Gluten Free Menu at Tasca Restaurant // Brighton, MA

I fell in love with Spain after I spent a semester in college studying in Valencia. Ever since, I have loved tapas, paella and sangria! Jeremy and I go out for tapas once every few months, so when I was invited to Tasca Restaurant to check out the updated gluten free menu I couldn’t resist!

I lived in Brighton and Brookline for three years and ate at Tasca quite a few times, but it has been over 3 three years since my last visit! Well, that was until this weekend.


I love the atmosphere at Tasca, its dark, rustic and romantic, reminds me of being in Spain. It’s great to go with a few people so you can share and try different tapas. Jeremy and I were pretty hungry so we shared four tapas – they aren’t that big – and one entree, which was plenty of food. 

While the owner Dan is working on getting a gluten free bread into the restaurant, I would recommend to bring some gluten free breadsticks of your own so you can enjoy the bean spread that is served with the bread basket. It varies, but the white bean dip we were served was delicious and I was eating it with my spoon! 

Of course we couldn’t resist ordering a pitcher of white sangria. It’s not too strong and easily sharable among two people.


Gambas al ajilo (Sizzling garlic shrimp) are served sizzling in a mini skillet with pieces of crispy and flavorful garlic chips. 


Two of my favorite Spanish tapas are the Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelette) and Patatas Bravas (fried potatoes in a spicy tomato and garlic aioli.) Whenever we see these on a menu we order the.


The tortilla is a Traditional Spanish potato and onion omelet. This one had wonderful flavors of rosemary in it – perfect for fall! 

For all the times I’ve visited Tasca in the past, this was the first time I tried the Solomillo, petit filet mignon served with blue cheese gratin (no wine sauce). It might look a little plain without the sauce, but trust me it wasn’t. The meat was tender and juicy and full of flavor!


Jeremy and I shared the Paella de mariscos (seafood paella) made with shrimp, scallops, white fish & calamari with saffron rice cooked in a lobster broth. While the menu says individual portion, it was big enough for us to share.


Although we were full, we did have a little room left for dessert – when do I not? Almost all of the desserts at Tasca are gluten free and tonight we opted for the Crema Catalana, a rich chilled orange custard with caramelized sugar top. This is very similar to Creme brulée. 


Are you hungry yet? My mouth is watering as I am writing this post! 

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


Gluten Free Options at El Colmado // Gotham West Market, Hell’s Kitchen

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Gotham West Market is a first-of-its-kind retail and dining destination in New York City’s Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. This food hall Market is more like Eataly, Smorgasburg, and Chelsea Market all rolled into one for a new type of dining experience.

At Gotham West Market, you have the option of dining at the respective eateries or ordering food to go and enjoy their meal throughout the Market’s stylish communal seating areas.

During my first visit to Gotham West Market I found myself at El Colmado, a classic Spanish tapas and wine bar. (surprise, surprise) El Colmado, or “the grocer,” refers to the small, family-owned gourmet shops found throughout Spain that celebrate the artisanal olive oils, vinegars, and preserved seafoods for which the country is famous.

El Colmado offers a menu of both traditional and creative Spanish fare, ranging in size from mordiscos (snacks), tapas (bites to share), and medias (small plates).

Huevos al Diablo, Tortilla Española, y Aceitunas Aliñadas

The menu is incredibly gluten free friendly and offers plenty of gluten free options.

  • Ostras (Oysters)
  • Aceitunas Aliñadas (marinated mixed olives)
  • Almendras Fritas (Almonds fried in olive oil, dried lemon, urfa pepper)
  • Remolachas Marinadas (Marinated smoked beets, Caña de Cabra cheese, candied almonds, horseradish)
  • Huevo al Diablo (Deviled egg, smoked bacalao, roasted pepper)
  • Dátil con Béicon (Date stuffed with almond and Valdeón cheese, wrapped in bacon)
  • Ración Jamón Ibérico de Bellota (Ibérico de Bellota ham, hand-cut)
  • Ración Jamón Serrano (Serrano ham, aged 18 months)
  • Patatas Bravas (Crispy, spicy potatoes, garlic all i oli)

Patatas Bravas
Patatas Bravas

  • Pimientos (Shishito peppers fried in olive oil, lots of coarse sea salt )
  • Atún Marinado (Marinated raw tuna, artichoke, caper berries, olive, crispy faro)
  • Langostino (Mediterranean prawn a la plancha, fennel all i oli)
  • Ensalada Invierno (Winter Salad -Shaved red and black radishes, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, Mahón cheese, anchovy vinaigrette)
  • Albóndigas (Lamb meatballs, mojo picon, sheep’s milk yogurt)
  • Gambas al Ajillo (Gulf shrimp, garlic, guindilla, olive oil, no bread)
  • Arroz Negro (Black rice, sepia, uni)

Arroz Negro

  • Pulpo a la Plancha (Octopus on the plancha, marinated potatoes, spicy olivada)
  • Bistec al Minuto (Grilled steak, sunchoke hash, salsa verde, fresh olive)
  • Huevos Roto (Confit potato, sobrasada sausage, two fried eggs)

Wine at Gotham West Market is only available at El Colmado! The primarily Spanish wine list features wines on tap and a wide range of selections available by the glass, to encourage guests to explore and discover the excellent wines and sherries of Spain. This is my dream come true.

Monday-Fridays, 3-7pm, enjoy ½ dozen featured oysters plus a glass of Cava for $11.

El Colmado on Urbanspoon

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Restaurant Review: Gluten Free Options at Opus // Salem, MA

Last weekend I was invited to check out Opus Restaurant in Salem, MA. They have a ton of GF dishes (or dishes that can optionally be modified) that are absolutely delicious!

Opus is part of the Serenitee Restaurant Group, and the chefs at all their restaurants are all committed to creating a wide variety of gluten free options.

Opus is a “new restaurant experience”.  The name Opus, according to the website, is short for Magnum Opus, meaning one’s finest work. “Opus is the culmination of everything we have learned in creating great restaurants,” the website reads.

The atmosphere is modern and eccentric. The restaurant looks dark on the outside but is quite bright on the inside. Liquor bottles are perches on a track that hangs above a glowing bar; yes the bar top glows, it’s very cool. The brick walls, also a feature I loved, are lined with artwork.

So now let’s get to the good stuff: the food!

Opus’ menu features a variety of small plates, salads, sushi, and more traditional entrees. The menu labels items that are gluten free () vegetarian () and vegan (). I was impressed with the number of gluten free and vegetarian options. My server also informed me that a number of the other dishes can be modified to be gluten free.

We started with the Octopus Fricassee small plate – braised octopus, smoked tomato, poblano peppers, frisee, capers, and crispy potato strings ($13). I was not expecting this to be served warm, but it came out in a small cauldron. I loved the flavors, it was so different from anything I’ve tried before.


Usually when I order octopus it is chilled with olive oil and paprika, or ceviche style. The plate was plenty big to share as an appetizer with two or three people.


So you are probably wondering about those crispy potato strings (I did too). Opus has a separate fryer for gluten free items; AWESOME! Opus also carries Udi’s gluten free bread for burgers and brunch.

We ordered a variety of sushi, made fresh at the sushi bar in the back of the restaurant.

Tuna and Avocado Roll ($10).


Seared Tuna and Salmon ($18) with salmon and cucumber, and topped with ogarashi seared tuna, preserved lemon & yuzu aioli. Delicious combination I’ve never had before, I highly recommend trying this roll.


Spicy Salmon Roll with scallions ($10). The spicy mayo on top was too much, I wish there had been less.


The sushi was fresh and on par with what you would expect to get at a sushi restaurant. The two inside out rolls were big, both in size and the amount. Each roll came with eight pieces, which is better than some places that only give six. But the prices are a bit higher than your average sushi restaurant.


Don’t forget to ask for the gluten free soy sauce!

The chef also threw some Fried Shishito Peppers ($7) for us to try. Shishito  peppers are slightly sweet and usually mild. About one in every ten peppers is spicy and of course we got a spicy one!


Gluten Free entrees include Roasted Fortune Bay Salmon ($23), Crispy Tofu Coconut Curry ($18 and the managers favorite), Organic Springer Mountain Chicken ($25), Opus Burger ($15), and Steak Frites ($24).


We ordered the Steak Frites, a flat iron steak marinated in red wine, served with chimichurri sauce, house cut fries, and house salad.  The steak was tender and juicy and we loved the fresh chimichurri sauce.


In addition to the food, Opus has a creative cocktail menu.

Fire Walk With Me— House infused jalapeño tequila, pineapple juice & agave ($10). Sweet & innocent on the surface & deep heat waiting below.


State of Grace— Sake, cucumber vodka, and domaine de canton.


More info on The Serenitee Restaurant Group restaurants: 

Latitude 43Minglewood Tavern in Gloucester, Opus in Salem, 15 Walnut in Hamilton, Cala’s in Manchester by the Sea, Maggie’s Farm in Middleton, and Hale St Tavern in Beverly Farms.  Additionally, in 2014 they will be opening 525 in Magnolia, The Spot in Georgetown, a location in Winchester, the Ipswich Brew House in Ipswich, and reopening Alchemy in Gloucester.

Opus on Urbanspoon

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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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.


  • 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


Gluten Free Reivew of Moksa Restaurant, Cambridge MA

Over the summer Jeremy and I attended a fundraising event and won a gift certificate to Moksa Restaurant. Two months later we finally made it there. Located in Central Square in Cambridge, serves Pan-Asian style tapas, brunch, lunch, dinner, and late-night drinks.Screen shot 2013-09-27 at 3.26.55 PM

Moksa is simple but chic. The long narrow dinning room has unusual lighting. The lighting shoots down in concentrated bursts, so that your table is either fully lit or left in the darkness. The front lounge, where the bar is located, is nearly as large as the dining room but there are only 3 tables near the front window. In the back there is a nightclub called Naga. Outside seating is also available during the warmer months.

The drink menu is creative and unconventional, in a good way. Uncommon and intriguing combinations such as Junmai Sake, cucumber, lavender, and silver needle tea (Silver Peony, $9) and American Harvest Organic Vodka, Boston Honey and Dry Sherry (Wilbur’s Cup, $10). I opted for the Ratonita ($10), a unique twist on the classic margarita, made with Reposado tequila, agave liqueur, and preserved lemon foam. IMG_4594

The menu is made up of unique small to medium sized dishes that are easily shared like tapas or dim sum. With an assortment of diverse Asian flavors on the menu – Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Korean, Indonesian, etc. – there is plenty to choose from. Gluten free and vegetarian dishes are clearly labeled on the menu.IMG_4590 IMG_4593

We tried a couple of the offerings and were pleasantly surprised with the flavors of each dish. Everything had a unique taste and with the exception of the scallop sushi roll, we really enjoyed all the dishes.

First we tried the tuna summer roll ($7), which is made with a soft rice wrapper, then cut into 6 pieces and finished with a cilantro-lime sauce. The roll was light and refreshing, but the sauce was a bit too heavy on the cilantro.IMG_4600

The edamame ($4) topped with Himalayan sea salt came out next. For the price, it was a very generous portion.IMG_4597

Next we tried the vegetable pakora ($5), a traditional Indian dish made with mashed up vegetables, which are dipped in chickpea flour and then deep-fried and served with tamarind chutney. These were our favorite— simple yet flavorful. The chutney was sweet and sour and a perfect compliment for the pakora.IMG_4595

We really enjoyed the Chicken Pad Thai ($12) with beansprouts, peanuts and lime. We loved the subtle flavors and freshness of this dish. I also liked that the peanuts were put on one side rather than mixed in with the dish.IMG_4596

The Spicy Scallop Roll ($9) was very fishy and had way too much spicy mayonnaise sauce dumped on top.  This was really an avocado roll topped with scallops, spicy mayonnaise, and fish roe. After taking off most of the mayo it was tolerable. Either order the sauce on the side or just skip this roll all together.IMG_4599

All in all the food was good, fresh, and flavorful.  The prices are very reasonable and the portions are perfect for sharing. Our waiter was very knowledgeable about the menu and I really appreciated that the gluten free (and vegetarian) options were distinctly marked on the menu.

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Moksa on Urbanspoon

The Basilica

Gluten Free (Sin-Gluten) Guide to Zaragoza

Zaragoza is located 200 miles west of Barcelona, about 2 hours by Renfe, Spain’s railway. The city is famous for its landmarks such as the Basílica del Pilar, La Seo Cathedral and the Aljafería Palace, as well as ts renowned local gastronomy— specifically a vast array of tapas bars. The best place to eat is the old city, (Casco Viejo) which is formed by a maze of small, narrow streets similar lined with bar after bar.  This quintessential tapas area is known as “El Tubo” (The Tube). El Tubo becomes alive at night, swarming with people, young and old, walking from one bar to the next and enjoying excellent tapas and fine wine.


Tip: In Spanish “tapas trawling”, strolling from on bar to another, is called Tapear.

We arrived in late morning and spent our first hour site seeing.

The Basilica
The Basilica

Then it was time for lunch. It was such a beautiful day so we chose to sit outside at Taberna el Lince, in the Plaza Santa Marta, and enjoyed a baked potato stuffed with cheese and bacon (patata rellena de queso y bacon). This rich and yummy comfort food was a bit too heavy for me. It was delicious but I am glad we shared it three ways.DSC00353

Our next stop was the charming La Republicana. Here, the walls and shelves are lined with living room style décor, bric-a-brac and objects dating back throughout the decades. I loved the atmosphere here, I felt like I had stepped back in time.DSC00356
We ordered 6 tapas for €9. This is a practical and inexpensive way to sample many tapas at the same time. We tried risotto with mushrooms (risotto con champiñones), potato salad (ensalada Ruso), Spanish omelet (tortilla española),  scrambled eggs with salted cold (huevos revueltos con bacalo), and mashed purple potatoes topped with eggs, tomato sauce and ham. (The 6th appetizer was not gluten free).
Ensalada Ruso, which means Russian Salad, is a classic Spanish tapa you will find in many tapas bars. It is made with mayonnaise, potatoes, carrots, peas, hard-boiled eggs, and tuna fish. The menu at La Republicana is big. Most items are on display in a glass case on the bar. It is easy to point and ask for what you want!

To drink we ordered Tinto de verano (summer red wine). It is a much simpler form of Sangria, made with only red wine, soda water and carbonated lemonade. It is perfect for a hot afternoon.

After a little more site seeing and a brief siesta, we headed back out to tapear. Eating in Spain is an adventure, something that is not rushed and should be savored slowly. This is a very different concept than American eating. While you are in Spain it is wise to embrace the local culture and eating habits. An evening out includes tapas rather than a sit down dinner, and nothing is ever rushed.

The Central Market
The Central Market

Our first stop for dinner was Bar Circo which offers a small selection of local tapas. Here we had one of the best tortilla española in all of Spain. This one was warm and gooey on the inside. In the twenty minutes we were there we saw the bartender go through 3 full tortillas (each one had 8 slices)!


Our next stop was Bar Marpy located in the Plaza Santa Marta. Surrounded by other bars in the Plaza this one stands out because of its bullfighting theme and the waiter’s outfits – they dress as matadors. While we were there a bullfight was being broadcast on the large flat screen TV. We didn’t eat anything here, but we did drink delicious Rioja, Ramón Bilbao. This award winning wine is dense with hints of cherry and notes of anise and a savory finish. This place is worth a visit if only to check out the waiters!DSC00376

Next on our tapas tour was El Ensanche de Carlos. The most popular dish on the menu here is the madeja (spool) made from lamb tripe (tripas de cordero) stuffed with lamb organs, cartilage and other parts, and then fried. Everybody was ordering it, even us! It sounds awful, but tastes great. This restaurant is on the Michelin Guide.DSC00381 DSC00383

If you like mushrooms, La Cueve en Aragon is your place. This bar is dedicated solely to the mushroom cap (€1.85). The only thing served here are grilled mushrooms with garlic and olive oil, topped with a baby shrimp, and placed atop piece of bread. You can order this without the bread and then it is completely gluten free.DSC00389

Tip: This tapa has been dubbed with the nickname “champis”, and you will hear people call it this.


The only things to ever touch the grill itself are the mushrooms and the garlic olive oil that is drizzled over the them. These are served scorching hot, so I’d advise you to wait a minute before biting into the hot oil and mushroom. As simple as this is, it is one of the best dishes I ate and a must try in Zaragoza.

The last bar we visited was a classic tapas bar and winery, Almau Bodegas. In addition to enjoying some tapas you can also buy bottles of wine from their winery and from different regions in Spain, as well as a variety of salted anchovies. We chose to eat outside on one of the wine barrel tables. This is very common in Spain; wine barrels are made specifically to be tables.

Being one of the house specialties I ordered an anchovy dish called Vinegar Explosion [Explosión de vinagre). The anchovies were served on top of tuna with balsamic vinaigrette. It’s funny because when I am home in the US I never eat anchovies, but in Spain I ate them all the time and really enjoyed the salty taste and meaty texture. This was absolutely delicious. The vinegar nicely complemented the saltiness from the fish.DSC00394

In addition to the local food scene, there are a number of good wines produced in Aragon. The Denominations of Origin in this region include Campo de Borja, Cariñena, Calatayud and Somontano. Wines of these Denomination of Origin (Spain’s regulatory classification system for wine) are full-bodied red wines of high alcoholic content.

Shawn and Jeremy enjoying a glass of wine.

Tip: When a wine label says vino joven (young wine) it means the wines have undergone very little, if any, barrel aging. Crianza (aged wine) red wines are aged for two years with at least six months in oak. Crianza white and rosés must be aged at least one year with at least six months in oak.

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Next up: Logroño and Burgos

Click here to read A Gluten Free Guide to Barcelona Day 1, Day 2 (Barceloneta), Day 3 (Il Born and the Gothic Quarter), Day 4 (Las Ramblas), Day 5 (El Raval) or Day 6 Sarria


Gluten Free Tortilla Española (Spanish Omelete)

The Tortilla Española or Spanish Omelet, is the most commonly served dish in Spain. While there are hundreds of variations even in any one specific region, the traditional tortilla is made with eggs, potatoes and onions. Some of the many additions you will often see in tortilla española include green peppers (pimientos verdes), chorizo, mushrooms (chamiñones), and ham (jamón).IMG_4856

Tortilla Española is naturally gluten free. It may be eaten hot or cold; it is commonly served as a tapa or picnic dish throughout Spain. As a tapa, it may be cut into bite-size pieces and served on cocktail sticks, or cut into pie style portions (pincho de tortilla). It can also be eaten in a sandwich (bocadillo).IMG_4858

You do not need to be a gourmet chef to make this dish yourself.


  • 3-4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced ¼ inch
  • 10 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan and cook the onion and potatoes for about 10 minutes until the potato is soft. You may need to turn the heat down slightly so the potatoes do not burn.IMG_4850
  2. While the onion and potatoes are cooking, beat the eggs together in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Once the potatoes are soft, pour the mixture into the eggs. Try to drain as much oil as possible, the less oil in the eggs the better. Mix together with a large spoon.
  4. Pour 1-2 Tbsp of olive oil into the non-stick frying pan (approximately 8-11 inches) and reduce heat to medium. Pour the tortilla mixture back into the pan and spread out evenly. Allow the eggs to cook around the edges.IMG_4853
  5. Once the egg mixture is nearly set, and the bottom is slightly browned, you are ready to turn it over. Place a large plate upside down over the frying pan. Quickly, flip the frying pan and plate so the omelet falls onto the plate. Place the frying pan back on the stove and add just enough olive oil to coat the pan.  Slide the omelet back into the frying pan and let cook for another 3-4 minutes.IMG_4854
  6. Turn the heat off and let the tortilla sit in the pan for 2-3 minutes.IMG_4855
  7. Slide the omelet onto a plate to serve. Cut into 6-8 pieces like a pie, or if you are serving it as an appetizer, cut into 1-½ inch squares. Place a toothpick in each square and serve. You can also place each square onto a ½ thick piece of gluten free baguette.IMG_4857

Gluten Free (Sin-Gluten) Guide to Barcelona Day 6: Sarrià

Quaint, quiet and a world away from the busy city center, Sarrià is a traditional old Catalan neighborhood on the fringe of Barcelona.
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Sarrià is a gluten free haven. We were only there for a few hours but during that time we discovered a whole slew of gluten free shops and restaurants. I was in heaven. Here you will find Espai, a bodega specializing in gluten free products.

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If you can’t make it up to Espai, don’t worry, you can still find plenty of gluten free products in the city. Barcelona is full of specialty food stores called Dietétics, that specialize in healthy foods, herbal products, supplements, and gluten free foods.

Most neighborhoods have at least one, and there is even one in the Mercet de la Boqueria. The one located near La Sagrada Familia is called Arrels Centre Dietétic. This store carries gluten free pastas, crackers, muffins, cookies, and more. Before leaving Barcelona, I stocked up on a few brands that we don’t have here in the U.S.DSC00309

El Corte Inglés, Spain’s biggest “hypermarket”, and grocery stores also carry gluten free items.  Mercadona has the best slection of gluten free foods. There is also Condis Consum, and Carrefour.
I’m not sure why Sarrià is a gluten free Mecca but it is. I needed a bottle water so I decided to stop at the first store we saw, and it just so happened to have the largest Schar’s selection I have ever seen. I didn’t even know Schar’s made corn flakes or oreos before walking into this store. I spent five minutes just staring at all of the products. It was very difficult to keep myself from buying anything, but I knew we were about to eat lunch.
DSC00311Pollo A L’ast specializes in homemade croquettes (croquetas) and prepared meals. You can sit down and have a meal or buy something to go (para llevar). This is the one and only place I saw in all of Barcelona that makes gluten free croquetas. Croquetas are small breadcrumbed fried rolls typically filled with ham (jamón), cod (bacalao) or mashed potatoes (pure de patatas), although apart from the standard fillings, you will find them with just about anything from chicken curry to shrimp. The croquetas are formed into a cylinder, disk or oval shape and then fried in olive oil.DSC00313Sarrià ‘s claim to fame is Bar Tomás. Bar Tomás is legendary for it’s patatas bravas (fried potatoes with spicy aioli). According to some, they are said the have the best bravas in all of Barcelona. The Wall Street Journal wrote an article about these bravas in 2008, you can read it here. DSC00317

The setting is simple, no frills, and very laid back. There’s not much to look at other than the newspaper clippings on the wall mentioning their famous patatas bravas that are served here. The patatas bravas were quite good. They were served piping hot with a drizzle of oil and their special sauce. I don’t know what the secret is to the sauce, but it was good and noticeably different from other patatas bravas we tasted all week. DSC00315

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Before leaving Barcelona make sure you try Horchata. A traditional beverage made of ground tiger nuts (chufas), water, and sugar. It is served ice cold and is a refreshing summertime drink. It has the same consistency as a milkshake or smoothie but without the dairy. Tiger nuts are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and essential amino acids. The health benefits include improving digestion, helping with hot flashes, cleansing the liver, as well as possessing anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties, to name a few. I’m sure it is only a matter of time before Horchata makes its way to America. A local specialty is horchata mixed with lemonade—it’s delicious, give it a try!

 Tip: El Tío Ché in Poble Nou has great horchata lemonade.

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There are over 50 restaurants in Barcelona that offer gluten free menus. Click here to view Barcelona’s Gluten Free restaurant guide.

Up Next: Zaragoza, Logroño and Burgos

Click here to Read A Gluten Free Guide to Barcelona Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4 or Day 5.


Gluten Free (Sin-Gluten) Guide to Burgos


DSC00488As the capital of Castilla, Burgos is rich in ancient churches and convents. The three main sites are the cathedral, the monastery of Las Huelgas, and the notable entrance to the city, the Santa María Arch. Burgos, the gastronomic capital for 2013, has much to offer in addition to its legendary history. In Burgos you will find some unique dishes, and excellent regional wines, and not to mention, a plethora of good restaurants and tapas bars.DSC00534

Burgos was named the Gastronomic Capital of Spain 2013 by the Spanish Federation of Hospitality, (FEHR) and the Spanish Federation of Journalist and Tourism Writers (FEPET). The FEHR and FEPET created this title in order to promote Spanish gastronomy at a national and international level, as an attractive form of tourism in Spain. Each year a city is nominated as the “Capital Española de la Gastronomía’’ (CEG)—Gastronomic Capital of Spain—which runs from the January 1 to December 31.DSC00538

The most famous foods of Burgos are certainly Queso de Burgos (Burgos Cheese) and Morcilla de Burgos, (pig’s-blood sausage). The Queso de Burgos is a soft, fresh, white cheese. This cheese is made from sheep’s milk and is acceptable for people with sensitive digestion, in fact it is said to promote good health if eaten everyday.

Morcilla de Burgos is a staple country-food that is highly regarded across Spain. Morcilla is made with rice—which is often mistaken for fat— and spiced with onions and herbs. It is actually one of the lightest and healthiest products of its kind, who knew?

Burgos is also known for its great variety of local products including, roasted lamb, pork chops, veal, cured sausages, and other game. All of which should be enjoyed with a glass of its famous wines, such as Ribera del Duero or Rueda.

For lunch we ate at Bar Restaurante Gaona Jardin, specializing in traditional Burgos cuisine. For €11 each we enjoyed a 3 course Menú del Día (Menu of the Day). For our first course we had the choice of green beans with potatoes and ham (judías verdes con patatas y j amón), or lentil soup (sopa de lentejas) with chorizo. DSC00495 DSC00496

For the main course we all ordered lamb; ribs (costilas) and chops (chuleta de cordero). DSC00499 DSC00498

For dessert we had the choice of flan or pears soaked in wine.DSC00503 DSC00502

We stayed at RimboMbin, an “urban hostal”. This 8 room hostal, was more like a hotel then any hostel that I am used to staying in. Our room was clean and spacious, and right below was their very own bar-restaurant.  The menu includes everything from small tapas (pinchos) to salads (ensaladas), vegetables dishes (platos de verduras), scrambled egg dishes (revueltos huevos), cheese (queso), sausages (salchichas), meats (carnes), and desserts (postres). The long, spacious bar was our meeting point before starting our tapas bar crawl. Sadly, a cold front came through the city just as we were arriving and it snowed earlier in the day. The weather at this time of year (mid-May) is usually in the 60-70’s. So I had a glass of red wine (Vino tinto) and bundled up in order to get ready for the night.burgos

Cerveceria Morito is located on one of the most charming streets in the old town of Burgos, close to the cathedral.  It is one of the most popular tapas bars in Burgos and it’s always crowded. DSC00523

Some of the typical orders include pincho de morcilla (small tapa of local blood sausage), and revuelto capricho burgos (scrambled house specialty) made with eggs (huevos), mushrooms (setas), eel (anguila), and morcilla. The house wine starts at €0.50. We loved Morito so much we went back the next day for breakfast and ordered scrambled eggs with chorizo and French fries (patatas).

revuelto capricho burgos

mushrooms (setas) and cheese (queso)

Another old establishment in Burgos is La Mejillonera. Known for their patatas bravas, calamari, and above all, their mussels, this famous bar is a must stop for seafood lovers. The mussels, which can be ordered in various forms, are what this place is named for.DSC00520DSC00519

They have different styles of cooking the mussels: vinagreta (vinaigrette), a la escocesa (Scottish style), picantes (spicy tomato sauce) and al vapor (steamed). When you are done with the shells, you just throw them below the bar into a designated tray, and someone cleans it up later—very efficient!DSC00522

In March 2013, Meson Froilan won first prize for best tortilla espanola (Spanish omelet) in Burgos. So of course we had to try it! It was quite good, but by the end of our 9th day in Spain we were starting to get a bit tired of tortilla española.

At Froilan, you can sit—or stand—outside, which is a very popular thing to do in Burgos at night.

The next stop on our tapas tour was La Perla Arandina. This cozy tapas bar has been around for 31 years and serves an elaborate assortment of tapas. The variety and quality of the tapas here is impressive. We tried a pincho of setas (mushroom) filled with cheese, bacon, potatoes, and garlic. Other specialties include octopus (pulpo), crispy fried bacon (torrezno), and tiger shrimp (tigres).DSC00516

Copas Rotas (Broken Glasses) offers wine, beer, and tapas, all for €1, and cocktails for €4. In Spain it is hard to go wrong with a glass or wine or beer, but the patatas bravas we ordered here were just so-so.  Copas Rotas is a popular chain throughout northern Spain, but with so many other great options in Burgos, I would recommend skipping this one.DSC00512

Our next stop was Taberna La Favorita, which has a barn-like interior with wooden beams and exposed brick. The house specialty here is local cheeses and cured meats. A glass case on the bar displays the nightly offerings, and there is also a larger menu with dinner options. Wine by the glass starts at €1.50. I really enjoyed both the food and the vibe here.

As the night went on we continued our tapas tour through Burgos, and with each passing hour the streets became louder and livelier.

Of course we didn’t leave Burgos empty handed. We bought 3 bottles of wine to take home with us, and our friends bought Morcilla to take back to Barcelona with them.

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Click here to read A Gluten Free Guide to Barcelona Day 1, Day 2 (Barceloneta), Day 3 (Il Born and the Gothic Quarter), Day 4 (Las Ramblas), Day 5 (El Raval), Day 6 Sarria, Zaragoza or Logrono.


Gluten Free (Sin-Gluten) Guide to Logroño – A Wonderful Gluten Free Discovery

DSC00442Logroño is a city in northern Spain, on the Ebro River, and is the capital of La Rioja, Spain’s third smallest province.  When planning a trip to Spain, few people choose to go to Logroño. This is not because it’s not worth visiting, but probably because most people haven’t heard of it.

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Logroño is the center of the La Rioja wine trade and a stop on the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route. It is a very charming city well-known both for its wine and gastronomy.  In 2012, Logroño was named the Gastronomic Capital of Spain, putting this charming town on the map and attracting tourists from all over the world.DSC00412

While tapas are served everywhere in Spain, the question of which city serves the best is still up for debate. My vote goes to Logroño. In the old quarter (Casco Viejo) of Logroño, there are nearly 50 restaurants, tapas, and wine bars crammed into one block along Calle del Laurel, Travesía del Laurel, Calle San Agustin, and Calle Albornoz. Each offers specialty tapas and regional wines that cost merely €0.85-€2 per glass, it is a foodie and wine lovers heaven.DSC00437

The narrow and crowded streets of the Casco Viejo are full of bars and many of them have gluten free tapas. “Sin-Gluten” signs can be found on many restaurant doors, indicating that they offer at least one gluten free item on their menu.DSC00423

With so many bars and so little time, we got started right away. The local nickname for the tapas circuit is called La Senda de los Elefantes (the Trail of the Elephants), because of the way people walk if they’ve visited all of the bars.DSC00446DSC00443

Our first stop was Bar Sebas on Calle Albornoz. The specialty here is tortilla española (Spanish omelette). Their wine list contains over 100 by-the-glass wines! Because we were in La Rioja I opted for a glass of Azpilicueta Rijoa. Both the food and the wine were delicious.DSC00420

Tip: Spanish wines are often labeled according to the amount of aging the wine has received. When the label says joven (young), the wines will have undergone very little, if any, barrel-aging. Crianza (mature) red wines are aged for 2 years with at least 6 months in oak. Crianza whites and rosés must be aged for at least 1 year with at least 6 months in oak.

Bar Ángels sole menu item is a two high-high stack of button mushrooms topped with a tiny shrimp (pincho de champiñon con gambas). This simple dish has extraordinary flavor and was one of our favorite tapas that we tried during our trip. You can read more about this dish in my review of Zaragoza. Each, costing only €1.50, can be ordered without the bread, thus making it gluten free. They pair perfectly with a glass of wine!DSC00430 DSC00473

Across the street is Bar Donosti, a tiny corridor of a place serving gluten free bread! Although the gluten free bread costs €1 more, it is €1 well spent. I could have spent hours here trying everything on their gluten free menu! The bread was one of the best gluten free breads I have ever tried.

Me enjoying a glass of wine & gluten free tapas
Me enjoying a glass of wine & gluten free tapas

DSC00468We also tried machito, a specialty of the region. Made from the internal parts of a goat (such as the esophagus, heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver), which are chopped and wrapped in a stomach lining (tela), tied with a piece of small intestine (tripa), and served with a spicy romesco sauce. Yes, I actually tried it, but think I could live without ever having to taste crunchy cartilage again.DSC00469

Bar La Tavina was one of our favorite spots; we visited twice in one day. The first floor is the tapas bar, where we enjoyed a variety of diverse tapas and exceptional wines. The wine list is hand written on a chalkboard behind the bar. Just tell the bartender what you like and he will make a suggestion for you.

The Wine List
The Wine List

We ordered the cod with red peppers (bacalao con pimientos) and the Spanish omelette with spinach and chorizo (tortilla española con espinacas y chorizo) without the sauce (which contains flour). We also tried the specialty of the house—skinned, crispy pig’s face (careta de cerdo), and a dish made of pig’s feet topped with careta.DSC00433 DSC00431 DSC00435DSC00434

The second floor wine shop has nearly 500 bottles of wine to choose from. Every glass of wine on their menu is also for sale here. I bought my favorite Lealtanza, a dry white Rioja made in Logroño. We also left with two bottles of red Rioja recommended by the shopkeeper.

Tip: plan winery and vineyard (called bodegas) tours ahead of time. Your hotel can make the reservations for you.

Next on our tapas tour was Bar Cid, which only serves oyster mushrooms (setas). For a mere €4, we ordered a ½ portion (ración) and received a plate piled high with setas. DSC00454 DSC00455

Our last stop of the night was Bar La Jubera, supposedly home to the “best” patatas bravas in all of Logroño. The bravas here were a bit spicy, so be sure to have a drink handy.

Logroño is well worth a stop on any trip around Northern Spain. Unlike tapas bars in major cities, the eateries here are more selective and concentrate on only a few dishes, preparing them to perfection. The food and wine is both excellent and inexpensive.  Seriously, the food here will blow your mind. Expect to pay no more than €2 for a glass a wine and just a bit more for the tapas.

Next up: Burgos

Click here to Read A Gluten Free Guide to Barcelona Day 1, Day 2 (Barceloneta), Day 3 (Il Born and the Gothic Quarter), Day 4 (Las Ramblas), Day 5 (El Raval), Day 6 Sarria or Zaragoza