Thursday, June 19, 2014

Gluten-Free in Charleston, SC

Charleston smells like two things: flowers and pork. The floral scent can be explained by the ubiquitous night blooming jasmine, an incredibly fragrant flower, even by day. Took a heads up from a southern gentleman to realize that this small white flower was responsible for the powerful perfume:

As for the pork, well, while the rest of the country has been having a love affair with bacon the past few years, pork in all its forms is just a southern staple, and its scent wafted out from eateries all over Charleston. Truly, even the airport smelled like it. I was in Charleston for just over three days and, by the end I was sick of pork, without having eaten much of it, save for one pig-heavy meal. Here's what I did eat: 

Sweet Radish Bakeshop - Charleston's only 100% gluten-free bakery. This wonderful spot was in walking distance of our hotel, so I made my way over at least once a day. 


Lots of lovely sweets 

... and bit of savory. 

They offer a breakfast tart (above) and a savory seasonal quiche every day. Both are quite tasty; of the two, I recommend the quiche.

Campfire cookies, aka a cookie sandwich with marshmallow and caramel inside. As decadent as it sounds; a bit too sweet for my taste, but go for it if that's your thing.

Shop is adorable, with one table and seats along two counters. Had no trouble finding a seat, no matter what time of day I visited.

Slightly North of Broad, aka SNOB!

Gluten-free menu! 

Such a misleading acronym! The staff at SNOB were incredibly cheerful and accommodating. I knew I had a big dining experience planned for the evening, so I just went with a crab salad plate, side of pimento cheese. (I'd heard this is a thing in the south; not my bag, but glad I tried it.)

Light, lovely meal in a great, friendly atmosphere. Staff knew all about GF and I felt a-ok after the meal.

O-Ku: Upscale sushi. I did a ton of recon for this trip and read that O-Ku offered GF options. I also read that they have a fabulous happy hour special and, lord, they DO. Deeply discounted sushi prices a few hours a week (check website for current days/hours). Just be sure to get there early, as the place gets packed. No gluten-free menu, but staff steered us to safe options and provided GF soy sauce. Sushi was fine, though we ordered rather elaborate ones that weren't all that exciting taste-wise. Wish we'd ordered basic items like spicy tuna or the like. Still, staff knew their GF stuff and I felt fine after. 

Fig (Food is Good): Really, Fig was ... fine. They were wonderfully accommodating - over and above the call of duty re: gluten - but the food left us wanting. Maybe we caught an off day; the menu changes daily and we just weren't interested in anything they were serving that day. But, it was dinner time and Fig had come highly recommended, so we gave it a go. The flavors were muddy and it was just a dull meal. We tried to salvage the night by getting dessert, a lemon pudding that left us both feeling sick the rest of the evening. (Not gluten sick - I felt fine on that front.) 

Husk. The best meal we had in Charleston. Just stop reading now and go make a reservation, as you'll need one months in advance. Seriously - we made ours in March for a May trip. 

I want to go to there (again)

Beautiful salad with smoked fish and tomatoes that tasted like tomatoes.

Amazing GF cornbread. We fought over the crumbs. 

Pork ribs with a pork rind garnish (no, really). 

This was the meal where I finally got on the pork bandwagon. Fat pork ribs with a pork rind garnish. Hadn't noticed the garnish info on the menu and could not stop laughing when it came out. I'd never had a pork rind before, so I'm glad my first (and, oof, last) was from a high quality pig.


Then: heritage pork with beans and greens in an amazing broth. The surprising star of this dish was the beans; meaty and flavorful, they held their own against that hunk o'pork.

Cornmeal breaded catfish with the best kale we'd ever eaten. 

When there's a breaded gluten-free thing, I usually order it, so cornmeal catfish made the cut. It was fantastic, but the kale side was spectacular. When our waitress came back, we told her: "This is the best kale we've ever eaten! What do they do to it?" With an amused grin she replied: "It's deep-fried." Of course.

It was such a satisfying meal that we didn't feel the need - or have the room for - dessert. The staff was wonderful about my GF needs and I felt fine after.

The Grocery. The worst meal we had in Charleston. Oy, such a disappointment. I rarely (ever?) write negative reviews, but feel the need here, to steer any other GF diners away from The Grocery.  I'd been assured that they could handle GF, but when we arrived, no one we spoke to in the front of the house had any idea what I was talking about. Our waiter seemed baffled by my questions and had to go talk to the kitchen. Normally when that happens, I leave and find somewhere else to eat, but we were due at the airport after and didn't have time to find a new restaurant.

In the end, I went with the one gluten-free item marked on the menu, the "Gluten Free, Not Glutton Free Burger". I'd been craving beef the entire trip and was excited about this option. What arrived was completely overcooked and sad. After I took my first bite, my dining companion asked how it was. Two words: "Hamburger Helper". We both hated our meals and felt unwell after. We immediately went over to The Sweet Radish for a treat, to try to get the bad tastes out of our mouths.


I found a few other places that are supposed to be GF-friendly, but we didn't have time to visit. Want to share to give you a leg up on your Charleston trip. Other spots?

Five Loaves
Cru Cafe
Edmond's Oast
Hominy Grill

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Pasta Flyer Kickstarter (Ends July 5th, 2014)

There are precious few 100% gluten-free restaurants. Chef Mark Ladner, currently of Del Posto (yes, that Del Posto) is looking to up the numbers with his Pasta Flyer Kickstarter. Pasta Flyer aims to put brick and mortar and pop-up shops throughout the country, offering Italian pasta dishes served Japanese style (read: fast) - all gluten-free.

For an idea of the magic that Chef Ladner is able to create with his gluten-free pasta, check out Erin Smith's post about the amazing gluten-free meal she recently had at Del Posto. He doesn't have celiac or eat gluten-free, which makes his dedication to GF dining all the more impressive. Please consider kicking in even a few bucks to make sure this project gets funded. Deadline is Saturday July 5th!

Friday, May 2, 2014

Gluten-Free New Orleans (Part 2)

I was in New Orleans for a week and ate incredibly well. Truly, there were more safe options in New Orleans than in my home borough of Brooklyn. Here are some other places I stopped in at or heard about but didn't have time to try:

Superfood Bar Casual take-away/cafe spot. Healthy meals, snacks, and beverages.
Whole Foods Whole Foods is always a safe spot for me, since they're so good about allergen labeling. I found the staff at this location particularly well-informed about gluten. They have a fantastic barbecue selection; almost everything is GF - I heartily recommend the ribs.
La Thai Uptown
Casamento's Gluten-free fried oysters! Didn't have time to try, but definitely will next trip.
Fresh Bar
3 Potato 4
The Melting Pot
La Macarena Pupuseria and Latin Cafe
Mellow Mushroom
Emeril's restaurants Emeril's daughters are GF and I hear tell that his establishments are GF-friendly.
Peace Baker, 100% GF bakery
Bakery NoBle, via Good Eggs

Did I miss any? If so, please share in comments!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Gluten-Free New Orleans (Part 1)

As I mentioned earlier this week, I'm in New Orleans and surprised by how many gluten-free options there are.  I've been back to my first find, FARE Food for Health (full review here), every day this week.

My first night here, we went to Drago's, which has a gluten-free menu. If you go, be sure to get a big order of the charbroiled oysters. Heeding the advice of our exceptional waiter (thanks, Errol!), we had the herradura shrimp and red fish special. Both were excellent.

While I generally avoid touristy things at all costs, it's my first time here, so a walk through the French Quarter was in order. A rainy Sunday afternoon seemed a tame time to make that trip. Once fortified by a few stiff drinks (go to Molly's, one of the few bars loved by locals and tourists alike) we were ready to deal with Bourbon Street. I started feeling snacky halfway through, so we popped into seriously old school, no-frills Felix's for oysters.

When in Rome ... 

Btw: It was as we walked to Felix's that the obvious sunk in: Everyone was walking around with booze in hand. No open container laws! As a native New Yorker, this seemed decadent and incredibly novel. Get your cocktail in a go cup - just because you can.

After oysters, we ambled back around to Molly's (go cup!) and hit up Magnolia Praline Company along the way. Yes, completely touristy, but worth it. If they have pralines (sugar + butter + pecans = gluten-free) cooling on the counter, buy one. I don't even like pralines (way too sweet), but warm fresh pralines are a different beast altogether.

After a few more hours of wandering around, we started to think about dinner. I love the wrought iron gates and random little courtyards in NOLA and had just pointed out a lovely one out when boyfriend read the sign on the gate: Cafe Amelie and said "I read about that place:  I think they have gluten-free food." And so they did.

Gorgeous courtyard - picture doesn't do it justice. 

While they don't have a gluten-free menu, they are a farm-to-table joint and easily able to do GF. Our wonderful waiter, Wade, went through the menu and marked off what was safe for me to eat. Get the shrimp and grits and poutine (fries are oven-baked, not fried, so no contamination issues).

Secluded courtyard and twinkly lights - just lovely. 

I'd heard from a NOLA native that the city has amazing Vietnamese food, a cuisine that is generally gluten-free save for some sauces. I had success at Magasin Vietnamese Cafe on Magazine Street, where the food was GF, delicious, and - a nice surprise - cheap. Seriously - my entree (below) was under $8; can't beat that with a stick.

I love the little fried egg sidecar. 

Still here for a few more days, so more to come. Also: suggestions? Would love to hear where you've eaten safely in New Orleans.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

FARE Food for Health (New Orleans)

I'm in New Orleans for the week. All pre-trip recon indicated that gluten-free options were going to be limited; happy to report I was wrong! On my first day here, I stumbled upon FARE Food for Health, on Magazine St. Fare offers a 100% gluten-free menu, including baked goods, salads, soups, snacks, and smoothies - as well as coffee and tea.

Everything is dairy/soy/gluten-free and paleo-friendly. Baked goods are made with various non-grain flours like almond, coconut, and flax meal.

Cupcakes, muffins, cookies, cinnamon buns, banana bread, brownies - so many treats to choose from!

My favorite (so far) is the banana bread - flavorful, studded with walnuts, and not too sweet.

You'll find various to-go items in the cooler, such as salad with shrimp and carrot dressing, hummus with olives, paleo chocolate pudding, and soups.

Fare has only been open for about two months and I hear more menu items are in the works.

FARE Food for Health is located at 4838 Magazine St., New Orleans, LA. Phone: (504) 302-9171. Open 9am-6pm daily. 

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Talde (Park Slope)

I had heard through the grapevine (read: Twitter) that Talde was a gluten-free friendly spot, but didn't quite believe it. It's a seriously happening restaurant - on everyone's short list and always packed when I walk by - couldn't imagine they'd bother to deal with special dining requests. But, assured by a quick phone call that they could handle my GF needs, I decided to give it a shot one freezing Monday night.

I think the weather had scared away the usual crowds, so we were able to score a booth for two immediately. I informed our server, Lindsey, of my GF issues and she steered us through the safe menu items, of which there were many. Woman clearly knew the menu inside and out and had a firm grasp of gluten issues. Still, I am always nervous when trying a new place and it must have showed on my face because she actually made a special trip back just to say (paraphrasing): "Please don't worry. I will take care of everything." And she did.

Menu items are served family style, so was glad my dining partner was down to eat all GF. First two dishes up: brussels sprouts - in an incredible spicy sauce - and grilled calamari, with charred napa, pickled cranberries, and Chinese sausage. Both were fantastic.

Delicious *and* beautiful

Next, my new favorite thing: Korean fried chicken. Apparently, this is a trend that I've missed out on (damn you, celiac), but I'm in the know now. Talde serves theirs with a spicy kimchee yogurt sauce, mint, and grapes. The combo is spectacular.

The stuff dreams are made of

By this point, we were perfectly full and had forgotten about the whole roasted branzino we'd ordered! No picture to share of that one, but I highly recommend it.

Talde offers one dessert item which changes periodically. That evening it was a deconstructed apple pie, which contained doughnuts and other gluten-y components. They offered to modify the dessert for me, but I was in a blissed out food coma, with no need for dessert.

That meal was, by far, the best I've had in years. And Talde took such great care of gluten-free me. I was so pleased, I went back a week later for my birthday dinner and asked to be in Lindsey's section again. Since she already knew my food issues, was an easy, relaxed meal, with hardly a mention of my dietary issues.

Big thanks to everyone at Talde. I'll be back again - soon.

Talde is located at 369 7th Avenue, Brooklyn NY 11215. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

One Stop Beer Shop Event (Greenpoint)

One Stop Beer Shop in Greenpoint goes out of its way to make GF folks feel at home, with GF beers, ciders, and eats. In fact, they contacted me about hosting the Brooklyn Gluten-Free Meetup for a gluten-free event back in November. The first event went so well, we're doing it again. Join us on Wednesday March 5th for burgers and beers! Details are over at the Meetup

Please note: One Stop Beer Shop does not have a 100% gluten-free kitchen. Please see the Meetup event page for more info.

One Stop Beer Shop is located at 134 Kingsland Ave., Brooklyn NY 11222.