Feb 2012 Dining Reviews with lots of allergies and autism
My family has a lot of special needs that make dining interesting to say the least. We've got lots of allergies between the group of us plus DH is a type 2 diabetic (who cheats frequently) and DD14 has Asperger Syndrome which is a high functioning form of autism. Here's our lists of allergies.
DD14: gluten, milk, eggs, citrus (citric acid is ok), yeast, msg, peanuts (minor - cross contamination not a concern)
DD11: milk, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, citrus (citric acid is ok), peanuts (minor - cross contamination not a concern), sesame, blueberry, cranberry, raw carrots, raw fruit skins besides grapes, lima beans, hops, soy products other than Tofutti and Follow Your Heart (soy’s not the problem but we haven’t identified what ingredient in Silk and other soy products cause Oral Allergy Syndrome)
Me: gluten, milk, peanuts (minor - cross contamination not a concern)
I should also preface this by saying that this does not include my usual pictures because I lost my camera on DME on the way home and it never got turned in. Of course I hadn't downloaded any of our pictures onto my laptop, so no pictures at all.
I'm not going to go into details, but Poly Club Level was once again AMAZING!!!! We adore Chef Kim!
Tusker House (lunch).......... post 2
The Plaza (lunch)............... post 3
Kona (lunch)..................... post 4
La Cantina de San Angel ..... post 5
Biergarten (lunch).............. post 6
1900 Park Fare (dinner)....... post 7
On 02/25/12 we ate lunch at Tusker House which is a character meal. Our ADR was for 11:30. We showed up around 11:20 and there were a couple groups ahead of us in line. One party didn't have ADRs and didn't like being told they couldn't be seated but that's what ADRs are for. The other party was for the bar so really nobody was ahead of us to check in. In the past when we've eaten here we've had minimum 20 minute wait before even getting our picture (one time was over 45 minutes past our ADR time) so I was really pleasantly surprised when we were sent immediately around the corner with our buzzer to get our picture taken. There were 2 other groups ahead of us for picture and our buzzer went off in those couple of minutes we were in that short line for pictures. WOW!! What a great start.
Right now I feel like I should mention that DD14 has a lot of touch issues (I'm the only person allowed to touch her most time; sometimes her sister can but her dad and strangers NEVER can; everybody who knows her has come to understand that an "air hug" where you mimic the hug motions with a big cushion of air between you is really a hug to her). Well, DD14 walked right up to Donald and as he put his arm around her (yes, touching her) and DH stood behind her but very close to her (inside her personal space so again, a big deal) at which time she promptly posed with a huge grin, her arms wide and even one leg up like she's kicking (kind of can-can like). At this point, I was thinking that no matter how the rest of the meal goes, this meal has been worth the price of admission (yes I bought the picture so at least I have one picture of this meal despite my lost camera; when the photopass CD comes I'll have to add it to this review).
So, as soon as we're done taking our picture, we're escorted inside. We're brought over to one of the first tables in the dining room so DH asks if we can be moved a bit out of the traffic. No problem. We're actually only moved one table over but it's against a wall so at least that's less movement going by as only one side of the table has access. I put the kids on the side with access so they could get up for pictures and greet the characters easier but that was probably a bit of a mistake. Note to parents whose kids don't like unexpected touch: Goofy can't help but pat kids on the shoulder. He tried coming by twice but I guess he forgot after the first time because he did it again on his second time by.
The restaurant was busy. It took quite a while for Chef Joaquin to come by. Our server actually noticed that he hadn't come by and told us she'd track him down. It seems that there was I think they said 10 other parties with allergies at the exact same time as us. While waiting, our server brought DD14 some soy milk and DD11 some apple juice. The soy milk has changed to a different brand than we were used to. WDW used to carry Silk milk but now they use Kikkomann Pearl. I was a bit hesitant to allow the Pearl becuase Kikkomann states that they don't test for gluten to ensure no cross contamination and they do produce a lot of gluten containing products but I went ahead and let her try it since I saw on several gluten message boards that some celiacs do drink it. She said it doesn't taste nearly as good as Silk.
Once Chef Joaquin came out, he brought us over to the buffet to discuss our options. They were near the tail end of switching from breakfast to lunch which really surprised me because I thought this typically happened earlier. This was lucky for us because they still had some bacon in the back and DD11 LOVES bacon which he included on our platter. Overall, there's quite a bit of food on the buffet that's gluten and milk free but the other allergens made it more complicated. Due to cross contamination the chef did bring us fresh food from the back and OMG was it a lot of food. Let me think if I can recall everything that was on the platters from memory. It was hard to fit it all on the table with the amount he sent out (remember, this was for 3 of us so portions were good size).
•roasted chicken pieces
•mixed root vegetables with African spices
•sauteed green beans
•curry rice salad
•fruit salad (pineapple, canteloupe, honeydew, grapes)
I know there was other stuff as well on our table but I'm blanking on the rest. This is why I take food pictures. Sigh......
DD14 LOVED the root vegetables. She ate the majority of the bowl. She would have eaten it all but I insisted on getting a little bit. The curry rice salad was odd. The flavour was good but it just wasn't appealing cold which is how it's served. My kids didn't enjoy the plantains but I sure did. I ate half of the bowl that was brought out.
For dessert, Chef Joaquin brought out 3 dishes of Tofutti, each with small cups of chocolate syrup and sprinkles for us to make sundaes and included 2 packs of Enjoy Life cookies for each of us to add to the sundaes.
Other than DD14's issues with Goofy, the character interaction was typical. Characters stopped at the table, signed the autograph book without looking at it other than to make sure not to write their names over the faces in the pictures (we use shutterfly photo books for autograph books), quick pictures then on to the next table. Volume wasn't too bad even though the restaurant is kind of chaotic with people going back and forth to the buffet. I like the muted colours in the restaurant because it's already a stimulating environment plus it just works with the theme. I do miss the lunch being non-character though. We really didn't need the characters and liked how much quieter it was without them (not to mention cheaper). It is what it is though. The food is still just as good.
Despite the speedy entrance to the restaurant, we didn't leave until 1:25 which you'll notice is almost a full 2 hours inside the restaurant. I know that some people say that I'm being overly cautious budgetting 2 hours for meals with allergies but it's a realistic amount of time. Granted, a few of our items had to be custom cooked (the salmon for instance), most of the items just needed to be served from the kitchen to avoid cross contamination from the buffet.
What a great meal overall. We'll be back.
I will note that DD14 ended up with a bit of stomache troubles on our way out which was around an hour later (we went to the 2:00 Flights of Wonder show after lunch). It wasn't severe or anything but she did get some very sudden urgency and was in the bathroom for over 20 minutes before she felt comfortable enough be away from a bathroom in order to get on the bus back to our resort. I suspect it's just that she's not used to that much and that diverse a selection of root vegetables but I wonder if it's related to the brand of soy milk. She really didn't drink soy milk other than that day so I'm not sure which it is. This only happened for a little while so it wasn't a bad reaction making me think it was just eating foods she wasn't used to. She does have issues with starches and if she overdoes it even her digestive enzymes can't completely compensate for it so I don't think it was anything the chef or server did in any way shape or form.
On 02/24/12 we ate lunch at the Plaza in MK. Something that must be said about the Plaza is that Cousin Ken is wonderful. He insists that you call him Cousin Ken rather than Chef Ken because he spends so much time with you that he feels like family. I'm bummed about losing my camera because he had the manager bring us outside to get a picture of us together under the restaurant sign with him and Cousin (darn it what's her name? It starts with a Cou; maybe Courtney?).
DH got a sugar free butter pecan milkshake which he said is delicious. He's insisting that we got back every trip even if it's just for milkshakes and not meals because he really enjoyed this. Both girls got vanilla milkshakes using Tofutti ice cream and rice milk. I got a rootbeer float using Tofutti ice cream. DD11 was so stuffed that she couldn't finish her milkshake so lucky me, I got half of it. I was VERY happy. The milkshakes were all delicious. Probably could have been a bit thicker but anybody who can't have milk will tell you that ANY milkshake is good no matter the thickness.
While making our milkshakes, he also put on a pot of oil so he'd be able to cook up some safe french fries for us (for people with gluten issues, we can't eat things that are cooked in the same oil as gluten containing foods).
DD11 I thought would want the tuna sandwich because she's really into tuna salad right now and Cousin Ken offered to open up a new can of tuna and custom make her a batch (it contains I think lemon which she can't have) but she decided she really wanted a hot dog. Cousin Ken sent his manager across to Casey's to get it for her (clearly we know who's really in charge there and it's not the manager LOL). Well when he brought it out to the table, there were 2 whole giant hot dogs on that bun. WOW!! A lot of food went untouched because it was just so much food. They were served on a hoagie bun which, other than the gluten free breads, is the only milk free bread in the parks. The bread was ok but kind of dry.
I thought DD14 would also want tuna but again I was wrong. She really wasn't very hungry so she ended up deciding on just an order of french fries and a dish of sauteed mushroom. She loves mushrooms. Cousin Ken brought her out a huge plate and her eyes just bulged out of her head as the smile went ear to ear. She probably would have ordered something else but she didn't want a salad and none of the breads were safe for her to eat and she didn't want a bunless, breadless version of a sandwich or burger (she had a bunless burger last time we ate here).
After all this tuna talk, yes somebody at our table ordered tuna. Me! I was able to eat the tuna salad as-is and it was yummy, though needed some pepper (I love pepper and I never think there's enough so that's not a bad thing). He served it on the new Udi's buns. He explained to me how he makes his better. He dips the flat side oil then fries them oil side down for a few seconds. It does make a difference. He actually loaded up 2 whole buns for me and topped the tuna with red onions and lettuce. It was delicious (the tuna was; the bread was mediocre but it was bread and it was safe; I just think the buns were too thick). I took apart the second sandwich and just started eating the tuna with a fork so I could continue enjoying the best part. I was enjoying it so much I ate to the point of uncomfortable. I do that when I get special foods that I enjoy. The uncomfortable was definitely for gorging myself on way too much food and not an allergy issue. I had none of my allergy symptoms. I just don't know when to stop when I'm enjoying myself. It's a character flaw. LOL
DH ordered the meatloaf. Instead of the mashed potatoes, he ordered a side salad in order to make up for the carbs in the milkshake (even sugar free milkshakes have more carbs than he really should be eating per meal). He got their signature dressing and really enjoyed it. He said his meal was really good.
Each time we've eaten here, I say that we'll have to split a banana split because that's just something we've never been able to order in a restaurant. Well, each time we've been too full to order it. I think we need to go back and see if we can manage to not eat too much so that we can get that banana split.
That's the allergy portion of our review. Now on to the autism relevant details.
Cousin Ken is really good with DD14. He crouches down so that he's right at (actually a little below) eye level with people when they're seated. We actually had an extra chair at our table and offered it to him but he likes being able to move between people so he's right there with each person when talking to them. He seemed to understand right away that DD14 can't handle being touched and make sure not to do so even on the shoulder. He got her talking freely and in fact I think I had to get her to stop so he could get back to work which is a great sign since she won't even look at people she's not comfortable with but she'll talk your ear off is she likes you. The restaurant is very small so it's not overwhelming. It is bright in there but the colours are simple and bright and not many colours (if I recall mostly white and yellow). While it seemed busy, it never felt loud or chaotic, even when the Mayor of Main Street came in. If we were seated in one of the few tables not against a wall or window I'd likely ask to be moved but most tables are either against a wall or window anyway so not a lot of chance of being in the middle.
We always choose early meal times so that we won't have much of a wait. Our ADR was only 15 minutes after the place opened and we could see that there were only a handful of tables with people seated at them but even though we checked in 10 minutes before our ADR, we had to wait until 10 minutes after our ADR. I know this isn't much, but DD14 has even more trouble coping with her various issues when she's getting hungry so this was a bit frustrating. All was forgiven when Cousin Ken came out but it was still frustrating.
Our server was practically non-existant. Cousin Ken took care of all of our food and drinks besides water so you'd think that it would be easy to get what little service we did actually want (water, menus cleared, the final bill) but that was actually the only part of the meal we did actually have trouble with. I wish there was a way to give our tip to Cousin Ken instead of our server. We ended up having to track down another server to get our bill or water refills and our menus stayed at the table the whole meal. We used TiW so gratuity was automatically added and I couldn't be bothered getting it removed though as I said, Cousin Ken is who earned our tip, not our non-existant server.
We'll be back. 100% guaranteed. Two thumbs up.
I would caution those with egg allergies though that since the majority of the options involve sandwiches of some type that I don't believe there are any breads you can eat which drastically limits your meal options.
On 02/23/12 we ate lunch at the Kona in the Polynesian. We had just checked in at Poly and the timing was perfect for our opening ADR (noon). The place was pretty much empty with nobody waiting to get in. Perfect! Our waitress immediately informed us that she'd get the chef while we decided on our drinks. We had a table that was right up by the lobby so we were able to look out over the resort while waiting. It was very quiet because of the time of day and the restaurant was only maybe 1/3 full. It was very quiet and very relaxing. The colours in the restaurant and lobby are just so DD14's style and very soothing to her. She's fascinated by the detailed touches around the place.
Out walks Chef Johnny. We really like Chef Johnny. He took care of quite a bit of our food the last time we stayed Club Level at Poly and we really enjoyed meeting him last trip. He remembered us immediately as well though that's likely because Chef Kim who is in charge of the Club Lounge had gone over to him a couple days earlier to start planning all of our dining for our trip. I love staying at the Polynesian.
Anyway, we start talking about what we'd like to eat. Kona's menu really isn't all that appealing to my kids but it's just such a convenient restaurant and with TiW it's just so much better of an option that eating CS. Well, Chef Johnny was willing to customize just about anything we wanted.
DD11 has very simple tastes so she just wanted plain noodles with bacon plus a side of fries. No problem at all. She wasn't sure if she'd want the bacon mixed with the noodles so of course Chef Johnny being the wonderful guy that he is served it separately so she could eat it however she liked (she discovered she loved the bacon mixed with the noodles).
DD14 likes anything asian inspired and also loves any kind of meat so if she could have ordered off the regular menu she would have been happy. Chef Johnny put together a sautee of gluten free rice noodles with a cut up steak and mixed asian vegetables cooked in a gluten free teryaki sauce. YUMMY!! DD14 ate almost every bite with the exception of a good half of the steak. It was very fatty and she has oral sensory issues involving tough or fatty meat.
I decided to give the Kona salad a try. By just leaving off the blue cheese, it was safe for me. Delicious! I bet the blue cheese would have made it even better, but even without it, it was so wonderful. What a refreshing meal, especially since I wasn't overly hungry. This hit the spot.
DH got the lunch steak with a salad and sweet potato fries instead of the regular sides (I can't recall what those were but this was better for his blood sugar). They let him choose a mini version of the Kona salad and he loved it too. He got the blue cheese and even though he doesn't normally like blue cheese, he said it tasted wonderful.
DH's thoughts on the steak were the same as DD14's. Chef Johnny noticed the chunks of partly chewed steak beside DD14's plate and felt bad. A few months ago they changed steak suppliers because the quality of the steaks had dropped a lot but unfortunately the new supplier wasn't any better. He's very unhappy with the poor quality of the steaks he now gets for the lunch steaks. I'd advise people eating here to not get steak. There are so many other wonderful meals to order here; choose any of those and skip the steak.
We were all pretty stuffed, but seeing as this was our first meal at WDW, our girls wanted dessert since WDW is literally the only place on earth where they're ever able to order dessert. Chef Johnny brought them each out a dish of Tofutti ice cream with a mound of cotton candy, a small cup of chocolate sauce (Hershey's which is what we use at home as well), a small cup of Mickey sprinkles and a couple marachino cherries. Can you think of a better way to start our vacation?
While we were chatting at the end of the meal, he mentioned he now works the breakfast shift rather than the dinner shift he worked last time we stayed so he'd be taking care of breakfast foods for us. Sweet!! I know DD11 loves bagels so I asked if they have any of the Udi's bagels and what kind of margarine they carry. He said he didn't have the bagels but that he'd get them in if they're available anywhere at WDW (I had read they are) and that he has Earth Balance margarine which is what we have at home. Perfect! He did get the bagels and DD11 ate these for breakfast every morning. He didn't have an allergy safe toaster so he steamed them for her to make them better.
I know, that last part isn't Kona specific but it does show how wonderful chef Johnny is.
I think that a Kona lunch will become our tradition every time we stay at Poly (yes, we'll be back at Poly). We tend to take a flight that lands at around 10am so a noon ADR is just perfect and there are no fees if we miss it (that would only happen do to flight delays; we'd never skip a Poly ADR).
Thank you Chef Johnny!!!
On 02/26/12 we ate lunch at La Cantina De San Angel in the Mexico pavillion in Epcot. I had heard that the tacos should be safe so I found the shortest line (it was early, maybe 11:30, so no more than 2 people per line). When I got to the front of the line I asked for their allergy book. Rather than getting a book, a chef was called. It only took a couple minute for a chef to come out. I'm glad I was able to speak with a chef because he knew about cross contamination issues while a book may not have been that specific.
Both the beef and chicken tacos were safe for all of our allergies but only in the soft shell. They make their corn tortillas in house but the hard tacos are deep fried in the same oil as gluten containing items. This is the type of thing that a book may not be clear about. The chips that come with the tacos are also fried in the same frier. I asked about the rice figuring maybe that would be a good alternative to which I was told that it is. Great! I was then told I could definitely order a side. It couldn't be a substitute for the chips. Fine, I order the rice on the side.
DH and DD14 headed to find a table to get her away from the business of the counter as she was getting anxious about being bumped. They ended up going inside and it was practically empty in there. I wonder if people even know that there's an inside seating area? Anyway, it was a great option for us to get out of the crowd so DD14 could be comfortable with both space and sound as well as even things like brightness of the sun.
When I was handed the tacos, I was surprised at how small they are. Each order is 3 tacos but the wraps are significantly smaller than the kinds I use at home. I don't know if they normally have a bunch of toppings on them but ours didn't have any I'm assuming because of allergies. We did receive small cups of pico de gallo but the chef had warned me that neither of the girls could eat it because it's made with a lot of lime (I have no idea why he felt the need to serve it but he did). I'd hardly call it a pico de gallo; it was pretty much all just chopped up tomato tossed in lime juice. The beef tacos were made with shredded brisket. It was very under seasoned. I personally couldn't taste any seasoning and the meat was dry. It really needed some kind of sauce. The chicken was shredded chicken and had more flavour but not a lot though it was more tender. I did notice that they gave us a pack of kids grapes with each of the meals, I guess because we couldn't have the chips. Good thing they did because it just wasn't enough food (for the 3 of us we split 2 beef and 1 chicken taco plates), even with a side of rice. The rice was probably the best part of the meal. It was just jasmine rice in a tomato sauce with a little bit of mexican seasoning but it at least wasn't all dried out and had a bit of flavour.
In a pinch, if we're in the area and we get hungry then it's at least a safe place for us to get a bite, but I think we'll stick with Sunshine Seasons when we're at Epcot looking for a CS meal or even just a snack (splitting a meal would be a decent snack I suppose). It definitely won't be at the top of our list but it's good to have as a backup plan.
On 02/27/12 we ate lunch at Biergarten in the Germany pavillion in Epcot. We like early ADRs so that there's little to no wait since DD14 can only cope with so much of a wait and this was RD day for us so this was definitely a must as she's generally getting tired and hungry by this point meaning much more likely to have a meltdown. They open at 12:00 and we had a 12:15 ADR. Like last time, our wait was maybe 3 minutes max. What a great start.
We're seated with another family with a special needs child. I can't imagine they would have known ahead of time about that since while I did note our allergies I didn't make any notes about DD14's autism and while the other family may have made a note about needing their DS to stay in a wheelchair he didn't have any allergies (he was clearly special needs). We did chat a lot with the other family later in the meal but for the first part we really didn't much. They were good table mates.
A chef came out pretty quickly to speak with us. He did know we were coming since he asked if we were the family with 3 allergies though he didn't actually do any planning for us. I think he just read a list before the restaurant opened. I handed him my handy dandy allergy card that I print out to give to chefs and he asked if we would mind waiting a few minutes for him to get his head chef since our list was pretty complicated. I never mind waiting for somebody who knows his stuff. A few minutes later, the original chef returned with the head chef who was the same guy we met last time we were there. He asked us to join us at the buffet so he could go over everything there item by item to see what was safe. Like last time, there was a lot. Yes, even with our extensive lists, there was a lot that was safe without even needing alterations. Excellent! I'll try to remember just what we had (stupid lost camera; I had pictures so I wouldn't have to remember). A few of the salads may not have been safe for each kid but they weren't overly interested in them anyway.
•German potato salad
•German meat loaf (it's a hot loaf that's like balogna)
•apple sauce (there were a couple styles but only one was safe; unfortunately not the high cinnamon one)
•roast chicken pieces
•a variety of sliced deli style meats including pepperoni sticks
•some kind of hot dog/sausage salad
•a variety of sausages and hot dogs
•a variety of different salads (I can't remember them any more but there were some yummy ones)
•salmon (the chef had to custom bake me a piece since the sauce wasn't safe)
•whole fruit (I remember the chefs trying to convince DD11 that they really wanted to cut up and peel an apple for her since she said she wasn't in the mood for one after I had earlier told them that this was the only way she can eat fruits with skins such as apples and pear; it was funny at the time but you probably had to be there)
•some kind of dark coloured soup (I wish I could remember what it was because it was tasty though only I could eat it because it had citrus juice in it)
•the only dessert any of us could eat was some kind of berry mixture (DD11 couldn't eat it because of blueberries but DD14 could). It was tasty over Tofutti ice cream.
•DD11 could eat the pretzel bread; the chef brought out Earth Balance margarine for her
•the chef brought Udi's dinner rolls with Earth Balance margarine to the table for me and DD11
I mentioned to the chefs just how much DD14 loves that German potato salad so the head chef said he'd get the other chef to bring us the recipe. He did. I really need to make it for her. This is a kid who never eats potato salad so that says a lot.
The younger chef did bring out a variety of treats for dessert. For DD11 he made an ice cream sandwich using Divvies cookies (the only place at WDW I know of where they still have these) with a side scoop for good measure plus an extra pack as well. For me and DD14 he brought out a dish of Tofutti for each of us. As I said, I dumped the berries over it and that turned out to be delicious. He also brought out OMG... It's Gluten Free cookies for me and DD11 and Enjoy Life chocolate bars for DD14 (we can all eat them but I made sure DD11 left them for DD14).
The only thing food-wise I'm not so thrilled with here is that the head chef seems to insist that it's safe to get food from the buffet. Granted, it does seem as though all the unsafe foods are kind of clustered together so it's doubtful there'd be any sharing of utensils of spilling of things going across the top of others getting to our plates so I don't push the issue at this one restaurant. That's the only thing I'd change.
It never really got too loud in the restaurant which is always a concern there. The music started up as we were getting our desserts so perfect timing. DD14 it seems was so happy with her food (food does affect her mood BIG time) and everything moved along in such a timely manner that she wanted to get up and dance. Now I'm feeling more sad about losing my camera because I have video of us doing the chicken dance making each other dizzy going as fast as we possibly could. We had no idea what we were doing for the other dances but we sure had fun moving to the music. This is a kid who freaks out over being touched by strangers and we were dancing wildly among a whole bunch of strangers. Even when I got too dizzy, I wasn't about to leave the dance floor when she was having so much fun. DH was trying to convince DD11 to join us but she's in a phase where she doesn't want to embarass herself in front of strangers (though she loves to perform but she'll only do that when she can prepare something of quality) so she stayed at the table and laughed and filmed us. DH laughed too but didn't even pretend he might join us since he was laughing in more of a mocking way as we were really making fools of ourselves. That's part of the fun IMO. They don't know what they're missing. DD14 and I had a blast.
To sum this up, what a great experience. With our TiW card, it really is VERY reasonably priced for lunch, especially considering that it is not only all you can eat but also includes entertainment. We'll definitely be back.
On 02/28/12 we ate dinner at 1900 Park Fare in the Grand Floridian. I like opening ADRs for dinners when possible because at home we eat really early and I try to stick with our regular schedule mostly because of DD14 (it helps keep her moderated in so many ways) plus it also generally means short lines. I was surprised that it took us a good 15 minutes to get checked in and the entrance where you wait in line isn't the roomiest so DD14 was getting antsy but she handled it pretty well overall though DH and I had to make sure she stayed between us and that we acted as a barrier between her and others because she was almost bumpted several times which would not have started the meal out well. I should probably add that it was just the 3 of us since DD11 was exhausted from swimming all day and begged us to let her stay back at the room. With the assurance of Barbie at the front desk in the Hawaii building that DD11 could go to her with any problems (it's a key access building at Poly) and DD11 insisting that she wouldn't unlock the door for anybody we let her stay; she was fast asleep when we got back to the room. I still can't believe DH was on board with that since he's usually the more cautious of the two of us and I was uncomfortable but I also knew she would stick to her word to not leave the room (we made sure she had food in the room).
Anyway, it was only a few minutes after we checked in that we were escorted to the picture area for our photo and then we were immediately directed to somebody who could show us to our table. We were brought to the back annex area as I like to call it. I'm not sure what it actually is called but it's a little offshoot from the main dining room with only maybe 10 table. DH wasn't happy because he likes to be able to see everything going on and was going to ask to be moved but I asked him to not do that since I like how quiet it is and how little commotion there is for DD14's sake. I had allowed him on our previous trip to get us moved from a similiar type of area at Cape May and DD14 ended up being a nervous wreck from all the noise and chaos and that wasn't even a character meal (it was dinner). Any time characters came in and they made the announcement as well as during the dancing I could see that DH was displeased with me, but boy did DD14 do well with being back there. In general she did well this trip but I do think the smaller space with less activity resulted in a better overall experience. DH could have gotten up to look into the main dining room whenever there were announcements of characters since we were at the table closest to the dining room but he chose not to.
We only had to wait maybe 5 minutes for Chef TJ to arrive. I was so excited when our server said it would be him coming over. I feel like I've been stalking him for a few years now, though obviously I'm not much of a stalker since this was the first time we actually managed to meet him. For those who don't know, he's famous in some allergy circles as well as some vegan circles for the delicious pieces of art that he creates for guests with special dietary needs. I'd finally get to meet him. YAY!!!
When Chef TJ arrived, DH of course had to start off by telling him that I've been trying to meet him for several years. Thanks dear for embarassing me. LOL! Chef TJ went over our options with us and informed us that we could get a few things ourselves from the buffet (pork roast, beef, fruit; things where cross contamination wasn't a concern) while waiting for him to prepare the rest of our food. Yay! So DD14 and I went up and got some food and quite enjoyed the prime rib and fruit while waiting (we're not huge pork fans so we skipped it). The prime rib was delicious and DD14 stole some of mine as well as polishing off hers.
DD14 wasn't interested in any salad but I said I'd enjoy a small salad so chef TJ returned while I was still eating my beef with this piece of art that some might call a salad. I really wish I had my pictures because I know my description won't do it justice. In the center of this large white square plate was a large thin slice of cucumber wrapped in a circle (around 1.5"-2") which was held together with skewers. Inside the cucumber was I think a mixture of greens topped with a mixtures of edamame and finely chopped veggies that together looked kind of like a chutney (it wasn't a chutney but that's the best way I can describe the appearance). There were more of the greens around the outside of the circle along with some grape tomatoes and I can't recall what other veggies strategically placed around it. More of the edamame mixture was strewn around the outside of the plate and then the whole thing was drizzled with a balsamic dressing of some sort. It was beautiful and it tasted just as good though I hated cutting into it because it was beautiful. DD14 had been wanting to try edamame for a long time (she's very into anything Japanese and she sees these as Japanese) so I let her try some and she ended up raiding my plate a lot. I think she was sorry she didn't get her own salad.
I was nearly done my salad when chef TJ returned with DD14's entree. I mentioned how much DD14 also enjoyed the edamame mixture to which he responded that he'd gladly get her a dish of hers. We declined since he had a large plate of food for her. She was asking for very plain food and I suspect chef TJ was disappointed with not being able to do anything fancier for her. She got a plate of boiled potatoes, white rice, plain chicken and I think steamed broccoli. He had gone through a long list of foods asking her what she wanted and this was all she said yes to so I can't fault him in any way. She enjoyed everything she got which is what mattered. He did bring out a couple sauces for her try dipping her food into but she barely touched them. I think they were terryaki sauce and a sweet chili sauce.
A few minutes later, he returned with my plate. This was a Chef TJ creation and is the type of thing you get when you're not being fussy like DD14. He actually told me after that he had wanted to dress up DD14's plate like mine but he was worried that she would be upset with it that way. How funny is it that I felt bad for him? Anyway, my plate was loaded. He included some salmon, chicken, broccoli and I know a few other things that I'm forgetting as well as a scoop of rice in the middle to help hold up this huge tower of fried rice noodles that must have been a foot high. One half of the plate was drizzled with the sweet chili sauce and the other half with the terryaki sauce. Let me tell you, it was beautiful and it tasted just as good as it looked. DD14 did end up trying the noodles (after I confirmed that they were safe for her) and she enjoyed them as well though she only took a small taste since she was getting pretty full.
Part way through eating our entrees, chef TJ came back to make sure that we could eat coconut because he was working on our desserts and just wanted to be sure. Interesting...... we hadn't gotten anything coconut during out trip so I was intrigued. He told us to let our server know when we were ready so that he could finalize our dessert and bring it right out for us. YAY!!
When he said he was making a special dessert, he wasn't kidding. This thing was at least a foot tall. He uses a wedge of pineapple around 2 inches thick for the base with a skewer sticking out lengthwise to keep the thing from toppling. Then he stacks a variety of things on another skewer which is standing upright out of the pineapple wedge. Both of our skewers included chocolate Tofutti ice creams scoops, a scoop of some kind of coconut custard, strawberries and a spun sugar creation on top and when he delivered them he also had a bottle of chocolate syrup to drizzle over the top right at our table. Mine also had pieces of chocolate chip cookie but since DD14 can't eat those I think hers had more fruit though it might also have had extra ice cream; I'm just not remembering. Strewn around the large pineapple wedge in the bowl was a bunch of caramel corn as well. How's that for a special dessert?
While DH didn't ask for anything special during the meal, he had joked with Chef TJ asking what kind of dessert he'd get for his diabetes (honestly not intending to actually get anything; he likes to kid around with people). Well, Chef TJ was ready for him too. He came out with this pyramid made of mostly a wonderful variety of berries that had just enough gelatin to hold it together, over top of a sauce that I think was likely mango. DH said it was one of his favourite desserts he got all week.
The food was amazing and was the main reason I booked this ADR (as I said, I was trying to meet Chef TJ and there had been several recent sightings of him there; yeah, I'm pathetic that way but I think you all understand having read this far just why I wanted to meet him; our meal is exactly what he's known for doing). I did also book it though to get autographs from Cinderella's family. Well, the characters gave us autographs and posed for pictures but they mostly seemed to be kind phoning in their performances if you know what I mean. Prince Charming seemed to really engage DD14 which is pretty unusual for her (he did a great job) but the rest of them definitely seemed like they were saying rehearsed lines and rushed through our table. They did sign DD11's book as well which was good. Their autograph books are photo books I created containing pictures or our girls with the characters and we get the characters to sign their own pictures so now we have their pictures signed.
I can definitely see us going back for the food. The characters on the other hand, not necessarily. I am glad we got those autographs but for us, this place is all about Chef TJ.
Of all the meals for DD11 to miss, she missed the one with the most amazing dessert. Poor kid.
You always give such wonderful reviews. So sorry to hear about your camera. That has got to be frustrating. Congrats on meeting Chef TJ!!!
Adding Plaza and Biergarten to my short list. We have a ton of German restaurants around here, but DS can not eat at them. We would love to take him to Biergarten so he can experience German food. You always speak so highly of The Plaza that we just have to give it a try.
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