Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Restaurant Review: Don Antonio's by Starita

Warning: This review might become the most honest post I've ever written. I first went to Don Antonio's by Starita with a friend after work for dinner and drinks. She had researched her neighborhood and knew this had plenty of gluten free options for me. It sounded like the perfect place or both of us.

In addition to our cocktails we started with burrata mozzarella.  I was offered gluten free bread to go along with it. The bread was awful. Like, so bad you'd rather chomp on tree bark over this stuff. It was so dense and flavorless. I hated it and didn't take another bite. I still cringe thinking about it. Yuck.

When the burrata came my mind was blown (in a really great way!) It was the largest ball of mozzarella I have ever seen! And when we cut that baby open, tons of gooey mozzarella goodness came poring out. I was in cheese heaven! (What other kind of heaven is there anyway?) They paired it with wonderful prosciutto, balsamic glaze, olive oil and two small tomatoes. It was very delicious.

Next, we placed our order off of their gluten free pizza portion of the menu. I asked a few questions to ensure proper food handling as well. We settled on the Margherita with Salami Gluten Free Pizza. While ordering, the women next to us over heard and when they placed their order they decided to try the gluten free pie as well (not for allergy issues.)

Our pie came out first and looked amazing. You would have no idea it was gluten free. The crust was thin, bubbly and tasted perfect. My friend and I literally kept talking about it... Until the pizza came to the table next to us. And looked like a cracker!!!!!!!! I was poisoned!! I immediately freaked out. I definitely frightened the people next to me by interrogating them to ensure they too ordered g-free. I called my server and the owner over. Boy was that fun. They too were scared. The owner literally stood in the corner listening not saying a word while the server (who was most likely straight off the boat from Italy) tried to talk to me in broken English. He swore we received a gluten free pie. I literally had argue and show him that our pizza looked entirely different than the one next to us. End result: he went to ask the chef. Downfall for the server: the kitchen was three feet from our table and we could see the entire conversation play out. The two chefs, server and owner looked like they were huddling before going to war. Whispering, peering over their shoulders, looking at our tables - the whole nine.

My friend and I saw the entire thing unfold. We both assumed they'd come over and lie but to my surprise (and not a happy surprise) they admitted their mistake and apologized. Great. Satisfaction of being right didn't really make me excited on this one. Within about thirty seconds the owner walked over to also apologize, comped our entire bill and provided me with a $50 to return another time so they could get it right.

I was skeptical but also impressed. The most I expected was to receive a comp for the pizza, not the entire bill. I thanked the owner, left a tip (we really didn't know the protocol for something like this) and left. I grabbed the first cab I could find and hightailed it home. It didn't make much difference because I started feeling sick along the way. Lovely. The following two days were even more painful.

I waited a few months before returning. On my second visit we ate the bar. We ordered drinks and burrata. Yet again, they served me the same crappy gluten free bread. When ordering our gluten free pizza we were very clear that I had an allergy and even pointed to the gluten free section of the menu.

The pie came out and looked exactly the same as the table next to us on our previous trip. Great news! The crust was super thin and crispy and to our surprise tasted pretty good. We opted for the regular Margherita - covered in tomato sauce, homemade mozzarella pecorino romano, basil and olive oil. It tasted amazing!

I have to say, I was hesitant to return after my previous experience but let's be honest, this is New York City. If someone gives you $50 to eat at their restaurants that doesn't look like a dump, you take it! I'm glad I did. I was pretty angry after my first visit to Don Antonio's. After my second visit I know I will return. I know most people with Celiac would have completely boycotted any restaurant that made them sick - sure, my judgement could have failed me but thankfully it didn't. The burrata is so amazing, how could I have to pass that up. ;)

Friday, December 6, 2013

Gluten Free Roast Beef

Where's the beef!? That's not a question often asked in my kitchen. I tend to cook turkey, chicken or shrimp and rarely even purchase red meat. Sometimes, you just have a craving, or in my case, found a really great deal and popped a juicy roast in the freezer for a rainy day.

I'm sure I've shared this story before but in case not, my first meal I ever remember cooking was beef roast. Random, right? In high school my mom worked during the day (mid nights prior to that) and would call on her way home to have me start dinner. It was usually beef or pork roast. Super simple and in felt like a junior chef when then fork tender meat came out of the oven.

That feeling still hasn't changed. It's pretty darn amazing that you can put a large tough piece of meat in a slow cooker and a few hours later, voila, tender beef cooked to perfection!

Not the best photo but beef roasts are not the prettiest meal in my opinion.

1 tbsp olive oil
3 lb top or bottom round of beef
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes
2 cups red wine
2 cups beef broth
1/2 tsp thyme
2 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
2 cups peeled, chopped root vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, etc

1) Coat the roast in olive oil then pat with cornstarch, salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the roast, turning on to each side to ensure entire roast is browned.
2) Place beef round roast in slow cooker, then add carrots, onion, potatoes and any other desired vegetable. Add in garlic, wine, broth, thyme and bay leaves.  Cook on Low until the meat is tender, 6 to 8 hours.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Trader Joe's Gluten Free Polenta

Organic Polenta

I know I have mentioned before that I have an obsession with Trader Joe's. It's a pretty torrid love affair. I can't get enough of that place and their cute, unique foodie products. I really love cooking with new ingredients so that makes this affair even more complex.

Okay okay, enough about TJ's. Let's talk about my new find: polenta! Alright, so I know this isn't new, like at all, but it's new to me. I've only had it once, which was an amazing creamy polenta fricassee of truffleed mushroom dish from Scarpetta - life changing actually. But that was it. I didn't even know you could purchase a precooked tube of it for only $2! That was obviously a no brainer! But what to do with it? Well at first, I let it sit in my cupboard for 2 months. (Sorry, I failed you TJ's.) after dusting it off, it was magical. A perfect ingredient that can compliment almost any dish with the right flavor!

I kept it simple and sliced the polenta thin then pan fried each side with a little olive oil. I topped my polenta cakes with a bit of homemade sauce pasta sauce and Parmesan. Yum. So tasty! I'm already plotting out the next time I make it: I want to top with Mediterranean ingredients! I think feta, olives and red pepper with onion would taste amazing with the cakes. I'll keep you posted!

Xoxo Trader obsessed blogger
P.s. Hey TJs', start making more labeled gluten free products!