Sunday, March 27, 2011

tea and fortune cookies

Zǎo ān! I have to say that the China pavilion at Epcot is one of those places that just seems to get more magical every time I visit. I had a relative when I was younger who was quite taken with all things Chinese, and as a child, I never quite understood why. As an adult, I'm finally beginning to see what she saw. I find myself spending more and more time at this pavilion, just soaking it all in.

The entertainment is amazing, and the film - The Reflections of China - is just stunning. But my focus for this post is the large gift shop - Yong Feng Shangdian Department Store. The entrance to the shop is guarded by the traditional Foo Dogs. Just inside the entrance, you can find a sign that explains their significance, but in short, they bring peace and great fortune to the family that dwells here.

Once inside, you'll find an amazing array of food, clothes and decorative items. This is not a shop you want to rush through - so many amazing little trinkets to be found around every corner.

The tea is, of course, vegan, and something I actually expected. And as a tea-drinker myself, something I'm happy to take a look at.

However, I was actually surprised at the number of vegan food items I found, as well. While I'm not really familiar with Mochi, it appears to be some fruity rice treat. (*Ingredients: Maltose, Sugar, Glutinous Rice, Starch, Pineapple, Orange, Agar, Flavor, Sorbic Acid [Preservative])

There was some Puffed Rice. (*Ingredients: Rice, Sugar, Maltose, Peanuts and Black Sesame)

And some peanut candy (looked very much like peanut brittle). (*Ingredients: Peanuts, Malt Sugar, Salt, Sugar)

And there was also something more like peanut brittle in bite-size, individually wrapped pieces. (*Ingredients: Peanuts, Sugar, Maltose and Water)

In fact, there were so many different treats here that this is just a sampling. They weren't all vegan, but so many of them were that it's worth a look if something catches your eye.

Being the China pavilion, though, I couldn't leave without checking out the fortune cookies... and yes, they're vegan, too! (*Ingredients: Bleached Wheat Flour, Sugar, Water, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean and Cottonseed Oil, Soybean Lecithin, Sodium Bicarbonate, Natural Orange Flavor, FD&C Yellow #5 & 6)

On a vegan but non-food related note... I must confess that I always just assumed that most of the beautiful clothes in this store were made of silk. Silly me - it's never a good idea to assume. This time, I read the labels. If I had just bothered to look at the prices, I would have realized that most of these couldn't be silk. It turns out that many - including the ones shown here - are either 100% rayon, or 95% polyester/5% spandex.

And the same goes for the beautiful purses! (A woman can never have too many handbags.)

It's actually rather ironic that I found so many wonderful vegan items in this store, as this pavilion is the one I usually suggest vegans avoid for meals. The restaurants are not really known for their vegetarian/vegan offerings, and they tend to be a bit less flexible than others. (It seems, from my attempts to gather information, that they don't like to modify dishes. They don't wish to take away the flavor, and I think they find the idea of veganism rather hard to understand.) So, you may want to find your dinner in another pavilion, but be sure to check out this gift shop!

*As a gentle reminder: always read the ingredients for yourself before purchasing. Ingredients listed in this blog should be used only as a guideline, and not as hard fact. Things change, and I could made mistakes.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

finally some chocolate!


Today's post is going to be very short, but very sweet. Germany has changed quite a bit since my last visit. Things have been rearranged, and the store that used to have sweets now just has misc. trinkets. The old Hummel porcelain store has been replaced by a wonderful - but not very vegan-friendly - caramel store. In the interest of research, I did try to check out this new caramel place, but the line was so crazy long that I must confess to giving up on actually asking any questions. Unfortunately, most of the fresh stuff looks decidedly un-vegan, and all of the prepacked stuff I found was definitely not vegan. It is possible to make vegan caramel, but sadly, it isn't the norm.

I wasn't ready to give up, though. I had too many fond memories of visits to the old sweet shop in Germany, so just in case, I wandered over to the other side of the pavilion, and took a lot around the teddy bears, cuckoo clocks and beer steins. While the surprisingly large selection of vegan candy I used to find is gone, I did manage to find a decent display of chocolate - much of it vegan.

Most of the Hachez bars shown below are vegan. As always, it's very important to read the labels. I've tried a couple of these in the past - very dark chocolate... not bad, but not my favorite. However, I should probably try them again as I've found that my tastes continue to evolve, and I've adapted to darker and darker chocolate.

The real treat here, though, in my humble opinion, is the Ritter Sport bars. These are probably my favorite dark chocolate candy bars to date - not just from Germany, but from anywhere. Again, please read the packages. Just two of the bars shown below are vegan - a plain dark chocolate bar (in the brown wrapper), and a dark chocolate with marzipan (in the red wrapper). Both are unbelievably good. I was actually surprised at how much I like the marzipan - not something I really had any previous experience with. Now, these remain one of my favorite treats ever.

So, as I said, short but sweet. However, I can't leave the Germany pavilion without at least mentioning the wonderful model train display. It's a must-stop for me, every visit. (I must confess that I rather enjoy counting little lizards here. I get such a kick out of seeing these tiny little lizards that look huge when they crawl over those tiny little houses. No lizards in the photo below, but the village is decked out for the holidays.)

Guten Tag und vielen Dank fur Ihren Besuch. (Good day, and thanks for stopping by!)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

just a note

I just received a nice little note from Jessica (thanks Jessica!) who just returned from her first vegan Walt Disney World trip. She wanted to let me know that it looks like the new Angus Burger brand multi-grain buns are now the "standard" on veggie burgers. They may put butter on them, so you'll still want to make sure you clarify with someone what you're getting, but in my opinion, this is a step in the right direction. I am hoping that we can get back to the point where ordering a veggie burger for a vegan doesn't require jumping through so many hoops. These are not gluten-free, so if that's an issue, you'll still need to request the gluten-free roll.

On a totally "non-Disney" topic, I thought I'd share a bit of vegan advice. While I certainly hope that no one is using my blog as the "end all, be all" guide-map for going vegan, I know that there are some relatively new vegans that do find their way here. Going vegan is a big move - it can have a lot of effects on your body, both good and bad, especially if you're not careful. There are some very important vitamins that *everyone* needs, but that vegans in particular must be careful about, because a vegan diet can be less "well-rounded" and miss out of some of these essentials, such as vitamin B, and Omega-3 fatty acids. It's critical that you do your homework before making this change.

But what I wanted to share is the amazing properties of flax seed oil. This nice little product isn't cheap (my "regular" grocery store carries it, but they want $9.99 a bottle!), which is why I found an alternate source for my Omega-3's for a while. I wish I hadn't. I have since gone back to putting about a tablespoon of flax seed oil on my dinner every night. You do have to be careful with this stuff - it can go rancid quickly, so you have to keep it refrigerated, and you can't cook with it. I just drizzle it over my veggies or pasta, after the food is prepared. It has a light, nutty flavor, and usually I don't even notice it. But I have to tell you that I can actually *see* a difference with this stuff.

While this hasn't been "verified by the FDA", or whatever it is they say, I have heard that it's good for your hair and nails... and now I'm absolutely convinced of it. My hair and nails used to be great, but had both gotten really bad recently. My hair was dried out, frizzy... just didn't look healthy. And my nails were breaking left and right, so soft I couldn't do anything with them. Finally one day it hit me... that the down-hill slide seemed to have happened after I stopped taking flax seed oil. So, I grabbed some at my earliest convenience, and I'm once again making it a part of my daily ritual. And slowly but surely, both my hair and nails are improving.

There may be other "wonder products" out there, but if you're a vegan who's struggling with bad hair and/or nails, it might be worth a try. (Look for the stuff that says "with lignans".)

Next post, Germany.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

the little mouse

Ciao amici!

Okay, yes... I've been procrastinating this post. I like the Italy pavilion, but try as I might, Italy was a complete bust. I was unable to find a single vegan food item in the gift shops.

The good news it that it was my only complete failure during my World Showcase quest of vegan treats. Disappointing, but who knows - maybe it was a fluke. Perhaps next time I'll find something? In all fairness, there isn't a whole of lot *any* kind of food here. There's a lot of wine... and some of it may be vegan. I confess to not knowing a thing about wine, except that a lot of it is refined using yucky animal parts. I'm afraid I wasn't much of a wine drinker before I went vegan, so I never saw a reason to try and become one after. (But feel free to share, if you're familiar with any good vegan wines.)

I will give credit to the Italy pavilion for one thing, though... they had a better selection of specialized Mickey Mouse items than most of the other pavilions. Clearly Italy likes the Mouse.

(The above sign reads: "In Italy, Mickey Mouse is known as Topolino, the 'little mouse'. Experience our unique collection of Topolino products created especially for the Italy pavilion at Epcot. These products are made from authentic Italian Murano glass and Alabaster stone.")

Yes, I have a lot of Mickey Mouse stuff... jewelry, clothes, silverware, mugs, bowls, calendars, license plate frame, "mouse" pad, pens, notepaper, keychains... doesn't everybody? Some of these items were just gorgeous, though!

This little clock, though, was probably my favorite. If I hadn't already splurged too much on a new Mickey watch, this would likely have come home with me. So, no snacks, but I found something fun on my search. You just never know what sorts of treasures you'll find at Walt Disney World. If there is a better place for a shopaholic, I haven't found it. :-)