The blog post I almost didn’t write:
Those who know me personally know I have a great love of sarcasm. Fortunately, in public, I have a decent internal filter that prevents me from constantly looking like a witch (I think). The intent with which I write posts for this blog is to be informative to other travelers and keep track of where I have been for my own future reference. I have no real desire to stir up drama here. But when I started thinking about Celiac Awareness Month I just couldn’t help myself.
Celiac Awareness Month is the designation given to May and hosted by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. General food allergy awareness week is May 12-18.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness website is a great resource for all things celiac and gluten free. They have info on news, research, recipes and events. I give love to the NFCA and all other organizations that work to bring public awareness to celiac disease. Not only does public understanding make life easier for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance (travel, shopping, eating in restaurants) but it helps others arrive at a diagnosis. People are more familiar with the disease and much more likely to ask a doctor about it directly.
So good work. But…here comes the snark…food allergy awareness month is certainly not something for those suffering from food allergies. I wish I only had to eat gluten free one month of the year. I would then stuff my face with gluteny goodness the remaining 11 months. Even as I write that I cringe as I know just how sick that would make me. 24/7/365 I have to read labels in the grocery store and question the servers at restaurants to ensure I am eating safely. My family and I and anyone else living with celiac disease or a food allergy is aware of it at all times. Not just for the month of May.
This is not to be all “poor me,” simply a reminder that food allergies are a life long issue that must be attended to at all times, not just when it is convenient – cause really, when is it convenient?
Snark aside, I will continue to join in the effort to do some good and educate. That will likely involve some baking so I had better go peruse some recipes…
Chop House Burger in Dallas is a small, casual burger joint right downtown.
We met my cousin there for dinner on a weeknight several weeks ago (shout out to J Klink)
I ordered the Wine Country Burger and it was delicious – without the bun obviously.
This is served with goat cheese, honey mustard, arugula, red onion and tomatoes. Great idea for toppings that I need to try at home sometime.
I had the truffle fries as well and they were tasty but not quite truffle enough for my taste.
Tasty, casual place in downtown Dallas if you are in the area.
Agua is a restaurant and bar located near seven mile beach. We went there for dinner based on recommendations and the fact that they have a gluten free menu.
It was nice and cozy and not too fancy (put on a sundress but don’t try too hard, you are on vacation after all). We sat inside but there was also a large outdoor patio that looked lovely.
The staff was friendly and the gluten free menu made ordering easy.
I had the Arugula salad with walnuts, pears, blueberries and goat cheese to start. It was huge! The pears were a bit past their prime but the blueberries were a nice touch and the rest of the salad quite yummy.
The main course was Wahoo with Thai basil sauce and sweet potatoes. The portion was huge but I managed to stuff myself. I was surprised at how well the sweet potatoes went with the fish.
I had said I didn’t need dessert but Mike insisted so I ordered the panna cotta and was glad I did.
This is certainly a place we would return to due to the relaxed atmosphere, quality of the food and the ease of ordering gluten free.
Dinner on Friday evening was at Blue by Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin. They feature a fish heavy menu and the meal was fantastic. It was also the most expensive dinner we have ever eaten!
The restaurant is located in the Ritz Carlton which made getting to and from dinner easy. No worries on transportation there. Mike had let them know ahead of time about my gluten free requirements and they did an outstanding job throughout the evening.
The staff was very attentive and everyone knew about my gluten allergy. I was presented with some gluten free biscuits that were hot out of the oven and obviously freshly made – no frozen toast here.
## The rest of the pictures are not fantastic due to the lighting, but I just could not bring myself to turn on the flash for pictures. What is the etiquette with picture taking in restaurants (particularly fancy ones) these days? ##
My first dish was king crab salad with avocado, lemongrass and green apple. I love crab, love avocado and this was delicious.
Next up was the langoustine and it was amazing! It was my favorite dish from the dinner. I don’t remember the preparation details but it was heavenly and wish it had been a larger portion. Really – I should have ordered this again as dessert.
My main course was Dover sole with almond and pistachio crust and brown butter sauce. I’m stumped at how they made it taste like a brown butter sauce without flour, but it did and was so surprising to taste that flavor again – it has been many years. The fish was perfectly cooked and with the combination of tart lemon and the brown butter sauce it was delicious.
Dessert was a caramel concoction that was the least memorable part of the meal. Not bad, but the fish dishes were far and away the star of the show.
The only true complaint was how long it took to get the check. It was almost as if once they dropped off desert they forgot we were there. This was in stark contrast to the attentive service during the rest of dinner. No one stopped by to check on us for quite some time – to the extent that my water glass was empty! This is a huge misstep in a place where one is paying hundreds of dollars for dinner for two.
Despite the empty water glass at the end of the meal, we had a great time and both agree that we would do it again if we ever end up back on Grand Cayman.
We spent the weekend on Grand Cayman. It was gorgeous! I love Caribbean blue water.
The drawback is that everything in the Caymans is expensive. Enter Eats Cafe.
This is a modern – read nice – diner type place that was located about 400 yards from our hotel. They serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.
We started off there right after we landed. Mike and I were hungry, but also tired, so not up for a long, drawn out meal. We also wanted casual.
Eats was a perfect fit. Mike had a fantastic Chicken Masala that if he had not dipped Naan in it would have been completely gluten free. I had grilled Wahoo with lemon butter sauce. I love Wahoo (ono for the Hawaiians out there) and they did a great job cooking it – not too dry. The fish was served with rice and vegetables.
In an effort not to break the bank on the Ritz’s million dollar (ok not really but close) breakfast buffet, we walked down the street to Eats for breakfast as well. We went early (7 ish) and never had to wait though it seemed to fill up as we were finishing up.
Breakfast was a bacon, pepper, onion and cheese omelet with breakfast potatoes. Nothing spectacular but good, filling and a nice quick, filling, inexpensive way to start off the day.
Why so many Fairmonts? We have stayed in quite a few specifically because Mike has benefits there so we get some extras each year.
What is awesome is that Fairmont has a lifestyles menu. It varies from property to property but the basic premise is the same. There is a menu which lists specific dishes recommended for various lifestyles – vegetarian, heart healthy, gluten free, raw diet, etc. Fairmont appears to have trained the staff well on these issues because they have always been helpful and knowledgeable. This goes for staff in the property restaurants to room service to the breakfast buffet. When they, unprompted, tell me that they will put the gluten free toast in the gluten free toaster you know some training has taken place.
They are also happy to modify menu choices that are not on the “lifestyle” menu and can make suggestions. My favorite experience was when this program was first starting out about two years ago. We were eating breakfast in Vancouver and I had asked to make sure that the potatoes would be gluten free. I declined toast as I just assumed that I could not eat it. Our server brought out a loaf of Udi’s gluten free bread and asked if I would like some and assured me that he would use the designated toaster. I was beyond impressed.
Fairmont Maui – the views aren’t bad either!
So if you are traveling and need gluten free food consider a stay at a Fairmont.
I love Pei Wei. I love the food, and I love that it is so easy to eat there. True, there are only a few gluten free menu options but they are so reliable and tasty. This is quick but well made Asian inspired food – the not so fancy little brother of P.F. Changs.
You can find them in most of the midwest and southwestern part of the US. They have a comprehensive allergen menu and the staff is apparently well trained across the board as I have eaten at many different outposts and never had a problem. So while Pei Wei only has a few options that are gluten free, those dishes are consistently good and consistently safe. This is particularly useful when traveling, as a sure thing is even more important when on the move.
I was there for lunch a few weeks ago after craving the Pei Wei Spicy Shrimp Salad. It is a large bowl of crispy, spicy goodness. There is lettuce, obviously, and Napa cabbage along with cucumbers, snap peas, carrots, scallions, cilantro, crispy rice noodles and the spicy shrimp. It is topped with a lime vinaigrette dressing.
Our only trip off the property in Hawaii was to Merriman’s in Waimea.
It was fun trip up the mountain to the town of Waimea. There were beautiful views, cooler weather, some cows and a rainbow! It is one of the finer dining restaurants on the island. The restaurant itself is a charming house.
The waitstaff was knowledgeable about my gluten free request and easily made recommendations. The service was attentive until the end of the meal when the restaurant began to fill up and a particularly demanding table seemed to take up a large amount of our server’s time.
I had a green salad with fennel, tomatoes, sweet Maui onions, goat cheese and jalapeno dressing. It was not very spicy with pepper as I had anticipated and in fact was a bit bland. This did have the benefit of showing off the flavor of the vegetables which was nice and I suppose what the chef was going for as they were locally grown (expect for the onions of course).
For the main course I had opa (fish) with tomato culi and bacon on top of Maui onion potato hash browns and asparagus. This was delicious. The sweetness of the onions and bacon went well with the tart tomato culi. The fish was perfectly cooked and I stuffed myself with this.
For dessert I managed an entire creme brulee. I devoured it before I remembered to snap a picture.
Merriman’s is definitely worth the trip.
It was a perfect lazy long weekend. We spent it at the Fairmont Orchid on Hawaii (the big island). We ate and gazed at the scenery, swam, saw some whales (ourselves included after all the food consumed) and slept. It was amazing. All done in 80 degree weather with blue skies and cool breezes.
The downside…I was too lazy to snap any particularly interesting food pictures. I do have two pictures from our trip off the property to Merrimans Restaurant, but the rest of the time was spent at the Fairmont Orchid. Several times I just forgot the camera, so I’ll just have to describe it.
Breakfast was in the gold lounge each morning. They have a lovely spread of both hot and cold options. The staff was happy to bring me gluten free toast each morning toasted in its very own gluten free toaster! The bread was so good it had holes in it! No cardboard here. This is the real deal. I typically had toast along with some salmon, capers and onions and fruit. Pretty much my go to breakfast when traveling.
The first night for dinner we ate at Norio’s Japanese Restaurant and Sushi bar. Mike and I are not big sushi experts. He doesn’t really even like fish. I love it, but just have a problem eating raw fish in Texas. How fresh do you really think sushi is in Texas? At Norio’s, however, they cut the fish in house. Being that we are not experts we simply told our lovely server that we were hungry and would happily eat whatever she recommended. We ended up with the omakase nigiri tasting which was an array of different fresh fish, roe and seafood on beds of rice. It was delicious! And we learned a lot about which of us likes what. We also had the spicy tuna roll and hamachi and avocado sashimi. Since I’m not a sushi expert I can’t say that this is the “best” but it was damn good and I really wish we could go back and do it again.
The final night for dinner we at at Brown’s. This is the “fancy” restaurant on the Fairmont Orchid property. We were in the first seating and the very first people to arrive. We were led to a table at the edge of the outdoor restaurant overlooking the ocean. It was the most spectacular view from a restaurant I can remember. Neither of us brought the camera which was a crime so we will just have to go back and do it again. I have no idea what I ate either other than it was delicious and consisted of fish for the main and chocolate for dessert. As always, the wait staff was fantastic with the gluten free recommendations.
To make up for the lack of food pics, here are a few of the property….
Merry Christmas!! (Eve)
Posting has been sparse because I have been busy! Lots of traveling has been done so there are plenty of posts to come. For now lets discuss my favorite Christmas cookie – the peanut butter kiss cookie.
It is a Christmas staple in our family and my all time favorite cookie. We have had them for as long as I can remember and my fabulous mother had no problems converting the recipe from gluten full to gluten free. Lots of fun has been had over the years, peeling the foil off the kisses, rolling the peanut butter cookie dough into the little balls and then coating them with sugar. This is good times people.
Recipe courtesy of Mom:
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c white granulated sugar
1/2 c butter
3/4 c peanut butter
Cream together then add:
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 c gluten free flour
1 tsp baking soda
Mix all together well.
You will need a bag of Hershey Kisses to top cookies.
Roll into walnut size balls then roll the balls in granulated sugar. Place on baking sheet and bake 350 degrees (325 if oven runs hot) for 8 to 10 min. Must watch not to burn bottom because of the sugar. Remove from oven and immediately press chocolate kiss in center of each cookie, pressing down to “crack” the cookie surface. Allow to cool totally before placing in storage container. These cookies last up to 2 weeks if stored in air tight container.
As an aside, you can accidentally store them for 6 months on top of the fridge and still be tempted to eat them when they are discovered in July – truth.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!