Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bake Shop Wins Cupcake Wars

Good news! Portland’s own Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bake Shop has won Cupcake Wars on the Food Network. Kyra is pictured here with Kyra Sedgewick (on the right) and assistant Jackie Schonbrun (on the left). Our congratulations go out to her for the victory. Thanks also for helping raise awareness of gluten sensitivities and celiac disease. Here is the press release. Note that the show is scheduled to be rebroadcast, in case anyone out there wants to check it out.

Local pastry chef becomes first-ever Gluten-Free champion—and first winner from the Northwest—of Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars!”

When: First airing Sunday, December 18, 2011, 8 PM PST
Rebroadcast: Tuesday, Dec 20, 2011 at 8:00 PM PT and Wednesday December 21st at 3AM PT

The Challenge: Pastry chef Kyra Bussanich, owner of Crave Bake Shop Portland, OR the first baker from the Northwest—and first Gluten-Free pastry chef anywhere—to win Cupcake Wars, highly rated show on The Food Network. She competed on taste, texture and appearance against traditional bakers who had no restrictions on their ingredients.

What’s at stake: Chef Bussanich was the first ever gluten-free baker to compete on the show in December 2010. Though judges crowed about her baking, she came in 2nd place.
A year later, she was asked to compete again on the episode titled, “The Closer 100th Episode.” As the winner, selected from 4 bakers who had all previously competed, Bussanich catered a party celebrating the 100th episode of the hit TV show, The Closer, starring her namesake, actress Kyra Sedgewick.

Book and media appearances: Bussanich has appeared on several TV shows (in Portland and been interviewed in several newspapers and magazines and ezines (Oregonian, Gluten-Free Living). Bussanich is currently writing a book on gluten-free baking and lifestyle for Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House.

About Crave Bake Shop, LLC: Dedicated gluten-free gourmet bakery specializing in cupcakes and celebration cakes, but also offering cinnamon rolls, pies, cookies, cream puffs, scones and specialty desserts.

About Kyra: Portland native, lives in Lake Oswego. Graduated from University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Then, after being diagnosed with an auto-immune disorder, she was forced to switch to a wheat- and gluten-free diet. Motivated to make high-end pastries that she could enjoy, Bussanich graduated with honors from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu Patisserie program in Portland. Disappointed with most of the gluten-free pastries and cakes available on the market, Bussanich began experimenting with alternative flours and developed recipes that matched her dietary needs without compromising any of the classic bakery tastes and textures.

Support the Arts in Portland – Follow the Creative Advocacy Network on Twitter

Hey everybody. Here’s another “not exactly gluten-free” but something we want to support. A Portland arts organization, the Creative Advocacy Network is looking for your support. What do they need? Just a follow in Twitter, and a Like on Facebook. If you’re wondering about the organization itself, I think that all you need do is check out the board of directors, here.

Click this link and then follow CAN on Twitter. If over 2500 people follow the organization by December 31, CAN will receive funding from the City of Portland.

Things We Like: Work on Your Career

This is the first of what we hope are many future posts where we share resources and things that we think are great and/or would be useful to our readers, even when it isn’t exactly about being gluten free. This item is just in time for your New Years resolution to boost/change/rethink your career, or if you are just hunting for a job. I’ve used their services in the past and have found them to be very useful. Here’s the blurb:

Carpenter Smith Consulting is offering free weekly tips to help people create career success in the new economy. These tips are nuggets pulled from 20 years of experience helping people find meaning and satisfaction in their work lives. To get the tips emailed to you each week click here to add your name to the list. There is no fee for this service.

Carpenter Smith Consulting is a Portland based business that inspires leaders and changes lives through career consulting, executive coaching, leadership development, and business consultation.

This has already started, so sign up now.

Carpenter Smith Consulting, LLC
516 SE Morrison, Suite 830
Portland, Oregon 97214
Voice: 503.274.9447

We Love It: The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen by Laura B. Russell

The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen by Laura B Russell

I love Asian food, and it’s one of those things where a person might think that there isn’t any wheat or gluten involved (it’s mostly about rice, right?), but unfortunately that’s not the case. There is very often wheat flour used as a thickener in the sauce, as a binder in something that is traditionally made without wheat, or as a main ingredient in something like noodles. Want to enjoy some delicious Asian cuisine without the worry? The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen cookbook by Laura B. Russell is here to help.

The Recipes

Something great about this book is that so many cultures are represented. There is Vietnamese Rice Noodle Salad, Korean Bibimbap, Singapore Radish Cakes, Chinese Mandarin Pancakes, Thai Khao Man Gai, Japanese Pork Tonkatsu and more. The book has a great deal of breadth, covering everything from sauces and appetizers, to noodles and dumplings, from meats and tofu to alcohol and sweets. There are also a number of vegetarian dishes. Everything looks really great, and once a person has a couple of the Asian sauces necessary, someone with a reasonably stocked kitchen should be able to find something in the book that they can cook up on short notice.

Shredded Chicken with Creamy Sesame Sauce

The Shredded Chicken with Creamy Sesame Sauce is really quick and easy to prepare. People who enjoy a good peanut sauce will like this recipe. Despite being simple to throw together, this dish has a kind of sophistication that makes it perfect to serve when you’re entertaining. Finally, it’s a great recipe to make extra for leftovers, especially the sauce. If you keep some of this sauce in the fridge, you can throw it on just about anything to make a quick lunch.

Korean-style Chicken Tacos

The Korean-style Chicken Tacos are the kind of item that will make your family wander into the kitchen and ask “What are you cooking? It smells good!” With chicken marinaded in Korean chili powder, mirin, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and sesame oil, they have a unique and very delicious flavor. When we made them, we both had the experience that we hadn’t tasted anything quite like them before. These are supposed to be served with cucumber, kimchi, and bean sprouts, but we thought that they were wonderful with kimchi and red cabbage.

Black Cod Braised with Savory Miso Glaze

Once you get over the sticker shock when buying black cod, you’ll be happy that you gave this dish a try. Like the Korean chicken tacos, this dish has a unique flavor. The glaze is made with sake, mirin, sugar, and miso paste. The only complication is that the fish should be marinaded overnight, so you need to think ahead. The book suggests serving it with pickled ginger, a recommendation we whole-heartedly second. The acidity of the ginger really does something wonderful to the flavor of the fish.

Sticky Rice Dumplings with Chicken and Mushrooms

Here are the Sticky Rice Dumplings with Chicken and Mushrooms. There are several dumpling recipes in this book, and these were the first we tried. While the stuffing in the dumplings was delicious, the dumplings as we had cooked them were incredibly sticky and it seemed like the dough was too thick.

We had tried this recipe right before we attended the soups class that the author taught at Bob’s Red Mill. During a break in the class we asked Russell some questions about the recipe. We had a conversation about the dumplings and their preparation, and she ended up very kindly inviting us to come by her house to see how they are done. Besides the dumplings, Russell also showed us how to prepare the Gingery Pork Pot Stickers from her book. The dumplings and the pot stickers both turned out great, and we learned some tricks about preparing both dishes.

When properly prepared, the dumplings do end up being somewhat sticky. This is because the shell is made with rice flour. There are some things to keep in mind, however. One is that if the dumplings are undercooked, they’ll be even more sticky. If the dumplings are so sticky that you can’t get them out of the pan, off the spoon, off your fingers, etc., then they probably need to cook longer. Also, it’s a good idea to let them set a while after they are done cooking. Russell uses parchment paper in her steamer to keep them from sticking to the pan. We found that using a silicone spatula to move the dumplings kept them from sticking to our utensils. Finally, although it can be difficult to do so, when making the dumplings, try to put them together in such a way that the shell is of even thickness all around. Mine ended up being really bulky on the bottom where the dumpling shells sealed.

Gluten Free Pot Stickers in Process

With the pot stickers, there is a point where you throw some water into a pan of heated oil, and it bears repeating that the cook needs to hold a lid over the pan but tilted to keep oil from spattering on them. Aside from this one tricky maneuver, the pot stickers are easier to make, and they’re delicious!

More About the Book

In addition to the recipes, this book has a wealth of information about the ingredients, sauces, and kitchen tools used for making Asian food. You will find here: A chart listing common Asian food ingredients, whether they may contain gluten or not, and brands and sources for gluten-free alternatives; an extensive guide and glossary for common Asian spices, ingredients, sauces, condiments, pantry items, cooking tools, and gadgets; and last, a short primer about enjoying sake by Oregon sommelier Marcus Pakiser.

More About the Author

Laura B. Russell writes “Gluten Freedom,” a monthly column for the Oregonian’s Food Day section. See here for a whole list of previous columns. She is also a contributor to Portland’s MIX magazine, online gluten-free magazine Easy Eats, and Living Without Magazine. She also somehow finds time to keep a blog: “Notes from a Gluten-Free Kitchen” at


Many times when I’m sitting down to write an article, I try to come up with an angle. I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out an appropriate angle for this book review, but couldn’t really come up with anything. Finally I realized that there wasn’t any good angle except to say that it’s a great cookbook and we love it. The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen fills a glaringly empty niche in our gluten-free cookbook library, and does so with great success. We’ve also become huge fans of the author, Laura B. Russell, and can’t wait for her next book.

The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen by Laura B. Russell – 2011 – Ten Speed Press

Get The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen on Amazon!

Photos and Notes from the GIG Holiday Food Fair

We attended the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) Holiday Food Fair around noon last Saturday the 22nd. When we walked in, the place was hopping, and everyone we talked to mentioned how busy it was. Besides vendors with booths set up, there were also a number of talks on various subjects available. We didn’t attend any of the talks, and instead went around the room, sampled goodies and talked to some of the people we knew there. We looked around for Lisa Shaver, the Portland Metro GIG Branch Manager, but didn’t see her. (Sorry for the quality on some of these photos. I’m going to have to switch back to using my real camera instead of my phone.)

Here are the Jensens of Jensen’s Bread and Bakeries. They make the buns that are served at a large number of restaurants around Portland, including all 59 Northwst McMenamins, the Corbet and Hawthorne Fish Houses, Dick’s Kitchen, and a quickly-growing list of others.

Some of you may have noticed a gluten-free food cart around town called the “GF Chef.” Here is the chef himself, Jim Adams, and his significant other. He had samples of biscuits and gravy along with information about his cart, which is currently available at NE 20th at Everett in the Green Castle Food Court. They serve various sandwiches, corn dogs, donuts, and other American food.

We don’t have space here to list everyone who had a booth at the show, but the regular big name gluten-free companies had booths. So there was Bragg’s, Ener-G Foods, New Seasons Market, Pura Vida Products, Rudi’s, and even Tupperware. Bakeries were well represented, including many we know like Crave Bake Shop, Cravin Raven, Gluten-Free Gem, New Cascadia Traditional, Piece of Cake, and White Rabbit Bakery, but also some ones we didn’t recognize.

Here is a woefully blurry picture of Ann Miller, the owner of the Gluten-Free Gem Bakery, and one of her bakers, whose name I would have written down if I was more organized (Note to self: be more organized). They had samples of their delicious baked goods, as well as information about their products, which are produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility here in town. They are located at 265 N Hancock St. #105 and have a retail window that is open 9 AM to 3 PM Monday through Friday. Their baked goods are available at Stumptown Coffee locations around town, New Seasons Markets, and a bunch of other places in Portland.

Ann Miller told us about an upcoming Gluten Free Expo taking place at the Salem Convention Center on November 26.

Last but not least, we visited the Crave Bake Shop booth. Laura B. Russell was there signing copies of her book, The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen. Next, from left to right here is Jamie Hogland, the business partner of Crave Bake Shop’s Kyra Bussanich. Then comes Deb Wheaton and her daughter Amy. Deb Wheaton is a celiac consultant, gluten-free blogger (, and writer/producer working with the Celiac Disease Foundation to produce the national public service announcements and a series of educational online videos to raise awareness.

That’s all we have. See you next time, and thanks to the GIG for holding these events!

Portland Places We’ve Been Recently

Sometimes we find ourselves going back to places we reviewed months or years ago, and we’re often gratified to find that we were right the first time! Here’s a quick run-down on places we’ve been recently. Some new, most not.

Seven Virtues Cafe

Seven Virtues Cafe

If you’re in the NE and want something good for lunch any day of the week, you should check out Seven Virtues on NE Glisan at 60th. They have great espresso drinks, delicious gluten-free and vegan goodies by Petunia’s (our review here), and gluten-free bread available for their sandwiches. I am especially partial to the Frazer Park sandwich, pictured above. They also make a mean iced mocha.

PSU Farmer's Market

Portland Farmers Markets

We recently saw the documentary Food, Inc and decided to see what would happen if we started going to our local Farmer’s Markets. Besides fresh veggies, cheese, eggs, and flowers from local farms, there are a lot of local gluten-free businesses which sell their goods at your local farmer’s market. The PSU farmers market on Saturday morning is host to Petunia’s and New Cascadia Traditional Bakery (our info and review here). I saw Paobread (our review here) at the Montavilla Farmers Market the last time we went there. At the Buckman Farmers Market a person can pick up gluten-free hand pies made by Queen of Hearts (review coming soon). Although we haven’t gone yet, we’ve been told that Happy Camper Bread can be bought fresh at Hollywood Farmer’s Market.

Chez Machin

We’ve stopped by Chez Machin (our review here) on SE Hawthorne now and again. Although we wish their savory crepes had more options, they keep blowing our minds with their specials and their dessert crepes. We really recommend getting whatever the special entree of the day is, as long as it can be had gluten-free.

Dessert Crepe at Suzette - Yow!

Suzette Creperie

Speaking of crepes, we went to Suzette Creperie (our review) on NE Alberta for Bastille Day, dined on delicious crepes, and listened to AnnaPaul and the Bearded Lady.

Blackwood Cafe

Blackwood Cafe

A recent Groupon or Living Social deal informed us that the Blackwood Cafe on NE 70th has gluten-free bread available. I went there by myself recently and got their special of the day, which was an intriguing sandwich with gruyere cheese, apple slices, and (if my memory serves) Prosciutto. The sandwich was really good, but the bread was like Udi’s, which isn’t really my favorite. The iced mocha was really chocolatey. They have a fun menu, but their atmosphere is kind of uncomfortable for some reason.

Favorite Things from the Farmers Markets

Things we expected to be better from the Farmers Markets: tomatoes.
Things we might not have: celery, cherries, cucumbers, cheeses, and sausages.
Celery? We found thin, kind of sickly-looking celery at the Montavilla Market recently and what a surprise! It’s got a surprising, delightful flavor. Almost herbal or floral. Mmmmm. At the PSU Market look for my favorite cucumber of all time – the lemon cucumber. Also at the PSU Market, we found Rogue Creamery’s Raw Milk Sharp Cheddar Cheese and wow is it amazing, especially with a little of your favorite jam. Finally, we’ve tried some items from Olympic Provisions and have yet to be disappointed.

Summer is Finally Here

Thanks to everyone who emailed us about Subway stores getting gluten-free bread and brownies. We kind of ignored the news because we’re more into supporting our local businesses. We do really appreciate it when people email us, even though sometimes it can take a long time for us to get back to them.

Got any recommendations for shopping at the Farmers Markets? We’re still really new at it and learning. Let us know in the comments!

Coming Gluten Free Events

July GIG Meeting

The Portland Metro GIG meeting will be this Saturday.

When: July 9 – 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Speaker: Kimberley Wilson
Topic is how to read food labels to make sure an item is gluten-free. Meeting will also feature samples from French Meadow Bakery.
Legacy Emanuel Hospital
2801 N Gantenbein Ave.
Portland, OR. 07227-1623
Room E-1075/1077

Celebrate Bastille Day at Suzette

We mentioned recently that we really love Suzette Creperie on Alberta. To celebrate Bastille Day, they are hosting a special event (edited for brevity):

Bastille Day at Suzette Crêperie

Liberté, égalité, fraternité, crêperie! Celebrate the storming of the Bastille with a special open air dinner at Suzette Crêperie Thursday, July 14th from 6-9pm. Chilled rosé, olives, fresh berries, and a special multi-course menu. Live music by AnnaPaul and the Bearded Lady.

Reservations required. Make sure you mention that you want gluten free when you reserve. Call (503) 473-8657 or email
Vive La France!

Portland Gluten Free Beer Review

Editor’s note: I’ve been wanting to do a feature on gluten-free beers for a while now, but I’m really more of a hard alcohol guy. Fortunately, we were able to recruit Heather Marsh, who gathered some friends, drank a lot of beer, took notes and photos, and wrote the excellent review you’re about to read. Thanks Heather!

Gluten Free Beers Reviewed

When I moved back to Portland, I wasn’t much of a beer fan. I know, no one admits that. But it didn’t take very many dinners out with friends to be converted from no beer, to some beer, to being a genuine fan of beer. Our beer options in Portland are fantastic, and I was slowly learning to love the various flavors. Then I found out I was gluten intolerant. Then I found out I may be celiac.

I’ve been gluten free for long enough that I can’t really remember what the beautiful Portland beer (that I was just starting to appreciate) tasted like.

I’ve seen gluten free beers around town, and tried a couple. It was nice to have the option, but I was never terribly impressed. One day I decided to compare them, so I did an internet search and pulled together a couple GF options. My brother and I (both gluten free) had an informal tasting, for our own information. But due to our novice knowledge of this strange and wonderful beverage, we really only succeeded in selecting our favorites. After conversations with several gluten free friends, and after discovering a couple other gluten free beers, I decided I wanted to do a more thorough investigation. I’m including my findings here, but I highly encourage you to try this at home! Both for the sake of the knowledge it will provide you, and because it’s just plain fun. And your friends will think it’s the best idea you ever had.

Because of my inexperience with beer in general, I brought in a posse of beer-loving, non-gluten-free friends and experts to consult on this important experiment. Here’s what we came up with (in the order we sampled them)! (Editor’s note: They sampled the beers from light to dark, so they end up being listed in roughly that order.)

1) Estrella Damm Daura
This pale, smooth beer has hints of apple. A mild, gentle flavor, with a bitter finish. Not bad, but it didn’t hit the top two list of anyone in the party. Also, I understand it’s made with barley, and has the gluten removed to under 6ccs. Not sure how that works for someone who is extremely sensitive, but it sounds like a risk that might not be worth it for the mild taste. I recommend hitting a hard cider instead if you want this sort of flavor.

2) Green’s Triple Blond
This one was much more complex than the Estrella, and didn’t have the bitter aftertaste. It was sweet, fruity, and smelled of apple. One of the tasters thought it had hints of vodka, but that could be from the high alcohol content. It was almost reminiscent of a sparkling wine. I really liked it, and I’m not usually a fan of the paler beers.

3) St. Peters Sorgham
Certainly the best bottle in class (lighter beers). I realize that doesn’t say anything about what’s inside, but hey! The beer itself is bitter, with layers of different flavors. Sawdust and peanut shell were both mentioned. We all agreed it has a strong wood flavor and it smells vaguely of tobacco, good cigars. I wasn’t crazy about it, but others enjoyed it. Someone else finished off my taster.

4) New Grist
Sweet and light, and reminiscent of a hard cider, only not as flavorful. It’s a little like drinking juice, understated, with a mild flavor. I didn’t mind it, but I don’t think I’d seek it out. The consensus was a resounding “meh.”

5) Redbridge
This light, golden beer has more color than any of the previous selection, but it wasn’t our favorite. It has a citrus start, and a smoky, caramely finish. Its smell was described as olive oil and acetone (the main ingredient in finger nail polish remover… yumm?). No one finished their taster.

6) Bards
A smoky smell and a heavier flavor. Tasted like caramelized molasses with hints of tobacco. Wasn’t my favorite, but certainly not bad.

7) Deschutes Gluten Free
While not yet available in bottled form (although I have heard rumblings that they are hoping to start bottling eventually… fingers crossed for sooner, rather than later), I wanted to include this in the test anyway. I’ve had the beer in the Deschutes Brewery and Public House on NW 11th and Davis, and I love it, and when I called to find out how to get it “to go,” they assured me that they could fill any size receptacle (that seals), so I went in with my Mason jar and got a pint and a half. A little spendy, but I really think it might be worth it.

The Deschutes was our pick for the Pale Ale lover. It had the 3rd best head, a bitter–lets call it tangy–smell, and had hints of grapefruit and bergamot in the flavor. I have a vague recollection of tasting apricot when I had it with a burger at the restaurant, but no one could find that flavor when we did the tasting, so maybe the complexity is affected by food. Either way, it’s an absolutely lovely beer, and those in our party who love IPA were all impressed. Get yourself a jar (or if you can drink that much, a growler, they sell them at Deschutes) and pick some up, or just go down there and enjoy a great meal. They’re not paying me to say this… it really is just that good.

8) Green’s Amber Ale
This one has the second best head, a creamy white that sets off the amber of the beer itself. Even compared with gluten filled amber ales, this one got a very enthusiastic thumbs up. It’s tangy, with strong apple and gentle coffee flavors. Mild hints of caramel that linger and a malty twinge. A lovely, complex, flavorful choice. And, as with all three of the Green’s options, it comes in a 16.9oz bottle, so there’s more to share! There was no disputing it’s spot on the top three list.

9) Green’s Dubbel Dark
This one takes the award for best head, which apparently the Belgians (from whom this fine beverage comes to us) scrape off. We did not. It’s sweet and dark, caramely and beautiful. Dark beer people loved this one, and I’m assured it’s as good as the gluten filled options for the person looking for a barley wine substitute. I can’t say enough good things about this beer; it’s hands down my favorite. My friend Lexie determined “it’s like a beer cappuccino!”

All of these options, with the exception of the Deschutes, can be found at various locations around our lovely city. I picked them all up at Beermongers on SE Division, which I love, because they have all of these beers, and because they’re friendly, and it’s on my way home.

For more information on these beers, check out their websites, or the links below. The above are only the opinions of a panel of six judges, with varying tastes, so who knows what you’ll discover!

gluten free beer

Further Reading

Gluten Free Beer Festival, compiled by a group in the UK. Not all of these options are available here in the States, but it’s fun to read, and they have ratings and explanations that might be helpful for others who are new to the beer scene!

For more information on the gluten free Deschutes brew, check out these sites, far more knowledgeable than I: Review one. Review two.

Some Portland Links and Resources

This isn’t strictly gluten-free, but it is Portland-specific: Google has a new Groupon-like service, and they chose Portland as the first city to launch in. Today’s deal was a half-off coupon for Powell’s Books. Find the new service, here: Google Offers

There is a new blog on gluten-free travel which has some articles on Portland, here: Gluten Free Will Travel

A new blog on gluten-free beers and where they can be found, nationwide. They have a list for Portland.

Next resource is also not gluten-free, but is Oregon-specific: The Good Stuff NW blog by Kathleen Bauer, which covers foodie news, gardening, local farms, cocktails, and lots of other interesting things in Oregon. The whole left column of their blog is an events calendar, which is worth a visit in itself.

Speaking of events, and continuing with the “not gluten-free specific” topic here, we were contacted about a benefit dinner which is happening in September. They’re looking to get the word out, so tweet and blog post away. Rather severely edited for brevity, here is part of the press release.

Hillsdale Presents Largest Paella Dinner in Oregon – Proceeds Benefit Hillsdale Main Street and Neighborhood House

WHO: Hillsdale Main Street, a Program of the Hillsdale Community Foundation

WHAT: Hillsdale Paella Dinner – Paella Dinner for 300 People, Fundraiser for Hillsdale Main Street

WHEN: Saturday, September 10, 2011 – 6:00 pm – 8:00 pm

WHERE: Hillsdale Business District – Under the Big Tent next to Korkage Wine Shop, 6451 SW Capitol Hwy Portland, OR 97239

COST: $75 Per Person

Hillsdale Main Street, a program of the Hillsdale Community Foundation, is pleased to
announce its major fundraiser of the year – the Hillsdale Paella Dinner – benefiting both
Hillsdale Main Street as well as Neighborhood House. This will be a first year event, featuring Chef Ted Coonfield, with Chef Greg Higgins (from Portland’s Higgins Restaurant and Bar) and Chef Chris Biard from Sonoma, CA’s world class restaurant Auberge du Soleil as sous-chefs. They will be serving 300 people under a tent decorated to bring you to Valencia, Spain. Besides the paella itself, entertainment will include flamenco dancers and wine tasting.

Tickets and Contact: Hillsdale Main Street

We wanted to give a shout and link to Kelly of Stella Blue Photography, who is an amazing dog photographer here in Portland. Check the link to see some of her photos.

We’re going to toot our own horn, for once. Don’t miss our Gluten-Free Restaurant List and also don’t miss our gluten-free bread machine resource page.

Last, I have to apologize for being behind on our email correspondence and blog posting. Life has been very busy recently. Those of you who have sent us restaurants for our restaurant list, we’re working to get you added soon!

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
3033 Northeast Alberta Street Portland, OR 97211 / 503.288.5883

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