After 36 hours in Miami, Reese and I were obliged to drive an hour north to Palm Beach, Florida, where I attended the second day of my two-day interview process. Medical school interviews always include a lunch, and usually a breakfast as well. For some of my interviews, I was given the name of a person to contact about dietary needs, and for others I wasn’t. Even those schools I was able to contact weren’t always able to provide vegan options, though, so my lunch at these events tended to be the green salad or fruit provided by the school, plus protein bars and/ or trail mix from my own stash.
After two days of this, we were pleased to find a dinner spot called the Green Gourmet that offered options for vegan me and omni Reese. The restaurant is situated in an upscale strip mall and has tables outside, a feature quite novel to us Northern Californians. The menu offered a lot of healthier takes on classic American diner fare– a lasagne made solely out of roasted and marinated veggies (no pasta), a ratatouille salad, etc. The restaurant also had a few clearly labeled vegan options and– drumroll, please– a juicer!
When I see green juice on the menu anywhere, I reflexively relax. Of course I’m always excited to order it, but even more than that, I see green juice as an omen: when a restaurant has it on the menu, I feel like it’s a sign that the establishment will be able to accommodate me richly. This juice was called the Pineapple Popeye and, as the name might suggest, featured pineapple with greens.
I started with an order of cold curried lentil salad. No complaints here! The lentils were perfectly cooked and dressed with a curry vinaigrette, tossed with sliced onions, shredded carrots (not too many, thankfully), parsley leaves, and golden raisins. It was just what I needed after a long day.
For my entrée, I ordered the chopped salad. I noted that carrots were on the ingredients list, and asked our server if it was possible to get the salad carrot-free. He explained that the salad had been pre-mixed earlier that day, so it wasn’t, but he asked the chef to avoid them, which I appreciated. He then asked if I wanted to add a “nice piece of Scottish salmon” to my order, which I thought was a little weird since I’d just told him I was vegan 5 minutes earlier, but whatever.
The salad was a combination of green and red cabbage, broccoli, carrots, red bell pepper, and a bit of red onion, plus toasted peanuts and sectioned orange, and was topped with sunflower sprouts. I liked the combination of flavors, but found the dressing to be too oily and too generously applied to the salad; I thought the dresing’s heaviness obscured the flavors a little.
Reese had had a late lunch so opted to share some of my lentils and order his own Caesar salad.
Reese’s comment on the Caesar: the ingredients were good, but it wasn’t anything terribly special.
That comment succinctly summed up our Green Gourmet experience. It got the job done, but it didn’t seem to us that the staff were enthusiastic about the food they were preparing and serving. The ingredients were good quality, but if you asked me to prepare dishes of the same names and using the same ingredients as those on the menu, I’d have approached them differently. In addition to cutting back on the chopped salad dressing, I would have served only about half the portion I received on a bed of Romaine, rather than simply heaping the salad on the plate.
The large portion sizes had an upside, though: I was able to box them up and eat them for lunch in the airport the next day! As any vegan who has ever been to an airport can tell you, your dining options tend to be very limited to preservative-enhanced trail mix and not much else. Life as a traveling vegan necessitates lots of planning ahead and Yelping, but it can lead you to exciting new experiences: seeing neighborhoods you wouldn’t have visited if you just wandered down the main strip of the town you were visiting in search of dinner, or new friends like those we made at T.H.R.I.V.E.
Would we go back the to Green Gourmet? Sure, it wouldn’t be my first choice, but it’s a solid option for groups with mixed dietary needs. Having only been there once, I can’t speak to its consistency, but it seems very reliable, and in a traveller’s words, reliability counts for a lot.
What have you discovered traveling that you wouldn’t have seen if it hadn’t been for a special destination? Let me know!