Restaurant Review: Game, Louisville, Kentucky

Game, Louisville, Kentucky
Game, Louisville, Kentucky

Restaurant: Game, Louisville, Kentucky

I admit it…there isn’t too much a gluten-free vegetarian can say about a restaurant called Game, right?  Well, honestly…yes.  There really isn’t.  After all, Game, a hot restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, is known for it’s variety of different proteins that it serves up in various forms, but specifically as a burger.  Although, you can do a meatball flight if you want.

Why was I at Game?

Well, you see…for a long time now, the roomie has been wanting to check out this restaurant.  For one thing, it is the one place in Louisville where she can try bone marrow.  For another thing…she’s turned into quite the foodie as of late.  As for the other reason, the biggest foodie we know, our friend Indy, from California, was in town.  When we first mentioned her coming out to visit, this restaurant seemed like a point of great interest.  Therefore, we made it our first official meal together on her first full day in the area.

We arrived shortly after they opened, having had a light breakfast that morning in preparation for a great lunch.  We walked in and took a seat at one of the tables.  Our server came over with menus and left us a drink menu.  I’m in training for more marathons, so I stuck to water.  So did Cathy.  Indy was hoping to try a local brew of beer, and we finally found one for her to give a try.  And as we were helping, we were all taking a look at the menu.  Cathy and Indy decided they would split the bone marrow appetizer…just to see what it was like.  So, when our server returned, all I had to do was explain that I was the oddball as a gluten-free vegetarian.  She suggested the Seasonal Salad, which, honestly was the only thing I could eat on the menu.  With that being said…we placed our orders.

Cathy and Indy did, in fact, order the Bone Marrow ($8.00) to split as an appetizer.  Then, Cathy went ahead and ordered a Wild Boar Burger ($9.00), which came accompanied with greens, tomato, goat cheese, and cranberry-jalapeno jam, served on an everything bun.  Indy ordered a Meatball Sampler, consisting of Elk ($3.00), Antelope ($3.00), and Wild Boar ($3.00).  So, the carnivores in the group were happy.

I went ahead and, instead of eating my protein bar I packed…just in case…I ordered the Seasonal Salad ($6.00).  The waitress also recommended the fries, which were gluten-free as nothing is fried there except potatoes.  And it was done in Canola oil.  So, at the prompting of Cathy and Indy…we ordered a Basket of French Fries ($4.00) to split amongst us.

And so, we started to get caught up since it had been since September since we last saw each other.  There was much to discuss and talk about.  We were distracted when I guy walked into the window…which was utterly hilarious.  Everyone else in the restaurant thought so too.  Especially his buddies.  It really was funny.  But, soon, the bone marrow made it’s way to the table.  It was a half of a bone, topped with parmesan, poblano, and rosemary.  It was served with crostini as a vessel in which to eat it on.  Cathy was the first to dive in.  She, however, managed to only get the cheesy, bread-y topping on the first go, leaving the gelatinous bone marrow down.  She remedied that, however, and then Indy had a go.  And…they seemed pretty indifferent, both agreeing that it definitely needed the topping so that it just wasn’t this oozey gooey…stuff.  So…they feasted on that and finished up just as the entrees were arriving.  Good timing.

So…a salad.

Not much I can really say about it.  It was a mix of greens topped off with Craisins and some herbed goat cheese.  It has a delicious strawberry dressing, however, I will give it that.  Otherwise, it was a simple salad.  Nothing that really set it apart, save that it was served on a wooden plank with a few apple slices.  I enjoyed munching on the apple slices in between bites.  As for the fries…well…they were really good.  But there were a lot of them there.  The three of us did what damage we could, but there were still too many for us in the basket.  They had the perfect crispness outside with the soft potato inside…yummy.  And definitely fried to perfection.  But, I can only tolerate so much fried food these days and I was done with these pretty quickly, despite how delicious they are and the fact that I love fries.  Eating them in a restaurant is a treat for me, so I’m very glad we ordered them.  Perfectly seasoned.  And really good.  Is it odd I went on more about the fries than the salad?  Let’s face it…if you don’t have something about a salad that sets it apart…it’s greens, cheese, and sometimes nuts or dried fruit.  That’s what this was.  I can make that salad at home, in all honesty.  But the dressing was stellar.  For real.

And that was that.  A vegetarian with food allergies went to eat at a meat-heavy restaurant…and survived.  It was definitely an interesting experience, and I would go back again.  Especially since Cathy has voiced some thoughts on trying other types of meat there.  They do have veggie burgers available for those vegetarians that do not have a gluten allergy.  The problem is they use breadcrumbs as a binder…so that wasn’t going to work for me.  The two different vegetarian patties that they do offer sound amazing, however.  If only I could have eaten one.

So…chalk it up for an interesting experience at Game in Louisville, Kentucky.  I’m glad both Cathy and Indy got to experience it and take in a few different proteins they normally wouldn’t have been able to find on a local menu.

Game's Seasonal Salad
Game’s Seasonal Salad

Product Review: Gillian’s Foods Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons

Gillian's Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons
Gillian’s Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons

Product Review: Gillian’s Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons – $4.49+

Three years.

Three very long years since I last had croutons on my salad.  Have I missed them?  Eh…sometimes?  I mean, there comes a moment when you just want to have that little extra crunch to your salad…not from the lettuce or the carrots or the other fresh veggies that are making up said bowl of raw veggie goodness.  Sometimes…that little extra seasoning and crispiness is what you desire.  And…when you are a Celiac…well…that doesn’t get to happen.

Sure, I could dry out some gluten-free bread and bake up my own in the oven.  Of course.  But, do you know how expensive gluten-free bread is??!  I’ll use that for my sandwiches and French toast, thank you very much!

Lo and behold, on a recent outing to my mom’s favorite store in the Birmingham, Alabama area – Organic Harvest – I spotted a pouch of gluten-free croutons on the shelf of the very first aisle.  Hence a stocking up of various items that I can’t get around here.

That being said…the croutons were from Gillian’s Gluten-Free.

Now, I’ve had one other product from Gillian’s Gluten-Free product line.  It was their French Rolls, a gift from my friend Kathy, in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  And I loved them.  I truly did.  I used them numerous ways…even as hamburger buns.  So, I figured picking up something else of the Gillian’s line-up would be a great way to see what else they can do.

So, into my arms went the pouch of Gillian’s Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons.

Mmmm…garlic.

Ahem.

Anyway…with my CSA bin deliveries back on since I’ve been in town the past couple of weekends, I have a freakin’ heap of lettuce just begging to be used.  So, I took the lettuce, grape tomatoes, onion, avocado and cucumber from the bin the other night and made a huge, but epically delicious salad for dinner.  And…to add to it…I figured why not give the Gillian’s Foods Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons a go.  I got them down from the shelf in the pantry, measured out a serving and…dinner was served.

On their own, the Gillian’s Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons don’t offer much flavor.  In fact, they are a little bland.  But, no one really eats croutons plain, right?  The point is that they compliment the salad and vice-versa.  That was totally the case.  Once blended on the salad and eaten with the variety of vegetables, these cubes of crunchy garlic-y goodness totally transformed.  In fact, I was wishing a serving was bigger than it was, because these were absolutely great mixed in with other ingredients and topped off with a light drizzle of a balsamic dressing.

Both myself and Cathy (the infamous roomie) were impressed.  And Cathy loves croutons…so I knew it would be a miracle to impress her.  Especially since we were both ‘meh’ on the croutons alone.  These little nuggets of goodness add the right amount of crunch and flavor without being too much for the vegetables in the salad.  Loving them!

Gillian’s Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons are made from white rice flour, tapioca flour, water, soy flour, guar gum, egg whites, soy oil, yeast, salt, sugar, granulated garlic, oregano and basil.  They are shelf-stable and are completely gluten-free, wheat-free and dairy-free.

As far as their nutritional value goes, a serving size of Gillian’s Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons is 7 ounces, or about 4-6 croutons, depending on size.  I weighed my serving out.  This serving will provide you with only 15 calories and 0.5 grams of fat.  Nice!!  Not heavy on calories or fat?  I love that.  You will also be consuming 45 mg sodium.  These are sugar-free, trans-fat free, and cholesterol free.  Also, you will be provided with 1 gram of fiber, but no additional protein.  But if you choose the right veggies for your salad…that’s a non-issue anyway.

Yes…it has been a long, long time since I last enjoyed the crispy, crunchy goodness of croutons on my salad.  My hope is that I can find these somewhere around here…or else I’m stocking up when I head to Birmingham next time.  Definitely more impressed than I expected.  And that…is only a good thing!

Gillian's Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons atop a delicious salad
Gillian’s Gluten-Free Garlic Croutons atop a delicious salad

Recipe: Shredded Rainbow Salad

You ever look at the food you have in your fridge and wonder what you might be able to make with all of it?  Especially when, in the next couple days, another fresh produce delivery will land on your doorway and you’ve barely scratched the surface of the last bin as it was delivered later than usual due to weather?  Or something to that affect?

That’s my life these days.  The Polar Vortex caused there to be a delay in my CSA bin delivery…which isn’t a problem…but it gave me fewer days to work through the fresh produce.  I’ve managed some…but I still have plenty left.

That being said…Jamie Oliver came to my rescue tonight.  For dinner I got out my brand-spankin’-new food processor and whipped up a delicious, healthy, and colorful salad from the fresh produce I had on hand.  The dressing was a magical touch.  Talk about clean eating!

Recipe: Shredded Rainbow Salad

Shredded Rainbow Salad
Shredded Rainbow Salad

Servings: 8
Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients for Salad:

  • 2 raw medium beets (any color) trimmed, scrubbed & quartered
  • 4 leaves kale
  • 2 large carrots, scrubbed & trimmed
  • 1/4 white cabbage, quartered
  • 1 apple, quartered
  • 1 cup walnuts, roughly bashed


Ingredients for Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • sea salt & ground pepper
  • Gluten-Free Tamari
  • hot sauce (I used Sriracha)


Directions:

Put a coarse grater attachment into a food processor and push ingredients through in the following order (to stop the beets from staining everything): beets, kale, carrots, white cabbage and apple. (If your food processor is small, do this in batches.)

Turn vegetables out onto a platter so get a pile of rainbow colors.

Mix the mustard, vinegar, and oil, then season with salt, pepper, tamari, and hot sauce.

Add walnuts and toss everything together until you get a big, beautiful plate of dressed vegetables.

~*~*~

Simple…but the flavors are amazing and work well together.  You get this great sweetness from the beets and the apple.  The cabbage and carrots give this earthy flavor.  And the kale…just a bit of that bitter zing.  Topping it with walnuts gives an added boost to the texture.  And the dressing…necessary.  It ties it all together.

My roommate declared this her favorite way to eat a salad.  Me…I devoured it!  Healthy and delicious.  Definitely making this again!

 

Product Review: Vegenaise Tartar Sauce

Vegenaise Tartar Sauce
Vegenaise Tartar Sauce

Product: Vegenaise Tartar Sauce – $4.49+

Ah…tartar sauce.

I have a love-hate relationship with this condiment.

For one thing, when I used to eat fish, I normally would drown it in ketchup.  Mmmm…ketchup.

But every now and again, I’d give the tartar sauce a try.  And I never really liked it.  Sometimes…I was pleasantly surprised and then lulled into this sense of false hope…and I would try it somewhere else and it would be gross and just…not to my taste.

Then, when I had to go dairy-free…I totally ditched this sauce all together.

But, when I was reviewing some items from Sophie’s Kitchen (vegan sea food, FTW!), my friend Kari mentioned the crab cakes with the tartar sauce from Vegenaise.  Vegan. Tartar. Sauce.

Okay…I was intrigued.  I knew two local grocery stores carried the vegan crab cakes from Sophie’s Kitchen…and I knew Whole Foods had the Tartar Sauce from Vegenaise.  So…I set out a spot in the budget to purchase and then consume both.

My roomie was on board and so…we hit up Whole Foods and purchased both items.  Dinner was going to be interesting.  I just prayed it all was good.

So…a little while ago, I pulled the vegan crab cakes out of the freezer and said that dinner would be those…with a healthy helping of homemade kale chips.  And I would serve the cakes over bibb lettuce from my bin.  Originally I was going to place them between gluten-free buns…but I was out of those.  So…this was my compromise.  I heated the crab cakes as instructed on the box, and while that was working, I got the vegetables working and finally…the sauce.

My roommate has the same sort of love-hate relationship with tartar sauce as well.  She is not gluten-free nor vegetarian, but since I am the cook in the apartment, that’s what she eats.  She is a huge aficionado for fish and chips when we go out to eat, however…and she has made a habit to at least try the house tartar sauce.  Sometimes she raves…sometimes she picks up the ketchup and goes to town.  But we thought we would give Vegenaise a fair shake.  So, into a little dish, I spooned out a serving of the Vegenaise Tartar Sauce.  The crab cakes finished, I plated everything…and it was time to dig in.

I was a little worried about flavor, but I trusted my friend Kari.  She raved.  She and I like a lot of the same flavors and foods…so…I was worried, but I had high hopes.  I know now to always trust Kari…because the Vegenaise Tartar Sauce was some of the best sauce I have tasted in my life.  Not just tartar sauce either…spanning ALL THE SAUCES! Filled with a tangy, delicious flavor, it was the perfect compliment to the vegan crab cakes and the greens I served them on.  OMG…so freakin’ good!  It was love at first taste and I took the opportunity to pile it onto my vegan crab cakes until it was gone.  Now I keep thinking of other vegan sea food dishes where I could utilize this sauce.  It is SO good.

Veganaise Tartar Sauce is made from a base of Vegenaise (vegan mayonnaise), sweet relish, yellow onion puree, white wine vinegar, vegan Worcestershire sauce, black pepper, and xanthan gum.  Not bad when it comes to ingredients, right?  My thoughts exactly.  And nothing is weird…it’s all ingredients I have heard of and trust.  Vegenaise is also vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, non-GMO, and soy-free.  Loving it!

Nutritionally speaking, on serving is 2 tablespoons.  This serving will serve you up a side of 120 calories and 13 grams of fat.  It seems high, but it is a vegan mayonnaise-based sauce, right?  And regular mayonnaise would be the same way.  So, it’s really not too bad for what it is.  This small serving also gives you 125 mg sodium and 2 grams of sugar.  That’s awesome.  This is also trans-fat free and cholesterol free.  In addition, this sauce has no fiber in it, but you do get 2 grams of protein.  So, yeah…it’s not totally healthy, but it isn’t bad for you either.

And did I mention how freakin’ good it is?  Seriously.  In love with a sauce.  It’s my new favorite.  YUMMY!!

A serving of Vegenaise Tartar Sauce
A serving of Vegenaise Tartar Sauce

What I Ate in Colorado

With our California girls needing to return to work…and since we were sort of already out that way…and sort of missed out on our usual journey to Denver, Colorado in April due to my roomie’s teammate…Cathy and I decided that we would take that journey to Colorado.  I admit, for much of the planning stages, tacking on the Denver portion was a nightmare…but we got it all worked out.  And with that, we got to spend Wednesday through Sunday in beautiful Colorado.

There is so much to do and see in Colorado…and we’ve been here enough times that we have our favorites that we wouldn’t miss out on…ever.  But, we also had our sights on some new adventures, both with friends and with food.

So…here’s how a gluten-free vegetarian eats while in Colorado!

Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro – Lafayette, Colorado

Zamparelli's Italian Bistro, Lafayette, Colorado
Zamparelli’s Italian Bistro, Lafayette, Colorado

It was our first day in Colorado.  After landing at the Denver airport and getting our rental car (free upgrade to the Toyota Prius), we hit the road for our drive up to the Boulder, Colorado area.  We were staying at the Boulder Twin Lake Inn, where many a famous runner has spent the night.  I was thrilled.  I was hoping maybe I was in the room Shalane Flanagan stayed in so that I could channel some of her speed.  The inn is actually owned by runners, which is why it is popular with runners.  Well, after getting checked in, we were starving…so Cathy and I made a short little drive to Lafayette, Colorado.  Our Find Me Gluten-Free app had directed us toward a place called Zaparelli’s Italian Bistro…and it had many gluten-free options.  Including…gluten-free pizza.  Which, mind you, I was thrilled about, as I was doing my long run the following morning around the area the inn was located in…a full 12.5 mile run.  Pizza was just the thing I needed.

Wanting to try something we couldn’t get anywhere else, we decided to get a Gluten-Free Johnny V’s Vegan Pie ($15.00).  It just sounded intriguing…and, as I said, the toppings were different from anything we’d been able to get out anywhere else.  Order in.  At Zamparelli’s…the gluten-free crust is a $2.00 upcharge, but when you have to eat gluten-free, what are you going to do?  The gluten-free pizza is a 12-inch pizza crust…and in this case…it is topped off with a garlicky white bean spread, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, sauteed spinach, roasted mushrooms, artichoke hearts, and a spicy salsa rosa.  Is your mouth watering yet?  Mine was just reading the description.  I liked that it was vegan…no cheese to upset my delicate stomach as it sometimes does.  Also important with that long run looming.

The pizza was delivered and boy…did it look and smell amazing.  It tasted just as good as it looked too.  The white bean spread acted as the base, instead of a tomato sauce.  The roasted red peppers elevated a lot of the flavor, especially when paired with the caramelized onion.  Sweet and savory.  Very delicious.  But the star, believe it or not, were the artichoke hearts.  That just brought all the other toppings together.  Fantastic.  The crust was really good.  Not undercooked, but done to perfection.  It was a thin crust without being a cracker crust, which I appreciated.  I was quite happy with this meal and my roommate and I walked out of there satisfied, full, and quite happy.

The Buff Restaurant – Boulder, Colorado

The Buff Restaurant, Boulder, Colorado
The Buff Restaurant, Boulder, Colorado

I first heard about The Buff Restaurant on Man vs. Food.  They are best known for their “Saddlebags” which are pancakes that are stuffed with either bacon, sausage or ham, and then topped off with two eggs.  They are massive, mind you.  Like…steering wheel size.  So much more of the menu now has a gluten-free option available (including the Saddlebags…except being vegetarian…not for me)…but I had just done a 12.5 mile run and I was wanting some protein.

I ended up getting one of the omelettes.  In fact, I went with the Veggie Omelette ($9.50).  This thing is, honestly, the size of my head.  But…full of delicious veggie goodness.  This particular omelette comes packed with broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, spinach and onions, with a touch of blended cheddar.  Along with this massive egg-splosion of goodness (see what I did there?), you get a side of their potatoes…or you can upgrade to the fruit for just $1.00 more.  I wanted my carbs…so I stuck with the potatoes.  And, with it came a slice of gluten-free toast.  YUM!  As I was in need of some caffeine, I ordered a Café Au Lait with almond milk ($3.50).  It was just the hit I needed, especially since the cup it came out in was, again, the size of my head.  I think I was wired for much the rest of the day.  But it was good.

So was the food for that matter, but I already knew that.  I’ve been eating at The Buff for three years now.  I make a trip to Boulder specifically to eat there and go to the Celestial Seasonings factory.  Honestly.  I do.  It’s the truth.  The eggs are always done to perfection.  The toast is crispy and never burned.  I love it with their homemade jam.  SO delicious.  And the potatoes…they are my favorite way to consume carbs.  Seasoned to perfection.  Done with that bit of crisp on the outside and that soft center.  I ate mine with hot sauce.  The omelette too.  HEAVEN…on a plate.  Which I demolished, mind you.  I ate every last piece.  I was full for the rest of the day.

St. Bon’s Café – Highlands Ranch, Colorado

St. Bon's Café, Highlands Ranch, Colorado
St. Bon’s Café, Highlands Ranch, Colorado

Around 5 p.m. after my massive breakfast, however, the tummy was starting to get a case of the rumblies.  And my roommate had researched the perfect solution for said problem.  We were now down in Denver for the remainder of our stay and it just so happened that Denver is the home of a 100% gluten-free deli and bakery.  Seriously.

St. Bon’s Café was an absolute nightmare to get to.  And we were getting hungry and cranky as we made our way through rush hour traffic on a Thursday night.  Our GPS got us down to the right area, but had so much trouble actually getting us to the store.  I finally looked it up on my iPhone and managed to get us there.  But it was about 30 minutes before they were going to close.  It was a good thing we already had an idea of what we wanted to eat…because we were cutting it close.

That being said, the owner, Kurt Fulwider, was behind the counter and ready to take our orders.  He told us not to worry about it.  He had a meeting he needed to get to across town and already called to say it wasn’t happening and that he would be late.  So…we ordered…not just dinner…but a dessert to split.  More on that after I tell you about our sandwiches.

For me…I wanted The 3 Wisemen Panini on the house made Rosemary Thyme Focaccia ($7.99).  The 3 Wisemen is a basic caprese sandwich.  It’s freshly sliced tomatoes, basil leaves and mozzarella.  Cathy went with her favorite…something cheesy…opting for The Trinity Panini on the house made Basil Garlic Focaccia ($7.99).  This sandwich is stuffed full of three different cheeses…creamy havarti, sharp white cheddar, and smooth meunster.  We decided we could split a dessert and I had my heart already set on the Blasphemous Bread Pudding ($3.99), which was a gluten-free bread putting with a delicious custard and dark chocolate.  With our orders now paid for, we settled at a table until they were ready.

Let me tell you…the wait wasn’t bad…and the food was fantastic.  Absolutely FANTASTIC!  I fell in love with the rosemary thyme focaccia.  The flavors meshed so well with the fixings in my sandwich.  The basil was so fresh and so fragrant.  The mozarella was melt-in-your sammie good.  And the tomatoes were ripe, and didn’t bleed juice all over my bread.  The focaccia was toasted in the panini press to perfection, giving that nice golden crispiness to each bite.  I was in love with this sandwich.  Cathy tried a piece and said while she loved hers…she really loved the bread on mine.

As for that sinful dessert…oh…yeah.  It was rich…creamy…and beyond blasphemous.  This was a sin to eat.  The custard was rich and creamy, but not overly heavy.  The dark chocolate…melt my heart to pieces…so good.  It paired so well with the custard.  I was so happy when eating this.  So very happy.  I sort of want to recreate it for myself.  If possible.  It’s worth a try.  Yep…that good.  Mouth watering…sinfully…satisfyingly…perfect for when you are PMS-ing or any other time because you just need some chocolate dammit…good!!  I hope I can get back here when I’m in Denver in May.  It must happen.

Coquette’s Bistro and Bakery – Colorado Springs, Colorado

Coquette's Bistro & Bakery, Colorado Springs, Colorado
Coquette’s Bistro & Bakery, Colorado Springs, Colorado

I love crepes.  LOVE them.  With the exception of my local food truck, I normally can’t have them.  I don’t have a good crepe pan to do them myself…nor would they come close to what Sweet ‘N’ Savory can cook up for me in their food truck.  Normally when I am in Colorado, I would go to La Creperie Cafe in Denver.  But…they closed.  THEY CLOSED!!  I was saddened by this, but started doing some research.  What I did run across though was a little cafe that does only 100% gluten-free food.  The catch was…it was in Colorado Springs.  The best thing is…that doesn’t phase Cathy.  We hopped in the car on Friday morning and took a little drive down to Colorado Springs.

Nestled at the foot of Pike’s Peak, Coquette’s Bistro and Bakery has the perfect location to entertain visitors and locals alike.  The place and the food has won numerous awards over the four years it has been open.  And it claims that the food is so amazing, you’d never guess it was gluten-free.  This little restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, dinner, desserts, espresso, and cocktails.  There is a little bit for everyone.

But Cathy and I made the journey for…yep…crepes.  None of their savory crepes are vegetarian.  That was fine for Cathy, and she ended up ordering the Rise and Dine ($11.00), which is a crepe that is stuffed full (and I mean full) with two scrambled eggs, ham, red onions, tomatoes, and cheddar cheese. The crepe is then topped off with hollandaise.  It came with a side of fruit or their truffled potatoes.  She went potatoes.  I swiped one.  OMG.  Amazing.  I swiped more than one after that.  I think she welcomed the help as her crepe was HUGE.  I would have gone savory had there been a vegetarian option…but I was okay going sweet.  Most of the offerings were what I could get from my local gluten-free crepe food truck…so I went with the one that I hadn’t been served by my local go-to gluten-free crepe place.  And that was the Bananas Fosters Crepe ($8.50).  This dessert crepe (hey…dessert for breakfast is allowed on vacation!) is a delicious crepe that is topped off with banana and a rum brown sugar flambé.  The crepe is served with some house made whipped cream on the side.  My crepe was definitely the size of my plate, but being a dessert crepe, it is usually dusted with cinnamon and sugar on the inside and then topped off with the goodness on the outside.  Much less to navigate through.  But…let me tell you…this was one fantastic crepe.  I loved the rum brown sugar sauce.  The whipped cream was a nice touch.  And the banana, being one of my favorite fruits in this world, made it all taste a little like heaven.  I devoured it.  Like…completely.  Cathy had a good portion of her crepe remaining.  Not me.  I went all vegetarian piggy on that plate.  Worth it.  YUM!  I am making this a required stop from now on.  It must happen.  It is that good.  And I feel safe eating there.

Baker Street Pub & Grill – Denver, Colorado

Baker Street Pub & Grill, Denver, Colorado
Baker Street Pub & Grill, Denver, Colorado

It’s no secret…my roommate and I are completely obsessed with Sherlock Holmes.  For real.  No…seriously.  And when we discovered that just a short walk from our hotel room at the Denver DTC was one of Colorado’s four Baker Street Pub & Grill locations, well, you better believe we knew what we were doing for dinner after hiking around Colorado Springs and the Garden of the Gods.  Hey…you work up an appetite doing that.

We walked over to Baker Street Pub & Grill from the hotel on Friday evening.  I loved how you got to seat yourself.  Our server, a bubbly and enthusiastic woman came over to see about drinks.  I was sticking with water.  But Cathy decided to take in Happy Hour and went with a Baker Street Brown Ale ($4.25).  And with that…her usual pub fare…a half portion of the Fish & Chips ($7.99).  As for me…I went with the Baby Spinach and Feta Cheese Salad ($9.99), which I added avocado slices to ($1.49) with a side of the Serrano Coleslaw ($1.99).  Our waitress put in our order and we sort of geeked out over Sherlock Holmes until it arrived.

My salad was MASSIVE!!  And it looked absolutely amazing to top it off.  This salad was a blend of baby spinach, feta cheese, gala apples, red onions, candied pecans (they didn’t candy mine), and red grapes.  All of this was tossed in a fantastic raspberry vinaigrette dressing.  And let’s not forget my deep love of avocado…which topped off my salad nicely and gave it this rich creaminess that I truly love in a salad.  The flavors really, really worked together.  I loved the way the fruit played well with the vegetables and how the sweet, yet savory vinaigrette just brought it all together.  The avocado…if you order a salad…always top it with avocado…trust me!!  As for the coleslaw…eh…it was coleslaw.  With the wording of Serrano Coleslaw, I expected something with some heat behind it…but it just tasted like your run-of-the-mill coleslaw.  Probably my only disappointment.  The rest…so good!

Cathy was very impressed with her fish.  In fact, we both enjoyed our food so much we came back on Saturday night, our last night in town.  The manager on duty rustled up some can coozies for us and let us get in the big phone booth outside and took a picture.  It was epic.  We ordered the same thing…minus the coleslaw and rounded out the perfect stay in Colorado at one of our new favorite places in Denver…just a short walk from our hotel.  Perfection.

Udi’s Café and Bar – Denver Airport – Denver, Colorado

Udi's Café & Bar, Denver Airport, Denver, Colorado
Udi’s Café & Bar, Denver Airport, Denver, Colorado

I had every intention of making it out of Denver without eating at the airport.  I figured Cathy and I would grab something in Atlanta.  It’s a good thing she talked me out of that because we had no time for food in Atlanta as it turned out.  So, her plan to eat something in Denver before heading to our gate for the first leg of our journey back to Louisville was a stroke of sheer genius.

And to our delight, Terminal B at the Denver Airport has an Udi’s Café and Bar.  Udi’s is one of the major names in gluten-free breads and other products on the market.  And…they are based in Denver.  So the fact that the airport has one of these cafés shouldn’t be a surprise.  I was so happy they did.

We settled in at a table and a waitress came over to give us menus and let us look them over.  We had a vague idea of what we wanted to eat…sandwiches…with fries.  Filling.  Which is exactly what we needed, honestly.

Cathy went with the BLTA ($9.35), which is a bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado sandwich with chipotle aioli and served on ciabatta bread.  She got hers with the standard fries that come with the sandwich.  As for me…I went with the Gluten-Free Caprese Sandwich ($9.95) and substituted the regular fries for Sweet Potato Fries ($2.00).  Gluten-free sweet potato fries.  Pardon my dance of joy and glee.  This was the second time this trip I was getting sweet potato fries.  This is me…being happy.

It was a little bit of a wait, but Cathy and I soon received our plates full of food.  The sandwiches were huge. The fries…a big portion.  But this was our meal for the day…so while we weren’t starving…we dove in.

My fries were FANTASTIC!  Better than the ones I waited forever for at Disneyland.  They were crispy, fried to perfection.  I was in love with them.  In fact, I saved them for the last bite because I wanted to remember those fries.  As for the sandwich…epic win.  Served on Udi’s bread (of course), this sandwich was stuffed with mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoes, and a pesto aioli.  And the flavors just popped.  I have been eating a lot of caprese things since going gluten-free and this was one of the best sandwiches put together.  Simple flavors…executed perfectly.  And served with SWEET POTATO FRIES!!  I was thrilled to actually be able to eat something other than a fruit cup, a salad, or some unhealthy snack at the airport.  Seriously.  This was my happy that day.

~*~*~

So…there you have it.  I find eating gluten-free in Colorado to be so easy.  Both Rudi’s Gluten-Free and Udi’s Gluten-Free are based out of Colorado (one in Boulder…the other in Denver).  Granted, on Saturday when we went up into the mountains to Rocky Mountain State Park…my lunch was a banana, some yogurt, and some Boulder chips…but…I’m in the mountains.  I will cut them some slack.

This was one of my best foodie trips to date.  Both California and Colorado offered me so many options and such delicious food.  I wasn’t really disappointed with any of the restaurants that we chose to dine in.  And that…is amazing!!

Colorado…see you in May.  I hope my favorite places to eat will be ready for me again!

What I Ate in California – Part 2

I dedicate this entry to, honestly, the best meal I have ever consumed in my life.  No joke.  Sorry mom…but it’s true.  Never before have I been treated to such an exciting and taste-defying tasting menu, all of it done by the chef’s whim.  And yes…all of it done to suit any food allergies at the table.  For me…being a gluten-free vegetarian.  For my friend Tawn…no shrimp.

What am I talking about?

Disneyland.

Napa Rose.

Chef’s Table.

OMGTHEFOODWASAWESOME!

Okay…now that I got that out of my system…kind of…let me explain…

You see, Disneyland has a lot of nice treasures inside its gates.  And, after running the Disneyland Half Marathon, Indy wanted to treat all of us, plus her hubby and her dad, to a nice meal out…which would be our Christmas and Birthday gifts.  She chose Napa Rose at Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa as the scene of this adventure.  After a long day, the four ladies got all dressed up and met up with Evan (Indy’s hubby) for a ride over to the restaurant.  Her dad was staying there so he’d meet us there.

A few drinks in the lounge and two Joey Fatone (from *NSYNC) sightings later, we were making our way to the Dessert Counter and being seated, napkins placed on our laps, and about to be treated to one of the finest, most epic, amazing meals of our lives…complete with wine tasting.  All of this…completely at the whim of the chef.

So…let’s get started:

Amuse-Bouche: Plum with Grape Relish and Gluten-Free Flatbread

Amuse-Bouche: Plum with Grape Relish and Vegan & Gluten-Free Flatbread
Amuse-Bouche: Plum with Grape Relish and Vegan & Gluten-Free Flatbread

The rest of the counter was treated to a Panna Cotta with Great Relish…but not this girl.  The chef kept is simple, elegant, and instead of the panna cotta, served me up an amazing warm Plum with Grape Relish on top.  The plum was sweet, pairing beautifully with the slightly sour tones of the chopped grapes.  It was the perfect way to wake up the palate and prepare it for the rest of what was to come that night.

In addition, while the rest of the counter got to share this large basket of various breads, a basket of vegan and gluten-free flatbread was delivered to me.  This bread had a fresh herbiness to it.  It was crispy, yet still soft.  And when it was fresh and warm…there was nothing like it in the world.  It was a nice change from the gluten-free rolls I am so used to getting.  It’s not everyday this girl gets to indulge in flatbread.  And indulge I did.  Because I just couldn’t stop eating it!!

First Course: Cauliflower Tower

Cauliflower Tower
Cauliflower Tower

What…you may ask…is a Cauliflower Tower.  Simply what it sounds like.  Cauliflower…in a tower.  But…it is really so much more than that.  In fact, while the base of this dish was, in fact, a cauliflower mash, it was blended with couscous, raisins, pistachios, and was drizzled with a blood orange sauce.  I love cauliflower, so using it as a base for this meal was sheer brilliance.  The couscous gave it a bit more body.  Toss in the sweet raisins with the salty nature and crunch of the pistachios and you have a meal made in heaven.  Seriously.  Angels eat this when they picnic on the clouds.  I swear.  The blood orange sauce just sealed the deal.  It gave this savory dish a little zing.  It was fantastic.  Down to the very last bite.  If this was any indication of what was left to come, I was all in.  I didn’t record the type of wine any of my meals were paired with…but I loved them.  All of them.

Second Course: Grilled Peach Salad with Green Beans and a Peach Yogurt Sauce

Grilled Peach Salad with Green Beans and a Peach Yogurt Sauce
Grilled Peach Salad with Green Beans and a Peach Yogurt Sauce

 The usual version of this dish is served with roasted duck.  But, being that I was the sole vegetarian at the table, the chef made one with duck, which Indy received, and made mine without it.  But this made me want to grill peaches ALL the time.  ALL the peaches.  And then consume ALL the peaches with ALL the food that I could think would pair well with them.  I will say this…I never would have paired peaches with green beans.  But…this worked.  This worked remarkably well.  The peaches had this rich sweetness to them, the green beans were cooked perfectly, so they had that crispiness to them.  And that yogurt sauce just tied everything together.  This was fantastic.  I could have eaten plate after plate of this and been one happy girl.  But more goodness was still ahead.

Third Course: Heirloom Tomatoes with Golden Tomato Essence with Fava Beans and Parmesan

Heirloom Tomatoes with Golden Tomato Essence with Fava Beans and Parmesan
Heirloom Tomatoes with Golden Tomato Essence with Fava Beans and Parmesan

 I do believe either Tawn or Cathy made the Silence of the Lambs reference when I was served this beautiful, rainbow dish.  I mean, the colors on this dish just popped.  The sweet tomato essence was what really made this dish so savory.  The beautiful heirloom tomatoes were ripe, gorgeous, juicy and the flavors danced across my taste buds with the first bite.  The fava beans added a little body…and some texture.  And to top it all off…shaved Parmesan cheese, which gave the dish that big of salty seasoning that just brought it all together in the end.  Rich, succulent…and fantastic.  Each dish was topping the last…

Fourth Course: Chef’s Creation – Vegetarian Mushroom and Tomato Plate

Chef's Creation - Vegetarian Mushroom and Tomato Plate
Chef’s Creation – Vegetarian Mushroom and Tomato Plate

 Be jealous.  Because the chef made this one specifically for me.  His gluten-free, vegetarian diner.  What exactly was it?  Savory goodness, that’s what it was.  Honestly…this was fantastic.  From the first bite he reigned me in with perfectly cooked mushrooms, beautifully seasoned and topped with gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and greens.  I wanted to hoover this dish so much, but I sat there like the lady I am and ate it like the sophisticated foodie I see on television and dream about becoming.  No…really.  I savored this dish.  Every bite of it.  And I never wanted it to end.  But…my fork fell onto the last slice and soon it too was gone.

Dessert: Meyer Lemon Crème Brûlée with Blueberries and Mint

Meyer Lemon Crème Brûlée with Blueberries and Mint
Meyer Lemon Crème Brûlée with Blueberries and Mint

 Without even knowing anything about me save for my food allergies and preferences, the chef sent out the most perfect dessert for me.  It involved lemon and blueberries…and that pairing is, by far, one of my absolute favorites.  So, without even knowing it…the chef capped off the perfect evening with the perfect dessert.  His Meyer Lemon Crème Brûlée with Blueberries and Mint was a stunning plate to start with.  The crust on the crème brûlée was brilliant.  And that lemon flavor was just enough without overpowering the entire dessert.  Toss in the blueberries (one of my favorite berries) and the hint of mint and I was in a delicious, tasty food coma.  Seriously.  I dug right into this dessert and savored it as long as I could.  I even ate the drizzle of chocolate letters around the plate wishing me an early happy birthday.  Yes…I enjoyed it…for real…down to the very last bit.  But, I’m a dessert girl…and this was one hell of a dessert.

My hat is off to Indy, for this fantastic food experience.  If I were to choose my last meal on Earth…it would be this.  I would want to be at Napa Rose…at the Chef’s Counter…once again receiving the dishes of his choosing for me.  I loved being surprised and not knowing what to expect when my plate was carried out and placed in front of me.  The company was the best I could ever be with at this venue.  The food was outstanding.  I’ve been spoiled.  No other meal has come close to equaling this one…and I am starting to wonder if one ever will.

My food hat is off to the chef of Napa Rose…the food that is served there…the wine it is paired with (SO GOOD!)…and the good friends I shared the experience with.  If any of you find yourself at Disneyland…do try to experience this for yourself.  It isn’t cheap…I can tell you that…but the food and the experience is worth every dollar you put towards this meal.  I promise.

What I Ate in California – Part 1

Between Disneyland and the little out-of-the-way places that we ducked into for food and anything else…I was well-fed and felt very safe in my food choices while visiting friends in California.  In fact, Indy and her hubby, Evan, even went out to Whole Foods and picked up gluten-free cookies and some gluten-free crackers for me to have while staying with them.  They are, honestly, the best.  Nice to have people take my food allergies and everything else in stride and not totally panic.  Best hosts…EVER!

So, I spent a total of three days at Disneyland and then one full day seeing bits and pieces of California.  All the while…taking in food and enjoying every single bite.  I’m breaking this posting down into two separate posts because…well…the dinner I had at Napa Rose needs its own little post.  Honestly.  Because it was the best meal I have ever had.  (Sorry, Mom…but it’s true!).

So…I guess we’ll start at the very beginning…

Flo’s V8 Cafe – Cars Land – Disney California Adventure Park

Flo's V8 Café, Cars Land, Disney's California Adventure Park
Flo’s V8 Café, Cars Land, Disney’s California Adventure Park


You know…I give Disney props.  Both theme parks on each coast do their best to work with people with specific diets and specific food allergies.  And this was incredibly clear when I sat down to eat a “light” lunch (I was getting pizza later that evening) while out and about in California Adventure on Saturday.  I hadn’t yet made it to the race expo, but I knew I needed a small bite to get through until it was time to eat my required pre-race gluten-free pizza.  We were in Cars Land at the moment, so we stepped into Flo’s V8 Café and took a look at the menu board.  When we got up to the register, my traveling party (Cathy, Indy & Tawn) all decided they were going to eat elsewhere…which made me not want to eat here…but…I wasn’t sure what there would be outside that would be nutritious and still filling.  At the register, I mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian so the cashier went to go and retrieve the chef.  The chef came out a couple of moments later and I reiterated that I was a gluten-free vegetarian.  She said it wasn’t a problem and mentioned the items I could get, including the Citrus Turkey Salad, sans turkey.  Actually, none of it sounded like anything I wanted…the side dishes were just…eh…meh.  And the salad was…well…a salad.  But, I needed something…so I said I would give the Citrus Turkey Salad ($11.49), no turkey, a go!

I paid the cashier and took the receipt up to the counter.  And my salad came up…gluten-free roll…but…UGH…the turkey had been placed on the salad.  I mentioned that my salad wasn’t supposed to have turkey on it, so the worker at the counter sent it back to the kitchen and spoke with the chef.  It took a few minutes, but my new salad came up, gluten-free roll, little dish of dressing, GODZILLA-sized salad, which was a basic mix of mixed greens, carrots, cucumbers, and yellow peppers.  It came with a citrus-tarragon dressing.  And trust me…this salad was HUGE.  I knew I wouldn’t be able to finish it.  But, if anything was certain, I was going to devour that roll.  The roll, by the way, looks like the Udi’s gluten-free rolls I can buy at specialty stores around here.  I think they were Udi’s.  I loved the roll.  I loved it to pieces…and pieces…and pieces until it was all gone.

The salad itself was fresh and crisp.  And the dressing made a nice flavor addition to the raw vegetables.  It was…a general salad, just taken to extreme proportion.  I ate about 3/4 of it before I called it quits.  It was just a lot of food.  The vegetables were fresh and crisp, the dressing was served on the side instead of just being poured over the salad, and perhaps drowning the vegetables.  It was good.  But…let’s face it…it’s a salad I could have made at home for a lot cheaper.

Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port – Tomorrowland – Disneyland Park

Redd Rocket's Pizza Port, Tomorrowland, Disneyland Park
Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port, Tomorrowland, Disneyland Park

 

It was the evening before the Disneyland Half Marathon, and Indy and I were in desperate need of some carbs.  And it is a requirement…I mean one of those dead-set superstitious athlete requirements for me to eat gluten-free pizza the night before a big race.  It has to happen.  If it doesn’t happen…I make it happen.  Somehow.

Indy knew that this was a must coming into the trip, so she asked around at Disneyland about good places to get a gluten-free pizza.  She was directed to Redd Rocket’s Pizza Port, which is a cafeteria-style, quick service joint in Tomorrowland.  We got there just before a flood of people and we spoke to one of the people manning the counters about gluten-free and vegetarian options.  She said she would go and fetch the chef.  I ended up standing there for around 10-15 minutes waiting on the chef, long enough for a couple of employees to ask if I needed help.  Indy and Tawn had already gotten their pastas and were now waiting with me.  Cathy was waiting because we weren’t sure if this was going to be a personal pizza or one we’d need to split.  You just never know.

After the wait continued, I told Indy and Tawn to go and pay and eat while their food was still hot.  I didn’t want them to settle in with cold pasta.  Gross!  So, they finally agreed, and just after they walked away…the chef finally emerged to talk to me.  I told him that I was a gluten-free vegetarian, and he said I had two options…a gluten-free personal cheese pizza…or gluten-free rice noodles with a tomato marinara.  Night before the race…it has to be pizza.  So, I put in my order for gluten-free cheese pizza ($8.99).  I was told it would take 10 minutes so to go ahead and pay and then come back to the counter in about 10 minutes.  I did just that, grabbed some plastic dinnerware, napkins, and some crushed red pepper packets and went to join my friends.  Cathy had gotten one of the pizza slices and some breadsticks and joined them in eating.  And I watched them eat for about 5 minutes as it took me awhile to pay.  When 10 minutes was up, I got up from my table and made my way back to the counter to, hopefully, get my food.  But my pizza wasn’t up yet.  There was a group of four ahead of me.  And that took about 5 minutes for them to get their gluten-free pizzas served to them.  Then…it took another 3-5 minutes waiting on mine.  By now Indy and Cathy were done eating.  When my pizza was sliced and finally put on a plate…I went to rejoin my friends and only Tawn was still nomming on her pasta.

The pizza was nothing to write home about.  It was the same gluten-free cheese pizza I ended up getting while at Disney World in February.  Just a small, personal-size pizza on a gluten-free crust (at least the crust was fluffy), with tomato sauce and cheese.  It was…okay.  I mean, I have definitely had worse…but I have most definitely had better.  I seasoned it with some red pepper flakes and just wolfed it down.  At that point I was starving and we had World of Color Fast Passes and the clock was ticking.  Nothing to write home about.  Just…pizza.  Eh.  Not impressed.

Hungry Bear Restaurant – Critter Country – Disneyland Park

Hungry Bear Restaurant, Critter Country, Disneyland Park
Hungry Bear Restaurant, Critter Country, Disneyland Park

 

It was the afternoon after I ran 13.1 miles through Disneyland and Anaheim, California.  It was just three of us.  Indy, who also ran, said she needed to rest and recover.  Poor thing.  So this meant our new guide for the day was the great, the epic, TAWN!!  And she knew all the places to hit.  We had a busy and very stressful morning…between race logistics, running, cheering, and finishing…then heading out to the park…

We rode rides and soon we knew we needed to eat something small before we hit the hotel early to rotate through showers and start getting ready for the most epic meal of our lives…courtesy of Indy.  But…that gets it’s own post.  For now…we focus on what I ate for “lunch” the day of the Disneyland Half Marathon.

I had heard tales and rumors that Hungry Bear Restaurant did gluten-free sweet potato fries.  Sweet potato fries are one of my most favorite things in the world.  Honestly.  Sure, fries probably aren’t the best recovery meal…but they were what I wanted.  That was it.  It was all I needed.  Tawn walked me over to Hungry Bear and I headed up to go place my order.  I reached the cashier and told her I heard they could do gluten-free sweet potato fries.  She confirmed this and said she’d go and get the chef.

The chef emerged a few minutes later and said that fries could certainly be done gluten-free.  I said that was all I wanted and went ahead and put in the order – gluten-free sweet potato fries ($3.99).  I was sent up to the counter and I passed off the receipt and was told it would be a few minutes.  I politely stepped aside, knowing this would be the case.  But a few minutes turned into 5.  Then 10.  Soon the staff was shouting back to the kitchen about the gluten-free sweet potato fries because it had been on order for 15 minutes.  The manager came out to apologize to me, saying that there had been a mix-up in the kitchen and it would be a few more minutes.  He offered me a free dessert, but none of their desserts were gluten-free so I passed.  After just over 20 minutes, my one little serving of sweet potato fries came up and I snagged them, went to grab some ketchup and finally went back down to meet Tawn.  She had been waiting a long time.  We had left Cathy at a table with her lunch, and it was long gone by the time we returned.  Tawn went off to find herself something to eat and I finally dug in.

To their credit…the sweet potato fries were perfect.  Crispy on the outside, soft in the center.  Warm.  Hot.  Seasoned well.  And just what I wanted.  They were phenomenal.  Definitely better than the oven baked ones that I make at home.  I mean, I love making my own, but there is something so fantastic about sweet potato strips that are literally fried to perfection, seasoned well, and served up piping hot and fresh.  So, while I think I aged a little standing in line waiting on an order the kitchen at Hungry Bear Restaurant forgot about…it was well worth the wait.

Tiki Juice Bar – Adventureland – Disneyland Park

The Tiki Hut, Adventureland, Disneyland Park
Tiki Juice Bar, Adventureland, Disneyland Park

 

DOLE. WHIP.  Need I say more?  Let me say it one more time.  DOLE WHIP!  I love Dole Whip and ended up coming to the Tiki Juice Bar twice during my 3-day stay in Disneyland.

The second time I contemplated getting a Dole Whip Float…but wasn’t sure I had enough money for one.  So, both times I ended up getting the standard Soft Serve Dole Whip ($3.69).  LOVE.

It’s pineapple goodness in a cup.  One that I will always take time to indulge in whenever I roam at Disney.  Yeah…Dole Whip is an experience.  One that shouldn’t be missed.  EVER!

Carnation Café – Main Street, U.S.A. – Disneyland Park

Carnation Café, Main Street, U.S.A., Disneyland Park
Carnation Café, Main Street, U.S.A., Disneyland Park

 

The only other request that I made for while the four of us were all at Disneyland was simple.  I needed gluten-free Mickey waffles in my life.  So, Indy, as always being the rockstar, sought out a place that served them.  She’s awesome like that.  So, after a late night and an early morning (for me…as I went running for 7 miles for my marathon training), we headed into Disneyland for our last meal together as a group of four.  Tawn was leaving that afternoon to head back to Fresno.

We arrived at Carnation Café just ahead of our reservation time.  We were asked if we wanted to sit outside or inside.  It was such a gorgeous morning that day that we chose to sit outside, as long as we were somewhere shady.  The hostess found us the perfect spot and we all settled in and started to look at the menu.

When our waitress came over to the table, she explained that we actually had a different server, but he was on his break so she’d be taking care of us until he returned.  We went ahead and told her that I couldn’t have gluten, something they were already aware of because Indy mentioned this when she made the reservation.  Of course none of this was an issue.  She said she’d go to get the chef and he would go over some options with me.  He did emerge a few minutes later and asked what I was interested in having for breakfast.  I gave him the hopeful eyes…Mickey waffles?  He said he wasn’t sure they could make gluten-free Mickey waffles due to the surface they were cooked on…but he might be able to do regular pancakes (not Mickey shaped).  But he said he’d go double check.  He returned after everyone else placed their orders and said that he could make me gluten-free mini Mickey waffles safely.  I was a happy girl, because I really, really wanted Mickey waffles while at Disneyland.  Dreams really do come true.

I went ahead and ordered gluten-free Mickey waffles ($10.49) with fresh fruit instead of the sausage or bacon side…since I am vegetarian.  They were happy to make that substitution for me.  I also had this with fresh brewed Joffrey’s Coffee ($2.99).

The coffee was really good.  Not too bitter.  I sweetened it with real sugar…as my coconut sugar was left back in Indiana.  After a short wait…out came our food.  Only Tawn and I kept with the plan to get waffles.  Indy ended up getting the Huevos Rancheros and Cathy got the All-American Breakfast.

My mini waffles were…delicious.  Definitely not the golden crispy goodness that Tawn got out of her Mickey head waffle.  But…the miniature Mickey waffles tasted amazing.  I poured a little pure maple syrup over them and dug right in.  I was given four Mickey waffle heads and ate all four of them without any shame or guilt.  The fruit was gone in a flash.  I am a fruit monster.  They were able to accommodate me and get me the item on the menu that I truly wanted.  Carnation Café was made of win.

So were the waffles…for the record.  Epic…gluten-free…WIN!

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar – Disneyland Resort Area – Disneyland Hotel

Trader Sam's Enchanted Bar, Disneyland Resort Area, Disneyland Hotel
Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar, Disneyland Resort Area, Disneyland Hotel

 

Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar is like no other bar you have ever experienced.  The food they serve is unique bar food.  The drinks they serve are fun.  The manner in which some drinks are served are SUPER fun and invoke chanting and lights flashing, ships going down, all of that.  It’s a place you have to go to grab a drink.  And, as this was our final day in Disneyland…we chose to do just that.

Food choices, for me, were rather limited.  But, Indy was telling me about this amazing Green Papaya Salad ($?.??) that they served.  We inquired with the bar tender about the ingredients and he went to check with the chef to see whether it was gluten-free and vegetarian.  Turns out…it was.  So, while Cathy and Indy split the Panko-Crusted Chinese Long Beans, I was served up a refreshing and quite delicious Green Papaya Salad.

No trip to Trader Sam’s is complete without having one of their famous drinks.  As I’m always iffy and careful with alcohol…I decided to go with one of the non-alcoholic beverage specials served at the bar.  My choice of Sam’s No Booze Brews was the Jungle River Sunset ($4.49) which is a mix of orange juice, falernum, and hibiscus grenadine, all topped off with soda water.  And, yes…I ate my garnish.

Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta – Paradise Pier – Disney California Adventure Park

Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, Paradise Pier, Disney's California Adventure Park
Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta, Paradise Pier, Disney California Adventure Park

 

It was getting late and our plan to see Fantasmic that night was about to be put into action.  That being said, our appetizers from Trader Sam’s were long gone and we were definitely ready to eat some food.  We ended up coming to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta…because we were just really wanting Italian or something.  Because originally I was going to get something else, but when they kept mentioning the pizza and pasta place…it just sounded better.

So, we entered Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta and it was another counter service sort of thing.  I went up and mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian and they sent for the chef.  He was out in no time.  Honestly.  And when I told him I was a gluten-free vegetarian, he immediately mentioned the two standbys that the Italian restaurants have on hand at Disneyland…a personal-size gluten-free cheese pizza or rice noodles with a tomato marinara sauce.  I’ve done the pizza.  It’s the same as always…and not really worth the repeat.  So, I went with the Gluten-Free Rice Pasta with the Tomato Marinara ($9.49).  He said it would take about 10 minutes.  And when he went back behind the counter, he immediately changed his gloves to start preparing my food.  I breathed a sigh of relief.  Cathy ordered a regular Spaghetti With Meatballs and Indy went with the Five Cheese Ravioli.  They were both made to order, but Cathy’s came up way ahead of ours.  We sent her outside to get us a seat.  About 5 minutes later, my spaghetti arrived.  And this serving was HUGE.  We’re talking the King Kong of spaghetti dishes.  Holy crap!!  I figured I’d get maybe halfway through it and be done.  Indy’s was the last to come up…so she was the last to join us at the table.  Cathy had already started eating…I was just starting…so we had timing.  At least none of us were left without food when all was said and done.

The rice pasta was really al dente.  Not bad…but not as soft as normally rice pasta would be.  The tomato sauce was rich and delicious and really made the dish, in my opinion.  The spaghetti really would have been lackluster and disappointing without it.  I sprinkled a bit of crushed red pepper onto the pasta to give it that slight kick that I like.  Me and spicy food make for a loving relationship.  Honestly.  I like it hot.  So, the spaghetti, like the quick service pizza, was…just okay.  Nothing to really write home about…or go on any longer in this blog.

Indy’s Egg Scramble of Awesome

Indy's Egg Scramble of Awesome
Indy’s Egg Scramble of Awesome

 

When you have fresh ingredients in your garden…what happens?  You make your husband and your friends one of the most epic egg scrambles ever.  Honestly…this was amazing.  So delicious.  So yummy.  I still think about it.  That’s why a homemade dish is being put into my blog.  None of you, unless you also know Indy, will be able to taste this dish.  None of you will get to enjoy it for the low cost of FREE…at her kitchen table…while drinking fresh and really delicious coffee.  It’s just not going to happen.

She cooked and diced and sauteed potatoes in coconut oil, added fresh vegetables from her garden, and then scrambled up some eggs.  Simple…but highly, highly delicious.  One of my favorite breakfasts I’ve ever consumed.  And it was filling.  Perfect way to start off a day that took us to many glorious sandy locations!

The Local Peasant – Sherman Oaks, California

The Local Peasant, Sherman Oaks, California
The Local Peasant, Sherman Oaks, California

 

This gastropub has no sign hanging up outside.  There is no neon flashing the name of the pub.  This is one of those places that if you didn’t know it was there, you would walk right on past it.  Thankfully, it turned up on Find Me Gluten Free…and it just happens to be one of Indy and Evan’s favorite dining spots in their area.  And I picked it.  All by myself!

It was our last night in Los Angeles, and it was also Indy’s birthday.  So, we went out to eat…although she told me to find somewhere.  I was mainly focused on finding Cathy a place to have some fish and chips, so I focused on that first.  The menu for The Local Peasant had not only vegan options marked, but also gluten-free options marked.  And my requirement to eat something with avocado while in California would definitely be fulfilled.

It was a special night, so I went against my usual abstaining from alcohol for training purposes…mostly because it was Indy’s birthday and we were celebrating.  But, they also had Green’s Quest Gluten-Free Triple Ale ($15.00).  I’m not a beer drinker…at all…but it was a celebration.  And, besides, Micky Dolenz of The Monkees was at the table next to ours.  I needed something to take the fangirl edge off.

Where there is beer…there is also food.  Our waitress just happened to also be gluten-free (in fact, her entire family is)…so she was a huge help.  But…as I said…I had my heart set on something with avocado in it.  I had to eat avocado while in California.  It had to happen.  So, when it came to dinner, my choice was obvious…the Edamame Vegetable Salad ($11.00).  Why was that obvious?  Because this salad was composed of edamame, corn, jicama, green beans, roasted peppers, avocado, toasted pepitas, and cashews with a rosemary and ginger vinaigrette.

It sounded like no salad I have had anywhere else.  It had avocado on it, and really…it just sounded awesome.  When it arrived, it was in a huge bowl…and I happily dug in.  The vegetables were so fresh and awesome.  I loved the texture the cashews and pepitas gave the entire dish.  The green beans still had that nice, fresh crispness to them.  The edamame is always one of my favorite things…and it was super good.  Loved the depth the roasted peppers gave.  The avocado, however, gave it this amazing creaminess.  It was topped off with that really flavorful vinaigrette that really just brought everything together.  It was the meal I needed to have.  It was the last thing I would eat in California.  It was…fantastic.

I’d go back to this gastropub in a heartbeat.  And I hope to…the next time I find myself in California!

~*~*~

So…there it is.  What I ate in California.  I didn’t blog about the fries from In-N-Out Burger…because I did that back in 2011.  But I did go there…and their frier is dedicated to just potatoes and makes their fries completely safe for me to eat.  Part 2 will be all about the fantastic dinner that Indy treated our party to at Napa Rose.  Trust me…that was a dining experience I wish I could relive over and over again.  But you’ll read about that in the next blog…

Product Review: Walden Farms Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Waldon Farms Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing
Waldon Farms Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing

Product: Walden Farms Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing – $4.99+

You know…up until I started on my new 70/30 Clean Eating plan my sports nutritionist has put me on…I never would have thought twice about enjoying the basically guilt-free products put out by Walden Farms.  I mean…I’ve had quite a few salad dressings from their extensive line-up that I have quite enjoyed.  And, a couple weeks ago, a bottle of their Balsamic Salad Dressing just happened to wind up on Manager’s Special at my local grocery store.  I hadn’t tried this flavor yet…so I figured I’d give it a shot.  If I didn’t like it, I wasn’t out much thanks to the reduced price.

So…I initially was introduced to Walden Farms by Rocco DiSpirito in his Now Eat This cookbooks.  He uses the calorie free (yes…CALORIE FREE) ketchup in a few recipes as one of the ingredients.  I was intrigued. I had seen a few of these Walden Farms products lurking at numerous grocery stores in my area…so…one day I decided to try one of the salad dressings.  And…it really wasn’t bad at all.  For the record…I have never tried the ketchup.

Anyway…a few salad dressings later…here I was with one of my favorite dressings to have when out at a restaurant.  Mostly because it’s safe.  Any vinaigrette is normally a safe bet when it comes to dressing up a salad.  And I’ve always loved the flavor of a good Balsamic Vinaigrette.

Polishing off the lettuce, tomato, and green peppers from my last CSA bin, I’ve been making quite a few salads this week.  Tonight, I needed a new salad dressing.  So…out came the Walden Farms Balsamic Vinaigrette Salad Dressing.  I tore off the seal and twisted off the cap, taking a light sniff of the bottle.  It smelled just like Balsamic Vinaigrette…so that was a good sign.

I put the 2 tablespoon serving size over my salad (yes…I did measure it!) and dove in.

The flavor is authentic.  It has the feel, taste, smell…everything a normal Balsamic Vinaigrette would have.  Just…this one happens to have no calories (save the trace ones that are always in something you eat or drink…even those zero calorie diet sodas!).  I was impressed.  I was beyond impressed.  It was like having a full-barrel version of this dressing…but without all the fats and calories.  Delicious.  Amazing.  Just what my salad needed to be dressed with.  It complimented every vegetable inside my bowl.  Two tablespoons almost felt like too much.  This was a hearty dressing…while still having that oil and vinegar consistency.

But…here is where my sports nutritionist has ruined me.  As I’m feasting on this dressing, I start to wonder how a dressing that is normally made from a wine vinegar and olive oil could exist without calories.  Yes…these things run through my mind.  So, I turned the bottle over and took a look at the ingredients.  They include: triple-filtered purified water, balsamic vinegar, white vinegar, cellulose fiber, salt, dijon mustard, lemon juice, onion powder, garlic powder, white pepper, natural flavors, natural spices, caramel color, xanthan gum, sucralose (SPLENDA!! NOOOOO!), and sodium benzoate.  Yeah…first of all…SPLENDA! NO NO NO NO NO!!  SPlenda is bad.  And bad for you.  And now I just want to dump this dressing down the drain and get something real and good and made with natural products.  That’s my next problem…cellulose fiber?  Sodium Benzoate?  Huhwha?

As far as the nutrition panel reads…it’s flooded with zeros.  Zero calories, zero fat, zero cholesterol, zero protein, zero fiber, but it does have 260 mg of sodium.  This dressing is gluten-free, calorie-free, sugar-free, and fat-free.

But the Splenda thing is really bothersome.  I just don’t like it.  At all.  So…fat and calories aren’t bad for you…you just have to take them in moderation.  And so that is how I shall take my salad dressing.

But no longer from Walden Farms.  While I appreciate their products and have enjoyed all the ones I have tried…I just can’t continue to put Splenda into my body.  Not when I’m trying to better it.

It’s too bad.  It really is.

The jury is in…Louisville’s Sidebar pays special attention to dietary needs

Sidebar at Whiskey Row, Louisville, Kentucky
Sidebar at Whiskey Row, Louisville, Kentucky

Restaurant: Sidebar at Whiskey Row, Louisville, Kentucky

I love eating out with friends.  I really, really do.  Especially when it’s a fellow co-worker who is as much a foodie as my roommate and I.  I mean, how can you say “NO” to trying out new spots right in your own backyard?  I can’t.  I love trying out new restaurants.  But, with my food allergies, this sometimes means an extra level of difficulty, or sometimes…me bringing my own food to eat while they order and dine from the establishment itself.  And…yes…I am okay with that.  It has never bothered me at all.  It bothers the people I dine with at times, but I’m perfectly fine eating one of my protein bars and then grabbing something that is safe for me to eat at home.

It’s my body…so it’s my choice, right?  Right!

Anyway, one of our IT guys at work had gone to this local burger spot in Louisville, Kentucky that he was over the moon for their food.  He’d gone there a couple of times and said that they never gave him something he didn’t like.  Not only was their bourbon amazing, but their burgers were to die for.

It sounded like something Cathy needed to try out…because that girl loves her burgers.  I did note that they made a vegetarian burger as well, so took it upon myself to post on their Facebook page as to what, if any, gluten-free options Sidebar at Whiskey Row had to offer.  What happened next was one of the most amazing and wonderful things any restaurant establishment can do for someone who wishes to dine with them, but has certain dietary needs.  I had a quick response from Jason Pierce, Sidebar’s Assistant General Manager and the Culinary Director providing his e-mail address so that I could contact him about my visit on Friday evening.  I immediately sent him an e-mail to which he said that all salads are prepared in a manner that would be safe for me to eat, being that they are properly handled, washed, and plated so that there would be no cross-contamination.  He also said that if I wanted to, I could bring in my own salad dressing that he could dress the salad with as well.  I appreciated that suggestion immensely.  And, finally, he said that they could prepare the Mushroom Edamame Burger (the vegetarian option) without the gluten ingredients.  I told him I was fine with a salad, and that I really appreciated the burger option, but with it needing to be cooked on a separate, and clean, surface…the salad would probably be easiest.

A few back and forth messages via e-mail and Jason ensured me that he would make sure I had a fantastic dining experience on Friday.

Fast forward to Friday.  The three of us left work and headed down to Sidebar at Whiskey Row immediately, not really knowing what the traffic situation in Louisville would be like.  It wasn’t too bad and we were parked and heading into Sidebar by 5 p.m.  We were greeted warmly and shown to a table in the corner.  The three of us settled in and all ordered waters (I was sticking with water as I had a 12 mile run the next morning).  Justin already knew he was getting an Old Fashioned ($10.00), which is sugar and bitters topped with whiskey and then touched off with a twist of citrus rind.  He told Cathy that it was one of his favorite drinks there, especially since Sidebar is known for their barrel-aged cocktails.  You see, Sidebar at Whiskey Row mixes all the shelf-stable components of a cocktail and ages the mixture in a charred barrel.  How’s that for unique.  And you won’t find these cocktails on any other menu in the area.  Anyway…that was all Cathy had to hear, apparently…

Sidebar's Old Fashioned cocktail
Sidebar’s Old Fashioned cocktail

My two carnivorous friends put in their orders after our drinks arrived.  Justin decided to go for the Ambulance Chaser ($12.00), which is a Certified Angus Beef burger topped with smoky BBQ sauce, cheddar cheese, smoked bacon, tomato jam and tobacco onions.  He opted for the Truffle-Parm fries ($2.00) with his burger.  Cathy decided on the Court Reporter ($12.00), which is a Certified Angus Beef burger topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, avocado, honey-chipotle aioli, and roasted red pepper relish.  She opted for the sweet potato fries with her burger($2.00).  And…she went ahead and decided to try an Old Fashioned without sampling Justin’s…so that was put in as well.

I mentioned to our waitress before ordering that I had been talking to Jason Pierce about my meal.  She said she would go to the kitchen and talk to him, so when she returned she said that Jason recommended the Kale Salad ($8.00), without the Parmesan cheese and without the toasted almonds.  I said that sounded great.  After all…I love, love, LOVE kale.  I was super excited.

With the orders in, Cathy and Justin decided to enjoy their cocktails while we sat around, took in the ambiance of the restaurant itself, and had good conversation.  First of all, you might notice a courtroom theme for Sidebar.  You are very observant.  That was entirely the point.  Not to mention, the restaurant itself is located in a grand 19th-Century building next to the Second Street Bridge, and boasts lofty ceilings, towering windows, a beautiful bar, and comfortable seating.  It’s simply a stunning place to dine.  Another thing that Sidebar is quite proud of is that they created their own unique hamburger blend, which is a mix of certified Angus beef, chuck, brisket, and short rib, creating a burger that uses no trimmings, added fats, fillers, or binders.  So, for you carnivores or people with friends who love a good burger…this might be a great place to take them.

It wasn’t too long before our food arrived at the table.  Everything looked amazing.  My salad was a work of art.  Honestly.  A bed of finely shredded kale, piled high with carrots, greens, carrots, and served with a citrus vinaigrette.  Rimming the edge of it was gorgeous heirloom tomatoes and fresh cucumber.  It was not the described kale salad from the menu, but something that Jason did up special for me.  No sooner had the waitress left but Jason comes to the table to introduce himself and tell me a little bit about what he put together for me.  I shook his hand and thanked him for his help and for everything.  This salad was going to be epic…I could already tell.  Jason returned to the kitchen and I dug in.

HOLY COW!  This is definitely one of the best salads I have ever had the honor of eating.  And I’m not just saying that.  First of all, it’s not your typical green salad that most restaurants would give you.  I loved the way the kale was shredded, making it the bed of the salad, and not difficult to eat, nor clunky.  The green onion, carrots, and cucumber made fantastic green vegetables to serve with it.  And those heirloom tomatoes…they were juicy, fresh, and just melted in my mouth.  The citrus vinaigrette was out-of-this-world and made for the perfect pairing with every component of this salad.  It was a nice hit of sweetness that matched the earthy flavors of the vegetables to perfection.  I almost didn’t want to dive into it, because it just looked gorgeous, but I was hungry and I definitely wanted to see what Jason’s salad creation tasted like.  If heaven was a salad bar, then this would be the salad it would serve every day.  I would never get tired of eating this.  It worked.  It worked well.  And I couldn’t stop eating it even if I tried.

Cathy and Justin devoured their burgers and fries and polished off their cocktails.  Everyone was satisfied and happy with their meals.  Cathy and I already decided this is definitely a place we need to take our friend Greg, who LOVES a good burger.  I think he would love what this place served up.

I really wanted to once again express my appreciation to Sidebar and to Jason Pierce, specifically, for not only addressing my dietary needs, but for exceeding all expectations when it came to my dinner choice that evening.  I was blown away and can’t wait to return again for another round of that amazing Kale Salad.  I have been bragging to everyone, my running group included (because we ran by the restaurant on Saturday morning) about the food, the service, and the attention that is given to every aspect of customer service and customer satisfaction at Sidebar.  I was beyond impressed.

Louisville is certainly lucky to have such a great gourmet burger establishment.  Not just because of the value of the food produced, but also the attention to detail and the personal touches that are given…without even being asked.  I will forever recommend Sidebar to people, simply because they took good care of me, someone with special dietary needs, and they did it very well.  Going above and beyond…that’s what they do.

Congratulations, Sidebar…you definitely passed the bar!!  In fact, you just set the bar higher for every other local restaurant!

Sidebar's Kale Salad (done gluten-free)
Sidebar’s Kale Salad (done gluten-free)

Recipe: Vegan Taco Salad (With a Twist)

Every week, I receive this amazing little green bin on my doorstep that is stocked with fresh, organic, local vegetables.  Depending on the week, I can churn through these fresh goodies quickly…or I struggle to use them up before the next week when another great bin arrives.  This week, it was one of the slower-through-the-produce weeks as my roommate had her last wisdom tooth removed and was on soft food.  But she humored me the other night…and let me use up quite a few of our veggies to create this amazing dish.

I spotted this recipe on Pinterest…and it seemed easy enough…and very, very delicious!!  So, with my roomie’s permission and blessing, this is what I fixed for dinner.  Of course, I tweaked it a little to use up some of the ingredients I had from my bin…but those will be noted in the recipe.

The recipe itself is taken from the blog Healthful Pursuit.  As I said…I added my own fresh veggie twist on it to polish off some of the items from my bin.

Recipe: Vegan Taco Salad (With a Twist)

Vegan Taco Salad (With A Twist)
Vegan Taco Salad (With A Twist)


Servings: 1
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Cook 10 minutes

Ingredients:

Taco seasoning:

  • 1 tablespoon chili powder

    Homemade Taco Seasoning
    Homemade Taco Seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
Taco “meat”:
  • 1/2 white onion, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 cup cooked chickpeas
  • 1 teaspoon taco seasoning

Guacamole:
  • 1/2 avocado flesh, mashed
  • 1 tablespoon finely diced white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Cilantro-Lime Dressing:

Cilantro Lime Dressing
Cilantro Lime Dressing
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, rinsed well
  • 1/2 cup fresh lime juice
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2-3 tablespoons honey, to your taste
  • salt and pepper to taste

Salad Ingredients:
  • 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce (I used cabbage)
  • 1 tomato, chopped (I roasted and chopped organic beets)
  • Salsa (optional, I didn’t use)
  • Corn Tortillas (optional, I didn’t use)

Directions:

Make the taco seasoning.  In a small bowl, mix together chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, red pepper flakes, oregano, paprika, cumin, salt and pepper. Store in an airtight container.

Add sliced onion and water to a medium-sized saucepan. Heat on medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, until onions are softened.

Add chickpeas and taco seasoning and reduce heat to medium.  Cook uncovered for another 2-3 minutes, until heated through.

Meanwhile, add guacamole ingredients to a small bowl and mash with a fork to combine. Set aside.

Make the cilantro lime dressing.  Feed cilantro leaves through food processor tube and process until finely minced.  Add lime juice and process a few seconds.  Slowly pour olive oil through food processor tube and process until dressing emulsifies.  Add honey, season with salt and pepper, and process a few seconds to combine.

Pile all of the salad ingredients in a bowl. Top with guacamole and taco “meat”.

~*~*~

This made a lot of salad.  I doubled the recipe when I made it the other night.  It was filling and very, very delicious.  I was very impressed with the way the flavors came together.  Instead of salsa, I made a cilantro lime dressing, which really topped off all the ingredients nicely.  And instead of tomatoes, I roasted up some organic beets by wrapping them in foil and putting them in a 425 degree for an hour and a half.  After letting them cool, I peeled off the skins and put them in the fridge until dinner time the following day.  Then I chopped them up for the salad.  It added a nice earthy flavor.  The lettuce was replaced with the cabbage I had in my fridge as well.  It was a nice substitution that really, really worked well.

Substitute, dress it up as you like.  This vegan taco salad is amazing whether you make it your own or follow the original recipe.  Filling, full of great proteins, healthy fats, and great flavor.

I also made my own taco seasoning…and it was awesome!

Go ahead…give this a try!