Author Archives: Brette

IMG_0198One of the things I miss since going gluten free is donuts. Sure I can buy some frozen at the grocery store, but most of them are pretty bad (with the exception of the Katz powdered sugar donuts).  There’s no hopping in the car and picking up a dozen donuts on a Sunday morning. I miss the variety, and the racks with all the choices.

On a recent visit to LA, I found the antidote. If you’re in the LA area, you cannot skip Donut Friend.  It’s a bit off the beaten track in a unremarkable neighborhood, but you won’t regret visiting.

Donut Friend has gluten-free and regular donuts. The gluten people can pick theirs out of the case. However, those of us who are GF can customize our donuts. Here’s how it works. There’s a giant menu board on the wall that lists fillings, toppings, sprinkles, and everything else you can imagine wanting in or on a donut. You start with a basic cake GF donut. They cut it in half and insert any fillings you want. I went with Bavarian cream and strawberries. Then you decide what you want on top. I went with chocolate and almonds. You can eat the donut in the shop or take it to go.  There are enough toppings that you could go back again and again and not eat the same donut.

This was an incredible over the top treat for me. More like dessert than just another dry donut. My gluten eating companion also left thoroughly satisfied with her choices. I wished I’d had more than one after I was done!

ranchos1Trying something new is always a good thing and recently we went to Ranchos Latin Foods.  They don’t have a web site but you can visit their Facebook page for hours, address, and some pics of dishes. I found however that some of the items mentioned on their Facebook page were not seemingly available the Saturday we went (kabobs or vegetarian arepas). It took me a while to get to the bottom of what we could eat and what we couldn’t. Several months ago I posted on their Facebook page asking what was gluten free. They asked me to message them my email address. I did and never heard from them. Then recently I messaged them just asking if the arepas were gluten free. No response. Finally we called and the phone was passed around and then someone shouted out to the kitchen and reported that the arepas had no wheat flour, just cornmeal.

The restaurant is sparse but clean. The menu is pasted on the counter and on the wall with photos. There is also a white board where they seem to write specials but it was hard to decipher and understand. You order at the counter and your food is brought to you. It’s all made to order, so it took a few minutes to come out.

We each ordered an arepa – I got chicken and the husband got beef. We got them with cheese and a side of yellow rice. The arepas are like round, fried cornbread, sliced in half like a bun and stuffed ranchos2with meat that is very lightly sauced. I did find half of an olive in mine, but other than that, there are no vegetables or added ingredients. We did each get a little plastic cup of garlic herb butter which I slathered inside my arepa. The arepa itself is crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. It has a slightly different texture than cornbread and has no sweetness. The chicken in mine was moist and good. The beef in my husband’s was better I thought, although it was a little greasy. The cheese we ordered was melted across the top. I’m not sure it added anything. The garlic butter added some flavor to the whole sandwich since we could not detect a taste from the very light use of a sauce. The yellow rice was fine but not exciting.

ranchos3The husband also got a can of Tropi-Cola which tasted like cola with a fruit flavor at the end. The more I tasted it though the more the fruit flavor tasted like bubblegum to me. There is also a pineapple soda available we did not try.

We enjoyed our arepas very much. They were super hot and steaming and tasted fresh with a wonderful combo of crunch and softness. They are very filling and neither of us was able to eat all of it. I wish there were some vegetable options to go along with it but there were none the day we visited. It’s a very heavy meal to eat without any fruit or vegetable.

This is definitely a place to visit when you want to try something new and are willing to get your hands a little dirty eating.

Gluten Free Matzoh Balls

Posted by Brette in GF At Home

matzoI haven’t tried to make matzoh balls since going GF, but as I walked past the Passover display in Wegmans, it occurred to me to just take a peek and see if such a thing existed. And it does! Yehuda Gluten Free Matzoh Meal Mix was right there, waiting for me. I bought two containers. Note that if you make this you have to mix it up the day before and let it stay in the fridge overnight. You’ll need potato starch and xantham gum to make these, in case you don’t normally have those ingredients on hand.

I was very pleased with how these turned out. I think they needed to cook longer than the 45 indicated on the package, but they were still good. I made a double batch so I could freeze some. The matzoh balls turn out fluffy and delicious. I didn’t notice that they were gluten-free at all. They were perfect in the chicken soup I made. If you make extra like I did, place them on a baking sheet and freeze them, then store them in a ziptop bag until you’re ready to use them.

Mint Slims Cookies

Posted by Brette in GF At Home

mint slimsAlthough the Girl Scouts have come up with a gluten-free cookie (not so great in my opinion), they aren’t making Mint Thins for us GF people. It’s been many years since I’ve had a Mint Thin. I stumbled across a mention of Mint Slims in a magazine which claimed they were just as good as the Girl Scout version. It wasn’t a lie. These cookies are just like the Girl Scout version, except of course, there’s no gluten in them. They’re awesome stashed in the freezer and perfect for when you’re feeling completely deprived of every food you’ve ever loved. I order mine from Amazon, but I’ve heard other people have come across them in Walmart.

Chef’s

Posted by Brette in GF Restaurants | GF WNY Dining

Chefs 2016-02-26 (2)Chef’s is the quintessential Italian restaurant in Buffalo. If you live here, you’ve been. The walls are lined with photos of celebrities who have dined there. Chef’s has expanded and remodeled in recent years and also recently printed a new gorgeous menu with photos and stories. The other big news is Chef’s now offers gluten-free pasta and meatballs. We visited back in December and then again recently and have been very, very pleased both times. In my opinion, the reason to go is their famous spaghetti parm, which, according to the menu, was invented at Chef’s. The gluten-free version is exactly the same as the regular version. It’s the same size and the pasta is cooked perfectly. The meatballs are handmade in house and they are delicious. And of course the sauce is as amazing as it has ever been. On our most recent visit we were pleased to find out they offer gluten-free rolls instead of bread upon request.

The gluten-free menu is even listed online – scroll to the bottom of the regular menu page. There are no interesting GF desserts, but after eating spaghetti parm, who has room? What a thrill to be able to have a local specialty like this again.

Hydraulic Hearth

Posted by Brette in General

HydraulicHeat 2-12-2016 5-36-06 PMWe went to Hydraulic Hearth in a snowstorm on a Friday night. We had a reservation but the place had some empty tables. Good thing too, since I think it would be really loud if it was full since it is jut one big echo-y space with what I am sure is a busy bar scene. Although they do not mention on their online menu that they have gluten free pizza crust, it’s on the in-restaurant menu and a friend tipped us off. Otherwise I would HydraulicHeat 2-12-2016 5-36-16 PMnever have bothered to go (pet peeve alert).

We started with the fondue (without bread) and a farm salad. The fondue was a dish of ooey, gooey cheese with apple slices and broccoli for dipping. It was good, but it would have been nicer with some slices of gluten free bread. It also looked to me as if they made our plate sans bread, but didn’t add any extra veggies or fruit to compensate, in comparison to other tables. The salad was fine, but unremarkable. It had some goat cheese in it which was a nice touch. The balsamic dressing was a little bit too balsamic-y for my taste. It was presented very nicely inside a wall of cucumber peels which was pretty, but fell apart instantly when you ate it of course.

pizzaI ordered the burrata pizza and the husband got the sausage pomodoro. There were a couple of interesting specials – fish fry pizza and fried chicken pizza but neither were GF. The burrata was good with lots of crispy prosciutto and a good amount of burrata, tomato and basil. Again, I felt overwhelmed by balsamic vinegar. The crust was not your typical restaurant kind thank goodness (usually bought frozen on an aluminum pan crust). I don’t know if it was housemade, but it was thin, crispy, and fresh. The GF pizza 2pizzas are noticeably smaller than the gluten pizzas (imagine the pizza pans in these pics filled to the edge – that’s how big the gluten ones are). We each ate one entire GF pizza while a gluten pizza would at least feed 2-3 people. The husband’s sausage pomodoro was also good with lots of cheese and a good amount of sausage. While we enjoyed our pizzas, we didn’t feel they were fantastic and it didn’t really make us want to go back.

HydraulicHeat 2-12-2016 6-31-31 PMWe ordered the chocolates for dessert, made by local purveyor Blue Table. They were excellent. I had never had them before and they came in interesting flavors like sesame, passion fruit and coffee with dark chocolate. Delicious – and a GF choice that is NOT flourless chocolate cake or crème brûlée. Hurray.

Toutant

Posted by Brette in GF Restaurants | GF WNY Dining

Toutant 1-23-2016 5-18-28 PMOn a cold winter weekend we decided to try Toutant, known for its Southern style food. We tried to get a reservation but they had none available. The hostess suggested coming when they open to sit at one of the bar tables. We arrived a little before 5 (which they list as their opening time) to find about 8 people ahead of us in line. We did snag the last bar table but they made us wait 10 minutes after everyone else was seated before seating us.

sweet tea

sweet tea

The bar was not too noisy although it was cold to be seated so close to the front door. Our server was very conscientious and checked in with us constantly although it was nearly impossible to hear her since she was a low talker.

Country ham

Country ham

We were thrilled to see the menu clearly marked with gluten free items. However (and here come two of my pet peeves), the online menu does not indicate this at all (I only knew they had GF

cornbread

cornbread

items since someone I know ate here and told me – otherwise I would never have bothered to come) and our server brought us a specials menu which was not marked with GF items. How do you carefully mark your menu but not your specials? When we asked what on it was GF, she said she knew one thing was but would have to check. She did come back with another copy of the special menu marked up to indicate what was GF.

We each ordered a house made sweet tea since if you’re going to have Southern food, you just have this (and our server

shrimp and grits

shrimp and grits

kept bringing them so apparently they are bottomless). We started with the country ham and the cornbread. The ham came on a dinner plate (so not really a “small plate” as it was categorized) and was thinly sliced. It was very soft and had the texture of roast beef. It was lightly smoked and served with thin slices of pickle and some thick mustard. It was really a delicious plate and we had to bring leftovers home since there was too much to eat. The cornbread came in a small cast iron skillet and had crunchy edges and soft interior. Although the menu said it had honey in it, it was none too sweet. We ended up eating the ham, pickles, and mustard with the cornbread and that was a fabulous combo.

oysters

oysters

For the entree we shared the shrimp and grits. This was a nice warm bowl on a cold night. The grits were creamy, the shrimp were perfectly cooked and the tomato tasso offered a gentle sauce to the entire dish. The husband enjoyed some Vineyard oysters on the half shell which came with lemon and pickled ginger. They were fresh and beautiful. We also ordered the buttermilk taters as a side which are mashed potatoes and were creamy and rich. When they arrived at our table they were stone cold in a hot

bacon

bacon

bowl however. Back they went and some hot ones took their place. We also ordered a side of bacon which we didn’t enjoy much. It was a very meaty bacon, almost like ham with no crunch. That we brought home for our teenage son to finish off.

buttermilk taters

buttermilk taters

We inquired about desserts and were told they had two gluten free options. One was peanut butter fudge and the other was a chocolate dessert in which they could take out the chocolate cake, leaving us with ganache, sorbet, cranberries and chocolate (and you can bet they would have charged us the full price for this even though it didn’t come with the cake). Needless to say, we passed. Yet again I lamented the lack of real desserts that are gluten free. How hard would it be to buy GF cupcakes from one of the many local bakeries and freeze them then substitute that in the chocolate dessert?

I would definitely go back, but probably not for a year or so unless the menu changes. Everything was nicely done but there are just limited options when it comes to gluten free dining here. If only they would make the fried chicken GF….

UPDATE
After I tweeted my review, Toutant tweeted me to say the fried chicken can be made GF with prior notice. How on earth would I ever know this if the menu, the web site, and my server do not mention it? ESP? That is incredibly frustrating to me as gluten-free diner and very disappointing since I would have ordered this for sure.

UPDATE #2

Toutant also pointed out to me they do list GF items online. But you have to click tabs at the bottom of the page to see that and they are PDFs – not something I saw on my mobile. The main menu listed on their main page lists the dinner menu but doesn’t list GF items. I still maintain they’re making it too hard to figure out what they have to offer.

 

 

 

 

Windsor Park 1We were skeptical about Windsor Park since the menu is heavy with gluten. There’s almost nothing on it that isn’t a gluten festival. But they did say they have GF rolls, so we gave it a try. We visited the Transit Road Williamsville location on a Friday night. The interior is dark and pubby but the booths were comfortable and quiet. The server looked at us like we were a bit crazy to be eating there when we asked about gluten free options. There is no separate menu and all she could offer was that they sometimes have GF chicken fingers (but not that night) and they have GF rolls. When I asked about the salad dressings, she was vague but knew the Italian and raspberry were GF.

Our server brought us a basket of popcorn and large waters so we were off to a good start. Our food took quite a while to arrive. I got the Cobb salad with the raspberry dressing. It was a nice salad with hardboiled egg, chicken, bleu cheese, pinkish tomato, avocado, and bacon (I asked to have the onion omitted). The only downside (and a big one) was that my salad had been place in a HOT bowl. Hot lettuce is not a good thing. I asked for a bowl of ice to sit it in and soon it became chilled again, but this was a glaring oversight.Windsor Park 2

The husband ordered beef on weck on a GF roll with the chips (steak fries). We were very surprised when it arrived crusted with salt and caraway seeds. We questioned our server to make sure it was indeed a gluten free roll and she confirmed it was and that the chef had dipped the top to recreate weck. This was an amazing, thoughtful touch. Unfortunately the beef was gristly. The chips were excellent though – crisp on the outside and soft on the inside and steaming hot.

We probably would not return since the options are limited (and the Bavarian pretzels on the menu made me have severe unrelenting gluten envy), but for a salad and sandwich it worked out ok.

Relish 10-17-2015 5-17-00 PMWe went to Toronto this fall for the Paul McCartney concert and to visit friends. I was at first a little surprised that are not more places that emphasize gluten-free dining there, although our friends tell us restaurants in general there tend to mark gluten-free items on menus as a matter of course and don’t seem to have gluten-free menus. I had some trouble finding out what was gluten-free and what wasn’t since the restaurants don’t seem to make this on their online menus.  With a little research I found Relish Bar and Grill, a small little place on the Danforth. It was unassuming from the outside and there was plenty of  parking on a Saturday (there is a paid lot Relish 10-17-2015 5-11-02 PMacross the street). It looks like a bar and when you enter, the front of the restaurant is a bar where they have live music regularly. The dining area is rather small but when we arrived there were plenty of tables.

They have a separate gluten-free menu which was quite extensive. Relish is a tapas restaurant,

Trio of dips

Trio of dips

so the idea is to order lots of small plates and share them. This suited us perfectly since I wanted to try a lot of what they had. We asked for our server to spread our order out, so we wouldn’t get all the food at once. Nearly everything was excellent.  The  trio of dips, served with gluten-free toast points, was fantastic. One was an olive tapenade, another was artichoke and white bean, and the third was roasted red pepper and feta  It was so wonderful to have dip in a restaurant! All of the dips were creamy and flavorful. The artichoke was my favorite.

I was crazy about the

Salmon and potato salad

Salmon and potato salad

salmon potato and egg salad. Creamy chunks of potato with lots of smoked salmon and hardboiled eggs made this a very filling dish. The capers gave it a nice counterpoint. There was also some lettuce to help lighten things up.

Relish 10-17-2015 5-46-49 PMWe enjoyed the pumpkin seed crusted salmon. The pepita seeds gave this a lot of crunch, however the teriyaki sauce underneath it was a bit overwhelming.

Also gracing our table was a stuffed chicken roulade. It was nestled in a cream sauce and had proscuitto and spinach inside it. It’s always miraculous to go to a

Chicken roulade

Chicken roulade

restaurant and be able to order something that actually has a sauce and is gluten free! The chicken was tender and the filling was smoky and satisfying. It was true comfort food.

Relish 10-17-2015 5-46-55 PMNext up was white corn tortillas with chicken, cheese, and guac. This was good, but underneath the chips was a very spicy salsa that took us by surprise. The chicken was shredded and went well with the creamy guac. On the regular menu this dish is served in a tortilla shell and I was so grateful that they took the time to have an alternative on their gluten-free menu.

 

The polenta with tomato sauce was the only thing we didn’t enjoy. There was nothing wrong with it, but I guess I’ve just

Polenta

Polenta

determined I don’t like polenta with a red sauce. Each element of the dish by itself was done nicely, but I didn’t care for them together at all.

Relish 10-17-2015 6-13-47 PMThe mussels were a fine way to end the meal. The steamed mussels were served in a chipotle cream sauce with toast points. The sauce was spicy, but it was possible to eat the mussels without getting too much of it.

We did not have dessert because the options were not exciting (if I see another flourless chocolate cake on a menu I might hurt someone). Despite this, this was one of the most varied and best meals we have had in a restaurant in a long, long time.

 

schar croissThere are only a handful of gluten foods I truly miss and have been unable replicate and croissants are one. When I heard Schar was selling gluten-free croissants and that they were available locally, I pounced. I could only find the plain, schar croiss2not the Nutella version. Unfortunately, my excitement was not well-deserved. I paid $5.99 for a bag of 4. They are small, but they are hefty. We had them for breakfast one morning and two apiece were plenty.  They were nothing like croissants. They were heavy and tasted like a roll. There was nothing flaky and buttery and light about these. Unfortunately, the only thing that makes them croissants are their shape. I would skip these.