Roman Holiday

A crazy thing happened in Rome. Shawn and I had spent the day walking and riding bikes around the city and were completely exhausted. We were contemplating our last meal but could only decide that we wanted to try the soy gelato from Blue Ice. We got our scoops and were enjoying them in front of Trevi fountain, which was packed with tourists, when I noticed two familiar faces: Lex and Kristen of Vegan-LA. I have to be honest, Shawn and I run into people we know in some unexpected places, but in another country and other vegans? Crazy, right? Turns out they’ve been traveling through Europe for the past 6 months working on

We hung out and chatted for a bit and they mentioned they were going to try a new vegan restaurant/bar. Since we were starving, we of course wanted to go check it out with them. Only problem was that it was about 5k away and we were dead tired from walking. Luckily they had a car and offered to drive us. Of course, it was a Smart car. Have you ever seen a Smart car? They’re TINY! If you’ve ever seen one in the US, they’re even smaller in Europe. In any case, we all piled in, despite it only being a two-seater and headed out of the city center to try out Rewild.

Rewild is a casual, completely vegan restaurant in Rome with beers on tap and a selection of icy mixed drinks. While the menu was in Italian, our waiter (who I’m pretty sure was the owner) was very helpful and translated anything we didn’t understand. Shawn and I started with some bruschetta made with tomato and vegan sausage. This spread was great and the bread was nice and crusty too. A great starter, especially since we were so hungry.

I ordered a panini with seitan and garlic mushrooms. The seitan was sliced super thin and the mushrooms were cooked just right, not too firm or squishy. It was very satisfying and the kind of thing I could see myself ordering regularly. My only complaint was that bun was very full and not exactly pressed like a panini. It still tasted great though.

Shawn also got a panini; his with the basic lettuce, mustard, vegan mayo and…beets? Don’t get me wrong, it tasted really good, probably even more tasty that the panini I ordered but the beets were definitely a surprise. It was actually fairly refreshing to have the cool sweet beets in the middle of what would have otherwise been a fairly conventional sandwich. Given the choice, I’d still go with tomato though.

Last but certainly not least, we split a vegan jam filled crepe. I love crepes, I really do. Any opportunity I have to eat them makes me ecstatic, especially when they are good like this one. I was very pleased. It’s not easy to make a  perfect crepe, but this one was spot on. Light and just a tiny bit crunchy with just the right amount of jam inside. Delicious!

Following our amazing meal, we all piled back in the smart car and made an impromptu tour of a few of Rome’s sites. We climbed out in front of the Vatican as if we were exiting a clown car. It was great fun! I’m so grateful that Lex and Kristen showed us this really cool restaurant and carted us around with them for the rest of the evening.

If you want to see more photos from our trip you can check out Shawn’s  shots over at studiodrome. Coming up I’ll try my hand at some Italian inspired meals. Ciao!

Vegan Italy

Last week Shawn and I went to Italy! He was the best man in a friends wedding that took place in the town of Cortona. It was an amazing trip, a beautiful wedding and an awesome experience all together. I love Italian food as much as the next person but I have to say I was a bit worried about getting meals that were totally vegan especially since I don’t speak any Italian whatsoever. Quite the contrary to what I had feared, I had some truly unforgettable vegan meals.

The wedding was a full two day event with multiple five course dinners, not to mention lots of wine, hor d’oeuvres, and breakfast treats. Lucky for us, we had our own special vegan menu. The majority of the meals were vegetarian to start with and minor adjustments were made to accommodate us. Everything was insanely delicious. All the vegetables were so fresh and delightful. The tomatoes were like nothing I have ever had before and courses dressed with olive oil were to die for. I still can’t get over how delicate and fresh everything was and how well all the flavors complimented each other.

After the wedding, we spent the remainder of our time in Rome as neither of us had ever been before. We managed to see a great deal of the city by foot, on bicycle and on a brief Smart car tour (which I’ll get back to later). We walked through the Colosseum, hiked through the ruins of the Roman Forum, drank beer on the Spanish steps and threw coins in Trevi Fountain. It was a bit unreal. And of course we sampled some of the city’s vegan offerings. Our first stop was the Beehive Cafe. This small vegetarian restaurant, located inside the Beehive Hotel, is cute and comfortable. They have a handful of vegan options and a very accommodating cook who helped us put together our meal. They use a sliding pay scale and no set portion size so you only get what you want to eat and only pay what you feel you should (of course there are recommendations).

We started with a large vegetable soup filled with zucchini, peas, tomato and orzo. This soup was unbelievable. This could possibly be one of the best soups I’ve ever had. It was hearty and rich, full of vegetables but not overly heavy. There was a touch of sweetness to it and each vegetable was able to shine. I could eat this soup for days. In fact I could go for some right now. Paired with some fresh bread this stuff was like heaven.

We also got a plate of hummus, vegetable patties, salad and some mixed vegetables. The hummus was also superb. There were two different veggie patties available the day we went and we chose one with chickpeas, nuts and spices. They were a little bit crunchy on the outside but soft and perfectly spiced on the inside. I really enjoyed the flavor of these but they were a bit dry on their own. I would have preferred these as actual veggie burgers but they were quite good mixed with everything else on the plate.

I highly recommend trying this place if you’re in Rome as it has a really nice atmosphere and they are very helpful and speak English too so that’s a plus. The food is unique and well thought out and is a good alternative to traditional Italian meals.

We also tried the only other vegetarian restaurant that I new of: Il Margutta. We stopped here for lunch, where instead of their normal menu, which has it’s own vegan section, they have a buffet with options of how many add-ons you’d like. While I enjoyed the food here and thought it was well crafted, I wasn’t blown away. Looking back, I would have preferred to order one dish than sample a bunch. I will say the seitan in one of my dishes was really great, but I only had a small serving. We decided to get the dessert option (despite the fact that I was convinced they weren’t going to have a vegan cake) and they did in fact have both a chocolate and carrot cake. These cakes were obviously made of quality ingredients and were overall pretty good but they were a bit grainy and oily. I was happy to have them anyway but they weren’t amazing either. I will say this place was packed for lunch and it was a pretty good deal overall, whereas the dinner menu is much more pricey.

Just for a second though, let’s talk about my favorite thing in Italy: ESPRESSO. I am without a doubt a caffeine addict. I make myself a soy latte every morning and usually can’t get through the day without something in the afternoon as well. I also have a fairly sensitive stomach, which means me and coffee don’t really get along. Through the years I’ve found ways to manage this like drinking espresso instead of coffee, always having it with soy milk, etc. In Italy though, I am able to just have espresso with a bit of sugar and I’m set. It’s so rich and delicious and doesn’t have the same caffeine jolt as the stuff over here. It is more flavorful and much less abrasive. It baffles me that people don’t want to drink stuff this good here and instead prefer bitter, watery coffee. It is a mystery! In any case, I had a week of sweet deliciousness and feel so lucky that I did.

But wait there’s more…come back tomorrow for a surprise find of a fully vegan restaurant and adventure tour that ensued…