We spread our travel wings a bit to celebrate our 15 years together and hopped on a (much quicker than Hawaii) jet plane to the Bahamas! Here’s my top 5 ways to stay gluten-free at the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar on Nassau, Bahamas.
- Contact the Executive Chef on property. This goes for every Hyatt vacation property you visit. I was so thrilled to sit down and meet with Chef Sutti, executive chef of the Grand Hyatt Baha Mar during our stay. He discussed at length with us the ways someone with food allergies or intolerances can stay safe at their property during their stay. THE most important thing was to make sure the head chef at your property knows your coming. Chef Sutti has a board in his office where he tracks all guests with dietary needs, when they are coming and where they are eating! Outline what your dietary restrictions are so they can prepare for you. Can’t stress this key point enough.
- Do restaurant research. The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar is comprised of 3 hotels and 22 restaurants on property. When I sat down with Chef Sutti, he clarified that only 7 of these restaurants are directly overseen by Hyatt. The others are controlled by SLS and Rosewood hotel properties. I did not realize this! Our first night we dined at CLEO, an SLS restaurant. Whoops. Here I was thinking I was being taken care of by Hyatt staff and that was not the case. Read menus, ask the chef questions and be specific about what items you think you want to enjoy during your stay.
- Make all your dining reservations in advance. Chef Sutti has 9 chefs that manage the restaurants on property at Baha Mar. If he knows you are dining at 3 Tides on Wednesday he will make sure there is a chef there to oversee your meal preparation. I know this is hard. It’s really hard to know what you are going to feel like eating! Unfortunately impromptu fish tacos at the DRIFT pool bar WILL compromise the attention level your meal will get. It pays to make a plan, for yourself and your health.
- Consider the Hyatt Grand Club. This upgrade, which cost us 12,000 Hyatt points, was a HUGE money saver for us. Dining and drinks at Baha Mar are not cheap. Two poolside drinks will run $40 and a nice meal for 2 with drinks will cost $200+. The Hyatt Grand Club had breakfast, an afternoon snack and non-alcoholic beverages, cocktail hour with a spread of crudités, cheese, salad and several hot dishes, and dessert to cap off the night. It was well worth the points. There were many families at the grand club which makes a lot of sense also. Feeding your whole family here and getting by with a light lunch is totally doable. We ate a late breakfast, and stopped for cocktail hour and ate a lighter late supper. It worked out great and the staff was very considerate of my needs and prepared special meal.
- Pack options. I brought along tortillas, chicken, guacamole cups and plantain chips. I didn’t use it all but it just makes sense to have some portable lunch options if you get in a pinch or aren’t trusting the situation.
Loving all things kombucha these days. Even doing some home brewing myself 😍 follow me on Instagram for updates.
This cocktail has a moscow mule drinker’s number. Lighter in sugar with way more flavor, add the health benefits of kombucha, and you have your next homemade cocktail. You can’t find this at the neighborhood bar!
1 part Tito’s
2 parts GTS Gingerade Kombucha
1-2 parts Lime LaCroix
Squeeze of fresh lime
Serve in a copper mug over ice.
Boy do I get excited when all three of my kids will eat the same breakfast without complaining.. I just love this recipe. So simple! Throw it all in the blender, scoop, bake and done. I’ve included a few substitutions that I’ve tried successfully.
1 cup almond butter (or peanut butter)
3 dates (optional – if your nut butter is sweetened this could be omitted. I want my kids to like these so I add the dates to boost the sweetness level)
2-3 medium bananas
1/3 c raw cacao powder (omit for a non-chocolate version)
1 t vanilla
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
1/2 c chocolate chips or nuts if desired
Add all ingredients and blend on medium speed until smooth. Bake in a sprayed muffin tin at 350 for 14-16 minutes. They bake faster than a traditional muffin. Makes 10 muffins. A great snack or breakfast on the go!
Amidst the flurry of activity at the base of Steamboat Ski Resort is a true culinary gem.
Summer in Steamboat is a bit slower paced and quiet. The construction was everywhere at base camp. Our group had been by this unassuming restaurant at least four times during our stay on the mountain and never noticed the small entrance. Café Diva was our final meal in Steamboat and it did not disappoint. Reviews were great but our experience was better.
Chef Kate Van Rensselaer noted the ability to accommodate gluten-free and vegetarian diets on their website and Facebook page and also had an updated summer menu that listed the gluten-free options. Updating allergen menus is usually something most restaurants let fall by the wayside. There was only one review on Find-Me-Gluten-Free but I was so astounded by the many positive reviews of the chef’s culinary ability that after a quick call to discuss I was excited to give it a try.
The husband and I chose a nice Malbec from the extensive wine list and perused the appetizer and salads. They did ask if we would like bread at the table, which is something I always appreciate from the server. Instead of the bread service, I received rice crackers and warm house-made olives. I don’t care for olives but did try one just to see. Still don’t care for them! It is pretty standard for us to split a salad at a nice meal but I was intrigued by the appetizer offerings. They all sounded good and I couldn’t decide . . . so the hubs chose the Peppadew Popper Kebabs.
Wrapped in prosciutto, and stuffed with smoked chevre, almond and basil and served with an arugula pesto and herb salad, this appetizer was small but mighty. Delicious flavor combinations when these components were melded.
The venison short loin received rave reviews from my husband and friend. Definitely order this medium rare to rare was the suggestion of our server, Gaye, who kept us chuckling throughout the meal with her unique personality.
I chose the scallop dish and it was divine. The scallops were seared to perfection and delicious but the accompanying flavors was what really stood out. Fresh corn, heirloom tomato and purple fingerling potato sautéed with a lemon-tarragon butter vinaigrette. The real star power in this dish was a later discovery of popcorn shoots. These thin green sprouts had an amazing true sweet corn flavor, mixed with slivers of green onions; it was the perfect garnish on this dish.
Dessert had another wide range of gluten-free options. My interest was piqued with the Colorado Peach Parfait (on the GF menu with GF graham crackers!). The chef seemed concerned about the graham cracker cross contact issue and so we omitted them. I was a bit sad; as that was the primary reason I wanted to try the dish. We probably should have just cancelled that but we got it anyway as well as the crème brulee, after the server told us she couldn’t even find a crème brulee in Paris that topped Chef Kate’s crème brulee.
Both desserts were divine and a perfect nightcap to our delicious meal. Bravo to Café Diva for making a gluten-free menu that was so extensive AND for working with me and making me a safe meal. I so so appreciate it and can’t wait to come back some day!
Here’s a roundup of some of my favorite tried and true recipes and products for Thanksgiving! I promise these will meet the approval of everyone at your Thanksgiving table. Head on over to my Pinterest page and check out the Gluten-Free Thanksgiving board to see the full list of recipes!
Urban Accents Gourmet Gobbler Turkey Brine Kit, 12.75 Ounce – This is an all you need kit (including the bag!) to brine your bird gluten-free. Worked like a charm and now I am sold on the benefits of brining! Secret – I first found this at Home Goods!!
Allergy Free Alaska’s Gluten-Free Pecan Pie (Corn Syrup Free, Refined Sugar Free) I’ve made this pie at least 6 times. It is so much tastier than the traditional version full of corn syrup! You will not be disappointed!
Gluten-Free Goddess Quinoa Salad with Pears & Spinach This is a nice light salad to round out what can be a pretty heavy meal. The dressing is a bit heavy on the maple flavor and to lighten it a bit I’ve swapped the maple for honey.
Aldi’s Gluten-Free French Fried Onions & Cornbread Mix – this product line, Live GFree (most of which is certified gluten-free by GFCO), continues to pleasantly surprise me at the discount grocer Aldi. What a nice surprise to find these products last season!
Canyon Bakehouse Classic Gluten-Free Stuffing Now this is a pretty traditional stuffing but trust me when it comes to gluten-free bread, you do want an expert’s ratio of liquid and dry ingredients for a stuffing recipe.
Visit Gluten-Free #SoGood’s Pinterest page for many more recipes!
This may be one of the most random recipes I’ve thrown together… and possibly least visually appetizing! It’s bumper crop season for zucchini and this is a great way to use them up. If you like hummus this is not a far cry, contains hidden veggies, low carbs and healthy fats.
3 medium zucchini
1 TBSP olive oil
2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning (I use Badia brand because is is certified GF)
3 tsp garlic paste from a tube, or 6-8 garlic cloves
1 tsp salt
1 cup walnuts
Slice zucchini in half, spritz with olive oil and season with 1 tsp lemon pepper and garlic. Place on cookie sheet and roast at 375 for 30 minutes. Add 1 cup walnuts to sheet pan. Roast an additional 5-7 minutes until walnuts are toasted. Cool. Add zucchini and walnuts to a high powered blender, add additional 1 tsp lemon pepper and 1 teaspoon salt. Blend on high for 1 minute. Use veggies or crackers for dipping! So good!
Ok Aldi you had me at Key Lime and Meyer Lemon! So excited about these new mixes. Definitely on the nutrition profile of an occasional treat, I for one love options that my girls think are fun to bake and share.
Aldi is a my go to for gluten-free pasta, wraps, pretzels, baking mixes (CARBS)… mostly for my kids. It makes offering them gluten-free options affordable and also keeps my kitchen gluten-free which makes me happy.
I love that these mixes scream spring and beautiful weather…
Did I mention Nebraska is getting another blizzard tomorrow. Augh. Over it! The hubby and I are headed to the Bahamas in a few weeks to celebrate our 15 year wedding anniversary. 😍 So I guess that’ll have to get me through this next downturn in weather and also some baking to channel our inner spring weather!
Stay tuned for some pics on Instagram of these baked goods 😉
A girl’s got to have options! Makeup was an area of concern that I set aside when I was first diagnosed. It’s just too overwhelming to think about all your personal care items AND everything you eat! Since then, I’ve sourced friends, researched companies and purchased oodles of wasted products. Finally I found a group of product lines I enjoy and trust for their consideration of gluten contamination.
How strict am I? Here’s the items I use that are labeled gluten-free:
Easily Ingestible – If it’s easily ingestible it should be labeled gluten-free. Easily ingestible to me means a powder floating in the air that is inhaled and then.. ingested. These particles take the same path as food! This includes:
- Powder Base
- Loose Powder
- Eyeshadow/Brow Powder
Lip Products – Did you ever wonder what happened to lipstick that fades? Yep. You eat it. Studies have show the average woman eats 4-7 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime. 😳 Lip Products include:
- Lip stick
- Lip balm
- Lip liner
- Lip gloss
Liquid Products – If it’s liquid that I apply with my hands (that I then later eat with) it should also be labeled gluten-free. This includes:
- Liquid Foundation
- Cream Blush
- Eyeshadow Base/Primers
If it’s not in powder form and I don’t apply with my hands, I buy whatever I think works best – mascara, eyeliner. No gluten ingredients and that’s good enough for me.
For Face: Love the ZUZU Luxe liquid foundation! Great coverage and certified GF! Their powder foundation is great for daytime use, provides great coverage and a beautiful finish. I use Mineral Fusion’s bronzer on the cheekbones – especially in Nebraska winters!
For Eyes – I’ve always used these two mainstays – L’oreal mascara and L’oreal liquid eyeliner. Both reasonably priced and work great. Again, I’ve often been disappointed in switching it up! Bonus is that they are Target mainstays and affordable! Eye shadow tends to get all over, so I stick with a trusted brand, like ZUZU or Mineral Fusion.
For Lips – ZUZU takes the cake here. I love their lipliner and lip gloss. Mineral Fusion Lip tint is also great. SoftLips seems to be the best lip balm labeled GF. I tried EOS for awhile and got a bad reaction. Dry and peeling lips. After discussing with my dermatologist friend apparently they are WELL KNOWN for this problem. One class action lawsuit later… My son and daughter also experienced the reaction from EOS lip balm. Just because its labeled GF certainly doesn’t make it perfect!
Hoping this post helps those of you out there that are looking for the right products to keep you healthy and looking fab at the same time!
So we jumped on the theme park bus again; after a 2 year reprieve from Disney. Universal Studios Orlando for a bit of muggling fun. Here’s a rundown of the #sogood and the not #sogood!
Universal is . . .
More stomach turning
Did you catch that last one? Yep definitely two different worlds on that one. I thought you all may find it interesting what I received from Universal when I emailed their corporate dietary email. I was pretty shocked at what I got in return. See below. . .
“Hi, in Universal Studios, we have fruit stands in the parks with apples, oranges, grapes, watermelon on them. Also have lemon and strawberry slush carts which will be ok, also have turkey legs on carts that are just smoke plain. We have a full service unit it is Lombard’s landing and Finnegan’s, we have a chef in each unit have the server bring the chef to the table and he can go over all the things he can do for you In Islands of Adventure we have 2 full service units one called Confisco’s and one is Mytho’s, we have Chefs in both of those units, have server bring Chef to table and he can go over the things he can do for you. We have another walk up unit it is Thunder Falls, we have smoke chicken, smoke ribs, and roasted corn on cob and roasted potatoes with fresh herbs and salt and pepper, also have French fries all natural cooked in soy blend oil that is the only thing cooked in those fryers too. I will also say no desserts at all from any of the restaurants too.
We also offer gluten free pasta in the full service restaurants in both parks and at café four and at louies italian, there is a Ben and Jerry’s Ice cream shop in USF that has gluten free ice cream. We also have three broomsticks which have smoked chicken and smoked pork ribs, roasted corn on cob, baked potatoes, roasted potatoes with onions, garlic, salt and pepper, and fresh herbs and some salads too.
Also units have a gluten free bun available too. The butterbeer is gluten free. Popcorn is gluten free. The soft serve at florean ice cream is ok, not the hard pack ice cream.
At leaky there is a vegetable platter no bread and a chicken sandwich on a gluten free bun. There is gluten free pancakes at all the breakfasts, bacon, eggs, fruit, sausage yougart
If you need any more information or help feel free to give me a call at 321-388-2123, Chef Bob. The restaurants in citywalk will be able to help you with your allergy all units have 4 chefs in them.
They can make you gluten free pasta and a non- breaded chicken breast at the character dinner. The fudge is made on property in our bakery on shared equipment.”
Wouldn’t a nicely laid out spreadsheet work a bit better for this information?!
Let’s compare this to Disney’s website page, https://disneyworld.disney.go.com/guest-services/special-dietary-requests/, that addresses so much more info. Disney then sends you specifics on what each restaurant offers for your particular allergens/intolerances.
Regardless, I made my list of restaurants I thought would be best and here’s my experiences.
Antojito’s – Universal City Walk – C-
This is a lively place at Universal’s City Walk. Antojito’s is a very large restaurant with live mariachi bands and lots of chips and margaritas. I called ahead for this reservation and asked for a manager but that was lost in communication during our seating. My order went in late due to the manager being delayed in getting out to see our table. I chose shrimp tacos on corn tortillas and roasted plantains.
Their menu does have gluten-free items noted. I didn’t feel great the next day. After thinking about the plantains, they may have been flash fried and since their tortilla chips weren’t safe I am guessing the fryer was contaminated. Either that or the tortillas were warmed on a shared surface? Hard to know. It was the first night there and I think I was too excited to ask all the right questions. Not a perfect start. On the upside everyone else really liked their food!
Monster Café – Universal Studios Florida – B
Our first day at the parks we were looking for a quick service stop. This Café had pizza, ribs and turkey legs. I spoke with the manager and had read that the turkey legs were safe from the Universal Dining sheet. I asked him to pull the leg and steamed plain broccoli from the back of the restaurant and he was happy to do so.
It was actually really good and I shared it with my oldest and hubby. It was huge! NOTHING on the menus was marked GF. This really went for EVERYWHERE in the park, aside from the higher end restaurants menu (Mythos). No GF marked on anything. It was the first day and I was already longing to jump across Orlando and go to Disney instead!
The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar – Universal City Walk – B+
This spot seemed intriguing for our larger group. Burger and sushi aficionados combined. We stopped the day before to make the reservation and the manager chatted with me at length about their procedures and I was impressed. I was really hoping to score a mini burger and sushi combo but their burger buns have dairy. I was trying ot keep my system in check so I was avoiding it. Boo. So I ordered some of their basic sushi options.
This is pretty Americanized sushi here. They served it with a sauce that once I questioned it, it was quickly swiped from my plate. Must not have been safe. The sushi was just okay. Nothing to write much about, but it is a cool atmosphere and I feel like they did execute the meal well. The burgers got good reviews from the rest of the group.
Three Broomsticks – Islands of Adventure – Hogsmeade -B
My girls are Harry Potter fanatics, thus our trip here in the first place. So we had to stop at the Three Broomsticks for a quick lunch our 2ndday at the parks. Three Broomsticks serves fairly simple food, roasted chicken, ribs, shepherds pie. There didn’t appear to be a significant amount of contamination risk coming here. I chose the rotisserie smoked chicken salad. The hubs went for ribs and the kids for fish and chips and mac and cheese.
Again, using the resource sent to me from the dietary service and a brief chat with the manager on duty, I made my selection. Also again, nothing on the boards was notated for allergens. The manager did take my order but my food was delivered on the same tray with everyone else’s food. The salad was fine. Nothing special, which is pretty much what the whole family said about the meal. You pay for the experience here; the food isn’t the star.
Florean Fortescue’s Ice-Cream Parlour – Universal Studios – Diagon Alley – B+
This quaint ice cream shop in the heart of Dragon Alley was a huge hit. All soft serve ice creams were gluten-free, we tried Butterbeer (of course!) and pistachio. The information sent from Universal did say the hard pack ice cream was not safe, just the soft serve. We did also try the Butterbeer! It is gluten-free (not dairy free). Unfortunately between the 5 of us we couldn’t even finish it! So sweet!
Mama Della’s – Loews Portofino Hotel – D
This may have been the meal that put my system over the edge. Mama Della’s was recommended by the Loew’s Portofino staff as the most accommodating menu for a celiac needing gluten-free food. The menu was far from kid friendly, the prices were high and there was pasta everywhere. On the menu and off the menu.
I went for custom dish, asking for a shrimp salad. It was mediocre at best. The salad was drowning in oil and had an odd flavor. I ate the shrimp and left the rest. I had a bad feeling from the start of the meal, the way the server and manager handled my requests and I was even more annoyed when we got the bill and they charged me for the full price shrimp entrée instead of a salad with added shrimp. $34 for a shrimp salad seemed outrageous.
The next day I felt awful. I contacted hotel management and tried to meet with them twice in the hotel lobby. It never worked for them to be accessible when we had the time. We played phone tag for a few days. He wanted to follow a health protocol with me. No offer of real action to discount our pricey meal that ended up causing a downward spiral that made the end of our trip extremely difficult for me to manage. I didn’t have the energy to keep calling and attempt to reach them. I left voicemails that never got returned.
Mythos – Islands of Adventure – B+
This themed restaurant within Universal’s Islands of Adventure Park definitely had the most gluten-free reviews out there. They won “Best Theme Park Restaurant” from 2003-2009 and they still proudly display that signage.
The inside of the restaurant is built to look like you are immersed in Greek mythology, with waterfalls, rock carvings and even a replica of the River Styx running through the restaurant. It was quiet the evening we were there as we snuck in at the end of the day. Definitely try to make a reservation as they do book up, we walked in about 20 minutes before closing and they were kind enough to accommodate us.
At this point in the trip, being our last night, I was already not feeling well. Too much exposure for sure and one poorly handled meal had sent my system over the edge. I ordered the simplest item on the menu, the beef medallions with herb roasted fingerling potatoes, corn succotash, herb salad and chimmichurri. It was delicious and the rest of my crew loved their food as well.
We really liked the ambience of the restaurant and the kids loved watching The Incredible Hulk roller coaster go over and over again. A great win, just wished I could have enjoyed the meal more without the worry of feeling more sick the next day.
In conclusion . . .
I was hopeful, I read and researched. I joined the gluten-free Orlando Facebook group, posted and read responses. And I had a plan for the restaurants. I reached out to the dining management for the theme park and hotel. Even the best-laid plans fail.
At the end of this trip I was struggling and it was a struggle that lasted weeks. It changed my perspective on being able to travel and trust restaurants to accommodate me.
I didn’t want to write about it because it cumulated in such an awful response. I don’t want this blog to be negative.
But I also want people to be educated and know how this sort of trip can end up being such a struggle. If I was going to do this trip again we would need to stay in a condo with a kitchen so I could tote along my own meals to the park. As easy and accommodating as Disney is regarding allergens, Universal was not.