Thursday, December 18, 2014

Red Robin Review

Kayleigh here. It is about time we reviewed another national chain with gluten free policies. And Red Robin was one we had been hesitant about, because it sounded like their safety measures varied from restaurant to restaurant. As a matter of fact, out of the three locations within driving distance of us, only one of them had any mention of offering gluten free hamburger buns- the other two suggest that you make it a lettuce wrap. So it led to the question- is cross contamination a concern in these lesser prepared ones?

Given that one slip up leaves Jason in great discomfort for several weeks, we chose to go to the safest sounding one of the three, and would recommend that you also call ahead and ask about your particular location's offerings and practices. The more gluten-free friendly ones can readily answer questions about ingredients and using separate fryers on top of offering actual buns for the burgers. Our waitress herself knew the answers without having to consult the kitchen, so we felt surprisingly safe for going to a chain restaurant.

The draw of Red Robin lies squarely on the large variety of toppings and combinations for your burger- there are pages of them. Most of them seemed safe to us, although it does not hurt to ask, and all current varieties of fries, we were told, are gluten free. We were told not to use their 'signature seasoning' found on the table, though.

Going to a Red Robin is a great opportunity to bring younger children and people you don't feel the need to impress, order the biggest and messiest burger that catches your eye, and go to town. It is not exactly a date spot- a little too noisy for that-, but sometimes it is more important just to go to somewhere normal and mass-marketed and be able to enjoy yourself without being worried.

Jason here. My feelings on Red Robin mirror Kayleigh's. I thought my burger was alright, but definitely would go back to more local joints like Wibbley’s or Blue Moon given the choice. However, when traveling you can’t be too picky, and it helps to have a handful of places in your pocket that you know are likely to be in any given area. As Kayleigh mentioned, Red Robin was loud with plenty of kids milling about, so if you have kids of your own this place can be a great atmosphere. If going out for a romantic dinner, not so much. 

Of course, I only got to try a single bacon burger at Red Robin and their menu options are expansive. This makes it is a good restaurant if you’re out with a group of friends, and they all seems to want different types of food. You can even check out allergy listings their latest menu before you leave, to see which burger will be your best bet.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bagel Recipe

Kayleigh here. Bagels. I don’t know if you’ve ever tried gluten free bagels from the supermarket, but, well, it’s a sad experience. Are they aware of what a bagel is, or do they think it’s just supposed to be bread with a hole in the middle? Where’s the chew, or the golden crust on the outside when you toast it?

We have found one brand of enjoyable bagels in the past, but they were but a brief stint on the supermarket shelves in our area. Since then, I have been trying batch after batch to get something that even remotely resembles something you would find in an old-style deli, and think we’ve finally hit upon something that can satisfy those cravings. If you try this recipe, or figure out a variation that gets this even closer to the mark, please let us know in the comments!

Plain Bagels

For the Dough:
1 cup White Rice Flour
1 Cup Tapoica Starch
1 Cup Potato Starch
¾ Cups Sweet Rice Flour
¼ Cups Corn Meal
1 ts Xanthan Gum
1 pinch Salt
2 ½ TB Yeast ( or one packet)
2 TB Honey
2 TB Sugar
1/2 Cups warm Milk
½ Cups warm Water

For the Baking
1 pot water, deep enough for the bagels to float in, with ½ ts Baking Soda mixed in
1 Egg mixed with 1 ts Water
Sesame seeds or other toppings (optional)

1)      Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all dough ingredients in a bowl, stirring well.
2)      Prepare two baking sheets- putting a silpat down on each one is ideal, but you can also coat the sheets thinly with oil to prevent sticking.
3)      Wet your hands with cold water to prevent the dough from sticking, then divide the dough into balls and place them on the baking sheet (it should make 9 deli-sized bagels, but you can make more or less depending on what you like). Since gluten free dough isn’t as sturdy as wheat flour dough, we found it easier to shape the dough into bagels once it was on the tray by molding it with your thumbs and poking a hole in the center. Make sure to re-wet your hands frequently- it will help the dough stay moist during the rise, too.
4)      Let the dough sit in a warm place for ½ hour to an hour. They won’t double in size, but they will look much bigger and puffier.
5)      Put the pot of water and baking soda onto the stovetop and bring it to a boil. Wet a spatula to carefully take each bagel off the plate, then put them in the boiling water 2­-3 at a time. Boil them for 3 minutes on the first side, then flip them and boil for another two minutes.
6)      Once all of the bagels have been boiled, try to remove any pools of water that have formed on the baking sheets, since they can make them bake oddly. Bake the bagels for 20 minutes in the oven, then brush the egg wash onto the top of each bagel, sprinkling sesame seeds, garlic, salt, or whatever you prefer on top.
7)      Bake bagels in the oven for another 10-20 minutes, until they just start to brown. Don’t bake for too long, since you’ll be toasting them when you go to eat them.

Jason here. These bagels are simply amazing. Before Kayleigh came up with this recipe, all I was able to eat were the frozen gluten free brands which always had a tougher texture then I liked. Not so with Kayleigh’s new recipe.

Almost everything about them reminds me of the bagels my grandmother used to make for me when I was a child, including the way the butter knife crunches the top of the bagel after slicing in half and toasting. Hearing that crunch was something I thought I would never get in a gluten free bagel.

Somehow the taste too captures that delicious doughy texture of a well-made bagel. The added sesame seeds just enhances that flavor even more.

If you have been craving a bagel, one with a toasted golden crunchy outside, but still a warm fluffy inside, look no further. Be sure to make extra’s so you can have them all week!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Flying Apron Review

Kayleigh here. Finding ourselves in Redmond without a lunch plan, we ended up popping in to Flying Apron to scout out our options. Expecting to make a lunch out of cookies and muffins, we were pleasantly surprised to be greeted with a menu of daily lunch specials above the confectionery counters. Of course, we still had to get some sweets for later to thoroughly review their offerings.

After much debate, I finally settled on a veggie-loaded slice of pizza, although I was very tempted by the sandwiches being made on garlic herb bread. The pizza crust, I must say, actually tasted identical to its gluten filled counterpart, which I cannot say for any pizza place we have tried in the past. The vegetables were roasted and well seasoned, and the cashew cheese was a delicious addition. I am still not sure if I would call it cheese, but the rich garlicky spread had a lovely flavor of its own.
Amongst their premade offerings were cakes by the slice, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, brownies, cinnamon buns- you’re bound to fullfil a craving coming here. The variety of muffin flavors was sorely tempting, but Jason and I ended up getting a slice of chocolate mint cake to go. The texture of the cake was amazingly moist and fluffy, and the minty frosting was a refreshing juxtaposition to the richness. We’ll just have to try some of those muffins next time we make a visit.

In addition to the bakery items that could be individually bought as snacks or desserts, Flying Apron also offers the option to make larger orders of whole pies and custom-order cakes for parties or events. Even adding one to the dessert offerings at a luncheon will make a vegan or celiac's day- it is such a nice feeling to realize you actually have an option available.

Jason here. For my order I decided to go with something hearty. I had been craving lasagna for the last couple weeks, so it was exactly what I ordered after spotting it on the menu. Since, we were getting food to go, and it was fairly busy in the restaurant at the moment it was an added bonus that it was prepackaged in a to-go container. By the looks of it I could tell I would get at least a day of leftovers too. The staff offered to heat everything up there, but we declined since it would be cold again by the time we arrived home. After heating it up in the microwave, I dug right in. 

I had forgotten the lasagna was also vegan, so it contained cashew cheese instead of the regulars. This made the lasagna a bit sharper then I was expecting, but still overall good. To compensate it had loads of herb seasonings piled on, which I found easier to eat after mixing them in a bit more. 

Overall I’m still craving my cheesy lasagna, but we found another gluten free place in the area where I definitely know I would be safe. They had a variety of items, and next time I’d like to try a bit more of their pastries.