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.


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.


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!


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.


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!


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!


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.


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.

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


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.  


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.