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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.

Breakfast:
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. 1

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:
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. 2

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! 3

Room Service:
Breakfast:
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.) 4
Lunch:
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.6

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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. 5

Vista Dining Room:
Dinner:
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 timeDSC_0001

Asian noodle soupIMG_1657

Vegetable curry with forbidden riceDSC_0004

Tropical fruit sprinkled with coconutDSC_0003
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. 8

Current Position:
50° 30.28’ N
126° 29.96’ W

Ever notice that the start of the year flies in one big chunk? It’s already January 17. So here are so pictures of recent food within the weeks of TCB.

IMG_4141Ground dates are such a delicious, sweet accompaniment to chocolate. And these scratch-made date caramels from Oh She Glows are pure heaven.

IMG_4127Winter is a time for warm-inducing curry with hearty veggies and red lentils. Throw whatever you need to use in the mix, like this long-stemmed arugula.

IMG_4133I don’t shy away from soy products. And after years, I finally feel like I prepare tofu well, like this pressed for a week Balsamic marinaded tofu. Scrumptious. (And clearly I don’t shy away from olive oil either.)

IMG_4136This sandwich, made from the tofu above, my homemade sunflower oil mayonnaise, and the background sushi’s pickled ginger, was a perfect Sunday lunch.

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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.IMG_8835

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.
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Lemon curd-filled coconut cake was just like diner cake! Yummy.IMG_8838

The bakery case was stocked with many-a vegan option.IMG_8843

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. IMG_8847

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.IMG_8848

My entree-the mango curry with tofu and a heart-shaped bed of rice. Aww.
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And, finally, I arrived:PicMonkey Collage.jpgMy 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.IMG_8860

IMG_6522Quality time with the cats… after they had quality time in the basement by the saw.

IMG_6596All-you-can-eat Indian lunches, in a strip mall.

IMG_6573The day-after cupcakes for breakfast.

IMG_6585Visits to a jaggedy smile-like skyline.

PicMonkey Collage2.jpgA lounge in the sun inside. [A shaven Fluffster recouping from her spay.]

DSC_0001Experimental stovetop [carrot top tamarind chick peas]…

IMG_6725after experimental purchases at the Indian grocer.

IMG_6729One pound of curry powder… “This product is a cooking ingredient.”

IMG_6700Backyard roaming, spying the Brussels spine.

IMG_6724Sticky rice without the mango, unfortunately.

PicMonkey Collage3.jpgTrips to the beach. Before trips to the beach grow annoying.

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PicMonkey Collage3Stale holiday cookies be gone! I processed them to adorn the tops of cupcakes.

DSC_0060There were several peanut butters in the pantry. An oily natural kind you have to stir went into the cupcake batter. Used it all: check!

DSC_0066The I made peanut butter buttercream with the remnants of a chocolate peanut butter that rocked my world briefly… and a big glob of tahini, which I believe is sold in a size that is way too large for my occasional tahini purposes. Then I used some brown rice syrup, which has also been around too long. It was a great frosting. The tahini gave it more depth. Especially because I didn’t use much sugar knowing I’d be covering it in cookie crumbs.

IMG_6109Such a great end result! And these cupcakes helped me turnover 5 pantry items. I get some sick satisfaction from that equation.

DSC_0051On this frigid day I also cooked up some soul-warming curry. I used this easy recipe because I don’t want to buy a million things to make a curry during pantry turnover time. I had a peeled ginger root in the freezer which I grated in. After wasting too much ginger, I heard this tip from some tv chef. Makes adding ginger on the fly much easier.

DSC_0046After adding the veggies to my curry, I roasted the rest of them, knowing full well that they’d leave the fridge faster if they were ready to go. And because I love roasted veggies. I can never go raw.

Sweet To Lick Vegan Bakery in Williston Park was 11 days old when I visited. The fresh space has been a bakery for many years… but now it is home to Long Island’s first all-vegan bakery.PicMonkey Collage.jpgBaker and owner Michael had a delicious spread for us, as I expected. I have been a fan since coming across the treats at a Long Island Growers Market (see here)… but a storefront, open 7 days a week, 20 minutes from my house? Oh yeah. This is an exciting development for Long Island. Who wants to split a Campfire Cake?

DSC_0004I went for a childhood favorite, veganized. He nailed it. The draped chocolate coating, the slight tang of the super sweet cream, the porous chocolate cake with the casual feel… It all felt just like the Yodel!

IMG_4969It even had that slight brick red shade. I want a box of these… every week.

IMG_4971I also got the chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake, topped with their perfect chocolate chip cookie. I was happy to have more of that thick, cream cheese-y sweet vanilla frosting. I am beyond excited that Sweet To Lick is open. To channel my enthusiasm, I have booked a Vegan Long Island Meet-up event.

For lunch we traveled to an unlikely spot to savor cuisine from Ghana, Africa… Deer Park, NY. We dined at Taste of Africa for a vegan-friendly meal. Not knowing what we wanted, the very friendly counterlady gave us a tasting plate of all the vegetarian dishes that were available! Curried veggies, a cabbage slaw, rice and beans, a spicy rice, a spinach side made creamy with a ground seed, black-eyed peas and a plantain. It was hearty and savory, the perfect balance of tastes after our sweet, sweet breakfast at the bakery.DSC_0011

IMG_4973Portions were really big on and I could barely eat half my meal. Luckily this fantastic gingerade kick-started digestion. This potent punch of ginger was very well-received. No wimpy dose of ginger here. The best level of ginger causes a tingling sensation in the uvula.

I’m very delighted to discover even more great vegan offerings near my home. Let’s keep working at this vegan thing, Long Island.

Dresden   Google Maps
PicMonkey Collage1.jpgThis simple breakfast gave me the strength I needed to see the rest of the sites in Bacharach and then head north on the Rhine river. Some wheat Wasa’s covered in strawberry jam. They even had this Wasa-dispenser. Its bottom slides open to reveal a waiting Wasa. I want one.

PicMonkey Collage2.jpgForaging berries next to the castle, piling them neatly in my mud-smeared cloak. Ok, that’s not what really happened but I was thinking about it. This is Stahleck Castle, the view my reward for an invigorating, heart-thumping clime uphill.

DSC_0032The view from the river. Goodbye, Bacharach. I’ll miss you.

DSC_0048I’m off to Köln (or Cologne for you Americans) by way of river boat than train.

DSC_0058The ride along the river was filled with beautiful sites to see. Take a look:

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I”m truly castle-d out. I left the river boat at Boppard and bid farewell to cobblestone. I would ride the rails to Köln, get some vegan eats, gape at the tremendous cathedral like a proper tourist, then continue upward tomorrow.PicMonkey Collage3.jpg Köln still had some medieval sights lurking about but was, for the most part, a proper city… with character and pace and vegan offerings…

DSC_0154Like Well Being, an all-vegan restaurant featuring familiar Asian specialties.

DSC_0161I had to try Asian in Germany. I was delighted that these familiar dishes were flavorful and fresh, topped with fresh herbs to boot. Here are my Bánh Cuốn, rice pancake filled with vegetables, veggie fish and sweet and sour sauce.

DSC_0163For dins: Curry Saigon, a delicious creamy coconut milk curry ocean with islands of organic tofu, sweet potatoes, organic pumpkin. Very satisfying!

PicMonkey Collage4.jpgAfterwards, though stuffed, I needed to hit all-vegan coffee bar for something sweet. Signor Verde is an adorable stop right outside the city’s southern train station. There are v-bombs a-plenty inside, which makes me want to take pictures.

PicMonkey Collage5.jpgI got a simple vanilla cone. After all, I was stuffed. I wish I had separate stomaches for dinner and dessert.

Tomorrow I will make it to that cathedral. I’m beat and need my rest. Thanks for checking in.

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DSC_0013With a name like Flax, a vegan can presume she’s going to get a good meal. And that is certainly what happened at Flax, the hip all-vegan eatery in beautiful Dresden’s new side of the city– or Dresden-Neustadt.

Driving through the streets of Dresden-Neustadt, we were struck with a different side of Germany. The country that had been neat and tidy–fastidious–was littered with graffiti commentary on its nestled apartment buildings’ walls. An occasional box of free goods sat outside buildings’ doors. Then I saw hipsters. It was like some parts of Brooklyn, sort of. A vegan eatery seemed appropriately placed here, on the new side of town.

DSC_0006After the difficult task of finding parking on the street (just like Brooklyn), we sat down for our lunch. It was a long drive here from Kemnath and a kind and helpful waitress was well-appreciated. She was able to give us an English version of the menu and translated the specials. Then she gave us a complimentary bread plate with a very tasty sun-dried tomato and sunflower seed spread.

PicMonkey Collage.jpgAmerican indierock played through the restaurant, matching the posters framed on the wall–The Tindersticks, The Black Keys. It was nice to hear. I drank a refreshing German-made Lipz rhubarb sparkling soda anticipating the arrival of the food.

DSC_0010I ordered savory pancakes with delicious curried vegetables and a side of potatoes and greens drenched in a zesty and creamy sauce I couldn’t place. The presentation was fun and colorful. Having not had a hot vegan meal the previous day, relying only on snacks and packaged foods, I devoured this flavorful plate quickly.

DSC_0009My friend’s plate was just as beautiful, a hearty flax burger with two types of pesto in between glorious wedges of potato. The restaurant also had a good selection of vegan ice creams but we wanted to get to the other side of the city. Dark storm clouds were rolling in–and there was much to see.

DSC_0022On the other side of the Elbe River is the old city, whose ornate Baroque architecture made it the most beautiful city I’ve ever seen. Here is a shot of us crossing the river and approaching the majestic historical buildings. Below are some of the sights that had me mouth ajar and my finger on the shutter.

DSC_0032The Semperoper, an opera house built in 1841–destroyed once in a fire and then again during World War II.

DSC_0036The Katholische Hofkirche, or the The Catholic Church of the Royal Court of Saxony, whose roof is lines with 78 life-size statues of saints. The statues were meant to usher in passers-by into the church.

DSC_0048The spectacular grounds of Zwinger–a Rococo-style palace also destroyed in World War II. There has been a lot of restoration done to the statues surrounding the palace. Inside the palace is a museum.

DSC_0060The gorgeous grounds of Zwinger.

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DSC_0089Dresden Castle, built in 1200 but later extended by royals who took residence there during the reign of the Kings of Saxony.

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DSC_0137The Fürstenzug, or the Procession of Princes–a mural that depicts the rulers of Saxony.

PicMonkey Collage2.jpgWe had explored most of the histotical sights when a thuderstorm arrived in the area. After such beauty and rich history, I was excited to visit the Lebowski Bar, as in The Dude or El Duderino–a bar dedicated to the Big Lewbowski here in Dresden, Germany. Unfortunately it was Sunday and the bar was closed early. We sat and watched the rain dipping on a glass of wine at a neighboring bar before making our way to dinner.

DSC_0173Dinner was at BrennNessel, a vegetarian eatery back in the Old City.

DSC_0167They have a separate English menu and a separate vegan menu, but not a separate English vegan menu.

DSC_0169I got the gnocchi with arugula, pine nuts and tomato, a delicate hearty bite of deliciousness. Thank you, Dresden, for delicious meals and astonishing views.

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DSC_0007pDay 4 in Germany was designated a relax day. I am not staying at a hotel, after all. I am invading a family. Laundry must be done, food shopping, etc. Today I spent the day the day hanging about Kemnath. Starting with a walk to the recycling bin. This is the view from the babbling brook on the way. See those orange roofs? That is my home for 10 more days.

DSC_0025Bugs here seem to be different. I caught these two zany blue dragon flies fluttering about the brook close to the house.

DSC_0005-pThis town is very quiet and isolated. Here is the view behind the town square.

DSC_0028Bright wild flowers grow about, creating a cheerful bouquet against the neat and tidy German backdrop.

DSC_0031We took a quick hike to Bayrueth, the nearest larger city, to food shop and stop for a bite to eat. We stopped at Kraftraum, a hip cafe with and extensive menu of omni delights. Luckily they had English menus so I could ascertain what vegan option was the best. I chose the Bruce Lee, a salad with tofu, quinoa, mushroom, sesame seed, and soy sauce on top of greens. It was the freshness I needed. Along with the fresh-pressed orange juice–so invigorating.

DSC_0034A shot of the cafe from afar.

PicMonkey Collage.jpgWe went food shopping at Bio Bio so we could cook–and not spend as many euros. From the top left: Nagel barbecue vegan cheese, vegan cream cheese from Soyana , Wheaty (“The Vegan Way”) vegetarian sausage, curry tofu cutlets from the all-vegan Taifun, Heirler vegan cold cuts, and Calendula Naturkost veggie burgers. Sure, this is all packaged goods–but with GMO’s banned in Germany and none of these brands being related to American big food companies, I’ll give them a try. Seeing vegan products here is exciting! But translating the ingredients was a bit time consuming. But look at all those different helpful vegan markings!

IMG_4655Naiobe, a doggy that thinks it’s a cat. She’s a sweet girl but she makes me miss my buddies at home.

DSC_0001The delicious dinner my host whipped me up: Curry tofu on wheat noodles with sauteed vegetables and cilantro. It was so yummy, much in thanks to the curry sauce she made with coconut milk to cook the already curry-flavored tofu! The plan was I was to do some baking after dinner, however the neighboring children and their young Army parents congregated for raucous social interaction. It is a fascinating world here–a cross-section of cultures, ages and  backgrounds tied together by their service. But this evening’s mission, thankfully, was just to let loose and have fun. Goodnight!

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