Gluten-Free Travel - Philadelphia, PA

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011 | click here to comment

Making travel plans for the summer?  Take note if you're heading to the northeast and plan a stop in Philadelphia because the city of brotherly love really loves celiacs. I recently spent a weekend in Philadelphia and was surprised to find many options to choose from including gluten-free cheesesteaks, desserts and more. I did my homework before heading down and chatted with the Gluten Free Traveller, who previously traveled to Philadelphia and has a fabulous blog post on her journey.  She turned me on to the gluten-free cheesesteak at Paesano's in Philly, which I sadly didn't get a chance to try this time around because I had so many places to try on my list and not enough time!

Upon arriving in Philly (after a grueling 4 hour traffic-filled road trip), we made a bee-line to Alma de Cuba, which not only has a fabulous regular menu, but also has an equally, if not more fabulous, gluten-free menu, featuring one of my favorite dishes ever - lechon asado, which is crispy pork.

The dinner started with yuca rolls, which are also 100% gluten-free and wonderfully sweet and chewy.  I devoured 3 before I even got to my appetizer. The drinks were also yummy and plenty strong, which I needed after that long car ride.

yuca bread at alma de cuba
yuca chips and baked corn
ceviche trifecta

I have to admit though, my mind stayed pretty focused on the main event - the lechon asado.  I have never had crispier pork in my life.  I wanted to weep openly with joy at the dish put in front of me because of its perfection in every facet, from the tangy red beans & rice to the ridiculously perfectly crispy pork skin and tender meat, it has no equal.  I'm not sure how they get the chicharon that crispy, but I think it has something to do with magic and a deep fryer.

pork perfection!

The vibe at Alma de Cuba is chic and trendy.  Not exactly the type of place to bring a toddler, but they were really accommodating of us, despite the fact that every couple they sat next to us wanted to move after seeing our daughter and thinking she was about to burst into a tantrum at any second. To those couples I say thank you, we enjoyed not having to listen to your asinine chatter as much as you didn't want to be subjected to our toddler (even though she was quite well-behaved).

gluten-free roll at the four seasons
sweet potato hash & poached eggs at the four seasons

The next morning we were ravenous, and recovering from intense garlic flavors.  The little one wanted waffles, and wouldn't take no for an answer, so we decided to have brunch at The Four Seasons restaurant The Fountain, in the lovely area of Logan Square. We sat down to our trio of brunch beverages aka coffee, juice and a mimosa and I was delighted to find out that gluten-free rolls were available. When my roll came out, I was a bit underwhelmed, especially after seeing the delicious looking breads they were offering to Matt and our little one.  The flavor of the roll was bit bland and slightly tough.  I've actually had much better pre-packaged rolls from Canyon Bakehouse, Schar and others, and expected much more of The Four Seasons. Our breakfast was good, but nothing earth shattering.  I had the hash, which came with sweet potato instead of the usual white potato, which was nice I suppose, but doesn't hold a candle to my absolute favorite corn beef hash dish served at Bouchon in Vegas. We had a birthday party to attend for Matt's 90 year old step-grandmother, so we finished up brunch and got on the road, but not before taking a detour to the Please Touch Museum, which is AMAZING and worth every penny.  I'm pretty sure I had more fun than my daughter, but whose keeping count?  After the museum we stopped into Food For All Market, which is a blend of a gluten-free grocery/cafe.  I was in love from the moment I walked in.  The atmosphere is warm and welcoming and they have a wonderful variety of gluten-free goods as well as food made to order.  I had the Stuart sandwich which had turkey, bacon, green apple, greens and mayo on a Joan's GF Italian Roll.  All I can say is YUM. The sandwich was perfection and I inhaled every last bite in minutes.  I also walked away with a few goodies to take home including Le Asolane pasta, which I hadn't had since I was in Italy, My Dad's Cookies and a black bean vegan brownie which was baked at the store.  I didn't care very much for the brownie, but I'm also not really one for vegan desserts.

food for all market
shelves of products at food for all market

the stuart sandwich

We concluded our Philadelphia weekend with a stop at Sweet Freedom Bakery, before getting on the road.  I had read many great things about them and couldn't wait to try their desserts. Their shop is very cute and the girls behind the counter were delightful. The desserts all look simply amazing and I was taken with a few including the Samoa cupcakes.  I have to admit, I wasn't really a fan of anything I bought there.  The Samoa cupcake looked amazing, but was so sweet it hurt my teeth (and stomach later in the evening).  The chocolate ganache cake I got had too much of a strong black bean flavor for me to enjoy it.  I ended up throwing everything away, but again, I'm not vegan and can't really judge vegan desserts.  I love most of the things I've had from Babycakes in NYC, but Sweet Freedom was just maybe a bit too sweet for me.

desserts from sweet freedom bakery

I can't wait to take my next trip to Philly and am already scouting out which new places I can visit.  There is a restaurant called Cochon which speaks to me on so many levels that I think I'm definitely going to be making an appearance there soon. Have you been to Philadelphia before on a gluten-free diet?  What are your favorite spots to visit when you're in town?


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