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NiChef – Personal Culinary Experiences in your home

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As most of you know I have a full time job outside of blogging. I try to cook meals for my husband and I at least 4 nights a week but sometimes I just want someone else to cook for me. Is that took much to ask? Not if you ask NiChef!

NiChef is an online global marketplace where you can easily book a personal chef to cook in your kitchen. Niche is bringing communities together through authenticity and experiences while creating new job opportunities in the culinary world. Think of it like airbnb but for chefs.

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Having someone cook in your home, whether it’s a romantic meal for two, dinner party for 4 or 10, it’s such a fun experience and you don’t have to worry about being in the kitchen and not with your significant other/friends/guests. And it won’t break the bank. Contrary to what you are probably thinking, having someone else cook your food doesn’t cost as much as you’d think. In fact, it’s usually cheaper than eating at restaurants, and if you find the right chef like I did, the food tastes better. AND you get to choose exactly what you want to eat and when!

I recently had the chance to experience Nichef. I invited my sister over to share the experience with me. Out chef was Lisseth Conza-Berman. Listen grew up in Peru and all Nichef experiences are Peruvian; centered around the foods she grew up with. Peruvian food is a fusion cuisine, due to its long multicultural history. Lisseth cooked us a delicious meal of Lomo saltado; sautéed beef loin with veggies. Como salted is one of the most emblematic dishes that Peru has to offer. A mix between Chinese cuisine with Peruvian ingredients, makes this dish satisfying and full of flavor. It consists on marinated beef tenderloin stir-fried with onions, tomatoes and served with french fries and white rice.

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The price of the meal is $60 for two people. $30 each for a home cooked meal is a great price and a similar dish in a restaurant would cost you at least $30, if not more when you factor in tip, tax, and beverages/appetizers. 

So how does it work? 

Signing up to use the nichef marketplace is fast and easy. You can sign up with your facebook credentials or your email. After your have confirmed your email, you are ready to go!

To reserve a Chef you will need to sign up and create a Foodie profile. Once you have created and activated your profile, you can then start searching for a memorable experience by type of cuisine, location, and date. It’s recommended that you submit a request at least 1 week before your event date. Once you request a chef, the chef will accept or decline your booking within 24 hours. If you have any dietary restrictions, you can message the chef directly through Nichef’s messaging system.

There are about 40 chefs on the site that you can choose from. Chefs run their own business; choose their own schedules, menus and prices. Every chef has their own ‘niche’ in the culinary market and Nichef allows them to offer you a personal, and delicious, at home dining experience. 

Disclaimer: I received this service free of charge to review for my blog. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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REPS57 // Cycling Classes in Beacon Hill

Renvil’s Elite Performance Studio, better known as REPS, is located at 57 Phillips St. in Beacon Hill.

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Renvil Doman is a highly sought after personal trainer in Boston. He has a proven system for transforming fitness and allowing clients to achieve results that far exceed their expectations. Renvil is known for the expertise, commitment, and intensity that he brings to each of his clients. He goes to great lengths to build strong client relationships an often becomes their trusted source for advice on all things that relate to their health, nutrition, and fitness.

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Renvil is now the proud owner of REPS, established in August 2010. Renvil offers one on one person training, buddy workouts, boot camps, and cycling classes. REPS is the only fitness studio in Beacon Hill that offers cycling class! Of course I was thrilled when I learned this!

Price:

One class:       $30
5 classes:        $140 ($28 each)
10 classes:      $270 ($27 each)
20 classes:      $520 ($26 each)

So how does this compare to other studios?

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Ok, I know you are thinking that this is pricier than most other studios, but what you get at REPS you can’t find at the other boutique studios.

REPS classes are small, with only 15 bikes available. Smaller classes tend to be more personal; the instructor can focus on individuals, and give personalized attention to each person. This is how Renvil’s class was.

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Upon walking into the class, the ‘’regulars’’ greeted me and welcomed me to the class. There is such a feel of community at Renvil’s, it’s not something I’ve experienced at any other cycling studio. Renvil wants his classes to be community oriented, and they are just that. If you would rather exercise with friends, or a small group in your neighborhood, in a different environment that doesn’t feel as intimidating as a gym floor or large spin class, then you should check out a class at REPS.

The 45-minute cycling class is followed by 15 minutes of stretching, abs or upper bodywork It’s intense! What makes REPS classes so unique is that his classes are either followed by 15 minutes of bodywork or 15 minutes of running up and down Beacon Hill, most of times its running. I was sore that day so I am glad I picked a class without the running, but everyone else in class LOVED those days, so it must be a good workout! Boutique classes won’t give you that.

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Renvil is passionate about fitness and dedicated to his clients. He makes a real effort to get to know you by name, not just a number in the class on a bike.

Right now classes are offered three days a week: Monday at 6pm, Friday at 6:15pm, and Sunday at 9am. Renvil hopes to add more classes in the near future.

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Disclaimer: I attended this class free of charge. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Kitchensurfing: Bringing Personal Chefs into Your Kitchen & Fine Dining In to your Home {and $100 promo code}

My girlfriends and I are always looking for any reason or excuse to get together to eat, drink, and have a good time. Rather than go out I decided to invite a few friends over for Girls Night, and hired a chef through Kitchsensurfing, to make us appetizers and dessert. Screen shot 2014-01-31 at 2.09.05 PM

I love Kitchensurfing, I’ve been using the service for a few months now for private dinners (Valentine’s Day is coming up!) and a cooking lesson (click on the links to read about my other KS experiences). My friends, on the other hand, were newbies, and they were just as excited to try something different, as I was to introduce them to Kitchensurfing.

So what is Kitchensurfing?

Kitchensurfing is a marketplace for chefs of all kinds. It’s a service that allows you to bring chefs into your home to cook you a personal and customized meal. From hobby chefs to Michelin star chefs, you can browse the chefs on the site, view their sample menus, read their reviews, and book any of them. From private cooking lessons in your home, to meal deliveries, to a private dinner party for two or fifty-two, KS allows you to ‘shop’ around based on your own needs, wants, budget, and diet.

How it works:

  • Browse the list of chefs, read their reviews and sample menus, and pick one you’d like to have cook for you. Send them an e-mail and voilà, you’ve got yourself a private chef.

OR

  • Submit a “Match Request”. Fill out a form stating what you’re looking for (party size, budget, date, time, etc.), any dietary restrictions or allergies, preferred cuisines, and anything else you want or don’t want. Your request will be sent to all the chefs matching your criteria. Chefs will then contact you to customize a menu. Once you’ve found a chef and a menu that you are satisfied with you can book your chef!

The booking process is incredibly east and it is ok to say no if you don’t like an idea or menu item. So be specific about your likes and dislikes along with any dietary restrictions.  All the chefs I’ve worked with were great with communicating with me prior to the booking, and customizing the menu to my likes and needs. And remember, the chefs want you to enjoy every last bite, so be upfront and honest!

Keep reading for your $100 code….

Our Girls Night was such a blast! The menu looked amazing, and the food turned out even better than we could have imagined. My friends loved every moment of it and could not stop talking about trying KS on their own.

Chef Stephen Coe created a menu of tapas and dessert. Each course was delicious and beautifully crafted. The freshness and flavors of each dish were impressive; we cannot say one bad thing about any of this food.

Red and yellow beet salad with shaved sheep cheese, candied pistachios, and a blood orange aged balsamic over local greens.IMG_6251

Sashimi Tuna served over seaweed salad with pickled ginger, sesame seeds, and siracha sour cream and rice crackers.IMG_6255 IMG_6252

Grilled Oysters with pancetta, fennel, bee pollen, chives, and grated sheep cheese. IMG_6262

Scallops with artichoke hearts, romaine, olives, basil, tomatoes, and capers.IMG_6263

Warm chocolate soufflé with strawberry tarragon and white balsamic purée.IMG_6261 IMG_6260

The awesome folks over at Kitchensurfing have provided me with a $100 discount code for YOU, my readers! Click here to claim your $100 voucher and discover what Kitchensurfing is all about. The code is valid Monday, February 3, 2014 through Sunday, February 16, 2014. Your meal needs to be booked prior to the 16th, but the date of the actual meal could be after this date.

And you don’t have to live in Boston; some chefs are willing to travel all over the state, even to Maine!

Disclaimer: I was not paid for my review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Pictures from my previous Kitchensurfing Experiences

Romantic Meal for Two by Chris Hallahan

– Late Season corn soup served hot with a ragout of lobster, bacon, and corn
– Kale salad with a warm bacon vinaigrette
– Blue Fish pan seared with crispy skin, over maple glazed carrots and fall vegetables
– Pumpkin & carrot cake (dairy, gluten free)IMG_4988

Cooking Lesson with Michelle Lahey:

-Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers with Vegan Tzatziki
-Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Butternut Squash
-Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
-Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bars

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Drop of Plated Meal prepared by Mark Hardin

– Arugula, Carrot & fennel salad with a creamsicle vinaigrette, sunflower seeds & orange slices
– Braised Lamb Shank slowly cooked in tomatoes and garlic. Served with a gravy made from its own juices. Accompanied by Roasted root vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes
– Mini Flourless Chocolate Mousse Cake Garnished with powdered sugar and a fresh raspberriesIMG_5950 IMG_5947

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New Holiday Menu & Gluten Free Options at Au Bon Pain

I was recently invited to attend blogger/media tasting at Au Bon Pain, hosted by Chief Brand Officer, Maria Feicht and Executive Chef/Director of Culinary, Roger Bowles. Unfortunately, I had to work and could not go. But, lucky for me, I was invited to check out the new holiday menu and gluten free options at a later time.

When you think of Au Bon Pain what comes to mind? Bagels? Sandwiches? GLUTEN?

Yes, they do have a gluten-filled menu, but they also have many gluten free options, including; salads, soups, a chicken harvest rice bowl, oatmeal, hot and cold lunch bar items, and other gluten free snack options.

Au Bon Pain strives to create healthier yet flavorful convenient options for everyone. ABP’s website offers nutritional and allergen information for every single menu item.Screen Shot 2014-01-05 at 10.50.34 AMAt Au Bon Pain, items are clearly marked if/when they contain allergens. I like the variety of gluten free options available at each location and I am happy that Au Bon Pain is recognizing this opportunity to give their customers more information about their products.

I’ve eaten at Au Bon Pain numerous times but I had no idea that the company was founded over 35 years ago in Boston! Au Bon Pain has over 250 locations world wide, including Thailand, Japan, and Kuwait.

Six times a year, the company introduces new seasonal items to the menu, and sometime they become permanent fixtures. The New Holiday Menu only includes one new gluten free option. It’s disappointing there’s only one GF option, but once you try the GF Thai Coconut Shrimp, you won’t care about the gingerbread cookies or peppermint shortbread!

The Thai Coconut Shrimp is a blend of petite shrimp, red peppers, carrots, bamboo shoots and lemongrass in a coconut and curry broth with a touch of spice and fresh lime. This is not the type of soup I would expect to find at this café, but I am pleasantly pleased that it is on the menu and I hope that it becomes a mainstay! IMG_5937

And, Au Bon Pain now has K-Cups! Awesome right?? I drink coffee, from a Keurig machine, Every. Single. Morning. So this was great news for me!

Au Bon Pain has over a dozen locations in Boston and Cambridge. To find a location near you, click here.

Au Bon Pain on Urbanspoon

 

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Our Gluten Free Cooking Lesson with Kitchensurfing & 25% off code

Kitchensurfing brings a chef into your kitchen for parties, lessons, and so much more.Screen shot 2013-12-03 at 9.34.17 AM

Kitchensurfing (KS) is a marketplace for chefs of all kinds. From hobby chefs to Michelin chefs, you can browse the chefs on the site, view their sample menus, read their reviews, and book any of them. From private cooking lessons in your home, to meal deliveries, to a private dinner party for two or thirty-two, KS allows you to ‘shop’ around based on your own needs, wants, budget, and diet.

Last month Jeremy and I had a wonderful, restaurant-quality, 4-course meal with Chef Chris Hallahan. We were blown away not only by his culinary talents, but also by his passion for food and locally sourced ingredients. He was friendly and engaging, and answered all our questions. You can read all about our first KS experience here.

The whole experience was so wonderful that I decided to use KS again, but this time I wanted a cooking lesson.

After browsing a few profiles and menus to see who would be a good fit for a gluten free, dairy free cooking lesson we chose Michelle Lahey. Michelle is a Boston based personal chef and I love her blog, The Economical Eater, so I was thrilled when she replied to my request for a cooking lesson for my sister and I!

The Menu for our cooking demonstration:

Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers with Vegan Tzatziki
Quinoa with Dried Cranberries and Roasted Butternut Squash
Maple-Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Vegan Pumpkin Chocolate Chip BarsIMG_5677

Services Included

  • Ingredients
  • Cleaning
  • Transport

Michelle’s food was fantastic. She was engaging, super friendly, and really easy to talk to. She was really knowledgeable about vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free food, such a relief!

Michelle’s menu incorporated fresh, local, and seasonal ingredients.IMG_5652

I really like Brussels sprouts but have never cooked them myself, so I was eager to learn to do this once and for all. And it’s much easier than I thought!

Our previous attempts at making veggie burgers have all failed. Michelle’s recipe for Middle Eastern Chickpea Burgers was easy to follow and can easily be swapped with different types of beans and spices. We loved the Middle Eastern spices and flavor combinations in this burger.IMG_5649The vegan tzatziki was also easy to make and paired perfectly with the burgers. This is something I plan on making again. Since going dairy free I hadn’t eaten tzatziki. I was surprised with the simplicity of the recipe. Michelle used So Delicious almond based yogurt and also recommended coconut yogurt was well. I haven’t been able to find plain coconut yogurt so I just bought the almond yogurt when I made it.IMG_5679The pumpkin chocolate chip dessert bars were to die for.  My sister and I felt like we had died and gone to heave. The secret ingredient— garam masala—gave the bars an unbelievable flavor. They were absolutely incredible. And lucky for us she left us her recipe so we can make them again and again! The recipe is also available on her blog.IMG_5680

Not only did Michelle show us how to prepare the food, each step of the way she explained what we were doing with all the ingredients and how each one contributed to and played a role in the dish.IMG_5659

We enjoyed learning new recipes that we can now add to our repertoire. I like that Michelle focused on healthy, fresh, and seasonal ingredients. We liked everything about this meal and we felt good eating it.IMG_5677

Click here for a 25% off coupon for your next Kitchensurfing booking! This code is valid through Dec. 31 (you don’t have to have your meal prior to the 31, it just has to be booked by that date). This code can be used on any KS service.

Disclaimer: I received this service free of charge to review for my blog.  I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Gluten Free Cyber Monday Deals

Get a jump start on your holiday shopping with these great Gluten Free Deals! Make sure you get something nice for yourself too.

Tate’s Bakeshop, seller of Gluten Free cookies and gift baskets. 20% Off everything with code Cyber2013 at Checkout.Tate's Bake Shop - Cyber Monday

 

Gluten Free Saver always has fabulous deals on gluten-free products, magazines and more!

Jules Gluten Free Holiday Bake Set $30 for $99 worth of products for new customers

  • Includes five pounds of flour, cookie mix, cornbread mix, and grahams mix
  • Five e-books featuring 203 gluten-free recipes
  • Use promo code CYBERMONDAY to save an extra $25% off

Groupon Go-Picnic Deal. $19 for $40 worth of products

Gourmet Nuts 6-pack of Chia and Flax Seeds. 53% off. Only $19.99 for $42.99.

Save 50% off a Gluten Free Gift Basket from Gourmet Gift Baskets with this groupon deal.

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Cuisine Cube Gluten Free Subscription Service. Only $19.99 for $29.99 credit towards a subscription or food items.

Katz Gluten Free 50% off large pizzas with promo code CYBER50.

Save $5 off your first Nature Box with promo code SPECIAL25

GoHastings Buy 2 Get 1 Free on ALL paperback Gluten Free cookbooks $16.99 or less.

Abe’s Market sells organic all natural products; including household items, gifts and gluten free (vegan, dairy free, etc) foods. Use code CYBERMONDAY at AbesMarket.com to save $10 on all orders of $50 or more, plus free shipping

Got Milk? 100 Magic Milk Straws for $12.99 instead of $31.23 from Groupon.

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Please take a moment to complete my Gluten Free Dining Out Survey. Thank you.


Gluten Free Black Friday Deals Start NOW

Get a Jump start on your holiday shopping and avoid the stores this Friday with these great Gluten Free Deals! Even better- the deals start today so you don’t have to wait until Friday to take advantage of these spectacular savings!
Gluten Free Saver always has fabulous deals on gluten-free products, magazines and more!Get This Week's Gluten-Free Deal!
Jules Gluten Free Holiday Bake Set $30 for $99 worth of products for new customers
·      Includes five pounds of flour, cookie mix, cornbread mix, and grahams mix
·      Five e-books featuring 203 gluten-free recipes
·      Use promo code BLACKFRIDAY to save an extra $25% off
Groupon Go-Picnic Deal. $19 for $40 worth of products

Simple Squares Organic Snack Bars 12 pack for $22.99 instead of $29.20

Katz Gluten Free always has great deals

Cuisine Cube Gluten Free Subscription Service. Only $19.99 for $29.99 credit towards a subscription or food items.

Save $5 off your first Nature Box with promo code SPECIAL25

GoHastings 20% off Gluten Free Cookbooks with code PINCHOFSALT

Abe’s Market sells organic all natural products; including household items, gifts and gluten free (vegan, dairy free, etc) foods. Save 20% with code DISHINGDIRTY and FREE Shipping on all orders.

Tate’s Bakeshop, seller of Gluten Free cookies and gift baskets. Take 10% off your order with promo code save10

And stay in shape this holiday season with a 30-day gym membership to BSC for only $24. Use promo code BLACKFRIDAY to save an extra 25%!

For Gluten Free Savings all year long check out my Gluten Free Deals page for daily updates with the newest gluten free deals!Gluten Free Basket

Please take a moment to complete my Gluten Free Dining Out Survey. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

Drizly Delivers Alcohol Right to Your Door

A new alcohol delivery service app called Drizly, developed by three Boston College alums, rolled out this past spring and we used it tonight for the first time. I don’t know what took us so long to get on board!

Drizly is a convenient and enjoyable way to buy alcohol. Drizly allows users to have their favorite beer, wine, and/or liquor delivered to their door in 30-60 minutes, without the hassle of going to the liquor store, and without any markup!

I’m sure you’re asking, “How is this legal?” Well, rest assured, it is completely legal. The Drizly team is following Massachusetts law and has worked with some of the best law firms in the state to ensure that everything is absolutely on board. They have a state of the art ID verification system that makes sure the person ordering and receiving the alcohol is over the age of 21.

So how do you get started? Simply download the Drizly app and put in your address and payment info. Browse their list of available beer, wine, alcohol and extras (bitters, Bloody Mary Mix, martini olives, etc.), place your order and then sit back and relax.

Save $5 on your first order with promo code “glutenfree”. Enjoy!

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Review: Carrie Nation Cocktail Club opens in Beacon Hill

Screen shot 2013-08-08 at 4.29.22 PMI recently attended the opening of Carrie Nation, a new cocktail club in Beacon Hill. The restaurant is owned by East Coast Tavern Club, which also owns nearby establishments, Emmet’s Irish Pub, 6B Lounge, Scholars American Bistro and the former Crossroads Irish Pub.

The club’s namesake comes from Carrie Nation, who was a radical member of the temperance movement years before Prohibition became law in 1920. Her signature move was using a hatchet to attack taverns and other places that served alcohol.IMG_4086

This new speakeasy-style cocktail club will be open for breakfast, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner. The décor replicates the era just before Prohibition, with oxblood red walls, black and white tile floors, and velvet drapes. The staff members wore bowler hats and sequin headbands to complete the 1920’s vibe. I loved the long bar, cozy booths and the warm and inviting feel of the restaurant.IMG_4070

The Dinner Menu is quite random, with no particular theme, offering eclectic dishes ranging from Moroccan Lamb Tagine and Miso Salmon Filet to a chilled raw bar and charcuterie options. Many menu items do not contain gluten. Some dishes that do contain gluten, dairy and/or nuts can be made to omit those ingredients. Click here to view the allergen info. IMG_4074

A buffet was set up so that we could sample the menu’s tasty concoctions. The food was delicious, and we were not disappointed. Highlights included the den miso salmon filet with sesame rice cake, ginger garlic baby carrots and bok choy to the rack roasted Berkshire pork chop with an apple bourbon glaze, gorgonzola and mashed sweet potato. IMG_4073

Other menu items we sampled were raw Duxbury oysters, shrimp cocktail, imported meats and cheeses, hummus, crudité, and chocolate truffles. Some of the other offerings that I am not mentioning were not gluten free, so obviously I didn’t try those.IMG_4082IMG_4084IMG_4083

Carrie Nation’s signature cocktails are categorized as “Cops & Robbers,” “Drys & Wets,” “Politicians & Power,” “Lawyers & Judges,” and so on. I tried the Racket Buster, one of the “Cops & Robbers” cocktails. Named after the famed Boston cop James Sheehan, it is described as a “good honest” blend of Ketel One vodka, Aperol, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon, simple syrup, and Peychaud’s. It was tasty, but a bit sweet, and many of the other drinks sound just as sweet as this one.IMG_4072

This new addition to Beacon Hill is certainly a welcomed one. I know I will be back again with friends for after work cocktails and a bite to eat.

View Larger Map

Carry Nation Cocktail Club on Urbanspoon

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Boston Restaurant Week Summer 2013 Gluten Free Options

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Attention Gluten Free Diners! Believe it or not, delectable dishes await you at a number of restaurants this Restaurant Week.

It’s that time again, when some of Boston’s finest – and most expensive – dining establishments offer dinning experiences for affordable prices. Last year’s 3 course dinner menu cost $33.12, and the year before $33.11. Well this year they decided to raise the price by not only 1 cent, but $5.01. However, this is still an unbelievable price for many of the options available. At The Capital Grille, the Bone-in Kona Crusted Dry Aged Sirloin will cost you $43 on a regular night. Pigalle’s Cassoulet braised lamb shank runs at $31 on the dinner menu and the seared salmon at Davio’s will set you back $29. Now that you have a little more perspective on that, I think you don’t mind such a big price increase this year. (Some restaurants are including a glass of wine or sangria in this price too, others have great wine specials to go along with the restaurant week menu)

As someone who loves food I naturally have always participated in restaurant week, which is actually two weeks twice a year in Boston. But as someone who has developed food intolerances over the last few years (gluten free since 2009, dairy free since 2012 and now yeast free too), it has made me a little anxious. Until recently, a limited menu rarely meant something was food allergy/intolerant friendly. [Unfortunately it still does sometimes].  Over the years I’ve had to politely decline invitations from friends to dine at certain restaurants due to my dietary restrictions and the lack of Restaurant Week options. I’ve also persuade them, sometimes more like whining, to go somewhere else, even after hearing them say they’ve “been dying to try this place” or “have been waiting months to go here”. Well, that is all changing. As gluten free diets and other food allergies are becoming more prominent in our society, it is leading restaurant owners and chefs to becoming more aware of and knowledgeable about gluten free diets and how to accommodate to our dining needs.

Below is a list of restaurants that offer gluten free Restaurant Week menu options. Some offer full Gluten Free Restaurant Week Menus. Some off gluten free options on the menu and others can accommodate very easily by subbing gluten free pasta for regular, etc.

If you would like me to add your restaurant to this list, or if you are a gluten free diner who has recently enjoyed a gluten free Restaurant Week meal somewhere else please let me know and I will be happy to add it to the list. Click on the restaurant name to bring you to the Restaurant Week Menu.

Disclaimer: This list is my own personal list based on personal and past experiences.

Gluten Free Restaurant Week Menu:

 

Restaurants with Gluten Free Menus Options: