Lobster Sandwich = Lovely Luncheon

Lunching out with my sister and dear friend Beth last week during my vacation, we ate at The Cottage, an upscale restaurant in Wellesley, MA.  My sister chose it because it has several gluten free items on the menu.  We had lunch there last year when I was in town visiting, I had a big salad with lobster and crab and hearts of palm.  Didn’t think I could get better than that. Wrong!

cottage

This time I ordered a lobster sandwich and a side salad which I asked for a few slices of avocado on top.  It was served in a round gluten free bun.  They had to leave off the deep fried prosciutto.  Chef didn’t want to pan fry it as I suggested to avoid the deep fryer which was not gf, oh well.  I discovered great flavor in the lobster stuffed bun served with arugula and a touch of lemon flavored mayo.  My salad was wonderful; fresh greens augmented with red onion, European cucumber and cherry tomatoes. I had them add a few slices of avocado; perfection.  I totally forgot to take a picture of this plate of yumminess to remember it by: I was hungry and simply mesmerized by the flavors of both components.  Sorry.  Next time! Honestly, this was the best lunch combo I have eaten in many years and it was gluten free.

And their fruity ice tea was tasty and quite thirst quenching.  We had the best waiter; he was so helpful to me, happily checking on my gf questions with the chef. I love this place!

Pao de Queijo bread

Before that plate came out I was pleasantly surprised by the freshly baked gluten free rolls our server brought just for me.  They were small and oval, a favorite in Brazil.  Called pao de queijo, they are naturally gluten free; made with tapioca flour, cheese, egg and milk.  They are slightly chewy and moist with a flaky exterior, somewhat addictive. This was the first time I enjoyed pao de queijo although I had heard of them.  I ate both rolls and longed for more…will power! My sister tried a bite and was impressed with the flavor and cheesy texture. I have already looked up a recipe for these rolls; so simple; whip it all together in blender and baking in a mini muffin pan.  I must have these!

stuffed avocados

My sister had twin avocado halves full of chicken salad and a lemony quinoa side salad.  Gluten free and very yummy: I tasted a bite…. Beth enjoyed a juicy fat burger with a wheat roll and lots of French fries.  I had to look away; I wanted both the fries and the burger.  Oh well, I was pretty well set up with my delectable meal, so no worries.

flourless cake

We three ladies shared a slice of flour-less chocolate tort served with a tiny drizzle of hot fudge sauce and a few scoops of ice cream. Did I mention the fresh whipped cream topping?  Needless to say this delight did not linger on the plate more than a minute or two.  We scarfed it down with our spoons and someone, not to be named, scraped the plate for the last bit of chocolate sauce! In the spirit of full disclosure, we had the same dessert last year and there was no discussion on what we should have this time around!

All in all, a delightful place for eating, both regular menu for you gluten lovers and the gluten free menu which had several other tasty looking options.  If you are in Wellesley or Brookline MA, where there is another Cottage; stop in for a great meal.

White Orchids – A Disappointing Dining Experience

Eating out is always a bit of an adventure, only more so when you have to eat gluten free because of celiac disease.  You never know if you might get ill due to  gluten contamination.  But, just like anyone else dining out, there is always the chance of a great meal or a lousy one!  We ate out Saturday night at White Orchids at The Promenade in Center Valley.  A good friend suggested it as having a great gluten free menu.  So we went for supper recently and I was excited at the prospect of wonderful Thai dishes.

white orchid

I should start by saying that my guy loves spicy Mexican food but I am not so sure on his love of Asian flavors.  However, I adore Asian food and in my past gluten eating life made many batches of potstickers, a multicourse dim sum dinner party, lots of stir fries and many other Asian treats over the years.  I still make stir fries, my version of fried rice and my take on Pad Thai.  My sister’s wedding reception was at a great Thai restaurant in Massachusetts and I have eaten a number of very good Thai dinners in the past. So, based on all that, it is my feeling that I do know a bit about Thai foods.

We ordered a tray of potstickers to start off and both of us got soup.  The chicken potstickers were tiny, bland and utterly boring.  They were steamed, not fried as I normally associate with a potsticker; they stick to the pot when fried which gives them that name! They were more shaped like shu-mei than a potsticker. The blackish dipping sauce had virtually no flavor at all.  My own soy dipping sauce has garlic, ginger and scallions blended in as well as sesame oil.  It is crammed with flavor when you pour some over a tender potsticker.  Too bad I didn’t have some of my sauce with me to rescue those sad dumplings.  Neither of us wanted the sixth sticker but I urged Joe to eat it.  Better him than me!

Joe had ordered coffee at the start of the meal and it showed up lukewarm.  We sent it back and got another cup of….lukewarm coffee.  He was pretty disgusted that they couldn’t bring a hot cup after being told that the first one was not hot. Not good. The server was a nice young lady but I don’t think she was perceptive at addressing our concerns.

The soups arrived and I was again assaulted by bland; my coconut Thai soup had slices of mushroom and two fat shrimp but not much to get excited over.  Sadly, there was little flavor in the thin broth.  Joe’s lemon grass soup was much better: the pungent lemongrass dominated the flavor of it overwhelming his two shrimp.  I gladly finished it for him. It was the best thing I ate all evening.

My beer, Omission arrived, the waitress said it was GF when we ordered; I was excited to try it though when I reviewed the bottle, no where did it say “GF”.  So I asked the server, she trotted off and soon returned to say that the owner and the manager both said it was safe.  Good to hear but honestly, I think a quick stop by from either of them would have allayed my fears a heck of a lot more and would have been the politic thing to do.  I drank some but was too scared to really enjoy it.

Thai pinapple duck

Those red things are grape tomatoes. They didn’t seem to go with the rest of the dish but they added lots of color!

When the entrees arrived my duck with pineapple curry sauce came first so I was happily trying it when Joe’s beef pad Thai showed up.  Duck is a favorite of mine, especially the breast. I was not impressed by the bland sauce, the canned pineapple or the sad chunks of duck that felt like they had spent the day in a warming dish waiting for someone to order a duck entrée.  The dish had little duck flavor and was uninspired to put it mildly.

pad thai

I did take the Pad Thai leftovers home and added stir fried carrot, celery, snap peas and broccoli. Better!

Pad Thai.2 as revised by me for lunch the next day.

Pad Thai.2 as revised by me for lunch the next day.

Luckily for me, my man did not care for the beef in his noodle dish and we swapped entrees.  Unluckily for me, his was much spicier than my dish and so I was unable to eat more than half of it due to the hotness of the spicing.  It was okay flavor wise although there were no veggies other than bean sprouts and an occasional sliver of scallion.  Joe loves pineapple and green pepper so each of us was slightly happier for the switch.  Neither entree impressed us especially considering the recent award this restaurant had won as to having the best gf menu.  We declined dessert: I mentally shuddered at what might come of that course if we partook.

Maybe their great chef was sick or on vacation that night or his assistant had made our meal. I don’t know. Something seemed off.  It is pretty rare we both are so dissatisfied with our dinner out.  When you pay $73 before tip and yes; we gave a good tip, you expect great food from a beautifully set up restaurant that has just won an award.  And when you point out problems one would expect them to be promptly corrected….so disappointing.

We will not be going back; I would have to drag him there.  Darn on how this meal turned out as I really love good Thai food! Guess I will keep making my own pad Thai and get busy rolling out some gf eggroll wrappers to make my own gf potstickers.  I know it is doable.  I just had hoped to enjoy the fruits of someone else’s labors.  It sure was a big bummer that we didn’t have the special dining experience that we were expecting. Sadly, I cannot recommend this restaurant to anyone, even though I didn’t get glutened, it was not a meal I enjoyed at all. I hope no one else ever feels this way after dinner there but I think that is a forlorn hope.

Bellissimo at Bella’s

Dinner out as a celiac is often fraught, cross contamination makes it so easy to ingest gluten and it is so hard to find memorably good  gluten free food.  This weekend we went to a restaurant where I have eaten safely four times in the past two years plus it is close by, no need to travel a distance for a decent meal.  Where you ask? Bella’s, right here on Main Street in Hellertown.  I have written about them before but they don’t know my face so I get the same good service as any other patron. This meal was definitely worth writing about.

bella sign

I usually get their ziti and once I tried the ravioli, both on the special gluten free menu I always ask for.  All were excellent. This time I did the unthinkable; I ordered off the nightly special!  Our very friendly and incredibly accommodating waitress went and asked the chef if he could make it with gluten free pasta and flour free as to the sauce.  Chef was willing and I waited with much anticipation.  Eating off the nightly special menu is something I haven’t been able to do in over two years.

I enjoyed a tasty house salad full of baby spinach leaves while we waited for our entrees.  Joe had a cup of soup with spinach and tortellini.  He said it was very good.  I sat dreaming of the day when I can buy gf tortellini in the pasta aisle and make my own version.

The atmosphere at Bella’s was enjoyable: their decorations were pleasing to my eyes, agreeable soft lighting, tables not too close and the Sinatra was quite soothing.  It was not loud in the dining room but I experienced a good buzz of laughter and talk; the vocal music of a restaurant full of happy customers!

salmon with shrimp

I confess I forgot myself and ate some salmon and pasta before this picture was snapped.

 

Our entrees came.  Mine was glorious looking.  A salmon fillet covered with sautéed red onions, fresh tomato and smoked mozzarella cheese.  It was resting in a sea of ziti with a light wine sauce with large and small shrimp swimming around (well, maybe the shrimp were just laying in it but I like to have fun with words!)  The menu didn’t mention them. Bonus!!

I dove in and the flavors were fantastic, the buttery wine sauce played oh so well with the salmon and its toppings.  But wait; I couldn’t find any avocado on my plate.  That was what had attracted me to this dish in the first place.  If you expect something that was mentioned in the menu then I feel you have the right to speak up and politely ask for it.  So I did and shortly a young man in an apron with a bowl of avocado slices showed up. He introduced himself as the chef; he was full of apologies for forgetting avocado on my dish and placed several slices on my salmon. How cool is that? A chef that cares enough to personally fix an issue right at table, Wow!

With the avocado it was even more amazing in the flavor department.  I declined to finish the large serving; saved some pasta and shrimp for lunch the next day.  Joe enjoyed his eggplant rolled and served in vodka sauce but I was just blown away by the complex flavors in my entree and that it was gluten free and whipped up that way especially for me.

Chalk up another safe meal for me at Bella’s.  I can’t wait to go back and try something else.   If you are celiac like me and dread meals out; this is the place to go.  Five times and never disappointed or glutened.  Perfect Italian and perfectly safe.

Sensenig’s Meats Comes Through With Safe Yummy BBQ Pork for GF Festing

Another day, another search for a safe gluten free meal at Musikfest. Today I volunteered down under the bridge, near the Bethlehem Dairy Store braving the gluten demon pouring beer at the Beer Caddy spot not far from FestPlatz.  For my meal break I wanted to try something totally new so I passed by the corn stand where I could order an ear minus the seasoning mix.

I kept going all the way to Volzplatz.  There I located a BBQ stand near the very end of the food stands, Sensenig’s Meats & Catering that said they had a safe choice, a loaded baked potato.  It was topped with barbequed pulled pork and served with a squeeze tube of sour cream.  The manager assured me his pulled pork and his BBQ sauce were both GF.  He wasn’t sure about his shredded cheese that normally tops the potato so I skipped that at his recommendation.  It cost me 9 tickets a/k/a $9.

Worth every penny considering the cost of other food there and the quality of what I ate from their stand.  The bbq sauce was rich and flavorful. The pork meat was well roasted and very tasty.  I put on some regular bbq sauce on top of my bbq but didn’t try the hot sauce.  They had a couple of other sauces to pick from.  The potato was decently baked and the sour cream went really well with the barbequed pork.  Winner in both flavor and in filling my tummy.  Give it a try.

FYI: I asked at the Vietnamese stand at VoltzPlatz but their food was not safe for celiacs.  Up on Main Street there is a Vietnamese restaurant you can go in and eat inside and they do have safe food.  It is tough to fest GF but it can be done if you ask polite but essential questions and be very careful in your choices.

Tasty Taco Salad Southside Musikfest

Well, tonight I traveled to the South Side of Musikfest, enjoying some fantastic Creole/Zydeco of Jeffrey Broussard and the Creole Cowboys, then a tribute to Jerry Garcia and we topped off the night with The Avett Brothers.  I really loved the Avett Brothers; fabulously hot strings and energetic soulful singing.  I was totally wowed. Avett brothers

Less wowing was the food selection Southside for someone with celiac disease.  I could only find one thing for a main course; a taco salad they made specially for me using fried corn chips topped with the rest of their standard chicken taco salad; shredded plain chicken, black beans, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, corn, sour cream, some pico de gallo sauce.  I put on a few splashes of hot sauce which added a much needed flavor boost.  I ate it with my fingers and with the fork they gave me.  Normally it would be in a deep fried flour tortilla. Obviously that was not possible for me to eat so they offered me the fried corn tortilla chips.  It was the best thing I have eaten at Musikfest this year.  This was at Cactus Blue up by Steel Staks.  I highly recommend it.

The only other thing besides a beverage I could find was a Breyer’s ice cream stand that had scoops in a cup.  I was too full from the taco salad to have some and I did have concerns that their scoopers might have touched cones made of wheat before scooping my ice cream.  I felt lucky enough to safely eat the taco salad as I was worried that deep frying them might have contaminated the chips. I had brought an emergency serving of quinoa salad just in case so I wouldn’t starve all night, no need to eat it but I was glad to have a back up food source.

musikfest nighttime 2014

So, I am still yearning for that GF food stand at Musikfest.  Tomorrow I will be down under the Hill to Hill bridge pouring beer and rinsing my hands lots! I will be searching for something safe to eat there. I did see some walk away main course Sundays at Shookies.  Humm? I will have to go ask them some questions but it looked promising the other day.  Go out there and enjoy some great music!

Musikfest Gluten Free…Not Easy but Possible

In the Lehigh Valley we have a big music festival in August every year, called Musikfest.  Ten days of free and paid music venues and lots of festival food.  I have been going for 30 years; missed the first year of it.  It used to be a place where I could enjoy waffles with ice cream and frozen strawberries topped with whipped cream, shared four ways; my sisters and I enjoyed that tradition every year.  Now I am GF and it is not so easy.  Below is my post of last summer and an update on so far this Musikfest.  musikfest 2014 2

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2013: Festing last week in Bethlehem was fun if slightly fraught for me. I was never sure what I would find to safely eat when I was there volunteering. The Saturday night I went with my sisters and our men to celebrate my dear sister Margie’s life, I didn’t eat anything there. The lines were long and I chickened out on asking the GF questions that have become so necessary to my continued good health.

Through the week I looked and looked. I did eat the Aw Shucks corn minus the seasoning. I had a chicken kebab minus the bread. On the last night I got adventurous and tried some kettle corn once the servers assured me it was gluten free. It was delicious! I also had some soft serve which was less than stellar although it was safe for me. I wished I had waited until I found the Bethlehem Dairy stand. Their ice cream is so good. It would have been worth the wait. Too bad I can’t eat their waffles anymore.

As to serving beer, I am considering doing wine service or serving cider. I did okay once I started rinsing my hands between beers. I will have to think about that aspect of volunteering there which I have loved for the past twelve years.

So next year, maybe there will be a stand serving GF food. Not hard if you just don’t sprinkle flour over the frozen fries, if you use corn tortillas, if you use rice seasoning that has no wheat in it. You can get GF burger and hot dog buns too. There are many good fair foods that could be easily made GF. Now I can only dream that someone will make it so….

Below is a brief 2014 Musikfest update:

No, I have found no GF stand, not yet anyway!  I have not gotten all around the fest.  I did find a walking taco in a bag that was safe; made with Doritos and the operator called the boss to check on the meat sauce and it was declared safe.  So I took the plunge and had one.  Pretty good and I didn’t feel ill later.  This was from a cash stand up by the Sun Inn in the little courtyard between the Sun and the corner building.

I had some BBQ pork Sunday minus the bun but with sauce that I was told contained no wheat.  It was less than inspiring and I won’t spend a fortune there (Leiderplatz BBQ stand) for anything else…

I am still pouring beer, endlessly rinsing my fingers and hands.  So far so good!  It is tough being the alcohol supervisor when you can’t even taste the beer to make sure it is the same beer pictured on the tap!

I need to get over to Voltzplatz and Handworkplatz to check out their food offerings.  I will be on the southside Thursday, and will see what is safe or reasonably safe there.  I want some plain roasted corn, too bad their seasoning sprinkle blend is unsafe…..And yes, ice cream in a cup and some kettle corn. Maybe I will find something in the protein family that is safe for me. Hope so!  I am not letting my GF status keep me from festing and having fun this August.