Monday, May 28, 2012

Gluten Free at the Austin Arboretum

We spent all morning in the car, then this HUGE lunch at the Salt Lick, then we ran around Schlitterbahn, followed by yet more time in the car.  I was nauseous, the kids were dropping, and we just needed a light dinner so we could all go to bed.  Noodles & Company was right next to the hotel and sounded like a good place for the kids.  I figured I would just have a soda.  Not much chance that I could eat anything at a place with a name like "Noodles & Company," right?

I was pleasantly surprised.  Turns out that they have a rice noodle that they can substitute in a number of their noodle dishes to make them GF.  They had a load of disclaimers on the menu about how they can't guarantee there will be no cross-contamination, but they really worked hard to make sure my meal was safe, changing their gloves, using clean utensils, etc.  I had the Pesto Cavatappi (basil pesto, garlic, mushrooms, tomato, wine, cream, and Parmesan) which was the perfect thing for my slightly unhappy tummy.  Nicely spiced, but not overpowering, and very filling.


Gluten Free at the Salt Lick

I have already used this space to rave about the wonderfulness that is the Salt Lick in Round Rock (or the original location is Driftwood, TX), but they deserve another mention.  Nearly everything they serve is gluten free (except for the obvious, like bread and cobbler) and the food is out of this world.  We have been going to The Salt Lick for nearly two decades, but this weekend we got to do something we had never done before.  Our waitress took us into the kitchen and let the kids baste the meat on the huge barbecue pit.  This process involved taking a huge stick with cloth on the end (like a small mop), dipping it into a vat of sauce, and then slapping the meat with the sauce-soaked mop.  Colin enjoyed it so much we had to drag him away.

Colin basting the meat at The Salt Lick

Gluten Free Tea in Austin

We spent another Memorial Day weekend in Austin, TX, celebrating our wedding anniversary with my brother Alex and his fiance, as well as our dear friend Jonathan and his fabulous wife Jonelle.

The big find on this trip was a place called The Steeping Room in North Austin, in the shopping area known as the Dominion.  Wow. Wow. Wow.  Just.... wow.

I have a weakness for the concept of Afternoon Tea.  I like tea.  I like sandwiches.  I like scones, and cakes, and clotted cream.  Most of the time, this is but an impossible dream for a celiac like myself.  Lately, however, I've had the opportunity to partake in this ritual feast, first at the Plaza Hotel in NYC, then on the Disney Cruise.  This one, however, has those two beat all to heck.

The menu at The Steeping Room is clearly marked with a "GF" next to any food that is or could be made gluten free.  Every day they offer a gluten free scone and a gluten free cupcake.  They also have gluten free bread.  So when they say that a sandwich can be made gluten free, they don't mean that they can give you the sandwich fillings except without the bread.  They mean they can give you a gluten free sandwich.

Century Oaks Tea Service at The Steeping Room

It was extremely challenging to decide what to order, however, I decided to go "whole hog" and order the Century Oaks Tea Service.  At $20, this is the most expensive thing on the menu, but I assured myself I was doing it for the benefit of you, my reading public.  Noble of me, don't you think?

The Century Oaks Tea Service includes two kinds of tea sandwiches, a scone, a spread (clotted cream or honey butter), jam, tea cake, tea cookies, and a pot of tea.  Wow.

For my sandwiches I chose chicken salad with a lapsang vinaigrette and roast beef/cucumber with wasabi mayo.  Both were excellent, but let me just say that I will be dreaming about that wasabi mayo for years to come.

It should be said that I am not a fan of mayonnaise.  I almost ordered the sandwich without it, but I wanted to try it with the wasabi, so I took a risk.  This was not "mayonnaise."  "Mayonnaise" is a thick, sour, glob of yuckiness that is mistakenly slathered on sandwiches by people who have been tricked into thinking it is food.  But this, this was a gorgeous cream sauce with just the right amount of wasabi, giving it a "bite" that was strong, but not overpowering.  It was delicate and light and absolutely perfect.

So, to re-cap, I had two sandwiches, plus the gluten-free-scone-of-the-day (apricot) with clotted cream and homemade strawberry jam, two little gluten free meringue cookies, a HUGE gluten free cupcake (carrot with cream cheese frosting -- Mark declared it the best thing on the menu) and a pot of tea.  I ate every bite and drank the whole pot of tea.  I was stuffed.

In the meantime, my son (who is not GF) was in almost as much ecstasy as I was.  I don't know too many 10 year olds who get excited about tea, but my son does.  As we anticipated our meal, he was giddy -- "tea goes really well with sandwiches!" he told me, as he placed his order for Earl Grey and roast beef with cheese.  The children's version of the tea is a bargain.  For half the price of my meal, he got one sandwich (instead of two), a scone, jam, cookie, and fruit, plus his choice of tea, hot chocolate, or juice.

Sadly, my husband and daughter didn't love the Steeping Room as much as my son and I did.  The next day, Colin and I pretty much insisted that we go back to the Steeping Room again for breakfast.  Mark and Caroline went along kicking and screaming.  Fortunately, they liked their food the second day better than what they ordered the first day.  Caroline got some flatbread (not GF) and Mark had a bacon strata (also not GF) and they both liked them.  Colin and I ordered very nearly the exact same things we had the previous day.  Colin chose a different type of scone (for the record, he liked plum better than cheddar) and a different tea (English Caramel).  I swapped my chicken salad for a BAT -- bacon, arugula, and tomato sandwich with basil mayo.  Sooooooo good.  Remember what I said about the wasabi mayo? Ditto for the basil mayo, except that pairing the basil mayo with fresh tomato slices was so good, it should be illegal.  Seriously, tomatoes were invented for the sole purpose of being paired with that basil mayo.  It was that good.

The Steeping Room.  Go there.  You will not be sorry.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Old Town Alexandria Gluten Free

A photo captured by roving reporter Mark Morris (aka my loyal hubby).  The Paradiso Pizzaria is now serving gluten free!