Monday, September 19, 2011

Finally made it to Portland!

Be aware that wheat free is not the same as gluten free 
Finally made it to Portland! Yesterday my friend Aaron emailed me saying, “you seem to have immersed yourself in a campaign against gluten… what gives?” Well…good question. am I doing this trip? Part of me needed to get away and just let my car drive wherever it wants to, and maybe let my brain do the same. Having just taken the bar I had the need to get away from the place where I kept to a strict routine of studying twelve hours a day. Though the exam was over, I still felt that I needed to get away. Not eating gluten  has made me feel healthier, even though I may or may  not have a gluten allergy, for the simple reason that I am watching what goes into my food.

So I answered him, “It seemed like a cool thing to do.” With celiac’s disease diagnosis on the rise, and gluten allergy awareness higher than ever before, it seemed like an interesting goal for my little adventure.

Doing a little job searching
So it goes, now I'm a little more than halfway through my trip. Here's a recap of the last couple of days:  
On Friday I drove out to San Francisco with my sister (who actually did the driving).We stopped at what seemed like a coffee shop in the trendy Knob Hill area called Sugar Café
Sugar Cafe at night

This spot actually turned into a lounge on us as the evening wore on, with dimmed lights and a cozy fireplace. After a bit of sipping iced green tea and a bit of napping, my sister’s friend who just moved up to the city met us at the café. 

Knob Hill Thai restaurant

From there we went to a Thai restaurant and had some yummy gluten free food. It turns out that most Thai food is a safe bet for a gluten free diet because Thai cuisine uses rice noodles and instead of soy sauce (which has gluten)nd the food was affordable! they use oyster sauce. Everything tasted delicious, the atmosphere was great, the company was the best, a the food gluten free!

Guava Jarrito and taquitos rancheros, yum!

Saturday morning we headed to brunch at the quaint Black Bear Diner with some friends. If any of you have been there you know that breakfast there feels like a cross between critter country and an upscale IHOP. Food was great, I had a farmer’s scramble which came with sweet fresh fruit. Knowing that I had a long drive the next morning I opted to stay in for the evening and prepare some gluten free bon-bons for my sister and her roommate as a thank you for showing me a great time. As I sat around reading Julie and Julia, I felt a deeper sense of respect for Julia Childs and almost wanted to try all of the recipes from her cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. After a couple of hours of making the bon-bons I decided against the idea.

The next day I slept in, (I only woke up at 7!) so quickly got up and got dressed. My sister woke up, half asleep, and we said goodbye as I finished up my breakfast. Then I was out the door. The drive began. The five freeway has much more impressive scenery the further up north you get. I drove straight past Ashland and stopped in the next town over. In Medford I picked up a tasty little (?) snack of taquitos rancheros, which I ate as I kept driving. And kept driving. Finally, around 4:30 pm I made it to my first real stop in Coravallis, which is where Oregon State University is located and so is my hotel. I checked in and got back on the road to Portland, this time the drive only took an hour.

Finally I made it! I was in Portland. Of course I stopped at a Starbucks. A whole city of great gluten free options and I choose Starbucks. I guess after such a long drive, being very far from home, I relished the thought of being in a comfortable and familiar place. As I sat in the small coffee shop downtown, I looked into some dinner options. Eat Pizza had a "like" from NPR on facebook and the menu sounded good so I drove a couple of miles to the restaurant.  

Exhausted, I sat down in the kitchen area on a stool by the pizza cooks. Three young guys took my order, showed me their pizza making skills, and let me take pictures of the kitchen! I ordered the buffalo chicken gluten free pizza. Wanting to stay and chat with the pizza chefs about Portland, I decided it was probably a better idea to get back to the hotel because I might pass out in the middle of my pie.

Somehow, as you can imagine, I was too tired to make it to the Mt. Angel Oktoberfest. Can’t get everything on a tight schedule, but I will come back another year to check it out! Hopefully there will be a better selection of gluten free beer by then.

On to Bend, Oregon this morning and then to Crater Lake National Park which is in central Oregon.

Halloween Bon Bons:

1. Prepare a gluten free muffin or cake mix according to instructions. I added some chocolate chips and finely diced strawberries.

2. Generously butter the pan, it will help getting the cake out later. Follow baking instructions. Three quarters of the way through flip the cake over in the pan to get it cooked throughout.

3. Cut off the crust of the cake and crumble the insides into a bowl.
Halloween bon bons :D

4. Using half of the crumbs, prepare one inch balls. Add a half of a shot of whiskey to the rest of the crumbles. Form one inch balls with the remaining crumbles.

5. Leave the balls in freezer for one hour. Take out four at a time to coat. I melted some purple molding chocolate to cover the regular balls and covered the whiskey balls with sprinkles and purple sugar.

6. Serve and enjoy!

Friday, September 16, 2011

I'll be gone till (september)

As I was packing up my car at 5:30 a.m. yesterday, I realized I was packing up my life. It might have been the early hour but I felt something momentous about putting my luggage in the trunk of my little Honda. I was embarking on a trip, on my own. A road trip all by myself. Given, I would be spending a good chunk of time with my sister, I still had quite a trip ahead of me. I knew the perfect distraction to pass the time. My favorite about part road trips has to be the music. I remember growing up we would have four or five albums in the car stereo (Backstreet boys, N*SYNC, The Strokes, Matchbox 20, and some assorted Hebrew music). I knew the lyrics to those albums backwards and forwards. I thought for a while about what music I would listen to and settled on a book of mix tapes (a.k.a. my favorite mixed c.d.s).
When I moved back home I spent a couple of weeks reorganizing my room, well, it was more like a couple of months. Every time I moved my furniture I would find something I hadn’t seen in years. But the best find was definitely my c.d. collection. Yes compact discs will be an obsolete technology in the near future but those songs are a patchwork of history, each album related to a different period in my life. I listened to mixed c.d.’s boys I liked made me and those I made for myself, each time revisiting those relationships. Most of all, I loved the mixed c.d.s my sister made me (she has always been the cooler sister).
Driving down the 101 south at the break of dawn, I needed something to pick me up. The first c.d. I popped in my stereo began with Wyclef Jean’s Gone ‘till November. A little bit of Alicia Keys, a little bit of T.I… what a great mix! Thanks sis, you know exactly what I love. Before I knew it, five hours had passed and I was already in Santa Snella where I stopped to grab a bite. Yes, I had Pea Soup Andersons again, what can I say, I love me some pea soup!
I made it to Davis in record time, but the drive made me pretty exhausted. My sister showed me around but it didn’t take very long. I planned to head out to Sacramento today but another drive sounded exhausting. Just lazying around the city today… picked up some groceries for a yummy gluten free dinner from an amazing grocery store called “Nugget” that carries organic and health food products within a modest price range.  Looking forward to going to San Francisco tomorrow and the farmer’s market in town on Saturday! Then, Portland, Bend, and maybe Redding! Somehow I have to get back to Los Angeles by September 27, since I promised my mom I would be back for our family dinner that night. So my little adventure begins…

Saturday, September 10, 2011

West Coast Itinerary Set

Planning a road trip is a little more complicated than just getting into my car and driving off, I am slowly finding out. Having just come from Missouri, I need to change my plates. But before I change my plates, I have to get my (new) car smog checked. Then the check engine light comes on. Then I go to the DMV and lo and behold, the VIN on my lease does not match my registration.

Well, working on the VIN issue may take a while but at least it turned out the check engine symbol was really a maintenance light telling me it’s time for my first oil change. Honda is quite the efficient company. Too bad they couldn’t get my lease right!

Anyways, back to the fun stuff!

First part of the road trip set: LA  Santa Cruz  Davis  San Francisco  Ashland  Portland
Having a ginormous merengue and perusing some travel books at Champagne Bakery and Cafe, where I worked in high school

Looking forward to seeing some beautiful places and grabbing some delicious treats along the way!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

86 the Gluten and the Cheese

Small g free snack at the Reagan Library that kept me going.
My employed friends all had a day off Monday, but no plans for the long weekend... that means impromptu day trips!

First was a trip to the Reagan Library Friday (that was a trip I made by myself), then there was the Malibu day with a couple of girlfriends, and finally, there was Solvang and the famous Pea Soup Andersons!

With all these events planned, I figured that this weekend would be an opportunity to test the waters with the gluten free road trip.

Damn, those tortilla chips had gluten. Going to restaurants is tough because you never know what they’re going to serve you. I took a daytrip with my friend Jane yesterday to the Danish town of Solvang to try the pea soup at Pea Soup Andersen's Restaurant and ordered one of the things on the menu I know usually is "g free," nachos! I asked them to 86 the cheese and to put avocado’s instead. My eyes beaming with pride when the delicious nachos came out, I showed my friend how easy it was to order a gluten free dish! Of course, I doused them with hot sauce and salsa.

But, to my dismay, the nachos were not made of corn, but of flour! What was I to do. I just ate around the nachos. Eating around the gluten may be an option for those with a minor gluten allergy, but not for someone with celiacs.

For someone with celiacs a mistake like that means eating what you ordered and suffering from a stomach ache all night. Or, even worse for someone who recently only found out they have a gluten allergy, having to explain to the waitress to take the food back because they have a "disease" that does not allow them to eat wheat.

To avoid this situation entirely, be sure to ask for a gluten free menu. Most chains will have a special separate menu listing the items that do not have gluten or list the modifications that can be made so that the dishes could be gluten free. Good examples are Chili’s, P.F. Changs, Cheesecake Factory, Outback Steakhouse, … (the list goes on).

Vacationers who don’t want to worry about finding a gluten free restaurant can go to a supermarket or Costco before heading out for the day and grab lots of food, stick it in a cooler, and set out for the day. Yesterday, a couple of my friends came to visit and I took them on a tour of Malibu… you know, all the beach spots that locals love. Though I was watching my gluten intake before, it was the first day I really tried to eliminate every trace of gluten from my diet. So, we went to Costco and grabbed some margarita mix, a couple platters of sushi, asparagus hummus dip, some potato chips, and any other g free snacks we found. Armed with all of our supplies, we headed to Leo Carillo to start our lazy beach day. It was packed with windsurfers surfers because of the big waves, making the view even more amazing (there were at least fifteen at any given time!). I had so much fun on my beach day escape from the real world with two of my favorite girlfriends!

My lazy weekend turned out a great success. I got my fill of beach time in and a nice bronze tan (or as close to bronze as I could get). Oh, and the pea soup was delicious!

Great find: Aebleskiver pan to make gluten free treats at home!
Tune in next week and I’ll have my official travel plans for the west coast leg of the trip