Thursday, February 12, 2009

Kringle love

As a chef-in-training, it takes a lot to please my husband's palate. He comes home from culinary school each day with a newfound appreciation of some peculiar French cooking method that I'm pretty sure isn't even practiced in France anymore. Dining out together has become more of an educational session than a pleasurable date, and there is always a dish that would've been perfect "if they'd just added a little salt." Nothing is ever, ever, spot on.

Unlike me, however, he's usually a little more forgiving with pastries. Perhaps it has something to do with baking being just a mere elective in his culinary curriculum. Whatever it is, I know that I can always make him smile with just the right amount of sugar (pun intended). And just last week I discovered a dessert that nearly burst his pastry lovin' heart with joy. Danish kringles.

Little did I know that he'd express such excitement when the FedEx man dropped off a pizza-sized box with the words "Racine Danish Kringle" printed on top. He ran upstairs, tore off the packaging and dove right in. In fact, he was in such a rush to taste the delicate cherry-filled pastry, that I don't even think he noticed its festive heart-shape, or the miniature box of Valentine chocolates that he immediately flung to the side.

After finishing half of the kringle, he explained that its one of his all-time favorite pastries. Apparently it had been a long while since he'd eaten one. Dessert diva that I am, the love-inspired treat was admittedly my first kringle experience. Aside from its perfectly flaky dough, my favorite part was the pale pink icing (more for its color than flavor). The cherry filling was just enough to satisfy a sugar craving without being overtly sweet, and the filling to dough ratio couldn't have been better (no sticky stuff oozing out the sides with this one). I was happy to learn that kringles can be refrozen and enjoyed again later, but quickly realized that, at least in this household, they are to be enjoyed immediately.

This article was first published on

Gluten-free goodies: These Chicago-area spots go against the grain by providing gluten-free fare.

Today, going gluten-free is as much a health trend for fitness junkies as it is a necessity for those with wheat allergies and Celiac Disease. But cutting gluten from your diet isn't easy when the bulk of our foods are made with wheat, rye, barley and oats. Fortunately, there are a number of alternatives to your favorite gluten-fueled foods, and we've got a list of the spots that serve them.

World-renowned Chef Marcus Samuelsson offers a special C-Bar menu that can be prepared gluten-free upon request. The seafood menu includes dishes like octopus with blood orange and pancetta, cobia with preserved mushroom and tuna with pine nuts and toasted rice vinaigrette. You can also choose from a selection of shrimp, oysters, clams and mussels with the fanciful selection of C-House Towers, or keep it simple with a plate of chilled lobster.

Deerfields Bakery
Baking without gluten is a matter of taste at Deerfields Bakery. The suburban sweet shop offers an extensive list of cookies, cakes and brownies for those in search of a serious sugar fix. You'll find three different categories of cookies here, including one for Chips (chocolate chips), one for Dream cookies and another for Buttons. The Buttons (including sugar, lemon, ginger and snickers) are the most basic cookie and have a somewhat chewy texture, while the Dreams have a brownie-like consistency and are loaded with everything your little pastry-lovin' heart could possibly desire. As for the Chips, well, Deerfields has found seven different ways to make them shine by pairing them with ingredients like tart cherries, dried cranberries, gluten-free oats, pecans and quinoa. For those without a sweet tooth, the bakery offers rice bran artisan rolls.

Adobo Grill
Craving Mexican? Head over to Adobo Grill in Wicker Park, where the only "special request" you'll need to make is for salt on the rim on your margarita glass. The restaurant's gluten-free menu features favorites like fresh guacamole (prepared tableside and served with jicama chips), chicken tamales steamed and served in a corn husk and cheese-stuffed quesadillas. For dinner, try the butternut squash and wild mushroom enchiladas with green mole or the popular chipotle-glazed grilled chicken. For dessert, we recommend another round from Adobo's intoxicating drink list, but if you've got a hankering for something sweet, try the gluten-free vanilla flan or chocolate tamales.

Da Luciano
Gluten-free Italian food...could it be true? Better yet, could it be good? At this family-owned and operated River Grove restaurant, the answer is yes, on both counts. After discovering that four of her children had Celiac Disease (gluten-intolerance), founder Rosalia Libreri found a way to craft an entire menu to meet the standards of the American Celiac Disease Alliance. Thanks to Libreri, the restaurant now offers a separate gluten-free menu with authentic pasta dishes like lasagna, eggplant parmigiana and puttanesca with capers, olives and anchovies. Da Luciano's also offers a selection of celiac-safe personal pizzas and appetizers like baked clams, bruschetta and garlic bread. Desserts include classic choices like homemade cannolis, tiramisu and spumoni ice cream.

This 1940s-themed dinner club comes complete with jazz music, vintage prints, sleek circular banquettes and an entire gluten-free menu. Sandwiches like the Portobello mushroom with goat cheese, peppercorn tenderloin steak and turkey burger are all served on gluten-free buns, while entrees include meaty dishes like lamb chops, prime rib and New York strip. You can even wash it all down with gluten-free Redbridge beer or Chopin vodka. If you've still got room, try the flourless chocolate cake or hot fudge peanut sundae.

Weber Grill
Weber Grill claims that "great grilled food can also be gluten-free," and the restaurant proves it with dishes like the black and blue burger, Midwestern-style barbecue pork ribs and New York strip. The special menu also highlights filling side dishes like baked or mashed potatoes, whipped sweet potatoes, au gratin and fire-roasted corn on the cob. And the atmosphere is just as inspiring as the menu with a ringside view of the restaurant's open kitchen, where you can watch a team of chefs prepare your meal on authentic Weber kettles.

David Burke's PrimehouseLinkThis downtown restaurant offers a slew of gluten-free items, but it's the Kobe beef sashimi that catches all eyes and appetites. The thin slice of beef is served sashimi-style on a Himalayan pink salt tile (the same tiles used in the restaurant's in-house dry aging room) with mushroom chips and truffle mayonnaise. Typically, the dish is served with a side of toast, but gluten-sensitive guests can request a no-toast option or substitute a small veggie side. For dessert, choose from executive pastry chef Jove T. Hubbard's unique selection of ice cream and sorbet flavors like Angry Mango, bubble gum cotton candy, bourbon and pink grapefruit.

This article was first published on Centerstage.
Photo: Kumamoto with honeydew granite at C-House.