Thursday, June 24, 2010
I blame the heat wave we're currently suffering through for sapping my ability to think, hence this long-delayed post! My oh-so-relaxing trip to the beach seems like ages ago already. I'm happy to report, however, that it was actually very easy to find meals, and I barely touched the huge bag of snacks I'd packed. My stomach was vaguely cooperative, and I can now say I survived my first celiac vacation.
Some of the snacks I brought, for reference: organic carrot sticks, tortilla chips and mini-packs of guacamole, Flamous falafel chips, Potato Flyers, Glutino chocolate peanut butter organic bars, a box of Imagine organic potato leek soup, Thai Kitchen's Bangkok Curry instant rice noodle soup, Dr. McDougall's instant Pad Thai and tortilla soup cups, and a bag of homemade squash muffins. (Naturally, after all that preparation, I didn't need any of it!)
Finding great gluten-free food so easily was the best surprise of the trip. Our first stop was at Lucky Bones Backwater Grille on Rt. 109 (the main road into town) in beautiful Cape May. A gluten-free menu is in the works, I was told, and the server and chef were incredibly helpful. I ordered a delicious filet tip sandwich with grilled peppers, mushrooms, and caramelized onions, served with the best herb polenta I've ever had (in lieu of fries - the fryer isn't safe) and a nice, tangy cole slaw. To my overwhelming shock, they had gluten-free hamburger buns on hand so I ate my first real sandwich in months! Not only that, the bun, from Against the Grain, was really good - great flavor and texture. The meal was nothing short of miraculous and I definitely recommend Lucky Bones for GF dining in the Cape May or Wildwood area.
Also, check out their brunch menu! We weren't there on a Sunday so I'll just have to go back and investigate (darn).
My next recommendation: La Piazza Cucina at 4600 Pacific in Wildwood. This dimly-lit, old school Italian restaurant is like stepping back in time to the golden days of Wildwood; I kept half-expecting Uncle Junior to sit down next to me. La Piazza offers one type of gluten-free pasta per day. I selected penne with clams in a spicy marinara sauce, my long-lost favorite Italian meal. The pasta was so perfectly al dente, I briefly wondered if there'd been some mistake - I'm used to the soggy mushiness of brown rice pasta. But no, this was Sam Mills Pasta d'Oro, made from corn, and the texture and flavor were outstanding and almost unrecognizably gluten-free. In the interest of disclosure, I will admit my stomach was not happy after this meal, but since I still have frequent trouble even with being GF and DF, I have no idea whether it was the pasta, the corn, the clams, the garlic, the red pepper, the preparation, or something else. Verdict: be cautious, but this was one fabulous dinner and I am very excited about discovering Pasta d'Oro.
My final review: Maui's Dog House at 8th and New Jersey in Wildwood. Junk food fans, rejoice. It's a hot dog stand with picnic bench seating out front under a tent - definitely not fancy digs, and they're open for lunch only. The harried proprietress overheard me inquiring about the deep-fryer situation, and yelled over, to our great amusement, "Gluten-free?" But yes, to my happiness, nothing goes in the fryer except fries. They serve a bajillion kinds of heart-stopping loaded hot dogs, burgers, and chicken sandwiches. The hot dogs are made of beef, pork, and veal, and since I don't eat pork or veal anyway, it wasn't an issue for me. But the hamburger-sans-bun (two patties for $4.50) was juicy and flavorful. It's such a treat to be able to order fries, so of course I had to indulge. The portions are enormous ($3 for regular, $3.50 for more Old Bay than I could handle) and served in doggie bowls. Somehow our lunch wound up costing more than our Lucky Bones dinner did.
Anyway, thank you, New Jersey, for some much needed oceanfront relaxation and for being more gluten-aware than I'd expected. Thanks also to Gluten Free Philly for the super helpful compendium of GF-friendly eateries, which provided a starting point to tackle the challenge of GF vacation dining.
p.s. This Sunday 6/27 is the first and last meeting of the summer for the Celiac and Gluten Intolerant Group of New Castle County, Delaware. The event will be held at Christiana Hospital and features guest speaker Michael of the aforementioned Gluten Free Philly blog. Check out the Gluten Free Delaware website for more details and to rsvp.