Restaurant Review: Rye, Louisville, Kentucky

Rye, Louisville, Kentucky

Rye, Louisville, Kentucky

Restaurant: Rye, Louisville, Kentucky

While Indy was in town this past week, we really wanted to treat her to a nice dinner, welcoming her in true foodie style, to the area.  It just so happens that while we were at Disneyland last September, she treated everyone to a tasting menu at the Chef’s Counter of Napa Rose…complete with wine pairings.  It still ranks up there as one of the most amazing meals I have ever had the opportunity to eat.  Disneyland’s chefs work really well around my dietary needs, and my meal was completely gluten-free and vegetarian…complete with the perfect wine to compliment each dish we were served.

Well, this gave us an idea…to treat her to a tasting menu at one of our local restaurant’s chef’s tables.  It happens that three local restaurants have a chef’s table.  And after a little debate…Cathy and I decided on a new hotspot in town, Rye.  Rye is located in the NULU region of Louisville…and it seemed right up our alley.  Cathy got in touch with the restaurant, speaking with PR and Events Coordinator, Erin MacDonaold, and made arrangements, explaining my dietary needs and that she and Indy would be up for anything.  But they had to stay within the perimeters of my diet for me.  The chef and the restaurant had no problem with that, so…it was set.  Friday night…we’d be treating Indy to a tasting menu with drink pairings at Rye.

The most difficult part was not telling Indy we were doing this.  The only instruction we gave her was to bring something nice to eat dinner out in on Friday night.  That was it.  That was all she got.  And we didn’t even give her the name of the restaurant until we were getting close to it, even though she asked because she wanted to look it up on Yelp.  We have our ways.  Anyway, once she knew which restaurant, she seemed pretty excited about that.  The chef’s counter, however, remained a surprise until we got inside and Cathy let them know our reservation.  As we were being walked back to the counter at the kitchen, Indy leaned in and said, “Did I hear chef’s counter.”  HAHAHA!!  Yes, my dearest foodie friend.  Yes…you did!

We were seated at the counter, facing into the kitchen, getting a first-hand view of the chefs at work.  I was soaking this in, just watching how they worked together, talked, and even put together each dish.  It was heaven to me.  I still have a dream of being a chef.  Maybe one day it will happen.  But this…was a treat and I was enjoying it.

At Rye, that evening, we were assigned to the caring hands of Chef Joe Banet, Bar Manager Doug Petry, and Alyssa, who was around for anything we might need or questions we might have.  Let me tell you, this team was amazing.  Doug had the drinks out to us just before the food was brought over by Chef Joe.  And Alyssa made sure we had everything we needed, from fresh silverware to full glasses of water.  It was incredible.  And, within a few minutes of looking over our menu that Chef Joe prepared, he came over to introduce himself and explain that he would have our first course up in no time.  Our first course…of what would be an 8 course tasting menu.

The only difference between my menu and those of Indy and Cathy was that mine was strictly vegetarian, so I was served a cooked vegetable instead of the protein they received.  My drink was different in a few occasions too, better paired with my vegetable than their meat.  Other than that…it was time to enjoy some good food and soak up the experience.

Rye's Radish with Whipped Butter and Black Salt, served with Dolin Blanc, Sugar, Meyer Lemon Bitters

Rye’s Radish with Whipped Butter and Black Salt, served with Dolin Blanc, Sugar, Meyer Lemon Bitters

And it was off to a good start.  Doug brought out our first drink, a Dolin Blanc with Sugar and Meyer Lemon Bitters.  This accompanied our first course, which arrived a moment later…Radish with Whipped Butter.  Granted, they had Caviar Butter with their Radish as well as a Potato Roll…but since I’m a gluten-free vegetarian…I received extra garnish on the radish with the whipped butter just beneath it with a hit of black salt.  The radish was bitter, as it should be…and it was a bit odd being served with butter…especially since I had no way of really eating the butter.  I put some on each bite of radish and it complimented the flavor well enough, the black salt cutting back on the bitterness by adding a little zing to each bite.  Still a bit bizarre, but delicious.  And that’s what mattered.  The pairing with the Dolin Blanc was brilliant.  The effervescence and lightness was a great way to start off the meal.

Rye's Beets with Lavendar-Mango Chutney, Labne, Hazelnut, Chervil, served with a Raspberry Lemonade

Rye’s Beets with Lavendar-Mango Chutney, Labne, Hazelnut, Chervil, served with a Raspberry Lemonade

Our plates were cleared and things were given time to settle.  But, after about 10 minutes our next drink was brought out.  It was a Strawberry Lemonade.  No alcohol in this one.  Just a sweet palate refresher.  Not but a moment later, Chef Joe appeared with three identical plates.  The second course was Beets with Lavender-Mango Chutney, Labne, Hazelnut and Chervil.  THIS…my dear friends, turned out to be my favorite course of the entire meal.  Yes…this one.  The roasted beets were fresh and fantastic.  Perfect, really.  And it paired so well with the labne (strained yogurt).  The lavender-mango chutney was light and fresh.  And topping it with toasted hazelnuts was a stroke of genius, as it gave a hit of texture when it was needed most.  The fruitiness of the raspberry lemonade paired and played well with the sweet, yet earthy flavor of the beets.  I was in foodie heaven with this one.  I could have eaten another plate of that and been a happy girl.

Plates were cleared again and we were once again given time to chat, watch the chefs at work (we were trying to figure out just how many

Rye's Asparagus with a Smoked Egg, Endive, and Pignoli, served with Chono Sauvignon Blanc

Rye’s Asparagus with a Smoked Egg, Endive, and Pignoli, served with Chono Sauvignon Blanc

oysters they shuck per night, because there was a lot of shucking over on our end of the counter!), observe some cooking techniques…and watch as the lights flickered and caused problems.  The owner came over to apologize for the technical difficulties with the lights over the pass and asked if it was going to bother us as they fixed it because he could move us.  We were content where we were, however.  (On a completely different line of though, the phrase ‘where we were’ is kind of interesting to type!)  Anyway, with that decision made, we were soon greeted by our third drink pairing prior to our entree.  Cathy and Indy received a Stillwater Classique beer.  This was a change from what was printed on the menu, so it took them by surprise.  Since I’m gluten-free, my drink stayed true to the menu that was created, and I was served a glass of Chono Sauvignon Blanc.  Cathy tasted her beer and didn’t like it much…but we still had food to pair with it.  And Chef Joe appeared soon after, serving up our third course.  This course was Asparagus with a Smoked Egg, Endive, and Pignoli (pine nuts).  First of all…a smoked egg is the most wonderful thing in the world.  It’s smokey and savory and rich and creamy and just made of complete yumminess.  Seriously…if I had a smoker I would do this every morning for breakfast.  In fact, I asked Chef Joe how to smoke an egg…and now I kind of feel like I need a smoker just to be able to do it.  Yes…this was a rich dish.  The smoked egg was velvety smooth and paired so well with the bitterness of the endive and the perfectly cooked white and green asparagus.  I savored each and every bite.  And because it was so rich, the wine pairing was perfect.  This course was comfort food to me.  For the record, Cathy never did really like the beer.

When plates were cleared, we all gazed down at our menus to see what was up next.  This is where dishes started to really get different.  Cathy and Indy were about to start getting their proteins.  Mine stuck to a tried and true vegetable replacement for said protein.  The rest of the dish would mirror each other.  And, on some occasions…the drinks would be different.

Rye's Sweet Potato Soup with Kaffir Lime Leaf, Coconut Milk, Cilantro, served with a Pineapple Shrub

Rye’s Sweet Potato Soup with Kaffir Lime Leaf, Coconut Milk, Cilantro, served with a Pineapple Shrub

Such was the case for the fourth course of the night.  This one was a light serving, which was what we needed after all the richness in the smoked egg and asparagus course.  Doug brought over our drink pairings for the upcoming course.  Cathy and Indy were given another beer, this time Stiegl Grapefruit Radler.  Cathy was pretty certain she’d hate it since she hates grapefruit, but this turned out to be one of her favorite drinks of the night.  Go figure.  As for me, Doug paired mine with a Pineapple Blush, which he described in great detail and all I remember about it is that it had vinegar in it.  That just seemed strange.  But I gave it a sip prior to the dish coming up and it actually had a refreshing taste.  The vinegar worked.  Chef Joe brought over soup bowls for us.  My soup was Sweet Potato in a broth made from Coconut Milk and flavored with Kaffir Lime Leaf and Cilantro.  The broth was the same for Cathy and Indy, but they had Crab and Clam in their soup, not sweet potato.  I loved how light this course was, and how refreshing.  I am a sucker for soups as it is, and this one was perfection.  Seriously.  The broth was creamy without being filling.  The sweet potatoes were soft and delicate and perfect.  The seasoning was spot on.  And who doesn’t love an amazing soup?  Fantastic.  And the drinks paired perfectly.  I enjoyed sipping my Pineapple Blush between tastes of my soup.  Delish.

Our bowls were taken away and we watched as more food was prepared, put up at the pass, looked over by the expediter, and then sent out to

Rye's Cauliflower with Harissa, Almond, Arugula, Cucumber, served with a Gin, with Lemon, Sugar, Cucumber Sea Foam

Rye’s Cauliflower with Harissa, Almond, Arugula, Cucumber, served with a Gin, with Lemon, Sugar, Cucumber Sea Foam

tables.  It was so awesome watching the kitchen work while we ate.  Doug returned with three glasses of identical drinks.  We were each served one and he explained that we were about to taste a Gin that was done up with Lemon, Sugar and topped off with a Cucumber Sea Foam.  I figured this one would be interesting because I’m not a big fan of gin…at all…but the cucumber sea foam sounded A-MAZ-ING!  I took a sip, and while it did taste a little gin-y…the cucumber sea foam gave it this refreshing taste.  I actually found myself liking this one.  And, on cue, Chef Joe came over with our course.  The fifth course of the night, for me, was a fantastically grilled Cauliflower with Harissa, Almond, Arugula and Cucumber.  Ah…a match to that cucumber sea foam.  Cathy and Indy were served Monkfish instead of the cauliflower.  First of all, the harissa was amazing.  This chili pepper paste was a nice play against the refreshing cucumber and the warm cauliflower.  In fact, I was trying to get a little harissa in each bite because I loved how it worked with everything on the plate.  The almonds added a nice hit of texture.  Yeah…this one was so good.  Now I want harissa in my kitchen to use on my own cauliflower when I cook it.  Cathy fell in love with the monkfish, but Indy wasn’t as sold on it.

Rye's Broccoli Rabe with Ramps, Hon-Shemeji Mushroom, Yellow Grits, Lovange, served with Leese-Fitch Zinfandel

Rye’s Broccoli Rabe with Ramps, Hon-Shemeji Mushroom, Yellow Grits, Lovange, served with Leese-Fitch Zinfandel

Another plate clearing and more time to let things settle.  We were starting to get full, but we were over the halfway point.  And thankfully these were small plates.  This time, our food beat the drink to our counter.  So, Chef Joe went ahead and described our sixth course to us.  For me, I was given Broccoli Rabe with Ramps, Hon-Shemeji Mushrooms, Yellow Grits, and Lovange.  Cathy and Indy were served Rabbit with their ramps, mushrooms, grits and lovange.  We waited for a moment and a minute later, Doug was at our sides giving us each a glass of Leese-Fitch Zinfandel.  We now felt ready to dig in.  I sipped the wine first, finding that bitterness that I often find with red wine.  But it was good.  And when I took a bite of the broccoli rabe with the ramps (onions) and the earthy mushroom…it was a perfect pairing.  My favorite part, however, was the grits.  And as I lived in Alabama for six years and never liked grits, this totally surprised me.  I couldn’t say enough good things about these grits.  This was a fantastic course and we all polished it off.  Indy much preferred the rabbit over the monkfish, saying that the cuter your food is, the better it tastes.  Veggies must be really cute, because my food was really good.

Rye's Fennel with Parsnip, Black Garlic, Red Watercress, Pistachio, Orange-Mustard Jus, served with Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir

Rye’s Fennel with Parsnip, Black Garlic, Red Watercress, Pistachio, Orange-Mustard Jus, served with Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir

And so…our plates were cleared once more and we waited, talking about how the impending food wall was approaching.  But we didn’t care.  The food was some of the most amazing I had in a long time.  This was definitely a treat.  Doug appeared at our sides with a glass of Angeline Reserve Pinot Noir and talked about how it would pair well with our next course.  Chef Joe arrived with our plates.  I was given Fennel with Parsnip, Black Garlic, Red Watercress, Pistachio, and an Orange-Mustard Jus.  Cathy and Indy had Duck instead of the fennel.  Wow.  I loved how the Fennel was grilled and cooked down to perfection.  The parsnip puree was perfect.  It wasn’t gritty at all.  The black garlic paired well with everything, seasoning it perfectly.  I loved how the pistachio gave it some texture.  And, surprisingly, the orange-mustard jus was delicious and just amped up the flavor of the dish.  Cathy and Indy definitely seemed happy with the duck.  And when we were done eating, we were all eying the menu.  One course to go…and it was dessert.  I always have room for dessert.

Rye's Lemon Curd with Macadamia Brittle, Pink Peppercorn Meringue, served with Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux

Rye’s Lemon Curd with Macadamia Brittle, Pink Peppercorn Meringue, served with Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux

Gone were our dishes and Cathy was really, really looking forward to our dessert.  Why?  It was lemon.  And we are both huge fans of anything lemon.  Seriously.  Even better, the chef changed the way it was made so we could all have the same dish and it could be kept gluten-free.  This made me a happy, happy girl.  Doug appeared with our final drink pairing of the night.  This was a Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Limoux.  I love dessert wines.  LOVE.  If I could drink dessert wine all the time, I would totally do it.  Pure perfection.  This was light and crisp and just…delicious.  I had to remind myself to save some for the dessert.  Chef Joe brought out the most amazing looking dessert of all time.  Seriously.  It was Lemon Curd with Macadamia Brittle and a Pink Peppercorn Meringue.  First of all…salty and sweet.  Second of all…LEMON!!  This was a fantastic and light dessert.  And I wanted to devour it quickly because it was so delicious…but I managed to keep my  sweet tooth under control and really savor each bite.  The lemon flavor was spot on.  Not too much.  Just right.  And the pink peppercorn meringue was fantastic.  Light.  Fluffy.  Topped with the macadamia brittle that just tied everything together and gave it a crunch, which was needed in an otherwise soft dessert.  This was love in dessert form.  Lemon-y, nutty, meringue-y love.  And I had to make sure I got a bit of everything in each bite.

Rye really, really outdid themselves.  Not only were we treated well from the start, but the food they served up was beyond anything I could have imagined.  They were more than happy to work with and around my food allergies and dietary needs.  Sitting at the chef’s counter was an amazing treat that was worth every bit of money we poured into that meal.  This was more than a dinner out with my foodie friends…this was a foodie experience.

If you haven’t checked out Rye yet…you should.  Their menu sounds amazing and they are very good with dietary restrictions.  Their kitchen is clean and kept that way.  Their staff is knowledgeable.  And I can’t wait to go back again and try some food off their standard menu.

Thank you, Rye…for such a treat that night.

Restaurant Review: Game, Louisville, Kentucky

Game, Louisville, Kentucky

Game, Louisville, Kentucky

Restaurant: Game, Louisville, Kentucky

I admit it…there isn’t too much a gluten-free vegetarian can say about a restaurant called Game, right?  Well, honestly…yes.  There really isn’t.  After all, Game, a hot restaurant in Louisville, Kentucky, is known for it’s variety of different proteins that it serves up in various forms, but specifically as a burger.  Although, you can do a meatball flight if you want.

Why was I at Game?

Well, you see…for a long time now, the roomie has been wanting to check out this restaurant.  For one thing, it is the one place in Louisville where she can try bone marrow.  For another thing…she’s turned into quite the foodie as of late.  As for the other reason, the biggest foodie we know, our friend Indy, from California, was in town.  When we first mentioned her coming out to visit, this restaurant seemed like a point of great interest.  Therefore, we made it our first official meal together on her first full day in the area.

We arrived shortly after they opened, having had a light breakfast that morning in preparation for a great lunch.  We walked in and took a seat at one of the tables.  Our server came over with menus and left us a drink menu.  I’m in training for more marathons, so I stuck to water.  So did Cathy.  Indy was hoping to try a local brew of beer, and we finally found one for her to give a try.  And as we were helping, we were all taking a look at the menu.  Cathy and Indy decided they would split the bone marrow appetizer…just to see what it was like.  So, when our server returned, all I had to do was explain that I was the oddball as a gluten-free vegetarian.  She suggested the Seasonal Salad, which, honestly was the only thing I could eat on the menu.  With that being said…we placed our orders.

Cathy and Indy did, in fact, order the Bone Marrow ($8.00) to split as an appetizer.  Then, Cathy went ahead and ordered a Wild Boar Burger ($9.00), which came accompanied with greens, tomato, goat cheese, and cranberry-jalapeno jam, served on an everything bun.  Indy ordered a Meatball Sampler, consisting of Elk ($3.00), Antelope ($3.00), and Wild Boar ($3.00).  So, the carnivores in the group were happy.

I went ahead and, instead of eating my protein bar I packed…just in case…I ordered the Seasonal Salad ($6.00).  The waitress also recommended the fries, which were gluten-free as nothing is fried there except potatoes.  And it was done in Canola oil.  So, at the prompting of Cathy and Indy…we ordered a Basket of French Fries ($4.00) to split amongst us.

And so, we started to get caught up since it had been since September since we last saw each other.  There was much to discuss and talk about.  We were distracted when I guy walked into the window…which was utterly hilarious.  Everyone else in the restaurant thought so too.  Especially his buddies.  It really was funny.  But, soon, the bone marrow made it’s way to the table.  It was a half of a bone, topped with parmesan, poblano, and rosemary.  It was served with crostini as a vessel in which to eat it on.  Cathy was the first to dive in.  She, however, managed to only get the cheesy, bread-y topping on the first go, leaving the gelatinous bone marrow down.  She remedied that, however, and then Indy had a go.  And…they seemed pretty indifferent, both agreeing that it definitely needed the topping so that it just wasn’t this oozey gooey…stuff.  So…they feasted on that and finished up just as the entrees were arriving.  Good timing.

So…a salad.

Not much I can really say about it.  It was a mix of greens topped off with Craisins and some herbed goat cheese.  It has a delicious strawberry dressing, however, I will give it that.  Otherwise, it was a simple salad.  Nothing that really set it apart, save that it was served on a wooden plank with a few apple slices.  I enjoyed munching on the apple slices in between bites.  As for the fries…well…they were really good.  But there were a lot of them there.  The three of us did what damage we could, but there were still too many for us in the basket.  They had the perfect crispness outside with the soft potato inside…yummy.  And definitely fried to perfection.  But, I can only tolerate so much fried food these days and I was done with these pretty quickly, despite how delicious they are and the fact that I love fries.  Eating them in a restaurant is a treat for me, so I’m very glad we ordered them.  Perfectly seasoned.  And really good.  Is it odd I went on more about the fries than the salad?  Let’s face it…if you don’t have something about a salad that sets it apart…it’s greens, cheese, and sometimes nuts or dried fruit.  That’s what this was.  I can make that salad at home, in all honesty.  But the dressing was stellar.  For real.

And that was that.  A vegetarian with food allergies went to eat at a meat-heavy restaurant…and survived.  It was definitely an interesting experience, and I would go back again.  Especially since Cathy has voiced some thoughts on trying other types of meat there.  They do have veggie burgers available for those vegetarians that do not have a gluten allergy.  The problem is they use breadcrumbs as a binder…so that wasn’t going to work for me.  The two different vegetarian patties that they do offer sound amazing, however.  If only I could have eaten one.

So…chalk it up for an interesting experience at Game in Louisville, Kentucky.  I’m glad both Cathy and Indy got to experience it and take in a few different proteins they normally wouldn’t have been able to find on a local menu.

Game's Seasonal Salad

Game’s Seasonal Salad

Product Review: Caveman Bakery Alpine Caveman Cookies

Caveman Bakery Apline Caveman Cookies

Caveman Bakery Apline Caveman Cookies

Product: Caveman Bakery Apline Caveman Cookies – $6.29+

Can cookies really be made the caveman way?  Can paleo really go that far?

Ah, that new fad that so many people are jumping onto.  Eat like a caveman, and reap the wonderful health benefits.  While I find nothing wrong with cutting out refined sugars and processed grains…I go back and forth on the whole “eat like a caveman” thing.  I mean…not being able to eat beans…or corn…due to sugar content or something.  Nope.  Not a fan.

However…paleo items are gluten-free.  And when something hits the market that I’ve never seen before…my friend Jenn usually supplies me with a box.  God love her!  Well, I have previously tried and was not thrilled with the Tropical version of these cookies.  Jenn assured me via a Twitter account that, surprisingly, the Alpine were better.

Well, it’s moment of truth week because I have no dessert on hand and these are in my pantry.  Out came the box of Caveman Bakery Alpine Caveman Cookies.

Much like the Tropical variety of these cookies, these come individually wrapped inside the box.  They are little flat cookies, slightly sticky as you remove them from the wrapper…probably the honey…no…definitely the honey.  They smelled good.  They looked deceivingly chocolatey.  Would they be better than the very bland and disappointing Tropical flavor?  Was it possible?

Kinda…I guess.

Here’s the thing.  These cookies are chewy.  Not like…soft…fresh out of the oven chewy.  Not even processed cookies that are made to be soft and chewy chewy.  Nope.  These are just…chewy.  Like…not quite gum…but almost…chewy.  Which, we all know I prefer a chewy cookie to a crunchy one (although I will eat both and do so happily and without any measure of guilt!), but these…these are just too chewy.  Yes…a cookie that is too chewy for me.

As for taste…Jenn was right.  These actually do taste better than the Tropical variety.  The Alpine Caveman Cookies have a hint of chocolate flavor.  But it’s very mild and almost…not there.  The honey really sort of stands out the most.  I took a bite, tugging the very chewy cookie back and tried to savor it…find that flavor…find that chocolate flavor that I was craving.  Only a hint.  But…it was enough to cleanse the palate.

I guess.

I still wasn’t impressed.  Strike two Caveman Bakery.

Sad, because I love what goes into these cookies.  You want to talk about clean eating…these cookies are made from what Caveman Bakery says are ingredients that cavemen could have found while hiking in the alps.  These cookies are simply made from honey, hazelnut meal, almond meal, and toasted carob seeds.  They are gluten-free, dairy-free, and cholesterol free.

As for the nutritional aspect of these cookies…a serving size of the Caveman Bakery Alpine Caveman Cookies is 2 cookies.  Yep.  Two.  Get those jaws loosened up, folks!  This serving will provide you with 150 calories and 9 grams of fat.  Most of that fat is from the use of the nuts (hazelnuts and almonds), so that is at least the healthy kind of fat.  These two cookies contain 0 mg sodium, but 14 whopping grams of sugar.  YIKES!!  Okay…so it’s from the honey and carob but…YIKES!  Okay…they are cookies.  I’ll give them that.  But still.  And finally, you will have 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein.  Let’s hear it for meals made from nuts!

I don’t know…I understand the concept.  I get that it’s considered a better way of eating.  But I think these cookies are not what the cavemen had in mind when they thought about polishing off their saber tooth tiger consommé and needed to cleanse their palate.  Perhaps some wild berries or nuts would have been sufficient.

While these cookies aren’t awful, they definitely didn’t do anything for me.  Therefore, once the package is gone…it will be the last of the Caveman Cookies in my home.  Kind of pricey for a product that didn’t wow me.  Not one bit.

But, I think my jaw got the workout of a lifetime.

Product Review: Celiac Specialities Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Celiac Specialties Gluten Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Celiac Specialties Gluten Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Product: Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls – $3.99+

Dear Celiac Specialties:

You had me at croissant.

For real!!

I mean…here I was…walking through the freezer section of a natural food store in Columbus, Ohio…and there you are…just screaming at me from your shelf in the freezer: CROISSANT.

Seriously…that was all I needed before jamming it into my rapidly filling basket and hoping the giant box wouldn’t take up too much of my allotted room.  My roommate was treating me to gluten-free treats…things I couldn’t get anywhere else…but I had one medium-sized basket.  My friend Jenn and I were pretty certain that we could “Tetris the shit” out of the basket with the products that were inside if needed.  But…I was rapidly filling up and this box was one of the last items I put in.  Mostly due to package size.

But…CROISSANT STYLE ROLLS!  HELLO!

I wasn’t sure exactly how I wanted to utilize these, but I knew they were coming home with me.  Fast forward to another meager living out of the pantry, fridge, and freezer week (I was out of town again, so no CSA bin).  I happened to have some avocado on hand (because I always have that on hand) and a can of chickpeas, so I whipped up a delicious chickpea and avocado salad.  I needed a vehicle in which to serve this on…and the Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls were screaming (once again) to me from my own freezer.  BINGO!

Celiac Specialties Gluten Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Celiac Specialties Gluten Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

So, after a long day at work, I was ready for an easy dinner.  I had set two of the four rolls in the box out on the counter to thaw in a bag.  They did so beautifully.  You can just eat them straight like that, but I like to toast my bread.  So, I sliced the Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls in half, drizzled lightly with olive oil, and popped them in the oven for about 5 minutes to lightly toast.  While that occurred, I washed some baby kale and got the chickpea and avocado salad put together.  When the Plain Croissant Style Rolls were ready, I popped them out of the oven and plated them.  Then on went the kale and then a scoop of the chickpea and avocado spread.

Dinner was simple…and served.

When I first got these rolls out to toast, I noticed how light they were.  Well, they were still light.  Very light.  In fact, toasting them didn’t really add any additional weight to them.  I love that.  Because so often bread can overshadow the dish.  There is just so much of it.  Well, this was not the case here.  And upon taking my first bite, I found it to taste exactly like fresh bread right out of the oven.  It had that crusty, warm, delicious, lightness to it.  And it didn’t have any weird aftertaste or horrible flavor.  It was just…plain bread.  Very good plain bread.  In a croissant roll form.  And it was really, really good.  I mean, really good.  I was sad I only had 2 days worth of it, honestly.  I liked it that much.  Anything that can remind me of homemade, fresh bread is okay by me.  Sure, this wasn’t seasoned with special flavors, but it’s honest-to-goodness good.  And that’s all that matters.

Let’s look at the ingredients, shall we?  Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls are made from water, whole egg, tapioca starch, corn starch, corn flour, canola oil, potato starch, xanthan gum, sugar, rice flour, active dry yeast, and salt.  That’s it.  They are gluten-free and dairy-free.

As for nutrition… a serving size is 1 roll.  In this roll, you will be consuming 110 calories and 3.5 grams of fat.  One of the Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls contains 50 mg cholesterol, 140 mg sodium, and 1 gram of sugar.  That’s not too bad for bread.  Trust me.  You will also be taking in only 1 gram of fiber and 2 grams of protein.  They are light and fluffy, remember…but not very filling.  So, be sure you sandwich it up with something good and packed with both fiber and protein (like chickpeas and avocado!).

I wasn’t sure what these were going to taste like…and I admit, after my initial excitement, I was a bit worried that they would taste like cardboard…or worse.  But that wasn’t the case.  These actually tasted like real, “normal” bread rolls and I was thrilled that I made the decision to go ahead and give them a try.  I hope I can find more of the various products that Celiac Specialties sells so I can give those a try as well.

Next time…two boxes.

Chickpea and Avocado Salad Sandwich made with Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Chickpea and Avocado Salad Sandwich made with Celiac Specialties Gluten-Free Plain Croissant Style Rolls

Product Review: Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Product: Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels – $5.99

You know…I’ve had a difficult time finding decent and delicious gluten-free bagels.  Being that I grew up in New York, bagels are more than just breakfast.  They are a thing.  No…really.  They are religion.  And when you are able to eat “normal” bagels, finding a good one isn’t a problem, even outside of the Bagel State of the World.

When you are gluten-free, however…this can be a task.  I struggled to find a tasty and authentic bagel after I had to go gluten-free.  There were so many failures.  In texture, taste, and even size.  I am a bagel connoisseur.  I know what makes a good bagel…and the gluten-free ones just weren’t making the cut.  And I was depressed.

My friend, Sara, who at the time was gluten-free, pointed me in the direction of Udi’s bagels.  They were pricey…but…damn…they tasted just like the bagels I grew up eating.  I was beyond impressed.  And to this day, they are one of (now three) brands that I will all-out purchase because I trust that they will be good.  O’Doughs Gluten-Free Bagel Thins are another.  And…Katz Gluten Free rounds out the Trifecta of Gluten Free Bagel Awesomesauce™.

Katz Gluten Free introduced the bagels to their already amazing lineup of delicious gluten-free baked goods last year.  I was stoked.  I couldn’t wait to try them.  But then…I just never got around to ordering them.  When I had to order the $35 loaf of Gluten Free Braided Challah Bread…I added on some items to take me to $50 for the free shipping.  One of these items was the Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels.

FINALLY!!

And this morning, I pulled them out of my freezer to finally give them a try.

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels

First of all…keep in mind that Everything Bagels are not meant to be clean.  As in…they are coated in seeds and seasonings and…well…you are going to make a mess.  It just happens.  But, you see, Everything Bagels are the iconic bagel.  They have all the best toppings in one place.  They are legendary.  And they are delicious.  I hoped the Katz Gluten Free version would be as good as the ones I grew up eating.

After allowing two of the four bagels that come in a pack thaw on the counter while I went to my spin class, I returned home and turned on my oven.  I removed the bagels from the ziplock bag I had them in to thaw and eased their pre-sliced halves apart.  I set each one on a baking sheet and threw them into the oven to toast while I took a quick shower before having to head to work.

They toasted up beautifully.  Sheer bagel toasting perfection.  As I emerged, now dressed for work and no longer a hot, sweaty mess I pulled them from the oven and put a schmear of vegan cream cheese on each half.  I served up one bagel to my roommate (who has had Everything Muffins, but not an Everything Bagel) and allowed her to dive in while I put the cream cheese on my own halves, poured my coffee, and went to tuck in to my own brekkies.

One bite…and I was transported back to my bagel-eating days of yore.  For real.  These bagels are packed…and I mean packed with flavor and all the authentic ingredients of a “real” Everything Bagel.  Katz Gluten Free knows exactly how to make bagels.  This was spot-on perfect in taste, texture, and…yes…even size.  Udi’s Gluten Free Bagels can be a bit…large (but, OMG…SO YUMMY!), and the bagel thins are made to be thin without as much bread.  This…this is the happy medium.  Seasoned to perfection.  No lacking in any of the toppings.  Gluten Free Bagel of Everything and More!!  WOW!

I’m already salivating knowing I still have two more in my freezer.

Let’s talk ingredients, as we always do.  The Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagel is made from a gluten-free flour blend (tapioca, white rice, brown rice, potato, soy, corn), egg whites, water, cellulose fiber, oil, corn syrup, sugar, cellulose gum, yeast, salt, corn fiber, soy lecithin, lactic acid, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, minced garlic, and minced onion!  Yep…that’s an Everything Bagel to me.  These are not just gluten-free but also dairy-free.

Nutritionally speaking, these aren’t bad for bagels.  Not at all.  A serving size is one bagel.  This serving will provide you with 250 calories and 9 grams of fat.  You will also be getting 150 mg sodium and 6 grams of sugar.  These are cholesterol-free.  In addition, you will be consuming 12 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein, so you will certainly feel full.  That’s always nice!

Oh yeah…Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagels are definitely a hit.  I intend to stock my freezer with them more often.  For sure.  If you haven’t tried them yet…get right on it.  You will thank me for it later.

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagel toasted with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

Katz Gluten Free Everything Bagel toasted with a schmear of Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

Product Review: Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies

Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies

Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies

Product: Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies – $6.29+

Yep.

This is just what you are thinking.  These cookies are called “caveman cookies” for a reason.  And that reason is…(insert trumpeting here)…they are a part of the “caveman” diet…or the Paleo Diet as it is often called now.

Now, as a gluten-free vegetarian, a lot of what I make can be done the Paleo way…but a lot of my protein sources (beans, peanut butter, etc.) are frowned upon in the paleo diet.  As are some of my favorite vegetables – like potatoes and corn.  So, while I know a few people who do follow that “caveman” way of eating…I can’t for my own health.  It just isn’t feasible for me.  But, that’s not to say that I don’t try these “paleo” recipes and items that are now on the market.  As long as they fit into my dietary restrictions, I’m never one to turn down the opportunity to try something new.  And…since I do know people who live by this form of “diet”…I have learned how to bake many staples to fit into the “caveman” diet by trying out different flours, often made from almonds or coconut.

So, while I was in Ohio visiting my friend Jenn, she picked up for me some interesting cookies that fit my tastes and…were gluten-free.  Jenn loves me like this and often has goodies for me to try waiting at her house.  I took a gander at the boxes…seeing the open-mouthed Caveman and the words Tropical on one box.  Alpine is the other flavor…and the one I haven’t tried yet.  YET!

Well, with the demise of the gluten-free vanilla bean pound cake (it was SO good!), I needed a new sweet treat to cleanse the palate after dinner.  I recalled these boxes in my pantry and screamed my thanks to Jenn as I pumped a fist in the air in dessert victory.  I mean…dessert is something I grew up eating after dinner.  It doesn’t have to be huge.  A cookie or a small bowl of ice cream…just something sweet to tie up the meal.  That’s how I was raised.  I still swear to this today.  So, I happily snagged the Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies from the pantry.

So, it was cookie time.  And you know…I am a complete cookie monster.  My favorite thing in life is a good cookie!!  And when I opened up this box…I found individually wrapped little cookies (about the size of a silver dollar) just eagerly awaiting their trial.  I plucked four from the box (two for me and two for my roomie) and got to unwrapping them.  They smelled absolutely delicious.  Hard to explain just how they smelled, but I caught the macadamia nut and a hint of sweetness from the coconut and ginger.  I opened up two cookies for my roommate and delivered them, giving her the usual disclaimer that, “if they suck we can try something else…”  As I was heading back into the kitchen, she took a bite.  At first…I couldn’t tell what she thought of them.  The face she was making was sort of neutral.  Then…there was something.  But from where I stood, I couldn’t tell if it was good or bad.  So, as I was opening up my cookies, I asked her how they were.

“They are like…chewy cardboard that is sweet.”

Um…that can’t be good.

“Are they edible?” I inquired.

She thought for a moment and took another bite.  “Well…I’ll eat them…but they aren’t something I’d buy again.”

Okay…

Guess it was my turn to give them a try.  I settled in for dessert and took a bite.

So…here is the nitty-gritty:

The Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies are good in that they are chewy and use real ingredients.  I mean…it doesn’t get much more real than what goes into these cookies.  They are not so good in that they don’t really have that much of a flavor.  I know…you probably think it’s that I’m missing the sugar…but I cut down on sugars wherever I can and try to do low sugar even in my snacks and cookies.  Often I substitute honey…which is what is used in these cookies to sweeten them.  The thing is…they are really bland.  They do have a nice nutty flavor to them, which I like.  The coconut hits at the end.  And the ginger doesn’t overpower…but there is just something about them that didn’t…wow me.  I wouldn’t say they taste like cardboard, but they definitely take some getting used to.  I love a chewy cookie and I wasn’t certain these would be…but they are very chewy.  And that…is my favorite part.  With nothing more than the hint of coconut for something “tropical”…I can’t for the life of me figure out why these are called “tropical”.  But…they aren’t awful.  And we will polish off the box.

Let’s talk ingredients.  Honestly, the good thing about the Paleo Diet is how straightforward ingredients are in products.  The Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies contain almond flour, organic honey, unsulfured coconut, macadamia nuts, and ginger.  That’s it.  They really are chewy…and contain 100% real ingredients and are gluten-free.  They are also cholesterol free and sugar free.

Nutritionally speaking…here’s how the Caveman Bakery Tropical Caveman Cookies stack up.  A serving size is 2 cookies.  Yep.  TWO cookies.  This serving will provide you with 140 calories and 10 grams of fat.  Yep…10 GRAMS OF FAT!!  Don’t freak out though.  Much of this fat is derived from the macadamia nuts and almond flour.  Fat from nuts is a healthy fat.  So…yeah…deep breath.  It’s okay.  Additionally, these cookies contain 10 grams of sugar, 2 grams of fiber rand 3 grams of protein.

So…while these aren’t awful, they aren’t amazing either.  They are just sort of “MEH.”  And a “MEH” dessert is not a dessert that will be repeated.  We are going to finish up the box.  And, yes, we will also try the Alpine Caveman Cookies as well to see if they perhaps satisfy us better or have more flavor.  I give kudos to Caveman Bakery for making a paleo-friendly cookie for the market…but it seems they could use a little help with the recipe.  But, that’s just my cookie-loving opinion.  I don’t think I’d invest in these in the future.  At least not this flavor.

Product Review: KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

Product: KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars – $3.99+

Granola bars.

While there are gluten-free options out there for granola bars, it is something that I gave up when I had to go gluten-free.  Why?  I just didn’t find any that tasted…right…or good for that matter.  Sure, there are plenty of fruit and nut bars out there, but when you think granola bar, you think of oats and that chewy-sticky goodness that you get with each bite.  That was what I wanted.  And that was not what I was finding.

Until…

KIND once again rose to the occasion.

I keep becoming so indebted to KIND because their products are superb.  Honestly.  I wouldn’t keep going back to KIND bars and KIND Healthy Grain Clusters time after time after time.  Lord knows, these days there are plenty of delicious and gluten-free options when it comes to protein bars and granola.  But there is something so spectacular about the products that KIND puts out.  I trust them with my food budget.  I really do.

So, imagine my glee the day I stepped into my local grocery store and went to scope out the Manager’s Special shelves and found the KIND Healthy Grains Bars on the shelf.  They had the discounted price ticket on there.  The only flavor being offered at the discounted price was the KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars…so that’s what came home with me.  Two boxes of them.  That meant, without any idea of how they tasted…I invested in 10 bars (they come 5 to a box).  But I didn’t even flinch…because it was KIND.

Sadly, these just sort of sat in my drawer of protein bars and race day snackies up until the other day.  I was working my way through the pantry that I totally forgot about those in that drawer.  And, with my sprained ankle, I hadn’t been racing or running so there was no reason for me to open that drawer.  It slipped my mind.  Until…I started running again.  I noticed the boxes in the drawer and knew it was time to bust them out for one of my work snacks.  It would be just like the old days.  A morning snack of a “granola” bar.  But this…this is even better than a granola bar.  It tastes better…has actual real ingredients…and it has more (and better) nutritional value.  Trust me.

I couldn’t wait for snack time to roll around the other day.  Honestly.  I had the bar out on my desk…anticipating it.  Wanting to see if it was any good.  Needing to know if it lived up to the high standards that KIND set for its products with me in the past.  And when it was time, I tore into that wrapper and broke off a corner of the Healthy Grains Bar.  The first thing I noticed was this didn’t snap away.  The bar itself is very light and soft.  You definitely get that hint of sticky-soft goodness from the honey, which helps to also sweeten the oats and other grains that are used in the making of these bars.  The dark chocolate chunks provide this amazing sweetness that doesn’t detract from the rest of the bar, but works with it…bringing out all the other flavors.  And I love that hint of coconut flavor you get right at the end.  Honestly…one of the best bars I have ever consumed.  EVER!  Even better…I don’t feel guilty about this little indulgence, because it’s not really an indulgence.  The name of this product says it all – HEALTHY Grains Bars.  Add in that sweet hint of heart-healthy dark chocolate and you have my new favorite snack in life.

So, what all goes into the KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars?  Well, KIND never hides anything when it comes to their products.  That’s why their packaging and wrappers have large open windows.  They honestly have nothing to hide.  At all.  The KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars are a blend of whole grains (which include gluten-free oats, brown rice, millet, gluten-free oat flour, buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa), tapioca syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey, non-GMO canola oil, coconut, chocolate liquor, sugar, brown rice syrup, molasses, gum acacia, sea salt, vanilla extract, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, and natural vitamin E.

How does it stack up nutritionally?  Not too bad at all.  A serving of the KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars is one bar.  This bar will provide 150 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.  One bar will also provide you with only 65 mg sodium and 9 grams of sugar.  You will also be getting 3 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein…so you actually do feel full after eating one.  These are gluten-free and cholesterol-free.

If you’re looking for a healthy snack that you can easily pack and take with you…anywhere…I highly recommend KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars.  They remind me, a lot, of the homemade granola bars I used to make.  Flavor is SUPER fantastic.  Texture and feel is spot on.  And that chocolate…tames even the biggest sweet tooth.  My snack time just got a lot sweeter….without the extra sugar and…additives.  Thank you, KIND, for products that I’m proud to have right out on my desk.

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars

KIND Healthy Grains Dark Chocolate Chunk Bars