Monday, April 30, 2012

The Kinsale - Boston, MA

There is little else that bothers me than restaurants that go through the "effort" to mark items as "gluten free" and then don't do this thoroughly.  The Kinsale tries to give you a head's up on what's gluten free which I appreciate, but only marks about three items as such. If you look at those items you can deduce a fair number of other options that can be safe for a gluten free diner. For instance, their mixed grill is marked "GF" and it includes their steak tips (marinated, not in BBQ sauce), turkey tips, banger sausages, and colcannon potatoes. Yet, the steak tips entree, the turkey tips entree, the bangers & mash, and the side of colcannon potatoes - all of these aren't marked as "GF." Some of these might have an easily left to the side sauce (or so it seems), but it seems a shame that they wouldn't mark items with an asterisk that could be gluten free with a few alterations. Upon further discussion, you can discover a few other options that can be made safely for someone eating gluten free. 

So, aside from the digging you have to do on your own, this place gets some major props for having not one, but TWO gluten free beers. of those being Bard's (not my favorite, but not undrinkable) and the other being on tap!! I don't know if they always have a GF rotating brew, but last night I finally was able to try the much lauded but difficult to find Dogfish Head Tweason'ale!!!! Um, YUM. Finally a more complex gluten free brew - oh, did I mention that it was ON TAP?  I was pretty excited and damned happy to say the least. I will be reviewing the actual beer in a separate post on gluten free beer...more on that later.

In the end, I had an average turkey burger with fresh avocado and a spicy aioli - nothing to write about. This was paired with a side salad and I ordered a separate side of the colcannon potatoes. The potatoes were easily my favorite. Colcannon potatoes are a combination of spuds, cabbage, and speckled with carrots. I would totally go back for more of those. Next time, I think I may stick with Irish food at the Irish Pub. Another diner ordered the bangers & mash (aka colcannon taters) and was quite pleased. When I go back for another pint of Tweason'ale, I'll be having some sausage with those potatoes! 

Food - two and a half stars out of five.
Beef - five stars, period.

Kitchen On Common - Belmont, MA

A friend of mine recently had a small soiree for her birthday at Kitchen On Common located in Cushing Square, Belmont, MA. This was my second visit to Kitchen On Common and it was no less delightful than the first. This gem of a place is tiny, but delivers big time on flavor. Some bonuses: 1. Chef Jon Kokubo's seasonal menus offer local, fresh ingredients. 2. The food is prepared to order, so if you have any allergy, it seems that Chef Kokubo can handle it. 3. It's BYOB and if you forget that, there's a wine shop right next door (quite convenient!)

Onto the food...

For starters I ordered a salad of roasted ruby beets, radish, baby spinach, crispy shallots, sweet candied pecans, and a crazy-good vinaigrette. The flavors were fresh and earthy and paired well with my Albarino (bought next door). I could have eaten a bowl full of this and called it a day. That being said, my entree was so good that I was happy I did not further indulge. The half chicken is pan roasted as it is ordered, so it takes a little while. The wait is worth it for the perfectly crisped skin and the juicy chicken that follows. Nicely cooked and seasoned chicken is one of life's best delights. Wanting my meal to be both gluten free and dairy free, I kept the brussel sprouts but subbed maple roasted carrots for the potatoes that come with the chicken. I was a big fan of the roasted brussel sprouts and I did like the carrots, though I found it difficult to taste the maple.

This is a great place for an intimate dinner party and a cute place for a date. It's perfect for four ladies wanting to enjoy great food alongside great company, without the fear of having to be slighted because of an allergy.

My only complaint: the Chef's wife had made these awesome GF chocolate peanut butter cookies the last time I was there and they were sold out this time around! Kitchen On Common is definitely a great find for gluten free and dairy free diners.

Four starts out of five.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Red Lentil - Watertown, MA

If you asked me a few years ago if I'd ever think that vegan, gluten free food could be considered a "foodie find" I'd probably have laughed in your face. After my visit(s) to The Red Lentil, I can honestly say that gluten free and vegan absolutely can be foodie finds given the proper, loving treatment. In fact, I posit that this type of cuisine can be completely addicting and deceptively dairy free.

My first trip to The Red Lentil started with one of their most popular appetizers: Gobi Manchurian. This dish starts with cauliflower dipped in chickpea flour battered, then deep fried; it is then combined with peppers, onions, and a delightfully spiced tomato sauce. This dish is on almost every table I've seen in that restaurant...and is always a part of my dining experience. If it came by the bucket-full, I would totally order the largest bucket. It would make converts out of any non-believers in good veg fare.

If I'm seeking a lighter dinner, I generally opt for the greens of the day. My last experience was a combination of collards, chickpeas, onion, tomato, and garlic. My only critique: if you're billing yourself as a vegan/vegetarian restaurant, don't use pre-diced garlic; the real deal would be way better and bring a lot more flavor. Still, it was a delicious dish and I would order it again.

On the more substantial end, there are tomato and mushroom ragout over polenta or pistachio and herb encrusted tofu with tasty corn cakes. These dishes are topped with "creams" of different flavors and though they are made with cashews, you'd swear it's the real thing.

Other notable finds: they always have a gluten free and vegan dessert. Their dessert chef is something of a wizard. The first time I ate one of his cakes I really didn't believe it was dairy free. I asked the kind waitress to check, then double check, and following two confirmations of it being dairy free, I demanded to know what trickery was used to make it so scrumptious. Since then, I just enjoy each bite and secretly hope that the chef will give me private cooking lessons one day...

This restaurant is quite unique and is definitely worth a visit. I enjoy that the gluten free and vegan entrees are clearly marked and I like that there are always daily specials to choose from. For the foodie - there are occasional tasting menu nights!

Three and a half out of five stars.