Thursday, January 8, 2015

In Austria: The (vegan) Food

Today my heart is heavy. Heavy with the news of the terrorist attacks on Charlie Hebdo in Paris. Heavy with reading about the retaliation it has caused against innocent, peaceful Muslims. Heavy with hearing about one injustice after the other. And then, coincidentally since this post is about food, heavy with just finding out that the Foie Gras ban in California was lifted yesterday. Here's exactly how I feel about that (the same can be said about lamb and veal,which I used to eat, so I know people can change ). Sometimes I feel like humanity takes one step forward and then two steps back. Animal cruelty is something that vegans deal with on a daily basis, though, so there's no reason to throw a pity-party; I'll keep living my life cruelty-free in hopes that exposing others to a vegan lifestyle will change minds and open hearts and vice versa.
If I haven't lost you yet from my high-horse up here then how about some good news? Here it is: veganism is growing! Austria was full of vegan dining options. Most we researched ahead of time on Yelp and Happy Cow but a few we luckily stumbled across while walking around. 
VIENNA: The four pictures above are from Formosa, an entirely vegan Asian diner and market that has veganized a few traditional Austrian meals and also added their own creations. We ordered the cordon bleu with potato salad, a burger with fries, and tofu curry with rice (and tall Austrian beer, of course). All of it was tasty.
Two Saturdays in a row we had brunch at Harvest Cafe Bistrot and we stuffed ourselves silly without feeling guilty. Both times we sat at the corner table in the back room by the food where the yogurt parfaits and cakes were an arms reach away and the chefs bustled in and out, delivering fresh food and warm bread from the kitchen. All the food was labeled in German by post-it notes (evidence of an evolving menu) so I'm not sure the exact name of the meals but there were stews, soups, dumplings, sauces, stir-fried dishes, and more. 
After a day full of walking and sight-seeing a quick energy boost before dinner was necessary so we headed to Simply Raw Bakery. We drank red wine and shared tiramisu and a chocolate molten lava cake, all were rich and gooey and delicious. The servings were a bit on the small side but maybe I'm just used to American portions that tend to be on the excessive side. 
Another vegan-friendly bakery we discovered was Fett + Zucker, a narrow shop filled with bright colors and drawings on the walls. It was here that I was able to enjoy my first big creamy soy latte without having to rush to chug it or throw it out (which is how I learned that drinks are not allowed in taxis or on the sight-seeing tram). Along with our coffees we ate apple crumble pie, banana bread, cheesecake, and a double chocolate cookie, all vegan. 
One of my favorite dinners in Vienna, aside from my mom's home-cooked meals, of course, was at Bio Bar. Bio, in German, means organic. The menu at Bio Bar is all vegan and vegetarian interpretations of Central European cuisine. We sipped a red Austrian wine and ate the goulash with potatoes and bread, the hearty Croatian vegetable casserole, and, my favorite, the zwiebel-rostbraten with fried potatoes and horseradish-apple dip (I'm a sucker for horseradish). Everything was reasonably priced, filling, and so very good.
SALZBURG: We were in Salzburg for less than 24 hours. While we ate several meals there I did not have my camera handy for photos because sometimes you just want to eat your meal without documenting it. Chris took a few photos on his phone of the beer we consumed (priorities) and of me looking like a really good listener. The beers in the photo above are a German Hefeweizen that was absolutely amazing. We drank them while eating pizza from an Italian restaurant, Il Sole. We ordered two pizzas, vegetarian and mushroom, both without cheese, and they were two of the best pizzas I've had in a long time.
After eating pizza we ordered take-out for my mom (who stayed in the hotel with Muneca) from a nearby Chinese restaurant, Yuen. While waiting for her food we drank more delicious, unfiltered beer, this time from an Austrian brewery. 
For breakfast in Salzburg we found a vegetarian restaurant called Heart of Joy Cafe, which was completely filled with mostly women customers sitting alongside photos and quotes of the spiritual teacher Sri Chinmoy. We each ordered the Vegan Delight, which consisted of a soy latte, vegan ham, non-dairy yogurt with fresh fruit, vegan butter, and jam - essentially a plant-based continental breakfast.
After our light breakfast we happened upon a farmer's market which was bustling with activity. A majority of the vendors were selling meat and dairy products that I wasn't interested in, obviously, but I did score samples of the most mouth-watering olives I've ever tasted, just perfectly marinated in oils and herbs and garlic. YUM. Before leaving for Innsbruck we stopped off for noodle and rice bowls at My Indigo - healthy, fresh, simple dining with vegan options and restaurants throughout Austria and Germany, and even one in Hawaii. It was really crowded in a tight space so I didn't take any photos of the food but we all liked what we ate.
INNSBRUCK: Like in Salzburg, I didn't take many food photos while in Innsbruck. The only restaurant we went to was Cammerlander, which has vegan options on the menu. I ordered the Macam, which was like an enormous Greek gyro and it was AMAZING. We were in Innsbruck on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when many restaurants are closed so we bought food from the grocery store that we could easily prepare at our hotel. All the grocery stores I went to in Austria have a variety of vegan products - from sliced "meat" and "cheese" to spreads to plant-based sausages,etc; there were an abundance of choices. The faux meats and cheeses were also the best I've had, with the most variety in flavors, and affordable. The U.S really needs to step up their vegan deli game! denn's Biomarkt in Innsbruck had a really large selection of vegan goodies, all clearly labeled. My dad and I had coffees and sandwiches from their deli before shopping for our Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas breakfast (blurry iPad photo above).
While our meals may not have been typical Austrian fare I don't feel like I missed out on any important cultural experience by not eating any of it. I'll take breaded seitan cutlets over Wiener Schnitzel any day as long as it means I'm not eating the flesh of a baby. Plus, vegan food is delicious, I promise! And if you really want to immerse yourself in Austrian culture then all you need to do is consume the punsch and the beer, problem solved. 

Thanks for reading and if you made it this far that means maybe just maybe you want to give a vegan diet a chance and I'll help you if you'll let me. There are too many cruelties in the world and some, like the recent attacks in Paris, we can't do anything about, but others, like the mass slaughter of innocent animals, we can do something about. When terrible things are happening everyday, my choice to not consume animals helps me feel like I'm lessening the burden on this planet just a little bit.


Cootlie said...

F, yes! This was one of your most straightforward, unapologetic posts regarding being vegan, in my opinion. Very eloquent! It makes me very happy that veganism is spreading, even though there are steps backwards like with the foie gra (I don't care how it's spelled) ban being lifted in CA. That really sux, but people will come to their senses. There's no excuse! There's fucking vegan fooi gras, for christsakes! I love you and your way of being brave and vocal! Your pics, as usual, were amazing and consequently I'm so hungry now!

JohnnyG said...

Hello guys.. First time in the blogosphere and very compelling bio. Hope you guys are having fun. It looks like my folks will be visiting yours later this spring.,, with a strong chance that I will too... Johnny G

Anonymous said...

Nanita we can't be more proud of you, Chris, and of course!, Carol, the inspiration and force behind our desire and goal to become vegan. We are almost there! Not 100% yet but close!
Your (the three of you) discipline and conviction are extraordinary, amazing and more powerful than the already sufficiently convincing scientific research that proves the health benefits of a plant base diet! Thank you!!