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

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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 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!

VegFests! | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Nine

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

Aaagh! I had hoped to have a really great celebratory post today. Roots, our favorite vegan-friendly grocery store, was hosting a small vegan festival at the location closest to us. The store is also somewhat close to the facility where I’ve been visiting my hospice patients on Saturday mornings, so I figured that I’d hit up the festival after my visits (instead of swinging by the farmers market like I usually do). I planned to snap some photos of the exhibitors and vendors, pick up a yummy lunch for Steven and me, and maybe get one of the swag bags they were handing out to the first 100 visitors. Final celebratory post done and dusted.

Well. It was not to be. I drove the 15 or so minutes from the facility to Roots, only to find that it was a madhouse. They’d requisitioned part of the parking lot for the event, meaning the already-too-small parking lot for that strip of stores was super crowded. There was a massive line forming (for food, I assume), and I could see that people were parking on side streets already. I did one loop of the parking lot and got the heck out of the there. I was hungry, it was crowded, and I was not in the mood to navigate the situation! (Of course, I’m glad the event was popular, but maybe the location was not the best!)

As I drove home, I pondered what to post about while trying not to get too annoyed that I’d missed the farmers market for this bust. Hmm… maybe Steven and I could switch our plans, take advantage of the warm weather, and go somewhere for lunch. We could sit outside and I could share something about the simple joys of a good meal on a nice day. But then I looked at the clock; it was already nearly 1 p.m. and there was no way we’d get out to lunch and back again by 2. Why did we need to be back by 2? Well, Verizon (our internet service provider) accidentally cut our internet yesterday (Friday) while doing work next door (…) and couldn’t send someone out to fix it till “between 2 and 4 p.m.” today, Saturday. Yes, they broke our internet and couldn’t fix it for 24 hours. Steven works from home (…using the internet…) so his Friday afternoon was a bust. I was pretty livid that Verizon couldn’t send anyone sooner and contacted customer service on Twitter and on their website, but of course they couldn’t change it.

Anyway, home I went, where I whipped up a quick quinoa and sweet potato dish while we waited for Verizon. I typed up this post (internet-less) and thought about what else to share. Why not talk about vegfests of the past?

Me in front of the Vegan Treats tent with lots of vegan doughnuts in the background!

That’s me about five years ago, thrilled to be at the D.C. VegFest and ready to stand in line for some amazing goodies from Vegan Treats. VT was new to me when we moved to the east coast, but it is an absolute staple at vegfests ‘round here! People will stand in line for literally hours to get a box of eclairs, cake pops, cheesecake slices, whoopee pies, doughnuts, and other beautifully decorated sugarbombs. (The Maryland area is not exactly bustling with vegan bakeries, so we take what we can get.)

This year, the Washington D.C. VegFest was cancelled when Hurricane Florence threatened to wreak havoc and D.C. declared a state of emergency. For a few days we waited for the storm to hit, but then it… didn’t. The Saturday of VegFest dawned clear, sunny, and perfectly temperate. A real bummer. Though I don’t go every year, this would’ve been the perfect day for it!

We also sometimes visit Baltimore VegFest, including a couple years ago when my mom flew in for the weekend to join us. Though a smaller event than the one in D.C., both feature speakers, exhibitors, vendors, and looooots of food. We’ve enjoyed sandwiches from Nourrie’s Cuisine (a vegan catering company that just opened a restaurant (!) in Baltimore), soul food from NuVegan Cafe, and coffee from Brewing Good, among other delights.

Back when we lived in Madison, we attended the first-ever Madison Vegan Fest. It was so long ago that the details aren’t clear to me anymore, but it was indoors and a bit small. Now, though, it looks like it’s grown quite a lot.

For new vegans especially, I think vegfests are great ways to feel like you’re part of a community, stock up on veg goods (especially since Herbivore Clothing often exhibits at the big ones!), and try local vegan-friendly dining options. While I don’t make it a point to attend every local one anymore, I still like stopping by to re-energize my vegan batteries. :) Do you have any local vegfests?

(P.S. Our internet is fixed! Obviously! :D)

Resources for Fun, Celebratory Vegan Recipes | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Eight

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

I’ll admit it’s difficult feeling celebratory when the weather is grey, cloudy, and wet, and when I’ve been torturing myself by listening to the Kavanaugh assault allegation hearing on and off all day. But maybe that’s the perfect reason to think about — and look at! — fun, bright, celebratory recipes. Let’s go with that! So today I’m sharing a list of some of my favorite inspiring sites and blogs for vegan recipes worth bringing to a celebration… or even just making to cheer yourself up. Let’s go!

Where to find fun, celebratory vegan recipes

What’s your favorite resource for fun, celebratory vegan recipes?

Vegan at Disney World | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Seven

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

Strong opinions abound when it comes to Disney World (and presumably Disneyland, though I have much less experience there!). One of my friends adores it and really does believe it’s the happiest place on earth; even now it’s the destination of choice for most of her family vacations. Then there are the haters, those who claim it’s too expensive/too crowded/not worth the fuss. I can see both sides, but I’ll admit it: I fall in the former category. Would Disney ever be my top choice for a holiday destination? Probably not. But did I complain when, a few years back, my parents decided we’d head there for a big family reunion-type vacation? Absolutely not!

Freckly in Florida. Yes, we all had matching shirts. :D

I really enjoy Disney. I love how immersive an experience it can be, maybe because I have such fond memories of the visits we took there when I was younger. My parents scrimped and saved to take us when I was 9 or 10, and it was, dare I say it, magical. My number-one favorite ride has always been Tower of Terror, though I love all the roller coasters too. I appreciate that there are legitimate adrenaline-boosting rides in the middle of a child- and family-themed park. Yeah, the lines can be horrific, but if you go in the off season or hit certain rides at off hours, you can do just fine.

When we went to Disney in 2015, it was my first time visiting as a vegan. And guess what? I ate juuuust fine. There’s a robust subculture of vegan Disney fans who share all sorts of insider tips about where to find the best animal-free fare. You can find one helpful site here, and Peta has its own guide here.  The much-beloved Dole Whip is vegan, and there’s an all-vegan bakery (!) in Disney Springs. Many of the park’s restaurants have vegan options, too. While I don’t remember every last place we ate, here are a few highlights.

Vegan pizza at Pizza Planet! Toy Story fans will recognize Pizza Planet from the movies, and I love that this super-fun, super-thematically-appropriate Hollywood Studios dining establishment offers personal vegan pizzas. They use Follow Your Heart cheese and serve the veggie-laden pizzas uncut, presumably to avoid cross-contamination in case you have an allergy. I thought getting an entire personal pizza for myself was pretty fun!

An entire multi-course vegan dinner at Trails End at Fort Wilderness! Getting here is no joke; if you drive to Fort Wilderness (a Disney property campground and cabin site), you then have to take a bus to the restaurant area. We made a reservation for our 15-person group in advance and requested special meals for the vegans among us. Chef TJ brought out dish after dish: tofu, samosas, salad, nachos, and the crazy ice cream and marshmallow dessert tower that broke my belly. We were celebrating Steven’s birthday, which made it all extra special!

We also enjoyed burgers in Frontierland, vegan pretzels throughout the park, and undoubtedly other things I’m forgetting. So, yeah: Disney World is a pretty darn good place for vegan eats.

Vegan Desserts worth Celebrating | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Six

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

Oh, friends. I’m struggling with these celebration-themed posts! I have neither the time nor the energy this month to develop new suitably celebratory recipes for the ol’ blog, but I’m fast running out of celebrations to share! In thinking about today’s post, I decided to scroll through all my old photos to find something I’d never shared here before. And, find things I did! So today I present a grab bag of fun, funky, and otherwise impressive never before seen vegan desserts. Enjoy!

To celebrate my nephew Charlie’s first birthday, my sister made this precious ocean-themed cake. Thank goodness Swedish fish are accidentally vegan!

When my dad hit the big 6-0, we threw him a Lego-themed birthday party. (He’s a collector!) I made cupcakes and decked them out with sugar bricks. I think I bought them on Amazon, and they were surprisingly high quality — you could build with them, were you so inclined!

My sweet friend Nancy (of Humane Gardener fame!) brought these absolutely adorable (and thematically appropriate) appetizers and bee-themed cake to an event benefiting a local wildlife rehab group.

When Steven and I celebrated our five-year anniversary a while back, we co-made a five-layer cake to honor it. It was Neopolitan flavored, with layers of vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry coated in a vanilla frosting. It was unwieldy and massive and very difficult to decorate (#amateurs) and ultimately not that impressive, but it tasted great.

One of my coworkers makes the most jaw-droppingly beautiful vegan baked goods, which she sells at our biannual employee craft fair and occasionally brings in for other celebrations. These are pretty much professional-level in terms of decoration and taste, and people go wild for them when they’re in the office!

Vegan Butterprint Pyrex cake from Vegan Treats bakery

And finally, you’ve seen this one before, but it’s too impressive not to share: the Pyrex-themed birthday cake Steven had Vegan Treats make for my birthday a few years back!

Which cake is your favorite?!

Vegan Wing Night! | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Five

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

Today I bring to you a celebration of a different sort. Not a soiree in honor of a holiday, a birthday, or any other calendar-specific date, but instead, a celebration of vegan food and the joy that is sharing it with friends.

I am beyond lucky to work with dozens of compassionate, kind vegans. No, not everyone at my organization is veg, but those of us who work there for the mission are almost invariably somewhere on the vegan-vegetarian spectrum. We also have a vegan food policy at work, so that everything people bring in to share should be animal product-free. As such, I’ve found myself in so many situations on the job where I feel like I need to pinch myself: Am I really getting served adorable vegan tarts at a work meeting?! Is a brand-new vegan food truck actually going to stop by the office every Wednesday during the summer?! Did that amazing vegan ice cream company truly just drop off dozens of pints for us to try?!

All real examples, and all amazing. But what’s also amazing is getting to hang out with all those compassionate vegans off the job. Many of our gatherings center around food, whether it’s a friend teaching a small group how to bake with a sourdough starter or Steven’s and my (dare I say it?) legendary vegan holiday parties. So it was not at all surprising to me when my coworker Kristen recently threw an all-vegan wing night at her house. And it was even less surprising when the invitees responded not just with a yes, but with the dish they’d bring to share.

So it was that on a Friday evening in September, I found myself stuffing my face with ALL THE THINGS. We had tortilla chips, lots of chopped veggies, an amaaazing cashew queso, that and ubiquitous classic sour cream-based onion dip, kale salad, potato salad, fruit, and strawberry shortcake for dessert (my contribution). I also stuffed my face with ALL THE WINGS. Kristen’s partner Stevie isn’t vegan himself, but he loves cooking up all sorts of vegan treats — including five (!) flavors of vegan wings. He served up:

  • Buffalo Italian
  • Bacon cheeseburger
  • Classic BBQ
  • Garlic parmesan
  • Old Bay (because, Maryland!)

For the base, Stevie used the best vegan wing out there: May Wah’s veg chicken legs. There’s a local guy who sells faux meats by the (very large) food-service-size package, but he’s only open to the public once a week. It’s not unusual for someone to make a pilgrimage to Terry’s, buy a pillow of drummies, and halve it with another vegan in the group. These soy-based drummies have a fantastic shredded texture and are not too heavy, so you can load up the sauce. (Honestly, I don’t think I ever really ate chicken wings before I went vegetarian, so I have no idea how the texture compares to “real” chicken.) They also have wooden sticks attached, which makes for much easier eating when you’ve got wing sauce dripping all over the place. (Just don’t think about the fact that the sticks are mimicking chicken leg bones. Grosssss.) 

I made sure to load up my plate with one of each flavor, along with some of the salads and a few crudites for crunchin’. (I’d done lots of snacking on the chips and dip before wing time.) All the wing flavors were drool-worthy, but the garlic parmesan won my heart (and tummy). Stevie used Earth Balance and Follow Your Heart’s vegan parm shreds to make a buttery, rich, cheesy, garlicky wing that was comfort food at its best. I need to get me a package of drummies to recreate this one! 

Needless to say, this group of hungry vegans devoured the wings and the accompanying sides and snacks. We rounded out the night with games galore: Connect Four, Jenga, Scattergories. I left around midnight, an unheard-of time for a Friday night. I’m usually exhausted on Fridays, preferring my nights out to take place on Saturday after I’ve recovered from the work week. But this late Friday was totally worth the tiredness. In fact, I’d say vegan wings are always worth it.

Vegan Thanksgivings: A Retrospective | VeganMoFo 2018 Day Twenty-Four

Week Four: Occasions Week
We love a good celebration! This week focuses on those special occasions in your life.

Yes, we’re still a good two months out from (American) Thanksgiving, and no, I’m not planning for it yet. In fact, I think this year will be a relatively low-key holiday. We’re staying in Maryland and going to Steven’s mum’s and stepdad’s for dinner, and they are pretty good at providing animal-free alternatives (like butter-free mashed potatoes and a turkey-juice-free stuffing). I anticipate needing to bring a main, a side, and a dessert, and I’m totally OK with that approach.

Today, I thought I’d look back at my vegan Thanksgivings of the past! Not all of them are documented, but like any good little vegan who always wants to talk about food, I *did* snap photos of most. :)

2009

My first vegan Thanksgiving! Silly newbie food blogger that I was, I have just a single ridiculous photo of my sister and I baking in my parents’ kitchen… and then a long, photo-less post about everything we ate. (Ignore the eggs in that photo; the pie I was making was vegan!) Reading through this post also reminded me of non-vegan Thanksgiving of yore, like when I was newly vegetarian but didn’t think to ask my family to make a gravy sans turkey fat! A gravy-less Thanksgiving is a sad Thanksgiving indeed.

2010

Aww, little Kelly celebrated Thanksgiving alone! This was my first year living in Madison, Wisconsin, where I moved from Rhode Island for my first post-college job. I can’t remember whether my roommate also stayed or whether she flew home to New York State. I (apparently) enjoyed a pretty simple dinner of tofu, salad and some last-minute mashed potatoes I whipped up when the craving struck. I also apparently spent the day knitting and watching movies. That… sounds like a pretty darn good Thanksgiving, actually!

2011 

This was a good one! Steven and I were newly dating, and we somehow managed to host my parents, my two siblings, and Steven’s mom in my Madison apartment. They flew in from all corners of the country, and we prepared a massive feast. Too massive a feast, one might suggest in retrospect. I made three main dishes (?!?), five sides, two toppings, and three desserts. The three desserts are obvious and necessary, but three mains and five sides?!? What were we thinking?! But this event was most memorable because it was the first time my parents and Steven’s mom met one another, and it was the first time I prepared a big, all-vegan meal for family. The day taught me an important lesson about letting go in the kitchen and letting people help! No good ever comes from being a kitchen martyr. (I’ll also #neverforget that I clogged the disposal with potato peels and then had to enlist the help of multiple family members to unclog it. Ooops.)

2012

Ahhh, yes. That time Steven and I said “nope!” to making food, flying home, or lifting a finger at all during Thanksgiving and instead went to a big ol’ three-course vegan dinner at the Green Owl, our favorite veg restaurant in Madison. I can’t believe this meal was just $30… midwest prices! (Although we DID get a very measly slice of cheesecake. I would have gladly paid more for a larger piece of dessert!)

2013

Our first Thanksgiving after moving to Maryland. I remember nothing about it and can find no photos. I think we drove to Rhode Island but I have no idea! I do, however, know that we visited Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary earlier in November for their annual “Thanksgiving with the Turkeys.” It was magical. Hundreds of vegans, vegetarians, and veg-sympathetic people converging on a farm animal sanctuary for a potluck dinner. There was so much food! We stuffed our faces then watched the main event: feeding the animals! The turkeys got showered with veggies and other delights, and then the pigs got piles of pumpkins. We had so much fun watching these sweet, smart animals going to town on a feast. It was a frigid day, but it was worth it. A powerful reminder of why I don’t eat animals!

2014

This was a tough one! We’d planned to drive up to RI, but our apartment flooded (!) just before the holiday and so we stayed put. This was also just a couple months after we’d adopted Luna, and we weren’t sure how she would do in a big family gathering. Plus, she was recovering from an abscessed tooth and was a bedraggled mess (you can see her cone o’ shame in the above photo). We got the all-clear to head back to the apartment just in time for a very last-minute dinner, which I think was just a Field Roast and a few quick sides. We were just thankful our apartment and Luna were both on the mend!

2015

We started the season with another trip to Poplar’s Thanksgiving event. I remember this one as being much warmer than our first visit, thankfully! It was almost overwhelmingly crowded. While my crowd-averse self did not care for the hordes, I also realize how amazing it is that hundreds of people would come to a very pro-vegan event like this! We followed up our Poplar trip with a drive up to Rhode Island, where we enjoyed massive quantities of vegan food. The day after Thanksgiving was unseasonably warm, and we decided to #optout of Black Friday shopping (not that I EVER partake) and went for a family walk by the shore. My favorite memory from that day? My sister zipping Luna up in her vest when Luna got tired of walking. I miss my pup so much.

2016 

We again drove up to Rhode Island to celebrate. These days, holidays in Rhode Island are spectacular since my mostly vegan family members contribute all sorts of delicious veg dishes. My planner of a mother comes up with a list in advance, but it usually has a few blank spots: “Ian: ???” Although my brother doesn’t always make it back to RI for Thanksgiving (nor do I, for that matter), when he does, he’ll whip something up nearly at the last minute. That usually involves a quick run to the grocery store the day before. I say “quick,” but if you’ve ever hit up an American grocery store just before Thanksgiving, you know that it is never quick. I refuse to make those ingredient runs and always provide a list of what I need ahead of time! This year we had a Field Roast and plenty of sides, along with some beautiful sweet treats.

The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook: Entertaining for Absolutely Every Occasion

2017

Steven and I hosted at our place; it was our first time hosting at our new(ish) house. Steven’s mom and stepdad came and seemed to enjoy all the food. I cooked almost exclusively from Isa’s Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook and had sooo many leftovers… which is always a good thing! We tried a veg roast from Trader Joe’s and it was not bad at all. Other highlights included creamy whipped potatoes, green bean casserole, and an orange-y cranberry sauce.

So, there we go. Nine years of vegan Thanksgivings, all of them special in their own way. And all of them delicious.

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