*This gluten free dining experience took place in September 2018. It includes notes about dairy free modifications.
For Food & Wine Festival Gluten Free marketplace booth options, be sure to click over to the marketplace booth page for more info.
The Almond Orchard booth hosted by Blue Diamond Almond Breeze is a relatively new booth to the Epcot International Food & Wine Festival debuting in 2017. It’s returned this year for the festival. And, it is one booth that did not list any gluten friendly items but seemed like a booth that should have them due to the use of Blue Diamond products that are gluten free. With this in mind, we decided to stop by the booth to find out some more information about the dishes served there.
Disney notes on their official Food & Wine Festival site that guests can speak to a chef or special diets trained cast member at any time about ingredients and dishes served at the Festival. When I stopped by, I asked to speak to a chef. Unfortunately, the chef was not able to come over to the booth. But, they were able to have a radio discussion with the chef to go over the ingredients.
The chef told us via radio that the Banana Almond Soft Serve Sundae served with Fresh Berries and Chocolate Almond Streusel was gluten friendly with no modifications. The same was true for the Almond Breeze Strawberry Smoothie.
The chef also told us that the Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Pulled Chicken, Toasted Blue Diamond Almonds and Parmesan Cheese served with Nut Thins® Crackers and the Fire-roasted Tomato Hummus topped with Blue Diamond Lightly Salted Roasted Almonds and served with Blue Diamond Artisan Nut Thins® Multi-seeds Crackers were also gluten friendly. But, he did state that anything made in their catering kitchen (as most dishes at the festival are) had an increased chance of cross-contamination.
With that in mind, we noted that every single item on the Almond Orchard menu was technically gluten friendly but not listed on the festival menu as such. It always seems like there are one or two booths where this happens every year. But, it’s was surprising to learn that every single item was gluten friendly. And, the chef seemed to feel strongly that the Banana Almond Soft Serve Sundae and Almond Breeze Strawberry Smoothie were both gluten friendly with no major concerns about cross contamination.
That being said, no matter what booth you go to at the Festival there is always an increased risk of cross-contamination. Use your own judgement when consuming items that are not in dedicated gluten free booths or booths that contain almost all gluten friendly dishes — or in this case, where the items are not marked gluten friendly.
I felt pretty comfortable ordering the Banana Almond Soft-serve Sundae with Fresh Berries and Chocolate Almond Streusel. It is currently $4.50 per serving and is a snack eligible credit on the Disney Dining Plan. The chef via radio told us that this dish is gluten friendly. Our friends at Vegan Disney World confirmed that it can be made vegan by omitting the Chocolate Almond Streusel. (see follow-up to my review below with some notes about the Streusel)
Well, I have to say that so far, this may be my favorite dessert that I’ve had at the Food & Wine Festival in years. It was so good! If you like bananas, then you will enjoy this dessert. It does have a fairly strong banana flavor, as we learned the soft serve is just bananas and almond milk. Combined with the fresh berries and a nice crunch of the streusel on top, and you have a real winner. Our friends at Vegan Disney World were able to thinly sliced plain almonds on their vegan version of this sundae for some added crunch too. So, you don’t have to miss out if you’re dairy free or vegan.
We visited the Almond Orchard Booth again on another night to get the Banana Almond Soft-serve Sundae with Fresh Berries and Chocolate Almond Streusel and try the Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Pulled Chicken, Toasted Blue Diamond Almonds and Parmesan Cheese served with Nut Thins® Crackers.
One of the first things I noticed as they were preparing other sundaes for guests was that the Streusel looked completely different. It actually looked like it contained chocolate (the last time, it did not) and also oats. I do not eat any oats at Disney because Disney often marks non-certified gluten free oats as safe for guests. And, the only gluten free oats I have encountered at Disney has been Bob’s Red Mill gluten free oats which are mechanically sorted and may have issues with cross-contamination. I stick to purity protocol oats only, as those are the safest oats for celiacs to consume. Next time I visit, I will be asking some additional questions about the Chocolate Streusel ingredients too!
I did ask if they had sliced almonds, as recommended by Vegan Disney World, to add to my sundae. But, they said they did not. So, I just ordered it without any topping. I have to say that the sundae itself was still quite delicious. I think they gave me extra berry sauce this time to make up for the lack of topping. One thing I did notice was that the topping served on the Spinach and Artichoke Dip that we ordered had the same topping that was on my sundae the last time. So, I would ask for that on my next visit or continue to enjoy it minus any topping. I do think the crunch adds a lot to the dish though!
Next up, we tried the Creamy Spinach and Artichoke Dip with Pulled Chicken, Toasted Blue Diamond Almonds and Parmesan Cheese served with Nut Thins® Crackers. It is currently $5.00 per serving and is a snack eligible credit on the Disney Dining Plan. The chef via radio told us that this dish is gluten friendly. It does contain dairy both in the dip and crackers and cannot be modified to be dairy free.
Since I have reintroduced dairy back into my diet, I knew this would be a must try at the Almond Orchard booth. I have to say this was a real winner for me. I liked the creamy dip and the combination of flavors. The toasted almonds on top also added a really nice crunch to what could be considered a very mushy dip. It worked well with the crackers too, though I wish we would have been given more crackers because there was a lot of dip for the serving. This is one I would most definitely get again. Brandon, on the other hand, was not a fan of this at all.
The Almond Orchard is now a festival favorite for me. I will definitely be going back to the booth for repeat visits throughout the festival. I hope to try the hummus and the smoothie offered there too. It’s also nice to know that this booth is gluten friendly despite the lack of labels this year. I do hope that Disney will work to improve labeling and gluten friendly offerings — especially with this year’s Festival including a record low number of marked options. We’ll be updating this review with more info as we get it, especially if we can get the ingredients lists.
Would you be interested in the options at the Almond Orchard booth? What would you order if you went there?