Tag Archives: gluten-free

Theme parks offering a smorgasbord of food options

In the early days of theme parks, food was often an afterthought — served and consumed quickly, so visitors could get back to riding Space Mountain or watching the Shamu show.

These days, visitors want more from their meals, and theme parks are offering them a smorgasbord of options. The breadth of menu items and restaurants is growing. Food festivals are flourishing. Chefs are creating dishes meant to give guests a fuller experience of the Jungle Cruise ride or Diagon Alley.

“I think guests expectations’ have changed over the years,” said Beth Scott, Walt Disney Parks and Resorts’ vice president of food and beverage. “Certainly with things like The Chew and the Food Network and social media, people are becoming much more savvy about their dining experiences.”

Theme parks are pleasing the palate

With 475 restaurants, kiosks and other food outlets, Walt Disney World in particular has become known for pleasing the palate. Its food-and-wine festival at Epcot has grown to 62 days. Hours of many Disney eateries have expanded too, with more serving breakfast. Many events have dessert parties attached. Heeding more than 700,000 special dietary requests Disney says it receives annually, the parks have introduced allergy-friendly “Snacks with Character.”

Eater.com last year published an in-depth online guide to Disney World, with guides to everything from ice cream to cocktails. Not everything got a great review, but editor-in-chief Amanda Kludt wrote that “pleasures can very much be found — not only pleasures but ingenuity, quirky surprises and pure joy .”

Ed Wronski, Disney’s director of food and beverage product development, said his company’s portfolio of restaurants has become more diverse over the years. “We . really expanded the different dining options for our guests based on the experiences they were looking for.”

Disney says its commitment to quality cuisine was demonstrated with the recent opening of its Flavor Lab near Port Orleans resort — a 7,000-square-foot building devoted to research and development across all Disney parks. About 20 employees work there full-time on an increasing number of new projects such as recipes for the Tiffins restaurant opening in Animal Kingdom this spring. Other new places executives point to include Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar in Disney Springs, featuring signature cocktails such as the bright green Reggie’s Revenge made of vodka and melon liqueur.

Then there’s the Magic Kingdom’s Jungle Navigation Co. Ltd. Skipper Canteen, an ode to the regions traveled in the Jungle Cruise ride. Dishes from Asia, South America and Africa include sustainable fish collar with yuzu-soy sauce.

When that restaurant opened in December, “reading the social media and the press, the way it was described, it’s not your typical theme-park food,” said Jean-Marie Clement, Disney’s director of food & beverage concept development. “They were talking about the flavor, the spices, the presentation.”

Growing sophistication

There’s still plenty of basic grub such as burgers and pizza to be found among the gourmet goodies. But local food blogger Ricky Ly said he’s been impressed by Disney’s increasing sophistication. He would like to see other theme parks introduce more high-quality, locally-sourced ingredients.

“A lot of their folks sometimes plan their trips around food,” Ly said. “To miss that demographic is, maybe, shortsighted for businesses looking to cater to the next generation who cares more about their food.”

Many try to get as much for their money by the using theme parks’ meal plans, the costs of which have regularly increased. Disney’s prices went up this week week after two years of staying steady.

The Rainforest Cafe at Disney's Animal Kingdom.
The Rainforest Cafe at Disney’s Animal Kingdom is one the early innovations in broadening dining options at theme parks.

SeaWorld is placing emphasis on its festivals, many of which feature something to eat. Its sister park in San Antonio last year debuted a Seven Seas Food Festival. For its Bands, Brew & BBQ, SeaWorld Orlando has started cooking the barbecue in-house and expanded the menu to include down-home delicacies such as a maple-bacon cupcakes and corn-chip chili pie. “It’s really taken it to a whole new level,” said Cathy Valeriano, SeaWorld’s vice president of culinary operations. In Orlando, SeaWorld also introduced New Year’s Eve four-course dinner with champagne and dessert reception.

Last year Universal Orlando joined the trend of events built around eating, with a dinner featuring Halloween Horror Nights’ scare actors.

At Universal Orlando, the opening of the first Harry Potter land in 2010 unleashed some serious culinary creativity. While planning Universal’s Wizarding Worlds, senior vice president Ric Florell and his team referred to now dog-eared copies of the Potter books filled with notes on meals, treats and drinks that they could bring to life.

Universal found its signature beverage in Butterbeer. The books didn’t specify its flavor, so Universal’s team had to use its imagination. After more than two years tinkering with the recipe, Universal delivered a foamy concoction that tastes taste of cream soda and butterscotch. Butterbeer now comes in several forms — even a fudge.

Universal’s two Potter lands also feature British pub fare, oddly flavored ice creams, and Wizarding World beverages including Fishy Green Ale, a minty beverage with blueberry boba-style bubbles.

The heavy theming can also be found in Universal’s Simpsons area, which when it opened in 2013 included Krusty Burger and Duff Brewery.

Grabbing an unusual bite to eat in these lands “completes the experience,” Florell said. “It’s the exclamation mark on the rest of your day.”


You won’t miss the meat or bread in this veggie oven hash

Heading into crisp weather, I crave the holiday classics that beg to be made this time of year. One of my favorites is stuffing. Seasoned cubes of dried bread sautéed with celery, onion, herbs and butter, then baked up to crispy-outside-soft-inside perfection?

Yes, please!

Except: My extended family has three vegetarians and my daughter is gluten-free. So my challenge was to make a dish that scratches the stuffing itch for them without making it seem like the ugly duckling of the Thanksgiving table. The solution ended up being a roasted vegetable medley that I promise will be the most-requested recipe of your holiday. It is that good, and full of nutrients, too.

To make that happen, I rely on a mix of roasted vegetables for a caramelized sweetness that feels roasty and homey. And I add meaty mushrooms sautéed in garlic and the trifecta of holiday cooking herbs: rosemary, sage and thyme. A Granny Smith apple cut into tiny cubes brings just enough acid for depth, while a surprise little hero tucked into the recipe — toasted walnuts — adds texture, along with some nice healthy fats to fill up vegetarians who will be skipping the turkey.

Easy, healthy and satisfying. Your healthy or vegan or gluten-free guests will feel satisfied, not sidelined.


Start to finish: 40 minutes

Servings: 8


2 ½ cups cubed butternut squash

Olive oil

Kosher salt and ground black pepper

2 cups small cauliflower florets

2 cups small broccoli florets

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced

1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced

2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary

1 tbsp minced fresh sage

1 tbsp lemon juice

½ cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped


Heat the oven to 400 F. Line two baking sheets with kitchen parchment or foil.

Mound the squash on one of the baking sheets then drizzle with about 1 teaspoon of oil. Toss to coat, then season with salt and pepper. Arrange evenly, then roast until tender, 30 to 35 minutes, turning once or twice.

While the squash is roasting, mound the cauliflower and broccoli on the second sheet. Drizzle them with 2 teaspoons of oil, season with salt and pepper, then arrange in an even layer and roast for 25 minutes, turning halfway through or until the cauliflower is golden. All of the vegetables should finish roasting around the same time. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, in a large sauté pan over medium, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the onion and celery and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms, then sauté until the mushrooms are starting to get tender, about 7 minutes. Add the apple, thyme, rosemary and sage, then cook another 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender (but not floppy). Stir in the lemon juice, remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl.

Add the slightly cooled roasted vegetables and the toasted walnuts. Stir and adjust seasoning if needed.

Breweries big and small go gluten-free

In Madison, as elsewhere, the craft beer movement is booming, and Trevor Easton is one more veteran homebrewer who’s decided to go commercial.

But Easton’s tiny Greenview Brewing, one of several located in the House of Brews facility on Madison’s east side, has one distinct difference from its competition. Bottling under the “Alt Brew” label, Greenview is the only area brewery — and one of only a few in the country — to exclusively brew gluten-free beer.

By definition, gluten-free beer is made from ingredients that do not contain glycoproteins — aka the offending gluten. Glycoproteins are found in barley, wheat and other cereals used to make bakery goods and beer. Gluten-free beer exchanges a malted barley base for other foundational ingredients like millet, rice or sorghum.

It’s largely health issues that have motivated the creation of gluten-free beer. The cereals used in traditional brewing can trigger symptoms for those who are merely gluten sensitive, as well as those who suffer from celiac disease, a genetic autoimmune disorder that damages the small intestine. Left untreated, celiac disease also can lead to other autoimmune disorders, neurological conditions, short stature or intestinal cancers, according to the Celiac Disease Foundation, and complete abstinence from gluten is the only known way to combat it.

That’s the reason veteran brewer Easton set up Greenview Brewing. His wife, Maureen, was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2007, forcing him to cease his home operation. But in May, he started brewing gluten-free beer using his own one-barrel nano-brewery system, which he says is isolated from other House of Brews operations in order to avoid cross-contamination with gluten.

Easton currently distributes beers on a limited basis in 22-oz. “bombers” in Madison, Stoughton and Whitewater. Two brews currently on the market are his Hollywood Nights Blonde IPA and a more traditional-tasting Farmhouse Ale.

Other Wisconsin brewers also have experimented with gluten-free beer. Sprecher Brewing Co., based in Glendale, brews Mbege and Shakparo ales based on traditional West African beer recipes. 

Both brands, originally created for Milwaukee’s African World Festival, were created from a base of sorghum and millet, traditional beer ingredients in regions like West Africa where barley and wheat aren’t as abundant. The beers weren’t purposefully made to be gluten-free, but it’s a happy byproduct.

New Grist Pilsner Style Beer, brewed by Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, follows the rice-and-sorghum formula to remain gluten-free. Described as “a crisp, refreshing session ale” on Lakefront’s website, New Grist has won a half-dozen awards since its introduction in 2006. (See sidebar, page 26.)

One more Wisconsin entry into the category is Stevens Point Brewery’s JP A’Capella Gluten Free Pale Ale. But be advised, this sorghum-based ale has gotten seriously mixed reviews, so it might not be best as your first taste of gluten-free beer.

Here are other gluten-free beers of interest:

Estrella Daura, bottled in Barcelona, may be the best-known, most widely available gluten-free beer on the global market. It may also be the most critically decorated, winning top awards from the International Taste & Quality Institute in Brussels, the World Beer Championship, and the World’s Best Gluten-free Lager Award at The Beverage Tasting Institute’s World Beer Awards.

New Planet Gluten-free Beer, a brewery in Boulder, Colorado, offers a line of gluten-free craft brands, including pale, amber, blonde and brown ales, as well as a raspberry and Belgian ale. Fans laud the variety and heartiness of the lineup.

When U.K. entrepreneur Derek Green was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1988, he vowed he wouldn’t give up his beloved ale. But it took 16 years and a chance meeting with an eminent Belgian professor of brewing before he could come up with a gluten-free beer he liked. Not surprisingly, he named it Discovery, and it helped launch Green’s Gluten Free Beers. Today there are nine different varieties, but Discovery, an amber ale with subtle caramel and nut nuances, still plays a central role.

Epic Brewing Co. claims it has brewed “a gluten-free beer for everybody,” and that may be the best way to describe Glutenator. The Salt Lake City brewer has eschewed sorghum, the most common ingredient in gluten-free beer, for a blend of light-bodied millet, brown rice, sweet potatoes and molasses, along with plenty of American hops. Like most craft beers, it must be tasted to be understood and appreciated.

Sam Calagione, owner and beer wizard at Dogfish Head in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, decided gluten-free beer needn’t be just an experiment in grain. Utilizing a sorghum base like most brewers, he also added honey and strawberries, giving his Tweason’ale a unique profile. Think of it as almost a cider, but not quite.

Lakefront’s gluten-free redefines brewing parameters

Russ Klisch, co-owner of Milwaukee’s Lakefront Brewery, believes in everyone’s right to enjoy a beer. And he knows a market niche when he sees one. 

So in 2006, when Klisch learned that a brewery worker’s family member had been diagnosed with celiac disease, it prompted him to explore possibilities for gluten-free beer. 

At the time, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau required beverages to contain at least 25 percent malted barley in order to be legally sold as “beer,” which prohibited anyone with celiac disease from imbibing in his brews. Lakefront could have produced a line of gluten-free alcoholic beverages (as did Bard’s Tale, a brewery in Minnesota), but Klisch decided instead to try and change the TTB policy.

He came up with a plan for a gluten-free beer and submitted it to the bureau, ultimately convincing TTB officials to create a new category, accommodating beer brewed without malted barley. Their entry in that category, New Grist, now accounts for about 25 percent of the brewery’s total production of nearly two dozen brands, according to Matt Krajnak, Lakefront’s communications director.

“New Grist is brewed with the intent of tasting like a pilsner,” Krajnak says. “It’s made with sorghum and rice, so the flavor profile is quite different from, say, our Klisch Pilsner. The high amount of fermentable sugars in the sorghum and rice extracts make it drier than Klisch Pilsner.

“New Grist also has a slight tanginess, or tartness, reminiscent of a cider, which, I think, is characteristic of malted sorghum. I’ve had other sorghum beers, like Green’s Quest Tripel, which is delicious, that have the same tanginess.”

New Grist earned a Gold Award for Experimental Beer at the 2006 Great American Beer Festival. Five years later, the beer earned a silver medal in the Gluten Free Beer category at the same event, a step that acknowledged a change in the law and indicated the increased appearance and appeal of gluten-free beers across the country.

Kasana brings culinary vision to Third Ward

Food is an art form to Ana Docta, president of the Kasana Group, a collection of culinary enterprises promoting a rich mélange of fine, nutritious and sustainable dining for Milwaukee foodies. Docta hopes to make Kasana’s adjoining bistro, gallery and commercial kitchen at 241 N. Broadway into the city’s premier gastro-hub and culinary incubator for budding chefs.

Docta has a strong culinary background on which to base her ambitions. A native of Argentina, she formerly served as a corporate food and beverage consultant and owned a restaurant in Porto Allegre, Brazil, before moving to the United States. In addition to Latin American influences, Docta’s food exhibits a strong commitment to health and nutrition, an appreciation gained during her formal training as a ballet dancer.

“When I cook, I want people to understand the different facets of the process – the smell, texture, consistency, flavor and comfort found in food,” says Docta, who owns the business with her husband Peter. “Fine dining does not have to be snobbish, but for me it does have to exhilarate my senses.”

Docta learned a lot from her father and mother, who ran an Italian restaurant and a candy kitchen, respectively, in her native country. Her enterprise’s name is a fanciful contraction of Casa de Ana, Spanish for “Ana’s house.”

“I just changed the ‘C’ to a ‘K’ to make it a little more funky,” she says.

Although Docta has been running a Milwaukee catering business for five years, specializing in “pop-up” dinners in homes and businesses around the Milwaukee area, the Kasana Group only began operating in the Third Ward space formerly occupied by Broadway Bistro & Bakery in January. Located on the ground floor, Kasana Café & Bistro is the business’ most visible component. It serves breakfast, brunch and light dinner fare, much of if drawn from Docta’s Latin-American heritage, with a nod to healthy, often vegetarian and gluten-free cuisine. 

The bistro’s Tortilla Espanola, baked with organic eggs, potatoes and carrots, is gluten-free and vegetarian. The three types of empanadas – one each with beef, chicken and a spinach-and-mushroom blend – feature organic ingredients. As much as possible, the menu is sourced from local providers.

The downstairs location also serves as headquarters for Kasana Gourmet, Docta’s long-standing catering operation; Kasana Good-to-Go, a line of take-away and vending machine items made from fresh, wholesome ingredients; and the Kasana Collective, a membership-based, shared-space commercial kitchen for budding food entrepreneurs who want to break into the market but don’t have their own commercial facilities.

Caroline Carter, owner of Chef Caroline’s Raw & Vegan Cuisine, regularly uses the 3,500-square-foot commercial kitchen to produce a line of crackers and other “unbaked” goods that emphasize nutritive value. Carter credits good nutrition with helping her to overcome a lifetime of depression. The Kasana Collective has enabled her to commercialize her passion for preparing and serving healthy foods.

“For small food producers like myself it’s difficult to find a licensed commercial kitchen that’s affordable,” says Carter, who plans to sell her products at various local markets and specialty food stores. “To be able to produce my food and do what I love is awesome.”

Carter’s approach perfectly suits the Kasana Collective’s goals, and her products extend Milwaukee’s culinary culture in meaningful ways, Docta stresses. Carter is one of several collective members whose goods are for sale in the bistro.

“Kasana is a values-driven business based on socially conscious and responsible practices, following the triple bottom-line construct of people, planet and profit,” Docta says. “We strive to generate positive social impact by creating jobs and providing wider access to healthy food.”

The bistro’s checkout counter also offers Docta’s baked items, including: alfajores, stuffed Argentine cookies made from organic wheat and available wrapped in coconut, pistachios, ground peanuts and chocolate; dry fruit bons bons, made from organic dates, organic walnuts and whiskey; assorted organic chocolate truffles; and other dessert items.

The gallery adjoining the bistro takes the enterprise’s artistic mission beyond cuisine. The walls are covered with for-sale paintings and photographs by local artists. It’s an aspect of expression that beautifully complements the restaurant’s creative cuisine, Docta says.

On May 3, Kasana took the artistic concept one step further by presenting a floral design workshop featuring Michael Gaffney, a nationally known designer who has both his roots and one of his schools firmly planted in the Milwaukee area. 

Gaffney, who has designed for clients from coast to coast and whose work was seen in the film “Black Swan,” taught the elements of exquisite floral design during a two-part, nearly four-hour session in the gallery’s adjoining exhibition space. Each student received a copy of Gaffney’s book “Design Star.”

“Kasana stands for quality, innovation and community empowerment,” Docta says. “We emphasize improving the quality of life of our customers, our employees, our communities and the environment.”

For more, visit www.kasana-mke.com.