Sunday, June 23, 2013

seattle snacking: a gluten free guide to eating in seattle! (part 2)

Because we are just visiting Seattle, I don't have access to all my gluten free kitchen items. While we have picked up a few basics to have with us on vacation, eating out is just something we can't avoid. I realized a few days into our trip, though, that this didn't have to be a stressful thing to deal with! With some research, planning, and iPhone apps like Find Me Gluten Free, we have found several safe restaurants, bakeries, and snack shops around the Seattle area!

To see the first set of Seattle restaurant reviews, check out the first Seattle Snacking blog entry!

Our week in Seattle has been extremely packed, with airport trips, college reunion, engagement parties, and catching up with people. We've got several friends here, all of them having different tastes in food (and some with allergies and preferences of their own). Friday's challenge was to find a restaurant that catered to Celiacs as well as vegetarians/vegans. A friend of ours suggested a restaurant called Plum Bistro, a completely organic and vegetarian restaurant with some gluten free options. They also had a few corn free options as well, so we didn't have to modify any of the menu items to find something safe for me to eat. Our party included a few vegetarians, several avid meat eaters, and of course, one Celiac. Plum had several options to satisfy all of us, though I did have to walk through the entire menu with the server to find something that was truly gluten free. Some of the options had no gluten ingredients but were cooked alongside other items that weren't necessarily safe. They were incredibly knowledgeable, though, and helpful in letting me know what would be safe for me as opposed to someone who might just be avoiding gluten for other reasons.

I finally settled on the tempeh vermouth, which was absolutely fabulous! The vermouth added a smooth taste to the tempeh, and the olive oil base and kalamata olives paired nicely with the pan-seared mashed potatoes and brocolli. Even the water tasted good, served in canning jars with cucumber and lemon.

Everyone else seemed pleased with their choices as well, and though the food was a bit pricey, it was well worth the visit! I highly recommend this restaurant, especially if you have friends who are vegetarian or vegan.

Saturday was a foodie feast! I spent the day with Victoria, who lives in the U District. Though she doesn't have any food allergies or vegan preferences, she does try to eat whole foods without all the chemicals when she can. She pointed out that a vacation is all about visiting and eating together, and she was adamant that she was going to give me that experience despite my limitations.

We went to lunch at a restaurant called Thrive, which was one of the first completely gluten free and vegan restaurants in the country. They are also 95% organic, 95% raw, and 100% delicious.

As we walked in, all I could think about was the smell of cilantro wafting through the door, as I wondered if I could find something on the menu that might blend that cilantro with cucumber. We walked in, and the kitchen manager (Jorge) pointed at each of us in turn and predicted our orders. We kind of smiled at him and then looked at his suggestions. Mine, the Buddha Bowl, guessed it...cilantro sauce and cucumbers in addition to toasty kale chips, bella burger crumbles, quinoa, and cashew onion sauce. Knowing I had the choice of anything on the menu (ALL gluten free AND corn free!!) was such a liberating feeling, so I looked through the menu before settling on his first suggestion.

I wasn't sorry - it was a fresh blend of warm and cold deliciousness and we both felt that "just-enough-food" fullness when we finished our half bowls. We also had smoothies, of course. I had the Sweet Tart, which was a perfect blend of strawberry and lime juice, while Victoria got a mint+chocolaty paradise called the Oh My Wonka. We were also given complimentary shots of the Nourish (a green smoothie consisting of kale, banana, almond milk, dates, and celery) to finish up the meal.

What a wonderful experience! I am hoping to visit Thrive again before we leave Seattle!

After we left Thrive, we headed toward a bakery Victoria was positively adamant about visiting. Jodee's Desserts, like Thrive, is vegan, organic, and gluten free. We had a great time talking with Jodee and learning her story. She had relatives with food allergies and medical problems. She knew that food additives, overuse of refined sugar, and unhealthy eating had a huge effect on overall health, so she sought to create food that tasted great and was made of healthy ingredients. She attended Living Light Culinary School in Fort Bragg, California, where she learned to create raw, vegan foods and desserts. Eventually she moved back to Seattle (where she originally worked at Thrive!) and then opened up her own bakery.

She had several questions about our time in Japan and we had a great time chatting and talking about personal experiences. What a great company and a great lady! I had a slice of the chocolate peppermint pie, which was light and airy, with a delightful coconutty crust.

We noticed Jodee had bread displayed, and she mentioned that it's made by a local pizzeria. I've been trying to find a gluten free bread that consistently tastes good and can be shipped to us in Japan, and she said she'd look into it, so I'm excited about that possible prospect! Jodee also suggested we stop by the pizzeria to try the bread before spending the money to ship it all the way to us.

Later that afternoon, we visited Razzi's Pizzeria to inquire about the bread. What we got was a meal and a story. Amir Razzaghi was the franchise owner of Romio's Pizza on Greenwood in Seattle. A few years ago, the Romio's chain did a gluten free promotion. The response at the Greenwood location was unprecedented, with a large number of new customers consistently eating at the restaurant. Romio's eventually ended the promotion, much to the chagrin of many of their customers. Amir was unyielding in his desire to continue offering gluten free options, and eventually left the franchise and reopened the restaurant with the name Razzi's Pizzeria. Since then he has continued to expand and perfect his gluten free menu. He offers four different menus, including gluten free and vegan options.

I explained to him that we had talked to Jodee about the bread, and he told us to go sit down and he'd bring some out. Little did we know he had made us fresh breadsticks and pita bread, complete with dipping sauces! All of his gluten free breads are made from organic sorghum, and they are delicious! In fact, it was so delicious that I took Ben back there for a late dinner after our friend's engagement party.

We decided to each get a small pizza so we'd have leftovers for the next day. I got a vegan/gluten free pizza with Italian sorta-sausage and Daiya cheese - it was spectacular and it was nice knowing I could get a pizza that was not only gluten free, but lactose free as well. Ben got a gluten free pizza with Gorgonzola and we split some vegan mozzarella sticks. We were both happy with our choices! When our server asked if we wanted dessert, I remembered Jodee saying that Razzi's used her pies on their dessert menu so I made Ben get a piece so he could taste what I had been talking about all day! His consensus matched mine and it was the first time we felt a little sad that we didn't live in the states.

Overall, we miss Japan immensely already and are excited that we get to visit the states but return to Japan in August. Knowing that we can find restaurants that are healthy and won't make me sick, plus taste great with a nice variety, has already made our summer trip an amazing one!

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