Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe

A few weeks ago I noticed the sign for Taziki’s Mediterranean Cafe and immediately googled the menu.  Jackpot!  Right on the front page of the menu it said that most items either were, or could be Gluten Free.

I’ve been trying to drag Mom and Brian there, but they kept making faces at me.  I like really Greek food… the more olives, grape leaves, lamb and feta that you can throw at a dish the better.  Mom and Brian aren’t quite into it that much, so I had to keep giving them the menu and whining to get them to go.

It’s a good thing it took me several tries to get them to go since apparently Taziki’s didn’t open until that very day.  We missed the grand opening event by an hour, but they were still quite busy.  The owner, John, came over to greet us and chat about the menu.  I told him that we were excited to see so many Gluten Free options on the menu.  (I like to make tell the owners/staff/chefs how much I appreciate the GF options.  I know it can be more work to keep things safe for us GF people and I like to make sure they know how much it is appreciated… and that it affects our decision to choose a restaurant.)

John was super sweet and knowledgable about the menu.  He mentioned a lemon chicken soup and since Brian was working on a cold I asked if that one was GF.  He thought for a moment and then replied that no, it wasn’t because the stock had wheat.  I was impressed that he knew.  Later when he visited our table to check on us he told us that everyone who works at the cafe has to take tests on all the menu items and has to know what is in everything.  Nice.

I ordered the Taziki’s Feast without the skordalia sauce, since it isn’t GF.

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 Taziki’s Feast with the Chargrilled Lamb – Fresh grilled lamb, carefully seasoned, and served with our homemade skordalia sauce 

It was fabulous! I really liked the salad too.  Could have used more olives, but that could just be me and my olive obsession.

You’ll notice the Pita triangle on the edge of my plate.  Not Gluten Free.   I mentioned it to John when he stopped by to check up on us.  I said it would be nice if they had a button or something to denote Gluten Free orders to prevent cross contamination.  He was very apologetic and said they did have a GF button (or something similar) and that the kitchen should have known better.  They’d only been open a few hours, and it was crazy busy.  I was impressed with how well they did with our orders as it was, so I didn’t really want to complain… just point it out.  It was obvious and I was able to remove it and just avoid that area of the salad.

Mom and Brian really enjoyed their lunches too.  Brian had salmon, Mom had shrimp and I stole nibbles from both.  I think I’ll order the shrimp next time.  It was quite tasty with the lemon and butter.

All in all I’m pretty excited about the new restaurant.  They’re impressive with they’re understanding of the menu and all the ingredients.  The Pita Triangle guy needs a bit of work, but it was the first two hours, so….  The food was delicious, fresh and bright and the restaurant is pretty and spacious.  I’m looking forward to going back soon.  Mom and Brian even agree… I win again!

14035 Beach Blvd.
Suite 8
Jacksonville, FL 32224

 

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.

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Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza

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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.

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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

A few of my favorite things

It’s that time of year again…. there are a bazillion ads filling your inbox with ‘deals’ and ‘gift ideas’….. but are there any good suggestions out there?  No!  It’s the same stuff in every email and commercial… perfume, slippers and expensive electronics.  Boring!

We can do better than that.  So here’s my list of Holiday Shopping Suggestions. And don’t forget to grab a few of these for yourself… you’ve been good, right?  Whatever….you’ve been good enough!

The Snoozer Body Pillow – $53.99

Yep, it’s a pregnancy pillow…. but you don’t have to be pregnant to love it….. as a matter of fact, I’d recommend against the whole baby thing if you’re trying to get a good night’s sleep.  (Just what I’ve heard.) I have one of these pillows and I cannot live without it.

Acoustic Sheep Sleep-Phones – $39.95

Another ‘can’t live without’ item.  I’ve had three pairs of these over the past 5 years.  I LOVE them.  I absolutely cannot sleep without them.  I play rain sounds and just drift right off.  They connect to any music player with a headphone jack.  What makes these really special is the flat headphone speakers that aren’t poking into your ears.  They’re a great balance between ear plugs, which I don’t like because they block too much sound and a sound machine which doesn’t ‘block” any sound.  And the headband is super soft… I like to slide it down over my eyes for a bonus eye pillow.

Kindle Fire Tablet – $49.99

I bought my first Kindle two years ago after much complaining about how evil and useless and awful they were…. I admit… I was wrong.  I LOVE my Kindle.  I have a Paperwhite E-Ink (not a touchscreen)… if you ever come across a refurbished one, buy it!  I has amazing battery life and can store a bazillion books. I also have this Fire Tablet too… I like that I can check my facebook on it too, but it does have to be recharged more often than the Paperwhite.  Don’t go crazy and buy a super expensive one, buy the cheap one…. read it in the tub, read it at the beach…. on the plane… whatever. If it gets wet or stolen or whatever, you can buy a new one for $40-50 bucks… and your books are always yours…. they’re saved in your Amazon account.  Kindle books are also (usually) cheaper than ‘real’ books and you can download books instantly…. no more waiting to get to the store to get the next book in the series! Don’t worry about the ‘Special Offers.’ The ads are only on the sleep screen and don’t interfere with the book while you’re reading.

Check out my Amazon Store for a list of my favorite books.

Jamberry Holiday Bundles 

30916288735_40afffdb9d_zPretty much anything from Jamberry is fun…. nail wraps, polish, gel, lotions…. bundles!

Love my Jamberry!  Jamberry Nail products are perfect for anyone who like having pretty nails. Need a suggestion?  Ask me!

Need a low cost gift for several people…. ask me how to order and divide the Holiday Bundle for multiple gifts at a great price!

Other Fun Ideas

I don’t know about you, but I love getting stuff in the mail.  Consider a subscription box.  Check out My Subscription Addiction for a list of nearly a zillion (just an estimate) subscription boxes.  There really is a subscription box for everyone.  I’d recommend Birchbox for your makeup lover and Birchbox Man or  Harry’s Razors for the guys.

Happy shopping!

 

 

 

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

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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