Four Days in L.A.

The summer’s end arrived early and was anti-climatic. One minute it was July and I was recovering from my summer vacation in London and the next it was August and I was teaching again. So, after two months of a new semester and 7 lectures it was time for another trip. One thing I have learned after 2 years and 8 months or so in Fort Wayne is that I require frequent breaks from Northeast Indiana.

Where to then? The short list was Portland, Los Angeles, or home. I spent Labor Day at home so that left Portland and L.A. Portland in October did not sound all that attractive. If I want gray and rainy I can get that in Fort Wayne. So, L.A. won easily.

I set up temporary housekeeping in Santa Monica at The Viceroy, which was fantastic. Some will tell you that the place to stay in Santa Monica is Shutters on the Beach (just in front of The Viceroy). While Shutters is nice and you may run into a celebrity or two there (if you care for that kind of thing) it seems to be more of a family spot – lots of little ones. If you are traveling alone and can bear to walk a block to the beach then The Viceroy (or one of the other boutique hotels in Santa Monica) is probably better suited for you – fewer children and traditional vacationers. If you go please give my best to John and Andrew who work the front door.

It was a near perfect vacation. No work, no writing, no drama. I took long walks on the beach, bought a shirt at Amoeba Music, had a chauffeured tour (note: the chauffeur is a friend, but still) through Beverly Hills and Hollywood, got to the Griffith Observatory on a reasonably clear day, walked Zuma Beach, cruised up PCH, wandered through Malibu, dreamed of working at Pepperdine, socialized with some lovely friends, saw the Endeavor, and watched three near-perfect sunsets.

Even better, every meal was a great gluten-free experience. I dined on lamb belly at Michael Voltaggio’s ink., then had octopus salad and rock fish at Son of a Gun, drank a juice blend called Bright Eyes with my huevos rancheros at True Food Kitchen, had ceviche at Border Grill, and finished up the trip with curry at Rock Sugar. It was fabulous eating. Traveling gluten-free in L.A. is so easy.

The trip was right on time in every way. I can’t even complain about the L.A. traffic, I did not experience any of the bad parts of the city. I’m not sure that I am west coast kind of girl, but 4 days in Santa Monica is really hard to beat. It made returning to the not very sunny Midwest painful. But I still have the pictures . . .

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Gluten-Free Fine Dining in Fort Wayne

I am over at the Fort Wayne Insider talking about eating gluten-free at The Oyster Bar and BakerStreet Steaks, Seafood, & Spirits. These two fabulous Fort Wayne spots are ready, willing, and able to serve up a great gluten-free meal.

The Oyster Bar impressed me with raw oysters and fish done on cedar. BakerStreet offers a full gluten-free menu and the best steak in town, oh, and a to-die-for flourless chocolate cake.

Check it out and enjoy.

Gluten-Free Dining in Fort Wayne

Gluten-free eating can be pretty easy and very tasty at home. Whole foods do not contain gluten, so eating gluten-free at home is a healthy and naturally low-calorie way to eat. Just whip up a meat and three and you are good to go.

Eating gluten-free outside of your own kitchen can be challenging. The challenges can include the type of cuisine (hello, Italian), the knowledge and understanding of the chef and staff about the dietary restrictions, or your (my) own fear of cross-contamination (you don’t know what happens to your food before you get it). So far in my gluten-free adventure I have encountered uninterested, cynical, and disbelieving servers and restaurant owners. You know, the ones that think you are asking for a gluten-free meal because you are a low-carb weight loss diet (which is fine if you are – just say it and stop claiming you have a disease, allergy, or legitimate intolerance). This is why I have started using the word Celiac as much as possible. I hope to bring at least some awareness to a handful of people.

Anyway, for every one of those people, I run into two or three people who are genuinely interested in making sure I have a positive dining experience. They ask questions, offer suggestions, and take recommendations happily. Below is a list of the places in Fort Wayne where I have enjoyed great gluten-free food and service so far. I plan to share as many as I can find that are worth a share. I hope this helps guide you to the happiest gluten-free places in town.

Acme Bar & Grill – I love the hamburgers at the Acme. So, when I went in recently and asked for one, sans the bun and fries, my server never missed a beat. I had a salad instead of fries and it was a great gluten-free meal. Remember if you are not sure the fries are prepared in a dedicated fryer then they may be contaminated. Booo.

BakerStreet Steak, Seafood, & Spirits – This spot is one of my favorites, it has a great gluten-free menu as well as attentive, caring, and knowledgeable servers. I had a perfectly prepared steak with asparagus, a spinach salad, and a to-die-for flourless chocolate cake. Top notch. Also, if you want to participate in their dining events (they do some farm to fork dinners) then let them know when you make the reservation that you are gluten-free and they will make sure you can participate.

Casa – This Italian eatery has a comprehensive gluten-free menu that will satisfy the biggest, baddest pasta craving! Other than the bread, you would never know that you were eating gluten-free.

Firefly Coffee House – You can get a gluten-free Oregon Chai latte (my favorite) amongst other tasty safe drinks. They serve gluten-free cookies and crustless quiche from their kitchen. The staff is also never too busy to answer a question, show you a product label, or listen to any helpful suggestions. The folks get it. They have also started carrying almond milk in addition to soy for those of us who can’t tolerate lactose.

Friends – They do not have a gluten-free menu but they do have an accommodating kitchen and a flexible menu. Enjoy the chicken souvlaki with potatoes and a great Greek salad (it has pineapple and beets on it – I love it).

Grabill Country Store – Call ahead to this lovely Amish store in the burg of Grabill and they will bake you a loaf of your favorite bread – gluten-free. The Grabill Store also has a large selection of gluten-free flour, mixes, and other fixins. The daily breakfast and lunch buffet has naturally gluten-free options also (eggs and bacon are beautiful things).

J.K. O’Donnell’s – JK’s has outstanding salads that are gluten-free. For those that enjoy a snort every now and again, JK’s offers a gluten-free beer as well as a selection of ciders that are naturally gluten-free.

Madeleine’s Bakehouse – During your next shopping trip to Jefferson Pointe stop into Madeleine’s and enjoy one of their many macaroons and a cup of tea. Both are gluten-free and lovely!

The Oyster Bar – There is no gluten-free menu at The Oyster Bar but the chef is knowledgeable about gluten-free cooking and can whip you up some great fish, gluten-free. There are many things on The Oyster Bar’s expansive menu to enjoy gluten-free, including oysters.

Spice & Herb – Asian food can be tricky in regards to gluten, it is hard to know exactly what thickeners are used and there is typically no gluten-free menu. This is not a concern at Spice & Herb, I had a great lunch of noodles made of mung beans, tea, and salad, all gluten-free. The server was attentive, helpful, and knew exactly what I needed.

There are fast-food joints that offer pretty solid gluten-free options . . . Red Robin has a good gluten-free menu, Chik-fil-a offers gluten-free fries and chicken options (no bun), Culver’s custard in a cup (I only eat vanilla) is gluten-free, Chipotle is accommodating and can make a super gluten-free salad, and in a pinch you can get a bun-less cheeseburger at McDonald’s (although I prefer to go inside as I feel it is harder to mess up my food if you have to look directly at my face).

This diagnosis has been very hard for me – my hobby and great pleasure in life is finding and enjoying good food. I love to eat adventurously and being gluten-free has certainly changed how I can do that now. The days of not thinking about food are over – I have to pre-plan all my meals and carry snacks everywhere I go. But there is hope, in fact, after writing this list I feel a renewed hope that not all of my going-out-to-eat options are lost. That sure is a pretty thought.

Be patient, friendly, kind, and smile a lot and more often than not you will find someone who truly wants to meet your food needs!