One way to work our way through the obvious limitations of winter activity is to do food research. You know—sampling wines, making friends with gluten-free specialties, applying Sriracha sauce to everything.
So in the interest of culinary field work I have recently compared gluten-free products that can be loosely assembled under the heading: “toastable.” Bagels, bread, English muffins, that sort of thing. News flash! I have found a good gluten-free bagel! As always, the folks at Canyon Bakehouse lead the way. Armed with their incredibly persuasive version of bagels, we are able to partner eggs and Canadian bacon with worthy carbs. Now, nothing will ever provide that combination of chewy and tender that characterizes a True Bagel, but the Canyon Bakehouse ($4.99) version is shockingly satisfying, and makes a terrific delivery system for our house favorite Somerset English butter (at Shopper’s) and our current reigning jam, the Peach Amaretto from Stockwell Cellars. Breakfast is always a joy, but especially when the days are both short and grey (like a few of my friends). Gluten-free bagels makes it even better.
Now, for the bad news. I got excited when I saw a package of gluten-free English muffins ($4.99) made by Food for Life. Filled with organic brown rice flour, plus a bit of tapioca flour and potato starch, these muffins looked very convincing. But, no. They had all the flavor appeal of damp cardboard—that’s after toasting—and the dense, jaw-breaking texture of partially set cement. I have an old Webster’s dictionary that weighs less than one of these grim objects, and at 110 calories per half muffin, they are not exactly diet-friendly. No flavor, almost unchewable—sorry, but these are simply not worth attempting. What a shame. Happily, Canyon Bakehouse gluten-free products are available just about everywhere!
Pastry of the Week
In the interests of giving equal time to the joys of gluten, I joined my writer buddy Lisa for our monthly dose of quality caffeine with something on the side (careful there …). Heading out to Gayle’s, we braved the challenge of finding a parking spot and aimed for the espresso counter and colorful tables in the back. Lisa immediately zeroed in on a croissant stuffed with chocolate. Lisa can spot chocolate with her eyes closed. But I was interested in the wilder side of the croissant experience, and found exactly what I needed (and much more) in the full-figured form of an almond croissant ($4), or more correctly, le croissant d’amande. The expression “OMG” immediately came to mind. Inside this bulging croissant was a molten heart of almond-tinged pastry cream, while the top was glazed with marzipan and sliced, toasted almonds. Every bite was a cardinal sin, filled with light, buttery micro-layers of pastry, almonds in various forms and that voluptuous, creamy heart. A pastry this stupefying can overcome most forms of gluto-phobia. Although it can require doubling up on trips to the gym.
Wine of the Week
Every home needs its trusty bottle of low-alcohol white wine, and ours (currently, at least) is the light, minerally Grüner Veltliner 2015 from Pratsch. The top grape of Austria receives plenty of pampering in this welcoming, highly affordable quaff, $15ish (available at New Leaf, among others), and given its 12-percent alcohol, this wine makes a no-brainer, go-to experience at day’s end. With impunity. Add a few green olives, some almonds, perhaps a sardine on a quinoa cracker, and toast the end of winter. (OK, that’s still six weeks away, but now is a good time for some optimism.)