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.