Lunch Spotlight: Soup and Sandwich Edition

I’ve been absent as of late, dear readers. I’m sure you noticed. Between fighting the first cold-weather cold of the season and craziness at work, motivation to post, and time to eat, has been severely lacking. But, I’m back! I’ll be busy the next few days, cleaning out the cobwebs and all that, but for now I leave you with this:

It’s Friday, the ending of a very long week. I’m still feeling a little sick-y I cannot kick this cold and the weather has officially become cold. It’s about time, it IS November, after all. Seriously, it was 65* earlier this week–Now it’s 35*. I try to bring lunch during the week as often as I can, being gluten free AND on a 20-something budget just doesn’t allow for much lunch indulgence.

This cold weather makes me think of hot soup. So, what’s a hungry working gluten-free girl to do? Soup and Sandwich of course!

Soup, Sandwich, And my messy desk

Turkey sandwich: Boars Head Oven Gold Roasted Turkey Breast [All Boars Head products are gluten free] on Udi’s toasted whole grain bread.

Soup: A can of  Progresso Traditional Chicken and Rice. Gluten free and 90 calories/serving (there are TWO servings/can)? Yes, Please!

Holy Moly Merzi

I write this still deep into my post-lunch food coma.

This afternoon I made the trek from my office in Metro Center over to Penn Quarter for lunch at Merzi. The Penn Quarter ‘hood, which surrounds the Verizon Center, is known for great sit-down locations, often frequented by the President and First Lady—but is seriously lacking in the fast casual scene. Enter Merzi, a “Chipotle-style” Indian restaurant boasting fresh, healthy, flavorful ingredients. My lunch today was a dance party in my mouth.

When Merzi was originally suggested as our destination, I did what any good Gluten-Free-Girl would do: I scoped out my potential meal on their website. I was pleasantly surprised to discover a prominently placed Allergen list. Most everything is gluten free! Obviously common items like Naan, Samosas, and Potato Tikka, are off limits to the gluten-free, but you can still make a hell of a meal without any of that. I chose to keep it simple (and mild), choosing rice, chicken, chickpeas, onions, a light tomato/cucumber “salad” topped off with some “mild” sauce:

Apologies for the quality—I took this on my Blackberry and it was a little dark in the corner where we sat.

Every. Item. Was. Delicious. And filling. I ate about 3/4 of it until I could eat no more.

My gluten-eating friends enjoyed it equally as much.

“Mmmmm.” “This is epically good.” “Oh.My.God.” “This is making me cry its so good.”

So the next time you find yourself in DC or Chinatown/Penn Quarter/The Archives/Gallery Place, make sure you check out Merzi. And, the whole thing came in at $9.82 including a Boylan Soda (bonus points for that) you simply cannot ask for more in a lunchtime treat.

415 7th Street, NW,
Washington, DC. 20004.
1-202-65-MERZI

The Lava Fudge Cupcake

Ok. My boss just randomly brought in cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake–and brought me their gluten free cupcake.

Oh.My.God.  So good.

I have been on an (unofficial) quest to find the best gluten free cupcakes in the DC area–there are numerous contenders, and the Red Velvet that Curbside Cupcakes did (I do not believe they do GF anymore… :( ) was the ultimate. But, I may have changed my mind.

There is fudge in the center.

And the frosting? Amazeballs.

Georgetown Cupcake Locations.

Rustico

I have a thing for pizza, but, doesn’t everyone? I wish pizza were easier to have  in my life. Pizza and I, it’s complicated. I’m just not able to order it from Domino’s if I get home from work and am too tired to do anything but move my fingers. It’s often very expensive to have at a restaurant. The frozen gluten free pizza market, although now getting better, leaves a lot to be desired. And making it at home? It’s pricey to buy GF crusts. And, Sometimes I just don’t want to. It NEVER comes out as good when I make it myself.

A few weeks ago, a group of friends and I went to Rustico in the Arlington, VA neighborhood of Ballston. At first I was very hesitant when a pizza place was chosen. But, after seeing that they have a gluten free crust made of chickpea flour, I was all in. I had the Margarita pizza, and it was delizioso.  Add in Happy Hour specials on the weekend until 7pm, and I was hooked.

I recently visited the “original” Rustico in Alexandria, VA. The decor is delightfully warm, yet trendy and inviting. The dim lighting, hard wood floors, and brick walls add the perfect ambiance to a great place to take a date, your parents, or have a meal or drinks with friends. The food and drinks are reasonably priced, which is a a huge plus in my book.

I had spent the day at a baby shower, where the only thing safe to eat were baby carrots, so a glass of $5 wine off the Happy Hour specials and some pizza were exactly what I needed. They also have an extensive list of gluten-free beers and hard ciders that I had not noticed previously. The secret is out, I am not, nor have I ever been, that “into” beer. This time around I had the pepperoni pizza with roasted red peppers on the chickpea crust. It was oily and delish, but I was a little worried about the crust getting soggy, but I’m happy to report that this was not the case. The crust has a lovely, deep flavor. The texture is more like a bread, and much denser than I would normally prefer my pizza crust be. But there’s something about the crust that just “works.” And, I’ll award it some bonus points for consistency at both Rustico Restaurants and not getting mushy. The crust has also been gluten-eater approved.

Pepperoni Pizza with Roasted Red Peppers on Chickpea Crust

I’ll become a regular here, for sure.

Rustico Alexandria
827 Slaters Lane
Alexandria, VA 22314
703.224.5051

Rustico Ballston
4075 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22217
571.384.1820
Metro Accessible via the Orange Line

 

Brunch @ Clyde’s

We’ve talked about brunch before. I’m a fan. A big fan. This past weekend my friends and I got together and had an intimate 19-person brunch at Clyde’s in Chinatown/Gallery Place. I was really not nervous about finding something gluten-free on the fairly extensive brunch menu because they have been great in the past about saucing my steak with a gluten-free sauce as opposed to whatever it came with that contained gluten. And, being that Clyde’s a little more “upscale,” they always seem to have a good grasp on the whole cross-contamination, hidden sources of gluten thing.

When our fabulously gay waiter  took my drink order, I told him about my gluten free needs and he immediately went back to the chef/manager to ask about was safe and not—i.e., the home fries(which it turned out, were fine). As with most brunch menu’s, I had to order something egg based, which was fine, because the Spanish Omelet with chorizo sausage, roasted pepper, queso fresco and scallions that I ordered was absolutely delicious!

There was more champagne in that glass than OJ.

Our waiter was fantastic enough to do [19] separate checks, and I thought this was particularly great to see:

It’s really nice to see that they take allergies so seriously.

I definitely recommend Clyde’s for brunch, for a decent steak at a decent price, or for a burger before a Caps game or movie. They have several locations in the DC/VA/MD area.

CLYDE’S OF GALLERY PLACE
707 7th Street, Washington, DC 20001
202.349.3700
Metro Accessible via the Red Line

Food Review: The Verizon Center

This review was originally going to contain a “review” of the gluten-free goodness from the eyes of my gluten-eating friend. Wouldn’t that have been a nice twist? Well, that didn’t happen.

This is a post I have not wanted to write. In fact, one might say I have avoided writing it. Last week, I went to a Capitals game at the Verizon Center (Remember??) and I was super excited about chowing down on some gluten-free grub while watching the team secure (another) victory. Seriously though, they’re undefeated. But, sadly, “Mission Gluten Free” was not all it was cracked up to be…

Let’s start with my expectations, shall we? I guess I should know better by now, but I was pretty confident having checked out the concessions list online AND DC’s favorite team to hate, the Nationals, has hotdogs on gluten free buns, pretzels, beer, etc.—so, shouldn’t the Verizon Center? Especially with all of the changes that owner, the great Ted Leonsis, has made?

Upon arriving inside the stadium, my gluten-eating friend (and fellow Ted Leonsis fan) and I went in search of the section which housed the gluten-free offerings. We wanted to try a couple of gluten free hot dogs, and my friend has been wanting to see if the Redbridge GF Beer is as good as Karl Alzner says it is. When we didn’t see anything, I asked someone official looking who told me that the “gluten free cart” had moved to “somewhere on the other side” from where we were. OK. So we walked over to that section. Nothing. I asked a different person, and they had no idea—nor did the other guest services person with them. This same routine occurred three or four more times. I did at some point find a random cart that had a gluten free chicken breast sandwich, which I felt sort of obligated to purchase. It was $10, if you are at all curious.

As we made our way to our seats in the 400 section, I decided I would ask one more time, with a guest services team that looked far more competent than the previous. This team walkie-talkied with the food manager who said that the cart with vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free items, including Redbridge beer, was down in section 108—I had been there, it wasn’t. The guest services guy (Side note: I’m 99.99% sure I went to college with him—one of those ‘met you at orientation and then never saw you again’ scenarios) also told me that the list of concessions, which I had based this entire adventure on, had not been updated to reflect recent changes.

I was grateful for the info, but after walking and walking (and walking some more) in circles, I just wasn’t up for going back downstairs. We took our seats and I ate my chicken breast sandwich, which wasn’t bad, just not what I wanted. It wasn’t what I had been looking forward too.

My issue is not with the lack of gluten free options at the Verizon Center—I certainly do not expect to be accommodated (it IS nice, though…) but I felt like the items had been “promised” to me, especially since every time I asked I heard “Oh yeah! They have hot dogs! Even have that gluten-free beer!” Had I known any this beforehand I would have eaten at one of the nine restaurants surrounding the Verizon Center–no big deal. My biggest gripe with this situation is the actual situation. The lack of knowledge amongst the guest services teams, and the lack of initiative to find the correct information, was very frustrating. My first 20 minutes of the overall experience of the game were completely dampened. People with allergies and food sensitivities ALWAYS plan ahead, so why bother having a list of concessions that denotes gluten free items if it is not up to date?

The game was great, though I would have liked to see a brawl, and I had fun otherwise, but all I wanted was a gluten free beer and a hot dog to enjoy it with. And what I got was a chicken breast sandwich that crumbled all over my lap and a feeling of disappointment.

I have two words for you, Wednesday

Frozen. Pizza.

Restaurant Review: The Silver Diner

If there is one thing I love on a weekend its coffee a hearty breakfast. Brunch in DC can be a very chic (and expensive) experience, and I find myself more-often-than-not ordering some scrambled eggs with some fruit instead of the lavish gluten-filled creations my friends indulge in. I love a good plate of scrambled eggs—don’t get me wrong, especially when it comes with strawberries and gluten-free waffles! Even more when I can consume it all for $8.99

The Silver Diner boasts local and fresh produce, meats and dairy products. I’ve even been there when a farmers market takes over a portion of the driveway. The menu is not extensive, but it’s really nice to brunch somewhere and feel like I’m having a treat.


Also! They have a real jukebox that plays music at every table…and it ACTUALLY works!

Definitely a must-check out if you live in or are visiting the DC area.

Silver Diner has locations in Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey.

The Silver Diner Clarendon
3200 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA 22201
703-812-8600

Metro Accessible via the Orange Line.

Gluten Free: The Undetectable Performance Enhancer

Recently, Tennis pro Novak Djokovic made national headlines when he likened his domination of the sport to cutting gluten out of his diet. Similarly, New Orleans Saints Quarterback Drew Brees reportedly follows a gluten free diet, and they won the Superbowl in 2010.

Generally, I’m not the biggest fan of someone cutting gluten from their diet if they aren’t allergic or intolerant to it because it tends to contribute that much more mis-information to the already large pot of misconceptions surrounding gluten intolerance and Celiac Disease. For those of us who have to actually “be” gluten free for health reasons, the perception of  the lifestyle as a “fad diet” can make life difficult; It could result in a chef or kitchen staff at a restaurant taking  cross contamination less seriously, which could make someone with gluten intolerance or Celiac Disease very very sick. One can hope that more awareness of Celiac will lead to more accurate diagnoses, but the reality is that many articles note that people with Celiac who accidentally ingest gluten will get “very sick,” but is its rarely reported that the effects of gluten can range from a stomach ache to debilitating neurological pain and it can take up to 6 MONTHS for a Celiac body to heal after being glutened. It’s a serious disease, and not something to be taken lightly.

In Djokovic’s case, it seems as he actually has an intolerance to gluten or Celiac Disease and a legitimate reason to stay away from gluten, and his sudden performance boost may very well be related to the fact that he no longer consumes what his body perceives as poison. When I first removed gluten from my diet, after being diagnosed by my doctor, it was like night and day. I didn’t even realize how bad I had been feeling until I stopped feeling crappy (pun absolutely intended), fatigued and was no longer plagued with “foggy brain.”

Now, it seems, we can add two more to the proverbial growing list of gluten-free athletes. Karl Alzner and Jay Beagle of the much-beloved Washington Capitals hockey team have cut gluten from their diets. As the only team that DC residents proudly admit to love, I’m curious to see if  the elimination of gluten from their diets has the same affect on their performance as it has on Djokovic.

I’ll be at their game next Tuesday (Rock the Red!) cheering in the stands, and if they win, maybe they’ll celebrate with me with a hotdog in a gluten free bun and knock back a few of those Redbridge gluten free beer‘s that Karl Alzner is so fond of (both of which are served in the concessions at the Verizon Center).

Seasonal Delights: Baked Acorn Squash

It’s that time of year! Although, you wouldn’t be able to tell from the 80 degree weather this weekend, Fall is allegedly upon us in the District. The first thing I think about (other than being able to wear sweaters, boots, and drink hot apple cider…) is colors! And this time of year provides so many delicious and colorful foods that make me think of fall. So, with this post, I introduce the inaugural “series” Seasonal Delights, recipes and dishes inspired by the seasons.

Baked Acorn Squash with Brown Sugar And Sherry

Editors Note: This Recipe comes to us via my mother. She likes to cook with alcohol. I’m sure she would blame this on Julia Child.

Mmm.

Here’s the recipe:

  1. Preheat Oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cut acorn squash in half, from stem top to bottom, slice off rounded side to create bottom
  3. Place on baking sheet, I use parchment paper on top
  4. Prick inside of squash with a fork, add salt & pepper to taste
  5. Add 1 Tbsp Butter, 1 Tbsp Frozen orange juice concentrate, Brown sugar packed to the top
  6. Once ingredients are layered, pour Sherry into the cavity to the top

Place acorn squash in pre-heated oven; bake approx. 45 minutes until flesh is soft, occasionally basting the edges with the sherry mixture. Serve as prepared, or quarter as a small side dish; cooked sherry sauce over.

Taking it one step further…

Acorn Squash Soup

What you’ll need:

4 cups peeled, cooked acorn squash, cut into 1” pieces (about 4-5 squash)
¼ cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 small onions, cubed
½ cup or 6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup sherry
1 qt (4 cups) chicken stock
¼ tsp. nutmeg
¼ tsp. ginger
Salt & Pepper to taste
Directions:
  1. Melt butter in a large pan or stock pot
  2. Sauté sweat onions until translucent
  3. Add brown sugar, sherry, squash, chicken stock
  4. Then add Nutmeg, ginger, salt & pepper
  5. Allow to cook for 25 minutes & mash squash with ricer or potato masher, or drain into a pot and place squash in blender to create a bisque.
  6. To serve, pour into warmed bowls or cups & top with croutons

Croutons: Cut gluten free bread into 1/2 inch pieces; In a fry pan sauté bread slices in melted butter until golden brown

Makes 12-15 soup servings.

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