This weekend is a BIG weekend for Chicago Glutards. It is the sixth annual GFAF Expo. This is the first year I am not volunteering, so my experience this year will be much different for me.
But on to tonite! This evening Schar Gluten Free hosted a “Gluten Free Food, Fun, And Festivities” evening at D’Agostino’s Pizza. It was a night for locals, bloggers, and expo vendors to get together, kick back, relax, and enjoy some delicious and safe food.
I need to start with the food because I ate so much I was afraid I would need to be rolled out of the restaurant. It was SO GOOD!! There was Chicken Parmesan, Chicken Salad made with Chicken Tenders, Chicken Tenders, and 6 different types of pizza (Cheese, Pepperoni, Sausage, Vegetarian, Margherita, and the Dags Special).
The salad was your standard issue restaurant salad. What made it great were the pieces of chicken tenders on first. At first, I thought there were croutons on top of it, which made me question the Gluten Free training program, but when I looked closer, I realized it was chopped up pieces of tenders. The tenders themselves were YUM! Don’t think the overly crispy ones that I used to inhale at fast food restaurants when I was a kid. This was real pieces of chicken, properly coated, not crispy at all, but with a flavor that was just calling out to be dredged through a sauce and enjoyed in a bite or two. As you can see from the picture, they were a hit.
I need to admit that I have never had Chicken Parmesan before tonite. I really did not even know what it was. For the uninitiated like myself, it is breaded chicken that is quickly pan-fried, topped with pasta sauce and mozzarella and served on a bed of pasta or rice, in this case fusilli corn pasta. Since I am unfamiliar with the dish, you can take my opinions with a grain of salt, but I really felt like there was a TON of sauce on top of the chicken and barely any on the pasta, so it tasted a bit dry. This was not my favorite dish of the evening, but some dish had to be the least favorite, right?
Lastly was the pizza. OMGoodness, the pizza. I ate soooo much pizza. First off, I have to say that the restaurant only offers a super thin crust pizza, so if you want anything else, you need to pass. But if you don’t care about the thickness of the crust as long as it tastes good and the toppings are good, then you will like this pizza. I did not try the cheese, pepperoni or sausage pizzas, partially because I really wanted to try the other flavors. The vegetarian pizza had spinach, onions, mushrooms and tomato and made my mouth smile, which tends to be rare as I love my meat pizzas. The Dags was topped with sausage, mushroom, green pepper, and onions, I thought it was tasty and went back for seconds. But the pizza I went back for thirds was the one that I was told that I HAD to try — The Margherita. The crust is coated with olive oil and garlic, then topped with basil, tomatoes, mozzarella, and a bit of parmesan. Seriously, some delicious things going on with that pizza!
But honestly, the best part was meeting up with friends like Sarah, Mary, Denise, and Andrea; getting to meet people I follow on Twitter like GFreeLaura, RockinGFgal, and Gluten Free Betsy: bloggers whose work I enjoy including Alissa and Elyse; and finally getting to meet people who are making it happen in the GF industry like Denise, Ken, and Anne from Schar, and Jason and Darin from Find Me Gluten Free. I know there are many people I missed, but it is late, I had a margarita and some Angry Orchard, so I hope they forgive me.
Hello Again My Friends!
Last time I took you through my one day pig-out at DisneyLand. The next couple of days were not as exciting, food wise (thank goodness), but the number of options available were still pretty great.
As mentioned prior, for breakfast I made GlutenFreeda Instant Oatmeal (love this stuff) at my hotel and grabbed a lot of fruit. Most days I did not bother with lunch, as I was not hungry. I know there are nutritionists out there who would probably love to rake me across the coals for that, but I had apples in my bag, so I at least snacked on something healthy when I had the urge. And I got a LOT of fiber! =)
Day 2 found me exploring Disney’s California Adventure. The bulk of the park is themed after different regions of California, be it the Piers along the ocean, Northern California, Hollywood, and the rest is pure Pixar fun. I arrived not long after the park opened and after walking down Buena Vista street with my mouth agape (again), I reached a fork in the road. Have fork, bear right. Well, I explored a bit, then had a hankering for waffles. Mickey Waffles. So, I hit up the first restaurant I see and ask “Do you know where I can get some GF waffles?” They did not know, but they sent me over to Flo’s in Carsland. Ok, I wish I remembered the name of the chef (I think it was Mike), but he came out and let me know that they did NOT have GF waffles, but give him a moment. He then went into the kitchen and called EVERY RESTAURANT ON PROPERTY to find out where I could get them! Sadly, there was no place in the park, but he told me if I really wanted something with carbs, I could grab a GF muffin from Fiddler, Fifer, and Practical Cafe. This made my morning as, not only was it a Starbucks, they had OMG, IT’S GLUTEN FREE blueberry muffins! When I ordered it and mentioned that I would like it warmed up, the manager took it, and took care of it. They told me the special precautions they took to avoid cross-contamination, but I don’t remember as I was hungry and needing my dirty iced soy chai.
The rest of the day was spent wandering around, riding the rides, screaming myself hoarse, laughing a lot, and just enjoying the day with Marianya. Eventually, after she headed back to the hotel, I realized it was almost 8pm and I had not eaten yet. WHOOPS! So, I pulled out my handy guide map and started looking at what food options were out there. Was not in a meat mood (as in meatloaf, pork loin, etc), or burgers or hotdogs, when I saw there was someplace called The Lucky Fortune Cookery. That almost sounded perfect, so I thought I would run over and see if they could help me out. If not, I was pretty sure I could find SOMETHING at the Mexican place across the pier. After a very short wait in line, I went up and told them, “Hi. I am Gluten Free, is there anything here I can eat?” The chef popped up and let me know that there is no pre-marinade on the meats, the rice is safe, as are the vegetables and they had a sauce (whose name escapes me) that I could have. SOLD! And it came in a cute take out bowl. As an added bonus, this was the dish that I mastered the use of chopsticks with rice! I took my food, found a good place to stand, and finished it while waiting for WORLD OF COLOR to start.
Day 3 found me back at Disneyland. Once again, got a craving for a muffin, so I hunted and discovered that they had them at my old friend, Jolly Holiday Bakery and Cafe. The sign saying that these were available is **really** tiny on the display case, but I got it (warmed up safely again, this time remaining in the bag as it was an Udi’s muffin) and my Practically Perfect Punch, to get my energy going. Later in the day, I had an ice cream hankering, so I got one of my favorite treats, other than Dole Whip. A Mickey Premium Ice Cream Bar.
My dinner companion on night 3 was Marianya, as our third left to do the drive back to Pepperdine. With both of us being clueless on what we wanted and the decision being left to me (which can be very dangerous as I am very non committal when it comes to food. If it is edible, and safe, I am usually good), we headed to Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port in Tomorrowland. Of course, the first thing I do is ask if they have GF options. Upon being assured that they did, I headed to the pizza station. The person there grabs the chef and who informs me of the pasta and the pizza options. When asked what he would have, he did not hesitate a moment before saying the pizza. SOLD! He had me take a slip up to the cashier and complete my order, and then I came back and waited a grand total of about 10 minutes from placing the order until food delivery. I have had the GF pizza at WDW which were OK, but nothing to write home about. This one had a really nice crust and good flavors but sadly the chef could not remember who made it, even after others asked previously. Ok, if people ask where the GF pizza is from, LEARN because good GF pizza is hard to find!
At the end of the night, I made my way to Town Square and City Hall (aka Guest Relations). While I still felt the need to say something about my night 1 dining experience, I felt a stronger desire to give compliments and applause to the chef’s and dining cast members who gave me so many good dining experiences. I do not know what happened with the information I gave, but I know that every chef that I interacted with on these 2 days had something positive said for going above and beyond.
Day 4 found us arriving late due to errands in the area (like seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time), and bouncing between the two parks. I saw a show at The Golden Horseshoe, but other than a root beer float, the food options there for the Glutard were non-existent. Dinner found Marianya and I meeting up with Hula to watch the Pixar Play Parade after enjoying hot dogs and chips from Award Wieners. Once again, I failed to take a picture. Here is my negative on this dining experience. While they could guarantee that the hot dogs and buns were safe, they could make no promises on any of the other ingredients, including cheese and onion. I know very few people above the age of 5 who like plain hot dogs. So, my word of advice here would be to PLEASE have some GF toppings available.
Day 5. Last morning. Time to get those waffles! I headed off to the one place I had been told I could get them: The Storyteller’s Cafe at the Grand Californian Resort. I had a hunch it would be a character breakfast given the facts: breakfast, hotel, Mickey Waffles. But I did not care! Now, I was silly and did not make a reservation, but the staff there were fantastic! I got my seat, the server heard I was gluten free and chef Juan was out in a flash. Just so you know, you have 2 dining options. You can eat a la carte, off a menu, or you can do the breakfast buffet. If you choose the buffet, your server takes you up and lets you know exactly what you can and cannot have. For me, a buffet tends to be a waste of money, as I am a 1 trip and done person. I said I wanted the Mickey Waffles and the Chef looked me straight in the eye and said, “you know those are frozen.” Cue brake noise. Nope! Not a clue! As the Chef and I both ended up saying, “If I wanted frozen waffles, I would have stayed home.” So, I asked him what he recommended and both he and the server replied, “the pancakes.” SOLD! They came with what could only be deemed a rasher of bacon (nom) and all the juice I could drink. Wanting some protein to go with this carb/bacon fest, I ordered a side of scrambled eggs. THIS is what I was served:
First off, let me just say that the Chef brought these out himself. I love the fact that he checked in with me so many times to make sure I was satisfied. Secondly, do you see those little wooden tags on sticking out of my food? Those say “ALLERGY”. No one could mistake my food for a regular serving of bacon, eggs, and waffles. It is the little things that help make you feel a bit safer about the food you eat.
So, I have some comments on Disney Dining, but I do believe that I will save those for another day.
Thanks for staying with this!