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.
50° 30.28’ N
126° 29.96’ W
Mezze Plate: Baba ghanoush, chickpea hummus, stuffed grape leaves and tabbouleh salad, served with warm Pita bread.
Pasta Fagioli: Flavorful tomato broth cooked with beans and vegetables and whole wheat pasta, seasoned with Italian herbs.
Grilled Vegetable and Tofu Kebob: Served over brown pilaf rice with almonds, drizzled with tomato-basil confit.
A variety of breakfasts—Breakfast is always tough in omni establishments. Here is some of what I have been eating in the morning.
Bagel with jam, sliced banana, soymilk
Mixed fruit, Rice Krispies & Cheerios and soymilk
Toast with jam and peanut butter and sweet & “regular” potatoes
58° 13.04’ N
136° 31.45’ W
Whiskey Maple Syrup goes back in the bottle for serving. (recipe credit)
Macerated blueberry, blackberry & raspberry with Brandy & Grand Marnier
Charred Eggplant Bacon (marinade recipe credit)
Orange Brandy Marmalade with ginger bits
Sweet Potato Beer Biscuits
Coconut rum-soaked French Toast
Some appetizers: Pride Enjoy Rainbow cookies, Mission figs, peanut/walnut/macadamia mix, crackers and cashew cheese spread, Karen’s Fruit Salad (watermelon, pineapple, strawberry & mint)… drink station
The show-stealing Galoot, king of the backyard.
Banana and Bourbon Split Ice Cream Cake
Hawley, Pennsylvania is a resort town in the Poconos Mountains Lake Region located just far enough from the thriving metropolis New York City to feel like you’ve entered an entirely different habitat. Though most of the area resorts are for various outdoor adventuring, The Lodge at Woodlach, the area’s high-end destination spa, is a space for more quiet, mindful reflection. So it is no wonder the menu at their restaurant Tree offers spa-goers daily vegan options for all three meals. And luckily they extend this menu to pestering vegans off the street, like me. We arrived in style, ate a wonderful breakfast and explored some of the beautiful grounds.
It is so satisfying to see noted vegan options in unexplored, unexpected corners. Thinking I’d be stricken to Wasa and jam for the morning hour eats, I certainly did not expect to have this kind of breakfast. Along with our a la cart dishes, we enjoyed an unlimited breakfast buffet, including chia steel cut oat meal, fruits and some non-vegan things.
We order everything vegan on the menu. I love doing this. First, a mix of roasted red pepper, mushroom, and tempeh with perfect farm greens. It was light, clean, and well-portioned, like you’d expect in a spa. I needed a bit more kick, perhaps garlic? But I am not taking this dish for granted. Thank you, Tree.
Next, the Heirloom sweet potato medley and kale hash: Tuscan kale, shallots and the egg on a separate plate for my friend. Another delicious combination of the Earth’s best gems. Three types of potatoes? Yes, maam.
Finally, their chia seed and oatmeal pudding—blueberries, Medjool dates, Marcona almonds and maple syrup made this a big step up from the buffet’s oatmeal.
I would have loved to have returned to catch a glimpse of vegan lunch and dinner options, but we had dinner plans inside the great outdoors. But first we explored the tranquil natural setting The Lodge had to offer.
Hitting the road in the Miata, we needed potent coffee for the plans we had for the day. We hit Cocoon Coffee House, right outside the posh shops at the Bellemonte Silk Mill. Don’t expect much of options if you’re vegan, even though it feels like they would have some. Inside the Mill, cute shops, including a small grocer with vegan-friendly items from Natural Contents Kitchen.
After some thrifting for evening dresses, we were back at the homestead, pillaging the property’s garden for our lunch and dinner plans. What a joy to roam about overgrown veggie heaven to pick our meal. I even got to pull carrots out of the ground.
We finally set up camp, stationing next to Forest Lake on the tremendous private property of Forest Lake Club. It was a perfect day for evening gown camping.
We evening gown-kayaked with our guardian pooch Knuckles.
We also evening gown-swam before a fire-blazed meal of veggies, leftover pakora, and sticky rice, all emblazoned with the char of the fire.
Another gorgeous lakeside sunset.
Dessert time: toasted Dandies and a banana s’more, stuffed with almond chocolate bark and some mushy marshmallow.
In the morning, the pancakes I prepped the day before got toasty on the flame. Melting my cooler-packed Earth Balance. Delicious morning!
After two packed days, it was time to head back to New York. Till next time!
Almost time to head back east! So I started the day with a donut, a Pepples Donut. The Ferry Building has a market place with high-brow eats, and this Oakland-based all-vegan donut maker has a little outpost there.
The selection was extensive.
I choose the salted caramel (well-recommended) and skipped the more complicated flavor options (I was looking at White Chocolate Curry.) for a standard vanilla-glazed. They were top quality cake donuts, liken to Seattle’s amazing Mighty-O.
Breakfast in the Mission. St. Francis (or San Francisco) is the oldest ice cream parlor around, founded in 1918. The place clearly hasn’t changed much since the dining room addition in 1948. That is why it’s a wonderful thing that there menu of diner grub is inclusive of vegans. It’s a delight to see the v-bomb adorn the menu of a place like this.
I created my own Tofu Scramble combo, with tomato, green onion, vegan sausage, and sliced avocado. With a perfect portion of home fries, it was an ideal breakfast.
We set off to explore some of San Francisco’s famous neighborhoods, like the Lower Haight. I stopped with the clusters of tourists to capture the iconic San Fran-ian image of the Painted Ladies, colorful Victorian homes with the skyline behind them.
But the bustle of the city wore on me quickly, especially after a walk through the gentrified Haight-Asbury. I missed the sea and wanted to look at it again. We headed back to the Marin Headlands to see the Point Bonita lighthouse. But first, we had to walk through a cliff.
What is the allure of the sea? It’s one of life’s projection screens–a deep and lively realm that holds all you need it to hold (mystery, opportunity, openness, love, loved one’s ashes, whatever) and, acknowledgingly, delivers it back to you. And in this way, I like how I feel looking at it. I like feeling just how much I am able to feel. Is that totally weird? Yeah, I probably inhaled too much of those smoke clouds in Haight-Asbury.
What do you give the sea?
And then it was time for the final stop: Millennium Restaurant, the renowned gourmet vegan eatery that I’ve been meaning to try since the nineties. We nabbed an exclusive 5:30pm/Monday night reservation. And I got the 3-course prix fixe so I can sample as much as I could. To start, the Crusted King Trumpet Mushrooms–arborio rice dredged paper-thin mushrooms with a cabbage salad & lime vinaigrette, sitting next to a pool of Gochujang dipping sauce and sprinkled with Szechuan pepper sesame salt. They were absolutely delicious. I appreciated the thicker sliced mushrooms more, as some just tasted like breading.
My entree: Juniper & Mustard Seed Glazed Tempeh strips with a creamy cashew horseradish mashed potatoes, caramelized onion-stout sauce, grilled asparagus and shaved Meyer lemon & fennel with black eyed pea chow chow. The “chow chow” seemed like the outlier on the dish, not quite fitting with assertive stout sauce. I enjoyed the dish a great deal, but was ever so slightly disappointed with the tempeh. I guess I wanted it to blow my mind more. But it tasted like tempeh I could have made.
Dessert! I choose the Lemon Cornmeal Cake made from red cornmeal topped with balsamic macerated strawberries, vanilla chantilly cream pipings, and garnished with almond brittle. Oh, and there is mint ice cream on the plate too, but I wanted no part of it.
Done & done! Thanks for the eats, San Francisco.
I’m thinking of the piano chords to Morning Has Broken by Cat Stevens. They’re kind of thundering, like a definitive decision, like a confident first step of something. I love how that song makes me feel. What is so delightful about music is that you get to pick and choose the emotion you want to linger in for a few minutes. And like all art, you bring your whole world to your interpretation–your reasoning and your logic (or sometimes better, your lack thereof); it’s an active, dynamic relationship. In that way, a song can be comforting and feel new at the same time. In that way, a song can do all sorts of things using your raw goods–your capacity to feel, your imagination, your ability to connect the two. A good song, that is. I feel like that is why I don’t listen to much new music. There is still so much going on in the songs I’ve loved for decades. I like feeling the song’s expansive associative history, its cast of characters. There’s an irreplaceable context that doesn’t transfer easily to new music. I find that the new music I enjoy is only because it reminds me of something old, something already verified, something that already made me feel that way–in a different time, when it felt new.
Homemade banana chia oatmeal
Quinoa kale roasted Delicata squash salad with kumquat, golden raisin, and assorted veggies. Dressed in lemon-tahini dressing. Inspired by OhSheGlow‘s wonderful cookbook.
After a night of total gluttony, we got an early start. I wanted to hit WPA Bakery (Well-made Pastry Alliance) for their weekly vegan donut options. Then we were hitting the road, heading back to New York.
They had a few vegan options scattered about… but I came for a donut. I left with their signature vegan Red Hot cinnamon donut and a blueberry muffin. I ate both in the car at different points of the drive like the road warrior I am.
The Red Hot donut was red, very red… in a whoa that can’t be natural way. It really was striking. And I can taste the Red Hots in there. The texture was soft and cake-like. But, here’s the thing: Red Hots are not vegan… This I learned after eating it and searching for their ingredients–in that order.As a vegan, you know that sometimes you eat things that aren’t vegan. It happens. Of course not when you make my own food, but when you eat out, it definitely happens. You move on. You have your personal definition of what your veganism is and you don’t beat yourself up. Then, there’s the insect thing. Some vegans are more liberal insect-derived ingredients. Like honey. Like confectioner’s glaze, a.k.a. shellac, which is what Red Hots contain. This glaze is pretty popular. It creates that characteristic sheen coat on many popular candies… even those bulk candies that many vegans devour unknowingly (dark chocolate covered almonds, I’m talking about you). There’s things like Advil and other pills, which are coated in animally derived stuff like most over-the-counter pain relief… like most pills in general…
The blueberry muffin was the perfect snack to munch on during the New Jersey Turnpike traffic. More straight forwardly vegan for sure.
Now, Delaware. I’ve driven through the tiny state many times. But this time I would stop. Mostly because Home Grown, near the University, has “omelettes” made with “vegan eggs.” !! What were these vegan eggs? I really had to find out.
I got the Garden Veggie Omelette with those vegan eggs. To my relief, they were similar to Isa’s amazing version. What a delight to have such care be taken to offer vegans omelette options! I was amazed with every bite.
And I took a lot of pictures in my amazement.
Score, Newark, Delaware! Thanks for a great breakfast.
Karyn delivered–in save-the-best-for-last fashion. And after peeping her menus from her multiple vegan restaurants for many years, I was finally sitting in Karyn’s on Green, ready for Saturday brunch.
I had the Breakfast Sliders: two delicious Belgian waffles for a bun, their yummy butternut squash “bacon,” a savory tofu “egg,” and almond bacon cheese, with a dipping pool of pure maple syrup and a side of home fries. What’s missing from this spectacular sweet and savory dish that takes the best of all breakfast staples? Nothing. It was close to perfection.
Note that packages of vegan processed foods were not part of the deal–no fake this or that. Just Karyn’s interpretation of popular breakfast components made from plant sources in-house. Can you taste the difference? Yes you can. Thank you, Karyn, for your high standards. They are the reason this dish will not soon be forgotten.
Amazing food. And outstanding service.
And one more last sweet bite. Something reliable. Something I know I could grab a cupcake on the go and head to ORD. So why not Sprinkles‘ Cupcake ATM?! I know from my NYC visit to Sprinkles that their one vegan option (the Red Velvet) is stellar. So I drove through the Magnificent Mile in torrential downpours to park illegally for my final Chicago treat.
I attempted to use the ATM but it was not stocked with my vegan option. So I had to run inside. No big deal because the rain kept the tourist masses at bay.
The reward: the best cupcake I’ve ever eaten. Did I say that before? Well, I’ll say it again. This vegan cupcake is the best of all cupcakes I’ve ever tried in my travels, locally and elsewhere. I dined on it in my car… just in case I needed to flee from the meter maid. (Notice that wax paper bag. Smart.)
Today I embark upon the first of many summer adventures. On this mix of business and leisure, I am heading far north to coastal Maine for an institute on humane education, a 4-day intensive workshop on IHE’s educational practice. I received a full scholarship for the course. I think because I wrote a great essay. I forget that I am a pretty damn good writer. Maybe because now my writing is mostly superlative-heavy brief descriptions of food… or mentor writing for my class of 10 year olds. It’s nice to see I can still make them swoon with my writing.
So, speaking of superlative-heavy brief descriptions of food, let’s start! Veggie Galaxy in Cambridge, Massachusetts was a perfect halfway stop. I came, created my own omelet, ate a slice of cake, and hit the road, Jack.
My omelet… with shredded Brussels sprouts, tempeh bacon and their housemade vegan cheese sauce. The omelet itself: great texture but seriously lacking some black salt. The innards: housemade vegan cheese sauce did nothing but moisten, Brussels rocked, and tempeh bacon–way to balsamic-y. But I was eating a vegan omelet and I liked that.
Lemon curd-filled coconut cake was just like diner cake! Yummy.
The bakery case was stocked with many-a vegan option.
After I filled up, I was read for a long drive for someone with nothing to think about. And a little aeroplane over the sea, two of the best roadtrip albums ever. And yes, c.d.s. These two gems are worth an iPod of 6,000 songs to skip through.
After learning of the dinner situation in Surry, Maine at the Institute’s grounds, I stopped in Bangor–at a Thai / Japanese / Vietnamese place called Zen. It was pretty good Asian for Bangor, Maine–a dusty, one horse town with day mayors a-plenty. I got the fresh spring rolls and an entree to make it worth the friendly waiter’s time. A bit too much lettuce but a welcome fresh bite.
My entree-the mango curry with tofu and a heart-shaped bed of rice. Aww.
And, finally, I arrived:My home for four days.
And did I mention vegan lunch is included each day… and that the sweet Zoe Weil gave us some delicious candied ginger ice cream. I think I’ll do just fine here.
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