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: Vegisso in Ankara

Vegisso Living Room

After a particularly taxing workweek for Urbndervish, we went out on the town for a family date. Having already frequented one of Ankara’s two vegan restaurants, it was about time to visit the second. Little did we know that the term “restaurant” might have been a bit misleading. Tucked into one of downtown Ankara’s neighborhoods, we made our way to a modest basement apartment. No sign or awning indicated its location, so we relied on the address and phone number provided by Happy Cow. After walking up and down a common residential street, we finally found the home known as Vegisso.

Greeted warmly by a young brother and sister, our coats were taken and we were ushered to a long dining table where two diners were already seated. We sat beside them and perused the menu. Somewhat distracted by the artwork behind us and the cozy living room in front of us, we decided on veggie burgers, Izmir kofte meatball, and a seitan sandwich. Worried that our appetites overwhelmed the kitchen staff of one, we waited patiently for our dishes to arrive. We were encouraged when the other diners received their table settings, a bread basket, and appetizing plates of food. Careful not to stare, I couldn’t help but wonder what they ordered since their Turkish menu offered no translation. Nonetheless, the sister that welcomed us spoke enough English to make some recommendations and tell us which dishes were not available.

Vegisso Living Room

Apparently a hang-out spot for mostly college students, the business tide of Vegisso ebbs and flows with the semesters. A singular vegan saw a need and opened his home to become a haven for young vegan diners looking for a welcoming place to hang out and eat up. The décor of his space is artsy with a unique vintage style and in true college fashion, an acoustic guitar sitting in the corner. I became nostalgic for my own college days, spending late nights on secondhand furniture while my roommates strummed their guitars after cooking meals together. The same relaxed vibe is felt at Vegisso without being claustrophobic or intrusive.

Kofte Platter

The professional presentation of our food was a telltale sign that our chef wants to be taken seriously. Our fresh, crisp salads were dressed lightly with olive oil and a sprinkle of black cumin and sesame seeds. The bulgur pilau was formed in a small mold and our sandwiches were wrapped partially in paper for easy handling.

Veggie Burger

The veggie burger had the reminiscent taste of falafel, one of the menu’s offerings, and paired well with crisp cucumbers, sour pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, and a homemade creamy sauce.  The French fries that came with the sandwiches were hot and crisp. We enjoyed each dish so much that we ordered a second round half-way through finishing the first.

Seitan Sandwich

As is our usual dining habit, we just drank water before our meal and enjoyed both a lunch and dinner portion’s worth of a meal. I was anxious to try their chocolate brownie but none was available on the day of our visit.

Our host and chef, Yesin, chatted with us after our meal. As a green, three-year vegan he has a refreshing zeal about his diet. His business hours are long, but his customers seem more like friends than clients. They cozily filled the space around us and entertained Moulay while we ate. Yesin’s vision is to one day open a restaurant but in true DIY fashion, he’s starting with what he has, right where he is.

Moulay and Cat

Our First Eid in Turkey

Ali Pasha CamiiAfter a few weeks of settling into our new home, our first Eid holiday weekend was upon us. We weren’t sure what to do or where to go but we wanted to take advantage of the four-day weekend, and that we did.

Empty Prayer Hall

The first day of Eid started quietly until Lil’ Z started writhing in her sleep. She woke enough to tell us she felt sick, and I knew that she needed to vomit. Her dad got her to the commode in time, and afterwards she felt much better. By the time we all got dressed and left the house it was about 6:50am. A taxi up the road saw us and swiftly transported us to the nearest mosque just in time for the 7:00am prayer. Everyone filed in casually without special attire or fanfare. The men’s prayer hall was full but not packed tightly and the women’s prayer hall was wide and spacious. From what I’m told, many Turkish women don’t attend the Eid prayers, so our children had plenty of room to stretch and wiggle without encroaching on anyone else’s space. After a lesson delivered in Turkish, followed by a reminder of how the bi-annual Eid prayer is performed and a sermon delivered in Arabic, we commenced the congregational prayer. We concluded with a collective supplication in Turkish and dispersed as peacefully as we entered.

Brunch

Returning home by bus, we were eager to prepare our special Eid brunch. We went on a special expedition to scout out tofu and thoroughly enjoyed it as a veggie scramble paired with chocolate pancakes. With only an hour to spare, we cleaned up the kitchen and packed our bags for Konya. Lil’ Z didn’t eat much before leaving, but I gave her a homeopathic remedy to calm her tummy. She slept on the bus ride and gave one healthy hurl on the subway floor before she was totally better and ready for the adventure ahead.

High-Speed Train

Traveling by high-speed train, the usually three-hour journey by road was shaved down to an hour and forty minutes. The check-in process was much like boarding a plane, complete with train stewardesses, in-train magazines, and on-screen entertainment. Upon disembarking, we took a taxi to our hotel and began exploring.

Sulemiye Camii

Being the day of Eid, most restaurants in Konya were closed and the few that were open didn’t have more than salad to offer vegetarians.  Near one restaurant, we saw a group of folks wearing thread-worn genie pants, gypsy skirts, and open sandals.  Some were speaking English, so we approached them about finding vegetarian food.  The prognosis looked dim, but they took us to a place around the corner where we could find other vegetarians and inquire.  Stepping into the dimly lit basement hall, we removed our shoes, passed a room full of backpacks, and found ourselves in the middle of a group dance lesson.  Giddy and noticeably hairy, the men and women whirled and spun ecstatically.  Fuzzy beards and matted locs swirled around us while we figured out that these young people were in town for a Mystic Music Festival taking place that week.  They offered to share some of their communal meal with us but it was not yet ready and we felt sorely out of place.  The loud sounds stirred Moulay from his sleep, so we took our cue to leave and try our chances elsewhere.

Roasted Vegetables and Rice, Salad, and Freshly Baked Bread

Our best attempt at a vegan meal was found at Mevlana Sofrasi.  The family-owned establishment welcomed our family, especially our children, with open arms and free treats and desserts. The meal itself was a modified traditional meal and was scarce in protein, though tasty. Overlooking the Mevlana Museum and surrounding garden, we had a spectacular view of the heart of the city.  We returned to our hotel to catch up on some rest before unfolding into the next day.Mevlana Museum

On our second day, we had breakfast at our hotel and headed straight for the Mevlana Museum where we saw artifacts from the early Ottoman period and relics from the famed mystic poet, Jalal ad-din Rumi, and the community that surrounded him. Making our way through the crowds we found ourselves with nothing left to do but drink fresh-squeezed orange juice.

Konya Tropical Butterfly Garden

The Konya Science Center was closed for the holiday, so we took a chance and headed to the Konya Tropical Butterfly Garden at the outskirts of the city. Totally deficient in any real amount of Turkish language skills, we braved two dolmuş minibus rides and a taxi to find Konya’s newest attraction similarly closed. Thankfully, the well-designed play areas were open, so the trip was still worthwhile. Thereafter, we made our way to a shopping plaza for dinner and took a bus and tram back to our hotel.

Play Area

For our third day of Eid, we took an early morning train back to Ankara. We wanted to stay in Konya longer, but the returning trains were scarce due to the holiday weekend. Instead of returning on Sunday, we returned on Saturday to meet with new friends of old friends. We were kindly invited to Gölbaşı where our new acquaintances have a lovely summer home nestled amongst a variety of resident fruit trees. With the perfect appetizer of freshly-picked, tree-ripened fruits, we had a lovely meal of bulgur pilau, roasted eggplant, and salad, alongside an assortment of baked goods and freshly brewed Turkish tea. We picked apples and grapes until the sun set, prayed our evening prayers, and returned home wholly satisfied by our first Eid in Turkey.

Welcome

Review: The Door in Queens

Casablanca

My hometown welcomed us with a cold embrace two weeks ago.  A disorganized flight check-in, courtesy of Iberia Airlines, foreshadowed a rough journey ahead.  The budget airline had us running all over Casablanca airport in search of our boarding passes, failed to communicate our vegan meal preference to the partnering airline, and had no complimentary offerings other than small cups of water to offer us onboard.  Nonetheless, we made our way to New York via Madrid and London just in time for Lil’ Z’s first snowfall and did our best to stay warm in the cold city.

First Snowfall

On our last weekend in New York my family gathered at one of our favorite restaurants—The Door—where they promise an elegant Jamaican dining experience.  Over the years they have upheld their mission by upgrading the cuisine and hospitality associated with Caribbean dining.  Many eateries operate like a glorified kitchen with inconsistent menus, long waits, and a shortage of customer service.  The Door, however, has set itself apart and was the most suitable place for our patronage.

Salad

The Door’s menu offers traditional Jamaican favorites alongside a healthy selection of alternatives.  The full gamut of jerk, curried, and stewed meat and seafood dishes sit comfortably alongside salad meals, vegetarian dishes, and plant-based side orders.  Their vegetarian selection includes brown-stewed tofu, tofu stir-fry, curried soy chunks, and ital stew.  Each dish is thoughtfully prepared and well-seasoned for both the familiar and novice palate.  Entrees are served with either soup or salad, preceded by baskets of rolls and cornbread.  The beverage selection includes mainstays like pineapple ginger drink, carrot juice, and sorrel made from dried hibiscus.

Ital Stew with Rice and Peas

Ital Stew with Rice and Peas

While some have complained that on occasion their service and food quality has fallen short, these occurrences are obviously rare since the restaurant is permanently packed on any given day.  More than their weekly jazz band or their enchanting décor, The Door succeeds at hospitality.  The mastermind behind their success is a sharp and decisive businesswoman who can be regularly seen chatting with guests in the dining hall and commanding her staff from the front annex to the kitchen.  Their mostly Jamaican and Jamaican-American staff are consistently warm, professional, and friendly.    They hosted our party of almost 20 with seamless ease, precision, and exceptional cordiality.  Admittedly, there are cheaper places to eat good food but The Door serves ambiance just as savory as their cuisine.

Brown Stew Tofu with Rice and Peas

Brown Stew Tofu with Rice and Peas