A Taste of Paradise in the Bahamas,
January 14, 2011
The Atlantis is a mega-resort with seemingly endless choices for accommodations, dining, and activities: five separate hotels plus private villas; 40 restaurants, bars, and lounges; a flashy casino; the country’s hottest nightclub; a swanky shopping mall; and a 140-acre waterscape.
It is not an all-inclusive resort but they do offer meal plans. At the time we visited in August 2010, the two meal plans were called Casual Dining Plan and Gourmet Dining Plan, and each included a full American or continental breakfast and dinner daily at selected restaurants with a choice of appetizer, soup or salad, one entree, dessert, and non-alcoholic beverages. These plans are now called Value Dining Plan, (which limits guests to two buffet restaurants - Seagrapes and Marketplace - and a new BBQ place) and Atlantis Dining Plan (which offers a great assortment of casual and fine dining).
Dinner reservations are not accepted at buffet restaurants, so it’s advisable to go early or late. For other places, having reservations is practically a requirement to get in, so make them as soon as possible (see FAQs on Atlantis website).
Regardless of the meal plan, Atlantis guests with special dietary needs are advised to fill out the “Guest Allergy/Dietary Needs Planner” prior to their stay. A travel agent arranged the trip for my family, so the agent inquired about gluten-free meals and sent me the forms I needed to fill out. If making the reservation yourself, call directly to the chef’s office. Guests are also advised to contact the Culinary Executive once at the resort.
Despite the preliminary work, none of the restaurants where we had reservations had been notified of my gluten-free needs, nor did the Chef’s Office answer my questions about what gluten-free breakfast foods would be available. That was a disappointment but not an obstacle.
So on our first day at Atlantis I stopped by Seagrapes to make arrangements for my breakfast the following morning and called Bimini Road (where we had reservations for dinner that night) to inform them of my need for a gluten free meal. This was a pattern I repeated nearly every day, except that by the second morning at Seagrapes I became affectionately known as the “Gluten Free Lady” and was asked each day if I wanted to speak with the chef about getting a specially prepared meal. Eggs, bacon, yogurt, and fruit for breakfast were the norm, along with the occasional gluten free muffin or pancakes. The chef will prepare all of this fresh so there’s no risk of cross-contamination at the buffet bars. Gluten free cereal was not available anywhere at Atlantis, so I was thankful I’d brought some from home with me.
Bimini Road specializes in local cuisine. The chef personally fried a snapper fillet in the back kitchen for me, away from the busy front kitchen where flour is heavily used, and suggested grilled shrimp with butter and lime sauce for an appetizer, and a baked potato and salad for the sides. The chef at Chop Stix, a Chinese restaurant, reviewed the menu with me and said to order almost anything on the menu because he could make it gluten free.
On the night we dined at Carmine’s, with its classic Italian cuisine, problems started right from the get-go when we didn’t get seated until 30 minutes past our reservation time. When I asked to speak to a chef, the manger appeared instead to explain that all dishes at Carmine’s were prepared family-style and meant to serve 3-4 people. As nearly everyone in our group of 10 had their stomachs set on fried, flour-dredged, or pasta rich dishes, I thought surely the restaurant would prepare a small separate meal for me. But that was not the case. A compromise was finally reached when the kitchen agreed to sautee one chicken cutlet sans flour and to serve the remaining chicken marsala separately; they refused to modify any of the sauces to make them gluten-free. They also permitted me to order a kid’s sized plate of gluten free pasta, but would only serve it with marinara sauce.
The chef at Marketplace advised against eating from the buffet lines! Instead, she escorted me around the food stations, pointing out choices available at the restaurant, and then instructed me to tell her exactly what I wanted to eat because she could prepare a fresh gluten free version of most selections, including gluten free pasta. Understandably, though, some dishes just couldn’t be prepared gluten-free, so most of my meals at Atlantis tended to be simple. Think grilled items and sauteed vegetables.
The biggest surprise at Marketplace was its table of delectable desserts for people with food allergies. Sadly, the flourless chocolate cake, lemon cheesecake, and assorted pastries were so luscious that everyone who passed by felt compelled to take a morsel, contaminating the specialty items with gluten. When I pointed this out to the hostess she promptly fetched a fresh gluten free chocolate cake, a slice of which I enjoyed immensely. The bigger concern of cross-contamination at the dessert table was left unresolved, however, and was at odds with the gluten awareness expressed by chefs I talked with at the various restaurants.
To see my full travel article go to: http://wayoftheceliactraveler.blogspot.com/2011/01/taste-of-paradise.html