Category Archives: Food

Gluten Free Puno & Lake Titicaca

Neither Kay or I realized when we got to Puno that its elevation would affect us with altitude sickness already. We both had headaches, a bit of nausea, a general sense of feeling unwell, and were really winded walking around. My headache felt like a vague hangover with stuffed up ears, but soon I realized that my stomach was upset probably due to the altitude and not food we had eaten.

For our first dinner, we went to Mojsa Restaurant in the main square and ordered some coca tea to help our headaches.Our waitress was American and I was really happy to know that she knew what gluten was and could recommend several things to me.
I ordered the Sirloin steak with Andean chimichurri, golden huayro and sweet potatoes, and parsley alioli sauce before getting pretty sick and running to the bathroom several times. When I came back, I’d lost my appetite completely (another symptom of altitude sickness) and it was a shame because my food looked really yummy.As I mentioned in our homestay post, we spent the next day in the care of locals who cooked mainly corn and potatoes, all gluten free. The soup below was absolutely delicious and vegetarian, with fresh muña tea herbs for our tea.Also at lunch after the soup, we got a big bowl of various potatoes, some carrots I think, as well as a big piece of salty goat cheese.I was really impressed with the cooking the entire homestay because the kitchen was basically a small hovel off the eating area. It looked more like a barn or trash room because the family always swept everything from the eating area into the small kitchen space so that they could pick things up to burn later on. I was SO curious to see how they really cooked in a space like that. It was very small and cramped, with no vents for the smoke.For dinner we had a kind of carrot and potato mix with rice.The next morning I was concerned when our mama served us what looked like pancakes. Communicating with Kay’s Portuñol to their dialect of Quechua was a little tricky, but we verified that there was no “Harina de Trigo” and that it should just be made out of corn, so I ate my pancakes with coca tea and they were delicious.Next on our homestay tour, we had left Amantaní Island and headed to Taquile Island where we had a big goodbye lunch before heading back to Puno. Here I asked our guide to make sure the food was OK for me. First up was some quinoa soup. We realized on the trip that quinoa, which we eat so often now with my celiac diet, often comes from Peru, and that the local diet uses it heavily, to my benefit.For lunch we had a choice and I picked fresh fish with a side of rice, fries, and some veggies. I also purchases an additional Coke out of the homestay package because I felt icky and headachey and it took my headache right away. After that, I pretty much felt fine and headache-free from the altitude for the rest of the trip. Still extra winded though. 😉Back in Puno, I wanted to go back to Mojsa Restaurant because I didn’t believe that the food had made me sick and I really wanted to try their gluten free brownie for dessert. It really had to be the altitude, which is quite a common reaction from travelers.

Kay and I decided to split a ceviche as our appetizer because we hadn’t had it in Lima yet and it was delicious, it was trout ceviche with sweet potatoes and crunchy corn. If you are heading to Peru, make sure to try this signature Peruvian dish of fish cured in citrus. For my main, I got the grilled trout fillet with a passion fruit and rocoto pepper sauce, served with sautéed vegetables. And a Pisco Sour, because we’d hiked a tough walk on Amantaní Island. 😉For dessert, I got my brownie and shared a tiny bit with Kay, who was quite stuffed himself.On our fourth day in Puno, we thought we’d try something else out and we had the dreaded breakfast search, which is honestly still the worst part of traveling as a celiac. I’d eaten a snack bar or two before we found Cafe Bar de la Casa del Corregidor, which seemed like it was the cafe of a kind of hostel in the area.Muña tea and espresso were ordered, as well as juice because it was breakfast for us.The menu was not extremely gluten-free friendly, but I got some kind of frittata that met my needs.We also decided to split some chicken kebabs. Looking at them is making me hungry again.After we walked up to the Condor in Puno, we stopped at the cafe again for some classic Inca Kola, which is like bubble gum flavored pop.I also ordered a quinoa soup because breakfast didn’t fill me enough.And they were so kind to give us more corn to munch on.For our last meal before our night bus to Cusco, we just went back to Mojsa Restaurant again. I’m still not one for repeats, but it makes life so much easier as a celiac when you know there is a safe restaurant with decent food. I’m making peace with the lack of spontaneity because I don’t have a choice in the matter. What makes life easy, makes life easy.

Because it happened to be our 4th anniversary that night, I decided to go all out and try their kitschy oven baked guinea pig served with sweet potato puree, orange sauce and a small rocoto pepper and tomato salad. Yep, that is a guinea pig and this lady had no shame in eating it. It was GLUTEN FREE!It tasted alright, maybe a bit more gamey than chicken or beef. It was a bit hard to get all the meat off the bone though and I ended up finishing it chicken-wings style.

For dessert, we opted to split the second gluten free dessert, which was a kind of hot, sweet, quinoa porridge with raisins. It was very filling.Up next, we arrive in Cusco the days we’d planned to acclimatize to the altitude we just encountered in Puno. Oops.

More from our trip to Peru:



Gluten free Venice

I’ll admit that after my celiac diagnosis, I was afraid to go to Italy again. It is the land of pasta and bread, all things gluten. So I was surprised how gluten free friendly Venice is!

On our first night there, Kay wanted to stop and get gelato before we went to bed. We stopped at place on the way to our flat and seeing the cone dishes, I asked if they had normal paper cups before Kay pointed out a vase full of cones labeled “Senza glutine”. HOLY HELL, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a gluten free cone in an ice cream or gelato shop anywhere!!The shop was called SUSO. I was so impressed we came back again even though we did see other gelaterias elsewhere. It was too late to do food shopping after our arrival on Friday night, so we headed to Ristobar San Polo because we knew it would be open from 8am onward.

Breakfast is still one of the most difficult meals to obtain gluten free and unfortunately they could only offer Kay a focaccia or bruschetta and the only gluten free things they could offer me were tiramisu and some kind of apple cake, so I took both with a cappuccino! The tiramisu was pretty good, moist, but the apple cake was even better because it was warm. Still, with only two pieces of cake and a coffee, I was not really satisfied. Kay just ordered the focaccia and coffee and together we paid €26. Venice is not cheap!We stopped for more coffee in another square later on to soak up the sun and I ended up snacking on some of my gluten free snacks I’d brought along.For dinner, we went to Osteria All’Ombra because it had good reviews on The Gluten Bigot, but it was a pretty mediocre restaurant. It actually had a different name on the menu or wall somewhere and was run by Asians, so at first we honestly thought we were in the wrong restaurant, possibly an Asian one by the name on the card, but it was still All’Ombra they assured us and we aren’t sure if they bought the restaurant from original owners or if it was always like that, but they were definitely not speaking Italian in the kitchen and we are always a little hesitant to eat local cuisine prepared by non-locals. You know, like the sign of a good Chinese place is when other Asians eat there and how it’s a risky sign if there are only non-Asians in the kitchen. We decided to risk it because it could still be good, but all the gluten free stuff was frozen or pre-prepared and Kay’s normal food was not great either.

For the starter we ordered prosciutto and mozzarella, which was pretty blah.My pizza was fine and I did not get sick eating it, but even the ingredients on top seemed pretty mediocre.I was most disappointed when I ordered tiramisu for dessert and it looked exactly like the tiramisu for breakfast. Obviously it’s the same frozen brand, but All’Ombra didn’t defrost it very well. I could even hear the microwave ding in the background, but there were still frozen chunks of ice in the cake.

With that and the pre-set frozen gluten free menu, I was wondering why we went there instead of the many other places that also offer gluten free items. (Hint, almost all the restaurants I am betting have the same GF menu, as we found out at another restaurant the next day.) They did get points for a nicer presentation than Ristobar though.For breakfast on Sunday, we went to a grocery (Thank God!) and bought some absolutely delicious meat and bufala mozzarella.That with espresso from the moka pot supplied by the landlord (yes!!) we had an amazing breakfast supplemented by some gluten free cake we found in the grocery.Ahhh cheese. So good!! So fresh!Kay and I were both impressed how many gluten free items there were in the grocery. Many brands that we don’t know here in Switzerland.We had the cake above for breakfast and the snack bars below as additional snacks around the city.Kay wanted to buy the oreos below, which are actually German, but we ended up bringing them home because we didn’t have time to eat them in Venice.After our visit to the Doge’s Palace on Sunday, I was so pooped and wanted a coffee, but then a glass of wine sounded great too. Why not?? Weekend trips always inspire indulgence.In the afternoon we stopped back at SUSO for another cone. This time I got pistachio and yogurt with berries. Mmmm!I was really in love with the GF cones!We went to Malibran for lunch because it had a big “GLUTEN FREE” sign out front, which was also OK, but nothing amazing. They actually didn’t even have a dedicated gluten free menu and just told me I could order pizza or pasta. I was not especially impressed. I ordered mussels for an appetizer and then chose from the same boring pre-made gluten free menu of pizza or pasta.I ended up with penne and ragout, which I can probably make better at home myself, but it was hot and comforting since it had started to drizzle outside.So there you have it. Food in Venice is similar to Rome. Expensive and crappy because they know they can charge that much for mediocre food and people will still come.

Rest assured that as a gluten free traveler, you will still have lots of options for different restaurants and you can even order gluten free beer (Daura), pizza, pasta, and gelato with a cone, all with minimal effort on your part.

Don’t be afraid of getting sick, just be afraid of the prices! And if you can, I still recommend eating local produce at home because breakfast at our stinky flat was the best food we had all weekend! 🙂

Gluten free Porto, Portugal

In general, I found very little about specific gluten free restaurants in Porto or restaurants with gluten free menus. For this trip, I focused on the restaurant card and explaining what I could not eat, which was fine with the Mediterranean influenced and heavy seafood diet in Portugal.

These weekend trips are getting a little expensive, so I tried to keep costs low by booking Jualis Guest House. Our supposed room was overbooked, so we ended up being placed in what seemed like a studio apartment from the owners that faced the street and was pretty noisy, but at 30€ a night, we were not complaining. The staff were all really helpful and nice as well.

Mainly though, I booked because I had read a review that they could give you gluten free bread at breakfast and that is the one meal that I do not want to worry about on a trip. After some confusion asking them to confirm this via email beforehand, they did say they could provide gluten free bread and sure enough, I received special gluten free rolls heated up just for me in the morning. They would even ask what time we would come for breakfast so that I didn’t have to wait. Kay was a little jealous because his bread was cold and it was hard to warm ourselves up eating on the patio in the cooler weather.Still wanting a nicer coffee, we stopped at Café Moustache, where I ordered gluten free cake along with my cappucino just because they had it.For lunch, I was adventurous and agreed to eat at a local diner at Largo São Domingos 23, which I couldn’t get a picture of the restaurant name, but we dropped down that dark scaffolding area in the photo below and went to the restaurant with the red door.It had a 100% Portuguese menu and we decided to order some wine with lunch before our port winery tour. Not the best place for wine though unfortunately…I was really enjoying starting to read and understand things in Portuguese. There is still a ton to learn, but I already feel like I can communicate a tiny, tiny bit better. While Kay ordered a typical Francesinha dish, I ordered fish, which they just battered in egg instead of flour as well.We had to scramble a bit to get to Ferreira cellars on time. The tour of the cellars was very brief and then it was time for the degustation. Most of the 50 person group were only trying the 2 ports included in the standard price.

Only our table with two other couples were trying 5 different kinds.It was a bit of a disappointing degustation because all the port was too quickly explained and then the guide took the bottles away with the labels and left, so we had no reference besides our quick retention skills to talk about what we were supposed to be tasting.It was a shame because they even had the glasses set up on sheets with space for writing, so they could have easily written down what we were drinking.

Lastly, there was no water or anything to snack on to clear your palette between sips. All in all, not the best degustation we’d ever been to, but we still enjoyed the port with our limited introduction. 🙂We did get to sample a 20 year old tawny (if I have that right) as well as another LBV. I of course liked the most expensive one the best. 🙂After the port, we were a little tipsy and tried to wake ourselves up with a coffee on the walk back to the bridge. Mine had a wonderful sweet cinnamon touch.After coffee we wandered around aimlessly wondering what to do. Museums were closed, but it was not yet time for dinner and without my usual gluten free selection guide, we were again lost as we normally were on city trips pre-celiac disease.

Finally we decided to stop at the seemingly super touristy Majestic Cafe, because we were tired and a little hungry and just did not care about the extra price. Like the Livraria Lello & Irmão bookstore, apparently Cafe Majestic is said to be where JK Rowling started one of her first drafts of Harry Potter.It ended up being a pretty nice restaurant. Sure, the prices were a little more expensive than other places, but Kay thought the melon above was to die for and the restaurant was knowledgeable enough about gluten to make a special gluten free port sauce for my duck.We also decided to sample another brand of port to help us with our decision of what to purchase at the end. Knowing we liked both the 20 year tawny and LBV from Ferreira, we tried the same from Graham’s and decided we liked both of them much more than the Ferreira stuff. The 20 year tawny was the better of the two and had a nice long and complex finish.The next day we got up for breakfast again before checking out and finding that the sun was starting to peek out. We stopped for a fresh juice and coffee before tackling our day.I had actually asked, albeit with very short notice, if there was room for dinner reservations for two at The Yeatman’s Michelin-starred restaurant for Saturday evening and unfortunately there were not, so I was excited when I asked about Sunday lunch and they confirmed my reservation.

Kay, on the other hand, almost wanted to cancel the lunch reservations because he didn’t feel like “dressing up” in his business shirt and getting all sweaty the next morning climbing the tower certainly didn’t help.

But shortly after sprucing ourselves up and being seated with a port aperitif and the view below from our table, Kay was sure that this was the absolute best decision of the weekend.And it was. This meal made up for all the missed anniversaries this year. We hadn’t gotten around to eating somewhere amazing and this place really spoiled us. They altered everything to be gluten free for me if necessary.Chef’s greetings with lobster and caviar on a macaroon base and avocado cream on what I think was a shrimp kind of cracker for me and a corn tortilla cracker for Kay.

Below, micro carrots.Next was a refreshing gazpacho and molecular mozzarella to the right, paired with a white wine. I was terrible and forgot to get any of the wine names.Below was a crispy salmon fillet sandwich with wasabi mayonnaise.Sea bass, crustaceans & coconut served in a halved coconut.Below then codfish swim bladder and bean stew, codfish fillet and codfish sauce. This one tasted nice and hearty, like preparing for winter.The main was grilled and glazed sirloin, chanterelle mushrooms and barbecue sauce & oxtail stew. I think below is the oxtail stew and the next photo is the sirloin with mushrooms.Ah, heaven!!They also served Kay seaweed bread and another kind, while I enjoyed a nice light and fluffy gluten free bread with soft butter and olive oil.The “pre dessert” was some kind of chocolate mousse over nuts. Kay’s probably had some gluten cookie underneath which they just replaced with nuts for me.Actual dessert was green tea cream with lime merengue, tonka bean ice cream and iced tea.Here was the iced tea. Funny serving. We were marveling at the interesting dishes for presenting food. Some of the plates were quite large and voluminous.After dinner we received a selection of macaroons and chocolates. I left the crackery bits to Kay.After dessert, we decided to try some more port again, so we splurged a bit and chose an LBV from 2010 and a 1976 vintage from Krohn.I am not sure we could decide which one of these we liked better, but we made sure to look for something similar in the duty free section at the airport. Of course everything is more mainstream in the airport, but we had carry-on only and didn’t want to invest in shipping something home.In the end we settled on Graham’s 20 year tawny, a white port from Graham’s, a 1998 Krohn vintage, and a Borges Porto 2010 LBV.Now that we know more about port from our tour, we also know that it’s also important to drink a bottle in a timely fashion. Kay and I were both under the impression that you can leave port open like liquor and it will taste fine, but after a quick test at home, Kay feels that our old standby tastes like vinegar compared to the ones above.

We were happy to get a nice little collection to enjoy and savour properly based on our tastings. Overall, we had a very enjoyable food and dining experience in Porto. I highly recommend The Yeatman’s restaurant if you are in town!

Gluten Free Montenegro

I was a bit absentminded before we left for Montenegro. I ran out of time with everything going on and did not do any gluten free restaurant searching or worse, I didn’t even prepare restaurant cards in the local languages, which could range from Montenegrin, Serbian, Croatian, Russian, Albanian, Bosnian… there were usually five or six languages on every pack in groceries and none of them were English!

When we first arrived on Sunday, we bought some emergency supplies at a convenience store on the way to Lipci because we weren’t sure what would be open on a Sunday and I needed a gluten free breakfast at home on Monday morning before our rafting trip.

Navigating the first grocery was a little terrifying because everything was so foreign and the language was incomprehensible to try and figure out what gluten, wheat, etc would be. Still, we stuck to known basics like polenta, rice, lentils, meat, and yogurt.

Later on that day we realized most groceries were open and throughout our visit we found that they actually carry a lot more gluten free cereal than we have at home, which we enjoyed a lot during the mornings at the flat. We also ran into a place selling a bunch of Schär products, so we picked up some bread for me to take rafting on Monday, which came in handy because the rafting company provided both breakfast and lunch and it was nice to supplement the none safe bread with my own.

With our own kitchenette at home, we did a fair amount of home cooking, having lentils and sausages one night, rice and pork another, and so on, but after diving on our second day there, we stopped for lunch in Budva since we wouldn’t visit it again later with the hour drive from our flat.

We actually just visited a restaurant next to the dive center that they recommended, called Konoba Langust, because we were hungry and we received a 10% discount coming from the dive center. Prices were pretty touristy, but the food was alright.The restaurant was sat right at the beach, which was nice to look out onto, plus the restaurant was really cute and had a wonderful Mediterranean feel.Without a restaurant card to show the waiter my restrictions, plus the pretty dismal knowledge of what gluten even is in Montenegro, I decided to go safe and order a risotto dish with shrimp. I did ask if it had any flour in it, because you never know, and he assured me it didn’t. Who knows if he actually knew what flour means, but I did not get sick the whole trip, even when some waiters were really clueless or confused what I was asking.After that lunch we headed to Sveti Stefan to see it before heading home from Budva and it was sooo hot, we just had to stop for an iced coffee at Hotel Adrovic.The coffee was pretty expensive, closer to Zurich standards, but the view was magnificent.After our rafting and diving days, we had several stay-at-home days to relax and enjoy the swimming across the street. Snacks and drinks were included everyday. 🙂In the evenings, we often cooked at home and enjoyed the amazing mountain view from the balcony. I always like eating at home on holidays without good public transport because then Kay can enjoy alcoholic beverages as well without driving my butt around as the designated driver.

One night he made pork chops with sauteed onions and peppers, served with a side of rice. It was pretty darn yummy and sooo much food.We didn’t always eat at home. A couple nights we ventured out for meals in the nearby towns. After all, Kay would spot coastal restaurants like the Tramotana beach bar and want to try them out.It was wonderful how even with high 30ºs C/90ºs F, the night would cool to the low 20ºs C/70ºs F. It was the perfect for sitting outside at night without overheating.

At Tramotana we had local cured meat and cheese with olives for our appetizer. Very Mediterranean and after this, we bought some similar meat and cheese in a grocery to eat on the balcony at home.This was a place that had no idea what gluten was, but I again explained “No bread! No flour!” although I really don’t think he knew what flour is, but he was a very attentive waiter since we arrived earlier than most Montenegrins usually do and he always made sure we were taken care of. The food turned out fine and I ordered this delicious octopus dish for my main. Later in the week we had reservations at Ćatovića Mlini, which we knew would be rather expensive for Montenegro, but it had good reviews and was close to Lipci. It seemed like an oasis of wealth compared to the surrounding area. It was one of the few places that looked really well kept and was beautiful.

We had come earlier in the week and booked a table outside for Friday evening to get a spot outside,  but even despite booking in person, they lost our reservation and just sat us at a last table next to the water, which was nice… but that path was also used by a huge group of Russian guests (30+) with many children running forth and back right next to us. That got a little annoying by the end of dinner.For a  starter I ordered mussels to make sure I got enough of them on this trip. I really adore them hot. In German, there is no word distinction between oysters and mussels… black and grey, so I always am a bit tripping what to call them in English.For the main, Kay and I both ordered the same: black risotto with truffle sauce, fresh fish, and shrimp. It was heavenly! I almost wanted to come back again just to order it twice. 🙂For dessert I ordered flambeed pineapple with a cream and ice cream topping. It looked a little strange, but the taste was also amazing with the carmelization.The last place we went for dinner was Aquarius in Herceg Novi, which also had a wonderful seaside view.Our waiter here spoke better German than English, so we went with that. I ordered mussels one last time, this time for Kay and I to share, even though he is not the biggest fan of seafood, and he really liked these ones with a lovely tomato sauce. It was almost like a soup.After the mussels, Kay went for steak (boo!) and I went for the catch of the day with potatoes. It was a salt crusted fish. I am not a big fan of avoiding really small bones during a meal, but the taste was worth it.We really miss out on fresh fish back in Switzerland, so it’s always nice to get some when we are out and about.

It was a nice combination of cooking and eating out with the kitchen at home and the bonus of being so close to the sea was that I could pop up and grab snacks and cold drinks during the day.

Montenegrin food is in line with the whole Mediterranean diet in the region. Lots of fresh fish, fresh flavors, and several options for those suffering celiac disease. I did not get sick one time and have gotten fairly confident with ordering things on the fly even without restaurant cards explaining my illness, but then again I do not react as strongly as others might.

Cake Cake Cake (Gluten Free)

Back in July, I bought a new, taller cake tin in preparation of having to maybe transport a dessert to my FIL’s house for Swiss National Day August 1. We ended up doing the meal at our house, but I still wanted to test some cake to see how it stores in my new toy.

Having made a couple from my Blackbird Bakery book already, I wanted to try out the easier and simpler recipes from my Everything Gluten-Free Baking Cookbook. I decided to try a basic yellow cake, because everyone needs a reliable cake for future birthday parties and events!I did, however, decide to try out a coconut frosting from Blackbird Bakery, which while it was delicious… it was again not that easy to make and it was quite liquid even a few days later. It was not the most pretty icing. I am not sure I will make it again because it requires a lot of multi-tasking in three different containers and cooking liquids to the just perfect, not boiling temperature, before adding to the other ingredients. So much room for error!But look at that cake below! The yellow cake turned out fabulous. I made two cakes in my 8″ pans and then frosted. I was a little unsure how much frosting there really was, so I didn’t do as much as I could have and I ended up putting a thick layer on top to take care of it.

The cake itself was light and airy, which is uncommon for gluten free cakes. Normally they are extremely thick and dense, especially the store bought ones which are closer to rocks.For Swiss National Day, I decided to make a new attempt at chocolate cake with the Everything GF book because the recipe from Blackbird Bakery did not turn out so well for me.This was for a mocha chocolate cake, so I made a cup of coffee from our automated coffee machine (so quick and fast) which was the perfect amount for the recipe.I made the mistake of licking the spoon above because it LOOKS like chocolate syrup, but it was pure cocoa powder with coffee and it tasted disgusting! 🙂This time I just made a chocolate frosting from the Everything GF book instead of trying something difficult and it turned into a much nicer frosting. I could have put a bit more water in to make it smooth on better, but it was fine.I decorated the outside and top with almonds. I also left the top layer puffy and round. Both cakes puffed up more than the yellow cake, but I didn’t want to cut too much away, so I trimmed the flatter layer for the bottom and left the more round one on top. It was a pretty sumptuous cake. Again it was light and airy and you couldn’t tell at all that it was gluten free. I wanted to make a really nice gluten free cake while my BIL was in town to show him that just because something is GF, doesn’t mean it has to have a terrible texture or taste. We made a pack of store-bought pasta in the summer at my FIL’s house with minimal toppings and he really wasn’t impressed, so I hope I made up for it with this cake. 🙂

If you are interested, check out the books!