Friday, June 9, 2017

Vegan Walt Disney World: June 2017

Long time no blog! I recently took a solo trip to Disney World that I feel is worth blogging about, so I'm gonna go ahead and do that :D I wanted to specifically talk about vegan offerings because blog posts were my main source of info during this trip. I also want to give a huge shoutout to Vegan Disney World for being such an incredible resource!

I should also preface this by explaining my philosophy for being vegan whilst traveling. Basically, my motto is just, "try your best". It's hard to travel being vegan sometimes because not everyone gets it. Chefs and waiters can assure you that something is vegan and it may not be. You may mistakenly assume something is vegan and it may not be. When I travel, I cut myself slack. I'm not interested in spending time poring over ingredient lists and researching specific ingredients on the spot. I wanna relax and enjoy myself. Anyway, you get my point! Onto what I ate!

I stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, so I found myself at The Mara (their quick serve restaurant) quite often. Their vegan options consist of a falafel burger without yogurt (below) and a caesar salad that they can make without chicken, cheese, or caesar dressing (not much of a caesar salad at all, then... LOL). Of course I opted for the falafel burger which came with red pepper hummus & cucumber slices. I also grabbed a couscous salad out of the fridge. This meal was around $17, I believe.

I was certainly grateful for this vegan option because it was a well-rounded meal, but it was by no means my favorite. I had it twice, and I definitely recommend adding extra condiments like ketchup, mustard and pickles. The patty was kind of dry but flavorful enough that it made a decent meal for being the only solid option. I would skip the couscous salad cuz that definitely had no flavor.

Next I went to Epcot. I was really excited to grab something from Sunshine Seasons, because they offer a vegan korma and vegan flatbread sandwich right on their regular menu! I'm not a big sandwich person so I went for the korma. It was really tasty! A little heavy on the onions but if you don't mind that, it's definitely a must.

I also ordered a vegan fruit cup for dessert, but I would recommend skipping that. It was basically vegan yogurt and fruit - not worth it in my opinion.

The next morning I accidentally slept in and missed breakfast, so I headed to Disney Springs to pop by Erin McKenna's bakery because I figured they might have banana bread or something. If you're not familiar with Erin McKenna, it's an amazing vegan and gluten free bakery! You can order anything safely & rest assured that it'll be vegan. It was seriously a god-send.

This is the banana bread and a slice of coffee cake, along with an iced coffee with coconut milk. I ended up eating the coffee cake for breakfast and saving the banana bread for later. The banana bread was delicious but the coffee cake was DEFINITELY a standout. So tasty! As for the coffee, I do prefer my Starbucks, but it was nice to have a coffee option. Overall I'm so pleased with Erin McKenna's and I ended up making several trips throughout my vacation!

That same day I headed over to Magic Kingdom, where I stopped by Pinocchio's Village Haus for a quick serve lunch. This also marked the first vegan blunder of my trip... Unfortunately, although they offer vegan cheese as a mozzarella replacement on their caprese flatbread, there's something about the crust that is not vegan. Luckily it wasn't enough to make me ill, and for what it's worth, this flatbread was frickin delicious. Again, this is not something I'm going to beat myself up over, but I have to note that it is in fact NOT vegan. Also, it's my fault because I didn't inquire properly - not the staff's fault whatsoever. (When you're reading this, though, it's still worth asking if the flatbread is vegan because they switch up suppliers every so often. You may get lucky!)

Then, OF COURSE, I had grab a Dole Whip float because ~hallelujah~ the pineapple flavor is VEGAN!!! To put this in perspective, I haven't had soft serve since going vegan 1.5 years ago, so this was a big deal lol. This is also a must-have when you're in Disney because not only is it refreshing (so necessary given Florida humidity) but it's also creamy, delicious, and one of the best snacks in all of Disney, vegan and non-vegan!

For dinner that night I ended up back at my hotel so I had the falafel burger again. That leads us to the next morning, when I woke up early enough to grab breakfast from The Mara. If you wait at the counter off to the left of the main queue, an allergy chef will meet you & you can request vegan Mickey waffles. Yes, that's correct. Vegan waffles! They're made with rice milk as opposed to dairy milk. They were really tasty with maple syrup. I got mine with potatoes because I don't mind the fact that they use a shared fryer, but if you're sensitive to that just get the fruit. So good.

Then I was off to Epcot that day to explore the World Showcase, and I stopped by the American pavilion at Liberty Inn for their grilled Gardein chick'n breast with corn and guac (no mayo sauce). I was definitely pleasantly surprised by this meal! I thought it would be kind of mediocre, but I also got BBQ sauce to spread on the chicken, and the guac/corn made it really yummy. Obviously it's not the most filling dish, so I would recommend getting fries on the side, but taste-wise it was very good and I was so impressed with the fact that they had Gardein chicken.

That night, a Thursday, I had a reservation at Trail's End at the Fort Wilderness Lodge so I could experience the magic of Chef TJ who's known for his over-the-top vegan creations. One thing I'll say before getting into my review is that Trail's End is quite out of the way. You have to bus from a park or Disney Springs over to Fort Wilderness, then you have to bus AGAIN or take a boat to the "campsites" where the restaurant is located. Just keep this in mind and allot a solid hour to get there if you're coming from far.

All to say, I was about 30 minutes late for my reservation. When I got there, the hostess was like, "It says on your reservation that you're allergic to dairy, eggs, and fish, is that correct?" I responded that I'm vegan and she said, "Okay so you're NOT allergic, then." I didn't appreciate her tone and I'd like to note that when you make an online reservation for a sit-down meal at Disney the prompt asks if there are any "of the following" that you "won't eat" - not that you're allergic. Anyway. I consider myself a chill vegan but I wasn't impressed with that response from her.

Then I asked if Chef TJ was working this even and she said no. *Dreams crushed*. Not only did I trek all the way to this place in the middle of nowhere, but I wasn't going to experience Chef TJ :( Regardless, I took my seat and the waitress told me Chef Steven would be out to see me shortly.

Chef Steven soon emerged with the above salad and said he would be preparing me a few different vegan dishes for the evening. He didn't really ask me if there was anything I was interested in having, he just stated that he'd whip something up. Again, not very impressed with the approach here, but I obliged. The salad was decent and very fresh, although I'm not a big fan of vegetable-only salads - I need carbs or protein, thank you very much. Lol.

For the second dish, Chef Steven brought out some samosas. I couldn't help but chuckle a little at the piss poor presentation, but the samosas were actually BOMB, so I can't complain. So well-spiced, and you gotta love fried foods.

Then for my main, Chef Steven cooked up this impressive grilled veggie & tofu dish over fried rice with sweet chilli sauce. It was a really nice meal overall, but I will say it's a feast for the eyes more-so than the taste buds. Not to say that it tasted bad, but the presentation is certainly the most impressive part. My favorite part was the mushroom (I believe the portobello was pre-marinated - so flavourful!) and the rice. Like I said, a plate of veggies isn't really my style, but it did its job.

For dessert I was given a plate of mixed fruit and a small bowl of vegan vanilla ice cream topped with a balsamic reduction. The ice cream was delicious! Definitely the best vegan ice cream I've ever had. I believe the brand is Tofutti? Americans, consider yourselves super lucky for having this option! The fruit was fine, nothing special. I'm also not a fruit-for-dessert person hahaha. Where's the chocolate, Chef Steven?!

For this 4 course meal I paid $30USD (not including tip). My verdict is that I don't think it was worth the price, especially since this is the only replacement for the entire buffet where people can make multiple trips and have plenty of options. Also, given the incredible Chef TJ creations I missed out on where people were served upwards of 7 courses for their meal, I was disappointed. I would say the meal was worth something between $20-$25, no more than that. Plus, the restaurant itself is a little too honky tonk for my liking... LOL.

The next morning I went back to Erin McKenna's for breakfast. I forgot to take a photo, but I opted for a slice of their pina colada bread. It was sooooo goooood. I highly recommend trying it. Later that day I went over to the Animal Kingdom to experience the new Avatar-inspired section.

The quick serve restaurant there (called Satul'i Canteen, I believe) offers build-your-own-bowls. All of the bases are vegan. There are a few different options but I went for the grain base which is just rice and something else... Barley? I forgot. The protein option is fried chilli tofu, and the only vegan sauce option is the onion chimichurri sauce. This. Was. DELICIOUS. Everything all mixed together made this one of my favorite meals of the entire trip. I was a little worried I wouldn't like the sauce cuz I'm not big on onions, but it was phenomenal. A+.

Later that evening I had the absolute joy of experiencing Blaze pizzeria. The concept of Blaze is similar to Subway, where you pick your pizza toppings out of a line of options. The kicker here is that all their crusts are vegan AND they have vegan cheese! I was so thrilled. I haven't had a good pizza with cheese on it in so long, and I'm really picky about vegan cheeses but this was actually great. It's not as pungent as regular cheese so I recommend adding a pinch of salt at the end. I ended up eating at Blaze 3 times throughout my trip (LOLOL). My favorite toppings were basil, mushrooms, fresh arugula, vegan cheese, chilli flakes, and oregano.

For dessert that evening I opted for Sprinkles' vegan red velvet cupcake. It was so yummy and so fun to use their cupcake ATM machine.

I didn't want to cap off a trip to Disney Springs without stopping by Erin McKenna's, so I picked up a french toastie cupcake and another slice of that pineapple pina colada bread I mentioned earlier for breakfast the next morning. Both ended up being incredibly delicious. As you can tell I am very much in love with this bakery LOL.

That day I ended up going to Hollywood Studios. I was a little worried about the lack of vegan quick serve options, but in the end I ordered the veggie pizza with vegan cheese at Pizzarizzo. I know it looks kinda sad in the picture, but I was pleased with this meal. The sauce and crust were tasty. They could've added more veg but I was overall content. They also replaced the caesar side salad with a bag of plain chips. That was nice of them!

For dinner I ended up back in Epcot for vegan korma round dos. This is a much better pic than the previous one so I thought I'd include it again.

The next day (my last day! Sad) I had a bagel with vegan cream cheese for breakfast from a previous Erin McKenna trip that I had saved. It was a little underwhelming and very bready for a bagel, and I wasn't crazy about the vegan cream cheese, but it was satisfying enough to tide me over 'til lunch. Erin McKenna's strong suit is definitely sweet over savory.

For lunch I was going to head back to Disney Springs, but I opted for room service because I wanted to watch the Manchester benefit concert. This was hands down the most underwhelming meal of the entire trip. It cost me a whopping $34 for a salad, tofu, and some fries. It was quite good and I liked the salad dressing they provided (some sort of vinaigrette), but it certainly wasn't worth the price. And not only that, but I gave a $6 tip not realizing gratuity had already been factored into the bill. Facepalm.

For dinner that evening I headed back to Blaze once again. Blaze was the star of the vacation. I even tweeted them to express how pleased I was with their restaurant!

Overall my main recommendations are Erin McKenna's bakery (try anything and everything!), Blaze pizzeria for some fire pizza, Dole Whip float, vegan korma, and the veg bowl from the new Avatar section of Animal Kingdom. I also want to say that I'm very impressed with Disney's willingness to cater to vegan diets. Aside from the snide hostess I dealt with at Trail's End, all the staff were very pleased to accommodate me and I have no qualms about heading back to Disney in the future as a vegan. Yay!