Wednesday, December 21, 2011

NYC Food, Gluten Free Style

Massive Turkey Club Sandwich at Bloom's Deli

Pickle assortment at Bloom's Deli

There are two kinds of restaurants I think of when I think NYC -- Delis and Chinese Restaurants.  We did both on this trip.

Bloom's Deli is located very close to Grand Central Station.  We walked there from the New York Public Library.   They have an extensive GF menu for both breakfast and lunch.  Breakfast includes pancakes, french toast, and omlettes.  The lunch menu has sandwiches on GF toast and burgers on GF buns!    I had a turkey club sandwich that was too big to eat.  I had to take it apart and eat it in sections, but it was great.  To drink, Mark and I shared an egg cream that tasted just like the ones my Dad used to make when I was a little kid.  (Milk, chocolate syrup, and soda water)  That brought back some great memories!

Ruby Foo's Chinese restaurant is located in the heart of Times Square, which made it a perfect place to stop and eat after the theater.  By NYC standards, this restaurant is HUGE.  It seats 300 people, which is normal for a restaurant in Dallas, but after dining in tiny little 15 diner restaurants all week, it seemed enormous.  I had the Gluten Free Mongolian Orange Chicken, which had just a little bite to it, but not too much.  I really liked that the chicken was sauteed and not breaded, and the dish was full of beautiful stir-fried veggies and huge chunks of orange (not those little canned mandarin orange slices I expected).  It was healthy and satisfying.

GF Afternoon Tea at the Plaza

Sandy and Eloise at the Plaza

I have to admit, I didn't read the Eloise books as a child, but I did read them to my daughter and so I have a special fondness for the Plaza Hotel.  When I found out that the Plaza can do a GF afternoon tea, I was ecstatic.  That's one for the Bucket List!

You must get a reservation as far in advance as possible.  A month out, I was only able to get a 4:45 seating.  It seemed like a very odd time to eat, but in fact, in worked out perfectly for a theater day.  We were done around 6 and took some time to shop before walking over to the theater for a 7 pm performance.  Perfect!

Eloise has made her distinctive mark on this fancy hotel.  In the middle of the gilded lobby stands an enormous pink Christmas tree decorated by "Eloise" with some help from her "friend" fashion-designer Betsey Johnson.

Pink Christmas Tree at the Plaza in NYC
The Palm Court stands in the middle of the hotel, with beautifully ornate scroll work and a dazzling stained glass ceiling.  I assume that during the rest of the year it is filled with Ladies Who Lunch and Celebrities, but at Christmas, it is filled with little girls.  Dozens of beautifully dressed little girls, laden with bags from American Girl Doll store and FAO Schwartz, all thrilled to get their picture taken by the pink Christmas tree and next to the portrait of Eloise.  (There is a Santa downstairs as well, for the picture-taking trifecta.)

We were warned that the gluten free version of afternoon tea would take extra time to prepare because it needed to be made fresh.  Fine by me, I was happy to bask in the opulence of the Palm Court, and watch pretty little girls ooh and ahh as they went by.  It did take about 25 minutes from the time we ordered to the time they brought out our food, but they brought the tea out quickly, so we sipped our tea while we waited.

If you are ordering off the Afternoon Tea menu and you are gluten free, the key thing is to decide which types of sandwiches you want.  The desserts they provide will be the same regardless of which meal you pick, and the scones are substituted with fruit.  I ordered the New Yorker, which comes with the following sandwiches:

Cucumber, Radish, Green Herbs
Smoked Salmon, Endive
Roquefort, Shaved Red Grapes, Watercress
Prosciutto, Mozzarella, Pesto
Roast Beef with Horseradish

These were little open-faced sandwiches on gluten-free toast.

Tea Sandwiches

Dessert plate

They gave me a generous quantity of fruit to substitute for the scones.

Everything was delicious and I loved the whole experience.


Breakfast in Manhattan

We had three breakfasts in Manhattan.  Unfortunately, one of them was at the hotel restaurant.  It was free, so I can't complain too much, but it was just a typical "free breakfast buffet" meal, with lots of potential for cross-contamination.  I had a hard boiled egg and some yogurt and fruit.  Good enough, but not nearly as interesting as the other two mornings.
French Toast and bacon at Peter's Restaurant

Peter's Restaurant -- The definite winner in the breakfast category!  Peter's is on the Upper East Side, not far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which made it the perfect launching pad for our museum day.  Peter's has an extensive GF breakfast menu.  It was so hard to decide what to get!  I settled on french toast with a side of bacon.  Man oh man!  It was great.  So buttery and moist.  Just perfect.  The only downside is that Peter's serves "pancake syrup," that foul imitation maple syrup you find in cafeterias and fast food restaurants.  (Or quite possibly your own home, if you didn't grow up with syrup snobs like my husband and I did. If you think Mrs. Butterworth's is "real" syrup, then you won't have a problem.)  This could have been a deal breaker, except that the french toast was so good, it really didn't need any syrup at all.  It was perfect just the way it was. The fresh squeezed OJ was excellent too.  We tanked up with huge breakfast that carried us through our day at the Met.

Fairway Cafe -- Fairway Market is a grocery store with several locations in NYC.  Their location on the Upper West Side has a cafe as well, where we ate our breakfast on our last day.  First of all, Fairway is truly an awesome place.  I could get lost in there for hours.  Mark had to drag me out of the cheese section kicking and screaming.
Fairway Market on the Upper West Side

The cafe is located upstairs and was a bit hard to find, but worth it in the end.  I had gluten free pancakes with REAL maple syrup.  They had just a tiny bit of a "baking soda" taste, but the syrup covered the flavor, and I ate my whole plate.  For fun, I ordered a Lemon Mint Fizz to drink -- fresh squeezed lemonade with seltzer water and mint.

GF Pancakes at Fairway Market
After breakfast, we bought some cheese, crackers, and dried fruit to serve as our lunch in the airport.  While others in the terminal scarfed McDonald's, we had Cotswold and Herbed Jack cheeses with GF crackers and the best dried apricots I've ever had in my life.  Eat your heart out, fellow travelers!


Gluten Free in the Times Square Theater District

I love Broadway!  If it were up to me, we would come to NYC and see plays at least once a year.  When hubby realized he needed one more trip at the end of the year to have enough airline miles to keep his Super Plus Ridiculously Elite status, I knew where I wanted to go!

We came in on a Saturday night, and went straight to our hotel -- The Hilton Garden Inn near Times Square -- which is very conveniently located to the theaters.  From our hotel, we walked to dinner at Nizza on 9th Avenue, between 44th and 45th streets.

It's a very small restaurant, so we were enormously lucky to be seated right away.  Everyone who arrived after we did, had a long wait for a table.  We both ordered Socca, a chickpea flatbread similar to a pizza crust.  I had classic Socca, with sage, onions, and pecorino (cheese).  Mark had the Quattro Formaggi -- four cheeses and pesto sauce.  Both were delicious, but I actually preferred mine.  I think the Socca stands by itself; it doesn't need to be turned into a pizza.  We had a glass of house Chianti, which went well with it, and they brought us gluten free bread to eat, with an herby butter/olive oil spread.  Yippee!  Best of all, this ended up being one of our least expensive meals in Manhattan.

Our most expensive meal in Manhattan was one we stopped at impulsively.  We had intended to wait until after the theater to eat dinner, but we were hungry an hour and a half before show time, and we passed right by a churrascaria on 49th street that wasn't too crowded, so we stepped in and had a bite to eat.  The upside of any Churrascaria is that you don't wait long for your food -- the servers are meandering around the restaurant waiting to bring it to your table.  I am a big fan of this type of cuisine, and we frequently eat at Fogo de Chao, a Churrascaria with a location here in Dallas.  Churrascaria Plataforma wasn't in the same caliber as Fogo de Chao, but it has a lot of fun elements to it.  My favorite part was the drink they made at our table, called a Caipirinha made from fresh limes, sugar, ice, and a Brazilian Liquor called  Cachaça .    The cart had a lot of other fresh fruits on it, so I had the server add some pineapple to my Caipirinha in addition to the limes, and it was delicious.  The meal was pricey, but fast and delicious.  Most of the meats were gluten free, as were the mashed potatoes and fried polenta.  I stayed away from the salad bar, as it looked like there was a lot of cross-contamination going on.  They had three GF desserts -- chocolate truffles, flan, and creme brulee.  I chose the truffles and they were yummy.


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Gluten Free in Keystone, Colorado

For Thanksgiving the family went to Keystone Colorado so that the kids (and the guys) could ski. We had as close to a traditional Thanksgiving as we could, considering that they were out of turkeys in the grocery store in Dillon. What we had were turkey breast fillets which we made into sauteed medallions and served with a GF turkey gravy (we brought a gravy mix with us).  We were also able to have some green beans cooked with a little ham and chicken bouillon since we had also brought GF bouillon packets. We also made mashed potatoes, fruit salad, and applesauce. We would have had cranberry sauce, but both of us forgot that we had put it in the refrigerator, and didn't give it a thought until Friday. Oh well!

All other meals save one were also at the house we had rented (five minutes from the ski school and ski lift at River Run). The one meal we ate out was in Breckenridge at The Hearthstone. The temperature was in the single digits when we took the dam road in to Breckenridge, driving into a wonderfully Christmasy town under a beautiful crescent moon. The Hearthstone has a gluten free menu, for which we were enormously grateful, and there were several options for appetizers and entrees. Cathy tried the ahi tuna and the prosciutto wrapped bacon appetizers – both good, and the cedar planked salmon which came with a very light citrusy glaze and was served with green beans and tasty little hash browned potatoes.

Sandy had the Prime Rib served with Vermont cheddar potatoes au gratin and creamed spinach.  It was delicious, but had to be served without the au jus, as that wasn't gluten free.  (That probably should have been mentioned on the menu, since au jus is kind of integral to a prime rib.  Oh, well.)

There were a couple of dessert choices – Cathy went the safe route and had the ubiquitous crème brulee. (We eat a lot of creme brulee -- it's one of the few desserts that is widely available and almost always gluten free.) This one proved to be very rich and creamy and worth the calories.  

Sandy chose the "banana split."  It wasn't really a banana split -- more like a deconstructed sundae.  It featured a vanilla gelato with bowls of caramelized bananas and a coconut rum chocolate sauce served on the side.  It was also supposed to come with macadamia nuts, but for some reason they were left off, and we didn't remember it was supposed to come with nuts until after we had left the restaurant.  Still, it was nice to have a different option for a change, and she really liked the caramelized bananas.  

Sandy had a yogurt parfait at McDonald's at the airport on our way out of town.  (Don't eat the granola -- it's not GF, but it is served in a separate package so there is no cross contamination.)  

Keystone wasn't the most GF friendly destination in the world, but we got by and ended up having a really wonderful Thanksgiving.

Cathy and Sandy   

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hotel Coronado

Mark and Sandy at the Hotel del Coronado
On our second night in San Diego, we ate dinner at the beautiful Hotel del Coronado, sometimes referred to simply as the "The Del."
Fun facts about The Del:
  • Built in 1888 and is now a historic landmark
  • The movie Some Like It Hot with Marilyn Monroe was filmed there.  
  • The Grand Floridian at Disney World is modeled on The Del.
We were there with a large group, so we had a limited menu and they knew ahead of time that I was coming, so I can't guarantee that what I ate would be available on the regular menu or that it would be gluten free, but I can say that they were very accommodating and knowledgeable.   

My first course was a Heirloom Pumpkin Veloute (soup) which had a nice balance of sweet and savory.  A traditional veloute is made with a roux (flour), so I don't know if they made this one special for me, or if they normally prepare it that way.  It was very good, at any rate.  We had a wine pairing with each course, and the soup went with a pink champagne.
Soup at the Hotel del Coronado

The second course was steak -- California Natural Angus Beef Filet with a beef check ragout, charred broccoli and potato mousseline.  I'm not sure that I want my vegetables burnt, but the rest of the entree was sensational.  Truly one of the best steaks I have ever eaten.  It was cooked perfectly and the ragout was so good that I wanted to lick it off the plate.  Since we were with 17 of my husband's colleagues, I restrained myself.  The wine was a Cabernet Sauvignon that complimented it perfectly.

The dessert they had to modify a bit for me -- it was a orange-coffee puree spread between thin wafer cookies and served with a side of vanilla gelato.  Obviously I couldn't have the cookies, so they served the puree by itself, like a chocolate mousse.  It looked a little odd -- two little bowls, one with vanilla ice cream and the other with chocolate pudding, but I'm willing to forgo presentation if there is chocolate in it for me.
The wine served with dessert was a Moscato blush that was my favorite wine of the evening.  

The only downside of the evening is that we foolishly scheduled our dinner to start at 7 pm, which meant that by the time we got there, it was dark and we couldn't see the view.  Several people in our group went back the next day to walk around the hotel and see it in daylight.  I should also mention that we were there for a very long time.  We had been there for two hours when the second course was finally served.  Mark had a word with the waiter and they made sure that the dessert course was served more promptly, and we were completely done and out the door and hour later, which was good.

The Hotel del Coronado is one of those "once in a lifetime" restaurants that I highly recommend you experience once.  It's not cheap (all right, it's really really expensive), but the total experience was definitely worth it.  But try to do better than me and get there in time for sunset, ok?


Monday, October 31, 2011

Gluten Free Encinitas

This is what the perfect sandwich looks like.  It is a hot turkey panini on gluten free rosemary ciabatta bread, with colby jack cheese, tomatoes, and avocado.   Heaven.

I had a day to myself in San Diego, California, to do anything I wanted without kids or husband in tow.  So what did I do?  I googled "gluten free cupcakes in San Diego" which led me to the 2good2B Gluten Free Bakery in Encinitas (on the coast, just north of San Diego).  Encinitas is a beach town, the kind that is laid back and full of surfers, not the kind that is full of expensive people wearing expensive bathing suits that can't get wet.  I really loved the vibe there, but more than that, I loved the gluten free bakery.

I had the aforementioned sandwich for lunch, then bought a box of cupcakes and brownies to take back to the hotel.  Over the course of the next two days, I tasted them all.

Brownie with Walnuts -- very rich chocolate taste, hint of mocha which gave it some complexity.  Great texture.
Lemon Cupcake -- Vanilla cupcake with yummy lemon cream filling, and a vanilla frosting. All of the cupcakes had too much frosting.  I lopped off about half of the frosting.  
Chocolate Cupcake -- less interesting than the others, but still good.  Chocolate frosting was very rich.
Carrot Cupcake -- my favorite, tender cake with lots of spice-y goodness.  Too much vanilla frosting, but it accented the cake very well.  
Turtle Cupcake -- the same as the chocolate cupcake, but with a caramel nut sauce dribbled over the top.  The sauce was excellent, but there wasn't enough of it to compete with the enormous amount of chocolate icing.  I separated the cupcake into three sections -- cake, bulk of the chocolate frosting, and the top of chocolate frosting with all the caramel sauce on it -- and got rid of the middle part.  The cake with the caramel sauce and just a little chocolate frosting was divine.  

I was so in love with this place that I stopped there on Sunday on my way to the airport so I could buy some loaves to take home.  While I was there, my hubby convinced me that I really needed another sandwich (even though I had just eaten a huge breakfast less than 2 hours before).  He was absolutely right.  Man, that second sandwich was just as good as the first.  I'm going to be having dreams about that sandwich.  Mmmmm.

We brought home a loaf of rosemary bread for Mom (Cathy) and a baguette, which I took with me to my women's group as my contribution toward breakfast on Monday.  It was a big hit with everyone.  


Gluten Free in Balboa Park

Is there a better place to spend the morning than wandering through Balboa Park in San Diego?  Our plane landed around 10 am, and we didn't have to be up to Rancho Bernardo until evening, so we headed straight to Balboa Park.  No actual plan, just figured we'd find something to do when we got there.  We chose to go to the Museum of Man which has a wonderful permanent exhibit detailing the life of prehistoric man, as well as a permanent Ancient Egypt exhibit with some really cool mummies.

Now the really fun thing.  I googled "Balboa Park gluten free" and up pops.... Mom's post here on the Traveling Celiac, where she reviewed eating at Balboa Park's premier restaurant, The Prado.  Since it's important to listen to your mother, I ate at The Prado.  Wow. Just Wow.

First of all, we ate on the patio, overlooking the Japanese Botanical Gardens, and the weather couldn't have been any more perfect.  Just being there was a treat.  Then I asked if they had a gluten free menu, and the waiter told me that there is a key on the regular menu indicating the items that are GF.  Then he said that if there is something that looks good that isn't labeled GF, to let him know because they may be able to make it GF with modifications (for example, the steak tacos aren't labeled GF, because of the flour tortillas, but the steak is fine, so they could make it with corn tortillas instead.)

The waiter brought out hummus for the table, which is normally served with a flatbread cracker, but he brought me taro chips instead.  Yea!!!  The hummus was quite spicy, hotter than I normally like my food, but it was so flavorful that I didn't care.  Too often, here in Texas, I get food that is hot for the sake of being hot, not because the flavor really works.  This had a perfect balance of heat and flavor.

Mark had a mojito, which was perfect and should serve as the model for all mojitos everywhere.  I had a cup of Mexican hot chocolate, also extremely good.

I ordered tortilla soup, also a bit spicy, but absolutely to die for.  This is the second best tortilla soup I have ever had.  (The best was from The Mansion at Turtle Creek in Dallas).  It was thick and hearty and delicious. Sometimes tortilla soups have big chunks of stuff in them, like a stew, and I don't like that.  This is a real soup.

I should have stopped there, but my eyes were bigger than my stomach, so I ordered a stone fruit salad -- a mixture of baby greens, peaches, toasted almonds, and "Midnight Moon Cheese" topped with a caramel cider vinaigrette dressing.  The waiter told me I could add any of their proteins to it as they are all gluten free (salmon, steak, chicken, shrimp), so I added steak.  It was quite lovely to look at, but I was so full from the soup, that I pretty much just picked out the peaches and ate those, but I did let them box it up for me to take "home" on the hopes that the hotel would have a fridge in the room.  (It did.)

To be honest, at that point I was thinking the salad was a miss.  It seemed bland compared to the soup and just didn't dazzle me.  The next morning, however, I ate that salad cold for breakfast and thought I had died and gone to heaven.  The steak was flavorful, the salad dressing made me want to lick the to-go box to get every last bit, and the moon cheese was a revelation!  Wow, wow, wow.  Obviously I had been too full and had eaten too much spice to fully appreciate the subtlety of the salad the previous day.

The Prado was a huge success and I would gladly eat there again (and again and again).  Thanks, Mom!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Finger Lakes Winery Mini Review

I recently read a review of wineries in the Finger lakes by Eric Asimov, the wine critic for The New York Times. He said a lot of nice things about some wineries that I have been to, but I noticed that he mostly concentrated on Seneca Lake wineries. I spend my summers on the west side of Cayuga Lake and therefore go to more wineries there, and I drink mostly Rieslings, which is a good thing if one is drinking wines in the Finger Lakes. Rieslings thrive there, as the climate is very Rhine like.

So I decided to tell you about (in alphabetical order for fairness' sake) three of my favorite Cayuga wineries. The first is Buttonwood Grove, a winery that looks a little like a Swiss chalet and sits on a hill overlooking the lake. There are flowers all along the walkway, and half way down the hill is a pond where couples often have weddings. Outside the winery is a large deck with an awning facing the lake where you can sit and enjoy some wine and cheese. In addition to a lovely Riesling, Buttonwood Grove makes a very flavorful dessert wine, Blackberry Briar, that is a big favorite with almost everyone who drinks dessert wines. (Not everyone does drink dessert wines, but my opinion is that they are gluten free, dairy free and fat free. How can you argue with that?)

Also a long time favorite winery is Swedish Hill, on Route 414, between Seneca and Cayuga Lakes, but part of the Cayuga Wine Trail. They have a very crisp Cayuga White that I particularly like. There are many Finger Lakes wineries that have a Cayuga White, made from a grape that was developed just for the Finger Lakes region by Cornell University. The wine is always one of the least expensive at any of the wineries, but because the grape is so suited to the climate the wine is often one of the more flavorful offerings and that makes it a great buy.

Last in this review, but certainly not least, is Thirsty Owl, a winery which has a bistro with both indoor and outdoor seating. The deck seating overlooks the lake and is one of my most favorite places to have lunch with visiting friends. Some family members of the owners are gluten intolerant which means that the bistro is very familiar with the diet and are able to help with choosing dishes that are gluten free. The Diamond Custard, which is served with berries, is made with Diamond wine produced by Thirsty Owl. It's a sweeter wine and very good, but the Riesling here is a real winner, as is Snow Owl, another one of my favorites, which we buy by the case to serve at home.

If you want to check out the wineries in the Finger Lakes, you can go to, or to to learn about the wineries located on Cayuga Lake. There are probably a hundred wineries in the area now, and in addition to the wineries, there are several breweries (pretty much off limits to celiacs) and some distilleries, not so much off limits to celiacs! Check it out. It's a great place to visit even if you are a teetotaler. There are fresh fruits and Farmers Markets and water sports; there are waterfalls, universities, and history. It's a lovely area and still not overly commercialized, almost a secret place, but not so hidden that you can't sit in wonderful little restaurants feeling the incredibly luck of being in the middle of nowhere enjoying a superb meal accompanied by an excellent (and local!) glass of wine


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Date Night Denton

Denton, TX is a neat place.  It's a college town (University of North Texas and Texas Women's University) and college towns always seem to attract businesses are that fresh and exciting.  Denton has a bustling town square, which is already adorned with Christmas lights (it's October), and a thriving music scene.

We were there to try out Hannah's Off the Square, a restaurant located... just off the town square.  (Duh.)  They have an extraordinary gluten free menu, with 12 different entrees, not one of which comes with a caveat like "order with no sauce and no sides."  No, this is a REAL gluten free menu with choices like quail, bass, shrimp, pork, or lamb.

We ate outside in the courtyard/patio; it was a beautiful evening.  I started with vegetarian Black Bean Soup with Smoked Paprika Crema.  It was very flavorful, but spicy, and much more like a chili than a soup.  They served it with gluten free crackers (Nut Thins) which was a really nice touch.  

For my entree, I had Chicken Saltimbocca: Pan seared chicken breast, with sage and prosciutto brown butter cream, served over a butternut squash risotto.   It was very good.  (I have had a love affair with risotto since my husband and I went to a cool little risotto restaurant in NYC.)  

We were too full for dessert, which was a shame, because I would have liked to try the honey-lime grilled fruit kabob a la mode.  Sounds yummy.  

It was a bit pricey.  Dinner for two with soup, entree, and wine (no dessert) plus tip came to $98, but we left full and happy.  


Friday, September 30, 2011

Date Night Dallas

Sometimes I have really cool things planned for our regular Thursday date night, but last week I was feeling tired and figured we'd just have a few drinks at the local pub and head back home to watch Dr. Who re-runs.  So I was slightly miffed when my husband came home and said he had big plans for the evening.  I admit, I whined a little.  He was insistent though, and we drove all the way into Dallas to check out a new restaurant he had heard about from a colleague at work.

One of the best things about our relationship is that we balance each other out -- I keep him from being too impulsive and he keeps me from being a stick in the mud.  This was one of those times when he saved me from myself and pulled me (kicking and screaming) into something wonderful.

Rise no. 1 is a French bistro specializing in souffles, located at W. Lovers Lane and Inwood in Dallas.  Usually "French" and "souffle" are not words I associate with being gluten free, so I was amazed that they can and will make (on request) any of their savory souffles and some of their dessert souffles with cornstarch so they can be gluten free.

The dining room is very cozy, stuffed with reclaimed objects, such as recycled doors from old homes and temples, antique furniture, and embroidered table cloths and napkins made from vintage cloth.  It's both charming and environmentally responsible.  Neat!

Our meal started with the presentation of the "chariot de fromages" -- a fantastic antique push cart laden with gourmet cheeses.  To be honest, I can't remember the names of the cheeses we tried, but we got a selection of four cheeses to share.  The plate came with olives, pickles, dried figs, quince jam, and candied walnuts, as well as the gluten infested bread, which we declined.   With all those other goodies, who needs bread anyway?  With our cheese course, we ordered a flight of French white wines.  (A flight is a small taste of several different, but similar, wines).

The souffles only take 15 minutes to cook, so we ordered them when the cheese arrived and they were ready for us when we were done with the cheese plate.  I had the Southwest Chicken souffle, topped with a green chili sauce, and Mark had the Jambon and Gruyere (yeah, that's a fancy way of saying "ham and cheese").  We asked that they both be made gluten free so that we could share.  Both were very good, but I liked the ham souffle slightly better.  Maybe it just tasted better because I was stealing it from my husband.

For dessert, Mark had the Raspberry Souffle and I had a molten chocolate cake.  I think the cake was tastier, but the souffle was definitely more fun.

On our way out the door, they handed us each a little card with a saying on it (sort of like a fortune cookie). Mine was a quote from Jerry Seinfeld: "If I was the best man at the wedding, why was she marrying him instead?"  I don't remember Mark's, but it was significantly more profound.

We went back to Rise the following week (and they remembered us!) with some friends.  This week they had some specials that were not on the menu.  Mark had a Crabmeat Souffle (I didn't try it, as I don't like crab) and I had an Artichoke and Brie Souffle.  It was absolutely to die for.  Oh. So. Good.

Despite being stuffed from overeating on the cheese and souffle, I had to try dessert.  The special was Pumpkin Souffle, and the chef said he had not yet tried making a gluten free version, but he was willing to experiment, if I was a willing guinea pig.  I was happy to oblige, and he sent out a beautifully puffy souffle that was sinfully delicious.  I ate every single bite, even though I had thought I might be too full for dessert.


We'll Always Have Paris

For awhile I thought I would not have anything to write about my most recent trip to Las Vegas. The first night it was too late to eat anything, and the second day we ate a late lunch at Outback and we were going to a show anyway, so we didn't have dinner that night either. (Thank you, Outback, for being there, but your steadfastness and reliability was not what I was looking for.)

On the last night, we took two other couples to dinner at the Eiffel Tower Restaurant in Paris, which they had not been to before. Everyone had steak, except me. I had the most spectacular sea bass with smoked tomato quinoa. Wow! I ate every bite. It was one of the best Vegas meals I have had on any trip. There were three sides to share, but I could only eat the green beans with almonds, which were very nicely done and I didn't really need much else. I had had an appetizer before the meal, which was the Maine Peekey Toe Crab Salad and it was absolutely perfect. Two of us opted for dessert and instead of the ubiquitous crème brulee, I chose the mango meringue, which was a bit like a Baked Alaska, diced mango and ice cream on a meringue wafer, smothered in a soft meringue and then baked. I could leave Vegas feeling like I had accomplished something, especially since I “reinvested” the ten dollars I won on the Wizard of Oz penny machine at TI instead of quitting while I was ahead.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Company Cafe in Dallas

Exciting new!  There is a new restaurant in Dallas with an extensive gluten free menu and ALL of their desserts are gluten free!

I was so excited to hear about Company Cafe, which is located on Lower Greenville Avenue in Dallas.  According to D Magazine, the restaurant came about after the Kozy Kitchen chef and other staff members walked out.  Now, I liked the Kozy, but it was located right next door to Chuy's on McKinney Street at the Knox Henderson exit off 75.  There just was no way I was going to drive all the way down there and NOT eat at Chuy's.  Chuy's pulls me in with the gravity of a black hole.  The event horizon is somewhere around Plano, and only because there is another Chuy's there.  

So I only ate at the Kozy once.  It was good, but not great.  (Though now that I know they have a new chef, I guess I'll have to go give them a second try and see what changes they have made.)

Company Cafe, on the other hand, is a total winner.  Unlike the Kozy, the seating area is very open with a lot of light, and there are tables outside as well, which will be great if the temperature in Dallas ever drops below 104.  (40 days over a hundred degrees -- it's got to stop sometime, right?)

The minute I read about this place, I dropped all my plans for the afternoon and called my friend (and partner-in-crime) Debi.  She's got a kid who is a vegetarian, and this seemed like a vegetarian friendly place.  They also seem inordinately fond of jalapenos, which her son is addicted to, so I thought it would be a good fit.  (Plus, I hate to drive, so I needed a chauffeur.)  After convincing Debi that she also needed to drop all her afternoon plans and drive me all the way into Dallas, we headed out.  (I love you, Debi!)

We were there at lunchtime, but they continue to offer their breakfast menu items until 3 pm, so two of the kids got GF chocolate chip waffles.  It came with whipped cream and real maple syrup.  I am a maple syrup snob and will not under any circumstances eat that fake maple-flavored corn syrup masquerading as syrup.   (Yeah, Mrs. Butterworth, I'm talking to you!)  The waffles were good, but a little tough.  The kids ate them up though, so perhaps they are a little less picky than I am.

My son ordered a buffalo burger, which comes with a choice or regular or gluten free bun.  I made him get the GF bun so that I could have some of it.  It came with a large choice of cheeses, and Colin chose raw cheddar.  They committed the sin (in Colin's eyes) of putting vegetables on his burger, so I took off the spinach and beautiful slice of yellow heirloom tomato, and ate those myself.  The bun was thin, which is a good thing in a GF bun, as thick slices of bread really show the dryness that is inevitable with gluten free bread.  The burger itself was delicious and, because it is buffalo, very lean.  I hate greasy burgers.  The burger came with sweet potato fries, and these were the best thing we ate that day.  Absolutely perfect!  They were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and perfectly seasoned.  Also, they fry them in olive oil, which at least gives me a partial pass on the sin of eating fried food.  They had ketchup on the side, but these were so good that the ketchup was merely a distraction.  These were best eaten plain.

My own entree was less successful.  I ordered the Deep Bowl, which is ground beef and sweet potato hash topped with avocado slices and two eggs any style. (I got mine over-easy.)  It was bland before I added the salsa that comes with it, but the salsa really brought out the flavors.  Also, the diced sweet potato were not soft enough for me.  They still had a little crunch.  

Debi's meal was both beautiful and delicious.  She had the Tomato Burrata Salad.  Burrata is a fresh Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream.  Debi is not a huge fan of fresh mozzarella, but she liked this cheese.  The salad had a mix of field greens and basil, with yellow grape tomatoes and a vinaigrette dressing.  I had a bite and liked it a lot.  

For reasons I'm not sure of, I completely forgot to try Debi's son's lunch, which was East Side Tacos.  These were corn tortillas with ground beef, spinach, tomatoes, raw cheddar, and salsa.  I asked Alex about them later, and he said they were good, but that the beef was too heavily spiced for him.  Let's be clear here: it's not that they were too spicy (hot).  Nothing is too hot for Alex.  He just felt they had too much spice and not enough beef flavor.  Unfortunately, I didn't taste them, so I can't give a grown-up's opinion, but for a ten year old, Alex has a pretty refined pallet.  He loves sushi, jalapenos, crab legs, and Chuy's Chicka-Chicka-Boom-Boom sauce above all things, so he's not a Chicken McNugget kind of kid.  

Next, I told the kids they were going to have to make a huge sacrifice for me and order dessert.  (grin)  More specifically, they all had to order different things, so that I could taste them all.  They gladly agreed to the plan.  Here is a run-down of the desserts we tried:
Tres Leches cake -- NOT gluten free.  It contains Bailey's Irish Cream.  Caroline didn't like it, so Debi took a bite and said that the Bailey's taste was overwhelming.
Cookies and Cream Cake -- Garnished with GF chocolate cookies with tons of whipped cream.  Really special.
Italian Wedding Cake -- I liked this one, but my son thought it was a bit too "healthy tasting" for a dessert.  He described it as "more like an oatmeal spice cake."  He did like the frosting.
German Chocolate Cake -- I had been craving German Chocolate Cake for days, so it was a pleasant surprise to see this on the menu.  The cake was a tiny bit dry, but as long as you got a good balance of cake and frosting on your fork, it worked.  I'm pretty sure that my mother's German Chocolate cake was a lot more caramel-y though, so I'm still going to have to dig out that recipe and try to replicate it.  I may just make the frosting and put it on a GF Betty Crocker chocolate cake.  
Cookie Cake -- different from the Cookies and Cream cake, this one had layers of cake alternating with layers of different types of cookies.  Again, dry, but tasty and a lot of fun.
Oatmeal Cookie -- they buy their oatmeal cookies from Wholesome Foods Bakery (not to be confused with Whole Foods, the grocery store).  It had an excellent flavor and it's texture was like a sugar cookie, as they use ground oatmeal flour, instead of flaked oatmeal.  

I enjoyed the experience so much that I drug my hubby out there the following night for Date Night.  We go out every Thursday, and we try to do something different each time (otherwise we'd just eat at Chuy's every week).  So he's used to me dragging him all over creation to check out unique places and funky restaurants, especially if they have a gluten free menu. (I love you, Mark!)

Their dinner menu has a number of items that aren't on the lunch menu, so I wanted to give those a try.  Mark had Chicken Pesto Risotto and I ordered Chef Fred's Gluten Free Chicken and Waffles.  

I thought that the Risotto was fantastic.  Mark thought it was good, but not great.  On the hand, he also ordered a side of cauliflower puree, which he gobbled up with gusto, and I thought was bland.  So, clearly it's a matter of taste preferences.  

My chicken dinner was a winner.  This was Southern style chicken and waffles.  Our parents (my parents and Mark's are all from Pennsylvania) sometimes served chicken and waffles, which was a chicken and gravy served over waffles.  This was fried chicken, served with a side of waffles.  The waffles were the same as breakfast, only instead of chocolate chips baked into the batter, they had jalapenos and bacon.  Excellent flavor, but again, the waffles were a bit tough.  The chicken itself was divine.  It's been so long since I had fried chicken, and I've never had one like this.  It was boneless and skinless, but perfectly fried (in olive oil!).  So crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside.  Man, oh man.  That was sooooo good.

We both ordered dessert, in my continuing quest to try them all.  Mark had Mystery Cake, which was described as tasting "sort of like a hot fudge sundae.)  It had good flavor, but I didn't think the icing was anything to write home about.  My own dessert was the Peanut Butter Lover's, which they told me was one of their top two sellers.  (Carrot cake was the other).  I really liked this one.  It reminded me of a peanut butter pie I once ate and occasionally lament that I'll never eat again.  I still say the Cookies and Cream is the best, but this one was a close second.

Mark is harder to impress than I am, so despite my own good feelings about the Company Cafe, I was still waiting with baited breath for his verdict.  Fortunately, he pronounced it a great place and worth a return trip. Yea!  There is more of that fried chicken in my future.  Yum yum.


Edited to add: I went there again for lunch on 8/29/11 and had the chicken fried steak with green beans and mashed sweet potatoes.  Delicious.  Also had the carrot cake.  Again, the cake itself isn't all that special, but man oh man, was that cream cheese icing ever good.  Decadent!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Hotel Edison

My husband has a long standing love affair with the Hotel Edison in Sunbury, Pennsylvania.  Again and again, we keep coming back here, though the rooms are shabby and the restaurant shows it's considerable age, because he loves the Pennsylvania Dutch cooking and the history of this tiny little hotel.

Sunbury, PA was the headquarters for Thomas Edison's Electric Illumination Company in 1883 and, as a result, Sunbury was one of the first towns in the country to have electric lights.  He installed the first successful three-wire electric lighting system in the City Hotel, which was renamed the Hotel Edison in his honor.

The meal was served family style, with big bowls of meats and side dishes.  The first course is waffles and gravy -- about the most celiac unfriendly thing you could possibly imagine.  My traitorous little children gobbled them up while I looked on wistfully.

There were several meats served, but only two were safe for me -- the turkey and the ham.  Their pot roast is cooked in onion soup gravy and the chicken is tossed in flour before it is cooked.  I ate the turkey and ham, as well as mashed potatoes, mixed vegetables, and cranberry jello salad.  The turkey was a bit dry (no gravy - duh), but everything was tasty.

The staff is very kind and the service was excellent.


Gluten Free Shamokin Dam, PA

On our last night in PA, we landed at Tedd's Landing at the intersection of 11 &15 in Shamokin Dam.  We chose this place, despite mixed online reviews, because my in-laws had their rehearsal dinner here.  In the intervening 45 years, some changes have been made to the place, but for the most part, it was as they remembered it.

After I did my usual song and dance with the waitress, they had the chef come out and talk about the menu with me.  Although they don't use a marinade on their meats, they do baste them with butter and soy sauce, so I had to have my meal prepared specially.  I chose pork tenderloin and they cooked it plain.  It was fine, but not exciting.  The baked potato was a little under-done as well, but the applesauce was good, and I ended up dumping it over my pork to counteract the dryness of the meat.  

All in all, not a place I would rush out to try, but if you are stuck on 11 & 15 and looking for a place to eat dinner, this isn't a bad choice.  


Gluten Free Selinsgrove

It wasn't an easy thing to do... find a restaurant in Selinsgrove, PA (aka "middle of nowhere") that could seat 11 people with no reservations, and have something everyone would like, from small children to little old ladies, and have gluten free food as well.  Amazingly enough, we found a place!  The Longhorn Steakhouse is a chain restaurant with an official gluten free menu.

I had a steak (Flo's Fillet) with a baked sweet potato and asparagus.  They veggies were very nicely done.  Asparagus is not always prepared well --- too often it ends up limp and stringy, but this was excellent, as was the sweet potato.  The steak... well, I always order my steak rare, as overcooking ruins a good cut of meat.  This was the first time EVER that I wished I had ordered it medium.  I was forgetting that you have to have a good cut of meat in the first place, in order to ruin it.  I think this mediocre steak probably would have benefited from a little more time on the grill.

Nevertheless, I applaud them for having a GF menu and I think it was still an excellent choice for our dinner that night, since it met so many of our needs.


Gluten Free at Knoebles Amusement Park

It was my intention to eat dinner at Knoebles, but an intense rainstorm did away with that plan.  Instead we retreated back to Selinsgrove for dinner, but I do want to give Knoebles kudos for having gluten free information on their website.

We had planned to eat at the Alamo Restaurant.  According to the website, the following are safe for gluten-intolerant diners:
Salad (no croutons)
Broiled Sirloin
Ham Steak
Roast Turkey
Roast Beef
Strip Steak
White Fish

They also have hard shell tacos at the food court that are GF.

Gluten Free in King of Prussia, PA

We were driving from Philadelphia up to Selinsgrove, to see Mark's grandmother, and we stopped for dinner in King Of Prussia, Pennsylvania, which is near Valley Forge.  One of these days, we should actually stop and see Valley Forge, but it wasn't going to be this day.  Instead, we ate dinner at Maggiano's, an Italian chain-restaurant that offers gluten free pasta.  They don't have a printed GF menu, but they have a corn-based pasta that can be substituted and used with any of their sauces.  Also, they have a "scratch" kitchen, meaning that they make everything there at the restaurant, so they can always make up a batch of something with different ingredients.  They made a fresh Alfredo sauce for me (it's gluten free, but I was worried about cross-contamination) and added chicken.  It was delicious!  They have a neat deal, where for $12.95 you can get any one of the "classic pasta dishes" and get an extra one to take home for tomorrow's dinner.  That is a great deal, but we were traveling without fridges and microwave, so I couldn't take advantage of it.

I should also mention the frozen peach bellini I had -- it was divine!


Sweet Freedom

We flew into Philly on our way to visit family, and had just a few hours to see the sights before we had to drive up to Selinsgrove.  We drove downtown and took the kids in to see the liberty bell, then walked to Franklin Square where we played mini-golf on a Philly-themed course (with miniature versions of the Love sign, the "Rocky" steps, Freedom Hall, etc.).  Then we swung by Sweet Freedom, a gluten free bakery in downtown Philadelphia.  

We were very tight on time, so I pretty much ran in and ordered one of everything they had and took it to go. This gave us some fun munchies for the very long car ride ahead.  The kids particularly enjoyed ranking the goodies -- they may have seen too many episodes of Chopped.   Here's a breakdown of the winners and losers.

I got three cupcakes -- Hostess-style cream filled, chocolate, and mocha.
The Hostess Cupcake was awesome.  I am plotting my next trip to Philly to get one I don't have to share.
I didn't get a bite of the chocolate cupcake; but my nephew declared the frosting to be delicious.  He wasn't so wild about the cake part, but he ate it, so it can't have been too bad.
The Mocha Cupcake, however, was a disaster.  The filling was thin and watery and oozed all over the place. The frosting tasted like they creamed butter and flour together instead of butter and sugar.  (A look at the ingredients proves me correct -- except they use no butter, so they creamed together rice flour and coconut milk.)  I didn't actually taste any mocha.  

I tasted samples of their chocolate chip cookies at the store... yummy.  I only bought one type of cookie -- the double chocolate chip -- which was a big hit with all the kids.  I actually bought three of those, and they were disappointed I hadn't bought more.

The cinnamon doughnuts were VERY good, but more like a doughnut shaped coffee cake than an actual doughnut.  They were also better the day I bought them.  I bought several, thinking that they kids would like these a lot (they didn't) and the next day the cinnamon topping was melted to goo.  Still edible, but not as good as they were when they were fresh.  

There was also some sort of vanilla treacle bar (I can't remember what they called it, but it was a bit like a shoo-fly pie) that was interesting, and a blueberry crisp with oatmeal that was pretty good too.  The brownies, however, were declared inedible by everyone in the car.

I saved the piece of zucchini loaf for my breakfast the following morning, and that was a nice way to start the day.  I don't think the kids would have liked it, but I did.  

I am so happy we took the time to stop here and that we tried so many different things.  It was a really fun adventure.  


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Rainforest Cafe

We ate at the Rainforest Cafe in Grapevine, because my nephew is visiting and the Rainforest Cafe is near the Great Wolf Lodge, where we were staying the night.

I have not had a lot of luck with the Rainforest Cafes (in various locations) in the past, but they did a decent job this time.  The manager came out with a big Book O' Allergens.  A downside was that he did not have a list of items that ARE gluten free, but rather a list of all the things the restaurant serves and what allergens that item contains.  So I had to say things like "what about the mashed potatoes" and then he would hunt through the book looking for the entry on mashed potatoes in order to answer the question.  I had a satisfying meal -- rotisserie chicken, mashed potatoes, and grilled veggies.  I still wouldn't venture here if I wasn't desperate to please a young child, but they do have food available that is safe for someone on a GF diet.


Summer Fruit Dessert

Using Pamela's extemely versatile baking and pancake mix, I altered a recipe from my pre-gluten free days and made a really tasty dessert that I would challenge anyone to know was gluten free if not told. It is a Blue Berry Peach Cobbler for two and is perfect warm from the oven with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Heat the oven to 350 degrees and in a pan that is about half the size of a lasagne pan, melt three tablesppons of butter. In a mixing bowl blend ½ cup of Pamela's mix with ¼ cup of water and 1/3 cup of sugar. Pour it into the pan on top of the butter and do not mix it! Pour over the batter a mixture of 1 cup of blueberries, 1 cup of peaches, diced small, and 1/4 cup of sugar. Bake until browned and bubbling – about 40 minutes or so.


Friday, July 22, 2011

Lunch at Moosewood

Moosewood is a famous vegetarian restaurant in Ithaca, NY.  It has been in the same place more than thirty years, although I think there have been a couple of different owners since it opened in the early 1970's. The restaurant has put out twelve cookbooks over the years, and it is something of a landmark in Central NY.

I had not been there for several years, and not since being diagnosed a celiac. I went with three talented ladies, two of whom are vegetarian and the other someone who prefers a vegetarian diet, but is not as strict about it. The restaurant was fairly crowded for a lunchtime mid-week, but we were seated pretty quickly. Moosewood does not have a gluten free menu, but there is a note on the menu stating that anyone with a food allergy should talk to their server. (The menu does have a “V” next to the dishes that can be prepared as vegan.) When I told the server that I was gluten intolerant he told me which dishes on the menu I could have. I was surprised that I could not have the Cuban beans and rice, but I decided to have a Mexican egg and cheese casserole dish with peppers, served topped with salsa along with corn chips on the side. It came with a salad, which was mostly greens and julienned carrots and I ordered the house dressing, which was quite good. I drank tea, but my friends all had the raspberry lemonade, which did look refreshing and which they all liked. It was nice that I had several dishes to choose from, and I think I will go back again. They clearly seemed prepared to answer any dietary questions. Next time I might have the Hungarian Vegetable Stew. That looked pretty good too.


Saturday, July 16, 2011

Gluten Free at the Feast at Lele

The Feast at Lele

I don't think I would have gone to the Feast at Lele if my daughter had not already gone there before, but I am glad I did. Knowing that she had a good time and that the staff had been knowledgeable about gluten, we decided to attend.  Our tickets were marked as gluten free and the person who seated us and served us was waiting for us. I felt really reassured. It happened that there were ten of us in the party and that the Feast serves in portions of four, so it was easy to divide out the gluten free dishes for two. The Feast was held on the beach in Lahaina. (Lele is an old word for Lahaina.) The setting was lovely; the weather was perfect and we picked up Mai Tais on our way to the table as we passed some vendors selling wooden carvings.

The menu is laid out in four distinct sections, each one representing the foods and traditions of a separate area of Polynesia: Hawaii, Tahiti, New Zealand, and Samoa. Accompanying each set of dishes are dances from each of the areas. First the dishes are served; then the dances for that area follow. Dinner does not move quickly, and by the time they get to the Samoan Fire Dance, the natives are getting restless (and the children are asleep.) We might have left early – opinions were divided – but the Fire Dance was worth the stay.

Gramps holding a passed out child way past her bedtime.

Many of the dishes served were naturally gluten free and that was a nice plus, but when they were not, we were served different dishes to compensate. I've let too much time pass before writing this article and can no longer remember the dishes, but I do remember being grateful that my daughter does not eat scallops, so that I had the wonderful little scallop dish all to my greedy self.
Sauteed Veggies and Rice at the Feast at Lele


Suzanne in the New York Fingerlakes

Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine

One of my favorite restaurants in the Finger Lakes is Suzanne Fine Regional Cuisine in Lodi.  (I always want to say “Suzanne's” rather than “Suzanne” because it doesn't sound right without a possessive.) They are very good about gluten free diets and often their entrees are naturally gluten free. They have twice given me my own tasty gluten free bread as well.

The setting is an old farmhouse overlooking the lake. All the rooms are lovely, but this time we were seated in the library where one wall is all cookbooks, and the other wall is beautiful dishes, mostly in sunny yellows.

On my last visit I was given a tiny pre-dinner appetizer of diced cucumber and dill with Lively Run Goat Farm's chevre. I ordered an appetizer that was called a “tower”, which was a stack of a very sweet crab with mango on a cucumber round. For dinner, I had the sashimi grade tuna. The menu said it came with couscous, but for my dinner it was served with small roasted red skinned potatoes and some slightly crunchy snow peas.

I had a choice of three desserts! I chose the chcolate souffle cake with port infused cherries and a drizzle of crème anglais, over the also tempting coconut crème brulee or my most often chosen dessert, panna cotta which is served with sorbet and fresh fruit in a rhubarb soup. I did not choose badly. The cake was delicious.

At the end when we were so full that we could not possibly eat another thing, the server brought out tiny candies and nut confections. I love Suzanne!


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Gluten Free in Kona

Wow.  I love Kona.  What an awesome place.

We had a good time at the farmer's market where we got some more of that awesome white pineapple.
Colin passing out from overindulgence in white pineapple. 

We spent the morning at the beach snorkling and eating shave ice, then headed for the nifty Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm.

For lunch, we had done our research, and had mapped the address for the Lotus Cafe, near the airport.  This is an entirely gluten free Asian restaurant!  I worried a little that the children would find it hard to eat here, but they did fine.  My niece, my husband, and I all had chicken fried rice, my daughter had chicken noodle soup, and my son had a salmon soup.  My husband dumped the spices served on the side on top of his meal and discovered that he should have opted for moderation.  He still ate it (nothing slows him down) but he would have preferred it a little less spicy.  All the food was delicious and it was wonderful to eat Asian food without worrying about cross-contamination.

The desserts were not child-friendly.  We had gelato in two flavors (Kona Coffee Fudge and Ginger Vanilla). Both were delicious, but better suited to an adult palate.  Looking over the menu online, I now notice that they have a brownie as well.  I'm not sure if it wasn't available that day, or if we just didn't realize it was an option, but we ended up mollifying the kids by reminding them they had already had shave ice and would be getting ice-cream back on the ship.  They managed to suck it up, somehow.  :-)

Monday, July 11, 2011

Gluten Free Pizza in Maui

We spent the afternoon at a small beach near Paia known to locals as "Baby Beach."  (There is also a "Baby Beach" near Lahaina -- we tried both and liked this one on the North Shore better.)

It's a great little beach with protected lagoon, perfect for kids who can swim, but aren't strong enough to deal with the strong currents common on Hawaii beaches.
Our kids on Baby Beach

Having worked up an appetite, we headed next to the funky little town of Paia.  Paia couldn't have been more charming, though we had to park in (well marked) public lot and walk a few blocks to get to our destination.  We were headed for the Flatbread Company, a pizza place offering organic-locally grown-sustainable agriculture-recycled-nitrite free-etc. goodness.  I was putting myself on the line with this one -- a baby, three picky kids and my picky brother James, plus my sister-in-law and husband who appreciate good food and wouldn't appreciate a meal in Maui at the equivalent of Pizza Hut.  So, I was justifiably nervous about insisting that we eat here, but their website had the magic words: "gluten free."

Fortunately, it was a total win.  Everyone loved this place.  James even went back the next day and ordered a pizza to take back to the ship.  The only issue was that, because they cook their pizzas one at a time in an (organically grown) wood-fire clay oven, they aren't fast.  That's ok, since it goes with the laid back vibe of Paia; however, babies don't care if you are hangin' loose brah.  They want their nap at nap time, darn it.
Wood-fired Clay Oven

Most of their flatbreads can be made on a 12 inch gluten free flatbread instead of their regular whole wheat crust.  I chose to have half "Mopsy's Kalua Pork" and half "Jay's Heart."
Gluten Free Pizza at The Flatbread Company in Paia

Mopsy's Kalua Pork = Kiawe smoked free-range pork shoulder, homemade organic mango BBQ
sauce, organic red onions, Maui pineapple, Surfing Goat Chevre, premium whole milk mozzarella,
imported Parmesan cheese and organic herb mix

Jay's Heart = Homemade wood-fired cauldron organic tomato sauce, premium whole milk mozzarella and
parmesan cheese with organic garlic oil and a blend of organic herbs

In order to combat cross-contamination, they wrap the gluten free flatbreads in aluminum foil before putting them into the clay oven.  It was delicious.  I can't even decide which one was better (though it was Jay's Heart that James went back and got another of the following day).

I'm not a beer drinker, but they did offer gluten-free Redbridge Beer.  I had a Pineapple No-jito instead (pineapple juice, mint, lime, and sugar water -- but no alcohol).

As full as I was, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to try their gluten free dessert -- a decadent chocolate brownie served hot with heaps of ice-cream.  It was large enough to share, even if I hadn't already been groaning in pain from over eating.  But the best part wasn't the brownie -- the best part was the ice cream.  Homemade coconut ice-cream; creamy and not too sweet.  Mmmmm.   Plain vanilla would have been fine, but the coconut ice-cream really made it special.
Gluten free Brownie and Coconut Ice Cream

I'm ready to start planning the next trip to Maui.  Between The Flatbread Company, the Feast at Lele, and Mama's Fish House, Maui has the best gluten free food in the Hawaiian Islands by far.


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Gluten Free at the Honolulu Airport

Airports suck, especially if you need a gluten free meal.  However, we got a lucky break at the Honolulu International Airport.  This airport is small by Mainland standards, but it has a lot of cool stuff: shops, restaurants, and even a botanical garden.

The first few restaurants we poked our heads into didn't look promising; so I continued to drag my hungry family all over the airport, looking for a better choice.  I had already played the martyr at lunch (eating a Dole Whip and nothing else), and I needed a real meal.

Fortunately, we found the Lahaina Chicken Company.  We had to send one of the servers into the back to get their manager, but he was able to tell us (easily) what was safe and what was not.  I had rotisserie chicken, mixed veggies, and corn.  (The mashed potatoes were not gluten free.)  The food was very good, especially considering we were in an airport, and I had a happy tummy all the way back to the Mainland.

After our meal, we wandered through the botanical gardens, which make the Honolulu Airport the loveliest airport I've ever seen.

Ceiling of a Japanese Pagoda in the garden.

Gluten Free at the Smith Family Garden Luau

When choosing which luau is right for you, you have to look at what it is you want to get out of it.  

If your top priority is top-notch gluten free food, the Feast at Lele on Maui is where you want to be.
However, if you are a) on Kauai, not Maui or b) looking for a luau that is fun for the whole family, you are better off with the Smith Family Garden Luau.

My kids absolutely loved this luau.  The dancers are clearly not as talented (or attractive) as the extraordinary performers a the Feast at Lele, but the production value is wonderful.  Shooting fire, volcano goddesses, loud noises and getting to watch the kalua pig getting dug up out of the ground in front of you... these are things a kid can appreciate.

The kids examining the Imu Pit before it was dug up.

Starting the Imu Ceremony 

Kalua Pig being removed during the Imu Ceremony

The first part of the luau is a tram ride through the extensive gardens.  The kids enjoyed seeing the flowers and animals, including free roaming peacocks.

After the tram ride, comes the Imu Ceremony, then we moved on to the food.  The food is very kid friendly.  The food is served from a buffet, so the kids have the opportunity to decide what looks good to them.  They serve Hawaiian Punch.  They have pineapple jello on the dessert buffet.
Colin anticipating his delicious Kalua Pig with glee.

Mom and I were given "special plates" which the servers had to go fetch for us.  It had gluten free versions of their chicken, fish, plain rice, and sauteed veggies.  The server also told us we could go to the buffet to get things from there that were gluten free, such as the salad and fruit.  They brought us an allergen card that showed which items on the buffet contained gluten.

"Special Meal" at the Smith Family Garden Luau

The food was Perfectly Adequate.  Good, but not great, but there was plenty of it.  I did go to the buffet and get a few items, but I mostly stuck to the pre-prepared plate, as I was worried about cross-contamination on the buffet.  I did try the coconut pudding -- a favorite of mine -- and it was very nice.

While we ate, a band played Hawaiian music (after a grace, said in the Hawaiian language) and many couples danced.  After the children finished eating, they went out and played on the beautiful grounds.

Tom and Sandy I. dancing at the Smith Family Garden Luau.

Alex and Allison dance with the band in the background.

 Then, they moved the whole audience to another pavilion, where the performance was to take place. As I said before, the show was fun and family-friendly with neat special effects, including Pele rising from the volcano and a fire dancer.

The kids enjoying the show at the Smith Family Luau.

The children had a great time, and the show ended about 9:15.  A good time was had by all.

On a side note, this is NOT the luau that is offered through the Pride of America.  That luau is called the Luau Kalamaku and it takes place at the Kilohana Plantation.  We chose to do the Smith Family Luau instead, but I should note that my letter from the Dietary Restrictions guy on board the ship included a list of gluten free options at the Luau Kalamaku, so obviously they are also able to accommodate gluten free too.