Sunday, February 19, 2012

Picaro, Mission District, San Francisco

I had been to Picaro once before a long time ago. It was someone's birthday and I think we got mostly seafood paella. As I'm not the biggest fan of either, I was not impressed.

I recently took a out of town visitor to Picaro after a revelation that tapas might be a good way to get gluten-free items. At Picaro at least, I was right on - while they have some breaded and/or fried items, most of their dishes are cooked simply with olive oil, garlic, wine and some spices. Lots of garlic, lots of lemon wedges to squeeze on top. It was delightful!

My absolute favorite, which I will be going back for more of soon, was the grilled artichokes. The artichokes flowers were sliced thinly and nicely crispy. With garlic. And a fresh lemon wedge.

Did I mention garlic and lemon? Yes!

Also yummy was their tortilla de...I can't remember what the name was but it was basically like an omelet without the cheese and instead potatoes and onions. On the menu they says it's a popular item, and I can see why. Comes with a dollop of mayonnaise.

What is a tapas restaurant without sangria? Their's was good, but perhaps a tad too sweet.

Also of note was that the waitress was very nice about checking the ingredients on everything for me. And that most of it was indeed gluten-free and dairy free was excellent. I'll definitely be going back often.

If you are following the paleo diet, note that some items come with rice, but mostly the dishes are vegetables, meat and seafood, seasoned without sugar.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Masala Dosa, Inner Sunset, San Francisco, CA

Since I've been diagnosed with Celiac disease, I've been very shy of restaurants. Generally the only restaurants I feel comfortable eating at are fancy, expensive ones, because service is top notch and that includes attending to the needs of the food allergy ridden. I also feel relatively comfortable at restaurants with a gluten-free menu becuase they often have a more knowledgeable staff. Now, the latter is tricky because you have to wonder what definition of gluten-free they are operating under. Five years ago, I tried a "gluten-free" diet, because I had heard about how hard gluten was hard to digest, but it never occurred to me that there could be gluten in fish sauce or chicken broth. Even if you read ingredients carefully for gluten-ingredients, there is then the issue of gluten-contamination, which may not be a big deal for your average gluten intolerant person, but for a Celiac, this trace contamination can be as harmful as eating a cookie. How can I be assured that the chefs are aware of these issues? That they make sure not to prepare my food on surface with flour or bread crumbs? The answer is: I can't. But as awareness increases, I can just do my best to talk to the wait staff, and maybe someday get assertive enough to call ahead and talk to the chef and other staff. But for now, I cannot be sure.

With that frame of mind, I agreed to meet a friend at Masala Dosa for lunch with some apprehension. I often find my gluten-free friendly spots with a simple yelp search. Though, sometimes it can be hard to tell how good the options will be. I found a review for Masala Dosa that referred to a gluten-free menu, so I thought there must be something good there for me. Sure enough, the dosa section of the menu noted that all dosas were gluten free except for one kind. Fun! I had options!

Often times in restaurants where the owners and waitstaff do not speak English fluently, I have a hard time inquiring about whether the food is really gluten-free. With a lack of public knowledge of gluten-free issues, plus a language barrier, it can be hard to get the reassurance I need. I asked the waiter, a very nice guy with an accent, about whether any meats were prepared with flour, or if there was any flour added to the sauce. He said no, but he seemed to understand the importance of the questions, and said he would double check with the chef. He came back confirming that all the curries were gluten-free - no flour on the meat or in the sauce. Since I didn't get to talk to the chef, I have no idea if they really "got it." I can only trust that the waiter conveyed the importance.

My friend and I shared a masala dosa with chutney and a spinach and chicken curry. While not the most amazing Indian food I've ever had, they were both very tasty! The flavors were fragrant and rich and the quality of the food was quite good.

As I don't seem to be having a gluten reaction, I think the food was free of gluten contamination. I will definitely be going back to my new gluten-free Indian hot spot!

I can't eat dairy either, though I think it's easy to avoid the creme sauces and the paneer. I wonder about which items include butter that is not stated in the description. I'll have to ask about that next time.