Tuesday, February 1, 2011

GEGGF - Valentine's Day

Author's note: This post is geared toward someone who doesn't really know that much about gluten or the gluten free diet, but wants to accommodate for someone gluten free (SGF). It's mostly written for people like me -- I try to be as accommodating a hostess as possible and try to make sure that everyone has something to eat and isn't going to be stuck on the toilet for the next three days. This series of posts is meant to be pretty tongue-in-cheek, and there are a ton of other great options -- these are just some suggestions for that gluten newbie out there.

To see previous posts on GEGGF, click here for the Introduction, or see my Superbowl party post.

Now - A little disclaimer before I get started on the whole Valentine's Day thing. See, I'm not really that big of a fan. It's just unbelievably commercial, and well... what are the typical, stereotypical gifts?
  1. Flowers. Florists will sell red and pink flowers at a premium this time of year and in my experience they tend to die much more quickly. And personally, I despise carnations and can take or leave red roses. I'd just as soon save the money now and be surprised by a bunch of seasonal spring flowers in a few months - hyacinth, tulips, and daisies are much more interesting flowers. To each their own, I guess.
  2. Candy. Usually sub-par, overpriced chocolate in those garish red heart boxes. If you really must have a heart box, it's half price the next day -- but by that point, who cares? I'm much more excited about the (overpriced, but worth it) Easter candy that comes out that day.
  3. Restaurant dates. Crowded restaurants with overworked kitchens and servers, usually serving prix-fixe menus without a whole lot of customization allowed. Some of them are super-yummy, but still.
So, you want suggestions on which heart-shaped box is good to give? Sorry, you've come to the wrong place. However, hopefully some these suggestions will start you thinking about something that you can do with your SGF sweetheart. :)

It Doesn't Have to Be About Food
First off -- the easiest way to navigate Valentine's Day with SGF? Don't make it about food! (Yes, I know that's a sin for a food blog to say, but hey, it's the truth). For example... when my hubby and I were dating, I had just read Confessions of a Shopaholic by Sophie Kinsella about five years later than everyone else in the world had read it. I loved it -- so instead of the flowers-and-candy thing he surprised me with a whole bunch of the sequels in paperback. Best. Gift. Ever. (At least for someone who likes to read as much as I do).

So, looking for something personal? I'm always a fan of experiences over activities for this sort of thing, so here are a couple of ideas for us stuck in the Northeast for winter:
  • Take advantage of the snow! Try skiing, cross-country skiing, sledding, snow shoeing, etc.
  • Dog Lovers? Take Fido to Capital Hills Golf Course, where dogs are allowed to go off-leash in the winter. (Be romantic and take care of bag duty for your sweetie).
  • Stay in and have movie night. Rent a couple of movies, and stock up on popcorn and candies. Our favorite gluten free treats include Jelly Belly jelly beans, Starburst, Skittles, and Tootsie Roll midgies. (You could also go to the movies, but a) there are tons of people there for Valentine's Day dates, and b) the studios like to put out vapid chick flicks this time of year. Sorry Hollywood, but I do have a brain).
But, Everyone Gets Hungry, Right?
Still, everyone's gotta eat, and that's why you're reading the blog. And trust me -- nothing kills the mood like the gastrointestinal distress of a glutened SGF. :(

So here are some suggestions:

Try: Cooking dinner in. That's what we'll be doing!

Add a bottle of bubbly (sparkling apple cider for those who don't drink) if you want to make an event out of it. Some ideas that are easy and impressive sounding?
  • Steak. Baked Potato. Green beans sauteed in olive oil and fresh garlic. All gluten free, just double check the rub you use for the steak and any low-fat sour cream. Also, if you're a fan of A-1 it's made by Kraft - unless it says "contains wheat" (or rye, barley or oats) it's safe.
  • Crab legs or Lobster Tail. Expensive, but if you steam them up they're naturally gluten free and you can get some pretty good deals for lobster around $6/lb sometimes. Serve with melted butter, and also works well with baked potato and steamed broccoli. See note above RE: low-fat sour cream.
  • Fondue. We're a fan of this on nights when we have four hours to kill for dinner. Heat up oil and broth in a cast iron fondue pot, and have plenty of mushrooms (I like both baby portabellas and white buttons), snow peas, broccoli, and any other veggies you want. You can also get shrimp or cut up chicken or flank steak, but I'll be honest, this meal is all about the mushrooms for me. My favorite dipping sauce is Frank's Sweet Chili sauce. The thing to watch out for here is broth - some of it contains wheat. I try to be safe and go with the organic broths that are marked gluten free.
  • Salmon. I like to sautee filets in a bit of olive oil and white wine with fresh garlic, flat-leaf parsley and Old Bay. Serve with steamed broccolini or asparagus and mashed red potatoes. (Tip: Add garlic salt to the mashed potatoes). Just double check that the spices don't contain gluten fillers.
  • For dessert: Try chocolate dipped strawberries. (This is the one V-day indulgence I get every year at Price Chopper). If your SGF isn't a chocolate fan? Try buying a big tub of Kozy Shack rice or tapioca pudding, scooping it out into decorative dishes, and topping with whipped cream. I won't tell that it's not homemade. :)

Or: Go out to eat.

Some local restaurant options:
  • New World Bar and Bistro. MAKE RESERVATIONS!!! They have a wonderful gluten free menu and they're one of my favorite places. Just don't be surprised if your SGF gets very excited and wants a burger or fried calamari po'boy with fries. That's a special treat for SGF.
  • 677 Prime or any of the other Angelo Mazzone restaurants. Speak to your server and the chef will be able to accommodate you.
  • Delmonico's. They have a gluten free menu with pasta choices on it. Whenever we go my husband requests veal parm, which isn't on the menu but they make for him anyway. It's absolutely delicious.
  • Wheat Fields in Saratoga or Clifton Park also has a gluten free menu. Of special note: save room for dessert! Their ricotta cheesecake is to die for.
  • In the mood for Mexican? El Loco has a gluten free menu.
  • How about Thai, Indian, Vietnamese, etc? It's pretty easy to eat at most of these places if you speak with the server about what's safe and what isn't. We've had good experiences at Bangkok Thai Bistro.
In the mood for a chain?
  • Carrabba's has a limited gluten free menu. Unfortunately they don't have gluten free bread or pasta.
  • Outback Steakhouse has a gluten free menu. When we eat there, we usually go to the Wolf Road one, and you can request a loaf of gluten free bread when you're seated.
  • PF Chang's has a gluten free menu.
  • Cheesecake Factory does not have a gluten free menu, but they do have knowledgeable managers who will come over to your table and discuss the menu with you. Unfortunately, if you read the comments on my blog entry for the Cheesecake Factory, there seems to be an ongoing debate RE: the safety of their desserts. It's probably best to avoid them to be on the safe side.
Is your favorite restaurant not listed? Please comment and let us know what your gluten free dining experience was like there!

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