Florida part 2 – The Food!

Me and my little man, out for a stroll near the water in Clearwater, Florida.

Eating out is always a challenge for me, especially when I’m away from home. I worry about finding somewhere safe with a low risk of cross contamination, that will understand how serious it is when I say that I’m celiac, and that isn’t a drag for everyone else in our group. I feel like that last part is the key when you’re with a larger group. No one wants to make the call about where to go since they don’t necessarily know what would be safe for you, which means that over the years I’ve become accustomed to having to be the person that chooses where to eat. It typically involves a lot of googling, checking other bloggers for recommendations, and searching for the words “gluten” and “celiac” on yelp reviews. While we were visiting family in Clearwater, Florida last month, my husband and I did a bunch of searching, and found a few great gems in the process! Here are my three favorites from our time in the sunshine state. I hope you all enjoy them as much as I did.

Frenchy’s Rockaway Grill – Our first meal out after arriving, I was pleased they offered a separate gluten free menu. Upon walking in, we were greeted by a steel drum player, and a fun island atmosphere. I can’t say enough wonderful things about this restaurant. Our server was super helpful both to me and our table’s two young children. I ordered the grouper reuben sandwich (without a bun of course), and stole some of my husband’s ceviche appetizer. Ceviche might be one of my favorite dishes from my visits to Peru, and this one certainly lived up to my memory of the dish.

Marina Cantina – This was completely a google find. I had been searching for fun local spots to eat, and took a chance on this after reading a couple yelp reviews that specifically referenced gluten free. We happened to be there on a Monday night, which amazingly was $5 margarita night! I have to be honest, I can’t remember exactly what I ordered, but I do know the wait staff was very friendly, courteous, and helpful in figuring out what was safe and how to modify each dish.

Pearly’s Beach Eats – Another google find that was close to where we were staying, Pearly’s was our pick for lunch the last day. They had fairly quick takeout, and it was easy for me to get there, park, and get back without too much hassle. When I called to explain my situation, I was told my best bet would be to order a baja bowl without the taco bowl…even though I really wanted the nachos. I’m not one to be picky when it comes to food, if the kitchen staff tell me that’s my best bet, you better believe that’s exactly what I’m ordering. Since we were doing takeout and it was only lunch, my expectations weren’t high. Turns out, this was a great choice, and the baja bowl both tasted incredible and was very filling. Everyone else in our group enjoyed their orders as well 🙂

All in all I was very impressed with the options I had. Typically, places that seem a little more touristy can be very dicey for a celiac, but I didn’t get that vibe in Clearwater at all. Everyone was very well educated on safe kitchen standards, and how best to modify meals to make them safe.

*Mom warning – there was NO changing table at Marina Cantina. I’m learning to pay attention to that when we’re out now, and even though I don’t always need it, that was one night when I really could’ve used the help…and an extra margarita when all was said and done!!

Dining Out…with kids!

A couple months after our son was born, we were in desperate need of a night out at a restaurant. I was craving sushi post-pregnancy, and we’d heard rave reviews from friends about a restaurant not too far from our home. I will never forget that first dining out experience. We thought we timed it well, and the little man snoozed through the beginning, waking up just as our food was about to be delivered. The restaurant was noisy, and we hoped he wouldn’t disturb anyone as we got a bottle ready. Suddenly, it seemed he was near impossible to calm down. He wasn’t loud, but I quickly turned frantic and nearly started crying at our table. We were still so new to parenting and it was all overwhelming. As my husband started to soothe our son, a woman approached us out of the blue. She sat down beside me, and told us what a wonderful job we were doing. To keep it up, keep going out, and enjoying our life. She mentioned she heard the cries and knew it must be a newborn; both a mortifying thought upon seeing how far her table was from ours, and soothing at the same time. I will never forget the kindness of that stranger, and how she made me feel in that overwhelming moment. We’ve taken our son out since then, but I’ll be honest that it isn’t frequent. As he transitioned to solids, the mess he makes and everything we need to bring discouraged us from venturing out.

Fast forward to the holidays. Our son is now 10 months old, and quite the active little man. The car seat no longer comes in with us, and he can eat small bites from the table! It was time to venture out again, this time with quite the crew. We had family and close friends in town for the new year, and decided it would be fun to eat out on the water one evening; however “evening” can be relative with a little one in your life. I’d heard good things about Surf restaurant in downtown Portsmouth, overlooking the water, and serving true New England food for our out of town guests. I called to make reservations, clearly mentioning that we were 6 adults and 3 children, no one batted an eye. Trying to coordinate the timing of dinner with bedtime, our reservations were an early 4:30pm! Oh how times have changed.

Upon our arrival, we were escorted to a long table overlooking the Piscataqua River. Even though the sun had set, you could still see how beautiful it was outside. We received smiles from wait staff and patrons alike when they saw our little boy smiling and giggling back, but the fun didn’t last long. The table next to us held an older couple, near the end of their meal. As soon as we were seated by them you could see the side eye and feel the glare pointed directly at our table. Clearly they were not pleased with our presence, even though the restaurant was clearly accommodating to families. Thankfully they were not there long, and the table turned over to what appeared to be a more friendly couple.

Our food was delicious, and everyone was enjoying themselves. That quickly changed when not one but two of the little ones got sick over dinner. Call it bad luck, a full moon, or whatever you will, we suddenly found ourselves in a mix of panic and clean-up mode. Our waiter could not have been nicer, bringing water, paper towels, and whatever else we needed. He did not miss a beat, arriving with our check not long after we asked. All in all, it was a fun night night out, but it certainly taught us some lasting lessons.

  • Early reservations are perfect with little ones, you can still enjoy a nice restaurant without impacting bed time, and clearing out just before the dinner crowd arrives.
  • Expect the unexpected. Although our son is a great eater at home, and nearly never spits up, you can’t predict what will happen in public.
  • Not only did I have to worry about what was safe for me to eat, but what my son could reach on the table, and whether or not he could get gluten near my plate. I’d never thought of it before, but now that’s obviously a concern.
  • No matter how accommodating an establishment and its staff are, there is always a chance that its patrons do not feel the same way. Don’t let that stop you from going!

Lexington, KY – A fun family weekend!

Since it’s Thursday, I thought I’d post a throwback to a trip we took last year.  I started this blog post on our flight home, but never quite finished writing.  Hubby and I took advantage of a three-day holiday weekend, flew out to Kentucky to visit his family, and witnessed Keeneland first hand.  We took a late Thursday flight and started the weekend midday on Friday 🙂  I have to admit, this was one of those trips that I wasn’t able to do recon beforehand on the gluten-free options we’d have.

We started our Lexington fun with a local chain, and favorite of hubby’s cousin, Saul Good.   There honestly could not have been a better start to the weekend.  One of the things I was really bummed out about in Italy was that I only found gluten-free pizza in two restaurants.  Saul Good not only had gluten-free pizza crust, but they also had my favorite spicy Italian red sauce as one of their options!   The staff was more than friendly about working with me and double checking each item I ordered.  They offered to put together a fresh vegetable platter for me when I told them I really wanted to try the dip, but could not have their chips.

Our tailgate fare was all low-key, and made for very little prep work that morning.   We’d stopped at a grocery store early in the trip so I could help make sure we had enough gluten-free food for me.  Be forewarned, I did search around to find gluten-free food options inside the track before we went, but didn’t have much luck searching online.  Armed with that in mind, we packed enough pregame food to be sure I wouldn’t go hungry.

We hit up Local Taco for brunch Sunday morning,  where I was pleased to find that their menu had gluten-free options marked with a convenient “GF”.  After confirming with the manager that their chips and salsa were safe for me to eat, I put in an order for four specialty corn tacos along with the chips.  I can not put into words how good those tacos were after a full day tailgating at Keeneland.   The smoked brisket was by far my favorite, but trust me, they were all pretty delicious.   Thankfully,  I remember to snap a picture of my plate before devouring all of it!

Smoked Brisket, Tequila Lime Chicken, and Steak & Eggs  Tacos from The Local Taco

Smoked Brisket, Tequila Lime Chicken, and Steak & Eggs Tacos from The Local Taco

Later that night, we decided to hit up the movie theater after a quick dinner.  Hubby had been in the mood for barbecue, so we made our way to City Barbeque.  In frustrating fashion, my phone froze just as I’d started downloading their allergen listing.  Thankfully, the list was also printed out and kept at the front register.  Without hesitation, I went straight for the naked brisket.  After combing through the gluten-free sides, I settled on baked beans and sweet vinegar slaw.  As we completed our order I mentioned that my meal would need to be carefully handled, and that the staff would need to change their gloves for safety.  Just as I said that, the woman at the register told me she’d already put our order in, and quickly called over another person from the kitchen to ensure my dinner was safe….phew!  I made a quick mental note that all of their sauces were safe, but realized I’d need more help when I saw the condiments station.  All of the sauces were kept in large serving vats, with a single ladle in each one.  Knowing this was a sure-fire way to make myself sick, I grabbed the woman manning the pickup area to see if she could help.  Once I explained my concerns about cross contamination with the sauce ladles,  she came out with two fresh to-go containers of sweet sauce for me to enjoy.

Our final culinary stop in Lexington was at the one and only Shakespeare & Co.  I have to say, the Victorian decorations were very unique, and I totally wanted to stop at every table so I could sit on their vintage couches.  We made it here about midday, making it the perfect time for a late brunch.  Upon asking for a gluten-free menu, I was told the restaurant had gluten-free bread, pizza crust, and quinoa for substitution in nearly any dish.  I asked for some help since I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted.  Our waiter told me hands down that I should go with the Salmon and scrambled eggs.  Let me tell you, that dish did not disappoint!  The gluten-free bread had been cut into rounds as if it were a biscuit, with perfectly shaped salmon and eggs on top.  It came with a side of roasted potatoes and hollandaise dipping sauce, which I obviously smothered all over the eggs 🙂 one word ladies and gentlemen: heavenly!

Our final stop before going home was to the Town Branch Brewery and Distillery.  Unfortunately, they didn’t have any gluten-free beers for me, but the first part of the tour was pretty cool anyways.  We were each given four tasting tickets at the beginning, so I stashed mine away for the Kentucky Bourbon.  I’d done some research about whether or not it was actually safe for me to drink Bourbon, and come to the consensus that the distilling process should make it safe, but that some celiacs still have issues.  Personally, I’m a fan of Bourbon, so it was worth giving it a shot for me.  I tried their Bourbon, Rye, Pearse Lyons Reserve, and an especially tasty Bluegrass Sundown.  My favorite hands down was the Bluegrass Sundown, which is a dark roasted coffee infused with Bourbon and sugar.  Our tour guide served it with hot water over cream, and it just might have to replace the Irish coffee on my list of cold weather spirits!  The best news is, I had no reactions to the Bourbon…line ’em up 😉

Copper pot stills at Town Branch Distillery

Copper pot stills at Town Branch Distillery

Kentucky Bourbon straight from the source, aging in fresh barrels!!

Kentucky Bourbon straight from the source, aging in fresh barrels!!

Returning to Italy

If you’ve read the About Me page, you know I found my passion for traveling while living abroad in Italy.  It’s been about eight years since that semester abroad, and I am well overdue to go back.  My husband’s family is Italian, and it’s been a goal of his to see where they’re from.  Naturally I am 110% behind him on this goal, and could not wait to go back to the spark that ignited my love for world travel.  There’s only one thing that’s been lingering in the back of my head…how on earth will I get by in the land of gluten?!

Immediately I have visions of gnocchi, pizza margherita, tiramisu, everything I can no longer indulge.  Here’s the wonderful thing I found out though as our plans begin to come together, not only do Italians have an understanding of celiac disease, but they’re incredibly sympathetic to our needs.  I found dozens of sites and travel reviews referencing the stipend that Italian citizens receive to purchase gluten free foods once they’ve been diagnosed.  Upon stating “senza glutine” restaurant owners will quickly work with you to offer gluten free meals, understanding the importance of washing their hands and paying attention to avoid cross-contamination.

I can’t speak from experience on this, but I’m excited to return and see just how accepting they are of my needs!  I would love to hear from all of my readers to see what your favorite restaurants, sites, etc. are that you consider a “must do” in Italy.  Please share your experiences with me, I love a good recommendation prior to a big trip!!

Want to know what made me fall in love with Italy the first time?  Here goes…

The old world charm of Cinque Terre

The old world charm of Cinque Terre


The view of Firenze (Florence) from the Duomo

The view of Firenze (Florence) from the Duomo


City lights in Torino (Turin) during the 2006 Winter Olympics

City lights in Torino (Turin) during the 2006 Winter Olympics


Eastern-most edge of Italy in Trieste

Eastern-most edge of Italy in Trieste


Last, but certainly not least, the view from our dorm room of Mt. Grappa in Paderno del Grappa!!!

Last, but certainly not least, the view from our dorm room of Mt. Grappa in Paderno del Grappa!!!

Anxiety in Lima

Lima, Peru is a beautiful city that I’ve been so lucky to have visited twice in the last three years.  When I found out I’d be going back last summer, I could not have been more anxious!  Not only was the trip was scheduled smack dab between Ukraine and China, but Lima held some not so great memories from my first visit.  Technology has become a wonderful thing, connecting each of us regardless of location.  Thanks to Skype, I was able to connect with my mom and sister (in the DC metro area) to call and wish my grandmother (in Florida) a happy birthday while I was gone.  I was staying a few blocks from Miraflores, and was so excited to show off my hotel room to everyone back home…it practically took up an entire city block!  Later that same week on a video chat with my boyfriend (now husband), I reached a near breaking point with what I would eventually find out was celiac disease.  We’d been catching up about my day when mid conversation I ran to the bathroom and began vomiting.  I’d only had one beer with dinner, which had been at a highly recommended sushi restaurant.  I hadn’t been drinking any local water, and could not for the life of me figure out what was wrong.  This wasn’t the first time I’d done this either, only a few weeks prior I’d had the same thing happen while I was in Charleston, South Carolina.

Fast forward two years later, I now know why the beer and sushi made me sick that night.  But how sick had I been?  Were there other meals that upset me that week?  I was excited to experience Lima again, but would I run into the same problems armed with the truth about celiac disease?  My second trip started out a bit rocky.  I’d been getting phone calls and emails from United all morning telling me my flight to Newark had been delayed.  Before even arriving at the airport, I knew there was a good chance I wouldn’t make my connection to Lima.  As I checked in at the counter, a sigh of relief came when they informed me I’d already been re-booked, and would be connecting through Houston.  My coworkers were not so lucky, I’d been given one of the last seats on the Houston flight, and United had no other options for them.  Eventually they were switched to another airline, and we were all set for our trip.

One of the great things about having to travel for work, is that you don’t always have time to go out to eat.  I know that sounds counterintuitive and normally I’d be annoyed by this, but it actually put my anxiety at ease.  Our hotel staff were great, I’d mastered the phrase “sin glooten” and they were especially careful with each room service dinner I was served.  Each morning started out on the right foot as well, our hotel offered omelets made to order (my favorite!), and freshly squeezed juice from local fruits.  When we finally got our workload under control, I took my team out to what I think is the most incredible site in Lima.  We had dinner at the restaurant overlooking the Huaca Pucllana, it is actually built on the grounds of the Incan ruins, which are illuminated after the sun has set.

Overlooking the Huaca Pucllana during dinner!

Overlooking the Huaca Pucllana during dinner!

I have to admit, I truly love trying new things when I’m outside my comfort zone.  If you’ve read my blog before, I’m sure I’ve mentioned it a time or two 🙂  Peru is one of those places where there are so many fun new things to try!!  I was a little afraid of going for the full fledged guinea pig that street vendors sell.  If you aren’t sure what I’m talking about, google image search “Peru guinea pig” and I think you’ll understand.  BUT, when it’s cooked and served like any other meat, I’m all in!  I’d tried the appetizer sampler platter before at the Restaurant Huaca Pucllana and wanted to share with my coworkers some of the unique foods Peru has to offer.

Appetizer sampler at the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant - the guinea pig is in the upper right corner!

Appetizer sampler at the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant – the guinea pig is in the upper right corner!

Dinner at the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant

Dinner at the Huaca Pucllana Restaurant

Please forgive me for not remembering everything I ordered…unfortunately this trip pre-dates my blog, and I’ve now started to keep better track of everything I’m trying!! Trust me though, if you ever find yourself in Lima, Peru this restaurant is a can’t-miss opportunity.  The ambiance, menu, and wait staff make the experience one to remember.  If you love food as much as I do, I’m hoping you’ll appreciate the next two pictures of some of my other favorite meals while I was there.  As I said before, everyone in the hotel staff (we stayed at Golf los Incas) was incredibly helpful with my gluten free requests.  One of the first nights we were in town, my team and I enjoyed dinner at the hotel restaurant, where I could not get enough of this great dish!!

Steak and potatoes at the Golf los Incas Hotel

Steak and potatoes at the Golf los Incas Hotel

Any trip to Peru would not be complete without their signature dish….CEVICHE!!!  On my first trip to Lima, I tried ceviche for the first time and seriously could not get enough of the stuff!  For those new to the dish, ceviche can be any assortment of raw fish, cooked in the acid from local lemon and other citrus juices.  Talk to any Peruvian and they’ll tell you that you can’t recreate the dish anywhere else, because the local citrus is what makes the dish.

Enjoying ceviche in Miraflores

Enjoying ceviche in Miraflores

The last two pictures I want to share with you all today are from two of my favorite spots in the city.  The first is on the water in Miraflores, where you can watch people para sailing over the coast line.  Although I didn’t get the opportunity to actually try this myself, it was great to watch as everyone else flew over the hazy coast line.  The last picture is quite simply a beautiful contrast of new and old on the Miraflores water front.  This quaint home is situated between two high rise apartment buildings, and boasts the most enchanting home garden and front door!

Watching people glide in over the coast

Watching people glide in over the coast

Beautiful juxtaposition of old and new :)

Beautiful juxtaposition of old and new 🙂


Simple Pleasures?…Maybe Not!

The 12 year old version of me cried last night.  What used to be such a simple pleasure, has unfortunately become another victim of celiac disease.  After dinner, my husband and I had an unshakeable craving for ice cream.  You know, the delicious kind that comes with a few different flavors and toppings, and is served to you without any of your own hard work.  Let’s be honest, there really isn’t any other kind!

So why is this such a big deal as a celiac you ask?  Because that meant we had to start googling.  First we searched for our options in the area.  Unfortunately we didn’t have too many local choices, but Baskin Robbins nearby looked promising.  Then began the search for whether or not I could eat some of their flavors…and that’s where my 12 year old self got incredibly disappointed.

Think back to the last time you had ice cream from a specialty shop…you request a couple flavors, so does the person in front of you.  The workers grab a scoop from a bowl of water and start to pack it all in.  Did the person in front of you get a cone?  Did they order chocolate chip cookie dough?  Was the same scoop used after they touched the cookie dough, and presumably bumped the cone as well?  Let’s not forget the toppings, all crowded close together in small bins on a buffet…where do they keep the cookie crumbs? Or the candy bars? Are they close to the chocolate fudge or fresh fruit you were planning to add to your ice cream cup?


All of it, that’s right, every last flavor and topping is at HIGH risk for cross contamination.  And in my world, any risk is too high to chance 😦

There was a bit of a silver lining, we were able to scan a couple different flavors of Edy’s ice cream that were safe for me at the grocery store.  In the comfort of my own home, I knew the ice cream scoop was safe to use, and nothing had been crossed in the fresh tubs of ice cream.  These are the things each of us battle every day as we deal with celiac disease.  It’s so much more than no beer, pasta, or bread.  It affects even the smallest decisions and the simplest pleasures of our lives.


I love watching games as much, if not more, than the next person.  But nothing truly beats going to a game in person!  While visiting a good friend in Boston this past weekend, we had the incredible experience of visiting TD Garden to catch a Celtics game.  It struck me that a blog post on surviving a trip to stadiums and arenas would be the perfect topic for this week!  Part of the game experience is getting to indulge in foods you don’t normally get to eat.  Thankfully, many stadiums are making the effort now to offer some sort of gluten free options.

TD Garden

Celtics Game at TD Garden

Celtics Game at TD Garden

Enjoying the view from our seats!

Enjoying the view from our seats!

After searching around online, we figured out that there was at least one option for me.  Unfortunately, the TD Garden website wasn’t that much help, and I tracked down most information from comments and blogs online.  Relieved that I wouldn’t have to bring something with me, we tracked down Guest Services as soon as we were inside.  They were very helpful, and directed me to two separate concessions that could offer gluten free menu options.  I can’t speak to the second stand, but the stand closest to our seats had caesar salad or turkey wraps.  After grilling the staff behind the stand about where the wraps are made, whether or not the wraps were gluten free, and any question I could think of, I got myself a turkey wrap.  It was pretty expensive, but I guess that’s to be expected from any food at a special event.

Nationals Park

Game time at Nationals Park

Game time at Nationals Park

Although we haven’t been since early fall, Nationals Park is my favorite stadium to visit.  Not only do they have a completely gluten free concession stand, but they also offer gluten free soft pretzel sticks!!  I can not put into words how much I look forward to those pretzels each baseball season.  It’s always been a weakness of mine, and to find them gluten free was absolutely amazing!  The concession stand carries all the standard baseball favorites (hot dogs, chilli cheese dogs, nachos, and popcorn), plus they’ve even got Red Bridge Beer so you can enjoy your beer with everyone else 🙂

Lesson #1: Do the research before you go, make sure you’ll be okay if you don’t bring your own snacks to a game.  If the website doesn’t have gluten free options listed, call customer service.  If you still can’t figure out whether there are safe options, be prepared to bring your own food!

Lesson #2: Every stadium has some sort of guest services office, stop in to ask for help if you can’t find your way to a safe concession stand.  That’s what they’re there for!

Open Letter to Resaurants

Majority of the time, I try to bring a lunch to work so I don’t have to deal with the hassle of eating out.  Life happens though, and sometimes I have no other option than running out in search of food near my office.  I have a hard time finding places I trust, instantly cringing anytime I see a restaurant that has bins of ingredients lined up, an instant concern for cross contamination.  But seeing a place that has so many signs about requesting gluten-free gives me hope that I can give somewhere a shot.  I always begin my order by courteously requesting that my server change their gloves, explaining that I am “severely allergic” to gluten.  So why then today, after watching the server carefully take off his gloves, wash his hands and arms, and putting on new gloves would the server then hand my food off to the next person in the chain?  Before I had caught up with my food it had already been contaminated!  Seething as I watched my gluten-free salad poured onto another workers stale gloves to be chopped, I explained the situation and they tossed out my first round of food.  As that server then began to clean his hands, another server attempted to make salad round two for me.  Now explain to me why on earth, after two servers have washed their hands and changed their gloves for me, would a THIRD begin making my salad with OLD GLOVES?!

After throwing out two salads that had been contaminated, I finally had one made by a single person with fresh gloves, but it made me think about the situation as I watched this all unfold.  Under no circumstances would it be acceptable for a server to sneeze on food and serve it to a customer.  So why then, after I’ve carefully explained my situation, do they continue to be so hasty with my food?  I am not on a fad diet, I do not eat gluten-free because it’s trendy.  I eat gluten-free because it’s the only solution to celiac disease!  And when restaurants are careless with my food the following almost always occurs within 30 minutes:

1. I am forced to leave work for the day, feeling too ill to continue.
2. I spend the next few hours curled in the fetal position on my bathroom floor, intermittently vomiting and dealing with diarrhea.
3. I lose all energy, and sleep for hours.
4. I deal with lingering symptoms for the next few days.

It’s not acceptable for me to walk over and casually spray your meal with bacteria; don’t do the same to me by hastily handling my food.  When I tell you I have a severe allergy please take me seriously and know that your actions have very serious consequences to my health!

Columbia Firehouse – Alexandria Restaurant Week

I’m a little behind on getting this entry up, but Alexandria Restaurant Week was the week following DC’s, and naturally I had to try out another new place!  I had plans to meet up with a good friend of mine, and she happily agreed to trying somewhere new.  After going through all of the menus, we settled on Columbia Firehouse thanks to their incredible sounding seafood dishes.  I had called a few of the restaurants in advance to see how they reacted to my request for a gluten free restaurant week selection.  Columbia Firehouse was quick to tell me that although they did not have a separate selection for gluten free guests, the chef was very knowledgeable, and could work with me to ensure I had a great meal.  SOLD!

This next part of the reservation was something I wish I’d figured out earlier.  I’m not sure how many people out there are already using Open Table, I used it occasionally, but it’s now become my best preemptive move when making reservations.  Remember my last entry about Bora Bora?  At the end, one of my lessons learned was to notify the resort in advance.  Hint: That concept doesn’t just apply to resorts!  I’ve updated my profile on Open Table to include the following automated special request (which will be sent to the restaurant anytime I make a reservation): “Guest has a severe Gluten allergy, must eat gluten free and restaurant will need to be aware of potential cross-contamination. Thank you!”  It’s short and sweet, and while we all know it isn’t a gluten allergy, the response I get to that message is incredible!

When I arrived at the restaurant, my friend had already been seated and was gushing about how concerned the staff was that they prepare my meal safely.  After realizing the request was for me and not her, they held back further information until I was seated.  Once I was handed my menu, our waiter discussed with me the items that would definitely not be safe.  He then asked what I wanted so he could discuss modifications with the chef.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but I personally prefer ordering items with the least modifications necessary.  It’s the easiest on the kitchen, and has more of a chance to taste the way the chef initially intended.  I wasn’t completely sure what I wanted, so I let the waiter tell me what the most popular and “famous” items on the menu were.  Being a cold day, I settled on the soup of the day, along with their scallops, and a slightly modified apple – pear compote for dessert.

Every last bite of each course was delicious!!!  Not only that, but the staff were so accommodating.  When my friend didn’t want the potatoes that came with her meal, they allowed her to substitute the side with an additional helping of greens without batting an eye.  When her sauteed kale came out, I have to say it looked great!  Open Table’s special requests section was definitely a success.  All future reservations I make will without a doubt include that message 🙂 Now for the fun stuff…pictures of my dinner!

Sweet Potato Soup

Pureed Sweet Potato Soup with Pesto and Cream Garnishes

Seared Day Boat Scallops

Scallops, Shaved Brussels Sprouts, House Cured Bacon, Turban Squash, Mulled Cider Syrup

Spiced Apple & Pear Crisp

Cinnamon-Vanilla Apple and Pear Compote & Ginger Ice Cream (ordered without the Oat Streusel to make the dish gluten free)

Bora Bora – Honeymoon part 1

While my husband and I were planning a vacation years ago, we decided to build a “bucket list” of places we’ve always wanted to visit.  The list started as a very rough list in my phone, and has grown to a live document organized by region of the world.  Back then when Bora Bora was mentioned, we decided that it was such an incredible and extravagant destination that it had to be either our honeymoon, or a major anniversary celebration.  Fast forward a few more years, and there we were planning the honeymoon of a lifetime!

This trip was a huge step for me in learning to manage my celiac disease.  Prior to our honeymoon I’d been to fifteen foreign countries, but my last trip had been only months before the celiac diagnosis.  As I learned to live with the limitations and adjustments, I had completely stopped traveling!  I set out trying to figure out how to tackle our trip, and what I need to take care of before we left.  We were planning to stay at the Hilton Bora Bora, and from what I could tell on their website, the restaurants on the property would be first class.

When it came time to pack up our suitcases, I decided to bring with me enough LÄRABARS to have one per day.  I’m not sure how everyone else does when they get hungry, but if I can’t eat as soon as hunger hits, we’re all in trouble!!  I tend to get very nauseous, a little cranky, and very quickly lose my appetite to the point that I really can’t eat.  I’ve always blamed my reaction to hunger on the fact that I no longer have a gallbladder, but let’s be honest, I’m no doctor and I don’t know the true reasoning behind it.  The LÄRABARS gave us the confidence to know that wherever we were, I had something I could eat immediately if need be!

Please let me stress before you read this next part, Bora Bora was an absolutely incredible trip, and I truly had the time of my life!  Once we arrived, we quickly learned what appears to be many restaurants on the hotel’s website is in reality only two.  One very expensive restaurant, and a more “reasonably” priced grill style restaurant.  Here’s a basic synopsis of how each of our meals turned out:

Breakfast: The Hilton truly had a five star experience for breakfast.  There was an entire room filled with fresh fruits, in addition to an omelet station (I ignored everything else).  Because none of the ingredients in the omelet station had gluten in them, I was able to have one every morning without thinking about cross-contamination in the pans.  Of course I always started the day with a nice variety of tropical fruits as well 🙂  Once the hotel found out I could not have gluten, they went out of their way to track down gluten free breads in town, which were promptly brought to our table each morning!

Lunch/Dinner: These meals were more of a challenge for me.  The menu for the grill restaurant had the following sections: starters/salads, sandwiches, bruschetta, pizza, pasta, burgers, fish, meat, and dessert.  You can see where I started to have a problem.  The bruschetta, pizza and pastas were out, leaving me with salads (without the croutons), burgers (without the bun), fish or meat.  On top of that, they only had three fish options, fish of the day in vanilla sauce, fish’n’chips (yikes!), or a fish plate to share which had both tempura and soy sauce in the description!!  Needless to say I was getting an overload of protein, with too much vanilla sauce and very little variety.

Stuffed tuna dinner at the upscale resort restaurant.

Stuffed tuna dinner at the upscale resort restaurant.

The biggest surprise hit of that week was our excursion outside of the resort to get dinner.  We had heard other honeymooners rave about Bloody Mary’s, so we had the concierge book us a reservation near the end of our trip.  Dinner that night was beyond anything we’d imagined!!  Walking in, we were brought to an open ice display of raw food (check it out here!) which was our menu for the evening.  The servers quickly addressed my gluten concerns, pointing out exactly which appetizers and meals I could not have.  We ordered our food on the spot, and were escorted to a private table where we enjoyed kicking off our sandals to feel the sand floor beneath our feet!  I wish I could remember exactly what we ate, but hopefully you’ll enjoy this fun picture instead 🙂
Bloody Mary's Menu

Getting to choose our dinner from a raw bar of options!

Overall it was an incredible experience! Here were my major takeaways from the trip…I had to start somewhere right?

Lesson #1: People in the tourism industry are usually very eager to please their guests, let them know ahead of your trip that you require special dietary needs so they have plenty of time to research and prepare!

Lesson #2: Resort is not a synonym for “easy access to anything you need,” if it took you 10+ hours to fly there, chances are it takes just as long, if not longer, to get typical deliveries of goods there as well.  This especially is important to remember when telling the resort about food allergies (back to lesson #1, I should have warned them ahead of time).

Lesson #3: When you pack gluten free snacks in your bag, don’t forget to transfer them into whatever you’re carrying for the day!  They won’t do you any good back in your room 😦