Category Archives: restaurants

Margarita Monday at Cien Agaves

margarita

It was date night last night and we wanted to hit the town. But, where to go and what to eat? That may seem like a general point of discussion for most couples, but for us the discussion then veers toward the “what can you eat there?” conversation. Do they have vegetarian options? Are those vegetarian options gluten free? Oh, so many discussions and so many restaurants are crossed off the list. Oh, I’m not complaining; I choose not to eat meat. But the gluten-free part of the discussion is always a bit of a pain. Not only does it have to be GF, but I have to feel safe eating there.

I recently saw a new restaurant, Cien Agaves, in Old Town Scottsdale that boasted 100 types of Tequila. We are tequila fans, and margarita fans, and Mexican food fans (when it’s done right.) I sent off an email to the manager asking what was gluten free on the menu. I didn’t receive an answer back (OK, I only gave them 4 hours to answer. Could be my issue there.) So, we decided to be brave and give it a try anyway. I am so glad that we did.

The restaurant is interesting in a sports-bar-crossed-with-a-casual-Mexican-restaurant kind of way. But we were instantly comfortable there and seated quickly and with a smile. We made it there for Happy Hour (3-7 p.m.) and ordered two Cien Margaritas (see the yummy photo above). At just $3.50 each during Happy Hour, it’s my kind of deal. Not only was it yummy, but it had just the right amount of salt. I love a bartender that doesn’t crust the edge of the glass with so much salt that it looks like a rock-candy edge. Thank you! (We ordered a second round a bit later. Yes, they were that good.)

When I asked the server about gluten-free options, I was all ready for the glassy-eyed stare and “I don’t know” response I normally get. Instead, he whipped out a small, printed piece of paper with gluten-free and vegetarian options listed. He said the chef created this list for servers so they had all the info they needed. Now, right away I loved this place and its attention to detail. But what I really loved was the list itself. There was a column for “gluten free” and vegetarian a column for “maybe.” Maybe? Explained in a box next to these were the explanation for the maybe. The corn tortillas are gluten free, but are made in a factory that makes flour tortillas. Why do I Love this? The chef knew enough to know that some of us may be highly sensitive and some others are not and choose to eat things “made in the same facility” as gluten items. Thanks!

I chose two veggie tacos (corn tortillas) with strips of peppers, onions, zucchini and more, and lots of cheese (Oh Heaven!) and one Papas con Queso, which was a taco with beautifully sautéed new potatoes and cheese. I topped these off with a side of black beans (no rice, I think we decided it was not vegetarian) and the house-made guacamole, which was amazing. Unfortunately, the chips were not gluten-free (fried in the same oil as flour tortillas) so I ended up putting the guac on my tacos, which was even better and I’ll do that every time. Even better…the tacos are not that expensive, just $3.50 for the vegetarian and a bit more for the meaty versions. (Husband had one pork and one chicken taco and said they were excellent.)

This morning I received a thoughtful reply from the manager at Cien Agaves answering all my questions and basically giving me the same info I got last night. That’s a prompt response in my experience from a busy restaurant. Too bad I was in such a hurry and so darned hungry. Or actually, not bad at all. We’ll be returning there soon.

So, be brave and give new restaurants a try. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t eat there. I have no problem walking out and finding someplace else to eat if I don’t feel safe eating someplace. But sometimes, it all works out.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under dinner, gluten free, restaurants, review, taco

I found the best GF pizza!

The good news is I finally found the best GF pizza out there and I didn’t have to make it. The bad news is that it’s in New York City and they don’t deliver this far. Last week in NY with my daughter, I ate my way through the gluten-free plates of the city and boy, are there a lot of them. If we lived in the city, my friends, we would be complaining a lot less about the quality, price, and taste of the gluten-free offerings out there. Seriously.

Yes, that’s gluten free. And yes, it was amazing!

Ok, that’s fine you say, but what about the pizza? I discovered Keste Pizza and Vino while searching the Internet for GF food. It’s a small place, so small you could miss it and walk right past it if you weren’t paying attention like we did. But it’s worth the walk, and worth the search, trust me. Mondays and Tuesdays are GF days for pizza, although they serve it all week. Mondays and Tuesdays, I was told, are exclusively GF to lessen the cross contamination. Sounded good to me, and since we happened to arrive in the city on a Tuesday, that was music to my ears. It was also egg-free, which made my daughter very happy.

The tiny storefront for Keste Pizza & Vino

The restaurant is tucked into a sweet part of Greenwich Village and conveniently right across the street from a gelato store. There are just a few tables, and I found out later that it can get crowded with a long wait, but we got there early and got lucky. The staff is wonderful, attentive and very friendly. We were seated and had menus and wine right away. Our friends had salads, which they said were very good. I was saving space for pizza.

We ordered a basic Margherita pizza to get the full, NY pizza experience and we were not disappointed. It was a full pizza size, not like the usual GF pizza which is so much smaller than regular pizzas (why is that anyway?) And at just $15 I was quite surprised, expecting NY to have a much higher starting price. After taking the first bite of the pizza, my daughter looked at me and said, “We’re gonna’ need another one.” She was right. I ordered two more…one for the table and one for the next day. The four of us devoured the pizzas much too quickly, but we had no control. The crust was chewy inside and crunchy on the outside, the sauce was slightly sweet the way it should be, and the mozzarella was fresh and melty. I’m still dreaming of it at night.

The cute store across the street, which I loved.

We opted out of the flourless chocolate cake to hit the market and gelato stand across the street. Now, I wish I’d had the cake, but I knew I couldn’t eat that much and I would have had no control. The saying, “Well, we’re only here for a short time,” seemed to give us carte blanche to eat anything we wanted, and as much as we wanted. I’m paying the price now, but it was worth it!

I highly recommend Keste Pizza & Vino and I know I’ll be back again and again, every time I have a chance to go to NY. I like to imagine I’m one of those super wealthy people who can order whatever they want and have it delivered, even if it’s cheesecake from Boston or bagels from New Jersey. I would order this, no question.

The pizza is just as good the next day, cold. We packed it in our bags and headed out to Central Park for a day in the sun. Perfect food to munch on in the city, don’t you think?

Stay tuned for the Mac & Cheese adventure in the East Village!

Perfection on a plate!

Cold pizza in Central Park. Just like the good old days, yum!

3 Comments

Filed under cheese, crust, dinner, dough, mozzarella, pizza, Pizza Crust, restaurants, review, rice flour, Takeout Gluten-free Pizza, vegetarian, wine

My GF Pizza Obsession Continues at Detours Tavern

(NOTE: Detour Tavern is now closed…)

White pizza with kale, broccoli and mushrooms…YUM!

OK, once again we are back on pizza. I know, I know, you’re sick of me harping on the GF pizza quest. It’s my obsession to find something that comes close to real pizza, as you know. But trust me on this, it’s working. Last night, I got closer than I’ve gotten in a long time.

A dear friend invited me to dinner and said, “I saw gluten free on the menu, so let’s go.” Of course, that made me nervous, who knows what’s there and how they make it, right? But I always figure I can have a salad, and I’m touched that she thought of me and I love that she wanted to go with me.

Cut to a few nights later as we sit in Detours Tavern in Scottsdale. Not too much ambiance, more of a sports bar feel,  but not bad and it is clean. It used to be a Chinese restaurant that was anything but clean. So nice to see that gone at least. I checked the menu and noticed a few things I could order, but then noticed they had pizzas and a little note saying they had gluten-free pizza. Hmmm, after checking with the server, who assured me that they put the gf pizzas on a separate pan to bake and use separate utensils, I ordered a white pizza with kale, mushrooms and broccoli. One word-Wow! Thin, crispy, light, chewy, amazing. And it’s huge, not the usual tiny GF pizza that costs a fortune and isn’t worth the money. This did cost about $12, but it was totally worth it.

Of course, that meant I had to grill the poor guy for all the particulars. He said they get it from Sysco and he thought it was made in AZ somewhere. The owner wasn’t there and he said he’d call me with the information. Of course, I couldn’t wait for that so I checked on my phone and found out that Sysco has three GF pizza crusts available- Schar, Ener-G, and Pane Riso/Kingsmill. It didn’t look like the Schar crusts, which I’ve seen before. But all the options have no eggs or gluten, which makes them work for EF/GF Daughter. Yay.

Quinoa salad over raw kale

My friend chose the quinoa salad over kale. It’s filled with black beans, corn and more. Yummy! There was a light vinaigrette over the salad and mixed in with the kale, which was raw on the bottom. The quinoa flavor wasn’t masked by the dressing, which is sometimes the case with most restaurants. I’m getting this next time, if I can resist not eating another pizza.

And one thing this restaurant does is serve big entrees. We shared both and were stuffed when we were done. You could easily have shared with another person, but I’m sure glad nobody else was there.

I highly recommend this place for a relaxed, casual dining experience. There aren’t a ton of GF items on the menu, but what they have looks and tastes wonderful. They have a full bar and flat screens all over, so I’m guessing on game night it’s The Place To Be. My friend said their sweet potato fries were wonderful, but unfortunately they are fried in contaminated oil with breaded food. Only bummer of the night.

Leave a comment

Filed under allergies, black beans, broccoli, cheese, gluten free, kale, pizza, Pizza Crust, quinoa, restaurants, salad, Takeout Gluten-free Pizza, vegetarian

Gluten-Free Foodie Tour-Full of Awesome Goodness

I was so lucky to be included in the Gluten-Free Foodie Tour this month, coordinated by Ken Scheer of Rock a Healthy Lifestyle fame. This month’s treat was Bombay Spice Grill & Wine in Paradise Valley. And what a treat it was. There were 50 gluten-free patrons and a meal fit for royalty. Four appetizers, all gluten free, dairy free, egg free and soy free. Three of these were vegetarian! Yippee. Imagine how excited Daughter and I were to find that we wouldn’t be passing on all the good stuff.

And for an incredibly busy restaurant, we were so pleased at the amazing service. Food just kept coming, refills on drinks were plenty and even $4 mimosas were served.

First off, a Mango Salad with baby greens, nuts, dried cranberries and a light mango dressing. A perfect way to start the meal. No photo of that, the bowl was on the table and everyone dove in before I could snap a photo. Trust me, if you go there, give it a try. The dressing was sweet and light, and the dried and fresh fruit made it a refreshing way to start any meal.

Lentil Cake Towers

Next up, Lentil Cake Towers. Beautiful little stacked goodies of warm lentil cakes topped with coconut milk yogurt, tamarind reduction (which tasted like a lovely, sweet balsamic reduction), crispy crumbled poppadum (crackers made with garbanzo) and a tomato/onion mixture. My only complaint would be that I’m not a fan of raw onion on many things. Next time, I’ll order them without the onion. But aside from that, Daughter and I ate a few of them. The cakes reminded me of felafel and I was dying for a pita to plop it in.

Chickpea Ceviche, oh yum!

Next, my favorite appetizer was the Chickpea Ceviche. A clever vegetarian twist of beautiful, cold chickpeas, tomatoes, onions, tamarind, coconut milk yogurt and once again those lovely crunchy poppadum crackers crumbled on top. I could have eaten the entire bowl of this sweet, crunchy goodness. The chickpeas were cooked perfectly and the dressing gave it a bit of a kick. I’ll be returning just to make a meal of this fabulous salad, but than again, I’m a fan of chickpeas in most everything. Once again, raw onion will be omitted, but that’s just me.

For meat eaters, there were Tandoori chicken wings that were being snatched up left and right. In fact I heard there were multiple orders. Not for me, but if you’re a meat eater you may want to check them out.

Luke Brady working his “Magic”
Bending forks!

In between the appetizers and the entrees, we were entertained by Luke Brady, a friendly and fun magician in town. He sat with the adults and kids in the room and wowed them with card tricks, bending forks and even crimping a few coins. It’s nice to be entertained and fed well all at once. Thanks Luke!

Back to the food, you say? Each person chose one of four entrees. Vegetable or Chicken Tika Masala (tomato-based sauce) and Vegetable or Chicken Curry. All entrees could be served over white rice, brown rice or quinoa. Nice, huh? I love having a choice.

Vegetable Tika Masala

Daughter chose the Vegetable Tika Masala over Jasmine rice. I loved it. The sauce was a bit sweet, but not too sweet. Light and tomatoey (is that a word?) with just a slight bite to it (we order mild). Lots of veggies that were nice and crisp, not overcooked at all.

Vegetable Curry

I ordered the Vegetable Curry over quinoa. I loved the quinoa, it adds such a wonderful flavor to most meals. I have to admit I was much more in love with Daughter’s dish than mine. The curry was good, but nothing I would drive out of my way for. I think if I were a huge curry fan, that would be different. In any case, a spicier version might have been better for the curry. But I’ll get the Tika Masal with quinoa for sure.

Mango Sorbet

Last, but certainly not least, came a lovely, sweet/tart bowl of mango sorbet with a mango coulis and chopped pistachios on top. I was already full from eating everything else, but I just couldn’t resist trying this fabulous end to an eventful lunch. It was like a frozen, silky bite of fresh mango with a hint of sweet and crunchy goodness. I wanted to eat the entire bowl but I didn’t have the room. I’ll save room next time!

Thanks again to Ken Scheer and his GF Foodie Tour. Check out the hashtag #gffoodietour on Twitter for a recount and check out his Web site if you’re interested in attending the next one. He’s also got a Facebook page here. Follow it and watch for the next one. Maybe I’ll see you there!

Disclaimer: All participants payed for their meal and I was not compensated for this review in any way. And I was glad to pay, it was wonderful!

2 Comments

Filed under chickpeas, gluten free, lentils, lunch, Middle Eastern, quinoa, restaurants, rice, tandoori, vegetarian

Scottsdale’s 5th and Wine warms my GF heart

One of my favorite places in the heart of downtown Scottsdale has to be 5th and Wine, a restaurant/wine bar with a comfortable atmosphere and a GF/vegetarian salad I keep coming back for again and again. Not only do they have an extensive wine list, there is a lovely patio in the heart of the arts district with live music and comfy seats that create the perfect conversation areas. Inside there are soft, leather cushy chairs just meant for chatting and relaxing over a glass of wine and house-marinated olives.

5th and Wine’s Yummy Veggie Salad

First on the menu is the Veggie salad filled with avocado, white and green beans, grape tomatoes, jicama, and mozzarella tossed with a light herb vinaigrette. The dressing doesn’t overpower the salad, which is light, fresh and filling. You can even order half a salad if you’re not that hungry, but trust me, you’ll want more.

The Strawberry and Gorgonzola salad is also beautiful. I tend to order it with goat cheese instead of Gorgonzola, but that’s just my preference. It’s still wonderful and sweet.

Roasted marinated olives

If you’re just having a glass of wine (happy hour is just $5 a glass til 6 and watch for occasional $2 days), order the house marinated roasted olives with orange peel, fennel and red pepper flakes. Oh, yum. I’ve been known to just eat the olives while everyone else around ate burgers. I didn’t feel deprived at all, they are that good.

The menu also has burgers, salads, fries and even fried pickles for the non-GF eaters in your group, which makes my husband very happy. I’ve been brave enough to eat the salad and olives only. Since I’m not a meat eater, that leaves few options in these trendy downtown eateries most of the time, luckily I’m a salad lover and finding a great salad I can go back to again and again is a great thing. Thank goodness 5th and Wine has created a salad and olives I’m in love with.

The wine list is superb and if you’re not sure about what you want, just ask. They are knowledgeable and I haven’t been steered wrong yet. I prefer a nice white wine blend with this salad and each time I get something a little different.

Of course, if it’s an intimate conversation, take it outside if weather permits (which it does most of the year here in Phoenix). It can get quite noisy inside when it gets crowded. Walk the shops in the area and stop in for a glass of wine and a salad, you won’t be disappointed.

(By the way, I’m not affiliated with the restaurant and receive nothing for this review. Just sayin’)

Leave a comment

Filed under cheese, dinner, gluten free, green beans, mozzarella, olives, restaurants, salad, vegan, wine

True Food now offers GF pizza

True Food’s version of GF pizza

A dear friend took me to lunch at one of my favorite restaurants in town, True Food. I’ve written a review of the restaurant before and you can read it here. But this time, I was surprised to see gluten-free pizza on the menu. The server said it was new and of course, you know I couldn’t refuse. We ordered one pizza with pesto and sun-dried tomatoes to split as an appetizer.

Since my daughter was with us, I knew we’d have the input of two GF eaters and one non-GF eater (my friend). The results? Lackluster on my part, so-so on my friend’s and pretty good on daughter’s side. Here’s the rundown…

The pizza is made in-house by the chefs. The crust came out much too overcooked on the edges for my liking but the server said they all come out like that since they are still working on perfecting it. It tasted burned on the edges and I wasn’t too impressed, but the inside and underside were not burned, so we passed on the offer of another.

The taste was bland and although the texture was crispy, I found it a bit dry. A perfect vehicle for spicy toppings, or strong flavors like pesto, as my friend pointed out. I still found it to be a little too bland, but my daughter said she found it to be quite good and ate most of it. The pesto was wonderful with a little bite of spice to it and the sun-dried tomatoes were just right. Sometimes they are too chewy on a pizza, but these were lovely. I love that it is a place you can trust will understand the needs of GF customers and I felt safe eating there.

True Food’s Spaghetti Squash Casserole

My daughter and I split our favorite Spaghetti Squash Casserole, which I highly recommend if you visit the restaurant. (See my previous review linked above.) The spicy tomato sauce and cheese create a wonderful little casserole and the squash is still al dente, just the way it should be. We ordered one for us to share and the kitchen made two little casseroles, how cute. For dessert, the always-wonderful GF chocolate cake and a citrus sorbet that was divine, tart, sweet and addictive.

My final call…I rate my four top GF pizzas in the Phoenix area as 1. Picazzo’s– lovely texture, best flavor, expensive. 2. California Pizza Kitchen– tasty crust, light and crispy, medium price. 3. PieZano’s– GF Creations crust, made to order, great toppings, much too far away, (I’ve never been to the Glendale store, only the Phoenix one that closed), medium price. 4. True Food– least amount of flavor in crust, overcooked edges, good toppings, medium price.

What’s your favorite Phoenix-area pizza? I have yet to try Naked Pizza, but I have tried Spinato’s and was disappointed by the canned mushrooms – I just couldn’t get past those rubbery, chewy bits of yuck. The server said even she hated them but the kitchen insisted on using them. Since they use GF Creations crusts too, it’s not worth it just for that.

Side note: If you’re in Tucson, I recommend Renee’s Organic Oven.

4 Comments

Filed under gluten free, pizza, restaurants, spaghetti squash, vegetarian

California Pizza Kitchen’s new GF Pizza fills a void, and my tummy.

CPK GF Margherita Pizza

California Pizza Kitchen has long been a favorite place for our family. The kids loved the pizzas and pasta when they were young and I loved the salads and pizza. When we were sidelined by the GF lifestyle so many years ago, we didn’t stop going, just stuck to salads and soup. We didn’t want to deprive the rest of the family, but no more pizza, although we watched everyone else indulge.

How thrilling it was to see that CPK had a new GF pizza on the menu. First order of business was to call and find out how it was prepared. I was assured that all utensils were color coded and not shared with wheat items and the pizzas were cooked in a separate place on separate foil. Yipee! We headed out.

After once again getting reassured by our server of the precautions, we ordered one Margherita Pizza (tomato, mozzarella and basil). When it arrived, I pulled out my camera to take a few shots, which piqued the interest of the manager. “I’ve never seen anyone take pictures of our food except PR people,” he said. I told him about the blog, and how excited we were about the pizza. He said his wife had also tried it and was quite pleased. He was curious to know what we thought since not many of the pizzas had been sold yet.

I respect him for mentioning that although the pizza crusts are pre-made, there is flour in the kitchen and cross-contamination can occur, although they try very hard to avoid it. That’s the case in any restaurant and I appreciated him repeating it. Make your own choice if you decide to go.

Now, on to the pizza… Yummy. The toppings were the usual cheese and tomato with fresh basil. The crust is light and crunchy. Although I would have liked a little more flavor to it, I will be trying it again. It’s perfect with spicy or strong flavors since it doesn’t have much flavor of its own, much like a lot of GF crusts. It tasted a lot like the Udi’s Pizza Crust, although with a little more flavor. It’s a blank slate for any toppings.

The crust is about the same size as the regular pizzas, which was so nice to see. So often, the GF pizza is more expensive and smaller than the regular pizza, right? That is so frustrating. These are the same size as the CPK regular pizzas and cost the same, which is even better. There are two pizza toppings that are not GF and they are listed clearly at the bottom of the pizza listings.

Although it was crisp on the edges, it was a little soft in the middle. I recommend ordering it a little overdone, which I’ll be doing next time. Since it’s on foil and not on the stone with the rest of the pizzas in the oven, it’s easy for it to stay a little soft and not crisp up as nicely as the regular pizzas. For that reason, tell them to leave it in a few more minutes. FYI, we took it home and heated it up in a frying pan with a little olive oil for dinner. Much, much better. It’s amazing what a little olive oil and heat can do. One pizza was enough for two of us for lunch and dinner. Fancy that!

Bottom line…I’m glad they have a new GF crust and are taking precautions to make it safe for us. I had no reaction and neither did my daughter, so we’ll definitely be back. Each time a restaurant tries to accommodate the GF lifestyle, it’s one step closer to making life a little easier. Make your own decisions and always be careful when eating out.

Now, when will they have GF pasta? Soon, I hope.

Enjoy

3 Comments

Filed under dinner, gluten free, pizza, restaurants, vegetarian