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’d do 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!

A Better Batch Winner!

Hello, all! Just popping in to announce the winner of last week’s cookie giveaway. Thanks for all your comments, but alas — there can be only one. The winner of the box of cookies from A Better Batch is A.J., who said:

Mm the chocolate chip cookies look amazing! Great post!

A.J., I’ll be emailing you shortly to get your mailing address.

Thanks for entering, everyone!

Review, Interview, and Giveaway: A Better Batch

Picture this: You’re sitting in a conference room after a daily hour-long meeting ends, catching up on a few emails and chatting with a couple coworkers. In walks another coworker, Sarah.

“Hey, do you guys want a brownie?” Sarah asks.

Something to note about Sarah: She and her husband Hanes run a vegan baking company.

With that in mind, is your answer going to be anything but a resounding YES? I think not.

You proceed to try the fudgiest, chewiest brownie you’ve had in ages. You tell Sarah how amazing it is.

“Oh, yeah? This was Hanes’ first attempt at a brownie!” she says. “Thanks so much for the feedback! We’re hoping to add it to the line soon.”

Jaw. Drop.

~~~

One of the little perks of my job is getting to meet people like Sarah and Hanes, entrepreneurs who offer quality cruelty-free products to the world. Their company, A Better Batch, sells ready-to-bake vegan cookie dough in three delectable flavors, and they occasionally have fully baked products for sale at events like vegfests. If you’re a VegNews reader, you might’ve seen A Better Batch reviewed in the “Cookie Dough Taste Test” in the April 2016 issue! (Read on for a chance to try them yourself!)

A Better Batch -- Photo by Rebekah Collinsworth

Although A Better Batch is based in Maryland, their cookies are available to anyone in the United States thanks to their unique business model. ABB sends you frozen cookie dough that you can bake in your own kitchen. By shipping the dough quickly and packaging it with dry ice, Hanes and Sarah make sure that it will arrive still frozen and ready to bake.

Right now, ABB offers three flavors: mocha oatmeal, lemon poppy seed, and classic chocolate chip. I can say with no reservations that their Lemon Poppy Seed cookies are the best I’ve ever tasted. Bursting with bright lemon flavor, they’re absolutely fabulous. Hanes and Sarah have managed to distill this flavor combination into a perfectly chewy, moist cookie that’s not to be missed. Mocha oatmeal is probably my second favorite — it’s another beautiful cookie, bursting with chocolatey goodness. Chocolate chip comes last, but not because of any defect — it’s a darn good classic cookie that anyone would enjoy.

A Better Batch -- Photo by Rebekah Collinsworth

But good-tasting cookies aren’t all that ABB offers. What sets A Better Batch apart from its competition is Hanes’ and Sarah’s dedication to providing the best possible products for people, the animals, and the environment. Here’s how:

  • Hanes and Sarah carefully source their ingredients, using fair-trade and organic options whenever possible. And by virtue of being vegan, these cookies are free of cholesterol.
  • Everything is vegan — no animals harmed here!
  • The cookies are shipped in biodegradable packaging instead of styrofoam containers, which we all know are horrible for the planet. And the individual wrappers are recyclable.

I’ve had the pleasure of trying ABB’s cookies a few times, but I wanted to know a little more about their business. So I reached out to Hanes, and he graciously answered all my questions and sent me a box of cookies to sample. Read on for his thoughts!

A Better Batch -- Photo by Rebekah Collinsworth

 

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Kelly: Let me start by saying how much I LOVE your lemon poppy seed cookies — they’re the best! Right now, you only have them and two other flavors available (chocolate chip and mocha oatmeal). I like that you have a few flavors that you do really, really well, but are you planning to expand your products in the future?  
Hanes: I’m glad to hear you love the Lemon Poppy Seed cookies! Yes, we do have plans to add more flavors and possibly different products such as brownies in the future. In fact, we just re-released a Peanut Butter cookie that we featured back in August for a limited time; it was a crowd favorite, so we brought it back!

K: Why vegan cookies? How did you get started?
H: My passion for baking started when I was growing up. I loved helping my Mom in the kitchen, and this carried over into adulthood. On the weekends I would get in the kitchen and make biscuits, cakes, cookies, pancakes etc. from scratch. I enjoyed it and found it to be a great creative outlet for me. About 9 years ago, my wife stumbled upon some information online about factory farms and how we treat animals in the current agricultural system. It was pretty shocking and we were completely ignorant to it before that. She started reading more about the subject and sharing a lot of the practices and statistics with me. Over the following few years we both continued to decrease our consumption of animal products and eventually went vegan.

This created a new challenge for me: how do I continue to bake and enjoy a lot of the comfort foods that I love making so much without animal products like butter and eggs? I got in the kitchen and got to work. I tried lots and lots of different recipes and found that I love vegan baking! I find that the vegan baked goods taste even better than the traditional counterparts, and they’re certainly better for animals, the environment, and even our health. I received rave reviews for my vegan cookies. They were being requested anytime we would go to friends’ houses or events. A couple of years ago, I started A Better Batch to make them available to people seeking amazing plant-based desserts everywhere.

K: What makes your batches better, i.e., what distinguishes your cookies from similar brands? 
H: At A Better Batch, we work hard to make sure that our cookies are the best vegan cookies on the market — not only in flavor but also in all aspects of our decision making. We are constantly seeking the best ingredients, which to us means using organic, GMO-free, and socially responsible products. For example, the coffee we use in our Mocha Oatmeal flavor is made by Brewing Good Coffee Company which is organic, Rainforest Alliance certified, and UTZ certified (a sustainable farming certification that covers farming practices, environmental impact, and social and living conditions). Also, their company donates a portion of proceeds to animal charities each month — how great is that! We refuse to use palm oil because of the devastating impact its production has on orangutan habitat. Our sugar, vanilla, and salt are all fair trade. Our boxes are made of 100% recycled material, and we don’t use Styrofoam in our shipping boxes; instead, we use an eco-friendly, biodegradable insulation. We take the taste of our cookies seriously, and we also take caring for the environment and animals seriously.

K: What’s the process like for developing new products? How long does it take?
H: It usually starts with me wanting a particular flavor and then I try and think about how that would look. Then I get in the kitchen and try to make it happen, which really is the fun part, as I get to eat lots and lots of test cookies. Sometimes it’s a very quick process, as with my Peanut Butter cookies (it was the very first attempt that I ended up going with!). Other times, it takes much longer. I’m currently working on a refrigerated cookie dough that you could either just eat with a spoon or bake; it has taken over 3 dozen attempts so far.

K: If you could select any flavor cookie to magically have developed and ready for production, what would it be? 
H: Salted Caramel! This is a cookie I have worked on before and plan to return to. It has proven tricky. I would like a nice soft sugar cookie that has little bites of gooey caramel with a slight sprinkling of sea salt on top to bring it all home. I’m a huge huge caramel fan!

K: I noticed that all your packaging is eco-friendly — how is that tied to your business as a whole? Does that ethic inform everything you do?
H: We want to be the best vegan goodie, not only in flavor and quality, but also in all the little decisions in between such as the packaging.  It’s important for us to make our products the very best way we can and that includes taking our impact on the environment into consideration.

K: Are you a full-time cookie baker, or do you have a(nother) day job?
H: I work during the week as an accountant. A Better Batch is my passion project, which is what I work on in the evenings and on the weekend. It does create a busy schedule sometimes, but the cookie business doesn’t really feel like work!

~~~

I really appreciate how much thought Hanes put into his answers — and I’m dreaming of the day those salted caramel cookies become a reality! (Not to mention those brownies I tried a few months ago.)

Happily, A Better Batch generously offered to share the vegan goodness with one reader. Just visit the ABB website and let me know in a comment which flavor you want to try! One lucky winner will receive a box of all three flavors (worth about $58 including shipping). Sorry, my international friends — U.S. readers only this time! I’ll randomly select a winner at 5:00 PM Eastern on Wednesday, May 4, 2016.

If you don’t win but want to try these yummy cookies anyway, just sign up for the ABB newsletter to receive 15% off your first order. You can also check out ABB on Facebook and Twitter.

~~~

*Disclaimer: After tasting their cookies on a few occasions throughout the past year, I reached out to A Better Batch and asked if they’d like to be profiled here. Although they did provide me with some cookies to taste for this post, all opinions are 100% my own. I enjoy supporting local, vegan-owned businesses and will never promote a company I don’t believe in just for the sake of some free samples.

All photos in this post courtesy Rebekah Collinsworth.

Food Monster: A New App from One Green Planet

If you’re a regular over at One Green Planet, you might have seen some of my recipes published in their Recipe Monster section. And if you’re not a regular, you should check it out! OGP is a fantastic resource for all things animal- and eco-friendly, from tips on living consciously to sweet animal stories to brighten your day.

Recently, my contact over at OGP let me know about a brand-new iPhone app they’re launching on Earth Day (April 22) and asked if I wanted to try it early. Um, yes please! I’d just gone through the arduous task of making space on my phone, so I figured I might as well fill up that space with an all-vegan recipe app. Read on for my thoughts!

Food Monster app opening screen

When you first open the Food Monster app, you’re treated to a stunning photo overlaid with the OGP logo. (See screenshot above.) I like the simplicity of that opening shot (which varies each time you open the app), but I wish it stayed there longer and that you could access a menu from that open screen. Instead, the app quickly jumps you right into the main page, and not quite seamlessly — there’s a little lag, and the image gets stuck for a second.

Once you’re into the app proper, here’s what you can do:

  • Review the latest recipes from the home screen. Tapping a recipe brings you to a screen with more info, including the ingredients, prep steps, and even comments for that particular recipe. You can also add the recipe to your favorites or send it to someone using the standard iOS sharing options.
  • Access “features,” which are OGP’s Buzzfeed-style lists (e.g., 15 Ooey-Gooey Caramel Recipes), and then follow links to the recipes listed in those features.
  • Search for recipes by ingredient, name, or other keywords. There’s also the option to search within your bookmarked recipes only, which is handy if you know you saved something and want to find it quickly.
  • Browse recipes in a variety of ways, including by season, meal, ingredient, or diet (e.g., high-protein, gluten-free).
  • Peruse collections of recipes, like “American Fusion” and “Single Serve.”
  • Stay on top of what’s hot with easy access to popular themes and recipes that are currently going viral.
  • Bookmark your favorite recipes to use later.

Food Monster app collections

What I like:

  • The integration with OGP’s lists (aka the features). The OGP editorial team must have it pretty good — they get to compile lists of mouth-watering recipes and share them with hungry vegans! I always enjoy their lists and I like that they’re included in the app so that users have a different way to access content (rather than just searching or browsing recently added recipes).
  • The multiple ways of finding content. I appreciate that you can browse pre-made collections (see screenshot above) or narrow down your search using keywords.
  • That the collections aren’t just simply based on type of meal or ingredient — they’re more creative than that. Having pre-made lists of budget-friendly recipes or quick recipes is really handy.

What I don’t like:

  • In the recipes themselves, fully half the screen is taken up by the bottom of the featured photo, the author’s name, recipe tags, and tabs for ingredients, preparation, discussion, and similar collections. So you’re losing half the screen real estate for what’s arguably the most important feature of this app — reading the recipe itself! When I’m cooking, nothing is more annoying than needing to scroll down after every little step. I’d prefer to see the entire recipe on my screen, or at least most of it. (See first screenshot in the gallery above.)
  • The way the menu bar at the top requires you to manually scroll to see the different links (i.e., on the homepage, the word “Features” is cut off in the default view). It’s not intuitive to have to manually scroll to the right — it feels like the app was designed as a recreation of the desktop site, which is not the best way to design for mobile. (See second screenshot in the gallery above.)
  • The animations are in general a little clunky — they often lag or stick a little bit, which detracts from the overall user experience.
  • The fact that you can’t access the home screen by tapping the Food Monster logo at the top — that’s how I intuitively want to do it, but it doesn’t work. Instead you have to tap the hamburger button, which opens a menu on the left side, and tap Home from there.
  • Within a recipe, there’s an option to favorite the recipe with a simple heart icon or by tapping a bookmark icon, which opens a menu and lets you categorize it by meal or diet right then and there. Having two ways to save a recipe seems unnecessarily confusing.

My overall opinion is that this app was generally well-thought-out, but it has some implementation issues. The design mixes very modern, clean images (i.e., the opening screen) with a slightly dated design on the interior screens. I can tell that the developers and UI team wanted to mimic the look and feel of the OGP website, but I’m not convinced it fully works on mobile. The laggy animations are distracting, and it’s a little buggy — I had trouble getting links to work a few times.

Is it worth $19.99? I don’t think so. Few apps are; twenty bucks is super steep and is not at all in line with market prices. All the content on Food Monster is available (for free!) on OGP’s website, making it difficult to justify the high price tag.

That said, I’m looking forward to using it more thoroughly over the next few months to get a better sense for how well it works when I’m in the kitchen. In the meantime, I’m saving all sorts of delicious-looking recipes for later use!

~~~

The Food Monster app will be officially released on 4/22, but you can purchase and download it early using this link. If you do, let me know what you think!

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*Disclaimer: I was given a free one-year subscription to the app (valued at $19.99), but all opinions are thoroughly my own.

Coming soon!

Hello, lovelies! Just dropping by to let you know what’s in store in the next month. I know I’ve been quiet lately, but I’ve been plotting and planning some great things to share.

Vegan digestive biscuits

+ A brand-new recipe for vegan digestive biscuits (seen above). These are perfect for healthy snacking!
+ An interview and giveaway (!) from A Better Batch, a DC-based vegan bakery run by a super-sweet couple.
+ More vegan travel reviews, tips, and tricks. (I’m heading to Vienna and Prague for the next week and a half, so I’ll be back with lots of goodies to share!)

Thanks for reading!

Vegan on Etsy: Bags, Purses, and Backpacks

vegan on etsy cruelty free etsy

Welcome to the first installment of my new series: Vegan on Etsy! I want to include more of the “lifestyle” in this here “food and lifestyle blog,” and what better way than highlighting the independent makers of Etsy? It’s my go-to source when I’m in the market for any new good; even if I ultimately purchase something elsewhere, Etsy is a crucial part of my research. As part of my drive towards minimalism and to do my small part to combat the overabundance of cheaply, unethically made goods, I try to make purchases with intention. I’m not perfect, but I’m trying — and I’d like to help you try, too. In this series, I’ll focus on different purchases one could make on Etsy, and I’ll call out cruelty-free, vegan options that catch my eye.

Up first: bags! purses! Or as my Grammy would say, pocketbooks. For cruelty-free, sustainably made handbags, wallets, and accessories, Matt and Nat is rightfully popular in the world of vegan shopping. But there are other options, especially on Etsy. (Which is not to knock Matt and Nat — I have two bags and an iPad case from them that I love and use regularly.) Recently, I was in the market for a cross-body, travel-friendly, not-super-fancy-but-also-smart-looking satchel-type bag I could use while traveling but also for work, if necessary. A tall order? You betcha. But Etsy came through. I’ll share my choice at the end of this post, but first I’d like to highlight some of the other cruelty-free bags I found during my research. I reached out to the owners of these shops and they all graciously chatted about their businesses and why they’ve chosen to offer only cruelty-free goods.

First, a note about prices: you are unlikely to find uber-cheap goods on Etsy, and if you do, you ought to question whether they’re truly made independently. The vast majority of Etsy’s makers are small independent creatives who really love what they do, and they do it well. You get what you pay for, and quality isn’t cheap. As I’m moving towards a smaller, more intentional and long-lasting wardrobe, I’m becoming okay with paying a little more for something that will last longer and be a true staple. Your mileage may vary!

100% Vegan Shops

Badimyon

If you’re into a utilitarian yet wholly unique aesthetic, Badimyon is a great place to start, with bags made of leftover materials from the upholstery and home décor industries.  Badimyon means “inside your imagination” in Hebrew, and the husband and wife team who run it live in an intentional community in Hakuk, Israel.

The community now includes 50 families who share similar values of self-sustainability, sharing and ecology,” founder Elad says. With a school system for the kids, yoga classes, and discussion circles, it sounds like a heavenly place to live — and to be creative. The founders strive to offer high-quality, limited-edition products, and their current line features everything from wallets up to roomy hobo bags in a variety of fabric and prints. I particularly like the neutrals; they’re a great unisex option.

Image copyright Badimyon

Image copyright Badimyon

My favorite product is this canvas backpack. I love the sleek shape and style and that it’s large enough to fit a laptop without looking bulky. Plus, Badimyon gives you the option to create a customized backpack by letting you mix and match fabrics.

The pricing here is about average for bags of this sort, and shipping from Israel to the US will be about $13.

Beg for a Bag

Despite its name, Beg for a Bag won’t leave you begging for options! Alongside typical options like messenger bags and backpacks, they also offer yoga mat bags, diaper bags, and even a doggie harness. Most items feature muted neutrals, although there are a few fun prints for the diaper bags.

Image copyright Beg for a Bag

The Shay tote caught my eye as an ideal travel bag. With lots of pockets and a zippered top, it’s roomy enough to stash all your essentials (including a laptop!) while still offering security.

Beg for a Bag’s prices skew a little higher than its competitors’, as does its shipping — about $15 to the US.

Cocoono Bags

Custom-made in a small workshop in Poland, Cocoono’s offerings are inspired by nature — their designs are available in cool beiges, greys, and taupes. I appreciate that they stick to about six styles and offer variations on those styles by updating the colors and patterns; it’s nice to see confident makers who do what they do and do it well. Cocoono just launched a limited-edition line for 2016 which features cruelty-free faux wool. It’s a really neat look!

Image copyright Cocoono Bags

Image copyright Cocoono Bags

I’m so intrigued by this Mega Shopper Bag! Most of my reusable shopping bags are anything but stylish, and that’s fine for groceries. But I admit to feeling a little strange on the few occasions when I buy clothes in a store and ask the cashier to put them in a Trader Joe’s bag! This tote would be great to take shopping; it even has smaller internal pockets for your wallet and phone.

The bags in this shop are all priced very reasonably for styles of their ilk, and shipping is typically about $12 from Poland to the US.

Good Mood Moon

Based in Ukraine, July and Alex of Good Mood Moon are self-professed vegans and animal lovers. They create gorgeous faux-leather bags, belts, bracelets, and more. With a dizzying array of colors on offer, there’s something to fit everybody’s taste. They cater more towards style than pure functionality and are perfect if you want to make a statement with your piece. If you get bored easily, you’ll love the fact that you can switch out the straps on their clutches and a few purses — you can build a whole rainbow of options!

goodmoodmoon_floria

Image copyright Good Mood Moon

I’ve been coveting this Floria bag for a while now, but it’s a little small for an everyday purse for me. Plus, I don’t know whether I could choose a color — there are so many beautiful options! Mint, dark teal, and grey all appeal to me.

Good Mood Moon’s prices are quite reasonable for handmade goods, although shipping from Ukraine to the US should run you about $10. I think $30 is a good deal for the Floria bag!

Ed. note, 2/24/16: I saw the Floria bag in the wild at a vegan mac and cheese event in Baltimore, and I just had to talk to the owner. She said it fits all her items and she likes it… and I liked the look of it, too!

Marten Lab

With unique minimalist designs and colorblock styling, Marten Lab’s bags feature lots of inner pockets — making them both visually appealing AND super functional. They also offer geometric-shaped clutches that would make fantastic statement pieces. When she started this line, vegetarian founder Martina Pretto considered using leather. But she couldn’t do it.

“I’d have to force myself in a direction that I’d never feel as “mine”. So I’m always looking for beautiful, durable and cruelty free materials,” Martina told me.

And I’m so glad she didn’t. Her gorgeous designs, handmade in Italy, are beautiful options for fashion-forward vegans.

Image copyright Marten Lab

Image copyright Marten Lab

In an alternate universe, I live in a small-but-bike-friendly city and bike to work, and I use this bag to carry my laptop. Sigh!

These unique and meticulously created pieces are priced accordingly, and note that shipping to the US from Italy is typically around $22.

MeDusa Brand

Unlike many of the shops on this list, MeDusa unapologetically offers bright, bold-colored handbags. Although I tend to prefer calmer neutrals, I have quite a few friends who barely own anything black and whose outfits are always bursting with color. From vinyl clutches with embossed patterns to more demure shoulder bags with just a little pizzazz, MeDusa has a little bit of everything — including a panda-inspired cross-body!

Image copyright MeDusa Brand

Image copyright MeDusa Brand

This sapphire-blue clutch is amazing! I love how it melds a very modern medium (vinyl) with a more traditional lacy design. This is a statement piece if ever I’ve seen one.

MeDusa products are easily the most expensive on this list — you’re paying for innovative techniques, after all. Shipping from Israel to the US is remarkably inexpensive, though, at around $7.

Nevabags

With laid-back styles and eclectic fabrics, this shop offers casual multi-purpose bags that look especially great for parents. Their signature style is a convertible bag that can function as a backpack, shoulder bag, handbag, or messenger bag. Netta (the shop owner) even has a YouTube video that shows how to use the convertible bag.

Netta is a vegan living in Israel, and she describes her business as an adventure: “I am constantly searching and discovering new materials and new sewing techniques, creating high quality products that resemble leather bags and purses, but are 100% vegan. Each bag is unique, and much thought and effort were put to it, from designing to creating. ” Hear, hear!

Image copyright Nevabags

Image copyright Nevabags

I love this color combo — I could see myself using it as a shoulder bag mostly, but having the option to switch to all those other types would be so helpful.

All the bags in this shop are around the $100 range, and shipping is about $12 from Israel to the US.

Taska Handbags

Handmade in small runs in Canada, the bags in this shop are unlike any others on this list. Founder Nadya says it best: “Utilitarian design and eye-catching fabric combinations is what I strive for with each collection.” With geometric angles and the surprising use of large prints on relatively small bags, these designs are fashion-forward and eye-catching.

Nadya noted a dearth of “vegan accessories (shoes and bags especially) that were stylish and special,” which inspired her to start her own line.  As an animal lover, she’s proud to offer “a more interesting option when it comes to finding good quality cruelty-free accessories.”

Image copyright Taska Handbags

Image copyright Taska Handbags

I’m a sucker for diagonal zippers, so I love the look of this tote. And I also love how functional it is, with lots of interior pockets and features to make it easy to grab all your essentials. I always appreciate when a designer thinks through the use cases for her products!

Táska’s bags are on the high end of this list’s price range, and shipping will cost about $11 from Canada to the US.

Tracce Bags

For the classic leather handbag look, Tracce Bags is a great choice. The faux leather bags come in an impressive number of styles, from a demure shoulder bag to a big ol’ tote embellished with gold studs. Most styles are offered in muted tones, but there are some brighter options, particularly in the collection of wallets.

The owner, Paola, has been vegetarian since 1987 (the year I was born!) and told me that she always wanted to create a line of cruelty-free bags. When she discovered vegan leather, she says she fell in love immediately — and since then, she’s been “drawing and sewing bags, all day, sometimes all night too!”

Image copyright Tracce Bags

Image copyright Tracce Bags

This simple black clutch is just darling! I’ve got quite a few weddings to attend in the next few years (hello, late 20s!), and this simple yet elegant style looks like just the thing to carry the essentials.

Tracce’s prices are on the high end, typical of what you might spend on a similar non-vegan purse, and shipping seems to be a straight $20 within the US. But Paola often offers coupon codes, so be sure to check her shop announcement and shop notes to find a deal.

Non-Vegan Shops that Offer Vegan Items

I am a firm believer in voting with my dollar and supporting cruelty-free options from otherwise non-vegan makers. If none of the bags on my previous list quite strike your fancy, maybe you’ll find something here. But if you’re uncomfortable purchasing from folks who use leather, I understand and respect your decision.

Atlas Past

Spoiler! I ended up purchasing my “cross-body, travel-friendly, not-super-fancy-but-also-smart-looking satchel-type bag I could use while traveling but also for work, if necessary” bag here. My exact bag is no longer available, but it’s similar to this cross-body option. The good folks at Atlas Past confirmed that all the fabric is synthetic — no wool there. I’m very happy with my purchase!

Aiko Threads

The smocked details on these purses are just so fetching! I think this messenger bag would certainly turn heads.

Blue Calla

With one-of-a-kind bags in a variety of styles and colors, you’ll have to check back often to see if a new design strikes your fancy. The calming color combo on this handbag is just up my alley.

byMart

Faux leather meets simple, striking patterns in this shop. I particularly like the eye-catching patterns of their cross-body bags.

Disturbingly Adorable

I couldn’t not include this shop, if only because their bags come in happy soy print. Who doesn’t want smiling tofus on their purse?!

Sinem Inugur

Sometimes you just need a simple all-purpose bag, and this one would certainly fit the bill. Sinem Inugur offers clean lines, classic designs, and quality construction.

Twill and Print

The light, airy colors, sweet designs, and nature-inspired prints in this shop are a breath of fresh air. I just adore the look of this purple clutch — that tessellation pattern in gold is killer!

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Let me know whether you found this list helpful or felt like something was missing! Feel free to share your favorite Etsy sellers… and happy vegan shopping. :)

How to Make Lentil Soup Without a Recipe

lentil soup template

As the DC area grimly prepares for its first blizzard of the season (and, really, our first significant snowfall of the season!), I’m positively gleeful about the impending weather. It weirds me out that we’ve made it halfway through January without snow, and I’m ready to get snowed in. I’ve got good books, good coffee, and good soup to see me through.

Call me plain, but I love a solid lentil soup. I don’t know the last time I’ve used a recipe to make one, though; I usually see what I’ve got in the fridge and the pantry and go from there. And my blizzard batch is no exception. It’s chock-full of add-ins: carrots, celery, potatoes, kale, mushrooms, diced tomatoes, and more. I thought it might be fun to share a modular, customizable template for making lentil soup for those times when you don’t want to follow a recipe but do want a little guidance.

Following this template is pretty simple. I’ve divided the ingredients into different sections and indicated how many items from each section you should choose. You can, of course, add more or less depending on what’s in your pantry — this is just a guide. But by sticking to ingredients from each section, you should end up with a hearty, filling soup with diverse textures and flavors. Note that the white wine is highly recommended but not essential. The same goes for most ingredients. Your soup won’t be ruined if you don’t have celery, and the measurements are just suggestions. Be flexible, play with the template, and enjoy.

lentil_soup_template

One-Pot Lentil Soup (a Template)
Serves 4-6

The basics (use all)

  • 1 T olive oil (you can use more if you prefer, or even just water-sauté the mirepoix if you want to avoid added oil)
  • Mirepoix (diced onion, carrot, and celery — the amounts don’t really matter, but aim for about 1/2 cup of each)
  • 3-5 cloves minced garlic
  • Low-sodium vegetable broth (3-4 cups, depending on how soup-y vs. stew-y you want it to be)
  • 1 1/2 cups dried green or brown lentils
  •  1/3 cup dry white wine

The veggies (choose 2-3)

  • 1 cup mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 2 medium golden potatoes, diced into 1/2” cubes
  • 1-2 cups canned diced tomatoes (use the juice, too)
  • 2 cups kale, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups baby spinach

The additional protein (choose 1)

  • 1/2 cup Beyond Meat chicken, shredded gently
  • 1/2 cup soy curls
  • 1/2 cup vegan beef chunks, chopped if too large
  • 2 vegan sausages, sliced into rounds and cut in half (sautéed ahead of time, if you prefer)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • Additional 1/2 cup lentils

The spices (choose 1 blend or make your own)

  • Basic blend
    • 1 T nutritional yeast
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • 1 tsp paprika (smoked or sweet)
    • 1/2 tsp chili powder
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • “Beef stew” blend
    • 3/4 tsp cinnamon
    • 1/2 tsp ginger
    • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
    • 1/4 tsp allspice
    • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
    • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Curry blend
    • 1 T curry powder
    • 1 tsp garam masala
    • 1 tsp cumin
    • Salt and pepper to taste

To start, heat the olive oil in a large stockpot on medium. When it begins to shimmer, add the mirepoix (onion, carrot, and celery) and garlic. Heat for 3-5 minutes, stirring frequently so nothing burns, until the onion is translucent.

Add your spice blend and give everything a good stir, then add the veggies to the pot UNLESS you’re using kale, spinach, or another green. Hold those till later. Add the lentils (including the additional half cup, if using) and the quinoa, if using. Stir everything again and then add your broth. The broth should cover all your ingredients with about an extra inch of liquid.

Bring everything to a boil, give it a good stir, and then turn it down to low. Let simmer for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Around the 30 minute mark, add your protein (unless you’re using quinoa or additional lentils) and greens, if using. Add more broth or water, if necessary. Give everything a good stir and cook for another 15 minutes.

After 15 more minutes, check the soup to see if the lentils and potatoes (if using) are soft. At this point, you can also taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly. You could also add more liquid if you want it soupier. Simmer for longer if necessary.

When all ingredients are cooked to your taste, add the white wine. Cook for another 2-3 minutes and then serve.

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What kind of meals do you like to create off the cuff? Would a template for something else be helpful?