Eating Gluten Free & Shopping in Historic Petaluma

October 11, 2012 by  
Filed under Gluten Free Restaurants

For a bite of the old wild west with a nip of progress, you must stop in Petaluma on your way out to the Napa wine country, or the Sonoma Raceway, or camping in the Redwood Forests.

Petaluma is my hometown, but seldom am I able to visit. Planning for my high school reunion, I hunted on the Internet for a fun place to eat that would suit my gluten-free dining needs, not expecting to find one. All my favorite childhood restaurants were Italian and serve pasta and pizza. Even though those restaurants are still there, my health and eating requirements have changed.

Luckily, Petaluma evolved with me.

Somewhere along the way, after I had gone to college, I heard a rumor that Petaluma won a city renovation government grant, perhaps due to its cool historic old late-1800s downtown that was featured in George Lucas’s hot rod movie American Graffiti.

With a big influx of money, Petaluma built a nice movie theater, new plaza, river bridges, and several International style restaurants and cafes. When I was a kid, I never heard any foreign languages around town. After the renovations, people from around the world made their way to my little stinky town; it was really cool.

You know when you have arrived in Petaluma because just outside Novato on Highway 101 heading north, it starts to wreak of cow manure, and the smell wafts throughout town. This is a positive, a reminder that you are out in the country where happy cows graze the grasses of the pastures owned by family and friends, not corporations.

The old families who run the restaurants, saloons, and speakeasys all remain too. See below for more information about them.

After looking at every single new restaurant on Google Maps that was anywhere near the reunion, I finally found Wild Goat Bistro and was totally blown away by them and their special menu  ”Gluten Free”! I made a reservation for me and the gals.

When I was a kid, the Old Mill, where the restaurant is, never really had anything good in it. Today, the Petaluma Old Mill is a woman’s wonderland! It’s a great place for a nice man to treat his lady to a special Pretty Woman day.

I arrived an hour early to check out the Wild Goat Bistro, make sure it was good enough for my best friends. It was beyond ok, the Old Mill location on the river is absolutely charming, as are the friendly staff. A Euro vibe is created by its close quarters and small room made of stone, wood, and copper.  There is seating inside and outside for singles at counters or large groups on long tables. There is something for every type of diet, including organic, local fresh ingredients, and gluten free food options. You can see in my top image a sampling of the food we ate — and the gluten-free carrot cake, delicious!!! They also have gluten-free artisan pizza.

After my long drive, I sought out the Old Mill restroom, which was in the same old spot it always was.

I happened across Sorella, which means Sister in Italian. Sorella is a hair studio and fashion boutique owned by two sisters.

Being a woman, I could not help but be sucked in by all the adorable dresses and sweaters pouting at me from the windows. I had never seen such great fashion in Petaluma. We had Mervyn’s which met our basic needs of underwear and t-shirts, but it wasn’t like this, like shopping in Paris, or London, or New York.

Lexi Radomile, who stocks Sorella’s clothing side and sews herself, has exceptional big city taste. If you want high fashion (MEN! and Women) but don’t want to drive to San Francisco, you must find this hidden little spot inside the Old Mill on Petaluma Boulevard near Washington Boulevard, downtown across from McNear’s Theater and pub. If you can’t make it to Petaluma, you can also shop with her online.

The OLD MILL, Wild Goat Bistro, and Sorella are at 6 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma, CA  94952.
Wild Goat Bistro reservations (707) 658-1156
http://www.wildgoatbistro.com/wildgoatbistro/Home.html
Sorella info (707) 769-9983
http://sorellahairandfashion.com/

GLUTENFREE ON THE RUN… If you are on a tight budget or in a hurry, some well known places in Petaluma where you can get gluten-free food are WholeFoods at 621 East Washington Street, Petaluma, CA 94952 or at Aqus Cafe. For a gluten-free snack or breakfast or lunch, Aqus Cafe offers gluten-free bread and other options, good live music, films, and coffee! Everyday Happy Hour 4:30-6:30pm
http://www.aquscafe.com/main/index.php
189 H Street Petaluma CA 707.778.6060

LOCAL DIVES, MUST-DO, & MUST-SEE IN PETALUMA:

Go have a drink in the 1920s speakeasy of Volpi’s Ristorante & Bar. Pass through the front restaurant to the bar hidden in the back. If gluten is not a problem for you, they have good Italian food and a cool old wood floor atmosphere.
124 Washington St Petaluma, CA 94952

To see all the beautiful animals that used to live in the area and the ghosts of hunter enthusiasts past, see the unofficial museum of Andresen’s Bar at  19 Western Avenue, Petaluma, CA 94952. Very small. Very local. Cash only.

If you want to see how the locals GET STUPID since 1938, go to the Buckhorn out at 615 Petaluma Boulevard South Petaluma, CA 94952.
http://www.buckhorntavern.com/

Read the history and see some beautiful photos of Petaluma here: http://www.petalumadowntown.com/welcome.html
There are lots of antiques, restaurants, cafes, and lovely architecture on Petaluma Boulevard. The good ol’ American Butter & Eggs Parade is in April or May. And there is just so much more…

Petaluma is a romantic contradiction of old and new. I love my hometown and hope you do too.

Article & Food Photographs by Jaden Alexander. Jaden modeling Sorella’s clothes, pictures taken by Lexi Radomile

Eating Gluten Free at Cuban Restaurant Café Paladar in San Francisco

September 1, 2012 by  
Filed under Gluten Free Restaurants

If you work downtown in San Francisco’s Financial district and haven’t eaten at Paladar Café Cubano, you simply aren’t enjoying life enough.

Paladar was my treat to myself on a rough work day. During the business lunch rush, it may be difficult to get a seat. I usually went on a sunny day so I could sit outside and pretend I was in a foreign country. There is a small front room and a larger seating area downstairs.

I ate at Paladar so often that, years later, when I come for a visit, they still remember me and my order. I always order the same gluten free meal: the Picadillo Cubano Estilo Elena, which is Niman ground beef seasoned with sofrito (onions, olives, tomatoes, bell peppers, wine), white rice, and plantains.

I love the staff and owners. They are so sweet, they even tried to find me a spouse, but I managed to get that sorted out on my own. It’s the kind of place you have to share: I have brought my co-workers, friends, and family here.

This Latin Soul Food cuisine is Cuban and Colombian inspired (Spanish, African, and Caribbean fusion) with lots of gluten free options. Paladar Café Cubano uses organic products, supports local agriculture, and has vegetarian meal options.

They serve yuca, plantains, salads, rice, beans, bocadillos hot pressed sandwiches, chicken, steak, pork, shrimp, Mexican Coke, Organic Mango Juice, Sandia Cooler (watermelon, cucumber, mint, lime), Batidos tropical fruit shakes, Sangria, and Cuban style coffee!

Price for a meal ranges from $9 to $13.

Shopping downtown at Union Square or working your fingers to the bone in the San Franciscan towers of power, Paladar Café Cubano is the perfect place to take a break and get a gluten free recharge.

HOURS: Monday — Friday 10am-3pm . Saturday 11am-3pm

LOCATION: 329 Kearny Street, San Francisco, California 94108, between Bush and Pine

ORDERS TO GO: 415.398.4899

WEBSITEhttp://paladarcafecubano.com/

How to Get Free Press for Your Restaurant

January 20, 2012 by  
Filed under Gluten Free Restaurants

One great way to get free press for your restaurant is by having a gluten-free option on the menu.

The only time I go to Italian restaurants in America is when someone else invites me. In order to be polite and easy-going, I don’t tell people about my gluten intolerance unless they are making a meal at their house for me and it is a need-to-know situation.

I assume, sometimes wrongly, that I will be able to find something at any restaurant: salad (without croutons), steak, fish, chicken, or vegetables.

At Italian restaurants in the USA, the menu usually consists mostly of pasta options (wheat white flour) and other items that are breaded. French bread is always served on each table, gratuit. Such restaurants are generally hell for someone with Celiac Disease. It’s almost impossible to not have gluten tainted food. It’s in the air, it’s on the counters, it’s on the tables, it’s everywhere.

Often, I bite the bullet, to be agreeable, and go anyway, despite the dangers.

At this Italian restaurant Sorella in Fairfax, a quaint town north of San Francisco, west off the 101 highway, I was extremely surprised to see they had a “glutten free pasta” option.

I don’t know if it is a gluttony joke (glutton meaning a habitual greed or excess in eating) or an innocent spelling error, but in hopes of purifying my soul, I ordered the “glutten free pasta” with cream sauce Alfredo.

It’s been days and I can still taste it in my mouth — the Alfredo sauce and sweet tender pasta was a divine experience! I haven’t ordered pasta in a restaurant since 2006, I think, and this was definitely the right time to give it a try.

We also ordered an unbreaded version of Chicken Piccata with vegetables and a dairy-free coconut creme caramel. They had a little something for everyone, all of it delicious.

When food is prepared by someone else, for some reason, it always seems to taste a lot better! Being able to sit down and eat, not have to cook or do dishes, is a relief.

Sorella was adorable inside and out. The strange shape structure was made of wood with a fishbowl array of windows encircling it. Inside, they had a big fireplace in the middle, tables and chairs jammed together like in Italy, and a personable smiling witty wonderful staff. They created a unique and special vibrant dining experience.

Sorella was packed to the brim and sure doesn’t need my press because they have word of mouth and a great local reputation.

If you were a tourist visiting California, you would never find this place. Now you know — you should find it. When passing through Marin County, if you feel like getting off the beaten path, Sorella will take a load off your shoulders and minds.

If you have Celiac Disease, there’s a good chance that you might get sick here, as at any restaurant, but, it’s worth it! I mean, how often can you have glutten free pasta?

And that my friends is how you get free press for your restaurant: be on the cutting edge of developing food trends and also maintain the warmth of the old world!

Get on the gluten-free wagon before it becomes commonplace. Invite your local newspaper foodie columnist or nearby gluten-free bloggers and let them know about your thoughtful dietary special accommodations. Serve good food. Have fun servers. Warm up your place with charm.

If you are opening a restaurant, go to Sorella and see how it’s done!