Saturday, June 18, 2016

Gluten Free in Hilton Head - 2016

On the spur of the moment, we decided to go to Hilton Head Island last week to visit my aunt and uncle, who were staying at Marriott's Barony Beach Club.  My daughters and I spent 6 nights with them, then moved to Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa for 2 nights before we drove back to Orlando.  My extended family has been vacationing on Hilton Head Island every year since I was in 4th grade.  You can read my Hilton Head dining reviews from last summer here.

While staying at Barony, we had a kitchen, so we ate breakfast at my aunt and uncle's timeshare every day.

I bought Udi's Gluten Free Harvest Crunch Muffins at the local Whole Foods on the island, which I ate for breakfast with fruit four mornings of our vacation.  Defrosted in the microwave for a minute and a half to two minutes to warm them, and eaten with some butter, they are very good, and make for an easy vacation breakfast.

On the days I wasn't eating muffins, I had Bakery on Main Blueberry Scone Oatmeal, which I brought from home, or Siggi's yogurt with fresh fruit.  My daughter Katie loves Siggi's yogurt with strawberries on top, and wrote this cute note to let everyone know not to touch her yogurt in the fridge.  We buy Siggi's Icelandic skyr yogurt at The Fresh Market or Whole Foods.  You can read my review here.

While on vacation, I discovered that my daughters love Whole Foods GlutenFree Bakehouse Sandwich Bread toasted and served with butter for breakfast.  I have been buying it in Orlando for years, but have only used it to make Orange Upside Down French Toast or my Cornbread Stuffing at Thanksgiving.  It reminds me of Easter Bread, but it is not as sweet.  We also toasted it to eat with my uncle's incredible egg salad for lunch.  There was a toaster in the unit, but I cooked my bread in the oven on broil on a piece of aluminum foil to avoid cross contamination.  I love that my aunt and uncle were willing to eat gluten free all week, so I did not have to worry about gluten being all over the kitchen.

When we were staying at the Hilton Head Marriott Resort & Spa, we did not have a kitchen, so we decided to go out for breakfast.  Last Saturday, we went to Stack's, which was recommended by one of my blog readers.

They offer gluten free pancakes and waffles, but they told me that only the pancakes are safe for celiacs, because they do not have a dedicated waffle maker.

They take all the right precautions, such as cooking the pancakes separately and using dedicated utensils, and they even brought me a brown bag with my own butter, syrup, and plastic silverware.

They also serve their gluten free pancakes in a To Go container to avoid cross contamination.  I ordered my pancakes with fresh fruit, and added a little butter when they arrived at the table.  They were very good, and the portion size was huge.  I did not finish all of my pancakes, and what I did eat kept me satisfied until dinner time.  I was shocked to learn that Stack's uses Bob's Red Mill to make the pancakes, because they did not taste like it.  Maybe they are just using his gluten free all purpose baking flour or 1 to 1 baking flour instead of Bob's pancake mix, which I find to be pretty unappetizing.  We used to make pancakes with it when I was first diagnosed with celiac, but always blended in a banana to improve the taste and texture.

On the last morning of our trip, my husband and daughters dropped me off at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort to have breakfast while they went to Panera for bagels.

I ordered gluten free Mickey waffles with bacon at Tide Me Over, their quick service restaurant.  I enjoyed the waffles I had there last summer, so I had high hopes, but my waffles were very dry and crumbly.  They were not overcooked, so someone probably did not add enough liquid to the mix.  I had brought a container of blackberries with me, so I ate every bite with some fruit, which added some much needed moisture.  The cast member I spoke to at Tide Me Over said they have gluten free chicken tenders and gluten free bread to make sandwiches.  My friend Debbie, who has celiac, told me that Skillets Cafe & Grill at Coligny Plaza also does a good job with with gluten free, if you are looking for a restaurant to have breakfast at.

On the first and last day of our trip, we ate at Poseidon for lunch.  Poseidon notes gluten free options on their menus, and I love that all of their fried fish dishes are made with a corn breading that is gluten free, and cooked in a dedicated fryer.  This year, I decided to try the Rhode Island calamari appetizer, which is served with tomato sauce, and a spicy side of kalamata olives, cherry peppers, and pepperoncinis.  My whole family loved the calamari, even my daughter Emma, who rarely eats seafood.

For an entree, I chose the fried clams platter with french fries, and seasonal vegetables substituted for the confetti slaw.  The fried clams were just as good as they were last year, and I enjoyed my french fries and green beans.

The only gluten free option marked on the dessert menu was the creme brulee, but I asked if they could modify the sea turtle ice cream sundae for me like they did last summer.  This year, I was told that it is gluten free without the waffle chip and the chocolate sauce.  My sundae was made with vanilla ice cream, caramel sauce, whipped cream, a cherry, and a bunch of small chocolate turtles that I am pretty sure were filled with caramel.

I loved my first meal at Poseidon so much, my husband and I stopped there for lunch before we left Hilton Head Island.  I ordered the calamari appetizer as my meal, and had the sea turtle ice cream sundae again for dessert.  The second time around, I ordered it without the caramel sauce and with extra cherries.  My calamari was missing the tentacles pieces I love so much, and my sundae was served without whipped cream, but everything still tasted great.

My daughters and I had dinner with my aunt and uncle at WiseGuys and Frankie Bones last week.  They are both part of the Serg Restaurant Group that owns Poseidon.

The gluten free menu at WiseGuys is so large, I had a really hard time deciding what I wanted to order.  I ended up choosing two small plates - the wild mushroom risotto and the lobster risotto.  I ended up with so much risotto, I could not finish it all.  The wild mushroom risotto features an assortment of mushrooms, imported Parmesan, arugula, toasted hazelnuts, and a balsamic drizzle.  It reminded me of the mushroom risotto I love to order at Palo on the Disney Cruise Line.

The lobster risotto with roasted corn, spinach, grape tomatoes, and English pea was delicious, and probably my favorite of the two, but it was a little bit oversalted.

When I asked our server about gluten free dessert options, she mentioned a flourless chocolate cake, ice cream, and the creme brulee sampler.  I chose the sampler with vanilla, chocolate, Grand Marnier, and raspberry creme brulees.

The vanilla and chocolate were very good, but my favorites were the Grand Marnier, which had a delicious orange flavor, and the raspberry, which ranks as one of the best creme brulees I have ever had.  The service was great at WiseGuys, and my whole family enjoyed their meals.  Be sure to make reservations, and if you like to dine early like we do, WiseGuys has an early dining special of 25% off the entire check between 5:00 and 5:45.

I wanted to go to Frankie Bones, because I read a great review of their spaghetti squash primavera on the Find Me Gluten Free App, which I use everywhere we travel.

The spaghetti squash primavera features spinach, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots, mushrooms, pine nuts, pumpkin seeds, and fresh herbs in a light vegetable broth.  I added grilled shrimp, and asked for a side of Parmesan, because I thought it would need some cheese for extra flavor.  This dish might have been my favorite entree of our entire trip.  The primavera was so flavorful, I did not even need the cheese, and it had a slightly spicy kick I really enjoyed.  I would have preferred the shrimp sauteed and without tails instead of grilled, but overall, the spaghetti squash primavera was amazing.

For dessert, I order spumoni, which was a mix of white chocolate, pistachio, and cherry ice cream.  It was good, but I prefer the amazing spumoni at Maggiano's Little Italy in Orlando.

On the final night of our trip, my husband and I had dinner at Santa Fe Cafe, a restaurant my extended family used to go to on a regular basis, but has not been to in many years.

We started off with a red wine sangria and a white wine sangria.  They were good, but we were not overly impressed.  I remember loving the Wrangler Cut Rib Chop on previous visits, but we grilled Black Angus ribeye steaks from Harris Teeter the night before, so I was not in the mood for steak.

Mitch and I decided to share two dishes from the gluten free menu, so we ordered chicken fajitas and shrimp fajitas, but I ended up eating all the shrimp, because he loved his chicken, and I enjoyed the shrimp.

Santa Fe serves its fajitas with warm corn tortillas, Mexican peppers and onions, guacamole, tomatoes, and sour cream, but we asked for cheese instead.

I was a little disappointed by the presentation, because I am used to fajitas being served on a hot cast iron plate, and the vegetables having more of a char, but I enjoyed the flavors of my shrimp fajitas.

We stopped at Marche de Macarons to pick up macarons for dessert before going to Santa Fe for dinner, but it was closed for the night, so I decided to try the Kahlua chocolate mousse.  It was good, like the rest of our meal at Santa Fe, but I was not blown away by anything like I had hoped to be.

One of our favorite dessert spots on Hilton Head Island is Rita's at Coligny Plaza.  You can view their allergen chart here.  I ordered a gelati with vanilla custard and their all-natural banana Italian ice.  It was so good, I regretted not going there again before we left the island.  The day we visited, they did have one flavor of Italian ice with gluten, but the employee I spoke to told me they keep dedicated scoops in each container of Italian ice, so I did not have to worry about cross contamination.

While we were in Hilton Head, we tried Goodie Girl Midnight Brownie Cookies and Simple Mills Farmhouse Cheddar Almond Flour Crackers for the first time.  My gluten-eating daughters and uncle, and I all loved the cookies, which had an intense chocolate taste without being overly sweet.

My girls loved the crackers so much, they ate almost an entire box in one sitting.  They used to enjoy Cheez-It crackers, but we don't eat foods with gluten in our house, so I am glad to have found an alternative they like that has healthy ingredients.  The crackers can be purchased at Whole Foods, and the cookies can be found at The Fresh Market or Walmart.

Before leaving Hilton Head, I purchased Veggie Noodle Co. sweet potato, butternut squash, and zucchini spirals at Whole Foods.  If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you know I have been having a lot of fun experimenting with these vegetable noodles, which should be available in Florida soon.  You can view their store locator here.

Because of our move to California in July, we will probably not be vacationing on Hilton Head Island anymore, so it was great to have a chance to go there and spend time with family.  We will definitely be visiting the east coast at least once or twice a year, but not for a beach vacation.

What are your favorite places for gluten free dining on Hilton Head Island?


  1. Thank you so much for this post! My husband and I have a weekend getaway in Hilton Head later this summer and you have me looking forward to it even more now. I don't think I've ever seen such extensive gluten free menus! Wow! Thanks again and best of luck with your move.