Category Archives: review

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.

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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!

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

Review of Schar’s gluten-free products

While browsing Sprout’s gluten-free section the other day, I found a section with Schar’s products. These are German products, although they have a US-based headquarters in New Jersey. I had heard of them years ago, but it’s just been a few years that they were readily available and the first time I have seen them in the store. I don’t usually order food online so I was waiting for it to make it to the stores.

First up, Table Crackers. The photo on the package looks fabulous, making me imagine biting into a crispy Saltine cracker just like the old days. They are a little bigger, but break it in half and it’s about the size of a Saltine. Unfortunately, that’s as close as it comes to tasting like a Saltine. As far as crackers go, this one doesn’t have too much of a strong taste and that’s not always a bad thing. Saltines don’t have much taste either if you think about it. That helps with whatever you top it off with. These are better than Ener-G crackers, thicker, crispier and a little tastier, but not as good as a Saltine. I love the crispy crunch of these and they are strong enough to hold up to cheese and other toppings. I’ll buy these again since I won’t be eating a Saltine soon, but I prefer Glutino crackers. (review to follow)

Next up, the Vanilla Wafer cookies. Now, I’m already a big fan of Glutino’s Lemon Wafer Cookies. They are always in my fridge for a sweet treat. I assumed these would be just as good, but vanilla. Not really…they have a funny aftertaste that lingers after the cookie is gone. It is nice and crispy and light, just like a wafer should be, but it’s not even close to Glutino’s precious lemon wafers. I won’t be buying these again.

Finally, Schar’s has a Ladyfingers. These are quite large and the photo on the package is what attracted me. They are perfect for tiramisu, or so the package states. The picture looked so good, I had to try them.

This cookie was a pleasant surprise and is light, fluffy, airy and surprisingly not too sweet. It pairs perfectly with a cup of tea since is not overpowering or too sweet. I haven’t tried the tiramisu yet, but the package has a lot in there so I still have some left to give it a try. I will definitely buy this again since I love having 1/2 of one at night with my tea. It doesn’t feel like cheating or eating too much…just right.

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Filed under cookies, crackers, gluten free, review