Eating with Pooh…and Piglet too!

One thing my family does EVERY Walt Disney World vacation is Crystal Palace…home of Winnie the Pooh and friends.  Dining with Pooh is my daughter’s (5 years old) FAVORITE attraction, lol.  Every time we go to WDW her only concern is if we got reservations to eat with Pooh.  So what’s the hype you ask?

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Well besides the above mentioned eating with pooh…you get to eat with Tigger, Eeyore and Piglet too.  And if you’re lucky…and everyone is…you’ll get to be part of a Pooh parade and follow the characters around the room.  Kids march around the room with the characters while music is playing – can someone say photo op?  And the thought of marching around with Pooh is enough to excite kids with ear to ear grins.  No tears in this place.  And with characters aside…Crystal Palace has a few other perks;

  • Unlimited Friendly Buffet – one of my husband’s favorites, and he’s picky
  • Location – It’s located inside Magic Kingdom, no need to leave the park.
  • Availability – When many character experiences book up at the 180 day mark…Crystal Palace almost always has an opening…which is perfect for last minute vacationers
  • Hours – It’s open for Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner and if you’re an early bird…you can get a reservation before the park even opens and see Magic Kingdom privately and get a beautiful picture in front of the castle without all the other vacationers in your perfect shot.

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Of course for my family…there is one other perk…Chef Mike.  That’s right…the Disney Chefs are celebrities to us…they keep my family safe, fed and happy.  They go out of their way to make sure my kids and I have what we need to continue with our magical vacation.  Due to our various food allergies…we pretty much always get special service.  And usually that means specially prepared food just for us.  Some people with allergies can eat the food that the restaurant regularly prepares; they just get a non-contaminated plate of goods from the back.  But my family needs, well…specially made goods.

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Chef Mike

After getting a call from the chef 1-2 weeks before our trip…Chef Mike and I were able to come up with a game plan to make sure my kids could get similar foods as the other guests.  This meant special Gluten Free, Diary and Egg free pancakes.  Frozen waffles were offered, but I wanted something we don’t usually eat at home.  We were able to have the home potatoes from the back, fresh strawberries (which was special) and real Maple Syrup.  Other foods were available…but these were the favs.

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And since the Chef had called for the kids, I couldn’t help but to ask about me – I am vegan with a dairy allergy.  So…as most vegans I was curious about some protein.  Crystal Palace doesn’t usually carry vegan meats, but Chef Mike being awesome…ordered some fake chicken for me, cooked it up special and I devoured.  I was even able to cut some up for later.  Not bad; food for now, some for later 🙂

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For dessert…we were given several packages of Enjoy Life cookies.  As I have mentioned in previous posts…that is the standard dessert for most peeps with food allergies so it gets tiring after a while…but the kids didn’t care and it gave me something to treat them with later as well.

And for those that wondered…my husband ate from the buffet…took about 3-4 trips.  We practically had to roll him out the door.  He had plates and plates of food, and then one whole plate filled with baked goodies like muffins, brownies, cookies and such.   He left a happy dad and was able to use his fuel to continue on with our day and wasn’t hungry again until dinner.

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Dining tip:  We usually like to eat our table service meal at about 10:45-11:00am – as you still get some breakfast goodies like waffles and then also eat the typical lunch proteins to help you fuel for the long day ahead.  But this last trip…it was a little too much breakfast and I think the kids did get tired of Mickey waffle after Mickey waffle 😦  So next time…I think we will do half brunch time and half dinner times – Just “Food for Thought”

As usual – I am a FREE Disney Travel Agent that specializes in Food Allergies and Special Diets at Disney.  I do book WDW, Disneyland and Disney Cruises.  Disney pays me, so you don’t have to.  Contact me anytime and I can get you organized and prepared for the most Magical Vacation.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com

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I ❤ Disney’s Garden Kiosk…and Babycakes

As a mother of 2 kids with food allergies and as a Vegan…Disney’s Garden Kiosk is a blessing in disguise…in fact I think most people just blaze right past this little gem.  What is this “Garden Kiosk”?  Good Question, lol.

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Disney’s Garden Kiosk is a cart stand located at Disney’s Animal Kingdom at Walt Disney World.  This little foodie stand specializes in safe treats for those with dietary restrictions – I’m talking to you Celiacs, Vegans, Diabetics and Food Allergy peeps.  This little stand of heaven serves various nutritional goodies for those that often have a hard time “snacking” while at the parks.  For some (peeps like me) this stand is as awesome as any attraction or ride…it’s where one can get Babycakes, Tofutti, allergy friendly popcorn, hummus/veggies, gluten free beer and of course water.  Ok…I know some of you are thinking…Oh what’s so special about that.  Well when you have a dairy allergy, an egg allergy and/or are Gluten sensitive…that’s a big deal.

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This past trip…snacking at the kiosk was a must as I began planning our trip dreaming of Babycakes.  So on our Animal Kingdom day…I  practically raced over to Asia (Discovery Island)…tripping over strollers, knocking people over…ok no I was walking normally and taking pictures…but in my mind I was racing to some sort of finish line.  I had heard rumors that the Babycakes products sometimes run out early so I was NOT missing out on my safe treats.  Problem was…we just finished eating at Tusker House (stay tuned) and well…no-one was hungry.  Note to self…next time either walk slower or eat earlier so tummy has room for some goodies.  Ok back to Babycakes…We got to the kiosks and I was in treat overload…since all of the treats were also 1 “snack” credit (dining plan) I decided it was worth it to use like 6 credit and get more treats than we needed and save for the next day.

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We got 1 tub of Vanilla (chocolate also available) Tofutti (soy based ice cream) which was amazing as the WHOLE tub was only 1 “snack” credit and we all attempted to share…we got through 1/3 of the tub before we were to full…remember we just ate.  We got 2 donuts and a 4 pack of mini cupcakes to take with us…along with some other yummy treats (safe caramel popcorn)…but it was the Babycakes that was the goal.  So even though we didn’t enjoy until later…I can honestly tell you that those donuts were the BEST Vegan/Gluten Free donuts I have ever had.

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And for those that don’t know…Babycakes is a Vegan/Gluten Free Bakery that use to have a store front at Downtown Disney…the store is currently gone (due to construction) but its popularity is still going strong and one can still find some goodies at certain resorts, the Garden Kiosk and by ordering from the bakery.  I did hear a rumor that a store is returning (stay tuned)…but until then…the race is on and “finding Babycakes” is a popular mission.  It is important to mention that although the goodies seem “nut-free” they do use a GF flour that has potential CC issue with nuts…so avoid depending on the severity of your Peanut/Tree Nut allergy.

So after being beyond full, we bagged up our goodies and continued on with our day…but to be honest I couldn’t really concentrate since I knew I had Babycakes in my bag…just calling my name.  My only regret was not getting more donuts.  Between chocolate glazed and cinnamon sugar…I got 1 of each…but I should have gotten 2-3 of each and just saved as they came in individual containers.  As for those with food issues…baked treats/desserts at the parks are often the hardest thing to get…too many CC issues.  Often we are left with Enjoy Life cookies and one can only eat so many before they aren’t really appetizing anymore…but if I had more Babycakes in my bag to enjoy – that’s more magical goodness for me (us).

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The Garden Kiosk is also the place to inquire about safe treats/food at Animal Kingdom…the cast members behind the cart are full of knowledge and can guide you to the best places to dine with your specific allergy or sensitivity.  It’s also worth noting that after you have enjoyed the Garden Kiosk and all its spender…please go to guest relations at the front of the park and let them know that you loved the Garden Kiosk and that you think adding one to EVERY park is something you would enjoy and benefit from.  A safe place to snack and discuss food related issues is something all the parks need…so pass on the love and we might get rewarded with more awesome goodness.

Also remember that I specialize in Food Allergies and Dietary restrictions at Disney…so for those that can’t wait to find out the safe places to dine, stay or snack…I am your gal.  I book Magical Vacations daily and my services are FREE…All you need to do is contact me and we can go from there.  I can quote you various resort options, discuss your food dilemmas and step by step…you will have one awesome vacation planned…safe and sound.  Nina@goTMCtravel.com or 734-890-2350

**UPDATE (Feb 2015) – Babycakes is NOW Erin McKenna’s Bakery NYC – same company, different name.  The Allergy Kiosk still carries some of her baked goodies…but NOT the donuts.  The current donuts at the Kiosk are GF and Dairy-free, but contain egg.  For Erin’s (Babycakes) Donuts and other fabulous goodies you need to head over to Downtown Disney (Disney Springs) and go to her new Store front (Coming Really Soon).

Garden Grill – a Rotating Experience…

First I want to say that this dining experience was HANDS-DOWN my favorite this past trip…based solely on the fact that I was stuffed FULL…even the thought of unbuttoning my pants came to mind.

My family might not entirely agree…but that’s opinions for you…but me – I still dream of that meal.

I must point out that due to my family’s eating restrictions and food allergies…we aren’t the easiest group to please, feed and sometimes see completely full.  We are a happy, thankful bunch…but we do require some thought and preparation.  Between my kids and I…there are at least 8 food allergies and several avoidances…and to make matters more fun…I am vegan.  The husband is an eat everything kind of guy and pretty much left every meal full and happy…but even he has his favorites (stay-tuned).

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So…the Garden Grill is a table service restaurant at Epcot…located in the Land Pavilion…and it rotates.  Yep…it’s a rotating diner…and for those with motion sickness (join the club)…it’s very, very slow…but we managed to rotate completely around at least 1 time during our meal.  And to make it even cooler…it’s a character experience…bring on Harvest Chip & Dale and pals.  We ate with Chip & Dale (of course), Pluto and Mickey.  It is a dinner only location and is family style…meaning the wait staff brings the table an assortment of eats and you just dig in.  My husband who ate the traditional meal everyone enjoys found it to be OK…not his particular favorite, but he ate it all.  What was wrong with his meal you ask…nothing…he just likes to order from a menu.

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So before I get to my eats…I want to point out that as you eat, dine and chat…the Characters walk around and stop at every table for a few minutes…just enough time to get an autograph and snap a few pictures.  Since we had special food accommodations…we sat a little longer than others and saw all the characters twice – major bonus.

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Since we have 3 different people, all with different allergies…I often contact the restaurant before dining…I send an email and anxiously await a phone call.  I was lucky as Chef Javier called me, while I was at home about 10 days before my trip started, and we discussed meals.  We talked about the traditional menu that is offered and tried to find solutions for my family.  Most of the usual options available were perfect for us (sweet potato fries, mashed potatoes, veggies, gluten-free rolls and so on…but I couldn’t help but to ask for a few changes…first due to the abundance of chicken at Disney I asked about a hamburger patty for my daughter and also a special dessert.  As the restaurant doesn’t make burgers the chef was kind enough to order beef and make my kid a few special patties just for her.  And for me…I wasn’t fond of the traditional veggie dish on the menu…”stuff peppers” and sides.  I requested vegan meat (not typical for that location)…and he delivered.

So…fast forward to that night…we arrived 10 minutes before our scheduled dining reservation…we waited for the restaurant to open and we were seated promptly.  I was prepared to have to wait several minutes for the Chef…nope not Chef Javier…he had been cooking for my family already…waiting for us actually.  He already had ALL our food in the oven (no grilling or frying due to cross-contamination) and was waiting for us to finish our salads.  He warned me that his goal…”was to have us ROLL out of here”, lol.  I did for sure.  To my surprise he was able to deliver ALL my requests and they were delicious.  The vegan dish he “made-up” with the vegan beef was amazing and with all the sides…I was stuffed.  My son (dairy, eggs, and peanuts) was able to share my dish and was shoving it in.  My daughter (dairy, GF, peanuts, legumes, corn, and red dye) was able to cut her giant burger patties in half and eat with her GF buns…to make a quick burger.

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Dessert wasn’t as grand…but still had enough sweetness to finish the meal.  He was able to simplify the traditional dessert by using “Enjoy Life” cookies and fresh fruit filling, no whip and created a crumb-like fruit dish.

Major shout-out for Chef Javier that night and many thanks.  I enjoyed my meal SO much…I asked to speak to a manager and shared my happiness…apparently the Chef was gonna get some company shout-outs after dinner thanks to his awesomeness.

I also want to point out that getting a call from the chef before your trip is not typical…they are busy, busy bees and usually can accommodate your special food requests “the night of”…but due to our various allergies…I usually get a call and thus can request special items.  This is also something I can help you with as your Travel Agent…all services I provide for free when booking your Disney trip with me.  When it comes to food allergies, eating “out” is often a stressful event…but being prepared helps and when your family leaves the table safe and full…well that’s a huge success in my book.  Disney does an excellent job at accommodating food allergies and does it on a daily basis…so let me help you relieve the stress and help you enjoy food time for a change…you deserve it.