Hello and happy Sunday!
I’m back with another post. Yes, it’s been a while … (!) It felt right to take a bit of a break, as writing blog posts was becoming just another item on my expanding to-do list and one that I just wasn’t mustering up the motivation for. Add to that an increasingly sluggish laptop and a cell phone breakdown that resulted in lost data (note to self: regular backups are a must), spending more time staring at a screen and piecing together posts after work or on the weekends just wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. Nevertheless, my passion for plant-based eating is as strong as ever (check my instagram account @blueberrysmiles22 for my foodie ventures), and I’m happy to continue sharing experiences, thoughts, recipes and recommendations as much as I can 🙂 I hope you find this helpful!
At the end of March I enjoyed a short but sweet weekend break to Berlin – a city I’d heard much about but never quite made a priority to visit. However, when a friend suggested a change of scene, it was the first city that came to my mind. Short flight from Switzerland, lots to see and … amazing food. Berlin has a reputation for being the vegan capital of Europe and, after having been there, I can definitely see why. (After a year in London, I was skeptical: could Berlin be more vegan-friendly than the home of Vurger, Farmacy, FED by Water etc.?* Turns out the answer is yes!). At the hotel reception I discovered the first sign: a packet of freeze-dried smoothie snacks (these ones from Frau Ultrafrisch – a company from Hamburg). Not being able to resist inspecting anything that looks healthy and delicious (especially in pretty packaging) I picked it up and was immediately encouraged by the receptionist to take it (incidentally the moment I realized I already liked this hotel a lot 😉 ).
Dinner was a 20-minute walk from our hotel (Hotel Indigo Berlin – East Side Gallery) through Friedrichshain – a neighborhood in eastern Berlin with a cool, slightly grungy charm. In case we had any doubt as to the vegan-friendliness of Berlin, the chalk-written activist messages we came along on our way completely wiped these out. (I clapped my hands in delight and immediately whipped out my phone, while my friend subtly edged away and pretended not to know me).
Dinner was at a fully vegan Vietnamese restaurant that had been recommended to me. Luckily I made a reservation after arriving at our hotel, as they’d only had one table left for an early dinner (definitely recommend a reservation, especially if you decide to go on a Friday evening like we did). The menu contains lots of little dishes that you can go crazy with and combine to your heart’s delight. Super hungry after a busy morning at work followed by traveling we ordered a wide array of dishes to share. The flavors were absolutely stunning – particular highlights being the fried seaweed balls with wasabi (in the spoons), the vegetable and tempeh dish and the green dumplings (don’t quite remember the name, I wanna say Shaolin Dumplings?). This is definitely a place I would easily go back to again.
After our delicious Vietnamese feast we were on the hunt for some dessert. We didn’t walk far before I stopped in my tracks at the words vegan brownies . While there were only three vegan options (mini chocolate cupcakes, banana bread and brownies), I would absolutely recommend going here just for the superb vegan brownies! Enormous, thick, fudgy and generously topped with walnuts, we were in heaven, sharing this back in our hotel and trying not to get crumbs everywhere. The chocolate cupcake was nice, but a bit too sweet for our taste and nowhere near as satisfying as the brownie.
If in Berlin, this is another must-try! On Saturday morning we headed here after a matcha latte at Superfoods & Organic Liquids (was originally planning on having breakfast there, but the location we went to was more of a takeaway place and didn’t have the açai bowls I’d seen on the online menu). All the flavors are vegan, but the choice for a chocoholic nut-butter addict like me was clear: chocolate peanut fudge (of course!). My friend went for irish coffee. We sat outside in the sun and savored each bite of our fluffy and gloriously indulgent donuts. Food for the soul 😉
After sunny walks through central Berlin, appreciating the must-see sights, we found ourselves hungry and near one of the places I’d flagged on my Google maps app:
We were craving something slightly more nutritious than our breakfast treat, so this seemed like the perfect place. The avocado bowl (avocado, beluga lentils, sweet potato, baby spinach, pomegranate seeds, coriander, chickpeas, yuzu dressing and nut mix) I had was a real winner! It sounded like the standard kind of bowl I’ve probably had before in some other health food place, but it blew all of those out of the water. The flavors were amazing and the textures (that sweet potato!) were perfect. This was one of the best bowls of this kind that I’ve had in a long time – I could get this again and again.
Also, if you hear the staff shouting Tom Hanks! and think it’s you’re lucky day, running into a celebrity in Berlin, don’t get your hopes up. When you order, they assign you a different celebrity name (I was Brad Pitt and my friend Julia Roberts).
Fueled we stopped by the nearby ice cream shop Süsse Sünde, where we were impressed by the looong queue. The vegan options are marked and I really enjoyed the dark chocolate sorbet, while relaxing in the Volkspark am Weinberg.
While Indian food can be very veggie- and vegan-friendly, an all-vegan Indian place is a rare find and all the more special. While the food took a long time to come (you order and pay, then wait until they ring up your number), it was absolutely worth the wait: we shared a thali (plate filled with small portions of different warm and cold dishes) as well as an insanely large dosa filled with tofu, veggies and peanut sauce. We were in heaven! Lots of flavors, lots of textures – so much goodness! Another place I’d definitely be going back for more if I lived in Berlin.
Finally, for our last meal in Berlin on Sunday morning we gave the nearby Kaffee Ingwer (literally: Ginger Café) a go. It was very cute, very small and bright and the staff was friendly. They didn’t have quite as many options as I expected (they didn’t have a smoothie bowl that day), but all the options are vegan and they had everything from smoothies and lattes to croissants and cakes. I’d definitely pop in again if I was in the neighborhood (maybe for a cake and latte), but would try out something new for breakfast if I was in Berlin again.
Finally, one further highlight I’d like to share with you is the:
We came across this by accident, as we walked to dinner on the Friday night, and I was beyond excited! A FULLY-VEGAN-SUPERMARKET! And not just one of those tiny shops where you can barely move and feel awkward if you spend too long picking everything up while only buying a protein bar – a proper, decently-sized shop starting with the open fruit and veg section and then leading onto almost everything you could possibly want: from the requisite nut butters and sweet and savory treats to all kinds of vegan replacement foods (such as vegan cheezes, meat alternatives, vegan “caviar”, special seasoning for scrambled tofu, readymade pizza). They also had a section with vegan toothpastes, body, skin and haircare products, cosmetics etc. I definitely restrained myself and went for only a few old favorites (some products I already knew from the UK, such as the loveraw nut butter cups and Engevita nutritional yeast) and a few new products (vegan “chorizo”, kala namak salt, cream for whipping etc.). Having such a shop in Zurich would be the dream – hopefully, places like this are the future we’re heading towards, as the demand for plant-based options increase.
I left Berlin with a weekend-full of memories and half a suitcase full of vegan goodies (obsessed with the Rookies – wish I had more!). On a non-food note, I discovered an organic vegan skincare brand: Bio Végane Skinfood. I’m loving the smell of the açai serum and green tea face wash and the feel of the açai cream and baobab anti-pollution and blue-light-blocking spray!
That’s all from this trip. I hope you enjoyed reading. Let me know if you try any of these places or have further must-visits!