This weekend was dedicated to a little family vacation with my husband and my 15-year-old step-son. My 9-year-old daughter is away on vacation with her dad, so we thought we would take this time and make it special for Anthony. Being the 15-year-old in the house, he usually has to do something that the younger kid in the house would like. From early bed times, shows and activities, he plays the role of big brother in a relatively agreeable way. But, it was time for some extra special memories for him.
We didn’t tell him where we were going until we hit the SF Embarcadero. First stop, the classic and super touristy Pier 39. Even though we are northern California locals, there is something nostalgic and special about checking in on the pier. We hit up Vitality for an aquamassage. Basically, you get into this tube, fully dressed I might add, and jets are used over a plastic layer to give you a full body massage. Honestly, the only reason I was game to do it, is because Anthony seemed stoked and willing to give it a go. When a 15-year-old is excited to do something other than be on his phone, it is a moment I don’t want to miss. I was super skeptical about this actually being a relaxing experience, but by the time I got out of the tube I felt like a noodle and needed to down huge amounts of water from the shift in my body. Dare I say I am a believer!
The Ferry Building Marketplace is always a favorite of mine. It combines food, coffee and some light shopping/browsing which sounds like my version of adult Disneyland. First stop, Blue Bottle Coffee. I’m a huge fan of limited menus anywhere. To me, it screams “We do things so amazing with such focus that you don’t need 40 pages of other stuff!” Feel me? I ordered their Giant Steps drip coffee which takes a bit since they make each one individually with pour over magic. But, I did see an oat milk latte come up on the bar that I was drooling over! So, next time that is my jam.
Once fully caffeinated, I headed over to Mariposa Baking company, which is a dedicated gluten free find. My husband always laughs in these moments, because I start collecting items like I am never going to see food again in the near future. Let’s just say that I never buy just one thing. On this round I purchased challah bread, herb toastettes, ginger spice biscotti, coconut pecan macaroons and double chocolate chunk cookies. The HERO here people is their double chocolate chunk cookies. They are to die for. With a soft, brownie like texture they are packed with chocolatey goodness while not being too rich or dense. They were so delicious I ate one before I took a photo and had to give myself a pep talk to not finish the bag. Some of Mariposa’s treats are dairy free as well, which makes my belly extra happy.
My family doesn’t have any food allergies like me, so we have a rather unconventional way of family dining and exploring. We make several stops. SEVERAL! And we are willing, to sit and let others enjoy their food heaven of choice. After my GF stop at the bakery, it was time for the boys to have some treats. We headed across the street to Over The Moon Creamery, known for their ice cream sandwich concoctions. It’s simple, pick your cookie, pick your ice cream and enjoy! My husband can be quite the cookie connoisseur, so when his eyebrows raised in delight, I knew this place was no joke. He opted for the snickerdoodle cookie cup with mint chip and strawberry ice cream, while Anthony had vanilla bean and cookie monster ice cream with a lemon cookie in the center.
When I am looking for food for me, I use an app called Find Me Gluten Free. This handy app has been my guide in New York, Hawaii and all of California. The reviews and details have never let me down. From this app, I found my new favorite restaurant of all time. Of ALL TIME. This restaurant is not only gluten free, but it is dairy free, soy free and refined sugar free! Even with all of these claims and impeccable reviews I was wondering if it was going to live up to the name. It did. Little Gem is now my food heaven. In fact, it was so delicious I ate there for dinner both nights.
First things first, the place has this approachable, minimalistic vibe with hints of elegant sweetness. Along with an incredible menu, they serve kombucha, coffee, tea, beer and wine. How nice is it to have the option of a glass of good wine with a meal like this?! Most places that serve gluten free in a big way aren’t restaurants that are in the date night category. This place, if we lived closer would be my first pick for a night out with my man.
My first night here I ordered the Spiced Hummus with NON bread, Sweet Glazed Corn on the Cob with sesame miso glaze and grated cashews and the 101 Chicken with melted leeks, charred summer squash and sun dried tomato vinaigrette. If we are friends you know that I have declared boldly that I HATE HUMMUS. I’ve wanted to like it for years, but I just don’t. This Spiced Hummus from Little Gem makes me eat my hummus hate speech ten times over. The spice is to perfection and topped with shaved fennel I never knew I needed in my life until now. The NON bread is warm with some sort of salty business on the edges that will have you raising your hand for the waitress to bring you another batch immediately. I ordered this on both nights to start. It is that stinkin good.
The Sweet Glazed Corn on the cob rivals my favorite version of corn which is the loaded Mexican street corn made by my hubby. The sesame miso glaze is a surprising pairing that I wish I would have thought of and the grated cashews tricked my eye into thinking there was actual parmesan cheese on top. I ordered this the first night and was honestly missing it when I didn’t order it the second night. The 101 Chicken was a suggestion by our amazing waitress. She said it was one of those meals that even folks who are not gluten free seem to rave about. I am used to most GF dishes lacking flavor and being more on the plain side, especially when it comes to chicken. This was anything but plain. There wasn’t an option to take leftovers with me. I devoured it all.
Even with all the amazing joints in the city, I couldn’t pass up a chance to go to Little Gem the next night. I ordered the same Spiced Hummus app and then tried the 5 Spice Turkey Meatballs with lime chili sauce. I love spice and big flavors. The meatballs had both. They were addicting to the point where I had to tell myself I still had an entree on the way, so I might want to slow down. The waitress had previously raved about this short rib dish, so I thought I would give it a try. It is rare that GF folks can get a hearty dish that actually includes a sauce. Usually, it is a stripped down, bare meal, so this felt a little like Christmas. I ordered the Beef Short Rib and Kale Bowl with stewed onions, cauliflower, broccoli romanesco, jasmine rice, green lentils and sesame with a side of tamari. I took the photo of it so fast I am shocked it isn’t blurry. I am a HUGE fan of rice bowls. This one was loaded and had ingredients I don’t usually cook myself. Most of all it felt hearty, and like an actual, real deal entree which makes a GF lady feel like a normal person for a hot second. Thank you thank you Little Gem. We will be back!
If you haven’t noticed already, food is super important to our fam. We wanted this trip to feel special with an added dash of pampering in the food department. With that in mind, we scoured room service menus to see what hotel had some GF options and seemed like they knew all the nitty gritty about serving someone with an allergy. Our home for the weekend was the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. First, I could write a whole article on the service. I mean if you are looking for some eye contact and a friendly hello in the city, just walk through the lobby and you will be greeted in a way that makes you feel like Beyonce. Truth. But, I was BLOWN AWAY by their attention, knowledge and options for GF. I am an eggs/toast kinda gal for breakfast and the GF toast was the best I have ever had at a hotel. It tasted like a whole grain bread and the actual slice was the size of a normal piece of bread. If you have been GF, you know bread is like a fun size candy bar. The true winner of this GF experience here is their french fries. I usually can’t have french fries anywhere because of the cross contamination issue. But, when my husband called and asked if they had options, the woman immediately explained that it would take just a bit longer to make them because they were going to change the oil, and make them in a fresh GF area of the kitchen. WHAT?! Needless to say our evening routine was a late-night french fry order. The boys opted for some sweet treats on the side. Heaven.
With all the trips to GF places, my fam was ready for some experiences of their own. Besides Mexican food, the boys love BBQ so we headed over to Cathead’s BBQ. The moment we parked, you could smell the sweet BBQ like whoa. This sweet spot only has 5 tables and some bar seating, but seems like a fan favorite as the line didn’t stop the whole time we were there. The guy that took our order was so enthusiastic about the special process of getting their signature flavors that he made you want to order the whole menu. The boys ordered house made hot link sandwich with an extra link on the side, Cathead biscuit with honey butter and pepper jam, and the Coca-Cola smoked brisket with BBQ baked beans. They barely said a word to each other as they ate themselves into a BBQ coma. If you are a BBQ fan, put this place on your list!
On our final morning we decided to venture towards home for our last stops on the food tour. The SF marathon was in full swing, so we adjusted plans. The boys picked Dynamo Donuts in the Mission. Anthony’s top pick was the Chocolate Rose and Rudy’s main mission for this donut trip was their Maple Bacon Apple. Rudy would take a donut over any fancy dessert. This sweet treat ranks top on his list and so he has tried more than his fair share. He LOVED these. In between sugary bites, he boasted about how the texture was on point. Not too dense, not too light.
As I sat with the boys, I was starting to go into my sad GF slump. I was unsure if I was going to be able to get any real food on the way home. I deal with this often and sometimes my choices are a bag of lettuce from a grocery store or salty chips from a coffee shop. Ugh. My husband is SUCH a research king. Truly. And even more than that, he never gives up. Cue the benefits of his stubborn nature. After about 10 minutes he had a plan. We headed to Oakland because he had discovered that Mariposa Baking Company had another location other than the Ferry Building and this place had a legit menu.
This location was more than I expected! Easy parking, seating inside and a few outside, bigger menu and ALL the fresh and frozen treats to do extra shopping for all your GF desires. When we drove up, my husband looked at me with that big grin that says, “Yup, I am amazing aren’t I?” Yes, yes. Thank God.
There were so many things on the menu that I wanted it was hard to pick, but I landed with a Bacon and Egg Sandwich with Nitrate-free, applewood smoked uncured bacon with egg, and roasted tomato with chipotle mayo on toasted croissant. The boys ordered the same thing, but on toasted bagels. I think it has been 10 years since I have had a croissant. Seriously. So I had my moment where my eyes rolled back a bit and I loudly declared how damn good it was! I could have eaten two of them. I almost did.
Before we got back on the road I did a little shopping. I purchased pizza crusts, french baguettes, double chocolate chip cookies, a bagel and a cinnamon roll. The cinnamon roll didn’t make it 30 minutes. It was so good and truly tasted like the full gluten kind.
With full bellies and happy hearts all around, we arrived home in the early afternoon and committed hard to napping. I am still feeling full from all of the extra treats, but there’s nothing like finding some new places nearby that give me options. Between the cool temperatures of SF and the memories made with my family, this city by the bay fed my soul in a way I won’t forget. Thank you, thank you, thank you!