Review: Farmacy Vegan Kitchen and Bakery

Farmacy Review

We’re approaching the last ten days of Ramadan, so it’s not the ideal time to talk about food but #veganramadan is real.  I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the growing number of Muslims who are happily hashtagging and Instagramming plant-based platters for their pre-fasting and post-fasting meals.  Some are only going veg for the month, but we still applaud the effort.  Of course, the highlight of the month is spiritual sustenance, but knowing where to get wholesome and healthy vegan meals certainly helps.

Farmacy Review

Last month, a much-needed vegan spot has surfaced in Tampa.  Located inside of Duckweed Urban Grocery downtown, Farmacy Vegan Kitchen and Bakery has tucked in and turned heads.  Three passionate entrepreneurs have combined culinary talent, business acumen, and vegan baking alchemy to create a refreshing addition to the dining scene.  A streamlined menu of smoothies, fresh juices, overnight oats, acai bowls, salads, soups, wraps, and hot entrees sit in wait for health-conscious customers, while appetizing baked goods entice any and everyone.

Farmacy Review

We tried a Spinach and Cashew Cream Cheese wrap, Orange Blossom muffin, and Cashew Mac and Cheese.

Farmacy Review

Their low-soy menu is noticeable and timely.  I’ve been weaning off of the superbean myself and didn’t have to risk temptation by tantalizing mock meats.  Most other vegan options in the city are heavily soy-based Pan-Asian cuisines, with the exception of Middle Eastern, Ethiopian, Italian, and Indian, so Farmacy’s lively and light menu is really refreshing and welcomed.

Farmacy Review

The strong sustainability focus of Farmacy really appealed to me. I swooned at the sight of compostable and biodegradable takeaway materials and the sparing use of recyclable plastics.  Duckweed Urban Grocery also has some energy-saving and recycling practices in place, so it seems that that two are a match made in Tampa.

Farmacy Review

 

 

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Review: Detox Market in Ankara

Detox Market 2

Healthy eating options are popping up all over Ankara. New restaurants, businesses, and kiosks are catering to the gluten-free, dairy-free, and healthy eating crowd like never before. Our latest discovery was found while running errands at Bilkent Center. In both Turkish and English, I recognized the words “healthy”, “cold-pressed juices”, and “flourless”. When I stopped to inquire about the then ten-day old business, I met Selin, the lovely owner from Konya, who decided to bring the L.A. health trend she witnessed in America over to Turkey. Wasting no time, she bought high-quality, cold-press juicers, hired staff for a production facility, and set up shop just outside of a popular hypermarket chain called REAL.

Detox Market 3

Aptly named Detox Market, Selin’s business focuses on prepared cold-pressed juices that keep the body alkaline and energized. Juicing is a part of her personal lifestyle and she recommends that others exclusively consume raw juices at least two days a week. Her juices have catchy names like “Ctrl Alt Delete”, “Skinny Jeans”, and “Green Gold”. Each of the green juices have spinach, with some adding parsley, cucumbers, ginger, or carrots. I personally love how Ctrl Alt Delete pairs tropical pineapple with fennel and cilantro. Green Gold is definitely the greenest option, while Green Beauty adds cucumber pulp to the mix.

Detox Market 5

Other juices include a beet-based Skinny Jeans, a pleasant Fruity Blast that novice juice-drinkers and children would love, and a coconut water and cinnamon combination called Feel Better. Additionally, there are a number of creative snacks like gluten-free bread with spinach and beets, sesame and chia seed crackers, and, my personal favorite, chia cocoa cookies. Vegans should note that some of the other products contain organic eggs and/or honey, so be sure to inquire before making your purchase.

Detox Market 4

With many thanks to Detox Market for sharing samples for this review. All opinions are our own.

Review: Vegan İşleri in Ankara

Though we’re not foodies, we know good food when we eat it. On most days, we’re content with simple, plant-based meals but every once in a while, we go out to eat for some variety. Now, instead of going out, we have another option for delicious vegan dining that we can enjoy right at home. Vegan İşleri is a catering service in Ankara that delivers healthy, plant-based meals with an international flare. The owners, Pınar and Gülen, are cultured, professional women. Their cosmopolitan and global exposure is evident in a menu which draws influence from Greek, Arab, Indian, and Far Eastern flavors while staying true to their Turkish roots.

Summer Spinach Salad

Pınar and Gülen handpicked a special menu for our little family and though the foods sounded familiar, the tastes were exceptionally refreshing. Our spinach salad was accented with sliced strawberries, tropical mango chunks, and fresh avocado. The black bean patties were full of surprises—sweet potatoes, walnuts, black rice, and just enough spice to invoke thoughts of Latin and Central America.

Black bean and sweet potato burgers

We’ve tasted tabbouleh a ton of times, but this time the taste was smooth like Moroccan couscous and enriched by a sprinkle of ground walnuts. A new food for us was skordalia, a Greek dish of pureed potatoes with tahini and garlic. We were puzzled by this pasty dish, wondering what it was, but it soon became our favorite.

Skordalia

I would have never thought of combining these dishes into a singular menu, but the flavors blended well and complimented each other to become one of the most creative and innovative meals I’ve had in a long time. I will keep watching their Instagram page for inspiring new foods and look forward to enjoying their next masterpiece meal.

With many thanks to Vegan İşleri for providing samples for this review. All opinions are our own.

 

Review: Padam Coffee Shop in Ankara

Padam Coffee Shop1

Vegans in Ankara need a hangout spot. Not a pub or a living room but an inviting, neutral space where you can meet friends for tea, have stimulating conversations, and take a break from the city hustle. I recently found such an oasis at the newly opened Padam Coffee Shop near Kuğulu Park, right next to Dost Bookstore.  Entering downtown Ankara has been completely eliminated from my weekly routine, but now I have a reason to return. The nexus of nature, books, and vegan treats is enough to lure me to a side of Atatürk Boulevard I’ve never seen– away from the congested transportation hubs of Kızılay and Güvenpark. I’m glad to finally have a place to bring friends and congregate after playdates.

Padam Coffee Shop2

Padam’s owner, Hande, is a sweet soul with a love for java. Having trained under Sam Çeviköz, owner and founder of Istanbul’s Federal Coffee Company and founder of Ministry of Coffee-Istanbul, Hande has rallied her family around the business she’s always dreamed of. From her homemade desserts, her mother’s homemade jams and her brother and sister-in-law’s helping hands behind the counter, I feel like an extended member of the family when I visit. Fresh orchids greet me as I climb the winding staircase to a cozy upper lounge with cushioned seats, curated art, and a wooden antique record player and radio that has been in her family for almost 100 years. I can feel Hande’s heartbeat—padam, padam—pulsing around me.

For non-coffee lovers, like myself, there are herbal fruit and flower teas to choose from. Paired with a tasty selection of savory, stuffed börek pastries and vegan cakes made by Ev Yapımı Vegan Lezzetler, I can enjoy a satisfying afternoon snack that is both sweet and savory, then tackle the rest of my day’s tasks. Stocked with almond milk, I look forward to chilled smoothies in the summer and hot cocoa in the winter, because I’m confident that Padam will be around to brave all of Ankara’s seasons.

Padam Coffee Shop4

With special thanks to Padam Coffee Shop for hosting my visit. All opinions are my own.

Review: Ev Yapımı Vegan Lezzetler in Ankara

Vegan Food in Ankara

Since coming to Turkey, we’ve been inspired by the entrepreneurial spirit here. You want to start a business? Come up with a name, open a Facebook or Instagram account, and get to work. We aspire to be self-employed one day and meeting small business owners here in Ankara is teaching us a lot about the grit and dedication that it takes way before registering your company, building a website, or obtaining a business license. The most recent entrepreneur we had the pleasure of meeting is Çisem Çolak, sole chef and owner of Ev Yapımı Vegan Lezzetler, a home-based vegan cooking service.

Vegan Mantı in Ankara

For the last five years, Çisem has taken the task of vegan cooking into her own hands. Many traditional foods she grew up enjoying no longer suited her animal-free diet, so she began to adapt them. Her most popular dish, mantı, is tiny dumplings that are usually stuffed with spiced meat. Çisem, like many other vegans, missed this homemade comfort food but unlike her peers, she fashioned a vegan version for herself and made a business out of it for the last nine months. I’m amazed at how each piece is cut, folded, and stuffed with flavorful fillings like sweet potatoes, lentils, spinach and potatoes. Topped with a robust tomato sauce and oil dressing with ground herbs and sumac, we devour each bite in an instant, guiltily knowing that the painstaking process of preparing it is exponentially longer.

Vegan, Turkish sausage

Çisem’s other specialty is sucuk, a seitan version of Turkish spiced sausage. Like her mantı, she freezes and ships it to eager customers from Istanbul to Izmir and even as far as Antalya. Fortunate for Ankara’s residents, Ev Yapımı offers a broader menu for pick-up and home delivery. Cooked daily meals, desserts, and stuffed breads like börek and gözleme can all be enjoyed in the comfort of your home but, one day, I look forward to visiting Ev Yapımı when it becomes more than a home-based business but a café and restaurant all on its own.

VeganTortellini in Ankara

Complimentary samples were offered for this review.  All opinions are our own.

Review: Ege Günlüğü in Ankara

Olive oil cooking

Aegean cuisine has a reputation for being one of Turkey’s most vegan-friendly regions. Along the fertile coast, a plethora of beans and vegetables grow abundantly and are traditionally slow-cooked with cold-pressed olive oil, fresh herbs and seasonings. Red lentils and bulgur wheat are combined to make mercimek kofte, the vegan version of a ground meat burger. We have yet to visit Turkey’s Northwestern coast, but thankfully Aegean food has come to us by way of Ege Günlüğü.

Ege Cuisine in Ankara

In Armada Mall, an imposing shopping center, Ege Günlüğü is a welcomed oasis. The open dining hall sits at the end of a busy corridor with white, painted wooden furniture and soothing pastel pillows and cushions. The aqua and blue hues invoke a calmness that I don’t usually find in a packed mall. When I asked one of the managers, Maliha, about her recommendations for vegan diners, she instinctively directs me to their cold food bar where out of more than a dozen dishes, only several include yogurt and none of them include meat. Being able to see all of the entrees makes it easy to pick and point at the dishes I want to fill my platter. With the option of a büyük large plate or a küçük small plate, the choice is obvious. I want to taste as many dishes as they can fit on my plate, centered around my absent dish of yogurt.

Vegan Meal at Ege Gunlugu

Most of the dishes are Aegean versions of familiar ingredients: black-eyed peas, brown lentils, and green beans but the flavors are unique. I recognize the taste of dill, leeks, and olive oil, of course, but the others are harder to distinguish. Regardless, everything tastes fresh and wholesome. When Maliha tells me that they don’t use any frozen vegetables, I’m not surprised. As soon as their produce arrives, it must be washed, chopped, and prepped. Some of the unfamiliar dishes are a variety of green leafy dishes that I couldn’t identify, celery root, stuffed dried eggplant, and artichokes. My favorite dishes were stewed sundried tomatoes with walnuts and mercimek kofte. To complement the mostly gluten-free entrees, a bread basket full of sourdough olive oil and walnut bread rounds out the meal perfectly. The small rolls are not airy and fluffy but rather filling and mildly dense. Even though all of the zeytinyağlı (with olive oil) dishes are served cold, the hospitality was warm and satisfying.

Fresh, Aegean cuisine in Ankara

Ege Günlüğü is most popular during lunch hour, when health-conscious professionals seek out a meal that leaves them more fueled than full. With the cold bar ready and stocked every day from 10am to 10pm, anyone can grab a meal without having to wait or order hot foods from the menu if time allows.  And, with the prices so reasonable, you can easily make eating here a healthy habit.

Vegan Oasis in Armada Mall

With special thanks to Ege Günlüğü for hosting our visit.  All opinions are our own.

Review: Chocolat Garden in Ankara

Artisanal Dark Chocolate in Ankara

I’m not much of a baker. I’d much rather leave it to the pros and whip up raw desserts that are much harder to mess up. But, in the absence of the prerequisite food processor or blender, our family has become smitten with a new vegan delight—dark chocolate. Just a few squares after dinner always seems to sate our sweet tooth. Though we generally avoid sugar, we only purchase dark chocolates that contain 70% or higher cocoa content, so the health benefits are evident and the sugar content is minimal. After months of trying different brands of vegan dark chocolates, our taste buds have become more sensitive to the subtle differences between them, and we recently discovered the freshest and tastiest of them all at Chocolat Garden in Ankara.

Chocolate Shop in Ankara

Handmade my Mr. Yusuf, a passionate chocolatier, the Chocolat Garden sells a variety of artisanal products like white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate, organic dark chocolate, pralines and truffles. After importing cocoa from Ecuador or Madagascar, they are melted and blended in his very own shop’s kitchen. It wasn’t until meeting him that I discovered how most commercial chocolates use ordinary cocoa and add artificial coloring, flavoring, aromas, and hydrogenated oils to stretch their cheaper product. Mr. Yusuf does no such a thing. He only works with extra fine cocoa, blended with natural flavors and sugar, then molded and set in small batches. The taste of his rich delights are a testament to his commitment to quality.

Chocolate in Molds

Located up the road from Gordion Mall, he cites that recent events in Ankara have slowed down business. His work is challenging enough trying to educate his consumers about what sets his product apart from what is sold on the supermarket shelves. But once they’ve tasted his chocolates, they are hooked and eagerly ship boxes to loved ones across the city and country. His custom orders are prepared fresh and shipped by the next day. Instead of sending flowers or a cake for a special event, consider something healthier and tastier that everyone can enjoy– gourmet dark chocolate made by the best.

Vegan Dark Chocolate in Ankara

Note: Not all dark chocolate products are vegan, so be sure to state your dietary preference with your order.

With special thanks to Mr. Yusuf for hosting our visit. All opinions are our own.

Review: Juice Love in Ankara

Cold-pressed juice bar in Ankara

In Ankara’s Gordion Mall, there’s a tiny colorful kiosk bursting with color and teeming with life. Curious shoppers ask “Are you selling shampoos? Shower gels?” Even better than artificial colors and synthetic scents, what’s for sale are the fruits of nature’s own coloring box, curated by the Creator—fresh, cold-pressed fruit and vegetable juices made by Juice Love.

For my first taste of the rainbow, I selected Fight the Flu. Lil’ Z was under the weather and I know from experience that the potency of fresh juices helps equip the body to fight off infections. The bright red drink is made from super, anti-oxidant rich pomegranate, immunity-boosting ginger and cleansing lemon. The sneaky last ingredient, propolis, is a known cold and flu fighter but had no effect on the delicious taste of this combination.

For myself, Fresh Me Up, piques my interest. Pineapple is one of my favorite fruits but unlike pomegranate, the tropical treat is imported. Though not a regular item on my shopping list, I know that it’s one of the best natural remedies for a cough, so I gladly share it with Lil’ Z. Pineapple usually irritates her tongue but she had no such complaints when it was blended with lemon, fresh mint, and apple.

The obvious selection for Urbndervish was Nut Love: a combination of hazelnut, cocoa, dates, vanilla and Himalayan salt. We had some as an after-dinner snack and agreed that it tasted like a healthier, lighter chocolate milk than the syrupy sweet version we grew up drinking. With all three drinks being so tasty, it was hard to pick a favorite.

When I sat down to chat with Öykü, one of the owners of Juice Love, she told me about her family’s experience with juicing and how it has changed their lives and improved their health in the past three years. Instead of relying on doctors and drugs, juicing is their go-to for healing and health maintenance. Pleased by the impact fresh juices have had on their life, they wanted to share their knowledge and expertise with others.

Starting out as a home-based business, Juice Love has grown a lot in the last year. Unsurprisingly, most clients are young women who want to lose weight. They purchase Juice Love cleanse packages to slim down but some have elevated their concerns above the waistline and see the value of detoxification and healthy lifestyle changes. Like them, I know how good it feels to be healthy and I’m glad to have Juice Love nearby.

Fresh juices in Ankara

Review: Masum Mutfak in Istanbul

Organic Veg Cafe in IstanbulA day trip to Istanbul from Ankara is generally a crazy idea but when very special, beloved people are in town and you’re invited to dine at an organic vegetarian cafe, you just decide to go and sort out the details later. Our whirlwind trip began just as Urbndervish ended his work day on Monday. We scuttled off to the airport through insane traffic, just in time to catch an evening flight to Istanbul. We stayed with friends that night and pushed off in the morning to trek across the city, from the Asian to the European side. By metro and Marmaray, an underwater rail tunnel, we reached the heart of the old city in time to meet our respected teachers and beloved friends. We connected and caught up in a hotel lobby before relocating to a breakfast diner. We were nourished by conversations that included topics of parenting, migration, community building, and a Montessori approach to Quran education. With time bullying us to part, we finally did but not without feeling an assuring peace that coming was the right decision.

Organic Veg Dining in Uskudar, Istanbul

In the afternoon we retraced our steps back to Asia to reach Üsküdar. On a side street lined with restaurants and cafés, green footprints led us to a white building that read Masum Mutfak. Up the colorful, painted steps, a narrow staircase opened to spacious rooms. The pure white walls, tables, and chairs were simply accented by small cacti centerpieces, wooden decorations, and the cleansing citrus colors of yellow, green, and orange. With the constraints of time bossing us around once again, we scanned our vegan options swiftly and placed our order.

Colored Wood Cuttings

While we waited for our meal, our host, Merve, told me about her awakening as a graduate student in London. A formerly careless eater, she became enamored with organic, whole food cooking and found options abundantly available in the UK but hard to find in Istanbul. Pairing her training as a marketing specialist and her passion for vegetarian cooking, she opened Masum Mutfak where she showcases seasonal, local foods that are either certified organic or grown organically. Another staple on her delicious menu is homemade, sourdough bread which is used to make sandwiches and pizzas in her breadmaking workshops. At nine months old, she describes her business as a “crying baby”. In all of its beauty and newness, it is still challenging to attract diners beyond her niche while others turn their heels when they realize her menu is meatless. We, on the other hand, fell in love with her food from Facebook and were ready to taste it for ourselves.

International Dishes served Veg Style

Our entrees arrived hot and freshly prepared: Veggie Burger, Falafel Platter, Veggie Dumpling Platter, and Samosa Platter. We were all anxious to taste each other’s dishes. Lil’ Z was generous but quite attached to her veggie burger. I can’t blame her because it is admittedly one of the best I’ve had in a long time. The combination of chickpeas, lentils, and chickpea flour made the burger filling yet perfectly sized for the sourdough flatbread it laid between, topped with mashed avocado, sliced red onions and a smear of spicy tomato sauce. The purple cabbage salad that accompanied it was flavorfully dressed though fresh and crunchy alongside turnip slices garnishing the plate.

Vegan Dining at Masum Mutfak

Falafel is always a winner, especially if you can manage to cook the inside properly and avoid it tasting old and oily. Masum Mutfak succeeded on all accounts, making the familiar falafel feel as innocent as the menu promises. The veggie dumplings were soft and filled with mildly curried veggies. The samosas were unlike the fried Indian turnovers they are named after but heartily filled with lentils, as opposed to potatoes and peas. Each dish was served with dipping sauces and fresh dill and parsley salads. Once we finished swapping bites of each of the dishes, we wrapped up our meal and prepared to jetset again. Before bidding farewell and thanking our kind host for an incredible feast, we gave time one last shove, and ordered dessert for the road: a raw dark cocoa tart and a cherry chocolate muffin.

Vegan Dining at Masum Mutfak

With only about two hours until our flight departure, we hailed a taxi and practically flew to the airport just in time to pray and board. The one-hour flight was brief but all the sweeter once we unpacked our dessert. Though a first attempt, the raw dessert was made like a pro. The texture of the creamy filling was impressively smooth and subtly sweet. Its date and nut crust was finely ground and firmly pressed, like a solid baked crust. The cherry chocolate muffin was delightful; fluffy without feeling empty. Both were a sweet ending to a tasty meal and blessed day in Istanbul.

Raw dark chocolate tart and cherry chocolate muffin on the plane

With special thanks to Masum Mutfak for hosting our visit.

Review: Juju Fresh in Ankara

Fresh, cold-pressed juice in Ankara.

If the name doesn’t grab you, the taste sure will. Fresh, cold-pressed juice is like drinking a salad or a bowl of fruit when you don’t have time to chew. It feels a bit like cheating but in the words of Juju Fresh owner, Işık, juicing is a great way to make your body alkaline and detoxify your system. Just by stepping into the small shop filled with pineapples, oranges, carrots, greens, and beets, I couldn’t imagine leaving Juju Fresh feeling anything less than lively.Juice *IS* always a better idea!

Stepping into the shop, I met a lovely woman who was slowly feeding a variety of fruits and veggies into a small masticating juicer, much like those used to press wheatgrass. I later discovered that this little machine is a potent powerhouse made of surgical-grade materials, developed to treat cancer patients in Europe. Juicing is a well-known treatment for healing and regenerating a weakened immune system, but everyone can enjoy its health benefits too. Cold-press juicers ensure that the enzymes inherent in plant foods are maintained and not destroyed by heat. I was eager to taste the juices for myself.

Juice options at Juju Fresh in Ankara.

We started with a combination of beet, apple, pear, lemon and ginger. The taste was pleasant and mildly sweet. Our next sample was a potent green juice consisting of cabbage, spinach, parsley, lettuce, lemon, and ginger. The taste was more nutritious than delicious, but not offensive in the least. To sweeten our palates, we were offered power balls- a creative reuse of nut milk pulp mixed with dried fruit and rolled in coconut. They were moist and filling. As a takeaway, we had my favorite–fresh almond milk sweetened with dates, cinnamon, and vanilla. It was refreshing and pleasant.

Almond milk sweetened with dates, vanilla, and cinnamon. Yum!

Unless juicing is your forte, it’s great to know that Juju Fresh takes orders and delivers right to your door. Whether for a detox cleanse or just a healthful addition to your daily routine, Juju has got you covered for all your juicing needs.

Fresh-pressed juices for you!

Our visit was hosted by Juju Fresh, but all opinions are our own.