Saturday, September 22, 2012

Day 2: The Vegan UNPLUGGED!

On Day 2, we headed  to the Magic Kingdom  where one look at Cinderella’s castle glowing in the morning sunlight makes you stop, breath and say, “Yes, I am currently standing in the most happiest, most magical place on earth”. To think that would be enough, the view becomes even more amazing and that feeling becomes even stronger when you stand in the streets at night to watch the castle glow in flashing lights of the fireworks show. Nothing can beat that right? Wrong! On our trip we discovered this view can become even more spectacular (Gasp! No way!) when observed from the window lined, rooftop restaurant at the Contemporary Resort called the California Grill.

But first the treats! During our travels throughout the Magic Kingdom park, we discovered several yummy, vegan treats. 

My absolute favorite, most addicting vegan snack at Disney are the Cinnamon-Glazed Almonds and Pecans. Roasted almonds coated in hardened cinnamon and sugar are the best excusable snack in the entire world! You can claim they are half healthy and at the same time, indulge in every sweet bite as if it’s a piece of your favorite candy.  Yes, they are that delicious!

Another treat I was dying to try was the Nestle’s Delicias Frozen Pineapple Bars sold at every frozen treats vendor cart within the Disney parks. I had read several reviews on these yummy vegan pops and made it a goal to try one while on my trip. And I am so glad I did! It was like biting into a frozen slice of perfectly ripened, pineapple. Not too sweet, slightly tart, and loaded with chunks of pineapple to provide a chewy texture and fresh homemade feel This tropical treat served as the perfect mid-morning refresher to a hot and humid day.

As if I didn’t have enough sugar, I had to go for the grand finale before I left the park prior to dinner. I had read that I could get a vegan sundae at the Main Street Plaza Ice Cream Parlor using tofutti or rice dream ice cream. As we walked in, we immediately took in the sweet smell of freshly cooked waffle cones that filled the air as the look of the parlor sent us back to the Victorian era of the late 1800’s. Scanning the different sundae options, I decided the one with peanut butter drizzle sounded the best. I asked about what was vegan and what was not and upon looking at the ingredients list that was provided, I learned the waffle bowl and the chocolate fudge were both not vegan. That left me with ice cream, peanut butter drizzle (aka melted peanut butter) and a cherry in a plastic cup. As a peanut butter addict, PB and ice cream was a combination I couldn’t deny! Of course, you can imagine the taste of every bite; a contrast of cold and hot, sweet and salty. It def could have used some choco chips, but nevertheless, it was worth every nutty calorie!

Now, to go back to that spectacular view. As I mentioned before, Tim and I made reservations to the California Grill and the Contemporary Resort, one, because they had a veg options and two, because we wanted to experience the Magic Kingdom fireworks show from a whole new point of view. Our reservations were at 9:30pm, so no doubt, we were starving.  We headed to the bar while waiting for our seats and ordered a local Organic Blonde Ale by the Organic Brewing Co. for Tim and for me, a special sangria: a recipe made by our server himself. The beer was amazingly light yet still had that unique profile that only local craft brewing companies have, and of course, I have yet to hate a Sangria! It was smooth, sweet and well balanced between the liquor and wine. Let’s just say it almost gone by the time we sat down and well, that didn’t take long! 
Not too long after, our buzzer went off indicating it was time for us to be seated. Upon sitting, we noticed we scored a window seat that provided a straight view of the castle and the upcoming fireworks. Excited, we chatted with our waitress, Erika, and ordered our food. I asked her about the vegetable potpie which I believe I recall her saying was pretty veg friendly. Why I can’t remember? Because she offered be a vegan option I couldn’t resist. It was an option I had read so much about: The Vegan Unplugged. I pretty much leave it all up to the chefs to make four small vegan dishes for me to enjoy. I have no idea what they will make. All I do is sit and anticipate what is to come. Of course there was no way I was going to turn down a custom chef made meal. So I ordered that and, well, sat anxiously.

During my wait, I enjoyed some crusty (and yes, vegan) bread with some very flavorful EVOO (aka Olive Oil) while Tim enjoyed his bread with Himalayan Salted Butter. The fireworks show had begun before our meals arrived which ended up perfect! The show was absolutely spectacular to watch from a far-off bird’s eye view and our seats were so perfect, we didn’t even need to go out to the observation deck.

Right before the show ended, our food arrived. My plate was split into four sections containing a small portion of one of the chef’s creations:
1.       Fresh mixed greens tossed with Roasted Beets and Candied Pecans 
2.       Lightly dressed, pearl couscous with tomatoes and mushrooms, topped with watercress 
3.       Toasted flatbread triangles coated in a tangy, tomato paste, topped with roasted onions, tomato slices and watercress. 
4.       Stir-Fried roasted corn salad with a mixture of veggies including olives, baby root carrots, beech mushrooms and so much more topped with an herb salad mix

The first dish (1) was light and refreshing. The greens had a bit of a bitter bite to them, but it went actually quite well with the savory sweetness of the well-cooked beets and the candied pecans.

The couscous in the second (2) dish was also very well prepared. It had a chewy bite to it and it packed some flavor which mostly came from the well seasoned cooked veggies. 

The toasted flatbread triangles in the third (3) dish were meant to represent a sort of pizza. While I found the tomato paste a little too tangy, the bread and veggies mellowed it out a bit. 

While each dish had something I loved most about it, my top favorite was the stir-fried corn salad (4). It was loaded with flavor and texture. Plus, I was baffled by these baby root carrots that seemed to just have been pulled from a nearby garden. It was a veggie I had never seen before! The sauce, which seemed to be soy based, was seriously plate lickable. Of course, I didn’t lick the plate, that would have been rude (;)), but I did however make sure every single bite of food was gone. I wanted to make sure the chefs knew how much I enjoyed every single dish that was made. Every single dish was very well cooked and prepared and each one packed a balance of flavors. When I don’t have to add salt or more dressing to my dish, then you know it was seasoned well; and that doesn’t happen too often.
After being completely satisfied and impressed with my meal, it was dessert time! I never turn down dessert when it’s available; especially when I am on vacation. Tonight’s offering: Raspberry Sorbet with Mixed Berries. Now I’ll be honest, as a vegan, eating sorbet can get old pretty fast, but it was only my second day, so sorbet  did just fine. Of course, like all sorbets, it was sweet, light and refreshing. It paired well with the tart berries that lined the outside of the bowl. A pretty healthy ending to yet another wonderful meal. Thankfully this time I didn’t walk out like I was ready to explode. My tummy was perfectly happy.

That leaves the major question: “Would we return?” Oh absolutely! Knowing that every return provides a mystery and a new adventure to explore four, new, custom made, vegan dishes makes the California Grill a must to visit during every trip. Plus the view of the fireworks cannot be beat! It’s a serious win-win all around. Another highly recommended place!

So want to see how spectacular that view really was? Here's a little bit of the magic I brought home especially for you :) PS. Forgive me for geeking out in the middle of it.


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