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!

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.

 

MrsFieldsCookie1Recently my husband and I were talking a walk through the mall at night for some exercise on a cold day. We were out on errands and went to the Boulevard Mall, where we don’t often shop. On one of our laps we noticed that the Mrs. Fields cookie stand had a sign advertising gluten free cookies. Although it was counter-intuitive to exercise and then buy a cookie, we did just that. We were a little disappointed to find the gluten free cookies were pre-packaged in plastic, but I assume that’s the only way they could prevent cross-contamination. They sell only chocolate chip. We bought one to try for $1.75. It was actually pretty good, but the price seemed a little high. It was a soft cookie, which we agreed can be good or bad depending on your preference. I give it a thumb’s up. It’s nice to know that us GF folks are not left out at the cookie stand at the mall.

Noon Mark breakfast food

Noon Mark breakfast food

When we planned a weekend getaway to the Adirondacks, I was hoping to find a handful of places that had gluten-free menus or at least acknowledged they understood GF food. I did a Adirondacks 10-5-2014 2-17-41 PMlot of research before we left and came up with almost nothing. There is a little organic market in Lake Placid, called Green Goddess, that makes GF sandwiches. I couldn’t find anything that had GF food within the park online.

Noon Mark Diner

Noon Mark soup

Noon Mark soup

Simply by luck we stumbled onto the Noon Mark Diner in tiny Keene Valley, which is on the way from Lake George to Lake Placid. We found this place only because we stopped in a shop next door and asked about restrooms. They sent us to the diner where we were confronted with a huge sign about

their gluten-free options. Not only do they have amazing options like GF lasagna, French toast, sandwiches, and pancakes, but you can buy or mail order a lot of things too (pies,

coffee cakes and lasagna). We started with a bowl of cream of spinach and artichoke soup. It was broken and was clearly from the bottom of the pot since

the sign had changed to list another soup by the time we left. It tasted ok even if the cream soup had broken. Even so, this

should never have been served and neither the cook nor the waitress intervened to stop it

from going out. We tried pancakes, French toast and lasagna. These were ok. It wasn’t fantastic and the service was not great, but it was such a treat to go somewhere and have so many options. The French toast could have soaked longer. The

Noon Mark Lasagna

Noon Mark Lasagna

pancakes could have been cooked a bit longer. We had no complaints about the lasagna though. This is a shocking little oasis of gluten-free joy in the midst of the beautiful state park. There’s lots of cute little shops in Keene and Keene Valley, so it’s definitely worth a stop.

I was surprised that there were really no other gluten options to be found in Lake George (a very busy area) or areas north of there. A little more digging helped me discover there are LOTS of great gluten-free choices about half an hour south of Lake George in the Saratoga Springs area. We were staying in Lake George, so this was accessible for us. If we had stayed farther north in the park, we

would not have been so willing to drive down there each night to eat!

Adirondacks 10-4-2014 8-44-04 PMFifty South

Fifty South is a little past Saratoga Springs in Ballston Spa (maybe 10 min away). This was the best place we dined. The outside of

Fifty South Soup

Fifty South Soup

the restaurant looked a little weird to us. It felt really old and not updated. We thought how can this place have a menu that is almost entirely GF? It looked a little old-fashioned when we walked in until our eyes adjusted. The

Fifty South decor

Fifty South decor

decor was awesome – birch branches on the walls and ceiling. Kitchen towels for napkins. A piano player. Our waiter was friendly and helpful, if a little awkward. I did a little happy dance that we could order almost anything on the menu. The specials menu was also completely GF! We were truly stunned.

Fifty South Scallops

Fifty South Scallops

Instead of bread, we were brought a plate of homemade potato chips with tapenade. They would have been amazing if they were warm.

Potato Chips

Potato Chips

I started with the broccoli, cauliflower, cheddar and leek soup which was fantastic. It was warm, creamy, and did not have any overpowering taste of the vegetables as some of these soups do (especially when they are overcooked). The

husband had the poached pear salad, which had goat cheese, cranberries and candied pecans. It was a lovely little salad and the maple vinaigrette was perfect. We were off to an amazing start.

The entrees didn’t quite live up to our great beginnings though. I had the scallops with lemon caper sauce and mashed potatoes. The

Linguiini with clam sauce

Linguiini with clam sauce

scallops were perfectly cooked, but they were placed on top of the potatoes and the sauce was lost into the potatoes. The dish was also not warm. The husband had linguini and clam sauce, one of his most missed dishes from his days as a

Brownie sundae

Brownie sundae

gluten eater. This dish was also cold and there was no broth at all in the bowl. It came with a piece of gluten free toast, meant for mopping up the sauce, but there was just no sauce. Disappointing. Both dishes were prepared well otherwise and had good flavors, but fell down on the execution.

We had to have dessert since they actually had something other than ice cream and creme brulee (my biggest pet peeve as a GF diner is the failure to remember dessert!) I had a brownie sundae and the husband had apple crisp. We enjoyed both immensely.

Apple crisp

Apple crisp

We will definitely go back to this restaurant when in the area and highly recommend it for a quality GF dining experience.

Adirondacks 10-5-2014 8-24-02 PMWheatfield’s

Situated in the heart of Saratoga Springs, Wheatfield’s is an attractive little downtown place (they also have a location in Clifton Park). We chuckled at the fact that a place with a large GF

Crab mac and cheese

Crab mac and cheese

menu was called Wheatfield’s. We made a reservation and when we arrived we were asked if we wanted a table or to sit at the bar. ?????? Why would I make a reservation if I was

Real bread at Wheatfield's

Real bread at Wheatfield’s

going to come and sit at the bar? Our table was a tiny table against the banquette and we were smushed between a couple on their first date and an awkward parents meeting the girlfriend dinner on the other side.

Things started off well when our server brought us gluten-free bread. This was a lovely little warm baguette, not the usual pre-made sliced bread that is toasted. I give them high marks for this. I started with the spinach and kale salad with cranberries and goat cheese from the specials menu. It was nicely made. The husband had the Caesar salad, which had no anchovies in the dressing at all and had clearly been made with mayonnaise. This one got very low marks. For my entree, I ordered the crab mac and cheese special. It was nice with a creamy sauce and some chunks of real crab. The husband ordered a pizza with sausage and mushrooms – excited to order a GF pizza with the crust made in-house. This would have been good, but it was served cold, but on a very warm plate. Perhaps they thought they could serve us a pizza made earlier in the day by putting it

Fried chicken at Hattie's

Fried chicken at Hattie’s

on a hot plate? There were no dessert choices other than the usual, so we passed.

My advice is skip this and head to Fifty South.

Adirondacks 10-4-2014 2-47-35 PMHattie’s Chicken Shack

A restaurant that makes homemade gluten-free fried chicken? Get the smelling salts, I might faint! Hattie’s Chicken Shack does indeed

Cucumber salad at Hattie's

Cucumber salad at Hattie’s

serve GF fried chicken. Don’t make the same mistake we made though! There is a Hattie’s in downtown Saratoga Springs. This is the original Hattie’s and they do NOT have GF chicken on their menu. You have to go to the location near the Wilton Mall for the GF menu. Once we found this little storefront in a strip mall, we were happy we’d made the effort. We both ordered the GF fried half chicken. It takes an additional 20 minutes (even though the menu says 15) and it costs $6 more than the regular version. It was worth it though We also tried fries, sweet potato fries and cucumber salad. The chicken was crispy, very hot and superb, except for one breast which was tough and I suspect was old or perhaps fried twice. All the other pieces were wonderful – juicy and moist. The fries were good and I LOVED the cucumber salad. It was a wonderful side dish and something you don’t see every day. We ate way too much, but couldn’t help it since it is so unusual to find GF

Hattie's

Hattie’s

fried chicken! We highly recommend Hattie’s if you are in the area. It could be addictive.

Overall, we fared much better than expected on this trip and believe we’ve found some gems to return to in the future.

GF ebookTraveling when you are gluten-free can be challenging. Figuring where to eat, what you can eat (if you’re in another country), and how to find food on the go is tough. I’ve been traveling gluten free in the US and abroad for several years and I’ve taken everything I’ve learned and put it together in a great new ebook called The Gluten Free Guide to Travel. In it I cover:

  • How to find hotels that are gluten free friendly
  • Airline food
  • Communicating in another country
  • Researching restaurants
  • Finding gluten free local specialties
  • Gluten free tours and cruises
  • What food to pack
  • Where to buy GF food while on the go
  • How to get help finding places you can eat

This nicely priced ebook is being offered at an introductory price, so don’t miss out!

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.

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.

 

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.