Albuquerque, New Mexico

Painting in the Hotel Andaluz, Albuquerque, NM
Passionate painting in the Hotel Andaluz

Vast skies and big sun greet us as we step out into the chilly air at Albuquerque International Airport. Here to explore the city – its history, architecture and food – we head to the Hotel Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque.

The Andalucian region of Spain inspired the hotel’s décor and architectural style.
The Andalucian region of Spain inspired the hotel’s décor and architectural style.
Hotel Andaluz, Albuquerque, NM
Unique private alcoves in the lobby.

Hotel Andaluz was originally opened in 1939 by New Mexico native Conrad Hilton, and was the fourth Hilton Hotel ever built. During the last renovation the new ownership incorporated many green initiatives into the building. Furnishings, equipment, and demolition debris were recycled and documented throughout the process. Solar energy generates approximately 60% of the guest rooms’ hot water. Interior finishes have been carefully selected to incorporate LEED approved natural and low VOC emissions products.

Besides being a visual treat the hotel offers comfort on all levels. Our room is spacious, nicely appointed and immaculate.  The lobby is inspired by the Andalusian region of Spain, and has a central area with small, intimate alcoves along one side. Staff is attentive and informed… and the rates are very good this time of year.

This is our first time exploring Albuquerque and we chose to stay downtown in hopes of walking everywhere. We soon learn the city is quite spread out. Uber becomes our best friend.

Contrasting the comfort of our hotel are the number of homeless people we observe as we walk around the downtown area. Not threatening to us but a sad reminder of how many people are falling through the cracks of our society. Doing research for this post I came across an article in the New York Times: Albuquerque, Revising Approach Toward the Homeless, Offers Them Jobs. The city is implementing a work program for those living on the street who are interested. A van goes around and picks up those who would like to work for the day. Participants are paid by the hour and provided a lunch of sandwiches, chips and granola bars. For the city, it represents a policy shift toward compassion and utility.

Albuquerque's historic Kimo theatre.
Albuquerque’s historic Kimo theatre.
KiMo Theater sconce
KiMo Theater Native American inspired sconce.

Not far from our hotel is one of the city’s best known landmarks, The KiMo Theatre, a Pueblo Deco picture palace, opened on September 19, 1927. Pueblo Deco was a flamboyant, short-lived architectural style that fused the spirit of the Native American cultures of the Southwest with the excitement of Art Deco. Native American motifs appeared in only a handful of theaters, and of those few, the KiMo is the undisputed king. We were fortunate to take in a matinee – The Treasure of the Sierra Madre – part of a “Best of Bogart” series.

Kimo Theatre, Albuquerque, NM
Beautiful murals line the stairway of the KiMo Theatre.

The interior is designed to look like the inside of a ceremonial kiva, with log-like ceiling beams painted with dance and hunting scenes.

Albuquerque's Kimo Theatre lobby.
Albuquerque’s KiMo Theatre lobby.
Satellite Coffee in Nob Hill
Satellite Coffee in Nob Hill

One of the areas we Uber to is Nob Hill, a mile-long stretch along Central Avenue with shops, trendy restaurants, and nightspots. Central Avenue became part of Route 66 in 1937 as it passed through Albuquerque on its way from Chicago to Los Angeles. Today new and old businesses share a commitment to the area’s retro style, and the area remains lively in part because the University of  New Mexico occupies over 600 acres along Central Avenue, and serves more than 25,000 students. Nob Hill has been described as “the heart of Albuquerque’s Route 66 culture and also its hippest, funkiest retail and entertainment district”… and is named after Nob Hill in San Francisco.

The Guild, an independent art house.
The Guild, an independent art house.

On a cold winter afternoon, we enjoy a foreign film at the Guild in Nob Hill. A compact, retro-inspired theater screening limited release, international & art-house flicks.

Albuquerque is bordered to the east by the Sandia Mountains. Hoping to get a closer view of these spectacular peaks we plan to ride the Sandia Peak Aerial Tramway—the world’s longest—to the crest, where you can look out over 11,000 square miles of magical New Mexico landscape. Unfortunately, the tram is closed on this Tuesday so we settle for a photo and decide to check out the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

Sandia mountains
Sandia mountains

We read that the Museum’s mission is to serve as America’s resource for nuclear history and science. Exhibits and educational programs convey the diversity of individuals and events that shape the historical and technical context of the nuclear age. Having watched the series Manhattan about our country’s race to build the first atomic bomb in Los Alamos we are intrigued.

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
B52 bomber at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.
B52 bomber at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

The Museum tells the story of the Atomic Age, from early research of nuclear development through today’s uses of the technology. In the summer the Museum runs a science camp program within the state, with 300 day-campers learning about robotics, flight, engineering, medicine and general science.

Prickly pear cactus in bloom.
Prickly pear cactus in bloom.

Prickly Pear Margarita’s are on our minds as we wind up the day and leave you with some dining suggestions… all able to accommodate a gluten-free diet.

Fork & Fig Reuben with brussels sprout side.
Fork & Fig Reuben with brussels sprout side.

Fork & Fig – specializing in gourmet sandwiches, paninis and wraps but also incorporates a fine dining element in the quality of their ingredients and creativity. For example, their Rueben… pastrami+shredded pork+green chile slaw+sauerkraut+swiss+russian dressing+marbled rye bread… delicious. And the day we dined a side of sautéed brussels sprouts with bacon and a touch of maple syrup.

Vinaigrette – a salad bistro that raises the “salad bar” with delicious entrée salads. Their perfectly dressed gourmet salads boast innovative flavor combinations from the savory All Kale Caesar to the sweet Nutty Pear-fessor and balanced Salacho taco salad. It’s healthy comfort food that is a pleasure to find when on the road.

Range Cafe on Menaul Blvd.
Fun decor at the Range Cafe on Menaul Blvd.

Slate Street Cafe – Preparing comfort foods in a contemporary style, they work with local farmers to provide the freshest ingredients… local eggs for breakfast and heirloom tomatoes for dinner. We recommend Katie’s Eggs with green chile to begin the day.

Farm & Table – Upscale and regional, offering seasonal menus featuring local-sourced foods. They have a garden and farm stand right behind the restaurant! One of the top restaurants in Albuquerque.

Range Cafe – an Albuquerque landmark serving up southwestern comfort food. Locally owned, family friendly, great service, and quality food… they are open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

As a useful guide, consider 100 Things to Do in Albuquerque Before You Die. The author, Ashley M. Biggers, is a writer and editor, as well as a native of Albuquerque. She has covered the city for several local and regional publications. Her book celebrates the top ways to (re)discover the city-from a trip 4,000 feet up on the aerial tramway to a public art walk, and includes places to hike, bike, and paddle… plus, where to dine on dishes prepared by the city’s best chefs.

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City

The Whitney Museum of American Art

Walking to the Whitney Museum on a mild winter day is a treat. Eager to be out and about in Manhattan, we begin our trek from The Marcel at Gramercy Hotel on East 24th Street near Gramercy Park. Walking down 23rd we make our way to the High Line – a public park built on a historic freight rail line elevated above the streets on Manhattan’s West Side that will deliver us to the Whitney.

Approaching the High Line.
Approaching the High Line.
Walking on the High Line.
Walking on the High Line.

The High Line’s planting design is inspired by the self-seeded landscape that grew on the out-of-use elevated rail tracks during the 25 years after trains stopped running. Species of perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees were chosen for their hardiness, sustainability, and textural and color variation, with a focus on native species.

Italian architect and engineer, Renzo Piano, designed the new Whitney Museum. From a piece in the New Yorker I read:

  “He (Piano) expressed pride in the startling mismatch of the museum’s eastern and western fronts”. On the east, the building descends in tiers—“to bring down the scale,” he said—toward the historic low-rise buildings of the neighborhood. The side that faces the river is “more massive, more strong,” Piano said. A truncated-pyramid profile with jutting banks of large windows, it “talks to the rest of the world” from an attitude of confident majesty. Immodestly, but with proof in the product, the architect cited the elements that he had sought to incorporate in the design: “social life, urbanity, invention, construction, technology, poetry, light—an immense rich bouillabaisse.”

Whitney Museum
On the east side the Whitney descends in tiers.

Popular even during the week on a winter day, we wait in line outside for about 20 minutes to enter the Whitney. Observing the action in the Museum’s restaurant Untitled we decide to begin with an early lunch. Occupying a long, narrow space with glass walls on three sides, the restaurant, like the rest of the museum, was designed by Renzo Piano.

Untitled restaurant at the Whitney Museum.
Untitled restaurant at the Whitney Museum.

Untitled is a new restaurant from Chef Michael Anthony of Gramercy Tavern and its menu is inspired by the seasons and the creative environment of the museum. While waiting we look through his cookbook – V is for Vegetables – delicious doable recipes with short ingredient lists and color photos, designed for home cooks.

Sitting at the Untitled bar, lunch was delicious and social. Our waiter was knowledgeable and guided me through what turned out to be a fairly gluten-free menu, and highly recommended their acclaimed chocolate chip cookie (entirely gluten-free). Turns out the recipe was born when pastry chef Miro Uskokovic took it upon himself to create the ultimate chocolate chip cookie – one combining a soft, gooey interior with a toothsome, crunchy exterior. Playing with varieties and ratios of sugar and butter, he settled on a combination of brown and white sugar with clarified browned butter. Then, to see if the cookie could be made gluten-free on special request, he tested the cookie with Thomas Keller’s Cup4Cup gluten-free flour. The result? The staff actually preferred the GF version.

Food truck in front of Whitney
Business is slow for artful food truck in front of the Whitney.

The Whitney Museum of American Art was born out of sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s advocacy on behalf of living American artists. At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists with new ideas found it nearly impossible to exhibit or sell their work in the United States. Recognizing the obstacles these artists faced, Mrs. Whitney began purchasing and showing their work, thereby becoming the leading patron of American art from 1907 until her death in 1942. Today the Whitney’s collection includes over 21,000 works created by more than 3,000 artists in the United States during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

Blues, 1929, Archibald J. Motley Jr.
Blues, 1929, Archibald J. Motley Jr. (Courtesy of Nasher Museum of Art)

At the time of our visit a special exhibit –  Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist – caught my attention and was the highlight of my visit. Archibald John Motley Jr. (1891–1981) was a bold and highly original modernist and one of the great visual chroniclers of twentieth-century African American life. As the Whitney exhibition notes of Motley’s artistic interest in these portraits: “On the one hand, he believed that seeing themselves in art would help African Americans feel pride in their own racial identities; on the other, he hoped that seeing beautiful contemporary black subjects would dispel stereotypes and undermine racism.”

View of the Hudson River from the Whitney .
View of the Hudson River from the Whitney .
View of the High Line from the Whitney.
View of the High Line and the neighborhood from the Whitney.

Savoring Motley’s paintings of jazz and blues, we end our day at Jazz Standard. Home to world-class jazz, warm Southern hospitality, and award-winning Southern cuisine and barbecue. Finding the setting intimate and comfortable we settle in to enjoy Children of the Light, two-thirds of the legendary Wayne Shorter Quartet. The music is clear and beautiful. Acoustic sound with some electric touches, simple but also majestic. Danilo Perez is the excellent pianist, John Patitucci is the great bass player and Brian Blade is called “one of the best drummers in this moment”. Amazing day… and only a 10 minute walk back to the Marcel at Gramercy Hotel!

Children of the Light at Jazz Standard
Drinks all around as we settle in for Children of the Light at Jazz Standard.

San Miguel de Allende: Restaurants, bakeries, groceries

Whether you are eating at home or dining out at a local restaurant, San Miguel de Allende food is tasty and affordable…

Restaurants

The Fat Mermaid in San Miguel de Allende
La Sirena Gorda (The Fat Mermaid)

La Sirena Gorda (The Fat Mermaid) ~ Calle Bar­ranca at the cor­ner with Calle Huer­tas. Happening little neighborhood cantina, dating back to the 1920s. Nothing pretentious. No white tablecloths. Just good, fast service and delicious fresh seafood and ginger margaritas. On several visits we enjoyed the tacos, tostados and ceviche – good fresh seafood. Another night we devoured the BBQ ribs and the melt in your mouth ham hock as carry out. Oh yes, the artichoke appetizer is yummy too. Cool place to have just up the street from our rental.

Hecho en Mexico ~ Ancho de San Antonio #8. A recommendation for great jazz was our introduction to this restaurant and we were not disappointed. The “house” quartet is outstanding. Some of the musicians played with Doc Severinsen. There is no extra charge for the music if you have dinner. Ten of us sat around a big table and received great service. We started with homemade guacamole & chips, and as a group enjoyed the Spinach & Beet salad, Cheeseburgers, Fish Tacos, Shrimp Broquettes on rosemary stalks and Arranchera (traditional marinated Mexican flank steak). One of the side dishes, jicama salad, is like a slaw and fantastic. They have a nice choice of tequilla and good margaritas. Dinner and a drink cost about $12 USD. Wonderful historic setting with an interior cactus garden.

Cafe Rama in San Miguel de Allende
We end the evening at Cafe Rama.

Cafe Rama ~ Calle Nueva 7. Vogue magazine describes it well – “a funky outdoor establishment that has a 1970s Berkeley vibe with Pop Art decor.” Known for its tapas, this Saturday evening we enjoy a fixed price tapas meal of their choice. Trusting in the chef’s abilities we relaxed with a bottle of wine as we receive a taste delight every 10 minutes or so. Starting with a antipasto dish of Spanish Serrano ham, goat cheese, pickled watermelon, olives and salty/sweet almonds, we go on to enjoy a savory polenta with a tasty tomato topping, a crispy risotto pancake topped with a shrimp, mussels with garlic & ginger, and several others. Ending with a sensuous dessert finale of cappuccino crème brûlée and baked meringue with lemon custard and fresh strawberry sauce. A delightful experience for me, as the chef easily and creatively accommodated my gluten-free diet needs.

Mandinga ~ Correa #24. We meet a vegetarian friend at this pizza and empanadas restaurant housed in another very cool old building with an inviting outdoor courtyard set up like a dining room. They also have an indoor café/bar with a fireplace but it was a beautiful evening and we chose the outside dining by candlelight. We arrive during Happy Hour when they offer two cocktails or glasses of wine for the price of one… our waiter suggested a very nice red wine to go with our empanadas, pizza and salads. Jay declares these the best empanadas he has ever had and our friend devours his entire pizza with gusto. Big bowls of fresh spinach, cheese, olives made up our delicious salads. One note – as a gluten-free eater this may not be the best choice if you are hungry for more than a salad.

Cafe La Parroquia in San Miguel de Allende
Breakfast at Cafe La Parroquia.

Cafe de la Parroquia / La Brasserie ~ Jesus 11, Centro Historico.

Cafe de la Parroquia is a great spot for breakfast. They have a lovely patio with a central fountain artfully decorated with yellow roses the morning we were here. Delicious fresh mini baguette come with a wonderful avocado salsa, butter and  jam. Good Americana coffee, normal & decaf, and many varieties of egg dishes are served. We love our scrambled eggs with ham, onion & Serrano pepper; a omellette with potato, ham, onion, parsley & zucchini, and scrambled eggs with chorizo. Green drinks and fresh carrot juice are another healthy option. The service is very good, with the owner often in attendance.

La Brasserie restaurant in San Miguel de Allende
Live music at La Brasserie.

Once the wrought-iron gates of La Parroquia close on the late lunch crowd, La Brasserie starts gearing up to delight diners in the same space. It becomes a French bistro with a Mexican accent—one of the most pleasant restaurants San Miguel style. La Brasserie’s owner/chef, Valeria, is the daughter of Francoise, the French-born owner of La Parroquia. She grew up waiting tables there and helping out in the kitchen, so she knows the business top to bottom. Steak, frites and salad are excellent, as is the Chicken Enchilada Mole. This mole sauce is the real thing with 50+ spices and peppers in it. Reasonably priced in a pleasant setting.

The Restaurant ~ Sollano #16. Six of us totally enjoy the Mo’ Better Burger Thursday Night Special at The Restaurant and I have total confidence that any night would be terrific. This is an upscale restaurant with a casually elegant setting in a beautiful old stone building. Service is impeccable and friendly. As a starter we try the Caesar salad and Spinach salad – both are first-rate with very fresh greens. Four of us have variations of 1/2 lb. beef burgers (ground in-house). – all come medium as ordered, deliciously juicy and pink inside and served with house cured pickles, and crispy potatoes with garlic, rosemary and parsley. I have the Mafiosa burger with balsamic roasted onions, oven dried tomatoes, parmesan crisp & arugula. Outrageous! Jay has La Griega – a ground lamb burger with roasted tomatoes, feta cheese, pickled onions and spinach on an onion bun. Delish. A great wine list – we enjoy two bottles of red wine from the Baja region of Mexico.

Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar & 1826 Bar ~ Rosewood Hotel, Nemesio Diez 11. Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar serves up savory Mexican and Spanish tapas in a casual atmosphere which we enjoyed on a 2 for 1 special night. It is a tempting place to linger after a day of sightseeing in the city to take in the breathtaking views of La Parroquia, the city and magnificent sunsets. Situated across from the main restaurant, the 1826 Bar offers delicious snacks and a full bar with a full range of tequila (tastings on Wednesdays) to enjoy in a quiet, and elegant setting. Highly recommend the rooftop bar even if it’s just for one drink to enjoy the views of San Miguel.

Ole Ole Restaurant in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Ole Ole Restaurant

Ole Ole Restaurant ~ Loreto #66. Bullfighting posters and memorabilia fill the walls and the tasty fajitas are very reasonably priced. Our group started with one order of the sautéed mushrooms with onions and peppers which came with warm tortillas and served four. We dined on the chicken, beef and aranchera fajitas – all the meats were tasty – although I would recommend the aranchera if you like beef, it is especially moist and tender. Portions are large and prices are very reasonable. You can easily eat a full meal for under ten dollars. Negro Modelo beer was the drink of choice.

Carcassonne ~ Correo 34. Carcasssonne Restaurante & Bar is in a beautiful historic stone building with elegant curved arch doorways and a glass enclosed wine cellar. Elegant is the word. We enjoy the delicious lamb ribs and our friends enjoy their steaks. All cooked medium as we ordered. Service is professional and deliberate; we inform our waiter that we have a movie to go to and he makes sure we are finished on time.

Posadita Restaurant entrance in San Miguel de Allende
La Posadita Restaurant

La Posadita – Cuna de Allende #13. As the evening approaches we decide to walk over to Cuna de Allende and experience our first tamarind margarita as the sun sets. We walk up the narrow stairway to La Posadita, settle down at one of the rooftop tables and order our margaritas. They are wonderful and intense, not like anything we’ve ever tasted. In the evening  sky the city lights begin to glow and twinkle and the panoramic view from La Posadita is breathtaking. The following week we return for dinner with our friends and enjoy the asparagus wrapped in bacon served on grilled onions & tomatoes, but find the ribeye and arranchera dinners average. My suggestion – go for the view and have a drink.

Outdoor bar at Tacos don Felix in San Miguel de Allende
Outdoor bar of Tacos don Felix.

Tacos Don Felix “En La Casa” ~ 15TH Fray Juan de San Miguel St. Take a cab out of the historic district into this Mexican neighborhood to find a true Mexican family restaurant. As the evening passes the tables fill up with Mexican families and ex-pats. We start with a salad for four – greens, jicama, tomatoes, onions, carrots come piled on the platter… then a taco sampler for each of us. Seven tacos – beef, pork, huitlacoche, spanish style sausage, shrimp, chicken, beef rib with onions. Delicious. A neighboring table has steaks which look and smell tempting. The service is gracious and after dinner they are happy to call a cab for you.

Los Milagro in San Miguel de Allende
Los Milagros on Calle Relox #17

Los Milagros ~ Relox 17. A very friendly young waiter drew us into this centuries-old colonial house vibrant with Mexican decor and featuring the “miracle-making” figurines called Milagros, as we look over the menu in the entryway. He recommends the “Volcano Bowls”, so we ordered two of the arranchera beef bowls. The beef is cooked in green sauce and served with grilled cactus, green onions, chiles & white cheese. On the side comes guacamole, refried beans and corn tortillas. They are very tasty and the “bowl” retains it heat well, so the food stays nicely warm. Servings are very generous – next time we may share one volcano bowl.

El Pegaso ~ Corregidora &, México. The prices are moderate, the service is friendly and efficient and the place is spotless. The decor is Mexican funky—with lots of color and good examples of folk art on the walls (all of it for sale). Check out the cheerful little painted tin nichos made by the well-known Cielito Lindo workshop in Colonia Guadalupe. Colorful and funny, they feature Day of the Dead calaca figures in common, silly and occasionally risqué tableaux. Known for breakfast and lunch, we enjoyed a fantastic spinach salad garnished with fresh papaya slices, tamales, enchiladas and homemade soup. It is conveniently located one block east of the Jardin.

El Ten Ten Pie ~ Cuna de Allende 21, corner of Cuadrante. The name “El Ten Ten Pie” is a play on words. It comes from the Spanish slang term tentempie, which translates loosely as “a little something to keep you on your feet.” This is a favorite San Miguel hangout with a popular outdoor café. Have that “little something”— a taco, a quesadilla or the best flan in town—or you can fill up on the comida corrida, for about eight bucks. It includes soup or salad, a main dish with rice and beans, and dessert. Good for lunch and people watching – we had a good salad and tacos.

Cafe Buen Dia – on Callejon Pueblito. Several Sundays we relaxed in the sun on the rooftop for a nice brunch with friends. Known for their espresso coffees – cappuccino, café au lait, americana – we sipped coffees and a yummy hot cocoa while waiting for our Special breakfasts to come. Starting with a bowl of fresh fruit or juice, then your choice of eggs, toast, coffee, potatoes or beans. We especially like Brad’s scramble with mushrooms, spinach, cheese and nice crispy bacon… our friend recommends the Huevos Rancheros.

Cafe Santa Ana in La Biblioteca – Insurgentes 25. To keep up with the numerous cultural events (often in English) taking place in this city, La Biblioteca is a good resource. Here you can find information and tickets to lectures, house tours, concerts, and theatrical productions, many of which are held within the historic library building itself. The library’s jungly outdoor Café Santa Ana, with tables clustered around a central fountain, is a pleasant place for a cappuccino, banana bread or other snack or light meal.

Bakeries

Cumpanio in San Miguel de Allende
Cumpanio bakery & restaurant

Cumpanio ~ Correo 29. High quality bakery & restaurant known for their homemade breads, pastries, and contemporary dining space serving elegant meals. Just a couple blocks from our rental house this was our closest bakery and what a treat. Great pastries, breads and homemade truffles in the bakery. Four of us had a delicious lunch one day in the contemporary restaurant – a perfectly seared tuna sandwich and fantastic burgers with french fries. Our friends returned for breakfast and raved about it.

El Petit Four ~ Mesones 99. Delicious French-style cakes and pastries;  wonderful espresso (they use Lavazza coffee) and sandwiches made with house-baked baguettes. Highly recommended like Cumpanio.

Bakery at the San Miguel de Allende farmers market
Buen Vida Bakery at Saturday Organic Farmers Market

La Buena Vida ~ Hernandez Macias 72. This little place is situated in the back of Plaza Golondrinas, across from Bellas Artes. They offer whole grain and sourdough breads, as well as, an assortment of pastries, brownie and doughnuts. Open 8 AM – 4 PM. Closed Sunday. Their booth at the Saturday Organic Farmers Market always has a line.

Pura Vida Juice Bar/Cafè – Pila Seca #9. Finally some gluten-free baked goods! Alicia Wilson Rivero is the owner of both the Pura Vida Store and the Cooking School at the LifePath Center.  She shares in a global mission to create and offer healthy, delicious food using locally harvested, fresh and organic products.  She develops menus and provides meals for LifePath retreat guests interested in following a special menu plan. Raw food, vegans, wheat-free diets are among the diets she can cater to.

Pura Vida Cafe in San Miguel de Allende
Alicia at the Pura Vida Juice Bar/Cafe

The day we stopped by she had gluten-free banana muffins, gluten-free carrot muffins, raw date snacks, and a decadent flourless chocolate cake. She also offers freshly made drinks, nourishing self-care products, and a wifi-ready rooftop terrace where patrons can relax and enjoy a healthful meal.

Grocery stores

Via Organica ~ Margarito Ledesma 2. Café, bakery, vegetable shop, grocery store. We visit Via Organica weekly for organic fresh vegetables (grown by local farmers), freshly made almond or peanut butter, gluten-free crackers & cereal and baked goods (gluten-free and regular). Their café serves delicious Mexican and international dishes which you can also get as take away. One visit we picked up some cilantro pesto which we have enjoyed on everything from veggies to pork. Via Organica is one part of Organic Way AC – a Mexican non-profit organization whose mission is to promote good nutrition through organic farming, fair trade, a healthy lifestyle and protecting the planet. They also have a booth at the Saturday Organic Farmers Market.

Via Organica in San Miguel de Allende
Via Organica is a favorite.
Bonanza grocery store in San Miguel de Allende
Bonanza grocery store on Mesones 43-A

Bonanza ~ Mesones #43-A. This terrific little grocery store in Centro San Miguel has a deli section, imported foods, all kinds of nuts, an impressive gluten-free section, local breads, fresh tortillas, cheeses, fresh yoghurt, Chinese noodles, balsamic vinegar, liquor, shampoos and more. Large bins of rice, grains, beans, flower and spices sold by the gram. Between Bonanza and Via Organica we find all we need.

¡Buen provecho! (Bon Appetit!)
While in San Miguel, I wrote a blog post each week, click on each week below to view photos and read about our adventures:

Gluten-free Cherry Blueberry Pie

Gluten-free Cherry Blueberry Pie
Gluten-free Cherry Blueberry Pie

Pablo Picasso is quoted as saying, “Love is the greatest refreshment in life.” I would agree and with Valentine’s Day approaching, let’s add a scrumptious cherry pie to the mix.

A key element of a good pie is a light and flaky crust. I find The Gluten-Free Pantry Perfect Pie Crust Mix comes closest to my homemade regular pie crust recipe. Many stores now sell the Gluten-Free Pantry mixes and I highly recommend them.

Combining the tart cherries, jammy blueberries, vanilla and cinnamon produces a complex taste that is very satisfying and requires little sweetening. Hard to put my finger on it but a deliciously nuanced flavor ensues.

CHERRY BLUEBERRY PIE

Single gluten-free (or regular) pie crust, uncooked
1 can sour cherries, drained
1 can each of dark sweet cherries, drained
2 c blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon juice
1/4 cup sugar (or 2 TBSP honey or agave)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 TBSP arrowroot

Combine fruit, lemon juice and sugar; stir in arrowroot and let stand while rolling out crust. Pour filling into bottom crust and lay crust hearts over top.

Bake pie at 400 degrees on top rack of oven for 20 minutes (375 degrees if using a glass pie pan). After 20 minutes lower the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes, or until crust is golden. Cool for about an hour to allow the liquid to set. Serve warm with ice cream.

When fresh fruit is in season I love making fruit galettes. For a good recipe and photo visit my post:  Nectarine Cherry Galette

Happy Baking & Happy Valentines Day!

San Miguel de Allende: Saturday Organic Farmers Market

Entering the Saturday Organic Farmers Market one of the first things we notice is an outdoor dining area under the shade trees filled with people eating. Then the aromas of tortillas and gorditas frying on the griddles. Two Mexican families are cooking and serving up a storm of tacos, tamales, quesadillas, and huaraches – their tables covered with earthy brown pottery pots of all sizes filled with beef in red mole, guacamole, lamb stew, chicken in green sauce, chorizo and egg, grilled onions, spinach, beans… we quickly decide that this is the place to have Saturday brunch.

Fillings for tacos and huaraches at San Miguel de Allende Organic Farmers Market
Beautiful ceramic pots full of fillings for tacos and huaraches.
Gorditas at the San Miguel de Allende Farmers Market
Gorditas on the griddle.
Tamales and huraches at the San Miguel de Allende Farmers Market
Our delicious lunch of tamales and huraches.

Before or after filling your stomach there is the rest of the market to discover. A row of organic farmers selling their fresh vegetables – our weekly list includes avocados, kale, chard, tomatoes, cilantro, radishes, and a beautiful bag of mixed salad greens. Then there are the bakeries with delicious homemade desserts, breads, donuts, pastries, and pies. Other booths are selling natural skin care products made from distillations of cactus, wonderful small batch dark chocolates with ginger or orange, colorful embroidered pillow covers, rugs, and jewelry.

Penon de los Banos Cooperative at the San Miguel de Allende Farmers Market
Penon de los Banos Cooperative with their fresh produce.
Bakery at the San Miguel de Allende farmers market
La Buena Vida Bakery with their pastries, donuts and bread are hard to resist.
Organic honey at the Farmers Market in San Miguel de Allende
Organic honey and such fill the tables at the market.
Artesanal breads at the Farmers Market in San Miguel de Allende
Crusty artisanal breads to go with the organic cheeses.

One of the food stands is Via Organica where they sell fresh organic eggs and other foodstuffs from their store. We visit Via Organica store during the week to restock on organic fresh vegetables, pick up freshly made almond or peanut butter, gluten-free crackers & cereal and baked goods (gluten-free and regular). Their café serves delicious Mexican and international dishes which you can also get as take away. One visit we picked up some cilantro pesto which we have enjoyed on everything from veggies to pork. Via Organica is one part of Organic Way AC – a Mexican non-profit organization whose mission is to promote good nutrition through organic farming, fair trade, a healthy lifestyle and protecting the planet. During our stay in San Miguel they had several viewings of the film, Food, Inc., which lifts the veil on the U.S. food industry, exposing how our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment.

Having just spent time in avocadoland I can’t resist sharing this recipe from a blog I enjoy ~ With Style & Grace ~ Inspiration for a healthy and gluten-free life. Lisa adapted the recipe from Martha Stewart’s Whole Living.

Chocolate Avocado Pudding (Chocomole?)

Ingredients

2 medium avocados
5 tablespoons of cocoa powder
3 tablespoons honey OR 6 dates, pitted and soaked (to soften, if necessary)
3 tablespoons coconut milk or water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange zest
sea salt

In a food processor or heavy-duty blender – puree avocados, cocoa powder, honey OR dates, coconut milk, vanilla extract and orange zest until smooth. Before serving, sprinkle with sea salt. Serves two.

Surprisingly good and best made a day ahead so the flavors meld.

Gluten-free, dairy-free & vegan.

Enjoy.

p.s. While in San Miguel, I wrote a blog post each week, click on each week below to view photos and read about our adventures:

Best Gluten-free Chocolate Brownie Mix

Always chocolate, from the beginning… memories of melting chocolate ice cream cones, foamy chocolate sodas at the drugstore, trading marshmallow treats for my favorite chocolate candy bars at Halloween… yes, my chocolate tooth developed early on.

And a taste for coffee. Mom always had a pot of coffee brewing in the morning, the rich aroma signaling the start of a new day. On hot, humid summer afternoons she sipped iced coffee and in the evening would let me have a few spoonfuls over my chocolate ice cream which tasted pretty fine. So, I sometimes add Kahlua to my brownies, liking the rich undertone it adds to the flavor.

The Gluten-Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownies
The Gluten-Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownies - my favorite

Gluten-free brownie mixes work well for me because I do best on a low-sugar diet which means I bake dessert infrequently, and they travel well – easy to tuck into a suitcase. Over the years I have introduced my family and friends around the country to various gluten-free brownies mixes available in their area.

Having sampled a few different brownie mixes, my favorite is The Gluten-Free Pantry Chocolate Truffle Brownie Mix. Obviously, this is a very personal decision as we all like different qualities in our brownies. I find the Gluten-Free Pantry brownie is moist with a nice chewy texture and a rich chocolate flavor (their mix has miniature chocolate chips in it). The directions are clear and easy. Dinner guests rave about them and often ask me for the recipe… then I have to reveal that they are gluten-free and a mix. No compromise with these brownies, in fact, they are better than regular brownies. I buy a case of six boxes from Amazon.com and save another 15% with the Subscribe & Save feature which makes the cost less than $20 for the case.

Being one of those people who uses a recipe as a guide, the same is true with a brownie mix… I always add 1/3 cup of dark chocolate chips, use a combination of butter & olive oil, and 1/2 cup of various kinds of nuts. Other additions can include a teaspoon of cinnamon or chopped up chunks of crystallized ginger, a couple of tablespoons of Kahlua or Frangelico hazelnut liqueur. Have fun.

Gluten-free brownies
Stonewall Kitchen gluten-free brownies (left) and Pamela's Gluten-free Ultra Chocolate brownies, both with pecans

In the spirit of a true taste test I also baked a batch of brownies from the Stonewall Kitchen and Pamela’s. The Stonewall Kitchen Gluten-free Chocolate Brownie Mix has the most attractive packaging and is unique in that they have a fudge packet that you swirl on top of the brownie batter before baking. The flavor was good, extra fudgy and moist. It is the most expensive of the three and has no suggestions for ingredient substitutions. Their recipe is easy and simply calls for 2 large eggs and 7 tablespoons of melted butter.

Pamela’s Gluten-free Ultra Chocolate Brownie Mix rose beautifully and are visually appealing. I find the texture a little grainy and the chocolate flavor too mild (even adding extra chocolate chips). I appreciate the many options on the bag: Original recipe using oil, a butter recipe, cake-like brownies, fudgy brownies, german chocolate brownies… or chocolate cookies or chocolate cake. Most mixes are adaptable but it is helpful to know the conversions from the source. Although the brownies are not my favorite Pamela’s Gluten-free Chocolate Chuck Cookie Mix and Gluten-free Luscious Chocolate Cake Mix definitely are.

Other brownie mixes you may enjoy:

Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free Brownie Mix  – a good brownie with a Cream Cheese Brownie recipe variation

Namaste Foods Gluten-free Brownie Mix – will be testing soon

King Arthur Flour Gluten-free Brownie Mix – will be testing soon, have enjoyed their Gluten-free Chocolate Cake Mix

Ad-Hoc Gluten-free Brownie Mix – available from William Sonoma; the Ad-Hoc GF pancake mix is superb but does have milk powder in it as does the brownie mix and is expensive. A nice gift item.

Betty Crocker Gluten-free Brownie Mix – readily available, tastes similar to their regular brownie mix – good, but I can tell it is a mix

For those who like rich, dark chocolate chips, try Dagoba Organic Chocolate Fair Trade Certified 73% Cacao Premium Chocolate Drops in your brownies or chocolate chip cookies! My favorite.

What gluten-free brownie mix are you enjoying?

Clair’s Gluten-free Bread Experience

This summer found us in Prince Frederick, Maryland for our niece’s wedding and a visit with our good friends, Mary & Clair. To my surprise and delight, I discovered that Clair has embraced gluten-free eating and is baking fabulous bread (something I haven’t tried). I invited Clair to write about his experience of going gluten-free and learning to bake gluten-free bread.

Gluten-free Country Harvest Bread
A loaf of Clair's gluten-free Country Harvest Bread

Clair TweedieAbout five or six months ago I thought I might be gluten intolerant.  So before consulting my physician I did what any self-diagnosing guy would do….stay away from gluten products for awhile.  After a few days I did notice a change in myself, but, just maybe it wasn’t that gluten thing at all… so I had a nice rich chocolate brownie.  BAM! It was that gluten thing.  My doctor went on to confirm my diagnosis as not severe but nonetheless an unpleasant intolerance to gluten.

After trying several gluten-free breads and other products from the grocery store I decided the only way to enjoy these foods again was to do the baking myself. Many years ago I baked bread and enjoyed it immensely, now, being retired, I just don’t have a lot of spare time to devote to bread making so I began research on bread machines. The result was to purchase Zojirushi BB-CEC20 (Home Bakery Supreme 2-Pound-Loaf Breadmaker). Fantastic product!

Gluten-free Country Harvest Bread and Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread
Freshly baked Country Harvest Bread and White Sandwich Bread (both gluten-free)

With the aid of a great cook book “125 Best Gluten-Free Bread Machine Recipes” by Donna Washburn and Heather Butt, bread making became quick and easy… especially since the machine does all the heavy lifting.  A couple of my favorites are Country Harvest Bread and White Sandwich Bread. 

Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread, sliced
Gluten-free White Sandwich Bread slices very nicely.

The white sandwich loaf  is moist and slices beautifully and tastes just right either toasted or plain. Occasionally, I will add a couple tablespoons of chia seed for extra nutritional value (chia doesn’t effect the flavor).

Now, the Country Harvest bread is a full bodied bread chock full of  seed – sunflower, flax and sesame.  I also add pumpkin seed for even more crunch. This bread has a bold texture and can be sliced as thin or thick as one wishes.  It can be used for sandwiches but my favorite is a slice toasted and covered with my own pure almond butter – just almonds and a touch of sea salt.

I am well aware that we do not live by bread alone – for many reasons.  I have always liked granola but find most store brands (gluten-free and regular) to be too sweet and sticky or lacking something. My research on the topic led me to Glutenfreegirl.com and what I think is the best granola I have ever made or eaten.  Not too sweet, a bit of a ginger bite and not at all sticky and as full of dried fruit as one cares to incorporate.  In this batch I used raisins, dates and cranberries.  Great when added to yogurt for breakfast or just plain for a snack.  ~ Clair

Homemade gluten-free granola
Clair's homemade gluten-free granola

Wow, thank you Clair. The New Year may just find me baking mine own bread as well. Very inspiring.

Here is what Clair uses:


 

Gluten-Free Thanksgiving Recipes

macy's holiday parade portland OR
Raggedy Ann leads the way in the Macy's Holiday parade in Portland

Last Thanksgiving found us in Portland, Oregon, enjoying a delicious meal at the Heathman Restaurant in the Heathman Hotel. Before making our reservation, I called the restaurant and asked if there would be gluten-free options available for the Thanksgiving dinner. The answer was yes. The day of when we were seated, I let our server know my need to order gluten-free. She helped me navigate the menu offerings and I had a delicious meal. When eating out, doing a little advance work can help make the occasion less stressful.

This year we are home and will be celebrating the day by going to our community Thanksgiving Dinner. My research this year is checking out all the different gluten-free Thanksgiving recipes in newspapers and blogs… I am pleased by all the attention we are getting around the country. You know gluten-free eaters have reached a critical mass when chefs and major newspapers join the parade.

From the New York TimesGluten-Free Thanksgiving Stuffings. Gather your celery, onion, sage and thyme… here is the one of Martha Rose Shulman’s five new ways to make stuffing:

Wild Rice and Brown Rice Stuffing With Apples, Pecans and Cranberries

Ingredients:

3/4 cup short-grain brown rice
6 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small or medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup diced celery
2 garlic cloves, minced (optional)
1 tablespoon butter
2 apples, cored and cut in 1/2-inch dice
1/3 cup lightly toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh sage
1/3 cup dried cranberries

1. Combine the wild rice with 4 1/2 cups stock or water in one saucepan and the brown rice with 1 1/2 cups stock or water in another smaller saucepan. Add salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer the brown rice for 35 to 40 minutes, until the rice is tender and all of the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, place a clean kitchen towel over the pot and return the lid. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Simmer the wild rice for 40 to 50 minutes, until the grains have begun to splay. Drain through a strainer if there is liquid in the pot, and return to the pot. Place a clean kitchen towel over the pot and return the lid. Let sit for 10 to 15 minutes.

2. While the grains are cooking, prepare the remaining ingredients. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy skillet and add the onion. Cook, stirring often, until the onion begins to soften, about 3 minutes. Add the celery and a generous pinch of salt, and continue to cook until the onion is completely tender, another 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, until it is fragrant, another 30 to 60 seconds. Remove from the heat and transfer to a large bowl. Add the cooked grains and stir together.

3. Return the skillet to the stove and heat over medium-high heat. Add the butter, and when the foam subsides add the apples. Cook, stirring or tossing in the pan, until lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add to the bowl with the grains. Add the remaining ingredients and stir together. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer to a lightly oiled or buttered baking dish and cover with foil.

4. Warm the stuffing in a 325-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes before serving.

Yield: Makes about 8 cups, serving 12 to 16.

Advance preparation: The cooked grains will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator and can be frozen. The stuffing benefits from being made a day ahead.

From Eat Right For Your Type (eating for your blood type), Dr. D’Adamo’s Newsletter has a Thanksgiving feast that is good for all the blood types. One of the vegetables from the feast:

Shallot and Bacon Creamed Kale

Ingredients:

5 slices turkey bacon
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided use 4 large shallots, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 bunches of kale, chopped
dash of ground cloves
sea salt to taste
1 tablespoon ghee
2 tablespoon arrowroot flour
1 1/2 cups rice milk

1. Start by cooking bacon in a medium skillet with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Heat the skillet over medium, drizzle with oil and cook bacon 2-3 minutes per side or until crispy.

2. In the meantime, heat a medium pot over medium heat and add remaining olive oil. Sauté shallots and garlic for 2-3 minutes just until aromatic and softened. Add kale a handful at a time, stir until wilted and continue adding by the handful. This will help manage the kale, and helps it cook faster. Season with a dash of cloves and sea salt.

3. Remove the bacon from the pan, crumble and set aside on a paper towel. In the same skillet, make a roux by melting the ghee over medium heat and whisking in the flour until free of lumps. Slowly add the rice milk, whisking continuously. Continue heating and whisking until thickened. The mixture will bubble and become the consistency of a thin yogurt, at which point it can be added to the kale.

4. Stir crumbled bacon into the kale, add crumbled bacon and serve warm.

Washingtonian Magazine has done a nice job of collecting Gluten-free Thanksgiving Recipes from many of the popular gluten-free bloggers. Including three turkey recipes, homemade gravy, and Celiac-friendly cornbread stuffing.

Udi’s Gluten Free Foods offers up a Gluten Free Pumpkin Sausage Stuffing partially baked in the pumpkin and then served in the pumpkin.

One of my favorite gluten-free bloggers, gluten-free girl, has compiled a blog post of all her Thanksgiving recipes. As she says “foods that will make everyone feel happy and safe”. She has rounded up recipes for roast turkey, side dishes like Curried Sweet Potato Gratin, vegetables, salads, baked goods, desserts and a delicious sounding Cranberry Cocktail.

Last month I posted a recipe for Gluten-free Pumpkin Loaf Cake which I will be baking next week, and a favorite in my family is Pecan Pie…

Gluten-free Thanksgiving Pecan Pie

Ingredients:

1 9-inch gluten-free pie crust, unbaked and chilled (I like The Gluten-Free Pantry Perfect Pie Crust Mix)
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
6 tablespoon butter, melted
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
1/3 cup molasses
1 tablespoon dark rum, optional
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 2/3 cup pecans (1 cup whole, 2/3 cup chopped)
5 large eggs

1. Whisk together 5 eggs, brown sugar, butter, honey, molasses, rum, vanilla and salt. Stir in chopped pecans.

2. Pour filling into uncooked pie shell. Arrange whole pecans on top of pie.

3. Bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees, then about 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

4. Cool before serving.

One last addition, 5 Desserts for your Thanksgiving Feast, from Patricia Conte at She Knows… Gluten-free dark chocolate pumpkin brownies, Gluten-free cranberry-pecan peanut butter cookies, and more chocolatey pumpkin delights!

Enjoy the day with your family and friends… and happy eating this Thanksgiving.

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.  ~Thornton Wilder

 

Seattle’s TEDxRainier 2011 Conference

Sue's TEDx Rainier notes, page 2
One page of my sketchbook notes from the TEDx Rainier Conference

Heading off the island Friday evening we are full of anticipation about tomorrow’s TEDx Rainier event. This year’s theme is Gained in Translation: Ideas Crossing Frontiers, featuring over twenty five speakers whose ideas and extraordinary work span across domains and fuel innovations and insights. Followers of TED for years online, this is our first live experience.

Earlier on Friday I received a book I had ordered from Amazon – An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers by Danny Gregory. I couldn’t wait to get on the ferry with no distractions and go through the book slowly, page by page.

An Illustrated Life, cover
click on book for more info

As Gregory says in the introduction, “a book full of sketchbooks and illustrated journals from all sorts of people who love nothing better than to hunch over a little book and fill its pages with lines and colors”. This treasure of a book has 78 five star reviews out of 84… it is stupendous with creativity overflowing tremendously inspiring.

This was just the creative jumpstart I needed and somewhere along the way from home to Seattle the idea was born to capture the essence of each talk creatively in my sketchbook on two facing pages. So I arrived with Jay at the Conference Saturday morning with sketchbook and pen in hand. The first few moments I had some self-consciousness as the first speaker began… where and how to begin, is anyone watching me??? All the usual fears. Fortunately, I was able to move through the fear, pick a starting spot, realize everyone is mesmerized by the speakers (not me) and plunge into it. By the third speaker there was no looking back, I was totally hooked on my project.

Sue's TEDx Rainier notes, page 1
My second page of sketchbook notes from the TEDx Rainier Conference

Jay & I enjoyed many of the speakers, some of the highlights included:

  • Rick Steves‘ frank talk about how global travel brings us together, saying “Fear is for people that don’t get out much.” Rick is a world traveler and author of over 80 very readable helpful books on travel.
  • Amory Lovins on Reinventing Fire – how to transition to zero carbon clean renewable energy by 2050… I liked his quote – “Not all the fossils are in the fuel.”
  • Peter Blomquist on being humbled in his encounters with the kindness of simple traditional cultures. Peter is principal of Blomquist International, focused on organizational development, philanthropy, and global engagement. His words of wisdom – enter humbly, stay for tea, listen and learn.
  • ITGirl librarian Chrystie Hill on how libraries are transforming and evolving in the new world. When kids were asked what they would like in a library where everything is allowed, one replied – to hear the sounds of the forest as I approach the books about trees.
  • Leroy Hood on how insights from the human Genome project are bringing fundamental advances in early diagnosis and treatment of disease. P4 Medicine is his belief – predictive, preventative, personal and participatory.
  • Pediatrician Dimitri Christakis on how focusing on the first year of a child’s development can have stunning effects on the potential of the child, for the rest of life. Dr. Christakis is author of The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Children.
  • Jenn Lim on happiness. Jenn Lim is the CEO and Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness, a company that she and Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) co-created in 2010 to inspire happiness in work, community and everyday life.
  • Adnan Mahmud on “Climbing the ladder that matters.” Adnan tells his story about how he came to create Jolkona, a nonprofit that helps people raise large amounts of money through small donation, and receive proof of how the donations helped make a difference for those in need.
  • The three  Interfaith Amigos, Pastor Don McKenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon, and Imam Jamal Rahman on religious discord, and how to get along. Their presentation received a standing ovation. It was at once funny, touching and brimming with promise and hope. Their new book is Religion Gone Astray: What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith.

For both of us, the most powerful talk was given by photographic artist Chris Jordan. Jordan, a former corporate lawyer, explores the detritus of mass culture, using photographs and images to, at a gut level, convey the impact we are having on the earth. Earlier this year we saw his exhibit – Running the Numbers – at the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in  Eugene, OR.

Let’s see I’ve covered the Travel, Sketch, Write areas… now we get to the part about doing all this while eating gluten-free. This trip to Seattle we experienced two new restaurants. Both casual, affordable, gluten-free friendly and yummy.

Friday night we had a late dinner at Uneeda Burger. Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Uneeda Burger is a casual, roadside-style burger shack with seriously delicious burgers. I had the lamb burger special on a gluten-free bun with a side of spicy sweet potato fries while Jay splurged and went with the Whidbey Island Crescent Harbor 100% Wagyu (Kobe) grass-fed beef (additional $3) with caramelized onions, watercress and blue cheese. Both were deliciously juicy and messy and enjoyed with one of their craft-brewed beers. Not a beef eater, not to worry, they have chicken and veggie options.

Saturday at our lunch break two of the student volunteers at TEDx Rainier suggested we try Shultzys. Nothing better than to walk into a busy restaurant and find a quiet seat near the fireplace on a rainy fall day. Jay tried the “Schultzy”, a char-grilled sausage burger made with mild Italian pork, served on a toasted, garlic-buttered roll with grilled onions & peppers – very good subtle flavors. I had the Bratwurst, a mild but nicely spiced pork and beef sausage, served with grilled onions & sauerkraut. Easily gluten-free by eliminating the bun. Very tasty. The service was prompt and our food came quickly which we appreciated given our limited time.  Seattle’s Wurst Restaurant is located at 4114 University Way NE.

I end with a tip from my sweet husband… Looking for an idea for taking your sweetie out on a date? Go to a TED conference. Ideas are hot! Follow up the conference with a nice dinner, in a quiet romantic place, and prepare to have some great conversation. TED talks will inspire, enlighten, and fill you with hope.

Gluten-free pumpkin pancakes

Ella's Halloween card
Ella's haunting Halloween card - BOO!

Halloween is a big event on our little island. Saturday was pumpkin carving outside the local bakery, and hayrides through town. Halloween day the vendors in town will greet the children trick or treating with goodies, the grocery store will be decorated outrageously (the meat dept being my favorite), and the Odd Fellows Hall will host the dance of the year (no one would dare show up without a costume).

Gluten-free pumpkin pancakes
Gluten-free pumpkin pancakes with pecans

So in the spirit of Halloween, jack-o-lanterns, falling autumn leaves, and cool crisp morning air – I woke up with pumpkin pancakes haunting my senses. I could smell them on the griddle, taste the pumpkin cinnamon flavor and melting butter… Last weekend I made a gluten-free pumpkin loaf cake which left me with about 1/2 cup of canned pumpkin – just what I need for pancakes.

Recently I received a very thoughtful birthday gift, Ad Hoc Gluten-Free Pancake & Waffle Mix developed exclusively for  William-Sonoma. The taste and texture is delicious and each box contains 2 mix packets which yield 4 traditional waffles or 8 Belgian waffles or pancakes. They are easy to prepare – just add milk, butter and eggs… and 1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (canned or fresh), 1/2 cup chopped pecans, and some cinnamon for pumpkin pancakes. My dairy tolerance is low so I add almond milk to the mix, but beware the mix does have milk powder in it.

Two other gluten-free pancake mixes I like are Pamela’s Products Ultimate Baking & Pancake Mix and Arrowhead Mills Wild Rice Pancake/Waffle Mix Wheat-Free (vegan free). Both are flexible to substitutions and I often add pumpkin or applesauce for moisture and natural sweetness, blueberries, chopped nuts, cinnamon or ginger. Easy to have fun with pancakes, and gluten-free pancake mixes are great gifts and good for traveling – easy to take along when you head to grandma’s or go on vacation.

What are your favorite pancakes?

Gluten-free Pumpkin Loaf Cake

gluten free pumpkin loaf cake
Delicious Gluten-free Pumpkin loaf cake with a crunchy nut topping

My dear girlfriend, Anita, made this cake for me on my birthday recently, and I confess – I ate two pieces… yes, that same night. Pumpkin is a fall favorite of mine.

Without further ado, here is the delicious recipe:

Gluten-free Pumpkin Loaf Cake

Cake ingredients:

4 TBSP melted butter or oil
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups Pamela’s Ultimate Baking & Pancake Mix (GF)**
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 cup organic canned pumpkin
1/2 cup sugar
1 TBSP molasses
1/4 tsp  cloves
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground ginger

Topping ingredients:
2 TBSP melted butter
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.* Grease a loaf pan and line bottom with parchment paper.

Beat together butter, sugar, eggs and pumpkin. Add remaining cake ingredients and mix completely. Pour into prepared loaf pan. For topping, combine melted butter with brown sugar and chopped nuts (I used almonds, walnuts and pecans). Spread on batter and pat lightly. Bake in a pre-heated oven for 50-60 minutes or until the cake is firm and a wooden toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack. While warm, run a knife around the edges and remove from pan after about 15 minutes.

* 325 degrees if using a glass pan
** Pamela’s Ultimate Baking & Pancake Mix contains Cultured buttermilk

The Gluten-free Goddess has a yummy sounding pumpkin cake recipe that is dairy free ~ Gluten-free Pumpkin Cake with Maple Icing.

Wheat Belly

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health by William Davis, MD

Two friends brought this book to my attention this week and I think it is worth checking out… so good to have doctors getting on board with nutrition and how we can effect our health by our diet. In Wheat Belly, a renowned cardiologist explains how eliminating wheat from our diets can prevent fat storage, shrink unsightly bulges, and reverse myriad health problems. From Dr. Davis:

Who had the audacity to write such an against-the-grain book exposing “healthy whole grains” for the incredibly destructive genetic monsters they’ve become?

That’s me, Dr. William Davis, cardiologist and seeker-of-truth in health. Over 80% of the people I meet today are pre-diabetic or diabetic. In an effort to reduce blood sugar, I asked patients to remove all wheat products from their diet based on the simple fact that, with few exceptions, foods made of wheat flour raise blood sugar higher than nearly all other foods. Yes, that’s true for even whole grains. More than table sugar, more than a Snickers bar. Organic, multigrain, sprouted–it makes no difference.

People returned several months later and did indeed show lower blood sugar, often sufficient for pre-diabetics to be non-prediabetics. But it was the other results they described that took me by surprise: weight loss of 25 to 30 lbs over several months, marked improvement or total relief from arthritis, improvement in asthma sufficient to chuck 2 or 3 inhalers, complete relief from acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome symptoms, disappearance of leg swelling and numbness. Most reported increased mental clarity, deeper sleep, and more stable moods and emotions. I witnessed even more incredible experiences like the 26-year old man incapacitated by full-body joint pains who started to jog again, pain-free. And the 38-year old schoolteacher who, just weeks before her surgeon scheduled colon removal and ileostomy bag, experienced cure–cure–from ulcerative colitis and intestinal hemorrhage–and stopped all medications. That’s when I knew that I had to broadcast this message. Wheat Belly was the result.

I’m not promoting drugs, fancy medical procedures, or costly equipment. I’m not promoting a process that makes a pharmaceutical company rich or helps a hospital gain more revenue-producing procedures. I’m talking about a simple change in diet that yields incredible and unexpected health benefits in so many more ways than you’d think. And it’s not just about celiac disease, the destructive intestinal disease from wheat gluten that affects 1% of the population. It’s about all the other destructive health effects of wheat consumption, from arthritis to acid reflux to schizophrenia, caused or made worse by this food we are advised to eat more of. It’s about being set free from the peculiar appetite-stimulating effects of the opiate-like compounds unique to wheat. It’s also about losing weight–10, 20, or 30 pounds is often just the start–all from this thing I call wheat belly. The key to understanding wheat’s undesirable effects is to recognize that the total effect on human health is greater than the sum of its parts.

William Davis, MD, is a preventive cardiologist whose unique approach to diet allows him to advocate reversal, not just prevention, of heart disease. Here is a recipe from his website:

Mocha Cupcakes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups ground almonds
3 tablespoons instant coffee powder or crystals
3 tablespoons cocoa powder (unsweetened; preferably undutched)
1 teaspoon baking soda
Sweetener equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar (e.g., 3 1/2 tablespoons Truvia)
1/2 stick (4 tablespoons) butter, melted (can be replaced with coconut oil, melted)
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons coconut milk
1 cup heavy whipping cream or (unsweetened; no high-fructose corn syrup) ready-made whipped cream
Cocoa powder or dark chocolate shavings for sprinkling on top

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place 8 cupcake paper liners into muffin pan.

Mix ground almonds, instant coffee powder, cocoa, baking soda, and sweetener in bowl. Stir in melted butter or coconut oil, eggs, and coconut milk. Add more coconut milk, if necessary, one tablespoon at a time to obtain a thick but stir-able consistency.

Pour mix into cupcake liners about 2/3 full. Bake for 25-30 minutes until toothpick withdraws dry. Allow to cool at least 30 minutes.

Whip cream or use ready-made whip cream and spread on top of each cupcake. Sprinkle cocoa powder or dark chocolate shavings on top.

For more thoughts on the book visit Melissa’s blog post Gluten free for good, she is a nutritionist who interviewed the good doctor after reading his book.

And click on travelsketchwrite recipes for links to other wheat-free recipes in my blog.

Pit Stop in Rapid City, South Dakota

Alex Johnson Hotel, Rapid City, SD
Warm, welcoming lobby of the Alex Johnson Hotel in Rapid City, SD

Mid-day we make a pit stop in Rapid City looking for wireless service, lunch, a natural foods store… and architecturally interesting buildings.

Right downtown and an easy drive from the Crazy Horse Memorial and Mount Rushmore, The Hotel Alex Johnson is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The structural design is a blend of two spirits: the heritage of the Plains Indians and the Germanic Tudor architecture representing German immigration to the Dakotas. Construction began on the hotel in 1927, the day before work began on Mount Rushmore. Alex Johnson, Vice President of the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad, was founder of this grand hotel that bears his name. An admirer of Native Americans, he spoke of a shrine and tribute to the Sioux Indian Nation.

After admiring the lobby and buying a few postcards in the gift shop, we walk into Seattle’s Best Cafe, which is conveniently connected to the hotel. Good coffee, hot tea, comfy leather chairs for postcard writing, and complimentary high speed wireless take care of all our needs.

Tally's Silver Spoon, Rapid City, SD
Tally's Silver Spoon fine diner is just across the street from the hotel.

Tally’s Silver Spoon, dubbed the Fine Diner by Chef Benjamin Klinkel, and located across the street from the hotel, is what drew us to the town after an internet search. The diner is abuzz with happy eaters and we are pleased to land a booth by the window. The menu reflects the chef’s philosophy of seeking out the best ingredients available, local whenever possible and specialty imports from small producers all over the world.

Healthy choices are created daily in the form of the Silver Spoon Lunch Special made with lettuces and produce grown specifically for Tally’s Silver Spoon by a local farm. Jay orders today’s lunch special – a Tuscan Bread salad with seared Ahi Tuna on top. I order a Wild Idea Buffalo burger a plate they happily modify to be gluten-free – omitting the bun and coated fries and adding a delicious green salad. Both are delicious. Wild Idea, a Rapid City company, lets their bison mature on native grass pastures which are are loaded with Omegs-3’s and are found in abundance in grass-fed buffalo.

Fully fed and satisfied we locate a natural foods store. I find it interesting to go into natural food markets in different places. Often we will be restocking on nuts and fruit and I like to see what gluten-free brands they carry that are new to me. Today we check out Staple and Spice Market at 601 Mount Rushmore Road. My discovery is a new line of gluten-free baking mixes from Stonewall KitchenGF Chocolate Chunk Cookie Mix, GF Chocolate Cupcake Mix, GF Vanilla Cupcake Mix, GF Pancake & Waffle Mix, and a GF Chocolate Brownie Mix. I purchased one of the brownie mixes and look forward to baking it soon. If anyone has tried the Stonewall gluten-free mixes, please let us know what you think.

Dinner in Spokane, WA

Grand Coulee Dam
We pass the Grand Coulee Dam on our way to Spokane, WA

Quite an impressive site from the lookout – the Grand Coulee Dam is a gravity dam on the Columbia River built to produce hydroelectric power and provide irrigation. Constructed between 1933 and 1942, it is the largest electric power-producing facility in the United States, and one of the largest concrete structures in the world.

Spokane means “Children of the Sun” to the Native Americans of the area. Before the 1700’s Native Americans settled along the Spokane River for fishing and hunting in the surrounding area. Spokane became an incorporated City on Nov. 29, 1881, encompassing 1.56 square miles. Tragedy struck in 1889 when a frame building in the downtown area caught fire. There was not enough water pressure at the fire hydrants to put the fire out and the fire burned out of control, ravaging 32 buildings in 27 city blocks. Today the City of Spokane, incorporated more than 125 years ago, is the second largest City in the State of Washington.

The Davenport Hotel
The historic Davenport Hotel in downtown Spokane, WA

The Davenport Hotel has been world famous since it opened in September of 1914. It was the first hotel with air conditioning, a central vacuum system, housekeeping carts (designed by Louis Davenport himself), accordion ballroom doors and Crab Louis (named for Louis Davenport). The September 1915 Hotel Monthly described Louis Davenport as “the man with a vision who created a hotel with a soul.”

The Davenport Hotel faced the wrecking ball in 1987, and remained closed for 15 years. In 2002, local entrepreneurs purchased the entire city block for $6.5 million, then spent the next two years of their lives–and $38 million of their own money–to make The Davenport Hotel grand again. The hotel’s public spaces and ballrooms were restored to their Spanish Renaissance/ French neoclassical glory.

The Davenport Hotel, Spokane, WA
Elegantly restored lobby of the Davenport Hotel in Spokane, WA

If you love architecture and history, you will also want to see the Martin Woldson Theater at the Fox which reopened its doors in November 2007, after a much anticipated renovation. The restoration uncovered original cut-glass stars on the ceiling and murals of swimmers and ballplayers in the men’s lounge. This art deco treasure is now the home of the Spokane Symphony and an incredible venue for all of the performing arts. Built during the dark days of the Depression by Fox West Coast Theaters at a price of $1,000,000, the Theater was the largest in Spokane, at 2300 seats. Architect Robert Reamer, famous for his design of Yellowstone National Park’s Old Faithful Inn, designed the Theater in the exuberant and modernistic Art Deco style.

Now onto dinner. Searching on Google for gluten-free in Spokane, I found the ultimate – a website: Gluten Free Spokane. Eating gluten free in Spokane is not only possible, it can be fabulous. Shallan will help you find your favorite spots to dine out, shop for ingredients and learn more about the benefits of going gluten free.

Tonight we decide to dine at the award winning Wild Sage American Bistro, located downtown at 916 W 2nd Ave. As we sit down in a comfy booth I am presented with a gluten-free menu and gluten-free rolls (believe me this is extraordinary). Jay and I both choose the Wild Sage Burger – half pound american kobe beef on a house made gluten free onion roll served with a beautiful fresh green salad, onion confit, pesto mayo, and local fresh tomatoes. I am in heaven.

Other highlights of the gluten-free menu are Cioppino – spice seared alaskan halibut cheeks, diver scallops, wild prawns, green lip mussels, aromatic saffron-tomato broth, brown rice pasta and for dessert, Soon to be Famous Coconut Cream Layer Cake – gluten-free coconut genoise cake with a mascarpone-coconut cream filling.

A great place to shop for fresh foods and gluten-free foods is Huckleberry’s Natural Market. There are three locations in Spokane, WA. Within the stores is the 9th Street Bistro where all the food is prepared entirely on the premises by their chefs using organic and natural products, whenever possible.