Sunday, February 28, 2010

Gluten free Uno's at WI Dells

We had dinner last month at the Pizzeria Uno's in the Dells. We knew there is a GF menu and that we could enjoy a safe pizza dinner. I had not seen the GF menu before but on a previous post about gf Dells dining I did get a comment about great customer service so we felt confident in going.

We were initially impressed by the size of the gf menu and that it included dessert items. Although we were puzzled and offended that the menu did not contain any prices. We asked our server about this and she said she would ask but then she did not give us a response. I emailed customer service upon my return home and received the following answer from Barbara Rutman:

Our prices vary slightly from area to area but do follow the prices on our regular menu. If the item is a chicken item and it is also a gluten-free item, then it is the same price.

It does not make sense to me that I should have to negotiate through 2 menus to determine the price of an item I want to order. I wish Uno's would give gluten free diners the respect of a priced menu.

My kids loved the pizza. My husband and I thought it was just OK; maybe that is because we know how good the gluten-pizza is. I had a bowl of black bean soup and it was hearty and warm- just what I was looking for an a cold and snowy night. We are glad to know about this option for future travels.

Gluten Free Great Wolf Lodge Wisconsin Dells

Last month we drove up to the Wisconsin Dells for a 4 day vacation. We booked a condominium unit at the Great Wolf Lodge that included a full kitchen. I brought food and cooking utensils to prepare lunch and snacks in the room. Based on my earlier research, we knew that the resort offered gluten free meal options to cover us for breakfast and dinner.

Breakfast is a buffet option only and we were a bit nervous our first morning. The hostess immediately assured us that there was a cook-to-order gf option and indeed the chef came out immediately to talk to us and take our order. We tried the pancakes and the waffles- I'd recommend ordering them with chocolate chips- the mix used has an aftertaste and the chips did a great job disguising it. I suspect that it was tapioca- although the mix itself was not labelled and the chef did not know the specific ingredients nor the brand mix that was used. The chefs were also very willing to cook us fresh eggs and breakfast meats so we didn't have to worry about cross-contamination from the buffet. I really love going out for breakfast and without the gf mix and the cook-to-order option the buffet would be totally off-limits to us, so this was just great! And the kids ate free! And, there was no surcharge for the gf items!

We ate dinner twice at the Loose Moose, the resort's sit-down restaurant. There are 2 gluten free menus containing 9 items total. Portions were large and there was no surcharge for the gf items. Service was lacking- we had problems both nights (dinner the 2nd night was comped by the manager). The problems were service related so I'm not going to get into them here, although poor service does leave me worried about contamination issues with our food and as such it is worth mentioning. Servers had little information about gf menu specifics and the 2nd night they denied that there was a child's gf menu even though we had ordered from it the night before! It was unclear if the fries were gf - I had heard they were from the food & beverage manager but was very doubtful upon seeing them and I did not get any reassuring, definite answer.

The resort orders in pizza crusts from the French Meadow Bakery ( but the pizza they offered to my kids was really lacking. These pizzas are delivered in their own cooking tin and I prefer to have the pizza served in the tin to avoid cross-contamination. This was not done, and the pizza was covered in olive oil, cheese, fresh diced tomatoes. The ring of toppings covered only about the inner 2/3 of the crust- leaving a lot of empty crust that my kids were unable to enjoy. This was frustrating since the crust is quite good and it would have been so easy to produce a decent pizza. We complained and learned that the restaurant had no gf pizza sauce to offer us. The cook in the back made us up some gf tomato sauce by pureeing fresh tomatoes and re-did the pizzas which my kids then happily ate. I enjoyed some very tasty, tender, and meaty ribs both nights. The second night my kids both ordered bowls of gf pasta with butter. The portions were really large and the pasta was cooked thoroughly. I believe it was the Namaste brand rainbow spirals. For dessert there is an ice cream counter serving Edy's brand that my kids just loved.

So, we found overall the service and the food (gluten free and regular) to be mediocre. I was so excited last December when I spoke to John Williams, the food & beverage manager, about the gf options. It is really hard to complain about a resort that offered us gluten free dining, but if there is going to be a gluten free menu, then train the servers well and use the gf ingredients and mixes to make good food! There are so many good pancake/waffle mixes that to use one that has such a strong odor/aftertaste doesn't make sense to me. And to go through the trouble of ordering gf pizza crusts but to then not have gf pizza sauce is really poorly planned.

Our kids loved the waterpark and we intend to return to the Dells next winter. I hope by then that the Great Wolf has developed their gluten free dining into something delicious and diner friendly because we would love to go back!

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gluten free Hamentaschen

Purim is coming! My kids and I wanted to make hamentaschen to enjoy this wonderful celebration. These 3 sided, jelly filled cookies are a great way to celebrate such a fun holiday. And these were so easy. I followed the same recipe I had from last year, before we were gluten free, and all I changed was to swap out the flour for Better Batter mix instead! ( It was literally a cup-for-cup swap! I suspect that another flour mix would also work although I would avoid a bean flour mix as I doubt there is enough other flavor here to mask the bean-y taste.

These cookies turned out very tender and they held together well.

Gluten Free Hamentaschen

2 cups Better Batter flour
2 sticks margarine (room temperature)
4 TBS sugar
8 ounces cream cheese (room temperature)
filling of choice- traditionally jelly, but consider a chocolate chip/brown sugar mix

Mix together first four ingredients by hand, knead until dough consistency. Divide into 24 balls, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Pat each ball flat, place 1 TBS of filling into center and pinch up into a 3 sided cookie. Don't make your 3 points too pointy to avoid burning. Seal your seams very well to keep the filling inside of the cookie during baking. I sprinkled a little sugar over the top of the jelly filled treats. Bake on a parchment lined sheet at 350 for about 18-20 minutes, until golden brown.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Gluten Free Grocery in Westchester, IL

Yes, it is a bit of a hike from Lake County.. But the GF Grocery is a neat place, larger than the Northbrook gf store, and they have a Stashu's frozen pizza that my kids like.

They have a sampling day coming up next month-

Easter Sampling Event March 6, 2010

Spend some time with us on Saturday, March 6 between 10am – 2pm and sample our items that will be available for special order. Our bakers for this holiday are Apple Bakery and St. Honore Confections.
DF = Dairy free in addition to gluten-free Items available for sample and ordering include:
Angel food cakes - original, chocolate and coconut (DF)
Decorated cupcakes (DF)
Chocolate fudge cupcakes
Decorated sugar cookies (DF)
Pies - Apple, Blueberry, Cherry, Strawberry/Rhubarb, and Raspberry (DF)
Mixed berry cobbler (DF)
Coffeecakes - Cinnamon and Pecan Lemon Poundcake (DF)

The website lists a bunch of local restaurants with gf menus so you could stop at the grocery and then pick a nice place for lunch... We went to the spring sampling event and then had lunch at Adobo Grill.

The owners of the grocery store were very knowledgeable and helpful.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Gluten free dinner at Buffalo Phil's in the Wisconsin Dells

My family and I went up to the Wisconsin Dells last weeks and we had a fabulous waterpark vacation. I intend to post about The Great Wolf Lodge and the Uno's Pizzeria, but tonight I want to share the great GF dinner that we had at Buffalo Phil's Pizza & Grille.

We had taken the boys to the adjoining Knuckleheads Bowling and Indoor Amusement Park and they spent a long time climbing around inside of a very large jungle gym/ball pit attraction. Just for fun my husband walked into Buffalo Phil's to see it they could accomodate us. The hostess knew about gluten free dining and was very helpful and gave us great recommendations.

So we gathered up the boys and had dinner! Not only were we happy to not have to get back in the car, but the food actually gets delivered by train! And the track is pretty big, there were at least 8 6-top tables along with a bunch of stools right on the track. (For Thomas fans, there was a large plasma showing Thomas DVDs). We ordered the rotisserie chicken along with coleslaw, mashed potatoes, corn, baked beans. We had to skip the corn bread and the waffle fries as they had a gluten containing coating. The chicken was very moist and flavorful and the boys ate a lot. The mashed potatoes, unfortunately, were not too good, there was some flavor to them that we could not place. The coleslaw was fresh, zesty, and crisp- very tasty.

For dessert, our server brought me out the vanilla ice cream ingredient list and she brought me the industrial can of chocolate syrup so I could check the ingredients. These all checked out and we had ice cream sundaes following our rotisserie chicken dinner.

To make this unplanned-train delivered meal even better, we were there for the Wednesday $9.99 special- so with 1 soft drink and 2 desserts our bill was $16.

This is just the kind of option I am often looking for and I am so glad to be able to share it via my blog.