San Francisco Gluten Free

San Francisco: just a short flight from Seattle. We had great luck eating out in SF and the Bay Area. We especially loved Asian Box (in Mountain View), Minako, Cafe St. Jorge, and Pica Pica. I’d love to try all of the other promising gluten free friendly restaurants but I can’t promise that, next time I’m town, I won’t just visit the same great ones I discovered last time! They were that good.

I’ve compiled a long list of GF SF recommendations here.

Here are some of the treats from Pica Pica:


Pica Pica:


Here are some treats from Cafe St. Jorge:


Cafe St. Jorge:


And lastly, a few treats from Minako:






Pica Pica Arepa Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Minako on Urbanspoon
Cafe St. Jorge on Urbanspoon


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A Few Favorite Gluten Free Products

I’ve been meaning to share some of my favorite gluten free products, but alas, life has been quite busy.

What I’ve included below is a snapshot and is by no means comprehensive!

First off, I’ve been raving to my friends and family about Brazi Bites, so it’s time I rave to all of you as well.

Brazi Bites Baked

I’ve made pao de queijo (Brazilian cheese buns) from scratch before and while it was a great success, it seemed like a lot of work. The great thing about Brazi Bites’ frozen pao de quiejos is that they are frozen! You can pull as many as you like out of the freezer and pop them into the oven for 20 minutes. When you make them from scratch, you have to bake the whole batch, so I very much appreciate how convenient and easy Brazi Bites are to enjoy. The disadvantage is that you might end up eating a few too many!

Brazi Bites Bite

Next is Ancient Harvest Quinoa pasta. This pasta has been the most successful and really tastes like normal gluten-ful pasta. It doesn’t stick and get as gummy as the other dry gluten free pastas (Trader Joe’s GF pasta is the worst). They have many different varieties and just last week I made Thai peanut noodles with the linguine noodles!

quinoa pasta

I’m a pretty big fan of cookies and I’m happy that there are several great GF cookie options. Perhaps too many … I should eat less junk. Some of my favorites:

Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Cream

Tweasonale and glutino

Trader Joe’s GF Joe Joe’s

TJ's joe-joe's

Glutino GF lemon wafers

Glutino lemon wafers

and WOW Baking Co.’s Oregon Oatmeal Cookies (the Snickerdoodle one is great too!). As you can see, the WOW cookie bag is empty. I wonder why.

WOW cookie

On to beverages. Good GF beer seems to be the holy grail, and I have never been a beer connoisseur, so you’ll have to take this with a grain of salt!

My favorites are DogFish Head Tweason’ale


 New Planet Tread Lightly

New Planet Tread Lightly

 and RedBridge.


As for ciders, my list keeps growing and growing! After having way too much fun at the Seattle Cider Summit, I discovered awesome new ciders like Reverend Nat’s Hallelujah Hopricot, Alpenfire, Finn River Habanero Cider, Carlton Asian Pear, Sea Cider Bramble Berry, and the list goes on. And on. The sweetest (not my favorite aspect of ciders) and most accessible, is Spire Dark & Dry.

Dark and Dry

As I look at my list it seems quite unhealthy. But I’ll keep in mind that these are all packaged items, so I’ll be sure to take it easy!

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Tilth & Agrodolce

Maria Hines’ Seattle restaurants include Tilth, Agrodolce, and Golden Beetle. I have been lucky enough to try Tilth and Agrodolce. And hopefully the Golden Beetle is in my near future. Based on my experience with her other restaurants, I have high expectations both for the food and for the gluten free competency at Golden Beetle.


I have a weakness for old houses that have been converted into restaurants and bars. This factor, combined with all of its rave reviews and awards, made me excited to try Tilth in Wallingford! It has taken me several years to have enough in my wallet to get there, but I am happy to say that I have now managed to go to Tilth for brunch and for dinner.

I was somewhat underwhelmed with the gluten free brunch options. I resorted to the scrambled eggs each time, and they were good, but not excellent –or at least not excellent enough to justify the price. The most exciting part of the brunch was the homemade gluten free raisin bread which was outstanding.

The service at brunch has been friendly but not always knowledgeable. One brunch server told me the granola was a gluten free option. When I asked about the oats, she said that they were not ‘specifically gluten free’ but assured me that they were still safe … ahem. Not true. Normal oats: not safe for consumption.

Dinner at Tilth, however, was a completely different experience. It was excellent. I was impressed with the food, presentation, ambience, service, and most importantly, the plethora of gluten free options.

The server was very helpful with the menu and the kitchen was good about avoiding cross contamination.

And sitting outside didn’t hurt either! It’s such a fun and rare treat here in Seattle!

I recommend Tilth and hope I can go back for dinner again soon! We tried a chilled soup, halibut, pea risotto, and asparagus with smoked salmon.


Tilth Halibut:



Tilth Risotto:



Tilth Asparagus: 



A friend recently brought our attention to Agrodolce in Fremont when they stumbled upon their gluten free menu(!). We were pleased to discover that Agrodolce is another Maria Hines restaurant. And, once again, she did not let us down. The food and the service were both just as good as Tilth.

If I was forced to decide, I would give the slightest edge to Tilth’s food for the cleaner, fresher flavors, but it’s a stylistic preference and it’s basically a toss up. I’d be thrilled if you bought me dinner at either one! And even though Agrodolce is not in a converted old house, they still did an impressive job with the space. Sitting inside still felt like the outdoors.

They had awesome gluten free pasta imported from Italy. I can’t help but wonder, though, why they don’t make their own? I’m sure the chefs would do an amazing job. We also tried a fig and arugula salad (really good), seared broccoli (really good), and st. jude’s albacore tuna (really great).

Agrodolce St. Jude’s Albacore Tuna:


Agrodolce Broccoli:


Tilth on Urbanspoon

Agrodolce on Urbanspoon

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Filed under American/Northwest, Fremont, Restaurant, Seattle, Wallingford

Portage Bay Cafe

Portage Bay Cafe is an affordable, fun, and delicious brunch spot. They have 3 locations: South Lake Union, Ballard, and the University District. The University District Portage Bay is smaller and cozier than the Ballard location which has more of a warehouse-meets-cafeteria vibe. It is much brighter, though, and I actually prefer it to the University District location which always seems too out of control and hectic for my taste. If you are without a reservation on a weekend, be prepared to wait for a table at either location!

Atmosphere aside, all of my Portage Bay experiences have been positive. I have, however, learned that it is important to be very clear and diligent with the servers. On one occasion, my eggs arrived with a piece of (not gluten free) toast perched atop. And it is also worth noting that Portage Bay Cafe has a self-service “fruit bar” which comes with many of the brunch items. I have never tried it because of the likelihood of cross contamination (see ‘self-service’), but I hear it is a lot of fun!

The menu makes life very easy for people on a gluten free diet. They mark gluten free items very clearly and accurately. They even make their own gluten free bread for toast or french toast! I like the swedish pancakes so much, though, that I have a hard time ordering anything else. The swedish pancakes are rice & tapioca flour and come with lingonberries and lingonberry-butter, both of which are amazing.

Portage Bay Cafe’s Swedish Pancakes


Portage Bay Cafe on Urbanspoon

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The Whale Wins

I was not expecting to write a negative review of The Whale Wins. There has been a lot of buzz around it, so we had high expectations. Perhaps it was over-hyped because this is Renee Erickson (of The Walrus and the Carpenter)’s latest creation. But I’m sad to say that it was not a memorable experience. For us, The Whale did not, in fact, Win.

The service, ambience, and design were stellar: an open layout with plenty of natural light (we sat near the windows). They managed to use their warehouse-like space cleverly and did a great job decorating it in a fun, yet simple, way. I especially liked the big neon letters hanging from the ceiling!

One big advantage of their menu is that most items can be prepared gluten free (yay!). But it might not be worth the price or the high expectations. We were a small group and shared the Lettuces Salad, Roasted Carrots and Fennel, Brown Butter Roasted Turnips, Roasted Dungeness Crab (with Harissa butter), and the Roasted Whole Trout.

The highlights were the Trout and the Turnips (everything is relative). The other dishes were a major disappointment  –especially the crab. There were only wisps of crab meat and the harissa was completely overwhelming. It was impossible to taste anything else and we had to ask for clean plates to the save the other dishes from harissa-contamination!  The carrots and fennel suffered the same fate. The salad was fine, but it ends there. It was very very simple.

The Trout:


The bad crab:


We did not try any desserts or drinks, so I cannot comment on those. Next time I’m in the area, I’ll skip the Whale Wins and head next door to give Joule a try instead!

The Whale Wins on Urbanspoon


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Gluten Free Tel Aviv and Israel

One of the greatest thing about visiting Israel is the local cuisine. The produce somehow tastes better, the dairy products are amazing; and you just can’t beat the falafel, humus, and sabich.

Unfortunately for Celiacs and the gluten intolerant, Israeli’s also love to eat bread, pita, laffah, and more bread. In addition to these flour-heavy treats, the use of this consomme mix in cooking is prolific.

So, you must be diligent and persuasive. But know that there are, indeed, many gluten-free dining options in Tel Aviv and in Israel. Admittedly, having conversations with servers about gluten free requirements was not an easy task. I often felt attacked, and more often lectured. We were instructed that the kitchen was not a “laboratory environment,” and the Hebrew word for “liability” and “responsibility,” and their fear and unwillingness to take any on were often expressed. As someone who must be careful about avoiding gluten when dining out, it is easy to feel guilty, pressured, or hurt by these kinds of interactions. This was a common feeling in Israel, but I will admit that I have experienced similar in the United States as well.

Many of the Israeli restaurants we encountered seemed somewhat hysterical about the prospect of accommodating food sensitivities. It is my guess that this is a collective response to the sad story of an Israeli woman with a nut allergy who died in 2011 after eating at a restaurant in Tel Aviv. Her server insisted that her dish was completely nut free and did not contain nutella (which it did).

If this theory is correct, it is unfortunate that instead of improving food prep practices or providing better training to servers, the industry has decided to fault and deny any “special-needs eaters.” I hope that the U.S., Israel, and other countries take these opportunities to improve their practices and understanding as opposed to responding aggressively and defensively. With gluten intolerance, Celiac disease, and food allergies on the rise, it is only a matter of time before restaurants will be forced to face these issues should they want to maintain their customer base.

Now that I have that off my chest, I can focus on the great restaurants and food we enjoyed!

Gold: The most memorable dining experience was at a restaurant called “Hadar Ha’ochel” (or “The Dining Hall”). It is located by the Tel Aviv Opera House. They take their inspiration from the Kibbutz Dining Halls where all meals are community events. Hadar Ha’Ochel is quite a bit more upscale than a cafeteria though! The food can compete with some of the best restaurants (that I’ve tried) in the U.S. The highlights of our meal were the Charred Eggplant, Calamari, Chicken Thighs, and the Bavarian Cream. The service was impeccable and the atmosphere is casual and lively (but you wouldn’t wear your beach or hiking clothes –most people were slightly dressed up). I highly recommend this restaurant, and I am happy to say that you will not find any of my service-related rants above at Hadar Ha’Ochel.

Charred Eggplant:




: My greatest fear was to travel to Israel and not be able to have delicious falafel. Thankfully Hippo Falafel came to the rescue and it is the second most memorable meal(s) in Tel Aviv. Almost everything at Hippo is completely gluten free (minus the pita of course, but they have gluten free replacements). Furthermore, everything is organic and most (if not all) items are vegan. Even my co-diners who could care less about GF/vegan/vegetarian/organic thought the falafel was fantastic! Do not expect friendly service though, and make sure to have them use clean utensils!

: The Bronze medal goes to Mezze! Almost the entire menu is gluten free and vegan, and the food is good! Not as amazing as the Gold and Silver above, but still solid. And the service was very good which was much appreciated. After dinner, I recommend visiting the bar next door: Armadillo on Ahad Ha’am.

Mezze English Menu


Here are a few other places we visited:

Orna & Ella: Underwhelming. There is a lot of hype around Orna V’Ella in Tel Aviv, so it is easy to get your hopes your up. And their food is good but it just didn’t live up to our expectations. It was a bit bland and there were not very many GF or vegetarian menu items. The service was OK: the servers know the menu well and are helpful with GF needs. But they were very un-attentive. It took us nearly a half hour to get our bill. (Tip: make a reservation)


Idelson: You will find rude, unfriendly, and defensive servers here. I was lectured at Idelson, and the server made me feel really bad. Both he and I would have been quite happy to see me leave. Unfortunately, I was with a group. A local fellow diner managed to convince him to make me a simple omelette in a clean pan. It was the worst omelette I have had in a long time (maybe one made with a hefty dose of vindictiveness?). It was full of parsley (which I did not want or ask for). I hear that the non-GF food is good, but no one appreciated the rude servers!

Worst omelette:


Cafe Marco
: There are many gluten free options at Cafe Marco. They have GF pasta and are very good about avoiding cross contamination (they know to use separate utensils and always use clean water for the GF pasta). The best find at Cafe Marco was their gluten free bread (with olive oil and salt of course). It was chewy and delicious. Aside from the bread, the rest of the food was mediocre but it was nice to have an easy place to eat. I recommend going to Cafe Marco for bread with olive oil and a glass of wine! Below is the black cat that greeted all of their guests.

Cafe Marco and their visiting cat who will ask for your leftovers:



: great gelato! Below is melon and coconut:


 in Jerusalem: the location is beautiful with a great view of the old city (make sure to sit on the patio). We especially enjoyed the eggplant with tahini and the Belgian salad.

Etnachta: A nice corner spot for a good breakfast or coffee. They are cooperative (but not ecstatic) about GF needs. Options are limited.

Teva Castel: A great little natural grocery store with plenty of GF items to stock up on. I recommend the great gluten free pitas (frozen).

Cup ‘o’ Joe: They have nice gluten free bread and other GF snacks. Beware of the salad though –they use canned (!) olives. Urgh.

Here are a few good links:

The most useful restaurant list for Tel Aviv

Another good list

An article in Haaretz with some good tips

An article from Jerusalem Post

A Hebrew Restaurant Card

Another Hebrew Restaurant Card

Lastly, here is a piece of Austin, TX in Tel Aviv:

Happy travels!


Filed under Restaurant

Trophy Cupcakes

We finally had the opportunity to try out Trophy’s new gluten free cupcakes today! My expectations were high, having known the glory of their non-GF cupcakes, but I am pleased to say that they did not disappoint. The options today were red velvet, chocolate-vanilla, and chocolate-espresso. We tried the chocolate-vanilla which was great. (Almost as fabulous as the gf cupcakes from Delish in Austin, TX.) The cake was over the top moist and chocolately; and the frosting was smooth, sweet and, well, perfect. If only they were healthy ….

Although Trophy does not have designated gluten free equipment and space, they make every effort to avoid cross contamination. The gluten free cupcakes are the first to be made and baked each day and it sounds like they will be expanding their gluten free operation and becoming even more gluten-free-friendly.

Thanks Trophy!


Trophy Cupcakes and Party on Urbanspoon


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Filed under Desserts and bakeries, gluten, Seattle, Wallingford


About a year and a half ago, I called Revel in Fremont asking if they were able to accommodate the gluten intolerant. I asked the usual questions: Will you be able to point out which dishes were gluten free? Will the kitchen be willing and able to use clean pots and pans and clean parts of their grill to prepare gluten free dishes?

Back then the answer was a clear and blunt: No. That was it. Just: No. I was saddened.

Recently I gave them another chance and was completely surprised by the difference in their response. This time, they confidently listed the gluten free dishes and assured me that they were able to, and happy to, use clean pots and pans, and everything else. What a pleasant surprise –I’m glad I gave them another chance.

What I like about Revel:

  • The atmosphere is loud, energetic, and vibrant. The volume somehow doesn’t feel obnoxious and I can still hear my table-mates. The interior is bright and colorful (but not fluorescent) and the open kitchen layout is a lot of fun.
  • The food totally kills it. It’s great.
  • The service is excellent (Quoin bartenders included) and the servers are very knowledgeable and confident about the menu and about gluten free needs

What I don’t like about Revel (you will notice that these are very clearly outweighed by the above ‘likes’):

  • There aren’t tons of gluten free options but the menu is succinct, so it’s understandable.
  • The salads have been hit-and-miss.
  • The rice bowls have too much rice.
  • The pancakes are not well suited for chopsticks.

I am obsessed with the Albacore tuna, fennel kimchi, escarole rice bowl (see picture). I can’t have the egg yolk, which is marinated in non-GF soy sauce, but it is still super delish without it! It’s a little salty (albacore), a little spicy and sour (kimchi), a little smoky (grilled escarole), and a lot of rice. I am similarly obsessed with the garlic shrimp pancake.

I recommend those two dishes, sitting at the counter, a glass of wine, and a few good friends with which to enjoy Revel!

Albacore tuna, fennel kimchi, escarole Rice Bowl


Garlic shrimp, chermoula, white bean Pancake:


Revel on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Fremont, Fusion, Korean, Restaurant

Uneeda Burger

I went to Uneedaburger over a year ago because I’d heard they had gluten free buns! At the time, I was still a vegetarian.

(If you thought that trying to eat out gluten free was hard, try eating out gluten free and vegetarian. The intersection of the two diets leaves one with, at times, no options. I eventually decided that it would be worth it to allow poultry back onto my plate.)

I digress. I was still a vegetarian and had really only been gluten free for a few weeks -if that. I ordered a veggie burger on a gluten free bun. I asked the girl at the counter what was in their veggie burger and whether or not it had wheat or gluten in it. She assured me with great confidence that it was, indeed, gluten free. She was absolutely, 100% wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. Their burger is made of emmer.  Emmer is otherwise known as farro which is otherwise known as WHEAT! While I should have known,  someone who works at such an establishment should either know the ingredients or they should ask a supervisor, a co-worker, or they should have phoned a friend. Certainly someone that was working that day and flipping the burgers would have known this.

I was pretty unhappy about this, but a year later I decided to give them another chance now that I’d had plenty of time to do plenty of gluten homework. Now when I ask questions, I know how to understand and interpret the answers. When I went to Uneeda Burger again, I ordered the chicken breast on a GF bun. I went through the thoroughly uncomfortable task of talking them into using clean surfaces, gloves, knives, etc … for me. After some trouble (they really need to train their staff better), they kindly complied and delivered an extraordinarily messy-in-a-good-way nom. And now I give them a thumbs up. It might even be much better than Blue Moon Burgers. The forks are, without a doubt, much better. I shall return.

A messy messy Uneeda Burger

Uneeda Burger on Urbanspoon


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Filed under Burgers, Fremont, Restaurant, Wallingford

Pho Viet Anh

I have a long list of Seattle restaurants that I would like to try. I’d like to test out and experience for myself the success (or lack thereof) of restaurants that have been recommended as gluten free friendly. But alas, when I have the opportunity to eat out, trying a new place often seems like more trouble than it’s worth. It can be very stressful and I always feel like I need a backup plan.

On our way to a movie in lower Queen Anne, we found a recommendation on yelp for Pho Viet Anh stating that it is the “only openly gluten free Pho place in Seattle …” So we figured we should make a whole evening of it: dinner and a movie. And Pho is something I have missed so much since going gluten free. I used to frequent Than Bros Pho and I am very sad that I can no longer enjoy their pho on a rainy Seattle day.

Sadly, after a mile of wet socks from giant puddles and pouring rain, we were sorely disappointed. Although he was friendly, our server responded to my “can you do anything gluten free?” by telling me that I can’t eat there and, in fact, I can’t eat out anywhere.  I assure you that this is untrue, but certainly gluten free eaters can’t eat at Pho Viet Anh. So my hunt for gluten free pho in Seattle continues! And a thumbs up for Red Papaya for being our unintended and much appreciated back-up plan.

Pho Viet Anh on Urbanspoon

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Filed under Queen Anne, Restaurant, Vietnamese