It’s a challenge, of that there is no denying. But it is possible to travel gluten free. There are lots of suggestions I could make, and that will be the subject of another post, but for now, I just want to tell you of our success in Los Angeles this past week. And then I’ll unpack my suitcase!
Several months ago, I purchased a new cookbook called Real Food Daily (RFD). I had read about it on a vegan blog and it was highly recommended. Since receiving the cookbook, I have devoured it (ha! ha! pretty funny pun, eh?) and practically know every recipe by heart. As soon as I knew we were traveling to LA, the home of RFD, I knew it would be a destination, at least once if not more. There are two locations, both in the LA area. We visited both of them and were very, very happy with the food on both occasions. At the Santa Monica venue, everything was tiptop. The server went above and beyond in order to make sure we were happy, and we were. I was a little less impressed with the service when we went to the West Hollywood location. I’m sorry to say that, especially as my expectations were very high. The server was short with me and clearly not that interested in making sure I was satisfied. Oh well, I still ate very safely and had a fantastic meal.
At the Santa Monica location, the first thing I ordered was their special soup of the day – it was a Golden Beet Soup, pictured above. It had some sort of Red Beet puree piped onto the top of the soup. It was heavenly.
The next thing I ordered was a beet-carrot-cucumber-parsley-ginger fresh squeezed juice. I know it doesn’t seem possible, but I swear, I tasted each vegetable with every sip of this nectar.
The Mexican Salad was fabulous – full of fresh vegetables, pinto beans and a lime-cilantro vinagrette. And the sliced, fanned avocado that crowned the salad tasted like it had just been picked off the avocado tree (do they grow on trees?!). Perfectly ripe. Perfectly delicious.
I also ordered a Tempeh Nori Roll with wheat-free tamari. You can be sure I’ll be making this at home, asap. If you’re new to tempeh, this is a great way to try it.
Some of our party were more moderate when they ordered. Not me, I wanted everything on the menu. Of course I couldn’t finish what I ordered, but it made great leftovers the next day. Peter ordered a Tempeh Salad with a Ranch dressing – simple, fresh, clean-tasting, delicious.
Several days later, we visited the West Hollywood location of Real Food Daily. I ordered Nachos, covered with a Cashew Vegan Cheese and Vegan Sour Cream – it was sensational. It came on a bed of Kettle brand corn chips. I asked the server if I could see the bag that the chips came in – she brought me an unopened bag from the kitchen – very nice of her, though she could have been more pleasant in her delivery. Oh well. This is the life we lead, being gluten free and all. You just have to piss some people off.
I will say this about the chips – in the past, if the ingredients looked “safe” and inherently gluten free, I’ve usually gone for it. But recently, I’ve read been reminded that you have to be careful, even when the ingredients are seemingly gluten free. Each company will have different standards in terms of how they prepare their foods. For example, can I be certain that these Kettle Corn Tortilla Chips are made in a dedicated fryer that never sees anything with gluten in it? In looking at their FAQ page, I see that though they thoroughly clean the machines between runs, there is the potential for cross contamination with wheat. If I want to play it safe, I probably shouldn’t eat any food that I’m not absolutely sure of, but I took a chance with this one. Turns out I felt ok. But I think I was taking a risk. Anyway, I have been dreaming about that dish since we ate it and can’t wait to replicate it in our kitchen.
We also ate at a Mexican restaurant in Santa Monica called El Cholo. The owner was extremely solicitous and willing to bend over backwards to ensure a safe dining experience for us. He steered us away, to my dismay, from the warm basket of corn tortilla chips and also the rice. When we asked for cut veggies to dip in the guacamole, he was happy to oblige. The guacamole was delicious and if I weren’t in polite company, I would’ve considered using my fingers as the delivery system! For our main meal, we had grilled chicken with grilled veggies and a side of black beans. My bad – I totally forgot to ask that the grill be carefully scraped before grilling my chicken. Thankfully, it wasn’t an issue. The meal was delicious.
There is a Whole Foods in Santa Monica – one night, we bought groceries and made dinner for the people with whom we were staying – a simple repast of Asian Twist Tofu, Jasmine Rice with Sauteed Onions, Mushrooms, and a hint of Toasted Sesame Oil, Szechuan Slaw, and Food for Life Brown Rice Tortilla Chips with Garlic and Kosher Salt. They were happy, we were happy. Good friends, good food, what more can you ask for?