Thursday, June 2, 2011

Disney Trip - May 2011

We’ve just returned from the “Most Magical Place On Earth” back to the “Most Overcast and Drizzly Place On Earth”, at least outside of the UK…

Day 1

Gasparilla Grill

We had quite a few repeat locales from earlier posts, (I apologize for the repetition) but things change quickly in the parks (often for no apparent reason). So as familiar as you may be, you never quite know what to expect.

Gasparilla has switched up their veg option a bit. They still have a tabouli pita wrap, but be sure to order it sans the new (yogurt-based) rhaita . According to the menu it’s supposed to come with whole chick peas, but mine sported a thick slathering of hummus, which I’m cool with. It also came with a side of their sweet cucumber salad. The best part, as you can see in the pic, was that the wrap was augmented with a few slabs of tempeh Fakin’ Bacon. This isn’t the norm (I think Chef TJ brought in the bacon special for me) but you should definitely ask for yourself because the smokiness boosted the wrap to a whole other level.

For dessert they gave a few good-sized scoops of Tofutti. I also picked up a package of Divvies Caramel Corn for the road since this is one of the only places that allow you to purchase it as a snack with the dining plan.

Babycakes Bakery

Within the first three hours of stepping foot in WDW I made the obligatory pilgrimage to Babycakes vegan bakery in the Marketplace. If you’re having a hard time locating it on a map, it’s listed under Pollo Campero. Unfortunately, this wonderful cruelty-free bakery shares real estate with a profoundly un-vegan-friendly chicken restaurant. That said, I guess it’s still better than the McDonalds that used to reside there.

I went to Babycakes twice during the trip to stock up on goodies. On the first visit I tried the Red Velvet Cupcake, loved it, (beware that the frosting is temperature sensitive and will turn pretty runny out in the hot Florida sun. However, if re-refrigerated it sets up nicely once again), a Brownie Bite, a Double Fudge Cookie which reminded me exactly of the chocolate “snowball” cookies we used to make at Christmas time growing up; they were super fudgy and soft. I also snagged a Coconut Doughnut, a Chocolate Crunch Doughnut, and a Wonder Bun. I loved the doughnuts. They reminded me not so much of the standard greasy Dunkin Donuts style confection (probably because they’re baked as well as being gluten-free), but more like a decadent coffee cake. The coconut was my favorite, and my only regret is that I didn’t bring a dozen home for my freezer. The Wonder Bun is akin to a miniature cinnamon bun. Full of cinnamon and studded with raisins, this is a very satisfying little treat. I photographed and then sampled a few bites of each.

Wrapping each in waxed paper and stuffing them into a ziplock baggie, they kept well for days in our room’s refrigerator.

Also at the Marketplace, I spied these great vegan mints at Mickey’s Pantry. I get all giddy every time I see the word “vegan” on a label, and bought a pack of the Green Tea flavor, pretty much out of principle.

Spirit of Aloha Dinner Show

Like always, our first dinner of the trip was at the Luau. It’s a nice way to begin a vacation. Nothing new to report here on the food front. Still a delicious salad with mango dressing and a heaping plate of grilled tofu with couscous and grilled veggies. Chef Eugene is a sweet man, and has been there for years. He’s always happy to do whatever he can, and this meal is pretty much perfect as is.

As full as I was from all my afternoon treats, I passed on dessert, but the server told me “we’re proud of our fruit” and brought me a small plate of cantaloupe, honeydew, strawberries, grapes and pineapple. I also got a couple packs of Divvies chocolate chip cookies to take back to the room.

Day 2

Sunshine Seasons

Though their menus have changed recently, this counter service still stands as a pretty good vegan option. For lunch I opted for the Tofu Noodle Bowl with little cubes of fried tofu, veggies, and well, noodles. As you may be able to make out by the picture, the portion size here is fairly small. And I do wish they would marinate the tofu ahead. It falls a tad on the bland side, though I liked it well enough to get it twice during the trip.

I asked the chef about their grilled veggie wrap (they replaced their grilled veggie sandwich of earlier years), but was told it wouldn’t be very good veganized. Apparently they use hummus on it which has parmesan cheese added to it, and as I recall, it also has a non-vegan pesto. The chef said that that’s where all the flavor comes from, so I’d be better off not getting it. That said, my mother, who has many allergies and sensitivities, got a version of the sandwich on ciabatta bread (not the norm, but perhaps they will use it for special requests) with just veggies and provolone (she’s not vegan) and kept raving about how good it was. Further confusing the issue is that in their case of packaged sides they sell hummus, which according to the ingredient label, is just standard vegan hummus. Why they couldn’t use this on the sandwich I don’t know and never bothered to ask.

While we’re on the topic though, in that premade side section they sell (all vegan): a veggie wrap, tabouli pinwheels, Silk soymilk (vanilla and chocolate), Silk yogurt, (one of the only places in all the parks and resorts that I’ve seen it, though it seems they only carry peach flavor) tabouli salad, a couscous salad, black bean salad, a tomato and cuke salad, veg sushi, and possibly their pasta salad (it doesn’t list the ingredients for the pasta itself, so it may contain egg). And happily, they now carry Divvies caramel corn, and unlike Main Street Bakery, Sunshine Seasons will let you use a snack option to purchase it. It can also count as a dessert for a counter service option on the dining plan.

Le Chefs De France

For starters, the baguettes served here are, according to Chef Lauren, vegan. They’re served warm, crusty and addicting.

Having eaten here before and having had good luck leaving my menu up to the chef (the only vegetarian options on the menu are very un-vegan), I again asked him to make whatever he’d like. In my experience this works out so much better than trying to suggest a dish that likely won’t turn out as well as you’d envisioned.

What I got was beautiful:

There’s spinach, tomatoes, grilled eggplant, asparagus, a pepper stuffed with ratatouille (appropriate since Remy still makes the rounds table to table), a mushroom, slices of grilled pear, zucchini, and what I can only think to describe as a mild pesto or gremolata. It was all light and fantastic.

For dessert was a trio of their amazing freshly made sorbets. The flavors are always changing, but that day they'd made strawberry, kiwi and pineapple. Smooth, creamy, completely refreshing and a perfect way to end the meal.

Day 3

Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Cafe

For lunch we hit Cosmic Ray’s in the Magic Kingdom. I had heard that their new Angus Bun was vegan, however, in looking over their ingredients it contains Sodium Stearoyl Lactalate, L-Cystein and Lactic acid. So though there are no conspicuous dairy or egg ingredients, it does indeed contain animal derivatives. Consequently, I went with the standard Tapioca roll.

I don’t know why, but for some reason, though they’re using the same Gardenburger they used the last time I was there, and though I loaded it up with toppings, I just didn’t like this burger. In fact, even though in the past I’d actually grown to enjoy the tapioca rolls, there was only one meal when I could actually eat them and not toss them in the trash. I don’t know whether they aren’t being sufficiently heated or what, but they had an almost chemical taste and tended to become soggy and dissolve far too easily.

On the positive, they made me a big basket of baked fries which were as yummy as ever. I never eat french fries in “real life” so it’s a nice treat to come down and get the slightly healthier yet no less tasty baked version. Be aware that baking the fries does take longer, so expect to wait a bit while they’re prepared.

A good tip we stumbled upon this time is to, if you have an allergy or dietary concern, approach the counter service restaurants a half hour before they open. Their doors will be unlocked, and the staff will be there. Ask to speak to a manager, and they'll happily take care of you before they get inundated with other customers. In fact, they often started our fries early so they'd be done by the time they officially opened.

1900 Park Fare

As anyone who’s read my, or virtually any other vegan or allergy Disney blog on the internet knows, Chef TJ has now moved to the Grand Floridian where he works in the joint kitchen of both the Grand Floridian Café and 1900 Park Fare. He’s also apparently over Gasparilla Grill, hence the appearance of the Fakin’ Bacon.

Knowing it was a Chef TJ night, I ate light during day. You never know quite what to expect from him, but you can be guaranteed it’ll be filling and amazing. In this case, what I didn’t expect was his absence. When we arrived we were informed that he’d had an emergency and had to leave early. Can you say BUMMED? That said, even in absentia, he still did his best to make the meal special.

Before he left he made a special soup for us, laid out the ingredients for my mom’s meal and instructed for Chef Kent to get me the BBQ Tofu from next door (by which I believe they meant the Grand Floridian Café).

Chef Kent began by walking me around the buffet, showing me the vegan items. These are the Edamame Salad, Lo Mein Salad, Steamed Broccoli, Plain Rice, the Tomato Florentine soup, Panzanella Salad, Roasted Vegetable Salad, the regular tossed salad and the vinaigrettes.

I loaded up a plate with salad and dug in.

Soon, though, Chef Mike appeared, bearing a rich and unusual salad that Chef TJ had apparently instructed him to make.

Those are leaves of red endive with a salad of avocado, apple, pear, red peppers and cucumbers in a vinaigrette with pita slabs. This was a decadent salad, and the presentation was wonderful. It was much appreciated.

Next came the portabella soup that Chef TJ made, laced with ginger and spicy on the tongue. Very nice. (It tasted better than it looks in the picture.)

The barbecued tofu was served with grilled corn, tomatoes, leeks and mushrooms. I have to say, I did find myself wishing it had more flavor. It was only vaguely in the realm of barbecue. I like bold flavors and this just seemed a bit drab. Of course I still completely appreciate their going out of their way to procure it for me, and if I found a meal like this on a menu in a restaurant around here I'd be ecstatic. It's all a matter of expectation and perspective.

For dessert was a lovely mix of fruit and berry sorbet. A good meal to be sure, but the best was yet to come.

Day 4

Tusker House

This is still, in my opinion, by far the best buffet for a vegan in WDW. Working from one end to the other, the vegan options are: Marrakesh Couscous, Roasted Potatoes, Samosas (though they’re fried with meat, if you ask the chef he or she will happily fry you up a special uncontaminated plate), the Mango Chutney for dipping the samosas, Root Vegetable Stew, Plantains, Tandoori Tofu, Israeli Couscous, Basmati Rice with Toasted Almond Slivers, Tunisian Couscous Salad, Green Beans and Onion, Curried Rice Salad (my favorite!), plus the Tabouli, Hummus, Chutneys and Blatjangs, as well as their dinner rolls and pitas.

Do be aware that the Jollof Rice contains chicken stock.

The orzo on the buffet would be vegan if not for the feta, so Chef Marilyn whipped me up a fresh batch that was incredible. Loaded with kalamata olives and fresh basil, it would’ve made a filling meal in itself.

We ate here early, 11:00 in the morning, and it filled me so sufficiently that I skipped dinner that night, indulging instead in a pretzel and my one root beer float of the year, this time bought from Main Street Ice Cream, and made with chocolate Tofutti. Sorry for the terrible picture.

Day 5

I stopped by La Cantina De San Angel, Mexico’s new counter service, to see if they had anything veganizable. Unfortunately, it turns out that their beans all contain chicken stock. The chef was very accommodating and offered to make me a guacamole taco, but I was looking for a protein boost, and so respectfully declined.

Tangierine Café

I resorted three times to a veganized version of the vegetarian platter here for a quick service. I asked the chef, who greeted me each time with a handshake and hug, whether the falafel are fried in the same oil as other meat, to which he replied that the falafel for the veg platter are indeed fried separately. With them I got the tabouli, hummus, olive salad, couscous, pickled turnips and onions and a little lettuce salad. For bread, the pitas are apparently no longer vegan, (likewise the standard Moroccan bread that they serve contains butter), so he gave me two tapioca rolls. I still wasn’t able to eat them, so made a mixed salad out of the contents of my plate, and augmented it with another large pretzel.

At Sunshine Seasons that night I opted again for another Tofu Noodle Bowl, this time also getting a side order of steamed broccoli and a peach Silk yogurt.

Day 6

What used to be El Pirate y El Perico in the Magic Kingdom has recently become Tartuga Tavern, and along with the name, also went their vegetarian tacos. The menu itself doesn’t appear particularly veg-friendly, however, ask to speak to a manager because they can make you what has become one of my favorite quick service meals. The chef who presides over all of the MK quick services had suggested that they could make me vegan nachos. Once there, I explained to the manager what I’d been told, and they were quick to make it for me.

First off, their nacho chips are fried fresh every day, and thankfully they are not fried with any meat. Yay! I got a plate of these super delicious little buggers, along with a side of their refried beans and a side of their black bean salsa which contains beans, zucchini, red onions, tomato, corn, and peppers. (Their normal rice is mixed with a cilantro pesto that contains cheese, but I was informed by a super cool manager on my second trip there that she holds plain rice aside for those who have allergies or are vegan.)

They still have a topping bar where you can load your chips up with lettuce, tomatoes and regular salsa. If you’re looking for a shot of protein, this meal is filling, satisfying, and seriously substantial.

There is no vegan dessert option here (like most counter services) but they were nice enough to substitute another bottle of water instead.

This is all I ate until dinner because it was set to be another Chef TJ night and I was conserving stomach real estate.

1900 Park Fare

This time, thankfully Chef TJ was actually there, and like always, super warmhearted and generous. Not to mention busy. In fact, he was dealing with six allergies at the same time as I was there.

Course 1 –

Crunchy delicious spring rolls filled with cabbage and carrots, with a sweet and spicy mustard sauce, and fried toast points surrounding a creamy homemade hummus topped with red peppers and capers. How filling and, well, appetizing! I savored every fattening mouthful.

Course 2 –

This was perhaps my favorite salad that Chef TJ has ever made me. The glass was filled with watercress, mixed greens, pistachios, cashews, grilled corn and a sesame dressing. Around the bottom is a grapefruit/orange relish, tomatoes and avocado. It was, as you would probably expect, gingery, spicy, tasting perfectly of sesame oil. Fantastic!

Course 3 –

Perfectly grilled asparagus with dill, a sweet mustard sauce, a balsamic reduction and a little of the special tomato sauce that he had made for my mother. As diverse as the different sauces were, they all played exceptionally well together along with the smokiness of the asparagus. Awesome!

Course 4 –

The sort of entrée one has come to expect from Chef TJ. Fried onions, broccoli raab, whole carrots, red cabbage, mushrooms, potatoes, and perfectly fried tofu “ribs”. The robust sauce also had that sweet, spicy mustardy thing going on and was so delicious I would’ve devoured the entire plate, if I wasn’t so completely full at that point.

I took the rest back to the room where it because a much-appreciate midnight snack a few days later.

Course 5 –

Another innovative and unexpected dessert, and the first one I’ve ever successfully photographed! Pineapple sorbet over vanilla ice cream (I forget whether it was Tofutti or Rice Dream), vegan mini chocolate chips, raspberries, black berries, and hidden beneath, a layer of banana slices and crushed Divvies chocolate chip cookies. Seriously decadent and refreshing!

Another big thanks to Chef TJ for yet another fantastic and exciting meal!

Day 7

Backlot Express

There aren’t a lot of vegan counter service options in Hollywood Studios. Two restaurants serve a veggie sandwich, and since I’d had good luck there in the past, we went to Backlot Express again. They still have the veggie sandwich, however, they’ve swapped out the vegan olive ciabatta roll for a non-vegan asiago basil roll. They also carry the ubiquitous tapioca rolls, but they don’t work well for this. Instead, they have a multigrain ciabatta that they use for their turkey sandwich, which ironically happens to be vegan (the roll, not the turkey!). Their Grain Burger buns are NOT vegan, so make sure you ask for the right one. Like all of the quick services, they always have a black binder with the ingredients for all of the products they use, so when in doubt, ask them to whip it out. The pesto that comes on the sandwich is still (labeled!) vegan. Just be sure to order it without the cheese.

They too will bake a round of fries for you, and they still have a tasty black bean salad you can get as a side.

Here too, there are no vegan dessert options, but they substituted the black bean salad for a dessert.

Also, though I didn’t order it, I had time to peruse the little black binder and found that their Southwest Salad, including the cilantro vinaigrette, is vegan if you order it without the chicken.

Hollywood and Vine

Another buffet with a few vegan options preloaded. The breads on the left of the bread counter are vegan-friendly. Their Fruit and Potato Salad are fine. As are their Tossed Greens, Ginger Cucumbers, Roasted Corn Salad, Bok Choy and Daikon Salad with Asian dressing. Green Beans with Tomatoes and Garlic, Vegetable Rice, Bean Cassoulet, Steamed Broccoli and vinaigrette dressings.

My first plateful:

Second sampler plate:

This is another good place for loading up on protein. The corn salad is full of black beans and edamame, and the bean cassoulet contains a large variety of legumes.

For a special meal, the chef made me ziti with zucchini, squash, onions, red and green peppers, and mushrooms with shredded fresh basil. It was such a nice change of pace at this point to get pasta. And it was good too!

To cap it off, I got a vegan vanilla Toffuti milk shake! Along with their conjoined twin Prime Time Cafe, this is the only place I know of in the parks where they make vegan shakes.

For “dessert” I helped myself to one more small bowl from the buffet:

Day 8

This was the second lunch at the Tangierine Café.

I must say, we had something of a blessed trip. The new manager at the Poly took amazingly good care of us all the way through. One day in the Animal Kingdom I won a free pretzel by correctly answering a Disney trivia question posed by the young man running the cart (What are the names of Cinderella’s step sisters?), and while we were eating at Tusker House for the first time, a waiter approached us to let us know that a family in the same room had offered to pay for our meal with their dining plan. They had too many meals left over and were generous enough to take care of our bill.

The beauty of this is that we could then schedule another table service, however, we had no idea where we wanted to book another meal.

As it happened, Chef Marilyn had only minutes before been telling me how she'd recently been moved from Cat Cora’s restaurant on the Boardwalk, Kouzzina, and how vegan-friendly and delicious their food was. It seemed like a fated situation, and with her help, I got reservations for that Friday.


Luck was truly on our side because this last minute entry turned out to be one of my favorite meals that I’ve had at Disney World.

To begin with, their bread is vegan, light, soft and majorly addictive. It’s studded with sesame seeds and black salt and comes fresh from the oven. Along with the bread, we’re served plates of kalamata olives (the best kalamatas I can remember eating) and two kinds of olive oil in which to dip the bread: kalamata oil and my favorite, kritsa oil from Crete. I never realized olive oils could have such unique flavors on their own.

Kouzzina is a rarity in that with the standard dining plan they allow you two drinks instead of one, so you can have a soda and an after-meal coffee, or a shake and tea, etc. For me, hot tea is the standard at every meal, but they just so happened to have a veganizable mango shake. That’s what I call an appetizer! Thick, sweet and creamy. Essentially what a mango lassi would be if made with vanilla ice cream rather than yogurt.

Chef Miguel did a terrific job taking care of all of our dietary issues. For my entrée, he made me a sampler plate of all their vegan fare:

Going down the right side we have a smoky eggplant dip like babaganoush, skordalia made with potatoes and vinegar, and hummus. To the left of this are sweet and tangy Brussels sprouts with balsamic glaze and capers, a small cup of gigantes beans cooked in tomatoes which reminded me of a familiar soup that I still can’t place. Next over was something of a light and sweet ratatouille with eggplant, potatoes, and peppers. On the far left were three dolmas (rolled grapeleaves), and a fried chickpea patty on a bed of tomato, red onion and olives that was sort of like eating a vegan crabcake: crunchy on the outside and soft inside, all with a stack of pitas to sop everything up.

It’s so nice when you encounter a chef who not only is accepting of veganism, but researches to make the experience better for his ahimsa-prone guests. Chef Miguel told me that he regularly reads vegan Disney blogs. He then told me that he was going to try out a new vegan dessert on me. I will be anyone’s food research subject, and man, did he hit this one on the head!

It was so good it deserves two pictures:

The hot cast iron bowl was filled with a berry crumble. The berries (raspberries, strawberries and black berries) were cooked with sugar and balsamic. The topping was made up of pecans, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon and Earth Balance with a big scoop of vanilla Rice Dream on top. I can’t begin to describe how perfect this was. Sweet, tangy, creamy from the melting ice cream, crunchy, caramelized around the edges…

I only hope that Chef Miguel keeps this on the menu for many other vegans to enjoy!

That night I decided to return to the Marketplace to get another round of Babycakes goods to last the remainder of the trip. The new additions were a wonderful, moist banana bread, a chocolate glazed doughnut and a super crispy chocolate chip cookie (hiding in the paper).

Day 9

Tusker House – Round 2

As it’s one of the best buffets, it always warrants a second feasting. This time I decided to eat strictly off the buffet (with the exception of some specially fried samosas) and did very well indeed.

Chef Mickey

We had excellent luck with all of the chefs we dealt with this year, and Chef Matt was no exception. He took me around the buffet which is certainly one of the least veg-friendly buffets on property. They had some nice green beans with tomatoes and onions in olive oil. Their steamed broccoli, peas and white rice are all clean. The lettuce on the buffet is fine, and they have balsamic and oil and a light Italian dressing which is supposedly vegan.

Though the buffet held little, Chef Matt made sure I had plenty of food. There’s a pasta on the buffet which contains goat cheese, so he made me a special bowl. The pasta includes peas, red peppers, carrots, tomatoes, celery, basil and oil.

As if this wasn’t enough, he made me a special veggie burrito using a corn tortilla wrap. He filled it with carrots, beans, peas, and rice, and included a side bowl of salsa. Satisfying and extremely filling.

For dessert I had more of the (thankfully) ever-present Toffutti and a pretty good orange from the buffet. They also had cantaloupe, honeydew and grapes, but to me, when they all get mixed together they start tasting a bit funny.

Day 10

Tangierine Café

Again, I got the old standby. I did, however, receive some very positive news that day. The chef told me that they’re building a Moroccan tapas bar on the lake. Construction begins in June, and he’s going to be moving there. The best part of the news is that he assured me that there will be various vegan options!

As a little caveat emptor here, I stopped by the popcorn stand in Canada and on a whim asked what their popcorn is cooked in. The girl running the stand seemed a bit perplexed and answered that it was cooked in butter. I didn’t push the question further, and likely she just didn’t know, since it’s been widely stated that all Disney’s popcorn is vegan. (I forewent the popcorn just in case, though my aunt tried it and proclaimed that it was the best popcorn she’d had down there, so perhaps they do in fact cook it in something different.)

Restaurant Marrakesh

I love the atmosphere in the Moroccan pavilion. Likewise, the musicians and belly dancer alone make it worth eating here at least once.

In the past, I’d gotten a small salad for an appetizer since I can’t eat any of their desserts. Some table services will allow this, others won’t. Sometimes the wait staff say they can’t, but the chefs will put it through for them. They did it for us, but don’t expect it as the norm. I think it’s just because we had so many dietary issues that none of us could eat the desserts that they let it slide.

When the chef came to our table I asked what they had for a vegan salad option, hoping for something more interesting than just lettuce, tomato and cukes. He certainly came through. I ended up with a sampler plate of various salads.

There were carrots with garlic, a potato salad, mixed olives, peppers and onions cooked with tomato sauce, and a salad of finely diced tomatoes and cukes. It was all very nice, my favorite being the peppers.

You can’t pass up the hot mint tea while in Morocco:

For my entrée I got the vegetable couscous cooked without butter. It came with potatoes, carrots, zucchini, tomatoes, chick peas, squash (either acorn or butternut, I couldn’t quite tell) and cabbage. I also asked for a side of harissa because I love stirring it into the couscous to spice it up.

That night I checked in with the Sushi Bar at the Polynesian just to ask a few questions. I never order sushi out because I feel like it all must be cross-contaminated with raw fish which icks me out for multiple reasons. The girl was extremely nice and said that if I was interested, they would change their gloves, mats, get clean rice from a container on the other side of the counter and even make it away from their normal station. Full as I was, I didn’t take her up on the offer, but I’m happy that the option is there.

Day 11 –

I’d seen that the Golden Oak Outpost had a vegetable flatbread on the menu, and so stopped by to see whether it was vegan. All of the components are, except, sadly, the bread itself contains L-Cystein. Now it’s of course possible that it’s a synthetic version, but every time I see the name it conjures images of duck feathers and long strings of dark hair protruding from the loaf, so I just can’t bring myself to knowingly consume anything that contains it. If it doesn’t bother you, then it appears that the rest of the flatbread is safe.

Instead I went back to Tortuga Tavern to get another amazing plate of nachos. (Terrible picture, delicious meal!)

Being our last day, and having an extra counter service to use due to my bailing on dinner one night, I stopped in to check Columbia Harbor House to see if they still had their veg chili. I was sad to see it missing from the menu, but upon asking learned that it’s now listed as the Soup of the Day. Apparently during the holiday season they’ll sometimes substitute it out for a butternut squash soup or something along those lines. The chili is still vegan, and the crackers are still not.

The Wave

For our last meal I was eager to try someplace different. Like always, we’d spoken to the chef long before we’d left home, and he’d laid out what he would make for me. When we got there, however, the chef who was on only had vague notes regarding our meal.

I gave him the printout of what the other chef had suggested and he went to it.

Their bread that I can describe best as a cross between multigrain and rye was fantastic, and what’s better is that the chef brought me out a dish of Earth Balance! The first place in all my Disney experience to do this!

Consequently, I ate a LOT of bread, somewhat compensating for their not exactly huge portions.

My entree was good, a portabella stack with squash, zucchini, tomato sauce, and grilled eggplant. I was a bit disappointed in that the first chef had promised polenta, but instead I got fried tofu. Texturally it was nice, but could’ve done with a marinade or more seasoning. On the side was a light orzo and arugula salad with white beans.

For dessert, the pastry chef made me these wonderfully presented little cakes:

They’re baked from the gluten-free, vegan mix they use for cupcakes elsewhere in the hotel. Sadly, I don’t really care for that mix, but the chocolate icing was good enough to make me eat all three stacks. Dig the little chocolate Mickeys!

Thus ended another all-too-short trip of virtually 24-hour-a-day binging.

Like always, thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any questions or comments.

Now, time to hit the treadmill…


  1. Thanks for this wonderful blog post! My wife and I are both vegan and heading over to Disney on Thursday. You don't even understand how much your blog just helped us! Vegan Milkshakes!!!!

    btw. next time you are in Orlando you have to try Ethos Vegan Kitchen!!!
    The Sunday brunch is is one of the best we've ever had! AMAZING!

  2. Thanks for your update! This is really helpful as I plan my September trip.
    I'm frankly amazed at how happy you are with Tusker House. Maybe I should give it another try. Last time I was there, even though I had an ADR, all of the buffet dishes seemed to have honey or dairy in them. They had to make me some things from the back, and I wasn't sure they totally "got" the vegan thing.
    Exciting news you've got about Morocco's tapas bar! Wonder when it's slated to open. I was hoping to check out Mexico's new eats but they just haven't seemed vegan-friendly...

  3. P.S. Do you know whether Daiya cheese has infiltrated WDW yet? For example, on the nachos you got at Tortuga? I want to love Daiya but it makes me thoroughly ill each time I eat it. :-P Thanks again for your lovely blog!

  4. Hey TFB, thanks!
    Yeah, the past couple times I've been to Tusker they've been very good and knowledgeable about the whole vegan thing, so maybe they've changed the recipes and taken out the honey for some of the stuff. I'd definitely say to try it again. I love it.

    And yeah, outside of talking to the Chef at Morocco I've heard nothing else about it, so who knows when it'll actually open... The sooner the better!

    As for Daiya, it's not there yet. I actually didn't get any cheese this time (they don't have any on hand at Tortuga yet) but in the past I have seen Follow Your Heart and another one I can remember the name of right now. I'm sorry to hear you get sick on the Daiya. Have you pinned it down to any specific ingredient? That's a bummer because it's my go to cheese these days.

    Have a great time in September! (We're booked for October! ;-) Let me know if I can help in any way.

    Thanks again!

  5. Thanks, VS! I'm quite excited. I'll be heading down for a conference at Yacht, where I've never stayed before--any good recs for vegan eats around there? I figure I'll just duck into Epcot quick service during our 1.5-hour lunch break :-)
    Do you know what TJ's schedule is these days? Not sure if I'll make it over to 1900PF this time around but I could try, right? Just not before I ride Space Mountain...
    Oh, and re: Daiya, I wish I knew what it was. I contacted the company and they were stymied. But I have gotten essentially food poisoning every time I've tried it. FYH is ok if you shred it and put it under the broiler...that, Sheese, and Parma! are my go-to vegan cheeses of late.

  6. I just found your blog and have been reading it for two days straight. I'm a vegetarian but am somewhat lactose intolerant. I don't like to take chances with dairy while on vacation so I try to eat vegan-ish. This blog has been really helpful. Thanks!

  7. Hi,
    I know you get these questions a lot..but, I have to take my chances! haha.
    Do you know if Chef TJ is still at GF?! (or more importantly if he will be in early October)
    Also, is there any way to contact him (other than meeting him previously) considering Disney doesn't give any information on his where abouts or schedule.

  8. Hi Bethany,
    Sorry for the late reply. I've been a bit behind on life lately. :-)

    As far as I know Chef TJ is still at GF. Of course things turn on a dime down there. We're booked for the end of October so I should be starting the process soon, so I should know for sure before long.

    As far as contacting him, I have his email address, but it takes quite a while to hear back from him usually. The best bet is to call the GF's front desk, ask to be connected to the Grand Floridian Cafe and ask at the podium if he's still there, and if they can tell you his schedule. They usually won't know for sure until a couple weeks before, but at least it would give you an idea.

    Good luck and please let me know if you hear anything!

  9. Love your blog! I'm currently planning a November trip or my daughter's fifth birthday and your reviews have been so helpful. I haven't been to WDW since I was 12 and a meat eater, so this is all a little intimidating. I have a couple of questions for you, if you don't mind. We'll be in the Magic Kingdom for my daughter's birthday. She too is vegan and a pretty adventurous eater. Where would you recommend we make reservations? I'd like to do something really special. Also, is it very difficult to find vegan breakfast options? Thanks so much!

  10. Hi Little B!
    Thanks so much for the love! :-)
    That sounds like it'll be a pretty exciting trip. I've always found the MK to be a bit short on good table service options. Obviously the castle is a pretty magical place to eat for a birthday, though as for the vegan-friendliness of the menu, I can't vouch. (I haven't eaten there since my omnivorous days.) In fact, here's the menu. Not particularly vegan-minded.

    That said, I'm sure if you call ahead the chefs would do something nice for you.

    Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest probably the other obvious, saving two birds with one hand... (still trying to find a suitable vegan version of that phrase)... by hopping over to the Grand Floridian and eating at 1900 Park Fare with Chef TJ, since it's every vegan's must have meal in Disney, and it's a princess meal where she'll get to meet Cinderella and family. I'm sure they'll play it up well for her birthday. You will need to check to see if her birthday falls on a day that Chef TJ works.

    As for other in-MK dining, I haven't been to Crystal Palace in about 4 years, and it's fun, but not what I'd call "special". The Liberty Tree Tavern is definitely not a prime vegan-friendly restaurant, and not good for a girl's birthday either.

    Likewise, Tony's is okay, (or it was the last time I went which was also 4 or 5 years ago) but not what you're looking for. And if I'm not forgetting anyone, that's it for table service dining in MK! Slim pickings.

    I hope that helps!
    As for vegan breakfasts, most buffets will make vegan waffles or pancakes. Don't expect tofu scrambles or vegan sausage, but you can almost always get bagels, cereal and Silk soymilk. What I normally do is bring a box or two of oats and cereal from home, and then get a Silk in the resort cafeteria. I eat the cereal in the room before we leave early each morning. Then we make our lunch reservations around 11:00am so we don't need to fill up on a big breakfast.

    Let me know if you have any other questions!
    Good luck!

  11. I love this post, I am currently working In Disney and have experienced excellent service so far when dining out. This Saturday my Mom is coming up and i have made a week worth of reservations, so we shall see what vegan concoctions the Disney chefs can prepare, i'll be posting each day! But I am so happy I came across your post there are definitely some quick serve restaurants i'll have to remember to try.

  12. Thanks so much, Kait!
    I'm eager to see how you make out down there this week. Where are you doing your daily posting? I'd love to check it out. Thanks!

  13. We have just returned from a week at Disney World. I am not really vegan. I will eat things prepared with butter or milk if there are no other options, no eggs or meat of any kind though and I am real weird about the hidden animal derived ingredients that I have trouble pronouncing. It is just all real gross to me. I traveled with my husband, my six year old twins, and my parents – all meat eaters.Here is what I ate and my experiences dining at Disney.

    Day 1 – Vegan chili, fries, and apple pie at Columbia Harbour House – always very good
    Day 2- Lunch -Tusker House – Marakesh couscous, roasted potatoes, pita bread, and fresh fruit – best pineapple ever, not crazy about much else
    Supper- vegan pizza at Wolfgang puck express- tomatos, zucinni, onion, and peppers,NO cheese- Special ordered – very good but it could have used a little sauce
    Day 3 – Lunch – Via Napoli -their vegetable pizza minus the cheese added olives- OK but no where near as good as Wolfgang Puck
    Supper – Garden Grill – special ordered- vegetarian pot pie no topping to make it vegan, side of corn and other mixed veggies (heavy on butter if that bothers you), bread, fruit crumble ( again has butter in the topping, comes with cream but they put that on the side – I talked with the chef here – not a great meal, however I think my special order was better than my families preplated meal – good only if your kids really want to eat with Chip and Dale, mine did
    Day 4- Pop Century food court – Lunch – Black bean burrito (not on the menu) pick your own toppings, comes with tortilla chips – this was good, but I tried to order it later in the trip at supper and the black beans have meat in them at night
    Supper – food court again- Asian salad no chicken -I did not ask about the dressing – just hoping for the best – I really wanted the salad so I really just did not want to know – it was a good salad
    Day 5 – Lunch – Hollywood and Vine – Bean cassarole and rice, roll, tofutti ice cream (you have to ask) with strawberry syrup – I really like the mixed beans here
    Supper – vegetable soup (food court again)
    Day 6- Liberty Tree Tavern (had not planned to eat here, but it turned out Ok) Liberty salad – no meat, cheese or pecans (candied with egg glaze, I was sad because I really wanted pecans in the salad)- talked to the chef- he thought I was crazy because they have a vegetarian burger that he can make vegan – I just don’t like fake burgers it is too much like the real thing plus I can’t help but think there are gross animal by products in the bun – he really recommended the burger but reluctantly made the salad – it was pretty good with just greens, dressing, cranberries, and apples. I also got a very good strawberry sorbet.
    Day 7 – 50’s Prime Time – spaghetti and “meat”balls- on the menu, minus cheese to make it vegan, decent if you like spaghetti. I did not try the “meat”balls, I just pushed them to the side, I had another tofutti sundae, and a vanilla coke – the coke was great!

    Snacks – Divvies cookies (first time to try them – I am definately a new Divvies fan), donut and cupcake top from Babycakes ( I am not a fan. The donut was the size of a half dollar and very dried out. The icing on the cupcake top was foamy and gross). Pretzel and popcorn (Disney has the best popcorn ever!)

    I hope this is helpful to somebody headed to Disney and don’t forget get fastpasses to Toy Story Mania early – it’s the best ride there! Also if you have a little boy between 4-10 sign him up for Jedi training.


  14. Hey AJ

    Thanks so much for the excellent rundown! I believe I'll post this in a new blog so more people will see it. Thanks again!

  15. We're still at Disney, but I wanted to mention a find I haven't seen mentioned anywhere in case someone is on their way. Boatwright's at Riveraside is awesome! The chef made us an awesome spinach salad with two kinds of beets and vegan candied pecans. I had the veg jamabalaya, which was delicious. My husband asked for a vegan pasta and was served an awesome orrechiette dish. My daughter asked for pasta and veggies and was made a salad, pasta with marinara and steamed carrots and green beans. For dessert, he made us sundaes. 1900 Park Fare was a huge disappointment. Chef TJ wasn't there and the food made for us was bland and oily. Fortunately, my daughter couldn't get enough of the stepsisters. Tusker House has by far been my favorite. Chef Marilyn was amazingly accommodating and friendly. The food was delicious.

  16. Hey Little B!
    Thanks for the update!

    Yes, Chef Marilyn is awesome, isn't she? She dealt with us in May.

    So sorry to hear about 1900 PF. It really depends on who you happen to get. I just had a Chef TJ-less meal there that was great, but it really all comes down to who cooks for you, sad to say. (I've had a couple of clunkers there in the past too...)

    I've never been to Riverside but that sounds amazing! I'd love to try the jambalaya.

    Thanks for the update, and I'd love to hear more when you get back. Enjoy the trip!