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Monday, May 27, 2013

Gfree in Socal!

Hello all!

I just recently got back from a 4 day Socal vacation with my family and I am happy to say that it was a very pleasant trip! We went to the typical touristy places like the San Diego Zoo and of course, Disneyland!!

As always with vacationing, eating on a special gluten free diet certainly has its challenges. However, I was able to successfully eat gluten free for the entirety of the trip and didn't get sick! Yay!

For this post, I want to share some of the restaurants/eateries I went to that either offered gluten free accommodations or had plenty of gluten free dishes. I found that Socal is actually pretty friendly to celiacs if you do your research and know where to go.

Before I launch into the restaurants, here are some quick tips for all gfreers planning on vacationing:

  • Do your research! Figure out if there are any gfree accommodations around the area you are vacationing. You can use a handy app called, Find me Gluten Free, available on all smartphones to look up gfree friendly restaurants and eateries. Pretty cool, huh? 
  • Bring snacks! This is a cardinal rule. You must always bring snacks just in case you find yourself in a pinch without food you can eat. 
  • Be prepared for some cross contamination! If you're not preparing your own food, there is always a chance for cross contamination. Use your best judgment and make wise decisions regarding how much contamination is acceptable for you. 
  • Don't be afraid to ask for clarification on menu or food items! Many times during the trip, I got lazy and thought that a certain sauce or food would be fine for me to eat just based on my knowledge of naturally gluten free foods. However, gluten is tricky and just because it's not visible doesn't mean it's not there. I would take the most precaution on sauces. Ask for clarification on if a dish is gluten free if you are unsure. You won't regret it, trust me! 
Okay, so here we go! These are grouped by location.

Lucha Libre Taco Shop, Mission Hills 
Mahi Mahi fish taco. OMG SO GOOD!

Carne Asada taco with guacamole and Pico de Gallo

Fresh handmade tortilla chips and dips
So, I was told by several friends of mine who are from the Socal area that Mexican food is to die for. Well, I must say that they were totally right. I died from sheer food happiness when I put that Mahi Mahi fish taco in my mouth. I have never tasted a fish taco that good before! The best part? Mexican food is almost 100% gluten free save for flour tortillas. Flour tortillas are overrated anyway. =P  

Din Tai Fung Dumpling House, Arcadia
Steamed House Beef Soup

Chicken Fried Rice minus the soy sauce

DTF famous dumplings. Unfortunately, not gfree, but they sure smell good :)

Not from DTF but from the dessert shop in the same plaza called, Phoenix Desserts. This is a sampler plate of gfree mochi. Flavors from left to right are: red bean, black sesame, mango (my fav!!), and taro. 
Din Tai Fung is a family favorite. Every time my family travels down to Socal, we make it a point to stop at DTF for dinner and to eat their famous steamed dumplings made fresh right in their kitchen. Unfortunately, those steamed dumplings are off limits to me now, but the good news is that DTF has a gluten free menu!! Let me tell you I was SO surprised and elated that they knew about gluten free diets and were so accommodating. There is hope for gfree Chinese restaurants in the future!!! Anyway, you can check out their website or go to any of their locations and on the menu, next to a gfree item will be a GF notation marking the dish as gluten free. This is so awesome on so many levels. Most of the dishes that are gluten free are fried rice with no soy sauce, soups, and some noodle dishes.

 Disneyland California Adventure Park, Anaheim
Chicken Rice Bowl with seared vegetables and lemon sauce

Disney dessert time with Mocha almond fudge and the waffle cone on the side

Really gross and sweaty by the end of the day...but ice cream fixes everything!
The novelty of Disneyland really never dies even after all these years. It must have been at least 10 years since I had last visited the Disneyland in Anaheim. We decided to go to California Adventure instead of Disneyland though because we knew that Disneyland would have WAY more people than its sister park just because it was Saturday and Memorial Weekend. It didn't matter much to me because I was able to go to the HK Disneyland this past Christmas so my Disneyland visit after all these years can finally have a check mark next to it!

Disneyland was super accommodating for gluten free diets. If you need or want to bring gfree snack foods into the park, according to their website, all you have to do is tell the attendant at the security bag check that you have a specialized diet and they'll let you take your food in. And that's it! There is no need to prove that you have celiacs with a written doctor's note or anything like other theme parks. It makes me love Disney that much more!

Once inside the park, when you are ready to order food, simply let the cashier know that you have a specialized gluten free diet and that you would like to know which items on the menu are safe to eat. My family and I ended up eating Greek food at the Opa! festival that Disney was having. Most Greek food is gluten free, but it is best to ask for clarification. What happens is that the cashier will notify the servers inside who will notify the chef or restaurant manager who will come out and let you know which foods are safe to eat. I had excellent service and they were very knowledgeable and helpful. Another plus for Disney! Unfortunately, I did not take a picture of my beautiful Greek dish- I believe it was a Lemon oregano chicken on a bed of white rice (they switched out the rice pilaf), a cucumber salad with creamy tzatziki sauce- I got too excited and wolfed it all down. Oops!

For dinner, I chose to eat a rice bowl. I went through the same process again and asked the chef to come out. The Asian rice bowl sauces all contained gluten so the chef specially prepared a lemon sauce for me to pour over the rice. Delicious, light and certainly much healthier than if the rice bowl was slathered with calorie rich sauce!

Downtown Disney, Rainforest Cafe 
Tuscan chicken with a balsamic, sun-dried tomato sauce accompanied with creamy red skinned mashed potatoes and fresh cucumber salad with kalamata olives and sweet red peppers
For our last day in Socal, we decided to continue our Disney adventures by checking out Downtown Disney. We ended up eating at one of my favorite themed restaurants, Rainforest Cafe! Rainforest Cafe is intricately designed with a Mayan temple structure, indoor aquariums, fake rainforest animals all amid a wildlife soundtrack. Although RC is beautifully decorated inside and out, it is on the pricier side with meals starting at $20 per person and a long wait time for food. However, I was happy despite those things because I got my special gfree accommodations! I asked for which items on the menu were gluten free and the restaurant manager came out and pointed out which dishes were safe to eat and alterations for other dishes. Did you know you can get the burgers gluten free? Just order it without the bun and you're good to go!

In conclusion to this long post, I hope this was helpful for those thinking about vacationing in Socal and all the wonderful food options you have available to you! I can't wait to visit again and try out even more delicious restaurants and eateries.

Until then, happy travels and have a great start to your summer!