Friday, June 8, 2012

Liberty Tree Tavern in Disney World: One of the BEST GF Meals Ever!!

It's no secret that Disney is a friend to those with food allergies. They are equipped to handle all common food allergies. What I didn't realize was the level of care they'd put towards making sure that I had an amazing meal.

Let me start off by saying that I am a big, big Disney World fan. I've been to Disney many times, but never as someone with celiac disease. My husband and I chose Disney as our honeymoon destination, because of the Epcot Food and Wine Festival, where we ate what I estimate to be close to 5000 calories a day. As someone who loves food, there are few places in the world with that many good restaurants clustered in an easy-to-access area. It's a very controlled area with everything focused on fun and delicious food, with a wide range of cuisines and truly some of the best restaurants in the country. I also love Disney's attention to detail -- their staff continues to go above and beyond to make sure that every single guest is having an amazing time. I have a million stories of how a Disney staff member has gone above and beyond the call of duty to help me out. I'm well aware that Disney is a business and everything they do is for money -- but they know how to make that money by making everything they do magical. It's impossible to be in a bad mood in Disney World, and this is coming from someone who is notoriously crotchety and cranky. Even my grumpy husband, who is cranky about pretty much everything, loved our trip to Disney.

I went to Orlando for work, and my coworkers and I headed to Magic Kingdom. Because it was a day-of idea, we didn't really have many choices when it came to restaurant reservations. It doesn't help that the Magic Kingdom is one of the worst places to try to get a good sitdown meal, rivaled only by Hollywood Studios. So in a choice between the Crystal Palace and the Liberty Tree Tavern, I decided to go with the Tavern, because it's on the parade route and we would be eating around that time.

The Liberty Tree Tavern is a Colonial-era themed restaurant with an all-you-can-eat family style setup. There's no buffet line -- rather, costumed servers bring platters of food to your table, and you can request as much as you want. Upon arrival and checking in, the hostess double-checked and asked who in our party of four had the gluten allergy. I let her know it was me, and she made a note on the reservation, and seated us promptly.

Our server was incredibly well-trained in food allergies. He knew exactly what gluten is, and how cross-contamination works, and assured me that I was in good hands. Within minutes, the chef came to our table and was very friendly and assuring. He informed us what was on the menu that night -- salad, roasted multi-colored carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes, mac 'n cheese, roasted pork, turkey, a beef roast, and stuffed apple cake with vanilla ice cream -- and let me know what I could and couldn't have. I obviously could not eat the mac 'n cheese, the cake, or the gravy that came with everyone else's food, but I was happy to know that nothing else had any kind of gluten contamination.

We began the meal, and to my surprise, hot gluten-free tapioca rolls with fresh butter (my own, to avoid contamination with everyone else's bread) arrived. These were the BEST gluten free rolls I've ever had -- as long as they were hot. The texture was like that of a really good whole wheat roll, but once it got cold, it turned into cardboard. I honestly didn't care -- I was thrilled to even be able to eat bread while everyone else broke into their bread baskets.

Everything was delicious. To my absolute delight, the server brought me my own gravy boat of GLUTEN FREE GRAVY. I absolutely love gravy, and being unable to eat it in restaurants has been a sore spot for me. I assumed it would be like a jus, more broth-like than gravy-like, but it was truly a real gravy made with rice flour. It was a slightly different color than the regular gravy, but it tasted just like the real thing and I was really touched that they would go the extra mile to make some for me. I poured it on everything! The salad had an incredible vinaigrette, the mashed potatoes were perfect, and the meats were tender and juicy. The beef was by far the best protein, with a flavorful crust and melt-in-your-mouth texture. Surprisingly, the highlight of the meal was the multi-colored carrots. Red, orange, and purple carrots were perfectly roasted and an amazing balance of sweet and salty. This was, hands down, the best meal I've had in the Magic Kingdom.

The stuffed apple cake looked extraordinary. My coworker, a former pastry chef, raved about it, so I knew it was good. The server brought me a bowl of sorbet with fresh blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries, plus a dish of vanilla ice cream, so I didn't feel left out. I was just so content and happy knowing that I had eaten an amazing meal with no gluten contamination.

I was blown away by the level of service here. Every person, from the reservation taker to the hostess to the chef, was well-educated and trained in food allergies. They took it very seriously (quite a contrast to many restaurants in Orlando, where I've been asked several times "what's gluten?") and made sure that I had as well-rounded a meal as my coworkers. My husband and I are returning to Disney for our one year anniversary, and I am so excited to go to a place where I can eat literally everywhere and not worry about a lack of variety or getting contaminated. I'm especially excited to check out the new Babycakes bakery in Downtown Disney, the allergen-free bakery where we can use our snack points from our Disney dining plan.