Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014's Best Gluten-Free Products

Swept up in the resolution-making, nostalgic last moments of 2014, I'm continuing my reflection on the year that was through my year-end wrap up of the best of my blog. This year, more than ever before, my gluten-free, dairy-free horizons expanded dramatically thanks to the many new products I discovered at gluten-free expos and events as well as on store shelves. It's amazing to see the incredible innovation and ever-increasing growth of the gluten-free industry; I cannot wait to discover what new tastes I'll discover in 2015!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Eat Pastry Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Review

As much as I love reviewing and eating gluten-free baked goods, I have a new year's confession to make: I am a unenthusiastic baker. Limited to waffles, pizza crusts (pre-made mixes) and the occasional batch of banana breakfast cookies, my baking expertise is minimal at best. Combined with my sky high expectations and limited patience, baking is an art I feel is best left to my favorite bakeries.

Despite this, I'm not against baking altogether, especially when it is simplified to a process even I could not mess up. As if answering my culinary prayers, Eat Pastry's gluten-free, vegan cookie dough caught my eye due to the promise of a quick and easy baking process that renders chewy chocolate chip cookies fresh from the oven. 

Upon closer examination, I fell even more in love with the product before actually sampling it after realizing that this dough's vegan status. With no eggs or other animal by-products Eat Pastry is safe to eat before baking. That's right: It's safe, edible, and gluten-free raw cookie dough. What could be better? 

Monday, December 29, 2014

Maitland Farmers' Market Finds (Feat. Heartsong Cookies and Jacqueline's Cookies)

Although Christmas is now behind us, there's no denying the fact that this time of year is marked by the proliferation of cookies of all shapes and sizes. Normally one who does not seek out sweets, I have indulged myself over the past few weeks in Christmas cookies as a stress reliever for finals week and celebration that I made it through my first semester in college no worse for the wear.

On my first weekend back home in Orlando, my mom and I hit the Maitland Farmers' market at the beautiful Lake Lilly Park on the hunt for fresh veggies and one of my favorite local treats- Heartsong Cookies (see my original review here). However, Heartsong was not the only gluten-free cookie purveyor I discovered on that bright and beautiful Sunday; Jacqueline's Cookies, run by a local baker with ambition to grow her cookie business also caught my eye. 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Raphsodic Bakery Follow-Up Review

Though I have sampled bakeries here there and everywhere I go, I have a soft spot in heart for Raphsodic Bakery as my go-to Central Florida bakery. Specializing in vegan and gluten-free fare, visiting the bakery is one of the first things I do when I return back to Florida and has introduced me to baked goods I'd never thought I'd taste, much less enjoy, again. 

I posted about Raphsodic once before, but in recent visits, I have been able to sample a greater variety of their offerings including some special-order seasonal items for the holidays. 

Located in the fun and funky Mills 50 District, Raphsodic is minutes away from downtown Orlando and completely worth the drive from anywhere in Central Florida. The ladies behind the bakery are dedicated to their craft and prepare a dizzying array of sweets, treats, and savory items as well as offering fresh canned preserves, make-it-yourself gluten-free, vegan mixes (pizza crusts, scones, etc.), and other items from local artists and purveyors.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Phat Thai Cafe Review

Coming off of a finals week buoyed by Thai food and pho, my taste for Asian cuisine was not extinguished upon returning home. After the wave of energy and emotion that is Christmas crashed after a whirlwind day, my mom and wanted to get out of the house on Boxing Day but were not ready to battle the madness of big shopping centers or the more tourist-y areas of town. 

After some sleuthing online for a restaurant that was not too far away from home, was not too expensive, and was something we both could agree on rendered an obvious "Goldilocks" in Phat Thai Cafe which met each of our criteria.  

Phat Thai is not a new name for me as their former Altamonte Springs location was a familiar sight a couple years ago. Even before dietary restrictions entered my vocabulary, my mom raved about their spicy and delicious dishes but I was always hesitant trying the unfamiliar cuisine as my pre-teen taste boundaries were a bit more restricted as they are now. Relocated to Apopka, North of Orlando, I was looking forward to making my long delayed acquaintance with this little cafe.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Top 10 Gluten-free Friendly Baltimore Restaurants of 2014

Braving snow in the city.
'Tis the season for cumulative lists of the "year's best" restaurants, events, people, and more. Wanting to get in this year-end nostalgia, I'm reflecting on the year that was for my blog and reporting on the top 10 restaurants/cafes/bakeries I've discovered and re-discovered. Since I split my time between Central Florida and Maryland, I couldn't pare down my selections for one list and compromised by dedicating two lists- one for each state. 

This list is dedicated to my adopted home of Maryland. I have easily and quickly fallen in love with this quirky state that has introduced me to a whole new world of restaurants and cuisines. I have loved the opportunity to get out and explore Baltimore and the surrounding Baltimore County while also getting used to the beauty and burdon of seasonal temperatures (yes, it does get cold there). It's been the biggest adventure of my life so far, and cannot wait to jump back right into the fray next year. Until then, here's my list of Baltimore's best offerings in and around the city. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Sweet Note Bakery Review: Seasonal Bagels

Though various posts on this blog, I have well established my love for Sweet Note Bakery's authentic NYC-style bagels. Hailing from Pennsylvania, I found them first at the Schmear It food truck while exploring Philly this spring and hunted them out again here in Maryland at Towson Hot Bagels and On the Hill Cafe. Though I am a fan of their plain and everything varieties, I knew I'd have to break down and order a box of their seasonal flavors directly to my dorm as the winter weather and elevated course load limited my ability to get off campus. 

Once the magical box of bagels arrived, I immediately opened it, only to be confused by an ingredients list that failed to list pumpkin. As it turned out, my pumpkin spice bagels were switched with their new winter seasonal flavor: snickerdoodle. While I was bummed to wait a little while more to finally sample the ever elusive pumpkin spice bagel, my disappointment turned to excitement knowing that I'd be one of the first people to sample Sweet Note's newest arrival!

Two Boots Baltimore Review (CLOSED)

If you look closely- you'll see snow flurries!
5/17/17: As of late April, Two Boots Baltimore has closed. 

As it it is my final week in Baltimore for this semester, I've been brushing up on my course material for final exams and sneaking off campus to take the opportunity to visit restaurants that have been on my to-do list. 

Two Boots Pizza, located in Midtown Belvedere and nestled between the University of Baltimore and the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), caught my eye after discovering that they happen to be very gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan friendly.

Founded in 1987 in New York City, Two Boots' celebrates the unique cultural and culinary intersection of Louisiana and Italy (the two "boots") while featuring funky decor and a commitment to local communities. After my pizza disappointment earlier this week at Seasons, I went to Two Boots with the highest of hopes. As I soon found out, Two Boots knocked my boots off with their level of allergen awareness!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Seasons Pizza Review

With multiple locations in and around the Baltimore area, Seasons Pizza is a regional chain that has made an effort to welcome gluten-free customers back to the table to enjoy pizza once again.

Wanting to make the most of my final week in Maryland, I decided to trek over to Seasons Pizza in Towson to check it out before heading home. While normally I would have stayed in my dorm and taken advantage of their delivery service, I wanted to do an in-person visit to take advantage of the non-rainy day and ask questions about what preparation protocols they have in place.

Pho Dat Thanh Review

Whether its the cold weather, holiday spirit, or single digit day countdown to winter break, it's getting downright difficult to face the monotony of the dining hall. Don't get me wrong- my college has been pretty accommodating, but after my Thanksgiving break allowed me to rediscover the deliciousness of home cooking, it's hard to face the less-than-homemade quality of buffet lines.

Taking advantage of a lighter day due to a cancelled class, I ventured into downtown Towson with my sight set on Pho Dat Thanh. Although Orlando has a renowned little Vietnam district, I must admit that in my nine years of residency there that I never got a taste of the authentic Vietnamese cuisine served up by mom and pop shops. Hundreds of miles away from home, my visit to Pho Dat Thanh would serve as my formal introduction to the cuisine and magic of big bowl of pho.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Mariposa Bakery Review

In my final two weeks of classes and finals, I didn't really have the time or heart to make a grocery store run. After all, I'll have to clear out my refrigerator and freezer before I go. Not one to go without a supply of bread however, I decided to treat myself to an early Christmas present and order from a gluten-free bakery I've had my eyes on for awhile. 

Mariposa Bakery is a California-based, dedicated gluten-free bakery that serves up artisan-crafted baked goods. Offering products not usually found with the gluten-free label such as croissants, focaccia, tea cookies, and more, it's downright dangerous to browse through their assortment of mail delivery products as I found myself wanting one of everything. Realizing that my wallet and limited time frame restricted me from ordering one of everything, I decided to pick and choose three items I most wanted to try: iced gingerbread men, rosemary rolls, and challah. 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Favorite Products: November

My Thanksgiving Feast
While the weather outside may not be that frightful, it certainly proving to be a big change for this born and bred Floridian. Surprisingly, I'm finding that I quite enjoy the colder temperatures because they really add an intangible element to the holiday season that makes it all the more magical. Locke too is enjoying himself and we are both looking forward to our first snow-on-the-ground snowfall. 

November made for a delicious month for me as the Thanksgiving holiday brought me temporarily back to the sunshine state for a delicious Thanksgiving feast and chance to get out and explore some new restaurants and bakeries in Orlando and Jacksonville. This post is a round-up of my November mentionables, as part of a series I started last month, and showcases some gluten and dairy free products that caught my eye but did not make it into a full post.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Sweet Theory Baking Company

To see my follow-up review of Sweet Theory Baking Company, click here.

Whenever I travel anywhere, I always look out for dedicated gluten-free restaurants, cafes, and/or bakeries to check out. My recent trip through Jacksonville was no exception and my research quickly put me on the trail of Sweet Theory Baking Co. in the hipster-friendly 5 points district north of town which is home to theaters, shops, and eateries (including Orlando's own Hawkers!). Eager to check out the bakery, a traffic delay threatened my holiday mood, but upon arriving, Sweet Theory quickly brought the cheer back as they offered a dizzying array of sweet treats.