Category Archives: Travel

7 Things I Have Learned Since My Celiac Diagnosis

gluten free jacksonville celiac disease I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in November 2017. Since then the gluten-free world has changed and so have I.  I feel a little more confident about how to eat, I am comfortable talking with restaurant staff in front of friends and I have learned not to hold up the entire tables order when giving my specific instructions. But there are some other big things I have learned. Let me share them with you!

1. Gluten-free does not always mean healthy. It is so easy to get caught up in the gluten-free breads, desserts, pastas and other processed foods. Many times those foods are high in sugar, fillers, fat, etc. that are not always good for you. While I am not perfect and I enjoy breads, cupcakes (icing is my weakness) I am trying really hard to stick to whole foods and have even tried to eliminate sugar and carbs completely. It is really important to read labels.

2. Gluten-free does not always mean celiac safe. In my early days, I thought if it was on a gluten-free menu it was safe. Many times restaurants will label fries and wings as gluten-free. Many times those items are fried in the same oil as chicken fingers or other breaded items. I try to always question items that I know will be fried or I avoid them all together and stick with salad and grilled items. Even a few tortilla strips on top of a salad can be agony for someone living with celiac disease.

3. I have gotten a little bit boring with my food. I eat at a lot of the same places because I feel safe. I feel like when someone asks me where I want to go it is one of these restaurants: Tacolu, Bonefish, PF Changs, Kamiya 86, Moxie, Epik Burger or Sake House. All places #1 are close to my house and #2 are places that make me feel safe. However, I am always up for trying something new even if it means I may have to spend extra time talking with my server before I order. More and more restaurants are educating their staff on the needs of gluten-free patrons.

4. I always have snacks on me. There is nothing worse than going to a work meeting and seeing that everyone is given a sandwich or wrap and I am stuck there for 3 hours or being on a plane where the only snack options are pretzels or cookies. I always keep some sort of nuts in my work bag and when I travel I like to bring peanut butter, gluten-free crackers, gluten-free pretzels and apples or grapes because no one wants to sit next to someone who is hangry.

5. I have a huge fear of being stranded without anything to eat. This is similar to #4; when you live with celiac disease the convenience factor is taken away. Fast Food restaurants are not always available and able to accommodate, gas stations have limited availability and coffee shops and other quick stop places don’t always have gluten-free items available. This has caused me to perhaps overeat at times and has got me into trouble with my weight. It is hard to find that balance between eating before you go somewhere and not having any options when you get to the event. This happens mostly when I go to weddings, dinner parties, on trips, and going to a friend’s house that doesn’t know I have celiac disease.

6. I make mistakes. I sometimes get lazy and it has come back to bite me in the you know what. Sometimes at certain restaurants that I trust I forget to tell the server that I am gluten-free and dairy-free . While most of the time I am fine, there have been times when other ingredients that are not gluten-free end up on my dish. This is not only annoying for me it is annoying for the server and those dining with me because they have to re-make my food
gluten free jacksonville celiac disease gluten free jacksonville celiac disease
7. I need support. It is easy to feel like the odd man out when you are gluten-free and dairy-free. I occasionally get comments like “oh my gosh what do you eat” or “don’t you just want to cheat.” But overall my friends and family know that I am gluten-free and they are very supportive. My husband is extremely supportive we don’t have any gluten in our house. On Monday nights we rotate houses for dinner with some of our friends and it is amazing to see how friends say “gluten-free really isn’t that bad.” When I was diagnosed I felt like such a weirdo but now my friends will call and say “I am making dinner and here is the menu what can’t you have” or “what do I need to avoid for this recipe.”  People don’t realize just how happy this makes me.

What have you learned on your gluten-free journey? What advice would you give to someone newly diagnosed?

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Gluten-Free Dining in Italy

In November of 2015 my husband and I went to Italy on our honeymoon.  Everyone thought I was crazy going to Italy with Celiac Disease.  There is pasta, bread, pizza EVERYWHERE.  So I did a little research and it turns out every child is tested for Celiac Disease by the time they turn one.  Food is such an important part of their lifestyle that it is in their law that every restaurant has to accommodate a gluten-free diet.

It didn’t matter where we went they always had gluten-free pasta, crackers, meats, cheeses or veggies to choose from.  If you were really lucky you got bread or PIZZA!

We ate a lot more than this but here are a few of my gluten-free Italian favorites. Oh and by the way, yes I know my husband is the cutest :):

Florence, Italy: 
gluten free jacksonville italy vino trallalla

Cacio Vino Trallalla

This is the Italian dream restaurant.  Reservations are definitely recommended there are only 4 tables.  The owners speak a good amount of English and they have a small menu each day.  We shared the worlds largest plate of meat and then my husband had lasagna (not gluten-free) and I had steak with truffle oil. It was so wonderful!  We didn’t want this meal to end so we decided to stick around for an after dinner sweet wine.

gluten free jacksonville italy la giostraLa Giostra

This place came highly recommended by locals and other travelers.  They are known for their Florentine Steak.  We went at lunch so I think we missed the liveliness that this place offers.  We enjoyed steak, a delicious meat plate and wonderful local veggies.  I particularly liked that they gave us a welcome glass of prosecco.

Ciro and Sons

This was our first gluten-free pizza experience in Italy and it was awesome. The restaurant had many gluten-free options and they were very knowledgeable about what I could have and what I could not have.  They had cozy outside seating which was great for people watching. We were a little late to lunch but they were very welcoming (in Italy locals never eat lunch after 2pm).

gluten free jacksonville italy lucca

Lucca

We just loved this cozy quiet little town.  1 hour from Florence and next door to Pisa, it is quaint and a great place to rent bikes and tour the city.  We love riding bikes so this was right up our alley. But before biking we stopped for a bite to eat.

gluten free jacksonville italy lucca buca di sant antonio

Buca di Sant’Antonio

This place had some of the best pasta!  My husband had fresh hand made tortellini that we watched being made by two non-English speaking Italian women (not gluten-free).   I was able to have some gluten-free crackers and a delicious gluten-free pasta dish that was to die for.  This restaurant was very romantic, candles, low light and very warm and cozy.  It was a chilly and rainy day and this was a nice little respite tucked away off a side street.

Montepulciano

DSCN2980You must stay at La Locanda San Francesco in Montepulciano and you must eat at Osteria Acquacheta when you go to Montepulciano.  I absolutely loved this town and the views from our room.  There are many wine bars and restaurants in the area that you can visit but you can’t miss Osteria Aquacheta.

12285816_10207331507982586_1593787768_ngluten free jacksonville italy montepulciano osteria aquachetaOsteria Aquacheta

This place is known for their owner and for huge pieces of steak (oh and they only give you one glass for wine or water). While steak is their main focus they have great sides including pasta dishes.  They actually searched to see if they had gluten-free pasta but they had run out so I settled for some yummy fresh veggies. Their menu is small and changes with the season. There are two dinner seatings each night and reservations are a must.  We got a huge steak to split, some fresh veggies, apples and pecorino cheese and a $6 liter of Un Bottella de Vino Rosso de la casa (a bottle of House Red Wine we said this a lot). We lingered a little to finish our wine and watched the cross table conversations and the staff sitting to enjoy a family style meal at the end of the night.

Montalcino

gluten free jacksonville italy montalcino castello banfiBanfi Winery:

A friend of ours coordinated a tour of Banfi Winery during our Honeymoon.  Following the tour we decided to stay for lunch at their restaurant and enjoy a tasting of their wines.  They too had gluten-free pasta offerings.  This was probably the nicest meal we had the entire trip and one of the tastiest. We had a lot of dishes with Wild Boar in them in the Tuscany Region.  While it sounded odd it was actually quite delicious.  It looked like ground beef but had a richer flavor to it that wasn’t too gamey.

Rome

gluten free jacksonville italy mama eatMama Eat!

This is gluten-free heaven located in my favorite part of Rome: Trastavere! I encourage you to walk around after eating this is such a neat part of Rome.  They have pizza, pasta, beers you name it they have it gluten-free.  They speak great English and it is a very fun lively place.  They even made gluten-free bruschetta for us which was the only place I could get bruschetta and it was awesome; olive oil dripped everywhere! My husband was very impressed with their beer selection too; I had him drinking way too much wine.

gluten free jacksonville italy soffitta renovatioLa Soffitta Renovatio

This was my very favorite gluten-free pizza in Italy. The toppings were fresh and the sauce was to die for.  It was very easy to find gluten-free pasta, but pizza was always a challenge. It is located very close to the Vatican so we went in prior to our tour since it takes an entire day pretty much to see everything at the museums and the Basilica.  This is a nice gem in quite a touristy area.  It is a bit hard to find but well worth it.

12306007_10207346704802497_604099692_n La Carbonara

This place was tucked away in a locals-only area not far from the Colosseum.  They actually discourage TripAdvisor reviews, they want to stay a place for locals only.  Even though we were not locals they were very friendly but do not go if you are in a hurry.  Do not go to any restaurant and sit down and expect to be in a hurry. It was recommended to us by another local restaurant as a place to get gluten-free pasta.  I got the Carbonara Pasta and it was so good- it was made with egg, pancetta, olive oil, and garlic   SO GOOD!

gluten free jacksonville italy rome taverna trilussaTaverna Trilussa

This was our last dinner in Italy. It was wonderful.  They were more than accommodating.  They make their pasta in individual pans so I didn’t have to worry about cross contamination and we had the most amazing roasted artichokes. They were soo good. We ate so much food here and we went to aperitivo before hand.  You will need to make reservations and try to have your hotel do it because they gave us an early dinner time because we were American.  We were fine with eating late.  Most Italians don’t eat until around 9.

Other  tips:

Travel Guides

Do your own research before you go; TripAdvisor and Yelp are a big help and do some generic “Gluten-Free Italy” searches on Google.  I suggest doing research before you go and download the TripAdvisor City Guides. That way you don’t have to scramble to find something to eat last minute you can pull up your City Guide (which works without wi-fi) and see which restaurants you already pre-saved are nearby while you are sight seeing.

gluten free jacksonville italy rome apperitivo freni e frizioniAperitivo

One of my favorite Italian traditions.  It is kinda like happy hour but you pay a little more for your drink in exchange for snacks and appetizer type food.  The very best we found was Freni e Frizioni.  They had a whole buffet.  Then you go eat dinner afterwards.

gluten free jacksonville italy rome gelato gelateria valentino

Gelato

My favorite was around the corner from the Trevi Fountain in Rome Gelateria Valentino they had dairy free gelato too.

Ok- who is hungry?

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Present Moment Cafe Gluten-Free

Whenever work takes me to St. John’s County I always have to stop at Present Moment Cafe in St.Augustine.

gluten free jacksonville present momentEverything is raw and everything is gluten-free and dairy-free. Everything I have ever had has been delicious. It is located on King Street across US-1 from the hub-bub of Historic St. Augustine.

Today I had the house pizza and a piece of chocolate marble torte with drunken bananas. My belly is happy!!gluten free jacksonville present moment

gluten free jacksonville present moment
gluten free jacksonville present moment

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Travel: Surdyk’s Flights Minnesota Airport

south dakota montage gluten free jacksonville

During a recent trip to South Dakota we connected through Minneapolis St Paul International Airport. We had a bit of a layover coming home and thought we would stop some place for a bite to eat. I checked my new app Gate Guru to do a little research on the best restaurant in the Airport. Syrdyk’s Flights came up as number one.

surdyk's flights gluten free jacksonville

In addition to having a high rating, it was super close to our departure gate. I loved this place from the start. They have a few seats inside and seats in the walkway where envious onlookers drool.

surdyk's flights gluten free jacksonville wine flight

Surdyk’s is the perfect travel snack/meal stop. In addition to a great location, they also have plugs everywhere making recharging your phone, laptop, iPad, etc. very easy and convenient. After taking a quick glance at the menu I was so excited to see GF next to many items, they even had gluten-free crackers. We started with a flight of interesting whites and a salumi plate with gluten free crackers.
surdyk's flights gluten free jacksonville wine flight and meat plate

The salumi plate had various Italian meats along with olives, almonds, pecans and apricots. After our appetizer my boyfriend got a panini (gluten-containing) and I had the smoked salmon salad with Mediterranean beets. It was delicious and very healthy!!!
gluten free jacksonville smoked salmon salad surdyk's flights minnesota

If you are gluten-free and need a place to stop between flights for a snack or meal I recommend this place. In addition to it being a sit down restaurant, they also have items that you can grab and go (including mini bottles of wine). It is located in the main terminal between C and G gates. If you need help finding it, they have information desks everywhere with very helpful staff.

Bonus info: check out Gate G, they have iPads everywhere. You can browse the web or order food or drinks. There must have been over 200 iPads.

minnesota airport ipads

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Road Trip: Guest Post on SimplyStAugustine.com

Road trip Jacksonville Beach to St. Augustine gluten free jacksonville

Check it out!  I wrote a blog post about one of my favorite things to do in Jacksonville- road trip to St. Augustine.  I met Allie of SimplyStAugustine.com at a tasting at TPC and have loved following her blog ever since.  St. Augustine is one of my favorite places to get away to.  It doesn’t have to do with being gluten-free but then again we need to be about more than just the food we eat sometimes.  Enjoy:

simply st. augustine gluten free jacksonville

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Travel Review: Port of Call, New Orleans

port of call new orleans gluten free hamburger

On a recent trip to New Orleans, my boyfriend and I discovered Port of Call.  It was a top rated burger joint on tripadvisor ; locals and tourists alike claimed it is “worth the wait.” This is a no frills kinda place and the average wait time is around 1 hour. The space is small, however the bar takes up half the restaurant. You can put your name on the list or wait for a seat at the bar which is first come first serve.

We had quite the experience. We tried to go before an 8pm ghost tour, however, the wait was around an hour and a half. We tried waiting at the bar for two seats, however, it was quite stressful; people were cowering over bar patrons waiting to pounce on their seat the second the credit card bill was brought out. I could not handle the stress.

We decided to try to come back around 10pm after the ghost tour to see if there was still a wait. The wait was less than 30 minutes. For a restaurant that deals with so many people in one day, the staff at Port of Call are some of the nicest people. The bartenders were working their butts off but finding time to smile, take everyone’s orders and listen to stories from locals who obviously go there frequently for the amazing deals on drinks.

Once we sat down we were greeted by the sweetest waitress. She gave us a little time to look over the menu and got us some drinks. After reviewing the very small, yet focused, menu I inquired about the burgers. Turns out they put nothing on the grill except burgers and they don’t add butter or anything to them.. They serve baked potatoes instead of fries. I was so excited! The waitress said they frequently have people ask to have their buns toasted on the grill and they won’t do it. I ordered a burger with no bun and baked potato plain. My boyfriend and I both agreed this was one of the best burgers we have ever had. It was thick, not greasy, not too salty and cooked just the way we liked it. I wish I took more time to get a picture of my food before I devoured it. But here are the remains.

port of call new orleans gluten free hamburger

This is definitely a place you should check out, however, this is not the place you should visit if you are in a rush or are impatient. If you have some time and are in the party mood, they have giant tropical drinks that are only $10 and you can walk around New Orleans with them. We loved this place, and even though this is not your typical New Orleans restaurant (they don’t serve red beans and rice, jambalaya or po-boys) it will knock your socks off and not break the bank at the same time.

What is your favorite gluten-free burger?

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Travel: The Best Celiac Friendly Restaurant Ever- Millstone A Dublin Restaurant Ireland

During our Ireland trip we found the best Celiac Friendly Restaurant EVER- Millstone, A Dublin Restaurant (ok, maybe I exaggerate a little sometimes).  After touring the Guinness Brewery, Jameson Brewery and taking the Hop on Hop off bus all over town, we decided we would finish off our day and our trip with a nice meal as a treat to ourselves.  While out and about I did a quick internet search and found a blog post by Celiac Chicks that made a great recommendation to try Millstone.

Other than Vesta Dipping Grill in Colorado I have never seen a Celiac Menu.  This was SOO exciting!!!  I was overwhelmed with all of the dining options.  It was also nice to see  that they have a totally different menu rather than just a reprint of the regular menu with statements added that state the obvious: without croutons,  without bread, without crackers, etc.

I went with the 2 course meal for 17 Euro.  At the time this equated to around $30.  I started off with the salmon and mackerel salad.  I don’t think I have ever had mackerel.   It was served cold and paired nicely with the greens, capers and onions.

My last course was the prime fillets with herbs and a peppercorn sauce on top of mashed potatoes.  It was delicious.   The meat was tender and went well with the peppercorn sauce which I quickly poured all over the steak and potatoes.

The atmosphere was nice and cozy.  It was the perfect retreat from the cold and rain.  The gentleman playing guitar was a nice touch, he played cover music and sometimes we sung along.  There was a group next to us who were traveling from England and Australia.  We had a nice chat with them at the conclusion of the meal.

Another important element of a good meal is the company.  I can’t think of a greater dining companion.  We had a great time talking about our trip and relaxing with a great meal.

Thank you Millstone!  If you are in Dublin, Ireland I recommend checking it out!

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