Product Reviews: Gluten-Free Pancake Mix and Pizza Crust

Today I’m reviewing a pizza crust and a pancake mix. One of these has become a favorite new product. The other we didn’t really care for, although we recognize that it might be a case of personal preference. Keep reading to find out which is which.

Gluten Free Pancake Mix!

Regular readers will know that I’m all about pancakes and have been working on finding the perfect gluten-free pancakes since I started this blog. As such, I was pretty excited when we were contacted by Gluten Free Mama to review some of her mixes and found that one of them was a pancake and waffle mix. Thanks to Gluten Free Mama for sending us some out for testing. Besides the pancake mix they also make pizza crust mix, a sugar cookie mix, pie crust mix, and various other gluten-free flour mixes. If you can’t find these mixes in your town or neighborhood, they are available on Amazon.

Gluten-Free Pancake Mix

Here’s a list of ingredients: White Rice Flour, Tapioca Flour, Potato Starch, Sweet Rice Flour, Almond Meal, Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar, Aluminum-Free Baking Powder (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Sodium Bicarbonate, Corn Starch, Monocalcium Phosphate), Xanthan Gum, Vanilla Powder (Vanilla Bean Extractives, Evaporated Cane Juice, Silica, Cellulose), Sea Salt. Gluten Free Mama figures a serving is a third of a cup, and there is only 260mg of salt in that, which is pretty good.

I don’t have any pictures of the finished pancakes. For some reason I got distracted because I was trying to make them better by adding mashed-up banana. Unfortunately, this mix cooks up more like the Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix, which is to say that the resulting pancakes are kind of tasteless. The pancakes taste a lot like rice buns, which makes sense considering the ingredients, but have a funny aftertaste, which I think is probably the baking powder. If you’re the sort of person who hates how gluten-free flour mixes have funny, beany, or corny flavors, then you might prefer this sort of mix, because it’s really kind of tasteless. The resulting pancakes were also rather fluffy, although kind of in a spongy way. They also don’t really brown. Sienna and I both weren’t crazy about this product.

Considering that we weren’t that crazy about Pamela’s Gluten-Free Pancake Mix either, it looks like we’re striking out on the pancake front. Maybe I’ll have to try coming up with my own recipe.

Gluten-Free Pizza Crust!

By now you know that the pancake mix was the product we weren’t into, so that means that we really loved this pizza crust. Actually, we’ve read about this crust in different places and never tried them. We were able to find some in Portland at New Seasons Market down on Division. The crust is made by Bavarian Mills Specialty Bakery. It is gluten-free (natch) and also soy free. The crust we got says it was manufactured in Vancouver Washington.

Gluten Free Pizza Crust

Sienna decided to make this pizza like a Zachary’s Pizza, which is a popular Chicago-style pizza place in Oakland, California. So like a good Chicago-style pizza, it has the sauce on top of the cheese, spinach, and lots and lots and lots of sauce. This is evident in the picture. The pizza crust ingredients are as follows: White Rice Flour, Water, Garbonzo (Chickpea Flour), Brown Rice Flour, Eggs, Sorghum Syrup, Almond Meal, Grapeseed Oil, Olive Oil, Potato Starch, Xanthan Gum, Sea Salt, Yeast, Apple Cider Vinegar, Guar Gum. There is a shared equipment disclaimer on the package which names tree nuts, legumes, and dairy products. The package figures that you will get 12 servings out of it, and there is 100mg of salt in one serving, which is awesome.

Gluten Free Pizza Crust

What’s really awesome about about this crust is that it comes out crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. The flavor is good, the crunch is good, the crusts come frozen and are easy to use, so it’s win-win-win. We’re really excited to finally have a great pizza crust product like this one and recommend it. Hopefully they’ll be easier to get soon!

We want to know: Do you have a favorite store-bought gluten-free pancake mix? How about a flour mix or pancake recipe on the Internet? Send us a link. Let us know in the comments!

Gluten-Free Italy: Levanto – Hotel Garden

While we were planning our trip to Italy, one place that everyone said we absolutely, positively, had to go was Cinque Terre. We had a hard time finding lodging there when we were doing our reservations, so we ended up staying in Levanto, which is just a bit north of Cinque Terre.

Gluten Free Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is actually five small towns in the Liguria region of Italy. They are Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. When you see pictures of quaint villages with colorful buildings right on the coast of Italy, it’s pretty likely that the photos are of one of these towns. (That’s Riomaggiore pictured above.) There are trails connecting all five of them, and there is also a train line that you can take to travel in between them. Both the trails and train extend to Levanto as well, which was a good thing.

Liguria is famous for its food—for example, Pesto originated in Liguria. The place we stayed in Levanto was the Hotel Garden—two newly-remodeled floors in a building. I don’t know for sure, but would expect that the building is four floors? Hotel Garden occupies two floors. One is the second floor, and the other is the top floor. Apparently, the top floor gets booked up pretty early and is more expensive.

The hotel is clean and the staff is friendly. They serve breakfast, which is the usual Italian fare: yogurt, salami, croissants, and espresso drinks. They do have high-speed internet, but unfortunately the Wi-Fi only worked in one spot in our room (coincidentally, Sienna’s side of the bed). Hopefully they have that fixed by now. (I was surprised at how inaccessible the Internet is in Italy.) The rooms that face the sea have balconies. They don’t really have a view because there’s a building between the hotel and the beach. The balconies aren’t private.

I don’t have a lot to say about Cinque Terre. It could be that our expectations were set too high by all the raving we heard about how amazing it is. We found the five towns to be overrun with tourists, and the locals not as friendly as other places in Italy. We did find some great food, though. Here are some highlights:

Farinata

Farinata! This like a very thin pizza made out of chickpea flour. It is super-greasy but gluten-free and delicious. I don’t know if all farinata is gluten-free, so you should probably ask to make sure if you find yourself ordering some.

Sardines and Potatoes with Tomato Sauce

Sardines! You may think that I’ve gone off my rocker, but fresh sardines are awesome! One of my favorite things to eat in Italy was fresh sardines and I was introduced to them in Levanto. This dish was sardines, slices of potato, bell pepper, and olives in a light tomato sauce with lots of rosemary. I had this dish at a place called Pizzeria Bar L’Igea Di Nicora Fabio in Levanto, which we very strongly recommend.

Next to the Hotel Garden in Levanto is a restaurant named Da Tapulin. I had their “Spiedino di Calamari Seppe Gamberi e Pesce Spada,” which is skewered calamari, prawns, swordfish, and cuttlefish. The seafood comes out encrusted with finely grated cheese. Amazing. This is another place we recommend checking out.

Also in Levanto is Da Rina. They had the best minestrone soup I’ve ever had in my entire life. It was minestrone with pesto and Parmesan cheese. We also had their smoked tuna and grilled king shrimp. The food there is light and fresh and really amazing. We recommend going elsewhere for your after-dinner coffee, though.

One final place in Levanto is Ristorante la Loggia. They have a quaint notice about gluten on their menu. It reads, “We serve without gluten-free.” While most of the waitresses and waiters we had in Levanto were friendly and seemed knowledgeable about gluten, our waitress at Ristorante la Loggia was downright enthusiastic. We had salad and dried beef (like Prosciutto but with beef) with mushrooms and cheese. These two were delicious. My entrée was saffron gnocchi with prawns. This tasted like mac and cheese and was only OK. For dessert, our waitress insisted on bringing me a delicious flourless chocolate torte with ice cream. That was awesome. Despite the pluses of la Loggia, we didn’t end up being that fond of it. It was extremely noisy, and we almost had to get rude to get our check.

In Riomaggiore, there is a small place that serves bacon and eggs. They fry it up with rosemary and lots of olive oil. I wish I had written down the name, but it’s one of the meals I think about occasionally and wish I could go back to Italy today and have it again.

I don’t think we felt like the Hotel Garden was special, but I think you could do a lot worse, and according to the TripAdvisor website, Hotel Garden is the number one hotel in Levanto. We both agreed that we were glad that we ended up staying in Levanto. It seemed much friendlier and much less crowded with tourists.

Gluten-Free Italy: Hotel Gallo in Tignale

Hotel Gallo is in Tignale, which is right on the west side of Lake Garda in Northern Italy. Lake Garda is about an hour drive from Germany, so there are a lot of German tourists and the multilingual menus there are in Italian first, then German, and then English. The popular travel writer, Rick Steves, says to avoid any restaurant with their menu in three languages, but we found a couple of restaurants where that wasn’t solid advice. As for the Hotel Gallo, we enjoyed our stay there.

Hotel Gallo Tignale Italy

I’m going to get our complaints out of the way first. Though the place had a newer feel than most of the hotels we stayed in, it didn’t seem as clean somehow. And the beds and pillows were hard (maybe it’s an Italian thing?). We also had some trouble with TV noise from neighboring rooms on our first night. Luckily, the hotel agreed to move us to a different (and in our opinion, nicer) room. Last, the hotel was definitely not fragrance free. The rooms smelled strongly of perfumed soap. It didn’t bother us much because we didn’t spend a lot of time in our room, but I could see it being an issue with someone who is very sensitive to fragrances.

Other than that, I can definitely recommend the Hotel Gallo. It is a three star hotel, which means that it’s mostly about providing a pleasant roof over your head. The nicer rooms in the hotel have a really stunning view over the lake and a balcony. They cost a little more, but from our experiences with European hotels, it is worth it to pay a little extra for a nicer room. Most of the staff spoke enough English that there weren’t any language problems, and they were very friendly, especially Fulvia, who was there during the morning and afternoons. We were really happy that our complaint about the noise was handled so kindly. I keep having the experience here in the US that, when you complain, a hotel will immediately start treating you like a burden—or worse.

Gluten-free pasta in Italy!

The greatest thing about Hotel Gallo is that they are very accommodating for gluten-free dining! Hotel Gallo has a restaurant on the first floor. For an extra fifteen Euros per person, you can get dinner there. This proved to be very economical AND had the added advantage of being able to eat gluten-free pasta dishes, which I did not once, but twice.

Gluten Free Breadfast at Hotel Gallo

Also, they had a separate breakfast table specially set up for gluten-free guests. This is pictured above, and as you can see, they have quite a selection of gluten-free goodies. Packaged rice crackers, some cookies, two kinds of cereal (yes, that’s a bowl of gluten-free cocoa puffs), and coffee cake. The rice crackers were by Schar and called “Fette croccanti.” The gluten-free coffee cake was gluten-free coffee cake!

Gluten-free Coffee Cake

For our two dinners, I had mixed seafood pasta and curried chicken one night, and then penne pasta with zucchini and seafood in an Alfredo sauce followed by some kind of pork steak the next night. The food was very good and all the vegetables seemed very fresh. The house wine was great, and as everywhere else we went in Italy, the espresso was delightful.

Lake Garda Italy

Although we can’t say our stay there was perfect, it was among the best places we stayed in Italy and we would go back again. I think it would be a great place to go and spend a lot of time exploring the beautiful surrounding countryside, going on hikes, and getting a massage. The Hotel Gallo has a fitness center, a hot tub, a hamam (which is like a sauna), and if you’re there in late September, you can catch the Tignale Truffle Week. For the gluten-free traveler, Hotel Gallo is a great place to stay in Italy.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Friendly But Ask Questions.
Times we have visited: 1 (One stay, four meals. So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Hotel Gallo
http://www.hotelgallo.com/
Hotel Gallo
via Roma, 30 – 25080 Tignale (Bs)
Lake Garda Italy
tel. +39 0365 73010
info@hotelgallo.com

Gluten-Free Italy: Venice! Hotel L’Alboro

We spent two weeks in Italy and I took lots of notes about our trip and all the places we ate and stayed. The good news is that I’ve got loads of information on gluten-free eating in Italy! The bad news is that I’ve got loads of information on gluten-free eating in Italy! I’ve got this huge pile of backlogged entries to do so I’m going to power through them. Here goes:

Hotel L’Albroro

The first place we stayed in Italy was Venice. I loved Venice! Our hotel there was the Hotel L’Alboro. It is a three star hotel, which in Europe means that it’s nice, clean, and has some amenities, but isn’t going to be plush or have amazing service or anything. We thought that the L’Alboro was a little run down but clean. Our room was small by American standards. The bed was how we found almost all the beds in Italy: hard with foam pillows.

Hotel L'Alboro in Venice

The staff at L’Alboro is very nice and when they found that I was gluten-free, they got me three (three!) bags of gluten-free biscotti and also told me what I could and couldn’t eat in their breakfast area. This was a huge source of relief to me because I was worried about breakfasts there. It was also very kind of them and made me feel special in a good way instead of the usual “high-maintenance” way. There was some kind of altercation over the coffee that had to do with gluten, and I never found out what the deal was, but some Google searches are making me think I had caffè d’orzo, which is a kind of substitute coffee made with roasted barley. So make sure the serving people know that you’re gluten-free.

The location is awesome! The L’Alboro is in a kind of quiet out-of-the-way spot very near St. Mark’s Square. It is also a just walk to the Rialto Bridge (where all the night-life seems to be) and The Academy and Peggy Guggenheim Museums. There is a vaporetto (water bus) stop about 50 feet away.
View Larger Map

Some other notes: Almost all the staff speaks English. Franco and his wife were very kind and Franco showed us photos of his dog and his house. Sienna was having trouble figuring out whether or not to buy a pair of boots. She asked one of the staff and he reported back what his wife thought the next day. The locks at Hotel L’Alboro are the old fashioned kind that use what look like skeleton keys. Very cool!

Venice - Gluten Free!

About Venice

We had a little trouble getting good food in Venice. I think that tourism is to blame more than anything else. When there are lots of tourists around to support bad restaurants, quality suffers. After a few unsatisfying and overly-expensive meals, we decided to stick with recommendations from the staff at our hotel and from our Rick Steves guide. We also started looking very closely at the people eating at restaurants. If the people at a restaurant are just chewing in stunned silence and/or seem unhappy, steer clear! If the people at a restaurant are eating and talking loudly and look like they’re having a good time, go for it.

Almost every waiter we encountered in Italy knew about gluten. In most cases all you have to say is “Niente glutine” and they’ll start pointing out what you can eat on the menu. In the rare instances that they don’t know what you’re talking about, you’ll need to pull out a list of offending items and then suggest things you can eat, which is basically what you have to do in the United States. I’ll post more about Italy and list some of the restaurants we visited soon.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Friendly But Ask Questions.
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Hotel L’Alboro
http://www.alborohotel.it
Sestiere San Marco, 3894
30124 Venezia, Venezia (Veneto), Italy
+35 041 5229454‎
e-mail: info@alborohotel.it

Lodging Review: Shasta MountInn Bed & Breakfast

We’d like to say that we found the Shasta MountInn Bed & Breakfast by doing a search on Gluten Free Bed and Breakfast places. Instead, we were just looking for a place to spend a night in Mount Shasta, California, on our way back up from Los Angeles. The last time we’d been to Mount Shasta was a disaster, because it was a Sunday morning and we couldn’t find anything that: A) Was open, and B) Looked like a place we would want to eat. They have a health food store there, but the selection is basically deli food.

Fortunately, we found the Shasta MountInn Retreat and Spa just through a web search. It has a five star rating on all the hotel review websites and we weren’t able to find anything but rave reviews. So we called them up and while making arrangements to spend the night, mentioned that I was gluten free. The person we were talking to, Dave, said that he had just been to Trader Joe’s and he could make me some gluten free pancakes. (!!!!) I’m sure that we just got lucky and if you want to book a stay at the Shasta MountInn, you should let them know ahead of time if you have any special dietary requests.

Shasta MountInn Bed and Breakfast - Gluten Free!

The house is a Victorian which has been modified to be a B&B. So for example all the rooms have their own bathroom. There is a relaxation room on the top floor with books and movies. They have a sauna, a hot tub, and also offer massages.

Room at the Shasta MountInn B&B

Here’s one of the rooms at the Shasta MountInn. This one has kind of an unusual bathroom layout in that the shower is behind one door and the bathroom is behind the other. The beds are all Swedish Tempur-Pedic® and have a top layer which is that strange “Memory Foam” which makes them very comfortable. For pillows they also have memory foam pillows, but also plenty of conventional ones too. Our room also had two separate heaters.

(I had never slept on one of these Tempur-Pedic beds with the memory foam so it was very interesting. Since the foam molds itself to your shape, you end up feeling kind of like you’ve burrowed into the bed.)

Here’s the view from the room we stayed in.

View of Mount Shasta, California

When our host Dave mentioned that he could make me some Trader Joe’s Gluten Free pancakes, I was thinking that he had the pre-made, packaged kind. Instead it turned out that he was making them using the Gluten Free Pancake and Waffle Mix that I reviewed here. It also turns out that he makes a much better pancake than I do, which is really saying something, because I’m a pancake pro. They were also served with home fried potatoes. Did I get a picture, you ask? Why yes I did.

Gluten Free Pancakes

When the subject came up, Dave seemed to be aware of different food allergies, and it seemed like he would be able to accommodate a wide variety of diets given enough notice.

We want to know: Have any Bed and Breakfast recommendations for weekend trips around Portland Oregon? Do you find that most places are at least gluten free friendly? Let us know in the comments!

Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Shasta MountInn Retreat and Spa
www.shastamountinn.com
203 Birch St., Mt. Shasta, California 96067
(530) 926-1810 / (530) 926-6600

Happy New Year & Two New Resource Pages

Happy New Year!

We are proud to present two new resources for gluten-free information here at Gluten Free Portland dot Org. They are: a list of caterers and a lodging list in the Portland area. This list is also available in the tabbed menu at the top of every page in our site. If you are a restaurant or business owner and would like to be listed, please contact us at the email address given on our “About” page.

Restaurant Review: Mississippi Pizza Pub

Finally! A Portland-specific gluten-free food review: The Mississippi Pizza Pub in Portland Oregon is now making gluten-free pizza, and I’m going to say up front that both of us thought that their pizza was OK. They offer this pizza both at the restaurant and in a “take and bake” form. We opted for the take and bake. That’s because we are much too cool for the kind of speed-of-light gentrification and further boutique-izing that the Mississippi area has been going though (ha ha only joking – but really isn’t it an amazing change from just three years ago?)

On their website, the gluten-free page says that you need to call ahead the day before to order their special crust, but the person we talked to said that it was no longer necessary. If you go to their gluten-free page you will see that they are very serious about being gluten-free. For instance, they have put in a whole separate pizza oven just for the gluten-free pizzas. We think that’s awesome.

In addition to pizza, they also have gluten-free beer and other various alcoholic beverages, and live music almost every night of the week. There is, of course, a gotcha or two. Gotcha number 1 is that they only make the gluten-free crusts in 16 inch form, which we don’t think is a huge problem. Gotcha number two is that the gluten-free pizzas are two dollars more than the regular ones, which is a bummer, but more reasonable than we’re used to for gluten-free fare. But how about the pizza?

We got what we call the “Dave and Sienna special.” It has red pizza sauce AND pesto with extra garlic on the whole pizza and then half mushrooms (for Sienna) and half black olives (for me.) No cheese. Like I said, we did the “take and bake” option where you put the pizza in the oven following their directions. The pizza was awesome. They put the right amount of sauce on the pizza, and didn’t skimp on the ingredients. I know you’re all like: “Yeah OK but THE CRUST Dave, get on with THE CRUST!” So I will get on with the crust. The crust was good. It is definitely more like the kind of crust that is kind of short and a bit crumbly. It was also definitely crunchy. It was almost what I call a Long Island style crossed with a deep dish style. To say what it wasn’t: it wasn’t chewy or bready, which for us was just fine.

Being used to gluten-free pizza crusts that either have a texture like extruded foam, and/or come out of the oven rock hard, we were delighted. While they do make wheat pizza there, they also seem to take enough care to prevent cross-contamination that a person with gluten allergy should be OK (depending on how bad your allergy is, obviously.) We will definitely go back there sometime in the future to do a more complete review of the restaurant itself.

Times we have visited: 2 (So we feel pretty good about our rating.)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Somewhere around 11% more expensive

The Mississippi Pizza Pub
3552 North Mississippi Ave Portland, Oregon
(503) 288-3231