Friday, August 12, 2011

Our Gluten free Vacation: Vietnamese Garden, Colorado Springs, SO AMAZING!

Yummy Potato fritter...
Oh, what a bittersweet day.  I am writing this while leaning back on the front porch of our cabin in glorious Woodland Park, CO.  Watching the miraculous sunset over Pike’s Peak and rubbing my very full belly, I am grateful for God’s creation.  Our car is jam packed with gluten free bread products from “Outside the Breadbox” and I just put away the best meal I’ve had in months.  But we leave early tomorrow morning to go back to the hot, hot heat in Wichita.  The gluten free beer has relaxed me a bit.   There is a bite in the wind I wont get in Wichita until the cool winds of fall.
            How I got Ashley to try out a place called “Vietnamese Garden” is beyond me.  Maybe it was the several 5 star reviews on gluten free registry.  Maybe it was the fact that she checked the menu online just to see if she could “handle” it.  It doesn’t matter now, because we went and we gorged.  I wonder if the sweet Indian waitress snickered in the kitchen at how much we ate? In the end my notoriously un-adventurous wife held her own when it came to eating well.
            First off I started with a gluten free beer called New Grist, which was light and smooth.  It was crisp and refreshing.  As my wife and I talked through the meal with the waitress, she gave us several solicited options.  We found ourselves stuck between the spring rolls you make yourself, the egg rolls and the carrot sweet-potato plate.  Realizing it was our last meal in Colorado before we go back to pleading truck stop chefs for something that wont get us sick, we decided to have it all.  Yes, all three. 
            The egg rolls came first.  They had all kinds of succulent meat in them, spiced well with a bunch of other safe foods that allowed my wife to enjoy something “exotic.”  I forgot how much I miss truly great egg rolls.  I like these much better than the Chinese egg rolls, which usually have some sort of cabbage.  The temperature was very hot but it was not spicy.  They had a sweet, slightly spicy sauce, which we dipped them in, cautiously at first and then we started dunking them like Oreos in milk. (I miss those)  By the time they brought out our next course, all six egg rolls were missing and our cup of sauce was half full.  I don’t like spicy but the kick in the sauce was minimal and didn’t stick with you. 
            Next we enjoyed the fried carrot and sweet potato plate.   As with the egg rolls, they suggested we add sprouts, mint and basil before wrapping in lettuce.  Like the mountains I am presently enjoying, I felt like this was another type of blessing.  Oh to experience something so divine at every meal.  The crunch of the lettuce combined with the crunch of the fried potatoes with the sweet spicy sauce was transcendent. 
            Finally the chef herself came out and taught us how to make our main course.  She had a plate of rice noodles covered in chicken, pork, shrimp and beef.  All of them were seasoned to perfection.  Amidst the meat there was also shallots, green onions and some sort of GF fried onion reminiscent of French’s fried onions.  We put these all into our rice paper with the same greenery from before and wrapped it tight.  When we got it right it reminded me of biting into a great hot dog.  When the casing was perfect it was beyond enjoyable. 
She said "Why take a picture of my ugly face with such pretty food?"
            Another thunderstorm announced itself as I sat there with my wife soaking in the last minutes of our vacation.  We watched the light trickle turn to pouring as we finished our incredible, buttery, not too sweet, mung-bean cake.  I was a little sad.  Few people were there on a Friday night.  That was the kind of place people should fight lightning to get to.  (Fight Lightning should be the name of a cheesy Christian band.)  I really hope that when I return one day it will still be there bustling with customers.  The fact is I just ate a meal that 4 people probably could have eaten.  Usually when I eat enough food to feed the entire Chargers starting offense I get so stuffed that I become sick.  On the drive home my wife and I remarked at how we didn’t feel gross.  We were stuffed but felt comfortable, which is good for a guy who just ate his weight in yummy goodness. 

Hopefully someone will google gluten free in Colorado Springs and stumble across my blog.  Dear reader, please make sure you support this place.  Vietnamese Garden HAS TO stay in business. 
            For my regular readers, I hope you enjoyed my blogging while on vacation.  Maybe it will inspire you to do the same on your next vacation.  See you in Wichita! 

As Homer Simpson would say, “Sometimes it’s not that hard being a food cricket.”

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