VeganMoFo 2017: La Margherita, Bologna

The last morning of our holiday was dramatic, but not nearly as dramatic as our last night:  we were sitting quietly in the bedroom of our airbnb watching a new episode of Game of Thrones, when our host knocked to see how we were and what we’d been doing all day.  She saw our window was closed (so that we could hear GoT!), and came storming in to open it, then propped our bedroom door open – it opened into the living room – and called her male visitor (whom she introduced as her dentist) into our room to meet us.

Rather than entertaining him, she spent most of the next hour sitting on our bed and telling us her life story – and what a life it was!  It was excruciating.  She was absolutely wasted, extremely loud, and pretty racist, and I genuinely didn’t know how we would get rid of her.

Eventually she did return to her guest, and we sneakily closed the door and wondered if we could just tie our sheets into a rope and climb down from the fourth floor in the morning.

We didn’t go that far:  we woke up early, saw that she was passed out on the sofa in the living room right outside our door, and tried to tiptoe past to the front door with our bags.  As we opened the front door it let out a long creak, and we heard her call from behind us.  Nooo!  Fortunately we still managed to get out pretty easily, and almost ran to this nearby vegan cafe, La Margherita, where we tried to recover our nerves.  This place was just what we needed.

They had a solid breakfast array:  Dr HH got the last croissant, and I got a delicious slice of carrot cake, which was super moist and nicely spiced.

We stayed for an early lunch too before our flight back to the UK, and shared these two pies.  The one on the left was aubergine, and it was sensational.  That lovely aubergine flavour!  The one on the right was full of potato and tomato, and was also good – but it was no aubergine.

It was the perfect culinary farewell to Italy, and just what we needed after a very intense airbnb experience!

We had such a great adventure in Italy:  the food was largely incredible, we loved almost every place we visited, and we had a gelato every day.  Truly living the dream!  I highly recommend it as a vegan holiday destination, as even the places without an abundance of plant-based food (a)are pretty enough to make up for it, and (b)have gelato.  Oh, gelato!

Thanks for reading along this VeganMoFo – it’s been a lot of work, so I really appreciate everyone who has read/liked/commented throughout October.  I’ve already chosen my theme for next year, so I hope you’ll stick with me!

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VeganMoFo 2017: Peterland – Masterchips, Bologna

I’m a big fan of Happy Cow and it drives me crazy when people don’t update it.  On a Monday night in Bologna, we tried three different places that were listed on Happy Cow as open:  none of them were.  When we got home that evening, it took me about ten minutes to update their opening hours on Happy Cow, and it drives me crazy that neither the company nor any of their customers updated it before me.

It’s even worse when I see a review on Happy Cow complaining that the eatery wasn’t open when it was supposed to be because the hours had changed – but the complainer in turn has not done other people the courtesy of updating it.  I think Happy Cow is the best resource for vegans on the go, and I urge you to update it whenever you can, or one day you will be just like me, spending an hour walking the streets of Bologna from one locked door to another, belly grumbling.

With no other options, we staggered into Peterland-Masterchips, a fast food place not far from where we were staying.  We’d spotted this sign for vegan food, and in our hour of need, it provided.

We both got the vegan burger, which didn’t look quite as grand as in the advertising.  But it was a good seitan patty, which we weren’t really expecting from a generic, omni fast food place.  We also had a choice of condiments, including vegan mayo.  Top marks.

And we shared an order of veggie rings – despite the colours, we think they were 90% potato.  They definitely hit the spot.

Have I added this to Happy Cow? Do you even need to ask?!

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VeganMoFo 2017: Vegan in Ravenna

We’d been planning a day trip to Modena in homage to Master of None, but our airbnb host, in a rare moment of sanity, directed us instead to Ravenna, a seaside town I’d never heard of.  Before I googled the mosaics, of course I checked Happy Cow for the vegan options.  Then the plan got the green light!

It’s a pretty vegan friendly place!  We started with (second) breakfast at Grinder Coffee Lab, a charming little cafe with really fun decor.  There were only two vegan croissants when we got there at 11am – this plain one, and a seeded one.  It was only€1.10, which seemed pretty reasonable, and it was nice and flaky.

We’d planned to return for an afternoon bagel – the Erykah Badu is their vegan option.  But our plans changed when we walked past this sign outside Passatelli, closer to the town centre.  I was torn between the vegan lasagne and the sausage plate – eventually I decided on the former and Dr HH the latter.  When he ordered it, the waiter looked like he’d never even heard of such a dish but he dutifully noted it down.  He came back a minute later to report that it was “finished” – at 2pm on a Monday?!  After that, Dr HH switched to a vegetarian dish instead.  What a shame!

At least I got my lasagne, though. It didn’t contain any ragu, tomato or cheese, and was the greenest dish I’ve ever had, but it was hearty, contained tofu and had some nice creaminess going on.  Acceptable, but not particularly inspiring.

Things picked up when we got to Gelateria Panna e Fragola, though.  It’s a small place with some nice outdoor seating, and some exciting vegan flavours:  peach, coconut, vanilla, almond, pistachio and salted peanut.

How could I resist salted peanut for my last ice cream of the holiday?!  It tasted like a Snickers bar and I couldn’t have been happier.  The pistachio was also really good.  As a bonus, I think this was the cheapest gelato of the trip, and some of the boldest flavours too!

Even without a good range of vegan options, I’d still recommend a trip to Ravenna.  The churches themselves weren’t that exciting…

…but the mosaics really were!  We just wandered around with our mouths agape.

And if you want to make a full day of it, get the bus to the beach as well!  We enjoyed a little paddle in the sea to cool us down.  Mosaics, vegan food and the sea – what more could you want on holiday?!

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VeganMoFo 2017: Gelato in Bologna

The great gelato quest continues, and indeed concludes, in Bologna.  For any gelato afficianado out there, I would strongly recommend following our route travelling east across Italy rather than the reverse:  our gelato journey basically improved at every stop along the way.  I would have been devastated to start with this great gelato in Bologna and see my options dwindling down as I made my way back to Milan.

We only went to two gelaterias in Bologna, but they were very good indeed.  We started out at Cremeria San Francesco, a nice place in a quiet square, a little away from the centre.  This was perhaps the most vegan-friendly gelateria we visited:  they even had vegan brioche for the beloved gelato-in-brioche dish (I wasn’t that excited by it, surprisingly).  I think only one of their cones was vegan though, so do specify when you order. Above is the menu from July:  you can see a lot of vegan options there, and some quite exciting flavours.

I got the gianduia one, which was really rich and creamy and had dark chocolate chunks.  I paired it with the salty pistachio, which was the most flavoursome gelato I had throughout my whole stay.  It was sublime!  Dr HH and I both agreed that this place provided the best gelato of the two weeks.  Bravo!

Next stop:  Stefino Bio.  This place was more central, and also had plenty of vegan options, including some exciting ones:  lemon and basil, chocolate and curry (?!).  I decided to play it relatively safe, and chose the two flavours I’d been hoping for all through the holiday and finally found right at the end here:  coconut, and mint choc chip.

The coconut was good, and the mint choc chip was great!  I wish it had been green, but that’s a minor quibble.

And as if we didn’t already love the Bologna vegan gelato scene enough, check out this artwork left behind by some children at the colouring table!

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VeganMoFo 2017: Un’Altra Idea, Bologna

One very hot day in Bologna (it was 36C), Dr HH and I decided to get up early and make the long walk up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca – a 4km uphill walk under the longest portico in the world (fun fact, it has 666 arches).

Even early in the morning, it was hot!  We began to panic when we saw locals in their trainers and sports clothes while we were amongst the few normally-dressed tourists sweating our way up.  It wasn’t actually too bad, except a brief spell when we were unprotected from the sun – and there were no water taps until we got to the top, so we were very happy to have a couple of full bottles with us!

The view at the top was lovely, and definitely worth the effort!  After that walk we were ravenous, and hurried back downhill for a hearty lunch at Un’Altra Idea in the city centre.

It was a slightly confusing situation:  we were read a list of about 8 different dishes, and told we should choose 5 of them.  While they sounded good, I wasn’t sure how well they would all fit together, so I asked for just two:  the raviolo and the salted cake.  The raviolo, as you can see, was not pasta!  It was almost like a samosa, with potato, caramelised onion and a mild curry flavour.  Alas, it wasn’t warm, but after such a long walk I was happy to have some pastry!

The salted cake was basically a pizza, with a lovely cheesy layer and some roasted potato and carrot on top.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but it definitely wasn’t this!

Dr HH asked for three things:  he also got a raviolo and some salted cake, along with some pasta with spicy chickpeas and tomatoes.  He said the spiciness was debatable, but it was flavoursome – if the kind of thing we’d knock up at home quite easily.  I paid €8 for mine, and he paid €13, and we rather think he got done.

Still, we were really impressed by the raviolo and pizza/tart, and really enjoyed this place.  Mostly because…THEY HAVE FREE TAP WATER!  It’s a beautiful miracle – quite the rarity in Italy, in our experience.  The service was super friendly too.  We returned in the evening for a hot chocolate and a coffee (they had a decent array of plant-based milks), and got a couple of chocolate muffins for breakfast the next morning (I was too tired for photography though). The muffins were nice, but they were €3.50 each, and they weren’t quite that nice!

All in all, this was a cheap and cheerful place, really friendly, and I’d be very happy to go back – ideally without the uphill climb first!

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VeganMoFo 2017: Radici, Bologna

I have quite a lot to say about our two visits to Radici, but first things first:  the cheese plate was amazing!

Radici is an all-vegan restaurant that also specialises in wine (of course I had a glass with my cheese), and though it looks pretty fancy it’s actually surprisingly casual and laidback.  Perfect!

On the first night we visited, we shared the cheese plate and another main course:  rather confusingly, the cheese plate is listed with the other mains, when really it would be best shared between two at the beginning or end of the meal.  And it doesn’t come specifically with bread or crackers – this is the standard cracker basket that is delivered to every table.  So if you’re planning on ordering the cheese plate for ‘dessert’, don’t eat all your crackers first!

There were three cheeses, from left to right:  almond ricotta on citrus jam (beautifully creamy and light); cashew cheese with black olives in sesame seeds, on pesto (so flavoursome); and cashew cheese with poppy seeds, on apricot jam (I loved that poppy seed coating!).  The portions were tiny, and it cost €14, but it was so lovely I would be happy to have it again for a splurge.

When we had this cheese plate, we also shared another item from the mains section of the menu:  the fusilli with pistachio pesto.  It was so wonderfully nutty, oily and flavoursome, I absolutely loved it!  And so the second time we visited, I ordered it again.  This time, it looked like this:

What kind of trickery is this?!  There were some little bits of courgette that weren’t present the day before, presumably to give the appearance of green pesto.  But there was no pesto on there.  If they’d run out of pesto, I wish they had just told me.  It felt like a bit of a con.

Another failure on the second night:  Dr HH ordered the tortellini salad, and got this.  Maybe this too would have been completely different if we’d ordered it the night before – as it was, you couldn’t really call it a salad, and we feel like it must have been missing some kind of dressing/fake butter/oil.  He said it was fine, but very plain.

We didn’t stay for desserts the second night, feeling somewhat cheated.  But on the first night Dr HH tried the tiramisu, his third of the holiday.  It wasn’t the best (that honour still goes to La Lanterna in Verona), but he enjoyed it.

And I had a fruit cheesecake.  They had two different varieties on the night, and I chose this one made of mango and banana.  It had a really thick base, so it gets a thumbs up from me!

And finally, sticking with that glorious first visit:  there was a plate of breakfast pastries on the counter, so we got a couple to take away.  The black one is a charcoal croissant – it’s empty and the colour is purely decorative, but it was really fun to eat!  And the chocolate plait was sticky, buttery and delicious!

It’s quite rare that we visit an eatery twice in the same holiday, which goes to show just how good Radici was on our first night.  But the quality dropped so much the next night that I just don’t know what to think.  Hopefully the second night was the anomaly – it was a Sunday, so maybe they were running low on produce and too stressed to admit it to me.

I’ll always remember the cheese plate though!

Have you ever been somewhere as inconsistent as this?  And how quickly would you devour that cheese plate?!

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VeganMoFo 2017: Bio BO, Bologna

The last stop on our Italian trip was Bologna, where we had quite a strange experience. We’d been really looking forward to a few leisurely days to finish the trip, with nothing big scheduled and the potential for a slower pace.  However, our airbnb host turned out to be such a nightmare that we spent most of our time in hiding and panicking about our next encounter.

We arrived at lunch time and got stuck being talked at for about 30 minutes before we managed to create a diversion and escape, by which time I was weak with hunger.  So I was very happy to stagger into nearby Bio BO for some much-needed sustenance.

It’s mostly a sandwich place, but I’d had my fill of sandwiches by this point.  So I ordered this Viennese salad:  hotdog sausages, tomatoes and butter beans.  It’s not a combination I would have thought of myself, but it was good and filling.

Dr HH had the farinata, after loving it in Radicetonda in Milan.  He said it was fine, but needed more seasoning – as did the spinach and beans, which were totally unseasoned.  We both loved the bread on the side though.

This place is fine for an emergency. It does serve meat, but there are lots of labelled vegan options, and the staff were really helpful.  If only it had solved my airbnb problem too!  Between our very needy host and the intense heat, our stay in Bologna was quite draining and it wasn’t one of my favourite locations on holiday.

However, I was a big fan of all the porticos and the sunset coloured buildings, and I think a visit in the spring (with a stay in a hotel) might completely change my mind about the place!  And fear not, there is better food to come!

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