I wanted to share some good gluten-free experiences we’ve had recently, with a Harry & David gluten-free gift box, King Arthur gluten-free cake mix, and four restaurants in Chicago: Hub 51, Wilde, Lula Cafe and Nano Sushi.
Harry & David Gluten-Free Goodies
— The good folks at MB Limited, who help us out with our computers, sent us a Harry & David Gluten-Free Hat Box. It’s always exciting to open a Harry & David gift tower, so it was fun to unwrap the two hat boxes. Imagine our delight when we discovered that the hat boxes were filled with gluten-free brownies and cookies.
The brownies were some of the most scrumptious brownies I’ve ever had — gluten-free or regular. I looked at the ingredients and was surprised to see that they used black bean powder instead of flour. I was also surprised to see the high amount of fat, but let’s not go there (on the positive side, they had high protein). The gluten-free brownies — two fudge brownies, two walnut brownies and two chocolate chunk brownies — were rich and thick and chocolate.
The gluten-free cookie assortment included two macaroons, two chocolate chip cookies, two peanut butter cookies and two mint chocolate cookies. They were quite good, but the brownies were definitely our favorite. I sent Harry & David an email, asking if their gluten-free goodies were made in a dedicated gluten-free area etc., but I did not hear back.
UPDATE 10/29/11: I just found out that Harry & David has discontinued their gluten-free brownies and cookies. Unfortunately, there’s no explanation from them. I’m sad, those brownies were really delicious.
King Arthur gluten-free birthday cake
— Speaking of rich desserts, it was recently my older daughter’s birthday. Although she does not have celiac and usually orders a bakery cake, she requested that I bake her cake this year. I told her it would have to be a gluten-free cake, as I don’t bake with regular flour any more since flour can remain airborne for a few hours and settle on kitchen appliances and counters.
I’ve heard raves about King Arthur products, so I used the King Arthur gluten-free chocolate cake mix. Wow. It produced a light, airy chocolate cake that rivaled any bakery cake. I used two boxes of mix. Each made a 9×13 cake. I sandwiched the two cakes together with cherry preserves and used the “Perfectly Chocolate” chocolate frosting recipe printed on the box of Hershey’s cocoa powder. Delish.
— My husband and I were downtown on a date night and ate at Hub 51, a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant in Chicago. I was pleased to discover that they have an extensive gluten-free menu, including tacos with homemade corn tortillas, hand-cut french fries, pulled chicken nachos, sushi and salads. Lettuce Entertain You, Rich Melman’s successful restaurant enterprise, operates many restaurants with gluten-free menus — a comprehensive list of GF menus is on the Lettuce site.
— Our friend Jennifer of Be Free Bakers — a gluten-free, nut-free and vegan bakery in Lee’s Summit, Mo. — was in Chicago recently. We met her at Wilde, an Irish pub and restaurant with consistently great food. Wilde has a substantial gluten-free menu with GF mac and cheese and burgers with gluten-free buns — to me, GF bread is the hallmark of a restaurant that cares about its gluten-free customers.
— Our family had a tasty dinner at Lula Cafe, a Logan Square spot that offers organic produce and locally sourced farm-to-table food. Lula does not have a gluten-free menu, but they were very friendly and accommodating in pointing out which menu items were gluten-free.
— We also had a good gluten-free meal at Nano Sushi, a sushi/Thai restaurant in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood. I called the restaurant and asked if they could make dishes without wheat or soy sauce and was pleasantly surprised when the woman said, “You mean gluten-free?” Wow, gluten-free certainly is going mainstream. She served us gluten-free sushi, tom kha soup, chicken satay and pad Thai, which we enjoyed.
— I intend to post a list of Chicago gluten-free restaurants at some point. If you have any GF restaurant recommendations, please leave a comment below.