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

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

Miel: A Real Honey of a Place

Where: Miel Restaurant, 343 53rd Avenue North, Nashville, TN, 37209, located in the historic Johnson’s Meat Market building in Sylvan Park, Nashville.

GF Menu: No. All meals at Miel are seasonal and made-to-order, so most items can be modified to meet GF needs. Servers will mark “GF” on the ticket so the kitchen staff will know not to plate anything containing gluten.

What I ate: I don’t usually eat this much in one sitting! I have been fortunate enough to dine at Miel twice, so here are descriptions of Miel’s Heirloom Tomato Salad, Diver Scallops, Risotto, PEI Mussels, a Chef’s Choice Veggie Plate, and Chocolates from Around the World.

How to order it: As always, inform the server in advance that you will be dining Gluten-Free. Ask for his/her recommendations from the current season’s menu. Once you have zeroed in on a menu option, your server can double-check with the kitchen to make sure the meal can be prepared Gluten-Free.

When ordering risotto, I asked about the broth in which the rice was prepared. The server assured me the kitchen would use a Gluten-Free vegetable broth.

What it looks like:

This petite potato appetizer was spread with creamy goat cheese, then topped with lightly marinated diced tomatoes and a sprig of parsley.

Gluten-Free sesame rice crackers with a rosemary garnish replaced the usual complimentary bread basket.

The heirloom tomato salad was a colorful Jenga tower, as artistic as it was delicious. Ripe heirloom tomatoes were stacked between house-made fresh mozzarella, basil oil, pinched basil leaves, and balsamic vinegar.

Diver Scallops are hand-picked when they are mature, and are considered a more eco-friendly seafood choice. Because they were never dragged along the ocean bed in a net, they are also less likely to contain sand grit. These plump scallops were pan-seared and served with a scrumptious golden beurre blanc.

In August, Miel’s risotto contained summer squash, zucchini, tomato jam, green beans, confit mushrooms, gruyère and parmesan cheeses, and a basil pistou. By September, in keeping with the changes in harvest, the dish offered roasted butternut squash, spinach, seasonal mushrooms, and white truffle oil.

Prince Edward Island mussels were steamed in a light vermouth broth with whole cloves of roasted garlic, yukon gold potatoes, and chopped tarragon, then topped with a garnish of Thai basil.

A veggie medley of carrots, green beans, onion, cauliflower, eggplant, beans, and potatoes offered fresh farm taste as well as diverse color and textures.

One of the GF dessert options was a selection of five crafted chocolates from around the world. In case you relish cocoa-related details as much as I do, here is the layout (provided on its own printed menu) of this exquisitely pleasurable platter of sweets:

  1. Askinosie White Chocolate Sonoscuso Beans with Trinitario Nibs (34% cocoa butter, Mexico)
  2. El Rey Milk Chocolate, caramel-like, smooth (41%, Venezuela)
  3. Callebaut-Orange Chocolate Ganache
  4. Vintage Plantations, Rainforest Alliance Certified (65%, Ecuador)
  5. Madécasse, dark, strong with mild acidity (75%, Madagascar)

Just when I thought my dining experience couldn’t get any sweeter, the server brought out the final signature touch. Every meal at Miel, ends with a teensie spoonful of local honey!

Green Note: In addition to serving organic, fair-trade, and Rainforest Alliance-certified ingredients, Miel also owns a farm, and reduces the restaurant’s food waste by composting.

The following text is taken from their website:

Miel’s Farm is located steps away from the Cumberland River just 10 minutes from the restaurant in a plot that was used for hog farming decades ago. The rich soil and well-water produce high yields of many heirloom vegetables chosen by Seema [Seema Prasad, Owner of Miel]

Miel Restaurant 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

The Chelsea: Worth the Trip!

Where: The Chelsea, 335 Middle Street, New Bern, NC 28560

GF Menu: Yes! According to a helpful reader comment below, The Chelsea now has a GF menu.

What I ate: Potato Crusted Salmon and Southern Osso Buco with seasonal vegetables from the Dinner Menu

How to order it: The Chelsea is famous for its “New American Cuisine”. In addition to traditional Southern dishes, they serve Asian, Italian, Cajun, French, and German-inspired plates. Whenever entering new culinary territory, it is best to ask the server for Gluten-Free recommendations. Our friendly and GF-savvy server was happy to point out several entrees my mother and I (both GF) could enjoy.

What it looks like:

This was a jewel box dish. The lid was made of thinly-sliced fried potatoes. When I lifted it, I discovered a pan-roasted salmon that was the color of orange cream saltwater taffy. The fish was plated atop a complementary dijon cream sauce.

In Italian, “osso buco” means “pierced bone”, referring to the marrow section of a cross-shank of meat. The dish above included a roasted pork shank which had been braised with olive oil, red wine, fire-roasted tomatoes, olives, and capers. The succulent meat just fell off the bone. The complex mix of tomatoes with salty capers and olives was similar to a fresh puttanesca. The garlic smashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables provided the perfect palate cleansers for each sensational bite of pork.

Green Note: The Chelsea is located in a renovated historic building in the heart of New Bern, North Carolina’s second oldest town. The following information was taken from their website:

Built in 1912, this historic structure was first used by local pharmacist Caleb Bradham, inventor of Pepsi-Cola, as his second drug store.  Completely renovated in the mid-nineties, every effort was made to retain and enhance the history of this place, and its people.  Today, each room in the restaurant holds a different and pleasant surprise…The bar and casual dining is on the ground floor which features the building’s original pressed tin ceiling, and its carefully restored mosaic tiles floor. 

Chelsea on Urbanspoon

Published in: on June 12, 2011 at 6:23 pm  Comments (4)  

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.

Watts Grocery: NC Goodness

Where: Watts Grocery, 1116 Broad Street, Durham, NC, 27705

GF Menu: No.

What I ate: Cup of Catfish Gumbo + Dinner Special of Pan-Seared Flounder on Grits + “Listen to your Elders” Cocktail

How to order it: The menu may change based on what is in season and locally-grown. Ask your server to help you identify Gluten-Free menu options. My very helpful server checked with the kitchen to ensure that the gumbo broth did not contain any gluten and that the flounder was not breaded.

What it looks like:

This picture doesn’t do it justice! The beautiful goodies in this gumbo are waiting in the middle of the bowl just under the surface. Delicate chunks of catfish hobnob with andouille sausage, red kidney beans, celery, green pepper, red pepper, onions, and an exquisite blend of seasonings. I could eat this warming (but not fiery) bowl of goodness throughout the year.

A pan-seared fillet of fresh NC flounder luxuriated on a collection of sauteed carrots and pea shoots. I had never tasted pea shoots before, so they were a delightfully surprising addition.

Underneath the fish was a hearty portion of yellow corn grits blended with creamed corn, which gave the dish a delicate, natural sweetness.

The crowning glory was – are you ready for this? – a large pat of bacon and shiitake mushroom butter. Say it with me: “mmmmmmmm.”

Last, but not least, the signature cocktail was called “Listen to Your Elders.” It contained a unique blend of elderflower syrup and Hendrick’s Gin, topped with prosecco, which is a light and sparkling Italian wine. This Gluten-Free beverage was not too sweet, and the taste was satisfyingly clean. Click HERE to see a helpful article from Celiac.com on Gluten-Free Alcoholic Beverages.

Green Note: This is a farm-to-table establishment. The Watts website explains:

Amy Tornquist has built a reputation for seasonal cooking with local ingredients and is recognized for her commitment to sustainable agriculture.

Featuring her favorite local foods by the forkful – many raised, caught, smoked, pickled, or cured within a two-hour radius – Amy weaves them into her cooking and the result is an updated, distinctive take on North Carolina cuisine.

As the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services says, “Goodness grows in North Carolina!”

Watts Grocery on Urbanspoon

Kemp’s Seafood House: Treats You Like Family (Now CLOSED)

Update: Both Yelp and Urbanspoon report this restaurant has closed.

Where: Kemp’s Seafood House, 115 Page Point Circle, Durham, NC 27703-9121

GF Menu: No. However, Kemp’s is extremely accommodating to those with food allergies. When my family expressed that we have a gluten intolerance, our friendly server, Charles Anderson, explained that it is restaurant policy for the manager-on-duty to be alerted any time a member of your dining party has a known food allergy. Manager Christy Wagner came to our table to ask us clarifying questions about our menu choices. She then assured us that she would personally supervise the handling of our food in the kitchen.

What I ate: Broiled Flounder + Garden Side Salad + Baked Potato

How to order it: Let the server know that you are dining Gluten-Free. Avoid the breaded items such as the hush puppies and the fried seafood (as these are most often a mix of corn and wheat flours). Scan the lengthy menu for the Grilled and Broiled options. Kemp’s also offers steaks, chicken, angus burgers, and BBQ. Ask whether the menu item you have selected contains any wheat/gluten.

What it looks like:

Fresh Atlantic Flounder fillets, broiled in butter, dusted with paprika, and topped with a squeeze of lemon. The garden side salad arrived first and contained crisp, ruffly, hardy greens, tomatoes, and shaved carrots. I opted for a simple oil and vinegar dressing. The baked potato was an old-fashioned spud, slow-baked in aluminum foil.

Green Note: Kemp’s lets you know where your food is coming from. Most menu items include the basic geographic origin, such as:

  • Jumbo Shrimp  Wild Caught Large Gulf Shrimp
  • Catfish  North Carolina Farm Raised
  • Trout  Atlantic
  • Oysters  Select Gulf Oysters
  • Ribeye  12 oz. Aged Omaha Ribeye Perfectly Marbled

Kemp’s Seafood House is owned and operated by the same folks who bring you the NC Seafood Restaurant at the Farmer’s Market, Raleigh.

Kemp's Seafood House on Urbanspoon

Published in: on August 14, 2010 at 9:50 pm  Leave a Comment  

18 Seaboard: Local Artistry

Where: 18 Seaboard, 18 Seaboard, Suite 100, Raleigh, NC 27604

GF Menu: No. The menu at 18 Seaboard changes regularly, based on what is local and seasonal. The server explained that most dishes can be modified to be Gluten-Free.

What I ate: Pan-Seared Pisgah Trout with Cumin Shrimp Hominy Chowder and Roasted Red Peppers

How to order it: Let the server know that you are dining Gluten-Free. Peruse the mouth-watering menu and ask whether the dish you are considering contains any gluten and/or whether it can be modified to be GF.

What it looks like:

This dish was a tribute to texture! Criss-crossed thin filets of local (from Pisgah, NC) trout, pan-seared (with the deliciously light, crispy skins still on) basked upon a mountain of pearly, al dente hominy, and tender pieces of shrimp in a savory broth.

The roasted red peppers, clustered on top of the fillets, were as essential to the taste as they were to the eye. Both their flavor and their color complemented the meal perfectly.

Ask the server what’s available for dessert. 18 Seaboard has its own experienced pastry chef on staff, but I have yet to find out whether he has taken on the challenge of designing a Gluten-Free dessert. I will have to visit again to do more reconnaissance! I know, I know; it’s a tough job…but somebody’s gotta do it!

Green Note: The following eco-friendly information is taken from the 18 Seaboard website’s “Our Partners” page:

Throughout the year the restaurant will source vegetables and produce from a variety of local farmers, primarily Joann and Brian Gallagher of Castlemaine Farms and Tom Kumpf of Johnston County, as well as the farm-to-table group Eastern Carolina Organics. A huge victory for the menu came in finding local, natural chicken which is both humanely raised, antibiotic free and hormone free, from the co-op of farmers Growers’ Choice of Pittsboro. Seafood selections will arrive fresh from the North Carolina coast from Steve Strouse of Wilmington, NC, a 15-year veteran purveyor of our state’s wonderful, naturally abundant seafood.

In addition to using local and seasonal ingredients in the kitchen, 18 Seaboard promotes local artists on the restaurant’s walls. The current exhibit (July 2010), Boats I Have Loved, by Robert F. Irwin, hangs throughout the bar and dining area. Artwork is for sale and available through The Mahler Fine Art, a fine art gallery located in downtown Raleigh.

18 Seaboard on Urbanspoon

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