Good News! Pambiche is Gluten-Free Friendly

Pambiche Gluten Free Fritters

Great news everybody! Our favorite Cuban restaurant, Pambiche on NE Glisan, is now gluten-free friendly, sporting an “alternativas” menu (PDF here). I’m not going to go into a great deal of depth with this article. Suffice it to say that they have a number of items on their regular menu which are also gluten free. All of their fritters are gluten-free, as are their fried plaintains, yuca root, salads, entrees, and even a couple of desserts.

Pambiche Camrones al Ajillo

Here’s what I got for an entree when we visited: The Camarones al Ajillo. These are delicious garlicky prawns with a sour orange sauce served with white rice, pan frito, and ensalada de aguacate.

The wait staff at Pambiche is always really awesome, the food comes out in a reasonable amount of time, and there is always a ton of stuff on the walls to keep a person’s attention. My only real complaint with the place is that it is too small. They really need to get a larger dining area. There always seem to be people waiting for seating every time we drive by.

I have to say that I’m amazed and excited with how many restaurants in Portland are starting to get hip to the gluten free jive. Did I mention that the alternative menu also has some vegetarian and vegan options? Good deal.

Horrible Service at Iorio

Usually I prefer to talk about stuff that I really love, and spread good news about restaurants and cafes that are doing things right. Recently, we had such a bad experience at a restaurant that I feel the need to post it here.

We went to Iorio for New Year’s Eve and had the worst experience at a restaurant since our hair raising Valentines Day at Wild Abandon. We had made reservations and we did notify the restaurant ahead of time that one of our party (me) was gluten free, but all night long the staff kept putting the wrong food in front of me.

When we first reviewed Iorio, we thought it was really great, and definitely want to note that this is one experience on one night. At the same time…

From the very start, our waiter was brief to the point of being rude. When our appetizers came, he basically threw the plates down in front of us without a word and zipped off. I had to wait for him to come back so that I could find out if the dish was gluten free, which it wasn’t. Then I had to wait for several minutes while a dish was made for me. Now I could see this happening once during a meal at a restaurant, but not three times. It happened with almost everything they put in front of me. The one time it didn’t happen, the person who brought us our food wasn’t aware that I was gluten free and didn’t know if the dish was (it turned out that it was, but by this time I was paranoid).

For dessert, a normal piece of cake was placed in front of me, and when I asked, I was amazed to discover that they had forgotten again, and I ended up waiting at least 15 minutes for a substitute dessert to come out. Again, if they had just found out, this would have been OK. Instead, they had my reservation for several weeks, and the waiter knew that I was gluten free pretty soon after he threw the appetizers at us. When they messed up our desserts, Sienna got up, went to the back, and asked to talk to the manager. The manager acted hostile when she complained about the bad service. There’s even more to the story, but we’re choosing not to include it here. Suffice it to say that our dessert was not their last mistake.

Because I’m gluten free, I know that I’m kind of high maintenance. I do my best to express gratitude for the extra trouble that restaurants have to put into serving me. While all out the food we were served was outstanding, the service at Iorio was so bad that I wondered if we had done something by mistake to irk our waiter. Then we noticed that the couple at the table next to us was just as unhappy. We have since then also noticed that the Yelp page on Iorio is starting to fill up with complaints about the service.

I keep reading about how the chef at Iorio is winning awards. So it confuses me that he would turn a blind eye and allow visitors at his restaurant to have such a horrible experience.

Things We Like: Whole Foods GF Apple Pie and Fifty Licks Vanilla Ice Cream

Gluten free apple pie a la mode, that’s what we’re talking about here. Whole Foods has a bunch of gluten free items now which are produced in a dedicated gluten free facility, so they’re not a source of worry for people who are very sensitive to gluten. The ingredients are posted on the package. We’ve found that there are two sizes of these apple pies, and have to admit enough experience with them to say that the smaller sized pies are better for some reason. Both are really amazingly delicious.

While we’re talking about pies, let’s digress a little bit and mention that some of the gluten free bakeries around town can supply pies. We’ve sampled pies from Crave Bake Shop and also a pie crust from Gluten Free Gem and can vouch for both.

Fifty Licks Tahitian Vanilla

The second part of our apple pie a la mode is the ice cream, supplied by Portland’s own Fifty Licks (their website currently appears to have been hacked – so look out). When I was a kid, I remember my parents making ice cream in an old hand-cranked ice cream maker. To get the ice cream cold enough, you had to put salt and ice into the bucket, and then everybody took turns cranking it. The vanilla ice cream recipe was almost like a custard. This Fifty Licks Tahitian Vanilla ice cream is the closest I’ve eaten to that kind from my childhood. I love it!

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 www.laurabrussell.com.

Wrap-up

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!

Laura B. Russell’s Gluten Free Soups Class at Bob’s Red Mill

Delicious International Soups with Laura B. Russell

If you haven’t been to a cooking class at Bob’s Red Mill, the format is less participatory and more like watching someone cook while they give you tips on how to be successful with the dishes. Everyone is given a handout with recipes for the dishes being prepared. At the front of the class there is a large island with burners and cutting boards, where the cook does their work. On either side of the island, hanging from the ceiling, are two monitors which show a view from above the cooking area, so that you can see what’s going on inside the pots while the food is being prepared. As the dishes are finished, samples are handed around to everyone in the class. Also, audience members are encouraged to ask questions, and the crowd this night was very inquisitive.

We recently attended the aforementioned gluten-free soups class at Bob’s Red Mill. The class was taught by Laura B. Russell, the author of The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen, which we are currently working our way through. The other upcoming gluten-free class happening there is a desserts class with Crave Bake Shop’s Kyra Busanich (see here for details). More information about Laura B. Russell is available at her website, www.laurabrussell.com. She also writes a monthly column for the Oregonian’s Food Day section called “Gluten Freedom” (click here for a list of previous columns), and is also a contributor to Portland’s MIX magazine and to Easy Eats and Living Without magazine.

The dishes included in the handout were: Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup, Creamy Curried Millet and Vegetable Soup, Brazilian Cheese Puffs, Eastern-European Style Mushroom and Buckwheat Soup, Wild Rice Soup with Smoked Sausage, and Peruvian Quinoa Chowder. We got samples of the first four of these dishes, and they were all really delicious. The Moroccan Lentil and Chickpea Soup was my favorite. It’s got an amazing ginger, cumin, and cinnamon spice blend, and features fresh mint added at the end. The recipe for this dish can be found here at Russell’s website. This recipe happens to be vegan. A bunch of the recipes on her site are vegan/vegetarian friendly.

The items that prompted the most questions and discussion were the Brazilian Cheese Puffs. Fortunately, the recipe for this dish is also available at her website, here: Brazilian Cheese Puffs. Russell noted that a person could make larger sized puffs and use them for hamburger buns, or make smaller sized puffs and then stuff them to create hors d’oeuvres. She also noted that the most important ingredients are the tapioca flour, the milk, and the eggs. So a person could change up the cheeses used, and also try different milk substitutes.

During the break we went up and introduced ourselves. We had some questions about a recipe that we had tried out of the Gluten Free Asian Kitchen book. Russell was very friendly and was happy to have a long discussion about cooking dumplings with us. After the class, she was available for more questions and also to sign copies of her book.

We thought that this was a fun and rewarding class and would encourage anyone out there who is interested in food or cooking to check out the classes at Bob’s Red Mill. Upcoming classes can be found listed here. Note that not all of their classes are gluten-free. This one wasn’t really billed as a gluten-free class, but everything in it was gluten-free. If you wanted to attend this class but missed it, we were told that this class and the desserts class taught by Kyra Bussanich will be repeating in February. You can reserve a spot now by calling Bonnie at Bob’s Red Mill 971-206-2208 (Mon-Fri 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM).

Tula Gluten Free Bakery – New Kid in Town

Gluten Free Berry Scone at Tula

Our friends started raving recently about a new gluten-free bakery that opened up on NE Alberta. We just went there for the first time two weekends ago, and went back for some pizza the night that they had their opening celebration. Tula Gluten Free Baking Co. is located at the corner of NE Martin Luther King Jr. and NE Alberta. Besides being a bakery, they also have lunch and breakfast items, pizza, and espresso drinks. The bakery itself is good-sized, featuring a nice area to sit and eat gluten-free baked goods.

Goodies behind the glass

Tula has a number of treats available. As mentioned above, they have pizza. Behind the counter they usually have a couple different kinds of scone, a few different tart-sized quiches, cookies, cupcakes, breads, and hand pies. You can also pick up some par-baked focaccia bread and/or delicious olive bread. Because baked goods are a particularly sore spot for the gluten-intolerant, we see it as our duty to eat lots and lots of baked goods. We do it out of our sense of duty and in a spirit of altruism. Especially when it comes to cookies.

gluten-free baked goodies

Here we have, starting at the cookie and moving clock-wise around the box: A chocolate-chip salt cookie, a mixed berry pie, a curried vegetable hand pie, and two mini quiches. The cookie ended up being the least popular item we sampled. None of us were particularly excited about it. It seems strangely greasy and besides the grease flavor, there isn’t a lot to it. We’re happy to report, however, that everything else here was really amazing. They all benefit from a little time in a toaster oven to get them warm again. We were especially fond of the berry pie, the curry hand pie, and the tomato dill mini quiche there. These all had great flavors, and the pie crust at Tula is really excellent.

Gluten Free focaccia bread

Focaccia bread is one of those things I really miss, and until now haven’t been able to replace it. The focaccia at Tula comes par baked. So you take it home and finish baking it right before you want to eat it. There’s enough focaccia there to make 4 good-sized sandwiches. The ingredients are millet flour, sorghum flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, agave syrup, xanthan gum, sea salt, olive oil, and rosemary (so it’s vegan). To finish baking, you put it in the oven at 375 degree and bake 11 to 15 minutes. Fresh out of the oven, this focaccia is soft, springy and delicious. It’s good dipped in oil and vinegar, but it’s even better with some honey!

gluten-free pizza at Tula

We also tried the pizza at Tula. The good news is that the pizza here is totally safe, since it’s made in a dedicated gluten-free bakery. I’m used to crossing my fingers every time I set foot in a pizza place that has gluten-free pizza available. Half for good luck, and half because I feel like I’m testing my fate. Many places around town are careful about cross-contamination, but to me, it’s really nice to get a pizza that you know definitely hasn’t been dragged through a pile of wheat flour. The crust style is thin, and soft. So if you’re into pizza with soft crusts, this one is for you. I found the lack of topping variety a little disappointing (they only have vegetarian options) and also Sienna and I were dissatisfied with the flavor. The sauce seems more like a ragu and is sweet. Although the cheese and other toppings are good, I felt like the sauce was seeping into the crust and losing its flavor. I think a lot of pizza places fight this by rubbing the crust with a crushed garlic piece and applying a bit of olive oil before adding the sauce.

We’ve been back a couple of times, and every time we’ve had great experiences with the people at the counter. Everybody is friendly and ready to answer questions about the items there and the bakery itself. Did we mention that the place is vegetarian-friendly? They also have vegan options. Last, they serve sandwiches.

Our final verdict: We’re really excited to have another retail gluten-free bakery open in town, and especially happy to have one that has such a wide range of products. We took the focaccia bread and made grilled cheese sandwiches out of it. This is my new favorite thing to do.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Dedicated Facility
Times we have visited: 3 (So we feel pretty good about our score.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: 1 or 2 bucks, depending on the item

Tula Gluten Free Baking Co.
Tula on Facebook
4943 NE Martin Luther King Jr Blvd Ste 101 Portland, OR 97211 / 541.306.1250

Gluten Free Friendly Bakery: White Rabbit in Aurora

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

White Rabbit Bakery Owner, Emily Arreola

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

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

gluten free tuna salad sandwich

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

gluten free bread

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

Gluten free baked goods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gluten Free Banana Cream Pie

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

gluten-free quiche

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

We want to know: Anywhere else to get gluten-free donuts? Have you eaten at the White Rabbit Bakery? What did you think? Let us know!

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Friendly But Ask Questions
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Same

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

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.

Restaurant Review: Natural Selection on Alberta

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

Natural Selection Menu

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

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

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

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

Gluten free sweet pea soup

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

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

Abalone Mushroom on Polenta - gluten free

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

Asparagus and new potato hash

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

rice pudding strawberry consomme

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

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

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

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

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

Gluten-Free Dinner: Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Chutney

We were recently looking at cookbooks in Powell’s Books on Hawthorne. Specifically, we were checking out The New Best Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen, which also has a book that’s The Best Simple Recipes, which as the title would suggest, has the best recipes but for people who don’t have as much time. I checked out the simple book and felt like it isn’t exactly the kind of food we like to eat. Recently, someone gave us a subscription to Bon Appetit magazine, and there’s a section in the magazine devoted to recipes that are supposed to take 15 minutes or under. We’ve had a lot of success with those recipes, and just on a whim, we decided to see if there was something like it in the quick cooking section at Powell’s. Little did we expect, we found exactly what we were looking for!

I had to take a shot of this book from the side. Look at the size of this book! It’s giant! And it has 1100 recipes in it.

Bon Appetit Fast Easy Fresh by Barbara Fairchild

The Bon Appetit Cookbook: Fast Easy Fresh (2008) by Barbara Fairchild. Obviously, not all of these recipes are going to be gluten-free. But that’s what substituting is for. Also, the recipes are all supposed to take between 30 to 45 minutes to make. The book is divided up into different sections on soups, salads, sandwiches, different kinds of meat (fish, pork, beef, chicken, turkey, duck, and game), vegetables, breakfasts, sides, desserts, and even cocktails. The vegetable section is broken up by season so that you’ll actually be able to get the veggies for the recipes you want to make. One thing this book doesn’t have a lot of is photos, which is kind of disappointing, but still OK with me.

Cherries!

On to the recipe. It’s a quick cherry chutney over grilled pork tenderloin. This recipe takes advantage of the fact that cherries are available in stores right now, and serves four. Trader Joe’s has whole pork loins for a reasonable price. I added some things to it (marked in italics). These are: garlic & powdered ginger.

3/4 cup cherry preserves
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (or to taste)
2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2/3 cup chopped onion
2 cups fresh cherries, pitted
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I substituted chili powder for more flavor and less burn)

1 pork tenderloin ( 1-1/4 pounds)

Obviously, the first thing you’re going to have to do is pit the cherries. If you don’t have a cherry pitting tool, you can do what I did and cut the cherries in half around the pip and then pop them out with a fingernail. If you cut it in half the right direction, you can get your thumbnail under the ridge that runs around the pit. Depending on how quickly your grill heats up, you may want to start it after you finish the cherries.

Make the Glaze: Mix the vinegar, allspice, ginger, garlic, and preserves in a small bowl. Pour 1/4 cup of this mixture into another container, and set aside for glazing the pork. The rest is going to go into the chutney.

The Chutney: In a pan over high heat, add some oil and let it heat up. Add the onion and saute for a minute. Add the chili powder, cherries, onion, and the reserved mixture from the preserves. Stir often and boil the mixture 8 minutes or until thick.

The Pork: Season the pork with salt and pepper, and then do your normal grilling and glazing routine. For a piece of meat like this, it means browning it in the hottest part of the grill, and then moving it to a cooler area to cook through. You’ll want to turn often and glaze it a lot. Cook until meat thermometer registers 145 F. You can speed up a pork loin by cutting it in half lengthwise. I did this to cut down on my cooking time.

At some point, put some kale in an aluminum foil packet with a little olive oil, a dash of salt, and some water. Put that on the grill 10 minutes before the pork is going to be done.

Serve!

One Last, Quick Note: This doesn’t have anything to do with gluten-free cooking, but recently Sienna went on a mission to find the best cooking thermometer made. She went to different stores and asked people for advice. She searched the Internet. After a long search, she was successful: the best meat thermometer ever. This is the Cooper Model DPP400W, and the nice thing about it is that it measures the temperature of the meat almost instantly. I kept trying to use other meat thermometers that would take like 5 minutes to read the temperatures and I was overcooking a lot of meat. This thermometer is awesome, and unlike the big meat thermometers that don’t really work unless you’re putting them into a roast or a whole turkey, this thermometer can be used to test the temperature of something as thin as a chicken breast. OK, back to our regularly scheduled programming.