Monday, May 31, 2010

Gluten Free in Upstate New York

Thirsty Owl Winnery and Bistro

I wasn't really ready to talk about Thirsty Owl yet, because I wanted to wait till I had been there several times this summer, but the lunch we had was so lovely that I had to write now. Thirsty Owl is one of several excellent wineries on the Cayuga Wine Trail in the Finger Lakes of New York and is one of our favorites. Thirsty Owl has a bistro too which is one of the draws for us. We can sit on the deck at the winery overlooking Cayuga Lake and have a very leisurely lunch.

Steve and I went to have lunch there and hear Bob Walpole, a local singer who often plays at various wineries' events, sing on the Sunday before Memorial Day. We had gone the week before and just had a bowl of lentil soup and a cheese plate (and dessert – not forgetting dessert!), but this time we wanted a larger lunch. I asked, of course, if the entree that I wanted was gluten free and was assured that it was. Everything is made from scratch by the new chef, and since the owner's mother and mother-in-law both are celiac, I tend to trust that things are as said. Steve had a bowl of tomato soup as an appetizer, and I ate some of that too, once I was told that I could. It tasted very fresh and was maybe even better than the lentil soup last week.

My entree was grilled shrimp served with a checkpea, carrot and spinach curry. The idea of a curry kind of put me off. I'm not really a curry fan, but this dish was very mild, light in tone, and very delicious. I ate every bite. I don't think I left a chickpea on my plate. The shrimp was good as well, but it was the accompanying side that was the better of the two. I might order it again, although the salmon that Steve had looked good too. We had Thirsty Owl's Dry Riesling with lunch. It went well with the lunch, but I think the Semi-Dry might have been even better.

Then we had dessert. We had had this the week before too and decided that it was a keeper. They changed the name though from one week to the next. I suspect that people were not sure what a "sabayon" sauce was, so the dessert this week was listed as a custard sauce with strawberries. It's a soft custard that is made with wine, and it was served over fresh strawberries. I didn't actually lick the bowl, but I spooned as much around the edges as I could.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Gluten Free at the Las Vegas Buffets

Buffets in Las Vegas are no longer cheap, but they are still a bargain compared to eating in one of the many “designer” restaurants by celebrity chefs such as Emeril or Wolfgang Puck. I had two buffets while I was in Vegas this weekend, and each was under $30. Compare that to the menu at Tom Colicchio’s CraftSteak (located at the MGM Grand, where I was staying) offering a “three course menu starting at $110.”

CraftSteak wasn’t in the budget (a pity, since the menu looked great), so we had dinner on Friday night at the Planet Hollywood buffet for $24.99. “Chef Mike” took me through the buffet to show me what was safe for me. It’s worth mentioning that you always have to use your judgment and be informed, since these chefs have to keep a lot of different allergies and intolerances in mind, they can get confused. Mike briefly thought I couldn’t eat corn and also said “you can have pasta, right?” as he got the corn and wheat mixed up. Once we firmly established what my particular intolerance was, he was great. The buffet at Planet Hollywood is pretty extensive, but there wasn’t a lot of GF choices. Of course, I don’t eat seafood, and there was a significant amount of GF food there, so it might be a good choice for the seafood lover. I had Prime Rib, sweet potatoes, grilled asparagus, and fruit. There was flan for dessert, but I was full, so I passed.

I never actually sat down for a real meal on Saturday. I had no breakfast, lunch at McDonalds (yogurt parfait and French fries), and for dinner I ate peanut butter and crackers in my room. Jif now sells these cute individual packets of peanut butter that are great for travel and I had brought some Nut-Thins with me.

Sunday we headed out to brunch at The Wynn ($29.95 WITH champagne, $23.95 without it. I chose to have the champagne!) The Buffet at The Wynn is justifiably famous as one of the best in Las Vegas. I met Chef Tim, whose last job was in Dallas at our prestigious Mansion at Turtle Creek. We chatted about Dallas for a few minutes and he showed me the buffet. I over-ate so much that I may not need to eat again until next year. I had:
Prime Rib
BBQ Ribs
Mashed Potatoes
Corn on the Cob (in a really delicious mayo-based cream sauce)
Bananas and Strawberries in Crème Fraiche (this was the only thing I ate that I didn’t particularly like)
California Rolls
Homemade Coffee Ice-Cream with toasted coconut sprinkles (very rich coffee flavor)
Caramel Rice Pudding (a little too sweet)
And, of course, several Mimosas.

For dinner, I had an apple.

On Monday, my companion and I had our breakfast delivered by room service, so that we could catch an early flight. We ordered the night before, and it was delivered promptly as promised. The gentleman who took my order was knowledgeable about Celiac disease and went to double check for me to guarantee that the hash browns were safe. We had omelets, hash browns, and coffee; everything was very tasty.

Vegas is a funny town. There are some things I really like about it and some things that are really annoying (mostly the smoke and noise), but I will say that I was well fed and I had no problem finding safe choices without any advance planning. Viva Las Vegas!