Monday, May 24, 2010

Vegan in Morocco: Chefchaouen

We took a long and adventurous road trip from Rabat to Chefchaouen. Chefchaouen is a small mountain town in the north of Morocco. We didn't end up loving Chefchaouen too much... it was really, really over-run with people hawking hotels and crappy trinkets to the tourists. But, it is a very beautiful spot, and you see why it must have had great allure in a less-travelled time.

Nonetheless, we enjoyed our time there... and the gorgeous drive along the way. And, we had one of the best meals of our time in Morocco there - which definitely bears mentioning.

We found a great little hotel, which recommended the restaurant Darcom. It was a very beautiful restaurant - full of little artisan details everywhere. I think there were 2 indoor levels and 2 more outdoor levels. Naturally, we went all the way up to the highest level! It was a tiny and picturesque little two-table balcony with candles and a night view of the town. It was also pretty cold by the end of our meal! Here we are, cuddled up with the menu.

I'll just apologize now for how dark all these pictures are - but these Moroccan restaurants are very serious about low, atmospheric lighting!

This is the first course. Sometimes restaurants called this "Moroccan Salad" - typically 3-4 small plates with different veggie courses. In this case there were olives (naturally!), some sort of split pea soup, and an eggplant puree. I didn't trust the split pea soup to be vegan, so Mr. Vegan Eats & Treats got to eat that one all by himself!

The omnipresent basket of bread. Every time I would swear that I wouldn't eat the whole thing, and every time, we ate the whole thing.

This was a vegan appetizer that I ordered. Sort of like a thick ratatouille spread. It was great on it's own, and even better with the bread. Full of rich veggie flavors and perfectly cooked. Yum!

This was my veggie tagine... couscous with seven vegetables, with some wonderful caramelized onions, and chopped peanuts on top. You eat a fair number of veggie tagines when you travel in Morocco, and the couscous is often just plain (but yummy) and the veggies are heavily steamed... but this meal, with the help of the onions and the peanuts, really became something special.

And dessert! I'm so glad I took this picture, because I had this dish a few times in Morocco, and it was a revelation! It's a simple dessert with chopped oranges, a light sprinkle of sugar and a light sprinkle of cinnamon. Mmmm. I mentioned in the last post that orange trees are absolutely everywhere, and I'm not kidding. So, you can find this lovely dish most places. Even if it is simple, it's so nice, as a vegan, to have a yummy and traditional dessert that you can order off the menu!

Chefchaouen is famous for its blue-ness: narrow winding "streets," stairways, and doorways all painted in various shades of light blue. I've got a thing for blue, so I thought it was pretty amazingly beautiful. Also, there are feral cats absolutely everywhere in Morocco. We were there in pregnant-cat-season, so we saw lots and lots of pregnant kitties, which I found significantly less heartbreaking than baby kitten season... so I was relieved. Generally, most of the cats look to be doing okay. More than once we saw a butcher or a fish guy in the market place who had a little crowd of kitties around his stall and he would toss them each a piece of something to eat. It was really nice to see these little street critters getting some friendly support.

Another cute kitty shot. Also black and white, but I swear it's a different kitty.

The next stop on our adventure was Fez, and so we set out on the open road. At one point we saw a little roadside stand and got ourselves a couple of sodas to quench our thirst and stay alert for the mountain roads. I don't ever drink soda at home, but I do let myself drink it when I'm traveling for some reason. I loved these special coke cans - and also, this transaction marked my only successful interaction in 100% Arabic!

By the way, did I mention that our drive was very beautiful? We ended up accidentally taking a rather dangerous route, so unfortunately I couldn't really recommend it to anyone. But, all's well that ends well, and we came out perfectly unscathed with some truly spectacular views and vistas along the way. We were there with perfect timing for a crazy abundance of wildflowers. There were just flowers, flowers, flowers and more flowers for our whole drive, which was probably about 5 or 6 hours long!

If you like wildflowers, you'll love little donkeys standing in fields of wildflowers. There were donkeys absolutely everywhere in Morocco, and these poor critters work so hard. You'd see them carrying huge loads of stuff AND a person sitting on top of them. And mind you, donkeys are little animals. Little animals who have a special place in my heart!

Next up... Fez!

9 comments:

  1. What a wonderful post! All the food looks amazing. Ha, ha! I know the whole I won't eat the whole thing situation! Flatbread is so delicious.

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  2. What a lovely adventure in eating and traveling (and lovely pictures).

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  3. I <3 Donkeys! Thanks for the pictures; so glad you enjoyed your trip!

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  4. The food and the sites are stunning.

    http://nuestracena-vegancuisine.blogspot.com

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  5. This is so great! The blue streets look amazing.

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  6. I love the idea of adding caramelized onions and peanuts to a tagine! I eat them so often, and this looks like a great way to spruce them up. Those oranges also look special!

    What great pictures, glad you guys had a good time!

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  7. I love your little donkey friend! So, so cute. And the kitty pictures with the blue walls and steps are so lovely - frame worth for sure.

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  8. Great post!!! Nice to see you still out there (here), Amey!
    xo

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  9. I love the blue pathways.. and kitties!

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