Idioma / Language: Spanish

SAINT PETERSBURG (USA): a trip that ended with a 100% gluten-free surprise

 The second edition of the DLC (a meeting of managers of the group I work for) was approaching. This time we were going to St. Petersburg. No… not that wonderful Russian city. It was a city in Florida, next to Tampa. The name was promising, but what I was most looking forward to was discovering the gluten-free restaurants in Saint Petersburg (Tampa, FL).

It was a 3-day trip that, taking into account my experiences in other parts of the United States, I wanted to prepare in advance.

In order to avoid repeating the same situation than Washington, I asked Amanda, the organizer of the event, to put me in touch with the people in charge of the menus for all the meals. I spoke with them to explain my allergies and intolerances: celiac (I must eat gluten-free), lactose intolerant, allergic to fish and to profilin (a protein that is present in the skin of raw vegetables and fruits).

The response from the team at the Marriott Bonvoy Hotel at 12600 Roosevelt Blvd N, St. Petersburg, FL 33716, was excellent. This trip would be promising. Food-wise, it was much better prepared than the one in Miami the year before.

Arriving on the day of the trip and knowing for sure that this time I would not have the problems I had before boarding for Las Vegas, despite the early start I was much calmer. On the Lufthansa flight from Barcelona to Frankfurt, as expected, there was nothing gluten-free. Besides, the stewardess I had to deal with was quite unfriendly and got annoyed when I asked her if they had any snacks I could eat. To prevent these situations, I always go with the “just in case shopping” so I was able to eat a snack I had prepared.

On the second flight, direct to Tampa, they also did not have gluten-free snacks but they did have the menu prepared. After my experience on the flight to Washington where I had a fish allergy fright during the flight, I spoke to the flight attendant to confirm that the gluten-free menu on that flight did not contain fish. After a while she confirmed: it was a potato and chicken salad with broccoli. Great! The trip was getting a little better.  It was a pretty complete gluten-free menu. With gluten-free bread, philadelphia and fruit.

On these long flights, there is time to do everything. I finished the book we were supposed to bring back for the conference, wrote Gluten Free Adventures posts, watched a movie and talked with my coworkers for a while.

The gluten free snack brought on that flight was a zucchini sandwich with cheese and tomato, a very refreshing snack!

We arrived at the hotel late in the afternoon. We had been traveling for more than 16 hours, but they were already waiting for us in the hall for the opening dinner of the event.

The executives of the other companies (95% North American) were already at the hotel. We would start with a cocktail on the hotel terrace and then continue with a more formal dinner seated at round tables. The idea was to meet again and/or get to know people from other companies in the group and strengthen ties.

Since I was still in Marketing, I had this part covered because I was in contact with the other companies quite often. Besides, I used to travel to the United States two or three times a year just for Marketing meetings. My main goal that night was to meet the people I had been talking to about the menus so they could tell me how we would work with the meals.

That night I had dinner, again, chicken with rice and broccoli. For dessert, some chocolate strawberries from the main buffet. We had agreed that everything of mine would come straight from the kitchen. Although it took a little longer, everything was so tasty that I repeated. It was a great start to my stay at the hotel!

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I could say that of all the trips to the United States I’ve taken in the last 5 years, this was the one I slept the best. Food is so important! Having eaten well during the trip and at dinner the day before and having the peace of mind that everything about my gluten free diet seemed to be well controlled was perfect.

The waitress assigned to me was already waiting for me at breakfast time and brought me a plate of eggs with ham and gluten-free toast that was delicious. For the other people it was a buffet style breakfast – what a peace of mind to eat gluten-free like that!

After a super interesting motivational talk by the speaker JP Pawliw-Fly, we did a series of team-building workshops. Then we worked on the management strategies that we had learned in a book that we had been asked to read before the conference.

Lunchtime was a bit repetitive. I admit that I had never eaten chicken with broccoli so often in my life. This time, instead of bringing it with rice, it was served with salad.

For dessert, they brought me a fruit salad. The problem was that it had kiwi and I am allergic. I asked them to change it for yogurt or sorbet, and they brought me a tangerine sorbet that was delicious!

After eating, we divided into groups. Each group corresponded to each area of the company (sales, finance, operations…). This time it was my turn to share with the rest of the companies the Key Account Management (KAM) strategy that we were implementing in Mespack. After the corresponding debate, the following talks about the sales strategies that other colleagues were implementing in other companies of the group followed. These conferences are perfect to gather ideas and see if they can be applied directly or if they need to be adapted! It is very enriching!

Once the afternoon was over, we went to visit the Dali Museum. I was very surprised that in a city called St. Petersburg, in the United States, there was a Dali museum, the famous painter born in Cadaques, another magnificent town to go for a walk and eat gluten free.  The walk was nice because we were able to enjoy the sunset by the harbor.

There we had a snack waiting for us, which I couldn’t eat at all. No problem! I had more time to enjoy the works on display at the museum.

These were the second days organized by the group. As it happened the previous year in Miami, the temperatures dropped unexpectedly.

It was an epic dinner! We all were wering spring clothes, even the bravest in short sleeves. Although covid was already being talked about, it was still “far away”. There was only news of outbreaks in China. It had not yet reached Europe, let alone the United States of America. We were arranged at round tables on the museum’s terrace. And the temperature, which was expected to be between 20 and 25°C had dropped to 9°C. We were freezing! The salad was not a problem but the beef tenderloin we were served afterwards was chilled within minutes. Let’s just say it was an interesting dinner full of laughter as we were shrinking from the cold.

Breakfast the next day was impressively delicious! They brought me two gluten-free round bread rolls wrapped in aluminum foil. They had been baked in the oven with an egg and ham inside – so good!

Energized until lunchtime, we continued with talks and games to further delve into the different forms of management we had read about. Working and learning like this is always fun!

Lunch was not as cool as breakfast… you’ll never guess what they brought me? Exactly, chicken! This time with a baked potato that was quite dry and some salad. Of course… I had the tangerine sorbet again!

We continued the rest of the afternoon with more chats and games. It was the last session before the group president’s talk to summarize the day and give us a few hints about the company’s future plans. Then some colleagues would return home and those of us who came from further away would leave the next day.

Dinner was quite good! It was based on salad, roast pork and, again, tangerine sorbet.

The event ended here, so before going to bed I took the opportunity to ask for a breakfast of gluten-free baked scones with the egg and ham inside and an orange juice.

The next day, after having breakfast in the room and chatting for a while with the girl who brought it to me, originally from Morocco, I joined the rest of my team to check out and go for a walk around St. Petersburg before going to the airport. They hadn’t had breakfast, so I accompanied them to one of these 24/7 bars/restaurants. Although there were dishes marked gluten-free on the menu, I didn’t eat anything. I was already satisfied with the breakfast I had ordered in the room.

After their breakfast, we still had a few more hours to spare before we left. Some went back to the hotel to rest. Three other colleagues went for a walk around the city. We went to the museum, then to the port until we reached a huge park, it was a beautiful city. It reminded me of the typical place in the movies where the wealthy people from the north of the United States went to retire.

As we walked around, we saw a restaurant called Craft Kafe at 6653 Central Ave in St Petersburg. It turned out to be a restaurant where everything was gluten free.

We ordered a slice of gluten-free pizza each. There were quite a few to choose from – it was a great way to end the trip! With the folks I love the most and eating a gluten-free pizza on a terrace in St. Petersburg, Florida.

You can see the pictures of the trip here.



P.S.: Please keep in mind that in this blog I share my trips, anecdotes and experiences about gluten free travel around the world. It is possible that, in any of my trips, I go to some restaurant not trained by the associations where the risk of being contaminated with gluten exists. I kindly ask you to also take into account that the list of references can change. Please, always double check before eating in the restaurants we recommend. Thank you very much!


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Me llamo Santi y actualmente vivo en la provincia de Barcelona. En 2001, me diagnosticaron de enfermedad celíaca… ¡por fin! Además, soy intolerante a la lactosa, la alergia al pescado me mata, ¡literalmente!, y también algunas frutas... Viajar sin gluten se ha convertido en mi mayor hobby y creé Gluten Free Adventures por esta razón. Desde los 8 años, he viajado y vivido en distintos países… ¡aquí comparto mis experiencias viajando para descubrir restaurantes sin gluten, pastelerías sin gluten y heladerías sin gluten por todo el mundo! ¡Espero que os gusten nuestros viajes sin gluten!