Monthly Archives: April 2012

Petit Robert Bistro

I went to Petit Robert Bistro in Brighton to celebrate my graduation with my dad and Judy (his girlfriend). For those of you who do not know, I graduated this past Saturday from Northeastern University and I know have a Master of Education in Higher Education Administration! I am finally done with school…for a while at least!
The thing I really liked about this place is that the entire meal was an experience. We tried new and different things (well I’ve had all these before, but not here and prepared differently). We were not rushed, and our entire meal lasted about 1 ½ – 1 ¾ hours.
Excellent service, very polite and friendly. Our waiter was very attentive without being too disruptive. He was very knowledgeable about the menu, gluten free options and wine pairings.
We started with three appetizers. The first was the Escargot with a pesto-type sauce. I loved it. Sometimes escargot is served with too much garlic, but this one had just the right amount of garlic, swimming in pools of butter. If you are not a fan of butter, I would be ware as they are not afraid to use butter here!

We also had the Sliced Red Beet and Soft Goat Cheese Salad. Delicious, one of my new favorite menu items to order out. This one was delicious!  And the Steamed Mussels Marinière in a White Wine and Shallots Sauce. The mussels were good, but white wine sauce could have used a little more flavoring. Big portion.

All sauces are thickened with cornstarch, not flour, which is great for us!! This made ordering so much easier! We were also given the choice to substitute any sides we wanted (i.e. the noodles on the chicken dish). Almost all entrees come with sides, so before you order any sides a la carte, double check with the waiter first.
We ordered 3 different entrees, but ultimately ended up sharing everything, which was fun! I ordered the Beef Short Rib Bourguignon and Roasted Potato. The beef was not as tender as one would expect beef short ribs to be served, but the sauce was incredible, a little on the salty side. It had a stew like feeling when I ate it, but not so thick and served with vegetables as well. I ended up taking half of this home and had it for dinner the next night.

Judy ordered the Chicken Coq-au-vin (Chicken with wine) It was tender and moist, and we all loved the sauce – butter and red wine, with such richness; the flavors shined thru on this one.

My dad had the Sautéed Scallops over Mushroom Risotto. The scallops were cooked to perfection. I love risotto. This one was a little bland and not very creamy. The lack of creaminess I liked, but it could have used more seasoning and mushrooms. This was the smallest dish of the three, which tends to happen with scallops.

For dessert we had the Vanilla Crème Brûlée, which was rich and creamy with a perfect-torched sugar topping, but I did not taste the ‘vanilla’ aspect. It tasted like a regular crème brulee, it was still good, don’t get me wrong, but it was missing the “vanilla”.

The Mousse au Chocolat (Chocolate Mousse) was just so so. It had a good texture and it is more chocolaty than sweet. I’ve decided not to order Chocolate Mousse anymore, because I am always dissatisfied.

My favorite dessert by far was the Chocolate and tangerine ice cream. This was the best ice cream I have ever had!! I don’t know how they did it, but the tangerine flavor was infused into the chocolate ice cream. It was so refreshing and delicious! I highly recommend this!

I’ve heard that the food at the other locations – South End and Kenmore – is much better. I wasn’t disappointed with our meal, but I wasn’t blown away either. If I go back, it would be to one of the other locations.
Free Valet. 3 other locations: South End, Kenmore Square and Needham.
Location: 1414 Commonwealth Avenue
Brighton, MA 02134
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The Friendly Toast

I went to the Friendly Toast in Kendall Square (Cambridge) last week for my co-workers birthday. 
She is also gluten free and I am so glad she introduced me to this place!! Before this, I hadn’t ordered pancakes in a restaurant since 2008!
I was really happy seeing that they offer gluten free pancakes. They have all kinds of delectable gluten free pancakes – blueberry, chocolate chip, M&M, toffee crumble, coconut with cashews, chocolate chips and drizzled with coconut sauce (My mouth is drooling just typing that!).
I ordered one pancake, and it was HUGE; it was the size of my plate! It was so fluffy and delicious! I didn’t want to stop eating because it was just that good, but I was so stuffed and I only got ¾ through the entire thing.
Breakfast is served all day, which means you can have pancakes for lunch or dinner! Most of the egg dishes are gluten free, as are many of the sides; we had homefries. Homefries are one of my favorite breakfast items but I did not like these, a little too spicy for me and served more like boiled sliced potatoes.
There are salads on the menu too, and I was told that they have corn tortillas so it would be possible to get a sandwich on a corn tortilla.
The Friendly Toast is quirky, but in a good way, with bizarre décor and a 1930’s-1940’s vibe.
Just a heads up, the Friendly Toast is CASH ONLY. They have an atm inside you can use but just be prepared. 
Location: One Kendall Square, Cambridge, MA.

Snowflakes (Chocolate Covered Coconut)

My grandmother used to buy a dessert every Christmas called Snowflakes from a French bakery in Auburn, Maine. A few years ago it went out of business and she was crushed. For her 90th birthday two years ago I decided to try and replicate the dessert. The recipe I’ve come up with, after some trial and error, tastes almost exactly like those French Snowflakes from Maine. Now, for every family gathering, I make them. It’s the first thing to go, before the appetizers, the meal and the dessert is even out, the whole is eating them and hiding some for later (no joke).

These are really easy to make, but can get a little messy with the melted chocolate.

Ingredients

     7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
     1 cup powdered sugar
     1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
     1 teaspoon almond extract
    14 ounces unsweetened coconut flakes (I’ve also used sweetened and it comes out fine)
    12-16 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips

1. Mix together the milk, almond extract and vanilla extract.
2. Mix in the powdered sugar.
3.  Gradually add in the coconut. The mixture will be thick. Place in the fridge for 30-40 minutes, it’s easier to work with when it is cold.
4.  Remove the mixture from the fridge. Line a cookie tray with parchment paper. Shape the coconut into ‘logs’, about 2 inches long and 3/4 inches wide. You can make them all different sizes, bigger or smaller, it’s really your preference. Make sure you press the coconut logs together very well so the mixture sticks together. Place the logs of coconut on the baking sheet and put back in the fridge while you melt the chocolate (remember, it’s easier to work with when cold.).
5. Melt the chocolate in the microwave or using a double broiler. If using a double broiler, make sure to stir constantly so the it doesn’t stick or burn to the bottom of the pan.
6. Once the chocolate is completely melted, turn off the heat. Remove the coconut try from the fridge and dip each log half way into the chocolate. You might have to you a spoon to help spread the chocolate evenly (this can get a little messy). Place the half dipped candies back onto the parchment paper/cookie tray.If the chocolate starts to get too thick, simply reheat it again for a few minutes; this should do the trick!
7. Once all the coconut candies have been dipped, place in the fridge for 45-60 minutes to let the chocolate harden. Serve and enjoy!
8. Keep the extras (yea, right, like there will be extras!) stored in the fridge. If you are going to layer the candies in a jar or container, use wax or parchment paper between the layers. It’s not necessary but if you are traveling or the candies will be out of the fridge for a long period of time, I would recommend doing so.

Hershey’s GLUTEN FREE

NEW! Hershey’s recently published a list of their gluten free products on their website, and I just had to share! The following is taken from their website.

” Hershey is committed to providing products that meet your dietary needs, and many people today are interested in gluten-free foods.

A food bearing a gluten-free claim does not contain the protein from wheat, rye, barley, spelt, kamut, triticole, farina, vital gluten semolina, malt vinegar or protein derivatives of these foods.

The products listed below have been fully evaluated and qualify as gluten free using standards proposed by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Please note this list is not all inclusive as we have other gluten-free confections.

The best way to determine if our products contain a gluten ingredient is to read our product label. This label includes an accurate, current listing of the ingredients in our products. Because, on occasion, the list of ingredients can change, we strongly encourage you to check the ingredient label on the package each time before you make a purchase.

Last updated March 29th, 2012

ALMOND JOY and MOUNDS Bars – ALL

HERSHEY’S – BAKING Chips

HERSHEY’S Butterscotch Chips
HERSHEY’S Cinnamon Chips
HERSHEY’S KISSES MINI KISSES Milk Chocolate
HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate Chips
HERSHEY’S MINI CHIPS Semi-Sweet Chocolate
HERSHEY’S Premier White Chips
HERSHEY’S Semi Sweet Chocolate Chips
HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Chips
HERSHEY’S SUGAR FREE Chocolate Chips
REESE’S Peanut Butter Chips

HERSHEY’S – Baking Bars

HERSHEY’S Semi Sweet Baking Bar
HERSHEY’S Unsweetened Baking Bar

HERSHEY’S – Cocoa

HERSHEY’S Cocoa
HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Cocoa

DAGOBA Baking and Beverages

DAGOBA All Baking Bars
DAGOBA All Bars
DAGOBA Cacao Powder
DAGOBA Authentic Drinking Chocolate
DAGOBA Chai Drinking Chocolate
DAGOBA Unsweetened Drinking Chocolate
DAGOBA Xocolatl Drinking Chocolate

HEATH Bars – ALL

HERSHEY’S KISSES and NUGGETS

HERSHEY’S KISSES Milk Chocolate
HERSHEY’S KISSES Filled Chocolates – All
HERSHEY’S NUGGETS Candies – All

HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate Bar

HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate Bar (1.55oz only)
HERSHEY’S Milk Chocolate with Almonds Bar (1.45oz only)

HERSHEY’S Syrup and REESE’S Toppings

HERSHEY’S Caramel Syrup
HERSHEY’S Chocolate Syrup
HERSHEY’S Chocolate Syrup with Calcium
HERSHEY’S Chocolate Sugar Free Syrup
HERSHEY’S Lite Chocolate Syrup
HERSHEY’S SPECIAL DARK Syrup
HERSHEY’S Strawberry Syrup
REESE’S Chocolate Peanut Butter Topping

REESE’S Peanut Butter Cups – ALL Except Seasonal Shaped Items

SCHARFFEN BERGER

SCHARFFEN BERGER 70% Bittersweet Chocolate Bar
SCHARFFEN BERGER 82% Extra Dark Chocolate Bar
SCHARFFEN BERGER 41% Milk Chocolate Bar
SCHARFFEN BERGER 62% Semisweet Dark Chocolate Bar
SCHARFFEN BERGER 99% Unsweetened Dark Chocolate Baking Bar
SCHARFFEN BERGER Cocoa Powder
SCHARFFEN BERGER 70% Bittersweet Baking Chunks

SKOR

SKOR Toffee Bar

YORK Peppermint Pattie – ALL

Marco

We took my dad to Marco last weekend for his birthday, and we had such a good time & great meal!
 (unfortunately that piece of chocolate cake is not gluten free)
Marco is a charming little Italian restaurant located on the 2nd floor above Bricco on Hanover Street. We were seated by the window (best seat in the house) and across from the cozy little fireplace. The restaurant has 10, maybe 12 tables, and a small bar that seats 5 or 6 people in the back.
If you have a gluten allergy, Marco does a fabulous job of catering to you. Almost any dish can be made gluten free. Call 24 hours ahead of time and let them know you are coming in and request the gluten free bread. This is the best gluten free bread I have ever tasted. It was served warm and was so delicious! It was soft and slightly dough, my dad and sister liked it better than their bread!

The bread is served with olive oil and a mixture of peppers, onions, eggplant, olives and capers. It was SO GOOD. So TASTY..I was eating it by the spoonfuls!
We started out with the antipasto appetizer, and it was HUGE!!  It was big enough for at least 4 people to share. We had a very interesting assortment of delectable bite size treats. There were stuffed peppers (very salty), anchovies (reminded me of the ones I had in Spain), tuna salad, 3 different kinds of cured meats/prosciutto, buffalo mozzarella, caper berries, garbanzo bean salad, pickles, olives, eggplant and roasted red peppers. I wasn’t a huge fan of the meats, but then again I’m not a big salt or meat lover. Nevertheless, I tried everything on the plate. The lighter colored meat was sweet, and I actually liked one (under the garbanzo beans). The third I was not found of at all, it was too waxy. I feel like I am being a little too picky here, as my dad and sister both loved the meats.
We also started with a salad – Insalata di bietole – with roasted beets, herbed goat cheese, frisee, hazelnut vinaigrette. This salad was amazing! The Beet were layered with delicious goat cheese, red onions and toasted hazelnuts topped with frisee. The vinaigrette was nice and light and just the right amount was drizzled over the top of the lettuce. I loved everything about it! I 100% recommend ordering this.
For dinner we shared three dishes (way more food than we needed). We had the Tagliatelle alla Bolognese: house-made tagliatelle, classic Bolognese. We ordered the Bolognese with gluten free penne pasta (our other gluten free options tonight were spaghetti and fettuccini – so impressive that not only do they have a gluten free pasta option, but 3, every night!!) The Bolognese was creamier than I’ve ever had it before. When I eat pasta I overload on the sauce, this goes for any dish really (especially gravy), but even as an over-saucer, and being a bit critical here, I think this dish had a little too much cream in the sauce. I did enjoy it very much, but I could not eat that much of it; it was just too much creaminess and sauce for one dish. It was also a bit too salty. I hate salt. I never ever add salt to anything I make and I could taste the salt in this dish. The penne was cooked al dante and was so good, my dad said if he hadn’t been told it was gluten free he would not have known. 
For our second dish we ordered the Saltimbocca Vitello – veal, prosciutto, sage, fontina, mushrooms and marsala. The veal was great, but the sart of the dish were the mushrooms! They use oyster, crimini and other more “exotic” mushrooms I did not recognize. It was topped with a large piece of prosciutto and melted fontina. The fontina had a pungent taste and odd smell, it totally turned me off (Note: I do not like many cheeses, especially not fontina). Luckily the cheese was only on top of the prosciutto and was easily pushed off to the side, and onto my dad’s plate. The veal and the mushrooms were delicious, I think this was the best part of the entire meal.
The third dish we ordered was new to the menu and the name is slipping my mind at the moment, but it is very similar to a cioppino. It came with little neck clams, shrimp, calamari, white fish, potatoes, carrots and celery in a tomato broth (order with no croutons to make it gluten free). It was delicious, not spicy at all. I cannot put my finger on the herb used but it was good. There was a generous amount of seafood in the dish and I’m glad I saved a piece of the bread so I could dip it in the broth.
The only gluten free dessert option was a blueberry sorbet. I would recommend this to anyone! It was the prefect way to end the meal; a fruity and light sorbet.
On Sunday nights Marco serves family style dinner in addition to the regular menu. The pasta dishes come in half portions & full portions. The full was a generous size and we left plenty full with leftovers.
The food was all good, some items better than others, but not the best Italian meal I’ve ever had. The pasta was the best part, which for us gf girls (and boys) is a huge plus. Some of the other pasta dishes looked good too and if I go back I would try another one. I do have to say that this is one of the most accommodating restaurants I’ve been to in a while for people with gluten allergies. The waitstaff is so knowledgeable about which dishes are 100% gluten free and which can be easily accommodated to be gluten free, and which you just can’t have (luckily we didn’t run into this problem.) Next time I go, and I will, I will just make sure to mention that I do not like salt and ask for no extra salt to be added to my meal. 

Location: 253 Hanover Street, 2nd floor, North End, Boston, MA 02113

Rice and Lentils with Apples

Last night I got together with some girlfriends for dinner. One of my friends is a vegan so not only did I need to make something gluten free I also wanted her to be able to eat it as well. I love to play around with items I have at home. I also didn’t have time to go out to the store and by any ingredients for various recipes I was contemplating to make, so after rummaging through my fridge and the pantry, I came up with Jasmati rice, an onion, red lentils and the apple I didn’t eat at lunch today.

Well, what turned out as an experiment, ended up being a quite tasty dish. I liked how it turned out. It was a hit at my friends dinner party later that evening, and I received very nice compliments from everyone.

I overcooked the lentils just a bit, and I was nervous the dish would be too mushy, but it wasn’t it was great the way the ‘semi-mushy’ lentils and rice mixed together so well.

Ingredients

1 cup rice
1 ½ cups red lentils
¼ cup onion, diced
1 T olive oil
1 medium-large granny smith apple, diced
1 teaspoons cumin
1 garlic glove (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 teaspoon parsley
3 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander seed
Directions
1.     Cook rice according to package directions. Half way through the cook time, I added 1 teaspoon curry powder so it would infuse into the rice.
2.     In a saucepan, add 2 cups of water and the lentils. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10-15 minutes. I add a few pieces of onion to the boiling water for a little flavor. Cook longer if you want ‘mushier’ lentils.
3.     Dice the onion and garlic. Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add the union and garlic until the onion begins to brown. Add the chopped apples and cook for 2 more minutes.
4.     Drain any excess water from the lentils.
5.     Combine the rice, lentils, chopped apple and onions into a bowl. Add in spices and mix. 
6.     Serve warm and enjoy

Puffed Rice Tabouli

I haven’t had tabouli in years! I was so excited when I came across this recipe from Nature’s Path.

This salad is perfect for summer (or winter or spring or fall :), it’s so refreshing. It combines classic tabbouleh ingredients but substitutes puffed brown rice for traditional bulgur or couscous. Red cabbage isn’t a traditional ingredient in tabouli its adds a little crunch and color to the salad.

Ingredients: 

  • 3 cups Red Cabbage, finely chopped
  • 3 cups unsweetened Rice Puffs*
  • 1 1/2 cups Fresh Mint Leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup Parsley, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 3 tablespoons Lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon Yellow Mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt, or to taste
  • Zest of 1 lemon
*be sure to use the unsweetened variety. 

Directions: 

  1. In a large bowl, combine cabbage, puffed rice cereal, mint, and parsley.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and lemon zest.
  3. Pour dressing over salad and toss to coat. 
  4. Add more lemon juice if needed. 

*be sure to use the unsweetened variety of puffed rice cereal.