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Category: travel (page 1 of 14)

Completely vegan gluten-free cafe in Fort Lauderdale

No, it isn’t hard being vegan. But it’s still challenging to eat out in some place. Now, throw gluten-free into the mix. Again, it’s no problem at home, but on the road it’s nearly impossible. Unless you’re in Fort Lauderdale and you hit up the Green Bar & Kitchen.

Now I’m not gluten free. I eat plenty of it. Probably too much. But I do try to keep it in check. Because the best gluten filled goods are white breads, cakes, and other such naughties full of empty calories.

Vegan Gluten-free Brunch

We were in Fort Lauderdale about to go on a cruise and then again about to fly back home. So we made two stops into Green Bar & Kitchen. The first visit before the cruise, we got there a little before they opened. And a line quickly formed behind us. Because on Sundays they have brunch. Everyone loves brunch!

green bar vegan gluten free cafe

We had to take advantage of brunch. We got the pumpkin french toast and tofu scramble with potatoes. Remember, it’s also gluten-free. But LOOK AT IT! That french toast was not joking around.

vegan gluten free pumpkin french toast

vegan gluten free tofu scramble and potatoes

We’d had bagels earlier, so I was feeling more like having lunch. So I got the curried chick’n salad sandwich (Pea-soy protein, celery, red onion, raisins, cranberries, seasonings & mayo, served on flax & millet bread.) That bread is the best gluten-free bread I’ve ever had. It may be a little more delicate than gluten bread, but it’s so fluffy and perfect and it held up for the sandwich just fine.

vegan gluten free chicken salad sandwich vegan gluten free chicken salad sandwich

Do you like kombucha? They have it on tap! You can sample to see which one you’d like.

kombucha samples

And they have these things called Krunkin which are kind of like donut holes. They were good, but I’ve been fully spoiled by Ronald’s Donuts in Las Vegas. And I’ve never even been to Las Vegas. I’m getting sidetracked. If you’re craving donut like things that are vegan and gluten-free, these are for you.

vegan gluten free donut holes

Vegan Gluten-free Lunch

And here is where I’ve failed you all. We were with Kevin’s parents when we went back to Green Bar and for some dumb reason I didn’t take pictures. Wait! There ARE pictures! They were just hanging out unedited in my Camera+ app.

Kevin had the smoke house burger and I had the buffalo tempeh sandwich. I liked the tempeh sandwich but just wish the tempeh wasn’t so chunky. The burger was really good.

vegan gluten free smoke house burger

vegan gluten free buffalo tempeh

Green Bar also has a ton of raw options. All in all this is exactly the kind of food I want in a warm climate like Fort Lauderdale. They seem to be doing really well, so I hope to visit next time I’m down there. This location is close to the port, so it’s pretty convenient to grab a bite before or after a cruise.

green bar front door

Eating Vegan on a Royal Caribbean Cruise

royal caribbean ship selfie

Cruises are known for their elaborate spreads of food with people piling up plate after plate of food from the buffet. But how does that work out for a vegan? This is my experience of eating vegan on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Some things have changed since the first Royal Caribbean cruise I went on in 2008.  The main thing to note is that I didn’t see any of the vegan margarine that they had that first time. Availability might depend on where they pick up supplies, or maybe their vendors changed. Finding peanut butter on the buffet was hit or miss this time around. If they don’t have it out on the buffet, you can always ask. They usually have it in back.

We always had dinner in the dining room together at a table at our appointed time. There are also buffet options if you don’t want to do that. If you do eat in the dining room, the first night get acquainted with the head waiter. He is your best friend. Ask him all of your questions. He will make sure you get what you need.

There is a set menu for each evening. You can try to order off of that. Often you can cobble together vegan or easily made vegan items from it. We had 5 vegans in our party, so each night we would order for the next night. We’d look at the regular menu to see if we could eat anything on it. And then we’d have them make something we requested. We had an added challenge – one of us was also gluten free. Most nights we ended up having some kind of Indian food. And then they’d also bring a plate of tofu and vegetables for us to share. The last night they had soy chicken on the regular menu. The head waiter took a picture of the package and it said vegan right on it! While I do like Indian food, it was getting a little old so the soy chicken was awesome.

Every night, they will come around with a bread basket. Ask about the breads, but there is a sourdough that is vegan. If they don’t have the vegan margarine, ask them to bring some olive oil to the table for you to dip your bread in.

Desserts ended up being variations of rice pudding. One night we had carrot halwa. On a previous cruise, they made a chocolate soy pudding one night that was awesome. We got vanilla pudding one night this time.

This is the meal we had the last night. Salad, chilled mango soup,  soy chicken and carrot halwa, an Indian spiced dessert. The vegetables on the plate with the soy chicken were from the big plate of veggies they brought us every night.

vegan salad on royal caribbean

vegan chilled mango soup on royal caribbean cruise

vegan soy chicken on royal caribbean cruise

vegan indian spiced carrot dessert on royal caribbean cruise

Breakfast and lunch we would have at the buffet. When you sit down, a waiter will come by and you can ask him or her for soy milk for your coffee and/or cereal. Do that first before you hit the buffet because they may have to go seek some out. There’s always a ton of fresh fruit out. You’ll find fried and roasted potatoes. They have a miso soup station where you can get some tofu cubes. I just assumed the miso soup wasn’t vegan since it traditionally isn’t, but I didn’t ask. There will be some stir fried veggies and rice. There is almost always some Indian dish like chana masala.

Here’s one of my breakfasts from the buffet at the Windjammer. Yeah, I ate chana masala over potatoes for breakfast. I ain’t skerd. Also we scored an awesome window seat.

vegan breakfast on royal caribbean cruise

The lunch buffet was even easier. More vegetable options appeared. You could make a salad, the raspberry vinaigrette is vegan, or make a french fry sandwich. It’s really your choice. As you can see, I took the less fried route. Here are a couple of my lunch plates from the Windjammer buffet.

vegan lunch on royal caribbean cruise

vegan lunch on royal caribbean cruise

Anyway, the point is that a vegan won’t starve on a Royal Caribbean cruise and you can actually put together some healthy, tasty meals. Or you can be a junk food vegan and eat cheeseless pizza and Johnny Rockets (costs extra) streamliners every meal. We’ve also been to some of the specialty restaurants in the past and they took care of us there too. So don’t let vegan food worries keep you from going on a Royal Caribbean cruise.

Oh, and you can even find good vegan food in some of the ports. See my previous post about St. Thomas to find out about options there.  On this trip, we stopped in Cozumel which is a 45 minute water taxi ride away from Playa Del Carmen. There is so much awesome vegan food in Playa Del Carmen that I have several posts about it from a previous trip.

Our favorite was Kaxapa Factory, so we all hopped on the water taxi and headed over for Venezuelan noms. Heed my warning, the water taxi ride is pretty bumpy. I highly recommend taking Dramamine in preparation for the trip. When we got off the taxi, our first stop was a pharmacy for some aptly named Vomisin. The ride back was much easier because of it.

I was feeling traditional and went for the black bean, plantain and avocado arepa. Fabulous as always.

vegan arepa at kaxapa factory playa del carmen

While there is a Starbucks on board, extra of course but at least they have soy milk, nothing beats Ah Cacao’s espresso frappé. Three shots of espresso, ice, sugar, blend.

ah cacao espresso frappe playa del carmen

We may have cut it a little close getting back to the water taxi. Thankfully we made the last boat and got back on the ship in time.

So that’s about all I’ve got to say about eating vegan on a Royal Caribbean cruise. I’ll just leave you with this sunset as we passed down the coast of Florida.

caribbean sunset

Final roundup of vegan food in Playa Del Carmen

Playa Del Carmen, Mexico is super vegan friendly. As I covered in my two previous posts, resorts are not your friend but Kaxapa Factory definitely is. This post will cover all the rest of the vegan food in Playa Del Carmen, at least the food that went in my mouth.

First, you need coffee. Well, I need coffee. Yeah, there’s a Starbucks. Yay. But there’s also a local chain called Ah Cacao Chocolate Café. They’ve got soy milk and a couple of things marked vegan right on the menu.

ah cacao menu playa del carmen

We were there in June, so it was HOT and the Espresso Frappé was the perfect foil for the heat. It’s three shots of espresso, sugar and ice blended on up. It’s not overly sweetened like a Starbucks drink and it’s so good you’ll want to just drink them all day. But don’t unless you want to start vibrating on your own.

vegan espresso frappe

The other vegan drink on the menu was sipping chocolate. It’s a little shot of melted chocolate. It’s perfect after a meal when you want a little something sweet. We definitely had a few of these during the trip.

vegan sipping chocolate

When we moved place into our little hotel in town, we gained a little kitchenette, or at least a mini fridge, a sink, a hot plate and a blender. We weren’t really going to cook, but saved a little money by having breakfast in the room most days. So we headed out to the health food store DAQ to pick up cereal, milk and bananas.

There’s a little cafe in the corner of the store called La Ceiba de la 30 that had veggie options so we had lunch there. I had a couple of burritos. It wasn’t a memorable meal, but it also wasn’t memorable for being bad. There are many tastier options, but will do if it’s convenient.

la ceiba de la 30 menu

vegan burritos

We ate at Bio-Natural a couple of times. They have plenty of vegan options on the menu. And there’s a tiny health food store next to it about the size of a single car garage. The first thing I tried was the falafel pita for lunch one day:

falafel pita

And then another time I had this quinoa salad with their house cashew cheese. By the way, most of these places make fresh juices so we usually got in on some of that.

fresh juice

quinoa salad

Another place we went a couple of times was La Senda Restaurante. This one is 100% vegan so you can eat all the things. The first time we went, I had some enchiladas and Kevin had the tofu tacos. I think the white stuff is their cashew cheese.

vegan enchiladas

IMG_1017

Our next visit, I tried the mango jicama ceviche which was outstanding. It’s also pretty easy to recreate at home. I need to do that again soon. And then I got a burger of some kind, chickpea maybe. I remember it being falafel like. It was okay, but it was crazy filling. The side salads that came with the dishes were always outstanding.

mango jicama ceviche

vegan burger

The last morning we decided to have breakfast here because we heard about this thing. Yes, that’s strawberries and bananas wrapped up in an oat pancake and drizzled with chocolate.

oat pancake

So good! While we were there this pulled up with a delivery. Cargo bike is how a lot of deliveries are made in Playa Del Carmen and I think that’s pretty awesome.

cargo bike delivery

And the last restaurant I have to tell you about in Playa Del Carmen is Babe’s Noodles & Bar. They have a number of noodle, rice and salad dishes that can be made vegan. I had the Vietnamese salad. I liked it and might’ve gone back, but it’s not my first choice of food when in Mexico.

vietnamese salad

Whew! That’s about it. Hopefully this will help fellow travelers find vegan food in Playa Del Carmen.

Vegan Venezuelan food in Playa Del Carmen

Eating vegan in Playa Del Carmen, Part 2

Once you get outside of a resort, the vegan options in Playa Del Carmen improve immensely. I’ll round up the rest of the options in a future post, but this one restaurant deserves a post to itself.

Kaxapa Factory is a short walk from the center of town. It is a small space with an outdoor patio owned by a Venezuelan family that makes fresh, authentic Venezuelan food, including vegan Venezuelan food. Lots of vegan options. It was so good that we went pretty much every day.

Naicel and her father are usually handling the front of the house. Both are a joy, but if you are vegan, Naicel will probably help you because her English is better. They are also not afraid to stray from the menu and make substitutions, so you can totally build your own meal. Now, let’s get on to the food porn.

The first thing I tried was a Patacon. It’s like a sandwich with fried green plantain discs as bread. I think this one was filled with tofu, avocado and black beans. Yeah.

vegan patacon at kaxapa factory

And these were some tostones with tofu. This was just my taste. It was a bigger appetizer that was shared.

tostones

And here’s a look back at Kaxapa Factory. That’s Naicel in the doorway and her father in the back with the cap. Her mom does the cooking.

kaxapa factory interior

Next visit, Kevin and I both had the soursop drink. Our first visit, Naicel’s dad gave us samples of all their house made drinks.

soursop drink

And this time, I got their namesake, a Kaxapa. It’s a pancake made by pounding a special corn into a batter. Mine was full of stir fried vegetables and tofu.

vegan kaxapa

Oh hey, look, we’re back again, chowing on fried.

tostones appetizer

And this time, the Venezuelan lemonade to drink.

Venezuelan lemonade

And finally, time to have an arepa! This one is filled with black beans, avocado, tofu and sweet plantains.

vegan arepa

And, we’re back again. This time I’m getting up on another Kaxapa.

vegan kaxapa

Naicel felt really bad that they didn’t have any vegan desserts. So she set about making one for us at home. On our previous visit, we saw her randomly head out to the street and hop in a cab. She came back about 15 minutes later. She said she had a vegan dessert for us at home but forgot to bring it. She took a cab home to get it and then didn’t have her key with her. OMG! Seriously, this is how nice these people are.

So this night, she had the chocolate mousse she had made. It was a lovely sweet touch to the end of the meal. But she wasn’t done with dessert experiments.

vegan chocolate mousse

Oh yeah, back again! Can you blame us? This time I had the hibiscus drink.

hibiscus drink

And this is the appetizer we got when Kevin said “surprise us”, mini Kaxapa with toppings. I didn’t take a pic of my main this time, so it must have been a repeat.

mini kaxapa

When brainstorming vegan dessert ideas with Naicel, we decided she should try filling their empanadas with fruit. Both are things they already had on hand. So this last meal at Kaxapa, we had mango (I think) filled empanadas that were absolutely perfect.

vegan fruit filled empanadas

 

 

 

Eating vegan in Playa Del Carmen, Part 1

As I mentioned in a previous post, Kevin’s company does this reward trip, usually every June, and we get to go. Free trip, woohoo! This year’s trip was to Playa Del Carmen. Mexico. His company chose an all-inclusive resort as they are wont to do, Royal Hideaway Playacar. This one is also adult only, which was a nice bonus. Also, we got to go with our friends Ken &  Leigh again.

Before I talk about food, here are a few photos from around the resort.

Our room:

royal hideaway playacar room

Kevin playing beach volleyball

beach volleyball

A couple of bird friends at the beach

seagulls on the beach

These little guys, agouti, were everywhere. We called the scrabbits because they were like half squirrel and half rabbit.

agouti

Now, on to food at the resort. I emailed ahead and was assured there would be plenty of vegan options for us. The reality when we got there was a little different though.

It was lunch time when we arrived. So we settled in then headed to one of the cafés. There was an arugula quinoa salad on the menu that came with hummus and pita. Well that sounded reasonable! Except it was very, very small. A side, not a meal. So we ended up eating a bunch of fries and chips & guacamole until we were full.

quinoa arugula salad

Dinner was with the company and all arranged ahead of time. It was a buffet for everyone else, and then we were brought separate plates. On the buffet, there were a few appetizers we could get into:

chips guacamole jicama salad

No such thing as too much guac, I suppose. That jicama salad was a nice surprise. And this was our dinner: a bunch of veggies and a portobello mushroom cap. I’m glad there were appetizers.

vegetables and portobello mushroom

The next company dinner, they took us over to the buffet to show us our dish, all covered in cheese. Yay. So they put something together in the kitchen that was basically the same as what you see above presented slightly differently.

more vegetables

Some beans would’ve been cool, but it just wasn’t meant to be I suppose. The staff also seemed pretty confused about the whole vegan thing, despite the assurances I had via email. They clearly had it confused with gluten free. *sigh*

Now breakfast, breakfast was pretty awesome. The hot foods were pretty much off limits, but they had vegan cereals, soy milk, fruits and a make your own smoothie bar. Grab a bowl, throw a bunch of stuff in it, including peanut butter, and the dude will mix it up for you. Or they had a smoothie of the day. Right on.

smoothie

I’ll admit, it was pretty awesome to chill under a cabana while a regular supply of cold adult beverages were brought right to me. But it was in no way worth what it costs to stay in a place like this.

margarita

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of delicious vegan food in Playa Del Carmen. It just wasn’t at this resort. But we were only here four days. So look for future posts full of tasty bits that we ate when we finally got out of the resort.

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