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Restaurant Review: Gluten Free Menu at Back Deck Boston

Located on the corner of Washington and West Streets in Downtown Crossing, Back Deck offers a casual atmosphere reminiscent of being in someone’s backyard. The restaurant is designed to evoke the feeling of relaxing in on a friend’s back deck, enjoying a summertime cookout. The sliding 16-foot windows are opened during the warmer months, and when open make you truly feel like you are dining out side.

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Most of the menu items are grilled over hardwood charcoal, just like you would if you were grilling on your back deck. The grill has a dedicated section for gluten free items.

Back has offers a gluten free brunch, lunch and dinner menu, and I recently had the opportunity to check out the gluten free dinner options with my sister Katie, Katie’s Boston Cuisine.

For appetizers we started with the Grilled Hot Wings, served Daddy-O’s Style, with Gorgonzola dressing and celery sticks ($8). The wings were perfectly juicy with a nice grill flavor. There was a nice kick but not too spicy, thank god.

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We also shared the Grilled Shrimp Skewer served with a red pepper vinaigrette over baby spinach ($12).  The shrimp were fresh and tasty. This small plate could easily be a light lunch.

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The first time I ate at the Back Deck I had the Mexicali Burger, topped with pepper jack, sliced avocado, green chili salsa, and chipotle mayo ($15). The 8 oz. burger did not have a lot of flavor itself, but with everything that was added onto it, it was delicious. The gluten free brioche bun from Curtis Street Bakery, available for an extra $1, is the best gluten free bun I’ve ever tasted. Ever. It was fluffy and moist, not grainy at all, and had a wonderful buttery and real bread flavor.

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The French fries are gluten free; they are the only item that gets cooked in the fry. I would come back for this reason alone.

This time around we shared three entrees.

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The Mixed Grill comes with a beef kabob, lamb skewer, Andouille sausage, grilled Portobello mushroom and tomato, with rosemary fingerling potatoes and a homemade tomato caper chutney, their version of ketchup ($19).  The beef was tender, juicy and flavorful. The grilled tomatoes were also juicy. The sausage, which was more like kielbasa if you ask me, was also delicious. The lamb meatballs had lots of flavor and this dish was by far my favorite of the night.

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The Pernil Cubano Tacos are served in corn tortillas with grilled then roasted pulled pork, vinegary cabbage slaw, spicy tomato salsa, avocado cream, black beans and rice ($16). The flavor of the meat was great but it was too dry. I honestly didn’t notice the salsa, not sure if it was even on there, and I wish there had been more avocado cream. The black beans had a smoky and sweet element to them, and were very delicious.

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The Grilled Lemon-Pepper Salmon was served with a horseradish sauce over basmati rice and grilled asparagus ($23). The salmon was flavorful and cooked to perfection. I loved the chargrill taste and the sauce was delicious. The asparagus were well seasoned but the rice was a little bland.

We were too full for dessert, but gluten free dessert options include:

  • Snicker Sundae: honey-vanilla ice cream, chocolate & caramel sauces, toasted peanuts & whipped cream.
  • Flourless Chocolate Brownie Sundae: walnut toffee sauce & whipped cream
  • Creamy Risotto Rice Pudding: golden raisins and toasted almonds (all $6)
  • Bowl of Toscanini’s Ice Cream: honey-vanilla, chocolate chocolate chip or blackberry/blueberry sorbet ($5)

Gluten Free Bard’s Beer and Downeast Cider are available, as well as Tito’s gluten free vodka.

Our server was friendly, attentive, and certainly knowledgeable about the menu. She had a great attitude and made our night that much better. The portion sizes are big, great for sharing, and the prices are very reasonable. I would definitely come back here again.


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Disclaimer: A portion of this dinner was complementary, but all my thoughts and opinions are my own. 

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Restaurant Review: The Barking Crab & a new menu featuring gluten free options

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Boston’s Iconic Waterfront Seafood Shack Introduces New Chef and New Menu to Kick Off its 20th Anniversary Year

The Barking Crab restaurant, Boston’s beloved seafood shack, went back to basics this past year, paring down its menu and reemphasizing its commitment to serving fresh, local seafood prepared with a “hook-to-table” sensibility. Now, the Barking Crab has completed ‘phase 2’ of its reinvention with a new executive chef, Joshua Brown, along with a new menu—just in time to celebrate its 20th anniversary year!

ABOUT THE BARKING CRAB & “20-YEARS”

Opened in Boston in 1994 as an outdoor summer seafood shack, an adjunct to Neptune Seafood & Lobster Fish Market, the Barking Crab now stands in the gateway to The Seaport District of Boston, a much loved stop on The Boston Harborwalk. Offering a unique on-the-water dining experience—outside on the back deck under the tent in warm weather and indoors in the cozy Lobster Room with its wood burning stove during the winter. Celebrating its 20th anniversary year, The Barking Crab remains endearingly popular with locals and tourists alike, who return regularly for its fab food, festive atmosphere, and year ‘round vacation vibe.

Photo courtesy of Barking Crab
Photo courtesy of Barking Crab

ABOUT THE NEW CHEF 

A Natick, Massachusetts native and graduate of the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts, Executive Chef Joshua Brown comes to Barking Crab after seven years at Tomasso Trattoria & Enoteca in Southborough, where he rose through the ranks, going from line cook to pastry chef to a.m. sous chef to executive chef.  Prior to that, as banquet chef at French multinational food services giant Sodexo, Josh oversaw catering for large crowds at the JFK School of Government, Harvard Law School, and Highwood Manor House at Tanglewood.  He also spent a year as line cook at Michael Schlow’s Alta Strada in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Proficient in charcuterie, whole animal and fish butchery, bread baking and desserts, Josh’s culinary experience, palate and love of good food promise great tasting rewards for Barking Crab patrons—locals and visitors, regulars and newcomers alike. Chef Brown has a gluten intolerance, hence a new gluten free friendly menu.

ABOUT THE NEW SPRING MENU 

The Barking Crab’s new seasonal menu offers some of the most creative seafood dishes in the city: from Nantucket Bay scallop ceviche and grilled yellow-fin tuna with gingery vegetables to grilled swordfish with eggplant caponata and a New England take on Southern shrimp and grits.

Gluten free appetizers include: black bean soup, mussels, Nantucket Bay scallop ceviche, tequila drunken shrimp, steamers, and the raw bar.

We tried the ceviche. The Nantucket Bay scallops are known for their delectable, sweet flavor, making this dish very different from traditional citrus filled ceviche dishes I am used to eating. The scallops were large and plentiful, paired with fresh cilantro and onion; this dish had a nice balance of flavor. The ceviche is served with gluten free chips.IMG_7156

The oil in the fryer is changed every single day. The gluten free chips are the first thing made in the morning and set aside for gluten free patrons.

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For our entrees we ordered the shrimp and scallop kebabs and grilled swordfish.

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The shrimp and scallop kebabs are served with Spanish rice and rosemary chimichurri.

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The grilled swordfish is served with eggplant caponata and black beluga lentils.

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We were so impressed with the distinct flavors of every component of each dish. The fish was fresh and cooked to perfection. I rarely order swordfish because it more often than not is overcooked and dry. But this swordfish was the complete opposite.  The quality of the food was also impressive; we were not expecting such creative and refined dishes.

Dessert is made in house. Every morning Chef Brown makes one to two desserts, and sometimes they are gluten free, sometimes they are not. Chef Brown made us a dessert of prosecco, macerated strawberries and pomegranate molasses.

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Executive Chef Joshua Brown wants to make sure that guests’ first impression is a great and lasting one.   We certainly had a great first impression— if you can believe it this was my first time at Barking Crab— and we will be back again. It’s nice to have gluten free options at a place you would never think it was possible, and even better that the chef completely understands gluten allergies.

 


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Disclaimer: I received this meal free of charge, with the exception of gratuity, which we happily paid for the great service. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

 

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Restaurant Review Gluten Free Options at Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar in Fenway

Sports bars are one of the hardest places to find gluten free options. Has this ever happened to you?  You meet your friends at a sports bar, ready to cheer on your favorite team, and there’s nothing you can eat. Well, you can usually find a bed of iceberg lettuce and a glass of water, but what’s the fun in that? You’re hungry too and you wish you could eat what everyone else was eating…Screen shot 2014-01-09 at 10.17.42 AM

Well imagine my excitement when I learned that Jerry Remy’s Sports Bar & Grill recently unveiled a gluten free menu (in addition to a vegetarian and vegan menu). The menu isn’t just salad and bun-less sandwiches. The gluten free menu includes appetizers, sandwiches, burgers (with buns!), pastas, and much more.
Update (April 10, 2014): Jerry Remy’s replaced the Gluten Free Menu with an Athlete Menu which still features a number of gluten free options. In addition, many of the items on the menu are or can be done gluten free.

While I was at Jerry Remy’s I had the chance to speak with the manager Noah about their gluten free server education. I also spoke with the chef in great detail about the menu and how they safeguard their kitchen for gluten free diners. The chef informed me that they use separate cutting boards, knives, and gloves for any allergen that crosses their kitchen.

Most menu items that are not already gluten free can be modified and prepared gluten free. If anything needs to be removed from the dish in order to make it gluten free, (i.e. croutons on salads), they will happily do it for you.

All of the sandwiches and burgers on the vegan/vegetarian menu and on the regular menu are available on an Udi’s gluten free roll or bread. All burgers are gluten free; they do not use any fillers (think bread crumbs) in making the patties. Since we all know what Udi’s bread tastes like, I decided not get a burger or a sandwich. I wanted to try some of the other items on the menu.

The grill is 100% gluten free. This came as a shock to me. Every piece of meat, chicken, fish, etc. that is put on the grill is gluten free. How is that possible you ask? The marinades used for the steak tips, BBQ ribs, and short ribs are all gluten free…on purpose! When was the last time you were able to order marinated steak tips off a menu? So naturally, this is what I ordered.image

The steak tips were tender and flavorful, and melted in my mouth. I highly recommend trying them. I wasn’t a fan of the mashed potatoes, which were extremely buttery. But then again, I don’t ever really like mashed potatoes. But the steak tips were the best that I’ve had in a long long time.

Jerry Remy’s only has one fryer, so the fries are not considered gluten free. However, my favorite food group, tortilla chips (for nachos), are 100% gluten free, thank god!

There are a few pasta dishes on the menu that can all be substituted with gluten free penne. The chicken saltimbocca can be made without the breading, and the scampi, one of the most popular dishes on the menu, and quite delicious, can also be enjoyed with penne pasta.IMG_5975

With seven large shrimp, we were very impressed with the serving size. The sauce was surprisingly light and incredibly fresh. Everything about this dish was delicious and fresh.

Jerry Remy’s menu also offers a variety of creative and tasty salads. From the Pan Seared Ahi Tuna and Asian Noodle salad, made with gluten free glass noodles, to the Harvest Salad, with grilled zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, onions, pumpkin seeds and a citrus vinaigrette, there is something for every palate.IMG_5971

I was very impressed with the portion sizes and overall value of the meals. I was also impressed with the quality of the food; it greatly exceeded my expectations of ‘’sports bar food’’.  Finally! I have somewhere I can go with my friends to watch the game and I don’t have to worry about going hungry! And on that note, LET’S GO PATRIOTS!!!


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Restaurant Review: Gluten Free Menu at Bonefish Grill Burlington, MA

Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 10.15.08 AMBonefish Grill opened it’s first Massachusetts location in Burlington on November 11, 2013. This Florida-based chain features a variety of seafood items, including shrimp tacos, fish burgers, Chilean sea Bass, grilled rainbow trout, and grouper, and the menu also has non-seafood items such as chicken and steak. Bonefish Grill offers guests unique fresh fish from all over the globe that is hand picked, inspected, and cut daily, and then wood grilled to perfection.

Fueled by their mutual passion for fish and adventure, Bonefish Grill’s founders set out to create a unique dining experience- one that would take the mystery out of fish for people who didn’t eat it very often, and yet provide further mystery for the truly adventurous.

Bonefish Grill has a gluten free menu that features everything from gluten free beer and martini’s, to appetizers and fresh wood-grilled specialties, and even decadent desserts. There are plenty of menu options to please all tastes.Screen shot 2013-12-30 at 10.05.30 AM

Bonefish Grill has procedures in place to avoid cross contamination. The manager Jenny –who is extremely friendly and nice—explained to use how Bonefish handles gluten and other allergies. Once a gluten free meal is entered in the system the chef announces it to the line. Gloves are changed, pots are scrubbed clean, and utensils are swapped out for new ones. The dedicated gluten free section of the grill—there is also a section used for shellfish allergies, vegans, and other allergens— is scrubbed clean before each order is made.

My mom and I shared the Bonefish House Salad, which they split for us onto two plates. The salad sounded better than it actually was; hearts of palm, Kalamata olives, and tomatoes with a citrus herb dressing. It was a bit bland and we wish there had been more hearts of palms and olives.IMG_5845

For an appetizer we shared the Saucy Shrimp made with a lime tomato garlic sauce, Kalamata olives, and Feta cheese. This was over the top. It was superb. It was to die for. I can’t say enough good things about this dish. The sauce was slightly sweet and tangy at the same time, and had an overall amazing flavor. And the portion size was huge!IMG_5848

For dinner I ordered the Rainbow Trout served with steamed broccoli and spaghetti squash topped with brown sugar. The trout was fresh and easy to it; it just fell off the bones.IMG_5849

My mom ordered the Chilean Sea Bass with herbed jasmine rice. The thick piece of fish was buttery and also extremely fresh. I like that fish doesn’t leave you feeling stuffed, rather we were both pleasantly satisfied with the size of our meals.IMG_5853

Three of Bonefish Grill’s signature sauces are gluten free—mango salsa, chimichurri, and lemon butter. We LOVED the mango salsa and chimichurri. Although the lemon butter was ok, it didn’t stand a chance next to the other two sauces.IMG_5854

The mango salsa was full of ripe mango had a nice kick to. The chimichurri was incredibly fresh and flavorful. Both were delicious and perfectly complemented the fish.

Although we were full we could not resist dessert. Our waitress recommended the flourless chocolate Macadamia Nut Brownie served over a raspberry sauce and vanilla ice cream with whipped cream. The brownie was rich but surprisingly lighter than less dense than the typical flourless chocolate dessert I am usually served.IMG_5857

We both really enjoyed our meals and had a wonderful time at Bonefish. From the pleasant ambience, friendly staff and fresh food, there wasn’t anything to complain about. We were excited to hear that Bonefish is planning to open 5 more restaurants in Massachusetts in the next two years, which is a good thing because my mom can’t stop talking about going back again!

Bonefish Grill has a commitment to quality and excellence at every level. I highly recommend checking out this new restaurant and trying one of the fresh and flavorful fish dishes.

Disclaimer: I received this meal free of charge, with the exception of gratuity, which we happily paid for the great service. I was not paid for my review and all opinions are my own.

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Review: Cook Simple Gluten Free Meals – Healthy Home Cooking Made Simple

cooksimpleI love cooking. But let’s face it, after a long day at work and either a quick trip to the gym or running around town doing errands, who really wants to spend the time and energy to cook a meal? One solution is Cooksimple. Cooksimple offers a line of inexpensive and budget-friendly gluten free meal kits made from all-natural, whole foods and no added sugars.

Cooksimple was founded on the principle that people will eat healthier if doing so is tasty, easy, and accessible. Cooksimple has designed a product line to do just that by removing the largest barrier for most people: the lack of time to cook at home. These meal kits are a breeze to prepare, and are flavorful, satisfying, and inexpensive, all the while delivering superior nutrition.

I recently had the opportunity to try a few products from this line. The instructions were simple, and in under 30 minutes I had a complete meal ready to feed a family of five!  What I truly appreciated about these meal kits is the back of the box. Where it shows clear pictures of the ingredients you’ll need to buy. Also listed, are suggestions for variations and substitutions. Each meal requires you to buy 2-3 extra ingredients, such as ground turkey, canned tomatoes, chicken, shrimp, sausage or tofu. Some of the ingredients (soy sauce, eggs, olive oil, and canned tomatoes) I already had in my pantry, as most people probably do too. All of the meal kits are vegan on their own, and can be prepared with tofu, beans or other vegan meat alternatives to satisfy vegetarian and vegan diets.IMG_2349

Cooksimple meals have a lower sodium content than most boxed meals. This is a huge plus for me, not only for health reasons (too much salt is not good for anyone) but I also because I tend not to like to add much salt to my meals. These meals have about 50% less sodium compared to other boxed meals, and also rank higher in nutritional value and higher in fiber.

Cooksimple is all about making life easier, not weight loss. But it’s clear that they value nutrition and healthy ingredients. Cooksimple is sold in over 3000 stores across the U.S. and the full product line is also available for purchase online for $4.99 each. To find a location near you click here.

There are nine diverse and globally-inspired kits available including Tamale Pie, Cowboy Chili, Asian Burgers, Skillet Lasagna, Cranberry Wild Rice, Punjabi Curry, Tibetan Dal, White Bean Chili, and New Orleans Jambalaya.

tibetan dalThe Tibetan Dal is classic savory Indian dish with aromas of cumin and turmeric, a hint of cilantro, and can be enjoyed as a meal or a special dip. This meal kit only required the addition of canned tomatoes and olive oil – super easy and super flavorful. IMG_2369

My favorite meal kit, by far, is the Asian Burgers. This savory recipe adds an Asian inspired twist to traditional burgers. The box suggests adding ground turkey, soy crumbles or beans. I added a mix of black beans, pinto beans, artichoke hearts and mushrooms which I chopped in a food processor before adding them to the oat and spice mixture of sesame seeds, onion, garlic, ginger, orange peel and sea salt.  The burgers were delicious and moist, and smelled heavenly while cooking. The box also includes a package of rice, which for being ordinary rice, was also exceptionally flavorful.

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The white bean chili was anything but mundane. The spices – chili powder, pepper, paprika, onion and garlic – are strong. Made with pinto, navy and kidney beans, I also added shredded chicken breast. I opted for water, not milk, but I think the milk would have helped cut the intensity of the spices. For a vegetarian dish, add more beans or tofu.wbc

The classic New Orleans Jambalaya was surprisingly lacking in flavor, and I needed to add more of my own spices. I was expecting a spicy dish, but this was just lackluster. Using Andouille sausage will give it the kick it needs to kick the spice factor up a notch. If you use precooked shrimp do not add them until the very end. The shrimp only need a few minutes to cook and if you add them at the beginning, like the directions say, they will be overcooked and too dry.IMG_2364

So how do these meal kits really stack up against other boxed meals?

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Stouffers is the highest in calories fat sugar sodium but also high in protein. stouffersSimply Asia noodle bowls are also high in calories and sodium! simplyasia

It isn’t often that I find a gluten free product free of preservatives and additives that is healthy and super tasty! I definitely recommend buying a few boxes of CookSimple™ to keep on hand for those nights that you don’t feel like cooking.

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Gluten Free Vietnamese Spring Rolls

Cool, refreshing, delicious and healthy, these spring rolls are great as an appetizer or entree.

My sister and I had so much fun making these together. We went to a local farmer’s market to get all the ingredients; ssing fresh vegetables and herbs will boast the most flavor and color. These were such a hit at our family party yesterday, so much so they were requested to be made for the next family gathering! This is one of the best, most flavorful dishes I have made in a long time.

This is also a great recipe to make with friends or kids, its fun and easy to make. The prep – cutting all the vegetables – is a bit time consuming, about 20 minutes, but the rest is a piece of cake. Rolling the rice paper might take a few tries to perfect, it can be very sticky, but just make sure that once wet, you place the rice paper on a flat surface and not let it stick to each other.

Ingredients

2 red bell pepper, julienned
2 large carrots, shredded or julienned
2 cucumbers, seeded and julienned
2 avocados, pitted and cut into thin strips
4 oz rice noodles
1 pound cook shrimp (optional)
juice of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar
2 bunches of scallions, chopped
Mint (can also use basil, cilantro – the more herbs the more flavorful the rolls will be) I suggest using more than you think you need. This is where most of the flavor will be coming from so don’t use sparingly!
12-15 Rice Paper Wraps

Preparation:

If using shrimp, slice them in half lengthwise. Place in a bowl and coat with the juice of one lime. OR is using small shrimp, cut up into small pieces, this is also helpful if you do not have a lot or shrimp.

It is also a good idea to pour lime juice over the avocados to keep them from browning (especially if you are making these hours or on day in advance)

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and toss with rice vinegar.

Place mint, scallions, basil, and/or cilantro in a blender and blend until finely chopped.

Line all ingredients up, almost like an assembly line, to make preparation easy.

Fill a pie plate or bowl with lukewarm water. One at a time, dip rice paper into the water, shake off any excess, and transfer to work station (a plate will work just fine). Let stand for 30 seconds until it is softened.

Arrange rice noodles on rice paper. Top with two or three strips each of the red pepper, avocado, cucumber, carrots and a pinch of scallions and mint, evenly spread across the vegetables, leaving a one-inch border along the edge. (The fillings may be placed on the rice paper in any order you’d like.)

Roll up the rice paper, pressing down on the fillings with your fingers – this is important to keep the roll tight –  fold one side over the fillings, folding the sides in as you go. Press to seal. Repeat with the remaining rice papers and fillings until you run out.

Cut rolls in half and serve with your favorite dipping sauce; sweet and sour, sweet chili, or soy.


 

Pineapple Shrimp with Cilantro

I had dinner at a friend’s house and she made a delicious Shrimp dish with Mango Salsa. I absolutely loved it and decided to make it for myself. I did not have any mangos so I substituted it with pineapple. I also did not have chili powder or chipotle powder so I improvised and used gluten free soy sauce and red pepper flakes. This gave the dish a slightly different taste, but still absolutely delicious. I am not a huge fan of spicy foods, they taste great but I just can’t take the heat! This dish still captures the tropical fruit flavors with a little less spiciness. I made if for my dad when he came to visit me last winter and he enjoyed this dish as well. I wish I had taken a picture, but I forgot! When I make it again I will be sure to remember that and upload the pictures for you!

This recipe be can be eaten alone or served over your choice or white or brown rice. Either way it’s simple and easy and really hits the spot for a quick and flavorful meal.

Ingridents

2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 pound medium shrimp
1 5.5 oz can pineapple chunks
1 tablespoon gluten free soy sauce
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/3 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 to 1 teaspoons red pepper flakes

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the garlic and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and pineapple, stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes longer, until the shrimp turn pink. Remove from heat.
Mix together the soy sauce, lime juice, red pepper and cilantro. Pour over the shrimp and stir.
Serve warm alone or with a side of rice. If serving with rice sometimes I mix the cilantro with the rice rather than with the shrimp!