breads

breads

I grew up going to the Asa Ransom House in Clarence for special occasions, back when it was closed on Saturdays (the owners were 7th Day Adventists). We’ve been back twice since

applewood bacon salad

applewood bacon salad

going gluten-free, once as part of a large family dinner and once with a friend. Both times we were extremely pleased with the

Caesar salad

Caesar salad

options. There’s nothing adventurous here, but if you want nicely done, traditional food, you can get a very pleasing meal here. The interior is just as quaint and cozy as it’s always been, and while the servers wear

salmon

salmon

the traditional aprons, they’ve lost the little elastic bonnets I remember them having years ago. When we dined with our family, we were in the private back room,

Filet

Filet

which had one long table. It was a little cramped, but it was private. When we came recently with our guest, we sat in the front dining room. Be sure to poke your nose in the gift shop and check out the comfy living room which always has a jigsaw puzzle in progress. There are B&B room available upstairs if you can’t bear to leave.

They have a pretty big gluten-free menu to choose from.  The best part is that you are given two gluten-free breads to begin with. On our most recent visit, we received a cherry scone and an oatmeal bread item. Both were great, particularly when paired with the flavored butters that come with them. It’s nice to go someplace and have bread at the beginning of the meal.

There are several appetizer and salad options available. We had the applewood smoked bacon salad and the Caesar (the husband was thrilled with the anchovies on top). Both were wonderfully done, with fresh, ripe vegetables and nice dressing. For entrees, we had the filet and the salmon. Both were lovely, although the filet would have been better with some type of sauce. The fish had a honey pecan glaze. Both came with potato (white or sweet mashed) and vegetables. It was nothing that stretched the limits of culinary inventiveness, but it was all good food, cooked well, with good flavors. The food here is reliable and there’s something to be said for that when you are searching for reasonable gluten-free options.

Unfortunately, as often happens, they fell down on dessert. The only options were the dreaded creme brulee or ice cream. If they can make wonderful bread options for starters WHY can’t they offer something for dessert? I’ll never understand. That being said, I can see us coming here again and again if we need a comforting meal we can trust.

pancake house2pancake house 1Apparently I was the last person to know the Original Pancake House has a gluten-free menu. The OPH is a national chain and it’s known throughout the GF community for being one of the only places you can get a GF breakfast that is more than just eggs. We went on a late Saturday morning to the Williamsville location. It was crowded as always and we waited about 10 minutes for a table in the dreaded back room. We were given a card with the gluten free choices, which are only pancakes, pancakes or more pancakes. You can only get the dollar size, but you can choose from a variety of flavors and number of pancakes. I got plain. The husband got chocolate chip and pecan. We also had bacon and hot chocolate. The children had regular menu items. The service was slow, hectic, and forgetful. It was almost impossible to get all of our food and it took several reminders about missing items. Despite the craziness, the food was good. It was nice to go somewhere and have a real breakfast I didn’t make myself. We would be happier if they had real maple syrup (I am tempted to smuggle a jar in myself inside my purse next time). The pancakes were excellent and the flavored ones the husband ordered had the nuts and chocolate chips inside the pancakes as well as on top. They definitely know how to make pancakes here. The bacon is thick. The hot chocolate is rich. We brought tons of leftovers home (although we had to go to the serving stand and take some containers ourselves since there was no chance we could get our server to do it). It’s definitely a better experience if you don’t go on a weekend morning, but honestly, when else are you going to order pancakes? Once a year, it’s worth doing.

Dog e Style 10-25-2014 4-58-48 PMThe newest hot dog joint in Buffalo, Dog e Style, was surprisingly completely empty on Saturday night when we arrived. We were excited by the promise of a variety of different dogs and

Greek dog

Greek dog

preparation. They don’t have a web site, so I can’t give you a link, but you can see the menu on Buffalo Eats. When you walk in, it’s through the bar. There is a weird narrow room with counter seating then you get to the menu and the ordering station which is right by the grill. The big printed menu is on the wall, but then there is a big decorated chalkboard above the grill that seems to be the same thing, but you can’t really see it, so it’s hard to know. We were very, very disappointed that the seafood dog was not available. It was the only thing I wanted to try.  The menu is short, but perhaps a bit too short. They don’t list the condiments you can choose from so we had to ask. The menu says there is a daily special but there wasn’t one the day we were there.

Fries

Fries

The husband got the Greek dog, which is made of lamb and comes with a mix of feta, olive, tomato and pepperoncini as a topping. This was all mixed together, so if you don’t like the hot pepper (we don’t), you’re out of luck. I ordered the cheeseburger (I know! But I was grieving the seafood dog and just couldn’t face the other options). We also got some fries which are billed as twice fried. Our son got a regular dog (they serve Wardynski’s here). We ordered ours without buns since there they don’t have gluten free buns. The lamb dog was interesting, but not something I would want again. If I want those flavors, I think I would just go to a Greek joint. My cheeseburger was thick and juicy. The chef forgot the cheese so we had to send it back for that (considering we were the ONLY customers it shouldn’t have been that

Cheeseburger

Cheeseburger

hard, also they only have a cheeseburger on the menu, not a hamburger). Their relish is called neon relish and it truly is neon. I don’t want to know what they added to make it that color, but I definitely don’t want to put something that color in my stomach again. The fries were a complete bust. Total disappointment. If you’re billing them as twice fried, they better be crispy. These were limp and not crunchy at all. They don’t deep fry anything else here, so there’s no gluten in the fryer.

Dog e Style 10-25-2014 5-05-18 PMThere is a large upstairs dining room which I think must get very loud, since the walls are made of corrugated metal. They didn’t have any silverware out upstairs, so we brought it up from downstairs. It’s flimsy plastic.

My prediction: this place isn’t going to make it when you can go to Ted’s or Louie’s.

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.

Deviled eggs

Deviled eggs

A recent visit to Naples meant a new search for gluten-free dining. Naples is slowly catching on to the need for GF food at last. We had a wonderful meal at The Hobnob, on 5th Avenue South, one night. We were thrilled to see a menu with items clearly marked GF (a rarity in this neck of the woods), but there were a few hiccups. While the app and entree items on the menu are marked, the sides are not. We asked and were told they were all GF. Another glitch was the grouper and chips was marked GF yet said it came with malt vinegar, which is never GF. We asked and after checking with the kitchen were told there was no malt vinegar in the dish and the menu had been revised after printing.

There was no GF bread service, so we watched our companions enjoying corn muffins. My husband started with fresh oysters which he enjoyed immensely. He sampled a variety from around the country and pronounced them all fresh and wonderful. I started with deviled eggs, something I’ve made many times at home but never had at a restaurant.  They had big hunks of bacon and tomato jam – I could have eaten a dozen more. The flavors popped.

Grouper and Chips

Grouper and Chips

We both enjoyed the grouper and chips for our entrees – finding GF grouper and chips is so rare we both had to get it. The grouper is cornmeal coated and fried crisp. The fries were crisp and perfect. The tartar sauce was creamy and a nice contrast to the fish. I would have liked to see a piece of fish just a smidge bigger.

We ordered two side orders of vegetables for the table since our entrees included NONE. Garlicky spinach and roasted vegetables were both done nicely.

There was no GF dessert other than ice cream and flourless chocolate cake. This is a HUGE gripe with me! You can manage to create a menu with some actual choices, yet you just give up on dessert? There is a well-known GF baker in Naples restaurants could order from if they don’t wish to make their own.

My other note is that the waitress gave me attitude about my GF questions. If your menu specifically lists GF, then you must be prepared to cater to those diners and answer their questions. My question about the malt vinegar was an annoyance as well as my query about whether the side were GF. A friendlier and more supportive attitude would have been appreciated.

This restaurant is quite loud, so be prepared to shout.

The other diners at our table enjoyed their food as well, so we would definitely go back when in the area.

mar vista smoothieWhen I found myself on Siesta Key in Florida (near Sarasota), I

View from the dock

View from the dock

enjoyed the sun and sand, but I also need seafood! We had a lovely meal at Mar Vista, located on the water on Longboat Key. They offer a separate gluten free menu. This restaurant does not do any real substitutions, but they at least clearly articulate what is gluten free and what is not, and there is a nice list. First off, know that you can get any fish on the menu grilled. I was close to ordering this, but then decided to spice things up and order what the restaurant is known for – crab.

mar vista shrimp1I started with a wonderful gluten free strawberry daiquiri (sans alcohol) which was exactly what I needed as we sat at our table right on the edge of the sand. The restaurant has a sandy area with tables as well as a covered patio area. They have a dock with seating if you end up waiting (as we did). There are many islands just offshore and we saw lots of fish jumping as we mar vista crabwaited. It was beautiful and relaxing.

My companion and I shared a plate of peel and eat local shrimp that were simply heaven.

My bucket o’ crab was fantastic, with king, snow and Dungeness. It came with corn on the cob and red potatoes (the Dungeness is underneath so you can’t see it in the photo – this was a deep bowl!).

The waitress was not terribly knowledgeable about gluten and brought a homemade mango and coconut loaf of bread to the table, saying to me “I don’t know if you can eat this…” (my companion said it was very good). Nevertheless, the separate menu was easy to navigate and my dinner was tasty. My gluten eating companion had some pan-fried flounder she enjoyed very much. I would eat here again.

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!

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.