This summer I have done a lot of traveling…more than I have done in a very long time. Granted, I have done road trips with the family to places within a 2 hour drive, but I really haven’t gone away far since being gluten free…and that was almost 10 years ago. If you don’t know my story, you can hear it on my podcast A Gluten Free Me, episode 1. So, with all my knowledge of gluten free living, I figured it would be fairly easy to find gluten free food while on the road in different states across the country, and I had hoped it would be without a lot of work. Let’s just say that I was wrong…very wrong.
The Fun I Had
Our first trip this summer was to California. I had figured that, since California is so liberal, in a sense, and very much in touch with the gluten free epidemic, that it would be extremely accommodating. Well, I was proven wrong. Our first night there, we strolled through the Gaslamp Quarters in San Diego and found restaurants that housed gluten free meals consisting of salads…no gluten free bread, no gluten free pastas, and I was frustrated. So, I got a salad with grilled chicken. Is was late and I figured it was a good choice being light and all. So I sucked it up and didn’t complain. The next day was we were at the San Diego Zoo. What a beautiful place. Really! The rolling hills, the exhibits, all breathtaking, as was most of California, I might add. It was a full morning of walking and building up an appetite. And then lunchtime came. There weren’t many choices, so another salad with grilled chicken it was. But the chicken tasted very weird…so I only ate a few bites, and threw the rest out. And that was enough to cause damage by way of food poisoning. For the rest of the trip to Cali. It hit when my husband and I went out for sushi that same night. Horrible, right? Over the course of the week, my appetite went in and out. We had gone out to one Italian place in LA…a very hip area, and as my family was ordering these amazing deep dish Chicago pizzas, I had to create my own version of chicken parm…but without the breading, the fried cooking part, and no pasta. It was gross, and after the food poisoning incident with the chicken, it was hard to eat it. I only ate one meal a day. I will say that I was able to find gluten free restaurants more in San Francisco than in LA or San Diego. I began doing research, and told my family that we were going to certain places because I want to be able to eat the way they eat…except without the gluten. They obliged…most of the time. Sometimes it was a fight.
One place that I must tell you about is Mariposa bakery. It is located in the Ferry Building Marketplace, not far from the wharf and where you catch the ferry to Alcatraz. I had heard about this place from a blogpost I read, and was instantly intrigued. My plan was to get there on the first day in San Fran and stock up on delicious goodies for the remainder of our trip. Well, because of time, we got there the second to last day, however I spent a good amount of time (and money) there, my first purchase being a gluten free bagel with cream cheese and lox. It was amazing. I then purchased au pain chocolate, a soft pretzel, a croissant, chocolate chip cookies and 4 more au pain chocolates on a second trip back that day. The great thing is they have mail order which I plan to utilize. California was definitely a learning experience in the sense that I have to be more prepared…stocked up on snacks and ready with a list of restaurants in the area that are good for me. Thank goodness for the Find Me Gluten Free app (which I used in the latter part of the trip.. If you don’t have that app on your phone, download it. Where ever you are, and where ever you are travelling, this app will find restaurants that cater to a gluten free lifestyle).
Then, I went to Las Vegas with my husband at the end of July. The last time we were there was back in 1999…I know…I’m dating myself. That was before I was gluten free and before I really could enjoy Vegas in it’s entirety. This time around, we knew we wanted to take in the sights, the food, and all that Vegas can offer a couple looking to have fun (but not too much fun, although what happens in vegas stays in vegas). Being the foodie that I am, I had scoped out a bunch of places that catered to my gluten free lifestyle…and there were so many. Little did I realize that there were so many restaurants on the strip by my favorite chef ever. Gordon Ramsey. Now…don’t judge me, but I would eat anything this man creates…within humanitarian reason. Our first meal in Vegas was at Gordon Ramsey Burger. It was a little while after arriving at our hotel and I had a major headache that was turning into a migraine. I always get a headache when I fly, and this was a combination of jet lag and exhaustion and being extremely hungry. So when we got to the restaurant which, I have to add, I screamed when I saw it, I felt the need to stick to my gluten free diet, and order a Portobello mushroom burger on a lettuce bun. And then I thought about it. How often will I get the chance to eat at Gordon Ramsey’s Burger place? I really need to take advantage of this…so I I cancelled the Portobello burger and got a turkey burger with a special sauce and typical burger accouterments (you know, lettuce, tomato, red onion, pickles). I have to say, that although the burger was amazing, I was only able to eat half mainly because my head was pounding and the bread from the roll filled me up so fast. Let me back track, if you have heard my story I do not have Celiac disease. I was never tested, nor are my symptoms as extreme as people with Celiac. I consider myself to have a gluten intolerance, where I get bloated, heady, and very uncomfortable in the abdominal area. So, I was willing to risk that for some amazing food that I won’t get the chance to eat again…for a long time. The rest of the trip I kept to my diet. I made sure to eat gluten free and somewhat healthy. I had snacks with me that kept me energized, but my main focus while walking around in Vegas on a summer day in July was to remain hydrated. That’s a hard thing to do in the desert. I can’t begin to tell you how dehydrated I was…and that’s with drinking a lot of water all day long. Anyway, I digress. My last meal was on our anniversary. It was a celebration dinner at Gordon Ramsey Steak (can you tell I am obsessed with him a little bit?). I looked on the menu and saw everything I wanted to eat which were all gluten free. And then it happened. The waiter brought out fresh bread prepared in the kitchen. I eyed it. Told myself no, and then said, “Screw it!” I indulged one more time. Did I feel bad about it? Not really…but there was this little voice saying that I should not be eating that…the same voice I heard at the burger place. But again…how often am I going to dine at Gordon Ramsey’s Steakhouse? Seriously…I had to take advantage of it.
The Lessons I Learned
Because I don’t have Celiac Disease, I have a little more room for treating myself (I say treating because cheating has such a negative connotation to it and we often punish ourselves for it. This is a place not for punishment, but for making choices). I chose to treat twice…and other times I stayed strict to my dietary lifestyle. I had gluten free pizza. I had a turkey burger on a gluten free bun at Guy Fieri’s restaurant, and the chef at the breakfast buffet made me special gluten free French toast as per my request. So, I know what I am supposed to do, and for the most part, it wasn’t hard to remain on my lifestyle. I chose to indulge, as I said before. However, those of you out there that do not have that choice, can enjoy restaurants like Ramsey Steak, Ramsey Burger, Guy Fieri’s Vegas, a pizza place and a breakfast place in LA and many many others. The key is to do research. Download the Find Me Gluten Free app, and got to their website, also. Make sure you plan ahead, and although it was a hard lesson for me while in California, I thoroughly enjoyed it and made sure to get the most out of my Vegas trip. I am still feeling the results of glutening myself. My tummy is bloated, I have foggy brain at times, and headaches, but I don’t regret a thing. If you are, in fact, glutened (and not by choice) I learned from my friend Taylor Miller of GlutenAway that you can take activated charcoal, which will neutralize your stomach and alleviate any pains related to glutening.
It Comes Down To This
It’s not about eating everything in sight. It’s about enjoying your travels…staying focused on your goals and your health. Being prepared. Doing your research. Traveling doesn’t have to be scary. You can remain on your lifestyle, continue to thrive and enjoy your vacation or trip, and eat amazingly well while maintaining a gluten free diet.It’s not hard. It just takes a little extra work and will-power to seek out your people and the places that will support you. I promise you, they are out there, ready to serve you an amazing gluten free meal. My question to you, as I bring this blogpost to a close, is where have you traveled that was gluten free friendly? And on the opposite spectrum, where did you go that shunned gluten free thrivers? I would love to hear from you, and create a list of gluten free friendly places to go when traveling throughout the US or even to other countries. Let’s help our fellow gluten free thrivers enjoy their travels.