Monday, August 29, 2011

Lilli and Loo – Gluten Free Chinese in NYC

American’s are famous for their Chinese food. We see it all the time in the movies… take away food in those cute little white boxes. But as most of you know eating gluten free Chinese food can be a bit of a hassle. A lot of their food is coated in flour and most of their sauces are thickened with flour too. Not to mention the use of sauces such as Soy sauce and Oyster sauce, which are a hidden source of gluten. So when I heard about Lilli and Loo I had to try it!

Lilli and Loo is a fantastic Chinese restaurant located in mid-town Manhattan. Not only do they understand gluten free dining but they also have an entire separate gluten free menu! The love began with one of the business partners daughters, diagnosed with coeliac disease. So the owners wanted to create a safe gluten free environment while still keeping food flavoursome and exciting for their customers.

Now with such a large menu the problem was deciding exactly which dishes to choose! Two things caught my eye in the starters section… dumplings and spring rolls. Dumplings are very rare to find as the dough usually contains gluten, however there are a few places in Sydney which I have tried gluten free dumplings. However did somebody say spring rolls?! I have not touched a spring roll since I was diagnosed nearly three years ago! Naturally I ordered both. And they were both delicious!

For main I ordered the sautéed beef with vegetables. Another great dish… the beef was tender, the vegetables crunchy, and the sauce was thick and very tasty.

And then for dessert, my favourite… Coconut sorbet served in a shell. Absolutely amazing, the perfect way to end a delicious meal!

Lilli and Loo have a great variety of Chinese dishes, including meat, seafood, vegetarian, rice and noodles. Or if you feel like something lighter, a selection of sushi, sashimi and hand rolls are also available.

I highly recommend paying a visit to Lilli and Loo if you are ever in New York. I know I’ll be back!

Lilli and Loo
792 Lexington Avenue, New York

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Little Italy NYC

It wouldn’t be a true New York experience if we didn’t visit the historical Little Italy. Little Italy was once larger and was known for it’s large population of Italians. Today it revolves around one main street – Mulberry Street – full of restaurants, cafés, cake shops, souvenirs and street vendors selling gelato and mini cannoli.  

The aromas of home cooking greet you as you walk along the narrow streets, beneath the fire escapes. It is a destination for many tourists, including ourselves, but we were here primarily for a good feed!

As we walked by, restaurant staff beckoning us to enter their restaurant because it is the ‘best’ in New York, we scanned the menus searching for any sign of gluten free food. It didn’t look promising. So we asked the question “Do you have anything gluten free on the menu?” The answer. “Yes we have gluten free pasta”. Did somebody say pasta?! Oh how I missed a good bowl of pasta!

We decided to test this theory and see what the next restaurant had to offer. They too had gluten free pasta! And the next! And the next! This was unbelievable. Now the problem was which one to choose. They all offered gluten free options… except one restaurant who claimed that there was no way I would find anywhere in Little Italy that offered GF pasta!

We took a seat at a restaurant called ‘Giovanna’s’. I decided on a basic fresh tomato and basil sauce, tossed with bocconcini cheese. And all I can say is YUM! It tasted just like home made pasta and was exactly what I needed.

Needless to say we went back a few days later, this time to ‘Caffe Napoli’. The food was just as delicious and fresh! I ordered another bowl of pasta with prawns and zucchini, a dish that the chef threw together just for me!

So if you ever find yourself in NY, a trip to Little Italy is definitely worth it and you don’t have to worry about not finding anything gluten free, there are plenty of restaurants to choose from.

Here is a recipe similar to the pasta I had at ‘Giovanna’s’. It’s quick and simple to make and I’m sure you will all enjoy it.

As the Italians say, buon appetito!


400g gluten free pasta of your choice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tin of whole peeled tomatoes, crushed
1/4 cup roughly torn fresh basil
2 medium-sized bocconcini cheese
Salt and pepper

1. Cook the pasta in a saucepan of salted boiling water, following packet directions, until tender. Drain and keep warm until required.

2. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frypan over medium-low heat and cook the garlic until browned. Add the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until liquid is reduced and the sauce has thickened. Add the fresh basil and stir through.

3. Add the drained pasta to the frypan and toss until the sauce coats the pasta. Turn off heat.

3. Add the bocconcini cheese and stir through the pasta and sauce. Serve hot.

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Thursday, August 04, 2011

Babycakes NYC

Babycakes has been on my wish list since I discovered I was coeliac. So when I was planning my trip to the US and researching where I could find gluten free goodies, Babycakes NYC was on the top of my list! I wasn’t coming home unless I visited their original store.

Babycakes is a gluten, dairy, egg, and soy free bakery. However, some goods do contain spelt flour (not gluten free) so be careful when making your choice. To avoid cross-contamination, Babycakes NYC uses separate pans, sinks, spatulas, measuring cups, cleaning utensils and bowls. Ingredients used are natural, organic and vegan. And most products are sweetened with Agave nectar, so really… it’s a healthy treat right?!

I have to admit, it was a struggle to find (due to our fault alone!). On the first day, we forgot the address and were hoping to just “stumble” across it. Come on, it’s NY, do you know how big their blocks are? Huge! So we gave up quite easily that day and decided to go shopping in Soho instead – this wasn’t a very hard decision to make!

The next time we found ourselves exploring China Town and Little Italy, we decided to wonder down to the famous bakery – this time I had memorised the address (or at least I thought I had). We walked and walked, but no bakery in sight. We even asked a local if he knew where it was and nothing. So we headed back to Little Italy to ponder and have a coffee at the famous Ferrara’s – an Italian patisserie (with no gluten free sweets). The coffee was not fantastic, but it still set me back $6 (plus tax and tip). They sure saw me coming! But on a positive note they had Wifi… thank god for free Wifi! I immediately googled the Babycakes address and made sure to write it down this time!

We set back on our journey, address in hand, and what do you know… we were headed in the right direction in the first place. In fact we were only one street away before we turned back around! Oh well the more walking we did, meant the more cakes we could eat!

Finally, there it was… the famous Babycakes NYC store… and I was standing in front of it! I was so excited! Now I understand why not even the locals knew about it. The store is tiny and on the outside the sign reads BAKERY, it is not until you look at the bottom of the windows that you see ‘Babycakes’ written. Although I think the smallness of this store adds to the charm and character. The setting is adorable and I loved the mood it projected. The décor is vintage style and the girls behind the counter wear retro 1950’s style uniforms.

As I squish past the other customers, I see it, the glass cabinet full of sweet delights! I’m in sugar heaven – now the question is what should I get? I can’t go past the red velvet cupcake and I have to try the doughnuts. What the heck – you saw how long it took me to get here – I decided to get a selection of 6 sweets! Clearly I didn’t eat them all in one sitting or I would have been violently ill!

Once I selected my treats, bought my cookbook, and made sure I had told everyone just how far I had travelled from Australia to try these cakes, I took my cake box outside and sat on the little wooden table for a quick bite – I just couldn’t wait any longer! The cupcake was delicious – moist cake with a creamy frosting (pretty good for dairy free!). The doughnuts on the other hand were a slight let down. Don’t get me wrong they were just as delicious as the cupcakes! But they lacked the consistency and dough like taste of a traditional doughnut. It tasted more like a cupcake in the shape of a doughnut. Would I get it again? Yes. The flavours were still delicious – and with all that natural goodness in it, I didn’t feel so bad gobbling down my treats!

Once the cakes were eaten, at least I had the cookbook to take back home with me. I choose the newest one, ‘Babycakes covers the classics’ by ‘Erin McKenna’, for two reasons. One, I hadn’t seen this one in Australian stores. And two, unlike the first cookbook – which was mostly gluten free recipes, this one is 100% gluten free! I can’t wait to try them all.

So, the first recipe I decided to try from the book was Snickerdoodles (a special request from one of our readers). A snickerdoodle, I learnt on the weekend, is a sugar cookie with a cinnamon kick. While I was baking the cookies, my kitchen was engulfed with a cinnamon aroma. Absolutely delicious! Try it yourselves…
1 1/3 cups plus 1/2 cup vegan sugar (I used castor sugar – sorry!)
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 cups rice flour
1/4 cup ground flax meal (or linseed meal commonly known in Australia)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons melted refined coconut oil or canola oil
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons vanilla extract 

1.Preheat oven to 180 degrees. Line 2 rimmed trays with baking paper and set aside.
2. In a shallow bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup sugar and 2 tablespoons of the cinnamon until evenly incorporated. Set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1 1/3 cups sugar, the flour, flax meal, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, and the remaining 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.
4. Add the coconut oil, applesauce and vanilla and mix with a rubber spatula until a thick dough that resembles wet sand forms. Cover the bowl with cling wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.
5. Working in batches, drop the dough by the teaspoonful into the cinnamon-sugar mixture and roll around to coat the dough all over. Place on the prepared baking sheets, about 2.5 cm apart. Gently press each cookie with a fork to help them spread.
6. Bake for 7 minutes, rotate the baking trays, and continue baking for 7 minutes more, or until the cookies are crispy around the edges. Let stand on the baking trays for 15 minutes before serving.

Babycakes NYC
248 Broome Street (Btwn Orchard & Ludlow) 
New York City, NY
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