Takinoa (Nyon, Switzerland)

takinoa_entrance

Takinoa is a Swiss chain of restaurants, founded in 2013.  They are located in the cantons of Geneva and Vaud.  The name ‘Takinoa’ is a combination of the Greek “taki”, meaning speed, combined with ‘no’, so ‘no speed’ or slow. It is also a play on the pronunciation of the word ‘quinoa’, a famed super food. Additionally, their slogan is “food for joy”. Takinoa focuses of food which is good for the consumer, but also the environment. They use local, preferably organic, seasonal and biological products. But they also limit the amount of sugar and salt added to the food. More than half of the dishes they serve are gluten-free, lactose-free and vegetarian. There is also some choice in vegan dishes.

Refrigerator at Takinoa
Available food in the fridge; vegan, vegetarian, lactose- and gluten-free labelled

There is a changing menu, with juices, smoothies, salads, wrap, desserts, and (hot) bowls. The food itself is pre-made, packaged and refrigerated. For each item it is clearly listed if it is vegan, vegetarian, gluten-or lactose-free. They do use recycled plastic, but still it seems a bit wasteful, especially with the environmental message. The food that gets reheated is packaged in glass.

Cookies at Takinoa
Vegan cookies and energy balls at the bar

So you pick the food from the refrigerator, then you pay at the counter. You can also order the daily soup and drinks there. On the counter is also an assortment of cookies and cakes. There were even a few vegan cookies! When applicable the food is heated by the staff, and brought to you together with any drinks you ordered. After eating, you put your tray and the boxes, cutlery and bowls in the correct place. The procedure, and even the bowls reminded me of N & Co by Quinte & Sens. Service was less traumatic here fortunately.

Interior at Takinoa
Water is available for free

That is how it works, now what did we eat! I planned to visit Takinoa for a while, since I had the idea there was a lot of vegan stuff since I had been told it was all vegetarian. When I arrived, I found out that was not really the case. Takinoa mentions on their site that 70% of their food is vegetarian and 20% vegan, and that seemed about right with what I saw. I was happy to see that there were some vegan desserts, and the vegan dishes available were not only salads 🙂

Food at Takinoa
Pumpkin soup with bread, mango lassi, quinoa bowl and soba noodle salad

 

We tried the pumpkin soup, a quinoa bowl, a soba noodle salad and two desserts. I also had a small mango lassi (vegan, made with almond milk and curcuma) but I have to report it was not that great, it didn’t really have the mango taste I expected. The pumpkin soup was nice and thick, served with a generous piece of rustic bread. I do think the soup needed some more seasoning, but I guess this falls in line with the idea of Takinoa using less salt.

Noodle salad at Takinoa
Soba noodle salad with prunes, veggies and nuts. To the left the dressing we picked with it

The quinoa bowl was served warm, or rather flaming hot. Eat carefully! The bowl contained, apart from the quinoa, apple, carrot, some other seasonal vegetables, and balsamic vinegar. It was nice, the apple gave a natural sweetness to the dish. The soba noodle salad was very tasty, it had edamame beans, prunes, broccoli, a few sweet potato pieces, some mushrooms, salad and several types of seeds. We could choose our own dressing for the salad, but there was already some in the dish itself.

Apple crumble at Takinoa
Apple crumble dessert!

We tried two desserts;  an apple crumble with cinnamon and pistachio and a pudding-y dessert with Matcha tea and steamed pear. The apple crumble was just apple sauce with some crumble on top…a bit disappointing. The pudding was nicer, it was topped with goji berries, and had a very interesting texture.

Pudding dessert at Takinoa
Matcha pudding with steamed pear and goji berries

Afterwards, I had a coffee with a vegan cookie. The cookie was a bit salty, it went quite well with coffee. They also have vegan ‘energy balls’.

Coffee at Takinoa
Coffee with plant-milk and a cookie

Overall the food was okay, but a bit on the expensive side. If you take-out, the food it is a bit cheaper.

Type of place: health food
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes!

Website (French): http://takinoa.com/

Athens – Miscellaneous

A slightly different format today! Normally I write about a single place but today we’ll do a round-up with short reviews!  I was in Athens a few weeks ago, and I visited a bunch of  different food places. I didn’t get enough material to create a full post for all of them. Still, I want to give a shout-out to all the good food I had!

Greece is not really a place that is known to be very vegan-friendly, since the food is heavy on the meat and feta, but Athens is great for vegans! There’s a bunch of really good vegetarian/vegan-only places. I wrote about a few (Cookoomela Grill ,Avocado) and there are some more posts in my draft folder waiting to be uploaded! But also at the street food places, like Kumpirista, and more ‘traditional’ eateries, like Tivoli, you can get some good vegan food. There are some traditional Greek vegan dishes, for example, dolmades (rice-stuffed vine-leaves) and spanakorizo (spinach with rice), which are often vegan.

Graffiti in Athens

Street food

 

Oven Sesame:

Oven Sesame is a street food place found in two locations in Athens. The location I visited had no space to sit inside, but a small terrace in front. They serve stuffed sesame pita, salads, sides, sweets, breakfast and juices. The vegan options are clearly marked on the menu. I tried the vegan pita, which is stuffed with grilled vegetables and pink tahini sauce, with a side of potato wedges and a lemonade. Very good!

Vegan food at Oven Sesame
Fruit smoothie, vegan sesame pita, potato wedges and pink tahini dip

Website: http://oven-sesame.com/

Kumpirista:

Home of the kumpir (baked potato )!  I spotted this place because it was next to Cookoomela Grill! Kumpir are a popular type of fast-food in Turkey (Greece and Turkey influenced each other greatly).  The (huge) potatoes are baked in an oven, cut open, partially mashed and filled with all types of toppings such as herbs, sauces and vegetables. Generally the base recipe contains butter but this is subbed for olive oil in the vegan version. The vegan kumpir on the menu is served with couscous, black beans, olives, carrots, salad, aubergine and ketchup. But you can also create your own version with the available toppings.

Kumpir at Kumpirista
Vegan baked potato with allll the toppings!

Website: https://www.facebook.com/Kumpirista-874884449329618/

 

Lukumades

Lukumades are traditional Greek sweets. Also called ‘Greek doughnuts’,  lukumades are deep-fried dough balls served in sauce. Vegan options are not marked on the menu, but ask and the staff will tell you. When I visited there were several options, like powdered sugar, dark chocolate and peanut butter sauce. I tried the peanut butter and powdered sugar version…it is so good! The place itself is pretty popular, they also serve ice cream and milkshakes, but I don’t think those are vegan.

Lukumades
Lukumades in peanut butter sauce and with powder sugar

Website (Greek, English): http://lukumades.com/

Acropolis in Athens

Restaurants/Bars

 

Tivoli

A restaurant/bar with live music, which has been around since 1974. We arrived quite early (for Greek standards) so the place was quite empty still, but it seems to be quite popular usually. We actually ended up there by accident when looking for the vegetarian restaurant called Trivoli…it was a happy accident though because those dolmades were indeed *chefs kiss* They were served warm, which was interesting since dolmades are usually served cold. They were made according to an authentic Greek recipe passed down generations. Also serves a great eggplant dip!

Starters at Tivoli
Dolmades, eggplant dip and tasty bread

Website (Greek): http://tivoli-live.gr/

 

Yiasemi

Plaka is a pedestrian area, with a lot of stairs, and a lot of bars and restaurants. It is very cute and not just for tourists. In fact, this tearoom/restaurant was recommended to me by a Greek colleague! Yiasemi is a super cute café, with a terrace and an inside sitting area. They serve drinks, snacks, food and desserts. There were several vegan snacks and some possibly vegan foods, but unfortunately when we visited they were out of a lot of stuff, like the dolmades. We tried some roasted bread with olives and grilled vegetables, which was good. The atmosphere of the place is great! Perfect to unwind after a long day of touristing about in Athens.

Snacks and drinks at Yiasemi
Seasonal fruit lemonade, coffee, snacks and a cute & cosy atmosphere

Website (English) : https://www.yiasemi.gr/

Dos Caminos (New York, US)

Dos Caminos Interior
Inside Dos Caminos**

Dos Caminos is a chain of Mexican restaurants with several locations in New York. I passed by the Times Square one when I saw a sign with a specific mention of a vegan taco (served with vegan cream!). So I knew I had to check it out!

Dos Caminos is a bar and restaurant. It prides itself on having many different types of tequila, and the food served is Mexican, both street-food style and classic dishes. They also do delivery and take-away.

Dos Caminos interior

Dos Caminos has a brunch, lunch and dinner menu, but I believe the latter two are about the same. The menu is quite extensive, and at first glance not very vegetarian/vegan-friendly: the dinner menu is divided as follows: a guacamole section (several veg*n options), seafood dishes, street-food (several vegetarian options), taco’s (1 vegetarian that can be made vegan), traditional plates (1 vegetarian option), house specialities (no vegetarian options) and sides. There were some salads that seem vegan-isable too. I was happy to spot empanadas too, but unfortunately they cannot be made vegan.

Nachos at Dos Caminos
Nachos with three salsas

I was not surprised by the lack of vegan options, since the Middle-American cuisines tend to be pretty meat heavy and I came for the taco’s anyway 🙂

We started with the nachos with 3 salsas from the guacamole part of the menu. We expected there to be in fact guacamole, but we got indeed nacho chips and 3 salsa’s, but no guac! It seems that the guacamole here just means that it is a starter of some sort. The salsa’s were quite liquid-y and a bit sauce-like rather than chunky. They tasted okay, a bit spicy as expected. The nacho chips were nice, and we actually got a free refill since we were still snacking on them while waiting for our mains. So in true American style we took some home 🙂

Vegan tacos at Dos Caminos
Tacos with vegan cream served on some artsy contraption

The vegan tacos come in a set of 3 and are served on some metal construction, a bit strange, but I guess it is to keep their shape. It was not very easy to eat from though (#wewantplates). The filling consists of mushrooms, guacamole, onions, tomatoes, vegan cotija cheese and vegan cream. The filling is a bit spicy, but definitively not too much. It is also possible to order the tacos as a bowl, but I prefer the original format:)

Sides at Dos Caminos
Papas fritas with mole ketchup and plantains!

For sides we also tried the sweet plantains and ‘papas fritas’ with mole sauce. The plantains are very nice, and the ‘papas fritas’ (which are fries) nicely crisped, but needed some extra salt. This may sound like a weird combination with taco’s but we wanted to test some different things!

Papas Fritas as Dos Caminos

Unfortunately there are no vegan desserts available. Overall Dos Caminos was a nice place to have some taco’s and huge amounts of nachos. I am sure that in New York there are many more places to find good Mexican food though.

Type of place: Mexican restaurant
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: no

Website (English): https://www.doscaminos.com/

** When editing the pictures for this post I noticed a lot were not properly focussed and very dark 😦

Avocado (Athens, Greece)

Outside of Avocado

Avocado is a vegetarian restaurant in Athens that has been around for several years.  The founders actually started with having a yoga studio, and the food served at Avocado has a focus on health as well. A lot of the food is labelled organic, and they serve some specific macrobiotic dishes. Avocado uses local, organic and seasonal products for as far as possible. Apart from the macrobiotic food, they serve pastas, pizza, soup, noodles, wraps, burgers and more. For drinks there are smoothies, juices, wines, tea, coffee etc.

Interior at Avocado

There is some confusion on the internet whether or not Avocado is vegan or vegetarian. It is vegetarian, but they serve several vegan dishes and items that can be served vegan. On the menu card it is listed which items are vegan, gluten-free or wheat-free. I did notice some discrepancies between the online menu and the menu card in Avocado itself, so maybe there had been a recent update of dishes. For example, we tried the falafel plate which was listed as ‘can be made vegan’ in the restaurant, and as ‘vegan’ online.

Drinks at Avocado
Coconut smoothie hiding a beer!

I tried a coconut milk shake, made with coconut and almond milk. This smoothie was specifically mentioned as vegan. Some of the other drinks can be made vegan upon request (at a surcharge). I really enjoyed it, the taste was just purely coconut, which I happen to enjoy.

Spinach tart at Avocado
“Mother Earth” spinach tart topped with almonds

For starters we tried the ‘Mother Earth’, a spinach tart, and the falafel plate (made vegan).  The spinach tart is based on traditional Greek food. The spinach part and the dough were tasty, though the dough, which is made with oat, amaranth and flax seed, was quite hard and a bit chewy. The tart itself was topped with almond and some were burned. Unfortunately, the tart was clearly re-heated in the microwave since some parts were cold and others were very hot.

Falafel plate at Avocado
Falafel plate: these falafels are huge!

We were warned that the falafel plate was big, and that was no lie! We were told we could bag up what we couldn’t finish, but as we spend the whole day walking around, a doggy bag was not needed. The falafel plate in its vegan form is served with guacamole which I found a bit strange. It is served with nice thick pita and tabbouleh with capers. The falafel themselves were very good!

Black Bean Caponata at Avocado
Black Bean Caponata wrap with nachos and gauc

What was a bit surprising was that we got the starters one at the time. The mains we got both at the same time. We tried a Black Bean Caponata wrap and a Koula panini. Both are served with guacamole and nachos. (I read later on the menu for the Koula panini we could’ve chosen sweet potato flakes. Well, next time :))  The Black Bean wrap is Mexican-inspired, with grains, black beans, avocado and veggies. The Koula panini has a potato-mushroom patty, tomatoes and home-made Ceasar dressing.

Koula panini at Avocado
Koula panini, also served with guac and nachos

There are two vegan desserts, and we tried the ‘hug a tree’: a slice of apple pie topped with hazelnuts and almonds. Interestingly with a similar crust as the spinach pie. Very nice, but again reheated in such a way that parts of it were cold.  We had the dessert with a nice coffee. Avocado offers soy and almond milk, but again for a small surcharge (it is organic though).

Apple pie at Avocado
“Hug a tree” apple pie

The atmosphere at Avocado is quite relaxed, with music from the 50s-60s. Interestingly there were quite a lot of older people for lunch. The food is a bit more expensive than the norm in Athens, but overall the quality is good (except for where they failed to properly heat the food). I also liked the portion sizes; many “health”-oriented places serve smaller amounts of food in my experience.

Cappuccino at Avocado
(Organic) Soy cappuccino

The service was also good, which I found common in Athens. The servers came by several times to ask if we liked the food. Which is nice, except sometimes I just had one bite so I couldn’t really judge yet 😀 The food also came out quite fast. Minor nitpick was that the service was a bit too fast with taking the plates, which gave a bit of a rushed feeling. But overall eating at Avocado was a positive experience!

Type of place: Vegetarian/Health restaurant
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes

Website (English) : https://www.avocadoathens.com/

Zum Wohl (Vienna, Austria)

Inside Zum Wohl

A few weeks ago I wrote about Vegana Indiana, a fully vegan and gluten-free restaurant that serves delicious food. Today another gluten-free restaurant! While Zum Wohl is not veggie-exclusive, they have a lot of vegetarian and vegan options, which are clearly marked on the menu card. The restaurant is also lactose-free, so many allergy-suffers can eat here without problems. Zum Wohl calls themselves “the restaurant that all can enjoy” and I have to agree with that statement!

Interior at Zum Wohl

 

Zum Wohl has a relaxed atmosphere and a cozy interior, a bit like an older style bistro. It reminded me a of  Spinoza , another great bistro. We visited quite late for dinner, and it was not very busy anymore. There is a large room, and a smaller room in the back where a football (soccer) game was on. We didn’t watch though 🙂 There’s also a nice terrace outside. I believe they also do delivery via Foodora. There is a special, smaller lunch menu and a more extensive menu for dinner.

Ready for food!

Zum Wohl focuses on fresh, regional ingredients, and the menu card actually mentions several of these local suppliers. The food that is served is a mix of more typical Austrian fare, like “knödel” and pancakes, Italian dishes like risottos and pasta, and more exotic foods like a quinoa salad and a chickpea curry. As with all Austrian places I have seen so far, for every dish (common) allergens which might be present are noted.

Beet carpaccio at Zum Wohl
Beet carpaccio

We started with the fermented red beet carpaccio, with balsamic cream and nuts. The sour sauce goes very well with the sweet beets! It is served with a small slice coarse bread, which I like. There was a little bit of salad on the beets but it could’ve been left off because it was looking pretty sad.

Spinatknödel at Zum Wohl
Spinatknödel in tomato sauce with nut pesto

After we tried the “spinatknödel” (spinach dumplings) in tomato sauce, served with nut pesto, and zucchini/carrot noodles in sauce, with herb pesto. I really liked the spinach dumplings, the dough is actually mixed with the spinach, rather than the spinach being packaged in the dough. This creates a very interesting spongy texture, which sounds strange but it was very good! The noodles were served in a sauce with beans and potatoes, which is slightly spicy. I also really enjoyed the pesto which is made of nuts. Both dishes are nice and light.

Zoodles and sauce at Zum Wohl
Zucchini and carrot noodles in sauce

There are also vegan desserts at Zum Wohl! Well there is exactly one, but that is sufficient. The dessert is a vegan ‘panna cotta’, topped with coconut shavings and sour berries. It is not very sweet, but like the mains very fresh and light.

Vegan panna cotta at Zum Wohl
Vegan panna cotta!

I really enjoyed the meal and the ambiance at Zum Wohl. The service was also good! What was also nice is that most vegan dishes are actually cheaper than the non-vegan ones.

 

Type of place:  Gluten-free and Lactose-free bistro
Completely vegan: no
Vegan desserts: yes!

Website (German, English) : https://www.zumwohl-gastro.com/

On Tipping

 

“Tipping is not included…” How often have I heard this when going out for dinner?

 

Not that often, actually (surprise!). I’d say about one in 10 times I go out for dinner or lunch, maybe less. Because it is so rare it kinda stands out. So, when recently I again was confronted with this phrase, in a restaurant which was really not that great, it kinda inspired me to write a little post on the subject. Get ready for some random thoughts!

 

The places that I have been told about the “service is not included” are mostly tourist-y places and restaurants in the US. Now I know that in the US tipping is a big deal, because often restaurant employees are underpaid and the tips are part of their livelihood. In Northern Europe, not so much. I am not saying servers are rich, but restaurant workers make a living wage, so all tipping is extra. When going abroad I usually make sure to read up on the local tipping culture to avoid making some social faux pas. For example, in some Asian countries giving a tip is apparently considered rude!

But I do feel that if you are in a very touristic area/appear to be a tourist restaurants are more likely to pull the “Tipping not included :)”-card, even in countries where tipping is not mandatory. (Which is what happened in the restaurant of the second paragraph…)

So when is the tip included? Sometimes you see ‘service compris’ or ‘service included’ on the menu card or the bill, which means that the gratuity *is* in fact included in the price. I noticed this in some restaurants in e.g France and Italy.

Where does the idea of giving extra money on top of a bill come from when it comes to eating out? It is kinda weird if you think about it. If I buy a new phone I won’t tell the salesperson to ‘keep the change’. Or leave some coins in the air plane seat after flying. It seems that gratuity is due to historical reasons; service personnel used to be paid badly and the tips were (a large part of) their income. Additionally there was a power difference, where the wealthy eater would offer some coins to the less affluent service staff.

In many countries this has been changed later and service personnel actually get at least minimum wage. But the habit remained.

Bill at American Dream Diner

Personally, I give some extra money if the service has been good-to-great. If the service is okay it depends on how much coins I have (hey that is a factor too!). Normally I would round the bill up to a nice number to give about 5-10 %** depending on the price of the food.

 

Since I became vegan I have noticed that my tipping behaviour has changed. The availability of vegan options, and the reactions of the staff definitively plays a role here. I tend to tip more at fully vegan restaurants, and restaurants that have good & clearly marked vegan options. Also restaurants that have no vegan options that are willing to make me something special, or are accommodating in another way, will get more money from me.

Because if I go somewhere and people are thoughtful and caring, I want to throw money at them to stimulate them to do that more. I think overall, as a vegan I give larger tips compared to when I was still vegetarian. I do also feel a bit that I am representing a larger group so I want to leave a positive impression 🙂

 

 

What are your thoughts on gratuity & service charges? Do you think tipping is silly and you refuse it or are you always very generous? Did you start tipping more when going vegan too? Let me know! I am always interested to hear others opinions on this, because no matter how rational we approach gratuity, it remains a tricky topic I think.

 

 

**Now, if you are used to tipping 10-20%, that seems super stingy, but remember these people make a normal living wage.

Sources:

Vegana Indiana (Vienna, Austria)

VeganaIndiana_interior

Vegana Indiana is a vegan, gluten-free and dog-friendly bar/restaurant in Vienna, so you can go for coffee and cakes, and also for a full meal. The decorations are natural with a rough edge, with wooden accents and a lot of plants. They play pop music, which makes for an interesting contrast. There is also a terrace, and they do take-away.

Cupcakes at Vegana Indiana
Vegan cupcakes

We initially went in for a coffee and a small snack, but after seeing the menu card we really wanted to try a full-size dish because the food looked very interesting!  The dishes are original, and they use a lot of local ingredients. The menu also states common allergens that might be present in a dish, something I have noticed in other Viennese restaurants as well.

VeganaIndiana_interior3

We shared a dish of Gary (vegan cheese**) and potatoes which was served with cranberries and vegan mayonnaise. The potatoes are nice and crispy and the vegan cheese is very tasty.  We also got a small (gluten-free!) piece of bread with it, which was tasty.

Gary with potatoes at Vegana Indiana
“Gary” or vegan cheese, with baked potatoes, cranberries and vegan mayonnaise

I also tried ice coffee with almond milk, which has actual ice cream!

Ice coffee at Vegana Indiana
Ice coffee

For dessert we tried a pancake with jam (tasty, not very special), and a ‘marillenknödel’, a dumpling with apricot. These dumplings are quite specific to the Austrian and Czech cuisine. They are formed from dough, a whole apricot is put inside, then they are boiled in salted water and covered with bread crumbs and powdered sugar.  I never had one before so I didn’t know what to expect. They are not very sweet, the dough was a bit soft and crumbly. Not sure if it is my new favourite pastry, but I am glad to have been able to try this traditional Viennese dish!

Marillenknodel at Vegana Indiana
Marillenknödel, apricot dumpling

So yes, great place, can recommend! One downside: Only cash accepted! (Though this is something that seems a bit more common in Vienna)

Pancake dessert at Vegana Indiana
Pancake with jam; a classic
Type of place: vegan and gluten-free restaurant, take-away
Completely vegan: yes
Vegan desserts: yes

Website (German) : http://www.vegana-indiana.at