Posted by: pamelapotter | August 12, 2014

Gluten free in DC- The Del Ray Cafe

My beloved just had his birthday and to celebrate we finally hit the DelRay Cafe for dinner. I think it’s going to be our new favorite spot for special meals.

To start, we shared the charcuterie platter with cheese. Which means I got the lion’s share of some truly spectacular pate and beautiful ham wrapped around what I think were fresh field greens while the birthday boy at fresh creamy goat cheese that smelled divine and other lovely cheeses with fresh French bread.

Have I ever mentioned I grew up in France and I miss that beautiful cheese so much! (Now I know I have a food allergy, darn it all.)

Mike moved on to the seafood platter, and I can tell that will be a favorite if it stays on the menu. He thought the shrimp were slightly over cooked, but everything was fresh and good quality.

I had the duck, and with ordering my meal I got some interesting conversation with the server. Word is, the owner is himself gluten free. True or not, everything is made from scratch, so adjustments can be made on the fly to accommodate special needs customers. So I was able to have my duck with fig compote and they just left off the gluteny garnish. It was fantastic!

Then came the exciting part for me. Many restaurants have gluten free desserts as a matter of course, but they are frequently creme brulee or ice cream, or even chocolate mousse. A disappointment for someone who is dairy free as well as gluten free.

The DelRay Cafe has buckwheat crepes. Including dessert crepes.

mmmmmm.

A nice fresh crepe with nutella (which isn’t truly dairy free, but within my tolerances for a special treat meal) sprinkled with fresh strawberries.

I was not even slightly envious of my beloved’s chocolate stuffed fresh beignets with orange creme anglais.

Ok, maybe a little envious. But still, it was lovely to have dessert options.

The cafe is actually open 7 days a week and serves breakfast and lunch as well as dinners. Because of their location compared to our I haven’t tried anything but their lovely brunch on both Saturday’s and Sundays. We’ve attended brunch several times and the food has always been really wonderful with the classic French touches that I remember well. I usually have eggs Benedict with a side of potatos instead of the muffin. I have sometimes orders a child’s portion of the gluten free buckwheat pancakes because it’s such a nice treat to have a wide variety on offer.

If you’re looking for something simple and delicious, I highly recommend them.

(You should know that their main dining room is up a flight of stairs. If you can’t manage them, they have the ‘kitchen room’ available. Although they don’t take brunch reservations for small groups, I have had good luck calling ahead to specify that I’ll need a table in the kitchen room so my wait has always been very reasonable.)

Posted by: pamelapotter | October 2, 2013

Gluten free dining in Front Royal VA

As part of our recent trip to the Shenandoah Valley we stayed overnight in Front Royal so we could start our trip up into the national part nice and early.

For dinner we hit Joes’s Steakhouse and I’m please to report it is one of those fantastic little places that really stands out in a small town. It’s a steak house menu, but they make most everything in house, like their salad dressings, so they are able to tell you exactly what’s in everything that you order. My husband had their spiced steamed shrimp and pronounced it worth going back for any time. Considering it’s several hours drive, that’s quite a recommendation. Then we both had steaks. I added bacon to my baked potato and it made me seriously we were going to be on town over a weekend so I could come to their brunch, as it was some of the best bacon I’d ever had, even in crumbles! Everything was cooked to perfection, well seasoned, and all together a really excellent meal.

After the meal Andy Thomas, the manager, came by and we discussed gluten free and other allergy issues as related to going out to restaurants. He had a lot to say about how important they considered it to use great, fresh ingredients rather than packaged items and how that allowed them to be very responsive to customer needs. I encouraged him to add to their website and their menu that they are happy to work with allergy related issues to help those of us who spend a lot of time searching online for gluten free friendly places. I gave him some really simple ideas to add gluten free desserts to their upcoming fall menu, like pumpkin custard instead of pumpkin pie. I hope they’ll implement those things.

As a surprise, they had an off-menu dessert to offer us. A very rich and lovely flourless chocolate cake. A nice surprise and the perfect end to an excellent dining experience. I highly recommend them.

The next morning we hit the local Cracker Barrel for breakfast. Although they don’t have an official gluten free menu and they clearly warn about cross contamination I have never had a problem eating breakfast there. It’s just a matter of ordering carefully. I frequently order my eggs poached as a way to avoid cross contamination with the grill, or to prevent any additives in my omelet. I order something with ham or bacon, and when the combo comes with sausage I just explain I’m allergic and ask if they’ll substitute extra bacon, which they’ve always been happy to do for me. I bring my own bread, and they’ve been very cooperative about grilling it for me instead of running it through their toaster. Not the most exciting breakfast for me (I don’t want to talk about the beautiful pancakes my husband gets to order…) but very reliable and the menu is consistent across the country so it’s easy to know what to expect. Sometimes with allergies that’s more important than an exciting meal.

 

Posted by: pamelapotter | September 26, 2013

Gluten Free in Charlottesville VA

We just got back from a short trip to Charlottesville and found some really good places to eat.

The first night after we arrived we ate dinner at our hotel, at the Old Mill Room. They were very willing to accommodate my gluten issue and my other allergies. The appetizer I wanted, a glazed pork belly, wasn’t an option because they used soy sauce in the marinade. It’s so much more important to not get ‘poisoned’ then to be able to eat everything I want. None of the other listed appetizers interested me, but they were happy to let me order the peanut soup off the bistro menu. It was really excellent and I highly recommend it. For my entree I had a simple tenderloin with potatoes and asparagus. It was fine. Not quite the quality I expected for the price, as it was under seasoned and a little pedestrian, although I can’t fault the quality of the ingredients used. My husband had a fish special with a lobster sauce that he thought was wonderful. They had a very rich flourless chocolate torte that we shared for dessert.  The Old Mill Room as a dress code for dinner, no jeans, or t-shirts, jackets requested. They also say no sneakers, but that’s all we had and as we were dressed nicely otherwise, no one mentioned it.

We ate there for breakfast twice as well. The breakfast buffet was nice enough. I was able to eat the scrambled eggs, fried potatoes, and one of the sausages was gluten free as was the bacon. I brought my own g/f bread which they were happy to toast on the grill for me.

One of our destinations was Monticello and I’m please to say that the little cafe there had a really nice selection of options. I didn’t look carefully because I had brought my own lunch, since I’ve learned never to depend on a cafe at a tourist site, but I could have eaten there without trouble I think from salads and sides. I shared some potato salad that had all the ingredients listed on the container and seemed to have been made locally, if not on site. They had fruit, and a really nice selection of gluten free cookies provided by a local bakery. They made an excellent snack on our way out.

We hit Revolutionary Soup for an early dinner and I was very impressed. They have a wide selection and the gluten free, vegetarian, and vegan options are very clearly marked. I need to avoid cream based soups as well and the woman at the counter was able to answer my questions without checking. You can order soup in 3 sizes so we ordered several in the smallest size to try them out. The tomato basil was a big hit as was the chicken tortilla. I adored the lamb stew. My husband had a wild mushroom wrap to round out his soup and thought it was excellent. I had a half-wrap’s worth of curried chicken salad and thought it was also excellent. We completely underestimated how much food we’d ordered so we couldn’t finish all the soup, but I’m glad we splurged and tried so many different varieties. I would go back any time.

Our last night we were celebrating our anniversary and wanted something nice. A search for gluten free found us Duner’s Restaurant and it was just what we had in mind. Be advised that they don’t take reservation and it was quite the hopping place even on a Thursday evening. We got there right at 5pm before the doors were quite open and we weren’t the only people waiting. By the time we left not every table was filled, but they were definitely doing excellent business. If you go at prime time, I’d be prepared to wait, but it will be worth it. The menu changes every day and the new menu doesn’t go up until late afternoon. You can get a good idea of what is seasonal from the day before, but don’t get your heart set on any particular item. I love places that are aggressive about finding the best of local and seasonal, and they definitely do that. I wanted to choose the pate’, but a question to the kitchen determined that it was not gluten free, so instead I had some prosciutto stuffed figs. They normally have cheese in them but the chef was happy to leave that out since it was early and he still had unstuffed figs to work with. My husband had fried calamari and really enjoyed it. For my entree I had some amazing duck breast and they were happy to substitute the potato of the day, a lovely mash, for the risotto, which contains a lot more dairy than mashed potato so is my preference. Mike had a halibut with wild mushroom sauce that he thought was fantastic. They also have perfectly lovely fresh bread, which I watched Mike eat with envy. I brought my own rice crackers and they were happy to bring me a separate dish of butter. Dessert for him was a truly decadent looking chocolate dome mousse cake thing that looked fantastic. There was a creme caramel dessert that would have been lovely for anyone who is only gluten free, but alas it was not for me. The ambiance and decor of Duner’s isn’t particularly special, but the food was superlative and absolutely worth every penny of the upscale price. I’d highly recommend them for any special occasion.

On the way out our last morning we ate at Sam’s Kitchen, and I’m sorry to say that I don’t recommend them. It was traditional diner breakfast and a decent menu, but I had some minor issues later in the day that in my body always indicate minor gluten exposure, presumably through cross contamination. Not a full on ‘poisoning’ as if there had been flour in one of the components, but I’m guessing the grill isn’t cleaned between, say, the pancakes and the hashbrowns.

 

Posted by: pamelapotter | February 5, 2013

Glutenfree in DC- Mitsitam Cafe no longer safe.

I’m very sad to report that the Mitsitam Cafe at the Native American Museum in DC is no longer the wonderful option that I read about in all the reviews. After living here a year I finally had the opportunity to try the cafe that I’d heard such wonderful things about. They have 5 different stations each with multiple dishes exploring the foods of different Native cuisines. Fantastic idea, and everything looked beautiful. Unfortunately, none of the lovely labels that I’d expected were present. They still listed what the dish was, but there are no longer notations about gluten free, or nuts, or even vegetarian.

I’d found this blog before I went but I was hoping it was a function of a visit during the inauguration weekend that caused a complete change in their presentation. Nope. I didn’t try to track down a manager, since I’d read an explanation and was disappointed but not surprised. I was there very early in the day though, so I chose carefully as I would anywhere and had the maple brined turkey, a chayote squash salad that was actually mostly white beans, and some fried yucca. That looks like a safe set of choices, but was not. While I wasn’t full on poisoned the way I would have been if there was gluten in one of the choices, I did get some subtle symptoms that I’ve learned to associate with cross contamination. If I had to point a finger I’d guess the yucca fries were done in a deep fryer that also cooked a lot of bread items. There weren’t any fried bread items at that station that day so I didn’t expect that kind of contamination.

That’s only a guess of course. There is no way to be certain. But my level of sensitivity isn’t that high, so a truly sensitive person would have been miserable, not a good way to enjoy a holiday in DC.

I’m sorry to say we’ll all have to remove this from our list.

Posted by: pamelapotter | December 30, 2012

The family that you make.

I have a great family. 3 fabulous sisters. Fabulous aunts who were very involved in my raising. But this isn’t about them.

I moved around a lot growing up. My blood family wasn’t always available to me in the way that we all would have liked. So I learned early how to build my own family, with the help of some very generous adults.

In high school, I spent nearly every afternoon at my best friend’s house. His mom fed me, looked after me, encouraged me, loved me. His older sister advised me, looked after me, and offered a lot of support, including an entire grading period of intense tutoring in math. And rides to school nearly every day, even though it was completely out of her way.

In college I joined an SCA household, but it was a lot more than that. The ‘mom’ of the household taught me to cook on a shoestring budget, how to manage a budget at all, how to be proud of my accomplishments, and how to sew. She’s still one of the most important people in my life 23 years later.

At my first job, my boss took me under her wing and encouraged me to take charge of my position at work. Out side of work she exposed me to a lot of concepts that I wasn’t ready to embrace for another decade, but I’d had all the groundwork done by someone who I had every reason to trust, and that made it easier.

When I moved to New Mexico I had a roommate. We helped each other grow through a bunch of hard times. We don’t see each other very often now, but in times of emergency, we’re always near the top of the list for a call for support. The love that’s there will never change.

Recently I realized I’ve added a new piece. Not as intense as some of my other family, but just as important nevertheless. People I know I can call on in an emergency. People I’m happy to have in my home at any time, and people I will go out of my way to support in hard times and celebrate with in good times.

So today I was just thinking about all the love in my life and wondering how I got so lucky.

Posted by: pamelapotter | December 26, 2012

Gluten free Cruising with Holland America

If you have special dietary needs, I highly recommend trying a cruise. We just got back from an amazing vacation and I didn’t get even slightly ‘poisoned’ the whole time.

Imagine, if you can, a whole week of not having to do anything more than choose what you like off the menu, just like a ‘normal’ person. I don’t think I even remembered what it was like to not have to worry about what I ate. It’s really hard to have to be on top of something so basic every meal, all the time. At home of course I keep my home safe, but that means doing my own cooking and shopping and planning. Vacations are complicated. I either bring and plan all my food, making vacations a little less relaxing, or I spin the roulette wheel every time I eat, which isn’t as fun as it sounds because the risk is possibly ruining the rest of the vacation.

Cruising is big business, and food sensitivities are prevalent, so most of the companies probably have a procedure for this. I filed my list of allergic foods with the company in advance. When we boarded, I went and met personally with the dining room manager, made sure they’d gotten the list, and…that was pretty much it. Each evening I was presented with the next night’s menu so I could choose what I wanted, and they made it be safe.

I was among many with the preview-menus. I suspect that gluten free is so prevalent now that they make whole batches of alternative meals, like rack of lamb breaded with g/f bread crumbs. I know that there was gluten free bread at my place each evening, and it appeared when I asked if I was in the main dining room at breakfast or lunch. They even had gluten free waffles and muffins available, if you just asked.

When I showed up at a lunch at the last minute, they took the menu of the day, compared it to my list, and let me know what they could make safe for me at the last minute. Fair enough. If I want special treatment, then I need to meet them half way.

I don’t think the cruise line we like, Holland America, sources their food in the US. Which to me is a good thing. It meant that the sausage that I tried very gingerly the first day, just one bite, didn’t have any weird fillers in it. It means that if it looks like a grilled steak or rotisserie chicken, then that’s pretty much what it is, with no weird ingredients. So even at the buffet on the Lido deck, I still had a lot of options of foods that were safe. I didn’t ask as many questions as perhaps I should have, but the quality of ingredients meant I didn’t have to, with no repercussions after the fact. I have no complaints at all. For breakfast they even had g/f bread and muffins available if you went to the right station and asked, and the sign also mentioned lactose free options. Other countries don’t think soy is food, with the exception of the traditional fermented things like miso and soy sauce, so I never worried about having that disguised in my food.

Oh, and there was some training. When I asked for g/f toast, they toasted it on the grill with the eggs, they did not run it through the toaster!

I will say that if you’re fond of dessert and are both g/f and d/f, well, in that case you may want to bring your own cookies. They had a g/f chocolate cake, and ice cream and creme brulee, and sorbet most nights (although often a flavor I was allergic to like strawberry). If those don’t suit you, plan accordingly. Fresh fruit was available everywhere.

I will definitely be planning cruises for my main vacations in the future. Taking a break from messing with food was even more restful than having a break from my job, it really was.

Posted by: pamelapotter | October 8, 2012

Some gluten free product recommendations.

At a joyful dinner out with a group on Saturday a friend was sharing her frustrations with being newly gluten free. I promised her some product recommendations to help her get started a little easier. Then I thought she probably wouldn’t mind if I shared them with everyone.

Just my opinion on some of the best gluten free baked goods out there.

Bread: Rudy’s- Rudy’s has the best texture and flavor for me. I love it toasted and I think it makes a good sandwich. No corn and no soy, and in the original flavor no flax. Unfortunately the multi-grain and cinnamon raisin are off limits to me because of flax, but they taste great. Some grocery stores (Giant and King Soopers) and most health food stores carry it.

Muffins and cookies: Udi’s makes some truly excellent muffins. Even my non g/f husband thinks so. The chocolate ones are as good as any chocolate cake you’re likely to find in the freezer section. Their cinnamon rolls are lovely. They make some of the best cookies, especially snickerdoodles. Various selections of  their products are available in regular grocery stores like KingSoopers or Giant. Check your favorite location. They also make bread that is fine, but I like Rudy’s better.

Cookies: for my absolute favorite g/f cookies you may have to hunt. I love Liz Lovely’s 2 to a pack premium cookies. Chocolate fudge or Chocolate Chip. Check with your local small whole food store. The websites say they’re available at Whole Foods, but I haven’t seen them at mine. They are worth the price.

Other cookies: Pamela’s brand cookies are readily available in most regular grocery stores. They are just fine for an every day cookie. Chip’s Ahoy for the gluten free. Lots of fun flavors, the lemon shortbread is very good. I do wish they weren’t using agave in their baking. That’s bad stuff.

Bake it yourself:

Pamela’s brand bake mixes are also readily available in most grocery stores. I think their brownie mix is excellent, I like to make it the butter recipe. The cake mix came out rich and moist and dense. I found it a little too sweet for my tastes but the non g/f people I served it too thought it tasted just fine and had a good texture.  I also buy their bread mix to use for baking things that need a bready rather than crumby texture.
Namaste’ is the brand I use for cake mix. Their spice cake is amazing, especially if you sub in a little orange juice with the liquid. When I need a birthday cake, this is the brand I buy. I also use their flour replacer in my own recipes for cookies and muffins.
I’ve seen that many of the main stream brands like Betty Crocker have come out with some gluten free mixes. I haven’t tried them  for no other reason than to support the brands that are really dedicated. And because I tend towards more whole food approaches, so I’m biased. I’m sure they are probably fine.

Posted by: pamelapotter | September 4, 2012

Gluten Free dinner in DC – Blue Duck Tavern

Tomorrow will be my 13th wedding anniversary, but Wednesday is an inconvenient day for a nice dinner out, so yesterday we got gussied up and headed into DC for a fancy meal of things I don’t normally cook.

The Blue Duck Tavern is in the Park Hyatt. Its a bit of a walk from any metro stop but they have excellent valet parking for a reasonable fee for those dining at the restaurant.

When I called to make my reservation I was assured that everything was made fresh in house and that accommodating gluten free wouldn’t be a problem. When we arrived and were waiting to be seated a chef was actually brought out from the kitchen and marked up a menu so that I could see what was safe. There were only a very few items that weren’t, and they were things like a seafood tart. I felt that I was going to have plenty of choices.

Mike ordered iced tea, which they are apparently known for. It is served with a small pitcher of simple syrup instead of the usual sugar packets. I thought that was very classy and showed a specific kind of attention to detail that I like to see. I ordered a cocktail. I very rarely drink because alcohol isn’t great for adrenal fatigue so I looked through the menu and picked a gin based ‘Pamela’s Punch’. It was interesting, and I did drink the whole thing, but it caused me to decide, for future reference, that I apparently don’t like gin. Fair enough, I don’t think I’ve ever actually had it before.

We were offered an amuse bouche that was a small plate of some raw veggies with a minted creme fraiche. Not my thing. Mike said “Very minty”, so not his thing either.

I was disappointed when looking at my marked up menu that the bone marrow that I’d read about and really, really wanted to try wasn’t marked as ‘gluten free’. I decided I was interested enough to actually confirm that through the waiter. It comes with a ‘truffle crust’ which has bread crumbs, but they were happy to make it without for me. I expect it lost just a little something in the flavor profile without that touch, but I didn’t miss it. The marrow was rich and delicious and melting just as it should be. Normally it is served with toast points, but I just ordered my triple cut fries early and had my marrow with a little potato and it worked out very well.

Bread was served at the table and Mike had a piece. He ordered the poached lobster with pork and although it was listed among my options and I had intended to try the pork (though I don’t care for shellfish) I wasn’t fast enough and really my marrow was a very generous portion. Mike enjoyed every bite and thought the flavors were amazing together.

For the entree I ordered the Moscovy duck breast and it might be one of the best duck breasts I’ve ever had. The skin wasn’t crispy, which surprised me, but after the first bite I didn’t care why. The breast had been cold smoked and the smoky flavor was perfect, not too much. It was really heightened by the apricot compote on top and nothing is better than duck confit. It was a truly amazing dish. I had that with a few more potato wedges and I’d ordered the green salad. Everything is a la carte French style, which means nothing comes with anything. Just know that going in.

Mike had the evening fish special which was a blue marlin served just seared with an avocado puree and grapefruit bites and he commented extensively on the blend of flavors, the freshness of the fish, and the perfection of the temperature of the fish, which was sushi quality.

For dessert Mike ordered the apple pie, their signature dessert and I can understand why. I’ve been gluten free for a long time and don’t often regret what I can’t have but I was seriously jealous of that pie. I actually stole his plate and pulled it close for a deep sniff. It smelled AMAZING and from Mike’s reaction it tasted as good as it smelled. I even allowed a variance of the normal house rules on gluten and the other half of the pie (a HUGE serving) is in the fridge for him tonight. If you go with people who aren’t gluten free, encourage the pie.

I ordered the apricot sorbet and it was very nice. A good fruity flavor. A perfect creamy smooth texture. Not icy the way they often are, not too sweet, which can be a problem. They had a nice selection of home made ice creams. I also got the chocolate sauce to put on my sorbet, and I think that was the only disappointment. It was fine, but perhaps a little gritty and…not quite perfect. I’m not sure why. So skip that, if you even have room left to think about it.

The service was excellent, the management came by to check on things, and all in all, it was a lovely celebratory meal. I would consider it a trendy approach to classic French peasant food, something I really enjoy. It was pricey, but I absolutely feel that we got what we paid for, the quality and preparation were top notch. Today I have no after effects, so I’m confident that there was no cross contamination in the kitchen.

The Blue Duck Tavern is now firmly on our list of places to go for a great celebratory meal.

Posted by: pamelapotter | September 4, 2012

Gluten Free brunch in Bethesda-Mon Ami Gabi

This Labor Day weekend marked the anniversary of our first year in the DC area. It has been a good year and I’m really excited to start another.

To celebrate we decided on a nice drive up the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which is really, really pretty. I’ve driven that way a number of times and really wanted to share it with Mike, so we took plenty of time at the scenic stops. I know we’ll do that again in a month or 2 when the leaves turn.

The destination this time was Mon Ami Gabi which I had read about in my Triumph Dining Guide. Their online menu looked really good and I like French food.

I don’t know about you but a lot of time when I go out I’m just grateful that there is something I can eat, but I don’t really feel that I have choices. Mon Ami Gabi is the first place I’ve been in a long time where nearly everything that I would have ordered anyway was either already gluten free, or on their special dedicated gluten free menu.

I specified that I was gluten free on the reservation and they mentioned it when we arrived, so they had my menu for me. Mike’s regular (and oh so delicious smelling) bread was delivered quickly, but my wait for my different but completely acceptable bread wasn’t long at all. I was given a warm plate with 3 slices of toasted multi-grain gluten free bread with a really lovely chewy texture and great flavor. (I didn’t recognized it as any of the regular commercial varieties) I had my own dish of butter so not to cross contaminate with the regular bread crumbs. And it had a nice little portion of warm olives and veg. One of the few times I really felt that pains were taken to make certain that ‘separate’ was truly ‘equal’

For my appetizer I had the duck confit. It was everything I hoped it would be. The meat fell right off the leg bone. The fingerling potatos were just right, and the basalmic cherries really heightened the flavors. Mike had the smoked salmon and was very pleased.

For my entree I had the daily egg special which was 2 perfectly poached eggs over a truly home made corned beef hash, nothing commercial or pre-made about it. The onions in the hash had been chopped fine so they melted into the mix and the corned beef was recognizable pieces with a lovely texture. They’d gotten just the right amount of ‘crunch’ when they fried it up. It was delicious. And when I asked they brought me another plate of the lovely gluten free bread. Yes, I was being a little excessive with the bread. I don’t often get to, so I did!

Mike had the seafood crepe and again, had only good things to say about the flavors and portion size.

For dessert Mike had the chocolate mousse. I mostly avoid dairy but did taste it and I thought it was buttery and nice. Mike thought it was fantastic and he’s quite the mousse snob, so don’t hesitate to order that. I had the flourless chocolate cake and it was definitely one of the best I’ve ever had. It almost had a souffle texture it was so light and airy, but the flavor was rich and full and the ganache on top was perfect.

Overall, I was impressed and enjoyed the meal immensely. It was completely worth the 45 minute trip to get up there and I can see that we’ll definitely try the location in Reston, which for us in 45 minutes in a completely different direction.

I always wait 24 hours after I eat out before I post a review, just to be certain. I am unsurprised that I had no after affects at all. My gluten free meal had no cross contamination at all.

A note about parking, it looks like there used to be a parking lot almost across the street, but they are building something there now. There was quite a bit of street parking, but down and over a block was a parking structure that had meters. We didn’t have any trouble finding a space.

 

Posted by: pamelapotter | July 13, 2012

OP Sail 2012 and gluten free dining in Norfolk, VA

It all started with an otter.

 

He was adopted by the aquarium in Virginia Beach which in a round about way caused us to take a trip to Norfolk.

The trip! Saturday am we drove from Alexandria to Norfolk. There was a LOT more traffic than we expected and we have come to recognize the truth. Freeways out here are always a mess and crowded. 95 was horrible until we hit the first major east west route, and then 64 was a parking lot disguised as a freeway, and apparently this is a fundamental truth known by everyone but tourists and newcomers. We ate lunch at a random bbq place in Newport News. It was meh, I had a salad. No specific gluten free menu.

We got to our hotel (Mariott Courtyard had a great AAA price), then walked to the restaurant and learned .6 of a mile is longer than you think especially when it is over 90 degrees. We had planned to cut catty-corner through this big mall that was between us and the restaurant but that didn’t work out because there weren’t nearly as many mall entrances as we expected. weird.

We went to Bite for dinner. They came up in a search for gluten free and they are the kind of ‘make everything fresh’ place I really love. I’ve never been poisoned at a place like that. The chef knows exactly what is in everything and will either adjust or make a counter recommendation. They’ve only been doing dinner for a few weeks, I hope they are successful because everything was amazing. The special of the day was somethingorother that I can’t even remember with duck fat fries for the side. You had me at duck fat really.  We asked if they could do them as a separate side for us, so they did and we shared and they were amazing. Then I had pork belly with a chipotle glaze served with a jicama slaw which I fully intend to try to replicate if any of my local stores actually carry jicama. It was lovely and took well to a slaw. (Cabbage currently doesn’t like me) Then I had ‘curry scented duck breast’ which was a perfectly cooked tender breast of duck with crispy skin on a bed of rice and the most beautifully seasoned coconut sauce I’ve ever tasted. I ate the duck and as much of the sauce as I could, and didn’t eat too much of the pineapple and only the rice that was most doused in that perfect sauce. Mike had…something that he also thought was excellent but I was really only focused on my food. He usually gets something I’m not interested in. At least until desert. Which was an exquisite flourless chocolate cake with some berry sauce on the side that Mike and I split. That was the best food we’ve had in YEARS. Possibly since the restaurant in Victoria BC we went to before our cruise. It was amazing.

We caught a cab from the restaurant to OpSail at the Norfolk Harbor. Its something that happens every 10 years and we just randomly found out about it from doing a little internet searching about Virginia Beach…because it really did start with the otter.

Saturday night (the day we arrived) was the fireworks. Mike ADORES fireworks. I think they are never interesting enough to be worth the hassle of finding a place to watch them, but I do because Mike loves them. We were out until nearly midnight. In our search for a decent viewing location we walked sideways through one of the tightest packed group of humanity I’ve ever been subjected to. I’ve seen crowds like that on tv but I’ve never actually been in one before. It was very crazy.

Sunday morning we went to D’egg Diner. It was Sunday morning with a festival so it was insane, but I was still impressed with how quickly they delivered food and turned tables. They don’t have a gluten free menu but there was plenty to order and the hashbrowns were safe and tasty.

Sunday was better from a crowd perspective. Not so many people. We had time to shop at the little booths where we got our traditional commemorative magnet and Mike got a new sun hat that actually covers his ears and the back of his neck. I already own a ridiculous sun hat complete with a hat band and ties for under the neck when the wind blows. We got to admire the sailing ships all lined up. We talked to a bunch of different groups of reenacters, which is always fun. I’m seriously considering leaving Renaissance and moving to Regency. Their clothing looks much more comfortable for the weather!!

We took a cruise through the harbor that not only gave us a great view of all the sailing ships but also went out to the Naval base and we got to see an actual aircraft carrier and 3 submarines, as well as a lot of other ships I can remember the names of. Its a really big base.
Apparently from there, through a series of rivers and canals, some fairly large boats can go straight down the Elizabeth river and stay inland all the way to Miami FL. I had no idea…

We ate at a Shula’s that night. We’ve decided that steak houses run by former football bigwigs just are never as good as they like to think they are. But it was slab-o-cow with sides so generally a safe choice for gluten free and it was filling and we had an early night because we were almost too exhausted to move by that point.

Monday we went to Pocahontas Pancakes (who have, as of this post, foolishly allowed their domain name to expire) in Virginia Beach. It looked like the kind of place you would have gone as a kid and been excited about, if you can remember that far back. I picked them because Mike loves pancakes and they actually listed a gluten free waffle. Which I ordered and really enjoyed. From an allergy perspective, I’m not sure how their food is actually handled. I am fortunate that minor cross contamination won’t ruin my day, and I didn’t have any trouble at all, but I don’t know that they had a dedicated waffle iron. They did also offer gluten free toast.  I ordered the toast too, just to see and that caused a bit of a shock. My waffle was served with plenty of lovely real butter. My toast was served with nasty soy margarine, which I learned when I put it on the last bit of my waffle. Which I was then done with. blech!!

Then we went to the aquarium. Our guiding otter was not on display, he’s too small. They have to teach him a lot of things before he’ll be allowed out in the display by himself, and then he needs to be bigger before he can go out with company, because otters play rough! But we saw another otter and Mike got some good pictures. We saw seahorses, which are the coolest, weirdest things. We watched seals for a while. Lots of varieties of turtle. All in all fun and interesting.

Then it was time for barbecue. I am still looking for decent barbecue in Alexandria. MojoBones, back in Norfolk but near the coast, was amazing! Their sauce was confirmed g/f and everything was wonderful. Their beans were some of the best I’ve had and they make their potato salad the way I think it should be made. I wish they weren’t so far away. I really miss barbecue!

For the drive home we took some alternate routes. While there were some traffic lights to deal with, it took us 2 hours less to get home than it did to go south on the freeway! How much of that was the alternate route and how much was the Monday I can’t say, but we’ve decided that we will always search for alternate routes in the future.

Over all a really nice trip.

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