Sunday, August 7, 2011

Catching up!

Well, clearly life with a Giggler doesn't leave much time to blog - but I've had some amazing gluten free fare the past 6 months or so. I hope to provide details soon (even some photos) but here's a summary:

April 2011-  Phoenix to/from Tucson Arizona (3 pizza's in 3 days...):
pizza, pizza pizza!

  • Picazzo's (Tempe): decent pizza - crust was a bit thicker than we'd like but overall a good bite- needed more sauce. The garlic cheese bread was sooo yummy but extremely rich. I'd pass next time and save calories for the pizza and one of their GF desserts.
  • Eclectic Pizza (now renamed "Renee's Organic Oven") (Tucson): good - prefer our old standbys at home better but would definitely go there again. Extremely nice staff there too.
  • Barro's Pizza (Casa Grande) - googled this one on our drive back to Phoenix and were we lucky! Great stuff - lots of tasty sauce, good crust. Yum.

May 2011- Kauai, Hawaii

  • Sweet Marie's-  don't miss this bakery if you are on the island. Marie is a wonderful person and makes delicious treats. Her business is very busy and not just with folks who have to eat gluten free - that says a lot. We were arriving on a Sunday when her store was closed but we were able to meet her on the beach after we landed to pick up our pre order of cookies, muffins and an incredible Triple Chocolate Explosion cake to celebrate Mother's Day/Our anniversary. All were excellent but our absolute favorite was the Triple Chocolate Explosion - it's a steamed chocolate cake (think tender and chocolatey), with white chocolate mousse covered with a thick chocolate ganache. We drove back down to her shop later that week and bought several of the smaller chocolate explosion cakes, plus more brownies, coffee cake, cookies and muffins. So good. On an interesting note, Marie does not use tapioca starch - a staple in my recipes, but rather found a superfine rice flour in northern California. I hope to try that flour someday if I'm ever able to get it in smaller amounts than 25 pounds.
  • Nanea Restaurant and Bar at the Westin up in Princeville - We stayed at the Hanalai Bay Resort for a week which did not have a restaurant at the time (waiting on permits - maybe it's open now...). At any rate we drove over to the Westin and was thrilled to find their restaurant had a gluten free menu with a ton of delicious things to order. Service was superb. We sat outside both times with a view of the swimming pool and a small fountain which thrilled the Giggler. Our top picks were the spinach salad and grilled Ono. Loved the Lava Flow too.
  • Postcards Cafe (Hanalei): wonderful place, make a reservation. We loved everything we had there and while they did not have a gluten free menu, they were able to accommodate us. 
  • The Dolphin (Hanalei): Good location but the food was just OK. We'd go to Postcards (across the street) in a heartbeat over this place. The Ono was overcooked, and we just felt rushed the whole time. Too loud, too busy. But we didn't get sick.
  • Grand Hyatt Kauai (Koloa): amazing resort with resort wide gluten free menu (contact their Social Ambassador Joshua on their Facebook page for a PDF of the menu). We will be back! Amazing grounds, best pool ever, friendly staff. The Dock near the pool had many reasonably priced options to feed ourselves and our toddler which made life much easier for us. The Yum Cha restaurant at the Golf Course had a huge gluten free menu- they even had wheat free tamari at the tables. We loved everything we tried there and will definitely be back. BTW for the best travel deal around, look into the Hyatt VISA card - when we signed up we got 2 free nights at this hotel - an over $800 value for a $75 annual fee.

July 2011- New York City:
What do you think of when you think of NYC food? Deli and pizza? Well, for the gluten free, it's not off limits, and it's delicious too! We are convinced the northeast does gluten free a notch above the rest of the country. Maybe there is a higher concentration of gluten free folks around to drive competition and up the quality of the product. Wow. Wow. Wow.

  • Mozzarelli's Pizza: We got there just before closing but were able to grab a ton of slices of pizza to go: cheese, pepperoni, veggie (which we did not try) and a pesto/spinach pizza. Great thin, tender and slightly sweet crust with the crunch/crispiniess we love just on the edge. Even though we did not get to enjoy our slices until after a quick cab ride back to the hotel, they still held up great. Mozzarelli's is also a retail location for My Dad's Cookies - imagine walking into a pizza place and finding stack after stack of packages of gluten free cookies: chocolate chip, black-n-white, linzers, graham crackers dipped in chocolate, I could go on but time is short. It was positively overwhelming - especially after a day long flight where we had to bring all our own food in a small cooler since there was nothing GF along the way. They also had in the refrigerated case (as we left - wish I had seen these when we ordered) chocolate cake, cheese cake, carrot cake, OMG. And it was all delicious - you could not tell it was GF. I had not had a black and white cookie since my teens and these were perfect miniature sized cookies. I will be back - in fact, I  may order online if I'm able.
  • Bloom's Deli - just around the corner from our hotel at Grand Central station, Blooms also had a huge gluten free menu where we were able to enjoy a burger on a GF bun, traditional NY sandwich on GF bread, delicious fries, deli pickles and so forth. This was not something I had imagined we'd be able to experience on our trip. Check it out.
  • New York Central at the Grand Hyatt Hotel at Grand Central Station: our hotel room rate included breakfast and both mornings we were lucky to be served by Ann, who knew exactly what was safe for us on the menu and even brought us some gluten free toast. Yes - gluten free toast - also at the same level of quality of all we had experienced on this trip. Light and tasty toast- just like real (wheat) bread.
July 2011 - Boston, Mass
  • Stone Hearth Pizza: wood fired, thin crust pizza. A bit denser than we'd like but good sauce and toppings. They also have baked goods from Glutenus Miniumus (see below) which are outstanding.
  • Uno Chicago Grill: Surprisingly good gluten free fare - we went there once for take out and once for lunch, then had take out from their Poughkeepsie NY location later in the week. Great crust - a bit sweet, tasty toppings. Definitely better to have in person than take out (the sauce absorbs as it cools) but one of the better gluten free pizza's we've had. They also have a ton of other gluten free entrees on the menu (chicken tikka masala?) we have yet to try. The lentil and black bean soup was very tasty and the giggler was well into enjoying it until she saw our pizza arrive. Banana's Foster for dessert - yes! Oh, and if you are looking for a take out bargain, see if they are offering their double deals - we got 2 gluten free pizzas for almost the price of one.
  • Wagamana (Boston)- right in Feneul Hall, this was a great place for a light lunch with the Giggler. Several of their rice dishes could be made gluten free and were noted on their menu. We started with a bowl of edamame, some fried rice (which the giggler devoured) and a spicy shrimp with noodles dish with an extra side of steamed broccoli mixed in. Not the best asian food we've ever had but respectable. It was nice to get some vegetables in our tummys after so many days of pizza and ice cream.
  • The Fireplace Restaurant (Brookline) - Nice place, a bit small, definitely get a reservation. More for adults than toddlers but the Giggler was happy to walk around our booth. Lobster rolls with gluten free bread were incredible, but to be honest I can't remember what else we ordered. 
  • Glutenus Minimus Bakery - Belmont, MA: For the perfect peanut butter chocolate chip cookie, look no further! You will find a rich chewy peanut butter cookie with solid hunks of chocolate. Their dense fudgy brownies are killer as well. The chocolate chip cookies were just OK (I prefer my Mrs Fields recipe), and their french bread worked well on the road for ham & cheese sandwiches at the rest stop. The yellow cupcake with cherry butter cream was nothing to write home about but it was not bad- reminded me of the betty crocker GF yellow cupcake mix. We also ordered from their web store the following week and can highly recommend the double chocolate mint cookies - fortunately the dozen came in 2 6 cookie packages so the hubby and I each had our own pack to ration. I also bought a box of their pizza crust mix so I'll write about that once I've tried it - if we had time we could have tried the crust at Zing Pizza in Cambridge - something to do next time we're in town. Oh, the cranberry scone was also good although a bit dry. 

July 2011 - Poughkeepsie, NY
  • Soul Dog - don't miss this place! My mom had bought a frozen loaf of their bread for us to take on the road to Boston - very good bread. Sort of eggy taste, very soft, and held up well when toasted. We also stopped there after walking across the Hudson river. The giggler downed her hot dog w/ yummy soft gf bun (her first hot dog in a bun - those udi's hot dog buns just don't compare at all). We sampled their jerk fries and regular french fries- both delicious. We will have to try the sweet potato fries next time we visit. Oh, and their pizza was very good as well - it has that "real NY" sauce and cheese that I remember from growing up in NY. The crust was tasty, a little sweet, but a bit softer than I 'd like. If they worked on getting the bottom of the crust a bit crispier this will move to #1 on my gluten free pizza top 10 list. Baked goods were also good - the chocolate chip cookies had good texture and flavor - chewy with a lot of chocolate chips. We were split on the brownies - the hubbie did not care for the oil after taste - it sort of reminded me of a shrink wrapped brownie I used to buy out of a vending machine decades ago. The giggler and I also split a piece of carrot cake with cream cheese frosting - also a huge hit. If  you are visiting or traveling through the mid Hudson valley, this is a must do if you want to feast GF. Be sure to check out their web site for hours though - in the summer they are only open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays but you can get some of their goods at local markets - all listed on their web site. One thing about Soul Dog - their flour mix has chickpea flour but I swear I was unable to taste any bean aftertaste at all - they really have gotten it right. I may order some of this flour mix from their site.
  • Bonefish Grill - we had dined at a Bonefish Grill in Nashville a couple of years ago - this was the same experience. Good selection on their gluten free menu, good salad, tasty although a bit over-seasoned fish. Great creme brule for dessert. 

August 2011- hot off the press!
  • We were in a rush to get the giggler home to bed but did not have dinner yet so we called our local BJ's Brewhouse to order some GF pizzas to go (which were absolutely cooked to perfection BTW). When I placed the order I was asked if I wanted to add a gluten free pizzookie! For those of you who have been to BJ's prior to going gluten free, you will recall the pizzookie is freshly baked cookie topped with ice cream. I have really missed that dessert- and now they have a gluten free version. We added it to our to go order and it was packaged with the ice cream in a separate container so we could keep that cold while keeping the cookie hot. We also reheated the cookie a little in the toaster before serving. The verdict? I loved it - lots of soft chewy cookie/dough with little chocolate chips and rich vanilla ice cream. The hubbie thought it was just OK but loved the ice cream. The giggler couldn't resist helping me eat my ice cream but wasn't interested in the cookie. Thanks BJ's - I will definitely be ordering that again!!!