Finding vegetarian food at the airport is tough, and doubly so in Texas. The Varsity Grill in DFW Terminal E (by E31) is almost all-meat, even the salads.
But they do serve a portobello and cheese sandwich. It’s reasonably priced, comes with spicy fries, and typical food service quality: Moist and vinegar flavored but edible. Oddly it’s sliced half through into a grid of cubes, perhaps to aid cooking.
But it’s nice to have something subtle on the menu, reducing the “without the chicken” discussions.
The Varsity is sports-themed, with hanging televisions and a mediocre beer selection. No Shiner Bock here, a Texas tragedy!
One of my first posts on this blog applauded TGI Friday’s for not only adding a vegetarian entree but naming it something subtle: The Tuscan Portobello Melt was a nice grilled cheese sandwich with mushrooms and came with a vegetarian red pepper soup. It was really nice to have an option at a mainstream restaurant other than “the chicken pasta without the chicken”.
But alas, the Tuscan is no more. TGI Friday’s has removed it from the menu, and the restaurant I found myself at this week couldn’t make it anymore. There are no vegetarian items on the TGI Friday’s menu any longer.
I am so frustrated with this. I’m not picky – I just want one option. Would that kill them? Instead I had to pay $13 for a mediocre bowl of Bruschetta Pasta without the chicken. No more Friday’s for me!
Taco Bell just added three new vegetarian entrees to their menu:
The cheese roll-up is a tubular quesadilla
The triple-layer nachos have beans, red sauce, and nacho sauce
The caramel apple empanadas are McDonald’s apple pies in disguise
No, it’s not healthy. But it’s veg. And now there’s a major fast food chain with enough vegetarian options to actually give us a choice of what to eat. I think that’s worth applauding, even if it’s all junk!
I won’t complain when the world doesn’t cater to my dietary choices, but I’m always happy when a new option appears. And it especially galls me when I have to pay for meat I won’t eat – the old $11.95 pasta with chicken without the chicken issue.
Although I still think it’s ridiculous to have to pay for in-flight snacks, I am pleased that United Airlines now offers a vegetarian “snackbox” on their flights. Called “Smartpack”, the orange box contains a nice variety of healthy snacks, including pears, bagel chips, and granola and lacks the jerky, sausage, or tuna included with the other choices. Most of the items are even vegan, with the obvious exception of the Copper Cowbell cheese spread and Cashew Roca candy.
I’m not quite as happy as United’s umbrella-toting cartoon mascot (see below), who brings color to a drab world in an in-flight ad, however. My flight out of San Francisco was delayed by over an hour, and I thought I would miss my connection and be stranded overnight in Chicago. Luckily, I got home.
Brilliant! That’s all I can say about San Jose’s Frugal Foodies, a vegetarian food gathering/co-op like no other. Started in Berkeley, the group meets weekly to prepare a meal, share a smile, and learn a thing about cooking. Worth the trip from anywhere (even the East Coast!)
I’ve got a signature dish that I order at most restaurants – something that really shows off the abilities of the kitchen. I usually pick something that is somewhat subtle – anyone can make a firey Arrabiata, but only a great restaurant can make a great Pomodoro!
My Thai signature dish is Pad Thai, but this one can be tricky for vegetarians (and vegans). Ask whether they use fish sauce (nam pla), other seafood ingredients, or egg. Many Thai restaurants will happily modify their ingredients since this dish is always prepared to order, but they may scratch their heads about the nam pla since it’s such a staple of local cuisine!
The excellent pictured Pad Thai was the creation of Pacific Thai, located on Pacific Avenue in Santa Cruz, CA. It exhibited just what I’m looking for in a great Pad Thai:
Light and delicate but still somewhat sticky sauce
Al dente (but not chewy) noodles and veggies
Good firm tofu with light seasoning
No overpowering ingredients – the flavor of the peanuts, sauce, veggies, noodles, tofu and sprouts were all evident, and none overpowered a quick squeeze of fresh lime
I ordered this with a smoothie made of green tea ice cream and tapioca pearls. This was delicious, too – I became a fan of green tea ice cream after trying some at Steve’s (now Herrell’s) in Northampton, MA years ago. I first encountered tapioca pearls as a drink ingredient in a Taiwanese pearl milk tea I was fond of at EO Noodle in Framingham, MA. Combining the two was a pleasure!
We were fortunate to have a Thai au pair join our family for a year, and I was surprised to learn that the Pad Thai she was used to was quite different from my (Americanized?) concept. Hers was much more noodle-centric, with very little sauciness, no veggies, and a stronger flavor. Not to mention much spicier, as was everything she cooked!
But comparing it to my American ideal, Pacific Thai’s Pad Thai is an excellent dish. Not quite as good as the old Thai Coconut in Marlborough, MA, but nothing else has been!
Pacific Thai Santa Cruz
1319 Pacific Ave
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Frank, over at A Vegan’s Life in Southern California did a little Subtle Vegetarian-style snooping about veggie foods at Trader Joe’s and The Cheesecake Factory, and I wanted to point to his site for the info…
As for The Cheesecake Factory, they’ve got a few veggie choices to trumpet, as well as excellent customer service from the staff and kitchen. I love their portobello sandwich – have been getting it for years! It’s most certainly not vegan, but the lettuce wraps (sans chicken) are a great vegan choice, too. Watch out for the strong Long Island Iced Teas!
If you’re a vegan, go for a bagel (but not a multigrain or blueberry) without cream cheese, or maybe an english muffin. Add a hash brown on the side, and drink a flavored coffee (but not pumpkin or vanilla). For lunch, get a fruit coolatta and the oriental salad. But vegans have to skip all of the eponymous donuts and munchkins, as well as all coffee coolattas.
As for me, I have to say that seeing meat on the table, and seeing others eat it, has definitely gotten much easier after nearly 20 years. At this point, I’m so far from eating meat that I just don’t see it the same way anymore.
This may sound really weird, and maybe I’m the only one who feels this way, but meat just doesn’t look like food to me. It’s like someone is eating a shoe, or a pile of grass, or a roadkill squirrel, or a tire. I think to myself, “why are they eating that? It’s not food!” I know some vegetarians, and especially new vegetarians, feel really “grossed out” at the sight of meat eating, but it’s just not that way for me anymore.
I hope this makes sense to you. I haven’t lost my compassion for animals, but I just don’t see it the same as new veggies seem to.
Maybe this has to do with my subtle approach to my eating habits. Live and let live certainly applies to animals to me, but it applies just as well to other people. I wish we didn’t kill so many animals in this world, but it’s better to lead by example than bludgeon people with something they don’t understand.