Tag Archives: lunch

Merci Montecito

28 Jan

IMG_8696D.jpegI am pretty sure I have found my new favorite dish in town. A friend and I decided to try Merci Montecito after hearing good things about it. Everything in this little restaurant located in the Montecito Country Mart is designed beautifully from the flatware to the glass water bottle options. After talking to the person behind the counter, I found out that their Chicken Paillard is gluten-free. They use tapioca flour and Udi’s breadcrumbs in this perfectly cooked dish. As there was lots of delicious looking gluten-free options and I am very indecisive, I also ordered the Trois which is three items from their salads + vegetables and grains + legumes sections of the menu. I chose the Gigante Beans with summer squash, basil and preserved lemon, the Persian Cucumber with peanut, sesame oil, green peppercorn and toasted garlic and the Kale Salad with avocado, pistachio, fennel and farmer’s cheese.IMG_8699D.jpegI liked the heat of the cucumber along with the toasted garlic, but my favorite was the kale salad. When I ordered the salads, I was told that all of the ones that were in the case that day were gluten-free, even though not all of them were labeled as such. When I asked why they weren’t all labeled GF, I was told that they only put the GF on the items that typically weren’t so that their customers would know. This seems like a horrible idea. You should label the items that are gluten-free whether or not those items are “typically” safe or not safe. I confirmed the ingredients and preparation for the three items I selected, but it definitely leads me to believe that they need to rethink their labeling strategy to avoid miscommunication. When you have celiac, you can never make assumptions about your food whether it is labeled GF or not.

Marbella, Spain

2 Aug

IMG_5585.jpegIt has been just a week since we returned from a family trip to Marbella, Spain. Every year, my dad plans a trip to somewhere in the world. He won’t tell anyone where we are going, including my mom. Then in late Spring, he sends an email to all of us telling us where this year’s adventure is. We are a complicated group with dietary restrictions. We have two Celiacs, a vegetarian, one person with severe allergies to nuts and sesame, one person that doesn’t eat red meat or pork, another that doesn’t eat products from cow that has a shellfish allergy, a pescatarian, a person allergic to eggplant and another that can’t eat asparagus. Every year, I bring translation cards for my Celiac and for my daughter’s allergies so that I can properly communicate with restaurants to avoid any incidents. This year I used Celiactravel.com for the gluten-free restaurant cards and Select Wisely for my daughter’s allergies. I found that I had to use the cards a lot more this year than in previous years. But once the staff had the cards, we were all good. Below are some of the more memorable restaurants that we visited.

Zozoï

IMG_5512.jpegThe first dinner we had off our hotel’s property was Zozoï located in Old Town Marbella. My brother and I were very excited to find out that they had celiac-friendly spring rolls. They use rice paper and only fry the spring rolls and their beef tallow Belgian fries in the oil used. These were probably one of my favorite things I had on the entire trip. Our table also shared some fantastic Belotta ham. IMG_5510.jpegThe pigs were only fed macadamia nuts and ran 20 kilometers a day so the meat was super lean. I had fish and a side of those Belgian fries for my main dish.

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Soleo

Our next dinner was right on the water in Marbella. When the waiter told me they had gluten-free bread and I inquired if there was any cross-contamination, he looked at me in disbelief and told me of course not. Apparently gluten-free actually meant gluten-free here.

IMG_5530.jpgMy brother and I shared two starters. The first was the table-smoked salmon tartare with avocado.

IMG_5535.jpegThe second was the sautéed vegetables with garlic prawns.

IMG_5537.jpegFor my main, I had Grilled tuna from the Strait of Gibraltar. It was served with seasonal vegetables. IMG_5540.jpegWe also had a side of their roasted potatoes with the meal.

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Dani Garcia

The next evening we enjoyed the very special tasting menu at Dani Garcia, a Michelin 3-star restaurant. Everything from the glassware to the printed menus personalized to dietary needs to the presentation of the food were spectacular. Even tea service was so wonderful and special. Rather than include pictures of every special course, I thought I would just include one as a sampling of the creativity used.

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Skina

In hindsight, we should have gone to Skina before Dani Garcia. This one-star Michelin restaurant followed a very tough act. We enjoyed another tasting menu here and I failed to take any pictures. However, they did a good job with ensuring all of our dietary needs were taken care of. After dinner, the walk through Old Town Marbella was really beautiful as everyone seemed to be out and about.

Pikaro

The next evening we ate with views of the water near the Marbella marina at Pikaro. Out of all of our meals, I felt most tentative ordering at this restaurant since the waiter told me that they couldn’t guarantee safety at the restaurant since it was a very small kitchen. However, after talking with him more, I was able to order a starter of Spanish cheese. IMG_5570 2.jpgThey gave me some warmed gluten-free bread to go with it. Most of the gluten-free breads that I had in Spain came in these sealed packages so that there would be no cross contamination when warming them up. IMG_5571.jpgFor my main course, I had a fish with ham on it.IMG_5572.jpgThere was a steamed cheese cake gluten-free dessert on the menu which I tried but wasn’t a fan of.

Albacara

On our last day in Spain, we traveled to the mountaintop city of Ronda which was unbelievably beautiful. The picture on the top of this post was taken there. We had a guide that brought us to Restaurant Albacara once the tour was over. The restaurant had panoramic views of the gorge and Puente Nuevo bridge. Once again, I was served packaged gluten-free bread.IMG_5576.jpgI ordered the sea bream baked in salt. It was served with seasonal vegetables.IMG_0189.jpeg

Los Bandidos

Our last dinner was at Los Bandidos in the Puerto Banus area of Marbella. Once again, there was safe gluten-free bread.

IMG_5593.jpgI started with the prawns cooked in a chili garlic herb sauce. I then split a mixed salad with my husband.IMG_5595.jpgFor my main course, I ordered the Grilled Tuna from Almandraba with vegetable Risotto. Our waitress let me know that the risotto wasn’t gluten-free, so she substituted potatoes for it. IMG_5596.jpgWhen the dish arrived, I was very skeptical that it was gluten free. It looked like soy sauce was drizzled all over it. After going over the ingredients of the sauce with someone from the kitchen more than once, it was determined that the color came from a dark sesame oil.

MC Beach at Marbella Club

A lot of our lunches were spent at the hotel due to nap time for our toddler. We did room service a couple of times. There were multiple restaurants on the hotel property that we tried as well. My favorite was MC Beach which was located right on the water and had the most perfect vacation-type atmosphere. On two occasions I had the sushi as they were able to prepare it gluten-free. IMG_5541.jpgThe fatty salmon was quite memorable. So tender and good. I also had the quinoa salad which was a lot heartier than expected.IMG_5558.jpgThis location was also the perfect spot for a cocktail after our sitter arrived to the room and before it was time for the grown-up dinner. With the sounds of the Alboran Sea in the backdrop, it didn’t get much better than this.

There was one entirely gluten-free restaurant that was pretty close to our hotel that I didn’t have time to visit called Celiacioso. Perhaps on a return trip I will make it there!

Once again, we were able to travel successfully with a multitude of dietary restrictions. If you have kids and are looking to travel to Marbella, the Marbella Club Hotel was fantastic and they have the most impressive kids’ club offered that I have ever seen.

Malibu Farm at Miramar

2 Jun

IMG_4445.jpgIf you are looking for good service at the Miramar, your best bet is at Malibu Farm. We’ve now dined there twice with two different servers that were knowledgeable about Celiac all while being attentive and pleasant. I was brought gluten-free bread that they warm separately from their usual bread. It wasn’t particularly good, but it was nice that they had it as an option. We ordered a Cauliflower Crust Pizza for the table as our waiter let us know it could be prepared safely.IMG_4446.jpgPeople seem to be all about cauliflower crust pizzas these days. Although this looked very appealing, it completely fell apart when trying to eat it. I then split the Bacon Lettuce Tomato Kale Caesar with someone in our group.

IMG_4453.jpgAlthough the dressing was a bit plentiful, I enjoyed the taste of the salad. Bacon always seems to make things better. Even though I was getting a bit full at this point, I was glad that I ordered the Crispy Baked Whole Fish Tacos.

IMG_4456.jpgThey prepared the corn tortillas in a safe spot for me to ensure no cross contamination. The fish was perfectly crisp and flavorful. This was my favorite part of the meal aside from the good company and tasty spicy tequila beverage I had.

Brophy Brothers

26 May

IMG_4423.jpgThere may not be a restaurant in Santa Barbara loved by both locals and tourists alike as much as Brophy Brothers. With views of the harbor and mountains, it is a great spot to grab a drink and some seafood. There was a group of 5 of us and it was a beautiful day, so we knew there would be a little bit of a wait. We were told 35 minutes, but it ended up being a little over an hour. When we were finally seated and I had a chance to check out the menu, I noticed they had gluten-free buns. After talking to our waitress about cross contamination with the bun, I ordered the tuna melt. It had a heaping amount of tuna with melted, gooey cheese. It typically comes with fries, but they are made in a contaminated fryer. I turned down salad as a side since I figured the tuna melt would be plenty of food, which it was.

Cafe Ana

19 May

IMG_4404.jpgMy favorite building in Santa Barbara is the courthouse. It is unbelievably beautiful with intricately painted walls and ceilings and panoramic views from the clocktower. Plus, I got hitched there, so it will always be one of my favorite spots in town. Just steps from the courthouse is new-ish restaurant, Cafe Ana. With large windows offering views of the courthouse and library, it is a nice location to enjoy a cup of coffee or have a snack. When I went to the cashier to place my order, I started to ask questions about particular items. The gentleman helping me tried to inform me that the burrata and tomato soup would not be gluten-free because of the burrata. Intrigued, I asked what was on the burrata that was not GF. At that point, either the manager or owner who overheard stepped in and let me know that it was gluten-free. As I placed the order, he assisted the cashier so the correct notes would be written for my items. I went with the Butter Lettuce Salad with shrimp added. I also ordered a cup of the Spring Vegetable Soup.

IMG_4402.jpgUsually this soup comes with fried olives. The manager/owner explained that the oil used to fry them is uncontaminated as they only fry potato chips in it. However, this batch of olives was not from today, and so just to be safe, he didn’t want to run the risk of cross contamination since he didn’t see them being made. I appreciated the caution and felt comfortable with my order due to his communication with me and the kitchen. I just wished that the owners would properly educate their entire staff on what gluten is as well as what cross contamination is. I wonder what would have been the result of my meal if he wasn’t there to assist.

Lunch at El Encanto

18 May

IMG_4435.jpegI had lunch with my family today at El Encanto. As soon as I mentioned to our waiter that both my brother and I have Celiac, he excused himself to alert the kitchen. I started with the Yellowtail Crudo. The quality of the fish was good and the olives were tasty but the chili, basil and lemon flavors that were supposed to accompany the yellowtail were nonexistent. I had the Caesar Salad without the garlic croutons as my main dish.

IMG_4439.jpegThe amount of buttermilk caesar dressing and shaved parmesan was just right. It was a bit overcast today, but you could still make out the ocean which served as a reminder of how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful spot.

Khao Kaeng

21 Apr

IMG_4079.jpegNow that it is starting to warm up, it is always nice to find a new restaurant to dine at that has an outdoor patio. A friend and I decided to try Khao Kaeng in Montecito which is located in the old Scoop location. I have enjoyed meals at their sister restaurant, Empty Bowls at the Public Market, so my expectations were high. After our waiter checked with the kitchen, I was able to confirm that the Larb Mushrooms and Pad Thai could be prepared safe for me. The mushrooms had a subtle heat to them which gave the dish a nice flavor.IMG_4082.jpegI ordered the Pad Thai with shrimp which was a pretty sizable portion. Even though the waiter checked with the chef to see what would be safe, I felt more comfortable eating at the noodle bar at the Public Market since everything was right in front of me. I think it was also because at the Public Market, I was able to speak with the owner directly whereas here, it was clear that the waiter wasn’t as knowledgeable about cross contamination until he spoke with the kitchen.