Friday, August 30, 2013

Gluten Free in Florida: Destin, Rosemary Beach & Aly's Beach

The family in Destin
I don’t think there’s anything more relaxing than a day spent at the beach.  What more could you want than a good book, margarita and the sound of the Ocean? Summer trips to Florida became a tradition for my family before I was born. Each year we stay in the same quaint neighborhood and visit the same restaurants and shops.  In fact, I feel like I grew up at Miss Lucille’s Gossip Parlor.  When I was younger I’d beg my parents to take me for ice cream. During middle school I’d walk over to get on AIM and now I reminisce over coffee. This year was an extra special vacation because for the first time in 6 years, all 6 of us were able to make it to Florida together.  It gets tough aligning 6 schedules nowadays! 

Rosemary Beach
While my parents are now excellent gluten free cooks, I was shocked at the cuisine my brother, Jeff, whipped up while on the trip.  For starters he made gluten free blackened tilapia tacos with a homemade mango pico, cilantro lime rice and black beans. Then on our last night he concocted a gluten free coconut/blue corn fried shrimp with a mint-cilantro yogurt sauce.  Guys, I’m telling you, it was all out of this world (which means a lot because I tend to be picky with food).  If you’re single and in Nashville, you should definitely think about meeting this guy. (Shameless proud sister plug over) While Jeff cooked some spectacular meals, we also explored a few local restaurants. 

Because you’re on the coast, delicious seafood is readily available everywhere and is always an easy gluten free option.  Seafood not your thing?  No problem, from what I’ve found, the area is really accommodating.

 Since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease I’ve eaten at a few restaurants in the area.  Here’s a short recap of my favorites:

Rosemary Beach
Bud & Alley’s- Named after two beloved dogs, this restaurant is located in idyllic SeaSide, in the center of great shopping and across the street form the famous Modica Market. Call a few days in advance to make reservations as they fill up very quickly.  The dining room has a country feel to it and the atmosphere changes with the sunset.  The menu focuses on seafood but does offer a filet and chicken dish. The most exciting part about the menu is that all their gluten free items are marked!  Beware though, we ordered the oysters because they were marked gluten free but we came to find out that it wasn’t a naturally prepared gluten free dish.  Make sure to notify your server so that the chef can prepare these items to be gluten free. For dinner I had the grilled grouper with butter peas, herbed basmati rice and lemon aioli. Their salads looked fantastic but were a bit on the large side and could easily feed 2. For dessert their gluten free option is a chocolate paté that was absolutely to die for!

Bud and Alley’s also own a pizza parlor and taco shack.  I’m not sure if these offer gluten free options and are a bit more casual but may be worth looking into if you’re wanting a quick bite.

Fire- located behind Miss Lucille’s Gossip Parlor and around the corner from some fabulous local art exhibits and shops is this cute restaurant.  While there wasn’t a dedicated gluten free menu, the chef was very comfortable altering dishes to fit my needs.  I ended up having the Red Snapper with a sunflower seed crust, rice and pasta caviar, tomatillo peppadew relish and sriracha remoulade sauce.  Everything was adjusted to be gluten free and it was out of this world!

George's at Aly's Beach
My friends enjoying George's at Aly's Beach
George’s At Aly’s Beach – This cute restaurant with a quirky frog theme is located off Highway 30-A and provides some amazing dishes.  They don’t take reservations and told me your best bet at getting a table without a wait would be to arrive no later than 5:15 (also, they’re closed on Sunday).  I ate the jerk crusted gulf snapper with black rice, roasted plantains, pineapple salsa and coconut cream. Yum, just typing that makes me want to make a trip back!  Their menu does have gluten free options listed, but the chef was able to alter this dish so that it could be gluten free.  Again, everyone seemed happy to accommodate my allergy and I greatly appreciate it!

Goatfeathers - While many people venture over here for fresh fish, it also doubles as a restaurant. The atmosphere isn’t what you’d expect for the quality of food they serve, but I don’t think you’ll find fresher fish anywhere in the area. Their menu is based mainly around seafood but there are other options available.  The waiter was extremely nice and told me anything on the menu could be altered to be gluten free.
Destin Sunset

Miss Lucille’s Gossip Parlor-When looking for quirky coffee and ice cream shops, this place is a ‘must!’ While they don’t offer gluten free food per say, they do offer a variety of ice creams, snow cones and coffee drinks.  This gossip parlor is a ton of fun and I highly recommend visiting if in the area. The parlor is located across the street form the public beach and hosts a variety of shops and local artists behind the shop.  It’s a great way to spend the afternoon if you find yourself in the area!

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