On Friday night I met up with my friend Rebecca at Let It Be (Treptower Straße 95). It’s a new vegan Creperie in Neukölln, just a few doors down from Sfizy Veg, the vegan Pizzeria, a staple on the Berlin plant-based culinary scene. Which BTW, is the only culinary scene that counts, the rest is just for vultures.
Let it Be, is a quirky, kind of Portlandia-esque Texas-fetishising little spot, with loads of kitschy decorations.
It was hard to decide, as the Erykah Badu also looked awesome, but I settled for the Woody Harrelson Ham&Cheese galette with a side salad. I inhaled it — it was just the junk-y, comfort food I craved. I was sweaty and starving after teaching three yoga classes and thinking about the ‘We Own the Night’ -race I will run in May.
After, we pigged out on a moist carrot cake drenched in a thick layer of fatty, tangy frosting.
Just coming up for air, and tummies swelling in our skinny hipster-jeans, the waiter brought us a freebie, the Frida Kahlo chocolate desert crepe.
Later, I got lost in Treptow on my way home to Prenzlauer Berg. Lucky for me I had enough fuel in my belly.
Set in a gorgeous location, sandwiched in between the coconut palm tree-lined Kerala backwaters and the sea, Amma’s pink ashram, a tray of cupcakes, left me both disenchanted and a little crazed.
My plan was to stay for week, but on Day 5 the mantra music that seemed to be playing everywhere, from early morning to way past nightfall had started to pulverize my brain and my ribcage, and the kooky followers made me both sad and disgusted. So I bailed one day earlier. Fled to the white beaches of Varkala.
I am generally a skeptical person, but I’m also curious. I wanted to see what the hype was all about. Does Amma really have some magical healing powers in her chubby arms than pull you onto her quite significant bosom for three seconds before her helpers drag you away? Could she heal my hurts? Coming there I still harbored a sliver of a hope that the answer to both of those questions would be yes. There’s still a possibility, of course, that she can or has tapped into some sort of higher energy, but i didn’t feel it. She made my hurts hurt more. I left wondering if there’s anything pure in this world at all?
For anyone that goes to Amritapuri, it will become quite clear that it’s a big business. You can buy Amma rings, keychains, t-shirts, posters, Cds, passport-sized photos of her feet, Amma incense and chocolate. Sure, she does charity work, but does she also pocket some?
The guru game in India and everywhere else is a very male-dominated business (because, yes, I think it’s a business). I am impressed that Amma, a woman from a poor fisher-family, has thousands upon thousands of men literally bowing down at her lotus feet.
I won’t be searching for a guru anytime soon though.
This restaurant is spic and span. The service is fast, fierce and fair. At the counter you can buy Spirulina (which I did), Masala spice mix (check!), raw vanilla bean, cashew nuts and other goodies.
The only drawback is the absence of a bathroom, something that is pretty common here. When the diarrhea strikes (about every other day) I must slide into my flipflops (at Prema shoes must be left by the door) and run through the blazing hot sunshine, to the bathroom facilities on the dirty town beach.
The food is solid. The fresh fruit salad with nuts, raisins, juicy papaya and freshly grated young sweet coconut is a classic. Today I also had toast with cashew butter and a black masala tea.
Classy vegan breakfast!
Tonight I’ll leave Gokarna. I’m heading to Kerala and Amma’s ashram. I’ll read Osho on the way.
Over & Out!
is a swanky health food store with attached eatery. Lots of ashtanga yogis hang out here (and yeah, they look a little cookie cutter and talk a little cookie cutter). There are plenty of gluten-free and vegan options, all clearly marked on the menu, which, BTW, is brimming over with options. Smoothies, Dosas (I’m gonna have to make a dosa post soon as I’m officially a dosa addict now!), herbal teas, vegan ice cream (!!!) and salad. I love Indian food, but green salads is not something you see that often.
I ordered this beauty twice. Sweet and tender baby bananas with amaranth, cabbage, cherry tomatoes, sultanas and virgin olive oil.
Food heaven yet again <3
I’ve been in India for a week now, and despite my messy stomach and bouts of diarrhea, right now I feel like I don’t ever want to return to Berlin.
The weird phantom pains I had in my left leg have evaporated and the nose piercing I had done at the hospital yesterday seems to be healing perfectly. Yeah, Meena, the sweetest lady who owns Silver Nest, a popular Gokulam jewelery shop, told us that we need to go to the hospital to get our noses pierced. I’m not so sure how kosher it is for two healthy vegan yogis to clog up an Indian hospital to get gold rings in our noses, but that’s what happened. We received anesthesia and the doctor was singing Indian show-tunes while we lay down on the stretcher with a gorgeous nurse hovering above and blowing hair from our eyes and caressing our sweaty arms. Mine went through easily with minimal blood, while Victorien’s kept on bleeding so they kept us there for almost an hour.
The doctor then prescribed a load of medicines for us: super Vitamin C, antibiotics (!?!!), anti-bacterial cream, painkillers (sadly sans the really good stuff) and then we were off to lunch, Victorien with a bandaged nose.
More about the delicious vegan, gluten-free and organic food later.
Early this morning I hopped into a rickshaw (accepting the price of 100 rupees, about thirty percent too high, just because I had enough of fighting with rickshaw drivers yesterday. And, operating according to the sad logic that at least he didn’t quote me a price double the ‘real’ price) and shook across the honk-honk madness just kicking off down-town, towards the posh suburb of Gokulam.
I arrived at the Mystic Yoga school just before seven, meaning well in advance for the 7:30 am Led Ashtanga class I was attending, along with Victorien, my incredibly sweet French colleague at yellow yoga.
The yoga shala was small (Not like Pattabhi Jois’ palace up the street), but sweet. The teacher was anything but. Sweet, that is. A thin mustasch-adorned man in sweatpants and bright yellow t-shirt who shifted our mats around anally, before the class started, and whose instructions where bare bones and corrections minimalistic and vaguely violent. He didn’t smile once. About an hour into the class my lower back was hurting again, so I think I should realize once and for all that my back isn’t made for Ashtanga.
After class Victorien took me to a really sweet French-owned café and guesthouse called Anokhi, where I had a strawberry mint smoothie, coffee with soy milk and vegan gluten-free Amaranth pancakes with coconut and banana. They were too good to be true, and too good to be photographed. The place has very limited opening hours so it sadly seems I won’t be able to eat there again before I leave Mysore.
I took my old friend Fredrik to Goura Pakora (Krossner straße 16) last night. I had been dying to eat there again after trying it for the first time about a month ago.
The first strike against this Indian-inspired shoebox-sized eatery is the location. Just off my least favorite street in Berlin, Simon-Dach Straße. The space still feels cramped and the food is slow to come out. Beer is grabbed self-service style from a slightly disorganized fridge (which lead Fredrik to disastrously accidentally consume a non-alcoholic pilsner!).
But when your number finally is called by the sweaty American skater-looking dude behind the counter, everything is forgiven.
We ordered the Thali für Zwei plus a classic Dosa. The food could barely fit the little table. The lentil soup was tomato base and a little pepper-y. The pakoras crispy and the mango sauce tangy. The coconut chutney catapults me into culinary heaven.
Fredrik was quite impressed. We nearly licked the plates cleaned before we left a nice tip to the stressed skater dude and staggered out onto the hellish Simon Dach with bellies filled with curry.
A couple of Thursdays ago I finally checked out the weekly street food event at Markthalle Neun (Eisenbahnstraße 42/43). Judging my the throngs of hungry peeps clustering around the various stands, the night is a success! There was plenty for us vegans to eat and drink. I definitely ate myself into a food coma (but still managed to stay awake through 12 Years a Slave afterwards …)
The most interesting dish I had was the Taiwanese Veggie burger from Bao Kitchen. It featured pickled radishes and turnips with lots of coriander, onions and other veggies in a very interesting sponge-like bun.
Funk You's stand made my sweet-tooth breath go all shallow with all the raw, vegan, gluten-free and pretty goodies on display. I ended up selecting a brownie bar sandwich with sticky caramel swelling in between. It was so good, I couldn't help but inhale it before I had a chance to take a picture.
At Falafel in Berlin (Skalitzer Straße 102) you get juicy Falafel balls and creamy, garlicky hummus, but also the amazing vegan (sadly not gluten-free) Zucchini Teig (pictured). The space is dark and cozy and the staff are really smile-y and sweet. I think I ate there four times last week.
Better than sex!
Better than snow!
Ignore the hideous website and the goofy name, Goura Pakora
(Krossner Straße 16) is a shoebox-sized and dirt cheap Friedrichshain eatery that reinvents Indian classics without the Ghee and the cream. Hungry as vultures, parched as Bukowski straight out of rehab, Tania, Lois and I snagged the last table and embarked on a feast of Bio Beer, crispy pakoras and too-die-for-dosas. We ended the dinner with Indian nougat.The bill came to €30 and change and that seemed like an incredible bargain for all the pleasure we had.
The night continued at the only decent bar on Simon Dach Straße, Place du Clichy with Pastis and international friends.
While hurrying through the swankiest part of Stockholm, on my way to yet an overpriced dinner (400SEK/€45 for some falafel and hummus?) I happened to see a Bikram Yoga Studio called Perfection Yoga. I wanted to throw up a little in my mouth. The shop was a combined yoga studio and skin care salon. What a lovely combo!
I sometimes dream of a combined yoga studio/tattoo parlor/feminist discourse salon/rock’n’roll school for teenage girls but this sadly seemed like a very natural step for a yoga world filled with instagram selfies, slim young (white) bodies and overpriced spandex pants.
For more on this topic read this: http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/downward-facing-drones/
I have returned! Returned to the mad world I’ve previously called real. I guess I’ll still have to call it real. And I’ll keep on pretending that it makes sense, although in so many ways it’s absolutely senseless.
My past ten days were spent in the woods of Sweden, at a 10-day silent meditation retreat. Vipassana. Stripped off mobile phone, computer, books, yoga mat, food items and ideally pen and paper (although I smuggled a notebook in to use when things got bad, because I knew they would …) and lodged in a small room together with two strangers who I was supposed to ignore, to treat as air even when they were trembling with anxiety, even when tears were streaming down their faces. Wake-up call was at 4:00. Then meditation from 4:30-6:30. Breakfast break. Meditation again until 11. Two hours break and then more of the same. Sitting with eyes closed, trying to focus.
Strange and wonderful things happening. Like stumbling out of the meditation hall, high from sensory deprivation. Tripping through the forest that seemed fairytale-ish and glow-y. The green greener than it had ever been before. The chirping off the birds the most gorgeous sound ever. It was cool being able to notice cool patterns on trees that I previously had paid no mind to.
I explored inner landscapes. I felt new aches, was washed in angst. Bored. Longing. Sentimental. Wanting to go back. To crawl back into my mama’s uterus even at times. Those times I knew were bad.
And also the mad, mad conditions of my own mind. How it never wants to stay present. Can’t stay present. How it’s constantly drifting, always on to the next thing, planning, craving, wishing, wanting.
How when I’m floating in turquoise water in one gorgeous location, I’m already planning the next waters I’ll be floating in. How when I’m enjoying one tasty bite, I’m already thinking about what I’ll eat tomorrow.
Now off to try to find some pretty veggies/vegan food in Stockholm!
This Friday night I took my forgetful and very non-vegan parents out for dinner at Mio Matto (Warschauer Straße 33). Despite having made a reservation we got one of the low lounge tables in the bar area. The place was packed to the brim, one half of the crowd was all stiff suit and tie and speeches — some sort of company Christmas extravaganza. My mom, who wears a hearing aid, felt that it was way too noisy. That they were way too noisy, and I felt the same. I started with a tomato soup that was very rich and sweet. They both got a tofu cream with pear chutney as appetizers and loved it. For my main I got the tofu steak — dense, smoky and beautifully presented. They got ravioli which they didn’t like as much as their starters.
The two first times I ate the service was Berlin-style sloppy and slow, albeit friendly. This time we had the cute redhead waiter and he took care of us very well.
I’m still not absolutely blown away. I still think Charlottenburg-y La Mano Verde is my favorite fancy vegan in Berlin.
With a swollen black ‘n’ blue kneecap after wiping out on my bicycle on Monday, I hobbled over to Vux (Wipperstraße 14) to put myself in a self-induced sugar coma.
The Brazilian proprietor is notoriously sullen (moody artist-style), but boy, can he bake some (vegan) cake! And luckily he hires staff members who are a lot more cheerful than him. Like the green-haired girl that guided me to a tasty habanero tofu bagel (fuck the no gluten thing! I can’t do it! If no animals have been harmed and the only ill effects are a basketball-sized belly … ) and a vanilla/peanutbutter cupcake (that I ended up giving to my ex-husband’s sweet roommate who in turn gave me delicious home-made Polish sauerkraut pirogs).
Vux is definitely one of my top Berlin eateries — I just don’t make it here often enough considering I’m located at the other end of the Berlin universe.