Wednesday, February 26, 2014

EAT: Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Firebirds Grilled Shrimp and Strawberry Salad

Several years ago while driving to a golf tournament, I stopped for dinner at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in Birmingham, AL. At the time, Firebirds did not have a gluten free menu. Luckily, the CEO and Executive Chef were at the Birmingham location that night.  Being from North Carolina and Firebirds corporate headquarters being in Charlotte, NC, I asked my server if I could chat with the CEO and Executive Chef.  After swapping NC stories for a few minutes, I mentioned that a gluten free menu would be a great addition to the restaurant, which now boasts 35 locations around the country.  We discussed the challenges and requirements of creating such a menu and they were very interested in providing their customers with more options.  Now, Firebirds has an extensive gluten free menu.

Firebirds has great dinner salads! Prior to going dairy and egg free, my favorite was the Firebirds BLT salad, tasting exactly like a BLT complete with roasted garlic ranch dressing. The BLT salad is just as tasty with the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette. For those of you who are not dairy free, ask for a side of their aged Cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top (they toss the salad in the dressing, and trust me, the cheese tastes completely different if tossed in the dressing!). Now, I get the Grilled Shrimp and Strawberry Salad and replace the Balsamic Vinaigrette (has eggs) with the Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette. Still super delish!  If you have other allergies besides wheat gluten, be sure to ask your server or speak with the manager.  There is a book with all ingredients in the back that they are happy to share to make sure you have as safe a meal as possible.

Firebirds BLT Dinner Salad

The gluten free menu also has several types of beef, including prime rib and filet mignon, as well as a variety of seafood and baby back ribs.  They also have a selection of five sides to go with entrees and a gluten free kid's menu.  

My only caveat with Firebirds is the lack of a gluten free dessert (everyone needs something sweet occasionally, right?!).  I hear they have remedied this with a new gluten free flourless chocolate cake, available for a limited time. Hopefully, it will be a permanent fixture on the menu soon!

So, if you are in Alabama, Arizona, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, or Virginia, be sure to check out Firebirds and its gluten free menu.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Monday, February 24, 2014

Monday Motivation 2/24/2014

"Nothing can add more power to your life than concentrating all your energies on a limited set of targets."

~ Dr. Nido Qubein

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

EAT: Put some Mojo in your BBQ (Jacksonville, FL)!

Looking for an allergen friendly dinner in Jacksonville, FL, but don't want to go to the usual chain restaurants? Then, head over to Mojo BBQ (! There are four locations in the Jacksonville area. I took a trip to Mojo no. 4 (only a few minutes from Sweet Theory Baking Company (see earlier post)).  I was not disappointed.  They have BBQ, soups, salads, sandwiches, and southern platters.  A quick chat with my server and she brought me a list of menu items that contained gluten.

Being from North Carolina, I am a little particular about my BBQ. To my surprise, the menu offers North Carolina pork, as well as just about any BBQ sauce you can think of.

Since I have several different food allergies, I decided on a Jumbo Pulled Pork Sandwich (no bun and no slaw) and a side of collard greens.  Pretty tasty!

Mojo Bar-B-Que - "A Southern Blues Kitchen"
1607 University Blvd. West
Jacksonville, Florida 32217
(904) 732-7200

Mojo Kitchen - "BBQ Pit and Blues Bar"

1500 Beach Blvd.
Jacksonville Beach, Florida 32250
(904) 247-6636 

Mojo Smokehouse - BBQ & Blues
1810 Town Center Blvd.
Fleming Island, FL 32003
(904) 264-0636

Mojo No. 4 - Urban BBQ & Whiskey Bar

3572 St. John's Ave.
Jacksonville, Florida 32205
(904) 381-6670

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

EAT: Breakfast of Champions at the Sawgrass Marriott, Jacksonville, FL

How can a food allergy sufferer eat the required "Breakfast of Champions" when he/she is traveling and can't make own breakfast?? Easy! I have already blogged about my quick breakfast granola, but what if you need a breakfast that is a little more substantial?

During a recent stay at the Sawgrass Marriott in Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, I found myself at the Breakfast Buffet. This is the buffet the PGA Tour Players enjoy before their tournament rounds at the famed TPC Sawgrass. After speaking with Chef Matt, I learned that I could have several of the items on the buffet.  I did discuss more gluten free options, such as gluten free bread and granola.  Chef Matt said that they were interested in expanding their options for those with food allergies and asked for suggestions.  Luckily, I had some extra Udi's Granola in my bag to complete my breakfast. As you can see from my photo above, I did not go away hungry... fruit, juice, smoked salmon, sausage, and a couple of pieces of aged cheese.  Good sources of protein are great ways to keep you fuller longer and fuel your activities for the day.  Of course, if you are not allergic to eggs, they will make your omelets with a variety of additions.

I have found that all full scale Marriott hotels are more than accommodating for breakfast.  Many even have gluten free bread options and are eager to prepare something special for you.  Just be sure to discuss your allergen needs to the server, manager, or chef. Next time you are in Ponte Vedra Beach or the Jacksonville, FL area, be sure to check out Vernon's in the Sawgrass Marriott.  They will be happy to accommodate your food allergies and tell them I sent you!

Monday, February 17, 2014

Monday Motivation 2/17/2014

"Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined."

~ Henry David Thoreau

Friday, February 14, 2014

EAT: A Valentine's Day treat in Jacksonville!

Happy Valentine's Day, friends! If you are in the Jacksonville area and need a sweet treat for the one you love (or even yourself!), head over to Sweet Theory Baking Company. Located at 1243 King Street, all of Sweet Theory's baked goodies are vegan and free of eggs, soy, dairy, and peanuts. They also offer gluten free treats as well that are made with separate baking utensils and in a separate space from non-gluten items. Sweet Theory uses Organic Cold-Pressed Coconut, Organic Cane Sugar, and Agave Nectar. Corn allergies beware as the powdered sugar used in the icing has corn starch.

Sweet Theory has variety for your Valentine too: Doughnuts, Cakes, Cupcakes, Cookies, Brownies, Biscuits, and more! The Gluten Free items are designated with a "GF" on the sign. Be sure to get your Valentine treats early! This place is in high demand!

Sweet Theory Baking Company
1243 King St. 
Jacksonville, FL

Monday, February 10, 2014

Monday Motivation 2/10/2014

The spirit, the will to win, and the will to excel are things that endure. These qualities are so much more important than the events that occur. 

~ Vince Lombardi

Saturday, February 8, 2014

EAT: Fatto in Casa, Orlando, FL

Who needs a sweet treat?? Fatto in Casa, located in the East End Market at 3201 Corrine Dr. in Orlando, FL, has the selection. As a person with food allergies, I find it difficult to find allergen free desserts. Fatto in Casa specializes in Italian dishes, but also takes those of us with food allergies into consideration. 

The Hazelnut Flourless Chocolate Torte is gluten free, as well as the Italian cookies. Both are made with almonds and eggs. The torte was delicious, but not too sweet and a perfect size slice. 

Fatto in Casa is just one of 20 merchants at the East End Market, a perfect and eclectic detour from the hustle and bustle of Orlando. 

Fatto in Casa
3201 Corrine Dr. 
Orlando, FL

EAT: East End Market, Orlando, FL

Looking for a fun, healthy market to browse and find some allergen free treats in Orlando, FL? Not too far from Mickey and Minnie at 3201 Corrine Drive is the East End Market. According to its Web site,, the market is "a neighborhood market and cultural food hub inspired by Central Florida's local farmers and food artisans." What better way to pair healthy food with an opportunity to grow the local economy and cultivate connections with others!
Located in a renovated church, East End Market currently houses 20 merchants. A few of my favorites include: Skyebird is an organic, vegan, gluten free, and GMO free smoothie and juice bar. Fatto in Casa provides a selection of Italian food, including some gluten free desserts. La Bretxa has all types of wild caught seafood, while Local Roots brings the farm directly to Orlando. Houndstooth Sauce Company makes saucy concoctions of BBQ sauces, marinades, dressings, etc., while Olde Hearth Bread Company has a variety of bread for those without a gluten allergy. La Femme du Fromage brings artisan cheeses from around the world. 

East End Market even has a garden out front! As soon as I stepped inside, I left the hustle and bustle of the land of Mickey and Minnie. At first, I thought I had been transferred back to my home state of NC, as the market had a feel of Asheville. Each merchant had its own unique vibe, but you could tell they were working together toward a common goal of local entrepreneurship and healthy living. Several staff members at different tenants  even spoke about others making sure I checked out this merchant or be sure to try that merchant's food. 
For those of us with food allergies, I was impressed with our selection. All the smoothies and juices at Skyebird are organic, vegan, gluten free, and GMO free. They use almond milk in their smoothies so no worries for those with dairy allergies. Fatto in Casa offers Italian treats, from appetizers to desserts. They have gluten free cookies and a flourless torte, but these are not egg free. If you have questions regarding a product, be sure to ask, as each merchant I spoke with was very knowledgeable. 

Be sure to check out my next blog where I taste-tested several items from the East End Market!

Friday, February 7, 2014

EAT: Orlando Smoothies!

"SMOOTHIES," exclaimed Cameron Diaz in the movie "What Happens in Vegas." That was my reaction when I stopped by Skyebird in the East End Market in Orlando, FL.

Skyebird is a vegan, organic juice and smoothie shop. They sell kombucha and raw snacks as well. Everything is organic, vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, and GMO free. I tried the popular Skye's Fave, a smoothie with Blueberries, Kale, Bananas, Raw Almond Milk and Chia. Yum! It has a nice balance of sweetness (could not even taste the kale!) and even came in a take home/travel mason jar. I also got to sample the Ayurvedic Coffee with cherries added, a concoction of dandy blend coffee, banana, maple, coconut oil, almond milk, and cacao. It had a sweet with slight bitter taste, but a nice balance of both. I tend to find coffee to be a little bitter, but enjoyed the cherry addition. 

I was also able to sample the Strawberry Mint and Citrus Honey Kombucha. Kombucha is a naturally carbonated fermented tea with many health benefits.  Both flavors were quite tasty for my first taste of Kombucha. 

On a return trip to Skyebird, with my mason jar from my last smoothie in hand for a $0.50 discount, I tried the Spiced Pumpkin Smoothie and the Spicy Lemonade. The Spiced Pumpkin was a blend of pumpkin, banana, coconut oil, walnuts, chia, almond milk, maple, and spices. It tasted just like pumpkin pie and was a little thicker than my previous smoothie.  The Spicy Lemonade was a concoction of lemon, lime, pineapple, agave, and habanero. It was a yummy thirst quencher with a kick!

I was really excited how allergy free friendly Skyebird is! Their menu has enough variety for all tastebuds, from sweet to tart to bitter to spicy. 

3201 Corrine Dr. 
Orlando, FL

Monday, February 3, 2014

Monday Motivation 2/3/2014

"Let me win, but if I can not win let me be brave in the attempt."

~ Special Olympics Motto

For more motivation, check out this article on Special Olympic athlete, Marty Sheets. I worked with Marty when I was a SO coach.