No matter the location I travel to or the posh hotels I sleep in, I will always love Disney’s Grand Floridian the most. The beautiful lobby with its larger-than-life bird cages, the smells that envelope you in a warm embrace, and the feeling of falling down the rabbit hole to find yourself in the Victorian era all make me smile.
On our last trip, my husband got a massage at the onsite spa, while I simply sat in the lobby next to the piano player. I watched the families coming and going, content to just be in the moment – which is unusual for me!
During that same stay, we had dinner at Citricos, located on the second floor of the main building. It was truly a fantastic experience. The ambiance was hushed and calm – a nice change from the chaos that some of Disney’s restaurants can have. The food was also divine, and the servers very understanding about my Gluten issues. It was a wonderful date night for us!
After being seated and ordering drinks, we both looked over the menu. Our server went to speak with the chef, and then brought him back with her so that he could discuss my options. He also brought a basket of bread with the tastiest butter…I had to capture it on camera and share it with you! Read more
There are many places in Disney where you can stick to your diet, or your convictions, when it comes to choosing which menu item to order. Not so at the 50’s Prime Time Cafe in Hollywood Studios – or at least that was my experience when I looked over my choices. It reminded me of the wise words of Paula Deen, “I’m your Cook, Not your Doctor!”
Sure, they offer some items that would have been lower in fat, lower in calories, or lower in sodium. But they also would have been much lower in taste, and wouldn’t have given me the experience of this celebrated location that I had come for. The reservations had been booked long ago, and I knew I could find gluten free items while still having some good ‘ole homecookin’.
We had a wait of about 20 minutes, and were then sat in a very friendly, very LOUD waitress’s section. But that’s also the atmosphere you need to know about before coming here – the staff treats you like their own family, and that includes admonishments, teasing, and complaints about your not eating enough vegetables. They are also costumed in 50s housewife attire, complete with apron and wagging finger.
She understood I had a food allergy, and told the chef all about it. When he came out and discussed my choices, I was very excited to hear what I could have. With Entrees such as Fried Chicken, Meatloaf, and Pot Roast, the menu items really do take you back to your childhood, reminding many people of a time when they sat around the family dinner table as kids – I learned that I wouldn’t be left out of that journey!
We had the option to start off with a milkshake as our beverage choice, but we made that mistake last year at Sci-Fi. This time we just opted for water and ordered some appetizers.
Aunt Annie’s Seafood Salad
Jeremy got the Onion Rings, which I was secretly envious of. While some places in Disney offer gluten free onion rings (such as Raglan Road), 50’s Prime Time’s version is deliciously beer battered, making them off limits to me. So he indulged in the two-person sized appetizer, and I chose Aunt Annie’s Seafood Salad. This came with Shrimp, Scallops and Crab tossed in a citrus vinaigrette. It was tasty, but I was saving room for my entree!
Jeremy isn’t one for the usual home-cooked meals that most people think of. He doesn’t like meatloaf, roast, pot pie – and usually likes his fried chicken in “nugget” form. So he bypassed the usuals and ordered the Fish Sandwich. An odd choice to be sure, but he really enjoyed it! I also think he was a little on the full side after all those onion rings!
I however, really like all that comfort food, and opted for Grandma’s Chicken Pot Pie! The chef shocked me when he said that he could make a gluten free version, so I happily took him up on it. It came out piping hot in a very large bowl, and in place of the crust were two large tapioca rolls to soak up all the gooey goodness. I was in heaven!
Of course the dessert menu was soon to come, and even though we were full, we had purposefully not ordered the milkshake at the beginning so that we could enjoy dessert. Jeremy got his favorite – the PB&J Milkshake. It tastes exactly like it sounds, and it’s fantastic! I had ordered a gluten free version last year from the bar section of the restaurant, and walked around the park with it for an afternoon snack.
I had a special creation made – a Brownie Sundae with Tofutti Ice Cream. I was a little kid in the ice cream shop, wanting to bury my face in the plate that was set in front of me! Rarely do I get dessert anywhere, so my time at Disney is always a delicious indulgence.
We really like 50’s Prime Time. The theming is fun, the food is filling and offers a ride down memory lane, and the waitresses are an attraction in and of themselves!
Disney’s newest restaurant may have to be added to my list of favorites. The decor itself is enough to tempt anyone to stray from their longtime favorites, with bright tile, eclectic lighting, and a view that rivals anything in Epcot’s World Showcase. But the food – well, that’s another story altogether.
Always a fan of Mexican cuisine, I made these reservations with high hopes. We had decided that this would be a “dinner and a movie” evening, so we ate an early meal and then headed to Downtown Disney to catch the newly released Pirates of the Caribbean film. What a great evening it turned out to be!
As per tradition, we began with a cocktail to kick off the evening in a festive manner. I went out on a limb and ordered the Mango Blueberry Basil Margarita, and was surprised at how great the combination of flavors turned out to be. The basil really enhanced the drink. Jeremy ordered a Dos Equis, because “When in Rome,” right?
One thing about Mexican food – it’s doesn’t always come out picture perfect! But some of the best foods don’t. After being seated, our waitress came and recommended some appetizers to start with. She found out I would be eating a gluten free diet, but the items she had pointed out were naturally GF anyway.
We started with the Queso Fundido, which came out bubbling in a ceramic dish filled with peppers and chorizo. Of course chips and salsa accompanied it, as well. The Queso had a really amazing flavor – a little bit smoky and rich, with some spice to it. And while it wasn’t the prettiest dish I’ve ever had placed in front of me, it was great nontheless! One point to make though, don’t expect this to be your typical white cheese dip. It wasn’t very liquidy at all – in fact, we used a fork when placing it on our chips after it had cooled off slightly.
We also ordered the Chilis Toreodos y Chorizitos. This was a bowl of roasted sweet peppers served with mini chorizo sausages. I was surprised by how good this was, because it wouldn’t be something I would ever typically order. But the flavor was fantastic, and it went really well with the Queso.
Our entrees presented themselves shortly after this. We decided to get two entrees and split them so that we could try a little more variety. I’m not sure which one would be the winner, since they were both so tasty!
The Pollo al Pastor was a marinated chicken that was served with roasted veggies, beans and a pineapple relish. We ate this like fajitas, since all entrees were served with homemade corn tortillas and rice.
The Tacos de Camarones contained fried shrimp with a chipotle-lime aioli, cabbage, and salsa verde. The shrimp was cooked just right, the aioli made it pop in your mouth for that wow factor. It was also light enough to be able to eat more of the chicken dish!
After this we were stuffed. I’m not talking about your average Disney vacation post-meal feeling. We had eaten so much we couldn’t even look at the dessert menu, which for me is absolutely unheard of! We also weren’t capable of getting snacks at the movie theater, and I had high aspirations of a trip to Goofy’s Candy Co! I regretted the decision not to order dessert later in the week, because I knew I wouldn’t be able to review that course of the meal after the vacation had come to an end. But what I can tell you is that there wasn’t a huge selection…most likely because everyone leaves with overly full bellies!
As was the theme for our week in the World, we loved our dining experience at La Hacienda and will make plans to go there again!
After our late lunch at Le Cellier on the day of our arrival, I was hesitant about dining at a Signature restaurant for dinner. Making the reservations for 7:40pm allowed us plenty of time for wandering around Epcot, riding a few rides, and completely unpacking and getting dressed up for dinner at the resort. It’s always nice to stay at one of the property’s that has great dining options!
We walked the short distance to Flying Fish Cafe, watching a boardwalk musician in the few moment’s we had to wait on our table. Soon we were led towards the back of the restaurant and promptly asked for our cocktail order. Jeremy ordered his customary Gin and Tonic, while I opted for a Cosmopolitan…VERY light on the cranberry.
While we waited for this to come, we had the opportunity to look around us. The atmosphere at this restaurant is fantastic, with murals on the walls depicting by-gone circus days, and clean lines that make it elegant and not over crowded. One thing I noted was that there were quite a few families eating, even though the meal came with a signature price tag.
Soon our beverages were placed in front of us, and we ordered appetizers. Of course the waitress was aware that I would be dining Gluten Free, and had called the chef over to the table in advance. He walked me through my MANY options, and we placed our first order. Luckily, I could have more than one appetizer on the menu, so Jeremy and I put our heads together and chose two to share between us. We ordered the Tuna Tartare and Lobster Summer Roll. By this point I was actually getting hungry again!
Entrees were soon to come, and they sounded absolutely delicious as the chef described them, and the small alterations he could make for me. Jeremy decided to go with the Citrus, Sesame, and Szechuan Pepper-crusted Yellowfin Tuna, which came with bok choy, carrots, snap peas, and mushrooms in a delicious asian broth.
I ordered the Signature Flying Fish Cafe Potato-wrapped Red Snapper. He altered the potato slightly so that I could be able to eat it Gluten Free. It was absolutely delicious. I would say that this restaurant does one of the best jobs accommodating those with special diets – quite an award to achieve at Disney World!
Finally came the desserts. Jeremy was able to get the Carmelized Banana Napolean, which had phyllo, a banana mousse, creme caramel, and bitter chocolate. He ate it in its entirety! I ordered the Season Sorbet, which had Coconut, Strawberry and Cherry Coulis. It was just enough after all that other food!
We were both so happy with our meal here, that will will definitely go again. Not only was it convenient to the Boardwalk, but it was a beautiful setting with great food!
When making reservations way back in December, I had decided that going Gluten Free would be a way that I could eat more organically in Disney World. Although there are a few sustainable/organic options in certain spots throughout the world, it would be more than impossible to attempt it everywhere we went – not to mention stressful and a sure fire way of making it a “not so happiest place on earth” for me.
We were going to be doing the Deluxe Dining Plan, so I knew there would be many meals, and many courses, to be consumed. The brands that Disney uses for their gluten free products can be found online or at my local Whole Foods, so I checked on some of the foods to be aware of their practices and ingredients. With this in mind, I booked a week’s worth of dining venues and was excited to get there!
I admit that after hearing Le Cellier would be making the switch to a Signature dinner option, I was excited about the change – fewer people crowding in for dinner, and new changes to the menu that would allow it to compete with the other signatures. There was only one thing I was uncertain of, and that was LUNCH. Suddenly, this would become the most hard-to-get reservation in Disney – one that I would be vying for a full 180 days in advance (as if I didn’t already do that for every one, anyway). But would the quality of lunch go down? Would they still offer the selections that they’ve become known and loved for? I was soon to find out on our arrival day to Disney this year.
After checking in at The Boardwalk, where we discovered we had a lovely villa room overlooking the waterway, we walked speedily to make our 1:30pm lunch reservation at Le Cellier. We waited for less than one minute before they whisked us off to our table. All was cool and dimly lit in the dining room, a vast contrast to the unending heat and brilliant blue skies outside.
The waitress was aware I would be eating gluten free, and she gave me some options before also getting the chef involved. My husband was just excited about all the food choices that was included with our dining plan. He chose a Strawberry Smoothie as his beverage to start himself off with – he had failed to eat anything for breakfast and was ravenous by this point in the day.
For our appetizers, he ordered the Cheese Soup, which he adored. While not much of a bread person, he did make use of the bread service by cleaning up the bowl with one of the pretzel sticks.
The chef had recommended many options for me, but I chose the Tomato Stack because I knew that it would contain less chemicals and pesticides than the beef options. The Stack included Carmelized Onions, Cucumbers, Crumbled Blue Cheese, and Vinaigrette – absolutely delicious! I ate every bit.
Our entrees were to come soon after this. Jeremy ordered the Mushroom Filet, because he had not only heard me talk about how popular it was, but the waitress had also recommended it. One change he made was that he subbed the Risotto for the Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes. Again, a winner many times over! If Le Cellier does anything well, it’s steaks.
I ordered the Salmon Burger and made some adjustments myself. The Aoili had gluten in it, so the chef prepared it plain, and brought everything out separately so that I could arrange it on a tapioca bun myself. It came with Napa Cabbage Slaw and French Fries (my weakness). The buns are made by Ener-G, and were suprisingly good. I had many over the course of our stay.
Dessert could have been a letdown for me, but the Champagne Sorbet was gluten free and absolutely delicious. Jeremy ordered the Maple Creme Brulee and really loved the crispness of the shell and the hint of maple that tasted of Canada.
It was a great experience, and I was happy to note that quality and service are still a part of the Le Cellier experience even though there is now more of a focus towards their Signature dinner. We will go back – hopefully next year!
This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival – head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.
I’ve heard talk of it, even among my own small circle of friends, for years now. More and more people are discussing their food allergies, whether it be dairy, soy, or gluten. At one time I had wondered if these claims could be true – did they REALLY have an allergy, or did they just want to limit their carb intake, appear to be healthier, or just want to contribute to the conversation?
I thought this until I went to the doctor and found out I am allergic to no less than 26 different foods. Since then I have been put on a very rigid elimination diet in order to flush my system of the offending culprits and hopefully integrate organic versions back in slowly, one at a time.
The key word here is ORGANIC. Children have been increasingly diagnosed with peanut, dairy, and gluten allergies in recent years, but this may have more to do with the pesticides and chemicals in the conventionally grown crops than anything else. Children are more than likely allergic to those additives than the food itself, but because it comes as a package deal, their bodies are fighting against the food every time its swallowed.
This article and video really made me start thinking about this, and after learning that I have my own allergies was when it hit home – we have to start eating REAL food!
I’m eating healthier than I ever have in my life, and even though there’s a point in each and every day that I look at the food in front of me in disdain, I realize that getting to the root of the matter is the only way to kill the entire weed. 2.5 more months to go…after that I’m really looking forward to adding a tomato or two to my meal plan!
Whether going for the first time, or planning a trip as a veteran, 2011 is bringing many new options to Disney, and a few changes (for better or worse) in dining options throughout the World. Epcot has added restaurants in Mexico and Italy, Downtown Disney got a little more eclectic, chef changes have been made at some popular resort restaurants, and Disney’s most sought-after restaurant has now become a Signature dining destination. Whether the changes add spark to your vacation or make you wish for the good ole days, one thing is certain; Disney is aiming to please everyone, one step at a time.
La Hacienda de San Angel
Construction for a new table service restaurant at Epcot’s Mexico pavilion had been underway for over a year, with the unveiling finally occurring September of 2010. With overwhelmingly positive feedback, this restaurant promises great food and a fireworks view to match. Previously, other than a quick service option, Mexico had been lacking outdoor dining options for those wishing to see Illuminations. Every type of diner can be appeased now, as Cantina de San Angel, a counter service restaurant, is attached. La Hacienda offers a menu that’s a step above it’s sister restaurant, San Angel Inn. Dishes are a bit more authentic, with a greater selection, better quality ingredients, and a slightly steeper price tag attached. Also of note is the Tequila selection, which only rivals La Cava del Tequila, located just inside next to San Angel Inn.
If Disney was lacking in any one area, it would have been pizza. Reviews and comments were overwhelmingly synonymous that a good pizza joint would be a gold mine for Disney, and Epcot answered that call very willingly. Via Napoli opened its doors the same month as La Hacienda de San Angel, firing up all 3 of the wood-burning ovens, comically chiseled to appear like faces devouring the in-going pies (in reality they represent Italy’s 3 active Volcanoes). Appetizers, Salads, and traditional Italian Entrees colorfully grace the menu, but it’s the Pizza selection that gets everyone’s mouth watering. The Mozzarella is flown in from Naples, birthplace of the pizza. Water for the dough is found in a spring whose consistency is that of the selection found in Italy, and the Tomatoes are San Marzano – all the makeup of what can be certified “Vera Pizza Napolitana.”
There’s a counter-service option attached to the restaurant as well, once more offering something for everyone, no matter the budget or dining plan.
To say that Disney’s decision to remove McDonalds from Downtown Disney was an improvement would be an understatement. Anything would have been more unique, but adding Pollo Campero to the Marketplace now adds a healthier option, as well. Pollo Campero announced its spicy arrival in November with rave reviews. Legendary chicken, all-natural burgers, salads, wraps and desserts (all of which are Gluten Free!) mark a menu that Disney has termed “Fresh-A-Peel,” offering healthier options.
Speaking of healthier options, Disney has finally heard the growing voice of the special diet community, and cupcake company BabyCakes, NYC has opened in the DownTown Disney Marketplace! These treats are also featured at Pollo Campero, by the way.
All of the cupcakes, cookies, cakes, muffins, brownies, and other treats offered are not only delicious, they are light-years healthier than most other desserts you’ll find. Why is this? Everything is completely free of refined sugar, gluten, wheat, soy, casein, and eggs, making them Vegan, and Kosher, to boot! This is the perfect solution for anyone with food allergies and a sweet tooth.
Chef Changes Throughout the World
Vegans and those with Dietary Restrictions mourned as they heard news that noted Chef TJ hopped a monorail and made the move from the Polynesian’s Ohana to the Grand Floridian. Luckily, 1900 Park Fare has seen a major improvement in the selection offered to those with special diets since then, as has neighboring restaurant Grand Floridian Cafe.
As the premier resort at Disney World, the Grand Floridian must have noticed a decline in food quality and increase in complaints at their classic Character Buffet, and measures were taken to ensure an upswing. One thing is certain, if there’s anyone that can bring something back to life, it’s Chef TJ. Expect great things to come, and a revival of the once-“Gold Standard” for breakfast destinations at 1900 Park Fare.
Le Cellier Signature Dinner
Perhaps the most debated topic in Disney changes has been the convergence of Le Cellier’s two credit, Signature dining experience. Beginning March 1st, lunch at the popular Steakhouse will still be 1 credit on the Disney Dining Plan, but dinners will be a Signature experience, taking 2 credits per person and offering an expanded menu.
For many years, Le Cellier has been perhaps the hardest reservation to obtain when dining at Disney World – both lunch and dinner were booked a full 180 days in advance in many cases. There are both ups and downs to this change. A new signature dinner menu will mean expanded options, an even better quality of ingredients, and hopefully a more attentive staff and quieter atmosphere (i.e. not as many tired children). It will also mean greater ease at getting a reservation. However, snagging a lunch time reservation will most likely become a cunning game of skill, attainable to only the most die-hard Disney dining enthusiasts. To only have one seating at regular dining credit, lunch at the most popular restaurant in Disney will only be reserved by booking the morning of that 180 day mark.
Disney is changing for the better, offering more options, sympathizing with an ever-growing number of food allergies, and upping their level of service. In the coming years, they will even unveil a new Fantasyland, complete with even more ways to keep everyone happy. No matter what, Disney World will always strive to be the Happiest Place on Earth, even if that means changing to match that evolving definition.
This post is part of the Disney Blog Carnival. Head over there to see more great Disney-related posts and articles.
On this cold, December morning, sounds of a crackling fire and Christmas music should fill the air. Instead, I’m stuck listening to unabated sounds of cleaning going on above my head. Our upstairs neighbor, who is generally loud enough when her heels meet the hardwood, has decided that this morning should be spent pounding nails into the floor while dragging a vacuum over apparently threadbare rugs. At least, that’s what I imagine she’s doing as I try to eat my breakfast in peace, staring at our overloaded Christmas tree and willing my mind to function despite the racket.We live in a condo, which is actually going on the market next week. The pounding and grating in my ears is made somewhat sweeter as I think of a place to call my own that includes four walls (and hopefully a fire that I can hear crackling in time to Christmas music). But, until that day comes, I’m left dealing with the racket in the best way I know how.
Writing is made difficult, so I instead tiptoe into the kitchen. I try to move as silently as possible, hoping to counteract the Armageddon upstairs. Opening cabinet doors and peering inside to take stock of ingredients, I decide that baking something for my husband’s fellow teachers will drown out distractions and center me once again.
Being the end of the week, the contents of my cupboard are somewhat bare, but I forge ahead and decide to try out a Flourless Brownie I came across the other day. The pictures had appeared fluffy and rich, and had received great reviews as far as texture and taste (even from biased judges such as children and picky relatives). The curve ball in this mixture was the main ingredient…Black Beans. I was skeptical, but gave them a try anyway. Read more
My husband’s very favorite treat during the Christmas season is Buckeye Candies – chocolate covered peanut butter balls. And I didn’t think he would ever be getting any from me, until I discovered I could prepare them in a traditional, nourishing way. As part of the Holidays, I bake. And bake. I bake for myself, for my family, and as a way to spend time with friends. But this year hopefully the tradition will change slightly as I learn to keep Christmas in my heart all year long.
One tradition that I love around Christmas time is baking. As a child it was in the kitchen with my Grandma, spilling flour on my clothes and eggs on the floor. Now that I’ve grown a bit, friends will gather around the kitchen counter, putting hands in butter and sugar to prepare Christmas tins stuffed with baked goods to pass along as gifts. Champagne glasses half-full of Mimosas will be covered with greasy fingerprints, and tummies will be contentedly filled with batter and warm, just-out-of-the-oven confections.
Christmas is a time of giving, as they market well through every store you go in and advertisement you see. But it should also be a time of heart felt conversations, an intimate recounting of lives when time is spent apart – even if that can be accomplished while sharing a quick cup of coffee. By keeping the Christmas spirit, I would like to continue those type of connections, instead of trading it in, as we usually do, for a menial garble of words that do nothing but drown out the silence.
Infusing the air with the inviting scent of cookies instead of slander, December brings cold breezes and warm hearts that dwell on something other than superficiality. I’m done with those type of associations. I long for December to take up residence in my relationships much as Scrooge learns to keep Christmas in his heart all year long. Warm, dense friendships like hot chocolate; not the carbonated, artificially sweetened relationships of year’s past. And to that I’ll toast to the Christmas Holidays, digging in elbow-deep and hopefully getting so involved that flour on my nose, chocolate in my hair, and butter stains on my clothes will go unnoticed by Christmas-spirited friends of a like mind.
And finally, chocolate covered peanut butter balls that I feel good about baking! Read more
This Holiday season is the first in which my family will be attempting to make everything from scratch, using whole ingredients. Thanksgiving was a trial of sorts, taking many recipes we had always used, and tweaking them to be more nourishing. That, and finding completely new alternatives for store-bought items of the past.
One of these beloved staples that would not be making an appearance on our table this year were Brown and Serve rolls. You know the kind…they come in a pack of twelve, and have two slats down the top, allowing you to pull them apart once they are baked. But news travels fast in a small family, and when the low murmur grew to a roar, I realized that the Holidays wouldn’t be complete without something to sop up the gravy with. Coming up with a bread that would be healthy for us, while also not tasting like a brick, was a challenge for me…I had never baked bread! Queue the PattyCakes. Read more