Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Vegan St Petersburg

St Petersburg in November? Why the hell not? It's beautiful.

I was slightly nervous about what on earth I was going to eat, but a little internet research, map annotation, and the occasional drawing of cheese with a line through it meant that I didn't need to worry.

A good friend suggested trying Georgian and Azeri cuisine, and we happened to stumble across Kavkaz on our first night in St Petersburg. The candle-lit, cosy atmosphere made for some pretty bad photos of:

Peppers and aubergines stuffed with walnut cream. Delicious.

Herb salad that really turned out to be a plate of herbs.

Fantastic selection of home-made pickles including green tomatoes, whole garlic cloves, red cabbage, yum!

The Azeri wine we chose to wash it down with wasn't all that hot: kind of sweet. I suppose living in France has made me a bit fussy with wine.

We also made it to a branch of Troitsky Most, kind of by accident. It was a really lovely café with a relaxed atmosphere and without the extremely loud music playing in most restaurants. Everything here is vegetarian, which is as refreshing as the lack of music. You can choose from a selection of salads. By pointing, of course.

The star of my plate was a waldorf-style salad with a lemony vinaigrette rather than mayonnaise:

And my gentleman friend's plate, which contained the creamy/cheesy salads:

For our night on the town, we started at Russian Vodka Room N° 1. The place itself is fabulous - great big open rooms with free-standing chairs and tables. It makes you want to wear a ballgown. They do a couple of different plates of vodka snacks, one of which just so happens to be vegan. Sauerkraut, weirdly textured mushrooms, and two different types of cucumber: one pickled and delicious, the other salted rather too much:

Oh, and they do real food too, but the only vegan-friendly thing seemed to be these gorgeous potatoes and mushrooms:

Have you tried Russian pizza? I have. In a pizza rock bar with a side of Rammstein, no less. There's paprika in the tomato sauce, which is actually a delicious addition.

Oh, and the obligatory vegan travel shot of a hotel breakfast.

Do: learn to read Cyrillic and say a few words in Russian before you go. Don't: be afraid of finding vegan food in St Petersburg.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

East Side Burgers

For a long time, vegetarian options in Paris were the same as vegetarian options in 1970s Britain. Over the past couple of years, that's changed a lot. The move away from spirulina-walnut roasts and undressed side salads is continued by the newest arrival, East Side Burgers. This very modern place opened up in October, as Paris' only vegetarian burger joint. I finally managed to try it out yesterday. It's great.

There's a rotation of four different burgers, three of which come in vegan versions. Check out their facebook page for each day's burgers and other news. I had the Forestier - a tofu-based mushroom burger with lettuce, tomato, fried onions, and - get this - a vegan cheese slice. Good old Tofutti.

Everything is made to order and cooked properly, including a perfectly toasted bun. My omnivorous dining partner really enjoyed his Fromager burger too (the only one that's not available vegan style). The chips are amazingly good. I care a lot about the quality of chips.

A burger on its own costs around €6, and there's a good meal deal which includes a burger, a choice between chips and coleslaw (not vegan), and a drink for a very reasonable €9. There are even vegan quiches. I need to try a hotdog next time. There are sweet treats too, including two vegan options: cookies and cake slices.

The place itself is lovely: cosy, clean, modern, and run by super friendly staff. As well as a couple of tables outside, there's a nice downstairs eating area where you can help yourself to a good selection of sauces including American mustard. Everything is available to take away.

East Side Burgers
60 Boulevard Voltaire, 75011 (map)
Métro: St Ambroise (line 9), Richard Lenoir (line 5), or St Sébastien Froissart (line 8).
Closed Sunday and Monday. Open 12-6pm (12-8pm on Friday and Saturday)

Thursday, 8 November 2012

A vegan walks into a French restaurant...

And I'm afraid there's not much of a punchline.

I went vegan just over five years ago. One of the main reasons for that was the vegetarian options in French restaurants (read: 'restaurants in France serving French food', not 'restaurants in France'). The vegetarian diner has, typically, a couple of options. They could have a salad with cheese: salade de chèvre chaud, salade fromagère, that kind of thing. Or they could have an omelette with cheese or mushrooms or nothing in the middle.

Then I got to thinking: this cheese, these eggs, these are not from happy animals. Why would I order and eat them, since I'm vegetarian in order to stop animals suffering so much? A bit of research, a bit of thinking, and the only option was to go vegan. I had to get away from battery hen eggs and industrially raised cow cheeses.

Since then, I've been doing a fairly good job of avoiding French restaurants. The vegan options there are:

1) Chips
2) Green salad
3) Chips and green salad

You do find the occasional bistrot or resto that does a vegetable-heavy salad which you can ask to be made without the hard-boiled eggs or, say, emmental. It may arrive with or without them.

The solution? Don't eat in French restaurants. France is, slowly, coming around to the idea that maybe there are people in other countries who eat good food too. In Paris, there's a wealth of delicious, non-French food to discover. It's slowly making its way to the provinces.

Screw the French and their chips and lettuce. Try eating here instead:

Roast peppers with garlic and olive oil, then stuffed aubergine at the Turkish:

Vegetarian spread at the Ethiopian:

The best falafel you could wish for (yeah, it photographs badly):

Lemongrass 'chicken' or crunchy nems at the pan-Asian place:

Pizza with no cheese from many an Italian place (check the crust ingredients before ordering):

These are just the tip of the iceberg. You'll find delicious North African, Indian, Colombian, Japanese food and so much more in Paris. Be adventurous!

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