Vegan Disney World 2017

I’ve posted about dining at Disney World as a vegan before, but if you are a Disney fan you know that the menus change often. So, it seemed like a good time for a new post! We were in Disney this week, traveling with 3 vegans and 5 omnivores. Good times and good food were had by all!

Day 1 – We arrived in Orlando and took a side trip to Disney Springs (previously Downtown Disney), where we stopped at Erin McKenna’s bakery and had some soft serve.

We got a pineapple upside down cake and a donut for later (meant to be coffee cake but there was a communication breakdown). The pineapple upside down cake was amazing!

After settling in we met up at Boma. We have had good Boma experiences in the past, but this wasn’t the best. The restaurant was packed (it was the night before the marathon, a Saturday, and really cold out). When the chef came out to explain to us what the vegans could eat, he was clearly not pleased about it. He walked us through the buffet, pointed out things we could eat, noted things that could be made more vegan friendly (i.e. the pasta sauce with meatballs) but didn’t say how to make that happen, explained that there was not dessert, and then said “will that do?” Being friendly, we said sure and made the best of it. Later, he did come out with a bowl of a nice vegetable curry. Sadly, after a 16 hour drive we were all a bit brain addled and we forgot to take a picture of that dinner. We would probably still give Boma a good overall review if you like buffets.

Day 2 – We had intended to go to the parks, but it was very chilly, so we decided to tour Disney Springs and catch a movie. We saw Moana and ate way too much popcorn. If you haven’t seen Moana, you should!

Day 3 – We got an early start at Animal Kingdom. After some trips on Everest, a nice safari ride, a little Lion King, some Bugs Life, etc., we dropped by Tusker House for lunch. We were a little alarmed by the check ($50 each for lunch is steep!) but the food was excellent. While the chef here visibly rolled his eyes at the start, he warmed up while showing us the items and the selections were plentiful and delicious. There were even cookies for dessert.

Since Animal Kingdom is usually a pretty quick day for us, some of the group also dropped in at Epcot for a few rides in the evening.

Day 4 – Hollywood Studios was on the agenda for day 4. We mostly enjoy this park for Rock n Rollercoaster, Tower of Terror, Toy Story Mania, The Great Movie Ride, and Muppets 3D. For this trip, we decided not to eat in the park (though some pickles and other snacks were had) and instead saved our hunger for the day’s dinner.

Dinner was at Trail’s End restaurant in Fort Wilderness. GPS in both cars took us the wrong way, so getting there was rather an adventure. Once you arrive, finding the restaurant is also a challenge and weirdly the signage is lacking (unusual at Disney). But, the restaurant was kitschy country with good food for the omnivores and AND the amazing and fabulously kind Chef TJ!!!!  If you haven’t heard of Chef TJ, he is a Disney chef known for his kind and generous treatment of those with special dietary needs. We were on pins and needles waiting to see if he was actually there. And then, good news, he was! He came out and chatted with us, and then the feast began.

There were several courses including samosas, nachos, a wonderful cream of broccoli soup (not pictured here), a beautiful and delicious entree with tofu and vegetables, and a dessert that was a tower of fried goodness and fruit. Mmmmm….

We practically had to roll back to our car (with takeout boxes).

Day 5 – Our full Magic Kingdom day was Day 5. We had fun trying to do the rides in a different order (not beginning with Space Mountain as we usually do), and then went to the Liberty Tree Tavern for lunch. In the past, we have had some delicious vegan burgers and sandwiches at the Liberty Tree, but all of that is now off the menu. We were presented with an allergy menu that had no vegan items, so the chef came over and offered a pasta dish with vegetables and marinara sauce. It was quite good and we had some fries as an appetizer because… fries.

For dessert, we had a Dole Whip for the first time.

We only recently were told these were vegan and we hope that is correct. They were quite delicious!

Day 6 – Off to Epcot at the start of the day! It was a little crowded due to early magic hours, but we still managed to see all of the attractions we hoped before our lunch reservation at Teppan Edo in the Japan pavilion. Teppan Edo is a hibachi-style restaurant. With a group of 8, we just fit at a table. Everyone was pretty happy with the offerings, which included a vegetable and tofu plate (made without butter and substituting white rice for the beef rice). Our chef was a woman, which was new to all of us for hibachi, and she did a wonderful job with the preparation.

After lunch and some tooling around in world showcase, some delicious margaritas from La Cava del Tequila. This little tequila bar used to be an unknown treasure in the Mexico pavilion. Now it’s a known treasure. The handmade and delicious (no sour mix!) margaritas here are not inexpensive, but they are very good. We sampled the Minty Pineapple, the Dragones Top Shelf, the Jalapeño, and the Guava, and all were pronounced good. Somehow, we also ended up eating guacamole and chips….
What can  you do?

Day 7 – The last day is always our “parks du jour” day. This trip, we started in Epcot in the morning, where we got to experience Soarin’ two more times, Test Track, the new Pixar Film Festival attraction (very cute), Journey into Imagination, and then headed over to the World Showcase where the International Festival of the Arts was happening. We wandered, saw some art, drank some beer and ate some “chips” in England.

Then, we moved over to Magic Kingdom for another trip on Space Mountain, a visit to the Carousel of Progress and the Hall of Presidents, a Mickey Pretzel, and some Tofutti on Main St.

It turned out to be a very rainy evening, so we called it a day a little earlier than planned and headed back to start the packing.

All in all, it was a week of delicious food and we are all happy that we walked many miles to counteract everything we ate!

A Vegan Idiot Abroad – The VeganAsana in China

IMG_1971I recently had the opportunity to travel to China for my day job. Before the trip, I wasn’t sure what the situation would be like for me, in terms of diet. Now, with the amazing ability of hindsight, I realize the things I could have done ahead of time to help myself (that I didn’t do). So, I am sharing that knowledge with you!

My trip took me to Beijing, Nanyang, Zhoukou, and Zhengzhou, so other than Beijing, I was in Henan Province. Food practices in China, as in every country, vary by locale, so some of my experiences will be different, but the general principles should hold. Similarly, I traveled for work, so my hosts were selecting restaurants and dishes, for the most part, except during breakfast meals, where there was often some sort of buffet option.

Things I did right, and would do again:

1. Take snacks. There were a few meals that I/we skipped due to jet lag or being too full at the normal meal time from the prior meal. A vegan granola bar was a good thing to have around.

2. Take drink mix powders. If you like to drink something besides bottled water, tea, or alcohol (like lemonade or similar), you might want to take some drink mix powders with you. Bottled water was plentiful in hotels, but I hate drinking water first thing in the morning, so I brought some fruit drink powders with me, and it made taking pills etc. in the morning easier.

3. Be as flexible as you can be, within your own moral compass and body capability. While I won’t eat egg at home and try to avoid shared cooking oil etc., my lack of language skills and the fact that I was being hosted made this not really possible. I knew that going in, so I resolved to do the very best I could and let the rest go.

4. Bring appropriate stomach remedies. Whatever you sometimes need at home, bring it with you.

5. Read about food practices of China, so that you aren’t caught off guard by having food put on your plate by your neighbor (with his chopsticks), seeing a chicken head gazing at you from a dish, the lack of coffee, etc.

Things I wish I had done, or did, but not enough of:

1. Learn some characters for food items and pronunciation of food items in Chinese. Sometimes, even with an interpreter, I was confused about what I might be eating, and I didn’t have the capacity to understand or express the most simple food concepts.

2. Take coffee packets if you have a coffee addiction. In Beijing, this was not a problem for me, but when we left Beijing, the caffeine headache was not helping my ability to be a good traveler.

3. Read more about the food practices of the areas you are visiting. I had read general things about food and eating in China. I had not read enough to understand things like how much Biaju consumption would accompany business lunches or dinners. I had not read enough to understand that the province I was visiting would rarely include rice served in a meal. I had read enough to know that there would not be many dishes that were totally vegetables (even the vegetable dishes tended to have a little meat), but not enough to know how challenging it would be even for my excellent interpreter to explain my eating style.

 

All in all, it was an interesting and productive trip. I think I managed to avoid offending anyone with my food habits. I didn’t starve or make myself sick. I ate some interesting and some delicious items. And, I did my best. Next time, I’ll know more and do better.

Eating Vegan in San Francisco – Vegan Mofo 13 & 14

San Francisco Convention & Visitors Bureau Photo

We build too many walls and not enough bridges.  ~ Isaac Newton

I’m currently in San Francisco for a conference, so I missed posting yesterday (woohoo for a long time on a plane).  So, today will be a combined post of my experiences thus far for the trip.  Traveling vegan can be a little tricky at times, but I had high hopes for this one.

The trip began with the flight (duh).  If you don’t already know this, do not be a vegan on US Airways.  You may starve to death.  Even if you are willing to spend the ridiculous amount they charge to get a snack, you cannot, as there are no vegan items.  There is also no form of non-dairy creamer, so you should also not want coffee.

I arrived in San Francisco tired and hungry, and very unprepared (had not researched how to travel from the airport at 9:00 at night to Union Square area).  So, I decided to just suck it up and grab a cab.  Have money if you want to travel by cab in San Francisco.  The cab ride was short (10 minutes or so) but was $42.  Ouch.  Thank goddess that cabbies can now take credit cards!

My roomie was already asleep and I was still sort of jacked up from the trip and hungry, so I made my first foray into eating vegan in SF.  I happened upon a restaurant called Ponzu, where I ordered the spicy roasted garbanzos and root chips.  Not only were these snacks vegan, but they were also delicious and inexpensive ($9 total, I think).  Sweet!  And then, off to bed!

Morning arrived early (like 4:30 a.m. early) so after coffee and getting ready, I ventured out to find a bagel place.  The hotel concierge waved vaguely at the street and said “lots of places have bagels; walk that way.”  I’m not sure that “concierge” means what he thinks it means. I did have an 8:00 presentation to do, so I couldn’t go too far afield. After walking in about a 6 block radius and finding not one bagel shop, I ended up back at the conference hotel with a plain white bagel from a Starbucks satellite.  Hmmm…

By the time lunch rolled around, I was famished, because simple carbs for breakfast do that to me.  So, again back to the desk to inquire as to a close place with vegan friendly lunches.  I was sent to David’s Deli.  Do not be a vegan at David’s Deli.  Do not be in a hurry at David’s Deli.  Nothing on the menu was vegan really, so I opted for a side salad and a side of fries, with an iced tea.  The tea arrived, but sadly was not vegan due to the small critter floating in it.  I switched to bottled water.  1 hour later (no, seriously, I’m not exaggerating at all), my lunch arrived.  It was iceburg lettuce with 4 slices of cucumbers and 3 tomato wedges, along with a small plate of underdone fries.  This, my friends, will set you back $20 with the tip.  Sweet.  Do not attempt to travel in San Francisco without plenty of cash.  I need an ATM, stat!

Tonight, I have more time and am more prepared, so it’s off to a highly reviewed vegan friendly restaurant called The Plant. It is local and organic, so I have a good feeling that this is going to be good!  But, now I must hit another meeting and then the yoga mat, so that’s a post for another day.  I hope you enjoyed my boring travelogue of 16 vegan hours in San Francisco.

L