Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas in Vegas

Christmas Time at the Bellagio (Las Vegas)

Bellagio Conservatory at Christmas

I love the Bellagio at Christmas. It is very dazzling and colorful. There is a very large real Christmas tree in the Conservatory that is surrounded by trains. The huge polar bears are composed of carnations and there are poinsettias of all colors covering the entire floor. Reindeer fly above a little ginger bread house and there is an arch filled with flying snow that is flanked by Toy Soldiers

Near Reception there is a large Carousel Horse surrounded by wrapped presents. The glass Chihuly ceiling is right above the Horse. Behind reception is an alcove filled with Christmas decorations and flowers.

We went to Circo for dinner, where we were seated at the window overlooking the Lago del Como where the Fountains dance to music every fifteen minutes in the evenings. I had originally wanted to try Michael Mina, near the Conservatory, but it was closed (as are many things in Las Vegas) for the holidays. We were told that Circo had a gluten free menu, so that's where we went. It is one of the few places we have eaten that has a gluten free menu that includes the prices. I've always thought it was a little odd that the gf menu doesn't include prices, but I suppose that the philosophy is that if you need to eat gluten free you can't ask what the price is! Anyway I ordered the most expensive thing on the gf menu, which was a seafood risotto. I ask for risotto wherever I go and am usually told that I can't have it because it is so often made with a non-gf chicken broth, so I was willing to pay the (financial) price when the opportunity finally arose to eat it without paying the gastrointestinal price. The scallops in the risotto were sliced very thin and they were tender and delicious. They must have been added at the very last moment before serving to have been so delicate and fresh.

I added a side dish of spinach for my ongoing Spinach Wars investigation. I'm afraid that Circo does not hold up to either our local Pappadeaux here in Beaumont or to the most excellent Two Rivers Steak House in Canton Mississippi where we stopped during a road trip in the summer of 2012. Basically Circo's version was just a big dish of unadorned spinach. I am not complaining though. I did have risotto and a view from a lovely restaurant of the Fountains at the Bellagio – not a bad trade-off.

Cathy

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

GF Homemade Butterscotch Krimpets

When I was a little girl, my grandmother would visit from Pennsylvania and bring me boxes of Tasty Kake Butterscotch Krimpets.  Since they were not sold in Texas, they were a rare and special treat.  Then, as an adult, I went gluten free, and Krimpets went from "rare treat" to "forbidden food."

Recently, the grocery stores here in Dallas/Fort Worth have started selling Tasty Kakes.  Not just a box or two, tucked in the snack section, but (at Randalls) a whole long row of them in every imaginable flavor.  They are even selling a Tasty Kake version of a Twinkie.  And because they were once rare, every time I see them I think "Oh look!  Tasty Kakes!"  Then I remember I can't eat them.  Sigh.

So today I decided to take on the challenge of creating a gluten free Butterscotch Krimpet.  I think my results were pretty good.  The cake wasn't as oily as I remember the Tasty Kakes being, but that is probably a good thing.  Still, my cakes were nice and spongy, and the butterscotch icing was pretty close to dead on.


For the cake, I used a sponge cake recipe from Gluten Free on a Shoestring.  My only modification was that I used a square pan instead of round.  Do make sure you oil the pan very well, as this cake definitely sticks.  I suspect that some butterscotch extract might make this recipe even more like the original, but I wasn't able to find any at my grocery store.

For the frosting, I used 1/2 stick of butter, 1 1/3 cups powdered sugar, and a teaspoon of vanilla extract, creamed together.  I then added 1/3 of a cup of butterscotch sauce, which I found in the grocery store with the ice-cream toppings (hot fudge, etc.).  The brand I used was Mrs. Richardson's.  I also bought a bottle of Smucker's Butterscotch Topping, but it tasted a little chemically.

This dessert definitely satisfied my craving, and made a convert out of my husband, who wasn't a huge fan of the Tasty Kake version.  The whole family was fighting over who got the last krimpet!

Sandy


Monday, September 30, 2013

One Day One Night Gluten Free in Yellowstone

We arrived close to lunch time at Grant Village in Yellowstone National Park, where we were staying because it is the closest lodging to the Southern Exit and therefore closest to the Jackson Wyoming airport. It is an extremely spare sort of place and overpriced for the very minimal accommodations, but there are two restaurants that are close enough to walk to. The Lake House Restaurant, which is right on the water, is not open for lunch, so we went to the other restaurant which was the Grant Village Dining Room. There was a Tuscan Bean Soup on the menu. I did not order it, but did have a taste of Steve's. It was tasty but much more like a vegetable soup than a bean soup.. Vegetables were nice but beans could be counted on one the fingers of one hand. The soup came with Glutino crackers which was a nice touch. I had a trout filet and a salad with oil and lemon. The atmosphere was very nice and the waitress was also Celiac, which gave me confidence in the quality of the food, in spite of all the disclaimers on the menu. The food was not exceptional, but in the middle of a national Park, I was grateful, and I believe that if we had had a table closer to the windows we would have had a view of the lake.

We had dinner at the OldFaithful Inn. The Inn itself is an impressive lodge, and the lobby is evocative of the El Tovar in the Grand Canyon National Park, but the dining room, although quite crowded, was not terrifically impressive. Again, there was soup on the menu, this time Pea Soup, and it was gluten free. I ordered the soup and also a Wedge Salad with hard boiled eggs and bacon. There was a choice of dressings, and I chose the Blueberry Vinaigrette. Everything was good, but I would not call it superlative. I didn't care; I was just happy to have a meal that was prepared with me in mind and to be able to walk outside and see Old Faithful erupt.


In the morning I wanted to see the lake, which I could not see from the table we had at the Grant Village Dining Room, so we walked down to the edge of the lake for breakfast in the Lakehouse Restaurant. If I were to do it again, I would walk right back up to the Grant Village Dining Room after seeing the lake. If I had had two days there, that's what I would have done, because I am pretty sure that the breakfast menu at the Dining Room would have been more gf friendly. The breakfast at the Lake House was a fairly minimal buffet, always a scary event, and the staff there maybe a bit stretched thin, as they did not have quite as helpful a demeanor as the other two restaurants. If you're in the Park, I think I'd skip the Lake House. The other two had menus that included gluten free items; the staffs were much more friendly and helpful; and the food was a better quality. It is twenty miles between Old Faithful Inn and Grant Village and easy to get from one to the other, so if you are staying at one or the other place and you have more than one meal you will be having in the Park, either restaurant will work in terms of food. If you are looking to do something before or after the meal, Old Faithful wins hands down. We loved walking around the boardwalk to see the many geysers, and we managed to see three eruptions of Old Faithful during our stay.

Cathy

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gluten Free in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

On a recent road trip from upper New York State to Southeastern Texas, I stopped to eat at all the usual gluten free choices -- Outback, Chipotle, PF Chang, -- but on the last night on the road I stopped in Hattiesburg, MS to have dinner at  the Purple Parrot Cafe. The Purple Parrot is not really a cafe.  It is a very elegant restaurant with warm wood and mirrored walls and candlelight on the cloth-covered tables.

The restaurant shares a building with the Crescent City Grill. Both of these restaurants are owned by Robert St. John who has written several books about Southern Cooking.  He recently blogged about lump crab meat and, as it happened, I ordered two dishes in which lump crab-meat was an ingredient.  My appetizer was a beet salad, something I have been ordering all summer.  This was the first though to include crab-meat, along with the greens and goat cheese.   This one was also the first to include maple syrup and sherry in the vinaigrette.  I don't know if it was either of those two ingredients that gave the dressing a slightly smoky taste or if it was something else, but the effect was great.  I am going to try that.  I caution you though that, should you go to the Purple Parrot, do not depend on this salad as anything other than a light appetizer.  It was tasty, but the smallest salad that I ordered this entire season.

Before the appetizer came, Megan, my very kind and cheerful server, brought a little pre-dinner "amuse bouche."  This presentation was a compressed watermelon ball served on a porcelain Chinese style spoon, and it was served with balsamic vinegar, a spring of basil, a bite of goat cheese, and some chopped sugared walnuts.  Because they were not sure if I could eat walnuts, Megan brought two, one with and one without nuts.  Since I could eat the nuts, she let me have both of them.  Thank you, Megan.

Dinner was grilled redfish topped with lump crab meat.  Exquisite.  The vegetables, which included sliced fingerling potatoes and asparagus chopped into small pieces, were excellent, and I think the asparagus may have been the best ever.  I want to try to duplicate that too.

Dessert was the gluten free diner's usual (and often only) choice, creme brûlée, but I have to say that I could easily have shared this one.  It was a large portion served with whipped cream in a small oval baking dish on top of a large dinner plate that was criss crossed with thin lines of chocolate and a delectable raspberry sauce.  I did not lick the plate, but I definitely scraped it clean.

Thank you, Purple Parrot and Hattiesburg.  Hope to see you again. 

Cathy

Friday, August 9, 2013

Stoney River Steakhouse

My brother-in-law and his family live in Cumming, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.  They have a 13 year old son who is a Food Network addict and budding foodie.  His favorite restaurant in the world is Stoney River Steak House, an upscale chain with a handful of locations in the Southeast (primarily Georgia, Maryland, and Tennessee).  

Stoney River does not have a dedicated gluten free menu, but the waiter at the Roswell, GA location was knowledgeable and recommended the Coffee Cured Filet Mignon, which has a coffee, molasses and brown sugar glaze, served with caramelized shallot mashed potatoes.  Mmmmm.  It was wonderful.  
The restaurant is well known for it's rolls, which is unfortunate for the celiac diner, but the waiter brought me a little plate of fruit to make up for it.  (He admitted he stole it from the kitchen; it's not standard policy).  It was hard to feel too sorry for myself when I was presented with a plate of illicit berries.  Why is forbidden fruit always the best?

All in all, I have to agree that Brandon has good taste.  Now if I could just get him to stop ruining his steaks by ordering them well-done....  

Sandy

Tower of the Americas in San Antonio

I have not had a lot of success on the San Antonio Riverwalk since going gluten free, but it remains one of my favorite places nonetheless.  We were there for a quick trip last weekend; we took our nephew Brandon there to see the Alamo.  Since it was his first trip to San Antonio, we decided to do something special and took him to the Chart House at the Tower of the Americas for lunch.  This rotating restaurant is at the top of a 750 ft high tower, with spectacular views of the city.  (Note: because Texas is very flat, you can see for a looooong way.)  The tower was the highest observation tower in the United States until 1996, when the Stratosphere opened in Las Vegas.

I hadn't been to the tower since it was bought by Landry's in 2004.  (Those people own everything!  Seriously, look at the list of restaurants they own.)  The restaurant is now called The Chart House.

I have a mixed review to give.  On the one hand, they had a gluten free menu.  Big plus!  I also enjoyed my food a great deal.  I had a perfectly cooked steak, an outstanding gazpacho, and a really yummy cocktail (mango Sangria).

On the other hand, lunch took two hours.  Two hours spent with three children whining that it was taking too long, they were bored, they didn't really want to go to the Alamo at all, they did want to go to the pool at the hotel, and why aren't we at the hotel pool right now?  Their fascination with the view lasted about 3 and a half minutes.  To top it off, no one else in my party liked their food.  Colin had clam chowder -- thumbs down.  Caroline and Brandon had steak -- Brandon's was undercooked (he asked for it medium well, and it was pretty darn rare.) and Caroline found hers too tough.  My husband had fish, which he pronounced ok, but not great.

So, I don't know if I can recommend it or not.  If you do go, go without children, with plenty of time to kill, and be sure to order the gazpacho.  It's a real winner!

Sandy

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Gluten Free Stockholm

On our Baltic cruise trip we spent our first and last nights in Stockholm. The first night we stayed in the Elite Eden Park Hotel, which was located across the street from the park that houses Sweden's National Library. I asked at the desk where we could find a restaurant with good fish and they recommended the Zink Grill which was only a few blocks from the hotel at Biblioteksgatan 5 and very walkable on a beautiful sunny summer evening. The Zink Grill had some outdoor seating available, so we sat outside under a canopy. The weather was wonderful, but I noticed that there were baskets of small blankets, so I suppose that there are some days when the outdoor section is open that are possibly not so balmy.

The restaurant turned out to be more of a meat sort of place, but I ordered the cod dish on the menu with a side of spinach with a Riesling that was offered by the glass. What a simple but great meal! The cod could not have been flakier or tastier. The spinach nearly equaled the Platonic spinach that I had in Mississippi last year. The Riesling was sweet, but complex. Great meal. Great evening.
Our last day of the trip was spent at the Stockholm airport. We had lunch and dinner at the airport. The prices were outrageous, the highest we have ever seen, but I had really lovely lunch at a sushi bar between Terminals Four and Five. I explained to the cashier/waitress that I was celiac and she said that the California roll could be made gluten free by substituting salmon for the crab. That worked. She also brought gf soy sauce to the table for me. I ordered edamame beans as well, and the tea and miso soup were included with the lunch. That was the first time I have gone into a sushi place since my diagnosis and I am so glad that I went there. Europe seems to have a greater understanding of the whole gluten free process. Everyone always knows what I am talking about and what is required.

The evening meal was at the New Orleans Bar, also located in the area of the airport between Terminals Four and Five, but separated by a very long afternoon nap at the Radisson Blu Arlanda Hotel. I looked over the menu and didn't see a lot that I could eat, but there was a shrimp salad that looked plausible. I told the waitress that I had to eat gluten free, and she assured me that the shrimp salad would be okay. I did not expect much. I was pleasantly surprised by a large salad with a lot more shrimp (small but plentiful) than I have seen other places. There was also a poached egg on top of the frisee lettuce. It's the first time I've seen that, but it was surprisingly good. I did not order any fries, but with the assurance from the waitress that their fry basket was dedicated, I ate some off other people's plates, and they were about as good as a fry can get.

Three meals, all different, all gluten free, all really good.

Cathy

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reformhaus

Somewhere in my travel research, I encountered the word "Reformhaus."  I had the vague impression that it meant "health food store" and that it was a likely place to get gluten free food.  So, when I happened upon a "Reformhaus" in Baden-Baden, Germany, I stopped in my tracks and dragged the family inside.

It turns out that "Reformhaus" is not a generic name, but rather the name of a chain of health food stores, with almost 3000 locations in Germany and Austria.  The location in Baden-Baden was small, but it had an amazing array of gluten free foods, including six(!!!) shelves devoted to Schar products.


I was like a kid in a candy store.  I bought mostly Schar products, as I know they tend to be pretty good, including some dinner rolls with chocolate chips (wonderful the following morning with Nutella for breakfast). I also got a variety of cookies.  I passed on the chocolate croissants (which looked more like the Pillsbury crescent rolls than a French pastry), but was amazed that such a thing existed.  It was toward the end of our trip, so we loaded up on things that would make good plane snacks.

Sandy

Monday, July 1, 2013

GF in St. Goar. Germany

The next stop on our Germany adventure was St. Goar on the Rhine River.  I took a German Civ class in college that focused on the economic and cultural importance of the Rhine in German history, so I knew a lot about this region, but I had never actually been there.  Standing there on the river, I felt triumphant that I had finally arrived to see this beautiful place I had studied.  

We stayed at the RomantikHotel Schloss Rheinfels  overlooking the river.  The hotel is adjacent to the ruins of a large and very old castle, and the parts of the ruins have been integrated into the hotel.
Ruins at Schloss Rheinfels

We had a great time exploring the ruins and clambering over walls and through tunnels.  This was a place where the kids could run off a little of their energy, instead of me admonishing them to be quiet.


Gluten Free bread at Auf Scharffneck
The hotel restaurant, Auf Scharffeneck,  had stunning views and excellent food.  In fact, the gluten free bread they brought me here was the best I have ever had.  It actually had the texture of real bread with a flakey crust.  Wow.  

As with the other restaurants, white asparagus was featured prominently on the menu.  (Asparagus season runs from April to July.) Instead of ordering meat with a side of potatoes and asparagus, the menu offered 1/4 pound asparagus and boiled potatoes, and your choice of veal, pork, or steak.  I found it funny to have the meat listed last.  Everyone enjoyed their meal, but the wine was the big highlight of the evening.  We tasted several sweet Rieslings from the nearby Loreley Winery.  They were phenomenal, and we were disappointed to find that they are not available in the United States.  

Beautiful view of the river from Auf Scharfneck Restaurant

We had breakfast in the restaurant the next morning and I asked them to find some more of that gluten free bread for me, which they did.  Mmmmm.  I had fresh warm bread and nutella.  Yum.  I also had the only decent cup of tea I had while I was in Germany.  I am not sure if the Germans aren't tea drinkers, or they just like it a little bitter. Or perhaps I just had really bad luck.  But they made me a pot of tea here that was absolutely perfect.  The buffet had all the usual things on it... juice, fruit, yogurt, cheeses and meats, and breads.  They also made eggs to order.  It was an excellent breakfast and you just can't beat that view.

Sandy

The REAL Sleeping Beauty Castle

Sleeping Beauty has her own castle in Disneyland, but Dornroeschenschloss near Kassel, Germany is the real deal.  In ruins and covered with thorns for centuries, it became known as Dornroeschenschloss (Rose Thorn Castle).  The Grimm Brothers, who lived in the area, believed it was the original source of the Sleeping Beauty tale.  

(I must point out that the Grimm brothers did NOT write the fairy tales.  Everywhere we went, the brochures and signs said things like "this is the castle that inspired the Grimm Brothers to write Sleeping Beauty," but that is incorrect.  The Grimm brothers collected and recorded existing tales in the hope of preserving German culture.  They did not invent the stories.)

 Pedantic rants aside, it was a fun place to visit, but very out of the way.  Getting there was a challenge and we got lost several times.  Our GPS wanted us to take a road that had a giant hole in it.  (Not a pothole, mind you.  You could have fit four cars inside that hole.) We felt like we had achieved a victory simply by getting there in one piece.  

The castle is pretty and they have a fun little garden with metal cut-outs depicting scenes from the fairy tales.  The whole experience was a little campy; our stay at Burg Colmburg felt more authentic, but if you have small children, Dornroeschenschloss is probably the better bet.  
Sleeping Beauty climbs the tower steps

The restaurant was beautiful, with big picture windows looking out over a pasture (with black sheep and white sheep!  I had Ba Ba Black Sheep going through my head for days.)  

Table with rose petals and a view of the pasture at Dornroeschenschloss .
Gold Plates at Dornroeschenschloss 
The gold plates on the table were a cute touch.  They were part of the story told in the garden.  The king only had 12 gold plates, so he invited only 12 fairies, even though there were 13 fairies in the kingdom.  The 13th fairy felt left out and cursed Sleeping Beauty as revenge.  Now at Dornroeschenschloss , everyone can eat off golden plates!  

We had some fun drinks -- I had a puree of strawberries and white wine.  Mark had a rose-flavored drink.  The butter was also flavored with rose petals.  Are you getting what I mean now about it being campy?  A little over the top, but fun anyway.

Fun drinks at Dornroeschenschloss
Eating gluten free was not a problem here.  They were able to tell me what I would and wouldn't be able to eat, and I had a lot of choices. They even had gluten free bread, though it wasn't very good.  Points for effort though!
Gluten free bread at Dornroeschenschloss 

 I decided on an asparagus risotto.  (White asparagus, of course, which they seem to be crazy about in Germany.)  The flavor was good, but unfortunately,  the texture was a little crunchy.I know risotto is supposed to be al dente, but this was a little too "dente" for my taste.



Asparagus Risotto at Dornroeschenschloss
In conclusion, the experience at Dornsoeschenschloss was fun, but a little too "Disney-fied" and a lot too expensive.  I think it is probably a must do with younger children, for whom the Sleeping Beauty element will be thrilling.  Teens, adults, and honeymooners might do better to skip the long trek into the middle of nowhere and stay at the elegant Burg Colmburg instead.  

Sandy

Monday, June 24, 2013

GF Dining -- in a castle!!!

The Burg Colmburg Hotel is a 13th century castle that has been renovated and turned into a hotel.  Can there be anything better than spending the night in a real castle?  It was awesome.

We ate dinner there the night we arrived, and our breakfast was included in the room price.  The dining room  had a medieval feel, without seeming like you were dining in a dungeon.  I did my usual "I must eat gluten free" routine, and they assured me that nearly everything on the menu was gluten free.  I ordered a veal cutlet and potatoes (which of course came with white asparagus!)  It also came with copious amounts of gravy, so I was very nervous and asked the waiter to double check for me. He came back and said it was definitely gluten free, so I ate it.  Ohhhhhh, so delicious.  I very rarely get to have gravy, for obvious reasons. I didn't have any gluten reaction, so the chef was right.  It was probably my most authentic German food on the whole trip.  Yum, yum, yum!

Dining in a castle

The breakfast buffet was good, featuring all the standards we had come to expect -- fruit, brie (and other cheeses), and assortment of cold cuts (much saltier than their American counterparts), and soft boiled eggs.

I highly recommend a stop here.  It was the best hotel we stayed in, and so much fun, not to mention the good food.

Sandy

Steiff Bears and Gluten Free Food in Geingen, Germany

Our next stop on our Germany adventure, was Geingen, home of the Steiff Teddy Bear Museum.  My son Colin had insisted that this be included on our itinerary, over his father's objections.  As it turned out, it was quite cute and well done, and my husband enjoyed it.  Be warned that the bears are extremely overpriced.  We left with two outrageously expensive bears, but if I had it to do over again, I would have taken the time to go to the nearby Steiff outlet and get souvenirs there instead.

We stayed at the Ambient Hotel Salzburger Hof, walking distance to the museum.  It was not a luxury hotel, but it was clean and charming, and we were able to get a room that slept four people.

Having been burned by the gluten and bratwurst at Neuschwanstein, my husband was determined to get a better meal, and was skeptical of eating at the hotel.  Choices were limited in Geingen, however, and we ended up eating at the hotel after all.  What a good decision!!  The food was simple German cuisine, perfectly executed.  They not only understood "gluten-free" but actually brought be some gluten free bread!  It was some type of whole grain brown bread and it was very good.  I ordered a veal cutlet, which they prepared without breading or gravy, and it was served with potatoes and white asparagus.  This was our first introduction to white asparagus on this trip, but it would not be our last.  Apparently the Germans are crazy for white asparagus, as it was nearly every menu we saw for the rest of the trip.  I still prefer green asparagus, but it was fun to have the white version for a change.
GF Veal and White Asparagus at Salzburger Hof
GF Potatoes at Salzburger Hof






My kids in the cozy dining room at Salzburger Hof

Just outside the restaurant was a koi pond and small garden.  I am a sucker for koi ponds.


Koi Pond at Salzburger Hof


Breakfast was included in our stay, so in the morning we had more of that delicious GF bread (it took them quite a while to bring it -- they had intended to defrost it that morning, but forgot.  We were not in a hurry, however, so I waited the 20 minutes it took to bake.)  Of course, there was nutella to go with the bread, as well as my brie, which I gladly ate every morning.  They also made my daughter some scrambled eggs, and there was plenty of fruit, so all in all an excellent breakfast.

Sandy

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Glutened at Neuschwanstein Castle

I made a rookie mistake in a little diner near Neuschwanstein Castle.  I didn't read the ingredients on a packet of mustard.  I know better, but the chef had said it was gluten free, and I didn't check, even though it was still in a packet with the ingredients on it.  It wasn't even in German.  So I did get slightly sick from the mustard, which I belatedly realized had beer in it.  

The meal wasn't great either.  After difficulty communicating with the waiter, I told the chef I didn't care what he brought me, as long as it was gluten free.  So I got greasy bratwurst with mustard that wasn't gluten free.


If you are looking for a place to eat near Neuschwanstein Castle, I can't recommend Allgauer Stuberl in Hohenschwangau village.  If you know of a better place near there, please post!





Sandy

Gluten Free in Zurich, Switzerland



Our first meal in Switzerland was at Swiss Chuchi ("Swiss Kitchen") conveniently located across the plaza from our hotel (Hotel Wellenburg).  We chose it for convenience, but it turned out to be a great success.  I really wanted cheese fondue, but I asked about it fully expecting to be told  "not for you."  Amazingly, the waiter not only knew what "gluten free" meant, but already knew which fondues I could eat and said he would bring out potatoes instead of bread to dip in the fondue.  What a great idea!  It was absolutely delicious.  The gluten-eating children both ordered veal, which was something new to them.  Colin's was a Cordon Bleu, which he talked about for the rest of the trip.


Cute place mats at the Swiss Chuchi restaurant

Cheese fondue at Swiss Chuchi
Potatoes to go with the fondue

Our hotel was the Wellenberg, one of the few hotels we stayed in that had a room big enough for four.  I was glad the children were old enough for their own room, as there was a two person limit per room at most hotels.  That first night, however, we were all together.  In the morning, we went down to breakfast, which was included in the (very pricey) room rate.  There were plenty of things for me to eat, including brie, which I ate every morning while we were in Europe.

Gluten free breakfast at the Hotel Wellenberg

Breakfast buffet at the Hotel Wellenberg

(For some reason, Google is translating "Hotel Wellenberg" to "Hotel Adler" on the Wellenberg website.  However, they are two different hotels, across the plaza from each other. If you look at the page in German, it does say Wellenberg.)

Next we were off on a train adventure!  We walked to the train station and took the train to the Dolderbahn, a funicular train that goes up the Adlisberg mountain.  At the top is the Dolder Sports Complex, a huge public park with hiking trails, sparkling swimming pools, mini-golf, and even outdoor table tennis!  We hiked for a while, then played a round of mini-golf before heading to our next destination -- lunch at the Dolder Grand hotel.
Terrace restaurant at the Dolder Grand

The Dolder Grand is a 5-star luxury resort overlooking Lake Zurich (known to the locals as Zurichsee).
The lunch we had there was both spectacular and spectacularly expensive.  ($330 for lunch for four.  To be fair, they strongly advised us to have the children order off the kid's menu, but 11-year old Colin turns up his nose at such things.  He wanted to order the Monkfish.)  I had a steak served with asparagus and mixed vegetables.  It was perfectly cooked, one of the best steaks I have ever had.

Steak at the Dolder Grand


Enjoying the view from the Dolder Grand terrace restaurant.
 Dessert was a Moscato flavored caramel custard with nectarines (minus the almond biscott, but garnished with caramelized nuts.)  It was perfect.  The custard was light but creamy, the nectarines were perfectly ripe and the crunch of the nuts contrasted nicely with the soft custard.  I will think of that dessert every time I eat a nectarine from now on.
Creme Caramel with nectarines at the Dolder Grand

The food was worth every penny (or Swiss Franc as the case may be), but the service was unbearably slow.  We are not people who like to sit around and linger, and all of the European restaurants drove us crazy with their slow service, but this one was particularly lengthy.  So if you go, plan your time accordingly.

We returned to our hotel for a nap.  Well, Colin and I napped.  My husband and daughter went out and saw Grossmunster church, built in 1487.  As Americans, it is hard for us to conceive of anything that old.  The Europeans hadn't even "discovered" the Americas yet; and here in Texas, "old" means nineteenth century.  Upon their return, we walked around Old Town Zurich for a while before heading off to dinner at Au Gratin.


Gluten-free items are clearly marked on the menu and they had menus available in English. Technically, an au gratin is any dish baked with a topping of seasoned breadcrumbs and cheese.  However, many of the gratins here did not ordinarily come with breadcrumbs and so were gluten free "as is."  I had the "France Gratin" with basil, zucchini, tomatoes, and mozzarella.  (Sounds more Italian than French to me, but then again, French Fries aren't particularly French either.)  Either way, it was a hearty and delicious meal.

"French" Au Gratin at Au Gratin restaurant



The kids enjoying our seat on the patio.

The next morning, we had breakfast in the hotel again, then headed on to Germany.

Sandy

Gluten Free in Windsor, England

As our great European adventure began, we started with a layover in London.  My husband and I were in disagreement about the wisdom of leaving the airport during a 5-hour layover, but in the end, he prevailed, and I am so glad he did.

There wasn't nearly enough time to get into the city, so instead we took a cab to Windsor, the official residence of the British Royal Family.  It was about a 20 minute ride from the Heathrow airport.  Our first stop was lunch!  After a 9-hour flight from Dallas, we were starving.  Fortunately, I had done my research and knew we could get a gluten free meal at an authentic English pub.
King and Castle Pub in Windsor

The King and Castle is perfectly situated right across the street from Windsor Castle.  In fact, we had a spectacular view of the castle from our table.



View of Windsor Castle from The King and Castle Pub


Gluten free items on the menu are marked with a G, and there is a nutrition guide available for more details.  I had a "jacket potato" (that's British-speak for a baked potato) with cheese.  They did not skimp on the cheese and it was quite delicious. It came with a side salad as well, which is good as I am trying to increase the veggies in my diet.  I also had a Strongbow Cider (on tap!) which made it feel like a real pub meal.

Jacket Potato at The King and Castle Pub

After lunch, we took a brief tour of Windsor Castle and St. George's Chapel, then headed back to the airport to catch our flight to Switzerland.  Made it back with time to spare!

Sandy

Moro's Table in Auburn, NY



Twice in one week I went to Moro's Tables with two different sets of guests. Moro's Table is in Auburn, NY, about a half hour west of Syracuse, and the reason that we were there was that we had play tickets. Auburn has three different venues with different kinds of plays, so these were pre-theater outings.

The first visit I had the cod, and although it was good, it was not a meal I would have blogged about. The second visit though, I had the scallops, which one of my guests the previous weekend had had, and which looked really good. They were more than good. They were one of the best restaurant meals I can remember. The dish comes in either appetizer size or dinner size, and I am so glad that I ordered the dinner size, because it really was spectacular. The maybe half dozen scallops were served atop spaghetti squash with an unusual flavor, almost cinnamony. The whole dish was then perched on slices of potato. Wow! I wonder if I will be able to order anything else after that. I savored every bite.

PS – the play was The Great American Trailer Park Musical – a little edgy, but really fun!

Cathy

Monday, June 17, 2013

DFW Airport

We found ourselves stuck at the DFW airport in Texas for an extended period of time and decided to go upscale.  Three Forks, one of the best restaurants in Dallas, has a mini-location at the airport in terminal D.  I had a filet mignon that was superb and a nice Malbac to compliment it.  The side of asparagus was divine (it is asparagus season), but the cream corn is not GF, so I didn't get to try it.  A big upgrade from our meal last week at terminal A at the Salt Lick.  The Salt Lick is one of my favorite places in the world, but the airport location doesn't replicate anything well except the sauce.  The brisket is fattier, the potato salad isn't even the same recipe, and I have no faith that anything is gluten free.

Sandy

Disney Dining -- Plaza Restaurant

I expected great things from the Plaza Restaurant in the Magic Kingdom.  I read some very good reviews of the place, but it failed to live up to the hype.  For starters, we had a very long wait, despite our reservations. Always masters of customer service, they made it up to us with a "universal fast pass" that could be used on any ride.  That was great, but unfortunately useless for my in-laws, who were leaving to catch their plane as soon as the meal was over.  The rest of us, however, did get to skip the 90 minute wait for Peter Pan's Flight and get one last ride in before we left for the airport as well.

One of the reasons for the delay is that the Plaza is a very tiny restaurant.  Obviously someone was taking their own sweet time about vacating, and there just aren't very many tables.  The menu was pretty much the regular sandwiches and whatnot that you would expect on a lunch menu, but there were a few interesting items.  I ordered a vegetarian sandwich -- fresh mozzerella, hummus, basil pesto, cucumber, roasted red peppers, lettuce, and tomato, which they served on a GF tapioca roll for me.  It was very tasty, but probably not worth a return trip.

Sandy
Veggie Sandwich at Plaza Restaurant in Disney Magic Kingdom

Disney Dining -- Citricos

Heirloom Tomato Salad at Citrico's
The best meal of my life -- ever-- was at Victoria and Albert's in the Grand Floridian Restaurant at Disney World.  My meal at Citrico's ran a close second.  Also located in the Grand Floridian, Citrico's is downstairs from V&A's, and is slightly (but not a lot) less expensive.

In an extraordinary example of Disney magic, they greeted us at the door with customized menus that said "Happy Anniversary Wishes to You, Mr and Mrs Morris!"  I turned to my husband and said "did you arrange this?"  but he hadn't.  It was not our actual anniversary -- we were a few days off.  My best guess is that they have our wedding anniversary in their database and assumed (correctly) that a meal for two at Citrico's within a few days of our anniversary was probably a celebration dinner.  Gotta love that pixie dust.

Citrico's "state of the art precision wine preservation system" allows them to sell small servings of expensive wines that would otherwise have to be sold by the bottle.  These "Epic Wines" are several hundred dollars a bottle, but a one ounce pour can be had for 15 to 40 each.  We shared one ounce pours of 5 of these Epic Wines, and enjoyed the experience quite a bit.  Our two favorites were both in the $800 a bottle range ($38 for a one ounce serving) -- ZD Abacus Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon XIV from Napa Valley and an '06 Pensfold Grange Australian Shiraz.  Definitely an incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience.  

We had a cheese tray to go with the wine, then moved on to salads.  I had an heirloom tomato salad with fresh mozzarella that was divine.  For my main course, I chose the Pan-roasted Ashley Farms Chicken Breast served on a bed of Marscarpone Cream Corn with a peach glaze, served with oak grilled asparagus. I am going to be spending the rest of my life making peach glazes, trying to recreate that perfect blend of sweet and spicy.  Mark had short ribs on a bed of cheese grits -- he asked for them to be prepared gluten free as well so that we could share -- and they were also to die for.  

I am certain they would have had something even more spectacular for desert, but we were frankly too stuffed at that point to eat another bite.  

Peach Glazed Chicken at Citrico's

Braised Short Ribs at Citrico's

Sandy

Disney Dining -- Yak and Yeti

The Yak and Yeti at Disney's Animal Kingdom was a new restaurant for us.  We have always eaten at the Flame Tree BBQ before, which I like a lot; but this time it was important that our meals all be air conditioned (my MIL gets overheated easily), so we tried something new.  

It you are a seafood lover, the most spectacular thing on the menu is the Malaysian Seafood Curry.  It is gluten free as-is and is loaded with clams, mussels, and shrimp.  My son and husband loved this soup, but it should be noted that my Father-in-law found that his was loaded with dangerously sharp pieces of shell as well as seafood.  

Since I am not a seafood eater, I ordered fried rice.  Well, I tried to order fried rice.  The fried rice is not gluten free, but they were able to substitute rice for noodles in the Lo Mein, creating a gluten free rice dish that looks and tastes like fried rice, but is not officially fried rice.  (Follow that?)  I didn't really care how they rung it up on the bill -- it tasted good.  

Sandy

Malaysian Seafood Curry

A pot of tea at the Yak and Yeti

Gluten Free "Lo Mein"

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Disney Dining -- Dinner at Ohana

We last went to Ohana in 2010.  I was very impressed the last time we were there, so I had high expectations, but sadly they fell short this time.
Fire pit at Ohana 

As always, the Polynesian is a wonderful oasis.  Truly one of the best themed Disney resorts.  The atmosphere at Ohana is upbeat and fun.  The best part is when they gather all the "keikis" (kids) to participate in the Coconut Races.  The children have to push the coconut around the restaurant with a broom.  (I actually witnessed one mom with a toddler pushing the broom herself and saying to her son "faster, faster" as the poor kid was towed along side her.  Some parents just don't get it.)
Colin in the Coconut Race

The kitchen, however, was off it's game.  They brought my salad out three times, only to whisk it away again, as they realized they hadn't done everything on the GF checklist.  This is a family-style restaurant, so that means the rest of my family was waiting on their salad as well.  Since there were 5 other people at my table, it would probably have been better to leave the salad and say "I'm not sure that's safe for you, let me get you another one."

They had a special order of chicken wings for me, which were good; but the dipping sauces I remember liking the last time I was there did not seem the same.  They were ok, but not great.

GF Chicken Wings at Ohana
The wonderful individual chicken, beef, and pork skewers I was served the last time I was here was replaced by an unattractive skewer of unseasoned chicken.  It had black pepper on it, and nothing else.  I know it was served on top of a bowl of something, but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was.  Rice? Veggies?  Obviously it wasn't memorable.  I was able to have the same beef and shrimp that was brought for everyone else.

The meal includes dessert, and while everyone else ate bread pudding, I got a brownie with ice cream.  Probably a win there.  Who wants to eat bread pudding when you could be eating chocolate?


GF Brownie a la Disney World

The drinks at Ohana are fantastic.  The Mai Tai was as good as I remember (and since I remember it as one of the best drinks of all time, that is saying a lot.)  I also got a fantastic drink, served in a pineapple.  So fun!

Fun and fruity drinks at Ohana

I wish I knew if the quality drop was indicative of their usual performance, or if they just had an off night.  Either way, I will probably find myself back at Ohana again on the next trip.  If nothing else, it gives me a chance to soak up the atmosphere and imagine myself in the islands.

Sandy


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Disney Dining -- Lunch at the Prime Time Cafe

We were at Disney Hollywood Studios on a Star Wars Weekend and it was super crowded, but fortunately we had made our dining reservations in advance (as we always do for Disney World trips) and were eating lunch at the Prime Time Cafe.

The rope drop was at 8 am that morning, so we had no time for breakfast.  I had a hard boiled egg and some juice I bought at the Beach Club Marketplace (a combination gift shop/ quick service/ convenience store) and away we went.  Knowing that we wouldn't be eating much breakfast, we scheduled an early lunch at 11 am.

We have been to Disney World many times (somewhere around 10 times, I think), but we had never eaten at the Prime Time Cafe.  The primary reason for that is the 50's theme is carried over to the waiter/ waitresses who play mom and dad and scold you if you don't eat your vegetables.  We aren't the type who thinks that is funny (we also don't like restaurants that are rude as part of their shtick), so we stayed clear.  What drew me in this time, though, was the rumor of gluten free chicken pot pie.  Mmmmmm.

Gluten Free Chicken Pot Pie

The restaurant is supposed to remind you of a family living room in the 1950's, with televisions, couches, and tacky macrame wall hangings.  Our waiter soft peddled the dad-routine, probably sensing that we weren't really into it, and Chef Eddie was a total professional when he came out to go over the menu with me.  Sure enough, the pot pie filling is gluten free.  They normally put a piece of puff pastry on top, but for the gluten free version, they serve it with a slice of Udi's toast.  It was very yummy, though it did have more onions and mushrooms than I would prefer.  I had a moment of panic when I got a bite of bread from the bottom of the bowl, but it was just a second piece of Udi's that they had ladled the filling over.

I was able to eat a dessert off the menu (the dessert menu is presented on a View Master toy, by the way); it was a crustless (and sugarless) cheesecake with a strawberry sauce.  An excellent dessert, and I could not tell that it was sugar free.  It did not have that artificial taste that you get with sweeteners.  A very enjoyable meal from a restaurant we thought we would not like.
Sugarless Cheesecake

Sandy