Thursday, January 8, 2009

Las Canteras: Peruvian Dining in Adams Morgan

In the mood for unique and flavorful food? Check out Adams Morgan’s Las Canteras, a restaurant serving Peruvian cuisine. I went to Las Canteras for my friend, Phil’s, birthday a couple of months ago and had a delicious and gluten free meal, with no trace of contamination.

Phil goes to school with David so I knew that I would not know many of the people attending the dinner. As you know, anytime a large group of people goes out to dinner, particularly at an unfamiliar restaurant, a celiacs’ heart starts to race. All of the fears that accompany going out to eat are heightened: you don’t want to make a scene, but you also don’t want to be the weirdo that doesn’t eat anything either! I sometimes find myself getting stressed out even before the actual dinner. I continue to remind myself, however, that these feelings of discomfort are good, as it forces me to be assertive and try out new places.

Needless to say, I was a little nervous about this restaurant while simultaneously meeting some of these people for the first time. When I got to Las Canteras, a quaint restaurant that’s nearly hidden on 18th Street, I saw on the menu some dishes that could potentially work. While the waiter did not totally understand what I needed, he did not hesitate to get the manager who went through items of interest on the menu with me.

Many of the dishes at Las Canteras have rice and potatoes as the starch so that was comforting. Also, I found that the descriptions of the entrees on the actual menu were very informative. For example, one of the dishes said that beer was in the sauce so I knew immediately that I couldn’t have that. Ultimately I chose between the following three dishes:

Filet Mignion: A class cut of tender beef made with a Peruvian flair. Served with quinoa saute with shallots and grilled asparagus
Quinotto: A risotto-style dish made with quinoa, mushrooms and grated cheese. Served with or without shrimp.
Seco de Carne: Beef stew slow-cooked in a sauce of yellow pepper, paprika, onion and cilantro. Served with garlic rice and beans

I went with the Seco de Carne and I was not disappointed. The meat was so tender and all of the spices mixed perfectly with the dish. The beans and rice were flavorful and added texture. Even more importantly, I felt great after the meal and the following day. Always a victory! Other people ordered the same dish as I did and mine did not have to be modified at all in order to be gluten free. I always love it when people want the same dish I do. It makes me feel like I’m not missing out on something better!

I would recommend Las Canteras if you’re looking for a unique night out in the city. I’m eager to go back to Las Canteras and try the other two dishes that I was eying!

Side note: The wait staff and manager were definitely nice but they did not go out of their way to be overly accommodating and friendly. I’m ok with that though, because the food was delicious and turned out to be gluten free, just like they said it would be.

Las Canteras
2307 18th Street NW
Washington, DC 20009

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Appetizers, Entrees and More at Carlyle

One of my favorite ‘gluten friendly’ restaurants is Carlyle, located in Shirlington (a neighborhood in Arlington). I’ve always loved the food here and the staff is so helpful in accommodating my needs. The managers are extremely knowledgeable about gluten and where it is found. For example, they know that you can’t have the salmon because it has a soy sauce marinade, which is always a promising sign!

The other night David and I went to Carlyle for a drink and the bartender offered us an appetizer. I told him that unfortunately, I didn’t think there was anything I could eat from the appetizers section of the menu, explaining that I have celiac. He knew exactly what celiac was and got the manager who told me that she could sauté the calamari instead of frying it and that they would also give me a marinara sauce for dipping instead of the salsa it normally comes with which has soy sauce. Hooray! I had just been saying to David that I can never have calamari because it’s always fried. My sautéed calamari was delicious and a great bar snack! The people at Carlyle have always been extremely helpful, but their willingness to create an appetizer for me made my night.

One of my other personal favorites on the Carlyle menu is the roast pork tenderloin. It is the most flavorful pork tenderloin that I’ve ever tasted (well, except when David grills it) and they always cook it perfectly. Unfortunately, the potatoes are not gluten free but the manager always has lots of substitute options for me to choose from and I usually go with the asparagus. Their salads are delicious and I believe the shrimp and grits are also gluten free. Of course you’ll always want to double check with the manager, just in case they’ve changed their menu.

What I love the most about Carlyle is the staff’s willingness to walk through all of the ingredients with you and tell you clearly how they cook everything. I think it’s one of the restaurants that has the most knowledgeable staff so I feel confident going here. No matter how busy they are (and they get very busy), they don’t rush you through your decisions and are always eager to answer questions.

Let me know what dishes you’ve tried at Carlyle! Carlyle is a great restaurant for before or after the movies or before a show at Signature Theater. I just recently saw Les Miserables at Signature with my mom and we ate at Carlyle before the show. And of course, I got the roast pork tenderloin!

Note: Carlyle does not take reservations, but you can call ahead and get on the list in order to lessen your wait time. But of course it's always fun to hang out at the bar too!

4000 28th Street South
Arlington, VA 22206