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)
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.