A Sunday Brunch at Copper Blues Oxnard!

I think it is safe to say I love me a great Sunday fun day brunch. There’s nothing like knowing you can enjoy that extra hour (or two) of sleeping in and lounging, then still be able to catch a great late breakfast or early lunch paired with a Mimosa or Bloody Mary. Michael and I were able to do just this when Copper Blues Rock Pub and Kitchen invited us out to see what makes their brunch ROCK harder than any others!

Following a gorgeous drive up Highway 101 to Oxnard, we arrived at the city’s beautiful shopping center. Boasting department stores, movie theatre, top notch dining and, of course, Copper Blues and their partner, Levity Live Comedy Club. Which are conveniently located next to one another.

Entering Copper’s feels more like a rock club than a restaurant, but don’t be fooled: They know how to do both, and how to do it right. Murals and portraits of famous musicians adorn every wall (Amy Winehouse, John Lennon, Keith Richards, just to name a few) while the ladies room had framed song sheets of such hit songs as Blondie’s Call Me. Everywhere you turn in Copper’s, there is something to see. And, that is to say nothing of their food.

Beautiful fountain and views out front. Photo: Michael Farah.

Copper’s is very gluten free friendly! Photo: Michael Farah.

Getting to chat with the Management team, I was fascinated to learn that EVERYTHING at each Copper Blues is made daily from scratch. From the Bloody Mary mix  to their apple and fennel sauce, it is made with love in house. Thus, making each bite taste more like a home-cooked meal than a restaurant.

While I opted for an order of their endless mimosa (which I was warned is mostly champagne. I wasn’t complaining), Michael was eager to take advantage of their Build-Your-Own-Bloody-Mary bar! Your server brings you your glass with ice and alcohol, then you’re off on your own to make your concoction however you like. Less mix, more bacon? More spice, less celery? It is all up to you. Not being a big fan of the spicy favorite, I had to try Michael’s (which mind you had bacon in it. I tried that too and it was an epic moment of flavor) and for once, I found a Bloody Mary tolerable. I think it is all about the mix and Copper’s does an excellent recipe.

While we awaited our main dishes, the team insisted we try their brunch staple, Bibimbap. Having not had this dish much, I was intrigued. At first look, it appeared to be some hot rice with an egg on top. After one bite? I could have ordered 2 more bowls of this! Filled with savory flavor and spices, kimchi and the option of bacon (Vegetarian for me), their Bibimbap was delicious and certainly a signature dish.

Bibimbap. Photo: Michael Farah.

Cajun Shrimp Benedict. Photo: Michael Farah.

While we awaited our breakfast plates, the live music set began. At Copper’s, they are not joking when they say they are a Blues Kitchen. Behind their full bar that looks out onto the restaurant, a stage rests there, right in the middle of the action. As the great Sunday morning band began, they combined dynamic energy while taking great takes on popular covers that made them their own. An energetic and fun cover of Sunshine in my Pocket while sipping my 2nd (or 3rd) Mimosa made for a great afternoon!

Michael ordered The Cajun Shrimp Benedict while I tried out the Smoked Salmon Omelet with a side order of their Potato Latkes. That is correct, friends, they have Potato Latkes that ARE gluten free! Along with that apple and fennel dipping sauce, I had to ask if the accompanying sour cream was also made in house. I was shocked its one of the few items that is not! Not being a huge sour cream fan, this was delicious and fresh.

Both our seafood dishes were hearty and just what we needed given the bottomless alcohol we were enjoying. Along with Copper’s weekly brunch, make sure to check them out for their “Wine Down” evenings, karaoke and fun to be had before and after you catch some comedy next door.

I am so excited to have a new go-to spot for brunch, and can’t wait to return to Copper’s. Visit them HERE and make sure to let them know Along Comes Mary sent you! ūüėČ xo

 

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-jalape√Īo 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! ūüėČ

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!)

 

Make it an Easy Morning with Overnight Chia Seed Pudding! #NOSHWithGroceryOutlet

Remember awhile back when I introduced you to Grocery Outlet? Well, folks, since then, I have been an avid shopper. Even with our closest one about 20 minutes away, you will commonly see me braving The 5 freeway to head on over.

While they have always had such a great variety of the types of foods and beauty care products I need, I was especially excited to hear that my favorite aisle at Grocery Outlet, with my gluten free crackers, cereals, and plenty of coconut oil, is officially their NOSH section.

Where else can you get Annie’s products for 99 cents?

NOSH indicates Natural, Organic, Specialty, Health. While alot of discount stores are hit/miss with healthy and organic offerings, I love that Grocery Outlet is devoted enough to make a section of these foods and treats. I headed over yesterday in search of the goods for a recipe I kept hearing I need to try: An overnight chia pudding! Both my friends and Naturopathic Doctor had recommended learning to cook with chia seeds, and I can see why:  A 1 ounce (28 grams) serving of chia seeds contains (1, 2):

  • Fiber: 11 grams.
  • Protein: 4 grams.
  • Fat: 9 grams (5 of which are Omega-3s).
  • Calcium: 18% of the RDA.
  • Manganese: 30% of the RDA.
  • Magnesium: 30% of the RDA.
  • Phosphorus: 27% of the RDA.
  • They also contain a decent amount of Zinc, Vitamin B3 (Niacin), Potassium, Vitamin B1 (Thiamine) and Vitamin B2.

Chia seeds are also high in fiber (which actually comes from the carb content), protein and a powerhouse amount of anti-oxidants. Whats not to love, right?

I found a great HUGE bag of chia seeds on the NOSH aisle, as well as everything else I needed¬† to try out the pudding. And, thats not all I found on my trek….

And, want to know a secret? This was all under $40!

Not only was that maple syrup under $5, but, that was also an idea for the pudding. I ended up holding off, but, feel free to add a tablespoon of maple syrup or agave to your concoction, too!

OVERNIGHT CHIA SEED PUDDING

You will need:
2 tablespoons of chia seeds
1 cup of milk (I used Almond Breeze, also on the NOSH aisle)
A glass jar (I used an old Kombucha glass bottle. Mason jars are awesome, too)

Optional:
A dash of cinnamon, vanilla
A tablespoon of maple syrup or agave

Toppings:
Berries
Peaches
Nuts
Chocolate chips

Simply mix the first 2 ingredients, shake VERY well and put in the fridge. At about a half hour, take out for one more good stir and shake, then leave in fridge til the morning. Its pretty amazing how chia seeds expand, and in the morning, you will have this:

I was in a simple blueberry mood, but, you can get as creative as you like with the AM toppings. Having just finished that bowl this morning, I will say that I feel extremely satisfied and that I had a wholesome breakfast to start my day.

Make sure to mosey on over to THIS LINK and get a $3 off coupon for Grocery Outlet to see for yourself how awesome Grocery Outlet is. What will you create? ūüėČ

 

(Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Grocery Outlet, but, the content and opinions are my own.Products and prices featured may not be available at all locations. Please check your neighborhood store for more info.)

Southern Hospitality and Plenty of Gluten Free in The South!

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I have been so fortunate to take some pretty awesome trips recently, and, you know what has been the icing on the cake (sometimes, literally)? The abundance of GLUTEN FREE options I have come across at most of my stops!

We just got back from a gorgeous Fall trip to the south. With stops in Memphis and Huntsville, I admit I was a little skeptical for this trek. I had images of the south being lots of fields and not much to do. Boy, was I wrong! Not only is Memphis quite the metropolitan city, and Huntsville combines the small town life with plenty for the family to do, but, nearly all restaurants we dined at had gluten-free menus!

After our day at The Memphis Zoo (I don’t know where to start at telling you about this amazing zoo and aquarium), we were famished and I encouraged Michael to pick where he would like to go. I knew he had one thing on the brain: Southern BBQ! We all know this was not a thrill for me, but, seeing him so happy made me happy ūüėČ

Central BBQ is a small local chain with many awards under their belt for “Best Ribs” and “Best BBQ.” Its a fast casual diner with a small dining room of tables and chairs, and lots of room on their patio to enjoy¬† their smoked delights.

What. Will. I. Order. Here? Were my main thoughts. I figured people in the south are all about the BBQ and fried foods, I bet they won’t know what gluten-free is! were my ignorant thoughts.

Well, folks–I was pleasantly proven wrong! The cashier was super helpful and when she realized I was attempting to order my Portobello Mushroom Sandwich without as bun due to my gluten issues, she showed me their gluten-free and allergen menu! Granted, the only dishes that could be prepped gluten-free were the meat items. I went ahead and tried the mushroom sandwich without the bread….or, the sauce….or the slaw. These were indicated as not safe on their specialty menu. I got a sad but humongous smoked and BBQ mushroom with a slab of amazingly smoked Gouda cheese on top. I piled up on the french fries much more, but, I know Central sandwiches must be delicious.

It was Michael approved and I did end up with a southern souvenir! ūüėČ

bbq

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On Saturday, we were in Huntsville, Alabama and headed out for lunch. When we pulled up at Jason’s Deli, once again, gluten-free anxiety attack going on here. A sandwich shop?!!?? I never go to deli’s! They’ve got bread in there!

And, guess what? The southern folks really had my back. Jason’s Deli proudly offers Udi’s Bread for those with gluten concerns and even a display of their Snickerdoodle cookies. I chose their Caprese Panini along with baked chips. I was mistaken and thought the chips were baked in-house. I inquired if they are also gluten-free, and they searched the entire back to check on this for me. When I discovered its their tortilla chips made in-house and the chips are simply Lay’s, I felt so bad for sending them on that goose chase (Lays are gluten-free).

The Caprese was spot on. It rivaled my usual I get in Santa Monica. Before it was ready, the cashier found me to alert me that my bread would be cross contaminated in the toaster, would I prefer the oven which is safe? I opted for that and loved every bit of it. Jason’s Deli is my go-to from now on when in Alabama!

For a fun date night and on the town in Huntsville, we headed to a local favorite, I Love Sushi. Once again, I was prepared for taking a risk but at-least having my gluten-free soy sauce bottle in tow. The menu at I Love Sushi was filled with “GF” symbols and GF soy sauce.¬† See a pattern here?! We shared a bunch of savory, delicious rolls and a highlight for me was The Tropical as it had mango on it. It sounded like a great idea, yet, I did not get much of the tropical taste I had hoped for. I did heart the Philly Roll. It had a great balance of cream to the fresh salmon.

Gluten free Red Velvet Cake. Photo: Mason Dixon's website

Gluten free Red Velvet Cake. Photo: Mason Dixon’s website

Did I mention its my birthday month? I happen to share my birthday with our friends son, Ryan (he calls us “Birthday Buddies”) and we decided to have an early celebration on our trip with a gluten-free cake from Mason Dixon.

Mason Dixon is proudly the only gluten-free dedicated bakery in Alabama. They also can make dishes vegan, too! I was surprised with a Rammer Jammer cake. When I first saw it on the table, I thought it looked yummy and the kids would be lucky to be enjoying that. When I realized it was gluten-free, I could not WAIT to try this baby!

Let me tell you, it was sweet as hell. You could easily share this cake with 6 or more guests as a small slab is aplenty. The cake was moist and filled with flavor, but, what really made it was the cream cheese frosting. If I were handed a bowl of this, we’d be in trouble.

On top of these wonderful eateries, you’ll be happy to know that all of the local stores have a gluten-free selection. From Target to Walmart and Publix, all my favorites were there.

Well done, Alabama and Tennessee. Well done!

Saturday at LA Food Fest.

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

 

Last weekend marked one of the most anticipated weekends of the year if you are a hardcore foodie and Angelino: The LA Food Fest. Formerly known as The LA Street Food Fest, this food faire with the possibility of “all you can eat” was a favorite of Michael and me when we went a few years ago. Back then? One entry fee got you into The Rose Bowl and the ability to eat whatever you want, as much as you want, from the festival’s food vendors. There were massive lines for the Stella Rosa wine samples, Sushi Roku’s hand rolls, tequila tastings and all kinds of bar-b-q’ed meats.

Since then, The LA Food Fest has had changes in management, PR and location. Now taking over Exposition Park behind The Natural History Museum, they certainly have managed to transform a generous amount of space to their 100 vendors, entertainment and, now, food trucks, indy co-op shop stands and their “Rose Garden” al-fresco style dining experience.

Wine. I wasted no time. Photo: Michael Farah.

Wine. I wasted no time.
Photo: Michael Farah.

Like I quite often say with festivals involving help-yourself-food-samples and crowds, there are going to be some kinks. What I previously loved about the food fest was the one ticket price for all to enjoy. The only other ticket option was a VIP, which meant you got to come in earlier to start your noshing. VIP now indicates “The Golden Hour”: Giving those of us wanting to enjoy samples til our heart is content for 2 hours (from 12-2) to do so. Once the clock¬†striked 2? The vendors stopped serving for an hour, to make way for the MRKT ticket holders.

MRKT passes got you into the fun for a small fee, and you then select from the vendors full portioned dish on ap for the day. From the signage, it appeared that the prices went from $5 and up. Not sure if the prices meant a different sized dish, too.

And, for the full treatment, their Rose Garden Pop Up Restaurant passes got you an intimate, Chef hosted, long table style dining experience, including a brunch, for $95 and access to MRKT.

Photo: Michael Farah.

Photo: Michael Farah.

And, there is also the elephant that’s always in the room with me: My diet. Many have asked me, Is this worth it if you’re gluten-free? Or, better yet, gluten-free AND Vegetarian/Pescatarian? While it was a fun afternoon at Exposition Park, and I got a great share of wine, ice cream and iced coffees, I would vote no, judging from 2016.

In 2014, I had a ball trying a great selection of “Mary Friendly” foods. While Michael enjoyed himself a plenty (BBQ, ice cream, meatballs….), he also felt that the variety was not as elaborate as 2 years ago.

Nevertheless, I will always have fun and enjoy LA Food Fest. Here is to 2017! xo

(*Disclosure: I received media credentials to cover LA Food Fest. All opinions are my own.)

The Very First 365 by Whole Foods Market Arrives in LA.

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The newest hot spot¬†to hit in Los Angeles is, no doubt, the arrival of the inaugural 365 by Whole Foods Market. Opening its door this past week, you might be familiar with the brand, 365, as it is the Whole Foods version¬†of popular items (and, most likely a product you rarely would say, “Oh, what a great price”)¬†that grace their shelves.

The very first 365 Market has arrived in the LA hipster land of Silver Lake, on Glendale Boulevard, whistling distance from Occidental College and the famous Sunset Junction. While its¬†predecessor has changed the way many Americans shop, Whole Foods has certainly made it clear that they are not for everyone’s wallet. The quality of groceries may¬†be superior than certain favorites you purchase at your corner super market, but, let’s get real, folks: Most of us are on a budget, and paying nearly $30 for an organic, vegetarian fed, humanely raised chicken, and a side salad and Kombucha tea, is just not happening.

Enter 365. 365 by Whole Foods Market is supposed to be their version of, say, Trader Joe’s. Its got all the amenities¬†and values of a Whole Foods, but, at a more affordable rate. I have been VERY intrigued since I first learned these “discount” stores were on their way, so, Mike and I ventured over the 134 this weekend to see how it fares!

365_3

Taking up shop in an old Ralph’s Market, 365 is very un-assuming from the street. I was a little surprised at the color schemes as it did not scream “Organic! No GMO’s! Good Prices!!” from their signs or appearance. Perhaps that is the idea? I was very intimidated by the once do-able parking lot. Yet, it was actually quicker to park than the times I went to Ralph’s at the same location. They also employ a parking attendant who was helpful at keeping the flow of traffic moving and even assisting us on nabbing our front spot.

Upon entering, it is at last clear you are in a Whole Foods lovechild. Some tables, wooden benches, selection of cart sizes and fruits and veggies aplenty are at the ready to greet you. I was a fan in about 2 minutes as I scored a watermelon for $3, peaches at .50 cents each and a huge basket of Driscoll’s blueberries for $3.

365_1

365

Moving onto the meats and seafood, Mike and I loved their rather ‘futuristic’ packaging methods to a lot of the meats; the container is not covered in cling wrap, with the meat moving inside. They instead cling wrap and seal JUST the meats, making it a lot cleaner and keeping your filet in place. Pretty nifty. And, I got 2 small salmon filets for $3.56, and Mike scored a chimichurri¬†¬†chicken for $5.18.

One of the reasons I do find myself shopping at Whole Foods is for their deli and sushi bar. Luckily, 365 offers their hot self-serve bar (with really good deals: Small to-go dish is $5.50, medium $7.50 and a large $9.50), tons of sushi to choose from and instead of a service deli, they offer a good variety of your faves from the deli packed and ready to go like sesame tofu ($4.50) and their quinoa salads ($3.50 for a container).

The dairy and refrigerated section was mobbed. We did a quick in ‘n out there. Grabbing our almond milk by 365 as well as OJ. They were their usual run of the mill prices at $2.99. I was interested to see what the WINE options were like. Not huge, nothing special. One of my faves, Mark West Pinot Noir, was the going rate of $8.99. They also had their own wine, Three Wishes ¬†(Think “2 Buck Chuck”) at the everyday price of $2.99, and then,¬†Bellini sparkling wines in a can for 10.99 for a pack of 4. That caught my eye!

Our cart of goods

Our cart of goods

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Their frozen selection is pretty vast, and many of the offerings in the case appeared to also be at a better than Whole Foods rate. I nabbed some gluten-free veggie breakfast patties at $3.29 for 6 of ’em, and while some of the name brands, liken Amy’s, were a bit steep, one of my gluten-free burritos was only $1.99.

Sadly, I didn’t get a chance to look much at the ice cream. But, they’ve got it. I was more interested at the adorable coffee, wine, and beer bar adjacent. If the check out lines worry you (which actually was way¬†less¬†scary than it appeared), you can chill out in between your shopping with a glass of wine for $7, or maybe an espresso shot for $2.

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So, I was able to get salmon, fruits, juice, peanut butter, breakfast goodies, deli favorites, kombucha and some energy drinks for $26.43. This IS a good place, folks. I am almost interested to go to my Whole Foods and be a weirdo by adding up the costs of the same groceries in there. I know it would have been much more. So, I will return to 365!

(365 by Whole Foods Market is located at 2520 Glendale Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90039.)

 

Celebrate Fiesta de Mayo at Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill!

Sharkys

For a lot of us, Cinco de Mayo is simply a holiday we love to get our drink and tequila on. While May 5th is certainly a time to bust out a beer or margarita (or 2), I was interested to do some Google-ing about this day and the celebration of Mexico’s independence. Here is some of what I found, from history.com:

Cinco de Mayo‚ÄĒor the fifth of May‚ÄĒcommemorates the Mexican army‚Äôs 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War (1861-1867). A relatively minor holiday in Mexico, in the United States Cinco de Mayo has evolved into a celebration of Mexican culture and heritage, particularly in areas with large Mexican-American populations. Cinco de Mayo traditions include parades, mariachi music performances and street festivals in cities and towns across Mexico and the United States.

We all know I love me some Mexican food. Our go-to is always Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill!

Sharky’s is currently having their ‚ÄúFiesta de Mayo‚ÄĚ Celebration with special menu promotions and the chance for one lucky guest to win a catered party for 20.¬† Guests simply post their favorite Sharky‚Äôs party menu item with #SharkysShare and @SharkysSocial on Facebook.com/SharkysSocial or Instagram.com/SharkysSocial by 11:59pm on May 31, 2016, with the catered party winner chosen randomly on June 1, 2016. Guests can also win one of four $25 gift cards weekly during May! ūüôā

The Fiesta Burrito

The Fiesta Burrito

The Fiesta de Mayo celebration, which runs from May 1-May 31 from 2pm to close at each of Sharky‚Äôs 24 restaurants in California and Oregon, includes: Tempura Battered Wild Caught Alaska Cod Taco for $3.75, or two Tempura Battered Wild Caught Alaska Cod Tacos with organic rice and organic beans for $9.99. And at participating locations, Dos Equis beers are specially priced at just $3.00 from 2 p.m. to close. I think I know where I’ll be this Cinco de Mayo!

What are your plans for May 5th?!

(*Disclosure: I work often with Sharky’s Woodfired Mexican Grill. All opinions are my own.)

Gordon Biersch Brewery in Burbank!

Me with some famous friends

Me with some famous friends

Last Saturday, I was able to check out ¬†Gordon Biersch Brewery in Burbank for a fantastic evening put on by Combat Radio and DJ¬†Ethan Dettenmaier to meet Disney Legend, Bob Gurr and Tinker Bell model herself, Margaret Kelly. It was such an amazing experience to be in the same room as the man who designed Disneyland’s Monorail and The Matterhorn bobsleds, as well as the woman responsible for all of the nuances and mannerisms of our beloved Tinker Bell. You can read all about that over on my friend Kimberly’s blog, Frontierland Station. So fun!

Aside from the legends before me, I also discovered a great new eatery in nearby Burbank, California. Gordon Biersch Brewery is nestled on the corner of San Fernando Road and Olive Avenue right in the heart of Burbank’s chic meets chill¬†boulevard of restaurants, bars, shops and theatres. With an immediate welcoming atmosphere and spacious patio, Gordon Biersch manages to have intimate vibes yet ample enough to host a good size event or soiree.

Hanging with actress, Carolyn Hennesy, who co-hosted the event.

Hanging with actress, Carolyn Hennesy, who co-hosted the event.

I started out with a House Margarita which hit the spot as we awaited our Imagineer legend and Tink, er, Margaret. Their menu is HUGE and, if you’re like us, you might just end up ordering more than one plate. Offering the usual suspects of a brewery (burgers, sandwiches), we saw several plates of their NACHOS go by….and, not your traditional nachos! I am talking a massive plate of¬†Southwest Wonton Nachos (Crisp wonton chips with black beans, cheddar & pepper jack cheeses, pico de gallo, red onions and cilantro, topped with smoked paprika and a drizzle of jalape√Īo ranch) and their¬†Poke Wonton Nachos (tuna diced and tossed in teriyaki sauce over crisp wonton chips, with grilled pineapple, pickled ginger, green onions and toasted sesame seeds. Drizzled with cucumber wasabi sauce and sriracha cream–whoa.)

Despite the mouth-watering offerings (and several gluten-free dishes, too!) I was pleased they also had several lighter options. While Mike decided on their¬†Pan-Roasted Citrus Chicken.¬†I’d¬†originially had my eye on the Spinach, Fruit and Nut Salad; after consulting with the server, he confirmed my suspicions that it is not too hearty unless you add a protein. ¬†I decided to¬†play copycat and also selected Mike’s order, but, varied it up with the salmon. The meats are roasted and¬†served with lemon balsamic sauce and a choice of two sides. I pretended to be on good behavior and tried the Kale and Quinoa side salad and grilled veggies.

Pan Roasted Citrus Salmon

Pan Roasted Citrus Salmon

Pan Roasted Citrus Chicken.

Pan Roasted Citrus Chicken.

The fish was flaky, but lacked a bit of that citrus flavor I had hoped for. Mike really liked the chicken, as well as the kale and quinoa, which I thought was a little too wet in dressing. With the evening just getting started, we decided on another round of margaritas and an order of their ‘legendary’ garlic french fries, which WERE very delicious….and we just may need the large order next time ūüėČ

I will definitely return to Gordon Biersch as it’s in such a great location, there’s a free parking lot right across the street and the environment was so fun and laid back. Happy hour on the weekday, too! Whether you are having a night with the girls, date night or an evening with the whole family, Gordon Biersch is perfect for everybody. Check out their web-site HERE and make sure to pay some love to Kimberly and my guest post HERE! xo

 

Futuristic Dining at Eatsa LA

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Since the unveiling of the spankin’ new The Village at Westfield Topanga in Woodland Hills, a flock of new restaurants & posh shops have hit the valley with a vengeance. Bringing 3rd & Fairfax’s The Grove to mind, The Village goes a step further at truly creating a haven to escape the daily hustle & bustle to chill out on a hammock, sip your tea in a cozy canopy chair or admire the electic mix of creations throughout the outside mall like a tree with dangling coffee mugs hanging from it, & recycled bicycles with plants growing out of it.

Like I said, its posh. Its trendy. Its LA.

New to The Village is Eatsa. One of the most futuristic, “Only in SoCal” diners I have encountered. With only one other location in San Francisco, Eatsa is an all vegetarian fast, casual dining experience. While Chipotle has mastered “The Burrito Bowl”, Eatsa carries an array of bowls that are all quinoa based. All only 6.95, they have their favorites like chili & a burrito bowl, or, get fancy & build your own.

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While there are 1 -3 employees available to assist you, they are not there to be your cashier. Eatsa boasts iPads (a la STACKED) that you use to customize & create your orders, & swipe your credit card when you’re ready for your order to be sent to the back (so, alas, no cash is accepted.). Once you pay & send, you’re given a cubby number to await your order. On the back wall are all cubbies that look like microwaves where your food is out once ready. I gotta admit, it was pretty nifty to see!

While their ad says your food is out in 90 seconds, it was more like 3-5 minutes (not bad at all, though). A screen above highlights your name to alert you once your oder is in an assigned cubby, you tap its screen twice & voila, your door opens & your food is served.

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Mike tried the Mediterranean bowl, while I played it safe & got the Burrito bowl, along with their all natural sodas. With the drinks, like Lime & Ginger or Mango Citrus, only 95 cents, its hard to resist one. While I definitely felt a Chipotle vibe to Eatsa, I applaud them for not only having fresh, non-GMO foods like their competitors, but, also, no junk in their soda’s, too, an effort I hope other chains follow.

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My burrito bowl was a perfect sized portion, & in addition to the usual goodies found in such a bowl (beans, salsa, guacamole, quinoa instead of rice), I absolutely LOVED the grilled Portobello mushroom slices also inside. Mike enjoyed his Mediterranean choice yet was a bit surprised that it was mostly a salad with greens; not much quinoa as said in the description.

While Eatsa has several things to attract customers (Quick service, good portions, vegetarian), I think it would do them good to have a bit more to their menu, as well as a few more gluten-free options. The price is definitely right, but, honestly?  I will probably keep Chipotle as my go-to. I love me some quinoa, so, I know I will be back, since it is very convenient, I just hope they add a bit more to their selections.

You can visit their web-site here.

$25 Gift Card to Sharky’s Giveaway!

The Fiesta Burrito

The Fiesta Burrito

This time of year, the struggle is real for me to stay on top pf eating healthy & not over indulging. What, with the stuffing, potatoes, home-made pies, chips & dips, wine, drinks–its my favorite time of year! ūüėČ To stay on track with my diet yet still enjoy myself, I allow myself to go crazy at the holiday gatherings & soirees. ¬†On the days in between, though, I want to be mindful yet STILL have great tasting & quality meals.

This is when SHARKY’S comes in handy!

At Sharky‚Äôs, it ¬†is completely possible to enjoy an awesome fast-casual meal, while not consuming a huge amount of calories. Their motto? Anything goes at Sharky‚Äôs. If you want an all protein burrito or one of their delicious ‚ÄúPower Plates‚ÄĚ (my new favorite!), they can do that. Want their nachos grande, with extra everything & coming out to a few thousand calories? They got you covered.

For me, their half order Power Plate is my go-to; I choose either their grilled shrimp or tofu with 2 sides. I usually go after their house made veggie quinoa with either black beans or, for more of a treat, their smashed sweet potatoes. Mmm, mm!

If you don’t know what to get the foodie¬†lover on you holiday list, look no further than Sharky’s, ¬†where¬†guests can also feel good about gifting this holiday season by sharing the¬†experience with their family, friends, co-workers, teachers and other special people, and¬†receive a holiday bonus for themselves. Guests who purchase $25 in gift cards between¬†Mon., Nov. 23, and Thurs., Dec. 24, will receive a $5 bonus card that can be redeemed¬†from Fri., Jan. 1, 2016 to Tues., Mar. 1, 2016.

Sharkys

But, the fun doesn’t stop there! Sharky’s has kindly given me TWO gift cards each valued at $25 to giveaway to two lucky readers! Wanna enter? Fill out the form below by December 22nd, & make sure to check out my Sweepstakes Rules tab above! ūüėČ

Good luck!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

(*Disclosure: I work often with Sharkys, who are providing the gift cards to host this giveaway.)

Gluten Free Tofu Veggie Lasagna..

2 of the most delicious meals I have had the pleasure of having have been lasagna. The 1st time was last summer on my trip up to Northern CA to see one of my best friends, Ariel. Her room mate, Helen, made a BOMB tofu veggie lasagna…it took over 3 hours to prepare & is seriously one of the best meals I have ever had (Complete with 2 dollar red wine, mmm…). The other time was a few¬†weeks ago on my Arizona¬†river trip when Jamie made her famous recipe…both times, these great gals made sure it was gluten-free¬†pasta for moi ūüėČ I decided to try Jamie’s recipe myself, but with a few¬†of Helen’s ingredients, the result? YUM!

I highly recommend trying it for yourself, & like other recipes I have posted, it can be gluten-free/vegetarian/even vegan, it’s up to you. For me & my diet, dairy cheese, gluten-free pasta & tofu were for me….

What you will need:
Lasagna Pasta
3 jars of tomato sauce (I ended up using just 2 & they were mushroom flavored)
Tub of Ricotta Cheese
Tub of Cottage Cheese (in a silly attempt to make it less fattening, I used 2%)
Bag of mozzarella cheese (Also low-fat)
Brick of Firm Tofu (*or any meat you would like)
Any veggies! For me, I used eggplant & zucchini

*Preheat oven to 350, Boil your pasta & fry up your tofu (I used grape seed oil to fry it). In a mixing bowl, pour out the entire tubs of ricotta & cottage cheese & mix well together. Cut the veggies up. When the pasta is ready, pour out 2 of the 3 sauce jars into a baking pan to line the pan, then put the boiled pasta on top of the sauce. You will now pour in the cheese mixture then add in tofu/veggies/whatever you like & top it all off with about half of the mozzarella. Pour the final sauce jar on top of all this, add the rest of the pasta & finish up the mozzarella.

*Bake for about 50 minutes; I took it out at 45, yet it didn’t seem just right, but 50 did the trick for me. Let cool for about 10 minutes then EAT UP ūüėČ

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¬ģ 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)

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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

Ingredients

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400¬į 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, ¬Ĺ 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 ¬ľ 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