Friday, May 24, 2013

I Survived San Fransisco, Gluten Free

We just returned from our Spring vacation, this time we went to Napa Valley, and San Francisco. For me it was the first time I was to the area, my boyfriend was a bit more familiar from a previous trip several years back. As with any trip, I was armed with gluten free snacks, my Find Me Gluten Free App loaded on my phone and tablet, and actually copies of Living Without Magazine, and Gluten Free Living. They both in the past year had highlighted going to the California Coast for traveling.

When we planned the trip, Napa Valley won out, over Sonoma, because we were able to find more gluten free options when we initially investigated things. So we planned the first two days in Napa, then driving over to Sausalito, and into San Francisco. Luck for us, most of the gluten free places were in one spot in the downtown which was also close to the hotel. We got into town, and were starving, so we checked out what Find Me Gluten Free had listed for Napa, we saw the magic word, Cupcakes... So we found a place right by it, decided it was good, and headed towards the cupcakes. That's when we realized there were 3 places near the cupcakes that did gluten free. Two of them were 100% dedicated gluten free. All of the restaurants were in the Oxbow Public Market (OPM); 644 1st St, Napa, CA 94559, we ended up perusing all the places to eat and decided we could come back to there for all our meals. 


Day 1!

Our first meal was at Pica Pica Maize Kitchen, their menu include empanadas, sandwiches, and salads, I had to ask the server if the empanadas were gluten free, he told me Everything was gluten free, they used corn for their base grain. I was tickled pink with excitement. We ended up getting an order of each type of empanada to try out, (cheese or meat) which came with a side of guacamole. The server apologized they were out of the Angry Orchard Cider, but he did have wine, so he gave me his suggestion for a wine to go with our empanadas. We loved the empanadas, we were intrigued by the arepas so we split one of those as well, we had to try the sweet corn one with a spicy pork filling. They weren't kidding when they said Spicy Pork, the Pica'Pun sauce was hot, hot hot!! I really wish we had one of these around Chicagoland, cause I could eat there at least once a week, easily.

We went over to Kara's Cupcakes to get a snack to go, cause who doesn't love cupcakes for a midnight snack! The gluten free cupcakes were in a cake stand on top of the counter separate from the regular cupcakes. They had a variety of mini and regular size, as well as flavors of chocolate, vanilla, and coconut flavors available. I had to snag a vanilla coconut one for my midnight snack. I was glad we got the cupcakes early, when we stop back in the OPM later, they were out of the gluten free ones!

The gal who put our order together, right away put the gluten free cupcake into it's own box and even added a sticker that said Gluten Free on the top. I was very delighted to see their diligence in keeping the product separate. (We found a second Kara's Cupcakes by Ghiradelli Square in San Francisco as well, they were out of GF cupcakes by dinner time on Sunday.)

By the time we walked around the downtown of Napa, checked out the shops, and tasting rooms, we got back to our hotel in time for their evening tasting, and really didn't want to go far for dinner. So we walked over to the restaurant in the parking lot; Oventi Mediterranean 1990 Trower Ave.  Napa, CA. We've had good success with Mediterranean places in the past, so we went over, asked to see a copy of the menu to see if there were any safe items on the menu. One of the servers came over and asked us if he could help us in any way, so I asked him if they were able to do gluten free. He informed me he just served another gluten free meal right before we walked in, and that the chef could improvise anything on the menu to make sure it was safe for me. We'd picked out a few options that looked good to us, he went talked to the chef, and came back to let us know all of them were safe options. We were sold! I got a balsamic glazed chicken with green beans and mashed potatoes, my boyfriend got the curried chicken with basmati rice.

Both dishes were great, we had gotten a bottle of BV Coastal Pinot Nior, it made a great pairing to both dishes. We opt'd out of dessert since we had cupcakes waiting back in the room.

Day 2!

The hotel had a general continental breakfast, including hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, sausage, fruit, yogurt, and a variety of gluten-y pastries. I was content with some eggs, yogurt and fruit, so I didn't fill up too much before lunch. While walking around downtown Napa the day before we went to talk to the booking department for the wine train tours to see what the tours included, and if it was possible to accommodate allergies with their lunches, if they couldn't we'd have to come up with another tour idea. The girl right away said yes, they could accommodate allergies, that they do it regularly, and wanted to know what allergies we needed to accommodate for. We told her, just gluten free, she said that was one they did regularly. So we booked our tour! She noted on our reservation that we needed a gluten free meal.
When we got to the station the next morning to pick up our tickets, the girl who gave us the tickets confirmed that we had requested a gluten free meal. I was happy to know they did note it on the reservation. When we were seated on the train (which was really super fancy an cool) I asked the server which of the 5 lunch options was gluten free. He told me All of their sauces contained gluten, so I could order any entrée and the chef would make it with a red wine reduction sauce on the side in place of the listed sauce on the menu, and to order the salad, it was naturally GF. I got a NY strip steak, with kale chips, mashed potatoes and carrots. There was a slice of gorgonzola cheese across the top, which added with the sauce to the steak melted in your mouth.

Here's a glimpse of the scenery we were gazing at while eating. It was a cute tour! You got to go past the big wineries, and depending the tour you got to either get off and tour a winery, or just ride on the train and take in the scenery. 

They had 2 gluten free dessert options, they had crème brulee which I feel is my normal restaurant rating scale, we judge them on how good their crème brulee is, and if we will go back - LOL and they had a Panna Cotta, which I'd never had before. This one was vegan, and made with Coconut milk, it was more sorbet in texture than custard, but it was so refreshing. I give them 2 thumbs up and 4 dragonflies on dinning out scale for the amazing meal. The scenery and tour put it over the top for an amazing day with great food.

Since the train station for the wine tour is right by the OPM we went over there for a light snack when we got back from the tour, and to grab a pizza for later for snacking.
We went over to C CASA, and checked out their options. Also 100% gluten free, using corn as their base grain for many dishes.
We ended up picking up some more sweet treats of Mexican brownies and a coconut lime cake for snacks later, as well as getting an order of nacho's, a taco and some Omission beer!

Since Omission is from Portland, they are a more local beer available places in Northern California, and being from Chicago, Omission isn't in our normal rotation of gluten free beers you find at restaurants. 

The cool part of their menu was the unique flavors and tastes they had. The nachos were black and white bean, (no meat) and the taco my boyfriend had was an array of veggies with avocado being the main flavor.

We went for a walk to check out some of the tasting rooms near by, and did some wine tasting, some chocolate pairing, and decided we weren't really hungry for dinner, so we grabbed a pizza at Ca' Momi Entoeca to eat later back in our room. They advertise on their sign that they can do gluten free BUT it is prepared in a shared environment and cooked in a stone pizza oven where other pizzas are cooked. We thought we'd take a chance, since they had a pear and gorgonzola pizza that was calling our names. When we ordered the server made sure to point these facts out to us again, to make sure full disclosure was up front. We acknowledged the chances and took our pizza to go. It was good, and despite eating half of it on my own, I had no issues with it, since pizza is usually my nemesis when it comes to shared equipment foods.

Day 3!

We stopped by the continental breakfast real quick for some hard boiled eggs, fruit and yogurt again, before hitting the road to Sausalito. Gluten-Free living had an article and some fabulous pictures of food from Copita Tequileria y Comida in Sausalito, so we thought we'd check it out. It's hard to tell from my picture, but the bottom right corner of the menu mentions that everything on today's menu is gluten free. So we got some quesadilla's that really looked more like empanadas, veggie tacos, chips and guacamole, as well as some more Omission beer. The food was spicy and tasty, and we had a nice view of the water and people walking by from our seats on the patio.

This held us over to do the major "driving" sight seeing in San Fran, Coit Tower, Lombard Street, the Golden Gate, and the Painted Ladies. We found our hotel, checked in, and decided to wander towards dinner, possibly in China Town. We stared at the map on Find Me Gluten Free trying to locate a good place with possibly a few reviews to make us more secure on the establishment. We only found a couple, and nothing seemed 100% convincing for me, but we decided to try and see what we could find. We found 1 place E&O Asian Kitchen, nothing was jumping out as dishes I'd like, plus they just opened a location in Mount Prospect, IL walking distance from me, so we skipped that one. The second one we found on Find Me Gluten Free (Mikaku Restaurant) said they did not do gluten free at all, so we skipped that one. We found a place to sit down, and look at our options again. We saw Bamboo Asia was near by, but missed that since they are in the financial district, they are closed on weekends! aahhhhh!!!
At this point 100% determined to have Asian food we found Osha Thai; 4 Embarcadero Center, they do have other locations around the city - Made sure they were open, and walked in their direction. (If I didn't mention we walked to all these locations! I was so hungry by the time we got there!!!) We walked in and right away asked if they did gluten free and the hostess responded Yes like we were crazy for thinking they didn't! So we ended up getting dinner here. Fabulous Thai food, it's been a while since I had Thai so it was super refreshing and tasty, even a little spicy.

We got an order of their Spring Rolls, and I got the Totally Scallops, I'm not a big seafood fan, but I do like good scallops prepared with a good sauce. Delish!  

We had walked almost all the way to the Port of San Francisco, we decided to keep walking and go see the Bay Bridge with the current light display they have set up, and enjoy the gorgeous night.

Day 4!

We're almost done here! But not after our full day of adventuring the city. Our hotel in San Francisco did not provide a breakfast option, only tea and coffee service, so we opted to munch on some of the snacks we brought with, and some of the sweets we found in Napa. Then we started our venture to The American Grilled Cheese Kitchen, 2400 Harrison Street, in the Mission District. We'd called to confirm that this location had the gluten free bread, since the Gluten-Free Living magazine only mentioned The South Park Location. The Mission District is similar to the Pilsen neighborhood in Chicago, we walked through looked at the different street art and wandered over to the grilled cheese place. Wow, the bread was fluffy and tasted great!

Their special drink of the day was a raspberry lemonade, freshly squeezed it was nice refreshing choice.
We continued our day heading over to the Wharf, Pier 39, The Ferry building, around the Embarcadero to see the Cupid Span by Claes Oldenburg off the end of the Embarcadero by the Bay Bridge. While at The Ferry Building we did stop at Mariposa's Gluten baking Co. to pick up some baked goods for later, and stopped to get some frozen yogurt at Gott's Roadside.

There was still daylight left so we decided to go and find Ghiradelli Square and see what was around there. (Another Kara's Cupcake's) There are 3 spots you can order ice cream in Ghiradelli's, we happened to walk in upstairs where there was no line to order. I called it the gluten free entrance, since there was a line out the door to order downstairs where they were making fresh waffle bowls for sundae's! Then there was another non-waffle bowl sundae location across the square. We had a nice sundae to hold over our appetites until the sun set. The park right across from the square is a great location to watch the sunset.

We were debating what we wanted for dinner when my boyfriend joked "There was an In-N-Out Burger by the Wharf." I'm a sucker for anywhere I can get French fries, and I love their protein style wraps for their burgers. So after the sunset we headed our way back to the Wharf to get In-N-Out Burger.

That in a nutshell covers our San Francisco vacation, eating, sight seeing, and traveling. I was glad I packed snacks, I indulged in those when we had large gaps between some of our meals, as well as on the plane ride each way. It reminded me to make sure we do our research as best we can before we go, and to make sure we have a back up plan for when a restaurant doesn't work out.

Our next trip, just a short visit to New Jersey / New York next month, we went last year, and found some unique places to try, so I can't wait to see what this trip brings!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this post. I'm helping plan a San Fran trip for my sister. Three of the six of us have Celiac. It's nice to see we won't starve. ;)