Chickpea-Spinach Burger of my Dreams

It’s official, Florence will never cease to amaze me with its vegan friendliness. Today I had the most interesting, intelligent, and downright awesome meal at a darling restaurant called simBIOsi, and I will 100% be back for more. SimBIOsi offers the most beautifully unique collection of dishes and wines all made from local and organic ingredients, served to you in an equally beautiful and unique atmosphere.

Today, I tried the chickpea and spinach “burger” that comes with vegan pesto and a side of potatoes. The “burger” patty was unlike anything I have ever seen or tasted before, it almost felt like a hybrid of a giant falafel and a crispy veggie burger – whatever it was, it was magnificent. The rosemary potatoes and vegan pesto that came with it were equally as delectable and the three elements complemented each other to no end. Needless to say, I was in heaven and I will be returning as soon as possible.

Just when I thought a menu including a vegan chickpea and spinach burger with rosemary potatoes and vegan pesto couldn’t get any better, I flipped to the wine list. The wine is also all organic and local, we decided to try their “Orange Wine” because we had never heard of Orange Wine before. Our glass of wine followed suit with the rest of our experience in its delightful and unexpected flavor, and it was the perfect refreshment to go along with our decadent meal.

All in all, it’s no question that this was undoubtably one of my favorite meals in Italy thus far – definitely the most unique. I absolutely cannot wait to return to SimBIOsi, there were countless other dishes that I am dying to try (like a handful of “potato” ravioli, vegan pesto, and zucchini dishes). I think this is the beginning of an extremely symBIOtic relationship 🙂

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An Acai Bowl Abroad

If there’s one thing you can probably deduce from the food section of my blog (aside from my flaming veganism) it’s that I am nothing short of obsessed with smoothie bowls. From my point of view, they’re just the most perfect food: delicious, nutritious, versatile, customizable, and the list goes on..

Anyway, you can probably imagine the separation anxiety I have been feeling from my soul-mate-meal since I have come to Italy, leaving behind my blender and my go-to Bay Area smoothie bowl spots. There’s nothing like a big, satisfying bowl of health and deliciousness to start the day off right, and I was about to go crazy if I went another day without one.

Luckily, this morning I was able to find a great smoothie bowl right in the heart of Florence at Shake Cafe! I tried the classic Acai Bowl with almond milk (substituted for cow’s milk) and every topping offered. They also offer a green bowl, a tropical bowl, a chia bowl, and a power bowl (you know I’ll be trying them all, so stay tuned for the verdict)!

The Acai Bowl was absolutely wonderful, it had the perfect amount of flavor, everything about it was fresh, and the topping-to-base ratio was just right. Not to mention how cute and photogenic it was for the 5 seconds before I devoured it. Anyway, Shake Cafe, you’ve done it again and I will most definitely be back for much, much more!

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P.S. Do you know of any great smoothie bowls for me to try in Florence or the San Francisco Bay Area? Comment below or shoot me a message and I would love to check them out!

P.P.S. Want more of my smoothie bowl obsession? Check out my posts: Low Sugar, Low Calorie Smoothie Bowl HackQuick n’ Easy Sweet Green Smoothie BowlStrawberry Dragonfruit Smoothie Bowl

6 go-to Vegan Meals to Have Under your Belt in Italy

If you’re a vegan and anything like me, you always have your go-to restaurant dishes in the back of your head to order in a pinch at any establishment. Coming to Italy as a vegan means adapting your go-to meals to fit the average Italian menu. In the USA, there are tons of vegan options constantly surrounding us that we take for granted like Mexican, Asian, and American style options. In Italy, however, the variety is less obvious. On top of that, Italian Cafe’s, Bars, and Osteria’s have such amazing ambiance that it would be a shame to miss out on them for the sake of keeping to a vegan diet. Luckily, if you keep an eye out for these six basic Italian dishes you’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful, stress free, vegan Italian meal at any restaurant in Italy! Here are my six fool-proof vegan Italian meals:

  1. Spaghetti with Tomato Sauce: This comes in many slight variations, but is always a great choice that will fill you up and taste amazing. Some common variations are different types of pasta noodles, or spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil. Gnocchi is also a great option since it is made with potatoes! 
  2. Minestrone or vegetable Soup: I have yet to have a bad bowl of soup in Italy. Each one differs slightly but is equally as delightful. If soup alone isn’t filling enough I often opt for a side of potatoes, french fries, a green salad or a piece of bread or two! Or you can always go fill up on some sorbet afterward…  😉
  3. Bruchetta with Tomato and Basil: As is true of the dishes above, bruschetta will differ slightly from place to place (sometimes it can even come as a panini) but there is almost always a cheese-free option. 
  4. Grilled vegetables: The grilled vegetables in Italy are seriously underrated. They often come beautifully seasoned, slightly blackened, and gorgeously plated. You will see mostly tomato, eggplant, and bell peppers with basil and various other vegitables like carrots, squash, zucchini, potato, artichoke or whatever is in season. Although this dish is more filling than it would seem, if you need something more it goes perfectly with some soup, potatoes, pasta or even bread! I find that I often enjoy the free bread so much that I don’t need more than a heaping plate of veggies anyway. 
  5. Mushroom Risotto: Contrary to what many may think, risotto actually isn’t inherently creamy. The way the rice is cooked just creates a creamy texture, which can be deceptive to those trying to avoid dairy. Having said that, I still like to double-check that there is no cheese or cream in my risotto. Mushroom risotto is on almost every dinner menu, and is one of the most rich, filling, and even decadent vegan Italian dishes you will find. 
  6. vegetable Pizza With No Cheese: Veganism by no means stops me from enjoying pizza just as much as the next guy. All you have to do is find the vegetarian pizza that looks the best to you and ask them to leave off the cheese!

While this is my little list of vegan meals to look for, there are tons of other options and cuisines available in Italy! As usual, many things can be easily veganized or a few sides can come together to make an awesome meal. On top of that, as I continue to eat my way through the city, I am constantly finding that Florence is riddled with amazing options just for vegans! In any case, never fear my fellow vegans – there is absolutely no shortage of delicious meals in Italy!

Amalfi Coast, Italy 

This weekend my roommates and I spent the weekend romping around the gorgeous Amalfi Coast of Italy. It was hands down one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, I only wish we could have stayed longer! We spent our nights enjoying the sunsets and delightful restaurants in the town of Sorrento (we stayed at the Sisters Hostel, which I highly recommend) and spent one of our days on the island of Capri, and the other on the beach in Positano.

Our day in Capri was absolutely unforgettable. We took a boat tour around the Island, visiting a handful of beautiful caves. One of which was the famous “Blue Grotto” which is lit up on the inside with by natural fluorescent aqua lighting and can only be accessed via tiny row boats that you have to lay flat in to get inside the cave and are operated by Italian men who sing operatic Italian songs in the echoing cave. Another must-see highlight of Capri was the view from the chairlift up to the top of Mt. Solaro where there are more breathtaking views and a picturesque cafe where you can get a spritz or glass of prosecco and overlook the island.

Positano was yet another wonderful coastal location that I will never forget. In Positano we spent our time lounging on the beach, enjoying beachside cocktails with the Amalfi coast’s signature limoncello and Italian craft lemon beer, and popping in and out of quaint boutiques and delightful art exhibits. The view of the houses on the hillside of Positano was everything it’s built up to be and more, although the bus ride down it to the beach was a ride I feel blessed to have survived. This coastal town is a gem of the Amalfi coast, and if I ever have the opportunity to return I will make a point to stay there for a more extended period of time.

Below are some of my favorite photographs from this trip, although I took so many pictures it was impossible to choose! The Amalfi coast is such a magical place that it’s perfection could never be done justice by a camera, but I hope I was able to capture a little sliver of this big slice of heaven!

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Croatia – Rovinj, Split, Dubrovnik

This past week I had the opportunity to drive down the coast of Croatia. It was the most beautiful experience that I would recommend to anyone who loves coastal beauty. I made three stops, the first of which was Rovinj, a picturesque small Istrian town based around a castle on a hillside that overlooks the Adriatic Sea. Next, I saw Split which is a fun city that is also located on the Adriatic Sea. My favorite part of Split was the Old Town which is a collection of the most amazing shops, restaurants, and bars set in Diocletian’s ancient castle which overlooks the Adriatic Sea as well. Finally, I went to Dubrovnik which is where my favorite HBO show, Game of Thrones, did a lot of filming (it is where most of the scenes set in Kings Landing are shot). Dubrovnik is also a town set in an ancient castle overlooking the Adriatic Sea. It is one of the most dramatic and beautiful cities I have ever seen, with no shortage of breathtaking views and experiences. Here are some photos from my time in this beautiful country, I hope you enjoy!

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These are just a few of the photos I got in magnificent Croatia, I hope you enjoy looking at them even a fraction of the amount I enjoyed taking them!

Shake Cafe & Vegan Bowl

I have officially found the most perfect spot in Florence – or at least one of them! Shake Cafe is a healthy cafe with the best vibes and even better food, juice, smoothie bowls, buddha bowls, wraps, coffee, and more. They have tons of vegan options and awesome wifi so I have been absolutely in heaven here. Yesterday a I had a delicious veggie wrap  and today I had a vegan curry bowl which had sweet potatoes, chickpeas, beets, cauliflower, quinoa, spinach, and some more of my favorite things.

I have spent some time the past few days taking online coding classes and hanging out here enjoying the adorable, succulent-rich decor and the funky alt music playing. If I could pick a cafe as my spirit animal, you bet it would be this one!

May 17 – Exploring Firenze

Today we (two of my freakin awesome roommates and I) spent a few hours exploring this fantastic city by getting lost in it and I had the opportunity take a few pictures in the process! Here are a few of my favorites, I hope you enjoy them 🙂

Destination Relaxation: Monterey Bay Area

As you’re probably well aware at this point, I’m currently living in the San Francisco Bay Area and chronicling my life as a vegan (among other things). Admittedly, California and the Bay Area especially is probably one of the best places in the world for vegans. Even still, it’s always a special treat to escape from your every day environment and see what other places have to offer! This passed weekend, my Mom and I decided to take a quick trip to Pacific Grove and Monterey, CA where I stumbled upon some beautiful vegan meals, beverages and gorgeous views.

Before I begin to gush about all that Pacific Grove and Monterey have to offer, I’d like to give you a little bit of background information about weekend getaways with my mom and I (the self proclaimed real life, authentic version of the Gilmore Girls). Since day one, my mom and I have always been chillers. Hanging out and relaxing, living on island time is our absolute jam and we do all that we can to indulge ourselves in some good old fashioned lazy vacation days at every opportunity we can find. For us, the perfect getaway involves lots of long walks, comfort food, wine, and shopping. The Pacific Grove, Monterey, Carmel area has always been exactly our speed for weekend getaways because of it’s quaint, mellow nature and dog friendly communities as well as it’s close proximity to the Bay Area.

Since I was a little girl, my mom and I have stayed in a picturesque, rustic group of cottages in Pacific Grove called Andril Fireplace Cottages. We love it there because of it’s laid back, vintage feel and it’s dog-loving environment. We also love it there because of it’s walkable yet not-too-close distance from the downtown areas of Pacific Grove and Monterey, if I had to guess I would say that it’s about one mile from downtown Pacific Grove and two miles from downtown Monterey (where the famous Monterey Bay Aquarium is located). Our go-to vacation day activity is covering ourselves head-to-toe in athlesiure wear and setting out on foot to find brunch, shopping, and wine tasting if we’re lucky.

As promised, the best brunch was found this passed weekend in Pacific Grove at a restaurant called Toasties Café on Lighthouse Ave. A die-hard lover of potatoes, you can probably imagine my excitement when I spotted “potato dish” on the menu of an otherwise somewhat traditional, non-vegan brunch menu. A restaurant meal of breakfast style potatoes, vegetables, avocado, and various hot sauces? I honestly don’t think I could name four things I would choose over those for any meal. To make the experience even more wonderful, we were able to sit outside on a sunny patio with our beagle, Diego while we enjoyed mimosas, coffee and our breakfast.

I could seriously go on and on… and on and on and on about how delicious this breakfast was. Maybe it was the mimosas, but this simple dish was exactly the brunch that I always dream of, and as someone who used to enjoy breakfast scrambles it’s the perfect vegan substitute for that simple savory breakfast option.

After our wonderful breakfast experience, we continued to walk around downtown Pacific Grove and all the way through to Monterey. On our walk, I found an awesome store called The Mind Shop Metaphysical Books and Gifts where I was lucky enough to find some low priced quartz, rose quartz, amazonite, selenite, and amethyst. Although I don’t know a lot, or anything really, about crystals, I have been wanting to educate myself on their healing powers and how to use them so I was excited that I could pick some up for less than $10.00! I also got a bumper sticker for my computer that says “There’s No Place Like Om”.

Just down the road, and located in the tourist area of Monterey, we came across another highlight of our trip: the Carmel Ridge wine tasting room overlooking the Monterey Bay! We had the most pleasant experience looking out at the water and tasting some awesome wines (somewhat reasonably priced, too!) and we were even able to veganize their meat and cheese platter, turning it into an assortment of delicious crackers, dried fruit, and nuts! Lucky for me, my mom is completely on board with my choice to be vegan and she even tries to eat vegan as much as possible herself, which makes traveling and eating together super convenient for me.

We loved the Carmel Ridge tasting room so much that we ended up going back the next day! After our long walk home that second night, we were more than ready to indulge in some margaritas and Mexican food. It is a common misconception that vegans would have an extremely difficult time finding fare at Mexican resteraunts. Fortunately for me, the reality is quite contrary! Vegetable Fajitas are a staple on pretty much every single Mexican menu, so they tend to be my go-to when ordering Mexican.

This weekend, however, I was able to mix things up a bit on the Mexican food front with El Torito’s delicious spinach enchiladas! Aside from the fact that they sprinkled some cheese onto my dish (which was very minimal and easy to remove), I was obsessed with everything about this dish. It was as amazing to look at as it was to taste. The margaritas and guacamole were splendid as well, we had the most wonderful time watching the Warrior’s game and enjoying our dinner. All and all, both my mom and I were left with a good taste in our mouth – literally and figuratively!

Along with these four places that we found and loved were countless other adorable spots in Pacific Grove and Monterey. There are tons of vegan eats that I didn’t have time to try, and dozens of charming shops and experiences that we made a note to check out on our next trip. At the end of the day, the Monterey Bay Area is an amazingly beautiful, unique and relaxing part of California and we will definitely continue to cherish our stays there! Walking, eating, drinking, and shopping our way through a new place is by far our favorite way to get to know a new location and after this weekend I have a few other recommendations up my sleeve. Feel more than free to reach out to me if you’re curious. For now, keep on keeping it simple and keeping it whole 🙂