A Gluten Free Haven at Linn’s Restaurant.

During my time living up on the Central Coast of California in the Santa Ynez Valley, I always loved any chance I got to head to Cambria. Cambria is 30 miles north of San Luis Obispo, and 230 miles south from San Francisco. A humble, small town, Cambria is known for their stunning Moonstone Beach, as well as their annual Scarecrow Festival and a great Main Street drag of restaurants.

One of their dining staples is the absolute gem of a cafe, Linn’s. Linn’s Restaurant is known for their “Olallieberry”; a Youngberry crossed with a Loganberry. The primary fruit grown on their beautiful farm nearby, a Olallieberry tastes similar to the Knotts’ famous Boysenberry, or blackberry. While very tart, it did not provoke any crazy  “lip smacking” and was a great sweet treat…on the MANY dishes I recently got to experience on a visit to Linn’s!

Heading in on a rainy Sunday, we were quickly greeted by our Hostess, Kim and while the place was bustling, she assured us it would be less than a 20 minute wait. We were so engrossed with their bakery and gift shoppe that it felt more like a 5 minute wait. All decked out and ready for the holidays, Linn’s shoppe may not be ample, yet, they manage to have enough variety and beautiful adornments that you feel inside a proper department store.

Just a glimpse of their gift shoppe.

 

Gluten Free Olallieberry Muffin

We were soon escorted to our cozy corner table with a great window view of the rain coming down and the locals enjoying a stroll under their umbrellas. Mr. Linn himself, Aaron, soon came over to greet us and was an absolute delight to chat with. A Cambria native, The Linn’s have been operating their restaurant and farm since the 1980’s. If you want to know anything about Cambria and their townspeople, go have a chat with Aaron and he can fill you in on the what/where/when of the town. Great guy!

They’re also not shy to encourage you to try the entire menu. I was very excited to head to Linn’s as nearly everything is gluten-free (or they will gladly assist you if an item is not). Aaron’s Mom has Celiac, so they know first hand the excitement  you feel when you hear “Olallieberry Chocolate Brownie Cake….Gluten Free” or, my personal favorite: warm bread baskets that are gluten-free brought to your table.

We began our food journey with one of their most famous appetizers, their Ocean Rose Farm Abalone. Having not recalled experiencing Albalone, I was anxious to see why this is such a special dish. One bite, and I knew. Locally sourced Albalone from nearby Cayucos is served with two hazelnut encrusted medallions, lemon-thyme beurre blanc and a decadent jicama-jalapeño slaw. While not a gluten-free dish, simply mention if you need it to be, and they adjust the encrusted medallions for you. Perfection!

Albalone.

Moon Stone Beach Omelette.
Photo: Michael Farah.

Hearst Ranch Hamburger.
Photo: Michael Farah.

With so much already having gone down (chats with the locals, gluten-free galore, great coffee, great atmosphere), it was time for Mike and I to make our big decision: Whats for lunch?! I decided to take advantage of a late breakfast (Weekends they serve it until 2pm, other days, 12p) and try one of their favorite omelettes, The Moon Stone Beach with an abundance of Shrimp, Dungeness crab, tomato, green onion, mushrooms and Swiss cheese. While Mike decided on an old reliable: their Hearst Ranch Beef Cheese Burger with fries.

The Moon Stone omelette was to die for. The seafood so fresh, I would imagine it could have been caught that morning, while the flavor combinations of the cheese and veggies enhanced it perfectly. Mike enjoyed his burger, and the presentation was gorgeous and made it hard to want to dig in (Just a little….).

We were very stuffed by the time we had many options for dessert coming our way….check out what Aaron and staff insisted we try….

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

See all this, folks? Mike and I were able to get it all down…and, as some of you know, I am a Type 1 Diabetic. I am pleased to say with the proper amount of insulin injections that day, I was able to keep my sugars in a  good range! I truly thought this could be my last supper. Death of a sugar rush. And, what a great last supper it would have been! 😉

First up, was that irresistible chocolate brownie concoction, followed by their famous Pecan Chew Cookie Delight with Linn’s Pecan Chew Cookie, Brazilian Coffee ice cream, house made caramel sauce, candied walnuts and just a little real whipped cream. Bravo!

 While I could continue to share my love for Linn’s, I will end here, and trust that you will do yourself a favor and head to Linn’s next time you are in Cambria. Learn more about them HERE and make sure to tell them Along Comes Mary sent you! xo
(*Disclosure: I was a guest of Linn’s Restaurant in exchange for this feature. All opinions are my own and it was a phenomenal experience!)

 

Weekend Getaway on a Budget to Chico, California! #TravelTuesday

At Chico State.

At Chico State.

While I am a City Girl, I could easily see myself retiring (or just moving if the chance came) to Chico, California. A college town loaded with laid back vibes, warm Summer nights and a strong community bond, Chico lays just under two hours out of Sacramento, and is your gateway to Mount Shasta and Redding (home of Turtle Bay and The Sundial Bridge).

Having visited a couple of times to see one of my best friends and her family, Chico is the kind of town with Farmer’s Markets throughout the week, live music in the park and locally grown fruits and vegetables. I love being surrounded by so much nature, and the opportunity to take a hike in Bidwell Park in the morning, then swim in one of the local lakes by the afternoon.

If you are in search of a fun and affordable California road trip, stopping in Chico just might be for you!

Dinner and drinks at Tres Hombres.

Dinner and drinks at Tres Hombres.

EAT

If you want the ultimate Mexican cocktail, head on over to Tres Hombres on Broadway Street. A secret menu item, their Avocado Margarita will have you drinking like a real 530 local. If just Mexican food is what’s more on your mind, Tres is a locals favorite. Just be warned: Their drinks sneak up on you!

For breakfast, the place to go is Morning Thunder Cafe. With massive, share-able portions, you can imagine my excitement that this Mom and Pop’s “greasy spoon” offers many gluten-free dishes, including gluten-free pancakes AND toast! I had their Vegetarian Omelette and, as usual….was a bit skeptical of cream cheese inside the entrée. This would be along with avocado atop, too (I know–I get excited to order avocado anything). I decided to not omit it and was happy I did not. Strange at first, but, went very well with the avocado and veggies.

While my meal was delicious, Eric, Ariel’s fiance, had a less than happy experience and was unsatisfied with his dish. The staff offered to change out his breakfast and while he declined, they did not charge us for his plate.

They also offer original and French Roast coffee. Mmmm…..

Morning Thunder is perfect for families and everyone in between!

Breakfast at Morning Thunder.

Breakfast at Morning Thunder.

And, we all know I can devour a pizza, and luckily Chico has one of my favorite pizza parlors. Woodstock Pizza always makes me think of “college life” as fellow student-ville San Luis Obispo has a location on their main drag, as well. Even Ariel did not think this pie “tasted” like it was gluten-free. Get there before you’re too hungry, though: As they get busy.

PLAY

If you’re wondering why I said Chico is ‘affordable’, their outdoor activities (especially in the Summer) are mostly free or affordable. Making it the perfect NorCal getaway for the camping loving family or the couple looking to bike around town and find some new hiking trails.

Bidwell Park

This 3,670-acre municipal park encompasses both sides of Big Chico Creek Canyon for a full five miles up into the foothills, making it a truly unique and spectacular retreat. There’s really no park like Bidwell anywhere else. The Lower Park gives you the option of swimming in ether the pool or one of the lakes, or head upward and hit their trails. I could spend every day of Summer here!

On their website, they list a total of 17 different trails from minor, easy trails to 10 mile and elaborate hikes. I like a challenge 😉

chico9

Paradise Lake.

In nearby Paradise (which feels a bit like the real thing to me, but, Ariel says it’s a play on words. Paradise used to be known for its gambling and casino community….get it, “Pair of Dice”??) spend the day fishing or reading a book at Paradise Lake in Magalia. Perfect for dogs, too!

Back on Broadway Street in Chico, no stop is complete without a visit to The National Yo Yo Museum. Yes, there is a National Yo Yo Museum, and its in Chico! You will easily see the most yo yo’s in your life. Plenty to buy, play with and even the largest anywhere. It’s about 5 feet tall!

If you are a BEER lover, Chico truly is for you. Sierra Nevada Brewery calls Chico home. While I have not visited the brewery, they do offer daily tours! Get more info HERE.

STAY

After countless adventures of food, hikes, water, bikes, beers and yo yo’s (Oh my!), head back to relax and freshen up at nearby Motel 6. Motel 6 is an oldie but a goody. Less than 3 miles from Chico State University, Motel 6 completes keeping this NorCal trip on a budget. Most rooms are under $100 a night, and boasts all the amenities you have come to expect when traveling.

My 1st Dutch Brothers coffee!

My 1st Dutch Brothers coffee!

GET YOUR COFFEE FIX….

Something in Northern California that is much like SoCal’s In ‘n Out Burger is Dutch Brothers Coffee. Having heard of this widely popular drive thru only coffee-house, Dutch Brothers has really made their fan base with remembering the ol’ reliable: Great customer service. The barista’s are FUN and were just as excited as I was that it was my first visit!  They gave me a frequent stamper card that just needed 1 more for a free drink. When I returned to use my card at the Paradise location, Kyle could not have been more sweet and gave us both our drinks for free!

And, was my iced triple shot latte as awesome as the people? Absolutely!

I could go on all day about Chico and its surrounding areas. Let me know if you get the chance to visit! xo

 

 

Lunch at Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern

Sometimes, you just have to sit back and remind yourself how lucky you are if you live in California. Our Spring has been absolutely gorgeous with flowers blooming, warm weather and plenty of sunshine. Its a regular round of “Zip A Dee Doo Dah” in Los Angeles…..

Hanging at The Village in Woodland Hills

Hanging at The Village in Woodland Hills

On one of these recent, gorgeous days, I was able to catch up with my friend, Jennifer from Real Mom of SFV. She invited me along to check out the grub and wines on tap at Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern at Westfield Topanga’s promenade, The Village.

Upon entering Jimmy’s, I was struck with how open and air-y the space was. Plenty of room,  patio and indoor dining, with a wide bar in the center, I knew this was my kind of place to get lunch and try  one of their wines on tap.

Jimmys1

Jimmys3

Despite it was just the 2 of us, most booths are wide and can easily sit up to 6 people. I decided to try their ’13 Simi Wines Sauvignon Blanc and it was the most refreshing, floral white I’ve had in a while. The nose on my glass when I first smelled was all PEARS!  Being one of my favorite fruits, I knew I was going to love it. While it would have been easy to enjoy this glass and keep ordering refills, I lingered with it and it paired perfectly with my dish.

The starters at Jimmy’s are enough to fill you up; from dips to calamari, they have several to choose from and have something for whatever you’re craving. Jen and I decided on their parmesan garlic fries. I am a huge fan of thick French fries, these were thin which I felt made it a bit more difficult to enjoy the array of cheese and spices on top of them. We paired them with their famous Chipotle sauce that has a BBQ sauce “punch” to it that we all know I love; not too spicy, either.

Jimmys2

Jimmys4

For our main courses, Jen was all about their JFAT Combo, which is a pretty great lunch that can easily be split into 2 meals; choosing their corn chowder or chili, tuna melt, American grilled cheese (with avocado and tomato) or the JFAT pastrami reuben and a side green salad and potato chips, Jen opted for the tuna melt and chowder, it looked like the perfect comfort food….

Me, on the other hand, was set to try their Grilled Apricot Chile Glazed Salmon Salad, until I saw their Red Snapper entree with a creole sauce boasting grilled, fresh shrimp on top. It was easily one of the best  sauces I’ve had yet on a seafood platter. My sides were rich, creamy mashed potatoes and green beans. I felt like I had left SoCal for the South! The snapper paired expertly well with my Sauvignon Blanc and I think I have a new favorite white fish.

Red Snapper Entree

Red Snapper Entree

Jen's JFAT Lunch Combo

Jen’s JFAT Lunch Combo

While Jen had heard a must-try is their ‘Bananageddeon’ dessert specialty, with fresh bananas, vanilla bean pastry cream, pecan blondie crumbles, butter pecan ice cream, salty rum-caramel sauce, candied pecans and whipped cream….we knew we’d had enough of a good thing and opted to rain check on that mouth-watering dish!

JImmy’s Famous American Tavern has locations throughout  SoCal ranging from Dana Point, Brea and, of course, my new favorite in Woodland Hills. They are also a great choice for weekend brunch and happy hour! Learn more HERE and hope to see you there soon. xo

(*Disclosure: I was a guest of Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern, thanks to Jennifer. All opinions are my own.)

Lunch at Mexicano LA!

Mex

What comes to mind when you think of Mexican food? If you’re like me, it might be chain restaurants and drive thru’s offering 99 cent tacos made in a nacho chip tortilla. While Mexican is easily my favorite kind of cuisine, I was introduced to it in the most authentic way possible this past weekend on behalf of a luncheon at Mexicano arranged by The International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association (IFWTWA).

Located in the heart of Los Angeles at The Baldwin Hills/Crenshaw Plaza, Owners/Chefs, Jaime and Ramiro expand their repertoire for a new audience and continue to redefine what many people think constitutes Mexican cuisine;  “When we create a dish, it is always rooted in our history,” Jaime says. “Perhaps it’s inspired by the tamales my grandmother used to cook every Sunday, or the way Ramiro’s mother would keep tortillas warm in a wicker basket when bringing them down to the river to her husband after he was done fishing.”

 

After years of cooking bold and traditional Mexican food together at La Casita Mexicana restaurant in Bell, California, Jaime Martin Del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu are affectionately known jointly as Jaime and Ramiro. Among some of the biggest stars in the Mexican cooking world, this wonderful duo has brought the authentic flavors and heirloom family recipes of their signature Los Angeles-area restaurant to Baldwin Hills.

Walking into Mexicano, I felt transformed to a beautiful and inviting cantina and fine diner, with the walls adorned with gorgeous, vibrant colors and paintings to ponder over as their friendly bar staff pour you on of their signature cocktails.

Starting out, I began with a Placero, which boasts lime, cactus syrup, chicharron, pork rinds(!) and for the alcohol of choice, Mezcal. I will admit, the pork rinds threw me! While I removed them right out, I do feel they, along with the chicharron, made the savory flavors this drink has. Upon first smell, it had a very strong leather-like scent yet it turned out to be quite satisfying. When I decided to try out a Anticuado, with Tequila, orange bitters agave, orange and lime zest, I was expecting a very Mary drink; citrus infused with a subtle taste of the tequila….folks? This drink will blow your socks off! The strong tequila along with the orange bitters make for a very intense drink.

Did you know crickets are also common on traditional margaritas?!

Did you know crickets are also common on traditional margaritas?!

As we moved on to a heavenly first course of appetizers Queso Fundido , Guacamole Al Tequila and Ceviche, I had to give in and find myself a chorizo free zone on the topped queso! I managed and it was absolute perfection; 3 traditional, Mexican queso cheese melted fondue style. It was very creamy, but not overly heavy.

Ceviche I had awhile back, and this dish made me wonder why I have not had it more often. With jalapeño peppers, carrots, onions, tomato and cilantro soaking in this bowl of raw white fish, this is the perfect lighter option to consider. And, as far as the guacamole…I must say…Jaime and Rimero are GENIUS to be so generous with the tequila! It added an extra “pop” to a well-balanced favorite, & made it go even further on the “Must have” list.

Guacamole & fresh hard corn tortillas

Guacamole & fresh hard corn tortillas

For lunch, I got to try their Shrimp Enchiladas, wrapped in fresh corn tortillas and covered in salsa verde. The salsa verde tasted fresh, and the tortillas warm and soft. Next up, they brought out their Valentina Shrimp. Prepared with an aromatic tomato sauce, it was a hard decision to try to decide if Valentina or the Al Mexcal Shrimp won my heart more. Cooked with sweet and sour orange, chile de árbol and agave, I felt this was slightly more compatible on my palette after the drinks & enchiladas I’d enjoyed.

Valentina Shrimp

Valentina Shrimp

And, what’s an authentic Mexican lunch without dessert?! Following all the countless plates of home-made goodness, we were treated to coffee with cinnamon, churros, 3 cheese flan and Grandma’s Rice Pudding. The rice pudding was flavored with caramel and  cinnamon, making me awfully tempted to pour some in my coffee, or the other way around.

As a huge lover of flan, this was definitely one of the best I’ve ever had; loaded with creamy, full flavored cheeses and covered in sauce, it melted in my mouth with subtle notes of vanilla.

Flan & rice pudding. Yum!

Flan & rice pudding. Yum!

I’m already planning a return visit to Mexicano. They’re located at 3650 West Martin Luther King Blvd, their web-site can be found HERE. xo

(*Disclosure: I am a proud member of The IFWTWA, who arranged this luncheon on behalf of a feature. All opinions are my own.)

A Day of Amy’s Gluten Free Cuisine!

Amy is like an old friend. I have been enjoying Amy’s All Natural Foods since I was 13, when I became a Vegetarian. She was also there for me when I decided to go gluten-free in 2009 to see if it would improve tummy aches & migraines. I never looked back & although I do now eat fish, still  definitely no other meat nor wheat/gluten for me (most of the time). I decided to try some newer additions to the Amy’s kitchen, as well as an old fave, & tell you how my breakfast, lunch & dinner were!;)

Tofu Scramble Breakfast Wrap: Garbanzo flour, sea salt, spices & (get ready…) organic HASH BROWNS! made this usually non-morning person anxious to greet the day! As a huge breakfast lover, I could easily have had 2. They would be great for lunch, as well.

Rice Mac ‘n Cheese: Such a convenient way to enjoy this comfort dish. I have taste-tested many GF macaroni & cheeses, with Amy’s frozen being among my favorite. Its creamy & the pasta is excellent. So easy to pop in the microwave for a complete lunch. It’s also now available GF and Vegan!;)

Rice Crust Cheese Pizza: Probably my favorite among the Amy’s items. I love the sauce & it cooks really well. I like that its rice-based as some corn-crusts I have tried seem to be flatter.

GF Chocolate Cake: One of their newest dishes, & this GF gal couldn’t be happier!;) Extra gooey. Extra chocolate-y. Extra YUM! The perfect dessert or special treat. I could see kids loving this, too.

Some really cool facts about Amy’s: NO meat, fish, poultry, eggs or peanuts are ever used in their foods. Making it perfect for those with allergen concerns or simply looking to cut certain things out of their diet.

It’s a family run business: After the birth of Amy in 1987, her parents founded this company with the intent of everything being vegetarian & organic. Along with their array of choices in your grocers freezer, you can also find pasta sauces, soups, chilis & beans!

A huge thank you to Amy’s for inviting me to review their meals! xo

*Disclosure: I was provided with coupons from Amy’s for complimentary meals to review.

So, whats for Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner?!

I have really gotten more into blogging & commiting to it thanks to my great friend & fellow Blogger, Jamie Gall, over at http://www.mngirlinla.com/ while with her over the weekend, she recommended I write a post devoted to just what exactly I do like to eat since I am pretty much gluten free (No wheat products) & have not had any poultry or red meat for 12 years. I have gone back to seafood from time to time, though. While the decision to go vegetarian back when I was 13 was completley a personal choice as I love animals & don’t feel eating them is an alright thing to do even if they are raised for human consumption, going gluten free was not for a statement at all; I miss donuts. I miss being able to buy any kind of bagel or bread at the store I want to, but, I get quite ill & can be down for a day or more with a migraine & tummy issues if I eat wheat, yet sometimes, I am fine. I just don’t see the point in taking that chanch, though, so, whenever possible, I am gluten free & have felt alot better. I have been checked once for Celiac, the auto-immune disorder in which your body physically cannot digest gluten, & it was negative yet I just had my 2nd follow up test to check again. We shall see. It is one of the top allergies a Type 1 Diabetic can get, which I do have (That will be another post….life as a T1 Diabetic!).
Luckily, as I covered in another post, its become MUCH easier to live gluten free, even vegetarian. Back in 2000, when I spent the year devoting myself to weaning off meat for good, I ate alot of eggs, veggies, fruit, soups….there weren’t alot of choices for a meat-free person as to where now, it is great to go into market & see tons of frozen dinner options, or into a restaurant & see a little flower symbol indicating a dish is meat-free.

Same goes for gluten free, which is how I even became more aware about it back in 2009, thats when you really began to see more stores having products for it, especially at Whole Foods, which had just opened in Santa Barbara, near where I lived at the time. Eating at home is pretty simple for me, eating out can have its problems here & there, but overall, even that is pretty good (especially eating fish).
I have had some friends unsure if I eat eggs or dairy….its really sweet! But yes, I do. I am not vegan, although I wouldn’t mind doing so. Vegan is a complete lifestyle for most; no eggs, no butter/milk/cheese & even very selective in the products they buy; no honey or milk in lotions they purchase, asking if dish soap is cruelty free & of course, not wearing fur or leather (which I also do not wear). I try here & there to subsitute milk for soy & wouldn’t mind buying soy cheeze, too.
So, in-case you’re interested in a meat-free, gluten free lifestyle, here are some meals I enjoy when dining at home!:)  (*indicates can also be vegan)

Breakfast: Scrambled eggs with salsa & pepper jack cheese, GF bagel, Eggs & GF toast, Tofu scramble* (Recipe below), Fruit (which I do ALOT of; bananas, honeydew, pineapple, mango, papaya), Oatmeal*, some meal replacement bars or GF muffins/pancakes/waffles/french toast (*which could be vegan if you sub items)

Lunch: PB&J on GF toast* (I am a kid at heart, hehe!), Any kind of salads*, GF pasta* (I really love Quinoa based pasta, which is pretty easy to come across in markets), Bowl of veggy chili*, Tacos (which could be fish or all veggy), Oatmeal* (again–I actually eat this more at lunch than breakfast), GF pizza, Tofu burger on GF bread or bun*.

Dinner: GF spaghetti* (Or any pasta dish), Fish w/ veggies & mashed potatoes or rice, GF Mac ‘n cheese (Most are REALLY good!), Enchiladas w/ rice & beans*, Asian stir fry*, Tamales, Nachos (I love mexican food), Zucchini with quinoa stuffing* (Recipe below).

I also have a huge sweet tooth….I think GF Desserts should also be a whole seperate post!:) Below are 2 recipes that are really delicious, Enjoy! Try ’em & let me know what you think!

(*The following recipe is from the-gluten-free-chef.com)

Tofu Scramble Wraps

(You may pick out your own favorite breakfast veggies.)

For 1 Serving –

* 2 Eggs
* 1/3 or 1/4 Soft Tofu block
* 4 small Corn Tortillas

Optional –

* Tomato (and Spinach, or other breakfast veggies – NOT POTATOES)
* Cheese
* Helmann’s® Real Mayonnaise (yep, it’s gluten-free)

For a list of Gluten-free Condiments, go here:
http://food-allergies.suite101.com/article.cfm/condiments_for_celiacs_disease

(Some people prefer hot sauce/salsa instead of mayo)

————————————————

1. Crack 2 eggs into a small bowl, discard shells, and whip.

2. Take 1/3 or 1/4 block of Soft Tofu and chop it up into tiny crumbly bits.

3. Heat frying pan with olive oil or real butter.

4. Pour in the eggs and tofu.

5. Add veggies, salt/pepper (or other desired natural seasonings)

6. Keep on medium heat (electric, or medium-low gas)

7. Stir until tofu turns light brown (this is easier done with olive oil, sans butter)

8. Once food is ready, turn stove off to prepare corn tortillas.

9. Take 4 small corn tortillas and wrap them in mildly damp paper towels and heat in the microwave for 45 seconds.

Prepare –

With a fork, place portions of food in the shells, wrap or fold, and eat!

Don’t forget a napkin, it can be messy.. and hold the wrap well as the food might want to fall out.

(*Recipe from Realsimple.com…& its really cool because each ingredient below is highlighted enabling you to click on it & a link from Real Simple will pop up explaining how to prepare each food!)

Zucchini with Quinoa Stuffing

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400° F. In a large saucepan, combine the quinoa and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender and the water is absorbed, 12 to 15 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds. Arrange in a large baking dish, cut-side up.
  3. Fluff the quinoa and fold in the beans, tomatoes, almonds, garlic, ½ cup of the Parmesan, and 3 tablespoons of the oil.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the zucchini. Top with the remaining tablespoon of oil and ¼ cup Parmesan. Cover with foil and bake until the zucchini is tender, 25 to 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake until golden, 8 to 10 minutes.

Happy Eating!!! xo