Primal Food & Spirits: 100% Gluten-Free Kitchen

Where: Primal Food & Spirits,  202 West Highway 54, Suite 107, Durham, NC 27713. Primal is located in the Southpoint Crossing Shopping Center, on the corner of Highway 54 and Fayetteville Road, in Durham.

GF Menu: Yes! The entire menu is Gluten-Free, with the exception of a handful of drinks served only at the bar in designated glasses. On the evening I visited the restaurant, there were four GF beers on the menu, as well as local hard ciders.

What I ate: Wood-fired shrimp as a starter, grilled salmon and a side of curried cauliflower as the entree, and lemon pound cake and chocolate flourless torte for dessert.

How to order it: Select any food on the menu and order with confidence. The server explained that everything that goes into and comes out of the kitchen is 100% gluten-free.

Just think of it. Dishes and glassware are all dedicated gluten-free (with the exception of the aforementioned small set of glasses held only at the bar for the purpose of serving non-gluten-free beers).

Chef Tim Lyons, also chef/owner of the award-winning Blu Seafood & Bar in Durham, writes on the Kitchen page of the Primal website:

At Primal we take gluten sensitivities seriously, and representing the needs of the gluten-free community is very important to us. Simply put, it is part of our identity, and it is exactly what makes us different from everyone else. Our kitchen is 100% gluten-free, meaning there is no possibility of cross-contamination.

What it looks like:

primalshrimpThe wood-fired shrimp were seasoned with a maple bourbon bbq sauce, hot out of the wood-burning oven, and bursting with sweet and smoky flavors. The spicy cole slaw comprised of crisp cabbage, red onions, and green peppers complemented the sweet shrimp.

primalcauliflowerThe curried cauliflower was served in an oven-proof pottery bowl, which kept it warm as we ate.

primalsalmonTrust me when I tell you that this grilled salmon was gorgeous. If you’re wondering what was so generously heaped on top of the hot-off-the-wood-grill-salmon, it was lump crab meat! It was a scrumptious, decadent addition to the savory salmon and the fresh greens drizzled with an apple shallot relish.

primalalmondcake2We ordered two desserts to share.  An unusually moist lemony pound cake with its browned burnt-sugary edge rested on mascarpone and was topped with a rum-date compote, almonds, vanilla syrup, and a fresh mint leaf.

primalchoctorteThe second dessert was the chocolate flourless torte. Rich and smooth, each dark chocolatey bite contained the surprise flavor of caramel rising to the surface from the caramel crème anglaise underneath. It was garnished with a fresh strawberry, red grapes, whipped cream, and a mint leaf.

 Green Note: Chef Tim Lyons works with local farmers as much as possible, and promotes them on the Primal website. He explains his reasoning here:

Primal is about getting back to the basics and eating as our ancestors did, offering unprocessed, home grown foods, served unpretentiously. You can literally taste the delicious difference when you bite into a piece of pasture-raised meat that was cooked over a wood fire. It gives the meat that light, smoky natural flavor simply not found with alternative cooking methods. At Primal, we work tirelessly to ensure that everything coming out of our kitchen showcases the fresh ingredients we are using from our local farmer partners. Farm-to-Fire-to-Fork. That is our way. That is Primal.

Some of the Local Farmers listed on the website include:

Primal Food & Spirits on Urbanspoon

Saxapahaw General Store: GF Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Happy New Year! In the spirit of adventure, and trying new things, let’s drive west of Chapel Hill to visit Saxapahaw, NC.

Saxapahaw is a happenin’ little hamlet with music (The Haw River Ballroom in Saxapahaw’s Historic Cotton Mill), a seasonal farmer’s market, and locavore food that garners the attention of The New York Times, Gourmet Magazine, Garden & Gun Magazine.

Today’s venue, Saxapahaw General Store, was most recently praised in the January 2015 issue of Our State Magazine.

Where: Saxapahaw General Store, 735 Saxapahaw-Bethlehem Church Road, Saxapahaw, NC 27340

GF Menu: Yes! You can view the Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner with a multitude of delicious GF options on their website. You can order a GF omelet with a side of GF toast for breakfast. At lunch, there are GF pizzas, salads, and sandwich options with GF bread. The dinner menu changes daily, but one standard you can always rely on is the GF pan-seared fish with risotto and asparagus.

What I ate: GF pan-seared fish with veggies.

How to order it: The online menu is clearly marked with [GF] next to appropriate items. The daily menu is written on a chalkboard.  If it is not clear what items are GF, be sure to ask the staff for their GF recommendations at the counter where you place your order. The staff are friendly and knowledgeable foodies, so will help guide you in the right direction.

What it looks like:

SaxHalibut2North Carolina fish was placed atop sauteed local vegetables in this dish. This pan-seared fish had a soft interior and crispy exterior, and just the right amount of umami flavor. The supporting zucchini, yellow squash, onions, and tomatoes provided textural contrast, color, and the organic taste of local farms. SaxGFCookiesYou can purchase goods from the in-store market for dessert, or find GF baked goods like these individually-wrapped GF chocolate chip cookies at the counter.

Green Note: The Saxapahaw General Store is housed in a re-purposed gas station and convenience store (see pic by clicking here).

Chefs Jeff Barney and Cameron Ratcliffe operate their business with a conscious decision to celebrate what is local, promote sustainability, and make good food and products accessible to the community. This page describes their mission:

“They wanted to be stewards of local foods, good wine and beer, nutritious snacks, and eco-conscious dry goods, and they hoped to participate in a new kind of local economy that would strengthen fellow small businesses, promote conscious farming, and become part of a network of small communities finding a better way to live and to do business together.”

SaxGreenNote This sign posted above the trash can encouraged us to leave food scraps on our plate rather than throwing them in the trash. The staff will compost these scraps or help feed chickens at Cozi Farms.

A note on their Home page lets you know how the chefs support local farms:

“We are proud to source most of our meats, all of our eggs, and all the local produce we can find each season, from farms right here in the NC Piedmont. Click for a listing of our most current local farm goods. For a full listing of locally sourced items we offer for retail or through our kitchen, visit our Purveyors page.”

SaxLocalGoodiesThese store shelves are stocked with an bountiful array of NC products. Doesn’t it make you proud?

Saxapahaw General Store on Urbanspoon

Acme Food & Beverage Co.: Gluten-Free Skillet Cornbread

Where: Acme Food & Beverage Co., 110 E Main Street, Carrboro, NC 27510

GF Menu: Yes. Though items are not currently marked on the menu posted on their website, they are clearly noted with gluten-free symbols on dine-in menu.

When I contacted Acme about their gluten-free options, the General Manager, Stephen Murtaugh, offered these important clarifying notes:

The icon on our menu is meant primarily for those pursuing a gluten free style diet. Anyone with allergies, or celiac disease, should make that clear to their server when they order to avoid the risk of cross contamination. Certain items, like French fries, come in contact with some flour when fried since we also fry dredged items in the same fryer.

If a guest gives us advance notice of their food allergies by calling ahead and noting on their reservation then we will usually call them ahead of time to discuss their dinner and make sure they get something absolutely delicious and 100% safe for them to consume.

What I ate: Salmon Entree with an appetizer of Gluten-Free Cornbread

How to order it: The Acme menu changes regularly since the Chef/Owner Kevin Callaghan creates daily offerings from seasonal and local ingredients. Look for the GF symbol next to the menu items. As the General Manager suggests, let your server know you are dining gluten-free for health reasons. Acme also offers you the courtesy option of calling ahead to discuss your gluten-free dining needs in advance of your visit.

What it looks like:

AcmeGFSalmon2

A pan-seared, spice rubbed salmon filet was the centerpiece of this dish. The chef cooked this fish perfectly, preserving the sweet tenderness of the meat inside while presenting a picante crispness on the outside. Garnished with a green sauce and fresh cilantro leaves, it was simultaneously light, yet satisfyingly savory. Black beans, gluten-free creamed corn grits, and a fresh tomato completed the dish.

AcmeGFCornbread

The GF cornbread arrived at the table piping hot in a shallow cast iron skillet, which kept the bread warm well into our meal. Acme uses a gluten-free cornmeal in their house cornbread recipe. GM Stephen Murtaugh also informed me that these skillets are used only for the gluten-free cornbread to avoid risk of cross-contamination.

AcmeGFCBCloseup

This cornbread was thick and fluffy, but not dense. It was flavorful, but not overly sweet. The texture was more like bread than cake. It had a lovely brown top and crispy edges.

The huge cloud of butter and the fresh-cracked pepper rounded out the presentation.

Finding an establishment that offers any kind of GF bread is a treat. I was over-the-moon to discover this freshly-made and down-home delicious cornbread at Acme.

Green Note: Acme supports the local community’s sustainable agriculture as well as helps sponsor cultural and educational programming in the area. The following is taken from their website under the “Local” tab:

Acme Food & Beverage Company is pleased to do business with such community-supported programs as The Carrboro Farmers’ Market and Core Sound Seafood.

We are proud sponsors of local events like Farm to Fork, Ackland Art Museum’s annual fundraising gala, and Terra Vita sustainable food celebration.
View an image gallery featuring Chef Kevin Callaghan at the 2011 Farm to Fork event.

It has also been our good pleasure to work with children in the Durham Public Schools through SEEDS, a non-profit community garden-based program.

Acme Food & Beverage Co on Urbanspoon

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

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:

Agno2

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!

Agno4

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

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. 

Israel56

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.

Israel103

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

Israel153

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.

Pie4

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.

Parthenoncrop

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…