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