Product Review: Gluten Free Fish Sticks and Energy Bars

We’ve got another gluten-free double-header product review coming your way. Today we’re looking at fish sticks and energy bars. I guess that they have one thing in common: they’re bar shaped food. You probably wouldn’t want to eat them together, though.

Dr. Praeger’s Potato Crusted Fish Sticks

The Whole Foods that is close to us doesn’t carry our favorite gluten-free fish stick, the Starfish brand ones. So we decided to give the Dr. Praeger’s fish sticks a try. They’re gluten free because they use potato flakes to bread the fish.

Dr. Praeger's Gluten-free Fish Sticks

The thing that’s cool about Dr. Praeger’s is that the food isn’t super-processed. Their branding motto is “Where you recognize all the ingredients.” Here are the ingredients: Pollack Fillets, Potato Flakes, Potato Starch, Expeller Pressed Canola Oil, Eggs, Salt, Brown Sugar. That’s a pretty short list. The manufacturer figures that three sticks make a serving. So a serving has 220 mg of salt which is pretty good. A serving is 120 calories, 70 of which are from fat. The facility disclaimer on the box says that they are made in a facility that uses wheat, soy, and eggs.

Gluten-Free Fish Sticks

We had these with some beans. So how were they? Let’s just say that they are very much like the frozen fish sticks you get at the store. As with things like frozen pizzas and mac ‘n’ cheese, some people like them and other people don’t. We’re not really into them. Our biggest problem with them is that they cook up really mushy. These fish sticks literally end up with a puddle of liquid under them while they bake. So the breading does not get crunchy. Our toaster oven has a convection setting, and I turned that on with the hopes of getting a crispier fish stick, but it only helped a little.

With how they’re already kind of tasteless, the mushy texture kind of pushed us over the edge on these ones. Luckily, the new Whole Foods on Sandy has our favorite gluten-free fish sticks, so we can get our fix.

Prana Bar Energy Bars

Divine Foods contacted us about their gluten-free Prana Bar energy bars and sent us some samples to try out. I have to state for the record that I’m not really an energy bar fan. Most of them taste really nasty to me. I don’t know what that’s about, but there it is. Fortunately, Sienna has more experience with bars.

Gluten-free Energy Bars

They sent us two bars. A Boomi Bar and a Prana Bar. The Prana Bars come in a lot of different flavors. They have apple pie, apricot goji, apricot pumpkin, cashew almond, coconut acai, and pear ginseng. The Boomi Bars come in even more flavors. Divine Foods also has a third line of energy bars that they call their Superchargers. I’m not entirely sure how they decide how to divide the three kinds of bars, but it looks to me like the Boomi Bars are less processed, the Prana Bars are more like regular energy bars where all the ingredients are ground up, and the Superchargers are more about antioxidants. It looks like they do their best to not cook any of the ingredients, except for the nuts.

They are manufactured in a facility which is gluten-free, soy-free, egg-free, and peanut-free. Instead of using cane sugar or other sweeteners, they use agave nectar. They do not use GMOs, sulphured fruits, or hydrogenated oils. All of this is pretty cool. Here are the ingredients of the Prana Bar they sent us: Organic Almond Butter, Organic Agave Nectar, Organic Date Paste, Organic Dried Coconut, Organic Almonds, Organic Raisins, Organic Puffed Amaranth, Organic Acai Dry Powder, Sea Salt. And here are the ingredients of the Boomi Bar: Almonds, Cashews, Honey, Dates, Crisp Rice, Amaranth, Salt. That’s a short list. Neither of these has much salt, with the Prana Bar weighing in at 35 mg and the Boomi Bar at 55 mg.

Boomi Bar

So how were they? We were neither astounded nor disappointed. I liked the Boomi Bar better because it had recognizable pieces of nuts in it, and so it had some texture. Both bars tasted a lot like you would expect an energy bar to taste. And in this case, they tasted a lot like nuts and dates. On the plus side, they didn’t taste nasty, so that’s a good thing. Sienna thought that both bars were OK but felt like they were more soft than she likes an energy bar to be.

I feel a little bit bad reviewing these simply because I don’t have strong opinions about them. I would bet that if you like energy bars, you probably can’t go wrong trying these, considering that they’re made in a dedicated gluten-free facility and are made by a company that obviously cares about using healthy ingredients.

We want to know: Is there anybody out there who is really into energy bars and has a strong opinion about these? Are there other Dr. Praeger items that are gluten-free? Let us know in the comments!

Gluten-Free Italy: Levanto – Hotel Garden

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

Gluten Free Cinque Terre

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

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

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

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

Farinata

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

Sardines and Potatoes with Tomato Sauce

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

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

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

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

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

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

Restaurant Review: Por Que No Taqueria

I’m always pleased when I can write up a review on a place we’ve been to a bunch of times, because then I feel like I’m probably not going to steer anybody wrong. I’m also usually pleased to find that (unless you want a burrito) Mexican food is usually pretty easy to go gluten-free. You can get around the burrito problem by getting one without the tortilla and and eating it like a rice and beans plate with chips. Finally, I’m especially happy to report that Por Que No Taqueria has gluten-free fried fish tacos! Not only do they have fried fish tacos, but the fish is the breaded kind. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Por Que No View

This is the pleasing view you’ll see when you enter Por Que No on Hawthorne. Everything in the restaurant seems to have been salvaged from somewhere and then artfully placed in a chaotic way that puts me in the mind of an island retreat.

The Line at Por Que No Hawthorne

This is the not-so-pleasing view you’ll see when you enter Por Que No on Hawthorne. To be fair, the line moves very quickly, and for some reason there always seems to be somewhere to sit, even though the restaurant seems full to the gills every time we visit. It is a very popular spot. At Por Que No, you order at the counter. They give you a number and then you sit. Within a reasonable amount of time your drink and food shows up.

Horchata at Por Que No

I like their Horchata.

Salad at Por Que No

Their salad is very attractive, and includes a generous amount of avocado. We don’t feel like it’s their strong spot, however. While it’s good, it isn’t excellent. Sienna had a problem getting one without hot sauce and had to send hers back a second time.

Gluten-Free Fish Tacos and Carnitas

Here’s a serving of three tacos. Two of these are carnitas and the third is their gluten-free fried fish taco. The carnitas tacos are mostly meat with a little veggies, onion, and some cilantro. I think they must make their own corn tortillas at Por Que No. The corn tortillas are really awesome there. The fish taco is sort of what I call “Baja Style,” which I first became acquainted with on a trip to San Diego. So there’s fried breaded fish, cabbage, and some kind of white sauce. On the Por Que No fish taco I had, there was also some pineapple. All the tacos were awesome, flavor-wise. Sadly there wasn’t much fish in the taco. My taco had a single piece the size of my thumb. Sienna’s was a little better, but we still felt like the taco to fish ratio was off the mark. We also feel like the tacos are a little expensive for what you get.

The person who helped us at the counter knew exactly what I was talking about when I asked if the tacos were gluten-free, and I ended up feeling like it would be a safe place to eat as long as you asked questions about what you are ordering. As with any place that serves things that have gluten in them, be careful and remember that there’s basically always a chance of cross-contamination. The nice thing about Mexican food, though, is that they don’t use a lot of wheat – except for the tortillas and desserts.

We’ve been to Por Que No a bunch of times and have also visited their other place on Mississippi. Although we have a few issues with the place, the food there is awesome, and it has a really good energy. Now you can add gluten-free fried fish tacos to your Portland eating experience!

We want to know: Have you eaten at the Por Que No? Do you feel like Mexican is generally pretty easy to modify for gluten-free eating? Have you had any of the other entrees at Por Que No? Let us know!

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Friendly But Ask Questions.
Times we have visited: 4+ (So we feel pretty good about our score.)
Overall rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Por Que No Taqueria
http://porquenotacos.com/
3524 N Mississippi Ave Portland, OR 97227 / 503.467.4149
4635 SE Hawthorne Blvd Portland, OR 97255 / 503.954.3138

Restaurant Review: Deschutes Brewery

We got an email from one of our readers on Saturday about the Deschutes Brewery and some gluten-free options they have there. We had already heard that they have gluten-free beer, but there was some new interesting information:

Hey, we went to Deschutes Brewery today and found that not only do they have a fantastic gluten-free beer on tap all the time, and it’s not always the same, but they have gluten-free items marked on their menu, and the head chef even hired a baker to make gluten-free buns for their burgers! They have dedicated fryers, and the bartender even knew to tell us that even if we are ordering something that would normally be gluten-free, to let them know we needed it to be gluten-free and they prepare it in a safe area. these folks really seem to know what they’re doing. I haven’t had the burger + gluten-free bun yet, (was full when I went in today!) but we’re going back soon to try it. Just thought you might want to know and put it on your list!

This looked to us like something that called for immediate attention on our part, so we sprang into action. I can’t tell you the last time I had a burger at a restaurant. I’ve been to the Deschutes Brewery before. It’s a nice place in the Pearl, a block away from Powell’s Books. The atmosphere is relaxed. Like many other Portland brew pubs, people take their kids to eat. It’s amazingly clean, and has a Northwest brew pub kind of menu. It’s the kind of place that’s almost always 98% full, so the place is hopping but there’s still somewhere to sit.

The menu has helpful markings for vegetarian options and gluten-free items. The gluten-free goods are not on the menus that can be found on their website unfortunately. Hopefully they fix that soon. What I remember is:

  • Appetizers: Chicken Wings and Oysters
  • Salads: One or two
  • Burgers: Most of them
  • Pizzas: Nope, sorry.
  • Brewery Specialties: One or two items
  • Sandwiches: A couple, including the Chicken BLT
  • Desserts: Some kind of chocolate pudding with cookies?

Gluten Free Beer - Hefeweizen
The beer they had available was the Gluten-Free Krystal Weiss. Here is their description:

100% Gluten-Free Ale! This beer is made with Sorghum and brown rice syrup for a smooth gluten-free experience. We used German noble hops, Perle for bittering and Spalter and Hersbruckens hops for aroma. IBU’s: 63 Alcohol by Vol. 4.8%

Our waitress described it as a “Hefeweizen, but filtered.” I’m used to drinking this kind of beer with a generous slice of lemon. Mmmmm. It was good, and it passed the Sienna taste test as well.

Gluten-free Burger with Sesame Bun

There was no question that I had to sample the burger and it was awesome! Our waitress told us that they had been working hard on the gluten-free bun. She said this was the fourth variety they’ve come up with. It wasn’t exactly like a regular hamburger bun, but it was the closest thing to a real hamburger bun that I’ve had yet. They’ve even got New Cascadia Traditional Bakery beat (sorry guys). One really nice thing was that it wasn’t too thick. It was literally like having a normal burger. Woo Hoo!

Sienna had the Falafel Salad, which we were told could be made to be gluten-free by omitting the flat bread. The salad was good, and the falafel were very flavorful and not greasy.

We questioned the waitress a bit about cross contamination and how they prepare food. She said that although most of their dishes are prepared in the same area as the gluten-free ones, they were careful to not get wheat or gluten into the gluten-free items. She also said that they keep the gluten-free brewing area extremely clean to make sure there’s no chance of cross-contamination. That was very reassuring.

This is a later note. We have eaten here a number of times now and with one exception were very happy with the quality of the bun. They now have their gluten-free items on a separate menu and the food is good.

The food came out hot in a reasonable amount of time and our waitress was very helpful and seemed hip to the gluten-free thing. It was very cool and we were very happy. Thanks to Gaile (and all the other helpful folks who send us tips too) for the head’s up!

We want to know: Have you had the gluten-free beer at Deschutes Brewery? Have you had something other than the Krystal Weiss? What did you think? Have you had a perfect gluten-free hamburger bun? Let us know in the comments!

Times we have visited: 5+ (So we feel pretty good about our scores.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Gluten-free Bun Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Deschutes Brewery
210 NW 11th Ave., Portland, OR 97209 / 503.296.4906
www.deschutesbrewery.com

Product Review: POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice

POM Wonderful Pomegranate JuiceThe folks at POM Wonderful generously sent us some pomegranate juice for us to review along with some literature about the health benefits of pomegranate juice. If you like cranberry juice, you’ll definitely enjoy pomegranate juice. It has the same sort of astringent berry kind of flavor, but unlike cranberry juice, you don’t have to add tons of sugar to make the stuff palatable. I like it straight out of the bottle. Strangely, they also sell supplements, POM Wonderful’s 90ct Pomx Pills – Natural Pomegranate Antioxidant Supplement (1000mg).

First we decided to make a Pomegranate Lamb Kabob dish from the POM Wonderful website (unfortunately, the recipe is gone from their site). The recipe is easy as pie. Basically, you take kabob-sized chunks of lamb, pomegranate syrup, garlic, lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and let them marinate for at least eight hours. Because of a scheduling mistake, we left the lamb to marinate for two days! Two days!

To make your pomegranate juice into syrup, you combine 1 cup of pomegranate juice with 3/4 cup sugar, bring it to a boil, and them simmer it down until it loses about half of its volume (about 20 minutes.) I actually decided that was too much sugar and doubled the juice. Despite my amendment, the syrup still ended up really sweet.

Lamb marinating in pomegranate syrup

Here’s what our marinade ended up looking like before shaking.

Pomegranate Lamb Kabob

And here are the finished kabobs. Mmmmmmm. One thing I have to mention about this recipe is that they say to leave your lamb kabobs on the grill for 10-15 minutes, which is only advisable if you want to turn your lamb into charcoal. That’s way too much time. Especially for something covered with sugary syrup. Mine were ready to go in five minutes. We did it up fancy and ate these with corn and artichokes.

Salmon in Pomegranate Marinade

A couple days later we also tried salmon in the same marinade. While we enjoyed both the dishes, I have to say that we were surprised to find that the salmon was better than the lamb. We also found that you can’t be shy with the pomegranate syrup when you’re cooking. You should put a lot of it on, because somehow the flavor got lost with the lamb and the salmon both. I also went crazy and tried the pomegranate syrup with tahini sauce on a hunk of leftover Trader Joe’s buffalo burger on a bed of Polenta. The pomegranate syrup and tahini was a killer combo and I think further investigation is warranted. However, while it was nice on the Polenta, it didn’t go so hot with the buffalo burger.

Our number one favorite thing to do with the POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice was to add it to our homemade limeade. That is simply heaven.

What more can we say about pomegranate juice? We’re planning on making ourselves some pomegranate Cosmos sometime soon. No doubt they will be awesome. We both really loved cooking with (and drinking) the pomegranate juice and would like to thank the folks at POM Wonderful again for sending it our way.

We want to know: Have you tried POM Wonderful Pomegranate Juice? We’d love to hear about your cooking adventures with it. Let us know in the comments!

Times we have visited: 3 (So we feel good about our rating.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Restaurant Review: Virgo and Pisces

We’ve been really excited over the past couple of months about how many places here in Portland Oregon now offer gluten-free pizza! It’s really amazing, and would appear to mostly be thanks to one company, Nugrain Foods. Virgo and Pisces is one of the few places that make their own gluten-free pizza crust. Unfortunately, that’s about all I can say about their pizza right now because I didn’t try it during our visit to Virgo and Pisces.

Virgo and Pisces is located on NW 21st Street at Glisan, so it’s located in quite a hot-spot. They’re just a half a block away from the New Cascadia Traditional Bakery and Trader Joe’s. We went there at 7:00 PM on a Friday night.

Virgo and Pisces Gluten Free Pizza Sign

Being in such at hot-spot at 7:00 PM on a Friday night, we were worried that we would have to wait before we could sit down. On the plus side, that was not the case. On the minus side, the place was practically empty, which I never take as a good omen.

Virgo and Pisces is a bar and restaurant. One room is the bar and the other the restaurant. On one end of the restaurant room there is a small area where bands play. It looks like they have live music there on a regular basis, and as we ate, a band was setting up. We left before they started up, though (not because we weren’t interested – we usually love live music. We had a prior commitment.)

The space is nice. Our waitress was extremely helpful and the food came out promptly. Our one big complaint with the atmosphere was the music. The music playing in the bar was different from the music in the restaurant. That wouldn’t normally be a problem except that the music in the bar was turned up a lot louder, so we were treated to both at the same time. I find listening to two different pieces of music simultaneously to be jarring and annoyingly distracting.

Sienna got a hamburger (which was not gluten-free) and I ordered the fish and chips. I’ve been on quite the fish and chips jag (what with our recent review of the Starfish Gluten Free Battered Cod, the gluten free fish and chips at Hugo’s Restaurant in Los Angeles, and the gluten free fish and chips at the Hawthorne Fish House, we’ve been looking really seriously at battered and breaded fish. So I figured it would be worth doing. (By the way, Gina over at Gluten Free Gourmand has an excellent review of the Starfish Battered Halibut and Haddock.) At one point we had the idea that Virgo and Pisces had gluten-free pasta, but that is not the case. Virgo and Pisces also has gluten free beer. We’ll have to go back for their pizza sometime too.

Gluten Free Fish and Chips at Virgo and Pisces

So how was the food? The food was good. It was pretty standard bar food kind of fare. If I had to come up with a word to describe the food it would be “functional.” The thing with bar food is very often you’re really there for something else, like some live music, or to knock back some drinks with your friends. Very often bar food is just background filler, even at bars that are known for their food. The food at Virgo and Pisces is like that. The fish was tilapia. I usually love tilapia, but in this case it was a little tasteless. The fries were a hair too mushy. The coleslaw didn’t turn me on, but I’m not really a coleslaw fan. Sienna’s burger was good.

And that, dear reader, is about all I have to say about this place. I am curious about their pizza, but considering the place was empty on a Friday night, I don’t have big dreams about it. Maybe the place fills up once the music starts?

We want to know: Have you had the pizza at Virgo and Pisces? Let us know in the comments!

Times we have visited: 1 (So your mileage may vary.)
Overall rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Virgo & Pisces
500 NW 21st Ave, Portland, Oregon 97209 / 503.517.8855
www.virgoandpisces.com

Hipcooks Healthy, Fresh and Zingy 1 Class

Last month we reviewed the Persian Immersian cooking class at Hipcooks. Hipcooks is a new place in Portland Oregon to take cooking classes and they have several gluten-free cooking classes available. We enjoyed the Persian Immersion class so much that we were excited when an opportunity to take another class came up. This time we took the Healthy, Fresh and Zingy 1 class (see full list of classes here and note the handy drop-down menu at the top for “Wheat Free, Dairy Free” classes). This is the first class in a series of three. The focus of the Healthy, Fresh and Zingy classes is to present healthy meals that aren’t going to slow you down and make you feel like it’s nap time.

Here’s what we made: Yin-yang roast red and yellow pepper soup with a pesto garnish; Seared sesame seed crusted ahi tuna (or sesame-crusted marinated tofu can be substituted); Mango-ginger salsa for the tuna; A very simple salad; and mini strawberry gelato ice cream sandwiches. We also had sauvignon blanc to wash it all down with.

To start, we made the gelato first so that it would have time to freeze while we made the rest of the dishes. With a VitaMix, we blended together a little water, some sugar, a lot of frozen strawberries, with basil, and some vanilla. I would never have thought to put basil into a dessert, but it really put some zing into those strawberries, and everybody loved it.

After the gelato, our teacher for the night, Alison, taught us some basic knife skills, and then we made the ying/yang roasted pepper soup. The soup was delicious, but we ended up thinking that it needed something. I think it needed either curry or a lot of black pepper. I could see adding zing with some leek too.

Gluten Free Yin and Yang Roasted Pepper Soup

After eating our soup, we seared some tuna. I personally was in disbelief because every time I’ve seared tuna in a pan on a stove, the results were awful. This tuna ended up amazing, however. It looks like maybe the secret is to use lots of oil, cook it very hot, don’t cook it too long, and make sure you start with really good quality fish. The tuna we cooked looked like it was sushi grade.

Seared Tuna at Hipcooks

As with our last class, we had a blast. The people were friendly. Everyone participated in the cooking. The enthusiasm of our teacher was contagious. The cooking was fun. The food was delightful. The instructor was sensitive to our one vegetarian member. The wine was great. I ended up with absolutely no complaints. It also occurred to me that a class at Hipcooks would be the perfect third date.

Hipcooks emails you the recipes at midnight after the class. Classes can be found at the Hipcooks website. Not all the classes are gluten-free, so make sure you look for that. Hipcooks is located on North Williams just across the street from Pix Patisserie North (see our review of gluten-free desserts at Pix Patisserie.) Did I also mention that the classes are very affordable? We’re used to seeing classes cost twice this much.

We want to know: So are there more secrets to searing tuna? Have you taken a class at Hipcooks? Let us know in the comments!

Times we have visited: 2 (So we feel pretty good about our score.)
Overall rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same and very reasonable.

Hipcooks Portland
portland.hipcooks.com
3808 N Williams Suite 120, Portland, Oregon 97227

Product Review: Starfish Gluten Free Battered Cod

In two recent reviews I lamented the lack of a gluten-free battered fried fish that really appealed to me. The first was in our Hawthorne Fish House review, and then next was our Hugo’s review in Los Angeles. While both of these restaurants turn out really good quality food, they weren’t exactly what I was dreaming of. The Hawthorne Fish House fish ends up being kind of crispy and golden, but there isn’t much batter (it’s almost more like eating breaded fish) and there also isn’t much flavor. Hugo’s in LA had more flavor, but I also ended up feeling more like I was eating breaded fish.

Star Fish Gluten Free Battered Cod

I have two kinds of memories about eating fish and chips. The first kind of memory is eating fish and chips in an Irish pub in San Francisco’s Lower Haight. The fish are greasy and you almost feel sick because they’re so rich. You have no choice but to wash them down with a pint of McGinnis or some other beer. Aw yeah. The second kind of fish and chips memory I have is going to a tiny food cart in a touristy area and they hand you a steaming bunch of fish and chips wrapped up in newspaper. The grease from the fish turns the newspaper clear, and for some reason you notice that the paper is in Portuguese and has an article on soccer (with photos of soccer players.) So you go find a bench and eat your fish and chips and debate whether or not to pay $3 for the bottled water.

Inevitably, in both instances, there is a piece in the batch which is a thumb-sized piece of batter with no fish in it, and/or a piece that looks weird and maybe a little gross but you eat it anyway. The real downside to both these memories is that I’m sure fish cooked this way is just not good for you.

The Starfish Gluten Free Battered Cod is like the love-child of the Hawthorne Fish House and the unhealthy touristy battered fish, in that you don’t feel like you’re eating something horrifyingly unhealthy when you eat this fish, but you also get some of the real battered fish flavor and feeling. We cooked ours in the oven and we got excited pretty early because they smelled good.

The cod is nut free, soy free, milk free, egg free, and wheat free. It also has no transfats (yay!) Ingredients: Cod, Water, Yellow Corn Flour, Rice Flour, Modified Corn Starch, Salt, Leavening (Sodium Bicarbonate, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate), Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Canola Oil. The package states that the Canola oil is non-GMO. Sodium per serving is around 450 mg, which is a little on the heavy side. It’s nice to find processed food that has such a short list of ingredients.

Star Fish Gluten Free Battered Cod

Here’s what comes in the box. The fish looks great. It ended up being seven pieces. The box says it’s 10 ounces and that it has three servings. This ended up being the correct portion size for us.

Star Fish Gluten Free Battered Cod

Something that is really awesome about the Gluten Free Battered Cod is that the fish pieces are whole, instead of being glued-together fish product. When you break the fish apart, it comes apart along the grain of the fillet. The batter cooks up crispy. The fish is flaky and light. Our fish came out a little on the light side instead of being golden, but our oven is kind of strange like that. We ate it both alone and in sandwiches with some tartar sauce and cabbage, and it was excellent! It’s as close as we have found to the real thing, and it’s gluten free!

I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I didn’t get a photo of the final product. I’ll have to take photos the next time we make these and then post them. We don’t currently have info on what steps the manufacturer is taking to make sure there isn’t cross-contamination, but we have emailed them and will post the answer when we hear from them. A look at the Starfish website would indicate that they are concerned about quality. Starfish Gluten Free Battered Fish is available in Cod, Haddock, and Halibut. They are availbale to Whole Foods stores across the country.

We want to know: Have you tried the Starfish Gluten Free Battered Cod? We looked online for other reviews but only found press releases. Did you like them? Do you have a favorite fried fish? We’re still looking for awesome gluten free fish and chips in Portland Oregon. Let us know!

Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Still researching

Restaurant Review: Hugo’s Restaurant – Los Angeles

Welcome to our first gluten free travel installment since our vacation last week. As mentioned in our last news item, Sienna and I traveled from Portland, Oregon down to Los Angeles. We were in the audience at the Jimmy Kimmel show, and stayed at the Roosevelt on Hollywood Boulevard (we didn’t really like the hotel much, unfortunately). Of course we would be remiss if we didn’t find some gluten free places to review. Luckily we found Hugo’s Restaurant.

Besides being gluten-free-friendly, Hugo’s has a diverse menu, is dedicated to sustainability, and is vegan and vegetarian friendly. Although the online menus don’t seem to have this feature, the menus at the restaurant have everything marked for whether it is vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free, or if it can be modified to be that way. Among other things, they have gluten-free pancakes and gluten-free fish and chips. When I was looking at the menu I actually got kind of overwhelmed by the amount of choices, which is really awesome.

Hugo's West Hollywood Restaurant Interior

We visited Hugo’s West Hollywood location for lunch, and when we arrived there was no wait for a table, but the restaurant was busy. The place is clean and kind of stylish. With huge booths and wood tables and chairs, it has the feel of a cross between an upscale restaurant and a diner. Hugo’s also has a Studio City location and it looks like they have two more separate places to get tacos. One in Atwater Village, and the other also in Studio City. They are also opening a location in Agoura Hills in late fall of 2009. It also looks from their website that they sell very expensive teas.

Hugo's gluten free fish and chips

I got the gluten-free fish and chips, which is actually more like fish and sweet potato fries. The sweet potato fries were good but not awesome. I’m used to sweet potato fries being more like a “steak cut” fry with lots of salt. Hugo’s were thinly cut – more like fast food fries. Although I found myself wishing for some applesauce for dipping, I didn’t have any trouble finishing them. The fish was really good too. Although I’m still looking for a really awesome battered gluten-free fish, I liked these better than the fare at the Hawthorne Fish House. The reason I like them better is that they have a lot of flavor. I would be really interested to see how Hugo’s fish and chips would be with some gluten-free malt vinegar. Our waiter was awesome. The wait for our food was reasonable. Neither of my items were excessively greasy. My lunch was delicious and the rest of our party was happy with their food too.

Gluten Free Fried Fish: Click here for our breaded fish recipe.

We want to know: Have you eaten at Hugo’s? If so, how are the pancakes? We’re still looking for awesome gluten free fish and chips in Portland Oregon. Let us know!

Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

Hugo’s Restaurant
http://hugosrestaurant.com/
multiple locations in Los Angeles

News and 7 Things You May Not Know About Me

Sienna and I were out of Portland Oregon on vacation last week. We drove down to Los Angeles to visit her grandmother and also some friends we have down there. We stopped in the San Francisco Bay Area and a bunch of places in between. So the bad news is that I didn’t post much last week (I actually wrote some things beforehand and then scheduled them.) The good news is that we have some exciting gluten-free travel info coming up. We even found a great B&B where the owner cooked me some gluten-free pancakes! I’m sure you all know how much I love gluten-free pancakes.

While we were gone, we got tagged by Gina over at Gluten Free Gourmand, which is one of our fellow Portland gluten-free sites. She tagged us to do 7 Things You May Not Know About Me. So without further ado, here are seven things you may not know about me.

1. I was born in Albuquerque New Mexico, which is where Bugs Bunny was always missing a left turn. I grew up in Colorado, studied Fine Arts at the University of Colorado in Boulder, and then lived in San Francisco for 13 years before moving to Portland, Oregon.

2. My favorite place to be in Portland Oregon is at the Classical Chinese Garden. I love to go there, sit in the teahouse, drink tea, eat treats, and look at the pond and the trees.

3. Speaking of ponds, I created a 200 gallon goldfish pond in my back yard last spring. It’s one of my favorite things.

fish-pond-dscn1492

4. I am a big fan of origami and paper models. I fold the kind of origami that can take hours to do. Insects and dinosaurs are my favorites. I keep a very small origami and papercraft site with lots of dinosaurs which I’m working on making bigger.

5. As I mentioned above, I studied fine art in college. Mostly painting. I continue to do art now and was in a small group show at a gallery in Portland earlier this year. As with everything else, I have an artist website that I try to update here and there. I also do a lot of amateur photography.

6. Travel is one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been to Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, all through Canada, most of the Western United States, and internationally to Japan and Bali. I might love traveling more than food.

7. I also read a lot. I read fast, will read anything, and have a book collection. Most of this is an enormous collection of sleazy paperback detective fiction from the ’50s, ’60s, and ’70s. Two other authors I collect are Edward Gorey and translated works of Natsume Soseki.

7 Things Rules

The rules are simple. Link to your original tagger and list these rules in your post. Simply share seven facts about yourself in the post. Tag seven people at the end of your post and let them know they’ve been tagged. And have fun!

Thanks again to Gina for tagging me. Here are the seven people I’m tagging, in alphabetical order:

1. Aleta who isn’t gluten-free but who does cooking, recipes, great photos with one eye on nutrition at The Omnomicon.

2. Allergic Girl who covers food allergies, health and worry-free dinners over at allergicgirl.blogspot.com.

3. Ginger over at FreshGinger who is always cooking up interesting gluten-free recipes.

4. Dana at Gluten Free in Cleveland, who does gluten free recipes and reviews for Cleveland Ohio.

5. Kab over at Good Stuff NW who isn’t gluten free but who covers food, restaurant reviews, and good stuff in the Pacific Northwest.

6. My pal, The Dark who is all about the book reviews and horror paper models over at Dark in the Dark.

7. Sea who creates and reviews gluten-free recipes and also hosts the adopt a gluten-free blogger at Book of Yum.

Thanks for stopping by. More to come soon!