Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Gluten Free Road Trip: Baked Beantown

To break up the travel involved in getting our older son to Camp Celiac in Rhode Island two weekends ago, we planned a Saturday night stay in Boston, about an hour away from the camp.

We rode north in an Amtrak Northeast Regional train from Philadelphia early Saturday morning. I didn't expect much of a crowd at that time of day, but the train was packed. Once we settled into our seats - with our luggage in three different places - I took out my firm-issued laptop to set the boys up with a DVD movie. (Note to self: buy a cheap DVD player next time.) First, the laptop wouldn't start up. After I finally got in touch with one of the firm's IT guys, the laptop booted through to the desktop. When I went to put on a DVD, the software couldn't run the movie. IT guy tells me that I have to download a different player. Um, problem - I can't connect to the Internet because my BlackBerry isn't set up to work as a modem. IT guy (thanks, Chris!) gets me hooked up with Verizon to connect, I'm able to download the proper program, and the DVD starts playing. Crisis averted. I'm already exhausted, and we're only one hour into the ride.

To get out of the house early, we decided to forgo breakfast at home and instead eat on the train. I knew from experience that the train's Cafe Car had a microwave, so we brought an Ian's waffle, egg and cheese breakfast sandwich with us and planned to ask the attendant to heat it up for my older son. As it turns out, Amtrak frowns upon warming up waffle, egg and cheese breakfast sandwiches. I explained my son's diet situation to the attendant (and tipped him for good measure), and he told me he would do it "this one time." Another crisis averted.

Taking the train turned out to be a great idea, though, since we were able to get up as we pleased. The four of us found a table in the Cafe Car, where we ate and played Travel Scrabble. We arrived at Back Bay Station about 2 p.m, tired and hungry, when we taxied over to our hotel, the Sheraton near the Prudential Center.

After checking in and getting our bags up to the room, we headed back down and took a 10-minute cab ride over to Burton's Grill, just two blocks from Fenway Park. The Boston location is one of three in Massachusetts, with other outposts in Connecticut and Virginia. All locations offer a gluten-free menu. Our older son enjoyed a cheeseburger served on a gluten-free bun with skin-on french fries.

We relaxed the rest of the afternoon by taking a trolley tour of the city (twice!), where we saw Paul Revere's house, Boston Public Garden (pictured, above), the U.S.S. Constitution, and parts of the Freedom Trail before returning to our hotel.

In researching Boston restaurants in advance of the trip, I found an Italian restaurant called Nebo that had gluten-free pizza and pasta. While I wanted to check it out for dinner, it wasn't particularly close to the hotel and we all were beat from a long day. So we ended up walking over to Legal Sea Foods at the Prudential Center. It had been a while since we've been to the King of Prussia location, so we were pleasantly surprised to find our server bringing out gluten-free rolls along with the wheat-flour bread at the start of the meal. Each of us ordered the grilled shrimp, which came with a couple of sides.

In Boston proper, there are several other chain restaurants that have gluten-free menus, including Uno Chicago Grill and P.F. Chang's. Eateries local to the area that offer gluten-free options include Elephant Walk (Cambodian/French), Wagamama (Asian), Myers + Chang (Asian), Papa Razzi (Italian) and Marco (Italian).

My wife and I were so nervous about dropping off our son at camp the next day, we hardly slept (although he didn't seem to be worried at all.) The next morning we ordered from the breakfast buffet in the hotel restaurant, where the chef prepared a separate order of eggs, bacon and fruit for our older son.

We took advantage of the beautiful Sunday morning weather and walked over to Fenway Park in time for a 10 a.m. tour. Fenway, like Wrigley Field and the old Yankee Stadium, has so much history attached to it that it's hard not to be impressed even if you're not a fan of the home team. As part of the tour, we sat in the seats atop the famed Green Monster, in the wooden Grandstand seats (circa 1934) down the left-field line, and in the press box. Incidentally, across the street from Fenway on Yawkey Way is the largest team store I have ever seen. It very well may be the capital of Red Sox Nation.

We took the "T" back to the hotel, where we picked up a rental car and loaded up the luggage for the short trip to camp. I had brought my portable GPS along, and was able to locate a Ninety Nine Restaurant near the Massachusetts-Rhode Island border for lunch.

While it was emotional for me and my wife to unload our son's bags at camp and unpack his belongings, we were comforted by the fact that he would be surrounded by kids just like him for nearly a week. Many parents we spoke to while waiting in line to sign in told us that their children had been to Camp Celiac before and that it was the highlight of their summers. We felt confident that our son would feel the same way.
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1 comment:

  1. Amtrak frowned on warming up the GF food? Wouldn't that be a violation of the ADA? Amtrak accepts federal funds, right? Then they must accommodate! Next time you should call ahead and request they make your son a GF sausage egg and cheese from SCRATCH :-) with the federal funding they get!!

    Here's a good tip if you don't do it already: it's a good idea to carry a doctor's note when traveling. Have the doc write something up about the diet (to make it easy, you can help them by writing it and then ask them to simply sign it and put it on their letterhead). Maybe a note would have encouraged the Amtrak guy to accommodate more willingly. Armed with my doctor's note, I unabashedly carry my own coolers with foods when we go to amusement parks and the like. Just hand the attendant the note with the dx on it and it shortens the explanation. I've had great luck with this whereas before, I always felt weird or like they thought I was lying.

    Great blog with lots of fantastic information! Thank you!