Cellar Rat Wine

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.

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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.

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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.

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Cellar Rat sits in the shadow of the world renowned Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts

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!)

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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_Offerings

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.

A new favorite
A new favorite

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 Restaurant Week 2015

KC Restaurant weekDid you know what Zagat has rated Kansas City the Number 1 Bargain in dining? Pretty cool, huh? Over the last few years, Kansas City has been featured as a Top Destination by the likes of Conde Nast, Travel & Leisure, Saveur, and the Today Show.

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!

Affäre: Fabulous Food and Gluten-Free Done Right

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..

Affare Menu

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.

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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.

Duck & Quail Plate Affare

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!

 

Oak Street Mansion, Kansas City

Oak Street MansionJust 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.

 

AbstractRoomJust 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.

From the Oak Street Mansion, it’s easy to walk to the Country Club Plaza, or take a quick drive to any of Kansas City’s foodie and arty neighborhoods– there is plenty to experience here!

IMG_1256They 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.

 

Charlie Bird
Charlie Bird

 

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!

PS- the mattresses were heavenly!

Even the lights are works of art!
Even the lights are works of art!

Rickoli Brewery: Brewing DELICIOUS Gluten-Reduced Beer

Brewery Rickoli On TapWhen 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..

Brewery Rickoli What's On TapThen 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..

Brewery Rickoli SamplesThese 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.

A Taste of HeavenAnd 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.

Brewery Rickoli MonolithThe 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.

Infinitus PieSince 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 Piewith 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!

Make Your Reservations: Justus Drugstore, Smithville, MO

Christopher Elbow Chocolate and Gruet Rose ChampagneMr. 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 DrugstoreJustus Drugstore Interior

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.

The Food

amuse buche justus drugstoreLeft 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.

bleu cheese ice creamI 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!

Gluten Free

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
Phone: 816-532-2300

106 West Main Street
Smithville, MO 64089

 

Gluten Free Austin

Chef Erica's Shrimp & Grits (MAX's Wine Dive)
Chef Erica’s Shrimp & Grits (MAX’s Wine Dive)

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.

Kitchen Goddess Chef Erica of MAX's Wine Dive (& me..on the left, in awe..)
Kitchen Goddess Chef Erica of MAX’s Wine Dive (& me..on the left, in awe..)

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.

Quinoa Salad- Cedar Door
Quinoa Salad- Cedar Door
Pulled pork & green chile
Pulled pork & green chile

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

Best Popcorn Ever at Moonshine
Best Popcorn Ever at Moonshine

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?

Gluten Free Meatloaf w/ Barbeque Sauce

Gluten-Free MeatloafThere 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!

 

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Salmon in Parchment a lá Rosalie

Salmon ready to be cooked in parchment
Salmon ready to be cooked in parchment

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.
Whether it's a meal for 2 or 20. Any shared meal can be epic.
Whether it’s a meal for 2 or 20. Any shared meal can be epic.

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.

Saumon en PapilloteI 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!

Poached egg with Saumon en PapilloteBecause 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)

Saumon en PapilloteIngredients

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

olive oil

1 tsp Herbes de Provence for each salmon packet

salt

1 lemon for zesting

Directions

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.

Just about anything can be used to close a parchment packet
Just about anything can be used to close a parchment packet

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.

Most importantly- enjoy with people you love!

Gently reheat leftovers and top with a poached egg.
Gently reheat leftovers and top with a poached egg.

Matt’s Bakery Taos

Matt's Gluten Free GoodnessIn a previous post a few weeks back, I remarked that the gluten-free world is exploding. When I was first diagnosed 15 years ago, I kissed pastries, pasta, and ‘regular’ foods goodbye. For the most part, this has been good for me. Being gluten-free has made me eat healthier food, virtually eliminate processed food (this is good, right?) and certainly made me more adventurous in many aspects of my life. I only began to attempt baking when the Kitchen Divas in Training reached school age. We still bake- but in the name of keeping most sugar out of our diet, the baked goods are few and far between. However, on the rare occasions when I meet a friend for coffee, I occasionally have a pang of wistfulness as I look at the pastry case. And the consolation that I’m saving calories/fat/sugar and being generally better towards my body is lost as I drool over slices of pumpkin bread, coffee cake, muffins and cookies. But, at least if you’re in Taos, New Mexico, redemption is on the counter of virtually every coffee shop in town.Matt's Gluten Free Goodness-unwrapped

Meet Matt Thomas, architect turned baker of gluten-free deliciousness aptly called “Matt’s Gluten-Free Goodness“.  Matt was diagnosed with celiac four years ago, and like most of us, was dissatisfied with what was available on the market. Only he did something about it, and “Matt’s Gluten-Free Goodness” was born.  Matt was kind enough to send me some samples of his cakes, and I have to say that you Taos folks sure are lucky! It’s  a good thing I live so far away or I’d have to seriously up my hours at the gym to compensate for consuming one of these lovely pastries every time I grabbed a cup of coffee!

The Kitchen Divas in Training and I sampled three cakes: Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake, Sunrise Lemon Pound Cake, and Canela-Bella Coffee Cake.

Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake

The Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake is fudgy, dense and chocolatey. As we were happily munching, someone remarked that this bore a slight resemblance to plum pudding. Now, my grandmother’s plum pudding was detestable, and had she taken some baking tips from Matt, we might have gobbled up every crumb. We think that the Sour Cherry Chocolate Cake would be just heavenly doused in Kirsch (a cherry liquour), flamed, and served with vanilla ice-cream. In fact- I think I need to order one for Christmas!

Sunrise Lemon Pound Cake

The Sunrise Lemon Pound Cake has a perfect pound cake texture and the burst of lemon is like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. Serve it up with fresh strawberries and whip cream for a beautiful addition to your brunch table.

Canela-Bella Coffee Cake

The Canela-Bella Coffee Cake was our favorite to enjoy with coffee and hot chocolate. This lighter cake struck the perfect balance of cinnamon and sugar without being too sweet- something that I really appreciate.

Are you drooling yet? Gnashing your teeth that you don’t live in Taos? No worries! Matt’s working on widening his reach locally, so look for his pastries soon in surrounding areas. And, if you’re farther afield, Matt did inform me when we chatted that he’s open to mailing some deliciousness your way. I felt like the pastries held up well in the mail and in storage. I actually put mine right in the fridge upon arrival because it was a few days before I could get to them, and they warmed up beautifully. It’s not too late to surprise the Gluten-Free person in your life with a little Holiday treat!

Matt can be reached through his website here: http://www.mattsbakerytaos.com/

Gluten Free Albuquerque

I’m continually amazed at the exploding world of gluten-free awareness. This past week I was down in Albuquerque to do Thanksgiving with my relatives- a gluten-full bunch, but who always make me and the Kitchen Divas in Training feel welcome at the table. While I didn’t have much time to hit the streets in search of new and exotic green-chile culinary delights, I did manage to stop by a few new places in my favorite Nob Hill neighborhood.

Slice Parlor– a newish establishment with tasty GF Pizza has a great sports-bar vibe and great pizza by the slice. If you’re GF you still have to order a small pizza, but the ingredients are great, and they have hard cider on tap- another bonus.

They’re right across the street from Albuquerque institution Il Vicino, which I’ve heard has caught up to the times and is now also offering GF Pizza crust! I haven’t eaten there in years, (because of the lack of GF crust) and will definitely hit them the next time I’m in town.

Lastly- I ducked into Zacatecas, a new taqueria and tequila establishment run by Chef Mark Kiffin who also owns and operates The Compound in Santa Fe, known for its elegance and outstanding cuisine. I was pleased to learn that practically the whole menu is gluten-free. Passionate about chile rellenos, I grabbed a duck confit and goat cheese to go. It was dipped in a cornmeal batter and fried crispy. The combination of texture and taste did not disappoint- although I personally would have used slightly less goat cheese so as not to disguise the chile and duck flavors.  That said- I’ll definitely be making an evening out of Zacatecas the next time I visit Albuquerque.

No road trip would be complete without coffee. This gem of a find right by Old Town, Coffee and Tiles de Santa Fe, not only brews great espresso, but they make a full compliment of pie- including pie with gluten-free crust! While they were out of the GF crust the morning I stopped by, my husband enjoyed a delicious quiche, and a green-chile apple pie that I am going to have to try to create here at home. Green chile truly makes everything better!

If you’re looking for a decent cup of coffee East of Albuquerque, look no further than Kix on 66 in Tucumcari. This funky diner serves a full compliment of espresso, teas, juices, and of course breakfast food- every day. I can’t tell you how happy I was to have a hot cup of non-truckstop coffee for the long drive back to Kansas City.

Wherever you find yourself traveling this holiday season- remember to support your local economies, and don’t hesitate to ask about gluten-free. You may just be surprised at the deliciousness waiting for you!

Cafe Gratitude

There’s a new restaurant in town that has captured my heart and my imagination. Cafe Gratitude is a new restaurant in Kansas City that is vegan, has a mission to use locally sourced ingredients, and is almost entirely Gluten-Free! I went there for lunch a few weeks ago when my Mother-in-law was out for a visit and was blown away. One of the most impressive parts of my experience there was reading the menu- every menu item is a personal affirmation! How lovely to sit and read a menu of “I Am Fabulous”, “I Am Trusting”, “I Am Extraordinary”- how can you not love food that makes you feel so loved and beautiful?!?

And the food was good, too. So good, in fact that I forgot to take pictures! We don’t eat out very much anymore- in part, because as the kids have grown and we’ve tried to preserve our budget, we’ve discovered we’re a lot more picky about where we spend our dollars. It’s disappointing to spend 40 or 60 dollars on a meal that’s not as good as what you can create at home- for less than 1/2 of the cost. However, Cafe Gratitude will be a place we return to when we can- the food and flavor combinations were delightful, reasonably priced, and the atmosphere was uplifting. Another touch I loved was that the waitstaff posed a question of the day- one we could answer or not, but it was posed to get us thinking. Our question: Who are you in love with today? Lastly- I was impressed that there was a selection on the menu that was priced as donation only, with the understanding that you may pay what you choose, and that no one will be turned away. In this day of increasing food insecurity for the poorest among us, it’s nice to know that anyone can come to Cafe Gratitude and be fed a wholesome, nourishing meal. I’ll be supporting them again for this reason alone. Check out their inspirational menu here.

The photos included in today’s post are a riff on the meal I enjoyed at Cafe Gratitude- I Am Whole. I didn’t have sea vegetables to add to mine, so I used zucchini noodles (made by using my carrot peeler) gently warmed with a little olive oil and ginger. The kimchi was homemade (napa cabbage, radishes, onions and poblano peppers mashed into a quart jar, salted and left to ferment for a week on the counter- YUM!), as was the tahini (process sesame seeds in your food processor until smooth, slowly add sesame oil until you create a paste. For this post I added the juice of one lemon and a heaping spoonful of herbed garlic powder.) Serve over quinoa with shredded kale, carrots, chopped tomato, avocado, and a sprinkling of almonds. It tastes best when you mash it all together. We’ve also tried the leftovers with a fried egg on top!

Gluten-Free Louisville Part 2: Derby Day Mint Julep Recipe

The Kentucky Derby absolutely lives up to all the hype. And speaking of, did you see the Preakness today? It looks like we may have witnessed the first Triple Crown winner in 34 years. We’ll know 3 weeks from now!

So what made Derby Day so amazing? Well of course there was hat-watching, and viewing/speculating/pretend betting on all the other races that day, standing with 165,000 people as the horses leaped out of the gate, but truthfully, the experience of drinking a Julep at the Derby, enjoying a little Kettle Corn and a fancy lunch from The Streetside Lounge (Where the buns were kept in a separate chafing dish from the BBQ and brats thank you very much!) and experiencing a slow, sweet meal from De la Torre’s Spanish restaurant will remain with me long after the multitude of hats, people, and races blur in my memory.

De la Torre’s is located on Bardstown Road, a few (long) blocks down from Avalon. It shares a kitchen and management with its sister tapas bar, La Bodega, located immediately next door. We were really torn between sampling a variety of small plates, and trying the paella offered in the restaurant. The paella won. Although, I have to say, we very nearly threw it over for the roast suckling pig that was the chef’s special that night. If only Louisville was a tiny bit closer!

While we were waiting for the paella to arrive we nibbled on a beautiful plate of Spanish cheeses, and sampled the grilled calamari. I love calamari, but rarely enjoy it outside of my kitchen because most restaurants prepare it with flour. This calamari was not only beautifully presented, it was grilled over a tiny charcoal brazier. It never would have occurred to me to prepare calamari on my backyard grill, but after tasting this appetizer I’m definitely going to try! Calamari has the perfect consistency to stand up to the heat of a charcoal grill, and the smoky flavor it gets from that application made me want to ask for seconds.

The paella was a traditional seafood paella complete with lobster tails, shrimp, scallops and more calamari. The rice was the perfect consistency and deeply flavored with saffron. It was a true pleasure.

A word about paella: Like most traditional dishes, paella varies from region to region, restaurant to restaurant. In España, seafood paella is usually considered Paella Valenciana– or Valencian Paella. Valencia is a beautiful city on the Mediterranean, and their regional dishes are filled with fresh seafood. Traditional paella from Madrid includes chorizo, chicken wings, pork, and shrimp. Clearly a landlubbing dish for a landlocked city. But one that is no less delicious.

If you make paella at home, you don’t need a fancy paella pan- although a good cast iron skillet might come in handy. You don’t even need to spend a fortune on fancy ingredients. Use what you have on hand and spend your money on good saffron and paprika.

As fabulous as our previous courses were, it was dessert that knocked me out.  Normally I would have chosen the chocolate dessert, but I was intrigued by the preparation of the banana…I was delighted and surprised with the flavor, and texture. And even though I was full, I couldn’t put down my fork!

De la Torre’s is a wonderful, low-key restaurant with a wonderful old-world, intimate setting. It the perfect landing spot after the crazy crush of humanity that was the Derby. They even offer gluten-free Spanish beer (yay!) I’m only sorry I couldn’t try more of the menu.

As our trip wound down and I packed the car to head home, I had one last stop to make before hitting the road. A locally owned coffee shop called Quills. I’m grateful for Starbucks and all when I’m on the road- especially because I have fond memories of frequenting the original Starbucks at Pike Market in Seattle, where I attended college. However, I prefer the ambience and coffee of a locally owned establishment.

Quills is right off of I-64 on Market Street in New Albany- if you’re driving cross country and you need a pick-me-up- here’s your chance! Not only do they have free wi-fi, their own brand of coffee, and a case full of goodies, some of those goodies are gluten-free! And the coffee?? Best cup I had in Louisville!

Derby Day Mint Julep

Now for that Julep Recipe I promised- there are several variations of a Julep- below are a few

Recipe A:

One shot of Kentucky Bourbon 

1 tbs mint infused simple syrup

Pour over a cup of crushed ice and serve with several mint sprigs- enjoy!

Recipe B:

One shot of Kentucky Bourbon

1 tsp powdered sugar

6 sprigs mint

Dissolve powdered sugar in a bit of the bourbon, add crushed ice and the rest of the bourbon, add the mint- enjoy.

Recipe C:

Muddle 1 tbs sugar and 1 tbs chopped mint

add a bit of bourbon to dissolve the sugar

add crushed ice

pour 1 shot of Kentucky Bourbon over the top

Add mint sprigs- enjoy!

Gluten Free Louisville part 1: Kentucky Oaks

Yes, you are looking at a shot of Churchill Downs, site of the famed Kentucky Derby. I checked off a major bucket-list wish this past weekend when I met my mother-in-law in Louisville, Kentucky to experience everything Derby Weekend had to offer. It was all hats, horses, and deliciously gluten-free!

We stayed at the charming Admiral Bicknell Inn just outside the mayhem in New Albany, Indiana. New Albany sits on the north side of the Ohio River and is 15 minutes from everything you’d want to experience in Louisville. Like many small towns, it has definitely struggled during the recession. But, its downtown corridor is still bustling and filled with local coffee shops and several locally owned restaurants. None of which I tried this time (well I did try the coffee and you’ll read about that in a later post), as my focus was on Louisville. However, the lovely Valla Ann, who runs Admiral Bicknell was such a delightful host, and was so great about making me delicious gluten-free breakfasts, I’ll definitely be spending more time in New Albany in the future!  

Our first evening in Louisville was spent on Bardstown Road, a bustling, eclectic area of the city known for its art galleries, specialty clothing shops, and multitude of locally owned restaurants. We visited Avalon, a boisterous restaurant that is a strange cross between sports bar and posh dining. However, I’d read they make a mean gluten-free lobster mac ‘n cheese, and that’s what I was there to try. It was pretty fabulous- a generous portion with a super-creamy sauce and tons of lobster. However, I did find myself wishing for some acid to cut through the richness- either in the form of lemon, zest, or even some salad greens with vinaigrette.

My mother-in-law ordered one of the best pieces of salmon I’ve ever tasted. I don’t think I’ve ever had a piece of salmon that was downright juicy- but this one was. It was prepared with a beurre-blanc sauce and served with whipped lima beans,  pea shoots, and fresh asparagus. The flavor combinations made experiencing this dish a true pleasure.

 

The next morning it was all about the horses and the hats. We enjoyed an early morning backstretch tour before returning later in the day dressed for Kentucky Oaks. Oaks day is all about the ladies and the fillies. The grandstands were a sea of pink, and the main race of the day, The Kentucky Oaks, is a race entirely comprised of fillies. The signature drink is nothing less than a pink cocktail named the Oaks Lily. They tasted a bit like vodka and fruit punch, although I learned later that they’re more like cosmos with a twist. I didn’t have the presence of mind to photograph these refreshing beauties, but I will tell you how to make my version at home.

Kentucky Oaks Lily

Place 1 oz vodka in a rocks glass filled with ice. Add 1 tbs simple syrup, 1 tbs cherry syrup (I use the juice from my Morelo Cherries) fill to the top with cranberry juice, add a splash of Grand Marnier, and garnish with a healthy sprig of mint. Best enjoyed while watching a horse race!

My favorite meal of the weekend was at the L & N Wine Bar and Bistro, a lively and friendly restaurant just south of the river and east of downtown Louisville. L & N has a cosy neighborhood atmosphere, super-friendly service, and an incredible kitchen. This meal was the highlight of our weekend. They were very gluten-free aware, and nearly everything on the pre-fixe Derby menu that night was naturally gluten-free.

I also appreciated the very reasonably priced aperitifs, and tasting sized options on the wine list. I love pairing wine with food, and to have the option of a tasting portion of wine with each course was delightful! Our server really knew his wines and suggested the perfect pairings with each of my courses. Below are pictures from two of my courses: A beautifully prepared pair of pan seared scallops accompanied by a wild mushroom ragout and tomato confit, and Gulf Shrimp paired with smoked tomato chutney and served atop locally sourced cheddar cheese grits. Both dishes were outstanding and paired beautifully with an Italian varietal called Falanghina and a phenomenal Sangiovese, respectively.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L&N Wine Bar & Bistro is the kind of place I’d visit regularly if I lived in Louisville. They are committed to sourcing locally grown, seasonal food wherever possible, and the staff seems to be the kind of people that would remember your name after a few visits. I certainly felt welcomed into their fold for the few hours I was at the restaurant and hope to return again.

I’ll leave you with a montage of just some of the lovely hats I saw, and the promise of a Derby wrap-up post that includes another great restaurant I enjoyed on Bardstown Road, as well as a recipe for the ultimate mint julep!

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free St. Louis

As I travel the world, I’m continually amazed at how easy it is to have an enjoyable gluten-free food experience.  It does require a little bit of homework and advanced planning; but in general,  I have to say it’s waaaaaaay easier than when I got diagnosed 15 years ago when nobody even knew what was, let alone how to prepare something delicious without it.

As you know we just spent four days in St. Louis attending and participating in the FIRST Lego League World Festival. This festival brings together 85 middle school teams from around the world to compete in the areas of Robotics, Research, and Teamwork, and celebrates all that they have accomplished. Simultaneously, there are international High School competitions as well. In all, over 35,000 people descended on St. Louis to celebrate and compete last week.

I brought lots of gluten-free snacks to keep the Kitchen Divas In Training going during their long days, but was surprised at a few of the delicious meals I had outside the arena. Here are 3 locally owned places you must put on your list the next time you visit St. Louis. In addition to being locally owned, all of the restaurants note on their menus that they source local ingredients wherever possible. This makes me so happy!  There is wonderful food to be had here in this part of the Midwest, and anytime we can support our local growers and ranchers, it’s better for all of us. Just click on the restaurant name in each section to visit the restaurant websites and look over their menus.

ROOSTER

This was our first stop when we arrived in St. Louis.  Known for their gluten-free/vegan crepes, and just down the street from the America Center, this seemed to be the perfect place to begin our St. Louis Adventure.

The food did not disappoint. They have an extensive mimosa and bloody mary list- I enjoyed the “Mimo” a mimosa flavored with pomegranate. At first, I thought I had been brought the wrong drink, as I was expecting bright red pomegranate juice. However, this restaurant specializes in local/organic, and if you’ve ever had non-POM pomegranate juice, you know it’s more brown than red. Whatever the color, the end result was delicious, and I only wish I could have enjoyed two.

The crepe selection was enormous, and I could have stayed for days trying all the different kinds of crepes. The ladies both enjoyed a German Sausage #2, which contained a locally made, somewhat spicy (and very flavorful!) sausage, apples, cinnamon, and lots of gruyere.  I enjoyed a sirloin crepe with bleu cheese, sundried tomatoes and arugula, while my husband enjoyed a pulled pork crepe that was accompanied by a cinnamon syrup. He was nice enough to order a GF crepe so I could try it.

The crepes were a huge hit, both in flavor and portion. They were enormous, and fortunately we were very hungry. The crepe itself was remarkable. It was large, thin, and strechy- just like a good crepe should be. I asked how the chef made them, and got a few hints, but then the server said the chef started to get nervous. I completely understand not wanting to give away your secret recipe!  Three cheers to the chef for making a fabulous, satisfying crepe!

I must mention that the service is very laid back here. Almost to the point of being annoyingly slow. I enjoyed our server very much, but the restaurant was mostly empty when we arrived, and it felt like we had to beg for attention. I’m willing to give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt- maybe the server was new, maybe there was a shift change and we got lost in the shuffle. Whatever the case, I’d be willing to try The Rooster again, at the very least to enjoy a new mimosa and another fabulously constructed crepe.

PW PIZZA

This gem of a pizzeria was right around the corner from our hotel, and our group ended up ordering 26 (yes 26!!!!!) pies from them. I had the pleasure of working with Linda on our big order, and she was a dream!

They brought us one salad with all the accoutrement on the side to accommodate the variety of food allergies/dietary needs in our group, and made several GF pizzas for us. Linda even called the next day to see how I enjoyed the GF Pizzas! That’s taking customer service to another level.

While I didn’t get to enjoy the ambience of the restaurant, I did read they have an extensive beer selection on tap, and a nice upper patio that I bet would be perfect for evenings al-fresco.

Everyone was very happy with the pizza. I ordered a number of their specialty pies on GF crust- both so I could try the crust, but also to experience some of the flavor combinations in action. They were great!!

At first, I felt mediocre about the GF crust. My gluten-eating taste testers enjoyed it, but I felt that it was a little grainy. In hindsight, I think that may have more to do with the size of our order and the cooking/waiting time than the quality of the crust itself. We snacked on leftover GF pizza for most of the 4 days we were in St. Louis, and the crust was great. It held up well in the ‘fridge, and reheated beautifully. We even enjoyed a GF sausage pizza with vegan cheese. I was a little concerned the girls wouldn’t enjoy the cheese, but they loved it, and spoke highly of the sausage.  

Hands down, the favorite pizza was the roasted veggie pizza with goat cheese. The pizza was absolutely loaded with vegetables that had been roasted to perfection. Often a roasted veggie pizza can get a little soggy because of the olive oil, but this was just right- and you could taste each individual vegetable.

One of the other pizzas we really enjoyed was the candied bacon and pear pizza. This was a winner in a contest they held, and I can see why- of all the specialty pizzas, this one went the fastest.

I can honestly say that you can’t go wrong visiting PW Pizza. We tried many of their pizzas and were happy with all of them. It did not occur to me to see if they carry GF beer. You can look on their site, and if they don’t, perhaps with a little prodding, they will soon!

MOSAIC 

Mosaic was a delightful surprise on every level, and quite honestly the best meal I’ve had in ages. Mosaic is located on Washington, just up from the America’s Center, and is a beautifully designed and executed tapas restaurant. I was a little hesitant to enter, as we saw the lovely white tablecloths through the window, and asked the hostess and servers if we were too underdressed for their establishment. Keep in mind, all of us were sporting light-up bunny ears and painted on whiskers! They cheerfully said “Of Course Not!” and welcomed us in.

I was also surprised and delighted at how knowledgeable our server, Ben, was about the food preparation in the kitchen. I cornered him almost immediately while the others were getting settled to discuss what might work on the menu. He took his time with me and went over nearly every dish available, explaining the ingredients and exactly how it was prepared. On the few items in question, he consulted with the chef, just to make sure. This is the kind of service that makes a foodie downright giddy.

I have a soft-spot for tapas. I learned how to eat well and cook well when I lived in Madrid. Although this menu takes tapas beyond the traditional to a new level of food experience, I love the concept of little tastes.  Especially when there are so many delicious things on the menu.

The roasted butternut soup infused with vanilla was the best I’ve tasted. And the creamiest- it was so smooth it was almost like pudding. The lobster bisque, which my adventurous younger daughter decided to order was presented beautifully, and poured over a lemongrass-shitake foam. When they poured it, and the aroma of the lobster filled the table, I thought I would faint with joy.  Seriously. It smelled that heavenly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We also enjoyed a watermelon gazpacho, a surprise in that the traditional flavors of tomato gazpacho were present, just softened and sweetened with the watermelon. The lobster-crawfish risotto was creamy and saucy, and nearly every bite contained a succulent bit of shellfish.

 

My favorite though, was the watermelon salad served with baby greens, thin radish slices on the watermelon cubes, and a science beaker of balsamic vinaigrette, all on a schmear of foamed herbed goatcheese. It was incredible. The combination of color, texture, flavor and whimsy practically had me singing in my seat.

 

Dessert was the perfect end. The chef kindly served a flight of mini gelatos in tiny cups for the girls since they couldn’t do the cones. We also enjoyed a beautifully presented carmelized panna cotta with fresh berries marinated in Grand Marnier. I was so satisfied I didn’t even need a post dinner espresso.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a meal this lovely. I would seriously stop in St. Louis again just to return to Mosaic. I heartily recommend you do the same!

And as for the robotics tournament- how did my amazing kiddos do? Their team took home the 1st Place Award in the category of Inspiration!!

 

New Mexican Green Chile Stew

“The Hatch” is in!!! If you’ve ever spent time in New Mexico, you understand this to mean that the world’s best green chile is now available for consumption. In New Mexico this time of year, drive by any grocery store parking lot, vacant lot, or roadside stand and stop to inhale. That warm, smokey, somewhat pungent fragrance is the smell of Hatch green chiles roasting away. In my opinion, it’s the only way to get them. And, I know people who used to live in New Mexico who now pay handsomely for a 5 lb bag of them to be shipped cross country on dry ice. One year my friend filled her carry on with with multiple 5lb bags of green chile on her trip home. While I thanked her profusely, I’m not sure the other passengers did. It really is an addiction- green chile. Once you’ve had it as a condiment- on burgers, in eggs, with potatoes, in burritos, there’s no going back. Green chile becomes a seasonal way of life.  And like most food snobs will agree- only the real deal will do- no garden variety pepper for this girl. You can take your Reggiano, your Serrano ham and your Kobe beef- give my my Hatch green chile. In stew form please….

While it may seem strange to serve this on a still-warm summer day, give it a try. Although this is a staple in my household during the cold months, the best green chile stew I ever had was many years ago on a hot summer day while attending the Jemez Pueblo Corn Dances with my husband and my grandfather, a gregarious food scientist who seems to know everyone. Pueblo dances are a religious ceremony, and to be invited to observe is a real treat. After the dances we were invited to his friend’s house for a traditional meal of green chile stew, posole, fresh corn tortillas and a host of other delicious foods that are now only a dim memory. But the green chile stew, Oh the green chile stew. The broth deeply flavored by the pork, onion & tomato, the potatoes softened to the point of crumbling and thickening the stew, and the roasted green chiles- as blistering hot as the sun baking down on the dancers. I usually don’t make mine quite as hot, but the flavor I experienced that day is the mark by which I measure my own stew every single time I taste it.

As far as recipes go, it’s very simple- 6 ingredients, and it takes little time to pull it all together- but the longer you let it simmer gently on the stove, the better the flavor is. So in honor of another favorite vegetable gracing us with its smokey roasted presence-  I give you traditional New Mexican green chile stew.

New Mexican Green Chile Stew

serves 4 green chile lovers with perhaps a bowl left over for lunch the next day.

Ingredients

2 lbs pork, cut into small cubes (loin, shoulder, chops- the cut doesn’t matter)

2 cups diced onion (about 1 large onion)

2 large garlic cloves, minced

2 cups white potatoes, cubed (any will do in a pinch, use whatever you have on hand)

2 cups tomato, chopped

2 cups freshly roasted Hatch green chile ( I have used canned green chiles in a pinch when I’ve been desperate and I have no fresh frozen in the freezer. Try and find canned Hatch if you go that way- they really do taste better)

4 cups water

Directions

In a large stainless steel soup pan (I use our pasta water pan) sear the pork over medium heat- about 2 minutes. This diverges from the traditional boiling from the get-go way, but I think the flavor’s a little better. It’s up to you…

When the pork has been lightly seared, add the remaining ingredients, including the water, and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes, or until the meat is done. You may eat immediately, or allow to simmer gently until you are ready to consume.

Serve with gluten free tortillas or gluten free cornbread, and honey.

Carne Adovada, Gluten-Free Tortillas and Gluten-Free Cornbread

It’s been unseasonably cold here in the midwest. Cold and rainy. In fact, I’ve worn my rainboots so much I feel like I’m in Seattle or London. Alas, there are no flannel wearing, coffee consuming grunge-types to greet me, nor are there clipped accents, cockney cabbies, or the smell of fish and chips wafting out of every corner pub. Not that I could consume said fish and chips…. I’d have to make my own…. So, what’s a girl to do when the sun should be shining on the glorious garden flowers, and instead they’re bending from the pounding of the rain? Turn on a little desert heat. Oh yes- a red chile, southwestern, New Mexico cuisine extravaganza. The heat from the sun has been replaced by the belly warming desert heat of red chile. In the form of carne adovada of course. A shoulder of pork smothered in red chile sauce and slow cooked at low heat until the whole house is warm and toasty with the smell of it. It’s sure to bring a little sunshine to wherever you are and a smile to your face.

Carne Adovada                  

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 pork shoulder or pork butt- approximately 2-3lbs

1/2-1 cup of red chile powder (for authentic New Mexican flavor, get dried Hatch red chiles and crush them in your food processor. Be Advised- if you do this, wait 2 minutes for the powder to settle before transferring from processor to container. Or, wear a mask. Inhaling red chile powder is an experience you won’t forget.. Ever.)

2 cups of warm chicken stock

1tbs cornstarch (optional)

1 small can of tomato paste (optional)

A note: You can let this slow cook all night and serve for breakfast, or cook all day and serve for dinner. I get a side of pork every year from a local farmer, so 16-18 hours before I want to serve my meal I set my frozen pork on the counter in a bowl and let it thaw. This means I either leave it out all night and the carne cooks all day, or I leave the meat out all day and the carne cooks all night. It’s pretty easy, but it is a meal you have to plan for.

6-8 hours prior to the meal you want to serve the carne, turn the oven to 200. Cut the carne into 2-3 inch chunks and place in an oven safe container. Place the chile powder in a bowl and slowly add chicken stock. If you want a thick, hot chile sauce, use less stock and omit the tomato paste. If you want a milder sauce, but still want it thick, use the full 2 cups of stock and add the cornstarch and tomato paste. Add the cornstarch first. Do this by placing the cornstarch in a small cup or bowl and adding a ladlefull of the stock/chile mixture while whisking vigorously. Then add the cornstarch mixture back to the larger bowl of red sauce. The thickness and heat level is really up to you. My girls are starting to enjoy spicier food, so this has a bit of kick, but it won’t make your nose-hairs stand on end, or give you the hiccups. (Super spicy food always gives me the hiccups)

Pour the sauce (in whatever form you like it) over the carne, cover with a lid or aluminum foil and place in the oven. Walk away and come back 6-8 hours later. Garnish with fresh cilantro (from your garden if you grow it), and serve with gluten-free flour tortillas and gluten-free cornbread. Here’s a delicious gluten-free cornbread I developed especially to go with the carne. It’s a cakey recipe. Moist and not too crumbly. If you’re feeling wild and crazy add shredded cheese and green chiles to the recipe below. Put a little spanish guitar on the stereo, serve a sweet white wine or a Bard’s Tale Beer, and Olé! It’s a party!

Light & Fluffy Cornbread      

makes 16 squares

Ingredients

1 cup + 2 tbs corn flour (corn flour is a finer grind than cornmeal, but cornmeal is also ok)

1/2 cup millet flour

6 tbs tapioca starch (also called tapioca flour)

2 tsp xanthan gum

2 heaping tsp baking powder

1/2 heaping tsp baking soda

1 cup milk

1/3 cup plain yogurt or buttermilk (I used yogurt)

2 eggs

2 tbs agave nectar

3 tbs bacon fat or other oil ( e.g.canola, grapeseed, or melted butter)

Directions

Preheat oven to 425. Lightly grease a 9×9 square pan. (no need to do this if you have clay, or nonstick bakeware)

In a medium bowl combine dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, mix wet ingredients leaving out the bacon fat.

Add wet ingredients to dry and stir until just incorporated. Add the bacon fat and mix thoroughly.

Pour contents into baking dish and put into the oven. Cook on the lower 1/3 of the oven for about 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Enjoy with honey, butter, jam, or your favorite condiment.