Vegan Adventures in Orlando

“The only thing I like better than talking about food is eating” – John Walters


“The only thing I like better than talking about food is eating” – John Walters


Whilst away in Orlando this was the blog post I was really excited about doing on my return!  I took lots and lots and lots (get the idea that it was lots?!) of photos of what I was eating and couldn’t wait to share with you all what I had discovered on my trip.  I think all those photos were my downfall though!  I kept looking at how many there were to sort through and kept putting it off.  At long last though I have given myself a talking to and finally sat down to write this post.  Or should that say ‘these posts’…I have so much to talk about Disney wise that I think I will briefly touch on it here and then give you all the details in another post.  How does that sound?

Having only made the switch to a plant-based diet in January (I took part in Veganuary having been a vegetarian for 20 years and then kept on going!), I was quite nervous about how Orlando would treat me…would it be kind and offer lots of food or would it be a mean old Orlando where I would have to live on fries?  Especially as I find it really hard asking things in UK restaurants anyway thanks to my anxiety and hadn’t really eaten out since making the switch.  Happily on the whole Orlando was a lovely friend to me though we did have the odd falling out…


Theme Parks:

Disney World was on the whole pretty damn awesome and you’ll see exactly why when I write part 2 of this post (I promise it will follow on real soon!).

We were completely spoilt staying at the Animal Kingdom Lodge where we had the super amazing buffet at Boma complete with chefs that really seemed to know their thing about dietary issues.  The quick service Mara also had staff who would happily make changes for you or get a chef from next door to do something special for you.

Vegan Mickey waffles

Vegan Mickey waffles!

The parks themselves were a bit of a mixed bunch.  Magic Kingdom and Epcot seemed to provide the most choice whilst Hollywood Studios was one of the times me and Orlando fell out.  Lets just say I was relieved to have snacks with me.  Animal Kingdom had reasonable choice, I think I was simply unlucky in not being near anything at lunch when I didn’t have the time to go walking elsewhere thanks to a Nemo reservation.  We lucked out when we made the trip out to Fort Wilderness Campgrounds by getting the legendary Chef TJ (give vegan at Disney a google and I guarantee he will pop up!).  Added to this the rather big choice at Disney Springs ~ well me and Disney got on very fine indeed generally.

Now in stark contrast to Disney, Universal was where me and Orlando fell out.  Inside both parks, the choice for anybody with any form of dietary requirements was very poor (words from the mouth of a member of staff).  The Harry Potter areas had a few options at the Three Broomsticks and Leaky Cauldron that would allow you to cobble together a meal however neither fitted in with where we were when we wanted to eat so I made do with some fries and a Lara bar that I had with me (I miss you Lara Bars!).  Outside the parks in City Walk, there was actually a few options ~ hurrah!  We choose to try out the Mexican restaurant Antojitos LINK rather than the Italian Vivos as we were a little fed up of pizza (I know!  How is that even possible?!) and had some tasty authentic food accompanied by a mariachi band.  Our server was pretty helpful with my choices and I had the Vegetarianas Enchiladas without the queso fresco plus some nachos with salsa.  Yummy meal…just a shame we had to leave the parks to get it.  I was so hungry by the time we got there, I forgot to take photos…

vegan rainbow Dippin Dots at Universal, Orlando

Look at that happy little face!

Universal did slightly redeem itself by being the place to introduce me to Dippin Dots (again in City Walk).  These little balls of flash-frozen tasty deliciousness were one of my favourite discoveries in Orlando.  Not all flavours are vegan though there are a whole heap that are ~ Liberty Ice, Black Ice, Sour Blue Razz, Orange Ice, Blue Raspberry Ice, Lemon Ice, Lime Ice, Strawberry Ice, Mango-Pineapple Sorbet, Strawberry Sorbet and my personal favourite Rainbow Ice.


Outside the parks:

We did do some eating outside the parks too though not enough if the standard of what we did eat is anything to go by!

Compared to the supermarkets over here, the big grocery stores in Orlando were a treasure trove of goodies.  From meals to snacks, the choice was amazing and slightly overwhelming!  It was way too easy to leave laden down with crisps (chips), snacks bars, vegan cheeses, hummus and tasty salads.  Whole Foods Market near Universal was my favourite with its hot food and salad bar which you can stuff…I mean place a small amount… into containers to take away.  Oh and they had seriously delicious vegan doughnuts!

On one Sunday we made our way to Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando for the farmers market held there every Sunday.  It feels a world away from the theme parks and was a lovely relaxing place to stroll and hang out with locals.  There was stack loads of choice including a really tantalising Mexican stall which I still wish I’d tried.  In the end though we all ended up at the hot dog stall where I had a tasty vegan dog with almost all the trimmings which I followed up with grilled corn and a vegan ice cream.

Vegan hot dog at farmers market in Lake Eola Park, Orlando

Funnily enough I found a really enjoyable salad way out at Kennedy Space Centre.  I wasn’t holding out much hope for vegan food there and the first food places we came across seemed to support this.  I was about to resign myself to doing a Universal i.e. fries followed by my own snacks when the Orbit Cafe saved the day with its build your own salad!  So I choose a base of mixed leaves and then all the veggie options (other than mushrooms…still working on eating them) plus a few extras from the topping bar.  A tasty surprise to find!

Build your own salad, Orbit Cafe, Kennedy Space Centre, vegan, orlando

By far though the highlight of my vegan experience in Orlando was eating at the truly amazing Ethos ~ heck I’d go back simply to eat there again!  Oh my what can I say about this place that does it justice?!  Set in the artsy and historical area of Winter Park,  Ethos is a 100% vegan restaurant serving gorgeous home-style food that will satisfy anyone, whatever they eat.  All 3 of us (1 vegan and 2 omnivores) rolled out of the restaurant filled to the brim with good food and coffee.  Between us we demolished sauasage rolls, blackened tempeh with rice, beans and veggies, an all American burger and a chickun bruschetta sandwich followed by carrot cake, chocolate amaretto mousse and an espresso topped vanilla ice cream.  As I say, we rolled out the place!

(check out the menus on the link above and get ready to drool!)

Sorry the photos aren’t quite the best….the downside of sitting on a small table by the window on a sunny day!

Wow talking about all that food has made me real hungry and wanting to go back to try out more tasty food there.  The wilds of Cumbria is not the natural habitat of a vegan!  So have you been to Orlando?  How did you find it food-wise?

Part 2 of my vegan adventures in Orlando to follow…





My Veganuary Experience

Have you heard about Veganuary, the campaign launched in 2014 to encourage people to try going vegan for 1 month in January?  I heard about it for the first time in December last year and decided to take part in Veganuary 2017.  Picked a good year too – it was their biggest one yet with nearly 60000 people signing up to it!

I have been a vegetarian for 20 years now (was amazed when I worked out it had been that long!) and had started gradually reducing my dairy intake for the last year for health reasons.  Changing to a plant based diet had occasionally popped up in my mind over the years and was something I had been considering more and more so Veganuary seemed perfect timing.

So how did it go?  Well it proved not to be as challenging as I always thought it would be.  Cutting down on the dairy already and a reasonably healthy tilt to our diet meant that many of our meals were already vegan or could be made vegan with little tweaks.  There were a few shocks though…farewell salad cream (sob sob).

We started early with this seriously tasty roast vegetable and hummus pie on Christmas Eve.  Off to a very good start!

Roast vegetable and hummus pie

I do like to try new foods and recipes so have been having a good old rummage through Pinterest (why not give me a follow!) and have come up with more recipes than I have time to cook!  So far some of my successful ones have included

Vegan Gingerbread Cupcakes (my photo does not do the taste justice!)

Vegan gingerbread cupcakes

Homemade Pizza

Homemade vegan pizza

Sweet Potato Fry Nachos

Sweet potato fry nachos

Vegan Haggis, Neeps and Tatties

Vegan haggis, neeps and tatties

And made ventures into the world of Buddha bowls

buddha bowl

(lets not talk about the less than successful meal attempts…..)

Taking part in Veganuary made me more adventurous in trying new meals and I have discovered the weirdest of things can actually be seriously tasty (yep I am looking at you mayonnaise made from chickpea liquid and you gooey cheese made from potato and carrot).  I have discovered new ingredients that I love – nutritional yeast where have you been all my life?!  It helped break my dislike for vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and even brussel sprouts…next stop mushrooms (possibly)…

To be fair we don’t eat out very often so I haven’t really had to face that hurdle.  Being someone who finds having to ask things in restaurants brings on serious anxiety stresses, it is something that freaks me a little.  Still I am all about trying to challenge myself now so it may actually turn to be a good thing that I have to question staff now about my options.  Eating round other people’s houses is another thing that will bring challenges I imagine…think I will simply offer to take my own food to avoid stressing people!

So where do I go from Veganuary now we are in February?  I intend to continue with a vegan lifestyle as best I can and as much as is practical.  Having taken that step I have gained so much and feel that many of my reasons for not doing it sooner seem..well…a little selfish.  I am enjoying both what I eat and doing something that I feel for me is a positive thing.  Would love to hear your stories of Veganuary if you took part!