BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse’s Certified G-free Menu

I had received a flyer in the mail about BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse’s gluten-free for two dinner. I have been a fan of their restaurant for a few years now. It use to be the place where my friends and I would meet up for Friday dinners. They have a wonderful menu filled with pasta dishes, specialty salads, deep dish pizzas, and their super yummy pizookie (vanilla ice cream on top of a warm chocolate chip cookie). Oh, and did I mention their beer menu and large flat screen televisions? BJ’s is the kind of restaurant where you can take date or watch the game with friends.

The flyer sat in our “things to do” pile until  my husband and I finally went for our Friday date night dinner. We were able to get seated  before the dinner rush and asked for the gluten-free menu. It was interesting to see that one side of their menu was g-free offerings and the other was a chart composed of all their dishes and the most common allergies. Making it very simple to see what dish contained what food allergies. I had a verity of items to choose from including their version of a gluten-free pizookie! But I had my eye on the pizza!

My husband and I decided to share the barbe que chicken chopped salad (no onion strings), veggie pizza, and a pizookie for dessert. They didn’t have any gluten-free beer in-house but offered 3 different  ciders. After chatting with my husband and looking over the menu time passed and our food was on its way.

My eyes lit up at the sight of our thin crust pizza as my nose took in the wonderful aroma of my long missed friend. I was so taken by the pizza that I didn’t even look at the salad. Helping myself to a slice of and salad it was time for tasting! Trying the salad first I enjoyed the sweet BBQ ranch dressing against the crunch of the fresh lettuce. It was super tasty and I can image it to be quite filling had it been the only thing I ordered.

Next it was time for the pizza, after tasting a hand-full of mushy g-free pizza I wasn’t sure if it would hold up to my memories. Going into my first bite as a skeptic but after tasting I thought I was dreaming! It was delicious! Bit after bite I consumed my first slice quickly. I was happy to see that the middle of the crust wasn’t a mushy mess  and could hold all the toppings without wilting. Diving into my second piece I took care to enjoy it at a slower pace. I had finally found it! A gluten-free pizza that I didn’t have to make myself or lack in flavor and texture.

Noticing that they are certified GF I inquired about their g-free pizza production. Speaking to the manager, Rich C., he informed me that they have separate pans, refrigerator, bins, and utensils that are only for their g-free dishes. That the cooks are knowledgeable about cross contamination, changing their gloves and sterilizing any surfaces before use. The gluten-free items are stored in their own refrigerator and are covered with green caps. They even use separate cooking pans for the pizookie that are also green. Gluten free ice cream is only scooped with their gluten-free scooper and then booth are covered after use.

After we devoured the bar-b-q salad and pizza it was time for our pizookie. Out came a warm g-free chocolate chip cookie with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Again BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse could have fooled me into thinking this was a regular cookie because it flavors were amazing.

I will gladly return to BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse for more of their gluten-free dishes. I would recommend stopping by and enjoying their gluten-free offerings!

Now that I am writing about it… if you’ll excuse me, I have a pizza to order.

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Hidden Charges?

My sister and her family came down to stay with us for the weekend. They really got lucky because the weather was amazing. Heading out for dinner we decided to go to my favorite pre-gluten free Italian restaurant, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. We had planned go to there for dinner during our 4th of July vacation, but ended up eating else where. I know their pizza is not G-free but I figured I could order the anti-pasta salad (no dressing).

While waiting in line I went up and asked the hostess if they had any G-free options. She said that they offer a gluten-free pasta, alfredo cream sauces, and marinara sauce. She guided me to the gluten-free pasta section in their market (the front of the restaurant is an Italian market). Taking my name to inform our server of my gluten intolerance, when it was time for us to be seated.

After being seated I talked my order over with my server. I ordered the gluten-free rice pasta with alfredo cream sauce. My sister, brother-in-law, there kids, and my husband were having pizza (I could have cried when I saw the cheesy deliciousness)

Not to long after ordering our dinner was headed to the table. My pasta with alfredo cream sauce was not that bad. I have never rice noodles with pasta sauce before so I had to get use to the taste. I can’t see it holding up well enough to take home for left overs. I could smell the wonderful aroma of their pizza. But I made it through dinner without longing over it, breaking down into tears, drooling, or fighting myself to grab a piece. Which was an accomplishment for me.

Happy and satisfied with full tummies out came the bill. Now here is where I was confused. My pasta cost $15.45. Huh? Was I reading the bill right? When I looked at the menu I saw that fettuccine alfredo with cream sauce was $11.75 So where did my pasta go wrong? Did they charge me more for the special care? For using a different pasta? Not wanting to make a fuss over the extra $3.70 I went ahead and paid the bill.

And this brings us to today, I was thinking about my bill from last Saturday and wanted more information. I have been to other restaurants where servers have told me of price increases when ordering special items. Or I there would be an asterisk on the menu indicating and additional price.

The extra $3.70 was not putting me out, but I would have like to been aware of the price increase.

I decided to call Filippi’s Grotto this afternoon and get the info. I spoke with a very nice gentleman and proceeded to tell him my situation. That I was in with my family last Saturday night and ordered the gluten-free pasta with alfredo cream sauce. Asking him to confirm the price of their regular dish to my dish, inquiring about the difference. That I didn’t see anything on the menu informing me of the price increase and that our server (who was otherwise lovely) didn’t inform me. He said it’s not their policy for the server to inform of price differences unless asked. And that so many people have been coming with a gluten intolerance that they decided to carrying gluten-free pasta in their store. Stating that it is more of a specialty item not listed on the menu. I asked them if there was anything they could do to inform G-free customers of the price difference. He said that they reprint the menus ever few months and he would make a suggestion to add an asterisk. And that, is all I could ever ask for. Thanking him for his great customer service I hung up the phone very pleased.

This has been a great lesson for me. I am still learning so much about the G-free lifestyle and what restaurants have to offer. I know they work for the general public, but with so many G-free people out there, it doesn’t hurt to make a suggestion or ask a few question. So far every restaurant I have spoken with has been more than gracious.

Thank you Filippi’s Pizza Grotto for hearing me out. You are still my favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. See you soon!

Portobello Mushroom Pizza

Mushroom Pizza with Sauce

It’s another hot day here in sunny California and the question is what to make for dinner?

On days when it reaches 109 degreese I don’t feel like eating anything to heavy. I decided to try a portobello mushroom pizza after being inspired from A Food Centric Life’s Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms With Roast Tomatoes and Goat Cheese. Since I have never cooked portobello mushroom before I needed some help with how to season the mushroom and cooking time. I went ahead and added my own toppings to the mushroom with what I had handy. For the original recipe refer to  A Food Centric Life and check out  Sally Cameron’s wonderful creations!

Ingredients:

Fresh Mushroom Pizza

4 Portobello Mushrooms

3 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 Tablespoon Lemon Juice

1 Large garlic clove, finely chopped

Salt and Pepper, to Taste

Toppings:

1 Mozzarella Ball

1 Pack of Pepperonis

1 Can of Black Olives Drained

1/2 Onion

1 Fresh Tomato Sliced

1 Jar of Gluten Free Pizza Sauce

Few leaves of Basil

Directions:

The first part of this recipe is straight from A Food Centric Life.

  1. Clean the mushrooms by gently wiping the outside of the caps with a damp paper towel or brushing any dirt off with a soft brush. Next, pop out the stems by pushing them from side to side until the snap out. Then with a teaspoon, scrape the gills out until the underside is mostly clean. Place them on a foil lined rimmed baking sheet. (view A Food Centric Life for how to photos.)
  2. Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot and garlic.  Brush mushroom caps inside and out with the olive oil mixture (or plain olive oil). Sprinkle each cap with salt and pepper.
  3. Pre-heat the broiler. With the oven rack on the second to the top level, broil the mushrooms for 3-5 minutes until they are hot and the edges are starting to brown. They will start to release moisture and get juicy. Remove from the oven.
  4. Pre-heat the oven to 375

Here is where I added my own pizza twist. I decided to make a fresh style pizza and a pizza sauce one.

  1. Fresh Pizza- After removing the mushrooms from the oven I layered it with a slice of tomato, mozzeralla, balck olives, sliced onion, and another tomato. (don’t forget to salt and pepper your tomato.)
  2. Pizza Sauce- I put one tablespoon of pizza sauce, mozzarella, pepperonis, black olives, and sliced onions on the mushroom.
  3. (Now this part was an experiment) I put the tray back in the oven until I saw the cheese melting. This took about 15 minutes.
  4. After removing them from the oven I added a few pieces of fresh basil to the tops and they were ready to serve.

I made this dish for my mom and sister and they were in love with it. The fresh pizza and pizza sauce mushrooms had two unique flavors. My mom preferred the pizza sauce one and my sister was torn between the two. They both agreed that the fresh one was light and not to filling. But they were really taken with the pizza sauce one. They said that it tasted just like having all goodies of a pizza without the bread. It was a little heavier but full of flavor.

I really enjoyed the flavor of the portobello mushroom recipe from A Food Centric Life. You could really taste the garlic and it complemented the other ingredients nicely. It was so juicy! This will be a recipe I make again and again.  I love pizza and this just might keep me satisfied.

 

Where has the time gone?

Once summer came it seems like time just zoomed past me. I have been meaning to update with some posts every week and well one thing or another kept me from my computer. So, here is a quick update…

Since leaving my 4th of July vacation in San Diego I have gotten a little more comfortable with my G- free lifestyle. With pleanty of help from my husband and family cooking as gotten much better. But keeping the G-free sterile field has been tricky with little miskates contaminating a whole meal. My wonderful sister made fabulous turkey burgers from scratch only to have my mom stick a regular bun on mine. But everything is trial and error and these types for mistakes are bound to happen. I don’t feel as limited as I did at first but restaurants are still a challenge. About 75% of the time I am still getting, what I like to call, infected at restruants. Salads and grilled fish always are a safe order for me. But I still always double check with the server that there is no gluten in the product in the dish. Sometime I get looked like I am a weirdo if asked to bag wheat products separate from my food or like a picky eater. But I am getting use to the weird looks and I try to ask the least amount of questions that will get the most information. Or I look up the menu before I go to the restaurants to see if they have a few choices for me.

Being G-free is not that bad… until it comes to pizza. I could write for days on my love of pizza. My husband was stationed in Chicago about two years ago and I tasted the best pizza of my life. The pizza from Giordanos is unlike anything I had every tasted before and sadly, probably, will never taste again. But at the time of my eating the pizza I had no clue about my wheat allergy so I enjoyed it guilt free. I know there are a few places that serve G-free pizza but it truly is not the same. And I know that one day I will get use to the G-free pizza and my taste buds will adapt. But for now this is the hardest food item to cut from my diet. The problem I have had with most G-free pizzas is that the middle of the pizza doesn’t hold up well. It always has a soft mushy middle and not firm like most pizza. The crust or top part of the pizza is better so I usually eat that and leave the middle. It sounds totally dumb but I have broke out into tears, small tears, over not being able to eat pizza. I don’t crave bread or pasta at all and can easily watch someone eat that in front of me. And I know it is very unhealthy for my body but leaving me alone with a slice of pizza… well I just can’t be trusted. So I am still on the hunt for the best gluten free pizza of my life.

Now that I have that off my chest I will be updating with adventures and recipes from this past summer. I hope everyone had a wonderful summer!

Gigi

Kick off to 4th of July

Image courtesy of greenlitebites.com

I feel like the next few days are going to be a big adventure for me in the world of gluten. It all kicks off tomorrow at my grandparents house. My whole family is heading over to my grandpa’s house to celebrate his 83rd birthday. I am lucky to say my grandpa, who I love so much, is still in very good health. A summer bar-b-q of burgers, hotdogs, salads, and other treats will be on the menu. Now, I know I can buy G-free burger/hotdog buns but I wont be home the rest of the week, so I’ll wait to try those. My sister had pinned, on Pinterest, a cabbage dish from GreenLiteBites and suggested I try it. I just have to remember to bring my G-free Worcestershire sauce and to watch out from cross-contamination in the kitchen. So, that is the kick off to my 4th of July celebrations!

Next on the list… family fun in San Diego! We’re heading down for the remainder of the week and weekend to beautiful San Diego. Planning a few beach days and plenty of eating on the go. Filippi’s Pizza Grotto and Cafe Coyote are two of the favorite places we love to visit. Filippi’s Pizza Grotto, an Italian, restaurant will be a big time test. This will be my first trip back as a G-free individual. I’ll probably order the yummy anti-pasta salad and watch my family eat their delicious pizza.

Cafe Coyote is a Mexican restaurant so I might have a chance at eating a bit more there. My sis, who is full of wonderful ideas, said I could bring my own G-free corn tortilla chips to eat with the salsa. And to be sure to use a different salsa from the flour chips. I don’t know how gluten sensitive I am since I’m just starting out; so this is all trial and error. But since I will be on vacation I would like to stay away from cross-contamination to avoid a flare up.

I made a stop today at my local Trader Joe’s to pick up a few snacks, salad dressing, and rice cakes. I hope these and some fresh fruit and veggies will hold me over in the way of snacks. So, this will be my first big G-free week on the go. I will be checking for travel tips from some of the sites I posted in my Links section. Wish me luck and happy Independence Day!


Date Night Disneyland

Gluten Free Friendly at Disney’s California Adventure

 
Since my husband had the day off yesterday from work we decided to take a little trip over to The Happiest Place On Earth, Disneyland! He and I were very excited to check out the new Cars Land inside of California Adventure. In high hopes that it would not be too crowded we first made our way to City Hall inside of Disneyland. My aunt, who works at the Disneyland Hotel, suggested my going and ask for the Celiac Menu. After speaking to John, information employee, he handed me a 4 page booklet of all the G-free items throughout both parks and hotels (@DCAToday informed me you can also obtain this menu at Chamber of Commerce inside California Adventure).  My husband and I were impressed with the variety from blueberry muffins, ice cream, waffles, burgers, and hotdogs available. He, not being G-sensitive, was interested in trying the muffins and brownies to see if they taste as good. We often share treats and neither he or I want to miss out on flavor. I had my eyes on the pizza, since it is a favorite! So, before heading to Cars Land we went to Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta. I ordered the G-free pepperoni pizza and was asked to wait 15 minutes for them to make it. Not to long after my pizza was ready, hot, and smelt good! After letting it cool a bit it was time for us to dig in and taste. The crust was very crispy and tastes like normal pizza. The only thing that was a little off was the bottom of the pizza. It was a little soft for me and might need to be cooked a bit longer. But all in all it was tasty and my husband also enjoyed it. With full and happy tummies off to Cars Land we went! I can’t wait to go back and try some more treats.

G-Free pizza from California Adventure, Boardwalk Pizza and Pasta Restaurant.