Well, it's taking me longer than I intended to get to this, but I promise I will share the whole vacation eventually. :-)
Day 2, Sunday December 6, starts with breakfast in the room. Actually, that's how we started every day. While I would like to try a sit-down breakfast at Walt Disney World someday, it's such an easy meal to do in the room that it never seems worth the hassle. I bring my favorite cereal, and order soy milk from GardenGrocer.com. Actually, I guess I should talk about that, too. For our last three or four trips, we've gone online and ordered groceries from GardenGrocer.com. It's a wonderful little service - you choose from a pretty decent selection of items, including things like soy milk and Earth Balance margarine, which are hard to pack in your suitcase, and they go shopping and deliver everything to your resort. Disney's great about storing it all, if your room isn't ready yet. So far, the cold stuff has always been cold, and the frozen stuff has always been frozen.
On our last several trips, this worked without a hitch. I couldn't have been happier with the service. We got what we ordered, at the time it was promised, in perfect condition - and each time, I received calls confirming that the order was received, and confirming when it was delivered. Sadly, this was not the case on our most recent trip. I hoping that this was just "one of those things", but... we didn't receive a call when the groceries were delivered. Not a big deal - I was looking for them, called and was informed that they had been delivered, called bell services and they were there. However...
The order was wrong. Several items were missing, and in their place I found two frozen cheese pizzas. That's, obviously, a problem. I did not order anything even vaguely resembling a pizza, and of course, I don't eat cheese pizza. Also, in place of the vegan Earth Balance margarine was a non-vegan Smart Balance. So I called Garden Grocer, ready to accept that mistakes happen, and just wanting them to fix it. Instead, the woman on the phone tried to say it was my fault. I must have ordered the wrong thing. (I didn't - I had the print-out of my order right in front of me.) Okay, I must have made some special requests. (I didn't. Everything I ordered was off their list.) Well, sometimes they have to make substitutions. (Okay, this would explain the margarine, but *not* the two pizzas.) Well, clearly Disney must have screwed up and given you the wrong order. (No - all the bags were clearly labeled with my first and last name.)
Finally, she agreed to pick up the wrong items, and deliver the right ones the next day. In the end, it all worked out. But I was not particularly impressed with how it was handled. While I *might* use them again, I would at the very least caution anyone trying their service to put a special note on your order: no substitutions, items must be vegan, call my cell phone if questions (or something like that).
But onto more pleasant things. Breakfast in the room (the soy milk did arrive, and I had brought my own cereal); packed a snack bar (of which I think I eventually ate a total of two on the trip), and hit the parks. Today was Magic Kingdom day, with reservations at the Crystal Palace. I was looking forward to this for two reasons: I had heard that they are very accommodating to vegans, and I was looking forward to meeting Winnie the Pooh. Well, I struck out on both counts... but before I detail that, I want to mention that the two best meals of the trip came later. I promise this isn't all doom and gloom!
We arrived at the Crystal Palace about 15 minutes before our lunch time (I think it 11:35am). We usually try to eat early for all our meals, in hopes of missing the biggest part of the crowds. Of course, most of the table-service restaurants are pretty well booked, so I'm not sure that it really matters for those. We got a pager, and waited on the porch for our name to be called. The place was pretty crazy. When they did call our name, we had a heck of a time pushing through the masses, in order to get to the door. But this is Disney, crowds are to be expected, and the restaurant really didn't seem that crazy once we got inside.
We were seated, and the waitress asked me about my "allergies". That was the theme of the week. There isn't a box for "vegan" on the online reservations system, so I just marked "allergic to dairy, eggs and shellfish", and hoped that the forms I filled out with Special Diets would take care of it. The waitress was very nice - I can't fault her for anything. She was attentive, and available when we needed her. Per the usual routine, she asked the chef to come to my table.
After a brief wait, the chef arrived at our table, and asked what I needed. I explained that I was a vegan, and explained that I had provided some information to Disney Special Diets in advance. It became immediately clear that he did not know I was coming. Okay, I was a bit disappointed, but as long as he was willing to work with me, that was fine. Well, he wasn't all that willing. In fact, during our brief conversation, he seemed downright annoyed that he had to deal with me. In all of my visits to Disney, this was the rudest I had ever been treated by a cast member. Okay, maybe that's a little harsh. I will say, though, that he made me feel bad for being a vegan, and that's something no Disney chef has ever done.
But, grudgingly, he walked me through the buffet. It was pretty clear that he didn't know much about veganism. I did my best to explain what I do and don't eat; however, I'm a little nervous to send other vegans here because I'm not absolutely certain that what he described as vegan really was. But I'll share my experience with the caveat that anyone eating here should ask questions and make their own decision before eating any of these items.
First, he showed me the salad selection - the area where I usually have the most luck, and that turned out to be the case here. He said that most of the salad choices were vegan, but unfortunately the fruit salad clearly said "honey- lime dressing", so I avoided that one. There were the usual leafy greens with a couple of vinaigrette dressings, some plain chunks of watermelon, a cous-cous salad, cucumber salad, and potato salad. Here's a shot of the part of the salad buffet:
(The bottom row, from left to right, shows Moroccan Cous-Cous and Parsley Salad, Seedless Cucumber and Pickled Ginger Salad and Potato Salad - all said to be vegan.)
I tried most of what I mentioned above. The potato salad was just not really my thing, and while the cous-cous salad was fine, I really prefer my grains hot. But the mixed leafy greens and watermelon made a suitable start to my meal.
The chef also told me that all the bread was vegan. I can't be certain, but these rolls looked to be the safest, and I couldn't taste anything in them that would tell me otherwise. Of course, I did eat them plain and dry.
Next, he showed me around the hot foods. I had trouble getting decent shots of the rest of the buffet, due to crowds, but most of the dishes were not vegan. The ones that were: broccoli, Cinnamon and Lemon Infused Basmatic Rice, mixed stir-fried vegetables, and Ratatouille. I was also told that the children's green beans were vegan, but my taste-buds told me that might not be true. I thought I tasted butter, so I avoided them after the first bite. Here's what my plate looked like:
Okay, I have to say that, other than the green beans, this was all pretty tasty. The Ratatouille was quite good - so good, in fact, that my non-vegan hubby is going to try and reproduce it at home for me this weekend! The rice and other vegetables were fine, too, though given the choice, I wouldn't normally put cinnamon rice with Ratatouille.
All in all, it was a "fine" meal, and I didn't leave hungry. However, that was all I got. The chef did not offer to make or modify anything else. He made it pretty clear that this would have to do - nothing else was available.
What about dessert? The chef said that if I let the server know when I was ready, he could probably get me some Tofutti. I don't often eat dessert at home, so even plain vanilla Tofutti is a bit of a treat for me. It was the beginning of the trip, and I was happy with that. What really surprised me, though (and not in a good way), was the small serving and lack of effort that the chef went to. Now, bearing in mind that every table around us is filled with people getting GIGANTIC servings of all sorts of sweets and treats, you'd think that I would have gotten at least a normal-size bowl of Tofutti, and perhaps a Divvie's cookie on the side. Nope. What I got was, seriously, about three spoonfulls worth of plain vanilla Tofutti, in a teeny-tiny serving dish. I'm not sure if that's evident from this photo, but those scoops were probably made by a melon-baller - not a traditional ice cream scoop.
Now, despite being an omnivore, I really do have a wonderful, loving husband who looks out for me. Knowing my love of strawberries, he made a special trip to the dessert table, found a bowl of plain strawberries, and brought back a nice little plate full of them. With my butter knife, I was actually able to embellish the Tofutti myself, and while still a small serving, I did enjoy it.
Last but not least, I should mention that this is a character meal, meaning that while we ate, critters from the Hundred Acre Woods were making the rounds, signing autographs, and posing for pictures. Sadly, I managed to miss Winnie the Pooh - but I don't fault the restaurant for this. The place was pretty packed, and despite my planning, I managed to be at the buffet when the big bear passed our way. However, I did get to meet Tigger, Piglet and Eeyore. And, while I pretty much hate looking at pictures of myself, I'll share one of them:
Would I go back to Crystal Palace? Maybe. But if I do, it will be lowered expectations and possibly a meeting with a chef a few days before the meal.
As for the rest of the day, we opted to eat a small dinner in the room - baked potato and frozen peas, ordered from Garden Grocer. Nothing special, but it worked.
That's all for today. It's my big holiday weekend, and I have vowed not to spend the whole thing in front of the computer. But I will be back - with bigger and better meals (well, a couple at least). In the meantime, I wish all of you a very happy vegan holiday season!