Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Thanksgiving in Southern California

What a fabulous Thanksgiving our family had! We joined the Southern California branch of the family, and had a warm and truly grateful Thanksgiving. There were two turkeys – one stuffed – for the “others,” and one just for us, roasted with an onion and Tex Joy's Herbs du Beaumont. It was tender and juicy and absolutely wonderful. All the sides were gluten free, mashed sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, wild rice salad, and various veggies, cooked and raw. Then for dessert – pumpkin custard! Wonderful, though Cathy did eye that apple berry pie with just the smallest twinge of envy.

Sandy, Mark and the kids got in an extra meal on Thanksgiving day, at Huntington Beach.  Most places were closed, but a Hawaiian restaurant called No Ka Oi was open for brunch, and we stopped in for a late breakfast before heading down to the beach.  They were very kind about answering my questions, and Sandy had an omlette with avocado and breakfast potatoes.  Eight-year-old Colin had the most interesting breakfast though -- an entire plate of crab meat.  Just that.  Nothing else.
Omelet at No Ka Oi in Huntington Beach

The next day our group was off to Disneyland! We had no reservations for lunch – bad planning for a group of 8 on the day after Thanksgiving – but we lucked out. While the rest of the group was in line to ride Big Thunder Mountain, Cathy scoped out the Celebration Round-Up BBQ (see menu on Allears.net), which serves lunch outdoors on big picnic tables, whereas most restaurants are geared towards smaller tables for four. By being first in line when it opened at 11 am, we were able to get a table. There is a fixed menu here – BBQ ribs and chicken. We spoke to the chef and learned that the ribs have a coating with wheat, but the chicken is GF. The server brought the ribs and chicken out separately for us; normally they are all piled together in one bucket. The BBQ was served with beans and coleslaw, both of which were GF as well. It was all tasty and there was certainly plenty of food. Plus there was live entertainment with cowboy versions of Christmas songs, which was a lot of fun.

It was a shame, though, that we overate there, because that night we DID have reservations at the Blue Bayou (see menu at Allears.net). The Blue Bayou is located INSIDE the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, overlooking the “river” with an artificial sky that guarantees it’s always a beautiful evening on the bayou. The chef came out to talk with us and went over our choices. Cathy chose salmon and rice noodles and a small portion of rutabaga. While very nice, was clearly out flanked by Sandy's short ribs, fork tender and flavorful. The sauce normally served with the short ribs has flour, so the chef made an au jus for her with pan drippings. They also brought out rolls for us! And they were good too!
The kids at the Blue Bayou restaurant

The next day for lunch, we stopped at the Mexican restaurant, Rancho del Zocalo (menu), in Frontierland. Again, we got there right as it opened, which was important since it’s a cafeteria-style restaurant. A chef came from the back to talk with us and take us through the line, giving instructions directly to the food preparers. That would have been much harder to manage later when the crowds arrived. The chef was justifiably proud of his prep staff, who clearly understood the Allergen Protocol. They changed gloves without being asked, knew the right questions, and took all the proper precautions for avoiding cross-contamination. Cathy had the fish tacos and Sandy had the chicken tacos. They were served with Mexican rice and refried beans, which were also GF.

Our last dinner in Disneyland was in one of the Disneyland hotels called the Paradise Pier. The PCH Grill is a character meal in the mornings, but for dinner it’s just a regular restaurant with no character appearances. Nevertheless, this is a very kid-friendly restaurant (menu). The restaurant is also GF-friendly. They keep GF rolls, hamburger buns, hot dog buns, pizza crusts (and for breakfast, pancakes and bagels) on hand at all times. They also have gluten free cookies and brownies for dessert. The food wasn’t anything special, but for a celiac kid, this place would be a dream come true. Our kids had make-your-own pizzas (the full-gluten version) where the server brought out the crust, sauce, and cheese and let them assemble it themselves. It’s amazing how such a simple thing can transform an ordinary meal into something really special. Sandy had pizza too, on a gluten free crust, which had herbs in the dough. The taste was good, but the texture was crumbly. It might have been better if it had been cooked slightly longer – it wasn’t very toasted. Cathy had a hamburger, and again, the taste of the bun was fine, but it was very crumbly. Still, it’s nice to get a hamburger, and the chef made the fries in a separate fryer, so there would be no cross-contamination from the oil. We had a brownie for dessert, and again – good taste, crumbly texture. Disneyland has a ways to go before it catches up with Disney World for gluten-free cuisine, but they get lots of points for effort -- and it cost about ¼ of what we paid at the Blue Bayou, so that’s worth a lot too.

The kids at the PCH Grill

The only meals we had at the Hilton Anaheim Hotel where we were staying were the breakfasts. Lots of fruit there; omelets cooked to order; uncontaminated bacon and corn tortillas were available, if you asked for it. (The bacon on the buffet was placed on top of pieces of bread.) We were able to eat the breakfast potatoes and the yogurt parfaits. We both over-ate on our last day there, which was a good thing, as we were able to skip lunch and not eat until we were home.

Sandy and Cathy

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Gluten Free Hotel in Germany

I just saw an ad for this gluten-free hotel in the Bavarian Alps in Germany.

Wouldn't that be an awesome vacation!  (And they are native English speakers too.)


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gluten Free in New Orleans, part 3

NOLA, day 3

Our third day in New Orleans, I only managed one restaurant meal. After oversleeping in the morning (missing breakfast), I then over-imbibed in the late afternoon and ended up too tired to go out to dinner.

Lunch, however, was at the LaCote Brasserie, in the Renaissance Art Hotel. I had Almond Chicken Salad, served in a cup made out of parmesan cheese (the waiter said it was GF – but I only had a nibble of it, just in case) with field greens. It was very good, but I wouldn’t go there again unless I was staying at the hotel. The wait-staff didn’t impress me and I had no confidence that they truly understood gluten intolerance.

The next morning, however, we set out to Satsuma. This is not a tourist destination. Tucked away in a residential area, it is clearly a place where locals eat. It was kind of hard to find, but worth the effort. I read about it online, as it’s one of the few places in New Orleans that actually advertises gluten free menu items. Sure enough, when I arrived, there was a muffin tin out on the counter with huge, fresh, beautiful, pumpkin chocolate chip muffins – and they were gluten free!

The muffin was delicious and it was such a treat to have a fresh baked pastry in a restaurant. I would have been impressed with that alone, but it wasn’t even the best part of the meal! I had a spinach scramble with eggs, locally grown organic spinach, tomatoes, and goat cheese. It was incredible! I scarfed it down with some fresh squeezed lemonade. Not only was the food delicious, it was beautiful. The chef had used the spinach stems as kind of a garnish – very pretty and very clever. The staff was friendly and the place had a funky hippie vibe that made it feel far more authentic than any other place we ate in New Orleans.

I returned home from our trip happy and well fed!

Gluten Free in New Orleans, part 2

NOLA, day 2

I spent Friday morning touring New Orleans, while Mark was in meetings, but we met up for lunch at Cochon on Tchoupitoulas Street in the Warehouse District. Cochon is French for “pig” and the restaurant is a “boucherie” – butcher shop – making its own boudin, andouille, smoked bacon, and head cheese. When I arrived, I told the waitress I had a gluten “allergy” and she filled out a little card with allergen info to give to the chef with my order. How cool is that! I ordered the smoked beef brisket with horseradish potato salad, right off the menu, no modifications needed. The beef was melt-in-your-mouth tender and delicious. The potato salad had just the right amount of “bite.” Spicy, but not hot. I ate every bite and might have licked the bowl if I hadn’t been surrounded by Mark’s business associates. I also ordered a “Dublin Dr Pepper” to drink – a real treat!
After I separated from the group, I went on a tour of famous New Orleans bars. I have to admit, I didn’t ask about gluten in any of these establishments. I had only a few sips of each cocktail and alcohol usually doesn’t have gluten, so I took my chances. For those interested, we visited the following spots:

TuJague’s – the second oldest restaurant in New Orleans. This is an old-fashioned “belly-up to the bar” bar, meaning it has no bar stools. In fact, originally, there were urinals attached to the bar, so that the men didn’t even have to leave to pee. Ew. Needless to say, although the bar and mirrors are all original, the floor has been replaced. We had Tujague’s Lemonade – vodka, lemonade and cranberry juice. It was sweet and fruity -- my favorite drink of the tour.

Old Absinthe House – we had a traditional Green Fairy, made with much pomp and circumstance. Absinthe was made legal again in the U.S. in 2007, but it is not the same drink that was popular with Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, et al. The version sold in the U.S. does not contain thujone, which is the hallucinogenic that made Absinthe so potent. The revised Green Fairy cocktail also lacks an important ingredient – laudanum. However, the chemical change that makes the Green Fairy fairy-like is still apparent when it is prepared correctly. First, a sugar cube is placed on top of a slotted spoon, balanced over cocktail glass containing a shot of absinthe. The sugar cube is set on fire; then, ice cold water is dripped over the sugar cube, into the glass, where is reacts with the emerald spirit, turning it from bright green to milky green. As the color changes, the Brownian motion produces an effect that looks very much like fairy wings rising in the glass. There was a cool contraption that dripped the water into the glass – like a glass vase with a spigot. It was worth the ten bucks to see the preparation, but I have to say that I would never have been an Absinthe addict. I could get down more than a few mouthfuls of the bitter licorice-flavored concoction.

Lafitte's Blacksmith Shop – This place looked like a fairy-tale cottage and is one of the oldest structures in New Orleans. It was built some time before 1772. For a very long time, it was a gay bar, but in the 50’s it was bought by a policeman, who kicked the original patrons out. They went down the street and founded a new establishment, which they called Lafitte’s in Exile, which claims to be the oldest gay bar in the United States. At the Blacksmith shop, we had a Hurricane. It was made with fresh fruit juice, unlike the one at Pat O’Brian’s, which is more of a Kool-aid. Like most of the drinks it New Orleans, it was way too strong for me.

Court of the Two Sisters Carriageway Bar -- In order to prevent ladies from getting muck on their long dresses, the nicer buildings in the French Quarter had carriageways into the courtyard, so that the ladies didn’t have to disembark in the street. The Carriageway at the Court of the Two Sisters has been converted into a bar. The drink we had there was a Bayou Bash, a mix of Southern Comfort, Sweet and Sour mix, fruit juice, and red wine. It was quite medicinal tasting, which works, since Southern Comfort was originally marketed as a “medicine.” It was kind of like drinking NyQuil.

By the way, if anyone knows how you become a "court jester," please let me know.  There were names etched in bronze all along the bar, listed as the "court jesters."  My best guess is that they are the past bartenders, but the guy serving us refused to say, stating only that "you have to be male."

Back to food… we ate dinner that night at Clancy’s restaurant, which was definitely off the beaten path, quite far from the French Quarter. My meal there was excellent, though I didn’t do it justice, having already drank my daily allotment of calories for the day during my bar-hopping tour. I’m not normally much of a fish-eater, but I figured I needed to eat something from the water during my stay, so I ordered the Drum with Smoked Salmon. It was incredible – buttery and savory – and served with mashed sweet potatoes. The waiter told me it was GF, but that he would inform the kitchen of my dietary restriction, so they would be extra careful. At dessert time, I had a salted caramel pudding, layered in a wine glass, which was both tasty and pretty. It’s also nice to have something nifty for dessert.  I like crème brulee, but it’s awfully nice to have a different option available from time to time.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gluten Free in New Orleans, part 1

The online posts about finding gluten free food in New Orleans led me to expect that this vacation would be the Battle of New Orleans. Instead, I was so well fed; it was the Battle of the Bulge.

Now, it’s true that gumbo and those famous muffuletta are off the menu to me forever, as are beignets and anything that’s made with a roux; but I still found it easy to be Gluten Free in the Big Easy.

It was Veteran’s Day, and so it only made sense to go to the World War II museum, followed by lunch at the museum’s restaurant The American Sector, which features gourmet versions of the American “make-do” cuisine of WWII, such as Sloppy Joes, beef tongue, and potato-chip crusted trout.

I was there on a whim, so I was shocked that the waitress not only knew what gluten-intolerance was, but everything on the menu that was safe for me to eat. I was doubtful, at first, of her claim that the Spicy Garlic Glazed Fried Chicken was GF, but she assured me they were made with rice flour! I couldn’t pass that up. They were basically what I would call “buffalo wings” – crispy and spicy and delicious, served with an assortment of pickles. My favorite was the pickled watermelon rinds, as they were both tasty and unique. My husband ordered the Shrimp Creole, also gluten free, which was good; and we shared a chocolate milkshake, quite possibly the best milkshake I’ve ever had. My meal was fantastic and I highly recommend the American Sector to anyone visiting New Orleans.

Our dinner reservations were made for us, as we were traveling with my husband’s business associates; but we were in good hands. Thursday’s dinner was at the Feelings Café on Chartres Street. I called them ahead of time to let them know I was coming and ensure that there would be something I could eat. They assured me that there were several things on their menu that would be safe and that they would be careful to avoid cross-contamination.

When we arrived, I went over the menu with the waiter, and had a bit of discomfort as he dismissed my explanations as unnecessary. It was one of those “don’t disrespect me by suggesting we don’t know what we are doing” kind of things, which I do understand; but unfortunately, most restaurants DON’T know what GF means and it’s in my best interest to over-explain. Fortunately, he was right and the kitchen was on top of things. In fact, because I called ahead of time, the manager had gone out and bought some gluten free cookies to serve with my crème brulee for dessert!

The restaurant is located in what used to be the D'Aunoy Plantation, so it is dripping with New Orleans charm. We were seated in the restaurant’s beautiful, romantic courtyard. We were outdoors, but sheltered by the high walls and trees, making it feel very secluded – fantastic atmosphere! I ordered the Chicken Clemenceau, tender pieces of chicken with mushrooms, peas, and potatoes, pan sautéed with garlic butter. It was very good. My only complaint would be that it was a very plain flavor and could have used a bit more oomph, but if you are looking for something mild, this would be perfect. Everyone at the table enjoyed their meal and I definitely recommend the Feelings Café.


Monday, November 8, 2010

Mom's Quilt Show Adventure

My two sisters-in-law came from their respective coasts to the International Quilt Show in Houston. Eating at the show is a chore, but I packed Gorp for us to eat on the floor and some fruit for our breakfasts. They ate what they wanted to at the hotel for breakfast and at the Show for lunch, but my own choices were pretty limited, both for breakfasts and for lunch.

At dinner, however, we did well. We were in town for two nights and I took them to PF Chang's the first night. Neither of them had been to one, so that was fun. The second night we went to Ruggles, which I had heard of but never been to myself. It is at 903 Westheimer and is in an old house, brightly painted inside. They have menus which feature dots of different colors for Vegan, Dairy Free, and Gluten Free. The food was spectacular. I tried both soups that my SILS ordered and particularly liked the Butternut Squash Soup, which was very creamy and flavorful. The other soup ordered by a SIL was a Crab Corn Soup. It was a bit too spicy for me. For my entree I ordered the Red Snapper dish with creamy avocado sauce. It was almost like a soup itself and was to die for. In addition to that, I was served a separate plate of sides -- a boiled potato, some au gratin potatoes, asparagus, a grilled tomato, some truly outstanding pureed sweet potatoes--and! I was assured that I could eat everything on my plate without worry. What a great place to eat!!!


Sunday, October 17, 2010

Gluten Free Camping

Let's face it. My idea of roughing it is staying in a hotel that doesn't offer room service; but sometimes a Mom's gotta do what a Mom's gotta do. In this case, that meant a camping trip with my husband, two kids, and both dogs.

A side note -- my dogs are huge. I mean really huge. The weigh 85 pounds each and are taller than any other dog at the dog park. And did I mention that they are still puppies? Once the van was loaded up with kids and dogs, there wasn't room for anything else. As a result, we took TWO cars for a one night camp out. I long for the days when Mark and I could pack an overnight bag in less than 15 minutes and head out for the weekend on a whim.

One good thing about camping, though; there's no problem finding GF food. I just bring it with me. For lunch the day we arrived, I brought deli turkey and a loaf of Udi's sandwich bread. Now Udi's bread is darn good, but it still really needs to be toasted for optimal enjoyment. Since that wasn't am option, I brought along some butter and spread it liberally on my sandwich. Not only was it tasty, but also helped keep the bread from crumbling. I also had Cheetos and K-Too cookies (a sort of gluten-free Oreo made by Kinnikinnick). This was not one of the healthiest meals ever, but I feel that if you are going to eat outside, you might as well eat Cheetos. Cheetos are banned inside our house for fear of covering the walls in little orange fingerprints, but in the great outdoors... bring on the Cheetos! I did bring blackberries in an attempt to make this meal healthier, but my son ate both pints. At least someone had some nutrients during this meal.

Dinner on Friday night was hot dogs, which I wrapped in another slice of Udi's bread, mostly to have a way to hold onto it. We also had carrots and fruit cups, which the kids ate reluctantly in order to earn their s'mores.

Now the kids ate theirs on regular graham crackers, but I brought along some S'morables and had my first real s'more since going GF. They hold together really well, which is good because the structural integrity of a s'more is key to getting it into your mouth instead of all over your fingers. I managed to get only minimally sticky, while my daughter had chocolate all over her face and both my son AND husband had a sweet marshmallow coating.

Breakfast in the morning was a greater challenge. We have a portable electric griddle, so I wanted to make pancakes; however, Mark wasn't keen on my bringing along eggs which are both breakable and perishable, so I went looking for a "just add water" GF pancake mix. I didn't have a lot of success, so I bought Ener-G Egg Replacer and added that to Pamela's pancake mix. I have a cool little Blender Bottle, which has a whisk-like ball in it. You add the pancake mix and water then shake, then pour the batter out of the spout directly onto the griddle. Neato! I have to say, though, I think I'd rather have brought the egg for the batter -- the pancakes cooked up nicely, but the Ener-G left a bit of an after-taste.

I also bought Oscar Meyer pre-cooked bacon and put those on the griddle as well. The only time I had tried pre-cooked before this, I heated it in the microwave and wasn't impressed; but cooking it on the griddle was actually great. It was all crisp and sizzle-y like bacon should be.

The camping trip was a success -- the weather was perfect, the dogs behaved well, and the kids had a ball. It was like a Norman Rockwell painting. Still, I think I'd rather have room service.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gluten Free in Austin

Well, Texas lost miserably to OU, but at least the food was good...

We spent the weekend in Austin with my brother Alex and his girlfriend Allison. On our way into town, we had planned to stop at Chuy's, but we saw a billboard that said "Salt Lick." There is now a Salt Lick in Round Rock!!!

The Salt Lick is one of my favorite places in the world. It's huge, rustic, beautiful, and fun. There is frequently live music. I have dreams about the slow-smoked brisket, heaps of tangy sausage and world-class potato salad and barbecue sauce. As you walk in the huge pit to your right assaults your senses with the aromas of roasted meats. We recommend the "family style", which means all-you-can-eat and if you order anything else, well heck partner, you've come to the wrong place. Unfortunately this lovely oasis is a good 35 minutes from Austin, in Driftwood, Texas. Literally the middle of nowhere. And it's a dry county. And they don't take credit cards.

But, joy of joys! There is now a Salt Lick in Round Rock, just off I-35. They have recreated the rambling ranch-like building in the middle of suburbia, and if you don't look out the window, you can pretend you're out in the country. Unlike Driftwood, they take credit cards and serve margaritas.

Best of all, nearly everything they serve is gluten-free. They say that the only gluten is in things that are obvious, such as the bread and the cobbler. Sauce is GF, dry rub is GF, and most importantly, the potato salad is GF. Oh, Salt Lick potato salad...how I love you. If I were having my last meal, I'd want that potato salad.

After eating enough to cause physical pain, we left the Salt Lick in Round Rock and swung over to Chuy's to pick up chips and salsa for the game. Chuy's will not guarantee that anything they serve is GF, as they have a high chance of cross contamination (they are making their own flour tortillas back there). However, the chips are fried in a dedicated frier [at some locations] and they are very good about making me burritos without the tortilla. (Note: I get the Ranchero sauce. The Tex-Mex sauce is thickened with flour.) Anyway, I am willing to take my chances on the salsa and queso since they contain no gluten ingredients and aren't likely to be cross-contaminated (unlike the corn tortillas which are warmed on the same surface as the flour ones.) [Update: Chuy's queso contains gluten.]

So we were good to go: chips, salsa, and a Texas-OU game. Too bad we sucked.

At half-time, we consoled ourselves with a trip out to Rita's, a short walk from Alex's West Campus apartment. Alex was originally under the impression that the place was called "Ice Custard Happiness," which I think would be a GREAT name. However, it turns out that the store is called Rita's and their slogan is "Ice. Custard. Happiness." A quick check of the ingredients confirms that the custard and ices are gluten-free. They had the list of ingredients handy, which is nice since it makes it easy to check. The star here is the gelati -- a layer of custard, a layer of ice, and another layer of custard. I chose vanilla custard with black cherry ice. The ice is made with real fruit and had a few chunks of cherry to prove it. Sooooo good.

The next morning, we had a quick room service breakfast at the hotel (the Renaissance in the Arboretum), where I ordered a poached egg and fresh berries, a pretty safe bet to be gluten-free. Then we went on a short hike, followed by brunch at Guero's on Congress Avenue, another of Alex's favorite places. They do have an official gluten-free menu, but it's a bit confusing because it lists the GF items, but not their descriptions, so I had to keep going back and forth between the two menus to figure out what I was going to order. In the end, I chose a Senorita Plato -- a chalupa, chicken taco, guacamole, queso, and beans. It comes with rice too, but that is not GF. Since it was brunch, they let me substitute their breakfast potatoes.

The food was very good, but their staff is clearly not trained regarding gluten. After hearing that I was GF and that I needed to substitute out the rice, the waitress then asked me if I wanted corn or flour tortillas! I explained again that I was gluten-free. She seemed surprised that the flour tortillas were not gluten-free. I explained that flour IS gluten. She said "what about whole wheat?" Argh! So my confidence in their staff is not high.

All in all, I remain convinced that Austin is the best place in Texas to be if you are a foodie, and doubly so for a gluten-free foodie.


Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gluten Free Norway

My husband just returned from a trip to Norway. Remember the AmEx commercial where they go to discover their roots in Norway (then find out they are Swedish)? That was basically the plan, except without the Swedish surprise. Mark, his father, and his two brothers headed out to the frozen north to experience the land of their ancestors. (On the Brown Family side -- originally they were "Bruns").

Mark does not eat gluten-free, but it's become second nature to him to keep an eye out for GF options for me, even when I'm not there. He was very impressed by how easy it was to identify GF foods. They were well-marked everywhere he went. In Oslo, he happened to come across Bakefri, the only bakery/cafe in Norway that is exclusively gluten-free. He wasn't looking for it, but it caught his attention. As I said, he's now got a sixth sense for seeking out GF options. Unfortunately, he didn't have the chance to go in (they open at 11 AM and close at 4:30); but as he was staring in amazement (Wow! A gluten-bakery!), a man passing by on the street shouted to him "Best bakery in all of Oslo!" Cool.

Apparently, exclusively GF cafes aren't really necessary though, as he found well-marked GF options everywhere he went. In Flam, they ate at the Toget Cafe, a pretty little place built over two railway carriages from the 1920's. The picture shows a piece of almond cake, clearly marked as gluten free in English and Norwegian. At the Deli di Luca, Mark's Dad ordered the Pad Thai, also gluten free, but he didn't realize it. In fact, Peter enjoyed his meal without ever knowing that he was eating GF. (Deli di Luca is a chain of deli/ high-end convenience stores, with 25 locations in Oslo, three in Bergen, and one in Stavanger.)

Food was expensive everywhere in Norway, especially in Oslo; so the guys tended to tank up at breakfast, as the hotels usually had all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets. The Thon Opera hotel, right next to the main train station, had plenty of gluten free cereals and breads on the extensive (and free!) breakfast buffet.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gluten Free Makeover Event

The two of us went to the GIG Gluten Free Makeover at the Gaylord Texan hotel in Grapevine, TX. It was too die for! I do think though that if we had waited an hour after the opening to get there, we might not have waited in line for most of the wonderful goodies. We were actually quite startled by how many people were there! It’s nice to know we are not alone in this diet. Anyway, within the hour lines had thinned out and people were beginning to move around a bit, so it wasn’t a problem. We started at the Silent Auction to see what was being offered. Many of the baskets were very similar, and we had to look hard to see items beyond the usual quinoa pastas and gluten free baking mixes, but there were lots of baskets to choose from.

We soon moved over to the food and tried enough samples that by the time we left (after perhaps an hour and a half) we were definitely done sampling.

Cathy says: A favorite of mine was the salmon with basmati rice, jicama cucumber salad, and tomatillo sauce from WildWood Grill, which is located at 2700 E. Southlake Blvd, Southlake, TX. I did not get to sample the Paella from Paella Texas, because they were not quite ready to serve it when I went by the first time, and I was beyond sampling the second time I went around. Paella Texas advertises themselves as “a unique catering concept.” The paella looked picture-perfect. The rice-and-seafood dish was being cooked in a very large pan with peas and red peppers artfully sprinkled on the top, making the dish very colorful. As I was walking by the paella, someone passed me with a small dish with grits, and a shrimp on top of it that was so large, it could not be ignored, so I diverted over to the station where they were serving it. The grits turned out to be jalapeño grits and were perhaps a bit more spicy than I would ordinarily like, but the shrimp was done perfectly and then topped with a drizzle of barbecue sauce. The station turned out to be the Gaylord’s Ama Lur itself, so of course, it was an over-the-top dish. Wow!

A new restaurant that is opening in the Gaylord in November is called Zeppole. I wanted to try their shrimp dish which looked like a dish I might really really like, but as I was passing by them, they had some gnocchi that was already plated, so I took one. It was a chicken dish with a killer sauce, somewhat reminiscent of an Alfredo, though I did not get a description, so forgive me Zeppole, if I don’t have it right. Maybe I’ll come back when you open and we’ll talk about it.

Sandy says: I was particularly happy with the ravioli (with tomato sauce) and gnocchi (with basil pesto) being served by GlutenOut Pasta. This is a frozen pasta that can be purchased online. It was very good, but when I looked it up online, I realized that they are sold without sauce. I guess I’ll have to make my own, which is probably for the best since we’re supposed to be reducing our salt in both my household and Mom’s.

I already knew that PF Chang’s had an extensive GF menu (Mom and I ate there last night, actually!) but I didn’t know that they have a new gluten free dessert. The Mini Triple Chocolate Mousse is a $2 dessert served in a shot glass. It wasn’t on the printed menu last night; the folks at the PF Chang’s booth said the dessert is new as of August. It’s got chocolate cake on the bottom with a chocolate pudding in the middle and a chocolate topping.

Mom already mentioned the Gaylord restaurants Ama Lur and Zeppole. I also tried BBQ brisket from Old Hickory Steakhouse, another Gaylord restaurant. The BBQ sauce was a bit too “zesty” for me, but the meat was excellent. I was told you can also get sandwiches on GF bread in the Texas Station sports bar at the Gaylord. My husband and I will definitely be heading out to the Gaylord for a date night soon!

I was also excited to learn that the Wholesome Foods Bakery is now open (in a new location)for regular business. I had heard of them a while ago, but you had to order online and pick up your goodies on a Tuesday. Now that their schedule is more flexible, I am anxious to go try them out. They gave us some cranberry nut cookies and chocolate chip cookies, which Mom and Caroline liked a lot, but I thought were ordinary; but I really liked their pound cake. I’ve been looking for a good GF pound cake for a while, so I plan to order some to stock up my freezer.

We were pretty stuffed when we left, but our main feeling for the event was a relief that we had been free to sample everything offered without having to question each and every dish. That in itself was the worth the price of admission.

Cathy and Sandy

Saturday, August 21, 2010

On the Road Again

I am back on the road, traveling from Upstate New York to Texas. Eating on the road is always a problem, so I made sure to pack a lot of food to take with me.

First, let me say that squeezing slices of lime into one's beverage can while driving is difficult. On the other hand, when I decided that maybe I needed a glass to put the drink and the lime slices in, I was confronted with another problem -- driving with one hand and pouring a drink I couldn't really look at with the other. I don't know which is harder. Maybe next time I will just throw the lime out instead of trying to rescue it from the refrigerator on the way to a road trip.

The first day out I ate only what I packed. I had cheese and turkey and toasted gf bread; I had deviled eggs and tuna salad; I had lots of Club Sodas (with lime slices!) and I had the giant bag of M&M's -- as well as some very nice coconut chocolate chip meringues that I made myself on the way out of town. It probably was not a good idea to get the big bag of M&M's -- still I had plenty left for the second day. The second day I threw out the leftover tuna salad and the last egg and lived solely on cheese and Glutino crackers (and of course M&M's), but I knew that I had a reservation for dinner in Memphis at Amerigo's on Ridgeway in the Germantown area.

The restaurant was only about a mile and a half from the hotel (which I picked because it was only a mile and a half from Amerigo's). I put the address in the GPS and drove over, but was startled to see that the address was for PF Chang's where I had eaten when I came through Memphis in May! How could that happen? I had entered the right address, I was sure! And I had -- Amerigo's is in the same shopping center as PF Chang's.

The restaurant had a very warm feeling to it, and I had an excellent meal. It was one of the Specials -- and was not on the printed GF Menu that I was given at the door. It was Chilean Sea Bass served on a cedar plank with some potatoes that were sort-of-kind-of mashed, but not completely, and some roasted vegetables -- Zucchini, Squash, and Red Peppers. The meal arrived really quickly and very hot. Marvelous. I had coffee and ice cream afterwards, but I should have skipped it. Too many calories and not impressive. If I am in Memphis again though, I will go back to Amerigo's. If you go, make a reservation, and go early. It was not crowded and the food arrived extra fast. I hardly had time to regret that I did not bring something to read.


Friday, August 13, 2010

Gluten Free in Germany

Gluten Free in Germany -- hey, that rhymes!

I can't state strongly enough how much I needed the German translation of the dining card from CeliacTravel.com. I used it at virtually every meal, and I would have been lost without it. Many of the people in the smaller cities and towns that we traveled through did not have much of a command of English, including wait staff in restaurants. I tried to mostly eat in more sophisticated restaurants where the kitchen staff would have better knowledge of the diet, but in truth pretty much everywhere we went the people serving in the restaurants went to some effort to help me. I thought for sure that a small restaurant in Bad Sooden Allendorf would throw up their hands and tell me that they could not help me, but the waitress and the owner(?) of the restaurant went over the note, heads together and conferring for a few minutes before the waitress came back and said that they could get me a salad, some potatoes, and an unbreaded schnitzel. Ach du lieber! Lunch!

Most of the trip I chose salads for lunch. The salads in Germany are nearly always very fresh and can be ordered with a meat served on it. They were very accommodating about no breading, etc. I don't really understand about the dressings though. I always asked for the salads without dressing, at least for Steve, who doesn't eat dressing, and for me, because I don't always know what is in it. Without dressing seems to mean "only vinegar". sometimes I would say "ohne vinegar"; maybe that threw them. It means without, I believe. Maybe they heard "only vinegar." But even if I didn't say that, some mild vinegar dressing seemed inevitable.

Dinners were easier most of the time. We ate in some very nice restaurants. One was in Darmstadt on a street less traveled. It was an Italian restaurant that I think was named Panino. The name scared me a bit, but we looked at the menu and I'm glad that we stayed. I had some very nice Prosecco, a tomato soup, and some lamb and potatoes in tomato sauce. It was maybe a bit of tomato overload, but it was quite good.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

New Life Hiking Spa -- Day 5

On my last day, I did the early morning Stretch class, then breakfast before heading for home. The picture is of the back of the Inn, where there is a nice patio for lounging between classes.

Here are my thoughts about the trip, both good and bad.

First, let me say that I think it was a total win from the point of view of a Traveling Celiac. Other than Disney World, I haven't ever been anywhere that was more aware of gluten, and it was a heck of a lot healthier than anything The Mouse has ever served me. I especially loved that they paid so much attention to alternative grains for everyone, not just as an accommodation for me. One of the guests claimed that before I got there, dinner one night had been a lasagna where the pasta was made from Jerusalem artichoke flour, so I might have been able to eat that! Nifty.

As a hiking retreat in general, there were a few ups and downs. Many of the guests commented that the hotel itself was a bit long in the tooth. It is definitely in need of some updates, but that lack of luxury is what made it possible for them to provide this experience so inexpensively. For the most part, everything had a bit of a shabby chic charm, except the pools. The outdoor pool is permanently broken. Apparently it hasn't been operational for two years. The indoor pool is really is a serious state of disrepair and I don't really think they should be allowing guests in it at all, let alone holding classes. Nevertheless, I think the total package offers good value for the money.

One thing I regret not knowing before I came, you can wear sneakers on the beginner hikes. I brought two pairs of hiking boots and only one pair of cutesy sneakers, because I thought only boot were allowed. I ended up with an unnecessary bruise by wearing those clunky hiking boots on a 5 mile hike on a paved road, and it limited my participation in further hikes. Bring a good pair of athletic sneakers/cross-trainers to the exercise classes and also wear them on any of the beginner hikes/ nature trails. Also, they had backpacks available, but if I were to do it again, I'd go buy one of those really nice hiking backpacks at REI, instead of lugging about their big ol' army backpack just to carry one piece of fruit and a bottle of water.

I wasn't there long enough to actually "lose weight," of course, but I did feel healthier and a lot more confident in myself and my ability to live a healthy lifestyle, so I am glad I went.


Friday, July 23, 2010

New Life Hiking Spa -- Day 4

This photo is of the tent where the morning Stretch class and afternoon exercise classes take place.

I made it to the 7 am Stretch class this morning (go, me!) and had my usual scrambled eggs with the tapioca tortilla. I keep forgetting to ask for salsa on the side, but they bring it once I ask.

This morning I chose the "Walk and Cook" activity instead of one of the hikes. We took a 3 mile walk around the surrounding neighborhood, staying mostly on sidewalks and residential areas. There were a quite a few hills so it turned out to be a pretty good work out, but much gentler than anything we had been doing. After the walk, we watched our instructor Janet do a cooking demo. First she juiced some carrots, oranges, pineapple, and ginger for us to drink. It tasted like an Orange Julius to me, probably because it was frothy. Yummy!

Then she made a what she considered a "burger" out of sunflower seeds and rice. I liked it. It was quite tasty. But I think the word "burger" should be avoided as this resembled a burger only in shape. However, as a Sunflower Croquette, it would make a nice side dish. Here's the recipe:

4 cups sunflower seeds (finely chopped in food processor, but don't puree it to a paste)
3 cups cooked brown rice
1/8 cup of onion or shallot, diced
About 2 cups of vegetables (she used carrots, parsley, and red bell pepper)
1/4 tsp cumin
2 tsp salt

Blend in food processor, until blended but not mushy. It will need to be sticky enough to make a patty, so add a little water if needed. Form into patties and brown in a skillet with a small amount of oil (she used safflower; I would use olive oil). Serve hot.

We only got a small taste (they are still watching our calories for us) so I was glad when lunchtime came around. Lunch is always a soup, followed by a small entree. Today the soup was French Onion (a little sweeter than I would have expected) and a chicken Caesar salad. The waitress remembered me today and brought me mine without croutons. I didn't even have to ask. Yea!

Dinner was a special treat. All day there had been rumors that there would be steak served that night, but I pretty much assumed it was about as likely as a suprise excursion to Burger King; however, when dinner came, there it was on the menu. Steak! It was a small filet, the size you are SUPPOSED to eat -- the size of a deck of cards. It has a beefy sauce that was very nicely seasoned, and the meat was served medium rare. The meat was slightly tough, and I'm not sure if that was because of the cut of meat or because it was slightly less rare than I am used to eating, but it was good. It was served with perfectly steamed snow peas and quite possibly the best corn I've every eaten. Since I had eaten so much, I "virtuously" skipped dessert -- a fruit cup. LOL

Overall, I have been really happy with the food here; a surprise, since I do have a few "food preferences" and I've had to eat a few things I wouldn't eat at home. They do say that hunger is the best sauce.


Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Life Hiking Spa -- Day 3

This morning I skipped the Stretch class, which I regret. It's my favorite class here at New Life. But at 6:45 am, I just couldn't pull myself out of bed. Still, I managed to be up in time for breakfast at 7:30. There was a choice of an omelet with sun dried tomatoes and basil or plain scrambled eggs, both gluten free. I went with plain scrambled and asked them to substitute the tapioca tortilla for the whole wheat muffin. It came with just a dab of delicious blackberry jam (the kind that makes you want to lick the plate to get every last drop) and a slice of cantaloupe and a very tiny garnish of three blueberries and a slice of strawberry.

I was hoping to do the intermediate level hike today, to give myself an extra challenge, but when I put on my hiking boots I realized I had a large bruise on my ankle and the boot was pressing on it. On the beginner level hike you are allowed to wear sneakers, so I had to change into those and go on the "nature walk." It was still a 5 mile walk, though, so I got my exercise for sure. It was a beautiful walk down 2 miles of gravel road along a lake, then a 1 mile loop through the woods, then back along the road we came in on. I especially loved hearing the frogs croaking along the lake shore.

Lunch was served back at the spa, where we had a wonderful zucchini soup (the recipe is on their website) and little English-muffin pizzas. Mine, of course, had to be made on the tapioca tortilla, but it was good. It was loaded with a lot of mushrooms and black olives (not my favorite), but by this point I am learning to eat what I'm served to avoid being hungry in the afternoon.

After lunch we took an excursion to the Rutland Area Food Co-Op (that's it's name). I didn't buy anything, but they did have a number of gluten free items, including Bob's Red Mill mixes, Mary's Gone Crackers, and Kind bars. So it would be a good place to stock up if you were in the area. Our guide was there to talk about alternative grains such as millet and quinoa, which of course I already know about, but don't serve often enough. Perhaps I'll get motivated to try millet again when I get home.

There was an evening Yoga class, then off to dinner where we were served a choice of tofu or salmon with an orange glaze. Needless to say, I chose salmon. It was well-prepared and the sauce was good. It was served with a brown rice and spinach pilaf and steamed veggies. Up until this point I had not been concerned about the lack of salt on the table, but the rice was bland and really needed a bit of salt. Fortunately, a fellow guest sitting at my table had a secret salt shaker that he has been sneaking into the dining room in his pocket -- LOL! He generously shared, and the rice was quite good with just a small sprinkle of salt.

I should say that dinner is always served with a salad, but I've gotten tired of eating them. The field greens and celery are ok, but I've never been a fan of raw onion, bean sprouts, or radishes. At least there are never any croutons on them!

For dessert they served strawberries Romanov, which I was told I could eat, but the server mistakenly put one in front of me that was garnished with wheat germ. Fortunately, I was suspicious and asked what was on it. She apologized and went back to the kitchen to get an ungarnished serving.

I had a massage tonight for my poor weary muscles and I am having a glass of my Vermont wine while I type, but I had best get to bed if I want to get up for the early morning Stretch class. Good night!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

New Life Hiking Spa -- Day 2

This morning it was a little hard to pull myself out of bed, but I reminded myself that a) I really enjoyed Stretch class yesterday and b) I actually paid money to do this. So off I went to the 7 am Stretch class, followed by breakfast.

They served breakfast burritos (on CORN tortillas) filled with scrambled egg. There was a side of salsa and a side of beans. The burritos were delicious, especially with the salsa, but the beans left a lot to be desired. They were a bit "al dente" which is a word that should never be used to describe beans. I only ate a bite of them, which is really a shame because there are so many really wonderful low fat ways to prepare mexican/ refried beans, but these were a little sweet and definitely too crunchy. The fruit cup was grapefruit and bananas with coconut flakes. The coconut was a nice change of pace.

Our morning hike was 5 miles along the Appalachian trail, with a stop at a pretty waterfall. On our return, we had carrot ginger soup, which was served warm and was reminiscent of a cream of tomato soup. Then we had a tabbouleh salad made with quinoa (this is what they served to everyone, and it was gluten free) with a side of goat cheese and crackers. Since I couldn't eat the crackers, they had substituted a side of hummus. Goat cheese without crackers was too strong a taste for me and I didn't eat much of it.

In the afternoon, I couldn't take it anymore and snuck out to the store. I bought a bottle of Vermont wine (Snow Farm winery's Rose Red) and some Vermont cheese (Cabot's Tomato Basil Cheddar). I had a box of Mary's Gone Crackers in the car and I decided to spend a few hours relaxing with some wine and cheese and a good book (The Autobiography of Santa Clause by Jeff Guinn). Screw pilates.

When I got to dinner, they had thoughtfully noted on the dining board that they only item on the menu that was not gluten free was the salad dressing (which contained tahini). I ordered the combo plate, which is a smaller portion of the meat entree with a small portion of the vegetarian entree. The meat dish was chicken stuffed with spinach and feta cheese (very good) and the veggie entree was a red pepper stuffed with a pilaf made of brown rice, quinoa, and millet (delicious). It was served with some steamed zucchini and yellow squash (a bit limp). Dessert was fascinating, if not particularly tasty. It was a frozen banana puree. The only ingredient is banana, so it was remarkable how similar the texture was to real ice cream. They drizzled it with a tiny bit of chocolate sauce and an almond on top. I think it would have been better with more almonds, especially slivered instead of one whole. I ate about half of it.

My stomach has felt great since I got here. I think that the combination of no gluten cross-contamination, no fats or processed foods, increased roughage, and lots of exercise has been great for my digestion. Of course, it's a lot easier to put this into practice when someone else is cooking your meals for you. Still, I have gotten some good ideas on how to improve our diet once I am back at home.

Cross your fingers that I make it through yet another hike tomorrow morning! Sandy

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Gluten Free at the New Life Hiking Spa - Day 1

I arrived Monday evening at the New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vermont. I was nervous about so many things... can I really do this? Will I be lonely? Will they leave me for dead at the top of the mountain when I collapse from exhaustion? But mostly, will there be anything I can eat?

The meals at the spa are highly regulated -- this is a weight loss program. There are two options for each meal -- vegetarian and not vegetarian. If I can't eat one of those two meals, I'm going hungry. That's not really how I want to lose weight.

Before the trip I called and spoke with the owner, Jimmy LeBron, who assured me that the kitchen was used to handling special diets and that they make all their own food from scratch. When I got here, I discovered that one of the employees is gluten intolerant as well, so I began to relax.

Dinner the night I arrived was delicious and there was no gluten in anything except the dessert. I had a salad, pork with apple sauce, steamed veggies with balsamic vinaigrette, and potatoes with chickpeas. They brought me a fruit cup in lieu of dessert, and I think I got the better deal. The "carrot cake" looked pretty dismal to me.

The next morning, I was up for Stretch class at 7:00 am, then off to breakfast. The waiter was serving a choice of three meals, and the only one without gluten in it was a blueberry smoothie with hemp protein. Let me just say... hemp is not something I want to eat ever again. It was god-awful. Fortunately, a woman who had been there several days told me a secret. You can ask them for plain scrambled eggs. Hallelujah! The waiter let the kitchen know I was there and they sent out a "tortilla" made of tapioca with my eggs so that I would have a carbohydrate with my meal. The eggs were yummy and I even asked for, and got!, salsa to go with it. It was a meal to make this Texas girl very happy. (For the record, I should note that several other guests loved the smoothies, and one said it varied a great deal from day to day depending on who made it.)

Tuesday's hike was in Woodstock and we wouldn't be back in time for lunch, so they packed us a sack lunch, and they kindly made a special one for me using the tortilla wrap instead of bread for my sandwich. The sandwich had turkey and hummus with shredded carrots and chopped tomatoes. In addition, there was an orange and a little baggie of trail mix with nuts and dried fruit. Then we had a little time to shop in Woodstock and many of the participants went straight for the coffee shop to get a caffeine fix. I went with them, but instead of coffee I had a smoothie made from non-fat yogurt and fresh strawberries. It went a long way towards erasing the memory of that horrible hemp concoction.

After the hike, I made the mistake of scheduling an early massage BEFORE the yoga class. My plan was: massage, then dance aerobics, then yoga, then meditation class, then dinner. I was full of pep when I headed off the massage. After the massage I went night-night and didn't wake up until dinner. Next time, I will schedule the massage for the evening instead.

For dinner, I chose the vegetarian option of red beans and rice with mozzarella. It was a good sized portion and very filling. It was not a cajun rendering of this dish, it was more like eating a lasagne, hearty and rich, but not spicy at all. It was served with salad and green beans. Again, I substituted a fruit compote for dessert, which was a very dry looking apple tart with a mountain of oats on top. I'm pretty sure I was better off with the fruit.

So far, I am feeling very good about the whole experience. I have been well fed with healthy, gluten free food in managed proportions so that I don't overeat. But if worst comes to worst, I still have leftover pizza from Monday in my room fridge if I get desperate. Let's hope I don't have to resort to that.


Monday, July 19, 2010

Gluten Free in Nashua, New Hampshire

I was meeting a dear friend of the family for lunch in Nashua, and I choose to have us eat at Speaker's Corner in the Crowne Plaza hotel, as they have a gluten free menu and had many favorable reviews on the web. I definately made a good choice!

The restaurant looked a bit too fancy on their web page, but the actual restaurant was not at all intimidating. Nancy and I sat outside on the patio and I was given a gluten-free menu (laminated!) and told that during lunch the items listed under entrees were not available, but that everything else was.

That left plenty to choose from including pizza, nachos, chicken tenders, shrimp cocktail, mussels, burgers (with bun!) and salads.

I'm still not over my bad burger experience at 99's, so I decided to try the pizza. It was very tasty. The crust was thin but not too crisp, and the sauce and cheese were both good quality. It wasn't the sort of pizza you would rave about, but it was very satisfactory. I also had a side salad with a delicious zinfandel vinegrette salad dressing.

If I had the chance to go back, I'd like to go for dinner. Several of the entrees looked intriguing and out of the ordinary, such as Carciofi -- veal medallions, artichoke hearts, asparagus, and fresh herbs in white wine garlic sauce, for example. Mmmmm. It is always a nice treat to find something different to eat on a gluten free diet, instead of relying or plain chicken or steak every time.

Nancy and I skipped dessert (I am on my way to weight-loss camp) but they looked good too, especially the flourless chocolate raspberry cake or the caramlized bananas.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

GF in Manchester, New Hampshire

For lunch, my mother in law made me a fantastic sandwich on a Schar bun. I mention this because it was a lot better than hamburger for dinner at 99 in Manchester, NH.

99 is a chain restaurant that has a gluten-free menu. I asked for, and received, a copy of the gluten-free menu at the podium. It was a pretty good selection -- hamburgers on a gluten free bun (more on that later), prime rib, steak, and salmon. Sides included garlic mashed potatoes, steamed veggies, or a baked potato. They also offered an ice-cream sundae for dessert. Child's portions of the steak were available.

I ordered the bacon cheese "steakburger" and I was excited to have a hamburger on an actual bun. Unfortunately, the bun was crumbly and dry. I do give them points for having a bun at all, but gluten-free has come a long way recently, as my Schar bun at lunch shows. Udi's makes fantastic bread and bagels, and I recently had dinner at a restaurant near Dallas (Boomerjacks) that had one of the best chicken sandwiches I ever tasted -- on a gluten free bun. So I think the days of crumbly hamburger buns should be over.

The burger itself was tasty, but a bit greasy. However, the star of the show wasn't on the GF menu -- it was on the drink menu. My mojito was excellent!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gluten Free New Hampshire

I am visiting my in-laws in Derry, New Hampshire at the southern end of the state. After a few days here, I will be leaving the kids with their grandparents and heading to New Life Hiking Spa in Killington, Vermont, where I will hopefully be shedding a few pounds in their weight loss program.

But for now, I am on vacation and not yet officially "dieting" so I was thrilled to discover that little Londonderry, NH has a gluten free pizzeria called Julianos.

Hmmm... Derry and Londonderry. I don't really know why New England towns are named like this, but Londonderry is immediately adjacent to Derry, and the pizza place is located in Derry Plaza, which is in Londonderry, not Derry. Confusing.

Once we got there though, we knew we were in the right place -- they had written "gluten free pizza" on the windows in shoe polish, so there was no doubt. I was practically bouncing with excitement. I ordered a gluten free pizza with ham and fresh tomatoes. The tomatoes were chopped up pretty well, so they were easy to eat. Sometimes fresh tomatoes are served artistically rather than functionally and they can be hard to eat, but these were perfect. The crust was tasty and not too tough. The sauce reminded me of Sbarros pizza -- the stuff they sell by the slice in the mall. Not a fancy top-of-the-line pizza, just good old fashioned American pizza. Yummy.

Any of their toppings can be added to a gluten free crust (10 inch only), except for eggplant, hamburger, and breaded chicken. They also offer some pasta dishes: gluten free chicken, veal, or eggplant Parmesan, gluten free cheese lasagna, and either chicken pesto or broccoli in a garlic cream sauce, over gluten free ziti.

I did try their GF dessert -- cannoli, and I wasn't really impressed, but kudos to them for trying.

Fortunately for my "diet", I brought this home to my in-law's house and paired this pizza with a huge salad, so hopefully I haven't done too much damage to my weight loss plan. Also, my father-in-law placed my leftover pizza in the same box with the non-GF pizza, so I won't be over-indulging by eating leftovers tomorrow. Oh, well.

For more info on Julianos visit their website at www.julianosNH.com.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Going to the Dogs – Or Americana Gluten Free

The last week of June, the Cayuga Wine Trail in the Finger Lakes of NY had their Grapehound Festival. I bid on five items in the Silent Auction to help spur things on. I “won” all five items! One of them was a gift certificate to the Crystal Lake Cafe at the Americana Winery.

Steve and I went there for dinner on July the 3rd. It was the slow hour and we were the only people in the restaurant, which is open till 8:00 pm. We got there just before five. The restaurant does not look fancy, but the food is all made fresh there at the cafe.

I have eaten there before and they were very helpful about the gluten free diet. I asked if I could have the mussels, the seafood stew and the veggie kabobs over a salad, and they said I could. Steve and I shared the mussels, and I was beginning to think maybe I should not have also ordered the stew, but in fact, the stew was stupendous (pun intended). It had a couple mussels in it too, but also some salmon and a couple of shrimp. It was really really delicious.

The salad was also just exactly the way I like a salad, very light dressing over romaine, with chick peas, cherry (or maybe grape) tomatoes, a little cucumber and some red onion and a little crumbled cheese (chevre?) Two skewers of nicely grilled vegetables lay over the salad and the presentation was quite lovely. With my dinner I had a glass of Americana’s Semi Dry Riesling. It was a good choice.

There are several good restaurants in the Finger Lakes for gluten intolerant people. The cafe at Americana Vineyards is one of them. Go there! It’s worth it.


Monday, May 31, 2010

Gluten Free in Upstate New York

Thirsty Owl Winnery and Bistro

I wasn't really ready to talk about Thirsty Owl yet, because I wanted to wait till I had been there several times this summer, but the lunch we had was so lovely that I had to write now. Thirsty Owl is one of several excellent wineries on the Cayuga Wine Trail in the Finger Lakes of New York and is one of our favorites. Thirsty Owl has a bistro too which is one of the draws for us. We can sit on the deck at the winery overlooking Cayuga Lake and have a very leisurely lunch.

Steve and I went to have lunch there and hear Bob Walpole, a local singer who often plays at various wineries' events, sing on the Sunday before Memorial Day. We had gone the week before and just had a bowl of lentil soup and a cheese plate (and dessert – not forgetting dessert!), but this time we wanted a larger lunch. I asked, of course, if the entree that I wanted was gluten free and was assured that it was. Everything is made from scratch by the new chef, and since the owner's mother and mother-in-law both are celiac, I tend to trust that things are as said. Steve had a bowl of tomato soup as an appetizer, and I ate some of that too, once I was told that I could. It tasted very fresh and was maybe even better than the lentil soup last week.

My entree was grilled shrimp served with a checkpea, carrot and spinach curry. The idea of a curry kind of put me off. I'm not really a curry fan, but this dish was very mild, light in tone, and very delicious. I ate every bite. I don't think I left a chickpea on my plate. The shrimp was good as well, but it was the accompanying side that was the better of the two. I might order it again, although the salmon that Steve had looked good too. We had Thirsty Owl's Dry Riesling with lunch. It went well with the lunch, but I think the Semi-Dry might have been even better.

Then we had dessert. We had had this the week before too and decided that it was a keeper. They changed the name though from one week to the next. I suspect that people were not sure what a "sabayon" sauce was, so the dessert this week was listed as a custard sauce with strawberries. It's a soft custard that is made with wine, and it was served over fresh strawberries. I didn't actually lick the bowl, but I spooned as much around the edges as I could.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gluten Free at the Las Vegas Buffets

Buffets in Las Vegas are no longer cheap, but they are still a bargain compared to eating in one of the many “designer” restaurants by celebrity chefs such as Emeril or Wolfgang Puck. I had two buffets while I was in Vegas this weekend, and each was under $30. Compare that to the menu at Tom Colicchio’s CraftSteak (located at the MGM Grand, where I was staying) offering a “three course menu starting at $110.”

CraftSteak wasn’t in the budget (a pity, since the menu looked great), so we had dinner on Friday night at the Planet Hollywood buffet for $24.99. “Chef Mike” took me through the buffet to show me what was safe for me. It’s worth mentioning that you always have to use your judgment and be informed, since these chefs have to keep a lot of different allergies and intolerances in mind, they can get confused. Mike briefly thought I couldn’t eat corn and also said “you can have pasta, right?” as he got the corn and wheat mixed up. Once we firmly established what my particular intolerance was, he was great. The buffet at Planet Hollywood is pretty extensive, but there wasn’t a lot of GF choices. Of course, I don’t eat seafood, and there was a significant amount of GF food there, so it might be a good choice for the seafood lover. I had Prime Rib, sweet potatoes, grilled asparagus, and fruit. There was flan for dessert, but I was full, so I passed.

I never actually sat down for a real meal on Saturday. I had no breakfast, lunch at McDonalds (yogurt parfait and French fries), and for dinner I ate peanut butter and crackers in my room. Jif now sells these cute individual packets of peanut butter that are great for travel and I had brought some Nut-Thins with me.

Sunday we headed out to brunch at The Wynn ($29.95 WITH champagne, $23.95 without it. I chose to have the champagne!) The Buffet at The Wynn is justifiably famous as one of the best in Las Vegas. I met Chef Tim, whose last job was in Dallas at our prestigious Mansion at Turtle Creek. We chatted about Dallas for a few minutes and he showed me the buffet. I over-ate so much that I may not need to eat again until next year. I had:
Prime Rib
BBQ Ribs
Mashed Potatoes
Corn on the Cob (in a really delicious mayo-based cream sauce)
Bananas and Strawberries in Crème Fraiche (this was the only thing I ate that I didn’t particularly like)
California Rolls
Homemade Coffee Ice-Cream with toasted coconut sprinkles (very rich coffee flavor)
Caramel Rice Pudding (a little too sweet)
And, of course, several Mimosas.

For dinner, I had an apple.

On Monday, my companion and I had our breakfast delivered by room service, so that we could catch an early flight. We ordered the night before, and it was delivered promptly as promised. The gentleman who took my order was knowledgeable about Celiac disease and went to double check for me to guarantee that the hash browns were safe. We had omelets, hash browns, and coffee; everything was very tasty.

Vegas is a funny town. There are some things I really like about it and some things that are really annoying (mostly the smoke and noise), but I will say that I was well fed and I had no problem finding safe choices without any advance planning. Viva Las Vegas!


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

These are a few of my favorites things...

My mother-in-law has asked for a list of my favorite gluten-free products, so I thought I'd share it with everyone.

Sandy's Must-Haves -- if I run out of these, it's an emergency.

Chebe cheese bread mix
Udi’s Bagels ( I am ADDICTED to these)
Whole Foods store brand Prairie Bread
Pamela’s “Pancake and Baking” Mix
Tinkyada Rice Pasta
Pacific brand chicken stock

Sandy's Favorite treats

Shar crackers or breadsticks -- expensive, but delicious
K-Toos -- like an oreo
Pandero tapioca cookies (I’m having trouble finding these lately)-- when I want Milano cookies, I eat the plain Panderos with a piece of chocolate. It's pretty close. When I want Famous Amos cookies, I get the chocolate chip Panderos.
Kinnikinnick breads -- a good alternative if I can't get Prarie Bread. All of their breads are pretty good, but I especially like the Cheese Tapioca.
Kinnikinnick Cinnamon sugar donuts -- a cake-like donut, it reminds me of the ones I used to get in the dorm in college, so it's got happy associations for me.
Kinnikinnick Chocolate Dipped donuts -- this tastes like those little chocolate covered donuts you get in vending machines.
Kinnikinnick chocolate cake mix -- there are several good chocolate cake mixes, but this one is my favorite. Unfortunately, it's hard to find.


Orlando Update

There is good news for travelers to Walt Disney World in Florida. Publix, a major grocery store chain in the Orlando/Tampa area, has just committed to carrying Kinnikinnick products!

Publix also has stores in Jacksonville, Miami, and Atlanta, Georgia.

The Publix nearest to Disney World is at 8145 Vineland Avenue and the phone number is (407) 238-9924. See Mouse Savers for more info.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gluten Free at the Melting Pot

The Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant with franchise locations throughout the United States. Since it is a franchise, the gluten free choices are different at each location. The Dallas location (actually, it's in Addison on Belt Line Rd) is working with the GIG to review their menu and has already made some great improvements since the last time I was there.

The Melting Pot is one of my kids' favorite restaurants. Each table has a burner in the middle for the fondue pot. My favorite part of the experience is the cheese fondue, but the kids don't care for it. Since we were there to celebrate Colin's straight A's (Yea! Go Colin!!!) I acquiesced, and we skipped that part. However, for your reference, they substitute either broth, wine, or gluten-free beer for fondues that have beer in them, so all of them can be made GF. Obviously, you can't allow your dining partners to dip bread (cross-contamination!)so everyone will have to be content with apples and veggies to dip. On occasion, I have slipped GF breadsticks (Shar brand) or GF pretzels into my purse to dip in the cheese fondue.

The part of the meal the kids love is cooking their meat. A pot of broth or oil is placed on your burner and each person can order the type of meat they wish to cook. Again, you are going to need to make sure that no one in your group orders something with gluten (the teriyaki, for example) as you will all be cooking your meal in the same pot. Caroline and I split an order of chicken, Mark had the Surf and Turf (steak, chicken, and shrimp), and Colin had the salmon.

Colin loves salmon, but lately he's become a bit of a salmon snob. I bought Coho salmon at Central Market while my brother-in-law Steve was here, as it is Steve's favorite. I never expected Colin's reaction. He declared it to be the best salmon he ever tasted and started begging every night to have Coho.

So there we are, at the Melting Pot, and Colin wants to know if the salmon is Coho. The waitress has no idea (I'm pretty sure she didn't know there were different types of salmon) so we send for the chef (who has already been out to go over the menu with me). Sure enough, he says it's Coho! Colin is overjoyed. (Personally, I prefer Sockeye.)

We chose Court Bouillon for our broth. The meal comes with a little plate of vegetables, which you dump in the broth, then you skewer your pieces of meat (you use two skewers at a time) and let them sit in the broth for about 2 minutes. On the table, they have dipping sauces for your meat as well as a shaker of Wine and Herb seasoning. One thing here -- three of the sauces are put into a single serving dish with three little compartment. One of these sauces was the off-limits teriyaki. I felt the proximity of the other two sauces to the gluten-containing sauce was a little too close for comfort. I stuck with the Green Goddess dressing (served in it's own separate little cup) and the herb seasoning. Both were wonderful.

We were already full by the time we finished our meat, but you can't go to the Melting Pot and not get dessert. Chocolate fondue! They have milk, dark, and white chocolate and you can choose to mix it with a liqueur, peanut butter, marshmallow, or caramel. Mark and I recently had the caramel, and it was tasty, but marshmallow is, hands down, our favorite. They bring the pot of chocolate out, with marshmallow cream in the middle, then light the top of the fondue (toasty!) and when the flames die down, they stir in the marshmallow.

To dip, we had marshmallows (be sure to ask for them plain -- they normally roll them in chocolate and graham cracker crumbs), bananas, and strawberries. The waitress was under the mistaken impression that the Rice Krispy treats were also GF, but a quick conversation with the chef proved they were not. The kids ate those plain, without dipping them in the chocolate, so they would not "contaminate" me.

Dinner at the Melting Pot is very expensive, but it is a fun experience for the kids and a great place to go for a special occasion. The kids got balloons, they are chocolate, and they cooked their own tiny bite sized pieces of food, just right for small, slow eaters. They had a ball.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gluten Free from Houston to Rochester

Marriott and Mario’s – Gluten Free

We took a quick trip recently to the Finger Lakes, and the night before we left we stayed at the Marriott at the airport in Houston. We have stayed there before and eaten in the restaurant before, but I think this was perhaps the best meal that I have had there. The restaurant is called CK’s and is in a tower that revolves. The scenery is not terrifically exciting, as it is mostly of the airport itself, but it is still fun to revolve (why is that?). The Special was grouper prepared with scallops, and the waiter (who brought us a relish plate instead of bread, which was very kind) assured me that the chef could prepare the fish in a way that would be gluten free for me. The non-gf special was served on a bed of rice. Mine was served over asparagus. Nice! The dish was very tasty, very fresh, very well prepared. Service was great. I intend to go back whenever I can.

The next night, when our flight got into Rochester, we ate at Mario’s. It was a Saturday night and we only called for reservations when we landed, but it was pretty early. Even so we were told that there might be a wait; as it turned out though, we were seated immediately. It’s a good thing we arrived when we did because it was very crowded within fifteen minutes of when we arrived. The restaurant is very large and impressive, but with a warm feel to it and a glittering bar in the lobby area. Some large banquet rooms for parties are off to the side.

Mario’s has a very extensive gluten free menu. The menu is over-sized and laminated. Salads, appetizers and pasta dishes are on the front. The steaks and chops and sides are listed on the back. I decided to get just a green salad, and an entree from the front since those were the more complex dishes. All the pasta entrees came with Tinkyada penne pasta. I ordered a Frenched Veal which came with some frenched artichokes as well and with a sherry cream sauce. There was a hint of some spice in the dish that wasn’t my style, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from eating with gusto. I particularly liked the artichokes.

There was a dessert tray, and three of the desserts were gluten free. One was of course the ever-present crème brulee; another was a parfait; the one that I chose was a tower of almond macaroons coated with powdered sugar and served with whipped cream and a raspberry or strawberry drizzle, with a slice strawberry garnish. Quite yummy, but maybe too many macaroons. I couldn’t really finish the entire dish.

I will go back to Mario’s when I can, but I think I will go with the back of the menu next time. The main draw in eating there is that I know that they are being careful and trying to feed their gluten intolerant customers safely and well. Thank you, Mario’s!


PS – Mario’s website is 2711111.com, and they have pictures of the restaurant as well as various menus, including the gluten free one on the site. They are not too far from the Rochester airport right off the Monroe Ave. exit of 590.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Gluten Free Disney World -- Day 5


Our last day in Disney World. I am always sad to leave and already looking forward to my next vacation there. I already have a list of things to do "next time." One is to see the new Presidential speech at the Hall of Presidents. The current president gets to record a speech for the animatronic version of theme selves at Disney World, and since we didn't get over there this time, I have not yet seen the Obama speech. More importantly, there is a gluten free food creation available at the Magic Kingdom that I have never tasted: The Dole Whip. Alex clued me in about Dole Whips, which you can only get in Hawaii or Disneyland/ Disney World. Just as you enter Adventure Land (coming from the direction of the Crystal Palace) there is a stand (Aloha Isle) selling this non-dairy Pineapple Sorbet. Apparently, it can be served "float style" with pineapple juice, or served alone or twisted with vanilla or orange soft-serve. I am not sure how I missed the existence of this delightful sounding concoction, but I am ready to plan my next trip to Disney World to get one!

Breakfast on our last day consisted of leftovers, as I desperately tried to eat up all the food we bought. Then we were off to Epcot! Alex and Allison had their lunch at the Morocco pavilion, where I had some very strong coffee with an orange liqueur. I needed A LOT of sugar to soften the flavor. I'm afraid that coffee is for stronger folk than me. Mark had Moroccan-style mint tea, which he enjoyed.

Instead of lunch at Morocco, the rest of us opted for a late lunch/ early dinner at the San Angel Inn in the Mexico pavilion. This is probably the best atmosphere of any Disney World restaurant. Inside the pyramid shaped pavilion, you are under the illusion that it is night time in Mexico. There is a market-place selling handmade goods, and past that is the restaurant, which sits on the Rio de Tiempo -- the River of Time. The "river" is part of the Gran Fiesta ride and it winds right past the restaurant, as if you are sitting on a patio by the river. Behind the river, an Aztec pyramid looms, and a volcano erupts in the distance.

This is an excellent restaurant for gluten-free options. The chef came out and went over the menu with me, and there was more that I could eat than there was that I couldn't. I was able to have the chips and salsa. (Mark would like to point out that the salsa was VERY mild and too wimpy for any self-respecting Texan.) I ordered the Tostadas de Tinga -- a fried corn tortilla (tostada) with beans, lettuce, onion, tomato, avocado, sour cream and queso fresca. It was great and I would definitely order it again. I would have liked to try the flan, but we were getting antsy about making it to the airport on time, so we had to skedaddle.

It was a great trip and, as always, I came away thinking that there is no better place for a gluten-free traveler than Walt Disney World.


Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gluten Free Disney World -- Day 4

We woke up in our beautiful secluded treehouse on a gorgeous spring morning. The trees were rustling, the birds were singing, and for once we were not rushing to get into a park. Instead, we spent the morning with family -- our Aunt Pat, Uncle Snork, cousin Polly, and their current exchange student Uyen, a lovely Vietnamese girl about the same age as Polly.

We had both breakfast and lunch in our treehouse, which is more a condo than a hotel room as it has a full kitchen. Mark went out and brought home lunch food from the Goodings grocery store at Crossroads Mall. Some info about grocery stores near Disney World can be found here.
He brought home lunch meat, cheeses, fruit, chips, and plenty of soda, so we had more than enough to eat. (I ate the leftovers from this feast for breakfast on our last day.) After lunch, we went to the pool for a while and the kids swam while the adults basked in the sun.

We had a lovely time but had to part ways in the afternoon, as Lani and Caroline had appointments at 3:00 at the Bibbity Bobbity Boutique, a hair salon for little girls located next to Cinderella's Castle in the Magic Kingdom. After they were dolled up, and properly outfitted in princess costumes, we had dinner at Cinderella's Castle.

We were here once before for dinner, and on that occasion we had to wait a long, long, long, long time for our dinner. I am happy to report that we did not have that problem this time. We were served promptly and the chef came out to talk to me right away. For an appetizer, I had the BLT Salad, which is a wedge of iceberg lettuce with a light vinaigrette dressing, garnished with tomatoes, egg, red onions, and bacon. It was a small salad, but just the right size for me. I chose the Prime Rib for dinner which came with potatoes and asparagus. The chef also made a gravy for me. The Prime Rib normally comes with a Cabernet sauce that is not GF, but he cautioned me that they cannot always offer the gravy to customers, as it depends on how much pan-drippings they have on any given night, and how many GF customers come in. I am happy that I was lucky enough to get some as it really added to my meal. I was able to order a dessert from the regular menu, a caramel creme brulee that was very rich and with a strong caramel flavor.

There used to be a dinner show at the Castle, featuring the Fairy Godmother and Cinderella's Mice, but that has changed. Instead, the Disney Princesses arrive and come to all the tables, but there is no show, which is a shame as I thought the old show was very clever and it was kind of nice to see some of the rarer characters. However, the kids got to see all the Princesses, so between Chef Mickey's and Cinderella's Royal Table we saw most of the major Disney characters without having to stand in long lines.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gluten Free Disney World -- Day 3

Our third day at Disney World was spent in the Magic Kingdom and we had no reservations for lunch. We were headed across the park toward Tomorrowland when we were delayed by the 11:00 parade. Unfortunately, we were standing in front of a funnel cake vendor when we were forced to stop, which meant the kids were quickly demanding funnel cake. The little shop only sold funnel cake, waffles, and a creamy chicken and wild rice soup. Seems like an odd menu to me, but we bought the kids soup and funnel cake. There wasn't anything I could eat, but I had a breakfast (yogurt, Shar breadsticks, fruit) at the hotel, so I wasn't too hungry yet; but by 2:00 I was ravenous and nobody else wanted to eat. So while the gang went to ride Space Mountain, I opted to take my niece Lani with me to Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe in Tomorrowland. One odd thing about this counter-service restaurant is that it is divided into three sections, one for chicken and ribs, one for hamburgers, and one for sandwiches and salads. You have to wait in separate lines to order from each of the three sections. That makes it difficult to order if you have multiple people in your group, but since it was just the two of us, we settled on the chicken and ribs queue. I had the ribs, which came with mashed potatoes and green beans. It was all good, and nice to get some veggies at a theme park restaurant. The kids meals came with a choice of side items including grapes, apples, or carrots, so I got some grapes and carrots into Lani as well. A nice healthy bonus for the day.

We did have reservations for dinner, and again, we had a party of 8. We ate at Chef Mickey's at the Contemporary Resort hotel. As far as I'm concerned, no trip to Disney World is complete without a meal at Chef Mickey's. The party atmosphere pumps you up and it's an excellent chance to get photos, hugs, and autographs from the major characters: Donald, Minnie, Pluto, Goofy, and the Big Cheese Himself -- Mickey Mouse. This is a buffet restaurant and your meal includes a souvenir photo. The chef took me through the buffet and I chose prime rib, mashed potatoes, green beans, corn, and some potato salad (yes, I know -- mashed potatoes and potato salad. What can I say? I like potatoes.) It was very good, but the real reason to come here is the character interactions. One downside of having a party of 8 is that they seated us in a separate room, away from all the action. The characters did come through and stop at every table, but the parade of characters was not visable to us and we didn't get the same "energy" that you get in the main dining hall. An interesting note, Chef Mickey's now makes their own GF cupcakes! I love cupcakes. They are just plain fun! These were not the best I ever tasted. The chocolate cupcake was a bit gummy and the vanilla cupcake was not very sweet... it almost tasted more like a muffin. The frosting was good and not too sweet, which is the usual problem with cupcakes, so that was nice; and frankly, I think it's great that they were offering something special that you could only get at Chef Mickey's. So, I hope they keep the cupcake idea, but the recipe could use a little work.

One more thing about Chef Mickey's... the girls ordered specialty drinks that came with a glowing Tinkerbell clipped to the straw. They both clipped to their headbands, which was adorable and made a fun souvenir. I myself ordered a Captain's Mai Tai, which was sweet and delicious, but did not come with a glowing Tinkerbell. :(

Gluten Free Disney World -- Day 2

On our second day in Disney, we did something I have wanted to do for a very long time -- we took the Keys to the Kingdom tour. This is a "behind the scenes" tour that takes you down into the "Utilidors" underneath the Magic Kingdom and shows you the inner workings of many of the rides. I learned all kinds of interesting things, which I can't share with you because I took a vow that I would "never ever ever ever tell anyone the things I am about to see, so help me Walt." It's a great tour if you are the sort of person who wants to know how things work.

Lunch was included in the tour and when I checked in, they expected me to give them my lunch order. Yikes. I was very nervous, because normally I would talk to the chef and ask him what was safe, and not only could I not talk to the chef, I wasn't even going to talk to anyone who worked in the restaurant! I had to rely on my tour guide. Needless to say, I was temporarily panicked, but I didn't need to worry. The tour guide had a book with allergen info about everything on the menu. Yea! He even knew that I could substitute GF chicken tenders for the chicken on the salad. That seemed like a good idea, so I ordered that and asked him to make sure it was circled, highlighted and starred with an allergy alert. When we arrived at the Columbia Harbor House for lunch, it was ready and waiting, just like I ordered. It wasn't one of the most exciting lunches I've ever had, but it was quite tasty.

Dinner, on the other hand, was more adventurous. Since my diagnosis, I have been avoiding my favorite Disney restaurant of all time -- Ohana. Ohana is located in the Polynesian Resort hotel and served Hawaiian food, and since "Ohana" means "family," the food is all served "family style." Soy sauce. Shared plates. Nuh-uh. However, on this trip we had eight people in our group, which limited our choices. Ohana was one of the few places that could seat us all at one table, so I called and talked to the restaurant and asked them about allergy accommodations. It turns out that they are fantastic at Ohana. Since there is almost nothing on the menu I can eat (except the shrimp skewers), my entire meal had to be made specially... and it was special! First they brought me my own plate of chicken wings. I'm not normally a wings person, and I started to tell the server to skip that one, but she assured me that I definitely wanted these wings. Sure enough, they were delicious, tender and lightly spiced. I shared them with my brother, a notoriously picky eater, and he loved them. In fact, most of the night he preferred my meal to the "normal" one. The shrimp was brought to the table on large skewers, as were the meats, but since I could only have the shrimp, they brought me my own meal: small skewers of chicken, beef, and pork served on a bed of plain white rice. When I called the restaurant I was told that they had wheat-free tamari sauce, so I asked the waitress if I could get some. She came back with the chef and three kinds of dipping sauces -- plain tamari, terriyaki, and sweet and sour. I normally don't care for sweet and sour, but it was delicious, easily the best of the three sauces. I'm glad I asked, as the dipping sauces really made the meal special. The group's dessert was bread pudding with a caramel sauce, but they brought me a warm brownie with ice-cream. Yummy!

I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Mai Tai. Mark and I had Mai Tai's for the first time on our honeymoon at .... that's right, Disney World! We saw the Polynesian luau show and had their Mai Tai's, which I loved. The Mai Tai at Ohana is very good, but it is far less sweet than the one I had at Chef Mickey's, so it depends on your tastes. Tune in next time for a review of Chef Mickey's on Day 3 of our Disney vacation.