Wednesday, June 25, 2008


Yesterday I was finally galvanized into action.

New York may very well be the only city in this country that can support a restaurant devoted to macaroni and cheese. And not just one, either, I know of at least three.

I heard the chatter that S'MAC had introduced gluten free macaroni and cheese, but for some reason I just couldn't get my but over there.

Yesterday was the day of no more excuses, in honor of their 2nd anniversary S'MAC was offering $1 mac-n-cheese, $2 for gluten free. The allure of inexpensive, gluten free food finally pulled me in.

After working up my appetite by walking all the way downtown to 12th Street from my office at 49th Street, and a minor detour and call to 411 to verify the address, I found this hole-in-the-wall joint hopping with people. All of them loving their mac-n-cheese.

I stepped up the counter, paid my $2, and fought my way to a counter seat. It no time my cute little skillet of All American mac-n-cheese arrived. And it was good.

I grew up with Kraft in the blue box and a distinct aversion for anything Velveeta. After trying mac-n-cheese at picnics and food service offers in cafeterias I was bewildered as to why so many people consider this a comfort food.

Now I know. This warm, cheesy, gooey skillet of goodness could just about cure all ills as far as I'm concerned. I can tell you how great it was, and how I want to go back and try all the different combinations. I can't really make educated comparisons, but I can say that this is the best mac-n-cheese I've ever had.

Appearantly, they have created all their recipes to be gluten free, even the bread crumbs, and only the noodles are gluten. There is an additional $1 charge for gluten free noodles in any style or any size. So if you're ever in New York City I will be overjoyed to take you to S'MAC!

The Last Bite

Monday, May 19, 2008

Macbeth Goes Gluten Free

Every once in a while I get fed up with the hustle of New York and I’m ready to throw in the towel, pack up and move to a small South American country, leaving no forwarding address and not looking back. And then I get an opportunity like I did this past Sunday. My best girlfriend managed to get us tickets to see Patrick Stewart in Macbeth at the Lyceum Theatre.*

To truly appreciate this event you have to understand Alyssa and I. We met in college and took British literature together. She LOVES Patrick Stewart and has been raving about a performance of Othello that she saw him in 10+ years ago. Me, I’ve seen Macbeth four times already. We know what we’re talking about. We were geeks in paradise last night.

Set in Stalinist Russia this is by far the sexiest, bloodiest Macbeth I have ever seen. Stewart made an amazing, introspective, tortured Macbeth, much more depth and emotion than I’ve ever seen portrayed before. And no Macbeth can live up to his potential with out a strong Lady Macbeth; Kate Fleetwood’s young wife brought a May-December aspect to their relationship that was phenomenal.

As always, ultimately it’s the director’s vision that makes or breaks any performance. Rupert Goold’s use of the stark stage and projected images allowed the acting to shine through, no fancy props aside from a refrigerator, two gurneys and a sink that ran water from one tap and blood from the other. His insertion of the Weird Sisters into scenes where they have no lines was impressive. If you’re in New York in the near future and you have a chance to see this production, we highly recommend it.

After the show I took Alyssa to Lilli and Loo, site of the first Worry Free Dinner, to share my find with her. Since it was our evening out we decided to splurge and share an appetizer and two meals, thinking we’d have plenty of leftovers. They have a whole separate gluten free menu so we didn’t need to worry about picking items out of the main menu.

The food was so good, there was nothing left to take home. Obviously we were in the mood for shrimp. We ordered Shrimp Tempura, Masaman Shrimp Curry and Saigon Shrimp. It’s so nice to eat with someone who understands and accommodates your dietary restrictions and is game to try whatever you want to. I love tempura, and this one wasn’t quite as light and crispy as I remember the very best being, it was definitley equal to most tempura that I’ve had, and the citrus mayo was a nice touch. It’s hard to go wrong with a curry, sweet, creamy and rich, Alyssa would have liked it to be a little spicier. The Saigon shrimp was covered in a richly textured, spicier glaze that really hit the spot. We topped that with a gluten free blueberry cake and left with full tummies and sated taste buds.

An evening of great theatre, great food and fellowship was just what the doctor ordered. By the end of the evening, I felt like I was completely over my cold.

*note that Alyssa's apple martini is not gluten free, but she insisted it appear in at least one picture.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Trattoria Vivolo, Harrison, NY

In Loving Memory of Lilian Shreve

My great aunt’s viewing was held last Saturday. Afterwards we did exactly as she would have wanted: we celebrated her life with a raucous family dinner at her favorite little Italian restaurant, Trattoria Vivolo.

We have eaten at Trattoria Vivolo many times and no one has ever had a bad experience. As soon as we were seated I spoke to our waitress and explained my restrictions. She asked intelligent questions to make sure she understood me.

When she brought the bruschetta to the table, I saw a light go off above her head. She hurried back with a small dish of the fresh tomato topping for me. I ordered the Salmone con Carciofi- Roasted salmon, artichokes, Gaeta olives, lemon, herbs, olive oil, white wine and it arrived sans croquet, which she told me was potato rolled in bread crumbs. Along with our coffee we ordered several cannolis to share, and the waitress brought me a plate with just a little bit of the cheese filling.

Now, I realize that it sounds silly to go to an Italian restaurant, but at the good ones there are many pasta/gluten free options. And in this case, circumstances called for a visit to The Little Italian Restaurant.

The staff of Trattoria Vivolo are very friendly, thoughtful and helpful. The chef is willing to make modifications to recipes when it’s practical. Next time I go, I’m going to see if the can prepare gluten free pasta for me. I will of course call ahead and speak to the chef.

If you’re in the area and have a hankering for Italian, there are many worse places to go.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lilli and Loo

This past Tuesday I had the honor of attending the first Worry Free Dinner, hosted at Lilli and Loo. The event was organized by Allergic Girl, along with Vanessa of Food Matters and the staff of Lilli and Loo. They had a gluten, and other allergen, free menu for us to choose from. It was so wonderful to have a choice of items to order from, rather then to choose the only menu item that can eat.

Besides Allergic Girl, Vanessa and myself there were two other women who were able to attend. We had a wonderful evening of great food and great conversation. It was so nice to eat and chat without having to worry about what I was eating. It was truly a first and a wonderful experience. Besides the meal Allergic Girl had gift bags for us with gluten and allergen free foods and other goodies for us to try.

Lilli and Loo keeps gluten free items on their regular menu for us GF folks. The wait staff and chefs are very aware of food issues, allergies and restrictions and are happy to accommodate. While we were talking we were approached by another gluten free woman who was visiting and had found that they had a gluten free menu.

Since the menu was prearranged for us we had a choice of four appetizers, four entrées and four sides. Among other things there were: Saigon Roll, Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wrap, Spicy Beef Salad, Pomegranate Teriyaki Grilled Chicken, Balsamic Teriyaki Grilled Salmon, Borneo Orange Chicken or Beef, Chicken or Shrimp with Fresh Mango, Fried Rice and Singapore Noodles. Their entire gluten free menu is much more extensive.

I tired the Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wrap, Borneo Orange Chicken and Singapore Noodles. I ate entirely more than I should have because it was all so delicious. It was such a treat to have oriental food again. The Spicy Chicken Lettuce Wrap was not too spicy but very flavorful, alone it was enough for a meal. The Borneo Orange Chicken was a crispy dish with a sweet orange sauce, it’s been so long since I’ve had a crispy dish, and to be able to have one with out worrying about what else was cooked in the fryer oil. The Singapore noodles were like standard fried rice, with noodles rather than rice. Again, it’s been a very long time since I’ve had noodles like these.

I highly recommend Lilli and Loo whenever you’re in New York. I plan to take all my friends there so that I can try all the super yummy looking dishes on the menu!

Monday, March 3, 2008


New York, meet Yolato. As far as I am concerned the gelato craze has reached its apex. Yolato is gelato made from yogurt.After seeing this new store open on Park Avenue I became curious and I emailed the company to find out more about this yogurt gelato, ingredients and specifically if it was gluten free. Not only did I get an informative response, I was offered a tour of one the facilities.

On Saturday the lovely and knowledgeable Joanne, manager of the Upper West Side location, educated me about Yolato. They make three very healthy and delectable products; sorbet, yogurt gelato and soft serve Yolato. All of the products are made from gluten free base mixes to which the flavors are added.

Each flavor is made in individual small batches and all the equipment is washed and sterilized between flavors to prevent any type of cross contamination. The base mixes are stored separately and the flavors are pre-packaged for individual batches, again, to prevent contamination.

The sorbets are made from a water-based mixture that is dairy free and fat free. Sorbet flavors include: Lychee, Kiwi, Raspberry, Pineapple, Pink Grapefruit, Watermelon, Pomegranate, Piña Colada, Mixed Berry, Mango, Blueberry, Peach, Strawberry, and Aloe Vera. The flavors change on a daily or weekly basis. I tried the Lychee, Pomegranate, and in the spirit of exploration, Aloe Vera. It was good! It reminded me of something from my childhood, although I can’t quite put my finger on what. Both sorbets and gelatos are served with flavor specific paddles that are exchanged or washed every hour or so.

The gelatos are made from a base of milk, fat free milk and fat free yogurt. The natural yogurt is called Yoggi, it’s sharp and yogurty (go figure), very refreshing. Other flavors include: Mint Chocolate, Cookies & Cream, Coconut, Chocolate, Carmel, Ferrero Rocher, Pistachio, Birthday Cake, Nutella, Peanut Butter, Tiramisu Cheesecake, Strawberry Cheesecake, and Vanilla. These flavors, too, are rotated. From my original inquiry I learned that the Cookies & Cream and Tiramisu flavors contain gluten.

Of the gluten free flavors Vanilla and Nutella have wafer cookies used as decorations, but not mixed in. I think that I sampled, and approve of, every single gluten free flavor. They were as rich, creamy and flavorful as Roman gelato.

The soft serve Yolato is made from a base of fat free milk and fat free yogurt. Each location has two flavors at a time, plain (Yoggi), and a fruit flavor that changes weekly. I got to try Strawberry, and that tasted like fresh yogurt and fresh fruit.

If anything can taste sinful and healthful at the same time, this succeeds. There are lots of fresh toppings to go on the Yolato, including; Strawberries, Blueberries, Blackberries, Kiwi, Pineapple, Mango, Cap’n Crunch, Granola, Coconut, Mixed Nuts, Fruit Loops, Chocolate Chips, Rainbow Sprinkles, Cheerios, Peanuts, Chocolate Jimmies and Oreo’s. Obviously, not all of these are gluten free, but I asked about spoon cross contamination and I was told that spoons are only used for each specific topping.

Yolato’s goal is to create a healthy, fresh, guilt free desert. They advertise being carb smart and having less sugar than most other brands of ice cream, and they do offer sugar free varieties. The sorbet and soft serve are fat free, where their gelato contains 0-8% fat depending on the flavor. This may be the healthiest way to enjoy Nutella!

Yolato is currently a local phenomenon, with five locations in New York City and two in New Jersey. They even deliver if you’re close enough, and I think my office is, just barely.

I loved how clean the store was. Both the front and back were spotless. The gelato and sorbet were carefully sculpted to look… windswept. The nutritional information is boldly posted to the left of the door, and along the wall opposite the gelato there is a long diner style counter with stools.

After this tour I am confident in eating here and recommending Yolato to anyone and everyone, gluten free or not. I wonder if the can make a wedding cake? I also whole-heartedly support this local company and its commitment to health, allergy awareness and general food safety.

I really can’t say enough good things about Yolato. You'd better check it out for yourself!

***I would like to thank all the staff of Yolato for being so helpful and friendly!***

Friday, February 29, 2008

Pershing Square Diner

The Pershing Square Diner is located on 42nd street, just across from the south exit of Grand Central Station. I went there once with my mother, and it was so good that I took a friend back a few days later. The main menu and bar menu are not especially gluten free, but the wait staff were very helpful and accommodating.

The tortilla chips that go along the guacamole are corn. Just avoiding the breadbasket and pasta dishes isn’t too hard. Both times I ordered a hamburger without bun, explaining to the waiter that I couldn’t eat the bun. On my second visit I had to send the burger back because it did come out with a bun.

The salads and vegetable were also good. We never ordered from the grill but the selections looked good, and judging by the hamburger, I expect that it would be delicious.

You have to be careful, as in any non-gluten free restaurant, but if you have picky friends, or you’re by Grand Central and you want a guaranteed good meal, you could do much worse. As always, the best bet is to carefully explain you condition and restrictions to the wait staff before the meal.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunset Grille, White Plains, NY

Spending time with my extended family can be difficult, especially when it comes to meals. But my great aunt is nearing the end of her days and my mother came out to visit. When I heard that my cousin had made dinner reservations I prepared myself for a salad and deprivation. We are an Italian family, and we gravitate towards Italian restaurants. Hard on me.

Walking into Sunset Grille I was surprised. I was not expecting Mexican, and I immediately saw danger. On every table and on the bar counter were baskets of Tortilla chips. As we hung up our jackets and took our seats I asked the hostess if the chips were flour or corn. Her English was not quite up to the task and she flagged our waiter. He assured me that they were all corn, homemade and fresh. I grabbed one as I headed to the bathroom.

The first hurdle navigated successfully I stopped to look around. The setting was quaint, with several separate rooms of tables; each room was cozy and didn’t reveal how large the restaurant really is. Most of the staff are Hispanic, and the support staff seemed to have limited English, but our waiter was very helpful. After I explained to him my restrictions he pointed out which dishes he was sure had no flour.

The menu has some of the typical Mexican fare including tacos, guacamole, enchiladas as well as grilled fish, chicken and beef. My mother and I shared a chopped vegetable salad and we had guacamole for the table. Both were delicious. For our entrée we had roasted chicken that came with sautéed spinach and potatoes with cheese. The other dishes that were ordered included pork shoulder and steak tacos. All looked great and they were much more cuisine than I had expected from a Mexican restaurant, and I couldn’t keep the tortilla chips out of my mouth.


Pinkberry yogurt joint is the new celebrity craze. We see stars toting their Pinkberry cups all over the tabloids. And now we see regular New Yorkers with them as well. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

The store on 32nd Street in Manhattan is a cute little japanismo affair with little chairs, tables and do-dads for sale. There are three flavor choices, regular, coffee and green tea. You order your size, flavor and number of toppings. Toppings include the usual sprinkles and chocolate chips as well as non-gluten free granola, cocoa and fruity pebbles and Cap’n Crunch. They also have an admirable selection of fresh fruit: berries, banana, kiwi, etc.

The list of ingredients, posted conspicuously along with the nutrition information lists natural flavoring as one of the ingredients. I inquired about this and this was the response I got:

Dear Vittoria,

Thank you for choosing pinkberry, correct our product is gluten free please visit our website and go to FAQ and you’ll see that our product does not contain gluten.


I tried the green tea without any toppings, my wallet isn’t quite robust enough to support that. It’s no wonder that all the celebs are eating it, it’s low cal, low fat, low sugar and it tastes really good. Mine actually tasted like green tea and yogurt, rather than iced sugar. I definite hot day treat. Or a long day at work treat. Or an any day of the week treat for that matter.


I went to a Chipotle restaurant with one of my good friends and although I felt very confident about the status of the food I visited their website and submitted an inquiry as to the gluten free nature of the food.

Here is the response I received:

Dear Vittoria:

Thanks for writing to us; we're glad that you enjoy our Food with Integrity. Regarding Gluten, you can eat anything we serve except for our large burrito tortillas, our small soft taco tortillas, and possibly our hot red tomatillo salsa (there is a small amount of distilled vinegar in it which some celiac websites still say might be problematic, although most don't).

Everything else is fine for you to eat including our crispy corn tacos, our corn chips, and our burrito bowls (no tortilla).

If you are highly sensitive, you can always ask our staff to change their gloves and they would be happy to do that at your request. Additionally, since there is always the slight possibility of cross-contamination in our restaurants because our folks work with wheat tortillas all day long, we encourage you to carefully consider your dining choices.

You can find this and other Allergen and Nutrition information on our website at


George Seno
Department of Gripes and Happiness

Kudos to Chipotle, and to George Seno, for the (mostly) gluten free menu and for this thoughtful reply. He obviously did some research and I really appreciate that. Chipotle gets my vote for being (mostly) gluten free as well as being environmentally responsible.

Chipotle believes in doing only one thing, and doing it well. You can choose a burrito, taco, burrito bowl or salad. The staff makes your meal right in front of you. You can choose your meat, your type of beans, rice and toppings, all as they prepare it for you. Watching someone prepare my food tends to give me a greater sense of security, but there's always a little nagging thought that tells me I don't know what happened in the back.

I had a salad with the chicken, black beans, cheese and corn salsa. I watched how they served it and all the staff were conscientious about not mixing spoons, or even touching the food with their hands. I am extremely sensitive and I had no problems.

The 42nd Street location was reasonably busy for a Saturday afternoon, but it both the dinning area and the staff were neat and clean and the staff were considerate.

*as a side note, notice how they have a little tree and a 'green' request not to print the email. More Kudos.