I don’t know about you, but I have been having one of those weeks. You know, the ones that for some reason start off rough and just continue along that path. Not as bad as what some are experiencing, but still bad enough to take you off your game and make you feel blah. If I had a better word to describe the feeling, I would use that.
When I am feeling in a manner that can only be described as “blue,” I have 3 treats that I turn to that help lift my spirits.
The first is PB&J on a cracker. I can almost hear y’all asking, “But Mel, why don’t you just put it on a piece of bread?” Maybe it is the playful and portable nature of the cracker, or that it reminds me of my childhood, or maybe it is the crunch. Whatever it is, I love to smear creamy peanut butter on a Ener-G cracker with a dollop of jam. For this treat, I always use the Ener-G brand crackers because they are firmer and will hold up to the pressure of the peanut butter being spread. A couple of these crackers, and I tend to have the hole in my belly filled and get the start of a smile.
When my tummy hurts, the one comfort food I crave is not a food at all. It is a beverage created in Detroit, is very much a Midwest thing, and sometimes I feel like it is primarily a Michigan thing. When my stomach hurts or I want a taste of home, I look for the green Vernors label. Vernors is a ginger ale that is aged in barrels giving it a different taste profile than other ginger ales on the market. I wish I could describe the flavor accurately, but since I have known the flavor all of my life it is pretty impossible to do. All I know is that no other ginger ale feels like a warm hug from a loved one. Which is the ultimate purpose behind comfort foods, right?
I was fortunate enough to know one set of my Great-Grandparents. And not just know them in a vague sense, know them in we would road trip a couple of times each year to see them, they were alive throughout most of my high school life, and my Great-Grandmother passed after I graduated from HS. So I have very specific memories of visiting them. The TV remote on a wire, my Great-Grandfather in his chair, the fully decorated fake Christmas tree residing in their basement inside a garbage bag. But most of all, I remember the treats my Great-Grandmother Mynette would have for us. The trip never felt complete if I did not have at least 1 graham cracker frosting sandwich. It is what it sounds like: 2 graham crackers with a dollop of homemade frosting between them. When I was first diagnosed, these were the things that I mourned the most. Granted, I never made homemade frosting but grabbed a can of Betty Crocker when I had a craving or need of home, but still. It was the lost that hurt the deepest. Then my mom found the Schar Honey Grahams and I could have that taste of memory again. The Schar grahams are almost perfect, as they do not break too easily, and they have that graham cracker taste that I love. When I am having a rough week like this one, I am glad that the grocery store is not far away and that I stashed a box of Schar Honey Grahams in the back of my cupboard as an emergency pick me up.
The only downside about comfort foods is that they do not seem to be too good for you, or your waist line. But that is the thing about comfort, it is supposed to make you feel better, pounds be damned!
What about you? What is your favorite comfort food?
So, I recently was lucky enough to fulfill a life long dream to visit DisneyLand. The occasion that got me out there was the Golden Birth Anniversary for my friend, Voices. But, I am going to do more about that whole AMAZING event later. Also, the food recap is going to be a 2-parter because it was so tasty and there were so many options.
What I need to talk about first is my Gluten Free Experience in the parks. The DisneyLand resort is made up of DisneyLand and Disney’s California Adventure, from here on known as DL and DCA.
My hotel offered a breakfast buffet, but because I figured that would not be safe in advance, so I brought a variety box of Glutenfreeda Wheat Free/Dairy Free Instant Oatmeal. I am SO GLAD that I did. The hotel buffet was actually better than some I have had, but the majority of the offerings were things that were unsafe on so many levels. Waffles, pancakes, sausages, egg patties, cereal, bagels, donuts…pretty much a Glutards worst nightmare. The only things that I could guarantee any level of safeness was the yogurt, the milk, the juice, the already peeled hard boiled eggs, and the apples and oranges. Not a lot of choice, so I was thankful for my bit of oatmeal to start the day.
The first day in the park was my “splurge” day. Since it was a celebration of my friend, I planned on buying lunch and dinner in the park along with whatever treat caught my fancy. There were three places in the park we were set to eat, so I was good. In advance of my trip, I checked out the DisneyLand resort website for their food allergy information. Since I had experience in the past of getting a rough list (because offerings can change) of the restaurants that offer GF food and what the choices were, I also e-mailed Guest Relations in the park to get that information. What I found out is that, because people plan meals based on those lists, and then get upset when the offerings change, Guest Relations is not offering them anymore. But more on that later.
Day 1 the food places were Tiki Juice Bar, Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe, and the French Market. 2 out of 3 of these experiences were FANTASTIC!
Tiki Juice Bar serves one of my favorite Disney treats — Pineapple Dole Whip. Unlike the option offered at WDW, this one does not have a vanilla swirl option. It is straight up frozen pineapple juice. You can get just the Dole Whip, a Dole Whip float with pineapple juice, pineapple spears, basically pineapple with a side of pineapple. There are no cones, so you don’t need to worry about that cross contamination. Plus, the float comes with a cherry on an umbrella stem so you feel extra festive and tropical as you drink it…preferably while watching the pre-show for the Enchanted Tiki Room!
The second stop on my food adventure was the Jolly Holiday Bakery Cafe. The name alone has two words that tend to make me cringe — Bakery and Cafe. Well, I went in knowing that they had SOMETHING I could eat. Since there was no one at the door that I could talk to and notify that I am Gluten Free, I stood in line with my party and went up to the cashier when called. My friend Hula and I both told the cast member behind the register that we were Glutards and he went right to the back to get the chef. The chef came out promptly, and told us what we could have to eat. Well, I heard all the fruit that was in it and promptly chose the Chicken Waldorf sandwich with a side of homemade potato chips. SO GOOD!! The bun, although cold, did not require 50 sips of water to force down my throat, like some other cold buns do. Nope, this whole thing was tasty and easy to eat. The chips were perfectly crisp with just enough salt, and all of it was washed down with the restaurants “Practically Perfect Punch.”
It is probably telling that there are NO pictures of my last meal of the day at the French Market. From beginning to end this was a glutards worst nightmare. I had consulted my handy dandy list before I left the hotel, so I knew there were options there, but walking in I noticed it was cafeteria style. Cafeteria style is scary when you are a glutard because you have to question EVERYTHING. So, I decided to continue my plan of attack of grabbing a cast member and trying to find a chef. Which I did. And was told he would be right out. 10 minutes later, the first of the group is starting to pay, no chef. I am told “it is busy in the kitchen.” It is February 1. Busy has not even HAPPENED yet. 5 minutes later, a chef finally arrives and tells me that I can have the jambalaya and the red beans and rice. Great! I love me some red beans. So, I get in line and order the red beans and see some veggies and say, “hmm, those would taste good. Do you happen to know if they are seasoned?” I had already had the GF conversation with the folks behind the counter, so they told me to hold on, they needed to find out. They have me place my food under a warmer and step back from the line. Oh, this can NOT be good! 5 minutes are spent trying to find a phone number, another 10 minutes go by waiting for a chef…at this point, I have just about lost my patience. Finally a different chef comes up, and apologizes for the delay, but he was at a different restaurant. This is not a good thing DL! You cannot have the person who knows what is and is not safe unavailable for almost 30 minutes! I was then informed that the red beans I was planning on were NOT safe, as they did not know what was in the casing, and I was told more options that I could have. So, I finally ordered, got a 15% discount (WHAT!?!?!), and sat down to eat as the rest of my party was enjoying their dessert. I hate to say that I was more than a little steamed, had heard that I was going to get a discount and expected more than that. I left my food, went back inside and talked to the person at the register, where I was told the supervisor and chef had told him 15%, when I had heard 50. With a “Fine”, I went back to my table and started eating. Not 5 minutes later, someone I was with noticed that a staff member (the supervisor) was in the dining area and she wondered if he was looking for me. So, I raised my hand to get his attention and found out that, yes, he was looking for me. He brought out 2 NON GF deserts (what the heck?!?!), and what I had paid for my meal. So, I did end up getting my meal for free, but I had to get annoyed to do it.
Next time, I am going to cover the other 3 meals and the snacks that I purchased and talk about the changes DL is making for their allergen diners. You know, I have an opinion on those and will slide it in.
If you have not gathered by now, I am a bit of a theme park nut. Not only did I have annual visits to Cedar Point growing up, but I moved to Orlando (after a boy) and lived and worked at either Universal or Disney over the better part of the 8 years I was there. Since I am still Seasonal at the Mouse House, I have made many return trips. But I had not been back to Universal Studios since they opened the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. And as a Potter fan I was determined to right that wrong this trip. (it also helped that I am now working again and could afford the ticket. But that is just details).
Anyway, I knew in advance I was going, so I decided to look online to see what the Gluten-Free options were. Basically, they told me to see a chef at one of their “Fine Dining” establishments. Oh oh. This could be very, very bad as my budget, both time and monetary, was for quick service dining. So, I was scared.
But, Friday morning came and I headed out to get my ticket for Islands of Adventure (aka IOA). After you find your parking in their GINORMOUS parking garages (I take a picture on my phone of where I park so I can remember), you walk. A lot. Before you reach the park entrance. So, you walk to a hub between the 2 parking garages, then you walk to CityWalk, then you walk THROUGH CityWalk, then you pick your direction. Right leads you to Universal Studios Florida, Left takes you to IOA. And past Margaritaville, which is always tempting. But the park icon is always there, leading you in like a sailor lost at sea.
So, it is always better to buy your ticket online. Learned that the hard way. The longest line I stood in all day was the line to get into the park. But it made for some fun people watching.
Once inside the park, I made my way to Guest Relations. I should have known I was in for a hard time when the person at the desk had to ask someone else what they had. When they finally found someone, I asked if they had a printout of their GF dining options. The person tried to tell me, but I told him that I would forget if I did not have a printout and I would like a list so I could peruse it at my leisure. And I had to ask a couple of times. After receiving the printout, I learned why. They spend a paragraph talking about how great the chefs are at their 4 full-service restaurants (2 in each park), in dealing with guests with gluten allergies and creating meals to “suit individual tastes and needs.” Mention was also made about how Confisco Grille at IOA has a dedicated GF menu with the following options: “Pesto Penne & Tomato Basil, made with rice noodles: Mussels; and Caesar Salad.”
I am going to actually type out the next paragraph regarding the quick service because it made me see red. And I quote: “We are pleased to provide a variety of gluten-free quick-service options. The International Food & Film Festival in USF, and the Thunder Falls Terrace in IOA, offer the following gluten-free items: roasted chicken; smoked chicken; smoked ribs; smoked turkey legs; roasted potatoes with onions, fresh herbs, salt, and pepper; roasted corn; baked potatoes; french fries cooked in canola oil; and salads.” 1 restaurant in each park offering the same menu is a “wide variety??? Plus, you know, the fruit that is available throughout the park is safe.
Needless to say, I was not a very happy person. A variety of options, with 1 food option. I am going to blog later about how much I enjoy this park, but I want to finish up on the food. Hopefully y’all will come back to read the next part where I go all giddy and fangirl.
When I finally made it to Thunder Falls, located inside the Jurassic Park section, the first thing that I noticed was that the
food was served cafeteria style. That put me on alert. Then I talked to a supervisor, who was not much help, and finally got Chef Reuben. Reuben was very good about answering my questions, letting me know that while the food was GF, it was prepared in a central facility that might not be, and while I could have BBQ sauce from the line, i could not get it out in the restaurant, because that one was GF. My options were: Rotisserie Chicken, the BBQ Chicken, the Rotisserie/BBQ combo platter, and the Grilled Chicken Salad. Then I was told to join the line, and ask that either he, or Youza (his 2nd) make my meal. So, waited in a long line for food, asked for Youza, and she put my Rotisserie Chicken plate together in the kitchen and brought it out to me.
And it was….alright. The portion was HUGE and I did not eat again that night, but the flavor was just average. But Youza and Reuben were fantastic. So, on my way out I wanted to make sure they got recognized for being knowledgeable when no one else in the restaurant was. And the new person in Guest Relations told me I didn’t have to leave Harry Potter to eat after all! Not on the list of places to eat is the Three Broomsticks. So, you can have everything served at Thunder Falls at the Three Broomsticks, as well as Potato Leek Soup and a Wedge Salad. And it is not served cafeteria style. Wish I had known that in advance…
Med Soda: $2.59
Rotisserie Chicken Platter: $10.99
No piece of mine that I was not contaminated.
Next time, I am bringing my own lunch in.
Later this week I want to talk about how much fun IOA is!
Thanks for reading!
I was not having a good week. For whatever the reason, my nerves were close to the surface and lots of things were making me grumpy. And I am not naturally a grumpy person!
Wednesday was “Birthday Food Day” at work. I always bring something in for myself and my GF/SF/CF co-worker. And she brings something in. And…..that was all we could eat. Which we were pretty much ok with. Until I opened an e-mail from one of my co-workers saying that she was going to be buying pizza for “everyone.” Yes. I used quotations around the word everyone. Because they got Bacci pizza, which I don’t think has even heard of a gluten free option. Fine. I grumbled under my breath about it, but then, THEN, they went and placed their pizza between the 2 people who could not eat it!! Ok. I get that it was the open desk and the easiest place to put it. But it was like a form of Chinese Water Torture! I’m calling it Italian Smell Torture! Where you spend an entire day smelling something that you absolutely, positively, cannot eat….and it drives you crazy!
So that was day one of me becoming bitter celiac. The second day was somewhere on the floor there was ice cream for “everyone”. Except, they were Drumsticks, and once again, I got to sit and watch all of my co-workers eat them in front of me. It really got under my skin that my co-workers did not even stop to think about it. Hell, they order lunch for everyone, and they don’t even get a salad that can be enjoyed. It is a lack of thought that just makes it hard to feel a part of the “team”.
So, I’m in bitter celiac mood, when someone who invited me to their event, who I really did not know that well, sent me a tweet asking in Rice Krispies were GF. She knew I was coming to her event and she wanted to make sure there was something there that I could eat. Not knowing what she had come up with, I brought my own sausages, chips, and alcohol. She had labeled everything so I knew what was in things and she made a quinoa black bean dip that was delicious. She did not have to make anything, but the fact that she thought enough of me to make sure I had something to eat helped grow my heart back to normal size after the debacle at work.
But what made my heart go back to normal size and totally erase the bitterness from the past week occurred today. I was invited to a Bridal Shower, and honestly, when I accepted, I did not plan on having anything to eat. Nope. The BRIDE (wow) made sure that I had food. There were Schar rolls, a pasta with meat sauce, a pasta salad, some seasoned sliced cucumbers (she made cucumber sandwiches for everyone else), and some meat. W-O-W!!! I honestly teared up when she took me back to show me what I could eat. I couldn’t eat the cake, but I am so sweeted out from the past couple weekends that I really did not care!
What did I learn this week? That there are people out there who will not give a thought to what you can and cannot eat, which is fine. They do not live with it and we cannot expect others to care. But, when someone takes the time to make sure that there is food available for you to eat, words cannot express how “normal” it makes you feel, how welcome, how a part of a community. And for everyone who has done that, I thank you.
And next time, I promise I will write one of the other NON-GF related posts that have been rattling around in my head
I love Disney. I am a HUGE Disney villain fan. I worked full-time in the parks for 3 years and have been seasonal with them since I moved North. I am getting ready to do my last Disney work trip, as they have changed the rules requiring more availability then I can give. But this is blog is not about that. This blog is about the two Disney’s I have experienced since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease: The side that I experience as a guest, and, tomorrow, what the experience has been like as a cast member.
As a guest, WOW! My first stop of any Disney trip is to Guest Relations of whatever park I visit first. While the list is available online, I love to go in and talk to the cast members and get a paper copy on site in case there have been any changes. This list tells me which Quick Service locations have gluten-free options and what they are. It also lets me know the options available from the stands. So, when the mood hits for a Mickey Ice Cream Bar (seriously, the BEST thing ever), I know that they are safe. If I want to go into a bakery, I know that they have gluten-free brownies and cookies. The ones I have seen sold in the parks come from a vendor, which I recently heard that OMG…It’s Gluten Free.
When the time comes for food and you do not have reservations, you whip out your list, or I believe they have an app for this now,
and head into the restaurant that has what you want. I always let someone know right away that I have food allergies, which gets them the manager/floor supervisor on duty. This person has always been SUPER helpful. They tend to bring a binder that lists all of the ingredients in everything they offer so that you can make sure that you are safe. They then make several mentions when I order that it is gluten free, and often times, go into the back to make it themselves to make sure there is no cross-contamination. The only downside I have ever experienced with this is the waiting for my GF pizza to be cooked. If I was traveling with others, they would have finished theirs before mine came out. But I would be safe. And the last time I was there, the pizza was Annie’s.
And back to dessert! For one of my birthday’s, I went with some of my amazing Orlando people and her parents to Beaches and Cream, an ice cream shop at
the Beach Club Resort. They have an item there called “The Kitchen Sink”. It is literally hot fudge, butterscotch, peanut butter topping, banana, vanilla ice cream, chocolate ice cream, strawberry ice cream, mint ice cream, coffee ice cream, chocolate syrup, marshmallow cream, strawberry topping, pineapple topping, almonds, white & dark chocolate shavings, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, chocolate sprinkles, rainbow sprinkles, maraschino cherries, and an ENTIRE CAN of whipped cream. Oh, and since I could not have the following, due to their glutenous nature, they put them on the side for my dining partners to enjoy: cinnamon spice cupcake, angel food cupcake, brownie, candy bar, jellied orange slices, and oreos. Again, the server and the manager came out to make sure that we could enjoy this treat, which took 5 of us to eat, without my getting sick.
The one experience I have had with a full-service restaurant has been BEYOND amazing! One of my favorite Orlando couples made reservations for us to see the HOOP-DE-DOO MUSICAL REVEUE. We made our reservations last minute, so I was not that surprised when they could not find our reservation. I made a point to tell, pretty much everyone involved in the seating process, that I had food allergies. The seater knew, the person who got our drink orders heard, the server heard. They all told me that it was noted and they would let the chef know. (side note, I learned when I had surgery that it really is important to let multiple people know, as I was almost given crackers post surgery). ANYWAY, back to the story. Even though they lost the advance notice, the chef personally came out to our table, introduced himself, and then told me EVERYTHING that I could eat. If I could not eat one of the primary dishes, as the restaurant is family style dining with a set meal, he gave me options for everything. Seriously, everything that I could not eat, I was told, “we can do a or perhaps, b”. Up to, and including, dessert. AMAZING!!!!
I am really excited to be going down to The Happiest Place on Earth for 5 days next month. Disney has always been at the forefront of providing GF options to their guests. And when I am playing in the parks, it is going to be fantastic. And I will let all you wonderful people know how it went and what I experienced.
But when I am working, it will be a completely different story. One that I will talk about tomorrow.