Eating Guide to Vienna

Vienna

Vienna is full of wonderful delights in many ways.  Rich in exquisite art, music, and history, it’s not surprising that their foods fall on the same high level.  Going around the city, we stopped by some classic restaurants, and my family tried out some foods (with gluten and dairy), giving me the rating.  While a beautiful city, there aren’t necessarily that many gluten-free or vegan dedicated restaurants; their traditions (such as schnitzel) are deeply rooted in the city’s veins.  For this reason, I’ve drawn a list of classic Viennese restaurants and foods, as well as restaurants and foods that are gluten-free/vegan.

Before going into the restaurants, here are a couple of phrases you may find useful when ordering food:

  • Kann ich eine flasche wasser (mit gas) bitte? Can I have a bottle of water (with gas) please? 
  • Ich bin gluten-frei/milch-frei/vegan.  I am gluten-free/dairy-free-vegan.
  • Ich nehme ___ mit/ohne ___ bitte.  I’ll take ___  with/without ___ please.
  • Ein anderer, another
  • Danke, thank you

The Classics – Foods and Restaurants

Pretzels

In almost any bread bakery in Austria, you can grab a pretzel, or how it’s said in German, “brezel.” With sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, or just salt as my brother likes to take it, these pretzels are truly amazing.  Just imagine – crusty outside and fluffy inside.

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Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, NYC

Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream Shop @ 48 E 7th St, NYC

When ice cream pops into your head, aside from Summer, you’re probably thinking cream.  While Van Leeuwen’s Artisan Ice Cream offers dairy-jul ice creams, they also have amazing, out-of-this-world vegan ice cream.  Even better, they have flavors that are typically made of dairy-like salted caramel 🙂  Interested yet?

Board of current flavors

Van Leeuwen really caters to all the different types of foodies – from classic ice cream flavor people to more adventurous ones like Turmeric Palm Sugar Cookie, non-vegan or vegan, and glutenful or gluten-free – this is the place to go to satisfy everyone’s ice cream wants (or more appropriately, needs).  Plus, with an awesome list of toppings like Cacao Nibs and Vegan Whipped Cream, it’s a fun place to mix and match modern flavors and toppings to create the perfect ice cream.  Not feeling ice cream?  They have a small glass display of delicious desserts like Carrot Apple Muffin (gf + vegan) and Sugar Cookies.  Oh, and they have milkshakes too, and you can always take home a pint of ice cream!

Vegan Matcha Green Tea and Salted Caramel

After negotiating with myself to narrow it down to 2 flavors, I came to the decision to order the Vegan Matcha Green Tea and Salted Caramel.  I was blown away, the green tea was fresh and the salted caramel tasted like real caramel (think Häagen Dazs’s Dulce de Leche).  My brother ordered the Vegan Mint Chip, and my dad ordered the Chocolate Caramel Cookie Crunch (with dairy), that was apparently really good as well.

I was happy to learn that not only did Van Leeuwen have delicious ice cream, but that they make their ice cream with simple ingredients.  For example, their normal ice cream has a base of fresh milk and cream, cane sugar, and egg yolks; their vegan ice cream has a base of housemade cashew milk, organic coconut milk, organic extra virgin coconut oil, organic cane sugar, pure cocoa butter, and organic carob bean.

Check out their shops (and trucks) all around NYC and Brooklyn!

P.S.  It’s definitely a splurge, but worth every penny 🙂

Project Fabricland: Diva Inspiration

My mom and I

In January, I participated for the fifth time in Project Fabricland, a sewing competition, similar to Project Runway.  Each week, students meet for three hours to sew garments based on a theme.  This year, the theme was Divas.  This included style icons such as Marylin Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Cher, among others.  Sophia Loren has been my personal favorite icon in all aspects ever since I saw her in one of my favorite movies, Houseboat (1958).  In Houseboat, Loren plays a young Italian lady who helps a widower (Cary Grant) raise his three children; they end up forming a relationship after Grant sees Loren providing the care that his children so deeply craved, and being the charismatic person she is.  Like all Loren movies, she is feisty and an individual, and does not play a woman who falls at the needs of a man – she’s willing to through a slap here and there :).  After seeing her speak at an event, I was inspired by her honesty, boldness, humor, and dashing beauty, and therefore crafted a dress that I believe to capture who she is. Continue reading

The Best of Smorgasburg, Prospect Park

Last week, my friends and I went on a foodie adventure to Smorgasburg in Prospect Park, an outdoor market full of small pop-up restaurant stands.

Walking in, Smorgasburg appears to be its own bustling metropolis centered purely on food from local vendors.  It was truly a wonderland; I talked to fellow food enthusiasts on line, met the chefs of the stands, and best of all, I had the chance to try out innovative food with my friends.  There are over 75 stands, each with their own unique menu.  Below, I’ve put together the 5 best stands (including dairy & gluten-full ones my friends enjoyed).

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Project Fabricland: Fairytale Inspiration

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My sewing teacher and me at Project Fabricland.

In January, I participated for the fourth time in Project Fabricland, a sewing competition.  Each week, students meet for three hours to sew garments based on a theme.  This year, the theme was Fairytales.  This included classic tales such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast, and lesser known ones such as The Gold Spinner.  Since Cinderella was my favorite as a child, I chose her,  adding a modern twist to the classic fairytale.  We’re all familiar with the Cinderella story and her happy-ever-after.  After marrying into royalty, one would think that a girl who went from rags to riches would deny her past – yet Cinderella never did this; she continued to be kind and hard working.  Inspired by Cinderella’s story, I sped it up to date: what would modern-day working Cinderella wear to her royal appointments?  Today, so many women work, and more than just mopping floors.  That’s when my idea was born.

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I quickly sketched a double breasted coat which I thought would look very professional, and what a princess today would wear – anywhere from a charity event, to picking up her children from school.  I also chose to make a coat because I wanted to challenge myself to make something I have never done before.  In previous years, I have sewn three dresses.  This was by far one of the hardest pieces I have ever done!  On my first day of class, I went through the fabric isles, and found a woven cotton blend fabric, light blue polyester lining, and navy buttons.  White is often a sign of purity, and blue represents loyalty and sincerity.  The navy blue buttons are a sign of royalty, and once unbuttoned, the lining is  the iconic light blue.  As I mentioned before, Cinderella never forgot about her past, and always keeps it a part of her, and therefore, I purposely put light blue on the inside because it reflects her continuous hard working, kind, and patient qualities.

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During my second and third classes, I cut out all my patterns, and by the fourth class I began sewing a muslin, the “prototype” of the coat.  Finally, by my fifth class, I began to sew the thirty pieces together.  I really wanted to take my time with this piece because I wanted it to truly be royalty worthy!  It was extremely difficult to work with the fabric, as it was always fraying, and it was extremely easy for the creamy fabric to get dirty.  It took about nine weeks until my coat began looking like a coat.  Finally, after 12 weeks of tedious work, I completed my coat.  I still had two steps to go, the judging and the fashion show.  At the judging, similar to Project Runway, there are three judges each with a background in the fashion industry who decide what place you will receive.  This year, we had a fashion designer who made dance outfits, an assistant director at Coach, and another designer who had her own bridal wear line.  They ask you a series of questions, as you present your garment and discuss your design board (featured two images above).

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Five days after the judging, there was the fashion show.  Thirty girls walk the runway to demonstrate their garment, as the head of Project Fabricland talks about your inspiration.  It is extremely interesting to see how everyone translated their fairytale to a garment after a lot of hard work.  This year, I was lucky to receive second place!

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Top left: My nonna and me. Bottom left: My mom and me.

 

Mars, Inc. to Remove all Artificial Colors from Food

As food consumers are evolving and becoming more aware of their health, Mars, Inc. (a food manufacturer ) decided to remove all artificial colors from their human food.  More than 50 products will be altered such as Skittles, M&Ms, and Snickers.

M&Ms and many more candies are about to face a major change

Although there are no pieces of evidence that artificial colors cause negative changes for humans, “consumers today are calling on food manufacturers to use more natural ingredients in their products,” says Mars, Inc..  The company is working hard to ensure that the colors of the beloved candies will be just as vibrant, and will be seeing changes over the course of five years.  The CEO of Mars, Grant F. Reid says, “Eliminating all artificial colors from our human food portfolio is a massive undertaking, and one that will take time and hard work to accomplish.”

Eliminating artificial colors from their foods was a hug step – let’s take a look at the ingredient list of one of Mars, Inc.’s products, M&Ms:

MILK CHOCOLATE (SUGAR, CHOCOLATE, SKIM MILK, COCOA BUTTER, LACTOSE, MILKFAT, SOY LECITHIN, SALT, ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR), SUGAR, CORNSTARCH, LESS THAN 1% – CORN SYRUP, DEXTRIN, COLORING (INCLUDES BLUE 1 LAKE, YELLOW 6, RED 40, YELLOW 5, BLUE 1, RED 40 LAKE, BLUE 2 LAKE, YELLOW 6 LAKE, BLUE 2), GUM ACACIA.
In just M&Ms, there are 9 artificial colors!  Although getting rid of 9 artificial colors is a major improvement, there are still artificial flavors left.  To begin, what even are artificial flavors, and what are they made of?
Artificial flavors are chemicals that come from inedible sources and are processed to taste like a certain flavor.  The flavor can be made from anything like petroleum (a mixture present in gasoline) to paper pulp.
In addition to the artificial flavors, there are also highly processed ingredients such as soy lecithin, and dextrin, and corn syrup.
To make soy lecithin, soybean oil is extracted from the raw soybeans using chemicals. Then,  water is mixed with the soy oil until the lecithin (mixture of phospholipids and oils) separates from the oil.  After, the lecithin is dried and is sometimes bleached using hydrogen peroxide.
Dextrin is a starch and is prepared by first heating and drying starch.  Then, it is treated with hydrochloric acid to produce a powder used for binding.

As many know, corn syrup  is a very bad ingredient that goes through an immense amount of processing – too much to write!  (If you are curious to learn about the manufacturing of corn syrup, visit this link: http://www.madehow.com/Volume-4/Corn-Syrup.html)

Mars, Inc, has definitely proven that food corporations can change, but hopefully, sooner than later, they will go one healthier step forward, and eliminate their artificial flavors as well.

Works Consulted

“Corn Syrup.” How Corn Syrup Is Made. N.p., 2016. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.

Kresser, Chris. “Harmful or Harmless: Soy Lecithin.” Chris Kresser. N.p., 25 Oct. 2013. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.

“Mars, Incorporated to Remove All Artificial Colors from Its Human Food Portfolio.” PR Newswire. Mars, Incorporated, 05 Feb. 2016. Web. 14 Feb. 2016.

“M&Ms Nutrition.” M&Ms. M&Ms, 2015. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.

“New Processing Technology for Dextrin Manufacturing.” Technifax (n.d.): n. pag. Little Ford. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.

 

What are you Gifting this Holiday Season?

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‘Tis the season to be giving!  And no better way to start with those who don’t receive as many presents.

That is why I dedicated my past two Sundays to help out St. Joseph’s Giving Tree program.  All along, I thought that contributing my time to a charitable effort was benefiting the other side.  I was pleasantly surprised to be proven wrong.  The care and attention that the staff lead by Maria Russo, that went into each personalized package was amazing – and amazingly moving.  The whole team worked together, and really tried to make a person’s gift as personable, practical, and pleasurable as possible for the recipient.  This was a tremendous growing experience to be inspired by this staff, and I am grateful.

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If you are able to help, please sign up using the following link:

http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f44a4a729a31-assist/.

Canstruction

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On November 5th, I visited a Canstruction site in New York City.  Canstruction is a charity that hosts creative events in over 150 cities each year.  Architects, engineers, and artists gather to create unique structures made out of cans of food.  During the exhibition, the sculptures are given fun awards, and at the end, all cans are donated to nearby hunger organizations.  All you have to do is donate cans and enjoy the artistic sculptures!

Eye on Hunger

Eye on Hunger

On the side to each structure, there is a title, short explanation, team member names, and what the sculpture consists of.  For example, this structure is called the “Eye on Hunger” and the explanation states, “A tuna fish eye.  With this structure, our team wanted to make a statement about how often times we see hunger in the streets of New York, but it’s not always easy to help.  So we created a symbolic eye, that sees all of the people we have failed to help in the past, and hopefully the food donated for the canstruction will reach them if they are still in need.”  This “eye” is made out of tuna, tomatoes, pasta, and black beans.

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Harold and the Purple CANS

What's Up, Doc?

What’s Up, Doc?

One of my personal favorites was “Harold and the Purple CANS” inspired by the children’s story “Harold and the Purple Crayon”, and “What’s Up, Doc?” inspired by the beloved Bugs Bunny.  There are so many interesting sculptures, and all for a good cause.  Visit a canstruction site near you!

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And remember – all you need to do is bring cans!

Top 6 Stands at the Gluten Free Expo

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On Sunday, I visited the GF & AF Expo at Secaucus, NJ, USA’s largest gluten free and allergen friendly event!  It was fantastic!  It was so great to see the gluten free community come together, ask questions, gain knowledge, but most importantly, find amazing food.

I was in awe of how many brands there were, and how delicious most of them were.  Some brands that I have over looked in the past, surprised me today.  Famous brands like Cheerios were there, and some newer ones like Luce’s.  The trend among most of these brands was definitely desserts, but I also saw many pizzas and snacks.

Overall, there was deliciousness.  Here were some of the highlights:

                                                                                                            Luce’s Gluten-Free Artisan Bread

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Definitely one of the best stands there!  All you do is buy the package, add water, and bake.  No eggs, no dairy, no nuts.  The ingredient list is very simple – no additives or preservatives. The bread taste was mind blowing!  Crunchy outside, and chewy inside – just like real artisan bread (just way better).  My favorite flavor was the Italian bread.  You can put anything from cashew butter to tomato sauce with it.

The Really Great Food Company

The name says it all.  Everything I tasted was more than really great.  They had multiple cake mixes displayed, but they have more on their website that I’m yet to try out!  Everyone who passed by said comments like “these are the only cake mixes I buy” and “oh my gosh is this actually gluten free?”.   With each mix, the company encourages you to make  your own variation such as adding maple syrup to the golden cake mix.  My mom loved the banana bread and pumpkin bread.  These cakes will make you love cake more than you could ever imagine.

Food for Life

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If you were a fan of whole grain, hearty sandwich bread, this is the bread you need to buy.  So good.  The Sprouted for life Almond Bread was full of healthy ingredients like sprouted chia, quinoa, and millet.  Also, the gluten free english muffin was amazing, and they paired it with sunflower butter by Once Again.

                                                                                                            Wholly gluten free

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If you don’t have the time to bake brownies for the bake sale, these are the brownies for you.  They were by far the best pre-made brownies there!  They’re peanut, soy, tree nut, sesame seed, casein, dairy, and wheat free.  A bonus is that Wholly gluten free makes their products in a gluten, wheat, dairy, egg, soy, nut, and casein free environment for those who are super sensitive!

   Oatmega

IMG_2537Although these bars contain whey, a product of dairy, my mother tried them and said they were amazing.  They were almost like a cookie but crammed with protein and fiber.  The flavors she recommends are the chocolate peanut crisp and the lemon chia.

 

Jennifer’s Way

One of the most favorite stands was  Jennifer’s Way.  Jennifer Esposito, the
creator of Jennifer’s Way delicious food founded a store in NYC dedicated to gluten free, refined sugar free, and dairy free desserts and breads!  Jennifer was a pioneer in the gluten free world and a great role model for many!  Her products are truly astonishing.  I have visited her store multiple times and always am amazed of how flavorful her food is.  My favorite products are her pumpkin chocolate chip muffins and sesame seed small dinner roll.

 

IMG_2552Mo Pweeze Bakery

Everything about this company was adorable!  I tasted their double vanilla cupcake  and immediately fell in love.  Their products are dairy free, egg free, nut free, gluten free, soy free, sesame free, vegan, and a wonderful part – customizable!  So if you have an event coming up, it is the place to order your next cake or cupcakes.  And I say, “Mo pweeze!”

Lots and lots of great foods!  And great alternatives when you need to step aside from the kitchen (for just a bit)!