Saturday, 18 January 2014

L'angolo Bistro - Modern Italian for all!!!

Not being able to eat gluten, dairy or soy means that I don't get to eat Italian food very much (or at all) any more.  I hear about these wonderful Italian restaurants but generally Italian is a cuisine that we avoid.  I don't often cook it at home either.  Despite being a huge pasta lover, so many of the commercially available gluten free pastas contain soy or end up tasting floury and pasty without the necessary al dente texture.  I do realise that there is so much more to Italian food than pasta, but that's where my mind does tend to go.

BUT!! Late last year I heard that fantastic foursome behind Red Hill's Colle Rosso had opened a new Italian bistro in Hamilton and I was invited to come and check out their new menu.  I wrote back to say thank you but no thank you and explained my intolerances.  I was very excited when they wrote back and said "no problem - we'll cater to you!!".

So, D and I were off to L'angolo Bistro.  Owner Lisa Del Vicchio said that they were trying to recreate the modern Italian bistros popular today in Italy, aperitif style versus the rustic style of Colle Rosso.

The first entree was a huge revelation to me.

My first course: Sardines marinated in Chardonnay vinegar with a tomato sauce

I had never had sardines before, whether they be tinned or otherwise.  These were phenomenal.  They were delicately marinated and absolutely melted in your mouth. D doesn't eat seafood so he didn't eat his, if it wasn't coated in breadcrumbs it would have been mine! 

Second course: Polpette della Nonna

Meatballs! Rich Napoli Sauce! Yum!!  The gluten free bread was toasted and lightly dressed with olive oil.  The fully flavoured tomato sauce and meaty meatballs went so well with gluten free bread which toasts to a crispy, almost crispbread texture.  The rest of the table was served their meatballs in giant bowls to be served family style but I got a lovely little dish to myself.  I knew we had a lot of food still to try but I couldn't resist eating the whole thing.

The rest of the table were also treated to deep fried baby calamari served with basil pesto mayonnaise and lime before it was time for pizza.

L'angolo Bistro put on two of their favourite pizzas for the table to try.  Pizza Boscaiola (tomato, mozzarella, Italian pork fennel sausage, Modena balsamic red onion and mushrooms) and their signature pizza, Pizza L'angolo (mozzarella, pistachios, grated zucchini, diced tomatoes, parma proscuitto and shaved grana).  I'm told both pizzas were amazing.

Mine was Pizza Pescatora.

Gluten free base, tomato, prawns, squid, scallops, clams, cocktail sauce

The gluten free base was crispy and light with the tastiest tomato sauce I've ever had.  The cocktail sauce went so well with the tomato sauce and the seafood was so fresh.  I could only eat two pieces and it just about broke my heart when they took it away from the table.  I would have taken that home, guys!!

Our first main course was Risotto con Gamberetti, asparagus e bisque di aragosta (risotto with prawns and asparagus in a lobster bisque).  The prehistoric plate decoration threatened to outshine the delicate risotto until you tasted it.  It was so creamy I had to check the risotto was dairy free.  Lisa told me the lobster bisque adds the creaminess.

The next course for the rest of the table was a mushroom lasagne before we moved onto pasta:

Homemade rice flour pasta with marinated quail, pancetta and Sardinian Mirto

The house-made pasta was delicious, it had just the texture I remember from gluten-filled pasta. I loved the slight hint of the Mirto, which is a Sardinian digestif like limoncello. Unfortunately, but this stage I was getting quite full otherwise I'd have polished it off the whole plate.  I love pasta.

Final savoury course: crispy skin pork belly served with truffle mashed potatoes and mushroom sauce
I love pork belly, especially pork with crispy skin.  This pork belly had a hint of citrus and the red wine mushroom sauce was lovely and sweet.  It was a substantial serving too - a huge piece of pork belly!

To finish up we were treated to a tasting plate of a selection of desserts.  My plate had an Italian dark chocolate and almond torte served with strawberry sorbet, a chocolate chip cookie and two truffles - Italian dark chocolate filled with pistachios and walnuts.

I'm a huge chocolate love and the torte was definitely my favourite of the three, but the texture of the cookie was fantastic - I need to have another one!

The entire night was a huge testament to chefs (and co-owners) David Ruggiero and Marco Mureddu.  I can't thank them enough for their care and attention to detail to my dietary needs, which was of a calibre I've so far received from only one other restaurant in Brisbane.   Lisa was a fantastic host and all four are completely dedicated to bringing us authentic Italian food.  We had a wonderful time and we can't wait to go back.

A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine

L'angolo Bistro
485 Kingsford Smith Drive
Ph 07 3630 2662

D and I visited as a guest of P4 Media and L'angolo Bistro.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Grill'd Wintergarden

D and I love Grill'd.  For me, it's hard to get a good burger with my food intolerances and for D, he just likes the variety and quality of Grill'd burgers.

Grill'd pride themselves on making healthy burgers from fresh quality ingredients.  They also have detailed nutrition information on the website plus a great cheat sheet showing vegan and gluten free options.

Despite all our Grill'd love, we've never been to Grill'd Wintergarden so when we were invited to check out their Ping Pong After Hours we jumped at the chance.  Well, I did.  D was playing indoor soccer that night so I took my mother instead.

Sorry D.

Grill'd Wintergarden have a fantastic array of events to enjoy along with your healthy burgers.  I had no idea so much went on up there!  

On a Thursday night, however, the entire back area is cleared out in favour of two ping pong tables and a DJ.  Although the tables were empty, the DJ was playing some great, upbeat tunes and there was a great vibe.

The rules of Grill'd ping pong are simple:

However, since no one should play ping pong on an empty stomach, we thought we should eat something first.  Mum and I decided to order two burgers neither of us had tried before and have half each.

Big Queenslander with no cheese on a gluten free bun.  Grill'd gluten free buns are really good.  I honestly don't remember what real bread tastes like, but I think this comes pretty close.

Baabaa with no cheese on a gluten free bun with chips and herbed mayo.

I love that Grill'd beef burgers have a really meaty taste.  They are full of flavour and when you add the relish and the herbed mayo, it's a big, saucy, messy, finger-licking experience.  It's a lot of fun and tasty too.

I haven't had a lamb burger from Grill'd before, simply because most of them come with tzatziki.  The Baabaa is served with avocado which is a nice touch.  I've never had a bad burger from Grill'd.  For those gluten free people, please note that they use the same toaster for all the buns so there is a chance of cross-contamination.

After dinner, it was time for ping pong.

Awesomely, Grill'd staff pour buckets of ping pong balls all over the floor so it doesn't matter how bad you are - if you lose your ball you don't have to chase it, just pick up another one!

We were quite early on this particular Thursday so we were lucky enough to have a table to ourselves for our visit.  Mum is quite a keen ping pong player but was a little rusty and I'm just plain terrible so it was quite embarrassing for a while. Towards the end we did manage to get the hang of it and get some rallies going although not enough to warrant keeping score.

It was great fun with good music and we had to tear ourselves away when it was time to go.  

It's a really good idea from the guys at Grill'd.  We'll definitely go back.

Level 1, Wintergarden
171-209 Queen Street Mall
Ph: 3003 1500

Note: Mum and I visited Grill'd as a guest of Grill'd and P4 Group

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Primal Pantry

I mentioned in my last post that I've been eating mostly paleo since the end of my pseudo-detox.  Luckily for me, there is such a thing as a paleo cafe in Brisbane now.

Actually, Primal Pantry opened in early June and I believe they were Brisbane's first paleo cafe.  In their own words, Primal Pantry offers 100% grass-fed, gluten-free, and organic meal options, made from scratch using only the freshest ingredients.  In my words, they offer a place where I can go to eat with no stress and I was delighted when they opened.

Owner Mark Rockley is a friend to Brisbane paleo enthusiasts as he is also a snacking enabler through his range of Paleo Hero snack foods.  Chef Tracy Hirst is a genius when it comes to primal foods and thanks to her, there are always too many options to chose from.

Ever since they opened, there has never been a quiet moment at Primal Pantry.  Every time we visit they are always busy.  We tend to compensate for that by getting there for our weekly breakfasts (every weekend since they opened, thank you very much) on the dot of opening time.  This means that we don't get there for lunch as often as we'd like but we are pretty well-versed with their breakfast menu!

Our favourites are the bangers and mash, the cacao granola, the baked eggs and my most recent favourite, the smoked salmon with zucchini frittata and poached eggs but with bacon instead of smoked salmon.

Primal Pantry also make their own almond milk and it makes the most wonderful creamy warm drinks.  Cafes that serve almond milk make me do a happy dance.

All the staff at Primal Pantry are so friendly and helpful, it's a joy to visit them each week.

I know that there are some mixed reviews on UrbanSpoon.  I'm not sure if there's an expectation issue there because we love the concept and the execution and it's not just because I can eat almost anything on the menu.

Primal Pantry
Teneriffe Village
Cnr Florence & Macquarie Street,
Ph: 07 3252 5960

Sunday, 22 September 2013

Detox thoughts

In September, I completed my own special version of the 21 Day Sugar Detox and the Whole30.  I was feeling sluggish and my sweet tooth was rampant.  Plus I'd picked up some bad habits that I really wanted to break, like ordering daily chai lattes on lactose free milk even though the chai powder had dairy in it and lactose free milk doesn't agree with me.  No wonder I was feeling sick all the time.

The 21 Day Sugar Detox is pretty much what it says on the box.  21 days where you cut out all added sugars and sweeteners and limit your starchy vegetables and fruit.  The Whole30 is a very strict paleo program of 30 days where you removing inflammatory food groups such as sugar, grains, dairy and legumes as well as trying removing potentially triggering foods such as "paleo-ised" desserts and baked goods.

My goal wasn't really to sugar detox.  What I really wanted to do was to break my bad habits and start incorporating more vegetables into my diet.  I picked and chose bits and pieces from both programs but it essentially boiled down to:
  • at least 2/3 of each meal had to be non-starchy vegetables
  • limit packaged foods as much as possible, and avoid anything with added sugar (harder than it sounds)
  • avoided grains, legumes and dairy
  • limiting fruits to green apples and bananas and try to limit to one piece of fruit per day
  • go for the full 30 days
and that's pretty much it.

I did try to cut out my dessert triggering foods like coconut butter and paleo friendly baked goods but it didn't work out.  Clearly, I may have an issues with those foods.  I rationalised my failure by telling myself that I happened to love paleo baked goods and I can't eat the non-paleo ones anyway.  

One of the notes on the Whole30 website or forums was to take a photo or write down everything you ate to keep yourself accountable, so my Facebook friends were treated to a daily collage of my meals.

It took me a good 3 weeks or so before I really started to notice a true difference.  Luckily though, the sugar withdrawals at the beginning were quite mild.

I wish I could say that I've kept up my vegetable intake at the levels I was eating during the detox, but I've let it slide a little bit.  I've also rediscovered the joys of a square of dark chocolate when I'm in need of a pick me up.

 I've kept eating mostly paleo though.  It seems to work well for me.

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Paleo chicken pot pie

I've been cold this winter.  I don't know why I've been feeling it more this year than any other year, but I have been.

I wanted to make something comforting, creamy and wintery for a Sunday meal and I came across this recipe for paleo chicken pot pies from Swiss Paleo.  I love creamy chicken pie things.  Creamy fishy pie things are good too.

There are three parts to the recipe.  The almond flour pastry crust, the creamy sauce and the chicken and vegetable filling.  It took me a little while to get everything together but no stage was particularly hard, so even the cooking was comforting.

The end result was fantastic.  Creamy and rich, perfect winter food.

The pies reheated really well too, I took one to work the next day and served it over a pile of kale.  It was so good I had it for dinner that night too.  D tasted some and then he had one for dinner.  He even ate kale with it.  I was impressed, but it was a good pie


Sunday, 28 July 2013

Compost (kitchen sink) cookies

I love Momofuku.  I've never been to any of their restaurants, but I love David Chang's philosophy on food. I have the cookbook, and I spent a merry weekend a few years ago making 15 recipes from the cookbook in my Momofuku weekend.

I think Christina Tosi is a genius too.  I mean, there are no words to describe the crack pie.

Notwithstanding my food issues, I really wanted a copy of Momofuku Milk Bar.  I figured that even though I couldn't eat the things, I could still read about how they developed the recipes.

My mother bought me a copy for my birthday (a few months ago now) and I've only just gotten a chance to read it.  As I was reading through it, I wandered how hard it would be to convert these recipes to something I could eat.

I've made Tosi's compost cookies before, using peanut butter chips, crisps, pretzels and all sorts of nice things.  These cookies would be my first challenge.

I found this recipes for grain free kitchen sink cookies from Frisky Lemon Nutrition.  Allison suggests adding your own "kitchen sink" ingredients, such as like dried cranberries, raisins, walnuts, chia seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, carob chips.  Yes, or Smiths crisps, gluten free pretzels, chocolate chips, Momofuku cornflake crunch and Momofuku milk crumbs.

Cornflake Crunch made using Schar gluten free cornflakes, Darifree powdered milk alternative and Nuttelex along with sugar.

The first thing I learned is that Nuttelex is really really salty.  I had never noticed it before.  They also do not make a no salt version.  Luckily, I'm a big fan of salty sweet things.  The second thing is something that everyone knew, you should use four parts Nuttelex for every five parts butter due to the higher moisture content.  Luckily, the extra moisture didn't matter too much in these test recipes but it would make a huge difference in some of the others.  

Milk crumb made using Darifree, gluten free plain flour, Nuttelex and Bonvita rice milk white chocolate.

The moisture content in the Nuttelex did make a difference with the milk crumb, requiring twice the amount of cooking time to dry it out.  Also, the rice milk white chocolate is quite tricky to melt.

When you first taste the cornflake crunch or the milk crumb is slightly strange.  D even found the texture of the milk crumb off putting.  Then you took another bite and you realise that these little crunches and crumbs have a really complex flavour for so few ingredients.  Then you find that you can't stop eating them.  Of course, that might just be me.

Even though the cornflake crunch and the milk crumb were the stars of these cookies, the cookies themselves are pretty good too.  My coconut flakes were quite large, next time I'll blitz them for a bit to break them down because the large flakes meant I had to make larger cookies and these are some filling cookies.  There's a lot to them so smaller cookies would work better.

I find that the almond flour based cookies are quite soft and chewy.  It's not a bad thing because I love my cookies chewy but the cornflake crunch adds a nice crispy counterpoint.

I was getting a bit lazy as it came time to bake and I didn't want to wait to finish the milk crumb before I started baking the cookies, so my first two trays were milk crumb free.  Unfortunately, the milk crumb turned the cookies, which were already pretty awesome, into something amazing.  Now no one is allowed to eat the two milk crumb cookies left but me.

My next challenge: the crack pie.

Sunday, 30 June 2013

Burger Urge 10th Birthday Celebrations

Ten years ago, Burger Urge opened the doors on its restaurant in Fortitude Valley.  Since then, they've opened five stores and franchised another and they are going from strength to strength!

Burger Urge owners Sean and Colby Carthew chose to celebrate this momentous occasion by introducing a new menu, including four new burgers, buffalo wings and onion rings.  Sean and Colby brought on four Brisbane chefs to help them come up with new sauces and sides (including an amazing Hickory smoked BBQ sauce) and perfecting their beef patties.

D and I were invited to help Burger Urge celebrate and to taste the new offerings.

First up, we had the spicy Buffalo wings.  You can choose between the special hot sauce or the smoked BBQ marinade.  I loved the BBQ marinade (I could eat a bucketful of those wings) but D liked the hot sauce covered wings with the tzatziki marinade.  Without the dipping sauce, the hot sauce definitely brought the spice!

Next up was a trio of deep fried goodness: sweet potato fries, regular fries and tempura onion rings with a garlic mayonnaise and something which we can't remember.  The fries were reliably good but were overshadowed by the awesomeness that was the onion rings.

Then we had the burgers:

One of the other guests was also gluten free, so we were able to split two of the new burgers.  Above, on a gluten free bun, is the New Yorker on the left (crispy bacon, pickles, smoky BBQ sauce, lettuce, tomato and usually American style cheese) and the Spicy Lamb BBQ on the right (Hickory smoked BBQ sauce, jalapeños, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise and usually American style cheese).  They very kindly removed the dairy from my burger, but I was told that the cheese really makes the New Yorker.

D chose to try the Arabian, a lamb patty with capsicum, Moroccan spiced yoghurt, lettuce, tomato, onion  and mayonnaise.  He also managed to sneak a taste of another guest's Moroccan Garden (homemade vegetable patty, roasted red capsicum, Moroccan spiced yoghurt, chilli sauce, mayonnaise, lettuce and tomato).

Between the two of us, we managed to try all four burgers (due to my dietary restrictions, I wasn't able to try the Arabian or the Moroccan Garden).  We are agreed: our favourite was the New Yorker.  Everything worked so well and the pickles - hardly a new idea in burgers, I know - added so much.  D only tried my New Yorker (minus cheese and with a gluten free bun) and still rated it.

We finished off the meal with some icy cold Delizia treats, notwithstanding that it was freezing that night!    

Sean and Colby spent hundreds of hours in the kitchen developing this new menu and it definitely wasn't time wasted.  We'll definitely be back for another New Yorker in the very near future.

We were guests of Burger Urge and Publicity Depot for this event.