What a Trip

With the physical and mental stress of being a lab rat intensifying, I tripped.

Took a trip…to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Below is a picture of the sunset over the Tennessee River from the top deck of the Southern Belle Riverboat. Breathtaking.

River Cruise Sunset

It’s only a two hour drive by car from here to there, even with omnipresent GA Highway Patrol officers pointing their speed detection devices at the northbound traffic. I counted no fewer than fifteen marked police cars from the Downtown Connector to the Georgia state line, though I may have missed a few of the cars and their officers already ticketing scofflaws and speedsters.

After crossing the state line and five lanes of traffic to merge onto I-24, Tennessee welcomed us with open arms and nary a speed trap. Maybe Tennessee’s finest made quota earlier and took Friday to attend booster rallies at their nearby footballing university.

Chattanooga is thrillingly gluten free friendly. Thanks to my go-to restaurant finders www.findmeglutenfree.com and www.glutenfreeregistry.com, I began the trip with a list of several restaurants boasting gluten free menus and favorable reviews. If you have celiac disease, then you know how difficult it can be to find restaurants that serve gluten free fare, and how scary it can be to get to one of those restaurants and discover they really have no idea what gluten free dining means.

“We leave the croutons off the salad!” The server excitedly remarks, when you ask if they have gluten free dishes. Then you ask which salad dressings are gluten free and he or she stares blankly at you. I had one server look at me like I was an idiot. “Well, it’s salad dressing, not turkey dressing. There’s no bread in it.”  Resisting the urge to call the server an idiot, I asked to talk to the manager and the server huffily stomped away. I didn’t even wait for the manager; I walked out the door.

None of this happened in Chattanooga. Instead, all three restaurants quickly proffered a gluten free menu and the servers quickly established their knowledge of all things gluten free.

First up was Tupelo Honey Cafe in Warehouse Row. I chose to create a three-item vegetable plate from the eight or so GF side offerings on their gluten free menu. The goat cheese grits begged to be mixed with the salsa verde black-eyed peas and the result thrillingly tickled my tongue with just enough tang from the goat cheese and a little kick of heat in the peas. They were so good, I had them again for dinner the next night, along with this surprising glass of lemonade, peach nectar and fresh rosemary poured over ice. The server said it was super tart and he always thinned it with a little water, but I found it perfect without dilution.  Think of it as an autumnal equinox elixer: bidding farewell to summer lemonade days and welcoming herbal fall with rosemary, a fragrant ingredient in fall stews and poultry roasts.  Yum-o.

In the Bluff View District–Tony’s Pasta Shop and Trattoria, like its siblings the Back Inn Cafe and Rembrandt’s Coffee House, features a “gluten safe” menu, which means they take extra precautions to prevent cross-contamination in the kitchen and pantry, thanks to extensive training. Tony’s offers three different kinds of gluten free pasta (spaghetti, penne, and fusilli) with your choice of sauces and proteins. I loved my fusilli with roasted mushrooms, tomatoes, basil and fresh garlic. The GF flatbread served with dipping olive oil and shaved fresh parmesan made me feel like a real person and not a sickly charity case. The flatbread had a chewy hearth-made texture I really liked.

I had lunch twice at 212 Market, the first time with a 10% off coupon given to me by the Visitors Bureau worker who highly recommended it. I am glad she did. The main menu identifies GF items right on it–no special separate menu to forget. I like that GF is mainstream here. The first lunch of grilled rainbow trout with grits and grilled squash seemed so light and delicate it nearly floated on the plate. I ate every bit, except for the trout skin. The second lunch featured pan roasted chicken breast with grape tomatoes and herbs with roasted sweet potato rounds and more of the delicious squash. Another clean plate. I’ve noticed that the chicken dish now has new fall sides: acorn squash and kale hash, which sounds so good! Out with summer, in with fall now that it’s October!

I’m eager to return to Chattanooga and try other food establishments with GF menus like Good Dog, which Chattanooga blogger,  A Southern Celiac, recently reviewed. Good Dog serves  all things hot dogs and sausages. Very gluten free friendly with GF buns, GF dogs, and GF fries as well as GF sauces. That post hipped me to North Shore, the trendy neighborhood across the Tennessee River, accessible by the 2,376 foot pedestrian bridge it seems everyone walks.  I could tell you the wild story of the wine tasting festival held on the bridge and how difficult it was to make our way through the hundreds of people milling around in their stilettos and oxfords, sipping wines from one of fifty, yes, fifty, wine tasting tables, not to mention the people with baby strollers, dogs, and bikes, but that’s another story for another blog. Suffice it to say, those were the longest 2,376 feet I’ve walked in a good while but I made it without getting any wine on me or in me and without getting tripped, hit or run over. Whew!

Although I still am trying to get cross-contaminated to ensure my upcoming endoscopy goes well, meaning they see enough damage to randomize me to take one of the three doses of the investigational drug or a placebo, I didn’t get glutened on my trip. That’s good news, really, because it means I don’t have to suffer to have a good or good-tasting time. Bon apetite!