Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Gluten-Free Road Trip: A Whole New World

Previous: California Dreamin'

This being a road trip, we couldn't miss an opportunity to catch a baseball game. After we checked into the Sheraton Park at the Anaheim Resort - a short walk to the Disneyland and California Adventure theme parks - we had dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. [GF menu] nearby. Son No. 1 got the Accidental Fish & Shrimp, a plate of broiled mahi mahi and grilled shrimp seasoned Cajun-style, and a side of broccoli.

Before we left on the trip, I bought cheap tickets to the Angels-Indians game online. Despite the presence of Albert Pujols, Torii Hunter, Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson on the roster of a team in the thick of the American League wild-card hunt, Angel Stadium was half empty (or half full, if that's how you roll).

The stadium itself is among the oldest in the Majors, although it's been renovated since its mid-1960s construction. Compared to the swanky retro-style ballparks in Philadelphia, Baltimore and other cities, Angel Stadium is dull. Gluten-free veggie dogs, black bean burgers, nachos, sweet potato fries, salads, fruit bowls and hummus are located at Melissa's Fresh For You stands in the first-base and third-base food courts and Redbridge beer is sold throughout the venue.

The game itself was a snooze, with the lowly Indians taking an early lead and ultimately winning the contest. We left early but stopped at an ice cream stand on the way out. I asked for vanilla soft serve in a cup, but the woman at the counter told me that I had to get it in a cone or upgrade to a large sundae in a decorative bowl. I told her that our son couldn't have the cone because he was on a gluten-free diet and that he didn't want a sundae, but she wouldn't compromise. And I wasn't willing to compromise by paying more for a plain sundae just to get it in a bowl. Enter my wife. She nearly jumped over the counter as she told the clerk: "Have some sympathy. My son has celiac disease and he cannot have the cone." With that, the clerk went to check with her manager. She returned with a cup of vanilla soft serve. Ah, the power of persuasion.

We spent our first full day in Anaheim at the legendary Disneyland. The park is much smaller than I expected, having been to the much larger Disney World in Orlando several times. The size made it easy for us to cover the park in a single day. As in Florida, Disney's California resorts are great for gluten-free dining. (The Disney Eats blog, written by a Disneyland employee, has a current list of gluten-free options; the list is also available at City Hall at Disneyland's Main Street U.S.A.) Lunch was in Frontierland, where we ate at River Belle Terrace. Our older son devoured a freshly carved turkey sandwich on a gluten-free roll with a side of cole slaw and baked beans. At dinner he ate a pastrami-topped burger and fries at Village Haus, a Pinocchio-themed restaurant in Fantasyland. At both places, I spoke with managers who oversaw the orders.

Disneyland's Mark Twain Riverboat
The best attractions at Disneyland included Indiana Jones Adventure, the Star Wars-themed Star Tours flight simulator, Space Mountain and Matterhorn Bobsleds. Our park experience was made much easier with the Fast Pass system (which allows guests to come back to more popular attractions at a designated time with little to no wait) and the Disney Parks mobile app that provides up-to-date wait times. The impressive fireworks show capped off an active day.

Disneyland's sister park, the 10-year-old California Adventure, was our base the much of the following day. The park just debuted a new section called Cars Land, home of the fantastic Radiator Springs Racers. Other rides we liked were Soarin' Over California, Toy Story Mania and Goofy's Sky School.

Restaurants at the Paradise Pier Boardwalk had many gluten-free options. At lunch, our older son had chicken skewers with Moroccan chili sauce at Paradise Garden Grill; directly next door, Boardwalk Pizza & Pasta serves gluten-free versions of their namesake foods.

By far, the most popular attraction at California Adventure is Radiator Springs Racers. I managed to snag four of the last few Fast Passes around 10 a.m.; the return time on the tickets was 10 p.m. After covering most of the rides we wanted to see, we walked back to the hotel for some poolside relaxation and I picked up pizzas from the zpizza location in neighboring Santa Ana. (The entire chain is GREAT Kitchens-trained through the NFCA.)

At night, we returned for seconds (and thirds) on several park rides and caught the majestic World of Color light-and-water show before finally experiencing Radiator Springs. The journey takes riders through familiar scenes from Cars before the vehicles rev up and race through the faux mountains.

Before we left the Anaheim area, we sought out two other culinary finds native to California: Pinkberry and In-N-Out Burger. Pinkberry was among the originators of the tart frozen yogurt craze in the U.S. All of the yogurts and fruits and some of the toppings are gluten free. In-N-Out, a West Coast chain, pioneered the fast-food drive-through restaurant concept. The chain's fries are gluten free, as are the protein-style burgers wrapped in lettuce. The yogurt is worth returning for; the burgers are just fair.

Next: Hollywood Nights (coming soon)
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