Tula Gluten Free Bakery – New Kid in Town

Gluten Free Berry Scone at Tula

Our friends started raving recently about a new gluten-free bakery that opened up on NE Alberta. We just went there for the first time two weekends ago, and went back for some pizza the night that they had their opening celebration. Tula Gluten Free Baking Co. is located at the corner of NE Martin Luther King Jr. and NE Alberta. Besides being a bakery, they also have lunch and breakfast items, pizza, and espresso drinks. The bakery itself is good-sized, featuring a nice area to sit and eat gluten-free baked goods.

Goodies behind the glass

Tula has a number of treats available. As mentioned above, they have pizza. Behind the counter they usually have a couple different kinds of scone, a few different tart-sized quiches, cookies, cupcakes, breads, and hand pies. You can also pick up some par-baked focaccia bread and/or delicious olive bread. Because baked goods are a particularly sore spot for the gluten-intolerant, we see it as our duty to eat lots and lots of baked goods. We do it out of our sense of duty and in a spirit of altruism. Especially when it comes to cookies.

gluten-free baked goodies

Here we have, starting at the cookie and moving clock-wise around the box: A chocolate-chip salt cookie, a mixed berry pie, a curried vegetable hand pie, and two mini quiches. The cookie ended up being the least popular item we sampled. None of us were particularly excited about it. It seems strangely greasy and besides the grease flavor, there isn’t a lot to it. We’re happy to report, however, that everything else here was really amazing. They all benefit from a little time in a toaster oven to get them warm again. We were especially fond of the berry pie, the curry hand pie, and the tomato dill mini quiche there. These all had great flavors, and the pie crust at Tula is really excellent.

Gluten Free focaccia bread

Focaccia bread is one of those things I really miss, and until now haven’t been able to replace it. The focaccia at Tula comes par baked. So you take it home and finish baking it right before you want to eat it. There’s enough focaccia there to make 4 good-sized sandwiches. The ingredients are millet flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, agave syrup, xanthan gum, sea salt, olive oil, and rosemary (so it’s vegan). To finish baking, you put it in the oven at 375 degree and bake 11 to 15 minutes. Fresh out of the oven, this focaccia is soft, springy and delicious. It’s good dipped in oil and vinegar, but it’s even better with some honey!

gluten-free pizza at Tula

We also tried the pizza at Tula. The good news is that the pizza here is totally safe, since it’s made in a dedicated gluten-free bakery. I’m used to crossing my fingers every time I set foot in a pizza place that has gluten-free pizza available. Half for good luck, and half because I feel like I’m testing my fate. Many places around town are careful about cross-contamination, but to me, it’s really nice to get a pizza that you know definitely hasn’t been dragged through a pile of wheat flour. The crust style is thin, and soft. So if you’re into pizza with soft crusts, this one is for you. I found the lack of topping variety a little disappointing (they only have vegetarian options) and also Sienna and I were dissatisfied with the flavor. The sauce seems more like a ragu and is sweet. Although the cheese and other toppings are good, I felt like the sauce was seeping into the crust and losing its flavor. I think a lot of pizza places fight this by rubbing the crust with a crushed garlic piece and applying a bit of olive oil before adding the sauce.

We’ve been back a couple of times, and every time we’ve had great experiences with the people at the counter. Everybody is friendly and ready to answer questions about the items there and the bakery itself. Did we mention that the place is vegetarian-friendly? They also have vegan options. Last, they serve sandwiches.

Our final verdict: We’re really excited to have another retail gluten-free bakery open in town, and especially happy to have one that has such a wide range of products. We took the focaccia bread and made grilled cheese sandwiches out of it. This is my new favorite thing to do.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Dedicated Facility
Times we have visited: 3 (So we feel pretty good about our score.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: 1 or 2 bucks, depending on the item

Tula Gluten Free Baking Co.
Tula on Facebook
4943 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd Ste 101 Portland, OR 97211 / 541.306.1250

Tula’s Gluten Free Bakery Opening Party Tonight

Kind of late notice, but: Tula’s gluten free bakery at Alberta & MLK is having a grand opening party tonight (Sat 9/10) from 4-8. We will be there eating pizza.

Restaurant Review: Natural Selection on Alberta

There are so many ways to twist the name of this restaurant to make a fancy headline that I’m not going to do it. Not that I’m “into” fancy, eye-grabbing headlines to begin with. If you’re not familiar with Natural Selection, read up on some Darwin. Ha ha. I kid. In reality, Natural Selection on Alberta is a restaurant in (for today, but maybe not tomorrow,) sunny Portland, Oregon. Being on Alberta, you know there’s an angle, don’t you? To be honest, there are several angles. First up, Natural Selection is an upscale vegetarian restaurant. It is vegan and gluten-free friendly. The menu changes weekly on Wednesdays.

Natural Selection Menu

(Sadly, those fried artichokes are not gluten-free! Maybe next time?)

Although a person can order à la carte, it’s really best to do a four course meal with selections from the menu. As you can see, the menu has two columns. So there are 2 of each course to choose from. For an extra 11 clams, you can get wine pairings to go with your courses. We didn’t do the wine pairings, opting instead for a pair of interesting (and strong) cocktails from their extensive and interesting cocktail menu.

Eating at Natural Selection reminded me of a pair of restaurant rules we followed during our trip to Italy. Generally speaking, it’s a good rule to never eat in a restaurant that: A) You don’t know, and B) Is empty. In Venice, it wasn’t enough to look for a restaurant that was full of people, because it might be full of tourists eating terrible Italian Cuisine cooked especially for tourists. We noticed that in restaurants where the food was bad, the Italians would look uncomfortable, almost to the point of looking stunned or visibly dismayed. So to our “no empty restaurants” rule, we added a “look for happy eaters” rule. These two rules served us well. The reason Natural Selection reminded me of these rules is because when we went there, everybody looked happy.

Besides the interesting menu and happy patrons, they have very cool lighting, nice decor, had Radiohead playing the entire time we were there, and their staff was friendly and prompt. I’m going to get our one complaint out of the way right now: The seating there is kind of uncomfortable. The restaurant is basically a row of tables with chairs on one side and cushioned “booth” type seating on the other. The chairs are hard and too upright for my tastes. On the cushion side, there is a large gap between the bottom cushion and the back cushion, so Sienna ended up sitting with her purse behind her to avoid it.

Gluten free sweet pea soup

On to the food. On the menu posted up above, I did the fully vegan, gluten-free right-hand side run of courses. Note that our waitress did mention that you should tell them that you’re gluten free. She said that there might be a difference in what you get, depending on what’s on the menu. Before the courses began, we were brought a tasty little amuse bouche. Then came the Sweet Pea Soup. This soup was delicious, and didn’t taste like any pea soup I had ever had. The carrot and pickled red onion island there in the middle was crunchy, which served as a nice counterpoint to the creamy soup.

Next up on my side was a Radish and Cucumber Salad, the photo of which didn’t turn out, but which was very interesting. It had pickled sea weed (“sea beans”) and radishes, so it was kind of pickly, vinegary, and bitter. Pictured above is a Mixed Romaine Salad with pear, dried figs, and a walnut dressing. That was the better of the two salads. I found my salad a little too monochromatic, and liked the more sweet and cheesy walnut flavor of the romaine salad.

Abalone Mushroom on Polenta - gluten free

Here’s the Abalone Mushroom on fried Polenta. This dish was really amazing. The Polenta was done perfectly, and the sauce was tasty. We had to look up what “romesco” was. It’s a sauce made from nuts.

Asparagus and new potato hash

Here is the Asparagus & New Potato Hash. This was like having a wonderful potato hash with asparagus (as the name would suggest) but came with a tasty vinaigrette that made the dish very interesting.

rice pudding strawberry consomme

Before the dessert, we were brought a small scoop of hibiscus strawberry sorbet, which was amazing. For dessert, delicious coffee from a press and a nutty vanilla rice pudding with a delicious strawberry rhubarb consomme. This was awesome! If you’re looking for a big sweet slab of rice pudding, you might be disappointed, but I was delighted with this light nutty and fruity dessert. Mmmmmmm.

The dishes are definitely paced, so it’s the kind of place where you’re going to want to slow down, enjoy the company of your friends, dine, and people watch. However, nothing took overly long. As mentioned earlier, our server was friendly and knowledgeable, and 3/4 of the menu can be made gluten-free. I should also mention that the servings are the exact right size so that you won’t end up walking away overstuffed or feeling hungry. How can you go wrong? This place is awesome, and is perfect for special occasions.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars (wow!)
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Natural Selection
www.naturalselectionpdx.com
3033 Northeast Alberta Street Portland, OR 97211 / 503.288.5883

Many thanks and a quick shout-out to Liam for the restaurant recommendation.

Restaurant Review: Francis – Adventurous Dining on Alberta

We realized recently that we didn’t have any breakfast or brunch reviews, so we decided to make it a point to get over to Francis. We’d already heard a lot about the restaurant from friends of ours, so we were looking forward to it.

The Interior at Francis

First some miscellaneous notes about Francis. The restaurant has a nice atmosphere and is clearly popular. Our waiter was awesome, friendly, and spent a lot of time talking to us about the gluten-free options. Besides a gluten-free menu section, they also have vegan options. The coffee was awful, but the grapefruit juice was perfect. Our food came out in a timely manner. The presentation was good. I love fresh fruit! Did I mention that they have a whole section of their menu devoted to gluten-free and vegan options? That was really nice. They also have a full bar.

Avocado and Tomato Eggs Benedict at Francis

Our Head of Research, Sienna, had the special of the day Eggs Benedict, which in this case was baked avocado and tomato with a truffle Hollandaise sauce. They are made gluten-free by serving them on a gluten-free biscuit. Sienna told me to note in the review that she is hard to please when it comes to Eggs Benedict, and that she felt her dish was only so-so. For one, the poached eggs were undercooked, and also she felt like the dish was a little bland. She was left wishing for some Canadian bacon.

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Pancakes at Francis

I had the gluten-free “overnight” oatmeal pancakes, which I thought they were really good. They are basically oatmeal pancakes, heavy on the oatmeal, with apple chunks and hazelnuts. They are nutty and very flavorful. The one complaint we had was that they seemed about twice as thick as they should be. Sienna didn’t like them because they ended up being a little underdone in the center. For me, the thickness imparted a kind of “hearty” feel to them which won me over in the end. I would definitely order this again.

Curried Hash at Francis

Our waiter did something custom for us, which was to take the curry tofu scramble and have the chef make it with vegetable hash. The waiter told us this was his favorite dish. I was expecting a more traditional yellow curry, which I sometimes do with my eggs at home. Instead this dish is a coconut curry with just a bit of a hot spicy kick. Included in the hash (besides eggs) were brussels sprouts, onions, squash, and broccoli. It took my palate a while to switch gears, but in the end I decided that I could see why the waiter liked it so much.

There’s a phenomena where our expectations go up a notch when we are presented with a fancy menu, and in the case of Francis this went against the restaurant. Originally, we were thinking about giving them only three and a half stars because we felt like the food wasn’t amazing enough for the fancy menu, but in the end I decided to give them an extra half star for being adventurous. They are definitely that and are doing it well.

P.S. The gluten-free biscuits are perfect!!!

Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same price, although the restaurant itself is a little more expensive than your regular brunch spot.

Francis Restaurant
2338 NE Alberta St.
Portland, Oregon 97212