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

Flaherty’s: oysters and gluten-free fried seafood in Carmel

On a sunny Saturday a few weeks ago, bk and I decided to take a trip down the coast to Carmel solely because I’d never been there and because we could bring Ruby Tuesday. (Apparently Carmel is considered one of the most dog-friendly places in the country.)

Uncharacteristically, we didn’t really research any potential spots for lunch and decided to just take our chances.

While walking down a street, I spotted a sign for Flaherty’s Oyster Bar and Restaurant. A quick perusal on Yelp showed decent results and the wine list looked promising, plus…oysters. Sold.

We ordered some a pair of pinot grigios and began to peruse the menu. After asking the waitress if she knew which menu items would be safe for me, she informed me they have an entire gluten-free menu. And not only that, but I discovered what is truly a Holy Grail of gluten-free dining: they have a separate deep-fryer. I swear, the angels in my head sang hallelujah at the realization I could order GF fried oysters, fried calamari and clam chowder. Amazing.

Given our good luck at this oh-s0-rare occurrence, we ordered a bit more than I might have otherwise. We had the GF fried oysters and calamari, as well as cups of the lobster bisque and the clam chowder – all gluten-free. Everything was good but I think I particularly loved the fried oysters and the lobster bisque.

After discovering the restaurant had blue point oysters that day — his favorite — bk also ordered us a half dozen raw oysters. I’m very hit-and-miss when it comes to raw oysters. Sometimes I really like them, but most of the time one is plenty. These were great though, enough so that I happilg slurped down a few.

Oh, and for 75 cents extra, I was given my own little plate of GF bread and butter to start. It was far better than many GF breads — a housemade rosemary foccaccia-type. So cool.

We also had a couple more glasses of wine.

Flaherty’s is not a cheap experience. We shelled out far more than I normally would for lunch because I just couldn’t believe my good fortune to have stumbled upon a place with such great GF options. As anyone eating GF knows, finding a place with a separate fryer and special fried foods is like finding a white buffalo. The caveat is the fried food will take an extra few minutes because they will probably need to get the GF deep fryer heated up, but I’m not complaining about that one bit.

I don’t really think I’d have much reason to go to Carmel again, but if I do, I definitely want to go back and try the fish and chips, and the po’boy, and the crab melt… and the dinner menu.

More photos after the jump.

Continue reading

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How to date gluten-free

The folks at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness sent out this list this week and I couldn’t resist sharing. At first I thought it was totally silly, but the more I consider it, the more difficult I can imagine dating celiac might be. I suppose I was lucky that the guy I was dating when I was first diagnosed had a lot of familiarity with celiac, and that my two serious relationships after that were with guys who loved to cook.

Dating Tips for the Gluten-Free by

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Gluten-free Super Bowl Sunday in Santa Cruz

I could not care less about football. There, I said it. I kind of enjoy going to live sporting events on occasion, but for the most part, I absolutely hate watching them on TV. Sometimes I’ll watch a little hockey, but that’s it. I once tried to watch the Super Bowl and only made it to half time. I usually spend Super Bowl parties playing with any dogs and babies that might be there, and stuffing my face/imbibing.

This year the SF Giants take on the Baltimore Ravens, and seeing as I live in full-on Giants’ turf, it’s kind of a big deal around these parts. I still don’t care, but I do enjoy any excuse to eat pizza and beer. I have yet to find a local place where I’ll risk contamination to try the wings, but there is a plenitude of gluten-free pizza available. Oh, and beer.

A while back, I started compiling a list of the gluten-free pizza I’ve had in Santa Cruz.

Hands down, my two favorites are Woodstock’s and Engfer’s.  I love Engfer’s, which is right down my street, but Woodstock’s offers delivery as well, making it perhaps a better choice for your Super Bowl party.

I’m guessing you’ll want to wash it down with a cold beer. My suggestion would be Daura or Omission, both of which I’ve found locally at Whole Foods. I’d say my runner up after those would be the beers from New Planet.  Here’s my feelings on some of the others.  NPR got in on the action this week as well, just in time for the big game.

Posted in Bay Area, beer, california, comfort food, gluten-free, gluten-free beer, pizza, santa cruz | Leave a comment

Winter recipe round up: What I’m eyeing


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Getting ready for Soup Swap 2k13

In a couple of weeks, it will be Soup Swap 2k13, much to my great excitement.

This year will be the third one I have hosted and either the fifth or sixth I’ve attended. When I lived in Chicago, my friend Clarisa and I joined forces and held a swap in my studio apartment. 

Last year was my first California soup swap, and we had only been here a few months. As such, we didn’t know many folks at all. I never wrote it up properly but it wound up being a quite nice, if intimate, affair.

The soup swap gave me an excuse to reach out to Les and John of Blame it on the Food, and I’m so glad I did. They are wonderful people and I feel fortunate to meet them. Soup swaps are great for bringing people together.

I forgot to write about last year’s event but to get myself pumped for this year, let me try to recall.

Les and John brought a  tasty lemon lentil soup with spinach.

I made a sweet potato -coconut soup

Jon and Julie made three containers of corn chowder and three of a GF minestrone. They’re graphic designers, and I loved the labels they made, as shown above.

Matt P. made, well, um, I can’t quite remember. Something with beef. (ADDENDUM: My better half, who perhaps has a better memory for what he consumes than I, points out that Matt made some sort of smoky barbecue chicken soup.)

Megan made a low-fat creamy mushroom.

Posted in gluten-free, grateful, home, santa cruz, soup | 3 Comments

Our last meal at Le Cigare Volant

A couple of weeks ago, winemaker Randall Graham dropped a bombshell via Twitter: hisrestaurant, Le Cigare Volant, is closing as of Dec. 31. Graham is the man behind Bonny Doon Wines and LCV is the restaurant/tasting room for the winery.

Le Cigare Volant is hands down my favorite restaurant in Santa Cruz. Bk and I have never had a bad meal there, and it’s one of the only places around that was consistently cranking out innovative, delicious food. The location itself is also wonderful. In fact, it was largely the restaurant/tasting room that led me to become a member of the Bonny Doon wine club. One of the many perks of membership is that you get a discount on any wine you order while dining at the restaurant.

Unfortunately, running a restaurant and a winery has apparently become too hard to juggle and Santa Cruz will be losing an awesome culinary experience. I’m pretty crushed.

BK and I knew we needed to eat there one last time, and so he invited some coworkers and off we went last Friday for what would truly be one of the best meals I’ve had in along, long, long time.

The food was so good, in fact, that all of us basically stopped drinking wine to enjoy it, becoming so immersed in our food that we completely forget to sip from the glasses in front of us. Our formerly lively conversation died down, giving way to moans of pleasure and frequent exclamations of “oh god!” and “this is so good!” I hate using sexual terms to describe food, but it truly was an almost orgiastic dining experience. Hedonism, you terrible seductress you….

Even better, almost all of the menu is either gluten-free or can be made so.

We started out with a few orders of one of their trademark dishes, the potted smoked fingerling potatoes. Typically these come with some balsamic bread crumbs but I asked for it to be made GF and it was still completely delicious. I never would have thought that something as simple as a potato could take on such depth of flavor when smoked. I am a great advocate for more smoked potatoes to appear on local menus. The presentation of these, in a small flower pot, is playful and yet sophisticated too.

jerk shrimp

I found out that night that their flatbreads are made with almond flour and are also GF so I had to try one. That night, it was topped with brie, winter veggies and caramelized walnuts. The almond flour provided a great texture and just a bit of sweetness that paired excellently with the roasted veggies and the tang of the brie. The walnuts were a little too sweet for my tastes though. I needed something a little more savory.

We also got anorder of pickles for the table and the “Laughing Bird jerk shrimp with circulated egg, sweet potato puree and green papaya.” We almost didn’t get this and I’m so glad we changed our minds. That was easily the best jerk shrimp I’ve ever had.

For our mains, we split the flat-iron steak with house-cured pastrami and celery root along with a delicious pan-seared salmon paired with sun choke risotto and red wine reduction. Both were cooked perfectly and the skin of the salmon was beyond comparison. I don’t normally like salmon skin but this was done so absolutely perfectly. I also loved the play on a traditional horseradish sauce that accompanied the steak and I could have easily eaten a lot more of that house-made pastrami. Sweet lord!

We finished full and satisfied, and just a bit tipsy, with me gushingly declaring the meal to be “revelatory” in a number of text messages to friends and even a tweet. I felt dreamy, punch drunk, amazed.

It’s not cheap here. I think that’s probably part of the problem. I’ve also heard complaints about the portion sizes, though I can’t agree with that criticism. Either way, I’m incredibly sad to be losing this local gem but I can’t wait to see what chef Ryan Shelton does next. I can only hope he’ll stay around Santa Cruz…

potted smoked fingerling potatoes with chives
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