Seattle, Washington: gluten free travel adventures

In February I took a rapid-fire, less-than-48-hour trip to the Emerald City to investigate the Oriental Medicine program at Bastyr University.  I love Seattle, and loved checking out the school - they have incredible programs and an excellent reputation.  The trip was a little scary for me, because it was my first trip after making such drastic changes to my diet.  Normally, I relish at the thought of travel.  I like to travel spontaneously, wandering around until I find something I like, going where my heart desires without much planning.  But throwing a really restrictive diet and a somewhat unreliable state of "health" into the mix makes that a little harder; I was freaked.  So, I did investigation, brought snacks and food with me, and prepared myself to be flexible.  In the end, it was a great success; I had fun, felt great, and left with a new sense of confidence and hope.  I was overprepared.  Living with restrictions doesn't mean you have to sit inside - it just means you need to do a little extra work on the front end, and be a little more flexible than the average person.  It was a great primer and learning experience that helped me better prepare for my trip to Portland last weekend!  

This trip definitely different from my trip to Seattle last year, which involved a lot of dive bars, cocktails, and omelette breakfasts.  None of that this time around.  While I was only there briefly, I did have the opportunity to check out a few fun things that were friendly to the allergy afflicted and gluten-intolerant.  Here is my short, but hopefully interesting, list!  I included a couple links at the bottom with more information.

PCC Markets - the local Seattle chain of natural food markets.  Great selection of specialty items, good produce, nice stores.  

Flying Apron Bakery - Lovely gluten-free vegan bakery located in the fantastic Fremont neighborhood.  For the first time in a year, I walked into a bakery and ordered a pastry.  Actually, I ordered, like 5.  Two chocolate muffins, one berry muffin, one macaroon, one maple bar, and about $20 later, I left the bakery with a box of beautiful, gluten-free baked goods for me and my gluten-intolerant friends back home.  Flying Apron Bakery uses a lot of alternative sweeteners; I was able to get a maple sweetened chocolate muffin that was fudgy and totally delicious.  They use a mix of rice and garbanzo bean flours as the base in many of their baked goods, but do have some bean-free options as well.  In addition to cookies, muffins, scones, and bars, they make beautiful looking loaves of bread, and have a big list of specialty cakes they can make to fit your desires and needs (chocolate mint!)!  They also have savory lunch items like calzones, salads, and soups, and make teas and coffees.  This place is a gem, and totally worth the stop.  Check out the great review (with photos!) of the Flying Apron Bakery on Book of Yum.  So, how did it measure up?  The maple bar was a little too oily and way to sweet for my tastes; I would not recommend it.  The chocolate muffin was dense and moist, and while it definitely had a "beany" flavor, I really enjoyed it.  I bought two; part of one is still in my freezer, cut into quarters.  It is really good frozen, actually...weird, but true.  My friend told me the macaroon was awesome, and my landlady said the berry muffin was incredibly delicious.  My friend Peter, who lives in Seattle and hosted me while I was there, had the Russian Tea Cake.  It exploded in his hands, the fragile little thing.  he said the flavor was really good, but that it was a bit dry and way too crumbly.  Bottom line: If you  are used to the slightly unusual nature of gluten free, vegan baked goods, you'll probably dig this place, and find it as charming and fun and delicious as I did.  If you are used to eggs, lots of butter, and gluten-containing flours, you will probably be disappointed.  When it gets right down to it, you need to appreciate many gluten-free, vegan baked items for what they are, not for what they aren't.  It is like eating  a veggie burger when you are used to beef - accept and enjoy the veggie burger for what it is.  Don't try to fool yourself into thinking it is going to be just like beef,  because it just won't be, and you'll just be disappointed! 

Fremont Farmer's Market - Just around the corner from the Flying Apron Bakery (and down the street from a PCC Market) is the site of the Fremont Farmer's Market, an all-year-round, European style outdoor market with everything and anything you could imagine.  Vegetables!  Antiques!  Arts and crafts! Soaps! Wholesome street food!  Coffee and tea! Hand blown pipes for smoking "tobacco"!  Hey, I said everything.  This market was lovely.  The climate of the NW allows for all year growing, and a very cute farm boy was selling beautiful bunches of collards and kale, huge turnips and rutabagas, and other delicious cool weather veggies.  If I hadn't been leaving Seattle in a few hours, I would not have been able to resist.  As I wandered between vendor tents on that cool Sunday morning, savoring a gluten-free chocolate muffin, I thought I was in heaven.

Cafe Flora - vegan, vegetarian, and gluten-free friendly menu.  My particular set of restrictions at the moment made this place a bad choice for me, but for many people their menu would be a great option.  It looks killer; my heart was breaking that I couldn't eat there with confidence.  Hopefully, next time  : )  I hear it is really delicious.

Cinnamon Works, Pike's Market - this little bakery serves up wheat free, gluten free, sugar free, and vegan baked goods.  I didn't have the chance to stop there this time around, but my trip to Seattle last year definitely had me indulging in their delightfully decadent gluten free vegan pumpkin cookie.  To die for.  Located right on the main strip of Pike's Market, this place is a great stop for a mid-morning snack on a drizzly, market-bound Sunday.  

Portage Bay Cafe - Organic restaurant in two Seattle locations.  We went for brunch.  They have a number of egg dishes, really delicious looking hashbrowns, and also have two varieties (rice and buckwheat) of gluten-free pancakes on their menu (both contain dairy and eggs).  They also have a vegan pancake, but it contains gluten.  With all of my restrictions, the only  thing I could get was a side order of their smoked salmon (AMAZING) atop an extra large order of sauteed onions.  They were very accommodating to my special order and answered all my ingredient inquiries.  Their menu is great and could be very versatile to many people - I just have a whole lot of restrictions, and breakfast/brunch menus are by far the hardest to navigate for me.  Regardless, I would suggest this place.  My gluten-free friend ordered a beautiful omelette egg scramble thing and she enjoyed it greatly!

PIzza Works - I didn't go here, but found them researching - they have a gluten free, yeast free crust, as well as other gluten free crusts, and lots of topping options.  It isn't in SEattle, it is in a suburb.  There are lots of other pizza options in the city, but this one looked good too.

Because I was there for such a short time, Here is a link to a big list of other restaurants and options, perhaps you could find what you are looking for!

NEXT UP ON THE TRAVEL LIST: Orlando, Florida.  

Oh, Orlando.  While you are sunny and have beautiful, warm weather, and lovely natural springs, beaches, and flora nearby, I do not really like you.  Your drivers are terrible, your city planning involves only strip malls and creepy housing developments, and you are probably the least pedestrian city in the U.S.  But I deeply love my brother and his fiancée, and they have chosen you, Orlando, as their home.  And next week Saturday, they will be married! Hooray!  So, Orlando, to you I go.  

That corner of the country is a whole different ball game from the Northwest.  The opposite corner of the country also has a totally opposite culture, mentality, and vibe.  Wowzers.  Last April I went to Orlando and felt TERRIBLE.  It was just after my health really took the major nose dive.  All I ate for 4 days were spelt pretzels, sweet potatoes, avocados, applesauce, rice cakes, eggs, Kashi GoLean Crunch bars, and some canned tuna.  Each day I had the worst stomach pain I'd ever felt in my life, which is saying a lot because I had experienced some nasty tummy troubles.  I was so scared, and had NO idea what the hell was going on with my body.  Upon returning home from that trip, I  cut out gluten, sugar, eggs, dairy, fruit, mushrooms, vinegar, etc etc etc and officially put myself on a gluten-free, yeast-free, allergy-free candida cleanse.  I started researching, reading, experimenting, and tried to find answers with Western doctors.  I found none, decided I had to take matters in to my own hands, and headed for the world of Oriental and Naturopathic medicine.  The rest is history, and here I am today, nearly one year later, still plodding along, but feeling worlds better.  Improvement is slow, but consistent.

This year will be a much better trip, and I'm excited to feel the warmth and be more energetic.  We will be dining on their wedding day in a restaurant at Disney, and I will be calling to make special meal arrangements; I'm curious to see what they will do for me!  I will be in Florida for 6 days, and will be traveling to the coast and St Augustine with my family.  I've done a bit of research, and will be doing more this weekend.  I'll be sure to share my Orlando experience!