This year, my family decided to take the year off to travel. We started by leaving our home in the San Francisco bay area in August 2017. This post is about our northwestern gluten-free road trip, from California to Colorado. I will be documenting the food and more interesting parts of our journey here. Check the following blog posts for the other places where we went.
Gluten-Free Road Trip: Northwestern Edition
I am a bit behind in my writing but honestly, the first few weeks of traveling were just busy, busy, busy. We (that would be mostly my husband) were driving a lot and planning the trip about a week at a time. Every day we were doing something. We went from the bay area north to Seattle, across Washington state, down through Idaho, over to Yellowstone, down to Jackson, Wyoming, and then eventually to Colorado. The first goal was to arrive in Denver before a gluten-free expo in which I was selling my cookbook to be immediately followed by the viewing of the full solar eclipse in totality.
We pulled out of our house around 5:00pm, the car packed full, and got on the road. We all had mixed emotions about this. We were saying goodbye to friends, comforts, familiar things and places, and for me, my kitchen, which I truly love. Being a family of gluten-free eaters was going to be a challenge but I did bring a cooler of food, bag of snacks, and the ability to do some basic cooking if necessary as long as I had a heating element. In the long run, these were not needed. The toaster bags, though, did come in handy along with my Nima Sensor so that I could test food if needed. This is all part of this northwestern gluten-free road trip.
Since we were driving through San Francisco, we decided to keep it easy and grabbed some arepas to go from Pica Pica Maize Kitchen. After that stop, we drove to Red Bluff, CA for the night. In the morning, I found a grocery store and stocked up on some foods we could have in the car. Back at the hotel, we thought about our breakfast options. We ate things that were labeled and sealed, or fresh, like yogurt and bananas. The nice girl who was working at the breakfast bar showed me the ingredients of the eggs (looked ok) and set some aside for us in a fresh container. After a few cups of hotel coffee, we were on our way.
The driving part of our trip was relatively uneventful when it came to eating. Usually lunch consisted of snacks in the car. This ranged from sandwiches, deli meats, fruit, nuts, crackers, chips (my downfall) to meals that had been heated and placed in a thermos. We didn’t want to stop for lunches for two reasons: time and whether or not it would be gluten-free safe. A restaurant with a gluten-free menu does not necessarily mean it is really GF. I just wanted to mention this as there were quite a few days where it might have seemed that we skipped a meal. I promise this was not the case!
We stopped in Lassen Volcanic Park, which I recommend if you are ever up this way. It was beautiful and scenic. We had some snacks at a picnic table and then got on the road again. One thing we didn’t anticipate was not having access to our phone app that normally gives us directions. For the first time in a while, we purchased a paper map. This ended up being helpful as we were able to look at our route from a big picture perspective. It was a little old school but to be honest it was endearing as well. We arrived that night at the house of a dear friend who lives on a ranch. She was more than accommodating with our needs for all meals.
One night I made dinner for her family using ingredients in her pantry along with some of my staples. The end result was a zucchini-type lasagna with a meaty tomato sauce. No, I didn’t write down the recipe but here’s what was in it:
- Thinly sliced green and yellow zucchini lengthwise
- Cooked brown rice (I really like the sprouted type made by Lundberg)
- Browned ground meat and added diced tomatoes, water and herbs to make a sauce
I layered all of this, starting and ending with the sauce, in a 13″x9″ baking dish and baked it covered until the zucchini was cooked. We all agreed it was delicious! I served it to my family with some gluten-free bread and butter, and watermelon. Once I have a kitchen to cook out of, I will make it again.
After spending a few days off the grid, we continued on our journey to Ashland. A dear friend from the bay area had moved there a few months before. Side note: she just wrote her first book called Beyond Meditation: Making Mindfulness Accessible for Everyone. Check her and the book out! Ashland is the famous home of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival as well as some really good food. We started with snacks and smoothies at Raw Organic Juice Bar. Bonus: it’s all gluten-free so no need for questions.
After a tour through this small, quaint city, we ended our visit with a late lunch at Sauce. The gluten-free items are well marked. We decided our favorite was the yellow chicken curry. Our next stop might surprise you but once we left Ashland, we purposely went to a gas station to check out the market! The Sequential Hub Market Cafe is actually well known for it’s variety of healthy snacks along with kombucha on tap. We had to get a few things just for the experience.
After that, we got on the road and made our way to the home of the fantastic gluten-free rn, Nadine Grzeskowiak, who lives south of Portland, OR. We were greeted by an amazing paleo dinner. Even though it had only been a few days of being on the road, eating a homemade meal where I didn’t need to worry about cross contact or ingredients was a big relief.
And that was just the beginning. In the Portland area, well known to be a gluten-free mecca, we visited Eats and Treats Cafe in Philomath, OR, a dedicated restaurant that is known for it’s barbecue and comfort food. In Portland, my husband and I had a date night at Ground Breaker Brewery Gastropub where we enjoyed a flight of GF beer made right there along with some amazing food. The next day, we stopped at New Cascadia Traditions for breads and bagels. It’s hard to resist a lunch at Corbett Fish House for GF fried food (naughty but nice). For our last morning in Portland, we stopped at Kyra’s Bake Shop to visit with another blogger friend and of course indulge in some of the best pastries! See all the pictures below.
Full and caffeined up (us, not the kids), we hit the road for Seattle. In Seattle, we stayed at a friend’s house. I offered to cook sautéed chicken with a pan sauce which I served over spinach risotto. The olive bread from New Cascadia was the perfect accompaniment. Our friends were great about making sure the pots and utensils were clean. We enjoyed our dinner over wine and many laughs. Visiting with friends or family we don’t get to see very often is certainly one of the benefits of this trip.
Monday morning, we took a ferry from Bainbridge Island to Seattle. It was tempting to stop downtown as I knew we were bound to find good GF options but doing the math, we had to get on the road. We did decide to stop in Bellevue for lunch at Cactus. It’s a small chain of restaurants in the area. I was impressed that they had a gluten-free menu; I just hoped they could deliver. The reviews were all very good so we went in with confidence. The meal was tasty and filling, and we did not seem to have any reactions. Note: I just looked at the restaurant today on my Find Me Gluten-Free app. One person did post a negative review saying they got sick. There is no guarantee at a mixed restaurant.
After Bellevue, we drove due east to Coeur d’Alene along a scenic highway surrounded by mountains and fields. We stayed near downtown and the lake, in an apartment. We have been using Airbnb with much success. The only issue of course when renting a house is making sure the kitchen is safe for cooking. One never knows where gluten could be hiding! Our rule of thumb is to wash everything before we use it and not use anything suspect like wooden cutting boards.
After we got the lay of the land (and lake) I made a quick meat scramble with ground beef, sweet potatoes, onion, chopped spinach, and sage. When in doubt, this is what we make as it’s something that we all like and it usually fills us up. The next day we played in the lake for most of the day and then got on the road in the afternoon.
As we were driving on Highway 90 in Montana, we started seeing signs for something called a huckleberry smoothie. We needed gas, a bathroom break, and to find out more about the smoothie! After inspecting the ingredients and asking some questions, we decided we needed to try one. It was a rich and creamy combination of ice cream, milk, and huckleberries, best described like a blueberry but sweeter. Yum (even though I only had a sip, I can tell you it was very good).
Later that evening, after another meal in the car thanks to our thermoses, we arrived in Butte, Montana. In the morning, with hopes of spending the day at Yellowstone Park, we had a quick breakfast; my favorite has become a banana, slice of GF bread with peanut or almond butter, and a cup of coffee. I found a Starbucks in Butte so I did treat myself to an almond milk latte as I had started to get a bit tired of hotel coffee. My sinuses had not been too happy with my dairy consumption, either. After that, we got on the road.
Before we got into the park, we found a grocery store and stocked up on some food that would become a picnic lunch. We spent the day walking, reading about Yellowstone, and taking in the sights. At the end of the afternoon, we ended up at Old Faithful. Although we had thought we would only wait for 30 minutes, after about 40 minutes we couldn’t leave! We had to see it. It was well worth it and an experience that as a family, we will never forget. Afterwards, we continued driving toward Jackson, Wyoming. Looking with wide eyes, we witnessed the beauty of the Grand Tetons. Initially we were going to go back to the Grand Tetons the next day but once we got to Jackson, we realized we all needed some downtime.
Dinner was average at Town Square Tavern but I was happy to see good reviews. Nima gave my daughter’s salad a smile. My bison burger was uninspiring (mostly because it arrived on a piece of lettuce without anything else) but did the trick. The next day, though, we discovered Lotus Cafe which is almost all GF. That changed everything. We had a big breakfast, wonderful coffee, and some treats.
We spent the day at the hotel where we stayed and enjoyed summer mountain activities like a bobsled-style car that goes down the mountain on a metal track, a slide, ropes course and a maze. That’s what we call a relaxing day! We grabbed some food to go from a local grocery store (funny how salami and crackers can be called dinner) and got back on the road. Next stop: Rawlins, WY.
We experienced many different hotel breakfasts in that first 10 days. Most of the time, we were winging it. That morning, I asked the breakfast attendant if there was anything gluten-free. Low and behold, she brought me a wrapped small bagel. My mouth almost hit the floor. We had some GF sausages we had bought at a grocery store, fruit, and the bagel with our own toppings. Perfect. We got on the road for Boulder, CO. I had been looking forward to this for a while. Boulder is well known for it’s plethora of gluten-free food.
Unfortunately, we didn’t know exactly where we were going in Boulder so we ended up at a mall. We ate at Five on Black, a fast-casual, Brazilian-style bowl restaurant. I really appreciated that it was 100% gluten-free but I’m not sure if was our favorite meal. It could have been what we ordered; I don’t know. We really wanted to like it but it lacked the flavors we were expecting. After, we visited Kim and Jake’s, a dedicated gluten-free bakery. I met the owners at a GF expo a few years back. Their round bread loaf is one of the best homemade GF breads I have had in the US.
After Boulder, we visited with friends who had moved to Denver from the bay area. I happily helped with the cooking and cleaning. Who knew that I could miss washing dishes?! We got ready for the next phase of our trip: the Denver Celiac Support Group’s Gluten-Free Fair AND the solar eclipse. I feel like this post is so long already that I’m going to leave you with some pictures of the expo. It was a wonderful day. I met so many nice people who were excited to learn about The Warm Kitchen gluten-free cookbook. Stay tuned for the eclipse experience along with our journey from Nebraska to North Caroline, then New York.