Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Gluten-Free At Disney

When my family decided to go to Disney recently, the first thought I had was, what the hell am I going to eat!?  My mother, being the amazing vacation planner that she is, called ahead to each restaurant we planned on visiting and verified there were options.  I was still a little skeptical, thinking I'd be dining on salads the whole time (no thanks).  When we got there, however, I was magically surprised at not only the options and variety, but how exceedingly helpful and friendly the staff was about my dietary needs.  So here's a breakdown of my eating experience at Disney (aren't you fascinated?) 

We were part of the meal plan, which I would HIGHLY recommend to anyone doing to the Disney thing.  For about $40 a day per person, you save a boat load of money and don't have the stress of budgeting for meals.  We stayed at Disney's Fort Wilderness Resort but were able to take shuttles or the ferry boat to the other resorts to get meals.  I only ate one meal at Fort Wilderness, a breakfast of gf Mickey shaped waffles.

1. Disney's Wilderness Lodge where I was delighted to find they had FRIED FOODS specifically for gluten-free guests.  Ok, it was chicken tendeys and fries, but still, fried, for us gluten-free-ers!  Before ordering, the manager spoke to me about options (they had gf pancakes for breakfast, gf rolls for sandwiches/burgers, pizza, cookies and brownies).  I got the tenders and fries (obviously).  I asked about the fryer and is designated to only gf and the fries, which I checked the ingredients on and asked about 15 times to make sure they don't put anything else the fryer. I am very sensitive to gluten and my belly was great after the meal. 

2. Disney's Saratoga Springs Resort was where we had my favorite meal of the vacation.  Aside from the fact that this resort, which opened in 2004, is modeled after the town near us which was really neat, the food and service was spectacular.  They serve Saratoga Water (my fave), great wine, and the chef came out to the table to take my gf order.  Though they don't have a separate menu for gf guests, pretty much anything could be altered.  They even have gf rolls and dessert!  I went with the prime rib which was hands-down the best I've ever had.

3. Disney's Contemporary Resort was a really neat place!  The dishes are smaller portions, but fancier than some of the others.  It was good, but I wasn't wowed by it.  As with all the sit-down restaurants, the chef came out to take my order here, and I was delighted they had a gf mushroom risotto.  I went with this chicken, which I enjoyed (it is boneless, save for that one bone sticking out...I was confused).

4. Disney's Grand Floridian has a lot of different places to eat at the one resort.  We didn't have a reservation, but only had a few minute wait at for the cafe.  This was one of the few places which didn't serve gf rolls, but I asked and they did have gf penne pasta.  It wasn't listed on the menu, so just ask.  I didn't, however, get the pasta but instead opted for the steak.  It was good, but not as good as the Saratoga Springs Resort one.  For dessert, I had the fondu, which was yummy.

5. Beast's Castle is a new addition to Disney's Magical Kingdom.  I'd say the atmosphere was more exciting than the food.  The ordering process was a little confusing, as you order through a computer where you choose your options, then find your seat in one of the three dining rooms and then the meal is served to you.  They did have some gf options, including a turkey sandwich and even a cream puff pastry desert, but overall, the food wasn't the best part of this dining experience. 

6. House of Blue's in Downtown Disney was part of our meal plan, which was awesome.  There was a pretty long wait, even with reservations, but the food was awesome.  Again, no formal gf menu, but just ask and they'll tell you.  The chef doesn't come out to talk to you here, but the waiter was good about asking the kitchen anything I need to know. 

A few tips for planning your meals at Disney:
1. Make reservations!  Most require you have them, and it makes planning your days easier.
2. Don't be afraid to ask questions! It's your stomach and your vacation. They are happy to help!
3. Make the most of your meal plan.  Our last day, we had a few meals left, so I went to the Fort Wilderness Lodge and grabbed a couple gf meals for the airport, since airports offer pretty much nothing for us gluten-free-ers. 
4. Take your to-go cups with you everywhere.  They come with your meal plan and you get free-refills.
5. Indulge in the awesome meals.  Because of the meal plan, we ordered big meals like a $37 steak and it was included (except tip of course).  We ate like royalty and it was amazing not having to worry about getting sick because of gluten. 

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