Monday, October 15, 2012

Day 6: A Bittersweet Day: Smiles, Tears and Lessons Learned



Day 6 was a bittersweet moment...it was the day to say goodbye to the Animal Kingdom Lodge (Nooooooo! *sniff*) and say hello to the Hard Rock Hotel (???). I was excited about Harry Potter'ville but I'll admit I'm biased towards Disney.

After enjoying our final moments at concierge level, we checked out, sent our bags to be held til we were ready to officially depart and went off to do some shopping at Downtown Disney. I went gaga at the Basin store which sold homemade, all natural soaps, scrubs, homemade facials and make-your-own soy candles, which of course we bought with scents of the ocean, the beach, and strawberries added. They also added a spice shop with tons and tons of spices, teas and flavored sugars! I was in heaven!! It was so hard to leave without smelling every jar and even harder to leave with just one spice blend and a bag of coconut oolong tea.

But while we were shopping, all I could think about was lunch. I know such a foodie comment right!?
There's a reason I swear!

Last year, I discovered that Pollo Campero, the food-chain establishment that serves, according to reviews, some of the best fried chicken, also serves a falafel burger.

Going back to my previous quote about getting comfortable as a vegan in a more vegan-friendly world, we asked if the burger was vegan, which we were told yes.  Being a bit skeptical about the aioli sauce, which as a foodie, knew was normally made with eggs (duh!), I asked, "Even the aioli sauce?". Again, the answer was yes. Putting all our confidence in this one source, we ordered the burger, devoured and fell head-over-heels for it! It was so good, I deemed it a must-have meal, which doesn't happen often.

So when 11 o’clock rolled around, straight to Pollo Campero I went to order my burger! But some vegan instinct stopped me in my tracks and told me to ask once more about the burger. For some reason I had a gut feeling it just was NOT vegan. I first asked the host who replied, yes, it was vegetarian, although I asked specifically if it was vegan. Sign number 1. Still unsure, I went up to the chef and asked him myself. His response, the bread has eggs and milk and the sauce has eggs. Of course! I was near tears! But in hopes of still satisfying my cravings, I asked if they still had vegan tapioca buns. They didn’t. Could I get the burger and hummus on top of salad and pay double? Nope. At that point I knew they were unwilling to compromise and I walked away, upset and starving.

With my plans destroyed, I was hungry and therefore moody and unable to think. I had  a desire for something filling, yet trying not to deny my husband his cravings, I thought for a second. Yeah they had a salad, but I didn’t want that and I didn’t want the veggie wrap either; especially not after the attitude I got. Sorry, but in my opinion, customer service rates a tiny bit higher than the food. Plus, I was starving and anyone knows, a starving vegan means a feisty vegan. Especially if that vegan happens to be a female :).  Thankfully, there was a smoothie bar and a Babycakes within the same vicinity. Remembering that I did want to try Babycakes vegan, gluten-free waffles, my frown turned upside down and off I went to order brunch!

To go with my waffle, I ordered a Blueberry Honeydew smoothie made with fruit, fruit juices and a bit of agave. It was a bit sweet, but it was tasty and filling all the same.

After waiting a bit for my waffle to cook, it arrived, large, fluffy and with syrup and my favorite mini chocolate chips by Enjoy Life on the side. SCORE! I didn’t know it came with chocolate chips! I was a happy girl. Babycakes saved the day! I pigged out on my chocolatey, sweet waffles, enjoying the crunchy, crisp exterior and the soft, steaming hot, cake like interior. Being gluten-free it was a bit heavier and sweeter than your typical waffle, but it was so delicious and satisfying. It was my first vegan waffle since I transitioned to a vegan lifestyle so you can only imagine how thrilled I was.
With a very satisfying brunch gone, I ran over to grab a few treats to take back to the hotel to munch on: chocolate chip cookies, banana chip bread, a coconut mini donut, and chocolate crunch donut. Oh and to go, a mocha icing shot. Chocolatey, coffee flavored icing in a small cup for me to enjoy. YES! This is why they say don’t wait until you are starving to eat or you will overeat… it’s okay it was seriously worth it! Icing SHOTS are the best!
Satisfyingly full, we made our way to the other half of downtown Disney, and of course HAD to stop at the Candy Cauldron for a candy apple. More sugar!? Yeah I know. While I would have preferred mine covered in coconut, Tim is a purest..and after everything I ate, buying my own just wasn't an option. So we shared. Thankfully too because the candy that day was extremely sticky and chewy! I guess cause it was early in the day and we were probably given an older made apple? Minus the tooth pulling chew, it was still good and it gave us a moment to remember. Tim and I couldn't help but laugh as we chewed harder than cows and repeatedly stopped mid chew to pick our teeth; which always ended up unsuccessful! It was a funny moment that was totally worth the jaw pain.
I don't know about you, but when I have a full belly, I have very little desire to shop. I just grabbed what I needed and off we went.

After saying our last goodbyes to the lovely staff at the Animal Kingdom Lodge, we taxied our way to the Hard Rock Hotel. The anxiety attempted to emerge as I realized our trip was half way through and that Disney was officially a memory of the past, but I tried to tell myself there was more to come. We settled in to our awesome room, explored the concierge level room (which I will discuss later) and went off to Universal Studios. We spent a good amount of time on Citywalk viewing restaurant menus and figuring out where to eat for the week. Our choice for the night: the Latin Quarter. After eating so much for lunch, I wasn't exactly hungry but it was late and a Vegetable Paella sounded amazing! Plus, it was Latino food....our favorite!
The place was quite empty but it was really nice and kind of romantic. We ordered drinks, a Margarita for me and some guac and chips to munch on while waiting for our main course. This margarita was less salty, thank goodness, and the guac chips were a bit milder in flavor, but again, you can never go wrong with guac!

Already sadly half-full, a large bowl of vegetable paella was placed in front of me. It smelled amazing, but the taste, was a bit bland. I added salt, but it missed something. It was also a bit greasy. So I picked through and ate the chickpeas and veggies, which I loved the most. Not sure what it was, but I ended up quite sick that night. I blame the lack of appetite and the fact that in my normal, every day, at home diet, I rarely consume grains such as rice and breads. Either way, it was an unpleasant ending. The experience was decent, but the ending left a taste of "I'll never return there ever again" in my mouth. Sad, I know.... Don't get me wrong, it was a great restaurant, the service was wonderful, food was hot and they even had a live band and according to Tim, food was great! But one bad experience ruins everything...*Sigh* That ended our night early unfortunately, but the child-like amounts of rest was so much needed!

-Beth