Europe Days 5-10: Italy, France, & Spain

Ok guys, I suck and I’ve completely procrastinated writing my next Europe post (I really have a good excuse, I’m getting ready to head off to college!), so to avoid even more delay, I’m gonna just knock it all out in one post. Prepare for a very long European food whirlwind.

So after our leisurely day at sea, the week of back-to-back ports began. First up was Sicily, Italy. We chose the Taormina On Your Own cruise excursion, so we took about a 45 minute bus ride to Taormina (with beautiful views) and were able to just wander around town. This was such a beautiful little place, with stunning scenery. I mean look at this:

Seriously, just amazing. Taormina was very close to being my favorite place, but not just for the scenery. We went to lunch at a nice little restaurant called La Botte. Our tour guide told us they have gluten free pasta, and when we got there and told the waitress I would be ordering gluten free, she said it would be a little longer because they have to boil new water (which means they didn’t cook it in gluten-y pasta water, yay!!). I ordered Penne ala Norma, which was GF penne with tomato sauce, aubergines (aka eggplants), ricotta, and basil, along with the necessary bottle of house white wine for everyone to share.

First impression of the dish when they placed it in front of me: what are these french fries doing in my pasta???  But I soon remembered they were eggplants, and when I took a bite, I think I went to heaven. This was the most delicious thing I’ve eaten in my life. The pasta was perfectly cooked, and I have no idea what they make their GF pasta out of in Europe but it tasted like I was eating regular pasta. There was some toasted parmesan around the edge of the plate and I could’ve eaten that straight out of a bowl. Everything about this was perfect, and I was so sad that I was too full to finish it! 😦 We of course had to end the afternoon with a delicious chocolate gelato pop from a cute place on the street, where all the pops are “senza glutine”!

For dinner that night back on the ship, I got vegetable spring rolls and seared tuna as appetizers (two appetizers is a necessity on cruise ships), veal parmesan with spaghetti as my entree, and of course, chocolate melting cake for dessert! It was all delicious, except the seared tuna was a tiny bit bland.

Next day: Naples. We did a scenic drive of the Amalfi Coast and spent about an hour and a half (which was definitely not enough time) in Sorrento.

This was also a really pretty town! Now, we knew with only an hour and a half, eating somewhere would eat up (haha) most of our time. But we were in Europe, so we were going to eat. So we went to Ristorante Tasso for some gluten free pizza! I got the Calabrese pizza, which had tomato sauce, mozzarella, and spicy salami. It was so good! A little soggy, so I had to eat it with a fork and knife, but undeniably amazing. I didn’t finish it, but I brought it with me and finished it in the cruise terminal, where I also bought a cappuccino and a bag of gluten free Italian pasta to bring home! We also of course got more chocolate gelato while we were in Sorrento.

Dinner that night I was a little wild. As my first appetizer, I got braised ox tongue. Sounds gross, I know, but it was actually really tasty! The sauce was ridiculously flavorful. My other app was broccoli cheese soup, which was amazing. Closest I’ve ever gotten to Panera’s broccoli cheddar soup, so I was very happy. My entree was salmon cakes, which were very tasty and herby, and a s’mores parfait for dessert, which was more like just a glass of chocolate mousse and marshmallow. That night we also enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the ship!

Next up was Rome, the crazy busy day. Rome was not our favorite place. Don’t get me wrong, it was beautiful and the sights were amazing, we just didn’t really get a chance to enjoy it because we were rushed way too fast through it all. We saw the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Coloseum. It was just a lot to do in such a short period of time, and we didn’t get enough time to appreciate it. For lunch, we went to Ristorante Naumachia, and I got a Caprese salad, which was very good. Not a lot of gluten free choices here, but we were pressed for time.

Dinner that night featured a cruise staple: escargot. Those delicious, buttery lil balls of flavor along with fried shrimp were my appetizers, and my entree was a seafood pasta dish with calamari, salmon, mussels, scallops, and shrimp. For dessert I ordered cheesecake, but instead I was given bananas and strawberries in a caramel sauce (I thought they maybe couldn’t make the cheesecake gluten free for some reason).  I missed my cheesecake, but this was pretty good too.

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Stay with me here, only three more days to get through! The next day was Florence, which was the consensus favorite of the whole trip. Especially after being in such a hustle bustle type city like Rome, Florence was just calm and beautiful and relaxing. We did a little walking tour for about an hour, then we were off on our own to shop and wander. We went to lunch at a restaurant our tour guide recommended called Casa Toscano. I got GF penne with mushroom sauce and bacon. I was expecting a white or brown kind of sauce, so I was surprised when it was a tomato sauce. Either way, it was delicious! We spent the rest of our time just walking around and buying some souvenirs, and obviously eating more gelato.

When we were back on the ship and dinnertime rolled around, I got alligator fritters (may sound weird, but very delicious) and lobster bisque (WOW this was fantastic) as appetizers. For my entree, I got chicken cacciatore, which was pretty good but not great. For dessert, I got the melting cake, AND apparently the night before (when they brought out the wrong dessert to me) we had left before our waiter found my actual dessert.  He had brought my cheesecake out but we were gone! So he kept it in the refrigerator over night, and I got two desserts. 🙂

The next day we were in Marseille, France, and we did a bus tour with some free time to walk around. The town was beautiful; I really loved it. Again, I just wish we got to spend more time there! We didn’t end up eating lunch here; we just went back to the ship and I headed up to Cucina del Capitano for some GF spaghetti with pomodoro, grilled chicken, eggplant, onions, and peppers (the same thing I got on the first day at sea that I loved).

My appetizers at dinner that night were clam chowder and crab cakes, which were both amazing. Continuing with the seafood theme, I then got jumbo shrimp as my entree. And for dessert—surprise!—melting cake. (Why didn’t I take any pictures of my food this night???)

Our final cruise day was spent in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. This was the surprise stop, because we didn’t think we were going to love it as much as we did! It was really beautiful, and we had a great time just walking around town. We went to a restaurant called Sa Casa for lunch, which had gluten free items marked on the menu. This was a tapas restaurant, so we all shared what we got. My mom and I split the zucchini carpaccio and goat cheese salad, and I gave my dad’s chorizo and mussels a try. Everything was amazing! Palma turned out to be an awesome place.

For my last cruise dinner, I ordered frog legs and steamed mussels. It was my first experience with frog legs, and it was actually very good! For my entree, I got prime rib, which was so juicy and delicious. My last dessert of the cruise was carrot cake, which was kind of a toss up because I’d never had it before, but I loved it! I ended our last night off later with a piña colada and a comedy show.

We were so sad to wake up the next morning to have to get off the ship and get on our plane. But we had a short layover in London to hang out and eat lunch in the airport. With this came the challenge of finding something for me to eat. But there was a little cafe that had some pre-made meals, so I got mushroom risotto. It was surprisingly good for airport food! When we got on our plane to take us back to America, we also got a meal. This time we called far enough ahead to get me a gluten free meal, so I had chicken with gravy, potatoes, carrots and green beans, a salad with Italian dressing, a fruit cup, and a really super delicious and soft gluten free roll! My experience with airport and plane food was better than expected.

Overall, this was a seriously amazing trip. I am so thankful to have been able to have this incredible experience, and I hope I get a chance to go back at some point! Hopefully, if you’re ever visiting any of these fantastic places, I have given you some good options to try out and enjoy. 🙂

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Brick House

This past week was my brother’s 20th birthday (man he’s old). Every year for everyone’s birthday, the birthday boy/girl chooses their favorite restaurant and we go out to dinner. Unfortunately for Ryan and my parents, I’ve kind of limited their choices since they don’t really get to pick wherever they want—it has to have gluten free options. But that doesn’t mean we don’t go to some great restaurants!

brick house gluten free menu

This year Ryan picked the Brick House for his birthday dinner. I love the Brick House (their deviled eggs are heavenly, but we’ll get into that later), but I’ve had a couple issues with them lately. The past couple times I’ve been, they’ve messed up my order and given me something with gluten on my plate. Which then leads to me feeling very very bad about telling my waiter that they need to take my plate back and make me a new one, although I know it has to be done. I’ll talk more about the problems I’ve had a little later. They do have a separate gluten free menu, which has a decent number of options, ranging from appetizers to salads to entrees to sides. They don’t have any dessert listed, but they do have ice cream, which is always a good end to a meal!

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Every time I go to Brick House, I must get the deviled eggs. They are amazing. Even if my parents go here without me, I always make them bring me back an order of deviled eggs. They’ve got bacon and green onions and paprika on them, and how could anyone say no to that? I could eat a million of these if I had an endless supply, but unfortunately they only give me six of them. 😦

brick house gluten free entrees

I’ve tried a bunch of Brick House’s entrees. I’ll start with the picture in the top left corner. This is what I got when we went for Ryan’s birthday, because I wanted to try something different than what I usually get. This is the Black Rum BBQ Salmon. I actually don’t love barbecue sauce that much, which would probably make you question why I would order this, but I did enjoy it! Confession: I may have just ordered this because it came with potato salad and I love potato salad with all my heart. And this potato salad was great! Only comment: I think the potatoes could’ve been cooked a little more, because they were a little bit hard for my taste. Moving on to the bottom left pic, the Drunken Chops. I’m usually not a meat person, but I wanted to give these pork chops a try. And I’m glad I did, because they were great! Very well cooked, very delicious sauce, amazing mashed potatoes. It was just wonderful! Next, top right pic, Grilled Mahi Mahi. This is where my problems occurred. I love this dish; the fish is great and I love love love the little remoulade sauce it comes with. But multiple times I ordered this, even when I specifically mentioned that I was ordering off the GF menu and have a gluten allergy, they served me a side salad with croutons on it. Which, of course, since the croutons are on the plate with the fish, meant I have to get a whole new plate made. Well, one time when I sent it back for a new one, the new piece of fish had a large piece of plastic stuck to it. Now this isn’t a gluten problem, this is a general culinary problem. You shouldn’t serve someone a dish with a hunk of plastic on it. This made me so sad because I love this meal so much, and they messed it up for me numerous times. Finally, bottom right pic, Filet Mignon Salad. This wasn’t my meal—my aunt ordered it and allowed me to try it—but from what I tasted it was very good! She ordered it with a side of bleu cheese, which I don’t love, but she said it was great!

Brick House has 26 locations in Ohio, New York, Texas, Missouri, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and of course New Jersey. I may have had my issues here, but it’s still a great restaurant and have been very understanding and gracious when fixing what was done wrong (and I’ve never actually gotten sick after eating here, so they have done a good job of making sure that the meal I eventually got was gluten free). I think it’s worth giving a chance because the food is genuinely delicious, just make sure you make it very very clear that you are gluten free/have gluten allergy!

My Favorite Gluten Free Spots in NYC

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On Sunday, my dad and I went to New York City to visit the Museum of Modern Art. After we made our way through all six floors (a lot of walking, but very fun!), we had to figure out where to go to eat. That’s when we whipped out our trusty Find Me Gluten Free app, and discovered The Little Beet. And man this was a great discovery!

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The best thing about this place is that it isn’t just a restaurant that has some gluten free options. It is an entirely gluten free establishment. Every single thing that they make is gluten free. No chance of cross contamination. It’s fantastic. So let’s get to the food; I got the Banh Mi Roll, which was kind of like a giant sushi roll that you eat like a burrito. It has shredded chicken, scallions, avocado, cilantro, asian slaw, and brown rice all wrapped inside nori (aka seaweed), and served with chipotle aioli (yum) and ponzu sauce. I loved this thing—it was so delicious! I got it with a side of the Southwest Millet, which made me discover that I really like millet. This was so so good, it had tomato, avocado, onion, garlic, and jalapeño in it. My dad got the Create Your Own Plate, and got salmon with quinoa and butternut squash. Whatever they marinate that salmon in is fantastic. The edges were crispy and it was so yummy! The quinoa was also very good (if you’re wondering why its red it’s because it has beets in it), and the butternut squash was also great. I didn’t think I even liked butternut squash, but with the apples and cinnamon it was delicious! He also got the Cauliflower Leek soup, which was very reminiscent of Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar soup which is not gluten free, so it’s nice to have something that reminds me of it. I also had a Snickerdoodle cookie, which was probably the size of three regular size cookies. It was good—not necessarily great, but good.

Time for my next favorite NYC restaurant: S’MAC! How can a person say no to an entire restaurant dedicated to mac and cheese?? All of the twelve (yes twelve) types of mac and cheese can be made with gluten free pasta and gluten free breadcrumbs. Is this heaven or what???

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My very favorite is the Buffalo Chicken. It is made with Cheddar & American cheeses with chunks of boneless chicken and buffalo wing sauce. Anything buffalo chicken is instantly appealing to me, so buffalo chicken mac and cheese? My mouth is watering just thinking about it! This is pretty much always my go-to, but one time I decided to switch it up and get the Napoletana. This one is made with fresh Mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, and fresh basil. It’s basically pizza mac and cheese, and how could that not be good?

Well, right now, these are my two favorite gluten free NYC restaurants, but I’m sure my list will be growing in the future! Do you have a favorite restaurant in NYC to add to my list? Let me know in the comments!

Links to The Little Beet menu and S’MAC menu

P.S.- I hope everyone has a very happy New Year! 😀🎉