Friday, July 28, 2017

Rainbow Potluck! Eat the Rainbow!

It's the most colorful time of the year:
Double Rainbow Potluck! 

Next month, one of my beloved besties is moving all the way across the country. She is also one of the founding members of our glorious annual Rainbow Potluck. We usually hold our rainbow potluck in late summer, but this year we decided to push it up a bit, so that we could squeeze in one more potluck together. We had almost everyone there* and it was really a wonderful gathering. Each year our food gets better and our friendships deepen, and it just gets better and better. 

In case you don't already know about the annual Double Rainbow Potluck, it is a very special event, in which we collectively aim to prepare both a savory dish and a sweet dish from all six colors of the rainbow. Colorfulness should be achieved primarily with plants (not just by adding food coloring), but of course creativity is allowed and rules are meant to be broken! We all sign up ahead of time for the dishes we want to make, and then it's off to the races! 

(*We missed you Alana, Jake, Enzo and Kendra!!!)

Red Savory: Flatbreads featuring Tomatoes and Bell Peppers
(gluten-y and gluten-free varieties)

Our pal Nikki staked her claim to Red Savory and Red Sweet this year! For the savory dish, she made these beautiful and delicious little flatbreads. After I took this picture, we cut them into little pizza slices, and I'll admit that I went back for seconds. Such a wonderful combo: pizza crust + fresh tomatoes = heaven on earth. Also, those beautiful and perfect cherry tomatoes were from her garden. What a treat!! 

Red Sweet: Plum Compote (and Plum Syrup to be mixed with Fizzy Water) 

For Red Sweet, Nikki made this lovely and perfectly simple Plum Compote. Plums have a natural tartness and they were just perfect cooked with a bit of sugar. They were so delicious. It's fun having the Rainbow Potluck a bit earlier in the year than we usually have it because we had different produce to choose from! 

Orange Savory: Orange Tacos!

I signed up for Orange Savory. Sophia and I were fondly remembering the year when I made all-green tacos, and I decided to try again, this time with All-Orange Tacos. They were so fun to make and were super tasty. I mean, really, it's hard to go wrong with tacos! Here's what I put in them:

orange taco fixin's
I know it mostly looks yellow, but just pretend with me, okay?! 

For orange tacos, I made homemade tortillas, and made the masa orange-y by adding tomato paste and some rehydrated sundried tomatoes. I thought it would be easier to dye the tortillas orange with some annatto and chili powder, but those ingredients just disappeared into the tortilla batter. The tomatoes did the trick! I also made: homemade pico de gallo salsa using orange tomatoes, the sweet-potato-based Nacho Cheeze Sauce from DIY Vegan, roasted orange bell peppers, and the Cauliflower Taco Crumbles from "The Complete Guide to Even More Vegan Substitutions." I love those Cauliflower Crumbles so much! They are spicy and flavorful and delicious! To make them more orange-y and more flavorful, I used some annatto oil instead of regular olive oil. 

I was super happy with how my orange tacos turned out! 

Don't color-police us! We call this yellow! 

For Yellow Savory, Sophia made a Polenta Tart with Tomatoes, Summer Squash and Meyer Lemon. She is always a creative cook, and this pizza/tart creation was so good - she used baked polenta as the crust, put on some homemade cashew cheese, and then the veggies on top. The cheese had a great tangy funk to it (in all the right ways!) and was so good with the bright acid from the heirloom tomatoes. 

color police are not invited to the potluck

bowl of flavorful goodness

We had two solid contributions for Green Savory, both from Kenan. First he made this huge batch of Turkish Green Beans (even served in a beautiful green dish). They were so perfectly seasoned (enough to make them interesting and special, but not to take over or dominate the natural goodness of a green bean!). He just got home from 9 months in Turkey, so it was extra lovely that he brought a Turkish dish to share with us! 

you gotta have salad! 

It's generally a good idea to have a nice Green Salad at a potluck, and I was so glad that Kenan brought an extra Green Savory salad - it was so good: baby salad greens, avocado, broccoli, and a few other green goodies. A proper potluck is an indulgent affair, and it feels morally good to get in a good serving of salad at the same time. This salad was also super delicious and I went back for seconds! 

super special green drinks

Hannae signed up for Green Sweet and brought this Tonic with Cucumber, Mint, and Gallia Melon. Hannae is seriously gifted in art of tonics with fruits and veggies and fresh herbs, and I always love her concoctions. She also brought along a big bottle of fizzy water to mix with it. So lovely and refreshing. I gotta remember to make more special drinks like this! 


oh ho! What's this??

Blue is always the hardest potluck color. There just aren't many (any?) naturally blue foods. I mean, we all know what "blue corn" looks like, and let's just say it's not bright blue. Many years ago, Max mentioned some fancy blue flowers that you could order from Thailand that would turn things blue... but the shipping took months and we never got it together to try. UNTIL THIS YEAR.

I have been following some blue pea flower companies on Instagram, and finally made a purchase on Amazon - I went for the flowers themselves (which are used for tea, and for dying foods blue naturally), and I found a brand that wasn't prohibitively expensive, and that would arrive relatively quickly. And so it came to pass that we have our finest submissions ever in the blue category!!


For Blue Savory, Max made this absolutely beautiful and super-delicious Homemade Blue Pasta! On top was a simple and perfectly summery mix of fresh basil lightly sauteed with garlic in olive oil. Oh man, this pasta was so fantastic. This picture doesn't really show how blue it was. It was bluer than this, and you couldn't taste the flavor of the flowers at all - it was just delicious, toothsome fresh pasta. What a treat! And so fun to eat! 

Check that blue biz out!

For Blue Sweet, I made Blueberry Sticky Rice - basically I followed the instructions for Mango Sticky rice, but I used my blue flowers to dye the coconut milk mixture blue, and then I used blueberries instead of mango! I had seen some pictures of blue rice online and it was just kinda blue and also kinda grey. I did not want that. I wanted BLUE. 

You guys, this picture is totally what these sticky rices looked like! And they were so good! I was quite chuffed with my creation. Blue dreams do come true! 

These are the flowers I bought to dye our food blue. You really don't need too many to get a super, super blue effect. So, I have lots left, which means that I can continue to experiment with the joys and oddity of blue food! I'll probably try some as tea too, because it seems like they have a nice aroma on their own. 

I'm sorry to be "one of those bloggers" but I am going to make you look at another picture of my blue sticky rice because I am so very pleased with myself. Can you believe that this is actually what they looked like??? I swear to you, this is not a filter! It was actually kind of alarming and weird to eat something so blue.

my favorite color always and forever

fading traces of purpleness

For Purple Savory, Max made Purple Green Beans sauteed with Red Onions. When he bought these at the farmers market, they were deep purple. Isn't it odd how purple beans turn green when you cook them?? So I took this picture as soon as I got to the potluck and you can see that many of the beans still have a touch of purpleness... but by the end of the evening, they were mostly all green. Science! Either way, it was a beautiful and delicious contribution to the meal, and I got some to take home with me too! 

Purple Sweet: Plum Bonbons

Sophia made these bonbons with plum jam (I think!?) and chocolate. They were soft and super, super plummy and actually quite tangy! You know how a plum can be quite tart? These bonbons somehow preserved that bright, tart experience of a fresh plum, along with the richness of chocolate. They were also soft and fun to eat! 

Purple Sweet: Lemonade with Beet and Lavender

One of the vendors at the farmers market has been selling this beautiful lemonade, and I decided to take a $5 splurge and buy some for the rainbow potluck. Oh man, it was so incredibly lovely and SO beautiful. I don't think these pictures do justice to the amazing color of this lemonade. As we were enjoying our potluck dinner, the warm summer light of the end-of-the-day was coming in the windows and our glasses of purple lemonade were *glowing* with color. It was pretty mind-blowing! Would drink again! 

rainbows are great 
and arranging things is rainbow order is also great and emotionally satisfying

Rainbow Desserts Plate:

Somehow I forgot to take a picture of my very colorful and jam-packed dinner plate, but I didn't forget the desserts. It's a good thing too, because there are two desserts here that I didn't get proper pictures of on their own:

Orange Sweet: Hannae made a very perfect and summery Peach Crisp. I had been thinking about fruit crisps, and how it had been too long... and then this showed up at the party! Perfect! A good peach crisp is truly one of life's joys and this was so delicious. She also brought along some Coconut Bliss Vanilla ice cream, because everyone knows that fruit crisp and ice cream are a match made in heaven... but guess what?...

For Yellow Sweet Sophia made Sweet Corn Ice Cream! How cool is that? (no pun intended). A long time ago, I tried to make corn ice cream and it wasn't a big hit or very successful, but of course Sophia's was amazing! And SO good with the peach cobbler!! What a lovely summer pairing. 

a blurry overhead shot of our beautiful, colorful, delicious feast! 
complete with rainbow socks!

Such a great potluck - beautiful and creative food, such a great array of flavors and colors and textures and fruits and veggies... definitely a wonderful way to celebrate the beauty and variety of nature's bounty, and of vegan food! And especially wonderful in the company of this excellent group of people who I love and admire! I hope you are also enjoying the glory of summer produce! 

Eat the Rainbow!!
my beloved rainbow pals

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Amazing Estonia: Overnight Trip to Tartu

Beautiful Estonia!!

We also spent a couple days in Tartu, a hopping university town a couple hours south of Tallinn. We wanted to see the Estonian National Museum and also we just wanted to see a little more of this country besides the national capital. I'm so glad we did. Tartu is a beautiful small city, bustling with university presence, and we just happened to be there for Kid's Day, and the whole city center was full of kiddos of all ages having fun at about 1000 different activity stations that had been set up. It was quite grand. 

Hotel Lydia breakfast delights

We stayed at a kind of swank hotel called Hotel Lydia. We were only staying one night, and we decided to splurge. What fun! It was a really gorgeous hotel, right in the center of town. The staff was super helpful and helped us think of a bunch of restaurants that would have good vegan and non-vegan options. The hotel even had a beautiful spa downstairs. Mr VE&T went to the spa for about an hour, and were the only people there. Heck yeah! We pretended we were fancy people! 

Hotel Lydia has a huge breakfast buffet, the vast majority of which is decidedly not vegan. I was able to get soy milk for my muesli, and had bread with jam, fruit, and a few little veggies. They also made me a soy cappuccino, which was excellent. I love a breakfast buffet, even when there are just a few vegan choices, it still makes me happy. I am a breakfast fan forever. 

feeling fancy after a little time in the hotel spa!

Directly across the street from our hotel was the restaurant that we decided to eat at for dinner: Umb Roht. Wowsers. It was really good. They always have a vegan option on the menu. My mom and I both ordered the Broccoli / Crispy Kale / Snap Peas / Pine Seeds. It was very lovely - light, but very well seasoned and not insubstantial. The broccos were cooked perfectly and the kale was salty and roasted into kale chips... which made for a nice balance of textures and sweeter/saltier.  

Oh ho!
On the way out of Umb Roht, I noticed a poster advertising an all-vegan even they had coming up about 10 days after we would be there. I would have loved that, but even though we missed it, I loved that a non-vegan restaurant was interested in vegan food, and had enough respect for vegan cuisine that they would create a whole event around it. So cool. I felt like we had this experience at so many restaurants in Estonia, and I wish we had more of that where I live, here in California!! Major points for Estonia! 

More vegan options in Tartu

We only spent one night in Tartu, so I didn't have time to check out all the vegan spots that I'd found on instagram and that the people at our hotel recommended to us. Pahupidi (all vegan and gf!!), Kohvik Krempel, and Sade all had vegan options, and just walking down the street we also saw "vegan pitsa" (aka "pizza") at this spot Ruuni Pizza. I mean, really. A vegan in Tartu will be just fine. There's also a BioMarket (natural foods store with lots of vegan options) right in the city center.

We also made our way over to a very cool spot -- a "Creative City." This large building was a Soviet "widget factory" where all sorts of things were made: from zippers to submarine parts. Check out a link here for a little more info. Today it has been turned into a totally thriving community for cafes, a used book store, a printing museum, gallery space, a courtyard for flea markets and concerts, and workspaces for artists, designers, and others. It is SO COOL. The interior of the whole building was chic, edgy, super hip, and felt like it was bursting at the seams with creative energy.

In that building is a restaurant called Aparaat. For lunch time (when we were there) they have just two items on the menu: meat of the day or vegan dish of the day. The prices are extremely reasonable (I think my lunch was 5 Euro?). My dish was a rice noodles with veggies stir fry, served with a veggie cutlet, portabello mushroom, and a vegan cream sauce. So creative and interesting and unlike anything else I've had. 

For dinner, they have quite an extensive menu, including a whole lot of vegan options across the menu (appetizers, entrees, desserts...). Heck, yeah! 

Top two pictures: Estonian National Museum, outside of Tartu
Bottom two pictures: KUMU Estonian Art Museum, in Tallinn
(click here to see my post about our time in Tallinn! 

This isn't a food suggestion, but if you make it to Estonia, I really recommend the Estonian National Museum near Tartu. What a gorgeous, compelling, and incredible collection and display. This was probably the most engaging museum I've ever been too. All four of us ended up wandering at our own paces, in our own directions, for HOURS. Cultural artifacts, archeological displays, arts and crafts, meaningful object submitted directly from Estonian citizens, personal stories, political history, linguistic displays, and so on. SO much to see and learn and explore. It's also architecturally stunning. I would love to go back. At dinner that night, we were comparing notes, and we had all seen different things, been moved by different exhibits. It was truly remarkable. 

discussing the museum over dinner

a few Estonian Goodies that I kept for myself

I brought home several nice gifties for my friends and family from Estonia, and of course I bought myself some neat things too. I got a very cool Estonian tee-shirt (using up-cycled fabrics, made by an Estonian designer!), and the neat things you see here:
A beautiful little floral table runner on linen
Sporty socks featuring Estonian designs & by the Estonian sock company Etno
Sea Buckthorn fruit gums
Sea Buckthorn flour (!?)
Spruce tip powder (!?)

In hindsight, I wish I had picked up even more special things and food treats while there. Maybe I will find an Estonian vegan pal who wants to do a California-Estonia swap in the mail! In the meantime, if you have any suggestions for what to do with my two impulse purchases: Sea Buckthorn Flour and Spruce Tip Powder, I am all ears!! 

I'm sure you can tell, but I am officially a #1 fan of Estonia now, and I have been telling anyone who will listen all about it - and encouraging them to travel there as well. There is so much more that I would love to see, other cities, rural areas, the islands, cultural festivals... and on and on. I really hope to go back again someday. Until then, I'll put on my Estonian socks and dream about it. 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Amazing Estonia: Our time in Tallinn

I have absolutely fallen in love with Estonia! In late May/early June, we traveled to Estonia with my parents. We spent a week there, before moving on to Denmark and Sweden (I'll cover each of those in separate, future posts), and Estonia has just stolen my heart. I'll also do another post about our time in Estonia's second largest city, Tartu. And then I plan some recipe posts with recipes inspired by our travels! 

Some info about Estonia: 
Before this trip, I knew very very little about Estonia, and after telling people about our trip, I'd be willing to bet that you don't know much either. Here is a fun and good quick video about Estonia. If you have AmazonPrime, I really recommend the documentary called "The Singing Revolution," about Estonia's non-violent independence from the USSR, which was largely spurred by singing songs celebrating Estonian pride and identity. Estonian is a small country (fewer than 1.5 million people total), and it has only been an official country since 1991. After years of oppression (Soviets, Nazi, Soviets again), they are emerging with a burst of energy that is just amazing: creativity, forward-looking, pride, passion, and drive. Estonian 14-year olds have the highest ranked educations in all of the European Union. Estonia is a global leader in online governance and there is lightning-fast wifi pretty much everywhere. Also, nearly everyone speaks nearly perfect English, so it is an easy place to visit.  

How is it Being Vegan in Estonia?
Well, like any well-traveled vegan, I set off for this trip with a suitcase full of powerbars, hummus, primal strip jerky, and so on. Turns out, I needn't have bothered. Estonia just blew me away with how vegan-friendly it was!! I mean, maybe even more than Santa Cruz? I was surprised and overjoyed to find vegan items (marked as such!) on menu after menu. On this trip, I was traveling with 3 non-vegans, so I didn't get to do a full-out exploration of all that Vegan Tallinn has to offer (I guess I'll have to go back!)... and even so, I didn't have any problem at all eating well. 

Estonia, for the win! 

not necessary!!

Tallinn is the nation's capital, and it is also the largest city in all of Estonia. 
It's up at the northern end of the country, just below Helsinki. There's a charming Old Town, a waterfront, an extensive modern part of town, and lots to see and do.

Reval Cafe at KUMU

One of the first places we stumbled upon was the Reval Cafe at the KUMU (Estonian Art Museum). Reval Cafe is a small chain within Estonia, with 12 locations currently, including that they are the official museum cafe here at KUMU. I wasn't expecting much, since most museum cafes in the U.S. don't have much in the way of vegan options, but - lo! - we were in Estonia, not in the U.S. and there were *many* vegan options on the menu. I actually had several choices and got to select! 

One thing I ordered right away was a big glass of Sea Buckthorn Juice. Look at that color! This stuff was seriously intense and good! Before leaving for this trip, I saw several Estonian instagram accounts featuring "sea buckthorn," a fruit we don't have here in California. So I was eager to try it as often as possible. It's a serious power fruit -- you can taste the Vitamin C! 

The KUMU is in a beautiful park called Kadriorg Park. The museum is quite lovely and totally surprised me with the quality of its collection, design, architecture, and feel. 

Revel in the Reval! 

Happily, there are several Reval locations in Tallinn (and Tartu), and we hit them up more than once. A great spot for everyone to come in out of the cold, have some coffee (non dairy milk is always available!), vegan and non-veg options for all sorts of eaters, free bread (!!)... it quickly became a favorite spot for all of us and suited the needs of our group perfectly. To be clear, they have loads and loads of non-vegan items, and lots more choices for non-vegans, but to offer consistently 3-4 very attractive vegan options at all their locations seemed very impressive to me. 

Top left: Vegan Tower with Tofu and Chickpea Cutlet
Top right: Parsnip-Carrot Puree Soup with coconut milk, tofu, and seeds
Bottom left: Falafels with Roasted Vegetables and Vegan Tzatziki
Bottom right: one of many, many soy or almond lattes that I enjoyed on this trip. 

I mean, honestly, those are some pretty legit options, right? That fancy one with the blossoms on it was seriously SO good and filling. And it was only 8 Euro. Shazam! 

We stumbled onto this spot called Rataskaevu 16 (which is also their address) when the vegan restaurant next door was all booked up (more on that later). We were all a little hangry, and this place was just right there... so in we went. Turns out, we lucked our way into one of Tallinn's most well-regarded spots. This is definitely *not* an all-vegan establishment, but they did have a very exceptional vegan entree on the menu, a few soup and starter options that were vegan or easily veganized, and offered non-dairy milk for post-lunch coffee. The setting is also very beautiful, right in Old Town Tallinn, with three distinct and super-stylish dining rooms, rustic and modern all at once, and with totally excellent service. They also had a super-cute (and somehow classy?) play area for kiddos, if that's relevant to your life. 

The entree I ordered was:
Lentil Cutlets with Tofu oven-baked beet, green soybeans, pistachio nuts, garlic and olive oil sauce
And it was really spectacular. Delicious, creative, wholesome, beautiful, filling, and not heavy. Honestly, here in Santa Cruz it can be hard to find nice non-veg restaurants that also offer vegan options, and especially vegan options that feel special and worth eating. 

Estonians are also crazy about their black bread, which works out well, because we were all crazy about it too. It's so good. Every single cafe and restaurant we went to offered delicious bread, almost always made in-house. There was a wonderful array of flavors and variety among the breads we tried. Sometimes the bread will have egg white brushed on the crust. Nearly every person we met in Estonia, and certainly everyone working at a restaurant, spoke very good English, so it's easy to ask and get clarification.

Very happy with my delicious vegan meal! 

Tallinn, 10:45pm
Because Estonia is quite far north, and we were there right before the summer solstice, we got to experience the glory of long, long days. It was so beautiful. Incidentally, it was also really cold. One day I wore 7 layers of clothing. Whoa. Next time I will pack warmer! 

7 layers of clothing!!!

Vegan Restoran V

Vegan Restoran V is about 2 doors down from Rataskaevu 16 (as you can see from their address on the take-away box. If you are only going to have time for one special vegan stop in Tallinn, this should be it. Before leaving for this trip, I did some snooping around on instagram, looking at #veganestonia #vegantallinn, and so on. Vegan Restoran V quickly caught my attention with their beautiful creations, and I was determined to take my family there. But the first two times we went, they were all booked up!! I mean, obviously, that's great that so many people want to be eating vegan food... but I want to be eating it too! The second time we stopped by, they were booked up, but I *wisely* decided to get a piece of fancy cake for take-away. Why didn't I do that the first time? This was their Snickers Pie and it was A+ Yumz: cookie base, caramel, cream layer, cake layer, thick chocolate layer. Would eat again. And again.

Food, food, glorious vegan food!!! 

Still I wanted the whole experience, so I finally I buckled down and made a reservation for our last night in Tallinn... (after a performance at the Estonian National Opera). It was such a wonderful meal - and perfectly fancy and special after a night at the opera. We all enjoyed what we had chosen. The food here is creative, delicious, satisfying, innovative, and super beautiful. 

A few highlights:

top row, middle: Starter Plate
hot diggity dog! This was a hit and we all loved it. Really, it's designed to be split between two people, but we were ordering a lot of food, so we just cut each piece in half. So many creative and delicious flavors -- especially the toasts with carrot "lox" and the little zucchini rolatini stuffed with cheese. So good.

center row, middle: Vegetable salad with rice noodles and Peanut ice cream
My dad surprised me by ordering this adventurous dish, and it was really good! The peanut ice cream was exactly that - but it was savory and served essentially as a salad dressing... but with the added textural complexity of temperature and creaminess. So cool! 

center row, right: Zucchini noodles and red quinoa salad with grilled avocado, tofu, and pesto
This was my entree choice, and I loved it. It almost made me want to buy a spiralizer so I can make myself zucchini noodles! 

bottom row, left: Grilled Tempeh on Vegetable Pile-Up with brown basmati rice and tomato coconut sauce
My mom and Mr. VE&T both ordered this dish, and they both loved it! I wish I had taken a bite, but I was too busy focusing on my own eating needs. 

bottom row, middle: special array of beverages! 
Estonians are crazy about beer! I'm not, but my dad and Mr. VE&T both enjoyed several beers on our trip. At Restoran V, I also ordered Estonian sparkling water (Varska), a sea buckthorn soda (yeah!), and a "ginger shot." We had seen these "ginger shots" on other menus and I was curious. In fact, we saw them throughout our whole trip - it's essentially very pungent ginger juice, usually cut with something sweet like apple juice. Very nice! 

sweet goodness

these are the feelings after eating at Vegan Restoran V

Of course we also had dessert! We got two selections from their cake display: Cheesecake and Chocolate Tart.  I especially loved the chocolate tart (I mean, duh!) - it was rich and smooth and creamy, and a perfect finish after our special meal! 

None of us left feeling overly stuffed or uncomfortably full - just a bunch of very happy clams! The food at Restoran V is so good, and so satisfying, but also quite healthy (without resembling "health food"). It wasn't at all greasy or heavy. It's pretty unusual to have such a big meal, that feels so special, and also feel like you're not going to explode afterwards. 

A typical breakfast at our sweet little apartment...

We had a great little apartment, very near Old Town, and well-situated for getting around on foot or on transit. Mornings were spent drinking coffee, deciding on the day's tourist action plan, and enjoying a nice breakfast together. We always maintained a good supply of Estonian black bread, non-vegan stuff for the others, tomatoes and cucumbers, fruits, and vegan and non-vegan yogurts. I also had brought along some shelf-stable packets of hummus from Wild Garden, and they were great for my breakfast bread. It wasn't hard at all to track down some delicious Euro vegan yogurts, they were available at pretty much every grocery store I found. Yeah! I have a deep love for euro soy yogurt, and I always try to eat as much as possible when I am traveling! 

be still, my heart
I love you, Euro Yogurt

If you are lucky enough to find yourself in Tallinn, the Solaris Shopping Mall is a good place to know about. Downstairs in the lower level of the mall, there's a huge (and excellent!) grocery store that is open 9am-11pm. They had an amazing array of stuff - special Estonian gifts, crunchy taco shells, wasabi, and basically everything you would expect and more. 

Right next door to the big market is a BioMarket, an Estonian natural foods store with a wonderfully vast array of vegan goodies. Everything your little vegan heart desires and more: yogurts, ice cream, euro candies, Estonian treats, and more more more. There are two other BioMarket locations in Tallinn.

Also good to know about: Lido is a Latvian buffett restaurant on to top level -- super fun folksy Latvian decor. They've got LOTS of non-vegan options, but a sufficient number of vegan options at very affordable prices. I loved that I could get water with mint leaves and fresh cranberries in it! 

Cafe Gustav on the lower level has non dairy milk, and makes a nice *vegan* chocolate cake! Boy, I did not expect to walk into a random cafe in Estonia and find vegan chocolate cake on the menu. Right about now, I was really falling in love with Estonia, ha ha. 

Estonian Design House is a very chic shop featuring beautiful and artsy creations by Estonian designers. They have a bigger location in the Kalamaja area of town, but the shop in Solaris is great too! I bought myself an upcycled tshirt by an Estonian designer and I love it. 

Outside of the "Old Town" part of Tallinn, there are also a lot of great areas to explore - particularly the Kalamaja area. We went to the Teleskivi Creative City, "an old industrial territory springing to life, existing architecture finding new and alternative purposes." It's really pretty amazing - a former industrial building repurposed for shared creative workspace: cafes, restaurants, designers, a theatre, small shops, and more. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived, many of the shops were closed. (This is a problem with these long days -- there's still so much daylight left and then you realize it's 7 pm -- or later!) But we still walked around a bit, and could see that it was a thriving scene. There were little art interventions posted on walls, posters for upcoming events, and the detritus of a bustling community. I would love to go back and see more - and to explore more of Kalamaja. There's so much to see there.

We did go back at least one more time, for dinner at F-Hoone. F-Hoone is a non-vegan restaurant with vegan options. I ordered the Pumpkin and Chickpea Falafel with Rocket & Quinoa Salad and Cashew Cream. It was very good, hearty, well-seasoned, flavorful and I would eat it again! I also ordered a Sea Buckthorn soda, in order to continue my vow of maximum sea buckthorn consumption. Why is this lovely product totally unavailable in the USA. SAD. 

It was cold on our trip, and we drank a lot of coffee! Plus, when you're out travelling, some times it just feels so good to hunker down in a cozy cafe with a hot cup of coffee, rest your legs, and chill out a little. Besides our beloved Reval Cafe, we also found a nice Caffeine near our apartment. I never had any trouble getting soy &/or almond milk when I ordered coffee. How cool is that? One word to the wise, decaf was pretty much non-existent, so it's sort of all or nothing! 

Yeah! Balti Jaama Turg is fun to say and it's even more fun to go there! This is a super cool market area, which had apparently just been renovated and reopened a few weeks before we arrived. It's part open-air farmers' market, part bazaar, part independent/local food court, and so much more. We had so much fun here and I could have spent even more time here:

Huge Open Air Market - with fruits and veggies and women selling flowers they have foraged. I loved the pickle-making bundles (top right): fennel seeds, a head of garlic, some sort of leaves, and a strip of parsnip (!). 

In the main level of the market, there are TWO all vegan food stalls: Toormoor (Raw, GF & Vegan -see below) and Veg Machine (Baltic Vegan Food). I mean, really, my mind was blown! There's also another big BioMarket here, and a large mainstream grocery store too. On the upper level are a mix of cool little shops. 

We were taking a picture of this little food spot, because it was super cute and there were two young girls sitting in the window making it even cuter. Then I realized that the sign said "VEGAN." Wait, what? We had just eaten a big lunch, so unfortunately I didn't need much, but the gals inside the shop were SO kind and sweet. I bought two raw chocolate truffles to enjoy later on (orange and almond) - and they were wonderful! 
I told Snoopy all about Estonia,
and now he is a fan too

Can you believe that there is a whole chocolate shop right smack in the middle of Old Town Tallinn that is 100% vegan and has super lovely chocolates, ice cream, and pastries. ZOMG! I almost died with enthusiasm. The chocolates come in HUGE pieces that are about 5 Euro each, but they are huge and delicious and will last you a while (or at least, they lasted us a while). This picture captures less than half of what was on offer. Why did I wait until our last day in Tallinn to discover this place?! 

I got two pastries, and 3 huge chocolates. No regrets, other than wishing I had found it on day 1 so that I could have tried more of their amazing creations. Most of these items were devoured without photo-documentation (oops!), but I did snap a pic of these two beauties: on the left is Chocolate Sea Salt, and on the right is Amaretto. Many of the flavors at Karu Talu are super creative: liquors, fruits, nuts, hot chili (!), it was really hard to chose. The chocolates are a bit soft -- sliceable -- but not fudge. They also have some that are more like chocolate bark, with more snap to them. I hope to go back someday, eat more cinnamon rolls, try more chocolates, and try their ice cream too! 

We also went to the Estonian Open Air Museum, which is a huge pastoral area with homes and structures from across Estonia that have been carefully relocated to this park/museum. You can see and learn about houses from different regions of the country, and about the customs of the different regions. It was also just so nice to get into the greenery and feel like we were going for a walk in the woods. We even saw a beautiful red deer! 

They have a restaurant there at the museum, and I was just totally amazed that even here there was a vegan option: cooked veggies, potatoes, black bread. Obviously, this is not gourmet food, but it's a heck of a lot more than I expected (my powerbar from my purse) and it was actually made with love and tasted better than it looked! At least now you know that you won't starve at the Estonian Open Air Museum! 

Other Vegan / Vegan-friendly spots in Tallinn that we didn't explore:
Since I was on this trip with my parents and Mr. VE&T (3 non-vegans), I didn't really get to explore the full array of vegan offerings in Tallinn. In fact, just from looking on Happy Cow and Instagram, I can see that there are so many places that we didn't go. Check out the Happy Cow page for Tallinn, it's really impressive! 

Beautiful Tallinn, 11:45 pm