Posts Tagged travel

Gluten-Free Princess Cruise to Panama

    Once again Don and I were off on a cruise. Don’s sister, Pat, flew in from Maine to meet us at the ship terminal in Fort Lauderdale where we were to board the Island Princess for our ten day trip. This meant airline travel and it was my first experience in coach on a 737 with seats jammed six across each row. I am not a large person but this experience was extremely claustrophobic. We are strategizing for our trip to visit Pat and other family in New England later this year. So far it will involve a Kindle pre-loaded with a lot of books and Dramamine which will give me several hours of total unconsciousness.

    Again I tried to prepare for gluten-free travel. It was not one of my better efforts. Success on previous travel left me overly confidant. Basically I had a Larabar for every day of travel plus some of my flax meal biscuits for bread-type carbs. I started the trip with a hearty breakfast of Giant Upside-Down Apple Pancake  that I had saved from recipe testing for Ricki at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs plus an almond milk latte and that sustained me all through the morning.

   A surprise dining bright spot was the one hour layover at Dallas-Fort Worth airport. At the Au Bon Pain Deli I found a nice little boxed salad with ultra-fresh veggies and four small rolls of ham with a savory cheese filling plus a Black Cherry Dragonfruit SOBE life water beverage. It was satisfying without bogging down the digestive system.

   We met up with Pat at the ship terminal and once aboard we all headed to the Horizon buffet for a snack. Fruit and a slice of cheese would get me through safety drills, setting sail and planning our activities. It was at dinner and asking questions of the Horizon staff that I discovered that gluten-free was only guaranteed in the Bordeaux dining room. Line server asked someone else who fetched the chef who called his supervisor. No one spoke fluent gluten-free.

   We tried the Bordeaux at noon the following day. The menu is published each afternoon at four o’clock for the next day. You are supposed to negotiate your gluten-free meals for the next day from that menu. While the impromptu meal they served me was totally delicious and artistically presented I was not pleased and neither was Don. Pat was OK with the dining room option. She is such a happy person by nature that there is not much that she cannot deal with. While ‘anytime’ dining was the option in that dining room it was much more formal, white tablecloths, ordering from a menu selection (the day before for me), someone else putting your food on your plate and then several waiters hovering, refilling your beverage every few sips, and asking ‘is everything is all right?’. We did not plan to do that.

   Ships that traverse the Panama Canal have a size restriction. Most of them squeak by with only inches to spare. The ship sides are constantly repainted to repair the damage caused by scraping the canal walls while passing through. With a smaller ship there are fewer facilities and amenities as well as passengers. And so it was with the galleys and chefs.

   And then there was the weather. In Costa Rico we were advised that they do not have seasons as we know them but there are seasonal variations in wind and rainfall. The Caribbean was smooth by most standards except that of my own personal gyroscope. Most of the time it was marginally queasy but a couple of days were mostly sea sick. This limited my interest in eating at all and when I did it was mostly the very plainest and safest options. Fried rice with steamed vegetables with small selections of anything that was plainly prepared sustained me. Some prepared salads met that criterion as did the build-it-yourself salad bar. The vinaigrette dressings were creamy in appearance so I avoided them and chose a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and Pepitas to add flavor. For dessert I tried an individual baked flan that was not at all tender with a thin syrup layer on the bottom. Everything else was cookies, cakes, pies, and tortes.

   All-in-all the buffet food on this trip was disappointing for me after last year’s trip on the Ruby Princess. Don and Pat enjoyed themselves and by walking the decks for several miles every day managed to only gain a couple of pounds. I was a bed and/or balcony slug and lost a pound.

   On the balcony we read, planned excursions, and chatted while watching for flying fish. During one of those times we spotted a sea turtle swimming off to the side of the ship. We were not quick enough to get a picture. Instead we came home with a sea turtle image from the clay works in Jamaica as one of our trip souvenirs.

Wassi Arts Sea Turtle

Wassi Arts Sea Turtle

   We managed several shore excursions and several of those were outstanding. The butterfly farm in Aruba is simply a delight. Don and Pat were all over taking pictures while I wandered around in awe at the beautiful butterflies everywhere. The banana plantation tour in Costa Rico was a university level education in local topography, wildlife, vegetation, transportation, business planning and earth friendly processes thought out in detail. All of that was packed into a 3.5 hour excursion by bus. In Jamaica we visited at Wassi Arts pottery works where nothing is automated. Their clay is delivered as burlap sacks of dry stick and rock contaminated clods about the size of softballs. Outside on a terrace the clods are soaked, pounded in barrels, strained through about a 15” sieve, and poured into cement troughs for evaporation to reach a workable consistency. The troughs must be covered when it rains.

   It really was a wonder filled getaway in spite of my grumpy comments. Don and Pat are great companions for me and each other. And I do look forward to visiting with Pat as well as my family later this year. At least it will be on land once we arrive.

Gretchen

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Udi’s Bread Coming to H-E-B Austin and Georgetown!

Update:
    Friday, 01-07-2011, I picked up a few items on the way to my volunteer shift at the local food pantry. I cruised by the frozen bread section just in case and there it was!  Udi’s – white bread, whole grain bread, and bagels all lined up on the top shelf, left hand corner of the frozen bread section.

    At long last! The very popular Udi’s gluten-free breads are coming to H-E-B grocery stores in Austin and Georgetown. The stores selected are the ones that have the larger, 3-door freezer space for gluten-free products. Be sure to stop by one of these stores and check them out.

Udi's Bread

Udi's Bread

The new items will be in the following stores starting November 8th.

 Austin 08 – Congress/Oltorf
2400 S Congress Avenue
Austin, TX 78704

Austin 23 – Brodie/William Cannon
6900 Brodie Lane
Austin, TX 78745

Austin 25 – Parmer/IH 35
500 Canyon Ridge Drive
Austin, TX 78753

Austin 28 – Slaughter
5800 Slaughter Lane W
Austin, TX 78749

Austin 29 – Bee Caves
701 S Capital of Texas Hwy
Westlake Hills, TX 78746

Georgetown 2 – Williams Drive
4500 Williams Drive
Georgetown, TX 78633

    Udi’s bread is the commercially available gluten-free bread chosen by an ever-increasing number of families and restaurants. Jason’s Deli introduced it nationwide earlier this year as a bread option for their sandwiches. Rita and I have eaten at several Jason’s in the Austin area and recently I was in Abilene and ate lunch twice at the Jason’s there.

    Rita and I had it served to us at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort in Bastrop when we were attending a family reunion! And my wonderful Sister, Amanda, brought me a loaf of Udi’s there because she didn’t know if Rita and I would be able to have bread at the resort.

    Those of you with family and friends know how BIG this is for those who must eat gluten-free!! Can you tell I am excited?

Gretchen (Mom)

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Gluten-Free at The University of Idaho

Clara’s daughter, Jenna, graduated from high school this spring and is currently up to her ears in her first year at college. She has been texting pictures of campus life to Clara including her meals. Clara is so pleased about Jenna’s local gluten-free food options that I asked Jenna to write a guest post. And somehow she found the time!
On Campus at The University of Idaho
On Campus at The University of Idaho

    Finding gluten-free food at college is a bit of a challenge; but thankfully, the University of Idaho is doing its part to incorporate gluten-free options into their cafeteria and other meal locations. At first, I just assumed that there would be nothing for me outside of salads, so I became fast friends with those who work at the salad station (they mix the salad for you) since I was always eating there. One evening, however, I was tired of salads, and I got a cheeseburger instead. Luckily, they leave the burger open-faced, so it is easy to remove without prying off the cheese (arguably the best part).
    The only regular gluten-free food at the cafeteria to depend on is dessert. The baker at the cafeteria has been experimenting with gluten-free baking. On most weekdays, there is a dessert I can eat. They are usually decadent – like red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, or a brownie with chocolate sauce….yummy. They made some very good peanut butter cookies and peppermint patties with icing. My friends who are not gluten-free are also big fans of the gluten-free desserts and try to get them too. The dessert workers have begun to learn to hold back the gluten-free desserts so that those who are gluten-free actually get one because the gluten-free desserts are that good.
    One day, I was talking to the lady making my salad, and we got to talking about the gluten-free offerings. She informed me that if you ask nicely at the deli sandwich counter, those making the sandwiches will go in the back and get corn or rice bread according to your preference (of course, this isn’t the good stuff, but it is certainly a start). They also have gluten-free crackers that are tasteless in a Saltine kind of way, so I ask specifically for them if I get a salad.

Gluten-Free Crackers!

Gluten-Free Crackers!

    Yesterday, I went to Win Co Foods, a Northwest bulk foods store that has wonderful prices, and one of my friends I went with saw Udi’s gluten-free products on a lower shelf in the freezer section. I was so delighted to see brands I know well, and I bought the pizza crusts. I made one last night, and it was wonderful. I ate it all by myself, but it had been a couple weeks since I had pizza. This made my day.
    Today, I am making meatballs according to the recipe my wonderful mother made up all on her own. I feel much more confident knowing that there are gluten-free options nearby. I am also encouraged by how many people know about gluten-free in this area. Most people don’t even need it explained to them, which is refreshing.

Really Good Desserts!!

Really Good Desserts!!

    The one not-so-great thing is that I haven’t had a decent sandwich since I have come here. The deli at the cafeteria offers gluten-free bread occasionally, but it is hard, dense, and doesn’t even soften when heated. Plus, the nearest Jason’s Deli is in Utah, just 432 miles away.
    So, this is much better than I ever expected for college, and this part of the world is remarkably accommodating for those of us with food allergies and other diet choices, but I wish they had more choices more of the time.

Jenna Putnam
The University of Idaho

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Gluten-Free at Carrabba’s in San Antonio

    Don and I were in San Antonio last weekend to attend the graduation of granddaughter Alisha from basic training at Lackland Air Force Base. We decided to arrive the night before because the ceremony was early on a Friday, long drive from Georgetown, rush hour traffic, unfamiliar with the area, etc, etc.
    I had been thinking recently about Mama Mandola’s Chicken Soup and happily Carrabba’s Italian Grill  was not that far on I-10 west at the De Zavala Exit. We were hungry and arrived in time to be the first ones in the door for dinner.
    The gluten-free menu is presented separately from the regular menu; it is nicely bound and is not a sheet of computer printout from the website! 🙂
    We both ordered the chicken soup. Don had his with the pasta added and I had mine gluten-free. This is a soup with rich broth and big chunks of chicken and vegetables so there is no way I could feel deprived. For my entree I had one of my favorite salads topped with grilled chicken and Don ordered his usual pasta. Oh, and he also had the bread hot out of the oven.
    Carrabba’s has a garlic-herb mixture with olive oil that turns ordinary bread into magic-for-your-taste-buds. There was a time when l would occasionally ‘treat’ myself to a small piece of bread dredged in that magic knowing full well there was a price to pay – but no more. However I was definitely wishing that I had tucked a slice of Udi’s into my purse before leaving the house that morning.
    We chatted a bit with the manager (whose name I neglected to write down) and I told him of my regret that I had not brought some of Udi’s bread. He was very sympathetic and said that until Carrabba’s has bread that I should feel free to bring my own.
    He also mentioned that currently in development is a gluten-free grill baste to replace their current grill baste which must be omitted when preparing a gluten-free meal. I had always assumed that this was simply a cosmetic touch but was informed that it is to impart their distinctive blend of seasoning.
    So I am very happy and even more impressed with the consideration of Carrabba’s management for the needs of their customers!

Separate GF menu! Appetizers! Entrees! Salads! Soups! Dessert!
GF grill baste in development!
San Antonio
(210) 694-4191
12507 I-10 West
San Antonio, TX 78230
Find your nearest Carrabba’s here -> Locations

Gretchen (Mom)

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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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Gluten-Free at the Eiffel Tower

    Jorge and Rick really know how to ‘see’ the Eiffel Tower. Skip the hours-long-wait-in-humidity/heat for tickets followed by the hours-long-wait-in- humidity/heat for the elevator up to a viewing platform. Instead: make a lunch reservation at the Jules Verne Restaurant at the very top – even higher up than the observation platform. True, lunch is pricier here than McDonald’s (think four-star restaurant) but this is a certifiable deal. According to Rick you need to make reservations weeks, if not months, in advance.
    You arrive for your designated sitting time and wait in the cool lower level for your trip up in the 12-person-only elevator. This is a gourmet experience featuring the freshest produce prepared by culinary artists. We were at table for three hours savoring our way through the courses. They do not have a gluten free menu but the waiter consulted with the chefs regarding ingredients to edit my selections from the regular menu and the result was more than satisfactory – it was amazing.
    The only meal I have ever had that was more impressive was one that Rick had served on Mother’s Day at the house in Austin.
    Dinner for me that night was four ounces of cherries from the market across the street from our hotel and a handful of cashews. Even in Paris you can only eat so much.

Eiffel Tower Lunch - Jules Verne Restaurant

Eiffel Tower Lunch - Jules Verne Restaurant

 Left to right: Rick, Gretchen (Mom), Don, Jorge

                                             My Lunch Choices

Appetizer – before you order, this arrives compliments of the Chef:
    Minced fresh vegetables, ricotta, tomato, and herbs – layered and served in a shot glass
       This was a spicy little concoction reminiscent of gazpacho. Our waiter assured me it was OK.
Starter – a term I’ve not often encountered in the United States:
    Asparagus, two sauces, hard-boiled egg, orange rind, and caviar garnish
      Two huge spears of tender fresh asparagus, creamy hollandaise sauce plus a spicier sauce, at separate ends of the asparagus, a bit of minced egg, teensy little curls of orange rind, plus a teaspoon of the caviar. The caviar was a leap of faith. I love almost every kind of seafood but stay away from anything fishy and raw including oysters, sushi, and caviar; still not a fan but it was OK.
Mainaka Entree:
     Roast duck with a tasty brown sauce, tiny sweet peas & broad beans, endive with vinaigrette sauce
       The duck was lean and savory and the vegetables were fresh and bursting with flavor. Broad beans are also known as fava beans which I usually think of as large white beans similar to mature lima beans. These were the same size as the sweet peas, pale green contrasting with the intense green of the sweet peas, and I ate every bite.
Dessert – gluten-free, off-menu but if it was on the menu I would have picked it:
     Fresh raspberries, two varieties of strawberries, Sauvignon blanc sorbet with a side of citrus flavor marshmallows. 
       The fruit tasted like there was somehow a garden in back of the kitchen it was so juicy, sweet, and fresh. The tiny variety of strawberries, also known as wild strawberries, are about 1/4 inch in size and each has as much flavor packed into it as a handful of the larger berries. Fresh marshmallows! There were a bowl of them and I shared them. Have you ever tasted a freshly made marshmallow? As a card-carrying lifetime fan of all things marshmallow it was incredibly different and the experience of a lifetime. I promised myself to never attempt to make these otherwise I would soon begin to look like a walking marshmallow.

Every restaurant had salads and each restaurant had a different style in presentation and selection of ingredients. My survival strategy for the entire three week trip was to eat lightly as I usually do and to choose simple meals. That worked for the most part.

Gretchen (Mom)

View of Seine River and Bateux Parisiens

View of Seine River and Bateux Parisiens

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Gluten-Free on American Airlines

    Call us crazy but in an effort to alleviate my allergies Don and I decided to rip out every scrap of carpet from our house and install ceramic tile. We wanted to be there while it was happening but we didn’t want to be there. We had almost scratched the project when the perfect compromise was made. Leave the country for three weeks, hand the house keys over, and have the tile done while you are gone. Aside from really trusting these folks the big kicker was that everything in the house had to be packed just like we were moving. We packed the house in six weeks and stuff-for-vacation in one week.
   Thanks to the generosity of Rita’s brother Jorge (whom we refer to as #1 Son) we were flying American Airlines First Class. We were able to pre-order gluten-free meals for each leg of our travel. They do need advance notice so as to have appropriate food items on board and Don took care of that detail.
   By the time we met up with Jorge and Rick at Dallas/Fort Worth airport we were all tired and approaching the end of a long day. The guys had traveled from California and the four of us boarded our flight to Paris. I don’t have much in the way of notes for the flight over except that there was tasty gluten-free food and I was tired, hungry and very grateful.
   Our return flight departed Paris at 10:00 am their local time. Once on board we were offered a choice of beverage and settled in for our nine hour flight which included a 7-hour time differential. There were cheese or nut nibbles after we took off and I chose the nuts. Menus were passed out for the other passengers but when you order a special meal it is the only one on board that is tailored to your needs.
   During the dinner service I recognized the clear sweet voice from the pre-flight announcements delivered in three languages. Isabelle Gomes, Purser, with twenty years of experience was serving my gluten-free meal! As we chatted I learned that she was gaining knowledge of the many gluten issues from her friend, our cook for the flight, Denise Roberts. Denise’s daughter has just started her journey into the gluten-free challenge and Isabelle had a number of questions while she served up my delicious meal.
   One of the issues that Isabelle mentioned was the lack of sandwiches. Voila! In the Gluten-Free Edge mailbox this very morning was a post from Gluten-Free Steve -> here  regarding Jason’s Deli and their offering of Udi’s gluten free bread on their sandwiches. I just had to leave Steve a comment since Rita and I indulged in sandwiches for lunch there yesterday – yum! It is slowly getting better out there as people share information and reach out to help those new to this journey.
   I arrived home jet-lagged but very well fed. Thank you Isabelle, Denise, and American Airlines!

Gretchen (Mom) and Rita

I Love These New Floors!

I Love These New Floors!

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