New York Times Publishes ‘(Vegan) Brunch Options Abound in East Berlin’

I first published this for The New York Times ‘In Transit’ section. 

Photo Credit: Roland Anton Laub
Photo Credit: Roland Anton Laub

Germany’s traditional gastronomic portfolio is as meat-centric as they come, but Berlin’s contemporary food-culture has started shrugging off its carnivorous past in favor of, well, plants. An enduring bohemian spirit and newfound cosmopolitanism have cultivated fertile culinary ground for the city’s emergence as the continent’s vegetarian capital. Here, cruelty-free cuisine holds special sway for weekend brunchgoers — in Berlin, where you dine for Sunday morning das Frühstuck carries as much social import as where you partied on Saturday night. Three East Berlin establishments offering vegan brunch options rise to the occasion.

Kopps, a new kid on the block in the much-hyped Mitte district, is an upscale dining spot specializing in plant-based versions of historic Deutschland dishes. The head chef Björn Moschinski’s innovative re-creations include Veganer Hackepeter (sans minced pork) and Kräuterbutter (with coconut oil instead of cow’s milk). His kitchen emphasizes quality, regional produce sourced from small farmers in nearby Brandenberg. (Brunch buffet served Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 10.90 euros ($14.25).)

Café Morgenrot is a last-stand workers’ collective in the now gentrified Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, where the current proliferation of designer baby strollers rivals that of Park Slope in Brooklyn. Morgenrot, however, holds true to East Berlin’s socialist roots — with bric-a-brac décor, radical politics, a weekly feminist knitting circle, and a mostly-vegan weekend brunch where patrons pay according to a sliding-scale system. (Brunch buffet served Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., 5 to 9 euros sliding scale.)

Ohlàlà Tartes Shop, nestled on an unassuming street in punk-inflected Friedrichshain, features enlightened vegan interpretations of classical French fare — from crêpes and quiche, to pain au chocolat and pain perdu. The mauve-painted cafe is the creation of the Parisian ex-pat and burlesque dancer Clarissa Orsani, who constructed Ohlàlà’s spacious open kitchen with her own two hands. (Brunch buffet served Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; seating unlikely without reservation.)


Hora de Feliz | Guest Contributor Ellen Roggeman

Coming straight to you from Mexico, regular Eating with Abs contributor Ellen Roggeman dishes on South of the Border-style happy hour–which, in Spanish, translates as hora de feliz! A United States native recently married to a Mexican man, Ellen has lately been spending a good deal of time outside her native country. One thing she longs for that intoxicatingly evokes the flavors of home? Whiskey. In this video, she puts a cool twist on an old favorite–the hot toddy. Oh, how I miss you, my darling!

In Love in Istanbul, Incredibly

Hey, it's me! All smug and sated...and, let's be honest, super-tired in the morning.

While census calculations place Istanbul’s population at a handy 13-million people, the unofficial count tells a different story about Turkey’s teeming metropolitan capital:  The true number hovers closer to 20-million residents. If you can’t quite wrap your head around this figure, try doubling the whole of New York City and adding a few million for good measure. Istanbul, my friends, brings new meaning to the term megacity.

I was lucky enough to land there last week, where I was researching hamami–traditional Turkish bath houses–for a New York Times Globespotters article. Apart from many hours spent in humid, marble-hewn dens among naked, soapy women, I also feasted upon the Near East’s remarkable culinary riches. Lest you have any doubt, I ate well (and abundantly) in Istanbul.

So many small plates! So many tiny bites!

Pickled vegetables, herb salads, and preserved fruits ruled the day, served on small plates called mezze. Along with a host of baked goods and array of homemade cheeses, meals consisted of prolonged, delectable nibbling and conversations that stretched for hours. The most-pronounced difference between the morning and evening spreads on tables in Istanbul? Not much, unless you count the liquids. Turkish coffee paired with breakfast, while Raki–a traditional, anise-flavored spirit–rounded out dinner.  I’m not sure what I loved more–the staggering caffeine highs or libations-governed jollies.

Whatever drink you fancy, Istanbul is one of the world’s true cultural capitals–from its former status as Constantinople and Byzantium, to its current reign-on-high wonders. I’ll definitely be going back and, just maybe, I’ll invite you along for the ride. It’s spectacular. Trust me.

xx, abs

Special thanks to my Turkish host, Bekir, for guiding me on a crash-course into Istanbul’s imminently-cool hipster nightlife. Big hugs to my Danish travel companion, Isabel, for being a salve to my beleaguered, Berlin-weary soul–I’m back in Deutschland with a newfound lightness in my heart, thanks to you.

Guest Columnist Nikki Brown Dishes on American-Style Sweet Potato Fries

Guest contributor Nikki Brown is a self-proclaimed semi-vegetarian with a sweet smile that she puts to good effect when lobbing snarky jokes. Her comic sensibility borders on biting, and reflects her white-hot mind. We first met in a yoga class in San Francisco, where we were mutually awestruck by one another:  Nikki and I both carry a mutant gene that allows us to perform super-human feats of flexibility, such as dropping into the scissor splits on-demand. Apparently, Nikki has a few other gifts up her sleeve, such as the culinary arts. Before I became a Berliner, I used to love visiting her hyper-modern Haight Ashbury flat for dinner parties and potlucks, and in the following guest column, Nikki dishes on harnessing the farm-to-fork treasures in her weekly CSA delivery to create a sweet, sophisticated twist on a classic American staple: the french fry. 

It all begins with my Farm Fresh to You CSA box. CSA is an acronym for community-supported agriculture, and is a program that allows consumers to directly invest in local farms’ upfront yearly capital in return for weekly doorstep deliveries of seasonal, regional produce. Sometimes, this means more sweet potatoes than a girl knows what to do with. Fortunately, sweet-potato fries are creamy-sweet inside and crispy-brown outside, and there’s no better way to cook ’em.

What You Need:

  • Sweet potatoes (sliced into sticks)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Paprika
  • Salt & Pepper

What You Do:

  • Drench potato slices with oil, paprika, salt & pepper
  • Cook in 425-degree oven for 30-minutes, turning once
  • Serve with ketchup (lots of it, if you’re going for American-style fries)
Photo by little blue hen

Happy New Year from the World’s Hipster Capital: Williamsburg

Happy 2012, my lovelies! I rang in the new wave with my baby sister, Anna-Lisa, the girl I’ve loved passionately ever since the day she was born. For the past year, it has been a sad day in Sisterville–the Atlantic Ocean has been between us. We rectified too much time apart with a special, week-long jaunt in New York, where we holed up in the world’s hipster capital of Williamsburg and toasted 2012 with a bottle of bubbly at a swell joint called Juliette, a French-style brasserie in Brooklyn.

It’s not possible to communicate the full breadth of how much I love this girl:



Contributing Columnist Helly Parsons Dishes on ‘Tanzanian Beans’

Helly Parsons hails from New Zealand, that sweet Pacific landmass where the climes are perennially warm and the culture laid-back and loving. She and I first met at the Unlike City & Travel Guide headquarters in Berlin, where Helly works as a marketer and I am an editor. When she first told me about Tanzanian Beans, a plant-based meal with a Kiwi twist, I knew that this golden gal was onto something special–so I invited her to share the love. Take it away, Helly!

Tanzanian Beans

I’m quite proud of New Zealand’s culinary culture. As a small, green country, we’re never far from the farm and fields and we pride ourselves on local and seasonal produce.The country’s food identity is very much an ethnic mash-up. As well as our Maori heritage, we’ve assimilated onto the table edible offerings from Asia, the Mediterranean and the Pacific Rim. It’s the British influence, however that is the strongest, and in New Zealand, it’s meat-based meals that reign.

As a predominantly carnivorous nation, my naïve first impressions of vegetarian and vegan cuisine lead me to believe a few lettuce leaves garnished with cherry tomatoes was as good as it got. Fortunately, my curiosity and years of exploration have uncovered a wealth of delicious and exciting plant-based eats. My absolute favorite vegetarian dish is called Tanzanian Beans. Brimming with flavor, it’s an exotic potato and bean combo accented with citrus & spices. Delish!

The ingredients.
The preparation.
The eats!

Tanzanian Beans

What you need:

  • 3 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli or 1 tsp of chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1 cup dried coconut
  • 2 cups of cooked or canned beans (2 or 3 varieties with mixed color is good- black eyed
  • peas, kidney beans, white beans etc)
  • 1 cup parboiled potatoes diced (approx. 2 potatoes)
  • ½ cup of diced parboiled carrots (approx. half a carrot)
  • Juice of half a lemon or lime
  • Oil

What you do:

  • Pour a few glugs of oil into a pan.
  • Add garlic, onion and chili. Sauté for a few minutes, then add remaining herbs and spices.
  • Add coconut and stir.
  • Add beans, potatoes and carrots.
  • Mix well to coat the veggies and allow to simmer for 5-10 mins.
  • Pair with green veggies or chapatti and complement with a dollop of coconut cream.

New York’s Candle 79 Mixologist Kyle Bullen’s Exclusive Eating with Abs Autumnal Cocktail

New York-based Kyle Bullen transitioned from his career as a male model into his current role as a lead mixologist in the fine-dining sector. His passion for and commitment to animal advocacy first lead him to Millenium Restaurant in San Francisco–the most-upscale vegan eatery on the West Coast–and then to New York’s über-posh Candle 79 in Manhattan, where he fashions artisanal cocktail recipes and manages the bar. He’s super-handsome, has a heart of gold, and helped edit the just-published Candle 79 Cookbook. Below, he concocts a special autumnal cocktail using Eating with Abs’ favorite purveyor of organic, eco-friendly spirits–Puro Verde Tequila. Take it away, Kyle–it’s a true honor to have you contribute!

I get excited when autumn rolls around. I love working with flavors of summer, but my enthusiasm is far more aroused when I see the rising towers of pumpkins, apples, pomegranates, and other fall favorites along the street-side farmers’ markets of New York City. The colors and flavors this time of year take me back to gatherings with my family in Ohio, childhood trips to the apple orchard for fresh cider, and walks through colorful forests with my father, the trees showering us with falling leaves.

The name of this year’s Autumnal Cocktail at Candle 79, Mexican Apple doesn’t quite transport you to Ohio, but having spent several years living in San Francisco amongst a true melting pot of people in my early 20s, I’ve come to appreciate the integration of flavors inspired by a medley of cultural and culinary traditions.

My gift of feeling and thinking in flavors is the life source of my drinks. When I create a cocktail, I start with one base flavor in mind. For the ‘Mexican Apple’ it was Puro Verde’s Reposado Tequila. It has a clean, fresh taste that I knew would pair well with one of the most classic seasonal libations, hard apple cider. My favorite apple brew, Doc’s Draft, is locally made with New York State apples, a natural choice, with a crisp, dry flavor.

Kyle in-action this Thanksgiving at Candle 79

After selecting these two dominate tastes, the rest is about layering and weaving other interesting flavorful notes to create an exciting dance on the tongue. Finally, bitters ties this cocktail together seamlessly on the palate. And so the Mexican Apple was born and found its home on this year’s Candle 79 Thanksgiving Libations menu.

Only subtly sweet, the Mexican Apple is a refreshing cocktail with balanced fall flavors, delicate enough for a meal, but equally delightful sipped on its own!

Mexican Apple Cocktail Recipe

  • Glassware: 12 oz. rocks glass
  • 1 ½ oz. Puro Verde Organic Reposado Tequila
  • ¾ oz. Pomegranate concentrate
  • ¾ oz. Vanilla bean infused agave simple syrup
  • 2 dashes Bar Keep Apple Pie bitters
  • 2 ½ oz. Dry hard apple cider
  • Ice
  • Apple wheel Garnish

Instructions: Add all ingredients over ice and stir. Garnish with an apple wheel.

To make the vanilla bean agave simple syrup, mix equal parts water and agave with vanilla bean. You may substitute a dash of vanilla extract with the bean. If you cannot find pomegranate concentrate, use juice. To balance the sweetness of juice, you may wish to use slightly less agave nectar. If you cannot find Bar Keep Bitters, use one dash of the classic, Angostura Aromatic Bitters. In my recipe, I use Doc’s Draft Hard Apple Cider.