Thursday, March 12, 2015

McMenamin's Six Arms Bar Review

After some searching, Kayleigh found McMenamin's Six Arms bar. It’s close to the Paramount and by extension the bus depot. Of course this means it is also close by the convention center, which is going to be super convenient if we head back to Emerald City Comic Con, or PAX this year.     

Rumor was they had simply amazing tater tots. I was also informed they had gluten free wings, although they were Hogshad-habanero sauce and not buffalo. To start us off I ordered some Cajun tater tots with ranch, and for my meal I of course ordered the wings.

To be blunt, the wings were simply not good. They tasted overcooked which made the chicken a bit tough, and the flavor cooked out. Enough said.

The tater tots however, were one of the single best appetizers I have ever had. If I could do my meal over again, I would just order 2 orders of tater tots and gorge myself on their super crunch shell, and fluffy insides. If they were shaped differently, I would consider them the perfect hash browns. My mouth is watering just thinking about them. If you even remotely like hashbrowns, tater tots, French fries, or any other potato based foot item you must absolutely try McMenamin’s tater tots. I only tried the Cajun, but next time I’ll mix it up.

Kayleigh here. I'll go ahead and second the tater tots- perfectly crispy, heavily seasoned, and addictive with that ranch dip!

I know it's a bit odd to walk into a brewpub and expect gluten free fare, but it's incredibly useful for Seattleites to have somewhere to go when out-of-towners come to visit and ask about the fabulous Pacific Northwest craft brew scene. Now that I fear for the life of my old standby, I think we'll be hitting up a few more bars in the near future- stay tuned for more reviews!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Gluten Free Baking Tips

Kayleigh here. When Jason first discovered he was gluten intolerant, I had never even dabbled once in gluten free baking. Figuring out meals that were naturally gluten free came easily enough, but seeing the prices of store bought baked goods in the special diet section of the supermarket drove me to try and make everything myself. I stocked up on cookbooks, researched what flours were often used, then set about experimenting.

And, as to be expected, things started off pretty rocky. Converting a recipe to be gluten free often takes more than just switching the white flour over to an all-purpose blend- the dough might look right, but the end result always seems off. And when you cannot have your favorite breads and desserts anymore, it's hard to just settle for 'close enough'.

So, to help out the new gluten free baker, here is a list we've been putting together of little tips and tricks that will make the first few recipe attempts more edible.

- Gluten free baked goods, unfortunately, never quite rise as much as their gluten-full counterparts. You can boost this slightly by adding extra baking powder to the mix. Putting in extra protein via dry milk or protein powders also give it the strength that it needs.

- When making yeast breads, resist the urge to punch it down and start a second rise. That dough will put all its effort in the first time, and will not reach that height again. What that means for a bread machine- pull out the paddle after it has mixed the dough thoroughly, so it does not beat it back down later. For specially shaped breads, form them and put them on the trays they will bake on immediately instead of leaving them to rise in a covered bowl first.

- Gluten free baked goods are often denser and drier when baked. To compensate for this, add extra liquid ingredients right off the bat. This will probably mean that bread dough will not hold a shape on its own, so be prepared with appropriately sized pans and specialty trays to get that look you want. Hamburger bun pans and ramekins are good investments to make, on top of loaf and muffin pans of varying sizes.

- When you are first starting out, finding good gluten free flours can be pretty daunting. Buy 4-5 different kinds to try out first, and try to make note of what textures and flavors they each give to the breads. Use flours like tapioca and sweet rice to add a chewy softness, and buckwheat or garbanzo for extra flavor and heartiness. Think carefully about the gluten baked good you are trying to reproduce, and use what makes it special to figure out the right blend.

Jason here. 

If you switching over to a gluten free diet you may find yourself craving certain foods. For baked goods do not try and reproduce your favorite foods exactly. That will only end in disappointment. Instead think about how you would improve your favorite recipes. By using different flours you can make something denser, or have a different taste. When you stop thinking about reproducing a flavor exactly, that is when your baking will go to a whole new level. Your creations are something new, enjoy them as such.

Persistence is key. Don’t feel defeated if an experimental recipe doesn’t come out as you hoped. It took Kayleigh many months to get a decent bread recipe going. Even today, we try recipes that turn out as complete flops on a regular basis. Only after a lot of trial and error do we eventually find the perfect recipes which get posted on this blog.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

BlueSteele Cafe Review

Jason here. Kayleigh and I were recently town in Tacoma shopping around for a new car. Whenever we travel away from home we look for gluten free places to try that we might not have otherwise made the trip out for. This time Kayleigh found a recently opened café called BlueSteele Café.

Before I get into my order, let me say the service was fantastic and answered my reaffirmed that gluten free flatbread options were available. It’s a good feeling to look a menu and have the capability to order nearly everything on it.

To that end, I ordered the Chicken Bacon and Ranch (CBR) flatbread. I really wish there was a BlueSteele close buy, because this was freaking fantastic. I haven’t had any bacon and ranch items in a quite a while, which I am sure contributed to how delicious this tasted. Plenty of ranch, with crunchy bits of bacon and flatbread. I don’t eat flatbreads very often, so the comparison I was reminded of while eating my CBR was of a deliciously crunchy crusted pizza.

I also ordered a mocha with my meal, which is unusual as I rarely order coffee. I was impressed with the intricate design created from the cream on top, and it tasted delicious. However, it was easily eclipsed by the flatbread. While I really enjoyed my coffee, I’m not really a coffee connoisseur so I am curious about hearing some other opinions.

Kayleigh here. While the menu was somewhat short, I think it is important to note that this means every item is done well and made to order right behind the counter. Each section of the menu had a vegetarian option, to my delight- enough to please any palate! It was interesting to see a flatbread option with mozzarella and brown sugar, too- never seen one for a sweet tooth before! Looking at the specials menu, I ordered a white chocolate cherry almond concoction for my drink. It was absolutely delicious! Now, I need to figure out an excuse to be down in the area again, so I can try something else on the menu!