Monday, 26 December 2016
As in most German cities addresses of organic groceries are an easy bet if you're on the lookout for an organic sandwich or coffee on the go during the day. But Nuremberg has more to offer: A good selection of casual organic restaurants and burger grills as well as some nice day cafes, all within walking distance from inside the walled city centre.
The newest of them is
The Green in the neighbourhood of Rosenau, a few steps west off the traffic machinery of Plärrer. You'll enter a cleanly designed vegetarian, predominantly vegan cafe cum eatery in black-brown-white optics perfectly suited both, to sit down and work or to meet friends. Their speciality are freshly prepared smoothies and super food drinks. In addition they offer a daily changing home-cooked lunch as well as coffee drinks.
Between 80 and 90 percent of the fruit is organic, and the seasonal veges, predominantly sourced from a farmer in the vicinity, are so according to availability. Bread and lenses are organic, too, as is a selection of soft drinks (though the coffee and the pasta are not). The owners are happy to answer all your questions concerning the origin of the food, hence do not hesitate to enquire. Note that they are closed on Wednesdays.
Two corners away you'll find Bio und nah, the neighbourhood's only remaining (and fully organic) grocery, co-operatively driven on the premises of a former bakery. On weekdays they serve a simple (vegetarian) soup or stew at lunch time, and you can have a coffee drink and cake or sandwich throughout the day. Matching the atmosphere of a farm shop they are pioneering the zero waste approach in town with suspenders for dry goods. These are re-financed by the sale of organic cotton bags which you purchase to fill with legumes, corn, pasta, cerials, nuts and more, and re-use thereafter.
Located in south-western direction from Am Plärrer, in a neighbourhood with many nice Wilhelminian houses and a lot of Turkish and Arab shops right before the railway tracks you'll find an organic institution of old, the
Lotos grocery and cafe.
Their latest brainchild is a hole-in-the-wall 100 percent organic veggie doner and falafel shop dubbed Falafelei next to the main entrance which was opened in March, 2016. The falafel "extra" dürum I had was very tasty, just the prefab dürum bread would be better replaced with a freshly baked one.
You do not have to eat on the go -- simply tell them you're going inside and have it in the light and cosy winter garden in the back of the shop or on the roofed terrace during the warm season. Here you are also served coffee (or tea), cakes and, from noon, a tasty, daily changing hearty vegetarian or vegan meal inspired by ayurvedic principles (and not bland at all). All items of the set menu -- salad, main course and dessert -- can be ordered separately; you may also choose a small helping of the main course (which is just a small serving indeed). While you place your order for coffee and cake at the bakery counter (which will be served) you have to order and fetch your lunch from the kitchen window. Specify if you prefer the vegan version. You'll pay at the grocery's cash desk before you leave. They also offer breakfast in the morning and diner until 7:30 pm.
On your way back to the walled city centre, on Gostenhofer Hauptstraße you'll find a branch of the local organic supermarket chain,
Ebl, a spacious venue with a street-facing self-service day cafe. Between 11 am and 2 pm they offer a vegetarian lunch on weekdays, and you can have a coffee or tea and/or cake or sandwich all day at one of the high tables.
Within the walled city
On December 7, 2016 the supermarket chain opened their newest branch, central Ebl city opposite the Germanisches Nationalmuseum which also incorporates a day cafe.
For the recreational sip of coffee you may prefer a walk through the pedestrian area in north-western direction to Josephsplatz. At the walk-through to Ludwigsplatz facing Weißer Turm you will find a branch of the Black Bean coffee chain where you're offered free wifi with your coffee at liberal opening hours perfectly suited for work. Unfortunately only the coffee itself and some of the softdrinks are organic.
They have a second branch at Hallplatz with shorter opening hours.
A five minutes walk north off Josephsplatz, with a view of the river Pegnitz, you'll find the second branch of Lotos Unschlittplatz, another cosily crammed grocery with a vegetarian lunch kitchen opening at noon. At the entrance turn to the left to find your way to the kitchen where you place and fetch your lunch order (they share the menu with the eatery in Hessestraße). You can have it on high tables in front of the kitchen or move to the room to the right of the entrance where you can sit down and relax. Coffee and cakes have to be ordered from the bakery counter where you also pay.
Ceased to exist
The following places shut down and where replaced by other, not organic ones. So don't be confused when you find references to them on the web:
[Nuremberg, organic, lunch, coffee, cafe, eatery, grocery, supermarket, vegan, vegetarian, zero_waste, fastfood, doner_kebap, falafel]
Friday, 16 December 2016
Each year Nuremberg plays host to what probably is the world's most important organic trade fair, Biofach, and the city has been wisely using the publicity that comes with the event. If you happen to be in Nuremberg around fair time you will see several communal events around organic food and agriculture. In 2016 the city organized an organic gourmet week during which participating restaurants and eateries offered fully organic gourmet meals at fixed prices even when they otherwise do so only partially. Visitors and citizens could download communally sponsored discount vouchers for these meals.
Thanks to efforts like this Nuremberg has become a city where the extra effort to find organic lunch or dinner is comparatively small.
The first address in town is a cosy, almost 40 years old organic creperie, Ye'chet mad in the Südstadt neighbourhood. The audience is dominated by students, artists, theatre and cinema goers, professionals in art and culture and those interested in the resulting atmosphere. Many combine a visit with a movie in the adjacent arthouse cinema. You will be served a huge variety of fully organic whole-meal crepes, pleasantly thin, both sweet and savoury, as a main course and/or dessert. French salads, soups and appetizers round up the menu.
A five minutes brisk walk from tube station Friedrich-Ebert-Platz you will find an organic pub of old, the Frankenstube. As you might expect they serve rustic local dishes, but there's a long list of vegan and vegetarian versions. Indeed, the vegan cabbage roll served with a hearty tomato sauce and pasta was very tasty, and not bland at all. All organic dishes are clearly marked as such on the menu but you should be aware (especially when it comes to meat dishes) that the ones without the bio keyword are conventional fare.
The beer isn't organic (nor are the cakes), but the wine is. The place seems to be a favourite among locals, crowded even on a weekday evening.
A vegetarian restaurant for many years the Chesmu (formerly known as Polidori) near the fortress has long been recommended as an organic restaurant. When I was there some years ago they were no longer committed to organic food, just used a selection of organic ingredients whenever it fit in. Hence I was pleasantly surprised to hear at my recent visit that they're back on track, gradually trying to re-increase the amount of organic ingredients in their food, so it's worth asking again. The place has a pleasant informal atmosphere, a mixture of eco and modern chic, with students as a main audience. Their home-made vegan and vegetarian food with a focus on local and seasonal crops is tasty though often a little boring,
typical filling meals served at places with a predominantly collegiate audience. Apart from Sundays, they do no longer offer lunch. You can choose from a large selection of organic drinks -- both coffee drinks, yogi tea, beer, wine, local spirits, and soft drinks. Disappointingly the complimentary spice cookie served with warm drinks was cheap conventional supermarket fare.
Shabby chic with comic and neon elements make the environment for Klein August in Sankt Peter south of the railway tracks. Unusually for a burger grill it's not self-service but a family-friendly pub popular with women. The kitchen closes at 10 pm, and the place is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Some beer and soft drinks are organic as are the burger buns which are made from spelt. Make sure you order organic beef which is a little more expensive. They have a good selection of vegan and vegetarian burgers, too.
If you have an hour to wait for your train cross the street and walk inside Künstlerhaus K4 north of the central station to have a delicious organic burger, sandwich, a hearty soup or stew or simply a coffee drink at Auguste. The entrance from outside is a little hard to find, enter from within Künstlerhaus (e.g. from Filmhauskino art house cinema) or from Königstorgraben.
You will find a rustic pub with a nice wooden ceiling, wooden floor and upcycled wooden chairs and tables.
All meals are certified organic: German soups, lever, sandwiches, burgers, fries, and more. Organic coffee in your organic coffee drink costs an additional 30c. While the milk as well as many juices and softdrinks are organic, cakes and beers (except for the organically labelled crafts beer by Klosterbrauerei Weißenohe) are not. They also serve
an organic single malt dubbed Ayrer's red distilled in town, as well as a selection of organic wines (labelled bio on the menu).
Expect to pay between 10 and 20 EUR for a filling burger (which on request is served without bun). Monday is veggie day when all vegan and vegetarian burgers go for 8.90 EUR. The kitchen closes at 10:30 pm, a time when you can expect to have a beer loving group of males on your neighbouring table.
During my chat with the waitress I got the impression that the owners mean what they tell you in their self-description --
to be fair to customers, employees, and farmers, aiming at sustainability, and CO2 compensating. She seemed to be happy to work at the place, positively emphasizing on the team and the working conditions.
Ceased to exist
The following places shut down and where replaced by other, not organic ones. So don't be confused when you find references to them on the web:
[Nuremberg, organic, vegan, vegetarian, lunch, dinner, French, Franconian, German, fastfood, burgers, restaurant, trainstation]
Wednesday, 07 September 2016
Tea and spices
On your way along the coast from Bellar Road via Calvetty Road and along Bazar Road you will find quite a few shops advertising organic spices and perfumes. In a country where adulteration of spices for profit is frequent one should take this with a grain of salt -- usually you won't find any organic certification. Use your wits and enquire, in the end you will have to believe or let go. Since Kerala still has a lot of farmers abiding to traditional agricultural principles there is however a good chance that some of the spices actually are grown organically.
The spice we were taught to be extremely picky about by an organic farmer we met at Thanal Organic Bazaar in Trivandrum is cardamom, a very demanding crop: In order to retain spotless green capsules almost all farmers who depend on selling their crops to make a living apply pesticides every 20 days, making it one of the most exposed spices. So when you shop for it check whether you can find capsules with sand coloured areas in the batch. If so the claim to be organic might hold true.
On the seaside of Bazar Road (left-hand when heading South) you will find Hi' Range Organic Spices (the spelling varies), a micro-loan financed cooperative of seven local women trading in a huge variety of Kerala spices, tea and natural body care products. They claim its all natural and organic, and since the prepackaged teabags in fact sport an organic label, I'd opt to believe it. I also liked that the woman I talked to did not try to persuade me into buying but instead explained which type of curcuma to use in cooking and which one for skin care, or demonstrated how to shell a nutmeg.
By far the finest bookstore in and around Kochi is Idiom Booksellers in Bastian Street. Apart from a brilliant selection of contemporary Indian literature, classics, graphic novels, books on local history, art, culture and cooking as well as travel and children books and postcards you can buy beautiful notebooks, handmade from recycled paper. Even if you otherwise do your reading on electronic devices step by and let you inspire by the crammed shelves and their book-loving proprietor. She will even ship your purchase overseas. Idiom has never been a place handing out bags made from plastic foil but since plastic bags have been banned within the boundaries of Fort Kochi since spring 2016 you can carry your purchase home in a handmade coarse jute bag instead of one made from synthetic fabrics -- just like 15 years ago.
With -- at the time of writing -- five outlets in the greater Kochi area
Fabindia inevitably has an extravagant showroom near the North-Western shore of Fort Kochi.
Lesser known, although being a
pioneer of fairly traded fashion in India is Rajastan-based Anokhi with its flower-printed signature designs mixing Indian and Western styles. In Fort Kochi they run an exquisite boutique
near Parade Ground.
If you happen to come to Jaipur step by their
cafe serving predominantly organic international food.
Tribes India, a shop run by the government of India to support indigenious artisans next to Fort Cochin Post Office offers handmade clothes, fabrics, nice bags made from banana fibre and other artefacts made from natural materials as well as metal figurines and a range of other artisanal products. Although the billboards advertise organic items they do no longer trade in spices, preserves and other food items. Its a comfortable place to shop for fairly traded gifts, though.
[Kochi, Cochin, Rajastan, Jaipur, organic, gifts, tea, fashion, spices, shopping]
Monday, 29 August 2016
Perhaps even more than in Europe an environmentally friendly lifestyle seems to primarily concern (a fraction of) the more affluent, and hence you will not be surprised that buying organic is best done in the well-off neighbourhood of Kowdiar. It's here that the city's only fully organic grocery, the Organic Bazaar, is located. Climbing the stairs to the first floor you will find a neat and clean farmer's shop driven by friendly staff and backed by an NGO, Thanal. Good for the traveller: Everything on sale can be carried home safely since none of the items needs cooling. Apart from a huge selection of pulses, grains (among others types of rice the average European has never heard of), flours, sugar, cereals and spices from all over India you will find honey, chutneys and other preserves as well as locally grown fresh fruits, herbs and vegetables. They do not offer juices or other refreshments since these would need the addition of preservatives, but you will find a sufficient selection of household detergents, washing powder, toothpaste, shampoo, soap bars and skin care. As local customers tend to shop their veges on Wednesdays be prepared to find a diminished selection of greens on Wednesday afternoons. If you stay long enough to consume your purchase make sure to return the plastic packing to the shop (fresh veges will be packaged in bags made from recycled newspapers). In case you happen to go wild and, in search of the place end up in Thanal's office in OD-3, Jawahar Nagar (the former home to Organic Bazaar) don't hesitate to ask for the way -- we were even accompanied the ten minutes walk to the shop.
More spices, pulses, grains, dried and candied fruit, teas and tisanes as well as natural body care products can be found a 15 minutes walk away at upmarket Fabindia, with upmarket price tags. Fabindia specializes in handmade Indian fashion and home textiles made from natural Indian fabrics -- very colourful and of high quality, but -- apart from some clothes for babies -- these are not (yet?) made of organically produced cotton or silk. A pleasant and quiet shopping retreat, one wonders howewer how fairly the profit of this exquisite boutique is distributed among the growers and makers of these beautifully and tastefully done textiles. Note that their "Organics" trademark for food items does not guarantee certified organic ingredients, for these to find you have to watch out for the keyword
"organic" on the labels and ingredients lists.
Another -- local -- chain supposed to trade in pesticide-free, partially organic grocery is Aroma Fresh which also operates a branch near Kowdiar. Let me know if you can give an account on it.
As always in India you cannot always trust in names. Also in Kowdiar you will find Organic One cafe, but although they serve very tasty milkshakes, ice-cream, lassis and juices made of natural ingredients only, they are not serving anything organic.
A five minutes walk from the State Secretariat of Kerala (go Y.M.C.A road to Southern block and swing to the left) you'll find what appears to be the city's only organic restaurant, purely vegetarian (predominantly vegan) Pathayam. Take the outside stairs to the right of the entrance to Hotel Navaratna Upendra, and you'll find a South-Indian eatery where you can have a traditional South-Indian meal and freshly pressed fruit juices. Boiled herb water is being served as a complementary refreshment if you ask. The Organic Special Meal consists of cut fruit and a veges salad, a soup, a chappati plus rice blended with veges served together with chutneys and curries of the day as well as three small cups of rasam, payasam and (in our case ginger-)flavoured buttermilk. The Ordinary Meal omits the salad (which also can be had separately) and fruit starter while the Chapati Meal consists of soup, four chapatis, curries, condiments and a slice of fruit. When you finish off your curries and chutneys a second helping is promptly filled onto your tray. The place focusses on health food, with one of their slogans being "taste comes second" which explains the rather bland taste compared with other Kerala food.
The restaurant consists of two rooms -- an A/C cooled room with a hand wash in the back and a lively non-A/C entrance hall where you can eat watching the fruit juices being prepared. The latter also houses a small organic grocery where you can shop all the ingredients used in the restaurant kitchen. Most supplies come from a Coimbatore farm, and the place is supplied by KADA, an organic online delivery service operating out of Trivandrum.
Another organic delivery service in town (which I haven't used though) is
Sabarimala. Not only does it act as a grocery but also as a
pizza delivery service. I did not have the time to visit neither their nor KADA's locations within Technopark (near train stop Kazhakootam) and hence am unable to tell whether they have shops on premise. Let me know if you happen to be there!
Thanal also operated a Zero Waste Centre in Kovalam which, apart from organic food, body and homecare products, offered recycled artisanal stationary and other items made from handmade paper, textiles, bags as well as household items made from coconut shell, natural fibres, cane and bamboo. This office cum shop was however shut down in April 2016 and is now working out of Thanal's office:
[Thiruvananthapuram, Trivandrum, Kovalam, organic, grocery, supermarkets, fashion, bodycare, household, restaurant, pizza, zero_waste, vegan]
Friday, 26 August 2016
Near Alappuzha (Alleppey)
Once an important port, now an ordinary Indian smalltown berieved of most of its historical buildings, with its formerly famous waterways overgrown by pernicious water hyacinth Alleppey most certainly is no longer worth the title "Venice of the East". If you come to stay over a 15 minutes auto-rikshaw ride outside town will however bring you to Sylviander House, a pleasant eco-consciously built homestay cum art gallery run by a German-Indian couple, writer designer Sylvie Bantle and painter Alexander Devasia. Airy and spacious double rooms with traditional beds equipped with mossie nets and a fan, and curcuma-washed walls expect the guest. All doors and furniture were recycled from traditional torn-down houses. Adjacent to each room you will find a roofed outdoor space with a handwash, and next to it a bathroom equipped with a traditional bucket bath (fill the bucket sink with water and use the stainless steel mug to shower yourself), and a (Western) toilet with a shower for your bottom. Toilet paper is provided but must not be thrown into the toilet to spare the house's eco-friendly bio-filtering system (there's no communal sewage).
For breakfast and dinner you will be served home-cooked South-Indian food, vegetarian and -- if you want to please Alexander -- fish, freshly catched by local fishermen which he shops from the market and fries deliciously. The hosts put a lot of effort in sourcing ingredients grown according to organic principles, be it certified or from home gardens ('nadan') kept the traditional way without use of industrial chemicals.
Some veges will also come from the Sylviander eco-garden, coffee, cocoa and pepper from their
own organic farm in Kumaly, yoghurt from the neighbour's cow fed on Sylviander house grass. The water used in the house is collected rain water, filtered for drinking.
A night in a double room including breakfast and dinner is Rs. 2000 off season. This is the only place listed in this post not offering a discount for children.
Near Kochi (Cochin)
South of Kochi, directly situated at the backwaters in the village of Kumbalangi you'll find Gramam Homestay, a quiet, eco-friendly homestay which allows you to escape busy Indian city life. Its sustainably kept coconut garden by the water makes the surroundings for an old, nicely restored spacious farmhouse equipped with two twin beds and fans. The openness of the house allows you to experience all the noises of a tropical night. An outdoor bathroom attached to the cottage provides you with a roofed Western toilet and handwash as well as two showers under open sky. You'll stand on natural stones within some small bushes, and the used water from the shower percolates through the sand beneath the stones. Warm water is heated by the sun on the rooftop.
Breakfast (homemade Kerala food and/or prefab toast/"cereals") is complimentary, and lunch or dinner in the eating room next to the kitchen of the main house where your hosts, Jos and Lyma, live can be arranged on request. Some of the veges used in cooking may be nadan, but there is no emphasis on organic food or drinks. Staying in the cottage you however have a kitchen at your disposal. An off season cottage night for two is Rs. 4000 (the two extra beds Rs. 800 each), but if you are on budget there are also two cheaper rooms in the main house.
Jos will happily arrange a tour on a punted boat, a visit to a shrimps farm, or a car with driver for you. For our trip to Abhayaranyam wildlife shelter with its elephant camp and well-kept botanical gardens he arranged an organic breakfast (Rs. 600) at a friendly brahmin family's of teachers who showed us around their traditional house, well and organic garden where we learnt about nutmeg, macis, Indian basil, curry leaves and other spices (as well as some useful Malayalam phrases).
Far bigger than the aforementioned ones -- almost a simple hotel with 11 single and double rooms -- is the farmstay of Dewalokam Organic Farm, run by a friendly family of teachers and their staff from neighbouring villages. The farm has been a family estate for about hunded years, and after serving as a rubber plantation for the last generation, todays owners Jose and Sinta have been reconverting it into an almost self-sustaining organic farm following circular principles. While the entrance to the modern, though traditionally built main house is opposed by a spacious park, the land around the houses are now being used as spice, coffee, cocoa, vegetable and fruit gardens interspaced by some fish ponds. Chickens, ducks and turkeys range freely in the Souther-Eastern part of the gardens next to the cow, buffalo and sheep sheds. The cows' mock is collected and fermented in an underground tank producing fertilizer and the gas burnt in the kitchen stoves.
As we were lucky to observe during our stay newborn lambs are kept together with and fed by their mothers. All the cows were born on the farm itself, and none of the animals was deprived of their horns.
The double rooms in the first floor of the main house are simple, but spacious, clean and light, with an adjacent dressing room next to (Western) toilet and shower. There are more rooms in the adjacent older house. A night for two comes at Rs. 10,000 (8,000 off season) including four meals a day and activities like yoga in the morning, walks in the garden and in the vicinity, or cooking demonstrations. The house and the rooms are always adorned with fresh flowers.
The swimming pool is filled by fresh (rain) water, and you can also have a swim in the river. Jose and Sinta will also provide you with well-maintained bicycles for a village tour.
Most ingredients in the home-cooked meals (North and South Indian, with a continental style soup without spices to start lunch and dinner with) come from the farm itself (if you travel with children: The french fries are prefab and not organic). Guests usually are served seafish instead of fish from the ponds as the bones of the latter may be an obstacle, but if you insist you will be served a truly locally sourced fish curry. You may also purchase spices grown on the farm.
A side note: Before you start criticising any of the aforementioned places for burning paper and plastic waste on their land hesitate a minute and think about what you were going to do without communal waste collecting and separating facilities which generally are not available in rural areas.
Their website was gone, their phone number no longer operating, and they did neither answer e-mails nor Skype messages. Finally I got an automated answer that they were closed due to monsoon repair and would reopen in August. We tried to call again from India mid of August 2016, and still the phone was gone. So some doubts may be raised whether the following eco retreat in Varkala is still operating:
- Bohemian Masala,
drive in entrance from Thiruvambadi Beach Road
near Black Beach, Kurakkanni, Varkala
Mind you, there's a place with a similar name, the "Eco Bohemian Masala" which tries to fool tourists into believing it was the aforementioned eco stay. Don't fall for it -- according to Tripadvisor posts it seems to be a place to be avoided. If you happen to actually stay at the real Bohemian Masala, let me know.
[Kerala, Alleppey, Alappuzha, Kochi, Cochin, Thodupuzha, Varkala, organic, accommodation, farms, cycling]