My family started visiting Palm Desert/Palm Springs when I was in college. I remember caravaning with two other families and their kids on the long drive through the Mojave Desert, cars packed to the rafters as we meandered down Hwy. 395 in search of our oasis. Hours spent whacking balls on the tennis court with my brother was what brought us the most joy, along with those warm spring evenings where the sunlight just started fading before bedtime...ah the good old days.
I clearly recall another trip to the Desert back in 1999 before my diagnosis, when my body was so weak and sick from years of nutritional depletion that I wasn't able to play much tennis with my brother. Back home in the Bay Area at that time, I was in the midst of trying to hold down a rather large job as an assistant PIO (public information officer)for the City of Walnut Creek. Quite a challenge, I must say. So much so that it was during this trip to the Desert when my family and I talked for hours about me resigning due to my ailing health. What a blow - to land such a great job only to have it slip away from you with no tangible explanation as to WHY my brain was constantly in a "fog" and I was so tired and unable to think clearly - not good traits for someone writing press releases all day long.
Last weekend my brother and his lovely family invited me to Palm Desert with them for another quick get-away, allowing me some time to fill in as the "Nanny Aunt" along with playing a little tennis and finding some sunshine! What a gift it is now to be able to travel and always know (almost always) that eating out has become a much safer and enjoyable event for us Celiacs. Over the years I've honed my mantra of how to explain to the server or chef just exactly what I can and cannot eat in their restaurant. Don't get me wrong, there have been many a time when I didn't speak up for myself as I should have, feeling awkward and "abnormal" in comparison with my wheat-eating friends dipping into the bread basket, but I've learned that you MUST put the oneness on the server at all times. My mother has helped me to realize this and I thank her for the confidence boost to do so. So as we headed out for our first dinner at the wonderful Adobe Grille at La Quinta Resort I entered the restaurant full of confidence that my meal would be safe and delicious...and it was! Let's just say that they make the BEST, most fresh and fantastic guacamole prepared tableside...it's worth the trip just for that special bowl of goodness - this bowl really does fill the soul! Here's their recipe so you can make your own, though it will be hard to emulate the majestic open fire pit burning in the background, but go on and give it a try:
4 Ripe avocados
4 Chopped Heirloom tomatoes
1 Tbsp. of fresh minced garlic
1/4 Cup fresh sour cream
1/2 Fresh lemon
1 Tsp.medium sea salt
1 Tsp. fresh black pepper
1 Tbsp. fresh chopped cilantro
Simply half the avocados, remove the pits and scoop the perfectly ripened contents into a bowl and add the lemon. Use a large fork or whisk to smash the avocados together, removing a majority of the lumps. Add in the sour cream, chopped tomatoes, minced garlic and cilantro. Mix all ingredients until blended then add your salt and pepper. You may need to add more salt, depending upon your own personal taste preference.
A delicious and totally gluten free way to make your own tortilla chips is to buy fresh CORN tortillas (they sell these at Trader Joe's or your local Hispanic market)that you can cut into quarters, lightly brush with olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt or garlic salt. Place them on a cookie sheet and pop them in your oven at 400 degrees for 5-10 minutes, or until they are golden brown and crispy. Delicious, safe and gluten free without the added fat and calories you get from deep fried chips, not to mention eliminating the risk you take eating restaurant chips that were perhaps fried in the same oil as a chimichanga or sopapilla.
I'm still lingering over thoughts of the guacamole...Since we had eaten the entire bowl that night it was essential to get some exercise the next day. After a jog in the sun, it was time to take my nephew out for an afternoon of exploration around the resort and to let his little mind wander and his little feet take him there. What's most beautiful about watching a three year old explore the world is the subconscious pull that takes you right there with them ~ suddenly I'm three again and seeing the flowers in a whole new light and stopping to watch a bumble bee perform its very important job of pollinating a flower, while really taking that moment in. It's a beautiful thing. Along our journey, my nephew decided that he would pick flowers for everyone in his family - precious right? It was, except for the fact that the grounds are meticulous around that place and gardeners seemed to whiz past us in their golf carts just at the precise moment Alex decided to rip out not just one sun-ripened Pansy...but one of EVERY color!
I would be remiss if I forgot to mention another wonderful restaurant that's definitely worth visiting, a Celiac or not! The Cliffhouse in Palm Desert is built into a sheer rock wall that's complete with a meandering waterfall, and quite a dramatic entrance that's also very intriguing for kidletts. I was so impressed with our excellent server, Amanda, and her knowledge of gluten free food preparation. Evidently three employees of the restaurant are Celiacs and have educated the kitchen staff, so immediately I was very optimistic about the delicious dinner I was about to eat and come to find out, Amanda even recommended a scrumptious poached cinnamon pear dessert - it was my lucky night.
Our long weekend in the Desert was the perfect blend of fresh air, fresh ideas and most of all - deliciously fresh food shared by all, along with some new gardening skills my nephew picked up. Cheers to abundance!