Category Archives: vacation


Travel Food

Just back from a trip to Washington DC I enjoyed great weather and beautiful scenery and exhibits.  I really had a great time there and part of the fun was exploring the food in a different location.  As you all know I love food and I love to eat.

I find it incomprehensible that some people like to travel to other places and then eat at the same chain restaurants.  I have a friend from England who likes to vacation in Spain.  She sometimes tells me about her countrymen who travel to Spain but want their usual English breakfast, mushy peas, and biscuits when traveling.  I think part of the excitement of traveling is experiencing new things and that does include restaurants and foodie places.

In order of appearance these are the foodie things that I saw and/or ate:

Georgetown Cupcake – wandering over to Georgetown the first night there my husband and I saw the bakery featured on the TLC program DC Cupcakes.  The store was going full steam and people were lined up on both sides of the street.  I was stunned to see so many people patiently waiting for their little pink boxes full of cupcakes.  And the people behind the counter were certainly hustling and bustling along.

I have to say the cupcakes certainly looked delicious and people seemed to enjoy them.  It made me wonder if a gluten free cupcakery would do as well.

Right across the street was Dean&Deluca.  I am a sucker for high end grocery stores.  I love to wander the aisles enjoying the variety and selection even if what is available is sometimes beyond my normal grocery budget.

Even though I wasn’t hungry I was certainly inspired by some of the arrangements and ingredients they had on hand and made notes to myself of experiments to try in the kitchen when I returned.

I was surprised to see that they have a number of locations as I typically think of them as a New York City store.

We decided to stop for a nightcap before we headed back to the hotel for the evening.  Wandering around the Dupont Circle area we happened upon a charming little place called Bistrot du Coin.

He got a Belgian beer on tap and I had a sweet little drink called a Bisou de Paris.  A combination of champagne, Cointreau, and a little raspberry syrup.  Sweet, bubbly, tangy, and flavorful it was a nice way to end the evening.  Sitting in the Bistrot, at the bar, we enjoyed chatting with the bartender.

The next day we headed over toward the Mall area of DC.  When it was lunchtime we decided to try out one of the many food trucks in the area.  The hardest part was trying to figure out which one.  It was lunchtime in a busy metropolitan city in a business district.  There were a LOT of food trucks.  We ultimately decided to go for Tasty Kabob.  They must be pretty popular because the line was fairly long.  I got the lamb which was delicious.  The yogurt sauce on the lamb which was also used as a salad dressing was delicious.  My only issue was the rice-a-roni used instead of regular rice.  I still find myself a little bemused at the shift that food trucks have gone through.  Remembering when I was a child how we called them “roach coaches” and NO ONE I knew would ever eat at one.  Now they’re just as, if not more, popular than regular restaurants and have huge online followings.  More, I suspect, than restaurants do.

For dinner we met up with friends and went to Busboys and Poets a very fun restaurant with a lot of atmosphere and an amazing bookstore.  I was so busy enjoying the company of my husband and our friends that I forgot to take pictures of the food but I assure you it was all delicious!

The next day, our last one in town, we had a quick lunch at Zorba’s Cafe.  Lots of garlic in the food which was delicious but probably not too great for the person sitting next to me on the metro and then the airplane ride home.

It was a fast casual restaurant, one of the ones where you pay up front and then call your number so you can bring your food to your table.  I’ve noticed a growing number of these restaurants, I guess it saves on waitstaff.  Doesn’t change the quality of the food, which was delicious, or the decor, which was cute, and the prices were certainly reasonable.

It was a good trip.  We walked for miles all over town seeing cherry blossoms, monuments, historic sights, museums, and enjoying the glorious weather.

 It goes without saying that these are my experiences, I am not shilling for any of these foodie places, I did not receive any commission or free food.  I make no guarantees that you will like it as much as we did.  I just wanted to share what and where I ate. I encourage you, when you are traveling, to seek out new experiences and new adventures in food.  Think outside the box of chain restaurants and eat somewhere you may never eat again.

Heading Home For The Holidays

over the river and through the wood | photo: ladyheart

The winter holidays are fast approaching.  For many people this includes travel plans to spend the time with friends or family.  If you’re going to be on the road, either by plane, train, or automobile plan ahead for snacks and beverages.

Of course on an airplane you can’t bring beverages with you.  You can, however, bring an empty, eco-friendly water bottle and refill once you get past security.  Once you are on the plane consider getting juice mixed with seltzer rather than soda or straight juice.  Soda, of course, is not a healthy option while juice alone provides a lot of sugar; diluting it reduces the sugars while still helping you to stay hydrated.

If you’re traveling by another method be sure to bring healthy beverage choices with you, such as lots of water.  This can not only help you avoid dehydration, but can also save you money as on-the-road purchases are often much more expensive.

Protein is important to help stabilize blood sugar.  Consider bringing snacks with you to avoid the munchies and the temptation to purchase non-nutritious, fatty, sugary road food choices.  Options might include:

  • my favorite trail mix (raw and unsalted):  3 parts nuts, 2 parts seeds, 1 part unsulfured dry fruit
  • a salad with some healthy protein: chicken, turkey, beef, or ham, or eggs
  • a wrap with some healthy protein: chicken, turkey, beef, or ham, or eggs
  • cheese and whole grain crackers with delicious olives, pickles  and other finger foods
  • those little pouches of tuna (w/o liquid), add your own whole grain crackers
  • preservative free turkey jerky
  • healthy protein bars

Planning ahead for your travel needs can help you avoid the pitfalls of on-the-road non-nutritious food choices.  You’ll arrive with stable blood sugar and well-hydrated, a great start to a happy, healthy holiday.

Restoration

I’ve just gotten back from a vacation to Laramie, Wyoming.  I was looking forward to the trip as I’ve never been to Wyoming and we were going to visit one of my husband’s friends.  In truth I got far more than I bargained for.  It was a wonderful trip, the effects of which are still resonating in my spirit.

The scenery was absolutely amazing.  Broad swaths of prairie land over what once was the bottom of a prehistoric ocean, bordered on all sides by majestic looking mountains.  The scenery had a wild sort of beauty, desolate and yet attractive at the same time.

The altitude took a little getting used to; we live at 64 feet above sea-level and here we were walking around at a base of 7,200 climbing up at times over 12,000.  It literally took our breath away.

While we were adjusting to the altitude and spaciousness of Wyoming we quickly came to realize that we had virtually no cell service and the internet was very spotty.  After one abortive attempt to check email I gave up.

In retrospect that was one of the biggest gifts of the trip.  Completely disconnecting from personal technology allowed me to focus more on the beauty surrounding me.  Hiking through varied terrain, enjoying the glorious color of the aspen groves, and spotting unusual-to-me animals was a treat beyond words.

The night-time was just as much of a treat as the day.  With virtually no light pollution I had the best view of the night-time skies since we went camping years ago in the California desert.  I could see the Milky Way in all of it’s glory, brilliant diamond-light stars that are invisible from my home in Texas, and the vastness of a sharp, clear, dark sky.

The nights were deliciously cold and we slept with the porch door open to allow the breezes in.  One evening I woke up in the middle of the night to the chorus of coyotes calling across the valley. It was a shivery-delightful moment.

On our next to last day on vacation as we were hiking I realized I felt more relaxed than I had for a long time.  I also realized that for the first time in a long time I was simply doing one thing, enjoying the moment.  I’ve come to realize that I need to work a little harder to hold on to that moment and to seek similar opportunities within my day-to-day life.  Often we become so overwhelmed by the requirements of our modern lives that we forget to slow down, disconnect from technology, and reconnect with our surroundings.  To stop multi-tasking and recharge by finding that quiet spark within each of us that simply is.

I plan to make it a regular part of my day to spend some time sitting quietly and letting go.  Getting rid of the stress and tension that builds up all to quickly when we push ourselves to be uber-productive.  Remembering that feeling of calm that came with disconnecting has gotten me to recommit to at least one day a week when I can repeat the experience.  I think I’ll feel better for it and I’m guessing I’ll be happier too.

Breakfast Shake

Back at home after my travels I’m re-adjusting to the local time zone and wondering why the laundry fairy never shows up when I’m not home.

Breakfast while traveling

I enjoyed a number of fabulous meals while I was one the road with family in Northern France.  I indulged and ate outside my usual patterns.  I am a big believer in taking the time to enjoy the culture and opportunities that travel offers you and I certainly wasn’t going to pass up some of the delicious experiences.  Who knows when I will find myself back in Northern France again.

One of the big changes was breakfast in a Chambre d’Hotel.  A Chambre d-Hotel is often a room available in someone’s house (although a few of them had a separate building) that you can rent.  There are little signs on the street indicating if someone has a room to rent in their house.  You drive up and inquire if there is space for the night (or if you plan ahead, you can call and make a reservation).  We did not plan ahead which meant that some days we looked at several places before finding one.

The prices seem to vary widely depending on the size of the room, if there is a suite arrangement, the location of the town, etc.  Each place offers breakfast with the chambre.  What is for breakfast varies.  Every place offers fresh baguette and cheese plus jam.  Most of the time the jams were homemade and absolutely fabulous.  Each place also offered juice, coffee, and tea.

Some of the different items in addition to the above which we had for breakfast (it depended on where we were and what they wanted to serve):  different breads or baked goods, sliced ham, cold cereal, yogurt served with stick packets of sugar or fresh fruit.

Overall the breads were fresh and delicious and the yogurt that I ate there was fabulous.  I don’t normally drink milk however it was so good that a couple of mornings I had a bowl of warm milk with my breakfast.

Breakfast smoothie

Now I’m back in my regular surroundings and getting back to my normal routine.  Part of that includes eating more in the pattern which works best for me.  I usually don’t eat gluten as I find my system works better if I avoid it.  But I did indulge while I was on vacation. I also tend to eat a high protein breakfast, again because that’s what works best for my body.  Truthfully I believe it’s what works best for most people, we need that protein boost in the morning to stabilize our blood sugar after our overnight sleep-fast. After 12 days away from my typical breakfast plan, I’m really enjoying my morning smoothie again.  It’s such a great way to start the day, filling and delicious.

Morning Smoothie
Print
Ingredients
  1. 1 cup plain organic whole fat yogurt
  2. 1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk
  3. 1 cup fresh spinach (pack this in well)
  4. 1/2 cup of berries
  5. 1 tablespoon unsweetened raw almond butter
  6. 1 tablespoon fresh ground flaxseed
  7. 1 scoop protein powder (optional)
Instructions
  1. Place all ingredients into a blender and whir together until well incorporated
Notes
  1. Whenever I share this recipe I always get at least one person who says "Spinach in your shake?  Seriously?"  Yes, seriously.  It is delicious and gives a great boost to the shake.  Truly, aside from the color, you won't know it's in there as the other flavors hide the flavor of the spinach.  If you haven't tried it before I think you should, you'll be pleasantly surprised.  It's a great way to get some veggies into your system first thing in the morning.
The Ingredient Guru, Mira Dessy https://www.theingredientguru.com/

Serendipity

For those of you who don’t know, I”m a vegetarian.  I became one back in 2005 due to health reasons.  I felt so much better that I’ve never looked back.  It does however, at times, become a bit of a problem.  Finding vegetarian choices in the United States is not so much of a problem but when traveling it can be more of a challenge.

Currently my husband and I are on a ten day tour of Northern France, enjoying the sights, sounds, and history of the Picardy and Normandy regions.  Sadly I’ve discovered that many times there is not much of an option for vegetarians.  I’ve eaten a lot of salad crudite, pain et fromage, and green salad.  All, I must confess, quite delicious, but sometimes it gets boring to eat the same thing over and over.  When asking at a restaurant if they serve vegetarian meals and having the hostess start with poisson — fish — is not a hopeful beginning.  I did have one bad aftermath from a meal of vegetables that apparently were cooked in a meat broth, I paid for that the next day with abdominal distress.

So tonight was an absolute delight.  We stopped at Restaurant de la Halles in Lyon de Foret looking for dinner of some kind.  Our server inquired of the chef if he could accomodate a vegetarian.  His proposed menu was a dish of asparagus and green beans accompanied with a leek and potato creme fraiche gratin.  Delicious?  This meal was wonderful and one of the most satisfying I’ve had on the entire trip.  I ate every bit and seriously wanted to lick the dish that those potatoes were cooked in.  My husband had a fish dish that he said was very delicious.  Thank you sir for a delicious meal and for being so thoughtful.  Thank you also for the amazing Poire belle Helene that I shared with my husband for dessert.

I don’t limit my travel due to my dietary restrictions, however I am always pleased when I find a restaurant that is willing to be so accommodating (and creates such good food).

Gluten-free In An Rv

Increasing numbers of people have food allergies, sensitivities or intolerances these days.  There are a lot of theories as to why this is, but the bottom line is that it can make it very difficult for folks to eat outside their home.  Maintaining a healthy pantry is critical for these folks, as is an awareness of what to look for when eating on the road.

Now that summer is over and the kids are back in school, it’s time to get back to the regular routine while daydreaming of summer vacations.  My friend Tina recently shared the story of her family and their ability to take a long-awaited cross-country family vacation.  It’s wonderful that they were able to achieve this dream, and a definite testament to how much advance preparation they had to do to be able to make this trip a reality.

Traveling gluten-free and dairy-free definitely changes what you do and how you do it.  Our family has dreamed of a cross-country trip for years.  Those dreams were challenged by the fact that my husband is very sensitive to gluten and dairy… even a crumb or drop can leave him with asthma and GI problems for weeks.  We decided that the best way to travel would be to take our kitchen with us and do most of our own cooking. With the help of a friend who lent us their RV we were able to do finally make our dream come true and take this trip.  

Starting from CT, going across the northern states, down California, then returning via the southern states and up the eastern coast it was a wonderful adventure.  We were so happy our dream could become a reality and we had a great time. However we definitely had to consider how we would feed my gluten and dairy-free husband along the way.

Carefully considering our menus we pre-stocked the kitchen with gluten and dairy-free staples we knew we could have a hard time finding on our travels across the country.  Not every area of the country offers a wide range of dietary choices and not every store has things like:

rice/potato pastas
gluten-free pretzels
gluten-free bread crumbs
gluten-free bread
dairy-free buttery spread
gluten-free chicken broths
gluten-free, dairy-free cold cuts
gluten-dairy free brownie mix
gluten-dairy free cake mix (we had some birthdays to celebrate along the way)
corned beef without anything added in (in the midwest a lot of stores only sold corned beef with everything already added in and we couldn’t trust it)


Our dinner meals were usually a meat (chicken, steak, pork, burger), sometimes breaded with veggies or a stir-fry with brown rice.


One family favorite is a breakfast that we usually have in the winter before spending the day snowmobiling out in the cold.  It’s tasty, filling, and an easy on-the-road breakfast. 


The Berge’s Hash and Eggs


Can of corned beef (plain, no potatoes added)
4 potatoes (or as many as you feel is adequate for the # of people you have), diced
3-4 T. olive oil
1 onion, diced
ground pepper, to taste
onion powder (optional)
eggs (1 or 2 per person)


Put the onion in a frying pan with a 1 T. oil until softened. 
Add the potatoes, more oil if needed, and cook until potatoes start getting soft. 
Add the corned beef and brown it all (no need to add salt since the corned beef has it already) 
Season with pepper and more onion powder if needed 


When the hash is browned remove from the pan and set aside
Cook the eggs (we like sunny side up)
Place eggs on top of the hash and serve


It’s so delicious and for lunch you can get by with just a piece of fruit and some nuts or other light meal… works great when you’re travelling around for the day.


My husband’s diet influenced us in other ways as well. We ate “out” at a restaurant only twice during the five weeks we were on the road.  Before being seated we would ask our server lots of questions about whether they could accomodate us; if they said they could, we would try it.  However there was always that feeling of playing “Russian Roulette” with his GI system since you’re never really “sure” that the chef and wait person “get it.” 


While we were on the road  we would seek out health food stores and would be in heaven if we found a gluten-free bakery or somewhere with treats (we were on vacation after all!). We were surprised to find  that out west people do not know what italian ices are. There’s a market to be tapped there, for sure!


We talked a lot about how it would be great if there were some quick, healthy drive-thru type places where gluten and dairy free people could find food. Unfortunately it doesn’t exist, even the salads are usually tainted with croutons and/or cheese. It was eye opening how much harder it is to travel when you don’t fit into the majority.


Travelling with food allergies can be a great experience if you plan ahead on how to find or make foods that work. Yes, it would be nice to be able to eat out a little more often while on vacation (food is half the fun of vacation!) but we were able to manage. The good news is that the States seem to be getting more aware of food allergies and it is definitely easier to find gluten-free and dairy-free foods than it was 10 years ago.


photo courtesy of:  Bill Ward’s Brickpile