European Vegetarian Hotspots

As the count down to the holiday season begins, I find myself craving vegetables more and more.  I think my body knows it needs greens, like part of some sort of pre-holiday-season detox before the impending sugar high of December.  It is certainly not impossible to find vegetarian, organic or vegan food while dining out in Europe, but after travelling with a vegetarian, not to mention my own preference toward a low-meat regime, I will say this: certain countries and cities do it better than others.  Two restaurants that I think should receive attention for their cool vegetarian/vegan concepts that should expand their brand and concept around the continent are:  Juicebar from Milan and Mangolds from Graz.

Originating from two countries that tend to be more meat and carb heavy than vegetable focused in its cuisine, both Juicebar and Mangolds offer veggie-craving customers, fresh, healthy vegetarian and/or vegan options but in two very different ways.

Juicebar is more like a fast food concept and reminds me of a place I used to frequent in Hong Kong (whose name escapes me right now) that was part cafe part fast food, and focused on healthy, vegetarian take away items, and snacks.  At Juicebar in Milan, I had a super juice, a salad with tuna and barley and grabbed a pack of dried fruit and nuts for the road.

via Juicebar

Mangolds on the other hand is like Ikea, meets Whole Foods, mixed with some great typography and branding in a smaller scale format.  I found Mangolds while staying over in Graz because the carpark for Hotel Wiesler was conveniently located across the street from the cafe.  Mangolds is a self-serve salad bar with plates and take away containers where food is charged by weight, with a couple of food stations as well as a coffee bar and desserts.  It is a full sit down restaurant, with a play area for kids, a mini retail section and changing tables for babies in the men’s and women’s washroom (I know this because my male friend confirmed it for me).  The interior is Scandinavian minimalist, with soft lighting, whites and neutrals and light wood.


via Mangolds


vegan pistachio cherry cake

While travelling, I am perpetually on the hunt for interesting retail and restaurant concepts to blog about.  When these concepts happen to be vegetarian or highlight healthy, local, organic or vegetarian food, that is a double bonus for me!


Places to Eat: Milan

I just returned from a trip to Italy with stops in Milan and Florence.  I was there with my fiance checking out potential wedding venues with an excellent wedding planner who specializes in Tuscany weddings.  As a destination to get married, we learned from our mini Tuscany tour that this part of the world was definitely NOT for us (rustic is not charming or ideal for our backdrop).  However, that did not stop us from putting on our “urban-city searching foodie hats” and taking in the best of culinary, design and shopping in five days.

Milan is the second largest city in Italy and is known for its fashion, aperitivo, excellent food and design.  This large,  cosmopolitan, shopping mecca has an excellent transportation system both above ground and below, and for a 4.50 Euro day pass, it is both easy and cheap to visit all your favourite hot spots around the city.  There were several places we intended to visit like Peck, Gogol & CompanyCalifornia Bakery, 10 Corso Como and Da Claudio Pescheria  but the combination of torrential rain and getting soaking wet, the fact that we only really had 36 hours in Milan spread over two days, plus exhaustion cut our Milan conquest a bit short.

Some of our favourite spots in Milan include Bianco Latte, a beautiful, light cream accented with wood, natural looking space that is part stellar gelatteira,  part cafe, part bakery, part retailer and part restaurant.  While it sounds like Bianco Latte has several different service offerings going on, I assure you the company does all of them exceedingly well.  We returned twice to Bianco Latte to sample different gelato flavours (ie. biscotti, dolce de leche, orange chocolate, and pistachio (of course)), browse their adorable retail section of colourful For Life teapots and tea cups, and cool, plastic, Baci Milano cake plates and serving pieces, and sip some much-needed tea.  As an aside, it is nearly impossible to find good tea in Milan and Florence.  I get the Italian coffee thing and how you won’t have a bad cup in Italy, but for the tea drinkers out there, a week of Twinings is hell.  To my good fortune, Bianco Latte carries and brews Lov Organic tea, a brand I have blogged about before and like.

via Bianco Latte

Luini, is a tiny store, tucked behind the Duomo and is a famous panzerotti house in the city.  Luini also made our list of top spots in Milan to visit.  Luini makes both sweet and savoury panzerotti, where the sweet taste like a cookie stuffed with delicious things such as nutella, pear, figs, or walnuts and lightly dusted with icing sugar. The savoury Luini’s taste like what a pizza pocket, panzerotti should taste like.  They also have some impressive baked goods available at the counter. They have a no picture policy, so the images I have for you are off the web.

photos via: vacanta-italia, virgbee, amoitaly, tourism milan, miguelvecin

Another spot that truly impressed us was Cioccolati Italiani, a design-forward, sleek-looking space that specializes in all things chocolate from eating to drinking.  Behind the counter, they have three taps that pour white chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate tempting you to order something sweet.  Cioccolati Italiani has three stores in Milan and we visited the one opposite to Luini.  My fiance tried the chocolate espresso, a shot of espresso in a clear espresso cup with thick, dark chocolate on the bottom.   A spoon accompanies the drink and as he downed the espresso, he was left speechless as he scooped up the remaining melted chocolate below the coffee.

photos via: Where Milan, Linda Bezze, Con i Piedi Per Terra, Tamabea

Finally, La Rinascente food hall, on the seventh floor of La Rinascente department store was a magical place to see.  Rows upon rows of the best of Italian products including oils, pasta sauces, pasta, tea, chocolate, spices, wine, you name it, it was there.  We look forward to returning to Milan for a full weekend (and good weather hopefully) where we can take in more sights, areas and continue to explore the culinary delights of the city.


Modern Italian Bakeries

Think of where you go to buy your daily bread.  In my area, I treck to the grocery store, a very unglamourous experience both in design and in process.  In Italy, I am noticing a  trend in contemporary, minimalist, high style bakeries and there are two in particular that I would like to highlight. 

The first is the newly opened creation by Colli + Galliano Architects in Rome, Italy called Vyta Boulangerie.  Vyta is housed in Grandi Stazioni (the train station) and is a combination of black, oak, stainless steel visual perfection!  The breakdown of the architecture and interior design can be found in a blog commentary from the Contemporist here.

photo via

photo via

vyta 2

photo via

Then there is bakery,Princi, in Milan that takes minimalism to the next level.  I have never seen a bakery so beautifully crafted and layed out.  The brand identity of the bakery is centered around three of the most basic components of bread making: fire, water and flour.  An example of how these ingredients are incorporated in the space’s architecture and design, a wood fire and running water greet customers at the entrance of the shop.  Designed by Claudio Silvestrin, Princi is meant to be a place to relax, sample breads and meet with friends.   Princi has four locations in Milan and an outpost in London.

photo via

photo via


photo via bellaphon on flickr

photo via bellaphon on flickr

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