Panzanella: Local Commitment

Note: This restaurant is no longer open. After many years of great service, Panzanella closed its doors on December 21st, 2013.

Where: Panzanella, part of the Weaver Street Market Cooperative, in Historic Carr Mill Mall, 200 North Greensboro Street Carrboro, NC 27510

GF Menu: No.

What I ate: Salmon Caesar Chef Salad from the Brunch Menu

How to order it: As always, let the server know you are dining Gluten-Free.

When ordering a salad, make sure that any croutons or accompanying bread items will be left off, and ask the server to check whether the salad dressing contains any gluten.

With grilled meats, it is a good idea to check whether the item has been marinated or seasoned with a mix containing gluten.

After checking with the kitchen, our server assured us that this dish was Gluten-Free.

What it looks like:

A hot-off-the-grill salmon filet rested on cold, crisp romaine lettuce tossed with fresh caesar dressing. This generous salad was then perfectly topped with assorted julienned primavera vegetables, then lightly sprinkled with bacon and grated parmesan.

Green Note: The About Page on their website states,

At Panzanella, we believe that the farmers are the true heroes of today’s culinary scene, leading the way to better food and a better world. On our menus, you’ll find free-range all-natural poultry and pasture-raised beef and pork. All of our meats are raised without antibiotics or synthetic hormones. All seafood served at Panzanella is sustainably raised or caught.

The restaurant also aims to keep it local. The following is taken from a website page dedicated to explaining their commitment to offering local fare:

Our Local Commitment – At Panzanella, we change our menu with the seasons.  This enables us to take advantage of the many products grown and produced locally.  We are committed to serving only sustainable seafood, and when available, we buy pasture-raised pork and beef from local farms.

In summer, the restaurant features “Farm Dinners”, with vegetables, meats, and cheeses from area farms.

Panzanella on Urbanspoon

California Pizza Kitchen: Nice Day for a White Pizza

December 2013 Update: I walked by a CPK the other day and this sign stopped me in my tracks:

CPKSign

The Gluten-Free pizzas are back! Currently, there are four options. See their online GF menu at http://info.cpk.com/documents/gluten_free_menu.pdf. As their website notes, these pizzas are prepared according to the strict regulations of the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG). As always, please inform your server of any allergies prior to placing your order.

June 2013 Update: While they still offer a Gluten-Free Menu, California Pizza Kitchen has temporarily pulled the Gluten-Free pizzas from this menu while they review their kitchens and procedures for potential cross-contamination. Still craving a pizza? Try Gluten-Free pies at Lilly’s Pizza, zpizza, or Mellow Mushroom in Raleigh.

California Pizza Kitchen announced the launch of a new Gluten-Free pizza crust in July, offering 29 of their original pizzas available Gluten-Free.

Where: California Pizza Kitchen, 5959 Triangle Town Road, #2121, Raleigh, NC 27616

GF Menu: Yes. At the Triangle Town location, the GF menu is incorporated into the restaurant’s regular menu.

What I ate: Asparagus and Arugula Salad (From the Small Cravings menu) + a White (GF) Pizza

How to order it: Regardless of where you are dining, it is a good idea to inform the server that you (and any other specific party members) will be dining Gluten-Free. This prepares the staff for your questions and hopefully helps ensure your safety throughout the dining experience.

When I mentioned to my server that I would be dining Gluten-Free, he explained that all of the pizzas listed on the menu (with the exception of the Jamaican Jerk Chicken and the Thai Chicken) could be made GF.

When asked how the GF pizza crust is prepared, he responded that it is handled with a designated set of utensils, placed on aluminum foil for baking, and then cut with a designated GF pizza cutter.

Folks who are extremely sensitive to air-borne gluten particles and cross contamination may want to read this discussion, on Triumph Dining’s website, to help guide your dining decision.

Online, the CPK GF Menu bears this disclaimer:

“Gluten-Free” designations are based on information provided by our ingredient suppliers. Warning: Ingredients or production methods used by our suppliers may change, or there may be product differences among regional suppliers. Additionally, normal kitchen operations involve shared cooking and preparation areas, or we may need to substitute ingredients in menu items. We are therefore unable to guarantee that any menu item is free from gluten or any other allergen, and we assume no responsibility for guests with food allergies or sensitivities.”

The Asparagus and Arugula Salad was light and tangy. Fresh arugula, crisp cuts of asparagus, sundried tomatoes, slivered almonds, and shaved Grana Padano Parmesan were topped with a homemade lemon vinaigrette.

The White Pizza arrived on a platter, crispy and golden around the edges, covered with sauteed garlic spinach, mozzarella, fontina, ricotta, parmesan, and pecorino romano.

A closer view displays the more traditionally thin Italian-style (as opposed to the thicker Sicilian style) crust. This crust tasted pleasantly of rice, and reminded me of a flexible version of a saltine cracker, topped with loads of good stuff.

Green Note: CPK also offers a Vegetarian and Vegan Menu. Why go vegetarian, even for a day? The semi-vegetarian global movement called Meatless Mondays, which advocates “cut out meat one day of the week”, offers this as one of several compelling reasons:

REDUCE YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT. The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization estimates the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of the man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide . . . far more than transportation. And annual worldwide demand for meat continues to grow. Reining in meat consumption once a week can help slow this trend.

California Pizza Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Top of the Hill: French Quarter Jambalaya

Where: Top of the Hill Restaurant, 100 East Franklin St., Third Floor, Chapel Hill, NC 27514

GF Menu: Yes. If you ask, they offer a laminated menu on which everything that is NOT Gluten-Free is marked with an “X”, making your decision-making that much easier.

What I ate: French Quarter Jambalaya from the Dinner Menu.

How to order it: The jambalaya was listed as one of the Gluten-Free options when I dined at Top of the Hill.In general, though, if there is no GF menu available and you would like to order a rice dish, it is a good idea to inquire whether the rice has been cooked with soy sauce or in a broth, both of which may contain wheat.

What it looks like:

According to the Oxford Dictionary, a form of the word “jambalaya” first appeared in print in a Provencal poem published in 1837, meaning a “mish mash.” Top of the Hill’s steaming hot, hearty jambalaya contained shrimp, chicken, and andouille sausage tossed with risotto, onions, tomatoes, and roasted okra. This was an exemplary mish mash, incorporating both flavor and texture to create a well-rounded, satisfying meal.

Green Note: Top of the Hill is set to open a distillery in 2011, creating handcrafted and distilled vodka, gin, bourbon, and rum. The new Topo Distillery will use local and organic agricultural products as the base of all of its products. According to the list of Gluten-Free Alcoholic Beverages on Celiac.com, these alcohols, if distilled thoroughly by the manufacturer, are rendered Gluten-Free.

Top of the Hill has also been voted “Best Outdoor Dining in the Triangle”. Check out their patio seating for an enjoyable al fresco dining experience.

Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery on Urbanspoon

604 West Village: I’m Just Wild About Saffron

Where: 604 West Village, 604 Fernway Avenue, West Village Section of Downtown Durham, NC 27701

GF Menu: No.

While the menu at 604 West Village offers many (non-GF) pasta and pizza items, the entrees include several salads and dishes (such as risotto and polenta) that are GF, or can be GF-modified.

What I ate: Risotto of the Day (Saffron Risotto with Scallops, Truffle Oil, and Goat Cheese) from the Dinner Menu

How to order it: Ask the server whether the risotto is prepared in a broth that contains gluten. Also inquire about the scallops – Are they breaded or seasoned with a spice mix that contains gluten?

When my server checked with the kitchen, the chef verified that these items were Gluten-Free.

What it looks like:

Creamy golden saffron-infused risotto was the foundation for these sensational seared scallops. Truffle oil deliciously enhanced the overall effect with fragrant essence and mouth-feel.

I eagerly played the game of creating the perfect bite combination – would it be a forkful of risotto, arugula, and goat cheese? Or perhaps a bit of scallop with risotto and tomato? The verdict? It disappeared before I could declare. I’d love to go back and do more research!

Green Note: 604 West Village has lovely exposed brick walls, wooden floors, and outdoor patio seating in the heart of Durham’s West Village Section, the largest historic renovation in North Carolina. The West Village blog explains:

No expense has been spared to ensure that the rich architectural style of these 19th-century buildings is preserved, while incorporating such socially responsible and environmentally friendly features including bioretention gardens and energy-efficient lighting.

Girasole: Foods of the Earth

Happy 2011! With a new year and new restaurants, there’s plenty to celebrate.

Terrific news: the National Restaurant Association has named Gluten-Free food the No. 8 Restaurant Trend for 2011.

Today’s featured restaurant, Girasole Trattoria, recognizes this trend and goes the extra mile to ensure that your GF dining experience is extraordinary.

Where: Girasole Trattoria, 960 Gateway Commons Circle (NC Bypass 98 at Jones Dairy Road), Wake Forest, NC

GF Menu: No. The staff, however, are well-versed in Gluten-Free needs, and the kitchen carries a GF pasta prepared in separate GF cookware.

What I ate: Shrimp Scampi Appetizer, Crab Risotto, and a Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Torte

How to order it: At Girasole, the GF dining experience was easy. When our lovely server, Lisa Herrin, found out that we were dining Gluten-Free, she notified the kitchen and offered to answer questions we had about the menu. Chef Greg even came to our table to explain how the kitchen handles GF food preparation and assured us that the staff were looking out for our dietary needs. 

What it looks like:

All right, GF Readers, you know that moment when the breadbasket is brought to your table and everyone else dives in? At Girasole, this moment includes you! When the olive oil came to the table, it was accompanied by plates of of cut veggies for dipping. What a delicious idea!

This is the GF version of the Jumbo Shrimp Scampi appetizer. The succulent shrimp and roasted tomatoes with rosemary packed a flavorful punch.

The Crab Risotto, from the Antipasti menu, was my main event. This Italian rice dish was prepared in a GF broth and contained fresh crabmeat, corn, tomatoes, cubes of pancetta, basil, and freshly shaved parmesan. Rich and creamy in consistency, this was a heavenly bowl of warm comfort on a cold day.

This is the Gluten-Free dish my friend, Sue Ivy, enjoyed. Sauteed beef medallions nestled themselves in a wild mushroom port wine au jus, with roasted poblano and braised pecans over creamy polenta, butter-braised green beans, and cinnamon caramel-glazed apples.

Girasole has their own pastry chef, Jill Lazarus, who made this flour-less Chocolate Hazelnut Mousse Torte.  A torte is a cake that is made primarily with eggs, sugar, and ground nuts, typically eliminating the need for flour. This version had a luscious texture. Frangelico-infused apricots, toasted hazelnuts, and a bittersweet ganache glaze elevated this dessert to “such stuff as dreams are made on.” Yes, this cake was so full of romance, I just quoted Shakespeare.

Green Note: In addition to the Tuscan-inspired open dining room, Girasole features an outdoor garden with a dining patio that fills up quickly when the weather is fine.

This tidbit is taken from their website:

We emphasize foods of the earth, natural and healthy, prepared in the tradition of simple Italian cooking. We strive to use local ingredients whenever we can, assuring absolute freshness. We selected herbs right from our own Girasole Garden.

Girasole Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Lilly’s Pizza: Gloriously Alternative Pizza Pie!

Where: Lilly’s Pizza, 1813 Glenwood Avenue, Raleigh, NC 27608-2323 and 810 West Peabody Street, Durham, NC 27701

GF Menu: Sort of…Just one line from the regular menu states:

Gluten Free Pies: Lilly’s proudly serves a 10″ gluten-free option for any of our pies. We hope you enjoy! $2 additional.”

What I ate: A Gluten-Free Cow Tipper Pizza

How to order it: Walk up to the order counter, check out the list of more than a dozen possible Pizza Pie options on the menu, and select one that tickles your fancy.

Crust: All GF crusts at Lilly’s are currently 10-inch crusts. When I asked whether they make their own crusts, the server explained that they do. Lilly’s chefs prepare them on a special blue cutting board (on which they never cut anything else), freeze their crusts in individual boxes, then bake their dough in-house.

Toppings: Be sure to ask the server whether all of the ingredients you have selected are Gluten-Free. When I visited, the server explained that some of their toppings, such as the Portobello, Thai Sauce, Chicken, Hummus, and Meatballs were not currently Gluten-Free. You will need to investigate to be sure.

What it looks like:

Homemade organic tomato sauce, mozzarella, all-natural ground beef, black olives, parmesan & feta graciously topped one of the most delicious, surprisingly thick, and best darned Gluten-Free pizza crusts I have tasted.

I just had to take a close-up shot so you could see how thick and fluffy this crust was. It was crispy! The ingredients were so well-blended, too; I didn’t get an overwhelming garbanzo bean/ tapioca/ brown rice flour taste that can be typical of a few other GF pizza crusts. It also had “oomph” – meaning it held up well when eaten by the slice; the ingredients stayed firmly planted on a crust that never became flimsy. This one was a winner.

Green Note: Lilly’s knows that good taste is directly linked to good ingredients. These lines are taken from their website:

Both the dough and tomato sauce are handmade daily from the finest organic ingredients. Served with wisconsin, independently-farmed whole milk mozzarella.

All of our Chicken and Beef toppings are cut fresh to order and are completely natural; NO antibiotics, hormones, coloring agents, or preservatives. And in our store, drink pure NC spring water.

A Raleigh institution since 1993, Lilly’s is locally-owned, has outdoor seating, and promotes local artists.

Lilly's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Lilly's Pizza on Urbanspoon

Published in: on July 19, 2010 at 12:47 pm  Comments (3)  

Bella Monica: 3 Hours Later…

I enjoyed dining at Bella Monica so much, I went back 3 hours later for a Gluten-Free Dessert! The restaurant was still happily buzzing with activity after 9pm on a weeknight.

Where: Bella Monica, Olde Raleigh Village Shopping Center, 3121-103 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh, NC

GF Menu: Yes!

What I ate: Flour-less Chocolate Cake + a cup of decaf Larry’s Beans Coffee. View my original Bella Monica: Pasta Dinner post to see what I had for dinner.

How to order it: Ask the server for their Gluten-Free dessert options.

What it looks like:

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Flour-less Chocolate Decadence. Called “Chocolate Amore”, this cake was rich and fudgey, served with raspberry glace, a ripe strawberry, and a sprig of fresh mint.

Green Note: Bella Monica supports another local Raleigh business by serving Larry’s Beans Coffee. I’ve mentioned Larry’s Beans before, but they’re doing such wonderful green projects, it’s worth repeating. At Larry’s, they call themselves “Coffee Mavericks”, since they were founding members of Cooperative Coffees, a Fair Trade and Green Coffee Importing Cooperative.

Bella Monica on Urbanspoon

Published in: on May 4, 2010 at 1:40 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bella Monica: Pasta Dinner

Where: Bella Monica, Olde Raleigh Village Shopping Center, 3121-103 Edwards Mill Road, Raleigh, NC

GF Menu: Yes! They offer GF flatbread pizzas and pasta dishes. A PDF of their GF Menu is found on their restaurant home page, where this note is posted: Although Bella Monica is not a dedicated Gluten-Free kitchen, we do cook all GF items with separate and clean pans and utensils to reduce cross-contamination. We welcome advance notice of special dietary requests to accommodate your needs and ensure your dishes equal the integrity of the other menus.

What I ate: Sausage Parmigiana over GF Penne Pasta + a Buffalo Mozzarella Antipasti

How to order it: Ask for the Gluten-Free Menu. Deliberate. Select!

What it looks like:

Sausage Parmigiana

Mama Mia, this was good! I ate PASTA? In a restaurant?! I had to pinch myself.

Fine GF penne pasta with terrific al dente texture, smothered in parmigiana cheese, topped with a sauce the restaurant calls “Nana’s gravy”, and sprinkled with fresh parsley. You can’t see them in this photo, but there are four – count ‘em, FOUR Italian sausage links tucked underneath all the cheese. The portions are very generous. I chowed down and still had to take half of it home for lunch the next day (which is never a bad thing, mind you!). The pasta held its texture even with reheating.

The buffalo mozzarella salad (not pictured here) came with huge chunks of thick, creamy mozz’, fresh basil leaves, ripe tomatoes, a light olive oil, and a sprinkling of fresh black pepper, and perhaps some invisible sea salt.

Green Note: Did you know that you can also have Bella Monica’s pizzas at home? Their flatbread pizzas are available nation-wide in the frozen foods section of most natural food stores, including Whole Foods. Click HERE to see where you can find them locally.

Special Note: May has been declared “Celiac Disease Awareness Month” in North Carolina by Governor Beverly PerdueYAY!

Bella Monica will be hosting a multiple course Gluten-Free Wine Dinner on May 16th, 2010, at 5pm. To reserve your tickets (required) to this event, call Bella Monica at 919-881-9778.

Bella Monica on Urbanspoon

The Loop: Salad Days

Where: The Loop Pizza Grill, the Eastgate Shopping Center location, not far from the campus of UNC-CH, Chapel Hill, NC. Visit their website for other locations in NC, Georgia, and Florida.

GF Menu: Yes. Ask to see the Gluten Free menu when you place your order.

What I ate: One of the Loop’s new Salad Specials, topped with Cajun-style Fish Fillet

How to order it: When ordering a salad, speak to the server about your GF salad dressing options and ask them to leave off the croutons.

If you plan to add a meat topping to your salad, check the GF Menu to confirm that the seasonings used on the meats are indeed  Gluten Free. Many popular seasoning mixes contain MSG, which contains gluten.  According to the Loop’s Allergen menu on 04.18.2010, the Cajun-style mix used on the fish was Gluten Free.

What it looks like:

Get excited. “Over a salad?”, you may ask. Yes! This particular salad deserves a shout-out. A warm Cajun-style white fish fillet topped a bed of cool romaine greens with goat cheese, cranberries, mandarin oranges, red onions, and walnuts. The crisp greens, fruits, and nuts emerged with their own distinct flavors through the impossibly light vinaigrette.

Green Note: The Loop provides an easy-going dining experience set in an upscale, but not fancy, environment. They use washable plates, cups, and utensils, and there are very few disposable items. Also, the Loop had a sign posted that encourages their customers to “Buy Local.”

Loop Pizza Grill (Chapel Hill) on Urbanspoon

Mellow Mushroom: GF Pizza Pies!

Where: Mellow Mushroom, Wake Forest, NC (This is a successful franchise. Multiple locations also apply.)

GF Menu: Yes! Check out the 04.07.2010 post on Gluten Free Raleigh for specific details. Some Mellow Mushrooms carry a GF beer option, and a GF vodka may be coming soon.

Mellow Mushroom restaurants in the Triangle area are the test market for GF Pizzas. Be sure to express your appreciation to management so that they will continue to offer them.

What I ate: Classic Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza

How to order it: Let the server know you are interested in the Gluten Free pizzas. One of the owners of the Wake Forest Mellow Mushroom, Kyle Watson, said Gluten-Free versions of the House Special, the Mighty Meaty, or the Hawaiian Pizzas in Medium (12-inch crust, cut into 8 slices) are available now. If these aren’t enough to tempt you, build your own from an impressive list of GF toppings.

What it looks like:

Mellow Mushroom GF Pizza

I enjoyed a classic Pepperoni and Mushroom Pizza, with added red pepper flakes. The crust was light, slightly crisped on the underside, and bendable. I could fold the slice in half just like I used to with flour-crust pizza. This GF crust, which is distributed by Still Riding Pizza, is made from a combination of bean, rice, and tapioca flours, and starch.

Green Note: On the paper napkins, next to a cartoon drawing of a mushroom bearing an earth logo, are these words: “This napkin is made with

Each Mellow Mushroom is locally-owned and operated.

Mellow Mushroom on Urbanspoon

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