Santa Barbara Gluten-Free Eats and Treats

I was lucky enough to spend the long weekend in Santa Barbara visiting dear friends and attending a wedding. I always love to travel and try new places, but with Celiac that can be a slightly nerve-wracking experience as there sometimes aren’t a lot of safe, gluten-free options. I went into the weekend really excited but expecting to subside on bars and snack foods (if you need ideas, check out this post) but was so pleasantly surprised to find that Santa Barbara is an incredibly gluten-free city! In fact, I would say that they are even much more accommodating than the Bay Area. Rather than do full Gluten-Free Spotlight posts on each restaurant, I thought I’d round up the restaurants in a handy post for any of you planning to visit!

Mesa Verde

Mesa Verde

My first meal of the trip was at Mesa Verde, a cool, farm-to-table restaurant that apparently was Santa Barbara’s first vegan restaurant! If vegan restaurant is synonymous in your mind with a hippy, dated restaurant, Mesa Verde couldn’t be farther from that idea. Rather, it has low lighting and clean lines and the plating is all beautiful, with Chef Greg Arnold creating “visually arresting compositions using imaginative vegan ingredients.” For my meal, I went with the Macro Bowl (rainbow chard, quinoa, grilled cabbage, kale, broccolini, shishito peppers, romesco, tahini, chimichurri) and left out the white beans and hummus as I don’t eat beans. This was seriously one of the best meals I have had since going gluten-free and I don’t say that lightly! When cooking I usually think of using one sauce but I’m re-thinking that strategy as the combination of romesco, tahini and chimichurri was seriously unreal. It was a huge portion and I ate every single bite because I loved all the flavors so much. It had the perfect amount of heat and was complex and delicious. If everyone could eat meals like this one, I think that we’d have more gluten-free/vegan believers out there!

Pickles and Swiss

When we stopped for a quick lunch the next day, we went to Pickles and Swiss, a cafe who’s tagline is “fresh bread and produce every day, nothing frozen, nothing deep-fried, gluten-free, no fillers, no nitrates, no artificial flavors or transfat.” Basically, it’s a cafe that actually believes in healthy eating and makes it easy and accessible. Normally at a cafe I would only order a salad due to cross-contamination of bread, but the staff at Pickles and Swiss was amazing. I spoke with the manager and he explained to me that their gluten-free bread was made locally and showed me the ingredient list and I was happy to see that it isn’t made with corn flour or dairy. I did a custom sandwich with Boar’s Head turkey (all Boar’s Head deli meats and cheeses are gluten-free) and they even heated up the bread on a special, gluten-free tray in the oven and were totally aware of cross-contamination. The sandwich was delicious and a rare treat and I would definitely stop in again.

Alchemy Cafe

Alchemy Cafe

Alchemy Cafe is connected to the Alchemy Wellness Center & Spa and is definitely a hidden gem. As you walk into the restaurant it feels a little like leaving the world behind and entering a more zen-like space. The menu is local, organic, healing, seasonal, vegetarian cuisine. One thing that is not mentioned on the menu or website, however, is that the entire menu is gluten-free, with the exception of one roll they offer and they are currently looking for a locally-made, gluten-free bread that is 100% organic. Upon hearing that I could have basically anything on the menu, my eyes lit up, as this pretty much never happens! I debated long and hard between sweet (buckwheat crepes made without any cross-contamination!) and the Thai curry. I ended up going for the latter and it was absolutely delicious and creamy and paired it with a green juice. My best friend went for the Alchemy Rolls (rice paper wraps with fresh carrots, avocado, sunflower sprouts, basil, cilantro, mint and cashews served with creamy Thai dressing) and after tasting them, I can agree that they were fantastic as they were light but packed with yummy, fresh ingredients. I also tried their Vanilla Coconut Macaroon and Almond Butter Goji ball and both were great for when you went a sweet way to finish the meal!

Backyard Bowls

backyard bowls

I’m a huge fan of acai bowls and frequent a few places in the Bay Area, so I was excited to try Santa Barbara’s version, Backyard Bowls. Because I can be slightly high maintenance when ordering an acai bowl (I wish there was a “create your own” option) I modified the Berry Bowl by leaving out the apple juice, bananas, blueberries, granola and honey and added almonds, coconut and cacoa nibs, the latter of which are my latest obsession! It was delicious and although I missed the greens which are in the ones I get normally, it was like a treat for breakfast and perfect for an on-the-go kind of morning.

Question:

-What’s your favorite foodie city?

-Any other gluten-free friendly cities I should know about?

How to Eat Gluten-Free at Chipotle

When you have food allergies, dining out can be extremely difficult which is why I created my Gluten-Free Spotlight series. It’s a way that I can share with all of you great gluten-free destinations in the Bay Area and beyond. Usually the places I highlight are specialty restaurants and bakeries that only have one location. Today, however, I wanted to share with you a great gluten-free option that has locations all across the country, and abroad! Due to the many locations, Chipotle is perfect for when you are traveling and might not have access to many safe gluten-free restaurants. If you have never been to a Chipotle, it is fast Mexican food that is delicious! You order at the counter and are able to pick and choose everything that goes into your burrito bowl or tacos. This is a gluten-free guy or gal’s dream because you don’t have to worry about what is happening back in the kitchen, but can actually see it for yourself. It has taken me a little while to figure out how to order safely and avoid cross-contamination at Chipotle and I wanted to share with you my tips.

Chipotle GGGF2

5 Tips for Eating Gluten-Free at Chipotle

1. Tell the person making your meal that you have a severe gluten allergy and ask them to please wash their hands and change their gloves. Most Chipotle employees are familiar with this and are happy to do it. (Word to the wise: After they change their gloves, watch that they don’t put their hands back on the tortillas… It seems like this wouldn’t happen but sometimes it does.)

2. Request that the person who has recently changed their gloves be the only one who makes your meal.

3. If you like to put lettuce or cheese on your burrito bowl or tacos, request that they use a fresh container of lettuce or cheese. (If they use an existing one, then their gloves continuously touch the tortillas and then the lettuce/cheese, therefore, contaminating it.)

4. If you are concerned about the utensils that touch the flour tortillas touching your meal, they are often happy to change those out as well.

5. Watch the process carefully to ensure that all safe practices are followed and thank the person making your meal for enabling you to eat at Chipotle safely!

Chipotle GGGF1

And then enjoy your delicious Chipotle meal! If you can eat corn, then you can also have the crispy corn tacos or add-on some corn chips to round out your meal! (I can no longer have them, but Chipotle chips are absolutely delicious!) If you have other food allergies, check out this link to the Chipotle site where there is a great chart. Also, if you are Paleo, you can still eat at Chipotle too! I order a large bed of the shredded lettuce with chicken and topped with medium salsa! You could also go for a variety of their other meat options and add the fajita veggies too, simply skipping the rice and beans!

Question:

-What’s your favorite Chipotle (or other Mexican restaurant) order?

Gluten-Free Spotlight: Liquidology

As soon as I know that I’m going out-of-town, one of the first things that I like to do is check out fun restaurants in the area. (That, and plan my outfits of course.) This is a crucial move for me given that it’s hard for me to eat at a lot of restaurants due to cross-contamination, but it’s also just something that I enjoy. I absolutely love perusing menus and trying new places. So when I went to Sacramento last weekend for a special family occasion, I got to thinking about places I wanted to visit. First up, was another trip to Pushkin’s, the gluten-free and dairy-free bakery that dreams are made of and if you follow me on Instagram, then you saw the amazing sandwich that I had. Not pictured was the bakery box of goodies that I also walked away with… Next up was to find a great juice place and I was so excited to discover Liquidology in East Sacramento. It’s no secret that I love my green juice so I couldn’t wait to check out somewhere new.

Liquidology GGGF1

Liquidology is a cold-pressed juice restaurant that features 100% organic juice that is also local and seasonal. Their juices are served in glass containers which apparently helps retain vital enzymes and phytonutrients. (Not to mention, they look great in Instagram pictures.) The vibe of Liquidology is awesome too with fresh flowers all over which contrasts perfectly with their brick and concrete walls. Of course, the best part were the juices. It’s a place where sampling is encouraged and each taste is served in a ceramic sake-type glass, which just makes the experience even cooler. The hard part was narrowing down which ones to taste as I pretty much wanted to try them all. The first one I tasted was Greenie in a Bottle (romaine, spinach, cucumber, cabbage, watercress, lemon and ginger) which definitely had a bitter edge to it due to the watercress and would be a great option for when you want something that isn’t too sweet. I also tried the Vitality (romaine, spinach, cucumber, kale, apple, lemon and ginger) which is similar to my favorite green juice that I drink at home all the time and was delicious. It was a winner with my family too as each member purchased one!

Liquidology GGGF2

I was also tempted by the coconut waters and tried both of them. The Alchemist (coconut meat, coconut water, tumeric, Madagascar vanilla and nutmeg) was absolutely delicious and I love all the health benefits of tumeric! In the end, I had to get a full bottle of the Coco Cinnamon (coconut meat, coconut water and cinnamon) which was simple and incredible. It tasted like a milkshake and made me seriously think that this would be the perfect nighttime dessert. Another great thing about Liquidology was that they offered raw, gluten-free, vegan food as well and had a refrigerated case of goodies which I will definitely be back to try. However, I did go for a container of The Cultured Kitchen’s Cultured Kale Chips to split with my family which were so yummy and may be my favorite kale chips ever due to the amazing cashew sauce they are covered in. They went so quickly among our group that I had to buy another box for the road! If I was local I would be at Liquidology all the time, but at least I know now that I will definitely be visiting each time that I’m in town.

Liquidology GGGF3

Question:

-What’s the first thing you do when you know you are going out-of-town?

-What’s your favorite kind of juice?

This post is not sponsored in any way, nor did I receive any free products. I simply love highlighting great gluten-free restaurants and get so excited about what they offer that I love to share them with all of you!

Gluten-Free Spotlight: Unrefined Bakery

My usual spotlights are centered around the Bay Area, but I thought it would be fun to tell you about great gluten-free spots in other cities I’ve visited. When I went to Dallas for Thanksgiving, I found some wonderful, safe places to eat, but the best was Unrefined Bakery. When I heard about Unrefined, I knew I had to check it out as they are not only certified gluten-free but they are also soy-free, all-natural and organic! As a rule I generally only eat all-natural, whole foods, so I loved that they specialize in this, making it safe food that you can feel good about. Fellow friends with other allergies, this is the place for you too, as they are 99% corn and dairy-free, as well as 80% egg-free. Basically this is a dream come true for those with food allergies. What really surprised me though, was how paleo friendly they were as well! That was something that I was so impressed with in Dallas in general, and found the city to have many more paleo offerings than the Bay Area!

Unrefined 1 GGGF

As I try to eat mostly paleo, those are the items that I really wanted to try. I’ve had paleo offerings from other places before but they are often very egg-y, due to a high number of eggs and low ratio of coconut flour. As someone who isn’t a fan of eggs, that’s not what I like when it comes to my baked goods! Unrefined got it completely right though. Their paleo pumpkin muffins were absolutely delicious! They were hearty without being dense and had the perfect amount of spice to them. I’d like to say that my family enjoyed them as well, but I didn’t share these. They were just that good! These come frozen, in a 4-pack which is ideal because preservative-free foods don’t tend to last long, so it’s nice to be able to heat them one at a time.

As it was Thanksgiving, the other items I tried were holiday specials. They offered traditional cornbread stuffing and to my delight, paleo stuffing. The paleo stuffing was absolutely delicious and perfectly flavored. It was so good that my family didn’t even realize that it wasn’t the more traditional, cornbread one! Success! Off to a great start with the muffins and stuffing, I was excited to see how their pies would fare. I tasted their dark chocolate paleo pie in-store and it was absolutely amazing, with a rich chocolately flavor and a flaky crust. If there had been room for 2 pies at my celebration, I definitely would have purchased this. Instead, I went for the paleo pumpkin pie and it was one of the best pies I have ever tasted. So good in fact, that I may have had another slice the next day before I went to the airport. And by may, I mean definitely. If you live in Dallas and are gluten-free (or just enjoy really great baked goods) run to one of their three locations. Oh, and please tell me all about it because I’m wishing I lived closer!

Unrefined 3 GGGF