Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gluten Free in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

On a recent road trip from upper New York State to Southeastern Texas, I stopped to eat at all the usual gluten free choices -- Outback, Chipotle, PF Chang, -- but on the last night on the road I stopped in Hattiesburg, MS to have dinner at  the Purple Parrot Cafe. The Purple Parrot is not really a cafe.  It is a very elegant restaurant with warm wood and mirrored walls and candlelight on the cloth-covered tables.

The restaurant shares a building with the Crescent City Grill. Both of these restaurants are owned by Robert St. John who has written several books about Southern Cooking.  He recently blogged about lump crab meat and, as it happened, I ordered two dishes in which lump crab-meat was an ingredient.  My appetizer was a beet salad, something I have been ordering all summer.  This was the first though to include crab-meat, along with the greens and goat cheese.   This one was also the first to include maple syrup and sherry in the vinaigrette.  I don't know if it was either of those two ingredients that gave the dressing a slightly smoky taste or if it was something else, but the effect was great.  I am going to try that.  I caution you though that, should you go to the Purple Parrot, do not depend on this salad as anything other than a light appetizer.  It was tasty, but the smallest salad that I ordered this entire season.

Before the appetizer came, Megan, my very kind and cheerful server, brought a little pre-dinner "amuse bouche."  This presentation was a compressed watermelon ball served on a porcelain Chinese style spoon, and it was served with balsamic vinegar, a spring of basil, a bite of goat cheese, and some chopped sugared walnuts.  Because they were not sure if I could eat walnuts, Megan brought two, one with and one without nuts.  Since I could eat the nuts, she let me have both of them.  Thank you, Megan.

Dinner was grilled redfish topped with lump crab meat.  Exquisite.  The vegetables, which included sliced fingerling potatoes and asparagus chopped into small pieces, were excellent, and I think the asparagus may have been the best ever.  I want to try to duplicate that too.

Dessert was the gluten free diner's usual (and often only) choice, creme brûlée, but I have to say that I could easily have shared this one.  It was a large portion served with whipped cream in a small oval baking dish on top of a large dinner plate that was criss crossed with thin lines of chocolate and a delectable raspberry sauce.  I did not lick the plate, but I definitely scraped it clean.

Thank you, Purple Parrot and Hattiesburg.  Hope to see you again. 


Friday, August 9, 2013

Stoney River Steakhouse

My brother-in-law and his family live in Cumming, Georgia, a suburb of Atlanta.  They have a 13 year old son who is a Food Network addict and budding foodie.  His favorite restaurant in the world is Stoney River Steak House, an upscale chain with a handful of locations in the Southeast (primarily Georgia, Maryland, and Tennessee).  

Stoney River does not have a dedicated gluten free menu, but the waiter at the Roswell, GA location was knowledgeable and recommended the Coffee Cured Filet Mignon, which has a coffee, molasses and brown sugar glaze, served with caramelized shallot mashed potatoes.  Mmmmm.  It was wonderful.  
The restaurant is well known for it's rolls, which is unfortunate for the celiac diner, but the waiter brought me a little plate of fruit to make up for it.  (He admitted he stole it from the kitchen; it's not standard policy).  It was hard to feel too sorry for myself when I was presented with a plate of illicit berries.  Why is forbidden fruit always the best?

All in all, I have to agree that Brandon has good taste.  Now if I could just get him to stop ruining his steaks by ordering them well-done....  


Tower of the Americas in San Antonio

I have not had a lot of success on the San Antonio Riverwalk since going gluten free, but it remains one of my favorite places nonetheless.  We were there for a quick trip last weekend; we took our nephew Brandon there to see the Alamo.  Since it was his first trip to San Antonio, we decided to do something special and took him to the Chart House at the Tower of the Americas for lunch.  This rotating restaurant is at the top of a 750 ft high tower, with spectacular views of the city.  (Note: because Texas is very flat, you can see for a looooong way.)  The tower was the highest observation tower in the United States until 1996, when the Stratosphere opened in Las Vegas.

I hadn't been to the tower since it was bought by Landry's in 2004.  (Those people own everything!  Seriously, look at the list of restaurants they own.)  The restaurant is now called The Chart House.

I have a mixed review to give.  On the one hand, they had a gluten free menu.  Big plus!  I also enjoyed my food a great deal.  I had a perfectly cooked steak, an outstanding gazpacho, and a really yummy cocktail (mango Sangria).

On the other hand, lunch took two hours.  Two hours spent with three children whining that it was taking too long, they were bored, they didn't really want to go to the Alamo at all, they did want to go to the pool at the hotel, and why aren't we at the hotel pool right now?  Their fascination with the view lasted about 3 and a half minutes.  To top it off, no one else in my party liked their food.  Colin had clam chowder -- thumbs down.  Caroline and Brandon had steak -- Brandon's was undercooked (he asked for it medium well, and it was pretty darn rare.) and Caroline found hers too tough.  My husband had fish, which he pronounced ok, but not great.

So, I don't know if I can recommend it or not.  If you do go, go without children, with plenty of time to kill, and be sure to order the gazpacho.  It's a real winner!