Saturday, October 31, 2009

1-2-3 Gluten Free Brownies


While at Fresh Brothers' tasting at Redondo Beach a few weeks back, the owner recommended that I check out Grow in Manhattan Beach.  Grow had some great gluten free options, and I picked up a box of 1-2-3 Gluten Free Brownies.  I had never seen the brand before so I decided to give it a go.  1-2-3 Gluten Free also makes chocolate chip cookie, buckwheat pancake, devil's food, and sugar cookie mixes.

One of the salespeople at Grow was very helpful and told me that 1-2-3 Gluten Free mixes could be split in half because the mixes were so big.  I took her advice and split the bag in half; I tried to adjust the recipe accordingly but I'm not the best baker.  






When I took them out of the oven I noticed that they had puffed up like a cake instead of staying low like a brownie.  Was this my fault or is this how 1-2-3 Gluten Free brownies bake?  Either way, the brownies came out great -- they were moist and, with the chocolate chunks included in the brownie mix, were doubly chocolatey.  Sorry that I'm making up words today, but it's Halloween, so it's OK, right?

Overall, I really liked the 1-2-3 Gluten Free brownies.  However, there was one enormous problem with the brownies: they were super expensive.  The box cost around $16!  I'm not sure if this was a crazy mark-up by Grow or if this is how much 1-2-3 Gluten Free Brownies cost; either way, they were inordinately expensive.  The box did yield two servings so I suppose that that amounts to "only" $8 per serving. 






While I enjoyed the brownies, I think I'll stick with Betty Crocker's Gluten Free mixes were now, since they are less expensive and taste great.  I did appreciate how moist the 1-2-3 brownies were the day after baking them, I think the Betty Crocker mixes are just as good and half the price.

Do you love it or do you love it?

New Harvest Naturals Gluten-Free Bakery

A representative from New Harvest Naturals recently contacted me and offered to send me samples of the company's gluten free products.  Of course, I happily obliged.

New Harvest Naturals became entirely gluten free in 2005, when the company's CEO was diagnosed with Celiac Disease.  In addition to the pound cakes New Harvest sent me, they also make gluten free challah muffins in a variety of flavors and gluten free chicken meatballs in two flavors.  In addition to being gluten free, New Harvest is also dairy free and kosher.


Now for the important part -- how do they taste?  In a word: terrific.  I tried the marble pound cakes first, and was very happy with the way they tasted.  Gluten free eaters know that when imitating gluten filled food without the gluten it is very easy for the results to go awry.  Such is not the case with New Harvest Natural's mini pound cakes.  They were soft and well flavored.  My only complaint about the marble pound cakes was that the marble was not swirled into the pound cakes.  Instead, the marble was often a distinct half of the marble cake. I would have preferred a more traditional swirled marble cake -- perhaps my box was filled with flukes, but they were all similar to the picture at left.

In addition to the marble pound cake I received a box of classic pound cakes and a box of raisin pound cakes.  The classic marble cakes were also great.  Of course they didn't have the chocolate flavor like the marble cake, I still devoured them pretty quickly.




Last but not least, the raisin pound cakes.  These just weren't my thing -- raisins in bagels, bread, muffins, or anything similar is not my bag.  I did suffer through eating one for you, my readers, and it had the same texture and consistency as the other kinds of pound cakes.

I'm not sure if these are available in stores yet in Los Angeles; I've asked the representative who contacted me and will update the post when I hear back.  In the meantime, you can buy them through the link below!

Do you love it or do you love it?

New Harvest Naturals

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Javier's Cantina & Grill

To celebrate my friend Ashley's 23rd Birthday I headed down to Laguna Beach this past weekend.  Her friends from the Bay Area were joining us and it was sure to be an over-the-top weekend -- that's how Ashley always does it.

I was a bit concerned about eating over the weekend; in past celebrations with Ashley there's a lot of bad eating going on (think late-night snacking and junk food) and it is sometimes difficult to eat gluten free.  When we were deciding on lunch places, I suggested Javier's because of its great Mexican menu.  Mexican food is typically Celiac-friendly because of the abundance of corn products.




As we sat down I was very careful to ask about the chips they served as an appetizer.  I was told that they were 100% corn and that there was no flour or anything similar used in them, the salsa served with them, or the guacamole we ordered to go on the side.

When I continued to ask about corn being used instead of flour in the restaurant's enchiladas, the waiter asked me, "Are you gluten free?"  Ashley and I were both pleasantly surprised that the waiter knew about the gluten free options on the menu.  He assured me that the enchiladas were also gluten free, as they were made from corn.




The enchiladas were awesome.  They were served with rice and a taco; the taco was also made out of corn.  The enchilada was smothered in delicious cheese and the meal was extremely filling -- neither of us needed to eat dinner after the enormous portions they served up at Javier's.  The best part?  Overlooking the Pacific Ocean while snacking on delicious food.  Doesn't get much better than that.

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Javier's Cantina & Grill
7832 Pacific Coast Highway
Newport Beach, CA 92657 (Map)
949.494.1239
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45 Fortune Drive #400
Irvine, CA 92618 (Map)
949.872.2101

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Stone Hearth Pizza Co.

A few nights ago I was lucky enough to have dinner at my favorite pizza place in Boston - Stone Hearth. As if it wasn't enough that they offer gluten-free pizza and pasta, they also patronize local, organic farmers whenever possible! A match made in heaven.

We went to the cozy Cambridge location, whose handful of tables were filled with happy diners. I befriended an adorable toddler named Nora while we perused the menu. My two co-workers and I were most tempted by a classic Magherita and my go-to, the Peperonata. We were a little disappointed to find the GF crust only comes in one size, 12", so instead of splitting a large we ordered two smaller pies. The waitstaff seemed very cognizant of dietary restrictions, making the experience that much more enjoyable.

Every time I go to Stone Hearth I am impressed with their pizza, and I was not let down.
Our pizzas came out piping hot, smelling of fragrant basil and smoky cheese. Their crust is just how I like it - thin & perfectly crisp, with no strange or cloying flavors often found in GF breads. I can't get over how well the caramelized onions, roasted peppers, and fontina cheese blend in the Peperonata. My non-Celiac friends devoured the pizzas, unable to differentiate them from wheat-containing crusts.

Unfortunately we were unable to save room for dessert, but I was happy to see a number of GF options: brownies, cookies, and gelato! I should also mention they serve GF beer as well as Original Sin Hard Cider, one of my favorites.

So far, Stone Hearth is my top recommendation for Celiacs in Boston. Prices are reasonable (though they do add $2 charge to all menu items ordered GF), and there is a good variety. I hope in the future they offer more topping combinations on the GF crust, so far there are only four. Next time I vow to try a pasta dish and dessert!

Do you love it or do you love it?
- - -
Stone Hearth Pizza Co.
1782 Mass Ave.
Cambridge, MA 02140 (Map)
617.492.1111
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57 Leonard Street
Belmont, MA 02478 (Map)
617.484.1700
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974 Great Plain Ave.
Needham, MA 02492
Map
(781) 433-0600

Monday, October 19, 2009

Grow

After a tasting of Fresh Brothers' gluten free pizza (check out that post here)  I stopped by Grow on the recommendation of Fresh Brothers' owner.




The shop has a great selection of gluten free products, including Cherrybrook Kitchens and 1-2-3 Gluten Free.  They also carry a large selection of The Sensitive Baker's products for those of you South Bay residents who can't make it up to the bakery's Culver City location.  Fresh Brothers' owner recommended The Sensitive Baker's breadsticks to me, so I was sure to buy a package of them.  I tried one when I get home (despite being ridiculously full from Fresh Brothers) and they were almost as good as Risotteria's; I'm sure if they were fresh out of the oven they would be just as good.

The produce in Grow also looked great, although being so full from Fresh Brothers I could barely look at any more food than the breadsticks and brownie mix (which was already probably too much!).

Grow is a great place for South Bay people to pick up the Sensitive Baker's products without going up to Culver City; the employees of Grow were also knowledgeable about their gluten free options.

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Grow
1830 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266-2902 (Map)
310.545.2904

Babycakes Named One of Best Cupcakes in the U.S.A.

Babycakes was recently named one of the best cupcake shops in the U.S.A. by Forbes Traveler:

"With famous clientele that includes Hilary Swank, Natalie Portman, and Moby, Babycakes NYC is known for its Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Agave-Sweetened" Chocolate Cupcake with Vanilla Icing.  The bakery prides itself in leveraging unique ingredients to reduce the overall calories in its cakes without skimping on flavor.  Agave nectar is used instead of sugar, garbanzo-fava bean flour is used instead of white flour, and cold-pressed coconut oil replaces butter.  Another big seller for Babycakes it is "cupcake top," which is simply the delicious cut-off top of its cakes, reminiscent of muffin tops."

My friend Clara recently sent me this photo of her in front of the New York Babycakes location -- it makes me really excited for Babycakes to open on the west coast.  Angelenos will soon be able to enjoy Babycakes in its new Downtown LA location.

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Babycakes
248 Broome Street
New York, NY 10002 (Map)
212.677.5047
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Downtown L.A. Location (Coming Soon)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Fresh Brothers Tasting



About a month ago I began e-mailing with the owner of Fresh Brothers, Debbie.  Fresh Brothers is a great pizza restaurant in the South Bay which offers gluten free pizzas.  I had expressed interest on my Twitter in having a Gluten Freeways meet up, and Debbie offered to host the very first one.

After weeks of anticipation, Saturday was finally the day for the tasting.  When my friend Iman and I arrived to Fresh Brothers' Redondo Beach location, we were greeted by a few outdoor tables with "Reserved" placards on them.

 I had warned Iman not to eat before the tasting, because I knew that Debbie wouldn't let us down in providing us with an unbelievable amount of food.  I had stopped in to the Hermosa Beach Green Expo over the summer where Debbie was handing out Fresh Brothers to anybody visiting the Expo and from that visit knew that she had it in her to feed an entire village.

I certainly wasn't disappointed.  Within five minutes of the first guest's arrival, Debbie had us tasting some of her gluten free pizzas.  First on our plates were the Fresh Momma's Favorite, BBQ Chicken, and 'Da Works pizzas along with some Buffalo Wings.



It was quite a spread.  Obviously, my guests and I didn't hold back.  It may have taken us a while to make it through the pizza, but we did a pretty good number on the spread that Debbie had so generously provided for us.

Perhaps just as important as the spread was the terrific quality of the pizza.  I've said it before -- Fresh Brothers is my favorite gluten free pizza in L.A.  I absolutely love the crust; it's not paper-thin and crunchy like many gluten free pizzas.  It also includes herbs to make it more flavorful; as if the flavors on top of the crust didn't help enough, you can order a pizza with less toppings and not sacrifice taste.


Of course, that first round of pizzas wasn't the end of our tasting spree.  Debbie brought out some of Fresh Brothers' wonderful Roasted Garlic BBQ wings.  Full disclosure:  before Saturday, I had never eaten a wing in my life.  Because of that, I can't compare these wings to other wings.  However, other tasters agreed that these wings were some of the best they had ever had.

Debbie concluded the tasting by bringing out two more pizzas.  What a way to end, right?  The first pizza was made with soy cheese and was loaded with green & black olives, fresh green peppers, onions, mushrooms.  Since this was a tasting, and Debbie wanted our honest opinion, we gave it to her -- the soy cheese was definitely not our favorite.  While it is an option for those who are dairy free, the cheese baked on top of the vegetables instead of meshing with the vegetables.  One of the guests at the tasting works at Hugo's and enlightened us about the problems of cooking with soy cheese -- it's difficult to prepare delicious dishes using it because of the way it cooks.  The problem encountered by Fresh Brothers in using soy cheese was not a unique one and was instead a common occurrence when using soy cheese.

After the soy cheese, we were all a bit nervous about the next pizza that Debbie brought out for us.  It was made with Daiya, a vegan cheese alternative free of nuts, casein, gluten, lactose, soy, corn, and rice.  Our skepticism increased when Debbie unveiled the pizza to us; in one taster's words, "it looks like fake food."


We swallowed our collective cynicism along with the Daiya topped pizza.  Our hesitations were immediately put to rest.  The Daiya pizza far surpassed the soy cheese pizza.  While the soy cheese had baked on top of the vegetables, the Daiya pizza had perfectly melted into the pizza.  Even better, it had a texture and taste that could easily be equated with dairy cheese.  If I were vegan (or had any allergy in addition to gluten intolerance), I would definitely choose the Daiya cheese instead of the soy cheese, and my fellow tasters agreed.  Vegans take note: a great way to eat Fresh Brothers is to order pizza with pesto sauce; the tomato sauce includes cheese.

Fresh Brothers is a deliciously affordable gluten free restaurant.  While Debbie provided the tasting for my readers free of charge, I've eaten there before and know that the prices are better than those of other gluten free pizzas in L.A. without sacrificing the great taste.

In a bit of great news, Fresh Brothers will be opening up its third location in Marina Del Rey in the beginning of November.  That makes Fresh Brothers that much easier to get to for us who don't live in the South Bay.  Debbie expressed interest in expanding her business north of Marina Del Rey -- do you have any suggestions for great locations?  Leave a comment!  I told Debbie I'd love to see a Fresh Brothers in West Hollywood... I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Thanks to all of the readers that made it out to the tasting.  Do you have any suggestions for our next tasting?  Leave a comment, and I hope you can make it to the next one.  Thanks again to Fresh Brothers for hosting the first (of hopefully many) tastings!

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Fresh Brothers
407 N. Pacific Coast Highway
Redondo Beach, CA 90278 (Map)
310.374.5678
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2008 Sepulveda Blvd.
Manhattan Beach, CA 90266 (Map)
310.546.4444
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You can also follow Fresh Brothers on Twitter here for great specials and the latest info on the restaurant's Marina Del Rey location.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Risotteria

I recently reviewed my "New York" tab and was surprised to see that I hadn't written about Risotteria yet.  Risotteria was one of the first restaurants I went to with an extensive gluten free menu.  My fond memories of Risotteria were also jogged by a picture my friend Clara sent me recently.  She's accompanied me on many trips to Risotteria over the years.




Risotteria is a tiny restaurant in New York's West Village which serves gluten free risotto, pizza, paninis, and salads.  They also have awesome gluten free black & white cookies, whoopie pies, and other assorted desserts and serve Redbridge gluten free beer.  I love that the breadsticks are gluten free and delicious -- these are some of the best breadsticks I've ever had, gluten free or not.


My favorite option on the menu: the paninis.  You Celiacs reading this know how difficult it is to find a great gluten free sandwich.  If you check out Risotteria, you will not be disappointed with the thick, flavorful bread used for the paninis.  I like the mozzarella, tomato & pesto.

Risotteria's gluten free options are awesome for Celiacs -- it's definitely a great place to check out next time you're in New York City!  Do you love it or do you love it?
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Risotteria
270 Bleecker Street
New York, NY 10014 (Map)
212.924.6664

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Eating Gluten Free in College

The below video is really great, and shows that many young Celiacs don't have to worry about eating gluten free when making the transition to college.  I definitely applaud Syracuse University's efforts to make the transition an easy one as both a Celiac and a former "central" New Yorker.



Of course, that is just one college in the country.  However, my alma mater was also extremely helpful in my adjustment.  I was diagnosed with Celiac the summer after my freshman year.  During that summer I lived at another college in Boston and had a horrible, no good, rotten experience at the other college with eating gluten free; it made the initial adjustment very difficult.  When I went back to Tufts in the fall, I contacted the school's nutritionist who was eager to provide me with gluten free pasta, cereal, and cookies.  Just as importantly, she provided me with information about any hidden gluten in the dining hall.  She and the dining hall staff went to great lengths to welcome me as a Celiac.  Whenever I went behind the counters I was treated like a local celebrity, since the entire staff was aware of my gluten free needs.  They would also grill items and serve them to me without particular sauces which contained gluten.  If you have any concerns about eating gluten free in college, I definitely recommend meeting with your school's nutritionist, dietitian, or dining hall manager to see what options are available.




I also just found this great pamphlet that Tufts publishes for its students with food allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities.

I wholeheartedly echo Ruth Sullivan's comment that many students wish they could go back to the dining hall.  I know I do -- cooking for myself and doing the dishes is way too cumbersome!

Thanks to Gluten Free Optimist's original post for the video.  On her site (here), she also has an article about eating gluten free at the University of Maryland.

Rivera Named Best New Restaurant in L.A. in 2009

According to Eating Las Vegas, Rivera Restaurant was just named the best new restaurant of 2009 in Los Angeles.  Check out my previous post about Rivera here.

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Rivera Restaurant
1050 S. Flower Street
Los Angeles, CA 90015 (Map)
213.749.1460

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Hugo's for Brunch

I just went to brunch at one of my favorite gluten free restaurants, Hugo's.  While walking through the West Hollywood Farmer's Market with my friend Sarah, another friend Iman messaged me and told me she was in the neighborhood and feeling hungry.

I'd never been to brunch at Hugo's before, and was happy to see gluten free orange cranberry pancakes on the menu!  It's not often that I see gluten free pancakes on a menu, so I knew I had to order them.


They didn't disappoint and were even better than the gluten filled pancakes I used to eat.  They were light and infused with citrus flavor.  They were also served with cranberries drowned in a citrus sauce.  Altogether, it was a great brunch.  Of course there was organic maple syrup at the table too -- because how can you eat pancakes without maple syrup?

I've written about Hugo's before (here), so check that post to read more about Hugo's.

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Hugo's Restaurant
8401 Santa Monica Blvd.
West Hollywood, CA 90069 (Map)
323.654.3993