Trip Report: FRA-SFO and United Economy's Semi-Secret Vegetarian Menu
After my delicious holiday feast in the Lufthansa Senator Lounge in Frankfurt, it was time to board my United 787-9 to San Francisco.
Service started with beverage and a pack of pesto mini breadsticks. This seems to have been the standard for flights departing Europe for the past several years.
After collecting trash from that service, the flight attendants came around again with dinner service. Now, this is where things got interesting. I was sitting in the middle block of seats between two aisles, and I could hear the flight attendants in the opposite aisle offering three entree options, while the flight attendants on my side offered only two options. They both offered chicken with orzo (I believe it was this overly creamy dish I had on a EWR-LAX premium transcontinental service), and a pasta dish (I think it was ravioli?). But the semi-secret third option, according to the right side flight attendants, was a vegetable curry.
I’ve actually had this happen on a number of other flights. My theory is that there aren’t that many of these non-pasta vegetarian options boarded on each flight, and the flight attendants kind of “guard” their supply of non-pasta vegetarian dishes for passengers who might have forgotten to order vegetarian meals in advance, who really would be in a pickle if the pasta option runs out.
So I asked the flight attendant in my aisle if she had the vegetarian option, and she said, “Let me see if I have one of those left.” That really made me raise my eyebrows! I was sitting in the third row of Economy Plus and I already saw that no one in front of me had ordered it (not surprising because she wasn’t offering it!).
So I was finally handed my “Red Thai Vegetable Curry,” which according to the plastic wrapper, qualifies as the gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and Asian vegetarian meal which you can order in advance.
The starter was a grain and vegetable salad. This was pretty good; definitely more filling than a lettuce salad.
Then there was the red curry. It was excellent! Creamy and spicy - for real -, there was a perfect ratio of rice to curry. The vegetables included eggplant, edamame, carrots, green beans, and baby corn.
I truly enjoyed this main course, and hats off to United for catering spicy, tasty curries on their transatlantic flights. Previous experiences include a delicious butter chicken IAD-BCN, a chicken curry korma ZRH-EWR, and a Thai curry chicken FRA-EWR. With these main courses, I’ve actually been quite satisfied with United’s Economy catering, and have found it superior to SWISS, as an example.
For dessert, we had a “Belgian Chocolate Truffle” ice cream, which was also delicious - a nice way to end the meal.
During dinner, I watched Incredibles 2, slept a bit, and woke up for a snack service. This came in a plastic bag, with a pack of Carr’s Table Water Crackers, a block of Gouda cheese, some Ritz-type and pretzel snack mix, and the highlight, a full-size Kit Kat bar! Complemented by a cup of tomato juice, this was a filling mid-flight snack.
Then a few hours later, we were served the pre-arrival snack. Here again, there was a case of the semi-secret vegetarian option. On a previous flight, another passenger in my row declined the sandwich (the same pretzel roll with turkey and cheese that United has been serving for years and years on westbound transatlantic flights), and then the flight attendant said that he also had an all-cheese sandwich, in case she was declining the sandwich because she was vegetarian.
So I knew there was likely to be a cheese sandwich! Now, I actually really enjoy the pretzel sandwich, usually served warm and gooey, but since it is served on every. single. flight, I was simply curious about the secret cheese sandwich. So asked my flight attendant if she had any (of course, she hadn’t offered it first), and sure enough she gave me one of these clandestine sandwiches. “Spice Baguette Cheddar” the package says (like the “Red Thai Vegetable Curry,” I find the word order on these packages are a bit odd). The sandwich was served with honeydew, cantaloupe, and grapes, potato chips, and a square of Ritter Sport - a nice change from the usual Lily O’Brien chocolate, and the one nod to Germany on this flight.
So how was this coveted cheese sandwich? Meh. The bread was spongy, in the way that it kind of sucked all of the saliva out of your mouth, and the cheese had the same texture as the bread. I’m sticking to the turkey and cheese on pretzel roll in the future - that is one solid sandwich, and this cheddar one did not outdo it.
After the pre-arrival service, we landed in San Francisco. Immigration, baggage claim, and customs were pretty quick, and then it was off to the BART station. There, I was greeted by the International Terminal bathed in Christmas colors, and a phalanx of trees in Christmasy lights. This holiday spirit really made me happy!