Going Gluten Free in Santa Cruz

Octopus Carpaccio at Casablana Bistro

The Santa Cruz community is well-known for an awareness of healthy mealtime choices. Our stores and restaurants cater to the needs of vegetarians, the lactose intolerant and more recently, those with gluten intolerance.

Gluten is found in wheat and other grains. A person sensitive to gluten experiences digestive upset, but for those with Celiac disease, a disorder preventing absorption of nutrients, the immune system is at risk. For locals falling into either of these groups and looking for some great places to dine, Job Carder of Casablanca Inn and Bistro is one local chef who has you covered. All items on the dinner menu are either gluten-free or can be served with a substitute side dish. Since I too have recently developed sensitivity to gluten, I was anxious to visit the restaurant and test the menu.

On a glorious sunny afternoon, I sat at one of the inviting ocean-view tables with Chef Carder and operations manager, Kayla Peterson, to sample these gluten-free menu items: wild mushroom soup w/truffle oil, spring root salad, octopus carpaccio, steamed Manila clams with local calamari in garlic-tomato broth and seared day boat scallops with enoki mushrooms. I found myself thoroughly enjoying things that I might never have ordered on my own, and to say they were all outstanding as well as eye-appealing is an understatement. Kayla shared the feast along with me, remarking, “This is the way cooking should have been all along.”

Spring Root Vegetable Salad at Casablanca Bistro

And that’s just how it’s been for Carder. Since the beginning of his culinary career, he has cooked without the use of flour. “I’ve been trained in the traditional French manner, making flavorful sauces through reduction rather than by adding thickeners. My clam chowder, (entered into the Clam Chowder Cook-off at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, simmers for 90 minutes before adding potatoes. The potato starch is what makes the soup thick,” he said.

His culinary career began while still in college at Little Lou’s in Santa Cruz. He has always been drawn to the area, honing in on what the area has to offer and creating relationships with farmers as well as local fishermen and vintners. Wine lovers can be assured that while beer is not gluten-free, wine is! At the time of my visit, the Casablanca list boasted many Santa Cruz produced wines, including Storrs, Odonata and Quinta Cruz.

Calamari and Clams Provencal at Casablanca Bistro

Other Santa Cruz restaurants making strides in offering gluten free items are 515 Kitchen and Cocktails and Walnut Avenue Café.

The 515 offers a delicious gluten free/vegan option called Vegan Neopolitan. It consists of black truffle porcini polenta, roasted portabellas, grilled bell pepper and wilted spinach served on fresh arugula with toasted walnut gremolata. At Walnut Avenue Café, voted by Sunset Magazine as having the “City’s Best Breakfast,” egg dishes are gluten free with tortillas provided instead of toast.

This is true of many Santa Cruz restaurants, as almost everything offered can be made gluten free with substitutions. For more information on dining in Santa Cruz click here.  Get out there; eat, drink and be merry!

3 Responses to Going Gluten Free in Santa Cruz
  1. cara pearson
    June 20, 2012 | 10:51 pm

    Pacific Cookie Company now fresh bakes gluten-free cookies daily at the 1203 Pacific Avenue address in Downtown Santa Cruz. Fresh-baked Chocolate Chip with Sea Salt and Snickerdoodles!!

  2. Andrew
    November 30, 2012 | 3:55 pm

    And now you can grab some delicious GF Dairy-free ice cream at New Leaf Market on Pacific Ave. Grab some Mr. Dewie’s and you won’t be disappointed! Dairy-free, Soy-free, Gluten-free and Cholesterol-free!

  3. Melinda
    May 31, 2013 | 6:48 am

    You can also get fresh gluten free baked goods at Aldo’s Bakery in Soquel!

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