Saturday, May 31, 2014

Caviar & Bananas Gourmet Market & Cafe - Charleston

For lunch today, we ate at Caviar & Bananas Gourmet Market & Cafe in Charleston, my parents' favorite lunch spot.  My mom said it was like Dean & DeLuca, which isn't surprising, considering the owner used to be a Dean & DeLuca general manager.  

We had stopped in yesterday to check out their gluten free selection, and I was impressed by how many gluten free items were available.  

Today, I chose the "naked" kale salad and the quinoa salad for lunch.

The quinoa salad contained gold quinoa, feta cheese, scallions, dried cranberries, and a lemon vinaigrette.  I absolutely loved this salad, and plan on making it when we get back to Orlando.  

The "naked" kale salad was amazing as well.  It contained raw almonds, dried cranberries, dried blueberries, aged gouda, grape tomatoes, and a lemon vinaigrette.  

I finished off my meal with a huge piece of gluten free banana bread with a peanut butter drizzle.  I must admit, the banana bread I make at home has never tasted this good!  Caviar & Bananas had other gluten free treats that looked amazing, but they were sitting way too near gluten-filled baked goods to make me feel comfortable, so I went with the banana bread that was displayed separately on its own plate. Hopefully in the future, Caviar & Bananas will display all their gluten free baked goods in their own area to avoid cross contamination.  

The gluten free items in the display case were plentiful.  I could have also ordered smoked chicken pecan salad, grilled herb chicken with imported spoleto black truffle butter, brussel sprout coleslaw, or roasted vegetables.  

Caviar & Bananas also sells other gluten free items, like Tate's Bake Shop Gluten Free Cookies and Pop Chips.  

You can view the menu for their George Street location, where we ate, here.  The menu for their Historic Market Street location can be viewed here.  Both locations serve housemade gluten free oatmeal for breakfast, either with roasted granny smith apples, cinnamon and caramel, or dried cranberries, candied pecans, golden raisins and white chocolate chips.  They also have gluten free bread for sandwiches, but the menus contain a warning that the sandwiches are prepared on the same surfaces as those containing gluten.

I might have to try the oatmeal before we leave in the morning.  The next stop on our summer road trip is Colonial Williamsburg.

Have you ever been to Caviar & Bananas?  

Yogurt Mountain -- Charleston

Last night, as we were walking down King Street in Charleston, I spotted Yogurt Mountain.  After eating dinner at Basil Thai Restaurant, we decided to stop in. 

I was excited to see that the flavors that were gluten free were clearly marked above each yogurt machine.  

I decided to try two flavors, banana rama and chocolate.

With self serve, my yogurt is never pretty, but it definitely tasted great.

Yogurt Mountain's frozen yogurt reminded me of a frozen custard.  It was super creamy, and I enjoyed the flavor of both the chocolate and banana.

You can view a full list of Yogurt Mountain's gluten free flavors here.  Dairy free sorbets are also available.

Yogurt Mountain has 11 locations in Florida, and has stores in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland, and Ohio.  You can view their store locator here.

Have you ever eaten at Yogurt Mountain?  What is your favorite frozen yogurt store?

Friday, May 30, 2014

Basil Thai Restaurant - Charleston, South Carolina

Tonight, we had dinner at Basil Thai Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina.  On the drive up from Orlando, I checked out Charleston restaurants on the Find Me Gluten Free App.  We chose Basil Thai because we love Thai food, the restaurant had great reviews, gluten free items are marked on the menu, and it was within walking distance of our hotel.  

I have always been a huge fan of chicken satay, but I don't think I have eaten it in six years, because it has never been a gluten free option at the Thai restaurants we eat at.  

We ordered both the chicken and beef satay, which were served with the most heavenly peanut sauce.  I don't think there was a drop left in either bowl by the time we were done with our meal.  I thought I would like the chicken satay better, but both my husband and I preferred the beef, while our daughters said the chicken was the best.  Both were delicious though, and are items I would order again.  

I was so excited when they brought us out a big bowl of steaming rice, because I love rice with peanut sauce!  

We couldn't pass up ordering the Pad Thai, which is a family favorite, and according to Basil Thai's website, the national dish of Thailand.  Their Pad Thai is described as rice noodles stir-fried with chicken, shrimp, eggs, bean sprouts, scallions, peanuts, and Pad Thai sauce.  I loved that it included both chicken and shrimp, and it had just the right amount of sauce, egg, and finely chopped peanuts.  It was definitely one of the best Pad Thai dishes I have ever had.  In Orlando, you can order gluten free Pad Thai at Orchid Thai in Winter Park.  You can read my review here.  We have also eaten really good Pad Thai at Mythos in Universal Studios Islands of Adventure, and Saigon Flavors in Oviedo.

The final dish we ordered was the masaman curry with chicken, potatoes, onions, and cashews.  The masaman curry was super flavorful, and the chicken and vegetables were cooked perfectly. Everything was so good at Basil Thai, it was hard to pick a favorite. If we lived in Charleston, we would be going back soon, and ordering the same four dishes.

Basil Thai Restaurant has locations in Charleston, Columbia, and Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, and in Charlotte, North Carolina.  I love that their gluten free choices are plentiful, and clearly marked on their menu and website.  You can view Basil Thai's full menu here.

Have you ever eaten at Basil Thai Restaurant?  

Thursday, May 29, 2014

My Favorite Schar Products

A couple of weeks ago, I ordered Schar gluten free baguettes, Italian breadsticks, and ciabatta rolls from This weekend, after learning how Chef Ken at The Plaza Restaurant prepares his amazing gluten free bread, I decided to test out some of his techniques on the Schar bread I had at home.  Chef Ken told me that he warms his gluten free hamburger buns, coats them in olive oil, then grills them in a pan to get a nice crisp surface.  

On Sunday, we had Caprese panini for lunch.  My daughters said they were as good as the ones my husband makes with gluten-filled ciabatta.  I served them with Kettle Brand organic sea salt potato chips, which are gluten free and non-GMO.  

After warming my Schar ciabatta rolls in the oven for about 5 minutes on 400, I cut them in half and brushed olive oil on the outside of the bread.  

I then added Caprese salad to each roll.  For my Caprese salad, I used campari tomatoes, a large ball of fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, a generous amount of kosher salt, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, and 1 tablespoon of white balsamic vinegar.  You can view my blog post about Caprese salad here.  When I make Caprese panini, I add some of the dressing from the salad to the inside of the bread for extra flavor.  

I put the Caprese sandwiches into my panini press and cooked them until they were nicely browned on the outside, and the mozzarella had started to melt.  We actually have two panini makers in our house.  I bought one 10 years ago, pre-Celiac, at Williams-Sonoma, but it is now reserved for the rare moments my family has gluten-filled ciabatta in the house.  I purchased a second, much cheaper, panini press from amazon to use with gluten free bread.  It's a great way to make grilled cheese too.  

I was so excited that my family liked the Schar ciabatta, because I prefer to keep food with gluten out of our house. 

On Tuesday, we had leftover hamburgers, but no buns, so I cooked up a Schar gluten free baguette to use as hamburger buns.  I cut the baguette in half, then sliced it lengthwise.  With a pastry brush, I brushed olive oil on all sides of the bread, then added some minced garlic to the cut surfaces.  Before I put it in the oven, I sprinkled Parmesan cheese on the top of each piece.  

I cooked the baguette on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 3 minutes, then turned my oven to broil for 2 more minutes.  My husband and kids loved it.  Next time, I will add a little more garlic and Parmesan cheese, and serve the baguette with pasta.   

Schar Italian Breadsticks are great dipped in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan cheese.  I asked my daughters if they liked them, and they said they were amazing, and tasted like the gluten-filled breadsticks they eat at Tutto Italia and Tutto Gusto in Epcot.  

We also love Schar's gluten free ladyfingers, which I use to make Tiramisu.  You can view the recipe here.  

I am also a huge fan of Schar's Honeygrams, which I buy at The Fresh Market, and their Chocolate O's, which are an Oreo-like cookie.  Locally, Chamberlin's in Winter Park has a good selection of Schar products.  

You can view Schar's website here.  

June 15, 2014 Update -- Egg Salad on Schar Ciabatta Rolls 

My daughters and husband love egg salad.  I had never even tried it until a couple of weeks ago, because I have an aversion to mayo and mustard.  My family was raving about it so much, I finally gave in and tried it.  Wow, I had no idea egg salad could be so delicious!  My husband makes a really incredible egg salad, a recipe he learned from my uncle.

He hard boils 10 large eggs, lets them sit in cold water for a couple of minutes, peels them, then chops the 10 egg whites and 5 of the egg yolks in a large bowl.  I added two pinches of kosher salt, and my husband estimates he adds 2 or 3 tablespoons of Hellmann's Real Mayonnaise.  Give it a gentle stir, then serve with gluten free bread.

We used Schar gluten free ciabatta today.  I brushed olive oil on each roll, added a little sprinkle of kosher salt, then baked them for 7 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  We sliced them, added some egg salad, and enjoyed a delicious lunch.

My family likes to add a tiny bit of mustard, but I was having none of that, so we enjoyed our egg salad mustard-free today.

June 17, 2014 Update 

Last night, I used a Schar baguette to make buns for hot dogs.  I brushed the whole baguette with olive oil, and baked it for 5 minutes in a 400 degree oven.  I sliced it into four pieces, then cut all of our hot dogs in half, so the hot dog pieces would fit side by side in my "buns."

July 17, 2014 Update (I know, this is a lot of updates!)

Yesterday, I bought this pack of Schar Hazelnut Wafers at the Walmart Neighborhood Market that just opened right outside of Baldwin Park on Semoran.  Oh my goodness, I think I have a new favorite store-bought cookie!  My daughters loved them too.  If you like Nutella, you have to try these cookies.

What are your favorite Schar products?  

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Tate's Bake Shop Gluten Free Cookies

A couple of years ago, I discovered Tate's Bake Shop gluten free chocolate chip cookies at The Fresh Market while on vacation on Hilton Head Island.  My whole family loves them.  They are thin and crispy, and have the perfect amount of chocolate chips.  

I have continued to purchase them at The Fresh Market in Orlando, and recently picked up a bag of the Ginger Zinger cookies.  

On Memorial Day, we made ice cream sandwiches with the chocolate chip cookies and Breyers vanilla ice cream.  This month, Breyers announced that it will begin testing and labeling 36 of its flavors "gluten free," including the natural vanilla we used last night.  

I've always loved Tate's chocolate chip cookies, but I think the ginger zingers are my new favorite.  They are so crispy and buttery, and are full of chewy pieces of crystallized ginger, which I absolutely adore!  

Each bag of Tate's Bake Shop gluten free cookies contains two individually wrapped packs of 7 cookies.  Locally, they can be purchased at The Fresh Market, or they can be ordered here on Tate's website.  When I went to their website this morning, I was offered 20% off for signing up to receive emails from Tate's.  You can view Tate's store locator here.

Other gluten free products from Tate's Bake Shop include double chocolate chip cookies, brownies, and blondies.

Allergy information from the bag -- Tate's gluten free products are "Manufactured in a dedicated gluten-free facility that process milk, eggs, soy and tree nuts.  Tate's Bake Shop Cookies have been tested and no GMOs have been detected."

Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa, has a great recipe for Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake using Tate's chocolate chip cookies.  If you like Tiramisu, you will love this dessert.  You can view the recipe here.

June 29, 2014 Update

I recently purchased a bag of Tate's Bake Shop gluten free double chocolate chip cookies at The Fresh Market.  My daughters and I sampled them after lunch.  Katie described them as heavenly, and said they might be better than the chocolate chip cookies.  I have to agree! 

August 27, 2015 Update

Tonight, I tried Tate's chipless wonder cookies.  They are very crisp and very buttery, and I love that the ingredients list looks like an ingredients list for homemade gluten free cookies.  Ingredients:  rice flour, butter, cane sugar, brown cane sugar, eggs, vanilla extract, baking soda, salt and xanthan gum.

What are your favorite Tate's Bake Shop gluten free cookies?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Italian Potato Salad

My original goal for Memorial Day was to make two different potato salads and write a blog post called Potato Salad Two Ways.  Well, I decided at some point this morning that I am tired of spending the whole day in the kitchen on holidays, and that I was going to keep this meal simple.  

Last year, my daughters didn't like the potato salad I make with mayonnaise.  There are only three things I will eat with mayonnaise -- my potato salad, my tuna salad, and my husband's egg salad.  I knew my mom made a potato salad with oil and vinegar, so I called her for the recipe.  I changed things up a bit to suit our tastes and make things easier, and everyone loved it.  

This dish has 7 simple ingredients and was really easy to put together.  

I definitely plan on making Italian potato salad again on the 4th of July.  It's a perfect side dish to serve with hamburgers.  

Italian Potato Salad


4 lbs small organic red skin potatoes
1 lb bacon 
8 hard boiled eggs -- chopped
4 to 5 T extra virgin olive oil
4 to 5 T white balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Coarse ground black pepper
Optional -- chopped fresh parsley, scallions, or chives


Preheat oven to 400 degrees and put the bacon on a large rimmed baking sheet in a single layer.  Cook the bacon for about 15 to 17 minutes, until crisp.  When it is done cooking, lay the bacon out on a plate with paper towels to remove the grease, then cut it into 1/2 inch pieces.

Wash and scrub the potatoes, place them in a large pot and cover them with water, then bring them to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook the potatoes until they can be easily pierced with a fork or knife.  While still hot, cut each potato into 4 slices.  

In a 10 by 10 inch baking dish that is at least 2 1/2 inches deep, put down a single layer of warm potatoes.  Drizzle the potatoes with 1 tablespoon of oil and one tablespoon of vinegar.  Add salt and pepper, to taste, then 1/4 of the egg and bacon. Repeat each step until you have 4 layers total. 

This dish is best prepared about 30 to 60 minutes before serving. 

Serves 8 to 10

Recipe Notes

My mom likes to remove the skin from her larger red skin potatoes, cut them into slices, then boil them.  I decided to leave the skin on, which is much easier, and our potato salad tasted great.  She also uses a green element, like scallions, chives, or parsley, but I was afraid my girls would not eat it, and I thought the dish was perfect without it.  My mom recommended I use a darker balsamic vinegar, but I always prefer white.  

Before serving, you can drizzle one last tablespoon of olive oil and vinegar on top.  If you have refrigerated your potato salad for a while, you could take it out of the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes before serving it to let it warm up a bit.  We made our potato salad about an hour before we served it, and put it in the fridge until right before we were ready to eat.

We hard boiled our eggs first, then put them in the refrigerator until we were ready to use them.  I did not put directions for hard boiling the eggs in this recipe because for the life of me, I cannot hard boil an egg.  They never seem to cook!  I recently used a foolproof method that I learned on The Chew and my eggs were still not cooked enough.  I let my husband take care of them today because he never seems to have any trouble with eggs.  :-)

What do you like to put on your potato salad?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Plaza Restaurant - Magic Kingdom

Disney's website describes The Plaza Restaurant as a hidden gem, and one of the Magic Kingdom's best-kept secrets.  Today was actually the first time we have ever eaten at The Plaza Restaurant.  It is located at the end of Main Street, U.S.A., around the corner from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor.  

Once we made the decision to go to the Magic Kingdom this morning, I decided to see if we could get reservations for lunch.  

I was able to get advance dining reservations for 11:00, when The Plaza first opened, which was great for us, because my daughters are usually begging to eat lunch by 10:00.  

The hostess gave me an allergy binder, but I didn't even open it, because I knew the chef would come out to speak to me.  When Chef Ken arrived, he told me that he could make any of the sandwiches gluten free.  He then went on to describe how he prepares the gluten free bread by microwaving it to take the chill off, covering it with olive oil, then grilling it. My friend Sarah from Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free in WDW told me that it is Local Oven gluten free bread.  

I rarely order sandwiches when I eat out, because I don't like most gluten free breads, but Chef Ken knows what he is doing.  Our beef brisket burger was amazing!  My husband said it was one of the best burgers he has ever had, and he would eat it on the gluten free bread all the time.  Keep in mind, my husband does not have to eat gluten free, and he usually eats gluten-filled bread when we dine out.  The housemade chips were great too, and made in a dedicated fryer.  We both loved the combination of beef brisket, provolone, and bacon on top of the hamburger.  

My husband and I also ordered a chicken strawberry salad to share, minus the gorgonzola.  The greens, cucumbers, and strawberries were super fresh, and the chicken was cooked and seasoned well.  I wasn't a huge fan of the white zinfandel vinaigrette dressing, because it tasted like bottled dressing, but overall, the salad was good.  

We finished our meal with a chocolate milkshake with whipped cream and cherries.  I haven't had a milkshake in years.  It was the perfect ending to a great meal.

Our family has a new favorite dining spot at the Magic Kingdom.  We are already planning on going back to The Plaza Restaurant in June when we get back from our vacation.

Our waitress told us that in addition to the sandwiches, they also have gluten free chicken tenders.  Chef Ken made our whole dining experience a special one, so be sure to ask for him when you go.  He works Tuesdays through Saturdays.

May 28, 2014 Update - The line was so long at Be Our Guest today at 10:30, we headed to The Plaza to see if we could get a table when they opened at 11:00.  We lucked out on all counts - we got a table, and Chef Ken was working.  I ordered the beef brisket burger again, and a mixed vanilla and chocolate milkshake.  The burger was great, just like last time, but the milkshake was the star of my meal today.  It was over the top amazing!

After lunch, we rode the new Seven Dwarfs Mine Train.  The theming was amazing, and the coaster was smooth with lots of twists and turns.  Thankfully, it didn't have any huge hills, or I would not be able to get my daughters back on it again.  I would say it is about on par with Thunder Mountain as far as thrill level goes. The lines were long and stretched outside, so make sure you have plenty of sunscreen and cold drinks if you don't have a FastPass.

June 14, 2014 Update

Tonight, we had an early dinner at The Plaza Restaurant, our third meal there in less than a month.  Not wanting to order the same burger three times in a row, my husband and I decided to try the Cheese Steak Sandwich with shaved beef, grilled onions, mushrooms, red peppers, and cheese (we subbed provolone for the white American cheese) on a hoagie roll.  We chose housemade chips as our side again, but we could have chosen The Plaza's thicker cut french fries.  

Here's a close up of one of our sandwiches, which were served on two gluten free hot dog buns instead of a hoagie roll, which was perfect for us, since my husband and I were splitting a meal.  Chef Ken outdid himself again.  He really knows how to cook gluten free bread!  Both my husband and I really enjoyed our cheese steak sandwich, and would definitely order it again.  

For dessert, I ordered my favorite milkshake with vanilla and chocolate ice cream.

August 30, 2014 Update

Today, I had a cheese steak sandwich, french fries, and a chocolate & vanilla milkshake for lunch at The Plaza.  The fries were just as good as the housemade chips, so I will definitely have a hard time deciding between the two the next time we visit.

January 17, 2015 Update

While I was writing my Best of 2014 - Disney blog post, I realized that we hadn't dined at The Plaza in a while, so I made reservations to have lunch there today.  My husband and I split a gluten free cheese steak sandwich, and a beef brisket burger with Nina, our international student.  When we asked Chef Ken if my daughters could order a cookies & cream milkshake, he mentioned that he could make a gluten free version for me with Enjoy Life chocolate chip cookies.  How could I pass that up?

Chef Ken made my milkshake with both chocolate and vanilla ice cream, which he scoops from newly opened containers to protect against cross contamination.  He told us that he blended cookies into the milkshake, and put some cookie crumbles on top.  It was pretty incredible!  My husband tasted my daughters' gluten-filled cookies & cream milkshake, and said he liked the gluten free version better!

A big thank you to Chef Ken for making all of our dining experiences at The Plaza so special!

July 28, 2015 Update

The Plaza Restaurant recently adopted an allergy-friendly menu, and I was disappointed to see that our three favorite menu items, the beef brisket burger, cheese steak sandwich, and milkshakes are not listed on the menu as gluten/wheat friendly options.  I am sure these menu items can still be prepared gluten free, so be sure to speak to a chef.

All sandwiches are served on an allergy-friendly bun with your choice of broccoli slaw, homemade chips, or french fries, which are all gluten free.  Gluten/wheat friendly entrees include the grilled chicken sandwich, Angus chuck burger, and the chicken strawberry salad.  The Plaza Restaurant sundae, original banana split, and fresh fruit are listed as gluten free dessert options.  Chef Ken always offered us many more options than are listed on this limited menu, so it is important to talk to a chef if you see a dish on the regular menu that you would like to have made gluten free.

A big thank you to blog reader Cassandra for allowing me to share her picture of The Plaza's new allergy-friendly menu.  She was able to order a gluten free beef brisket burger when she talked to a chef.

You can view The Plaza's menu, and make advance dining reservations on Disney's website here.

What are your favorite gluten free dishes at The Plaza Restaurant?