Monday, December 29, 2014

Monday Motivation 12/29/2014

"It's important to have specific dreams. Dream big. Dream without fear."

~ Randy Pausch

EAT: Michelbob's Championship Ribs, Naples, FL

Award winning ribs and BBQ in Florida?! Yes! Michelbob's Championship Ribs, with locations in Naples and Marco Island, has won numerous awards since opening in 1979. The restaurant just recently opened its doors on Sundays, so fans can eat there 7 days a week. 
With a relaxed and casual vibe, Michelbob's interior is pretty similar to every BBQ joint I have been in. Relaxing booths, large drink signs, neon lights, all give Michelbob's its casual appeal. 
Michelbob's does not have a gluten free menu, but Karen, our server was very knowledgeable. She said all meats and sauces are gluten free. The sauces are not corn free (corn syrup). The sweet tea also has corn syrup in it. 

The award winning ribs are quite different from ribs you would encounter at any other BBQ restaurant. Dandelion-fed from Denmark and then shipped to the US, these grass-fed ribs have a great flavor and just about fall off the bone! Without all of the hormones and antibiotics in most US meat, the ribs tend to be smaller, but more flavorful. 
I ordered a variety with my takeout order sans sauce. I tried the sliced beef brisket and pork (shaved more than sliced) which were very tasty although a little dry. Nothing some Texas Pete could not take care of! The rack of ribs was the winner though. It was so flavorful, it did not need sauce, and I can see why it is award winning. When in Naples, swing by Michelbob's for some famous ribs!

Michelbob's Championship Ribs
371 Airport Rd. 
Naples, FL 34104

915 N. Collier Blvd. 
Marco Island, FL
Takeout Only!

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Holiday Travel and Need Safe Food Allergy Free Fast Food Options?

Holiday travel can be nerve racking. The traffic, the long hours, and the food allergens everywhere make traveling no fun. I find it difficult to find safe food options for my food allergies on travel days. Many times, I will plan ahead and pack a lunch. But what happens when you take a last minute trip or are so busy, you forget to pack snacks? 

I have a couple fast food restaurants I feel safe eating. My favorite is Chipotle. A nation-wide chain, Chipotle is great with food allergies. I order a burrito bowl and ask for the server to change gloves. I also ask for cheese and lettuce from the back since those items are not served with tongs and the server handles them with their gloved hand. 

Another favorite is Dickey's BBQ, another national chain. I order the pulled pork and ask the server to change gloves and cut the meat on a clean surface to avoid cross contamination. 

Zoes Kitchen also takes care of food allergies. They have gluten free items listed on the menu. I always emphasize my need for gluten free during my order. 

For me, I know there is always a chance of cross contamination, but I feel safest at these "fast food" restaurants. What are your favorite travel "fast food" restaurants?

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

EAT: Print Works Bistro, Greensboro, NC

Located in the Proximity Hotel, Print Works Bistro is a great fine dining establishment in Greensboro, NC. I was excited to check it out for a holiday party gathering.The restaurant is situated in a large open room, but is sectioned off into smaller areas with railing and curtains, giving it a cozy feel. The outdoor seating looked inviting and is probably packed in the summer months.
Being with a large group and no gluten free menu, I was a little apprehensive about being able to convey my food allergy needs to the server. My fears were quickly dispelled when our server said many of the dishes were naturally gluten free and she would chat with the chef to make sure I had as safe a meal as possible. 

Print Works Bistro focuses on local ingredients. It, along with the Proximity Hotel, are the first hotel and restaurant in the US to attain the LEED Platinum Certification for their sustainable and energy efficient practices. They even provide tours for students to learn these sustainable practices.
Continuing my risotto kick, I chose the gluten and corn free Shrimp and Toulouse Sausage Risotto: creamy arborio rice with garlic sauteed shrimp, Toulouse sausage, roasted sweet potatoes, kale, and crumbled goat chevre. I was interested to see how the flavors mixed and was pleased that they all "worked" together. The portion was large enough to take home some for lunch the next day.

I was very pleased how the server handled our large group and my food allergies. As the only person in the group with food allergies, sometimes I am afraid my needs will get lost, but the server assured me that the kitchen could accommodate. I will definitely return and am looking forward to trying other dishes.

Print Works Bistro
702 Green Valley Rd.
Greensboro, NC 27408

Monday, December 22, 2014

EAT: Bernardin's at the Zevely House, Winston-Salem, NC

For a special occasion or a date night, head to Bernardin's Fine Dining in the Zevely House in Winston-Salem, NC. The Greensboro News and Record considers Bernardin's to be "The Triad's only five-star restaurant" and I won't disagree. With a menu that is unmatched in the Winston-Salem/Greensboro/High Point area, it is one of the few restaurants I have been to in my travels that offers delicacies such as kangaroo, ostrich, escargot, and foie gras, and definitely the only one in the Triad.
Even if you are not into exotic delicacies, Bernardin's offers a variety of meats, pastas, seafood, salads, and more. There is not a gluten free menu, but the menu specifically states that if you have food allergies, alert your server, who can help you choose the safest options.
To start the meal, we looked at the appetizers. My dinner companion loves foie gras, so he inquired about its gluten free status. We were told it is not gluten free, so we settled for the heirloom tomato salad. It was a generous portion for two to share, but the heirloom tomatoes were pretty flavorless (perhaps this time of year?). The accompaniments, however, offset the tomatoes and made the dish quite tasty.
I wanted to be adventurous and try a wild entree, but did not want to commit to something I may not like. I decided upon the Pan Roasted Curry Grouper, served with eggplant caviar, jasmine rice, light curry tomato, and mint chutney. It was delicious. The grouper was cooked the right temperature so that it was not dry, while the rice and chutney complimented the grouper nicely for a fusion of flavor. The server said it was gluten and corn free without any accommodations.
My dinner companion, on the other hand, was brave enough to try the Tandoori Kangaroo! Now, what exactly does kangaroo taste like, you ask? I found it to be a cross between venison and beef, very lean, but a little chewy. Really good flavor, though. I would definitely order it again. Did you know that Kangaroo is Australia's deer? A friend from Australia told me that while kangaroo is pretty common, some people do not eat it in Australia. Some prefer it because of the leanness of the meat. My dinner companion had to alter the side options to make the dish gluten and corn free and chose the jasmine rice and spinach instead of the usual lentil basmati rice potato cake and succotash.

Bernardin's has a nice ambiance to accompany its food. Housed in the Zevely House on Fourth Street, each room of the house has several tables, perfect for private events or large groups, while still giving diners space to enjoy their company. Even though Bernardin's is considered "fine dining," I did not find the cost to be much higher, if at all, compared to other high-end downtown restaurants. I really liked how it offered enough variety in the menu choices to accommodate any taste, while still being selective about its choices. I also appreciated the chef accommodating food allergies. Our server checked several times on items she was unsure of to make sure we had the safest meal possible. And, now I can say I know what kangaroo tastes like!

Bernardin's Fine Dining
901 West Fourth Street
Winston Salem, NC 27101

Monday Motivation 12/22/2014

"Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up."

~ Thomas Edison

Saturday, December 20, 2014

EAT: The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar, Raleigh, NC

The Cowfish in Raleigh, NC has a fun, laid back vibe. Although it is a small chain with locations in Raleigh, Charlotte, and Orlando, it is definitely a gathering place to grab some casual food. The menu consists mainly of burgers and sushi and it clearly states which items are "gluten sensitive." I am not a huge fan of places only claiming to have menu items that are gluten sensitive, since you hope they take gluten allergies and intolerances seriously, but after chatting with our server about my food allergies, she eased my concerns. She seemed pretty knowledgeable about gluten free and even told us that Cowfish has gluten free tamari. I am one of those people who wants to see the tamari bottle (in case regular soy sauce is put in the bowl instead of tamari), but was told that they have a huge container in the back that they dispense out.

Cowfish has a great selection of burgers and sushi. There are not a lot of "gluten sensitive" items on the menu, but enough to feel like you have some variety. They even have make your own sushi rolls with pretty much any addition you can think of in an a la carte format.
I ordered the Double Salmon Roll, which included smoked salmon and avocado, along with rice and seaweed wrapper. Very tasty and a nice size portion.

My dinner companion opted for the Make Your Own Sushi Roll and made it full of meat! He chose Filet, Salmon, Tuna, and Pulled Pork BBQ. Not sure I have ever had just a meat filled sushi roll, but it had quite the mix of flavors!
The ambiance of Cowfish is fun. A large aquarium splits the bar area and is located in the center of the restaurant. We even had a chance to watch the fish being fed! A great gathering place for friends and family in the Raleigh area, Cowfish offers a unique ability to fuse two popular food items into one restaurant. It is nice to have a gluten sensitive menu to steer those of us with food allergies to the safest meal possible.

The Cowfish
North Hills CAPTRUST Tower
4208 Six Forks Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27609

Monday, December 15, 2014

Monday Motivation 12/15/2014

"The mind is the limit. As long as the mind can envision the fact that you can do something, you can do it, as long as you really believe 100 percent."

~ Arnold Schwarzenegger

Friday, December 12, 2014

Sierra Mist is Corny?!

I don't drink a lot of soft drinks, but in a pinch or when I needed something sweet, the only mainstream soda I felt safe drinking with my corn allergy was PepsiCo's Sierra Mist. Most other mainstream sodas and sports drinks contain high fructose corn syrup or corn derived maltodextrin. Sierra Mist was the only mainstream soft drink to be made with real sugar... until now. PepsiCo recently added Stevia to Sierra Mist. At first, I was disappointed, as Stevia is 200 times sweeter than sugar and caused the new Sierra Mist to taste too sweet. Then, after having unexplained corn intolerance symptoms, I started thinking about Stevia and doing some research. Not even mentioning the nasty chemicals required to process this "natural" sweetener, it contains dextrose or maltodextrin, both corn derivatives. Seriously?? So much for the natural stevia plant that is good for you and better than sugar?!? The actual plant is ok, but be ready to grow your own or check store bought stevia ingredients carefully. 

What gluten free and corn free beverages are you drinking? I need some ideas!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Monday, December 1, 2014

EAT: Flying Fish Market and Grill, Barefoot Landing, North Myrtle Beach, SC

When at Barefoot Landing in North Myrtle Beach, SC for a concert or a day of shopping, be sure to check out the Flying Fish Market and Grill. Complete with a gluten free menu, this seafood restaurant has a good selection and a nice atmosphere. The restaurant has a large bar area and big windows for nice views of Barefoot Landing.
I ordered the Jambalaya from the Gluten Free Menu. It was very tasty with sauteed chicken and shrimp, smoked sausage, okra, tomatoes, peppers, onions, and rice.
My dinner companion ordered the gluten free Build Your Own Boil and added Little Neck Clams and PEI Mussels, minus the corn on the cob. It was a generous portion and also had potatoes and smoked sausage.

The Flying Fish Market and Grill is a great option when at Barefoot Landing. It is not a chain, but it is one of several restaurants located in North and South Carolina owned by the Homegrown Hospitality Group.

Flying Fish Market and Grill
Barefoot Landing 
4744 Hwy 17 South
North Myrtle Beach, SC 29582

EAT: Barsa Tapas Lounge and Bar, Charleston, SC

Need a little Spanish infusion in downtown Charleston, SC? Look no further than Barsa Tapas Lounge and Bar. Barsa is a great place to sample a bunch of different menu items. Even though it does not have a gluten free menu, our server, Jamie, was knowledgeable and pointed out which menu items were safe. 
We started out with the Roasted Beet Salad. It was very tasty and topped with mixed greens, walnuts, and a yogurt vinagretta. The beets were nicely roasted and had a good flavor. 
Next, we ordered the Roasted Olives with garlic, thyme, and rosemary. Wow! Not sure if I have ever had warmed olives, but I may be hooked!
We tried the Pork Ribs with Citrus Mojo. Jamie checked on their gluten and corn free status with the chef, and since everything is made in house, they were safe. The sauce on the ribs had a good flavor, but I thought the portion size (3 ribs) was an odd number to share tapas style. 
For our "main" meal, we decided upon the Seafood Spanish Paella. We ordered the medium size and were only able to eat about half between the two of us (hello, leftovers!). The Paella had shrimp, clams, mussels, and a local fish that was very tasty. The rice also had chorizo sausage added. Even though we were dining late and there were only a couple other tables of diners, Jamie informed us that the paella takes 45 minutes to cook, so be sure to put that order in first so your food will arrive in succession. 

Barsa has a great vibe, a corner lounge with a large bar. It does carry Crispin Gluten Free Cider for those interested in a gluten free adult beverage. Despite the lack of a gluten free menu, I was impressed that Jamie knew which menu items were safe, and the tapas style offered the ability to share and try a variety of menu items. 

Barsa Tapas, Lounge, and Bar
630 King St.
Charleston, SC 29403

EAT: Home Team BBQ, Charleston, SC

I don't want to say that I am a BBQ conisoiur being from the BBQ capital of the world, North Carolina, but I kind of am. I do really enjoy trying BBQ from other parts of the country and have found some great options outside my home state. Home Team BBQ in Charleston is no exception. I checked out the Sullivan's Island location for lunch (HTBBQ also has a West Ashley location). 
Home Team BBQ is similar to one of my favorite BBQ establishments, Southern Soul BBQ in St. Simons Island, GA (both regularly participated in cook-offs between each other) and both have won numerous national awards for their BBQ. I was really excited when I started to explain my food allergies to the server who promptly brought a gluten free menu. It is great to know that the vinegars used on the meats are gluten free. 
I decided upon the pulled pork plate. It comes with two sides. The gluten free menu limits the side options, but there are still several to choose from. With my other food allergies, I was even more limited (no coleslaw or potato salad - mayo (egg) based), so I went with two sides of collards. My photo does not depict how massive the plate was, but the portion size was quite large. The pork was tasty, not dry and had a light vinegar base on it. There were other homemade sauces on the table to add if you so desired. 
My lunch companion ordered the two meat plate with beef brisket and ribs, all gluten free. The coleslaw and mashed potatoes were his sides. The brisket was tender and had a great flavor. The ribs were good as well. 

Let me know what you think about Home Team BBQ and where your favorite BBQ joint is located!

Home Team BBQ
2209 Middle Street
Sullivans Island, SC

1205 Ashley River Rd.
West Ashley, SC

Monday Motivation 12/01/2014

"Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."

~ Winston Churchill

EAT UPDATE: Edmund's Oast, Charleston, SC

Edmund's Oast is quickly becoming one of my favorite restaurants in Charleston, SC! I had such a great meal there last time, I had to check it out again!  See my previous blog about Edmund's Oast here.  We arrived early for our reservation to request our favorite seat with a view of the kitchen (Dinner and a Show!). With just a short wait at the bar, our table was ready.
Speaking of the bar, they have 48 different beers and sodas on tap!? What a cool backdrop for the bar! However, there are no gluten free beers and ciders on tap and none in bottles. We did enjoy the fermented pineapple wine (not as sweet as you would think!) and one of the Cannonborough sodas on tap with Cruzan Rum.
When dining at Edmund's Oast, one must order the charcuterie board. The meats change regularly and we had completely different meats than last time. Our server, Lindsey, informed the chef, who made some modifications to ensure our board was gluten and corn free. It arrived with our favorite gluten free bread made by Sweet Radish Bakeshop, which consists of teff, oats, and almond flour. Some of the best gluten free bread I have tasted!
I saw the fried flounder on the menu during our last visit and after chatting with Lindsey, I found out that it is dusted in rice flour and fried in rice bran oil. It is already gluten free without modifications! This trip, we decided to try it out and yum, it is delicious! The dark sauce on the plate is gluten free tamari. The greens on top had a great flavor and really complimented the flounder. Also, it is pretty cool to have the whole fish delivered to your table!
Just like the last trip, we could not pass up on the Heritage Chicken and Carolina Gold Rice Porridge. It is perfect for a winter evening. 

We were stuffed and passed on dessert, but Edmund's Oast has a great selection of gluten free desserts from Sweet Radish Bakeshop. We saw several chocolate brownies prepared during our meal (gluten free minus the graham cracker sprinkled on top) and homemade pumpkin ice cream (we must have looked eager for a sample, as the chef gave us a small spoon taste). Yum! Nice flavor and not overly sweet. 

I continue to be impressed with Edmund's Oast and how accommodating it is for food allergies. Our server was very knowledgeable and when unsure, double-checked with the chef. Every step was made to ensure we had the safest meal possible. With the addition of a gluten free beer or cider option, it would definitely rival any top restaurant in Charleston and beyond... but it kind of already does!

Edmund's Oast
1081 Morrison Dr.
Charleston, SC 29403

Monday, November 24, 2014

Monday Motivation 11/24/2014

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."

~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Monday, November 17, 2014

Monday Motivation 11/17/2014

"Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future."

~ Deepak Chopra

Sunday, November 16, 2014

EAT: The Oceanic, Wrightsville Beach/Wilmington, NC

When on Wrightsville Beach, NC, The Oceanic is the place to be. With its breathtaking views of the ocean and newly renovated pier, it is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike. It is also well known for its private event facilities. While The Oceanic does not have a gluten free menu, our server, Scott, was well versed with the menu and double checked when we had questions. He even said that The Oceanic is changing the menu for the fall/winter and plans on adding more gluten free menu items!
We started off with the Shrimp Cocktail with no cocktail sauce. Instead, we requested melted butter. Four generous sized shrimp with no seasoning got us off to a great start.
The gluten free menu items were a little limited, and I hope the new menu has more variety. I decided on the Seared Sea Scallops with garlic mashed potatoes and collards. The sea scallops were topped with pancetta, fennel, and mandarin oranges. Very tasty!
My dinner companion went with the Oceanic Mixed Grill, which included grilled mahi mahi, salmon, and shrimp. Instead of the confetti rice (it contains gluten), he decided to go with the garlic mashed potatoes and collards. The fish had a good flavor, especially the salmon. 

The Oceanic has a great setting on the water. Of course, we were going to try the seafood and Scott made our visit very enjoyable. I appreciated his knowledge in providing us as safe a meal as possible and look forward to the new menu with more gluten free options. Be sure to check out this popular spot on your next trip to the Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach area.

The Oceanic
703 S. Lumina Dr.
Wrightsville Beach, NC 28480

Friday, November 14, 2014

EAT: Edmund's Oast, Charleston, SC

Edmund's Oast, located on Morrison Dr. in downtown Charleston, SC, is in an up and coming part of downtown. But, unlike many downtown Charleston restaurants, it has its own parking lot! I was excited to try out another potentially great restaurant in Charleston (have not been disappointed yet), but what really makes Edmund's Oast a great place for us food allergy warriors is the fact that the chef's girlfriend owns Sweet Radish Gluten Free Bakershop (See my Blog)! Not only does Edmund's Oast carry Sweet Radish gluten free bread and dessert options, they totally get the "allergy thing." Even though there is not a gluten free menu, our server was very knowledgeable and checked on any questions we had that he could not answer.
I almost died laughing at where we were seated. Could we have gotten a better seat in the house to "watch" over the preparation of the food?? Almost like dinner and a show! It was fun to watch the staff prepare each dish and of course, ask what dish is that?
Pre-meal, two small samplings of roasted sweet potatoes with honey were delivered to our table. Now, I am not sure if this is commonplace or if our mention of food allergies and questions about certain menu items prompted this delicious pre-dinner treat to be delivered to our table. Either way, it was a great way to start the meal!
We ordered the Charcuterie Board as an appetizer. The selection of meats was delivered on a large plank and served with bread. Even though we had stated we were gluten and corn free, I thought for sure that they had forgotten and brought the bread anyway (not the first time that has happened!). Not the case, as the bread was gluten free and corn free from Sweet Radish Bakery. Wow, both were excellent!
On a chilly night, the Heritage Chicken and Carolina Gold Rice Porridge was perfect. Mixed in were jumbo lump blue crab and young onions. It was very filling and enough for two to share.
Since many of the menu items at Edmund's Oast are set up like tapas, we also tried the Surryano Ham and Acorn Squash. The ham was very tasty, but I thought the squash could have been cooked longer, as I like my squash a little less crunchy.
Edmund's Oast did a great job of accommodating for food allergies and even had several gluten free dessert items from Sweet Radish Bakeshop. Despite being full, we tried the Pistachio Cookies with rose water and creme fraiche. It was my first cookie sandwich in years. After a couple of bites, though, I had to surrender and take the rest home.

Definitely check out this fun restaurant and bring your non-gluten free friends too, as they have a large selection of beers on tap. Edmund's Oast is also part of the FIG restaurant family and prides itself on working with local farms to bring its customers the finest ingredients.

Edmund's Oast
1081 Morrison Dr.
Charleston, SC 29403

This Is Why I Blog...

I initially started my blog in hopes of help others with food allergies. I have been gluten free for 9 years, but only recently found out in the past year that I have other food allergies as well. Since my job allows me to travel and eat at different restaurants all over the world, I was hoping to help others by posting my findings. At first, I thought most people would find the larger city locations and vacation destinations to be most helpful, but I have had several blogs about more obscure restaurant locations that have assisted others as well.

Then, I received this email from a friend of mine who referred a co-worker who is gluten free to my blog:

"...per Heather’s recent Blog about going to Hall’s [in Charleston, SC], we cancelled a reservation at High Cotton and took our chances at Hall’s... It was delicious and I had fried shrimp for the very first time in 2 or 3 years.  At the end of the night I was hugging the owner!"

She is referring to my blog on Hall's Chophouse which can be found here. Now, I might add that I have reviewed High Cotton (Blog Post) as well and it is very good, not to mention very accommodating to allergies. The point is that it really makes me happy to see others with food allergies finding great food that is safe for them! I hope I can continue to help others. As always, I love hearing about your food allergy friendly experiences and please let me know if you have any suggestions on topics or restaurants you would like to see on the blog!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Monday Motivation 11/10/2014

"Anytime you have an opportunity to make a difference in this world and you don't, then you are wasting your time on this earth."

~ Roberto Clemente

Thursday, November 6, 2014

EAT: Halls Chophouse, Charleston, SC

For a great steak when in Charleston, SC, head to Halls Chophouse on King St. A dimly lit two-story restaurant, Halls is famous for its steaks and its southern hospitality. Upon entering the restaurant, my dinner companion and I were warmly greeted not only by Billy Hall, son of owners Jeanne and Bill Hall, Sr., but also great live music from the piano in the corner. Billy welcomed us and found us a seat at the bar for the few minute wait for our reserved table to be available. Even on a Sunday evening, Halls was packed, but not overly noisy and the piano music gave the room a nice ambiance.
Steve, our server, was very knowledgeable about the menu, despite the lack of a gluten free menu. He assured us he could assist us in finding a great gluten free meal. In fact, Steve said that all fried items are dusted in rice flour and cooked in rice bran oil, so all fried items are gluten free! How awesome! Why is this not publicized?! Unless it is an obvious gluten item, like the pre-meal bread, pasta, and most desserts, it will be gluten free. Armed with this knowledge, we anxiously ordered the fried green tomatoes. They did not disappoint! Topped with crab, shrimp, and bacon succatash (minus the corn), the tomatoes were so perfect, we debated ordering another!
For the main meal, I ordered the Petite Filet (8oz). It was a nice medium (maybe more medium rare, which was ok by me) and very tender and flavorful. One of the best filets I have had in a long time. Something to note is that when ordering a steak, no sides come with it, so be sure to order a side or two. I recommend the Fried Green Tomatoes!
My dinner companion ordered the 24oz. Bone-In Rib Eye. It was a large slice and very juicy with a great flavor.

I was really impressed with Steve's knowledge of the menu and the gluten free options available. He even saved another diner from choking during our meal. He quickly did the Heimlich before many of the diners even knew what was going on. My dinner companion and I vowed to cut our meat in small pieces and chew completely before swallowing, but felt safe that Steve could assist us if needed. Stuffed from the great meal, Billy was there at the front door as we left to make sure we had a great time and to thank us for dining at Halls. Don't worry, Billy, we will be back soon! Thanks for taking great care of us!

Halls Chophouse
 434 King St.
Charleston, SC 29403