Andina Gluten Free – A Tale of Two Nights

While I consider myself enough of a foodie to run a blog that reviews restaurants, I’m aware that I have a few blind spots. For example, Korean food. I wouldn’t know good Korean food if it bit me on the leg. I feel the same way about Tapas, and it isn’t for lack of trying. I’ve actually had plenty of Tapas, and have eaten them in several places (in San Francisco and Seattle) where I was assured that theirs was of great quality. Maybe I should say that I don’t feel a great affinity for Tapas. At the same time, I do feel like I’ve eaten enough great food that I know it when I eat it. And I think Sienna’s experience is similar.

Does it sound like I’m winding up to deliver a negative review? It does, doesn’t it? Well, not so fast. This is a tale of two nights, and I think that it’s going to be a little long-winded, so you might want to get a cup of coffee.

We’ve wanted to cover Andina on Gluten Free Portland for quite a long time. It’s a fancy Peruvian restaurant in the Pearl at NW 13th and Glisan. Not only do they have the reputation of being a great restaurant, they are also very seriously gluten-free friendly. Andina has a separate gluten-free menu, and their staff is very knowledgeable and friendly about the topic. I have to give them 5 out of 5 possible stars on the gluten-free experience. This fits, considering that one of the features of truly good quality restaurants is a high level of service. Andina is simply not messing around when it comes to service. The other two things that Andina has down pat is cocktails and desserts. You cannot go wrong with either.

The first night we went to Andina also happened to be Sienna’s birthday. We had heard a lot about the place, and had been there once before but just for drinks. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they have an extensive gluten-free menu, which is basically the same as the main menu with the few gluten-containing dishes removed. The menu is extensive and adventurous. On the left-hand side of the menu are Tapas–small plates for sharing. On the right-hand side are entrees.

On this night we decided to go for several small plates. Our server recommended 4-6 small plates to feed two people. We ordered the Pimiento Piquillo Relleno, which is peppers stuffed with cheese, quinoa, and ham, the Musciame de Atun, which is cured tuna with a garlic oil and what amounts to guacamole, and the Palta Rellena de Cangrejo y Langostinos, avocado stuffed with crab and prawns. We also ordered a “Causa.” These are like mashed potato cakes with fillings. We got the Morada Causa, which is a purple potato cake with shredded chicken breast. Last, we ordered a cheese assortment with quince jam, called the Quesos Artesanos con Membrillo.

Some quick notes: The cosmopolitan at Andina is top-notch. I had a greyhound, which was awesome. After you order, they bring bread, or in the case of gluten-free diners, fried yucca plant. This is a bit like eating french fries but more kind of doughy and fibrous. I loved the fried yucca plant! I’m used to having to watch everyone else at the table eat bread, and so it was a real treat to get my own “bread.”

Cured Tuna with Avocado at Andina

Of these dishes, the only one I felt a little hesitation about ordering was the cured tuna. I’m not really a cured fish kind of guy. As it turned out, neither of us was really into this dish, and we both felt that the avocado was under-ripe. Sadly, that also carried over into the prawn and crab-stuffed avocado. This dish ended up being the most disappointing to us. While it was close to being properly ripe, we thought that the avocado just wasn’t quite ready to go. The dish says you’re getting “prawns,” but for the small plate that means you’re getting a single half of a prawn, which we thought was tasteless. The crab was a “crab salad” concoction, which tasted like crab salad one might get in a grocery store deli.

Causa - purple potato cake

Check out the presentation here. They do an awesome job on presentation at Andina. We were also really disappointed by this dish. It came out cold, which we weren’t expecting. Maybe that’s the way it’s supposed to be served, but we felt that it might be better a bit warm. It was also, on the whole, flavorless. It tasted mostly of potatoes and mayonnaise. I was really shocked and amazed at how dull this dish was.

Andina Relleno

On the good news side, the Pimiento Piquillo Rellenos were amazing. This was the dish that made us scratch our heads over the other ones. These are flavorful and complex, and are like something I’ve never quite tasted before. They must be popular, too, because we saw the waiters carrying a lot of them that night. Look at the presentation! What a great dish. We also really enjoyed the cheese assortment. It comes with toasted corn, which is unique and makes the dish fun to eat.

Gluten-free Quinoa Brownie

I mentioned earlier that the desserts at Andina are amazing. They have a brownie that is gluten-free and is made with quinoa flour. It’s called the Chocolate Andino. Wow it’s amazing. Also amazing is the Mousse de Valle y Selva, which the menu describes as “a tiered semi-freddo of velvety lucuma and espresso mousses, chocolate ganache, and crushed cocoa nib meringue, served with espresso shortbread.” Unfortunately, the shortbread is not gluten-free, but they are happy to put it on the side if your friend wants to eat it. This mousse is easily on par with the best of all the desserts I had during our trip to Italy, which is really saying something. You really should try it.

The brownie came out with Happy Birthday on it, which was unfortunate because it was for the wrong person. The brownie was mine, but it was Sienna’s birthday. Doh! We decided not to make a big deal out of it, considering the service up until that point had been amazing.

What we did next is not for the weak of heart. After discussing the meal between ourselves over the next couple of days, and finding that we agreed on the weak points and the strong points, we decided to call Andina and tell them that we had been disappointed with our meal. We were confused. Andina has an adventurous menu, great service, some really promising dishes, some amazing desserts, and people rave about it. We were confused about how they could have served us something that tasted like mayonnaisey crab salad on an under-ripe avocado. Sienna did the calling. She ended up speaking to the manager, and spent some time with him. One of our questions was, “Did we get dishes that aren’t very flavorful?” Maybe we picked the wrong dishes? Maybe we should have tried the entrees instead?

I’ve found that complaining at restaurants can be a harrowing affair. Besides having the feeling that you might be asking for some spit in your replacement dish, I’ve had one or two really awful experiences. For example, I once had a chef come out into the dining area, walk over to our table, and ask if I could tell him what I didn’t like about the dish. He stood there, awkwardly, looking at the floor with hunched shoulders, while I told him that I thought the dish was over-cooked and tasteless (he asked–and I wanted to be honest). Then he apologized and walked back into the kitchen. The restaurant comped the dish, and we never went back.

I should mention here that we did not tell Andina that we were Gluten Free Portland. We never tell restaurants. They might have known who we were by Sienna’s name–there aren’t a lot of Siennas running around–but I doubt it. The manager at Andina asked us to come back and try them again. He sent us a gift card and a letter in the mail. He asked us to make sure he was a aware when we would be coming back, and he told us that he would make sure we had a better experience.

So we went back, and we told him that we were coming. This was a little bit at odds with our usual policy of showing up at restaurants anonymously, but we decided that it was the right thing to do. We also went with a plan: we decided to get some entrees instead of small plates. For the entrees, we got the Dorato al Rocoto y Kion, which is the fish of the day over a shiitake mushroom, with bacon in a broth, and served with asparagus-quinoa fried rice. I got the Arroz con Pato–Duck with rice. For an appetizer, we ordered the Anticucho de Pulpo–grilled octopus kebob.

Pisco Sour at Andina

The Pisco Sour at Andina is awesome! You should get one.

Octopus Kebob at Andina

While ordering, we mentioned our situation to our server. It turned out that he had already been alerted to our presence. We consulted with him about our dishes with an eye towards making sure that the dishes we chose would be flavorful, and that seemed to work. We really liked the octopus kebob dish. It was garlicky and interesting. It comes with a chimichurri–which is kind of a chunky green sauce. This was the kind of dish we had been looking for the first night!

Roasted Sea Bass in Broth

The roasted fish in broth. The menu states that this dish comes with mahi mahi, but on the night we visited it was made with sea bass. Again, this dish was great. The fish was perfectly prepared. The broth was excellent. The dish has sesame oil in it, which makes for a very interesting flavor combination with the fish and shiitake mushroom.

Rice with Duck

The duck with rice, which was exceptional. They cook the duck breast how you like it, which is really key with a duck dish like this. You can see it’s a little rare here, which was excellent. The duck breast comes with a duck confit, and a sauce that is a little bit like a sweet and sour. I was very happy with my dish. The rice for the fish and the duck has quinoa seeds and slices of asparagus in it. Also during the meal, we were brought a little gluten-free fish cake treat. The cake was made with quinoa and sea bass.

During dessert they brought by a taste of guava and prickly pear sorbet. For dessert, I had no choice but to order the mousse, which was just as fantastic as it had been the other night. Sienna got the crème brûlée run, which is three different flavors of crème brûlée in separate pots. On that night the flavors were lemon verbena, caramel, and dark chocolate. All three of these were great. Did we mention that the coffee is excellent? It is.

We ended up happy, stuffed, and content. We were also relieved. The both of us were really worried that our second night at Andina would prove to be as disappointing as the first. We were delighted that we were able to tell everyone who asked that all of our dishes were delicious. We’ll doubtlessly be back for special occasions, although we hope to be able to go with a much smaller profile the next time, and we will consult with our waiter to make sure that we’re choosing flavorful dishes.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 2 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Andina
www.andinarestaurant.com
1314 NW Glisan St., Portland OR 97209 / 503.228.9535

Event Reminder – Thirst Wine Bar

(Later note: this event was cancelled due to lack of attendees.)

Back in March, we heard from the Thirst Wine Bar & Bistro that they are having a gluten-free wine dinner event in mid May. This would probably make a great Mother’s Day gift for anyone out there who happens to be stumped about what to get their mom. We heard from them that it’s not too late to get seating. Here is their event announcement (edited by us for brevity):

Love Wine? Gluten Intolerant or Celiac? Thirst is a gluten free-friendly restaurant (about 90% gluten free, no flour used for thickening etc)*. We have many GF customers and decided to create a fun gluten free wine dinner. Limited Seating – only 28 seats (we plan on having another dinner in the early Fall). $70 per person (all-inclusive). Ticket Pre-Purchase Required (Get Tickets Here or call 503-295-2747 during business hours)

Three Courses + Appetizer Reception
Wednesday, May 18th
6:30 PM, Thirst’s Cellar Room

Wine & Appetizer Reception
Artisanal Cheese and House Made Savory Grain Free Crackers
Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Prosciutto with Balsamic Reduction
Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms topped with Pecorino Romano
Coleman ’08 Pinot Gris

Starter Course
Seafood Bouillabaisse
Scallops, Shrimp, Clams, Crab and Salmon in a Creamy Saffron Broth
Sineann ’08 Pinot Blanc

Main Course
Bistro Steak with Mushroom Pan Sauce and Potato & Sweet Potato Gratin
Sugar Snap Peas with Cilantro Lime Sauce
Youngberg Hill ’08 Natasha Pinot Noir

Dessert
Dark Chocolate Bourbon Cake
House Made Chocolates
Mycella Blue Cheese with Honey
DavenLore ’08 Syrah Forte

* Note Thirst is not a 100% gluten free restaurant.

Thirst Wine Bar & Bistro
0315 SW Montgomery St, Portland, OR 97201
503-295-2747
info@thirstwinebar.com
www.thirstwinebar.com

Thirst Wine Bar & Bistro Gluten Free Event Coming in May

(Later Note: This event was cancelled due to lack of attendees.)

We heard from the Thirst Wine Bar & Bistro that they are having a gluten-free wine dinner event in mid May. It sounds really amazing. We haven’t had a chance to check them out yet, but now they’re on our list. Here is their event announcement (edited by us for brevity):

Love Wine? Gluten Intolerant or Celiac? Thirst is a gluten free-friendly restaurant (about 90% gluten free, no flour used for thickening etc)*. We have many GF customers and decided to create a fun gluten free wine dinner. Limited Seating – only 28 seats (we plan on having another dinner in the early Fall). $70 per person (all-inclusive). Ticket Pre-Purchase Required (Get Tickets Here or call 503-295-2747 during business hours)

Three Courses + Appetizer Reception
Wednesday, May 18th
6:30 PM, Thirst’s Cellar Room

Wine & Appetizer Reception
Artisanal Cheese and House Made Savory Grain Free Crackers
Blue Cheese Stuffed Dates Wrapped in Prosciutto with Balsamic Reduction
Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms topped with Pecorino Romano
Coleman ’08 Pinot Gris

Starter Course
Seafood Bouillabaisse
Scallops, Shrimp, Clams, Crab and Salmon in a Creamy Saffron Broth
Sineann ’08 Pinot Blanc

Main Course
Bistro Steak with Mushroom Pan Sauce and Potato & Sweet Potato Gratin
Sugar Snap Peas with Cilantro Lime Sauce
Youngberg Hill ’08 Natasha Pinot Noir

Dessert
Dark Chocolate Bourbon Cake
House Made Chocolates
Mycella Blue Cheese with Honey
DavenLore ’08 Syrah Forte

* Note Thirst is not a 100% gluten free restaurant.

Thirst Wine Bar & Bistro
0315 SW Montgomery St, Portland, OR 97201
503-295-2747
info@thirstwinebar.com
www.thirstwinebar.com

Restaurant Review: Pastini Pastaria Redux

We reviewed Pastini about two years ago when I first started this blog, and it was kind of a disaster. I was just now writing an email to someone where I told them about how I hate giving bad reviews. I just naturally want everyone to do well. At the same time, when we have a bad experience at a restaurant, we have to be honest, and I try to make sure that I am specific about what went wrong with the hope that the owner will be able to fix it. Although I doubt that I can claim credit for the improvements at Pastini since we last visited, they definitely took care of my two main complaints.

Gluten Free Flag at Pastini Pastaria

When you get a plate of gluten-free pasta at Pastini Pastaria, they bring it out with a little flag to mark that it’s gluten-free. That’s awesome! That way everyone knows that it’s gluten free and you won’t end up with food getting mixed up, or bread being added to the dish. Our other main complaint with the restaurant in our last review was that the pasta had been overcooked. They definitely solved that problem as well. Another score.

Pastini Pastaria cocktail

In case you’ve missed Pastini, they are an Italian restaurant chain based in Portland. They have four locations in Portland, and a location in each of: Beaverton, Tigard, Bend, and Corvallis. We went to the Pastini on NE Broadway near 14th. Check here for a map of locations. Here is their gluten-free “menu,” which is more like a page that talks about their gluten free pasta and Tiramisu.

The restaurant is popular. We went there with our friends, who go there a lot. Pastini has a lot going for it. It’s a little family, a little upscale, and a little casual. They have a full bar. It’s got a happy energy. It’s a popular place so there’s usually a little wait before you get seated.

Pastini Gluten Free Ziti

Sienna got the Capellini Primavera, which is a simple dish with zucchini, mushrooms, sweet peas, roasted peppers, broccolini, fresh basil and garlic. She got it with gluten-free Ziti pasta and had them add chicken.

Pastini Gluten-free spagetti

I decided to get the gluten-free Spaghetti with Marinara, which is my all-around favorite way to eat pasta. Our friends got the Ziti Vegetariano, which is pasta with zucchini, tomatoes and yellow squash tossed with olive oil, garlic, tomato pesto, fresh herbs, and Kalamata olives. All of our dishes were delicious. The pasta was cooked just right, and the sauces were rich and flavorful.

Our waiter was very helpful and knowledgeable. As we mentioned in our past review, Pastini takes basic steps to prevent cross-contamination, like boiling the gluten-free pasta in different water. Our dishes came out in a reasonable amount of time and everything was the right temperature. Now I just need to talk them into making the meatballs gluten-free!

We didn’t sample the gluten-free Tiramisu, but our waiter told us that it’s a very popular item. I, for one, love and miss Tiramisu, so it’s only a matter of time before we give it a try. But we had other dessert plans that night. For the vegetarians and vegans out there, you’ll be happy to know that there are a lot of vegetarian options, and the menu is also rather vegan-friendly.

We’ll have to go back sometime soon to solidify our feelings about Pastini, but this visit left us with a much more positive feeling about the place.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 2 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Pastini Pastaria
www.pastini.com
Multiple Locations

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free Italian restaurant in town? Have you been to Pastini Pastaria? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Chutney’s Indian Cuisine in Vancouver, WA

Thanks to the readers who left comments on Chutney’s comment page linked from our Gluten Free Restaurant List, we’d heard some about their food before we managed to get there. Even without diet restrictions, getting good Indian food has been a real problem for us in Portland, because we’re both used to the really amazing Indian restaurants that were available in Berkeley and San Francisco. We’re both big fans of Vindalho down in SE. Their food is really amazing, but Vindalho is kind of… not the kind of Indian food we’re used to in restaurants. We were excited to try the food at Chutney’s and finally got a chance this weekend. As a bonus, the restaurant is really close to the Regal Cascade 16 Cinema, so we caught the 4 o’clock showing of Inception and then got ourselves some delicious gluten-free Indian food afterward.

The movie Inception was really good by the way. You should check it out! As for the restaurant, we are happy to recommend it. It’s in a quiet little strip mall. The place was about three quarters full of very obviously happy people when we walked in. The decor makes the restaurant look very new, and there is a warm vibe to the place. We had water brought almost instantly, and our waitress was very helpful. She was almost a little too attentive, and made us feel a little rushed. At one point, we got a little worried because she said “gluten-free means no wheat, right?” which is only part right, but otherwise she was able to answer all of our questions. Besides that, were very happy with how attentive and friendly the staff was.

Gluten-free Vegetable Pakoras

We started with the Mixed Vegetable Pakoras, which are described as “Mixed vegetable fritters dipped in mildly seasoned batter and fried.” These tasted a lot like Samosas, so those of you out there who miss Samosas should check this dish out (sadly, their Samosas are not gluten-free). The Pakoras were so delicious that it took an effort for us to not devour them all instantly.

For entrees, we got the South Indian Dal and Chicken Korma. South Indian Dal is described as “Tomato lentil dal in ginger, garlic South Indian spices.” This is a dish made primarily with yellow lentils and chunks of tomatoes. Dal is one of my favorite things to eat, and we were both very happy with this dish. If we had a complaint, it would be that it was a little watery, which is mostly OK, because you’re just going to mix it up with some rice anyway. The Chicken Korma is described simply as “Chicken cooked in coconut sauce.” This dish was also really good. Like the rest of the food we had at Chutney’s the flavors were complex and delicious.

Dal and Chicken Korma - Gluten-free Indian Food

Our only other complaint of the night was that we ordered vegetables with our chicken and they forgot them. On the plus side, when we mentioned this to our server, it was taken care of very promptly. Other than this, our food arrived in a reasonable amount of time, and it was all served warm. Later on in our meal the host stopped by and we had a conversation about rice and food. Her name was Usha (if you’re reading this, we hope we’re spelling this right!!) We asked if they had brown rice available and she mentioned that they can do special things if we were to call ahead. That was nice to know.

Chutney’s was awarded the Best of Citysearch- Portland Metro Area for Indian food in 2009 and it’s plain to see why. Chutney’s is also sitting at number 3 on Urban Spoon’s best 100 list for Portland. Chutney’s is open 7 days a week for dinner, and also does catering. They’re locally owned and operated, and also gluten-free friendly. The food is great, so we say check them out!

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Chutney’s Fine Indian Cuisine
chutneysvancouver.com
3000 SE 164th Ave, Vancouver, WA. / 360.254.7254

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free friendly place in Vancouver WA? Got a favorite dish at Chutney’s? What is a donut shop doing at #1 on the Urban Spoon 100 Best Restaurants in Portland list? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Beaches Restaurant

Beaches Restaurant is in Vancouver WA. We went there after taking a day trip over to Beacon Rock in Washington. Beacon Rock is far enough to make it a “trip” but close enough for people who didn’t manage to get an early start on the day. If you ever find yourself there, be sure to climb to the top. It’s got a great view! On our way back, we debated where to grab some dinner, and decided to consult our own Restaurant List. Because we were going West on the Washington side, we decided to dine in Vancouver. Beaches Restaurant came up.

We used to have Beaches on our gluten-free pizza list but they stopped carrying gluten-free pizza. This ended up being a disappointment because we were in the mood for some. Although they do not have a gluten-free menu, Beaches does make points with us for having a kind of informal printed-out guide to things you can get there. They are a bar and grill, and have a number of dishes that are easy to modify and make gluten-free. I decided to get a grilled chicken sandwich without the bun. Sienna got the Mandarin Chicken Rice Bowl (and I don’t think the sauce for this was gluten-free).

Beaches Mandarin Chicken Rice Bowl

Beaches Restaurant Grilled Chicken and Fries

The staff at Beaches was friendly, and they were happy to answer my questions about how things were prepared. The place was packed and everyone there seemed happy to be there. We got seated pretty quickly. Our food came out in a reasonable amount of time and was a good temperature. It became apparent, though, that I got the safe dish. Grilled chicken at a grill. How can you go wrong? The grilled chicken was indeed rather good. Sadly, Sienna thought that her rice bowl was lackluster. My fries were a little disappointing, being a little soft and less than fresh.

If we had gone to a small grill in town and spent under ten bucks for an entree, we would have felt pretty good about the meal, but entrees at Beaches start at around ten and go higher than that. For that many clams, we tend to look for a little better quality. For the same price, a person would do much better to hit Deschutes Brewery here in town (see our review). Sorry Beaches. They do seem to be rather popular with the locals, so maybe there’s something more to it that we missed, or maybe we went on an off night.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free Friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

Beaches Restaurant & Bar
beachesrestaurantandbar.com
1919 SE Columbia River Dr., Vancouver, Washington 98661 / 360.699.1592

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free friendly place in Vancouver WA? Have you eaten at Beaches and disagree with our opinion? Let us know in the comments!

Restaurant Review: Chez Machin

We discovered Chez Machine Creperie thanks to a great Groupon discount (you could get a $25 coupon for $11). Sienna checked out the restaurant online and found that they offer gluten-free crepes, so it was a done deal. The restaurant is a tiny place a couple of blocks from Powell’s on Hawthorne. It’s really so small that a person could drive right past it. I have to report up front that they cook the gluten-free crepes on the same surface as the normal ones, so if you’re extremely sensitive you should definitely pass on the crepes. On the plus side, our waitress was very friendly and was happy to discuss what was gluten-free and what was not.

Inside, Chez Machin is made up like a cross between a cafe and an Italian restaurant. I think that they were going for French, but the place felt more Italian to me. Maybe it was the checked table cloths. When we went, the place was packed full of happy people and had something of a laid back cafe atmosphere. The crepes here are the more thick kind, rather than the more thin kind that some will be used to. The last time I talked about crepes on this blog, I mentioned that I’m not really a crepe-loving kind of person. To me, especially when they are thick, crepes end up seeming a lot like a “wrap.” Sometimes you might want something like flat bread around your food, and sometimes it’s just a distraction.

Chez Machin Gluten Free French Onion Soup

For an appetizer, at the recommendation of our waitress, we opted to have the French Onion Soup, which can be made gluten-free. We both thought it was very good. Make sure you order it gluten-free, because otherwise it comes with croutons in the soup.

Gluten Free Crepe at Chez Machin

Like most crepe places, Chez Machin has sweet crepes and savory crepes. On the savory side, they have vegetable crepes, meat crepes, and seafood crepes. I got La Percheronne, which is Black Forest ham, brie, avocado, mushrooms, and crème fraîche. Sienna got L’Allemande, which is bacon, pan sauteed potatoes, caramelized onions, scallions, Ementaller Swiss cheese and crème fraîche. (On a side note, their béchamel sauce is not gluten-free. They start it with a rue.) All the ingredients were fresh and the crepes were hot when they came to the table, but neither of us was blown away by our dishes. Once again, that might be in part because we’re just not that into savory crepes. I think the next time we go there, I might try one of their entrees instead of a savory crepe.

Gluten Free Sweet Crepe - Chez Machin Portland Oregon

On to the sweet crepes. I got La Mont Blanc, which has local berries, chocolate, and whipped cream. Sienna tried La Compote, which is made with cooked apples and cinnamon with caramel sauce. As with the savory crepes, all the ingredients were good. They got my order a little wrong, but fixed it very promptly. We both really enjoyed our dessert crepes. I really think that crepes are more suited for desserts. Sienna and I had a short conversation about the nature of crepes and why it would be that they seem to work better with sweets. Sienna’s theory is that sweets are more flavorful and so they don’t get as dulled by the crepe. With savory crepes it does seem that the flavors can get lost.

Gluten Free Leftover Box - Chez Machine Portland OR

Our newest adventure with crepes ended well, and we both agreed that our experience at Chez Machin was favorable enough that we would be interested in going back sometime soon. Some notes:

  • Go to Chez Machin on a night where you want to slow down and relax. We thought that the service was a little slow. But if you’re not in a rush, you can just sit back and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere and do some people watching.
  • Plan to split your crepes. We ended up with leftovers, and could very easily have split one savory and one sweet crepe between the two of us.
  • The coffee and tea that we had were both very good.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Unsafe Depending on Your Level of Sensitivity.
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: $1 more for gluten-free crepe.

Chez Machin Creperie
www.chezmachincreperie.com
3553 SE Hawthorne Blvd / 503-736-9381

We want to know: Do you know of any other crepe places in town that do gluten-free crepes? What is up with the person who writes the descriptions for everything on Groupon? Are they crazy or what? Do you have any opinion about sweet -vs- savory crepes? Let us know!

Restaurant Review: The Berlin Inn

We had heard about the Berlin Inn from both our Berlin Inn comments page and a friend, and thus we decided to give it a try last week. The restaurant is located in a house at SE 12th and Powell. This is one of the areas of town that we don’t get to much, but now that we know about this place, we’ll be visiting the neighborhood a lot more.

As could be expected from a restaurant named “The Berlin Inn,” the cuisine is German. Neither of us was very familiar with German food and on the way there, we speculated about what they would serve. I had two German roommates briefly in college and I remember them eating a lot of salami and making Beef Stroganoff (of course I only remember them doing this once, so it may have been a fluke). So when we got to the restaurant, it was obvious that a little education was in order. Luckily, our waitress was extremely helpful. The Berlin Inn serves different kinds of Fondue, various pancakes, sandwiches, salads, wursts, schnitzels, and some specialties like Sauerbraten, Swabian Pork Spareribs, and Chicken Cordon Blue. (They also serve breakfast.)

Here are some useful things to know: Schnitzel is a dish where something has been flattened, breaded, and cooked (fortunately, they can make any of their schnitzel gluten-free by breading with potato flour). Wursts are sausages. The Berlin Inn doesn’t have a separate gluten-free menu, but instead their menu has a page that serves as a guide to what on the menu is safe. You can check their menu our on their website.

Best of the Wurst and Schnitzel

After some debating, we decided to get the Best of the Wurst & Schnitzel platter. Some changes had to be made to make it gluten-free. As mentioned above, the Schnitzel was prepared gluten-free. The platter normally comes with spatzle noodles, which are not gluten-free and which we substituted with crispy potato pancakes. Going gluten-free also limits your sauce choices to a Dijon cream sauce. We weren’t complaining, though, because the sauce was awesome. So we had a Spicy Beer Sausage wurst, Alder-smoked Bratwurst, Chicken Schnitzel, grilled bratkartoffel (fried potatoes with vegetables), potato pancakes, sauerkraut & sweet-n-sour red cabbage.

Our waitress was very familiar with gluten-free issues, and everyone there was very friendly. The restaurant has a cozy atmosphere. Our food came out promptly and everything was warm enough. All was delicious, especially the wursts. Also amazing were the desserts. They have an enormous dessert tray and have a couple of gluten-free desserts. They make a cashew cream torte that is very much like a sweet lemony cheesecake. We also had a molten chocolate cake. Check out these pictures.

Cashew Cream Torte

Chocolate Lava Cake

We both thought the torte was good, although I think we would have liked it more if it had been a little less sweet. The molten chocolate cake was really incredible, though. It’s the kind of cake where the outside is crunchy and the inside is still kind of gooey. It’s amazingly chocolaty.

We really enjoyed our meal at the Berlin Inn. It was a Friday night and we were looking for something different. The Berlin Inn fit the bill perfectly. I’m pretty sure that if you’re familiar with German food, that you’ll like the food there, but if you’re not, you should really check it out! Did I mention that they have gluten-free beer? They have gluten-free beer!

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-free friendly but ask questions.
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same.

The Berlin Inn
http://www.berlininn.com
3131 SE 12th at Powell / 503.236.6761

Restaurant Review: The Radio Room on Alberta

Reader Allyson notified us of gluten-free options at the Radio Room on Alberta, so we went to check it out. Their dinner menu has a number of gluten free items, but their brunch menu does not, so make sure you go there for dinner. Besides a regular dining area, the Radio Room also has a lounge and an upper deck.

The radio room itself has more of an upscale bar atmosphere, sort of like Echo on MLK. The decor is half ’50s diner and half Interview Magazine. When we visited, they had various old school punk and post-punk playing at a comfortable volume. So, the Sex Pistols, Ramones, and other such bands. They have a very long cocktail list, and quite a long menu. The gluten-free offerings can be listed rather quickly. They are: Bacon Wrapped Prawns, Cab Calamari, Radio Wings, Baby Artichoke Salad, English Beet Salad, Mashed Potatoes Side with Gravy, Ahi Tuna Tacos, Stuffed Chayote Squash, and for dessert, a chocolate mousse dubbed “Chocolate City.” After some discussion, we learned that the Caesar Salad could be made gluten-free by omitting the croutons.

Our waitress was very nice and knowledgeable. She answered all of our questions about the menu and in the case of the Caesar Salad, came out with a ingredient list, which was very reassuring. She also informed us that they have a dedicated fryer for their gluten-free fried items, which is really awesome.

Although our tipster, Allyson, recommended the Ahi Tacos and English Beet Salad, we decided to eschew convention and get a Caesar salad and two openers instead of any of the entrees. This is in part because we both love bacon and also because I’m a man on a mission to find some good gluten-free calamari.

The Caesar salad, as you can see, had a heck of a lot of cheese on it. While the lettuce was fresh and the olives were tasty, we felt that the salad was a little too dry and were wishing that they put more lemon juice and some anchovies in it. The Bacon Wrapped Prawns were interesting. They came with a raspberry-chipotle dipping sauce. I thought that this was a very novel combination, but we both agreed that the sauce didn’t go very well with the bacon for some reason. Maybe it was just us, though. I could see someone really getting into the combo. Sienna felt that the prawns were undercooked, because the texture was a little gristly and springy. The Calamari was good. It was way better than the Calamari at the Hawthorne Fish House and came with a very nice tartar sauce. At the same time, like other gluten-free Calamari we’ve had, it was a little tasteless. Sienna commented that someone should try making a gluten-free beer battered Calamari.

As you can probably tell by the above, we ended up feeling like the Radio Room’s gluten-free offerings were good but not awesome. We did end up feeling like it would be a great venue if you wanted to go out drinking with a bunch of friends and get some bar food. For that purpose we would definitely recommend it.

We want to know: Do you know of any other bars with gluten-free menu items? Have you eaten at the Radio Room? What did you think? Let us know!

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Friendly But Ask Questions
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Radio Room
http://www.radioroompdx.com/
1101 NE Alberta Street / 503.287.2346

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