The Organic Traveller
Monday, 08 January 2018

Hamburg: Fair and organic Hafencity

An inner-city district to be developed from scratch is the most exciting thing in the life of city planners, and Hamburg's Hafencity with its recently opened Elbphilharmonie concert hall is Europe's biggest inner-city development in modern times. When finished it will consist of ten often quite different neighbourhoods, with many sustainability aspects considered. If you have the time take part in one of the guided tours (free of charge) or pay a visit to the Sustainability Pavillion Osaka 9. The latter houses a small fair-trade cafe bar dubbed Die kleine Elbfaire where you can have a coffee or soft drink and buy pre-packaged fairly traded sweets.

Elbfaire

With its name drawing from the similarity of the words "fair" and "Fähre" ("ferry") the little coffee bar is a spin-off of Elbfaire, a fair-trade lunch cafe and meeting place with a pleasant backyard run by the ecumenical association of 17 Hamburg-based churches. On weekdays you can come here for an organic vegetarian lunch between 12 am and 14:30 pm, or step by for a fairly traded organic coffee drink together with home-made organic cakes.

Another organic lunch option is the self-service day cafe of the nearby Alnatura supermarket.

Not organic

When looking for healthy organic food in the Hafencity you may be guided to Greenlovers, a lunch restaurant serving soups, stews, bowls and salads using predominantly locally sourced ingredients. Unfortunately the promising name is misleading since the place does not have an organic agenda. However, I was assured that tofu and eggs always were organic, and if you dare to ask you may occasionally find one or another organic vegetable used in the dishes. There's a second branch near the townhall with longer opening hours, keeping open Monday through Saturday until 7 pm.

2018-01-08 12:30:00 [Hamburg, Hafencity, organic, fair, vegetarian, eatery, cafe, lunch, supermarkets, coffee] Link

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Friday, 05 January 2018

Hamburg: (Partially) organic restaurants

While organic lunch options aren't difficult to find (namely in the neighbourhoods around Altona station) the organic evening out requires some more research. The list I am presenting here surely isn't exhaustive since it is the result of a two-days stay, so I'm glad for additional contributions.

Mediterranean

Italian antipasti, oriental mezze, Spanish tapas or a simple pasta dish -- the organically certified wine restaurant Piccolo Paradiso serves vegetarian food from the Mediterraneans. The intimate, organically certified place breathes the atmosphere of an Italian trattoria, the home-made food owes its taste to the quality of the organic ingredients rather than the skills of an ambitious chef. So do not expect a fine dining experience, instead come to enjoy mother's versions of vegetarian starters. Advanced booking is advisable, and you shouldn't arrive too late as the kitchen closes around 10 pm. Note that the restaurant keeps closed on Sundays and Mondays.

Burgers

A small chain consisting of two restaurants Edelsatt is not an ordinary burger place: What you get here are tasty game burgers served without bread or in organic buns from the Springer organic bakery. No smoke-ladden air as in many, also high-end burger grills, tasteful decoration and reusable cotton towels in the bathrooms -- the restaurant in the Karolinenviertel neighbourhood is most certainly a place for the extended evening out with friends or the romantic dinner. A small assortment of organic softdrinks and beer (of the Stralsund-based Störtebeker brand) are being offered to accompany your meal, and if you don't feel for a game burger you may opt for a salmon, vegan quinoa or vegetarian aubergine-mozzarella one, or for a change, a game sausage. The second (older) restaurant is located in Winterhude.

If burger means fast-food to you, head for Dulf's Burger a few minutes walk in Western direction. The burgers served here are made from organic beef, and the queue in front of the place was most impressive when I decided against waiting in the rain during the "Hamburger Dom" fun fair next door. If you come here I'd be glad to hear about your experience.

More to try

Here's a list of evening-open (partially) organic restaurants and eateries I found during my research but did not have time to visit. Your impressions are appreciated!

Ceased to exist

The following places shut down or were replaced by other, not organic ones, although you still find them on the web:

2018-01-05 12:00:02 [Hamburg, Altona, organic, vegetarian, restaurant, burgers, lunch, dinner, takeaway] Link

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Saturday, 30 December 2017

Organic Steinkjer

Norwegian smalltowns can be a frustrating experience for those used to organic food, hunting-gathering the nation-wide chains as described here. What a surprise when I spent the time waiting for a bus in Steinkjer with a stroll through the town's main street, Kongens gate. Five minutes from the train station you'll find Grønn bølge ("Green Wave"), a small friendly organic convenience store cum day cafe where you not only can buy daily supplies (surprisingly much of it from local producers, including a small selection of fresh seasonal fruit and veges) but also have a smoothie, plain coffee, home-made cookie or seasonal soup. Until 2016 the shop was located in a side street a few steps away.

For a more substantial meal in the afternoon or evening simply cross the street. Here you'll find Ox Steak House, where you can have grilled or cured beef, burgers (with home-made buns), sausages, and more from free-ranging highland cattle from a small-scale farm about 15 kilometers north-west. The animals are allowed to keep their horns, but neither the farm nor the restaurant is certified organic. The place was however recommended to me by another local farmer in the course of an exchange on free-range and organic farming. You can also order food to take away.

To dine in style at a decidedly committed organic farm you'll have to book in advance and take a taxi 12 kilometers out of town to Bjerkem organic farm and cultural heritage center. Since September 2017 the farm has been playing host to the new organic gourmet restaurant of acclaimed Norwegian (formerly London-based) chef Kim Tore Sjøbakk, the Experience. The tasting menu consisting of 14 courses comes at 1250 NOK per person, together with matching wine and drinks at 2250 NOK. Unfortunately I did not have the opportunity to dine there yet, so let me know about your experience.

Closed

2017-12-30 14:00:02 [Steinkjer, organic, supermarkets, grocery, eatery, restaurant, burgers, fastfood] Link

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Monday, 25 December 2017

Organic Namsos

For those of us living in big Western cities and metropolises and used to a stable supply with eco-conscious products small Norwegian towns like Namsos in Northern Trøndelag come as a shock: In this rich country with lots of well-educated people the individual has to take a big extra effort to source organic food and eco-conscious household products. It's not only about to know where to go, no -- you may simply not be able to find staples in organic quality. Planning ahead often is no option since you cannot rely on supermarkets to have organic sugar or cream all the time, flavoured yoghurt, gomme (traditional Norwegian dairy spread), durum pasta and ice-cream once where available, but no longer, yeast or mushrooms (to name a few) have never been seen here. Creativity is key: Shop what's available and hack your meals according to what is on offer.

There's no support for the zero waste approach, in fact the big chains usually sell organic vegetables and fruit pre-packaged in plastic foil to avoid accidental mixing with the larger conventional batches.

Forget completely about eating out -- in a town like Namsos which has dozens of branches of the cheaper supermarket chains, but not even a single branch of more upmarket chains like Meny (which was closed about eight years ago) or Coop Mega (which was converted into an inferior Coop Extra at about the same time) the general inhabitants' priorities obviously do not include quality food. (The region's organic farm-to-table delivery service, Økomat Innherred, stopped serving Namsos at about the same time owing lack of demand.)

Food and staples

The good news is that even Namsos is not completely ignorant of a certain trend towards a more sustainable lifestyle, and, to my surprise, after years of stagnation, I have been observing an improvement since 2016. By now there's a steady supply of organic apples, oranges, lemons, bananas, eggs, milk, wheat flour, whole-meal pasta, butter and oil, fresh herbs and a basic assortment of dried herbs and spices, tomatoes (both fresh and canned chopped), onion, carrots, bell pepper, cucumber, salad, tortillas, ketchup, coffee, tea, chocolates, muesli, apple juice, kefir and sour-cream ("rømme"), cheese, crispbread, sesame and sunflower seeds, preserved olives, canned corn, peanut butter and chocolate spread, honey, baby food and usually also bread, potatoes, rocket in summer, and cauliflower (I may have forgotten some items). Hence vegetarians are quite reasonably catered for, and this is a vast improvement compared with the situation only two to three years ago.

Omnivores have a harder life: You may be so fortunate to find "Gilde økologisk spekepølse", a cured meat speciality similar to a salami, and if you scan pre-packaged meat products (both frozen and fresh) you may find minced meat, sometimes even beef cuts and before X-mas pinnekjøtt. In general scan carefully for the "økologisk" keyword and all organic labels you know of, especially the Debio label, the European one and the Swedish KRAV. You may be surprised to find a new type of cheese, pre-backed rolls or even Norwegian beer.

Coop Extra Bygg Spillum To keep frustration as low as possible shop from the Coop supermarkets -- the Coop Extra Verftsgata within the Storsenter mall and the Coop Extra Bygg in Spillum offer most organic options and often complement each other. All products of the Änglamark own brand as well as all dairy products from Røros meieriet are organic. Veges are often advertised as the Aroma variety, but to be sure check for organic labels. The branch on Verftsgata has had a stronger organic focus during the past years and still offers a better selection of veges, among them pears, fresh ginger and garlic, and sometimes even of non-mainstream varieties. But the bigger Spillum branch has kept up: They even showcased a surprisingly good selection of organic lemonades and light beer from Reins Kloster for the holiday season 2016/17, proudly sporting hand-written organic labels. By now organic fruit and veges have their own sales area, so it's been easier to find them. The Spillum branch has been offering organic parmesan cheese, frozen bread rolls, plain yoghurt and even organic cream since -- products I've never seen in town before. Still, there are quite a few product categories which are impossible to find in organic quality, among them Norwegian staples like sauerkraut, frozen pizza and (!) Italian-style pasta made from durum wheat.

For ice-cream stop by the (otherwise inferior but late-evening open) Rema 1000 supermarket opposite the Rock City cinema: The chain recently invested in Kolonihagen, a 100% organic delivery service, allowing them to develop and extend their own brand. Some of these products (like ice-cream and orange jam) can be found in Namsos as well.

To supplement baking ingredients, dried fruit, tea and sweets head for the small Life healthfood store within the Storsenter complex -- just follow the indoors aisle starting at the Coop branch and head for the second shop to the left. They offer a decent range of products of the Helios brand of organic and biodynamic quality and are the most reliable and exhaustive source of organic tea and tisane bags in town.

Organic wine and stronger beer can be sourced from the town's Vinmonopolet also located in the Storsenter mall -- they usually have a small selection of organic items in stock, but you're required to order more fancy stuff in advance.

If you happen to be in town on the few occasions a farmers' market (Bondens marked) is being held or during the annual Kulturmartna fair on the premises of Namdalsmuseet in August shop for organic cured meat smoked in the sauna of Brattlia farm in Namdalseid. If you call in advance you may also pay a visit to the farm itself and buy their products directly (leave the bus from Steinkjer to Namsos at Lyngen stop and follow the signs.) On both market occasions one or two other local organic small scale farmers will sell their produce.

The best source for smoked or fermented wild salmon as well as fermented char or trout ("rakfisk") and dried wild fish is the town's only real butcher cum delicatessen, Aakervik. On a few occasions they also stock organic meat, and they are a reliable source of Norwegian lamb chops: Even though usually not organically certified most Norwegian sheep spend their lifetime roaming in the mountains, feeding on what the countryside has to offer, and thus, a stress-free death provided, can be taken for almost organic.

In general a huge amount of the country's organically produced milk and meat is being sold undercover as conventional food. Where, you might ask, go all the Norwegian organic hens at the end of their lives as producers of organic eggs? As of today organic Norwegian chicken meat products have been unseen of in the country's supermarkets. While the countries largest dairy distributor, Tine, seems to give up its long-time opposition against organic products, egg distributor Prior and meat distributor Gilde often are not interested in marketing their products as organic claiming that consumers would refuse to buy them as they would be perceived as overprized.

Household and body care

Detergents and toiletries of Coop's Änglamark brand meet the requirements of the Nordic Ecolabel and are your best choice for household detergents usually free from artificial colourings and perfumes. Unfortunately this label, to name a few disadvantages, allows aggressive tensides such as SLS and SLES and does not require all natural or even organic ingredients.

For superior natural skin care or even organically certified body care products you have the following options: The Life healthfood shop stocks a basic selection of creams, lotions, soaps, toothpastes and hair care products. In addition the town's only natural care hairdresser's cum beauty parlour Art of Nature in the center of town will sell organic hair and skin care to passers-by. You will also find a very limited selection of natural body care at Namsos Bandasje opposite Storsenter. There's no supplier of natural or even organic decorative cosmetic products in town.

Fashion

Fashionistas should keep clear of Namsos, but the local H&M branches at Storsenter offer a reasonable selection of fast fashion items made from organic and sustainable materials. Look out for the "H&M conscious" brand with their green labels.

2017-12-25 13:00:10 [Namsos, organic, wine, supermarkets, grocery, market, fashion] Link

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Friday, 03 November 2017

Sustainable shopping in Salzburg

To shop for organic products in Salzburg couldn't be easier: Even the random conventional supermarket has a sufficient selection of it, hence availability is not an issue as long as you are familiar with the EU and the Austrian organic logos (mainly the AMA organic seal, the Austria organic guarantee, and the Bio Austria certificate). When thinking gifts and souvenirs, visits to the flagship stores of Austria's main organic brands come in handy: Salzburg hosts plenty of them, all located within walking distance in the city center. Here's a selection, all of them committed not only to organic but fairly traded products:

Name Salzburg, and the famous Mozartkugel chocolates comes to mind. I couldn't find an organic version, but a stroll to the Zotter confectioner's shop will lead you directly to a sweet paradise, with myriads of surprising declinations of artisanal chocolates, among others special Salzburg chocolate truffles ("Salzburger Nockerln").

Not so sweet teeth should head for busy Linzer Gasse pedestrian street to find teas, tisanes, dried herbs and spices, as well as a selection of sweets and natural body care at Sonnentor -- the contemporary version of a medieval chemist's shop, with an abundance of products based on herbs grown in Austria itself.

Just a stone's throw away you will find Weltladen, a dedicated fair trade shop and a nice place to shop for all kind of gifts -- both eatable, wearable, and decorative.

If you feel like a coffee during your shopping spree step by Röstzimmer 15, a small scale coffee roaster's specialising in organic fairly traded traditionally grown Ethiopian coffee dubbed "Urkaffee". In addition they sell organic chocolates, tea, and honey from within the city boundaries. Careful with the bread: only a selection is organic. Unfortunately this cosy little shop is closed on Saturdays (and Sundays).

Once home to a vibrant shoe industry there's not much left of artisanal shoemakery in today's Austria. If it wasn't for the "Waldviertler" -- robust enduring footwear which you can buy at Gea alongside fashionable leather bags, sustainably made furniture with a sometimes anarchistic touch, bedding, eco fashion accessories, organic tea and tisanes, or gift items. The company is a major driving force within the Economy for the Common Good movement, and all products are made in sustainably driven, socially conscious workshops by artisans in Austria and its neighbouring countries.

For sustainably produced shoes of play- and colourful designs -- light city wear in contrast to the down-to-earth design inspired by the farm lands of the Waldviertel -- head to the Think! flagship store in the old town. The founder of this brand also comes from an Austrian shoemaker family, and the company is headquartered in a small Upper Austrian village, Kopfing.

While Gea provides you with socks, gloves, scarfs, gloves and other textile accessories it's not a clothes boutique. For eco fashion you may try Bella Boutique in Linzer Gasse, but check the labels carefully as its entrance area shows off tourist rip-off like cheap Chinese down jackets made from 100% plastic materials. The shop was formerly located in Wolf-Dietrich-Straße, an address you still may come across.

If you love hemp and other re-discovered plant-based fibres head for Eberlin-Frenkenberger Naturmode in Dreifaltigkeitsgasse, a nice fashion boutique with a classical approach.

Closed

2017-11-03 16:00:04 [Salzburg, organic, fair, coffee, tea, gifts, spices, fashion, shoes, shopping] Link

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