Happy May and Happy Allergy Awareness Month! I have been getting pummeled by allergies since we were in Florida a few weeks ago. I heard recently that “pollen season” in NYC is at it’s worst in history, and we won’t get a break until winter basically. Yippee! I foresee several Benadryl comas in my future….
In April we spent time in Celebration, Florida. We usually spend a few weekends there every year visiting Scott’s parents and grandparents. This year we went down for Easter and my birthday then extended the trip so I’d get to see my sister march at Disney World later in the week.
Celebration feels like a quaint little town, even though it is actually rather big. The houses are picture perfect thanks to strict color and design standards, everyone says hello and waves to each other on the streets, the town center is walking distance and is always lively between lunch-goers, the after-school Starbucks crowd, and evening activities, and it is close to so many major parks and attractions. It’s basically a slice of Americana. Of course, since it’s an Orlando suburb, there is Orlando traffic to deal with if you want to go to a major shopping mall, the outlets or one of the theme parks, but other than that it is a relaxing, sunny and happy place to be.
While the town center has several restaurants, not all are worth eating at. And because we were staying for 10 days, I decided to do a full grocery run to buy Kelley friendly foods to cook throughout our stay. We still went out to eat a few times, though. There are two places in town that we rarely stray from: Celebration Town Tavern, serving traditional American food with Boston flare, and Cafe D’Antonio, serving Italian food.
Celebration Town Tavern is great for a few reasons:
- It has a large covered outdoor area with a bar, perfect for watching sports while having a drink
- There is also a large covered dining area dedicated to those with dogs
- The food is consistently good
Our waiter was excellent and very attentive to my allergies. The chef sent him back out to ask about cross contamination concerns because they use one fryer for all their fried foods including my beloved french fries and hated shellfish. Funny enough, only a few other chefs have ever raised this concern so I said, let’s try it! We’ll find out if it’s an issue. Now, I know this is a horrible idea and I really do not suggest anyone with food allergies be so risky. I only did it because I know I’ve had french fries in the past that have been in a contaminated fryer and I’ve never reacted.
Everything turned out well on this occasion: I had a plain burger, no bun, and a side of fries for lunch, and I felt fine afterwards. We went back a few afternoons to watch the Indians and Cavs play (Go Cleveland!) and each time I had an order of fries with no reaction.
Our other restaurant staple is Cafe D’Antonio. While this is my favorite in Celebration, it is not always the best with allergies, which I put on the waiters, not the chef. On this trip we went to Cafe D’Antonio on two occasions: once as a family and once just Scott and me. When we went with my in-laws, we were welcomed and treated differently because they know them. The waitress diligently wrote down all of my allergies, checked with the chef that my order could be prepared allergen free, and reported back to me before placing the order. I felt completely taken care of and had no worries about my food.
I had the Capellini d’Angelo without parmesan and shared the peas and prosciutto with Scott, made with olive oil instead of butter. The meal was delicious and filling and I felt good afterwards.
The second time we went, just Scott and I, we were welcomed and seated immediately. Our waiter was friendly but kind of brushed off my allergies, saying he was allergic to shellfish also so he knew what it was like and would make sure all of my food was OK. But, he didn’t want to hear any of my allergies and didn’t write them down when I listed them. He was falsely over-confident because we shared an allergy threat, usually the opposite of how someone who shares food allergies reacts. I was a little worried but figured all would be fine.
I ordered Pappardelle Bolognese and happily saw that the pasta that came out was penne, substituted for the fresh pappardelle to avoid the egg allergen. This put me at ease and I went to town, hungry after all day in the sun walking around Disney. By the time we left the restaurant my stomach hurt so badly I could barely stand up straight. I will never know exactly what caused the reaction but I figure there was dairy or yeast of some sort in the sauce.
I had one other food encounter on this trip that didn’t turn out well. I had never heard of Dole Whip before so my mother-in-law took me to the Polynesian at Disney to try it for the first time. As I understand it, until 2014 the only place Dole Whip was served was at a stand inside of Magic Kingdom, which explains why the legend of Dole Whip had alluded me. We looked up the ingredients online, some of which looked a little suspect to me, but decided this was something I clearly had to experience in life so I went for it. The pineapple soft serve is completely dairy-free, vegan and gluten-free. Here’s the scary part: the vanilla soft serve only has casein from dairy, just the protein, so not any actually milk…… If you have a dairy allergy you absolutely will be allergic to it but if you’re lactose intolerant, you will be fine.
Anyway, we went, we ate (just the pineapple for me), I understood the glory that is Dole Whip, and then I paid the price. Scott tucked me into bed early (like 9pm early) and I watched Netflix until I fell asleep, deciding that I would come up with my own version of Dole Whip at home. I haven’t started experimenting yet but I will soon!
My absolute favorite thing to do while we are in Celebration is to go to the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Spa for some pampering, pool-side rays and the best healthy food at Vitale, the spa cafe, by the most lovely and friendly chef I’ve ever met, Chef Mirtha. I was spoiled and went twice on this trip: once for my birthday and again as a family day where we all got pedicures together, even the men!
The spa uses a few different lines of products, from all natural to more chemically enhanced lotions and serums. I went through my allergies with my aesthetician and she was able to come up with a mixture of products that made my skin look and feel great without any reactions.
But the real reason to go to the spa is so that you can lounge poolside for the day. Since the spa pool is only accessible to those who have booked a treatment or bought a spa pass, the pool is quiet and relaxing. The first day we went we were some of the only people there but the second day it was a bit more packed since it was the weekend. Thankfully the spa manager set us up with a cabana so even though there were a lot of people sunbathing, we felt like we were in our own little paradise.
The spa cafe, Vitale, serves their full menu poolside. On our first trip there I mentioned to our server that I had allergies and, instead of trying to wade through the menu himself, he sent out the chef to speak about preparing a custom meal. Chef Mirtha was extremely knowledgable and more than happy to personally cook and prepare a meal for me. After walking through the list, she suggested a simple grilled chicken salad loaded with veggies and topped with a honey-lime emulsion. She even brought the prepared dish out to me herself to make sure everything was OK.
I do not know what she did to this chicken while it was grilling but it was the juiciest, most delicious piece of grilled chicken I’ve ever had. Needless to say, when we returned later in the week I requested the salad again and shortly thereafter Chef Mirtha appeared with another outstanding dish. To top it off, she prepared a plate of dairy- and soy-free chocolate covered strawberries for me so that I could enjoy dessert with everyone else.
I also took the opportunity to try the new(ish) Moët Ice Imperial, the first champagne made to be enjoyed on ice. My expectations were really low; I figured it would be flat and overly sweet. To my surprise, it was actually delicious and extremely refreshing on a hot day. But that’s where the issue came in: it disappeared really quickly as in I couldn’t stop drinking it because it was like alcoholic flavored seltzer. Would I buy a bottle for myself? No. I would drink it on the beach if someone else brought it, though.
The rest of our trip was spent relaxing/working at the house and at the parks. While we usually do not go to Disney or Universal, on this trip we did both. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that both parks have strict allergy and dietary standards, which I’ll talk about in another post. The good news is, I was able to eat at both without any problems.
I’ll leave you with a few more photos from this trip including a two friendly kitties that live around the neighborhood and like to visit with you on walks.
Stay tuned for part 2: Eating at Universal and Disney.