Laura invited me along to a lunch she and her friend Kinde had planned at Bella Monica. I couldn't refuse a chance to meet a friend of Laura's, see Laura outside work and eat at Bella Monica now could I? Best of all it came at a very good time - Marc had just moved into his apartment and I was having a hard time adjusting to him flying out of the nest.
Amazing Laura has already blogged about our lunch at The Chronicles of DDL and you should check it out. I thought I knew a lot about Bella Monica but I learned more reading her post. I won't reinvent the wheel so check out her post for our menu selections as well as what everyone thought. =D
It was absolutely wonderful meeting Kinde and her beautiful daughter Vanessa. Kinde works at Trader Joe's with Laura and has been there for five years and somehow we've never met. I am there at least twice a week. I saw her just once a couple of months ago - she had never seen me. I was so glad we got to finally meet. Vanessa is mature beyond her years and just the sweetest girl. Laura took this gorgeous photo of the two of them.
Our lunch was so fun and time just flew by. Since Laura captured everything so well on her post I'll just let you know about the gluten free details.
Bella Monica is on my very short list of favorite places and not to rattle on and repeat myself but I do think it's important to know why. It's not just because everything there is wonderful but because we can eat all that wonderful food safely. I can sit down just like everyone else and enjoy myself.
Bella Monica is on top of things. The management and staff really know their stuff and they're all friendly and welcoming - you never feel like you're imposing or a problem diner. As Laura mentioned, this place is always packed. Always. Even so they never seem to miss a beat. They color code the gluten free plates so the wait staff knows what to do. They have a dedicated oven just for gluten free goodies. They even market gluten free flat breads to local grocery stores and they are delicious, too.
At many other restaurants ordering gluten free often means skipping bread, pasta or dessert - you know, the good stuff. Not here. As Marc and Marie will tell you, the Bella Monica stuffed shells are to die for. In fact, Bella Monica is catering their wedding and their wedding guests will all get to know just how good it is! Their Eggplant Parmesan made me swoon a visit or two ago but everything has been wonderful.
The flat bread and desserts are made offsite in a dedicated gluten free kitchen by an amazing woman named Ragan who owns De'Lure Desserts & Bakery. More about her in a few weeks as she's doing the desserts for Marc and Marie's wedding.
On Monday I enjoyed a delicious chopped salad which worked well with the October Unprocessed Challenge and my hopes of fitting into my mother of the groom dress a little more comfortably. You no doubt have already seen Laura's photo of that salad. It was really satisfying - I just love beans and greens together. The vegetarian version was really perfect although I'm sure it would have been great with the optional chicken. The small square of flat bread really should have been off limits but I did enjoy it. I have to admit it wasn't as fresh and soft as usual it was still very good.
I loved the chance to sit down and discuss food and health over a yummy meal. Each of us started our health journey from different places and it was wonderful to learn more from Kinde and Laura. Vanessa was our sole "normal" eater but I think she eats a lot healthier than most girls her age and is much more aware of making good choices. I love to see that!
Laura surprised me at the end of lunch with a bundle of three foil packages of vegan and gluten free goodies she had baked. She had wrapped it sweetly in a fall motif napkin and tied it with a bow. I had a little sampling at home that afternoon with some herbal tea and it was such a sweet treat. They were all great but the gingerbread was my favorite and I hope she'll post that recipe in time for Thanksgiving - hint, hint!!
It was such a good time and I hope we can do it again soon!