Author Archives: Brette

Afternoon tea

Afternoon tea

My husband and I treated ourselves to a few days in Bermuda to celebrate our 25th anniversary. Bermuda is a stunning place with pink sand beaches, a lush and flowery landscape, friendly locals and some great shopping. You can read about how wonderful the island is in this piece I wrote for GoGirlfriend. I didn’t anticipate having a lot of difficulty dining gluten free here. First of all, there is no language barrier. And secondly, after vacationing in Ireland last summer we know that there are many, many people

Hors d'oeuvres

Hors d’oeuvres

in Ireland and the British Isles with celiac or gluten intolerance. Ireland is highly attuned to this and we dined quite well there. Since Bermuda is still under the crown, I expected that perhaps we would fare well here. Unfortunately there are only one or two places with gluten free menus on the island and we encountered a general ignorance about gluten most places (one waitress had equated it with dairy in her mind).

We chose to stay at the Fairmont Southampton (read my review of the hotel here)  in part because it offers the Fairmont Lifestyle menu options. All of their restaurants have gluten free options available and the staff is trained to understand what gluten is.  Because there were no other rooms available and because we were celebrating an important occasion, we stayed on the private concierge gold floor. In addition to a separate concierge desk on the floor, guests are provided with a free breakfast (continental with one hot item), free afternoon tea, free beverages, free hors d’oeuvres, and free dessert.

Dessert

Dessert

When we made the reservation we quizzed the reservation agent about whether our gluten free diet could be accommodated and she assured us it could be. Our needs were noted in the reservation. When we checked in, the concierge was aware of it and told us there would be gluten-free options for us at each food service.

There was some confusion the first time we came to the little dining area, but once the staff knew who we were, they always had gluten free options stashed for us in their little kitchen. They provided wonderful little snacks for us and the afternoon tea was over the top with scones, dessert squares, chocolate covered strawberries, and truffles. The hors d’oeuvres each night were completely gluten free so we could just help ourselves. They made little bites on

Ocean Club rock fish

Ocean Club rock fish

cucumbers and had cheese, fruit and chips available. The evening desserts were mousses or macarons, but were always delightful.  We each ended up with a little extra padding around the waist from all of these extra snacks and goodies. It was a wonderful experience.

Breakfast buffet

Breakfast buffet

We did not have breakfast on the concierge floor and instead bought the full buffet breakfast. They had gluten free toast available on request and there were always eggs, bacon, fruit, yogurt, cottage cheese, smoothies, and omelets. If we didn’t look at the pastry offerings, we were happy!

Ocean Club mixed seafood grill

Ocean Club mixed seafood grill

We also dined at two restaurants at the hotel – the Ocean Club and the Waterlot Inn. The actual gluten-free menus for these restaurants were quite small, but they say they can make almost anything on the menu GF.

The Ocean Club

This beautiful restaurant is set on a patio above the Fairmont’s private beach. We enjoyed a mixed seafood cocktail and 3 types of oysters as well as gluten free bread as starters. Our entrees were rockfish (a Bermuda local specialty) with banana, almonds and butter sauce and a mixed seafood grill with calamari, shrimp, scallops and three types of fish with tartar sauce. We had a Bermuda strawberry split for dessert (made with meringues). All the fish was of good quality and the dishes were nicely prepared.  Seafood is often a good bet for a GF choice however as we learned while dining elsewhere on the island, it’s almost impossible to get anyone to serve you any kind of sauce with your fish if you can’t

Waterlot surf and turf

Waterlot surf and turf

eat gluten. This was the first place we dined and we didn’t realize how good we had it until we tried to dine elsewhere and often had to eat our fish plain (unless we begged for some butter and lemon to go with it).

The Waterlot Inn

Our final meal in Bermuda was on our actual 25th anniversary so we chose to go to the Waterlot, the fine dining restaurant on the property. The Waterlot is situated on the harbor (the other side of the hotel) and was a bit dark and heavy feeling inside. The staff was excellent and when they learned it was our anniversary they became even more helpful. We were brought gluten free bread to start. We enjoyed a shrimp cocktail as a starter (however we couldn’t have the cocktail sauce since they said it had gluten in it – which is possible if the Worchestershire they use contains gluten, however it really wouldn’t have been hard for the chef to mix some ketchup and horseradish

Waterlot grouper

Waterlot grouper

together). We also had a Caesar salad made tableside which was fabulous.

For our main dishes we ordered surf and turf (beef tenderloin and a local fish called red hine) and grouper with mango salsa. Everything is a la carte here, so we ordered potato gratin and asparagus. The asparagus was supposed to come with hollandaise, but again we were confronted with a sauce with gluten, so our asparagus came plain with lemon (a good hollandaise should not have gluten in it – it is egg yolk, lemon juice, and butter – that’s it!)

There were no desserts on the menu that really appealed to us so the chef put together a flourless chocolate cake with some fruit sorbets in a beautiful presentation

Waterlot sides

Waterlot sides

(including a piece of chocolate that said “Happy anniversary!”).

The food here was good but it does not rate as a top meal in my mind at all. I was disappointed that a hotel and restaurant that claim to understand and cater to special diets could not do a better job with substitutions and

Dessert at the Waterlot

Dessert at the Waterlot

creative options. However, in comparison the rest of the food we had in Bermuda, it was excellent.

If you stay at the Fairmont you know that you have safe, tasty food options (which is really in stark contrast to some other meals we had on the island) and a staff that at least understands your needs. We were deeply impressed with the food service on the concierge floor, as well as the extra attention that was put into making sure we were happy.

3-Dick and Jennys GI 7-26-2014 7-04-54 PM.com_2F4DJeDhP1BUinYsCCyWnuUj9cbkicjY3QrKsdTbBvnKdb_3Ds0-dWe had a wonderful gluten free dinner at Dick and Jenny’s on Grand Island, NY recently. They have a separate menu with lots of options, so we were excited to give them a try. The restaurant is a little small inside with some odd configurations (a curtain separates the dining room from the kitchen and a piano sits in the middle of the room). The walls are2-Dick and Jennys GI 7-26-2014 6-14-38 PM.com_2FLt_dbt2swHpeMQgNq5nG_paQvCZ-vhKsLeb7waClLhmh_3Ds0-d decorated with plates that were painted or drawn on by customers which is a cute idea. Our server was pleasant and very helpful when it came to gluten free options. When we ordered, he asked if we would like some fresh fruit instead of bread to

Oysters

Oysters

start. This was a very nice touch that was much appreciated.

I started with a portobello mushroom with fontina cheese and balsamic

Shrimp and scallops

Shrimp and scallops

glaze. It was nicely done. The husband had

Pasta

Pasta

smokey char-6-Dick and Jennys GI 7-26-2014 6-26-50 PM.com_2F2q3bD40iQE0DVVXIjoe3sfEYoANJx6NMRZ_CX2Jx-6_m_3Ds0-dgrilled oysters which were a bit like clams casino and he definitely approved. For my main course I had the shrimp and scallops with sweet potato grits and spinach. It was perfectly done and a wonderful mix of flavors. The husband had the black and blue pasta which included tri-tip and brisket in a cream sauce with Gorgonzola and bacon with rice noodles. It was a big, flavorful wow, other than one bite I had that was gristly.

It was a nearly perfect meal, but then we looked at the desserts and were disappointed as always. Our choices? Creme brulee and ice cream. Which is what I would have predicted. I wish someone would offer something else just once in a while! So we passed on the desserts and went home happy anyhow.

Other than that gripe, this is our new favorite place for GF food in Western NY!

LibertyPound ToastHarry’s Continental Kitchens was another foray into the GF dining options in the Bradenton/Sarasota area. There are lots of restaurants to explore on Siesta and Longboat Keys,

Shrimp-cargot

Shrimp-cargot

about a 30 minute drive from Bradenton. Harry’s looks nondescript from outside. It’s tucked behind the Harry’s retail store and has some tables outside. The inside is really quite lovely though. The back dining room is all white with floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking a very tropical and lush garden area. It feels elegant and upscale. The wait staff was very professional.

We were thrilled that they have a separate GF menu.Our meal began with some GF bread served with butter and roasted garlic.

Grouper with risotto

Grouper with risotto

To be honest, it was toasted commerical sliced GF sliced bread – essentially toast- but we were still thrilled to have it. We were also happy that my husband’s iced tea came with a pitcher of simple syrup for non-grainy sweetening. We were off to a good start.

We started by sharing the shrimp-cargot – a take on escargot. 10 shrimp were cooked in butter, cheese and garlic in a traditional escargot dish. It was decadent and delicious. I had the grouper with tropical risotto and it was fantastic. The risotto had tiny piece of pineapple in it. The dish came with a mango gastrique that added a nice flavor. I am going to have to go back here to have this again. The husband got the pomarola pasta with shrimp.

Shrimp pasta

Shrimp pasta

This would have been good, however the GF pasta wasnot even close to al dente and was actually crunchy. It was almost inedible.  The flavors were good however. There were no GF dessert selections other than ice cream – a disappointment. I continue to be frustrated by restaurants who make such an effort to have a robust GF menu but then forget about dessert.

Overall we give Harry’s high marks and will likely come back here on our next visit.

Caesar salad

Caesar salad

We’re going to be spending a lot more time in the Sarasota area since our daughter is moving there for med school. Our recent visit to find her an apartment gave us a chance to

Grouper

Grouper

start scoping out the gluten free dining options. Our first try was at YachtSea Grille in Bradenton. It sounds like it’s in a lovely location (right near the water) but in fact it’s basically situated between a highway and a parking lot with no view. That didn’t deter us and we were thrilled they had a separate gluten-free menu. There is a large outdoor area that is enclosed with a tent-type enclosure. The indoor area by the bar is very small.

We started with Caesar salad, however both our salads came out with croutons, even though we asked for gluten-free menus and specifically told the waitress we were gluten-free. They offered to make new salads, but since we are just intolerant and not celiac, we just picked them off. The salads were good other than that. The husband got the ribs, which were smoky and good. The waitress however asked him how he wanted his ribs done – a very odd questions since ribs require slow roasting or smoking and must be cooked in advance.  I had the macadamia encrusted grouper which came with a lemon basil aioli. It was nice to have something gluten free that had a crunch to it! The fish was cooked nicely and the sauce was a nice variation on tartar sauce.I had fries as a side and they were good.

We were thrilled to see that the menu had a gluten-free brownie sundae as a dessert. Finally, something other than ice cream or creme brulee as an option. The menu also LibertyPound Ribsoffers GF buns for their burgers. We would definitely come back here for a casual dinner or lunch, but it’s not a place that lends itself to relaxing and enjoying a view.

 

lib hound musselOn a recent rainy Saturday we decided to check out the Liberty Hound, a relatively new addition to the growing Canalside neighborhood. The restaurant shares a building with the naval museum, so it’s a little confusing to find the entrance. The restaurant was smaller than we expected, with maybe 12 tables inside. There is also an outdoor patio which was not usable on the cold and rainy evening we visited. The restaurant has a quaint and cozy feel and there is some view of the canal as well as big ships. The menu is on the small side, with an emphasis on seafood. There are nightly specials as well. They do not have a separate gluten free menu but our waitress assured us almost everything could be made GF and she also told us that “the guys in the kitchen are totally on top of gluten-free.”

We started with the Liberty Mussels. They are cooked in a broth that uses beer, but the waitress said they would be made with gluten-free beer for us. They arrived and smelled wonderful. The menu said they were made with bacon and there was plenty of it. We did not see any of the sweet onions or bleu cheese the menu said was included in the dish. It could be that the bleu cheese was left out since some people believe it contains trace amounts of gluten. The mussels were fresh and tasty and we loved the hunks of bacon lib hound burger2that joined them.

For our main course, the husband ordered the Bistro Burger without a bun. The menu promised brie, caramelized onions and dijonnaise. The only item that appeared was the brie. This was a little disappointing, but we got over it since the sirloin burger was truly magnificent. It had a crunchy outer and a tender, flavorful center. It came with fries which we enjoyed.

I ordered the Lobster Cobb Salad which was beautiful. There was plenty of lobster, a sliced hard-boiled egg, cucumber, onion, bacon and avocado on a bed of different lettuces. It was served with a too small little dish of creamy tarragon dressing. The salad definitely needed more dressing. Everything in the salad was fresh and wonderful though.

We loved our food, despite the missing elements. Now for the bad news. I am afraid I may have been glutened. I’m not sure how though. The husband had no effects at all, so if it had been the mussels (real beer instead of GF maybe?) he would have felt it too.We both ate the fries.  The only item I can imagine is the salad dressing, since he had just one bite of salad. I did not ask if it was made in-house and assumed it was. I also assumed that it was GF since we had been very clear about our needs. I have some questions about the chef’s knowledge lib hound saladof gluten because the waitress told us we could order a salmon and couscous dish on the menu since the chef told her there was no gluten in the couscous. Couscous is always made from wheat. I don’t know if that was her misunderstanding or there is a lack of knowledge in the kitchen.

I would go back and give this another shot since the food was just so good and we enjoyed seeing a part of the city we don’t usually visit.

Edamame

Edamame

I’m generally suspicious of Asian restaurants when it comes to gluten. There are so many landmines to navigate. Do you have gluten-free soy sauce? Does your sushi rice have

Seafood Soba

Seafood Soba

gluten? And there is the issue as to whether they use any bottled sauces (like teriyaki or oyster sauce) which also could have gluten or if regular soy sauce is used when cooking a dish. Then sometimes there is a language barrier that can make it harder to be clear. I usually stick with PF Chang’s, a national chain, and our local Wok and Roll, which both have designated GF menus.  Recently we decided to expand our horizons, so we called Fuji Grill on Maple Road in Williamsville to ask if their sushi is gluten free and if they have gluten free soy sauce. The answer was yes to both, and they promised that almost everything could be made gluten free.

The menu is a nice mix of sushi, soups, salads, entrees, noodles, and fried rice. We started with edamame which was fresh

Dream Roll

Dream Roll

and

Queen roll

Queen roll

delicious. We all shared a sobu noodle stir fry with seafood. I quizzed the waitress to be certain the noodles were 100% buckwheat. It only occurred to me after we had left the restaurant that one ingredient in the stir fry appeared to be imitation crab, which can contain gluten. No one pointed this out, and honestly I don’t know why anyone uses imitation crab anymore so I didn’t expect it. If it did contain gluten, it did not make us sick, so my guess is it did not have gluten. I will need to try to anticipate imitation crab being used in seafood dishes in the future.

Mochi

Mochi

We then ordered three types of sushi: angry birds (which our daughter got  – it was not GF), queen roll and dream roll (which included spicy crab). All were good, however the queen roll (smoked salmon and avocado) had no rice: it was wrapped in cucumber, which was not made clear on the menu. The fish was fresh and we were brought a bottle of GF soy sauce to use.

For dessert we had mochi – little balls of flavored ice cream covered in a chewy coating made of rice, in vanilla, green tea, strawberry and mango flavors. They were little bursts of creamy flavor and very good, but a tad difficult to eat.

We would go back to the Fuji Grill without hesitation.

I’ve been cooking with the How Can It Be Gluten Free Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen. Hop over to my other blog and read the review here. 

how can it be gluten free

Spring rolls

Spring rolls

We decided to check out Seasons 52 in Naples, FL on a recent trip. I was not aware it was a chain before we went and if I had known that, I would not have selected it. That being said, the food was acceptable. It was quite difficult to get a reservation and the place was packed. We sat in a large booth. A huge menu was handed out. When we asked about gluten free options, the menu was whisked away and we were handed a tiny menu the size of half  a piece of paper with only a few items on it. This was disappointing to us. I started with lobster and shrimp spring rolls. This was the best dish of the night. It came with 3

Sushi

Sushi

dipping sauces: lemongrass, salsa verde and a sweet chili sauce. All three were wonderful. I would get this again and would probably order two of them with some side order and call it dinner. The husband enjoyed tuna sushi, with gluten free soy sauce. It was fresh and enjoyable. My entree was grilled trout. And that’s all it was. There was a tiny dish with a tbsp of an overly thick lemon cream

Trout

Trout

sauce but not enough to flavor the entire fish. It also came with carrots and some plain potatoes. Everything needed seasoning and sauce. My husband ordered the lemongrass salmon. It was listed as an entree on the GF menu but apparently was a salad. There was a small piece of burned fish with a big plate of greens with some mango and pineapple mixed in. This was better than the trout, but didn’t feel like a meal. We likely wouldn’t go back to this restaurant unless we were in a pinch, looking for something

Salmon

Salmon

we could trust to be GF.

Ok, not really, but Ireland is a gluten-free paradise in many ways. Many Irish are “coeliac” so gluten free food is simply everywhere. Check out where we ate in Dublin and how wonderful it truly was in this post. 

Deviled eggs

Deviled eggs

A recent visit to Naples meant a new search for gluten-free dining. Naples is slowly catching on to the need for GF food at last. We had a wonderful meal at The Hobnob, on 5th Avenue South, one night. We were thrilled to see a menu with items clearly marked GF (a rarity in this neck of the woods), but there were a few hiccups. While the app and entree items on the menu are marked, the sides are not. We asked and were told they were all GF. Another glitch was the grouper and chips was marked GF yet said it came with malt vinegar, which is never GF. We asked and after checking with the kitchen were told there was no malt vinegar in the dish and the menu had been revised after printing.

There was no GF bread service, so we watched our companions enjoying corn muffins. My husband started with fresh oysters which he enjoyed immensely. He sampled a variety from around the country and pronounced them all fresh and wonderful. I started with deviled eggs, something I’ve made many times at home but never had at a restaurant.  They had big hunks of bacon and tomato jam – I could have eaten a dozen more. The flavors popped.

Grouper and Chips

Grouper and Chips

We both enjoyed the grouper and chips for our entrees – finding GF grouper and chips is so rare we both had to get it. The grouper is cornmeal coated and fried crisp. The fries were crisp and perfect. The tartar sauce was creamy and a nice contrast to the fish. I would have liked to see a piece of fish just a smidge bigger.

We ordered two side orders of vegetables for the table since our entrees included NONE. Garlicky spinach and roasted vegetables were both done nicely.

There was no GF dessert other than ice cream and flourless chocolate cake. This is a HUGE gripe with me! You can manage to create a menu with some actual choices, yet you just give up on dessert? There is a well-known GF baker in Naples restaurants could order from if they don’t wish to make their own.

My other note is that the waitress gave me attitude about my GF questions. If your menu specifically lists GF, then you must be prepared to cater to those diners and answer their questions. My question about the malt vinegar was an annoyance as well as my query about whether the side were GF. A friendlier and more supportive attitude would have been appreciated.

This restaurant is quite loud, so be prepared to shout.

The other diners at our table enjoyed their food as well, so we would definitely go back when in the area.