|I'm just following orders
I did buy the Vegan Eggplant Parmesan and sat at the gate eating it. It most definitely would have been better had I been traveling with a microwave.
|If you blow this pic up you can see that the ingredient list is small and the vegan cheese is home made. It's not Daiya or Follow your Heart.
The main ingredient was eggplant and it was nicely seasoned. I ate about half at the gate waiting to board. I'd have liked to taste the "cheese" in it's warmed state and from a consistency standpoint this wasn't all that palate pleasing as I hacked at the contents with my plastic fork. Still, it was nice being able to purchase something vegan without the 20 questions game. Next time I'll try another of their offerings that might be better eaten cold.
Next we get to South Bend. I actually had to stop and take a picture of this. It makes me think. It especially makes me think because I'm a pilot. Why do we need a special place in an airport terminal to pray? Isn't praying on Sunday enough to cover you for the week? Does a special "preflight prayer" give you any more insurance against crashing or is it just a good time to reflect on the afterlife? Does praying sort of short circuit me, the pilot, from making mistakes? Yup, makes me wonder. I mean, if you're that scared, there's always Amtrak ... although the hand of a Supreme Being certainly has slapped a few trains off of their tracks too.
|Looking at the food prep area. The buffet is to the left.
|You go down the buffet line and put your stuff in a bowl. Then they put your stuff on a grill in piles. Yuck if you're a vegan right? Nope. Watch ...
|Brown rice. Yes, brown rice. The noodles you see above are also vegan.
|The line of fresh veggies including 5 mock meats, 4 of which are vegan. (Maybe 5 one day now that Quorn has a vegan product).
|All of this is freshly prepared.
|There are some veggie pre mixes like Pad Thai mix, (shredded carrots and purple cabbage amongst others), and Asian Veggie mix (baby corn, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots). There's bok choy in one of those containers. My favorite green veg.
|Here's what I dropped off at the cooking station. The wooden stick has my table number and name on it. The white stick is the "add tofu" stick. And the red stick is the "dietary allergy" stick.
|You can't see it but my bowl is isolated just in front and to the left of the chef on a shelf next to the fridge.
|He takes a wok and puts it on the burner, not the grill, and then adds water. Or vodka, I'm not sure.
|Now what you are seeing, in this amazing split second photo, is my vegan food being tossed into its very own wok ... all by it's lonesome.
|And here's what was put down in front of me.
It's amazing to see that in the Heartland of America there is a chain restaurant progressive enough to offer mock meats. I am truly blown away. The veggies cooked up well, for the most part none were overdone, and that's the way you have to cook this kind of thing because you can always eat a veg with a tad of crunch left in it if it's undercooked but can't undo the mush if it's over cooked. The bowl made it hard to eat the little things, like edamame with chop sticks but I'm not too proud of a New Yorker to grab a spoon to put the finishing touches on a consumption episode.
The flavors of the sauces were interesting. I thought they were one dimensional but with so many to choose from they end up being quite complex when you add a few together. I wanted to stick my finger in each one to taste but there were people watching. How do you know what's vegan?
|The bottom row shows a "v" for vegan and all of the sauces are listed on top.
|Allergies like gluten free, seafood, peanut, are plainly marked.
Gabe later told me the next day, when I went back for a second dinner, that he was going to cover the pre-printed menu board with a blank square where the Teriyaki sauce indicated it was vegan. This was the day after I brought the issue to his attention and it wasn't yet done but I'm sure Gabe did it. He seemed genuinely interested in making sure that we get what we wanted. I was just a little surprised that it wasn't done before my return visit.
So do we accept these errors? I think we have to. Humans make mistakes. They weren't trying to slide anything by us or get away with anything. They changed a product. I do call them out for taking more than a day to get the change on the menu board made, or put up a label on the Teriyaki sauce that it contains fish, or something.
The real question would be if the ingredient in a new product involved an allergy instead of a moral choice. What if shellfish was an ingredient, or peanuts? Kudos to Flat Top for showing what all restaurants need to do to keep pace with the healthier eating habits this country is heading towards. Kudos for providing info to those of us, for whatever reason, want to know what's in our food. Kudos for giving enough thought to vegans that you are one of the few restaurants to plainly display our food choices. Now all that remains is to tweak the process, develop a checklist for when products or suppliers change, and take care of errors in a more timely fashion and you'll be the leader of the pack.
|A second trip to the bar is $2 for dinner or $1 for lunch ... if you're THAT hungry.
Leave it to South Bend to show me something I've never seen before. A water fountain specifically designed to fill your sports bottle. Someone please tell me how well, (or poorly), it works as I didn't have an empty, (or full), sports bottle with me at the time. Neat idea though. Very Green.
One last thing that I found in the vegan wasteland of Northern Indiana. At the airport there is a small cafe. There's a Boca Burger listed on the menu sign. I asked and was told, "It's a Boca burger." When I asked which one I was once again told "Boca." I asked, "Is it vegan?" Lo and behold, it's a vegan veggie burger. Now if the airport has a vegan boca burger then I would imagine that there are a few other places where vegan food can be found. We're making inroads almost everywhere, fellow vegans. Kudos to the airport cafe SBN.
Update to the Flat Top Grill:
Last month, in June, I had the opportunity to return to The Flat Top and much to my surprise and joy I saw the vegan indication had been removed:
Hopefully they'll do something to make the sauce vegan again instead of just living with an ingredient they hadn't intended to serve. Still many vegan options and still a great value for the fresh stir fry. I do very much enjoy eating where they make it easy to choose tasty, fresh, vegan food.