Monday, September 29, 2008

Ole! Gluten Free in the Bay~

So...I fully intended to snap lovely photos of the incredible Tapas that my dear friend Alison and I savored and devoured during our "girl's" evening at Va de Vi in Walnut Creek last weekend, but instead...we became entranced by the "Mystery Reds" wine flight that we were this was the only snap shot we came away with!

The joy of visiting Walnut Creek is watching this once tiny town, transform itself continuously into a chic, Little House on the Prairie-meets Rodeo Drive (for the shopping only, not attitude!) kind of spot that one can never get tired of walking all around, finding delicious little spots to eat at, such as Va de Vi. Earlier this year, a friend had told me about this Tapas bar and bistro, so this past reunion weekend with my dear pal Alison seemed the perfect time to check it out.

I had called ahead to the restaurant to make reservations, but most importantly, to ask if a Celiac was safe and able to eat there. The answer was a resounding, "Yes, we are very familiar with gluten-free eating"...and they were. Our waiter, though a bit over-hyped about his job, was VERY diligent about me being able to eat safely and well! He even went through the entire Tapas menu with me and helped choose our delicious Spanish delights. It was a huge relief and I trusted that he knew what he was talking about, and thankfully he did. Each plate that arrived was a vision and perfectly gluten-free.

It always delights me to rediscover over and over again, just how well a Celiac is able to eat/dine and how many delicious foods and flavors are out there for us to savor. It's also exciting to me when I find a new restaurant that "GETS IT!" So the next time you are visiting the East Bay/ Walnut Creek area be sure to visit Va de Vi and please, please order the Pomme Frits...ils sont cest' manifique!!

By the way...I did guess the origin of one out of the three reds we were tasting - it was a delicious 2004 Artessa "Elements" Cab Franc/Syrah/Tempranillo from the good old Napa Valley - love the California reds.

Eat well.

and...Eat delicious food!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Gluten-Free Birthday Wishes ~ Spanish Style!

So I just recently celebrated my birthday...however, which year doesn't really doesn't matter, right?! It was a joyous celebration with family and friends sharing laughs, good conversation, delicious wine, and an almost-all gluten free menu to boot!!

I was determined to create a delicious and safe menu that didn't contain one ounce of gluten even though I, the birthday girl, was the only Celiac at the party. Now you might be wondering about the beautiful little desserts you see above...thinking, "those look too good to be true"...well sadly, you are correct. Those were all specially hand-picked desserts for my guests, however, you can see a blurred vision of my sweet little chocolate cake below, candles included!

My biggest regret of the night was being so caught up in all the excitement and chatter and running around, that I completely forgot to snap a few photos of the most delicious Basque Tortilla de Patata and Los Pimientos that my sweet friends from Espana made for us all to indulge in. My beautiful friend Nere, created two of the most perfect looking Tortillas I have seen, other than the delicious ones sitting on some bar in San Sebastian. They were a meal in themselves and my guests were ohhhing and awwing with every bite. The same went for the gorgeous platter of burnt-sienna colored Pimientos con ajo y aceite de oliva (peppers with garlic and olive oil) that our wonderful amigos de Pamplona prepared to pair with their fabulous vino de Navarra in Spain. Check out their website - it's fantastico!!

Here's a gluten-free recipe for Basque Tortilla de Patata:

- 4 Slices Bacon

- 2 tsp Sliced Green Onions/tops

- 3/4 tsp Salt

- Dash Pepper

- 3 Med. Potatoes

- 1 tbs Snipped Parsley

- 1/8 tsp Dried Thyme, Crushed

- 4 Large Eggs

In 8-inch skillet cook bacon until crisp; drain, reserving 2 T of drippings. Crumble bacon and set aside. In same skillet combine reserved drippings, peeled, thinly sliced potatoes, onion, parsley, salt,thyme and pepper. Cover tightly; cook over low heat until potatoes are barely tender, 20 to 25 minutes, stirring carefully once or twice. In small bowl beat together eggs and milk; pour over potato mixture.

Cover and continue cooking over very low heat til egg is set in center, 8 to 10 minutes. With a wide spatula, loosen sides and bottom and slide potatoes
out onto serving plate, or serve from skillet.

Aside from our muy delicioso Tapas, I also served some tasty gourmet-style all beef hamburgers I found at Whole Foods. There were a variety of fresh-seasoned flavors to choose from, such as basil, sun dried tomato and mozzarella burgers or a jalapeno and herb burger and my favorite was the mushroom and mozarella burger. They are all so delicious and are sure to please any hamburger connoisseur! In keeping the menu fun but low-key, I also found some delicious Kettle gourmet chips in a variety of flavors that ARE safe for Celiacs and so tasty, you won't be able to eat just a few. The final touch was all the hamburger fixings, which included fresh garden tomatoes, sliced onions, butter leaf lettuce, pickles and all the GF condiments one could need for a burger!

Not only was the party such a delight, but so was the satisfaction that came from hosting a gluten-free party where everyone walked away totally satisfied and sated. It was a lovely evening filled with delicious food and a wonderful guest list.

Here's to next year and eating safely for the next 365 days!!

Viva Espana!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

A Place of Inspiration ~

The past couple of weekends I was luckily enough to spend time in one of my favorite locations on the planet, Sun Valley, Idaho. There's something truly magical and spiritual about the Big Wood River Valley, the beauty of Mt. Baldy and the way the sun sets behind the Sawtooth Mountains.

I had been anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Sun Valley Writer's Conference since last year, and though I wasn't able to attend the entire weekend program (who knew this was so hugely popular!), attending the individual seminars and lectures was easy as pie...gluten-free, of course! This year's theme was Frontiers in a Changing World, and I was lucky enough to hear five amazing authors speak, including Kati Marton, Ian Buruma and the charmingly funny Frank McCourt, just to name a few.

Being the aspiring writer that I am, I was truly in awe of these great storytellers and their gifts of putting life onto a page with some ink and creative thought. Listening to their insightful world-views and ability to discuss such a vast variety of topics reminded me that life is a journey, and boy do I need to make sure I learn something new each and every day I'm able to take it in. Not only were the authors words so alive and genuine, but they were supported by the magic of the venue, Sun Valley!

Throughout the weekend there was delicious food to be found and eaten, as well. The town of Ketchum, just one mile from the Sun Valley Resort, is so delightful and charming and warm and happy and...oh, I could go on an on. I am SO at peace in that place, I cannot begin to describe the blanket of warmth I receive when my feet are planted in that town. I'm digressing... there were quite a few great restaurants I visited that not only prepared my gluten- free dishes correctly, but staff totally GETS IT! They understand eating and living gluten-free in this little place on the map of the for any of you Celiacs out there who find themselves in this part of Idaho, feel safe to indulge your taste buds at the following little haunts and enjoy:

~ Desperados Mexican Cantina - YUMMY!

~ Vintage - A charmingly cozy new bistro inside a historic Ketchum cabin

~ Ketchum Grill - A favorite of mine

~ China Panda - Obviously - Chinese food

~ Baci - A great Italian Cafe and Wine Bar

I am already looking forward to next year's conference and to the endless possibilities that await me between now and next August 2009. Between now and then, I intend to do a lot of reading and writing on this blog and hope that in the next twelve months the Celiac world will also be the beneficiary of some exciting and earth-shaking discoveries in research and a good, moist chocolate cake!!

Be well.