This past weekend I got to attend the 2nd annual Food Allergy and Celiac Convention at Walt Disney World, hosted by my good friends Sarah Norris and Laurie Sadowski. Last year, I worked at the teen/college booth for the expo. This year, the event was set up a little differently – there were multiple events throughout the weekend rather than one day-long expo. Since Enjoy Life Foods was the primary sponsor for this event, I was able to represent them. This was an extremely special opportunity for me because it was at last year’s expo that I met the marketing team for the first time!
The event was split into four parts: Bowling at Splitsville Luxury Lanes, a dinner at the Four Seasons Resort, a Behind-the-Seeds Tour at The Land in Epcot, and an Illuminations Dessert Party.
Bowling at Splitsville
I had never been to Splitsville before, so I was excited to go inside, network and meet other people, and get my bowl on. I ended up being on two teams, so I was able to meet several new people and discuss living with food allergies. I was super pumped to be on a bowling team with fellow food allergy blogger Erica Dermer from Celiac and the Beast. I met her at the expo last year, so it was fun to reconnect. Somehow, my brain decided it was going to be decent at bowling that day, and I think I ended up winning….I got several strikes which was unusual for me! I credit the pixie dust in the air. 😉
As with any trip to Orlando, I did my research on GFDF WDW and GF in Orlando so I’d know what to eat when I got to Florida. Sarah’s favorite dish at Splitsville is the Fantasy Sushi Roll, which is kind of like a rainbow roll. I was split between that and the Spicy Veggie Bowl, which was basically deconstructed sushi (something I’ve made at home a lot and already have a recipe to put on the blog!). I don’t know if it was the “spicy” or the “veggie,” but I ended up going with the 2nd choice. And this worked out well because Erica got the Fantasy Roll and we shared. Yum! Both were very good. Some of our new friends ordered the Fiesta bowl which also looked and smelled delicious. If I go back I may order the Fantasy Roll or try another one of the rice bowls. The service was great, and the staff was very knowledgeable about allergies – which was awesome because both of us have several!
And of course, no trip to Disney Springs would be complete without a stop in Erin McKenna’s Bakery. I got a thin mint and a coffee crunch donut/cupcake parfait, to go with the three pumpkin pastries I bought the night before. Delish.
Dinner at Four Seasons
So I didn’t know what to expect from this event because I’ve never been to a Four Seasons Resort before. After getting there (we had to go through a gate) and walking into the lobby, I felt like I was a little underdressed even with my skirt (oops), but that’s okay! The event was held downstairs in Ravello, one of the resort’s restaurants. We even had our own little room! It was all very photogenic.
For the food, we had a set menu with options for appetizers, entrees, and dessert (PS everything was gluten and dairy free). All of the appetizers looked awesome, especially the beet carpaccio, grilled plum salad, and portobello mushroom fries with sweet potato hummus. Now, I’m an NC girl so when I heard sweet potato hummus, that pretty much sealed the deal. After speaking with the chef, he agreed to give me grilled portobello mushroom strips instead of the fried ones which were coated in corn starch. The chili-sweet potato hummus was delicious, as I expected. It had a great kick to it! I also got to try the beet carpaccio which was amazing. The beets were thinly sliced, marinated in orange juice, and topped with pickled radishes. If I ever have the chance to go back, I’m getting that instead!
There were three entree selections: vegan lasagna (using Daiya cheese), tuna and steak. The lasagna looked the best to me, but the problem with Italian-style food (other than gluten and dairy, which weren’t an issue in this case) is the tomato sauce. However, this dish was new and different from anything I’d tried before, so I asked the chef if he could make it tomato-free. He suggested using basil and olive oil instead of the tomato sauce, and I took it one step further and asked if he could puree roasted red peppers as a sauce instead. The worst that could happen was that he’d say no, and I would still have been perfectly happy with the olive oil version. But he said yes!!! I’m so glad I asked, because that ended up being a great combination. I mean, dairy, gluten and tomato-free lasagna? It was so Kathleen-friendly. I absolutely loved it. Red peppers make a great sauce, so I’ll be trying that out when I test the Enjoy Life pizza crust mix in the future!
For dessert, we had only one option, but with 3 components! The dessert trio consisted of bite-sized portions of a coconut custard topped with berries, coconut banana cream pie and whoopie pies. The only thing I couldn’t have out of the three was the whoopie pie, which the pastry chef kindly substituted for chocolate covered strawberries. All three were great. The coconut custard was basically just coconut cream with berries – very simple, but very good. The coconut banana cream pie was my favorite though. It had a graham crust, a gooey banana filling and was topped with whipped coconut cream. Plus it came in a mini martini glass!! So cute. I could have eaten like a pint of that stuff.
Stay tuned for a recap of the 2nd day of events, featuring locally-grown, sustainable agriculture and DESSERT!