Tuesday, September 15, 2009

S'MAC me, I must be dreaming!

I really need to stop with the puns. I think in the long run, it just makes me look a tad ridiculous.

Well all, I'm back from NY, and though I didn't have much time to gallivant around the city (you gotta work when you gotta work) I was able to try a couple of restaurants that were new to me and GF friendly.

The first place I tried was Lili's 57, an Asian restaurant with an entirely separate GF menu. Well how exciting is that! You have read my many desires to recreate the flavors of certain Asian foods, Chinese take-out especially, and here is my very own menu guide to the bliss I have been searching for. Here's the good news: the manager and waiter that were answering all my questions at the register really understood my concerns and answered all of my questions without one iota of irritation. Here's the bad news: the menu was GF, but they used GF soy sauce. Now, I'm still allergic to soy, so soy sauce is a no go for me. They said they could make a few items without it though.

I ordered Saigon Rolls as an appetizer: avocado, mango, cucumber, rice noodles, and mint wrapped in a rice wonton skin. That could have been my meal alone. It was a good thing I hadn't eaten lunch that day and I was starving because the roll, cut into 5 nice sized chunks, was a lot to handle. All the ingredients tasted very fresh and delicious, and I wasn't sad to forgo the soy-laced sauce.

Next, I had Chicken Fried Rice which they said they could whip up without soy sauce for me. Sometimes without the soy sauce, you'll notice Chicken Fried Rice doesn't always taste like itself. In this case however, it tasted just like how I remembered it, only better! I don't know what it was (maybe the fact I wasn't making it low-fat at home) but it was just heavenly for me.

Also, there are a few Asian restaurants like this sprinkled around the city with oddly enough the same GF menu, so if you're not in the neighborhood, you're not out of luck! Now if only they'd had a GF fortune cookie. Sigh, you can't have everything...

The second place I was able to try is not a new or unknown joint to New Yorkers: S'MAC, the glory of an all mac n' cheese establishment. Now I know what you're thinking. It's not hard to make mac n' cheese at home. Hell, there's GF pasta, GF cheese, GF breadcrumbs. Yes, that's all true. But I'm not an expert in mac n' cheese. And I don't own an iron skillet. These two things make a big, big difference when craving the proper mac n' cheese experience. Plus, I had my awesome friend with me, who I do not normally have at home!

I ordered the Napoletana, which is fresh mozzarella, roasted tomatoes, roasted garlic, and fresh basil all with brown rice macaroni. After one bite I knew that this is what dreams were made of folks. My mac n' cheese was sensational!! Each burst of creamy goodness mixed with just the right spicing never once gave away I was eating brown rice pasta (I prefer quinoa usually.) I only wish (daily) that I could take the good folks of S'MAC and convince them to open a store in Southern California. If only...

If you are out there S'MAC, we need you!! And we're sunnier ;)

So that's what I got to try on my very, very brief trip to NYC. I hope to be back within the year for some heavy tasting, but for now this will have to do.

I only wish that restaurants here regularly recognized allergies as well as they seem to now be doing in places like NYC and Chicago. I know we'll get there one day...

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I'm going to NY! And in the near future...

It's for a quick business trip, but don't worry dear reader. I've mapped out tons of yummy GF and regular restaurant options that I hope to fully review (if they're worthy) in an upcoming I still love eating in NY blog.

I just wanted to share my happiness with you as its one of my favorite cities to eat in on the planet!

I'm also looking forward to throwing out my two-cents on a couple of GF products I've discovered now that I'm back in the states. There are a few more options than when I left, so I know we're making progress people. And like everyone else, I've got an upcoming GF Betty Crocker cake mix review.

Get ready folks; I'm about to get my criti-sizzle on.

Yes, I just typed criti-sizzle.

Monday, September 7, 2009

YWPWT: Holy Cannoli!!

Helloooooooo USA!! It's good to be back in the good ol' country of pie plates and readily available baking ingredients. And what better way to celebrate my homecoming than with September's entry for You Want Pies With That! This month's theme comes from my dear friend and genius cook at Piccante Dolce. Vacation Pie. This one's super easy and fun, just bake a pie that is "inspired by a vacation you have taken or hope to take."

Uh, did someone say vacation? Because the last vacation I took was in Florence, Italy. Yep, you heard me. And you can read all about the best meal I've ever had in my life here. I had the most amazing time in Florence. I saw The David and illegally took a non-flash photo of it (what? everyone else was too) I strolled the bridges in the glow of dusk, I nearly killed myself on a 26 mile bike ride that was supposed to be a "leisurely" tour of the Chianti region, and I accidentally bought a leather jacket. I also got asked out by several Italian men from age 16 to age 60 and got proposed to twice. Don't you just love it ;)

So Italy in general is known for amazing food, classically beautiful marriages of flavors, and nothing but the most outrageous desserts. I swear I ate gelati every single day I was there. Okay, maybe twice a day. Hey, I was on vacation. I struggled for a bit when I had to come up with just one Italian dessert to inspire my pie, but then I took a breather. I cleared my head. "What is the first dessert that comes to your mind?" Cannoli. Cannoli. Without a doubt. Now granted because of my wonderful allergic self I didn't eat any cannolis while I was in Italy; however, I did look at them and they were beautiful. The best cannoli I've ever had in the US is located at Mike's Pastries in Boston, which I highly recommend to any person with a stomach.

I baked a cannoli inspired pie using a simple sugar cookie crust dusted with cinnamon to mimic the shell of the yummy tubular treat and filled it with a unique ricotta mixture, all topped off with some delicious allergen free chocolate chips from the company Enjoy Life (one of my favorite allergy free companies; so darn good!) I think this will have to be a repeat in my kitchen sometime soon.

Cannoli Pie

GF cookie dough, either homemade or store bought (flavor of your choosing)
15 oz part-skim ricotta cheese
1 envelope of unflavored gelatin
1 cup of powdered sugar, divided
1 cup of boiling water
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup of allergy-free (or regular) chocolate chips


Prepare cookie dough according to directions or recipe and spread in a pie plate.
Bake as directed.
Dust with cinnamon and set aside to cool.

Combine 1/2 cup powdered sugar and one envelope of gelatin, mixing well.
Add 1 cup of boiling water and mix until the sugar and gelatin dissolve; set aside.
In another bowl, mix the ricotta cheese, the remaining powdered sugar, and the vanilla.
Slowly pour the gelatin mixture over the cheese mixture and combine.
Pour the filling into the cookie dough crust and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
Sprinkle chocolate chips on top of the pie making it just like a chocolate chip cannoli!

Let's be frank. This recipe is really, really easy and really, really good. I used the gelatin to help the ricotta stand up. With the help of the gelatin, it's able to be sliced as a pie without having to add eggs (and calories) and without baking the filling. It's a nice icebox pie for the hot end of summer days and it makes me want to go right back on vacation.

Yum, a cannoli and a pie. Now if they could only move Italy a little closer to California...
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