The Tofu Scramble. It is becoming ubiquitous. Always a welcome sight on an omni-menu, I’ve had the dish all over the place–as many vegans have. From Anchorage, Alaska to Yellowstone National Park, I’ve appreciated the dish. (My favorite? Probably Wayward Cafe in Seattle, Washington?) But even with lackluster execution, I’m endeared and grateful that so many cafes are giving it a try. An attempt becomes almost “cute” in its intention. But there are many ways to make a bad tofu scramble, especially if you’re new to the game. I plan to detail some of those pitfalls here while reporting on two scramble options in Port Jefferson, New York.
Starting at Local’s Cafe in downtown Port Jefferson. With views of the Long Island Sound and the hullabaloo of the Connecticut ferry terminal, Port Jeff’s downtown is a model of what Long Island “best case scenario”: small shops that aren’t box stores, scenic views, eateries, artsy stuff, a place to walk, a friendly down-home feel… a feeling of a community. There is even a communal fire for free marshmallow roasting in a central parking lot, complete with sticks of jumbo marshmallows. It’s place where Local’s Cafe can thrive. And they are. When we arrived on a Saturday afternoon, the tables were completely full of patrons on their laptops.
We ordered the Scramble Our Way–tofu, onions, tomatoes, peppers, and arugula on pita bread. But first a few vegan mini cupcakes which had great frostings but whose cakes were inedibly dry unfortunately. It’s a shame to think of how many open-minded omnivores impulsively tried one of these only to have their prejudices validated. Vegan baked goods are weird; I knew it.
Onward. You can often judge a tofu scramble “by its cover.” Tofu still white and glistening? You know it didn’t absorb much flavor. Or it wasn’t pressed enough to extract the water that renders a marinate useless. This is probably the most common offense committed by tofu scramble attempts. Local’s scramble was pleasant thanks to the accompanying vegetables’ flavor, but the tofu was just, well, wet and flavorless. Tofu can offer flavor and texture, but only under knowing hands.
Like most animal flesh, tofu needs you to impart flavor into it. It is your blank canvas. But it’s a canvas that is soaked and stored in water. So first, dry it off! Pressing the tofu is always step one. Once you get rid of a bunch of that water, you can marinade it with a flavorful concoction of your choosing. But abide by the rules of making a good marinade, please. You’re not just throwing some Bragg’s on it. You need saltiness, acidity, spices, sweetness, pungency, a fat. And you need time to let it absorb. Like how folks marinade meats for days and even weeks. Marinating tofu is time well spent. Getting the water out will not only improve flavor but it will improve the texture too. It will be less wet and sponge-like. And, especially if you crumble the tofu after pressing and before marinading, it won’t be white anymore.
This brings up “cubed” tofu scrambles. The crumbled tofu scramble is a strong preference for me. It’s about texture. It you cube tofu uniformly for a scramble you get less of an opportunity to offer coveted texture variance, the cornerstone of delicious scrambles. The center of your tofu cubes remain spongey, wettish, and often white. A crumbled tofu will cook out even more moisture. And will be even more flavorful because of it! Some little scramble pieces will brown really well; larger scramble bites with offer some chew. There will just be a heck of a lot more surface area to spend time on the pan and brown up. A marinade will also absorb into these smaller crumbles more thoroughly. These are the things that make a great tofu scramble. And the cubed scramble is not really a “scramble,” if you want to get technical.
Next scramble was a Corner Copia Cafe, a homey space in Port Jefferson Station. It is one of those places where you wonder where the vegan tie-in comes from. Like why is there a vegan breakfast platter offered here? Nowadays, with shifts in food awareness and healthy eating, vegan is simply easier to find. I guess one of the owners previous being a former Kosher caterer contributes.
Corner Copia’s scramble presented more as a more traditional scramble. Its yellow hue, potatoes, toast… like a diner. But beyond first glances, attention to detail falls a bit short here. It’s pretty bare bones. And flavor-wise, the scramble was over-seasoned. One really strong note: salt! Like time, you can’t get it back. So use it wisely.
Though sometimes a tofu scramble is flavorful enough to be on its own, a pile of tofu can get boring. Just like many piles of just one thing can. This brings me to the next tip, accompanying vegetables within the scramble pile. A great scramble is scrambled with other vegetables–for texture variance, for aesthetic pleasure, for more and varied flavor. Charred broccoli pieces of varying sizes, asparagus, wilted greens, and finely chopped good quality mushrooms are my favorites. Then afterwards, great scrambles are garnished: avocado, herbs, green onion, a drizzle of sauce, etc. Unless they’re roasted or flavored assertively in some way (pico de gallo?), loose the tomatoes or vegetables that only offer moisture. Not a fan. Think it through and complement flavors.
I look forward to more scrambles sprouting up far and wide! And I look forward to offering constructive criticism for the propagation of better and more thoughtful plant-based options. Just one of the things worth fighting for in a time where the whole world’s standards seem to be declining.
As a recap, here are the rules of good tofu scrambles:
- Press the tofu. And not just for 5 minutes.
- Crumble the tofu.
- Also not for just 5 minutes, marinade the tofu. Marinade should be be complex in flavor.
- Pan-fry it with other vegetables, perhaps themed with your marinade. Attain browning and slight charring.
- Garnish it.
- Serve with a separate pile of some form of well-seasoned crispy potatoes and greens.
For a gal who always sees the first a.m. showing of movies in the theater to avoid people, going to Yellowstone National Park in August is a little counterintuitive. However, crowded in Yellowstone Country is far different than crowded in, say, the New York City subway. It’s 2.2 million acres. Plus, I arrived before dawn each day to get a head start on seeing as much as possible, which helps.
I left my quarters in Teton Village outside of Grand Teton National Park at 4:00 am. My goal was to see Old Faithful erupt around sunrise, followed seeing a whole lot of thermal features, all very popular attractions.
Old faithful is a geyser I’ve seen only in the cartoons from my youth. It was always forcefully delivering karma to some ol’ tom-fooler in a comedic fashion. As I joined the small crowd also up at the crack of dawn, bundled up and sniffling, that ol’ geyser was puffing away gently. White billows that got lost in the clouds.
The eruption began with a sputtering fountain of water at the based, and then water filled the sky upward, looking more like vapor than its liquid state. It was also a softer, more delicate eruption than I had expected.
What on Earth is going on in that Earth that these geysers spout 100+ feet into the air. “This world. This Earth. So amazing.” This is what was going through my mind most of my time at Yellowstone.
When Old Faithful’s load weakened the visitors spread about.
I was excited to explore the parts of Yellowstone I anticipated the most. Thee “hot” spots. I fell in love with Yellowstone’s geothermal features from pictures. Old Faithful is a thermal feature, but it was the colorful pools of boiling water I was drooling over. I was very excited to see them in person. I devoted most of my first day to their exploration; I was a bit obsessed with them, as you can tell by the quantity of pictures to follow–a very small portion of my grand total. I visited all the designated thermal basins in the park, excluding Black Sand Basin. All of the basins have designated walkways for safety… you don’t want to get boiled alive do you?
The Upper Geyser Basin: This basin is adjacent to Old Faithful. It is actually pretty striking to arrive at the parking lot to see the expanse of land simmering and smoking. Yellowstone sits atop a hotspot in the Earth’s mantle, pretty darn close to the crust. One of the rangers said that there are a few thousand earthquakes in the park every year. What is going on underneath the Earth’s crust is pretty spectacular–it is the reason why the land was set aside to be protected in 1872, the world’s first National Park.
I shot a lot geyser and spring videos as the sound and fury of the boiling and hissing features, along with their striking colors, was surreal. They also smelled. Egg fart central.
The beautiful, deep springs like this were my favorite. Looking at them, I can slightly understand how one might want to swim within them. But, no way. The first chapter of Death In Yellowstone, a must for anyone wanting to visit, tells the stories of the sad souls who died from partial or total submersion in the hot springs, accidental and intentional. Just this past June, a young man from Oregon died at the Norris Geyser Basin. If you’re going to visit, it’s important to understand the dangers. With many tourists sharing the narrow boardwalks… with children… photographic equipment… untied shoes. You need to follow the park rules and be very careful. I was kind of taken aback by what I saw from the other visitors. Hence, this misdirected lecture. Sorry.
Volcanic deposits a-plenty. Along with bubble and scrapes (Sebadoh!)
Aquamarine. Reminds me of my mom’s birthstone ring I used to be fascinated with when I was a kid.
Let’s Go Mets! (I hear the season is pretty much over.)
I’ll admit that a slither of the allure of the thermal feature areas was that I thought that the unstable, eruptive land in the basin areas were less likely to have bears roaming about. You see, I have never experienced the real wild before. Yellowstone is wild. Safety in the park is all about understanding and respecting this. Day one in the geothermal areas would help distinguish this land as wild, a place where nature reigns supreme, a place where the human animal is but a peon. But… I found myself hiking to Biscuit Basin which was quickly secluded and active with living things fleeing from my bear bell. Then I started looking at the tree trunks and skat, convinced there was evidence of bears. My bear spray was in the trunk and not attached to my backpack for ease of use. In the end, I saw no bears. I did see a bison eating near the Upper Geyser Basin. His picture is later.
The Biscuit Basin:
More of those deep blues. The colors are created from thermophiles, little single-celled organisms (bacteria) that are really into heat.
Idiot visitors have damaged pools by throwing crap into them–coins, and what not. The rangers vacuum out the crapola when they are clogged but some pools are forever changed. Like this one.
Yellowstone’s thermal area is the most active geothermal area on the planet. You can travel all around the world and you won’t find this kind of hot, bubbling, spewing and hissing display; won’t find a more beautiful display of shimmering color than right here in your country, The Unites States of America. Yellowstone has two-thirds of all the world’s geysers, too. Fumaroles, mud pots, hot springs, geysers are all the result of that volcanic activity in the giant hotspot.
Midway Geyser Basin: There was major back-up for this basin area. Because I hiked out to Biscuit Basin, I had to hike back. By then, everyone and their mother was up and at ’em.
Midway Geyser Basin has the big star of the Yellowstone thermal area: The Grand Prismatic Spring. This is probably the most beautiful feature in the park, in my humble opinion. This is where there was a lot of bustle on the boardwalk.
Though you can check out aerials on the interweb, there is no way to see it from above. I asked a ranger and he pretty much went on a tirade about how some guides misinform folks that you can take the now closed bike trail to Fairy Falls to see it from above. Turns out that is not the case. Others have climbed off trail to see it… but it is not safe. That entire area is currently closed for construction as the park attempts to create a safe walkway for viewing, fed up with all the visitors who take it upon themselves to make one.
Even if I wasn’t above it, it was extraordinarily beautiful.
My hiking boots match the thermal bacteria.
Lower Geyser Basin:
Norris Geyser Basin: This was actually my favorite basin. I liked the milky colors in the Porcelain Basin. Though, like all of the basins, it was so stinky. The smell of sulfur and other gases permeate, some very strong but all ever-present.
Other worldly, but all ours.
Mammoth Hot Springs: Mammoth Hot Springs are up north in the park and boast the most dynamic of the thermal features. With beautiful, snow-white limestone deposits, orange mounds and unique terraces, the area was like an above-ground cave.
West Thumb Geyser Basin: By this time, the boardwalks were a mob scene. And I had walked about 10 miles and was hungry and cranky. But this basin was unique as it was next to Yellowstone Lake… and there were lake geysers sputtering out there!
Mud Volcanoes: On my second day, I pulled in to see this group, which I had initially dismissed. These were so stinky, but super active and wonderful to witness. The pools of mud were bubbling like mad.
The Animals: Lamar Valley, near Northeast Entrance Road, and Hayden Valley, between Canyon Village and Lake Village, are great places to spy on wildlife. Did you know that the animal that has caused the most human injuries in Yellowstone is not the bear, but the Bison? Wait, scratch that. The animal that has caused the most human injuries in Yellowstone is… the human being. Yellowstone is not Disneyland. The animals within the park are truly wild. The natural order of the wild is the law in Yellowstone, which means sometimes visitors get injured or die… when they act stupidly and disobey the very important rules of the park, which include keeping a safe distance from the wildlife. This is to protect the wildlife too. Such a sad case about a baby bison that had to be euthanized after being rejected by the herd after being “rescued” by some clueless visitors.
I didn’t see a variety of animals, mainly bison, but I also was not around these areas when animals are most active. I did see this antelope pretty close.
And a lot of bison, my favorite.
Here is the bison that an old couple and I nearly walked right into at the Upper Geyser Basin. We were on that boardwalk trail approaching from the right when a guy from the left alerted us not to pass that tree stump. We eventually all walked from the boardwalk to pass him safely. The old timer insisted he take my picture with the bison. I obliged, because I love the old timers.
This was the closest encounter I had: this guy was walking right along my car. These kinds of incidents cause happy traffic, the kind where everyone is excited and happy and smiling at each other in awe. Then they go try the bison sausage at the restaurant in the evening with no connection.
The Grand Canyon Of The Yellowstone: There’s a Grand Canyon in Yellowstone called The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It was pretty spectacular to hike down the south rim to see the waterfalls and a double-rainbow. But it was a doozy to hike back up! I walked 133 flights that day.
This is the Artist’s Point view. For the tour groups who can’t hack the hike.
The Terrain: Yellowstone is like its own country with different topography and weather systems within, different feels and textures. Here are just a small sampling of the land.
The Vegan Food in Yellowstone Park: It’s so kooky to have vegan options at Yellowstone! Here is what I ate and where.
Breakfast at the Old Faithful Inn: This lodge is gorgeous and worth a stop in just to refill your water bottle. But they have a vegan option in the early am (630-10).
Vegan Breakfast Bowl consisting of Greenwheat Freekeh topped with tofu scrambler, salsa fresca, and diced Anaheim chiles (no cilantro), with a side of home fries I mixed in. It was lacking a bit of flavor but was definitely better than it looked, though chiles tasted tin can-y. Hey, I’m just happy to see the word “vegan.”
I had dinner at Old Faithful Snow Lodge Obsidian Dining Room: the vegan Polenta Fritter, a grilled portobello mushroom, red onion, zucchini, yellow squash, roasted red pepper, balsamic glaze, along with some carrots. Pretty yummy!
Grant Village Lakehouse Restaurant offers a make-your-own bowl casual dinner option.
Here’s my Coconut Tofu Bowl. Again, pretty tasty. I’m eating vegan food at Yellowstone!
Other options I didn’t get to try:
Canyon Lodge Cafeteria has a sandwich station that offers a Gardein option.
Yellowstone Lake Hotel Dining Room has a vegan lunch option: a Red Lentil Burger made with organic lentils from Timeless (Conrad, Montana) on a cornmeal bun, cracked black pepper roasted garlic aioli, sliced tomato, fresh leaf lettuce, onion with a side salad.
Goodbye for now, Yellowstone! I hope to see you again.
Gainesville is a university town, so you know vegan options are good… for them educated, idealist types. Starting early, breakfast: The Tempeh Scramble with potatoes, toast with vegan butter and housemade jam at The Jones B-side.
Good, hearty fare, but soy-saucey marinade made the dish a bit salty. And unfortunately I couldn’t stay for a sweet bite, though the v-bombed menu board was certainly tempting.
Despite the record high temperatures, my next stop was a farm. I was visiting Kindred Spirits Sanctuary to meet all the rescues, because it’s one of the best ways to spend the afternoon. The stories of the ___ animals are both devastating and inspiring. And the free tour offers a chance to meet all of the survivors.
Pigs seeking a break from the hot, hot heat.
Playful Kids looking for carrot hand-outs.
Jack asses and Jennies
Pretty eyes. (A blue-eyed “cremello.” Double-dilute (which I suppose is like having two recessive genes in humans) “cream gene” determines this beautiful combination of rosy pink skin and blue eyes)
Feral pig (and feral and domesticated friends)
Baby cow, sweetly search for the suckle.
A handsome turkey… who knew it
After, back in Gainesville, a well-earned lunch at Southern Charm Kitchen, a soul kitchen with a slew of vegan options.
I got the Country Fried Seitan with vegan mac & cheese and corn succotash. Vegan options and spectacular service = Southern hospitality at its finest.
Layered housemade seitan was moist and flavorful.
Karma Cream is one of those places you want to airlift and bring home. Tons of vegan ice cream flavors with vegan toppings that you definitely want.
And baked goods.
My sundae: two scoops coconut ice cream, marshmallows, chocolate sauce, cookie dough and an airy coconut whip. Spectacular!
They even have Florida cookies, though this one was frosted on the wrong side. Doh! Still delicious.
For this school teacher, the summer is the season for Vegan Victuals reporting. Heading south for some loose ends, I first wound up in Savannah, Georgia, a gorgeous little city with a dearth of vegan options. But this was just a quick stop, so no worries. I had a very pleasing vegan breakfast burrito from Sentient Bean, packed with pure yum: tofu scramble, black beans, house “sausage,” spinach and their secret sauce. I don’t mind eating old skool-type vegan when it’s done this well. Also, plenty of vegan baked goods, like my lemon blueberry poppy bread in the background.
And just like that, I was gone… after a Spanish moss detour.
After a few hours of backroads and avoiding the I-95, I made it to Tallahassee, Florida’s capital city. I had lunch at another old-skool-ish veg spot, Sweet Pea Cafe, an adorable cafe with a homey feel.
I got the B.L.T. with tofu lettuce and tomato and a spicy mayo. It reminded me of the sandwiches I used to make when I first started cooking vegan; it reminded me of my old favorite eatery Kate’s Joint. Another basic that was scrumptious in an understated way. Then the side salad with its carrot ginger dressing, that reminded me of Dojo. These places are the roots of my exploration of vegan food and I welcomed the nostalgia.
Speaking of nostalgia, how about an ice cream sundae?
Lofty Pursuits is all about nostalgia, like any good ice cream parlor. But it’s got plenty of vegan options clearly marked on the menu and understood by the counter gals. This sundae had a layer of sliced banana under a scoop of piña colada ice cream, lemon sorbet, and champagne sorbet topped with chocolate sauce, pineapple sauce, nuts, toasted coconut and some fresh-made vegan whipped cream… with a cherry on top. Some of the flavor combinations were a bit weird, which is my fault. Ice cream hindsight is 20/20.
More Northern FL eats tomorrow!
Vegan ShopUp vendor Brooklyn Whiskers has its own space now! The Electrician and I hit them real early to avoid unnecessary social interaction. The fact that they’re actually open early suits us early birders quite nicely. Bakeries should open single-digits early. Them’s the rules.
I got a cinnamon roll with candied pecan. It was yummy but with a stiff dough was missing that soft, drippy, sticky, cinnamon-y ooze you want from a roll.
There was plenty to choose from even at door-busting hour.
But I had to get a croissant stuffed with tofu scramble and potatoes. Vegan croissants are tough. Likely because butter is responsible for most of a croissant’s characteristics. So it’s one of those things that I’ll have to order if available. Though this was more like a layered thin biscuit, it made for a delicious breakfast sandwich.
Looking at layers.
Cats, cats everywhere. How perfect–cat freak all-vegan bakery. Love these Linzer tarts.
I also picked up a red velvet cupcake which more had the texture of a dense almond cookie. Pleasant though not what I was expecting. I really appreciate those real vanilla beans.
The bathroom is covered in cat pictures, floor to ceiling, wall to wall.
The Sanctum has a fresh, vibrant vegan breakfast items that are the perfect start for a long day of sites. Any place with a mural like that is bound to deliver on plant-based goodies… equally important, kick-butt French press coffee equivalent to nine cups of hotel’s brown, hot water.
Normally I don’t buy into “wraps,” but this was all I wanted for breakfast in hand-held form. A spot on curried up tofu scramble, rosemary potatoes, roasted vegetables, fresh greens, tomato & red onion topped with cashew cream and wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. Oh wait, I also wanted avocado… so I got some avocado toast, too. Avocado toast is really in its hey day right now.
Oh, I forgot. I added their well-loved tempeh. Because tempeh is my favorite soy form.
The 7-mile Blackpoint Wildlife Drive, part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge, cuts through untouched marshes teeming with birds and other wildlife. My first encounter was this little alligator hanging out on the water’s edge.
Most of the other sitings were various slender-beaked beauties like this one, nibbling here and there for some sustenance.
The marsh has no trace of human life, besides the occasional placard and, of course, your automobile creeping along at 10 miles per hour.
Looking for food. I can relate…
This guy took off when I exited the car to photograph him… which made for an even better picture.
Then I saw a much larger alligator who was causing quite the stir among the other wildlife viewers.
My final alligator, a bit more shy than the others. What a wonderful way to spend the afternoon!
The Washington Nationals do there spring training on the Space Coast. Though I have always wanted to see a spring training game, the event lost its luster after 4 boring innings and not much action on The Mets side.
A quick lunch before heading back towards the Orlando airport… at Happy Healthy Human. With a name like that, how can you go wrong? They offer all-vegan raw food in an area with a dearth of vegan options.
I got the “Human Sandwich,” partially because I wanted to order something called “Human Sandwich.” Besides this, it was just what the doctor ordered: onion bread, nut cheese, taco meat, avocado, spiralized veggies,and a tangy hot sauce served with a side of baked kale. And a beets juice…
Raw food is deceptively filling. I saved half of this yummy sandwich for later in the evening.
Roadside attraction in Kissimmee.
Other ridiculousness outside of the Disney tourist catering Kissimmee.
Lastly, dinner at Toasted, a grilled cheese counter spot with two locations in Florida and an all-vegan menu with housemade cheese. That’s right. On the door it says, “Vegan Inside.” Yes!
Did I mention the vegan cheese topped truffle fries with rosemary. Absolutely heavenly. This place is fantastic and priced to please.
I got the Vegan Blackberry Melt with blackberry mash, that housemade vegan cheese, and arugula. Pinch me, for real. CP got Vegan 101 with cheese and tomato.
Ok, last thing I eat today. We certainly didn’t need to eat more but a bit of “when in Rome” struck when we learned you do not have to pay for Disney admission to join the slightly disturbing bustling throngs of people walking Disney Spring, Disney’s downtown. It is here that Erin McKenna of Babycakes fame has a bakery location. Yes, the all vegan and gluten-free bakery is in Orlando for some reason. The place was filled to the brim!
It is quite hectic to walk through Downtown Disney with American riff raff. So here is a map I wished I had brought along.
Though science-food isn’t my thing, I needed to try Follow Your Heart’s VeganEgg for you, dear blog. I preordered them from Food Fight a few weeks ago. I have never had a craving for a plate of eggs since going vegan and have evolved to not even consider them food, but I was thoroughly intrigued by the product since reading about it. Admittedly, it was the packaging that piqued my interest. The package was much like the egg carton. What the heck was in there that made scrambled eggs?! Let’s find out…
Inside, a bag of a light, airy powder and a sleek insert with factoids on the VeganEgg. Did I really expect egg-shaped containers… I guess kind of.
Inside, a slightly sulphuric smelling yellow powder. 2 leveled TBs to a half cup of cold water starts this chemical reaction.
For best results, they say to blend. After a few seconds this thick but pourable liquid farted a few times. With my oiled skillet preheating, I was ready to get scrambling.
I poured the mixture into the skillet and started scrambling immediately. Now, I was never great at making scrambled eggs in my young, non-vegan days. It always felt weird to me. “How can I eat something that could have grown to be a baby chick?” Well, that feeling came back to be. That’s how much this was like scrambling real eggs. The little dry ends that I overcooked, the scramble and flip, the cut, cut–all the patterns of the spatula–the process. I got to say it was strange to within this faintly familiar process.
When I finished and loaded my plate with my two scramble VeganEggs, I felt that I was about to eat an exciting advancement in food science. I worried about my how my stomach would feel later. I worried about feeling sick eating what looked, smelled, and felt like real eggs. But it was… fine. I may even season them with more black salt next time… and more nutritional yeast! They’re really a blank canvas, taste-wise. The real breakthrough is the texture.
Here are my fluffy scrambled VeganEggs. What to do with the rest of my carton?? I’d have to experiment with this further. Vegan scrambled “eggs”… done.
Before setting out on a road trip, a vegan has to consider how long it may be until a proper meal is available. Like a marathoner, it may be appropriate to load up on carbs to anchor the behind in for hours driving (not running). This is why I love Maywood Pancake House so much. The hard part is over (getting past New York City), northbound interstates await with nary a worthy vegan meal in site. But Maywood has vegan pancakes, vegan French toast , and vegan challah bread. Unpretentious dining, great service, and delicious vegan breakfast options are always a wonderful thing… but even more so considering this.
I’ve never been to Cooperstown. Part of the reason for this is that there really isn’t any vegan food options nearby. There is a local natural food store, Cooperstown Natural Foods, which had a great selection of goodies for road snacking.
This sprouted nut blend (Thai lemon curry) from Living Intentions was probably the most delicious nut medley I’ve ever eaten. I loved it so much that I felt it worth taking a picture of its package.
Close by to Cooperstown is Oneonta, a college town with an uncharacteristic quantity of vegetarian eateries: none. We stopped at Green Earth Health Food Market for a veganizable sandwich from the café. Though the staff and vibe is pretty darn awkward (think surly hipster and flaky hippie wrapped in one), the resulting sandwich, made mostly of the store’s products, was pretty darn good. However, the selection in store was not at great as the much smaller Cooperstown Natural Foods. And I am basing this solely on Field Roast Chao and nut cheese availability, an indicator of informed vegan option grocer.
A tempeh reuben. Loved the “not Lightlife” tempeh.
Oneonta did have Soda Jerks Diner, a new “slashy” to add to my roadside list. The new “slashy” tag is in homage to Zoolander and denotes an eatery that shares operational space with another business. Not your standard slashies—like health food store/café, book store/café, yoga studio/café, but weird combinations. Like this auto lube/diner. Even weirder: an auto lube/diner with vegan options.
Though the French Toast was burnt and the tofu scramble needed some of that cooking time, and maybe even more, I had to keep in mind. I was at an auto lube. How amazing is it that in Oneonta, New York a place vegan options exist in an auto lube shop/diner?!
They also had a juke box.
You know when you see cartoon pictures of the sun? This is their inspiration. This sun in Cooperstown, outside room 104 of the Best Western Plus.
Driving through peak foliage in central New York is an experience not to be missed.
Of course, when in Cooperstown, there’s the National Baseball Hall of Fame. It is a wonderful museum honoring America’s past time. But it’s also about social progress, something that sports have helped a great deal.
More autumn beauty…
The other-worldly sunrise from our room’s window.
A quick bite at Garden Cafe in Woodstock and we were homeward-bound. My juice blend and a pan-seared polenta cake with potatoes.
With one more day of being vegan on Holland America’s Oosterdam, I made sure to try everything I could for you, dear blog. And because I would have loved to been able to know this vegan intel prior to boarding, I’m going to lay it all down here on this page. Hopefully it can help other traveling vegans and Holland America, as I plan to share my praises and criticisms on their guest survey—for the greater good. [It is important to reiterate that these details pertain to the Oosterdam ship.]
Lido Restaurant (casual, buffet style dining serving breakfast, lunch and dinner):
Though a buffet can help you carefully craft complete a meal that fills you up, I had a bit more of a difficulty crafting complete protein/starch/vegetable meals that were yummy enough for the effort. Vegan offerings are not labeled in the Lido Restaurant, during any meal service. It would help tremendously if vegan eats were labeled. The majority Indonesian staff is very skilled in communicating in English within certain parameters of their trained specialty, but I think a “vegan” is too far and few in between. Labeling would be an easy fix that vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free, the health conscious, and those with allergies would all appreciate.
Breakfasts at Lido only offer very bare bones vegan options. There are a variety of breads, jams, (hydrogenated-style) peanut butter, cut fruit, and juices (O.J. is freshly squeezed). As far as hot food, there are usually potatoes that are vegan. They are served by Lido crew along with a variety of other, often very popular, non-vegan items. So you’ll have to wait in line with the folks who are getting more complicated dishes put together to ask for your small pile of potatoes, which can be annoying depending on how hungry you are. There is also a minimal selection of other vegetable-based sides. Like this tomato.
For a bit of a breakfast, I used Room Service (see below) most days. My advice would be, though, to bring your own enhancements, like the chia I brought above. I might consider buying a travel size container set to fill with nutritional yeast, Earth Balance, good nut butter, a quality dressing, etc. Is that crazy? Isn’t what you put in your body even more important than the many toiletries available in travel sizes? Heck, they’d fit beautifully in the mini fridge.
Lunch at Lido can be vegan friendly depending on what they are featuring on a specific day. Of course, the Asian options are more often plant-based, but not always. They are catering to the masses after all. The best lunch at the Lido was when they had a Vietnamese theme going. I got a glass noodle stirfry and Vietnamese summer rolls. There is a salad section that can always make a pleasing salad and often features grain salads and pilafs (quinoa, lentil, cous cous, etc). Like breakfast, it takes a bit of creativity to eat a proper meal.
I don’t recommend eating dinner at the Lido. This is when you’ll be eating your special vegan meal request (See Vista Dining Room below).
There is a taco bar on the Lido Deck where you can make a tasty taco with black beans, guacamole, pineapple salsa, lettuce, chopped onion, and pico de gallo.
Right next to the taco bar on Lido is…
Dive-In at the Terrace Grill:
This is the boat’s burger counter spot. They serve burgers, fries and franks. They do have a vegetarian option, which can be made vegan with some effort. First, order their Freestyle Portobello “burger” without the cheese and special sauce, which is egg based. This vegetarian burger option is not a patty but a big Portobello mushroom cap. Here comes a bit of creativity. The bun is likely not vegan, having a clear egg wash on its top. I brought a vegan bun in from the Lido and switched its contents into it: the mushroom, the guacamole and lettuce/tomato. I also threw in some chopped onion from the taco bar. It was pretty delicious!
I enjoyed waking up to breakfast in bed: a big ol’ pot of coffee, glasses of soymilk, cereal, fruit, has browns, orange juice… it is a great way to start the day. Plus, the folks in the Room Service department know the v-word. And they took the time to track down whether or not the “Veggie Links” selection on the breakfast menu was vegan or not (It’s not.)
Holland has a vegan option on their room service menu that is pretty darn good! It’s the Thai Vegetarian Wrap: eggplant, bamboo shoot, bean sprouts and cilantro blended with rice and a green curry sauce stuffed into a wrap with a peanut-y hummus spread on top. It didn’t look that scrumptious but it was.
There is also a Penne Primavera on the In-room dining menu that I order with no cheese. But the marinara was a bit too orange for me to trust. My marinara is red. Orange usually =’s cream or cheese addition.
There is also a basket in your stateroom that can be filled with fruit of your selecting. I appreciate that. Though fruit was a bit beat up, it was a very welcome addition.
Vista Dining Room:
Dinner in main dining (Vista) is when you’ll eat your pre-selected vegan dinner courses. You select your meal (appetizer, soup, and main) for the evening after. The wait staff will present you with the Vegetarian/Vegan Menu, along with the regular menu for the next evening. Be sure to scan the regular menu as several choices during the course of the trip were vegan (or easily veganized). That way, you don’t have to repeat a meal once! But appetizers and salads might have to be repeated, as with my Mezze plate below. (I got it three times!) The system works well, except for the first evening. Even with submitting a special dietary request form, I had to eat green beans and carrots as a dinner entrée without having the opportunity to pre-select a meal. It was a bit disappointing as I made a call to Holland prior to the trip inquiring specifically about the first evening’s meal and was told I had nothing to worry about. My only other constructive feedback on their vegan dining options would be with consistency with descriptions on the menu. Often a garnish or other component was missing that would have elevated the meal a great deal, making it feel less like a substitution. Overall, I am so very grateful for the vegan menu selections. It has made me more open to cruising, a trip experience that is often attraction and considered a value because of meals. Here is my final meal:
Mezze plate, for the 3rd time
Asian noodle soup
Vegetable curry with forbidden rice
Tropical fruit sprinkled with coconut
And finally, internet. I was a bit taken aback by how costly wireless fees were for the cruise. I don’t know what I expected, but this seemed high. I’m curious if this is industry standard? I also thought that these prices should have been posted somewhere on Holland’s website. So I am posting it for them.
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