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.


Mama's Fish House

Alex and Allison on the beach at Mama's Fish House

Mama's Fish house on Maui is one of my all time favorite restaurants.  We went to this restaurant the last time we were in Maui, and it was definitely on the Must Do list for this trip as well.

When I reviewed this restaurant the first time, I mentioned it's resemblance to Trader Vic's, except this is the real deal.  It's right on the beach, but unlike most beachfront restaurants, it's got it's own private beach.  No "well-oiled tourists" wandering by as you eat.  The restaurant is indoors, but the fourth wall is non-existent; the restaurant just sort of melds into an open-air lanai, leading right out to the beach.
Caroline and Lani at the table in Mama's Fish House

And the food.  Oh the food.  So good.

Last time I was there, I had fish, which was wonderful, despite the fact that I'm not actually much of a seafood lover.  This time, in honor of my also-non-fish-eating brother (who was with me), I got the braised short ribs.  I have been addicted to braised short ribs ever since I ordered them at the France pavilion in Disney World, and these did not disappoint.  They were melt-in-your-mouth tender and incredibly flavorful.  With a dish like this, low fat is not what you are looking for, and these boneless ribs were just fatty enough to make them sinfully rich, without having big chunks of fat you need to trim.

They are very good about knowing their menu and explaining your gluten free options.  They even brought me out my own special appetizer (coconut spears) to substitute for the bread I couldn't eat.

Coconut Spears at Mama's Fish House

The meal was so rich that I didn't dare try a dessert, but instead opted for a glass of strawberry wine, made locally in Maui.  It was very nice (though not as good as Strawberry Splendor from Goosewatch in upstate New York).

I also had a "lava flow" with my dinner, which is a pina-colada with strawberry puree down one side of the glass.  Yummy.
Sandy and her "Lava Flow"
Mark and his Mai Tai

I have to say that by mainland standards, Mama's Fish House is incredibly pricey.  It worked out to about $50 per person.  On the other hand, restaurants on Maui are notoriously expensive, and this is one of the best restaurants I have every been to, so I'm going to say it's worth every penny.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Pride of America -- Cadillac Diner

I knew the Cadillac Diner was not going to be a place I could eat, but I was hungry and roaming the ship one afternoon, and it was open, so I popped my head in to see what they might have that was safe.

The answer is, as I expected, not much.  Basically, the chicken and the hamburger are it.  I was told to stay away from everything else, including the mashed potatoes and the shakes.  Normally the have gluten free buns for the hamburger, but they were out, so I had a plain meat patty.  Not particularly memorable, but I appreciated the injection of protein in the middle of the afternoon.

The place does have a fun atmosphere, but I'd recommend that anyone on a GF diet avoid it.


Pride of America -- Lazy J Steakhouse

The Lazy J Steakhouse is one of the "surcharge" restaurants on the Pride of America.  While eating in one of the main dining halls is free, there is a $25 cover charge to eat at the steakhouse.

The steak was very good and I enjoyed my meal, however, I do not think it was worth the extra $25.  The Skyline was just as good, if not better, and there was no extra charge for the Skyline.

The bigger problem at the Lazy J was that they did not have a gluten free menu and it took a while for me to convince the waitress and manager (!) to let me speak directly to the chef.  Sure enough, the chef gave me completely different information than the staff did.  He did mark a menu for us with the gluten free items so that it would be less confusing, which I was very grateful for.

They also brought out gluten free bread, which was a nice touch.  The bread itself was very bland (I actually put salt on it!), but the texture was nice, and it was fun to have bread with my meal like a normal person.

I had a 10 oz filet and a baked potato.  I skipped dessert, which was the flourless chocolate cake.  Although the cake was delicious, I had already had it twice at that point, so I opted to save the calories.  Amusingly, they brought out a plate for me with the word "nothing" written in chocolate syrup, since I had ordered "nothing" for dessert.  Cute.

Long-suffering Non-Celiac Spouses at the Steakhouse


Pride of America -- Skyline Diner

Coconut Pear Soup

I ate at the Skyline Diner twice during the cruise for dinner.  This gets my vote as best place for a Celiac to eat on board.  They had an actual printed gluten free menu, with a lot of choices on it, and the food was fantastic.  The Skyline is included in the price of the cruise and you get an appetizer, entree, and dessert.

Chicken with Demi-Glace

I had chicken with demi-glace and mashed potatoes both nights, but I tried different appetizers -- a cold pear and coconut soup and a watermelon salad.  There was a flourless chocolate cake with raspberry sauce on the menu that was very tasty, and one of the nights they also offered a honey creme brulee with a chocolate bottom.  (The flavor of creme brulee changed each night, so it wasn't always GF).

I know Mom ate at the Skyline for at least one breakfast (poached egg on toast).  I'm sure the breakfast was better there, but I needed the speed of the Aloha Buffet so I could get fed and get off the ship.