Saturday, October 25, 2014

Gluten Free at Paradiso 37, Downtown Disney

Before leaving Walt Disney World, my friend and I spent a few hours at Downtown Disney. While there, we stopped in to Paridiso 37 for lunch. Paradiso 37 has a menu spanning North American, Central American, and South American cuisine. As usual, our server ask if we had any food allergies, and when I mentioned my gluten allergy, he went to get the chef. While waiting for the chef, I looked over the menu and decided that the grilled chicken tortilla salad looked like it would be safe minus the tortilla chips. Mixed greens, salsa, roasted corn, grilled chicken, and a citrus vinaigrette. It was delicious!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Gluten Free at Liberty Tree Tavern and Saratoga Springs Resort, Walt Disney World

Another trip to Walt Disney World means another chance to experience dining gluten-free Disney-style. For this trip, we had plans to eat at the Liberty Tree Tavern in the Magic Kingdom. This has been a favorite dining location for us for many years. They serve a variety of foods including turkey, dressing, and vegetables, salads, burgers, and various pasta dishes. My favorite has been the Colony Salad which is a bed of fresh lettuce topped with Craisins, nuts, apples, and grilled chicken. Because we marked our reservation with a gluten allergy, the chef came out to check with us about that. I told him that pre-Celiac's, I liked the colony salad. He confirmed for me that the colony salad is, indeed, a gluten-free option. I thought it probably was, but it does not hurt to confirm. It was as delicious as always.

The next afternoon, we did not have lunch plans but were just hanging out at the Saratoga Springs resort. We had stopped at a nearby grocery store to get food for the rest of the family but I did not know what I wanted. So when we returned to the resort, I checked out the offerings at the Artist's Palate which is the food court at Saratoga Springs. I knew they serve soups, flatbreads, and salads. I had not eaten there before, so I checked the menu carefully and made my selection before entering the line. Because of my gluten allergy, they asked me to consult with the chef. I told him that I thought the Saratoga salad with chicken sounded like it might be a good option without the croutons. He confirmed that for me. It is very similar to the Colony salad I had at the Liberty Tree Tavern. The Saratoga salad with lettuce, Craisins, dried blueberries, and walnuts with a lemon poppy dressing. I have included a picture of the Saratoga salad. It was delicious and plentiful. In fact, I think I like it better and it costs about five dollars less. There is enough that two of us could have shared this.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Gluten Free at Epcot's Food and Wine Festival 2014

I have always enjoyed the Food and Wine Festival at Epcot. Trying new foods and flavors while walking around the World Showcase is a great way to spend an evening or two in the early fall. And while I don't drink alcohol, there is certainly enough food to enjoy to make the trip worthwhile.

This year, the Discovery Passport that lists the menu selections for each country also includes designations for Vegetarian and Gluten Free options. This certainly made it easy for my trip(s) around the world.  Experience has taught us that you should not try to enjoy the Food and Wine Festival in just one day, and you should always bring a tasting friend.  So we blocked out two evenings - one starting on the Mexico side and the other beginning from the Canada side of Epcot.

Not all countries and booths had gluten free options, but most did.  These are the ones that I had:

  • Patagonia:  Grilled Beef Skewer with Chimichurri Sauce and Boniato Puree.  This was a thinly sliced piece of beef on a skewer that had a chimichurri sauce on it that gave it both a spicy and cool flavor. The boniato puree is a white sweet potato and regular white potato that are mashed and so delicious.
  • Mexico - Rib Eye Taco: Marinated Rib-eye, Roasted Chipotle Salsa, and Grilled Scallions on a Corn Tortilla.
  • Farm Fresh - Nueske's Pepper Bacon Hash with Sween Corn, Potatoes, Hollandaise and Pickled Jalapenos.  We got this just as they were closing up for the night (free). I only had a small taste of it but other people online have been raving about it.
  • Brazil - Pao de Queijo - Brazillian Cheese Bread. This is a light roll that has a melted white cheese inside (mild). The roll is a bit crusty outside and very thin. This was my absolute favorite thing at the Food and Wine Festival 2014. In fact, I had it both days we were there. I haven't had a good roll since becoming gluten free and these met my bread needs in both taste and texture! 
  • Puerto Rico - Carne Guisada con Arroz Blanca - Slow Braised Beef with Puerto Rican Grown Rice.  While this was a plentiful serving, I thought the dish needed salt. The rice was really good.
  • Scotland - Fresh Potato Pancake with Smoked Scottish Salmon and Herb Sour Cream. I'm not a big salmon fan, but the potato pancake was pretty good; I would have been happy with just the potato pancake. My friend ate the salmon after I tried a bite of it.
Overall, if you are eating gluten free for health reasons or for preference, there are plenty of options at the Food and Wine Festival, so don't let your dietary restrictions keep you from going.  I listed those that I had, but there are at least 15 more gluten-free items on the menu.

Gluten Free at Walt Disney World - Grand Floridian

While at Walt Disney World, we stayed at the Grand Floridian. It has become our custom to have a quick meal at the Gasparilla Grill which offers quick service food including pizza, hot sandwiches, chicken tenders, soups, salads, and more.  My favorite for years has been their grilled cheese sandwich, but I knew this time I couldn't have it. Well, I could have it just with gluten-free bread, but I thought "why bother?" because I knew it would not be the same and even if it tasted good, I would still be disappointed that it wasn't the same.

WDW is great at having the manager or chef come out to talk with you about dietary needs, so after a quick perusal of the offerings, I asked if I could speak to someone about their gluten free options.  They told me about their GF fries and chicken tenders, sandwiches on GF bread, and then also mentioned that everything on the salad bar, including all of their dressing options, were GF (except the croutons and one other item).  I had been thinking about the salad but it was $11.59 which was more than I really wanted to spend on lunch (a grilled cheese is only $4).  But I didn't want the chicken and fries and I didn't want a sandwich, so I opted for the build your own salad with flank steak and a mandarin orange sesame dressing. And I have to say this - if I wasn't eating GF, I would never have gotten the salad there and I would have missed out - it was so fresh and delicious. The salad dressing was the right blend of sweet and tangy. And I got my veggies in for the day!

On the last day of our girlfriends' trip, we have tea at the Grand Floridian's Garden View Tea Room.  While we had not known of my Celiac's when we made the tea reservation, concierge was able to add a note to our reservation so they would know ahead of time about my special dietary needs.  In fact, when our server came to talk with us, I noticed that our ticket had a Special Diet indication on it.  We ordered our tea service and he told me that they would be preparing special plates for me.

Here's a picture of the tea sandwiches.  They were on GF bread that was actually pretty good. I don't like the watercress that they usually include, so I asked if they could substitute the curry chicken for it (no problem!).  And instead of the beet and goat cheese that came on the regular plate, they made an extra egg salad one which I enjoy anyway.  The open faced sandwich is roasted tomato on pesto.

The second course is usually a scone, but for my plate they served two slices of BabyCakes - a lemon poppy and a banana walnut (I think that's what it was).  They were ok; I liked the lemon poppy better and the lemon curd went nicely with it.

And finally the last course: dessert. Usually they offer a selection of pastries, trifle, or strawberries with whipped cream which is what I usually get and most likely was fine for a GF choice. However, they provided a GF plate which included two coconut items, berries, and a chocolate treat.

All in all, I was happy with the way my dining experiences at the Grand Floridian were handled. They certainly made staying GF easier for me by offering GF food that was comparable to what the other menu choices included.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Gluten Free at Disney World - Be Our Guest for Lunch

This week was my first out of town trip since becoming gluten free, and of all things to do, I went to Walt Disney World with three friends specifically for the Food and Wine Festival.  While we were there, we also had the opportunity to enjoy lunch at the Be Our Guest restaurant in the Magic Kingdom and Afternoon Tea at the Grand Floridian.

I had read online that Walt Disney World was accommodating for food allergies when you let them know of your dietary restrictions.  We had planned this trip several months before my celiac’s diagnosis, so I was curious to see how accommodating they would be in reality.  My analysis? They go out of their way to meet your needs and by letting them know ahead of time, that makes things a little easier when it’s time to order.

Many of the menus are available online and have a gluten free designation by those items which are safe for me to eat. I had read reviews on other blogs about the food options at Be Our Guest so I knew what I thought I wanted to order, but as always, it’s best to check with the restaurant in case something has changed in the way the food is prepared.  At Be Our Guest at lunch, you order from a kiosk, and the kiosk has an option to indicate your food allergy. The Cast Members are great at helping you know how to put the filter on for the foods that are gluten free, so having just those options appear limited my choices.  I ordered the gluten free version of braised pork with mashed potatoes and green beans while one of my friends ordered the same thing without restriction.  My food came out first with an allergy flag in it and they double checked with me before leaving the food on the table.  My friend’s order came after mine and the only difference appeared to be the sauce that was on her meat.  Mine was delicious, the pork so tender, the potatoes flavorful, and the green beans were crunchy.  I also ordered the gluten free dessert option which was a lemon raspberry creation that was just ok for the price.

The photos are from the Be Our Guest lunch.