Monday, August 11, 2008
Chicago, Chicago...that Gluten-Free Town!
We're back from our conference in Chicago and I have to say, I am impressed with the gluten-free consciousness of The Windy City. It seems like everywhere we dined, there was a gluten-free menu, or a chef willing to make gluten-free food for me.
The highlight of my trip had to be my cupcake expedition with my dear friend Jessica. She'd been interviewing non-stop for the entire conference, so on Friday, we caught a cab to Lincoln Park to get a gluten-free cupcake at Swirlz.
Their motto is "cupcakes make people happy," and let me tell you, they DID! They made both of us happy. It was worth the $25 cab ride (my only Chicago extravagance, I might add) to buy the beautiful cupcakes. I learned about Swirlz from Gluten-Free Steve, and since I heard about this place, I knew i had to go there. It was beautiful! Lovely Linda, our server, said the owner has Celiac Disease, and for that reason, the shop serves GF cupcakes. What a service. (I wish they shipped. I would order from there all the time. At least three people came in while we were there asking if they shipped cupcakes, but they don't.)
Here are a few pics of the beautiful cupcake I ate first....I'm a southern girl, and you know red velvet is a fave...
Digging in...I bought FIVE cupcakes and ate them for three days! I also got chocolate on chocolate, and chocolate on vanilla.
Jess peruses her choices...she had banana nutella...and malted milk ball.
Someone on the Delphi Celiac listserv suggested a Greek place called Venus, and on Wednesday, Randy and I took Jess there to celebrate the end of her doctoral comps. Our friend Susan Lewis came along too, and we had a lovely time. Venus has a wonderful gluten-free dinner, and I asked the owner, Costa, why they were so dedicated to GF meals. He introduced me to Amy and Anna, two of his best customers -- and Amy is Gluten Free. They were just lovely women! But it was especially lovely that Costa would plan an entire menu because of a dedicated customer. What a great place!
I had a delicious stuffed eggplant. Randy had fish. Susan had lamb. And Jess had Spanikopita. Lovely!
I would also like to mention a couple of places that were incredibly gluten friendly. The first was an Italian restaurant called Volare, where the chef regularly replaces breaded items with grilled items for those who are gluten intolerant. I had a brilliant grilled eggplant parmesan with my friend Karen (shoutout to the new editor of Public Relations Research Journal!) and didn't even have to explain it to our server. We had a great meal and a great time talking about old times.
And Friday for lunch, we went to celebrity chef land -- Topolobampo, Rick Bayless's fine dining establishment on Clark Street. Our server, Jessica, was incredibly knowledgeable of gluten-free needs, and she even called the pastry chef to ask about the ingredients in desserts for me. It was brilliant. The food was amazing, the ambiance was perfect. We loved it. If you're gluten-free, this is a great place to dine. There were only two items on the entire menu that day that were not gluten-free. The chips were fried in a non-dedicated fryer, but they still brought me my own little bowl of delicious guacamole. We also shared a ceviche that was just incredible...try it. It is more than worth it. Oh yes, I had a celebrity sighting. I saw Rick Bayless. I am happy.
I can't leave my trip story without mentioning one more GF place we visited -- Garrett's Popcorn.. According to someone on the Delphi listserv, all their ingredients are gluten free, and their caramel corn....it was a seriously OMG moment. People at Garrett's follow Oprah's lead, though, and order "the mix," a mixture of caramel corn and cheddar cheese popcorn. I enjoyed it very much...in fact, between popcorn and cupcakes, I didn't eat anything healthy for days...
It was especially nice to visit with Jim Mallison and Dana Leckie, my "step" brother and sister-in-law. They live in Chicago, and visiting with them (and munching caramel corn) was the icing on the cake.
There's lots to do in Chicago, and there's plenty of GF food there, too. I can't wait to go back in May.
Much love, and I wish I had another cupcake!