Posted September 30th, 2015, 02:33 AM
in 2015 is it as challenging as when you were starting out?
I am a life-long vegetarian. Until recent years, this made traveling a challenge! Up to about 5-10 years ago (depending on region) veg dining options were limited...again and again, I was offered the same boring iceburg salads and carbs, carbs, carbs! However, the GOOD NEWS is: restaurants (and cruise lines) have become increasingly eager to cater to the health conscious consumer. Not only are they offering healthier menu choices, they are also becoming more sophisticated in vegetarian cuisine!
TRAVEL TIPS FOR VEGETARIANS & VEGANS:
DISCOVER HIDDEN MENU SECRETS:
- Many restaurants (and chefs) offer vegetarian and vegan dishes that they DO NOT PUT ON THE MENU.
- I have discovered there is often an underground secret menu for vegans and vegetarians!
HOW TO HANDLE SPECIAL REQUESTS - DINING ETIQUETTE:
Selections vary, but most chefs are happy to accommodate vegetarians and they frequently have a personal repertoire of veg dishes they enjoying creating by special request. However, the most important thing impacting your service and selection as a vegetarian is your attitude and approach...
- Do NOT start off by telling them what you don't want. Give the server a chance to realize you are not being difficult, you simply need help!
- I usually say, "I am having a bit of a challenge. I am vegan (or vegetarian) and looking for a low-carb dish. What would you suggest?"
- Remember...the server is your ambassador to the kitchen. Make them your ally! Everyone wants to be a hero. I have found the staff will knock themselves out to please you if you approach them as your partner in this food adventure.
- Another thing I have noticed is that the less restrictions I put in the request, the more the staff asks questions...which allows them to feel like they are involved and in the end, you still get to communicate items you like or dislike: but they feel like it was all their idea!
- One nice open-ended way to get your server engaged and inspired is to ask, "What is in season?" and they usually start offering you all sorts of wonderful options.
INSPIRE THE CHEF:
Take a positive approach. Don't restrict the chef...inspire their creativity
- Sometimes I say, "Does the chef have any special dishes they like to make for vegans?" Or, "I see so many wonderful vegetable and side dishes on the menu. Could the chef create something vegan?"
- Many chefs get bored with the routine menu and will jump at the chance to create a special dish! I have had some amazing and gorgeous plates put before me! One meat-eating companion in particular has started saying, "I'll have the same" because they have discovered I end up with better service and better food!
- This is one request Chefs seem to love: "Just surprise me." or "I can't wait to see what the chef creates." Nine times out of ten, the chef and staff will bend over backwards to impress you!
THANK THE STAFF AND ACKNOWLEDGE THEIR EXTRA EFFORT:
- Don't forget to thank your server!
- Suggested remarks: "This is delicious and I really appreciate your extra effort" or "Thank you for your excellent suggestion. I am really enjoying this dish."
- Also, be sure you send a message of appreciation to the kitchen. "Tell the chef this is fabulous." or "Tell the chef I just love the meal they created for me."
WHAT TO DO IN RESTRICTED MENU SETTINGS:
If it is a more straight off the menu setting, try:
- "I am looking for a vegan dish and I noticed all the side dishes on your menu entrees look delicious.
- "Is it possible to put together a vegan plate from the side-dish selections?" Most kitchens and servers seem equally eager to create a beautiful meal in this manner.
OTHER MENU SECRETS:
1) Many short-order menus have vegetarian burgers that are not always on the printed menu. Be sure to ask: "Do you have a Gardenburger or vegetarian patty?"
2) Some of the cruise lines offer vegetarian Indian meals for Hindi cruise passengers...but you have to know to ask for it. They might already be making an Indian menu for other passengers and so you can benefit from the wonderful and exotically tasty selection!
3) Sushi restaurants are always happy to offer cucumber and avocado rolls and usually some creative variations on tofu and vegetable rolls. Once again, I have discovered that sushi chefs enjoy showing off their artistry with exotic vegetable combinations and beautiful presentation.
I called the Princess Cruise customer service number and asked them if they could email me some menus or provide me with information that would help me plan in advance. They have a special person that handles special dietary requests. They said you can get pretty much anything you want...just alert them in advance. They will also customize meals to meet your needs. They are also happy to provide info on what the various on-board restaurants and food venues offer as their vegetarian menu selections.
Good luck and Bon Appetite!