Wednesday, May 8, 2013

In Search of Sunshine in Sardinia

Where does a heat-deprived girl go for a spot of sunshine after a long, cold winter? You'd think an island in the middle of the Mediterranean would be a good bet. I'm here to tell you it ain't necessarily so. A week ago I hopped a plane hoping hard for a sun-soaked holiday punctuated by great food, better wine, and maybe, just maybe, a daily dip in the sea.

The real-life version of Sardinia in early May didn't match the image of sandy-beach perfection in my head, but I got over it pretty quickly. Reason #1: The people. These are some of the kindest folk I've ever met. Waitstaff, in particular, take the Miss/Mister Congeniality prizes; on different occasions, they left work to shuttle me to a nearby bank-o-mat; bought me glasses of wine for no apparent reason; and saw to it that I didn't go hungry, making me special off-the-menu vegan meals and apero snacks.

Via Roma, the main thoroughfare in downtown Cagliari.

The covered arcade on Via Roma. Burgerlandia?  I'll stick with Portlandia!
I wish someone hadn't torn this vegan poster. 

Sardinian wine is fabulous, and you always get a little snack to go with it. Here, focaccia bread--with cheese, sadly.
Looking down toward the port.

My B&B was fabulous; a bit out of the way, but worth the 20-minute bus ride--past salt marshes full of pink flamingos--into town. It was in a quiet residential neighborhood in a very small hamlet. I had my own suite, with double doors leading onto a sunny patio. The family dog was my constant companion, and I made friends with the indigenous fauna, too.

Breakfast was delivered to my room every morning.

My outdoor breakfast spot

Bok, my new buddy.

On my walk to the supermercado in the village.

More Sardinian countryside.

Yay! Vegan stuff at the neighborhood market.

I didn't try these vegan things, but I was tempted.

The fresh focaccia was also calling my name.

Most days I ate lunch at la Terra di Mezzo. The town's only remaining veg restaurant. (There was another, but it recently closed.) The lunch buffet was vegan, and molto bene. My favorite was the seitan with grilled artichokes. It was swimming in olive oil, which might have been one reason it tasted so good.

One half of the lunch buffet at Terra di Mezzo.
The brown bit is the seitan with artichokes. Need to learn how to make that.
Funky cigarette vending machine.
Local architecture.

Cagliari is full of graffiti; most of it pretty bad as far as I could tell.

I'd file this under "mediocre" graffiti. This artist made his/her mark all over town.

Got sucked into a store, then lost in the stripey vortex.

My kind of apero: Prosecco, olives, potato chips AND peanuts. 

On top of the hill  beside the archeology museum, looking south over the port.

This cat needed rescuing :0(

A century plant in bloom!

This vacation wasn't the sunniest, nor the warmest, but it was relaxing and interesting. The architecture, the sea breezes, the people, and the food and wine are all reasons I'd return. In mid-July. (Or August.)

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Bargain Bites with a Side of Anarchy

V is for Vegan!
It's pretty shameful; East Side Burgers has been open since September and only today, the first of May, did I actually pop in for a taste of Paris' best "New York Style" fast food. Not for lack of  desire, though; each previous attempt was thwarted by the ridiculously long line out the door. Today was no different; burger-hungry hipsters spilled out onto the sidewalk, but, thankfully, the line didn't enter deal-breaking territory.

After maybe 5 or 10 minutes' wait, we were standing at the register placing our orders. Two mushroom- burger specials: One vegan, one standard-issue. Frites--not the optional coleslaw (who chooses coleslaw over fries?!)--and a couple of cans of Oasis. That'll be 18 euro, s'il vous plait. What?! Cheaper even than our beloved Chettinadu? Woot! J'adore this place already.

Vegan quiche and non-vegan cheesecake consumed most of the space in the deli case.
I totally forgot to get one of those almond cookies. Damn!
Seating is extremely limited at East Side Burgers; there's a tiny subterranean dining room with roughly 5 tables, and two little two-seater set-ups out front. "You're in luck--someone's leaving downstairs," said the nice guy behind the counter. Turns out there's a little video camera in the dining room that beams images back up to kitchen staff. Good to know!

I liked the old-school wrapping. More so, the contents! 
I was surprised to see cheese on my vegan burger. M'expliquez, SVP. 
Down the spiral staircase we went, settling into our seats and waiting, eagerly, for our names to be called. When the blessed moment arrived, I sprinted upstairs and was met halfway by the guy from behind the counter, who handed me a faux-wood tray with our goodies nestled on top.

There were two distinct sizes of burgers: big and bigger. Opening them up, they both appeared to have cheese, so back upstairs I went to inquire whether the vegan burger was meant to have cheese. Mr. Cheerful assured me that it was indeed dairy-free fromage, and that my wrapper should have "VG" on it to indicate its veganness. Back down again I went, then the two of us spent the next 30 seconds mauling each burger to find the telltale scribble. Turns out mine was the bigger one. My bun was sort of whole-wheaty, while Jeff's was more traditional looking, with sesame seeds on top, even.

The burger was delish. I mean, really, really tasty, thanks in part to the caramelized onions and healthy squeeze of French's mustard, about which there is nothing remotely "French." I don't think they even sell yellow mustard anywhere in this country! I can't remember if the mushrooms were inside the burger or on top, but however they were integrated, they were integrated well.

Heading over by bike toward Stalingrad for a coffee date with Paris Paul, we got caught up in a May Day manifestation; International Workers Day is a traditional day of protest in France, and as the procession began, a well-mannered group of anarchists were among the first to march by.

Kill capitalism? OK. I'm pretty partial to Socialist values anyway, but can we please keep East Side Burgers?