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The ups, downs, and runarounds of Celiac Disease and food sensitivities

Archive for the tag “Restaurant review”

Zen Cat Bakery Review

If you are ever in the vicinity of Durham, NC, you MUST get your hands on some baked goods from Zen Cat Bakery! Whether plagued by food allergies or no, this stuff is for you and your belly! All products are gluten-free and vegan, minimally refined and/or organic, with no soy ingredients. Upon perusing the website and thinking this had to be too good to materialize into some form of a reality into which I could sink my sweet tooth, I emailed with the gracious owner and found that each baked good is individually wrapped in plastic at the exclusively gluten-free production site before delivery to various cafes and restaurants in the Durham/Greensboro area! Cross-contamination BE GONE. Aside from the carrot cake, that is, but when I visited Cocoa Cinnamon, the cake was in its own stand, with its own, gluten-free spatula! Joy was undoubtedly me! Where to even begin with the numerous menu items... I snuck the carrot cake into a wedding reception (to which I was invited, no sneaking in!)- wow, what a treat!

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annaB’s Gluten Free

While the number of local gluten-free bakeries in Virginia has exploded in recent months, many do not offer options for those wishing to also avoid dairy, eggs, and other common allergens. This curious phenomenon makes AnnaB’s willingness to cater to additional allergy/sensitivity needs all the more remarkable and appreciated! With a designated gluten-, soy-, and peanut-free bakery located in Mechanicsville, annaB’s makes quite the rounds in the the Richmond area, providing bread and baked goods to Ellwood Thompson’s, Whole Foods, Good Foods Grocery, and several local restaurants. They also participate in Relay Foods, allowing residents of an expanded locus (e.g. Williamsburg and Charlottesville) to partake. Everything can be made-to-order, but you can get a general idea of their offerings by checking out their online menu and photo gallery.

I had the pleasure of trying their white rolls and chocolate chip cookies, made dairy-, egg-, and corn-free, just for me! Unfortunately I could only enjoy a limited number of these items because of the bean flours (forgot to specify this sensitivity… ugh, even I can’t keep up with my no-no list), but they were both delicious (and did not taste of beans like some bean-flour products)! Be sure to check out annaB’s products, and in the meantime look at this lovely cookie and luscious roll to get you in the yummy-food mood!

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Restaurant Review: Lemongrass

Lemongrass Thai-Vietnamese Cuisine popped up on several gluten-free restaurant search websites, and after perusing their online menu with gluten-free items listed I decided to give it a try. With a serious reaction to gluten, however, gluten-free items on a menu merit additional questioning. I made the mistake of purchasing Let’s Eat Out With Celiac/Coeliac & Food Allergies! from iTunes, so I can only read it on my iPhone (silly me, I thought for sure it would be accessible by Mac laptop as well!). The book itself is very informative about dining out in general, and features descriptions of 6 specific cuisines and potential allergens in common dishes. For the Thai cuisine, it even suggested questions to ask for each type of curry! I armed my faithful Charlottesvillian with said questions (fish sauce? soy sauce? flour in meat marinade? cross-contamination) and sent him to the restaurant during non-peak time (3PM). Now, I wasn’t expecting to be able to eat at Lemongrass. My demands seemed too steep. But I was pleasantly surprised to hear that absolutely no gluten ingredients went into the curries (the owner even showed the bottle of fish sauce to my messenger), and curries are prepared in a station separate from fried dishes. Of course, they cannot guarantee anything, as is the case with most restaurants. I also had recommendations from fellow Celiacs to back me up, so we went, and it was DELICIOUS. I had red curry, and two others in my party ordered gluten-free green and massamun curries, so we shared portions. The baby eggplants were particularly delightful. Eat here with ease!

Celiac Restaurant Review: Local Chop & Grill House

This was one of my all-time favorite restaurants before my diagnosis: great food & libations, great service, locally-sourced ingredients. I would typically eat in the bar area, from the “bar menu”, which greatly understates the gourmet quality of the food! Having had a few tricky restaurant experiences, I was slow to contact the Chop House (as it’s locally called) concerning the whole Celiac / food intolerance spiel. BUT. By phone they seemed very accommodating and knowledgeable, and EVERYTHING is made there from scratch, so no question of ingredients. The server in the bar area was very willing to check with the chef on the safety of grilled salmon over salad, but he himself already knew that it likely did not contain gluten (he even listed off common perpetrators- soy sauce included!). He informed me that the duck fat fries may come into contact with breadcrumbs in the fryer (sad face, but I’m trying to avoid white potatoes, and much better to know!). Well, I’ve officially returned to the Chop House as a loyal diner- they know their stuff!

Celiac Restaurant Review: The Local, Charlottesville, Va

The Local is tucked away in the little Belmont area of Charlottesville. The online menu stars items which can be made gluten-free, so with reassurance via email that cross contamination could be avoided in the kitchen, I made a reservation with high hopes. Unfortunately, I later discovered a negative review on Tripadvisor.com, suggesting that the staff did not fully understand the nature of severe gluten issues, and that the menu was not as amenable to gluten-free dishes as it would have you believe. I don’t eat grains, and I saw other items that seemed a bit more amenable to my diet than the burger and fries that the customer had ordered (though believe me, I would be pretty pissed if that item were listed as gluten-free, but in reality all you got was a beef pattie, no bun or fries, to make it such), so I decided against cancelling. Well, turns out the reviewer wasn’t so far off base with The Local as a whole. We ordered the cheese plate, which was great, particularly since most of the cheeses were low- to no-lactose, and there was swiss chard for me to use in place of crackers. The crackers that my table mate was served (separate plate) looked like Ritz crackers, though the menu listed bread, so negative points in that regard. When I ordered the pork chop with mashed potatoes and shoestring sweet potatoes, and gave my little gluten-free/Celiac Disease spiel, all seemed well. The server subsequently came to inform me that both of the potatoes contained gluten, and that the chef recommended substituting for asparagus. Asparagus is a high FODMAP, but at that point I was willing to go with the flow and suffer a tiny bit of gastric discomfort; however, am I wrong in thinking there should have been 2 substitutes for the 2 gluten-containing sides (btw, gluten in potatoes??), not just 1? Anyhow, I was psyched to taste some pork after several years worth of vegetarianism, but the cut was more than half unmasticatable fat, which I fleetingly and unceremoniously removed from my mouth after several minutes worth of cud-chewing. The sauce was tangy and spicy, but also a bit too sugary for my taste (though I may just be super sensitive to sugar now that I hardly eat it). So, meal completed, check paid, then I noticed we were overcharged by $13 and had to wait for a new check to be run.

Overall, The Local has a great atmosphere- exposed brick and wood, low lighting, long bar. And it’s menu and locally sourced ingredients sound delicious. But I wouldn’t go back, not just for the misleading gluten-free options, but also for the quality of the food. I really tried to like it, really I did!

Celiac Resaurant Review: Slightly North of Broad aka S.N.O.B.

Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) is in fact slightly north of Broad St. in Charleston, SC. It is definitely upscale dining for the gourmand, but not ridiculously pricey and very casual on the diners end of things (in stark contrast to the tie- and apron-wearing servers and ornate interior).

S.N.O.B. has a entirely gluten free menu in addition to the regular menu, which you can peruse on their website. They also have certain daily specials that are gluten-free. The waitstaff seemed very knowledgeable about gluten-free ingredients and cross-contamination in the kitchen and plating (server ensured a separate plate for bread for shared charcuterie plate). They also design meals around local, sustainable ingredients (we had green figs!).

Oh and how divine everything tasted! The liver and head cheese on the charcuterie plate were amazing! I had tuna crudo (avocado, citrus, arugula, radish, basil oil, citron vinaigrette) and beef carpaccio (thinly sliced raw beef, red wine Dijon vinaigrette, capers,  Pecorino Romano) as my dinner, both of which conformed more or less to my paleo/FODMAPs leaning! If you have Celiac Disease or if you are healthy as pie, definitely, definitely eat here!

How apropos,  a National Geographic article on traveling with Celiac Disease!

“In Italy, for example, the government screens for celiac in children by the time they reach school age. Those who test positive receive subsidies to help pay for expensive gluten-free groceries.”

Our healthcare system doesn’t seem to operate on a preemptive/preventive plane. One can get a tax break for gluten-free food items, but you have to document the prices of normal food and receipts for gluten-free versions as proof, and I don’t buy many gluten-free alternatives (though I DO pay more than I used to for a refrigerator full of meat, fruit, veg).

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