Sunday, July 20, 2014

Celiac Roadtrip, Part 7: Driving Home and Cafe Sol

There are two types of vacations: the relaxing, regenerative "vacas" and the trips that require a relaxing vacation afterwards. Our roadtrip from California to Colorado started as the first, but by the time we re-glued our butts to beige leather, we were salivating at the thought of being back in sunny San Diego.

When we finally drove out of our rental house, van creaking under the weight of our food, luggage and souvenirs, it felt surreal. It's strange how hard we fell for Colorado in such a short time. Within a mere four days, we transformed from California foreigners gawking over deers walking along the roadside to hiking, outdooring, exploring lovers of every Colorado mountain and valley.

The oasis we discovered on one of our hikes...
I joked to my parents that, after the delicious all-gluten free meal at Coquette's, I was biased in my opinion of Colorado. Even discounting my satisfied taste buds, though, Colorado won my heart without a problem.

Nonetheless, our time was finally up and we were ready to get the drive over with. We followed a similar eating strategy as our drive to Colorado, devouring our leftovers from Red Robin for lunch. Oh, the hardship! For dinner each night, I instead relied on my trusty phone app, "Find Me Gluten Free." Chick Fil A won on one night, and I purchased an extra salad for the road. Out of all of our return eats, though, Cafe Sol at Grand Junction will always have a special place in my stomach.

Sunny Cafe Sol!
Cafe Sol is a panini, soup, and salad shop on Main Street. Surrounded by modernist statues (like cement gorillas across the street or a metal biker at the corner), the charm of the bright yellow shop is only compounded by its inside decor. Lanterns, lime green walls and a huge herb garden in the corner of the store? Cafe Sol isn't kidding when it claims to be local, fresh and gluten free friendly.

By the time we drove into Grand Junction, hunger replaced our driving fatigue and we wanted nothing more than to grab the food and go. Luckily for us, Cafe Sol has a to-go option. My dad and sister quickly chose the Chicken Guacamole Panini and the Club, served with (gluten free) BBQ chips. Mom and I took longer, drooling over the 99% gluten free menu. In the end, we both ordered a panini-salad combo, respectively pairing the Chef Salad with the Club and Ahi Tuna Panini.

All the gluten free choices!
The server was extremely familiar with celiac disease and confidently answered all of my questions about cross contamination, sandwich bread and toppings. Sadly (cue crocodile tears), Cafe Sol doesn't have a gluten free dedicated panini-press, so to avoid cross contamination, I had to opt out. They offered to toast my panini in the oven, though, which worked for me!

In the end, we waited about 25 minutes for our order to be ready, each salad and panini packaged separately in a labeled cardboard box. Anytime I see "GF" on my order, reciept or to-go box, I'm one happy girl!

Proof is in the marker!
The food didn't last long, dissappearing soon after we settled in our hotel. First off, the portions were huge! The paninis were the size of a hardback library book and our "small" Chef Salads boasted enough hearty toppings to satisfy a Colorado grizzly. We all stuffed ourselves silly and still had half of our meals for the road the next day. Talk about a score!

Now, for the actual food. Because I didn't use the panini press, my bread lacked the traditional black grill marks. Yet, when I first bit into the combo of multi-grain GF bread, seared 5-spice ahi tuna, orange ginger slaw, cucumber and dynamite sauce, I couldn't have been happier. The tuna was cooked just enough to not be raw, but still tasted juicy. The cucumber and orange ginger slaw added a strong crunch and the unique kick of the sauce tied it all together.

The gluten free panini!
My Chef salad was equally delicious. I ordered my salad without the egg, but I didn't miss it. The mixed greens tasted extremely fresh and they'd piled on the bacon, turkey, ham, provolone cheese, and sherry dijon vinegrette. With the extra avocado I added, it tasted perfect!

The rest of my family were equally impressed, with my sister drooling over the "donut-like bread" and gluten free BBQ chips (which, I test-tasted and gave two thumbs up) and my Dad loving the hearty combo of avocado and chicken breast.

Despite the vacation fun, by the time we walked into our Cali house, we were ready to be home. (Or, in my case, I was ready for free access to my kitchen and gluten free ingredients! Pancake craving, finally solved!). As I've reflected on our 10 day adventure, remembering the food, the family and the fun, I'm beyond grateful. I climbed mountains and saw bears. I devoured gluten free pizza and White and Black cake. And, I discovered local restaurant gems like Cafe Sol that serve up kick-butt, allergen-friendly feasts.

Besides the food, though, my favorite part of Cafe Sol was its bathroom (as weird as that sounds). I went in to wash my hands and left with fingers coated in a light dust of colored chalk. The whole bathroom boasts gray chalkboard paint littered with the chalk scrawl from dozens of strangers. Picking yellow, I added my own slogan to the mix: Be happy.

KC - that's me!
If my first vacation away from home since my celiac disease diagnosis taught me anything it's that finding happiness - whether in a gluten free chicken pot pie or during an adventure to the Manitou Cliffs - is the most important mission of all.

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

How did your first vacation/roadtrip after a food allergy/celiac diagnosis go? Have you ever had a panini? Comment below!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Celiac Roadtrip, Part 6: Manitou Cliff Dwellings and Red Robin

During my family road trip from California to Colorado, we saw amazing sights and devoured delicious food. No day proved to be more surprising in both categories, however, than our last day at Colorado Springs.

Our last planned hurrah was a trip to the Manitou Cliff Dwellings, ancient home to the ancient Anasazi. Honestly, I had no idea what to expect when we drove through the iron gates of the park. Hollowed out caves? Child-like artwork? Overpriced souvenirs? (At least I got the last one right). 

Welcome to the Cliff Dwellings!
With only a glance, the cliff dwellings shattered all of my expectations. The homes were actual homes, carved directly into nature instead of built with wood, cement and beams. As we walked through the rooms, I gawked at the food storage containers (blocks of rock carved next to the wall), meticulous windows and fire pit. Even more amazing, as we climbed deeper into the caves, the heat that forced Mom and I to hide under sun hats (comfort > fashion), disappeared. No need for air conditioners here!

The Anasazi even built buildings of multiple levels held up by carved beams and a used a stone cooking mechanism that reminded me of a pizza oven (of course, I narrow in on the food). My favorite part, though, was smelling a tree that the Anasazi used for cooking: no kidding, it smelled exactly like vanilla! Can I please grow one of those by my bedroom window? 

The Anasazi's home-sweet-home!
After a few hours of exploring, heat and hunger forced us back in the car. With the goal of celebrating our last day at the Springs, we drove to our planned lunching spot: Coquette's

Except as I eagerly pulled on the entrance door, I noticed the "closed" sign hanging in the window. So much for my stellar food planning...Find Me Gluten Free  to the rescue! After scanning the phone app's options while my folks drooled over houses, I settled on Red Robin. I'd heard stellar reviews of their gluten free protocol before and, with the clock inching close to one, our stomachs were getting desperate. Burgers, here we come!

Red Robin to the rescue!
Despite the pack of parked cars surrounding the restaurant, we were quickly seated at a booth in the corner. During my pre-trip research, I'd heard that Red Robin only provides its gluten free menu online or through their phone app, so I quickly downloaded the app. A few clicks later and presto! I had a plethora of mouth-watering options literally at my fingertips

Like usual, I spelled out my celiac autobiography to the waitress, who directed me to use the app and promised to "work with me." I also confirmed that there was a dedicated fryer for the steak fries, since my research showed it can vary by location. 

We all liked this location!
In the end, I ended up ordering a turkey burger with lettuce on their gluten free bun with a side salad. I was hesitant about ordering the bun since I'm usually disappointed with restaurants' gluten free bread, but decided I needed something besides lettuce on my burger! My gluten free mom also gambled with the bread, but got a loaded hamburger and GF steak fries. 

When our food arrived only a short time later, all of our jaws dropped. The burgers were monsters and all of our sides took up half the plate. 

My first bite of my turkey burger, though, skyrocketed me to heaven. Even with limited toppings, it didn't taste plain. Instead, the turkey was light and juicy, but charred on the edges and my lettuce provided the perfect crunch. The bun, though, surprised me the most! I planned on eating maybe half of it if it was slightly edible, but I devoured this baby! Fluffy, solid enough to not fall apart and perfectly crisp. The best bun I've had at a restaurant (Coquette's excluded), hands down. 

My delicious meal!
My side salad was equally huge and delicious. The mixed greens were fresh and crisp, the cabbage added a great crunch and I loved the thousand island dressing on the side.

The star of the sides, though, were my mom's gluten free steak fries. They tasted fluffy, hearty and lacked the typical grease. I also loved that I ate them feeling entirely confident in their "gluten free" label. I ended up devouring most of my mom's fries, which wasn't a problem since Red Robin's steak fries are bottomless. Never-ending gluten free fries? Count me in!

Mom's loaded burger and GF fries!
The rest of my family was equally shocked at how good their meals tasted. My mom adored the gluten free bun and her burger, which was cooked to be lightly pink on the inside. My dad devoured his BBQ burger and my sister destroyed her plate of fried chicken and shrimp. Considering my sister slurped down a mint brownie milkshake, my dad almost finished a second serving of fries and my mom and I wreaked major havoc on our plates, I can say it was so good, we couldn't stop eating. 

I felt extremely safe during this entire meal and our leftovers (we all saved half a burger/chicken fingers and some of our second round of fries) kicked butt when we started the drive back home the next day. I haven't tried the Red Robin near my house, but we are already craving an encore and hope the San Diego location will be just as great. 

On the way home!
The last day at Colorado Springs was full of surprises, but we didn't leave with any complaints! A day of beautiful historical sites, delicious burgers and time with the family? This college celiac can't ask for any more than that! 

How do you eat gluten free on the fly? Have you ever eaten at Red Robin? Comment below!

*Also found at RunningwithSpoon's link party!*

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Celiac Road Trip, Part 5: Birthdays, Coquette's and Cake

In my house, June and July are the tastiest sequential months of the year, mainly because my parent's birthdays are two weeks apart. That means lots of cake and little time to eat it - not that we have a problem with that.

So, when we scheduled our Colorado vacation around Mom's birthday, we knew we had to find something special and sweet to celebrate. Cue our second visit to Coquette's

We're back!
We popped by the bistro after chowing down on our Boriello pizza and, even stuffed with Italian goodness, the dessert display had us drooling. Mom and I decided to stick to cake for the birthday theme and we ordered a slice of White and black, Carrot and New York style cheesecake. To balance out our order, I also bought their Angel Salad with a chicken upgrade. 

Meanwhile, my sister was drooling across the street at Poor Richard's Bookstore. The small, brick exterior hides the endless rows of books that seem to span miles into the store. When we met up with Hannah, our dessert and salad in hand, she boasted a heavier (but not by much!) bag bursting with reading material. A sweeter afternoon has never been spent!

Never ending!
By the time we made it home, our stomachs were grumbling so we dug into our goodies. To put things in the proper order, I'll start with the salad (even though I really tasted all the cakes first!). 

The Angel salad is composed of mixed greens, red onions, carrots, tomatoes, goat cheese, apples, candied walnuts & Coquette’s croutons. I also ordered some grilled chicken to up the protein. First off, this salad was huge! I nearly laughed when I saw that they sliced up a whole apple for my meal! 

My delicious dinner! I love GF croutons!

I was skeptical of the fruit and veggie mix at first, but my taste buds were pleasantly surprised. The apple joined with the onions, walnuts, carrots and croutons for the crunch factor while the goat cheese added a nice creaminess. The chicken was equally delicious - fresh, juicy and slightly charred

Now, though, for the real superstars: the birthday cake(s). At first, the typical candle celebration seemed out of reach. Literally, considering we forgot our candles back in California. Matches to the rescue! 

The sad match candle...
They weren't very reliable (i.e. Mom's match blew itself out in record time) but we were too busy laughing and singing to mind. 

First off, Coquette's Carrot cake. All the slices were huge, but Mom's chunk was especially intimidating. The best part of this cake was its moistness, but I also loved how the carrot flavor was noticeable but not overpowering. The cream cheese icing made it our favorite cake flavor! 

The carrot cake!
Then I devoured some of the Black and white cake. It wasn't as moist as the carrot cake, but the layers of white icing and chocolate fudge between the white and black cake stripes made up for it. I loved the vanilla-chocolate combo and the thin layer of melted chocolate on the top won over my taste buds. 

Black and white!

Finally, we tried the New York Style Cheesecake. For being gluten, wheat and soy free, it nailed the cheesecake texture! Perfectly soft, light and creamy with the same rich tartness that every good cheesecake is known for. Mom and I thought it would be better with some fresh strawberries on the side, but my Dad loved it plain. 

In the end, our cakes survived three days of snacking and Mom loved her birthday dessert (even though our favorite Pamela's chocolate birthday cake is baking in the oven right now!). Birthdays are about celebrating growth, embracing change and exploring the world and Coquette's during our Colorado vacation helped us do just that

Friday, July 11, 2014

Celiac Roadtrip, Part 4: Hiking and Chipotle

As I've shared, my road trip from California to Colorado was full of adventures, from delicious gluten free bistros to getting up close and personal with giraffes. One of my favorite adventures, though, was the day when Dad and I hiked around Starsmore Park and my family raided Chipotle for the first time.

Colorado won my heart with its natural beauty. A deer greeted us in our own (rent) backyard when we first arrived and while we were driving around town on our second day, a bear walked right across the road! 

Our friendly neighborhood deer...
So when Dad and I woke up to a beautiful Sunday morning, we decided to explore the lake. The hike started out according to plan and, when we reached the water, we rested and watched packs of dogs swim (and fetch) their hearts out. And then we decided to try to take a short cut on the way back...we entered the forest looking for the main road and ended up finding an abandoned junk yard of old cars. Sadly, we were too worried about survival to pause for a photo...

After climbing up a dry riverbed and swatting aside dozens of plants, we finally realized that the road we were looking for was on the other side of the mountain. Oops. In the end, we arrived home safely from our (slightly longer than expected) hike. Ironically enough, when we shared our tale with the house owner, he had never even heard of the car yard! 

We did survive!
To celebrate our survival (and reward our hungry stomachs) my family decided to finally try out Chipotle. I've been dreaming of their Mexican food ever since I visited the restaurant with friends during college. I wasn't able to eat anything at the time since I was on the liquid diet, but I drooled plenty! On our road trip, we chowed on Chipotle twice and I'm already looking forward to my next visit!

When I researched Chipotle online, I found mixed reviews on how they handle celiac customers. Everything Chipotle serves is naturally gluten free except for their flour tortillas, so cross contamination is the largest concern. At the advice of fellow celiacs online, I decided to order a burrito bowl (a bowl filled with rice, beans, meat and toppings) and ask workers to change gloves before handling my meal. 

Chipotle: Celiac friend or foe?
Like I mentioned with Outback, chains vary by location in terms of their employee training. At the first Chipotle I ate at, I ended up asking a different employee to make my meal since the first person didn't speak English well. At the second one, though, as soon as I mentioned "gluten", the girl washed her hands, changed gloves and personally made my entire meal. 

In terms of taste, my entire family was impressed. I love the freshness of all the ingredients and, even though I usually dislike tomatoes and guac, I gobbled down my salsa and guacamole! Considering the amount of times I've watched my family devour chips cooked in shared fryers, I also love that Chipotle's chips are gluten free! Even better, I find that a burrito bowl is big enough for two servings and tastes amazing as cold leftovers. 

Adventures don't always follow a plan, but, as our car score proves, sometimes those are the best kind! Especially when they end at Chipotle covered in guacamole and salsa!

Has a hike or adventure of yours ever changed plans and turned out better? What do you think of Chipotle? Comment below! 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Celiac Roadtrip, Part 3: Zoo and Boriello Brothers

For me, there are several requirements to a successful vacation. It has to be unique, fun and, of course, delicious. Our day trip to the Colorado Springs Zoo and lunch at Boriello Brothers Pizza made sure all of my boxes were checked.

What a view!
Now, I don't know how familiar people are with the San Diego Zoo, but the zoo close to home is ridiculous. It's one of the largest in the world, boasts an astonishing number of exhibits and exhibits and is always an adventure to visit. So, when we planned a trip to the small Colorado Springs Zoo, I wasn't expecting much. I was wrong

I knew it was going to be a memorable trip when we saw giraffes eagerly eating lettuce out of visitors' open hands. While my home zoo wraps giraffe feeding in miles of red tape, all we had to do was pay $2 for lettuce and wash up after. Can you say, score

Then we rode the lift to the top section of the zoo. The beauty of Colorado never ceases to amaze me and as I sat hundreds of feet up in the air, the view of the mountains, lakes and houses down the valley seemed like a gorgeous mirage. 

Of course, though, a visit to the zoo wouldn't be complete without celiac disease raising its head. In this case, I performed the ultimate sin by forgetting a snack, so the search was on! We ended up at the Grizzly Grill, and while no gluten free options could be had, I spotted a bright green apple in a fruit bowl on the assembly line. The server nicely washed it for me (yay!) and we ended up getting it for free because the cashier had never heard of the Grill selling apples before. No complaints here! 

The bear with my apple!
After wearing the rubber off our shoes from hours of walking, we were starving and decided on Boriello Brothers Pizza for lunch. It was our host's favorite pizza place and I was ecstatic to read on their website that they offered gluten free pizza with separate toppings and cooked in a separate oven. Color me impressed

Boriello Brothers immediately charmed us with its casual, baseball-themed decor. Because we hit it past lunch hour, it wasn't busy at all and we could order immediately. The gluten-eaters decided to split an extra large pizza while my Mom and I ordered separate gluten free personal pizzas. My comfort level spiked right up after talking to the cashier who took our order. He knew about celiac disease and cross contamination and guided us through ordering to ensure they we only ordered gluten free toppings

Welcome to the World of Yum!
I ended up with a cheese and pepperoni pie topped with spinach, olives, mushrooms and green pepper. The gluten pizza emerged rather quickly and was immediately devoured. My dad and sister absolutely loved the flavor and gave it two thumbs up. About fifteen minutes later, the gluten free pies appeared. 

On first glance, they looked delicious. Cooked through but not burned and liberally coated with toppings. My favorite part of the pizza was definitely the crust. It had an awesome crunch and avoided the gluten free pitfall of a weird aftertaste. I also loved the ratio of toppings with only a thin layer of sauce and cheese and lots of greens. 

My delicious pie! 

Overall, my Mom and I agreed that it was definitely the best pizza we've had eating out. Even better, it was also decent leftovers, too (best the day right after and no later). That my tummy liked it afterwards sealed the deal

Vacations can be tricky, as I've mentioned in the earlier parts of the "Celiac Roadtrip" series. Sometimes, though, having a fun time is a piece of cake. Or, in terms of that day, a piece of pizza

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Celiac Roadtrip, Part 2: Coquette's

Despite the dietary bumps in the road I mentioned in my last post, the drive to Colorado couldn't have been more amazing. Every stretch of the road transformed into a secret haven of visionary awe.

Me at Cedar Breaks National Park!

In Utah, we oohed and ahhh-ed at Cedar Breaks National Park. We had never heard of it before my Dad spotted it on the web, but as we stared down the canyon of reds and greys, we couldn't imagine why. 

Once we reached Colorado, the natural beauty only increased. We drooled over the rivers and loved discovering a small river valley at a gas station we stopped at. 

The river and the fam!

When we finally rolled into the house we rented for our Colorado expedition, though, we were ready to see another kind of beauty: delicious gluten free food. And boy, did Coquette's Bistro deliver!

I first learned about the entirely gluten free bistro, bar and bakery from my online research, but we decided on it for our first dinner after the house owner recommended it as well. Only an hour after getting out, we piled back in the car and headed to Downtown Colorado Springs, where Coquette's has been recently relocated. 

My new fave sign!

When I first stepped foot into the restaurant, my jaw dropped as I stared at the rows of desserts lining the front shelves. Then I started reading the dinner menu, which is topped with the statement: "We share your food anxiety if you are allergen prone and prepare here everything on the premises is is to insure safety. Everything we do is gluten free/wheat free-soy protein free and all breads and sauces are made in house from scratch." 

I was no less impressed by their dish variety. Fried chicken and waffles, lasagna, savory crepes and French fries...all equally gluten free

Page 1!
Despite being overwhelmed by the choices, my family and I decided on the BBQ bacon burger, Cider battered Fish N Chips, and Chicken Pot pie served with a side salad and truffle fries

When our dishes arrived thirty minutes later, I was literally in shock. When I saw the croutons in my Mom's salad, I had to stop myself from asking to make sure it was gluten free. Thanks to my generous mother, I devoured the salad right away, savoring the crunch of fresh croutons and sweet bite of their homemade lavender vinaigrette

The side salad with chicken pot pie...
Then I tackled the BBQ bacon burger and some of the truffle fries. Pre-diagnosis, I was a major burger fiend. When I bit into my beast of a dinner, though, it was my first burger in a year. To me, it just isn't the same without a soft bun on top. Coquette's made the wait worthwhile. Their homemade bun tastes soft yet crisp, and didn't have a weird aftertaste like some gluten free breads. The burger itself was cooked perfectly and the BBQ sauce and bacon made this a treat I'd definitely eat again! As for the truffle fries...all I can say is yum! Crispy and thin with a slight bite from the truffle oil. 

My delicious burger...
I equally loved my family's choices and savored the ability to take a bite out of anyone's plate without worry! The chicken pot pie was to die for! The flaky, dense crust trapped all of the juices inside, perfectly marinating the chicken, onions, potatoes, peas and mushrooms. It tasted extremely rich, but the mushrooms differentiated it from the typical pot pie. 

As for my dad's fish and chips? I'm not a big fan of fried fish, but these won me over! The coating flaked off in my mouth and the fish still tasted fresh and moist

The fish and chips!
And, of course, a meal at Coquette's isn't complete without dessert! Mom and I took our time placing the order, weighing the delicious possibilities of cake versus cupcakes versus cookies. In the end, we settled on a Snickers Cupcake and chocolate chip cookie. 

The Snickers cupcake ended up being our least favorite of the two. The frosting was the best part - a delicious creamy blend of peanut butter and chocolate. The cupcake base was less impressive being a little dry and less strong in Snicker's flavor. 

One of the many cupcake trays!

The chocolate chip cookie, though, disappeared within a day. The texture was flaky, yet strong enough to not crumble like many gluten free products like to do. As for the taste - talk about yum! The base tastes slightly nutty, almost like peanut butter or a cinnamon cookie. The big chunks of chocolate chips dispersed evenly throughout made it the perfect treat to snack on (or devour!). 

By the time we rolled out of Coquette's, my stomach and I were in awe. Under no exaggeration, I ate the best food I've ever tasted that night, gluten free or not. Coquette's reinvigorated my belief that food doesn't need gluten or soy to be tasty. Just pure recipes, inventive chefs and a whole lot of hungry mouths. And this hungry mouth is devouring Coquette's at least one more time before we leave, so watch out for more food news! 

A happy celiac with their business card!

Have you ever eaten at an all gluten free eatery? What's your best meal so far? Comment below! 

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Celiac Roadtrip, Part 1

Since my diagnosis, this celiac has: partied in the hospital, survived college, gorged at a gluten free expo and been officially declared to be in remission. With summer at its peak, though, another adventure has come my way: the family road trip. And I'm going to share every fun, frustrating and flavorful moment with you all!

That's included! (Source)
For this first edition, I'm spilling all the details on our three day drive up to Colorado Springs, our final destination. When we planned out this trip, I initially didn't waste a minute on worries. Sure, this was our first time traveling away from home in a car since "gluten free" became a necessity. But with a ice box of gluten free ammo and a list of restaurants at each of our hotel locations, the war against gluten seemed like a semi-easy win

And, in some instances, it was. When my family drove away from the house Tuesday morning, our car might as well had been a gluten free bread box considering the amount of snacks we stuffed in the trunk. I spent the day before we left trapped in the kitchen, making hemp seed butterpizza, pancakes, quinoa and overnight quinoa flakes baggies for emergency eating on the road. Not to mention we stripped Sprouts of its protein bars and pre-packaged snacks the week before C-day (Colorado day!). 

This joined us in the car...

As we drove through California, Arizona, Utah and - finally - Colorado, the hours of prep were definitely worth it! The fact is, no matter how far the gluten free fad has spread, finding safe joints to eat at at random places on the map isn't easy. In Utah, we drove for hours without seeing anything but a run down Subway that even the gluten-eaters wouldn't touch. So, for lunch we lived off our pre-packaged snacks and goodies without complaint. Dinner, when we scouted out the towns of our hotel, proved the most interesting.  

As I mentioned before, I'd already made a list of possible restaurants at each of our stops. Nothing helps anxiety like obsessive preparation, right? Like most of life, though, things don't always go according to plan

Page 1...
The first stop wasn't bad. Chick Fil A? Check. Delicious and safe as ever. Then, at Grand Junction, we decided to celebrate another day down by going to Outback, a restaurant that has always been outstanding with my celiac demands. 

I'm embarrassed to say this was the first time I ever cried at a restaurant. I ordered my usual - a salad with Mahi Mahi and steamed veggies. First my salad came out with a suspicious piece of chicken sprinkled on top. First return to the kitchen. Then my waiter set down a plate of fish, veggies and seasoned rice that I was 99% sure wasn't gluten free. One question later, I was proved right. Skepticism before spoonful is the safe way to live!

The breaking point? When he returned a second later with fish and veggies on a plate, too fast for redoing the whole meal. The chefs had simply removed the gluten-filled rice, rearranged the contaminated fish and veggies, and expected it to be okay. Obviously no one in the restaurant - even the chefs - knew what "celiac" actually meant. 

Ryan, I could've used you...
At the end of the dinner, I finally choked down some fresh fish that I prayed was safe. Physically, I didn't suffer any negative effects, but my spirit was definitely shaken. This was the first time I felt unsafe enough in a restaurant that I thought of walking out hungry. Anxiety is a normal part of eating out for me, but tears are not. That it was a chain I trusted made it even worse. It was a reminder of how far, despite all of our successes, the gluten free community still has to go. 

Despite how miserable I felt during that dinner, I now view it as a learning experience. I shouldn't have let the long day of travel and dietary difficulties get to me. I should've asked for the manager or chef straight away. 

Either way, our last day of travel was a new day with new chances for eating. I was pleasantly surprised at a rest stop by the Healthy Tomato, a gas station cafe that offered pizza with Udi's crust. While I didn't buy any, I did devour a bag of gluten free popcorn

What a view too!
I took this as a sign of the delicious GF options Colorado would offer. And, as I'll share in my next post, I was 200% right

What are your tips for traveling while gluten free? What's your best and worst experience eating out with celiac? Comment below!