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!

 

Here’s a recent piece about gluten-free dining in Toronto, if you’re headed north.

davids grilleA recent afternoon found me in the Southtowns and in need of lunch. My daughter whipped out her phone and using UrbanSpoon, decided we needed to go to David’s Grille in Orchard Park.  Lunch is a tough meal in restaurants for those of us who don’t eat gluten. You’re almost always stuck with a salad, unless you get a sandwich without the bun (which is not a lot of fun, excuse the rhyme).

David’s lunch menu had a nice assortment of salads – 7 of them. As soon as our waitress came over, I asked if they have gluten-free salad dressing. The white balsamic and raspberry vinaigrette are GF she told me. Several of the salads have gluten in the form of croutons, tortilla strips or pitas, but it’s possible to order them without. I got the David Eddy salad, which came with bacon, egg, cucumber, tomato, and cheese ( I had already dug in when I took this picture, so it’s not as pretty as it looked when it arrived). All salads can have chicken or shrimp added to them for $5 (chicken) or $7 (shrimp). Those items are gluten-free, but I didn’t get any. Since I was feeling deprived, I also ordered a side of fries. They have curly Q and regular fries. They cannot guarantee that the oil is not cross-contaminated, so if that’s a problem for you, don’t get the fries. Whatever you do, don’t get the curly Q fries, which have a coating on them that contains gluten. The regular fries do not, so I had those. My salad was excellent. Everything was fresh and it was a nice size. The fries were crisp and very good.

If you want to do a sandwich without bun, there are lots of options. My daughter ordered the David’s Grille Melt (on the bun, which had Buffalo chicken, caramelized onion, 2 cheeses and a dipping sauce) and enjoyed it. It would have been tasty even without the bun.

Our lunch came to a very reasonable $23.

The restaurant was almost completely empty during our visit, so it was quiet and service was very fast and attentive. The restaurant is attractive with a large hip-looking bar area. Parking is on the street or in a lot behind the building. I would come back here for lunch and sample a different salad if I find myself in the neighborhood again. The dinner menu didn’t present a lot of options for GF, unless you get steak or pork tenderloin, so I probably wouldn’t come for dinner.

Vin-Chet LabelMark your calendars for Saturday June 8, 2013 from noon to 4, when The Gluten Free Bakery (also known as Vin Chet) will be holding a tasting of its gluten-free baked good. The Lancaster Deli will also be there, offering samples of sandwiches made on Vin Chet’s bread. Hot dogs will also be offered. Everything is free and it’s a great way to sample Vin Chet’s products.

Pizza

Pizza

In my quest for a good GF pizza, I realized that Pizza Plant offers a gluten free menu on Wednesdays at its Transit Road location and Saturdays at its Main Street (Walker Center) location.  The menu is not huge, but it has key items to help the GF feel not so deprived.

We ordered the GF pizza which comes only in medium, but this crust is definitely made in-house and is not the prefab crust on an aluminum tray you get elsewhere. I had high hopes. The pizza was cold when we got it home and the cardinal rule of GF breads is to always eat them hot, so we heated it up. It was still not anything I want to eat. The crust had a big of that soggy, crumbly texture. The pizza itself could have used a lot more sauce. We had mushrooms and spinach

Lasagna

Lasagna

as toppings.

We also tried their GF chicken fingers which we give high marks. You can order them at any hotness level you like, but we got plain. They were crunchy and satisfying.

We tried the GF Jimbrone Lasagna. It is made with penne however and has hamburger and sausage. This wasn’t lasagna – it was baked penne. But it was good. The noodles tasted like regular pasta. the sauce was flavorful and there was lots of meat. It had a crunchy browned cheese topping. The portion size was huge – it would easily feed four. We have to quibble with the accompaniments though. I had a long conversation with my order taker about the salad that was supposed to come with it and he indicated which dressings were GF (I chose the house creamy garlic). When we unpacked our order, we had no salad, but instead there was a small container of broccoli. There was also a mysterious roll. We weren’t told that bread came with our GF items and

Chicken fingers

Chicken fingers

since we ordered gluten items for the kids, there was no way to be sure what it was. Into the trash it went.

We used to love Pizza Plant for their pizza pods. In fact, I don’t think I ever ordered anything else there in the many years we went. If they can make a GF pizza crust, why can’t they use it to make their signature pod? If they added GF pods the menu, we would be back in a heart beat.

 

hoisinOne of my signature special occasion dishes is Peking Chicken, a version of Peking Duck. I’ve been making it for years and it is a family favorite. A whole chicken is roasted at high heat and glazed with a wonderful sauce. I make thin scallion pancakes and create a sauce from the pan drippings. It’s rich and delicious. When I was diagnosed as gluten intolerant, I thought I would never eat it again (I think I had an entire week of mourning over all the things I thought I would never eat again), since the sauce is made with soy sauce and hoisin. Gluten-free soy sauce is a pretty common find these days, but I had no hope for the hoisin.

On a whim, I looked to see what substitutes I could find and I stumbled on Joyce Chen’s Gluten-Freepeking chicken Hoisin at the grocery store. I bought 4 bottles of it because I was so excited! I made my Peking Chicken recipe for my husband’s birthday dinner. I didn’t even think to taste the sauce and stupidly assumed it would taste like my regular hoisin. Unfortunately, it didn’t and the lovely sauce that makes this dish so divine tasted like vinegar because of it. I hurriedly doctored my sauce by adding more honey, soy sauce and cornstarch and got it to the point where it was ok, but it was not the same. I then tasted the hoisin straight from the jar and realized it is incredibly sour and vinegar-y. I’m disappointed in this brand and will be looking for another option for future dishes. It’s usable, but needs a lot of sweetener to counterbalance it.

You can find my Peking Chicken recipe here. Substitute GF soy sauce and GF hoisin (hopefully you can find another brand!).  For the pancakes, Cup4Cup flour worked well, but needed just a bit more liquid to loosen the batter up.

A beautiful pineapple carpaccio dessert

A beautiful pineapple carpaccio dessert

My daughter and I took a trip to St. Martin recently. We dined several times in Grand Case, on the French side of the island. Despite somewhat of a language barrier, I had many wonderful gluten-free meals there. You can read all about it here.