February is known for two things here in Florida: Beautiful weather and an endless stream of houseguests. It’s lovely on both accounts and after being settled into our house going into our fourth year now, we have everyone’s weeks settled. My mother and sister (and brother-in-law) come in early February to coincide with my mother’s birthday (the 10th if you want to send a card!). My best friend Cydney comes for the Street Painting festival in Lake Worth. And my friend and dog-sitter Anne arrives sometime when the weather is nice and the pollen blooms in Austin.
Which means I go out to eat during February. A lot. As in most of the month I went out to eat. And I have two observations about that. The first is that it doesn’t really matter how long your cocktail menu is or isn’t or what your napkins look like (though believe me, I notice such things). What really matters is hospitality. How do you make me feel when I walk into your restaurant? We had one experience where the bartender yelled across the bar “WHAT DO YOU WANT?” when we walked into a restaurant one evening, I kid you not. Um, food and drinks buddy. Food and drinks.
Gluten free dishes - a challenging job for restaurants
The other thing I noticed, being newly gluten-free, is the difference in how chefs look at the gluten free dishes challenge. Some restaurants told me if I want gluten free dishes I could order one of three salads. And some restaurants took it as an opportunity to really create some amazing dishes, learning how to work with rice flour and make simple adjustments to offer an entire menu of gluten-free alternatives. These are the places that I’ll personally visit again, the places that are my heroes.
On a recent photo shoot with Chef Adam Brown at the Cooper, he started telling me about all the items that are gluten-free or made gluten-free just by not eating chips or naan bread (easy enough to do!) And then there’s items like the General Tso’s Cauliflower – which he purposefully made as a gluten-free dish so that celiacs and gluten-allergy peeps like me could eat it. That’s pretty awesome. I liked it so much and was so impressed I brought my friends back for brunch the following Sunday and of course, we ordered it. It’s so good, guys.
So here’s a collection of images from our most recent photo shoot. Many of the dishes are gluten-free or can easily be modified. And they all rely on farm-fresh, seasonal products. Get there stat.