2nd Street Tavern is Sure Worth a Visit

Eating out used to be so fun and easy.  Since I went gluten free a year and a half ago it has become complicated.  My first question when anyone suggests a restaurant is this “Is it safe?” My sister Karen thought I was talking about the neighborhood where the restaurant was located.  I had to explain that it was my feel of being glutened that I was talking about safety for.

Recently, a fairly new restaurant (open 3-4 months), the 2nd Street Tavern in Emmaus, PA contacted me and asked me to review their food.  Generally I eat somewhere and then write about the experience.  This was a bit different.  I felt like a minor celebrity, getting a starter we hadn’t ordered to nibble while we decided on our choices and then a free cocktail to sip until the food arrived.  And in fairness I should disclose that they comped my portion of the meal except my wine.  I did tell them I would tell it like I saw the food. Anyway, back to the yummy meal we enjoyed there….

The free drink was called the 2nd Street Mule and I loved its gingery spicy flavor.  Made with Crabbie’s ginger beer, a ginger liquor called Domaine de Canton, fresh strawberry pieces and lime.  I drank mine and some of Joe’s. It was refreshing and naturally gluten free.

We had their spicy deviled eggs with bacon topping as that free starter.  Mine was delicious and yes, very spicy.  Joe ate two of them!

We then enjoyed some PEI mussels in a lovely tomato broth and a roasted beet salad with goat cheese, arugula and sunflower seeds.  I liked the flavors in that salad although I would have put more beets and less arugula in it.  I love beet salad and the goat cheese was really creamy and tangy.  Perfect combination.

Joe chose the cider and beer braised pork shoulder. I couldn’t try it as the beer was not safe for me but he said it was the best pork he had ever had.  I am hoping they make a cider and gf beer version so I can try it someday. He had a big serving and ate every scrap of it. He had some thin sliced sauted Brussels sprouts that he said were fantastic. I asked for a serving for me and they were very fresh and tasty.  His mashed sweet potatoes were yummy.  I ate some that I scooped off before he had any.  Safety first!

I had the Dungeness Crab in a spicy tomato broth.  A whole giant crab! I was sort of expecting a stew with bits of crab so deconstructing an entire crab was a project in and of itself. I think I could have made good use of a lobster bib.  The meat was sweet and I liked it dipped in the excellent broth. I asked for a spoon and that utensil was perfect for scooping up crab meat and broth.

We were too full for dessert, which was okay as they don’t have any GF choices.  Something to work on 2nd Street, some places have fresh fruit or sorbet which can be perfect on a warm summer day.

The service was friendly and excellent; my Italian Pinot Grigio wine was tasty. Our table was in an inside room, although it had a big window opening to the outer dining area providing light but it was still pleasantly dim and just cool enough. Great for a relaxing unrushed meal.

I plan to go back soon; 2nd Street Tavern is rolling out a new menu in about a week.  I have two suggestions for the management; remember spoons when any sort of broth is served and if you want to attract the GF crowd you should take the time to type up a one page GF menu showing possible selections and noting anything that has to be left off.  I eat out often when I travel up to Boston and I am always reassured when I get even a one page hand typed GF menu.  Then I know they are thinking about GF enough to put it in a separate menu.  Some places place an asterisk next to all GF items and note it at the bottom.  That works too.

Safety is paramount to those of us with celiac disease. Even a speck of flour can make me really sick.  We are always looking for good safe GF food.  This new restaurant is sure worth a visit to Emmaus for.

I hope they take my suggestion on a GF menu to heart.  And one last thing…. I really wish they would make that pork shoulder in a cider braised version; I long to enjoy a plate of it; maybe with mashed potatoes along with their great sauteed Brussels sprouts! And that crazy good mixed drink they serve in a copper mug, made with Crabbie’s ginger beer; a must have on a hot summer day.  It alone is worth a visit to enjoy a couple of those!

Chilled Cuke Soup on a Hot Summer Day…Nice!

Summer, time of ice cream, Popsicle, tomato sandwiches, salads and cucumber soup!  Really, cucumber soup on a hot summer day is cool on your palate and fairly healthy.  It is also a perfect use for three cukes straight from your overburdened cucumber vines.  Or three cucumbers from a produce stand.  The fresh the better your soup will be.

This recipe came out of a magazine a decade plus ago, one of my sisters made it once for me and I got the recipe then and there.  I have made raw cucumber soups and they are nice but this is my favorite cucumber soup.  If you don’t like dill leave it out. I have done that; it is more delicate and you can then really taste the hint of lemon in the soup.  Once I made it with vegetable broth for a vegetarian and it was excellent that way too.  It is naturally gluten free.

Angie’s Cucumber Soup

Take 3 medium cukes, peel them, cut in half at the middle point and then in half again from the stem to end so they are like short cucumber canoes. Then scoop out most or all of the seeds.  Shred the cuke canoes into a big bowl using the biggest hole size on your shredder.  Drain in a strainer but save the juice to add to the soup along the way.

Cut up one small onion; 1/3 cup or so.

Cut up 3 scallions

Melt 2 tbsp of butter and a tbsp olive oil in a large heavy bottomed sauce pan.  Add the onion, cook 1-2 minutes and then add the shredded cuke.  Cook 5 min, add the scallions, stir, then add chicken broth to cover; 2.5 to 3 cups.

Add ½ cup dry white wine, the reserved cuke juice and the zest of ½ a lemon (1 tsp).  Sometimes if I don’t have an open bottle of white wine I use vermouth; it works well in a pinch.

Heat until nearly boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 20-25 minutes.  Let cool at least 30 minutes.  Puree.  You can use an immersion blender, a regular blender or a food processor.  The boat motor blender (immersion) is much more fun and easier.  I like to leave a bit of it unblended so it isn’t really smooth like a true cream soup.  Add 1 cup sour cream and 1 tsp sea salt, whisk well.  I use light sour cream; Daisy is my favorite brand.   Add 1-2 tbsp chopped fresh dill.  Stir well.  Chill 4 to 6 hours.   It makes a big jar; maybe as much as two quarts of soup. It will keep in the fridge for a week so you can enjoy it for a second meal,

I often chill the bowls if it is a hot day and so cold soup goes into equally cold bowls.  You can garnish with a dill frond or not. Or a small dollop of sour cream can be pleasant.

The photo above is from our family dinner party last Saturday; the photo was taken by Beth Hinchliffe.  I made it at my sister Elaine’s request.   We had it in fancy porcelain cups on equally fancy napkins.  You can use whatever bowl you like!

Cuke soup; it’s a great starter to a meal on a hot summer evening or for a light lunch pair it with a salad or some grilled fish.  Yumm!

Rewind….In Case You Want More Information

If you just read my post on my vacation up in New England and are going to make a gf meal or snack for someone; you might want to revisit my blog post of April 7, 2014; about how to plan and how to prepare a meal for a gf friend.  It was titled “Eeek, My Gluten Free Sibling is Visiting and I Have No Clue”  Just FYI so you can know what to do when you decide to host someone who has celiac disease.  

Safe cooking and eating!


Eating Gluten Free at Family and Friends…Yes it is Do-able!

I am just back from a week in New England visiting friends and my two sisters. Ate lots of gf food, most of it very yummy and only felt mildly ill once.  I ate at both my sister’s houses and at four friends.  One friend just gave me a GF snack bar and herbal ice tea, easily safe.  I was only there for a short visit as I returned to Pennsylvania so she was off the meal hook!

The other three were a contrast in attitudes and meals.  My friend up in New Hampshire made bbq’s pork ribs and potato salad.  He did not listen to my repeated advice to avoid spice mixtures.  He used a famous chef’s blend on the ribs which were slow cooked right on the grill grate.  As they smelled fantastic when I got there, tired from driving all the way up from PA, I bit the bullet and just ate some. I had brought the ingredients for a green salad including a zuke from my garden.  So I know that was safe! He was very relaxed about it and acted unconcerned about whether the food was safe for me although he claimed to understand the gluten free concept.  Luckily I did not suffer any ill effects from that supper.  Another spice blend might have made me sick and the labels are very iffy.  Best method is to make your own spice blend.

Another friend, Debra, in northern Massachusetts made a bbq meal too; this was late in my trip. She was very concerned and confessed to being stressed out before my arrival as to the safety of her food. She used a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables and virtually no spices.  She put aluminum foil on her grill grates to make sure they were not going to contaminate my meal with gluten from old bbqs.  Debra made a table groaning with yummy food with some help from me.  She had several kids and a husband to feed and still there were leftovers, it was quite a feast.  She tried very hard to make a memorable meal and I really appreciate all her efforts.

My dear friend Beth’s house is in Wellesley where I enjoyed some cold lemonade and homemade gf chocolate chip cookies.  A perfect snack.  But I know she was very concerned about contamination and that she went to great lengths to ensure the safety of the cookies as she made them.  She used a gf sugar cookie box mix to which she added chocolate chips.  Some of the best cookies I have eaten in the past year and a half.

My sister Elaine washed all the pots and pans in her dishwasher on the heavy cycle as did Beth. Not sure if anyone else did that.  Beth baked her cookies on parchment paper to ensure they didn’t get any wheat residue on them.

I helped make a big meal for family at Elaine’s. I made some French bread that was very well received; looked like a recipe picture from a cookbook when the loaves came out of the oven.  I also whipped up some deviled eggs and chilly cucumber soup. We had fabulous farmed Canadian salmon with a divine roasted grape tomato sauce.  I got to eat a big slice of her renowned pavlova topped with fresh strawberries.  There was no pavlova left on the plate when we were done!

My other remaining sister, Karen, made a wonderful Spanish stew with chorizo sausage and chicken breast as well as saffron and fresh spinach.  We debated the safety of that sausage after reading the label but I ate it and it was yummy.  Sometimes packaging says “spices” and that can be iffy…. I didn’t feel any ill effects.

I really appreciated all the culinary efforts of my friends and family.  They tried very hard to make my meals safe and they succeeded.  It was interesting how their attitudes differed.  From the very worried to the carefree and several stages in between!  I just wish the labels on foods were less ambiguous; food starch, spices, seasonings, natural flavor are all code words which often mean wheat flour.  Not acceptable or safe for me.  I am sure it is tough to have to read all the labels.  I do it myself every shopping trip. 

You can eat safely at someone’s home while you are on vacation if you pre-educate your friends/family on your dietary needs. My final point is that making a gluten free meal for a friend with celiac is quite doable and there are lots of food options for a tasty meal.  Thank goodness my friends were willing to try and each was successful using a different meal approach.

Pineapple Banana Smoothie….Let Me Count The Ways I Love You

This heat has me craving something cool and wet in the drink department.  Not too tough to figure out when I remember I have some really yummy pineapple juice in the fridge, as well as a container of organic low fat plain yogurt.  And a dead ripe banana is in the fridge, making three critical ingredients. This smoothie is nothing new but it is sure worth revisiting during these dog days of hot humid Pennsylvania summer.

So out comes the blender, in goes the peeled banana, two big spoon scoops of plain organic yogurt and a healthy glug of pineapple juice.  Maybe 2/3 cup of pineapple juice and half a cup of the yogurt. I don’t really measure.  It is a dump process, measuring cramps my style. The best quality yogurt makes the tastiest smoothie so go for the good stuff, not that non-fat crap either!  Then you add either some low fat milk or seltzer water.  Maybe 2/3 to 3/4 cup depending on how thin you want your drink to be.  The milk makes a more substantial drink than seltzer produces.   Thinner tends to be more thirst quenching in this heat and humidity.  Top it off with 4 ice cubes. 

Sometimes I add a tablespoon of flax seed meal to it.  When I want to be extra healthy and virtuous!  Then blend the heck out of it.   At last a minute or two. When it is good and frothy and the ice cubes are fully broken down, pour it into two glasses.  Drink up

Oh so thirst quenching and healthy.  Low calorie and if you have a cough it will help as pineapple juice is a natural cough suppressant.  I make it because it tastes so good on a hot day when I come in from working in the garden. It is naturally gluten free. It fills the void for a snack when there are no gf brownies or cookies around. Plus, it can be modified to fit whatever you have on hand.I wanted to remind you readers that a smoothie doesn’t have to have weird stuff like kale or chia seeds or even flax seed meal.  Or funky fruits like mangoes, kiwi or white nectarines. Go with what ever fruit and juice you have on hand.  The yogurt makes it a bit creamy and is good for you.  The ice is critical for that chill feeling as it slides down your throat.  It is a great way to get rid of ripe bananas or peaches before they can spoil.  Don’t use under ripe fruit as they are less flavorful.

 One last thought; a smoothie can even be a bit decadent if you add some ice cream!