Review: Chicago

Yes, Chicago:  The Windy City, Chi-town, the City of the Big Shoulders.  I returned from there Monday and, let me tell you, it was an amazing trip!

It was my first time to Chicago and it all came about because I started a bucket list a couple years ago.  Most of the items are travel and learning items but this year I decided it was time to cross some of these things off.  I am turning forty in a few short months and I wanted to at least cross a couple items off.  It’s always been my dream to go to Wrigley Field and to Soldier Field (I am a die hard Cubs and Bears fan) and since they are on my bucket list, it was going to happen.

I asked my dad to go with me at first and he was excited.  Then, a while later, I decided to ask my mom as well.  I love my parents and I want to make memories with them.  Mom was hesitant but chose to go and I’m glad she did.

Last Thursday we made the trek to Denver to board our plane for a short two hour flight to Chicago.  I was excited to say the least.  And then the Midwest weather got in the way and we circled Chicago for a while…then got diverted to Kansas City.  After waiting on the plane for almost three hours we finally got back into the air and landed in Chicago only to wait another two and a half hours to de-plane.  I wanted to kiss the ground in Chicago!

I am a member of the Grand Junction Lions Club and our first stop on Friday was to Lions Club International for a tour.  We went straight from there, via our trusty Uber driver, to Wrigley Field.  We had the fortune to take Michigan Avenue to the ballpark and got our first peak of Lake Michigan.

When we got to Wrigley, I was ecstatic!  I actually skipped once inside.  My dream was coming true!  I had written Wrigley Field ahead of time regarding gluten free eats and they had a diner that had buns for hamburgers and hot dogs, although this day they were out of hamburger buns.  Not to worry, I wanted a ballpark hotdog!  Since the fries are not in a dedicated fryer they were careful to give us kettle chips instead.  Pair that with a hard cider and I was in heaven!

In front of Wrigley Field

After the game we decided to walk a mile to Chicago’s Pizza.  I had read reviews of this place online and they were great.  Their gluten free pizza had high reviews so we decided to give them a try.  The atmosphere was cozy and warm and we were warmly greeted.  We told the server that we were gluten free and he proceeded to tell us about the gluten free offerings.  We decided to have cheesy garlic bread and then ordered a stuffed pizza.  They brought out a little appetizer breadsticks and then the fun began.  The cheesy garlic bread was crispy with a nice layer of cheese and a hint of garlic.  Dip it in the tomato sauce and it was amazing.  Then the pizza.  Let me tell you, if you EVER get to Chicago, you have to stop here.  The pizza was about four or five inches thick and the cheese strung out forever!  It was the best tasting pizza I’ve ever had.  By the way, they will ship pizzas nationwide and it’s going to be my little treat from time to time!  Pictures don’t do the pizza justice but you can see the goodness!

Chicago's Pizza Breadsticks Chicago's Pizza Chicago's Pizza Cheese Garlic Bread Gluten Free Pizza First slice! Gooey, yummy pizza

The next day we decided to venture to the Navy Pier.  It’s a beautiful area with shops and restaurants as well as an amusement park.  They give boat tours and dinner/lunch tours as well.  We started the day at Harry Caray‘s and weren’t disappointed.  Dad had the burger with a gluten free bun and said it was amazing.  Mom and I had the fish tacos and they were the best I ever had.  The tilapia was seasoned just right, the sauce added a little kick and the salsas finished it off.  We wandered the pier, having a mid afternoon cocktail after our boat tour, and then settled on Bubba Gump‘s for dad’s birthday dinner.  The server was helpful and I decided on the shrimp and veggie skewers with jasmine rice and mom and dad had the Accidental Fish & Shrimp Broiled Mahi Mahi over a bed of Jasmine Rice.  My meal was so refreshing and done just right and mom and dad said that their meal was great as well.

Harry Carey's Burger Fish Tacos Navy Pier Shrimp and Veggie Skewers Accidental Fish and Shrimp

The last Chicago item on my bucket list was to see the Chicago Bears play at Soldier Field.  While the Bears didn’t have the stadium food that Wrigley had, it still had a few options.  The brats were gluten free (no buns) as were the tortilla chips and the nacho cheese.  They also have popcorn and Redbridge Beer as well as hard ciders.  We had enough to eat and got to see the Bears get stomped but it was well worth going.  That night we ate in the hotel and they were so good about knowing what was gluten free and had it marked on the menu.  My chicken was done just perfect and the potato-bacon hash was amazing!

At the Bears GameChicken and Potato Bacon Hash

The plane ride home was without incident which I was thankful for!

I’ve read that if you are a foodie that Chicago is a place to visit and I wasn’t disappointed.  Their gluten free foods were delish and I do plan on going back.  In the meantime, I will have my pizza delivered from Chicago!

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Living FREE

We live in a world that is gluten free, peanut free, dairy free, etc to accommodate for the differing allergies, intolerances and autoimmune diseases that we see in the world.  Gluten free has become a buzz word and everyone thinks that if it doesn’t have wheat, it’s safe for consumption.

Not the case.

Last August the FDA created a mandate that said that anything labeled gluten free must be 20ppm or less of gluten.  While I considered it a win, a step for those of us that need to be gluten free, it’s not enough.

Here is how I see it:  if something was labeled peanut free but still had 20ppm or less of peanut dust in it, it wouldn’t be labeled peanut free, right?  I mean, if someone ate something that was labeled this way and had a peanut allergy it would still cause a reaction.  Probably death.

So, why is it good enough for something that is labeled “gluten free” to have SOME gluten in it?  It’s not.

It’s time for gluten free to mean that.  FREE of gluten.  Zero, zilch, nada.  A little bit can still hurt someone who is Celiac (or has a wheat allergy or intolerance) and for a Celiac, just 1/64th of a teaspoon can cause damage.  Damage that could take months to heal.

So Celiacs, let’s stand together and show these companies, and the FDA, that gluten free must be FREE of that that makes us sick!

Rant over.

Gluten Free…FOREVER!

I was at a local restaurant with a friend of mine.  It’s actually a good restaurant chain, Red Robin, and has great gluten free buns along with high standards for keeping me (and others) safe when dining there.

It was actually an accident that Craig chose this restaurant for lunch and when I asked for an allergen menu he stated “not a great place to choose to eat.”  I reassured him that it was a great choice and that they had gluten free buns and that they were good.  The part of the experience that settled in my brain was the server’s words when she saw the allergen menu:  “We have a wheat allergy today?”  Craig was quick with a response and said “WE have a wheat allergy everyday.”  The server saw his point and scooted away.

I find that this statement bothered me in a few ways. First, who was the “we” she was talking about? Did she have a mouse in her pocket?

Second, a wheat allergy/gluten intolerance/Celiac disease is an everyday thing for me. It’s not a “today I will eat GF, tomorrow I’m having bread!” kinda thing. I live with this 24-7.

It bothers me that people sometimes take it lightly, that it’s a flippant thing. This is an important, life altering lifestyle. Something that I have to think about every time I grocery stop because items like salad dressing and spices can have wheat. It’s something that I have to think about when my friends want to go out to eat. It’s an everyday, all day, rest of my life DISEASE.

So, I’m not gluten free just yesterday or today. I am gluten free…forever.