The Hawks Nest Grill – Daytona

Last week Brian and I got the chance to visit Daytona for a few days and… of course… we went hunting for new restaurants.  We turned to our favorite app, Find Me Gluten Free, to help us find something tasty that wouldn’t kill us and immediately noticed one restaurant that had received 30+ positive reviews. Thirty GF people ate there, liked it, survived AND wrote a review?! Decision made!

I’m gonna admit, I was a little surprised by the restaurant itself.  From the reviews I’d been expecting a fancy Italian restaurant.  Instead, we pulled up to a somewhat rundown strip of stores far off the main roads.  The shop next door advertised ‘Cremation & Urns’. Awesome.  I supposed that if the restaurant wasn’t gluten friendly that Brian could just drag me next door and leave me for them to package up in a nice urn.  IMG_9716 I suppose this just proves that you should never judge a book by its cover (except, that you totally judge a book by its cover, that’s why there’s all that cover art and the description and recommendations by other authors… but whatever… you know what I mean.)

The Hawk’s Nest Grill looked like your regular bar and grill on the inside.  Vintage signs decorated the walls and the color scheme ran towards browns and black.  Still not the fancy Italian eatery I’d been expecting, but it was clean and looked nice.  The waitress hurried over, smiling and I started in straightaway that I had a gluten intolerance and I’d read about them online, then paused for her reaction.  I like to start out with the fact that I’m trouble and give us both the chance to give up before the drinks are even served.  She never even batted an eye.  Apparently several of the owner’s family have celiac so they know the drill.  Our waitress was super helpful… to the point where we ordered way too much, but everything she described sounded so good.

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We started out with the fried mozzarella triangles.  I haven’t had fried mozzarella since I went GF 6+ years ago.  And yes… yes those melty, gooey triangles of cheese were just as delicious as I remembered.  The marinara sauce was rich and flavorful too.

The four triangles disappeared entirely too fast and were followed by a plate of salad. I shouldn’t have ordered the salad, even though it was included with the meal.  Why waste valuable tummy space on rabbit food, right?

Unfortunately, the salad was pretty tasty too and even though I’d planned to just pick out the olives I ended up eating most of it before I realized.

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I really should have skipped the salad, even though it was tasty, because I was already starting to feel a bit full when our entrees arrived.

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I ordered the Lobster Ravioli.  Oh. My. Gods.  Seriously.  I had ravioli once since I went GF and it was nothing compared to this ravioli…. I’m not even sure pre-GF ravioli compares to this ravioli.  The pasta was so tender and perfect and the lobster was sweet and plentiful.  Absolute heaven.

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Brian ordered the Chicken Carbonara with Basil/Parsley Fettuccini.  Did I mention that all the pasta is house made?  Yeah….. fresh, delicious, gluten free pasta. Heaven!

You can order the pasta from Amazon… dried, of course, but still…. You should absolutely try it!

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There was bread too, because you can’t have all that amazing pasta sauce without bread to soak up every last bit.  It was just a toasted hamburger bun, but it was still buttery, garlicky and tasty.

And, as if we hadn’t had quite enough food to last us the next week…. the chef’s wife makes homemade GF cheesecake.  Yes, we ordered a slice of that too.  We did at least have some sense left and managed to box up some of our pasta and bread before we stuffed ourselves too silly to drive home.  We ordered the cheesecake to go too….. with blueberry sauce.

Considering that the location was rather unassuming, the bill, was not.  I’m not complaining.  Just offering you a warning not to be shocked when your $75 bill arrives.

The food was house-made fresh, gluten free and absolutely delicious.  Our waitress was friendly and super knowledgeable and the chef checked in on us from the open kitchen.  If you are even in the Daytona area, I would strongly suggest that you hunt down the Hawk’s Nest Grill.

5251 South Nova Rd.  Port Orange, Florida 32127

 


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Q&A: Is eating Gluten Free expensive?

Since I’ve gone Gluten Free and started sharing my experiences I get asked a lot of questions.  Which I LOVE!  If people are asking questions they’re at least sorta interested…. even if they’re being snotty, (ex. the guy who asked me if I really had a problem with wheat or if I was just one of those people who thought it was “healthy“)… if they’re asking questions there is a chance for them to learn.

There is a lot of information out there…. some in favor of the Wheat-Free life and some bashing it.  There is also fifty years of propaganda education telling people to eat Low-Fat/High Carb to overcome.  My mom grew up in that generation (Hello, Baby-Boomers!)… so did I.  I distinctly remember high school Health Class and being told that if we’d just eat Low Fat/Low Calorie/Healthy Whole Grains and exercise a little, we wouldn’t be so fat.  I WAS doing that…. it didn’t work! Look around!  Is it working?  What have you got to lose?  Except the Wheat, weight & worry (yup, depression and gluten are linked).

I understand that it is hard for people to have grown up hearing “Low Fat/Low Calorie/Healthy Whole Grains” from your teachers and doctors and the rest of the wellness community…… and now I’m telling you “Yeah, that’s all bull-shit.  Try this completely opposite lifestyle instead.”  I know that’s why you’re looking at me cross-eyed when I tell you I add coconut oil to my coffee.  I get it…. but if what you are doing isn’t working…. maybe you should try something new.  Huh?

So let’s answer some of the questions I’m asked most often.

Isn’t it expensive to eat Gluten Free?

It can be… if you’re eating “Gluten Free” foods and not foods that are gluten free.  (Now you’re looking at me cross-eyed again.) If you go to the grocery store and fill your cart with packaged Gluten Free foods…. Gluten Free bread, GF muffins, GF pasta, GF flour replacement and GF cereal…. yeah… its super freaking expensive.  But, if you skip those middle isles and shop the outside of the store (or better yet, head for the fruit stand and the butcher’s shop!) then, no… it’s actually a bit cheaper to live/eat Gluten Free.

When I first went Gluten Free I would go on rampages through Whole Foods.  I’d buy nearly anything with a Gluten Free label.  I just wanted my meals to look and taste like they always had….. loaded with carbs and oh, so comforting.  It was super expensive.

Sure, I was technically living Gluten Free, but I wasn’t really doing myself or the lifestyle any justice.  If I wanted my health (and therefore my life) to change… my eating habits had to change too.  I had to learn to look at food in a new way.  My breakfast does not need to contain cereal or toast.  My lunch doesn’t need pasta or sandwich bread…. and dinner certainly does not need bread crumbs, deep frying or a basket of rolls.  And when I realized (and implemented) that change my  health really started to improve.

So what does go into my shopping cart?  Meat.  Lots of meat… roast and bacon and hamburger, chicken and deli sliced meat.  Cheese…. oh! I do love cheeses…. Feta and sharp cheddars…. yum.  Butter.  Not that fake margarine crap…. BUTTER.  Coconut oil.  Fruits and veggies.  Nuts!  Nuts make the best snacks… I carry a little ziplock baggie of cashews with me all the time.

Yes, if you were adding this to your regular shopping cart, it would be more expensive.  But remember, we’re eliminating the cereal and crackers… the soda (blech) and the chips and candy….no more cheese poofs…. tossing the pasta and rice and cake mixes….no more frozen pizzas.   We just cut out the entire center of the grocery store!

Another big advantage to eating High Fat/Low Carb/Gluten Free…. you won’t feel as hungry.  It took me a little while to catch on to this.  We’re such creatures of habit!  For lunch, I was eating three slices of swiss cheese, each slice wrapped around a slice of turkey or roast beef deli slices…. and some nuts. One day it finally occurred to me that I didn’t really want the third wrap… I was just eating it because it was there.  So now my lunches are two slices of cheese ($2.50 for 12 slices = $0.21/slice) and two slices of deli sliced turkey or roast beef ($4.00 for 20 slices = $0.20/slice) …. and usually a hand full of pecans or cashews ($14.00 for 14 svgs = $1.00/svg).  Sooo  $1.82 for lunch?  You can’t get a frozen lunch for that!!  And best of all, my lunch is satisfying and healthy.  Sure, it did take a little bit to convince myself that my “sandwich” didn’t need bread.  I played around with lettuce for a while…. but eventually decided that I didn’t need the extra fuss… I was just as happy with the “wrap” minus the lettuce.

Gluten Free Lunch

At restaurants I  usually order off the regular menu and just ask for no bun or gravies.  I do inform my server that I’m “allergic” to wheat and ask them to check with the cook that I didn’t accidentally order anything with wheat.  (I say “allergic” because people are familiar with that term…. they understand that eating something with wheat in it could make me very sick….. which is true.  Sometimes when you say “Gluten Intolerant” people either don’t understand the term, or treat you like you’re on some kind of fad-diet and don’t respect how much they’re lack of care could hurt you.  People understand “allergic” and it gets the same result that “gluten intolerant” should get, but doesn’t always.)  I like to order fish (ask your server about sauces), steaks (ask about seasonings and rubs), hamburgers (no bun and make sure that its all beef with no fillers…. turkey burgers and veggie burgers are really bad about wheat based fillers.) and salads (no croutons).

Living Gluten Free is SO much easier and cheaper when we travel.  Yes, you have to plan ahead a bit more… pack a cooler… but we’re also not paying $10 for a nasty, unhealthy meal from Micky D’s either!  Check out my post about how we ate Gluten Free on our recent trip.

When I’m at home I’m learning to make a lot of dinners in the crockpot.   Lots of roasts and chicken with different veggies.  I LOVE using the Wildtree Grapeseed oils or a bit of wine to add some extra flavor (and learn to play with spices!).  I also try to pack the leftovers for lunch or dinner the next day.

Now, I totally admit that sometimes I get a craving for some old, familiar “wheat” recipe… and I’ll break out the Cup4Cup flour replacement and try to replicate it….. yup. Or maybe I want a Gluten-Free pizza at a restaurant or some gluten free mac & cheese…… I admit it.  But not every meal… or even every day!  Probably not even every week….  And if you’re concerned about the financial cost, then yes, all that stuff costs a bit more.  If your worried about the health cost…. well, that’s all the high carb stuff…. and we want to cut back on that stuff as much as possible.  That’s not to say you can’t enjoy it from time to to time…. like an expensive glass of wine…. something to be enjoyed and savored, but not for every meal/every day.

And we haven’t even begun to consider the cost savings at the pharmacy!  OMG!   If you were popping aspirin for your arthritis and migraines….  sleeping pills and rash ointment…… and how about those prescriptions for acid reflux, cholesterol and diabetes?  Lose the wheat and lose the drugs!

Whew!  So that was a short and sweet answer, huh?

So what other questions do you have about Gluten Free Living?  Ask me and I’ll be happy to share my experiences!

Summer Road Trip – MINI Takes the States

MINI Coopers have always been a part of our relationship.  On our very first date I realized that if we became a couple, MINI’s were going to be a big part of our lives.  I’d never been a huge car person… I liked cars and all….they get me places and they go fast… but I didn’t know anything beyond the basics about cars.  Brian drove in MINI Rallyes… He did Auto Cross and Track Days… He was president of the MINI Club!  If I was going to date this guy, I was going to have to accept MINI’s in my life….. hmmmm…

As our first date came to an end Brian walked me to my car (Big, Black, SUV)…. and we paused to look at his car…. and I called it “cute.”  Then he didn’t call me for two whole days.  UGH!  Today he swears that he was just busy… that it wasn’t the “cute” comment at all….. I still wonder though…

Family Photo

Family Photo

We’ve been together for six years now and MINI’s are a huge part of our lives.  They are like our little, adopted, British kids.  We take the blue one to track and cross-country events… the little yellow one just likes to go on short trips around town and out for ice cream…. and our newest baby gets to go to the zoo and social events.  I now have a bigger, black SUV so that I can take the blue kid to her track events out of state.  Kids!  Two legs or four wheels, they are all consuming!

Brian and I have been talking about going on the MINI Takes the States Rallye since our first date. MINI USA organizes a cross-country  rallye with events at each evening’s stop.  MINI’s from all over the US (and I’ve heard of a few coming in from overseas for the event) meet in different cities and travel from event to event.  It’s a fun way to make new friends and see new places.  MINI parents are just a fun group of people.  MINI only hosts the event every two years and we weren’t able to go in 2010 or 2012…. But this year, especially since we just got the new Roadster, we decided to make this our summer trip.

We are going to meet the MINI’s in Albuquerque, NM and travel back with them to St Louis.  I wish we had the time to take the whole trip… from one coast to the other… but not this year.   We are going to take an extra few days and make a couple of stops along the way to Albuquerque.  Our plan is to stay on old Route 66 for as long as possible.  Our MTTS Route

The trip is still over a month away, but we are already trying to plan how to:

  • A.) pack 10 days of clothes and supplies in a 2 seat MINI Roadster
  • B.) eat gluten-free and healthy on the road for 10 days

We plan to take a cooler and pack lunch meat and cheese slices for lunches… but we may not have a fridge at every hotel.  I could probably survive off of pistachios, so we’ll have to get a big supply of those before we go.  Breakfasts are my biggest concern though.  Not all of our hotels offer breakfast and  we don’t eat cereal anymore…..  I wish we could take our Breakfast Bake, but I wouldn’t trust it in a cooler for that long!  Anyone have ideas?

Follow along and we’ll post photos and fun places as we go!