Monday, September 25, 2017

Review of LUPIN Boba's Vegan Green Tea Matcha Bubble Tea [Yerevan]

When repat Alexander Azizyan (real last name) told me he was thinking about opening a "boba shop" in Yerevan, I wished him well, pretending to know what boba meant.

When he actually went ahead and opened the shop, I finally understood that boba was just a fancy name for bubble tea. He told me when I came to Yerevan he could make me a special vegan option and I took him up on it on one of the hottest days in August.

I went with Bjorn and Zofia, my favourite blonde Polish woman who lived in Yerevan, and we decided walking to the underpass at 38/2 Komitas in the scorching heat was the best option. We eventually arrived, sweaty and in desperate need of refreshments. There were already two guys there chatting away but Alex was ready for us:
Out of our sweaty way, please!
LUPIN boba has a lot to choose from, including smoothies, and Alex told me he could veganize the Green Tea Matcha for me since the powder was already milk-free. Although he uses honey to marinate the tapioca pearls, he used maple syrup for mine, which I appreciated immensely as a Canadian.
We put in our orders and the vegan option came to 2200 AMD (soy milk is of course more expensive in Armenia). I was pretty excited.
Such a good advertisement for Joya!
I took one sip and before Alex could ask me how it was, I proclaimed it was delicious. It was super flavourful and refreshing--especially perfect for such a hot day, and although I know these drinks do tend to have a lot of sugar, it wasn't overwhelmingly sweet.
I'm no bubble tea expert, but the handful of times I've had it in Canada, I would always finish the tapioca pearls ahead of the drink (greed). LUPIN boba aka Alex is very generous with the tapioca pearls and they lasted me all the way to my last sip!
Alex let me know that the Thai Tea could also be veganized, so although I loved my Green Tea Matcha boba, next time I will try that!
Fun fact: LUPIN boba has a fake fruit bowl and some guy tried to take a bite out of the apple, which is now there to serve as a warning:
Pro-tip: Message Alex in advance to let him know if you want the vegan option so he can marinate the tapioca pearls in that sweet sweet maple syrup!

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Review of Roubi's Vegan Lahmajoun [Yerevan]


I'm often asked if I miss meat. Besides soujoukh (not the sweet one obviously), I don't miss meat, I miss specific meals with meat in them, aka lahmajoun and mante/manti.

I made a delicious vegan mante last year and put into practice the theory that it's all about the spices, broth and seasoning. Lahmajoun had to be similar, and before I even had a chance to tackle that dish, I saw a post in a Facebook group that vegan/vegetarian chef Roubi Nalbandian was making it in Yerevan. I messaged her about one month before I actually got anywhere near Armenia, basically telling her to "get ready" for me (not a threat I swear) and counted down the days.

One disgustingly hot day in August, I went with Bjorn and Arpine to Marilda Restaurant on Pushkin Street, where Roubi used to work, and ordered three lahmajouns at 350 drams each. I waited for a chi gareli comment from the waiter, but after I mentioned Roubi's name, all was well and the order was placed. We also ordered hmoz and beer because it was one of those days, and waited. About 10-15 minutes later, our food arrived:
I was beyond excited and immediately fell in love after first bite, as did my guests. I got into annoying detective-mode and loudly proclaimed that the mushrooms, parsley, garlic and salcha were what made this vegan lahmajoun so delicious. The seasoned mushrooms gave the entire meal a nice juiciness that perfectly mimicked minced meat, and the parsley and spices gave it that familiar and distinct flavour lahmajoun is known for.
I think any version I attempt will pale in comparison to Roubi's creation, so I am happy (as long as I am in Armenia) to get my vegan lahmajoun fix directly from her! For those interested in joining the not-so-secret vegan fight lahmajoun club, Roubi can be contacted directly on Facebook right here!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

My Blog Featured in 'Top 50 Food Travel Blogs That Will Leave You Salivating'

I received an e-mail letting me know that The Traveling Chamelian has been included in Taxidio's 'Top 50 Food Travel Blogs That Will Leave You Salivating.'
I'm #38 on the list and am glad that my little posts about Armenian, Middle Eastern and Georgian food have caused people to salivate ;)

You can check out the entire list here

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Review of Twelve Tables' Vegan Cake & Ice Cream [Yerevan]

Once my favourite person Gohar told me that cafe/restaurant Twelve Tables in Yerevan had vegan chocolate cake, I kept plotting my visit. I was slightly skeptical, but still began my notorious over-hyping process that can never be contained.

After a full day out and about one sunny day last week, I came back to Yerevan needing to get some work done, and decided to couple staring at my computer aimlessly pretending not to be on Facebook with said vegan chocolate cake. It would be a match made in heaven.

I walked into Twelve Tables, immediately reminded of how adorable the set up and decor was, which always makes me feel like I'm in the cozy house of a friend I am secretly jealous of.
There is a separation based on smoking preferences, and as I made my way to the non-smoking area, I immediately saw these signs in all of their sweet glory:
I didn't even have to ask if they really had it. It was right there, advertised on the walls, along with another option (ice cream) I didn't even know existed. I had a big decision ahead of me--did I order both vegan options to celebrate work I had not even started yet? My dictator of a sweet tooth decreed yes. I confirmed with the waitress that both options were legit vegan and was surprised to find out that the cake was raw and packed with almonds, flax and sunflower seeds, cacao, coconut oil, and my all-time favourite sweetener, dates aka khourma. I added an ice coffee to my late afternoon dessert-fest because apparently I enjoy staying up all night thinking about scary movie scenes (ghosts and/or aliens) permanently etched into my memory.
You did this.
I have to admit, while I was impressed that the cake was raw, my expectations of it immediately changed and I assumed it would taste like a "healthy" dessert, which of course can still be delicious, but does change the overall vibe. However, when it arrived, even the appearance challenged my pre-conceived notions:
It had a base (I assume where all the nuts/seeds went) and was topped with a super creamy frosting/mousse. After just one bite I was in chocolate-heaven:
I couldn't believe how decadent this raw vegan cake was, and regretted ordering anything else because I didn't want to take my attention away from it. It was so rich and although the base was delicious, the frosting was out of this world.
I cleansed my palate with a swish of the coffee that would result in the following day's dark under eyes, and tried the ice cream:
It was really good--very refreshingly light with its avocado/banana base, perfect for Yerevan's relentless heat.
While ice cream tends to be my favourite sweet treat, this time the cake took the cake was definitely the highlight. I cannot wait to go back for round two.

On my way out, another super sweet (vegetarian) waitress* asked what I thought about the desserts and told me that she is bringing in more vegan options to the menu, including a vegan burger once she finds good vegan burger buns. Review of that will hopefully be up soon...the things I do for you people ;)

*She also told me I should get Instagram. Must I?

Monday, August 21, 2017

Gardein Seven Grain Crispy Tenders Review

I have been away from this blog for too long! But before I begin with all of my Greece and Armenia posts (so much to write about!), I figured I should quickly do my mini-review for Gardein's Seven Grain Crispy Tenders (Chick'n).
Long story short, Canadian company Gardein discontinued a bunch (17?) of products in Canada, and put out a statement about it. I don't buy mock meats/substitutes very often (see them more as treats and try to make my own instead), but I remember really liking this chick'n option I had at a restaurant once. I didn't realize the chick'n was actually called Seven Grain Crispy Tenders, so when I checked the list of remaining products in Canada, assumed it was not included, and frantically bought a package during a trip to Florida, feeling mischievous.
Exactly how I looked when I spotted the package.
I now realize they are still available in Canada (yay!) but am going to do my review anyway. Long story short round 2: they are so good. I cooked them in a toaster oven rather than in a conventional oven, and followed the directions on the package. They could have been a bit crispier but the taste was so good that I didn't mind. I coupled them with a salad and hmoz, and was in food heaven:
There's a reason so many restaurants use Gardein as their mock meat option, and it was great that the product was also delicious on its own, and not only as a result of a restaurant cooking/seasoning it in a special way. In fact, I chopped a few of the strips and mixed them in a salad once, but they are so delicious, I prefer them on their own so I can really appreciate the flavour.
So if you are looking for a great alternative to chicken (in Canada, too!), make sure to try this option! Here is the nutritional info for those interested:

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

My Blog Featured in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's 'Health and Wellness Series'

Hello dear blog babies!

I was just alerted to the fact that my review on Veganz supermarket in Hamburg, Germany, was featured in Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Global Analysis Report: Health and Wellness Series - Vegetarian and Vegan Food in Germany.

My little shout-out is in the Retail spotlight: Veganz section, which states:
"The Veganz chain has received positive reviews from numerous blogs dedicated to vegan and vegetarian lifestyles as well as to travel. For example, Mary Scherpe, a travel blogger, visited the Friedrichshain location in 2012 and commented positively on the food offered in their bistro (Scherpe, 2012). Vegan review website Veganoo (2014) favourably reviewed the selections at Veganz stores. Lena Tachdjian, a writer for the vegan lifestyle website ClearlyVeg visited the Hamburg location in 2016 and praised its décor, bistro, variety, unique products and samples."
You can check out the review they are referring to right here

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Review: Caffé Demetre's Vegan Sundae

Thanks to a Facebook group I'm a part of, I found out that Caffé Demetre had included some vegan options to its menu. Home to crepes, waffles, sundaes and much more, I mentally added this into the "vegan folder" in my brain, knowing it would come in handy one fine day.

That day came when my good friend Gohar (💗💗💗) came to Canada for a visit, and taking her to some old and new vegan joints became the theme of her short time here. And pretending to be at the CN Tower like good tourists of course:
I took her to my all-time favourite comfort food-based vegan restaurant, which is Hogtown Vegan. I don't go there too often, but when I do, I'm known to order the exact same thing every time, convincing myself that "next time" I will be more adventurous:
I recommended my favourite meal to Gohar, which is the unchicken Caesar wrap (always add pickles) with the fries supremacy (upgrade on the regular fries), and then surprised even myself when I ordered the exact same thing. #WorthIt.
The meal got the sexy Gohar stamp of approval!
Anyway, on her last day here, we could only meet in the evening, and since the subway line was being repaired (of course), Eglinton/Yonge was our safest bet. Before I thought about where we could get dessert, it hit me like a wrecking ball tidal wave: Demetre had a location there. It was perfect.

The menu has four vegan options: three smoothies with fruit, and one double-take worthy sundae option. Titled Beaches And Cream, it has a coconut sorbetto base, topped with French dark chocolate sauce, sliced bananas and caramelized coconut flakes. It had me at "sundae."
I never thought I would say this, considering the many delicious vegan options out there that I love, but after my first spoonful I realized this was the best tasting vegan ice cream I had ever tasted. It was beyond creamy, and the chocolate sauce was actually rich (aka not a watered down version), and the caramelized coconut flakes added a perfect touch, providing some crunch and really fantastic flavour.
I had eaten quite a filling dinner at my cousin's house previously (aka all of the hmoz), so I surprised even myself when I finished the entire thing, with no regrets. It cost $11, and it was worth every penny. While there are three other vegan options, and they do look pretty good for smoothies, why be cool and adventurous when you could be like me and order the exact same thing every time all of the time?
JOIN US

Monday, July 10, 2017

Request: Vegan Food Recommendations in Greece

Hello blog friends far wide! I come to you today with a request: I leave for Greece soon and would love some suggestions on traditional vegan Greek food to try (& blog about*)!
I know how to do the whole appetizers-for-dinner thing, which I love, but since it's my first time there, I want to make sure I try any traditional or vegan-by-default dishes and specialties that the land of olives has to offer. I know from experience in Armenia, Turkey and Georgia that there are plenty of delicious local dishes free of meat, dairy & eggs, and want to make sure to try similar options in Greece.

So if you are a local who knows all the vegan options your country has to offer, or are a vegan traveler who has figured it out, please send me an e-mail at thetravelingchamelian@gmail.com and share some of that sweet, sweet knowledge! If not, I will happily eat all of the olives all day every day.

Thank you! <3

P.S. While restaurant suggestions are also more than welcome, since I will be traveling throughout the country, I prefer names of local dishes I can try and get anywhere rather from a specific restaurant. All ideas/tips are welcome though and appreciated!!

*I will of course credit you ;)

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Zatik Sunscreen Review

Hello dearest blog babies! For those of you who check out my blog, you know I did a review of Zatik's deodorant, which I absolutely love since it single-handedly upgraded my standard of what deodorants should be able to do for a person.

The wonderful Zatik team were kind enough to send me some samples, along with the Zatik Mineral Sunscreen Moisturizer, which I have been impatiently waiting to try out (summer in Canada this year is a rainy fall in disguise). According to the website, it is:
"Formulated with: non-nano zinc oxide incorporated with organic ingredients and light on-skin oils for daily UVA and UVB protection while providing needed facial hydration. This moisturizer is rich with vitamins, succulents herbal extracts and oils that balance natural delicate facial and neck oil levels."
While some of my previous posts have alluded to the fact that nothing annoys me more than applying sunscreen--even if just on the face, I do make an effort to wear it to avoid getting burned, especially since 98.5% of hats are always too small for my apparently ginormous head. I also go for long walks during the day (my excuse to listen to full albums) and make an effort to avoid the dreaded "sunglasses tan" by wearing it on my face, neck and exposed areas, but still hate every second of it (#adult).

While I do tend to buy and use "natural" sunscreens that are at least free of a bunch of unnecessary fragrances and ingredients, they are usually more expensive and take a lot longer to evenly spread out and get absorbed by the skin. This results in me looking like I am wearing a foundation 18x lighter than my skin tone meant for a self-conscious ghost. The greasiness--that takes 3 hours to absorb--also means my nose becomes extra...slippery, resulting in my sunglasses slowly but surely sliding off. Reason #486 why I hate applying sunscreen.
I feel you, little child.
Once I had Zatik's Argon & Yarrow option, I tried it out on the first relatively sunny day (mid-June). It is SPF 25+ (from 10% non nano zinc, castor/argan oil and Ester C) and let me just say that I had to remind myself I was using a sunscreen. It is so light, and your skin essentially sucks it up as soon as it is applied, with no foundation-esque residue left behind. It is fragrance-free, but the scent is wonderful, I guess as a result of the argon and yarrow. With my sunglasses defiantly firmly planted at the top of my nose, I went for my walk and returned home with no traces of a burn, absolutely delighted that it worked.

For a cruelty-free, vegan, natural broad spectrum sunscreen, Zatik has yet again raised my standards and I now refuse to walk around looking like I'm competing with Voldemort (poser reference since I don't read or watch Harry Potter). In the pictures below, I compare/contrast Zatik and its application with that of my other natural sunscreen brand*, which is SPF 30. I dedicated one-half of my face to each option, putting about the same amount on each side.
Second brand on the left, Zatik on the right

Note that Zatik is on the left (therefore right side of my face). While the other brand's application looks dramatic and almost purposely not spread out, I promise you this is after about 30-45 seconds of vigorously applying and spreading it. The second photo is about 20 minutes after the initial application (I wanted to wait longer but also wanted to swim), and you can still see that damn white residue refusing to become one with my skin!

In terms of face and neck for everyday use, Zatik is my new No.1 choice for sunscreen. The bottle I have is $24 USD, and unfortunately it won't be available at Winners like the deodorant, so if you are in Canada and want to check it out, ordering online (or picking it up on a trip to the U.S.) is your best bet!

*I'm not naming the other brand because although it leaves behind an obvious residue, it does work and I do intend to finish it, so I don't want to give it negative 'publicity'. I just prefer Zatik!

**My eyebrows aren't usually so uneven (I hope), the second sunscreen slicked one down during application :D

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Mini Obsession: Stainless Steel Straws

I don't even care how random this post is. When I drink water--and yes, I am the annoying person who drinks a lot of water and then has to pee all of the time--I enjoy it best with a straw. I use straws for most cold drinks, including my smoothies (fascinating stuff, I know).
I get why you are so happy
We had a package of plastic straws from some time ago, so I would use one (washing it from time to time) and reuse it until it would essentially disintegrate. I knew it was wasteful, but since we already had the straws I just figured I would use them until they were finished and then drink water with my mouth like a commoner.

Before my supply dwindled too far, I searched for BPA-free plastic reusable straws, and that search led me to find metal or stainless steel options. I initially thought they seemed silly since they would not be flexible, but then decided to get into obsessive mode and hunt them down and see them for myself. I considered ordering them online when I couldn't find them in any shops or supermarkets, but then one day a friend found them in Whole Foods while I was somewhere in the chocolate section:
It was love at first sight. A four-pack stainless steel straw set and it even came with a mascara wand/cleaner. I was sold. I took them home, washed them, and used one right away. Verdict? These straws have changed my life. I kid you not, they make drinking anything more enjoyable. They keep the liquid colder and mine have a little curve (there are straight options too) so when I am in my angry-eyebrow work-mode, I just keep my water by my computer and conveniently take sips of that cold delicious drink, which is perfectly positioned thanks to the straw.

In case anyone is wondering, this is not a paid advertisement. I just really really really love these straws and they have changed the part of my world connected to drinking. I went from being an annoying person who always wants water to an annoying person who travels with stainless steel straws and there is no going back from here. I even told a friend in Armenia I would give her one and now plan to "forget" so I can have them all to myself.

I paid either $7.99 or $11.99 for these babies and they were worth every penny (aww I still keep forgetting the penny is out in Canada and still try and use them).
Me at every shop before I am gently embarrassed
In all seriousness, not only are these straws great, they are a much better option than plastic straws. Try them out and join me in mocking mouth-drinkers!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Review of Beyond Meat's Beyond Burger

Hello! I finally got to try the bleeding Beyond Burger in the United States and did a review for Clearly Veg. You can check it out right here! I will add it to my review post as well.