness. If you follow the (American) animal welfare world at all, you might be familiar with the massive sexual-harassment-related upheaval in the past month. Much of it has to do with my own organization. It feels disingenuous to me not to acknowledge it at all, but I also don’t feel right using a personal platform to air my own opinions when much of the turmoil is (1) still ongoing and (2) extremely sensitive.

I know, I know, that’s cryptic and unfair, but the bottom line is that I and my other social-justice-minded colleagues in the AR/AW world have been really freaking upset by what’s come out, how it happened, and what’s going on now, and it’s been hard to focus on much more than the bare minimum. So, as usual, my poor blog is the first thing to drop off.

But, here I am. Trying to get back into the swing of things and trying to remind myself that my organization is so much more than the actions of a few. Trying to remember the way our work serves the greater good. Trying to be circumspect when talking about this right now. Ahem.

There’s been all sorts of fallout from this series of events, but one unexpected piece was the way my recently reformed Facebook habits took a nosedive.  Because a national newspaper broke the story about what was happening, people were sharing info (and their own personal opinions) via social media. So I found myself scrolling through my feed, devouring all the long-winded screeds and strong opinions on both sides. Getting knee-deep into the comment threads that you should never, ever read if you value your mental health. That kind of thing. But at least that temporary dipping back into Facebook did remind me why I took a break in the first place: Because NO GOOD CAN COME OF IT. I remain committed to consuming it in healthy amounts only. :)

So! On to this weekend’s reads, and may your work life be much less turbulent than mine has been for the last month.

Small bites to read, winter edition

A moment of honesty: I spent many years of my life thinking that being colorblind was the ideal. I didn’t understand why Black History Month needed to be a thing. As an adult, I’ve chosen to educate myself on race, racism, and the ways we as a society continue to fail our brothers and sisters of color. It’s not easy to do educate yourself; it requires challenging long-held assumptions and being introspective and acknowledging the way damaging cultural portrayals of race have buried themselves deep in your subconscious. As an individual I know I can always do better, learn more, try harder, but I’m trying to make the effort.

All this is to say that I really enjoyed this piece on why the misuse of the term “racism” among kids is dangerous. Well, “enjoyed” isn’t the right word; I appreciated it. The piece also drove home to me the way we as a culture are so ill-equipped to discuss challenging, nuanced issues like this. I was reminded of a recent post in my neighborhood’s online forum, where a man posted to “warn” neighbors of a “stranger” who was walking back and forth down his street and checking her phone. She was black, which he noted. Many people responded, thanking him for the “warning” and urging him to call the police. When anyone tried to gently challenge him on exactly why he felt so threatened by someone who was literally just walking down the street and checking her phone, and whether perhaps he would have felt less concerned if she were white, others jumped in to immediately defend the guy and to say he was just being a good neighbor and to attack the commenters for immediately “crying racism.”

What’s interesting (and really telling) was that none of the commenters called the guy racist. None of them made ad hominem attacks. They were just trying to call out what might’ve been a case of unconscious bias, where he saw a black woman he didn’t know and thought she might’ve been a threat. If she were white, her presence probably wouldn’t even have registered. Yet many people (deliberately?) refused to see the nuance of the comments, and just wanted it to be a yes-racist or no-not-racist situation.

Anyway, this is all to say that we need to be having conversations about race with our kids as early as we can. No, it’s not easy, and no, I’m not a parent so maybe I have no say here, but exposing our kids to nuances in ways that they can relate to and understand seems like one of the only ways we as a society can tackle these challenging issues. (And, of course, parents of black children are already having these conversations. Parents of white kids need to do more.)


Coincidentally, another piece about kids — this one about a teacher telling a little girl that “only girls wear lipstick.” Even those of you who might be uncomfortable with the changing nature of gender roles — and even the changing nature of gender as a concept! — can hopefully accept that prescriptive comments like that one are harmful. This piece explains why and offers solutions for parents hoping to raise inclusive, accepting children who can (gently) challenge authority figures who make these kinds of comments.


On another topic, this achingly bittersweet piece about finding love after loss struck me for its honesty and its gentle handling of something we do really badly as a society: talking about and preparing for death. Nobody wants to have to tell a partner what he or she should do after they’ve died, but I think it would be a gift to know that someone I loved wanted me to find someone else after they were gone.


Small bites to watch, winter edition

The Olympics! Seriously, this is just about all we’ve watched lately. (Shout-out to NBC for streaming it.) The only downside? As a stereotypical cord-cutting #millennial, I rarely watch commercials — so having to watch the same ones over and over during the streaming Olympics is grating. But we’ve been enjoying it anyway, and I’ve loved all the skiing events in particular. As someone who has never skied, I am in awe of the things people can do while strapped to two long sticks and holding two other long sticks. (That’s the terminology, right?!)

Small bites to eat, winter edition

I love pierogies, and I want to bury my face in this pierogi casserole (not really). This is cold-weather comfort food at its finest!


A solid — and blessedly quick — recipe for easy homemade ramen from The Vegan 8. This partially inspired me to make a big pot of ramen last night, although my off-the-cuff recipe was a little more involved and included veggies and tofu for added nutrients. (To those of you following along on my “I REFUSE TO COOK” strike, yes, I made a somewhat-involved dinner! Steven is laid up with back issues so I wanted to relieve him of his kitchen duties. It’s going OK.)



What have you been reading/watching/eating?

Ethical Product Review: Will’s Vegan Shoes Dock Boots

You can take one of two perspectives when it comes to finding vegan shoes. One, that it’s a frustrating endeavor because you have limited options — and especially limited budget options — and you will likely have to order online, with no chance to check sizing in person. Two, that it’s freeing! Rather than suffering from the paralysis of choice, with literally thousands of options at big-box shoe stores and hundreds of online shopping sites, you have a select few vegan shoe brands from which to choose. You can just put on your blinders, ignore the non-vegan options, and not have to stress out about which of 284 nearly-identical pairs of trendy black Chelsea boots is the “right” one for you.

I’ve decided, unsurprisingly, to take the latter perspective. Once I know that I want cruelty-free vegan shoes that are also made ethically, my options are, frankly, slim. Not many brands meet both those criteria, although I have seen more and more pop up over the last couple years. But one long-time purveyor of ethical vegan shoes has long been on my radar: Will’s Vegan Shoes, AKA Will’s of London. And this brand has a lot going for it.

Will's Vegan Shoes dock boots review //

Here’s what makes Will’s Vegan Shoes great:

  • Ethics. All shoes are 100% vegan (and labeled as such!), and the company manufactures them under fair labor conditions in Portugal.
  • A commitment to the environment. Will’s just rolled out a new carbon-neutral delivery process, and they are moving towards using more eco-friendly materials in their actual shoes.
  • Free shipping. Not only do U.S. orders get free shipping from this UK-based company, but you can return or exchange your shoes FOR FREE if the sizing doesn’t work! This is a huge benefit. Shipping shoes across the pond can be expensive, often running between $15 and $20. Knowing you can exchange or return your shoes if they don’t fit is massively comforting. Plus, the shipping is fast — see below for details. (Note: Arguably, shipping shoes back and forth across the ocean is not super eco-friendly, so keep that in mind if you’re the type who likes to online shop just to “try things out” without an intent to keep the product.)
  • Stellar customer service. If you follow Will’s on Instagram or elsewhere, you’ll frequently see Will himself (yes, he’s a real person) responding directly to questions. Reviews confirm this observation: The team is truly invested in keeping customers happy and will do what it takes to get you shoes that fit and that you love.
  • The price. Although you may balk at spending ~$100 for a pair of shoes if you’re used to, say, Payless prices, ethical vegan apparel is not cheap. Yet the prices at Will’s are actually quite affordable compared to similar ethical shoe brands. And the free shipping mentioned above really helps reduce the cost.
  • The shoes themselves! Will’s has a truly impressive range of both women’s and men’s vegan shoes, a rarity in this already small world of ethical vegan shoe brands. Choose from the formal (faux-suede heels) to the casual (biker boots) to the eminently versatile (ballerina flats). I particularly love the more androgynous women’s styles, like the sleek work boots and dapper derbys.

Although Will’s had been on my radar for years, I never really *needed* to buy from them until last fall. At that point, my new commitment to buying ethically produced clothing meant I couldn’t settle for big-box store specials when I wanted a pair of leather-free boots, so I pointed my browser to Will’s with the intent of making my first purchase.

I’d been eyeing the super-snazzy dock boots for a while and finally pulled the trigger. Steven and I were preparing for our vegan cruise to Norway, where I knew we’d spend our shore days doing some (relatively light) hiking. I wanted to have an alternative beyond the vegan Jambu sneakers I was also bringing, and the stylish chestnut dock boots fit the bill. Here’s how my purchase turned out.

Note: I also recently purchased a (gently used) pair of Will’s sneakers on eBay (and got a great deal). They seem to be this style, but in a grey color that’s not in stock at the moment. So although my review here is primarily of the dock boots, I’ll also draw on my experiences with the sneakers for added anecdata!

Will's Vegan Shoes dock boots review //

How do Will’s Vegan Shoes fit?

Given that Will’s is a British brand, its sizing doesn’t correspond directly to American sizes, so I had to guess and hope for the best. I usually wear a U.S. 7.5 and opted for a European 39 in the dock boots. I’ve seen a 39 equated to both a U.S. 8 and an 8.5, but it fits me perfectly, so take that as you will. This is true for both the dock boots and the sneakers.

The good news, of course, is that Will’s generous return policy takes some of the stress out of the size conversion. If your shoes don’t fit, you can exchange them at no charge.

How is Will’s Vegan Shoes quality?

Both my dock boots and sneakers seem well-made and thoughtfully designed. Neither pair is remotely flimsy or cheap; and the faux leather on the dock boots is really nice — none of that flaky stuff you find on cheap vegan shoes. I bought the sneakers (gently) used, and they really have no marks on them. I’ve now had the dock boots for about five months and they’re also in great shape, although admittedly I don’t wear them all that regularly. But they certainly didn’t sustain any damage from my Norwegian hiking endeavors!

Are Will’s Vegan Shoes comfortable?

Here’s where my answer gets a little complicated. Yes… ish. I made sure to break in the dock boots before our trip since I knew they might irritate my ankles, and that definitely helped. Neither pair is remotely uncomfortable, and I did not get blisters from them, but I do notice I’m wearing them, if that makes sense. With some shoes, they’re so comfy you feel like you’re just wearing an extension of your own feet. That’s not the case with my Will’s shoes, and I think it’s because the soles are quite flat and very inflexible; I have high arches and prefer soles with a little more shape to them. I’ll probably need to add inserts to both pairs just to make them a little comfier. I also noticed that both pairs of shoes are quite stiff — I think the high-quality materials they use are just a lot sturdier than the cheaper shoes I’m used to!

Where can I buy Will’s Vegan Shoes?

I’d start with their official site for a list of all available styles, the best prices, and that unbeatable free shipping. But I have occasionally seen them at other vegan shoe retailers, although most don’t carry every style. If you are in the UK, I believe some brick-and-mortar shops stock them as well. There are even some styles on Amazon, but I would exercise caution there — it’s unclear who’s actually selling them. Finally, check out eBay — like I mentioned, I got my sneakers there and got a great deal!

Where can I find other Will’s Vegan Shoes reviews?

Other than the short reviews on each product page on the official site, truly informative and comprehensive reviews are sparse. Mihl of Seitan is my Motor has a review of three separate styles, which I found quite helpful when considering my purchase, and The Spooky Vegan reviewed two styles here. Vegan Miam has a great review of both the desert boots and work boots, and it includes an interview with Will himself.  I also just found this “test” of the brand over at Gentleman Buddha, which includes five separate pairs.

The lack of plentiful comprehensive reviews is one reason I decided to write my own. If you’re going to invest in a quality vegan product, you should be able to read other folks’ experiences! I hope this is helpful to other potential Will’s customers. :)

Would I buy Will’s Vegan Shoes again?

Yes, definitely! The Will’s Vegan Shoes dock boots are beautiful, well-made, ethical footwear, as are the sneakers. I think I just need to figure out how to make the flat soles work for my feet! I’ve got my eye on a few other styles as well, and I’ll continue to monitor eBay for more affordable gently used pairs.


Will's Vegan Shoes Dock Boots Review //

Disclaimer: I was not provided with free shoes from Will’s 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 of London shoe review.

Small-Bite Sundays: January 21, 2018

Small-Bite Sundays -- winter

As I thought about what I wanted to include on this week’s Small-Bite Sundays installment, I knew that I was having trouble sourcing content to share, but I wasn’t sure why. Yesterday, I figured it out: It’s because I rarely use Facebook anymore. I deactivated my account late last year in an attempt to break myself of the scroll-through-my-feed-whenever-I’m-bored habit, and it worked. After about three weeks totally off the ‘book, I no longer found myself compulsively clicking Command-T to open a new tab, then typing an F and letting auto-fill do the rest. (I’d also deleted the Facebook app from my phone ages ago, which certainly helped.) So now, although I still do technically have a Facebook account, I rarely use it. I scroll through my organization’s employee page every day or so, and if someone tags me I’ll usually check it out, but I spend probably 15 minutes total on the site over the course of a week.

I’m glad I made the change. The catalyst for my original deactivation (besides just wanting to waste less time there) was a misogynist post by an acquaintance that sent me into a rage spiral. I realized that I would never change his mind just by getting into a Facebook fight, and that seeing posts like that were more harmful to my mental health than anything else. So now, rather than spending hours scrolling through hundreds of ill-informed opinions and idiotic comments and barely-read shared articles, I can pick and choose the news I want to read and not have to deal with commentary that only makes my blood boil.

But there’s a downside. The converse to not seeing all those dumb, super partisan “news” stories is that I’m also not seeing the informed, well-written think pieces that don’t get traction on major news sites. I’m not seeing what my thoughtful, plugged-in, social-justice-minded Facebook friends are sharing. And I do miss that. Instagram has become my social media break of choice these days; I’m appreciating the focus on imagery and enjoying finding new ethical brands and companies. But there’s really no good sharing component. I also use Twitter more frequently, and that medium is definitely more sharing-oriented, but I also find it a bit anxiety-inducing and cluttered.

So I think I need some kind of happy medium in my Facebooking. Maybe I just need to curate my friends list more closely, or just unfollow folks whose posts I have no interest in seeing. If you have a strategy for using Facebook in a productive and positive manner, I’d love to hear it!

Small bites to read, winter edition

A prime example of something I would’ve missed entirely had I not spent about three minutes scrolling through my Facebook feed yesterday: This piece on the way “bro culture” harms the animal protection movement. It is, of course, applicable to many other movements and organizations, but as someone who has now worked in animal protection for nearly five years, it hit home. I’ve often wished I could throw out a casual “Hey, man” in the hallway, but… it would be weird. This is a well-written, straightforward, non-confrontational (sigh) explanation of why this kind of language needs to go if we want to build a truly inclusive movement.


Switching topics entirely, check out this article about airplane toilets! No, really! As a somewhat-closeted aviation geek and a similarly closeted fan of poo talk, I enjoyed this light read. I was especially surprised to learn that the modern airplane vacuum toilet has only been in use since 1982!


If you haven’t read Geraldine’s gut-punchingly good account of making the pizza cinnamon rolls from Mario Batali’s misguided “apology” letter, do so now. Then read her follow-up, detailing how her Twitter account was hacked after the original post went viral. Then silently scream about how horrible internet men are. Then give a  virtual nod to all your internet sisters in solidarity. Then maybe make some better cinnamon rolls and eat them with one big middle finger pointed at Mario Batali and his ilk.


This Serious Eats piece on the alchemy of novelty potato chip flavors made me smile. Although I can’t say I’m particularly tempted to try, say, taco-flavored chips, I enjoyed the underlying theme: that sometimes perfection (i.e., the exact replica of a taco’s flavor) isn’t as satisfying as a simulacrum. The latter is emotionally and sensorily evocative in the way an exact replica never can be.

Small bites to watch, winter edition

Do you follow Goats of Anarchy on Instagram? If not, give the page a look. GOA is a sanctuary for special-needs goats, and it is exactly as cute as it sounds. This throwback video of Poppy and Frankie boppin’ around on the couch made me melt.

Small bites to eat, winter edition

A veganized version of this creamy mapletini has been my go-to cocktail of choice over the past few weeks. You could easily sub in a thinned-out homemade cashew cream for the half-and-half, but I used Ripple’s unsweetened plant milk with great success. Steven (who knows me far too well) gave me a bottle of this amaaazing bourbon barrel-aged maple syrup for Christmas, so I’ve enjoyed letting it shine in a cocktail. If you are similarly maple-inclined, you too will revel in the possibility of literally drinking maple syrup.


Joey’s vegan oatcakes look mighty simple and mighty versatile. I try to incorporate zero-waste habits when possible, so I appreciate recipes that negate the purchase of plastic-wrapped snacks. Plus, that photo at the top of the post makes me salivate every time I see it.


Thanks for reading, and send your Facebook strategies my way!

Note: This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase something through my link, it costs nothing extra for you, but I get a few pennies to help cover hosting costs.

Vegan in Rotterdam

Poor Rotterdam. It never had a fighting chance to win my affections. I arrived on a chilly, rainy afternoon after spending a few (relatively) warm, sunny days in Amsterdam. With my hood up against the wind and the occasional raindrop, I began the half-hour walk from the (admittedly striking) train station to my AirBnB with a minor sense of unease, and it only grew the further I walked. It wasn’t that the city seemed unsafe — more that it was slightly unwelcoming. I saw almost no one on my half-hour walk, a striking change after busy Amsterdam. The streets were unsettlingly quiet. The city gave off a distinctly barren vibe. The modern, clean lines of Rotterdam’s buildings were a jarring change from Amsterdam’s old-world charm, and they didn’t do much for me on that grey day.

Rotterdam central station

Shout out to Mr. Yawning Scooterist! (The blue skies appeared the morning I left… of course.)

I wish I could say my impression improved as the day went on, that I found a bit of charm in a seemingly charmless city. It didn’t happen, though. Perhaps the weather was to blame, but I found myself listless and anxious to leave. I gave the city a fighting chance, or as fighting a chance as I could in just under 24 hours. I had a good wander and I saw a few of the top sights, but I just didn’t connect with it.

Which is not to say the city has nothing to recommend it. The Museum Boijmans van Beuningen was an absolute highlight, with a surprisingly diverse collection. Although I got in for free thanks to my Museum Pass, I’d have happily paid the price of admission (€17,50 for adults as of January 2018). An eclectic yet engaging mix of Old Masters, Impressionists, Expressionists, Surrealists (and undoubtedly many more -ists) makes up the main collection, so you’re not sure what to expect in the next room. It’s also quite an educational spot; I didn’t know much about the De Stijl movement before spending time here, but the curators have done an excellent job of tracking the movement and I spent good long time reading through the signage. (Which, as a side note, is why I adore solo museum-ing. Free reign to… read!)

The museum also houses a fantastic display of “household objects that chart the history of design over eight centuries.” As I wandered through the basement rooms, I kept expecting the collection to come to an end — and then I’d turn the corner and find yet another room of, say, mid-mod chairs or pipes (including a charming one that’s shaped like a dog).

The museum was blissfully quiet and uncrowded, a welcome change from the tourist-filled museums of Amsterdam. I was impressed and gratified I’d made the walk, and spent a few happy hours exploring.

Vegan cake in RotterdamAfter all that intense arting, I needed sustenance — in the form of cake. I headed to Heavenly Cupcakes, grateful for a chance to sit indoors and sip a hot beverage after a chilly walk. I ordered a slice of vanilla cake with raspberries and buttercream; it was perfectly serviceable, if a bit dense in texture. My perfect afternoon pick-me-up would’ve included a side of espresso, but alas: The espresso machine was being serviced at the very moment I stopped by. A pot of hot tea made a suitable replacement, and I enjoyed a leisurely snack in the otherwise empty cafe before heading back into the chill.

Suitably sugared up, I walked to the can’t-miss destination you’ll find on all city guides to Rotterdam: the Markthal (Market Hall). 

A vast indoor market characterized by its striking curved and reflective exterior, a dizzying indoor mural, and dozens of stalls, the Markthal is as good a place as any to spend a few hours in Rotterdam. Although it previously housed a vegan-friendly eatery, on my visit the Markthal was sadly devoid of much vegan fare, as far as I could tell. Still, there were plenty of bulk shops and a few bars, so you can always buy looseleaf tea and/or get a beer! Neither of which I did, but — you could.

The area around the Markthal also features the stunning elevated yellow cube houses that sometimes crop up on Pinterest and make you do a double-take. They’re even more impressive in person than in photos, and I wandered in the little cube-y “neighborhood” for a good while, wondering whether I should’ve shelled out for an AirBnB room in one of them. But I hadn’t, so eventually I returned to my regular ol’ AirBnB to charge my phone and fret over what to do next. I decided to keep it simple and go for dinner. Burgertrut was just a mile away, so I hoofed it to this indie eatery for a — you guessed it — burger.

The place was packed when I arrived, with patrons who skewed heavily towards the hipster more than the hippie. (I didn’t realize overalls are now “on trend” until I saw a band of teens rocking them!) Luckily, the relaxed atmosphere meant I could grab an open seat on a couch and order from there, rather than waiting for a table to open up. I was seated right next to a visiting artist who was working on some kind of wall mural. Burgertrut is just one piece of a larger organization that includes a public studio and a communal art space. We chatted briefly while I waited for my food, and then I adopted an awkward silence and pulled out a book to read. As one does.

While Burgertrut is not a fully veg establishment, it does have a fair few thoughtfully crafted vegan options alongside its organic meaty burgers. I opted for the curry burger with a side of fries and vegan mayo and found it all perfectly tasty (especially with a beer). Wholly sated, I decided to call it a night and headed back to my AirBnB.

The next morning, I hoofed it to Rotterdam Centraal where I grabbed breakfast: an Alpro vanilla yogurt and a cup of fruit. This ersatz parfait was a surprisingly filling breakfast, and I thanked the vegan gods that Europe sees fit to sell vegan yogurt in its train stations. And then I was off. Bruges was my next stop, and as I’ve shared, it blew me away.

So, Rotterdam. I left feeling perfectly happy to put it in my rear-view mirror, but also with a tiny crumb of regret. Maybe I shouldn’t have expected it to be like so many other European cities I love; by its very nature, it’s a different beast. Rotterdam sustained heavy bombing during World War II, and rather than try to recreate its older architecture, the city was designed anew in a much more modern style. And while I did enjoy and appreciate elements of that style — the Markthal and the cube houses, to name a few — perhaps I needed to clear my mental slate and judge the city on its own merits, not in Amsterdam’s glow.

Pooping dog statue, RotterdamAnd if I’m honest, there were a few moments that made me think Rotterdam had hidden depths I left unplumbed. I saw a few pairs of honest-to-goodness punks, for example, that made my counterculture heart sing a bit. These were not the try-hard young hipsters of Amsterdam but grizzled old-school punks, and a quick Google search does indeed indicate that Rotterdam is home to a legitimate punk scene. I’ve also heard that Rotterdam is tops if you enjoy clubbing and “nightlife,” but as I spend 99% of my nights on the couch knitting, reading, or re-watching The Office, this fact holds no appeal for me. (Another high point? Finding this statue of Fikkie the dog… and his poo. Yes, I consider this a high point. No, I am not ashamed.)

My one actual Rotterdam regret is not taking an afternoon trip to see the Kinderdijk waterfalls (see here and here). It had been on my tentative to-do list, but the timing just didn’t work out — you have to take a water bus over to them, and the schedule didn’t make sense given my limited time in the city. They look really lovely, though, and they remain on my bucket list.

All in all, with six months of retrospection behind me, I’m glad I visited Rotterdam. The cube houses had been on my to-see list for years, and my sense of the Netherlands as a whole country was deepened by my visit. Will I return? I could be convinced. It’s easily accessible by train, so a half-day visit could happen at some point — and definitely with a visit to Kinderdijk built in. Maybe I’ll even shell out for a cube house for a night.

Other vegan options in Rotterdam

My pre-visit list of Rotterdam vegan restaurants wasn’t huge since I knew I’d only be spending a single night there. Here are a few places I didn’t get to try.

  • Gare du Nord: Vegan bistro in a train car! Lots of organic,and local options. Reservations recommended.
  • Happy Kitchen: Eco-friendly eatery and small grocery store featuring vegan foods that skew towards the organic, raw, and whole-foods-based.
  • Tribestlife Raw Food Kitchen: Cafe with a bevy of raw, organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegan menu items. Choose among small bites, heartier dishes, sweet treats, and plenty of hot and cold drinks.


Vegan in Rotterdam, Holland // govegga.com24 hours in Rotterdam // vegan Rotterdam eats //