Thursday, October 2, 2014

GF at Moosewood

One of the more famous restaurants in Ithaca, NY is Moosewood.  It's been around for a long time -- more than 35 years.  I have two of their cookbooks: their earliest, which is no longer available, and Moosewood Cooks at Home.  They are mainly a vegetarian restaurant, but sometimes they have fish dishes.  When I went there recently for lunch, their daily menu (but not their permanent menu) listed the dishes that could be made gluten free.  You have to be careful though and make sure that you specify that you want gluten free, as some of the ingredients of the prepared dish as listed on the menu, are not in and of themselves gf.  Their stew was served over couscous, and a salad contained blue cheese.  Both of those dishes were listed as available gluten free.

My own choices didn't appear to have anything that needed to be altered, but I did ask! You can never let down your guard!  I chose the deliacata squash salad which was served with cheddar cheese (optional -- some patrons of Moosewood are vegans), cranberries, walnuts, and greens, and a light vinaigrette dressing.  It was a tiny bit heavy on the greens for me; I always want just the squash (or more usually the beets in these kinds of salads), but the squash really were delicate and kind of caramelized a bit.  Tasty.  The salad came with a cup of soup.  Both soups on the daily menu were listed as gf.  I chose the curried lentil, a little worried that it might be too heavy on the curry for me, but it wasn't.

If it had been dinner I would have had the only dessert that was listed as gf, which was a raspberry ricotta mousse!  Sounded really wonderful, but eating it in the middle of the day would have meant the end of my day.  Too much sugar and I'm out.

Moosewood is in the DeWitt Mall in downtown Ithaca.  There is a marvelous bookstore, a natural and organic themed grocery store, an art gallery, and some interesting boutique stores, featuring toys, antiques, and clothes.  I personally love Ithaca, where it is always 1968!


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

GF in Barcelona with 5 Kids!

We took a family vacation to Barcelona, Spain this summer.  Now that my two year-old nephew David has been diagnosed, we have four people in the family that are gluten-intolerant, and three of them were along on this trip!  

It's particularly difficult when you have a young child with Celiac, as their needs are very immediate.  It's one thing for me to find myself without anything to eat.  I can always decide that Sangria will be sufficient until I get back to the hotel and have a Laurabar.  Kids, however, need to eat regularly and will not understand if everyone else is eating and they can't.

We found it somewhat challenging to eat gluten free in Barcelona.  The first problem was the language barrier, although most waiters seemed to understand "sin gluten."  (We had a native Spanish speaker with us, but Latin American Spanish and Castilian Spanish are different, not even getting into the fact that many of the menus were actually in Catalan, a distinctly different dialect of Spanish.)  The second problem was that I am not a big seafood eater, and the two-year-old, well, you try getting a two-year-old to eat things with tentacles.  

The biggest problem, however, was the meal times.  Lunch time in Barcelona ends around 2 pm and dinner starts at 8 pm.  In between, most restaurants are closed.  I knew that going in, but I had read that tapas bars are open pretty much all day, so I figured we would just do that.  Because, you know, five kids.

The problem is that, even though the tapas bars are open, they generally do not have a kitchen staff from 2-8.  All the food available is pre-made, and the vast majority is sitting on a piece of bread.  They can't go make one for you that isn't on a piece of bread, because the kitchen is closed.  We ran into that at several establishments, though we had a couple that were able to make some minor accommodations.  
The kids enjoying the tapas at Ciudad Condal.

The best of the tapas bars that we visited was Ciudad Condal.  They opened at 10 am and stayed open all day.  They were one of the few places that served hot food during the day, and they were able to accommodate requests.  The solomillo (miniature beef filet) was excellent and the brocheta d'escamarlans was basically plain jumbo shrimp on top of bread, and they were able to bring it without the bread.  

Tapas restaurant on Ramba Catalunya

They also had an excellent potatoes bravas (we asked for the sauces on the side for the little guy), as well as a "tortilla espanola" which is completely unlike a Latin American tortilla; it's a potato omelette!  These two dishes were available in most tapas bars and are pretty reliably gluten free.
Potatoes Bravas at Ciudad Condal
If you are able to wait until 8 pm, more choices open up.  My favorite meal was at Copasetic , a cozy little restaurant on Carrer de la Diputació, which is still very close to all the major hot spots, but kind of tucked away from the crowd.  

I made a reservation through Allergy , an INCREDIBLY helpful service with a list of allergy friendly restaurants.  They will contact the restaurant and make a reservation for you.  In my case, they actually contacted the chef and convinced him to open the kitchen for us at 7 pm, instead of 8 pm, on the grounds that we had 5 children with us.  I am guessing he didn't want 5 children in his restaurant during prime time anymore than we wanted to be there at that time.  We were enormously grateful for their flexibility and for the assistance of Allergy Chefs.  

Copasetic had menus available in Spanish or English, and most of their dishes are naturally gluten free or can be made gluten free.  They also have lactose free milk available, which was great for the kids!  

Menu at Copasetic

All their crepes are made with rice flour, so I had the "bacon, chicken, cheddar, and cherry tomato" crepe.  OMG.  It was sooooo good.  I am going to be trying to re-create that at home.  It was the best thing I ate on the whole trip.  Wow.
Chicken Crepes at Copasetic

Little David ate a deconstructed hamburger.  They could have put it on a gluten free bun, but with a baby it's easier to just cut it up into pieces without the bread.  That's a little baked potato there on the left, and they served his salad in a little jar.  Too cute!

David-friendly food at Copasetic

The other kids, of course, were dying to try the dessert crepes, so we shared a chocolate/banana and a lemon crepe.  Surprisingly, I liked the lemon crepe better.  It's hard to imagine anything beating chocolate, but the lemon was really good.

Lemon crepe at Copasetic

Note that the website says they "serve food all day long."  Do not be fooled by this at Copasetic or any other place in Spain.  They are open, but they only serve pre-made foods outside of the lunch and dinner hours.  We ran into this again at Pudding, a kid-friendly cafe in the L' Eixample area.  The website claimed that they could make their sandwiches on gluten free bread, and that the cafe was open all day.  However, at 5 pm, they told me there was absolutely nothing that was available gluten free at that time.  They were only serving cake and a few other pre-made items, like quiche and meat pies.  With no chef in the restaurant at that time, the servers couldn't even answer questions about ingredients.  We ended up leaving without being fed, and, on their recommendation, went to a salad place nearby where the kids had grilled chicken and I had hummus and veggies,  

There was one other snag in our culinary adventure.  Apparently much of the country shuts down for the month of August.  That's right: they close for August!  How can you close your business for a whole month?  Weird.  At any rate, we were unable to try the marvelous sounding restaurants described on Gluten Free Boston Girl's blog.  Both Bar Tomas and Pollo A L'ast were closed because, you know, August.

I had great luck at El Corte Inglés where I found an incredible selection of gluten free products.  I stocked up on snacks for the plane ride home, and the non-gluten free kids devoured my stash of chocolate cookies.  Rats!  Next time I'll have to put them in a box labeled "broccoli."  That should keep them away.  :)
El Corte Inglés
All in all, it was definitely a challenge, but the kids were troopers about it all, and we got to experience another culture and it's cuisine.  


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Gluten Free in Waikiki

On our recent trip to Oahu (May 2014) we ate at several restaurants that had good gluten free options.

Tanaka of Tokyo -- this restaurant has several locations; I ate at Tanaka West in the Ala Moana mall.  Tanaka is a teppanyaki restaurant (similar to Benihana's) and is as much dinner show as it is dinner.  Our chef was a lot of fun as he prepared the food in front of us, doing all the usual tricks (like stacking the onions to make a volcano) and a few I hadn't seen before.  

My husband and I were there early, and there wasn't anyone in the restaurant yet, so we were able to get a table all to ourselves.  Normally it is group seating with tables for eight.  Since we weren't sharing the table with others, and hubby was willing to eat gluten free, the chef was able to make our food with the gluten free soy sauce.  (If others had been present, they would have made mine separately in the kitchen.)

Yes, I said gluten free soy sauce!  Woo-hoo!  I love teppanyaki restaurants, but this is the first time I didn't have to bring my own soy sauce.  They have a gluten free menu, and while many of the sauces are off limits, at least they know that and can tell you what is and isn't safe.  

Hiking Hawaii Cafe -- this was the crowning jewel of our gluten-free finds in Oahu!  It has a great location, right across the street from the Hilton Hawaiian Village, but you have to go down some stairs to get there, so it is easy to miss.  They have gluten free bread, wraps, and pizza crusts, so most of the sandwiches, paninis, and pizzas can be made gluten free.

Please note that the service here is NOT fast; but that's ok -- we were on island time!  While we waited for our "breakfast pizza"(potato, ham, egg, and cheese on a pizza crust), we played a game of scrabble (they had a small stack of board games, and a large number of hiking magazines) and just enjoyed not having anywhere to be.  Once it finally arrived, the breakfast pizza was very good and very filling.  I was so impressed that we went back the following day to pick up a picnic lunch to take across the street to Fort Derussy Beach park

Bali by the Sea -- Speaking of the Hilton Hawaiian Village, we had made reservations well in advance to eat at Bali by the Sea during the fireworks show on the beach.  Unfortunately, not all the tables have a view of the fireworks, and we were not aware that we were sitting in the wrong section for viewing (strange, especially since the waiter asked "are you here for the fireworks?" and we said "yes!")  So, we were not able to see the fireworks, but we did get loud banging as the fireworks were being set off right outside our window.  Couldn't see fireworks, couldn't hear each other.  Not a very romantic night.  However, the steak was excellent and the Mai Tai was phenomenal.  

Shore Bird -- For lunch, Shore Bird is pretty much a burger joint.  They do not have a lot of gluten free options, but they do have gluten free hamburger buns.  I ordered an Outrigger Bistro Burger, which comes with sauteed onions and brie, but I was told that the sauteed onions are not gluten free.  :(

At dinner, the Shore Bird becomes a "cook-your-own" grill with steaks, chicken, and kabobs.  Gluten free items are noted on the regular menu, but I would be highly suspicious of cross-contamination in this type of environment.  


Gluten Free along the Cayuga Lake Wine Trail

I saw a sign along NY Route 89 that said "Wood Fired Pizza," and I had kids with me, so I pulled into the Copper Oven, located at the Cayuga Ridge Estate Winery in Ovid, NY.   I didn't expect to be able to eat, but the kids were getting cranky and you can always mollify them with pizza.

They did have a few gluten free things on the menu -- a couple of salads and meat and cheese boards.  When I explained that I was gluten intolerant, they told me they could bring me almond crackers instead of flat-bread with my meat and cheese board.

The cheese board was lovely.  They brought out a wooden plank with three kinds of cheese (one was a blue cheese, which I don't eat, but the other two were excellent), some blackberry jam, and honeycomb.

Here's the thing about honeycomb.  I have had it a couple of times before, and always assumed you were not supposed to eat the comb itself, as it was waxy and tough.  Just recently though, I read an article about honeycomb that explained that older honeycomb may be tough and brittle (especially if you bought it at a tourist shop where it may have been on that shelf for ages), but that fresh honeycomb (less than a year old) will be soft enough to spread on a cracker.

So I spread it on my crackers and topped it with the sharper cheese -- Yum!  The other cheese (chevre) paired very nicely with the jam.

The gluten-eating children gave the place mixed reviews.  Copper Oven does not have a regular pizza sauce, the kind most kids would expect on a pizza.  The had two choices -- a bbq sauce and a white sauce.  All the kids were skeptical, but in the end, two of them actually liked their pizza a lot (they ordered the Fun-Guy, which has mushrooms, green onions, and cheddar with a white sauce).  The other refused to try the pizza and got a charcuterie board with salami, ham, and mortadella, served with pickles and a corn salsa.  The mortadella was not a hit, but he enjoyed the other two meats.

(Note: Copper Oven does NOT have a gluten free pizza.)

To soothe the disappointment over the non-traditional pizza, we next headed south a few miles to the Cayuga Lake Creamery.  To my surprise, they had gluten free ice-cream cones on the menu!  I had a chocolate and vanilla swirl soft serve (custard, not the fake non-dairy stuff you get at fast food places) in an actual cone.  Wow!  I had a moment of nostalgia remembering all the swirl ice-cream cones I had as a child, and enjoyed the sensation of biting into the cone, getting ice-cream and crunchy cone in one bite.  Mmmmm.  The cone itself was not great, but as I recall, the regular gluten-containing ones weren't gourmet fair either.  They pretty much all tasted slightly like Styrofoam.   That wasn't the point then, and it isn't now.  The point is, I got an ice-cream cone!


Monday, July 14, 2014

Gluten Free at the Ithaca Bakery

Following internet recommendations, I headed for the Ithaca Bakery while vacationing on Cayuga Lake.  Though I've spent a lot of time in this region, I had never eaten there before, and with htree kids in tow, it seemed likely to have enough variety to make everyone happy.

My initial impression was not positive. The store seemed crowded and disorganized.  The four of us sat at a little table that would barely have been adequate for two.  I had trouble figuring out what was gluten free and what was not, and the signage in general was very confusing.

The food, however, was very good.  I had a BLT on a gluten free bagel.  The menu said "aioli dressing and avocado" came on the sandwich.  Unless there was a smidgen of avocado in the aioli, there wasn't any on my sandwich.  I was going to complain, but then I took a bite of the sandwich and decided that it was perfect the way it was.  The bagel was thin enough to be good for a sandwich, and toasted just enough to have crunch without being hard.  Yum.

My son had roast beef and scrambled eggs on a bagel, my daughter had chicken soup (not gluten free), and my nephew had a roast beef sandwich.  Everyone was happy with their meal.

We also had some shakes, but they took so long to make that we ended up getting them just as we were finishing up our lunch.  My daughter had an espresso peanut butter cup shake, which was delicious, and I had a Banana Dana smoothie, which was a little gritty.

All in all, it was a good choice for lunch with kids in tow, but not a "not to be missed" experience.

I am hopeful that next year we will get to try the Waffle Frolic on State Street, but they were closed for renovations during our vacation.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Gluten Free in Hershey, PA

I love Hershey, PA.  We drive through it on our way to see my husband's grandmother, and we always stop at Chocolate World.  But I have a new reason for thinking Hershey is the "sweetest place on Earth": Pizza Sorrento!  Their gluten free menu is the most extensive I have ever seen, including SIX dessert options.  They have GF bread, GF sandwiches, GF pasta, GF ravioli, GF risotto, GF pizza, GF crab cakes, and the list goes on and on.

I had the GF lasagna, since that is something I never get unless I make it myself.  It was very good.  They brought me crunchy baguettes to go with it, and olive oil to dip it in.  I had a real Italian meal -- wine, pasta, and bread, for the first time in years.

When it was time for desert, I was paralyzed by the decision.  I ended up ordering two desserts, plus dictating what desert my husband was to order.  I ordered tiramisu because I have never seen a gluten free version of that before.  It was good, but it didn't have as much coffee/kahlua taste as I remember "real" tiramisu having.  It was more whipped cream and cookies.  Very very tasty whipped cream and cookies, but not really tiramasu.

I had better luck with my other choice: Homemade Panna Cotta.  It was a creamy, silky smooth, yummy vanilla custard, not too sweet, served with berries.  Wow!  Talk about perfect!

My husband "ordered" (at my insistence) the Dark Rum Chocolate Mousse.  It was incredibly rich and decadent.  Hubby and the kids loved it, though I prefer slightly less sweet desserts.

I am seriously considering another trip to Hershey, just so  can try the raviolis and the ricotta sponge cake.  Pizza Sorrento is definitely worth the trip if you are in Hershey!


Monday, June 2, 2014

Gluten Free at the Aurora Inn

The Aurora Inn is a beautiful inn and a  landmark in Aurora, NY, the home of Wells College, one of the first women's colleges in the U.S.  It was recently renovated and is a gorgeous place to eat.  The Inn is located above the water on the East side of Lake Cayuga in the Finger Lakes.

One night we boated over and docked at the Inn's private dock and walked up the recently installed flight of steps to the Inn. It was a wonderful night and we could have eaten outside, but the sun was a little bright on the patio, so we sat at a corner table indoors with a bit of a view towards the lake.  The server told me I could have any of the three entrees I was pondering. I chose the salmon which was excellent. I also had an appetizer -- because I could! It was a simple and tasty crab salad served over asparagus. We had asparagus as a side too, but one person ordered ratatouille, and I was so glad. All the side portions are big enough to share, and the ratatouille was about the best I've had.  Other people at the table were brought bread, but I was brought my own scone, and it was warm and delicious. I ate it all, but that was now way too much food, so no dessert, and I had to waddle back to the boat.  A splendid sunset lit the way back to the other side.  A fabulous night! Absolutely gluten free dining-- and spectacular.  That's the way it's done, folks!


Friday, February 14, 2014

Gluten Free in Smithville NJ

On a really frigid night in February I went with some friends to the Smithville Inn in Smithville, NJ, not too far from Atlantic City. I wish it had been daylight and summer because the setting is a really sweet little village of shops on a small lake. The shops were all lit up with white lights, but I don't think that many, if any, were open, and it was so cold, I don't think I would have wanted to wander around anyway. But, maybe one of these days, I can check it out in better weather and daylight. The Inn itself is a very old building from the late 1700's and had heavy beams and looked pre-Revolutionary. We sat in the Tavern (it was a Saturday night and the main dining area was really crowded) and that made the atmosphere even more Colonial.

It put me off a little bit that our server said to me, when I told her that I had to eat gluten free, that I would probably know better than she would, what I could eat. Red flag! But I picked an entree that looked promising, and she said that she would ask the chef. The dinner that I chose was salmon with a tomato cream sauce, served with jasmine rice and my perennial favorite, spinach! It was all excellent. The spinach went right up there with some of the finer spinach presentations I have known, but the clear winner of the evening was the tomato cream sauce. The best ever. My intentions are to try and duplicate it. Honestly, it isn't what I would have looked for with salmon, but, Wow!


Sunday, January 19, 2014

GF Lunch and Dinner on the Slopes

Alpenglow Stube in Keystone, Colorado
I don't ski, and yet nearly every winter I find myself at the Keystone Resort in Colorado. This year we decided to have lunch at the Alpenglow Stube at the top of the Gondola at Keystone. I had not eaten there since being diagnosed with Celiac disease, but it is a beautiful restaurant and a fun ride to the top of the mountain – 11,444 ft! They have a prix fixe lunch menu with a two-course and three-course option.  Everyone at the table ordered salmon, and the salmon itself was really really good!  However, the asparagus it was served with seemed a little on the old side. I also ordered a pear and arugula salad as my appetizer and I kind of wish that I had gotten the little scallop appetizer instead. The person who did order the scallops said they were good, and the greens in my salad were not as fresh as I would have liked. The total effect was kind of ho-hum. I really don't mean to discourage anyone from going to the Alpenglow Stube. It is beautiful; the surroundings are magnificent; the staff are gracious; and many of their dishes are very good. They had many GF choices and the server had a list with her, so there was no running back and forth to "ask the chef."  There was also a very good flourless chocolate cake for dessert with raspberry coulis and fresh berries.  I shared with a friend and we both liked it very much.  Go, please. It is worth the gondola ride or the ski over. When they are good, they are very very good. And when they are not, it is still worth the trip.

Salmon at Alpenglow Stuben

For dinner we drove over to Breckenridge to The Hearthstone. When we go to Colorado, we almost always eat at The Hearthstone and they have never disappointed us. Great staff with funny ties, a warm atmosphere, and terrific dinners. Although I almost never order beef when I am out, this time I did. I had the Harris Ranch Filet, Black Angus tenderloin with a Malbec demiglace and Yukon Gold Anna Potatoes, with some sauteed garlic spinach. Wow! The beef was very tender and very flavorful. Great food. Great atmosphere. The Hearthstone has its own separate gluten free menu too, which makes it very easy to order.

Breckenridge also has an Ice Castle a few blocks away, which you can walk through after dinner and walk off the calories you just consumed. At night it is lighted and the colors change as you go through it.