Thursday, February 26, 2015

EAT: Sage Restaurant, Aria Hotel, Las Vegas, NV

So, you wanted to know my favorite restaurant (and very food allergy friendly) in Las Vegas??  It is Sage Restaurant, located in the Aria Hotel. With a hip, modern vibe, low lighting, and amazingly entertaining staff, Sage has great food and great fun all in one.

My gluten free dinner companion raved about Sage, and I thought, could it really live up to all the hype. Yes! I even ate there twice during my trip! Both times, I was with a large group, and we all know how nerve-racking it is to eat with food allergies in a large group. Will my  requests for gluten and corn free be heard amongst all the glutenous bread eaters? 

My first trip to Sage really set the stage. Bond was our server, and if you have a chance to eat at Sage, be sure to ask to be seated in Bond's section. He was super knowledgeable about the food, made great recommendations, and was the most entertaining server I have ever had! Sage does not have a gluten free menu, but Bond went over the menu with me, checked on a couple of items, and made sure my order (and any shared appetizers) would be gluten and corn free.

My gluten free dinner companion recommended that I order my own Foie Gras Custard Brulee and it did not disappoint! Complete with Kumquat and Toasted Cocoa Nibs, it was like heaven on earth. Smooth, rich, and creamy, it went perfectly with the gluten free and corn free Edmund's Oast bread from Charleston, SC I brought with me on the trip.
The table ordered the Grilled Spanish Octopus with Bloomsdale Spinach, Chorizo Aioli, and Marcona Almond Romesco. This was my first taste of Octopus! Interesting with a lot of flavor, but the octopus had kind of rubbery texture and tasted like chicken. ;)
For my entree, Bond recommended the Maine Day Boat Scallops with Braised Oxtail, Wild Mushrooms, and Salted Caramel Reduction. My gluten free dinner companion and I both ordered the dish. Very tasty! The three large scallops were seared nicely and the oxtail gave the dish added flavor. I really liked that the server who brought out our entrees stated that each dish was gluten free. The added touch always makes me feel that the kitchen staff took extra care of our order to ensure the safest meal possible.

On our second trip to Sage, unfortunately Bond was not working that night, but our server was knowledgeable about food allergies as well, yet much more subdued than Bond. That night, we ordered the gluten free Foie Gras Custard Brulee for appetizers and I ordered the gluten free Grimaud Farms Duck with Beluga Lentils, Spiced Pumpkin, and Quince. The duck had a nice flavor and of course, the presentation was on point.

My gluten free dinner companion ordered the gluten free Grilled American Kobe Skirt Steak with Shishito Pepper, Salsa Verde, Creamy Cauliflower, and Almonds. He said the steak was cooked to a nice medium rare and paired well with the salsa verde and cauliflower.
For dessert, there was a nice selection, but I highly recommend the Foie Gras Candy Bar. Bond checked on its gluten and corn free status and it was a go. Be sure to order no popcorn garnish if you are corn free. It was the most amazing dessert I have ever had! Small in size, it is perfect for one person. It was very rich, smooth, and creamy. A Snickers bar times 100! It has Salt and Pepper Peanut Butter Cream, Bourbon Caramel Drizzle, amd Single Origin Milk Chocolate. Of course, everyone ordered the Candy Bar both nights! How often are you in Las Vegas anyway?! Doesn't the saying go: "What Happens In Vegas, Stays In Vegas"? Does that include calories??

If you are in Las Vegas, you must go to Sage Restaurant in the Aria Hotel. The service, the selection, and the food allergy accommodations make it a must visit. I am already counting down to my next time to Sage!

Sage Restaurant
Aria Hotel
3730 South Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Being Sick Is So Corny!

It is that time of year again...flu season! Everyone hates getting sick, but what do you do if you are allergic to the medicine that is suppose to make you better?

For those of you who are allergic to corn, just about every over the counter medication contains corn, corn starch, or corn syrup. Cough syrup and cough drops have corn in them as well. Where do you turn for relief?

I found a delicious (is that really possible?!) cough syrup that is corn free at my local Whole Foods called Chestal Honey. It is corn free and wow, pretty tasty compared to those corny thick fake fruit flavored syrups we are all used to. It is also dye free, for those allergic to Yellow 5, Red 40, and others.

Look for an upcoming post about gluten free and corn free cough drops!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Monday Motivation 02/23/2015

"You were born to be a player. You were meant to be here. This moment is yours."

~ Herb Brooks, Coach of the Gold Medal US Olympic Hockey Team

Friday, February 20, 2015

EAT: Fig, Charleston, SC

At FIG Restaurant in Charleston, SC, Food Is Good! Being one of the hardest reservations to obtain in downtown Charleston, I was excited to check the place out. Small and quaint, FIG does not disappoint. There was no gluten free menu, but our server was very knowledgeable and checked the ingredients for us on several dishes. Most of the dishes at FIG are automatically gluten free, except for the obvious bread, as they make all of their dishes in house.
We started the meal with the Keegan-Filion Farm Chicken Liver Pâté. The Pâté itself is gluten free, but is accompanied with broiche (bread and definitely not gluten free). Instead, our server brought us a plate of the maxim potatoes, usually served with the Beef Tartare, which are gluten free and the only item fried in the fryer. The potato "chips" were a nice addition to the Pâté, along with pickles and dijon.
I ordered the Slow Baked Beeliner Snapper with cabbage, black trumpet mushroom, pecan, fino sherry. The dish is naturally gluten and corn free and came highly recommended by our server. The snapper had a light taste and was a good size portion.
My dinner companion ordered the Fish Stew in Cocotte with white shrimp, squid, mussels, Charleston Gold Rice, and rouille on the side. The strew was gluten free as well and was very flavorful. The broth was not as thick as I thought it would be (more like a soup than a stew), but was chock full of shrimp and mussels.
We ordered a side of the Roasted Beets. Orange in color, not deep red you normally see with pickled beets, and they had a nice flavor.

The food at FIG is good, and I really appreciated our server being knowledgeable about food allergies. Definitely in my top 5 restaurants in Charleston. A must check out, but make your reservations early due to the difficulty to get a table.

232 Meeting St.
Charleston, SC 29401

Thursday, February 19, 2015

EAT: Aureole, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV

Most people go to Las Vegas for a dinner and a show. Why not have both at the same time?! At Aureole in Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, you get both. In the center of the grand dining room is a four story wine tower, complete with "flying wine angels," as they are called, who retrieve bottles of wine ordered by guests each night.Which bottle will you select?
Aureole is one of the 18 restaurants in the renowned Chef Charlie Palmer's Restaurant Group, which has locations in New York City, Washington DC, Nevada, and California. Aureole does not have a gluten free menu, but we were impressed with the knowledge of our server about food allergies. He even brought us gluten free chebe bread made in house! Chebe bread is an Italian cheese bread and was delicious with butter.
To start our meal, we ordered the gluten free Seared Hudson Foie Gras with savoy cabbage samosa, ginger carrot puree, and mount hood wild huckleberry. Smooth, creamy, delicious, and seared nicely. Foie Gras is very popular in Las Vegas and it is definitely an acquired taste. I found the Foie Gras in Las Vegas to be smoother and less strong than others I have tried around the country. Aureole's was by far the best Foie Gras we had in Las Vegas, except for the Foie Gras at Sage, which incorporated its foie gras into a brulee and a candy bar.
For the entree, I ordered the Niman Ranch Pork Chop with Collard Greens, Bacon Bits, and Spicy Pig's Ear Salad. It also came with a Bartlett Pear Tart, but that was not gluten free, so as a substitution, pears were sliced on top.The dish was very tasty and had a nice fusion of flavors.
My dinner companion also ordered gluten free and decided upon the 18 oz Bone In Rib Eye with Garlic Firecracker and Classic Bearnaise. It was cooked to a nice medium rare and was very flavorful.

Aureole should definitely be on your list on places to eat in Las Vegas. It was in my Top 2 for my trip.Our server was very knowledgeable about food allergies, and the food was fabulous. I really enjoyed watching the "wine angel" repel up and down the tower retrieving wine. In fact, she was only retrieving bottles about half way up most of the night, and we joked to our server that the really expensive ones must be at the top. His response was no, but he did send her a request to go to the top of the tower just for us to see. Definitely a great dinner and show!

Mandalay Bay Resort
3950 South Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89119

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

EAT: Stripsteak, Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV

Stripsteak, located in Mandalay Bay Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, gives the traditional steakhouse a modern twist. It uses the finest ingredients and is the brain-child of Chef Michael Mina, acclaimed chef and winner of Chef of the Year by numerous magazines.
Even though Stripsteak does not have a gluten free menu, its staff was very knowledgeable about gluten free and other food allergies. Both the bartender and our server informed us that the french fries are fried in a dedicated fryer and are gluten free! They were tasty and fried to a nice golden brown.
Once again, I was dining with a group, but Stripsteak and its staff made sure to confirm the gluten free status of all items. As an appetizer, the group ordered the Foie Gras Trilogy (pictured above). Yes, you are saying "there are only two items on that plate, not three!" Two parts of the trilogy were gluten free, but not the third, so the chef placed the gluten item on a separate plate that did not touch the other two items, yet could still be enjoyed by the gluten eaters in the group.
I ordered the gluten free 10 oz Angus Filet Mignon. Each steak comes a la carte with no side items. It was flavorful and cooked to a nice medium.
My gluten free dinner companion in the group ordered the Bone-In Filet. It is an item not on the regular menu, but be sure to ask about it if it interests you. He said it was tasty and cooked to a nice medium rare.

Stipsteak has a fun atmosphere tucked away on the restaurant "strip" in Mandalay Bay. The staff did a great job accommodating our large group and was very knowledgeable with food allergies. Would definitely recommend if you are craving a nice steak in Las Vegas.

Mandalay Bay Hotel
3950 South Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89119

Eat: Fresh First, Fort Lauderdale, FL

Is is possible to stay in a hotel right next door to a cafe that is completely gluten free, corn free, peanut free and organic?!  Well, I did in Fort Lauderdale, FL when I found Fresh First in the Yacht District on SE 17th Street. Tucked away and hard to find, Fresh First offers dine in and takeout for breakfast and lunch. It also has another location on the north side of Fort Lauderdale on North Federal Hwy. 

Breakfast items included eggs, oatmeal, and waffles. Lunch consisted of sandwiches, burgers, soups, salads, and rice bowls. Fresh First even makes smoothies, and carries fresh juices, wine, and ciders.  
I stopped in on a Saturday morning around 9am to look for a snack to take with me on my cruise. The place was completely empty except for employees! There were five cruise ships leaving that day from the dock five minutes away from the restaurant, plus locals in the area. Perhaps Fort Lauderdale has early diners, but I found out that the restaurant opens daily at 8am. Asking if they just opened, I was told that they had been at the location for several years. The decor was nice and inviting, but I was surprised that there was not a display for muffins, cupcakes, cookies, take home items, etc. With no display (and no point of purchase opportunity so people can see something yummy and add it to their order), it is hard to decide what to order. Also, I found the staff to be unfriendly. One staff member just sitting down to her own breakfast, was curt and acted like I was an inconvenience.  
I ordered a Banana Nut Muffin and a Strawberry Quinoa Cupcake with Buttercream Frosting. Both were delicious! I love to be able to order a gluten free bakery item and not have to worry about corn (a common replacement of wheat flour). Only after I told the staff I was a blogger, did they oblige and take the above photo of the delicious pastry items of the day located on a rack in the kitchen.

I will be back in the Fort Lauderdale area in a couple of weeks and hope to stop back in to Fresh First. The items I tried were delicious, but I can't help but wonder if the lack of customers on a Saturday morning was due to a less than personable attitude of the staff.

Fresh First
1637 SE 17th Street (Yacht District across street from Cruiseport)
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33316
Monday-Saturday 8am-3pm

4520 North Federal Hwy
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33308
Monday-Friday 8am-3pm

Monday, February 16, 2015

Monday Motivation 02/16/2015

In honor of Presidents' Day:

"Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company."

~ George Washington, First President of the United States

EAT: Gallagher's Steakhouse, New York-New York Hotel, Las Vegas, NV

Gallagher's Steakhouse, located in New York New York Hotel in Las Vegas, NV, is a busy steakhouse where the steaks are dry aged in house. It has a nice atmosphere with cozy small tables. 
Gallagher's Steakhouse has an extensive gluten free menu with an variety of steaks. Normally, their steaks have a Demi-glaze on them when they arrive at the table, but the Demi-glaze is not gluten free and is omitted on a gluten free meal. Beware that if a steak is considered too rare by the customer and sent back to be cooked up, there is a chance that the Demi-glaze is on the grill. Our server, Todd, informed us of this during our order which allowed me to ask for my Filet to be cooked in a pan. 
I ordered the gluten free Center Cut Filet Mignon cooked in a pan with a loaded Colossal Baked Potato. The Filet was cooked to a nice medium.
My dinner companion decided on the gluten free Porterhouse after being told that Gallagher's was sold out of Prime Rib and the Catch of the Day, Chilean Sea Bass, at 8:30pm on Saturday night. He also ordered a side of sautéed spinach.

I thought Gallagher's Steakhouse was a pretty average steakhouse. I did like the selection of gluten free options on the gluten free menu, but as always in Las Vegas, the prices were high. 

Gallagher's Steakhouse
New York-New York Hotel
3790 South Las Vegas Blvd.
Las Vegas, NV 89109

EAT: Cut Las Vegas: Wolfgang Puck Steakhouse, Palazzo Hotel, Las Vegas, NV

Cut is Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in The Palazzo Hotel in Las Vegas, NV. His first Cut location is in the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, CA and is named as one of the top 3 steakhouses in America by Bon Appetit Magazine.
Being known for its steaks, it offers a wide selection of cuts from across the country. Select a steak from Illinois, Nebraska, Washington State, Idaho, or 100% Wagyu Beef from Japan. Cut did not have a gluten free menu, but our server was knowledgeable about food allergies and told us what items on the menu were safe.
I was dining with a large group, where only two of us were gluten free. I find it difficult in most settings with a large group to feel comfortable that my dietary needs are being met, but Las Vegas has been much easier than other places. Cut was no exception. Our server suggested the gluten free Maple Glazed Pork Belly with Asian Spices, Watercress, Sesame-Orange Dressing, and Huckleberry Compote. Very tasty!
Our server also suggested the gluten free Maine Diver Scallop "Carpaccio," Shaved Cucumber, Young Onion, and Wasabi-Yuzu Ponzu. It was also tasty. The Wasabi sauce gave the scallops a little kick of flavor.
For the entree, I decided to find out what all the hype is about and tried the 6 oz American Waygu Filet from Idaho. Every restaurant in Las Vegas promotes the Waygu beef and how it follows an ancient Japanese technique where the cow is massaged so that the beef is higher in Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids than traditional beef. Also, it has an increased marbling that increases the ratio of monounsaturated fats to saturated fats. Sounds healthier, but comes with an added cost. I did not notice much difference in taste, but the filet was cooked to a nice medium. 

I was not blown away by the food at Cut. It was a nice restaurant with a good selection of beef options. The staff was knowledgeable about food allergies, which was nice, but I found other restaurants to be better choices for the money in Las Vegas.

Cut Las Vegas: Wolfgang Puck Steakhouse Restaurant
The Grand Canal Shops in the Palazzo
3325 South Las Vegas Blvd. 
Las Vegas, NV 89109

Monday, February 9, 2015

Monday Motivation 02/09/2015

"I always mean what I say, but I don't always say what I am thinking."

~ Former UNC Basketball Coach Dean Smith (Feb 28, 1931-Feb 7, 2015)