ranchos1Trying something new is always a good thing and recently we went to Ranchos Latin Foods.  They don’t have a web site but you can visit their Facebook page for hours, address, and some pics of dishes. I found however that some of the items mentioned on their Facebook page were not seemingly available the Saturday we went (kabobs or vegetarian arepas). It took me a while to get to the bottom of what we could eat and what we couldn’t. Several months ago I posted on their Facebook page asking what was gluten free. They asked me to message them my email address. I did and never heard from them. Then recently I messaged them just asking if the arepas were gluten free. No response. Finally we called and the phone was passed around and then someone shouted out to the kitchen and reported that the arepas had no wheat flour, just cornmeal.

The restaurant is sparse but clean. The menu is pasted on the counter and on the wall with photos. There is also a white board where they seem to write specials but it was hard to decipher and understand. You order at the counter and your food is brought to you. It’s all made to order, so it took a few minutes to come out.

We each ordered an arepa – I got chicken and the husband got beef. We got them with cheese and a side of yellow rice. The arepas are like round, fried cornbread, sliced in half like a bun and stuffed ranchos2with meat that is very lightly sauced. I did find half of an olive in mine, but other than that, there are no vegetables or added ingredients. We did each get a little plastic cup of garlic herb butter which I slathered inside my arepa. The arepa itself is crispy on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. It has a slightly different texture than cornbread and has no sweetness. The chicken in mine was moist and good. The beef in my husband’s was better I thought, although it was a little greasy. The cheese we ordered was melted across the top. I’m not sure it added anything. The garlic butter added some flavor to the whole sandwich since we could not detect a taste from the very light use of a sauce. The yellow rice was fine but not exciting.

ranchos3The husband also got a can of Tropi-Cola which tasted like cola with a fruit flavor at the end. The more I tasted it though the more the fruit flavor tasted like bubblegum to me. There is also a pineapple soda available we did not try.

We enjoyed our arepas very much. They were super hot and steaming and tasted fresh with a wonderful combo of crunch and softness. They are very filling and neither of us was able to eat all of it. I wish there were some vegetable options to go along with it but there were none the day we visited. It’s a very heavy meal to eat without any fruit or vegetable.

This is definitely a place to visit when you want to try something new and are willing to get your hands a little dirty eating.

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.