Moab, UT (and a little Salt Lake City, too)

We recently visited some family and friends in Salt Lake City and were luck to have great weather to enjoy all of the natural beauty of Utah.

We visited Silver Lake, in the Wasatch Range south of Salt Lake City. There’s still snow in those mountains! We found a patch of snow near the trail and needless to say a snowball fight promptly ensued.

The next day we took a road trip down to Moab, UT, in the southern part of the state. As we traveled further south, the landscape changed dramatically–the alpine mountain ranges disappeared and the desert appeared. It was desolate and beautiful.

Moab is home to Arches National Park, an incredibly beautiful and otherworldly place to visit. I know our planet is ancient, but it’s easy to loose track of that living a city life. Arches National Park puts it into perspective–the spectacular rock formations were carved out by ancient rivers that have long since diminished and receded. It’s hard to imagine a time when there was enough water around to carve out this landscape.

We had one hot and overcast day in the park and one gloriously-blue skyed more temperate day. If you go, please be smarter than we were and bring a cooler full of cold water. It’s so dry there it’s nearly impossible to stay hydrated. We managed, just barely, with our small supply of water, but I would have felt better with more.

After a day of driving and hiking around the park, we had a fantastic dinner at Miguel’s Baja Grill.

Miguel’s is basically an open-air restaurant, but it was cool and comfortable even on a hot day. Almost the entire menu is available gluten-free, and the staff is knowledgable and friendly. Their margaritas are outstanding!

A quick google search located two yoga studios in Moab. Sadly, I did not have time to get a class in, but I love that such a small town can support two studios!

Gluten free diners have some good options in Moab, but you still need to ask questions! Lunch at Pasta Jay’s was a bit disappointing. They have a gluten-free pizza crust, but take no special precautions to make sure the finished pizza remains gluten free (they use the same toppings and sauce that they use on their regular pizza crusts). They do have gluten-free pasta available, however, and their food is tasty (if a tad pricey–this is a tourist town, after all).

Breakfast at Peace Tree Cafe was delightful. They have interesting egg options (including a green eggs and ham dish, served by our waiter, Sam) and are knowledgable about gluten free dining. They offer gluten-free bread, but they don’t have a separate toaster for it. But, they had no trouble preparing a gluten-free omelette (and really, how hard is that anyway?). Peace Tree Cafe makes delightful smoothies along with their other nice breakfast items. They’re open for lunch and dinner, also.

I’m looking forward to another trip to Moab, hopefully one involving bikes and some more hiking!

New Orleans round up

My husband and I just returned from a wonderful week in New Orleans. Visiting New Orleans means you’re going to eat well and have a great time.

We definitely ate well on this trip, though I suspect I consumed more butter in 5 days than I do in five months. New Orleans cuisine is far from dietetic or healthy, but just fine for vacation indulgence. Until recently, New Orleans was a difficult place to have any dietary restrictions. Vegetarians are relegated to ethnic restaurants and salads. There seemed to be little awareness of food allergies or restrictions in wait staff.

I’ve been puzzled by the ignorance about food sensitivities–New Orleans’ only real industry is tourism, and people with food sensitivities travel. When I was researching places to eat for this trip I was pleasantly surprised by a reasonably long list of gluten-free friendly restaurants. I think it’s safe to assume that any restaurant that is taking steps to protect it’s gluten-free customers will also do a good job with other sensitivities.

We enjoyed several meals at Drago’s, whose main claim to fame is charbroiled oysters.
charbroiled oysters
Oysters are every day food in New Orleans, and they’re eaten raw or cooked. Drago’s invented charbroiled oysters, and now they’re available all over the city. I’ve eaten them in a variety of restaurants and I have to say that Drago’s might be the best. They are extremely rich, and though we don’t usually eat such rich food, I think we had charbroiled oysters almost every day of our trip.

Drago’s has a gluten-free menu, and the waitstaff at their riverside location was knowledgable and helpful. If you are gluten-free and want to try the charbroiled oysters, make sure to order them without the bread.

We also had a delightful and low-key meal at Carmo’s. Carmo’s calls itself a “tropical cafe,” and their menu includes things like plantains and quinoa. Their menu indicates which items are vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free. This is definitely not classic New Orleans cuisine, but a refreshing, light break from all the butter and cream sauces. I enjoyed their nourishing Esmeralda salad, made of black beans and quinoa.

No trip to New Orleans would be complete without fried seafood at Casamento’s and West African cuisine at Bennachin, which I’ve blogged about before. Bennachin doesn’t seem to have a web page, but they are on facebook. It’s a great restaurant for vegetarians and people with food sensitivities, and it’s a nice break from heavy New Orleans cuisine for everyone else.

crawfishCrawfish season is in full swing right now, so we did our part to eat as many as possible. One of our best meals on this trip was boiled crawfish and shrimp (along with some potatoes boiled in the spicy crawfish boil). We picked them up at Big Fisherman seafood on Magazine St., and took them to the riverside park that the locals call “the Fly.” for a wonderful and messy picnic.

We tried to do enough walking to balance out all the rich foods, but I also made sure to get a yoga class in at Reyn Studios in the CBD/Warehouse district. It’s reasonably close to many of the major hotels, so it’s easy to get your yoga fix if you’re vacationing there. The space is beautiful, and the owner, Reyn, taught a great class.

I found several other restaurants that either had gluten-free menus or knowledgeable staff, but didn’t make it on this trip. Here’s a list of them–perhaps you can check them out yourself and let me know what you think:

The Palace Cafe, a fine dining restaurant with a separate gluten-free menu.
The Wandering Buddha–has a vegan and gluten free menu
Satsuma Cafe–a small cafe with experience serving GF customers.
Truburgers, which offers a GF bun for it’s burgers.
La Petite Grocery, like many nice restaurants, is said to have a knowledgeable staff to assist diners with food sensitivities.

Crawfish photo CC licensed by adie reed.

Oysters photo CC licensed by  K Tao.

Teff, the super grain

I’m a big fan of the high-protein grains quinoa and amaranth. They fill me up and keep my energy steady for hours. I like to cook them together with millet to make a breakfast porridge, and also to use instead of rice in one of my stews or quickie rice/veg/egg lunches.

Teff is another high-protein grain, and one I’ve neglected for far too long. Teff is rich in minerals with a healthy dose of calcium and iron, making it ideal for women (and men, too, of course). It is also gluten-free, making it a nice addition to a gluten-free diet.

Teff flour is used to make injera, an Ethiopian flatbread that is used both as a serving dish and a utensil. If you haven’t eaten at an Ethiopian restaurant, I highly recommend it. Just be prepared to eat with your hands.

Ethiopian feast served on injera

We like Asmara in Cambridge. Addis Red Sea in Boston is also quite good. My Ethiopian patients tell me that Fasika in Somerville is the best place.

I’ve been experimenting with both the grain and the flour this week. Since teff cooks up fairly sticky, like amaranth, I’ve been enjoying it for breakfast. For my most recent pot, I added some chopped sweet potato and cinnamon, and I’ve been reheating it with soy milk, raisins and pecans.

I tried the Bob’s Red Mill Teff Chocolate cake recipe, and while I liked it, it wasn’t chocolaty enough for my taste. I will experiment with it and post an updated version in the future. One great thing about the cake, though, is that it’s very filling (which is a good thing–it’s filling you up with high-quality protein).

One down side to adding teff to your diet is that it’s hard to find it at the store. Whole Foods in Cambridge carries teff flour, but not the grain. I order all of my grains from Bob’s Red Mill, and I think teff is definitely worth the trouble of ordering.

Boiled Crawfish, Grilled Oysters, Fried Plantains, oh my!

I just spend the week in New Orleans, and though our beloved Casamento’s Restaurant was closed for the summer, we ate very well and gluten-free all week. Crawfish were in season, so we (happily) ate boiled crawfish probably every other day, and lots of oysters. The oysters were not as good as they were on our Christmas trip, though. But, that didn’t seem to affect the grilled oysters we ate at Quarterview Restaurant in Metairie and Deanie’s in the French quarter. They were proof that using ample butter, garlic and cheese makes anything taste delicious!

Aside from boiled crawfish (and shrimp), our best meals were at Bennachin, a tiny West African restaurant at 1212 Royal St. in the French Quarter. They don’t have a website, and I’ve been unable to find their menu online to post here. We happily dined on Jama Jama ni Makondo, a plate of tasty sauteed spinach, coconut rice and sweet fried plantains. We also had the Kone ni Makondo, a tomato-based black eyed pea stew, also served with coconut rice and plantains. For desert, we had more fried plantains topped with a rich yogurt-based sauce (I think it was vanilla yogurt with some sour cream mixed in) that really knocked us out! It was delicious! If you are avoiding gluten, just make sure you tell them not to put bread on your plate (actually a good thing to do anywhere you dine in New Orleans).

New Orleans is for food lovers!


Our annual holiday trip to New Orleans to visit my family is always a big food-fest. Like anyone visiting New Orleans, we do our best to eat as much of the wonderful local cuisine as we can. I should point out that though this is a health blog, I would not call New Orleans cuisine “healthy” It’s full of butter and cream and lots of fried things. So, occasional indulgence is o.k., but we always have to “detox” with lots of fresh veg and brown rice when we come back to Boston!

We had a fantastic meal of raw oysters and perfectly fried seafood at Casamento’s on Magazine St. in the Garden District. This is definitely an old-school, family-run restaurant. They aren’t open every day, and don’t serve both lunch and dinner every day. If you go, you should plan to wait at least 30-45 minutes for a table as the place is tiny and no one (employees or customers) is in a hurry. We found the wait worth it–the oysters were amazing and came with a set up to make your own cocktail sauce with Ketchup, horseradish, tabasco and a lemon wedge. My husband and I shared a fried seafood platter that had fried shrimp, oysters, catfish, and crab claws. It was probably some of the best fried food I’ve ever eaten–it was completely grease-less, and almost seemed light!
For those of you avoiding gluten in your diet, please check Casamento’s out! Their fried seafood is gluten-free, though you should be sure to ask them to leave the bread off of the plate.

We also ate at Deanie’s seafood in the French Quarter and had grilled oysters and blackened redfish (both also gluten-free).

Sadly, crawfish were not in season when we visited, but we made sure to eat as many boiled shrimp as we could on this trip. In New Orleans, we boil our seafood whole (that’s with the head and tail intact), and we like it spicy. If you’re lucky, you can also get some potatoes, onions or maybe corn on the cob that’s been boiled in the “crab boil,” as we call any spicy boiling mixture. Boiled seafood is another good option for people with food sensitivities as it does not contain gluten, soy or egg (or corn, unless the restaurant boils corn cobs–just ask).

Risotteria, NYC

On a recent trip to NYC, my husband and I had the pleasure of dining at Risotteria in Greenwich Village.  Risotteria is a fantastic find for anyone with dietary restrictions, be they voluntary or required by a medical condition.  The serve basically 3 types of foods–pizza, paninis and risotto. I had a risotto made with a vegetarian stock and it was fabulous.  My husband had a pizza and also found it delicious.  Their menu simply buy clearly denotes foods that are vegetarian, non-vegetarian, gluten-free and dairy-free.  We didn’t try the gluten-free pizza, but if it was anything like the gluten-free breadsticks that started the mean, I’m sure it is the best gluten-free pizza you’ll ever have.

The kitchen takes all the proper precautions to keep your food from being contaminated with whatever it is you can’t have in your diet, so people on restricted diets can happily and healthily eat here.  One drawback is that the place is tiny. The tables are pretty much right on top of each other, so you’re either going to be annoyed with the people dining next to you, or you might end up striking up a fun conversation, which is what we did!

The restaurant is on Bleeker St., which is great for a stroll in Greenwich Village.  I suspect we’ll go to this restaurant every time we go to NYC.