SPeCial meNuS consider the alternative
Just finding alternative flours proved to be more difficult than he
expected, especially sourcing them in bulk. He now uses flours from
sweet and brown rice, sorghum and garbanzo beans, nuts, including
chestnuts, almonds and walnuts, and tapioca and potato starches, xan-than and guar gum. He found some products at local farmers markets,
and primarily buys them in smaller quantities.
He stores the raw products in a separate storage unit, and has set
aside designated areas of the kitchen for working with gluten-free dishes.
He has a separate pizza oven, pasta machine and fryer specifically for
gluten-free preparation to avoid cross-contamination.
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, Ambler, Pa., has
awarded Mia Famiglia its gluten-free certification. Since word got out
about the restaurant’s dedication to gluten-free foods, the number of
customers who are gluten-intolerant has markedly increased, White says.
Higher demand by restaurant customers for gluten-free alternatives
has been accompanied by increased interest from culinary students,
notes Renee Zonka, CEC, MBA, RD, CHE, dean of the School of
Culinary Arts at Chicago’s Kendall College. “There is a tremendous
increase in demand since I began teaching about it in 2000,” she says.
Owners of Fresh First, Fort Lauderdale, Fla., are meeting the challenges with both a gluten-free cafe and a bakery. Mary Siragusa and her baker
daughter Francesca are dedicated to providing a safe haven for people with
“People with celiac disease come in and cry. They take pictures of the
food,” Siragusa says. “We are learning a lot about celiac.”
For instance, she recently learned that many celiac disease sufferers
also can’t tolerate dairy products. So, many of her dishes are dairy-free, as
well. The partners expect to have a vegan pizza crust, rice-flour focaccia
and a tortilla for quesadillas ready to roll out this spring.
Their desserts include three cookies made with rice flour—oatmeal/
cranberry, chocolate chip and chocolate/walnut chip. A quinoa cupcake can
be topped with fresh fruit such as strawberry with cracked pepper jam and
goat cheese frosting or blueberry/basil jam. The bakery also makes bread
pudding from rice-flour waffle buns, topped with a peach/basil jam.
Susan McMillan opened her bakery/cafe operation Senza in Chicago
after learning that many of her family members had gluten-intolerance issues.
The bakery sells its products wholesale and provides them for the cafe.
One of the cafe mainstays prepared by executive chef Noah Sandoval
is mushroom agnolotti, a gluten-free ravioli with filling ingredients of
mushrooms, kumquats, bitter chocolate and huckleberries, seasoned
Because gluten-free baked goods dry out faster than those containing
gluten, McMillan freezes them. They reconstitute easily with good results,
she says. Those served in the cafe have not been frozen, because they are
baked each morning.
Top: mehtaphor’s chickpea-crusted onion ring with tofu. middle: This
salmon on the menu at melvin’s Juice Box has crushed blue corn
tortilla chips in the breading. Bottom: Dishes such as this gluten-free
beet ravioli with scallops have attracted gluten-intolerant customers
to mia Famiglia. opposite: Chris Siversen offers wedding cakes made
from rice flour through his catering division.