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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Mariposa Bakery pizza

pizza at Mariposa

Do you live in the Bay Area? Gluten-free? Are you missing pizza?

Well, then for goodness' sake, head over to Mariposa Bakery.

When we were in Oakland, I was utterly thrilled to make an appearance for the book at this marvelous bakery. But mostly, I was excited to see the behind-the-scenes look at the bakery that makes gorgeous biscotti and brownies, available at most Whole Foods across the country now.

The people there are just lovely. Couldn't be lovelier. And when they took the Chef and me on the tour of the facilities, I had to stop myself from yelling out, "Hey, you can't cut that pizza on a wooden table. Wood traps gluten." Just a moment later, they told me, of course, that the table was brand new when they bought it. What a relief to be in a place we can trust is safe, down to where the pizza crust meets the table.

When I was there in November, the women at Mariposa Bakery were not shipping pizzas, because they wanted people to come in and have them fresh. It looks from the website that they have found the best of all worlds. Now, they ship their plain pizza crusts and let you do the rest of the work.

These are good.

Still, if you find yourself in Oakland, stop in for a pizza in this warm, airy bakery. You'll feel such a sense of ease that rarely comes from eating in a restaurant.

mariposa baking company
5427 telegraph ave, unit d3
oakland, ca 94609
tel: 510.595.0955


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

McQuade's chutney

McQuade's Celtic chutney

Back in November — in what feels like another lifetime — the Chef and I had a day off from the book tour stop in the Bay Area. Our dear friend Tea took us on a drive out to Marin, to sample local cheeses, to watch cows in green pastures, to talk about great food and eat it in the next moment.

In one of the more idyllic hours of the trip, we stopped near the water, at Hogg Island Oysters. We ate the oysters that the Chef shucked for us, in the moment. We had a spontaneous gathered picnic, with the last of the year's tomatoes, fresh persimmons, and so much goodness that every bite tasted different.

But one of the bites I remember best was a gluten-free cracker and soft cheese, topped with a dollop of McQuade's moray fig and ginger chutney. This chutney was snappy with spicy ginger, a dreamy sweetness with the fig, and so many spices and flavors that we couldn't even name them all, not all three food-loving people combined. That says something.

McQuade's chutneys are wonderful. That sentence seems a little flat in comparison with the zing of these tastes, but it will have to do. Just look at the possibilities:

Glasgow spiced apple chutney
Lankashire sun-dried tomato chutney
Elgin habanero chutney

And that is just the start.

I adore the fact that the company lists all the ingredients on the website, so those of us with allergies, food intolerances, and autoimmune disorders feel safe.

And it looks like they will be taking online orders soon. Yippee!

So rush right over and try to buy some.

Just after our Bay Area trip, and that idyllic day in nature, Little Bean was conceived. Who knows? Maybe it had something to do with the chutney.


Friday, July 11, 2008

Jessie Oleson from Cakespy

cakespy card

Oh, Jessie Oleson from Cakespy, I do so love your whimsical art.

Now, this might seem weird to gluten-free readers. Why in heavens would I recommend a website that glorifies the cupcakes, that sings the praises of bakeries around the world, and brings an overwhelming sense of glee of all that is sweet and baked? Well, you might not want to click on the main website, if you are feeling too down about not eating gluten. (For those of us are who are more hardy, it's difficult not to feel the enthusiasm in the photos and words.)

Instead, I'd like to direct you to Jessie's Etsy shop, which is a dangerous place to browse if you are trying to not spend money. Look at this Matisse-inspired watercolor, with naked bodies dancing around a pink cupcake. Or this painting of a cupcake and hot dog, either having a lively conversation or a therapy session. But I have to admit that I am partial to this Mama and Baby cupcake. Look how the little cupcake has its own sling!

If you are looking for more than paintings, check out this site for t-shirts, mugs, and mouse pads, all dazzlingly sweet and covered in cupcakes.

Hey, maybe all those cupcakes are secretly gluten-free! It's possible, after all.


Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Jennie's coconut macaroons

Jennie's macaroons

It took my friend Booth being diagnosed with celiac for me to discover these.

After Booth had given up gluten, I met Nina at one of our favorite grocery stores in Seattle to roam the aisles and find him food he would like. I pointed out all the little bags of flours, the foods that might have hidden gluten, the brands of foods with few ingredients that I genuinely like to eat.

She waved her hand toward a can of Jennie's coconut macaroons and said, "Of course, you know about these macaroons. Booth can't get enough of them."

Actually, I had never seen them before. I love this learning.

These macaroons are the talk of the internet, apparently. People love them because they are made without grains or sugar. Some folks are feeding them to their babies. Fans promote them because they are full of proteins and fiber, seemingly without any bad stuff.

Seemingly is probably the operative word. I'm still more likely to make food from scratch than grab a can. The zero-carb version of these cookies (which I've never seen, and am unlikely to buy) contain maltitol, which makes some people uncomfortable. I wouldn't claim these as a health food. They are cookies, after all.

I just like them because they taste good. And no matter how much you love food in its whole form, sometimes you like gluten-free food you can buy off the shelf.

Now, I have to admit, they might be just a touch too sweet for me. I'm not the proper judge right now, because I seem to have lost my sweet tooth during this pregnancy. But they taste moist and wholesome, with a real flavor all their own.

And since I can't eat the whole can in two days, I like to put them in the freezer. Each bite feels like a little treat this way, and the sweetness isn't quite as pronounced.

I never thought I would like cookies from a can. But here they are. You will too, I'm sure.


Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rice Chex

rice chex

How many of you ate Chex party mix as a kid? I did.

When my parents had friends over — for pool parties or poker games — they always put out a big bowl of the stuff. Several kinds of Chex cereals, cashews or peanuts, pretzels, maybe some of those goldfish crackers, all mixed together with butter and soy sauce. Say what you want about how abominable the stuff really was, but it was addictive. I constantly wandered into the living room to steal handfuls before heading back to the bedroom to read comic books with my brother.

I must admit — I hadn't thought about Chex mix for years, or particularly missed it. After I went gluten-free, there was no chance of something with Wheat Chex in it. But earlier this year, when I read that Rice Chex had gone gluten-free, I grabbed a big box at the supermarket. How could I not?

This is one of the biggest mainstream companies to go gluten-free, and to do so with a flourish. The outside of the box pronounces, with a red check: gluten-free! This alone makes me happy.

And heck, the Chex website has a page of gluten-free recipes for this sturdy cereal.

Here's the thing. This isn't my favorite cereal in the world. It feels healthy and the same as always. And I'm probably not going to be making Muddy Buddies any time soon. But this is big.

When you start to see yourself portrayed in the mainstream, you feel more accepted.


Friday, July 4, 2008

Sunny Valley Wheat Free scones

gluten-free scones from Sunny Valley Wheat Free
We had a lovely party the other day, in the backyard during scorching heat. I'd call it a baby shower -- technically, it was, since dear friends were there to celebrate the impending arrival of Little Bean -- but we didn't play any games with balloons under the shirt or ribbons made into a hat. (god forbid that awful one involving a melted Snickers and a diaper.) Instead, dozens of us — men and women both — sat under the shade trees, told stories, and ate great food.

My good friend Karen arrived with a big box of scones in her hands. She has to eat gluten-free as well, so I knew she hadn't just stopped at a bakery at the last moment. "I found these at this gluten-free bakery in Maple Valley. We just happened to stop through there, and I couldn't resist."

"Oh, you mean Sunny Valley Wheat Free?"

"Yeah!" she exclaimed. "How did you know?"

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of meeting Deann Schoeler, the brainstorm behind the bakery, at a gluten-free event here in town. She's lovely, and the few goods of hers I tried that day made me want to visit the store. But a certain little someone growing larger prevented the trip over there.

But Karen brought me scones.

Believe it or not, there was so much food piled on the picnic table that afternoon that I didn't have the chance to eat a scone. By the evening, some of the icing had melted, so I put the plastic container in the freezer.

Oh yeah.

I think these are probably best straight from the freezer. One afternoon, I left a scone out to see what it might taste like thawed. The cranberry orange taste was sharp and lively, but the scone turned into little crumbs all around me. They're better from the freezer — they don't actually freeze — where the texture maintains its integrity.

I'm usually not a fan of white rice flour and tapioca baked goods. They strike me as starchy, and the remnants of each bite cling to the teeth. But these scones feel different. They hold up. Their simplicity lets the flavors shine through.

Little Bean has been enjoying these. Thank goodness I am finished with the carton soon. I haven't eaten this much sugar through the entire pregnancy. But I just can't resist reaching into the freezer for a scone I can eat.

Check out the Sunny Valley online shopping site. Even if you live far away from Seattle, and you don't have a friend to bring you scones, you might want to buy some of these.


Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Rancho Gordo beans

Rancho Gordo beans
I never knew I could feel so passionately about beans.

Rancho Gordo beans are the best I have ever eaten. Yes, I adore the story of how Steve Sando started saving heirloom varieties of beans from New Mexico and Central America, growing them before they died out entirely. And I feel grateful for the tried and true recipes featured on their website, which have always worked for me. (Our friend Nina created a mole sauce from a Rancho Gordo recipe, and we all licked our lips as we ate the chicken she had barbequed with it.) And in the end, all those beans are so pretty.

But really, what matters to me most? All that work and passion, the dedication and experimentation has produced some of the best beans I have ever tasted. Canned beans will never be the same, like a shadow self imagined instead of a real, imperfect person standing before us. Try some, and you'll see.

Last month, I ordered the European sampler for our house. The Borlotti and Scarlet Runner beans are so pretty in the jars I arranged on the shelves that I'm tempted just to save them.

But when Rancho Gordo beans taste this good, I can guarantee you those jars will be empty soon.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bob's Red Mill gluten-free oats

gluten-free oats

While I am eternally grateful for everything Bob's Red Mill makes — what would I do without all those little bags of flour lined up on grocery shelves, accessible? — I feel most blessed for these. Gluten-free oats.

I have already written about why we need certified gluten-free oats, the glorious return of oatmeal cookies, and all the options available to us. So I won't repeat myself.

I'm just ready to declare a favorite.

After testing and tasting all the gluten-free oats, I can proclaim loudly that I'm loyal to Bob's Red Mill gluten-free oats. They took such trouble to certify that these oats will be safe for those of us who suffer from celiac. Look at this blurb from their website:

"Our Gluten Free Rolled Oats are pure. They are grown by over 200 farmers on clean, dedicated oat-growing fields. They plant only non-GMO "pedigreed" seed stock. Each farm delivery is sampled hundreds of times and tested with an R5 ELISA gluten test to ensure the absence of gluten. Advanced color-sorting removes undetected impurities. Roasting enhances that wholesome, robust flavor you expect. The oats are packaged in our new, 100% gluten free facility and tested for gluten again to ensure their purity."

Yeah, Bob!

(I met Bob himself, when I was in Portland with my book. He's a fabulous, cantankerous, just-what-you-expect-from-the-photograph character. Who wouldn't want to support his endeavors?)

But it's more than that. These oats are thick, hearty, and beam with real taste. Before I had to go gluten-free, I chose Bob's regular oats for my daily breakfast. Finally, after all this time, I can just go back to eating oatmeal.

Because, other than certifying that these oats are grown, transported, and processed in an entirely gluten-free fashion, Bob's Red Mill has produced superlative oats. They don't turn to mush when you cook them. Every morning is a robust taste sensation. I love settling into my seat on the couch, my feet propped up on the coffee table, and digging my spoon into a bowl full of blueberries, cinnamon, walnuts, and these oats.

And there are steel-cut oats too! Soon, I'm going to start grinding those into my own oat flour.

These gluten-free oats are so popular that stores have a hard time keeping them on the shelves. Do yourself a favor —order some directly from Bob, today.