Thursday, September 30, 2010

Gluten Free Norway

My husband just returned from a trip to Norway. Remember the AmEx commercial where they go to discover their roots in Norway (then find out they are Swedish)? That was basically the plan, except without the Swedish surprise. Mark, his father, and his two brothers headed out to the frozen north to experience the land of their ancestors. (On the Brown Family side -- originally they were "Bruns").

Mark does not eat gluten-free, but it's become second nature to him to keep an eye out for GF options for me, even when I'm not there. He was very impressed by how easy it was to identify GF foods. They were well-marked everywhere he went. In Oslo, he happened to come across Bakefri, the only bakery/cafe in Norway that is exclusively gluten-free. He wasn't looking for it, but it caught his attention. As I said, he's now got a sixth sense for seeking out GF options. Unfortunately, he didn't have the chance to go in (they open at 11 AM and close at 4:30); but as he was staring in amazement (Wow! A gluten-bakery!), a man passing by on the street shouted to him "Best bakery in all of Oslo!" Cool.

Apparently, exclusively GF cafes aren't really necessary though, as he found well-marked GF options everywhere he went. In Flam, they ate at the Toget Cafe, a pretty little place built over two railway carriages from the 1920's. The picture shows a piece of almond cake, clearly marked as gluten free in English and Norwegian. At the Deli di Luca, Mark's Dad ordered the Pad Thai, also gluten free, but he didn't realize it. In fact, Peter enjoyed his meal without ever knowing that he was eating GF. (Deli di Luca is a chain of deli/ high-end convenience stores, with 25 locations in Oslo, three in Bergen, and one in Stavanger.)

Food was expensive everywhere in Norway, especially in Oslo; so the guys tended to tank up at breakfast, as the hotels usually had all-you-can-eat breakfast buffets. The Thon Opera hotel, right next to the main train station, had plenty of gluten free cereals and breads on the extensive (and free!) breakfast buffet.


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Gluten Free Makeover Event

The two of us went to the GIG Gluten Free Makeover at the Gaylord Texan hotel in Grapevine, TX. It was too die for! I do think though that if we had waited an hour after the opening to get there, we might not have waited in line for most of the wonderful goodies. We were actually quite startled by how many people were there! It’s nice to know we are not alone in this diet. Anyway, within the hour lines had thinned out and people were beginning to move around a bit, so it wasn’t a problem. We started at the Silent Auction to see what was being offered. Many of the baskets were very similar, and we had to look hard to see items beyond the usual quinoa pastas and gluten free baking mixes, but there were lots of baskets to choose from.

We soon moved over to the food and tried enough samples that by the time we left (after perhaps an hour and a half) we were definitely done sampling.

Cathy says: A favorite of mine was the salmon with basmati rice, jicama cucumber salad, and tomatillo sauce from WildWood Grill, which is located at 2700 E. Southlake Blvd, Southlake, TX. I did not get to sample the Paella from Paella Texas, because they were not quite ready to serve it when I went by the first time, and I was beyond sampling the second time I went around. Paella Texas advertises themselves as “a unique catering concept.” The paella looked picture-perfect. The rice-and-seafood dish was being cooked in a very large pan with peas and red peppers artfully sprinkled on the top, making the dish very colorful. As I was walking by the paella, someone passed me with a small dish with grits, and a shrimp on top of it that was so large, it could not be ignored, so I diverted over to the station where they were serving it. The grits turned out to be jalapeƱo grits and were perhaps a bit more spicy than I would ordinarily like, but the shrimp was done perfectly and then topped with a drizzle of barbecue sauce. The station turned out to be the Gaylord’s Ama Lur itself, so of course, it was an over-the-top dish. Wow!

A new restaurant that is opening in the Gaylord in November is called Zeppole. I wanted to try their shrimp dish which looked like a dish I might really really like, but as I was passing by them, they had some gnocchi that was already plated, so I took one. It was a chicken dish with a killer sauce, somewhat reminiscent of an Alfredo, though I did not get a description, so forgive me Zeppole, if I don’t have it right. Maybe I’ll come back when you open and we’ll talk about it.

Sandy says: I was particularly happy with the ravioli (with tomato sauce) and gnocchi (with basil pesto) being served by GlutenOut Pasta. This is a frozen pasta that can be purchased online. It was very good, but when I looked it up online, I realized that they are sold without sauce. I guess I’ll have to make my own, which is probably for the best since we’re supposed to be reducing our salt in both my household and Mom’s.

I already knew that PF Chang’s had an extensive GF menu (Mom and I ate there last night, actually!) but I didn’t know that they have a new gluten free dessert. The Mini Triple Chocolate Mousse is a $2 dessert served in a shot glass. It wasn’t on the printed menu last night; the folks at the PF Chang’s booth said the dessert is new as of August. It’s got chocolate cake on the bottom with a chocolate pudding in the middle and a chocolate topping.

Mom already mentioned the Gaylord restaurants Ama Lur and Zeppole. I also tried BBQ brisket from Old Hickory Steakhouse, another Gaylord restaurant. The BBQ sauce was a bit too “zesty” for me, but the meat was excellent. I was told you can also get sandwiches on GF bread in the Texas Station sports bar at the Gaylord. My husband and I will definitely be heading out to the Gaylord for a date night soon!

I was also excited to learn that the Wholesome Foods Bakery is now open (in a new location)for regular business. I had heard of them a while ago, but you had to order online and pick up your goodies on a Tuesday. Now that their schedule is more flexible, I am anxious to go try them out. They gave us some cranberry nut cookies and chocolate chip cookies, which Mom and Caroline liked a lot, but I thought were ordinary; but I really liked their pound cake. I’ve been looking for a good GF pound cake for a while, so I plan to order some to stock up my freezer.

We were pretty stuffed when we left, but our main feeling for the event was a relief that we had been free to sample everything offered without having to question each and every dish. That in itself was the worth the price of admission.

Cathy and Sandy