Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Stogo - NYC, NY

(East Village)

dairy-free, AND gluten free treats?! this is my new happy place!  i found the service to be impeccable, as our group of 4 was offered sample after sample before ordering.  the flavors are as good as could be, and even my 3 dairy-fiend friends concurred they didn't miss the dairy.

the mexican spiced chocolate did garner a bit of a kick towards the end, but was perfect mixed with another flavor.  likewise, the salted pecan caramel packed a sweet punch, but combined with another flavor, perfectly luscious. the plethora of coconut flavors was nice too; the toasted coconut almond joy was quite joyful indeed.

sadly, no cones, but you can create your own ice-cream cookie sandwich. a small cup=1 flavor scoop, medium=2 flavor scoops, and large=3 flavor scoops.

i almost can't wait for cold weather to try the hot chocolate, truffles, and cupcake treats!  until then, i'll be gorging myself on triple scoops...thank goodness the stuff happens to also be lower in fat, sugar, and cholesterol free.

Babycakes - NYC, NY

Babycakes Bakery
(Lower East Side)

another gem in the world of vegan bakery!  although some items get pricey (1 donut, $3.50), you realize the cost is well-deserved because it is so incredibly well made.  the ginger cookies were the best i've ever had, including those from the old days before all my food sensitivities.  i don't really have much of a sweet tooth, but the brownie bites with the chocolate burst in the middle was nearly orgasmic (i had the chocolate chip and agave). same goes for the cupcakes (red velvet, vanilla, chocolate, and chocolate mocha); i had to keep reassuring myself it was dairy-free because the cake was so moist and buttery (without being actually buttery). and the frosting.....usually i scrap all the frosting off cakes and such, but i licked every luscious morsel off my fingers here.

lastly, the blueberry crumb cake and biscuits with raspberries and cream made for a truly delightful breakfast....just beware if you have a serious gluten allergy, the biscuits are made with spelt, a derivative of wheat.

not only did i order every aforementioned item in one go, i also ate everything over the span of 48 hours!  if i could live on baked goods alone, babycakes would do it for me. it might also be the quickest way to my heart, shhhh........

one warning: as with most diary-free items, the melting point tends to be a little lower than regular dairy.  be advised.

* A few years after discovering this bakery, it got a lot of press because Chelsea Clinton ordered her wedding cake from here

Red Bamboo, NYC, NY

Red Bamboo
(West Village)

i had the first strawberry milkshake i've had in years, and it tasted just like how i remembered it....creamy, like real strawberries, and delicious.  except this one was gloriously dairy-free!

and the cheesecake....i deliberately tasted a bit with nothing but just the cake, and nearly had a psychosomatic lactose attack!  add in the whipped cream topping and chocolate chips, and i came close to nirvana.

i will go a long ways out of my way to return for another milkshake, and until i try every available dessert on the all-vegan menu.  At $6 a shake, i think i've found my new anti-depressant!

Phileo Yogurt - Philadelphia, PA

Phileo Yogurt
(South Street)

Great flavors, and live cultures in the yogurt verify the high quality product. It also makes it an amazing lactose-free treat!

This is another pay by the ounce type of place, with a topping bar you can hit up to your heart's content. Amazing prices. I filled a large container (enough for 4) all the way up to the brim, topped it with Cap'n Crunch, and barely crossed the $6 mark.

Very clean and well-kept. Credit cards accepted.

Tea Fever - Berkeley, CA

Tea Fever
(Downtown Berkeley)

There might not be a lot of options on the menu, but the one bonus offered here is what brings me back week after week:  SOY MILK!!

It's been years since I've been able to enjoy a boba milk tea, because most places just don't carry soy milk. At Tea Fever, not only do they have soy milk, but the flavor powders they use are also dairy-free.  woohooooooooo!

The short menu boasts milk teas, slushes, smoothes, organic teas, and fresh waffles. The tapioca balls are always perfectly chewy, although sometimes range from delicately sweet to not sweet enough. There is also jelly if you're not a tapioca ball buster.

Mr. Pickles Sandwich Shop - Daly City, CA

Mr. Pickles Sandwich Shop

Whether there's only a couple people in line or two fistfuls, there's always a wait, but no one gets angry because EVERYONE knows the sandwiches are worth waiting for. Big enough for 2 meals, or just 1 if you've got that kind of extension, these babies are made to order with quality ingredients. There's even gluten-free bread from Mariposa, as well as sourdough, rye, wheat, white and dutch crunch.  The people who work here really take pride in making a good sandwich too - I've actually caught one of the guys leaning back smiling at his handiwork before wrapping it up.

In addition to sandwiches made to order with every ingredient perfectly distributed, they have SOY CHEESE that MELTS! it's pretty awesome, and creamy to boot.

Free tootsipops and blowpops at the register.

*the sourdough here is commercial grade, and not gluten free*

Radish - San Franciso, CA


Haven't tried it yet, but supposedly this place in the Mission serves all sorts of goodies such as breads from Mariposa Bakery, and gluten free pancakes. Please post a comment if you've been there!

wheeeee for GHEE!

As I took in the aromas of garlic butter at my latest seafood feast,

I excitedly remembered how to make butter lactose free! A friend of mine blogged about ghee, or clarified butter, a while back, and provides lovely instructions on how to make it at home here. Although he discusses ghee from an Ayurvedic perspective, ghee is also a traditional ingredient in South Asian cooking.

Ghee is super easy to make at home: basically you simmer butter on medium-low heat until the foam disappears and curds form, and strain out the curds. That's it! I like to simmer it with herbs such as rosemary, and then store in a container in the fridge. Remember the process (unfortunately) doesn't make it fat-free!

Take that, butter.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Crispin Honey Crisp Cider

YUM!  Not bad, and 6.5% alcohol content. About $5 for this 22 oz. bottle.

Thanks again to my cousin for finding this at a random liquor store in Berkeley, CA!


Although I would never consider cider as a drink of choice in the past, it's become another option when I'm out and not feeling the liquor or wine. It's often tastier, lighter and more available than GF beers, too. I much prefer dry ciders, which can also be harder to find, and sometimes as pricey (or pricier) than a nice bottle of wine. Ciders may come in all different varieties: apple, pear, pomegranate, blood orange, etc. Careful though - due to the sugars, these can be high in calorie content, approximately 200 calories per serving.

Another decent beer

This drinks pretty easy, although like most sorghum beers, it's slightly heavy. More palatable than others such as Bard's, though.

Thanks to my cousin for finding this at Berkeley Bowl in Berkeley, CA!

Gluten free bakery in Philly!

Sweet Freedom Bakery - Center City Philadelphia, PA

Full review to follow once I post on Yelp.

Best yogurt I've ever had

Imagine my shock, amazement, and later pleasure, when I happened to find this in the cold box at a Starbucks in the Hyatt hotel near the Denver Convention Center:

This probiotic yogurt is thick, creamy, melts on the tongue, all natural, and hormone-free.  It is a bit pricey, but it's carried in select big box stores, and natural food stores.  Check the site for locations! The only downside is the 6g fat per 4 oz. serving :(

Vietnamese Food

By FAR my go-to gluten/lactose free meal out! The only dairy on the menu is the condensed milk that's used in a Vietnamese coffee.  Besides that, I've never even seen an appetizer, soup, or entree with dairy. The noodle are typically rice noodles ("fun"), with a token egg noodle ("mein") dish. Other entrees are over rice.

Prices are always decent, with apps under $5 and entrees under $10. The only tricky thing is finding places that don't use MSG, and with the precise balance of savory without saltiness.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Gluten Free Girl and the Chef

This is a beautiful, comprehensive site! Looking at all the awards and recognition the site's received, it's also one of the premier resources for gluten free living. I love sites that highlight everything we CAN eat, not just what we can't. Life is more or less a celebration of good company and good eats, right?


I discovered papadum at an Indian food stand at a weekly farmer's market in Oakland, CA. This crackery flatbread is made from lentil, rice or potato flour, and sometimes lightly spiced. A savory salty treat, and a great vehicle for chutney, jam or pate!

Served warm and crispy in Indian restaurants, it is sold in markets in a package of circular, hard, flat sheets. It's got a loooong shelf life, and to prepare, simply microwave, or warm it up over low heat on a frying pan or gas burner like a tortilla (no oil needed). It'll puff up and be ready to eat in less than minutes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find this in the general trough at the buffet on a Norwegian Star cruise.


a.k.a., how to make dairy lactose-free!  Basically, probiotics are live cultures (healthy bacteria) that digest the lactose that your body can't. Most yogurts contain probiotics, but always check the label to be sure. Greek yogurt in particular usually has several strains of cultures, making it the best choice for the most sensitive. Also, certain varieties of frozen yogurt contain live cultures and are therefore lactose-free.

I recently discovered a brand of cream cheese and sour cream made with probiotics - delicious! The best part is, it tastes like the real thing - because it is!


Found at: Berkeley Bowl - Berkeley, CA


I love this brand's line of gluten-free anything! Best commercial brand, and it can often be found in any big box supermarket. Pastas and wafers are my favorites.

Passover is one of the best times of year

Sigh...I'm still sad that I missed Passover shopping this year. Living further from super Jewish communities than before, I just didn't have the same selection of gluten-free goods I was used to stocking up on during this Jewish holiday.


Well, only if you're not religious....the customs of this holiday dictate a more or less gluten-free diet, so that means markets catering to Jewish communities will stock up on all sorts of GF goodies, including cakes, cookies, pastas, breads, etc. And they are mostly GOOD!

Udi's Breads

My favorite commercially available bread thus far!

Their stuff actually doesn't weigh like a brick, are tasty, and freeze well. As with all breads, they taste best after a light toast. I like the multi-grain bread, and bagels.

Found at select Trader Joe's in the bread aisle, and the frozen section in natural food stores.

Sourdough Bread

Stumbling on this site was like hitting 7777s at the slots:

L.A. Sourdough

Although the featured vendor is based in L.A., the same principles could be relevant with any diligent, small bakery that's serious about their sourdough. Most commercial, widely distributed varieties are still a no-no, though.

Lobster and Dungenness Crab

(it's also the ultimate lactose and GF food)

My particular favorites:

The freshest and cheapest varieties will always be at a Chinese supermarket, or seafood vendor in Chinatown. The bigger chain supermarkets will usually steam a live lobster or crab for you for free, if you feel squeamish about carrying out the massacre at home.

If you ARE feeling adventurous enough to do it at home, it's easy: Fill a large pot or wok with a few inches of water. Place a rack in the water for the seafood to rest on so it's not in the water. Cover, and steam until done. About 20 min, depending on the size of the beast, more if you're steaming more than one at a time. If you're steaming a lobster, make sure to let the urine out of it prior to cooking. You can do this by pricking a hole in the underside of the end of the tail with the point of your knife, and it will run out when you hold the lobster up.

Anesthesia: Meat tends to taste better when it's not cooked under duress. To avoid the lobster freaking out and making the meat tough, I like to pop it in the freezer for no longer than 30 minutes to lull it into a peaceful and more humane feast.

Chicken Rotini casserole

One of my best friends and former roommate for years used to make this deliciously cheesy, garlicky chicken casserole. I pretty much ate until the point of pain, it was so good, and then spend a day agony. Can't believe it took me this long to figure out a ting-friendly version!

This is made with lactose-free cheeses (swiss emmenthaler, goat cheddar, plain goat), and homemade lactose/gluten-free cream of chicken stock with corn starch as thickener and plain almond milk. All the effort to make the homemade stock was worth it:

sidenote: topped with French's French Fried Onions, so perhaps not entirely GF, although I firmly subscribe to the denial that anything deep fried more or less kills the gluten/lactose!

Soy sauce

For a while, I thought raw fish upset my stomach, and was sad to have to give up sashimi and sushi.  Then I found out soy sauce is pretty much straight gluten. Now I carry a leakproof travel-size vial of gluten free soy sauce when I have the foresight of knowing I'm going out for sushi. I found these brands on the internet and amazon, but in stores it's harder to find. Usually markets serving higher-end clientele will have it, and then it's only the more expensive organic version.

Buffalo Wings

I LOVE buffalo wings!  After years of denial, I've finally realized that a quality buffalo wing sauce is made with butter and hot sauce.  Not so lactose-free after all. I guess that means suffer the consequences less frequently (probably not a bad idea for the waistline, anyways), or make a lactose-free version at home with margarine. Thank goodness I never allowed myself to buy a deep fryer!

Alton Brown has a nice baked version of buffalo wings for a healthier option:
Alton Brown's Buffalo Wings on the Food Network

Candle 79 - NYC, NY

Candle 79
(Upper East Side)

Vegetarian-friendly?  yes!
Gluten-free friendly?  yes!
Taste-bud friendly?  yes!
Comfortable eating environment? yes!
Prompt service?  yes!
Nut-allergy friendly?  NO.

This last item was fatally disappointing.  Well, not actually fatal, but that potential was certainly there. Considering what a heavy emphasis this restaurant has on having a vegetarian menu, separate gluten-free menu, and proclaims a great sensitivity to food allergies, we came away with serious questions regarding cross-contaminations in the kitchen.  As with many vegetarian menus, most of the dishes contained nuts. It was quickly realized that even non-nut dishes must've somehow still carried trace amounts of nuts, because my dining companion felt the familiar anaphylactic shock settling in halfway through his non-nut entree, and also several sips into his non-nut beer.  Very curious indeed.

Other than that, the dishes are beautifully presented, and for $22-26 per entree, leave you satisfactorily full for about an hour. Desserts were a bit pricey at $12 per.

Epipen anyone?

Yankee Stadium - Bronx, NY

Yankee Stadium

i'll be the first to admit it: i'm a hater.  as much as i was prepared to hate the new yankee stadium, i was completely wowed when i entered.  at first i was taken aback by how much the stadium resembled an upscale shopping mall, but then the most glorious food smells immediately assaulted me, and was a continued theme throughout the evening. the concourses were spacious, and bathrooms the best stadium bathrooms i've ever seen.  on street level, there is a members-only restaurant with a buffet that could've rivaled the brunch buffet at the Rainbow Room. the gift shop is also on this level.  other concession stands i noticed included Daisy Mae's bbq, Tommy Bahama bar with liquor and wine, Hard Rock, steak, Carvel, and italian sausage.  But the clincher for me?  The beer stand has an extensive offering of draft and bottled brews, including gluten-free beer!!  i was as happy as a clam when i saw this, and laughed when my philly friend said, "gluten-free beer at a stadium?  only in ny".  and that is precisely why i love nyc.

Busch Stadium - St. Louis, MO

Busch Stadium

Any stadium that serves gluten-free beer and lets you bring your own food/drink inside is a real gem!

The natural beauty of this stadium is brought out by the surrounding backdrop of the city, complete with the Arch which is reflected in the Arch shape mowed into the field.

Catching a game here is truly enjoyable.

El Beit - Brooklyn, NY

El Beit

Gluten-free English muffin + bacon butter = plate-licking a.m. treat

Bacon butter, I thought?  It consisted of caramelized onions, black pepper, and chunks of sauteed bacon.  yum!

Soy options, even for Chai.

A bit pricey, like around $8 for a coffee and a breakfast treat. But then again, sometimes money can buy happiness.

Free WiFi and a back patio.

Scottadito Osteria Toscana - Brooklyn, NY

Scottadito Osteria Toscana

This is my go-to place for Italian in Park Slope.  The fresh, housemade pasta is craveable, and the bottomless mimosa/champagne brunch is unbeatable! The warm olive appetizer yields the hugest, tastiest olives I've ever had stateside, and the fresh pasta with brie and prosciutto that is offered during brunch is forever imprinted in my memory from my gluten and dairy laden past.

I was encouraged to visit this old favorite of mine upon hearing that they now serve gluten-free pasta; it was so delicious I had to ask our server and the chef to verify that it was indeed gluten-free!

The consistently good food is complemented by the reasonably priced wine list, and if you can get here before 7pm, definitely take advantage of the $30 prix fixe special which includes wine! The cozy ambiance makes this restaurant the ideal place for a date or catch up session with a good friend.

Pappardelle's Pasta - Rochester, NY

Pappardelle's Pasta

I discovered these pasta gurus at a weekly farmers' market in Rochester, NY.   I was drawn by the bounty of beautiful and uniquely flavored dry pastas, and thrilled out of my mind when the guys behind the counter showed me their plentiful gluten-free selection. I tried a basil-pesto, and a garlic chive. Although a bit pricey at $7 for 9 ounces, these gourmet pastas truly warranted the price. The aroma of the pastas while cooking made my mouth water, and the texture, once cooked, was spot on. I especially love the inventive shapes the pastas come in. The inherent flavors are so well done, this pasta is best served with a basic butter or ghee sauce and a dash of wine.

The Owl House - Rochester, NY

The Owl House

Oh boy, does this place make my heart flutter.  The vegan aspect suited my lactardness, and the gluten-free aspect make my intestines happy as a clam in water. The combination of the two was almost too much for me to handle!

The food was fresh, thoughtfully prepared, and the Belgium gluten-free beer was probably the best I've tasted. I especially enjoyed the creamy dressing on the caesar salad and the out-of-this-world pulled pork nachos. The high quality dairy-free cheese they used was spectacular. What really made fireworks was the chocolate mouse dessert though - no words can describe the goodness that coddled my tongue at the post-coital stage of the meal.

Mayo is NOT dairy!

and therefore, does not contain lactose.  Most restaurant workers, and even some cooks/chefs may not be aware of this. I've always hated mayonnaise, so when I request "no mayo", it often misleads people to think that my request is made to avoid lactose. MYTH!

Guide to Low Lactose Cheese

Foods Matter

This site has brought cheese back into my life to appease the stomach and soul.

Lula's Sweet Apothecary - NYC, NY

Lula's Sweet Apothecary
(East Village)

the ice-cream's delicious, plenty of dairy-free and/or gluten-free options, and they have gluten-free sugar cones. life doesn't get any better!

Tivoli Caffe - Berkeley, CA

Tivoli Caffe
(UC Berkeley area, southside of campus)

This family-owned and operated caffe is my new go-to lunch and work spot.  They have impressive gluten-free options, including a gluten-free focaccia for paninis, waffles, and soon-to-come gluten-free pizza. There is also a limited selection of lactose-free items including greek yogurt and soy milk.

The coffees are pretty standard, but the sandwiches are KILLER. Everything is fresh, even the tuna salad, and extreme care is put into the construction of every order. If you decide to eat in, you get a small little dollop of fresh fruit which is nice.

The owner recognized me from my 2nd visit, and he's always anxious for feedback to make improvements.

Super reasonable prices, they take cards, but do allow at least 5 minutes for sandwiches to be made.  Attention to detail cannot be rushed! There is additional seating upstairs for large groups, and free wi-fi if you have access to UC Berkeley's network.

The secret's in the bitch

I recently found out that sourdough bread, when made the old-fashioned way with a starter yeast, is actually gluten-free! A long fermentation period actually digests the gluten, but this process is not standard across all sourdoughs.  Most commercial, widely-distributed sourdoughs aren't fermented long enough and still contain gluten. To be sure, ask the baker about the process. Of course there's always the trial and error if you can afford to be experimental...


Is Beer Still Worth Drinking?

Unfortunately, as my palate naturally favors darker brews, the paler gluten-free beers just aren't worth the calories to me.  Some are better than others though, when one needs that occasional beer fix.

  • Redbridge Lager (brewed by Budweiser) - It actually tastes impressively like Budweiser. Which is great....if you like Budweiser.
  • Bard's - Like a lot of sorghum beers, heavy and syrupy. Next.
  • Green's - Drawn by my attraction to Belgium beers, I kinda got my hopes up on this one. Tried the Endeavor and Discover varieties since they are medium- and heavy- bodied. Unfortunately, both were so heavy and sickly sweet I couldn't even finish the expensive brew.
  • Schnizter Brau - es ist gut!

Naturally lactose-free cheeses

Here are some cheese I've tried with success:
  • Emmenthaler from Switzerland (not sure about Emmenthaler from other countries - limited experimentation has been hit or miss)
  • Gruyere
  • Parmigiano Reggiano
  • Goat cheese

(taken in part from the Foods Matter site)

Snyder's gluten-free pretzels