Check it out! One of my favorites (even before going gluten-free) Eat up Downtown! This week long event August 13-26 in Downtown Jacksonville promotes restaurants downtown. Each restaurant offers a pre-fix menu ranging from $15-$35. As far as I know the gluten-friendly restaurants are:
Most restaurants take reservations, make sure to call ahead and perhaps even ask them about their gluten-free offerings. These places get extremely busy during Eat Up Downtown.
While you are Downtown take a walk along the river or stop in to one of my favorite bars, Dos Gatos, for a cocktail.
I had the most wonderful experience at the JW Marriott in Orlando (known for their tropical pool area and lazy river). I was staying at the Ritz-Carlton next door for a conference and headed over to the JW Marriott one night to try some sushi.
I sat at the bar, which was beautiful. I noticed a few other solo diners, probably other people traveling on business, and I was immediately greeted by Roberto. He took my drink order and handed me the sushi menu. To be safe I usually just order tuna with avocado and no sauce. I never ever expect that a place will have gluten-free soy sauce, however, I always ask (nicely of course).
Roberto was gone a while and when he came back he had a bottle of Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce) in his hands. I was SO HAPPY. I wasn’t expecting gluten-free soy sauce at all and it was such a great treat!
My dinner was a great experience. My sushi was perfect not too chewy and perfect portions. The servers were so nice. I had one or two others stop by to check on me. I couldn’t believe the amazing service.
When it was time to close out my check Roberto was nowhere to be found. Within 5 minutes he came back with a brown paper bag full of gluten-free biscuits, donuts and muffins. I couldn’t believe it. He had gone into their refrigerator to see what type of gluten-free goodies they had to give me. It was such a nice gesture and perfect to have with me for the duration of my trip. It was probably $30 worth of gluten-free goodness that he would not allow me to pay for.
Who would have thought that a place known for their lazy river and luxurious pool would also be so hospitable for those of us with gluten issues.
I recently took a trip to Montego Bay Jamaica for Spring Break (ok, I am 33 but who’s counting). I went with great friends from my college and from Atlanta. In spring breaks past we would perhaps consume a little too many Pina Coladas and stay up late, but on this trip (with a friend 5 month’s pregnant with her second child) we were planning to enjoy the food and fine dining and taking naps on the beach. As you can imagine the “fine dining” had me a little nervous, however I chose before the trip to not let it get to me and not stress out about the food. I imagined eating at a restaurant each night with a server who could express my dietary needs to the chef. To my dismay, and the dismay of my traveling friends when we arrived all of the restaurants were booked except for 9:00 on Saturday night, the night before we were leaving. As anyone with Celiac disease knows, eating at a buffet is typically forbidden because of cross contamination. I tried my best but ended up getting sick a few times during the trip. Another thing that was hard to avoid was spiced Rum, which I have heard contains gluten. As much as I tried to request my Pina Colada with clear Rum, there were times when the spiced run made it into my drink. On the second night we were actually able to get into the Steak restaurant and it was a really nice experience, we relaxed, talked about our trip so far and sadly I began to think that this trip was too short. I was enjoying the laughter and catching up with old friends. On our last night, I was very surprised by the Chef at the Japanese restaurant. Almost all of the dishes were covered in soy sauce, another big celiac disease- no no! He informed me of the dishes I could have such as the curry chicken dish and even made a fresh batch just while we were talking. With amazing memories of a great trip, I look forward to being home and being able to prepare my own dishes again.
I am truly blessed with great friends. Because I love to socialize and eat out my menu limitations have caused me to enjoy eating out less frequently. One of my great friends at work knows I can only eat Crazy Sushi or Tommy’s Pizza for lunch. She is great, she will split a Tommy’s Pizza with me and truly enjoy it. My mom and I try to eat lunch on a regular basis and she has been great at trying to accomodate me. So far we have tried Jason’s Deli on Southside (I ordered the salad bar both times and had a reaction each time maybe I will try their baked potato next), Woody’s at US-1 and Baymeadows (had a reaction there from turkey, pork, sweet potato and turnip greens) and Chick-Fil-A at JTB (Chick Fil A was great, they specially grilled my chicken for my salad, however, I put the raspberry vinagrette on it and realized later it had gluten in it, it was totally my fault). I am still learning I guess- I think the hardest thing is memorizing every single gluten containing ingredient. The other night I made dinner for my brother and sister in law and 2 other couples and I made it entirely gluten free. I had not one complaint, and hardly any leftovers! I was nervous that people would complain or just stay quiet so they didn’t offend me, but everyone raved about how fresh everything tasted and even asked for some of the recipes. I made a mexican meal, fish and chicken tacos with Sazon flavoring for the fish and Publix Taco Seasoning for the Chicken; publix brand black beans and corn on the cob. I made fresh salsa, had fresh avocado and made a cilantro/yogurt sauce for the fish. We used corn tortillas both soft and hard. Everyone was happy including myself.
I have found that my friends and family are actually doing research. On numerous occasions my boyfriend will ask me “are you sure you can eat that” most of the time I have thoroughly checked the ingredients but it is nice to know that he is thinking about my well being (and probably trying to avoid the moodiness I have when I have ingested gluten). My mom will do research before cooking me a meal, she even takes into account cross contamination and cleans all pots and pans thoroughly before cooking. At my girl’s annual Christmas Party, which was only weeks after my diagnosis, a friend of mine did research on gluten free foods and actually brought a gluten free dish. She was so sympathetic, while doing research she realized all the things I could not have and I think felt a little sorry for me. She later hosted a “Japan Night” at her house with Plum Wine (gluten free), Sake (gluten free), gluten free sushi and Tamari (gluten/wheat free soy sauce). It was such a nice night.
I am strill struggling to avoid gluten in my diet, but I am not giving up. Unfortunately the harsh reality is that eating out is not going to be as big a part of my life as it used to be. I am going to be forced to be a better cook!