Tortilla

A recent meal at Aro Bar de Tapas in Williamsville is ranking as one of my best GF dining experiences in Buffalo. Not only is the menu clearly marked, but the servers are knowledgeable about how each item is made. Our server took the time to discuss with me why gazpacho (traditionally GF) was not listed as GF on their menu and also to discuss their shared fryer. He made it clear they would be as accommodating as possible. This is a restaurant where

Grilled romaine

celiacs can feel safe and people with gluten intolerance like myself can enjoy some options.

Tip: order lots of dishes (the plates are quite small), but don’t order them all at once so that you can have some pacing to your meal.

Watermelon

The Tortilla Espanola was fantastic with layers of egg and potato and onion and Spanish ham on top. Sandia Playa (Watermelon Beach) was a lovely concoction of fresh watermelon, salmon roe and radish. If you like watermelon with feta, you’ll love this. The best dish of the night was the Pollo Con Frutos (chicken with fruits). Half a chicken comes in pieces with loads of dried fruits. The chicken was perfectly cooked and the fruits were an amazing accompaniment. We also enjoyed shrimp in garlic, beets prepared seven ways, and grilled romaine. We also ordered the potatoes – they are cooked in a shared fryer so are not marked as gluten free, but shared fryers do not bother me. They were crunchy and perfect.

The desserts were my favorite. The strawberry frozen yogurt with lacto-fermented green strawberries and white chocolate is the most amazing mix of textures and flavors. It’s small though, so get one for each person! The flan is also truly lovely – not a traditional jiggly flan, but a custard with passion fruit served over dry ice.

Chicken

Flan

It has been quite a while since I’ve had such a creative, thoughtful, delicious meal locally at a restaurant that understands and works with dietary restrictions (the menu also marks vegetarian choices).

I would highly recommend this if you simply cannot face another meal where you can have X but without the sauce, or we can make you Y without the bun. I didn’t miss gluten in this meal and left completely satisfied.

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.

Enchilada or burrito?

Enchilada or burrito?

You know you’ve got a fighting chance for a safe GF meal at a Mexican restaurant since corn tortillas are (usually – you should always ask!) gluten-free. La Tolteca on Transit Road in Williamsville was a regular joint for us before we became GF. We headed there recently again.

First, let me shout and stomp about one of my pet peeves. If you have a gluten-free menu, please put it on your web site! La Tolteca does not and you wouldn’t know you could eat there unless you made the effort to call ahead.

And then there is my second pet peeve. If you have a gluten-free menu or special gluten-free options, please mention it on your menu! Even a little box that says “ask about our gluten-free menu” would be enough.

La Tolteca has gluten-free options, but you wouldn’t know it from looking at their menu. We asked

Fajitas

Fajitas

and while they do have gluten-free options, there is nothing in writing to guide you. Instead, our waitress pointed at various areas of the menu. It was very, very confusing. In fact, it was so confusing, I can’t even remember what was and wasn’t GF. There was something craziness about how you can order an enchilada but only with burrito sauce, or the other way around. And corn tortillas cannot be substituted for all flour tortillas on the menu. I asked why and was told “because they are smaller.” This made no sense to me at all. I really wanted a quesadilla, which would be completely GF since it has cheese and veggies and meat in it, no sauces, but was told that couldn’t be done. Instead, we were told to look for menu items that said they could be made with flour or corn tortillas, then ask if the ingredients are GF.

I ended up with the fajitas. My husband had either an enchilada with burrito sauce or a burrito with enchilada sauce (neither of us can remember which).

The refried beans are GF. The chips are GF. The Spanish rice is GF. There are a fair number of options here, but the problem is trying to determine what exactly they are. They really need to print up a sheet listing what is available for clarity. We had to ask our waitress to come over several times to answer questions. All of this could have been avoided with a printed GF menu.

We find the food here to always be acceptable. It’s not fantastic, but it is reliable. I’m still mourning my quesadilla, but we will probably be back again in the future if the craving for Mexican hits us.

roccosThe quest for a good gluten-free pizza continues. One of our first stops was Rocco’s Wood-Fired Pizza on Transit Road in Amherst. I’d heard that Rocco had GF pizza, but you wouldn’t know it from their online menu. You also wouldn’t know it unless you asked the waitress. Sigh. How do they expect diners to even know to ask if they don’t let us know they have options?

We started with a Caesar salad (sans croutons) which was good. We ordered a GF pizza. I think this is the same crust used by other local pizza parlors – I do not think they make their own. It was thin and cardboard-like. It’s the identical size that you find in every restaurant that offers it. I think they’re all ordering it from the same supplier sadly. Yes, it’s made in the wood oven, but it didn’t do much to help it. The toppings and sauce were all good.

We also tried their Wood Oven Roasted Chicken Wings which are GF. These sounded delicious (marinated in lemon, olive oil, garlic and herbs then roasted in the wood oven). They were a bit rubbery however, as the skin did not crisp. The flavor was great, but they were very oily. I would love to try a chicken breast marinated then cooked in the oven this way, but wings are too greasy I think.

Rocco’s is a bit loud, with big screens playing the sporting event of the day. The tables feel a bit crowded together and it’s quite loud inside.

I’m still looking for a good GF pizza.