Saturday, December 31, 2011

Vegan Disney and California Adventure 2011

Two days in Disneyland and California Adventure gave me ample time to burrow into the ingredient lists in several establishments in both parks in Anaheim, CA.

Some free advertising for Brittany.  If you haven't checked out her cooking videos, you should.
OK, on three, everyone put your hands in your pockets ... one ... two ...
I love love love to wear shirts which cause people to either think or ask questions.  (I also usually have a button or two.  My favorite has become one from For the Animals Sanctuary which just says, "My food didn't scream."  It made a vegan the other day when someone read it and made the connection.  I kid you not.)

This is from Brittany Robert's website, The Tofu Guru (duh), where she posts what I believe are some of the most entertaining vegan cooking videos on the web.  Unless you're into metal.  Then you probably should go to the Vegan Black Metal Chef, which is all the rave but I just am not a heavy metal guy, (picture guitar or banjo or banjo mandolin in an old-timey band).  One day I will get through it and try the recipes, which I understand are pretty decent.

First off to a few rides on the California Adventure side of things.  One of my favorite rides in the world, Soaring Over California is there.  If you haven't gone on this ride you should put it on your bucket list.  We went twice.  Make sure you go to the A side.  The B side was so much blurrier.  I mean you can see the windows on the buildings as you come over the carrier deck in San Diego in one and on the other ... eh.

California Screamin' which has a full 360 degree loop.

Look, they've put my framed picture up on the wall.  Oh, wait, now it's gone.  Good thing I took this picture of it.  Hey, any ride that goes upside down is one a pilot will go on.

I was amazed at how many more vegan options cropped up since my last visit here but also amazed at where I found the non vegan ingredients.  Since we didn't have one meal at a sit-down restaurant, (where I'm told the chef will usually come to your table and talk about your meal), and all of our meals were fast counter service, I asked every cashier for the ingredient list.  Once you get the list you have to delve item by item and read to see if anything pops out.  Usually allergens are listed at the end so that's where I start.  Any milk or dairy will be declared there and you can save your eyes a lot of small print reading. Honey is the ingredient most often not seen as I'm reading as fast as I can, holding up the beginning of a long line, and it's not listed separately in the allergen section.

Most cast members will ask what your allergen is and I just say vegan which sounds sort of like I'm allergic to vegans and the truth is there are very few vegans I'm allergic to. Many more cast members know of or have heard of vegan requirements and I hardly got a strange, "What's that?" look or question.  I did get a few, "I don't knows," and a chef asked me about chicken once then did a sort of head slap, "doh", and realized what he said.

After California Screaming we went over to the Wharf and although I know the Lucky Fortune Cookery has tofu and a few vegan sauces, (make sure you get the book as some of those sauces sound vegan but are NOT), I opted for a vegan burrito at Cocina Cucamonga Mexican.  (At Disneyland, this can also be obtained at Ranch del Zocalo where many of the exact same menu items are available).  Since I messed up and ended up having the exact same thing for dinner the next night, (I just didn't want to wait on the line for the vegan gumbo in Disney Orleans ... although it has always been tasty (if not too salty last time)), there's going to be one less meal to blog about here.  I also had very much wanted to get to Hoa Sen, a vegan/vegetarian restaurant in Garden Grove, just south of Aneheim. Missed it again.  

At the Cocina I start Sherlock Holmes-ing "the book".  I'm looking for hidden things and lo and behold, almost the last ingredient listed is "whey".   (From Wikipedia - Whey or Milk Serum is the liquid remaining after milk has been curdled and strained.). Ugh.  I mean, would the taste of the sauce be so so off that they just had to add it?  Did someone in the tasting lab actually dip a spoon in the first batch and think, "Ah, almost perfect but for that drop of whey"?

The red chili sauce is made with chicken stock.  I can't for the life of me figure out why these 2 ingredients aren't made vegan but their not.  In addition, the guacamole and Pico de Gallo is vegan.  Remember to specifically say, "No cheese, sour cream, or sauce," or you'll get it.  I forgot.  It had to be redone.  And it was with NO problem.  I always get the feeling the chefs and food service people for the most part, really want to give you exactly what you want and will literally open up the book for you.

One problem I do see recurring all over the country is that when you say, "I'm vegan," it has started to lose its meaning.  I do believe its from too many people saying they're vegan and then adding all kinds of animal crap to their food.  Don't be surprised when the person taking your order doesn't catch the cheese as not being vegan when you say you want a vegan meal.  I'm willing to bet there was a "vegan" who ordered their food with cheese still fresh in their memory.  I was guilty of this before I fully crossed the vegan line.  It was easier to say vegan plus cheese than query about chicken or beef stock, et al, and then add the non vegan ingredient that was still acceptable to me.  Lazy.  And now I see that it fueled a big confusion fire that is still burning.  So if you're not vegan, please don't use the word vegan when you're ordering food.  Please.

Hidden ingredients pop up in rice and beans and I checked or asked about these also.  I tend not to take anyone's word for it anymore as I just think people don't realize that a tomato chili sauce is made with chicken stock.  Below is an example of the recipe page from one of the books:

Here's what the plate looked like.

Here's what the plate looked like after I slathered it with hot sauce and autopsied the burrito.

The burrito itself is certainly tasty and adequate.  The portions are standard American gluttony and of course there was nothing left on my plate.  It's just the way I roll. And if I don't stop this I AM going to start to roll. Anyone hear the word resolution in the background?

The dish is unfortunately repetitive.  Rice and beans on the outside and rice and beans on the inside with a soft flour tortilla.  Inside there are more sautéed vegetables.  The rice, (or beans ... I forgot), can be substituted out for more veggies.  Throw some hot sauce on the whole shebang and you have a decently satisfying meal.

Also at California Adventure at the Pier is Pacific Wharf Cafe.  They are primarily a soup vendor but do have a vegetarian chili.  I didn't go through the ingredients for the chili but did ask if there was milk in the bread bowls.  There I was given a bag that the breads are packaged in for sale and they do not contain milk.  I am making a leap of faith but I'd presume the bread is the same bread used on the Disney side at the Royal Street Veranda to serve the vegan gumbo.

Also on the California Adventure side is a place that prepares picnics.  Where there is hope, namely the Mediterranean Vegetarian entree, is so botched from a vegan perspective you'd be paying ... I don't remember, $13?, for raw veggies.

The only thing on this menu was the Mediterranean Vegetarian dish.  The hummus and couscous both had non vegan ingredients.  I didn't bother asking about the lemon cake.  Plus it was expensive and all you can eat is the raw veggies.  
Another one of my questions was about the popcorn and butter.  In the guest services trailer, (CA is undergoing some renovations and it's a looooong walk all the way around), I asked and the cast member thought there was butter as an ingredient.  From this package I don't see any.  The question is about the natural flavors.  I'll eat anything artificial from cardboard to styrofoam packing peanuts, (Just kidding.  No really.), but who knows what's in there.  It doesn't have milk listed as an allergen and I'm not sure if butter would have to be listed as such but it didn't say "dairy" either.  One of the things I've noticed about my ethical veganism is that I just pass on a lot of food which "might" be vegan and err on the side of not eating it.

Popcorn package.
I'm still never hungry so don't worry about me keeling over anytime soon.

Another place I didn't eat is Award Weiners in California Adventure on the Back Lot.  They do have a veggie option, I think it was a cheesesteak without the cheese and it's cooked on a separate area.  I didn't do much research.  I lied.  I just looked it up.  Portobello-Mushroom Philly - Grilled Portobello, onions & bell peppers sauteed in amber lager, topped with pepper jack cheese. Served with sliced apples or chips. $6.99
So leave off the cheese.  I didn't check the ingredients in the bun though.  And you'd have to check the lager on

So now we're over on the Disney side and I've been thinking about the unlimited skewers someone mentioned along with the words vegetable.  I thought they said it was at the Bengal Grill right by the Indiana Jones ride.  Well, I couldn't find unlimited veggies anywhere and found out that although the Bengal Grill does have a vegetable skewer, it's cooked on the same grill as the meat.  I just wasn't interested.  So, even if you're ok with that I suggest you look at the book for the sauces and marinades they use.

But, right next to the Bengal Grill is the River Belle Terrace.  I was astounded twice there. First we went through the book for a few of the options and then the ingredients in the options.  They have a Vegetable Po Boy that was delicious.  Just the right amount of heat to tickle Americas' taste buds but not blow out their lower intestines, a really nice amount of food in the bun, a great mouth feel and a sweet tomato sauce.  And yes, they have two breads listed, one is vegan and one is not but they only serve the non vegan one there. Score!

And as a side they have either pasta salad, (not vegan because of mayo), fresh fruit or ... get this ... Freaking Lentil Salad.  2 out of 3 vegan options.  In Disneyland.  Dudes and Dudettes, we are making strides like Paul Bunyon if we're finding options like this and finding them in the most middle of the road Americana dining.

The beans are vegan also.  I should have eaten here twice.
I think this is a meal that from a flavor and texture standpoint is worth putting on your list.

Vegan Police Tee Shirt the next day.  It reads, "Vegan Police" and "Until Every Cage is Empty"
That raised an eyebrow or two.  Good.  It started a few conversations also.  Even better.
A few more pics of Disney.
OK, I'm really just a big kid.  What better way is there to teach the kids in the front row a bit about joy?

Seasons Greeting at the "It's a Small World" ride.
Maybe I missed it but I didn't see one menorah.  Way to go Walt.

Two last things.  First, there are many places to buy apples, carrots, pineapple, etc. if you're not in the mood for ingredient archeology, or just want something raw.  

Second, one last word to the wise.  Since menus change and suppliers change, I'd only use this list as a guide and not gospel. Please ask again to see the books and if you have a quick second, throw a comment up to confirm, verify, or correct.  Thanks.

No comments: