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

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