Friday, October 7, 2011

Our Daily Red Sulfite-Free Wine: Product Review

Meet Our Daily Red, an organic, sulfite-free (SF), California red wine. This rather popular alternative has not only cornered the SF wine market, they've begun producing other wine labels as well, which I plan to review, but not today. I've enjoyed SF red wines from other makers in the past, but they never seemed to stick around for long. Our Daily Red has somehow managed, not only to stick around, but to build a loyal fan base. I think it's because they make a very affordable, alternative wine that tastes as good, or better, than higher-priced wines made with sulfites.

The 2010 vintage of Our Daily Red is light and fruity with a lot of cherry upfront, and hints of blueberry and currant at the finish. A clean, very drinkable, well balanced red. The nose suggests cherries, raspberries, blackberry compote, and custard. Get this folks, it sells for $8.49 a bottle! (Fred Meyer sells it for $10.49)

When I sipped Our Daily Red, and made notes for this article, my palate got a little carried away. So, for the heck of it, I thought I would share with you the pairings I was craving. 

Suggested Pairings:

1. Apps and salads:
  • This wine calls for cheese! Pungent, aged cheeses, and triple cream cheeses, especially one's made with goat and cow’s milk. It can even work with very softly flavored cheeses, like chevre and marscapone.
  • Delicate, buttery savory tarts.
  • Crepes, savory and sweet.
  • Yogurt.
  • Green salads with a light, herbaceous or garlicky vinaigrette, especially salads with nuts, cherries, and goat cheese, as long as the dressing isn't sweet.
3. Dinner:
  • Meats: pork, duck, and chicken (dark meat), especially grilled.
  • Could pair nicely with rice and chutney.
  • Braised spinach and/or chard.

2. Desserts: 
  • Summer berry tarts, crostadas, and crumbles.
  • Panacottas.   
Someone recently asked me if sulfite-free wines produce milder hangovers. My answer was yes, and cleaner wine buzzes too, especially if you're sensitive to sulfites. In Portland, you can find Our Daily Red at Fred Meyer Grocers, Trader Joe's, New Seasons, and Safeway. To find out who else carries Our Daily Red, you will probably have to contact the winemakers by email.

Just a little note: This wine's flavor ranges from dark and fruity to a little on the dry side. I think the inconsistency is due to its lack of preservatives. However, every bottle I've sipped from has been very drinkable and enjoyable. 

Be well, and enjoy Eating Friendly!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Green's GF Dubble Dark Ale: Product Review

Beer was one of the first things taken from my menu when I first went gluten-free (GF.) Many years passed before a friend of mine thoughtfully bought me a six-pack of GF beer that was made from sorghum. It tasted like Keystone Light. In other words, it was swill. Years passed again until only a few weeks ago, where I found myself in a local Portland brewery that served a fantastic GF pale ale (more on this later.) 

At first, I wasn't sure that I would still have the palate for beer, but it turns out, it's like riding a bicycle. And once I opened the door, the craving for beer came washing in. I didn't want to be chained to a brew pub, so I decided to see what the local grocer was carrying. Not much, it turns out. At least, not if you're looking for a decent beer and not a close rendition of domestic pee-juice.

The other issue about buying GF beer is the sticker shock. Many bottles of what looked like decent beer were outrageously priced. I decided to consult an expert and called for the beer master who managed that section of the grocery store. 

The manager guided me to a single beer, which she said was absolutely amazing. Keeping an open mind, and swallowing back my sticker shock (over $6 for sixteen ounces!) I decided to go for it.

Introducing Green's GF Dubble Dark Ale, a delicious, creamy glass of beer-heaven with notes of caramel, molasses, and orange zest.

I enjoyed this smooth, frothy brew while reading a book and relaxing in my hammock. It was  satisfying enough to quell my beer least for the time being. Did I think it was worth the price? Absolutely! I'm now on the hunt for other beers brewed by Greens. I'll let you know when I try them.

Green's is from the UK, and may be hard to find at your typical grocery store. Fortunately, Green's provides access to their distributor through their website, who in turn provides a list of grocery stores and restaurants that carry Green's beers. If you want to find Green's in your part of the world, scroll back up to the hyperlink and simply click it.

As always, I'm glad to be sharing my knowledge with you. Be well, and keep Eating Friendly.

Burt's Five Star Summer Sizzler: Product Review

Not long after I created Eating Friendly, a man named Burt sent me an email requesting that I do a product review. A few emails and a few days later, I received two bottles of Burt's Five Star Meat Marinade for my grilling pleasure. 

Burt's Five Star prides itself on being an all-natural marinade with no msg, sugar, carbs, preservatives, gluten, oils or fats. However, Burt insisted that, although the marinade was good for the health conscious grill master, it was made for the careless carnivore as well. He also insisted that the marinade was just as good on vegetables as it was on meat, and that vegetarians could enjoy the Five Star experience along with their meat-eating friends.

The history of Burt's Five Star originates with Burt's grandma, whose marinade often stole the show at family and social gatherings. Now Burt is sharing grandma's recipe with you. 

I marinated a gigantic rib-eye steak for 24 hours. I also marinated a few onion slices for about an hour before grill-time. I tossed the steak on the grill, along with sliced apricots and the marinated onions. I also simmered diced mushrooms and onions (not marinated) in a cast iron skillet over the coals. Afterward, I paired everything with a salad of hazelnuts and butter lettuce, in which I threw chunks of grilled apricot. I tossed the salad with a homemade grilled apricot vinaigrette.

I was wondering what made Burt's marinade so special, other than its health benefits. But Burt's Five Star really is unique. It doesn't overpower the meat, and its tangy, mesquite flavor was so reminiscent of barbeque that I immediately knew that the marinade would taste like I had grilled out, even if I had used it on meat roasted or broiled in the oven. The steak was simply delicious, and I was instantly transported to a neighborhood BBQ, even though I actually ate alone on this occasion. And the marinated onions were so tender and full of flavor that I wished I had marinaded and grilled more vegetables. The only down side to Burt's Five Star Marinade is the price. Each sixteen ounce bottle costs over ten dollars.

I wanted to do another go-round with Burt's Five Star, only this time in the oven. Unfortunately, our kitchen is under renovation and our oven is out of commission. At this point, I am beginning to wonder if I will ever get to try Burt's marinade indoors. I guess you and I will both have to wait until the cooler season. But for now, it's still grilling season. I'm sure Burt would appreciate it if you checked out his website and purchased his delicious marinade online.

And if you like a cold beer with your steak, and you're gluten-free, read my next article about Green's GF Dubble Dark Ale. 

As always, be well, and enjoy Eating Friendly.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Coconut "Ice Cream" Competition, Mint Chocolate Chip: Luna & Larry's Vs. So Delicious

Okay! Now that I've shared my intimate fears with the world, it's time for something sweeter. 

Soy has become a major player among food allergens. It's right up there with gluten, diary, eggs, corn, and all the rest. Compassionate eaters have been exploring the alternatives, and they have finally created comparable products to dairy and soy-based ones, using coconut milk as the base.

As promised, I bring you my modern day, allergy-friendly "Pepsi challenge." 

Luna & Larry's Coconut Bliss Vs. So Delicious mint chocolate chip non-dairy, coconut based ice cream! 

But first, a little bit O' info about our lovely candidates...

Mint Galactica was good, but it was not my favorite from Luna & Larry's. The milk-base had a strong coconut flavor, and it was crystallized. Instead of having a creamy texture, it was more like a coconut milk granita. The chocolate chips were the only mint flavored ingredient, and they were small, which caused them to compete with the coconut taste of the "ice cream." In short, I was rather disappointed, especially since their chocolate hazelnut fudge nearly buckled my knees from ecstasy, and I could not stop myself from repeat purchases of that particular flavor.

The benefits of Luna & Larry's is that their products are all organic and certified fair trade, and they contain agave nectar instead of sugar. Agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which is good for the pancreas. Some say that agave is safe for diabetics, but diabetics should consult their physicians before eating agave nectar and any products that contain it. There is sugar in their chocolate. They list all their ingredients on their website.

The down side to Luna & Larry's is the price. A pint costs over $5! (A little more about that later.)

Candidate # 2: So Delicious, Mint Chip

I skipped over this company's little pints of deliciousness numerous times because of the price. I bought this one on sale for under $4. I got snooty, and thought a lower price point meant lower quality. Boy, was I ever wrong! 

This frozen dessert was unbelievably smooth, creamy, and satisfying, even when nearly frozen solid. There was no coconut flavor in the milk-base, not even a hint. The mint flavor was in the coconut milk-base, as well as the chocolate chips. The chocolate chips were actually chunks, giving a nice contrast between cool, minty cream, and crunchy, minty bitter-sweet chocolate. I didn't get a picture of the dessert itself, because, well, David and I ate it all before we realized what we had done. Yes, it's that good.

So Delicious is bringing the competition. Their coconut milk-base is also sweetened with agave. However, there is sugar in their chocolate chips. Their products are Non-GMO, Kosher, and organic. They aren't fair trade, though, and that may be why the price is so much lower than Luna & Larry's. If so, then I must say that I do support proper payment to all those involved in the growth and production of every ingredient, no matter where they are from. And I encourage you all to think about that when purchasing cheaper products. The people who make our indulgences possible should have the same access to comfort as we do. Anyhoo, So Delicious lists all of their ingredients on their website.

So, as you can probably tell, the winner of this round of my Coconut "Ice Cream" Competition is So Delicious. It was simply...Delicious. 

There are other brands and other flavors to explore, so stay tuned. 

After a detour into the land of terror, it's nice to be getting back to the things I enjoy. Eating Friendly can be a real treat, and I am serving it up for you here today, and it's just in time to cool you off during these steamy summer months.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Going Gluten-Free? Know Your Grains

A while back, I was told by a professional cook that farro is a gluten-free grain. I happened to know that farro is an ancient relative to wheat, contains gluten. To my horror, I realized that she was serving farro as "gluten-free" substitute to the allergic eaters at the party she was catering. I wondered how many people paid for it later on. It is a common error in the food industry for chefs and servers to mistake gluten-containing grains for gluten-free ones. The general awareness about gluten-containing grains seems to be limited to wheat. My intention is to correct that misconception.

There are many articles and websites available that go in-depth about each and every grain. My intention here is not to be repetitive and do the same. I just want to arm you with the basics so that you can eat safely, especially when someone is trying to pass a glutenous grain off as a gluten-free one.

Gluten-containing grains that you can't eat

Wheat, Farro, Spelt, Kamut, Barley, Rye, & Oats

Farro, also known as Emmer Wheat (and some say Spelt), is an ancient grain that originated in the Mediterranean. It is often considered the great grandfather of wheat grains. Some say that it is safe for people with gluten intolerance to eat, because it has a lower count of glutenous proteins. My thoughts: it’s a gluten-containing grain, and an ancient relative of wheat. It is off of my menu, and probably should be left from yours. The next time an expert, like a chef, tells you that farro is gluten-free, you have my permission to educate that mistaken professional. 

Spelt also originated from the Mediterranean and later migrated to central Europe, and finally, America. It is said by some to be the same grain as Farro. It is said by others to be a direct descendant of the Farro plant. Regardless of its true identity, it is an ancient cousin of wheat. Some people mistake it for a gluten-free grain, but it contains gluten and should be avoided. 

Kamut is an ancient wheat grain that originated in Egypt. It is often used to make bread. It contains gluten and should not be eaten.

Barley is a close relative to wheat, therefore it should be avoided.

Rye is a species of wheat and should not be eaten.

There is debate in the health system about whether or not oats are safe for people with gluten intolerance, but oats are often processed on the same equipment as gluten-containing grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. I have eaten oats that were not marked as gluten-free and felt terrible afterward. I have eaten oats labeled gluten-free and had no problems. If you are willing to spend a pretty penny on GF oats, they are available in GF grocery aisles.

Gluten-free grains

Rice, Corn, Amaranth, Buckwheat, Millet, Montina, Quinoa, Sorghum, & Teff

Amaranth is an indigenous grain from South America. To me, it has a strange mildewy flavor, so use it sparingly. It is best if very little is mixed with other GF flours. I have tried to eat it cooked like rice, but I couldn't handle it.
Buckwheat is a flowering plant that is cultivated like a grain crop, but it is not a cereal or grass plant, like wheat. It is said to be indigenous to Asia. I rather enjoy buckwheat as a hot cereal. It is also great sprouted and sprinkled in salads! It adds a nutty richness to the flavor and texture of cakes, pancakes, and flour mixes. It is almost purple in color, so if you want the look of your baked goods to imitate the originals, you may want to skip the buckwheat. It is a little dense, so it is best if mixed with other GF grains.

Millet is a seeded plant used for grain and cereal production. It has no relation to gluten-containing grains. It has been a staple in Asia for thousands of years. Millet is rather flavorless and its texture is a bit grainy. However, it is nice when mixed with certain GF flours and used in particular cake, muffin, and quick-bread recipes.

Montina (Indian ricegrass)
A newcomer to the GF market, Montina is a grass plant that is not related to rice. It is indigenous to North America. It’s as much of a mystery to me as it is to you. 

One of my favorite GF alternatives, quinoa is not a grass plant, nor is it a cereal grain. It is actually related to leafy vegetables, and it originates from South America. It is high in protein and essential fatty acids. Quinoa is great baked in bread and cake mixes, especially spiced cakes, like carrot and apple cinnamon. I love to eat it cooked like rice in salted water. My favorite is to use it like pasta in olive oil-based sauces with garlic and herbs. It's also a great substitute for couscous.

Sorghum comes from a species of grass plant and originates from tropical regions around the globe. It has a sweet, nutty flavor. I have only eaten it in baked goods. It's not quite clear what sorghum's texture is when cooked alone. But it is a nice complement to most GF flour mixes.

Teff is a type of grass plant that comes from Ethopia. It is not one of my favorites. It is sandy, dry, and its flavor is bitter and uninteresting. I usually avoid it, unless someone else knows how to use it better than I do.

Other GF flour bases

Tapioca starch, Potato starch, Arrowroot powder, Bean flour

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Digestive Discrimination: Don't be Rude. Get with the Program!

Seven years ago, I was diagnosed with food allergies, including gluten and dairy, which I call "the big ones." At the time, I was a dedicated sandwich eater—Dedicated. I was also heavily involved in the food community as a server, and as the girlfriend of an up-and-coming celebrity chef. 

Suddenly, I felt like an outsider. To put it lightly, many people went out of their way to make me feel that way. I experienced strong digestive discrimination from friends, relatives, and strangers at restaurants, social gatherings, and dinner parties. I even received threats from chefs and owners of restaurants, who thought I shouldn't be working in in the industry if I couldn't eat their food. 

Now that so many people are being diagnosed with gluten intolerance and Celiac disease, I am considered a valuable member of the food industry. I am able guide people around menus, and I can teach chefs and bakers about the differences between glutenous and non-glutenous grains. 

Digestive discrimination has lightened over the last year or so, but it is still a problem that needs to be educated out of our society. 

Only a few days ago, the burger featured above got me into an argument with a random patron at a McMenamins pub in North Portland. The guy must have noticed that I had brought my own bread into the restaurant. I'm sure that, to any other patron, I must look extremely particular bringing in my own bread. But that's my business, and if the guy had been listening, he would have heard me tell the waiter that I couldn't eat gluten. Anyway, I overheard him making fun of me from across the room when I started taking pictures of my food. And you know, the boisterous laughs from his friends that quickly followed grated against my already sensitive digestive system. 

I told the guy that he didn't need to be a jerk. Red faced, he said he was just joking. None of his companions turned to look at me. I told him to joke more quietly next time. So he did, and his companions laughed even louder at my expense. I looked directly at their table, but not one of them had the courage to look at me. 

If you know anything about the passive-aggressive nature of Portlanders, you know how unexpected my reaction was. Not even a minute later, the guy was suddenly interested in an evening walk.  Before I put my camera away, he and his friends left without another look in my direction.

I'm sure that many of you have experienced digestive discrimination since your diagnosis. But be strong. We deserve to eat out just like everyone else. And here's an encouraging thought: people who have discriminated against me, have later come to me for help (or at the very least, for support) after they were diagnosed with food allergies. I was nice enough to embrace them, even after they were rude to me. This blog isn't called Eating Friendly for nothing! 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Product Review: Udi's Bread

There are a number of gluten-free (GF) bread products available in supermarkets and natural food stores, but they are expensive, and some of them taste like cardboard. To keep from being disappointed and wasting your dollars, you simply need to know which products to buy.

Meet Udi's, the company that is revolutionizing the way GF bread is made. Based out of Denver, Colorado, Udi's makes a number of GF products, including bagels, pizza crust, granola, and muffins. You can find them (and their store locator) at

For those of you who know how dense GF bread is, and how easily it crumbles unless toasted, you will appreciate the soft, springy texture of Udi's breads. The slice shown in the picture below wasn't toasted. I pulled it straight out of the bag, pressed on it, and took a snap-shot. Un-toasted, the bread was spongy, chewy, and slightly sweet. For flavor, I gave it an A-. I'm still waiting for Udi's to make me think of mom's home baked when I bite into their bread. For convenience of use, I gave it an A+! I purchased this loaf for $4.99. Some brands of GF bread loaves cost up to $7.00!

The hardest thing about eating GF bread is its portability. I remember, years ago, fantasizing about building a portable toaster that had interchangeable plug-ins: one that inserted into a car's cigarette lighter, and one that inserted into a wall socket. I used to lay in bed at night and think of how a toaster could be made small enough to fit into a computer bag. Well, that fantasy is over, because Udi's bread is very portable. It's soft and enjoyable, and it doesn't require a toaster to make it so. Last summer, I took a bag of Udi's bagels with me on a road trip, sometimes leaving it in the car in temperatures as warm as seventy-plus degrees. Most GF breads need to be refrigerated or they will go bad. Udi's bagels were tasty to the very last. 

Like all GF breads, if you are eating something juicy, like a burger, toasting the bread helps keep it from falling apart. If you're eating a regular sandwich, like ham, or PB&J, the bread will stay together, it will be soft and chewy, and it will taste great!

I enjoy Udi's plain bread and bagels, more than I enjoy their whole grain version. To me, it tastes more like fresh baked bread, but not quite like the real thing (yet). The raisin bread is very tasty, especially when toasted and eaten with cream cheese (I used tofutti sour cream: De-lish!) When toasted, Udi's bread is light, crunchy, and it almost melts in your mouth. I tried to eat a burger with the whole grain bagel (un-toasted), but the saying "Where's the beef?" came to mind. See image below:

All it means is that Udi's bagels are not hamburger buns, which I hear that Udi's now makes. Once I get my hands on some of Udi's buns, you'll be reading about it here.  

Happy Eating Friendly! And enjoy those summer barbecues with the convenience of bread portability!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Restaurant Review: Mississippi Pizza

There's this great little website called I went there looking for pizza. I'd been having a serious craving for a slice for about a week, and I hadn't eaten at a real pizza place in over nine years. It was long overdue.

Mississippi Pizza was close to my house, and the menu on their website looked promising. To be safe, I called and asked if their crust was dairy-free. It was.

Now, Mississippi Pizza sells pies by the slice. But if you're looking for gluten-free, you will have to get one to order. They offer different sizes:
  • 12" for $13.25
  • 16" for $18.75
  • 18" for $22.00
The price includes red sauce and cheese. Extra toppings cost a little extra, depending on the size of the pizza. Or, instead of building your own, you can order a combination from their sections titled either "meat," or "veggie," or "vegan," for just $3.50 more. I'm an omnivore, so I ordered the pizza called Maggie May: salami, bacon, mushroom, and fresh tomato. The feta cheese they use is made with sheep's milk. Not all of the staff members at Mississippi Pizza are aware of this, and some will tell you it's made from goat's milk. Make sure they check before putting it on your pizza. (Mississippi Pizza also offers soy-based and non-soy cheese alternatives, which I plan to check out next time I visit.) We sipped our drinks in anticipation while we watched the room fill with pizza-loving patrons.

Our steaming pizza arrived at the table only fifteen minutes after we ordered it. The crust was about the thickness of a hand-tossed dough, crispy on the bottom, and fluffy in the middle. The crust was very well executed. It didn't draw attention to itself from a lack of balance, and the center wasn't doughy or dense. The un-sauced portion, often referred to as the pizza bone, was crunchy on the outside and soft and fluffy in the center. It was faintly reminiscent of a warm biscuit. The sauce (for those of you who understand what it is like to miss the taste of pizza) launched me into a pizza cloud. I meant to save a slice for later, to see how it tasted cold, but I ate every bite before I knew what I had done. That's okay. I plan to go back and try other combinations.

For the record, I left satisfied. One could even say that I was glowing. It was my first gluten-free pizza adventure beyond my own kitchen. Now that I've broken the barrier, I plan to eat pizza out more often. I only hope that my experience at Mississippi Pizza is the beginning of a beautiful culinary adventure.

Remember to be safe, my allergic friends. Always call ahead of time to make sure that the facilities are suitable for your level of sensitivity. You can find their number at

And by all means, Enjoy!