Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Walt Disney World 2009 Vacation - Dining Review

So, I just had the best vacation of my gluten-free life! Seriously, I could sing praises all day and night for Disney! They rocked my world! I was so spoiled, I felt like a princess! I kept a log (as best as I could remember) of all the places we ate at, what I ordered, the chef’s name who worked with me, and my experience. I didn’t take many pictures of the food, but I have great memories in my mind (and I’m sure a few lingering calories in my hips).

Here’s the report:

Day 1:

*Boatwright’s – Port Orleans Riverside Resort

Chef: Thomas. Server: Jenny

Meal: Tapioca rolls, prime rib, warm sweet potato salad, fruit cup dessert.

Experience: 5 stars! What a great start to the trip! The place I was the most worried about (w/ images of deep-fried southern food in my head) totally surprised me. The food was amazing, the chef was super nice, plus there was enough of the sweet potato salad for me to take back to the room, and serve over toast for my breakfast the next two days.

Day 2:

*Pecos Bill's - Magic Kingdom

Meal: Hamburger on an ener-g bun, apple slices.

Experience: 3 1/2 stars. This place was okay. The food was pretty good, the manager was great, but the lady helping us wasn't very familiar with the protocol. Probably the most trouble we had at a lunch/cafeteria type place. And it took about 15 minutes (which we later learned was really slow for the typical lunch place, even gluten-free). I did get a mild tummy ache afterward (probably IBS related, since I don't eat beef very often).

*Liberty Tree Tavern - Magic Kingdom

Chef: Matt. Server: Rory.

Meal: Flank steak, turkey, mashed potatoes offered (but I can't eat them), turkey gravy (w/ cornstarch), green beans. Chocolate Tofutti ice cream for dessert.

Experience: 5 stars, hands down!! This was probably my favorite meal all week. Our chef and server were both great. The food was incredible! That steak melted in my mouth. I've never had such an amazing steak! The turkey and gravy was even better than Thanksgiving dinner! Very moist and flavorful. And the Tofutti! Wow, I just about cried, it was so good! I kept bugging Luke all week to go back there.

Day 3:

*Sunshine Season's Cafeteria - Epcot

Meal: Salmon, rice pilaf, broccoli, brownie.

Experience: 3 stars. This place was decent. The chef was hard to understand, but he did alright. I was a little worried about CC issues, since he didn't prepare anything special for me, just pointed to what was gluten-free, and the girl put it on a plate for me. The food tasted good, but was a little greasy, which gave me a bit of a tummy ache. The brownie was probably my favorite part of the meal. It wasn't super-moist, but it tasted pretty good. The brand was "French Meadow Bakery". I was excited to have a good dessert, at least.

*Garden Grill - Epcot

Chef: Mike.

Meal: Tapioca rolls, salad w/ oil and vinegar, turkey with cranberry sauce, steak, white rice. Brownie for dessert.

Experience: 4 stars. This place was pretty fun. It was a character dinner, so Mickey and Pluto and Chip and Dale wandered by and said hi (except Dale didn't really. He just waved and kept walking. We were disappointed). It's also cool because the whole restaurant is on a revolver (like the space needle in Seattle). So, the whole time, you're moving (just a little bit, hardly noticeable). It would have been even cooler if there had been more to see, but the scenery was dark. As far as the food went, it was pretty good. I was spoiled by an amazing steak and turkey dinner the night before, but this was still decently good. They brought me some oil for my salad, and I used that to dip my roll in. That was yummy. The brownie they gave me for dessert was the same one I'd had for lunch, they just unwrapped it and put it on a plate. The other nice thing about this place was that our food arrived within 10 minutes of us ordering. We weren't even finished with our salads!

Day 4:

*Port Orleans Cafeteria

Meal: Pancakes (w/ strawberry jam), bacon, juice

Experience: 4 1/2 stars. This was a great breakfast! The chef, wish I could remember his name, he was wonderful. It did take about 10 minutes to make, but it was well worth waiting for. I misunderstood him though. He asked if I could have eggs, and I took that to mean there were eggs with my meal. Was a little bummed when he just brought out bacon. But it was still really good. Note to self: bring my own GF maple syrup next time!

*Coral Reef Restaurant - Epcot

Meal: Tapioca rolls, Mahi Mahi w/ coconut rice and pineapple salsa. Mango sorbet with fruit for dessert.

Experience: 4 1/2 stars. This place was really fun! You get to enjoy the huge aquarium view while you're eating. But it's kinda dark in the tank, and in the restaurant. Our server and chef were pretty good. The fish was awesome! Very moist and tender. I really liked the flavor of the whole meal. Dessert was pretty good, went well with the food.

*San Angel Inn - Epcot

Meal: Chips and salsa, beef (I can't even remember what it was called. It was just this beef with seasonings, served over a corn tortilla...but there was a TON of it).

Experience: 1 star. The chips and salsa were pretty good. The server was very cold, and definitely ignored us. She walked past our table quite frequently as she visited the other customers. We thought it was because we were the only ones speaking English, and maybe she didn't speak it very well. If I had known, I would have busted out the Spanish. The chef was kinda rude too, very impatient with me. Kind of frustrating, when I didn't understand what half the stuff was. I was expecting this place to be good, I love Mexican food, but there was nothing "typical" (wow, am I a gringo for saying that?) tacos, enchiladas, fajitas...all these weird dishes, and it was mostly beef and pork, which I don't really eat. So, I picked the one that sounded the least complicated...which it was. It was just a pile of beef on my plate. Luke ordered the same thing. We ended up eating it with our chips and salsa. I'm sorry, but even though I love and miss eating beef all the time, it's very hard to eat it without anything else. I didn't really understand the meal. We both ended up having some tummy problems that night. We didn't get dessert that night. I asked, and the only thing they offered was a "rice cream", and when I asked about flavors, they said it was rice flavored. I don't know if they misunderstood me, or what. Overall, a disappointing and frustrating meal.

Day 5:

*We went down to Tampa Bay to visit some relatives this day.*

*Port Orleans Cafeteria

Meal: Pancakes, egg whites.

Experience: 3 1/2 stars. The pancakes were the same as yesterday's. That was nice. I thought I'd order some egg whites instead of the bacon today. They literally looked like egg whites, like someone had fried a few eggs, then cut the yolk out of them. And they were pretty greasy. It was a bit disappointing. I didn't eat much of them. But the pancakes were good again :)

*Cha Cha Coconuts - St Petersburg, FL

Meal: Mahi Mahi with pineapple, rice, beans and fried plantains.

Experience: 1 1/2 stars. The fish was decent, if a little overcooked. The server didn't have a clue about food allergies, and they were too busy for the chef to come out. So, I asked for no beans (they don't agree with me), but the whole plate was covered with them. I picked around them, eating the fish and the rice, and ignoring the plantains altogether. I didn't get gluten sick, but my tummy definitely didn't like something I ate there. It was a very frustrating experience, made me miss Disney very much :)

*Bahama Breeze - Tampa Bay, FL

Meal: Salmon, fruity rice, veggies

Experience: 5 stars! This place was refreshing after lunch. The food was so good. It was hard, b/c everyone else got a flatbread pizza-like thing for an appetizer, and I got to watch them all eat it. But I was very impressed with the meal, so that made up for it. Our server just played go-between between me and the chef, she was great at getting all my questions answered.

Day 6:

*Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano - Epcot

Chef: Mike

Meal: Tapioca rolls, Pizza!!! with soy cheese, tomatoes, basil, and pesto.

Experience: 5 stars! This was awesome! I had thought this place was one of the recommended GF restaurants sent to me by Disney, but I looked later, and it wasn't. But, boy am I glad we went here! Mike was great! He came out and basically told me he could make me whatever I wanted. So of course, I got a pizza! It was perfect! He actually brought me out 2 "mini" pizzas. The crust was a little thick, but it was very tasty. I gobbled up every bite! And I nearly cried with joy. Although, next time, I'd order it with a little bit of meat. Luke had all this prosciutto on his pizza that he picked off, and I really wanted to put some of it on mine. Ah, well, it was still the best pizza I've had in 3 years!

*Electric Umbrella - Epcot

Meal: Hamburger on Ener-G bun, apples, brownie for dessert.

Experience: 4 stars. Another burger joint, but this one was pretty quick, and they gave me a brownie too :)

Day 7:


Meal: Hamburger on Ener-G bun, apples, grapes for dessert.

Experience: 4 stars. Another good burger. Nothing too special, comparatively speaking (even though it rocks that I got to eat a HAMBURGER at a restaurant!). Wow, I kinda sound like a spoiled brat...yeah, being pampered like this could definitely turn me into a snob :)

*Cinderella's Royal Table

Meal: BLT salad, tapioca rolls, prime rib, pasta w/ marinara sauce, asparagus. Raspberry sorbet for dessert.

Experience: 4 stars. The experience of the meal was very exciting! Getting our picture w/ Cinderella, and having the Fairy Godmother sing to us was fun. The food itself was pretty good. I liked the salad a lot, it was basically just that, a BLT w/ a honey mustard dressing. Rolls were good as always. The main course wasn't as impressive as I thought it would be, considering this meal cost us the equivalent of 2 dinners on our dining plan. My meat was overcooked, as was the asparagus, and the pasta was cold. It wasn't horrible, just nothing that wow-ed me. The sorbet was pretty tasty though. They topped it with some berries. Yum!

Day 8:

*Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe - Magic Kingdom

Meal: Hamburger on Ener-G bun, apples, grapes, brownie for dessert.

Experience: 4 stars. I don't know if it was an accident, but they gave me both fruits at this meal. I really liked the grapes. Everything else was the same, but still good :)

*Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater Restaurant - Hollywood Studios

Meal: Pasta w/ shrimp, spinach, tomatoes and artichokes. Tofutti ice cream over a brownie, w/ chocolate sauce and strawberries for dessert.

Experience: 5 stars. This place was so cool! I liked that we ate in little cars. I just wish they would have played more on the screen. It was like an 8 minute rotation of commercials from the 50's and cartoons. The food was awesome! This was one of the best places we ate at, food-wise. Our chef was very helpful. The pasta was incredible, I really wanted to take it home. But knowing what was coming for dessert kept me from overeating. And what a dessert it was! I couldn't decide if the ice cream was vanilla or butterscotch, but it was yummy. They served it over one of those brownies I'd gotten for lunches. That's the way to eat those brownies, by the way! It was all warm and moist. Yum! I ate the whole freaking thing!

Let me tell ya, it was hard coming home and having to start cooking for myself again. I was seriously and completely spoiled. And very shocked that I didn't actually gain any weight on this trip. I think coming home and getting the flu helped w/ that though...thanks to Luke's coworker's kids, who were sick on the plane coming home.

A couple funny/weird things I did, I guess you could call them helpful hints:

*They were very generous with the Tapioca rolls, usually bringing me 2 or 3 per meal, so at some of the places, I stashed one of the rolls in a ziploc bag. They made nice snacks later, or lunches w/ some packaged tuna.
*I brought my own toaster oven. We were on the dining plan, which only technically included 2 meals a day, plus one snack. I'm a big breakfast person, so a snack (ie, an apple, or a juice) doesn't really cut it for me. So I brought my own bread and toasted it every morning, topped it w/ some peanut butter (or that sweet potato salad I had leftover). I also brought some tinfoil so we could heat up food for Luke and not get gluten crumbs on my stuff. It was a lifesaver!
*I carried around some of those serving-sized envelopes of tuna, some packets of mayo, and some glutino crackers (or a leftover tapioca roll) in my backpack for an emergency lunch. That was great on the days we had a late dinner reservation.
*I learned that asking about dessert options when the chef came out to talk about dinner was helpful. Otherwise, they had to come out again, or the server had to be the go-between.

Next stop...a Disney Cruise!!! I hope :)

For more fun pics from our trip, visit my other blog!


Christina said...

I have to say I laughed while reading the section about the Garden Grill in Epcot. Remember that time we went to Niagara Falls and ate at the "Hurly Whirly" Restaurant. Your description reminded me of that.

Alisa - Frugal Foodie said...

Oh yah! Another blogger Disney report to link to in my upcoming article about Disney on!

Steph said...

Christina - yeah, I was trying to remember what that place was called. I just mentioned the space needle instead. Although, I can't remember ever going there...
Alisa - what a great site! I'm excited for the article :) Thanks for linking me!

Lauren Denneson said...

Wow! sounds like a successful vacation! I'm glad they took such good care of you. Eating gluten free on vacation can certainly be tricky.

Simply...Gluten-free said...

I'm glad you had a great time!

Check out my latest blog post for a chance to win a great gluten book

mb said...

Sounds great! Thanks for the post. Glad to find a way to make those brownies edible. I had one and did a very brief review here. I will have to have the next one warm under ice cream!