Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Gluten Free in Aspen & Denver

Last summer, my daughters and I accompanied my husband on a business trip to Aspen, Colorado. We flew into Denver, then rented a car to drive to Aspen.

We landed around lunch time, so I talked my husband into driving into downtown Denver so we could eat at Five on Black Brazilian Grill, a 100% gluten free fast casual restaurant.

I love restaurants where I get to build my own bowl, especially when everything is gluten free.

I ordered a regular size bowl with brown rice, steak, sweet potatoes, avocado, spicy curry sauce, chimichurri, and Brazilian cheese bread. My bowl was amazing, and the portion was huge.

The chocolate chip cookie we shared for dessert was a little crumbly, but tasty.

My whole family loved their bowls, and my daughters even asked to go back before we flew home. Five on Black also has restaurants in Boulder, Colorado and Montana.

While in Aspen, we ate at Bangkok Happy Bowl twice, because we liked the food so much. On both visits, I ordered two of my favorite Thai dishes - satay chicken with peanut sauce, and Massaman curry with brown rice.

Gluten free dishes are clearly labeled on the menu at Bangkok Happy Bowl.

My daughters loved their Pad Thai with chicken, which is also gluten free. The portion was large enough for the two of them to share.

Our first morning in Aspen, my husband picked up some baked goods for my daughters and I at Paradise Bakery. I was a little nervous eating a pastry from a gluten-filled bakery, but my husband asked all the typical questions I ask at restaurants, and was happy with the answers. I am not a huge fan of anything with lemon or poppy seeds, but the gluten free lemon poppy seed muffins from Paradise Bakery are pretty amazing. Sometimes gluten free baked goods can be dry, but my muffin was just perfect. Paradise Bakery also sells gluten free, vegan morning glory muffins, and gluten free chocolate chip cookies.

My daughters and I had breakfast and lunch at Spring Cafe in Aspen. Spring Cafe serves plant based, organic cuisine. Gluten free options are clearly labeled on their menu, but they do not have a dedicated toaster.

For lunch, I ordered a Highlands Bowl with steamed vegetables, brown rice, and peanut sauce. My vegetables were steamed perfectly, and the peanut sauce was delicious.

All of the baked goods at Spring Cafe are gluten free, and are sweetened with maple syrup or coconut sugar.

The blueberry muffin and banana bread I tasted were good, but not great. I did love their watermelon juice though, and their Carrot Hop with carrot, apple, and ginger was delicious too.

Our last morning in Aspen, I had blueberry pancakes topped with bananas and syrup at Spring Cafe. They were good, but I wish they would have been served with some butter. 

My daughters loved their Huevos Rancheros with eggs, black beans, ranchero sauce, shredded lettuce, corn tortillas, roasted sweet potatoes, feta cheese, and pico de gallo. This dish was labeled gluten free on the menu, and the portion was big enough for them to share for breakfast.

We all love Italian food, so we decided to have dinner at Acquolina Trattoria & Pizzeria.

For an appetizer, we ordered one of the specials of the night - buffalo mozzarella imported from Italy, tomatoes, and prosciutto served with an aged balsamamic reduction. Everything was very good, but I learned a big lesson at Acquolina that night. Always ask the price of any special, because this appetizer was $48! I would definitely not have ordered it if I had known how expensive it was.

For an entree, I chose another special, the parmigiano risotto with Parmigiano-Reggiano, EVOO and shaved black truffles. I enjoyed my risotto, but it was pretty pricey, and I grew weary of the taste as I continued to eat it. If there had been peas in the dish, or a side of vegetables, I doubt that would have happened.

Our server was very knowledgeable about gluten free options, and I felt confident that Acquolina was going to keep my food safe. Overall, we enjoyed, but did not love our meals, which you expect to do when paying such high prices.

Our last night in Aspen, my daughters and I had dinner at Matsuhisa, which was recommended by a fellow blogger, and had great reviews in the Find Me Gluten Free app.

I decided to order two starters for my meal - edamame and kushiyaki beef skewers with red anticucho.

On the regular menu, several sauces were mentioned for the skewers, but only one was gluten free. After taking one bite, I realized that I might have been given the wrong sauce, because the flavor profile did not match what our server had described. Right away, I called our server over to the table, and I found out that I was given the wrong sauce, I took a probiotic and GliadinX, which I always carry with me in my purse, just in case. I take probiotics with every meal, whether I am eating at home or dining out. I rarely use GliadinX, which you can read about here. It is not something you should use to consume gluten if you have celiac disease. I take it a few time a year when I am concerned about the potential of cross contamination at a restaurant.

I have never had an incident like this in a restaurant, and I was a little freaked out at first. Our server and the manager were extremely apologetic, and checked on me several time during our meal. In the end, I am thankful that I did not have any kind of reaction.

After having amazing shave ice in Hawaii, I knew I had to order the Nobu shave ice with housemade blueberry sauce and sweetened condensed milk at Matsuhisa. It was one of the best desserts I have ever had at a restaurant. The blueberry sauce was just divine!

My daughters shared an order of the mochi ice cream, another option on the gluten free menu.

At Denver International Airport, we had lunch at Root Down before we flew back to California. Gluten free options were noted on the regular menu. 

Shockingly, I passed up a chance to eat chicken and waffles, and ordered a salmon bento box, minus the coconut rice.

I enjoyed my bento box, but the sweet potato waffle fries with curry-lime yogurt were the highlight of my meal at Root Down. The fries, which are made in a dedicated fryer, were perfectly crispy, and the curry-lime yogurt sauce was incredible. I hope they are still on the menu when we eat there again this summer. I am excited that we have a long layover in Denver when we fly home from Orlando in July, because I get a chance to dine at Root Down again.

When I first saw that my bento box came with a fortune cookie, I assumed that it was not safe for me to eat, but it turned out that it was gluten free, and my fortune was quite appropriate - judge not according to the appearance. I ended up not eating the cookie though, because it contained coconut, which I don't like.

I decided to pass on dessert at Root Down, because I had plenty of food to eat, but it was good to see that they had a gluten free option.

In Aspen, we stayed at The St. Regis, a beautiful hotel at the base of the mountain.

My daughters and I enjoyed taking the gondola up to the top of Aspen Mountain.

We also visited Maroon Bells, which is said to be the most photographed mountain in Colorado.

Overall, I am glad we tagged along with my husband on his business trip, and look forward to exploring Colorado more in the future.

What are your favorite gluten free options in Aspen and Denver?


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