Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Green's Beer

Redbridge - Anheuser-Busch's gluten-free, 100% sorghum beer - gets a lot of press these days, and for good reason. But I'd been hearing rumors about a beer over in Europe that people were hailing as the best GF beer in the world. That beer is Green's, and I recently had an opportunity to sample the three versions that are available in North America. (It was all in the line of work, of course! I have an article about GF beers coming out in an upcoming issue of BeerNW Magazine, and Merchant du Vin, Green's importer, sent me some samples to try.)

Green's was founded by Derek Green, a gentleman with Celiac's in the UK. His brewery is based in Belgium, and three of its offerings - Discovery, Endeavor, and Quest - are imported to the U.S. by Merchant du Vin out of Washington State. MDV sent me one bottle of each. At more than a pint each, they're almost 50% larger than a standard beer bottle. Not wanting to down that much beer in one sitting, and wanting to share the bounty, I decided to hold a beer tasting. Kelli, who is now five months pregnant with our first child, sat out on the tasting but did serve as official tasting coordinator. I'd weigh in on behalf of the gluten-free beer drinkers. Our friends, Laurel and Chris, weighed in on behalf of the non-GF, regular-beer drinking public. Here are our tasting notes:

Laurel - frothy, pretty head, yummy, slightly sweet, perfect for a summer night, would drink this regularly (it's much more than "just okay for a gluten-free beer")
Chris - dark amber/copper color, slightly sweet, smooth, medium to strong aftertaste, pleasant
Pete - brown/dark amber color, yeast and hops in the nose, strong carbonation, slightly sweet, very good, tastes the most like traditional beer of the GF beers I've tried

Laurel - good, but hard to describe...not quite a brown or porter, smooth and sweet, would be easy to drink several glasses
Chris - darker brown verging on light porter, more complex taste, a sipping beer? sweet, reminds me vaguely of an oatmeal stout, but not as dark
Pete - dark brown, almost porter-colored, strong head, caramel in the nose? reminiscent of oatmeal stout, hints of coffee and dark chocolate, smooth but more bitter, a little sweet

Laurel - bubbly head, thicker, yeasty, fruity
Chris - looks like a wheat beer, not my favorite
Pete - light amber color (yellow with a hint of orange), slightly cloudy, clean nose, looks like a hefeweizen, sharp flavor, would be good with a lemon or orange wedge, acidid, sweet but a little tart, yeasty, my least favorite

Discovery was our unanimous favorite. We also all agreed that Green's Beer is indeed some of the best GF beer in the world, and that it can hold its own against "real" beers anytime. In fact, my next experiment will be to hold a blind taste test - I'm going to put Green's Discovery up against three other regular craft brews, and see if regular beer drinkers can successfully identify the GF beer from a blind lineup. I'm guessing some will get it wrong, but the results will speak for themselves. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, if you're interested in trying Green's yourself, Merchant du Vin widely distributes the beers. Check their website for specific locations. Here in Boulder, Colorado, I can buy Green's at Liquor Mart for about $6.50 per bottle. It's pricey, but it's worth it!

(UPDATE 9/28/09: Liquor Mart in Boulder no longer lists Green's Beer. To find Green's near you, visit the Merchant du Vin website to find a distributor in your area, and then contact the distributor to find a local retailer. Also, a word of warning re: Liquor Mart... if you visit the website and shop for beer, and do a search for "gluten" to find gluten-free beers, Rogue's Morimoto Soba Ale comes up in the list, and the Liquor Mart description notes that "its use of buckwheat rather than traditional grains allows this brew [to be] gluten-free." NOT TRUE. Morimoto Soba Ale is made with buckwheat AND barley, and IS NOT gluten-free.)

- Pete

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Recipe: Butter-Garlic-Lime Shrimp with Peppers and Onions over Rice

Last night was grocery shopping night, which meant two things. For one, the refrigerator and the pantry were sparsely stocked. Second, we didn't want to go to the supermarket hungry...that's never a good thing! Dinner, as a result, was what we could pull together with the odds and ends of what was left in the house. Our inventory: leftover Basmati rice from an earlier Indian dinner, a lonely green pepper and yellow onion, and a bag of raw, frozen, de-veined shrimp. Kelli, as usual, worked wonders to make a delicious dinner. Here's her general plan of attack:

1 green pepper, large diced
1 yellow onion, large diced
olive oil
1lb raw, frozen, de-veined shrimp
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 lime

  • Thaw and shell the shrimp, set aside
  • Sautee the pepper and onion in olive oil, set aside
  • In a pan, melt butter and add chopped garlic, salt, pepper (ratios to taste)
  • Sautee the shrimp in the butter-garlic sauce, add the peppers and onions at the end
  • Squeeze fresh lime juice over the shrimp, peppers and onions
  • Reheat rice (in the case of leftovers) or make fresh rice
  • Serve the shrimp, peppers and onions over a bed of rice

As you'll notice, the recipe leaves room for interpretation. Since Kelli was cooking on the fly, she wasn't working off an existing recipe or measuring quantities. Such is the fun of experimenting and creating in the kitchen!

- Pete

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gluten-Free by the Campfire

This past weekend, Kelli and I snuck away to Wyoming's Snowy Range, southwest of Laramie, for a relaxing getaway. As I mentioned in our inaugural post, I'm a writer. Some of that writing covers food and drink, but I also do a lot of travel and adventure writing. Within the adventure genre, some of that writing is experiential, where magazines send me on assignment to do something crazy or interesting and write about it. Lately, that experiential adventure schedule has gotten quite busy - climbing a desert rock spire near the CO-UT border for one magazine, climbing Colorado's hardest fourteen-thousand-foot mountain for another, caving in Colorado's deepest and most dangerous cave for a third. Combine that with upcoming trips to NY, NH and Mexico, and it felt like the summer was slipping away from me!

Which brought Kelli and me to Wyoming. My personal passion is for the mountains - mountaineering, rock and ice climbing, camping, backcountry skiing. When I get a free moment, the high country is where I love to be. Fortunately, Kelli feels much the same way. So we packed up the Jeep and laid a course for the Snowy Range. We climbed 12,013' Medicine Bow Peak on Saturday, and 11,722' Browns Peak on Sunday. You can see photo galleries from our hikes on my website - just visit the News page and check the announcement for today (7/28/08), or visit the Mountains page of the Adventure section and scroll down to Wyoming.

Adjusting our diet to be gluten-free in the backcountry was a relatively easy transition. It used to (pre-gluten-free) involve chewy granola bars, a rotation of candy bars, jerky, as well as some of the freeze-dried dinners in Mountain House's Pro Pack line. Now it involves lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, dried fruits, peanut butter, GF meats, and a couple of specialty GF energy bars. Of course, when you're cooking breakfast or dinner on the campfire (or camp stove), you want a meal that's a bit more hearty.

This past weekend, we made GF pancakes for breakfast on Saturday morning. We only had our small backpacking stove and pan, so we cooked them one at a time, but it was worth it! They were delicious! This time around, we used a gluten-free flour mix from Deby's Gluten Free, a bakery in Denver, Colorado. We combined the dry ingredients (including Deby's GF flour) and the wet ingredients (separately), and kept them chilled on ice in a cooler until Saturday morning. Then we mixed the goods and made the pancakes. Sunday morning we made bacon and egg omelets for breakfast. I should have taken a picture of the omelet, but I was so hungry, and it tasted so good, that I gobbled it down before I thought about snapping a photo. For the bacon, I use Hormel's Black Label, which is gluten-free. You can see a list of Hormel's entire line of GF foods here.

Finally, the weekend left me with a new goal: to create the perfect GF graham cracker. On Saturday night by the campfire, Kelli made the almost-perfect Smore. It was not quite perfect because she used standard graham crackers from the grocery store, which were strictly off limits for me. But the Smore looked and smelled delicious, so stay tuned - we're heading into our test kitchen (also known as our kitchen) to create a GF graham cracker.

- Pete

Friday, July 25, 2008

Our Food Philosophy

It seems like awareness about Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance is rapidly on the rise, and that's a good thing! There are more GF products, recipes, and blogs than ever before. But it got me thinking that Kelli and I ought to share our own personal food philosophy with you. Gluten-free can mean many things to many people these days. But what does it mean to us? What sets No Gluten, No Problem apart from the other blogs? What makes our food philosophy unique or special or different? (Or just what is our food philosophy anyway, so you know where we're coming from!)

It's obviously gluten-free. But beyond that, it can be summed up in three short parts: our philosophy marries the ethics of Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, the cooking attitudes of our grandparents, and our love for diverse ethnic cuisines. Allow me to explain.

Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma articulated an ethic of eating we already held, but it did so elegantly, and with a compellingness that deepened our own conviction. We think that food (gluten-free or not) should be fresh (produce that's in season), local (preferably from the farmer's market), organic (when possible) and humane (in the case of eggs and meat and dairy). Simple as that.

We also think that food should be made and enjoyed with the attitudes of our grandparents. For one, the food should be made from scratch. You find this less and less these days, with all the prepared and processed foods for sale in the supermarket. One of the wonderful side benefits of going on a gluten-free diet has been how healthful the eating truly is. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole meats and fish, corn, rice and potatoes. By and large, it involves shopping the periphery of the grocery store, and abandoning the aisles where all the "evil" processed foods lurk. But as GF goes more mainstream, more and more GF processed food products are coming to market, and more and more products already on the market are earning their certified-GF status. This isn't necessarily a good thing, because a GF diet of processed food isn't much better than a "regular" diet of processed food. So, like I said earlier, we make our food from scratch, like Grandma used to do. (Cooking and eating like grandma also means that food should be social, and often enjoyed with a glass of wine!)

Lastly, we believe that eating gluten-free should be a diverse and flavorful experience; one influenced by the world's many cultures and cuisines. Kelli and I have Sicilian, Belgian, Polish and English heritage in our blood. Add to that our background as native New Yorkers, where we were exposed to the many multicultural influences of the American Melting Pot. Finally, round that out with our love for world travel, and you have a recipe for gluten-free goodness. Our meals at home regularly span the globe, from American comfort food to Belgian roasts, from Italian to Spanish, Mexican to Caribbean, and Japanese to Thai.

There, in a nutshell (and perhaps then some), you have our own food philosophy. This is how we like to eat gluten-free. It's a rewarding and flavorful way to eat, and we hope it inspires you as much as it has us.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Inaugural Post

Welcome to No Gluten, No Problem, a new blog from Pete and Kelli Bronski. We're a husband and wife dining duo that currently live in Boulder, Colorado. Pete is a writer who frequently covers food and drink. Kelli works in the hospitality industry. After Pete was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in January 2007, our household went gluten-free, and we've been cooking, eating and drinking that way since! It was a tough transition at first - as it is for so many people starting down the gluten-free road when you don't know much about it - but after experimenting with recipes and immersing ourselves in all things gluten-free, we've discovered that it's no gluten, no problem!

This blog will be our clearinghouse for GF recipes, restaurant recommendations, product reviews, and commentary. Please visit us often, and as Pete's Belgian grandmother and Sicilian grandfather used to say...Bon Appetit and Mangia!

Pete & Kelli