Monday, October 22, 2018

Kona Cafe Breakfast - Disney's Polynesian Village Resort

During our trip to Disney World in July, we had breakfast at Kona Cafe, a table service restaurant at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort.


Kona Cafe has an allergy-friendly menu that lists options for people with gluten/wheat, milk, egg, soy, peanut/tree nut, and fish/shellfish allergies.


Gluten-friendly breakfast options include two eggs any style, the Loco Moco, fruit plate, allergy-friendly waffles, ham and cheese omelet, creamy grits with smoked gouda, bacon, spiced ham, pork sausage, and a fresh fruit cup.


The steel-cut oatmeal with apple is listed as gluten/wheat friendly, but I highly doubt that Kona is using certified gluten free oats, so I would not order this dish if you have celiac disease without speaking to a chef. I have asked about oats at other Disney restaurants, and have never found one that is using safe oats. I have contacted the Special Diets Team about this issue, and have talked to several chefs about oats, so I hope that allergy-friendly menus will be not list oats as safe for gluten/wheat allergies in the future, unless they have certified gluten free oats on hand.


Gluten-friendly options on the Kids' Menu include scrambled eggs, and allergy-friendly Mickey-shaped waffles or pancakes with bacon, sausage, or a fruit cup. The oatmeal with dried cranberries is listed as an option for people with gluten/wheat allergies, but again, I would caution you about ordering this dish if you have celiac disease.


When we visited Kona Cafe over Thanksgiving Break, I ordered allergy-friendly waffles with sausage. They were so good, we decided to visit Kona again in July. My gluten-eating husband and daughters are huge fans of the Tonga Toast, so they are always excited to visit Kona Cafe for breakfast.


I did not even think to ask what waffle mix they were using at Kona in July, because the waffles had been so good in November, but I should not have assumed that they were using the same mix.


I ordered a side of the strawberry compote that comes with the Tonga Toast to eat with my waffles. It has become one of my favorite waffle toppings at Disney World. I was excited when I was served a mix of Mickey and Stitch waffles. On past visits, I have only had Mickey waffles. As I started to eat my waffles, I realized that they were not as good as the last time I ordered them at Kona, so I asked to speak to a chef, who confirmed that they had switched to Carbon's Golden Malted gluten free waffle & pancake mix, which contains soy, and is made on shared lines with wheat, eggs, and milk, which the manufacturer confirmed in an email to me.


My biggest issue with the Golden Malted gluten free waffle mix is that the manufacturer does not disclose that it is made on shared lines on their packaging or on their website, so every Disney chef I have spoken to about it did not know that the mix is made on shared equipment. A chef at the Grand Floridian Cafe told one of my blog readers that the Golden Malted gluten free waffle mix is the safest waffle mix at Disney World, because it is made in a dedicated gluten free facility, which is not the case. As a celiac, I do not feel comfortable eating products made on shared lines, even if the lines are cleaned well, and the product is certified gluten free, which is the case with the Golden Malted gluten free mix. I asked Holly Gouker, the Retail Operations Manager at New Carbon, why the Golden Malted gluten free waffle mix is not labeled with a warning that it is made on shared equipment. The food safety department at New Carbon told Holly that those statements/warnings are not a requirement of the FDA, which is true, but she then went on to say that the FDA actually frowns upon those types of statements being added to packaging. What?!?!?


I have contacted Disney Special Diets about this mix twice, and even emailed Gary Jones, the head of Special Diets at Disney World. Special Diets always replies to my email with a very polite, generic response, but I have never heard back from Gary Jones. In the past, Disney restaurants have used Namaste, Bob's Red Mill, and/or Cup4Cup mixes to make their allergy-friendly waffles and pancakes. Namaste Waffle & Pancake Mix is the most allergy-friendly, because it is free from the top 8 allergens, and made in a dedicated top 8 free facility. I don't know of any restaurants using Cup4Cup pancake & waffle mix anymore, but some are still using Namaste, Bob's Red Mill, or a mix of Namaste and Bob's, but they are becoming harder and harder to find. In July, the waffles I had at Sanaa were so much better than the waffles made with Carbon's Golden Malted gluten free mix at Kona Cafe. I keep wondering why Disney chefs would use a mix that does not taste very good, and why Disney would use a product that is made on shared lines. Maybe it is because it is easy to make. Chefs just need to add water. Maybe it is a price issue. The Golden Malted gluten free mix is made by the manufacturer of Disney's waffle irons, and their regular waffle mix. There is a chance that Disney did not know that Carbon's Golden Malted gluten free waffle & pancake mix is made on shared lines when they first started buying it, but they definitely know now with all the people that have contacted them about this issue. I don't know of any restaurants using it at Disneyland, but the Golden Malted gluten free mix is used at Disney's Hilton Head Island Resort, and Aulani, Disney's Resort & Spa in Hawaii, which is why I did not order waffles there this summer.



If you are concerned about Disney using this mx, you can contact Special Diets at special.diets@disneyworld.com. If you do not like to eat products made on shared equipment, I suggest you talk to a chef before ordering waffles or pancakes at Disney World. If a restaurant is using the Golden Malted gluten free mix, ask if they have Namaste too. Some restaurants will have more than one mix, because Golden Malted is not top 8 free.


Thankfully, the waffles I had at Kona Cafe were more edible than the waffles I had last November at the Grand Floridian Cafe. Their waffles made with the Golden Malted gluten free waffle mix were so bad, I had to send them back. They did not have much flavor, and they were very dry. I ordered bacon with my waffles at Kona Cafe in July, but I had to ask about it a few minutes after my waffles were served, when I realized that it was probably not coming. We have eaten many meals at Kona Cafe for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and have frequently been disappointed in the service there. Sadly, this was one of those visits that we had a very un-Disney server, who was not very pleasant. Before we moved to California, I talked to a manager about our poor service experiences, which I have never had to do at any other Disney restaurant.


Heather Wilkinson with Middle of the Magic Travel dined at Kona Cafe shortly after we did. She loved her macadamia nut pancakes served with macadamia nut butter, pineapple sauce, and a side of sausage. Heather's pancakes were made with Namaste waffle & pancake mix. This entree is not on Kona's allergy-friendly menu, but the pancakes are available gluten free if you ask to speak to a chef. 

You can read more about Kona Cafe, make advance dining reservations, and view their menus and hours on Disney's website

What are your favorite gluten free options at Kona Cafe? 

P.S. Just a heads up that one of my blog readers contacted Carbon's Customer Service Team about how they manufacture their gluten free waffle mix, and received this response:
"At our gluten free facility, every batch of gluten free mix made is tested. The equipment is tested as well, and we even have the product retested after it is packaged."
After reading this, my blog reader assumed that the Golden Malted gluten free waffle & pancake mix is made in a dedicated gluten free facility, but if you read carefully, the email does not mention a dedicated gluten free facility. There would be no need to test the equipment if the mix was made in a dedicated gluten free facility. I passed on this email to Holly Gouker, my contact at Carbon, to reconfirm that the mix is made on shared equipment, but she has not responded to my last two emails, so what does that tell you?

I am glad that New Carbon is going to such lengths to make sure that their gluten free mix is safe, even testing it to 5 ppm, but they should not try and hide that their products are made on shared equipment with top 8 allergens. Their customers with allergies deserve to know that the Golden Malted gluten free mix is made on shared lines, so they can make an informed decision about whether they want to consume this product.

Golden Malted gluten free waffle & pancake mix contains the following ingredients: white rice flour, degerminated yellow corn flour, soy flour, sugar, monocalcium phosphate, sodium bicarbonate, salt, cornstarch, natural vanilla flavor, xanthan gum. Multiple times, I have tried to post a review of Carbon's Golden Malted gluten free waffle & pancake mix on their website, but I guess they only publish 5 star reviews.

I am not happy that Disney is using the Golden Malted gluten free waffle & pancake mix, but it is still one of my favorite vacation spots for safe gluten free food. Hopefully, Gary Jones and the Special Diets team will rethink their decision to use this product in the future.

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