Thursday, January 13, 2011

Gluten Free in SoCal - Part 1

Happy New Year everyone!

One of the reasons I've been absent for a while, is that my husband and I went to Southern California for 10 days over the New Year. We had a wonderful time visiting family and exploring Disneyland and other tourist attractions, and of course eating our way through Orange County (who needs pesky New Years resolutions, anyway??) ;-)

Given the topic of this blog -- you know I'll talk about the food.

The first leg of our trip, Thursday 12/30 through Monday 1/3, involved a lot of family events. We stayed with my husband's relatives in Yorba Linda, where I must say eating gluten free has never been so easy.

Thursday we flew out to California. We had two layovers, at Dulles and in Denver. When we bought the tickets six months ago, we logically thought that the extra layovers were worth saving $500 on two plane tickets. Let me tell you - they weren't. Lesson learned. With relatively short layovers and little chance of finding gluten free airport food, I made sure to pack a ton of snacks, even if they weren't the most healthy: popcorn, beef jerky, candy (Skittles, Jelly Belly, etc.), dried fruit, KIND bars and Ian's breakfast bars were on the list. And they got us through the first eight hours of our twelve hour day, but by the second layover my husband just wanted some real food (I couldn't blame him - KIND bars get old after a while, plus we were paranoid about eating them on the plane since they contain nuts, and scarfed them down in between flights). We hunted down a shop that sold plain garden salads with nothing remotely offensive on it, and Ken's salad dressings for my hubby, and I got a fruit cup. Then -- on to the next flight.

We landed at Ontario airport and drove to our hotel, then met a large group of his family at a Chinese restaurant. My husband's godmother had made arrangements, and they cooked my husband's dinner as a clean stir-fry in a white sauce with no additives. It wasn't necessarily the most interesting meal on the planet, but at that point shrimp, veggies and rice tasted heavenly.

On Friday, we had some time on our own before meeting his relatives for a New Years party. We found a pretty awesome mini golf and gaming place called Camelot in Anaheim (this picture is the building, isn't it cool?) and at lunch at a Mexican chain called Rubios (their allergen information is conveniently posted online). It was fast food, OK for a quick meal and tasty, but not much to write home about. My husband had the Nachos Grande and I had tacos. That night his thoughtful godmother made sure that there were plenty of gluten free options at the New Years party!

Saturday, we had breakfast at the Corner Bakery Cafe. You wouldn't think that would be a great place for someone who is celiac to dine at, but their website clearly marks gluten free, non dairy and vegetarian items on their menu (Note: they aren't clearly marked in the bakery, but you can ask to see a menu). We both had egg scrambles, which were very good, and they let us substitute fresh fruit for toast.

After breakfast, we headed down to Long Beach to check out the sights, including the Aquarium of the Pacific. It's a really cool place and I'd highly recommend checking it out - kids especially would love it, because there are a lot of exhibits where you can pet sharks and stingrays and other such creatures! Right next to the Aquarium is Bubba Gump's Shrimp Co, which was on our list of places to check out (and they fortunately have a gluten free menu!) My husband ordered the Accidental Fish and Shrimp, and I ordered the Fresh Red Snapper with Lobster Butter Sauce. Both were divine. And, of course, you can't go to Bubba Gump's without their spiked lemonade. :-)

For dinner, we checked out ZPizza. They have personal-pan pizza size gluten free crusts, thin and crispy and tasty, with a ton of toppings. We both got gluten free crusts to share, my husband got a sausage and mushroom pizza and I got the California pizza. Yum!

On Sunday, we tried The Original Pancake House for breakfast - I had read about them online and found out they had gluten free pancakes, which we absolutely had to try! They were delicious, but the portions were humongous - the two of us could have easily shared one dish. We ate lunch at my husband's godmother's house, and went for a group dinner to see some of my husband's family members off - we went to a BBQ place that, quite frankly, sucked. At least in regards to their gluten free selection - their BBQ sauce had gluten in it! My husband ordered a steak.

On Monday, his family wanted to go to the Original Pancake House, so we went again! This time, neither of us wanted a huge breakfast. I wanted just eggs over easy and bacon, and my husband only wanted an omelette. Lo and behold, pancakes even come with those! We were so stuffed we didn't even want to think about lunch that day. That afternoon we drove down to Carlsbad, and checked out the outlet stores. I made some pretty decent scores, including a $200 BCBG sweater for, oh, $25. :)

However, Monday night for dinner we checked out the Claim Jumper, another restaurant with a gluten free menu. My husband was extremely excited to order the California Quesadilla, because he hadn't had a restaurant quesadilla since being diagnosed celiac. He loved it. (I ordered off the non-gluten free menu this time, so no sharing for this meal).

After this point, we said goodbye to the rest of my husband's family, and went to downtown Anaheim for the rest of our trip.

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