Thursday, 14 November 2019
Eating out organic in Mannheim is different than in other cities: First it means vegetarian and vegan-friendly (almost) without exceptions. Second there seem to be no places serving national kitchens -- no German Wirtshaus, no French cuisine, no Turkish fastfood and not even a mock Italian place. And finally organic here means organic for everyone, not just for a wealthy, hip and urban clientele. As a result you may miss cleverly designed cool places as much as refined coffeehouses or classy gourmet restaurants. The good news is that Mannheim's organic restaurants and cafes are extremely affordable.
For breakfast (or a snack or coffee during the day) head for Bio-Bäcker Bihn on the ground floor of the Stadthaus housing the city library and other communal facilities and staging the city's part of the Mannheim/Heidelberg International Film Festival. Enter the complex from the north-eastern entry facing Paradeplatz, and you'll find the unpretentious bakery cum self-service cafe at the right hand site.
The breakfast options served on work- and Saturdays until noon are sufficient for two not too hungry ones; you can choose from a menu which also boosts three vegan varieties or combine yourself. Coffee or tea on the go is possible, but you should rather bring your own refillable cup (or buy one on the spot) as a one-way paper beaker righteously will be charged with 25 cents. For breakfast, lunch or in between freshly prepared sandwiches are available, too (though no longer in the evening). The coffee comes from an automat, and the rather cheap-looking interior design maintains a low threshold. If you come with a family or friends pay together which will give you a small discount (10% above 20 €, 12% above 30 € and 15 percent of a total above 50€).
100 percent organic wholefood has been served for almost 30 years now at the Hellers self-service restaurant on the Kaiserring ringway opposite the Wasserturm ("water tower") landmark. Take a tray and a plate, fill it from the various stations offering salads, mueslis, soups and warm dishes, proceed to the cash counter and find a place in the winter-garden like dining hall. During the busy lunch hours (usually between noon and 2 pm) there's also a separate station offering a pan-fried dish of the day in small or regular size. It's located next to the entrance and you also have to pay there. The food follows the principles of health food, seasonal and low in spices (the "hot" components I had were rather bland).
At the entrance to the sitting area there's a coffee and cake bar also serving ice-cream (1.50 € the scoop).
The cake at around 3 € the piece and the coffee drinks compensate for the rather low lunch prices: 4.15 € for a large (that is: what elsewhere would be regular sized) latte and 2.50 € for a small espresso from a coffee dispenser is more than you'd pay in much more pricey cities, and
given that the adjacent Alnatura supermarket has a decent Italian pressure coffee machine (though only one chair and table for in-house consumation) better take a coffee next door.
The audience at Hellers is quite different than in organic restaurants you may be used to: a lot of elderly people meet here for lunch and coffee.
Unfortunately the place doesn't serve breakfast -- the
kitchen opens half an hour after the cafe opens and closes one hour (on Sundays and public holidays two hours) before closing time. Also good to know: The soap dispenser in the bathroom contains organic handwash.
If you fancy a better coffee in the Schwetzingerstadt neighbourhood you may step by Eddie's, the city's zero waste grocery store.
For an organic coffee, spritzer (of fruit juice and sparkling water) or wine head for the north-western neighbourhood of Jungbusch. The vegetarian, vegan-friendly gastro pub Kombüse serves Mexican-style fastfood as well as a daily changing soup and main course, on availability (but not reliably) using organic veges. It keeps open until late and may give you an impression of the city's subculture. The place also offers a take away service, but kindly invites guests to bring their own re-usable cups and jars. You will be charged the extra expense if you insist on one-way packaging.
South of the main train station
Interestingly the hippest and most expensive places aren't located in the very city centre but south of the railway tracks. The first one is the Glückstein in Lindenhof south of the railway tracks, a short way from the banks of the river Rhine. This organic vegan restaurant took over from Frankfurt-based raw eatery Rohkosteria.
You can choose from the menu which still contains a lot of raw dishes
(bowls and salads, burgers, wraps, falafel, vegetable "pasta", smoothies, shots, cakes and cookies), and two warm and filling daily specials at 8 EUR (I had a simple, yet very tasty lentils-based lasagna).
Although the place is open in the evenings no alcohol is being served here, and you can also have caffeine-free lupin-based "coffee" drinks.
The pleasantly designed interior and the unexcited atmosphere make it an ideal place to stay for a while.
If you have a bicycle take the chance to visit the neighbourhood of Neckarau where you will find two real gems: The first one opened in 2019: Hedonist is another modern, thoroughly designed eatery, friendly, but less homely than Glückstein, rather the type of place where you expect busy business people to have a recreational and healthy lunch break (but no worries, the audience isn't that uniform). You can buy everything to take away, much of it in returnable glass jars with a deposit of 2 EUR -- salads, desserts, falafel and burger sandwiches, pasta, but also German-style pork and fish main courses. On weekdays a set menu consisting of a main course and a dessert is available at lunch time. On the Thursday I was there it was (very filling and quite dry) falafel with some salad, a spoon of pickled beetroot, a small amount of lentil salad, prefectly crisp potato chips and tasty (though too cold) potato salad. While the food is being served guests may collect the generous glass of dessert from the fridge. I had the so-called cheesecake which wasn't actually a cake but a cheese cream with oranges and sponge biscuits. There were also tiramisu and blueberry or raspberry mascarpone cream. The entire vegetarian meal came at 8 EUR, if you choose a fish or meat main course the price tag increases to 11 or even 15 EUR.
There's also a rack of selected wines, pickles and condiments to buy home. The place is fuelled by renewable energies.
Right next to the Hedonist you'll find the second place, a carefully curated and decorated cafe cum wine shop cum organic delicatessen dubbed Bittersüß ("bitter sweet"). Too beautiful to call it an owner-run organic grocery store you can buy all daily necessities here -- fresh fruits and veges, and dairy products as well as organic bodycare. But on top of all this you'll find French sweets, selected cognac and other spirits, an abundance of wine, delicate chocolates, and last but not least the delicious products of the organic ginger bread bakery Friedmann in the same neighbourhood. Between noon and 2pm vegetarian lunch is being served on weekdays -- the daily changing menu you'll find on a hand-written piece of paper at the cashier desk.
North of the Neckar river
Bicycle lovers must not miss out the city's first bike cafe in the Neckarstadt north of the river Neckar. The
Café Flamme Rouge (dubbed after the red flag displayed one kilometer before the end of a bike race) was established in 2005 and serves
organic bread and rolls from the
Lummerland organic bakery with biodynamic vegetarian spreads, partially organic coffee, home-made pesto, pancakes and a lunch dish (the menu changes on Mondays and Thursdays).
Also located in Neckarstadt Ost the
has a focus on regional, but unfortunately not organic ingredients. Organic products are used in the kitchen here and there, and the milk is always organic, though neither the (locally roasted) coffee or tea.
More to try
The following place I had on my research list but could not make it there:
No longer organic
The Wohnhunger gifts and things shop does no longer offer organic soups or stews for lunch, and does not use organic milk for their coffee drinks. The coffee itself may occasionally be organic (as they also sell organic beans) but usually isn't.
Of the following places you may find remnants on the web but be assured: They do no longer exist.
- Café Vogelfrei, C3, 20
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, M3, 7(moved to Stadthaus)
- envita Bio-Restaurant, Im Stadthaus N1, 1 (replaced by organic bakery Bihn)
- O’ Dog Café, M5, 8 (Hot dogs)
- mundgrün veganerie, T3, 7 (vegan) (preceeded by Sonnenblume Naturkost)
- Veggie-Stadel (formerly Bio-Stadel), Lindenhofstr. 62 replaced by Rohkosteria
- Rohkosteria, Lindenhofstr. 62, replaced by Glückstein
- Bio-Bäcker Bihn, Kurfürstenstr. 7
[Mannheim, organic, breakfast, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, vegan, vegetarian, restaurant, bakeries, ice-cream, delicatessen, wine]
Sunday, 23 June 2019
Whether you're after a noisy beach holiday at the Adriatic coast or want to escape the buzz of Venice but stay within the Venetian magic -- the former fisher town of Chioggia with the suburb of Sottomarina and its beach is definitely worth a visit. It's easy to reach by local train from Rovigo -- a travel back in time with noisy cars, some of them without air conditioning, where you open the windows in the vain hope that the hot summer wind will refresh you --, bicycle or bus no 11 from Lido SME. The latter travels on board of a ro-ro ferry at the south-end of the Lido di Venezia at Alberoni over to the isle of Pellestrina. At the ferry terminal next to the Pellestrina graveyard, Cimitero Pellestrina, the bus ends and you go on board of the waterbus ferry with the same name, to Chioggia.
If coming by bicycle from Venezia Santa Lucia train station take the ferry no. 17 from Tronchetto to Lido San Nicolo (from the train station you must carry your bike over the steps of the Ponte della Costituzione bridge), and simply follow the direction of the bus (the bicycle route over the islands is properly marked). You will also take the ro-ro ferry from Alberoni and later the waterbus from Pellestrina to Chioggia. For persons the ferries are covered by the ACTV day, two-days and three-days passes bought in Venice but you have to buy additional bicyles tickets at one EUR per bike and ferry ride.
Where to stay
Unfortunately I wasn't able to find any places to eat and stay with a throughout trustworthy eco-conscious mindset. The nearest you get for a sustainable overnight stay is Hotel Mediterraneo, directly located at Sottomarina's beach promenade, the Lungomare Adriatico. The hotel with its pleasant rooftop terrace carries the Legambiente ecolabel for sustainable tourism. However: The promised organic breakfast was predominantly conventional, with the notable exceptions of -- unfortunately prepackaged -- rice wafers and rusk (the latter was also available in a conventional variety), organic honey, and two types of (yummy) organic biscuits. Neither the tea bags, the bread nor the milk were organic, and the coffee from the automatic machine completely undrinkable for Italian standards. The hotel itself certainly fullfills higher eco demands than average, but they easily could do better introducing waste separation, re-usable toothbrush tumblers and natural body care on the rooms, and of course by raising the number of organic products notably.
Having said this, the hotel manager, Sonia, was cordial and helpful, the room clean and suitable for a family, with actual sea view, and sufficiently isolated against the noises of the beach party places -- off-season. The washing and cleaning detergents used on the room as well as on the bed linen and towels did not leave disturbing remainders of artificial perfumes. The a la carte menu on the hotel's restaurant, Saporoso, was done by a skilled chef which should better have had organic ingredients at hand, to enhance the taste to very good.
Where to eat
Sad to say but if you really want to eat organic you have to buy your own food for a pic-nic -- at least I wasn't able to spot at minimum predominantly organic eateries or restaurants. Let me know if you find one!
Your next best bet may be
Pizza Fantasy, a beach shack pizza restaurant next to the Astoria Village pleasure ground at the Lungomare. On occasions they seem to use organic wholemeal flour and olive oil for the dough, and this may point to a generally more conscious mindset. However I wasn't able to confirm the general use of organic ingredients.
For lunch you may also check out the sandwiches at Tentazioni Tipiche in the old town of Chioggia a few steps from the ACTV ferry stop, but again I cannot say how reliably they contain (or rather: not) organic produce.
The tour through the ice-cream parlours near Sottomarina beach starts with a case of greenwashing: L'Arte del Gelato da Marco e Giulio
advertises to use organic milk, but take this with a grain of salt: The 10 liters milk boxes by Parmalat delivered to the place were without doubt not lavelled organic. The ice-cream and the frozen yogurt are nevertheless smooth and easily palatable, though too sweet for my taste. None of the toppings for the frozen yogurt were organic. They take 1.80 EUR for a generous small serving of ice-cream, and 2.50 EUR for a small frozen yogurt with two toppings. The queue during evening hours makes it easy to identify this place on Piazza Italia.
A few steps along the roundabout, and you'll find L'Oasi del Gelato. The ice-cream here still looks very conventional, but for 2019 the owners promised to start using organic products -- organic milk in general, but also (on occasions) organic strawberries. How far they've already embraced this path I cannot say, but: Keep on going!
The Grom chain of ice-cream parlours stopped promising organic ingredients in 2019 (except for the milk in the milk shakes), but for the records: Yes, there's a Grom branch at the Lungomare.
The best source of organic food I could find is just around the corner from the ice-cream parlours at the Piazza Italia roundabout: Nuovi Sapori da Laura e Elena is a small, Sunday-open convenience store offering organic milk (the very lattebusche milk promised by the L'Oasi gelateria), juices, cheese, cookies, jam, wine, a good selection of dry food, and more -- you'll have to check for organic labels and ask at the cheese-and-meat counter.
The traditional Italian Tentazioni Tipiche delicatessen at the northern end of Corso del Popolo
next to Palazzo delle Figure in the old town of Chioggia is another small
grocery offering a -- rather limited -- range of organic (dry) food.
For organic and fairly traded bodycare (though no sun cream), dry food, sweets, preserves, wine, soft drinks, fairly traded fashion accessoiries and gifts head to the southern end of the corso: The Altromercato Commercio equo e sociale also stocks (not always certified organic) products of territories freed from the mafia, under the Libera Terra ("freed land") label.
More organic body care, using hemp as an ingredient, and other (partially organic) hemp products can be found at Canapa for you in Sottomarina which I did not have time to visit.
Some organic products are also available from the Supercoffeeshop coffee bar in Sottomarina. The coffee probably isn't organic, and I cannot say anything about the milk since I could not make it there.
If you are adventurous try to find Le verdure di Marco e Camilla in the old town of Chioggia, supposedly a quite new full-blown organic grocery also selling
fresh organic fruits and veges. I did not have the time to find the place, so please let me know if you know where exactly it is located.
More to try
[Chioggia, Sottomarina, biologico, organic, ice-cream, supermarkets, grocery, bicycle, hotel, accommodation, fair, gifts, shopping, bodycare, coffee, cafe, hemp]
Saturday, 18 May 2019
When you're captured in the boring conference centre Moa-Bogen (not far from the Berlin main train station, Hauptbahnhof) where not even the tea bags in the conference area are organic (with the notable exception of one type of simple black tea which was available from one single tea bag dispenser) all you want is to go for a stroll at lunch time.
But this is not Kreuzberg and it's not so easy to find organic food options. What I discovered in the vicinity were two vegan day cafes with more or less limited use of organic ingredients, both not more than a five minutes walk away (though in opposite directions).
Around Birkenstraße tube station
For cheap and simple, filling vegan food find the ice-cream-shaped neon light of
vegan Café Geh Veg next to the Birkenstraße tube station (the name is a mesh up of the literal translation of "go veg", the German word for pedestrian way -- Gehweg -- and the German phrase "Geh weg!" meaning "go away"). This small and somewhat shabby place serves breakfast until 2 pm as well as black bean burgers, salads, bagels, wraps and cakes. Unfortunately it’s only partially organic: The bagels, the tempeh and the soy and the oat drinks are organic, most of the tea bags and soft drinks are, too, but veges, yogurt alternatives and the ice-cream usually are not. The coffee is even cheap conventional supermarket fare.
Questions about the origin of the ingredients were dealt with in a friendly way, but the staff does not seem to be very knowledgeable. Note that the toilets are next door.
For way nicer surroundings in Spanish style walk in opposite direction: Directly located at the pleasant retreat of Stephansplatz with a nice children's playground surrounded by Wilhelminian style houses you'll find Valladares Feinkost. It's not only a
100% vegan café, but
also a small organic grocery selling organic dry products, dairy alternatives, wines, lemonades, water and even natural cosmetics.
The coffee is roasted in town but not organic, the plant-based drinks are.
According to the barrista fresh veges used in the dishes would usually be organic, but there's no commitment to what's organic and what not. Unfortunately the cakes aren't.
The oat-drink-based cappuccino I found too sweet (due to the brand), so here the one from Geh Veg was better, despite the inferior coffee.
From Birkenstraße take the U9 tube one stop to Turmstraße, and you're in the heart of Old Moabit, with busy shopping streets and pleasant residential areas. Here you'll find
the Domberger Brot-Werk, a true
artisanal bakery with an open bakehouse as part of the shop. It smells deliciously here and you may be surprised by the limited selection of items -- just a few types of bread and rolls, and one type of cake if you come in time for the latter. But the taste! I still regret that I did not buy a loaf of bread to take with me, since the Bavarian-style pretzl I had was overwhelmingly tasty: fresh from the oven, with an intense flavour of wheat and baking stone (although Bavarians would probably complain about the softness). The bakery itself is not certified organic, but uses
certified organic flour, eggs, and milk. The fruit for the cake and other ingredients come from the Kreuzberger Markthalle 7 and may not be organic. Needless to say that you can have a coffee, too, probably also in front of the place when the weather is nice.
For 100% organic ice-cream head for the
Eisbox ice-cream parlour a few corners away. Unfortunately I run short of time, so share your experience with me if you come here.
There's also an organic supermarket of the small Berlin-based LPG chain a few meters further west which also offers fully organic lunch. Their bakery counter opens an hour before the supermarket, at 7am.
The LPG groceries are organised as a co-operative with a focus on regional producers and neighbourhood welfare, offering discounts to its members. Its name matches the common abbreviation for the agricultural production cooperatives in former East Germany.
At the main train station
Within the city's huge main train station, Berlin Hauptbahnhof (which you can reach within a few minutes on the TXL bus from the Turmstraße stop located on Alt-Moabit street) it's hard to find a supplier of organic provisions (you'll have to fall back to the conventional Rewe supermarket or the Rossmann drugstore and check for organic labels). I could not find any eatery using organic ingredients, but you can at least have organic coffee drinks and tea at the Pret a manger self-service cafe. When you enter the station from the southern exit at Washingtonplatz this is the first place to the left. They use fresh organic milk from the Bavarian Andechser dairy, but unfortunately none of their cakes, cookies, sandwiches and other own-brand snacks are organic.
[Berlin, Moabit, organic, vegan, cafe, restaurant, eatery, coffee, ice-cream, supermarkets, grocery, bakeries]
Monday, 22 April 2019
Fortunately an increasing number of small-scale organic cattle farmers find creative ways to survive for the good of all of us -- and with some dairy cow farmers like the Kaemenas in Bremen or the Greisslers in Lower Austria the good is simply the best -- mouth-watering artisanal ice-cream!
In the case of Eis-Greissler the ice-cream isn't fully organic -- it's made from organic milk and often flavoured with organic Sonnentor spices. The home-base for the ice-cream parlours with the chequered, pastel-shaded doll's house interior is Vienna, and usually you will be able to recognise the
tiny shop near Stephansdom by the queue in front of it. The blackboard with the ice-cream flavours you'll notice when queueing from the right lists only the vegan flavours, there's a second blackboard left to the entrance listing the dairy varieties. A small scoop comes at 1.60 €, two flavours at 3 €, three at 4.20 €.
Prices however aren't the same everywhere: The bicyle-powered mobile ice-cream boothes (supplied with fresh ice-cream by cargo bikes) on the grounds of Schönbrunn castle and zoo charge a hefty 2.20 € the scoop.
More to try
During my research I also found the following ice-cream parlours trustworthily using organic ingredients, but I did not have the time to try them myself. If you do so let me know about your experience!
[Vienna, Wien, organic, vegan, ice-cream, cafe, coffee]
Thursday, 24 January 2019
For (re-)filling your kitchen cupboard and shop for un(pre)packaged food head straight to the northern shore of the Neckar river, to the Neuenheimer Markt market place. On Wednesday mornings (until 1 pm) a farmer's market is held here, but a few steps
you will also find the city's only package-free supermarket dubbed Annas Unverpacktes ("Anna's unwrapped goods") which with its outer wall made of turquoise tiles looks like a converted butcher's shop from the outside. As all zero waste convenience stores I've come across so far it's strictly vegetarian, but omnivores simply walk outside and turn left to find an artisanal butcher's shop at the next corner.
Until some years ago the Metzgerei Blatt was working according to the Neuland principles of animal welfare in meat production which are close to, but not fully organic, and in 2015 turned to fully organic principles. The shop was closed when I went there (as it's generally closed on Wednesday afternoons), but the owner assured me that the staff would fill my purchase into my own clean boxes as long as they were intended for personal consumation (instead of catering a bigger crowd). Ready-to-eat meat dishes are also available to take away.
Directly opposite the Neuenburger Markt there's also a shop of the local wholefood bakery Mahlzahn named after the dragon in Michael Ende's famous children's novel "Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver". Here the shop assistants will happily put your bread, rolls, sweet and savoury pastries into the bags or containers you present.
The bakery workshop itself is located in the Weststadt neighbourhood where you also can buy a small selection of loose-weight seasonal fruit and veges and assorted pre-packaged organic food items to supplement your breakfast, lunch or coffee table. When I went there in hope for an early organic breakfast it however turned out that this bakery doesn't follow the zeitgeist to serve coffee and snacks to eat on the spot everywhere -- no coffee machine here, no bar tables. (The rolls were delicious nevertheless.)
Mind you that this bakery does not use white flour at all.
Altogether there are four Mahlzahn shops, all with identical opening hours, the third one located in the neighbourhood of Rohrbach, and the fourth in Handschuhsheim (literally: "glove's home").
To buy all items for a zero waste breakfast at one stop head for the city's branch of the Denn's organic supermarket chain: The staff at its meat, dairy and bakery counters offers to fill cheese, cured meat products, sausages and bakery items the into your own containers. If you buy a coffee drink on the go in your own cup you'll receive a 30 cents discount, and you can also buy lunch to take away in your own jars instead of having it at the self-service bistro.
More to try
Here are a few more shops which I found during my research but didn't manage to visit myself:
You may still find references to the following organic grocery on the web, but be assured it's no longer there:
[Heidelberg, organic, vegetarian, zero_waste, unverpackt, cafe, grocery, supermarkets, butcher]