Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crunchmaster Crackers

I am so delayed on this post -- sorry!  A long time ago Lisa sent me a great package with some Crunchmaster products and I am just getting around to blogging about them.  Chalk that up to me squirreling these away in my house so nobody else would eat them and then forgetting that I, myself, had to try them.

Anyway, I can now report that I have tried Crunchmaster's products and am happy to say that they are great!  I received the company's 7 Ancient Grains - Hint of Sea Salt cracker along with the company's White Cheddar flavor.  I'm generally not a big fan of cheddar so, while I enjoyed the cheddar chips, the Hint of Sea Salt chips were definitely my preferred snack.  The chips are great, with a satisfying crunch that perfectly complements the company's name.  They are terrific for dipping, which was the most common way I ate them (with some great, newly gluten free Sabra hummus).  The Hint of Sea Salt crackers are just that -- crackers with a hint of sea salt.  All too often I'll try products that have a "hint" of something but that "hint" becomes an overwhelming flavor.  Crunchmaster's crackers avoid that and are a great addition to a dip.  I'll definitely serve these crackers alongside a hummus or dip the next time I entertain company.  They are also pretty low in calories -- for 15 chips there are only 130 calories.  That's a lot of chips!  It's a snack that you don't have to feel guilty about eating.

Even better, I've been noticing the proliferation of Crunchmaster's products in grocery stores.  Before the company contacted me, I had not heard or seen the products on the shelves.  Now, I'm seeing them everywhere.  Perhaps it is because I didn't pay attention before, but now I certainly will be.  Crunchmaster's crackers are a great addition to your gluten free diet!

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011


While I was visiting my sister in Asheville we headed to a new restaurant, Plant, to check out the menu.  The restaurant is located on a busy road and may not look like much from the outside, but inside the restaurant has a tranquil setting and a beautiful open kitchen.  After being seated I asked the waitress about the gluten free options available and she assured me that many of the dishes could be prepared could be made gluten free.

I ordered the raw enchiladas; I thought back to my amazing experience in Denver when I had raw lasagna at Leaf (in Boulder).  I thought I would try something similar at Plant and was happy once I took my first bite.  The dish was spicy and had great flavoring.  I would definitely go back to Plant to check out some of the other gluten free options.  I'm sorry this post isn't longer -- it has been too long since I went!

Do you love it or do you love it?

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165 Merrimon Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801 (Map)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Olde Pink House

While vacationing in South Carolina I took a slight detour to Savannah.  It was only about 45 minutes from where I was staying in S. Carolina and, after reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
, I knew I needed to explore the city.  If you haven't read the book I strongly suggest you do; if you truly dislike reading I suppose you can rent the movie but be warned that it doesn't hold a candle to the book.  There's a reason that the book was a bestseller!

Anyway, I started off the day with a tour by Savannah Dan after finding him through a quick Google Search.  I had a fantastic time with Dan as he walked the small tour group through some of the city's 22 squares.  Savannah is a beautiful city with very interesting history and, much to my liking, the historic core is supremely walkable.  After living in Los Angeles for three years I truly appreciate a city through which one can walk.  I will update this post with pictures once I can load them from my camera -- I know, I know, I'm so 20th century... that iPhone 4S can't come soon enough (three days)!

Forsyth Park
Once the tour was over I asked Savannah Dan for restaurant recommendations.  He recommended The Olde Pink House, a restaurant just a stone's throw from where the tour ended in Reynolds Square.  I sauntered over to the restaurant and was surprised by the decor inside.  It is immediately apparent that there is a lot of history in the restaurant and, once seated, I asked my waitress how old the restaurant is.  She told me that it is more than two-hundred years old, built before the Revolutionary War.  It was great to eat in such a historic place!

When I asked the waitress about a specific item I was interested in on the menu and its ability to be made gluten free, she said "Oh y'all should have told me!  We have a gluten free menu.  Let me go over and get it for y'all."  I love southern hospitality!  She brought me back the gluten free menu and my decision was quickly made in favor of the Fish Tacos.  I also ordered the pink lemonade, in the spirit of being in the South.  While a mint julep sounded nice, I wasn't ready for alcohol that early in the day.  The Fish Tacos were served in a deconstructed manner with three blue corn tortillas that appeared to have been baked; they weren't completely crispy but were definitely crispier than a normal soft taco.  Also on the plank on which the Tacos were served: guacamole, mahi mahi with cilantro sauce, chopped lettuce, pico de gallo, cheese and sour cream.  I really enjoyed the deconstructed manner in which the dish was served because I was able to decide how much guac, cheese, or pico de gallo I wanted on each taco.  The tortillas were delicious too!

I was so surprised that The Olde Pink House was so ready with a gluten free menu; I wish I had asked right when I walked in!  This is definitely a great spot, particularly if you have just taken a tour by Savannah Dan, which I definitely recommended.  Overall, a terrific trip to Savannah!

Do you love it or do you love it?
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The Olde Pink House (no official site available)
23 Abercorn Street
Savannah, GA 31401 (Map)

Monday, October 10, 2011

Posana - Breakfast

The same we had dinner at Posana (full recap on that here), we made the rather simple decision to venture to Posana for the next day's breakfast.  The breakfast would be our final meal in Asheville and after such a terrific and completely gluten free dinner, we didn't think it smart to skip out on an opportunity to sample the restaurant's dishes.

We arrived to Posana soon after it opened with eager stomachs.  After perusing the menu I immediately knew that I was going to order the french toast; I mean, how often is it that a Celiac can order french toast?  It was so amazing to have the entire menu at my disposal.  After living with Celiac for the past 6+ years, I am unaccustomed to such options; it seems like a million years ago when I could look at a menu and have my pick without concern.  Anyway, my sister went with the Quiche du Jour which was being made with peppers that day.  Both the french toast and the quiche were excellent!  The french toast wasn't soaked through as I remember it being in my pre-Celiac days.  Instead, it became especially delicious with the maple syrup served alongside it.

In addition to our meals, we took some food to go.  The previous night, we had been told that the restaurant made lots of pastries and that they encouraged people to take them on the road with them.  Obviously I had no qualms with that, so I purchased a to-go box for our long car ride.

 As you can tell from the picture, I didn't skimp on the pastries.  Included in the box was a Pecan pie, a pumpkin scone,  a chocolate raspberry muffin and a chocolate raspberry scone.  They were all just as delicious as the breakfast and the dinner the night before.

Posana will probably remain my best gluten free dining experience for some time.  If you live anywhere close, or are looking for a great gluten free destination, check out Posana and, more generally, Asheville.  I'll have more posts about Asheville's other gluten free options soon!

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Posana Cafe
One Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801 (Map)

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Posana - Dinner

This is going to be a long and detailed post but let me give you the gist right in the beginning: my meals at Posana Cafe were the best I've had since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease in June 2005.  I don't make that statement lightly; you regular readers know that I do my fair share of eating in various cities and have had the opportunity to eat in enough gluten free restaurants to have a depth of experience with which I can compare Posana.

Now for the lengthy writeup.  My sister had heard that Posana was entirely gluten free but after checking the restaurant's website and menu I remained skeptical.  I couldn't find a mention of the restaurant's gluten free status.  We stopped in the night before our reservation to verify that the restaurant was gluten free and we were told that the entire restaurant is gluten free, save for the beers on tap.  They do, however, have an excellent selection of gluten free beers (more on that later).

I made sure to prepare for Posana by going on a long, mid-afternoon run and eating lightly thereafter; I wanted to make sure I was ready to devour as much food as possible in what would hopefully be a great gluten free restaurant.  I was not disappointed.  After being promptly seated after our 7:30pm reservation time, I practically started to salivate at the table.  The menu was varied and included a great selection of pasta dishes -- even gnocchi!  I can't remember the last time I had gnocchi; I wasn't a large fan before my Celiac diagnosis and obviously couldn't eat it after being diagnosed.

Posana's Interior
I was excited to rediscover the food after having it withheld from me for 6 painful years and decided to order the gnocchi.  My sister requested the vegetarian pasta and my parents ordered the trout after being convinced by my sister that they could not leave Asheville without having tried trout.  I also ordered the Vietnamese Spring Rolls as an appetizer.  The Spring Rolls were served with a delicious ponzu sauce and were very good.  They may not be the most unique gluten free item, but the ponzu sauce is something I typically stay away from so I was happy to be able to indulge.  My mother's order of that night's salad special, featuring watercress, raspberries, a raspberry dressing, and candied pecans, was likewise terrific.  I should also mention that I had a Green's gluten free beer and it completely blew Redbridge out of the water.  I'll have an alcohol-themed Asheville post in a few days, as the city had a lot of great alcohol options for gluten free people.

When our main dishes arrived, I was initially breathless.  Sitting in front of me was a huge bowl of gluten free gnocchi.  I was admittedly nervous about digging in to the bowl in case it was bad; my hopes at that point were pretty high.  I gingerly moved the gnocchi around in its bowl and skewered one with my fork.  The fork was weighed down by six years of anticipation -- could I have finally found an amazing, totally gluten free restaurant with meals that could masquerade as gluten filled?

I ate my first gnocchi and it was love at first bite.  Wow.  It was thick like gnocchi should be and perfectly flavored with a lemon-flavored sauce.  It was filling, it was bursting with flavor, it was, in a word, spectacular.  I barely set my fork down until I had devoured the entire bowl of gnocchi.  I did take a picture (see right) and I apologize for it not being a better picture.  I promise once I get the new iPhone to be on my game.  My sister's vegetarian lasagna was great too, however I preferred the gnocchi.  My parents' trout was terrific and came with a delicious side of beans.

Now, while you may think I was full after that amazing gnocchi, you would definitely be mistaken.  I was on a tear at Posana because I had no idea when I would next be able to visit an entirely gluten free restaurant.  In that spirit, my sister and I aimed to order gluten free desserts that were unique and that we wouldn't likely find as a gluten free option elsewhere.  I ordered the Chocolate Hazelnut Crepes while my sister went with the Roasted Sweet Potato Cheesecake.  I enjoyed the Crepes, but the Cheesecake was a revelation.  It had a great cinnamon kick to it and was absolutely delicious.  It was exactly the unique dish we were looking for instead of another flourless chocolate cake.  To see a menu with such a wide variety of options for gluten free folk was absolutely amazing.  My mother ordered the North Carolina Apple: Three Ways and, while we enjoyed it, the clear winner was the Roasted Sweet Potato Cheesecake.

When the meal was finally over, I was pleasantly stuffed with food and happiness.  During the meal we were also treated to a discussion with the chef, who told me that he started cooking gluten free because his wife and kids have Celiac Disease.  He regaled us with one anecdote in which his wife enjoyed some gluten free pretzels and suggested that he try them; after trying them, he practically spat them out with distaste.  He decided to try and make a great gluten free product that would taste like gluten filled products.  You gluten free folk know how difficult this is, but Posana has achieved this with remarkable success.  He also told us that to make many of the products he uses Bob's Red Mill's products but makes his own mixes using Bob's Red Mill.

To reiterate my sentiment from above: this was the best meal I have had since being diagnosed with Celiac Disease in June 2005.  I've been fortunate to eat at "fancier" restaurants, but nothing can beat having the ability to choose from an entire gluten free menu.  While some restaurants do have dedicated gluten free menus, they are often in addition to the "regular" menu.  To go to a restaurant serving a menu that is gluten free and "regular" was an unbelievable treat and was made so much better by the food being great.  If you are anywhere in the Asheville area, even as far away as Charlotte (about a two hour drive), I urge you to check out Posana.  In over 2.5 years of blogging and 6 years of having Celiac, I have yet to find a comparable gluten free dining experience.

I'll be back soon with a post about the restaurant's breakfast options because yes, I did visit the restaurant twice within a 12 hour period... don't judge me because I do it all for you, faithful readers.

Go ahead, lick the plate.
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Posana Cafe
One Biltmore Avenue
Asheville, NC 28801 (Map)

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tupelo Honey Café: UPDATED

UPDATE 3: I've been my second tour of the South recently, starting in Asheville, NC.  While I was in Asheville I hit up some of my regular favorites like Tupelo Honey and will definitely be updating some of my previous posts; I also took a day trip to Greenville, SC with my sister and her boyfriend on her birthday and while there walked through the beautiful Falls Park on the Reedy.

This time we visited Tupelo Honey's second location in Asheville.  I was excited to hear that Tupelo now has a full gluten free menu available and quickly decided on the Catfish with grits.  They also had a great flourless chocolate cake for dessert and, as my motto goes, "No dessert left behind."  Both the catfish with grits and the flourless chocolate cake were good; however I definitely preferred the shrimp and grits that I previously ordered at Tupelo and the apple pie dessert that was featured last time.

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UPDATE 2:  When my parents arrived in Asheville we started planning our meals together.  They were dying to check out my sister's employer, so we scratched The Admiral from our list (see ya next time!) and I made a second visit to Tupelo.  For my parents it was a special treat; for me it was a chance to check out more of the restaurants gluten free options.  This time around I ordered the shrimp and goat cheese grits.  I was thinking about going back to the Cajun Skilled Catfish, but what's the fun in that?  The shrimp and grits were outstanding!  I was a big fan of Tupelo's grits after my first experience with them (read above for my full reaction) and decided to go back for more.  The dish was served with a spicy red pepper sauce and was absolutely phenomenal.  I also tried the Raspberry Sour Patch Fizz with Luksusowa Vodak which was fantastic.  For dessert I ordered up the gluten free apple pie dessert and was astounded by how great it was.  I can't remember the last time I had apple pie, much less a delicious and gluten free apple pie!

As the waitress at Tupelo said -- "Go ahead; lick the plate."

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I recently had the chance to visit my sister in Asheville, North Carolina.  She moved down in July and I've been clamoring to visit ever since; people everywhere have told me what a great city it is.  Well I've finally had the chance to visit and can say that it's terrific!  I'm blogging from a great internet café here in Asheville  and am impressed by the friendliness of the people here.

Last night, after I arrived, we headed to the restaurant where my sister works: Tupelo Honey Café.  There was a twenty-minute wait, which my sister told me is normal because it's a popular restaurant in Asheville's downtown area.  We sat in the back of the restaurant with a raucous group of women who were also waiting for their tables.  I briefly perused the drink menu and was happy to see that the restaurant offered to make many of its drinks with potato vodka.  I haven't had a great vodka drink in a long time but, when I saw those options, I knew I had to order one.  You can check out the drink menu here.

We were eventually seated and soon after I inquired about the gluten free menu.  The hostess brought over a typed-up paper which detailed the restaurant's gluten free options.  I ordered the Cajun Skillet Catfish and, as my drink, Jamie's Hard Lemonade.  It was a tough decision for me between the Cajun Skillet Catfish and the Grilled Cheese on gluten free bread with a side of tomato soup, but I ultimately went with the catfish -- I'm not much of a grilled cheese fan, I guess.

The drink and the hard lemonade were both excellent!  It's been a long time since I had a hard lemonade and this one definitely hit the spot -- not too sweet and not too alcoholic.  The Catfish was excellent as well and served with grits.  This was my first experience with grits; my sister was nervous to have me order some of the other dishes that heavily featured grits.  But I figured that if Britney Spears likes grits, how could I not?  The restaurant served the grits in a way so they had a consistency that is similar to polenta, one of my favorite foods.

I loved Tupelo Honey Café; they also brought me over some Rudi's bread and jam before my meal while my sister snacked on the restaurant's signature biscuits.  I am excited to continue my eating tour through Asheville!  More posts soon.

Do you love it or do you love it?
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Tupelo Honey Café
12 College Street
Asheville, NC 28801 (Map)
(828) 255-4863

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Jennifer Esposito Eats Gluten Free New York

While perusing New York Magazine today, I saw a headline which said "Jennifer Esposito goes Gluten-Free at Goat Town."  I was perplexed because I had never heard of Goat Town as a gluten free friendly restaurant in New York and I had no idea Jennifer Esposito is gluten free!  Just another gluten free celebrity to join the ranks of Elisabeth, Zooey, and Gwyneth.

If you don't recognize the actress by her name, the photo above should help out.  If it doesn't, check out her IMDB profile here, which includes such hits as Crash and Summer of Sam.  If you still don't recognize her (or even if you do), and you're a NetFlix member, do yourself a favor and stream "Samantha Who?"  The show was underrated when it was on the air and sadly only lived for two seasons, but it's an enjoyable sitcom with the comedic talents of Ms. Esposito, Christina Applegate, and Melissa McCarthy, the last of whom is coming off an Emmy win for Mike & Molly (and a scene-stealing performance in Bridesmaids).

Anyway, the article follows Esposito as she traverses New York City while keeping a gluten free diet.  It also mentions a non-profit she is starting, called Jennifer's Way, meant to educate others about Celiac Disease.  The website advertises a launch date of October 10th, so I will be sure to update this post once the organization posts more information.

Do you love it or do you love it?
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"Actress Jennifer Esposito Goes Gluten-Free at Goat Town, Bakes Lots of Scones for Dr. Oz"
By Alan Sytsma