Monday, March 31, 2014

Ethan Gave Me A Sample of Soul Food At The Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event

I know you all were expecting a recap of the Charlotte Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event since it was absolutely AMAZING! There is so much info being collected from it and still re-posting that we actually are trending on Twitter as a suggestion! That probably doesn't mean anything to you if you don't use Twitter - But let's just say, the day had a tremendous impact.
To illustrate the impact our events have, I want to tell you just one story out of many...*warning: Get your tissues*
Meet Ethan...

Ethan & his sister

I met Ethan and his family at the first Charlotte Glutenfree Expo in 2009. Ethan has Ichthyosis, a rare genetic skin disorder.The word ichthyosis comes from the Ancient Greek (ichthys), meaning "fish." The severity of symptoms can vary enormously, from the mildest, most common, type such as ichthyosis vulgaris which may be mistaken for normal dry skin up to life-threatening conditions such as harlequin type ichthyosis. I do not know how severe Ethan's situation is right now, but when I met he and his mother, Ethan was struggling.

They came to the event and I remember seeking them out since his mother, Erin, and I had corresponded. Erin is like most advocate mothers who fight for their children, she is a mother challenged to make life normal. She also is involved heavily in a support group for Ichthyosis children and their families. To read their struggles breaks my heart, and yet I love all the positive energy Erin gives through her FB. She conveys that constant positive energy for Ethan which is worth major kudos alone.

That first event, I found Ethan half way through the vendor hall and I remember me asking him how he was, and he responded, "Miss Nikki, I am full already and I am really sad about it." 
That's it - I was hooked, line and sinker, into adoring Ethan and reaching out to children and making our events a safe place for them. You see, your heart would melt too if you knew how many of the top 8 allergens he must avoid, or else suffer a possible flare up. The simple fact Ethan was full was wonderful in itself.

Even when I feel like I am too exhausted or can't chew another serving I have heaped on my plate, the children give me strength. Being a support group leader for R.O.C.K. (Raising Our Celiac Kids) has been a joy many multitudes of times over. I am extremely honored to have been able to touch young minds that are eager to learn how to stay healthier. Now that we travel doing events, my heart is touched in each city in some way. These food allergy children have become my soul food that sustains me through extreme exhaustion like never before. 

It dawned on me, as I watched children during the Charlotte Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event on Saturday, that I have been blessed to have been a part of the growing process and journey to wellness for many children that I have never even met. And that equally, I had met allies to me as a mother in cities across the nation who were meeting the challenge to advocate for their children's health as well. It is innate that as mothers, we need to feel that we can safely feed our families.

Back to Ethan...Erin messaged to thank me on my FB because they had a wonderful time at the event and I didn't get to see Ethan this year. :-( It was the evening after the event, and with only 5 hours sleep in two days, my back hurting, and my feet feeling like chewed off nubs...I read the following and commented:
Erin: Missed seeing you... Think you were in a session. The venue was the best yet! There were so many new yummy things to try. The kids' room was an absolute hit! Thanks so much for all you do!

  • You  like this.
  • Nikki Everett Awww Erin ~ I missed seeing you and Ethan! I looked for you too. He always makes me smile. Thank you for coming to the show and for supporting all our efforts. Big hugs to all of you 
  • Erin: He was so funny today... He wore his pants with the most pockets in case he needed more space for samples. He pigged out and was actually full for once. I think this was by far the best expo yet. I'd love to see it held there again next year!
    March 29 at 10:02pm
  • Nikki Everett That is the best compliment anyone ever gave me, tell him I said thank you please. LOL pockets for extra samples. awwwwww! That is adorable! Can I quote him?
  • Erin: Absolutely . He'd love it!
March 29 at 10:29pm 
March 29 at 10:29pm 

I looked at that post for a minute, sat back in my hotel swivel chair and was suddenly overwhelmed. My heart felt so full, I thought my chest would burst. Tears started streaming down my face, and I immediately sent an email to my father to tell him how wonderful Ethan's gift of simply thinking to wear more pockets and being that excited for an event was. How...because of Ethan, I would walk through fire as if he were my own. And lastly, that no amount of praise ever feels as good as it does to know that Ethan is a part of my life now and is happy to spend time with us to share his beautiful smile.

Thank you Ethan. You make me a better person.

~Miss Nikki

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Scouting out Allergy Free Roads ~ Part II: Meet Me in St. Louis, the Gateway to Gluten Free

If you remember Beth's Part I of her adventure from Nashville - St. Louis down allergy free back roads, she was about to enter the Gateway city of St. Louis, MO...

St. Louis MO Arch
Starting off with my normal Whole Foods Market exploration, I navigated through several small neighborhoods in search for that healthy pulse.  Dierbergs grocery and Schnucks markets offered wide selections of gluten free products. 

Of course I had to make my way to Anheuser-Busch.  “When in Rome…right?!”  Despite my efforts to track down the production details of their Redbridge gluten free beer, the tour guides said, the gluten free production line was not on the normal brewery tour.  One can hope!  Maybe my suggestions will be noted by the A-B family?  I did learn that Stella Artois and Michelob Ultra both produced a gluten free cider.  

Anheuser Busch Tour Center, St. Louis MO

A cute little bakery stop on the backroads was Whisk - A Sustainable Bakeshop.  Some wonderfully delicious gluten free baked goods and macaroons in a very relaxing and welcome setting.  

Whisk, St. Louis MO

Much to my surprise, I had yet to try any Mexican food on my travels at this point, so when I drove past a hip, vibrant looking place called Gringo, I had to stop and take a "look-see-taste"   Delicious, hot, fresh chicken tortilla soup with homemade corn tortillas and excellent service!  I had the lunch special which included soup and two corn tortilla tacos - I chose the Al Pastor -slow roasted pulled pork, pineapple, red chiles, grilled red onion and also a Chicken Tinga - slow-braised chicken in tinga sauce (roasted tomato, chipotle, garlic), guacamole, cilantro and onion.

Gringo, St. Louis MO

Dinner was a simple yet sophisticated spinach salad back at the hotel.  Had to save up for my much-anticipated big gluten free crepe breakfast at the City Coffeehouse and Creperie!

Gringo, St. Louis MO

Enter the crepes….  100% organic, gluten free, buckwheat batter.  And boy was this place hoppinat 8am!   So many to choose from too, savory or sweet?  That would be my toughest decision of the day!  The Santa Fe it was - chorizo, pepperjack, avocado, tomato, cilantro, red onion, fresh spinach with Juan's house-made rojo sauce topped with avocado-sour cream sauce.  Im here to say that not only was the crepe so delicate and amazing, but Juan makes some darn good sauce!  Gracias.

6 North was a quick coffee stop, but they offered a wide range of gluten free options and the staff was very knowledgeable about those choices.

And now for my Jackpot Jewel of Midwest gluten free thus far, I proudly introduce New Day Gluten Free  It truly is a cornerstone of the gluten free community in St. Louis and I had the honor to speak with Chef/Owner, Kelly Beck.  From the time they purchased the location (previously a gluten free kitchen, coincidentally named, Becks (Kellys last name!)  Serendipity!) it was meant to be for Kelly to connect with her community, share her story and help literally thousands of people who come through her doors.  I loved their travel map, with pinned visitors from all 50 states, even world-wide!  
If you are looking for ANYTHING gluten free in St. Louis, this is your spot.  

New Day, St Louis, MO

Although I could carry on and on about more stops, delightful visits and fascinating conversations, Ill wrap it up here, gluten free style, and say thanks for joining me on this virtual tour down the gluten & allergy-free backroads, USA. Thanks to everyone who helped make my journey a bit more tasty and tantalizingly exciting.  
Until our next road trip adventure….

Cheers and Bon Appetit!


Beth Mincher is the Assistant Director of Events for Echo Event Solutions and a certified holistic health coach.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Leaving Gluten Free Flat Lands for Higher Ground ~ North Carolina's High Country & the Blue Ridge Part I

We moved out of my familiar home town on Lake Norman to the mountains of NC almost 3 years ago. It had always been my desire to live in this incredibly beautiful place since I was a child. We would take family trips here every year, exploring some place deep in the Appalachians. For a time, my then, hippie parents, brought us here to attend Bluegrass festivals and ride trail bikes up fire trails that wind up the rocky mountain sides and then camp under the stars.

The New River curling between NC and VA

Later in my teens and twenties, my mother would always rent a cabin on some secluded property in the summer to escape the heat, and the family would all relax, read, play cards, ride horses, just enjoy nature. Only a couple of hours drive up the interstate and we would be thrust into slow motion and able to appreciate the pace for a few days.

We moved into a quaint little mountain cottage that sits just a few miles from the New River. You may not remember Bill Clinton and Al Gore naming the New River a national treasure, but they did. It is most famous for its draw to people who want to canoe, kayak or lazily float along on inner tubes. Full of biological diversity it is common to see wild turkey roaming in the pasture across from my house, a beaver jumping into a clear mountain creek running by the road, and some deer grazing on the tender grass at sunset. You might even get lucky and see a black bear like I did last spring, but that’s another mountain story I’ll save for a later date…back to the subject…

New River Falls

Namely, was I thinking about what a challenge it might be to step out of the safety net of the big city and raise my daughter gluten free? Although we all love our mountain home, rural living has a price tag named convenience. There are no quick jaunts to a store for some gluten free bread unless you think an hour drive is quick. There are no franchises like Outback, P.F. Chang’s, gracing strip malls around the corner.

Wild Woody’s is a Campground/Record Store/Ice Cream Store/and Local hangout. The owner told us she has been hit by lightning twice. Make note to not stand by her during a thunderstorm.

I know you are thinking, were you crazy? You chose to make it tougher on yourselves? Well, in a word, yes. Thirty-five mountain miles take a whole lot more time to travel than on flat land, so we have learned to cook more, eat out less, and plan ahead when shopping. But there are always times we get a bit adventurous and try to find options while out and about travelling around the mountains to hike in a national park, play Bluegrass at a festival, or just get out and explore.

My daughter playing mandolin at Fries Virginia Bluegrass festival

Laurel Springs NC 

Home of the New River, this unincorporated community lies in the most rural county in the state of NC – Only 20 people per sq. mile inhabit the beautiful pastoral community right off Blue Ridge Parkway right below the Virginia state line. There aren’t many restaurants here unless they are country cooking diners or BBQ. But where you look hard enough, you can find people who care because they are used to helping one another up here in the woods.

Motley’s BBQ

The only restaurant close to the New River State Park that really takes extreme care with GF. You’ll miss this tiny little house looking restaurant sitting on a knoll if you even blink your eyes though. It is as casual as casual gets with BBQ served up on Styrofoam plates. But that only adds to the Diner feel of a down home place.

Just like most BBQ, it is naturally gluten free, unless their sauce or contamination happen. We have never had an issue yet at Motley’s and eat there regularly. We simply stated no wheat and to be careful, and they are. Once you eat there a couple times, this family owned business will know who you are by face. And extremely affordable! pulled pork plates starting at $6.95!

Sparta NC

The Family Fun Center attached to River Rock Grill, Sparta NC

River Rock Grill
You might drive up by GPS and think it has taken you to the wrong place again unless you see the sign for River Rock Grill. Why? Because unless you know it is behind the Bowling Alley called The Family Fun Center, you might be confused.

It is the only restaurant in Sparta that will care enough to prepare what you want if possible. They specialize in burgers made with Grass Fed Beef from the local farmers. Bring your own GF bun and they will be sure your burger patty and fixings are safe. 

West Jefferson, NC

Tucked between sloping mountains in the heart of Ashe County, known for Christmas trees, pretty views, and rural life. Ashe County Cheese factory is here and gives a great tour. Christmas In July is a festival that is worth a trip to visit as well.

Hillbilly Grill ambiance with moose head, barn walls, and locals eating/The paper bag memorials

Hillbilly Grill

Didn't your mama ever tell you to start your day off with a good breakfast? This unlikely little restaurant is not only excellent on service, but character for miles! Be sure to note that you are supposed to draw a keepsake on your paper bag that wrapped your silverware so they can display it on the walls made from a local barn’s wood. Note: Be sure to ask them to cook home fries and bacon on grill rather than fried.

Orange Glazed Sesame Chicken, Osaka, West Jefferson NC

Osaka - (no web site)1400 Mount Jefferson Rd , West Jefferson, NC 28694

What a surprise to find a gluten free menu in a small town with 2 stoplights! A Japanese/Chinese mixture of items on the menu and tucked away between a Cato’s Fashion and Fed Ex in a strip mall. Their food was good and my daughter was delighted they had GF Egg Drop Soup and GF Fried Rice!

Boondock’s Brewing Tap Room & Restaurant – Fast casual restaurant in the quaint Christmas tree town at the foot of Mt Jefferson. Like all fast casual that makes it in rural areas here, the fare is predictable at first glance to the menu. No restaurants seem to be in Ashe County without serving either home cooking or pub fare. Chicken wings, burgers, and fried mozzarella are staples. But if you look at the entrees, you might find some surprising dishes.

There's also a little coffee shop tucked on the back street that sells some gluten free muffins made by a sweet lady I know. The name of it is West Jefferson Coffee House

Main Street better known as King St., Boone, NC

Boone NC

Three days a week, I drive around winding mountain roads into Boone, NC to work at a hair salon. Boone is like a smaller version of Asheville, NC. If you don’t know what Asheville is like, well, lots of very artsy, hipster kids with beards, long hair, and the occasional dreadlocks, lots of piercings, tattoos, and generally a progressive West Coast type mentality rather than the average conservative mountain towns. Appalachian State University is the main inhabitant making the town very diversified. When I want to treat my kid to some good gluten free food, we sometimes ride into Boone and visit some of their best options.

In the morning, you can go to Boone Bagelry and get gluten free omelets, home fried potatoes and gluten free bagels. Feel like eating in your pajamas? Have them deliver it!

On Left: Greek Omelet with black olives, tomato, onion, and feta cheese On Right: Omelet with Spinach, onion, goat cheese and mushrooms - Both with home fries and GF everything bagels from Boone Bagelry

Or, you can feast on some great vegan gluten free breakfast , lunch, & dinner options from Hob Knob Café. You can’t miss the building, it is designed like a barn. Their mission to serve local and organic on top of it all makes their restaurant have that granola-crunchy feel that I love about Boone. They access their own farm and local farms for supplies.

Vegan & Gluten Free Hob Knob

F.A.R.M. Café is located on King Street, the Main Street of Boone. They get my favorite vote because they are one of a hand full of restaurants nationally that put their money back into the community. F.A.R.M. stands for “Feed All Regardless of Means”

F.A.R.M. Cafe is a non-profit, pay-what-you-can community kitchen that builds a healthy and inclusive community. They provide high quality and delicious meals produced from local sources when available, served in a restaurant where everybody eats, regardless of means. With a 90% volunteer staff, anyone can work an hour in the cafe in exchange for a meal. In addition to their volunteers, they have "pay-it-forward" patrons who pay more than the suggested donation for their meal, which helps cover the cost of those who cannot pay at all.

Fish Tacos at F.A.R.M. Café

They state they are “proud to be a part of the One World Everybody Eats Movement. This movement includes more than 30 community cafes around the country and persists through the efforts of numerous individuals, businesses, and communities.

How could anyone be surprised that they would care to offer options every day that are gluten free, dairy free, vegan, etc.? You walk into the historic old soda shop turned into their diner and a board greets you with the day’s selections.
Below is a sample of their menu:

Five Spice Carrot Soup (Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan)
Moroccan Spiced Chicken
Basmati Rice with Lentils (Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan)
Roasted Potatoes and Mixed Vegetables (Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan)
Mixed Green Salad (Vegan, Gluten Free, Dairy Free)
Chef’s Select Dessert

Taco Deluxe with Tilapia Coyote Kitchen

Coyote Kitchen – Self-described as Southwest Caribbean Soul Food, this tiny little place has some great options for gluten and allergy free, or they can accommodate special requests. Their soup of the day was a Creamy tomato soup, and GF?!? With a grilled cheese?!? Oh, yes please!


Filet at Joy Bistro

Joy Bistro

Now this menu alone makes my mouth water! Organic, gourmet, seasonal, and farm to table?! I have died and gone to foodie heaven wrapped in Steampunk ambiance. Fine Dining options that are definitely worthy of a date night or special occasion

Come Back Shack – Nutella Shake!?! Do I even care what else is on the menu?

Cobo Filet Brunch plate

Cobo Sushi Bar – Any sushi place that has nothing but Caucasian sushi chefs behind the bar makes it seem strange. No racial undertones here, but it feels like a college hang out pretending to be a sushi bar. My coworkers love it, but I wasn’t as impressed. Their GF selection is really slim which is disappointing and hard to understand when they should have more options in sushi, which is SO easy to make gluten free!

Casa Rustica

Casa Rustica Italian American is their claim and their menu is filled with tantalizing options that are either gluten free already or can be done so easily. The atmosphere is rustic in feel with beadboard walls stained dark and a cozy fireplace to warm you on a chilly evening. Granted, this is on the higher end price wise. But, gluten free pasta is available for all dishes – That’s Amore!

The food truly is amazing ~ Casa Rustica

Burger & Homemade Chips at Pepper’s

Pepper's Family style restaurant in a shopping center doesn’t sound all that stellar right? Well, what if I told you that all their burger meat is local grass fed? And what if I said they have Gluten free buns and bread for their sandwiches/burgers? Their fries are gluten free, and their Reuben is the BOMB! I have your interest piqued and your taste buds quivering now, I am sure.

Char – The first thing you may notice as you step up the stairs into what looks like the back of a main street store, is a sticker on the door that says Gluten Free certified. I was really glad to see that little sticker staring back at me in the glass door, but it did not clarify which program they used to train. Either way, they were very knowledgeable and at ease serving me.

The food is a tad overpriced, but was decent. I decided on the Black and Bleu $12 Romaine & spinach topped with blackened flat iron steak rare, red onions, granny smith apples & candied pecans. It was grilled perfectly rare, so my craving was sated.

That concludes Part 1 of our adventure. Stay tuned because I have plenty more High Country to explore like Blowing Rock and the ski slope areas. Until then, take care and y'all come back now, ya hear! ~ Nikki

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Learning To Balance On The Thin Line Between Food Allergy Advocacy & Hate

Because I am on the road all of the time testing out new places and sometimes dragging my daughter along, we have to be willing to subject ourselves time and again with some extremely frustrating situations. I mean everything, from the blank stare, or asking us back if we meant white bread, to the answer, “You mean sugar free?”

Oh, and there was the time the old man snarled back to my query, “We have nothing gluten free!”, while standing in front of a bag of Lay's chips and a cooler full of Blue Bell ice cream like some gluten free name it.

Just so you know, I had a rare moment and lost my cool on the old man standing behind the lunch counter.
I marched out with my daughter in tow as I yelled, "How rude!" and exited.
My face was burning hot and I thought to myself, as I took deep breaths, that I better not have a heart attack in front of the old coot's place and give him the satisfaction of winning.

Within minutes, I felt completely better after we walked into the BBQ restaurant in town. The place looks like a retro diner and is run by a very flamboyant manager with a Virginia mountain accent.

He proceeded to tell me in a low voice, "Honey, I never go in there because that man is a bigot and an asshole." Imagine that comment with a lisp and a mountain drawl and you have it down pat. My daughter and I laughed all the way home but we were still irked by the man in the café who was so rude.

Clearly, the more that the gluten free diet becomes a trend, people start taking pot shots at it and getting annoyed. This makes remaining positive and steadfast, on the advocacy end, even more vital. Even though I consider myself an advocate, being an advocate means finding a balance between walking away and making a complete ass of myself in the situation. I usually assess it on a case by case basis of picking my battles wisely and seeing them as a negotiation instead of a battle. It isn't going to do the celiac community, or my daughter, any favors to become the crazy ranting mother. Doing so will only perpetuate this crazy hatred we are feeling from some of the public.

We have to also own our own anger as a community. The grieving process causes anger as a part of our loss anyway. We can choose to remain angry or use that same energy and propel it to making positive influence over the negative.

Be aware that as you rant on a blog or commentary, you are setting the example of how the world will perceive us. Too many blogs and online journals are using anger and fear to sell themselves and the response is jaw-dropping. Negativity spreads like cancer and appears to be popular by the sheer numbers of responses. We have to realize the people writing them are just pushing buttons that make the anger response come out. 

Our children are watching us and how we react. We can sow the seeds of change for them or make their struggle harder. I chose to sow seeds to empower them.

Some Positive Advocacy Tips
1. Have patience. We have all grown to be our own advocates because the world is so behind where we are in our learning curve.

2. Be polite and appreciative. Try to approach it with a request and not a demand. I don't know about you, but I am grateful when someone takes the time and energy to make sure we are safe.

3. If someone can accommodate us or not, the tact with which they handle us goes a long way. If I feel slighted, I try to handle it professionally and tell them thank you with a hand shake if possible. Clearly, I failed miserably with the old coot above and that’s OK, since we are all human.

4. If we are told that they have gluten free food but do not recommend it for celiacs, we politely thank them and explain that we feel it is not ethically right for them to claim anything is gluten free if it is not. This applies for those who put disclaimers and do not offer assurances of ANY safety practices.

5. If my daughter becomes ill from eating, I call the manager and politely tell him what has occurred and that I want him to be aware. Their response will either assure me, or tell me everything I need to know about their policies. Dedication & passion shine through every time.

6. We leave without a fuss and use social media as our last recourse due to the damage it can inflict and how the rest of the world will view the celiac community. Right now many have unfortunately developed this sense that we are like spoiled children throwing fits.

7. We return to places that accommodate us well and support them.


Thursday, March 6, 2014

Scouting out Allergy Free Roads ~ Part I: Gluten Free Country Music City

Dreams really do come true. As far as I can remember as a kid, I loved to travel.
I wanted to be a travel writer when I grew up.  Here I am, 37 years later, all grown up (well, thats debatable!) and I'm finally able to share my first real travel blog post. Its never too late to start, right?

My name is Beth, Im the Assistant Director of Events for Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Events and a certified holistic health coach and essential oils educator.  I had the good fortune of meeting Nikki Everett a few years ago in Houston, Texas when I was managing Gluten Free Houston (now Gluten Free Nation).  Throughout the years, we have continued to share our mutual love of travel, helping people and educating people in the area of gluten free lifestyles. 

New Day Bakery in St. Louis, MO

What better way to educate, than to invite people to experience food and wellness through your own travels? Today Id like to take you down some gluten & allergy-free back roads that I had a chance to explore last week throughout Nashville, TN and St. Louis, MO.  The purpose of my trip was to meet local gluten free vendors, restaurants, companies, wellness practitioners, etc. and also to find a location for our upcoming GFAF Wellness Events in both cities.

Find out more about events in Nashville, Sat. April 26th and St. Louis, Sat. May 31st HERE

The hustle bustle of airport buzz, wondering where everyone is headed, the roaring of the airplane jet engines, the thought of adventure and embarking on personal unchartered territory. ah, travel.  When Im on the road, I feel at home.  My heart & soul comes alive with the anticipation of discovering new foods, talking to strangers and getting to know the character of a new town by hitting local watering holes and letting my GPS (a.k.a. Siri) be my guide. 

Downtown Nashville, TN

The first stop on our trip was Nashville, TN, The Music City.  Its also the state capitol of Tennessee and a center for the music, health care, publishing, banking and transportation industries, and home to a large number of colleges and universities.  This was my first time in Nashville, so I was super excited to don my cowboy boots, hit the ground running and explore the city!

When you only have 48 hours on the ground and tons of scouting to do, you have to make the most of your time.  I searched online for the best of gluten free Nashville.  My first stop being the local Whole Foods Market.  I feel that you can get a pretty good pulse of the health market by going straight to the core of local grocery/health food stores.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I had the pleasure to meet up here with two leading ladies from the CSA Nashville, Middle TennesseeCeliac Support Group.  (Gathering a strong task force on the ground for these events is a HUGE asset!  Thanks to Peggy and LeAnn for meeting with me on this trip!)

To spare yall with every single work detail, Ill jump into the mouth-watering and juicy tidbits of the trip.what youve all been waiting for.THE GRUB!  Heres a brief chronicle of my culinary journey through two major U.S. cities in 5 days.  

Monday Dinner:  Pinewood Social  33 Peabody St. Nashville **We have since found out that Pinewood Social may not cook chicken in separate fryer. We can not recommend it for those who need Gluten Free as a medical necessity and suggest you ask them before ordering**
Talk about a great tip-off from a local "in-the-know.  Missy from Lululemon Athletica, Green Hills, mentioned that Pinewood Social offered gluten free fried chicken.  Check!  I had to see & taste for myself.

As I entered Pinewood Social, I felt a pleasant slow down in time.  A social gathering place, comfortable and welcoming.  Beautiful copper bar.  Hipster trendy meets classic vintage. 
The bartenders hand-chiseled ice for their signature libations from a 300 pound block of ice.
The dinner menu was so extensive, it was hard to decide what to order.first. Of course I was planning my courses around the ultimate fulfillment of the much acclaimed fried chicken.
I decided to start with the fried broccoli.  Why not keep everything fried for good measure, right?  The bartender told me they used dedicated fryers for their gluten free items and they also paid close attention to customers health concerns and handled each situation individually with care.”  Thumbs up!

The broccoli was not breaded, just flash-fried to perfection with some lemon zest, sea salt and a delightful accompaniment of almond, garlic aoili.   

Licking my lips, and wondering if I could get away with licking the bowl and not being too conspicuous, I eagerly awaited the arrival of my fried chicken.  The gluten free fried chicken had a batter made with rice flour and was every bit as good, no wait, Id say even BETTER than any non-gluten free fried chicken I remember tasting in my pre-allergy days.  Golden brown, crispy on the outside and bursting with moist, juicy flavor as you grabbed each piece with your fingers, napkin tucked into shirt, ready to devour the feast like it was your job! Wait! This IS my job. Im one lucky gal.  I as I type this now, I can taste the wonderful flavors again.  

Although dessert sounded tempting, I had to stop at savory.  I give credit to the manager and staff as well, who were very knowledgeable about dietary needs and requests.  They were very interested in my work and extremely attentive to my questions and investigative reporting.  After a hard-to-beat, first night dinner in Nashville, it was time to roll myself back to the hotel for the night.

Tuesday morning I was ready to find a great little coffee shop en route to my appointments.  
I stumbled upon a place called Eighthand Roast. 
Coffee. Inspired.  I like that. And I did inspiration.  This place is a craft roaster, serving only single cup brews from small estates and small co-operative grown farms.  I opted for a cup of hand-poured Panamanian, with a hint of strawberry essence and a smooth, light finish.  They had a small shelf of locally produced gluten free baked goods and products:  

Vegan Vee -  Made from scratch with local & organic products when possible.  The Milk Barn - gluten free muffins.  Grab The Gold - An amazing company story by founder/creator, Danielle Ontiveros - what an incredible and refreshing spirit Danielle is - I had the opportunity to speak with her while I was in town.  She definitely shares and promotes the high energy, healthy vibe that Nashville is radiating!
Check out her story here:
(BTW, Grab the Gold is a confirmed vendor at the Nashville show on April 26th!)

Moving on from the coffee shop, I stopped at The Urban Juicer, quite a busy place on 8th Ave. But that was just a quick pit stop for a cleansing raw juice en route to fill up my belly once again at the highly recommended and exquisitely inspirational lunch spot - A Matter of Taste  
They make their own bread there and boy is it delicious!  After much thought, I settled on the Mediterranean Vegetarian - A toasted gluten free sandwich with eggplant, roasted red pepper, sun dried tomato, freshly made pesto and feta cheese. Accompanied by a house caesar salad with, you guessed itgluten free croutons!  Score!  A real complete caesar salad - No subtractions!

At this point, youre thinkingman, Beth - how many pounds have you gained in just two days?! Well, fortunately I did manage to get in a good workout at the hotel each morning and a swim in the pool.  

Fast forward to dinner.  Caney Fork Restaurant    
Next to Opryland and close to my hotel. Not an advertised gluten freerestaurant, but what Ive found when youre traveling and intending to connect with like-minded folks, youre frequently drawn to those people and places by the forces that be.  Caney Fork is known for the Best Catfish and Best Ribs in Nashville, in a camp-style, fun setting - theres even a live catfish pond inside the restaurant.  They have a wide selection of wild game which caught my eye!  They were very accommodating to the gluten free diner, in fact, the kitchen manager came out to speak with me and to ensure that each item I ordered was cooked to my liking.  
I decided to try the Wild Boar “Phillyminus the bun.  I also asked the chef to let me sample one ground Elk patty which was out of this world!  Freshly ground elk meat, gently seasoned with some Cajun spice and a little dab of local honey.  Words cannot even describe..

Are you hungry yet?

Wednesday:  Last day in Nashville

Opted for the big lunch prior to my airport departure to St. Louis that afternoon.  On Tuesday I had found this great, relatively new Burger place in downtown Nashville, (Or as they say, “in the Gulch) called BurgerRepublic. Voted Best Burgers in Nashvilleby Zagat.  I happened to pass by their suburban location in Lenox and deemed it a must try.  They offer a gluten free burger bun, but since I was still so full from dinner the night before, I went bun-less.   Since my taste buds were in primal training mode, I felt compelled to order the Buy the Farmburger.  This was the burger extraordinaire - topped with smoked Gouda, fried organic egg, red pepper relish, apple wood bacon, lettuce, tomato and red onion.  Nom Nom!  And my favorite part - the decor - condiments were served in old army ammo canisters. Retro-coolness!

One last mention for Nashville was ThePfunky Griddle. 
Oh how I wish I had one more breakfast in Nashville!  This place is a complete fun food experience, where YOU are the chef and get to make your own pancakes right on your very own table griddle.  The have separate dedicated griddles for us gluten free folks and also package & sell their own pancake batter.  “White. Wheat or Gluten Free?”  I love it.  

*Sidenote - did you know that the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is Certified Gluten Free in ALL their restaurants? Wow! 

Stay tuned for Part II: The Gateway Arch