Review: Gentle Gourmet Cafe — Paris, France

Did I say I was going to get better about my posting frequency? Because, clearly, that was a lie. A busy few work weeks coupled with an equally busy social calendar has resulted in some serious blogging deficencies. And it’s particularly tragic because I have a slough of recipe ideas running through my head burning my brains with the desire to send me to the kitchen, but no time to dive into food experiments. Such an unfortunate conflict that perhaps others can identify with? So, for now, I will leave you with this review of a gourmet vegan restaurant we dined at in Paris a few weeks back.

It’s called Gentle Gourmet Cafe and it’s entirely vegan. Yes, in the land of butter and cream it’s actually possible to find a restaurant that serves neither of those. As the name suggests, it’s a gourmet restaurant serving exemplary food creations. Every dish we tried was stellar and my only regret is that we weren’t able to go there multiple times to try more of their creative, fresh, and incredibly tasty food.

As an appetizer, I started with this lovely cold cucumber avocado soup. It was light and refreshing just like cucumber avocado soup should be. To be honest, though, you’d have to be a pretty terrible cook to mess up this dish as I’ve made my own version of it at home and as long as you know how to plug in your blender you can pretty much nail it. However, I give them major presentation points as the sliced radishes, edible flower, and chili flakes were a beautiful visual touch and my tastebuds were not disappointed.

For my entree, I had a raw lasagne. I ordered it on the waitress’s suggestion, but I was hesitant because my past raw “noodle” experiences have been a major letdown. But not this dish! I LOVED this dish. I loved it so much I would strip my clothes and swim in a huge vat of it with my mouth wide open so that I could consume it in quantities in far excess of this dainty serving. What I most loved about it was the “ricotta” filling that tasted so strikingly similar to actual ricotta, yet the cashew base left me feeling so light in the tummy. The zuchini and tomato layers were also amazing along with the well-dressed greens on top. An all-around fantastic dish!

Every table had these pretty flowers that matched the rest of the restaurant’s decor. Actually, that’s another notable part of this restaurant. The ambiance and decor are beautiful and have an upscale vibe so if you’re looking for a “nice” dinner in Paris this is where to go.

French Fries Gentle Gourmet Cafe

All lightness that I felt in my belly was gone after these fries were served. You may be surprised to learn that I actually love fries. I really do! With one exception. They have to be the thick, hearty steak fries version to win my affection. We decided to order them because they’re French, right? And we’re in France so they should be good. And, yep, no complaints from me on these tasty little deep-fried potato batons. My mouth saw nearly all of the fries on this plate, but don’t worry, I did manage to save a couple for Alex.

After the cooks got word from our waitress that Alex had a nut allergy they went above and beyond to make sure that he was served a dish that not only had zero nuts in it, but also had no chance of any cross-contamination. We tried reassuring them that his allergy was not that severe and they shouldn’t worry about such insignificant quantities, but they couldn’t shake themselves of past anaphylactic shock experiences and were insistent on creating an off-the-menu salad for him. And this is what they came up with—the veggies on the bottom were briefly blanched and then bathed in an olive oil-based marinade. The mixed greens had a tasty dressing and the avocado with marinated cherry tomatoes were all a lovely combination. Overall, it was a very well-prepared salad.

Gentle Gourmet Cafe Paris France

Here is Gentle Gourmet Cafe from the curb. We sat near the windows, but the seating actually goes quite deep into the building. I love the very Parisian black/grey, pink and white color scheme.

As a side note, after lunch we spent hours crawling the city trying to find vegan croissants only to find that the one place noted online was closed that day! However, after doing a bit more research, it appears that Gentle Gourmet Cafe actually serves amazing vegan croissants. UGH! I can only imagine how perfect their croissants would be considering how fantastic the rest of their food was. Such a missed opportunity.

Overall we had an amazing dining experience here and I really wish that we could have sampled more items from their menu. So, please, everyone who visits Paris go there and order everything on the menu so that this restaurant can survive and I can go there the next time I’m in Paris!!

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Review: Bake the Difference – Lisbon, Portugal

After returning from our awesome vacation to Portugal (see photos and what we did here), life has been hella busy, thus my patheticly infrequent posts of late. Hopefully I’ll find the time to get back up to speed soon!

In between life’s hecticness, I did manage to squeeze in some time to go through photos from our trip and wanted to share one of our favorite restaurants. It’s called Bake the Difference and it’s an entirely vegan restaurant in downtown Lisbon. It’s in a great location and the food is warm-in-your-tummy hometown-good.

Particularly the empanadas. They were off the hook! Not only was the filling tasty, but the best part was the crust. In all of our empanada-consuming years, we’ve only come across ones with a heavy, doughy crust and, don’t get me wrong, they too have been fantastic, but the light, melt-in-your-mouth crust of these were an awesome change. It’s not that it was thin or flaky, just light and delicious in a way that didn’t weigh you down. Alex could eat three or four of them in a sitting and still have room for another dish and a dessert!

The ones above were filled with red bell pepper, seitan, and coriander.

While this one was carrot leek. Again, all of them were delicious and at 1.50 Euros each you cannot beat the price!

Their salads were also good and a very welcome change from the desiccated, cardboard treats we’d been served by Air France the prior 24 hours. This particular salad was specially created by the owner for me. That was the other noteworthy thing about Bake the Difference is that the owner, waitstaff, and cooks, all of whom we interacted with, were such wonderful, friendly people. So wonderful, in fact, that I ended up leaving a 33% tip—they totally deserved it!

For dessert we had to try the salame de chocolate. Yes, that’s right CHOCOLATE SALAMI! It’s a traditional Portuguese dessert and is a gooey-chocolatey slab with bits of cookie crumbles mixed in, which resemble the white fat in salami. I know these photos don’t provide the best view of the entire slab, but you can kind of see the similarity, no?

I have big plans for chocolate salami and am going to try recreating it this weekend. I will definitely share how it turns out!

Bake the Difference also does amazing juices. We had a fantastic carrot-apple-ginger juice as well as fresh-squeezed orange juice.

As if the chocolate salami was not enough, we ordered more dessert—a chocolate cake with strawberry filling. And since I am dreadfully afflicted with an ice cream addiction and was dying to try the non-dairy ice creams of Portugal, I had to order a scoop of raspberry swirl on the side.

It was soy-based and had a super creamy consistency—very, very good. The cake, too, was amazing, but left Alex with an itchy mouth after discovering the frosting was topped with hazelnuts, not peanuts. D:

Vegan Portuguese Seafood Mushroom Dish

On another visit to Bake the Difference, we had this sauteed mushroom and garlic dish over rice. The owner explained that it’s based on a traditional Portuguese seafood dish, which was why we decided to give it a try even though neither of us are huge mushroom fans. The plate went back to the kitchen empty, which says a lot for a mushroom-hater (Alex) and a mushroom meh-er (me.)

On another occasion we tried the vegan hot dog, which was solid. A fairly standard veggie dog with a dazzling array of toppings.

On our last day in Lisbon I finally had my beloved plain Provamel soy yogurt. I absolutely adore this stuff—it’s tart and tangy just like plain yogurt should be and I look forward to having it every trip to Europe. It’s similar to Whole Soy Plain Unsweetened and Wildwood Plain Unsweetened found in the states as well as Plain Sojade, which is another brand found in Europe. They’re all amazing, yet slightly different.

Raspberry and French Vanilla Soy Ice Cream

Also, on our last day, I was forced to get a couple scoops of ice cream—this time French vanilla in additional to another scoop of raspberry swirl. And then I was, god forbid, forced to eat it all. Tragedy! 😛

Alex ordered a slice of carrot cake, which turned out to be a major bummer of a slice. Not because it wasn’t super delicious (because it was!), but rather because instead of making it with almonds like they usually do, that day it was made with walnuts. It took us awhile to figure out what exactly he was allergic to because, in addition to the unusual substitution of walnuts for almonds, the Portugese word for walnut (“noz”) is often used to refer to nuts in general and also appears in the word “noz-moscada” (nutmeg!), which the cake did contain. The scene somewhat resembled a Monty Python sketch! But the good thing is that his walnut allergy isn’t terribly severe and after taking a Claritin he was fine for the rest of the day.

Bake the Difference Lisbon Portugal

Here’s a shot of what it looks like when you enter. It’s such a cute little cafe and, I swear, it’s always busy—clearly a popular place in the neighborhood and, I’d imagine, a Lisbon attraction for vegan tourists like us.

Everyone at the restaurant was so apologetic about the nut mix-up. The cook, who happens to be from California, even came out of the kitchen to tell us how sorry he was (did I mention the people there are awesome? Because they are!) and that he wanted to give us a couple slices of chocolate salami for the road. And when delicious chocolate salami in a cute little to-go bag is being presented to us, how can we refuse?

Five stars all-around for the stellar food, service, atmosphere, and price at Bake the Difference!

Bake the Difference Lisbon Portugal

Product Review: Almond Dream Yogurts

The other week I spotted a new non-dairy yogurt at Whole Foods from Almond Dream. It took me by complete surprise because I hadn’t heard a peep about these yogurts prior to landing on store shelves and usually the vegan community is abuzz months before new product releases. I excitedly threw one of each flavor in my cart and went home to try them. I also had Alex do the taste test with me and here’s our verdict on these new non-dairy yogurts.

Overall, they’re good. Not the best non-dairy yogurt on the market (that title still belongs to Wildwood), but definitely solid and I can see myself purchasing them on occasion. As far as non-dairy yogurt goes, I LOVE LOVE Whole Soy Unsweetened Plain. Frankly, it’s the most (and Wildwood Plain Unsweetened is a close second) yogurt-like vegan yogurt I’ve found. It’s deliciously sour and creamy like yogurt should be and I think that’s the problem I have with the Almond Dream ones—they remind me more of a custard rather than a yogurt. And when I ate them with that mindset, I REALLY enjoyed them.

Christina’s favorite: Call me Plain Jane, but that’s the one I liked best. I actually liked all of them, but can see myself gravitating towards the plain more often than the others. The strawberry and mixed berry flavor are very reminiscent of the strawberry and mixed berry yogurt flavors I remember from childhood. So if you love those flavors, you will probably like Almond Dream’s version of them too.

Alex’s favorite: Alex actually really loved these yogurts and thinks they are on par with Wildwood (his overall favorite). He too liked them all, but mixed berry was his favorite and strawberry his second favorite, which is usually the case with any yogurt so his preference is not all that surprising.