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GREAT ARTICLE (PIOG) ....... Gluten Free at Disney World

Posted by on Jul. 5, 2009 at 11:32 AM
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A Gluten Free Family Vacation
Valerie Lobo

March 2009

Below is a report of our recent trip to WDW accommodating 4 celiac diners (my husband, me and our 2 daughters).

The folks at Disney World impressed us before we ever even got on the flight to head to Disney. We received an email containing restaurants that could accommodate us, the GF products carried in Disney World, and a generic food allergy form to be filled out. We were very skeptical about the generic form but we included all of our table service reservation numbers and also sent in the quick service locations we planned on visiting. From there our journey began. We were contacted directly by the chefs and sous chefs of the restaurants we planned on visiting. Yep, you read that correctly. The chefs called or emailed us to discuss menu options, etc. One of the quick serve locations we mentioned wanting to visit in Hollywood Studios would not be able to accommodate GF. They called to let us know what quick serve locations we could go to instead. It was nice to have a warm and fuzzy feeling before our trip even began.

Magic Kingdom

Our first dining experience in the Magic Kingdom was at the Crystal Palace for a character dining with Winnie the Pooh and friends. When we checked in they had our reservation stating we had a food allergy. Once we were seated a chef came out to our table. Since this was a buffet, the chef walked the line with us. He informed us of what was safe and then took our order. He went to the back and got us fresh items so there was no chance of contamination. We were served Ener-g tapioca dinner rolls with our meal. I took one and broke it in half. The texture threw me since it appeared to be like tearing apart a foam cushion. However, we didn’t let that deter us. One bite was all it took to get us hooked. These were absolutely fabulous! We ordered seconds of the rolls. Definitely one of the best GF rolls we’ve ever had. For dessert we ordered the GF brownie. I have no idea who the vendor is for this item. I would say to avoid this like the plague, though. I’ve never tried a worse brownie. It was a very mealy texture and tasted horrible. Let me put it this way, after that first brownie experience, we were to chicken to try brownies anywhere else in case they were the same! Overall, the dining at Crystal Palace was a wonderful experience. It was nice to know that we had our own chef to look after us.

We had our second table service at Tony’s Town Square. This is a cute Lady and the Tramp themed restaurant. Everyone remembers that cute spaghetti dinner at Tony’s where they kiss. The have a variety of options at this location, even boasting GF meatballs. The items we choose were chicken parmesan, shrimp scampi, and macaroni and cheese. They do carry those fabulous dinner rolls at this location. Have I mentioned you need to try them, yet? Every table service we attended had the fabulous rolls. We always ordered seconds. Overall, the food here was ho-hum. The sauces didn’t have much flavor and the veggies in the shrimp scampi were odd. Instead of the traditional garlic flavor it was overpowered by sun dried tomatoes and asparagus. It reminded me of a pasta primavera and not shrimp scampi.

Our quick service meal at Cosmic Ray’s was good. We had great customer service. As soon as we walked in and told the attendant we were GF, she handled our order from start to finish. So, even though it’s a quick service location you are treated as thought it is table service with them bringing your meal out to you. They do carry GF rolls here and can do everything but chicken nuggets. The children’s menu at this location was limited to hamburger or hotdog, though. We ordered a rib meal, bbq pulled pork sandwich, and a hotdog. I don’t know if they heat the rolls differently here or what. It wasn’t good, though. They fall apart and you’re better off eating the meal minus the rolls. I did notice that the rolls at the table service locations were wonderful but at the quick service locations throughout Disney World it was better to eat just the meat.

Our second quick service meal was at the Columbia Harbor House. This was definitely our best quick service experience of our whole trip. Honestly, the GF selection was limited. What the menu lacked in variety the staff made up for in customer service. We had the pleasure of meeting Edward from Warren Robbins, WA. He was by far the most attentive manager we’d come across. He pulled out the books to go over safe options with us. We ordered chicken tenders, and the Garden Harvest salad substituting the chicken tenders on it, as well. He came out while our food was cooking to double check one of the items on the salad to be sure it was safe. I questioned whether they had fries at this location since he hadn’t mentioned it earlier. He stated that they did. When our order came out I was surprised to see fries there since we technically hadn’t ordered them. Edward brought them out since I had asked about them, though. The chicken tenders were great. Definitely one of the best GF varieties I’ve ever tried. The dessert options here were limited to applesauce or grapes. The kid’s meal came with carrots and grapes. Edward checked on us several times during our meal. Once we done eating he came over and chatted with for quite awhile. He mentioned the training they go through to be aware of food sensitivities, etc. He spoke of his long and happy career with the Disney family. He also told us about the chefs that get assigned to each allergy family as they come into an establishment. At the end of the meal he brought out some of the trading pins to get our girls started on their own collection. If you have the good fortune of meeting Edward during your visit, consider yourself lucky!

Animal Kingdom

We chose to eat at the Yak and Yeti. Numerous items could be made GF here. The flavoring would primarily be tamarind based. I was disappointed that none of the interesting tamarind or maple flavors could be used. I guess they just stock blends instead of having separate containers of the maple or tamarind. This was probably the most disappointing table service of our entire stay. The food was so bland. You can usually taste ginger and garlic in the sauces. All of the dishes had the same boring flavor. The chef essentially just made tamari gravy that he poured over the entrees. The flavor could have been so much better if some ginger or garlic were added. We ordered beef and broccoli, Mahi Mahi, and a kid’s vegetable lo mein. Can you see the vegetable’s in the lo mein? Neither could we. Thankfully we ordered broccoli and carrots as the sides with her meal. The fish was cooked well but the sauce didn’t add anything to it. The beef and broccoli was bland. I will give them credit for having tasty sorbets for dessert. Mango, Raspberry, and lemon sorbet’s to choose from. Yummy!

For dinner we ate at the Flame Tree BBQ. It was simple but yummy. We ordered ribs and chicken there. The food was well cooked, the ribs had a good smoke on them, and the chicken was nice and tender. This is an excellent GF option. If you enjoy BBQ be sure to stop by this quick service restaurant. You will not be disappointed.

Hollywood Studio’s

Our first table service dinner was at Mama Melrose’s. They carry GF pasta at this location and have numerous GF options for entrees and dessert. They can even do fried calamari, chicken parmesan, or eggplant. The chef uses a rice flour blend on them. For dessert you can have a chocolate flourless cake that’s not even on the menu, creme limone with whipped cream and berries, and various gelatos. We ordered the wood grilled shrimp pasta, Fra Diavolo, and spaghetti w/ tomato sauce. This was a great meal and the calamari so very yummy.

Our second table service was at the Sci Fi Diner. The food here was fair at best. If you choose to go to this restaurant just remember that you are going for the atmosphere and not the food. We ordered a pasta primavera, steak, and a hot dog.

Our first quick service experience was at Pizza Planet. We had difficulties with the young cast member taking our order. We were already used to dealing with the managers as soon as we walked in and that is what we expected. When we stated that we are GF, the girl stated it was fine that she could take our order. So, we attempted to order. Then the girl told us that GF could NOT be accommodated on a kid’s meal. I told her that our entire party is GF, though. She said, “sorry but we can’t do it”. I requested to speak to the manager. The girl got an attitude and stated, “The answer is going to be the same but fine I’ll go and get her”. Pizza Planet is a pizza place and a large arcade restaurant. Do you really think that we chose this restaurant? Heck no, our kid wanted this one. When the manager came out I explained that our entire party if GF. I then told her that the cast member stated GF was not possible on a kid’s meal. The manager apologized and gave our daughter the GF pizza kid’s meal. The manager even threw in some yummy all fruit bars for dessert that aren’t even on the menu. I was thankful that the manager dealt with the situation accordingly.

Our second quick service experience was at the Back Lot Express. Not only do they have a dedicated fryer for GF, they also have a nice southwest salad with corn chip strips and a chimichurri dressing. Dessert here is limited to pudding or grapes. The only child’s menu option is chicken nuggets with fries, carrots, or grapes. They do have hot dogs and burgers on the menu here but, that is not an option for the kid’s meal.

Hollywood Studios is the one park that needs to be more accommodating to kid’s GF requests. Pizza Planet didn’t want to accommodate a GF kid’s meal. At two other quick service locations (Back Lot Express and Studio Catering Company) there was only one kid’s meal option. What are you supposed to do if your child doesn’t want chicken?

Epcot

We had a character dining at the Akershurs restaurant in Norway. The best thing about this dining experience is that the princesses are present and stop by every table. Before you are led to your table you have your picture taken with a princess. Surprisingly, you are given the picture for free. Yep, you read that correctly. You get the princess picture for free. This is a buffet setting. The chef came out and discussed our menu options with us. Since the buffet didn’t look like there was much chance of cross contamination, I followed the chef’s assessment and just ate from the buffet instead of getting fresh items from the back. I would love to be able to say that is was a safe dining experience. However, I cannot. I believe I was contaminated at this meal. I do appreciate the fact that they really do try hard to keep you safe, though. Unfortunately, following this meal, I got to be very familiar with the restroom. The meal was tasty and would been great aside from the probable contamination issue. The only dessert options were chocolate flourless cake and rice cream with berries.

Our second table service was at the Coral Reef. Once again the chef came out to discuss menu options and to take our order. Out of all of the menu’s that we had encountered over the trip, this menu appears to have the most GF options. We ordered the pan seared catch of the day (Grouper), seared Ahi Tuna, and Mahi Mahi. The food was all cooked wonderfully. Once again we received a nice big basket of tapioca rolls. The dessert options were crcme brulee, chocolate flourless cake, and sorbet. This was our best meal of the entire trip.

Port Orlean’s Riverside Resort – Riverside Mill Food Court

We had a couple of meals at our resort. It was not on the list of restaurants accommodating GF options however, Boatwright’s was on the list. So, maybe they grabbed the chef from Boatwright’s? As soon as the staff at the food court knows that you are GF, they get the chef for you. The chef goes over the various options with you. At breakfast we were able to order pancakes and waffles. They come with sausage, bacon, and fresh fruit. The bacon here is paper thin. Other items available at breakfast include eggs, omelets, and potato wedges.

For lunch the chef came out to go over our options again. He had me follow him over to the salad station so he could make my grilled chicken salad. The chef waved me to the front so I could tell him what I wanted on my salad.

In closing, I would just like to say, Disney World does care and goes out of their way to ensure a safe GF vacation. Be sure to make reservations at the dining locations and let them know when you’ll be there. If you’ve been considering a Disney vacation, go for it. You won’t be disappointed.


                                  

by on Jul. 5, 2009 at 11:32 AM
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ElmoRules
by on Jul. 8, 2009 at 10:51 PM

Thanks for the information.  It was very helpful.  My girls are 3 1/2 years old and we don't plan on going there for a few years but I am glad to hear it is so accommodating.  How do you think they would do with multiple food allergies on top of the GF?  My girls are allergic to beef, dairy and soy (not soy oil but anything else soy) plus have celiac disease along with me.  Whenever we travel we get a place with a kitchen...it would be nice to have a vacation where I don't have to cook :)

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