Friday, June 29, 2012

3 Vegetarian Dinners in Copenhagen

The Marriott Midtown Grill had no vegetarian items on the menu, yet we had seen pasta on the room service menu. So they offered ravioli with mushroom cream sauce, or tagliatelle with red sauce. One gigantic bowl of tagliatelle was fine, but not impressive.

Upon requesting the bill, the waiter brings a treat to every table. Surprise - a fire pot with marshmallows and chocolate shavings. Toast, dip, yum! It was worth going just for that.

We decided on a place called Paafuglen in Tivoli Gardens. We wanted to go look around, so dinner gave us a purpose. The rides looked fun, but not okay for pregnant girl.

My husband ordered the eggplant gratinee with peppers and mushrooms over polenta.

It was very pretty, as you can see. Unfortunately the eggplant itself was quite raw, so it was wasted. He said the polenta was good. But what good is a star ingredient you can't even eat?

My dessert was rhubarb consommé with a hard-chocolate shelled cake and rhubarb sorbet. Pretty too, but very strange. Rhubarb water pool that gets all mucked up with cake bits. Strange.

I received a message from a friend who has followed my postings this week. He is from Sweden and helped us plan our trip, so he was concerned about our search for suitable foods in Copenhagen. He took it upon himself to contact a vegetarian friend living in Copenhagen for advice and passed it along.

Thanks to the friend of a friend, we had some pretty cool veggie burgers tonight at Halifax. It's specifically a burger joint up in the Latin Quarter. Apparently Latin Quarter here doesn't mean the culture of the neighborhood, but refers to its actual Latin speaking roots at the University nearby.

It was a long walk from our hotel, which is so far from everything. We worried when we got to the restaurant and it was small and full. Definitely popular... So we put in a good 15-20 minutes wait, outside, hiding in an alley from the rain. We were 3 minutes from giving up when we were called in.

Luckily, it was worth the wait. Halifax has a great concept - a four step program. 1. Choose the type of burger (themed toppings like Mexican or breakfast). 2. Choose your patty - different types of meat, chickpea or celery root patty. 3. Choose a side, like potatoes, salad or nachos. 4. Choose a sauce, like chipotle or mayo.

My husband got the classic style "KØBENHAVN" chickpea burger on a bun with pickles, tomato and onion.

I chose the "ZÜRICH" chickpea burger. It was open-faced with a bottom bun, lettuce, onion, pickles, chili-fried mushrooms, and topped with a fried potato pancake (Rösti).

Both plates were enormous! Twice as much food as I could eat. Everything was pretty good and definitely interesting. I mean, they had me at pickles, so.... This one was a success. Thank you to our thoughtful friend!

To recap:
Midtown Grill: Not recommended for vegetarians, but you'll live if you go...

Paafuglen: Ok for veg in Tivoli if they learn how to cook it properly someday...
Alternative option : mystery vegetarian option from Madklubben next door to it.

Halifax: Highly recommended for veg -
Alternative option: Atlas Bar on the nearby corner has a vegetarian menu.

Tomorrow morning we head home. I can't wait to hug my dog and cook some healthy vegetables from the greenmarket. I could vacation forever if I could bring my kitchen (and dog) with me... But we've had enough for now.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Location:Kalvebod Brygge,Copenhagen,Denmark

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Copenhagen Vegetarian Finds - Day 2

Today's lunch in Copenhagen's colorful Nyhavn area was a big surprise. We stumbled upon a gem of a little cafe, just behind the walls of the Charlottenborg museum.

We almost passed by the Illy board on the street because we weren't looking for a coffee shop. But for some reason I went back to check the menu. They serve traditional Danish open-faced sandwiches at the museum cafe. And, low and behold, TWO selections were vegetarian! Up to this point we had ignored these 'witches because they typically contain smoked fishes or meats.

Cafe Charlottenborg Menu:

We checked all the other heavily inhabited restaurants around the canal, but one menu after another read the same: meat, fish, meat, fish. Or pizza if you felt like specially requesting it without meat.

We bee-lined back to the empty and not-so-happening side of the canal to check the Charlottenborg cafe again. We walked into a serene courtyard with just a few diners relaxing at sunny tables. A completely different world and change of pace from just beyond the brick wall, where tourists debark from busses and sightseeing ferries, pouring into the waterfront scene to swill beer, eat fried fish, burgers, and make lots of noise.

Museum/Cafe from street:

Cafe courtyard:

The super-nice guy running the cafe counter greeted us and was patient and helpful getting our needs in order. He suggested a Danish specialty, elderflower juice, as a drink in addition to my husband's local dark draft beer.

The elderflower juice was interesting. It's just mildly sweet, like a watered down honey wine.

Soon enough our open-faced sandwiches appeared. One was wheat toast topped with cooked yellow potatoes, some kind of fresh mayo, giant caper berries, salad and fried onions. The potatoes had a nice flavor and everything in one bite together was definitely enjoyable. Can't go wrong with delicate fried onions!

Open-faced potato sandwich:

The second plate was rye toast topped with mayo, salad, walnuts, generous amounts of goat cheese, and honey. The bitter rye complimented the rich mayo, cheese and sweet honey very nicely.

Open-faced goat cheese sandwich:

What a fresh, healthy, yummy lunch! I told the same cafe manager how much we enjoyed the food, and both he and his older buddy promised we would not find any as good as this. We continued to wander streets for a few more hours, and as we checked menus for dinner we found absolutely nothing comparable in any way.

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Location:Kalvebod Brygge,Copenhagen,Denmark

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Vegetarian Lunch in Copenhagen

Malmö was cute, but today we moved on across the water to Copenhagen, Denmark.

For some reason we splurged $5-10 and got ourselves first class tickets on the 30 minute train ride. After a train employee passed by and said "you know this is first class" and i said "yes", no one ever checked our ticket!

Our next discovery was that the central station was a very long distance from our hotel, what with dragging two huge bags. This being the closest transportation to our hotel besides a bus that would be very unfamiliar upon first arriving. I wish someone told us you really need to come to the hotel by taxi.
My husband, the bag mule, has come to hate cobblestones with a passion. Even the newly laid stones are difficult to walk and roll on and walking with the bags has become a cuss fest.

Luckily we stay free on points at Marriott, and get breakfast and lounge access and all that. Huge room. Free wifi. The works. So I shouldn't complain. But still, the main drag is a haul!

Especially considering that I've really gotten huge this week. I think I am catching up on all the weight I didn't gain in months 1-4. Next week is 6 months! I look it now. Everything is getting big and uncomfortable. Sitting here writing this hurts my butt. My feet go to sleep from time to time, and my posture is shit. Sometimes baby kicks the crap out of my belly. He seems to quiet when I have ice cream of chocolate though... Hmmm ... Or is that just my excuse?

One thing I won't complain about is the lunch we found today. I researched a bit yesterday and had a place in mind to try: RizRaz (Sticks & Veggies).

We easily found it, with help from iPhone maps and my best friend, "blue gps dot". FYI Mr. Dot will locate you continuously anywhere in the world with cell towers, if you load your map through wifi ahead of time and leave it open. It will only remember a couple square miles, but it's a foot-travel lifesaver.

RizRaz is a vegetarian buffet, and you can order a side of meat delivered to your table for a few extra bucks. But the buffet is totally veg so no worries of cross-contamination. I was hoping that it would be like the super-veg-buffet Hiltl ( that we found in Zurich, but it is about 1/4 that size and trendiness.

Still, we enjoyed a buffet with many cold salads and middle-eastern dips and pita, as well as the crispy sesame-laden falafel balls. They had lasagna, pizza and noodles too, but to me they looked underwhelming. $40-ish for 2 meals and 2 drinks was a decent deal here and the tables were quite busy.

The cold items filled my plate high. I took beets, green beans, carrot-coconut slaw, babaganoush, hummus, tzatziki, zucchini stew, German potato salad, pesto penne and pita triangles. I didn't have room for watermelon salad, sour-cream cole slaw, Fava bean pods or green salad. There may have been more.

Luckily we had a successful lunch because I simply can NOT find good dinner options. I searched the internets long and hard for anything but Asian food. We've already had 2 Indian, 1 Thai and 1 Vietnamese meal in recent days. I couldn't even find an Italian restaurant with good options here. If you are veg your only option is ravioli, and that's only at like two restaurants.

Everything here has meat in it. I have a hard time finding something for myself - since red meat and pork makes me physically ill now. Which does not mean I want chicken or fish in every item including my soup and salad.

Needless to say I'm completely frustrated with the veg food search here in Copenhagen. It's a culture of modesty and moderation but they really need to apply that principal to their proteins!

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Location:Kalvebod Brygge,Copenhagen,Denmark

Monday, June 25, 2012

Sweet Scandinavian Strawberries

Today we arrived in Malmö, Sweden. Prior, we spent two rainy days in Gothenburg. It was a quite uneventful weekend, considering everything was shut down for Midsummer holiday.

We are glad to see some life again around us. Many stores and restaurants were closed in Gothenburg either for the holiday, or because they are regularly closed on Sundays, or even they were closed for the next month for vacation season. And today we had a hard time once more, as a bunch of restaurants are closed on Mondays as a rule! While in Gothenburg they are all open. We really can't win!

If I ever visit Sweden in late June or July again, it will be to a house in the countryside. At least in Gothenburg, the city life has little but malls and museums for visitors. I'm thinking a few friends, a bag of groceries and a reservation through Air BnB could be the way to go.

So today we continued the meticulously planned journey and arrived in Malmö at our beautiful, new, Marriott Renaissance hotel. Our other hotels were good but this is brand new, and I kind of want everything here to be in my own house.

Soon after we checked in, the sun was shining and we found ourselves some underwhelming and undercooked pizza for lunch in a beautiful old building in Lilla Torg.

Piccolo Mondo: pretty but so-so pizza.

We wandered not too far before we saw a big produce stand in a square. We've passed so many in each city and always skip by, assuming they must only accept cash - which we have not carried much. We got Euros in Helsinki, but the fruits were so much more expensive than home.

Here are some examples from Helsinki:


Rhubarb - very popular here:

Cherries: 6 euros/liter!

Blueberries or Raspberries (7 euros/container!)

Everyone was buying and munching on the sweet smelling fruits. Strawberries were 6 euros a container! I passed because it's not like I've never had a fresh strawberry before! Why spend nearly $8 on a few?

By today the fruit temptation was overwhelming. Hotel breakfast buffets had offered little fruit and my normal summer diet consists of about 4-5 servings of fruit per day. Pregnant - 6-8 servings (or more). So I was dying for fresh fruits.

In Malmö the prices were better. 30 SEK ($4.25) got us a liter of delicious sweet strawberries. A few bucks more got us a giant handful of cherries and the minimum credit card charge amount. So sweet and delicious, I'm like an addict getting my fix after withdrawal. The fruit here is really good. Feeling better already.

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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tzay Skewers in Stockholm's Skansen Park Midsummer Festivity

Yesterday was a very important holiday in Scandinavia. Midsummer's eve marks the shortest night of the year and is second only in importance to Christmas. On this most beloved holiday, marking the beginning of summer and vacation season, it seems each country celebrates a bit differently. The Finns may have bonfires, the Swedes have a maypole and apparently a lot of sex! We were told by several that this is a very heavily celebrated wild day for even the most conservative Swedes, and that a baby boom occurs each March.

Over midsummer weekend people all over Scandinavia abandon their everyday lives for their cottages. They at least make a point of picnicking and eating outdoors no matter what the unpredictable weather does.

Unfortunate for us tourists, the cities just about shut down. We spent Friday back in Stockholm and were directed to Skansen park for midsummer festivities. This is where everyone (and many dogs and pigeons) goes. It's normally a themed park teaching about the old days of farming and life in Sweden - a heritage lesson like our Colonial Williamsburg.
Also unfortunate for us, is that the
typical Smorgasbord is not terribly vegetarian friendly. Pickled herring and smoked salmon are not an acceptable protein - and really not all that enticing to most American palates to begin with. So we worried, with almost all restaurants closed, if we would find decent options at Skansen.

We took a crowded tram around lunchtime to the park and waited in the constantly growing lines to purchase entry. Soon we paid our 280 SEK ($40) and were in. Right away we found a acceptable veg option at Tre Byttor: asparagus tagliatelle. Apparently asparagus is in peak season here, it's everywhere.

We then checked what I thought would be our most promising option: Skansen Terrassen. They were barbecuing outdoors and inside was an Ikea-style grab-then-be-served buffet line. To our delight were TWO good veg options. Artichoke pasta or - surprise surprise - a vegetarian plate with fake meat!

I admit I got the rosemary chicken with potatoes and a blueberry tart, but my husband chose the vegetarian plate. We weren't sure what "Tzay" skewers would be and were happy to find that Tzay is very similar to Seitan. It was kind of like the texture of the "mock duck" in Thai food. They were flavorful and came with yogurt sauce and potato salad of roasted baby potatoes with oil, vinegar, minced carrot, radish and leeks.

What a surprise find, we were pleased. Although it did cost about 320 SEK ($50). Considering we hardly found much else interest in the very crowded park, (just checked out the maypole dancing for a minute, browsed the 10 or so vendors and a couple buildings) it was a very expensive meal after factoring in the entry fee.

Skansen would be lots of fun with children I bet - with the zoo and rides. At least the food was wonderful. You would never find food this good at an American theme park, at least not in my experience which may be limited.
Here is a video our Swedish friend posted on Facebook - it's called "Swedish Midsummer for Dummies". Maybe it will help illustrate for you. Hopefully the link works, as I'm blogging through iPhone I am not sure!

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Pickles on Pizza and a History Lesson

During our day and a half in Helsinki I found my new favorite food. Actually, it was all my favorite foods conglomerates into one delicious pie.

I don't think that pickles on pizza is a local custom by any means. In fact, I doubt it's found many places at all. But with the Scandinavian's love for pizza, and a strong Russian influence coloring Helsinki's roots, this amazing pizza has become very popular at at least one spot in the city.

We visited Pizzeria Nikolai's while touring Suomenlinna Sea Fortress in Helsinki. The group of islands was founded by the Swedes in 1748, as Finland was part of the kingdom. Only a few years after the main buildings and defenses were constructed, Suomenlinna was overtaken by the Russian Army in 1808. It was only after the Russian Revolution in late 1917 that Finland declared independence.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage site for it's military architecture, Suomenlinna is a tourist destination for visitors to Helsinki. While the visitors arriving by ferry enjoy the landscapes, museums, fortress tunnels and cafes, there are over 900 permanent residents living as a functional community.

We took a brief 1 hour tour of the main route through the sites, but my main intention was to visit Nikolai's to try their most popular namesake pizza.

After the short history lesson, I understood what this Russian pizza place was doing on an island in Finland. As much of Helsinki's architecture is resembling St. Petersberg, of course the cuisine would appropriately reflect the culture as well.

Conveniently, we found Nikolai's easily at the end of our tour, nearby King's Gate. I didn't know what to expect. Would we be getting a flatbread covered with sour cream and pickles? When we saw the menu, we found the "Nikolai" pizza first on the list: metwurst, pickled cucumbers, mushrooms, capers and sour cream. All my favorite things! Except we will delete the wurst both because of pregnancy and a vegetarian diet. But we still didn't know what to expect.

The combination and the pizza were better than expected. It was basically a very good thin crust with marinara and well-cooked mozzarella with the above mentioned toppings.

The pickles were finely chopped and tasted like the semisweet "bread and butter" pickles you find in a jar for topping sandwiches in the US. Not overly salty, no dill or garlic. So they didn't overpower the flavor of the pie. The sour cream was placed in the center to use or discard at will. The mushrooms and capers were salty like those from a can.

We devoured the entire pizza easily. It was sooo good. All my favorite things: thin pizza, pickles and mushrooms! I now understand my food preferences, making the connection that I am almost half Italian (from Rome) and a quarter Russian (from Belarus). It must be sheer luck that my Indian partner shares in these tastes.

I'm sure I will be recreating this pizza soon at home. Finding new delicious inspiration is my number one favorite thing about world travel. Being able to re-experience a great meal is better than photographs or trinkets.

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Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Vegetarian Lunch in Helsinki

Wow. Just look at that giant plate of food. It's all vegetarian. I don't even know exactly what it all is. But that doesn't matter - it was all delicious!

We arrived in Helsinki around noon at our hotel, Klaus K. Hungry for lunch, I checked to see if this veg restaurant I had heard of was nearby. Joy, it was only 3 blocks!

Zucchini was a different format from what we are used to. I guess they may call it cafeteria style, although it looked like someone's parlor and living room with cafe tables. The menu was all in Finnish (but knowing it was all veg friendly), monkey-see/monkey-do, we followed those arriving ahead of us.

It turned out not to be a menu of choices, but a "here's what you're eating today" statement. You grab a tray, let the nice guys fill up your plate "with everything, please", and pay. The server explained as he shoveled food from covered trays that it was lentil loaf and roast potatoes (with red pepper sauce). There was also green salad, tzatziki, little red beans in a sweet gravy.

After paying, we got water and sliced wheat bread and found a seat next to two other patrons who were deep in conversation, but welcoming to the new table mates entering their elbow space.

What a hearty, healthy, vegetarian meal. The lentil loaf was sweet but flavorful with carrots and possibly squash, with a crispy baked top. The little red beans in sweet red gravy were delicious with bread.

So glad we tried Zucchini the first day here - we may go back tomorrow!

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Short Time In Expensive Oslo

We have only been in Oslo a day and a half, and we are packing up to leave tomorrow. My quick impressions are these:

1. OMG this city is expensive!!!!
My husband and I live a well appointed life in NYC. But the prices in Oslo make me feel poor! I guess we can afford it... I just have a huge problem paying $10 for a McDonald's burger! Ok, I don't eat those ever - but I think you get the point of reference! Just an ice cream at McDonald's costs $5. Subway is a bit more reasonable here - probably the cheapest lunch you'll find as the pricing is about the same as the US. A simple sit-down lunch with 2 drinks runs you $80 easy.

1. This city loves pizzas. Every restaurant has pizza. Although, the actual Chicago-style pizza joint Pepe's ain't that good. By the way a medium pizza will set you back $30 US.

2. There are soooo many young people - college kids. Hence the pizza obsession?

3. People just sit and drink coffee, wine and beer allllll afternoon. Even on weekdays. It's like they stop for lunch at 2 and just keep sitting there allll day. Nice life! But at about $12-15 for a beer, how do they manage? Crazy.

Overall, it's a nice clean city. The shopping streets remind me of Munich - lots of high street stores and outdoor cafes and gardens.

The architecture leans toward traditional with square plastered buildings in colors and newer glass structures sprinkled in. There are a couple pockets of cute cottages smooshed onto hidden hills between the bustling streets. Those are the preserved areas from Edward Munch's paintings - close to his burial spot.

After a long walk searching for those historic houses (I'm a little confused if we found them all) we walked the opposite direction to check out the waterfront beside the opera house. Bust. There's nothing there but fisherman and some water. Oh, and I guess there was a really cool castle but we were too hungry to care by that point.

Instead we found Kafe Celsius ( ) and relaxed in the sun like so many others.

For my husband a Nogne O (, a delicious, large, unfiltered, unpasteurized wit (wheat) beer made with orange peel and coriander. It tasted a lot like Blue Moon.

For preggy preggersons, that's me, a respectable German-brewed non-alcoholic beer: Clausthaler. Tired feet, hot, sunny, thirsty, it hit the spot in only the way a beer can.

I had the Lakseburger - a perfect fillet of salmon on a bun with tzatziki and greens with salt potatoes on the side. Heavenly healthy yums.

My husband had the Vegetargryte - a casserole of various beans and lentils with tomato and peppers, eaten with bread - don't forget the salt potatoes! He said it tasted like chili, it looked like a stew. Good high-protein lunch. We needed that.

Dinner was a tough call. We spent $80 on lunch... So were we ready to drop real serious coin on dinner? Not with the options nearby. Even the Italian place had meat in every dish. So it was tapas (again) or falafel. After some trepidation over a non-eventful dinner experience, we went for the falafel (also a pizza joint). Not much ambience - but more than a stand. Absolute right choice. 12" long rolls of proper flatbread filled with yummy sauce, falafel (chicken for me) corn, and salad. Huge. Tasty. So much more satisfying than a couple cheese filled peppers and asparagus spears at the tapas place. Full. Yum. Happy.

Dessert? Stopped at a deli for ice cream and this chocolate bar:

Troika: layer of crispy, layer of hard chocolate, layer of raspberry jelly, covered in chocolate. $3, serious? But very cool!

That's it for Oslo. We were lucky to get a day of sun. But lucky for our wallets it was just one!

Next stop: Helsinki.

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Location:Oslo, Norway

Monday, June 18, 2012

More Snacks in Stockholm

(photo from around 9pm at night in Sweden)

On Sunday, our second day in Stockholm, I must admit we slept quite late again. We awoke to torrential rains outside our window, so took our time before heading out.

Eventually, the rain slowed and we headed out by about 1:30. We felt a bit guilty wasting so much time, but there was not much to do in a downpour.

We explored the shopping streets near the central station for a bit before, of course, getting hungry. We walked over the bridge to Gamla Stan hoping for a falafel sandwich from a little place on a tiny side street. But, Jerusalem Kebab was tiny itself with no seats - and more importantly no rest room. Walking had baby boy resting low on my bladder and I wasn't about to eat standing up without relieving the pressure.

We decided instead to stop for a bar snack at O'Connors Irish pub. I didn't expect much, but the order of potato skins was actually pretty yummy - and huge. I expected a few soggy wedges, but instead it was a basket full of very crispy slices with sides of sour cream and sweet chili sauce. No need for lunch then. Only ice cream.

Along the main tourist street in the old city are several ice cream shops. We picked one of the larger places with a low window sill to rest on. Many of the ice cream shops had girls in the window pressing waffle cones, which gave the air a yummy fresh-baked smell.

There were so many flavor choices. The more interesting being black licorice (black ice cream??) and (my husband's favorite) saffron, which tasted like the Indian milk/rice pudding kir.

I stuck with standard strawberry and blueberry, which were good. The texture was a little more air-whipped and creamy than we are used to with our prized American Ben and Jerry's.

The snacking didn't stop there, since we decided to return after a siesta for a dinner of tapas. The sun was still shining as we left for dinner around 9pm.

Tabac tapas bar had a lot of good vegetarian choices. Pan con tomate was a sub-par garlic bread with too little pureed tomato spread in. But the creamy saffron rice croquettes and honey-baked goat cheese were tops. Thick goat cheese wrapped in cold sweet red pepper was refreshing. Bruschetta with pickley caramelized red onions and stiff manchego cheese was acceptable but struck me as a less impressive texture/flavor combo. All together a decent meal and a successful snacking day. We returned from dinner by 11:15pm, just as twilight was setting in.

My favorite resto-culture point so far is that the bars tend to have non-alcohol choices so us preggers can feel like part of the club. I'm not that into soda, so a choice of no-alcohol cider, cocktail, wine or beer is appreciated for the first time in my life. Virgin wine does taste less like wine, however, and more like a dry grape juice. Oh well!

So far there have been no major disappointments on our journey. The people are pleasant, the transport is user-friendly, and generally Stockholm seems well-organized and streamlined.

Now off to Norway, to visit Oslo!

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Location:Stockholm, Sweden

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Snacking in Stockholm

We arrived in Stockholm this morning. It's the first stop on our last pre-baby Europe trip. The trip started out with a surprise upgrade to business class on Delta, and we were off!

So far we easily navigated the trains from the airport to hotel. Luckily that was before the rain started. We decided to nap it out.

After the rain we took the metro a few stops to check out Gamla Stan (the Old City). We explored the cobblestone streets and mostly closed shops around the Royal Palace.

I've found it useful to download city-guide apps when travelling without wifi access. I used guide-pal for this trip and it shows you a map and gps's your location using cell towers. It also lead us to this cool little restaurant called Pubologi. (

This little hybrid pub had wine, beer, and interesting small plates.
We ordered the Beetroot dish with marinated cheese, hazelnuts and other deliciousness. It seemed this little salad had every experience in one bowl: earthy, sweet, salty, smokey, bitter, creamy, crunchy.

Even better, just for the order, we got a shot-sized bottle of gazpacho and the most amazing fresh bread and butter. You can't beat bread and butter in Europe, it just tastes like it's supposed to.

I also got to enjoy a yummy sparkling cider free of alcohol while my husband had a beer. And there were actually two other options for me - non-alcohol beer and a Malbec wine I think.

The small snack we stopped for was delicious but so expensive. So we stopped and bought some cheap snacks too. These cream cheese crackers look interesting and we have had the gooey-centered Singoalla cookies before and love them. Hope this balances the budget a bit...

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