I’m going to take a quick break from the sewing posts to talk about something else I love, Disney! As I’m sure most of you have already figured out my family and I love visiting the parks. We love it so much we’re going to WDW again the end of this month and plan to visit DL in November. One of my family’s challenges is Celiac disease, and we’ve had some trouble eating in the parks over the last year. As I’ve mentioned previously, Disney has claimed to be Celiac friendly for years but I’ve felt a definite shift as of late. Here’s what I’ve observed.
You need to avoid the stands, that’s really all there is to it. For the most part the people at the stands do not know what gluten is. They don’t always have any information you can look at either. We went last month for the Frozen celebration and they had a ton of Frozen themed goodies. I was interested in a beverage and the men running the cart could only tell me the ingredients in the punch, they had no clue as to brands and had no nutrition book. They called a manager on their walkie talkie, but she had no clue either. I went without because “grenadine and lemonade” don’t actually count as ingredients from a Celiac standpoint.
The sit down restaurants are great though, I’ve had a fantastic experiences at all of the ones we’ve visited. My favorite is Be Our Guest, the new Beauty & The Beast themed restaurant. The chefs and staff there are particularly kind and I just love the food. They also have a special dessert that’s gluten free. Usually it’s just a prepackaged cookie or brownie, maybe some sorbet. But the fact that they actually created a dessert (that’s good!) is kind of awesome. Here’s a little look at the pastry.
I’m always too excited to eat it so I’ve never taken my own photo. I, umm, “borrowed” this one from eatingWDW.com and they go into more detail on their blog about this particular restaurant.
The quick service places are alright as well, but it can be a real hassle. You can no longer just speak to the cashier. You get in line, when it’s your turn they call a manager (or chef). You then wait for them and they pull out their bright yellow notebook and write down what you want and take it to the chef. You pay and are sometimes given one of those light up things, otherwise you just wait at the counter. Basically it means I can end up waiting twice as long as everyone else to get a meal. But the managers are super nice and they actually know what you’re talking about. So I guess instead of giving basic education to everyone they’re giving specialized training to a few. I don’t know about you but I’d rather a well informed few than a “I think you can have it” from everyone cause they just don’t know. They do have some kinks to iron out. Like the night I couldn’t get a chef, and when they finally came out they were angry at me because they’d shut off the ovens. Well, maybe if he’d come out a half hour ago when he was first paged this wouldn’t have been an issue. It’s not okay to get angry at a customer who was in line and waiting long before you decided to close the kitchen.
In the past I had just been handed a three ring binder with package info. Sometimes there would be the ingredients ripped straight off the box, other times there was just the nutritional info. They seem to be a bit more detailed now. Brands are listed, the nutrition info is there, as well as the ingredients and any allergen statement the company may have made. I used to have to navigate this book myself and it wasn’t easy. I talked about it with a manager on this most recent trip and they told me that anything in the gluten free section of the book is gluten free as confirmed by the chef and the manufacturer. They simply offer the book incase you want to double check the ingredients. Something I’m grateful for since we gave my son the baked beans one day and apparently he shouldn’t have had them, oops. Kind of explains a lot about that evening, poor kid. I’m glad I had an attentive manager the next day because we almost made the same mistake again and they were able to flip to that product page and sure enough, they weren’t safe. So I’m glad they have the book.
If I have any gripes it would be aside from the difficulty of eating at one of the carts, it’s the lack of treats. Nearly all of their packaged candies say “May Contain Wheat”. Really? Cause last I checked original Spree was gluten free, but I guess not at Disney. There’s no phone number I can call, no address I can write to, no website I can visit to get more information. It’s very clear they don’t know if any of their candies contain gluten and they have no desire to check, so they put an allergy warning on there just to cover their own butts. It’s a shame because they’re losing out on a lot of potential revenue, but that’s what you get when you’re lazy.
There’s also the baked goods issue. They do have prepackaged cookies as well as a brownie option. The OMG It’s Gluten Free brand is actually really good. But after a week I have a stack of them in my mini fridge because eating the same exact treat after each meal gets old. At some point you just don’t want another super heavy brownie. I just tossed my last brownie and cookie that I’d brought home, I literally had that many. When I first got the email talking about their Frozen celebration they made a point of talking about all the fun Frozen inspired treats they’d have on offer. Well I probably should have known better, but I was hoping they’d have something safe. Well, they had an entire bakery case at Wandering Oaken’s Trading Post and not a single treat was safe for me and my son. It was really hard dragging my son away from there when he was asking for a treat. I don’t like saying no to him when he asks for food. He is usually pretty healthy, he loves his fruits and veggies, and will happily eat anything I place in front of him. He’s also very slim and active, only 29 pounds at nearly 22 months and still firmly in baby sizes. So I never say no to a treat unless he’s been misbehaving. It can be difficult enough to tell a toddler they can’t have a sparkly cupcake or a cookie with their favorite princess on it. It’s a whole other level of tricky to try and explain that they haven’t been bad, there’s no way they can improve on their behavior, but they will not be getting a treat- when every other child has one.
Learning the world isn’t fair is a hard lesson, and it stinks that he has to learn it as a baby. I’m not going to demand they change everything, but would it kill them to produce a couple more options? Something simple like switching to gluten free Rice Krispies would make a world of difference to Celiacs. They could make those and do the same screen prints they’re already doing on them. Then when my kid wants a “Nana” (Anna) cookie it’s actually a possibility. I don’t know if Kellogg’s new cereal is also dairy, soy, or nut free, but there are options out there that are. I get that it would be more expensive for Disney to do this. But seeing as a single Rice Krispie treat it the parks costs more than two boxes of the regular cereal I’m sure they wouldn’t be losing too much on them. And it would mean a lot to the people who walk into their candy shop on Main Street and have to turn around and walk straight out because everything from the cupcakes behind the counter, to the prepackaged candies are unsafe. Really, I’ll never understand some of their business decisions. So many other brands have learned alienating large groups is bad for business. Hopefully Disney realizes this at some point and turns things around.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post I’m headed to California in a couple of months. I’ve had most of my negative dining experiences there. There seems to be far less awareness of Celiac disease overall in California, and so that can be an issue wherever I go when I’m there. It’s defiantly disappointing knowing I used to at least be fine at the park, and now it’s hit or miss. All I can hope for is that they too have improved. WDW had some issues during the change over and now it’s pretty much okay. Still not as good as it was before, but at least I’m not going hungry. I’ll be sure to report back with my experiences either way, but I’m optimistic.