Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Eating Gluten-Free at Beaches Turks and Caicos

I recently spent a week at Beaches Turks and Caicos, a member of the Sandal's resort family, with 22 other family members. It was wonderful! For a family with ages ranging from 3 months-70 years there was plenty for everyone to do.

Most importantly, I follow a gluten-free diet and they were very accommodating. One thing I wish they made more clear was that you need to fill out forms for all meals (including snacks) usually a day in advance, or the morning before a dinner, so the restaurants can prepare. You need to visit the "culinary concierge" in each village to look at menus and decide what you want. They then send the form to the restaurant to prepare your meal. I wasn't told they had those menus and was so confused as how I was supposed to know what I wanted to eat from any of the 16 restaurants. If you decide not to go to a place for a meal then no big deal, you aren't locked in. This process will alleviate a lot of the stress on you and the employees and makes for a much more enjoyable experience. It's a little annoying at first but stick with it.

Breakfast was a great experience. At most restaurants it starts being served at 7:30am. My favorite breakfast option was Schooner's because it was menu-based and they were good about gluten-free. I think I had breakfast there at least four times and got the pancakes twice. I even may have had "second-breakfast" a time or two. I liked Barefoot's omelets and wish I had gotten to try their waffles gluten-free but I just didn't get the opportunity. (Barefoot is great as long as you don't mind your feet in sand) There are several buffets for breakfast but the gluten-free options were typically very limited.

The lunch situation isn't as great as dinners or breakfast. There are fewer restaurant options and more buffets. Honestly I usually ate a TON at breakfast and had early dinners. I would usually have some grilled chicken, steak, or ribs from Arizona's for lunch but that was it! Do submit a request for gluten-free pizza at Bella Napoli (the pizza place closest to the beach) a day before so you can snack with your family. I wish I had done that a few times.

I loved all of the dinners - notably the fish dishes from Schooners and Barefoot. Definitely visit the french restaurant (if you're over 18) the food there is incredible. Several of us had the duck, or steak, and the escargots were apparently killer. The french onion soup was good but a little sweet. They also had a really yummy creme brulee - my go-to dessert if available. They even had gluten-free bread for me! Their servers were extra attentive as well.

Also check out the Cafe de Paris because they had some gluten-free snack-y options and great lattes. My favorite dessert was at Mario's - on Saturday and Sunday nights they have a buffet and have chocolate nut clusters and macaroons. I spent the rest of my week searching for a better dessert. My fiance is dairy-free and they also were very accommodating for him! Not too many dairy-free dessert options though.

My two favorite experiences were the teppanyaki restaurant, Kimono's and the sushi restaurant, Soy. Both of these places were out.of.this.world. I could eat everything at Kimono's! They prepared all of the food for the table (steak, fish, chicken, rice, and vegetables) and added the gluten-free sauces to my meats first and plated my food first. They then added the regular soy sauce and other sauces to the food for the table. Don't worry about not having enough food, trust me they gave me TONS of food and I loved every minute of it. Soy has hands-down the best sushi I have ever had and then even made me my own gluten-free plate and had gluten-free soy sauce. The service as usual was outstanding - I could have eaten at both of those places multiple times and I SO wish I had!

A word on the alcohol - as an all inclusive everything is included. You can get drinks with any alcohol you want, even premium brands. I was very partial to Tanqueray and tonics but they have every thing else imaginable including Jack Daniels, Bushmills, Jameson, Captain etc. I found the house wine really good as well but they do have a list of wines to buy if you want. I liked the house pino grigio the best even though I'm typically a chardonnay girl. The frozen drinks were excellent as well. My favorites were the pina colada and Miami vice (half pina colada and half strawberry daquiri). I also really liked the passion of paradise and mai tais - be sure to order with pineapple! The best part is when you are floating in the ocean, there is a drink guy that comes around and takes orders! Or if you're partial to the swim up bars, check out the Italian Village bar it's the best.

Absolute must-attend restaurants: Kimono's, and Soy. Standouts: Schooners, Barefoot, and the Petite Chateau. Not favorites: Neptunes and Arizona's.

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A few tips: A word of caution about the cross-contamination at buffets because I saw other guests double dipping the serving utensils. Aside from one buffet meal I didn't get sick the whole time. Ask the staff their story they are all super interesting - many of them are from Jamaica and not from TCI. Also check out karaoke night at Cricketers. Go on a snorkeling trip through beaches, not one advertised by the locals that troll the beach. The scuba package is pretty pricey and I you don't get as much actual dive time as you might think. Buy souvenirs at the local market they hold once a week outside of beaches because they are SO expensive at the airport. Also bring MORE than enough sunscreen as it is over $25 a bottle in the store. I used an entire bottle myself in a week and almost had to buy more.

Overall great experience and we will certainly be going back, maybe to a resort at Jamaica as well!!

1 comment:

  1. Can you give me more information on the dairy free options? We are traveling to Beaches Ocho Rios soon with the same dietary restrictions. Gluten free adult but the dairy free is an allergic child. It sounds like the adult can eat fine but I'm very concerned about dairy free pancakes and sweets for the kiddo. I've emailed ahead of time about possible delivery of desserts from a local vegan restaurant and not had any information given.

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