Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Serpas - a gluten-free review

From time to time we go to pricey restaurants that offer no special gluten-free items like bread or pasta or even crackers.  At the end of the day, really amazing food can be found without the presence of specialty replacement foods.  The last place we checked out was Serpas downtown and it was totally AMAZING!

Since we were going on a Saturday night (this is a risky move that I don't suggest others do), I called ahead to discuss my gluten-free needs in detail.  As I always do at new places now, I made it clear I was NOT a trendy diet follower.  The conversation went well and I was much less apprehensive about the meal upon hanging up the phone.

Our party of five arrived at 6 pm sharp and the place was already hopping. We're used to early dinner crowds in the burbs, but were not expecting this in the hip Old Fourth Ward area downtown.  Our server asked who at the table was in need of gluten-free selections and delivered a clearly marked up menu which noted what I could and could not have.  Almost every entree offered that night was naturally gluten-free!

It was a tough decision as there were more than enough options, but I finally chose the grilled (to perfection) pork chop over (incredible creamy) grits - and the grilled peach arugula salad.  Everything was simply delectable.  I left thinking it was a shame the place was so far off our regular beaten path for us.  I also left feeling full, but not overly so.  And so very satisfied....I'm pretty sure I've never had a better pork chop anywhere!  If I had one slight criticism it would be that there was nothing worth having (to me) for dessert.  But at least that evening, I didn't miss an after dinner treat at all ;)

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Take away from Whole 30 (Part 3 of 3)

While I'm glad I did the Whole 30 challenge, I am back to only avoiding gluten now.  I decided to take some good habits from the 30 days into the future.  I try to get a lot of protein (and less carbs) in at breakfast though I've been doing that for a while.  Muffins and pancakes and yummy things like that tend to be weekend treats instead of weekday staples.  It's true what they say "eating a healthy breakfast leads to healthy eating the rest of the day".

Since I'd already started the practice of not eating several hours before bedtime, that wasn't a new change after the challenge, but I'm being more strict about that one now.  Eating within a few hours of bedtime can impede a good night's sleep.

When I read labels in the past, I paid attention to soy and if a soy-free option was available for an item, I'd buy it even if it costs more than the version with soy in it.  The exception is that I love soy sauce and I still enjoy it in moderation.  My fave brand of gluten-free soy sauce is San-J.

The fact that I did not find adhering to the Whole 30 plan very difficult and didn't hit all the suggested bumps - or phases - suggested on the Whole 30 timeline leads me to conclude that I must have been on a pretty good track to start with.  We spend a lot of money on our food aside from the cost of replacement items like bread, buns and crackers.  Grass fed beef and good quality chicken and seafood are very expensive, but we feel the cost is well worth it.

Due to a trip two days after my Whole 30 was finished, I pretty much delved back into eating both sugar, dairy and legumes right away.  I'm using much less sugar in my coffee and am off agave now.  I'm paying attention to both gluten and sugar on labels and if there is a sugar free option for a product, I will choose it over the one with sugar in it.  Why is there sugar in frozen cauliflower steamers anyway?!!!

Even thought it's not meant to be a weight lost diet, I dropped some lb's on the Whole 30 and I would have been shocked if I hadn't.  Not eating crackers or bagels or donuts or popcorn or drinking any alcohol meant many less empty calories for a full 30 days.  I'm all about the carbs and while I'm not giving them up, I'm paying much more attention to the snacks I choose and the sides I make for dinner.

I don't think I'd do the Whole 30 again, but I might do a modified version of it - one that includes legumes and healthy grains like buckwheat and quinoa.  And maybe a glass or wine or two...lol!


Friday, October 10, 2014

Verizon Ampitheatre's gluten-free options

If you can get into the VIP areas of Verizon's Amphitheater at Encore park, you will likely find some very tasty gluten-free things to eat.  If you need to eat in the 'normal' areas however, you will be very disappointed.  Before the last show we saw there (The Doobie Bros. and Frampton were incredible!!!), I called to find out what I could eat at the park.  There were TWO whole options - popcorn and the wedge salad.  For real.  I was kind of taken aback at such a poor offering for gluten-free foods.

The woman who told me what was safe even apologized and then she told me something I could at least respect.  She told me to take my own food into the park - the park that does not allow outside food inside.  Yes - she did.  And yes - I did.  I took some snack food in and noshed on it during the opening act.  After that, I was too busy dancing to eat.

We're so spoiled these days being able to eat pretty much anything you can think of that I sometimes forget that large venues are often greatly lacking in providing safe options for guests with food allergies and intolerances.  And the only way things will change is if we all ask for them to.    

Monday, October 6, 2014

First Watch gluten-free review

For several years, I'd read rave reviews of a FL based chain called First Watch so naturally I was uber excited when I learned about a location opening close to where we live.  Because I have celiac and try to limit the chance of the staff at restaurants messing up my food, I rarely go to a new place right when it opens.

Back in March, we tried First Watch for the first (and for now, at least, the last) time.  The staff was knowledgeable about the gluten-free menu selections which I very much appreciated.  My meal was gluten-free which I also appreciated.  What I was not thrilled about was that the scramble meal I ordered seemed much more like scrambled eggs and potatoes with a garnish of cheese and bacon than a cheese and bacon scramble.

Egg Harbor Cafe, Another Broken Egg and Tin Roof Kitchen all have excellent gluten-free brunch options and all offer specialty dishes like gluten-free pancakes, bread, etc.  Well, everything at Tin Roof Kitchen is gluten-free. So, First Watch already has a mark against it since there is not a single specialty item offered.

When my cheese and bacon scramble arrived, I assumed they'd left off the cheese by mistake.  Upon further investigation, I did find a minuscule amount of cheese on the very bottom of  the dish.  The bacon bits were a little more obvious.  There might have been two teaspoons of cheese and one teaspoon of bacon in the whole dish - or there might have been less than that.  The manager of the First Watch here needs to go eat at Egg Harbor Cafe so they can see what a scramble is supposed to look like.

On a positive note, my husband said his pancake-of-the-day special was very good.  So, if you can eat gluten, you might want to check the place out. Or if you don't mind not being able to have toast or bread or a bun or pancakes that you'd normally associate with a breakfast/brunch menu......you might also want to check out the place.  For now, I'll continue to spend my money where I can have a 'normal' breakfast that's as good as any gluten filled options on the menu.              

Friday, October 3, 2014

Best gluten-free lunch value in the ATL

For many years, I've enjoyed meeting friends for lunch at Prime at Lenox Square.  There was a short period when I passed on the addictive cheese grits due to a confused (ex) chef who thought I could not have corn...  In their defense, corn has gluten in it - it's just not the kind someone with celiac has to avoid.  It's confusing to say the least.  Eventually someone figured out the goof and I began ordering the fabulous salmon lunch with grits as usual.

The fish at Prime is seriously fresh tasting and the grits are the best in Atlanta (or GA for that matter).  The place has never had gluten-free bread or buns or anything like that during my visits, but I've never once missed them.  I'm not a mall person and I especially dislike inside malls.  I much prefer places like the Forum in Norcross.  However, Prime offers a very good reason to schlep down to Lenox to fight for a parking space (I used to pay for up front parking as a splurge, but they don't have that option anymore).

It's been over a decade since Prime opened and I think my first visit there was during the first six months.  For some reason which I can't explain, I've never thought to write about it on this site.  If you like seafood and cheese grits, you won't find a better lunch value than the salmon deal for $12.  If you like sushi, you might need to carry your own travel gluten-free soy sauce packs.  Since I don't care for sushi, I'm not aware of the soy sauce situation at Prime.  

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