Columbia Restaurant

Every time we go to Saint Augustine we talk about going to the Columbia Restaurant, but for some reason or another we end up choosing to eat somewhere else.  It’s a good thing that we kept skipping the Columbia and tried all those other places…. because now that I’ve visited the Columbia I never want to go anywhere else!

We planned to spend the day in Saint Augustine.  I wanted to find a couple of gifts to send to friends back in Missouri, take some photographs and lunch, of course, was high on the ‘to-do’ list.

img_5014I made reservations using the Open Table app, mostly because Open Table gives you points for making and keeping reservations that can be used to earn gift cards to restaurants or Amazon.  I didn’t really expect to need reservations… it was a chilly, grey Saturday afternoon in February.  Silly me.  The restaurant was packed.  I heard other people being told that there was a 45 minute wait to get a table.  Fortunately, with our reservations, we walked right in and got a table.

We asked for a Gluten Free menu and the server returned quickly with three ‘real’ GF menus.  Not those dingy, mangled paper menus that some restaurants grudgingly hand out to the GF people.  These were real menus… with lots of options!  img_5033

Mahi Veradero – 

Grilled boneless fillet of Mahi Mahi crusted with ground crispy green plantain chips, topped with a citrus butter sauce.  Served with yellow rice. 

It was SO good.  Mom and Brian ordered… other things… I can’t even remember… I was so distracted by my own plate.  It was fabulous! Mom and Brian loved theirs as well… whatever it was.  We all agreed that the Columbia was our new Very Favorite Place in Saint Augustine.

img_5034That opinion wasn’t in the least bit influenced by the pitcher of Sangria that Mom and I shared.

Sangria de Cava – 

A sparkling white sangria made tableside with Jaume Serra Cristalino Spanish Cave brandy, orange liqueur and fresh citrus juices. 

The restaurant itself was beautiful, with art, sculptures and fountains… beautiful tile-work and graceful columns.  I would have loved to have taken more photos, but the place was fairly packed and people get all weirded out when you start taking photos… or when you ask them to move so you can take a better photo!

After lunch we picked up a few packages of the Columbia’s Sangria mix to take home andimg_5064 add to our gifts being sent back to Missouri.  Next we headed into Saint Augustine to shop and explore.  Brian wasn’t feeling up to walking around a whole lot, he sprained his ankle earlier this week, so he let Mom and I wander off to find the restrooms…. totally unsupervised.  First we found Le Macaron French Pastries.  And we definitely needed to try a few of those…  Then there was Claude’s Chocolate and a few more gifts and a few for us to sample later…..

I’m pretty sure that Brian realized that it wouldn’t take us that long to find a restroom… public restrooms are pretty prevalent (and nice and clean too!) around Saint Augustine…. I think his ankle hurt bad enough that he didn’t care how much candy Mom and I were out buying… and ‘sampling.’

img_5066When we caught back up to Brian, our arms loaded with sugary treats…. for gifts! (and sampling) I insisted that I had to go see the lions at the bridge.  We’ve been to Saint Augustine a handful of times since we moved to Florida and I have yet to get close to the guardians of the Bridge of Lions.  I was already this close and I had my camera with me and everything!  He wasn’t super amused, but he was resigned and really, Mom and Brian have no room to complain about my photography.  Mom bought me my first camera and indulged me with rolls and rolls of film throughout my childhood….. and Brain keeps buying me new lenses for my ‘grown up’ camera…. so really….. they’re enablers.

I am absolutely, completely and totally in love with the lions of Saint Augustine…. and pretty much everything else about Saint Augustine. After a few dozen photos of the lions… from every angle… and a few using my phone and the selfie-stick, I relented and let Brian take us back to the car.  I miss our little French town of Kimmswick back in Missouri… but I’m loving that I’ve got the Spanish town of Saint Augustine to explore.

img_5063

 

Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza

img_3716

Brian has been wanting to try Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza for a while now, but some how Epik Burger keeps interfering… (I dunno… don’t look at me…. ) The other night he was craving pizza and I’d had my Epik Burger fix the day before so I couldn’t really say anything.  Tommy’s had really good reviews on Find Me Gluten Free.

Why haven’t we been eating here all along?!  The pizza was fabulous!  No, seriously… not ‘good for gluten free,’ but GOOD… actually good. Best of all, the Gluten Free-ness of the pizza seemed to be an honest concern for the staff.   Out front there’s a guy tossing pizza dough in the air and stretching crust onto pans…..  and that just looks like Gluten Doom…. but then I saw one of the other guys dissapear into a different room and come back with the prepared GF pizza on a sheet of parchment paper.  The pizza was transfered from the paper into the brick oven…. completely avoiding the gluten-ed crust tossing area.

According to their menu all the toppings are Gluten Free except for the meatballs.

Mom and I decided to share a pizza.  They’re 12″ and that’s plenty for the two of us.

img_3583

Funghi Pizza
This pesto based pie is topped with Portabella and button mushroom slices, and lightly topped with mozzarella, then dusted with Romano cheese for the finishing touch.

The Brumos (59) Racer Pie
A ‘World-Class’ Pie, for our local ‘World-Class’ Daytona Racing team: Pepperoni, Sausage, Bacon, and Ham. A True Champion!img_3582

Brian was right…. and now I’m addicted to Tommy’s pizza.  We went back again a few nights later.  This time I wanted to try a pizza with the tomato sauce instead of the Basil Pesto…. Brian has already settled on his favorite and he went with the Brumos (59) Race Pie again.  This time Mom and I split the Jack Murray Pie.

img_3717Jack Murray Pie

Everyone loved Tommy’s Uncle Jack, and he loved it loaded! Here’s his favorite with Pepperoni, Sausage, Mushrooms, Green Peppers, Onions, Olives, and Bacon.

I’m not sure which was my favorite…. both were really good. I’m thinking next time I’ll tell Mom to order the Funghi Pie and Brian to order the Brumos Racer Pie and then I’ll steal pieces from them both!

4160 Southside Boulevard Unit 2
Jacksonville FL 32216

Cantina Laredo

I was craving nachos the other night. Yes, again. There’s nothing wrong with nachos every night!

Anyway….

Nachos…

Top Shelf Guacamole

Made fresh at your table, serves two to four – gluten-free, vegetarian

We started out with the Top Shelf Guacamole…. and we really should have stopped right there. The guacamole was made fresh at our table and was delicious!  I got distracted with the menu so I wasn’t paying close attention when the lady was making the guacamole, but I think she used one and a half avocados, lime, cilantro, jalapenos onions and green peppers.  The corn tortilla chips were crispy and fresh… Brian’s not a big fan of guacamole, so Mom and I got the whole thing to ourselves. That really could (should) have been our meal. (The two salsas that came with the chips were really good too. Not the traditional thick tomato-y salsa… more…. spicy, smokey…. less tomato…. good.)

But of course, we didn’t stop there.

The menu was clearly labeled with numerous Gluten Free options and we warned our waitress that we were all gluten free. The menu looked pretty safe… it’s not one of those menus with a ton of deep fried or battered selection. That’s one of the things I like about Mexican food… as long as you avoid the flour tortillas most things are gluten free. (Not everything, and you’ve always got to ask…. but Mexican food is generally a safe… and yummy…option.)

I decide to go with tacos…. ’cause… tacos!  Right?!

There were three tacos to a plate and the waitress said we could mix and match the different tacos, but Mom and Brian both wanted the Tacos De Pescado and they’d promised to trade me one of theirs, so I just ordered the Tacos de Barbacoa. (Which in the end, we all ended up with one Barbacoa and two Pescado tacos…. but whatever.)

Tacos De Barbacoa

slow-roasted brisket with marinated onions, monterey jack cheese and cilantro

Tacos De Pescado

mahi mahi, marinated vegetables, queso fresco and chipotle aioli

The tacos were good… colorful, flavorful…. but the meats were somewhat dry. The brisket was difficult to bite apart and I ended up using my fork and knife to eat it. The Mahi Mahi was better, but still on the drier side. The rice was delicious and the beans… which I almost never bother with were actually really good.

I’m hoping that we just caught the cook on a bad night… all the flavors were there… the meat was just too dry.

The Top Shelf Guacamole was well worth the visit and given my nacho addiction, I’ll be back for another bowl before too long.

At the moment Casa Maya is still my favorite, for tacos, but Cantina Laredo is the winner in Nachos Chips & Guac.

10282 Bistro Drive
Jacksonville, FL 32246

Mouse Waffles 


Last weekend Brian and I popped over to Disney World….. OMG! That still sounds so crazy! We just ‘popped’ over to Disney for the weekend…. ’cause we can do that now, ya know…. since we live in FLORIDA!

Sorry, sorry…. NOT SORRY! I am loving everything about moving to Florida!  (Except getting the stupid house built,  but that’s a whole different story.)

As soon as we had our Florida drivers licenses we got our Disney FL Resident Annual Passes.  I was not a fan of Disney as a kid, but after we went to the Osborne Festival of Lights with my in-laws one year, I was hooked. Disney is SO wasted on the little humans.

Brian and I planned to hit The Magic Kingdom, Animal Kingdom and Epcot this time… Hollywood Studios has a bunch of construction happening and Mom kept asking ‘How long are you going to be gone?’  So we figured three days would be plenty to start.

One of our favorite things (on our very long list) to do at Disney is EAT!  Disney has some really good restaurants….especially in Epcot. Now if you’re wrinkling your nose at me right now then you’re probably thinking about the quick-serve places…. like Pizza Planet and such…. while those places aren’t bad…. I’m actually talking abut the REAL restaurants. Chefs Du France and Yack & Yeti… places where you go in and sit and a person comes to your table and asks your order.

Disney is especially amazing if you have a food allergy. At the quick service places you can ask for an Allergy Menu and they’ll ring you up a special ticket and your food is made in one of the Allergy Safe kitchens somewhere… magical?  I’m not sure where exactly, but your food comes on a special tray and is delivered by a special cast member who verifies your allergy again before handing over your food. ‘Gluten, right? Just gluten?  Okay… here’s your food.’

I have never once been concerned about the safety of my food in Disney… and I’ve never gotten sick. It’s amazing the number of allergies they can work around. You can always ask to speak to one of the chefs.

Best of all (okay, second best… first best is not getting sick), no one ever makes you feel like a freak… or a problem, or sneers at you…. ‘Gluten Free?  Sure! No problem…. we have gf cookies too!’

So I was totally excited to go to Disney and EAT my way through the three parks. Calories don’t count in Disney. Last year Brian and I had breakfast at Trattoria al Forno on Disney’s Boardwalk. I ordered the Gluten Free Mickey Waffles that I’d heard all my favorite GF Disney Bloggers rave about.


They were the best waffles that I’ve ever had… gf or otherwise. (That’s a glob of Heaven in the center there… aka Mascarpone with cinnamon and sugar).

So this year I was totally wound about getting more Mouse Waffles… as I like to call them….


First of all, the presentation wasn’t nearly as cute, but I was just going to eat them… and there was no mascarpone… but I asked and they brought me some, so that was fine…


And then I sliced into my much anticipated, dreamed about waffles…. and they were gummy in the center!  Crisp on the outside… gummy in the center.

I sent them back and the manager brought me a bowl of fresh fruit while I waited for a new batch of waffles to be made.

The second batch was gummy too.

I gave up. Brian had already finished his meal and I’d eaten the bowl of fruit while I’d been waiting…. a third try wasn’t going to make anything better. Their recipe had obviously changed.

I asked about a recipe change when I sent my uneaten waffles back, and the waitress said that she didn’t think they’d changed anything. Later she returned with our bill having removed the waffles, and said that she’d overheard the manager and Chef talking. Apparently they had switched to using Bob’s Red Mill Pancake mix for the waffles and pancakes. (Ha!  I was right!)

After our visit last year I’d done some Googling and read that Disney used Cup4Cup Waffle mix for their waffles. I can’t remember where I read that… but I started using Cup4Cup to make my waffles at home and they tasted pretty much like I remembered Disney’s waffles.

The Cup4Cup website has several different waffle recipes, but I use their pancake recipe. At this point I can’t remember why I started using the pancake recipe instead of the waffle recipe… but I like the way they turn out and I think they taste quite a bit like the Disney waffles that I remember.

Cup4Cup Waffles

INGREDIENTS
1 cup Cup4Cup Original Flour or Wholesome Flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup reduced-fat buttermilk, milk, or dairy alternative
1 large egg, room temperature
3 tablespoons melted butter or canola oil
INSTRUCTIONS

1. Preheat griddle over medium heat.

2. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a bowl.

3. Whisk in milk, egg and canola oil until there are no lumps. Batter will be thick.

4. Spoon pancake batter onto preheated griddle. Flip when bubbles appear, cook on opposite side until golden brown.

Rice Bowl

I’ve been trying to convince Brian to go to The Rice Bowl since we first visited Jacksonville in July, but he kept turning his nose up at the suggestion… and then, knowing me so well, would distract me with Epik Burger or MShack.  Last week I finally put my flip-flop down and insisted we give The Rice Bowl a try.  (Honestly, because I have no control at Epik Burger or MShack and will eat myself stupid… and I’m trying to be better…. all this eating out is delicious… but not good on the waistline!)

We asked for a Gluten Free menu before we were seated and it took them a bit to find one…. it had gotten mixed in with the other menus… but they weren’t at all perturbed by the request.  The GF menu was extensive and clearly marked and the waitress was helpful with suggestions and clarifications.

Mom and I decided to share an appetizer and entree.  (See?  I can be sensible.) img_2419

Spring Rolls

Cilantro, lettuce, basil, carrot and shrimp wrapped with ricepaper and served with hoisin sauce

Royal Dish

Chicken,beef,lobster and shrimp served with special blend of vegetable with a traditional brown sauce (white sauce for GF)

Brian ordered a huge bowl of Fried Rice…. most places use soy sauce in their fried rice, so he doesn’t get to have it often.

Fried Rice (Combination)

Includes your choice of meat and onion, carrot, green pepper, scallion. Toppings include tomato, cucumber, pineapple, cashews

img_2423

The Royal Dish was delicious. It’s a good thing that Mom and I decided to share because I’d have been compelled to eat it all….. and I might have exploded in the attempt.  The GF white sauce (used instead of the usual brown sauce) was light and flavorful.  The vegetables were plentiful and cooked perfectly…. the meats… tender and delicious. The fried rice (served as a side with the Royal Dish) was quite good too…. light and flavorful.

The Spring Rolls were just so-so… they could have used a bit more flavor… maybe a bit of mint?  And the shredded lettuce was difficult to keep from falling out of the wrapper.  The Hoisin sauce was yummy though.

I was very pleased with the Rice Bowl… even Brian admitted that it was a good find… ha!

Rice Bowl Asian Cuisine
13947 Beach Blvd #110
Jacksonville, FL 32224

TacoLu

Mom and I ventured out into our new world all by ourselves last week. I was ridiculously proud of myself for navigating in a completely new city…with Google’s help, of course. I used to live just south of the St Louis City/County area all my life and practically refused to drive anywhere in the city limits….. maybe the Zoo… or the Botanical Gardens… those two places didn’t freak me out to much, but driving nearly anywhere else in STL gave me fits. Jacksonville, FL is so so so soooo much more laid back…. the roads make more sense…. people are a thousand times nicer….I’m just loving it here!

Mom and I went out for massages and then Brian met us for lunch at TacoLuimg_2295

TacoLu had good reviews on Find Me Gluten Free and I’m almost positive that our FL realtor had recommended it to us…. I think.

Our waiter went to get our drink order while we took a bit of time to look over the menu.  He returned with our drinks and was just setting the tortilla chips down on the table as I mentioned that we were all Gluten Free….. and he snatched the chips right back off the table.  ‘Let me go get you Gluten Free chips,’ he said.  He returned a few moments later with a bowl of commercial looking chips… possibly Tostitos?  They were fine…. I mean, I can narf a whole bag of Tostitos chips at home…. but the basket of glistening, deep fried chips that had been within my reach just moments ago had looked so good…. *sigh*

Our waiter was great, knowledgable and reassuring about the guten-less-ness of our meal and reassuring us that the tacos wouldn’t kill us*.  (*Note: you don’t generally die from being glutened….. you just wish you would.) The tacos could all be served with corn tortillas and all but one of the fillings (the Brisket because it’s marinated in beer) could be made GF.  (The two things that were fried could be made grilled instead.)

Spending the past few months in the RV has not been kind to my waistline….. no no… I can’t keep blaming the campground dryers for shrinking all my clothes…. I may (Almost definitely) have over indulged a bit recently.  (Thank goodness we finally got our bikes out of storage!)

So, I’m trying to be a bit more sensible with my portions…. trying…. I ordered two tacos and no sides…. and I tried to stay out of the chips and salsa.

img_2297

The tacos were good, the salsa okay…. the decor was fun…. very ‘Día de Muertos’ kind of festive.  The staff was great about reassuring us and most importantly, we felt just fine after we ate.  For tacos I liked Casa Maya better, but TacoLu was really good a second.

TacoLu
1712 Beach Blvd
Jacksonville Beach, FL 32250

Larry’s Giant Subs


We stumbled across Larry’s Giant Subs with the help of the Find Me Gluten Free app the last time we were in Florida. Since our move to Florida Larry’s has quickly become a favorite.

I’ve been to three different Larry’s locations and each one has been great about reassuring us of the gluten-less-ness of our sandwiches.

The first time they handed me my sandwich I thought they’d made a mistake and given me ‘real’ bread. I tried to hand it back, but the lady just laughed and said it really was their gluten free bread. It’s really good GF bread… fluffy with a nice flavor, and not crumbly or grainy like some GF breads. Like most sub sandwich breads, it’s still more bread than I want/need and I tend to yank hunks off and discard them. Mom liked the GF wrap… I need to try that next time. She said the flavor was good and it seemed to hold up nicely…’bendy’ would be the technical term, I suppose.


It was a $2.25 up charge for the GF bread on the 8″ sub and $3.00 on the 12″

They could be a little more generous with the meat on the deli sandwiches, but the chicken breast sandwiches are just the right amount.

All in all, I love that sub sandwiches are available to me again. Few GF carry out options travel well…. It’s nice being able to pick something up quickly and take it home or to the beach… wherever.