Petunia’s Pies and Pastries Gluten-Free Vegan Bakery

We’ve been meaning to review Petunia’s Pies for months now. Literally for months. So a couple of weeks ago we got up early on a Saturday morning and drove over to the PSU Farmers Market, where Petunia’s has a stand. It also bears mentioning that Petunia’s goodies can be found at Whole Foods markets, Blossoming Lotus, Cloud Seven Cafe, Ruby Jewel Scoop Shop, Spoke Coffee, Mississippi Pizza (our review here) & Seven Virtues Coffee (who we mentioned recently).

gluten-free baked goodies at Petunia's Stand

Here is the start of a fine Saturday morning. Compared to New Cascadia’s cart, which is a stone’s throw down the sidewalk, Petunia’s is more about the sweet goodies. In the case this morning were brownies, muffins, cookies, pound cake, bundt cake, pie, cupcakes, cakes, and donuts.

Gluten Free Cookies and Pound Cake at Petunia's

Letting the camera do the talking…

Gluten-free donuts

Gluten Free Donut

We also got a box full of items. Here they are, item by item:

Candy Girl Cookie - This is sort of like a fortified chocolate chip cookie. It has other various items in it, the most noticeable of which is raisins. I really like these cookies. They are crunchy/chewy in the right places. The added adult cookie ingredients supply extra interest. In fact, as of now, Petunia’s has my vote for the best gluten-free cookie in Portland.

Lemon Blueberry Poundcake – Because of the density and texture, it’s more like a slice of muffin with some glaze on top than pound cake. I really like the flavors, though.

Chocolate Almond Coconut Power Bar – This is something like a rice crispy bar with chocolate, dried cranberries, almonds, and coconut. This item was not our favorite, but I don’t think that we’re really the intended audience. So if you’re a fan of this sort of treat, don’t listen to anything I have to say about it.

Raspberry Lemon Glazed Cake Donut – Both of us were disappointed by this item. I found the donut to be too thick, both in texture and in size. With donuts, I’m looking for that unmistakable it-must-be-bad-for-you cake donut flavor. These had a little of that, but to me they seemed overcomplicated. (Side note – Looking for donuts? We featured gluten-free donuts a long time ago, but they weren’t also vegan.)

Bumble Berry Pie – We both loved this pie. The pie had the exact right everything: flavor, texture, crumb, crust, sour, sweet. Delicious! Awesome! Amazing.

gluten-free carrot zucchini muffin

Carrot Zucchini Muffin – Will you look at this muffin? Looks good, huh? This muffin was like a love letter to muffins. It was delicious. Besides the pie, this was our favorite item from Petunia’s. It was light, airy, crumbly, and not too sweet. I’m kind of a fan of zucchini muffins, and this was easily the best one I’ve had in years.

I forgot to mention that the people at the stand were all really friendly and helpful, on both times we visited. Besides the difficultly of preparing good baked goods without gluten, Petunia’s also delivers them without animal products. I’m really hoping that they follow the lead of New Cascadia Traditional Bakery and Crave Bake Shop and open a retail operation somewhere. Maybe in the NorthEast, within walking distance from our house?

We want to know: Have you had any of Petunia’s other pies? Any other favorite stands at the Farmers Market? Let us know in the comments.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Facility
Times we have visited: 2 (so we feel good about our score.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Gluten Free Friendly Bakery: White Rabbit in Aurora

We’ve been trading emails with a couple of bakeries around the Portland Metro area, and recently we were headed through Aurora, so we stopped by for some sandwiches and picked up some baked goods. Since we usually show up at places incognito, it needs to be mentioned here that White Rabbit knew we were coming. I like having this kind of experience, because we get to hear the person’s story. We took the goodies over to my friend Noah’s house and had a taste testing with Noah, his wife Lorna, his son Calder, Sienna, and me. So this time we were able to get a kid’s perspective on the goodies.

White Rabbit Bakery Owner, Emily Arreola

Owner Emily Arreola had originally intended to open a bakery in Portland, but when the roof of the kitchen they were renting literally fell in, they decided that maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to open the bakery in Aurora. For those of you who are scratching your heads over where Aurora is, its South of Wilsonville, and it’s pretty tiny.

White Rabbit does bake wheat products, but they take precautions to prevent cross-contamination. They try to isolate the areas where they use different products when possible, and thoroughly clean equipment and surfaces when they can’t. On their display case, they have a disclaimer that they do cook with wheat, nuts, eggs, dairy, and soy, and that they don’t recommend their products for the severely allergic. None of the gluten free folks who did taste testing with their baked goods experienced any problems.

gluten free tuna salad sandwich

During our visit, Sienna and I sat down for sandwiches, and had some lattes. The lattes were good, and the sandwiches were stellar. We both had tuna salad sandwiches. Sorry about the bad photo. I wanted to show what the bread on these sandwiches looked like. That’s right – it’s like Focaccia bread! Fluffy, kind of olive-oil flavored, delicious bread that made me worry that I was eating wheat bread. Wow!

gluten free bread

Besides the bread for our sandwiches, White Rabbit gave us some other bread to sample. The texture and flavor of this bread is exactly like most of the gluten-free breads we make with our bread machine. Like basically all gluten-free breads, it really needs to be toasted before you eat it. The bread has good flavor and a great crunch when toasted. I ended up wishing that it was a little less dense, but Sienna really loved this bread. We tried it toasted with butter, and also used it as a base for open faced hamburgers. It easily beats any of the store-bought breads I’ve purchased recently (Whole Foods brand and Rudi’s).

Gluten free baked goods

On to the baked goods. As you can see, we got quite a range of items. Here are notes for them:

Lavender Shortbread Cookies – Obviously for those who like lavender. Best gluten free cookies ever. EVER. They are crisp, and have the perfect amount of lavender, so that it doesn’t overpower the taste of the cookie.

Cinnamon Sugar Donuts – While we were eating our sandwiches, a man and his little daughter came in looking for some of their chocolate glazed gluten-free donuts. Apparently, they’re awesome. We all liked the cinnamon doughnut. It was donutty, and close to the real thing.

Chocolate Chip Oat Scone - The adults were luke-warm on the chocolate chip scone, but Calder thought it was great. We thought that the scone part was good, but not so much the chocolate chip part of it.

Brownie – Everybody loved the brownie. It is nearly the perfect consistency and is deliciously chocolaty. We enthusiastically gave this item an eight out of ten, and then promptly forgot to rate anything else.

Chocolate Cookie – We all liked it. It was properly gooey inside, crunchy outside, and had good flavor. We all felt like it needed something. Maybe some powdered sugar on top? Maybe baked thinner?

Fruit Bar in the Front left there – We thought that although the flavor was good, but it seemed undercooked.

Raspberry Orange Sour Cream Muffin – Another universally liked item. The muffin is light and fluffy, the texture is perfect, the flavors intriguing, and the lemony frosting is perfect on it.

Lemon Bars (with raspberries and plain) – The lemon bars are properly tart, which we loved. We all wished that the crust was a little more crisp, but these were also a winner, especially the bar with raspberries.

Gluten Free Banana Cream Pie

Banana Cream Pie – This was Noah’s favorite. All the adults were trying to figure out what the crust is made of. It’s really quite remarkable. Banana cream pies are usually more custard-like, but this pie is more on the whipped cream end of the spectrum, and is almost insubstantial.

gluten-free quiche

We ended up being really impressed with White Rabbit’s baked goods. Check out this page for a more comprehensive list of their products. The clear winners were the banana cream pie, the Raspberry Orange Sour Cream Muffin, the lemon bars, and the lavender cookies. Sienna’s favorite was the gluten-free doughnut. She also had a slice of their quiche, and she found it necessary to drop an f-bomb when describing how much she liked it. Did we mention that they make gluten-free granola? White Rabbit does and it’s good. I’d say that the worst thing about the White Rabbit Bakery is that it’s a little bit out of the way, down south of Wilsonville. If you find yourself in the neighborhood, though, we recommend that you stop by for a delicious sandwich and a treat.

We want to know: Anywhere else to get gluten-free donuts? Have you eaten at the White Rabbit Bakery? 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: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

White Rabbit Bakery
www.whiterabbitbakery.com
21368 Hwy 99e, Aurora OR, 97002/ 503.267.9044

Gluten Free Sandwiches at Seven Virtues on NE Glisan

Gina, who writes the Portland gluten-free blog Gluten-Free Gourmand, posted a review of the gluten-free sandwiches at Seven Virtues on NE Glisan at 60th. We visited and have to agree that their sandwiches are awesome! We didn’t want to steal Gina’s thunder, so that’s it for our review. You should check out her review, here: Seven Virtues Serves GF Sandwiches

Oh! And they have really good coffee and espresso drinks. And gluten-free goodies from Petunia’s.

Seven Virtues
sevenvirtuespdx.com
5936 Northeast Glisan Street Portland, OR 97213 503.236.7763

Restaurant Review: Natural Selection on Alberta

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

Natural Selection Menu

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

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

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

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

Gluten free sweet pea soup

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

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

Abalone Mushroom on Polenta - gluten free

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

Asparagus and new potato hash

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

rice pudding strawberry consomme

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

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

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

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

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

Coming Gluten Free Events

The summer is finally kind of showing some enthusiasm for showing up. Maybe. Not that I’m feeling impatient or anything. The good news is that there are some great Portland gluten free events coming up soon. Here’s a quick run-down:

June 11 – Portland Metro GIG

Quick reminder that the Portland Metro GIG meeting will be this Saturday.

When: June 11 – 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Speaker: Rudi’s GF bakery
Where:
Legacy Emanuel Hospital
2801 N Gantenbein Ave.
Portland, OR. 07227-1623
(503)413-2200
Room E-1075/1077

June 12 – Rudi’s Summer Road Trip BBQ in Lake Oswego

Mentioned here a month or so ago, it’s coming this Sunday. From Kyra at Crave Bake Shop:

Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery is doing a summer road trip and I’ve been helping them coordinate a GF BBQ on Sunday June 12th at Millenium Park in Lake Oswego. It is free and all ages and open to the public and there will be live music and lots of lunchy foods, like BBQ gf hotdogs and hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches etc (from them) and desserts (from me). And did I mention that it’s FREE? we’re finalizing the details, so I’ll be sure to get back to you, but it looks like the event will be from 11:30-1:30 PM on the 12th. Flyer to come!

June 12 Midway Farm Event

This is more of a “gluten-free friendly” event than a full-on gluten free event, but if you are interested in visiting a farm this weekend, this one is for you.

Sunday, June 12th 12pm – 3pm Enjoy a summer day on the farm! Stroll around visiting all the chickens, ducks, geese & turkeys. Meet our famous family milk cow Heidi & Dutch Chocolate our Welsh pony. This is a family fun day at Midway Farms. Face painting will be the rage along with a coloring contest. Midway Farms is located midway between Albany and Corvallis on Highway 20. For more information visit our website www.midwayfarmsoregon.com or contact us at info@midwayfarmsoregon.com

June 21 – Petunia’s Gluten Free & Vegan Bakery Class

We’ve been trading emails with Petunia’s and plan to check them out soon, I promise! In the meantime, you can find their gluten free goods at the Saturday at the PSU Farmer’s Market 8:30-2. If a class is more your speed, Lisa Clark of Petunia’s will be teaching one on June 21st. Here are details:

Tuesday June 21st from 6-9pm @ Whole Foods in the Pearl we will hold a Summer Desserts Baking Class featuring fresh Oregon  berries used in three different amazing desserts to wow your friends and family with. You must sign up and pay through the Guest Services counter in the store, or call today before it’s full! 503.525.4343

Summer Camp! and GIG Conference

Grain Damaged has posted a call for volunteers to help out at Summer Camp in July. And also details on an upcoming GIG conference in Orlando Florida.

Crave Bake Shop Retail Store Visit

We mentioned not too long ago that Crave Bake Shop, the makers of the best gluten-free cupcakes and desserts ever, finally opened a retail store. The bad news is that they’re all the way down in Lake Oswego. The good news is that you can go get the best gluten-free cupcakes ever. Here are photos from our visit.

We were actually delighted to find that there was a small line and that there were also people waiting for their orders to be completed. The person behind the counter was extremely friendly.

gluten free currant scones

Delicious gluten-free currant scones. These taste exactly like the real thing.

I snagged a quick shot behind the counter. They had a few items on hand, and were busy making other items while we were there. We got the distinct impression that it might be a good idea to call or email ahead if you want to order specific items. Kyra notified us that Wednesday is Angel Roll Day and Friday is Doughnut Day (with baked doughnuts!)

We got a scone, two snickerdoodle “shot” sized cupcakes, and two hot chocolate (something something we forget but they were AWESOME too) regular sized cupcakes. Here is part of their blurb about what they make:

Crave Bake Shop specializes in gourmet gluten-free and made-from-scratch desserts and pastries that are prepared with the premium ingredients such as sweet cream butter, pure vanilla bean extract, Callebaut French dark chocolate, passion fruit puree—and much more.
Those looking to satiate their sweet tooth can choose from a full menu of Crave Bake Shop’s popular signature desserts—like Tart Raspberry Angel Rolls, buttery Orange Currant Scones, addictive gooey Cinnamon Rolls, decadent Peanut Butter Truffle Fudge Brownies, and many other delectable treats such as Chocolate Caramel Ecstasy cupcakes—all gluten-free.

www.cravebakeshop.com
460 Fifth Street
Lake Oswego, Oregon 97034 / 503.212.2979
cravebakeshop@gmail.com
Tuesday – Friday 10-5 Saturday 10-4
CLOSED SUNDAY AND MONDAY

Restaurant Review: Gustav’s and The Rheinlander

We were a little confused about Gustav’s and the Rheinlander German restaurants. They are listed differently and have different names and websites. So to clear things up: It’s basically the same place with the same menu. Gustav’s is more of a pub atmosphere, whereas The Rheinlander is restaurant atmosphere. Both serve up cocktails and German food. As far as the pub atmosphere goes, it’s barely like a bar or a pub, really. More like a restaurant with a huge bar on one side. We decided to do the pub thing and ate at Gustav’s.

While we’re talking about atmosphere, it would be criminal for us to not mention that there are staff in lederhosen, and that the decor is full-on what you imagine when you think of Oktoberfest. At least that’s the feeling I got. Everyone we talked to at the restaurant were very helpful, particularly our server, whose name was Sara. She was knowledgeable and just: awesome. Gustav’s has a separate gluten-free menu, which they get points for. They also serve gluten-free beer: St Peter’s Sorgham Beer. For the vegetarian readers, I have to say that although they have a separate vegetarian menu, scanning it makes me think that if you’re gluten free AND vegetarian, you should probably steer clear.

The Sea of Cortez

We decided to get some drinks, and that was definitely a good idea. Sienna got the Love for Sale, which is vodka, passion fruit liqueur, pineapple juice and orange juice. This tastes exactly like Hawaiian Punch, but with alcohol in it. I got something called a Sea of Cortez: “Arbol chile infused Herradura blanco tequila, fresh grapefruit and lime juices, triple sec, served on the rocks with an Arbol chile, salt and sugar dusted rim.” This drink is awesome! Spicy, bitter, and sour with some hot chile burn. This photo reminds me to mention that Gustav’s has only one gluten-free mustard, the spicy kind.

Ceasar Salad at Gustav's

We have to say that our eating experience at Gustav’s ended up being a little lackluster. The Caesar Salad was definitely of the Americanized, mayonnaisey sort. The lettuce was fresh, but the flavors ended up being too monochromatic for us. We were wishing for some more lemon and some bite to the cheese.

Gluten free cheese fondue

The gluten-free fondue ends up being a little bit challenging. Unlike another place we could name, they don’t serve the fondue with vegetables. Instead, they serve it with two bratwurst sausages. The cheese flavor was good, although we both thought it was too salty. But dipping sausages into melted cheese was a little too hardcore carnivore artery hardening for me. I was really wishing for some veggies or some gluten-free bread pieces. The bratwurst was good, at least as far as we could tell. We’re not really experts in the sausage/wurst area, so your mileage may vary.

gluten free schnitzel, mashed potatoes, and mushrooms

Here is where I explain what a schnitzel is. They take a piece of meat like a chicken breast, pound it flat, bread it, and then fry it. In the case of the Gustav’s gluten-free schnitzel, this simply means that they pound it flat and then grill it. This is the chicken schnitzel with portabella mushrooms and mashed potatoes. The mushrooms were the best part, even though they seemed to have been steamed. The mashed potatoes were OK. The chicken was flavorless and kind of overdone.

gluten-free flourless chocolate cake

It seems like you can’t throw a rock in Portland without hitting a slice of gluten-free flourless chocolate cake, and I certainly cannot complain about that! Besides the crazy cocktail, the dessert was the best part of our meal. It was creamy, rich, and had this salty thing going on, which I really liked. Gustav’s serves Illy coffee, which we really love and went perfectly with the flourless chocolate cake.

It was at this point that we decided, based on our first experience at Gustav’s, that they are kind of like the Applebees of German cuisine, except with Lederhosen and wandering accordion players. Depending on your tastes, that might be a good thing or a bad thing. We thought that the food, although it was all edible, lacked a spark. If you scroll back up and look at the presentation on all of the dishes, you’ll see the same thing. It’s all really sort of functional. We do, once again, have to comment about how great the staff was, though.

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

Gustav’s & The Rheinlander
gustavs.net & rheinlander.com
5035 NE Sandy Blvd., Portland OR 97213 / 503.288.5503

Crave Bakery Grand Opening This Friday

Great news! Crave Bake Shop is opening a retail store in Lake Oswego. I know. I know. They should really be opening in NE Portland! That’s what I told them, too. Anyways, the grand opening is this Friday at 10:00 AM. Did we mention that Crave Bake Shop makes the best gluten-free cupcakes and cinnamon rolls ever? They do.

Here’s the press release:

You’ll Never Know These Decadent Desserts are Gluten-Free:
Nationally-Acclaimed Crave Bake Shop Opens a Store

Lake Oswego, OR— May 2, 2011

What: We are delighted to announce the grand opening of Crave Bake Shop’s gourmet gluten-free retail store, specializing in cupcakes, celebration (wedding, birthday, special occasion) cakes, cinnamon rolls, scones, cookies, tarts, doughnuts and cream puffs. Crave Bake Shop has a dedicated wheat- and gluten-free kitchen.

Where: 460 Fifth Street in Lake Oswego, OR 97034 Tel: 503.212.2979

When: Doors open to the public on Friday, May 13th at 10 am. Regular store hours are Tuesday-Friday, 10 AM to 5PM and Saturdays 10AM to 4PM.

Unique menu: Crave Bake Shop specializes in gourmet gluten-free and made-from-scratch desserts and pastries that are prepared with the premium ingredients such as sweet cream butter, pure vanilla bean extract, Callebaut French dark chocolate, passion fruit puree – and much more.

Those looking to satiate their sweet tooth can choose from a full menu of Crave Bake Shop’s popular signature desserts – like Tart Raspberry Angel Rolls, buttery Orange Currant Scones, addictive gooey Cinnamon Rolls, decadent Peanut Butter Truffle Fudge Brownies, and many other delectable treats such as Chocolate Caramel Ecstasy cupcakes—all gluten-free.

National and Local Recognition: Kyra Bussanich, pastry chef and founder of Crave Bake Shop, has been featured on the Food Network’s hit series “Cupcake Wars,” in the article “Coast to Coast Cupcakes” in Gluten-Free Living magazine, on numerous national and local gluten-free websites, several times in the Food section of “The Oregonian” (Portland), and more. They have fulfilled custom orders throughout the United States.

Bussanich is a graduate of Portland’s Le Cordon Bleu program in Patisserie and Baking. Previously, she ran Crave Bake Shop as a custom-order-only bakery.

More info: Visit CraveBakeShop.com or on Facebook, (Crave Bake Shop), or contact Jamie Hogland at CraveBakeShop@gmail.com or 503-260-7914

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

Mark Your Calendars – Coming Gluten Free Events

Here are some gluten-free events coming to Portland Oregon in the next few months:

May 7 – The Portland Metro GIG Gluten Free Fair

This is the 2011 incarnation of the annual Gluten-Free Fair to benefit the Portland Metro Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG), Mid-Willamette Valley GIG of Salem and Gluten Free Friends of McMinnville. More detailed information can be found at this page on Grain Damaged. Every year they have booths set up where you can sample local (and not-so-local) gluten free goods, hob-nob with other gluten-free foodies, and enter drawings for awesome gluten-free gift baskets.

Where:
All Saints Catholic Church
3847 NE Glisan St. Portland Oregon
In the GYM

When:
Saturday, May 7th, 2011 – 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM

Entry Fee:
$5 per person, $10 per family (of two or more)

June 12 – Rudi’s Summer Road Trip BBQ in Lake Oswego

We heard about this one from Kyra at Crave Bake Shop:

Rudi’s Gluten Free Bakery is doing a summer road trip and I’ve been helping them coordinate a GF BBQ on Sunday June 12th at Millenium Park in Lake Oswego. It is free and all ages and open to the public and there will be live music and lots of lunchy foods, like BBQ gf hotdogs and hamburgers, grilled cheese sandwiches etc (from them) and desserts (from me). And did I mention that it’s FREE? we’re finalizing the details, so I’ll be sure to get back to you, but it looks like the event will be from 11:30-1:30 PM on the 12th. Flyer to come!

Events at Lamb’s Markets

Speaking of Grain Damaged, they have the lowdown on some gluten free events happening at Lamb’s Markets.