This series of guests posts comes from reader Kathleen. Her love of Disney and passion for bringing awareness to special dietary needs on her college campus makes her the perfect guest writer for Gluten Free & Dairy Free at WDW. I’ve been following along on her college journey where she blogs about dining at college with special diets. Check out this great article on allergy friendly dining that she wrote last fall for her campus. Thanks again, Kathleen, for taking us along on your Disney special diets journey! (if you aren’t hungry, you will be after you read these reports)
I’ve broken up Kathleen’s posts, and today we’re checking out her first few days at Disney World. You can also recap with her visit to Universal Studios Orlando on her previous guest post!
Hi everyone! My name is Kathleen and I’m currently a senior at NC State University in Raleigh. A few years ago, I found out about several food allergies that I have (gluten, corn, dairy, tomatoes, apples and peanuts) and ever since then, I’ve been on the lookout for new and exciting foods to try. Disney is a big deal in our family, and on our annual trip each summer, we love eating at new restaurants to mix things up. This was my third Disney trip with allergies, but my first without dairy, since I found out about that only a year ago.
Disney Day #1 – 7/21
After lunch at Bubba Gump’s, we packed up the car and headed over to the Wilderness Lodge to begin our Disney vacation. We hadn’t been to that hotel in over 10 years, and it was fun to go back.
We had a reservation at the Whispering Canyon Café in the lobby of the hotel. Having done my research (on GFDFWDW of course!) on all of the restaurants we had reservations at for the week, including this one, I had a basic idea of what was okay for me to eat. I was looking forward to the family style platter that Sarah reviewed in her post a while back, but no one else wanted it so we ended up each getting our own entrée.
The service was great. When the waiter found out about my allergies, he sent for the chef to come talk to me while he took everyone’s orders. Chef Williere came out and asked me what I was thinking of ordering. I told him that I really like pulled pork, and asked him if I could get that with the grilled vegetables. He said he would check on the gluten free sauce to make sure it was corn free, and I told him that the roasted chicken would be my back up. A few moments later, he came back to inform me that the gluten free pulled pork sauce had corn starch in it, so I ended up with the chicken. I’m glad I did, because it was the best chicken I’ve ever had. It was cooked just right, and the skin was perfection. The charred bits are always my favorite part and there were plenty. It was like half a chicken though, so I was able to bring my leftovers back to the room to eat for breakfast the next day.
After we finished dinner, Chef Williere came back out to ask me about dessert. Like I said, I did my research, and I told him that my friend Sarah recommended the gluten and dairy free chocolate cake. He chuckled when I asked about it and regrettably informed me that I had to call ahead, so I wasn’t able to get that. Oh well. He told me that he’d go figure something out and surprise me. Boy, did he ever.
I was expecting a pack of those enjoy life chocolate chip cookies, and I would have been completely happy with that, but he came out with a blueberry cobbler topped with berry sorbet and fresh berries. It was incredible. I couldn’t believe that it didn’t have any of my allergens in it, and told him just that. He laughed and said he was glad I liked it and to tell Sarah hello and to come visit him (just in case you forgot, Sarah! Haha). I was so impressed with this restaurant, and I convinced my mom that we had to try their breakfast and lunch if we could (which you will read about shortly – I was persuasive).
Day #2 – 7/22
Tuesday was our first day at the parks! It was also our first time using the magic bands and the fast pass plus system. Now, over the years, we have mastered our Disney schedules and ride orders down to an art (while planning our parks around which restaurants we go to – we’re Italian, we have our priorities). We know exactly when to get to certain rides, and what order to go on those rides to make the most of our trips. With the new system, we were even more efficient. We actually ended up having a lot more time than we thought, which means we’ll be re-strategizing for next year. Woo!
Anyways, we started off at Animal Kingdom. I was particularly excited for this park because of the new Allergy Friendly Kiosk that opened up. We were planning on just getting some sort of snack since we had early dinner reservations at Epcot, but since we had just recently signed up for the Landry restaurants membership, we decided to use that to get a discount at the Yak and Yeti.
As always, our server was great. He was really nice, and sent the chef out to speak to me very quickly. I actually had a lot of options, which was nice. I almost got the seafood curry (again with the curry!) but since it was a zillion degrees outside, and the curry was a large portion, and we had an early dinner reservation, I instead decided to go with the chicken lettuce boats appetizer. It was really good, and such a simple meal – I’ll definitely be making it at home. It was basically just stir-fried ground chicken mixed with a variety of vegetables that I could scoop into lettuce wraps and top with gluten free hoisin sauce and sriracha!
My family ended up trying the famous fried wontons for dessert, but I knew I had a bounty of sugary options waiting for me at the allergy kiosk, so we headed there on the way out so I could get some goodies to go.
I was very impressed with all of the options there. They had four Babycakes items: mini cupcakes, chocolate donuts, cinnamon donuts, and chocolate chip cookies. They also had boxes of enjoy life soft-baked cookies, rice chips and cakes, surf sweets gummies, raw granola bars, fresh fruit, hummus and veggies, and pints of Tofutti ice cream. Wow! I ended up getting one of each Babycakes item because I can’t get them in North Carolina, and because, you know, baked goods. Those cookies were the first to go, and the best chocolate chip cookies ever. I was so happy to eat them, as you can see. I spread the other three items out for the rest of the week. I don’t think I’ve eaten a donut in three years, and they were so yummy!
That night, we dined at Teppan Edo, the Japanese steakhouse in Epcot’s World Showcase. I ate there on my first allergy friendly Disney trip, so I looked forward to going back. This was my first trip after turning 21 in December, so I ordered the Takara plum wine. It was really sweet, but I’m not a big alchohol fan so that was a-okay with me.
The manager told me that I could get any of the entrees made without noodles, with white rice instead of the beef rice, and without any of the dipping sauces. They also provided me with gluten free soy sauce. The service was also really good. They offered to cook my food in the back instead of on the grill in front of us, but since they clean the grills very well in between each table, I told them that I’d be fine if they just cooked my food before everyone else’s. I was a little wary because the last time I went there, I ended up with a really bad stomachache, which has also happened after eating chipotle burrito bowls, so this time I decided to stay away from the rice (the common ingredient). I ordered the scallops and vegetables, and I was completely fine. I’m not sure if it was the rice or the sauce that was such a problem three years ago (pre-dairy allergy), but I’m glad that I didn’t have the same issue again. Plus, the scallops were great!
Are you hungry now? Stay tuned for Kathleen’s last trip report guest post which recaps days 3-6 of her Disney vacation!
If you want to learn more about Kathleen’s experiences as a college student with special dietary needs, you’ll get that chance at the upcoming Food Allergy & Celiac Convention held at Disney World on November 22, 2014.