Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gluten Free Christmas brunch

Hopefully everyone had a great gluten free Christmas, we did here! At some point back about 10 years ago we got this crazy idea to make some brunch like snacks that we could nibble on as we opened gifts. We would run into issues that we'd make so many snacks no one would be hungry when it came time to eat Christmas dinner... Whoops! We tried to make less so that we wouldn't have so much to eat, but that would never work, so this year we concluded, let's make Christmas dinner smaller and enjoy our snacking for brunch. That was a much better idea, and it worked well.

We had a few hot items that were more like entrees and then a bunch of tips and sweets to fill us up. 

Crab stuffed mushrooms
Lil' smokie bacon wrapped hotdogs
Beer cheese dip (using gluten free beer)
Spinach artichoke dip
Caprese Skewers
2 cheese balls
Rolo delights
Sugar cookies
Wine (Not pictured here :))

I pre-made the beer dip, filling for the stuffed mushrooms and the dessert items. Christmas morning I made the smokies, spinach dip and stuffed the mushrooms.
We had Glutino's Pretzels and bagel chips as dippers for each dip and Breton and CrunchMaster crackers for the cheese ball, as well as tortilla chips. 

The scones are from Sticky Fingers Bakery, and the Sugar Cookies are Pamela's, which is one of our favorite brands for gluten free baked goods. Everything was easy to make gluten free which was a plus!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Eggheadz Cafe

Taking a detour while on our way to a wedding in East Chicago, Indiana, we thought we'd stop and get some food. We found Eggheadz Cafe and they happen to have breakfast items, and it was interesting sounding. Some scrambled Eggs and bacon sounded good to me, but we ended up finding something much better. 

I was excited at the opportunity for waffles and pancakes, even crepes. I couldn't resist getting the crepe's. I haven't had those in years. they could do any topping/filling. I went simple and did banana's and nuts. I've never been big on fruits with jelly on my breakfast pastries. 

I had to get a side of bacon to make sure it was a little salty in case the crepe's were very sweet. The batter was a bit on the heavier side than a normal crepe. But it was just as good. The restaurant itself is a typical "greasy spoon" diner with breakfast and lunch options available. I  give them 4 dragonflies for the novelty and variety on the menu, but there is definitely a rush of getting food out and keeping customers moving that if you don't emphasize the need for gluten free it could be missed. The staff is energetic and listens to your requests. 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

McCormick and Schmick Gluten Free Holidays

Our family is pretty close knit and small. My immediate family is just four of us. Going further out my parents each only have a couple siblings, and only a couple cousins. So we don't tend to make a big pomp and circumstance for most holidays. We will do more low key one on one events where we do dinner out and everyone can get what they want, the way they want. The nice thing is then it's also a good way to meet everyone's dietary needs, or wants. 

The last several Thanksgivings we've done dinner out at McCormick and Schmick's. They generally are known for their seafood dishes, but they do a fabulous Thanksgiving Turkey dinner, and they can accommodate the meal to be prepared gluten free. Ok, so there is no stuffing or gravy, but I can live without one of the two, and we can make a box of Glutino's stuffing to have with dinner some other night! It still tastes good on days other than Thanksgiving!! Though after the last 2 years we are considering moving to Coopers Hawk for Thanksgiving next year, but not because of the food; because dinner for 4 shouldn't be a 2 1/2 hour meal!

Last year we had a reservation for 6:00 at the Skokie location. We showed up at 5:45 and were seated at 6:45. It wouldn't have been so bad if it wasn't a cattle round up at the door of everyone waiting for their tables, and the rain made it so cold and miserable. This year we went back to Oak Brook and did a reservation at 5:00,we were seated right when we walked in. (Yay!) Though it was so cold in the restaurant I had my jacket on my shoulders and my scarf on my lap to stay warm! They don't do a gluten free menu, but the hostess advised me that the waiters are trained in what is and isn't gluten free. Our server must have missed that memo. We right away told him we wanted the Thanksgiving dinner, gluten free and he stared at us blankly. We also asked what appetizers were gluten free. We had debated a few options but wanted to make sure. He recommended the Firecracker Shrimp which have pepper jack cheese and bacon on them. We asked if those could be done gluten free, he responded, "I don't know, can you have cheese? They have cheese on them." FAIL! Finally after going and talking to the kitchen staff he figured out they are ok, but we had decided on the crab tower to be safe. 

We put in our order for dinner and laughed because we finished our wine, and were sitting there freezing waiting for dinner, then our salads came out, we finished those and waited, and waited. We got dinner, and my plate seemed fine, it didn't have the stuffing for sweet potatoes, but this time I was given cranberries (yes that cup that's cut off in the photo is cranberries)! normally they remove the cranberries as well. Everything was prepared well, and tasted really good, but my turkey was cold. I decided to not rock the boat it was already 6:45 so I didn't want to send my plate back. I got a Creme brulee for dessert, which was fabulous. I could go there for drinks and dessert.

Is that not an amazing looking Creme Brulee? It's not pumpkin or apple pie, but those were at home in the fridge!

Over all they did a good job on the meal. Execution of staff knowledge, not so much, it left me a little dry. I don't like not having a menu to look over and know what to expect. Knowing that they can make Thanksgiving gluten free is a great planning advantage, though we are looking into other options for next year, but that was based 100% on our never ending meal! If we look at the execution of just Thanksgiving dinner, they get 4 dragonflies from me. If we look at the full menu and the upfront staff knowledge, and how long it took to eat, they only get 3 dragonflies. 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

BurgerFi, Gluten Free Burgers

We noticed a new place in town the other day, as we drove by, BurgerFi. Right away I had to look them up and see who they were, where they were from, how many locations they have and what they offer. As something else caught my eye I paused and forgot to resume my search until the next day when my brother asked if "that new burger place did gluten free"? I stared blankly and went back to my search. It seems they do have a gluten free or "Green Option" as they call it. They promote a fresh from farm to plate environment as well as serving craft beers as a nice local feel. Everything about the restaurant reminded me of being in California.

The option is the same one In-N-Out Burger calls Protein Style. They wrap the burger in lettuce in lieu of a bun. Their "special sauce" tastes a lot like In-N-Out burgers sauce as well. I really liked the taste of their burger! It was a little messy to eat, but like In-N-Out they had a paper wrapper around the burger to help hold it together, especially since lettuce isn't the best material to soak up extra juice and sauce! 

My Only disappointment is they have onion rings. Don't get me wrong I LOVED onion rings in my Pre-Celiac days, but Onion rings when dinning out is a huge contamination issue. I did ask the nice gal who took our order, she said they are fried together. Poop! No fries for me. The worst part was my brother telling me how they were the really good tasting fries, and they were so good. Double poop! I did contact them and told them they should have a separate fryer cause they could be a gluten free dream if they did.

I will give them 3 dragonflies, because I did really like my burger, but really wished I had a side to go with it. Even if it turned out to be potato chips, at least it would be a side.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

California Pizza Kitchen Does Gluten Free, Take 2.

Take two for gluten free pizza at CPK. This time they seem to have hit a home run with doing it properly. They teamed up with GIG to train their staff, and make a pizza that didn't come with a huge disclaimer and a lot of angry customers. Previously there was a huge disclaimer, similar to the one that Domino's touts on their gluten free pizza, "Not for those who have Celiac disease."
You  could order any of their famous pizzas made to order they would use aluminum foil no the pan to make sure no CC happened on the pan, and they moved towards not cutting the pizza so that the cutter didn't contaminate the pizza. The part they missed was the sharing of ingredients and the sauce spoon on the regular pizzas. After enough back lash, the CPK Gluten free pizza was no more.

Fast forward to now, CPK made a huge press release that they now have 4 gluten free pizzas that they worked on with GIG to provide the best dining experience possible. Their menu does note that if you want something other than those 4 you do run a higher risk of cross contamination, but it's clearly stated on the pizza menu. The nice thing is they have a couple, small plates that are gluten free as well as their salads. For the longest time way before being G-Free I would get their salads each time I went, they are really good. 

The gluten free pizzas are on a separate menu, and is easily searchable on their website. When we sat down I noticed there was a sign on the table advertising that they did have gluten free pizzas. When our server came over I asked him if I could have the BBQ Chicken Gluten Free pizza. Right away he asked if it was a dietary or allergy situation. When I said allergy he made a note on the ticket. It seemed like we waited forever for our food, considering I was the only one who got pizza, and the place was pretty dead, I'm not sure what the delay was. 

Eventually our food started to come out. The other two people with me got their meals, and the server said the manager would bring mine out since it was being kept separate from the other meals to avoid contamination. The manager came over, told me he thought I'd be very pleased with the pizza and that they were happy to have the option back on the menu. He also complimented my choice of their signature BBQ Chicken pizza. He also said he'd come and check on us shortly. Which he did. Also there is a little wooden stick that says Gluten Free stuck in the center.

I have to say the pizza crust is thin.. Very thin, like flat bread thin. Also a little cardboard like texture. The taste over all was OK. Nothing that I'm going to stand on a corner raving about, but it was tasty and when trying to plan a meal out, I will go for it. Plus I'm a sucker for their corn guacamole small plate appetizer. Their regular menu does have a little GF next to items that are gluten free for small plates and salads. So if you're not in the mood for pizza you have a couple other options.

They have some good mixed drinks and good pricing for wine, which can make up for their lack of a gluten free dessert option. I give them 4 dragonflies, they are taking the time and effort for pairing with GIG to train to understand how to properly serve a gluten free pizza as well as taking steps to make sure their customers are aware of risks involved. This time they have it correct, and are being diligent in their practices. 


Friday, December 6, 2013

Pumpkin Pie

I was diagnosed right before Thanksgiving, 3 years ago. Right away we all started to wonder, is there gluten free pumpkin pie, and where do you find one? We had heard about Rose's Wheat Free Bakery in Evanston, so we ventured over and got a pie for me from there.  It was good, the crust was a bit tough but it was something, which is better than nothing, and I just couldn't do a crust less pumpkin pie. Something about the texture reminded me of, well dog food is a not so graphic description.

By the time Thanksgiving 2012 came around I had discovered Sweet Ali's Bakery in Hinsdale, following them on Facebook I saw they had a post, pre-order your pumpkin pies so we don't run out! We made sure to order several pumpkin pies, a quiche, some pumpkin cupcakes, and some cinnamon rolls. Their pumpkin pie was delicious and made a note to order early again in 2013 to make sure I could get a pie. They also have them in the frozen section in several local stores like Fruitful Yield.

This year Whole Foods opened a new store closer to me, and while checking out the store we saw a sign for ordering your Thanksgiving dinner, including pumpkin pie. We talked about it and decided it was worth checking them out, at least we would know if it's any good and it was much closer to home to pick up the day before Thanksgiving. 

In our house you can't have pumpkin pie without whipped topping! Oh it makes it so yummy!

For convenience I'll stick with the pie from Whole Foods, but if I find myself near Sweet Ali's I may not be able to resist theirs.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Fox Tail Beer

A New Gluten Free Beer! Sign me up for taste testing!!! My love affair with beer is brutal when it comes to mentioning I can't have most beers!

My boyfriend fits into my family for our love of beer and tasting new ones. On a recent Saturday morning he happened to be all the way out in Naperville taking care of some family business. He decided to stop at Binny's in Naperville to pick up some beer for the evening. (My recent purchase of "your so awesome" cupcakes may have helped spur this purchase.) I started to get frantic text messages about gluten free beers they had, that he had never heard of before. I was furiously texting back for more details. 

He found a new beer by Green's and Fox Tail Beer from Joseph James Brewery in Nevada. At first the name didn't sound familiar. Then when he sent a picture I got really excited. This was on me, "I am determined to find and try this beer" list.The original reason I wanted to try it was because it comes in cans or bottles. It's the first gluten free beer in a can, which is Great for tailgating and NASCAR events where they don't allow glass bottles inside. I have to hope they carry Mike's hard lemonade, or stick with my mini bottles of Rum.

This ended up being one of several that we tried that night. Pouring it in the glass it's light in texture and color, it's similar in color to a miller light. First taste, it was similar to Lakefront Breweries New Grist - It's made with rice. Rice gives beer a very distinct taste when drinking it. It's sweet, and fruity. It has a very citric taste to it. The light color translates into the flavor on the tongue, nice and light.

One thing I noticed on the 2nd bottle was that if you drink it out of the bottle, it foams up more than usual. So you have to be careful when putting the bottle down, it will waterfall over the top. Pouring it in a glass is a safer bet. I really really liked it. I like light beers so this is on my wishlist to show up at either Binny's by me.