Restaurant Review: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House

Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana
Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Restaurant: Hops & Fire: Craft Tap House, Greenwood, Indiana

Normally, whenever I venture up to Indianapolis for an event, race, or whatnot, my one requirement is a stop at Cheeseburger in Paradise…because I can get a gluten-free veggie burger with gluten-free fries (or sweet potato fries)…and the burger custom made (no cheese; no sour cream) to fit my dietary needs.  This is awesome, as any frozen burger patty, or even homemade burger, tend to be a bit mushy and end up slipping out of any sort of gluten-free bread used as a bun (be it an actual gluten-free bun or just some gluten-free bread).  Cheeseburger in Paradise doesn’t have that problem…and it’s nice to be able to safely eat a veggie burger (so many use breadcrumbs as binder) out at a restaurant AND not have to eat it with a fork and knife (meaning…they have a gluten-free bun and I can pick it up).

Needless to say, I ran two half marathons, two weeks apart up in Indianapolis.  After the first one (OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini Marathon), I did hit up Cheeseburger in Paradise.  But two weeks later, I wasn’t ready to revisit Paradise.  I just had it.  My craving had been satisfied.

That being said, when I returned to the Indianapolis to run the Geist Half Marathon, I wanted to try something different.  Step out of the comfort zone…try something new.

I had been hearing some buzz around a place located in Greenwood, Indiana, by a bunch of my friends up in that area.  It was a craft beer tap house called Hops & Fire.  And what was pointed out more than once was that when you step inside to be seated, the hostess will ask if you require any special menus.  In addition to their regular menu, they have extensive vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free menus.  I told her I was a gluten-free vegetarian and she grabbed both of those menus and a regular one for Cathy and told me that the menus don’t often cross over each other, but anything on either menu can be made gluten-free, vegan, or vegetarian.  She took us to our table and we were seated.

Our waiter was totally adorable and came over to introduce himself.  His name was Kyle and he asked how we were doing.  Cathy pointed at me and said, “Well, she just ran a half marathon…”  He raised his eyebrows and said, “So I’m guessing you want water.”  HA!  He was so right.  Cathy had thought about trying one of their craft selections, but in the end started with the water.

Two menus and having so many options was a bit overwhelming to me.  The only thing I knew I wanted to try was Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread.  I bought Lactaid specifically for this meal.  No joke.  We went ahead and mentioned that we wanted that as an appetizer and Kyle said he’d put that in while we finished making our decisions on what to eat, as it was the appetizer that took the longest to prepare.  While he was gone, I started to narrow down my choices, getting it down to three options.  After a little back and forth and pros and cons, I went for the one that didn’t contain cheese…as I was certain I was about to consume more cheese than my body was going to like momentarily.

Kyle returned to take our order, and as usual, as I’m the complicated one, I ordered first.  I went with the Gluten Free California Wrap…keeping the House Chips as a side.  Cathy went with the Stout Pork Belly BLT, which was served with a side of their Parmesan House Chips.  Orders were in…after Kyle had to go and figure out how to combine two menus to make a dish.  Poor guy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread
Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread

Only a few moments late, a large plate was being carried to our table and put in front of us.  Clearly, when I saw the fact that I could get Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread…I didn’t read the description.  This plate and appetizer was HUGE.  Definitely enough for 4-8 people.  Hops & Fire Gluten Free 3-Cheese Garlic Bread ($9.00), is a full gluten-free baguette, which is drenched in roasted garlic and salted butter, served with a gooey, melted blanket of shallots and chives, which are smothered in Provolone, Mozzarella, and Romano cheeses.  This is then baked so that the top of the cheese gets golden and everything is melty and ooey-gooey.  It comes with a side of marinara.  I took my Lactaid and hoped for the best (sometimes it helps; other times, it doesn’t).  I grabbed the slice on the end and pulled it away, the cheese stretching and making me…so happy.  I cut it up, dipped a piece into the marinara…and immediately lost my mind.  If you go to Hops & Fire, this is their signature appetizer and it is not to be missed.  The gluten-free baguette was crispy on the outside and that perfect toasty, but still soft on the inside.  The cheese was melted to perfection.  The garlic was superb.  Yeah…this made me SO happy.  And, for the record, the Lactaid worked…this time.  Thank goodness!  This was A LOT of food, so Cathy and I said we’d eat half of it and get a box and take the rest of it home.  That’s what we did as our food arrived.  We boxed it up…and it was lunch the next day.

Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips
Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT with a side of Parmesan House Chips

So, let’s start with Cathy’s lunch, shall we?  My om-nom-nomnivore (haha) friend loves to eat pig in any form she can.  This is no joke.  She loves her pork products.  So it was no surprise to me that she chose the Hops & Fire Stout Pork Belly BLT ($12.00) off of their Brewed Baskets selections on the regular menu.  It came with a decent serving of their Parmesan House Chips on the side.  This sandwich is not your typical BLT.  Hops & Fire serves up a stout beer and kosher salt-brined local pork belly, which is seared, roasted, sliced thin, and pan fried, then topped with baby bibb lettuce, beefsteak tomatoes, and homemade apricot onion jam…served on their grilled garlic shallot bread.  Here’s the thing…they do NOT skimp on the pork belly bacon in this BLT.  Not one bit.  You’ll see by the photo I’m putting up here for those of you who are not a gluten-free vegetarian like me.  I mean…it was BACON. FOR. DAYS.  She had more bacon than Parmesan House Chips.  And that’s not a bad thing, as the protein is, honestly, what you are shelling out money for.  She said the garlic shallot bread was amazing (we Celiacs will never know…).  She said it could have used a slight bit more mayo…but it was awesome.  And yes…she devoured it all and the chips.  Carnivores.  Oy!

Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a mountain of House Chips
Hops & Fire Gluten Free California Wrap with a side of House Chips

As for me…I went ahead and combined an offering on the Vegetarian Menu and asked that it be made gluten-free.  I opted for the Gluten Free California Wrap ($12.00)…mostly because it didn’t have cheese and avocado always wins.  The California Wrap is a gluten-free tortilla that is stuffed and rolled up around fresh sliced avocado, beefsteak tomato, bibb lettuce, pickled onions, and a roasted garlic aioli. OH MY GLUTEN FREE GODS!!  This was a simple, basic, wrap, but it tasted amazing to me.  Maybe it was because I had just pounded out 13.1 miles and was living off of watermelon and water at that point, but this wrap was great.  Gluten-free tortillas are nothing to write home about, and I’m pretty certain this was the standard gluten-free teff tortilla.  But it just serves as a way for me to pick up and devour the veggie-licious produce that was stuffed and rolled up inside.  The aioli, by the way, was delicious.  The avocado was ripe and sweet.  The tomatoes…so good.  I loved every bite of this wrap.  It came with a mountain…no…a landslide of their House Chips, which I couldn’t even finish.  Where Cathy had a decent side of hers, the chips serving was bigger than my wrap…so…I ate what I wanted and left the rest.

Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae
Hops & Fire Gluten Free and Vegan Ice Cream Sundae

We were full, but we couldn’t end our experience there.  Kyle tempted us with a dessert menu, pointing out that those marked with a gf were gluten free and also the codes for vegan and vegetarian as well.  We were very tempted to get one of the Desserts For Two (yeah…we so wanted the Gluten Free and Vegan S’mores Cast Iron Cake), but in the end, decided we were too full for that and went with splitting a single serving of the Vegan Ice Cream Sundae ($5.00).  This was a small bowl (thank goodness) that had a scoop of vegan ice cream, drizzled lightly with hot fudge.  It was perfect and a great way to end the meal.  It was amazing.  The ice cream was not as creamy as regular ice cream, but it was cold and melty and amazing.  And the hot fudge…that’s always a welcome addition to anything ice cream-ish.

Kyle brought us our check once we had polished it off and we paid in cash and got our things together to go.  We talked about the food for a bit of the drive home…and how amazing and good it was.  I was beyond happy with the service and the attention paid to each dish that was ordered, making sure that it fit my dietary needs…nothing that made me take pause and question whether it was safe for me to eat or not.

I’m already planning my return to Hops & Fire.  So, if you happen to be in the Indianapolis area, or traveling through, do make the trip to Greenwood and check out this amazing and delicious place.  You have a specialty diet…they have you covered.  And I love it.

Next time…gluten-free onion rings.  It’s happening!

Restaurant Review: Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon
Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

Restaurant: Deschutes Brewery, Portland, Oregon

What do you think of when you think of Portland, Oregon?  Food trucks…yes…but a lot of people would also point to the amazing array of brew pubs that the city has to offer.  Oregon is very much a foodie haven, and there is plenty of places to whet your appetite.

Research began on Find Me Gluten Free…which pulled up hundreds and hundreds of restaurants that cater to people with gluten intolerance and Celiac.  I knew that my traveling partners, Cathy and Jenn, were being very good about where we ate on Hawaii (often out of Jenn’s comfort zone) due to my dietary restrictions…so…going to a brew pub in Portland wasn’t just a necessity, it was a way of thanking them for being so flexible with the food choices while island hopping in Hawaii.

That being said, we narrowed it down to two choices…and Cathy and I made Jenn pick the place.  This was no biggie for me…there were options I was interested in at each place…but it was a matter of whether Cathy got Chicken and Waffles or Roasted Lamb.

Jenn didn’t really care where we went, but in the end, she chose Deschutes Brewery…and that was our Friday night dinner.

After lunch at the food pods, we continued our exploration of Portland, meaning bookstores, record stores, chocolate shops, coffee shops, and all that good stuff.  But all that shopping does work up an appetite.  So, after spending a long time exploring Powell’s Books, we were ready to get some dinner.  And it was just a short hike to Deschutes Brewery…and I loved it from the moment we stepped inside.

Deschutes Brewery is a brew pub located in the heart of Portland and is described as a popular destination for great beer, delicious food, and a relaxed urban atmosphere.  It features 26 taps that include Deschutes mainstays plus a selection of seasonal and experimental beers developed and brewed on site exclusively for the Portland pub.

In addition, no pub is worth its salt without pub grub.  Executive Chef Jill Ramseier leads a talented culinary team that has put forth classic pub food, but elevated it.  In fact, each item on the menu is created, from scratch, with the best possible local ingredients.  SO Portland.  Love it!

We arrived shortly after 5 p.m. and it was already hopping.  We were seated immediately and given menus to peruse.  Water was brought to our table and our waiter, Zach, came over to pour some water and ask if we wanted anything else to drink.  Jenn and I were sticking with water, but Cathy had it on her to-do list to sample a local brew.  She went with the Deschutes River Ale ($3.25).  He went to grab her drink while we finished up decisions for dinner.

With beer delivered, it was time to place an order.  Jenn went with the Dungeness Crab Roll ($17.75), which is pacific crab tossed with onion, celery, lemon and mayonnaise in a seared East coast-style bun.  It came with a serving of fries on the side.

Cathy opted for the Spicy Fried Chicken and Waffle ($16.50).  This dish is a Nashville-style basted chicken breast and thick sliced smoked provolone over a housemade sourdough waffle with maple dressed kale, fenel and pecan salad, served with a maple honey sauce.  For an additional $2…you can add bacon.  Cathy left the bacon off.

As for me…I was given a gluten-free menu.  And on that menu was plenty of items to choose from.  Had I not had a great sandwich for lunch from Juniper at the food pods, I would have opted for the Quinoa Burger ($13.25), which is described as a crispy quinoa cashew patty with chipotle aioli, Rock Face Creamery aged white cheddar (which I would have left off), lettuce, tomato, onion and served, I am assuming, on a gluten free bun.  BUT…I DIDN’T get that.  I could have…and, as I said, had I not had a sammie for lunch, this would have been my dinner.

My dinner, instead, was the half portion of their Spinach and Quinoa Salad ($7.00) with a plate of their Garlic Rosemary Fries ($6.75), which I got minus the manchego cheese that comes served with it.  YES…the fries are gluten-free!!!  *HAPPY DANCE!*  Hey…I eat healthy most of the time, dessert and an occasional plate of fries are treats to me and ones I never turn down when they are available.  A healthy life doesn’t mean there aren’t treats every now and again!

Orders in.

And in true brew pub (and pub) fashion, the food didn’t take too long to come out.  Just long enough to know that everything was prepared fresh and made to order.  Our plates came out…and they were heaped with food.  Even without the plate of fries (which I did share!), my salad would have been plenty filling at the half portion on its own.  So, that was actually a good call on my part.

Deschutes Brewery's Spicy Fried Chicken & Waffle
Deschutes Brewery’s Spicy Fried Chicken & Waffle

Jenn and Cathy both loved their meals.  Cathy said that while the chicken was spicy, it wasn’t overpowering.  The provolone cheese helped to cool things down and the waffle was a nice hit of sweetness to mesh with the savory heat of the chicken.  When paired with the maple and honey, it was a perfect bite.  In fact, after years of wondering why chicken and waffles were such a thing in the south…it took a trip to Portland, Oregon for her to “get it.”  Yes…she gets it now.  And I think she has a new craving in life.  She ate until she was full…and then had to surrender to the dish.  But she made a healthy dent in it, loving and raving about every bite.  So there is that.

Let’s start with the salad.  The Spinach and Quinoa Salad comes with Briar Rose Creamery feta cheese (which I left on…because feta and I get along for the most part), blueberries, pickled beets, fresh spinach, and perfectly cooked quinoa.  It is topped with a delicious vinaigrette, which does come on the side so it isn’t swimming in dressing.  That’s something I totally appreciated.  This salad was filling and provided a myriad of different flavors and textures.  It was inviting with each bite.  Tangy, tart, smooth and creamy.  The quinoa and spinach are both nutritional powerhouses…and I devoured every last bit of this salad.  Besides, you put roasted beets on anything and you have my full attention.  Seriously!  OH…and it came with a gluten-free breadstick laid across it.  I questioned it when it arrived at the table…”This is gluten-free, right?”  “OH yes,” I was reassured.  Happiness comes in breadstick form sometimes.  It’s the little things that aren’t so little for other people but are for people like me.

But the star…as much as I want to point to the salad…was the gluten-free Garlic Rosemary Fries.  These fries are made from hand cut Kennebec potatoes and seasoned with fresh garlic (LOTS of it) and rosemary and served with a rosemary aioli.  These were to DIE for.  Seriously.  I took one bite and I was hooked.  I didn’t want to stop eating them.  Even with some self-control (HA!) and a little help from my friends, this plate wasn’t emptied.  It probably could have been, but we all have our limits.  These were some of the best gluten-free fries I have ever been served in a restaurant.  And fries are hard for me to get in a restaurant.  Everything shares a fryer…so this is always a nice treat.  And this is one splurge I was glad I made.  Holy cow.  I want to recreate these.  I’m going to do the best I can.  WOW!

Save for fries (from both Jenn & I) and a bit of chicken and waffle on Cathy’s plate…we ate the hell out of our meals.  And for good reason…they were amazing.  I was beyond impressed with the caliber of food that came to our table.  Everything looked beautiful and tasted amazing.  Nothing was soggy or overdressed.  Nothing was burnt.  It was pure dinner perfection in true brew pub form.  I am a huge fan…and I wish I lived in Portland so I could continue to go back and try other options from their extensive gluten-free menu.  Just…WOW!!

I have Jenn to thank for actually sending us to Deschutes Brewery in the end…and to me, it was the perfect way to round out an amazing and unforgettable trip.  No better way to end a vacation then with good friends, good food, and good times.  Deschutes…made that all possible…right in the heart of Portland.

Deschutes Brewery's Spinach & Quinoa Salad with the Garlic Rosemary Fries
Deschutes Brewery’s Gluten Free Spinach & Quinoa Salad with the Garlic Rosemary Fries (also gluten free)

Restaurant Review: Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, Ohio

Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, Ohio
Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, Ohio

Restaurant: Moerlein Lager House, Cincinnati, Ohio

It had been a long day for me.  No…really.  And, while a part of me was super stoked that I was leaving right from work to drive up to Cincinnati, Ohio, with my roommate, for a concert, another part of me just wanted to curl up under a blanket on the sofa at home.  But…there was music to be enjoyed.  And she had purchased a set of tickets to see Bastille in Cincinnati awhile back to help cheer me up.

This foot injury has had me pretty down since July…and she thought a surprise and a band I love might just help lift my spirits.  It did.  but this was a crazy, intense week at work, and my brain was ready to shut down.

Thankfully, that mindset changes when you actually get on the road to an event that you are really looking forward to.

So, at 4 p.m., we departed the office and hit the road up to Cincinnati, Ohio.  A couple of days prior, Cathy had made reservations with a place not to far from US Bank Arena (the venue for the show) due to some gluten-free options available on their menu.  I love trying out new food places so…WOOHOO!  Even better…it had fish and chips readily available for her.  YAY!  She made the reservations for 6:30 p.m., which would give us some time to hit traffic and get into the city, park, and get to the venue.  The last-ditch food option would be Chipotle, if the traffic gods were not with us.

But they were…and we arrived in Cincinnati just before 6 p.m., having only hit some traffic in Covington, Kentucky, just before crossing into Ohio and hitting Cincinnati.  We readily found parking and got out, making the short stroll from the parking garage (with it’s $20 event parking!) to the restaurant, which was literally one block up and then over…down toward the river walk.  Beautiful night too.  Perfect weather.

We walked up the stairs to Moerlein Lager House and stepped inside.  There were a few people ahead of us, but most went right to the bar.  We stepped up and Cathy mentioned that we were early, because traffic wasn’t as bad as we anticipated…and they were more than happy to sit us down early.  Nice.  We were shown to a very nice table, somewhere between the rowdy bar and the floor to ceiling windows, which offered a spectacular view of the riverfront.  We were given our menus and a menu that had the specials on it, where if any item were ordered off that menu, a donation would go towards a charity.  Tempting, but there really wasn’t anything on there for me…and Cathy had her heart set on fish and chips.  Our waitress, Kelly, came over to see if we wanted something to drink.  We started with water.  And when she returned, she asked if we wanted any appetizers or had any questions on the menu.  Cathy mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian…and she came over.  I think she missed the “vegetarian” part following gluten-free…because she highly recommended the crab cakes.  But…hey…she tried.  And…working in it’s favor – the restaurant labeled everything V for vegetarian and GF for gluten-free.  And wouldn’t you know it…they had a dish that fit both requirements.

Cathy ordered her Fish and Chips ($18.00), which was cod that was battered with their house beer, Hudelphol, and served with a jalapeno tartar sauce, coleslaw, and fries…and decided she’d live dangerously with a non-alcoholic beer (I agree with some friends of mine on this…what’s the point??!), Einbecker ($7.00) to have with her entree.

As for me…I happily placed an order for the Crispy Balsamic Tofu ($17.00).  YES!  You read that right.  This entree was served with a spinach basil risotto and roasted tomatoes, cipoline onions, and wild mushrooms, topped with shaved asparagus and preserved lemon salad.  It had actually been a toss-up between that entree, or ordering a few sides and dining on that.  Cathy pointed out I could get those sides offered virtually anywhere…but the tofu dish was an original.  I agreed…and that’s what I ordered.

Moerlein Lager House's Crispy Balsamic Tofu
Moerlein Lager House’s Crispy Balsamic Tofu

While we waited for food, we discussed the concert…the music…my upcoming marathon…my foot (which to this day still bothers me!)…and the restaurant itself. And, when our food arrived, we were both certainly ready to dive in and devour.

My dish looked beautiful.  It was a true culinary work of art.  The tofu was sliced on the diagonal, making perfect triangles that had this great crispy coating on the outside.  It was all set over this mound of perfectly creamy risotto with the vegetables framing the outside of the dish.  Shaves asparagus topped it all off and there was this gorgeous balsamic reduction that was drizzled over the plate.  I felt bad slicing into it…but I was hungry, so that moment only lasted briefly.

One bite was all I needed to realize how much I loved this meal.  The tofu had this great crispy outside, but inside it was still rich and soft.  It was glazed perfectly with the balsamic reduction and the hit of lemon just made it shine.  The shaved asparagus was cooked to a perfect al dente and used as not only a garnish, but as a great addition to the roasted vegetables on the plate.  The onions were spectacular and the tomatoes were soft and juicy.  But the star…the absolute star of this entree was the spinach basil risotto.  It was phenomenal.  Creamy and rich and packed with great earthy and herby flavors.  I was already telling Cathy after one bite that I wanted to recreate this dish at home.  She sampled the risotto and understood why.  I also had her try the tofu…and she really liked that as well.  This dish hit on everything I liked.  It had a nice tang to it, but the flavors were simple and real.  And I ate the entire thing…possibly in record time.

A dessert menu was brought to our table and after a bit of discussion…and the mention of a Chocolate Creme Brulee ($7.00), Cathy and I decided that we could treat ourselves and split the dessert.  Cathy checked with Kelly to make sure the Creme Brulee was gluten-free.  She said she thought it was, but would check.  It was…and after a small wait, the delicious looking dessert was arriving at our table with two spoons.  Holy Moses!  This was one spectacular and rich dessert.  The burnt sugar on top was fun to crack through, but what it gave way to was this rich and decadent chocolate cream.  Cathy described it as high-class pudding.  HA!  And that’s what it tasted like.  It was amazing.  And I think once we set the spoons down, Cathy might have licked the bowl a little bit.

Honestly, the service was amazing and I didn’t feel nervous about eating here.  The clearly labeled items on the menu helped make it very easy to navigate and to make sure I got what I needed and wanted.  And what would be safe for me.  Cathy loved her meal, and even enjoyed the jalapeno tartar sauce.  She said it was her second favorite tartar sauce she’s had yet.  That’s something.  The food was outstanding.  I mean…it’s not every day I can get a vegetarian dish that is also gluten-free at a restaurant without it being…a salad.  So, this was a nice treat, indeed.  And one day, when I run the Flying Pig Marathon…you better believe this is the place I’ll be hitting up for dinner.

Thank you, Moerlein Lager House…you exceeded my expectations!

Moerlein Lager House's Chocolate Creme Brulee
Moerlein Lager House’s Chocolate Creme Brulee


Recipe: Irish Stew

Twas the day before I left for vacation and I still had a lot…and I mean a lot of fresh produce left from my bin.  Sometimes I think I should cancel it the week I go out of town, but never really want to.  After all, I love my local and organic fresh produce being delivered to me and I hate these weeks I get back from a trip and have nothing in my fridge resembling a fresh fruit or vegetable.  I had to do something with the plethora of produce that remained…and I wasn’t exactly sure what I could manage.

All hail the Happy Herbivore.  In the cookbook, Happy Herbivore Light & Lean, which, for those of you keeping track, is the same book I got the Garden Vegetable Chili recipe from, I found an amazing recipe for Irish Stew.  Yes…vegetarian Irish Stew.  Her recipe was not gluten-free…but I made a couple of adjustments…and added a more nontraditional ingredient (to use it from my crisper drawer before leaving, naturally) to make the recipe work for me.  Honestly…it is delicious.  And so easy to prepare.  Like any stew, chili, or soup…just let it simmer and let all those flavors soak in.  That’s what it’s all about.

Recipe: Irish Stew

Irish Stew
Irish Stew

Servings: 3-4 (but I managed 6)
Time: Prep 15 minutes; Cook 50 minutes


  • 2 portobello mushrooms (I used 16 ounces of crimini mushrooms)
  • 2 cups No-Beef Broth (I used 2 cups organic vegetable broth)
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 thyme twigs, fresh, de-stemmed, or 1-2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 celery stalk, sliced
  • 2 medium white potatoes, diced
  • 1 cup Guinness stout (I used Redbridge Gluten Free Bear)
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1-2 tablespoons Vegan Worcestershire Sauce (I used gluten free low sodium tamari)
  • **(In addition, I added 2 leeks to this stew…as I had them in my crisper…and why the hell not?)**


Remove stems from portobello mushrooms and discard.  Cut the mushroom caps into strips and set aside.

Line a large pot with 1 cup of no-beef broth.  Saute onion and garlic over high heat until onions are translucent, about a minute or two.

Add thyme, carrots, celery, potatoes, stout, and tomato paste, and stir.

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and continue to cook for about 10 minutes.

Add mushrooms on top, along with Dijon, bay leaves, 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, and remaining broth.  Bring to a boil again, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes, stirring every so often.

Continue to cook until mushrooms and potatoes are very soft – past fork-tender.

Taste, adding more Worcestershire sauce if desired.

Add a generous amount of black pepper and salt if desired.

Remove bay leaves and serve.


This is definitely a healthy and hearty stew.  It has that great ‘stick-to-your-ribs’ feel to it, yet is completely plant based.  Gotta love that.  And I thought my addition of the leeks actually worked quite well.  As I had to use a beer instead of a stout, the flavor is a bit more mild, but this has Ireland written all over it.  A little nontraditional…but very good.

I froze a few servings of it and this thaws out and reheats beautifully.  Trust me.  You’ll love this!  Especially as we enter the perfect time for soups!!  And with just over 115 calories per 1-3/4 cup serving…you won’t feel guilting indulging in this stew either.  I can’t wait to try out more of the Happy Herbivore dishes!

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 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…

Gluten-Free in Disney World a walk in the park

Gluten-Free Dining at Disney World
Gluten-Free Dining at Disney World

For the first time in my life…I was excited to be heading to Disney.  Yes…I’m in my thirties.  No…I’ve never been to a Disney park.  No Disneyland.  No Disney World.  My family could never afford to go when I was growing up…so that was one thing many of my friends had done that I hadn’t yet achieved.  It was certainly on my bucket list, and from what I had been told…I’d enjoy it more now that I was older anyway.

That being the case…the perfect opportunity to go there arose with the Disney Princess Half Marathon.  Originally, I was going to run this one in 2012, but I didn’t have the money for it.  So, the moment registration opened for the 2013 Disney Princess Half Marathon, you better believe I was registered and ready to run.  The way I figured it…if I went ahead and registered, I couldn’t talk myself out of it due to financial reasons.  No looking back.  I signed up the minute registration was opened…and I was locked in.

Disney World.

Trust me…I do not travel without doing some research as to what I might be able to eat.  Thankfully, Disney World is pretty much the #1 go-to vacation spot if you have food allergies…especially Celiac or gluten intolerance.  Trust me.  I was expecting to have to eat many a Go Picnic meal while on vacation, but I only had to break into one of the little packs I brought…and that was at the Atlanta airport on the way home.  That definitely speaks very highly of the park and of Disney.

So…here I go with yet another combination blog about my amazing dining experiences while at Disney World.  I wanted to be particularly safe in my food choices being that I was there to run a half marathon and being glutenized while on vacation sucks enough…but being glutenized before running 13.1 miles sucks even more.

Safety was key…and I never felt as if I were in any danger of becoming sick at any dining establishment where my roommate and I chose to dine.

I suppose the best place to start…is at the beginning of the trip…

Sanaa - Animal Kingdom Lodge
Sanaa – Animal Kingdom Lodge

Restaurant: Sanaa – The Animal Kingdom Lodge

What better way to experience Animal Kingdom, our first park of choice, than by eating at the Animal Kingdom Lodge that night for dinner.  What really added to the ambiance of this particular dining attraction was that you could literally gaze out of the window and see exotic animals roaming around the Sunset Savanna as you eat.  The cuisine is African-inspired with Indian flavored.  Mmmm…I totally dig Indian food.

My roommate and I arrived about 15 minutes ahead of our reservation.  As we checked in, the hostess said that she saw that there was one person in the party with a gluten allergy.  I nodded and said that it was me.  She handed us our little pager thingy and we took a seat to wait for our table.  Despite arriving early, we were taken back as soon as something opened up…which was just before our reservation time anyway.

I loved the dimly lit quarters in which diners were seated.  All around were decorations from Africa, really adding to the

Hazelnut Rooibos Tea
Hazelnut Rooibos Tea

amazing feel of the restaurant itself.  And, once seated, our waiter came over to the table to get our drink order and talk about some specials.  I went ahead and ordered a hot tea to go with my dinner, settling on the Hazelnut Rooibos tea ($6.29) with some water.

As he was going over some of the favorites on the menu, he noted that I had the gluten-free menu in front of me and said that a chef would be out to talk to me specifically about the menu, but that if anything on the regular menu looked like it had gluten in it…it was not on mine.  Just as he was starting to go over the gluten-free bread option should I want to do the Indian-style bread service, which means I get poppadoms instead of the traditional bread, the chef, Jake, came out to speak to me about the menu.

Chef Jake really did a lot to put my mind to ease.  Not only did he promise to watch my ticket carefully as it was prepared, he also went over the poppadoms that I could use for the Indian-style bread service, should I choose to do that.  He went over which sauces/chutneys would be okay with that (they were listed on the menu) and said that I could put my mind to ease…as they would take good care of me.  I thanked him for his time and he returned to the kitchen, leaving us once again in the capable hands of our server, Chris.

With a little bit of time to decide on what we wanted, my roommate and I placed our orders.  Cathy decided on the Chicken Tandoori Pilaf ($17.99).  As for me…the Sanaa Vegetarian Sampler ($14.99) sounded awesome.  I was able to choose two of the five vegetarian dishes and have them served with basmati rice.  I was able to choose between Paneer Tikka; Stewed Lentils; Spicy Peas, Chickpeas, and Potatoes; Mixed Seasonal Greens and Tomatoes; Vindaloo-style Vegetables.  I knew for certain I wanted the Vindaloo-style Vegetables, so the difficult part was deciding what the other choice would be.  After a little back and forth, I chose the Stewed Lentils as my second option.

Chris went to put in the order and I left my fate in the hands of Chef Jake and his knowledgeable kitchen staff.

Sanaa's Vegetarian Sampler - Stewed Lentils, Basmati Rice, Vindaloo-style Vegetables
Sanaa’s Vegetarian Sampler – Stewed Lentils, Basmati Rice, Vindaloo-style Vegetables

Food arrived at our table and I couldn’t wait to try it out.  It looked fantastic.  Three bowls were placed before me.  The middle one held the basmati rice, the one on the left had my tewed lentils, and the one on the right had the vindaloo-style vegetables.  It smelled fantastic and I couldn’t wait to dig in.

The basmati rice was perfect with each of these dishes…for one thing.  And the rice was cooked to perfection and lightly flavored, so as not to take away from the dishes that accompanied it.  I started with the Vindaloo-style Vegetables.  This dish included a blend of okra, tomatoes, green beans, cauliflower and onion.  It wasn’t packed with flavor…as I was expecting a bit of a spice to accompany it.  But, that being said, it wasn’t lacking either.  I thought this was going to be the highlight of my sampler…but it was slightly too mild for me and definitely not as full of flavor as I anticipated.  That being said, it did taste good.  I just was familiar with my last vegetarian vindaloo experience where I had a lot of heat in each bite.  This wasn’t at all bad…it just wasn’t as fantastic as I had built it up in my mind.

The stewed lentils, however, are another story.  These golden lentils were not only packed with protein (me and my protein!), but also seasoned to perfection.  They were creamy and had a hint of spice to them that I enjoyed.  I dished some rice into them and it was a perfect combination when mixed together.  I loved the texture and taste of these lentils.  Nothing grainy…nothing too bland.  Perfection.  These thrilled me.

Despite being full, Chris talked my roommate and I into dessert.  As we were both rather full, we decided to split something.  And the dessert menu at Sanaa was not lacking as far as gluten-free options went.  As we were splitting, Cathy and I chose to try our waiter’s suggestion, the Banana Kulfi Sundae ($5.49), which he described as a banana split without the banana.  Well, I was totally sold!

Sanaa's Banana Kulfi Sundae
Sanaa’s Banana Kulfi Sundae

The dessert was brilliant.  A cube of banana flavored kulfi (which is sweetened condensed milk and evaporated milk that is flavored) is served with a wedge of dried pineapple, warm chocolate sauce, strawberries, a dollop of whipped cream, and spiced cashews.  Kulfi is a bit denser than ice cream and actually takes longer to melt.  Pretty awesome.  And the dessert…was fantastic.  Amazingly tasty.  I especially loved the strawberries that came on the side.  I tried to mix as many of the components together for a bite and it was magical.  I suggest to anyone dining at Sanaa they save room for dessert and give the Banana Kulfi Sundae a try.  Trust me…it was worth the extra money and indulgence.

Sanaa was certainly a good way to kick off my week at Disney World.  I was put to total ease from the moment I checked in and never felt like I needed to second guess any of the food placed in front of me.  Total win.

Raglan Road Irish Pub & Restaurant - Downtown Disney
Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant – Downtown Disney

Restaurant: Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant – Downtown Disney

Well, by now, you know how it is when a pub is in the vicinity with my roommate and I.  We definitely love our pub grub.  She definitely always has more of a selection because being gluten-free at a pub is definitely not easy and being a vegetarian on top of it…even more difficult.  But, I still love the atmosphere of Irish pubs and we chose this one specifically because of how it was rated with gluten-free fare.  Raglan Road Irish Pub and Restaurant is located in the bustling, busy, crowded Downtown Disney.

Let me preface this by saying that of all the places I ate at Disney World…this one was my least favorite.  There were options on the menu for me…many dishes being labeled as having a gluten-free version of it (and yes…this included the fish and chips).  So, that was very calming for me as far as menu choices went.  The thing was…beyond a salad, there wasn’t too much for a vegetarian to have…aside from the Raglan Risotto…which I almost settled on.  The server said I could also enjoy the Portobello Beauty Sandwich without the bread.  But…with all that being said…I decided to stick with something I could pretty much guarantee wouldn’t make me sick.

Let it be known, Cathy cannot enter a pub without getting the Fish and Chips ($19.00) which she always gets with a drink, and since they had Magners ($7.00 – and it’s gluten-free) on tap…she was definitely one happy girl.

I decided to stick with water for my beverage and finally settled on one of the salads on the menu that was vegetarian and gluten-free.  My choice…the Vroom Salad ($12.00) with a helping of some gluten-free carbs…a side of their fries (or chips as they say in Ireland) ($5.00), which would be prepared gluten-free for me.

Dinner arrived at our table.  My roommate loved how her fish and chips were served traditionally…wrapped in paper and poured out onto her plate.  She loved the tartar sauce that came with it.  She did enjoy the fish, but the chips lacked.

As for me…the Vroom Salad intrigued me right away.  The Vroom Salad is made up of gluten-free quinoa grains with cider vinegar marinated

Raglan Road's Vroom Salad with a side of Chips
Raglan Road’s Vroom Salad with a side of Chips

beans, sweet and sour carrots, watercress, and served with a honey mustard dressing.  It was presented in the center of a plate in a pile, which I totally destroyed with my fork to scatter things about the plate and mix with the dressing.

As far as a salad goes…this one was actually one of the better offerings I have had at a pub.  The addition of the quinoa was a fantastic protein-packed addition to the usual greens and vegetables that I get stuck with at such establishments.  The flavors from the beans and carrots only heightened the flavor of the salad.  I felt they were a little heavy-handed with the watercress, but it added a nice green throughout the salad, once I mixed it up.  The watercress was the most unwieldy part of this salad.  It was the best part of this meal.

That being said…my roommate and I were more than disappointed with the chips.  These fries were mostly soggy and lacking that firm crunch I love on the outside of fries.  I don’t get to eat fries out much, so I was looking forward to these.  And they were a huge disappointment in the end.  I ate more of them than I intended, but as I was paying for them…it seemed like I had to put some effort into it.

Would I go back to Raglan Road on a follow-up visit?  Not likely.  Which is too bad…because I do love pubs.

No dessert…instead my roommate and I hit up Downtown Disney Babycakes NYC bakery for a gluten-free cookie sandwich.  My favorite thing I ate all night.  But I’ll get to Downtown Disney’s brach of Babcakes NYC soon enough…

Sunshine Seasons - Epcot
Sunshine Seasons – Epcot

Restaurant: Sunset Seasons – Epcot

With all the food options available at Epcot…there was very little around the park that I could actually eat.  Today was the day before the race and I needed to be very sure about the food I consumed.  One bit of cross contamination could be disastrous for me and my race that I paid so much to run and trained hard for in the cold weather of Indiana.

My roommate already knew what she was going to consume at the park – Lamb Schwarma Platter ($12.99) from Tangierine Cafe in Morocco.  That plate of food came complete with her protein of choice (lamb) as well as a side of hummus, tabouleh and a Tangierine couscous salad with fresh Moroccan bread.  We had met up with our friend Indy, who was also running in the race, and she ventured over to Japan for some sushi.  This only left me to find food.  And while I hoped for some gluten-free vegetarian sushi, I was informed that only the Tariyaki Salmon was gluten-free in Japan.  No good.  I left feeling down.  Looked like it was back to the original plan for me that day…grabbing something at Sunshine Seasons in the food court at Epcot.

I was told they were famous for their soups…but it was hot outside and I wasn’t feeling soup.  I checked out some of the grab-and-go options…including the sushi…but not gluten-free.  Of course.  *sigh*  With no other options, it looked like I was having yet another salad.  We spoke to the person at the salad bar to find out if the Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad ($7.89) was gluten-free.  She wasn’t certain, so she went to check with the chef.  He said that as long as there was no cracker served with it…it would be okay for me.

I wasn’t feeling it…but I was hungry.  So…that’s what I ordered.

Sunshine Season's Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad
Sunshine Season’s Roasted Beets and Goat Cheese Salad

The salad was rather small, comparatively speaking.  It was basically roasted red and yellow beets, served over lightly dressed spring greens.  Generous heaps of goat cheese were served with it.  And, on top, cinnamon-roasted pecans to add a bit of texture and flavor.  The entire salad was dressed with a mild honey-sherry dressing.

It was…okay.  I liked the nuts and goat cheese the best.  The beets were, actually, a good choice for the day before the race.  But there was nothing really great about this meal.  Grab-and-go is not my favorite thing as it is…and food courts are…not always the best option as a go-to for me.  But…I had to eat.  While all the flavors worked together…this just wasn’t what I really wanted that day, so it paled in comparison to anything else I could have sought out.  The problem was…this was all there was.  So, while the salad was good…it wasn’t amazing.  And I probably wouldn’t order it again even if it were the only option once again.


Damn you Epcot and your lack of gluten-free, vegetarian ethnic food throughout your showcases.

Riverside Mill Food Court
Riverside Mill Food Court

Restaurant: Riverside Mill Food Court – Port Orleans Riverside

This…was not a planned food stop on this trip.  Not at all.  But…here’s the thing.  I am an athlete through and through and I have my traditions and my superstitious.  And here is the thing…before every big or long race I run…I love to have gluten-free pizza.  And if pizza is not available, gluten-free pasta will do in a pinch.  But it’s that gluten-free pizza that seems to power me through the following morning.  And after spending the day at Epcot and only consuming a small salad…I needed something that would give me some energy for the early morning race (the race kicks off at 5:30 a.m.).

Panic mode.  None of the restaurants that have gluten-free pizza were in range of the resort.  My roomie and I were staying at Port Orleans Riverside.  And we had made it back over that way when I said I needed to have my gluten-free pizza/pasta tradition.  Honestly…this isn’t something I take lightly.  But with nothing close…I wasn’t sure how to accomplish this.

My roommate went to speak to the concierge on duty.  His name was Will and he was fantastic.  He said he knew how difficult it was to be a Celiac and said he would see what he could do to help.  He picked up the phone and called down to the food court in the resort to see if there was something they could help me with.  He was told to send us down and have us ask to see as chef.  We thanked him for his help and meandered that way.

Chef Will (from Columbus, Ohio) came out to see us and we explained that I was running in the half marathon the next morning and have a tradition of either gluten-free pizza or pasta prior to the race.  He said he could prepare either one of them for me.  So, my roommate and I each decided to get one of the gluten-free pizzas.  She could have actually gotten anything from the food court, but I think she was just trying to keep it simple.  Chef Will went to go prepare two gluten-free cheese pizzas for us (individual size) and I was forever grateful and already feeling better about the run in the morning.  He went over to the kitchen at Boatwright’s Dining Hall to actually cook the pizzas.  Then, after they were ready, he walked them out himself.

Riverside Mills Food Court Gluten-Free Cheese Pizza
Riverside Mills Food Court Gluten-Free Cheese Pizza

Pre-race, individual size, gluten-free cheese pizza ($8.99) made specifically because I had a dietary need…from the Riverside Mill Food Court.  I was impressed.

The pizza was…not one of the better ones I’ve had.  The usual rice cracker crust with pasta sauce and some cheese…warmed through and put onto plates.  Nothing special.  Nothing fantastic.  Nothing that made it stand out from some of the other places I have dined on gluten-free pizza.  But at the moment…nothing could have tasted better.  I appreciate the effort that Port Orleans Riverside put forth for me, specifically the help that both Will and Chef Wes gave to me to help me get the food I needed the night before my reason for being in town.

Huge sigh of relief.  Mediocre pizza…but man…that night…it tasted oh, so good!

Mama Melrose's Ristorante Italiano - Hollywood Studios
Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano – Hollywood Studios

Restaurant: Mama Melrose’s Ristorante Italiano – Hollywood Studios

Of all the places I ate at Disney World…this one, ironically, was my favorite.  Really.  I say ironically because it is, after all, an Italian restaurant and for the most part…Italian food is a no-go for the gluten-free diet.

Unless places can accommodate patrons.

And this place was rated high on how they can deal with food allergies…specifically gluten-free dining.

We arrived a little early for our reservation, but they didn’t mind.  A short wait and we were still seated ahead of our reservation time.  Loved that.  Our server, Elizabeth S., came to the table and noted the tag marked “ALLERGY.”  She inquired as to what the allergy was and I told her gluten.  She said the chef would be out to speak to me about my options.

A few moments later, Chef Michael was coming to the table to talk about the menu.  He said that the pastas could be made gluten-free…and he

Mama Melrose's Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls
Mama Melrose’s Gluten-Free Dinner Rolls

also had gluten-free flatbreads and dinner rolls.  And, should there be room for dessert…a gluten-free flourless cake.  He asked if I knew what I wanted and I explained that since I was a vegetarian as well, I was really looking at the Spaghetti Marinara ($14.99).  He said that he could even throw in some vegetables for me if I would like.  I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like…so I told him I was totally game for that and he could have some fun with it.  He asked if I was interested in the gluten-free dinner rolls, and I had run 13.1 miles that day…so of course I was.

That being decided he returned to the kitchen and Elizabeth returned to the table.  Cathy opted for the Spaghetti with Meatballs and a Four Cheese Sauce ($18.99), which came with complimentary bread.

This would also be a great time to mention that my gluten-free dinner rolls…were also complimentary.  No charge.  Not at all.  And I was given 3 in my basket when they came out to the table…warm and ready to eat.  I broke one open and took a bite.  Delicious.  It tasted like what I remember a honey wheat bread to taste like.  But…it was completely gluten-free…warm…amazing…soft…and just plain YUMMY!

Mama Melrose's Gluten-Free Spaghetti Marinara with Chef Michael's Vegetable Selection
Mama Melrose’s Gluten-Free Spaghetti Marinara with Chef Michael’s Vegetable Selection

Entrees arrived at the table and I was taken aback by just how much food was in that bowl.  Lots of pasta.  Lots and lots of pasta.  And my favorite part was the plethora of vegetables that Chef Michael added to my dish.  I found carrots, broccoli, peppers, spinach, and mushrooms.  It was so much fun seeking out those little morsels and mixing them with the rice noodles and the delicious marinara.  I fell in love with this meal.  So much.  And, sadly, there was a lot of it.  I couldn’t finish it.  But I at least did the chef justice by eating every last vegetable I could find in that bowl.  It was a treasure hunt and I enjoyed every single bite of it.

As I had two dinner rolls remaining, I chose to take those with me to have as lunch while out and about in the parks the following day.  We were heading back to Epcot and I knew there was little for me to eat there…so now I had something that could quell any hunger pains before dinner that night.

Now…if you will recall…I mentioned that this was my favorite place I dined while in Disney World.  And, for me, that meant…I wanted more.  I was so intrigued by this gluten-free flatbread that I asked if, perhaps, on our last day there…if we could go back for dinner.  We had a big breakfast planned that morning but nothing else, and I figured we’d want something to eat before heading back to the resort to finish packing and turn in for the night.

The problem was…there was no reservations available for us.  We checked with the concierge at Port Orleans Riverside the night before…but nothing.  We checked again the following morning…still nothing.  So, it seemed we were out of luck.  On a whim, however, we decided to at least hop down to Hollywood Studios that evening to see if they might be taking walk ins.  That…was a negative.  However, the hostess did tell us to check back around 6:30 p.m. if we wanted to wait that long (it was just over an hour wait), because some people never turn up for their reservation, opting to go to the Fantasmic! show instead.

I was starving by this point, mind you, and the thought of waiting that long was daunting.  However, hopping the bus back to Port Orleans Riverside to dine on Go Picnic meals on our last night in Disney World was less than exciting.  Our other option was Sanaa, but online reservations would have us at 6:50.  Might as well wait until 6:30 here at Mama Melrose’s and see if something opened up.  If not…we’d figure something out…

Luck was with us that night.  We turned back up at 6:30 p.m. as instructed.  The hostess radioed back to see if they could take a party of two…and they could.  It meant a 20 minute wait, but I had already come this far to eat here again, I wasn’t going to stop now.  I think our wait was actually less than 20 minutes…but well worth it.  We were seated, and the allergy tag was stuck on the table once again.  Our waitress tonight was Rose.  She said that we might have to wait a little on the chef tonight, as a party of 14 was seated near us and they had kids with multiple food allergies.

The wait was well worth it.  Chef Michael came to our table and welcomed us back, already setting a basket of gluten-free dinner rolls down.  He remembered us!!  Two nights ago he made me a fantastic Spaghetti Marinara.  And we told him that we had returned tonight, since he intrigued us by gluten-free flatbread and flourless chocolate cake.

Cathy and I chose to split the Wild Mushroom Flatbread ($12.99).  He said he would get right to work on that and would keep in mind the

Mama Melrose's Gluten-Free Wild Mushroom Flatbread
Mama Melrose’s Gluten-Free Wild Mushroom Flatbread

flourless chocolate cake.  YAY!  Rose came over to record the order to put it into the system and let us sit and enjoy our hot dinner rolls.  Chef Michael returned with some olive oil and spices to dip our rolls in, as well as some fresh butter to spread over it should we choose.  We did both.  And both were delicious choices.  We actually devoured all of the rolls before the flatbread came to the table.

The Wild Mushroom Flatbread is sort of like a pizza.  This one is a gluten-free flatbread crust that is topped with roasted cremini and button mushrooms, a garlic-shallot spread, and then finished off with the most amazing balsamic reduction.  This was complete love at first bite.  The balsamic reduction was the best touch for this, but all of the components worked together.  And the gluten-free flatbread was beyond fantastic.  Finally…a “pizza” I could really enjoy on this trip.  Amazing.  We had no trouble splitting this and polishing it off.

Mama Melrose's Gluten-Free Brownie à la Mode
Mama Melrose’s Gluten-Free Brownie à la Mode

As for that flourless chocolate cake though…the chef searched high and low…and couldn’t find one.  But here is where the magic of Disney happens.  Because he had promised it…he instead sent out a gluten-free brownie topped with ice cream and chocolate sauce…free of charge.  The brownie was crisp on the outside, soft and warm on the inside.  And the cold ice cream sitting on top of it only enhanced the already amazing chocolate flavor of the brownie.  Right here is proof enough that gluten-free doesn’t mean tasteless or hard or dense.  This brownie was hot, rich, and packed with fudgy chocolate flavor.  It was a truly decadent and sinful treat.  But it was our last night there…and I was ready to indulge.

A very nice tip was left for our waitress and lots of praise and thanks were shared with the hostess to pass on to Chef Michael.

And I would dine here over and over again…and next time I’m at Disney…I will do just that.

La Hacienda de San Angel - Epcot
La Hacienda de San Angel – Epcot

Restaurant: La Hacienda de San Angel – Epcot

Epcot…oh, Epcot.  Returning to the land of very little food for me.  But this was different.  This was dinner.  And the one place that my roomie researched when it came to gluten-free options was this beautiful Mexican restaurant in the World Showcase of Epcot.  The restaurant – La Hacienda de San Angel.

Now…I love authentic Mexican food.  I don’t eat much of it anymore because there are just too many factors that go into the food that could lead to cross contamination.  But the reviews about this place were a huge help and brought a sense of comfort with the service and the food that would be served.

In fact, it was stated online that La Hacienda de San Angel makes their own gluten-free corn tortillas in house!  This was exciting news.  My roommate took the time to print off the vegetarian menu from the Internet prior to leaving, so I had an idea of what I was going to get from that.  The Enchaladas de Vegetales actually sounded very appetizing to me as that day I was suffering a little from the banana split I had for dessert the night before (too much dairy!).  So, with an off stomach…Mexican food was sounding very daunting…but I wanted to give this a go.

We showed up early to the restaurant.  Actually, we thought we were right on time, given that there was a huge line that we went to stand in just to reach the hostess outside of the restaurant.  But, after a few minutes of standing there, the entire line cleared up.  So we were now a good 40 minutes early for our reservation.  The hostess looked up our reservation and sent us through the doors to the restaurant to have a seat and wait.  I actually anticipated waiting the entire time, but we were actually shown to our seats soon after that.

Our waiter let us slide into our booth and then he settled a napkin on each of our laps.  Ooooh….fancy.  I suddenly felt under-dressed now.  This happens every time I get a napkin placed on my lap.  But, you know…they didn’t seem to care about my jeans and t-shirt at all.  So, that fleeting moment of fashionista critic passed in a blink.  We were handed menus and asked what we would like to drink.  I once again stuck to water.

And here…was where a wave of panic settled in.  I started to peruse the menu…and save for the Ensalada de la Hacienda…there wasn’t much for me to eat.  Upon the return of our server, we were asked if we knew what we wanted to eat.  I explained that I was a gluten-free vegetarian and he said that they could easily whip up their Tacos de Vegetales (Vegetable Tacos) for me on corn tortillas.  I decided that would be much preferable to yet another salad and gave a nod of approval and said that sounded fantastic.

While we waited on our food, our server brought out the house made (and gluten-free) corn tortilla chips with two different types of salsa.  One red.  One green.  The red one was robust in tomato flavor and had a nice kick to it.  But, surprisingly, it was the salsa verde that I fell in love with.  I normally go for that heat kick, but the sweet salsa verde blended so well with the corn tortilla chips.  I couldn’t stop dipping into it.  But I knew I had tacos on the way, so I kept my pre-meal chip snack to a bare minimum.

Cathy ordered the Tacos de Camarones ($23.95).  These were basically flour tortilla tacos that were filled with fried shrimp, cabbage, lime, salsa verde, and a chipotle-lime aioli.  It was the chipotle-lime aioli that caught her eye.  In fact…she said that the description reminded her a lot of the shrimp tempura tacos that she gets at our local eatery, Dragon King’s Daughter (locations in New Albany, Indiana and Louisville, Kentucky).  And when they arrived, they actually sort of resembled that too, save for the addition of the cabbage.

My Tacos de Vegetales ($19.95) were a similar story.  I was so impressed with these…and that was at first glance when they set them down in

La Hacienda de San Angel's Tacos de Vegetales on corn tortillas (gluten-free)
La Hacienda de San Angel’s Tacos de Vegetales on corn tortillas (gluten-free)

front of me.  These corn tortillas were stuffed full of grilled vegetables, cabbage, roasted corn, black beans, and topped with a little queso fresco.  My tacos were also topped off with a bit of the chipotle-lime aioli as well and…yeah…it was magic.  A Mexican fiesta in my mouth for sure.  The depth of flavor in these simple tacos was astounding.  The black beans were awesome and added a nice protein aspect as well as a richness that the tacos really needed.  The cabbage gave it some crunch.  And the roasted corn and grilled veggies were delicious.  The corn was the star of the tacos though.  Roasted to perfection and full of flavor.  I devoured all three of the tacos on my plate.

La Hacienda de San Angel's sides of Mexican Rice and Refried Black Beans
La Hacienda de San Angel’s sides of Mexican Rice and Refried Black Beans

Our meals were served with sides of refried black beans and Mexican rice.  The rice was fantastically seasoned and spiced.  It had a bit of a kick to it, which I enjoyed and appreciated.  But the star of the sides that came with our food was definitely the refried black beans.  They were rich and full of this depth of flavor that was astounding.  I wanted to eat the entire bowl, but the tacos were very filling, so I had a couple of spoonfuls of both the rice and beans and left it at that.

Dessert was offered, but we chose not to indulge tonight as our meal was quite filling on its own.  We left completely full and quite happy with the value of the meal and the quality of the food we experienced.  I loved how the staff didn’t even bat an eyelash when I said I was a gluten-free vegetarian, immediately having a dish that they could offer me.  I enjoyed how they assured me everything was gluten-free and safe for me to eat.  And I enjoyed every…filling…bite.

I would have gone back to this restaurant in a heartbeat as well…but they were booked solid the night we were there and not accepting walk-ins at all…so I bid it adios and was thankful for the dining experience.

1900 Park Fare - Grand Floridian Resort & Spa
1900 Park Fare – Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Restaurant: 1900 Park Fare – Grand Floridian Resort & Spa

Let it be said that you should never travel to Disney World and not attend one of the character breakfasts.  For real.  My roommate did all the planning on this one, deciding on a breakfast at 1900 Park Fare, located inside the Grand Floridian Resort.  Now, this resort is rather grand on its own…outside and inside.

But the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast was our character breakfast of choice.  This is basically a festive, all-you-care-to-eat breakfast buffet, with Disney character guests that make appearances while you eat.  We actually arrived earlier than anticipated because our Disney bus driver dropped us off at the resort instead of having us get off at one of the parks to catch a bus to the resort.  Awesome.  We appreciated that, but it left us with a bunch of extra time.

So, after wandering around the lobby we noticed a line forming at 1900 Park Fare and decided that we could at least check in with the hostess and maybe get seated earlier instead of with the 8:30 a.m. wave.  They were happy to accommodate and noticed that there was a food allergy listed on the reservation.  They handed me two tickets for the breakfast, both marked “ALLERGY.”  When they opened the doors to seat us, we handed over these tickets and were shown to our table.  I was informed by the woman who seated us that a chef would come over to talk to me.  While Cathy could have gone and loaded up her plate with breakfast goodies, she opted to wait for me to see the chef.

The chef did arrive a little bit later and asked me to walk with him.  What he did was take me through the buffet line, pointing out what foods I could safely eat.  They were good about keeping things were there would be no cross-contamination.  The fruit was okay, the scrambled eggs were safe, the potatoes were safe…etc.  And then he said the words that made me the happiest gluten-free girl in Disney that morning.  That he could make me gluten-free waffles.  Gluten-free Mickey Mouse waffles.  Just.  For.  Me.

THRILLED!  I said that waffles sounded amazing and he said he would get to work on them and bring them to my table…but to go ahead and get anything else from the buffet that he pointed out to me.  So, with that said, I joined Cathy at the table and said he was making me some waffles, but we could hit up the buffet now.

From 1900 Park Fare's Supercalifragilistic Character Breakfast Buffet (Fresh fruit, hash browns, eggs, and strawberry soup)
From 1900 Park Fare’s Supercalifragilistic Character Breakfast Buffet (Fresh fruit, hash browns, eggs, and strawberry soup)

In the line of the buffet, I went ahead and got a bunch of different fruits…honeydew melon, cantaloupe, watermelon, strawberries, grapes…yummy.  In addition, I ladled a little of the strawberry soup into a bowl to try.  I decided to give the hash brown potatoes and some of the scrambled eggs a try as they were deemed safe for my consumption.  And I was hungry.

As I settled back into my seat and started eating some of the sweet fruit, the chef appeared at my side with a plate of four gluten-free Mickey Mouse waffles.  I thanked him and couldn’t wipe the smile off my face as I moved one over to my plate, sliced off an ear, and gave it a dip in the real maple syrup he brought out with it.

1900 Park Fare's Gluten-Free Mickey Mouse Waffles
1900 Park Fare’s Gluten-Free Mickey Mouse Waffles

Waffles never tasted so good.  They were sweet and light and fluffy and SHAPED LIKE MICKEY MOUSE!  I mean…come on!!  It doesn’t get much better than that.  And honestly, I’ve eaten quite a few gluten-free waffles at places, as well as made my own, and had the frozen kinds…and none come close to equaling these.  Perfection.  The fact that they weren’t heavy made it a synch to eat all four of them.  And I still went back for more fruit, more eggs, and a few more hash browns.  WORTH IT.

And, to top it off…our Disney character guests arrived and made their way around the dining room to greet the guests.  At the Supercalifragilistic Breakfast, we had the honor of meeting Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, Mary Poppins, Alice in Wonderland, and The Mad Hatter.  And all of them were so much fun to talk to, get pictures with, and interact with.  I don’t care if I’m in my thirties…I loved every moment of this breakfast and meeting the characters.  You’re never too old for Disney characters.  Mary Poppins sure was charming and I had been wanting to meet her all weekend.  So this was AWESOME!

The Supercalifragilistic Breakfast is $21.95 per person and includes the buffet and a non-alcoholic beverage.  The food was really delicious.  The company was awesome.  And the care was above and beyond expectations.  I am already wanting to go back and do another character breakfast!

Babycakes NYC - Downtown Disney
Babycakes NYC – Downtown Disney

Restaurant: Babycakes NYC – Downtown Disney

The one place that I was anticipating indulging in as often as possible was Babycakes NYC in Downtown Disney.  The most difficult part, at least the first night we were there seeking it out…was locating the place.  For the record, it is located in the same building as Pollo Campero and Bodie’s…right next to LEGO Land.  So…now you won’t have to log onto the Web site and look it up.  You’re welcome.

Cathy and I were seeking this out at night to have breakfast ready in the room, that way we could get an early start and not have to wait for 9 a.m. to roll around to get breakfast…and then eat…and then head out for the day.  This way…we were set and could head out after a quick bite in our room.  This was a fantastic arrangement, by the way.  And the baked goods were just as good the following morning.

I own a Babycakes NYC cookbook and the vegan & gluten-free foods sounded fantastic.  I haven’t made it up to New York City yet…but the fact that they have a branch at Disney World was enough for me to tell Cathy that we were eating there every single morning that it was feasible.  And, with the exception of two days…we did exactly that.

Being that we were seeking out breakfast…we stuck to the case with the doughnuts and loaves.  We each would pick a doughnut and a loaf to enjoy the following morning.  And there was quite a selection to choose from too.  All of these were both vegan and gluten-free…meaning I had nothing to worry about when it came to my breakfasts.  The most difficult part was choosing what I wanted to eat.

So…it went like this:

Babycakes NYC Gluten-Free Doughnuts and Loaves (Top Right: Day 1; Top Left: Day 2; Bottom Right: Day 3; Bottom Left: Day 4)
Babycakes NYC Gluten-Free Doughnuts and Loaves (Top Right: Day 1; Top Left: Day 2; Bottom Right: Day 3; Bottom Left: Day 4)

Trip #1: Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut ($3.49) and a Blueberry Toastie (Loaf) ($3.49)
Trip #2: Vanilla Glazed Doughnut ($3.49) and a Pumpkin Chip Loaf ($3.49)
Trip #3: Chocolate Dipped Doughnut ($3.49) and a Pumpkin Loaf ($3.49)
Trip #4: Jam Twist Doughnut ($3.49) and Banana Loaf ($3.49)

And that was just breakfast.  In addition…Cathy had a few other options as well that I didn’t get for me, but we sampled each other’s choices.  Cathy fell in love with the Lemon Poppyseed Loaf ($3.49), the Chocolate Cookie Crunch Doughnut ($3.49), and her favorite…the Cornbread Loaf ($3.49).

Okay…my most favorite of the doughnuts was the Cinnamon Sugar Doughnut…but cinnamon sugar has always been one of my favorite doughnuts to eat (blueberry being my favorite!).  But here was the thing…they were so moist, so light and so very delicious.  No one would be able to tell that these were vegan and gluten-free just by eating them.  I was in sugar-rush heaven.  I’m not big on glazed or dipped doughnuts, but these weren’t too bad.  I find glazes and dips to be heavy…and these were…but the doughnuts were light and fluffy and flavorful…and when all is said and done…they worked well together.  Everything just worked.

And the loafs…OH. MY. GOD.  My favorite had to be the Pumpkin Chip Loaf…but they were all very good.  They were sweet enough to satisfy that food craving and filling without being too much…even with the doughnuts.  I found each one full of flavor.  And my roommate will forever rave about that corn bread loaf.  It was her favorite thing…and she only was able to get it one night…so thankfully she took a chance on that when she did.  I also really liked the Blueberry Toastie…which had tons of fruity flavor and sweetness with the glaze and all.  And of course, pumpkin and banana bread…you can’t go wrong with either of them.  So moist.  Bite-for-bite…even after sitting overnight in a box on the table in the hotel room…these were still moist and tasted like they were fresh from the bakery.  Yeah…beyond impressed.

But we also sampled some other choices from Babycakes NYC as well.  For dessert one night, we split one of their Chocolate Chip Cookie Sandwiches ($3.49), which was fantastic.  The chocolate chip cookies are thin, and crunchy, and sweet.  Honestly…gluten-free cookie perfection.  Normally I’m a chewy cookie kind of girl…but these were wafer-thin and had that perfect crumbly, sweet texture that works with chocolate chip cookies.  And the frosting was vegan and made with cane sugar.  It was moist and very sweet…so I was glad Cathy and I were splitting the cookie sandwich.  I actually forgot to take a picture of that…but it was delicious.

Babycakes NYC Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie
Babycakes NYC Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie

So, on our last night there…we picked up our breakfast doughnuts and loaves…and they had a special on their gluten-free chocolate chip cookies ($1.00).  So, we got two of them…one for each of us…because they were each discounted by $0.50…and when you’re on vacation and stocking up on sweets…that’s a good deal.  We saved these for our last walk around our resort, and happily chewed away at the crunchy, buttery-flavored, amazing cookies.  Yeah…heaven in cookie form.  It was the right amount of sweetness and really hit the spot.  It was the best way to wrap up our stay at Disney World…enjoying a vegan and gluten-free treat from the place we visited the most – Babycakes NYC.


And there it is…my dining experiences at Disney World.  Nothing catastrophic happened.  I had my favorite food moments and my favorite food places…and I had meals that amazed me…meals that made me want to go back…meals that made me happy…and only a couple of disappointments.  Not bad for this gluten-free vegetarian traveler.  I am so thankful that Disney World is trained, prepared, and helpful to people with dietary restrictions.  It took a load off my mind…and helped me focus on enjoying myself…and of course…preparing for the half marathon I was there to run.

Which…went so well, despite being high humidity (yes…at 5:30 a.m.)…leading to me shaving 2 minutes off my personal record and setting a new record for myself.  I enjoyed the race…I enjoyed Disney World…and I enjoyed eating there and feeling confident in the fact that they truly were looking out for me in those kitchens.

Talk about taking a load off.

Lakewood, Ohio boasts fantastic gastropub with Deagan’s Kitchen & Bar

Deagan's Kitchen & Bar, Lakewood, Ohio
Deagan’s Kitchen & Bar, Lakewood, Ohio

Restaurant: Deagan’s Kitchen & Bar, Lakewood, Ohio

Sometime the best laid plans fall through and you have to find a plan B.

Welcome to my world on the night of The Monkees concert up in Lakewood, Ohio.  Now, I have a friend who lives in Lakewood and we had made plans to all meet up prior to the show for dinner.  Our original spot of choice was somewhere I found on Find Me Gluten Free.  A little joint called Tommy’s Pizza and Chicken.  Sounds like a dive, yes?  But sometimes dives have the best food.

Unfortunately…we never found out.  Upon arriving at Tommy’s, we could see that it was more of a carry-out sort of place than an eat-in.  That wasn’t going to work…at all.  It definitely was a dive.  And after a couple of texts with my friend in the area, Cathy (yeah…2 Cathy’s…try to keep them straight), we laid out a couple of alternatives.  Get gluten-free pizza to go and bring it to her place.  Check out Aladdin’s (they serve up Lebanese/American food).  But, with a little magic from my Yelp app on my phone under the gluten-free friendly tag…I discovered Deagan’s Kitchen & Bar, a gastropub that wasn’t too far away.  It had good ratings.  I suggested it.  We all agreed to meet there.

Deagan’s was a happening place that night.  Very busy.  Very lively.  We stepped inside and were greeted by the hostess.  I said that there would be five of us so they went to prepare a table.  We ended up being positioned near one of the windows in the front…but in a quieter side room.  That was definitely a good thing.  We were given menus to look at and brought some water to start with.  Although tempted with the drink menu, we forwent that.  Cathy (the roomie) got a Diet Coke for caffeine purposes, but Jenn and I stuck with water.  I explained to our waitress, Anisa (she’s awesome, BTW!), that I was a gluten-free vegetarian.  She said they had a special menu for me and would swap mine out with it.  She returned a moment later with a menu with certain items highlighted and little notes written on it for how to make something gluten-free (like no pita bread).  She said there were some vegetarian options on there as well.  It was nice to have that kind of peace of mind.

Cathy (the other one) and her sister arrived soon after and got settled in with drinks and menus.  We talked and talked and talked and finally decided that we should probably order since we did have a concert to make.  Anisa returned ready to take our orders.

Cathy (the roomie) ordered her standard, must-have, when it is on the menu.  Fish and chips ($18.00).  Jenn decided to try one of their small plates and ordered the Polenta Croutons ($8.00).  The polenta croutons are cubes of fried polenta served with sauteed mushrooms, Parmesan and parsley.  It was different and it looked really good.  And Jenn even tried to eat the mushrooms…but in the end, they were left behind.  The rest, however…she devoured.  Cathy (the local) ordered the small plate of Mac and Cheese ($11.00), which was a rather big bowl of noodles, Gruyere cheese and  chives.  She got it with a side of the Brussels sprouts ($ Cathy’s sister, Sarah, ordered the small plate of Seared Scallops ($12.00), which consisted of two large scallops and was served with shaved Brussels sprouts with grapefruit and pomegranate.  She got a side of the House Fries with it.  As for me…I decided to go with a salad in the end.  I chose to go with their Arugula Salad ($8.00) and, since it was marked gluten-free, give their House Fries ($7.00) a try.

Anisa went to put our orders in and for the rest of the time before food arrived, all of us were chatting up a storm.  We talked movies, books, music, concerts, work…you name it.  And conversation continued even when food arrived to the table.  It took some time.  I was okay with that.  Again, I don’t mind having to wait on my food.  It means that it is prepared fresh and to order.  Not sitting under some heat lamp somewhere or getting to know a microwave.

Deagan's House Fries
Deagan’s House Fries

My Arugula Salad was stunning, by the way.  Simple.  Very pleasing to the eye.  Not a lot of color, but what was there popped.  Deagan’s Arugula Salad consists of arugula, shaved fennel, Parmesan and pine nuts.  It is lightly dressed in a lemon oil.  Now, normally I find arugula to be too peppery on its own…but with the saltiness of the Parmesan and the pine nuts, it all balanced out.  The lemon oil, however, is what really tied it all together.  While the salad looked simple, the layers of flavor in there seemed complex.  It all worked.  It was fantastic and delicious.  And I enjoyed it more than I normally enjoy a salad at restaurants.  Honestly.  This one was really good.

There were a lot of House Fries in my side order, so I shared with Jenn and Cathy (the roomie).  They were fantastic cuts of potato that were topped with shaved Romano cheese and truffle oil.  It was served with a spicy mayo.  Oh.  My.  Potato.  Gods.  These fries were really good and really addictive.  No joke.  The simple addition of shaved Romano cheese and a hit of truffle oil just took them from standard fries to something that was out-of-this-world good.  And different.  The spicy mayo that it was served with was delicious and I took great pleasure in dipping my fries into them.  Yeah…for a different twist on fries…I highly recommend these.

In the end, we all agreed that Deagan’s was the perfect place to end up when all was said and done.  Our waitress took fantastic care of our table.  We all enjoyed and devoured our food.  Cathy (the local) had left over mac & cheese…which she took home in a box.  There was a lot in that bowl they brought her.  She and Sarah ended up splitting the special dessert of the night, a bread pudding with caramel and pear.  It sounded divine…and looked it too.

Afterwards, we paid our checks and headed out.  Cathy and her sister were heading back to her place.  We had The Monkees to go and see.  In the end, I am happy we ended up at Deagan’s.  Sure…this meant I didn’t get my traditional gluten-free pizza the night before a big race (yeah…I was running a 15K the very next morning back down in Columbus, Ohio)…but I did get some carbs (thank you gluten-free House Fries) and had great company and amazing food.  I’d go back to Deagan’s Kitchen & Bar in a heartbeat next time I’m in the area.  Sometimes the best laid plans have to change to lead you to somewhere even better.

Beyond impressed.

Deagan's Arugula Salad
Deagan’s Arugula Salad

The Claddagh in Columbus, Ohio serves up a simple, delicious – but unbalanced – salad

The Claddagh Irish Pub, Columbus, Ohio
The Claddagh Irish Pub, Columbus, Ohio

Restaurant: The Claddagh Irish Pub, Columbus, Ohio

I love pubs.

I love pubs a lot.  But as a vegetarian, I was already limited on what I could eat there.  When I had to go gluten-free…my options got even smaller.  In most cases, I hope for an amazing salad.  It has happened before.  The right flavor combinations, the right ingredients, and yes…even a salad can be magic.

It was Friday night…the beginning of an exciting and busy weekend…and I was in Columbus, Ohio visiting my friend Jenn.  I had actually purchased a Living Social deal for The Claddagh Irish Pub in Columbus knowing that there would be a cause to use it at some point.  And that night was Friday night after a long trip up in the car.

We arrived and found parking and made our way toward the front of the pub.  We entered and were immediately greeted and asked if we had a reservation.  Uh oh.  Did that mean that there was something going on that evening?  I replied that we did not have a reservation and the hostess didn’t even flinch before picking up three menus and guiding us toward the back room.  We were seated at a low-lit table in the corner and given our menus to look over.

Although…when it comes to pubs, Jenn, my roomie and I pretty much already know what we want.  Our waitress came over and introduced herself and asked if we knew what we wanted to drink.  Cathy grabbed for the folder of booze and looked for the one word that makes her happiest at pubs.  Yep.  They had it.  Magners.  She and Jenn both ordered a pint of that.  I stuck to water as…well…I was running later that weekend and I wanted to hydrate properly.

After our drink orders were taken and water was brought out to all three of us, we placed our orders.  Both Jenn and Cathy went with their most favorite pub offering on any menu.  Fish and chips ($13.99).  As for me…I was down to two salads that interested me.  I was having a hard time choosing and Cathy wasn’t helping me make the call.  So after a little debate…I made up my mind.

My order…the Galway Salad ($7.99).  I stuck with the Balsamic Vinaigrette for my dressing.

With orders in, we sat and talked.  Magners were delivered.  We discussed upcoming plans we all had, the concert we were seeing the next night, and just whatever we felt like talking about.  Why?  Because we are good friends and conversation is never an issue with us.  Love that.  And soon, we found our orders being delivered safely to our table.  Jenn and Cathy had big planks of fish (they use cod in an ale batter) over a bed of pub chips (fries).  They came with a side of slaw and tartar sauce as well.  Cathy, who has taken to at least trying the tartar sauce, was quite impressed with it and alternated dipping her fish in the pool of ketchup on her plate and the tartar sauce.  Needless to say…they enjoyed their fish and chips.

The Galway Salad looks like…a basic salad.  It basically consisted of a bed of mixed greens that was topped off with a boat-load (seriously…it was crazy and a bit overwhelming to the palate) of sun-dried tomatoes, a pile of goat cheese, and a scattering of candied walnuts.  They thankfully kept the balsamic vinaigrette to the side so I could add however much I wanted.

The salad was good…but there were just way too many sun-dried tomatoes.  They were clumped together at times and would definitely overpower a bite if too many were on the fork.  I had to scatter them out and really make sure that they were balanced out by the other components of the salad itself.  And, let me tell you, when you are working with four ingredients, that can be a challenge.  Thankfully the balsamic vinaigrette helped offset some of that as well.

Was it amazing?  Not really.  It was okay.  Not bad.  Just a bit unbalanced when it came to how it was topped.  I mean…it was a very simple, basic salad.  It was good.  It was delicious.  But it was a bit much at times when it came to the heavy-handed sun-dried tomatoes that topped it off.  But, I got through it and polished off my plate, leaving the pub with a happy (and full) tummy.

The Claddagh served me a delicious salad.  I will give them that.  I left there full.  But I think the chef needs to learn take a lighter hand with the sun-dried tomatoes as it was way overpowering at times.  Thank goodness for the goat cheese and walnuts to help tamper that flavor down some.

The Claddagh's Galway Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
The Claddagh’s Galway Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette