This past weekend I was lucky enough to spend 48 hours in San Francisco with my husband at the tail end of his work trip. Of course, I thought long and hard before the trip about how I was going to get on with my current elimination diet/food restrictions. Traveling and eating out can be tricky enough when you’re just avoiding gluten, but put all the common allergens in the mix and it becomes a real puzzle piece. I’ve added back in coffee, nightshades, and sesame seeds with success, but am still strictly avoiding gluten, dairy, nuts, processed foods (as much as possible on this one), soy, and eggs. Luckily, Grassfed Girl did a series of blog posts on Paleo restaurants in San Francisco, which I was able to go off of.
I flew in Friday morning but with a flight delay, didn’t arrive at our hotel until that evening. The only food I could eat in the terminal was a small bag of popcorn and a yam, black bean, and corn salad from Beechers Cheese. Of course, Beecher’s Cheese was the last place I looked for food, yet it turned out to be the only place with a gluten, dairy, nut, sugar, soy, and egg free (am I missing anything?) option. I gave in to the black beans and corn. This was my time to make use of the 80/20 rule as Chris Kresser suggests, as to not go crazy or become a food fascist. I’m glad I did. Sometimes it’s better to have something less than ideal rather than to starve!
Brian and I headed out for the evening as soon as I arrived, as to not waste a precious minute of our short trip! We first went to Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen, where their motto is “Good food is central to the best times in life”. I couldn’t agree more! They’re a completely gluten free restaurant, which was really nice. Plus, they have homemade plantain and taro chips and yuca fries, which I knew Brian would love to try. I got the Shrimp Ceviche as an appetizer and Brian got some yuca fries. I loved the ceviche, and we both thought the yuca fries were just okay. I was afraid to ask what kind of oil they fried them in, and once again decided to choose my battles, so I ate a few anyway. They were very thick (and in turn extremely starchy), which I later learned from Your Personal Paleo Code is because it’s easy for them to become too tough when they get fried if they’re cut small. I look forward to making my own.
Next we headed out to a bar called Monk’s Kettle meet our friend (and Brian’s old coworker) Bob, who moved to San Fran a few months ago. Although I don’t drink much anymore and am usually happy going out without a drink in hand, sometimes it feels awkward to sit in a bar that is known for their quality beer and wine and just sip on water. So I indulged and enjoyed a glass of wine, although after a few sips it tasted too sweet to me and I actually left a bit at the end, hoping nobody would notice! Although I can’t remember what Brian got, he was quite excited about their beer selection.
We had dinner at Limon Rotisserie, and were lucky to find a couple seats at the bar considering the warning of a two hour wait for a table. I would highly recommend anyone going here to make a reservation ahead of time. I ordered 1/4 chicken of white meat with my two sides being camote frito (sweet potato fries) and ensalada (salad). We also shared the Ensalada Rusa, which is a “Classic Peruvian salad of fresh local beets, baby yukon potatoes, carrots, choclo & peas tossed with Aji Amarillo aioli.” Although the waiter did verify that everything I ordered was gluten and dairy free (including the dipping sauces for the chicken), I didn’t believe him after the fact. My stomach felt upset and the salad was just too deliciously creamy for it to be allergen free. Well, I still did my best and definitely enjoyed every bite of the meal. I would highly recommend Limon.
Saturday morning we decided to check out the amazing Farmer’s Market at the Ferry Building, which was right outside our hotel’s front door. Although the forecast had called for a rain storm, it was blue skies. Before we headed over we had a quick breakfast at the hotel. Although the menu was full of pancakes, waffles, oatmeal, and scrambled eggs, I was proud of my ability to create a delicious and diet friendly breakfast of local bacon and sautéed vegetables just by asking the waiter if that was possible. I also got to tease Brian for my sneakiness (and his lack thereof) by enjoying a cup of the hotel’s complimentary help-yourself coffee right outside of the restaurant while he sipped away on his $5 cup of average joe he ordered at the restaurant.
The Farmer’s Market was incredible. I thought we had it good in Seattle, but I was thoroughly impressed at the never ending stalls of local and organic food. We browsed and I found a store selling Tcho Chocolate, which was just recommended to me by my paleo eating friend Adriane. I got a few bars (the darkest available for myself) and a couple bags of their 99% chocolate nibs which I’ll probably use for baking. I tried to eat it plain, but it was just too bitter. Adriane also told me about Francois Pralus chocolate a couple months ago, and I am in love with their 100% bar! Seriously, I never would have thought I would enjoy dark chocolate and I’m actually becoming a bit of a dark chocolate snob. Francois Pralus gets their high quality cocoa beans from Sambirano Valley in Madagascar. High quality, dark chocolate of which is real cocoa is one of the most nutrient dense foods available so I definitely enjoy this treat.
After our browsing, we went for a jog along the waterfront which took us to Fisherman’s Wharf. Although the sun was out and everything else was perfect, I was frustrated because my stomach was feeling upset, which I linked to last night’s dinner and my lack of trusting it’s allergen-free-ness. We had to stop and walk some, which I have always hated to do while on a run, as it makes me feel defeated. I was finally able to snap out of my irritated self by remembering how lucky I was to be able to be jogging in the sun with my husband, and just enjoyed the rest of the slow jog home, also reminding myself to let the possible food blip wash over myself.
I was so excited to try the lunch spot I had picked out that I forgot about my stomach ache altogether and my appetite grew. We walked about two miles from our hotel to a burger joint called Roam Burgers to meet my friend Erika. It was very reminiscent of our favorite neighborhood eatery, Uneeda Burger. The two mile walk didn’t sound too daunting earlier, but with the sun and San Fran’s steep hills, we were definitely hungry enough by the time we got there. We cooled off with kombucha and beer (in Emily and Brian order) and ordered our usuals. I always get the seasonal salad at Uneeda Burger without any cheese, crotons, or other possible allergen add-ons. Their ‘Farmer’s Market Salad’ with mini patties on a skewer added was delicious and beautiful.
After lunch, Erika took us for a walk in the area, through a park, and back down to the waterfront towards Ghirardelli Square. We popped into the chocolate store to browse, getting handed a square of chocolate each time we walked through! Each time I gave mine to Erika or Brian as it was always milk chocolate. I bought a few of their darkest varieties, 60%, 72% and 86% and although I wasn’t nearly as impressed with Ghirardelli as I am with the other brands mentioned above (largely because of the soy lecitan they use as a binder), I was still happy to be able to enjoy a couple treats since everybody else in the area had some form of chocolately treat in hand. We also found a Blue Bottle Café to help find the perfect balance of coffee + chocolate = bliss.
We took a much needed rest in the hotel room before heading back out for dinner that evening. Dinner was at a South Indian restaurant called Dosa, chosen mainly because of their wonderful detailed allergen menu. I love being able to look at what dishes I can have before which dishes I chose, rather than the other way around. It makes dining out much easier and therefor much more enjoyable! For appetizers, I enjoyed a bowl of Coconut Seafood soup very much, and helped Brian out with his ‘Winter Poriyal’, which was brussel sprouts and butternut squash with ginger, garlic, fresh coconut, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Both were incredible and I felt so happy to be able to enjoy delicious food without feeling the least bit restricted. For the main course I got Chicken Xacuti, which was bone-in chicken curry with spicy coconut gravy and coconut rice. Wow! Everything about this restaurant was amazing and I only wish we had one in Seattle. (I only got one mediocre picture as it was very dark in the restaurant.) Speaking of, the entire meal Erika tried to convince us we should move to San Fran…
The next morning we woke to rain, rain, and more rain. But since we only had a few hours left in the city, we decided to try and make use of it as much as possible. We got our running clothes back on and headed out along the waterfront again, this time in the opposite direction of yesterday. We got a few strange looks from people and the older couple that shared the elevator with us asked if we realized that it’s raining out. “We’re from Seattle,” I said with a smile, and this seemed to be a good enough explanation for them. Although it wasn’t raining too badly, it was very windy, so our short jog of two miles seemed to take forever. Finally (okay, maybe only 20 minutes later) we reached our destination- Philz Coffee! I wanted to find out what the big deal about this place was.
Their order board was overwhelming and my feet were cold and squeaky with rain water, so I chose a coffee blend quickly and waited outside as Brian ordered, as to not steam up the whole café. I’m pretty sure I got the ‘Anesthesia’ medium roast- with a definition of “mind-numbing layers of fruitful oak and caramel”, how could you go wrong? My friend Erika mentioned something about Philz Coffee being known for their creamy coffee drinks and since I have my coffee black (or with coconut milk or ideally butter when I’m not avoiding it) I wasn’t so sure how it would end up. But I was impressed! Perhaps it was partly the influence of being so wet and cold, but the coffee had a full taste, was quite delicious and definitely hit the spot. We planned on hitching a ride home with Uber, but the rain let up and we ended up walking back with coffee in hand, enjoying the foggy waterfront.
The coffee held us over until we met my dad’s cousin (and her adorable dog Inu) for lunch at the Ferry Building. I was looking forward to either Mixt Greens or Prather Ranch Meat Co, but they sadly both turned out to be closed. Our options were limited so ended up in a lunch spot who’s name I can’t even remember. I asked for a big salad with a burger patty added and the waiter suggested I just get the burger without the bun and a side salad. He seemed a bit confused by my dietary needs so to simplify things and not create a scene I just went along with his suggestion. My meal came out with the burger bun included and a side of regular fries, neither of which I ate. This was perhaps one of those times that I should have politely probed further to get food I could eat. The burger patty and salad were very tasty but also very small! We had a nice visit with Jeanne and she kindly drove us to the airport after lunch. Leaving lunch, I looked down and noticed Washington written on the group. Yep, it was time to head home.
Since we got to the airport so early, I roamed snack options, and found none. (Well, that’s not entirely true. I found some dehydrated pears with no sugar added- for only $9 for four slices! Yikes! I passed on account of the expensive form of sugar.) We relaxed and read for an hour or so, then realizing how hungry we were becoming, began to take the food search much more seriously. We probably spent almost an hour dipping into each and every café and restaurant in the terminal, looking for something I could eat, each time finding absolutely nothing. Even all the prepackaged salads had some form of dairy or egg in them. At first, it was fine and we both thought of it as a fun challenge, but as time went by and our stomachs grew less patient, I started to feel frustrated and anxious about the thought of either not eating for four more hours or totally giving in and eating something that would leave me with a flare up. We finally sat down at a Chinese restaurant where I figured I could order a plain salad with chicken added and just survive with the probable soy contamination. I wasn’t excited about the meal but finally felt better about finding something to eat. But when I asked the waitress about gluten free options or substitutions she looked annoyed and told me everything had gluten in it. Yes, I understand that my question is commonplace in restaurants these days. Yes, I understand that it can be thought of as “hip” to order gluten free even if you don’t really need to. But for those of us who it’s not a choice for, it’s extremely frustrating to get an unwelcome response by a restaurant. We got up and left.
Walking away from this restaurant was perhaps the most anxious I’ve ever felt when eating out. Even in the midst of being on this elimination diet for four months now, I’ve never felt so discouraged. I was hungry, tired, and now frustrated at the unaccommodating response from the waitress. Luckily, when I felt like giving up and crumbling into a mess of cheese puffs and ding dong’s on the terminal floor, my sweet and understanding husband persevered on. He discovered the other restaurant possibilities outside of the terminal and we left our terminal in search of the large food court area way over in the International Travels terminal. The security people didn’t even seem that confused or surprised that we were choosing to leave our terminal in search of different food. We finally found somewhere where I could order a spring salad with chicken added. Nope, it wasn’t worth a picture, neither was it worth remembering the name of the restaurant. But at the time it was perfect. The waitress was polite about my order, the food came out just as I ordered, and it filled me up for the time being. It was success in the face of feeling defeated.
It was a good way to finish off the trip. It was a good reminder that it does take planning ahead and creativity when finding food that fits into the Elimination/Autoimmune Protocol diet, but that it’s always very worth it when it’s a success. Our first stop after landing in Seattle was PCC. I picked up breakfast foods and a few of their prepared foods for a late night snack. Beets, yam and kale salad, and peppered steak. Mmmm… And Monday morning? I welcomed myself back home with a large spring mix salad of beets, sardines, guacamole and mushrooms. It’s good to leave home for awhile but it’s always better to come back home.