Gluten Free Travels… Royal Caribbean Cruise!

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We recently had the pleasure of going on a Royal Caribbean cruise.  We sailed on the Allure of the Seas from Ft Lauderdale to Labadee Haiti, Falmouth, Jamaica and Cozumel, Mexico.

I have Celiac Disease [About Me] as a result this review will focus primarily on the food and service we experienced not so much the ship itself or the ports we visited.  However, I would like to briefly say that The Allure of the Seas is beautiful.  It’s a massive ship (one of the largest in the world), modern, very well maintained and offers diverse dining and entertainment options.  Even though the ship accommodates 5,000 or 6,000, we very rarely felt cramped.  There is ample room to move around and it was always easy to find a lounging chair.  We’ve taken a good number of cruises, although this was our first Royal Caribbean cruise.  We were very, very impressed.  Overall, this was our best cruise experience ever.  On to the food…

First, Ft Lauderdale

We came in early to Ft Lauderdale.  I always like to arrive at least a day early for cruises.  This time, we actually stayed three nights ahead of the cruise.  We had a great time in Ft Lauderdale.  I always want to be very careful when eating, However, I wanted to be very, very careful while in FLL.  We had a full week of vacation ahead of us and I didn’t want to be sick for it.  For the most part, we ate at exclusively gluten free restaurants.

Weezie’s Gluten Free Kitchen – 1321 East Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park, FL

Weezie’s is that diner you used to go to when you could eat gluten, only everything at Weezie’s is gluten free!  Diverse menu, baked goods, pizza, sandwiches, desserts and pies.  This is run by a Celiac and is a real gem.  We had some great food and service here.

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Roast Beef and Horseradish Cheddar Sandwich with Hummus and Tortilla Chips

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Patty Melt (on faux Rye) with fries.  This was a real treat, I thought I’d never eat a patty melt again.

We also had the key lime pie which was delicious.

Fresh First – 1637 SE 17th Street, Ft. Lauderdale

I cannot emphasize how great Fresh First is.  This is an awesome restaurant.  In the span of two days, we ate here three times.  It would have been four or five if they were open for dinner.  The food was genuinely amazing – not even “it was good for gluten free food”, no, it was amazing regardless of gluten content.  Our server was extremely nice and confided in us about her own food issues, a real delight.  We also chatted with the owners for a minute.  This is a great place, run by great people… go to this place!

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Omelette, Waffle, Griddled Red and Sweet Potatoes and… a Chocolate Chip Pancake.  Just outstanding.  I would nearly hop on a plane to go get another one of these pancakes.  Get the pancake!

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Eggs Benedict with perfectly, I mean perfectly done eggs.  Delicious.

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Chicken Salad sandwich – pulled chicken breast, Granny Smith apples, celery, dill and vegan mayo served on a delicious GF bun with potato leek soup.

Rocco’s Tacos – This was the one non GF dedicated restaurant that we went to.  I was a little nervous eating here because it is A: busy and B: loud.  Two things I don’t like as a Celiac.  I want quite and slow, so I can communicate well and so the restaurant isn’t in too much of a hurry.  I talked with the manager along with my server.  Rocco’s did have a very good rating in Find Me Gluten Free and we ended up having a delicious meal here (tacos for me) and table side Guacamole.  They had a dedicated fryer for their chips, so those were safe.  Overall very good experience.

The remaining two dinners were had at… Whole Foods.  We grabbed a few things in the store and ate in the cafeteria area.  I love that Whole Foods has this area in most (maybe all?) of their locations.  We also grabbed our two bottles of wine for the cruise at Whole Foods.  Royal Caribbean allows you to bring one bottle of wine per adult, up to two per stateroom.  That’s pretty common for cruises, but RC goes a step further and does not charge a corkage fee at restaurants.  Nice!


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Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas

Note: I purchased this cruise and with my own money.  Beyond that I did not identify myself as a gluten free blogger or the writer behind Gluten Free Finds.  I was an anonymous full fare paying passenger on this cruise.

Before the cruise – Contact Royal Caribbean and inform them of your gluten free requirement.  You can email special_needs@rccl.com or give them a call.

As someone with special dietary requirements your main point of contact on the ship is generally your head waiter.  They take orders for the next day, answer questions about food on board and can help with special arrangements.  It seems people are generally directed to get with their head waiter after boarding.  I was unable to do that until our first dinner at which time I identified myself as having Celiac Disease.  I asked several questions and got the answers.  Notable things I found out…

  • I would pre-order main dining room meals after dinner each night.
  • All specialty dining venues had gluten free options and were considered safe by my head waiter.
  • When dining at a specialty restaurant, you should ask to speak with a supervisor for assistance.

We had chosen My Time Dining.  Even with MTD, I always had the same head waiter each evening.  Our head waiter, Adina, was one of only a couple female head waiters on that particular sailing.  She was… amazing.  Really, actually, literally amazing.  Keep reading for an illustration of that, but she was amazing.

I don’t have a lot of pictures of food, because I have a tendency to want to just eat the food when it arrives, but I did take a few…

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Burger in the main dining room.  Do you ever have those questioning moments, where something looks so good, you’re worried that it isn’t gluten free.  That was my reaction for the first time I saw this bun.  It was very tasty and, the lab I keep built in to my body 🙂 also confirmed that it was gluten free.

A note about Johnny Rockets: I tried to eat at Johnny Rockets for lunch one day.  Can you, as a Celiac or otherwise gluten intolerant, eat there?  Probably yes.  After speaking with the supervisor I learned that the fries were fried in a shared fryer and that my burger would take 30 minutes because they would bake it.  They also weren’t sure if they had a GF bun or not.  So, 30 minutes for a baked burger in a lettuce wrap and no fries?  I appreciate the safety and all of the clear information, but I got up and went to the main dining room.  The Royal Burger is delicious and the fries are safe.

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Fries from the main dining room.  Delicious steak-fry cut, fried in a dedicated fryer.  Umm… yes please.

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Gluten free bread from our dinner at Chop’s Steakhouse.  I had the filet and couple sides and our meal was outstanding…

Head Waiter Heroics… While we were profusely enjoying our dinner at Chop’s I wondered how I would pre-order my meals for the next day.  Towards the end of the meal, our head waiter Adina showed up with the next day’s menus.  She had noticed we hadn’t shown up in the main dining, looked in the reservation system to find where we were…. dressed up in a Chops uniform and showed up at our table to take my pre-order.  Umm… wow.  That level of care and service is amazing to me.

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A carnitas taco (with table-side guacamole) at Sabor.  Sabor was our first eating experience on the ship.  Several reviews I read indicated that Windjammer Buffet (Did someone say buffet!?) was the only venue open for lunch on embarkation day.  That’s just not correct.  At least on the Allure of the Seas, several venues were open, including Sabor.  The fryers at Sabor are not dedicated, however, they will heat up a kettle of oil when you order and fry you up some fresh chips.  It takes a little while to get the first order, but it’s pretty amazing that they do that.  Our food at Sabor was delicious.  Both times we went (one lunch and one dinner) we got table side guacamole.  Great venue with great food!

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I read great things about the (gluten containing) roast beef sandwich at Park Cafe and I also read it was possible to get a gluten free variation and indeed it is.  After talking to the supervisor… Adel (not that one, but a superstar nonetheless… Thank you Adel) he made me a sandwich himself.  When he started warming up a toaster, I objected asking if that had been used to toast gluten containing items.  He pointed out the sign on the top of the toaster.  You can’t see it very well in this photo (click to zoom) but it’s clearly marked gluten free.  Nice!  They pulled a fresh pan of roast beef from the kitchen and assembled the whole thing right in front of my eyes.

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Park Cafe Roast Beef Sandwich on Udi’s Bagel.  Pay no attention to the extra roast beef on the side.  I asked for extra roast beef and they obliged.  Delicious GF roast beef sandwich!

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Another plate of gluten free bread I received.  In all, I had three types of bread (not counting buns) on the cruise.  The topmost one was the most common and my favorite, it has some sort of nut in it.  The bottom-most one was good too, it had a combo bread/cornbread feel to it.  The third variety I received (only once), was extremely white and had very little flavor and the texture of styrofoam.  That was only on one occasion and even then, I had two other good choices on the same plate.

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The Royal Shrimp Cocktail was a nightly appetizer for me.  Remember you can order as many appetizers, entrees and desserts as you’d like.  Portions tend to be smaller, so this isn’t as bad for you as it sounds.

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Here is the breakfast menu from the main dining room.  I think it’s the same menu daily, at least for the most part.  Do you see gluten free pancakes as an option… no, they are not an option.  Keep reading.

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Gluten free pancakes.  Whammo.  Pretty delicious too.  My amazing head waiter special ordered these for me every day.  You could also do gluten free waffles or french toast.  Here’s a secret… your headwaiter can make just about anything (food-wise) happen for you.

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Here’s my standard breakfast.  Gluten free pancakes and the “Classic” with eggs over medium, bacon and hashbrowns.

A visit from Chef Brad… One morning during breakfast one of the Chef’s visited my table.  Remember… I did not identify myself as a gluten free blogger or as a writer, at all.  Chef Brad stopped by my table and introduced himself and said that he was one of the Chef’s responsible for gluten free cuisine.  He told me how important it was to him and Royal Caribbean.  Gluten free peoples of the world… Where does this happen at??  That’s amazing service and it also shows that Royal Caribbean and… Brad really care about gluten free and the health of gluten intolerant people.  Bravo!

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This is an aerial shot of the Boardwalk.  Sabor is toward the end of the Boardwalk on the right side.  “Cups and Scoops” is also on the right side.  It serves cupcakes and Ben and Jerry’s ice cream.  I stopped in to Cups and Scoops one day to ask about gluten free options.  The worker quickly listed off gluten free flavors… Yay!  I asked about getting a serving from an unopened and uncontaminated container in the back and the person was unable or unwilling to do that.  I didn’t really push it and if I were, I would have asked for a supervisor, like I was supposed to do anyway, and I’m assuming they would have made it happen.

Odds and Ends…

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GF Beer… Before departing on this vacation, I tried to figure out if Royal Caribbean has any gluten free beer options.  I found an older picture of a beer menu that had Dogfish Head Tweason’ale on it, but couldn’t confirm that that’s a regular offering.  Here’s a photo of part of the menu from Allure’s Bow and Stern English pub.  They indeed serve GF beer!

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Here it is Dogfish Head Tweason’ale.  Really a pretty tasty beer.  I had several just to make sure.  I understand why they chose this as their one and only GF beer.  It’s flavorful, yet mild enough to be drinkable for those who enjoy lighter beers.  It would be nice to see Royal Caribbean pick up a hoppier beer that may have appeal to both gluten free and non-gluten free folks alike, something like Glutenberg’s Pale Ale or IPA.  It is great to have a gluten free beer option!  Cider options and of course wine and mixed drinks are also available.

Labadee Beach BBQ – Food on Labadee, Royal Caribbean’s private resort, comes from the ship.  My head waiter told me what was gluten free and directed me to talk with a supervisor at Labadee.  I did so, and the supervisor kindly got me an uncontaminated plate from fresh food.  I had ribs and beans and rice along with some fruit.  I also had the option of pre-ordering a specific meal from the ship.  You can also return to the ship to eat lunch.  Everything is pretty close, so you could do that without too much hassle.

Eating at other ports – I had a large breakfast each day before leaving the ship and brought along protein bars.  I ate at no restaurants what at Falmouth or Cozumel.  I could probably have pulled it off at Cozumel, but with the amount of time we were there, I just didn’t want to hassle with it.

A note when traveling to foreign countries – This is an important tip.  The formula for products you know and are familiar with can be region specific.  For example, Ruffles and Doritos are (as of this writing) gluten free in the sense that they have no gluten containing ingredients.  That’s in the US.  All bets are off when you hit the border.  I almost purchased and consumed both Ruffles and Doritos while in port at Cozumel.  FORTUNATELY…. they both called out the fact that they have gluten in the ingredient list.  Why would Ruffles have gluten in them?  Why?  Ruffles and Doritos in Mexico are… unsafe.  Keep the fact that formulations can change by region in mind when you are traveling.

Udi’s Single Serve Cookies – I read several reviews saying these were available at the Cupcake shop.  On the Allure, I found them at the Promenade Cafe.  You just need to ask at the counter.  I received both chocolate chip and snicker doodle and both were nice snacks.

Other things I didn’t Try – Sorrento’s Pizza – I had read that they can make a gluten free pizza, but I didn’t try it out.  Several specialty restaurants – we went to Chops and Sabor, but every special restaurant has gluten free options, again If you have Celiac Disease or are otherwise very sensitive… speak with a supervisor when ordering.  Windjammer Buffet – they have a gluten free section and some items are marked gluten free, but I didn’t feel comfortable eating at a buffet.

Non food related thoughts – Royal’s VOOM Internet service is amazing.  It’s very fast and the prices are reasonable.  We got one device for free as part of our package and purchased another (20% discount pre-departure) for about $65.  That’s for unlimited internet the whole week.  That combined with iPhone’s Wi-Fi calling meant we could keep in contact with the family.  Valet Luggage Service – If your departure flight falls within certain parameters on certain carriers, you can pay $20 per person and RC will print out your boarding pass for you and check your luggage.  This was a very handy service that I would use again.

Final Thoughts…

This was an amazing vacation that I would relive in a heartbeat.  I was encouraged that a company would take my eating limitations so seriously.  Royal Caribbean does gluten free right.  Thank you to RC and to your awesome staff!  You’ve won a lifelong customer.

Be kind, thankful and generous… Let’s face it folks, we are non-gluten eaters in a gluten filled world.  It takes extra care, effort and cost to safely serve us.  A main concern we have is eating safely.  Be kind and thankful to those that are going out of their way to serve you.  Spread the word about great companies like Royal Caribbean and be generous.  We left the automatic tips on our account and then tipped an extra cash amount directly to our entire dining room staff.  How much is it worth to you to feel well for an entire week of eating away from your home.  For me, that’s worth a lot.

Thank you Royal Caribbean and keep up the amazing work!  You went beyond my expectations and I look for to returning.

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Hello Seattle… Gluten Free Trip Report!

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Even though I’m from the Midwest, I consider Seattle a second home.  We have a good amount of family there and have traveled there many times over the years.  This is the first time I’ve gone to the Pacific Northwest since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease [About Me].  As always, my trip report will focus primarily on food.  Seattle, in general is an awesome place to visit, has lots and lots to see and do in beautiful, sometimes stunning surroundings.


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Ghostfish Brewery and Gastropub – Ghostfish is a dedicated gluten free brewery (and kitchen).  They don’t produce “gluten removed” beers, they use gluten free ingredients from beginning to end.  The same is true for their restaurant.  We were fortunate enough to visit after their expanded GF kitchen had opened.  Previously, they had offered gluten free pizzas (prepared off site), with the expansion, they now offer a good sized menu.  This was our first stop off the plane.  We also went back one time later in the trip.  Pictures below are from both visits.

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Ghostfish’s Gastropub Menu

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Fish and Chips with Grapefruit IPA tempura batter and grapefruit remoulade.  I had this twice.  The first time it was crazy delicious.  Since I was starving from not eating all day, I had to go back again and confirm that it was delicious.  Confirmed.  We also had a pizza.  Ghostfish serves SODO Pizza‘s thin crust pizzas.  One of the better GF crusts I’ve had.

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A taster of gluten free beers from Ghostfish.  From left to right – Vanish Point Pale Ale, Peak Buster Double IPA, Grapefruit IPA and Watchstander Stout.  I’ve been in a good number of breweries (before being diagnosed with CD).  Ghostfish has a beautiful location and… it smells like an actual brewery.  The beer was delicious.  We also purchased some packaged beer to go.

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A Watchstander Stout.  2015 GABF Gold Medal Winner for the Gluten Free Category.  Ghostfish’s Brewmaster Jason Yerger has Celiac Disease.  All of the founders either have gluten issues or have loved ones with gluten issues.

Razzi’s Pizzeria – In Greenwood.  Razzi’s has a massive, massive GF menu.  Massive.  Comparing the traditional and GF, it seemed nearly everything had a GF option.

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I received bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar prior to ordering.  The bread was one of those… I’m scared this is gluten containing bread, sorts of things.  My kids quickly confirmed I was okay.  Their GF bread and pizza crusts are also available for to go purchase.

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Razzi’s is a certified Gluten Free Restaurant.  Dear people who run restaurants… I’d love to see this symbol a whole lot more.  Razzi’s also offers vegan options.

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I had the beef lasagne and it was very good.

Dick’s Drive In – If you’ve been around Seattle much, chances are you’ve eaten here or at least heard of it.  In spite of being a fast food restaurant, this is one of my favorite places, ever.  It’s the whole package.  It’s the people, the building, the pacific northwest air, the way they take your order and the food, it’s all of it.  After being diagnosed with CD, I literally mourned, losing quite a few things.  Dick’s Drive In was on that list.  This is your classic good news/bad news scenario.  The good news is… I was still able to go there and I did eat.  Bad news… really the only option is fries.  They are great fries, so it’s not all bad.  No tartar sauce for the fries though, according to a Facebook interaction I saw on their page, the mayo contains gluten.  I was glad to at least get some fries here.

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Dick’s Drive in makes hand cut fries from fresh potatoes.  The fryer is dedicated to fries.  Don’t eat the tartar.

Ivar’s – Yeah… no.  Another one of my favorite pre-celiac restaurants. Some of Ivar’s sit down restaurants offer gluten free options, but (as of this posting) do not get great ratings for Celiac friendliness.  I didn’t eat anything at Ivar’s.  I only mention Ivar’s to call them to account.  With the number of restaurants that Ivar’s has, there is no good reason why they can’t do gluten free well at at least one of their sit down restaurants.

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I love my GFF Food Cart– I caught up with I love my GFF at the Capitol Hill Farmer’s Market

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A look at their menu.  I love my GFF serves bowls.  You’ve got two main options “Fiesta” or “Sunshine”.  You can also add chicken.

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Of course, I chose Fiesta!  It was super tasty.  You get a lot of food… “Organic, sprouted quinoa layered with Fiesta Sauce (pumpkin seeds/cilantro/lime), organic black beans, spice rubbed organic chicken, fresh cut organic red bell peppers and green onions, topped with avocado, sprinkled with Tillamook cheddar cheese and pumpkin seeds.”

nuflours – nuflours is a dedicated gluten free bakery, cafe and restaurant.  I ate breakfast and lunch at nuflours.  I had a chance to talk with the owner.  She was extremely nice and their food was outstanding.

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Closed on Monday.  As a Celiac, it’s fantastic to be able to go to a dedicated gluten free restaurant.  You don’t have to worry about cross contamination or ask a million questions.  You just sit down and enjoy yourself like a normal person (for once).  If you have these by you… patronize them!

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I got the bacon potato quiche and “Good Morning Muffin” for breakfast.  The Good Morning Muffin is a muffin with an egg in the middle.  Pretty tasty.  The quiche was outstanding.  For lunch I got the Bacon Gouda Panini.  That was as good as it sounds.

Capitol Cider – Nearly everything at Capitol Cider is gluten free.  The menu and entire kitchen is GF.  Their ciders are (presumably) all GF.  I’d ask to make sure the one you’d like is GF.  They also serve Ghostfish GF beer.  They do serve some gluten containing beers.  Those are the only thing you really need to worry about at Capitol Cider.

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Our Capitol Cider meal was roundly praised by my entire family, even my sometimes reluctant and complaining kids :).  I had fish and chips on four different occasions while in the PNW, Capitol Cider was the home of my favorite GF fish and chips. Regardless of gluten content… these were delicious.  The hand cut fries were amazing.  We also ordered fries for an appetizer.  They come with a stone ground mustard aioli.  My plan was to try that and quickly discard it and ask for ketchup.  That didn’t happen as the mustard was delicious paired with the fries.  Also worth mentioning… The cheesecake.  Even my picky daughter raved about this.  Capitol Cider was our most expensive meal.  The tab was a bit spendy for our group of 5.  Having said that… it’s worth it.  Go at lunch time if you want to save some money.

Starbucks Reserve Roastery – After dining at Capitol Cider we walked around the neighborhood a bit and stumbled on Starbuck’s Reserve Location.  I’m not suggesting this as a gluten free destination, but it’s worth a look if you’re in the area.  This is Starbucks putting their best foot forward.  Really cool place, especially if you like coffee.

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A picture at Starbucks Reserve location.

Asiana Bistro – in Redmond.  Run by a wonderful Korean lady who suffers from Celiac Disease.  Nearly everything is Gluten Free, although there are some gluten containing items.  I get the sense that the owner is there much of the time and I know she understands the importance of a gluten free diet for CD sufferers.  I felt safe eating at Asiana Bistro right before flying back home and was not disappointed.

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A got a combo at Asiana Bistro and choice chicken teriyaki and mongolian beef.  Gluten free and delicious.

Cupcake Royale (no photo) – This was another one of those too good it scared me sort of things.  I was actually concerned that it contained gluten for a few hours, but it was in vain.  I didn’t get sick and it was delicious.  Cupcake Royale is not dedicated gluten free.  They have one GF cupcake.  I was told they bake that first thing in the morning before any of the gluten containing items are made.  The website says the GF cupcake is made with Gluten Free Bob’s Red Mill Flour.  – Search Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free on Amazon

Duke’s Chowder House (no photo) – Duke’s has a number of GF options including all of their chowders.  Those were recently converted to all GF.  Our server said that the motivating factor for offering gluten free was that the owner’s son has Celiac Disease.  I just had a medium size bowl of regular chowder here.  It was very good.  I will say this was one of my more disturbing meals, based on something the server said to me when my food was delivered.  She reassured me that she flagged my food as allergy-level gluten free throughout, but said… “take a couple bites and see how you feel”. Not good.  She very nice and seemed otherwise well informed and capable.  I think Duke’s just needs to take another step in the GF arena and make sure servers are completely trained.  In retrospect, I should have asked to speak to a manager at that comment.  It just didn’t leave me feeling well about the safety of the meal.  I should have dug in my heals to see what was up.  I didn’t.  Fortunately, I did not get sick.  To Duke’s… You’ve made some great strides in this area.  I encourage you to keep going and become a destination for those with gluten issues.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries – We visited one of these in the suburbs of Seattle on our way up north.  This was my first Five Guys visit post CD diagnosis and I was happy with it.  I like that I can watch everything that’s going on.  The fryers are dedicated.  I had an order of fries and a burger in a bowl.  I’m usually not a fan of… burgers in bowls, but it was really good.  Five Guys puts a sear on it that gives it some good texture that helps with flavor and expierience.  I did get bacon, but I skipped all of the other toppings to cut down on cross contamination risk.

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Beyond Seattle….

We also ventured north of Seattle to Bellingham, WA and Vancouver, BC Canada.

SMAK – Vancouver, BC.  SMAK is a dedicated gluten free restaurant and offers coffee, smoothies, breakfast, sandwiches, Bowls and more

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I got the Ginger Pork bowl (which I cannot currently find on their online menu) and a bowl of minestrone soup.  Most others in my group got the butterless chicken (which I did not try).  The Ginger Pork was tasty and filling.  I also had a delicious GF berry muffin at SMAK.

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SMAK is a delicious gluten free choice in downtown Vancouver.

Granville Island Farmers Market (no photo) – Vancouver, BC.  Granville is a neat little island in Vancouver that once held the World’s Fair.  We ate at the Farmer’s Market.  Of course there were many fresh fruit and vegetable options, so that’s great.  Prepared food options were few and far between. I ended up deciding to get soup from the Stock Market.  They had a couple GF options and assured me that preparation was Celiac-safe and that was true for me.

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We visited Lynn Canyon Park in Vancouver.  [Photo from lynncanyon.ca]  It offered stunning surroundings and some great trails.  The nearby Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is a bit pricey to enter, where Lynn Canyon is free.  I’m sure Capilano is great, but we had a wonderful time hiking at Lynn Canyon Park.

Brandywine Kitchen (no photo) – Bellingham, WA .  Lots of GF options although not dedicated gluten free.  Brandywine was getting great ratings in Find Me Gluten Free for Celiac friendliness and they came through for me.  I had the fish and chips and a Ghostfish Pale Ale… surprise.  The food was tasty and the staff was competent.

Gluten Free Angels Cafe – Bellingham, WA.  Dedicated GF bakery and cafe.  We ate an early dinner here and got breakfast to go for the next morning.

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I got the spicy roast beef panini with Wasabi Horseradish and potato salad as a side.  Both were fantastic.  I want the recipe for this potato salad.  I’m a potato salad aficionado (is that a thing?) and this one ranks right up there.

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Gluten Free Angels had a delicious GF quiche.  I couldn’t wait to take a photo, as you can see I had already taken a couple bites.  I actually got this piece as a side to my panini for dinner (don’t you eat quiche with your panini?) and liked it so much that we got some to go for the next morning’s breakfast.

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A look at the panini.  It has roast beef and pastrami along with pepper jack cheese and wasabi horseradish.

Accommodations – In the Seattle area, we stayed in Lynnwood, WA because our family is farther north of Seattle.  The Homewood Suites that we stayed was new and well located, close to both a Costco and a Whole Foods.  Restaurant-wise, there aren’t really any Celiac friendly restaurants in the area.  Everything was a drive to Seattle proper.  That was okay with us as we really needed to be all over anyway.  Consider staying in or close to Seattle proper if you want to be close to the restaurants in this report.

Rental Car Tip – For whatever reason, rental cars at SeaTac airport seem to be sky hi.  We booked a vehicle via Avis in Kent, WA a few miles from the airport and set the return location to SeaTac.  That meant we only had to get to Kent once.  We took at Uber to Avis in Kent to pick up the car.  We saved a bundle of money doing this.  The whole family was with so we got a mini van.  At SeaTac I was seeing prices at $1,300 to $1,400 for a van for the length of our stay.  The Avis in Kent trick resulted in a rental of about… $550 with taxes.  Of course prices our going to vary and this may not work for you.

Airports – We flew into Seattle Tacoma International (SeaTac) on this trip and that is the closest and most convenient option.  We have flow into Portland for past trips as it’s not that far away and you can see both Portland and Seattle on the same trip.  We’ve also flown into Vancouver, BC (YVR).  Again, you can double dip and see a couple of cities.  You can sometimes find some deals flying into YVR.  I’ve also seen better frequent flyer award availability going into YVR. See: Airfare Deals at Priceline

We had an outstanding trip to Seattle.  Seattle and the surrounding area are aware of the gluten free movement and related health issues.  I felt like I had plenty of options in Seattle proper, with fewer in the suburbs.  Bellingham, Wa has several great options as does Vancouver, BC.

Thank you to at Celiac Safe Eats on Twitter for Celiac Safe recommendations for Seattle!  [Connect with GF Finds on Twitter]

Also:

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GiG: “Gluten-Removed” Beer May Be Unsafe For People With Celiac Disease

“GLUTEN-REMOVED” BEER MAY BE UNSAFE FOR PEOPLE WITH CELIAC DISEASE

A new research study conducted by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), the leader in the certification of gluten-free products and food services, indicates that beers labeled “gluten-removed” may not be safe for those with celiac disease. A first of its kind, the pilot study, “The Celiac Patient Antibody Response to Conventional and Gluten-Removed Beer,” was published online by the Journal of AOAC International, and was conducted by GIG at the University of Chicago’s Celiac Research Center. It used blood samples from individuals with celiac disease to see whether the proteins in gluten-free beer and gluten-removed beer were recognized by antibodies that were already present in the blood. It was found that no blood samples reacted to the gluten-free beer. However, a percentage of blood samples did react to the gluten-removed beer.

All I can say is… finally.  This first of it’s kind study finally gives us some objective scientific based information on this subject.  My hope was that this type of study could validate the safety of gluten-removed beers, unfortunately it seems the opposite is true.

“GLUTEN-REMOVED” BEER MAY BE UNSAFE FOR PEOPLE WITH CELIAC DISEASE at Gluten.org

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If you miss Saison Beers, Check Out… Citizen Cider [Gluten Free] Wit’s Up Cider

On our most recent trip to Chicago [See: Gluten Free in Chicago! – A Celiac’s Visitor Guide] we stopped by a Binny’s [local liquor store chain] to see if they carried any new GF beers.  They did not.  They did have Glutenberg and I picked up a couple four packs of that.

While we were there, we stumbled across a Citizen Cider tasting.  They had some really delicious naturally gluten free hard apple ciders.  Our two favorites were their Cascade Dry Hopped and their Wit’s Up Cider.

The Wit’s Up was particularly interesting because they use a wild Saison yeast.  The net result is something very similar to the Saison beer style, which, to my knowledge, is not available from any gluten free brewery.

Citizen Cider is out of Vermont and the furthest east they get is Chicago.  If in an area where they’re available and you miss Saisons from your gluten filled days, Wit’s Up is totally worth a try.

Citizen Cider | Wit’s Up

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Cooking and Baking with Gluten Free Beer, Kindle Edition

Cooking and Baking with Gluten Free Beer Kindle Edition

Cooking and Baking with Gluten Free Beer, Kindle Edition by Danielle S. LeBlanc

Kindle Edition books can be viewed on your Kindle Device or on free reader applications available for your iPhone, Android or Windows smart phone – and  for your web browser via Amazon’s Cloud Reader.  This dynamic link will take you to the appropriate reader for your current platform.

Cooking and Baking with Gluten Free Beer Kindle Edition

AlsoGluten Free Home Brewing – dedicated GF Homebrew Shop:

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Mr Beer Hard Cider [GF] Kit

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Mr Beer Hard Cider Kit.  Includes 2 gallon reusable keg fermenter with tap, 8 reusable 1 liter bottles and caps and labels along with a Mr Beer Hard Apple Cider Refill Kit.

Mr Beer Hard Cider Refills are gluten free, all natural and GMO free.

Mr. Beer Hard Cider Home Brewing Craft Cider Kit

Also: Gluten Free Home Brewing – dedicated GF Homebrew Shop

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Gluten Free Home Brewing – dedicated GF Homebrew Shop!

booklet

Although commercial gluten free beer options are increasing in number and quality, they are still few and far between.  If you were a craft beer lover before being diagnosed with Celiac Disease or another serious gluten related condition…. the beer-scape can be depressing.

As GF folks tend to… make our own.  You can do the same with beer.

The thing is, only a few homebrew shops carry supplies and those supplies are generally slim.  Also cross contamination can be a concern, since most homebrew shops are chock full of gluten containing ingredients.

Enter Gluten Free Home Brewing.  GFHB is a shop dedicated to offering gluten free supplies and brewing resources.  Since GFHB is dedicated gluten free there is no serious risk of CC with gluten containing ingredients.

Ingredient offerings include – malted gluten free grains… malted millet (pale, caramillet, crystal millet, medium, chocolate, dark roasted), buckwheat malt and Eckert Malting’s malted rice – crystal, amber, James’ brown, dark, gas hog, biscuit – and more.  Along with ready made recipe kits (both extract and all grain) hops, yeast and more.

Gluten Free Home Brewing also offers how-tos, tutorials on GF Brewing along with a recipe sharing platform.

Visit Gluten Free Home Brewing

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Is it safe to drink gluten-removed beers?

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Most “gluten-removed” beers are made using gluten containing ingredients like… barley.  During fermentation an enzyme is used that breaks down gluten.  The real issue is whether or not the things that are left (peptides) cause a negative reaction in those who (like me) have Celiac Disease.  Personally… I would love to see some of the bigger breweries that produce these beers, like Omission, band together to commission additional scientific research in this area, including a double blind study on the actual effects of drinking gluten removed beers on those suffer from Celiac Disease.

Gluten Free Watchdog (I’m a subscriber!)… has an excellent paper detailing this issue.  See: Is Barley-Based “Gluten-Removed” Beer Safe for People with Celiac Disease?

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Trip Report: Gluten Free in the Twin Cities!

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Pictured: Burning Bros Brewing Logo

We just returned from a long weekend trip to the Minneapolis, St Paul metro area.  I’m happy to report that there are some stellar gluten free options in the Twin Cities!

I always use the Find Me Gluten Free app to scope out an area when traveling.  I suggest that you actively use it as well – write fair reviews and suggest new businesses to add.  That is a service to the gluten free community – we want to know what you know!  Since I have Celiac Disease, I generally filter by the Celiac Friendly tag and see what comes up.  Example – Celiac Friendly in Minneapolis, sorted by rating.

Here’s where we went…

  • Twin City Grill – We went here for an anniversary dinner.  Very nice restaurant with lots of GF options and professional staff.  I was immediately put to ease after chatting with our server.  Twin City Grill is part of the Lettuce Entertain You group of restaurants and, it’s my understanding, that LEY, takes food allergies seriously.  That’s certainly the case at Twin City Grill.  Excellent meal.  GF items came out tagged with allergy labels.  I love that.  Restaurants… identify GF and specially prepared foods when you bring them to the table.  This let’s us know you cared all the way through the process.  Twin City Grill even had a flourless chocolate cake available (although we were too full).
  • Burning Brothers Brewing – with a motto of “Don’t Fear the Beer”, a completely gluten free brewery (sign on the door says no gluten allowed) and a Celiac brewmaster… this place is my jam.  Excellent GF beer and truly warm and nice people.  This is a great first-ish stop in the TC area, because you can chat with these folks about GF options around the area.  They periodically have food trucks (all are said to have GF food).  This has a cool neighborhood brewery feel – with none of the gluten.  I recommend the sampler and ended getting a pint (and a growler to go) of their Pyro Pale Ale infused with Raspberry.  Burning Brothers also cans their beer and is available throughout the Twin Cities, Minnesota and Beyond.  Dedicated gluten free breweries are a rare sight.  This place is an absolute jewel… go there!
  • ZZQ Smokehouse – This place is…. outstanding.  I’ve eaten a lot of BBQ (in my pre-celiac days) and have made my own bbq at home for years and years.  This place is a legit barbecue restaurant [regardless of gluten content] that stacks right up there with some of the best places I’ve visited in Kansas City and Memphis.  The fryer only fries handcut potatoes and every single side and sauce is gluten free.  The only thing that has gluten is the bun.  I identified myself as someone with Celiac Disease and the owner wiped down the counter and cleaned utensils.  I chatted with the owner at length and he has a relative with Celiac Disease.  We tried to eat here again, but it didn’t work out schedule-wise.  This is an outstanding restaurant.
  • Sassy Spoon – This is a dedicated gluten free restaurant that serves a creative menu along with local gluten free beer (Burning Bros!), cider and wine.  We went on a Sunday.  On weekends that also offer a brunch menu.  I got the biscuits and gravy, which were a treat.  I also sampled the omelette.  The Sassy Spoon is in a cool neighborhood and has some outdoor seating.  What a great restaurant.
  • Freshens – Freshens has a couple locations in the Mall of America.  Their smoothies were all 100% gluten free.  I picked up a smoothy while and the mall and it was pretty tasty.
  • Beer – Burning Brothers – pick it up in the brewery or at local stores.  Glutenberg Beer – Glutenberg has good distribution in the Twin Cities area.  I was able to try a couple of their beers and they were excellent.  James Page Brewings JP’s Acapella Pale Ale was also available at both the wine stores I went to – very tasty pale ale.  I also picked up a bottle of Element Brewing Company’s Plasma Sake IPA, although I have yet to try it.  It can be a trick to find specific beers in stock.  A store may carry it, but it may not be available.  Total Wine allows you to order online for in store pickup.  That way, you have your order reserved.  Total Wine had every GF beer I’ve mentioned here, including Burning Brothers Beers – Pyro Ale and Roasted Coffee Ale.  I also found good availability at Haskell’s a local chain of wine stores.
  • Rojo Mexican Grill – The menu has lots of clearly marked GF options.  Our food was good, albeit it a little on the pricey side for serving sizes.  Serving sizes in general were good, but the tacos in particular are on the small side.  Our service was slow, but the server was nice and apologetic about the wait.  I think they were understaffed when we visited.  It was an excellent experience in that I did not get sick [my #1 priority] and the food was delicious.  I would definitely go and give them another try.

Didn’t Go, but wanted to…

  • Wok in the Park – Although, we didn’t end up getting to go here, I wanted to.  This place get’s stellar ratings online, I had those echoed to me by locals (at Burning Brothers Brewery) that I spoke with.  We did go to this restaurant and went inside, but unfortunately they weren’t open and going back just didn’t fit in our schedule.  It seems like an awesome place, I’m looking forward to trying it on a future trip.
  • The Original Pancake House – I’ve eaten at a couple of these pre-Celiac and had some great breakfasts.  The ones in the Twin Cities area, in particular, get great ratings in Find Me Gluten Free.  Another restaurant on my to-try list.

We stayed at the Home2 Suites by Hilton in Bloomington.  Really great hotel, newer and a good location close to the Mall of America, but not too close.  This was a Celiac Friendly hotel for us since – it has a kitchenette area to make food, it has a Red Robin in it and a great health food store [Fresh Tyme Grocery] is located right across the parking lot.

We enjoyed some of the area parks and rented bikes.  The Twin Cities is an awesome area with a lot to offer including many great gluten free options.

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