Are You a Coke Fan?

Do you like Coke? If you’re in Atlanta with little (or even big) kids you won’t be able to escape a trip to the World of Coca-Cola. Billed as an “experience,” it’s really a 4-D movie, museum, and taste testing place all-in-one. 

IMG_0634_2.jpgAs part of our whirlwind tour of Atlanta, we spent a couple of hours learning about the history of the soft drink and seeing all kinds of Coca Cola memorabilia.

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The best and most memorable part of our experience was tasting the different soft drinks (over 100 according to the website), from various Coke iterations to other fizzy drinks from around the world, like Mozambique, Tanzania, South Africa, Brazil, Japan, and Costa Rica. At first, the liquid slid easily from our tastebuds down our throat, but after several samples, we were more selective, enjoying some and gagging at others. When our tongues and our tummies couldn’t handle anymore, we made our way to the exit and the gift shop where you can buy just about anything emblazoned with the Coke logo. 

Though not inexpensive, it’s a fun way to spend a few hours. But whatever you do, don’t go on an empty stomach. For more photos and another person’s experience, check out this blog.

Trip taken February 2015.

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Where Can You Find Good Mexican Food in Tucson?

When searching for good Mexican food last June, we went to the oldest Mexican restaurant in Tucson, Arizona, El Charro Cafe.

El Charro 1

We arrived early and were seated quickly inside. Northern Sonora-Mexican food choices and a few Tucson ones fill the menu with the typical Mexican items of burritos and enchiladas plus grilled asada, hand-made tamales, chilaquiles, and ribs. There are gluten-free options and vegan ones, and plenty of cervezas. Overwhelmed, I gave up the opportunity to eat my usual Mexican food standby, fish tacos. Instead, I elected to sample many of the menu’s flavors by sharing a taco platter and a plate of tamales with my family.

The “Charrocuterie” a la Plancha includes a large vintage platter of carne asada, carnitas ranchero, grilled chicken, grilled peppers and onions, guacamole, pico salsa, sour cream, queso casero, applewood bacon, salsa, arroz, frijoles refritos, and corn or flour tortillas.

El Charro Tacos

The tamales looked good, too, so we added an order of three handmade tamales: pork carnitas, chicken tomatillo, and fresh corn.  The flavors were rich and deep, with just enough spice. 

El Charro Tamales

El Charro opened in 1922 and is the oldest Mexican restaurant in continuous operation by the same family in the United States.

Trip taken June 2015.

How to Find Gluten-Free Food on the Road

My daughter doesn’t eat gluten, not because she doesn’t like it or prefers not to, but because it makes her sick. She has celiac disease. So when we travel, we often use the Find Me Gluten Free app to discover places she can eat.

On a recent trip to Tucson, Arizona, our friends took us to a place for lunch called “Beyond Bread.” While the name sounded like it might be a good source of gluten-free food, just by walking in, we knew it wasn’t. Beyond Bread is all about the bread with a few salads and soups thrown in. While it may be fine for those who choose to eat gluten free, anyone with an allergy to gluten should beware.

After the rest of us got our gluten fix, we checked out the Find Me Gluten Free app and made a slight detour. Just a few miles down the road, we entered a green building with a cornucopia of gluten-free food – breads, sandwiches, cookies, even beer.

gluten-free options

Gluten-Free Bakery

Gourmet Girls Gluten-Free Bakery/Bistro is open for breakfast and lunch, Monday through Saturday and for dinner on Friday and Saturday.

Trip taken June 2015.

Blueberries in Gloucester

When a friend first gave me her recipe for blueberry crisp, I had never heard of Annisquam. For some reason, I thought Annisquam was some place up in Maine.

It’s not – Annisquam is a beautiful waterfront village in Gloucester, Massachusetts. We visited one of its private beaches with friends on a beautiful summer day.

Annisquam

The next day, I realized where I’d heard the word before … in the title of one of my favorite recipes.

I’ve made Annisquam Blueberry Crisp with fresh blueberries in August and with frozen ones in January. I’ve made it with wheat flour and with gluten-free flour. Though the texture may vary slightly depending on the type of flour, it’s always yummy. The port is the secret ingredient.

Blueberries

Enjoy!

Annisquam Blueberry Crisp

4 cups blueberries (or two 10-oz packages frozen, thawed)
1/4 cup ruby port
3/4 cup sifted gluten-free flour
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter (1 stick)

Combine blueberries and port in a well-buttered, 1 quart baking dish. In a separate bowl, combine flour and brown sugar. Add butter, cut into bits and blend until the mixture resembles cornmeal. 

Sprinkle the mixture evenly over the blueberries and bake in the middle of a preheated 375 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. 

Serves 6 to 8

Do You Plan Your Wanderings?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Happy Wanderer.”

I’m a planner. I admit it. But whether or not my children believe me, I wasn’t always one. When I traveled to Ensenada, I let my friend plan our weekend. When I traveled to San Felipe, I went with the flow. On my trip to Australia, we were free and spontaneous. We chose where to stay and for how long, money and a flight home our only boundaries. Even my first trip to Paris and Zurich were simple – I stayed with friends, brought guide books, and decided each day where I would be a tourist.

But then I had children. And the world became more crowded. I discovered that summer camps would fill up before spring. With a child with food allergies, spontaneity was difficult and wrought with disappointment and a hungry child. Slowly, I learned to plan. And now, I always plan.

My hesitation and anxiety about traveling to South Africa was lessened by learning more about the country, where we could and would go. Planning has allowed me to avoid long lines and eat gluten free at Disney, visit our sponsored child in Lesotho, camp at Pawtuckaway State Park every summer for years, be led by a tour guide through Gettysburg National Park, and visit the Senate on a trip to Washington.

But I still love spontaneity. And while doing a little research before traveling to a new place helps me to find the special and unique, or avoid those well traveled and touristy, destinations, spontaneity allows us to change course. To listen to recommendations from other travelers or discover new places ourselves.

Without spontaneity, I wouldn’t have attended a hearing for Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan, watched the surfers in Half Moon Bay, or listened to the Wave Organ in San Francisco. I wouldn’t have spent the night in a treehouse, picked strawberries in Pescadero, gone hiking with the Hobart Bushwalking Club, or danced Nia in Santa Barbara. Without spontaneity, I wouldn’t have met Terry from England who later invited me to her wedding in Athens. I wouldn’t have stayed with the dairy farmer in Auckland or gone hot air ballooning outside of Alice Springs.

The travel world is so different than it was – the internet provides information and access to so many places, and apps like Yelp can allow a little bit of spontaneity with less risk of disappointment. You can read about where to go and what to see on blogs and share your experiences on social media.

But there’s nothing quite as freeing as just setting out, doing what you feel like doing at the moment, eating when you’re hungry, and being ready to just let things happen.

Eating Gluten Free in New Orleans

We were in New Orleans where much of the food is cream based and fried and definitely not gluten free. I was leery about finding gluten-free food, but my fears were unfounded. Using our favorite app, FindMeGlutenFree, we were able to eat without getting sick and most importantly, to sample and enjoy some of the local food for which New Orleans is famous.

Where and What We Ate:

Cafe du MondeThe coffee is gluten free, but the beignets, a square piece of dough fried and covered with powdered sugar, are not.

Jacques ImosThough the gluten-free menu was brief and somewhat misleading, the waiter filled in the gaps, and we discovered several gluten-free options, including Cajun Bouillabaisse (though it comes with bread so be sure to tell the waiter), Shrimp Creole, and Lamb.

Meals from the Heart Cafe: We tried the gluten-free blueberry pancakes and a gluten-free breakfast sandwich at this cafe. Even the po’boys can be made gluten free. We sat at a counter in the middle of French Market, chatted with the owner, and watched the people go by.

Mother’s Restaurant: We sampled the many different foods that New Orleans and the South are famous for, including red beans and rice, chicken jambalaya, turnip greens, grits, and shrimp creole. If you go, be sure to avoid the gumbo, fried chicken, fried fish, po’boys, and desserts.

Mr. B’s BistroMost of Mr. B’s dinner items are gluten free, including Mr. B’s Barbecued Shrimp (just be sure they don’t add any bread), the Bacon Wrapped Shrimp and Grits, and Wood Grilled Fish. Be aware of the Panko crusted fish specials, desserts (except the ice cream), and the basket of bread.

The restaurants in New Orleans are many. And so are the gluten-free options. We will be back!