In my mind Portland, Oregon is now crowned with a wonderful, gluten-free, pistachio rosewater donut; and juggling gluten-free falafel balls.
Truly, this is the most gluten-free embracing place I have ever been! We were astounded and delighted continuously. We've been eating about 95% gluten-free for over a year now. Realizing that I am gluten-sensitive was very clarifying and liberating for me. I'd avoided traditional pasta, bread, cake, etc since childhood, but I never quite knew what it was in them that distressed my body. Now that I know, I feel empowered to make better food choices, not simply out of preference, but out of a desire to treat my body well, that I may live and love well. Plus, it has been fun exploring the land of gluten-free possibilities and recipes with my culinarily adventurous husband, Neel.
On that note, it was Neel who uncovered the 11th Annual Gluten-Free Food Fair happening in Portland DURING our already planned trip! The event was put on by the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) of Portland. We contacted the organizer, Dr. Lisa Shaver, who put us on the guest list. It was an awesome honor to be able to advocate over 60 businesses with gluten-free products!
The event was overflowing with samples: from cupcakes to crackers to muffins to pork stew to beer to fried chicken! It was a feast! Some of our favorites were the baked goods from Petunia's Pies and Pastries, the tasty treats from Gem Bakery, the cookies from Cosmic Crumbles Bakery, the bread bites from Brazi Bites, and the bread at New Cascadia. One of the other splendid attributes of this fair was the live speakers! Yes! We choose to sit in on Dr. Robyn Kutka's talk, "Gluten Intolerance, Celiac Disease and Hormone Imbalance: Thinking Outside The Bread Box." It was very helpful, informative, and insightful.
Beyond the food fair, here are some other culinary highlights from our gluten-free tour-de-force. First off, the delicious Greek Collard Rolls and Coconut Tomato Lentil Soup at Blossoming Lotus were very delicious! The soup was an incredible blend of rich flavors and spices pirouetting in harmony. Amazing.
Secondly, OH MY GLORIOUS GOODNESS!!!! I'd never heard of a primarily gluten-free Middle Eastern restaurant prior to Dar Salam. I was overjoyed when my husband discovered it, but opulently more overjoyed upon tasting the food!! I had some of the best Middle Eastern food I have ever had! Given that I lived in the Middle East for three years, traveled extensively throughout the region (including Baghdad), and often find Middle Eastern restaurants around the world, that is very impressive!
Even if you are merely passing through Portland, I strongly recommend carving a slot for Dar Salam into your plans.
Beyond the delights of Dar Salam, we investigated Luc Lac: Vietnamese Kitchen. While it does not focus on gluten-free food, there are many options and ways to rearrange a dish to make it gluten-free. Be aware that the portions are quite large and the food is excellent!
Now to dessert you. (haha)
The gluten-free dessert, sweet treats, and baked goods options in the Portland area are astounding. So astounding that one may stumble upon a 100% gluten-free bakery called, "Kyra's Bake Shop" in Lake Oswego that has won multiple Cupcake Wars competitions! If you do, we recommend the "coffee and donuts" cupcake. :-)
Speaking of donuts...
at 35 years old I had the best donut I've ever had. Yes, it was on our Portland trip. We scoped out the Back to Eden Bakery before our trip and we knew it was a frontrunner in the gluten-free bakery world of Portland. However, there was still space for utter astonishment. And that it was occurred when I took my first bite of their Pistachio and Rosewater donut. Since that marriage of flavors has a very Moroccan sensibility to it and we adore Morocco, it drew me in by its title. However, it was the taste that mesmerized. "This is really the best donut I've ever had!" "I am astounded by how good this is, Neel!" I exclaimed multiple times as we munched our way through its sweet pink veneer and pale green crumbles.
Back to Eden also serves meals, ice cream, and a variety of delectable pastries. If you do stop in, you may want to bring some pistachio and rosewater donuts back to your friends. We got some for our friends and they relished them.
If you visit the Back to Eden location on Alberta Street (which is the same street Dar Salam is on), you can also jaunt over to Salt and Straw for some outrageously wonderful ice cream. They are not gluten-free exclusive, but much of their ice cream is gluten-free. Moreover, they have a gluten-free and vegan ice cream called, "Coconut with Petunia's Salted Caramel Bars" which is luxuriously tasty. It is some of the very best ice cream I've ever had. We also scooped up some pints for our friends (who agree it's some of the best they've had too).
Well folks, that is the kingdom of gluten-free-dom that is Portland, Oregon! We adored it, we amore-d it, we explored it. It was lovely, enchanting, and inspiring every day. If you are planning a trip to Portland, whether gluten-free or not, the spots we mentioned are glorious lilypads of replenishing and creativity. And if you want lodging ideas, stay tuned for two upcoming reviews from our stay.
After our return, I came across an article listening the 10 most gluten-free cities in the world. #1? You guessed it. PORTLAND, OREGON! I could almost taste the Pistachio and Rosewater Donut again, I was so thrilled!
And if you find yourself scanning the hills and mountains along Interstate 5 in Oregon for tasty treasures, pick a bridge (or let your GPS pick it), and glide through the kind streets of Portland until you find your next munch-time muse.
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