Thursday, December 3, 2015

Indianapolis Road Trip

Indianapolis ROAD TRIP! – Every year we travel from Chicago to Indianapolis for a Good Old Fashion NASCAR weekend with friends. The nice thing is I’m not the only person with food restrictions in our group, and my brother and Sister-In-Law go with so they are very well versed in eating out with me, so I always have allies on my side. We usually stop in Merriville to get candy from the Albanese Candy Factory and stop to eat, this time we ate before we got that far, so we didn’t actually eat again until we got to Indianapolis. 1st place we went was Scotty’s Bar and Grill – It was based on a travel recommendation from a fellow Celiac dinner. When I looked up their menu I was in Heaven. There were quite a few options that sounded so good. I had to go big or go home, with my old time favorite appetizer, Nachos. I love nachos when eating out, I could eat them all day long. That paired with an Omission beer (Yes I’m one of those who don’t react to Omission, but a crumb on my plate will kill me for days) just made the 7 hours of horrible traffic and traveling seem worth it all. The waitress figured right away that I had Celiac because “those are the only people who order Omission. She even checked on my food when it was brought out to make sure I had the Tri Colored nacho chips so they weren’t fried in a shared fryer. I highly recommend getting the nachos if you go there! 

We always go to the Waffle House right by our hotel for breakfast. This can seem scary, it was for me the first time. But we learned the manager’s brother has a food allergy. When giving them my order of Scrambled eggs, hash browns (chunked and covered) and a side of bacon I make sure to tell them “No Toast, I’m allergic” – This isn’t the place to get into a long discussion on food intolerance and what happens. They always tell me they will Red Flag my meal and I’ve never had an issue with a meal there. The fact that I can watch them make my food at the bar does make me feel better. 

Lunches are generally snacks and food I pack for the day since the race track doesn’t have GF offerings and I’m not willing to chance it there.
Dinner on the Saturday is always at BJ’s Brewhouse. Our goal on this trip was to leave room for a Pizookie! I always salivate over their broccoli cheddar soup, but it use to only be available on Monday’s. Now it’s a regular item on their menu. I had to get a cup of soup, even though it was 95 degrees out. I got the balsamic chicken sans the fried onion straws. I’ve had this here before and liked it before. This time it was SO SALTY, I just couldn’t eat it. I tried, but was very disappointed in the meal this time. I definitely had room for the Pizookie. I could probably have just done soup and the Pizookie, which I may do next time.

Dinner the next night was at Cheeseburger in Paradise, it was close to the hotel, and all the locations around Chicago have closed, so it was a nice treat. They have a dedicated fryer for their French fries, which sounded so good! I’ll admit I couldn’t finish my burger but the food was tasty, and the server was very friendly and announced my burger as Gluten Free when it arrived. 

Monday we had a late lunch, early dinner and stopped at Puccini’s Smiling Teeth in Carmel, just North of Indianapolis. We discovered this place last year, and were eager to go back. Their pizza both gluten free and regular are quite unique and so tasty. Gluten Free pizza’s come out having been cooked in their own pan with a clean spatula, which is designated for that pizza alone. They even have several appetizers and pasta choices that can be made gluten free. We look forward to coming hear each year now. 

On our drive home, since we got a later start than we wanted, and we made a few stops along the way we stopped in Merriville at Chik-Fil-A and got a quick dinner, Grilled nuggets, waffle fries and a side of Chik-Fil-A Sauce hit the spot, oh and a splurge for a peach shake!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Benihana's GF Options Available

Finding a fun and entertaining place to go out to dinner with a group can be a challenge. Especially when you start looking at ethnic cuisine. A couple years ago my brothers girlfriend wanted to go to Benihana’s for her birthday. She called asked a million questions, and found out they have GF soy sauce and could prepare a safe meal…. OK… Now the question is how…. Well that time the server came over and told me they’d make mine in the back in a dedicated Wok and my food would arrive when everyone else was served theirs. 

Benihana’s is a great place for a party or celebration because you do get the cooking show while you wait, and the staff is a blast. Luckily around Chicagoland we have several locations, I’ve been to the Wheeling, Schaumburg and Oakbrook Locations. All with no issues. Our last visit was extra special. When we got there I advised the host I had a “gluten allergy” and he nodded with agreement, not saying there would be an issue. When we were seated I let Jackson our server know I have a “Gluten allergy, and it makes me really sick….” Before I could finish he said “OH I know, my sister has Celiac Disease!” AWESOME!!! 

He assured me my meal would be safe, and advised me that their salad dressing has Soy Sauce in it so he’d bring out vinegar and oil for dressing. Also that their Garlic sauce not the Ginger Sauce was safe too. When it was time to take our orders he asked if everyone was OK with having their meals made with Gluten Free Soy Sauce and regular butter instead of garlic butter. Everyone in our group said they were OK with that. Which meant he could make my meal right in front of us too!! 

We watched the chef Re-Clean the grill for us and showed us the Soy Sauce was safe. Though I did ask like 3 times. Our server also brought out Egg Drop Soup for me in place of the regular soup, since the soup has gluten in it. The whole meal was amazing I didn’t get sick and the staff was very understanding. 

I give them 4 Dragonflies Not only did they deliver an amazing meal, but I got to see the whole thing come together and knew it was as safe as my cooking at home.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Washington DC Does Gluten Free

WickedWaffle - This is a nice little dive breakfast place. Dive is even too big of a word, with a total 8 seats inside, they have more seating when it is warm outside. But the menu does note which waffles can be made Gluten Free. Plus the staff is aware on keeping GF waffles on their own waffle iron. Talking to the guy at the counter they have people come in daily asking for gluten free waffles. They are open for both breakfast and lunch as they can make savory waffle sandwiches. The waffle itself. Delicious. It was rich, I couldn't resist not getting a Nutella Waffle. It was amazing. It really hit the spot. We got a side of eggs and cheese, which were your traditional egg sandwich egg patties with cheese on them. But they were enough saltiness to hit the spot. 

We went on Exploring going to the National Geographic Museum and heading over to Union Station to get our Explorer Passes. While there we debated a couple of our usual options from home, Roti or Chipotle, when I saw a new place I'd read about; ShopHouse. An Asian Fusion restaurant from Chipotle, which with the same style of "build your own" meals they provide Asian style bowls. The best part, EVERYTHING is gluten free! I felt like a small child with my excitement that I could get anything without asking lots of questions and order straight off the menu, no Substitutions. I had to get the peanut chicken bowl. They were out of brown rice, but I was OK with that. The meal was glorious. I recently heard they are coming to Chicago, and I'm highly anticipating this now!

We wandered over to the Postal Museum then decided to pick up the Hop-On Hop-Off buss tour and went down to the National Mall. We were there until dark and started to walk back to our hotel, I must note that I had reached my target Fitbit steps about 6 hours earlier, by now I think they were tripled. Wow we did a lot of walking. On our way back we found GCDC, (which is Grilled Cheese, DC). We felt we had earned and indulging meal so this was it. They did have GF bread, and handled my grilled cheese with caution and on separate plates, pans and utensils. I actually had 2 grilled cheese sandwiches, mostly because my 2 sandwiches were comparable to the 1 sandwich my boyfriend had, and price was comparable. They also had Crispin Cider, I will say the first one was great for quenching my thirst, it was one of the times that cider was actually tasty and refreshing.

The next morning we opted for a closer breakfast option and ate in the fancy restaurant in our hotel. I went for the safest looking option on the menu Eggs, Potatoes and Bacon. When our server came over I questioned him that the meal could be made Gluten free. He pointed out that their hashbrown potatoes are flash fried in a shared fryer before they sautee them so they wouldn't be safe. Instead he brought out a generous portion of fruit to replace the potatoes. The meal hit the spot and was great for our next day of adventures. 

We really didn't do lunch, we spent the day going to Lincoln Memorial, The National Mall again, WWII Memorial, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, International Spy Museum, and National Archives, along the way we stopped and grabbed some drinks, chips and ice cream. It satisfied our hunger while we traveled on.

When we finally were done wandering we decided to check out Legal Seafood. I had heard they could do awesome GF FRIED options and they even had GF bread. We were slightly disappointed to see that coconut shrimp was not an option, but they did have other tasty options. Their menu is a bit pricey and for people who aren't really seafood lovers, (unless it's breaded and fried) it's not a place we'd visit often, but not having a location in Chicago this was a must try. Our server was polite and when I mentioned having Celiac he informed the manager and the cook, we were seated right outside the kitchen so I heard the "Gluten allergy" warning shouted out. So I was rather disappointed when the bread brought to our table was noted to be gluten free, but was not! Thankfully my boyfriends first question was "Does it smell gluten free?" I smelled it and said "No... It doesn't...." when our server came over, he apologized and told me the gluten free bread would be out in a few. It did it wasn't as great as everyone said it was, I have had better. Dinner made up for it. It was Amazing! I was disappointed I couldn't finish the last piece of fish. I went traditional and just did Fish and Chips. They came out with fried onion straws on top, OMG hit the spot. The best part was I didn't get a stomach ache from the greasiness of the food!!

The next morning we went to The Old Ebbit Grill, it was closer to the National Building Museum our first stop for the day. It was a 40 minute wait for the dinning room, or immediate seating at the bar. We went for the bar. It's a very "East Coast" style meal, oysters and eggs, crab cakes, fish and eggs... My boyfriend and I both went with the Healthy start, Egg White Omelet, and Turkey sausage and fruit. When I ordered the Bartender called out "Allergy" and asked if we were both Gluten allergic. We said no, just me. My meal came out first with the runner calling out "Allergy" before me placed down my meal. The bartender brought over my meal and said the non-allergy would come out next. They bring them out separately to ensure the correct meal is given to the right person. Tasty food. The funny part is for a "healthy" omelet. It certainly tasted like they made it omelet in full on butter, it was rich! We continued on to the National Building Museum and the Newseum, we had some time before their 4D movie started so we opted for some Ice cream to quench our hunger, and continued on the Smithsonian Castle/visitor center and Modern Art Museum. By then we were hungry and tired, and it was getting chilly out. We went for our favorite standby meal Chipotle. Chilling in our room and relaxing before heading out for some drinks.

Sunday we opted for checking out the Capitol grounds and Supreme court buildings, and doing some shopping before we headed to Roti for a quick lunch, before heading back to the airport to start on our return to normal life. I enjoyed DC they had some nice options for dinning out and everyone seemed in the Know!

Monday, November 2, 2015

5 Years Gluten Free.

A story 5 years in the making. The story, my life gluten free. 5 years ago today I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. I had no idea what that diagnosis would mean at the time. I had never heard of it before, and couldn’t spell it. I remember clearly, a co-worker of my dad’s had suggested I ask the doctor about a wheat allergy because his wife had one, and a lot of my pain and struggles sounded like what she went through. It sounded crazy to me. We live in a world where wheat is like the center of life. They tell us eating whole wheat bread is better than white, wheat pasta is healthier than regular, and now you’re telling me people are “allergic” to it? The doctor made me come in and get my diagnosis after my biopsy and blood test. I sat there almost numb. I didn’t know what this meant, or what I was to do next. The doctor told me to go to Trader Joe’s and talk to them about eating gluten free, and what foods were safe. Trader Joe’s had a nice list, but then made me wonder, is this the only place I can shop now? They didn’t have the nice variety of special items they have now: Beer, cupcakes, brownies, brownie mix… But we started to Google and scrounge the grocery store.

The first trip to the store we honestly stared at every label, we read every can, box, bag, you name it. We found some we didn’t know for sure, we took pictures and when we got home started sending emails. We wrote a forum letter and just started seeing what information we could get back. Most companies did send us replies. Within my first week we messed up, my meal came with breadcrumbs on it. I took them off and started eating. The horrible insatiable pains came back. I wanted to die, it hurt so bad. I was sitting in Borders Book Store trying to read up on Celiac Disease, living the pains of being glutened. Little by little it got better, though accidents still happen. That was really the turning point of, OK this is not something to mess with, that it’s all or nothing. Accidental glutening effects everyone differently an depending how well healed you are it affects you differently, the longer I’m gluten free as an accident happens it feel worse than the previous exposure.

There are days I feel exhausted explaining myself for the 200th time on what gluten is, and why I can’t have it. There are days I throw myself little pity parties cause I hate not having options on the go, at the airport, at a party. We look for all the things that look safest and supplement with snacks I keep in my purse. I get super excited when I see Gluten Free Beer on a menu, even if it’s a beer that I don’t like that much, it’s still there. I’ve had to learn how to be creative with making meals from scratch to satisfy a craving. I’ve had some really awesome supportive friends and family along the way that have helped make the journey easier. Even if it’s someone who refuses food with me so that I have someone to eat with later. Or someone who orders gluten free off the menu so we can share food with each other. Or just a simple question to make sure a party has gluten free options that everyone will enjoy.

For us with Celiac Disease it’s a journey, it’s a lifestyle, it’s more than a diet. A diet you can have a bad day and cave to “cheat”. There is no cheating in my world. There is a definitive no. The fad diets have helped to bring some new attention to the gluten free market but also more issues. More places offer gluten free options, but you have to research and make sure they are safe. Some places just throw the term out there and assume everyone will come running and thanking them for their offers. But really unless it’s prepared safely it’s just as dangerous, because it will make us sick still. It’s highly disheartening because something will look so great, and so promising only to let you down in the long run.

I’m glad there is a lot of information out there on how to live gluten free, and how to manage the lifestyle. It has taken some intuition and some creative thinking. I hope the next 5 years are smoother than the previous; but all and all after the first year things got a lot easier as I learned my limitations and how to handle social situations and people who can just be mean, but you take the good with the bad, put on your big girl panties, and tell yourself “I’ve got this!”