Why write about a wine shop on a website dedicated to food? Because good wine elevates good food, and good food makes good wine taste better. I love wine, but I love wine & food more. The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Located at 17th & Baltimore in the heart of the Crossroads Art District, the staff at Cellar Rat Wine Merchants are as passionate about wine as I am about making good food. As a result, I’ve become a whole lot more passionate (and adventurous) about wine and wine pairings. Because of the staff’s knowledge, enthusiasm, and encouragement, this self professed Red Wine Only drinker has come to love the full gamut of flavors- from the lightest white, to a deep salmon rosé, to a hit you on the head Cabernet. I’ve come to appreciate the passion, commitment, and time it takes to grow and bottle good wine- in the same way it takes those qualities to perfect Boeuf Bourguignon or a souffle.
Cellar Rat Wine is about quality and passion. But don’t think that means you’ll be priced out of the market. The vast majority of the wines they carry are between $10-25 a bottle- because good wine is meant to be consumed. There’s a great selection of higher end bottles for special occasions or for cellaring. With weekly tastings, wine of the week deals, wine classes, and a monthly mix & match $100 case offering (yes you read that right- high quality, delicious wines for for less than $9 bucks a bottle!) Cellar Rat has something to offer everyone. They’re just as thrilled to see beginning tasters as they are enthusiasts, so if you’ve ever been curious about wine tasting or wine pairing stop on by.
We also think that Cellar Rat Wine is the best place for a Friday night date. Why? You can purchase a bottle of wine and they’ll open it right there for you to enjoy. Feeling like a splurge? Order a cheese and charcuterie plate. There’s plenty of room to sit and enjoy a bite and a glass. (They also have a small selection of wines by the glass if you don’t want a bottle- or they can seal up your bottle and you can take it home!)
They are very gluten free aware and carry a nice selection of gluten free crackers- likely more than your local grocery store! If you let them know when you order your cheese plate, they’ll happily provide you with gluten free crackers instead of the bread that typically accompanies the cheese plates. Local artists are featured on the walls in ever-changing displays, and a lovely back room provides additional space for tasting classes and private parties.
Cellar Rat Wine carries more than just wine- they offer an excellent selection of cheeses & charcuterie, snobby chocolates, bitters, beers, liquors and sakes- many of them created by small batch or local producers like the ones shown in the photo below. Row Hard Root Beer is gluten free, locally brewed, and contains a little over 6% alcohol. It’s the best root beer I’ve ever tried, and they are not joking when they claim it makes the best root beer floats. Do be careful though- you can’t really taste the alcohol.
Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t brag about their Monthly Wine Clubs- which you can read about here. Wine Club memberships include a tasting class and other special bonuses. I have found kindred spirits in tasting and life adventures inside these walls, and encourage you if you’re in the neighborhood to stop by and get to know some incredible human beings and fellow taste adventurers.
Kansas City has a lot more going for it than barbeque and baseball. We’ve got a world class performing arts space, an affordable cost of living, a lively arts scene, and an independent restaurant scene that is grounded in local food.
Restaurant Week is a great time to check out some of the best Kansas City establishments without breaking your pocketbook. Not only do you get to taste some incredible offerings from some of the best chefs in the country right now, like James Beard award winner Colby Garrelts (both his restaurants- Bluestem & Rye are participating), but you’ll be helping a number of local charities too- like my favorite, Cultivate Kansas City, who works to grow food, farms and communities for a healthier local food system in the Kansas City area. The pre-fixe 3-course menus cost $15 for lunch and $33 for dinner. Best to make your reservations while you can- many will sell out every table this week!
Many of the selections are gluten-free, and BRGR will serve any burger on the menu on a GF Bun. Look through the list- it’s extensive and see what tickles your fancy. If you’re a KC local- tell us where you dined!
Recently, I wrote about getting gluten bombed at a local establishment well known for serving gluten-free items on their menu. Suffice it to say I’ve been pretty skittish about eating out anywhere since then. However, Mr. Kitchen Diva took me out on a date to a restaurant I’ve been hearing great things about and dying to try- Affäre, located at 1911 Main Street. God bless him, he called ahead ask if they could work with a gluten issue and to make sure there would be safe items for me to eat, and when I arrived, this was waiting for me at our table. I cried a little..
In advance of our arrival, our server had starred the items on the menu that are naturally gluten-free, and underlined menu items I would need to leave off so that a plate could be gluten-free. She also assured me that the folks in her kitchen were aware of my issue and that I would be safe in their hands. I cried a little more… (just kidding, but I was blown away by their care and concern, and their desire that I have a positive experience)
Affäre is one of a handful of German restaurants that have popped up in Kansas City in the last few years. I can’t speak to the others, because in my experience there’s not alot on a German menu that is naturally gluten-free, and so I haven’t bothered to check them out. Clearly, at least where Affäre is concerned, I was very wrong.
Chef Martin Heuser (who was incidentally nominated for a James Beard award for his outstanding work here in 2013), and his wife Katrin- who’s also a Sommelier, have created a delicious and innovative menu that is based not only on German tradition, but on sourcing local and seasonal produce. Their philosophy of supporting their local food economy as much as they can is one that resonates deeply with me. And for me as a consumer, there’s something very gratifying about eating at a local restaurant that is committed to serving local food.
The ambience at Affäre is also right up my alley. Low backed booths interspersed with wooden chairs and small tables covered in heavy white linens provide intimacy in a room with an industrial feel- exposed brick and ductwork. There are also farmhouse style tables for larger parties. A number of local artists are featured on the walls, and while we were there Metropolis was playing on the TV behind the bar. My own aesthetic is very much vintage meets industrial, and I think they’ve struck a great balance. The juxtaposition they’ve created visually compliments what’s happening on the plate too- Vintage German meets Modern meets Local Food… For instance- Bison is prominent on the menu, and beautifully executed- whether as carpaccio with truffles, or as hanger steak with kartoffelplätzchen (potato cakes).
Since we are the adventurous type and there were so many delicious sounding options we couldn’t decide between, we opted to put ourselves in their hands and ordered the 4 course tasting menu, adding paired wines. Every course was perfectly balanced and a delight to our senses. We especially loved the pickled butternut squash..I mean really- who thinks to pickle butternut? And yet when we tasted it, we wondered why everyone isn’t doing it. Brilliant.
Affäre also cures and smokes all their charcuterie- hams, bacon, sausages- you name it. If you’re in love with their bratwurst (we are) you can even purchase a pack of 5 (fully cooked) to take home and grill.
We enjoyed a perfectly prepared salmon with perhaps one of the most innovative sauces I’ve ever encountered: oyster-marzipan sauce… I really can’t even begin to describe the way the flavors unveiled themselves in my mouth… So good I wanted to lick the plate. Again, I kept thinking- HOW do people think this stuff up? And for the first time ever, I drank a German Pinot.
For me, wine pairing is the other half of what makes a great meal taste great. I love wine- but I love wine more with food. Recently, and for obvious reasons, I’ve spent most of my time learning French wines. I know next to nothing about German wines. Katrin introduced me to the wines of her favorite region in Germany, Bavaria to be exact- Franconia, where they’ve been making wines for over 1200 years, and a German red called Trölinger.
Affäre also has regular happy hour specials and no corkage Wednesday nights if you’d like to try your own hand at pairing a bottle. Frankly, I prefer to put myself in Katrin’s extremely capable and creative hands. Be sure to visit their website so you can ogle their beautiful food photography. My attempts at discreet photography don’t do their food justice.
Parking was also not an issue for us. I know many folks have been avoiding Downtown and the Crossroads because of the street car construction, but there’s a lot just a few doors down, and the parking instructions on Affäre’s site are very clear. Don’t let your aversion to a bit of construction deter you from an incredible dining experience.
I would like to thank Katrin and Martin and their outstanding staff. We had a beautiful experience and will be back as soon as we can for more!
Just before the holidays, Mr. Kitchen Diva and I had the opportunity to get away for a long weekend. It was much needed, and for various reasons- mostly having to do with time- we opted for a ‘staycation’ not far from where we live.
Kansas City is routinely making top 5 and top 10 lists for food tourism, sports, arts, and livability. If you’re coming from afar, or just need a romantic staycation to recharge your batteries, look no further than the Oak Street Mansion. Built in 1907, the Mansion was purchased in 2010 and lovingly restored for two years by the Sabates family.
Just a stone’s throw from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, the Oak Street Mansion is an ode to art and artistry. Each room has an art-related theme, complete with gorgeous works on the walls. There is a gallery with changing art, as well as a permanent collection that owners Roland & Maria Sabates are happy to take you through. If you prefer to wander on your own, there is a book of the Mansion’s artwork in every room. Well worth the read if you have the time.
They were also very willing to make a delicious gluten-free breakfast. I was surprised and delighted to see my own mixes featured on the breakfast menu! John Sabates, one Maria & Roland’s sons, runs the kitchen and is highly creative. Breakfast was a daily feast, and one morning he even made gluten-free red-velvet scones! If you’re around in the late afternoon, plan to sit by the fireplace and enjoy a complimentary glass of wine, along with specially selected charcuterie.
However, in warmer months, the gardens are inviting and filled with sculptures- so you could enjoy your wine al-fresco when the weather permits.
We’d love to thank the Sabates family for a lovely stay, and for contributing to the vibrant arts culture that Kansas City is becoming celebrated for nationwide. We’ll definitely be back soon!
I want to talk a bit about cross-contamination. Normally I try to focus on the positive aspects of being gluten-free; helping people to be proactive in their cooking and travel, and trying in my own life to experience fully the fabulous gluten-free options that are available to us.
But as I sit here reeling from the effects of serious gluten contamination Saturday evening at the hands of an inexperienced and very careless server at a restaurant we frequent often, I feel that I need to address the very serious issue of cross contamination and the ramifications of the gluten-free ‘fad’.
For me being gluten free is not a ‘fad’. I’m not gluten free out of a desire to eat better, lose weight, avoid GMOs, or any of the other trendy reasons people go gluten-free these days. I have always said if you feel better not eating gluten, then don’t eat it. But for me, eating gluten-free is a matter of life and death. Let me explain what happens in my body when I have 2 BITES, yes 2 Bites of bread.
Within the hour I experience severe intestinal cramping which will last 6-8 hours. This isn’t like PMS cramps, this is like chef’s knives slicing apart my insides…
Within 24-48 hours I will experience a painful and unattractive acne breakout around my chin and lips. If I’m lucky the swelling will recede in 7-10 days.
Within 24-48 hours my legs will start itching. Depending on the amount of gluten ingested, they can stay itchy for 2-3 weeks. At its worst, its an itchy, blistery rash. At its best, a little cortizone and deep breathing can control the itching and it will dissipate in 7-10 days.
Forgive me if I get a little irritated when I hear waitstaff saying “a little cross contamination is okay”…
This happens whether or not I take a sip of beer (somebody served me a margarita spiked with beer at a party and didn’t tell me) or eat a bite of a Rice-Krispie treat (Rice Krispies have malted barley syrup making them not gluten free)
This is why 20ppm is the allowable gluten level for anyone with Celiac…that’s the amount of flour that fits under your pinkie fingernail…maybe 2 crumbs. Studies show that nearly 45% of ‘gluten free’ food manufactured in a facility containing wheat has more than the allowable gluten level. That means no Trader Joe’s lemon mustard aioli…It should be gluten free. It’s made with oil, lemon, mustard, eggs, etc.. No flour whatsoever. But it’s manufactured in a facility containing wheat- and even though their line might be far away from where the flour is, I can’t risk that jar being one of the almost 45%.
And here’s the rub. The gluten-free fad has done wonders for raising awareness about gluten. When I was diagnosed almost 17 years ago with Celiac, people looked at me like I had 8 heads when I asked if certain foods contained gluten. Now, many who work in food service are at least aware. The problem is, many are not aware of the serious consequences that some of us have when we ingest gluten. Or they foolishly assume that people are asking for gluten free for frivolous purposes and don’t bother to be meticulous in the kitchen.
Successful gluten-free eating outside the home is a two-way street. It is the responsibility of the gluten-free eater to be proactive, ask questions, and ultimately decide for themselves what they feel comfortable consuming. And it is the responsibility of the restaurant, managers and staff if they are claiming they have gluten-free offerings to ensure those items going out to the gluten-free table are indeed gluten free. Apparently easier said than done. But I do believe continued education helps, which is why I’m being so forthcoming about what happens to me when I ingest gluten.
Restaurant owners/managers/servers- I’d love to hear from you. Gluten Free-ers, I’d love to hear from you too..
Here’s what I personally would like to see and experience in a restaurant:
Accurate menu descriptions… If you state on a menu that something is gluten-free, then don’t EVER send anything out on that plate containing gluten. It’s one thing for me to ask and verify that something is gluten-free, but well meaning grandparents, babysitters, parents of friends etc. will likely be too trusting and believe that everything on the plate is gluten free.
Instruct your waitstaff to never ever ever say something is gluten-free if they don’t know. Ever. The correct answer should always be, “I don’t know. Please don’t taste anything until I’ve verified with the chef/manager.” I will happily wait if it means avoiding hours and days of discomfort.
Come up with a system on your line to alert line cooks and expeditors that a ticket is gluten-free. This could be as simple as a red marker, or an extra button on the computer tickets.
In return I (and hopefully other gluten free diners)
Will be patient. I recognize I may be the first gluten-free diner you’ve encountered. I will answer your questions, and am willing to read labels or speak with the chef.
Will make an educated and informed decision about what (if anything) I feel comfortable eating in your establishment, and I will not complain if your kitchen is run in a way that makes me not feel safe. Since we’re not in Paris and there are no gluten free restaurants in the US (that I know of) I recognize I’m only 1 customer among many, and that your restaurant may not be a good fit for my needs.
Will be a loyal customer if I feel safe eating in your establishment. And will tell all my gluten free friends to support your restaurant too.
Will politely inform the managers if there has been an issue. (no need for tantrums)
Profit margins in restaurants are razor thin, and studies show that restaurants who maintain a reputation of being a safe place to eat gluten-free see a 17% increase in their bottom line… That’s huge. I also eat locally. I’ve found the kitchens and staff at local restaurants are far more willing to go the extra mile to earn and keep gluten-free diners’ business. While many chains are hopping on the gluten free bandwagon, most also have a CYA disclaimer saying they can’t really guarantee gluten free… Fine, that’s their prerogative, but that’s not quite good enough for me.
Have you been cross contaminated? Share your experiences below. Know of a safe and delicious restaurant? Share that below too. Check out our gluten free travel page for write-ups on places we’ve enjoyed. More will be coming in 2015!
When was the last time you enjoyed a really GREAT beer? In fact, when was the last time you had YOUR CHOICE of several great beers??? Ever? Since before you were diagnosed with Celiac, or gluten-intolerance, or a gluten-allergy? For me it’s been 16 years…. Yes, 16 years of being in a gluten-free beer desert.
Now there have been tiny oases over the years…Harvester Brewing in Portland OR, comes to mind- they are brewing quite possibly the best gluten free (meaning brewed with gluten free grains) beer in the country. (They ship outside of Portland, and if you want a treat- I highly recommend their St. Denny Dubbel) Then there’s New Planet Beer in Boulder- also using gluten free grains and I can buy them at my neighborhood liquor store. They sell a fantastic Raspberry that’s perfect for our hot, humid summers, and a Brown that is out of this world. They rock the Brown..
Then there’s Brewery Rickoli, a nano-brewery located in Wheatridge, Colorado, which has been on my radar for about a year. My friend Elke sent me a link to their website exited that they were brewing ALL their beers with the gluten-reducing enzyme Clarex (Clarity Ferm). Originally used to stabilize beers and prevent chill-haze, it turns out the secondary application is denaturing the gluten molecule in a way that the beers are consumable by many celiacs and test- with current testing methods- at less than 20ppm. However, this process is not without controversy. Very heated controversy.
Check out the links above here and read about it yourself if you don’t believe me. In a nutshell the ‘gluten-free grain’ brewers claim their products are better and safer for celiacs than the ‘gluten-reduced’ brewers. The ‘gluten-reduced’ brewers respond that you just don’t get great beer flavor without barley. I think they’re both right. I mean- where’s the ‘gluten-free grain’ Guinness equivalent? Or the whiskey barrel aged stout? The Vanilla Porter? Right now the ‘gluten-free grain brewers’ haven’t figured it out. And thankfully, there are more traditional brewers who are realizing every day that adding an enzyme to bust up a gluten molecule doesn’t hurt the quality of the beer, and gains them entry into a previously closed market.
I do appreciate that for now the FDA and Alcohol and Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB) are very clear on differentiating between ‘gluten-free’ and ‘gluten-reduced’. I want to know exactly what’s going in my body. Anecdotally, some folks have had no problems with ‘gluten-reduced’ and others have. If it’s labeled clearly, then you get to decide. Ultimately, I think the market will support good taste- for the same reason craft beer sales have been skyrocketing and Budweiser sales have been slipping. Everyone loves a good story, and everyone loves a good locally produced hand-crafted beer. Which brings me back to Rickoli..
These guys make some seriously good beer. And so much of it, that I was informed if I ordered a tasting portion of everything they had on tap that I would be consuming over 93oz of beer!! (That’s well over a 6pack for those of you interested in the math) However, Brewmaster Rick Abitbol was happy to pour me tiny sips so that I could at least taste most of what was on tap when we visited.
In some ways, I was like a kid in a candy shop. When you have that much selection, you don’t know where to start. Like wine tasting, I decided to start at the light end and work my way up. Really it’s all great, and if there’s a specific style of beer you love, Rickoli is sure to either have it on tap or be brewing it soon. Their line-up is constantly changing- all the more reason to make this a regular hang-out if you live in the Denver Metro Area. Plus, Rick is just so darned cool and knowledgeable!
Of special note the day we were there was the Double Cream Ale- a rich, creamy ale with a whopping 8.6%ABV, The Social Lubricant Scotch Ale 8%ABV..it’s so good even the shyest among you will start chatting with your neighbor! The Elke Brown- named after my good friend Elke, and while I loved so many, this was the one I purchased a growler of to take on the road.
And now- let’s talk Stout..
To me this is the Holy Grail of Gluten-Free/Reduced beers. For 16 years I have been crying for a stout that wouldn’t wreck my insides. When the time finally came to try the stouts I was actually a little…nervous… Like going to a High School Reunion (which I have successfully avoided for 20-something years) nervous. Or meeting your college sweetheart years later…Would I still like stout? What if I’d been waiting for this magic experience for 16 years and it turned out I didn’t even like stout anymore? I was worried my tastebuds had changed…
So what was it like? Unexpected. Rich. Different…Delicious.
We were lucky enough to be at the brewery the weekend they were tapping 3 versions of their Monolith- an American Imperial Stout. On tap that day was the traditional Monolith, Monolith aged in locally produced merlot barrels, and Monolith aged in bourbon barrels.
The Merlot Monolith was unlike anything I’ve ever tasted. One doesn’t usually consider two-fisting dark beer and red wine. First off, you could really taste the merlot in the beer. Second- it rounded out and added a mildly fruity note to the beer. It was creative, definitely unexpected, and really good!
My favorite had to be the bourbon barrel aged Monolith. For years, I have inhaled the tantalizing aroma of Mr. Kitchen Diva’s bourbon barrel stouts from places like Goose Island & Stone Brewing. The idea of getting to drink one made me positively giddy. Did it live up to my expectations? Well, yes. What was interesting to me was that my overall impression was that it was delicious, and far richer than I had remembered. I think my tastebuds have definitely suffered during the 16 year drought. I didn’t have much because I felt like I could easily overwhelm my body. I recommend enjoying it in small amounts if it’s been awhile since you’ve had a thick, rich, beer.
Since Rickoli is so small, they don’t have much food on hand to accompany their beers. They have hummus & veggie cups for the gluten free, and a few gluten-bombs for those who prefer. However..they do allow you to bring in your own food, and there just happens to be a pizza joint (Infinitus Pie– with quite possibly some of the cleverest graphic design I’ve seen for a pizza company)around the corner that makes a really good gluten free pizza crust. And they deliver.. Did I mention they were delicious??
Lastly, Rick mentioned that Rickoli is hoping to get bottling capacity soon… and while I recognize it may still be some time before those bottles make their way to Kansas City, one can always hope!
I don’t usually write about Celiac Disease. I was 27 when I was diagnosed, although I’m fairly convinced I had Celiac even as a little girl- I was one sick kid. But Celiac Disease isn’t how I define myself- it’s just kind of there. I know I need to avoid gluten for the rest of my life, and that’s that.
As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather jump in enthusiastically to explore all the delicious foods and meals that are naturally Gluten Free, or can be easily made gluten free than get hung up on what I can’t eat. Sure, do miss croissants? Yeah- I guess- sometimes. But I’m happy and healthy without most carbs in my life. And in fact, on a recent recipe testing binge- I actually felt pretty gross after eating piles of gluten free biscuits for 2 days!
So, as a food writer and foodie, it was really interesting for me to attend the International Celiac Disease Symposium last week in Chicago. The opening reception, hosted by some of Chicago’s best restaurants, did not disappoint. If you want to eat well as a Celiac- come to Chicago.
On the vendor side of things, there wasn’t much new to report. All the usual biggies were there- Udi’s, Rudi’s, Enjoy Life, etc. My favorite by far, was a company from Sweden called Fria. They are making what is quite possibly the best gluten free bread on the planet. Too bad they are only available in Europe!
The clinical sessions were super fascinating for me. Some of the world’s premier doctors and researchers presented their findings- all of which have been published and peer-reviewed. This was a point that was hammered on over and over again.
Because there’s a lot of research going on right now that has been published in books (Namely “Wheat Belly”) that hasn’t been peer-reviewed or formulated into randomized double-blind tests.
My favorite session was the myth-busting session. This session was devoted to dispelling the pop-culture myths as to why more people are claiming to have trouble with gluten. Here’s what I learned:
Myth: Because of GMO, wheat has more gluten than ever before.
Reality: In a comparison of European traditional tall wheat, and American hybridized short hard wheat- a slide showing the gluten pattern of both grains was shown. There is *no significant difference in gluten between the two.
Now, it is true that different varieties of wheat have slightly different amounts of gluten, and that those wheats have been traditionally used for different applications- pasta vs pastry, for instance. But for the Celiac- the differences are minimal. For the non-celiac, use of one variety of wheat over another isn’t going to have an effect on your digestion.
Myth: Our diet has more wheat in it now than at any time in history.
Reality: Our ancestors in 1900 ate *significantly more wheat as we do now. We do eat more wheat now than in the 1950’s. Now- our diet is higher in processed food and sugar than at any other time in history… hmmm.
Myth: Our obesity epidemic is linked to wheat consumption.
Reality: Italians eat about 5x as much wheat as Americans, yet do not have the obesity epidemic we do, and they live longer too!
Myth: Gluten is cross-reactive with coffee and corn. If you have gluten problems you should also avoid corn & coffee.
Reality: There is NO- 0- Zip Scientific evidence to support this. I’m living proof that this is flat out false.
Myth: Celiac symptoms can be alleviated by over the counter glutenaze-enzymes.
Reality: Nope. Don’t waste your money. Again- peer reviewed scientific evidence shows this isn’t the case at all.
Other cool facts I learned:
Preliminary studies show that probiotics can help alleviate Celiac symptoms, but do not change gut permeability.
39% of products that claim to be Gluten Free, but also disclose they were manufactured in a facility containing wheat, were in fact *not Gluten Free, and tested well above the 20ppm threshold. This is why the recent FDA regulations concerning labeling of Gluten Free are so important.
Lastly, the reason we have scientific evidence that 20ppm is a safe threshold for Celiacs is because of the bravery and willingness of Italian Celiacs to put their bodies on the line in a randomized double-blind study documenting the effects of gluten exposure on the body. Any Celiac who knowingly risks illness so that the scientific community can come up with definitive and measurable safe guidelines is a hero and deserves to be publicly thanked.
Now, in addition to eating some great food, I also got to spend a little time cooking on my own. It’s the first time I’ve cooked for only myself in who knows how long. I’m often asked about writing gluten free recipes for one, as the proportions I normally suggest are for a hungry family of 4. I’ve forgotten that as a solo eater a few leftovers can go a long way, and 1 bag of groceries is usually more than enough to last a few days. I enjoy cooking though- even if I’m the only beneficiary of it. So, while I sat and worked and enjoyed the nighttime view- I came up with this fun Pasta alla Carbonara-esque recipe that you’re sure to enjoy. It’s super-fast (a ‘must’ these days) and easy to scale up for a family of 4 if you like the flavors. I’ll try and post a few more of these solo recipes I invented while in Chicago- my tastebuds were happy!
For 4 days, the world’s premier scientists, researchers, doctors, and gluten free vendors will gather to share the latest research, practices, and discoveries about diagnosing and living with Celiac Disease and Gluten Intolerance. The Adventuresome Kitchen is thrilled to be a Virtual Exhibitor and Participant!!
I’ll be Tweeting (@AdvKitchen) and posting updates on The Adventuresome Kitchen Facebook Page so if you haven’t yet ‘liked’ the AK FB Page- click the link to the right and stay up to date! There’s going to be a Gluten-Free Food Fair, so you can bet I’ll be tasting and taking pictures to share with you.
Upon my return, stay tuned for a big, Big, BIG announcement! One that I can’t WAIT to share with you!!
In the meantime, we are in the thick of school busy-ness and activity, so short, quick meals that the Kitchen Divas in Training can help create are the rule of the day.
This quick and easy chicken pasta combo was conceived of by the Kitchen Divas in Training while we were testing the various Gluten-Free Pastas. While we used chicken sausage in this recipe, any protein you have on hand would suffice: Italian Sausage, leftover steak, chicken strips- you name it. This is a fast recipe that’s easy to throw together with whatever you happen to have on hand. The idea is there should be no trips to the store to make this happen! Enjoy Good Food this weekend!
Mr. Kitchen Diva and I celebrated our 15th Wedding Anniversary last weekend. Which means we were also celebrating 15 years of no gluten (I got diagnosed with Celiac immediately after our honeymoon). Lots has changed since then- not only for us personally, but for the gluten free world.
Fifteen years ago, servers would look at me like I was from another planet when I asked if their sauces contained gluten. Now, most people are aware enough that if they don’t know themselves, they can at least go check with the chef. But- eating out is still tricky. Possibility for cross contamination is a real risk- even in the finest establishments. And- when your date is planning a fancy dinner- advance calls and questions are just part of the package. Which brings me to Justus Drugstore, just north of Kansas City in Smithville, MO.
I started hearing about Justus from fellow foodies a handful of years ago, but had never had the opportunity to go. We typically stay closer to home when we dine out, and Smithville- although only 18 minutes North of the Broadway Bridge- seems like Minnesota. After 15 years of marriage I’ve apparently turned into a homebody!
But last week, to celebrate, we made the journey. Not only was it a journey worth making, I’ll happily go back as soon as I can. I would easily rank my experience last week in the top 5 if not top 3 best meals of my life. Why?
Justus Drugstore is a unique mix of haute cuisine and casual, come as you are dining. The juxtaposition of formal and informal is right up my alley, because that’s what’s important at our house. Good food is a must, shined shoes- not so much. We were dressed up for the occasion, but there were families in shorts and flip-flops, and folks stopping by the bar for a round on their way home from work. I absolutely LOVED the welcoming friendly atmosphere.
The bar is filled with bottles and jars of homemade infusions, and vases filled with freshly gathered herbs. And while I watched the bartender work, I was reminded of an old-time apothecary crafting the perfect recipe for his patients.
The kitchen is also open- there are no mysteries about the magic made in Chef Jonathan Justus’ kitchen- although it is magic. As a passionate cook myself, I felt like I had the best view in the house, watching the sous fire 3 pans at once, taste and adjust, while another person in the back broke down fresh rabbit.. I could have watched all night.
Left me utterly speechless. Giggly, actually. When was the last time food made you giggly?? As in best sex in your life giggly?
From the amuse buche of egg salad with seabass, broccoli and a pinch of cayenne & paprika, to the bacon wrapped chicken livers, or the arugula salad with bleu cheese ice-cream– it has been years since I have enjoyed food this delicious, this playful, this imaginative… I mean really- who dreams up bleu cheese ice-cream??? And the rabbit…most rabbit I’ve had in my life is a bit on the gamey side and a little stringy. Not this- it melted in your mouth. Seriously, melted. What can I say?
Better still, the food is local. It represents the best of what I love about living in Kansas City. Three farms fully support the restaurant, in addition to an array of other local growers. And- this is the best part- they also harvest wild food- be they mushrooms, asparagus, or greens. You will not find food like this anywhere else- because no where else is quite like here.
I also loved the suggested pairings that accompanied each selection. They were spot on and the two together enhanced the experience of both food and wine. My only suggestion might be to offer a flight of 3-4 smaller pours for people who love to experience wine and food pairings.
Chef Jonathan stopped by our table for a brief chat, and I immediately felt like we were kindred spirits when it came to food philosophy and creativity: For him- it’s all about respect. Respect for the life of the animals, respect for the butchery process, respect for the growing and the harvest- respect for the land. This shines through in his cooking- but not in a pretentious or precious way. It’s down to earth, yet wildly imaginative. I love it. It’s the kind of place you can visit again and again, and still be surprised by something new each time you visit. You can also enjoy some of Chef Jonathan’s artwork which adorns the walls of the restaurant!
Chef Jonathan’s menu is very much influenced by the time he spent in Southern France. Because of this, there’s plenty on the menu that is naturally gluten-free. And while substitutions are not possible – they know their ingredients and preparation processes, and are very willing to leave something off the menu if you are concerned. For me- that meant leaving a few items off that had been fried. At this point there is only one dedicated fryer, and I so I opted to not risk possible cross contamination. It did not diminish my experience in the least.
Make Your Reservations
Wednesday – Thursday 5:30pm to 10pm,
Friday and Saturday 5:30pm to 11pm,
Sunday 5:30pm to 9pm
In the 8th Arrondissement, just beyond Haussmann Boulevard and Place St. Augustin is Bio Sphère Café. Its charming owner Sylvie, opened the organic (Bio is french slang for organic) cafe in 2010, but at first it wasn’t 100% gluten free.
” From the beginning, I wanted to open an organic bakery. I wasn’t aware about coeliac decease. As I propose the galette bretonne with buckwheat flour which is gluten free, I have customers that were asking me for gluten free cakes. I did some research about the disease and recipes. I started to make one cake : it was a success. Another one and so on. Then the baguettes & the pizza.”
Yes, you read that right…. Gluten-Free Baguettes. And can I tell you they are sublime? Just what you’d expect a baguette to be- crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside. A slightly pliable crust that crunches when you squeeze it.
And I have to say, walking around Paris with a baguette in my bag like a real Parisian made me feel somehow like I…. belonged…..like the best of Paris was accessible to me too!
But there’s more to Bio Sphère Café than phenomenal baguettes. Oh yes, there are delicious galettes sarrasin (the buckwheat galettes mentioned above), creamy fresh soups, creative pastas, quiches, salads..and oh yes- pizza. According to the Kitchen Divas in Training (and I happen to agree) the best gluten free pizza crust they’ve enjoyed to date!
One of the big challenges in creating a gluten free pizza crust is keeping a consistent texture. Too often the crust is chewy on the outside, but mushy on the inside, and that’s just not enjoyable. Or, if it’s a good texture on the inside, it can be overcooked at the edge. Sylvie’s pizza crust was perfect! A lovely texture- not too thick, and evenly cooked from crust to center. The Kitchen Divas in Training simply could not get enough!
Lastly, there were the desserts! A whole case of gorgeous patisserie. In addition to singlehandedly running her restaurant, somehow Sylvie manages to have the time to make great patisserie too! We enjoyed creamy lemon tarts, an array of macarons (she learned from the fine folks at Laduree no less!) eclairs, little cakes, and lighter than air tiramisu! Seriously, it was like eating a cloud- I could have eaten 10! I did actually, by the time you count all the desserts we sampled!
More often than not, in commercial venues gluten-free=not so good. So to find an organic & certified gluten-free restaurant like Bio Sphère Café which also happens to offer delicious, excellently prepared meals, and pastries, and gluten free baguettes? Oh yes, let’s not forget a pretty tasty gluten-free beer to accompany your pizza!
C’est un miracle!
Merci Sylvie, pour votre généreuse hospitalité, votre charmant restaurant, et vos baguettes incroyables! Nous sommes très heureux de vous avoir rencontré!
If you don’t have time to enjoy a meal at the restaurant, but would like to try a baguette- they are available a emporter (for take away) by reservation. You may contact Sylvie via her website here.
Just off the Canal St. Martin in the 10th arrondissement, is one of Paris’s best gluten-free patisseries (pastry shops- and yes, there’s more than one!), Helmut Newcake.
Helmut Newcake is one of 3 dedicated (and certified) gluten-free eateries in Paris. In addition to the incredible patisserie they make, they also have a daily lunch special and offer brunch on Sundays. Brunch is very popular here- in fact the first time I called to reserve a spot- 2 days in advance– they were already booked up! After reserving 4 days in advance so I wouldn’t miss out, I can see why!
The space is warm, friendly, and eclectic. Mismatched furniture, interesting art, and cosy tables are tucked into corners alongside a mini grocery area & bookshelves filled with Marie Taglioferro’s personal cookbooks.
Who is Marie Tagliaferro? The inspiration behind Helmut Newcake. Her husband, François, runs the front of the house while she makes magic in a tiny kitchen 1/2 the size of my own! Several years ago she was working for Lenôtre, one of the best pastry establishments in Paris, when she was diagnosed with Celiac. Imagine being a pastry chef diagnosed with celiac- it’s like being an opera singer who’s told she can never sing again.
Like many of us who’ve struggled with a transition to a completely gluten-free diet, François agreed the transition was not easy. “Marie gave up cooking. For awhile we both managed restaurants in London.” Thankfully for us, she couldn’t stay away.
“At first, she started experimenting, and at first it was a disaster.” smiled François. (sound familiar home chefs??) “But eventually it got better and she started working on specifics- percentages and writing down exact measures. Then in December, 2011 they took the plunge and moved back to Paris to open Helmut Newcake.
Since then, they’ve been taking the gluten-free world by storm. They’ve been featured on David Lebovitz’s blog, the New York Times Magazine, The global news agency AFP (see their video about Helmut Newcake here), and many other well respected European publications.
We visited on several occasions- enough times to enjoy nearly everything in the pastry case. While everything we tried was delicious and beautifully presented, the stars were the eclairs. *Hands Down*, these are the lightest, most perfectly balanced eclairs I’ve ever enjoyed. The filling is creamy and a delicious contrast to the light and airy pâte à choux. And, for those of you who can still eat gluten- I guarantee in a blind taste test you could not tell which one has no gluten- and in fact, I bet you’d prefer Marie’s eclairs. They’re that good.
From a pastry standpoint, I know that gluten-free pâte à choux can be a challenge. Too often it gets tough and stringy, and then it won’t puff in the oven- or it will collapse. Marie has elevated gluten-free pâte à choux to an art form, and if you only have time to stop by for one pastry- get an eclair, or another treat made with pâte à choux. Gluten-free paradise indeed.
As for that brunch we enjoyed? Heavenly. Think baskets of fresh gluten-free bread, smoked salmon, bacon, pancakes, savory tarts, and perfectly coddled eggs. And dessert? Let’s just say the sign on the counter about gluten-free paradise is correct.
I think the next time we visit Paris, we may need to stay in the 10th, just so we can stop by every day!
Merci Beaucoup Madame (et Monsieur) Tagliaferro! Vous êtes une source d’inspiration pour les chefs sans gluten partout. Nous vous remercions de votre persévérance, de dévouement et de passion.
Gluten-Free Paris posts will return soon, but today I want to tell you about what’s happening in the Austin food scene. I’ve been in Austin for the last 4 days at a conference and have had the chance to experience some great gluten-free food.
Like any city with a thriving local restaurant scene- Austin is pretty easy to navigate if you eat ‘sans gluten’. (Yes, I can’t help the French references at the moment!) Restaurants in Austin are committed to supporting their local growers. It has been absolutely delightful to repeatedly see long lists of growers whose food is used across the city. I was very fortunate to have a conversation about this with up and coming chef Erica Beneke- executive chef at MAX’s Wine Dive (207 San Jacinto Blvd.). Erica is super talented and after enjoying one of her creations- a flavor packed, fresh take on grits with spicy butter broth, shrimp, bacon, scallions, parsley and jalapenos- I know her career is going to rocket to the moon and beyond. Of Course, appearing on this Sunday’s episode of Chopped is going to help too! Chopped is on The Food Network, and will air tonight (June 2) at 7pm Central. I suggest tuning in to watch this talented young lady make food magic. You can watch online after its first airing- the episode is called Fry Fry Again.
Half of MAX’s menu is all about gourmet comfort food. Think pork stuffed piquillo peppers, burgers made from brisket, chuck and beef belly, and ‘Haute’ Dogs made from Wagyu beef. The other half of the menu is a celebration of seasonal, local ingredients and changes about 5 times a year. Right now you can find creative items like a raw kale, avocado, and beet salad; or seared scallops with sweet corn, purple potato and rainbow carrot succotash. Unfortunately, I don’t have the time to eat my way through the whole menu!
Other delicious finds have been at Cedar Door, one block south of MAX’s. The quinoa salad came with an enormous hunk of peppered avocado, and a carrot habanero reduction. The pulled pork and green chile tacos they serve are easily the best outside of Albuquerque. I was also thrilled to see that they use beef that is antibiotic and hormone free, and that they grind their own beef in house for burgers etc., to keep the flavor as fresh as possible.
I was also really impressed with the kitchen staff at Old School Bar & Grill in the heart of 6th street. They cooked me up a salmon filet that was to die for. For those of you who’ve never been to Austin- 6th Street is lined with bars- all sporting their own band, hawker bouncers who shout out the evening’s specials, and signature drinks. It’s also the mecca for all things weird about Austin. Great fun- especially if you’re looking to step outside of your comfort zone, or dive into local flavor!
Moonshine, immediately south of the Hilton Hotel on Red River, was also a great find. Housed in a building from the 1850’s, the site has been a domino parlor, saloon, and general store. They make an incredible popcorn appetizer that was so good I couldn’t stop eating it. I was ready to beg the chef for the recipe. Imagine popcorn with paprika, celery salt, a bit of cayenne, and a little bit of Texas Magic. I’ll be attempting to recreate this at home very soon. Like the other local restaurants mentioned, Moonshine held its own with green chile grits and super fresh salads.
Twin Liquors on 7th & Red River also has a great selection of gluten-free beers, as well as a knowledgeable wine staff.
Basically, if you’re gluten-free in Austin, throw a dart and wherever it lands- you’ll be golden. Everywhere I went, I discovered waitstaff and chefs who were happy to work with my gluten-freeness! There were so many good choices, I didn’t begin to scratch the surface. If you go- you are certain to enjoy yourself, and eat well- what more could you ask for?
My favorite time of day in Paris is early Sunday morning between 8-10am. The city seems to take a deep breath and exhale. And for a moment- all is calm. There are few people on the streets, save for a couple tourists hurrying to catch the train to the airport, a garbage man or two, and perhaps the random shop owner who opens to sell a breakfast café or croissant. You can walk through the old cobblestone streets, watch the sun peeping over the buildings, and hear yourself think. For a very brief time, I feel like I have this glorious city all to myself.
Of course, there’s another reason to get out early, especially on the weekend, and that is to hit the Marchés (Markets). Just like our farmer’s markets domestically, the marchés are filled with every kind of fruit and vegetable imaginable- this time of year grown primarily in Southern France or Spain. You will also find pop up fromageries (Cheese Shops), boucheries (butchers), boulangeries (bread shops), vendors of soaps, table cloths, cool kitchen gadgets, fresh eggs, jams, honeys, and the like. And the beautiful thing? If you’re willing to walk a distance or ride the metro- you can find a plein air (open air) market every day of the week.
The Marché d’Aligre is probably one of my favorite markets, and one of the most unique. It’s enormous and takes place nearly every day. What sets this market apart is that all of the vendors loudly call out to you and the other shoppers as you walk down the rows, offering samples of produces and claiming the best price. It’s all good, really. We purchased food from many different vendors, and enjoyed all of it. But, it does make marketing more of an exciting experience.
There are two marchés biologique (organic markets) marchés bio for short, where everything- including the take away food (cuisine a emporter) is certified organic. I found the produce prices there to be a bit out of my league (trop cher), but I felt the dairy, eggs, and meat were on par with what I’d expect to pay elsewhere. I worry less about organic produce in Europe thanks to the EU’s much more stringent policies on which pesticides are allowed to be used on crops designated for human consumption. In fact, 2 weeks ago they banned neonicotinoids, a group of pesticides known to be toxic to honey bees. Of course at the same time the USDA approved a new toxic pesticide already shown to be incredibly harmful to honeybees. Way to go USDA. Makes me wonder who’s back pocket you’re in. It doesn’t appear to be the honey bees’.
For those of you who don’t know, honey bee populations in the US and around the world are in a freefall thanks to colony collapse disorder. This winter, honey bee farmers sustained record hive deaths. So much so, that California almond growers are concerned that they might not have enough honey bees to pollinate the entire crop this year. Almond trees are exclusively pollinated by bees. Over 25% of America’s food crops need bees to pollinate them. If we lose our fuzzy buzzy friends, our food supply is in serious jeopardy.
In Paris, they are doing something about this. Chemical sprays are banned within the city limits, and all of the major gardens- the Tuileries, Luxumbourg, etc., have bee hives and fruit trees planted. Once a year, the honey collected goes on sale.
Unlike the US, the markets of Paris take place year round. Thanks to the Gulf Stream Waters, even though Paris is super-far North, it’s possible to get fresh produce that was grown close by. Just like in the US, it varies seasonally, and if you want to eat locally, you still have to eat what’s in season- but you definitely have options.
Purchasing food at the marchés is also a great way to eat gluten-free or on a budget. I was very surprised to see the sign on the left regarding the charcuterie. You’ll also notice the prices. Meat in general, is very expensive. I believe their prices actually reflect the true cost of raising quality meat. But as a consequence, only the very rich eat fresh meat every day. Most folks will regularly enjoy a little cured meat, paté, or foie gras, and then a few times a week, perhaps a steak or a roast chicken. Roast chickens are available at most of the markets and at most bucheries, are delicious, and very affordable. Even the farm-raised ones (fermier).
I’ve included a link here to a complete run-down of the markets of Paris. Each market, just like each arrondissement, has a unique personality. Why not enjoy them all? Oh yes, and Les Baguettes pictured below….. Gluten Free and Delicious! I’ll be writing about them soon!
Special thanks to my daughter, the elder Kitchen Diva in Training, for taking the photos you see in this post. She’s getting quite good with a camera, don’t you think?
Jim Haynes has fed over 150,000 people. For Jim, like many of us, a shared meal is a means for breaking down barriers, sharing a story, and recognizing our common humanity.
For over 30 years Jim has been hosting Sunday night dinners and introducing people to people in his Paris apartment. It all began when Jim was hosting a guest who he realized he didn’t know very well. This guest loved to cook and offered to cook dinner for Jim and a few friends. Out of this was born a tradition that has spanned the globe. When Jim goes to the Edinburgh festival every August, the dinners go with him. People who’ve attended Jim’s Paris dinners have started their own Sunday dinners on nearly every continent.
Last night, we were fortunate enough to be on the guest list. Dinner was cooked by Jim’s friend Evgenia, who is Macedonian. We enjoyed traditional Macedonian stews and desserts. A salad of shredded carrots, beets and cabbage, a stew of roasted peppers which were then fried in olive oil until they were so tender they fell apart. A green salad of spinach, onion, & yogurt. And desserts- a tray of hundreds- all hand-made by Evgenia. And, because the Kitchen Divas in Training and I are gluten-free- she also prepared a special meat dish for us, as the main course was made with Filo. Talk about hospitality. Talk about delicious.
People from all over the world find Jim. We met local Parisians, students, folks from Houston & Austin, Australia, England, Ireland, Germany, Mexico, and left with contact information for many newly made friends. When you arrive at Jim’s, he separates you and asks you to introduce yourself to someone you don’t know. Rather than this being an awkward experience, everybody is enthusiastic about talking to someone they don’t know and discovering something unexpected. The best part for me? Seeing Jim beaming at all the happy people and all the connections being made. For those of us who believe world peace can be achieved over a meal, it’s nights like this that provide the proof.
If you know you are going to be in Paris on a Sunday night, or at the Edinburgh Festival in August- contact Jim and get on his guest list. The people will surprise and delight you, and no matter how far away you live, for a moment, Paris will feel like home.
This- is Monsieur Le Garrec- a Celtic Frenchman, formerly of Le Dorac, now living in Paris. How is it, you might ask, that an American family comes to spend time with such a gentleman? It is thanks to the miracle of the universe and the help of our neighborhood watering hole- L’Express Bar (23 Rue du Roule, 75001).
Every arrondissement in Paris has a gathering place like this. Some more than one. I very nearly wrote about another- Le Rubis, only to be scooped by David Lebovitz just the other day. I guarantee you- in every neighborhood bar there is a story as riveting as Monsieur Le Garrec’s waiting to be told. The story just needs a listener. This conversation took place entirely in French, and if the details aren’t 100% accurate, it is because of my faulty comprehension.
Monsieur Le Garrec- Marcel- was 8 years old in 1943 when the Gestapo marched into his village of Le Dorac- a small village not quite halfway between Limoges and Poitiers that was right on the dividing line between Occupied and Vichy France. Eight years old. Not much older than my younger daughter. The fear he said he felt was unimaginable, untranslatable. His parents were both active in the Resistance.
Often he was left home alone all night to sleep by himself, while his parents risked their lives for the sake of a free France. His mother, like many women of The Resistance, carried messages. His father, part of the Maquisard– the men of The Resistance; guerrilla fighters located primarily in Vichy France, was involved in more dangerous activities: Radio transmittals to Britain that moved every night, smuggling downed Allied paratroupers to Spain using Russian papers, distributing weapons or sabotaging German stations in advance of the Allied Invasion.
Marcel told us with great emotion that when he was 10- his mother brought him to Normandy- to Sainte-Mère-Église – the site of a violent battle during the D-Day invasion, where many Allied paratroopers were killed. She showed him the tomb of a fallen American soldier, instructed him to say a prayer for the young man, and in a Private Ryan-esque moment, told him to “earn this”. These men died so that young Marcel, young Arianwen & Katerina could live in a world free from the worst type of evil and prejudice. That same year, his father- also Marcel- introduced him to an American General at a reunion of Resistance fighters and rescuees in La Doret. This general shook the hand of the elder Marcl and thanked him for resisting. ‘Without the Resistance, we could not have succeeded.’ The highest accolades for a gentleman who refused all decoration from the French government in the years to come.
Marcel- now 78, is an artiste- a singer with a lovely tenor voice, who will be traveling to Bologna for 2 months next summer to better study opera. He calls himself a ‘comédien’. In France that means an entertainer/actor of song, poetry, and writing. His wife has passed, his daughters remain, and still he sings and reaches out. We spent the better part of the evening discussing the finer points of movies, music, art and food.
The first night we met him he was enjoying an excellently prepared steak frite at our Bar. He heard us speaking English to the girls and asked if we were American. He thanked Jack for the aid of the Americans in WWII. Neither of us has ever had that experience. Jack responded that we still remember the aid of the French in our own Revolution.
It is encounters like these that make me happy I’m an artist and a writer. Stories like Marcel’s need to be shared- alongside the wine, l’eau mineral, and planchettes (charcuterie planks) that are part and parcel of a neighborhood gathering place.
I hope to meet Monsieur Marcel again for a verre du vin, or perhaps ‘ouefs mayonnaise’. before we hop a plane to come home. I hope we can spend the evening talking about the finer points of Gershwin, Cole Porter, George Brassens, and the importance of making music and sharing food- wherever we are…because artists naturally seem to find each other.
Wherever you are- I encourage you to find your local watering hole- your own L’Express Bar, and for a moment, put aside all preconceived notions about who people are and just listen to the story of the person sitting next to you. It’s likely you’ll be amazed.
Bonjour a tous! The Adventuresome Kitchen is on the road again- back to Paris where we are working on an exciting project to be unveiled later in the year.
Paris in spring is much different than Paris in December. I have to say I’m just as enchanted. Flowers are peeping out everywhere, and on the sunnier days, the cafes are filled to bursting with people watchers.
One pleasant discovery has been Le Bistrot St. Germain. On a little side street, just off St. Germain de Pres, I stopped to read the menu, and Monsieur Alex, immediately invited us in. I confess it was a bit of an awkward moment- we had intended to eat at a creperie a few doors down (we later found out it was closed that day!), but I like to stop and read the menus and look at the prices. The menu looked good, and the restaurant looked really cosy, and after a few moments of hemming and hawing, I explained that the Kitchen Divas in Training and I must eat meals ‘sans gluten’. “Pas de problem” (no problem) he said. “I will take care of you!” And so adventuring we went.
Monsieur Alex certainly did take care of us. I asked him about a number of ingredients and he even brought out onion soup sans bread, and clarified it was not thickened with ‘farine’ or ‘ble’. Those words mean flour, and can be used interchangeably.
He brought the girls veal steaks perfectly grilled and seasoned without sauce. I enjoyed a tender lamb chop, and Mr. Kitchen Diva had the best meal of the day- a starter of plump, sweet mussels cooked in wine and shallots, and a juicy chateaubriand (a porterhouse steak). It was cooked to perfection, and not too big. The pomme frites and haricourt verts were perfectly seasoned and appropriately crispy. The ladies were in french fry heaven! I realize I have just used the word ‘perfect’ about 6 times, but it was really, really good. There were several gluten-free desserts on the menu, and we settled for mousse au chocolate and creme caramel. Creme caramel is just like creme brulee, only the sugar hasn’t been crisped. Brulee means to burn. All this for a mere 12.50 euro per person! A price that for the quality, would be hard to beat in any neighborhood in Paris! I noticed after we sat down, that they also have a slightly more expansive menu for 17.50 euro, and we intend to return to sample some of the more adventurous options.
The restaurant is tiny- only 10 tables or so on the ground floor, with exposed beams and a lovely old wooden bar in the back towards the kitchen. The walls are covered with old pots and pans, artwork, and even a pair of skis. It definitely has the feel of a cosy mountain chalet. The cuisine here is hearty, and they claim to make ‘Savoyarde’ (Swiss) cuisine as well, namely fondue. I don’t know if they serve fondue in spring, but if they do, that might have to be on our next menu as well!
Of course, all work and no play makes everyone a bit grumpy. And given that there’s so much food to try, we need to walk and run to build up hearty appetites. In spring, this means multiple visits to the Jardin du Luxumbourg, where they have one of the best play areas I’ve ever encountered. The Jardin du Luxumbourg isn’t just for children. There are plenty of play areas for adults as well. We noticed lots of tennis courts, but our favorite was the Boules area. These men and women take their Boules seriously- including trash talk and commenting to the watchers. Seriously fun entertainment.
There is nothing attractive about meatloaf…..except the taste. To be honest, until last week, I’d never made gluten free meatloaf. It’s not on my list of favorites. My impressions of meatloaf from childhood are less than positive.
But after repeated requests from Mr. Kitchen Diva- it’s his favorite after all, I took the plunge. Only in my case, because I can’t stomach the thought of cooking an enormous lump of ground beef with only eggs and breadcrumbs, I ‘hippiefied’ it with the addition of carrots and kale. Then I “Kansas Citified” it with the addition of our favorite locally produced BBQ sauce, Oklahoma Joe’s Cowtown Bar-B-Q Sauce.
Oklahoma Joe’s is a barbeque joint in a gas station at the confluence of KCK and KCMO. They have the reputation of being the best barbeque in the world. Seriously. People wait in a line that wraps around the gas station for hours for this stuff, it’s that good. We locals know better than waiting and just call it in. Their sauce is gluten free (yay!) and it’s also without that other nasty ingredient- high fructose corn syrup. Oklahoma Joe’s has a thriving mail order business which I linked to above- if you’re curious or just plain love good barbeque sauce, head over and order a few bottles. I promise you, your tastebuds will thank you! And when you get your jar in the mail, you can make this gluten free meatloaf and think about making Kansas City your next vacation destination!
For the last 9 months, the Kitchen Divas in Training and I have been studying the Middle Ages. This has included the creation of timelines, multiple art projects, reading kid-lit versions of the great Medieval tales like Robin Hood, The Hunchback of Notre Dame (which takes place in the Middle Ages) The Cantebury Tales, and Sir Gawain and the Green Dragon.
But the most fun we had was researching food of the Middle Ages. It was completely eye-opening to all of us. Here are just some of the facts we learned:
Almond milk was a dominant ingredient. In the Middle Ages, dairy and meats were not consumed during Lent. Almond milk was used in everything from pastries, to soups and stews.
Fusion cuisine had its advent in the Middle Ages, thanks to the burgeoning spice-trade brought on by the Crusades.
The Middle Ages was the first time that cooking was elevated to an art form.
The introduction of sugar into the diet caused early tooth decay, frustrating dentists for generations to come. Study of skeletons from the early Middle Ages shows that most people had their teeth into their later years- until sugar became a sought after ingredient. Go figure.
Far from being a time period of bland, tasteless gruel, food in the Middle Ages was richly spiced with saffron, cinnamon, cloves, roasted meats and vegetables, fruit pies and puddings- a veritable feast.
Italians ate lasagne and gnocchi in the Middle Ages- different than today’s recipes, but no less tasty.
Blanc Mange, Blamage- Literally “White Eating” was a staple across all regions, and the forerunner of chicken and rice. Each country had their own twist on this casserole type dish.
Our culminating activity was a Medieval Feast, complete with costumes, project presentations, candlelight, and company.
I’m telling you- our ancestors knew how to eat! That was the biggest surprise of the evening- everything was delicious!
Sauteed Asparagus with Saffron Sauce
Roasted Carrots in Almond Milk
Lamb Chops braised in red wine & cherries
Blamangez (Chicken & Rice with Almond Milk & Pancetta)
Rice Pudding with Almond Milk & Rosewater
Cherry Pottage (Cherry Pudding cooked with red wine- delish!)
Bread made with Ale (Adapted to be gluten-free, and quite tasty)
There were several recipes I wanted to try, but ran out of time- my favorite of these: “Orange Omelette for Harlots and Ruffians“- a simple dessert type recipe with the comment that “(it) can be tasted without running the risk of moral turpitude.”
Have you ever been on the receiving end of an epic meal? I can think of at least three such meals off the top of my head: The Inn At Bay Fortune on Prince Edward Island where I spent an incredibly romantic evening on my honeymoon (pre gluten-free). Our meal here was so fantastic I was dizzy. And not from the wine! It was the first time I realized that a meal could be a full-on sensual experience. This realization inspired me to start actively pairing food and wine, and taking serious flavor risks in the kitchen. I wanted to recreate how I felt eating this meal all the time!
And yes, nearly 15 years later, I could tell you exactly what we ate!
The second such meal was at Q’s at the Hotel Boulderado in Boulder. This was my first fancy gluten-free meal, and it was a revelation. I could still enjoy an incredible, flavorful, visually stimulating, and texturally interesting meal and feel great after! More recently, Salon Helene Darroze in Paris was another epic meal. It was also the first super fancy meal (not cooked by me) that the Kitchen Divas in Training got to enjoy. They savored every bite and commented on the dishes as if they were the Iron Chef judges. It was truly delightful.
What constitutes an epic meal? In my mind there are 3 things:
Company: A meal shared is a meal enjoyed. Food is meant to be shared, lingered over, experienced. The better the company, the better the meal- even if the food is average. Laughter can fill us up as much as the food.
Food that is prepared with heart and care: Notice I didn’t say super-snobby, fancy ingredients, fine crystal, etc. Often snobby-food meals like that are epic. But eat in a fine establishment with a rude waiter and your hopes for epic-ness are dashed. When you’re aware that you’re eating food that has been prepared with love, it’s transformative- no matter where you happen to eat it, or what the food is. I can think of a picnic I enjoyed in the middle of an ancient stone circle on a cool, sunny March day in the Cotswolds over a dozen years ago. We enjoyed freshly made local cheese and beer while we waited for the faeries to hop out and dance with us. Incredible. I can still remember the conversation I had with the shopkeeper who told us what cheese and beer to buy and where to find the faerie circle.
Heightened Senses: Think about the meals you’ve had where you remember the minute details of smell, texture, music, taste…Those meals that engage all of our senses, or that sharpen them, are the ones we remember for years to come.
The other day, my friend Rebekah, who is currently living in a tiny village in Southern France, excitedly skyped me to tell me about this epic meal she’d enjoyed the night before. By the end of our conversation not only was I dying of jealousy, but I wanted to recreate a tiny fraction of what she experienced. This recipe is a loose interpretation of one component of her host Rosalie’s epic meal, and is named in her honor. I hope I get to meet Rosalie someday. She sounds like my kind of fellow cook and food-lover.
I have never made Salmon en Papillote before, and was surprised at how easy it was. The prep time is more lengthy than just putting salmon in a ziplock to marinate, but the results are worth it. The salmon is juicy and the flavors are intense. Don’t be afraid to really pile on the flavors. Salmon is rich and if you’re too delicate with your seasonings you will be left wanting something more from the dish. I was surprised at how generous I needed to be with the herbes de provence I used. When I daintily sprinkled the herbes over the first few pieces, we couldn’t even taste them! It took sprinkling the herbes through every layer before they stood out and really added something to the dish!
Because this dish at its core is so simple, you have complete freedom to add or subtract flavors based on your own personal tastes. Food should be a reflection of who we are, and those personal touches are often what elevates a meal from sustenance to memorable. In fact, we added a poached egg to the leftovers for breakfast, along with more herbes de provence, lemon zest, and truffle salt. Ooh Lo Lo! I just wish I had a bottle of champagne on hand to accompany it.
So here’s a toast to the Rosalies of the world. The love you bring to others through your food is a gift indeed!
What epic meals have you experienced in your life? Share them in the comments!
Saumon Rosalie (Salmon in Parchment a lá Rosalie)
Salmon Filets, sliced into little 3-inch squares. (we used 2 sizable filets and made 10 packets.)
Fresh mozzarella, sliced thinly
Fresh tomatoes, sliced thinly
Fresh basil leaves- enough for 1-3 leaves on each piece of salmon
1 tsp Herbes de Provence for each salmon packet
1 lemon for zesting
If your salmon does not come de-skinned, remove the skin. Slice filet into 3-inch squares. No need to be exact on this. I made the squares bigger on the thinner side of the filet, and some squares were more rectangular. Do what seems right for your meal.
Cut a length of parchment paper- about 8-10 inches wide. Fold it in 1/2 with the short sides touching. Then fold in 3rds- so it’s about the size of an envelope, and turn the paper so it’s long and skinny and fold in 3rd again so that it’s a rectangle that can fit in your hand. Unfold the 3rds, but leave so that it’s still folded in 1/2- you should see 9 sections. Pre folding helps once you’re folding the parchment around the filet. I learned this the hard way!
Place a filet in the center of a folded piece of parchment. Sprinkle a bit of salt and part of the herbes de provence. Add a piece of mozzarella (Cream cheese can also work as a substitute). Sprinkle more herbes de provence. Add a thin slice of tomato, or two. Sprinkle more herbes de provence. Top with a few basil leaves and drizzle with a bit of olive oil.
Fold the packet around the salmon and tie with a bit of string. You will notice in these pictures that I used kitchen string, satin ribbon, and a clothespin. I discovered just as I reached for the string that the Kitchen Divas in Training had absconded with my kitchen string and used it for a Mideval art project of epic proportions! Use what you’ve got on hand- the oven temperature is only 350, and will likely not damage anything you use to secure your packets.
Place the packets on a cookie sheet or in a shallow pan and cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (about 180 degrees Celsius) for 20-25 minutes. The thinner filets will be done at 20. The thicker ones need a little more time.
IF and only IF, you know your fishmonger and you can get superfresh salmon – we cannot here in the Midwest- you might cook your thicker filets to 20 minutes. This would be very tender in the center. Ideal, but only if you trust your food source. Otherwise, make sure your fish is opaque at the center.
To Plate: Unwrap the packets and slide each piece of fish onto a plate. Sprinkle with more herbes de provence, a tiny bit of salt (we like truffle salt for this) and a generous sprinkle of lemon zest. You could even squeeze a bit of lemon over the top.
Happy Ground Hog’s Day! Happy Crepe Day! (In our house that’s gluten free crepe day!)We’re halfway through winter!
The History of Crepe Day
Crepe Day is February 2nd, and in Europe is also called St. Brigid’s Day, St. Bride’s Day, or Candlemas. In France, Crepe Day is called Chandeleur. Originally a Pagan fertility and planting festival called Imbolc paying tribute to the Mother Goddess Brigid, it was co-opted by the Catholic church in the Middle Ages and turned into a celebration marking Christ’s presentation at the temple.
This is where the Candles come in- Priests would bless candles on this day and hold candlelight processions honoring the idea that Christ was the light of the world. However, the Goddess Brigid was so popular throughout the British Isles that the priests eventually made Brigid a ‘Saint’ and gave her the feast day of February 1. The origins of Brigid predate even the Celtic Druids, and as February 2nd marks the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, this date has been important to humanity for millenia. It has always been associated with light coming out of darkness, new growth and birth. In fact, many farmers today begin planting spring crops like peas, kale, radishes and broccoli on February 2nd.. (at least if you live in a place where the ground is likely to be unfrozen!)
In France- Chandeleur has become “Crepe Day”. People across the country take the opportunity to stop and make crepes together. It’s said that on February 2nd, if you can flip a crepe with only your right hand you will have good fortune for the rest of the year! I like that, and intend to make some crepes today.
I realized that I have several gluten free crepe recipes already posted- so below you’ll find links to previous Adventuresome Kitchen Gluten Free Crepe posts. Wherever you find yourself, and whatever your spiritual belief- know that for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere- we’re halfway to warmer, sunnier days! Cheers!