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

Restaurant Review: Cafe Rio

Cafe Rio from outside

Editor’s note: We all went to Cafe Rio together, and our friend Lorna Nakell spontaneously wrote this review about our experience. (P.S. We try to mark when restaurants are vegan/vegetarian friendly, and this one very clearly is. Also, the espresso drinks that we had were awesome!) Thanks Lorna!

Café Rio is a hip enough sounding name for a Portland eatery—but don’t be deceived. Immediately upon entering this small establishment, friends and I were disappointed. It seemed that the owner couldn’t decide between having a sit-down or take-out restaurant, so they went for something in-between—not a cart, but also not a full dining establishment either—a “cartaurant.” Although there were five in our party, there was only one table—in the whole place (okay, it was actually two smaller tables that we had to fit together), and that table would only accommodate four of us. My son was left to make himself comfortable in an upholstered chair (complete with attached swivel table) that looked like it was teleported in from an 80’s style hotel lobby.

The menu appeared simple enough for their small kitchen set-up and featured many variations of their specialty dish, GF waffles. In addition, they offered scrambled eggs with your choice of toppings. At first we were afraid that they would be microwaving the eggs, but were pleased to find out that they actually had two small sauté pans at the ready.

Dishes we ordered included two different egg scrambles, three different kinds of waffles, a scone (brought in from an outside baking co.), coffees and a fresh squeezed orange juice. This is what happened: Orders for our table came a little too staggered. We were surprised and saddened when our food was served on paper plates looking like it was prepared by my seven-year-old son (no offense, Calder).

Scrambled Eggs

Sorry for the image quality - but...

The egg dishes came without sides of toast or garnishes of any kind. Although the sausage in mine was tasty, the eggs were crumbly and they skimped on the spinach leaves. The waffles, on their own, ended up being pretty tasty and a good consistency. But, initially, we had a rough go at it because in addition to having to navigate waffle cutting with plastic utensils, we were informed that they didn’t have any butter or jam, but would we like some coconut oil instead (Ummm, why would I want that? Do YOU use that?).

Waffles with Banana and Nuts

Bottom line: Friendly and accommodating service, airport style presentation and atmosphere. Although I want to be encouraging to any dining establishment that is trying to incorporate GF food into their menu, sometimes all the pieces of a restaurant just don’t fit together the way they should. So, in regards to Café Rio, I have to say that unless you live in their hood and are too tired from partying the night before to drag out ye ol’ waffle iron and whip up some Bob’s Redmill pancake mix (which, by the way, is what they use), by all means give them a try. If not, there are so many other great restaurants that serve GF goods these days, you shouldn’t go out of your way to visit Café Rio.

News Bites: GIG Pancake Breakfast this Weekend

Gig Pancake Breakfast at Lingonberries

The Portland Metro Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) is having the first of two pancake breakfasts this Saturday (the 17th) at Lingonberries Market in Vancouver. This weekend they will be using mixes from Bob’s Red Mill, Laurel’s Sweet Treats, and Kinnikinnick. Dairy free options will be available. The cost is $5 per person – $12 max per family. (I can’t say for sure as of this writing, but I can only imagine that the proceeds from this event will go to support the Portland GIG.) I wish that I could attend, but I’m still working on losing weight and can’t do the maple syrup! Here’s the relevant info:

Where: Lingonberries Market – 6300 NE 117th Ave – Vancouver WA 98662
When: Saturday, July 17 9:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Contact: christina@lingonberriesmarket.com or call (360) 260-4411

The next GIG Pancake Breakfast is scheduled for August 21. We’ll try to remember to give everybody notice the week before.

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

Product Review: Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix

We’re getting close to our one year anniversary of Gluten Free Portland dot Org, and a lot of our long-term readers will know by now that I love pancakes and am on a one-man search for the best gluten-free pancakes in the world. Right now, my preferred gluten-free pancakes are the Trader Joe’s frozen kind, which we reviewed here. We also tried the Trader Joe’s mix, reviewed here, but I liked the pre-made ones better, mostly because the mix doesn’t have much flavor. Over the year we’ve received a lot of comments from people that we should try Pamela’s Gluten-Free Baking & Pancake Mix. So we finally did it.

Pamela's Gluten-free Baking & Pancake Mix

If you have trouble getting Pamela’s mixes at your local store, you can get them on Amazon. Here’s a list of the ingredients: Brown Rice Flour; White Rice Flour; Cultured Buttermilk; Natural Almond Meal; Tapioca Starch; Sweet Rice Flour; Potato Starch; Grainless & Aluminum-Free Baking Powder (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Potato Starch); Baking Soda; Sea Salt; Xanthan Gum. Those of you who watch for allergens in ingredient lists will have caught the buttermilk and almond meal. Their cross-contamination statement states that this mix is manufactured on shared equipment that is also used with tree nuts, soy, eggs, and milk. Seeing as how we’re talking about the ingredients, their serving-size (two 4-inch pancakes) contains about 390 mg of sodium. That compares well to the frozen Trader Joe’s, which have 430 mg in a serving.

Mix it up

Making pancakes with this mix is ridiculously easy. Depending on the size of your skillet, it can be a good idea to pre-heat the skillet. You’ll want it hot enough that drops of water will sizzle, but not so hot that they jump. Put the Pamela’s gluten-free mix in a mixing bowl and add eggs, oil, and water. I also added a half teaspoon of vanilla. Obviously, you’ll want to add the water last, and do the thing where you add most of it in and then mix it up to make sure your mix doesn’t get too watery. Your mix should be wet enough that it pours, but thick enough that it’ll hold together when you pour it on the skillet.

gluten-free pancake!

It is in the very nature of pancakes that your first batch won’t be good. I always cook only one pancake first to make sure the temperature is right. If the skillet is too hot, the insides won’t cook. If it’s too cold, the outsides won’t brown properly and the pancakes will be dry.

Steaming Hot Pancakes

Gluten-free pancakes!

Gluten-Free Blueberry Pancakes!

I also made some blueberry pancakes. By now you’re probably like “Yes Yes Dave, but how did they taste?” I thought they were good. They cook up fluffy and moist. If someone were to cook them for me, I would eat them happily. Sienna didn’t like them much and said that they had a strange aftertaste. She said that they tasted like ashes. Maybe we were expecting them to be really amazing because of all the positive comments we’ve read. It’s pretty clear that this mix is rather popular with the gluten-free crowd. I would say that the Pamela’s mix is better than the Trader Joe’s gluten-free mix, but the finished pancakes aren’t as good as the Trader Joe’s frozen packaged pancakes.

Freeze them pancakes

Speaking of frozen pancakes, I like to make a large batch of pancakes and then freeze them to eat later. They reheat very well.

I think that, ultimately, if you miss pancakes and want to make some from a mix, I would recommend giving Pamela’s a try. From the disclosures on the package, it looks like there isn’t a chance of gluten cross-contamination, which is nice. The recipe is easy, and besides just pancakes, the package includes recipes and directions for making waffles, crepes, muffins, chocolate chip cookies, and also for breading chicken or fish. (For breading chicken and fish, we really love using garbanzo and fava bean flour with pepper and paprika – see our recipe here).

We’ve been having a lot of good luck using some of the various gluten-free flour mixes available on the Internet. Maybe it’s time for me to start looking for some.

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

Times we have visited: 1 (So your mileage may vary.)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: about 45% more (based on prices of wheat-based mixes on Amazon)

Check out other Pamela’s Mixes on Amazon.

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.
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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

Gluten-Free Donuts/Doughnut Recipe!!!

I didn’t mention it at the time, but last Thursday was my birthday and as a present to me, Sienna made some delicious gluten-free buttermilk donuts. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve had a donut, but during my donut-eating days I became quite the connoisseur. In fact, that’s one of my complaints about Portland – there are a lot of bad donut places. I’ve heard that there’s a place on NE Sandy that makes good donuts, and of course there is also Voodoo Donuts, whose donuts I like. Of course, sadly, this is all academic at this point.

Future gluten-free donuts

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite donuts is the plain donut. I’m also very partial to glazed buttermilk donuts. If you like these kinds of doughnuts, then I have the recipe for you! The recipe is here: Amazing Gluten-Free Buttermilk Donuts.

That's right: gluten-free donut holes

As you can probably guess from the name, there is buttermilk in the recipe. There are also eggs, some spices, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, and xantha gum. The flour mix is made with white rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, and tapioca starch.

Frying doughnuts

The recipe lists a temperature for the oil, and that’s important. Too high and you burn your donuts before they’re done inside. Sienna used a kitchen thermometer, and found that to get the right temperature, she had to turn our burner up to low-medium. She also found that when she dropped the doughnuts in, the temperature went down ten degrees.

Finished Gluten-Free Donuts

These babies look good. And they were awesome! The only thing we thought could use adjusting was the sweetness. They barely need any frosting or sugar to make them taste good, and are sweet enough just by themselves, which is how we ate them!

For more amazing-looking gluten-free recipes from this same chef, check out her website, Gluten-Free Bay.

We want to know: Do you have a favorite gluten-free doughnut recipe? The last time I was at Whole Foods I noticed that they had gluten-free donuts. Have any of our readers had one? What did you think? Let us know in the comments!

Times we have visited: 1 (So your mileage may vary.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same (except that gluten-free flour is expensive!)