Gluten-free at Dharma’s Vegetarian Restaurant in Capitola, Ca

May 26th, 2011 yum Posted in Bay Area, Ca, Capitola, Gluten Free Dining, Gluten Free On the Road No Comments »

Dharma Restaurant: Natural Organic Vegetarian Food
4250 Capitola Rd
Capitola, CA 95010
(831) 462-1717

I love finding a new, local restaurant with a well-developed gluten-free menu, and I love finding vegetarian restaurants that have food that I can eat. Finding them both in one place is a rare and exciting event. When I discovered Dharma’s gluten-free friendly, vegetarian restaurant in Capitola, California through an online search, I was thrilled. Dharma’s Vegetarian Restaurant is a very large, almost cafeteria style restaurant with a warm and cozy family dining atmosphere. You place your order at the counter, since it isn’t a traditional sit down and place your order type of place. To tell the truth, this kind of ordering situation always makes me twitchy because I find it hard to make a decision standing staring at a menu above me. It is even harder with a toddler in tow. Baby Yum got a little hyper so the DH carted her off to a table with some of the resident dinosaur toys and left me to pick food for all of us.

As soon as I saw it on their online gluten-free menu, I knew that I wanted the Indian curry, which you can get with gluten-free bread if you order it specially. But I didn’t think Baby Yum would be too thrilled with all the “spice, spice” as she refers to anything with seasoning. So. when I saw the daily special was a dish with quinoa, sweet potato and soup, I had to order it… for the DH to share with Baby Yum. Then I felt bad later, because it really wasn’t the kind of thing he would order for himself. What can I say, I don’t order well under pressure.

The Indian Curry, though, that was right up my alley and exactly what I would order if I could choose anything in the world. When I saw that curry I just about swooned. Lots of fresh veggies married to a creamy, coconut-rich sauce and sprinkled with cashews- yum! The brown rice was fine, the yogurt sauce was tangy, the chutney was sweet, but the curry, now that was a real treat. I would give it a 4 out of 4 stars. It was served with a bit of what I think was Kinnikinnick bread. I don’t know how they manage their toasters, so I still didn’t eat it. I didn’t need it, even with giving Baby Yum some of my plain rice.

Because it was Mother’s Day weekend I ordered the raw foods strawberry cheesecake, too. I have decided that cheesecake is my favorite raw foods dessert. How can you not love that creamy, nut-based goodness that seems so naughty but is full of good things? This was a lovely, silky smooth and delicate raw foods cheesecake with a tangy hint of lime. Even the DH approved.

The quinoa sweet-potato special really got my attention because the specials menu mentioned a tahini sauce. I don’t care what you drizzle it on, tahini makes everything yummy. Between thinking of my quinoa-loving Baby Yum and drooling over the tahini, I couldn’t resist. I selected a potato leek soup that was recommended by the guy at the counter, and it was a nice soup but looked so very plain when it came out of the kitchen that I felt quite bad about having ordered it for the DH. On the up side, Baby Yum gobbled down the rice and quinoa we gave her from our two plates. On the down side, this meal just didn’t look sexy or very hard to make at home. Teach me to order the bargain lunch special!

I can’t tell you how exciting it was for me to find a gluten-free friendly vegetarian restaurant on our little road trip. The first restaurant I ever really enjoyed was a little place called the Creative Vegetarian Cafe in Boulder, which closed a few years later. I loved the international take on vegetarian dining, and I’ve missed having the experience of eating good, thoughtful vegetarian recipes out. Here in Silicon Valley it seems the only vegetarian restaurants are based on Chinese/ Taiwanese Vegetarian cuisine, which is so full of wheat-based soy sauce, wheat flour and wheat gluten that it is completely off limits. Or, they are based in Indian cuisine, which I love but often has mystery spice mixes or cross contamination issues. Finding a place that gives me the international dishes I crave but has gone to the effort to have a gluten-free menu was the best Mother’s Day present ever! If you happen to find yourself in Santa Cruz and take an excursion towards Capitola, definitely check out Dharma’s Vegetarian Restaurant and their fantastic gluten-free menu!

*Please note, they do prepare gluten dishes in their kitchen, so you may want to ask questions about preparation and cross-contamination issues.

How we found the restaurant:

I have a crush on Santa Cruz. I’ll admit it. Santa Cruz is the home of New Leaf Health Food Stores, my favorite REAL natural food store in California, and also the home of Love Apple Farm, an organic farm that produces gorgeous produce for a local gourmet restaurant while also cultivating and selling amazing heirloom tomatoes. Love Apple Farm has become increasingly involved in education, providing classes on topics from backyard chicken-keeping to preserving to summer or winter organic gardening. Ever since we bought our first house with a yard, the DH and I have been burning to start a garden. And, shortly before Mother’s Day, we attended a class at Love Apple Farm to get an education on organic gardening. At that class, we learned about the Mother’s Day Plant Sale at the Cabrillo College Horticulture Center where you can buy beautiful organic heirloom plants the likes of which would never be found at Lowe’s or Home Depot. This is how I found myself in Capitola, California on Mother’s Day Weekend with a car full of gorgeous plants including purple tomatillos, quinoa, and a rainbow of lettuce. I had all this potential food in the car, and yet- I was hungry! Luckily the DH has an Iphone, and so we did a search and I found a vegetarian restaurant in the area with a gluten-free menu. Yippee! I knew I liked the Santa Cruz area.

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Gluten-free Oakland: Mariposa and Scream Sorbet

March 10th, 2011 yum Posted in Baked Goods, Bay Area, Ca, Gluten Free bakery, Mariposa Bakery, Oakland 5 Comments »

mariposa baking company
5427 telegraph ave, unit d3
oakland, ca 94609
tel: 510.595.0955
Every so often I go on a gluten-free pilgrimage to Oakland to see what’s up at my favorite bakery, Mariposa Baking Company. I am happy to report that they are still the home of the best Gluten-free pizza I’ve ever had. They have been developing many new recipes, too, and I was delighted to see some new items on the menu.

They now have more vegan gluten-free breads than ever! These breads are dairy-free, egg-free, nut-free, and soy-free:
- rustic long baguette
- 2pk baguettes
- sandwich bread
- cinnamon raisin bread
- 6pk dinner rolls

The little kid in me loves their “Polar Bear”, a cream filled counterpart to the Twinkie. Don’t laugh! I was diagnosed at three and don’t remember ever having a Twinkie- these lightly orange flavored cupcakes may be very bad for me, but they taste so good! Those who miss Ho-Ho’s or Ding Dong’s will love their Penguino, a chocolate cupcake filled with cream that my DH says tastes just like its gluten counterpart. He loves them! (I don’t care for chocolate cake, but I’m weird like that.)

The grown-up in me adores Patti for developing a gluten-free veggie burger option with their new beetloaf sandwich. I’ve never had a beet-based veggie “burger” before! Paired with their amazing sandwich rolls, and with a side of cabbage salad, this burger made my mouth very happy. Baby Yum even got in on the action! The burger contains egg so is not vegan, but it is dairy and nut free. Next time I must also try their panini, but my stomach is only so big. If only Mariposa were closer!

Other standout savory options at their bakery include a cheese quiche, cheese or butternut squash ravioli, and gnocchi. And thank goodness they still have their nutmeal cookies, which I am personally obsessed with. Every time I go, I pick up at least five, and jealously hoard them from my husband. They also have new gluten-free pop tarts that are truly a thing of beauty. The flavor of the crust somehow didn’t appeal to me, but the texture was excellent and the novelty of it kept me entertained. I still am kicking myself for not trying their gorgeous apple galette, but I had already racked up quite a bill and had a hard time justifying the purchase. What’s your favorite Mariposa gluten-free product?

The bakers at this little bakery are baking their hearts out for their gluten-free clientele and it makes me so happy to see what a huge success they’ve become. At our last visit, almost every table was full. A college student was sitting studying and enjoying coffee and gluten-free food, girlfriends were gabbing and sharing yummy gluten-free sweets, a gluten-free grandmother was sharing food with her family, and we sat at a table with Baby Yum in a highchair and fed her bites of Mommy’s veggie burger. I looked around the room and thought that this was the perfect place to spend a Saturday afternoon. It can’t get much better than this warm, comfortable place with safe food where gluten-free folks can come and relax with their family and enjoy a delicious lunch just like any other family on a Saturday afternoon.

*If you can’t make it to Oakland, Mariposa has a permanent booth at the Ferry Building in downtown San Francisco as well as a new booth at the Palo Alto Farmer’s Market on California Avenue or at their booth at the San Rafael Farmer’s Market- both on Sundays.

Another recent review of Mariposa Bakery

Scream Sorbet
5030 Telegraph Ave,
Tuesday through Sunday, 12pm – 9pm
(510) 394-5030

While I know it is hard to avoid absolutely stuffing yourself at Mariposa (maybe this is just my problem), I would like to recommend that you save a little room in your stomach for the absolutely best dairy-free sorbet I’ve ever had in my life. Scream Sorbet began offering their divine flavors at local Bay Area Farmer’s Markets some time ago. I became completely obsessed with them when I was on my every-allergen-free diet for breastfeeding. When I couldn’t have much else, I could still indulge in some farmer’s market fresh flavors of sorbet. A few flavors contain dairy, and some flavors contain nuts. There are plenty of vegetable or fruit-based flavors that should be gluten-free and allergen-free!

Their mission statement:
Each week, we walk our 27 farmers’ markets in search of the best local, organic, and seasonal produce available, head back to our lab to experiment, and then finish by making our sorbet one quart at a time the evening before every market. We want our sorbet to taste exactly like the fantastic ingredients that go into it.

Their sorbet really does taste just like the fresh ingredients they use, in the most unexpected ways. I was especially excited when they had one of their dairy-free chocolate flavors like coconut milk-chocolate. Mint-lime sorbet or one of the fresh fruit flavors are fabulous as well. If you can tolerate nuts, their macadamia vanilla or pistachio are probably my hands down favorite flavors. In fact, I like pretty much all of their flavors for their creativity. If you’ve always wanted to try snap pea sorbet, chipotle chocolate sorbet, popcorn sorbet, coconut thai basil or coconut kale sorbet, this is the place for you. Some of their more outrageous flavors may be a bit much, but they are all fun to try and you may be surprised at how palatable an unexpected combination of ingredients can be.

When I planned a trip to Oakland to visit Mariposa, I knew I had to visit the new Scream Sorbet storefront, which is just down the street from Mariposa. Literally. Look at the address! It was fun to see their dreams of a retail shop finally come to fruition, and I loved the cool, friendly coffeehouse vibe of the place. I never thought I liked sorbet until I had Scream Sorbet, and now I can’t get enough of the stuff! I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. What is your favorite Scream Sorbet flavor? Mine changes almost every week!

If you can’t make it to Oakland, you can enjoy Scream Sorbet at Bay Area Farmer’s Markets including the Mountain View Farmer’s Market, Palo Alto Farmer’s Market, and the San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer’s Market.

Other fun gluten-free friendly destinations in the Oakland/Berkeley area include the Berkeley Bowl Health Food Store, as well as Cafe Gratitude in Berkeley. What are your favorite Gluten-free spots in the Oakland/ Berkeley area?

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