Tag Archives: GREAT Kitchens

Gluten-free food: Two chefs get it. Let’s get through to the rest.

“What’s your favorite gluten-free restaurant?” A group of NYC bloggers answered this question during introductions at dinner on Tuesday night. When my turn came (too soon! Wasn’t ready!), I said, abashed, “I don’t eat out much anymore, so I don’t have one yet.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, 93% of people (and, I bet, even more in New York) enjoy eating out, but I’m generally no longer among them. The service is always too brusque, the food too suspect, the assurance too absent. Instead of relaxing, I worry through the entire experience, from ordering (oh God, I’m taking so long) to paying (does the waiter really deserve 20% after dropping crumbs into my meal? But what kind of person doesn’t tip?). Admittedly, my so-so experiences may be partly a function of my restaurant selection and neurotic personality. But it’s also true that a lot of places just don’t get it.

Recently, though, I visited two that did. Check out my reviews, then let’s discuss how to make experiences like these happen more often for us all.

Mehtaphor

When I attended the launch of the GREAT Kitchens Chef’s Table luncheon tour at MehtaphorChef Jehangir Mehta (who also owns Graffiti) served us elegant, inventive tasting courses inspired by Asian (especially Indian) and French cuisine. Standouts, for me, were the grilled tofu topped with a chickpea flour-breaded onion ring and cilantro chutney, and dessert—a rum raisin ice cream sundae topped with sweet pappadum-inspired crisps. The food made me think differently about some of my favorite (and least favorite—see: cilantro) foods, which is exactly what a restaurant should do.

More importantly, the chef and his waitstaff were pleasant, articulate, reliable, and accommodating. Mehta seemed passionate about the idea of serving everybody who entered, and he did it well. He said his dream was to one day own a restaurant serving just one person at a time, which I found pretty cool.

MORE chickpea flour!!!

MORE chickpea flour! It’s everywhere.

Tommy Lasagna

Chef Tommy Mosera is new to the gluten-free business, but it doesn’t show. At Tuesday’s blogger dinner at Tommy Lasagna, our server Zach and the chef himself were so personable, informed, and forthcoming that I almost want to say the service was the standout—except that that’d be unfair to the housemade focaccia and mozzarella, farmers market lasagna, flourless chocolate cake, and light-as-air cheesecake.

Chef Mosera explained he phased in gluten-free items a few at a time to get his staff used to taking precautions—and, my, the precautions! The pasta is made in-house, but in its own equipment, in the morning before any gluten molecules might be in the air to drift into our lasagna like so many acid snowflakes. Mosera also names the gluten-free menu items differently from gluten-containing items (not just “GF such and such”) to avoid confusion at the point of order—an inspired idea. His work seems to have paid off, since afterwards we all felt great (if a tad overstuffed). The restaurant is launching its full gluten-free menu this weekend.

Whatever the omnivores were having sounded good, too, but give me two slabs of fresh mozzarella and I am o-k-a-y.

Whatever the omnivores were having for their first course sounded good, too, but give me a few slabs of fresh mozzarella and I am o-k-a-y.

My compliments to the chefs!

Both chefs also contended admirably with other restrictions thrown their way, including my vegetarianism and a smattering of allergies. If you’re in the New York area and eat gluten-free (or don’t), Mehtaphor and Tommy Lasagna are both well worth a visit.

What inspired these chefs to give us an experience so out of the ordinary? Chef Mosera created his gluten-free menu after his business partner’s wife (the person who suggested he open a restaurant) became gluten sensitive. Chef Mehta feels that serving people food they can eat is why he opened a restaurant in the first place.

So now I wonder: How can we get other chefs to follow their example?

I tried to answer that question this week on My Life With Food Allergies. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to stop by and let me know if you agree.

And, in the spirit of trying new things, check out these blogs by the folks with whom I had the distinct pleasure of sharing these meals. Some of these bloggers, I already followed and was excited to meet in person; some I’d met before and was thrilled to see again; and some were new to me; but all of them are smart, fun folks whose blogs you ought to read (if you don’t already!).

Barbara of About.com IBS, Mike of Gluten-Free Mike, Anya of Another Gluten-Free Blog, Judith of Fooditka and We Heart Astoria, Carolyn of Gluten-Free Bird and the Brooklyn Gluten-Free Meetup Group, Candice of London to NYC, Katie of Gluten-Free Blondie and the hilarious When I Went Gluten-Free, Kristen of Pasta’s Kitchen, and Erin (who organized the Tommy Lasagna dinner) of Gluten-Free Fun, Gluten-Free Globe Trotterand the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group.

Have you discovered any new favorite blogs or restaurants recently?

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Ain’t no party like a celiac party

In fact, the only thing that beats a celiac party is THREE celiac events, back to back, like the recent and upcoming ones I’m about to describe. Am I right, or am I right?

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First, for everyone who’s been wondering whether our gluten-free paper mâché piñata held together…the answer is YES. Cornstarch + water pretty much = glue. It’s kind of gross.

Want to make your own? We used this recipe, and it couldn’t be simpler. A few tips, though:

  1. The recipe calls for boiling water, so be careful of tender little hands if you have kiddie helpers (not that you have to; as we can attest, it’s fun at any age).
  2. You’ll need to let the first layer dry a couple days before adding another, so start early.
  3. Paper is stronger than you think, so don’t add a billion layers unless you and your guests have a lot of rage to work out.
  4. We used to paint the shells when we made piñatas with our mom, but this time we glued streamers all over it and called it a day. How you decorate is up to you, but if you really want a gluten-free piñata, pick a GF paint.
Pinterest-worthy, no?

Pinterest-worthy, no?

For fear of it breaking too soon, we were overzealous in our double- and triple-layering, and the piñata ended up a bit too structurally sound. Instead of breaking, after many whacks it came loose from the ceiling, fell to the floor, and still didn’t break. Althea had to go Super Saiyan on it until it finally made like Humpty Dumpty and splat. (Yes, I feel those references belong in a sentence together.)

Our friends were way too cool/sober to rush for the gluten-free, nut-free candy once it hit the ground, though they did eventually saunter over to pick through it. (Tootsie Rolls, Starbursts, and Skittles, if you’re wondering, along with some shockingly good caramel apple lollipops, also in the Tootsie family, in green apple, Golden Delicious, and Macintosh flavors.)

No one filled up their goodie bags (who do they think they are? Grownups?), so we have lots left to give away to trick-or-treaters. We’ve hidden it from ourselves to help it last till Halloween. Do you give out treats at Halloween? Have you bought your stash already, and do you have to hide it from yourself, too?

I had my goodie bag at the ready, going up for my turn (with the mop handle bat).

I had my goodie bag ready, sure I’d bring the candy down on my turn…


...but then did not manage to hit the thing at all.

…but did not manage to hit the thing at all.

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Tonight Althea and I will be heading to another gluten-free party. If you’re in New York City, I hope to see you there! Tickets will be sold at the door for $30, cash or credit, and it’s for a good cause: a fundraiser for the Celiac Disease Center at the University of Chicago.
More details are available HERE, but most importantly, the event includes:

The organizers are clearly out to prove that, contrary to popular opinion and T-shirts, fun hasn’t died yet at the U of C. Perhaps it was the gluten-free diet.

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Finally, next Tuesday, I’m participating in another exciting event: a luncheon at Mehtaphor, part of NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens 10-City Chefs Table Tour. There I’ll learn about—and report on—what top chefs like Jehangir Mehta are doing to extend a hand to the gluten-free community.

Given that I’ve had restaurant training on the brain, I have some questions about GREAT I hope to ask. If there’s anything you’d like to know, let me know.

Chef Mehta is also serving up a gluten-free prix fixe menu on Wednesday, October 23rd, open to the public, so make a reservation through the Mehtaphor website if you’d like a taste.

Will you be attending the party or reserving a table at Mehtaphor? Any other exciting GF events coming up on your horizon?

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