After an enjoyable lunch at Vivanda I punished myself by spending the remainder of the day (roughly 4-5 hours) walking around Florence. One thing that’s great about the chic Italian city is how it can be covered quite easily on foot. However, if you’re the walking type I suggest aiming for September/October or May type temperatures. I braved the scorching sun and humidity to visit square after square, bridge after bridge and the odd art gallery. I spent a good deal of time sauntering up and down shopping streets, admiring window displays and wiping the sweat off my brow. I quenched my thirst with multiple bottles of water and tried to track down the infamous gelateria in the centre of town that had dairy-free gelato and sorbets.
Alas, it wasn’t meant to be.
19:30 rolled around quicker than expected and thanks to the walking and unrelenting heat I was ready for a good meal. I had two places earmarked for dinner given they were in the same part of town (north of the river and east of the rail station) so my strategy became “I dine at the place I come across first,” which wound up being a good plan in the end due to my inability to properly locate streets on a map. I secretly hoped to find Il Vegetariano on Via delle Ruote first since my host raved about the food, the communal setting and was a frequent diner there himself. Instead (thanks to my faulty directional skills) I stumbled upon Dolce Vegan on Via San Gallo. This was after passing it twice and almost leaving the area entirely out of sheer frustration.
All in all, my persistence was worth it.
Similar to my lunch experience, Dolce Vegan had a communal feel since orders are placed at the counter and patrons are called up to collect their food once it’s ready. The owner of the establishment is very much against animal cruelty and choosing to adopt vegan approach is meant send out a clear message about the type of food they source and serve, as reiterated under the philosophy section of their website: “being vegan does not mean giving something up or being deprived of the pleasures of the table, but becoming aware of the consequences of our actions and enriching our lives through healthy and tasty food that is packed with surprises. We want to let everyone know about the beauty and sweetness of life while respecting animals, their health and the environment.”
As anyone who has eaten vegan food, or is vegan, knows: it’s not always easy to recreate certain dishes and substitute ingredients that are meant to help dishes rise, bind, congeal or thicken. I mean, if someone gave me a Euro for every botched attempt at homemade bread, cookies or cake…once again…I’d be filthy rich. Dolce Vegan makes a strong attempt; however, and they wind up doing a pretty good job at providing tasty desserts and simple + nutritious mains packed with organic ingredients.
I had a bio smoothie to stave off my hunger until the arrival of my salad. The large plate of greens was humble in presentation, but good in terms of taste. Fresh lettuce was hidden under a generous helping of olives, corn, artichoke and sun-dried tomatoes, which was the icing on the proverbial cake (I have mad love for sun-dried…well…anything really). The salad also came with baked tofu on top, which wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t a fan given the taste and consistency: I felt like I was chewing on chunks of Styrofoam. That said, I’m not a big fan of tofu – or soy products – to begin with so lesson learned for next time: a salad, yes please, but kindly hold the tofu!
The gluten + dairy free bread that accompanied the salad tried hard, really hard, but I felt indifferent to it in the end. As I said earlier, making certain things using substitutes is not easy and while I was thrilled to try some vegan bread, it missed the mark mainly due to consistency and flavour. To counter the dry and crumbly nature of the bread I used quite a bit olive oil and balsamic and had had enough after three thin slices.
All was redeemed though with the tea and dessert that followed. I kicked back with a slice of chocolate cake that was fantastic. It was rich, it was smooth, it was sweet without being overly so, it was filling and it was made with organic cacao. Fabulous. Washing it down with a cup of herbal tea was one of the most enjoyable parts of the day and provided me with the energy needed to begin the long walk home.
In all: I like the concept of Dolce Vegan, dug their interior and respect what they’re trying to achieve through providing locally sourced, harm-free and organic food. Their menu is diverse, there were lots of organic beverages (wine) to choose from and there were plenty of vegan desserts in the fridge that I’d enjoy making my way through. I’d certainly be open to eating there again and perhaps even giving the tofu another try…we’ll see.
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