Weekend Trip: Watkins Glen + Corning, New York, and the Ginger Cat B+B

Last March, Steven and I headed to New York State for a little getaway in advance of my 29th birthday — and I never shared the details. Shame! It was a fantastic weekend trip loaded with some of my favorite things, thanks to Steven’s careful planning.

I knew the general gist of our trip (a vegan B&B in New York State’s Finger Lakes region; a trip to the Pyrex exhibit at the Corning Museum of Glass) in advance, but not the details. And the details made this trip amazing.

Vegan Treats Bakery in Bethlehem, PA

We headed up to New York on a Friday evening, leaving after work and breaking up the six-ish hour drive with a stop at a store that’s been on my vegan bucket list for years: Vegan Treats. I think of it as the vegan baked goods mecca: if you’re a sugar-loving vegan, you need to visit at some point. (Or at the very least, try out its wares at select restaurants and VegFests on the east coast.)

Vegan Treats bakery in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

If you visit, don’t let the unassuming location on a residential street fool you; this place is well worth a visit. Vegan Treats smells like an old-timey ice cream shop, and it’s chock-full of beautifully decorated delights. I could barely contain my excitement as I ogled the dozens of impeccably decorated sweeties.

I thought we were stopping to stock up on a few snacks for the weekend, but no: Steven had a surprise waiting for me. Check out my birthday cake:

Yes, that is a reproduction of my favorite Pyrex pattern (Butterprint) in cake form! The amazing artists at VT hand-painted this beauty at Steven’s request. It was almost too pretty to eat! (Rest assured, eat it we did — later.)

Cake (and additional treats) in hand, we set off for our final destination.

The Ginger Cat B&B in Watkins Glen, NY

The Ginger Cat is an all-vegan B&B, and it’s a gem of a place. It even won a VegNews award a few years ago, and rightfully so. Owner Gita has created a cozy, homey vegan sanctuary for visitors to the Empire State. She’s the perfect host, willing to take guests’ leads on whether they prefer solitude or camaraderie. We arrived late at night and let ourselves in, grateful for a warm bed in a quiet house.

Pig and pamphlets at the Ginger Cat B&B in Watkins Glen, NY

During our two-night stay, we enjoyed chatting with Gita, a dedicated vegan who seems to be a go-to source in Watkins Glen for establishments looking to provide vegan offerings. If you need a recommendation for food, wine, or anything, she’s got you covered. On Saturday night, we cut into the Pyrex cake and made sure to share a piece with Gita, who thoughtfully offered up some locally made vegan ice cream (!) for topping. The mint chocolate chip was amazing and paired beautifully with my vanilla amandine cake.  I’ll admit that I was a little skeptical when I realized that it wasn’t chocolate, but the vanilla amandine won me over at first bite. It’s a mature flavor, not overly sweet, but nuanced, and the cake had a layer of vanilla frosting to set it off. The texture was really special, too — almost like a sponge or an Angel food cake, with a little bit of a crust at the edges The whole cake was covered with vanilla fondant, and although I know some folks can’t stand the stuff, I personally love its chewy sweetness.

Back to the Ginger Cat! Of course, the second B in B&B stands for breakfast, and we breakfasted like royalty. I’ve never been to a B&B; it was SO nice to wake up and smell breakfast cooking! Gita cooked up a feast each morning. From soy-sauce braised kale with cashews to tender scones to a savory quiche to waffles with lots of maple syrup, we had lots to choose from each day, all washed down by freshly made coffee (her tea collection was also impressive).

Note that although Gita has a few friendly kitties living in the house, they stay in the residential area, not in the B&B section. Steven has a fairly sensitive cat allergy, but he wasn’t bothered by them. If you do want to meet the kitties, just ask — Gita will be happy to introduce you.

Corning Museum of Glass + Pyrex Exhibit

Steven chose this particular weekend for a reason: it was the last chance we’d get to see a Pyrex retrospective at the Corning Museum of Glass. My love of vintage Pyrex is undying and well-documented, and I loved this opportunity to learn more about the brand’s history and to see its evolution throughout the past century.

Although not particularly expansive, the Pyrex exhibit was exhaustive: it included examples of just about every Pyrex pattern available at any time in the brand’s history, along with a comprehensive history of the brand’s founding and evolution. We had the exhibit to ourselves when we visited, and it was fantastic to take in the beautiful patterns in peace.

Even though this particular exhibit was temporary, the Corning Museum of Glass is well-worth a visit regardless. I didn’t quite know what to expect, and I was blown away by the sheer size of the museum: multiple levels house a breathtaking display of glasswork throughout the ages, from ancient Rome to the Islamic world and right up to contemporary designers. Honestly, you could spend an entire day here learning about how glass has been made throughout the centuries and ogling the gorgeous work.

But CMOG really won a place in my heart as one of my favorite American museums because of the demonstrations. You can watch firsthand as a master glassworker creates a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork from start to finish. (And, if you’re lucky, you might be the lucky audience member who gets to take it home!) The museum offers four different demo sessions (hot glass, flameworking, optical fiber, and glassbreaking) and runs each one a few times a day. Attendance is included in the price of your admission ticket. We attended a hot glass and a flameworking demo, and I was super thrilled that both featured bad-ass lady glassworkers! The museum also offers classes in glassmaking, but those cost extra and probably need to be scheduled in advance.

City of Corning, NY

After your visit to the Museum of Glass, take a little time to wander around Corning! This sweet small town is perfect for walking — make sure you stop at the Corningware, Corelle & More Factory Outlet store for discounts on kitchen goods! You can also goofily pose with this absurd giant Pyrex measuring cup. Because why not.

Pyrex measuring cup in Corning, New York

Veraisons Restaurant

Trust me on this one: If you are in the area and want a nice evening out, make reservations at Veraisons Restaurant. The Finger Lakes are home to a robust wine scene, and Veraisons is the eatery attached to Glenora Cellars. You’ll have a gorgeous view of the vineyard as you sip locally made wine and nosh on — wait for it — a gourmet vegan cheese board.

Remember when I said that the purveyor of the Ginger Cat has some kind of uncanny influence on businesses in the area? Well, she’s made her mark here too, and the chef(s) at Veraisons offer a rotating selection of house-made vegan cheeses. The board comes with three cheeses (the menu currently lists brie, a rarebit-style soft white cheddar, and a mozzarella, although it was slightly different when we were there), along with grapes, bread, and a few other nibbles. We were blown away with how delicious and unique these cheeses were, and how wonderful it was to see “vegan cheese board” on a menu alongside a local (dairy) cheese sampler. I’m clearly the worst blogger in the world, because I neglected to photograph it, but TRUST ME ON THIS: it is worth your while (and your dollars).

This surprising creativity carried over into the rest of the menu too. Vegan options are clearly marked and abundant, from “fish” tacos to eggplant parm to braised chickpeas. Prices are on par with similar upscale-ish restaurants, and you’ll be voting with your dollar to encourage more vegan options at Veraisons.

Farm Sanctuary

Our single regret on this short visit to Watkins Glen was that we couldn’t visit Farm Sanctuary — it was too early in the season! But don’t worry, we’ll return — and we’ll make sure we can visit this beautiful place while we’re there.

BONUS STOP IN SCRANTON!

Steven had one last birthday surprise in store for me during our drive back to Maryland from Watkins Glen: a stop in Scranton, PA. Why? Here you go:

Scranton sign from The Office

To see the original Scranton sign from The Office, duh! The sign has a permanent home in the Mall at Scranton, which you might know as the Steamtown Mall if you’re a fan of the show. Frankly, it’s a depressing place — one of those malls that’s failing to thrive, with more stores shuttered than open. A metaphor for dying industrial towns over the country, perhaps? Anyway, if you’re driving through and want a photo with a sign, it’s not a big detour. But don’t expect much entertainment at the mall!

IF YOU GO…

  • …to the Ginger Cat B&B, ask owner Gita for recommendations for vegan eats in the area. Lots of veg-friendly visitors come to Watkins Glen to visit Farm Sanctuary, and local businesses seem more than willing to accommodate them. Gita will be in the know about the most up-to-date options!
  • …to the Corning Museum of Glass, check out the scheduled demos as soon as you arrive and plan your visit around them. I highly recommend attending at least one, if not more!
  • …to the general Watkins Glen/Finger Lakes region, check that Farm Sanctuary is open so you can schedule a visit. Going in the late spring will also be better if you intend to visit any of the local parks. (We didn’t have time for this, but these hikes look gorgeous!)

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Vegan options for a weekend trip to Watkins Glen and Corning, New York

 

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Vegans on a Plane: Turkish Airlines

Turkish Airlines is a great option for #vegan #travelers. #govegga

Last spring when I was planning Steven’s and my trip to Vienna and Prague, Turkish Airlines kept popping up with seriously unbeatable prices. (I think we ended up paying <$600 round trip from DC to Vienna.) Despite the rather long layover(s) at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport, I ended up being glad we opted for Turkish — this is one airline that still treats its economy class passengers well. Here’s some of the special treatment you can expect on Turkish, even in economy:

  • Hot towels at the beginning and end of your flight
  • An amenity kit, including toothpaste, a toothbrush, an eye mask, slippers, and a few more doodads
  • Turkish Delights just after takeoff (this sweet is often vegan; not sure about the vegan-ness of the ones they serve)

Plus, they have more than respectable food! Turkish is well-known for having a bona-fide chef on board; although she/he primarily serves the business and first-class cabins, you’ll see her/him helping out during meal service in economy, too. I was extra impressed that they offered a full meal service on our relatively short flight from Istanbul to Vienna, meaning we arrived at our destination with full bellies. That’s always welcome!

One downside to booking on Turkish? You can’t reserve seats or request a special meal online. Instead, you’ll need to call their booking line ahead of your flight to make that happen. Every time I make the vegan food request, I always fear this is the time it fails and I’ll be left meal-less. Happily, that was not the case on these flights — although I was a little disappointed that the special meals aren’t delivered early, as is usually the case!

Here’s a sampling of what we ate on Turkish.

As you can see, the presentation was pretty standard for airplane fare. But nearly everything tasted pretty darn good. I most enjoyed the white beans in tomato sauce, that phyllo-wrapped savory pastry, and the fresh, piping hot bread.

So, the verdict? Vegan food on Turkish Airlines is tasty and plentiful. Now go ahead and book your flight!

Vegan on the Go: Cape Cod

Vegan on the Go: Eating #vegan on #capecod

Last month, my partner Steven headed north to Cape Cod to spend a week soaking up the sunshine with his mom. He kept me well-apprised of all the vegan food he found during his stay, and given the plentiful options available for veg-friendly folks, I knew I needed him to write up a review of everything he enjoyed on his trip. So, here it is: Steven’s report on where you can find vegan food in Cape Cod. All words and photos are Steven’s. 

(Side note — how sad is it that I grew up in Rhode Island but have never been to Cape Cod?! Yikes! Maybe next summer…?)

Pearl restaurant -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.
Pearl

Our first stop was Pearl, a classed-up beachside seafood place right near Mayo Beach. After verifying that the veggie burger was vegan, I ordered it with a side of hand-cut potato chips. The burger itself was nothing to write home about, and I erred in ordering it again on a return trip (even when I added the sriracha slaw). The hand-cut fries, on the other hand, were absolutely fabulous — piping hot, crispy, and nice and thick while still being wonderfully crunchy.

JD's Pizza -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.
JD’s Wood Fired Pizza (aka JD’s Sports Bar)

Provincetown is probably the most veg-friendly town on the Cape, and my mom and I stopped by JD’s Wood Fired Pizza for lunch during our visit. I ordered the primavera pizza, which featured peppers, snow peas, zucchini, onion, summer squash, mushrooms, sundried AND cherry tomatoes, and a big old pile of arugula. I have a bad habit of always ordering Daiya on pizza when it’s available, and this veggie powerhouse definitely didn’t need it. Thankfully the chef had a light hand with it. The crust was crispy and delicious, and while I could have done with some tomato sauce, it was a great pizza.

Grab 'n Go -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Grab ‘n’ Go Health Bar

“Vegan Soft Serve” was written on the sandwich board outside this shop, so I had to stop in. The only flavor was chocolate, and although it was not especially unique, I always appreciate vegan soft serve — and this one came with purple sprinkles!

Box Lunch -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Box Lunch

Lunch in Wellfleet was a little tough to find, but I figured the Box Lunch sandwich shop would have something I could eat. One of the few options was the “Hum Vee,” a pretty standard wrap with hummus, tomatoes, avocado, sprouts, onions, and lettuce. Unfortunately the hummus was overly salty and there wasn’t much (if any) avocado to balance it out.

Van Rensselaer -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Van Rensselaer’s

I wondered why I was the youngest person in the restaurant by about 30 years until I realized it was Early Bird dinner hours. Someone has clearly made an effort to be accommodating to vegans at Van Rensselaer‘s, as the restaurant offers an explicitly vegan fried rice bowl and a tofu provencal that can be made vegan. I got the latter along with a trip to the salad bar, which was decent — there was a kale salad that looked very out of place among the rest of the standard salad bar fare. The tofu provencal was unfortunately not as appetizing. There were zoodles for some reason, and the tofu had clearly not been prepared properly (it was limp and bland). I couldn’t resist the vegan peanut butter brownie for dessert, but it was unfortunately just as mediocre. Disappointing, given the prices here!

Joey's -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Joey’s at Eat at the Fleet

Right off Route 6 is a little convoy of food trucks called Eat at the Fleet that includes Joey’s, a tex-mex truck with some solid veggie options. I got two chorizo tacos and shared some tortilla chips with my mom. The chorizo was quite good and uniquely flavored, if a little overly sweet, and the pico was awesome — the cashier told me it was from a local farm, and it certainly tasted fresh.

Green Lotus Cafe

I always have to get vegan Reubens when they are available. The one at Green Lotus was quite good, even if it wasn’t the best (that honor goes to the Reuben Royale at Liquid Earth in Baltimore). And their vegan clam chowder was awesome.

Karoo

This very veg-friendly South African restaurant in Eastham was absolutely packed on a Saturday night. I started with the West African Peanut Soup, which I often make a quick and lazy version of at home. This one featured pumpkin and carrot in addition to peanut and was absolutely delicious. I also got the Vegan Bunny — apparently “bunny chow” is a South African street food that features curried meat or vegetables inside a loaf of bread. This was more of an open-faced sandwich, with flavorful and savory curried veggies, a pile of delicious sweet potato fries, and two buns in there somewhere.

Shoreline Diner -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Shoreline Diner

Whenever Kelly and I drive up to Rhode Island to visit her family, we see the sign for Shoreline Diner — but it’s always past midnight and we can never make the time to stop. On this trip I vowed I would make it. On the drive over I deliberated for awhile between a breakfast dish (Berries and Cream French Toast) and something more savory, and in the end decided on the Tempeh BLT Club. Crisp, flavorful, and filling, this sandwich included both tempeh and veggie bacon. I was in protein heaven.

MIchael Angelo -- how to eat #vegan on #capecod.

Michael Angelo

There’s apparently a thing in Connecticut called Salad Pizza. When my cousin told me he was ordering pizza from Michael Angelo, I responded in the classic vegan way — “Don’t worry if the pizza isn’t vegan, I’ve got leftovers, I don’t want you all to have to go out of your way.” Of course, they responded like family should, by calling to check that the pizza was vegan and making a delicious salad, fresh salsa, and guac for sides. Salad pizza is, much like it sounds, is simply a chef salad dumped on top of a pizza. It’s very strange and very good, and never comes with cheese anyway, so I didn’t have to feel bad about depriving them.

Vegan in Prague (+ free shareable Google map!)

vegan in prague, vegan travel, vegan in the czech republic

After visiting Vienna and Prague in the same trip, I’ve come to think of Prague as Vienna’s slightly more rebellious and slightly cooler cousin. It’s a little rougher, a little edgier, a little less staid. I loved it.

I also loved its food. Based on my experience, there weren’t quite as many vegan options, nor was the food as consistently good as it was in Vienna. But there are some stand-outs, and there are many more places I haven’t tried.

Etnosvět

This vegetarian eatery is a great, affordable option. Although it does have a set restaurant menu at certain times, we visited mid-morning on a weekday and were limited to the brunch buffet, a pay-by-weight bonanza with quite a few vegan options. I really appreciated the mix of heavier foods, like a rich seitan dish, and lighter options, like raw salads and slaws. The combination was the perfect antidote to a rough-around-the-edges morning after a late night out in Prague.

etnosvet

Although there is a written chalkboard menu by the buffet, you can ask the staff what’s vegan just to be sure — I found it a little tricky to decipher which menu item corresponded with which actual food. I kept my meal relatively simple: a cold noodle salad, a heavier seitan dish, a grain salad, a light slaw, and some slices of jicama for crunch. Other than the surprisingly bland noodles, everything was tasty and filling. I definitely recommend stopping by for a quick varied meal!

Moment

Easily my favorite restaurant in Prague! This surprisingly spacious bistro seems to be a popular spot — we visited three times, and other than during a morning visit, it was packed. Located in Praha 2, it’s a little bit of a hike from the city center, but is totally worth it. I recommend staying close by (like we did) to make for easy visits. ;) Everything on the menu is vegan, and there are lots of tempting options. On our first visit — immediately after settling in to our AirBnB — Steven and I both chose burgers. He had the smoky tofu burger, while I selected a more generic-seeming veggie burger. But generic it was not — it was made with peanut butter, which was an unexpected and welcome surprise.

Our second visit was less than 24 hours later, this time with Ian and Pragathi in tow. We started off our first full day in Prague with brunch at Moment, and what a filling brunch it was. I selected an amazing omelette, studded with potatoes and mushrooms, and I was blown away.

moment2

So filling and so savory delicious! My only complaint? It was a little salty. Ian had a similar comment about his scrambled tofu, while Pragathi’s gorgeous pancakes were a super-sweet delight. Steven chose the seitan bagel, which was disarmingly simple: a bagel, some ginormous slabs of seitan, vegan cheese, and some veg and sauce.

Steven sampled my omelette at breakfast and liked it so much that he ordered it for dinner when we returned a few days later. Alas, it was a second-rate version, nowhere near as aesthetically handsome or as tasty. We hypothesized that only the breakfast cooks could do it justice, so be warned — breakfast for dinner at Moment is not wholly advised. I opted for the smoky tofu burger instead, a much better dinner choice. For dessert, Pragathi and I shared a chocolate cake with strawberry frosting — beautiful, but a little underwhelming. The frosting was very greasy. But that was really my only complaint with Moment — I’d say it’s a must-visit on your trip to Prague!

Plevel

Ah, Plevel. This was one of my most anticipated restaurants, but I never made it there for dinner. On our first night in Prague, the four of us were desperate for a meal. We walked to one place, only to be told it was reservation-only. Our tummies rumbling louder, we walked to Plevel, only to be told the kitchen was closed. We finally succumbed to a Thai restaurant that could make dishes without the fish sauce, but I was itching to return to Plevel.

Well, I did return a few days later– but only for dessert. Steven and I had eaten dinner at Loving Hut* and had had the worst restaurant meals of our lives.  With our stomachs upset from frankly disgusting food, we followed Ian and Pragathi to Plevel, where those two lucky ducks got to enjoy beautiful dinners. I opted for a pot of green tea and an apple cake, simple food that would settle my stomach. Both were great, but I wished I’d been hungry for a full dinner!

plevel apple cake prague

Vegan’s Prague
(formerly LoVeg)

The restaurant on a hill! We saw the Vegan’s Prague sign from afar while visiting Vyšehrad, Prague’s historical fort located above the city center. Can you spot it in the photo below?

vegans1

After a morning traipsing around the fort, we decided to head over for lunch. We were quite excited for this restaurant since we knew they offer vegan versions of traditional Czech dishes. I ordered a traditional potato goulash, Steven selected the svíčková with smoked tempeh, and both Ian and Pragathi chose the Old Bohemian feast, a mish-mash of various traditional dishes and dips.

Despite our dishes’ impressive appearances, we were all a little underwhelmed with our meals. My goulash was surprisingly bland, as was the svíčková (traditional Czech bread dumplings served with gravy and meat, or tempeh in this case). If I recall correctly, none of the elements in the Old Bohemian feast were standouts either.

On the bright side, the restaurant itself is beautiful. It’s a bit of a climb up a few flights of steep stairs to reach, but inside it’s classy and comfortable, with an upper level reachable by a spiral staircase.  And the prices are right — Prague is inexpensive in general, and the favorable exchange rate helps keep costs down. You can get a big lunch for ~$7. If you’re in the area and need to fill your belly, go ahead and give this place a try — but don’t expect to be blown away.

Other options

Needless to say, I didn’t manage to visit every vegan eatery in Prague — we only visited for a few days. Here are a few I never got around to trying. I’m saving these for my return trip to the Czech Republic! (Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.)

  • Country Life: Small chain of grocery stores featuring organic and healthy food with some vegan options; there’s a small deli/restaurant attached to the store in Praha 6
  • Lehka Hlava: Super popular but small vegetarian restaurant — be sure to make a reservation ahead of time
  • Momo Cafe: Coffee shop and bakery with delicious-looking pastries and some light meals
  • MyRaw Café: Raw vegan eatery with a rotating daily menu and lots of beautiful raw desserts; also has an extensive drink menu (including coffee, tea, alternative hot drinks, and alcohol)
  • Radost FX:  Vegetarian restaurant with lots of vegan options in many styles (Italian, Mexican, burgers, Asian, pizza, etc.); offers a popular vegan brunch on weekends

General tips

  • Many of these restaurants are cash-only, so be sure to have a substantial stash of Czech koruna with you. If you’re able to use a card, consider a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees so you don’t get dinged a small fee every time you use it.
  • If you’re in need of a quick bite, don’t overlook simple bakeries. While waiting at the Florenc metro/bus station for our bus to Pilsen, we found a bakery stand with ingredients clearly labelled. We were able to snack on some beautifully fresh breads to tide us over till we got to Pilsen.
  • As part of the EU, the Czech Republic labels 14 common allergens on both commercially packaged foods and restaurant menus. Since milk and eggs are included in that list, vegans can use those labels as a clue to whether a given item is vegan-friendly. It’s not a perfect system (honey could easily slip by unmarked), but it’s a good way to identify potentially vegan items and rule out options that are clearly unsuitable.

Google map of vegan options

If you’re planning a trip to Prague, I have a little treat for you! I’ve created a Google map you can use with lots of vegan-friendly eateries plotted out. You can find it here. If you’re like me and disable cell data while you’re abroad, note that you can download the map to your Google Maps app so you can still access it while you’re on the go.

If you’ve got updates to my map (closures, new places, whatever!), just leave me a comment and I’ll update it. Vegan travelers gotta help each other out!

*A note on Loving Hut

I’ve eaten at quite a few Loving Huts, and I hadn’t had a bad experience until eating at the one on Plzeňská 8/300, Motol, in Praha 5. I ordered schnitzel, curious to see Prague’s take on vegan schnitzel. And it. was. horrible. So gross.  Oily as heck, with very little flavor, it sat in my stomach like an anvil. On the side was mashed potatoes served with some kind of thick soy sauce as gravy. Maybe that’s a local thing, but it did NOT agree with me. I’m not one to waste food, but I couldn’t finish this meal at all. Steven couldn’t finish his burger, either — it was tasteless, with way more mayo than any human needs.

I’ve heard good things about Loving Huts in Prague, but this one was just a total waste of money. Maybe we ordered poorly, but the menu didn’t feature as many Asian-inspired dishes as Loving Huts usually do, and I wanted to try that schnitzel. What a mistake!

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Vegan food options in Prague, Czech Republic // govegga.com

Free Google map of vegan restaurants in Prague

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Vegan in Vienna (+ free shareable Google map!)

Vegan in Vienna

Wow, wow, wow. That pretty much sums up my feelings about the state of vegan eats in Vienna, Austria. I recently returned from spending a little more than five days there (and a few in Prague, but that’s another story for another day) and ate like a freaking vegan queen. I’ve heard that Europe in general has been experiencing somewhat of a vegan food revolution in the past few years, and it feels true to me. Vegan food is everywhere.

Along with dozens of dedicated vegetarian/vegan restaurants, you can find animal-friendly options in the most unlikely eateries around the city center. Sandwich shop with lots of meaty options? Surprise; there’s a vegan sandwich that’s tasty and filling! Ice cream joint with mouthwatering flavors? Bam — they’ve got the words “VEGANES EIS” painted on the walls and offer lots of vegan varieties. Although these particular restaurateurs are likely offering vegan food from purely economic motives, I’m not complaining. Demand, meet supply.

All said, Vienna is easily one of the most vegan-friendly cities I’ve visited. Steven and I were there with my brother and his girlfriend, both of whom are vegan too. They live in Seattle and thus have access to all sorts of veg goodness, but even they were highly impressed with Vienna.

Read on for my reviews but keep in mind that I simply didn’t have the time to try everything — there’s just so much! To that end, I’ve put together something helpful for vegans planning trips to Vienna. Check out the very end of the post for that!

BioBar

A semi-hidden gem! I’ll admit that BioBar wasn’t initially at the top of my must-visit list, but we decided to try it purely by virtue of its proximity to our location one drizzly day. And I’m glad we did! Although it’s unassuming from the front, it’s cozy and inviting inside. The vegetarian menu rotates, and the waitress was happy to translate the daily offerings to us and clarify which ones were vegan. (Unfortunately, none of us speak German.)

I wasn’t particularly hungry when we stopped here for lunch, so I got a bowl of celery cream soup and a beer (obviously). My dining companions ordered full meals, and we enjoyed our choices across the board. My soup was lovely and flavorful, creamy without being too rich or salty. I split a dessert with Pragathi (my brother’s girlfriend), but truth be told, I can’t remember what we got! I think it was some kind of chocolatey tart. Whatever it was, I know we enjoyed it. BioBar is a great option for healthy, filling meals to shore you up for an afternoon of sightseeing.

Blueorange

For a quick breakfast to start your day, you really can’t beat Blueorange. This deli and bagel shop has an extensive vegan menu, and they clearly mark which of their delicious bagels are vegan. Although you could just pick up a half-dozen bagels and some vegan cream cheese and munch on them throughout your stay in Vienna, you should really try the Vegan Power breakfast spread. For just under 9.00€, you’ll get a fresh-pressed glass of orange juice, a hot drink (espresso, thank you very much), and a bagel sandwich that will knock. your. socks. off.

blueorange1If I had a photo of the assembled sandwich, it would not be terribly pretty — because you get a LOT of spread to fit in one bagel, and it all ends up mooshing out the sides. That’s regular hummus, spicy beet hummus, and avocado creme, along with two slices of a lovely non-dairy cheese, tomato slices, cucumber slices, and a little pile of sprouts. When you smoosh everything together, you get a ridiculously tasty sandwich with lots of textures and flavors.

I enjoyed that beetroot hummus so much that I ordered a beetroot sandwich the next time we visited Blueorange. Although I’d wanted it on a bagel, there was a miscommunication and it arrived on whole-wheat bread. No worries; it was still delicious, if not quite as filling as I’d wanted. It came with arugula, onions, pickles, and sweet mustard. I need to recreate this at home!

Blueorange has two locations in the city. Steven and I were lucky enough to be staying just down the street from the Margaretenstraße location, and it was actually the very first place we visited in Vienna. Ah, nostalgia! Hot tip — if your German is a little shaky or you’re having trouble deciphering the menu, just ask for an English menu; there are a few behind the counter.

CupCakes Wien

This is a twee cupcake shop tucked behind Mumok, Vienna’s modern art museum, in the MuseumsQuartier. Although it’s not fully vegan, CupCakes Wien offers quite a few vegan flavors. Steven picked up a couple cupcakes for us to share after we’d visited the Leopold Museum, and we enjoyed them while taking a stroll around the Ringstraße.

CupCakes Wien

That’s a straciatella cupcake and a caramel cupcake, from left to right. Both were massive, dense, sugar bombs — and that’s a good thing. The straciatella was a tiny bit dry, but the super creamy frosting made up for it. Steven had the caramel, but he thought it was fantastic. Based on the one bite I tried, I agree!

Delicious Vegan Bistro

What an odd little place. Tucked into a row of shops opposite the Naschmarkt, this tiny restaurant is blink-and-you’ll-miss-it small. Inside the cramped quarters is a single table with two chairs agains the right wall, a counter attached to the left wall, and a small kitchenette at the back. When we arrived, it seemed to be in a state of half-completion (despite being open since late autumn), with paint cans and other detritus further cluttering the small space. Plus, the owner’s two large labs were snoozing in a very large crate against the wall.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I love that dogs are welcome inside restaurants throughout Vienna and Prague, and I really enjoyed meeting the resident canines at Delicious Vegan Bistro when they woke up from their naps and came out to say hi. But they definitely took up a lot of space in an already small area.

Although there’s a chalk menu listing multiple options, the owner told us upon arrival that she only had a few things available for the day. Steven and I both selected black bean soba noodles with veggies and coconut cream sauce, and we chatted with the owner while she prepared the food in full view in the tiny kitchenette. Unfortunately, she ran out of coconut cream but didn’t adjust the tamari levels to match, so both of our noodle dishes were far too salty. (I can’t find our photo of the noodles, unfortunately, so use your imagination!) The owner did acknowledge the issue and water down the dishes a bit when we both admitted we found the soba too salty, but it didn’t really solve the issue; I still couldn’t finish all my noodles and had to get a to-go box. The owner reduced the price of our dishes by 2€ each, but the meal ended up being pricier than it was worth.

I’m not linking to the Delicious Vegan Bistro website because (1) it’s not complete, and (2) I want to give the owner the benefit of the doubt. Maybe she’ll finish all her painting projects, offer a full menu, and ensure she has ample ingredients ready for patrons… but for now, I can’t fully recommend this place.

Easy-Going Bakery

Vienna is legendary for beautiful, delicious pastries, so much so that there’s an entire category of baked goods named after the city. Sweet treats are front and central at nearly any café you might visit, but most of the traditional coffee houses don’t have vegan sweets on offer. So if you’re looking for a sugary snack to cap off a lazy afternoon spent sipping espressos, Easy-Going Bakery is a good place to find one.

easygoing1

I opted for a rather unconventional treat when we visited: a chocolate nougat-filled cake pop. I’d never really understood the cake pop trend, but this dense, not-too-sugary treat — something between a fudge cake and a truffle — was the perfect accompaniment to my espresso. In the background you can see Pragathi’s beautiful bright green matcha latte.

Easy-Going Bakery also offers cupcakes and cakes, a bit of a departure from the traditional sweets found in Viennese coffee shops. But as desserts in their own right, they’re perfect for vegans with a sweet tooth.

Landia

Landia was one of our very favorite eateries in Vienna — I’d go so far as to say that it shouldn’t be missed. Located in the 7th district, they offer veg versions of traditional Austrian dishes in a cozy, welcoming environment. Everything is vegetarian, and all vegan items are clearly marked (along with dishes that can be made vegan).

We all loved everything we tried here… in fact, we enjoyed our first visit so much that we decided to come back for our very last meal in Vienna! On my first visit, I ordered the pierogies. They were fantastic — beautiful, big dumplings filled with savory onion and potato and topped with fried onions. On the side came a salad with some light dressing, a big pile of red cabbage, and a mix of various grated veggies. All those raw vegetables were the perfect complement to the heavier pierogies, and I finished the dish easily. I had a ginger Radler beer and loved the light gingery zing.

The second time we visited, I ordered the red lentil balls and received six surprisingly large balls alongside a big ol’ salad and shredded veggies. Although they’d been fried, the balls weren’t terribly heavy. They were reminiscent of falafel, but had a less crumbly texture. The big serving of tahini sauce was perfect for dipping the balls and for drizzling over all my veggies. Just like with the pierogies, the side salad really helped balance this meal.

My dining companions tried various dishes: Steven ordered a traditional goulash, which featured dense, tasty bread dumplings alongside seitan in a very savory, tomato-based sauce that he compared to a masala. He described it as “very heavy, but very good — very hearty.” In fact, he liked it so much that he ordered it again the second time we visited! Ian and Pragathi tried the schnitzel and a mushroom-based goulash and enjoyed those dishes too. Note that the schnitzel and goulash don’t come with side salads, so they skew towards heavier, more “meaty” meals.

Our group had the same waitress both times we visited, and she was gracious enough to point out dishes that could be made quickly when we accidentally arrived right after the kitchen had closed on our second visit. Friendly service and great food — what more could you want?

Minipizzeria Pinocchio

This was an accidental find, and it was a gem. While walking around one day, Steven and I spotted an unassuming little pizzeria with a surprising message on the sandwich board out front: VEGAN PIZZA. We already had lunch plans, but we filed away Minipizzeria Pinocchio for future bouts of hunger.

A few days later, we returned with Ian and Pragathi in tow. Thanks to Steven’s fantastic sense of direction, we were able to find it without knowing the address. And when we did, we were thrilled to discover an extensive vegan menu alongside the traditional meat-and-cheese options.

After placing our orders with the single employee working the oven, we grabbed a few beers and settled in to wait for our pizzas to cook. This is truly a hole-in-the-wall pizza joint, with extremely limited seating, but we were lucky to snag a table to ourselves. After 15 minutes or so, our pizzas were ready for us to devour.

And devour them we did. I’d ordered the Pizza Funghi, a simple variant with sauce, vegan cheese, and lotsa mushrooms. This isn’t gourmet pizza by any means, but it’s quality thin-crust pizza with lots of fun topping options. It was delicious and totally hit the spot. Steven and I each ordered a pizza to ourselves, while Ian and Pragathi split one (they had just indulged in some ice cream from Veganista). If you’re very hungry, you can probably finish a pizza yourself; otherwise, consider sharing with a friend.

Pirata

Say it with me: fish-free sushi. This all-vegan sushi joint in the 7th district is perfect when you want something lighter for lunch or dinner. Steven and I stopped in for an early dinner and each ordered a 12-piece set. The owner showed us all the rolls that were available, and we got to choose what we wanted. Check out my (gorgeous!) platter.

pirata1

I’m not a sushi connoisseur by any means, but I really enjoyed these rolls. The flavors were fresh and clean, yet filling — a couple rolls featured quinoa instead of rice, offering a little extra protein. I loved the mango roll and those beautiful pink beet-infused maki! In my opinion, you can’t go wrong with any of their options.

If you don’t have time to sit down and enjoy the full sushi-eating ritual, consider buying some of the day-old trays Pirata has on offer. For half-price and a zero-percent chance of eating rotten fish, why not?!

Swing Kitchen

An all-vegan burger joint?! Be still, my heart! With two locations, Swing Kitchen is a hop, skip, and a jump away from either the Karlzplatz or Zieglergasse U-bahn station. And it’s well-worth the visit. Yes, it’s vegan junk food. But it’s delicious, filling vegan junk food. Although Swing Kitchen has burgers, wraps, and salads on offer, c’mon — you know you’re going to order a burger. You can get burgers alone or as part of a menu/meal, along with a side (fries, cole slaw, or salad) and a drink.

I kept my order simple both (!) times we visited: the Swing Burger and then the Vienna Burger with a drink (elderflower soda and then cherry soda) and a side of fries. I’m not really a soda drinker, but I had to try these! And they were good. As were the fries — thick, nearly steak-cut, with just enough salt. Note that dips (including ketchup) are an extra 0.80€. And the burgers themselves? YUM. The patties are flavorful and tender, with lots of tasty toppings that create a unique bite. The Swing Burger was a classic American-style burger, although it features sweet-ish gherkins instead of dill pickles (heresy!). And the Vienna Burger is a fun take on the burger, with a schnitzel patty, veg, and lots of a garlicky mayo sauce (a little too much sauce for me, but I’m picky).

You probably can’t see it in the photo, but the menu also lists onion rings and vegan nuggets. I was dying to try the onion rings, but these burgers and fries are just so filling that I had no room! I did, however, sneak a taste of the vanilla soft serve that Steven ordered, and it was fantastic — super creamy, like a vanilla custard. You can even get it dipped in chocolate shell. I have a feeling I’ll be dreaming about this ice cream for a while.

Veganista

Speaking of vegan ice cream… hello, all-vegan ice cream shop! In writing this post, I realize a tragic truth: I never actually got ice cream from Veganista, despite visiting it twice! Both times, I was still full from my previous meal and didn’t want to make myself sick on ice cream. I realize my mistake, now that it’s too late! I should never pass up the chance to eat vegan ice cream. Never!

Steven at Veganista

Steven, clearly, knew better than I! He got a cup of black forest ice cream, which features a vanilla base studded with cherries and chunks of chocolate. He loved it; I stole a bite and also thought it was great. Our second visit was with Ian and Pragathi, who got black forest (his favorite flavor) and chocolate, respectively. The chocolate is soymilk-based, while other options use ricemilk or oatmilk. Both were super tasty.

On my next trip to Vienna, I’m going to go straight to Veganista to ensure that I don’t make the same mistake again.  I’ll probably have to go for maple pecan, but strawberry agave also sounds mighty tempting!

Veganz

You cannot miss Veganz. You just can’t. The all-vegan supermarket chain, based in Germany, has a location in Vienna on Margaretenstraße, and it should be required visiting for all vegans in Vienna! Despite all the veg-friendly grocery stores that exist in the US, I’d never been to an all-vegan market before visiting Veganz… and honestly, I’m still dreaming of it! I could’ve spent an hour there, browsing the shelves and picking out new-to-me products to try.

Veganz

Although the store isn’t huge, it’s respectably sized. I was in awe at the two fridge sections full of vegan meats, cheeses, and non-dairy products. In awe! There’s also a freezer section down the middle, a small produce section, and a large dry-goods/pantry items section. Although some of the products are imports (with high price tags to match), most are European brands that are priced quite affordably. And Veganz itself has its own brand with extensive options! This was the only place we visited for souvenirs — we stocked up on chocolates, gummies, and Tartex-brand pâtés to share with friends and family. I was pleasantly surprised at the prices on these snack items. In the US, high-quality vegan chocolate will easily run you $4-6 a bar, but we paid less than 3€ for some seriously amazing chocolate. Even with the exchange rate working against us, that’s a great deal. Veganz also has a fresh bread section, and Steven and I picked up a super yummy poppy seed-filled bread to nibble on for breakfast.

The icing on the (vegan) cake was when we saw a little piglet on a leash on our second visit to Veganz. A customer had brought his pet pig into the store, and everybody ooed and ahhed over its cuteness. Although my somewhat cynical nature leads me to grump about the ethics of a pet pig, I’m going to pretend it was a rescued piglet living a life of luxury and educating others that pigs aren’t pets. ;)

Other options

Needless to say, I didn’t manage to visit every vegan eatery in Vienna! Here are a few I never got around to trying. Alas for the finite size of my stomach! (Of course, this is not an exhaustive list.)

  • Deli Bluem: Vegetarian café/bistro with lots of healthy vegan options; most entrees appear to be vegan
  • Dr. Falafel: Falafel stall in the Naschmarkt with many vegan options, including bulk foods (olives, etc.)
  • Harvest Café-Bistro: Vegetarian eatery with primarily vegan dishes, though dairy milk is available for coffee
  • Mikkamakka: All-vegan self-service bistro with traditional local dishes
  • Rupp’s: All-vegetarian Irish pub (!) with lots of cheap vegan options
  • Vegetasia: All-vegan Taiwanese food with reasonable prices
  • yamm!: Pay-by-weight salad bar with some vegan options; also advertises vegan breakfast

anker_brot_vegan_pastry

General tips

  • Many of these restaurants are cash-only, so be sure to have a substantial stash of euros with you. If you’re able to use a card (like at Swing Kitchen or Pirata), consider a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees so you don’t get dinged a small fee every time you use it.
  • If you’re in need of a quick bite, don’t overlook chain bakeries like Anker or Ströck — there’s seemingly one on every corner, and they have a shocking variety of clearly marked vegan options. While catching an early(ish) train to Prague, Steven and I were thrilled to find clearly marked vegan pastries at Anker. I enjoyed a spontaneous apfeltascherl (an apple-filled puff pastry) in the train station — a luxury I’ve never experienced in the US, because we’re much worse at both offering vegan options at chain bakeries and labeling them as such.
  • Speaking of labeling, a newish law in the EU requires the labeling of 14 common allergens on both commercially packaged foods and restaurant menus. Since milk and eggs are included in that list, vegans can use those labels as a clue to whether a given item is vegan-friendly. It’s not a perfect system (honey could easily slip by unmarked), but it’s a good way to identify potentially vegan items and rule out options that are clearly unsuitable.

Google map of vegan options

If you’re planning a trip to Vienna, I have a little treat for you! I’ve created a Google map you can use with lots of vegan-friendly eateries plotted out. You can find it here. If you’re like me and disable cell data while you’re abroad, note that you can download the map to your Google Maps app so you can still access it while you’re on the go.

If you’ve got updates to my map (closures, new places, whatever!), just leave me a comment and I’ll update it. Vegan travelers gotta help each other out!

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Vegan food options in Vienna, Austria // govegga.com

Free Google map of vegan restaurants in Vienna

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Vegan in Auckland, New Zealand

Vegan in Auckland

It’s been nearly six (!) months since my trip to New Zealand, and I’ve neglected an important post-travel duty: reporting back on the vegan-friendliness of my destination! Auckland was my home base on the North Island, since that’s where my friend K. was living and working at the time. Neither of us is much of a spendthrift, so we cooked and ate quite a few meals at her house, simple stuff like pasta, mostly. But Auckland proper is definitely vegan-friendly; when I was out and about, I ate perfectly well. I’ll share some of my favorites here, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention An Auckland Vegan, an Auckland-based blog where Moira highlights pretty much everything vegan you can get in Auckland. I used it as research before my trip and wrote down the addresses to have on hand, since I didn’t have a working smartphone with me in New Zealand, and free WiFi access is pretty rare. If you’re heading to Auckland, these are the places I recommend!

Little Bird

My favorite eatery, hands-down, was Little Bird. This brand includes a few brick-and-mortar locations of their Unbakery, along with products sold throughout the North Island. Little Bird offers organic, raw, and mostly gluten-free delicacies, mostly of the sweet variety. Everything is creative, fresh, and absolutely scrumptious.

For the vegan traveler, the Unbakery location at the Britomart Transport Centre is superbly convenient. Britomart is Auckland’s transit hub, where you can catch a local bus or any of the tourist lines. It also houses a railway station, and it’s just across the street from Queen’s Wharf, where you can hop a ferry to loads of locations. If you take the airport bus, you’ll get dropped off right across the street from Britomart.

I sought refuge from the rain at the Unbakery one extremely stormy morning after a failed attempt to visit Tiritiri Matangi, an open wildlife sanctuary on an island accessible only by ferry. The storms were too heavy to safely run the ferry that morning, which I only discovered after getting up early and schlepping down to the wharf from my home base in Kohimarama. Not to be discouraged, I changed my plans, bought ferry tickets to Waiheke Island instead, and made my way across the street to Little Bird to warm up and get a sweet treat while I waited for the ferry.

On that particular morning, I was the first patron, and the two women at the till were friendly and chatty. They pointed out which items in the bakery case included honey so I could avoid those. I selected a coconut berry slice and a cup of English breakfast tea for right then, and a caramel slice and a Matcha and Mint Almond Milk for later.

Little Bird Unbakery

Although the Britomart location is meant to be take-out only (it’s a smidge of a shop!), my new bakery friends graciously let me sit inside and eat since it was pouring buckets outdoors. The tea was perfect for my cold self, and the berry slice was heavenly. I ended up drinking the Matcha-Mint milk then too, and it was by far one of the best raw nut milks I’ve ever had: incredibly smooth, which just a hint of mint. Heavenly! These snacks weren’t cheap, but I considered them wholly worth the money. And isn’t that little glass jar so sweet? I kept it and keep it my kitchen to store dried rosemary — you can see it in a photo from my VeganMoFo kitchen tour!

I went back to Little Bird the very next morning while I waited to catch a bus down to Rotorua. The weather was much nicer that day, so I got a chia pudding to go and ate it in a nearby parkLittle Bird Chia Seed PuddingLittle Bird’s chia pudding is incredible. It’s made with coconut milk and topped with coconut cream, chocolate sauce, raspberry jam, fresh pineapple, granola, and goji berries — all raw. This healthy breakfast felt tasted a decadent dessert! It was easily the best thing I ate in New Zealand. No joke! Can you see why Little Bird was my favorite place to eat in Auckland?!

Himalaya

One night, on the way back from a long day on Rangitoto and in the city, K. and I decided to forgo cooking dinner. Instead, we stopped at an Indian takeaway shop right near her place in Kohimarama. If you find yourself in the suburbs, Himalaya offers lots of options that can be made dairy-free. It’s your standard Indian fare, perhaps a bit less spicy than what you get stateside, but I thoroughly enjoyed the two curries we picked up. They’re pricy, but you’ll have leftovers!

 Revive Café

K. clued me in to Revive and took me out for lunch there right before I caught the bus back to the airport to head home. I love the concept: fresh, healthy, mostly plant-based salads and soups served a la carte. For a (low!) set price, you can choose a combination of soups and salads, usually two salads and one soup. The menu changes daily, and ingredients are clearly labeled. I wish I could remember exactly what I ate (and I wish I took photos!), but I know I had an Israeli couscous-butternut squash salad that was scrumptious. K. confessed that she ate lunch there more often than she’d like, but she couldn’t resist the low price and uber-healthy options! The lunch hour crowd proved that Revive’s mission is a welcome one, especially to folks who want something nourishing and filling on their lunch break.

La Cigale French Market

Don’t let the name fool you — La Cigale French Market is really just a farmer’s market in disguise. In a bit of a post-long-haul-flight haze on my first morning in New Zealand, I assented to a trip to the market to meet up with some of K.’s work friends. My jet lag and the walk — which was uphill, seemingly both ways — rendered me nearly delirious, but I still managed to muster up the energy to be suitably impressed at the French Market’s offerings. With dozens of stalls, both indoors and out, La Cigale has lots to offer vegans. I opted for a cold grain salad from a deli stall, and later kicked myself for not investigating further — there were chocolates, juices, raw vegan sweets, fermented foods, breads, and more! This would be a great place to stock up on snacks for your stay in Auckland. Even though I felt grungy and unfit for public viewing the whole time I was there (my luggage was delayed, so I hadn’t had a chance to shower and change clothes), I enjoyed the vibrant atmosphere and bevy of vegan options.

Other options

Needless to say, this is just a tiny sampling of the options on offer for vegans visiting Auckland. I can’t recommend An Auckland Vegan enough when planning your trip; Moira even has a Google map with all the vegan-friendly joints marked up. If you go, tell me your favorite Auckland eats — I’ll have to try them next time I’m in New Zealand!

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Vegan food options in Auckland, New Zealand // govegga.com

On Visiting New Zealand

NZ: Waiheke

A beach on Waiheke island

Y’all. New Zealand. I have no words.

Well, obviously that’s a lie — I could gush on and on about my trip, but nobody wants to hear unfiltered gushing. So I’ll wrap up my experience in a few paragraphs interspersed with some photos. (I’ll save the vegan-in-New Zealand stuff for later!)

New Zealand is, by far, the most beautiful country I’ve ever visited. It has everything: snow-capped mountains; gorgeous, rugged coastlines; sandy beaches; stunning blue-green water; lush, tropical greenery; and temperate forests. And that’s just what I saw! There are plenty of sites I didn’t get to visit, like the Franz Josef glacier or Milford Sound or the west coast of the North Island. (Those are on my list for my next trip.) I spent so much time hiking and just reveling in nature; it was absolutely glorious. And it reaffirmed my commitment to environmentalism, to protecting nature and trying to leave as light a mark as I can.

NZ: Rangitoto

The view from Rangitoto

On a personal level, this trip was especially meaningful. Although I spent most of my time with my friend who’s living in Auckland, I did a little solo adventuring too. And those days were, perhaps, the most significant for me. The truth is, although I try to project an image of independence and self-confidence, it’s all too easy for me to get mired in self-doubt and anxiety. As much as I love traveling and think it’s one of the best ways to broaden one’s mind and expand one’s perspective, it does make me anxious. Thanks to my OCD*, I have some [wholly irrational!] issues, like sleeping in unfamiliar beds (especially if the sheets are white) and showering in unfamiliar showers (especially if I’m using someone else’s towel). And the very act of traveling worries me. What if I miss a bus and I’m stranded in an unfamiliar town and I can’t find wireless to contact someone and then I miss a flight?! What if I get lost and can’t find my hostel and I’m stuck outside in the middle of the night?! What if I’m stuck in an awkward conversation with a stranger and I don’t have a travel partner to turn to for rescue?!? (Only partially joking there!)

NZ: The Shire

It’s a dangerous business, stepping out your front door.

But despite all my worries, I travel anyway, fighting through the anxiety because I believe travel is worth it. On this trip, I faced many of my fears head-on. And, finally, I felt in charge of myself and my anxieties. They were certainly present, but I made sure they didn’t rule my actions; I pushed through them. I faced my fear of getting lost by, well, getting lost. I wandered around and then found my way back on my own or by asking for directions. And never once did I miss a bus or a flight or find myself trapped outside all night long. Instead, I found myself in places I might not have discovered otherwise, and I found myself getting acquainted with places I might otherwise have known on only a very surface, cursory level. I felt, truly, self-reliant. And I found myself talking to people I might not have talked with otherwise, had I had a travel partner there. I asked folks to take my photo, and I chatted with them about their travels. So even though I was alone, I found myself talking to locals and other travelers who I might have otherwise ignored.

NZ: Akaroa

Boats by the shores of Akaroa

I know how absolutely trite this will sound, but — traveling alone is truly liberating. Doing everything on my own terms made for such a great experience. I loved being able to spend time doing exactly what I wanted for exactly how long I wanted to do it without worrying about anybody else’s happiness or comfort.

So. New Zealand? More than worth the expensive, super-long flight, both for the views and for the opportunity it gave me for self-reflection and self-growth.

I’ll be back, someday.

NZ: Fur Seals

A New Zealand fur seal colony

Now, after getting all heavy on you, let’s wrap up with a little levity. Let it be known that traveling with virtually no hair is freaking amazing. Showers are quick, you don’t have to worry about wet hair before bed/in the morning, and your toiletry bag is lightened. I’m such a fan!

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* I mean real OCD, not like, “OMG I’m sooooo OCD because I like things to be neat!!1!”

Rhode Island Recap


Hello! I returned from Rhode Island bright and early this morning… early enough to head into work just an hour and a half later than usual. Yay for not needing to take an extra vacation day; boo for getting up so early! But my visit home was lovely in nearly every way, and I have to admit that I appreciated the brief break from posting, since I’d prescheduled the last three posts.

Last night, though, my mom asked about my post for today. When I told her that I would just post about my weekend and the food I ate, we had this exchange:

MOM: Are you sure? You could make something for us tonight.
KELLY: No, Mom! I don’t want to cook on my last night!
MOM: You don’t want to make something for breakfast tomorrow? Some of your oats?
KELLY: No! My flight’s at 7:00 in the morning!
MOM: Okay, fine… I just wanted someone to cook for me!

Ha! Sorry, Mom!

Anyway, some of my eats this weekend just happened to include some seasonal food… mostly of the dessert variety. ;) Other than a bunch of regular ol’ apples and blueberry muffins my mama made (and I forgot to photograph), here’s what I had.

First, delicious desserts from Wildflour Bakery! A friend and I spent Sunday morning at another friend’s gorgeous apartment (it’s in a converted mill with exposed brick, high ceilings, and huuuge windows… drool!), and friend #2’s girlfriend came home in the early afternoon with a whole box of treats from Wildflour! She’s lactose-intolerant and is apparently quite the Wildflour connoisseur. Because friend #1 is also allergic to nuts, we had a nut-free, vegan feast of scones (chocolate chip, ginger, and blueberry-lemon) and pumpkin whoopee pies. Everything was scrumptious, as always!

Top-down view of a bakery box filled with scones.

 

(A disclaimer, though: I also went to Wildflour with my family right after I arrived Saturday morning. I had a tasty piece of strawberry strudel bread and an almond milk latte, which were both fine, but I noticed that they offer dairy milk in their coffees—despite the fact that they call themselves a vegan bakery. Not cool.)

That night, we celebrated my dad’s birthday at The Grange, a new veg restaurant in Providence that happens to be owned by the same folks as Wildflour (and Garden Grille). The place has an upscale hipster vibe (all the waiters seemed to wear plaid flannel shirts…) that seemed to work, but the menu is a bit perplexing: it’s all vegetarian, but nowhere does it indicate what’s vegan. When I asked the waitress for guidance, she told me their policy: They can do everything vegan *except* cheese. Okay! I ordered an oyster mushroom po’boy that blew my mind. It was a thick, soft, chewy pretzel sub roll filled with oyster mushrooms fried in a crunchy, panko-esque batter and topped with a remoulade and gently pickled cucumbers. On the side was a small helping of perfectly crunchy, slightly pickled cabbage slaw. Oh, it was so good, and just the right amount of food for me! My nectarine sour (the cocktail special of the night) was a refreshing accompaniment.

Three-quarter view of a rectangular white plate with a sandwich and cabbage slaw.

It seems like The Grange’s owners have finally perfected their restauranting with this newest establishment—everyone in our party loved their meals. My brother-in-law raved about his kimchi noodles (served with crispy tofu, pea greens, and pickled veggies); I might have to get them the next time I’m there.

Afterwards, we headed home for dessert. My auntie, who’s always been the #1 baker in our family, has finally ventured into vegan cooking and whipped up a huge tray of apple crisp and a whole batch of chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and toasted coconut. (There were also non-vegan brownies.) They were all phenomenal! I had a cupcake and a giant helping of apple crisp and was so full I felt almost sick afterwards. Oops. :) I hope my aunt’s baking success will convince her to explore more vegan baking at family gatherings in the future!

Three-quarter shot of a big metal pan of apple crisp with cupcakes in the background.

There’s a lot of un-pictured yumminess, too—those blueberry muffins I already mentioned… some delicious BBQ cabbage sandwiches my dad whipped up… yummy salad with tahini-lemon dressing… a packaged vegan coconut-oat bar and a fantastic soy latte at Dave’s Coffee… hmm. I eat well when I’m home! And I didn’t have to do any cooking this time! (Sorry, Mom!)

But even better than the food was all the time I spent with my family and friends. It was really one of the nicest trips home I’ve had in a while–no rushing around, and lots of time to make spur-of-the-moment plans. I had a relaxed tea with one of my best friends, that snack-and-chat time with the friends I already mentioned, a birthday party for my 16-year-old cousin, and lots of QT with my immediate family. I visited my grandma in her nursing home, went out to the birthday dinner with my other grandma and her boyfriend and my aunt and my immediate family… and yet I didn’t feel rushed or overly busy! And of course, I got to cuddle with my ridiculously quick-growing nephew. The kid’s practically an adult now—he has FOUR TEETH!

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for ya. Please excuse my indulgent ramblings. :)

How was YOUR weekend?

Guest Post: LA Eatin’ Part Two

Here’s the grand finale of S’s enviable trip to California, where he shares more of his attempt to eat his way through LA and nerds out over SPACE!

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My friend and I returned to her home after our warm-hearted Cafe Gratitude dinner and rich, sugary BabyCakes dessert. We’d bought tickets to a 10:30 showing of The Gatekeepers, a critically acclaimed documentary about the Israeli secret security service. Alas, I was not to remain awake that long, and I bailed for an early jet-lag induced rest.

The next morning we awoke and headed off to Real Food Daily for brunch. My friend’s late Christmas present for me was a copy of the Real Food Daily cookbook, so I was excited to try their selection. I started off with one of my favorite morning beverages, a hot cup of espresso.

Small cup with a frothy espresso and a silver spoon.

Gimme caffeine!

I sipped my beverage while we mulled over the menu. The waitress recommended The Weekender, a make-your-own brunch meal that looked like way too much food–perfect to fill in for my breakfast and lunch. I got the scrambled tofu, which came with onions, tomatoes, and cashew cheese, a side of tempeh bacon, plus hash browns. If that sounds like a lot, it was!

Plate of tofu scramble, ketchup, potatoes, and tempeh bacon.

Scrambled!

The tofu scramble was pretty standard. The cashew cheese on top was unnecessary but delicious, although the promised jalapeno did not deliver much spice. The hash browns were a bit greasy and uncannily square. This was, however, my first experience with tempeh bacon, and it was awesome. How do they get the bacon taste so right? I wanted several more pieces, but I probably couldn’t have eaten them anyway. That’s because I forgot to mention that this meal also included french toast.

Plate with two thick slices of French toast and a bit scoop of vegan butter.

Toast, a la francais.

It was light, fluffly, and delicious, if a bit too chewy. But honestly, I could barely choke it down. This weekend turned into a glut-fest!

My friend left me to my own devices for my remaining two days, and I ate both lunch and dinner at separate Native Foods. Did I mention that I love Native Foods? [Ed. note: I can confirm this.] I didn’t snap any pictures or take notes, as I figured there wasn’t much novelty. But later that day I did take a picture of something that was ONCE IN SPACE!

The space shuttle Endeavour!

THIS HAS BEEN IN SPACE SEVERAL TIMES.

I am a huge science nerd, and seeing the Endeavour was honestly a pretty awe-inspiring experience. I teared up a bit when I first entered the hangar; it’s amazing to think of the incredible ingenuity, courage, and genius of the men and women who built and flew that craft. Space travel is the most astonishing accomplishment in human history, and seeing the massive shuttle in person was a humbling experience.

But I couldn’t stay long; I had to get to Loma Linda for a work trip. I cruised west for an hour or so and checked into my hotel in Riverside, California, right down the street from the beautiful and historic Riverside Inn. I’d stopped for some snacks along the way, but I was going to need nourishment for the whole week, so I decided to get a pizza and store it in my hotel fridge, eating a few pieces a night. I drove about a half hour to Cheezy Pizza in Colton, a bizarre establishment that was the only vegan offering in the area.

Shady-looking row of small storefronts.

Yep, that’s a head shop next door.

This place was really weird. First of all, it was in the middle of nowhere; the only other buildings around seemed to be warehouses. Secondly, it offered a strange combination of pizza and Mexican food (I wish I’d grabbed some “vegan-style” empanadas). And thirdly, I swear the pizza had fennel on it. It was otherwise not bad, but pretty standard Daiya pizza. I got half “pepperoni” and half mushrooms, and it did the job.

My final vegan stop on the trip was at Loving Hut in Upland, which was about a half hour drive. I’ve never been to a Loving Hut before, and I wasn’t disappointed. There was a muted TV playing the Supreme Master with helpful subtitles that covered nearly the entire screen. I ordered the Spicy General Tso’s and was fairly unimpressed.

White plate with a scoop of white rice, a small salad, and a fake meat with sauce. In the background are copies of the New Yorker and The Silmarillion.

New Yorker and Tolkien, no biggie.

I did very much enjoy my dessert, however: an Oreo cheesecake. I also got to watch a very cute baby across the room.

Big slice of cheesecake with a cookie-crumb crust.

Sorry, no baby pictures.

I had a great time in California and I was so glad to be able to sample such diverse vegan offerings. One unexpected benefit of my going vegan has been that I can plan my trips around the places I want to eat, and that strategy worked swimmingly in LA and the Inland Empire. Thanks for reading!

Seattle: Plum Bistro

Yikes – how are we already halfway through February?! I know it’s the shortest month and all, but… yeesh. I’ve got some catching up to do!

S and I spent the first week of February in California (LA/Loma Linda) and Seattle, respectively, on separate work trips. S took full advantage of LA’s many vegan eateries and will be back to share his meals soon, but for now I’ve got a quick post  about Plum Bistro, a Seattle fixture. Happily for me, my brother lives in Seattle, so I flew in a few days early and hung out with him. On the Sunday night before the work portion of my work trip started, the two of us and my brother’s girlfriend hit up Plum Bistro for dinner. We were just in time for Happy Hour, which does not just feature lower-priced drinks – they’ve got a full Happy Hour menu! We decided to split a bunch of small plates, tapas-style.

First, though, we started with an appetizer – hand-cut curry yam fries with a trio of sauces.

A big mason jar of shoestring sweet potato fries and three dipping sauces.

A mountain of fries!

The fries were terrific, and each of those dipping sauces was super flavorful and different. One was heavy on the dill and garlic, one was a bit spicy, and the other… well, I can’t quite remember, but I liked it!

After polishing off the fries, our food came. Clearly we hadn’t read the menu carefully enough, because the beer-battered nori-wrapped tofu came with even more fries – frankly, too many for us to finish! In the background are the purple potato taquitos and Plum’s famous mac & yease.

Big bowl of fries, along with two beer-battered tofu squares. In the background are the taquitos and a plate of mac & yease.

Even moar dipping sauce!

Holy moly. The mac & yease totally lives up to its famous reputation – it’s incredibly rich and creamy, probably the creamiest, most unique vegan mac & cheese I’ve ever had. Very impressive, and very filling – I was so glad we were splitting all this food! The beer-battered tofu was not terribly exciting, but the taquitos were tasty.

We also ordered baby eggplants stuffed with smoked tofu, basil, and sweet and sour plum sauce.

Small oval plate with two stuffed eggplants.

Eggplants.

I very much enjoyed these, although I found myself wishing they weren’t fried (like most of the rest of our meal). They had a great eggplant-to-stuffing ratio.

Finally, my brother ordered the jerk tofu yam slider.

Round plate with a small slider. A piece of blackened tofu is visible.

Slider.

I couldn’t resist a bite of the tofu, and I was well rewarded – it was chewy and well-seasoned with jerk spices. My brother polished most of it off, though!

Whew! If that looks like a heavy, rich meal, well, it was. I was so full afterwards! I rarely eat that heavily, and I found myself wishing we’d curated our choices more closely and chosen a small salad to add some lightness. Live and learn! Overall, Plum Bistro was well-worth the hype. I was also pleased at the variety of my fellow diners – there were elderly folks, entire families, and a few couples. I love seeing such a diverse group of people enjoying vegan food!