Chef GabeThompson

If you ask any foodie in New York City what they think of L’Apicio, L’Artusi, Dell’anima, or Anfora, I’d be SHOCKED if you found someone who didn’t like these restaurants. I’d also be SHOCKED if you found someone whose jaw didn’t drop as he or she exclaimed “oh my god I love it there” and SHOCKED if you found someone who didn’t immediately start naming all of their favorite dishes at each restaurant. The brussels sprouts at L’Artusi! The pasta and gluten free pasta at L’Apicio! The wine at Anfora! The octopus at Dell’anima! There is no question that these Epicurean Group masterpieces are some of the most well known restaurants in New York City, and last week I was fortunate enough to sit with Executive Chef Gabe Thompson and discuss how he caters to people with gluten allergies and sensitivities, and what the gluten free options are on his menus.

On his gluten free pasta… If you haven’t tried the gluten free pasta at L’Artusi or L’Apicio, you need to stop reading this and go try it now. As Chef Gabe explained, his restaurants have had gluten free pasta for the last 3 years or so, and in the last 9 months they have started making their gluten free pasta in-house. The pasta is a blend of potato, rice, and tapioca flour and it is absolutely delicious. The Epicurean team introduced gluten free pasta into their restaurants after they saw Batali and other top restauranteurs offering the substitute and as gluten free dining was becoming a larger part of their restaurant.

On catering to diners with dietary restrictions… Menu items are meant to be allergy friendly. At Italian restaurants it can be tough to serve delicious allergen-free meals, as most dishes contain gluten and dairy in some form, as well as garlic and onion which are two allergens that are more common than people think! As Chef Gabe explained, “We don’t sneak gluten in.” If gluten is added to a dish it is because breadcrumbs are added; however, breadcrumbs are just added for texture and can easily be withheld.

On training his employees… Menus at the Epicurean restaurants change often. When a new menu item is added, it is posted so employees can see the addition and which ingredients are in the dish. Employees also go through regular trainings to familiarize them with the menu and the different offerings.

On his favorite dishes… Chef Gabe is inspired by vegetables and takes menu pairing very seriously. While at L’Apicio I witnessed the team decide which new fruit they would feature on their watercress salad; grilled blackberry with sliced almonds or grilled peaches with pistachios?? Chef Gabe commented that his favorite dishes are the salads, the mushrooms at L’Artusi and the chicken entrees at either location. I had the chicken at L’Apicio when I went to the restaurant the following night and I can vouch for how INCREDIBLE this chicken is. Another must try!

Thank you Chef Gabe and the Epicurean team for meeting with me, allowing me to partake in a food tasting, and for providing New York City with four unbelievable restaurants!

Mikey’s Muffins

As the gluten free industry grows, I am proud to see the number of gluten free products and brands grow, too. Mikey’s Muffins, brought to you by my childhood friend, Michael Tierney, is a bread company that manufactures a variety of gluten free, dairy free, grain free, and soy free breads and english muffins. Not only are the muffins gluten free, but they are also paleo friendly and low calorie! As the brand continues to grow and develop, I decided it was time to give these muffins a try, and I am proud to give Mikey’s Muffins my nobread seal of approval. Simplicity is Mikey’s mantra and he only uses six main ingredients: eggs, almond flour, purified water, coconut flour, baking soda, and kosher salt. I am a believer that if there are too many ingredients listed, you don’t know what an ingredient is, or you can’t pronounce it, then you can’t buy it.

Keeping in line with “simple,” there are only three varieties of muffins, too. Each muffin is under 100 calories and it’s hard to believe a product with so few ingredients can be so healthy, and tasty! My favorite is the original, but my gluten free father raves about the cinnamon raisin. The taste and texture reminds me of a classic muffin top and had me reminiscing to my muffin top eating days.

Mikey’s Muffins has officially launched into larger retailers including Fairway Markets and select Whole Foods locations, as well as into a lot of small independent health food stores. As Michael told me, for the highest level of enjoyment, you should toast the muffins in a toaster oven or conventional oven. He finds these ovens work best to deliver even heat and color to the muffins. Also, as with most gluten free breads, the muffins will take a little longer to toast than regular bread so feel free to leave the muffins in for an extra bake cycle.

I highly recommend everyone go out and buy themselves a box of Mikey’s Muffins and check out http://www.mikeysmuffins.com/ for more product information and to see where you can buy your next box!

Pasta Flyer

Mark Ladner, Executive Chef of Del Posto, is highly acclaimed and praised amongst us in the gluten free community. Not only did he spearhead an effort to make Del Posto’s menu more accommodating for gluten allergies, but he successfully developed a gluten-free replica of everything on Del Posto’s menu, and he did it phenomenally well.

This week, Chef Ladner kickstarted his campaign to create Pasta Flyer, a gluten-free pasta bowl restaurant that he hopes to bring to NYC this Fall.His goal is to have diners who follow the nobread diet but miss pasta come to Pasta Flyer and remember how delicious pasta can be. Through his technique that enables him to serve any combination of pasta shape, sauce and side in 3 minutes, diners will be guaranteed a 100% gluten-free meal (all pastas will be made in a gluten-free certified facility). I’ve had some great gluten free pasta in NYC, but I have yet to experience gluten free pasta from a dedicated gluten free pasta shop. I’m dairy free, too, and I always have to ask for nobutter and nocheese on my pasta. At Pasta Flyer, you will have the flexibility to choose exactly what is put into your dish and ensure that everything is 100% tailored to your allergy and liking. What could be better?!

Chef Ladner makes gluten free dining easy, delicious, and fun, and I look forward to the success of his new venture. The Kickstarter hopes to raise $85,000 by July 3rd in order to break ground on their gluten-free facility. Not only will Ladner and his team be giving back to the community with their new shop, but they also intend to give 5% of the funds raised to the National Celiac Disease Society’s college scholarship program. If the pasta at Pasta Flyer is ANYTHING like the gluten free pasta creations at Del Posto, you should expect this to be more than just tasty, fast-casual gluten free food. Whether you’re part of the nobread crowd or not, delicious pasta is on its way to New York City… I hope to see you soon, Pasta Flyer!

Enjoy Life Foods

When I first went gluten free almost five years ago, the fact that I was no longer able to order dessert at restaurants or pick on the cookies and cakes my roommates kept in our apartment was absolutely devastating. What was I going to eat to satisfy my sugar cravings?? Thank you whoever suggested trying out Enjoy Life cookies. It was love at first bite for myself and the soft baked chocolate chip cookies. To this day, I always have a box of these on hand; the cookies are small, but taste better than the chocolate chip cookies of my childhood and it only takes one or two cookies to satisfy my cravings. They’re so good, my non-gluten free friends now buy them, too!

My favorite Enjoy Life product is the the crunchy chocolate chip cookies. Unlike their soft-baked sister (highlighted above), the hard cookies are larger and more filling. For essentially the same amount of calories, you get more chocolate and more cookie. More cookie= more happiness! Other favorite products: the soft baked snickerdoodle and gingerbread spice cookies, the crunchy vanilla honey graham cookie, the cocoa loco chewy brownie bar, and double chocolate crunchy cookie. Also, everyone who knows me knows how much I love chocolate. As much as I wish I could keep a bag of Enjoy Life’s addictive chocolate morsels in my apartment, as I said, they are addictive, and eating a large pack a day just isn’t healthy! Enjoy Life also has chocolate bars made from rice milk; these are absolutely addicting, as well!

I am thrilled to see that Enjoy Life Foods has ventured outside of the world of cookies and sugary treats, and has created a new line of chips: Plentils. Made from lentil powder and potato starch and offered in a variety of different flavors, Plentils put the classic potato chip to shame. The chips are light, flavorful, and unique, and I highly recommend them!

Thank you, Enjoy Life Foods, for making gluten free living easier, and more delicious! I’m excited to see what you come out with next.