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.

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.

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.

Coconut Water for a Computer Pounding Kind of Day

It was one of those pound on the computer kind of days and I was feeling pretty sluggish. At the corner shop I picked up this can of C2O Pure Coconut Water. There’s been a huge craze for this light crisp drink. Oh and naturally gluten-free. It makes Acai seem soooo high maintenance and 2008.

C2O Coconut Water keeps me hydrated. See how happy my computer looks.

This huge can I snagged was $1.99 and a product of Thailand. I also found a similar product with a better looking can for $2.69, called Amy & Brian Coconut Juice. After some comparison of the labels and ingredients, it was clear that both must have been purchasing from the same source, since everything was the same. Naturally I bought the cheaper can.

C2O was really quenching, crisp, natural and high in potassium. There’s no extra added sugars, just pure coconut water. The claim to fame for coconut water is it’s naturally isotonic characteristic. What’s isotonic you ask? Well according to Biology-online , isotonic in terms of fluids, means that the carbohydrate and electrolyte concentration is similar to your body’s natural levels. Therefore these types of drinks are absorbed as fast, if not faster than plain water. Sport drinks, like your Gatorades, Vitamin Waters, Powerades, and Pocari Sweats (that’s one for my obscure isotonic drink buffs)  have been formulating in attempt to reach this point of perfection for years. The problem with those is the over added dyes and sugars that turn me off. I don’t like drinking neon BLUE things.

Another expensive coconut water I’ve tried is Zico. This brand comes in a little juice box and sold mainly in high end markets and natural food stores. Zico has more flavors added to the coconut water and has made the biggest presence in this market. Who doesn’t love a little overly marketed and well-branded juice box.

Try some today and let me know if you’ve tried any other good brands.

Turkey Day Dishes Gobbled Up
November 29th, 2009

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[singlepic id=116 w=320 h=240 float=right]I love Thanksgiving and all the great food and good times with the family. You start to see the trends in how the generations cook and the way the menu changes as we get older. This year it was all about great homecooking and health conscious yet tasty choices. Being gluten-free on Thanksgiving isn’t so bad, except for a gravy substitute. Some of the T-Day (gluten-free) menu is below.

20 lb Turkey (This could be the largest one yet) Baked Ham with Honey Sugar Glaze Steamed Sticky Rice (replaces traditional stuffing and uses soy sauce and oyster sauce substitute) Creamy Pumpkin Soup Garlic Mashed Cauliflower (better than potatoes, tastier and even healthier) Sweet Potatoes with Toasted Marshmallows Vegetable Mix Sweet Yellow Corn Mushroom Medley Cranberry Sauce Brown Top Bread Rolls (Normally I’d snag one and butter it up even more, but I had to pass)

Desserts

Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie (There was a regular crust and a gluten-free crust that was really good and crunchy) Mascarpone and Cherry Rice Pudding (This tastes just like the one at Rice to Riches in New York) Tres Leches Cake (I couldn’t eat this but I wasn’t interested anyways) Peach Jello and Ice Cream Pie (Well this one looked pretty, and apparently the recipe is just as the title sounds) It jiggled. Fruit, lots of it.

Drinks

Italian red wines Martinelli’s Apple Cider (Man, I could live off of this it’s sooo addicting) Lychee Vodka Cocktails (My family doesn’t shy from a little cocktails to start the night) Blue Moon Beer (I didn’t have any but I did like this before with a slice of orange)

All in all a great dinner and besides the gravy change I had no problem with it at all.

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Chez Panisse Is Tre Chic
November 22nd, 2009

Chez Panisse Is Tre Chic

Cava to start the night

It’s been a really good weekend. I started off with dinner at one of the top restaurant’s in the country, Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA. Notable Alice Water’s restaurant is french-inspired with California local and farm fresh ingredients. Read the whole bio and story on their website here to get a true sense of what they’re about and how they put California on the restauranteur map.

My dinner and service here was so thoughtful and comfortable. With a gluten restriction, Chez Panisse did not even hesitate in their considerations of how they might alter their menu for me. The prix fixe menu only had small changes to exclude toast, cornbread stuffing and switching one of the dessert cookies. Their wait staff really paid attention to the menu and carefully consulted the chefs and had no hesitations in making it happen. Making non-gluten happen. I think it keeps chefs on their toes. Over the course I had a bottle of cava and the rest of the night is history. Here’s how the menu went…

Grilled Wolfe Ranch Quail

Appertif of olives, sliced meats and fresh radish.

Warm porcini salad with chicories and pork rilletes

Gulf shrimp risotto with golden beets and herbs (beets aren’t usually exciting, but it was really tasty and a cozy earthy taste)

Grilled Wolfe Ranch quail with huckleberry sauce, Savoy cabbage, and sunchoke-celery root puree. (I need to figure out how to make that puree, it was something I’ve had before, but each time is better than the last)

Bittersweet chocolate ice cream and pear sorbet with meringue. (The pear with light, fresh and matched so well with the chocolate)

I will go back and I believe this was one the nicest dining experiences I had, the food order to delivery times and the courtesy of everyone there and just the ambiance were of another class.

Not contrived, not forced, just well done. It blew away the stiff places I went to in New York and felt like true cooking again. Fine dining is easy when you’re gluten-free.

Chez Panisse Chez Panisse is a Berkeley, California restaurant known as the birthplace of California cuisine, a style credited to its co-founder,… more » Founders: Alice Waters, Paul Aratow Get one for any topic! #fbtb7852143545789654929{position:relative;color:#666}#fbtb7852143545789654929 * div, #fbtb7852143545789654929 * img{text-align:left;vertical-align:baseline;font-family:"Helvetica Neue", Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:11px;font-weight:normal;font-style:normal;line-height:1.3;border:0;outline:0;padding:0;margin:0}#fbtb7852143545789654929 a{color:#17b;text-decoration:none;border:0;outline:0;padding:0;margin:0}#fbtb7852143545789654929 a:hover{text-decoration:underline}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-frame{width:432px;height:265px;background:#eee;-moz-border-radius:5px;-webkit-border-radius:5px}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-title{padding:5px 10px;font-size:13px;font-weight:bold;line-height:1.6}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-content{float:left;border:1px solid #ccc;margin-left:5px;height:210px}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-pane{float:left;width:210px;height:210px;overflow:auto;border-right:1px solid #ccc;background-color:#e5e5e5}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-pane-last{border:0px}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-get{clear:both;padding:5px 8px;line-height:1.1}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-get a{color:#888;display:block;text-align:right;background:url(http://res.freebase.com/s/3d10f26e26813bcedbb56174b29ad822c5c38dae9614c3118d88052305ce4dec/resources/images/freebase-widget-attribution.png) no-repeat center left}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-get a:hover{text-decoration:none;color:#f71;background:url(http://res.freebase.com/s/3d10f26e26813bcedbb56174b29ad822c5c38dae9614c3118d88052305ce4dec/resources/images/freebase-widget-attribution-over.png) no-repeat center left}#fbtb7852143545789654929 img{border:1px solid #fff}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-more{text-align:right;padding:4px 0 0 0}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-properties{border-top:1px dotted #ccc;clear:both}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-property{border-bottom:1px dotted #ccc;padding:4px 6px}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-label{font-size:9px;font-weight:bold;color:#444;padding-right:4px}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-image-pane{text-align:center}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-img-150{width:150px;height:150px;margin:28px 0 0 0}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-articleprops-pane{background:#f8f8f8}#fbtb7852143545789654929 .fbtb-articleprops-pane .fbtb-description{padding:6px}

Anheuser-Busch Redbridge Beer is G-Free

Light, fruity and drunken

I can’t believe my eyes but I found a gluten-free beer, Redbridge. Of all brands it’s actually a specialty beer from Anheuser-Busch, the same people that bring us the American favorites of Budweiser, Michelob, Bass, Beck, Ichiban, Czechvar and even Bacardi! This bottle was from Whole Foods and was about $2.00 for 12 oz.

The beer is an amber light color with sweet fruity scents. The taste is just the same as it looks and smells. There is no wheat or barley, just sorghum to keep it gluten-free. Sorghum is popular overseas, often produced and consumed in Africa. After some research I found that it is the first gluten-free beer in the US and has won multiple awards at beer competitions in the gluten-free categories. Celiacs rejoice. This easy to drink beer has only 160 calories and is actually pretty darn good!

On my drunken meter, this beer got my heart pounding and has the kick of a regular beer. Overall really good and I think I would buy it again. I’ve recently heard of a few other brands that are made from smaller companies in Oregon and Belgium. I can’t wait to try those too. On a side note, alcohol really doesn’t help my skin, so I am going to have it sparingly. If there’s a party at least I’ll have something to hold me over.

Herbal Teas Added to the Repertoire

Herbal tea to combat the redness and itch

The Eastern Medicine doctor has recommended a combination of herbs for me to drink twice daily. It is a gritty and bitter concoction and a part of all the other things I’m doing. The ground up herbs include.

Tangkuei Root White Peony Root Poria Atractylodes (Alba) Stem Bupleurum root Ginger (Dried) Root Mountain Peel of Root Gardenia Fruit Licorice (Baked) Root Mint Leaf and more……

There’s been very few Western studies about the use of Eastern medicine with Eczema. Most recently I found this article from WebMD about children with severe eczema who drank a Erka Shizheng Herbal Tea twice a day for months and were able to reduce the steroids they were using. I don’t have this exact tea and am trying to figure out how to get it. The name isn’t quite known to the doctor I went to so it’s a little bit of a mystery of what’s in it. More research from my end to be done. This study went on to be presented at the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology’s annual meeting. (Notice that this was rightfully not presented at a Dermatology convention, they too believe it is an internal issue rather than just dermal topical.)

Acai is So Hot Right Now
October 27th, 2009

Acai is So Hot Right Now

I just picked up an Acai fruit blend juice because it has so many antioxidants and is really good. It’s the Lakewood Acai Amazon Berry, totally organic and gluten-free juice with no added sugars. Paid $5.19. You can tell by the picture it’s fairly thick and filled with naturally occurring Omegas – 3,6,9. Lots of them. That’s because not only does it have acai, it has pomegranate and even goji berry which is a redness reducing fruit. The vitamins in this are endless, from 280mg of Potassium to various Vitamin B’s and even 12% of Vitamin K.

I had acai last time I was in Brazil and it was crazy good there, probably because it was loaded up with sugar. Acai is really gritty, dark, thick and actually pretty bitter in its’ natural state.

Frozen Acai from Brazil last year.

At some point in the past I’ve had some of those other popular drinks such as Tahitian Noni Juice and XanGo Mangosteen Juice which both are similar in the effects that the acai fruit has. During those times I couldn’t tell if they did anything since nothing was really wrong with me then. Noni and XanGo are more concentrated so you only drink a shot or two of them daily. Also the price is about $18-$30 a bottle. I have yet to really analyze and compare each drink for total overall benefit.

Since drinking the Lakewood Acai, I have been sleeping better and just slightly less itchy, but still not doing the trick. In the mornings now I have less than a glass of the acai and sometimes almond milk on the side. I’ve really realized that vitamins cannot replace the vitamins that occur naturally within what we eat. There is just something different about eating living food.

PS. I just noticed freaking Oprah posted about this too! She has to stop copying me! Click Here for more.

New York Part II: Casual Eats, Bakeries and Snacks

Sweet and tasty, it's on my bday list

Part II: These establishments are the lighter side of eating in New York. I really loved them and though I couldn’t eat everything there, they were just great places to check out. In the end I spend lots of cash on food, but what better souvenir is there than putting it in your belly.

Van Leeuwen – Roaming ice cream truck that is tracked via twitter. We happen to come across it in Soho. Mint Chip Ice Cream was the BEST I’ve ever had. Yes BEST! I never say that. Go get yourself some. Cute truck and great website too.

Rice to Riches – Rice pudding, rice pudding and more rice pudding. Oh happy I was. Mascarpone with cherries….heaven. Pure bliss. I once heard someone getting this delivered and apparently it costs like $80 to ship. It could be one of those crazy birthday requests I have one day. I’m going to have to look up some recipes. Gluten-Free Hooray! SF needs one.

Momofuku Milk Bar – The Ssam Bar’s neighbor sells desserts, especially their cookies and frozen milk custard. I couldn’t have the cookie so I had the plain milk custard with fried rice. It really was like deep fried rice on the frozen treat. Good but not as good as rice pudding or the way that cookie looked. You can also order a drink over here if the menu makes it to you.

Halal Food, Lamb Plate – One of those carts on the street in Soho we stopped at while shopping. I had a lamb plate with rice, salad and yogurt dressing. Mmmm soo good and only $5 for the plate I was loving it. Filling, cooked on the spot and after I ordered the line got line, so everyone else must have liked what they saw as I scarfed it down on the sidewalk.

Levain Bakery – Women with bandanas tied around their head, cooking and serving up breakfast breads and cookies in the Upper West Side. New York Times and Oprah love em. Now you think why I’m here, but in truth I couldn’t eat anything here. I picked up some cookies for my friends whom I crashed with for a day. I repay them with a couple of $3.95 cookies. New York likes to rob people in exchange for sugar and flour.

Shake Shack – After visiting the Natural History Museum we walked over to this burger joint where the line was out the door and around the corner. I didn’t get the full experience since I only had the meat and the veggies and Shake Shack sauce. Now it was good and fresh, but I’d prefer the regular In-N-Out. I think NY is crazy about this place is because California holds their weakness of In-N-Out.

Katz's Deli. Again only a little taste of the meat and no bread

SobaKoh – Soba, made from buckwheat is gluten-free. Yeah news to me to. This place makes fresh noodles, while we were there we caught the master making it in the window. Very cool. Dinner dishes all shared included Soba risotto, octopus carpaccio (yum yum, the citrusy lite sauce went so well with it), soba with mushrooms and for dessert, green tea ice cream with red bean. This place is the bomb and I’ve heard it’s better than Soba-Ya.

Katz Deli – Ultra jewish deli in the Lower East Side, with $15 pastrami sandwiches. I couldn’t eat much here. Had some fries a little taste of meat and some house made pickles. Harry and Sally went here and things worked out for them, so it was worth the trip. The history here is more amazing than anything.

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