Monday, September 30, 2013

Disney Food Review- Vegetarian option at Animal Kingdom Lodge's The Mara

While I'm preparing for our next trip (I actually just realized we're going to be there during the Food and Wine Festival!  How could I have missed that!?)  I thought it might be fun to do a little trip review of our last trip (of what I remember about it before I became a walking flu virus).  In honor of my realization about the Food and Wine Festival, I thought I'd talk a little bit about vegetarian food options and what I ate while we were there. For this past trip, we stayed at the Animal Kingdom Lodge.  I know a lot of people don't like how far away Animal Kingdom Lodge is from the other parks, (there are reports that the buses are slow to arrive, and take a while to get from point A to point B) but (except for one night when it took an hour and a half to get to Downtown Disney some back way that was full of traffic at rush hour) we never found that to be an issue and really enjoyed everything about our stay there.

It's a pretty amazing hotel, with amazing views, and no matter what room you're in or what you can or can't see from your room windows, the common viewing areas are great and are pretty centralized. Here's a picture of the Lobby from the bridge that's strung across the top floors so you can look out onto the savanna:

And here's a picture of Nathan standing on that bridge looking out over the savanna like Simba (everything the light touches will be his!)

One more!  Here's a picture of my new Giraffe-y friends in one of the common viewing areas:
I think he's saying "cheese"

But this is all just to set the stage for the really important stuff.  It being the Animal Kingdom Lodge, I had high expectations for the variety of food options that would be available at all locations, including the counter service location, The Mara. Animal Kingdom is my favorite park to eat at as a vegetarian because of the wide variety of foods and food cultures represented there, and I hoped the hotel would be as good as the park is.  I had my sights set on the falafel sandwich as soon as we got off the Magical Express.  I wanted it to be delicious, and I wasn't disappointed!
 served on a warm pita with sun-dried tomato hummus, cucumber, tomato, and mixed greens with mint yogurt sauce

There are lots of greens and veggies (tomatoes, cucumbers)  in that soft pita bread, and two good sized falafel. The hummus that's slathered on the bottom helps hold everything on the pita.  This is not your standard falafel; it's much softer in texture, and doesn't exactly "hold together well"   It was a challenge to eat, because of the size and the softness of the falafel, but with a fork and a knife, you can tackle it (I wouldn't take it as a to-go item, or you might end up wearing it).  The yogurt mint sauce wasn't a prominent flavor, so if you don't dig mint (I don't, really) don't let that stop you from ordering this one.

You get a side with this sandwich, and I chose the couscous.
not the most appetizing picture, is it?
I didn't really enjoy the couscous, and didn't finish it.  The texture was great, and there were veggies and raisins mixed in, and it would have been really good, but it tasted like it had been slathered with teriyaki sauce, which was a weird and unexpected flavor for couscous, particularly in conjunction with the raisins.  I'm not sure if that was just a weird batch that day and the bottle slipped out of someone's hands, or if they're trying to make what might be seen as an "unusual" side be a little more universally appealing with a more familiar taste profile, but to me, this went the other way and was less appealing than the fresh-tasting side of couscous I envisioned.  The other side option is just Disney french fries, though, so I probably would still go with the couscous, but it wasn't my favorite.

Overall though, this is a great vegetarian option--particularly if you're tired of veggie burgers and salads as options at other counter service places.  The Mara also has an interesting vegetable flat bread available, that is more than the typical "Margarita pizza" style you find at a lot of the park counter service locations.  I've never tried this option but the menu describes it like this: olive tapenade topped with four cheese blend, artichoke hearts, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions and arugula.

If anyone has had the flat bread, feel free to post and let me know how it was!

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