Pizza and wings

Pizza and wings

I’ve finally found it! A really, really good take out gluten-free pizza! The bad news? If you live in Buffalo, it’s not a short drive. The Livingston Pizza Company is located in Avon, NY, home to the famous corn festival. We spend a lot of time at Conesus Lake which is how we happened upon this gem. It’s hidden down a side street in Avon and we only know about it because we saw an ad in the local Pennysaver. If you’re heading out to the Finger Lakes, definitely take a detour through Avon.

This is a pizzeria and bakery. The pizza was as good as what I’ve made at home. At last, a take out GF

Brownies

Brownies

pizza that tastes like real pizza! We got ours with spinach, mushrooms, and broccoli. They have a full extensive menu of GF pizza choices to choose from. The pizza had none of that gumminess or cardboard texture you get at most places. The deal was sealed when we saw it was hand shaped – no prefab dough on an aluminum sheet here. Their sauce was tasty – not too sweet, not too tangy. Everything about this pizza was spot-on.

The menu also has GF pasta dishes, sandwiches, paninis, wings, and salads. The wings we had were

Chocolate pie

Chocolate pie

excellent.

We bought a chocolate cream pie which was to die for. Thick, rich, not cloyingly sweet – it was heaven. The crust was thin and flaky. Nothing gummy about this.

We sampled a variety of cookies, which are not cheap at $10 for half a dozen, but there were many choices: chocolate chip, M&M, peanut butter, molasses, butter crunch, kitchen sink, and ranger cookies. The cookies were  soft  with a tendency to fall apart, but the flavor was good. The peanut butter and M&M were our faves.

Their brownies are very light. I like my brownies thick and dense. These were airy and more like

Cookies

Cookies

cake, but they were good.

We bought a raspberry coffee cake for breakfast. This was excellent. The cake was moist and dense and did not taste like it was GF in any way. It had a raspberry crumb topping that gave it just enough sweetness and a little bit of zing. I’m going to have to stock up on these coffee cakes.

They have a lot of other baked goods you can order in advance. I’m going to order cinnamon rolls for sure!

Coffee cake

Coffee cake

 

Salad

Salad

If you’re a local Buffalonian, you probably remember that Butterwood had a dessert restaurant on Main Street in the village of Williamsville for many years. Butterwood has now been re-incarnated as a full service restaurant (Butterwood Sweet and Savory), but they still offer a decadent dessert counter. The restaurant is in the basement of the Lafayette Hotel. It’s a little challenging to find it. You can either enter at the far back corner of the building, where you must navigate down some treacherous steps, or wander through the lobby all the way to the back of the building where there are equally steep stairs to deal with (they do have a mini-elevator from the street entrance).

The restaurant is a bit cavernous and cold. You feel as though you are in a basement. It’s also very echo-y. The service was attentive, but we were there on a quiet week day night.

Lamb

Lamb

I’m quite pleased to see the new life the Lafayette Hotel has taken on. My grandparents spent their wedding night here  during World War II. It was in disrepair for many years but is now a downtown hotspot. The restaurant’s concept is that each item has a sweet and a savory component.

When we made the reservation we mentioned there was a gluten-free diner in our party. When we were seated, I asked if they had a GF menu. They did not and the waitress then began to point to items I could consider. I find this confusing and hard to follow. Even if they handed me a menu that had a discrete dot next to the items I could order, it would be much easier than trying to remember the choices. There were many items that were off-limits unfortunately.

butterwood cupcakeI started with the Simple Salad. I found the dressing too spicy for my palate and did not enjoy this choice. I would have been happier with the Sweet and Savory Salad I suspect. It was a lovely salad and would have been great if I’d been able to eat it without burning my mouth. Other apps were a possibility, including the seafood shots (my mom ordered this and enjoyed it), the raw oysters, or the charred lamb.

For my entree I had the Rack of Lamb and was able to substitute mashed potatoes for the orzo. The lamb was done perfectly. The potatoes were tasty. The blood orange granizado was a little dish of a sweet slushy I enjoyed very much. I didn’t care for the smoked Brussels sprouts, mostly because I’m not interested in winter vegetables in late June.  There were few other entrees that were GF. I could have had pork or filet and that was about it.

I was concerned there would be no dessert options, but was pleased to discover there were GF cupcakes, creme brulee, and a flourless chocolate cake in the beautiful dessert case. I had a chocolate cupcake and it was really fabulous – moist and rich. It was nicely done. (Follow up note: we were downtown a few weeks later on a Saturday and got some cupcakes to go – this time my cupcake was dry).

I would go back, but only if the menu changes, since there just were not many options. The lamb and dessert were delicious. I made a poor choice for the salad, so that was my fault.  The food is creative and fun.

 

Carrots and hummus

Carrots and hummus

We recently visited Coco’s at 888 Main Street in Buffalo.  This is a comfortable little bistro between Virginia and Allen Streets. We went on a Saturday night and although there were some people at the bar, there was only one other table occupied. They have a patio out back which might have had more patrons.

Our server could have been a little more helpful when we asked about gluten-free items but she did try. She said she knew the trout was GF, but thought almost everything else had gluten. I pointed out a few items that sounded as though

Trout

Trout

they might be GF and she went to check with the chef. When she returned she said although all their sauces were made in-house, the person who made the BBQ was not there and the chef in the kitchen didn’t know what was in it. She knew enough to tell us that the rosemary frites were battered, so we avoided those.

When she brought bread for the other diners at our table, she brought us carrot sticks to dip in the white bean hummus and this was a very nice touch and one that was much appreciated.

Risotto

Risotto

I ordered the trout, which is served whole (head on), deboned (more on that in a minute) and stuffed with lemon slices and thyme sprigs. All of the sauces that are available for it are GF so I had beurre blanc. The trout came with an arugula salad and I ordered some risotto on the side. The trout was perfectly cooked. The sauce was superb. My only problem was the bones. There were lots of them, which made eating it a challenge. If it weren’t for that, this would have been a near perfect entree. The risotto was good, however the peas that were in it were raw, which was a weird textural contrast.

My husband ordered the mussels. The menu has a large selection of preparations and he chose the Provencal version. The mussels came in a big

Mussels

Mussels

covered pot. They were flavorful and sweet and the broth was mild and added a nice taste to them. His biggest complaint was that the pot was tall and narrow and all the broth was at the bottom, making it very hard to get to it until he was almost done. The mussels come with frites but he asked to substitute a small Caesar salad instead (no croutons). This was not a problem. The salad was fine, but could have used less pepper.

Other items on the menu that might work for GF: the shrimp appetizer (with the questionable BBQ sauce), several of the salads (the kale sounded good), stuffed dates, or one of the burgers without a bun (there is a lamb burger that sounds interesting). There is also a nightly list of several specials to choose from. The night we were there,

Caesar

Caesar

there was a salmon dish that was probably GF (pending information on the BBQ sauce).

We perused desserts where we could have had a flourless chocolate cake, creme caramel, or a fun little hot fudge sundae with caramel corn. We passed (and brought home gluten free cupcakes from Butterwoods instead).

I would go back here, but would likely wait for the menu to change since there are not a ton of GF selections. It was perfect for a low-key night out.

 

The Lake Effect Diner has often been a fallback place for dinner for us. Everyone in the family can find something they want on the menu and like a true diner, you can get breakfast round the clock. Recently we had our first dinner there since going gluten-free.

The Lake Effect uses local, hormone-free beef, eggs, and chicken and its owner, Tucker Carlson, is tuned into the local food movement. This is a forward-thinking place. The fried chicken on the menu is listed as being gluten-free, so we thought there would be understanding about GF dining.  I imagine Carlson completely understands gluten-free dining, but the staff certainly doesn’t. We asked if they had a gluten-free menu. No, they don’t, but the waitress could ask in the kitchen about what on the menu was gluten-free. She came back to tell us they don’t have a gluten-free menu or make anything gluten-free (what about that chicken?) and “so like, you could order anything that doesn’t have gluten.” It was probably the most unhelpful response we’ve had yet when dining out.  There are things on the menu that are likely safe (eggs, salads, veggies) but the staff’s inability to have any kind of conversation about gluten ingredients made me very leery. Bottom line: At this point, I would say this is a place to avoid.

What did I eat? I had a cheeseburger with no bun, cole slaw, and fries. They make onion rings here, so I know the frying oil was contaminated (which does not bother me, so I was ok). It’s a pretty safe bet that the burger was grilled on the same griddle as gluten-containing items. I didn’t even bother with photos. I’m really disappointed in the response here.

Cheeseburger in lettuce

Cheeseburger in lettuce

We were pleasantly surprised by how gluten-free friendly Five Guys (8248 Transit Rd, Amherst) is.  The place is a favorite with our teenage son, so we’ve been a few times. If you or anyone in your family has a peanut allergy, steer clear. There are big boxes of peanuts where people scoop their own. You shell them at your table while waiting for your food and there are shells and peanut dust everywhere.

You can order your burger or dog without a bun and they keep it separate from any gluten items. You can get your item in a metal bowl or in a lettuce wrap. I like to get the lettuce wrap, but then eat it with a knife and fork. Five Guys has great toppings: mushrooms, onions, steak sauce, jalapeno, BBQ sauce, tomato, pickles and more.  The burgers are huge and very juicy. A “regular” burger is two patties. A “little” burger is one. One is

Fries

Fries

more than enough for me! The toppings (all GF) make the burgers fantastic and there is no charge for them, so load ’em up.

Their fries are fried in peanut oil and are GF. Nothing else is fried in the oil so there is no cross-contamination. The fries are thick and hand cut. I would like them to be crunchier, but they’re still good.

My teen son loves the beverage choices here – soda with all sorts of add-in flavors, so you can get Coke with orange or vanilla flavor added to it, for example.

And if you can’t face the thought of a burger and fries without a milkshake, the Transit Road location has a Red Mango next door where you can order a smoothie.

An added bonus – you can place your order online and just pick it up and take it home (this is convenient when you have a starving teen at home).

 

Croissants2Croissants are on my “I would kill for a….” list. It’s one of the few things I haven’t been able to buy.  I’m on a mission to find a recipe that works. Rather than re-invent the wheel, I thought I would try some of the recipes that exist out there already. My first attempt is using a recipe from Baking with Collette.

I found the instructions to be a bit confusing. She refers to “body water” when she means to use warm water that is about at body temperature. I used Cup4Cup flour in my batch.

I do not have a “proofing bag” so I used the proof setting on my oven and put a big glass measuring cup of water on the bottom shelf to provide the moisture.

The recipe says to cut the dough into rectangles, but gives no size. So I basically sliced the dough into rows, the short way, then cut each row in half. One I set them on the baking sheet, I curved them into a crescent shape so they would look a bit like croissants. I did not use a filling in mine (Collette uses chocolate – I want to find a decent croissant first then I will work on fillings!).

When they came out of the oven, they were swimming in grease and the bottoms were very, very brown.

The verdict? These were good rolls, but did not equal croissants. There’s no flakiness, but they are moist and flavorful. They are like an egg bread. Everyone enjoyed it and I froze the leftovers which we will enjoy again sometime. I’m still searching for the perfect recipe though!

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!

My friend at My Kids Eat Squid recently tested out Hungry Girl’s two ingredient brownies. It’s so simply I decided to give it a try in a gluten-free version. I used Wegmans store brand chocolate cake mix and a can of organic canned pumpkin (15 oz). Mix this together then divide among 12 greased muffin tins (I used silicone). Bake at 400 for 20 minutes. That’s it. My daughter loves these. I thought they were pretty good. You do not taste the pumpkin at all. It’s a decent low fat brownie for sure, and one that’s super easy to make.Brownies2

Saganaki

Saganaki

My family heads to the Buffalo Greek Festival every year, but this was our first year going without gluten. There were plenty of choices available. I think I might bring my own GF pitas in the future.

We started with saganaki, which is fried cheese. You can ask for it without the pita. It was delicious – lemony and rich. The chicken souvlaki was wonderful as always. A big salad with nice chunks

Chicken Souvlaki

Chicken Souvlaki

of chicken, tomato, onion, and feta. Ask for it without the pita. We also ordered a beef gyro. This comes on a pita and is wrapped up. You could order it without the pita (we are ok just taking it off the pita). I would say to skip the gyro though since there’s not much to eat if you’re not eating the pita. Dessert was rice pudding, which is sprinkled with cinnamon. Other GF options at the festival

Rice pudding

Rice pudding

this year included grilled lamb chops (I would get this rather than the gyro next time) and pork souvlaki on a stick.

We’ve gone to the festival at many different times through the years. This year we arrived on Friday at 5:30. It was perfect timing. It wasn’t

Gyro

Gyro

crowded and there were lots of places to sit. We’ve gone on Sundays in the past and they tend to run out of some menu items. Make sure you walk through the beautiful church and check out the marketplace in the basement where food, jewelry, art, and tshirts are sold.

Cupcakes

Cupcakes

I was well overdue for a visit to Bon Bon’s Gluten Free Bakery at 1298 Orchard Park Road in West Seneca. This bakery has been open a year and a half but I didn’t know about it until recently. Bon Bon’s is a small little store front. It’s all run by one woman, so the hours can vary (check the web site – she recently introduced new summer hours). On the day I stopped in, the case held 3 types of cupcakes; Danish in two flavors; chocolate chip, sugar, and peanut butter cookies; brownies; Twinkies; and spritz cookies. She makes bread, but only on Wednesdays, so we missed out on that.  I brought a little bit of everything home to taste.

The baked goods look like they are homemade, and I don’t mean that as insult. The edges on the cupcakes were not perfect and other items had less than perfect shapes.  I would rather eat something that tastes great and looks homemade than have a perfectly shaped baked good that

Danish

Danish

tastes like sawdust. This is real food.

We sampled the cupcakes later the same day. The vanilla cupcakes were good – moist and tasty. The chocolate cupcakes were cream filled I was told when I purchased them. There wasn’t much cream in them, but there was a dab. I was a little surprised that there was almond extract in the frosting. I would have expected a bakery that deals with people with food allergies would want to tell clients there is a tree nut product in their baked goods. I’m not a fan of almond flavoring, but other than that the cupcake was moist and tender and very good.  We were pleased.

The peanut butter cookies were absolutely fantastic. The heart shaped spritz cookies were not good in our opinion. Very sawdusty.

bon bon cookiesI would have loved the Danish, but these had almond extract in them as well. We sampled cherry and apple. They had a wonderful texture – very fine crumbed and tender. The filling was fruity and sweet but not cloying. There was just enough frosting. They could have been winners, except for the almond flavoring.

The brownies were dense and good, however my taste runs to darker chocolate-ly brownies – it was almost a German chocolate flavor. They were acceptable, but the ones from Vin Chet are better IMHO.

It’s great to have two gluten-free bakeries in our area and I hope some more people hop on the bandwagon!

If you go, be aware this bakery is an all CASH business. She will take personal checks as well.