Tag Archives: New York City

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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My new gluten-free NYC apartment: a paean

My new apartment’s wonderful,
though not without its quirks.
We’ve everything we’ll ever need—
assuming that it works.

A fourth-floor walkup—healthy, right?—
ignore the crumbling stairs.
My bedroom is (still) windowless,
but meh—fresh air—who cares?

We’re not in Brooklyn, near our friends,
or even close to work—
and if we don’t get AC soon,
I think I’ll go beserk.

The stovetop and the water tap
don’t get—precisely—hot;
the dishwasher does not get things
as shining as it ought.

The toilet leaks, the ceiling squeaks,
the countertops are few—
but GF ears are thrilled to hear
“appliances are new.”

The neighbors keep the volume pumped
throughout the day and night—
but dinner’s safe, my roomie’s great,
and so I feel all right.

The walls may quake, the tiles break,
the fruit flies come to breed—
but everything is gluten-free,
and that’s all that I need.

*

Since a picture’s worth a thousand words, here are a few. Yes, I was exaggerating for poetic effect (it wouldn’t be a New York apartment without a quirk or several). But I wasn’t kidding about the walkup. Every step of that is real, and my aching GF glutes are proof.

A messy workspace, just for us—with wooden spoons that it's okay to have because all the meals are gluten-free! And yes, that's a dishwasher, beloved of the neurotic and the gluten-phoboic, and a washer-dryer, which has nothing to do with gluten but is awesome.

A messy workspace, just for us—with wooden spoons that it’s okay to have because all the food in the house is gluten-free! And yes, that’s a dishwasher, beloved of the neurotic and the gluten-phoboic, and a washer-dryer, which has nothing to do with gluten but is awesome.

This is the pantry of someone who buys Chex by the carton. Not to mention bulk coffee (yes, I'm hooked again).

This is the pantry of someone who buys Chex by the carton. Not to mention bulk coffee (yes, I’m hooked again).

This is the beautiful, comfortable, more-expensive-than-anything-I'll-ever-be-able-to-afford-on-a-book-publishing-salary designer couch that I inherited when my office reorganized—and that my poor dad and coworker wrestled all the way up four flights of stairs only to find it was too large to fit through the hallway. It went home to Brooklyn in exchange for my old roommate's Ikea couch. Luckily tears are gluten-free, though I'm not sure crow is safe to eat.

This is the beautiful, comfortable, more-expensive-than-anything-I’ll-ever-be-able-to-afford-on-a-book-publishing-salary designer couch that I inherited when my office got reorganized—and that my poor dad and a helpful acquaintance wrestled all the way up four flights of stairs only to find it was in fact too large to fit through the hallway and into the door. It went home to Brooklyn in exchange for my former roommate’s Ikea couch. Luckily tears are gluten-free, though I’m not sure about all the crow I ate.

*

To those who sympathized when I bemoaned my loss of mess or worried that I’d be homeless right about now, thanks for the support. Maybe there’s a gluten-free dinner party in our future.

To those in New York:

a) You feel me on the quirks, right?
b) I’ve still got a whole bunch of tickets to give away to the Celebrate Celiac event this Saturday, so leave me a comment on my last post if you’d like to go, and I’ll get your name on the list. Until then, hope you’re holed up somewhere with an AC unit on high.

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STEAL DEAL RENT NOW WON’T LAST!

I’ve spent most of the past couple weeks immersed in apartment hunting, and the search continues. Sometimes, I feel like I’ve spent more time looking for apartments in New York than living in them. This will be my third move since September, 2011, or fourth if you count the move into my friend’s very accommodating parents’ apartment in Soho, where I believe I overstayed my welcome as I looked for my first home. New York, New York!

My new kitchen will be “GUT-RENOVATED WITH BRAND-NEW STAINLESS STEEL GLUTEN-FREE KITCHEN APPLIANCES AND DISHWASHER,” in broker-speak. (Okay, they didn’t say “gluten-free,” but one must read between the lines on Craigslist.) Or, maybe not. Maybe it will still have the previous tenant’s gluten caked into everything. Perhaps there will be a few million of gluten’s cousins, the bedbugs. (Though one broker assured me yesterday that “bedbugs are over.” Phew!)

The apartment will also be approximately the size of a speck of gluten or a bedbug. Everyone loves to joke about this, but so far, truth be told, I’ve lived in a ginormous Washington Heights 2-bedroom and a huge Clinton Hill 3-bedroom and have actually never needed to climb over my own twin bed in order to get to my dresser. Since the plan is to move to East Harlem, I may very well experience just that.

I also may not quite get the kitchen of my dreams—counter space is tough to come by in a city that never cooks. Then again, in my current kitchen I’ve been confined for several months now to this:

Photo on 5-9-13 at 6.18 AM #3

…my own little messy gluten-free workspace, which my roommate was kind enough to install for me, far away from the toaster oven and right next to the large and luxurious couch that will most likely not fit through the front door of my new building, much less in the apartment’s living room.

So I’ve learned a thing or two about lack of space, but in my new kitchen, I’m sure to have more than I have now, because we will have a gluten-free household! (Pretty much, anyway. My sister, and soon-to-be roommate, needs her Grape-Nuts—though we’ve been scouting out gluten-free Gnuts recipes.) Yes, I will be making the fateful switch to the much-touted 95% gluten-free kitchen, so the entire kitchen should be safe for me. This will make cooking more relaxing, at least until the next time I bake plastic wrap into my hot cross buns.

I’m nervous, but excited! Now enough time wasting; I’ve got to get back to hitting refresh on Craigslist. Stay tuned. I’m sure there will be an update…any…day…now.

Tell me about your gluten-free kitchens, your real estate adventures, your Grape-Nuts recipes—anything, really, to distract me from the grim ticking-down of days until June 1st, lease-starting day. Hopefully.

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