Thursday, December 01, 2016

Product Review & Giveaway: GoMacro Thrive Bars

New Thrive Bars by GoMacro

I have a very sweet yoga student who comes to class somewhat irregularly, but when he does come, he often brings me a snack. He's brought me several great bars recently, and even a bag of that delicious curry popcorn from Trader Joes. He was the one who introduced me to the bars by GoMacro. He brought me one to class, and I loved it! The original GoMacro bars come in a bunch of flavors - my favorite flavors are always the ones with chocolate. Those bars run from 240-290 calories a bar, with anywhere from 4-12 grams of protein.

Recently GoMacro reached out to me and offered me the opportunity to review their newest offering - a line of "superfood seeds & nuts" bars based with less-processed ingredients called Thrive Bars. All of these bars are Vegan, Organic, Non-GMO, and Gluten-free. The base of all six flavors is a blend of organic sprouted flax seeds, hemp seeds, and puffed quinoa - sweetened with organic brown rice syrup and organic coconut sugar. They each also have organic sprouted brown rice protein. From that starting point, each bar has a different range of ingredients depending on the flavor. The ingredients really are pretty impressive - organic, wholesome, plain english. I really like that . The wrappers have a tag line on them that says "ingredients grown not made," which seems completely accurate. I don't mind an occasional bar full of processed soy protein, but it's nice to have some tasty less-processed options around. These bars are all 190 calories, and depending on the flavor, have anywhere from 5-8 grams of protein per bar.

all those bars lined up in their wrappers made me think of a slumber party.
sleep tight! 

My 3 Favorite Flavors

Chocolate Peanut Butter Chip - Any time a bar comes in chocolate peanut butter flavor, that is always going to be my favorite! This bar is extra peanutty with big chocolate chips, and didn't let me down. I also appreciated the cocoa powder in the base, which gives the bar an extra level of chocolatey-ness, especially for such a wholesome and whole-foods bar.

Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt - This bar has some nice nutty chunks in it, which give a good crunch, along with full-size chocolate chips, and a bright touch to the flavor from the salt. 

Caramel Coconut - This flavor surprised me, I wouldn't have expected to like it as much as I did since it doesn't even have chocolate in it (ha ha). In both flavor and texture, it's very coconutty! All of these bars are chewy and substantial, but I especially loved the texture of this bar.

*I was also happy to see that GoMacro is on the FEP Approved Chocolate list - meaning that their chocolate sources don't use childhood slave labor. yes!

Almond Apricot - I love apricots, but I felt like the apricot flavor didn't come through much in this bar. I felt like I was mostly tasting the base ingredients. Perhaps if I wasn't expecting or hoping for more apricot-ness, I wouldn't have noticed. There are definitely lots of almonds though, and this bar has a good nutty crunch to it. 

Ginger Lemon - This bar was another one that really surprised me - the nice ginger flavor really comes through right away - both in aroma and flavor. This bar is more chewy than crunchy, which I enjoyed. The lemony hit is not upfront or overwhelming at all, but it's there. I really liked this flavor more than I expected to, since I usually think of myself as a chocolate+peanut butter gal! 

Blueberry Lavender - This was probably my least favorite of the three, but I could have predicted that from the get-go since I am not really a fan of lavender in my food. That said, I wished the blueberry flavor presence was stronger, and honestly I didn't even pick up that much on the lavender. 

You can have sack races with your thrive bar friends!

such beautiful packaging!

Here is something else that I would really like to salute GoMacro for: gorgeous, aesthetically pleasing, environmentally-friendly packaging. This case of twelve bars came in such a lovely box of unbleached cardboard, with their elegant embossed graphics on it. So beautiful and such a minimal waste. I frequently receive products for review and often the shipping packaging is overflowing with plastic and styrofoam and layers upon layers of packaging. This was such a pretty and sensible packaging presentation, I was so impressed.

** Giveaway! ** 
Guess what else is impressive? In addition to sending me a case of Thrive Bars to review, GoMacro is happy to offer a case of assorted flavors to one lucky blog reader (US only). To enter, please leave a comment on this post and tell me what your favorite bar is so far. Also, check out GoMacro on Facebook and on Instagram.

Guess what else!! Even if you don't win, GoMacro has a 30% coupon code good for their Thrive bars if you'd like to give them a try. The code will work once per customer and is Thrive30 - use it at their site, 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Something New for Thanksgiving!

After many years of huge family gatherings for Thanksgiving, this year we found ourselves in totally new territory: just 4 family members! My dad is over in China doing some astronomy work, my brother and his gal went up to Portland, neither of my aunts are in town... and it was just me, Mr. VE&T, my mom, and my nephew! As long as it's not what it once was, why not embrace something completely new?

So, this year, our mini family gang combined Gratitude Forces with my super special friends Sophia & Kendra and a couple of their friends for a wonderful feast and evening together! I've had several fancy vegan Thanksgiving dishes that I've been wanting to make for a few years now... but with no one besides me to eat them, it hardly seemed like a good use of my time and energy. This year we had 2 vegans and 2 more vegetarians, and pretty much everyone else was a vegan food enthusiast! I seized the moment! 

a giant baking sheet covered with marinated & roasted Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts Sliders (recipe from NY Times

I've had this recipe for Brussels Sprouts Sliders bookmarked since last year - it was a bit time consuming, but not at all difficult. The Brussels and tempeh are marinated in a pretty spicy marinade, however the end result isn't spicy at all - just well spiced. These are like cute little burgers with buns made of roasted brussels, and with super delicious caramelized onions and marinated & roasted tempeh. I read the comments and most people suggested doubling the marinade, which I did - and I was glad.

Two of our beloved friend guests are gluten-free - and it was only after I finished roasting the tempeh that I realized that Trader Joes' tempeh has barley in it and isn't gluten-free! Damn! So, I made a quick batch of soy curls, using the same seasoning as the recipe called for. You can tell which sliders are made with gf soy curls because they have the rainbow flag toothpicks!

Spinach Florentine Casserole, from Vegan Casseroles

I just love Julie Hasson's cookbook Vegan Casseroles, and I really love this recipe for Spinach Florentine Casserole. It's like a super great sophisticated spin on vegan mac n cheese: rich and creamy, with a dash of sherry and a touch of nutmeg. I haven't had this dish for a while, but I remembered why I love it so much. Wintertime is the perfect time to cook more casseroles! 

Giant Salad!

I love the palette-cleansing quality of a good green salad, in the midst of a rich and hearty Thanksgiving meal - so I made a ginormous salad full of super fresh goodies from the farmers market. Of course I called my mom and asked if she would make the salad dressing though, because my mom makes the world's best salad dressing. As I was taking this picture, trying to capture the last rays of daylight, little Yummers Potatoes got pretty excited about "his" giant bowl of veggies - I had to hurry up and take that picture! ha ha. Little veggie lover!

Yummers' fantasy! 

My Pride and Joy!

Here's my piece de resistance ~ The Vegetables Wellington from My friend Gabrielle told me about this recipe a couple of years ago, and I've been wanting to tackle it ever since. This is a super fun Big Project that takes a long time to make, is pretty complicated, and has lots of steps. I read through all the comments, which was pretty helpful -- even though many different opinions are expressed! ha ha. I got started a couple days before thanksgiving and made all the components ahead of time. On Thanksgiving Day, I just had to assemble it and bake it! Honestly, I think you could definitely simplify the recipe in many ways, and still end up with something pretty fantastic. 
very pleased with myself! 

Here are the parts:
*An inside roll of cashew-roasted white bean mixture with mushrooms and sunflower seeds
*Wrapped in phyllo, and then rolled inside a layer Mushroom Duxelles with roasted carrots
*Wrapped in phyllo, and rolled in a layer again of the cashew-bean mixture
*Whole thing wrapped in phyllo! 

A second mini-loaf, gluten free!

In this whole recipe, chock full of umami and nuts and millions of mushrooms - there were only two elements that weren't gluten-free: panko bread crumbs, and the phyllo dough. I wanted to figure out a way to make this special fancy dish gluten-free for my gluten-freebie friends... so, I thought of yuba! I made some yuba sheets (used the recipe from The Homemade Vegan Pantry) - and made a mini wellington using the yuba. The panko was easy to replace with gf panko.

an inside shot of my yuba wellington

One thing about this recipe is that it makes a metric ton of food. The end result was just huge. For my mini gluten-free loaf, I made a 1/4 recipe and this wasn't hard to do. If you're just feeding a couple people - I think halving or quartering the recipe is the way to go! 

For the yuba Wellington, I oiled and roasted each "layer" briefly in the toaster oven, to help each inner layer have a good crispy crackle. I was so happy with how it turned out - and so was my GF pal! 

inside shot 

The whole creation was positively huge - which I am all for! This way, we had plenty for leftovers. Woot! I love how beautiful it looks when you slice into it! It was super delicious, full of excellent textures, rich but not over-bearing, and felt special and festive. I'm so glad I finally had a chance to tackle such a special kitchen project! 

A festive feast! 

I forgot to take nice pictures of the dishes everyone else brought (what a cad!) - but they're captured here: a lovely lentil loaf, green salad, the Wellington, green beans with lemon and slivered almonds, stuffing (one of my favorite foods of all time!), perfect mashed potatoes and gravy, and the pasta casserole. I ate *almost* all of this! Ha ha ha.

The food was all so good - my friend Sophia is some kind of gravy genius! Plus, my mom made her amazing cranberry sauce - it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it! 

look at those cracks! 

We are all committed Dessert Enthusiasts, so we had three desserts! I was in charge of pumpkin pie - and I made a full sized pie with traditional crust and a half sized pie with a gf crust. I always use the recipe from Voluptuous Vegan (it's the same recipe that Isa has on her website here). I bought this half-sized pie dish almost 2 years ago, and I think this was my first time finally using it! I think half-pies are cute and kinda perfect-sized. 

My GF crust turned out really well. I used the recipe for a GF crust from Pies & Tarts with Heart, and I used a homemade GF flour mix, based on the ingredients in Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1. Even though I enjoy eating gluten, I also really enjoy baking gluten free treats for my GF friends. 

I love the texture and flavor of this recipe so much, but I got such big cracks in my pie! Does anyone know why that happened, or if there's a way to avoid it next time? Overall, I don't suppose it matters - but it would look prettier without the cracks! 

plate of delicious desserts

Yum zone!  Max made an apple pie, which Mr VE&T and I both agreed was possibly the best apple pie we'd ever had! It was so full of apples and his crust was amazing! I was feeling pretty pleased with my crust on the pumpkin pie, until I tried his crust! I will have to learn at the feet of his crust mastery. Sophia made a big batch of the Pecan Pie Truffles - one of my favorite recipes ever! She's quite clever though, and she figured out that she could make them in bar form instead of dealing with rolling them in balls and all that. And of course they're just as yummy this way! 

It was so fun and amazing to have such a huge VEGAN spread of holiday fare! My mom did actually make "the dish which shall not be named" (her words! ha ha!) - but it was relocated out into the kitchen and wasn't the centerpiece of the evening. After 29 years of celebrating Thanksgiving as a vegetarian/vegan, this was my first time having that experience. 

There's definitely a big part of my heart that misses the huge family gatherings of yesteryear, but it was fun and refreshing to embrace a whole new experience and menu! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

A Friendsgiving Feast!

This weekend, my pals and I had our annual Friendsgiving Celebration. It was so nice to be together. Back in the day, we used to have potlucks and gatherings so much more frequently, but these days all of our lives are a little more full and getting together takes a bit more work. It was a lovely evening together - catching up, eating, talking, and just enjoying each other's company. My friend's little boy has always been so shy around me and this weekend he brought card games to the party and we played Go Fish together - it was so rad, and a real highlight of the evening for me!

 Lentil Mushroom Walnut Balls with Cranberry Pear Sauce

I wanted to make something "Thanksgiving-y" and savory, but I also wanted it to be gluten-free because one of my special friends is GF. I found this recipe for  Lentil Mushroom Walnut Balls with Cranberry Pear Sauce from the Oh She Glows blog and I'm really glad I gave it a go. The texture was just perfect - they held together well, weren't too dry or too sticky, and the seasoning and textures are great. Lentils, walnuts, oat flour, dried cranberries... there's a lot going on in these little dumplings, but it's all very harmonious. I had three left over and I ate them for a snack on Sunday morning.

The cranberry sauce was quick and fun to make. I reduced the syrup by half, and substituted the rest of the volume with fresh squeezed orange juice. I also used an apple instead of a pear because I still have an abundance of apples from our apple tree!

These were pretty easy to make, and I could see having these as a weeknight dinner. 
They were also fun to eat!

Mashed Potatoes & Roasted Butternut Squash

Mr. H made a huge and wonderfully classic vat of mashed potatoes -- these were so good and I, for one, absolutely appreciated that there was nothing "modern" or "creative" about them. Mashed Potatoes are already a perfect food, and are an obvious necessity at any Thanksgiving Day celebration! 

My mom came to the party too (thanks to my pals for letting me invite her too!) and she brought a big bowl of roasted butternut squash slices. This is the way my grandma, her mom, always prepared butternut squash, and it is a family favorite. It felt good to have this nostalgic and emotionally important treat as a part of our potluck -- especially made by my mom and served in a ceramic bowl that she made herself, way back in the day! 

 Green Bean Casserole 

Ms. A made the Green Bean Casserole from Isa's newest cookbook "Superfun Times!" Also, Mr. VE&T just got a cool new smartphone and took a bunch of pictures for me - including this one). This casserole was creamy and full of green beans and broccoli (a clever adaptation to an insufficient supply of green beans!), with crunchy crispy onions on top. Green bean casserole was never a thing in my family, and in fact I'm not sure I'd ever had it before this weekend, but I know it's a holiday classic for lots of people and it was fun to finally try it. I didn't even bother with a small serving size to taste it first, I just dove in with a huge scoop, and experienced no regrets!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Cornbread
photo by Mr. VE&T

Ms. A also made some lovely Pumpkin Cornbread, and used GF flour instead. It came out so well! It was just a little sweet and a little pumpkiny and still a lot cornbread-y. It really seems to me like gluten free flour mixes have come a long way, because this bread was really great! 

Vegan Classic: Sesame Nooch Tofus
pic by Mr. VE&T 

Our lovely hostess Ms. S made this batch of little baked tofus, which were So Damned Good. I swear to you. She said they were simple - marinated in tamari and then dredged in nooch and sesame seeds and then baked, but oh man, they were so good. I went back for seconds. I feel like I would enjoy having a huge tub of these in the fridge for nibbles and snacking. They were tofu perfections. I will see if I can track down the recipe and report back.

stuffing my pockets full of tofus

Massaged Brussels Sprouts Salad
pic by Mr. VE&T

Ms. N brought a big bowl of a lightly dressed Massaged Brussels Sprouts Salad. The brussels were sliced super thin (how did she do that?) and then turned almost into a slaw. It was a light and bright salad, a perfect balance to all the other rich and savory flavors going around, and a fun way to eat Brussels sprouts too. 

Plate of Nourishment
Good food prepared by friends I am so grateful for!

Look at that beautiful spread of deliciousness... How lucky I am to have such lovely friends who are also such great cooks and whose company I appreciate more and more with time! We were discussing when it was that we all first met each other (on the PPK, and then in person!), and it was sometime in 2007/2008. I feel super grateful to have made such meaningful and enduring friendships throughout. We had a great time eating away, sharing about what we had each made, and talking vegan food - among a myriad of other topics as well! 

my special buddies! 

Pumpkin Pie!

Of course you gotta have Pumpkin Pie! Ms. K made a lovely GF pumpkin pie with a nut crust that was really nice. I always love pumpkin pie and I like trying all the different variations that are out there in the world. When I first went vegan, it seemed like I would just never have pumpkin pie again -- and I'm so glad that assumption has absolutely been proven wrong!

Ms. S also made a big batch of pumpkin rice krispy treats and the were incredibly delicious but I somehow didn't get a picture of them. Negligent blogger! She used Pumpkin Dandies AND actual pumpkin in them, and they were great. I am a fan of all forms of rice crispy treats and hadn't ever had Pumpkin ones before! 

Pumpkin Caramel Tart with Walnuts

Boy Howdy! This was so fancy and delicious! Ms. N made this Pumpkin Caramel Tart with Walnuts - veganized and de-glutenized from this Bon Appetit recipe - and it was wonderful. The crust was nutty and shortbready but not too dense or heavy, and the filling was creamy and pumpkiny - but definitely a different spin than a traditional pumpkin pie. My favorite part of all was probably the candied nuts on top though. They provided such a great crunch and a burst of flavor.

Gingerbread Cookies

Lastly but not leastly, I brought along a batch of the Gingerbread Cookies from "But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan!" -- you'll probably have to see this picture again soon when I do my review of this great new cookbook. These cookies are gluten-free, and were easy to make, and are dark with molasses and all the right gingerbread spices. I love pretty much all things gingerbread! I also love having more and more great GF recipes for treats that I can bake and share with my gf friends, family, and yoga students. 

 Do you have a Friendsgiving celebration with any of your pals? For me, it has been a lovely way to spend some quality time with this special group of friends, and also a way for us each to have a fully vegan Thanksgiving - no questions asked: you can eat everything on the table! A celebration of both friend abundance and vegan deliciousness abundance!

"Aquafaba!" Winner!!
Speaking of gratitude: I'm grateful to Vegan Heritage Press for letting me offer a copy of Zsu Dever's newest cookbook "Aquafaba!" to a lucky winner: 
Congratulations to Comment #32: Kimmy the Vegan!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Our Trip to Italy: Vegan in Turin

Back in September, Mr. VE&T and I had a totally wonderful Italian vaction together - it was one of the most fun and wonderful trips we've ever had together! We spent the first part of our trip in Turin (aka Torino) and absolutely fell in love. Turin is a city, but not an overwhelming one - and has history, museums, art, delicious food, modernity, and just so much to offer. Turin is near the French border, so it definitely has some French influence and also still feels like Italy. We liked to call it "Fritaly." We had such a wonderful time walking around, exploring, we took a day trip (and there are many more to take in the future), we went to a couple museums, and ate a lot of great food.

In general, I found Turin to be extremely vegan-friendly. You may have heard that just recently the mayor of Turin declared that she wanted the whole city to go vegan. Based on my travel experience, I'd say this outcome is extremely unlikely! There were plenty of restaurants where there wasn't a single vegan thing on the menu. That said, I was joyfully stunned by the number of times I saw "vegan" on a menu or in the window of restaurants - ice cream, restaurants, cafes... and I never encountered a single person who didn't know exactly what I meant when I said that I was vegan. Cool!!

Focacceria Lagrange
I have no idea what that wierd little white image is, or how it got on my picture!? 
Nonetheless, totally excellent focaccia

One of the first things to mention about Turin is the abundance of totally mind-blowing focaccia. A good piece of focaccia is one of my top foods in all the world, and so I was pretty much in focaccia heaven on this trip. I adopted an all-out, no-regrets policy and ate pretty much every compelling piece of focaccia I could manage. It was magical.

We both love to explore on foot, and as we walked our way all over the city, we were constantly passing more and more bakeries - I mean, literally, often it would be 2-3 per block. Ha ha. We stopped into as many as possible. We ate so much focaccia. We got a few slices that we didn't fall in love with, but the vast majority were absolutely superb. The biggest disappointment was a physical inability to eat more than we did.

All that said, we stumbled on one spot that we liked so much that we made a specific effort to go back again: Focacceria Lagrange. They had a great selection of options, including many with whole grains (kamut, spelt, etc), with delicious tomato sauce, as well as several non-vegan options - in spite of their mayor's vision. The focaccia was just perfect: crispy exterior with a soft, pillowy interior. A perfect chew, well seasoned, and a lovely flavor even on the most simple slice (which is always my favorite).

Focaccia Heaven
In Focaccia Heaven, you lie on a giant poofy piece of focaccia while little smaller pieces of focaccia float by all the time, with different vegan toppings. You can just grab the pieces you want and eat them up. It's rad.

Just a few blocks from our AirBnB was an all-vegan spot called Mezzaluna -- a cafe, a restaurant, and a vegan goods store all in one. Mezzaluna is located in a quiet and charming little square, very near the huge outdoor market at Porta Palazzo. They have tables set up for eating outside, and also tables inside. The food at Mezzaluna is not traditionally Italian or Torinese, but is more "traditionally vegan," if you know what I mean. Menu items included curries, stews, salads with seaweed, and so on. One day Mr. VE&T (who is not vegan) ate lunch at a cute restaurant serving traditional local food, where they didn't have a single vegan thing for me. So, after his lunch, I came and ate at Mezzaluna. I had a veggie frittata with a chickpea-flour base, and a side of sauteed veggies. The food was good, and hit the spot, but wasn't otherwise amazing.

Their store is in the back, and it's just a small room, but they have an especially good supply of various vegan milks and yogurts, and a cold case with tofu and seitan. We didn't have a kitchen at our AirBnB, but if you did, this would be a good resource to know about. In general, I also found that most neighborhood supermarkets also had a pretty great selection of vegan milks and yogurts.

What really made me fall in love with Mezzaluna, however, was the daily selection of croissants and pastries available every morning. As soon as I figured this out, there was no stopping me. I am a lover of croissants, and vegan croissants are simply not avaiable here in Santa Cruz. So, I got pretty excited. I got myself a lovely almond cappucino, a crossaint filled with apricot jam, and a rolled up pastry with raisins. I wish I could transport myself through space and time and eat another one right now. I went back several times to repeat this lovely ritual... and even planned our last morning in Turin to make sure that I would have time to go to Mezzaluna one last time and grab a pastry (or two) for our road trip.

dancing the night away with my BFF

Il Mercato Porto Palazzo

Right around the corner from Mezzaluna is Europe's largest outdoor market - Il Mercato Porto Palazzo. It is totally amazing! Can you see the look of overwhelming joy and amazement on my face?? This market has everything: produce, baked goods, groceries, clothes, household stuff, shoes, plants, and on and on and on. There are actually several indoor areas as well as the vast outdoor area, which is arranged in sections so that all the produce vendors are near one another, and all the shoe vendors are near one another, and so on. We had so much fun wandering through the market, which was pleasantly bustling with activity - seeing faces of vendors and shoppers, immigrants and non-immigrants, extremely few tourists, and gorgeous fruits and vegetables -- many that were so different from the fruits and veggies we have at home, and which were always displayed with great care. We bought all sorts of goodies: fruits, nuts, snacks, bread (duh!), but mostly just had a great time wandering, looking, and chatting with the vendors. We both loved this place so much. I can't imagine being able to go to such a huge market on a daily basis! What fun!

To my delight, Turin has several vegan restaurants! In fact there was a little all-vegan fast food place located one block away from our AirBnB -- but we never even got a chance to eat there because we never ended up near our home base at meal time. One spot we did make it to was Coox. Coox is located at the head of a long, bustling piazza near the River Po. We ate outside, which was lovely and fun, with all the evening activity in the piazza.

One thing that I've noticed about eating at vegan restaurants in Europe is that it can be hard to find places that serve veganized versions of local food. Usually there are several local dishes which are intrinsically vegan, and even those will never be on the menu. Instead I often find curries and bulgur and the kind of vegetarian food that I associate with the 80's. I have some ideas about this phenomena, but as a visitor, I often find myself wishing I could get a vegan taste of local flavors more readily.

At Coox, I was delighted to find Lasagne on the menu, and I didn't really need to keep looking. Has anyone ever made me vegan lasagne before? In fact, Mr. VE&T ordered it too! We also ordered two veggie side dishes* which turned out to be quite ample indeed!

For dessert, we got an order of tiramisu and a parfait type treat. They were both good, especially the tiramisu, but we also thought they tasted a little "processy." I'm not totally opposed to that, and we enjoyed them, but we also didn't finish the parfait. There is so much amazing food everywhere you go in Italy, it seems like a shame to eat something that you aren't in love with!

*Side dishes (aka "contorni") are often a good route to go as a vegan in Italy.
They are almost always veggies or veggie-based.

Someone I struck up a conversation with highly recommended Soul Kitchen, an all-vegan restaurant offering both raw and cooked vegan foods. This person said "I'm not even vegan and I love the food there so much!" I'm glad they recommended it, because I'm not a big fan of most raw food -- so I hadn't really considered eating here. And the food just blew us away! We both loved our dinners so much! Plus, the whole atmosphere is delightfully hip and casual-but-swanky, the service was great, and our experience here was wonderful.  Soul Kitchen is just a tiny bit further afield from the city center, but not in a daunting way (we easily walked there on foot).

Here's what we ordered:
Antipasto (top left): zucchini and zucchini blossoms in a crispy rice-sesame batter; served with a tofu, fresh oregano and sun-dried tomato cream
Mr VE&T's dinner (top right): whole wheat tagliolino with fresh truffle, seasonal mushrooms, asparagus, and blackberry
My dinner (middle left): cream of peas, mint and ginger with a nest of bi-colored tagliolini; served with bittersweet sesame-cacao nib croutons
Our dessert (middle right): raw gianduja torte with apricot puree

fancy romantic dinner at Soul Kitchen!

If you find yourself in Turin, I think Soul Kitchen should be your top priority as far as vegan dining goes! (at least, as far as we know!)

One day we decided to go for a big walk all across town, and it was pretty great... but by the end of it we were weary, and I was dragging my feet. I really wanted a gelato, and even though you usually see gelaterie every ten feet in the city center, we hadn't seen one for a while. Finally, we saw a gelateria! I went in and asked "Is your dark chocolate vegan?" And the guy looked at me kinda weird and was like "all our flavors are vegan!" I thought maybe I hadn't understood, so I had to double check - just to clarify! Holy moly, we had completely stumbled upon a 100% vegan gelateria with amazing ice cream!!

All the flavors at Il Gelato Amico are rice-based, and they have a great selection of more traditional flavors and creative flavors. I got hazelnut and gianduia (chocolate and hazelnut) on a (vegan!) cone -- it was just so delicious. As you can see on the right - they also have a whole case of special ice cream treats and cakes -- every thing is vegan!!! It's not hard to find vegan flavors here and there (see below), but an all-vegan place like this is special and exciting and highly recommended!

It was a vegan gelato miracle! 

other important Turin sweeties: Gelato & Gianduja chocolates!

One thing that Turin is super famous for is their Gianduja chocolates - creamy chocolate candies made with chocolate and hazelnuts. I didn't have much luck find any vegan gianduja, until we went to Guido Gobino (bottom left picture) -- which just happened to be the place that our AirBnB host recommended to us! Their dark chocolate gianduja candies are vegan and are made with just chocolate and hazelnuts -- they are super creamy and luscious and taste almost like milk chocolate from the creaminess of the nuts. I bought a whole bunch to give as presents (and also a bunch to eat for ourselves!). We only have a few left and I am treasuring them!

I also just want to give a shout out to Mondello Gelato (top two pictures), which has a few locations and proudly advertises "vegan flavors" on their shop window. The vegan flavors are clearly marked with a little green "v" symbol, so you don't even need to speak Italian to figure out which ones you can order. I got walnut and gianduja. If you are noticing that I always order gianduja flavor when given the opportunity, you are right. I love all things hazelnutty!

The picture on the bottom left was a random gelato that happened to be one of the best of our whole trip: a totally amazing dark chocolate sorbet rich with chocolatey flavor and also with little choco-bits in it, and a stunning Bergamot sorbet that I just loved. Almost every gelateria will have vegan flavors because the sorbets will be vegan. Often this means you are limited to fruit flavors, but many shops also offer a dark chocolate sorbet. Don't be afraid to ask!

The Spritz! (pronounced "spreetz")
When we were in one of the big piazzas at dusk, we noticed that every single person at every single patio table was drinking a bright orange cocktail. We sat down at a table and I asked the waiter "what is that drink?!" Well, it's called a spritz - and we fell in love. We had a spritz nearly every evening - such a refreshing little date to end our day. Here is a recipe - go make yourself a spritz! 

A few other Turin things to mention!

Top Left: Lurisia Chinotto! Chinotto is a wonderful, slightly bitter Italian soda, and on this trip I discovered this brand -- definitely the best chinotto I've ever had. I bought a bottle for Mr. VE&T, but I wasn't sure if he would like it - guess what? He loved it! Yay! This was the first of many Chinottos that we enjoyed together!

shared Chinotto affection!

Top Right: Le Golosita' dal Brabantino -- Right downstairs from our AirBnB was this really cute dog bakery! The couple that runs this spot are just such sweet and kind people. Most of their treats aren't vegan, but they did have some flavors that were - and they also had three super cute little mutt dogs (you can see me snuggling them in the picture) and very big hearts. We bought some treats to bring home for our doggies!

Bottom Left: Brule' Piadinoteca - we stumbled across this little place and found a lovely vegan option! A piadine is a nice flat bread stuffed full with good stuff - kinda like a quesadilla, but with a lot more versatility for the filling. As you can see, we got one filled with awesome cooked veggies - it was light and delicious and really hit the spot. They had mostly non-vegan options, but I really enjoyed the vegan option we had!

Bottom Right: Il Bicerin is a famous and very old cafe in Turin, and it's a place that all the guidebooks mention. Their famous creation is also called a "bicerin," and it's a drink made with coffee, thick chocolate, and cream. It sounds pretty great, but it's deffers not vegan*. Mr VE&T isn't vegan either though, and he wanted to try one! I was pretty stoked that they very happily made me a soy cappucino! It seems worth mentioning in case you wanted to check out the ambience at this famous spot, or if you happen to be traveling with a non-vegan like me.
* I did find a recipe online for the bicerin drink - maybe we could veganize it!

Sacra di San Michele

On our last day in Turin, we rented a car and took a day trip out to Sacra di San Michele - what a special and beautiful place. We could see that we were going to arrive at the church just in time for their 2-hour lunchtime closure period... As we were driving along, we stopped in a cute little town where we saw a bakery and a bar (a "bar" in Italy is more like a "cafe" here) to get a picnic for our lunch. I thought I'd probably just have a piece of focaccia for lunch, but we ended up with such a wonderful lunch. At the bakery, we each picked out a piece of focaccia for ourselves. Across the street at the bar, we found the world's most delightful employees, who personally took on the mission of making our picnic wonderful -- they prepared a sandwich for Mr. VE&T, a lovely and huge serving of steamed fresh spinach with olive oil and fresh lemon wedges, and a container of perfect green grapes. Of course we each got some water, some potato chips, and another bottle of chinotto to share. Up near the church, we found a secret ledge where we could look out over the valley below and eat our lunch... a pretty special way to spend the afternoon together.

In case you're planning a trip, Vegan Miam also has some great guides to eating vegan in Turin: