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News and Notes

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

Harry & David Gluten-Free Hat Box
Harry & David Gluten-Free Hat Box

— 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

gluten-free birthday cake
Birthday cake made with King Arthur gluten-free chocolate cake mix

— 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.

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Great Gluten-Free Dining

We had two great gluten-free dining experiences recently. I only wish I had brought my camera.

Last week, relatives were visiting from out of town, and we met them at Mon Ami Gabi, a French bistro in Chicago. We chose Mon Ami Gabi because it’s not far from our home and, since it’s a Lettuce Entertain You restaurant, I felt reasonably confident they could handle a gluten-free request.

Little did I know that Mon Ami Gabi has a full gluten-free menu, with steaks, chicken, salmon and more. The real surprise came when the waiter brought out a gluten-free baguette nestled inside a long paper sleeve. My daughter quickly gobbled up the fresh, warm bread. Though it didn’t have the crispy crust or chewy interior of a real French baguette, my husband declared it the best gluten-free bread he’s ever had.
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Gluten-Free Dining in the Rainforest

rainforest cafe

I’ve always turned up my nose at the Rainforest Cafe. Eating mediocre food among timed thunderstorms, bellowing elephants and mechanized apes beating their chests, all with the smell of chlorine wafting from the waterfall? I’d take my eats elsewhere.

However, I am now a big fan, albeit in limited doses.

That’s because Rainforest Cafe is super-accommodating for a gluten-free diet, making it a great destination for gluten-free kids.

Although Rainforest Cafe doesn’t have a specific GF menu, a manager comes to your table to discuss the gluten-free or allergy-free options. While they do not stock specifically gluten-free foods (so no GF pasta or GF pizza), they will make every effort to modify their menu items to make them safe for diners. They’ll even cook special orders not on the menu.

Last night, since our kitchen cabinets were still wet with paint, we headed to the Rainforest Cafe in the dreaded tacky tourist zone in downtown Chicago. Wednesdays are family nights — meals from the kids menu are $1.99 with purchase of an accompanying adult entrée.

Initially, I planned to order the quarter rotisserie chicken for the 5-year-old, thinking it would be gluten-free. But the manager was unsure of the spices used, so they grilled a chicken breast for her instead. I thought it was bland, but the 5-year-old ate it up.

Their fries are made in a dedicated fryer (one that’s not used for breaded items like onion rings or chicken tenders, which would be unsafe for celiacs). Unless you’re a gluten-free kid, you don’t know the joy of finding fries that are gluten-free.

A specially prepared gluten-free entrée, with fries, for $1.99. That’s something to bellow about.


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