Veggie Grill Opening Event

Among other Portland bloggers, we were invited to an event to celebrate the opening of a Veggie Grill in Beaverton, Oregon. Both of us have been vegetarian and vegan in the past, and we definitely do our best to add veggie-friendly info to Gluten Free Portland, so we were really happy to be invited. Here is part of the invitation they sent us:

Restauranteur of the year and native Oregonian Ed Casey is bringing Vegan restaurant Veggie Grill to town! Veggie Grill has hearty comfort food that really brings a new twist to vegan and vegetarian fare. The Veggie Grill menu is satisfying food for vegetarians and vegans and traditionally meat loving folks alike. The restaurant is located at 3435 SW Cedar Hills Blvd Suite D, Beaverton OR 97140.

We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but the website makes it look kind of like a more pricey vegan American fast food joint. That is pretty much what we discovered when we attended the event. I also heard it described as “vegan American comfort food” but it’s definitely not “comfort food” in the collard greens & grits sense of the word. So yeah, I’m going to stick with more pricey vegan American fast food joint. They are a chain that started in Los Angeles, and there is one in Seattle as well. Comparisons to Chipotle, Baja Fresh, and/or Noodles & Company would definitely be fair.

Veggie Grill - the view from the bar

The place was clean, the help was friendly, and the food arrived very quickly. The decor is slick and the restaurant has an upbeat and energetic vibe. Basically the entire menu is salads and various kinds of veggie burger. And here’s where we introduce the unfortunate fact: we’re not really going to be the core audience for the Veggie Grill. The sandwiches are served on wheat buns and the vegan chickin’ and veggie-steak meat substitutes are made with wheat (among other ingredients). The burgers can be served on a bed of kale, and they do have tempeh, so that opens the options up a little bit, but really, almost everything on the menu needs some fiddling to make it gluten-free.

Veggie Grill All Hail Kale

When asked about the gluten-free options, all the staff were able to make suggestions, and it was obvious that the restaurant took the time to educate everybody about gluten issues (which we always really appreciate). The items on the menu that were suggested were the All Hail Kale (pictured above) with tempeh, the Thai Chickin’ salad (but without the chickin’ and wontons), the Bali Bliss Sandwich (but on kale), and the Papa’s Portobello burger (also on kale).

Veggie Grill Portland Bali Bliss on Kale

We sampled the All Hail Kale, Bali Bliss on kale, and the Portobello burger. We both quite enjoyed the All Hail Kale, which is basically a marinated kale salad with cabbage, salsa, and a vinaigrette. It was fresh, light, and flavorful. The veggies were obviously fresh, and the dish was satisfying. Sienna found the Portobello burger disappointingly bland. The Bali Bliss was basically as good as a tempeh patty can be when served on a bed of kale. I like tempeh, and if you’ve had a lot of tempeh, then you probably know what I mean. The tempeh itself was good but not particularly flavorful. It was served with an interesting lightly spicy aoli-like sauce, which helped quite a bit.

The final analysis: We both left with the feeling that we weren’t really the intended audience of the Veggie Grill. Although they’ve definitely done their homework to be gluten-free friendly, the menu isn’t marked, and I think that there’s enough room for ingredient confusion with fakin’ chicken and beef that it probably should be marked. I will say that if we lived in Beaverton and some of our vegan friends wanted to get something to eat, it would be on our list of possible places to visit. Check out Portland vegan blog Get Sconed for more coverage.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Friendly but Ask Questions
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: same

Veggie Grill
veggiegrill.com
3435 SW Cedar Hills Blvd, Beaverton OR 97140
(503) 234-7437

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.

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

Restaurant Review: Cafe Rio

Cafe Rio from outside

Editor’s note: We all went to Cafe Rio together, and our friend Lorna Nakell spontaneously wrote this review about our experience. (P.S. We try to mark when restaurants are vegan/vegetarian friendly, and this one very clearly is. Also, the espresso drinks that we had were awesome!) Thanks Lorna!

Café Rio is a hip enough sounding name for a Portland eatery—but don’t be deceived. Immediately upon entering this small establishment, friends and I were disappointed. It seemed that the owner couldn’t decide between having a sit-down or take-out restaurant, so they went for something in-between—not a cart, but also not a full dining establishment either—a “cartaurant.” Although there were five in our party, there was only one table—in the whole place (okay, it was actually two smaller tables that we had to fit together), and that table would only accommodate four of us. My son was left to make himself comfortable in an upholstered chair (complete with attached swivel table) that looked like it was teleported in from an 80’s style hotel lobby.

The menu appeared simple enough for their small kitchen set-up and featured many variations of their specialty dish, GF waffles. In addition, they offered scrambled eggs with your choice of toppings. At first we were afraid that they would be microwaving the eggs, but were pleased to find out that they actually had two small sauté pans at the ready.

Dishes we ordered included two different egg scrambles, three different kinds of waffles, a scone (brought in from an outside baking co.), coffees and a fresh squeezed orange juice. This is what happened: Orders for our table came a little too staggered. We were surprised and saddened when our food was served on paper plates looking like it was prepared by my seven-year-old son (no offense, Calder).

Scrambled Eggs

Sorry for the image quality - but...

The egg dishes came without sides of toast or garnishes of any kind. Although the sausage in mine was tasty, the eggs were crumbly and they skimped on the spinach leaves. The waffles, on their own, ended up being pretty tasty and a good consistency. But, initially, we had a rough go at it because in addition to having to navigate waffle cutting with plastic utensils, we were informed that they didn’t have any butter or jam, but would we like some coconut oil instead (Ummm, why would I want that? Do YOU use that?).

Waffles with Banana and Nuts

Bottom line: Friendly and accommodating service, airport style presentation and atmosphere. Although I want to be encouraging to any dining establishment that is trying to incorporate GF food into their menu, sometimes all the pieces of a restaurant just don’t fit together the way they should. So, in regards to Café Rio, I have to say that unless you live in their hood and are too tired from partying the night before to drag out ye ol’ waffle iron and whip up some Bob’s Redmill pancake mix (which, by the way, is what they use), by all means give them a try. If not, there are so many other great restaurants that serve GF goods these days, you shouldn’t go out of your way to visit Café Rio.

Another Gluten Free Pizza Contender Appears: Sizzle Pie

Considering that their pizza graced the cover of the Portland Monthly Magazine in February of this year, I have an itching suspicion that we’re a little late to the party at Sizzle Pie. That doesn’t change the fact that their pizza is awesome.

Sizzle Pie on East Burnside

Sizzle Pie is smack dab in the hip blocks of East Burnside, at 624. It’s a couple blocks from the Doug Fir, and practically next door to that one cool bar with no name. Like the neighborhood, the decor, help, and jukebox is also hip. When we went there, the music ranged from The Cramps to a song that sounded like Devo if Devo was playing buzz guitars.

The menu is adventurous/upscale. By “upscale” I don’t mean expensive. I mean there are ingredients like white truffle oil, goat cheese, cilantro pepitas pesto, and even dried cranberries. At Sizzle Pie, a person can get what might be called “gourmet pizza” if the term hadn’t already been ruined by marketers. Obviously, you can also get a basic pepperoni and mushroom slice if that’s what you’re looking for, but it’s nice to know there are lots of interesting options. All their crusts are vegan, including the gluten-free crust. They also have an enormous vegan section in their menu.

As with most pizza places, alas, they cook the gluten-free pizza in a shared oven. So if you’re in the population who really need to watch out, then you should keep eating your pizza at New Cascadia or build your own with a store-bought crust.

Gluten Free Pizza at Sizzle Pie

Speaking of pizza, the Sizzle Pie crust style is thin, and there are green specs in the crust, so obviously they’re adding in some spices to make it more flavorful. It’s delicious. Along with being thin, it’s also the perfect amount of crunchy. I don’t know how they did it, but this is among the best gluten-free crusts I’ve had. We got the Golden Ring pizza, which is White Truffle Oil, Goat Cheese, and Green Onion, and we added garlic and pepperoni. This was one awesome pizza. We got a 12 inch pizza and it was the perfect size to feed two.

There are two things to note. First, the regular “large” pizza is 18 inches, but the gluten-free large is 16. Apparently the gluten-free crust just won’t get those extra couple of inches bigger. Second, don’t assume that the pizza you’re ordering is going to have red sauce. If you really want a pizza with red sauce, you should probably ask. There’s a place on the menu where it says that all their pizzas feature red sauce “unless otherwise noted” but this ends up being a little confusing, because if you get pesto, white truffle oil, caramelized onion spread, cream sauce, or something else that counts as “sauce” then you’re not getting red sauce. Which makes sense, but we got caught out.

No Red Sauce Here.

Luckily, our pizza was awesome without red sauce.

Everybody we had contact with was very friendly, the pizza came out hot, and the place is nice and clean. We sat out back on the patio, which was great on a warm August night. There was a line when we walked in the door, and there was a line when we left.

Our final verdict: With gluten-free pizza, we think that the crust is most of the battle, and so many crusts lack crunch or aren’t very flavorful. We’re going to have to try some more pies from Sizzle Pie, and it’s definitely not going to be a painful process, luckily! Have you eaten there yet? Let us know in the comments!

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free Friendly but Shared Oven So Watch Out
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: 1 or 2 bucks, depending on the size

Sizzle Pie
www.sizzlepie.com
624 E. Burnside, Portland OR, 97214 / 503.234.7437

Grab a Gluten Free Pie: Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts Baking Company emailed us recently to invite us to try their gluten-free pies. The owner, Molly Thurston Parker, recently launched a wholesale bakery to sell her pies, which are individual-sized. She sells the pies at the Buckman Farmers Market (SE 20th and SE Salmon, Thursdays, 3-7pm), at Salt Fire and Time Community Grocery on NW 24th Ave, at Pacific Pie Company on SE 7th, and at Flying Cat Coffee Shop on SE Division. When you go to the Buckman Farmers Market, it’s usually Molly who is there working the booth.

Gluten Free Pies in Portland - Queen of Hearts

Queen of Hearts makes both savory and sweet pies. We stopped by the stand a couple of weeks ago and picked up some pies (which, in the interest of full disclosure, she gave us for free). On the savory side, Queen of Hearts makes a Black Bean & Pepper Jack Cheese pie and a Curried Lentil and Veggie pie. On the sweet side, Queen of Hearts makes a Hazelnut & Apricot pie, a Mixed Berry pie, and a Nutella pie. We tried everything but the Nutella pie.

Queen of Hearts Gluten Free Pies

The pies come packaged in twos. Each pie is an individual meal, and all of them are basically vegetarian. The instructions for cooking are quite simple. You can start from frozen or thawed, but basically you bake them in an oven at 375 degrees F until the crust is golden brown. We ate both the savory pies with some sauteed veggies, but they would also probably be great with a side salad.

Considering we’re talking about pies here, the most important consideration is going to be the crust. The Queen of Hearts crust is really excellent and amazing! It’s the exact kind of crisp and flavor a person wants from a pie crust. We were both really enamored of them, especially because so many gluten-free crusts are so disappointing.

We both also agreed that we liked the savory pies more than the dessert pies. The Curried Lentil and Veggie pie is filled with sweet potatoes, onion, coconut milk, lentils, kale, ginger and spices. Like most curries, we found that the flavor and experience was better with some yogurt on the side to offset the curry. It would probably also be really nice with a chutney. If you’re a curry fan, then these are a real treat.

Gluten-Free Savory Pie

Our favorite pie was the Black Bean & Pepper Jack Cheese pie. Besides the two ingredients in the name, these pies have tomatoes, green chiles, onion, spices, and pepper flakes. Besides broccoli, we added some yogurt here, too (instead of sour cream), and some avocado. These pies have a great flavor and are the perfect level of spicy.

Gluten-Free Mixed Berry Pie

As mentioned earlier, we thought that the dessert pies were just OK. Pictured above is the Mixed Berry pie paired with vanilla ice cream from Portland’s own Fifty Licks. This pie is made with blueberries and marionberries. The Hazelnut & Apricot pies are filled with hazelnut frangipane and apricot preserves, which incidentally contained corn syrup, which we found a little confusing, considering that Queen of Hearts obviously tries to use healthy ingredients in their pies. The dessert pies were a bit bland. This might be one of those cases where the crust is kind of taking the edge off of the ingredients. We both found ourselves wishing that the pies were more tart, or maybe more sweet.

Our final verdict: We really enjoyed the savory pies and think that if you’re looking for something new, interesting, and gluten-free to take home and bake one night, you should give Queen of Hearts a try. Sweet pies are really subjective, so I’d be really interested to hear from any of our readers who have tried Queen of Hearts. Let us know in the comments!

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free
Times we have visited: 2 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: not certain

Queen of Hearts Baking Company
www.queenofheartspdx.com
See locations above / 503.421.6842

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 Pizza – Garlic Jims and Eat Pizza

I almost called this post “The Gluten-Free Pizza Smack-Down!” Maybe I should have. We have two separate pizza places in Portland that offer gluten-free pizza. Garlic Jim’s has had it for quite a while. Eat Pizza! has just joined the pack. Did I mention that we have a list of places in town that serve gluten-free pizza?

Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: When you walk in to most pizza places, you will see that everybody who works there is covered with flour. It’s usually pretty safe to assume that the work surfaces and ovens are also covered with flour (although Garlic Jim’s is accredited gluten-free and so it should be OK – see more on that below). While I didn’t have any problems with the Garlic Jim’s pizza, I did end up having a little trouble after the eating the Eat Pizza.

Garlic Jim’s

Garlic Jim’s is a chain with locations in Oregon, California, Washington, Idaho, and Colorado. Strangely enough, their website doesn’t list all the locations in the Portland area, so you’ll get more accurate results with Google Maps. There are two in Vancouver WA, one in Clackamas, and two in Beaverton. We went to the Clackamas Garlic Jim’s, which is located in a strip mall on SE Sunnyside, across the street from the Sunnyside Kaiser Permanente hospital.

Garlic Jim’s is definitely a carry-out or delivery pizza place. There is some seating, but the ambiance is strictly strip mall. If you’re looking for a cozy neighborhood pizza joint with a pinball machine and booths, this is not it. The staff there was friendly and helpful when we went. The people who work there all looked like clean cut college kids. The transaction was smooth. The pizza was boxed and ready to go when we arrived.

Garlic Jim's Gluten Free Pizza

We got a pepperoni with half mushrooms and half olives. We really liked the pizza. In fact, this is now Sienna’s favorite gluten-free pizza in Portland (I still like Sellwood Pizza Kitchen best, but think this is a close second). They have a thin crust going on. Unlike most of the rest of the gluten-free pizza in Portland, the crust here is thin and crunchy, so if that’s the way you like your pizza, you should probably try Garlic Jim’s. True to their name, the pizza is garlicky. Since the crust is thin, you don’t get the phenomena with some other pizzas where they end up being like chewing on a flavorless sponge. We’ve had it twice now and the second time wasn’t as good as the first, so there may be some problems with consistency, but we still liked it.

Garlic Jim’s also has an impressive gluten-free FAQ page, where they talk about how they prevent cross-contamination and how they have a Gluten Free Food Service Accreditation from the Gluten Intolerance Group. That’s pretty awesome! Also, the gluten-free crust happens to be vegan.

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Gluten-Free friendly but Ask Questions!
Times we have visited: 2 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: Add $3 for the large size.

Garlic Jim’s
www.garlicjims.com
Multiple Locations

Eat Pizza

Like Garlic Jim’s, Eat Pizza isn’t exactly a cozy restaurant, but there is seating. If we had to choose a place to sit down between the two, based only on ambiance and people-watching, we would definitely pick Eat Pizza. It’s a small place with character on Burnside at 21st that does mostly delivery and carry-out. The staff was very friendly and resemble the Garlic Jim’s staff except with tattoos and piercings. The pizza was hot and ready to go when we arrived. We did this with a Groupon, so we also ordered a Mediterranean salad.

Eat Pizza! is unique in the gluten-free pizza market for having three sizes of pizza available: Mini, In-Between, and Giant. They are also vegan-friendly and have vegan cheese available.

Eat Pizza! Gluten Free Pizza

We got a pepperoni pizza with half mushrooms and half olives. Despite the rave reviews we were hearing from our readers, we weren’t as enamored with the pizza at Eat Pizza. The pizza wasn’t as flavorful. There wasn’t enough sauce (or maybe the sauce wasn’t flavorful enough). We thought that the crust was kind of spongy and too dense. I see pizza as being one of those really subjective things. Some people really like thick crust pizza, and if that’s your thing, then maybe you would like them better than we did. I probably would have liked the pizza better if we had ordered it with extra garlic. We’re also scratching our heads a little, because we’ve always thought that New York Style pizza is thin. Maybe their regular pizza is thin?

Gluten-Free Safety Rating: Avoid if you’re really sensitive.
Times we have visited: 1 (So your experience may vary.)
Overall rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: 1 to 3 dollars more, depending on the size.

Eat Pizza!
www.eatpizzaportland.com
2037 SW Morrison St. Portland, OR / 503.243.FOOD

Summary

When it comes to pizza, being gluten-free is especially painful. It’s this thing we all love to eat. Part of me feels ungrateful for writing a lukewarm review for a pizza joint that has gone out of its way to offer something I can eat. At the same, there are places in town to get excellent gluten-free pizza. Our favorites are Sellwood Pizza Kitchen (our review here), the Oasis Cafe on Hawthorne (see our review), and now we can add Garlic Jim’s to the list. We have another winner!

We want to know: What kind of pizza do you like best? Got a favorite pizza place in Portland that I didn’t mention in the review? Let us know in the comments!