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Tag: travel (page 1 of 2)

Vegan at Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla, Day 1

soy vegano - i am vegan

Kevin got to go on the company club trip again this year, which means I got to go, which is pretty cool. They decided to go back to Playa del Carmen this year, but booked a different resort, Paradisus Playa del Carmen La Perla. There are actually two sides to this resort and La Perla is the adults only side. Thankfully.

Last year when we went, I made a few posts about vegan food in Playa del Carmen. This year’s visit will also generate a few posts. Especially since we were there for two weeks. Let’s get back to the resort though.

At check-in, we got these nifty cards to show wait staff. “I am vegan.” And I will say that unlike last year, the staff generally seemed to understand what that meant. So that was awesome!

paradisus playa del carmen la perla room

Since I’m really terrible at getting good pictures of the room, I just took one. There you go. It’s huge and ridiculous with a sitting area, a tub you could host a party in and a two-sided shower that’s about the size of my current whole bathroom. If you want pretty pics, check out their site.

After we got checked in, we got on our bathing suits and headed to the little grill next to the pool. Or, a pool. The one nearest our room. The pickings were a little slim on the menu but we weren’t starving so we were okay with chips and guac, fries and fruit. The fruit was super fresh and tasted amazing. I hadn’t had it served with lime and chili powder since I visited Mexico back in 2006 and had forgotten how amazing that is. I recall it being standard on the breakfast menu at the Mexican hotels we stayed in that trip.

french fries

fresh fruit with lime and chili powder

vegan chips and guacamole

The next big decision was what was going to be my drink this trip. The resort is all-inclusive as they are pretty much every year, so that’s a situation I like to take advantage of, just not to the point of illness or verbal diarrhea. So I started with a gin and tonic. It went down okay, but I switched to frozen lime daiquiris. I can make a gin and tonic at home, but I’m way too lazy to make a frozen daiquiri.

gin and tonic

After spending all afternoon at the pool, it was time to go get dressed for the opening reception. The theme was blue. Everybody wear blue. Blue isn’t a color I generally wear, so I found the cheapest thing I could at Old Navy that looked reasonable, a dress for about $12. Score! To be extra ridiculous, Kevin raided their promotional items for a racing shirt with the company logo on it. There’s a picture. If I get a digital copy, I’ll add it to this post.

The company dinners are usually buffet style. We eat salads from the buffet and then they bring us a vegan main dish. Here’s what we ended up with the first night.

The salad assortment. The dressing was really nice for the green salad, a hibiscus vinaigrette, I think.

vegan salads and bread

And this is a vegan ratatouille, I think. I’m not a big fan of eggplant, so this was pretty meh for me. It tasted fine, I just hate when you come to another country and you get some random dish like this. But that seems to be a running theme in these resorts.

vegan ratatouille

Oh dang, the drink of the night was some blue drank. I have no idea what was in it, but I drank a couple. Sadly, no picture.

Thus ends day 1. I got sun burned a little. And didn’t get drunk. So it was a good day. I’m probably going to post day by day at the resort and then maybe two more posts. That should be plenty.

 

 

Eating Vegan on the Road: 500 Miles Atlanta <--> Central Virginia

Sometimes when we travel, it’s more about the food than the trip. Asheville, I’m looking at you. But sometimes we need to travel somewhere for other reasons, usually involving relatives or maybe work.

Eating vegan on the road used to be a little more challenging but with chains like Chipotle stepping up it’s become so much easier. And if you have time to veer off the highway, Happy Cow can help you find vegan friendly spots along the way.

On this recent trip to Virginia, I decided to pack a small cooler with food for the way there. A Tofurky cold cut sandwich, some chips that I got at a gas station when filling up and maybe some Oreos ended up going into my pie hole. I really wanted a Chick-O-Stick, but none of the convenience stores seemed to have them. It’s definitely less than a perfect road trip without Chick-O-Stick.

I brought Tak along. She’s a pretty good traveler but on the way there she’s so excited that she doesn’t want to lay down and sleep. Which wore her out pretty good. And that was fine.

boston terrier on a road trip

Normally when I go visit my mom, I make every effort to go into Richmond and eat all of their vegan food. But this time was more about family, so I brought some provisions and stuck close to home.

Since I was driving, I hauled the Vitamix with me so I could have smoothies every morning. I also used it to make a raw cashew cheesecake that I took to our Passover dinner. Other provisions included Soy Curls, BBQ sauce, tofu, nutritional yeast, black salt and some Earth Balance. I knew my mom would have vegetables, so this was plenty to keep me fed.

The first night, my mom and partner wanted to go out to dinner. And they didn’t want to go to Richmond. So I got on my phone and started searching around for something. A Mexican place called Don Pepe popped up and they had a vegetarian section to their menu. That’s something I can work with. By the way, this place is right off of I-95 if you’re ever passing through.

As you can see, I was a bit hungry and attacked this before I remembered to take a picture. It’s a bean burrito with rice and I got an order of guacamole as well. It was really good. The sauce on the burrito was fresh and flavorful. And the guacamole wasn’t filled with a bunch of filler like some places do.

eating vegan on the road mexican  food in chester, virginia

The next night, I made BBQ Soy Curls with sautéed kale and a couple of pieces of toast. Soy Curls make an excellent provision since they don’t require refrigeration and they’re light. As a matter of fact, I’m making a mental note right now to pack some when we head to Mexico in a couple of months. My mom was pretty adventurous this visit and tried the BBQ Soy Curls and really liked them.  Whenever I cooked something, she pretty much ate what I ate.

vegan bbq soy curls, kale, toast

For Passover, I made up a batch of tofu scramble and took a little box with me. It was packed with veggies too so it could be a full meal. There were various munchies around I could eat as well. I’m assuming you’ve seen a tofu scramble and also I forgot to take a picture, so here’s a lovely haggadah.passover

The next day, we met some family at the cemetery to visit relatives.

grave stone at Blandford Cemetery

Then headed to Old Town Petersburg to walk around. This is a good side trip from Richmond.

old bricks in petersburg virginia

old brick facade in petersburg virginia

After that, my mom and I grabbed lunch at Wabi Sabi. The menu is a mix of sushi and sandwiches. With the sushi option, I knew I could make something work. That something turned out to be veggie sushi with a side of sweet potato fries. My mom may or may not have learned an important lesson about wasabi when she accidentally scooped up the whole dollop with a piece of her sushi. Ouch!

vegan sushi

sweet potato fries

wabi sabi petersburg virginia

Finally, my last day in town, we did make it to Richmond for lunch. There was a new place I was thinking about trying, but they were closed Mondays, so we went to an old favorite, Ipanema Cafe.  It’s a vegetarian sandwich place with lots of vegan options, including a jackfruit sandwich, and more importantly vegan pie. ipanema cafe richmond virginia

My mom and I both got the tempeh reuben. Delicious and only a little messy. My mom really liked it which is pretty impressive. Tempeh can be a hard sell.

tempeh reuben at ipanema cafe richmond virginia

And pie could not be resisted. My choice was the cherry pie which I had with the soy ice cream because it was the right decision to make. It had a crumb top and shortbread crust. Yum!

vegan cherry pie from ipanema cafe in richmond virginia

After that fine dessert, coffee was necessary and Harrison Street Coffee Shop, another favorite, is right around the corner. They also have simple sandwiches and vegan breakfast items. Plus it’s one of my favorite coffee shop spaces. Oh, it’s also vegetarian. Yay!

eating vegan on the road harrison street coffee shop iced latte

On the drive back, I didn’t want to worry with packing anything. I decided I’d just wing eating vegan on the road. This time I hit the old standby, Taco Bell. I learned the lesson long ago, to always check the innards of a wrapped food before biting unless you’re in a vegan restaurant. Taco Bell is no exception. Save yourself some grief and open them up at the counter before you take off. Even though my ticket was right, both of my burritos were wrong. They put some ranch sauce in my modified 7 layer burrito that doesn’t even come on it and there was cheese on my bean burrito. No worries, just had them remade and was on my way. Why did I go to Taco Bell rather than Chipotle? Because you can hold a Taco Bell burrito in one hand while driving.

taco bell bean burrito

How do you handle eating vegan on the road? Do you carry food, research spots along the way and plan or just wing it?

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

Eating Vegan in St. Thomas

Almost every year, Kevin’s company has a reward trip to some tropical destination and usually at an all-inclusive resort. In 2013, that location was St. Thomas. Kevin and I had been to St. Thomas before as a cruise stop. While Matt and Danielle got to eat Rootsie’s food, we went scuba diving. We were a little sad about it because Rootsie’s was THE vegan food to get in St. Thomas and apparently it was fantastic. And now he’s not cooking anymore. Sadface. But, his sons do have a food truck. Sadly, we saw the food truck once from an excursion van but never got to actually get food from it. More sadface.

Back to the all-inclusive situation. We’ve been in a few of these resort situations now and they generally aren’t super vegan friendly. The breakfast buffet is usually fine. But after that it often devolves into piles of fried. This time was no exception. And the resort was not close enough to anything to walk, so it was a fairly expensive cab ride to get away from the resort. But we did it anyway to eat some non-fried food.

Barefoot Buddha is a little coffee shop that serves food. Very vegan friendly. And it’s right along where they dock the cruise ships and close enough to walk. They have non-dairy milks for coffee drinks and a couple of tasty options each day that are vegan. We went here a few times. Here are the Coconut Curry Chickpeas over brown rice:

vegan coconut curry chickpeas

And this was a ridiculously tasty coffee drink, something like an Almond Joy Latte.

vegan almond joy latte

If you’re staying in a place with a kitchen or just want snacks, there’s a health food store a couple of “blocks” from Barefoot Buddha and on the same side of the street. It’s in Happy Cow. They have a small juice bar in the back. Snacks are painfully expensive, but sometimes you just need them.

The other place we checked out was Natural Livity It’s a juice bar and carry out Ital place. I thought they might have closed, but Happy Cow shows them as still open, so you may or may not find this place open if you try to go there. They had the typical sorts of Ital dishes on the hot bar but their specialty is a cashew mac & cheese that is fantastic. But they don’t do it every day, so you just have to get lucky on that. Here’s my shitty picture of the hot bar:

natural livity hot bar st. thomas

Other non food items at the resort, lots of iguanas!

iguana in St. Thomas

iguana in St. Thomas

And some dranks happened, at least for me. I still don’t drink nearly enough for it to be worth it to pay for all-inclusive.

fruity cocktail

So eating vegan in St. Thomas goes much easier if you plan to be near the vegan food and not tucked away in an out-of-the-way resort full of fried.

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