Tag Archives: Gluten-free food

Rodizio on I-Drive: Worth the Traffic

a row of Brazilian steakhouse meats roasting at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando
Rodizio in Orlando is worth braving I-Drive.
Photo by Cathy Salustri

I-Drive in Orlando has its detractors. When I spend too much time near it — or too much time away from it — I’m one of those detractors.

However, every time I find a reason to meander towards I-Drive — at a measured crawl, as Orlando traffic dictates — I realize that, if you put a little thought into where you eat, you can find some gems among the canaille of eateries.

A few years ago, we stumbled into an excellent Ethiopian restaurant in a strip mall right off the main drag. Last week, we decided to try Rodizion, a small chain with a handful of restaurants in Florida.

A caipirinha at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando
A caipirinha at Rodizio.
Photo by Cathy Salustri

Rodizio: a Brazilian Steakhouse.

Rodizio Grill bills its stores as “ambassadors of Brazil” and, according to our server, Michael — who, along with most of the staff, has Brazilian heritage — the way the restaurant prepares and presents the food is much like one would expect in Brazil.

We started with caipirinhas — regular for the long-suffering El Cap, spicy for me. Then we made our way to the salad bar. Although, truthfully, the phrase “salad bar” evokes images of Ponderosa and Ruby Tuesdays, and this was not that. We had yucca fries, heart of palm, spicy and mild pepper sauces (which made wonderful salad dressings), traditional potatoes, and other expected items.

They also had feijoada as one of the hot side dishes. When I read about the dish on the menu, it sounded like black beans and rice, an ubiquitous dish found throughout Florida. Feijoada, unlike many iterations of beans and rice I’ve eaten, has meat in it, and it’s traditionally served with farofa, a cassava flour seasoning (at Rodizio, it’s next to the beans and rice, so you can use it as liberally as you wish).

 

A salad bar at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando

Calling it a salad bar really doesn’t do it justice. Photo by Cathy Salustri

And Now the Meats.

Like many Brazilian steakhouses, Rodizio employs a red-and-green, stop-and-go system. When we finished with the hot bar and salad bar, we turned a small block on our tableside to green. This was the cue for the meat processional (my term, not theirs) to begin.  Gauchos bearing skewers of meat came to our table, one at a time, to offer different meats.

We sampled chicken, lamb, and steak, and we both loved the tri-tip sirloin steak the most. While Barry would love to have meat at every meal, I’m increasingly not a fan of too much meat. But this is where — unexpectedly — Rodizio shined. Instead of ordering a full steak, the gauchos would slice off a piece (or more, based on preference) at a time. That made it easy for me to sample a little bit of a lot of different meats, without waking up with what I call “steak belly” at 3 a.m.

For dessert, we tried orange-tinged creme brulee and acai with fruit and coconut. Both were delicious, but honestly? Next time I’ll skip the sweets and spend more time at the hot bar and salad bar (which is an option — you can forego the meats entirely for a lower price.)

Acai desert at Rodizio on I-Drive in Orlando

Acai! Photo by Cathy Salustri

The Moral of the Meal

I shy away from tourist-adjacent places. Sure, I’ll go to Disney World, but the tourist-clogged part of Kissimmee? Not so much. (Although I did live there for a hot minute in the ’90s). The meal at Rodizio reminded me that Florida’s a paradise of all sorts, not only the one I choose for myself.  I may gravitate to El Siboney on Stock Island, but that doesn’t mean I should skip Key West entirely. And I may love the outer edges of Kissimmee and Orlando, but that certainly doesn’t mean that, every now and then, it’s OK to brave the I-Drive madness.

Especially when it tastes this good.

Check Out Rodizio Grill

Rodizio Grill, with Florida locations in Pensacola, Orlando, Wesley Chapel, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Estero, and Fort Lauderdale. rodiziogrill.com


Note: Through Visit Orlando, Rodizio Grill hosted some of the food described in this experience. This did not influence the post; had we not had an amazing experience, I wouldn’t have written this post.

Moondog Cafe & Bakery in Key West: Gluten-Free Nirvana

a margarita with a Tajin rim
A spicy margarita at Moondog Cafe and Bakery in Key West.
Photo by Cathy Salustri

Moondog Cafe Key West: gluten-free pastry, pizza, and other choices.

I love to eat, and I love to try new foods. This is why a relatively recent (eight years) celiac diagnosis hit me hard. No more strolling into a seafood restaurant and ordering the most exotic preparation of something. No, now I have to start off every order with, “I have celiac, so I need to ask a few questions.”

A Few Favorite Keys Restaurants with Gluten-Free Options

I travel to the Florida Keys enough that I’ve found a few places that reliably serve tasty gluten-free food. The pizza at No Name Pub, for example, is consistently good.  In Islamorada, Midway Cafe has an abundance of gluten-free choices. Also in Islamorada, Lazy Days doesn’t have a specific gluten-free menu but the staff has knowledge about celiac and the menu has enough variety that I can always find something good.  And, of course, I recently dove face-down into some great fish dip at Big Pine Rooster.

Moondog Cafe Key West

I’ll add Moondog Cafe & Bakery in Key West to that list of places I love to eat in the Florida Keys.  They don’t have the gluten-free bread like Midway, or the fresh fish like Lazy Days, but they do have gluten-free pizza and an abundance of gluten-free pastries.

a gluten-free pizza at Moondog in Key West — toppings are Kalamata olives, basil pesto, artichoke, parmesan, and feta
Pizza is good even when it’s bad, and this pizza at Moondog in Key West was definitely the opposite of bad.
Photo by Cathy Salustri

We had some time to kill in Key West while we waited for our Amazon delivery to arrive at The UPS Store and we were hungry, so we grabbed a table with the dogs at the patio at Moondog. They have a robust menu and an almost equally robust gluten-free menu. They do not have gluten-free buns or bread, but the choices they do have more than make up for it.

After some deliberation, I ordered the gluten-free pizza of the day. It came topped with artichokes, Kalamata olives, peppers, feta, and parmesan. It was delicious and I ate far more than I should have (and still had plenty left for dinner that night and breakfast the next day.)

Moondog Cafe & Bakery in Key West serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I’ll definitely return to try  more of their food.

Check out Moondog Cafe Key West

Moondog Cafe & Bakery, 823 Whitehead St., Key West. Daily, 7:30 a.m.-10 p.m.  305-741-7699; moondogcafe.com.

Campfire Cobb Salad Pizza

Combining my new favorite cookbook with my love of Florida

I can’t recall where I read about “The Weekday Vegetarians“, but I went from reading about it to borrowing the book from the library to keeping the book past its due date to buying a copy on Kindle. I’m obsessed with these recipes. The number of times I’ve made Jenny Rosenstrach’s Artichoke Dip Pizza in the past few weeks should embarrass me, but I will not be shamed. I’m actually eating some as I type this.

We spent the week between Christmas and 2022 at St. George Island State Park, but I did as much prep in my nice, roomy, non-mobile kitchen before we left Gulfport. Since Jenny Rosenstrach’s artichoke dip pizza and zucchini pizza hit so well with us, I figured I’d try her vegetarian take on Cobb salad pizza. Campfire pizza takes some adjustment, but since I don’t want a camper big enough for an oven, that’s how I had to make it – and I regret nothing. I won’t post the original recipe from Jenny Rosenstarch’s book (as an author, I understand the importance of getting you to buy the book), but I will give you my version of her recipe, adapted for camping and cooking for someone with celiac. If you, like most of the world, don’t have celiac, check out her original recipe, as it’s easily adapted to camping, too.

Cobb salad pizza in a cast iron skillet over a campfire
I love this pizza. Photo by Cathy Salustri

Gluten-Free Campfire Cobb Salad Pizza

Adapted from Rosenstrach, Jenny. The Weekday Vegetarians (p. 40). Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed. Kindle Edition.

Ingredients

  • 1 Schar gluten-free pizza crust
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot)
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil (we also keep a bottle in the camper)
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • Agave
  • 1 head romaine, shredded
  • 1 golden beet, roasted and sliced
  • 4 oz. goat cheese (mozzarella- or cheddar-style)
  • Scallions and chives for garnish

Before your trip

  • Roast the beet and slice it
  • Mix the dressing: olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice and a squirt of agave (use your judgment with the agave based on how sweet you like things, and remember the corn and beet will add sweetness)
  • Shred the romaine and slice the onions

At the campsite

  • Start the campfire, preferably with charcoal. While you wait for the coals, prep the pizza.
  • Place the pizza crust in a cast-iron skillet; brush the top lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and the garlic.
  • Mix the romaine, onions and corn with the dressing. Tomatoes are OK, here, too.
  • Slice the cheese into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • When the coals turn white – and not before – place the dressed salad on the crust, then top with beets and then the cheese slices.
  • Place the pizza (in the pan) on the fire*
  • When the cheese melts, the pizza’s ready. Sprinkle the pizza with scallions and chives. Pour yourself a glass of red wine, and enjoy.

*Florida campers: At Florida state parks, the fire pits/grills always have grates; if you don’t have a skillet, you can place it directly on the grates but you’ll need to watch it like a hawk. A black bottom pizza crust with un-melted cheese is no fun.

When we made this pizza – and it tasted amazing, so thank you, Jenny! – we had the good fortune of winter panhandle weather, which made a hot pizza a delight. I could see it working in the Florida Keys in July, too, with a crisp chardonnay and less cheese. You could also get the crust and garlic/EVOO combo nice and hot, then throw the salad on, sans cheese, for two minutes or so for a wilted summer salad pizza. Whatever you do, though, do it outside in Florida, which makes everything taste so much better!