Product Review: Glutino Gluten Free Frozen Pizzas

Here at Gluten Free Portland Laboratories, we are always ready to sacrifice our taste-buds to help the GF cause. We are especially happy to make such sacrifices when it involves gluten-free pizza! So when I was in Whole Foods recently and spied the Glutino brand Duo Cheese Gluten Free Frozen Pizza, it was a very easy decision to make.

Glutino Gluten Free Frozen Pizza

As you can see from the picture, these babies are $4.99. It also needs to be noted that the box is waaaay bigger than the pizza and according to the manufacturer, one pizza is one serving. A serving in this case is 420 calories. Here are the ingredients: water, mozzarella-brick cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, calcium chloride, enzyme), corn starch, tapioca starch, tomatoes (tomato paste, tomatoes, tomato juice, citric acid, calcium chloride), safflower oil, onion, evaporated cane juice, green peppers, modified corn starch, egg whites, salt, guar gum, glucono-delta-lactone, yeast extract, pectin, sugar, sodium bicarbonate, sodium alginate, modified cellulose, Parmesan cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese cultures, salt, calcium chloride, enzyme, cellulose), spices, garlic.

As you can see, they contain milk and eggs. Although the ingredients are kind of on the health-food side, we can’t fool ourselves into thinking these aren’t processed when there’s more “glucono-delta-lactone” in the pizza than Parmesan Cheese. LOL. In addition the manufacturer says they may contain traces of soy. I always mention the salt content in these reviews, so I have to say these have 560 mg of salt. Here’s what they look like out of the bag.

Gluten Free Frozen Pizza

We couldn’t just pop these in the oven without adding some toppings of our own.

Gluten Free Pizza

Sienna added pesto, mushrooms and garlic. I added black olives and garlic.

Gluten Free Pizza out of the Oven

They look pretty good huh? We were pretty excited to try them, but even with the additional items we put on these, the pizzas weren’t very good. The crusts were good and we both liked them. At the same time, they definitely taste like frozen pizzas, which is to say kind of tasteless. I think like my recent review of Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Mac and Cheese, there are probably people who really like frozen pizzas, and will appreciate a gluten free one. We were kind of underwhelmed. If we were to do it again, we would probably add our own sauce.

Since we liked the crusts, and since you can get four Glutino pizza crusts of the same size for the price of the frozen pizza, we might consider getting some crusts and making pizza with them in the future, but we probably won’t try the pre-prepared frozen pizzas again.

We want to know: I’d love to hear from some frozen pizza fans to see if these Glutino Gluten Free Pizzas compare well to the real thing. What did you think of the crusts? Let us know in the comments.

Times we have visited: once (but we feel confident about our score.)
Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: We think more expensive

Restaurant Review: Pizza Garden in Nehalem Oregon

Since it was Memorial Day weekend, we decided that it would be a great idea to get out of town and hit the coast. While we were there we visited the Pizza Garden in Nehalem, Oregon. Nehalem is on the Oregon coast right next to Mohler, Manzanita, Wheeler, Brighton, and the Nehalem Bay State Park. It’s really beautiful there.

Pizza Garden in right on Highway 101 as you drive through Nehalem. There really isn’t much there on the main drag except a couple of gift shops. Across the street is a small grocery store that also sells ice cream from the nearby Tillamook creamery (of the same folks who make Tillamook cheese). I’m just mentioning this if you want some ice cream after you get your pizza.

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The Pizza Garden restaurant is clean and bright. It has a cheery atmosphere and the wait staff was very nice and helpful. The dining room is away from 101, and faces the river, so you’d never know you were right next to a highway. The view out the windows is very nice.

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We ordered the Spinach Salad, which was awesome and had a particularly wonderful raspberry vinaigrette. Our waitress told us that they get local ingredients as much as possible and that their raspberries are grown locally. They also use organic ingredients where possible.

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The food came out in good time. They got our order a little wrong though. We ordered a Margherita Rosa with pepperoni but it came without the pepperoni. Our waitress was very apologetic and they took steps to fix the problem. Here’s the pizza.

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How was the pizza? Well the crust was awesome. The gluten-free pizza only comes in small and is about the right size for two people. I think we might have chosen the wrong pizza for us. We tend to like more flavorful pizzas and felt that this one was a little bland. We found ourselves putting more cheese and toppings on it to try to guss it up a little. I’m thinking that the next time we go there I might ask for some extra garlic.

It seems like when we travel it’s a little hard to find gluten-free friendly restaurants. Although we were a little disappointed with our pizza, the crust was just right and like I said it might be that we ordered the wrong combo. Besides gluten-free pizza they have some standard Italian restaurant fare. Last, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention that they have a vegan pizza as well. If you happen to be on the coast and you’re looking for a spot to eat, it’s pretty hard to go wrong with the Pizza Garden.

We want to know: Have you been to the Pizza Garden? Do you have a favorite gluten-free-friendly spot on the coast? Let us know!

Here are some more gluten-free pizza reviews:
Restaurant Review: Virgo and Pisces
Restaurant Review: Oasis Cafe Pizza
Restaurant Review: Picazzo’s Gourmet Pizza
Restaurant Review: Mississippi Pizza Pub

And don’t miss our Gluten-Free Pizza Restaurant List.

Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Add $2.00

Pizza Garden
35815 Hwy 101 N, Nehalem, Oregon , 97131 / 503.368.7675

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

Gluten Free Food Fair Wrap-up

We got to the 2009 Portland Oregon Gluten Free Food Fair a little late. They were already doing the lottery drawings. We walked around and sampled a lot of food, took some photos, and talked to people at the booths.

Sift Gluten Free Bakery

Sift Bakery – They are a gluten-free and vegan bakery. A lot of cafes in Portland carry their cookies, which I think are pretty good. In my opinion they make the best packaged gluten-free cookie. They also had some cooking sauces there. They had a couple different kinds of Thai curry paste, a hot chili oil, a Thai hot sauce, and also a Thai peanut sauce. Their peanut sauce was good but I make better. ;) They also had falafel crackers that were really good.

Mississippi Pizza Pub

Mississippi Pizza Pub (See our review of the Mississippi Pizza Pub) – They were handing out squares of pizza. While we were walking around the tables, a couple of times I overheard someone tell a friend “There’s more pizza out. Let’s go!” The pizza was good. Sienna asked the guy there about how to get a crust more crispy and he said that olive oil is good for that. Now we’ll have to experiment!

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Muruku Snacks – SCL Marketing – One of the more interesting items at the fair. These are basically like fried chow mein noodles, and are delicious. I love fried chow mein noodles!

Gloria's Delicious Gluten Free Desserts

Gloria’s Delicious Gluten Free Desserts – This person was selling dessert cookbooks. We tried her samples and they were really good.

New Cascadia Traditional Bakery

New Cascadia Traditional Bakery (See our reviews of New Cascadia Traditional Bakery) – We’re big fans of New Cascadia. They had a bunch of their gluten free products to sample. I tried a piece of their coffee cake and Sienna tried their cranberry raisin walnut bread.

Ener-G Foods

Ener-G Foods – Ener-G Foods had a booth, which I was really excited about. Mostly because they seem kind of hit-or-miss to me and it’s nice to sample a bunch of things without having to buy them. I liked their pretzels but wasn’t excited about their cookies, bread or bars.

Angeline's Gluten Free Bakery

Angeline’s Bakery – Angeline’s Bakery had a bunch of bread and cookie samples out. Their bread is very sort of white-bready, but good white-bready.

Some of the booths we stopped by but didn’t take photos of:

Papa G’s – They make different tofu meat substitutes which we both love, and also have a vegan organic deli with some gluten free items.

Wendy Cohan – Author of the Gluten Free Resource Guide, who also has classes on gluten free cooking. We talked to her for a while about making gluten free pizza crusts and she had a lot of tips for us.

New Traditions Bakery – I’ve looked these folks up on the internet and can’t find anything. They had a bunch of different kind of cheesecakes. The cheesecakes are free of gluten, nuts, eggs, and dairy, which brings up the question: What the heck are they made of? Whatever it is, there was a sign that they did contain soy. I thought they were good, although they really had more the texture of a frozen ice cream cake.

Lingonberries Market – The gluten free, wheat free, allergy-friendly foods grocery store in Vancouver Washington, which we’ve been to once, but keep meaning to get back to so we can take some pictures and do a review.

There were a lot more booths than I’ve included here. There were some booths selling baking mixes, one booth with exercise “power bars” that pretty much tasted like all the rest of the ones you’ve ever tasted, and even a cosmetics booth. After we left, we were waiting for the light to turn so we could cross the street, and a couple of people drove up in a van, rolled down a window, and asked us if it was worth going to the fair. We told them definitely yes. It’s always good to check out new things and find out what is good (or not) without having to buy so much stuff. We’re looking forward to next year’s food fair.

Restaurant Review: Oasis Cafe Pizza

We are really excited because we found a great place to have pizza that’s not all the way down in Sellwood (sorry, Picazzo’s)

The Oasis Cafe is on SE Hawthorne in Portland Oregon, just down the block from Powell’s, and across the street from the Bagdad theater. I love and hate this slice of Hawthorne. Love because of Powell’s and because there’s good people-watching and bustle and it’s groovy. Hate because it reminds me of the Haight in San Francisco.

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Two things become very clear after you’ve spent a couple of minutes in the Oasis Cafe. One: You are in a pizza joint. Two: They are doing brisk business. There are people going in and out. Most people are getting slices and leaving. Like most pizza joints, the place isn’t insanely clean but you’d have to be pretty uptight to be offended by their level of cleanliness. The music is abrasive. There might be a screaming kid in the booth next to yours. There are pinball machines, and you can sit at a bar that faces the windows and watch people go by (and stuff your face.)

They serve beer, salads, sandwiches, and pizza. They also have some cakes, which we saw a bunch of people order so they must be OK. Did I mention that the people watching was good?

Now two bad things: We were told the pizza was going to take 25 minutes and it took 35. And the gluten-free pizza is available in 12″ size only and it’s $4.50 more than the regular pizzas.

One not bad but not real good either thing: The caesar salad is only OK.

Some other good news: A phone call to the Oasis revealed that they do their best to avoid getting wheat flour on the gluten-free crusts. They get the crusts packaged and take steps to keep from contaminating them. (This contrasts with a phone call we made to a different place we won’t name where the person who answered the phone said “If you’re really allergic to wheat you shouldn’t eat here because there is flour on everything.”)

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The awesome news: The pizza we got was awesome. We got the Oasis, which is mozzarella, feta cheese, garlic, tomato sauce, mushrooms, tomatoes, and spinach. The sauce was flavorful. The garlic was chunky. The crust was thin and crunchy. The Oasis uses the Nugrain Foods pizza dough which a lot of other pizza places in Portland Oregon have adopted. We are happy to report that the Oasis pizza crust was great. We both actually feel that the crust at Picazzo’s would be better if they cooked it more, but the crust at Oasis was just right.

If we were just rating the pizza we had, we would give the Oasis a 5 out of 5. But when you add on the various annoyances, the too-long wait, and the expense, we had to dock them a point.

We want to know: Have you been to the Oasis? Do you have a favorite gluten-free-friendly pizza place in Portland? Have you had a similar experience? Let us know!

Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Add $4.50

Oasis Cafe
www.oasispizza.com
3701 SE Hawthorne Blvd., Portland, Oregon 97214 / 503.231.0901

Site News: New Gluten-Free Pizza List

It seems like just six months ago, a gluten-intolerant person who wanted a pizza had to get a horrible rice pizza crust from Whole Foods, take it home, and try to get it to act, look and taste like a real pizza. Those days are over and (as of this posting) there are fifteen pizza places in the Portland Oregon Metro area offering gluten-free pizza. As a result, we have decided to split the pizza places onto their own gluten-free restaurant list.

So the original gluten-free restaurant list is still available above. The new gluten-free pizza restaurant list is available here.

A large number of these places are offering gluten-free pizza on a crust made by Nugrain Foods. We plan to check this out and let you know what we think as soon as we can.

Restaurant Review: Picazzo’s Gourmet Pizza

Note to the reader – Picazzo’s changed their name to Sellwood Pizza Kitchen in May 2010.

We are excited to present another gluten-free pizza review. Not just because we love pizza but because there’s another place in Portland Oregon with good gluten-free pizza.

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By now your author is used to frequenting restaurants and having to forego the delicious bread-based appetizers because of his gluten free diet. Like that wonderful bread they serve at Lebanese restaurants, or bruschetta, or just plain sourdough bread with red wine vinegar and olive oil. So if you’re like me, when you read “Garlic Cheese Bread” on an appetizer menu, you skip over it quickly to spare yourself the pain. But wait! Here at Picazzo’s you can eat the Garlic Cheese Bread!

So let’s talk about the restaurant. It is part of a small chain of gourmet pizza restaurants. It is in Sellwood, which is a little out of the way for us, but not so bad when you use the Sellwood bridge. The restaurant is relatively new and very clean. They serve beer and wine, salads, and gourmet pizzas.

Most of you probably already know that the words “gourmet pizza” means two things: 1) It’s a little more expensive than most. 2) They have weird pizzas like “Shrimp, Smoked Bacon and Gorgonzola” with an alfredo sauce. The good news is that you can make your own too. We got a half and half of two different vegetarian pizza varieties: Nonna’s Favorite and the Pesto and Artichokes. We thought both were very good, but wished that they were a little more flavorful. Otherwise I think we would have given them our “Best Italian Restaurant” award.

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I know what you’re thinking: “OK! OK! Get on with the crust!” Yes. the crust is excellent. We felt ours was a little undercooked, but really even still it was excellent. Their crust is more like the bready chewy thin crust that is crunchy on the bottom, and is so much like the real thing that I actually asked our waiter if they didn’t bring us the wrong kind of crust. That was when our waiter started bragging about how there is only one item on their menu that can’t be made gluten-free. Even their sandwiches can be made gluten-free.

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The wait staff was friendly, the pizza was excellent, and we were very happy. If you are on a gluten-free diet or have celiac disease, Picazzo’s is a great place to eat!

Later note: We just went by recently (January 2010) and their crust is EVEN BETTER. Before it seemed a little undercooked. Now it is very crisp and hard to tell from the real thing. They also have delicious cookie desserts which are gluten-free. We tried the chocolate chip cookie and it was excellent. It’s kind of like a large cookie baked in a dish that they serve with ice cream. The cookie ends up being a little uncooked in the center so it’s gooey. If that sounds good to you then I suggest you try it!

Times we have visited: 4+ (So we feel pretty good about our rating)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same price, although the restaurant itself is a little expensive.

Picazzo’s Gourmet Pizza & Salads
8000 SE 13th Ave
Sellwood, Oregon 97202

Restaurant Review: Mississippi Pizza Pub

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

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

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

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

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

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

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