Rein’s Deli: Oy Vey! They have gluten-free “rye” rolls and they taste like goodness (the best reason to pull off the highway in Connecticut)

Loaf of dark rye bread

Image via Wikipedia

My friend and I had to go to New Haven to present at a conference.  After watching the state police try to pull an 18-wheeler out of a ditch, our discussion turned to food.  As we pulled off the pike, into the dreaded state of Connecticut, I commented that my favorite thing about Connecticut was Rein’s Deli, located in Vernon, just 20 minutes from the wonderful sight of the “Welcome to Massachusetts” sign.  My friend agreed that Rein’s was the best thing about Connecticut and we decided we had to stop there for dinner on our way home, our nerves wouldn’t allow us to eat before the presentation.

Maybe I should explain why I dislike Connecticut.  My friend Chris would attribute my dislike to being a woman and therefore illogical, but I believe that most of my dislike stems from their dogged refusal to put up those signs that tell you what gas stations and restaurants are located at the next exit.  I can’t tell you all how many times I have almost peed myself / run out of gas in Connecticut only to pull off the highway and find myself looking for those damn golden arches I saw just off the highway a minute ago and realizing it was the next / last exit.

I would also like to register a complaint against the traffic near Hartford and Stamford.  For cities with little to nothing going on, they generate lots of traffic, but I really don’t want to spend too much time dissing Connecticut.  I admit, it has many redeeming qualities: the Mystic Seaport area is delightful and I have met a lot of great people from Connecticut.

After our presentation (it went well thank you, but the topic was so exceptionally boring, I cannot bear to go into detail), we made a beeline to Rein’s to celebrate.  As we were seated, I started to brace myself to give my food allergy spiel.  I had been to Rein’s about a year before and had a bit of trouble ordering.  The staff had been very kind and tried their best to accommodate me, but, a deli menu comprised mostly of sandwiches and matzoh soup does not leave a lot of options for a gluten allergy.

When you are seated in the back to the 1980’s dining area, someone immediately brings pickles to the table.  I have never really cared for pickles, but Rein’s is famous for them, so I tried them again, just for this posting, but the pickle saltiness and the cumin flavor did not appeal to me.  My friend just shook her head at me in amazement: these are widely acknowledged to be the best pickles around.  Since my mother and just about everyone else I know that has tried them agrees, I will just chalk my reticence up to my general dislike of pickles.

After ordering some cream sodas (oh, fountain cream soda, why are you not more widely available?!), I managed to stop the waitress just long enough to inform her of my allergy.  Before I could go any further, she asked if I wanted a gluten-free menu and ran off only to return moments later with a small menu.  It turns out that Rein’s now has a separate kitchen for gluten-free items.

I was delighted that they even had a menu and was even more delighted to find that Rein’s is now making / buying fresh-made gluten-free breads, including a gluten-free “rye” bread.  While Rein’s has a variety of gluten-free breads, they do not have much in the way of choices (i.e. cold cuts or sides).  However, it is nice to know that this deli caters to the food allergy crowd.

My friend and I had a hankering for sweet potato fries and were intrigued by the maple BBQ dipping sauce, so we asked if I could have those, even though they were not listed on the gluten-free menu.  The waitress went to the kitchen and moments later, a manager returned with a laminated page stating the ingredients contained in the sweet potato fries.  They contained no gluten and I am generally not sensitive enough to worry about things fried in the same fryer, so we went ahead and ordered them.

The fries were good, not amazing, they were the standard frozen sweet potato fry, nothing special, but tasty nonetheless.  However, they were served with a maple BBQ sauce, which was smoky and sweet and good enough to drink by the cupful.  If you are going to do fries at Rein’s I would suggest their standard thick-cut fries, personally, I like those a little better.  For the record, I did not get sick.

I also ordered a turkey sandwich with cheese on the “rye” bread.  My friend ordered a reuben.  My friend’s reuben looked delicious and she said it was amazing.

My turkey on “rye” was great.  The sandwich was piled high with thinly shaved meat, cheese and onions.  The “rye” was very convincing.  It was clearly caraway with maybe a touch of anise in place of my old friend rye, but the taste and texture were pretty spot on.  If I closed my eyes, it was just like the good old days: the days before gluten and I declared war on each other.  However, the sandwich was dry with no Russian dressing or other accoutrement.  I found myself wishing for a little mustard or something, but I couldn’t find the waitress to get some.

I wouldn’t go to Rein’s for the service.  While the service runs fairly quickly and the staff is pleasant, they also always appear harried, running from table to table, forgetting the water or ketchup you asked for twice.

After eating, we headed to the front to pay our tab and check out the takeaway section.  My friend picked up some of their gluten-y rye bread and I eyed the new freezer of gluten-free mac and cheese and breads.  They do sell their gluten-free “rye”, but at $6.99 for four rolls, it is a pricey treat.

g/f friendly: 5 out of 5

taste and quality of food: 3.5 out of 5

Brown Sugar Fro Yo

Frozen Yogurt with Banana and Blueberries

Image by planetc1 via Flickr

I know spring is here somewhere, despite the crap-tastic weather we have been having.  So I decided to work on my ice-cream making skills this weekend.  I love fro yo.  I hit up the Pinkberry (btw, who else is excited for salted caramel to hit the market?!), Red Mango and Berryline near my office on a regular basis.  However, at 4-6 bucks a serving, I thought it was time to make my own, more economical version at home.

I decided to start with the basics, a vanilla fro-yo, easily dressed up by fruit or honey.  Instead of the standard white sugar, I went with brown sugar to add a slightly more rich and molasses-y flavor to the fro-yo.

I hit up 101cookbooks.com and found a recipe for fro-yo that rivals Pinkberry’s original fro yo, which I used as a base for my recipe.

After making it, I realized that I should work on a way to incorporate something to make the fro-yo stay a bit softer.  I used 0% fat Greek yogurt, which made the mixture harden fast and melt slowly.  It might be worth going up to the 2% version to ensure that scooping is a bit easier.  Fats makes things more scoopable.

Ingredients:

4 cups 2% or full fat Greek yogurt (it still tastes fine with 0%, but will be hard to scoop)

¾ cup lightly packed brown sugar

2 tsp gluten-free vanilla

Note on the directions: I use a Kitchenaid with the ice cream maker attachment.  My instructions are based on the instructions suggested by Kitchenaid.  If you are not using a Kitchenaid, read the manufacturer’s instruction book.

Stir until smooth, it takes longer than one might think!


1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl.  Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is smooth.

2. Turn on your ice cream maker.  I keep my ice cream maker bowl in the back of the freezer, so it is ready to go when I am.  Pull it out at the last possible moment, the colder the bowl is, the better the ice cream will set up.

Left: pouring in the fro yo Right: the fro you when it is ready for the freezer

3. Stream in the yogurt mixture.  Keep the ice cream maker on stir or low.  It takes a while for the ice cream to form, between 10 and 20 minutes.  If you have a Kitchenaid, you may hear an audible clicking, which will indicate if the ice cream is ready.  You can also tell visually, the mixture will become more like a pudding and then a bit more stiff, almost like a meringue.  When it gets to that stage, it is done.

4. To avoid damaging the ice cream maker attachment, pour the ice cream into another container suitable for the freezer.  Allow to freeze 2-3 hours.

Served up with some fresh fruit and honey, a light and naturally gluten-free dessert

Boston Area G/F Beers, just in time for the BBQ

Gluten free beer made from sorghum in an Ameri...

Image via Wikipedia

With Memorial Day approaching, it seemed like the time to celebrate the upcoming summer season with a post on gluten-free beer.  A good gluten-free beer is hard to come by.  The range of gluten-free beers on the market is limited: there are no seasonal blends, no weiss beers or Guiness, just gluten-free beer.  We don’t even get light beer.

The toughest thing about gluten-free beer: how hard it is to come by a selection.  A lot of places have one or two varieties on the shelf, but it is hard to find a store that stocks even two brands.   There are a number of online options, but these are only a few currently or soon will be available here in the Metro Boston area.  This article only lists products currently or soon to be available in eastern Massachusetts.

Currently Available:

Bard’s Tale: The sorghum gives the beer a lighter, slightly sweet taste.  The sorghum flavor is nice and lends itself well to beer.  There is a strong, bitter aftertaste.  Bard’s Tale is pretty widely available at both local liquor stores and a few bars, including the Kinsale.

Green’s:  It’s on the pricey side, but the flavor is great and there is no aftertaste.  It has the flavor of a light ale.  Green’s has a more extensive line available overseas, but there are only a few products available here.  Oddly, many wine stores stock Green’s, such as Central Bottle and Beacon Hill Wine & Spirits.

Redbridge:  Props to Anheuser Busch for even having a gluten-free beer in their list. It’s a good beer, just a little hoppy for my tastes.  The aftertaste is strong and malty.  This is available at larger liquor stores and also at many bars, including The Sevens on Charles Street and Charley’s Kitchen in Harvard Square.

Sprecher Brewery produces two gluten-free beers: Shakparo and Mbege.   Shakparo is a sorghum and millet beer.  The Mbege is a banana beer, which sounds unusual and perfect for summer.  this is stocked locally by Seaboard products.  They do have these beers in house, you can pick them up by contacting them via Greatbrewers.com.

Available soon:

Monzono – this beer is a pilsner available in Europe.  It is in the process of being imported locally to Holyoke, MA by a small company.  When I hear more about its Boston area availability, I will post an update.

Ramapo Valley Brewery Honey Beer: I haven’t tried this yet, but it is not only gluten-free, but also Kosher!   I emailed the distributor and they let me know that they are still trying to obtain a license to brew and distribute their products.  I will certainly be checking their website for updates as this seems like an interesting and unusual beer.

We can dream, can’t we:

Sam Adams, when, oh when will you craft a gluten-free beer or at least some sort of a cider? Sam Adams was kind enough to let me know that they are researching the possibility of a gluten-free product with their brewers to see if this would be a viable option.

The more people that email them to suggest a gluten-free beer, the more likely they are to produce it!  Please email them if you like good beer.

If you know of a gluten-free beer available locally that I have not dug up, please email me, I would love to hear from you!

Recipe: Walnut Pesto Pizza

Since I discovered Udi’s gluten-free pizza crusts, pizza is an easy weeknight option again.  This pizza is basically a combination three of my favorite foods: pesto, croque messieurs and pizza.

This is a great, simple weeknight meal.  It’s really simple to whip up and easy to do as a sandwich instead.

My pesto is a little different from the standard blend of garlic, pine nuts and basil leaves.  This walnut pesto works well with the ham and Gruyere cheese.

Pesto:

25 basil leaves

1/3 cup walnuts, lightly toasted (pine nuts are the classic and certainly suitable to use here, I just happen to like walnut pesto)

2 green onions (or 3 cloves of garlic)

¼ – 1/3 of a cup of extra virgin olive oil

Left: the fresh basil and green onion Middle: streaming in the olive oil Right: this is a good consistency for pizza sauce, you may want to add a little oil for a pesto sauce.

1. In a food processor, pulse together the nuts, green onion and basil leaves.

2. Slowly stream in the olive oil, with the food processor set to pulse.    The thickness of the pesto is really up to personal taste, it can go from a thin sauce to a thick paste.

The pesto will keep for about a week.  It does not need to be refrigerated.   It’s delicious over pasta or potato salad.

Left: If you don’t like strong onions, try slicing them up and soaking them in cold water for 5 minutes to dilute the sharp flavor. Right: The salad is just a simple blend of lettuces, tomato, shredded carrot and onion, dressed in a little lemon juice and olive oil.

Makes two pizzas:

Pack of two Udi’s gluten-free pizza crusts

Pancetta or other thinly sliced ham, chopped into bite-sized pieces

Shredded gruyere cheese to taste, at least ½ a cup.  I like Trader Joe’s Gruyere & Swiss blend

Left: the crusts before baking Right: the finished product. If you want to avoid burned crusts, trying brushing the edges with olive oil

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400°F / 200°C.   Line the baking pan for easy cleaning.  Since I love a crispy crust, I set a cooling rack in the pan to allow air to circulate under the crust and give it a nice, even crispiness.

2. Spread the pesto over the pizza crusts.  Sprinkle the ham over the crusts.  Cook in the oven for 2-3 minutes* or until the pancetta starts to brown.

3. Remove from oven.  Change oven setting to broil, this makes the cheese all nice and bubbly.  Sprinkle the pizzas with cheese.  Cook 3-5 minutes more, or until the cheese begins to bubble.

*Cooking times are based on defrosted crusts.

A satisfying dinner that won't weigh you down!