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Old 09-27-2011, 07:57 PM   #1
kokotg
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9 Days of Dining Gluten-free: reviews and pictures

My first attempt at full-fledged dining reviews!

I'm also posting these as part of my trip report, but I'm putting them over here for people who don't want to wade through the whole thing. I found gluten-free reviews really helpful when I was planning my own trip, so I wanted to put these out there in case they could help someone else with planning. I'll be talking about:

Columbia Harbor House
Wolfgang Puck Express
Babycakes
Restaurantosaurus
Everything Pop food court
Sunshine Seasons
Le Cellier
Flame Tree Barbecue
Boma
Pizza Planet
Mama Melrose
Crystal Palace
'Ohana
Garden Grill
Planet Hollywood
Pinocchio Village Haus
Liberty Inn

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Old 09-27-2011, 07:59 PM   #2
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Gluten-free intro and Columbia Harbor House

The background information: Way back in the beginning of July, we decided to do a trial of gluten-free eating...for a few reasons. The primary one was that Dave has psoriasis and has tried approximately 387 different things for it with little to no luck. Cutting out gluten seemed like a relatively easy one to try, so we figured we should at least cross it off the list. He had a celiac panel done before we started, and it came back completely negative, but it still seemed worth a try. The thing about psoriasis is that everyone has something completely different as the thing that worked for them, so it's really hard to find that thing for yourself.

Toss in some behavioral issues and Gus' asthma and allergies, and it seemed like it couldn't hurt for the whole family to give it a try. I was already doing a low carb thing and was 99% gluten-free by default, so it seemed less daunting to me than it might have otherwise.

I thought that by starting in July, we'd have PLENTY of time to get the whole thing figured out before the Disney trip. We'd do a one month trial and see what happened.

Only...figuring the whole thing out has proved more complicated than I expected it to be. Within a few days of going off gluten, things seemed a lot....calmer around our house. Fewer tantrums, less yelling, more reasonable children. Dave's psoriasis, on the other hand, didn't seem to be improving at all. When we've experimented with letting the kids have gluten, Gus usually reacts physically almost immediately, with a bad headache and/or stomachache, and we notice really unpleasant behavioral changes with all of the kids over the next day or two. It's happened often enough now that I'm reasonably sure it's not all in my head.

So...what to do? On one hand, I didn't want to be the person with no diagnosis who won't eat gluten because it's all trendy and Oprah did it. On the other hand...I think there might be some good reasons why it's trendy to not eat gluten, and the overstimulation of a Disney trip can provoke enough meltdowns on its own without adding in First Time Eating Gluten in a Month meltdowns.

That's where we are. I don't think anyone in the family has celiac (I do have an order for labs for Gus, since he has definite physical reactions, but my understanding is that in order for it to be accurate he'd first have to go back to eating gluten for several weeks...and, you know, that makes him feel bad). But I do think it's not good for my kids and negatively affects their behavior. And I also think it's worth giving it a longer trial for Dave's psoriasis. And if all of them are going to be gluten-free, I'd kind of feel like a jerk sitting there eating yummy bread all by myself.

So that was that. I added a notation to all of our dining reservations that we couldn't have gluten, and I spent a whole lot of time reading dining reviews of gluten-free experiences at Disney.

Ari, incidentally, was not happy about any of this, as you'll see later on. Pretty much the only thing he DID have meltdowns about on the trip was not being able to eat gluten. Ironically. In fact, I bet just reading this part of my trip report is going to make him grumpy (hi, Ari!)

I've never done detailed dining reviews before, but I decided to try to do them this year since I found other people's gluten-free reviews so helpful when making my plans.

Keep in mind that we probably weren't as cautious as most people with celiac would be about things like cross contamination (and, as you'll see, there was at least one time when we screwed up completely). For example, sometimes at quick service places when I knew from my research that something on the regular menu was gluten-free, we just ordered that without doing the whole talking to a manager thing. But for the most part we did talk to chefs and managers and made sure everything was safe.

Phew! That's a lot of introduction there. On to the actual food!

Columbia Harbor House



We got here around 2:00, and there were still surprisingly long lines. I'd read enough beforehand that I knew the basic drill, so we asked the first CM we saw about a gluten-free menu. She told us to go ahead and get in line, and when we got to the cashier, he or she would get the manager for us. So Dave got in line while I took the kids upstairs to find seats.



Kids were pretty hungry and therefore pretty grumpy at this point. And pretty much any time we go out to eat or go grocery shopping Ari gets a little grumpy because it makes him think about not eating gluten. I distributed ipods and we settled in for the wait. And a long wait it was.

I knew to expect this, but I was kind of dreading it, mostly because of the kids. Thank goodness for ipods. The way it usually works at quick service places, with any kind of food allergy, is that you wait in the regular line then tell the cashier about your food allergy. The cashier then calls the manager, and you can't order until you talk to the manager, even if you know exactly what you want (which we always did, owing to my obsessive research and the gluten-free Disney app I bought for my iphone). And then they have to make your food for you, so that takes extra time, too. What it boiled down to was that we usually got our food faster at table service places than at quick service places on this trip.

Dave turned up 30 minutes later...with one meal still missing. He looked kind of miffed. “I told you it was going to take longer,” I said. “You told me it would take longer; you didn't tell me they wouldn't be able to count to five,” he responded. He'd ordered 5 meals, but somehow they'd forgotten to make one of them. The kids had food at least, though, so they started eating while we waited on the last meal.

A note about my food pictures: they are not the best, because I'm incredibly self-conscious about taking pictures of food. So I kind of did it really quick and didn't focus so much on quality. Maybe next time I'll be braver. But I did remember to take pictures of most things, so you can at least get an idea.

Columbia Harbor House is, as far as we can tell, the only place (or at least the only quick service) in the Magic Kingdom that serves allergen-free chicken tenders. Ari, you have to understand, LOVES chicken tenders. Back before the grand gluten-free experiment began, he actually contemplated starting a blog specifically to review chicken tenders from different restaurants. So I was beyond thrilled to learn that we could get gluten free chicken tenders at Disney World.

We all ordered them:



2 of these were kids plates, and 3 were adults, but I think they gave us all 4 chicken tenders and similar looking amounts of fries. It was a ton of food. The chicken tenders are really good! Much better than the chicken nuggets they serve to people without food allergies. I hope the secret doesn't get out! Although maybe if it does, Disney will have to bring back the real chicken tenders they used to have. The kids all loved them too, and we breathed a sigh of relief. We didn't really have a plan B if they weren't going to be able to order chicken fingers 50 times during the trip. My understanding is that the fries themselves are gluten free everywhere, but there are issues with cross contamination in a lot of places because of the shared fryers. I asked on the boards about this before the trip and was told that we should be able to order fries anywhere they serve the chicken tenders, since they already have to have a dedicated fryer, and we found this to be the case, in our experience. Some places we were also given baked fries.

I believe Columbia Harbor House offered either French Meadow brownies or cookies for dessert. We'd bought some of the brownies at home before the trip so we'd know whether the kids liked them or not. They love them. The ones we can buy at the grocery store are tiny compared to the ones they give you at Disney. These suckers were HUGE, and we got five of them with a lot of our meals, so I was pretty thoroughly sick of them by the time we left. Not the kids, though. We all got brownies with this meal. The French Meadow brownies are pretty good....the texture is good—more fudgy than cakey—they're on the VERY sweet side for my tastes...I prefer a more dark chocolately taste. But I don't really need to be eating a brownie with every meal anyway, so it's just as well I didn't love them.

Alrighty—there's my very long first dining review. The others won't require quite so much exposition!
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Old 09-28-2011, 10:40 AM   #3
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I love your detailed reviews...I recently found out I am lactose intolerant and I am nervous about doing this at WDW next month.

Sometimes the Lactaid pills help but other times they dont...my plan is to try and be 100% lactose free but if I want a bite of something I will take the pill
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Old 09-28-2011, 10:51 AM   #4
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Looking forward to your reviews!
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Old 09-28-2011, 05:39 PM   #5
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looking forward to reading more of your reviews and seeing more pics!! My dd is gluten and dairy free and were headed back in March. We have not done much QS, so I'm interested to see what was ordered. Those chicken tenders look so good!!
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Old 09-28-2011, 06:18 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MickeyNicki View Post
I love your detailed reviews...I recently found out I am lactose intolerant and I am nervous about doing this at WDW next month.

Sometimes the Lactaid pills help but other times they dont...my plan is to try and be 100% lactose free but if I want a bite of something I will take the pill
Thanks!

Sounds like a good plan...my kids would love it if there were some kind of anti-gluten pill they could take Someone should get to work on that!

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Originally Posted by vettegirl View Post
Looking forward to your reviews!


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Originally Posted by mom2_3girls View Post
looking forward to reading more of your reviews and seeing more pics!! My dd is gluten and dairy free and were headed back in March. We have not done much QS, so I'm interested to see what was ordered. Those chicken tenders look so good!!
They're really good! I'm hoping I have a better picture of them coming up later...we certainly ordered enough of them!
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Old 09-28-2011, 08:16 PM   #7
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Wolfgang Puck Express

We made our way through a very packed Downtown Disney and finally found WPE...we'd never been there before, and, it turned out, we hadn't parked very close.





I can't remember exactly what time we got here, but I'm thinking, based on my memory of how light it was when we went in and came out, that it was around 8 or 8:30. It was packed! We waited in a long line to order, but it was moving pretty quickly.

My app and various reviews I'd read before leaving told me that the rosemary chicken and mashed potatoes were gluten-free, so we decided to all order and skip the talking to the manager part (if they even would have done that. My understanding is that the only other thing on the menu that's gluten free is some of the salads, with modifications). Everything on the kids menu sounded chock full o'gluten. I had thought about either asking to make sure they didn't keep any gluten-free substitutes on hand or asking if we could use our child credits for adult meals since there was nothing on the kid's menu Milo or Gus could eat (Ari was a Disney adult this year). But then I thought that there was no way we were going to need five half chickens, and we should be able to easily split three adult meals between us. So this is what we ordered: 3 of the half rotisserie chicken and mashed potato meals. We did pay out of pocket for an extra side order of potatoes, but the meals came with huge servings of potatoes, so it turned out we would have been fine without it.

You order at the counter, but then they bring out your food out to your table, refill your drinks, bring your dessert when you're ready, etc. We were able to snag the lone unoccupied inside table and sat down to wait for our food. It came about 30 seconds later. Literally—it was really, really fast.

When the server found out we were sharing, he immediately went back to get us some extra plates, so that was nice. I wish I'd taken a picture before we started hacking stuff up, but here's a shot of one of our makeshift kid meals:



This was a great meal! These weren't tiny little chickens like you sometimes get with rotisserie chicken meals—there were nice, big, meaty pieces. The flavor was really good, too. And yummy mashed potatoes...as you can see, with giant puddles of melted butter on top. Fairly thick mashed potatoes—not particularly creamy.

Allears.net lists the meal as $15, and we had MORE than enough chicken to share between the 5 of us in the three meals (and my kids are fairly big eaters, especially Ari). So this was definitely a great way to use a quick service credit.

After dinner we headed over to Babycakes to pick up some stuff for breakfast the next day, so I'll talk about that next.
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Old 09-29-2011, 09:47 PM   #8
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Babycakes







For those who don't know, Babycakes is a gluten-free, vegan bakery, tucked away in the corner of the building that houses Pollo Campero in Downtown Disney. I believe it opened sometime last winter. You can't go far wading through gluten-free Disney reviews without coming across someone raving about Babycakes.

I'll admit I was something of a Babycakes skeptic going in. My approach to gluten-free baking involves lots and lots of eggs and butter, so I had my doubts as to how successful they could be cutting out gluten AND eggs and dairy while keeping the yummy.

I was really impressed! (I didn't manage to build up the suspense for very long there, did I?)

We wound up making three separate trips to Babycakes, but I'll go ahead and review everything we ate here...just be aware that we didn't really eat cinnamon rolls, cupcakes, and doughnuts all in one sitting.

First up we all tried the “Wonder Buns.” I'm not sure why they don't just call them cinnamon rolls, since that's what they are. These were $3.50 apiece and you could use snack credits for them (I'm pretty sure you could use snack credits for any single item there, and the majority of them were in the $3-4 range, which, after a few months of shopping for gluten free products and a few days of paying Disney prices, seemed very reasonable to me).



These were my favorite thing that we tried. You could get them either with or without raisins, and all of us except Dave opted for without. I'm trying to think how to describe the texture without making it sound bad...these were pretty dense, definitely not a cakey, fluffy texture. But good! The cinnamon filling and the icing were both delicious. The rolls had a little bit of a tendency to fall apart when you picked them up (crumbliness is a common problem with gluten-free baking), but nothing we couldn't handle! They were good sized buns, too, and very filling.

Dave and I ate them with wine that night while Mickey watched.




On our next trip, we tried out the doughnuts. Dave got the coconut one, the kids took the last three chocolate iced with cookie crumbles (great idea, right?), leaving me with the plain chocolate iced (but I managed to sneak a few bites of the cookie ones, don't worry).





I'm pretty sure these were baked, not fried, so they were very dense and cakey. There wasn't a whole lot of difference in texture between these and the wonder rolls, and the effect kind of worked better on the wonder rolls than here. They were still very good, but they left me missing the cinnamon yumminess of the wonder rolls.

Finally we decided we had to give the cupcakes a try. Ari actually opted for another wonder roll instead, and I thought that sounded so good that I bought one, too, to split with Dave. For cupcakes, Milo picked a brownie cupcake with chocolate frosting, Gus picked lemon, Dave got brownie with mocha (at the CM's suggestion), and I got brownie with mint. The CM was very concerned about the frosting, because it's made with coconut oil and will melt if it gets above a certain temperature, and we were planning on saving these for the next day. But I have coconut oil at home, and the label says it's a solid at 76 or below, so we just made sure we didn't let the temperature go higher than that in our hotel room and they were fine.





The cake part of these was great...a little denser than most cupcakes and perhaps a little drier than ideal (a problem I find with cupcakes in general, not just gluten free ones), but overall really nice flavor and texture. I have to say that the coconut oil frosting really didn't do it for me, though. It was...okay, but, well...there's just no substitute for real buttercream. I had the mint, and I tried Dave's mocha, and the flavors in those were really strong. I don't drink coffee, but I'm normally okay with a little coffee flavor, but this was overwhelming to me. I think they probably make the flavors strong on purpose to distract from the oiliness in the frosting. I don't want to make it sound terrible—it wasn't—it was better than, say, the crisco-y icing on your typical grocery store cake. But it didn't tempt me to ditch butter in favor of coconut oil for frosting stuff at home. They don't slather the frosting on too thick, so, in conjunction with the yummy cake part, it worked pretty well.

So there you have it....overall we really liked Babycakes (and the kids, often our family's toughest critics, all loved it) and we'll definitely be back. I wish they had locations in the parks, too, so that we didn't have to keep making the Downtown Disney trek. I had read before we left that they were working on a system so that you could order desserts from Babycakes to have with your table service meals, but we called while we were there, and they don't have anything like that yet.

In my dream Disney World, Disney would have an onsite bakery much like Babycakes— avoiding major allergens—that made breads and pizza crusts and desserts in a safe facility and then delivered them all over to the different restaurants every day. The restaurants were all great about offering gluten free desserts and breads from outside vendors, but it would be really nice to be able to get a bigger variety of fresher stuff, and it seems like it would ultimately be cheaper for Disney to make things themselves.
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Old 09-29-2011, 10:28 PM   #9
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We tried some of babycakes cupcakes today. I agree with you, they just didn't do it from me.
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Old 09-30-2011, 12:34 PM   #10
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This is an interesting read, so thank you! I have minor psoriasis that I'm self conscious about and have heard that cutting out gluten can help so it's something I'm always considering. Those Babycakes donuts look really yummy.
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Old 10-05-2011, 01:14 PM   #11
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We tried some of babycakes cupcakes today. I agree with you, they just didn't do it from me.
did you get a chance to go back and try anything else there?

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This is an interesting read, so thank you! I have minor psoriasis that I'm self conscious about and have heard that cutting out gluten can help so it's something I'm always considering. Those Babycakes donuts look really yummy.
DH still doesn't think it's really helped him much (if at all), but I still think it's worth a try. Can't hurt, right?
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Old 10-05-2011, 01:19 PM   #12
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It turns out that a trip report plus dining reviews in a separate thread is just too much for me to keep up with. Which is a little ridiculous, since I'm still writing the dining reviews, just not posting them over here. Writing them really should be the hard part, right?

At any rate--new plan!

I'll just post the links to the individual posts on dining from my TR here as I write them. Best I can manage, it seems.

Restaurantosaurus

Sunshine Seasons

Le Cellier
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