Monday, June 28, 2010

Gltuen Free dining at THE MELTING POT

The Melting Pot Fondue Restaurant chain recently introduced a gluten free menu nationwide. Fondue seems like something that can easily be made gluten free... skipping bread dipped into the cheese and pound cake dipped into the chocolate.

My girlfriend and I had dinner at the Buffalo Grove location. I was promptly given a GF menu upon request and the server had been obviously educated about the differences and precautions in serving food gluten free. Although, the GF menu had no prices!! How can a restaurant possible justify giving me a menu without prices!?!?!

While preparing our cheese fondue for us, our server explained the different steps he had taken to keep ours gluten free. After asking if it was OK, he did bring my girlfriend out some bread on a separate plate- and brought her a spoon to drizzle the cheese onto her bread. We next enjoyed the entree fondue and we were able to choose from many cooking styles and there were plenty of gluten free sauces for dipping. Very little modification was needed.

Lastly, we enjoyed some chocolate fondue. We enjoyed all the juicy, fresh fruit and I brought my own brownies with for dipping (YUM!). Our server again brought out extra goodies on a separate plate for my friend along with her own drizzling spoon.

It was a nice dinner-- the Melting Pot is slow eating, quiet, a great place to spend 2 hours chatting with a good friend. The GF menu also included a drink list- since I am not a drinker I don't know much about which alcohols are safe to drink and found some interesting reading. And a very delicious looking chocolate martini is right on the GF menu.

Before you go - check the website and join club fondue-- you will get a free chocolate dessert and some great coupons and offers will be sent to you. That's right- free chocolate!!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Gluten free dining at P.F. Chang's China Bistro

P.F. Chang's has a newly expanded gluten free menu. We tried it for dinner with the kids. We ate at the Northbrook location, which is on the south side of Lake Cook Road, so not quite in Lake County. The menu was large- 27 items and 1 dessert. The GF menu did contain prices, which I find to be very respectful to the GF diner. I did compare the prices to the regular menu and there was about an $0.50 markup on the GF items. Some of the items are further designated as vegetarian. There was a large range- chicken, beef, and seafood. We ordered GF Mongolian Beef, GF Philip's Better Lemon Chicken, GF Singapore Street Noodles, GF spinach with garlic, and GF chocolate dome dessert.

Upon being seated we immediately identified ourselves as GF diners to our waiter. He had brought us a condiment tray and so he took the soy sauce away, leaving us a tray obviously minus one bottle. It would have been really nice had he brought us a container of gf soy sauce to have tableside.

The food was good. The mongolian beef was caramelized and tender, the noodles were saucy with ample shrimp, and the chicken was very fresh. A warning on the lemon chicken, however-- it was very lemony! And the broccoli served with the dish was either raw or very significantly undercooked.

The chocolate dome dessert is the same item as on the regular menu- it was very dense and rich. How nice to be able to order a dessert when dining out. You can see the GF menu here

Finally, if you are going, register for a Warrior Card ( to get 10% of your bill every time you dine at P.F. Chang's for all of 2010. What a great savings!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Gluten free dining at STARVED ROCK LODGE in Utica, IL

I'm venturing far out of Lake County in this one...

We visited Starved Rock State Park last weekend and we stayed at the Lodge located within the state park. I had sent an email through the lodge website asking if there is any GF dining options and I was so happy to hear back from Kimberly, the dining room manager. I can't give you her email because it includes her last name and I don't feel right sharing it, but her phone number is: 815-220-7372.

Kimberly assured me, over the course of about 12 emails, that the dining room at the lodge could definitely accommodate us. She discussed menu options with me, offered to make us gf pancakes for breakfast, and even ordered us some gluten free ice cream. It's funny that she asked me to bring in a new package of pancake mix for the chef to prepare... I showed up with my bag of Pamela's only to discover that Chef Charlie (another wonderfully helpful person) had a bag stashed in his kitchen. Chef Charlie even made us special french fries! The fryer is used for breaded items so was off limits to us-- Chef Charlie sliced us up some fresh potatoes and-- we were eating french fries!

And here's something else demonstrating the need for GF dining options. A woman approached our table during breakfast to ask about ordering gf pancakes. She had noticed us at dinner with our box of Glutino breadsticks... She introduced herself as Maria, said she also has celiac disease, and that she had no idea she could order gf pancakes. She told me about her restaurant in Peoria where she has many gf options. And, in case you are in Peoria, here is a link to find her.(

I hope that this post helps someone find a wonderful weekend away in Starved Rock. The lodge is old and the rooms very basic, but the hiking is fabulous and there is safe food... How wonderful! It is through sharing and networking that we can uncover all these hidden possibilities...