March 29, 2010

Shipped Up To Boston

This past weekend, Mr. GF and I had the pleasure of spending time in Boston for a gaming convention. If you know me, you know that no place in the world compares to Boston in my book. It is the place I consider home for many reasons. I grew up in the suburbs, I went to college in Boston, and there is so much to love, I could write books on it.

We had been planning this weekend since Christmas, when I surprised Mr. GF with tickets to the convention. One thing we always have to keep in mind when planning any trip, no matter how long or short, is that we have to plan ahead; it's part of living a gluten-free life. If I could have one wish granted it would be to be able to go places spontaneously and decide where to eat on a whim, but as it is, planning is always a necessity. We knew we would be having breakfast at The Gluten-Free In-laws, and packing lunch to eat on the run. So dinner was the major meal we had to plan for 2 evenings.

We decided the first night to eat at Burton's Grill on Boylston Street, which is in a new building that I watched being constructed during my 4 years of college, living in the Fenway area. The service was wonderful, the food was delicious (I had the BEST chicken over risotto), and despite the chilly weather, my heart was warmed seeing Mr. GF chow down on his first gluten-free burger with a bun at a restaurant in 3 years. And french fries. This is big, people. If he wanted a burger at a restaurant before this, he had it sandwiched between two pieces of lettuce. And watching him enjoy that was worth the whole weekend.

Saturday was a bit more on a whim. We were going to eat at The Other Side Cafe, which we've had brunch at before, but there was a concert we really wanted to go to which meant getting in line at 6 to wait. We thought it better to stick to the Prudential Center "(even though The Other Side was only another 5 minutes away), and were happy to see PF Chang's was an option.

PF Chang's has many gluten free options, which we knew from ordering our New Year's Eve Chinese food there. The restaurant was crowded (try mixing 50,000 convention attendees into an already busy Saturday evening crowd in Boston), but the bar area downstairs was half empty, so we grabbed a pub table. Dinner came quickly and tasted even better than it looked. And it was so nice to look out over the reflecting pool at sunset where we did our engagement pictures nearly a year ago.

Despite having a headache the majority of the weekend, having time away in my favorite city with my love was wonderful. Our time together is precious, and we wanted to enjoy the weekend to the fullest. And we did just that, with a little planning ahead, in a city full of awesomeness.

March 23, 2010

New Pages!

So how about that rain? Just kidding. 

Very exciting things happening here at TGFW, including the addition of 3 new pages in the toolbar! In a continuing effort to provide as much information as possible to make your life easier, keep checking back as Mr. GF and I update these pages. 

  • Dining - A listing of dining options for greater New England. Whether you're looking for a place to eat, or you're entertaining a GF family member or friend, check here for a quick idea of where you can dine without worry!
  • GF Brands - Our favorite brands of gluten free foods, baking mixes, and cooking staples. I'll review brands as often as possible so you can enjoy the best of the best. If you have a recommendation, let me know and we'll try it!
  • Groceries - Believe it or not, sometimes the idea of grocery shopping may seem daunting. Here's a list of stores that provide substantial gluten free options. 
The pages aren't very developed yet, but the joy of gluten-free awareness is that we can constantly add new dining  and brand options as more are offered.

So keep checking in, leave comments, and enjoy the rest of your week!

March 18, 2010

Easy Caprese!

Pronounced "ee-zee ka-prEEzee"

Mr. GF is working tonight, so I was on my own for dinner. As much as I miss him when he works evenings, it gives me the opportunity to try something I've never made before (and to watch my guilty pleasure trashy tv - ha!), or something involving ingredients he doesn't like (tomatoes!). I had a delicious caprese salad for lunch yesterday at Rowayton Pizza (more on that soon) and I wanted to recreate the meal for something quick, easy, and delicious. And mildly healthy. Mildly. Do you like fresh mozzarella? I thought so.

Easy Caprese Salad

1 beefsteak tomato
4oz fresh mozzarella, sliced 1/4"
fresh basil leaves
salt & pepper
1/2 tbsp olive oil

Beefsteak tomatoes are the best for this salad because of their size (the biggest variety of tomato) and meatiness. You really can have a meal from it that is filling! Slice it into 1/2" rounds and place on your plate.

Slice your mozzarella into 1/4" rounds and place on tomato slices. Lightly season with sea salt and ground pepper, and drizzle with olive oil. Top with fresh basil leaves.

It's that easy! So take 5 minutes and fix yourself a plate, pour yourself a glass of pinot grigio and tune into that-show-you-watch-that-you-really-love-but-will-never-tell-anyone Real Housewives of New York....


March 17, 2010

Recipe: Irish Stew

In honor of my husband's Irish heritage, we decided to wander from the typical corned beef and cabbage for this evening's meal. When he Googled "St. Patrick's Day Dinner", he found a recipe that I can only describe as....well, I have no words. But it sure tasted phenomenal.

As a sidenote, we've decided that once a week, Mr. GF will Google some random recipe or ingredient and we'll have an Adventures in Cooking night. Gotta keep it fun, folks!

Irish Stew - Adjusted for gluten-free

12oz lean, boneless lamb, cut into 1 inch cubes
2 cups beef broth
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
1 bay leaf
3 med potatoes, peeled & cut in 1" cubes
2 med onions, cut in wedges
1 1/2 cups sliced carrots
1/2 tsp dried thyme, crushed
1/2 tsp dried basil, crushed
1/2 cup cold gluten free beer or water (pick the beer!)
2 tbsp Bob's Red Mill All-pupose Gluten Free Baking Flour
1/3 cup dairy sour cream
2 tsp snipped fresh mint

1) In a large pot combine lamb, beef broth, salt, pepper, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Skim fat off mixture.

2) Add potatoes, onions, carrots, thyme, and basil. Cover and simmer for another 30 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Discard bay leaf.

3) In a small bowl stir beer (or water if you're counting calories or crazy) with flour. Stir into pot until thickened and bubbly. Cook and stir 1 more minute.

4) Stir sour cream and mint together, serve stew hot with a dollop of sour cream and mint on top.

We used Bard's Tale gluten free beer in the recipe so it made sense that we enjoy the frosty beverage with our meal, with a drop of green food coloring in it, of course. Mr. GF also made Bob's Red Mill Cornbread following the instructions on the packaging. It was a hearty, filling meal, full of tender meat, soft potatoes, and plenty of herbs that will fill your kitchen with the kind of warm aroma that reminds you of trips to your grandparent's house for Sunday dinner. And seriously, only having one dirty pot at the end of the night is priceless. Enjoy!

***This recipe is gluten free, or you can use regular all purpose flour if you're not gluten sensitive. You can also pass on the sour cream if you're lactose intolerant, although Mr. GF really wanted the full effect, so he popped a couple Lactaids.

March 15, 2010

In case of emergency's good to have options!

We were hit hard this weekend with a wind and rain storm that made me yearn to be back home watching waves crash over the sea walls! It was exciting and scary, and there are still many who do not have power, and quite a few public school systems in the area have been closed this week.

We did not escape this crazy weather unscathed, unfortunately. The transformer for our block blew at about 4pm on Saturday, just as Mr. GF was leaving to go to work. I was at a friend's birthday party three towns over, waiting for the birthday boy to show up so we could shout "Surprise!" when I got a phone call from Mr. GF. Something had blown into his window as he was pulling into Stop & Shop, and his drivers side window shattered into the a torrential downpour...with wind gusts that were knocking trees down left and right. Needless to say, he was taking the night off from work.

I wished the birthday boy well and rushed from the party to rescue Mr. GF from the parking lot. We left his car with the AAA tow truck and agreed that no power at home meant no cooking dinner. We weren't going to drive 30 minutes back down the highway to the party, so we decided to stop by Giove's Pizza Kitchen on the Post Road in Fairfield, conveniently less than 1/4 mile from the Stop & Shop where the window had smashed. Mr. GF had heard that they now served gluten free pizza, but we had yet to try them out.

We picked up a nice, hot pie, came home and lit a bunch of candles, and enjoyed the comfort that sometimes only pizza can bring. However, it was only 7pm, and the two of us tech-minded folk plus our friend who was stranded with us (what a trooper!) started going stir crazy. So we were off to spend 2 hours at the movie theater seeing Alice in Wonderland, which was interesting to say the least.

The lesson here is that in a pinch, when you may be caught in a nor'easter with smashed car windows and no power, it's wonderful to know that you have quick gluten free takeout options. And in the next few days I will be compiling a page listing local pizza, pasta, fast food, and dining options for Lower Fairfield County, so if you find yourself in a situation similar to ours, you know where to go!

If you have any additions, please leave them in the comments section!

March 8, 2010

If at first you don't succeed...

...indeed, you must try, try again.

After a disastrous first experience attempting homemade pizza on a pizza stone (the crust fused itself to the stone, took about 4 days worth of soaking and scrubbing to get off), we decided to try again. A friend advised to dust the stone with flour. Well, no can do. Another friend advised to brush the stone with olive oil after it's preheated. Sounded worth another shot!

Pair an oil brushed stone with Namaste pizza crust mix and leftover meatballs, and you really can't lose.

We have tried a few pizza crust mixes, and Namaste is by far our favorite. There are herbs mixed into the crust that gives off an aroma from the oven that will make you drool like a 6 month year old baby. No joke.  And it's easy to prepare! 1 1/2 cups of mix, a teaspoon of olive oil, and 1 1/4 cups of water, mix together to the consistency of cake batter. Spread evenly on your preheated, olive oil-brushed pizza stone, cook for 15 minutes, add your sauce, toppings and cheese, and cook for another 10 minutes....slice....and enjoy!

March 7, 2010

Gluten Free in NYC

Restaurant Review: Risotteria

Yesterday, Mr. GF and I had the pleasure of spending the day in NYC. As close as we live to the city, we really don't go in very often, so when we do, we really like to make a day of it. The day began with seeing Wicked at the Gershwin Theater, which if you ever get the chance, see it! The costumes are glorious, the music will give you chills. Mr. GF called it "a bit of a chick musical", but we both enjoy the soundtrack and love the book it's based off of, so I highly recommend seeing it! After the show, we meandered through Time Square, which is big and bright and actually one of my least favorite places in the city. The sidewalks are always crowded to the max with tourists and people trying to get you to go to their stand-up comedy shows. It's a fun place if you've never been to NYC before to experience, but really not my cup of tea.

We had planned ahead of time to visit this little eatery, Risotteria, which we had dined at about two years ago. It's settled right in the midst of the West Village on Bleeker Street, surrounded by more little shops and little eateries and cafes and bars. The West Village is one of my favorite places in the city. I think in part because the narrow, less rigid streets remind me a lot of Boston. Right near NYU, you'll see tons of college students pouring out of every bar, little music shops, jewelry shops, deli's, clothing boutiques, little dogs wearing couture, lovers, hipsters, musicians....It's wonderful!

So we made our way from the mayhem of Times Square down 7th Avenue to Bleeker Street, and there we saw the glorious beacon of hope and deliciousness: Risotteria. As with many great restaurants in the city, you have to put in your name and wait anywhere from 15 to 90 minutes, but trust me, it's worth the wait. There are about 10 tables lined up along this tiny corner restaurant, where you have to pull the table out to sit in your window seat. The menu simply consists of gluten free Italian dishes like risotto, pizza, soups, salads, paninis...Nothing fancy, simply a place you can go to eat what you love and not be afraid of getting "glutenized".

There are many things that set Risotteria apart from many other eating establishments. For a small place, you really feel like you're in your own little haven. You're sitting practically elbow to elbow with your neighbors, but the setting is inimate enough to have your date, stare into each others eyes, and eat mouthfuls of creamy risotto. Oldies music plays quietly (but not too quiet) overhead, and for such a tight space, the servers move quickly and efficiently to get you whatever you need.

Now on to the important part: the food. We decided while waiting for our table what we'd probably order, thanks to the menu displayed in the doorway, so it didn't take us long to get settled in with food in front of us. While we waited for our appetizer, we were treated to warm, salted breadsticks to munch on. We happily noshed until the waiter placed a dish with two meatballs the size of baseballs in front of us. Topped with the bolognese sauce, shredded mozzerella and fresh sprigs of parsley, we were in meatball heaven. Note to self: add minced onion to my homemade meatballs. I ordered a glass of house pinot grigio and Mr. GF ordered a bottle of St. Peter's Sorghum Beer, which came in the most epic bottle ever. For someone who has limited choices when it comes to beer, he was happy to try something new, and we both agreed it was the best gluten-free beer we'd both tasted to date. The downside? $10 a bottle. Sigh.

Before long, our app dishes were whisked away and our main dishes were presented to us. For Mr. GF, risotto cooked in chicken stock with shrimp, roasted red peppers and spinach. For me, risotto cooked in vegetable stock with feta cheese, roasted red pepper and spinach. The risotto was creamy, hot, and full of flavor. We both savored every bite, happy to be sitting in a warm, cozy place after a long day of walking. We engaged in some delightful conversation with our neighboring tables, including a couple who'd just celebrated their 50th anniversary, bless them!

And then it was time for dessert. We each ordered another drink and perused the dessert menu, which was glued to the side of an empty wine bottle. I chose the mini fudgie, which is two gluten free cookies sandwiched together with a chocolate mousse in the middle. Mr. GF ordered gluten-free carrot cake and I thought he was going to die of happiness. We shared our sweet finales and gazed into each others glazed over, blissful eyes. We ate slow and tasted every bit of gluten-free joy that we could. When the check was paid, we wished our happy friends much joy in their marriage and walked 20 blocks up to 23rd before catching the subway to Grand Central for home.

It was a wonderful day, full of theater, great food, and most important, time spent together, which is a bit of a rarity these days. We strolled hand in hand, remarking about how full we were. And wasn't it true! Full of food, full of joy and love. If there's one final thing I can say, it's that I wish there were more places like Risotteria in the world. It's dedicated to providing gluten-free food, without worry of cross-contamination, without the feeling of guilt that I see cross my husband's face when he is explaining his allergy to waitstaff and asking them to check with the chef on certain menu items. It's a safe environment. We could enjoy a meal together, eat with abandon, and focus on each other and the taste of the food, without worry. That, to me, is priceless.

Service - A+
Food - A+
Menu Choices - Italian, risotto (gluten free and vegetarian options), pizza, salads, soups, appetizers, desserts
Overall - A+ if you don't mind waiting and the small, intimate seating
Appetizers $8-$10
Entrees $10-$20
Desserts $3-$8