Thursday, May 19, 2011

Delightfully Free with southern style: Tennessee and North Carolina

I have just returned from enjoying several delightfully free dining experiences in the charming southern cities of Franklin, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina. And no, I didn't cook anything during my trip, yet the meals were all mainly gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Here's some great news: because so many restaurants are beginning to see that their dining patrons include those with food allergies or those who just want to eat healthy, GF/DF menus, an emphasis on natural, wholesome ingredients and vegan/raw-inspired items are popping up all over in restaurants.
Before saying anymore about the wonderful food though, I just have to mention that if any of you have not yet been to Franklin or Asheville, and ever have the chance to go, don't pass it up. These places are so much fun! Franklin, just south of Nashville, has a historic charm throughout its quaint downtown. In addition to its traditional roots, the city loves to keep things interesting. While we were there, the city held a street festival for Cinco de Mayo--while also attempting to set the world record for the largest tequila toast. Oh, and if you like touring old mansions and estate homes, don't miss the nearby Rippavilla Plantation and Carnton Plantation.  My history buff husband would want me to include that Franklin had a very important Civil War battle fought there and he recommends taking the walking tour at the Carter House, located on the outskirts of the town. 

For being a relatively small town, Franklin has a fabulous selection of restaurants and several of them now have DELICIOUS items for anyone eating GF, DF, SF, vegetarian, vegan or with other allergy sensitivities in mind. I even had a GF, DF pizza at the Mellow Mushroom.  I had our customized pizza topped with spinach, chicken, onions, tomatoes, and fresh basil.  It was so yummy!  There was also a restaurant with a whole GF menu, but unfortunately they were only open for lunch, so I ended up missing out. And even besides the specialty restaurants I saw, several of the others had menu selections which were either great just the way they were or the servers/kitchen were only too happy to remove or add an item or two to make it all work for us. Don't be afraid to ask to have your order customized so that it's GF and DF it's really not uncommon--I've been doing it for years ;)

Not only did I eat at the Mellow Mushroom in Franklin, but I also worked in the Mellow Mushroom in Asheville. They make a pretty tasty GF, DF pizza. Asheville is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Just outside the city is the Biltmore Estate, the largest private home in America, and it's gorgeous. The Estate is situated just south of Asheville in its own community of Biltmore Forest. To the north of the city is The Grove Park Inn which is an incredible, historic resort and spa sitting atop fabulous grounds which include a golf course.  The Inn is a great place to walk and enjoy the beautiful views, atmosphere and amenities.

Asheville's Downtown is vibrant, with a personality all its own. Small enough that most everyone walks around town, there are talented musicians playing on virtually every major intersection and wonderful street-front restaurants abound. Like other charming historic American cities, Asheville is brimming with many great eateries, closely packed together.  Simply locate the Vance Obelisk in the center of the city and start there. 

Here is just a sampling of the outstanding restaurants you will encounter:  the Tupelo Honey Cafe, The Early Girl Eatery, The Laughing Seed, Rosetta's Kitchen, Mayfel's, Doc Chey's Noodle House, The Noodle Shop, The “other” Mellow Mushroom—the list could go on. The two noodle houses offer dishes with your choice of meat or no meat, packed with fresh vegetables and herbs, and they both offer the fare over brown rice if you ask. At both places, we found our servers not only to be patient about explaining to us or finding out what was in a dish for us, but they were definitely in tune with the needs of a GF, DF patron. The same was true virtually everywhere else. In fact, Rosetta's Kitchen offers an entirely separate vegetarian and vegan menu. At the popular Tupelo Honey Cafe, our server Lia was so thoughtful and patiently went over each ingredient, despite how busy the restaurant was. Rachael at Mayfel's explained all of the many options offered to make my meal there GF and DF. The same thing happened at The Laughing Seed where Katherin carefully pointed out the many menu selections that were entirely GF and DF. And by the way, over at the Laughing Seed we learned that the staff's favorite cookie happens to be their GF/DF vegan selection (rather than either of the two other non-GF/DF contenders)—proving, once again, that good, healthy eating doesn't have to be tasteless and tortuous. One final, not to be missed food-related treat is the GreenLife Grocery store located just west of downtown. It is a treasure chest of healthy food and produce. Especially interesting are the unusual and creative dishes and deserts displayed for sampling and sale in the center of the store.  The store personnel that I've had the pleasure of encountering have all been very knowledgable and enthusiastic about clean eating. It's so refreshing. A healthy, creative and even exotic breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack can be purchased at GreenLife and enjoyed in their dinning area. I really love this place, can you tell? It's a completely affordable way to enjoy a quick, quality meal while not venturing too far from the action of downtown and I can find any ingredient I need.

In Biltmore village, fun for a stroll through quaint shops after a visit to the Estate, you will find Chelsea's Tea Room with its own wonderful menu and charming garden patio where Jennifer took excellent care of us. By the way, most all of the places I've mentioned have terrific outside seating options which allow me to participate in another of my favorite activities: people watching ;)

And I know I'm leaving so much out ! The good news is that enjoying fabulous dining away from home is becoming easier and better as more and more people and restaurants are learning about how they can and should be eating. I hope you have a chance to visit some of  these places some time soon! In the mean time, bon appetite, the Delightfully Free way!


(**All photos of food in this post are from the websites of restaurants that I've mentioned and linked to throughout. I really hope you'll check out these sites to see more of the wonderful GF, DF, SF, vegetarian, vegan and totally delicious items they offer!)

About Delightfully Free: Delightfully Free is a gluten-free, dairy-free and refined sugar-free cookbook of 141 recipes. It includes delicious resources for autism, celiac disease, diabetes, lactose intolerance, obesity and just plain healthy living. It contains 114 color photographs, 114 vegetarian or vegetarian compatible recipes, and 103 vegan or vegan compatible recipes