Home Travel Dairy Free, Gluten Free Travel Guide | California

Dairy Free, Gluten Free Travel Guide | California

by Laura

At the start of June, I was lucky enough to jet off to San Francisco and enjoy a two week road trip in California. From wandering across the Golden Gate Bridge to going back to my favourite place in the World – Palm Dessert, there was lots to see.

Before I went however, as with most foreign trips, I do get a little nervous about what I will eat (especially going to the middle of nowhere like Yosemite) and if it will be really hard to find food other than a salad – American food has always to me been, in the words of Joey Tribbiani, “fried stuff with cheese” and whilst I’ll never be able to be onboard with the cheese side of things, some fried stuff sounds good – or at the very least, a packet or two of family sized Lays crisps on a sun lounger. 

So, without any more rambling, I wanted to share a couple of the places I found with you, spoiler: I found two places for DF and GF Chinese food and one place had SWEET AND SOUR CHICKEN! (Caps because this is insanity to me and v.v.v. exciting.)

The first thing I need to talk about – and something that I did a strange shriek for in Target was – drum roll please – dairy free Haagen-Dazs ice cream. There’s a few flavours of this and whilst I was there, I tried the peanut butter chocolate fudge and the coconut caramel. If I had more time over there (and a freezer!) I’d really want to try the chocolate salted fudge but, the other flavour coconut cookies and creme contains wheat so that’s off the menu. But, the two I tried were unbelievable and were the best dairy free ice cream I’ve had since they were so full of flavour which I think was due to the fact they had base flavours such as coconut and peanut butter which made them really creamy. They were hard to tell that they were actually dairy free and when others tried them, they agreed that they tasted similar to non-dairy Haagen-Dazs ice-cream. 

I found this in both Target and also Walmart and I picked up some gluten free ice cream cones in Whole Foods so these really made the whole thing so much better. I even brought home the cones all the way back across the Atlantic in my hand luggage; priorities. 

Also… sorry about the second image, I wanted to show you the ice cream itself but I got super carried away and attacked it with a plastic spoon before I got the chance to take a picture. 

We stayed in Burbank the night before our day at Universal Studios so we did a spot (or two – oops) of shopping and then went in search of food. I’ve always had a slight addiction to Chinese food and takeout, my brother once ate the takeout leftovers I had specifically left in the fridge to eat later and I it honestly left a scar on our relationship – I still text him about the betrayal now.

Anyway – we just popped into Gormet 88 on the off chance they could possibly do GF and DF and to my delight (and some horrific candid photos my mum took of my excited little face when I was happily eating away) they were incredible with both their knowledge of the menu and knowing exactly what ingredients were in each dish and also with their willingness to listen to my requirements and then fulfil them. The darker sauces with the soy in did contain gluten but they said most of the other dishes were naturally GF and there was hardly anything (if anything at all) in the restaurant that had dairy in. Win. 

I’ve not had a proper sweet and sour battered dish since I’ve been GF and so this one, made with potato starch was such a treat and realistically if I had to do a 14 hour flight just for this meal alone, you’d probably find me stood ready with my passport – massive tasty prawns, fresh (non greasy) cooking, full of flavour and thin rice noodles. I didn’t shut up about this meal for at least a week straight; aren’t I fun to be around. 

(ALSO – they do takeout in the really cute American take out containers so if you’re staying in the area ahead of/ after Universal, you can order to your hotel room.)

So if you couldn’t tell by past blog posts including making my own chocolate frogs, I’m a pretty huge Harry Potter fan. Growing up with that all encompassing excitement of the next book and then subsequently the next film is something that I still miss. That’s why the new Wizarding Worlds in Universal Florida and Hollywoods are something that I still lose my damn mind at. Seeing everything brought to live is a kind of excitement I’ve missed – so you can imagine my utter oh-my-god-I’m-crying-and-shrieking-inside when I was chosen by the wand maker to have my wand fitted. I won’t spoil anything for any future visitors, but a trip to Olivanders is definately worth the visit. 

But I digress – In Florida, we managed to eat in the Three Broomsticks and I was a little determined to eat there again – after all, who doesn’t want to pretend to be there with Harry and Hermione. After a brief confusion where they thought I couldn’t eat the chicken in the salad (as it contained egg) we managed to sort it out and I had the green chicken salad with potato wedges. Despite the chaos that was being served, the chef came out to speak to me and personally gave it to me (instead of putting it on a tray with the other food) which I thought was good and showed they had their act together when it came to allergies – big tick in my mind in trusting them. 

For dinner, we went to Hollywood and Dine, there’s not actually that many places to eat that I could eat at, but the staff here on the dinner time were unreal and really went the extra mile to make sure I knew all ingredients and was happy with them all. With a gluten free chicken sandwich bun and fries with some sort of spice on, I was very happy indeed (and happy to be sat down after all the rides and walking!)

Whilst still on the topic of Universal (these text boxes can’t hold me back) there’s one ride you need to go on – the Walking Dead Experience. Ticking all the rides off on the map, my dad and I wandered in, not suspecting we were about to get scared to DEATH. I’ve never seen the programme before and was not at all expecting zombie people to come screaming towards me waving their arms and we laughed so much that it was hard to run away from them; your girls bad enough on Halloween running every direction but the bloody exit in fear, so add on the completely baffling unexpected element of the fear and it all got a bit real. 

But anyway, we move on to the coffee creamer of DREAMS. I found this in Walmart and also Target and, as a firm addict of my Nespresso machine at home whenever I go away I real miss it – getting coffee out and about is something I really avoid since so many professional machines now have the machine for frothing milk also attached and I’ve been cross contaminated so many times that it’s really not worth it. To combat these truly remarkable problems, I got a handheld whisk from Walmart that was around $7.50 and was incredible for the whole two weeks, brought home to use again else where. It foams the milk like an Aerocchino would but doesn’t heat which in black coffee isn’t the biggest deal. There was a few flavours of creamer but I went for the caramel flavour and rebought this multiple times in our two week stay and was full on obsessed with it by the end. Stand alone it’s very sweet but added to a black coffee it gives it a sweet flavour that is just comfort in a cup – honestly making the best coffee ever. I’ve tried to find this since I’ve been home in the UK but can’t find it anywhere and can’t find out how to ship 3,000 crates of it to me – if you see it anywhere, let me know.

Next we move on to Santa Monica where we had a quick stop to walk along the beach and pier before a little shop in the town. We decided to grab some food before we hit the road towards Sequoia National Park and ended up in P.F. Changs. The staff were amazing with checking all their different allergens in their dishes and making sure they’re alright for me to eat. The food itself was unbelievable – on par with my beloved Gormet 88, the food was all so fresh and full of veggies. 

The lettuce wraps were something I plan to make at home, chicken, noodles, apple and other veg, they had a peanut sauce and were so good. It was also the best rice I’ve ever tasted with big shrimp and again packed full of veggies. Such a good meal an d one that had to be included for both top flavour and the amazing staff. 

We took a trip up to the Sequoia National Park where there wasn’t any shops to speak of and we ate chips and salsa instead. Then it was off up to Yosemite; word to the wise, we followed the Sat Nav up to Yosemite and it took us down a ridiculous road – Ward Ferrys Road and went down the scariest roads ever – a one track road down a mountainside which had a sheer drop down the side, you then cross a bridge over the river at the bottom of the ravine and then it was back up the other side of the mountain. Avoid the road at all costs as It’s only a 4 minute faster route and if anyone was coming the other way up the route I was panicking so bad and it was one of the scariest moment – sweaty scary moments!

Last but certainly not least that I wanted to mention was our trip to Yosemite. I’ve always wanted to go and loved seeing the different waterfalls, rock formations and meadows, it felt like it couldn’t possibly be real and was just an incredible Hollywood back drop on a movie set. I was really wanting to see a brown bear but it was not to be, maybe because I was singing the old classic ‘We’re going on a bear hunt’ and running about (before the heat overtook and I sat in the car for ages with a bag of Lays crisps with the air con on FULL.) 

In the middle of absolutely no where, I wasn’t too convinced there’d be any gluten and dairy free food but lo and behold, ask and you shall receive and there was a gluten free option at the Village Grill Deck in Yosemite Village, and they could do most of the sandwiches minus the cheese, so I opted for a bean burger and the fries were also gluten free. Again, they were really helpful and mine came wrapped in a different coloured wrapper to everyone elses – a little touch that was super reassuring that they’d got it right and were on it with the allergies.

I’d definitely say Yosemite is a must see if you’re in California and is well worth the drive to see it; since it was so hot, we ended up driving to the key spots (there’s car parks and pull ins everywhere and people seemed to be doing the same as us) and then hiking just a little ways to the waterfalls and other key attractions. 

And there you go! My little round up of my favourite dairy and gluten free finds both in terms of products and restaurants. There’s some absolute gems in there, of course I couldn’t write about every meal, so if you ever want to see more and a more of a day to day food diary now I’m back in England, be sure to follow my Instagram!

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