I just spent a few days in Austin (it had been far too long since I'd been back) visiting a friend. Pretty much all of our plans while I was there revolved around food. In particular, gluten-free food. Regan had been telling me about all the places that they had found that were gluten-free friendly, and we tried to eat at all of them.
But before I even made it to Texas, I found gluten free food at the Denver airport. I landed around lunch time, and right across from the gate was an Udi's Cafe. The cafe isn't all gluten-free, but I was able to make my meal GF for $2 extra. This meant GF bread on my sandwich and GF fries!
I was so happy. For airport food, it was a pretty decent. The fact that I could actually eat all of it made it even better. On my way to finding the gate for my connecting flight, I found one of those shops to get some snacks and found a wall of Go Picnic meals.
I had just found out about these at the Gluten-Free Expo a few weeks ago and was so excited to see them in the wild! I bought one to bring with me on my next flight.
After I landed in Austin, we gradually made our way over to 24 Diner for a late dinner. They're open 24 hours, serve breakfast all day, and have a gluten-free menu available. We ordered the deviled eggs to share, and I ordered a brussels sprout hash. Both were awesome.
The next morning, we went for brunch at Wild Wood Bakehouse - a dedicated gluten-free bakery and restaurant. It's amazing to go to a place and know you can order anything on the menu and be able to eat it. I had a hard time trying to decide what to order, but the Belgian waffles called to me.
They were good, especially for gluten free, but not spectacular. I'd love to be able to go back and try more on the menu to compare, though.
After brunch we wandered around on South Congress Avenue. We didn't eat anything, but I did notice a couple of food trucks that boasted gluten-free things. I was amazed at how gluten-friendly Austin is. Which brings us to dinner at MAX'S Wine Dive, where they serve gluten-free fried chicken. For reals. They had a few other GF options on the menu too, but I was there for the chicken, and it did not disappoint. It was crispy and delicious, and I would have questioned whether it was gluten-free or not if I hadn't known.
For dessert, we decided to head over to some food trucks near the university for ice cream at Cow Tipping Creamery. They don't have a gluten-free menu, but they have so many topping options, it was easy to create my own sundae (vanilla soft serve, peanut butter sauce, chocolate sauce, and toasted marshmallows).
The next morning we went to brunch at the Steeping Room. They're all about tea and super gluten-free friendly. I ordered chai spiced french toast, and I was so excited about it that I started eating before I remembered to take a photo. We also left with a gluten-free carrot cupcake for later (it was REALLY good).
Dinner that night was BBQ from Rudy's. When we got up to the counter, I was given the rookie treatment so I got to taste a little bit of various barbecued things, which included smoked turkey, moist brisket and lean brisket (it was all delicious). While Rudy's doesn't have a gluten-free menu, they were awesome about finding out if something had gluten or not. Regan had been there many times before and pretty much knew what was okay to eat, but we did have to ask about their cream corn (which was, sadly, not gluten-free). We headed home with bags full of turkey, sausage, moist brisket, cole slaw and beans. I don't have a lot to compare it to, but damn, that was good bbq.
That night, I also got to have my first Alamo Drafthouse experience! I had heard about this theater for years, but never experienced it, and I am now forever spoiled. If you don't know about the Alamo, let me tell you a little bit about it. There are assigned seats, and there's small tables in between the seats because you can order food while you're watching the movie. We're not just talking popcorn and candy, either. Real food, like pizzas, burgers, sandwiches, salads, and desserts. Oh, AND BOOZE. I had a Maker's Mark Milk Punch Shake while quoting along with Zoolander. It. Was. AWESOME. The menu has all the gluten-free items marked, and you can order the pizzas with a gluten-free crust for an additional cost. They also point out that they're not cooking in a dedicated gluten-free environment, so depending on the severity of your allergy, you may not want to take your chances. (Regan may want to chime in about the pizza, because I think jparks has eaten there without problems...)
How are we going to top the Alamo Drafthouse experience? By having lunch the next day at Frank. I was enamored with the place when we walked in the door (older building, brick, high ceilings, wood everywhere) and then I looked at the menu and was completely in love. They've got a section of the menu listing all the gluten-free items, and you can get a gluten-free bun on any of their hot dogs.
We started with a basket of Reuben fries (waffle fries loaded with melted Swiss cheese, sauerkraut, corned beef, and thousand island dressing) and both ordered the Carolina Pork It hot dog (100% Vienna Beef, stuffed with cheese, wrapped in bacon and deep fried, dressed with grilled horseradish coleslaw, house-made pimento cheese) on a gluten-free bun. It was all SO very good. I enjoyed the whole experience so much that I couldn't leave without a t-shirt.
And then I headed to the airport, where my flights went pear-shaped due to a mechanical issue and then FREEZING RAIN and I ended up getting home 24 hours later than I thought I would.
BUT I DIGRESS.
I'm SO glad I decided to visit Austin again, even for a short time. I forgot how much I like it, and all the gluten-free food options make it that much more appealing. If the weather wasn't so humid and weird, I could see myself spending a lot more time there.
Also, if you're planning a trip to Austin, be sure to talk to Regan. She's an awesome tour guide, especially when it comes to the food.
You guys! The clouds tonight! Totally amazing! It's nights like tonight that make me appreciate those extra few minutes of daylight, so I get to see stuff like this on my way home from work.
Also, Fluid Pudding started a one sentence journal project for the month of February, and I've been participating. We're pretty loose with the rules for what we're affectionately tagging #lazyjournal, so some of mine are more than one sentence (and include little drawings). I've been posting them over on Instagram, but I may catalog them over here at some point, too.
This is how I spent most of my Sunday, at the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo. There were so many food samples that I didn't need to buy lunch, and I came home with a bag full of gluten-free goodies to try. There were even beer and cider samples! But my favorite thing? It was the pastry in the photo above, from Bacano Bakery in Oakland. It's probably one of the best gluten free baked goods I've ever eaten. Puff pastry seems to be one of those things that's hard to duplicate in a gluten-free version, but they've got it figured out. That apricot pinwheel was so good, that had someone served it to me outside of a gluten-free expo, I would have been questioning its gluten-free-ness.
Bacano doesn't have a store front yet, but they have a website and facebook page, and you can find them at some Farmer's Markets. I may have to make a special trip to the East Bay just for some Bacano Bakery treats...
Have I told you about the time I ordered some Proactiv cleanser? I'm not really an infomercial kind of girl, but I had seen the commercial SO many times, I had to see if it would work. After about a week, I sent it back because it was bleaching my towels. It was my first, and I thought my last, "As Seen on TV" purchase.
A couple of weeks ago, I happened to see an ad for the Wen haircare system. I had heard of it before, but hesitated to try it. Some of you may remember I've been struggling with the frizz, and the commercial promised that after one wash, I'd be a believer in Wen. Having tried so many things on my hair in the past few months to combat the frizz, including cutting about 6 inches of it off, I figured it couldn't hurt to try one more thing.
My order arrived on Saturday afternoon, so Sunday was my day to become a believer. I used the recommended amount of sweet almond mint cleansing conditioner in the shower and the anti-frizz styling cream after I towel dryed my hair, and then blow dryed the same way I always do. And I have to admit, it was a major improvement. The frizz isn't gone completely, but it's working much better than anything else I've tried. The texture of my hair is also softer and it has more shine.
But, here's the thing, in the directions for using the cleansing conditioner they recommend a number of "pumps" to use for different lengths of hair. Medium length is 16 to 24 pumps, and one pump is a pretty decent amount of product. At this rate, I'm not sure the 16oz bottle in my shower is going to last more than 2 weeks. But maybe it's worth it because it works so well? (They're right! I'm hooked!)
Has anyone else tried this stuff? Can I get away with less "pumps"? I may have to experiment and see what happens.
If anyone else is interested in trying it, they offer a kit on their website (which is what I ordered). Sephora has a kit too, but the one directly from Wen is a better buy (at least right now).
I already mentioned that the Europe trip was a big deal for me. It was the longest vacation I've ever taken and the furthest I've ever travelled. But, it was also the biggest trip I've ever planned.
Sure, we had picked out the cities we wanted to go to, but then we had to figure out how to get to them, and when, oh and where we'd be sleeping. And the rental car! Can't forget that! Are the passports still valid? Better get those updated! This trip occupied a large part of my brain for a long time. I don't know how people plan a wedding and a honeymoon at roughly the same time. I guess thats why they pay other people to do it for them?
Thankfully I had friends who could impart wisdom from their travels, and it was a huge help. And I seriously do not know what I would have done without the internet.
One friend helped me figure out a rough schedule for how long we'd be in each place (thanks Jennie!). For some reason I couldn't wrap my head around the timing, so she put together a spreadsheet for me to work from, and it was perfect. Another friend sent me a bunch of links about insurance for renting cars in Europe, which saved us a chunk of change. And thanks to the internet, we were able to book all of our hotels (and research exactly where they were located and find the best price), order Oyster cards for the Tube so we had them in hand and ready to go after we landed, order our Eurostar tickets to get from London to Brussels, and book the apfel wine brewery tour. While I'm not necessarily one of those "plan every single detail down to the minute" type of people, I did want to take care of as much as I could before we left and I think it made me less anxious to know we had a place to sleep and transportation for all the places we were going.
Typing it all out now, it doesn't seem like it was such a big deal, but it took a long time to get everything sorted out. Traveling that far and that long means you've got to make plans for the things you're leaving behind as well, like the mail and your cats (the mail was MUCH easier to figure out than the cats). Deciding what to do about the cats was a major stress factor, but once we figured it out, I felt SO much better.
Planning the trip was definitely a learning experience, but I also ended up learning a little bit about myself once we were actually traveling. After we arrived somewhere, I needed time to sort of collect my thoughts and get my bearings. You know, look at a map and figure out where things were. I finally realized this after we arrived in Bruges. We checked in at the hotel and basically walked out the door to explore and I realized I was quickly becoming grumpy. Partially due to hunger, but also because I needed to situate myself in a new town. So we found a cafe, ordered some food, and I checked out some maps and brochures. I was in a much better mood after that.
The other thing I realized is that the husband and I travel pretty well together. This was the longest trip we'd ever taken together, and aside from a couple of minor incidents, it was all good. One of those incidents was while we were lost in Ghent trying to find our hotel. It was stressful for him as the driver, and me as the passenger/navigator, and when he saw that I was about to lose it, he handled it amazingly well (I think I'll keep him).
Now that's it all over, I've got all this free time because I'm NOT planning a big trip. I'm not sure what to do with myself. Maybe I'll actually start updating my blog regularly!
(Don't hold your breath on that one.)
This blog turned 13 years old yesterday. THIRTEEN! It's a teenager! It's growing up so fast!
Yet, in 2013, I posted so infrequently that I feel a little bad even calling this a blog. I have a lot of thoughts and things I could say about the state of blogging today, but I really don't want to blather on about that. I think last year I made a slightly unconscious decision to experience life, and not necessarily sit down and write about it. I also think that being on Instagram and Pinterest has become a quickie substitute for posting to the blog. I'm not sure if that's a good or bad thing.
Also, my life and the internet have evolved so much since I started writing here, but I haven't been good about updating this space along with that evolution. I'd like to change that, I just haven't figured out how...yet.
And since 2013 just ended and I haven't blogged much, the least I can do is give you a list of things that I never managed to write about here.
Things that happened but never made it to the blog:
Things that I actually tried to start posting about but never really followed through with:
I don't want to set myself up for failure in the new year, but I'm hoping to try and post at least a little bit more in 2014. I've just got to figure out where I'm going with this little blog.
Thanks to everyone still reading for sticking it out all this time! It means a lot to know there are still a few of you hanging in there. Here's to a happy new year!
The last stop on our European adventure was Germany. After spending the first week and a half of the trip by ourselves in places neither of us had been, we thought it would be good to end things in a place familiar to at least one of us and where we had some friends to visit.
As we left Bruges, we discovered that the rental car had navigation (which would have been EXTREMELY helpful in Ghent, but I digress). We decided to take full advantage of our new found technology and had it direct us to Aachen, Germany. It was a good spot to stop and get lunch and there's a huge cathedral there that I didn't take any photos of.
Our final destination was Darmstadt, which is about half an hour outside of Frankfurt. It had been raining most of the drive, and traffic on the autobahn was very slow (much to our surprise), so we were both tired and hungry when we got there, and thrilled to find a little turkish restaurant right down the street from the hotel. And finally we were in a country where I could drink something other than wine...apple wine!
Since we were staying in Darmstadt, we went to find Peter Behrens house, which was over near the Mathildenhohe, and wandered through the museum there which had bits and pieces from everyone that had lived in the artists colony that was there in the early 1900s. There was some work similar to the stuff we saw in Ghent, but some other work as well. The artists all dabbled in a little bit of everything, so there was furniture, artwork, flatware, dishware, and all sorts of other stuff. I found it all very inspiring.
We spent a lot of time in Frankfurt, too. The husband showed me around his old stomping grounds, we shopped for souvenirs, and we went on an apple wine tour at the Possman Brewery.
One of the days we were in Frankfurt, we took a detour through Wiesbaden to stop for coffee and to feed some pigeons.
We also went to Heidelberg to see an old castle. (This is also where we came across more American tourists than anywhere else we had been.)
I ate a lot of salads throughout the whole trip and was very impressed with how much stuff comes on a salad in Europe. It's not just a few grated carrots, a couple of cucumber slices and cherry tomatoes, they were full of STUFF. I also got my fill of currywurst at various places (it turned out to be one of the cheaper things on a lot of menus and was pretty safe gluten-wise).
One of the last things we did was track down a building built by Friedensreich Hundertwasser who is known for some pretty outrageous architecture. The building he designed in Darmstadt is called the Waldspirale and is a residential apartment building. It seemed unreal that we could just drive up and park and wander around and that people live in it...
I've never seen anything like it. I was completely fascinated (and also surprised that we were the only people wandering around taking photos).
On our final night in Germany, we went out with some friends to a little tavern in Frankfurt and ordered the appropriately named "Frankfurt Platter" and a bembel of apple wine...
It was the perfect way to end our trip.
I've got one more post I want to do about the trip to summarize what I learned (because I definitely learned a few things about myself and what kind of traveler I am) and how I prepared for this adventure. Until then, maybe you want to browse through all the Europe photos? I've got a set going over on Flickr.