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Too difficult finding food while traveling?

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My husband wanted to go to Kona brewery company during our last few hours on the island for lunch. But the menu online was NOT promising for me. So we went to a natural food store and picked up a jicama citrus salad and a raw vegan peppermint chocolate cheesecake (wow!). We went to Kona, hoping for the best.

What happened was the hostess seemed so surprised that we even asked if we could bring in my food while he ate their food- after giving her an apologetic look while emphasizing how many food allergies I have, they told us not to worry. I was able to munch happily while Alex had his pizza and beer!

So don’t hesitate to bring your own food if needed! They did give me a plate so it looked like I ordered from their menu for other restauranteurs. Fine by me- meant I didn’t have to eat out of plastic containers.

Hawaii has truly been a place where we tested a lot of things when it came to food. Overall, it’s been a wild success with a few minor setbacks.

Pineapple, mango and guava, oh my! While I’ll continue to eat them, I’ll miss the fact that I once ate them locally. Along with fresh coffee- my favorite by far is Coffees of Hawaii from Molokai! Much more so than Kona- don’t stone me! It’s not kapu to prefer other islands over big island. King Kamehameha I no longer exists! What was once taboo no longer is. Although the place of refuge is close by…(in case you’re wondering, look them up online for a bit of Hawaiian history!)

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Loving it in Hawaii!

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Traveling is normally difficult when it comes to finding food that I can eat. So imagine my delight at locating Whole Foods a few miles away from my hostel! That took care of my backpacking trip. We came back from Haleakala yesterday (which was an incredible experience and you HAVE to see if you’re ever in Maui!) and wanted to relax. So we went to Lahaina beach and walked around.

We came across a small cafe called “The Bamboo Fresh Express”. Looking at their menu, I was somewhat doubtful since a lot of combinations included cheese. Then we saw a gluten-free option- TWO of them! Either a rice wrap or a rice box (box with rice not a box made of rice!). So I asked the sweet woman who worked there- showing her my food allergy card.

Lo and behold! She was able to create a Dru-friendly Da’Green Pig wrap! A kalua cooked pig with spinach, avocado, jalapeño, honey, tomatoes, etc… It was mind blowing delicious! My husband said I looked as if I was in heaven savoring the meal. I also had a fresh fruit smoothie with pineapple, coconut and mango. YuM! What a way to reward ourselves after an intense backpacking trip!

And the woman? Also from Rhode Island! What a small world! She also commented on the food allergy card saying it really helped her figure out alternatives. Yay! It really does help me out. A lot. Takes away any potential misunderstanding and people often respond better when it’s written down as opposed to listening.

Bonus? Everything was organic and GMO-free! Sweet! A delicious wrap that’s also good for me?! I call that a win!

Then we walked over to enjoy a beautiful sunset on the beach. I’m loving it here in Hawaii. Time to get back to my vacation!

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Aloha!

Scouting for food in Montreal

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Traveling is something I both love and get really nervous about. The experience of exploring a new area often leads to unexpected finds. Typically my husband, Alex, and I go on adventures in our “backyard”, as in America. Just the East Coast for us, together, that is.  Until New Year’s Eve weekend. We had planned a trip to Montreal, thanks to an incredibly generous gift by a dear friend of ours. They still speak English, don’t they? Well, apparently there are many French speaking cities in east Canada, especially Quebec where French is it’s official language.

Why does that make me nervous? Was I unsure about finding my way around? Nah, that wasn’t one of my concerns. Communicating with others? Getting warmer. OH! How the heck was I going to communicate my food allergies with others when ordering food? I did NOT want to become sick. That was what I was the most anxious about. How am I going to do this? Even if they speak English, I can’t understand people with accents (if you are unaware, I am Deaf and rely on lip-reading when conversing with people who do not use American Sign Language). Oh yeah, that’s something to be worried about. What to do?

The French version of my food allergy card
The French version of my food allergy card

       The fabulous friend I mentioned earlier? She offered to help translate my food allergy card since her family was fluent in many languages, including French. Hallelujah! What food allergy card? My husband had several made for me for my birthday last year. What a lifesaver! I recommend it to EVERYBODY with food allergies; since it’s something tangible a waiter can bring back to the chef to ensure that the meal is free of allergens. Otherwise things can get lost in translation. Maybe if its just gluten free, but what if it’s among seven other allergens? How can anybody memorize eight? That’s where the card comes in. It takes away that hassle.

Zero 8, an allergen free restaurant, where my meal was composed of several appetizers

Zero 8, an allergen free restaurant, where my meal was composed of several appetizers

Armed with both English and French versions of my food allergy cards, I felt more confident going into restaurants. In the first one, I had an English menu given to me so I assumed they would understand the English card. I have never seen a waiter’s face fall that fast. He immediately grabbed another waiter who apparently could read English. So I waved them over and gave them the French version. Talk about relief!!!

From that point and on, whenever Alex and I went out to eat, we whipped out the French translated allergy card. Made my dining experience so much more enjoyable! And the best part? We kept finding restaurants where we were the only customers. It’s due to two factors: we ate earlier than the locals. Apparently people in Montreal eat later in the evening, around 8’o’clock or later (or 2000 hours). We ate around 6 PM. We were hungry!

Being the only people at the restaurant meant extremely personalized services. At Serafim, an organic bistro that was on the other end of rue Saint-Paul (it’s a generally busy street, but this place was just past the crowd). The waiter there was not fazed by my allergy card, they are already familiar with gluten-free and is a part of their menu. They were able to assist me in selecting a meal that would be the most enjoyable and easily modified. I ended up having salmon with a delicious Mediterraen inspired vegetable medley, heavy on oregano and dill. Oh, I also had a yellow lentil soup to start with. I told my husband that the true marks of a restaurant that can meet my needs are ones that can serve me soup. I find that many places add flour to their soup, so if they make soup that’s “straight up”, that’s a plus in my book. I also had an antipasto salad. They asked us if we wanted dessert and realized that it was a challenge for me. But not one they were going to give in to. Instead the chef came up and led us to the dessert shelf. After some musing, he made an aha sign with his finger and gestured for us to hold out our hands. He placed a date in a small napkin and gave it to us. The sweetness of this often forgotten fruit was just perfect for our filling meal. So light yet SO nectarous. We left the place with a smile on our face.

Enjoying wine during our New Year's Eve dinner at Kashmir

Enjoying wine during our New Year’s Eve dinner at Kashmir

The next evening led us to an Indian restaurant, Kashmir, where we once again found ourselves being the only ones there. Again, this meant personalized service. Can I say how much I love Indian food? We realized that it’s becoming equivalent to comfort food in our book. I LOVE their cuisine. We had a table by the window overlooking the street, watching people hurry by, ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It was so much fun sipping wine while chatting about our resolutions and admiring how people figured out ways to stay warm. It was around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, if not below.

Since I’ve learned about my food allergies, the days of grabbing food from vendors on the street were LONG gone. This includes hot chocolate, ice cream, and popcorn from wherever we were. Walking down Rue Saint Paul, there were several wooden sheds in front of Marche Bonsecours, a two-story public market. Curious, Alex and I peered at what the vendors were selling while customers spoke with them. Then I saw one thing that made me glee with delight. Seriously, I think I squealed. There was this guy with a huge tray filled with broken ice. Think slush. Where am I going with this, you ask? Especially on a FREEZING night in Montreal, Quebec? Think maple syrup. Yes, maple syrup. The dude poured maple syrup right on the ice along with candy sticks. He rotated them in the ice, slowly hardening them to eat them as if they were popsicles! Alex saw my face and asked if I wanted one. He probably thought he was talking with a five-years-old, trying not to jump up and down with giddiness. Not caring about how cold it was, I whipped off my gloves and grinned as I savored the sweetness of pure maple syrup. We checked with the guy first, naturally. And you just KNOW it when it’s the real deal instead of that fake stuff that has artificial sweeteners. I could and probably never will understand why people eat them. But that’s just me.

We also had delicious breakfasts at our hotel, Auberge Bonaparte. Immediately upon being seated, we were served orange juice and creamy coffee. What can I say? I’m a goner for those who knows how to do food well.

But Montreal isn’t all about food! We also went up the world’s tallest leaning building which is also an observatory overlooking the city. It’s a part of the Olympic Park, where the summer Olympics was held in 1976. Their biodome was converted into the COOLEST zoo, or whatever you call it. You felt as if you were in the actual environment with animals roaming about. They used natural barriers such as a specific plant that acted as curtains between two types of monkeys.  I actually got to see an otter slide down a slide! Birds flew over our heads. I saw puffins up close, with only glass separating us, and Canadian lynxes napping on the rocks. It was stunning and is a must-see in Montreal. The Basilique Notre-Dame was also jaw dropping. It’s already beautifully lit up at nighttime, but the inside? Whoa. I’ve grown up going to Catholic churches but nothing prepared me for this. The architecture was mind blowing with the details. Old Montreal is definitely my favorite part of the city. And the fireworks on New Year’s Eve above the river was AWESOME! I don’t think I’ve ever watched fireworks in the wintertime.

photo 5             Basically if you want an international experience, but you only have a few days (such as a long weekend) and you’re nervous about your food allergies, why not start with Montreal? Be sure to make a food allergy card! Both English and whatever language spoken where you’re going. I think that’s KEY to a successful trip. Ever since Alex made me those cards, I’ve felt so much more comfortable ordering food in restaurants. Just seeing how they react to the cards is a sign of whether I’ll be able to safely eat there or not. By this I mean how much they seem to freak out when reading the card. When waiters seem familiar with the concept of food allergies, that’s a good sign. If they have that “uh-oh” look, get out. Don’t feel bad for leaving. It’s not worth your health. What’s the point of eating if you’re unable to enjoy it?

If you’re traveling to Montreal anytime soon, I suggest checking out these restaurants since they were very accommodating to me and I had delicious food there! I have also added links to these restaurant to my list of websites under restaurants for future reference!

Serafim, Old Montreal- http://www.serafim.ca/

Zero 8, Downtown Montreal- http://zero8.com/index.php/fr/

Restaurant Kashmir, Old Montreal- http://www.restaurantkashmir.com/

Near Providence, RI?

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My two favorite go to spots is right outside Providence, RI. In Pawtucket, are two gems- a vegetarian restaurant. A few doors down is a vegan bakery. Both sells a lot of gluten free goods! Garden Grille and Wildflour Bakery- an answer to my prayers. Seriously.

Garden Grille- I order the raw veggie heaven salad minus the cashew dressing. It’s gluten free already before that, I just have more allergies hah. My sister LOVeD their gluten free macaroni and cheese with mushrooms and broccoli. Highly recommended!

Wildflour Bakery- their raw raspberry coconut cheesecake is to die for. Their raw-reo puts Oreos to shame. And I’m having one right now! Sorry, I ain’t sharing this time.

Come on down and try them yourselves!

The best fast food for traveling

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For a person with food allergies, fast food generally does not exist. And if they do, they’re toxic. So what am I talking about? Not McDonald’s. Not Wendy’s. Burger King? Nope.

Then what? Well, how do you define fast food? Food that you can grab quickly and eat on the go, right? So what healthy versions are there?

The food bar at Whole Foods. Oh yes. While driving back from Washington DC, we stopped in Baltimore to check out Fort McHenry. Then I realized how hungry I was. Uh oh. So I looked up to see where the nearest Whole Foods was. Score! Only 4 miles away!

A chickpea salad with olive oil, herbs, zucchinis and summer squash. I picked up a tofu salad for Alex. We both left feeling happy, satisfied and a good full. Do you know what I mean by that? I hate it when I over eat then I realize I’m so full that I’m nauseous. Granted half of the nausea is due to the type of food it is. But this time? Nope. Especially not when I had a raspberry chia drink to wash it down. Yum!

Now that’s my kind of fast food.

Good bye civilization, hello wilderness!

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White Mountains' greens

After Irene, I’m glad to get the power back! Ironically my plans this weekend include abandoning the comforts that electricity has to offer. I’m going backpacking with my boyfriend and a good friend. So we will be trading in the kitchen for a small stove in the wild. Not a bad trade-off, I daresay! Especially if the surrounding looks anything like this:

Mmm, I can’t wait! We’re keeping it VERY simple with the food this time. After all we have to lug everything in and out on our backpacks. So for breakfast it’s oatmeal. I’m also bringing a small bag with cinnamon, sugar and the works. To add some flavor to it. Lunch will be rice cakes, peanut butter and raisins (or craisins?). Dinner will be soup (that’s the heaviest thing we’ll carry, Imagine’s flavorful soup. The black beans is a GREAT one to have, with all of the protein! You just have to decide whether you’re willing to carry the weight or not). Snacks include GORP (granola, raisins, peanuts or any other nuts), chocolate bars (Theo’s for me! It’s one of the very few chocolate bars without soy lecithin. And let me tell you something . . . it’s the best thing EVER. Made in Seattle, I believe that the taste is unrivaled. And my favorite flavor? Coconut curry. Oh yes, they use actual coconut, turmeric, red pepper, and more.) and of COURSE water. Can’t go without water! Not only that, but my boyfriend will have a water filter. We don’t want to get sick from anything this weekend!

Have you ever gone camping or backpacking? What’s your typical meal look like?

Feeling like Goldilock? Have Cream of Teff!

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It’s still summertime, right? Felt a bit chilly this morning! Which was why I wanted something hot for breakfast. Ever have Cream of Wheat? Or cornmeal cereal AKA grits? I used to, when I was sick of oatmeal. Now, those two aren’t an option anymore. But oatmeal still is. How much oatmeal can one really eat, though? I used to love having it every other day or so, but now if I have it once in two weeks, that’s more than plenty for me. Looks like I’ve had more than my share of oatmeal these days.

Brown teff grains

So what else can I have? I looked in my pantry, to see if I could find anything. Then a bag stood out to me. I’ve used it only once before. Teff grains. I’ve had teff flour before. Been using it for years. But the grain itself? So I thought to myself, why not? Many people aren’t familiar with teff, and they are missing out! It’s an AMAZING grain! It is native to Ethiopia, and has an abundance of nutrients! Including 8 essential amino acids (including lysine, more than wheat or barley), protein (perfect for vegetarians and vegans alike!), calcium, phosphorous, magnesium, aluminum, iron, copper, zinc, boron, barium and thiamine. Teff is also high in carbohydrates and fiber. Did I convince you yet? No?

It has a nutty taste to it, almost brany, yet its different. It feels lighter to me, and when you cook it in a porridge form, it’s as if you’re eating a darker version of Cream of Wheat! Now, that might be a hyperbole, since I do not remember what it tastes like. All I know is that Cream of Teff is a delicious way to start off my day! And it’s SO easy to cook with. Really.

For one person:

1/2 cup teff grain

1 1/2 cup water

Cooking Teff

Cream of Teff

1.) Combine in a small saucepan, and cook until it’s boiling. Reduce to simmer. Cook for 15-20 minutes, until the water is mostly absorbed.

2.) Eat it.

Seriously, that’s all it takes. You can find teff at health food stores, including one of the most well-known ones around: Whole Foods. Running there yet? By the way, if you want more or less, just keep this in mind: it’s 1 to 3 ratio, teff to water. Which means if you want to cook a cup of teff, use 3 cups of water.

I ate mine with rice milk and blueberry honey for breakfast today. Mmmmm! I think I’ll make some more later this week, if the weather stays cool. Sure, it’s August, but if it’s a rainy day like today? I want something hot. So teff, it is!

Now it’s obvious that I think highly of Teff! I’ll move on to this fantastic eatery in the town of Amherst, MA. Heard of Judie’s? Well, if you haven’t, now you have! Check it out. I promise it will be worth the drive! It does not have a separate menu for those with food allergies, but if you let them know, they will take care of you. They do have a section on the menu saying to ask about gluten-free selections.

When I got there with my boyfriend and his family, we were greeted by the owner, Judie. After listening to some of her recommendations of what we should order, I told her that I couldn’t have what she suggested due to my food allergies. No wheat, no corn, no soy, I said. Did that freak her out, or disappoint her? No! Instead she saw it as an exciting challenge. After being shown the way to our table by Judie personally, we all sat down and opened our menus. The beautiful restaurant was vibrant with colorful paintings that reminded us of this game called Dixit. If you don’t know what that is, go and google it. Seriously. One of the best games EVER.

Anyways, back to the restaurant. Judie proceeded to tell me to try this dish, Drunken Scallops. I was about to point out that it was a pasta dish when she stopped me with a kind, knowing smile. Instead of pasta, I would have risotto, she said. Oooo. A delicious substitute, already? Judie’s is famed for their popovers, but understanding that I couldn’t have it, she offered a larger salad with almonds. Was I interested in that? Boy, was I ever! She transformed the dish on the menu into something edible for me. Instead of beer batter, she was having scallops cooked in a way that wouldn’t make me sick. With a smile, she told me that it would be worth my time. Believing her, I felt confident in the dish that would appear before me.

The servers were extremely attentive to us! Our glasses remained full of water, our salads lush with its greens, and smiles were shared all around.

Then the food arrived.

A bed of collard and leeks, topped with risotto, mixed with vegetables, and HUGE scallops on top of it all. My first bite? Judie was there to witness a delirious smile appear on my face. I gobbled it all up. It was a huge dish, yet not one morsel of rice was left on the plate.

And the day after? No stomach pains, no itchiness or headaches. I call that a success! Mmmm, I’m already looking forward to my next visit at Judie’s!