Product Reviews, Restaurant Reviews and Recipes: All GLUTEN FREE!
Exploring “Where Blockbusters come to life” in the heat of Orlando, Florida at Universal Studios and Universal’s Islands of Adventure, I had several great GLUTEN FREE meals (which meant I could enjoy the theme park rides without worrying about what I was going to eat) although I confess that I always travel with my own snacks, food and soya milk! After experiencing the GLUTEN FREE Magic at Walt Disney World and before we took our Disney Cruise Line cruise, this brief stop was clearly to experience the new additions to Harry Potter world (with Diagon Alley: their newest ride as well as Transformers and a few new attractions since we were last in the Sunshine State).
GF Dinner @Hard Rock Cafe, Universal CityWalk:
Arriving in the evening after a fun day at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, wandering Universal’s CityWalk it was clear that many of the restaurants did have a selection of GF options labelled on their Menus but it was largely salad options (with a variety of toppings, sauces and contents). Later, talking to the restaurant staff I learnt that many of the restaurants share kitchen facilities and so the dishes are prepared in a central kitchen and then individual venues customise dishes for their own menu and themes. We opted to visit Hard Rock Cafe which I knew from a previous Austin, Texas visit, that they had a good balanced selection of GLUTEN FREE Dishes.
The Menu does not have any specific GF signage but the waiting staff are very well informed and helpful. They offered to adapt dishes (where they could) and of course, returned back to the kitchen to speak with the Chefs to check all the ingredients. For our shared starter we had “Potato Skins: Crispy potato skins filled with our homemade cheese sauce, smoked bacon and green onions. Served with a side of sour cream.” This was tasty and enough for two adults to enjoy. The melted cheese with very crunch bacon was a super combination. For my main course, I wanted to go healthier so had the “Grilled Chicken Arugula Salad: baby argula, thinly sliced grilled chicken, [not for me] spicy pecans, dried cranberries and fresh oranges [served on the side for me] salad dressing, topped with crumbled feta cheese” The sauce it should have been served was a lemon balsamic vinaigrette which isn’t GLUTEN FREE so a different dressing was provided. The chicken was hardly thinly sliced but as is usual in the USA, it was a generous portion which I didn’t finish. And the little “GLUTEN FREE” flag reassured me that they had understood my allergies and condition. A good GLUTEN FREE Dinner at Hard Rock Cafe.
GF Breakfast @ Universal Studios: Three Broomsticks Restaurant:
After an early start to experience Diagon Alley, we headed on the Hogwarts Express to Hogsmede before stopping for a mid-morning breakfast at the Three Broomsticks Restaurant. Like many Theme Park eateries, they had on display a great selection of plastic dishes which show you a mock-up of the food items. As we wanted breakfast, the options were pretty extensive and rather expensive (as it’s all Harry Potter themed!) The Three Broomsticks is a recreation from the films and has a very rustic feel with a good clear queuing system and computer screens which show the dishes and details. The ordering staff were able to change the screen to highlight the GLUTEN FREE options which was fairly limited American Breakfast (without the bread), English Breakfast (without the bread, sausages or Black pudding) or the Continental Breakfast (without the croissants)! Hardly inspiring nor exciting!
The size of the portions were huge and as it was mid-morning, we opted to share a “Traditional English breakfast: Farm fresh eggs, sausage links, black pudding, English bacon, baked beans, grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms and breakfast potatoes”. Indeed, the Breakfast options are largely priced the same [$15.99 plus tax] and generously filled as it’s just breakfast. The Sausages nor the Black Pudding (which I used to love) are not GLUTEN FREE so if you’re a strict Coeliac than you might worry about cross-contamination if you have this dish but I didn’t! I enjoyed the beans (carefully removed from the Black Pudding) home-style potatoes which were a little disappointing (as they were lightly fried and neither crunchy nor particularly soft) some mushrooms and a slice of bacon (not the top one as it sat with the sausages on it). They are served with toast but NOT GLUTEN FREE options (but I carry my own bread with me so managed to enjoy my own!). A filling GLUTEN FREE (of sorts) Breakfast!
GF Lunch @Mel’s Drive-In: Universal Studios Florida:
Having done some research, I knew that Mel’s Drive-In, based upon the Diner in the George Lucas movie “American Graffiti” had some GLUTEN FREE Options. They were able to offer burgers in GLUTEN FREE Bread rolls and the would cook French Fries in a separately fryer to reduce any cross-contamination so this was my first choice for lunch.
More reasonably priced (as I guess this franchise and experience isn’t a “hot” as Harry Potter) so for $8.99 I had a GLUTEN FREE Cheeseburger served with bacon and fries and was pleased that whilst it took a longer time to prepare and deliver, this was GLUTEN FREE. The GLUTEN FREE Roll was firm and very bready but it felt like a “normal” meal. It’s a shame that the cheese hadn’t been melted onto the burger but good to see that my fries were served separately and delivered by a dedicated member of staff. A simple GLUTEN FREE lunch at Universal Studios.
GF Diner @Red Lobster International Drive, Orlando, Florida:
After a busy one-day seeing the rides and attractions of Universal, (with no evening entertainment) we took a short drive onto International Drive and spotted Red Lobster which I knew had a selection of GLUTEN FREE options. Indeed, a Lobster restaurant chain is a delight for us Brits, as it is still perceived as a luxurious dish and certainly isn’t widely available in UK based eateries.
The Menu does not have detailed information on allergens but they provide Information Sheets which cover all the allergies and it’s straight-forwards with well-educated staff. I knew I wanted Lobster but it was working out which options I could combine it with. They were quick to support my decision!
And my GLUTEN FREE Diner: “Wood-Grilled Lobster, Shrimp & Salmon: A Maine Lobster tail, jumbo shrimp skewer and fresh Atlantic salmon, wood-grilled and finished with brown butter. Served with baby gold potatoes and choice of side” I opted for the corn and coleslaw and have to say this was a great GLUTEN FREE meal. The Lobster, whilst small was melt-in-your-mouth whilst the salmon had a mango salsa on it and the prawns were tasty. It probably needed more potatoes to balance it out but there was enough fish to enjoy and I do love my corn.
So another good GLUTEN FREE meal with tasty fish: even though it’s a chain: they clearly manage the potential cross-contamination issues and provide the right level of information for customers to make an informed choice.
After a dalliance at Universal, it was time for our Disney Cruise (including Star-Wars Day-@-Sea) with Disney Cruise Line: where more magical GLUTEN FREE Meals awaited!
This information was correct as at publishing in July 2016.
If you are a member of Coeliac UK, they produce a comprehensive directory which covers over 16,000 food and drink items (including GLUTEN FREE Chocolate Bars). This is available in a paper-based Manual and online FREE to members of Coeliac UK.