Day 3: The Best of Central Florida
Brunch is a “thing.” It’s different than other meals. Maybe because it’s like two of them. Stakes are higher. Like a bad brunch is doubly bad, a great brunch can make the day. Brunch at Daya, an all-vegan restaurant in the pretty Winter Park downtown, was perfect. Their half-plate option allows you to build a meal that checks off all the boxes. Sweet, savory, smooth, and crunchy. All of the specific things you crave.
I choose the Seitan with Waffles and the Traditional Benedict, my two all-time favorite brunch options, together. I was in heaven at the possibility alone.
The Seitan was definitely the best “chicken” in a vegan chicken and waffle I’ve ever had. Boom goes the dynamite. It was housemade. The breading was ample and stayed on the succulent layers of wheat gluten. I am salivating as I recall and write this. I had a slight fear that I would be served slabs of soy science meat (Gardein or some other crappy, processed food product) despite it being “Seitan” with Waffles. (Seitan is sometimes interchanged with that other crud in Asian mock meat places. Or at least I had experienced that before.) Along with the amazing seitan was the creamy, salty gravy swirled with real maple syrup. And the Belgium waffle, no complaints there either. Probably one of the best vegan brunch execution I’ve ever experienced.
The Tofu Benedict was good but a bit subtle in flavor. Though a lovely presentation, it needed some more seasoning and flavor in the tofu department… and perhaps maybe a tangy kick from one of their housemade vegan cheeses? The hollandaise was light and viscous.
Not having enough of manatee, we headed to the Haulover Canal at Canaveral National Seashore, part of the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. Manatees mysteriously return to this canal for feeding. Perhaps it is because they like the attention. There are observation decks where would-be nature photographers get paparazzi on them. It is a delight to see such enthusiasm for the viewing opportunity. A cross-section of people watched with reverence for these beautiful animals.
I got some cute pictures of their snouts coming up for air and their big, whoppy tails.
Canaveral National Seashore is a nice place to take a dip. Their pristine beaches are full of wildlife and are more dignified than other area beaches like Cocoa. The Atlantic is clearer and bluer than at home, which is dull, deep army green. But she is the same, too.
For a later dinner, it was back to Ethos, forgoing the Vegan Hot Dog Cart, which we presumed to be heated packaged vegan dogs. Though it was the only thing left on my list and offered a bit of novelty, we opted for easier to get to.
I got the Hoe Cakes as a starter, which wasn’t the best choice, like eating a small stack of pancakes without any syrup or Earth Balance, and putting some canned peas and diced celery on top of them. Not very appealing.
Another wrong turn with the Sheep Pie, a vegan Shepherd’s Pie. The potatoes and veggies were fine, but I had added the seitan… which was rubbery, bland packaged stuff that offered no taste, took valuable space away from the more pleasing vegetables, made it much more heavy a dish, and more expensive. Oh well. Sometimes you don’t choose well. However, the potatoes were divine, as they usually are.
And to gaze upon, a vanilla milk shake
That was the final meal in this report on Central Florida’s vegan offerings. I think I hot all the high points. It is great to see fantastic vegan things happening. Like other areas, options are growing in leaps and bounds. Besides this, Central Florida has much to do and see if you look past the theme parks and other tourist traps. Most notably, the animals. I won’t soon forget looking to the sky to see a small flock of bright pink flamingos, playful manatees, and watchful gators. I’ll be back, Florida, to survey your southern-most vegan options.