A Vegan Weekend in Berlin

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 😉 ).

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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).

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1990 Vegan Living

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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.

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Cupcake Berlin

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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.

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Brammibal’s Donuts

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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 😉

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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:

Beets & Roots

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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.

Goura Pakora

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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.

Kaffee Ingwer

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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:

Veganz Supermarket:

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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.

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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!

Celine

* For London check out my Ultimate Guide as well as Part II, Part III and Part IV.

 

Vegan Food in Salzburg

Hello and happy Sunday!

Last week my boyfriend and I made the most of a long weekend and took the train to Salzburg. We spent two nights in the beautiful Austrian city that is the birthplace of Mozart and the backdrop to some of my favorite scenes from The Sound of Music (I couldn’t help breaking into song until my boyfriend – who hasn’t seen the movie – was able to sing along too 😀 ).

True to my foodie nature, I picked out some vegan-friendly places I wanted to check out. Gabriel, my boyfriend, doesn’t even pretend to try and influence our choice of restaurant anymore – he simply asks me where we should go, and when one place was unexpectedly closed [to say I was disappointed to miss out on vegan Wiener Schnitzel and Knödel at Restaurant Milton is an understatement] he immediately asked me what else I knew (and yes, I did have a backup).

We weren’t there long, but I think we definitely made the most of the vegan foodie scene in between enjoying the cultural offerings of Salzburg. If you ever visit this city – which I definitely recommend for a short city break – you should seriously consider checking out these places:

The Green Garden

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This vegetarian place has a young and fresh vibe with quirky plants hanging down from the ceiling inside lampshades. Vegan options are clearly labeled and plentiful enough to ensure indecision. Gabriel went for a wrap while I had the asian buddha bowl – fresh greens, courgetti, avocado, pomegranate, sprouts, radish, seeds, two rice paper vegetable rolls and a delicious dressing – as well as the sweet potato sashimi. The “sashimi” was very intriguing and actually tasted a bit like sushi in combination with the pickled ginger and beetroot wasabi – we both agreed this was stunning. We had to wait a while for our food, as one of the servers had forgotten about one of the dishes, but it was all well worth the wait.

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For dessert we couldn’t resist (ok, mainly couldn’t resist) checking out the Green Garden vegan ice cream parlor right next to the cafe. I had a scoop of blueberry ice cream and a scoop of the best peanut ice cream I’ve ever had! Their ice cream is made with rice, coconut or oat milk and is full of flavor – Gabe enjoyed his more savory-tasting pumpkin seed one.

 

Spicy Spices

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This Indian organic restaurant-and-health food shop is the place to hit up for some good, honest veggie food. Nothing pretentious about it and it seem to operate like a canteen. Our food (dhal with veggies and basmati rice) was brought to us within minutes. They also have a variety of organic teas and juices – my boyfriend went for an unsweetened pomegranate juice, which made him pull a face while drinking 🙂 The guy serving us came several times to see if we were alright and even filled up Gabe’s plate a second time (no extra charge), after asking if he wanted some more.

After our meal I also bought us some Vivani chocolate bars from the store section. If we’d stayed in Salzburg longer I definitely would have come back here again for more Indian comfort food.

 

Heart of Joy Cafe

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This was one of the places I’d chosen for breakfast. I was quite interested by the variety on the menu – from vegan ham to superfood muesli, it caters to a range of vegan desires. I was about to go for porridge, following my boyfriend’s order, but made a snap decision to get one of the chocolate cupcakes displayed along with raw vegan cheesecakes and other goodies – a decision I certainly did not regret. It was wonderfully chocolatey and not sickly sweet – perfect with my oat mylk matcha latte, which was better than any of the recent ones I’ve had in Switzerland. Gabe was happy with his fruit-laden porridge, but had to adopt a competitive attitude to finish the whole thing (it was a very generous serving!).

I was also excited to see they sold my favorite Primal Pantry protein bars (I was addicted to these back in London). I couldn’t resist getting a cacao brownie one for snacking on at Hellbrunn Palace later that day.

 

Organic Pizza

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This place was not originally on my must-eat-at list, but I suggested it after we saw that Restaurant Milton was closed. While it by no means offered us the novelty of eating vegan Austrian food, it was a very satisfying meal all the same. They have a pizza menu with a section for vegan pizzas and offer regular or spelt and flax dough (which I went for – the lower one in the photo). The only minus points this place gets is due to the fact that it was understaffed – the poor guys working there barely had time to come over and let us pay, and had to clean cutlery by hand as they had run out. Definitely a good sign though, if a small pizza place like that is packed.

 

GustaV

 

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Last but by no means least: our last meal in Salzburg was breakfast at fully plant-based cafe GustaV. Overeagerly arriving 15 minutes before it opened (9 am on Saturday), we soaked up some sun at one of the tables outside while studying the menu. When I saw french toast, the path ahead was clear – while vegan pancakes are (thankfully!) becoming more common, vegan french toast is still somewhat of a rare find. Gabe ordered the muesli with a beetroot latte, which he waited to try until everything was set out and photos had been taken (I’m very impressed by how he’s gone from eye-rolling to actually taking my food photography somewhat seriously). I had a delicious oat mylk hot chocolate with my epic french toast that was topped with banana, apple, orange and maple syrup. Apparently they make a batter using lupin flour and water, then pan-fry the toasts. Definitely one to try at home kids 😉

Judging from the menu this is also a nice place to go for a light lunch – sandwiches, soups, salads and cake etc. I would have loved to try more here.

After GustaV’s we headed to the station and from there took the train to Innsbruck, where we spent a few hours wandering around the old town. The little health food places that I’d wanted to eat at were sadly closed, so we ended up going to Ludwig’s which is a burger joint with locations in both Innsbruck and Salzburg. We both had the vegan burger and sweet potato fries, which were nice, but not something I’d go especially out of my way to have. Back in Salzburg there is another burger place offering a vegan burger (Bio Burger Meister) which we passed, but didn’t try.

That’s it for this trip – as you can see, I really did try to make the most of every meal 😉 And I have to say, I found the options for plant-based eating in Salzburg very impressive.

I hope you enjoyed reading, and please let me know if you have any other recommendations for Salzburg!

xoxo

 

Dubai Holiday – Food Spots

Hello and happy Friday!

I was in Dubai recently for a relaxing beach holiday with my sister. We had an amazing time soaking up the sun and stunning views, exploring some of Downtown Dubai and eating good food. It’s an incredible place and I’d love to go back again to discover more!

While we spent most of the time at the beach, enjoying the warmth and working on our tan (a wishful endeavor in my case – still pale), I do have a few recommendations I’d like to share with you.

Fairmont the Palm

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First off, the hotel we stayed at was truly amazing. Fairmont the Palm is perfectly situated on the stem of the Palm Jumeirah, providing incredible views of the city. In terms of the food I honestly wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I’d inquired ahead of time about vegan options and had been assured that wouldn’t be a problem. And indeed, I was spoiled for choice at the Flow Kitchen buffet – from the creamiest hummus, moutabel (eggplant dip) and my favorite ‘burghul bi banadoura‘ (tomato bulgur) to cold soba noodle salad, veggie sushi, fresh and cooked vegetables, sweet potato mash and tofu curry, there were all kinds of wonderful things. Most of our meals were at the hotel, but we never got tired of them, as there were always new options alongside some yummy staples (hummus all day every day 😉 ). Breakfast left me with slightly less choice than my sister, but the choice I did have was delicious. I always went for the same: fresh fruit with amazing homemade granola topped with berry compote, nuts and soy milk. (I’d sometimes have some whole wheat toast and jam after). The only caveat is that vegan options are not specifically labeled, but, for me, there were enough obviously plant-based dishes so that I didn’t have to inquire about everything.

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The hotel also has other places to eat, our favorite being Little Miss India – an Indian (no surprise there) restaurant with a wonderfully eclectic feel to it. The staff immediately asked about intolerances/special dietary requirements, and were quick to help me find dairy-free options. Both times there I went for turmeric & ginger cauliflower with saffron rice, which I’d have again and again! Absolutely incredible flavor.

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Common Grounds

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This cute little place in the Mall of the Emirates has lots of lovely options – not all vegan, but they do have really nice breakfast things (including buckwheat pancakes), as well as an all-day açai bowl and lattes – my kind of place 😉 It also feels quite relaxed and bright.

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Super Natural Kitchen

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We almost didn’t find this place, as it wasn’t listed in the Dubai Mall directory – but that’s only because it’s located in the Galleries Lafayette (2nd floor). This little raw vegan place is an absolute gem! Just looking at the menu filled me with joy.  I went for the banana pancakes, açai bowl and matcha frappe – all of which I totally recommend! The only thing I didn’t quite like was the açai bowl topping (basically just a lot of pistachios and other nuts, versus granola). Definitely one not to miss in my opinion!

That’s it for this trip – I’d love to go back someday and try more of what Dubai has to offer!

Have a great weekend 🙂

xoxo

 

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Weekend in Turin – Vegan Food Spots

Hello and happy Wednesday!

This past weekend I was in Turin for the first time, pre-celebrating my 4-year anniversary with my boyfriend, while enjoying both the cultural & culinary offerings of this beautiful northern Italian city.

Confession: The culinary aspect definitely weighed into my vote for this destination. My boyfriend was quite surprised when, a few days after he had suggested Turin and a few other places – and received a noncommittal response from me – I sent him an excited message that I’d love Turin, along with my hotel suggestions. He was (rightly) suspicious about this sudden excitement, and only when I later told him that Turin is one of Italy’s most veggie-friendly cities did a look of understanding (and amusement) cross his face. (He just laughed and – again, rightly – told me not to focus my Turin research on just restaurants 😀 )

We had an absolutely wonderful weekend and perfectly combined exploring the city (a really great free walking tour the first morning provided us with an overview of the sights as well as interesting insights into the history and culture) with fueling our explorations while trying some of the amazing vegan options.

Here are my recommendations for vegan food in Turin:

Soul Kitchen

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This place is not to be missed. It offers true Italian fine dining in a really stylish, but also homey atmosphere – and it happens to be all vegan! (It also has a menu section with raw dishes). My boyfriend and I each had a primo piatto (pasta with a broccoli cream sauce for me and spinach gnocchi in a mushroom sauce with slivers of truffle – divine! – for him), then shared a secondo (a chickpea tempeh dish with pear and endive) as well as a dessert (chocolate mousse with buckwheat granola and dried persimmon). The whole evening was an absolute treat and really inspiring! Really can’t recommend this enough. Just make sure you have a reservation ahead of time, as it did fill up quite quickly. (Luckily I’d already made us a secret reservation days before our trip 😉 ).

Location: Via Santa Giulia 2, 10124 Torino

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Flower Burger

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This vegan Italian burger chain (also located in Rome, Milan and Monza) has a cool vibe and a really fun burger menu. You can literally eat the rainbow here with buns ranging from charcoal black (ok not really a color of the rainbow, but you get what I’m saying) and turmeric yellow to cherry pink like the “Cherry Bomb” burger my boyfriend tried. I went for the “Cheesy Chico” which was a chickpea based patty full of herby flavor and a wonderful cheesiness. Also definitely go for the potatoes – we shared some and these little wedges were so delicious and not too greasy.

Location: Via Antonio Bertola, 29/c, 10122 Torino

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Coox

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This was one of the places on my radar, so when we accidentally passed it after our walking tour, on our way to Flower Burger, I had to have a quick look inside. And, of course, you can’t have a quick look and spot tasty treats without also grabbing something to go. I spotted some croissants, including a charcoal one and ended up going for a  wholewheat croissant with a blueberry jam filling for breakfast the next day – it was so delicious! I wish I could have gone back for a proper meal, but at least I got to try something 🙂

Location: Piazza Vittorio Veneto, 8, 10123 Torino

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Ratatouille 

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This vegan Italian restaurant, deli and PASTRY SHOP is also not to be missed in my opinion. It’s located slightly outside of the touristy center, but you can take a scenic walk back to the main attractions along the river Po, while digesting all the pastries you couldn’t resist. We went there for lunch on the second day and both ordered pizza – which was so satisfyingly doughy and thick, and really tasted like regular non-vegan pizza. Afterwards we kept the employees busy and entertained, ordering lots of items from the deli counter to take on the train with us as well as pastries and treats to bring home, in a mix of Italian (my boyfriend) and English & the odd mispronounced Italian word (me), while constantly asking what things were and changing our minds amid the never-ending options. I’ve never been to a fully vegan pastry shop, so this was truly a kid-in-candy-shop experience for me 🙂

Location: Corso Tortona 2, 10153 Torina

Note: What’s also great about this place is – unlike many others – it’s open on a Sunday!

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There were more places I would have liked to try, so I’ll mention these too:

  • Mezzaluna – we had a peek inside on our way to Soul Kitchen, and it also has a little shop at the back
  • L’Articiocc (it wasn’t yet open when we wanted to check it out, unfortunately)
  • Il Gelato Amico – vegan gelateria! Need I say more?

And finally, one last tip is the health food store Ditta Ceni – which is right behind Mezzaluna. Here we found dried carob pods and I am now obsessed. They are so delicious and definitely worth stocking up on if you’re nearby!

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Hope you enjoyed reading, and please let me know if you’ve tried any of these places or have any other recommendations!

xoxo

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