Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Gluten-Free Road Trip: Hollywood Nights

Previous: A Whole New World

As famous California roadways go, the Pacific Coast Highway is a top-five candidate. Otherwise known as State Route 1, the famous road runs along much of the coastline and connects the northern San Francisco Bay Area to the southern part of the state. One magnificent stretch runs through Malibu, where we had dinner our first night in metro Los Angeles. Our place of choice was Duke's Malibu, an offshoot of the Duke's family of restaurants well known in Hawaii, where we were able to get an ocean-view booth. Duke's has a gluten-free menu, off which our son ordered a Rocket Salad (arugula, Maui onion, bacon, roasted beets, goat cheese, white balsamic vinaigrette) and ono (also known as wahoo) glazed with a chili and cumin aioli with white rice and black bean salsa as sides.

Before returning to the Sheraton Delfina for the evening, we drove down another famous highway, Wilshire Boulevard, to get dessert at Beachy Cream in Santa Monica. Not just any dessert, mind you, but a homemade ice cream sandwich - two gluten-free chocolate chip cookies with pistachio ice cream.

The next day, we drove to Universal Studios in Hollywood. The production company behind classics like Jaws, Psycho and Jurassic Park runs an hour-long studio tour that's included in the price of  admission to the attached theme park. We took in the amazingly realistic Transformers 3-D ride (a couple times, actually) and Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster before going on the tour.

Among the many highlights of the tour was the King Kong 3-D motion simulator, which made us feel like we were trapped amid a jungle battle between the famous gorilla and a horde of dinosaurs. We also got to see Doc's DeLorean from Back to the Future, the Wisteria Lane exterior set from Desperate Housewives, and the War of the Worlds plane crash scene.

We broke for lunch at one of the CityWalk restaurants, Wolfgang Puck Bistro, where our older son amazingly ordered from the kids' menu for the first time in years. That said, he got two orders of salmon skewers with green beans.

In the afternoon, we conquered the upper level of the park, where we entered multiple dimensions at Shrek 4-D, Terminator 2:3-D and The Simpsons Ride. The best attraction there was Waterworld, a 20-minute live-action rescue adventure featuring lots of stunts and special effects.

The Flintstones BBQ stand was among the concessions listed on the park's gluten-free dining guide, so my son ordered the BBQ chicken platter, which came with sides of baked potato and cole slaw. The boys chased dinner with Ben and Jerry's vanilla soft serve.

With three theme-park days under our belts, we opted to leave the driving to others the next day. We took a 6-1/2 hour guided tour of Los Angeles. The tour took us through several neighborhoods where some of Hollywood's famous make their homes, including Bill Cosby, Steven Spielberg, Tom Cruise, Jack Black, Will Smith and Jackie Chan. We saw famous sites like Rodeo Drive, Paramount Studios and the Hollywood Walk of Fame (where I got to see the star awarded a few years ago to my favorite band, Canadian rockers Rush).

This tour, like many others, stops for lunch at the Original Farmers' Market. There's a stand there that serves gluten-free pizza, but we weren't comfortable with the preparation. We weren't able to find any other accommodating vendors, so I ended up taking my son to a nearby Chipotle for a rice bowl. As it turned out, we were only a few blocks from fonuts and had time to spare, so we walked over to the shop. We were amazed to see so many varieties of gluten-free donuts. My son devoured the coconut passion fruit donut before we left, and so I ended up buying another flavor - chocolate hazelnut - for his breakfast the next morning.

We stopped for dinner before returning to the hotel at the Santa Monica location of Buddha's Belly. With a large gluten-free menu to choose from, we ordered family style and shared shrimp dumplings, pad thai, fried rice and peanut noodles.

I was nervous heading into the vacation that nine days was too long of a trip, but there was so much to do in southern California that the time flew by. With just a couple of exceptions and a bit of planning, it was extremely easy to find gluten-free options throughout the region.
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