Reviews written by Ali Seiter

Image for Ali Seiter My website
I'm vegan
Registered on Jun 10 12
 

5 e Cinque in Florence, Italy
Jun 11 12

rating star

A classic tiny Italian trattoria complete with only 5 tables, 5 e Cinque specialized in seasonal, organic, high-quality vegetarian cuisine. The menu is exactly the right size--not overwhelming but with a big enough selection to keep both vegetarians and vegans alike quite happy. The menu also changes often, if not daily, which is the sure sign of a top-notch eatery, in my opinion.

5 e Cinque specializes in chickpea pancakes called "cecina," which are 100% vegan (made with chickpea flour, olive oil, and salt), unless you order them with a slab of highest-quality sheep's milk cheese on top. Other than cheese, they also come plain or topped with grilled vegetables that vary with the season. For my main course, I ordered a pilaf-like dish of barley and swiss chard with caramelized onions and roasted potatoes on the side. Absolutely mouthwatering and completely unexpected. My aunt introduced me to the restaurant with no pretense other than that it was organic and vegetarian, but I had no idea that I could find an incredibly wholesome, healthy meal there complete with whole grains, leafy greens, and protein (in the form of my favorite bean of all: the chickpea). The salads on the menu also looked quite good. Unfortunately, the restaurant only featured non-vegan desserts, but there is a gelateria right across the piazza with delicious vegan sorbets to satisfy your sweet tooth.

I plan to patronize 5 e Cinque quite often during my next few visits to Florence. It is truly an organic, vegetarian gem in the city.

See pictures and more restaurant reviews at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/

Dolce Vegan in Florence, Italy
Jun 11 12

rating star

Dolce Vegan comforted me as one of the only restaurants in Florence where I didn't have to mutter the question "Che sono qui senza latte/formaggio?" (Is there anything here without milk/cheese?) My eating experience was not bad, though nothing special, either. I was pleased to find whole grain bread to munch on while waiting for my food (it did not follow the Tuscan tradition of no salt, which I've actually come to adore, however). My first course was a whole wheat tagliatelle with carrots, zucchini, and greens served with soy cheese on the side. Though a bit oily and salty (oily, of course, expected in Italy), the vegetables had good flavor and I'm always thrilled to find dark leafy greens served in restaurants. However, my second course salad proved a let-down, if not a bit insipid. Tomatoes, capers, raisins, baked tofu, and raw zucchini lay over a bed of lettuce with olive oil on the side. An odd combination of ingredients that did not work together well, plus I could have sworn that I had bought the very same prebaked packaged organic tofu at Naturasi (a health foods market), that very same week. Finally, I sampled a cookie made with spelt flour, sunflower oil, agave nectar, and coconut. Tiny, dry, and crumbly, I remembered why I gave up most baked goods. On the plus side, all the bakery is made with whole grains and no refined sugar. I'm reserving my final judgement for a later trip. Perhaps Dolce Vegan is one of those restaurants where they only do a few things well.

See pictures and more restaurant reviews at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/

Il Vegetariano in Florence, Italy
Jun 10 12

rating star

Easily my favorite vegetarian restaurant in Florence, Il Vegetariano is a beloved longstanding establishment with two indoor dining rooms and one outdoor patio in the back. I waited in line for the restaurant to open at 12:30 with three local Florentines who were clearly regulars at the restaurant based upon the warm "Ciaos!" and cheek-kissing that ensued when the waitress opened the front door.

The service is a bit confusing. You write down what you want from the menu on a pad of paper, hand it to the man behind the counter, pay, take a tray, and stand in line at the salad bar for your food which you take back to a table already complete with a basket full of whole grain bread, eat, and leave your dirty plates for the waiters. Even though I had read about these daunting instructions beforehand, I still found myself a bit naive in the whole process (perhaps because of my terrible grasp of the Italian language, though the staff does speak English).

My favorite aspect of Il Vegetariano is that the menu changes everyday and is clearly marked with vegan selections, plus they have a quite extensive salad bar. The vegan entree on the day I sampled the restaurant was an indian-inspired plate of red lentil dahl, basmati rice, and stewed vegetables. Delicious. The only downside was that the rice was white, not brown, so I left it uneaten on the plate and replaced it with the whole grain bread. I also started with a salad from the bar, which boasts a wide array of raw vegetables (carrots, cherry tomatoes, arugula, mixed greens, etc.), and cooked vegetables (steamed cauliflower, roasted eggplant, onions, peppers, zucchini, etc.), plus you can opt for a dollop of tangy tofu dressing which I happily partook in.

I look forward to my next eating experience at Il Vegetariano.

See pictures and more restaurant reviews at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/

La Raccolta in Florence, Italy
Jun 11 12

rating star

In a previous review, I referred to Il Vegetariano on Via delle Ruote as the best vegetarian restaurant in Florence. This, of course, was before I patronized the superb two-in-one restaurant and health food grocery store La Raccolta.

La Raccolta is truly health conscious, serving only whole grains, a plethora of beautifully and simply prepared vegetables (including my favorite leafy greens!), legumes, succulent sauces, and no-sugar vegan tarts and pastries. The menu offers a wide selection with plenty of vegan options, though vegetarians can still get their cheese kicks if preferred. The highlights of the menu in my opinion are the combination plates. Order a platter of vegetable, grain, and bean dishes, a macrobiotic plate, a large platter to share, or a platter complete with seitan then wait for the chef to concoct a mouthwatering array of vegetarian deliciousness. I opted for the macrobiotic plate which came with brown rice topped with gomasio, brown lentils, sauteed greens with sesame seeds, steamed carrots, sauteed zucchini, steamed cabbage with a nutty sauce, and a miso soup to start. An absolutely perfect, healthy meal and finally one I didn't have to feel guilty about. In fact, I felt so unguilty that I ordered a blueberry tart with a kamut flour crust.

The only downside to La Raccolta is that the prices are a bit steep. While the platters are decently priced and generously portioned at fourteen euro, the rest of the dishes seem too high for what you would supposedly recieve. My tart slice also cost me five euro, which I found way too pricy for the fairly small portion size.

Finally, the service was incredibly friendly and I was lucky enough to have an english-speaking woman as my waitress. I will certainly return to La Raccolta again...and again.

See pictures and more restaurant reviews at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/

NaturaSi in Florence, Italy
Jun 11 12

rating star

Easily the best health food grocery store in Florence, Naturasi served as my go-to market for most vegan staples. Complete with tofu, soy milk, dried fruits and nuts, and a surprisingly large selection of whole grain breads, cereals, and pastas that are not often available in the U.S. (their brown risotto rice verily impressed me as I have not found it yet back in the states). Their produce selection is a bit limited, though I happily bought it comforted by its organic quality (which can prove difficult to find in Italy). The only two products Naturasi lacks are nutritional yeast and flax seed oil, which I bought at De Herbore on Via Proconsolo near Piazza del Duomo.

See pictures and more restaurant reviews at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/

Bloom Bake Shop in Madison, Wisconsin
Jun 10 12

rating star

We celebrated my last birthday with three flavors of cupcakes from the Bloom Bake Shop.

Be a Monkey: "We made this Banana Cupcake with real bananas and Dark Chocolate Chips then topped it with thick Chocolate Buttercream, for the monkey in all of us." Super dense with a surprising crunch from the chocolate chips, this cupcake (also gluten and soy free!) provided a satisfying mouthfeel and mild banana flavor.

Be Spiced: "Spiced Pumpkin Rum is folded into a moist batter to create a dense, sweet cake that is garnished with a Maple Cream Cheese Frosting." My dessert companions and I greatly approved of the pronounced coconut flavor complementing this lightly spiced cupcake.

Strawberry-Banana: Unfortunately, I couldn't find this flavor listed with a cute name on the website, but I can assure you of its absolute scrumptiousness. A moist cake flecked with visible bits of banana and strawberry receives a generous dollop of strawberry-swirled buttercream, topped with a finishing touch of dehydrated banana and strawberry.

Needless to say, I enjoyed every sinful moment of my birthday indulgence. But you know what? Out of all the cupcakes out there, the adorable ones from the Bloom Bake Shop score extremely low on the "feel guilty about me!" list. The bakery sources local ingredients, such as fresh fruit from Keewaydin Farms, peanut butter from Yumbutters, and freshly milled wheat from Enos Farms, as well as uses Florida Crystals organic fair-trade sugar. They also include many gluten-free menu options using brown rice, tapioca, and sorghum flours—vastly healthier than plain old refined all-purpose. But most important of all, their cupcakes encompass all the ethical sides of veganism: they obviously don't use eggs, butter, or milk from factory-farmed animals plus their local ingredients don't spawn a dirty environmental impact. On a side note, Bloom portions their cupcakes much more intelligently than those of your average supersized bakeries; three (yes, I certainly downed three mouthwatering cupcakes) small Bloom cupcakes would likely equal the size of one ginormous stereotypical American one.

See pictures and more info on the Bloom Bake Shop at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/happy-birthday-from-the-bloom-bake-shop/

The Dandelion Food Cart in Madison, Wisconsin
Jun 10 12

rating star

With a fast-growing line in front, the Dandelion seemed to garner the most attention out of the many food carts: a positive sign! One look at the menu and I fully understood why the bright green truck merited its popularity. Complete with five sandwiches inspired by multiple wordly cuisines (all of which can be served on a whole-wheat pita), two hearty entree-style plates, raw oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, and a chocolate peanut butter cup for dessert, this cart knew what vegans craved.

Cilantro-topped black eyed peas, smoky rich collard greens, and a saute of sweet potatoes, onions, and poblano peppers surrounded three hearty slabs of tofu slathered in a tangy barbeque sauce to form a Southern medley of vegan happiness in my Texas Style BBQ Tofu entree. The tofu offered the only downside to the dish: while the texture skirted the perfect line between chewy and firm, I suspect that the tofu was not fresh, but rather freeze-dried reconstituted tofu that may or may not have been fried. A dash of refined sugar may have also weasled its way into the spicy-sweet sauce, though I sincerely hope (probably in vain), that the Dandelion chef used agave nectar or maple syrup instead. Despite the two soy-based flaws, I wholeheartedly enjoyed my trip down South at the Dandelion.

The Baked Tofu Sandwich came on a ciabatta roll topped with baked tofu, lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, and avocado drizzled with a spicy veganaise aioli served with a side of tortilla chips and pico de gallo. My eating companion rated the sandwich as a definite 10 on the yummy scale.

What could easily constitute an entire meal (especially when adding the optional tofu for a dollar extra), a bed of spinach topped with brown basmati rice, corn, grated carrots, radishes, cucumbers, purple cabbage, pico de gallo, and edamame drizzled with Bragg's Liquid Aminos and sesame oil is much much more than just a side. The vegetable-and-whole-grain rainbow tasted fresh, crunchy, and very wholesome-I may become a regular patron of the Dandelion just for the "side" of vegetables.

Meeting all of my pent-up food cart anticipation, the quality of the Dandelion's food exceeded that of a few non-wheeled restaurants in Madison and was certainly on par with a good many regular sit-down eating establishments. It is a wonderful destination for a fast, cheap, healthy, and simply mouthwatering lunch.

Pictures and more info at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/dandelion-food-cart-review/

Dobhan in Madison, Wisconsin
Jun 10 12

rating star

Well-spiced, intensely flavored Nepali food; a menu offering steamed leafy greens, brown rice, tofu, and dahl; seasonal specials from farmers market vendors: that's the gist of Dobhan's perfection.

When I say Indian food, you may invision heavy curries, flatbreads dripping with ghee, an overloaded stomach, and a night spent on the toilet. However, combined with the lighter Tibetan cuisine and twisted with a modern viewpoint, Dobhan offers fresh, light, and exceptionally healthy dishes including an entire menu page devoted to vegetarian and vegan options.

I always opt for the small plate of Hariyo as an appetizer—an almost giftwrapped package-like square of steamed Asian greens including bok choy and mustard sprinkled with tamari and sesame seeds which lend a tang of umami that complements but doesn't overwhelm the natural flavor of the greens.

Earthy, bountiful in toothsome garbanzo and white beans as well as lentils, not overly spiced, simmered with tomatoes and sprinkled with basil, the dahl at Dobhan never fails to please the legume lover in me.

Amidst a 7-dish cornucopia of tantalizing vegan-friendly dishes such as coconut-crusted tofu, Moroccan tagine with almonds and couscous, and a seitan-vegetable saute, the Tofu Buff caught my hungry eye (or perhaps rather, my stomach). Served alongside a pile of short-grain brown rice, this mix of sweet caramelized onions, crunchy snow peas and zucchini, meaty mushrooms, ever-so-slightly wilted baby spinach, and strips of hearty marinated tofu formed a delectable vegan entree. If I could somehow accurately describe the amazingly savory mix of Nepali spices that permeated the tofu, believe me I would, but after slowly chewing piece after piece of drool-worthy soy and mulling carefully over each bit, I still haven't the slightest idea of which ingredients created this magical tofu. You'll have to trust me—the best tofu in Madison.

See pictures and more info at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/dobhan-review/

Mother Fool's Coffee House in Madison, Wisconsin
Jun 10 12

rating star

Frankly, anywhere on the East Side of Madison is a wonderful place in my opinion, and Mother Fool's Coffeehouse is verily in keeping with my mentality. The mismatched couches and chairs, graffitied wall, and classic Madison hippie baristas all contribute to give Mother Fool's the warm and fun atmosphere of the East Side.

Food and drink-wise, Mother Fool's always has a bakery case stuffed full of vegan cupcakes, cookies, tarts, pastries, bread rolls, and my favorite sun-dried tomato bread. They also have a vegan soup-of-the-day and all their drinks can be made with soy milk at no extra cost. A welcoming, delicious, and vegan-friendly cafe fit for the East Side.

See pictures and more restaurant reviews at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/

Whole Foods Market in Madison, Wisconsin
Jun 10 12

rating star

Whole Foods has a great selection of organic produce, health foods, vegan hygenic products, vitamins and supplements, and basically answers all your vegan needs. Their salad bar, hot food island, and deli all feature specially marked vegan prepared items usually made without added oil. Their vegan baked goods are lacking, however, as they do not have a good selection. Their bulk section also could be expanded.

All in all, Whole Foods is a great one-stop shop for everything vegan. However, I wish I could like the store more, but since it is a chain and does not often feature local produce, I reserve the title of my favorite grocery store for the Willy Street Co-op.

See pictures and more restaurant reviews at my blog: http://farmersmarketvegan.wordpress.com/

Ratings Without Reviews