Sunday, December 14, 2008

Pommes Frites!

Bonjour :)
While I'm breaking one of my own rules by reviewing this eatery as it doesn't specifically have gluten notations on the menu or website, I was eager to visit Pommes Frites, a very cute, very small fry shop on the lower west side. (123 2nd Ave, Astor Place stop on the 6.)
(I'm tempted to write "French fry shop", but Pommes Frites makes it very clear that they are selling Belgian fries.)
When I first read of it online, I had the usual Celiac response of oh, wonderful, another restaurant that my salivary glands can only dream of enjoying.
Plain fries are good and all, but if the option of slathering them in a sauces called "Sweet Mango Chutney Mayo", "Parmesan Peppercorn", and "Vietnamese Pineapple Mayo", is available, why settle for plain potatoes?
However, I was sure that these tantalizing options most likely contained some kind of modified food starch-perhaps a greater enemy to a Celiac than wheat. More hidden. Tends to be craftier.

But, lo and behold, after emailing Pommes and inquiring about the gluten content of its fabulous litany of dipping sauces, I was happily informed that all of the sauces are indeed gluten free! Could it be true? "Rosemary Garlic Mayo" could be mine?

Pommes' sign could get lost in the busy cluster of storefronts surrounding it, but the line of patrons and smell of fresh fries emanating from the door leads one right to it.

The sign alone makes me want to parle francais.

Here's a better view of the store, plus a glimpse of their blackboard, deliciously listing the long list of fry sauces they offer.
Upon entering, I was struck with a deep whiff of salt and oil-
my taste buds began to salivate immediately.
It was quite crowded, but when I finally made my way to the counter, breeze after tantalizing breeze of fry-scent kept me in excited anticipation as I perused the list of dips (25!) and watched a batch of the spuds get fried and salted.
A fry-chef hard at work whipping up a batch.

From what I could glean, the fries are sliced in the back, then brought up and placed in the metal tin on the left. The cooks toss the uncooked potatoes into the first frier, then again, for a second oil bath, to make sure they have reached their crisp-potential.

I sampled the rosemary garlic mayo, sweet mango chutney and parmesan peppercorn, and of the three, the parmesan peppercorn was the far superior. I wasn't sure which was which when I first tasted them, because the Parm flavor was not overpowering at all. It was tangy, but sweet and smooth. When combined with the crisp, baby fries, I could have, like my father says,
died and gone to heaven.
The fries were perfectly crunchy, hot, and not too greasy, no small feat.
I also tried them with "frite sauce", but it tasted a bit too fatty and too much like pure mayo for my taste.
Altogether, my fries (regular sized) and sauce were a bargain $5.50.
Also, one more adorable detail about Pommes, their tiny tables in the back have holes cut into them to hold the fry cones!
If these fries had been included in the taste-test, they surely would have
beat out Mickey-D's as "America's Favorite Fry".
Also, "Celiac's Favorite Fry".

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

S'Mac-in' on Mac n Cheese

Hello again!
This time, I update you from the east coast, and let me just say,  
New York, you're a gluten free girl's dreamboat. 
To me, Manhattan's just a hunk of burning, cheesy love, especially after eating at S'Mac. S'Mac (Sarita's Mac and Cheese) is in the East Village, located at 345 East 12th Street.
It's the cute little orange doorway with the extremely long line outside. 
When we (dining companion Brittany and I) arrived, we stood outside for about twenty minutes before making it in the door. However, seeing the delicious-looking plates of mac and cheese that kept emerging from the kitchen made me realize that if I didn't stay in line, my tummy would be very angry with me.
As we waited, I read the long list of macaroni and cheese options. They all sounded delicious and intriguing, with names including "Napoletana", "Parisienne", "Alpine", and the classic "4-Cheese". I also noticed that there are 4 sizes to choose from-Gnosh, Major Munch, Mongo, and Partay.

 I settled on a 'Major Munch' sized portion of Garden Lite, which was filled with cheddar cheese, parmesan, roasted cauliflower, portobello mushrooms, roasted garlic, broccoli, and scallions. I made sure to request it gluten free, and asked for the "bread-crumbs" on top. The deceivingly-named crumbs are just gluten free cornflakes cooked on top to give the mac and cheese a satisfying crunchy top layer.

My food came quickly, and was served in the skillet it was made in! It was marked with a red skillet holder, which I think meant that it was gluten free. Brittany and I compared our dishes, and the gluten-free noodles looked identical to the glutenous ones. I couldn't wait to taste it.

One bite, and my mouth was in heaven. The blend of cheeses and the thick noodles was unlike any other gluten free pasta I've tasted. The cornflake top gave it an even more homestyle look and taste. The vegetables added the perfect amount of texture to the macaroni. 

Overall, S'Mac was just a tid bit pricey for my college budget (my meal, with a drink, cost around $15), but definitely worth both the wait and the money. Absolutely delicious! An orange gluten-free paradise.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Stillwater Restaurant and Wine Bar

Hey there,
For the first post of this blog, I figured I'd jump right in with some of the best gluten free restaurant food I've ever eaten. Stillwater Restaurant and Wine Bar is in Downers Grove Illinois, and I'd totally recommend it! I have eaten there twice and have had fantastic experiences both times.

Last night was a gorgeous summer night, and the meal my two other food compatriots and I ate was fantastic. One, Barb, is also gluten free, but Mark is of the glutenous kind.

Opening the menu, I was astounded and excited to see this greeting me on the third page:

Reading the other pages more closely, I also found this notice:

How amazing is that? We need to see more of this in restaurants!

Our server was very quick to approach our table and take our drink order. Barb ordered a wine from the extensive wine list. The server was incredibly courteous and friendly throughout the whole meal-A+. He was also very knowledgable about the menu and a gluten free diet.

When he heard that Barb and I are gf, the server went to the kitchen to put in an order for a(fresh baked!) gluten free bread basket in addition to the glutenous one served to Mark. Less than 10 minutes later, we were chowing into some warm, delicious gluten free bread.

It was very yum with the (raspberry I think) flavored butter it was served with. The server told us that it was actually Kinnikinnick pizza bread that had been cut into slices. It was warm, soft and slightly sweet-a perfect start to the meal.

Our entrees came with soup. I ordered cream of mushroom soup and Barb ordered tomato marinara with feta cheese.
The cream of mushroom soup was great! It had pieces of prime rib cooked in it along with various vegetables, and was warm and creamy.

The tomato marinara was alright, but a bit too tangy for our tastes. It was definitely marinara-it was like eating very chunky tomato sauce, and I didn't see any feta.
The entrees were next, and talk about a hard act to follow. I ordered prawn satay with grilled vegetables and a baked potato (my other options were mashed potatoes or rice). The initial presentation of my meal was beautiful, and the taste was outstanding. The prawns were cooked in a buttery lemony sauce that was absolutely decadent-I could feel my arteries closing, but it was so delicious that I'm willing to die two or three minutes earlier than if I hadn't eaten it. The shrimp were huge and cooked to perfection, slightly sweet and very tender. The veggies and the potato weren't anything special, but they were still good.

Barb ordered an avocado stuffed with crab. This meal looked so good! The cold crab was overflowing from the ripe avocado. The combination was delicious with a bit of salt. It was served with hollandaise sauce on the side that was a bit too spicy for Barb, but I thought it was nice.

Mark's meal was angelhair pasta, but this was not gluten free. I was interested in learning how dedicated the kitchen was, so we had a conversation with the owner/head chef, also named Mark. It turns out that his son is very allergic to wheat and has a hard time eating out, so he decided to open a restaurant with a dedicated kitchen and gluten free menu. His kitchen has a huge square footage, so he is able to dedicate entire stoves, ovens, and preparation areas to preparing gf food. We also learned that even though the page that proclaims "gluten free menu" is small, 85% of the entire menu is gluten free, the 15% being the pasta dishes. Any of the glutenous ingredients in any of the other dishes can be made with gf substitutes.

The rest of the menu included gourmet hamburgers and sandwiches (served on gf Kinnikinnick english muffins), seafood items like tilapia, a variety of steaks, several salads and some vegetarian dishes, such as a harvest vegetable platter.

We couldn't end the meal without dessert, so we ordered a gluten free chocolate cupcake to go. Other gf dessert items were a chocolate mousse torte, brownies and sorbets. The cupake was a bit dry but it was delicious when we ate it with the sweet lemon icing that came on the side.
Sooo good.
Overall, we had a fantastic experience at Stillwater, and will definitely be going back. It's a celiac's best friend!