Life Lately

Oh poor blog, I am so sorry for abandoning ye. But you’ve always been in my heart, I promise!

A month ago I started a new job at New jobs generally tend to take up a lot of time, but when you LOVE your new job, they take up even more time without you realizing, because you are enjoying every second of it.

But I have been squeezing in some cooking to my crazy new life, and promise to share recipes soon! To tide you over, here are some delicious adventures I’ve had lately:

Australian gluten free treatsEnjoying gluten-free treats my mom brought me all the way from Australia (those chocolate cookies are crumbly but goooood.)

Gluten free chocolate cupcakesSpending the weekend in Atlanta with a bunch of my closest friends from college, staying with a friend’s parents who happen to be gluten-free and whose mom made this INCREDIBLE chocolate cupcake with chocolate mousse, marshmallow, and chocolate fudge.

Halloween sushiEnjoying my new gluten-free-friendly cafeteria (GF bread! GF signs on everything I can eat! GF soy sauce!), which gets really into the holidays.

Potato pastaTrying new (to me) restaurants in NYC with gluten-free options, like this pasta made out of potatoes at Sauce.

ABC kitchen And trying fancy restaurants too, like ABC Cocina. My best friend and I made a pact to try new restaurants each weekend, rather than continuously going to our old standbys. Best pact ever.

Gluten Free Restaurant Review: Bistango in Murray Hill

When I first announced that I was going gluten free, nearly every person who gave me advice suggested I eat at Bistango in Murray Hill. It’s also on nearly every list if you’re Googling gluten free resturant options in NYC, so I knew I had to try it. I went with my gluten-eating mom so we could try the full range of the menu, and I’m happy to report that both of us came away totally stuffed and totally happy.
Great gluten free Italian food at Bistango! Check out the review at CakeIsTheOnlyThingThatMatters.comAs soon as we sat down the waitress asked if anyone at the table had any food allergies or intolerances. When I told her I was gluten free, she explained that (whether it explicitly stated so or not), every single dish on the menu could be prepared gluten free. Considering another restaurant I went to this weekend told me, “well, there’s cream in the sauce” when I said I was gluten free (seriously), this was very exciting.

The thing I really liked about Bistango was that they catered to everyone’s needs without even needing to ask. They brought me a little plate of gluten free bread, but they gave my mom regular bread, and they gave us separate little dishes of garlic olive oil so we wouldn’t have to worry about gluten crumbs.
Great gluten free Italian food at Bistango! Check out the review at CakeIsTheOnlyThingThatMatters.comBurrata is definitely one of my top 10 foods ever. Thank you for not having gluten, cheese.
Great gluten free Italian food at Bistango! Check out the review at CakeIsTheOnlyThingThatMatters.comAlso incredibly exciting about Bistango’s menu: stuffed pastas! I’ve had a variety of dried gluten-free pasta in the past few weeks, but I thought I was kissing cheese-filled pasta goodbye. Bistango has a number of gluten-free ravioli, tortellini, manicotti, and other stuffed pasta options, and you can pick whatever sauce you want. I never make myself pink sauce, so I ordered that on my spinach and ricotta ravioli. The pasta itself could have had a tad more flavor, but the filling and sauce were good! My mom had regular pasta in a short rib sauce and really enjoyed it, so this is definitely a great place to go with people who can eat gluten.

Almost the entire dessert menu is gluten free (and they have some dairy free options too, if you have a dairy restriction as well). Since we were so full my mom and I shared creme brulee (naturally gluten free!), and I got a slice of key lime pie to take home. The creme brulee was excellent. The key lime pie was pretty good but definitely needed whipped cream (I grew up eating a LOT of key lime pie though, because it’s my dad’s favorite dessert and he’s very picky about how it’s made, so I do scrutinize key lime pie more than most people). I definitely want to try copying their almond crust though.
Great gluten free Italian food at Bistango! Check out the review at
Bistango also does brunch, so I plan to go back soon to check that out! They also have lots of non-pasta options at all meals, so if you’re trying to eat mostly naturally gluten free food, they have that too.

VERDICT: 4.5 out of 5 stalks of wheat stars

The Light at the End of the [Tired] Tunnel?

Something weird’s been going on the past two days. I’ve been…not tired.
Saying that normally I’m always tired might be hyperbole, but usually, I’m tired. I’ve gotten so used to it that it took me completely by surprise yesterday when I realized that my feeling that something was off was that I wasn’t tired. I think the only reason I recognized the not-tired feeling is because I was so recently on vacation. I don’t feel like I have the energy to leap between rooftops and run marathons, but I don’t feel the weight of exhaustion on me. I don’t know if this is a fluke, if my coffee’s been stronger than usual, or…if it’s the lack of gluten. I’ve heard claims that giving up gluten gives you more energy, but I really didn’t think I’d experience that, since that’s not the problem I’m trying to fix. If this sticks around and isn’t just the coffee, however, I’m okay with it, especially since it’ll be months before I know if going GF is truly helping.

It’ll be nice to have some quicker benefits, because this adjustment period is a PAIN. Last night three of my friends and I had our traditional Harry Potter and sushi fest that is our tradition whenever our friend who moved to L.A. is in town. This was my first time having sushi since going gluten free, and if you look at my search history on any of my iDevices, you’ll see a LOT of searches relating to it. I stopped by the place we always order from a few days ago to ask if they offered gluten-free soy sauce (they don’t) and if they add anything to the rice with gluten in it (they don’t). But I completely forgot to ask about my favorite sushi condiment, spicy mayo. After my Googling fest, I still didn’t have a conclusion; most of the Internet agrees that Japanese spicy mayo is gluten free because Kewpie (the most common Japanese mayonnaise) and sriracha are gluten free, but there were quite a few people who said no. Ultimately, I’ll have to just go to my sushi spot in person and ask to see the ingredients they use, but since we were ordering in on Seamless, I didn’t want to chance anything, and decided to try to make my own spicy mayo.
Important, not-so-fun fact: American mayo and Japanese mayo ARE NOT THE SAME. I’ve always found mayo to be pretty gross, so my friends and family have always found my love of spicy mayo odd. However, I now know from my obsessive googling that Japanese mayo is made with rice vinegar and thus has a completely different taste. I only discovered this after I took a bunch of Kraft mayo packets from Panera, so I tried to replicate the flavors by adding rice vinegar to my mayo-packet-and-sriracha mixture. Kids, it’s not the same. Do not try it, unless you really like globs of American mayo. I wouldn’t call it disgusting but…it was not good. I ended up just eating my sushi spice-free. (Thankfully, gluten-free soy sauce tastes exactly the same, if not better, than regular soy sauce.) Clearly, a trip to talk to the chef at my favorite sushi place is in order.

P.S. The cupcake above is the gluten-free red velvet from Sprinkles, which my friend Jess so kindly brought me. It was quite good (really fluffy and moist!), but I didn’t love the taste of the cake without any frosting–they really need each other.

Things I’ve Learned About Dining Out When You’re Gluten Free

I survived my first week without gluten! I’ve made it pretty clear that this transition period has been quite difficult (damn you, bread). I’m getting more used to things and feeling a bit less crappy, though I’m finding missing bread to be pretty hard. But my two main takeaways from this first week have been 1) I’m so lucky I don’t have a severe allergy, because basically everything *could* have a trace of gluten in it, and 2) I’m so lucky that I live in New York City. I go out to eat a lot, and I wasn’t going to let a lack of gluten stop me. I dined out quite a bit this week, and learned a lot about the highlights and difficulties.
CakeIsTheOnlyThingThatMatters.comMainly, get ready to ask questions. You are going to feel like you’re being annoying. Learn to get over it, because it’s the only way you’re going to be able to dine out. While some restaurants will mark gluten-free options on their regular menu, if they have a gluten-free one, you’re going to have to ask for it. If they don’t, you need to ask anyway. For example, Otto will do any of their pastas gluten free, but the menu makes absolutely no note of this. You’re also going to need to be on top of your server when the food does arrive – if he or she doesn’t say that it’s the gluten-free version of what you ordered when brought to the table (assuming there could be a gluten version), ask. When I went to Otto, the waiter “forgot about our gluten free conversation” and brought me the regular pasta of what I had ordered (sitting and watching everyone else eat while your food gets re-made isn’t fun, but it’s better than accidentally eating gluten). (And what if I had had an allergy?!) Rubirosa, meanwhile, where I also went this weekend, has a full gluten-free menu and immediately confirmed that my order was correct when it came.
CakeIsTheOnlyThingThatMatters.comTakeout is obviously a bit trickier to confirm, so you have to be pretty trusting. My pizza from Two Boots was marked as gluten free, and one bite told me it definitely was (the crust was weirdly a bit sweet, but actually quite good!).
CakeIsTheOnlyThingThatMatters.comAlso remember that you need to ask questions when you’re getting anything that isn’t naturally, obviously gluten free. I went to Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf this weekend craving an ice blended, and remembered last minute to ask if their powders were gluten free. I had to talk to three employees to get the answer, but the fantastic news is that they have an almond flour base!

Overall, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by most of the gluten-free eats I’ve had this first week. It’s really just bread that I’m having the most trouble with – seeing it on the table when you’re dining with gluten-eaters is torture, and store-bought GF bread is just not the same (challah, I dream of you).

I feel like most of my posts have been a bit rant-y lately, so to make it up to you and leave you on a positive note, here is one of my dogs being super smiley and cute (ignore my hair looking atrocious):

I Am Offically Gluten Free! And It’s Terrible [First GF Weekend Update]

Remember when I had a grand old time doing my first gluten-free grocery shopping at Fairway?

Poor, naive Alie.

Grocery shopping, formerly my favorite, is now the worst.
If you are not gluten-free, take a look at just a couple labels next time you go grocery shopping. Basically everything has gluten in it. I was prepared for it to happen, but not to such an extent. Do you think balsamic vinaigrette should have gluten in it? Half the ones I looked at in the store did. It is sorely disappointing to pick up item after item that you think could be okay, and have to put it down. I took a field trip to my favorite grocery store ever, Wegmans, this weekend, and just bought vegetables, cheese, and a sad little container of chocolate mousse (I say sad because it was literally the only thing in their glorious bakery section that was okay).

I know that I am being dramatic, and this is just a major life adjustment…but like most major life adjustments, it sucks.

To be fair, I didn’t starve this weekend. I was able to go out to dinner my very first gluten-free day without problems. My roommate wanted Thai, so I googled “gluten free thai nyc” and quickly found a restaurant near our apartment that we had never been to before. They had a lot of clearly marked GF options on the menu, and I got a special summer dish, pad Thai made with zucchini as noodles.
It was spicy and really good, but i had to order a side of rice because I need my carbs.

I had a bridal shower to attend on day two of gluten-free living (to which I called ahead to find out the menu), and was pleasantly surprised that I could eat every course: risotto, chicken and mashed potatoes, and créme brulée. (I had to move my roll to my friend’s plate, because I swear it had googly eyes and was staring at me.)

I know/have to believe that things will get better once I’m used to this very new lifestyle. I think it’s just like any change, where as much as you try to prepare, there’s no way to be fully ready. It’s especially hard when something that has always given you such pleasure is what gets so difficult. I just have to hope I’ll stop feeling so womp-womp about it all sooner rather than later.