Not Your Average Airport Food: Hyatt in Orlando

I’m looking down from my hotel room in the Hyatt Regency, Orlando, Florida, watching people check in for their flights. I’ve never stayed in a hotel that’s actually inside of an airport, and I can’t help thinking about that Tom Hanks movie (The Terminal) where, because of immigration issues, he becomes stuck in the airport for months. When the poor guy runs out of money, he starts eating serving-sized ketchup and mustard between Saltines and bathes and shaves in the airport restrooms.

The only similarity to my staying here and the movie is that I haven’t left the hotel/airport since arrival. Except for when my husband and I got a rental car and drove it around the block to the hotel parking garage. (We didn’t know the hotel lobby was a five-minute walk from our gate. Guess we just wanted to pay the overnight parking fee.)

Hyatt, Orlando Florida

Unlike the character in the movie, my meals have been outstanding–and you know an allergic foodie rarely dishes out praise for hotel food.

Lucky for me, our hotel room is on the same floor as Hemisphere Steak and Seafood Restaurant. Lucky because when we walked to our room yesterday, I caught a glimpse of the menu with many “GF”s next to entrees. Always a good sign!

A few hours later, after my husband went off to a dinner meeting, I dined alone at Hemisphere. Of course, I am never really alone when I have Instagram, Twitter, and texting. Here’s the photo of my meal and view I posted to Instagram.

Hemisphere Restaurant in Orlando Airport

A moist Scottish salmon on lentils with a touch of cilantro. Delish. And the microgreens with beets and balsamic dressing that I inhaled before I could take a photo was wonderful, too.

Before I ordered, the pleasant chef came out to  discuss my allergies–kudos!!!–and though the kitchen staff got a little confused about the salad’s goat cheese (I can eat goat cheese but not cow cheese), I appreciated them leaving all cheese off because they wanted me to be safe. Besides, I took the goat cheese back to my room for an after-drinking apple and cheese snack.

When I travel, I ALWAYS, ALWAYS take along a package of Main Street gluten-free instant oatmeal for breakfast.  No need this time–this Hyatt actually has gluten-free muffins! Honestly, these are the best GF muffins I’ve tasted.

GF Muffins at Hyatt

What’s wrong with this picture? Yes, the GF muffins are served next to the gluten-laced muffins. However, the server went back to the kitchen to get me non-contaminated ones–along with a few extras for a midday snack.

As I waddled out of the restaurant, I asked the hostess if all Hyatt Hotels were so allergy-friendly. I didn’t mention that I ‘d stayed at a few in the past that weren’t.

She mentioned Hyatt’s new global initiative: “Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.”

Kudos to Hyatt.

Marriott: I hope you are reading this!!! I have NEVER EVER ate breakfast at a Marriott, unless you count a brown banana and a handful of walnuts breakfast.

The pleasant hostess also mentioned the kitchen has rice and soy milk available for those of us with dairy allergies. Now it would have been nice to know this when I said I had a dairy allergy.  I also had to ask a lot of questions about the buffet line food. Are the potatoes cooked in butter? What’s in the sausage? Is the bacon cooked on the same grill as the pancakes?

If Hyatt truly wants to “carefully serve,” I suggest management comes up with an Allergy Menu including at least the top 8 allergens. While the staff today was top notch, a little more training could make them exceptional.

Still, if I had to be stuck in an airport for months, this is definitely the airport (and hotel) I’d want to be stuck in.

Not Your Average Airport Food originally appeared at Adventures of An Allergic Foodie.

What is this in my cheese?

Everywhere I go this holiday season, huge festive plates of crackers and cheese tease my allergic taste buds. BA (before allergies), I loved cheese! After all, I grew up in Vermont, the state that has more cows per capita than humans. As if it was yesterday, I remember enjoying thick cheddar on apple pie, melted Swiss on rye crackers, cream cheese swirled in broccoli, ricotta lasagna, parmesan sprinkled on spaghetti.

Glorious Cheese!

Then I was diagnosed with a dairy allergy.  Sigh.

Seeking help at the healthfood store, I discovered the most common alternative to dairy cheese is vegan cheese . . . made from soy.

I’m allergic to soy.

So I turned to nut cheeses. I’m not allergic to nuts. Nut cheese will do in a pinch (and some allergic foodies love them), but honestly I don’t find cheeses made from almonds and cashews and hazelnuts all that flavorful (I do like almond yogurt flavored with fruit though!).

This allergic foodie did a happy dance when she discovered cheese made from goat’s and sheep’s milk (this was a few years back, before goat cheese became so popular). I thought the goats and sheep had saved me

goat

until I got sick, really sick, after eating a goat cheese salad.  Imagine my disappointment when I read that many allergic foodies who can’t eat dairy also can’t eat goat’s or sheep’s milk.  C’mon!  Can’t a cheese-loving allergic foodie get a break?!

According to The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Food Allergies, “If you are allergic to one food group, you may also be allergic to another food in the same family because they share similar proteins.”   The authors include cow and goat under the listing of “dairy proucts.”  The Food Allergy and Anaphalaxis Nework states on their web site  that goat milk is not a safe alternative to cow’s milk.  Many other foodies I’ve talked with say they are indeed allergic to both cow and goat and sometimes sheep.

Cover of

Cover via Amazon

Go Dairy Free: The Guide and Cookbook for Milk Allergies, Lactose Intolerance, and Casein-Free Living provides some more positive info.  The author writes, “Goat milk is slightly closer in composition to human milk than cow milk is, with proteins that may be easier to digest. It is estimated that 20 to 40% of milk allergic individuals do not react to goat milk [my emphasis].” However, she goes on to say, “Milk allergic individuals should obtain an allergy test prior to trialing, as most people who are allergic to cow milk have similar reactions to goat milk. Plus, a rare few are in fact more allergic to [the casein or whey in] goat milk.”

cheese making

Ah ha.  Maybe it wasn’t the goat part I was allergic to, but rather the other strange-sounding and -looking stuff in my cheese.  I dug out my massive allergy-testing paperwork from ImuPro, as it’s been a few years since I’ve read the results. Under the category of “milk products,” I had no allergic reaction to camel’s milk and mare’s milk–those should be easy to find on the grocery shelf!–and [insert drum roll here] I had no reaction to SHEEP’S MILK AND CHEESE.

Reading on . . . it appears I have a slight reaction to goat cheese (blame my allergy-induced brain fog for not remembering that one!).  I am also quite allergic to halloumi, rennet, kefir, and whey.  Huh?  I’ve often seen these ingredients listed on the labels of dairy products, but since I’m not sure what they are, I put on my investigative hat. I discovered a lot of ingredient and allergy crossover, which probably explains my reactions to most types of cheeses.

Halloumi is a semi-hard and unripened brined cheese made from a mixture of cow’s, goat’s and sheep’s milk (gotta read those labels carefully).  It is set with rennetTrader Joe’s has a handy list of rennet definitions.  Basically, animal rennet is an enzyme that comes from the stomach (yuck!) of a suckling calf, lamb or goat; vegetable rennet is derived from plants (soy alert!); and microbial rennet is derived from microorganisms (fungi and bacteria; mold alert!) through a process of fermentation.

Kefir, according to my ImuPro test, is a thick and slightly alcoholic fermented milk product that is often used for milk mix drinks, sweets or sauces.  I’ve seen kefir advertised lately as a health benefit, but certainly not for those of us who are allergic to it.  Finally, whey is the watery liquid that separates from the solid part of milk when it turns sour or when enzymes are added in cheese making.

Wow.  Cheese is not my friend.*  My best guess is that when I developed leaky gut, I was eating a lot of cheese and crackers with my wine.  This holiday season I’ll be grabbing the grapes.

* In Italy, I ate mozzarella made from water buffalo–no reaction!

Resources:

Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Nework

Go Dairy Free

What Is This In My Food?

Cow’s milk can be disguised under the labels of:

  • Buttermilk
  • Butter (Many restaurants I’ve encountered don’t realize butter is dairy!)
  • Casein
  • Hydrolysed milk
  • Lacatalbumin
  • Lactoglobulin
  • Lactoserum
  • Milk proteins
  • Whole milk, dried whole milk, concentrated milk
  • Sour cream

(Note: Lactic Acid is not derived from dairy.)