Tasty options abound at local restaurants and bakeries
By Dionna Mash.
It used to be that gluten-free meant tasteless, a particularly sad state of affairs in foodie Bay Area. But with a rise in gluten-related disorders and sales of “GF” foods at $2.3 billion in 2010, restaurants and bakeries have stepped up their offerings. Now, even the most refined palates — GF or not — can find extraordinary savories and sweets. Some notable local purveyors:
What is gluten and who should avoid it?
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. Sensitivity to gluten has been found to exist on a spectrum, though research is ongoing to determine diagnostic guidelines. Symptoms include pain or discomfort after eating foods with gluten. Those with wheat allergies can experience gastrointestinal, skin and respiratory problems. And people with celiac disease, which causes the immune system to mistakenly attack the body’s own tissue, must avoid gluten completely.
Miglet’s Gluten-Free Bakery, Danville
Katie Alin, owner and founder of Miglet’s Gluten-Free Bakery, started experimenting with baked goods made with rice flour after her mother, Elaine Taylor, was diagnosed with celiac disease (see related story – Living gluten-free). At The Taylor Family Foundation’s weeklong celiac camps, the children were so ecstatic about Alin’s gluten-free birthday cakes that she started Miglet’s in 2007 to make sure the GF community would no longer go without.
Miglet’s, which opened a storefront in Danville two years ago, is a completely wheat-free facility that produces an array of sweet and savory treats, from cupcakes to quiche, that are moist and fluffy, and taste nearly identical to traditional baked goods.
“I love the fact that the gluten-free food industry is finally emerging,” Alin says. “However, I hope businesses are careful when following this trend and make sure that even if their recipe is gluten-free, that it’s still made in a wheat-free facility.”
Miglet’s also carries gluten-free grocery items such as frozen pizzas and specialty pastas, making their bakery a one-stop shop for those on a wheat-free diet. Fortunately, one doesn’t have to live near the bakery to partake: Alin’s goodies are sold at stores throughout the Bay Area, including Mariposa Baking and Draeger’s.
Miglet’s Lemon Bars
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar in a bowl until light and creamy (3 to 4 minutes). Add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth and fluffy. Add flours, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt, and beat until a thick, smooth dough is formed. Bake in an eight-inch-square glass pan for 10-12 minutes. Let cool.
Whisk together the eggs, sugar, lemon zest, lemon juice and flour. Pour over the crust. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool.
Va de Vi Bistro & Wine Bar, Walnut Creek
Va de Vi, known for its eclectic small plates, intimate ambience and hearty wine list, has a robust gluten-free menu. Diners can choose from a list of more than 20 wheat-free items, including pancetta-wrapped duck breast roulade and grilled bavette steak. The wait staff and chefs are very knowledgeable about the gluten-free menu, and are careful to make sure there is no cross-contamination in the kitchen by sanitizing work surfaces, using clean bowls and pans, and washing hands before prepping wheat-free dishes.
Executive chef Shane McAnelly suggests the restaurant’s spicy Calamari a la Plancha as a gluten-free alternative to battered and fried seafood.
Calamari a la Plancha
2 pounds fresh squid, cleaned and cut into ½-inch pieces
Mix the squid with the oil. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high flames until it is red hot, about 5-6 minutes. Add the squid, cooking from 30 seconds to a minute. Remove the squid and place in a large bowl, then toss it with the garlic, seasonings, peppers and potato and put back into the skillet to serve.
Sans Gluten-Free Grocery & Café, San Rafael
Siblings Marisa and Chad North started Sans Gluten-Free Grocery after battling gluten intolerance for much of their lives. The pair’s knowledge about GF foods and living a GF lifestyle makes shopping and eating at their store a more personal experience than buying from the larger health food and grocery chains. The Norths also can order hard-to-get items.
Sans not only carries high-quality, often local GF foods, but it also serves as a community and educational hub. For example, it recently hosted a lecture by Mill Valley nutritionist Willie Victor on “The Difference Between Gluten Intolerance and Celiac Disease.”
Several months ago, the Norths added a café to their store that is currently open on Fridays and Saturdays. It serves sandwiches and paninis (often with bread from Natural Food Works in Davis), organic and vegan soups, and corn bread and homemade chicken pot pies that Marisa says have a “cult following.”
One of Sans’ most popular items comes courtesy of longtime Bay Area chef and occasional Sans guest chef John Skinner, who credits fellow chef Scott McNeil with being the first to put quinoa and corn together:
Scott McNeil’s Quinoa Corn Salad
Yields about 8 cups
Note: Quinoa has a resinous, bitter coating called saponin. While the coating is usually removed before being sold, Skinner always “scrubs” quinoa with his hands in warm water to remove any residue and ensure no bitter taste. He then runs it through a fine sieve under cold running water.
1 cup quinoa
Drain quinoa in a strainer, transfer to a cooking pot, add water and salt if desired. Bring to a boil, cover with a tight-fitting lid and turn the heat down to simmer. Cook for 12 to 15 minutes until little volcanoes appear in the surface of the quinoa.
Remove quinoa from heat and allow to sit 5 minutes with the lid on. Place quinoa on a sheet pan/cookie sheet to cool, and fluff it gently with a fork.
Sear corn in a sauté pan and cool. Dip onions into boiling water for 10 seconds, drain into a bowl and pour vinegar over them to take away the heady top notes of raw onion and brighten the color.
Mix all ingredients. Any grain salad will need to have the seasonings adjusted before serving: The taste will go flat, because the high notes will diminish as it sits. Re-season with lemon and salt prior to serving.
When Irene Kwock, a former pastry chef at Fleur de Lys, hung up her apron after two decades in the business, she thought she’d never bake again. It wasn’t until her gluten-sensitive 9-year-old niece asked to bake a pie with her that she rose to the challenge of creating something delicious and gluten-free.
After a lot of trial and error, Kwock was so pleased with what she produced for her family that she decided to start Iamori (which means “I found the light” in Tahitian). From biscotti to pizza crusts to fruit tarts and more, Iamori products can be found throughout the Bay Area at a wide range of restaurants and supermarkets.
Very Berry Shortcake
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a 10-by-15-inch jelly roll pan with parchment paper and set aside.
Place the yolks and ¾ cup sugar in a mixing bowl. Using an electric mixer set on high speed, beat the yolks until the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in another bowl. Using an electric mixer set on medium speed, beat the egg whites until foamy, slowly add 2 tablespoons sugar, then raise the speed to high. Continue beating until stiff peaks form.
Add the vanilla extract and almond meal to the yolks mixture, and mix well.
Fold half of the egg whites into the yolks mixture to lighten the batter. Fold in the remaining half of the egg whites and pour the batter into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until lightly brown.
While the cake is in the oven, whip the heavy cream with 2 to 3 tablespoons of sugar until stiff peaks form. Keep it chilled.
Remove the stems from the strawberries and slice them. The rest of the berries are left whole. Mix all of the berries together with 2 tablespoons sugar and Grand Marnier and set aside.
To assemble the shortcakes:
To unmold the cake, cut around the edges of the pan. Place a sheet of parchment paper or cardboard on top of the cake. Position a cooling rack or the backside of another jelly roll pan on top of the cake, then quickly turn the cake upside-down. Peel the parchment paper off.
With a 3-inch round cutter or an inverted glass, cut the cake into 3-inch disks.
Place a cake disk on a plate, add a dollop of whipped cream and top with the berries. Top with another disk, more berries and cream.
Category: Food & Wine