Lantern: A Light on the Hill

Where: Lantern, 423 West Franklin Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

Lantern, located in Chapel Hill, NC, is one of Gourmet America’s Top 50 Restaurants. Chef-owner Andrea Reusing was the 2011 James Beard award winner for Best Chef in the Southeast, has given a TedX talk on collaborating with small farms, and has written a new cookbook called Cooking in the Moment: a Year of Seasonal Recipes.

GF Menu: No. However, the menu instructs, “Please let us know about any food allergies.”

What we ate: Local heirloom tomato salad and spicy carrot soup for appetizers, Flounder and Salmon for entrees, and Panna Cotta for dessert.

How to order it: Lantern is famous for fusing Asian flavors with North Carolina ingredients. The Lantern menu does an excellent job of listing ingredients, but since it is not marked specifically for food allergies, let your server know that you will be dining Gluten-Free, and ask for their recommendations.

Our server checked with the kitchen and marked our paper menu with all Gluten-Free options, acknowledging when and if soy sauce was used in a dish, to alleviate concerns we might have had about sauces. We had more than a dozen choices.

What it looks like:

LanternHeirloomTomThis appetizer was art on a plate. Local heirloom tomatoes were drizzled with fine olive oil, then topped with shiso leaf, shallots, sea salt, and freshly-ground black pepper.

LanternSoup3This summer carrot soup was served chilled, but it was warm with the exotic flavors of vadouvan curry.

LanternFlounder2The server asked whether I was comfortable with the whole fish being presented on the plate, and explained that some customers will request that the head be removed. Fresh and crispy NC flounder was served in the style of a Vietnamese fish dish.

LanternFlounder3Here’s the closeup of the fish. On top of the tender white meat and delicately fried fish skin were hot chiles, fresh turmeric, dill, fried shallots, the occasional cilantro leaf, and roasted peanuts. This is one of the best fish dishes I have ever eaten, and according to our server, it is their most popular.

LanternPickledCarrotsThe flounder came with a side of spicy heirloom carrot salad and a scoop of warm jasmine rice.

LanternSalmonThe steamed wild King salmon was served with house-pickled ginger, lemongrass, red onion, cucumber-mint salad, and a side of warm coconut jasmine rice.

LanternPannaCotta5

There were two gluten-free dessert options the night we visited. I was delighted with our choice of the cherry stone panna cotta. A cool and impossibly delicate panna cotta was garnished with Blue Ridge Mountain cherries and crunchy almond-sesame candy. Warning: you will not want to share this, so go ahead and get your own.

Green Note: Chef Andrea Reusing is a local luminary and a national leader in culinary sustainability.

From writing about “Egg Economics” in Gourmet magazine to organizing tours of a pollinator garden in Chatham Mills, NC, to hosting Farm-to-Table dinners to benefit Kitchen Patrol, her mission is clear. She aims to use locally-sourced ingredients from small organic farms and build community, all while educating others about sustainability. She also chairs the Triangle’s Slow Food convivium. These are just some of the reasons Chef Andrea was named one of “15 Green Chefs” on Grist’s international list.

Lantern on Urbanspoon

Catch: Has Me Hook, Line, and Sinker

Where: Catch, 6623 Market Street, Wilmington, NC 28405

When you dine at Catch, you are in for an exquisite culinary experience because Chef Keith Rhodes was named the 2011 Best Chef of the Southeast, he was a NC James Beard Semifinalist, and has been on Top Chef.

Gwyneth Paltrow visited Catch in July 2012 for a cooking lesson with Keith Rhodes. To read about her experience and see more photos, visit her curated site called “goop”. She also gave kudos to Catch’s “mixologist”, Richard Watson, who whipped up a Cucumber Tequila Cocktail for her.

GF Menu: No.

What we ate: Pan-Roasted NC Black Sea Bass Filet from the Daily Menu and Pan-Roasted Organic Salmon from the Regular Menu

How to order it:  We appreciated the descriptive list of ingredients on the menu at Catch. The menu also helpfully notes, “All food is prepared to order”.

Let your server know that you will be dining Gluten-Free. The servers at Catch are very accommodating and want to help you find something both safe and delicious.

We checked with our server to make sure that the salmon dish could be made with a Gluten-Free soy sauce for the glaze. She assured us that the chef could make this dish gluten-free after she confirmed with the kitchen.

What it looks like:

CatchSeaBass3

This scrumptious black sea bass was pan-roasted and draped over a bed of rice noodles, shitake mushrooms, and Shanghai Bok Choy. The gorgeous sauce was a coconut-blue crab fumet. The chef garnished it with a hearty dollop of lemon verbena pesto, fresh cilantro, and thai basil.

CatchSalmon2

(Our table was candlelit, so I couldn’t capture as much detail as I had hoped in this photo.) Tender inside, with a pan-roasted crispiness on the outside, this was salmon prepared at its best. Here, the rice noodles were combined with stir-fried organic vegetables and a soy sauce chili glaze. This dish was garnished with toasted sesame seeds and fresh cilantro.

 Green Note: Catch is doing everything right.

Chef Keith Rhodes and his wife, Angela, recognize the value of buying organic and local. Their website explains: “By striving to support North Carolina’s organic farmers, local fisheries and sustainable fishing practices, our customers help stimulate the local economy.” 

In addition to his second popular restaurant called Phun Seafood Bar, located on Princess Street in Wilmington, Keith Rhodes has launched the Catch Food Truck this year. Follow this fresh, local, organic food truck featuring California and Mexican Street Food here: http://www.catchthefoodtruck.com/. The food truck website boasts: “Catch food truck uses eco friendly packaging and NC soybean oil for frying. We also recycle the cooking oil to produce bio diesel.”

If you’d like to learn how to make sustainable seafood choices, the Monterey Bay Aquarium produces pocket-sized regional guides. These are incredibly handy to pull out of your wallet in a restaurant, market, or when traveling. I recently picked up both the Sushi Guide and the Southeast Consumer Guide. You can download any of the guides here for free.

Catch on Urbanspoon

Margaret’s Cantina: Organic, Local Fare Since 1993

Where: Margaret’s Cantina, 1129 Weaver Dairy Rd, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 (Located in the Timberlyne Shopping Center.)

GF Menu: Yes! “GF” is clearly marked on the menus.

What I ate: Sopa Seca Picosa (Spicy Mexican Lasagna) from the Dinner Menu + House Sangria

How to order it: Refer to the menu markings of “GF” for Gluten-Free when making your selection. Additionally, let the server know you are dining Gluten-Free.

The menus also indicate “V” for Vegetarian and “VV” for Vegan. As Margaret explains on the About Us page of the restaurant website: “Because my dishes are made in-house from wholesome ingredients, you can make pleasurable and healthy choices, no matter your preferences.” With food that is cooked-to-order, you CAN have it all!

What it looks like:

MargaretsCantina

Think you can’t have lasagna in a restaurant because you dine Gluten-Free? Think again! This spicy Mexican “lasagna” may be my new go-to comfort food. In this dish, corn tortilla chips are layered with cheese, your choice of chicken or black beans, and spicy salsa. The whole dish is then baked, and finally topped with additional salsa, lettuce, tomato, and sour cream. The result is packed with texture and flavor. The chips and black beans still maintain their freshness and integrity despite being smothered in melted cheese and salsa.

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Here’s the close-up. This was a very generous helping. I took some of it home and enjoyed it right from the fridge the next day. You gotta love a dish that is fantastic both hot and cold! It’ll be good to revisit year-round. 

Green Note: Margaret is committed to using local, seasonal, and organic produce, whenever possible, and she has been doing so for twenty years. She explains on the website, where she lists some of her local suppliers:

Long before locavore entered the lexicon, I was buying organic produce from farmers like the legendary Bill Dow of Chatham County. Today I still work with Bill and other growers, among them Rose & Mark Lyon, Jan Mann & Tom Jackson, Bill & Joanna Lelekacs and Lisa & David Pope. I’ve been a member of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association for years and I also purchase produce from Eastern Carolina Organics, a farmers’ co-op. “The Egg Man,” Gerald Hall of Pleasant Garden, NC, brings me fresh brown eggs from his free-range chickens.

 I use organic brown rice and black beans and locally milled organic flour. North Carolina is represented year round on my “South meets Southwest” menu in the form of sweet potatoes, grits and greens. Seasonal produce includes asparagus, strawberries, blueberries, apples, tomatoes, tomatillos, chiles, salad greens and shiitake mushrooms… the list goes on!

And speaking of the Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, this weekend is the 19th Annual Piedmont Farm Tour! Saturday, April 26th and Sunday, April 27th, 2014 from 2-6pm both days, rain or shine. You can visit more than 30 local and organic farms in the Triangle area, meet the farmers, and tour the farms. Support your local food systems. Oh, yeah, and take some charming photographs of baby goats.

Margaret's Cantina on Urbanspoon

Agno Grill: 100% Gluten-Free Eatery in Philly

This is my 100th post on “Sweet Tea & Wheat-Free”. Though this blog is dedicated to the quest for Gluten-Free food in the South, I want to share a restaurant from north of the Mason-Dixon line because this establishment is 100% Gluten-Free.

Where: Agno Grill, 2104 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

GF Menu: Yes. Everything on the menu is 100% Gluten-Free.

Agno means “Pure” in Greek. Their brochure states:

Our Food:

  • Always made fresh daily by our trained staff
  • 100% Gluten-Free
  • No white sugar or white flour
  • Organic, All-Natural, GMO-Free
  • All Poultry, Meat, Produce, and Dairy is Organic and Hormone-Free
  • Prepared, Marinated, and Grilled In House Daily
  • Created and Crafted to Maximize Flavor and Nutritional Value

What I ate: Knowing that everything in the restaurant was Gluten-Free, I was like a kid in a candy shop. There were so many choices, and I wanted to try them all. I finally selected a Falafel Wrap, since freshly-made GF wraps are hard to find. I ordered a Tahini Cookie for dessert.

How to order it: This is one of the few places in the world you won’t have to tell your server that you are Gluten-Free. You can just order your food in gluten-restriction anonymity. Follow Agno’s simple steps for building your own meal: 1. Choose your base (salad, black rice, or a wrap). 2. Choose your protein (chicken, steak, falafel, veggies, salmon). 3. Choose 3 toppings. 4. Choose your sauces. Click here to see a lovely layout of options from their seasonal menu.

What it looks like:

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Everything at Agno is made fresh  from the organic meat marinades to the baked goods. I knew this wrap was going to be delicious and filling. Look at the size of it!

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At my request, the server loaded this wrap with falafel, brocolini & fennel salad, roasted cauliflower, and white beans with parm and spinach. The falafel is hidden under the healthy heap of veggies.

AgnoTahiniCookie

This photo is the last bite of my warm-from-the-oven, fragrant Tahini Cookie. I forgot to snap a picture until it was nearly gone. This cookie was made from ground sesame seeds and rolled in whole sesame seeds. It was chewy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and flavorful to the last bite.

When you want more Gluten-Free baked goods for breakfast, lunch, or dinner while you’re in Philadelphia, walk around the corner from Agno to their sister establishment Pure Fare (with 2 locations on South Street in Philadelphia). I picked up four different kinds of GF Muffins from Pure Fare. Again, it was a treat to have so many safe and delicious options.

Green Note: In addition to offering organic and GMO-Free food, Agno is committed to having a low environmental impact. They offer compostable utensils in the dining area, and special soap in their restroom.

AgnoGreenNote2

The sign perched above this soap dispenser says:

Agno is proud to feature FURTHER HAND SOAP in our wash rooms. The glycerin in this soap is distilled from kitchen waste grease. The grease is converted into clean burning biofuel and the extracted glycerin is purified to become FURTHER SOAP. As you wash your hands, you are completing a perfect, sustainable circle.

AGNO Grill on Urbanspoon

Sage Vegetarian Cafe: Naturally Delectable

Where: Sage Vegetarian Cafe, 1129 Weaver Dairy Rd., Chapel Hill, NC 27514

GF Menu: YES!  I am pleased to update this post to tell you that the regular menu at Sage Vegetarian Cafe now contains a visual guide to safe dining. Separate symbols on the menu indicate a vegan item, an item with vegan options, and an item with gluten-free options available. 

What I ate (on 3 separate visits): Caribe, Bud-m-Joon, and Gormeh Sabzi

How to order it: Let the server know you will be dining Gluten-Free.

Sage Cafe’s menu is wonderfully detailed, as it lists the contents of each dish. Knowing what ingredients are in each item helps you make an informed decision when you order. Some ingredients may contain hidden wheat/gluten, so it is always best to ask. For example, when I asked about the Caribe, my server explained that she would need to let kitchen know to use the Gluten-Free Tamari soy sauce.

What it looks like:

SageCafe1

Caribe is a well-rounded combination of black beans and grilled spicy tofu garnished with pineapple on a bed of brown or white rice. This dish is served with fresh avocado slices and sweet plantains.

SageCafe2

Here is a close-up of the Tamari-seasoned tofu with fresh grilled pineapple.

Sage3Sage2

The Bud-m-Joon contains eggplant, split peas, saffron, tomatoes, sautéed onions, and fragrant spices, including cinnamon. This is served with basmati-saffron rice and a side of shirazi (a traditional Iranian salad of cucumbers, onions, garlic, olive oil, lemon or lime juice, and tomatoes).

Sage1

Gormeh Sabzi is a meal that is comforting, yet exotic. Described as a “classic Persian stew”, it contains potatoes, red kidney beans, tempeh, and dried lemon. I found this dish both warming and enjoyable. This stew is also served with a side of basmati-saffron rice and shirazi.

Green Note: On the Sage Cafe website, they explain their commitment to fresh, quality foods:

Sage is pleased to offer natural foods made using organic and local ingredients whenever available. Each dish is prepared from the highest quality ingredients, and entirely without the use of any meat, poultry, fish, or harmful additives.

They also offer Organic Shade Fair Trade Coffee and Organic Teas. Click HERE to see 7 reasons to choose Fair Trade coffee. 

Sage Vegetarian Café on Urbanspoon

Mediterranean Deli Bakery and Catering: Organic Gluten-Free Pita Bread + Dessert!

Where: Mediterranean Deli Bakery & Catering, 410 W Franklin St, Chapel Hill, NC 27516

GF Menu: Yes. The menu on their website highlights Gluten-Free options. When you visit the restaurant, all dishes in the deli case are carefully labeled with both Gluten and Nut allergy information.

What I ate: I have tried both the Fatayer and a Sampler Platter with Falafel and GF Pita Bread.

How to order it: Select your preferred GF items from the printed menu, or by viewing the dishes in the expansive deli case, then place your order at the counter. When/if the server asks whether you would like pita bread with your meal, be sure to insist on the Gluten-Free pita. The menu claims all Fatayers are available on a Gluten-Free bread, but always ask to be sure.

Mediterranean Deli’s GF pita bread is baked fresh every morning with organic GF flour in a 100% GF facility and is certified by the Gluten Intolerance Group.

What it looks like:

MeditDeli

A fatayer is a pastry that can be filled with meats, veggies, and cheeses. Traditionally, the dough is formed in the shape of a boat to hold all the goodies. In the Gluten-Free version, this Greek Fatayer resembles a pizza.

MeditDeli2

The Closeup: A lightly browned crust supports a scrumptious combination of fresh spinach, roasted roma tomatoes, calamata olives, red onions, garlic, and feta cheese. It is served with an accompaniment of light tzatziki sauce.

MeditDeliPita

Have some GF pita with your meal, then purchase a bag to take home with you.

I like to heat mine in the toaster oven for one minute. Serve with hummus, olive oil, or even scrambled eggs at breakfast. Or create your own fatayer.

MeditDeliPoundCake

What sweet words: “Pound Cake – Gluten Free and Dairy Free”. This fluffy cake is a recent addition to the lineup of gorgeous desserts in the deli case. As you can see from the photo, its neighbor is made of phyllo dough, so those with extreme gluten sensitivity may wish to exercise caution.

MeditDeliHalva

This is my current dessert addiction. Dark chocolate-enrobed, marbled halva.

If you are not familiar with it, halva is a type of sesame fudge made primarily with nut butter and sugar. There are flour-based halvas in the world, so be careful when you see it in stores. This heavenly halva has been labeled “Gluten-Free”. Buy by the pound. Attempt to eat by the morsel.

MeditDeliChocCake

In case the other two dessert options aren’t enough for you, there is also a Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake. This one seems to be quite popular.

Green Note: The Mediterranean Diet offers benefits to our health and the environment. It encourages us to reduce the presence of meat on our plates. Large-scale meat production and factory farming are recognized as being heavily linked with destruction of our natural resources

The following is taken from the Mediterranean Deli website:

The Mediterranean diet is a wonderfully healthy diet and an extremely easy one to adapt to our stressful and fast paced lifestyles. As a matter of fact, the Mediterranean diet can be the very aspect of our life which can give balance, harmony, and a sense of soothing and control over our lives. The diet does not require any sacrifices. It only requires us to limit our consumption of meats to perhaps a few times per month. The other important factor is to make the consumption of fruits and vegetables a daily habit. The vitamins, minerals, photochemical and fiber provided by the diets large amounts of vegetables, fruits, grains and beans are believed to account for the inhabitants of the Mediterranean countries lower incidence of cancer otherwise commonly found in the United States.

Mediterranean Deli on Urbanspoon

Relish Cafe & Bar: Savor the Flavor

Where: Relish Cafe & Bar, 5625 Creedmoor Road, Raleigh, NC 27613 (Corner of Creedmoor and Millbrook)

GF Menu: YES! When we informed the server that we would be dining Gluten-Free, she brought us GF menus.

GFRelish2

Click on the image of the menu to see a larger version.

Note this well-informed disclaimer on the GF menu:

This menu and the information on it are provided as a service to our customers with the express statement that we cannot guarantee to any persons with Celiac Disease or gluten-intolerance that NO gluten will inadvertently be contained in these dishes.

Our kitchen does NOT have a dedicated gluten-free area. It is not possible to completely avoid cross-contamination or unintentional inclusion of gluten into dishes that are intended to not have it. We do not have a dedicated gluten-free fryer – so we are not suggesting any of our fried items on this special menu even if they do not originally have gluten in them. However, our grill is only used for grilling and blackening plain meats and vegetables so our recommendations are restricted to our salad and grill stations.

To the best of our information, the dishes listed on this special menu do not deliberately contain gluten and we will do our best  prepare them so they do not.

What I ate: Relish Shrimp Salad

How to order it: As the GF Menu suggests, choose from the salad or grilled meat/veggie options, avoiding fried foods and pasta dishes.

In general, it is best not to assume that because a server has handed you a Gluten-Free menu that they will automatically remember that your dish should be GF. In the restaurant business, servers are busy, handling multiple tasks and customers at once. Therefore, they may appreciate a gentle reminder from you, and you will be pleased to receive the Gluten-Free version of the dish you ordered. Win-win.

That said, our server at Relish was on-the-ball and took care of us with panache.

What it looks like:

GFRelish3

In keeping with Southern cuisine, our refreshing iced tea was served in classic Ball mason jars.

GFRelish4

 Cool shrimp were tossed on a bed of romaine garnished with purple onions, chopped tomatoes, boiled eggs, and capers. The dressing was both light and creamy, prepared with fresh dill and a hint of orange.

Green Note: Relish is a unique 3-in-1 business with a local focus. They explain on their website:

Preferences are trending away from the fried and greasy and towards the local farm to market offerings prepared in styles that coax more flavor out of more healthy choices. Through the marriage of a café and gourmet retail market and the innovative addition of a recreational culinary school, we provide a one stop, budget-friendly, epicurean experience which appeals to all ages and types of people. 

Relish offers items from their own kitchen for sale, like salsa fresca and poppy seed dressing. They also sell items produced by other local businesses: creamed or wildflower honey from Vintage Bee, 18-yr aged balsamic vinegar from Midtown Olive Press, and lemon basil hand soap from The Little Herb House, among others. All three of the businesses are Raleigh-based, so by dining and shopping at Relish, you help support your local economy.

Relish Cafe & Bar on Urbanspoon

BurgerFi: Making It Green Style

Where: BurgerFi, 3000 Wake Forest Road, Suite 100, Raleigh, NC 27609 (near the Trader Joe’s). There is also a location in Cary at 2052 Renaissance Park Place, Cary, NC 27513.

GF Menu: No.

What I ate: Single Natural Angus Burger served “Green Style” with hickory bacon, garlic aioli, white cheddar, and salt & vinegar chips (yes, on the burger). I also tried a “Green Style” 100% Wagyu Kobe Beef Dog with dijon mustard.

How to order it: When placing your order at the counter, let them know you are dining Gluten-Free. My server helpfully informed me that the french fries are cooked in the same oil with the onion rings (which are battered in flour). I avoided the fries.

BurgerFi2

The menu states, “Order any burger or dog in crisp lettuce instead of a bun.”

BurgerFi allows you to “Build Your Best Burger.” For those of us who are adhering to a Gluten-Free diet, this option is ideal. We can choose toppings as we verify whether they are Gluten-Free.

When adding toppings, be sure to ask about the sauces. I inquired about the Bar-B-Q Sauce and learned that it is Cattleman’s. Since I was not certain whether it was Gluten-Free, I decided to pass on it. After looking it up online, I see that the Classic, Smokehouse, and Sweet & Spicy Cattleman’s BBQ sauces are Gluten-Free, but one of Cattleman’s sauces (Golden Honey) is not.

It is important to note that the Veggie Burger is not Gluten-Free (I asked). It is made primarily of quinoa (GF), but my server explained that the recipe also contains panko crumbs (not GF).

What it looks like:

BurgerFi4

The lettuce was satisfyingly cool and crispy, contrasting beautifully with the hearty burger and hickory bacon. As you see here, the cheddar cheese did exactly what quality cheese is supposed to do on a hot burger – melt. There were crunchy salt and vinegar potato chips tucked underneath the burger patty for a flavorful punch. Fantastic!

BurgerFi5

When I saw this 100% Wagyu Kobe Beef Dog listed on the menu, I couldn’t resist trying it. I ordered it “Green Style” with dijon mustard. This is not your average hot dog. Its flavor and tenderness reminded me of kielbasa.

Green Note: The franchise makes a practice of operating its business “Green Style”:

The following note is taken from their menu:

BurgerFi restaurants offer a unique dining experience – one you can feel good about. Each BurgerFi restaurant is built according to environmentally sustainable best practices and includes earth-friendly elements, like chairs that are made from recycled Coke bottles, tables made out of compressed recycled wood and large fans that use 66% less electricity. BurgerFi maintains a low carbon footprint and maintains strict recycling programs for oil, cardboard, bottles and cans. We’re creating an innovative, engaging, and efficient restaurant model that stands for all things BurgerFi. This is our commitment to our earth, to our team members and to you, our valued guests.

BurgerFi3

This dispenser offers recyclable forks, one at a time, promoting less waste.

BurgerFi on Urbanspoon

Published in: on July 21, 2013 at 9:39 pm  Leave a Comment  

Coming Home: Part Deux – Sweet Gratitude

Hello! So much has happened since I last wrote, and I have some wondrous things to share with you:

  • In case you haven’t already heard, Dunkin Donuts has announced that it will offer a new GF cinnamon-sugar donut and GF blueberry muffin on their menu soon. These will be prepared in a dedicated facility and individually wrapped for sale. The global doughnut and coffee company also plans to phase out its foam coffee cups in favor of eco-friendly paper cups made from recycled material. To read more about the launch of the new GF offerings, click HERE.

Addendum: As of February 2014, Dunkin Donuts has canceled plans to release these items. To read more about this, click HERE.

GFDunkinDonuts

Photo credit courtesy Dunkin Donuts. To see more, visit the June 20, 2013 post on the Dunkin Donuts Blog “Behind the Beans”.

  • I usually feature restaurants located in the American South on this blog, but a few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to visit Israel and France. I’d like to show you what I found there. 

Israel surprised me with its Gluten-Free awareness. I bought delicious GF baguettes in the supermarket, and even ordered a full GF Israeli Breakfast at our hotel in the town of Safed. The innkeepers at The Safed Inn can bake GF bread, upon request, and they even use a designated toaster. 

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A GF dish served at Uri Buri Restaurant, a phenomenal seafood establishment located in Akko, Israel, included shrimp and eggplant noodles bathed in a delicate, savory broth.

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Inside the “Old City” of Jerusalem, a restaurant offered traditional (naturally GF) falafel and hummus.

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At a street market in Tel Aviv, a vendor sold locally-brewed ales. Two GF options were available. The one pictured above is a GF mead. The other was a pomegranate cider. I tried both. They were very refreshing!

France8Cropped

In France, I visited the 2013 Trip Advisor award-winning Helmut Newcake, a dedicated 100% Gluten-Free Bakery in Paris. I ordered three items – a financier, a fruit muffin, and a chocolate eclair. Bon bon bon! You and I could eat anything in this case.

  • Speaking of pastries, I baked this Strawberry Rhubarb Gluten-Free pie for July 4th. I was so pleased with this recipe from Dunn Sweet that I am passing it along to you.

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Does this look GF to you? This was the flakiest, fluffiest pie crust I’ve enjoyed since I was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance seven years ago.

HumblePie5

With this GF pie crust recipe in your repertoire, and the appropriate GF flour in the pantry, you can once again bake a pie from scratch for your family and friends.

  • Over the past three years, many restaurants I have featured on Sweet Tea & Wheat-Free have come and gone. Some of the restaurants that remain, however, are courageously expanding their GF consciousness.

GFNemonde3

For example, Raleigh’s Neomonde Mediterranean Deli has begun offering GF bread and pizzas (pictured above), and bu*ku (also in Raleigh) now offers a Gluten-Free menu. 

  • I’m thrilled to announce that I will be relocating to my beloved North Carolina this summer. I am very grateful for the year I have spent working and dining in Nashville. Music City will always have a special place in my Gluten-Free heart.

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Nashville is referred to as the “Athens of the South”. I’ll miss the replica of the Parthenon (complete with a colossal statue of Athena inside) in Nashville’s Centennial Park.

  • Sweet Tea & Wheat-Free is nearing 33,000 views. A heartfelt “Thank You” to all of you who follow, comment, and pass along this resource to others.

A delightful thing happened to me last year while I was shopping at the NC State Farmer’s Market in Raleigh. A beautiful pregnant woman overheard me question a vendor about Gluten-Free items. She asked me if I was gluten intolerant. When I replied “Yes”, she recommended my own blog to me as a resource! I am happy to know that this is how information can be shared. We belong to an ever-growing community of people who care about how our food is made, and how we can support each other.

It is my sincere hope that the GF options posted on this site help you feel inspired, improve your appetite for alternatives to wheat, and encourage you to navigate your own GF quest with savviness and optimism. 

Another restaurant review coming soon…

Café Rakka: Heavenly Falafel

Where: Café Rakka Mediterranean Restaurant, 71A New Shackle Island Road, Hendersonville, TN  37075

GF Menu: No.

What I ate: My dining companion and I shared Hummus, Baba Ghanoush, Mediterranean Salad, Falafel, Pomegranate Iced Tea, and a Mango Lassi

How to order it: Everything is made in-house, from the hummus to the yogurt and cheese. All menu items are made-to-order. When you place your order at the counter, let the server know that you are dining Gluten-Free.

I asked whether their falafel mix (traditionally made of chickpeas or fava beans) contained any flour. The server double-checked with the chef and announced that it was Gluten-Free. Then he graciously offered cucumber slices instead of the pita bread that normally accompanies this dish.

At Café Rakka, falafel are fried in a container that is not shared with any other items.

What it looks like:

The Baba Ghanoush was incredibly light; and to my surprise, it was garnished with pomegranate seeds. Each bite was a little bit sweeter than the last.

After we placed our order, I heard our hummus being blended in the kitchen. It was that fresh. This magical mix contained chickpeas, the Cafe’s own special recipe tahini, and lemon juice, plus a drizzle of olive oil and a touch of colorful spices.

Posted on a signboard above the counter was a list of the different types of hummus you can try in a “Hummus Bar” sampler. Here are some of the flavors I noted that day: Roasted Eggplant, Roasted Jalapeños, Roasted Onions, Spiced Cilantro, Olives, Roasted Garlic, Roasted Almonds, Roasted Mushrooms.

I wish my blog could feature a “Scratch ‘n’ Sniff” button, because I would install one for you here next to this photo. These lightly-browned, crispy-looking spheres with their hypnotizing aroma beckoned me to dig in.

Café Rakka’s homemade falafel were soft and delicately moist inside, with a thin, crispy crust on the outside. These were the closest thing I have had in years to fresh-out-of-the-fryer hushpuppies! I had to remind myself they were Gluten-Free.

This Mediterranean Salad was all about the cheese. Gorgeous blocks of homemade feta were soft, moist, and flavorful. The “About Us” page on the Café Rakka website explains, “Chef Rakka’s family has been renowned cheese, butter and yogurt makers in Syria for more than five generations.” Practice has indeed made perfect.

Green Note: Chef Rakka and his wife, Linda, emphasize the importance of cooking what is fresh and in season. Their website describes their commitment to this philosophy:

[Chef Rakka's] cooking today continues to reflect that love of fresh food.  Just as he and his father, after a trip to the market in Syria, would bring home only what was fresh that day for his mother to cook, Rakka and his wife Linda decide on the daily menu specials based on what’s available fresh from the market. 

Cafe Rakka on Urbanspoon

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