Product Review: Gluten-Free Pantry All Purpose Flour

I tried making my favorite banana bread recipe with Gluten-Free Pantry’s All Purpose Flour Mix.  Just substitute it in a one to one ratio into a recipe, no other substitutions required.  As you can see, it turned out beautifully.  The recipe can be found in the Joy of Cooking, I just added a handful of chocolate chips in addition to walnuts.

The taste and texture were equally appealing.  The texture was pretty close to normal flour, just a little more dense.  It tasted like normal flour: the flavor was neutral, not overly rice-y or bean-y (unlike some ready-made mixes).  The bread turned out slightly drier than normal, but this could be easily fixed with maybe a tablespoon of applesauce.

This probably won’t work universally, especially given that Gluten-Free Pantry has about eight other types of flour mixes for various types of baked goods.    If you only bake gluten-free occasionally for a friend / family, this is a good product to keep in the pantry rather than messing with several types of flour, starches, guar gum or xanthan gum.

I have found Gluten-Free Pantry products on Amazon and at Whole Foods, as well as other specialty grocers.

Bar Review: The Sevens

One of the few places left without a website, The Sevens on Charles St., is the kind of local pub that you wish was on every corner.  As soon as my friend and I walked in, the bartender came by and started chatting.  I had to admit, given that I noticed there is no full bar, as far as I could tell,  just beer (and later I noticed, wine), I was betting it would be ginger ale for me, but they had appropriate options.

Apparently, the bartender had recently ordered a case of Redbridge, for a regular.  She said if I was going to come back, she would order more.  The Sevens also stocks Magners cider, which is another great gluten-free option.  They also have wine available, so there are a few options for gluten-free guests.  The drinks are cheap, less than seven dollars for two beers.  The bartender was very nice and immediately knew what gluten-free beer was.  She was interested in what a gluten allergy entailed (i.e. – wheat, barley and rye) and how it affected me.

The bar itself is has a worn, comfortable look.  The decor is sparse and unpretentious.  The tables are positioned close together between pew-like benches and wooden chairs.  The bar filled up quickly for a Monday night, by 6 p.m., it was jam-packed.  There are dart boards in the back.   A big plus: the bathrooms are very clean and tidy.  Awesome!

I did not try any of the food they serve, but the staff was so nice, I am sure they would do their best to accommodate.

g/f friendly: 4 out of 5

overall: 5 out of 5

Product Review: Shabtai Gourmet Rainbow Cookies

While waiting for Fro Yo at Forty Carrots (by the way, is anyone else excited about the Pinkberry on Newbury Street?), I started to stare longingly at some boxes of rainbow cookies and half moon cookies.  I know, I shouldn’t taunt myself by staring at such things like that.  It always makes me long for the good old days when gluten didn’t kick me in the intestines, but then I noticed with delight and surprise: the packages said “gluten-free” in big letters.  I was so excited, I almost started dancing like my cat does when I pull out the Temptations.  It looks a little like this:

So I bought a box of the Shabtai Gourmet Rainbow Cookies.  Shabtai Gourmet is a Kosher baker (see below for importance).  For a dozen cookies (12 oz), it was 10 dollars.  My jaw dropped a little, but it was a pretty crap weekend otherwise, so what the heck?  And when I thought about it later, I realized a pound of rainbow cookies at a Jewish deli in NYC would be about 12 dollars a pound anyway, so it turns out, not that much more expensive.

Mmmmm. Rainbow-y tastiness!

The cookies were worth every penny.  They were really amazingly good.  They were made with almond flour, so they have a nice, naturally sweet and nutty flavor.  In between each cake layer were alternating layers of apricot and raspberry preserves, which went perfectly with the nutty layers of cake.  There was a thin layer of rich dark chocolate around the outside.  Heavenly.   They are not the least bit dry or gritty.  Just little kosher bites of heaven.

For the price, these are certainly not an everyday treat, but well worth the extra cash on an otherwise crap weekend.

My next conquest: the half moon cookie.

When surfing Chowhound as part of this post, I remembered that some Jewish treats, in order to be kosher for passover, do not contain wheat flour.  Here is a recipe for rainbow cookies, that I hope to post pictures of and try myself soon!

Restaurant Review: Legal Sea Foods

I heart Legal Sea Foods.

Legal Sea Foods has a number of locations through Boston and area suburbs.  Legal also has a test kitchen down by the Harbor, which I have never been to, but hear is a lot of fun.

Even if you do not like fish, this is a nice place to eat.  They do have a number of non-seafood options.

The restaurant has a nice ambiance: it’s pretty much the same at all locations: dim lighting, well-spaced tables, large banquettes and little waterfall features.  I like that despite its extensive seafood offerings, none of the locations I have visited smell fishy.

Dining here is always very easy.  Every Legal staff member I have spoken to is well-trained on food allergies.  They don’t even have to call over a manager.  Legal caters to a lot of different allergies.  On a recent trip to the Burlington location, the waitress mentioned that she had worked with a large party for almost a half-hour to accommodate all the allergies around the table.

While you browse their extensive gluten-free menu, try some of their warm gluten-free rolls.  So tasty.  Husband likes the taste of them as well, even though he gets his own gluten-y rolls.

I am a huge fan of their pan-fried chickpea flour calamari.  They also have gluten-free, pan-fried French fries.

In addition to the fry-o-later fix, Legal offers a variety of appetizers, soups, salads with gluten-free croutons and a number of other fish dishes and sides.  I have tried a lot of them and they are all really great.

Legal has a separate prep area for gluten-free foods.  Even if you are ordering something that does not have gluten, like edamame, let the staff know about your allergy.  They still prep it in the g/f area to avoid cross-contamination.

This is a rather pricey, but excellent option for gluten-free diners.  It is worth an occasional splurge.  I would highly recommend going here, especially if you are just starting out on your gluten-free dietary adventures.

Legal makes dining out with allergies painless.  I especially appreciate their dedication to promoting allergy awareness.

g/f friendly: 5 out of 5

taste and quality of food: 5 out of 5

Product Review: Betty Crocker, Chocolate Cake

Over the weekend, we were lucky enough to have some great friends visit.  I was really excited to host an impromptu dinner party.  I decided to throw together a little chocolate chip pound cake for dessert.  I had tried the Betty Crocker gluten-free mixes before at a friend’s house.  It had the taste and texture of a pound cake.  No one could tell that the cake was gluten-free.  When I saw it in the aisle, I decided to try it again.

The instructions were really easy.  It was just a matter of adding two eggs, a softened stick of butter and some water to the mix.  After two minutes in the mixer, the batter looked rich and creamy.  After about 45 minutes in the oven, the cake was moist and did not flake apart easily, unlike many gluten-free products.

This was a fantastic, easy solution for gluten-free dessert.  It certainly tasted as good as a gluten-y cake and was just as easy to make.

Restaurant Review: Tamarind Bay

I stuff myself like a jerk every time at the Tamarind Bay in Cambridge.  So the other week, we headed over to their Brookline location.

I have always loved Indian food, but since being diagnosed with celiac, I am an even bigger fan.  I have a number of Indian cookbooks and really appreciate that so many of the recipes use potato, chickpea or lentil flour instead of regular wheat flour.  I like not having to think about substitutions and replication.

Anyway, the Tamarind Bay in Cambridge is in a tiny, softly lit basement.  The décor is definitely second to the food and there is no bar.  The room is very intimate and slightly cramped, but the food makes it worth the Spartan dining area.

The Brookline location differs greatly from its Cambridge cousin in appearance.  The Brookline location is a lot brighter and more spacious with more attention paid to the décor, including a full bar.  The big windows along the front are perfect for people watching.

While the two restaurants feel very different when you walk in, they both have the same neighborhood feeling, friendly service and fantastic food.  The two locations do have different menus, both of which are really good.

The waiter at the Brookline location was very friendly.  He did not really know much about gluten allergies, but he listened, took notes, asked a few questions and went back to the kitchen to see what contained gluten.  There were only two chicken or fish curries out of about 12 that had wheat flour in them.  Aside from the naans, rotis and a few appetizers and curries, I had my pick of the menu.

Once the waiter took my order, the manager came by and just confirmed that my order was ok and reminded me not to eat any of the naan.

Tamarind Bay makes their poppadoms with chickpea and lentil flours.  They were light and crispy.  It was nice to be able to chow down on “bread” basket as we waited for our appetizer and main course.  They serve them with two sauces: one sweet and one spicy.  So many bonus points for not having to sit there with puppy eyes watching my husband chomp on fresh bread.

We started off with an order of seared scallops.  They were rubbed with spices and served with spinach.  The scallops literally melted in my mouth.  They were perfectly seasoned with a really delicate curry flavor in the spice rub.  The spinach was super garlicky.  I love garlic, but this was a little too much for my liking.

I forget the name of the chicken curry I tried.  It was very gingery with lots of cilantro and peppers. Very spicy, which I do like, but I should have ordered some raita to go with it.

Husband had the butter chicken which was rich and creamy.  If you do not generally like curry or are just trying it for the first time, I would suggest going with something like butter chicken: it’s the chicken parm of curry.

This is a really good place to go for gluten-free diners, or any kind of diner really, but I am just saying, it is worth rethinking your position on curry houses if you are g/f.  If you are not a fan of saucy dishes, tandoori is a great alternative.  It’s just meat or veggies marinated in yogurt and cooked in a super hot clay oven.

G/F friendly: 4 of 5

Food Taste and Quality: 4.5 of 5