Wednesday, April 14, 2010

These are a few of my favorites things...

My mother-in-law has asked for a list of my favorite gluten-free products, so I thought I'd share it with everyone.

Sandy's Must-Haves -- if I run out of these, it's an emergency.

Chebe cheese bread mix
Udi’s Bagels ( I am ADDICTED to these)
Whole Foods store brand Prairie Bread
Pamela’s “Pancake and Baking” Mix
Tinkyada Rice Pasta
Pacific brand chicken stock

Sandy's Favorite treats

Shar crackers or breadsticks -- expensive, but delicious
K-Toos -- like an oreo
Pandero tapioca cookies (I’m having trouble finding these lately)-- when I want Milano cookies, I eat the plain Panderos with a piece of chocolate. It's pretty close. When I want Famous Amos cookies, I get the chocolate chip Panderos.
Kinnikinnick breads -- a good alternative if I can't get Prarie Bread. All of their breads are pretty good, but I especially like the Cheese Tapioca.
Kinnikinnick Cinnamon sugar donuts -- a cake-like donut, it reminds me of the ones I used to get in the dorm in college, so it's got happy associations for me.
Kinnikinnick Chocolate Dipped donuts -- this tastes like those little chocolate covered donuts you get in vending machines.
Kinnikinnick chocolate cake mix -- there are several good chocolate cake mixes, but this one is my favorite. Unfortunately, it's hard to find.


Orlando Update

There is good news for travelers to Walt Disney World in Florida. Publix, a major grocery store chain in the Orlando/Tampa area, has just committed to carrying Kinnikinnick products!

Publix also has stores in Jacksonville, Miami, and Atlanta, Georgia.

The Publix nearest to Disney World is at 8145 Vineland Avenue and the phone number is (407) 238-9924. See Mouse Savers for more info.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Gluten Free at the Melting Pot

The Melting Pot is a fondue restaurant with franchise locations throughout the United States. Since it is a franchise, the gluten free choices are different at each location. The Dallas location (actually, it's in Addison on Belt Line Rd) is working with the GIG to review their menu and has already made some great improvements since the last time I was there.

The Melting Pot is one of my kids' favorite restaurants. Each table has a burner in the middle for the fondue pot. My favorite part of the experience is the cheese fondue, but the kids don't care for it. Since we were there to celebrate Colin's straight A's (Yea! Go Colin!!!) I acquiesced, and we skipped that part. However, for your reference, they substitute either broth, wine, or gluten-free beer for fondues that have beer in them, so all of them can be made GF. Obviously, you can't allow your dining partners to dip bread (cross-contamination!)so everyone will have to be content with apples and veggies to dip. On occasion, I have slipped GF breadsticks (Shar brand) or GF pretzels into my purse to dip in the cheese fondue.

The part of the meal the kids love is cooking their meat. A pot of broth or oil is placed on your burner and each person can order the type of meat they wish to cook. Again, you are going to need to make sure that no one in your group orders something with gluten (the teriyaki, for example) as you will all be cooking your meal in the same pot. Caroline and I split an order of chicken, Mark had the Surf and Turf (steak, chicken, and shrimp), and Colin had the salmon.

Colin loves salmon, but lately he's become a bit of a salmon snob. I bought Coho salmon at Central Market while my brother-in-law Steve was here, as it is Steve's favorite. I never expected Colin's reaction. He declared it to be the best salmon he ever tasted and started begging every night to have Coho.

So there we are, at the Melting Pot, and Colin wants to know if the salmon is Coho. The waitress has no idea (I'm pretty sure she didn't know there were different types of salmon) so we send for the chef (who has already been out to go over the menu with me). Sure enough, he says it's Coho! Colin is overjoyed. (Personally, I prefer Sockeye.)

We chose Court Bouillon for our broth. The meal comes with a little plate of vegetables, which you dump in the broth, then you skewer your pieces of meat (you use two skewers at a time) and let them sit in the broth for about 2 minutes. On the table, they have dipping sauces for your meat as well as a shaker of Wine and Herb seasoning. One thing here -- three of the sauces are put into a single serving dish with three little compartment. One of these sauces was the off-limits teriyaki. I felt the proximity of the other two sauces to the gluten-containing sauce was a little too close for comfort. I stuck with the Green Goddess dressing (served in it's own separate little cup) and the herb seasoning. Both were wonderful.

We were already full by the time we finished our meat, but you can't go to the Melting Pot and not get dessert. Chocolate fondue! They have milk, dark, and white chocolate and you can choose to mix it with a liqueur, peanut butter, marshmallow, or caramel. Mark and I recently had the caramel, and it was tasty, but marshmallow is, hands down, our favorite. They bring the pot of chocolate out, with marshmallow cream in the middle, then light the top of the fondue (toasty!) and when the flames die down, they stir in the marshmallow.

To dip, we had marshmallows (be sure to ask for them plain -- they normally roll them in chocolate and graham cracker crumbs), bananas, and strawberries. The waitress was under the mistaken impression that the Rice Krispy treats were also GF, but a quick conversation with the chef proved they were not. The kids ate those plain, without dipping them in the chocolate, so they would not "contaminate" me.

Dinner at the Melting Pot is very expensive, but it is a fun experience for the kids and a great place to go for a special occasion. The kids got balloons, they are chocolate, and they cooked their own tiny bite sized pieces of food, just right for small, slow eaters. They had a ball.


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Gluten Free from Houston to Rochester

Marriott and Mario’s – Gluten Free

We took a quick trip recently to the Finger Lakes, and the night before we left we stayed at the Marriott at the airport in Houston. We have stayed there before and eaten in the restaurant before, but I think this was perhaps the best meal that I have had there. The restaurant is called CK’s and is in a tower that revolves. The scenery is not terrifically exciting, as it is mostly of the airport itself, but it is still fun to revolve (why is that?). The Special was grouper prepared with scallops, and the waiter (who brought us a relish plate instead of bread, which was very kind) assured me that the chef could prepare the fish in a way that would be gluten free for me. The non-gf special was served on a bed of rice. Mine was served over asparagus. Nice! The dish was very tasty, very fresh, very well prepared. Service was great. I intend to go back whenever I can.

The next night, when our flight got into Rochester, we ate at Mario’s. It was a Saturday night and we only called for reservations when we landed, but it was pretty early. Even so we were told that there might be a wait; as it turned out though, we were seated immediately. It’s a good thing we arrived when we did because it was very crowded within fifteen minutes of when we arrived. The restaurant is very large and impressive, but with a warm feel to it and a glittering bar in the lobby area. Some large banquet rooms for parties are off to the side.

Mario’s has a very extensive gluten free menu. The menu is over-sized and laminated. Salads, appetizers and pasta dishes are on the front. The steaks and chops and sides are listed on the back. I decided to get just a green salad, and an entree from the front since those were the more complex dishes. All the pasta entrees came with Tinkyada penne pasta. I ordered a Frenched Veal which came with some frenched artichokes as well and with a sherry cream sauce. There was a hint of some spice in the dish that wasn’t my style, but it wasn’t enough to keep me from eating with gusto. I particularly liked the artichokes.

There was a dessert tray, and three of the desserts were gluten free. One was of course the ever-present crème brulee; another was a parfait; the one that I chose was a tower of almond macaroons coated with powdered sugar and served with whipped cream and a raspberry or strawberry drizzle, with a slice strawberry garnish. Quite yummy, but maybe too many macaroons. I couldn’t really finish the entire dish.

I will go back to Mario’s when I can, but I think I will go with the back of the menu next time. The main draw in eating there is that I know that they are being careful and trying to feed their gluten intolerant customers safely and well. Thank you, Mario’s!


PS – Mario’s website is, and they have pictures of the restaurant as well as various menus, including the gluten free one on the site. They are not too far from the Rochester airport right off the Monroe Ave. exit of 590.