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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Restaurant Review - Inna's Kitchen

Many years ago, when my wife and I were first engaged, we had a Sunday morning ritual: We would walk from our Teele Square apartment in Somerville to Harvard Square.  Then we would buy the Sunday paper, and go to a restaurant that I think was called the Greenery.  Cathy would order sourdough French toast, and I would order the challah bread French toast.  We would share the paper, eat half of what we ordered and then switch plates.

I have missed eating challah bread French toast.  Oh sure, Katz makes delicious gluten free challah bread, but there is just something about going out to breakfast and eating French toast out.

Well, if you’re like me, and love challah bread French toast, have I found a place for you.

Tucked away on Pelham Street in Newton Center is a small place called Inna’s Kitchen.  They will be in business one year next week.  They have gotten great reviews in Yelp, and when I saw that they had gluten free challah bread French toast, was there even a question of where we were going to go, and what I was going to get?

Inna’s kitchen is a small Jewish deli, that is owned and run by Inna and Alex Khitrik.  Inna is also the Chef and Alex is the Gluten free Baker.  They only have six tables inside, and now that it is starting to get warmer, they told me they will have some outside seating as well.

I had a feeling the challah bread was going to be good, since there was a gentleman who was buying a loaf of it.  Apparently, he calls every week, and they make a loaf of challah bread for him.  As long as you call ahead, they will do the same for anyone.

The coffee was serve yourself…they had dark roast, medium roast and decaf.  The coffee was good.
I was just refilling Cathy’s cup when out came our meals.  There it was.  The size of the pieces were normal bread loaf size, but really thick.  Perfectly cooked, nice and brown on the outside with a hint of powdered sugar, and cooked fully through on the inside.  It came with a small side of fruit and some syrup on the side.

I took a bite. 

I wish I had a better vocabulary than I do, because then I could fully describe how it tasted.  Since I don’t, let me put it this way.  Sometimes when something tastes really good, I eat it very slowly so I can savor every bite, and sometimes I shovel it into my mouth as quickly as possible because it’s so good.  In this case, it was the latter.

For the full gluten people, I was told that the bagel and lox were fabulous, and the cheese blintzes were very good. 

They have a number of gluten free items, including vegetable lasagna, carrot cake cupcakes and black and white cookies.  I can’t wait to try them all…if I have room after I eat my challah bread French toast.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Restaurant Review - Deluxe Station Diner

My luggage broke.

The zipper pull on my luggage broke when I was in Las Vegas.  Luckily, I have Briggs and Riley luggage.  Although it is very expensive, it is guaranteed for life.  My luggage is approaching 15 years old and the luggage pulls have both broken over the last year, and have been replaced for free.

The only issue is finding a place semi-nearby to take the luggage to get fixed.  Leather World in Newton will do that!  Perfect!  It just happens to be one block away from one of my favorite breakfast places:  The Deluxe Station Diner.

The Deluxe Station Diner is the sister restaurant of the Deluxe Town Diner in Watertown.  I prefer their restaurant in Newton.  Why?  Well…the booths.  See, the seats in the Watertown location are often…broken.  The seats are often held together with Duct Tape, and you feel the springs coming up through the seats.  Regardless, the food is quite good at both places.

They do not have a gluten free menu, but they do accommodate.  Let me tell you about three items that I have gotten there.

First, I love their corned beef hash and eggs.  No canned stuff here!  This is their homemade corned beef hash.  Nice sized chunks of perfectly seasoned corned beef that isn’t overly greasy in your mouth.  You can get the eggs any way you want, but I prefer them sunny side up, so when you cut into the yolk, it almost creates a creamy sauce that mixes with the corned beef. 

For those of you who need a maple syrup fix, they have Rhode Island Johnny Cakes.  Not being originally from New England, the only thing I knew about johnny cakes was there was a mobster in the Sopranos who was gay.  He left the mob and was having an affair with a line cook at a restaurant.  Apparently, this line cook made unbelievable johnny cakes.

As described on their menu, johnny cakes are made with stone ground white cornmeal.  They are wheat and dairy free, and as a bonus, they are low in fat.  They have the same general taste as cornbread, but they have a more intense flavor, and they have a crunchier texture than cornbread.  They are good but I will say they suck up maple syrup pretty fast, so you may need to keep adding more…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  

These are the two items I usually get.  However, a few months ago, we met some friends there and one of them raved about their Southwestern Omelet.  It is a two egg omelet that is filled with their homemade chili.  I have a favorite omelet that is filled with chili at another restaurant so I was anxious to try this one.

I was prepared to not like it.  Surprise!  It was quite good.  The chili was a little more tomato based than I normally like, as it had chunks of tomato in it, but it had a nice chili flavor that was a bit on the mild side.  The sour cream and guacamole came on the side.

For you all gluten-eating people, Cathy says that their various flapjacks and Challah french toast are delicious.  In addition, the coffee is quite good, and they have big mugs.  The service is always pretty good.

So if you want to meet sometime for a good breakfast, to paraphrase Mickey Dolenz, take the last train to Newton and I’ll meet you at the Deluxe Station Diner.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Quality of Life

A few days ago, I read an article entitled, “The Toxic Truth About Gluten-Free Food and Celiac Disease.”  Essentially, this article says that a gluten free diet is a good start for Celiac disease, but those who have celiac disease should also stay away from cereal grains, soy, industrial seed oils, and sugar.  This got me thinking about quality of life.

I’m not telling anyone that they shouldn’t take this article seriously.  I think you should.  But from a personal point of view, I wonder what my life would be like without those items.  Would I live longer?  And if I did, what would my quality of life be?

Quality of life is something I have been thinking about a lot over the last 10 years or so.  A recent example of quality of life would be the story of my father-in-law, whose name was Ed.  He lived in Baltimore for many years with his second wife, Cathy’s step-mother.  When she died, we asked him to come up here, and after a few years, he finally decided to make the move.  He was in his eighties at that point.  We found an apartment for him in Melrose, and he loved his independence.

Although Ed would get a bit confused when he was tired, for the most part he was sharp as a tack.  Cathy and I would play cribbage with him, and it always amazed me how quick he could add points up.  “I got fi’teen 2, fi’teen 4, fi’teen 6 fi’teen 8, a pair is 10, a pair is 12, and his nibs is 13.”

A couple of years after he moved up, he had severe chest pain.  He went to the hospital, and it turned out he needed open heart surgery.  He was in surgery for 11 hours.  After he got out of surgery and back home, mentally he was not the same.  Now when we played cribbage, he would say, “I got fi’teen 2, fi’teen 4.”  And Cathy or I would say, “No Dad, you missed another fifteen and this pair.  You have 8.”  Cathy and I did some research and it turns out that being under anesthesia for a long time at an advanced age can affect the mind.  He went downhill pretty quickly.  He couldn’t remember what medicines he was supposed to take, so we had to move him to a rest home.  He was there for a while, and continued to go downhill.  Eventually he had to go to a nursing home, and not too soon after, Ed passed away.

Cathy and I are convinced that had the doctor told him the risks to his mental health after this operation, he would have chosen not to have it, because he would not have wanted to live that way.  See, that’s the thing about modern medicine:  You can live longer than you used to, but what is the quality of life?

I love to eat.  I love the smell of food.  I love the different textures of food.  There is no better taste in the world to me than a perfectly seared scallop wrapped in smokey thick cut bacon, paired with a sweet Riesling.  I diet six days a week in order to help keep my weight down, and one day a week, I eat whatever I please, within the confines of a gluten free diet.  I feel fine.  The symptoms that I had are gone, and I have been essentially gluten free for four years now.  Although the information in the article absolutely has merit, I feel that cutting even more out of my diet would affect the quality of my life in a way that would make me enjoy life less.

And isn’t enjoying life to the fullest with the ones we love the most important thing?

Restaurant Review - Papa Razzi

As I was saying a few blogs back…

I’ve wanted to eat chicken parm for a while…I hadn’t had it since I went gluten free.  Cathy and I had to be in Burlington yesterday, so I checked the Gluten Free Registry and I found two places where I thought I could get some chicken parm.  After looking at Yelp, we decided on Papa Razzi.

Papa Razzi is a small chain that is mostly in Massachusetts, but has a location in Rhode Island, a couple in New Jersey, one in New York and one in DC.  I hadn’t been there for many years, and I remembered it to be good.  Not great…I mean, Mario Batali has nothing to worry about.  So after spending an hour or so at the ridiculously crowded mall, off we went to Papa Razzi.

I had made a reservation earlier in the day, and told them that there was a person who was gluten free.  When we walked in the door and gave them my name, the hostess said, “Oh, and there is a gluten free member of your party?  Don’t worry, we’ll take care of you.”  Good start.

Unfortunately, they didn’t tell our waitress who brought over bread and put it in front of me.  I pushed the plate to Cathy and told our waitress I was gluten free.  She apologized and gave us the drink menu.

A few minutes later, the manager came over with a plate of gluten free bread.  Awesome!

We ordered drinks, and I ordered something called Blueberry Lemonade.  A few minutes later, our waitress came over and said I couldn’t have that, because the blueberry vodka they use was not gluten free.  That is something I tend to forget, so I thought that it was great they were so attentive.  They offered me some alternatives, but I chose to stick with water.

They do not have a gluten free menu, but they do have gluten free pasta, and can accommodate nearly everything on the menu.  I ordered the chicken parm.  Our waitress said no problem, the chicken just would not have breadcrumbs on it.  I suppose this is because if they put it in the deep fryer to cook, they don’t have a dedicated fryer.  Too bad, because the bread I was served was delicious, and they could have used that bread for the breadcrumbs.

Our waitress came back about 15 minutes later or so, with my wife’s meal.  The manager accompanied her and put my meal in front of me and announced, “Gluten free chicken parm.”

It was quite good.  I mean, Lidia Bastianich has nothing to worry about.  But the sauce was flavorful without being over bearing.  The cheese covering the chicken was just the right amount.  Not so much that it was gooey, not so little that it seemed like it wasn’t there.  I did miss the breadcrumbs though, because that gives some texture to the meal that I missed. 

As for the pasta, it was penne, and well cooked.  Perfectly Al Dente.  They give you a ton of pasta and I did notice that as it began to get cold, it kind of…crumbled.  I thought that was a little weird.

It was one of my few ventures with Italian food since I went gluten free and with more and more Italian restaurants in the North End now serving gluten free pasta, I expect there will be more Italian restaurant reviews.  That being said, I thought that overall, Papa Razzi did a pretty good job.  They certainly took care of me from a gluten free point of view, and we left a generous tip reflecting that.  So I would definitely go back.  But I don’t think Michael Chiarello has anything to worry about.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


Recently, I read something that said people who are gluten free usually tend to miss one of two breakfast/snacky types of food.  One is Pop-Tarts.  The other is doughnuts.  I have to agree with them.  Every time I go to the store, I say to my wife, “I wish Kellogg’s would make gluten free Pop-Tarts.  And every time my wife wants doughnuts, she wants them from a fairly well known bakery in East Boston called Betty Ann Food Shop.  And every time she wanted them the past, I would paint a smile on my face but be completely envious.

I mean, what is a gluten free doughnut lover to do?  There are recipes out there, but usually, this is a spur of the moment kind of thing, and unfortunately, no bakery near me makes gluten free doughnuts. 

Kinnikinnick makes doughnuts…kind of.  Listen, Kinnikinnick makes some really good products.  Lots of people like their doughnuts.  They just don’t do anything for me.

But I found a doughnut that helps the doughnut craving.  It isn’t a glazed type of doughnut like you’d get at Dunkin Donuts or Krispy Kreme.  It is like the Hostess or Entenmann’s powdered doughnuts we all grew up with.

The company is called Katz.  I will be writing a lot about them because I happen to like many of their products. 

They come six to a package.  As you can see from the picture, they are basically around the size of an Entenmann’s powdered doughnut.  You do keep them in the freezer…I usually give them a quick defrost on high for 15 seconds.

To me, they taste just like I remembered a powered doughnut should taste.  The powdered sugar gives some sweetness, and the cake is soft and delicious.

So, while I still hold out hope that one day Dunkin Donuts will make a gluten free glazed doughnut, I will gladly eat my Katz doughnuts and smile while I wipe the powdered sugar that’s on my hands onto my pants.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Prayers For A Friend

Although I want to make this blog about living a gluten free life, I feel I need to write something off topic.

There is a very sweet woman where I work.  The worst thing I ever heard come out of her mouth was that she hated the New York Yankees. 

A few years ago, she was diagnosed with leukemia.  She was very, very sick.  She was in the hospital for months.  This was because her leukemia was so advanced, that in order to find a match for a bone marrow transplant, she needed nearly a perfect match.  She got one and after a very, long time, she went into remission, and has been back at work now for a year or so.

The doctors now suspect that her husband has lung cancer.

I can’t begin to tell you how incredibly sad I feel that this poor woman has to live through this nightmare.  Her family does not deserve this, nor does any family. 

This may sound incredibly corny, but you have but one life, and so do your loved ones.  Tell them how much you love them before you go to bed tonight.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Restaurant Review - Blue Moon Grill

My wife Cathy and I love to go out for breakfast on Saturday.  Quite often, we search various web sites to find interesting new places to eat breakfast.  It’s our favorite meal of the day, and after eating healthy Sunday through Friday; we’re itching to indulge a bit.  And quite frankly, it’s cheaper than eating out for dinner. 

Many times, I am limited to omelets.  Not that I dislike omelets, mind you.  I have had some tremendously flavorful omelets.  But sometimes, I just don’t want to have an omelet, but I still want to go out for breakfast.  Sometimes, I just want…pancakes!  And when I want gluten free pancakes, I go to the Blue Moon Grill in Wakefield.

The husband and wife team of Nancy and Vinny Chiuchiolo owns the Blue Moon Grill.  They are open for breakfast and lunch, and according to their website, serve breakfast all day.

When you go out to dinner, the person waiting on you will bring a basket of bread, or maybe pickled vegetables.  You never get anything for breakfast, right?  Not here!  Every table gets a small bowl of fresh fruit.  Very nice touch!

I’ve had many things to eat at Blue Moon Grill, but yesterday, I went for the gluten free Blueberry Bliss pancakes.  What’s a Blueberry Bliss pancake?  Well, they take their gluten free pancakes, and cook them with blueberries, dollops of cream cheese, and brown sugar cooked right into the pancake.  The flavor is savory and sweet all at the same time.  Folks, to paraphrase Alton Brown, I’m not saying these pancakes are the best things in the world for you; I’m just saying these pancakes are the best things in the world!

During a visit a couple of months ago, I asked our waitress to bring me something that she thought was the best gluten free item they make.  Out came gluten free eggs benedict.  So here’s what they did.  They poached an egg, and put that on top of some spinach and a tomato slice.  Then the whole thing sat on top of a silver dollar pancake.  The egg was seasoned well and perfectly cooked with a runny yoke that was hot, but not blazing hot so you would burn yourself. 

All of the their pancakes can be made gluten free.  For your full gluten friends, my wife has had the pancakes and the crepes, and loves both of them.

In addition, the service has always been great whenever we’ve gone.

According to the dictionary, the definition of bliss is supreme happiness.  I call bliss the Blue Moon Grill.