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 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.

 

 

 

 

Lobster poutine

Lobster poutine

Hertel Avenue is where it’s at in Buffalo these days and on a recent Saturday we decided to head to the neighborhood and have dinner at Craving. We called for a reservation and they were pretty booked, so I recommend calling ahead.

Our waitress was a wonderful woman named Hilary who is herself gluten-free. She took the menu (which is inside a plastic covering in the menu holders) and using a  wipe off marker, crossed off what we couldn’t eat and marked things that were not GF but which could be modified. I wanted to kiss her. Why can’t other restaurants do this? It is MUCH easier than having someone point at things  – I can never remember everything they pointed at or what

Oysters

Oysters

they said. She also went through the specials menu with us. Her help was invaluable and she was very relaxed and friendly about the whole thing. What a lovely experience.

For starters, I had the lobster poutine. Oh yes. French fries with lobster, cheese and hollandaise. It was a HUGE bowlful and really could have been a complete meal. And it was incredible. This is not something I ever would have thought I would want, but it was fabulous.  The fries were homemade and had a deep flavor. The cheese was gooey. The lobster was not overcooked. The hollandaise was bright and sunny. An unbelievable plate. The husband got the oysters on the half shell which were fresh and wonderful.

For the main course I ordered one of the specials. It was prosciutto-

Marlin

Marlin

wrapped marlin, on a corn tortilla, with corn risotto. It had an avocado sauce on top and a super spicy tomato sauce on the plate (too spicy for me – I scraped that to the side). The marlin was a little dry, but the rest of the dish was good. I could have eaten a whole bowl of that risotto with the lovely nuggets of corn in it. And I’ll eat anything with avocado.

The husband ordered a small plate of the root

Short rib

Short rib

beer braised short ribs that come with a panzanella salad. Our wonderful waitress said she would just tell the chef to leave out the bread in the salad, so it was a watermelon, feta, and tomato salad. I love watermelon and feta together. The short rib was deeply caramelized and very moist and flaky.  I thought it was amazing, but it needed some potato or something on the plate. I was longing for a starch and gravy with it.

The dessert choices were limited (4 items, only one of which was GF – the ever-present creme brulee) so we passed.

Our kids were along : both had the lobster poutine and then my son had a pizza and my daughter had gnocchi. Everyone in the family was satisfied here and we were so grateful to be treated kindly and thoughtfully that we we definitely be returning here in the future!