Friday, May 30, 2008

Our last full day in the city ... savoring every last gluten free bite!

Today is our last full day in New York. We decide to go to the National Museum of the American Indian in the morning. The weather looked 'iffy' so we packed a mini travel umbrella in our tote bag, just in case it rains. Once inside the Museum (where security is tighter than at most airports) we quickly became disappointed. Much of the space was closed off and what was open was interesting, but not what we thought it would be. I'm 1/16th Cherokee Indian so I wanted to read more about tribes found in the Southern US. But the entire Museum focused on the Northwestern tribes. It was educational learning about tribes we'd never heard of, but we were glad we didn't have to pay to get in. I've heard that the same museum in DC is fabulous so we'll try to visit it one day.
It was still overcast when we hopped on the subway about a block away and headed to a place I'd read about right before we left Atlanta. It's called S'MAC (short for Sarita's Mac-N-Cheese) located in the East Village. Being from the South, I was not missing an opportunity to have mac-n-cheese in a restaurant. You might be wondering how a place can serve only one type of dish and stay open. But you see, S'MAC serves many different types of mac-n-cheese and all options can be ordered with gluten free pasta. In fact, the owner (who developed gluten intolerance after she opened the place) spent eight months developing her gluten free offerings. She would not serve it to gluten free patrons until her glutenoid customers could not tell the difference between the gluten and gluten free versions. Finally, after trying many different types of gluten free pasta, she found one that would freeze and reheat well (a lot of her business is take out) and she removed all gluten breadcrumbs and replaced them with gluten free cornflakes. Even the glutenoid patrons get gluten free breadcrumbs...they probably just don't know!

After reading Catherine's review of this place, I knew I had to try the Parisienne, but I wanted the basic classic version as well. I thought we should order three types of mac-n-cheese but my more logical husband advised me that we should start with only two 'nosh' sized pans. When the food was delivered to the table, I reconfirmed it was gluten free and was assured it was. It's sort of a foreign concept for someone with Celiac to have mac-n-cheese in a restaurant. But that's what was in front of me and so I dug in....all that melted cheese....figs and Brie in the Parisienne. I simply could not believe this incredible mac-n-cheese was gluten free. It's hard to find a gluten free pasta that tastes good AND reheats and freezes well. In the end, my husband fell in love with the Parisienne and I could not get enough of the classic 'All American' version!

A few days after we returned from New York, my husband asked if S'MAC sold their stuff online...he's never ever asked me that about any food before. And remember, though he doesn't often do it, he can eat gluten. That is how fabulous Sarita's food is. You could serve it to the most picky gluten eater you know and they would never suspect it didn't contain wheat! Oh and the answer is yes - S'MAC will soon be shipping their Partay! sized portions in the US! Thanks Sarita for this little piece of Heaven on earth - you're an angel in our community!

Even though it would be our last dinner in NYC, for a while anyway, we decided not to patronize a place with a gluten free menu, but instead go to a place that had an amazing Chef, who happened to know how to serve safe, but creative gluten free meals. Centrico is such a place. It's a trendy spot located in SoHo. Though the patio was packed when we arrived, it was also cramped looking, so we opted for a lovely large table with a view of the entire restaurant inside. The staff knew of my gluten free needs before we arrived ( request) and so our server proudly informed me that they serve Redbridge beer. Good to know but I passed and had a margarita instead. The server also informed me that I should pick out a couple of things that looked good to me on the menu, and he'd find out if those dish could be made gluten free, or if they were gluten free without modification.

To start, we tried the stuffed plantain appetizer. We'd never had anything like it before and it was amazing! As it happened, both the entrees that intrigued us were gluten free as prepared. No modifications were needed. I really love ordering such dishes because there is less chance that the kitchen will throw a piece of bread...or gravy....or whatever on my plate, rendering it unsafe for me to eat. The first dish below is the roasted duck with spicy red fruit sauce and asparagus. Below that is my seared salmon over some pureed root vegetables and asparagus, drizzled with a chili oil. The fish was coated with a ground almond mixture and it was absolutely divine! We disagreed about who'd ordered the best!

I think we could only have flan or ice cream for dessert but we cleaned our plates and could not eat another bite. Centrico is a totally hip place, but luckily we were not the only ones our age in! Whether you eat gluten or not, please give it a try if you're in the area and haven't yet. You won't be disappointed!

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