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.

Sun springWe’ve been hearing the buzz about Sun Restaurant for quite a while. However, we weren’t sure that there would be many choices since so many sauces at Asian restaurants contain soy Sun noodlesauce, and thus, gluten. We were encouraged however when we found that their online takeout menu lists gluten free choices. We decided to get take out and take it to our daughter’s apartment, leaving leftovers for her. When we called to order we had a lot of trouble Sun rollcommunicating with the non-native English speaker who took the order. There were definitely things we said that she did not understand and things she said that we could not understand. We tried to make it very clear that we needed gluten-free food, but were unsure how clearly that message was received (we both suspect wesun rice may have had some gluten based on how we felt the next day). I think this would be much easier if you dined in the restaurant and could work with a server in person who understood the concerns.

We ordered (or at least we think we ordered):

sun rice pudMilk tea: this was pleasant but not remarkable we found

Black rice salad: I loved this combo of mango, avocado, red pepper, lettuce, cashew, peanuts and dressing on sticky black rice. Definitely my favorite dish.

spring roll: We asked for chicken and this was done nicely – crunchy and good.

Tiger Sun roll: avocado, cucumber, crab, shrimp made up this sushi roll

Grilled salmon roll: This was also tasty, salmon with avocado, seaweed, and cilantro

Mango roll: this contained sweet potato and avocado

Rice noodles with chicken curry sauce: the curry sauce was mild (we don’t do well with spicy foods) and it was a nice mix of noodle, veggies, and herbs

Burmese fried rice: We asked for chicken and this was a very good fried rice version

Thai basil fried rice: another excellent fried rice bowl with chicken, veggies, and basil

Black rice pudding and Mango sticky rice pudding: Our two desserts were very similar, one with mango and one with sweet potato and coconut milk. Both were good, but by that point we were on rice overload.

I would consider a repeat, but only if we dined in since it was simply too hard to communicate by phone. I definitely want to have the black rice salad again.

 

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.

Ember_Pizza2South of Rochester, NY, just east of Conesus Lake (and west of Canandaigua) lies the tiny village of Livonia. There’s not much happening in Livonia, other than 2 restaurants, an ice cream shop and a small grocery store. Most of the clientele are locals, but in the summer the area burgeons as people flock to their cottages on Conesus Lake. There’s not a lot of dining choices in this neck of the woods, but Embers has made a big name for itself in the year or so it has been open.

Fries

Fries

The biggest caveat about Embers is that they do not bring your food together. They bring whatever is ready first. So one person could get an entree and eat halfway through it before the other person’s entree might arrive. They are adamant that they do this so that food is served hot and fresh and they won’t do it any other way.

We were pleased to discover they have a gluten-free options (marked by a “G” after the item on the menu) and even more excited to find out they have gluten-free pizza.

The gluten-free items at our table were: French fries, Pizza Margherita, Asian Sesame Beef, and

Chicken kabob

Chicken kabob

Free Range Chicken Kabobs.

Let’s get to the knife in my heart first. The pizza crust is not made on site, so guess what? It’s the same piece of round cardboard you get everywhere else. The pizza had a few glops of tomato, a few pieces of basil and a couple puddles of mozzarella. It was nothing worth eating, unfortunately. (And I recently made a GOOD GF pizza at home myself so I KNOW it is possible).

The fries were not great – kind of dry and hard. Note that the fries are designated GF on the menu, but the restaurant does fry other items in oil. I did not ask if they use separate oil for the fries since this is not an issue for me. If you go, ask to be sure.

The Asian Sesame Beef could have been good but was a big bland. It needed more rice and it would have been nice to have more than a tiny few bites of rapini – it needed more vegetables. Overall though, it was good. The chicken kabobs were the hands down winner. We loved that there peaches and nectarines on the skewers with the chicken and onion. The quinoa underneath it was moist and flavorful, with nice veggie mixed in, as well as some honeyed cashews, but note it is a cold salad.  Despite this weird juxtaposition,

Sesame beef

Sesame beef

I loved this and it was the winner.

We didn’t have dessert – creme brulee was the only contender possible. Instead we walked around the corner and had ice cream. You’ll want to do the same!

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

Before we became gluten-free, Torches was one of our favorite places. The owners have recently opened Smoke on the Water in Tonawanda, on the creek near the Canal. This spot is a bit hard to spot since it’s tucked away on the corner of Young and Broad. There is very little parking in their lot, but plenty across the street behind Walgreens.

The restaurant is pretty small inside with a bar and some tables and it has a bar ambience, but the back deck is wonderful. There are plenty of tables with a view of the Creek. We enjoyed our visit here very much. Our server was friendly

Smokehouse Salad

Smokehouse Salad

and helpful and she was happy to inquire in the kitchen about what was gluten free (I’m still hoping for a server somewhere who will know this without having to check, but I can’t complain since she was very thorough!).

The four of us decided to order The American Dream. This allowed us to get 4 BBQ entrees , 4 salads, and 3 sides for $75, less than it would cost to order just the entrees and sides separately, so with the salads, it was a nice bargain. There are only two salads on the menu, so we got two of each – Caprese salad was very nice with fresh basil and smoked mozzarella dressing up the tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic glaze. The Smokehouse salad was a wedge of

BBQ platter

BBQ platter

iceberg with bacon, potato chips, tomato and bleu cheese dressing. Everything was gluten-free and all were nicely done.

For our entrees we ordered turkey, chicken, ribs, and pulled pork. They arrived on a big wooden platter. They cook everything in a big smoker in the parking lot, so this is the real deal. The BBQ sauce is gluten free. Everything was tasty. The turkey was something you don’t normally find at a BBQ joint and it had just enough smoke. The ribs were tender. The chicken was perfect and the pulled pork was tangy and moist.

For our sides, our kids got cornbread (NOT gluten-free so I didn’t sample). We chose sweet potato fries as our second side. These are waffle cut and come with

Sweet Potato Fries

Sweet Potato Fries

honey butter. They were fantastic – crisp and sweet. They are not fried in oil with anything else, so they are safe. We also ordered the Chiavetta’s potatoes – baby potatoes that have been boiled, soaked in Chiavetta’s dressing (by the way, I’ve confirmed with Chiavetta’s that their BBQ sauce and Italian dressing are gluten-free) and grilled. I wasn’t a fan of these. They needed to be grilled much more than they were – there were faint grill marks on one side of only some potatoes. There was nothing crisp or crunchy happening there. The dressing was very sour and tasted like straight vinegar.  I wasn’t a fan.

The menu has several sandwiches, but some would be good without the bread – the bologna sounded pretty good to us! Other eye-catching items included the baked beans that have collard

Grilled Potatoes

Grilled Potatoes

greens in them, French fries with voodoo powder, blackened grouper, whisky smoked shrimp with aoili, and a smoked pork stuffed potato. They have a specials menu, so be sure to check that out – prime rib was on it the night we visited with a creative preparation. Desserts appeared to be all gluten so we didn’t partake, but this is nice and close to Mississippi Mud’s at Niawanda Park, so ice cream is just down the street!