Thursday, July 11, 2013

Vacation Food!

I think I'm finally caught up on sleep--and just relaxing--from the whirlwind vacation to the Rocky Mountains (Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana, USA; and  Alberta, Canada.)
As we were prepping for vakay I thought, 'this was going to be an interesting car trip.' It is the first time, in several years we had not packed a cooler. I even bought one of those flat rectangular ones that doesn't take up much room, but we decided we wouldn't have room for keeping it even, level and such. The pocketbook was going to take a hit and we were hoping that my tummy would find plenty of things that it liked! We did pack our Tanka bars, low key mix (sunflower seeds, pepita seeds and coconut flakes), as well as ProBars for The Mike and other things of the like.   

Yoga at Avalanche Lake, Glacier National Park, USA 
Our first stop for food was lunchtime at a burger place. . . I know that often times traveling and stopping at chains is a "take your chances" type of  event, especially when the chain cannot vary from their pre-packaged meals.  We'd never heard of the American Burger Bar and were pleasantly surprised.  It apparently is a small local chain. It was a bit of a backtrack for us north of the Twin Cities, but we knew we wouldn't have any other options for quite some time (Until Fargo, which was another five hours or so).  

Fabulous food. . . The American Burger Bar menu did have GF buns, but the manager said they were out of them at the moment due to price increase in the product (really, are we Celiacs surprised by that honest revelation? GF breads ARE expensive!)   

Mike got a Chicken BLT with sweet potato fries and fire engine hot chili. His review was that the BLT and fries were great, the chili was WAY to spicy, even after he doctored it with crackers and cheese.  The spices  were burning my eyes across the table!

I ordered the a basic Burger with cheddar cheese and some blue cheese crumbles. (I know there's so much controversy on the blue cheese, whether it's GF or not, but I love it and I'm going to splurge on it here and there).  The burger was way fabulous and topped off with a great baked potato served with REAL butter (not that margarine/soy filled stuff some wait staff think is butter).  

It was a beautiful day for a drive and off we were to experience . . . the amazing road construction in MN. . . where they give you NO warning whatsoever that something will be happening a mile or four down the road (unlike my state, that warns people there is road construction ahead, so, you know, you can be prepared for stopped traffic around that next curve in the road when you're already going seventy miles an hour).  

We grabbed some gas station food (chips, milk and cheese sticks) in West Fargo (which is a BOOMING town thanks to the oil drilling/fracking in the western part of the state) and moved on down the road.  

We decided to get gas and stop in "Beach, ND" since I wanted to see what a town with this name is about.  The woman at the gas station recommended we head on west across the border to Wibaux, MT   (pronounced: wee-bow) for the bar which has really good food.  Okay, we're game. We head over to Wibaux (and pass two of the three state troopers on this trip we will see--one in ND and one across the border in MT). 

Fabulous food in Wibaux.
 The bar looks a little interesting, but the brewery looks like a better place.  (Beaver Creek Brewery)  What? You're surprised I'd go for the brewery? It was getting a little late and, after discovering they served food, we were set up with a table near the 'stage'.  The place was a converted old theater. The table tops were chalkboard, and we could draw to our hearts' content.  The menu was small, about ten lines total. The entree was sold out, and that was okay. I ordered the appetizer cheese and meat tray, while Mike ordered a pizza.  The accented waitress (we heard her say she was  a New Zealander) said the meat tray was 'really large, more than enough for two people'.  We said that was fine, The Mike would share in what I didn't/couldn't eat, or we'd take it with us for the morning. We just stressed, 'No bread or crackers' and the presentation was divine.  It was really more than enough to fill me up. The Mike got my UDI's bread from the car, so I did have a slice of bread with the cheese, meat and dried fruit.  This cutting board presentation was about two feet long by a one foot wide. 

Wibaux, MT

You never know what you'll find in small town America. . . even a large bike and trike!   To think, we'd have passed by this town on I-94 if we hadn't been given a tip by the gas station worker!
Our next destination was *clear*across*the*state*of*Montana. . . Seriously, we never thought how large Montana is, just that "yes, it's big". . . really though, when you're traveling, you need to say, "wow, this state is twice the width of mine and it's going to take us a while to cross". Except, you know, how many of us actually do that kind of thinking?  It was only 8 or so when we passed a main town after dining and I said, "I'm fine to drive".  Then I took the southern highway, instead of the northern one, and we wound up needing a place to stay when I was really tired at 1am.  Thankfully, the town of Jordan was there to save the day :-)   Small mom/pop type hotel that has been there probably a century, if not longer.  As we pulled into town, I spied the tell tale pickup trucks parked perpendicular to the building and was looking for a hotel (or, I suppose, it could have been a saloon).  A quaint place to stay, not for everyone though, as it was rustic, but had the necessities and MORE.  Two bedrooms, small kitchenette area, bathroom and very nice pine dresser. It was all decorated with rope--rope lining the wainscotting, rope around the mirror in the bathroom, coiled rope on a star above the bed, etc.  A little higher priced than we were guessing, but lower than a city motel would have cost when all we needed was a bed!  

We broke our fast with some of the left over cheese and dried fruit and then headed on down the road.  Being in Montana was beautiful. It is gorgeous countryside and we were able to witness an honest cattle drive down the highway with at least eight cowboys on horseback and more in trucks.  
Our first hint at what was to come was 
a) the manure spread /dropped across the roadway;
b) the lone cow walking down the highway. . . between the white line on the right and the shoulder, she was just walking down the roadway in the shoulder area--a strange sight to see; and 
c)  as we rounded a corner, saw a truck and trailer pulled over and then saw up ahead the many black Angus all over the roadway.  

Then we went to a large/county seat town where we were made to feel like giant blobs. --This town shall remain unnamed, unless you're going to be driving through Montana and need to know which place to avoid.-- Having grown up in a small town, I can say I have never witnessed what we experienced.  We asked for a breakfast recommendation from a local (gas station guy) and a local who was in there highly recommended a local place, said they were quite friendly too, and said they used REAL butter! Score! (so we thought). His directions were a bit off--very convoluted when all he had to say was 'go on down the street a block and a half'.  We walked into the place and literally EVERYONE (guests and staff) turned to stare at us.  We were seated and I offended the waitress by stating I was gluten free and then asking if they used real butter as I had been told.  Nope, they use 'butter spread'. ugh.  

For me, the worst was the waitress coming to the table with the plates and pretty much dumping/setting the plates on the table and then turning around and walking away. She was joking and laughing with the other tables and then just does this to us with not even an "enjoy". We were a bit perplexed to her behavior and then had the dilemma as to how to tip.   Firstly, this place was recommended to us by a local, and we didn't want her to think travelers just stiffed them, but geesh, the service we received was that she owed US tip money! 

It seemed to just be this particular place or us. The gas station guy was nice. We then went to the grocery store(Albertson's) and walked around to work the legs out a bit and browse to see what was available there. The grocery store people were nice and friendly,  as well.     
LARGE container of 'syrup' at the grocery store.
When you can only make it to town before a blizzard, you want the economy size! 
Never heard of before brands (gluten) food
Gluten bread aimed toward the active. . .
 whether you're a runner or a mountain biker, there's a Montana bread for you! 
The very nice, and surprisingly large, gluten free section. 
We broke up the last half of the state with a stop in Great Falls (and yes, there really ARE falls there) and then moseyed on up to the eastern part of Glacier National Park.
A view of the GREAT Falls from across the wide river. 
We enjoyed sights as time allowed, and then headed to Essex, MT for the Izaak Walton Inn where we would stay for the next few days. We never actually got to the town of Essex, since the lodge is just off the main highway, so I cannot say what accommodations are in town for Celiacs.  However, the Inn is prepared for gluten free guests. Most of the menu is actually GF.  
Part of the menu (I had an omelet one morning with real crispy bacon)
We weren't around the Inn for lunch time, but they have a nice menu. I think the sandwiches could be made on lettuce leaf wraps and be gf that way. 

We dined on the terrace each evening we were at the Inn. Great views of the trees, hummingbirds coming to feed at the flowers and sugar pots, as well as the fun of seeing trains pass by.  

Our first night at the Inn: 

I have been missing a good Cordon Bleu entree and took up the chance to have this. (I really wanted to have it the next night too, but branched out!).  Basically two grilled chicken breasts with ham and cheese in the middle, topped off with a sauce. 

Inside of the chicken cordon bleu. YUM!

The Mike's  dinner of GF pasta with bison meatballs. . . the bread isn't Gluten Free though.
Celiacs MUST ask for the bread to be left off! 
Mike said this was really good and appetizing. He had the foresight to ask if the bread was GF (it LOOKED like UDI's but was gluten bread) before sharing the dish with me. 

Since we weren't driving. . . .
Huckleberry Wheat (beer for The Mike)
Huckleberry Rain for myself  (huckleberry syrup with vodka) 
Taco Trio appetizer. Three different kinds of meats.
One of the trio, surprisingly, wasn't GF, so The Mike made sure to take that one. 
The Mike's entree of Chicken with Huckleberry BBQ.
and my dinner:  Salmon with rice and veggies.
(This was good, but almost wished I had the chicken cordon bleu again!) 
I'll admit it, I didn't realize there really was a huckleberry. . . I thought it was just the name of a cartoon dog! (Insert your laughter here. . . or google "huckleberry hound") 

We headed up to the west side of the US's Glacier National Park one day and then packed up one morning with our next destination being Banff, Canada.  
new species of Canada park animal?
Forest fire remnants from 2003 

We  had lunch at the Cimaroon Cafe in Columbia Falls, MT which was a very cozy place.  I found it off of the Trip Advisor  and AAA which both had great reviews  for the place. Coincidentally, it was also pretty much diagonal from the gas station where we fueled!  Large omelets with fruit on the side.

We had snacks in the car which got us from there through to Banff where we arrived in the late afternoon (alone, it is a five hour drive before doing sightseeing).  Once we checked in at the Y, we got a recommendation for a pizza place.  It was nice, but something either there, or at the confectionary shop, didn't agree with the two of us later that night.  

Wednesday we went to lunch at the Banff Brew Pub. 
Seriously great food --and gluten free buns for just a bit more $.  

Banff Brew Pub.
Look at this burger perfection. . the bun is just the right size, not too big, not too small, evenly covers all the burger. YUM!  

We went to dinner with one of the guys from our state and his girlfriend and picked Eddie's Burger Bar based on a review of another guy at the Y.  Good burgers with lots of choices. They had build your own with a giant menu of options, plus about twenty options to choose from of already built ones, as well as vegan, vegetarian, and "gluten free beef" whatever the heck that is.  This gluten free bun was a bit denser and definitely larger than the burger. I ended up eating my burger with silverware and having a bit of bread on the side. Great side salads served as well.   

Eddie's Burger Bar GF burger
Thursday I drove to Calgary to pick up my sister and her son who flew in to see The Mike off and then to drive back to the Twin Cities with me.   We had discussed ahead of time doing lunch and just went with the flow, but we probably should have rediscussed it that day---it was a long one for her and the lil guy.  We had found a place in downtown Calgary in the weeks before and went there for lunch.  We completely forgot that lunch in a different country would be a two hour affair. . . attention span for the lil man had been met and passed.  Even asking for the food to be dished up in 'to go boxes' it still took another twenty minutes to get out of there. Dining in the car was just fine!   The bacon burger was FABULOUS though. My sister had a mushroom burger and she said it was fabulous as well. Lil man had some mac and cheese which filled him up nicely for a nap in the car back to Banff.  **on a side note, it was shocking to see the pictures a week later of flooding in downtown Calgary since we had just been there and couldn't believe the level of water standing in the streets on which we had just driven. 

Banff Falls
*featured in the Marilyn Monroe movie of "River of No Return" 

Banff Falls view just down the river a bit
Thursday night the bikers had a meeting at the Elk & Oarsman --which, incidentally, had been recommended by someone on the Facebook Gluten Free Guidebook!   Neat atmosphere, a little dark, but that might have been since it was evening and not lunch time.  We had a spot on the other side of the room/divider from the Divide riders, and it wasn't noisy, even with all those cycling folks over there. 

Spinach artichoke dip with gluten free bread at the Elk & Oarsman. 
I honestly don't remember what else we ate for dinner here, and I neglected to write anything in the journal. . . hmm, I probably had more important things on my mind  such as, "my husband is leaving tomorrow on his adventure! AGH".  I know the lil man got his spaghetti with just butter and parmesan cheese. I know we ended up something, but don't recall what it was.  The Mike came and dined with us as well. Totally not remembering.  

Friday  June 14 will have to be another write up--
the day the cyclists left for the Tour Divide 2013 adventure.  

After driving through the state of Montana at night with little traffic and only saw three deer from Shelby, MT to the ND border!, we finally arrived at our destination at like 2am. No biggie,right?  Sooo tired. 

We were up the next day for our North Dakota 5k.  Does it count if the time is twice as long as normal since you have a young child with you in the event?  We asked if it was okay if the lil man rode his scooter and the young woman said, "sure, we even have a wheelchair in this."  I said, "Those wheelchair folks are FAST"  because I was thinking the hand crank wheel chairs---not actual wheelchairs that people use every day!  The young woman gave me a weird look and at the start of the race, sister said, "I think that's the wheelchair she was talking about".  Sure enough, joy stick controlled wheelchair. I felt a bit like a heel for my earlier comment. 

Since we knew we'd basically be walking the event with a bit of an occasional open stride, we went ahead and had breakfast first.  I tried to pay, but my credit card was declined due to a gas station in Montana telling Visa to block my card.  Thank goodness the bank was open on Saturday and I was able to get that rectified before further travel occurred!  

After the event, which did some walking, shopping and then took in the lunch buffet after the event--tickets were included in our meal.  

There was plenty we could eat on the buffet which was gluten free--maybe not all that fancy or exciting--and it got us on down the road to the next place.

We dined at 5Guys in the next town--my first foray into this establishment I've heard so much about--and am a convert. I only wish we had a 5Guys locally!

Sunday, we had intended to do a 5K in Minnesota, but the time zones and travel got to us and we decided to sleep in on Sunday instead.  

I headed off to Washington DC for Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day and my sister and her lil man headed back home to their state.

A whirlwind week with good food, great company, and no non-celiac food!

A successful vacation without a cooler!     

Lake MacDonald, Glacier National Park, USA 

I'm sure people are wondering why I'm pointing out that there are falls in a town with Falls in the name. . . I live in a town that has falls in the name and does not have any falls. I've asked people who have lived here all their lives and they don't know of any falls. . . or any history of any falls.