Chris and I recently started having a Date Night every other Friday. Date Night because, when you've been together for a while, it can be easy to get stuck in that rut of always staying in and doing the same ol' thing. And every other Friday because I'm certain that if we shot for every week, things would come up, we'd miss one here and there, and, because we could never really keep up with the schedule anyway, it would fall by the wayside.
So far it's been great. We've met for movies, had a museum date, and, naturally, have gone out to eat. I do fear, however, that we may be getting into a whole different kind of rut. I'm not complaining. It's an enjoyable rut. It's just that, since starting Date Night in January, we have now spent three of them at Angelica Kitchen.
If I'm going to do a write up on a restaurant, I'll often head there with those very intentions, camera in hand, so that I can return and give you all a nice, detailed, photo-filled report. I'm going to bypass all of that this time--not because this restaurant does not deserve the full shebang, but because I was treated with such consideration on our last visit that I'm still feeling grateful two weeks later and don't want to wait any longer to tell you about it.
One of the things Chris and I love most about our neighborhood is the abundance of small, independently owned restaurants and shops (I still avoid making eye contact with the Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins combo that unfortunately popped up here a couple months ago). Testaccio is one of these fantastic little spots. It's a classy-casual restaurant that offers traditional Italian dishes and great wine. It is always one of our first suggestions when friends and family visit and we have never left disappointed.
When Italian food emporium Eataly (of Batali and Bastianich fame) opened last fall, I felt a mix of excitement and trepidation. Everything that Mario Batali touches is fantastic. Molto Gusto is one of my most frequently consulted cookbooks, and—even after dining at the likes of Blue Hill and The Herbfarm—I still count the meal that Chris and I ate at Del Posto several years ago among my top five. I knew, without even walking past the place, that it would be filled with fabulous food.
I also knew, however, that it would be filled with fabulous, glutenous food, which is why we didn’t actually get around to visiting until a couple weekends ago. It seemed self-torturous to walk through a place stocked with top-notch pasta, pizza, and bread, not being able to so much as touch anything without experiencing that immediate compulsion to wash my hands. But after spending an entire afternoon there, I am so glad we went.
Chris and I recently returned from a trip to Austin. He was attending the Interactive portion of South by Southwest and I took the opportunity to tag along and have myself a mini vacation. Prior to leaving, I asked Twitter and Facebook what I needed to see and where we needed to eat. As a result I ate at restaurants I probably wouldn’t have otherwise visited and I met an awesome new friend. Here are the highlights of my trip:
Before we left for Aruba, I had moderate concerns about the food situation. I can generally find something to eat in most places, but the question is always, “Just how limited are my options going to be?” Eight nights away meant a lot of meals not prepared in the safety of my kitchen, and I knew that, try as I might, I would not be able to survive a whole week on rum cocktails alone.
Fortunately, it wound up being pretty easy to eat gluten-free in Aruba. Most of the main hotels and resorts are at least familiar with the gluten-free restriction. Some even have a note on their menus instructing you to mention your GF needs to your server. Unfortunately, none go so far as to offer an actual gluten-free menu with pasta or bread-type substitutes. I think this wouldn’t have even been an issue, though, if we hadn’t planned such a long stay. A person can only take so many consecutive days of meat and potatoes, or shrimp and potatoes, or meat and rice….you get the point.
I will say, however, that I never tired of the dessert options. Thanks to the Latin influence on the island, I don’t think we visited a single restaurant that didn’t offer some sort of custard-based dessert. I had several amazing flans and a couple of crème brulees that, beneath their perfectly caramelized crust, were as thick and rich as a triple cream Brie.
We did have one shining moment of gluten-free joy that week, and it happened at a place that I wasn’t initially sure we could rely on. All we had to go off of was a lone TripAdvisor review from two years ago that mentioned gluten-free pancakes. No matter how hard I searched, I could find nothing else to substantiate those pancakes. The restaurant doesn’t have a website (UPDATE: Linda's has since launched a website) and, once we got to Aruba, none of the hotel staff believed that any place in the area offered special GF options.
So, on one of our last days there, we took a gamble on Linda’s Dutch Pancakes.
When it came to the cake, we knew we had a challenge in front of us. It obviously had to be gluten-free for me, but we also wanted to make sure that it was good. At some weddings, the cake is a bit of an afterthought, a photo op and last jolt of sugar before everybody rushes out to the dance floor. Ours, however, would be served on the heels of an exceptional meal. Also, there’s still a lot of skepticism from many gluten-eaters about the quality of gluten-free baked goods. Those of us on the inside know that they can be just as good as, if not better, than your standard confections. With that in mind, it was important to us that we feed our guests a cake that was better than just “good…for gluten-free.”
Since this is a food blog, and considering that our choice of venue and style of celebration were centered on food, I thought it only appropriate to share with you our wedding menu. Naturally, there was so much else going on that night that I don’t think I could recall specific tasting notes in any sort of worthwhile detail, so this will be a largely pictorial illustration. Suffice it to say, every last bite was exceptional.
Chris and I flew out and spent our first married Christmas visiting family and friends in Minnesota and Wisconsin, many of whom were unable to make it to the wedding. We planned our itinerary carefully, packing each day full of people and plans. It was a targeted four-day trip that went as smoothly as anyone could have hoped.
We spent an afternoon with one of my dear friends from middle and high school, chatting with her and her husband and playing with her adorable kids.
We caught up with some of our oldest family friends and marveled over how long we’ve all known and loved each other.
We laughed with aunts and uncles, met cousins’ significant others for the first time, and shared great food and stories. It was perfect.
On our last night there, as we were decompressing after Christmas dinner with my dad and his girlfriend, Chris looked up from his phone. “Our flight was cancelled.”
I had spent our entire visit very cockily relaying to our hosts how, despite the two-foot dump they’d experienced, we’d only received a light coating of snow one night that was gone the following morning. So, people of New York, I take full responsibility for the storm that shut down the city and left us stuck in Minneapolis for an additional four days. Karma’s sort of a bitch like that.
Fortunately, we were stuck in a metropolitan area, which gave us something to explore in between Chris working remotely and me shopping for underwear to get us through our extended stay. As it turns out, Minneapolis and St. Paul offer some great gluten-free options, which I thought I’d share in case you ever find yourself stranded in enjoying the Twin Cities area.
I had a pre-Valentine’s Day post all lined up. I was going to tell you about how freaked out I get over it. How it wasn’t always this way, but how the days leading up to it now remind me of the feeling I get when considering a cartwheel since grotesquely breaking my arm mid-tumble as a child.
I’m glad I waited on this post. This year, Valentine’s Day was very, very good.
It was French toast good. Gluten-free French toast that I didn’t have to make good.
It’s not often that Chris takes up a whisk—probably in part (or, you know, mostly) because I tend to dominate the kitchen. It would have been easy for him to sit back and let me whip up some pancakes or something, but he cracked a few eggs and made breakfast for us. And look at how beautiful it turned out!
I think we need to get him in the kitchen more often.
Post-breakfast he surprised me with tickets for the Sunday matinee of Time Stands Still on Broadway. I won’t go into great detail, except to say that it was well-performed and I left thought-provoked with a lump in my throat. If you’re looking for a cry, this show is definitely a good option.
Our day culminated with an early dinner at a restaurant I’ve been wanting to visit for several months now—a raw, vegan, GF-friendly place called Pure Food and Wine. The restaurant was offering a four-course Valentine’s Day tasting menu, and while the options all looked great, it was the a la carte menu that really caught our attention.
Atlanta? you may be asking. Yes, Atlanta. Toward the end of the month, I took Chris on a surprise birthday trip to Atlanta, Georgia.
No offense to what I found to be a very nice city, but I've honestly never had any desire to visit Atlanta. I didn't realize there was anything there to see. And then we heard about the Georgia Aquarium. It turns out that it's the largest in the world. It is also home to four specimens of the largest fish in the world. The whale shark. Aquariums and whale sharks--two of Chris' favorite things. We had to go.
Oooh, whale shark. Looks menacing, right? Hardly. The whale shark is a filter feeder and fills it's belly with a diet of krill (aka itty bitty shrimp). They're gentle giants and are excellent swimming companions. I could have told you that a year ago, except for the fact that when Chris and I tried to swim with them on our trip to Mexico last summer, I spent the whole time throwing up over the side of the boat. Food poisoning and sea sickness are not a good combination. Oh, and quick travel tip: don't eat beef carpaccio at an uber-touristy eco theme park. Seems obvious, I know, but just in case you're feeling daring. Don't. Anywho! I can tell you that they're fun to take a dip with now, because Chris and I squeezed into wet suits and jumped in with them at the aquarium. Pretty cool, right?
No? It would have been much more awesome if we'd swum with something scarier?