Chicago is a true melting pot, with tempting food contributed by the city’s many ethnicities. I love the range of restaurants — from cutting-edge restaurants with celebrity chefs to corner cafes with tasty fare. Fortunately, there are an increasing number of gluten-free dining options in Chicago, with more restaurants offering gluten-free menus or otherwise accommodating gluten-free diners.
Everyone has to make their own choices about how safe they feel eating out gluten-free. Personally, I favor restaurants that offer gluten-free menus, as I feel that means the establishment has put thought into its gluten-free options and training its staff on safe handling of gluten-free food. Some restaurants (Maggiano’s comes to mind) don’t offer gluten-free menus but still are very careful about preparing meals that are gluten-free and allergy-free.
Some safe gluten-free and allergy-free dining-out tips:
- When dining out on a special diet, try to avoid peak times. Dine earlier in the evening, when you can more easily get the attention of restaurant staff.
- Before you dine, call the restaurant and ask to speak to a chef or a manager about your gluten-free or allergy-free requests. Review the menu online and ask questions about one or two dishes that you are likely to order.
- At the restaurant, be sure to speak to the chef or manager again, not just your server. Ask questions about menu ingredients, preparation and dedicated equipment to be certain a dish is safe for you.
- If you feel that the staff doesn’t understand your special diet concerns, or if you are served food that looks questionable, don’t hesitate to leave. Pick another restaurant.
- If you’ve had a great experience, make sure to thank the restaurant staff and tip accordingly. It requires a lot of extra work to prepare meals for diners on special diets, so please be sure to thank the staff so they will continue to offer safe gluten-free or allergy-free meals.
I have put together a list of gluten-free restaurants on the “Restaurants” tab on the top of this site. I would love to add your suggestions too. Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment with your gluten-free restaurant suggestions.
Foie Gras at Senza
New updates to my Chicago gluten-free dining list:
— Senza, a gourmet gluten-free restaurant that offers truly sensational food, is offering a gluten-free six-course New Year’s Eve dinner for $100 per person, or $175 with wine, including parsnip and apple soup, barramundi, tagliatelle with duck confit, foie gras with caramel corn brulee, lamb loin and coconut pound cake.
— Cassava, which offers gluten-free empanadas and rolls, let me know that they offer free delivery of their frozen empanadas and mini rolls in the Chicago metro area, so they can be baked fresh at home.
We celebrated my older daughter’s birthday recently with a four-layer gluten-free chocolate cake with a chocolate ganache frosting and filling. I have to admit, it looked and tasted amazing.
I recently took a baking boot camp at Kendall College in Chicago, which gave me inspiration for creating this cake. In the class, we made an opera cake, but my daughter wanted chocolate, so I improvised from there. I started with my favorite King Arthur gluten-free chocolate cake mix. I don’t usually use mixes, but the King Arthur cake is so intensely moist and fudgy that it always elicits raves from kids and adults.
To make chocolate ganache, heat 1 1/2 cups heavy cream in a saucepan until the cream starts to steam. Then pour the cream over 10 ounces of semisweet or dark chocolate chips. Wait two minutes, then stir until smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Set aside some ganache for frosting the top of the cake. Whip the rest in a stand mixer to make whipped chocolate ganache for the filling.
To make the thin layers, I baked the cake for 15 to 18 minutes in a jelly roll pan or half-sheet pan (18 x 13 x 1-inch) lined with parchment paper. I then cut the cooled cake into four equal-sized rectangles, stacked the layers on top of each other while smoothing whipped chocolate ganache between the layers, and topped it with chocolate ganache that had not been whipped. For a distinctive presentation, freeze the cake for 30 minutes and then evenly trim the sides.
Now that’s a happy birthday!
Honey-roasted butternut squash soup, gluten-free
Today, a fall rainfall brought down a cascade of leaves from the maple tree in front of our house. In shades of gold, bronze, ocher and amber, the leaves fell, thickly carpeting the sidewalk. In weather like this, I crave the comfort of a warm bowl of soup. And what better soup than a perennial fall favorite: butternut squash soup, made gluten-free and dairy-free.
For a while, I was turned off by butternut squash soup, with its one-note sweet taste and pablum texture. But that’s certainly not the case with this complex honey-roasted butternut squash soup, laced with the smoky spice of chipotle chile pepper and the slightly exotic taste of cumin.
What’s even better is that this butternut squash soup is gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian, making it well-suited for a variety of people (except for my kids; shall I admit that they don’t like this grown-up soup?). For a vegan version, use maple syrup instead of honey.
Honey-Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Gluten-Free
(gluten-free, dairy-free, pareve, vegetarian)
By Gluten-Free Nosh
- 1 1/2 pounds (about 5 cups) butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 pound carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 medium red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle chile pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 6 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and spray the aluminum foil with cooking oil. Place butternut squash, carrots and red onion on the baking sheet, and toss with honey, olive oil, cumin, chipotle chile pepper and salt until well coated. Bake for 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork.
- Place roasted vegetables in a large soup pot and add vegetable broth. Bring broth to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
- In batches, carefully pour soup into a blender and puree until smooth. Do not fill blender to the top, and hold down the lid with a kitchen towel to prevent spattering. Transfer blended soup back to pot and heat before serving.
Yield: 10 servings
Following is a collection of root vegetable recipes from The Kosher Connection link-up. Please note that not all the recipes in the collection are gluten-free.
Recently, I was fortunate to speak at the Celiac Awareness Tour Chicago. My talk was about “gluten-free kitchen confidential” — tips for keeping gluten-free at home and away.
I had many tips and thoughts to share, but here are the headlines:
- BYOF — Bring Your Own Food. Always be prepared with safe gluten-free food, whether for school, sightseeing, plane trips or dinner parties.
- Make sure gluten-free kids always have a great-looking, great-tasting gluten-free treat to bring to birthday parties or other occasions. It doesn’t always have to match what the other kids are having, but it should look tempting!
- Focus on whole, healthy, naturally gluten-free foods such as meat, chicken, fish, fruit, veggies, dairy and eggs. Focus on all the good things that you can eat, not on what you cannot eat.
- When in doubt, leave it out. Don’t eat something unless you are 100% sure it is gluten-free. Also, if a restaurant doesn’t seem to fully understand your gluten-free requests, then leave. The risk is simply not worth it.
If you have questions about the gluten-free diet, please feel free to email me or post a comment any time. If it’s a more involved request, I also do gluten-free consulting — see the “Consulting” tab at the top of the page.