Thursday, July 11, 2013

folsom fare: a gluten free guide to eating in folsom (part 1)

We made it back to Reno late, and got up early the next morning to head to Folsom. By this point, I had my cooking gear packed in a way that we could easily take it with us. When we moved from Folsom a few years ago, they had just begun construction on the Whole Foods, so I knew that I'd have some options even if I couldn't find any safe restaurants.

One place I was really looking forward to going was Cooper's Coffee House. This had once been an It's a Grind franchise, but the owners wanted to branch out and offer more alternative options, so they left the franchise and reopened as Cooper's. I have been following them on facebook since we left Folsom, and had seen posts on gluten free options and dairy-free alternatives. I hadn't had coffee since coming back to the states, and was excited to finally be able to do so!

Stacy was the one who helped us when we came in, and walked us through some of the pre-packaged gluten free pastries. She wasn't sure about the coffee but was extremely helpful in letting me see the ingredients and allowing me to check company websites to see if the brands were gluten free/corn free. They were, and she made sure to sanitize all the equipment before making my drink. I got an iced vanilla latte with coconut milk and it was spectacular! The pastry was dry and crumbly, so I didn't order any more of those. We went a few more times while in Folsom and had great experiences with the coffee every time.

For lunch that same day, we went to BJ's. I was excited to learn a few months ago that BJ's had a gluten free pizza made from rice flour that would be safe for me. When I checked with our server, she had the manager come out and let me know exactly what ingredients were in what I had ordered. I really felt like they cared about my well-being and we felt confident in our choice to eat there! Ben and I shared a thin crust pizza and I got a house-brewed root beer to go with it. Everything was delicious!

**Edit as of 7.11.14: BJ's brewed root  beer is no longer free of corn syrup, which is really too bad, as it's delicious. They do, however, have Crispin apple cider on tap - this is a delicious cider and is gluten/corn free.**

One of the things we were excited to do in Folsom was to shop. They have great outlets and a beautiful new outdoor mall area. Being fourth of July weekend, it was 104 degrees and after a few hours of shopping, we were craving something cold. I went into the Pinkberry, not expecting to be able to actually get any frozen yogurt. The woman behind the counter answered all of my questions, though, and it turns out she has gluten intolerance and has family members who are celiacs. She told me what she usually gets and I took her suggestions, getting a mango fro-yo with fresh fruit toppings. Delish!

Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon!

oregonian options: a gluten free guide to traveling and eating in oregon

It's easier to find gluten free options in a large city, but what about when you're on the go, road tripping? We had some hits and misses while traveling.

After Portland, we headed to the beach. We found a restaurant in Tillamook (Pacific Restaurant) via the Find Me Gluten Free app, and decided to try it out. Typically, I call a restaurant ahead of time to confirm they have gluten free options, ask about possible corn free options, and to ask what precautions they take to keep cross contamination to a minimum. In this case, though, we didn't have signal and were not able to call ahead.

The restaurant was easy to find, and when we walked in, I asked all of my questions to the busboy. He was not positive of the answers and went to ask the chefs (always a good sign in my book - asking the chef means they are taking me seriously). He came back a few minutes later and said that there were some options that would be safe for me, so we got a table and a menu.

Our server, on the other hand, did not take the same care and consideration. She tried to convince me that the fish and chips were gluten free since they were rice flour, and then argued with me when I mentioned that cooking them in the same oil vat as regular food means there will be cross contamination. She acted as if I were the highest maintenance person in the world when I asked her to check and see if their salad dressing contained any corn syrup, and if it had not been for the busboy who already had answered my original questions, I would have gotten up and left right then.

Luckily they had a few things that were truly gluten/corn free. I ordered clams in a cream sauce with a small side salad. While these were not nearly as filling as a regular meal would have been, I was grateful to be able to eat anything there without getting sick. The clams and sauce were delicious, but the salad was sparse and the dressing (small containers with olive oil and vinegar) left much to be desired. If you are visiting Tillamook and are eating at Pacific Restaurant, I recommend speaking to a chef personally to make sure the food you are ordering is truly gluten free and is not cooked in the same oil or on the same pan as gluten containing food.

During our stay at the beach, I only ate the food I had brought with me, purchased at the Whole Foods in Portland and the Fred Meyer in Tillamook. Traveling back to Reno, though, we had to stop a few times along the way. Before we left, I researched restaurants within a hundred miles of where we had planned to stop for lunch. After talking on the phone with all three, Thai Bistro in Medford seemed like the best bet. The woman on the phone said they handled people with food allergies all the time and it wouldn't be a problem to make my food gluten free.

We arrived and were at the halfway point between Portland and Reno. We were glad to have a place to stop for a while, and walking inside, it smelled delicious! I went through my spiel with the server, and as nice as she was, she (like the server at Pacific Restaurant) just didn't seem to understand the effect of cross contamination. After stressing that my food had to be prepared on clean surfaces and with sanitized utensils, she asked me if I wanted to get a side salad from the salad bar. I explained that I could not eat from the salad bar because other people may have touched the tongs to their food and contaminated them, and she looked at me like I was crazy.

Honestly, this should set off warning bells in my head, but I had had such good luck so far that I figured it was just me being paranoid.

The food was delicious and well-priced. I got pad thai and chicken satay. It hit me the next day, though, and I was sorry that I hadn't listened to my gut and opted out of eating. There was definitely not gluten IN my meal, because the effects would have been much worse, but there was cross contamination that was bad enough to cause a panic attack, migraine, nausea, and a plethora of other symptoms.

If you are only gluten sensitive, I highly recommend Thai Bistro because of the price and great tasting food, but if you are anywhere near as sensitive as I am to cross contamination, I'd steer clear!

portland provender: a gluten free guide to eating in portland

prov-en-der: food. I didn't realize I had some great alliteration going in the Seattle Snacking series, so I decided to try and keep it up throughout our summer travels. I even learned a new word!

Traveling as a celiac can have its ups and downs. Ups include getting to try so many new and unique gluten free options, but downs include having to do massive amounts of research before finding places to safely eat.

Just as we were getting comfortable in Seattle, we headed down to Portland and began the search all over again. Since Ben's sister lives in Newberg (a smalllll town) there weren't too many options nearby, but Portland and the surrounding areas had a lot to offer!

The first provender establishment we tried was Tula. I had done some research and found some entirely gluten free restaurants, and this was one of the only ones that had several corn free options. 

We immediately fell in love with this inviting little bakery! The staff was friendly, the atmosphere was bright and cheerful, and the food was labeled. ALL OF IT. Every single item had a great little sticker on the display, letting customers know which possible allergens might be in it. I didn't even have to ask about corn products, because the stickers were already there!

Everything on the menu looked fabulous. I had been craving a panini since landing in Seattle, and this one was worth the wait. We got a cinnamon chocolita bar to split after our lunch. Everyone, including my non-gf family members, were impressed by the food and prices at Tula!

One of my goals while in Portland was to visit Crave Bakeshop. I had heard so many great things from friends and bloggers, and I knew I couldn't leave Portland without stopping there! The next day, we drove from Newberg to Oswego to find the little bake shop. While pricier than some of the other places we have visited, our stop was well worth it!

Kyra and her staff were amazingly helpful! Not only did they help me to pick out some goodies without corn, but also pointed us in the direction of an awesome restaurant for lunch! We got some cupcakes for the family and some amazing hamburger buns for sandwiches for the beach trip.

Armed with the information from Crave, we headed toward Portland to find Jade Bistro. Were we in for a treat! I wasn't sure at first, because the gluten free items weren't listed anywhere that we could see. The cashier gave us a menu, though, and walked us through how to find gf items and all the precautions the staff go through to ensure there is no cross contamination. We felt secure knowing we would be taken care of, but then came the hard part: choosing what to eat among the huge variety of delicious looking entrees and appetizers!

Eventually, we settled on a few different items. We got the sesame balls, spring rolls, and fresh salad rolls to share. Ben got a beautiful artisan (non-gf) sandwich and I got the garlic lemongrass chicken. What came out was a TON of food, and we were happy to take it home for leftover meals later on!

Overall, our time in Portland was fabulous. We had a great time exploring, spending time with family, and trying out some of the amazing gf cuisine! If you're ever in the Portland area, I highly recommend all three of these establishments!