Posts Tagged ‘Florida’

Reader Report: Orlando’s Disney World

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

The Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Reader Report Contest didn’t get very many entries (there ended up being six in total), but every one was a terrific read and will add lots of valuable information for travelers. I will be publishing them all on the site, starting with the very first entry that came in. Many thanks to Deb for this terrific report!

Deb’s Report on Disney World

Last spring my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease less than a month away from our trip to Florida, including two days at Disney World.  I learned the folks at Disney are fantastic at accommodating guests with celiac, gluten/wheat sensitivity, or any other food allergies.  We returned to Disney again this March and had a second wonderful experience.

Contact SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com at least two weeks before your trip to Disney.  We were sent a guest allergy form to fill out and return.   Then we received a confirmation email verifying that the pertinent allergy information was included on our dining reservations.

Here are reviews for the restaurants we dined at.  To make a reservation at any of the sit down restaurants at Disney World, call 407-WDW-DINE.

Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)

Crystal Palace provides an upscale buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.   We’ve had lunch at Crystal Palace two years running.  The chef walks the line with you, showing you which foods are safe.  During our visit, gluten-free foods available on the cold line included several fruit salads, a black bean and corn salad and a spring greens and tomato salad (dressing and croutons were further down the line, so the salad was safe). On the hot line there was flank steak, salmon, and a rice dish — all delicious.

The chef also prepared gluten-free chicken fingers and fries for my daughter.  The gluten-free chicken fingers were rated ‘amazing.’ For dessert there is ice cream, or if you can’t have dairy, Rice Dream.

The culinary team at Crystal Palace was very welcoming. We will continue to dine there on future trips.

Coral Reef (Epcot)

Coral Reef diners order from a menu, so the chef comes out and discusses options with you. Grilled Mahi Mahi and a grilled chicken breast were two of my daughter’s choices. While we waited for our entrees, our server brought out warm gluten-free rolls as an alternative to the bread basket.

The grilled chicken breast served with a side of fries was rated ‘great’ by my daughter.  Fresh fruit, Rice Dream or a gluten-free brownie were offered for dessert. If you do not have an issue with dairy, regular ice cream would also be an option.

We’ve eaten at Coral Reef twice and will return again.

Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios)

Like Coral Reef, the chef comes out and discusses options with you. Disney menus at the sit-down restaurants feature a fair number of grilled meat and fish dishes, which are easy to modify. Warm gluten-free rolls are provided here as well.  My daughter had a delicious flank steak, new potatoes with olive oil and herbs and steamed broccoli. Fruit, Rice Dream and gluten-free brownies were again available for dessert.  While service was a bit slow, we’d dine there again if we ever return to Hollywood Studios.

On the Road With Crime Writer BV Lawson

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Book Cover
Thanks to the wonder that is modern technology (okay, it was Twitter), I discovered that crime writer BV Lawson is on a gluten-free diet. BV is a former classical musician turned radio announcer turned writer who also worked for the Discovery Channel for over a decade. Now a full-time freelancer based in Arlington, Virginia, she’s penned radio and television scripts, articles for various publications, and won awards for her more than two dozen published stories and poems. (Check out her delightful “Gun Love” in Plots With Guns.) Thanks to the influence of library genes handed down from her mother, she created the blog In Reference to Murder which contains over 3,000 links for mystery readers and writers. She’s currently working on a series of novels set in various locations in and around the mid-Atlantic; be sure to visit her author site.

How long have you been on a gluten-free diet? Unfortunately, I only discovered the problem relatively recently, was in denial for awhile, then finally settled in to the full gluten-free lifestyle about two years ago. It’s been quite an adjustment.

How often do you travel? As often as possible, which isn’t often enough! My husband is a private pilot, so we rent a little Cessna 172 and fly whenever we can.

Where have you traveled since going gluten-free? Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, the eastern shore on the Delmarva Peninsula, and other areas of Virginia. Would love to go back to Europe or the Caribbean someday soon.

What foods or snacks do you usually pack when traveling? When I was in Florida recently for a night shuttle launch, we had a little mini-kitchen, so I took gluten-free instant oatmeal, instant grits, individual applesauce containers, cereal, juice, nuts, fruit and some chocolate (natch!). Breakfasts are the hardest due to all those “free continental” things they have in hotels these days, which are basically gluten gluts.

What other things do you always bring with you? Laptop computer, books, a little writing pad that fits in my purse for story ideas, a heating pad (can’t live without that – it’s great for emergencies), and unfortunately compression socks, thanks to a couple of rounds with blood clots. That leads me off on a bit of a tangent, but I believe it’s gluten related:  because I lived with a gluten problem for so long and didn’t realize it (in hindsight, it was very easy to see), it led to a whole host of health “annoyances.” Gluten problems are often linked with autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (which I have), fibromyalgia (which I have); plus, an acquired autoimmune condition can also lead to blood clots. My unscientific (but valid, I think) hypothesis is that gluten caused all the immune problems, which in turn led to the clots. I wish we could develop a good reliable gluten test to give to young people to prevent things like this later on in life.

Any favorite restaurants you’ve discovered on the road? What about in your town? We ate at a wonderful little hole-in-the wall restaurant in Melbourne, Florida, called the Thai Thai. I love Thai cuisine because they don’t use wheat much at all, except soy sauce, and I ordered some gluten-free soy sauce travel packets off the Internet. I’m also a big sushi fan. We have a wonderful pizza joint in Arlington called the Lost Dog Cafe, which the hubster and I have loved for years. When I went gluten-free, I had to salivate while I watched him eat the pizza, trying to enjoy my salad. Recently, they added gluten-free crusts, and I am in heaven. Another popular area pizza restaurant, Z Pizza, also recently added GF crusts, and I’m looking forward to trying them.

Any favorite hotels? It’s a little silly to choose a hotel due to its breakfast options, but Hampton Inns generally have a larger GF choice in their complimentary breakfast bar. We stayed at the Doubletree in Melbourne and loved it – all rooms are ocean view and we could open the sliding glass door to the patio and let the surf sounds waft through all night. Wonderfully soothing. My secret dream is to stay in one of those ritzy island getaways with your own private infinity-edge pool looking over the ocean.

Favorite city/destination that is not your hometown or current home base? From my childhood/teen years, I still have fond memories of the Bay of Fundy area and Prince Edward Island, as well as Florence, Italy. My husband is a diver, so we’ve enjoyed places like Bonaire together. We took an astronomy trip to Arizona in 2003 and fell in love with the desert southwest, including Tucson, Phoenix/Scottsdale and on up through Sedona to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. It’s a beautiful state, that Arizona. And for guilty pleasures that make you feel like a kid again – it’s Disney World.

What’s your dream destination? There are so many places on my list, it’s hard to narrow it to just one. Places in the Caribbean we haven’t been to, Hawaii, Alaska, Ireland, Iceland (yes, I know – volcanoes, but they have lovely views of the aurora borealis, too), Egypt, Australia, New Zealand. The world, basically. And hopefully be like my parents some day and be able to say that we’ve been to all 50 states.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Try to avoid all packaged foods whenever possible (which is just about anything with over 5 ingredients). Definitely don’t be afraid to ask the waiter and/or manager about special food preparations, if you need them. If you have to, stick with chain brands with standardized food choices. Download as many GF restaurant menus as you can from their web sites online and take them with you (or transfer the info to your PDA/phone).

On the Road With Allergic Girl

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Sloane_Miller_5

When I started the Gluten-Free Guidebook in March 2008, one of my role models was Sloane Miller. I admired her Allergic Girl blog for its charming style, thoroughly researched posts, and sense of adventure. Many people with gluten intolerance or food allergies focus on what they can’t have; Sloane’s writing inspires me with the sense of what’s possible. A tireless advocate for the food-allergic, Sloane has been featured in many national media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN.com, New York Magazine, The Huffington Post, and ABCNews.com. A New York State-licensed psychotherapeutic social worker since 2000, Sloane founded a private coaching practice, Allergic Girl Resources, for the food-allergic community in 2007. Part of her practice includes Worry-Free Dinners, an NYC-based dining club for adults and children with food allergies and intolerances. Here’s what she had to say about her recent travels.

How often do you travel? Not often enough. I fly 2-4 times a year domestically and I get away on weekends throughout the year.

Where have you traveled since going gluten-free? I’ve been gluten-free since 2004, and since then all of my travel has been domestic: Florida, Long Island, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Eastern seaboard mainly.

What foods or snacks do you pack when traveling? As someone with food allergies (tree nuts, salmon, some fruits and veggies; and I’m dairy- and wheat-intolerant) my family has been traveling with food for as long as I can remember. My standard complement includes: boxes of juices, packages of applesauce, dried organic fruit (raisins, apricots, dates), granola that I make at home (recipe here), rice crackers and organic cheese, fruit, Enjoy Life cookies and chocolates. Most of my bag is actually food when I travel. I also shop when I get to a new place. I find the local grocery or greenmarket and stock up on allergy-friendly local goodies.

What other things do you always bring with you? Medicines for environmental allergies, food allergies and allergic asthma, always in multiples, and all up to date. A travel pillow, check. Tea, check. (I like PG Tips from England so I always make sure to have some on hand when traveling. Also if I feel wheezy because of a new room, space or hotel, some caffeine helps to calm it down.) Magazines that I never have time to read otherwise: The New Yorker, Oprah, Lucky and Real Simple. Music and movies although I rarely get to those, too. There’s a lot of packing in my world that’s for a just in case scenario. Just in case there are delays and I need food or entertainment, just in case there are feather pillows only and I need something to sleep on. Clothing is always secondary to food because what’s better than shopping for new duds in a new place?

How do you prepare for a trip? Homework, homework, homework.  All the advance work makes getting there and being there so much more relaxing. Of course, you also need to prepare for the unexpected by remaining calm and flexible and that’s where your just-in-case provisions come in handy. I recently traveled for work to Boston and I had brought enough food with me for three days (dinners, lunches and breakfasts). Very quickly, I made friends with the hotel chef who cooked all of my meals for me, allergen-free. So then I schlepped all of the food home again. There were unexpected train delays because of a bomb scare. Was I concerned? Nope, I had enough food to feed half the line.

Any favorite restaurants? My favorite NYC safe restos are listed here. Now ask me, where do I think I and my dietary needs will be welcomed with open arms, delicious food and excellent service? I have that dream list too: Alinea in Chicago, IL, Per Se in NYC, Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, NY, and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, to name a few.

Any favorite hotels? I love small boutique hotels, ones that take an interest in each and every guest. I especially love returning to a hotel year after year, having a favorite room and overlook. The Standard Miami (room 32) is one fave. So is the St Thomas D’Aquin (room 15) in Paris. I’ve been invited to stay at the Winvian in CT for work. The property looks wonderful and like it may be a new favorite.

Favorite city or destination that is not your hometown or current home base? Drat. I do love New York. It is my hometown, my current home base and my favorite tourist spot. I love Paris and London, and Oxford, cities I’ve spent considerable time in. I also love the English countryside, I’d like to see more of it. I love the ocean; ocean towns are some of my faves.

What’s your dream destination? When I was little my dream destination was Hawaii. Probably because of too many reruns of the Brady Brunch goes to Hawaii eps. However, I think I’d still like to go there for maybe a month and explore.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Don’t be afraid to travel because you believe you may not be able to eat safely. There are many valuable resources out there to help you. Seek them out and use them. Here’s an article by Conde Nast Traveler that may help you get on your way. And of course, Gluten-Free Guidebook, which is an invaluable resource. Thanks, Hilary!

Photograph of Sloane Miller: copyright Kenneth Chen.

Roundup: With a Little Help From My Friends

Wednesday, November 5th, 2008

It’s always a pleasure to get restaurant recommendations from readers. But I need to acknowledge another group that has been sending a lot of great information my way: my non-celiac friends. Blessed with eagle eyes, they are sharp when it comes to picking up gluten-free news, and thoughtful when it comes to passing it along.

My friend Leslie, author of The Ladies’ Room Reader Quiz Book: 1,000 Questions and Answers About Women and the Things They Love, has a particularly keen eye. While researching a story on Tampa, Florida, she discovered that the Lee Roy Selmon’s restaurant chain (named for the first Tampa Bay Buccaneer enshrined in the National Football League’s Hall of Fame) has an extensive gluten-free menu. Another of her finds is Café Formaggio, a Long Island, NY, restaurant that serves gluten-free pasta, pizza, brownies, and beer. Her most unusual discovery so far has been Chiarelli’s Religious Goods, also on Long Island, which makes gluten-free Communion wafers. Leslie also discovered the impressive Gluten Free Diet Center on Eating Well’s website, which includes extensive information about the diet, many recipes, and a Q&A with the executive director of the Gluten Intolerance Group.

Another friend — Yvonne, author of The Everything Family Christmas Book: Stories, Songs, Recipes, Crafts, Traditions, and More — told me about a new cafe in Calgary, Alberta: Primal Grounds Cappuccino Bar & Eatery. It has two locations and a broad list of gluten-free meal options that includes curry pineapple chicken, shepherd’s pie, and beef lasagna, as well as sandwiches that can be prepared with rice bread.

Jenna, who co-writes The Haiku Diaries, found out that Firefly restaurant in Washington, D.C., offers a glamorous menu for gluten-free gourmets, and that Panzano, an Italian restaurant in Denver, bakes gluten-free focaccia. Both properties are owned by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants.

Stephanie, who lives in Toronto, passes along the names of celiac-friendly restaurants she hears about from a co-worker who has celiac disease. She was the one who told me about Four, which I wrote about in June. One spot she told me about recently is Mio RistoBar, which is located in Toronto’s Financial District and offers gluten-free pasta and entrees.

Some of my friends find gluten-free spots even when they’re not looking for them. Ellen was taking her kids to the optometrist’s when she passed an Italian restaurant offering a gluten-free menu. It turned out that the restaurant, Sambuca, was one I’ve dined at but haven’t yet written about for this site; it’s an institution on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

As I was finishing off this column, my sister-in-law Michelle e-mailed me about gluten-free recipes from Gourmet magazine, including one for chocolate chip cookies and one for lemon layer cake. The recipes are from Gluten-Free Baking Classics by Annalise Roberts, a book that has just been reissued. That reminded me of all of the help I’ve had from certain family members… but that will have to wait for another time.

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I’m leaving for Turkey tomorrow (November 6th), so this blog will be quiet for the next two weeks. But I will be back after that to share my latest finds.

Roundup: Gluten-Free Dining Across America

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Celiac disease and gluten intolerance have been in the news lately (May is Celiac Awareness Month, after all). I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find mainstream media coverage of the subject. ABC-7 in Chicago featured a story, “More Gluten-Free Restaurants in the Chicago Area,” that is still up on the channel’s website. The long list of restaurants, bakeries, and shops includes Adobo Grill, Vinci Restaurant, Swirlz Cupcakes, and Venus. It also includes a link to the Celiac Chicago blog.

The Boston Globe ran a series of articles about gluten intolerance, including “Gluten Free Dining Out.” This list includes Elephant Walk, Rendezvous, and Rocca, and is still available online (you may need to sign up to use the Boston Globe’s website, but registration is free).

Vanessa Maltin, the Director of Programming and Communications at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and the author of Beyond Rice Cakes, e-mailed me after our interview to let me know about another restaurant she found in Florida. Vanessa wrote:

I went to dinner tonight in Jupiter, Florida, at Masa’s Sagami. It was incredible. It is a hibachi-style Japanese restaurant and the chef who cooked at our table was a dream come true. I brought my own bottle of Tamari sauce and he was so careful to make my food in a clean area of the cook top and even made me a special batch of fried rice that was gluten-free. He didn’t even flinch when I asked. He simply called for the kitchen to bring him fresh ingredients to cook mine with. it was awesome and made for a fabulous night out!
(Masa’s Sagami [address] 1200 Town Center Drive, Jupiter, FL 33458 [tel] 561-799-6266 [web] www.masassagami.com)

Vanessa also mentioned that the new Nationals Park in Washington D.C. has a Noah’s Pretzels with gluten-free pretzels and Redbridge, the celiac-safe beer brewed by Anheuser-Busch. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, you may want to take in a game if you find yourself in D.C. this summer.

One of my favorite bloggers, Allergic Girl, was featured in New York magazine (“Ask an Allergic”) with her tips for successful allergy-free dining. Also, my friend and Frommer’s colleague Bob Fisher, who has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and green peas, wrote an article called “Travel Health & Safety: 7 Food Allergy Tips” for Frommers.com. It ran a few months ago, but it’s still up on the site and it’s a piece everyone should read.

On the Road With Vanessa Maltin

Monday, April 28th, 2008

Vanessa Maltin is an inspiring person to talk to. She’s the Director of Programming and Communications at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and also the author of Beyond Rice Cakes: A Young Person’s Guide to Cooking, Eating & Living Gluten-Free. She is currently at work on a second book, which explores how to cook Latin, Italian, and Asian cuisines for a gluten-free diet. Take a look at Vanessa’s blog, Beyond Rice Cakes, for more information (the book will be published by Wiley in the fall of 2009). Diagnosed with celiac disease in 2003, Vanessa has plenty of practice traveling gluten-free, and she shared her experiences and advice with me in an interview last week.

How often do you travel? I travel for work at least once a month, and usually a lot more. I just got back from Bentonville, in northwest Arkansas, which was great. They had all of the chains with gluten-free menus there, like Red Robin, P.F. Chang’s, and Mama Fu’s.

Where have you traveled since being diagnosed with celiac disease? I’ve been all over the country. So far this year I’ve been to New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Boston, Philadelphia, Hagerstown, MD, Lynchburg, VA, and Florida. Internationally, since I was diagnosed, I’ve been to Ireland, Italy, and Prague — all places where I ate like a queen!

What foods or snacks do you pack when traveling? I always bring bags of nuts with me. I also take Pure Fit bars and Zone bars — most of them are gluten-free. Sometimes I’ll bring gluten-free Thai Kitchen soup mixes, or small packets of peanut butter, which I’ll eat with an apple.

What other things do you bring with you? My iPod and my laptop! I also take Triumph Dining cards with me wherever I go.

How do you prepare for a trip? Since most of my travel is for work, I try to get a really detailed itinerary, because you have to plan ahead. It’s not like I can stop and grab a Big Mac. Sometimes I’ll look at the local celiac support groups and see what they recommend. Normally, when traveling for work, I’m eating with non-celiacs, so I tell people I’m meeting what I can and can’t eat. I have a lot of meetings where an office provides a catered meal, so it’s really important to let them know in advance that they need to have gluten-free options.

Any favorite restaurants? I absolutely love Bistango in New York City. In D.C., my favorites are Café Atlántico, where I helped the chef develop the Latin-fusion gluten-free menu, and Zaytinya, a Mediterranean restaurant. In San Francisco, I go to Max’s Opera Café, which doesn’t have a gluten-free menu but is very accommodating. I love Brick and Solstice, which are both in San Francisco, too. In Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, I like the Yard House, and I just went to a place called Pizza Fusion, which has gourmet gluten-free pizzas. My standby place, wherever I go across the country, is Chipotle.

Any favorite hotels? The Hyatt hotels are amazing.

What’s the most memorable city you’ve visited? Bruges in Belgium. Every other store there was a chocolate shop. I had a shrimp and goat cheese salad there that I’m still craving. It was such an incredible place, and the only thing I couldn’t eat there were the croissants.

What’s your dream destination? The Amalfi Coast in Italy. I’ve read about cooking trips there where you stay in a villa for seven days and just cook every day. I’d love that.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Keep an open mind about traveling, because it really can be done!

Photograph provided courtesy of Vanessa Maltin.