Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Miami Spring Break 2K12 & Ola Restaurant

Posted in favorite things, meals, Restaurants, travel on March 20th, 2012 by Betsy – 2 Comments

Bienvenido a Miami: The view from our hotel room

David and I spent a restful five days in Miami during early March. We stayed at the brand new St. Regis hotel in Bal Harbor, enjoying his accumulation of hotel points in the past year.  We had the best time, relaxing, reading, and eating.  Always my perfect trip.  The folks at the St. Regis of course accommodated my GF diet and even had GF bread in one of their restaurants that they toasted for me for breakfast.  (Unfortunately I didn’t learn about this until the last day.)  One of my favorite meals was the quinoa salad at the pool restaurant.  I ordered it with chicken in order to get some extra protein.

One night, David and I went to a Miami Heat game to see LeBron and Dwayne Wade in action.  And of course, Duke alum, Shane Battier.  We wanted to explore dining options closer to the arena so the concierge recommended Ola Restaurant.  We called ahead to make reservations and they said that they could accommodate a gluten-free diner.  Well, let me just say that this was an understatement.  Ola had many delicious options for me and I didn’t feel restricted at all.

This Latin American cuisine restaurant, located in the Sanctuary Hotel in Miami Beach, is run by the internationally acclaimed Latin chef, Douglas Rodriguez.  The restaurant is cozy and we received amazing service.  Our waiter knew immediately what gluten was and he was well informed about what items on the menu are gluten free.  Regardless of what you order, you should inquire about whether any items in the dish are fried because they do only use one fryer for both gluten and gluten-free items.

Pan de bono=delicious

The meal started off with some of the most amazing bread I’ve ever eaten.  It is called pan de bono and it is made with tapioca flour, sugar, eggs, and cheese.  There might be some other ingredients but no gluten, at least not at Ola.  It was incredible!  The texture and the flavor were like nothing I’ve ever eaten before.  I couldn’t stop at just one piece.

My salmon entree

For my main course, I ordered the popular Panella Salmon, which is cured and seared, and is served with creamy quinoa, broken black olive vinaigrette, and jicama salad.  The salmon has a nice sweetness to it that goes surprisingly well with the quinoa and black olives.  The flavor combination was pretty amazing.  I also couldn’t resist a side of the mashed plantains with bits of bacon.  So good!  David’s dish, Puerca Asado (braised pork), was also gluten free as long as you ask them to not serve it with the piece of fried pork.  This slow cooked pork, served with steam yucca, was also packed with flavor, and tasted so different from my order.  (David’s beer braised short rib empanadas, sadly, were not GF.)

Overall, we had a great gluten-free experience at Ola and had some of the best service I’ve ever received at a restaurant.  I would highly recommend it to anyone looking to splurge on a Latin-inspired dinner while vacationing in Miami.  It is truly worth the price.  Enjoy!

And of course, the Heat game was great too..they wooped Chris Humphries and the NJ Nets.

 

 

 

Highlights of 2011

Posted in event, favorite things on January 6th, 2012 by Betsy – 3 Comments

This year was quite a year for me.  Lots of travel, adventure and really calling Atlanta home.  There are many highlights so I thought I’d take a little walk down memory lane (clearly in no particular order)…

Bachelor Brad won, and broke, Emily’s heart.

Richard Blais brought home the “W” in Top Chef All-Stars

Articles published on my travel tips for Wyoming/Montana, Washington, D.C. and Charlottesville

Surviving an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, while also getting to spend such a special time with my brother, sister-in-law and nephews.  (I really wouldn’t take back the trip, even if I could.  I promise.)

Dinner at Bacchanalia…always makes the highlight list!

An amazing trip to NYC full of gluten-free yumminess.

Ashley lived up to expectations as a disappointing Bachelorette (but we still watched)!

Rice Krispies went gluten free!

A trip to Nashville to meet my new niece, Anna

A week in Laguna Beach with the love of my life…so awesome.

Rob, Alden and boys visit us in Atlanta

Filming a “Sizzle-Reel” for a TV show pilot in Vail, Colorado

Wow!  What a year!  While it’s sad to say goodbye to 2011, there are many good things to come in 2012.  Thanks for all of your support and continuing to read Gluten Freedom.  Apologies for nearly two months of being MIA.  Let’s just say I needed a little rest…

Charlottesville Travel Article

Posted in travel, Uncategorized on September 6th, 2011 by Betsy – 3 Comments

If you went to the University of Virginia, you’re most likely as in love with Charlottesville, Virginia as I am.  We Wahoos can be a little snobby about “The University” and our favorite historical figure, Mr. Jefferson.  (That’s right, he didn’t go by “President” just “Mr.”)

I give Charlottesville credit for a lot of things in my life: a great college education, my husband (who gave me my tour of UVA my senior year of high school), wonderful memories, and my nerdy love of history.

Needless to say, when I was asked by Living Without Magazine to write a travel article about Charlottesville, I couldn’t resist.  Of course I had way too many gushing things to say about C’Ville, even though when I was a student, I hadn’t yet been diagnosed with celiac.  I’ve been back many times since and have learned to navigate the GF world in C’Ville.  I also enlisted the help of two of my former students (who are way cooler than me), Liz and Eleanor.  They are now living the dream as 2nd years at UVA…they also have celiac so could give me the scoop on all of the yummy spots they enjoy.

Check out my article on Charlottesville by clicking here or buy the October/November issue of Living Without at your local Whole Foods or health food store.  While I miss the delicious Take it Away sandwiches and Bodo’s Bagels, there are more and more options in C’ville for us gluten-freers.  I promise!

Gluten Freedom’s Travel Tips

Posted in travel, Uncategorized on August 30th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

I do quite a bit of traveling.  I love travel, whether vacations, outdoor excursions, visiting family or even a last minute trip.  But traveling can be stressful for me and involves quite a bit of planning.  After our recent vacation, I’ve been thinking about some basic tips for traveling.  Leaving your home, and your kitchen, can be overwhelming for those of us with special food needs.  Here are a few pointers to make your trip as stress free as possible.

-       Think about rentals: If you’re in the planning stages of your vacation, think about renting a condo as opposed to staying at a hotel.  This way you can actually have your own kitchen so you don’t have to eat all of your meals out.  And, quite often, a rental is a much more economical option.  Cheaper housing and you’re not forced to dine out every meal.

One of my favorite rentals ever...in Mendocino, CA

The backyard of our Mendocino rental!

-       Call the hotel in advance: If you’re going to be staying in one place for an extended period of time, you want to make sure they can accommodate you.  Particularly if you’re going to a nice place, they will absolutely bend over backward to meet your needs…and they should!  It’s good to give them a heads up so they can be prepared and take whatever extra steps to make special treats for you!

-       Do your research: Take advantage of technology and look online or use your iPhone to find restaurants, grocery stores, etc. that will be near where you are.  See if there’s a local celiac support group near your vacation destination as they might have a great list of dining options for you to use.

I Heart my iPhone

 

-       Ask for an empty fridge or check out your space in the mini-bar: When we arrived at the St. Regis, the fridge was stocked full with pricey beverages.  David and I rearranged so that we could fit in yogurts, fruit, and hummus.  Of course if you can get an empty fridge, that’s great too.

-      Plan non-food related activities: When traveling, think about things that don’t involve food, such as hiking, horse back riding, rafting, etc.  Then everyone in your party can enjoy them without worrying about their diet.  Often, these are great outings on which to bring picnics!

A walk on the beach in Oregon

Horse back riding

-       Bring snacks: Lara Bars, Glutino pretzels, and cereal are some of my go-to snacks that I include in carry on or suitcase.  Sabra hummus now makes a great travel size packet that is perfect for taking on a plane.  JIF makes travel size PB too.  Your flying companions will be jealous while they pay too much for mediocre airplane food!

Travel size hummus...perfect with Glutino pretzels

-       Locate the nearest grocery store: David and I walked to Gelson’s on our first full day at lunch time to stock up on GF food.  This way we could do a little shopping, plus get a lunch off of the hotel property for a much better price than pool-side Cobb salad.

What are some of your travel tips?  Anything that you’ve found works well for you?

Dining Highlights in Laguna Beach

Posted in Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized on August 26th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

We wined and dined on vacation and I’ve got to admit, I loved taking advantage of the opportunity to splurge. Our trip to Laguna was such a fun celebration of our marriage (we had our 7th wedding anniversary this summer!!!!), and a rare opportunity to spend time together, free from work, computers, house projects, and distractions.  Aah…so nice.

As I mentioned earlier, we hopped in a cab to Laguna Beach to access a few more dining options with a lower price…

Nirvana Grille: Located in downtown Laguna, Nirvana has both indoor and upstairs patio seating.  David and I both loved our meals here and more importantly, they have a very clearly marked gluten-free menu, which states what gluten-free diners can enjoy, and specifically lists what modifications need to be made.

David and I shared the artichoke, spinach and parmesan stuffed poblano (with bread on the side, for David).  It was so delicious we devoured it before I could even think to take a photo.  I’ve given you the pitiful remnants below.

The remnants of our stuffed pepper

For my entrée, I chose the Coconut Curry Tofu and loved it.  After a lot of heavy eating, the curry tofu was a different and lighter option and yummy!  Nirvana also has plenty of vegan and vegetarian options as well and the entire menu has lots of variety so all diners have plenty of choice.  Also, a great wine selection!  Definitely a must visit if you’re in Laguna.

Nirvana Grille's Tofu Curry

 

Another dinner spot that we checked out was Coyote Grill, located between the St. Regis and downtown Laguna (only about a $10 cab ride from the hotel).  There’s nothing fancy about Coyote but it’s ocean front location is not to be missed.  While they don’t have a gluten-free menu, I had read online before our trip that Coyote had lots of GF options and is familiar with the gluten-free diet.  I ordered the chicken fajitas with corn tortillas which came with tons of veggies, black beans, guac, and all of the delicious additions I love.  The meal was huge and David and I definitely could have split it, but he went with the ribs at the suggestion of the waiter.  Coyote is also known for their brunch but we didn’t make it back to check it out for ourselves.

BJ’s Restaurant: This casual, family-friendly restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway in downtown Laguna, makes gluten-free pizzas!  I’m always eager to sample a new variety of GF pizza and there’s was delicious.  Their thin crust pizza has a hint of sweetness to it, with rosemary baked into the crust.  All of their toppings, except their meatballs are GF.  I ordered a pizza with sausage and artichokes and loved it.  Half was plenty for me so I took the leftovers back to the hotel for lunch the next day.

BJ’s also has a gluten-free/allergen menu so all dietary needs can be taken into consideration when dining here.  If you’re not in the mood for pizza, try one of their salads or giant stuffed potatoes.  BJ’s also sells GF ciders and Redbridge beer, a perfect addition to a pizza dinner!

BJ’s doesn’t take reservations so be prepared to wait a little while for a table as it has a pretty small dining area.  You can call 30 minutes ahead, to get your name on the list.  BJ’s is a great choice if you’re looking for a more casual, laid back dinner in Laguna.  While I was sad not to be able to enjoy the glutenous deep dish pizza, my GF pizza was pretty darn good.

Ok, I’m finally done boring you with the details of our California trip.  Maybe I’ve inspired you to take a trip vacation of your own.

Hotel Dining in Laguna

Posted in meals, Restaurants, travel, Uncategorized on August 24th, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

While we relaxed at the pool and lazed the day away in Laguna, the biggest decision of our day was where to eat.  Ah, that’s the life!

Before I get started on where we ate, I thought I’d share some  food related discoveries from the week of luxury:

  • Mojitoes: So refreshing, why not have a tasty adult beverage in the afternoon?
  • Champagne: I think I had one too many bad glasses of champagne in college and early adulthood…I’ve discovered it can actually be pretty good and a lovely way to start the evening.
  • Seafood: It’s more than just shrimp and crab cakes!  I continue to fall in love with fish.  I avoided fish most of my life (besides salmon) but now I can’t get enough of it.  So many varieties to try and almost always a good GF option at restaurants.
  • Hotel food is expensive, especially when ordered by the pool…a $5 Coke!!!!!  You’ve got to be kidding me.
  • As much as I love cooking, I really enjoyed a week without turning on the oven or washing a dish.  It was awesome.

Now to the dining…

Happy Anniversary, Friend!

David enjoying our Motif dinner (and champagne)

During our stay we dined at the St. Regis’ two restaurants, Stone Hill Tavern and Motif. While Stone Hill is the more well known of the two restaurants, we liked our experiences at both.  In comparing our gluten-free experience at the two venues, though,  we got the best attention at Motif.  They brought gluten-free bread to the table to enjoy with their homemade hummus and butter, which is always a huge plus.  Our server was one of the best waiters I’ve ever had, bringing us tastes of wine, and giving his honest opinion on what to order.  Everything was delicious and the servings were plentiful.

A fun (GF) anniversary dessert at Motif

While Motif felt a bit more laid back, Stone Hill Tavern was definitely a trendy, happening, spot.  There was quite a bustle and I felt like we paid the price a little bit since there was so much going on.  Our waiter was nice and willing to communicate with the chef but it felt like the chef didn’t really care much about my needs.  Fortunately, our waiter guided us to make the right decisions.  I understand that restaurants get busy and don’t have time to bend over backwards, but I just didn’t feel as comfortable with my meal here.  That being said, I devoured my delicious tomato salad and the short rib was out of this world.  So, I still had a very nice dining experience at Stone Hill, but don’t know if I would pay that price for that restaurant a second time.

Stonehill Restaurant at the St. Regis, Dana Point

Neither of these restaurants felt like “hotel food.” David and I did notice, however, that when staying at high end hotels and resorts (this was really my first experience at one), it’s difficult to find a simple dinner.  When evening rolls around, the only burger to be found involves Kobe beef and blue cheese crumbles.  So we ventured to downtown Laguna to enjoy a lighter meal, with a lighter price tag.  Stay tuned for those recommendations!

Our favorite view!

Also, Only a short walk from the St. Regis, we loved the bar at the Ritz, 180blu. It had our favorite view and the best sweet potato fries I’ve ever eaten.  Yes, I’m serious.  Perfectly crispy and a great GF bar food.  This was also our best venue for sunsets and people watching…

Enjoying 180blu at the Ritz

Ritz sweet potato fries...definitely got these twice!

Sunset over the Pacific

Re-Entry

Posted in travel, Uncategorized on August 15th, 2011 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

Re-entry is tough, especially after vacation.  We’ve been back in Atlanta for a week now and it’s been hard to adjust back to “normal life.”  School’s starting, work is ramping up, and I’m longing for Laguna.

David and I spent the most amazing week in Dana Point California, about ten miles south of Laguna Beach, California.  David had accumulated some free nights from his past work travel so we enjoyed the luxuriousness of the St. Regis.  (Yes, I know, I know…I’m officially a yuppy.)

We made a bet before hand about how many celebs we’d see.  Let’s just say I’m pretty disappointed by the fact that we basically saw a total of ½ a celebrity.  We came across one of the women from Real Housewives of Orange County but I don’t think she deserves to be counted as a full celeb.  Do you?

Our half celeb sighting...

 

Our week in luxury was unlike our typical Metcalf trips.  A friend recently said there are “trips” and there are “vacations.” This was absolutely, unashamedly a vacation.  Zero cooking, no camping, not even a rental car.  It was amazing.  Completely relaxing and rejuvenating.

I love sending postcards and I literally didn’t have anything to say on the cards I wrote.  A typical day in Cali involved sauna and steam in the morning, followed by a long coffee on our porch, a trip to the pool and an afternoon of golf for David.  (I would ride in the cart for 9 holes.) I read three books over the course of the week and got lots of quality time with my favorite person in the world, David.

Oh and of course, my favorite part, cocktails and dinner…

We wined and dined, at the St. Regis and cabbed it into Laguna some nights as well.  There were many delicious meals to share with you and some GF gems as well.

It was a lovely week…

More GF Options in Norfolk: Carolina Cupcakery

Posted in bakery, dessert, GF product, travel, Uncategorized on August 7th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

Another place I checked out while in Norfolk was Carolina Cupcakery.  This delicious sweet spot, on Colley Avenue, makes a variety of cupcakes to accommodate special diets (vegan, sugar-free, gluten-free, etc.)  For their gluten-free cupcakes they use a rice and tapioca flour blend.  The woman I talked to was extremely knowledgeable about gluten-free and told me that they make their GF cupcakes at their Chesapeake location and they have a designated area of the bakery and equipment to use for these items.  They arrive at the Norfolk store already packaged individually so no cross contamination to worry about.  Good work, Carolina!

After a day of unpacking boxes, everyone deserves a treat, right?  I tried the variety with vanilla cake, chocolate chips and chocolate icing.  So yummy!  I love icing but it was a lot of icing, even for me.  My brother will love this place once he arrives.  I really liked the texture of the cake and the taste of icing and cake…it wasn’t a fondant type of icing.  (I’m not a big fan of fancy cake…I want something that tastes freshly made, for a high school bake fair, not an “over the top” wedding reception, if you know what I mean.)  They have multiple varieties so it’s nice to have choices!

I really enjoyed this sweet treat and I’ll absolutely be returning to Carolina Cupcakery when I head back to Norfolk for a visit.

 

 

 

 

Carolina Cupcakery: Colley Ave.

Carolina’s Cupcakery – 2019 Colley Ave. #102 – Norfolk, VA – 757.531.1548

Taste Unlimited: Norfolk, VA

Posted in favorite things, GF product, meals, travel on July 27th, 2011 by Betsy – 5 Comments

Last week I spent time in Norfolk with my sister-in-law, Alden, as she gets settled into her new home in Virginia.  We unpacked, entertained my nephews, Pete and Chip, watched Bachelorette (of course), and did some good eating.  Alden even taught me how to cook tofu and we made delicious tofu Pad Thai.  I’m even willing to say it’s better than chicken pad Thai

We also ventured out for lunch with both boys to Taste Unlimited, a yummy (and very popular) spot, just down the street.  Taste Unlimited’s Hampton Boulevard location offers a large gluten-free sandwich menu and they use a separate sandwich making station and utensils for all gluten-free orders, to prevent cross-contamination.  Their sandwiches are delicious (reminiscent of my gluten-filled college days spent frequenting Bel Air and Take it Away) and I’m a huge fan of their house dressing.  I got their Northender sandwich, which includes the amazing combination of turkey, havarti, bacon and avacado.  The sandwich gods were looking down on me because they put practically an entire avocado on my sandwich.  I went with the house dressing in lieu of the aioli mayo because I just can’t resist the stuff.  (You can buy their house dressing by the container too…this would be way too dangerous for me.)  All in all, my sammy was a messy, delicious masterpiece.

Taste uses Udi’s sandwich bread (a personal favorite of mine) and you can also buy it by the loaf at the store as well.  (They even sell Udi’s muffins and a brand of gluten-free ice cream sandwiches in their freezer section.)

Also, if you check Taste Unlimited’s website, they tell you which of the daily prepared foods are gluten-free.  (They make take out foods like chicken salad, ribs, cucumber salad, etc.)  A perfect weeknight dinner when you don’t feel like cooking OR if you’re going to be entertaining someone with a gluten allergy and feel overwhelmed by the task.  Taste Unlimited is a great option.

Save room for dessert because Taste Unlimited offers glow gluten-free cookies, in multiple varieties, and Tate’s Bake Shop GF chocolate chip cookies.  I bought glow’s chocolate chip cookies and they were yummy.  They don’t skimp on the chocolate chips, which is key for GF baking!  I love their packaging…looks similar to a Chinese food take out box.  There are enough cookies in a box to share with your group. (If you’re feeling generous!)  Their other varieties include snickerdoodle and ginger snap.  You know me, I can’t resist chocolate!

Right now Taste Unlimited offers their gluten-free menu at their Newport News location and this fall they’ll roll it out at their new (and bigger) location in Virginia Beach.  I contacted the folks at Taste to get more details and it turns out that one of their co-owners was diagnosed with celiac in 2009, hence the efforts they’ve gone to in order to accommodate customers with gluten allergies or celiac.  I feel reassured when I know that someone personally involved with a restaurant has celiac because it means they get it, and they’re not just serving GF bread for their sandwiches.  Taste Unlimited is taking all necessary precautions to ensure my safety, for which I am grateful.  AND they make delicious sandwiches!

Taste Unlimited - 6464 Hampton Blvd.- Norfolk, VA 23508 – 757.623.7770

Saturday Morning Reflections

Posted in GF product, meals, product, travel, Uncategorized on July 13th, 2011 by Betsy – 3 Comments

I’m always in search of gluten-free bread products.  I don’t use gf bread as a major component of my regular diet, partially because it’s a hastle and because I just don’t find it to be that good.  As you know though, I’m always looking for good bread/bagel products for the occasional cream cheese and jam breakfast.  A few weeks ago, I purchased Whole Foods’ Cinnamon Raisin bread and I’m pretty pleased with the recipe they’ve created.  I would say it’s up there with a Sally’s cinnamon raisin English muffin or an Udi’s bagel.

On a recent Saturday morning, when my resident pancake maker (David) was out golfing, I had a rare morning to myself (with no commitments).  In the absence of my weekend chef, I was looking for a “more fun than cereal” weekend breakfast so I decided to break out the cinnamon raisin bread and indulge in a little cream cheese/cinnamon raisin toast.  The Whole Foods Bakehouse bread is perfectly delicious toasted.  It’s got more flavor than plain bread and makes you feel like you’re enjoying a bagel.  There aren’t specific toasting instructions on the packaging but I heated it at 350 for about 5 minutes on each side.  (We don’t have a toaster in our house so we’re limited in our toasting options.)

I devoured both pieces of toast and of course enjoyed my breakfast accompanied with a cup (or two) of coffee.  Why do cinnamon, cream cheese and coffee go so perfectly together?  Not sure, but it’s awesome.

I couldn’t help but think about my brother, Rob, as I ate my breakfast and drank my coffee from my Yokohama Starbucks mug.  I received a postcard in the mail the day before from Rob sent via Okinawa, where his ship was in port at the time he sent it.  I can’t read a word of Rob’s handwriting so it can be a bit of a project to decipher his thoughtful cards (hence I was finally reading it a day later).  I haven’t seen Rob since March 12th, when his ship was sent out to do tsunami relief.  I miss him a lot.  I savor the occasional phone call from him from across the world and I only wish they could be more frequent.  You would think at this point I’d be used to my big brother being a world traveler (he’s lived in Japan, China,Turkey, and Bahrain), but I’m not.

It’s hard to believe that just over a year ago I wrote this post (“Blueberry Muffins and Childhood Memories”), which is one of my favorites.  A lot changes in a year.  Since then, Rob and Alden have had a baby, I’ve been to Japan (twice), we’ve both survived an earthquake, and Rob continues to serve our country, alongside many others whose families bear a large burden for their spouses’ hard work and service.  The families truly serve us too.

Rob & Chip

Rob’s going to be back in the States (hopefully) as of August.  I can’t wait to see him and have him back in the same time zone.  I know he’s eager to be home too.  You’re greatly missed, Rob.  Hurry home!