Monday, October 29, 2012

Where to Eat Vegan: Cafe Berlin Part 2 - San Juan, Puerto Rico

Mofongo is a traditional Puerto Rican dish - and it also traditionally not vegan as it is often piled high with meat and served with butter. Luckily Cafe Berlin has the curious vegan traveler covered. With the choice between yucca or plantain (our server suggested yucca) the chefs at Cafe Berlin will gladly make you a mofongo topped with greens and sprouts, sans butter.

As we tentatively tried our first bites we all wrinkled our foreheads as we chewed. Not, mind you, out of distaste. Each of us felt distinctly certain that we had tasted this flavor before but it wasn't until several bites into the dish that my sister yelled "Hashbrown" and we all said "Oh yeah!" in unison.

Whether mofongo is meant to taste like hashbrowns or not it did to us and we loved it. The dish was filling, comforting and beautifully plated.

For my main meal I had several choices including a Faux Steak with garlic Potatoes, Veggie Kabobs, a Veggie Burrito, Marinated Tofu and Meatloaf in Guava Sauce. Of the choices meatloaf was at the bottom of my list but when I asked for a recommendation from my server he highly recommended it and steered me away from the steak saying that many guests found it too dry.

I was intrigued by the Guava sauce so I went for the dish and was very surprised. The meatloaf was crisp all the way around but soft inside and it was generously drizzled with the sweet guava sauce and roasted red peppers and onions. Paired with creamy mashed potatoes and lightly steamed broccoli, I felt like a down home American eating my meat and taters. I may be a faux meatloaf convert - I never thought I would say that.

As with our other two visits the service was attentive and helpful and the food blew me away with it's beautiful presentation and expert execution.


407 Cll San Francisco
San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
(787) 722-5205


Mon - Fri: 11am - 10pm
Saturday - Sunday: 10am - 10pm
Brunch on Sunday: 10am -3pm

Where to Eat Vegan: Cafe Berlin, San Juan - Puerto Rico

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Luckily my sister and mom are also huge fans of breakfast and especially the waffle and pancake variety. Cafe Berlin looks out onto Plaza de Colon, just where the streets start to narrow and the famous colors of Old San Juan begin to grace the buildings. On our first morning in Puerto Rico we headed to Cafe Berlin for their Sunday brunch.

The interior of Cafe Berlin is flirty but polished with lots of gorgeous window light. We were seated at a table with a view onto the plaza by one of many soft spoken, crisply dressed waiters. Don't let their calming tones fool you into thinking their serving robots though, all of the waiters and waitresses we had the pleasure of being helped by spoke perfect English and were confident enough with their menu to give detailed descriptions AND point out their vegan options without pause.

Several things on the menu which look vegetarian are actually vegan - like the Vegetarian Breakfast pictured above which is a scrambled tofu with bell peppers, carrots and onions served with breakfast potatoes, greens and a star fruit. A reviewers on Happy Cow found this dish to be too oily but I personally found it to be perfect, with the right amount of taste and savor from the oil. The breakfast potatoes were tender and also oil infused. Should I be ashamed to admit this was my first taste of starfruit? The island held many firsts for me that I greedily embraced!

Before I had even ordered my brunch I was already scoping out the vegan carrot cake on the menu. Soft orange flecked cake with a cinnamon sugar glaze and fat walnut halves - delicious.

I enjoyed my breakfast with a big glass of fresh green apple juice and was tempted by the other choices of orange, carrot and lime (do people drink straight lime juice in Puerto Rico?).

Be warned vegans - if you order a plain pancake (which is vegan) it will be the size of a dinner plate and twice as thick. I made the (happy) mistake of ordering the tofu scramble and a side pancake and left Cafe Berlin with a pancake baby. This pancake is the Banana - Raisin Walnut Pancake - which without the whipped cream and caramel sauce is vegan.


407 Cll San Francisco
San Juan, 00901, Puerto Rico
(787) 722-5205


Mon - Fri: 11am - 10pm
Saturday - Sunday: 10am - 10pm
Brunch on Sunday: 10am -3pm

Thanks Cafe Berlin! Expect another Cafe Berlin post - dinner addition!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Stories from Puerto Rico: Laguna del Condado

Mom's head popped up from where it had been pressed to the towel, laying snug against the hot sand.
"Raindrops," she said in her typical way of stating things with such simplicity and such awe in her voice that it's hard to think of her as your mother and not a surprised little girl. Her eye were wide and her mouth curved into a smile but you could see an annoyed roll starting to form on her forehead.
Sydney and I looked up lazily. One fat raindrop plopped onto my open book. As Mom went to put her head back down, perturbed frown still creasing her brow, the sky opened up and within second we were running, towels in hand, for the trees at the edge of the beach.
Many other sunbathers stood panting and laughing next to us under the trees. Many more children had chosen to stay on the beach, or had simply been left behind in the adults' crazed scramble for cover. Their laughter rang even louder than ours over the pounding rain as they ran around the beach. I watched them from under the partial cover of the trees and wondered who was sillier - the adults who ran from the rain or the children who were running in the rain.
As quickly as the rain began it was over and we slunk out from under the trees like children confronting their parents for the first time after misbehaving at school, eyes nervously turned to the clouds and shoulders hunched.
We rolled our towels back out onto the sand and laid down, each assuming their position again. Mom and Syndey on their stomachs, heads on their arms and me propped up on my elbows reading a copy of short stories by Anna Castilla. It seemed appropriate to be reading stories so heavily laced with Spanish words and musical latin overtones as Spanish speaking children ran giggling around me and the man with his ice cream pushcart rang his handbell saying words like "Pina" and "Coco" every so often. He hadn't moved from under the trees and his bell quickly fell into the background of my hearing again.
As I slipped back into my story another fat raindrop hit my open book. This time Mom's head didn't pop up. She simply let out an exasperated "Hey! How rude!" peeking out from under her arm with stormy eyes and a tired two year old's frown creasing her brow again.
This time we didn't wait, we gathered up our things and started walking toward the trees. The rain, not even having the courtesy to wait for our resigned walk of defeat, let loose a second time.
Mom had a habit of "speaking" for animals or inanimate objects and this situation was not an exception. Mom put on her best Spanish accent, because we all know the rain in Puerto Rico speaks English with a heavy Spanish accent, and said, "Stupid lady, I said you're done!" We laughed and washed the sand from our feet as we good-naturedly took the "rain's" advice and called it a day at the beach.
Half way across the bridge toward the hotel we looked back to catch the blue sky and puffy white clouds perched over the beach we had just left. No trace of rain clouds. Mom mumbled another "How rude" but this time only a smile played on her lips.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Puerto Rico Appetizer

Dear Loyal Reader and Fellow Mofo-ers,

I'm afraid I've been a poor blogger again but you really must excuse me, between farm work, waiting tables and oh did I mention I'm in Puerto Rico...I haven't had much free time to update but I wanted to give you a little tiny taste of the wonderful things I have been tasting on my trip. On our first morning in San Juan we had brunch at Cafe Berlin and I ate all this tofu scramble, plus a pancake, plus juice and then got carrot cake to go. I am a happy, well-fed girl at the moment.

More to come soon!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Where to Eat Vegan: Teaism - Alexandria, VA

I've written about Teaism before back when I first moved to the DC area. Since then a Teaism has opened up within walking distance to my house in Old Town Alexandria.

This means lots of tea and mochi for me on work breaks but occasionally I like to meet up with a friend and chat over a long meal. The Udon Bowl is perfect for that. Warm, hearty and super satisfying, you have to take your time to avoid slurping your soup all over. Lots of pauses for conversation lets your stomach catch up to this unassuming but hardcore filling meal.

I will say that my experience with Teaism is that their seitan is a little on the dry side for my liking. The tempeh may be a better idea for the sake of texture, if you can handle the soy. The noodles are salty and chewy - just as a good udon noodle should be and the sauce is just a tad thicker and heartier than a traditional udon.

As usual, pair it with tea and take a mochi to go - you won't have room for an eat-in dessert.


682 North Saint Asaph Street Alexandria, VA 22314
(703) 684-7777


Mon - Thurs 7:30 am -10:00 pm
Friday 7:30 am -11:00 pm
Saturday 9:00 am -11:00 pm
Sunday 9:00 am -10:00 pm

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Where to Treat Vegan: Ipanema - Richmond, VA

It seems that all roads lead to Richmond these days and I will most certainly be making a trip there soon. Last month when I was visiting Tangier Island I stopped by Richmond for dinner and a treat. You may remember last year's Somewhere New in Richmond when I went to Ipanema and split a piece of pie with my friend Compton.

This time around I wanted all the treat to myself! Ipanema has a daily list of their vegan dessert offerings and this time I went for the Mocha Chocolate Cake and a glass of wine - I was feeling particularly decadent.

After a day of touring and riding the ferry it was nice to curl into the booth at Ipanema under the soft yellow lights and eat a treat while doing a crossword. The icing was sweet but not overly dense and the cake was moist. I'll be real - I ate this cake and then bought another for the road. I STILL need to go back for dinner - expect an update of that in the next few weeks.



917 West Grace Street


Mon - Fri 11am - 5:30pm
7 days a week 5:30pm - 11pm

Monday, October 8, 2012

Where to Eat Vegan: RVA Vegan - Richmond, VA

There are few people in the world who I respect more than Ed Edge. He's easygoing, compassionate, selfless and he makes some mean cupcakes. This post is actually a teaser for the upcoming post I will make of Ed's business RVA Vegan - a vegan food cart company he runs in Richmond, VA. As a teaser to get me to come down to shoot for a blog post, Ed brought me these cupcakes today in the delicious flavors of Caramel Maple, Mandarin Chocolate and Cinnamon Pumpkin Spice.

When I complimented Ed on the genius of the green and yellow flower-esque beauty of his Caramel Maple cupcake he replied "Oh we don't care how it looks, it just has to taste amazing." I can absolutely vouch that it tastes amazing, hands down the best cupcake I've had.

The real reason for the fancy colors - so that they can quickly and easily tell the flavors apart when they are frantically selling them off the cart. Brilliant and gorgeous!

Expect a full post soon full of jackfruit stuff tacos, vegan hot dogs and lots and lots of cupcakes.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Where To Eat Vegan: The Cafe - Key West, FL

Tucked down on Southard street sits The Cafe. It would be easy to walk by The Cafe without even stopping to read them menu. An unassuming hand-painted sign and a casual blue-tiled exterior mask the vibrant colors, comfy couches and delicious vegan offerings you will find inside. Only the wooden sign in the window reading "vegan" might tip you off.

The Cafe came with high internet recommendation and a mention of vegan Key Lime Pie so of course Marty and I were eager to check it out.

After all the delicious raw food we had at Help Yourself we were ready for a little cooked decadence so we started off with the baked BBQ tofu wings. While not the most creative interpretation of wings I have seen these were straightforward and tasty and whet our appetite for the main course.

Marty went for the Couscous-Stuffed Acorn Squash. This little jewel was packed full of grains and veggies and served on a plate of wilted spinach. Now I must admit that it seemed a little strange to me to be eating such a Fall dish in April but I suppose in a place like Key West where Fall is a foreign concept you can eat stuffed squash any ole time you please! Perfectly cooked with just a little chewy bite still left in the couscous and a smooth, creamy texture to the bright orange flesh of the squash - I did my fair share of helping eat this dish.

Predictably, I went for the Veggie Burger with Sweet Potato Fries. The burger was dense and dotted with half mashed beans and I loved the fresh sprouts on the burger and the toasted ciabatta bread bun. Too often burgers crumble into tiny balls of veggie burger and unless you have a tough bun to hold them together it quickly turns into a knife and fork affair. This burger saved me the heartbreak of a burger and bun salad on my plate.

Unfortunately they did not have Key Lime Pie during my visit. Their desserts change frequently and Key Lime wasn't on that list for that day - though I might suggest it be a permanent menu item for the silly tourists (such as myself) who want to experience the joy of eating Key Lime Pie in Key West. That's not too much to ask is it?

Service was friendly, the atmosphere was cosy and the food was filling and well prepared. Thanks Key West for the great vegan food!

The Cafe

509 Southard Street, Key West, Florida

Mon - Sat: 11am - 10pm