Road trippin’: Gluten-free fried pickles at Hot Mama’s in Eugene, Ore.

GF fried pickles!

After the previous day’s fried food indulgence, I’d caught the itch.

We planned to stop in Eugene for lunch on our way back to Brookings. A quick Yelp search turned up Hot Mama’s Wings. Many of the menu items — including the wings and the fried stuff — are gluten-free.

It was hard for me to decide what to get. The chicken fried bacon? Onion rings? Mac n’ cheese?

I ended up going with the fried pickles because I had never ever had them, even before I went gluten-free. And just because it had been a long time since I had such a thing, I got the basket of chicken tenders and tots.

I also shared some of BK’s hot wings. The daytime special was nine wings, fries and a drink, so he had that.

Chicken strips and tots

I thought everything was really tasty. Having never had fried pickles, I was very pleased with them. I was concerned they’d be overly soggy but somehow the ones at Hot Mama’s maintained their crisp. The chicken was very well-breaded and the tater tots were extra crispy. I’m used to oven-baking them, which is a touch healthier, but deep-frying them certainly makes them more delicious.

Wings, minus Paul McCartney

I ordered far too much, of course.

I was so pleased to find all of these gluten-free options in Oregon. Such a nice treat. It’s probably good they aren’t closer though, because I think I might have gone into fried food overload if I had any more. It’s delicious once in a while, but I think that’s my limit.


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Road trippin’: Gluten-free fish and chips at Hawthorne Fish House in Portland

I have reached gluten-free fried food nirvana.

As any strict gluten avoider knows, finding good GF fried food is like finding the Holy Grail.

OK, maybe not quite that dramatic, but hey, it’s pretty damn special, right?

The last time I was in Portland, which was back in ’07 I believe, I made a trip to the Hawthorne Fish House. I remembered it being quite tasty so I went back last week. They use a brown rice flour coating to bread the fish they serve up.

I like that HFH and its sister location, Corbett Fish House, don’t make a big deal about being gluten-free. It’s refreshing to not have to ask for a special menu or feel like an outsider. Their stuff just happens to be GF and yes, they promote that fact a little bit but it’s definitely not a huge thing. I like that. It allows me to feel normal.

Anyway, BK got an actual beer while I opted for a hard cider and we shared a number of items.

We started out with the fried cheese curds, which I loved. I’d never had fried cheese curds before so admittedly I didn’t have much point of comparison, but I enjoyed these. I like how surprisingly light they are and I get a kick out of the slight squeak of the curd.

Deep-fried cheese curds!

We also shared the standard fish and chips made with Pacific cod, as well as an order of the clam strips. Yum! Such a treat but so much food! We ordered the smaller portions and it still felt like a lot.

They also offer a gluten-free beer battering, if you’re so inclined, as well as a whole array of GF desserts. I was far too full to even consider having dessert too.

GF fish and chips
GF clam strips
Posted in comfort food, gluten-free, Portland | 1 Comment

Road trippin’: Gluten-free breakfast sandwich at Fried Egg I’m in Love in Portland

I’m such a sucker for a good pun…and I also like food trucks. Portland’s Fried Egg I’m in Love manages to combine both of these and offer their delicious breakfast sandwiches on gluten-free bread. Win-win! I went for the Free Range Against the Machine, which featured a fried egg, avocado, tomato and havarti. Bk’s sandwich, while not on gf bread, had an arguably better name: the Yolko Ono. Yum!

Posted in breakfast, gluten-free bread, Portland, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Road trippin’: Gluten-free and amazing at Pok Pok in Portland

Tamarind whiskey sour at Whiskey Soda Lounge

I was thrilled to read online that famed Portland eatery Pok Pok is actually quite friendly to food allergies. I’ve been wanting to go there for awhile but assumed it would be laden with soy sauce.

The way they handle it makes a lot of sense to me. You can request a special menu that in bold letters states what allergens each dish contains: seafood, gluten, dairy, etc. It made it much easier for me to pick a bunch of dishes that BK, my girl Michelle and I could all enjoy.

Before dinner, however, we stopped off at Pok Pok’s sister cocktail lounge across the street, Whiskey Soda Lounge. I’m kicking myself for not trying the salted plum vodka collins, although I generally do not like vodka. I also sampled the Stone Fence, which is made with their house drinking vinegar (the apple variety.) Pok Pok has its own entire line of drinking vinegars called Som. I’m not sure I’m sold on it yet.

At Pok Pok, we ended up going for a catfish dish, the spicy flank steak salad and the smoky eggplant salad, all of which were really delicious. The Saa Phak, a combo of veggies, Thai eggplant, Albacore and olives — well, I’d skip that next time. BK and Michelle also shared the spicy fish sauce wings. Everything was delicious except the Saa Phak and it was awesome to have so many options to choose from. What’s cool for us living in California is that things in Portland are quite cheap, comparatively. Considering the amount of food we had, I believe that with tip it came to about $35 each. That’s not dirt cheap but for a restaurant as widely regarded as Pok Pok, I was amazed at how affordable it seemed. I can’t wait to go back.

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Road trippin’: The tiny town of Brookings, Ore.

While en route from Santa Cruz to Portland, we stopped for a night just over the Oregon border in a small town called Brookings, population roughly 6,000.

The room we reserved through AirBnB had a beautiful view of the coast and a hot tub overlooking said coast.

Brookings does not have a lot in it. We picked up some wine at the local outlet of the Fred Meyer grocery chain, which is a grocery store that also sells electronics, clothing and housewares, in addition to having it’s own jewelry store-within-a grocery store called, appropriately, Fred Meyer Jewelers. There is something oddly appealing about the idea of being able to simultaneously purchase a television, a diamond tennis bracelet, a bottle of wine and a package of bacon. I think. It’s kind of weird to me actually. Oh, there’s also a location of the chain “Ray’s Food Place,” which for some reason I think is the funniest name for a grocery store. I appreciate the lack of euphemism or excess wording. It’s concise and straightforward. I can appreciate that.

I digress. It was recommended we try the “nice” restaurant in Brookings, which is also a vodka distilling company. And what pray tell is the name of this establishment? Super Fly!

As you might imagine, many Curtis Mayfield jokes were made while dining there, much to the chagrin of my dining compatriot.

Super Fly appears to have once been a pizzeria that is now trying to be a chichi cocktail lounge and restaurant with a bit of nightclub-esque blue lighting thrown in for good measure. It appears to be something of a “meet market.” Jokes aside though, the food wasn’t bad and everything was very affordable. I was amazed by the low price of $6 “martinis,” though if we are being accurate, none of the drinks on that list could really be classified as a martini. Instead, they were mainly an array of various bright-colored or chocolate-y drinks with sugared rims made using the restaurant’s own potato vodka (also called Super Fly.) I rarely drink vodka and I never drink most cocktails ending in “tini” but not starting with “mar,” but….when in Rome? Er, that is, when in Brookings, you do as they do, I suppose. I got the day’s special, a blood orangetini. Once I wiped off all the sugar on the rim, the drink wasn’t bad though I remembered how dangerous those sweet vodka drinks can be. I switched to a dirty vodka martini for round two.

The food was simple but not bad and quite affordable. I had a pork loin that came with a green salad and fries for $10. I cheated a little and ate the fries without asking about the fryer contamination issue. It wasn’t a good idea. Still, Super Fly was pretty decent.

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Road trippin’: Gluten-free sandwiches at Ukiah Brewing Company

Despite “losing” my job, bk and I decided we’d still go on our previously planned vacation, though we scaled it back. Instead of our intended plans to go to to Portland, Vancouver and Seattle, we chose to drive up the California-Oregon coast and stay in PDX for a few days. I personally do not like driving very much but the boy really wanted to see the coast so, away we went.

On our way, we stopped in Ukiah for some lunch, where I found the Ukiah Brewing Company. UBC touts itself as being “America’s first organic brewpub.” In addition to, you know, beer, they have a cider on draft and more importantly, GLUTEN-FREE BREAD.

Yes, that’s a damn good Reuben! With homemade ‘kraut and corned beef! Hallelujah!

From there it was on through the redwoods we went. The small towns that Highway 101 passes through are a bit fascinating to me. There were more little shops selling “burl” and carved wooden bears and dragons than I have ever seen before. Who exactly is buying all these items?!

There were also several herds of elk and a number of places where you could pull off and look at them. Obviously I wanted to do this.


I also insisted upon stopping to see the giant statues of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Crescent City, California, obviously.


Posted in beer, california, cider, comfort food, gluten-free, gluten-free bread, lunch, oregon, Portland, restaurants, road trip, travel, ukiah, vacation | Leave a comment

should you go gluten-free?

I’ve complained before how the apparent trendiness of gluten-free diets drives me crazy. I appreciate the fact that it seems to have helped increase awareness and availability of gluten-free food. I don’t, however, like that it seems to have had a negative affect on perception. I’m concerned that many people will now take someone’s gluten-free less diet because they will think it’s just a stupid fad or something.

Sure enough, the gluten-free backlash is here.

Slate has a piece about why going gluten-free isn’t good for everyone as does Scientific American, which states more decisively that most people shouldn’t eat gluten-free. To be fair though, that latter piece was reprinted on FoxNews as well and it’s attributed to the dubious-sounding MyHealthNetwork.

Honestly, I don’t think everyone should go gluten-free. I do think people should cut back on their white flour and sugar intake, which is what I think a lot of people who go gluten-free for diet purposes don’t seem to quite get. It’s not the gluten that’s making you fat (usually, obviously we celiacs can contest that) – it’s the doughnuts, the crullers, the massive deli rolls and all that.

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Another ending of another opening of another show

This isn’t really about food, but I’m writing it here.

So yesterday I lost my job.

I love euphemisms.

“Lost.” As if I just dropped it along the way or misplaced it somehow. Lost. As if it were a glove missing its partner that ends up sitting in a box behind the counter of a movie theater. Something I could put signs up around the neighborhood for, with little tear-off tabs bearing my phone number and the request for anyone who sees it to call.

Lost: One journalism job

Last seen March 6 in Santa Cruz.

Please call.

This isn’t the first time I’ve gotten laid off and in some respects, that does make it a little easier. Unfortunately, I moved across the country to take this job and now I feel confused and unsure, the rug pulled right out from under me in one unceremonious sweep.

It’s not completely unexpected. Journalism is a difficult industry plagued by economic worries making it not a choice for the faint of heart. You do it because you love it, because you can’t imagine doing anything else, because you want to tell stories and you want to get information to people and you want to help make the world at least a little less confusing to at least one person.

But journalism is a tyrant of a mistress. It will eat you alive if you aren’t careful. As the Horace Greeley quote I had posted on my desk goes, “Journalism will kill you but it will keep you alive while you’re doing it.”

I think maybe that’s my fear right now. I’m afraid that if I stop, it will kill me. Like a shark I must keep swimming or I’ll float up to the surface and die.

I’m being a bit hyperbolic.

But my basic point is that I’ve got to find ways to keep doing what I do, to keep trying to do it better than the day before. Writing about food and gluten-free stuff in this little corner of the Internet has always been a bit of a treat, a way to relax from the gloom and doom of crime reporting. Lately I’ve been too tired to even do that. Writing after writing and researching for hours all day was becoming a chore. That’s never a good thing.

I’m looking for that proverbial silver lining here or whatever other cliche you might prefer. Time for writing about other things I love and am curious about, more time to research and read, more time to run around on our beautiful beaches with Ms. Ruby Tuesday and more time, of course, to try out new recipes and ideas.

Perhaps more importantly, this will be a chance for me to take a little break and become re-invigorated once more – hopefully this time with even more gusto. At heart I’m Polish and if there’s anything you can say about the Polish people, it’s that we are resilient. We get knocked down, we get back up and we keep going – with or without our pierogies.


Posted in favorites, grateful, Poland, rant, santa cruz | 3 Comments

Charlie Hong Kong in Santa Cruz: Healthy fast food in a funky environment

Going through a bunch of photographs in my iPhoto file has reminded me it’s been awhile since I last ate at Charlie Hong Kong. For awhile, CHK was a staple in our household on those nights when we both worked late and were too beat to cook. CHK calls itself health Asian street food. I’m not so sure how authentic it is, but it’s tasty and pretty healthy, not to mention affordable. The menu is largely gluten-free, more importantly. I’m a fan of the rice bowls myself.

There is one caveat about the GF menu, however. There are certain menu items that can be made with regular noodles or rice noodles. If you want it made with rice noodles, specify that you want it gluten-free so they will use a new pot to boil the noodles. There was one time I forgot to do so and I’m fairly certain they used the same gluten-containing pot – I definitely was feeling pretty “glutened” after that. I’m not positive that was the problem, but I think it was. They have a little note about it on their menu that says they use separate pots, but I think sometimes it’s worth reminding whoever is working the counter.

So far my favorite dishes are the rice bowls topped with green curry chicken or tofu, or the chang mai noodles, which comes with a plentiful mix of delicious veggies such as chard, broccoli and mustard greens.

Posted in fast food, gluten-free, home, rice, santa cruz | 2 Comments