Sunday, October 31, 2010

Vegan Airport Food Takes Off in Chicago, ORD Cibo Express

I don't spend much time in major airports any more and even less time in the terminals.  I go to the Executive or General Aviation terminals where the private and charter jets park so knowing that I was going to be in O'Hare flying in on AA to pick up the second half of a trip that was too many hours of waiting for one crew to complete, offered the possibility of bringing my search for vegan food to a heretofore unexplored and frankly quiet scary venue.

I send out a tweet and my new found friend, the only, (I hope not), vegan pilot on the planet responds and says to seek out Soul Wraps at Cibo.

I thought of soul food, collards and other greens, ... I didn't know what to think but as my flying partner settled into his meal of big macs, fries, apple pies and drink with a yogurtish frozen thing for dessert I thought of what was more important, looking up the nutritional, (or lack of), content of his meal or going out on the hunt for mine.  Off I went.  OK, I did give him a disparaging look first.  Then went off.

I shlep and I shlep and I shlep.  You know the way airline terminals can be.  I ask for directions.  Oy.  I do a 180 degree turn and shlep back.  Finally a map.  I am good at maps.  I do maps for a living.  I locate my destination and seek and find.

Cibo Express is like a typical food stand with refrigerator cases stocked with beverages and sandwiches and salads all in plastic containers.  The difference is that the food looks fresh, bright and inviting.  Now where are those wraps?  I grab a vegetable Chipotle Wrap, don't see the V for vegan anywhere and read the ingredients.  I do so want to eat this thing.  Chipotle Cream?  What kind of cream?  Cream like dairy cream?  arggggh!  I don't know!  I come so close ... but put it back.

Then I see ...

Tofu?  What?  Really?
Then I realize that the soul wraps were from the Soul Vegetarian Restaurant I reviewed in another posting and right next to it ... what is this?  Health?  I like Health.  Ingredients are...

Seitan?  I look around.  Yeah, I'm really at an airport although I feel like I'm in the promised land.  Why isn't there a beam of sunlight shining down on me?

I grabbed both sandwiches, Asian Noodles, Tabouli and Roasted Root vegetables.  I look around and I'm STILL in an airport.  I can't believe this selection.  I feel a little like a cat burglar, in need of a big sack to throw my loot into.

Back to the food court I go, stomach growling.  I dive into the cold food after scrounging a fork from Starbucks.  Ok, I did get my double tall, one pump mocha, soy, no whip, 140 degrees latte while I was there but that was only because I couldn't take my Silk Soymilk creamer through security.

The tabouli was bright and fresh and the asian noodles had a really nice peanutty flavor in a rather light sauce.

The Tofu was in a nice BBQ sauce and had a very nice heat level.  Don't eat this if you like mild food.  It certainly aint mild!  Nice big chunks of tofu to sink your teeth into.  I finished half of this wrap in about 6 seconds.

The Seitan was in a sweet tomato sauce with a hint of heat.  Very nice but I wonder if it would he easier to eat if it was less like ground meat and more like slices of seitan.  Just a thought.

Now in all fairness I did get a wrap that had an expiration/sell by date that was the same day.  When I opened it it smelled a bit "off" so I returned it for a wrap with a date a few days later and it was delicious.
I also heated them up later in the microwave on the airplane.  I know they would have been good cold but they were outstanding hot.

Roasted Veggies were interesting.  Sometimes I eat food that is good for me rather than good tasting.  I enjoy roasted root vegetables but although the carrots and sweet potatoes were cooked perfectly the parsnips were incredibly fibrous.  The beets were also a little undercooked, (and weren't even on the label.)
It's just nice to see this kind of food in a fast food take out place.  Now to tweak the recipe.

Thank you Cibo Express for being so progressive in offering a vegan menu.  You should definitely put up a bigger sign!

Sometimes it's cool to be so close to things that influence the world to such a degree.
Now, the coolest part of this trip was watching Air Force One land.  It's only called Air Force One if the President is onboard.  Here it is on the ramp next to the General Aviation Terminal last night after it taxied in and the President got off to give his speech in Chicago.
This is one of several helicopters departing the staging area for Air Force One.  If the President is on board this would have had a call sign of Marine One.


Anonymous said...

Yay! I travel frequently and have been pleasnatly surprised with the vegan offerings! Now if they only opened a vegan restaurant and wine bar in every airport i would be happy!

The Veggie Queen said...

Thanks for this post. Next time I am in Chicago, which happens rarely in the winter, I will know where to go. I just was at Logan in Boston and they have a place called Currito which serves burritos with black beans and organic tofu. What has the world come to? Better vegan food in airports is not only possible but probable.

Marty said...

I'm rarely on the passenger side of the terminals but I love hearing about how we have more and more options. I usually get a crew car from the executive terminal for an hour. More options but in Boston I think it's best if you can get downtown. I'm still looking for places within 15 minutes or so of the airport.

Dave Seng said...

This is so awesome. Found this just in time for a flight on Saturday. I can't wait to check them out myself! Thanks for the post!

Anonymous said...

I wish I saw this post before I had a 3 hour delay at ORD last month. SV's Jerk Tofu wrap is delicious. I will definitely look for this the next time I'm at the airport.

Marty said...

Better late than never Kristen. Glad you did find it Dave.

BTW Kristen, glad you only broke your Tiramisu box in that slip and fall!