Posts Tagged Amsterdam

A European Gluten-Free Adventure – 2010

Note: This is a guest post from my dear friend Clara Putnam. She and daughter Jenna are another gluten-free mother and daughter team. This is a chronicle of the trip that Clara, husband Steve, and Jenna made to Europe to visit son/brother Eric.
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    Last spring, we decided we would make the trip to Germany to visit our son, Eric, who is stationed with the Air Force at Ramstein AFB. This was our first international travel ever, so we did have concerns about being able to find gluten-free foods during our trip. We convinced ourselves that if nothing else, we could happily subsist on baked potatoes and salads for the 10-day trip. I even had the fleeting thought that maybe I could go to Europe and lose weight – what a great deal that would be!

Ramstein Air Force Base - Germany

Ramstein Air Force Base - Germany

    We were very encouraged and excited when we discovered that the airline had gluten-free meals as an option. In reality, however, the meals were disappointing and very bland in flavor. On the trip over (we actually traveled in mid-July), we were served a tuna steak (problem No. 1; neither daughter Jenna nor I are fish fans), tiny salad, some fruit and the obligatory rice cake. (I gladly gave up my rice cake to the very unhappy 2-year-old across the aisle from me; on both of our flights, they served the specially requested trays before the general diet trays.) Breakfast on that flight was equally unimpressive: I think it was an attempt at a ranchero-style omelet. I can’t remember what else was offered for breakfast.

    Needless to say, Jenna and I were starving upon our arrival in Frankfurt! Fortunately, Eric knew the way to the airport McDonald’s for some eggs & coffee. Jenna says it was the best bacon she’s ever had.

    Our first morning at the hotel, we were very pleased/relieved to find that the breakfast offerings were varied, and we had no trouble eating gluten-free. There were eggs, meats, cheeses and fresh fruits every day, not to mention the best coffee! We were also able to eat the granola they offered without any gluten issues arising – it was delicious!

    During our time in Europe, we were food wimps – that is to say, not very adventurous. Our first evening in Ramstein, Eric took us to a very nice food stand in the village. I was determined to have “real” bratwurst and sauerkraut while in Germany. No sauerkraut was available at this stand, so I ordered just the bratwurst. It had some kind of hard, crouton-like coating. After the first couple of bites (which were delicious!!), I gave it up, knowing that I was flirting w/disaster.

    One evening, we stopped in at the airbase commissary and picked up some deli meats and cheeses and had a very pleasant picnic beside a pond on base. Eric introduced us to the Mexican Cantina in Einsiedlerhof, another village close to the base. It’s a very kitschy place that had delicious food and the most delightful waitstaff – they thoroughly enjoyed their tasks, and all spoke perfect English (the girl who brought our sodas even had a Midwestern accent!).

Jenna with Cantina Guy

Jenna with Cantina Guy

    One evening, we went to dinner with a friend of Eric’s to Big Emma’s. The single portions were enough to feed at least four people. I finally got my authentic bratwurst (without the crouton coating) and sauerkraut (which was delicious!!), but only ate about a fourth of the plateful. Eric took all our leftovers back to his dorm, where they were enjoyed by many others. Here’s a pic of Jenna’s turkey salad, which consisted of huge chunks of turkey on a bed of lettuce:

Jenna's Big Emma Turkey Salad

Jenna's Big Emma Turkey Salad

    On base, there is a Chili’s and a Macaroni Grill, both of which were safe for g-f selections.

    During a tour of Kaiserslautern, Eric introduced us to the wonder of the Turkish delight, the Döner sandwich – yumm!! This is a huge tortilla, filled with thinly sliced lamb, your choice of toppings, and a very tasty garlic sauce. Since one Döner is large enough for two, Jen and I opened up the tortilla and ate all the insides. Notice our teeny little forks. We indulged in a couple of these during our visit:

Wonderful Doner!!

Wonderful Doner!!

    We toured the local supermarket in Ramstein village, and were very impressed with the produce section – all the offerings were picture-perfect – quite a sight to behold compared to our so-so offerings lots of the time.

Produce Dept. at Ramstein Village Grocery Store

Produce Dept. at Ramstein Village Grocery Store

    We took a 2-day trip to Amsterdam. Directly across from our hotel was the Hard Rock Café, where we had a fun dinner thanks to our waitress, Emma. The next day, it was a challenge finding g-f breakfast fare. We were too early for cafes to be open. We passed several bakeries where beautiful pastries were being offered. The McDonald’s we found didn’t open until 10am for breakfast. We eventually waited for McDonald’s to open, tho the guys also enjoyed some bakery treats.

    After touring Rembrandt’s house, it was time for lunch. Across the street was a safe-looking café (I was paranoid about anything that mentioned “coffee house” in the name!). Jenna and I were hungry for breakfast food, since we had been cheated out of a really good breakfast that a.m., so we each got an egg plate – 3 fried eggs, ham, cheese and slaw.

Lunch across the street from Rembrandt's House

Lunch across the street from Rembrandt's House

    We had no idea how much food we were ordering, so we also ordered a bowl of potatoes. They were served w/a side of mayo! It was all wonderful too!

Wonderful potatoes to go with that lunch!

Wonderful potatoes to go with that lunch!

    We were fed a very forgettable gluten-free chicken dish on the flight back to Houston. It was O.K., tho, because we knew we’d soon be home. It was a very exhausting day back, but we brought many wonderful memories with us.

Clara, Jenna, Eric & Steve Putnam
Clara, Jenna, Eric & Steve Putnam

    And yes, I did lose weight while in Europe! I attribute this largely to the fact that we walked, walked, walked and then walked some more!

    My thanks to Jenna for her diligence in taking pictures – a very thorough chronicling of our vacation!

Clara & Family

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