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In one of the most anticipated weddings of the year, Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky have been making headlines in the foodie world. According to various sources their $11,000, likely NYC based Babycakes or Lulu’s Cake Boutique, wedding cake is gluten-free. It’s also stated that their menu is heavily vegan and gluten-free and the only meat is grass-fed beef. Go Clinton’s for being so bold and showing their guests how it can be done to eat well and go big.

Some articles if you want to read more.

MSNBC Chelsea Clinton: Let them eat gluten-free cake

MNN Chelsea Clinton’s gluten-free vegan wedding cake: Is Babycakes making it?

South Africa a Gluten-Free Guide

Leopard eyes the horizon for something gluten-free...

Before leaving for South Africa for World Cup, I was a bit concerned about what foods I’d have to eat. Turns out South Africa is the most gluten-free friendly place I’d ever been. From the airports to the supermarkets, there were gluten-free options everywhere.

At Cape Town International airport, the international terminal cafe had options of pasta and pizza made gluten-free. Not only was that option amazing but I was more amazed that the cafe took the time to train their staff to properly cook the pasta. I had a gluten-free linguini and there was no gummy texture, tasted just like regular pasta.

All across South Africa there are convenience and supermarkets called Spar (http://www.spar.co.za) . They’re everywhere, from small towns to airports to the big city, you couldn’t get away from it. They have dedicated aisles for organic and gluten-free items, snacks to full meals, everything to satisfy the most discerning palate.

Seafood Platter at Meat and Seafood Mongers, Guateng

Nelspruit we found a little pizza place in the Riverside Mall, called Panarotti’s Pizza (http://www.panarottis.co.za), that made a gluten-free handmade pizza crusts too. The malls have a variety of food from spiced chicken, Indian and Asian fare so it’s not hard to find good options that are gluten-free.

Springbok Carpaccio

All over the country I found cheap and delicious seafood. In a small area just outside of Johannesburg, Guateng, I stayed at a little B&B called Outlook Lodge. Just around the corner from it I found this wonderfully priced place called Meat and Seafood Mongers in Benoni, Guateng area. Check out the picture of the Queen Platter I got and it was only about $10 US dollars. Impressive to say the least. I ate, loved it, and had leftovers to fill me up later.

Heading south to Cape Town by the V&A Waterfront there are a host of seafood and local fare fine dining. We stopped at Karibu (http://www.kariburestaurant.co.za) and enjoyed this Springbok carpaccio special. The meat was very tender and not very gamey at all. Local foods like Bredie often consist of rice, meat and vegetables, so for the g-free foodie, you’ll do just fine. I ordered a Waterblommetjie Bredie (try saying that 3 times) which was lamb and a sea flower. Tasted soo healthy and hearty I loved it, the photo doesn’t do it justice.

There’s so much more I brought back from SA, but I’ll save it for another blog. Stay tuned. Congrats to Espana, they were my favorite to win!

Living Without Magazine for the Allergic Foodie

Living Without Magazine

I recently have been checking out Living Without magazine online. It’s a great resource for those living with food allergies and sensitivities. The magazine both online and in print is a great resource on food choices, allergy news and just everything to make living without certain foods a lot easier. You can also find the actual magazine at health stores and even at our favorite Whole Foods market.

The latest issue has tips on gluten-free dining out tips, and a cool article on gluten-free beer. Whether nuts, dairy, gluten or even soy is your vice check out this well designed magazine to help you get through the day.

Danielle Honey Banana Chips, Good on the Hips

Danielle Honey Banana Chips are lightly crisp, slightly sweet and hugely delicious.

I love chips, they’re crunchy, salty and there’s just something about eating something fried in between lunch and dinner. On one of my afternoon chip cravings I ventured out to try something a little healthier and even tastier. Danielle Honey Banana Chips screamed out with its’ cute packaging, wholesome 2 ingredients of Fresh Bananas and Palm Oil, and well of course, being gluten-free! Not sure where the honey comes into play, it tastes like its’ in there but it’s not on the ingredient list.

The package looked fairly large, but inside only had what seemed like just one bananas worth of chips. The texture was quite peculiar, peculiar in a good way though. It wasn’t like a standard banana chip that is dense and hard, but rather it was almost puffed like a Cheetoh is. After checking out their website, I found out that there was some special way of cooking them with “…selected fruit pieces are put in a vacuum chamber, and a fine mist of heated non-hydrogenated palm oil is sprayed on the fresh fruit pieces under very low pressure and high temperature. This process retains pureness and flavor of the fruits and absorbs less oil than conventional frying methods.”

Each 28g serving has – 130 calories, 4g fat (1 sat fat), 22g Carbs (7% daily value, with 2 g dietary fiber and 13g sugar), 15% Vitamin C and 2% Iron.

Danielle Chips are part of the New England Herbal Foods company, which has prided itself on being a premium snack brand with a bit of a small farm charm. The prices are a premium but you cannot deny the quality in these chips. There’s about 11 varieties of chips from this company to try including jackfruit, okra and spicy carrot, but it’ll cost the months rent. Chip away.

Ame Restaurant Hits the Target

Skillful hands make lots of gluten-free options at Ame, SF

Several nights ago I had a fantastic dinner that hit high marks at Ame (pronounced Ah-may) Restaurant in San Francisco, CA. It wasn’t hard deciding to go to this Michelin rated restaurant that serves up California Japanese fusion. Located in the St. Regis Hotel in downtown makes this dining a great place to meet up before a night out. They have a full sushi bar, lots of sashimi, but don’t expect California rolls, it’s just not that kind of place. Fresh seafood dishes and an extensive wine list make this place completely gluten-free friendly.

Here are some of the items that I savored.

Special crudo of the day, Red Snapper with lemon, olive oil, and sea salt – So fresh, amazingly melt in your mouth light and fantastic olive oil to let it slide into your belly. Carpaccio of Wagyu Beef with Arugula Salad and Fried Drakes Bay Oysters – The oysters are not gluten free, but everything else is delectable, I still don’t know how they get that beef so thinly sliced. Special main course of Halibut with a lemongrass coconut foam with puree of potato and veggies of radish and roasted cauliflower – The cooking technique was excellent. The fish was insanely moist all over, light, flavorful and the sauce not as strong as one might expect.

While dining here I couldn’t stop thinking about Le Bernadin in New York and how similar some of the techniques and delicacy towards fish there was. It’s a tough comparison, since both really delivered on food. For me it came down to the service. Le Bernardin is a lot more fussy, brighter environment yet less intimate setting. I loved that Ame was a bit darker, felt more casual and the tables were more spread out so you weren’t just placed in a large dining room. For San Francisco, I am shocked at how there isn’t as much talk about this place. There isn’t a week where someone isn’t mentioning Gary Danko, yet a superb place like Ame never gets thrown into conversation. High marks for Ame and next time I’ll know to spend some time at the lounge having a drink beforehand to really soak up all of the St. Regis.

Sow the Button Mushroom Tapas

Barely had a chance to take the photo before it was almost gone.

When I get invited to someone’s place for dinner in less than a day and I know I have to bring something, I always turn to this trusty little Tapas book I bought for $3.99 at Marshalls. It’s one of those books that has huge pictures, little text, and 80% of the recipes are less than 30 minutes to make. What’s not to love. Back to the dinner. So I flip through my book and remind myself that on my friend’s dinner menu is mussels and homemade pizza. So rather than a heavy dish I go with a nice accompaniment of Sauteed Garlic Mushrooms, a total classic Spanish tapa dish.

Oh and did I mention, it might be the easiest thing to make if you’re in a pinch. Here’s how it goes:

8 oz package white button mushrooms 8 oz package brown mushrooms (all white mushrooms or mix chanterelles and local variety work fine, but I like a little to keep the shape uniform) 2 small chopped carrots (not necessary, but only because I like the brown and orange color combo) 3 tblsp olive oil 1 garlic clove dash of lemon juice salt pepper to taste Clean the mushrooms trim the bottoms and keep them whole. Any obese mushrooms can be halved or quartered if they’re a whale. Heat the oil in a frying pan and add garlic to infuse the oil a bit and lightly brown Add the mushrooms and carrots and let it absorb the oil, Heat is on high still Once it’s absorbed, turn heat to medium low. This is where you let the veggies sweat it out. Once they’ve shrunk and juices are released, turn the heat back up. 5 minutes. Add lemon juice and sprinkle salt pepper and if you like parsley or even a little green onion.

Fet. (That’s done in Catalan.)

Virgil’s Root Beer is the Best

Virgil's Root Beer is the BEST!

The Best, by a landslide. Virgil’s Root Beer is hands down the best root beer I have ever tasted. You think IBC is good and you think Stewart’s is better, but you haven’t had Virgil’s. Last Saturday I had a bite to eat at San Francisco’s Ferry Building and snagged Virgil’s Root Beer at Farm Fresh to You market. It’s been one of the best $2 I’ve ever spent. It’s so smooth and has a nice mix of natural ingredients as listed below from their website. The ingredients are subtle, yet complex and none of the cinnamon, anise or licorice overpower the drink. In fact I normally hate cinnamon and licorice and can’t stand the smell of them, but in this true brew, I’m totally digging it. The other brands don’t brew their root beers and don’t use the variety of ingredients that Virgil’s does.

“Virgil’s Microbrewed Root Beer contains these key all-natural ingredients:

carbonated water unbleached cane sugar

Along with these natural herbs and spices (including point of origin):

anise from Spain licorice from France vanilla (bourbon) from Madagascar cinnamon from Ceylon clove from Indonesia wintergreen from China sweet birch from the southern US molasses from the US nutmeg from Indonesia pimento berry oil from Jamaica balsam oil from Peru cassia oil from China”

Virgil’s is part of the Reed’s Inc family of products and I’m really starting to become a huge fan of them. They use real old style brewing techniques, quality ingredients, and have an affinity for ginger. How could I not love them. Anyways back to the root beer… As I was drinking it I was wondering what it must have been like when root beer was first brewed with sassafras. The more I thought about this the more I’ve been thinking about brewing some at home. I love the idea that these drinks contain so many medicinal ingredients and that these non-alcoholic beers can be actually really good for you and gluten-free. Licorice is suppose to be great for inflammation and reducing redness in skin tone. So I’m going to pick up some ingredients and try making a simpler recipe at home. I’ll post when I can get something drinkable, but until then I’ll keep spending the $2 for Virgil’s.

PF Chang’s Has a Great Wall of Gluten-Free Food

PF Chang's Gluten Free menu satisfies all types of Chinese chain bistro cravings.

Last week I found myself in Walnut Creek, CA looking for something good and something gluten-free to eat. Around the corner from the Apple store, and Sur La Table, there are a bunch of chain restaurants to choose from. There’s Il Fornaio, Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse and PF Chang’s, a Chinese Bistro, all within a block of one another. After a quick search, the choice was obvious, PF Chang’s was and seems to be the only chain major restaurant that has a dedicated Gluten-Free menu. Check out their impressive online menu at www.pfchangs.com/menu.

There’s a total of 28 items, ranging from appetizers, to main entrees and even dessert. I ordered the Gluten Free Egg Drop Soup, Lettuce Cups, and Mongolian Beef. They substitute flour with corn starch, and soy sauce with wheat free soy sauce, making each item taste delicious. I know Chinese food and I was really surprised that everything was so good. They even plate g-free items on different plates so you don’t get them mixed up with other regular dishes. Also try out the local specials, in the East Bay it’s $39.99 for a four course meal for two people. Totally worth it and the menu allows each person to choose their own dishes so mixing up gluten-free and regular items for a companion work out just fine. For a major chain restaurant I throw up 2 woks to them and hope more people try out this menu.

Bulk Up at Whole Foods with Bulk Foods

Bulk up with bulk items at Whole Foods. Cornmeal and almonds.

In the corner of Whole Foods, I’ve figured out that everything in the Bulk Food section is the best place to spend your time in the market. I’ve gone about a month looking for roasted almonds that aren’t 1lb and meant to feed an octuplet family. I just want a little snack. Why can’t I get that? I can, I just haven’t been looking in the right place. It feels like I just found the awesome shirt on sale at Bloomingdale’s for the price of something at Forever21! Going to “Whole Paycheck” doesn’t have to be so bad.

All I had to do was go to the corner of Whole Foods that no one is ever in. Seriously it’s usually empty except for a few granola mom types or the 20 something girl who just stepped off the treadmill. I wasn’t watching the clock but I think I spend about 20 minutes looking at all the items there and ended up with cornmeal for polenta, slivered almonds and my roasted almonds. All of them are high quality and a total steal. Tons of gluten-free stuff there, and they’re labeled with a little “G” to help you narrow down what you can have.

Next time I go, I’m going for some more snacks and dried fruits. The only thing I need to figure out is how I can bring my own jars to fill and avoid using a big new plastic bag.

**For those of you wondering…NO, I do not work for Whole Foods. I just love the products they carry and what more people to love them too so that they keep getting good products.

Taste Off, It’s Coco-nuts
April 1st, 2010

Taste Off, It’s Coco-nuts

The lineup. Check out the cool coconut I got. It even had a spot to stick a straw in.

After my last post about the coconut water, I got a bunch of questions and interest from people. So I thought I’d do a little taste off to find out if all coconuts are created equal. If you know my blog by now, you know I love a good matrix chart to compare products. So here’s the line-up, 2 cans from Thailand, and 2 popular boxed drinks from Brazil. 6 people blind taste testing the drinks and giving their unedited comments about them. Let’s see what happens.

Turns out some people have never had coconut water (water and juice refer to the same thing) and they learned they aren’t big fans of this sudden fad. Others are intrigued by the city dwellers craze for this drink.

Real Coconut
(13.5 ounces of water drained) C20
Pure Coconut Water, no pulp
17.5 oz Amy & Brian’s
Coconut Juice,
no pulp
17.5 oz Zico
Pure coconut water, no pulp
11.2 oz One
Coconut Water, no pulp
11.2 oz Origin Thailand Thailand Thailand Brazil Brazil Calories n/a 76 / 8oz 76 / 8oz 60 / 11.2 oz 60 / 11.2 oz Sugars n/a 10g 10g 14g 14g Potassium n/a 244mg 244mg 670mg 670mg Clarity Clearest of them all, least yellow of all Clear and slightly yellowish Clear and slightly yellowish Whitish murky, less viscous than Thai Whitish murky with little bits of coconuts Price $1.99 $1.99 $1.99 $1.99 $1.79 Real Comments “pleasant sweet”
“gritty, punch in face”
“tastes like yucky”
“fresh, smooth and sweet” “herbally sweet caramel”
“chrysanthemum”
“weird but drinkable” “tart and flowery”
“like sugar cane”
“Money!”
“like original but less sweet” “salty sweat”
“fish tank”
“starts off hard finishes smooth” “semi fish tank”
“worst so far”
“dislike aftertaste”
“wouldn’t tell if it wasn’t compared”

And the winners are…

A-Zico, B-C20, C-One, D-Amy&Brian's and the real coconut which had the clearest liquid.

Best Tasting: Amy & Brian’s (a few also felt C20 was really good if you like chrysanthemum) Best Thai coconut: The real thing. 2nd up Amy & Brian’s Best Brazilian coconut water: Zico Cheapest drink on the run: One Cheapest ounce for ounce: C20 & Amy & Brian’s depending on where you’re purchasing Healthiest: The Brazilians, Zico and One had the highest potassium and equal amounts of sugar as the Thai. Where does all that K come from? The K could be why they have an aftertaste. For those who missed chemistry, K is the symbol for the Potassium element. Best website: C20, we loved the cool little hammock that swings. One had a fun site too. Best packaging: Zico, it’s the cleanest looking with the calm beach. C20 was sort of old school looking but thought the name was clever enough to get us over the packaging. Amy & Brian’s probably had the worst, the logo is bad and the website needs better images that aren’t from the 80’s. Good thing they have a good tasting product.  One, was still desirable with it’s shiny box.

With the leftover coconut meat, scrape it out and toss it with some pineapple vodka and blend. It turns nice and frothy and makes for a good afternoon drink. The only problem with that is it dehydrates you, so you’ll have to load up on more coconut water. Happy gluten-free drinking, Cocoheads.