Gluten-Free Food & Fun This Year in the ATX | 2018 Recap

This has been a pretty fun year for us.  There were some nice surprises, good food, and lots of fun things to do in the ATX!  So these are some of the highlights from 2018.

Gluten-Free Food & Fun This Year in the ATX - ATX Cocina

Celebrating our 7th Wedding Anniversary

We started off the year celebrating our 7th anniversary at ATX Cocina this year.  We love this place!  It’s a 100% gluten-free kitchen and elevated modern Mexican food.  They have the best corn tortillas made from Mexican heirloom corn.  The service and the food are exceptional.  

We usually order the salsa sampler (all the salsas are so good but that smoky bean dip is to die for), barbacoa beef short-rib (to share), brussels sprouts with green mole and verde chorizo, and the smashed papas braves (potatoes with smoked chili aioli, fried herbs, lime).  It’s all so good.

So how did we meet?  

We were both working on an electronic document review project (part of the discovery phase in law suits) here in Austin.  They are contract positions that last until all the documents have been reviewed and logged.  We both worked on a large project with about 30 people and we really didn’t talk that much.  

Then he left to go work on another project at another firm.  But then he came back for a new project hoping I would be there, too.  And I was!

There were just four of us working on this project and we really got to know each other.  And we’ve been together ever since.  That was Christmas of 2007!   We’ve been married for seven plus years now and it honestly just keeps getting better.  I think it is because we both really, really like food.  

And we’re both pretty chill.  

And kind to each other.   It doesn’t hurt that he is really funny, too.

Photo by Carlos Delgado on Unsplash

SXSW

So the first time I went to SXSW was a very long time ago when I was in college at The University of Texas.  That was when the festival first started and it was really just about seeing local bands in music venues around town. 

Now it is about music, comedy, film, tech, interactive events and so much more.  The massive number of events completely take over downtown Austin and it is pretty incredible.  People come from all over the world.  

So we went this year.  It was crazy!  We wanted to take it all in and see if it would lead to some creative inspiration.  We went to a lot of the tech talks.  Then we checked out the Capital Factory for a foodie event.  

What I really discovered is how much tech has changed this city and that it is now a major tech hub.  And I’m kinda old.   

But after one of the talks, I realized that what I’m doing with my food journey has value.  

I’m not sure how to monetize it yet but it has a lot of value.  Especially, because I have managed to heal myself in many ways by changing my diet.  And I love it.  I’m passionate about it.  And at this point I want to do what I love if I can.  

Austin Food & Wine Festival

This is one of my favorite events of the year and has become an annual tradition for us and our friends.  And lucky for me it usually falls on my birthday.  Happy Birthday to me!  

So Barbara, Alex, Sarah, Suzanne, Anthony and I all worked together at Crate & Barrel years ago.  We used to go to happy hours together, dinner, game nights and have all kinds of fun together.  Including going to the Wine and Food festival starting ten years ago.  

Anthony, Suzanne, Sarah and I went to the first one in Georgetown because Suzanne’s husband was doing a cooking demo.  We had so much fun, although we got a little too drunk.  Brett joined me the next year.  

It moved venues over the years.  One year they ran out of wine.  Then it was rebranded into the Austin Food & Wine Festival.  

Sarah doesn’t live in Austin anymore, but flies back in for the Wine Festival.  Suzanne even came when she was preggers (but didn’t drink of course).  Anthony met Kevin along they way and now they are married and he is part of the crew.  And Barbara and Alex (now married with kids) decided to finally join us at the Wine Fest this year.  It was so much fun!  

Almost everybody already has tickets for next year!!!  

I will say there weren’t as many gluten-free options this year and some of the food was a little strange for it being so hot outside (raw fish, tartare?) but there were a few things I could eat.  And lots of vodka, wine, and tequila!  And DJ Mel doing his thing.

We went to ATX Cocina for happy hour after the wine fest.  It’s just across the lake from the festival.  Everybody loved it!  Good times.

Hot Luck Festival

My love for ATX Cocina runs deep.  When asked what was my favorite restaurant in Austin for a Tillamook twitter contest – that was my answer.  And I won!  

They were giving away to Whole Enchilada Passes for the Hot Luck Festival in Austin.  For reals!  

It was a really fun festival.  There are four food events over Memorial Day weekend plus music shows and all kinds of surprises and pop-up events.  

I was super thrilled to make it to the Hi, How Are You welcome party held at Franklin’s BBQ.  It’s pretty famous BBQ but you have to get up really early to go wait in line for a long time.  

I’m not a morning person.  

But this party was at night.  And I finally got to eat an entire plate of Franklin’ BBQ.  So good.  Everything is gluten-free except the bread and dark brown BBQ sauce.  

We also were given Yeti tumblers and drinks and walked around the back yard to check out all the other vendors.  There were whole hogs cooked all day and coleslaw sliders (skip the bread for GF obviously).  It was all so good.       

Gluten-Free Food & Fun This Year in the ATX - Hot Luck Fest 2018

My favorite event was Al Fuego on Saturday evening out at Wild Onion Ranch.  There were so many pit masters and chefs and so much BBQ and really interesting bites.

I was a sad that I couldn’t try the food Tillamook served because of the dairy but the truck was a huge hit at every event.  Brett got to try the ice cream cookie sandwiches, brisket & cheddar tots, and the s’mores beer float.

It finally started to cool off and it was fun to just hang out, eat, drink, and listen to the music.  The playlist was awesome.  There were lots of drink options.  I hope we get to do this one again next year.  

VDRing & Turn Out For Texas Beto/Willie Nelson Rally

We made it out to the Turn Out for Texas event to see Beto talk at Auditorium Shores.  I can’t believe how many people showed up.  An estimated 55,000 people.  We took this picture pretty early on.  It was a sea of people later in the night.  And the energy of the crowd was so positive and electric.

It was pretty hard not to get excited about Beto running for senator this midterm election.  And even though he lost, there was a lot of good that came from him running.  I loved getting to know more about this guy while he was campaigning, too.   

One of the problems in Texas is that most progressives don’t vote because they think their vote doesn’t count in this deep red state.  But the truth is only two-thirds of Texans actually vote.  

So we wanted to get more people registered to vote.  Brett and I were trained as deputy volunteer registrars (VDRs) in Travis county.  We volunteered at a lot of events and registered lots of people.  It was such a fun experience, especially meeting so many like-minded and really nice people.

The voter turnout in Travis county broke records this year!  We’ll be re-trained in January so we can keep it up for 2020.  And hopefully he’ll run.

Gluten-Free Food & Fun This Year in the ATX - Broadway in Austin 2018

Broadway in Austin

Another fun thing we did this year was buy season tickets for the Broadway in Austin series.  Mainly so we could get tickets for the 2019 Hamilton show.  But I was so pleasantly surprised!

The productions were really impressive.  Finding Neverland was the back story to Peter Pan and the set production had some really cool special effects.  The kids played their own instruments in School of Rock and were utterly amazing.  I’ve always wanted to see The Book of Mormon and it was hilarious.  And OMG the peacock dress and set production of Love Never Dies – just wow.  

I’m really excited about upcoming season next year.  Then we finish with Hamilton.  And yes, I’ve been listening to the sound track so I’ll be ready.

Gluten-Free Food & Fun This Year in the ATX - Austin Trail of Lights 2018

Austin Trail of Lights

One of our first dates was to the Trail of Lights all those years ago.  We basically just walked around the park looking at lights.  It went away for a few years.  Then came back and eventually there were food trucks.  Then the Zip pass and lounge.  

This year we went for the Austin Food Blogger Alliance Happy Hour hosted by the Austin Trail of Lights.  Wow it has changed so much over the years!  It was super fun and there were lots of gluten-free options at some of the food trucks.  

I especially liked that we had Zip Fast Passes, which made things much more convenient.  We had an early arrival entrance, access to a private lounge and bar.  There was live music and a holiday market.  It’s not just a stroll around the park anymore!

Austin Food Blogger Alliance

I’ve been a member of the Austin Food Blogger Alliance for a few years now and my fellow food bloggers are awesome.  I’m also really excited to say that I was elected to the Board of Directors for next year!  I’m going to be the education chair and just can’t wait to work with everyone. 

I especially love that the AFBA members know all the best places to eat in town, new restaurants that are opening or closing (which is a constant here), and all food things in Austin.  They make helpful guides every year breaking down the best places to eat by category, special diet, location, drinks, or even types of food.  

My city guide was a round up of gluten-free places to eat in South, Central and East Austin.  It’ll have to be updated next year with all the closings and new openings.  I was super bummed that Freedmen’s BBQ closed this year.  I loved that place.  

But then we got Wilder Wood Restaurant & Bar, which has a 100% gluten-free kitchen.  And their burgers and fries are pretty amazing.  It is honestly the best gluten-free bun I’ve tried so far.

Gluten-Free Food & Fun This Year in the ATX - Wilder Wood Restaurant & Bar

The Weekly Menu Food Blog

Most of my time is spent cooking at home for me, Brett and Lizzy dog (who is the sweetest little dog ever – she turned three this year).

My journey with food has really evolved over the years.  We try to clean up and create healthier versions of our favorite comfort food dishes.  It started with going gluten-free eight years ago.  Then dairy-free.  Adding goat’s milk back into my diet.  Then focusing on fiber rich foods to feed the gut bugs. #feedthegutbugs

The thing that was really exciting this year was reading The Good Gut and understanding the importance of probiotics and prebiotics in our diet.  It is important to make food choices that feed gut microbes.  What we eat affects our mood, our immune system, all the way up to our brain through the bacteria in our gut.    

Last year I fleshed out some of my metabolism and genetic issues, including that I have several gene markers for Celiac disease.  I learned about the difference in casein from cow’s milk and goat’s milk and rejoiced when I found out I could tolerate goat’s milk in my diet.  So we had fun using goat’s milk cheese and yogurt in a bunch of new recipes this year.    

This year another big discovery was drinking decaffeinated tea (rooibos, honeybush, and decaf ceylon) on the regular to help with my allergies.  

I did a sponsored post for Adagio Teas and drank tea every day for a week and it really helped with my allergies.  So now we drink Adagio teas every day.  Our favorites are Kim’s Vanilla Jam, Honeybush, and Rooibos Vanilla Chai.  

Even though I still make them, I retired publishing weekly menus so that I could focus on recipes and trying to take better pictures.  There was an improvement in traffic to my site, which is exciting.  I can’t wait to improve my blog even more next year.  And I’ll probably invest in a real camera at some point, too.

This year we converted 35 recipes into healthier, gluten-free versions of our comfort food favorites.  Here are some of the more popular posts from 2018:

It has been quite a food and health journey but I feel better than I have in a long time.  So it was pretty cool that I finished off the year talking about it with Yo on her podcast!

Eatin’ and Sippin’ Locally Podcast

Yolanda and I became friends on Instagram.   She is starting a podcast called Eatin’ and Sippin’ Locally and asked me if I’d like to talk with her.  So she came over for dinner and we made goat cheese Alfredo sauce (one of my most popular posts) with my favorite gluten-free pasta.  

And we talked about so many things: the gluten-free trend versus Celiac disease, eating out safely and respectfully to those who serve us, shopping gluten-free on a budget, favorite local products, what eating clean means to me, and of course my favorite restaurants ATX Cocina and District Kitchen + Cocktails.  

Check out the episode here and subscribe to her podcast to hear more about her local finds.

One of the funniest things about the podcast to me is that she starts it off with me bossing Brett to take the roasting chicken breast out of the oven.  And then repeating that it retains its heat.  I know that I’m bossy in the kitchen (Brett concurs), but I didn’t realize how much I repeat myself.  

As an introvert, I was so tired after three hours of talking plus cooking and having a few drinks.  And yet it was so much fun and I was so honored to be a part of the podcast.  

I’m much better at writing and editing and researching than I am at just talking.  SO this was huge for me.  It was a chance to be authentic, maybe slightly inaccurate at times (the teal pumpkin project), but definitely passionate about the things that I care about.  And I’m so grateful for Yo including me in her journey as a podcaster.  

Strong women supporting each other is everything!

Well it has been a pretty great year and we already have so much to look forward to next year!  Wishing you a wonderful new year and may all your dreams come true. 

Deana Larkin Evans

You get one life - do your best to ENJOY IT! So hi, I'm Deana. This food blog is all about cooking wholesome real food and developing gluten free recipes for some of our favorite comfort foods. I also create weekly menus to save time and money while reducing stress and food waste. I had to start eating gluten-free in 2010 and dairy/casein-free (except for the occasional Parmesan or goat cheese) in 2014. I'm kind of a science nerd, too. In the '90s, I earned an undergrad degree in biochemistry from The University of Texas at Austin. Hook 'em! Then followed up with a PhD in biochemistry and a law degree from the University of Houston. I recently earned a certificate in genomics/sequence analysis from Johns Hopkins University, where I also took a very cool food microbiology course. Currently, I'm studying the microbiome and gut health. And trying to come up with recipes to feed those gut bugs! #feedthegutbugs

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