Perils of Lunching out in NY State

Just back from the Finger Lakes up in New York State. Gorgeous. Didn’t eat out much. Did a lot of grilling at our rental cabin. Yummy results. But I will share on the three places we did have lunch at. The first was at Three Brothers Wineries up near Geneva New York, up towards the eastern top portion of Lake Seneca. The large parking lot was packed, buses, limos, vans, zillions of cars.  We finally stowed the pick up in a wider space and strolled in the central area. Many buildings, including a micro brewery, stores and dozens of folks trotting this way and that, groups in matching shirts, twenty somethings swizzling wine slushies as well as hordes of people drinking, eating, enjoying life loudly. We went to the take out area in the Cold Brew Coffee eatery.  I ordered a chicken sandwich on gf bread and an ice tea.  I left Joe to get the sandwiches and walked out to secure some where to eat. I got a nice table but had to wait nearly 20 minutes for him to show up.  He had a bratwurst sandwich which shouldn’t have taken so long.  Guess it was my choice…. My requested gf bread was somehow changed to what looked like an over-sized multigrain taco shell. I went in to ask if it was gf. The young fellow acting as the expediter said yes it was and as he spoke he tapped his gloved finger on my taco shell! I told him that he had just contaminated my food with his hand as most of the food there was on bread, rolls, pizza dough or pretzel dough. Ridiculously unprofessional and totally uncalled for behavior. I walked back as I was not willing, at 2 pm, to wait another 20-25 minutes for a sandwich when I was sick with hunger. I tore off the top half of the taco shell, tossed it and ate the rest. It was actually pretty good. But I will never go back there; too noisy, too crowded, incredibly slow service and Joe felt I was crazy lucky to not get glutened.

apple and chicken salad

Next place was at Wagner Vineyards near Lodi where we had our cabin. I ordered a composed salad with apple slices and grilled chicken. It arrived with a big wheat bun resting on the salad. I told the waitress that the salad was unacceptable, she said does it have to be remade. I said yes. They did in short order and it was okay if a bit boring. We wee on the outside deck and it was breezy; at one point I had to put my hands over my salad as chunks of the lettuce were blowing away in the gusty wind! Acceptable but nothing I would order again; the wine based vinaigrette was watery and bland.

Lastly, we ate at the Carriage House Café in Ithica on our way out of town. I had the grilled chicken, brie, artichoke and caramelized onions on gf bread. The sandwich was awkward as it was not sliced in half and the bread was grilled or griddled making it kinda hard to bite off a chunk. I managed and the flavors were awesome together. I think I got the end of a loaf; a bit tough. I had the same sandwich last summer and it was stunning in every way. This was still great; just not quite as perfect as the previous sandwich.

carriage house

Moral of story: check harder before choosing places; it I had researched the Three Brothers I would have seen all that pizza and pretzel dough and how big/commercial the place was…best avoided. Otherwise it is often the luck of the day as to the bread quality and the wind that might blow away your salad!

Lovely Meals in Gorgeous Cape May!

Just back from a fabulous weekend in Cape May, New Jersey with my guy.  Stayed at a cute little B&B about 8 blocks from the beach; The Inn at the Park on Madison St. Our room was on the third floor; a mini suite with a fridge, double shower, huge bed, armoire instead of a closet and a sweet day bed. Plus adorable crystal glasses for late night thirsty moments and the usual amenities like WiFi, a flat screen TV, air conditioning.  They made acceptable accommodations for my gf needs for the two breakfasts; scrambled eggs, smoothies, an omelet, all good and all safe.  inn at the park

mad batter

That corner table is where we sat!

But even better yet were the three meals we had out; our first night we went to the Mad Hatter in downtown CM.We had a little corner table with benches and fluffy cushions: wall carvings of whimsical fish and other old timey decorations: so cute! The menu had several gf choices. I went with some specials which were naturally gf. My waiter said he would alert the kitchen as to careful as to cross contamination. I had a great seafood risotto but my favorite flavors were in my starter: the watermelon, blueberry and strawberry salad with feta cheese. So bright and refreshing. I enjoyed some delish wine, great company; got stuffed to the gills and no glutening! watermelon salad

seafood risotto.jpg

The next night we went to a classic big seafood place right along the bay; Lucky Bones Back Wash. We went a tad early; at 6 pm: no wait for a table.  Place was hopping, ordered drinks and enjoyed the organized chaos. We were near the pizza oven and the bar so it was super busy but fun to watch. We totally enjoyed some shared apps; fire roasted shrimp with lots of fresh garlic and so buttery; they were perfectly cooked; fat and moist. And a large plate of hot steamed mussels in red sauce with lots of fresh basil and gf toasted rolls for mopping up the sauce. Mmmmmmm.  For my entree out came a big platter with two crab cakes on top of herbed polenta and a lemony sauce with tiny green beans: all gluten free and all crazy delish. FYI: polenta is like creamy cornmeal mush made with coarse corn meal. I did have some of his wahoo; firm white fish; tasty. Such a classic place and they do brick oven pizza. Again…too full for dessert…alas as they had gf choices….

                        

 

Our final meal in carefree Cape May was a delightful lunch at a hip eatery in North Cape May; Bella Vida Garden Restaurant on North Broadway. They have a number of gf choices even buttermilk pancakes! So maybe breakfast next time… Anyway,  I choose a fresh salad composed of a healthy layer of tiny greens, grape tomato halves, cucumber slices and half an avocado. On top of that was a big pile of shrimp and crab salad. I chose the ginger sesame salad dressing which give it a quirky but wonderful spin. So fresh, flavorful and tasty. And again…too full for dessert!

So….Cape May is a great place for gf compared to the slim pickings in the Lehigh Valley where I live. Several places had full page gf menus or lots of notations on the regular menu as to safe choices for celiacs like me. So, I found the wait staff to be experienced at gluten free and it was easy to eat safely.   I even had some great coffee ice cream with big chunks of dark chocolate in a cup. Forget where; downtown, tiny shop. So delish! Can’t say enough good things about eating in Cape May, NJ. Enjoy!

Jersey Mike’s Subs are Awesome

Been five years plus since I ate a hoagie straight off the counter at a sub shop. Just didn’t find any place I could trust.  The other week I heard about this place called Jersey Mikes, a small chain originally from New Jersey.  This past weekend we went there for a quick supper. I normally eat meals full of produce and clean proteins.  But for once I wanted to indulge my cravings for an Italian hoagie full of good meats and cheese. Don’t forget the lettuce and tomato!

So when I asked for a gluten free roll they started cleaning; after finishing the last customer before mine they washed, cleaned and changed their gloves after washing their hands.  A big piece of sub wrapping waxed paper and they started to build my sandwich.  Full of three or four kinds of ham and the like. Three slices of provolone, lettuce, tomatoes and a good sprinkle of oil and wine vinegar later it was ready. Sliced in half and wrapped tight.  I splurged with a bag of chips: the full surrender to oinky food!

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Their photo; not a gluten free roll but you get the idea!

It was glorious! Meaty with ham, prosciutto, capicola, salami and pepperoni and that creamy provolone cheese. They topped it with lots of the green stuff: shredded lettuce and there was pretty good for February tomatoes sliced nicely. The Udi hoagie roll was okay; not great but not bad, a touch dry; I pulled off some of the surface as I just don’t enjoy eating a lot of bread. I like it balanced by the meat filling and the light dressing.  I couldn’t quite finish the entire sandwich so I wrapped up the remaining bites and had them the next day.  Still yummy.

The staff was very friendly and totally accommodating. The counter girl even asked me how I liked it after I had eaten about half of the hoagie. They made me feel comfortable in my request for safe gluten free food and that was huge.

So, I didn’t get glutened, I got fed. I conquered my fear of eating in a fast food sort of chain restaurant that serves gluten rolls in the same location as my gf meal was prepared. Perhaps that seems small to some of you but for me it was a big leap of faith and I did feel rewarded. Success: a safe meal that I didn’t have to make, it satisfied a real craving and I conquered a fear I had been struggling with for a long time. Success.

There are lots of other menu choices at this friendly little eatery: next time, a steak sandwich sounds perfect!

Barra Rossa Restaurant: Great Philly Eatery

We went to Philadelphia this past Saturday to see the Terracotta Warrior exhibit at the Franklin Institute. It was awesome. I loved every moment. Highly recommend it. Afterwards we went out to dinner in the neighborhood of  TJ Hospital a few blocks to the east of Center City. I thought I was picking a new restaurant but it turns out that Stella Rossa changed their name; due to similarity to another restaurant so we were there a while ago, maybe two years ago. As we got to the front door of Barra Rossa we looked at each other and said “We’ve been here before!”

   barra rossa lights

I remember how great their gf  pizza was so I had another pizza; different toppings; smoked mozzarella, red sauce, prosciutto, and a touch of arugula.  It was very tasty although I couldn’t hardly taste the smoke in the cheese until I ate my leftover slices for lunch. Go figure.  I didn’t think to take a pix until I had eaten some pizza; pardon the casual two slices gobbled down shot!barra rossa pizzaMy glass of California Riesling was very smooth and fruity; perfect!  We shared an appetizer of lump crab, portabella mushrooms and basil oil which was utterly delish.  Someone thought I had eaten more than my fair share!  I also had the arugula and pear salad with candied walnuts. The pears were kinda hard and it was a lot of arugula.

I only chose items marked gf on the menu and made the server aware of my gf needs as a celiac.  Yet once again I got mildly glutened.  Upon reflection. I remembered that  I had that same salad last time.  And the same mild feelings of having eating a tiny bit of gluten. I am strongly feeling that it was a matter of the candied walnuts. I know for myself that buying nuts is very problematic as often the cross contamination issue rears it’s ugly head.  Nuts are often processed on the same equipment as wheat and that is a problem.  Restaurants probably feel that they don’t need to worry about gluten in any food ingredient that normally does not contain gluten. If my issue was less serious this wouldn’t be the problem it is.  Some of us with celiac do react to tiny amounts of gluten from this sort of cross contamination while natural ingredients like nuts or dried fruit are processed.  It’s hard to believe until you experience it but this is a reoccurring problem for many celiacs. So, in this case, I have resolved not to eat nuts or dried fruit while eating out. They are just too problematic.

anjoOne more reflection, pears….they are a favorite fruit of mine but an unripened pear has no place in a salad. Slightly under ripe is okay but hard pear is virtually flavorless and the skin can be bitter.  If your pears are not ripe enough or are over ripe, use a crisp apple instead.  Just unfair to sprinkle hard wedges of pear in a salad. No one can enjoy that.  My guy does not care for pears. My best guess is that he has never had a perfectly ripened pear. Overripe they not have an enjoyable flavor.  We got some small pears at Walmart the other week and they seemed to just rot from the inside out. Ugh! Normally I like to get Anjou pears at Valley Farm Markets in a six pack and let them ripen in a bowl at room temperature. A perfect pear is a delicate, sensory treat of texture and juicy flavor. If you don’t like pears; well then, I think you haven’t had a good one yet.  Keep trying!

I do strongly recommend this restaurant. Their gf pizza is the bomb and that crab appetizer was just amazing. If you are in Philly; this is an excellent choice for a meal.  Just avoid the nuts if you are gluten free and be wary of unripe pears!barra rossa bar

1774 Grille &Tap Fall Menu

Last week I enjoyed a fantastic meal right here in Hellertown at 1774 Grille & Tap Restaurant.  I had been there a few months ago when I enjoyed a wonderful meal of lamb chops. This time I was treated to a special tasting menu starting with some delightful sea scallops on a silky bed of puréed sweet potatoes. Perfectly pan seared and with some tasty risotto as well as a fried sage leaf and a dab of a cranberry puree. I enjoyed a glass of Washington Hills Riesling wine…. Gorgeous wine with gentle hints of fruit and perfectly balanced. 4EEE558E-17DE-48E4-B004-3F68F7DC7CA3

This was followed by a fillet of sea bass with delightfully crisp skin and flaky, perfectly cooked flesh. It was resting in a delicate mushroom broth and decorated with wilted fresh spinach and green pea sprouts. It normally comes with a rice and barley risotto but due to my gf requirements I had to skip that. I cut it open before taking a photo so you could see the interior of the fillet. My wonderful server gave me a little pitcher of mushroom broth to pou on as needed and I did just that.5F4A6B8D-3D42-4793-AE3F-D613DB72684E

I had a tasting portion of duck breast with more of the sweet potato puree. The duck had a yummy honey ginger sauce which did not overpower the duck. There were spears of crisp tender grilled asparagus to complete the dish. My duck was cooked medium, just right. 049F8F1D-60CF-45CD-97D0-2F7507C2B650

I finished this delightful meal with a couple scoops of homemade ice cream, maple and dark chocolate. The almost bitter chocolate was tamed and complemented by the sweet creamy maple custard. Dinner perfection!CCE4B847-4D6A-4064-99EA-F7BD1B546792

1774 Grille & Tap Reboot

Eating out on a Thursday as opposed to a noisy Saturday night can be a very different experience.  I returned to 1774 Grille & Tap in Hellertown, Pennsylvania recently and enjoyed the quiet of the side dining room at the 1774 Grille.  It was nearly deserted when we got there although by the time we left close to eight it was filling up. This lovely small dining room has several windows that look out on birdfeeders and it was just perfect for enjoying a quiet meal. Just outside was a long, narrow herb garden which I am guessing plays a key component in creating their fresh and made to order entrees.

1774 grille 005

We were promptly seated and ordered drinks.  My companion enjoyed his micro brew watermelon beer although he said he didn’t taste much watermelon flavor…maybe a good thing? I had a wonderful glass of Riesling; not the same one as last time but possibly even better. Touches of fruit and an inviting crispness that made me long for a bigger glass!  He was served some warm slices of bread and a plate of dipping olive oil, which I wished I could indulge in…

Our salads arrived promptly; mine was watermelon radish carpaccio with cucumber, pea tendrils, feta cheese and a delicate lemon vinaigrette.  If you never have enjoyed a watermelon radish it is a speckled pink inside and pale green as to the skin. It was sliced very thin. I ate every bite of salad, particularly enjoying the lemony dressing. 1774 grille 001 Josh’s salad was a spinach cobb salad with bacon lardons, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes and a yummy looking blue cheese dressing.  My friend consumed it with great gusto. I wasn’t sure I could eat the lardons or I would have begged a taste. Among the other salad choices was a wedge salad which a nearby table had ordered and we agreed it looked well worth consuming.  Next time…

cobb salad

My dreamy sounding duck breast was no longer on the menu as this is now the spring/summer choices.  There is a duck leg confit but it was not gluten free so I couldn’t indulge. I went for the lamb chops which came with tri colored roasted tiny potatoes over a pea puree and perfectly sautéed leek on top.  I enjoyed every bite. Not sure when or if I have had better lamb than that evening. It was listed as Australian Lamb rack. Not sure two good sized chops are a rack but that is my quibble (I am still longing for another chop…or two!)

1774 grille 002

Josh had the buttermilk fried chicken which was a substantial looking meal served on a wooden cutting block  Some homemade pickles, slaw and corn fritters accompanied it. His four pieces of dark and light boneless chicken were tender, moist and delicious. The pickled red onions were perfection with the chicken. Those pickle slices disappeared incredibly fast. The corn fritters could have used a bit more corn but were tasty. fried chicken

There still aren’t any gluten free desserts on the menu except sorbet and it was a chilly night so that was a no go. All in all we both enjoyed a delicious meal. The only thing I could have wished was that my radishes had been a touch fresher, they seemed like they had been run through the mandolin slicer much earlier in the day and had lost some of their crispness and juiciness. I am guessing that was a one time error and I might have to try that salad again as it was enjoyable and with freshly sliced radishes it could be fantastic.

This restaurant has several great menu choices and their website says all is created fresh to order. I loved that they had several gluten free choices for me and this writer must confess that nearly a week later I am still dreaming of that lamb. It was so succulent and flavorful. If you love lamb; just do it! Our waiter was very attentive and the service was timed perfectly.  I personally loved the quiet of the side dining room.  But, if you like more bustle and company, the bar is hopping and the big dining room is the place to be seen in town! The staff is still finding their feet on a few small issues but I think the 1774 Grille would be a perfect choice for a celebration dinner.

Dinner Out at 1774 Grille & Tap in Hellertown, PA

The hottest new eatery in the Lehigh Valley is right here in Hellertown, the 1774 Grille & Tap right on Main Street just one block south of the Municipal Building. I couldn’t wait to eat there, the on line menu looked amazing and there was a note that most things could be made gluten free as they are all cooked to order.  Fantastic!

1774 grille

We were about five minutes late for our reservation and were urged to get a drink at the bar while we waited for our table. I had some Riesling that was quite tasty and my guy enjoyed an iced tea.  The place was full of patrons: loud and hopping. It took about ten minutes for our table to be made ready but eventually we were placed by a window underneath a screen that displayed ever changing photographs; mostly old ones of Hellertown in years gone by, kinda fun to guess where and when they were taken.

Our waitress went over a short list of daily specials.  It was tough to hear her in the crowded and noisy main dining room.  Maybe they should put up some drapes to deaden the noise a bit…just a friendly suggestion.  Anyway, I alerted her to my need to eat gluten free and she responded that one of the daily specials was gluten free and that the mahi mahi on the dinner menu was gluten free.  Nothing else.  I was a bit non-plussed as I remember the on line menu saying otherwise.  So, with few options, I went with the mahi mahi and Joe had the halibut special so I could taste it.  I was pleased to find that their gold and red beet salad was gluten free so I had that as my starter. Joe went with their Caesar salad.  We both loved our salads although he was a bit surprised to find the salad greens to be kale. I couldn’t taste it due to the bread croutons but he loved the dressing and enjoyed every bite.  My thinly sliced beets were delightful as was the fresh goat cheese.  The pistachio vinaigrette was very discretely applied but I loved this salad. I have eaten similar salads in expensive big city restaurants and this was just as good as any I have ever enjoyed.

1774 salad

I forgot to take a pix of my gorgeous beet salad and this was the only one I could find for their salads; very pretty.

Our entrees made it out not long after we finished our salads.  Joe’s halibut was a beautiful presentation, laid on top of extremely thin long slices of baby cucumber sprinkled with black sesame seeds with a jalapeño pepper dressing which was so mild I would have ordered it.  Normally I find jalapeno pepper to increase the heat to a point where I am uncomfortable but the heat was quite lightly applied which made me happy and left Joe who loves the heat to be wondering where the fire was. I loved my bite of it; the cucumbers were sliced razor thin and seemed summertime fresh as was the fish. It was delightful with such a great clean taste. I think I need a whole portion of it next time!

1774 mahi

I had a shallow bowl of miso broth with extremely fine rice noodles, lots of delightfully snifty smoked shiitake mushrooms and a large piece of mahi mahi, perfectly cooked and very tasty. The broth was delicate; but I didn’t really taste the ginger the menu mentioned. I think that would have kicked the flavor up one more notch! I shared some with Joe and still was barely able to finish it, leaving me too full for dessert.  The only gluten free offering they had anyway was sorbet or ice cream. We passed on that and got our check.

Note: When I looked at the on- line menu later, that statement about any entrée being made specially gf was not to be found…weird.

I must compliment the restaurant on their wait staff; very friendly and ultra polite.  Plus they were quick to get an ice tea refill and to deal with the check.

The décor is pleasingly antique-ish, the bar cozy and I hope the owners can figure out a way to lower the sound level just a bit.  It was very busy and that definitely adds to the noise level. The joint was jumpin!

I would like to return when they have some other gluten free menu choices for me.  My palate was all ready for either of their deliciously described lamb offerings or the duck breast or maybe the sautéed scallops.  I was so disappointed that none were able to be made gluten free. I contacted the restaurant about that issue and am awaiting an answer.  Maybe they will add some gf entrees for me to try… sure hope so!  NOTE: see my update at the bottom of this post; good news!!

Note: I borrowed a few pictures of the restaurant from the net; I hope they will forgive me. This blog is not a huge commercial enterprise where I can go back to eat the same food again just to get a few great pictures and I wanted to liven up my post with some images of this new dining spot right here in my town.

UPDATE: I wasn’t contacted directly but I am informed that most of the menu can be made gluten free upon request.  That is great news and I plan to go back at some point and enjoy a few things that tickled my fancy on the menu.  My server misinformed me and now I wish I had asked to speak to the manager.  Still, my meal was quite delicious. Their menu will be changing in a few weeks; it was a “winter” menu so I assume it will go to spring? Great; but I hope that the duck breast is still around when I find time to return to sample it.