Vegan travel – Big Island, Hawaii

Sunset with the ohana at beautiful Manini beach in Captain Cook

Last we week, Marcus, Luca and I traveled to the Big Island for the first time, and we spent a few days on the Kona side of the island. We both had been to Hawaii, but it was our first time on the Big Island and our first time traveling to Hawaii with baby Luca (and my incredibly generous mother-in-law who helped babysit). Since the Big Island is huge, we didn’t get to go to all the vegan hot spots that I had scoped out on Yelp, but sharing a few of our favorites from the Kona side:

1.Pure Green Kona International Farmer’s Market – a MUST! Sundays 9-2 with amazing local fare — fruits, veggies, meals, sweets, kona coffee, artisanal gifts and more! My favorite were these amazing sweets made with carob and macadamia nuts; we also tried some delicious spring rolls, and stocked up on affordable macadamia nuts and kona coffee to bring home. There was live music too. Overall great vibes and delicious food!

Pure Kona farmers market – get the carob clusters!!!

2.Herbivore – This quirky, tiny vegan restaurant isn’t in the most picturesque location. In fact, it’s right in the middle of a parking lot. BUT they do have a creative vegan menu, a fun step stool up to the extra tall counter where you order, and we tried a good taro burger (which we took to go to eat on the beach — not just any beach – Kua Bay which is stunningly beautiful!).

Taro burger from Herbivore hole-in-the-wall (or parking lot) vegan shack

3.Kaya’s cafe – A sweet, hippie-esque artsy cafe with delicious kona lattes and every kind of alternative milk you might want. Lots of vegan options too w/ sandwiches, sweets and more.

Kaya’s kona almond latte with Big Island Bees’ raw organic honey

4.The Coffee Shack – a heads up that their menu is decidedly NOT vegan friendly, but they do have amazing views so you can just go get a coffee and some fruit and enjoy the sweeping views of the island from their incredible location.

The Coffee Shack’s prized location!

5.Island Naturals Market & Deli – I was told this was THE health food market on the island, and it did not dissapoint. While a bit pricey (like all supermarkets in Hawaii) and I thought the salad bar was only okay, overall this is a great stock up spot for all your vegan staples and treats alike. We got some great lillikoi (passionfruit) cake too, one of the many vegan desserts they had.

Island Naturals – THE health food store

And it goes without saying that tropical fruits should be a mainstay for any vegan (or anyone!) traveling to Hawaii. Whether at farmers markets, side of the road stands or regular supermarkets, the bananas, papayas, avocados, lychee and other tropical fruit are all delicious!

Lastly, a few places I wanted to try (per Yelp) but didn’t make it to on this trip (too far from where I was staying in Captain Cook) are here.

Other tips: Organic farmstay: We stayed on this organic mango farm in Captain Cook w/ a cedar hot tub surrounded by lush plants, and a great layout for a family (plus they have a pack ‘n play and it’s pretty baby-proofed for anyone traveling with little ones).

Outdoor lounging at our organic mango farm Airbnb
On our organic mango farmstay

Kua Bay also called Manini’owali- Simply stunning beach – favorite on the island that we saw (and one of the few we went to that actually has sand as many are more rocky). It’s not too far from the Kona airport so if you are flying into or out of Kona, you can (and should!) easily swing by.

The stunning Kua Bay beach – picture does not do justice!

Hope to do some more travel soon – next up San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in March for a dear friend’s wedding. Any vegan tips for San Miguel? Would love to hear them! Mahalo :).

SoCal Organic farmstay at Morning Song Farms

My husband and I have always loved staying on farms, meeting farmers, enjoying a slower pace and savoring farm fresh food.  We’ve camped at the amazing Full Belly Farm annual Hoes Down, stayed on an incredible family owned Alpaca farm / Airbnb in Paso Robles and most recently had the pleasure of staying at the beautiful and secluded Morning Song Farms near Temecula wine country.  This was our first mini roadtrip since the birth of our son Luca so we were looking for something not too far from LA, baby friendly and very relaxing.  Morning Song turned out to far surpass all our expectations.  It is such a special tucked away gem with a few very private cottages scattered about a stunning organic farm replete with the most abundant avocado, mulberry, orange, macadamia nut, kumquat trees, the cutest alpacas as well as mini goats and chickens.  We stayed in the Romantic Mountain House which was such a charming cottage with expansive nature views and a magical private hot tub and beautiful outdoor mosaic table (the mosaic art is all done by the farmer Donna) enveloped under an olive tree — the perfect spot to enjoy a peaceful morning coffee, family meal, read a book or relish in the sunset views.  The stay also includes a generous breakfast basket with farm fresh eggs from their chickens (being vegan I didn’t eat these but my husband very much enjoyed them), delicious coffee, juicy oranges and tangerines from their trees and more.  They also do a CSA program and leave a menu if you want to order additional items – we ordered some avocados and macadmia nuts and I’m glad we did because they were both delicious.

Adorable Alpacas – Dusty and Silverado

Delicious avocados, oranges and macadamia nuts from the farm

Sunset on the farm

Under the mulberry tree

We went for two days and while there are so many day trip options (Encinitas, Escondido, etc.), we decided to go to the unassuming nearby town of Fallbrook, a short 20 minute drive from the farm and the avocado capital of the world (!!!!!).  We had a delicious brunch at the very charming and yummy Fallbrook coffee co., and then ventured on two beautiful garden walks– one at the very manicured and stately gardens of the Garden Estates and one in the very funky artsy botanical gardens of Myrtle Farm Creek.  If you only have time for one, I would recommend the latter if you are looking for a more unique experience, but both were very beautiful.   The next day we only did a very quick stop in Temecula and thanks to Yelp found the fabulous Press Espresso cafe, which is hands down one of the most beautifully designed cafes I’ve ever seen and the macadamia nut latte was simply perfect. On this trip we didn’t go wine tasting (I’m breastfeeding so not drinking at the moment), but on a future trip we’ll be sure to check out some of the nearby vineyards.  There is even a low key winery called Roadrunner on a farm that is walking distance from Morning Song that we’ll be sure to check out next time.

 

Checking out the goats at Myrtle Creek Botanical Gardens

Fallbrook Coffee Co and Garden Estates

Macadamia Latte at Press Espresso in Temecula

 

 

 

Vegetarian Tips for Portugal Travel

A week ago, my husband and I were blessed to spend a week and half traveling in Portugal.  We stayed in Lisbon, Sintra, Porto and Algarve (about 2 days in each), and along the way we tried a few vegetarian restaurants.  At most Portuguese restaurants that aren’t specifically vegetarian/ vegan, there aren’t that many veggie options, but usually options will include soups (they surprisingly have vegan soups almost everywhere), bread and olive oil / olives, and for vegetarians, there will also be batatas bravas and cheeses. On this trip, I flexed to vegetarian as I sometimes do, but will specify options that are vegan friendly.  


Vegan Soups and Fresh OJ everywhere


Most places will have a ‘sopa do dia’ and amazingly they are almost all vegan  – generally vegetable based purees – and they are pretty filling and delicious.  My favorite soups were the pumpkin soup from The Garden in Lagos – a pretty, outdoor garden setting in the charming town of Lagos in the South (though my husband who eats meat thought the food was mediocre)- and the squash soup at Esencia in Porto – a beautiful, very highly ranked vegetarian restaurant (more on this restaurant below).

I also quickly learned that Portugal grows incredibly juicy oranges and there is fresh squeezed OJ at most cafes, bakeries and restaurants. Or you can also grab some oranges (from the fruit market next to the Time Out market in Lisbon, from stands on the side of the road in the South, or at any market) and squeeze your own.



Lisbon: Natural Terra, Time Out Market and Batata heaven at Alto do Bairro

My friend Kerry, who spent a few months in Lisbon, said that a vegetarian must was Natural Terra, and we weren’t let down.  We went for lunch where there is an all-you-can-eat vegetarian buffet (w/ vegan options, although vegan options were mostly salads and fruit).  The food was plentiful and the quaint, tucked away garden setting was lovely, and it was very reasonable for ~10 Euros each.  I especially enjoyed the salads, soup, fruit, iced herbal drinks and the garden setting.  They had a delicious sounding vegan berry crumble dessert, but alas I was too full to try it this time.  Only a few blocks away, there was another similar concept with a veggie buffet and garden called Jardim Dos Sentidos.  While we didn’t get to try it, it has even better reviews on TripAdvisor so could be worth checking out.

In Lisbon, we also had amazing batatas at Alto do Bairro, a very little hole-in-the-wall that made this magical dipping sauce (pretty sure it’s vegetarian and not vegan b/c it had an aioli-like taste). Everything else was just okay, but it’s worth stopping by for the yummy potatoes and magic sauce.

Lastly, we stayed just a few blocks away from the Time Out Market – a large open market with many different restaurants / food stalls and large communal tables.  While we didn’t try any standout dishes, the vibe is really fun and alive, especially at night.  During the day, there is also the neighboring fruit market, which has really high quality produce at affordable prices.  
Porto: Tapas, Olive Oil Tasting and Essencia 

One of my favorite restaurants in all of Portugal was Wine Quay Bar in Porto.  Perched in a prized location above the beautiful Douro river, this small tapas joint had both amazing food and service. The shitake mushrooms in a beautiful olive oil accompanied by warm crusty bread was simply perfect.  For those who flex vegetarian we also got a delicious spicy sheep’s cheese served with a fun guillotine slicer my husband was obsessed with :).   Would definitely come back here on a future trip!
We also stumbled upon Oliva, an olive oil specialty store where for 2 Euros (or they waive the fee if you purchase anything), you can taste regional olive oils.  It’s a lovely shop and definitely worth stopping in for a tasting.  We also bought some lemon garlic green olives that we loved.
Lastly, there is a very highly ranked vegetarian restaurant (w/ vegan options) called Essencia and we went for lunch where they had a fixed menu of appetizer, entree and optional dessert for 10-12 euros. It’s a couple miles from town so you’ll likely want to drive or take a taxi. The ambiance is lovely (see garden below), and  while I loved the soup and juice, the vegan lentil main dish didn’t settle well with me. Based on the reviews, I’d give it a chance but it wasn’t my personal favorite, and in fact I didn’t feel very well afterwards.
Algarve: Terra in Sagres

While road tripping along the Southern coastline, we stopped at Terra, a beautiful spots w/ vegetarian and vegan (and meat/ fish) options right across from a really nice beach (Praia Beliche). Surprisingly there weren’t that many places that we found that had good salads, and here I enjoyed a delicious salad, soy cappucino and ocean views.  We then sauntered across the street to Praia Beliche, a beautiful beach in a protected cove where there were quite a few surfers out.  

Not food related, but magical Airbnb recommendation in Sintra

Of our four stops, Sintra was by far my favorite.  The history, the magical castles, the incredible nature walks, and our stunning Airbnb made me not want to leave.   Our Airbnb was a beautifully restored villa with fairy-tale-like gardens and views overlooking Sintra.  Our host also left us delicious breakfast and her thoughtful touches and care for the property were simply amazing.  One day I hope to go back and spend at least a week!  
Hope you find these tips helpful, and if Portugal isn’t already on your bucket list, you should add it now!

Scoping out the Veggie scene in Encinitas

This past weekend my hubby and I went on a quick jaunt to Encinitas for the inaugural half marathon and in gearing up for the race, we fueled up with so much delicious vegan food. For those who will be in the Encinitas area looking for vegan meals and treats, here are a few of my favorites:

  • EVE (#1 favorite)!:  Eve is a beautiful, peaceful all vegan spot with comfy couches, goddess artwork, a gorgeous vertical succulent garden, and it even has a large and beautiful yoga studio in the back.  They do lots of healthy options and from reading Yelp reviews it sounded like the Buddha bowls were the way to go, and boy was that an amazing choice. We had the ‘Legendary Hero’, which seems so simple to make w/ rice, brussels sprouts, kale, carrots, and beets but the magic was in the tahini sauce!  The tahini sauce and the way the veggies were perfectly cooked made this bowl incredibly tasty, and next time I’m in Encinitas I definitely plan to return.   They also have an ample library and it is a cozy spot to read, write, or do some work.
  •  PeacePies:  This raw vegan spot (believe the only fully raw vegan spot in Encinitas) has a nice outdoor patio w/ a vibrant mural backdrop.  I’ve been there twice now for desserts and the first time I got doughnuts, which weren’t that great, but this time I returned for the Cosmic Coconut pie, which was creamy coconut deliciousness.  Raw vegan is not for everyone, but if you tend to like raw vegan like me, would recommend you try it.  They also have lots of savory options like nori wrap, ‘farawfel’ and more.
  •  SucculentCafé (Carlsbad): This is a café – not a vegan joint – but it is oh so beautiful and inspiring with creative succulent creations everywhere and the entire large space is surrounded by succulents.  It’s got great little nooks and benches to hang out in the sun and the soy chai latte is the perfect mix of spicy and sweet.  This spot is a gem, especially for succulent lovers!
  • UnionKitchen & Tap: This is more of a classic very lively brewery, and by no means specifically vegan (in fact believe they are known for burgers), but the sweet potato fries are amazing.
  • LePapagayo: Didn’t get to try this one yet but the menu looked great and there was very lively music on Sat. night.  The line was too long w/out a reservation so next time we’re in town we’ll be sure to make a ressie and try out this romantic, hopping spot.
Feel so blessed that this was our third time in the Encinitas are in the past six months and it always feels like such a refreshing, sunny, laid back, coastal vacation.  Look forward to returning soon!