American Airlines Food

Food Review: American Business Class 787-8 PEK to ORD

Airline: American Airlines

Flight: 186

Route: PEK - ORD

Aircraft: Boeing 787-8

Class: Business



Booking my trip to Beijing, I had taken advantage of a very cheap fare out of Chicago, only $500 for a round trip to the other side of the world. One issue with that is the length of the flight. Chicago to Beijing is a route that takes you over the North Pole and requires about 13 hours in the air. If I can at all help it, I want to stay out of economy class as much as possible these days, it gets more and more uncomfortable every time a new seat configuration is added. Business class is quite the opposite, so while business class was full on the way to China, the return trip had some open seats available, so I took advantage. Using some points and a little bit of cash, I upgraded to an open business class seat.

One minor issue here is that you only upgrade at the airport if seats are open. You can upgrade prior if there are upgrade seats open, but they were already taken on this flight, so I had to wait until at the airport to see if any seats were open, or if someone was upgraded ahead of me. Luckily I got the seat, but waiting until the last minute means you don’t get your requested meal if you ordered prior to the flight.

Boarding the aircraft, I was in seat 1H in the middle section, I’d prefer to have the seat next to a window, but I wasn’t going to complain about getting a lie flat seat for a 12 hours return flight. When the flight attendants came around with a menu, my flight attendant mentioned they had boarded a special meal for me… awesome, they had just told me they hadn’t back in the terminal. This was actually a half truth, they boarded 1 main dish that was vegetarian, the rest I was on my own. This sucks if you are vegan, but I do sometimes go off script for these reviews, so it was fine seeing as they always seem to carry a vegetarian option anyways.

The menu read as follows:

Before takeoff we were offered drinks. I chose the champagne here, though I’m not a big drinker, and this was the only alcohol I had the entire flight. The pre-departure champagne wasn’t too bad. Something I wouldn’t mind normally drinking at an event or celebration of some sort.

Shortly after, we all took our seats, made a really fast taxi to the runway and took to the skies. We climbed out of Beijing and made our way to cruising altitude. The ride was a bit bumpy, but soon we were cruising along with service starting.

Starters were brought out that consisted of a salad, bread and duck spring rolls. This is where I first got a feel that they didn’t actually board full vegetarian meals. I immediately had her take the duck back, and stuck with the salad. Dressing on the salad was between a honey mustard and something the flight attendant couldn’t actually figure out. Not a great sign when your server doesn’t know what's being offered. I stuck with the honey mustard and it was actually very good, along with a well made salad. As always, the pretzel bread was fantastic.

Next up was the main course. This was the only thing that was boarded as a vegetarian special meal. Not exactly sure why this option was offered and nothing else on the entire plane unless it was left from a previous business class passenger on the outbound flight since it seems they don’t cater much out of Beijing anymore due to very poor past experience with their catering services.

Plated was a pasta dish… *groan* the vegetarian go to for airlines. It was well cooked but had the most confusing sauce I’d ever seen. What was expected was a tomato based sauce, it sort of was, but it seems like they were attempting an Asian flair. Tasting the sauce immediately told you it wasn’t exactly tomato, it was more of a sweet and sour sauce, maybe, sort of… I really don’t know what it was, just that it was weird and I would never have ordered it on the ground, nor would I want to. Not that it was terrible, but it certainly wasn’t good. Food purgatory if you will.

Last up was dessert, I grabbed the berry tart, seemed to be the least dairy based option. Personally, and I know this is subjective, I like berries to be tart, or sour. Overly sweetened berries ruins a dessert for me, and this berry tart was a little too sweet. The sugar content didn’t completely ruin the food, but it was riding the border for me.

After this, the table was cleared and I settled in for some sleep, a lie flat seat can never be overstated, this is all I want for my flights anymore. Soon after lying back, I fell asleep… for many hours. When I awoke, all I heard was the plates of other passengers being cleaned up, I guess I missed the mid flight snack. Flight attendants handle midflight or even pre-arrival meals very differently depending on who you get. This flight attendant never woke anyone for anything. My preference is for an attendant to ask if I want to be awoken, as I review food and want to try what is offered so I can pass that on to everyone here. Needless to say, I was mixed on my feelings here, as I wanted to try some of it… but there were no fully vegetarian options available, so I would have had to have them custom make it without meat for this one. Maybe better I slept through this meal. Back to sleep I went.

Waking just before landing, the flight attendant asked what I wanted to try. The only option that was vegetarian was the quiche. Now no matter if I am giving in from vegan a little to review these meals or not, I still never want eggs, never have been a big fan, still don’t want them now that I don’t eat meat.

Only option is the only option though and I tried it. Actually a very, very good quiche, fairly close to some of the best I’ve had. This is quite impressive seeing as this may have been catered in Chicago, flown to Beijing, sat overnight and flown all the way back to Chicago before it was ever served and it still was on point. Well done American, good show.

Alongside the quiche was some grilled squash, potatoes, and a side salad. All of these were pretty great, though I always find a salad for breakfast weird. Last up was dessert, a sour cream ginger cake. I think I’ve mentioned how I’m not a huge ginger fan if it is prominent. Personally, ginger is a subtle added ingredient, not in your face and this cake was dense and in your face with ginger. Once again, not terrible, but I would have preferred something else.

Soon we were on the ground and performing a normal Chicago taxi fo roughly the same length as your flight time. Overall the food was actually pretty good with the exception of the main course for the first meal. Other than that misstep, the food was very well done. Nicely put together American, as a vegetarian meal goes it was something I actually quite enjoyed.

Vegetarian Food Review: American Economy 787-8 ORD to PEK



Airline: American Airlines

Flight: 187

Route: ORD - PEK

Aircraft: Boeing 787-8

Class: Economy

From start to finish, the flight attendant on our aisle was quite good. He had no problem joking around, a slightly dry sense of humor like my own, so I appreciated it. Service is certainly made better by a good crew, and this crew did not disappoint.

Food was another story though. When I experience the vegetarian meals out of Philadelphia, it has been historically bad, and Chicago managed to one up Philadelphia on this occasion. There is one thing that is very important when preparing a vegetarian meal, remembering that his too includes vegan, so don’t put milk in things!

As is the normal case for economy class meals, everything is shoved down in front of you in one single go, a case of needing to serve hundreds of people with a limited cabin crew in a short period of time. This is fine, comes with the territory of economy class, though often leaves me trying to find room to move trash and items around to find a place to get a utensil in to my food.

We started shortly after taking off with the dinner service. The meal started off with a drink, as has been the case recently, I went with my favorite sparkling water, I like this because my previous go to was cranberry juice, which has become so full of sugar that I actually feel terrible after drinking it during a flight. The drink was accompanied by a small bag of pretzels, yes they have in fact returned to the cabin for American Airlines economy, snacks are back.

After this, the main meal was delivered to me as the flight attendants made their way to the front of the cabin. The meal consisted of a salad, which is very common for economy meals. A piece of bread, and some balsamic dressing. The main course was called a 3 pepper bean medley. Fancy sounding name for the main, too bad the name was about the only creative thing about the meal.

First off, I opened all of the containers and immediately was greeted by cheese on the main course. A quick facepalm later, I read the dressing ingredients and saw milk. At this rate facepalming was going to give me brain damage. This was a properly labeled VGML meal, so it is in fact supposed to be both vegetarian and vegan according to American Airlines guidelines, and this is common across the industry. VGML meals are supposed to be both vegetarian and vegan. So right off the bat, Chicago had completely missed the mark, wildly. This give little confidence in meal preparation services, and make me question what other ingredients are being used that either aren’t labeled, or immediately obvious.

 Vegetarian/Vegan Economy Meal

Vegetarian/Vegan Economy Meal

After moving on from the massive blunder of not evening making a proper special meal, I dug into my meal. The bread was terrible, gritty, and mildly bitter. Not a pleasant piece of bread. Next up was the salad, with the dressing it was decent, hard to screw up leaves and dressing. Mixing up the main course, the 3 peppers were not obvious, I saw yellow peppers, not other kinds were obvious. The dish was mildly spicy and may have had a spicy pepper in it as another pepper. The beans were chickpeas and were well cooked. Really the sauce wasn't very pleasant, and I would  ever want this as a meal if I had the option.

Last was the classic dessert course, which is always honeydew melon for a vegetarian meal, would be nice to see this mixed up a bit. There are desserts that are vegan, while I like fruit, it would be nice to see some effort here. Also, the fruit was frozen, a bit of a thaw before placing it on board would have been great.

After that everyone settled in for a long flight. Somewhere over the north pole though,  everyone was woken up for a snack service. This was a small meal mid flight, though I found the timing odd as it was 1am Chicago time, the way things were run basically woke everyone up to serve a snack, might have been better to offer a quiet option of a snack and let other sleep if so desired.

The snack consisted of an apple and a wrap. Not hard get the apple right, so of course a good piece of fruit is always welcome. As for the wrap, it seemed to be made of rice and some other difficult to discern ingredients. Inside the wrap was a sauce/dressing of sorts, it was rather sweet but not terrible. Not exactly something I would order, but halfway good for an in flight economy meal.

A few more hours in the air and we were close to landing in Beijing. The last meal was considered a pre-landing snack. This consisted of more of the crappy bread they gave at the beginning of the flight, along with pasta, and some more damn honeydew melon. At this point I'm not sure I ever want to see honeydew melon again in my life, I get it so often on airplanes. The weird thing about the fruit is that the standard meal included a slice of melon, orange, and strawberry. So why couldn’t a similar fruit plate be included for the vegetarian meal?

The main was some kind of small pasta with a sauce that tasted like nothing. There were peppers in the pasta which is about the only flavor you received. Really this was probably the worst meal of the flight.

Soon after this we landed and disembarking into China. Overall, the flood was a pretty big flop here.

 

Vegetarian Food Review: American Airlines 777-200 Business Class London to Chicago

Airline: American Airlines

Flight: 91

Route: LHR - ORD

Aircraft: Boeing 777-200

Class: Business



As I boarded for economy class in London last week, I received a surprise free upgrade to business class. There is one major issue with a last minute upgrade like this, the food. While I had ordered food in economy class that was a vegetarian/vegan meal, I knew it wouldn't carry to my upgraded seat. Changing my class of service so late means there just isn't enough time to remake the meal and have it loaded onto the plane. The plane had already landed about 1 hour late and was delaying us as it was, so cater had long finished for this flight.

After boarding and taking my seat, I spoke to the flight attendant and he gave me a few options. I could either have my economy meal moved up to business class, or choose the vegetarian option available on the standard business class menu. I opted for the standard meal, as this was an unexpected business class review for me, I wanted to try a business class meal. Unfortunately these meals were loaded with dairy… not ideal, but I’ll try it and see how it is.

 Warm nuts and Sparkling Water

Warm nuts and Sparkling Water

On the menu, a pasta dish was the vegetarian option for this flight. This seems to be pretty standard for the regular meal portion, pasta always seems to be the go to. So I ordered that meal prior to takeoff. The rest of the menu was vegetarian as well, so there was no need to worry about that.

Let me take a quick moment to praise this crew. My previous experience with American Airlines international business class was out of Buenos Aires and completely terrible. Jeff was the flight attendant assigned to my aisle on this flight, and he was fantastic. Jeff was proactive, pleasant, and kept us informed when an oven wasn’t working during service. He immediately came back and explained that one oven wasn’t working and that meant that the main course would be slightly delayed. Still I think everything came out in a timely fashion, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed the delay, but I really appreciated him informing us. This level of service carried through the entire flight.

Now for the first course, we were started off with a standard side salad. What was different from the salads I’ve received before, was there were a ton of toppings. Lots of peppers, some parmesan cheese, though once again we received some bad balsamic vinaigrette. It always seems to be the same brand that I have an issue with, the oil always tastes off in the dressing. Overall, the salad was quite good though, despite the sub par dressing.

Alongside the salad was the appetizer, a caprese salad with a pesto sauce. Now I don’t eat cheese almost ever, but this cheese and pesto combination was fantastic. I’m already a huge pesto fan as is, put that on top of what tasted like fresh mozzarella and it became a winning combination. As for the tomato portion of the dish, I can’t say, personally I dislike tomatoes so that portion of the dish is going to have to be left to your imagination. Quickly on the topic of presentation, the attendant preparing the meals was great, the presentation for this meal was spot on and nowhere was it more apparent than with the appetizer.

 Appetizer

Appetizer

Other portions of the first course were a seltzer water, yes I’m that boring, though the champagne on the ground was actually quite good. We were also offered our bread choice… naturally my love for pretzel bread won out here and as per usual it was fantastic.

After a few minutes wait due to the oven issue that Jeff had made us aware of, it was time for the main course. I had chosen the pasta with a cheese filling and a cream sauce. It was paired with some vegetables. Now the vegetables really needed to be more of a star in this dish. There were only two small pieces of asparagus and two small pieces of green bean. Neither of them went  particularly well with the cream sauce that was plated with the pasta. Preferably the dish would have been far less cream sauce, if any, and many more veggies.

 Main Corse

Main Corse

One thing the sauce did go well with was the pasta. Even though dairy is cut out of my daily life, cheese is probably the one thing that I still want to eat. From the cheese filling, to the pasta, to the sauce, this part of the dish was very well executed. It is fairly difficult to screw up pasta, other airlines have proved in the pasta that pasta can be very poorly executed. Not on this flight, the main course was quite good. Also, the portions for the other dishes seemed to be much larger. I really appreciated that the portion size for this dish wasn't too big. There are many courses to a meal like this and it is good that I never felt like I was overeating.

Lastly was dessert… which i didn’t have. Most people seem to choose the ice cream. My guess is that under this assumption, the other options are not stocked very well. Since I am toward the back of the business class section, the chocolate mousse was gone by the time I had a chance to choose. So I was left with dairy or dairy… i.e. cheese plate or the ice cream. I chose to pass on this, as I really didn’t want any more dairy in this meal.

Once dinner was cleared, I lounged in my seat and slept for a few minutes… angle flat seats suck. We passed over Canada and just as we were crossing back over into the US, it was time for our pre-landing snack… or lunch…. Weird to call it lunch since it was 7pm in the US and 3am in London… not sure which timezone they were referring to, oh well, time to try some more food.

The pre landing snack is all brought out on a single tray, which is fine for this portion of the flight. Once again a salad was served, and again many veggies on top were much appreciated. This time though, it was served with a lemon vinaigrette. I have never seen a lemon vinaigrette on the ground, but this is the second time I’ve had it in the air, I find that a little odd. However, once again, the lemon dressing was very very good.

For the main portion, there was a red pepper flat bread. I’d call it more of a pizza, but flat bread sounds more fancy so let's go with what they called it. Cheese topped, sauce and indeed red peppers. This was very well executed and tasty fantastic. Really this meal was one of the best I’ve had on a flight, surpassed only by the amazing Indian vegan food on United. Credit to the catering team out of London, what great meals came out of their kitchens.

 Pre-Landing Snack

Pre-Landing Snack

Overall I have to take one more chance to praise this crew, they were professional, pleasant, and proactive. Every course came with the offer of a beverage, and even in between service portions of the flight, they responded quickly to coffee requests from my seat mates. Really top notch crew, and showed the night and day service options when compared to the terrible crew out of Buenos Aires. While I would suggest avoiding the angle flat seats, the soft product (food and service) was incredible. 10 out of 10, would fly again as they say… fantastic flight.

Vegetarian/Vegan Food Review: American 777-200 Business Class - Buenos Aires to Miami

After boarding my flight back to the US, I made my way to my seat where a menu awaited me. Of coourse I had already pre-oordered the vegetarian/vegan meal prior to boarding. While the downgrade to business class was a little upsetting, I did look forward to trying American Airlines in premium class. If you aren't vegetarian, then take a look at the menu to see what was on offer to the rest of the passangers.



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After we had taken off and made our way up above 10,000 ft, the service began. The flight attendants proactively had confirmed that I had ordered the vegetarian meal. While that started us off well, that was about the extent of the good service I recieved from the flight attendants. For the most part, the service was met with rudeness, quick to anger and a service level that would have pissed me off in economy, let alone business class, I'm just greatful that I didn't fly first class, not sure what I would have done if this is the kind of service I recieved in first class.

Putting aside the service for a moment, lets take a look at the food. Right after takeoff the flight attendants came around with the hot towels, followed closely by drink orders. Personally I love sparkling water, so I had a glass of that for this meal. With the drink order came a ramakin of warm nuts. As many of you who are vegetarian or vegan know, nuts are a great protein source, and I also happen to love nuts. American has stepped up their mixed nuts recently, they've even added pistachios to the mix as well. This all makes me a happy man.

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Unfortunately the nuts are the only place where the meal hit the mark, and that is just plain sad since the nuts require no prep. 

Following the nuts came pretty much the entire meal all at once. Now we'll touch on service here again for a moment. Normally on most airlines, the business class meals are served in courses. Serving an entire business class meal on a single tray is just plain lazy, come on American Airlines, you may be my preferred airline, but put a little effort into keeping me as a loyal customer.  

As you can see from this picture, this is my pet peeve all over again, except on a massive scale. Once again I get the quintessential vegetarian meal prepared by someone who has no idea that vegetarians like to eat flavorful dishes as well.

Lets go through everything offered on this plate. Starting with the salad, we can see a wonderful arrangement of random vegetables over the top of some lettuce. Presumably in an effort to make sure we were aware of how little effort was put into the dish, they added canned mushrooms to the salad as well. Topping all of this off, no dressing was included with the salad. Once I was able to flag down a flight attendant, I requested some balsamic vinaigrette that was offered with the normal meals on board. She obliged, though once I added it to the salad and tasted how awful this tasted, I immediately regretted my choice to add dressing. 

After powering through the salad, I moved on to the... side dish? It consisted of more steamed vegetables. Tasty, I do like vegetables, but I also like flavor and would have appreciated even a little salt on this dish, but it was fine i guess for what it was. 

Next up was the main course and this just put the cherry on top of the disaster that was this meal. Let me describe this thing since it's hard to imagine me ever making this for myself unless I had the cooking skills of a 2 year old. This was a mountain of rice, roughly the same gross weight as Mt Everest. Next to it was 2 slices of eggplant... under cooked. Also, included was 2 slices of squash, I didn;t even bother with it. Personally I don't like tomatoes so I skipped those. I used some oil and salt to try to flavor the incredibly bland rice, it sort of worked, at least enough to eat some.

Finally was the vegetarian's eternal dessert of fruit. I love fruit, but I had so much honeydew melon on this trip, it literally made me cringe to eat it.  

All I have to say, this meal was disappointing to say the least. Breakfast was yet to come though folks. 

After waking up, breakfast was served about 30 seconds after opening my eyes, that is not an exaggeration either.  The flight attendant reached over me as I was trying to get my seat upright, she pulled out the tray table and shoved the breakfast in front of me. Just look at the picture and let me know that you have any idea what that is? I had no clue, but yellow and square, it reminded me of some sort of egg dish. Posing the question to the flight attendant, "Is this eggs?" She responded with a helpful, I don't know. Thanks, glad you know.

Well after some prodding at the dish, flipping it over, I finally determined that this was in fact polenta. Well then it does in fact meet the vegetarian/vegan dish requirements that I had requested. Time to take a bite... Oh my... oh no..... I have never in my life eaten anything that was capable of making you rethink your definition of flavorless. I imagine this is what ground cardboard would taste like. These caterers obviously don't taste their own product before delivering it, because this was soooooooo bad. I didn't even bother with the rest of the meal. 

I have to give credit to the catering company, this is by far the worst meal I've had, air or ground. It takes real skill to make such incredibly disappointing meals. I hope that American Airlines comes to their senses and gets rid of these caterers ASAP. Moral of th story here is... don't go to Buenos Aires... maybe that's a little harsh, but seriously, don't go.

 

Flying Vegan - Round Trip to Marseilles

Well here in the US, it's Thanksgiving Day, the day where we pretty much just eat. In observance of the holiday, I thought it would be appropriate to cover my meals for my trip to Marseilles France last week. The itinerary took me to London for a connection, then on to Marseilles. For work, the stay in France was roughly 1 week, back to London for an overnight layover, then the final leg back to Philadelphia.



Philadelphia to London

This was a short flight, but a memorable one... but not in a good way. I've flown vegan meals now on four different segments, and this meal was by far the worse meal I've had so far. Coming out of Philadelphia, it sort of surprises me that such a great food city can have such terrible airline catering. I've flown American Airlines catering out of Dallas and had not great, but passable food on that flight. Out of Philly I was surprised at the meal quality.

First off, the outbound crew was bad, one of the least happy and attentive crews I've seen, which was contrasted by the amazing inbound crew, more on them later. The food was presented to me on the normal tray with a mix of foods but the one that struck me right away was the salad. It had cheese on it... this is a vegan meal... with cheese? Alright, that is never a good start and it does make one question the rest of the meal. Everything else seemed to be on the level, but was just plain bad. The main course was little more than rice with 3 pieces of asparagus on it, on by little more than, I mean it was only rice. This meal consisted of no protein. The rest was fine, fruit with coconut seemed confused but tasted fine.

London to Marseilles and Marseilles to London

The flights to and from Marseilles was fairly straight forward inter European flight, the flights food wise were identical... emotionally very different, but I'll talk more about that fiasco in another article. 

The flights to and from Marseilles were flown on British Airways. The food offered was a bit of a surprise since in America there is no food option other than purchased snack boxes while flying domestically on short haul flights. This flight was only 2 hours, but a complimentary food option was offered. The food offered was a sweet bun and a turkey sandwich... I didn't take it since it was unlikely to meet my dietary needs.

On The Ground in France

Let me just say up front, France is by far the single most difficult place to eat vegan I have ever traveled. There are essential no options, not even vegetarian in Southern France. My meals mostly consisted of salad, then a lot of nuts when I returned to me room. The one exception was when we dined with work colleagues, one of whom could speak French quite well. He was able to get me a special made meal from the chef, it was excellent. Other than that, it is very difficult to stay on plan for vegan.

Return Trip from London to Philadelphia

This was an excellent flight, the crew was incredible. The flight attendants joked with each other non stop, made jabs at passengers including me, and I loved every second of it. This crew defined exactly what I love to see on a Atlantic crossing flight.

The food was much better in this direction. The catering at Heathrow is a notch above that of Philadelphia. The main meal was mediocre, which is par for the course for economy meals. The main course was a pasta dish, the sides were salad and fruit as seems to be the way of things for vegan meals, really a fairly plain meal. 

The star of the flight came as the pre-arrival snack. The normal offering, which was given to me on top of the vegan snack, was a feta empanada and some sweet roll thing. The cheese in the empanada was obviously not vegan, so I skipped this and stuck to the vegan option. For the vegan snack, the meal was a couscous with roasted vegetables and a thick tomato sauce. This actually mimiced perfectly a meal I had at the hotel in London. I loved the meal in the hotel and I loved the airplane version just as much. This meal was the highlight of not only this flight, but every vegan option I've ever had on any flight. I would eat this on the ground if I had the option. Adding eggplant to any meal is a win for me

Next Trip To France

Once more I will be returning to France in February for another week at work. Look forward to a busy month in February as I not only go to France, but also to Argentina.