Traveling Vegans

As a passionate traveler, cruising boater, writer and cook, I find that food always takes center stage.  Searching out local markets, discovering healthy, flexible  restaurants and figuring out how to take enough provisions through security to manage a twelve-hour flight seem to percolate right to the top.

Managing a plant-based diet while traveling can be a job in itself – because we really do love to eat.  When we are cruising on our boat, or a on a charter yacht, at least we have a galley – although finding ingredients in far flung ports can be challenging (and half the fun).  But when we’re traveling by car or air and staying in hotels, often on assignment or at a meeting or convention, the challenges once greater are now moderating.  In the decade we’ve been eating a plant-based diet, so much has changed. Plant-based eating has gone mainstream. We will always seek out the top one or two vegan restaurants in a new city or port to experience that chef’s perspective and learn something new – and also to relax with th eknowledge that everything on that menu works for us without any questions.  The rest of the time, we generally manage quite well in regular eateries. These days there’s almost always a dish or two on the menu that if not totally plant-based, can usually be slightly modified. And if there isn’t, all we have to do is ask! “Vegetable forward” seems to be the phrase of the day

The problems we’ve encountered, the solutions we’ve devised, the research we’ve done, the food we’ve eaten, the books we’ve read, the documentaries we’ve viewed, the courses we’ve taken and and the adventures we’ve experienced are the main threads of this blog.  Hopefully many readers will share their own adventures – and their solutions as well.

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Project Animal Farm: an accidental journey into the secret world of farming and the truth about our food

by Sonia Faruqi

project animal farm

Ms. Faruqi, a former Wall Streeter, decided to volunteer at a Canadian organic dairy farm and that started an international journey to explore animal agriculture. Her up-close and personal experiences – from Canada to Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Dubai, Mexico, Belize, and finally the US – are interspersed with relevant facts and figures about animal farming.  A focused, topic-specific memoir (with extensive references) as opposed to a traditional investigative reporting piece, it is nevertheless a compelling read.  The distressing, horrendous descriptions of a world gone horribly awry are lightened by a very few rays of hope.  Ms. Faruqi concludes with the following solutions (which she has demonstrated throughout the book): 1. Large pastoral farms – reflecting crucial economies of scale – are the future ideal. 2. Genetic selection has created animals that are unable to function properly promulgating unnatural behaviors. 3. Gender diversity among famers needs to increase – more women!! 4. Agribusiness needs to police itself, recognize the obvious problems and create solutions. 5. Farm inspections need to be done by independent third parties. 6. Farm animals need regulations that recognize they are sentient beings and treat them as such (see #5). 7. Labels have to make sense and be enforced – for instance, the label “organic” (theoretically the most specific and meaningful term) is often achieved with lip service, blatant abuse and loopholes (see #5).

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The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food

by Dan Barber (Executive Chef of Blue Hill and Blue Hill at Stone Barns  located within the nonprofit farm and education center, Stone Barns Center for Food & Agriculture). Penguin Press, May 2014

Third Plate Soft Cover    Third Plate Hard Cover

One of the first farm-to-table chefs, Dan Barber is interested in where our food comes from, how it is grown or raised and how or if those processes will be sustainable into the future.  He is not new to the conversation; he was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world in 2009. He also does not specifically promote a plant-based diet. But his “plate” is vegetable forward accompanied by humanely, sustainably raised fish and animals.

Dividing his exploration among the topics Soil, Land, Sea, and Seed, Chef Barber, who grew up summers on Blue Hill Farm in Massachusetts, explores the current state of food through the lens of his  kitchen and the burgeoning gardens on the surrounding Stone Barns land. Each encounter with a resource raised his consciousness – from Klass Martens’ upstate New York farm to the savannah-like landscape of the Spanish dehesas to Veta la Palma’s unique approach to aquaculture to the history of dwarf wheat. Barber also highlights the educational role that chefs can play by making environmentally responsible choices. A good read that is not so much a polemic as it is­­ a tour of specific, lesser-known points of ecological lights that may positively impact the future of our food.

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The Humane Economy: how innovators and enlightened consumers are transforming the lives of animals

by Wayne Pacelle, Presdient & CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.  William Morrow. April 2016. Hard Cover $18.38, Paperback $12.99 (March 2017), Kindle $12.99

Review of the Humane Economy

Mr. Pacelle covers the whole enchilada of animal abuse in the US – from puppy mills and dog fighting to battery cages and gestation crates to animals in film, wildlife management, animal testing to stepping outside the US to Africa’s wildlife. It’s an upbeat, well-done, informative overview that hails the HSUS’ successes but with only one chapter devoted to each issue, depth, naturally, suffers. That said, the case studies on PetCo and PetSmart that describe how lobbying moved them from selling puppies and kittens to partnering with local shelters to host pet adoptions were impressive. My interest in reading it was to hear his perspective on factory farming and if that is your sole interest, then the two chapters devoted to this topic might not justify the purchase, but if your library has it, then by all means borrow it. It’s a good read and will draw you into areas of animal abuse that may not have been on your radar screen. Note: I read this in hard cover; there’s also Kindle version and in 2017 a paperback – if  the Kindle version is anything like the posted sample (devoid of paragraph spacing) then reading in that format will be challenging.

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Mala at Wailea Marriott – unexpected plant-based meal in a spectacular setting

Searching out plant-based, vegan options in Maui proved a positive and fun adventure.  The biggest surprise, not listed anywhere, was the restaurant at our hotel. What a surprise! Mala has a separate Gluten-Free & Vegan Menu. Chef Mark Ellman and his business partner Shep Gordon teamed up with Top Chef Finalist Chef Sheldon Simeon (and one of Food & Wine 2014  Best New chefs) to create delicious, organic and locally sourced dishes that are an eclectic blend of Mediterranean and Hawaiian flavor profiles.

The setting is simply gorgeous. The upper level airy dining room features a clean, contemporary, teak-accented look with long, unobstructed water views.  If weather permits, dine on the lanai.

On the Gluten-Free and Vegan Menu , there are four vegan starters, one salad, and a disappointing single entree.  But we found that the server and chef were happy to work with us to create a second plant-based entree since we always share and prefer to taste a variety of offerings. We combined one of the starters with a few of the five vegan sides. Island Vegetables featured well seasoned cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots and baby bok choy on a bed of coconut peanut sauce ($28). We also sampled the fried local pickels ($7) and the Fried Tofu ($12).

 

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Eating Plant-Based in the British Virgin Islands

Provisioning for a whole foods, plant-based diet is pretty easy in the BVI if you are on a charter yacht or staying in a villa.  On Tortola, recently renovated Rite-Way about a quarter mile from the Moorings Charter Yacht Base (the largest in the world)  has a good assortment of grains, beans, produce, some frozen veg entrees, soy milks and Bobby’s even has local tofu. You can buy home-made hummus at the Patisserie on the Moorings entrance road – and until recently they had a fab tofu salad (we keep asking when it’s coming back). There are tubs filled with a variety of pickles (delicious cornichons)  and lots of olives. Even the little market in Leverick Bay Resort & Marina on Virgin Gorda  – on the southern edge of North Sound – has frozen vegan entrees.

But if you wish to dine out, and have the full BVI experience, then things get a bit more challenging.  Vegetarian is, of course, easier because chefs sub cheese for meat.  It seems the higher end restaurants are beginning to recognize the sea change (and, of course, the Rasta eateries and stands are always ready with a quick meal).  But we have ferreted out a few places that offer a lovely ambiance, spectacular views and offer at least one whole food, plant-based app and one entree right on the menu.

Saba Rock Resort in North Sound is accessible by their ferry from Leverick Bay or Bitter End Yacht Club or by dinghy from your boat moored right off this one-acre bit of paradise. Rooms are simple and immaculate and the menu offers several vegan entrees:  For lunch at The Pub, try three black bean crispy tacos ($16.95) , Black Bean Veggie Burger ($14.95) or a vegetarian traditional West Indian Curried Roti. Everyday from 4-6pm, it’s Happy Hour with $2.50 Painkillers, Rum Punch & Carib Beer. For dinner, there’s an all-you-can-eat buffet that features a fresh salad bar and a wide range of hot entrees ($29.95) check to see if they’re vegan offerings that night. Among the a la cart entrees is a dinner size West Indian vegetarian Roti ($29.95) or Cuban-style Fire-Roasted Vegetarian Kebobs ($27.95) featuring mini black bean cakes – accompanied by the salad bar.  Tables are literally right on, actually over, the water – so it’s easy to watch the large schools of  Tarpon circling the underwater lights or look across the bay filled with yachts on moorings.  Contact – (284) 495-9966 or VHF Ch. 16.

Just across the Sound, the famous Bitter End Yacht Club resort is not so accommodating – and that was a bit of a shock.  There are four eateries. We ended up with Conch Fritters on the premise that there is so little conch in conch fritters that it was irrelevant – and we needed something to sop up the wine and beer. They might have been able to rustle up a simple salad or a steamed/grilled veggie plate or white pasta with red sauce had we asked, but there is nothing on their menu that works (even modified) and we just weren’t up for another heavily oiled, uninspired veggie plate or pricey but lackluster pasta with tomato sauce from the kids menu –  no matter how gorgeous the view. But if you are looking for fresh bread and other bakery items for the galley – head to Winston’s.

Around the corner, Leverick Bay offers three dining options. Chef George’s upper level fine dining room offers a tomato and mozzarella salad ($15) or Bruschetta ($11) that can be made without the cheese. For an entree, there’s a Creamy risotto, beurre blanc, seasonal vegetables and aged balsamic topped with crispy carrots (leave out the cheese and/or buerre blanc). The Cove and Bar offer more veg friendly options: Garden Salad ($12) or Hummus and pita chips ($12) to start followed by a Veg Pizza (skip the cheese $19). Entertainment is excellent. Michael Bean’s pirate bit  Mon-Wed 5-7 pm is always well-attended and a family fave. We spent a week in their mooring field and never tired of his bits).  Friday night’s the Beach BBQ (we found lots to eat on their vegetable forward buffet) that features the must-see Moko Jumbie Dancers and Thursday nights it’s the Salt and Pepper Shakers.

Around the corner, at Biras Creek Resort, we really loved the Fat Virgin’s Cafe overlooking the dinghy dock. Brightly colored picnic tables were awash in local specialties – so we always found something delicious to eat. Sadly, Biras Creek closed – we don’t know for how long or what happened to the cafe – so call.

Overlooking Manchioneel Bay, private, secluded laid-back Cooper Island Beach Club (accessible via their private ferry from Road Town or dinghy in from the mooring field) has been one of our all-time family favorites – and it just keeps getting better and better. But it’s been sooo discovered that getting a mooring requires a first-light run.  The chef offers a Roasted Garlic Hummus Wrap with artichoke hearts and Cajun fries ($11) on their lunch menu. Unfortunately their Traditional West Indian Roti, which our son rates very highly, is made with chicken (maybe they will offer a veg alternative soon). For dinner they offer hummus as a starter and Penne with sauteed vegetables and a pesto-tomato Sauce ($20) as an entree.  Another possibility, Eggplant Rolls filled with goat cheese and red peppers ($19), might be doable without the cheese.  We understand that they will also accommodate gluten-free, so this seems a very real option.  Happy Hour is 4-6pm with two for one drinks. Rooms are available at the Beach Club or around the island at Cooper Island Villas.

Vegetable Rotis, like the ones served at Saba Rock, are  an authentic taste of the Caribbean that originated in Trinidad. It’s a a large flatbread filled with curried meat, fish or vegetable – kind of like a huge burrito. We are always on the look-out for the vegetable versions, not too hard to find, and  one of the very best is served at the little Roti Palace, tucked behind Samarkand Jewelers on Old Main Street, Road Town Tortola ($10-25 for lobster).  There’s a little dining area and an outdoor patio – or take-out. (They’re hand-made so be prepared to wait a bit.)  If you want to be 100% sure there is no chicken or fish stock in your roti, look for a Rastafarian restaurant that serves I-tal food – which is strict vegetarian.

Pirates Bight Restaurant on Norman Island re-opened in December 2012 with a beautiful, brand new, larger facility. The dinner menu features a “Vegetarian’s Delight”  ($28) that changes daily – hopefully their delicious West Indian Vegetable Roti filled with traditional curried spiced vegetables will be on the rotation. There’s also a trio of veggie salads: Greek Bounty salad – sliced tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, olives, with fresh pita and home made hummus ($16), Garden ($13 ) and Fruit platter ($12). It appears that lunch is no longer served (there used to be a vegan roti, veggie burger topped with grilled pineapple, fresh tomato, lettuce and onions, and grilled veg panini).  Thursday through Sunday, the music starts at 8 pm (and Wednesday is Karaoke). Happy Hour is 4-6 pm; the bar menu offers chips and salsa ($10), sweet potatoes and tania chips ($10), french fries ($10) and onion rings ($10).

Also in The Bight, just off Norman Island,  the infamous floating “Willy T” (aka The William Thornton) serves Lunch (12-3 pm) and Dinner (6:30-9 pm) and offers a Veggie Burger ($9), along with fries/rice and coleslaw. They’ll also rustle up a simple romaine salad since it is the base for their meat and fish salads. Diving off the top deck (clothed or not)  is a long-time tradition.

At Tortola’s West End in Sopher’s Hole, The Jolly Roger has been totally reinvented as the open-air Fish ‘n Lime Inn & Restaurant .  For lunch Heather’s Mandarin & Cashew Salad, hold the feta ($16) and/or Hot Spinach and Avocado Cheesecake ($15) and for dinner Risotto Balls ($15) and Heather’s salad  – no vegetarian entree option.

Other possibilities include: Mellow Moods Cafe, an Ital eatery at the Road Town round-about, Chic Gourmet at Fish Bay, Nature’s Way in Mill Mall also in Road Town (run by Seventh Day Adventists), gorgeous top of the pack Sugar Mill offers rotating vegetarian selections at lunch and dinner (min $35/pp count on $60/pp at dinner) and also offers Gluten free and two-for-one drinks as you watch the sunset.

What did we miss?

 

 

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Maui – On the Road to Hana

We decided to drive the supposedly totally off-the-beaten-track but spectacular Road to Hana along Maui’s northeast coast. The warnings were universal – take lots of water and food, gas up the car – there’s nothing along the whole route – perhaps 55+/-miles with 58 bridges (many one-lane wide) and over 250 serious curves – plus untold vistas and one-car-wide pull-offs.  So the estimate is about 4 hours to get to Hana and as long to get back – with stops at the top five attractions.  The warnings also advised against taking the “dotted line” road back to Wailea that would complete the circuit – so we had to come back the same way or void our car rental agreement if we were found out…

Consequently, we wasted a good hour getting prepared for this major odyssey in our little fire-engine red convertible  – about half the rentals in Maui are convertibles and most of them were headed to Hana at the same time we were.  Many of the warnings proved over the top or just plain wrong.  Except one – there are 58 bridges, most one-lane wide – and over 250 curves – so no wine and beer on this trip.  But were were happy that we had provisioned at Down to Earth – an organic, all natural market just south of the Hana Road that makes delicious plant-based sandwiches ($7.99 each) – subs and wraps –  and offers a wide range of “healthy” chips, drinks and well-priced water.  downtoearth.org.

Maui’s Down to Earth store just south of the road to Hana

The drive was made far more interesting because we rented a GyPSy GPS program that provided fascinating commentary on what we were passing or stopped at – along with a lot of history and anecdotes during the long stretches of  gorgeous scenery.

Our experience was that there are services along the way – but maybe not year round – so check.  There’s a small cluster of shops and snack bars, tiny family-run roadside stands – some offering fruit, vegs, burgers or pastries.  And there is a gas station in Hana along with some basic dining options, an “historic General Store” that has seen better days, and a resort.  FYI: several people told us later that the “dotted line road,” which would have made this an even more interesting drive, is just fine at this time of year and we should have taken it.

For images of the Road to Hana, please see this link to Pinterest.

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Plant-Based in Maui – don’t trust the web lists

Seeking out plant-based, vegan options in Maui started out as a positive and fun adventure.  With only a few days notice, I searched the web and arrived with notes from Happy Cow, Vegan in Maui, and from various tweets and blog posts.  “Vegan in Maui” recommended Margaritas (lots of plant-based Tex Mex options) in Kihei, a fifteen-minute drive. It sounded like a good jet-lagged choice, so we called for a reservation. The line was busy for more than an hour. So we put the address in our GPS and started off – we couldn’t find it, asked several locals – everyone looked blank. Finally someone told us it has closed, maybe, three years ago.  So much for that list.

Tired and hungry, we landed at Maui Thai – a strip mall restaurant that proved more than adequate if not exactly what we had in mind. The staff was very accommodating (and knowledgeable steering us away from some of our choices – “that is made with beef broth”). We had a delicious modified Green Papaya Salad, a lovely veg curry and a heap of brown rice. Maybe best of all, it’s BYO and there’s a beer & wine shop in the same mall.

Stay tuned for some surprising finds….

Maui Thai – Green Papaya Salad, Vegetable Curry and Brown Rice

 

Maui Thai Vegetable Curry

Maui Thai Dining Room

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VGML on American Airlines?

Tried to book a strict vegetarian (plant-based) meal on American’s long haul nonstop Dallas Fort Worth to Maui (DFW to OGG) – not available, not even in business class.  The lack of accommodation was sad enough but to add insult to injury they had only loaded SIX fruit desserts when there were 36 very full  “first class” seats. I managed with two small containers of humus, pretzel crisps, a salad, multiple snack packs and the raviolis emptied of their cheese.  But there were lots of linens and drinks – and ice cream.  The flight form LGA to DFW offered nothing edible even in first.

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Vegan on Japan Airlines

So many airlines have seriously disappointed with the quality of their long-haul meal offerings for “strict” vegetarians but I had high hopes for JAL. After all, dairy isn’t even a real player in Japanese cuisine – so we are just dealing with meat/fish/egg-free. Considering the possible options – veg sushi, soy anything, especially edamame, rice, seaweed, amazing vegetables plus the whole range of Buddhist vegetarianism,this was going to be a slam dunk. Wrong! On two long legs (12 hours originating in Honolulu and 8 hours Tokyo to Singapore ), the food was sub-standard JFK catering quality. When I looked at the food my seat mate (husband) was served, I was even more disappointed. (Even though he, too, eats a whole-foods, plant-based diet, he long ago gave up airline “special meals” and just picks and chooses from whatever they are serving – sometimes he is very hungry.)

The Hawaii to Japan leg, offered the better of the two. JAL served a main VGML and a breakfast snack. A beautiful hunk of papaya on a small bed of lettuces with two cucumber slices and two tomato slices was accompanied by a barely edible “entree” – white rice, overcooked broccoli, and frozen mixed carrots, peas and corn – no sauces. “Breakfast” was a fresh salad – three asparagus spears, two tomato slices, two cucumber slices and a few pieces of fresh fruit.

Main VGML HNL to HND

Entree VGML HNL to HND

Breakfast Snack HNL to HND

On the Tokyo-Singapore leg JAL served a snack that was ridiculous (a tiny roll with two very thin cucumber slices and two very thin tomato pieces- no sauce or condiment) and a main meal just before landing at 6am that was a slightly better dinner. White rice sprinkled with almonds flanked by decent cauliflower overcooked broccoli and button mushrooms accompanied by a salad of a few lettuce leaves and two baby corn ears. Considering that these were sourced in Tokyo, the quality was even sadder. The primary meal for the rest of the plane was a delicious “bento box” with a layer of sticky rice topped by a layer of toasted nori with a smoky roasted salmon filet. It would have been so easy to “veganize” this…..

Snack HND to SIN

Main Meal HND to SIN

Tokyo Airport was a bit more interesting with some good veg options.

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Artichoke – Vegan options at this casual eatery near the NYC HighLine

      

Artichoke Basille’s Pizza West (212-792-9200) at 114 Tenth Avenue at 17th Street in the Meatpacking District is ideally located just steps from an entrance to NYC’s HighLine  park. The casual, tavern atmosphere of dark wood, marble tables, a comfortable booths with a long zinc bar.

For those of us on a vegan/plant-based diet, there are a couple superb choices. The super large signature Artichoke is stuffed with breadcrumbs, parsley & pignoli nuts ($15) swimming in a yummy broth and the family-sized Boxed Salad features a spring mix with artichoke hearts, red onion, olives, tomatoes, mozzarella & house dressing ($15 ) – just ask for the cheese on the side. And if you want more, Basille’s home made Garlic Bread Sticks with dipping sauce ($11) also works for dipping into the artichoke broth.

For your cheese-eating friends, the  enormous 18-inch pizza is pretty amazing- packed with an array of unique mixes of ingredients – crab, artichoke, burnt anchovy, white pie ($28-30). Try the “wedge” ($15) that’s a third of that huge pizza (hoping that maybe they’ll consider a soy cheese pizza?).

And – good news –  there’s an Artichoke Light in the Delta Airlines terminal at LaGuradia.  Great for those of us who are Delta regulars.

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