Saturday, November 22, 2008

Finding Gluten Free 'Comfort' in Richmond

A few weeks ago the husband and I were in Richmond, Virginia for a wedding. We have many good friends in Richmond so on Friday night we met up for dinner with some good friends from college. When I tell you that we had an amazing dining experience, this is no exaggeration! We went to Comfort (Broad Street) which is known for its yummy southern comfort fare. I had heard great things about Comfort and was hopeful that they would be willing to accommodate me.

The husband and I arrived a little early so we had a drink at the bar. Their beverage and food prices are shockingly reasonable (particularly since I’m used to DC dining prices) and the husband was immediately enthralled by the wide variety of bourbons they offered. Comfort does not take reservations so plan on having a drink at the bar while you wait. This part of the night was just as fun as the remainder of the evening so I didn’t see it as a pain at all. The bartender nicely talked with us and told me that they would definitely be able to find food suitable for me.

Our friends arrived and we were seated in a booth in the back of the restaurant and I immediately began to salivate over the menu! Everything looked delicious and I LOVE side dishes so there were many items I wanted…the question was could I actually eat any of them? Our waitress was incredibly nice and she has a gluten intolerance herself so she knew everything about the menu and what I could and could not eat. For example, she knew that I shouldn’t order the meatloaf because it contains oats. She circled all of the sides that I could have (unfortunately I couldn’t eat the squash casserole or fried okra but there were so many options that it didn’t matter.) She also informed me that all of the entrees were gluten free except the meatloaf and fried catfish.

As all of my fellow celiacs know, just having the ability to choose from so many things on the menu is a rare experience! So what did I order? I had the short ribs as my entrée and the sweet potato puree and asparagus for my sides. What a meal! I ate every single bite and felt totally healthy the next day. Hooray! Definitely a success!

My trip to Comfort was one of my best dining experiences since being diagnosed. The entire staff at Comfort was so welcoming and ‘comforting.’ They understood contamination and all of the little ways gluten can sneak into your food. I was a little nervous about contamination because the kitchen is so small, but it wasn’t a problem at all. I enjoyed a rich, flavorful and filling meal and I actually felt like I had choices! If you’re going to Richmond or driving through, make a stop at Comfort!

200 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23220

Friday, November 21, 2008

What's for dessert? Buzz Bakery

After a meal at Rustico, the husband and I often walk across the street to Buzz Bakery. Buzz is always ‘buzzing’ with people and they have a huge array of cakes, cookies and pastries. The best part is they have yummy gluten free treats! On the menu, Buzz has two types of gluten free brownies and cupcakes. I recommend the chocolate cupcake with vanilla icing. Before experiencing Buzz, I was never a huge fan of chocolate cake, but their chocolate cupcake is very flavorful and actually tastes like real cake. (It doesn’t leave a funny aftertaste like some gluten free sweets.) If you get a cupcake to take home for later, I recommend sticking it in the fridge and then zapping it in the microwave for about five seconds when you’re ready to eat. The brownies also freeze well. These treats are a bit pricy, but the chocolate cupcake is definitely worth the $3!

Not only does Buzz serve coffee drinks at Buzz, but they also sell wine by the glass and even champagne! Buzz stays open until midnight every night so you can always go for an after dinner dessert and coffee/champagne. Enjoy!

901 Slaters Lane
Alexandria, VA 22314

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Rustico's Chick Pea Crust Pizza

Last night the husband and I went to Rustico in Alexandria for dinner. We love their pizzas and they make a chick pea flour crust pizza that is by far the best gluten free pizza that I've eaten. The chick pea makes the crust much heartier and flavorful than the rice flower crusts I've tasted before. A word of warning: The people at Rustico make regular flour pizza as well so they don't guarantee a gluten free kitchen. I appreciate that they understand this concept! That being said, they do cook the chick pea crusts in a different oven from the gluten pizzas AND they make the dough in a separate area of the kitchen.

The atmosphere at Rustico is very warm and welcoming. The husband and I enjoy eating at both the bar and in the restaurant. They offer the full menu in the bar and there are many booths as well. There are TVs to watch athletics and while it's busy, it's not so loud that you can't hear the people that are in your group.

Last night I ordered the sausage pizza which is by far my favorite. The sausage is homemade and gluten free! One of my other favorites is the roasted mushroom with goat cheese. You can also create your own pizza too. In the past I've ordered grilled chicken and pesto. Yummy! One of the best parts is that I always have leftovers! Rustico also has a huge selection of beers, including about six gluten free beers. Pizza and beer, what more could a celiac want?!

The manager at Rustico is very friendly and nice. He always stops by our table to talk to us and see how we're doing. You can also order pizzas for take out as well, which is a fun idea for a Sunday afternoon of football.

So while there is a risk of contamination at Rustico, the fact that the staff understands that there is a risk and that they try to minimize the risk. As you know, any time we celiacs go out to dinner, we're taking a chance. That being said, the pizza is delicious and the staff wants to be accommodating. Even though I've had contamination in the past at Rustico (I'm extremely sensitive to gluten contamination), none of my other celiac friends have gotten sick.

Overall, Rustico is a fun place to go where celiacs can get food that is rarely available to us. This is a regular spot for us! It's a great place to take non-celiac friends. Some people even prefer the chick pea crust to the regular crust!

827 Slaters Lane Alexandria, VA 22314 703.224.5051

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

You can't always go out to dinner...favorite recipes

While the husband and I love to go out to dinner, we like to cook even more! Even since I was diagnosed with celiacs, we still use 'normal' cookbooks because there are so many delicious recipes out there that are naturally gluten free. Our three favorite cookbooks are,

- The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook (Ina Garten) The husband's sister, Heidi, introduced us to the world of Barefoot! While all of her cookbooks are great, the original is our favorite. Her perfect roast chicken is so simple, easy and amazing! (Just skip the 2 tsp. of flour.)

- Super Natural Cooking (Heidi Swanson) Given to me by Heidi, this cookbook is vegetarian and uses many different (non-gluten grains) in its recipes. My personal favorite is the chunky lentil soup. It's so hearty and perfect for the upcoming cold months. Serve it with GF corn bread and it's a great dinner.

- The New Best Recipe (Cook's Illustrated) The husband gave me this cookbook for Christmas last year and it has over 1,000 recipes. For example, the writers experiment with the best ways to make oven french fries and they tell you what the best method is. Lucky for us, the fries are GF and so good! You don't even need a frier to make them!

Both of our lives are hectic and busy, so taking the time to prepare meals together is one of the things we like to do most. In this blog, I hope to share some of our favorite recipes with you in addition to just reviewing restaurants because for the celiac, eating at home is always the safest and most comfortable place to eat!