Category Archives: Reviews

Fresh Air Does Gluten Free

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For those of us that listen to Fresh Air on NPR, it was a joy to hear Terri Gross interview food experts about gluten-free cooking and baking.

Terri interviewed Jack Bishop and Julia Collin Davison of America’s Test Kitchen. They spent the last few years testing recipes and brands to find the best. It’s a great, informative show.
Click here to listen to the full story. 

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On common problems with gluten-free foods

Collin Davison: Gluten is kind of magical, and so when you take it out of the equation, you’re left with flours that can’t absorb liquid as well, they can’t absorb fat as well and they can’t trap those air bubbles that are really crucial for baked goods. So you wind up with things that are … very dense and squat; they’re often greasy and they crumble apart. They don’t have the binding structure of gluten.

On the best store-bought gluten-free flour

Collin Davison: The one that we found worked best universally — and that means in cookies, in bread dough, in biscuits, in muffins — was King Arthur Flour gluten-free blend. And it is very much like, actually, our recipe for gluten-free flour blend in that it uses two types of rice flours — white and brown — and it also uses two types of starches, which is potato and tapioca. And those four ingredients, we found, were really the magic key to finding a blend that worked almost as good as a wheat flour.

Here is one of the recipes from the book, for classic chocolate chip cookies.
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Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 8 ounces (13/4 cups) ATK Gluten-Free Flour Blend
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 5 1/4 ounces (3/4 cup packed) light brown sugar
  • 2 1/3 ounces (1/3 cup) granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 7 1/2 ounces (11/4 cups) semisweet chocolate chips

1. Whisk flour blend, baking soda, xanthan gum, and salt together in medium bowl; set aside. Whisk melted butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar together in large bowl until well combined and smooth. Whisk in egg, milk, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth. Stir in flour mixture with rubber spatula and mix until soft, homogeneous dough forms. Fold in chocolate chips. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 30 minutes. (Dough will be sticky and soft.)

2. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Using 2 soupspoons and working with about 11/2 tablespoons of dough at a time, portion dough and space 2 inches apart on prepared sheets. Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until golden brown and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating sheet halfway through baking.

3. Let cookies cool on sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. (Cookies are best eaten on day they are baked, but they can be cooled and placed immediately in airtight container and stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.)

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Review: Skout Organic Trailbars

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We don’t do enough food reviews, and we should! We get to try tasty and usually local products, and these days, there are so many choices that finding something gluten-free that you really love is somewhat daunting.  Anyhow, we were sent a package of Skout Organic Trailbars, and they were actually tasty enough to warrant a review.

To start with, we find many of the energy bars available to be dry and crumbly, and thankfully the Skout bars were moist and chewy, with bright fruit flavors shining through. In addition, the bars are organic, nutritious and non-GMO, which makes you feel completely guilt-free eating them. Not that someone would have an ounce of guilt eating anything out on a trail, but let’s say you’re sitting in traffic – now you needn’t feel bad about devouring a whole bar, they’re packed with ingredients like organic dates, almonds, GF oats and whole fruit.

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The bars come in five flavors, including chocolate + peanut butter, apple + cinnamon, cherry vanilla, blueberry almond and chocolate + coconut. Our favorite so far is the apple + cinnamon, which is sweet and tart, and makes us eager to head deep into the wilderness.

Skout bars are proudly made in Portland, Oregon, and are the creation of Jason, Tony and Denny Pastega. From their press kit:

The idea for the company emerged when Jason was unable to find tasty and truly healthy energy bars to take along on his outdoor activities. As he examined various types of energy and nutrition bars, he began to notice that many of them contained high-fructose corn syrup or excess sugar and featured long lists of artificial ingredients. He wanted an energy bar that was nutritious, organic and all natural. So in 2008, Jason put his favorite organic ingredients into a kitchen mixer and spread his first bars with a rolling pin. Six months later, Skout Organic Trailbars were born.

Scout, Jason’s beloved yellow Labrador, was the inspiration for the company name. He adopted Scout when she was six years old, and the pair spent seven years exploring Oregon’s beaches, trails and rivers together before she passed away in 2011.

We definitely recommend trying Skout bars when you’re heading on a hike and need some tasty and energy packed food to get you there.

Bizarre Foods America – Portland!

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I’ve always been a fan of Andrew Zimmern, he has a supreme likability, even when he’s digging into something we’d rather not eat.

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He came through Portland last summer to shoot an episode for his series Bizarre Foods America, and it recently aired on the Travel Channel.

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It was cool to see him visit some of the best (and gluten-free) restaurants in the city and share in his experiences. Some of the spots included Salt & Straw, Olympic Provisions, Lincoln, Laurelhurst Market and Le Pigeon.

You can find a link to the Portland episode here, and below is a video countdown of his Portland Top Five.

Bizarre Foods Video

GlutenFreePDX on The Gluten Minded

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A friend of ours up in Seattle just started a new website called The Gluten Minded, and wanted to feature GlutenFreePDX’s own founder on their opening week. Ben was happy to oblige, and it’s great to have a new resource that features cooks, entrepreneurs, and others in the Gluten-Free community.  Thanks to Becky for reaching out! Below is a portion of the interview.

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Name: Benjamin VanderVeen

Location: Portland, Oregon

Tell me a bit about yourself and your special involvement in the gluten-free community.

I’m a freelance documentary filmmaker and designer. I’m lucky to work with clients in all walks of life. I have a website, benvanderveen.com, and I run a design blog called Moss and Fog.

I also started GlutenFreePDX as soon as I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I wanted a place where I could list restaurants that cater to my diet. The site has grown and evolved in the past five years. I have lots of daily readers and an active social media community. It’s made me stay on top of stories and news related to the gluten-free lifestyle.

Why are you gluten minded?

I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2008 and have followed a strict gluten-free diet ever since. I have a condition called dermatitis herpetiformis. It manifests as terribly itchy rashes and seriously affected the quality of my life. Because I had symptoms that weren’t stomach-related, I didn’t immediately make the connection that food was the cause. I had a skin biopsy that showed my only course of treatment was a strict gluten-free diet.

What was life like before you stopped eating gluten?

I wasn’t a very mindful eater before becoming gluten-free. I was also in my mid-twenties and still had a metabolism that let me eat just about anything. I liked food a lot, but wasn’t all that into quality.

How did life change after you stopped eating gluten?

Certainly the diet is a major change and I had a period of several months where it was difficult to adjust mentally. I experienced frustration, some denial and anxiety. I still feel frustrated at times, but I’ve learned to deal with my strict diet pretty well. Beyond these challenges, my health has improved dramatically and I’ve begun taking better care of my overall diet and lifestyle.

I also think my sense of empathy has grown since becoming gluten-free. In the past, I didn’t give much credence to strict diets was impatient concerning food allergies. Being on the other side of the issue gives me a sense of vulnerability that has made me more empathetic towards people with food restrictions. I’ve gotten into cooking a bit more, but also GlutenFreePDX requires that I keep up with the Portland food scene, which is fun and motivating.

What is the most challenging part of the gluten-free lifestyle?

I hate to cause a scene with my diet. I don’t like inquiring about what’s in a dish at a restaurant and I don’t like people making extra effort for me. But I’ve had to become vocal, inquisitive and careful. I think standing up for yourself while not being self-righteous is key. Also, I’ve had to stop eating some of my favorite foods, which is tough.

Which foods do you miss the most?

I miss some boxed cereals and really good pies. My mom is a tremendous baker and it’s a major bummer that I can’t partake. And of course, I miss the occasional beer. Beer is pervasive worldwide and it’s a pain in the butt that I can’t saddle up to a bar in Belgium or Argentina or Botswana and just have a beer.

What is the best thing about being gluten-free?

I think the community of gluten-free people is pretty inspiring: lots of people coming together to make their diets interesting and tasty. Plus, you become aware of all the glutenous junk that you used to eat and it feels good to avoid it.

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Review: Petunia’s Pies and Pastries

If I could conceive of my dream GF bakery it would turn out looking exactly like Petunia’s. Walking into a dedicated gluten free facility generally has a very positive effect on me (i.e. OMG I can eat anything??) but in addition to this Petunia’s has employees outfitted in handmade uniforms, a cute yet clean and sophisticated design, and I do believe I saw a jadeite mosser glass cake plate. This is my new happy place.

Me, coincidentally matching the Petunia’s color palate.

ImageA successful wholesale business raked in capitol for founder Lisa Clark, and distribution in local coffee shops gave her brand recognition and credibility in the Portland GF market. I think I can safely say that we’ve all been looking forward to this opening, and it certainly did not disappoint.

On top of the dessert treats we’ve come to love (like Millionaire bars and Mint Chocolate Brownies) there is a list of savory items including White Bean, Kale & Tomato Soup, Seasonal Green Salad and Seasonal Vegetable Cheese Tart. But Ben and I arrived early in the day Saturday and couldn’t resist testing some cookies and a double chocolate “Babycake” along with our Stumptown coffee.

The Double Chocolate “Babycake”

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Ben enjoying some chocolate mint cookies!Image

It was such a great experience I decided to return later that night for a cocktail. With a special drink menu created just for Petunia’s by Aviation Gin and an adorable staff shaking them up, you can’t go wrong stopping in for a quick sip. They are pretty sweet and the bakery closes at 11pm so I wouldn’t peg this as my new watering hole, but I had a grand time sitting in a cute candlelit bakery sipping a Brandy cocktail from a coupe with my friend.

Libby sipping the Water Lily signature gin cocktail (and also coincidentally matching!)Image

The Widow’s Kiss signature brandy cocktail.Image

Petunia’s, you officially get the Gluten Free PDX stamp of approval!

Gluten Free Pasta Review

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If you’ve been on the celiac diet for longer than 3 months, you can go ahead and add some specialty gluten free foods into your diet. Be careful though, as many companies say their product is gluten free when they have in fact been “manufactured in a facility that also processes wheat.” These foods are not safe for celiacs! The easiest rule to follow is to only purchase products with the certified Gluten Free symbol:

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If that symbol is present then its time to get cookin’! I’ve been experimenting with pasta lately and wanted to share my thoughts on 3 brands: Bionaturae Organic, Tinkyada and Ancient Harvest.

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The Best Hot Toddies in PDX

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It’s one of our favorite cocktails, the seasonal, delicious hot toddy. The WWeek has a look at five of the best toddies in town.

Baby, it’s goddamn freezing outside. OK, maybe we don’t have it as bad as most of the country. But Portlanders only complain about the weather to justify their other favorite pastime: staying inside and warming their cores with alcohol. And no drink gets us through the mild inconvenience of the season better than a hot toddy. 

On a particularly frostbitten day, even a lukewarm toddy with lemon concentrate and Fox and Moose Whiskey is a welcome respite. What is the key to a great toddy, though? 

“The first thing people mess up is the glass itself,” says Dave Shenaut, president of the Oregon Bartenders Guild. At Raven & Rose, the new downtown gastropub he manages, Shenaut pours his toddy—made with Irish whiskey and old-fashioned bitters—in a pre-warmed, thick-sided Belgian drinking glass for maximum heat preservation. He only fills it up halfway, too. “It’s important to be able to stick your nose in there and get that hot steam,” he says.

Since it’s going to be a few months before the city warms up, we surveyed five notable toddy destinations to determine which were worthy of shoving your face in.

Moloko

3967 N Mississippi Ave., 288-6272, molokopdx.com

On a crowded weekend, Moloko is often insufferable: blacklights and fish tanks and modernist furniture, and the kind of people who enjoy such surroundings. (And don’t get me started on the restroom, situated in the middle of an always-logjammed aisle leading to the patio.) During a low-key weekday happy hour, though, when the place is practically empty, the room becomes quite comfy, and that feeling is aided by one of the city’s more satisfying toddies. Made with Evan Williams bourbon—honestly, you don’t need to go top shelf on a toddy—and served in an aquarium-sized snifter, the key is the fresh-squeezed lemon juice, giving it a unique zest to match the soothing warmth.

Price: $5.

Hot or not: Hot! It’s not especially complicated, but impressive in its simplicity.

The Bent Brick

1639 NW Marshall St., 688-1655, thebentbrick.com

At this Slabtown diner, you won’t find a hot toddy listed on the menu. Ask a bartender to make one, though, and the response is, “Oh, yeah, I’ll always make a hot toddy.” Bent Brick’s is delightfully tart, owing to its use of unripened grape juice and chamomile and Angostura bitters that hit a tangy sweet spot at the corners of your jaw without being overwhelming.

Price: $7.

Hot or not: Hot. Nothing fancy, but it does its job.

The Woodsman Tavern

4537 SE Division St., 971-373-8264, woodsmantavern.com

A question immediately springs to mind whenever one orders the toddy at Duane Sorenson’s urban ski lodge: “Why are they making my drink in an 18th-century bong?” Actually, it’s a vacuum pot—otherwise known as a coffee siphon—which heats applejack, rye whiskey and maple syrup via open flame, creating a bubbling amber concoction, then sends the mixture up a glass chamber to infuse with lemon peel, lavender and other flavorings, producing what is, more or less, a cup of hot whiskey. This method has its advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand, it brings out the alcohol masked in typical toddies, which makes it not much like a toddy at all. On the other, now you don’t have to worry about accidentally swallowing
a clove.

Price: $10.

Hot or not: Hot? It mostly depends on your feelings toward having stuff floating around in your drink. Do you prefer pulp-free orange juice? Then this is probably the toddy for you.

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