Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Upcoming Gluten-Free Cooking Class

Mark your calendars! On Saturday, October 9, from 10:00am - 12:00pm, Kelli and I are teaming up with Pam Vagnieres of Nutri-Physique to offer a "Gluten-Free Pasta Perfection" cooking class. We'll be using the Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend to make a variety of gluten-free pastas (linguini, ravioli, lasagna) using a variety of techniques (a tabletop hand-crank pasta roller, a rolling pin and pizza cutter, etc.). Pam, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist who also runs series of cooking classes, will be on-hand to answer your gluten-related diet and nutrition questions. The class will be at Pam's location in Louisville, CO. If you're local to the Denver-Boulder area, come join us! Contact Pam for more information, or to sign up.

- Pete

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Restaurant Review: Honga's Lotus Petal, Telluride, CO

During our recent trip to Telluride, we were working our way through a variety of cuisine at the town's excellent choice of restaurants. We did American/Continental at Cosmo, and local at Allred's, and now it was time for Asian. We narrowed our options down to two: Siam and Honga's Lotus Petal. The recommendations of locals didn't necessarily steer us strongly in one direction or the other (both offer gluten-free options), so largely on the basis of what amounted to a coin toss, we went with Honga's.

As we walked up to the front of the restaurant, the outdoor menu and chalk board proudly declared that Honga's offered gluten-free tempura. This immediately got us excited. Some GF shrimp and vegetable tempura, made with a rice-based tempura batter, sounded like the perfect way to start our meal.

Over the years, we've become accustomed to perusing a restaurant's menu, looking for possible sources of gluten cross-contamination they might not necessarily think about, and one place we always look is if the menu also featured non-gluten-free items that would be cooked in the same fryer oil as gluten-free menu items. If so, we always ask if the GF options have a dedicated or shared fryer. This, of course, could be a concern for something like tempura, which would be deep fried. It wasn't immediately apparent to us whether Honga's menu had any offenders or not. After some back and forth with our server, we found out that one appetizer - the calamari - was breaded with a gluten-ous batter and fried in the same oil as the gluten-free tempura. This was tragic on multiple levels. First, if you're very sensitive to gluten and/or have a zero tolerance policy for cross-contamination, then the gluten-free tempura at Honga's is off-limits to you. Second, Honga's declaration of gluten-free tempura is misleading, and less careful gluten-free diners could be lured into a false sense of security and a menu option that might not in truth be gluten-free. And lastly, this tragic downfall needn't be one. Why have a single menu item not coated with gluten-free batter, when you've gone to lengths to implement and advertise a gluten-free tempura batter for other menu items? Sigh...

Chicken Pad Thai

That disappointment aside, we otherwise had a pleasant if measured dining experience at Honga's. Kelli's coconut green curry with chicken and vegetables over rice was flavorful and quite good. My chicken pad thai was unconventional, and didn't meet my expectations, because it didn't taste like what I consider to be a "standard" pad thai. (It was sweeter than most pad thai dishes I've had, the sauce was much more a broth/soup in which the rice noodles soaked than it was a thicker sauce, and sunflower sprouts instead of traditional bean sprouts imparted a different flavor. I'd be very curious to compare Honga's pad thai to that at Siam...)

Locals also go to Honga's for its fresh, if pricey, sushi (hey, you're in a land-locked ski town, so high prices go with the territory...). If you go that route, Honga's didn't have tamari wheat-free soy during our visit, so be sure to bring a bit of your own.

All in all, our Honga's experience was average at best. We've certainly had better, but by ordering the right dishes, we had a safe gluten-free meal that was good, if not great.

- Pete

Monday, September 27, 2010

The Physical Challenge: Week 20

Descending a ski run at Greek Peak en route to the next aid station

It gives me great pleasure to write this final Physical Challenge update, for week #20. After 5 months of training - and 5 months of blogging about training as a gluten-free athlete - the big Virgil Crest Ultra race is in the bag.

As planned, the week leading up to the race on Saturday, September 25 (two days ago), was mostly restful, with one short 3.5-mile run on Wednesday just keep my legs "awake." Otherwise, I was all about letting my legs fully recover from training so they'd be good and fresh for the main event. My goal was to finish the race in 10-12 hours, knowing that 10 hours would be a big stretch, and that 12 hours was a more realistic target.

On Thursday, we drove up to Ithaca, NY from Long Island, so that I'd have Friday for my legs to bounce back from sitting in the car for five or so hours. From a GF nutrition standpoint (and as I believe I've written before) I personally don't like to heavily carbo load the night before a race, as many athletes do. I much prefer to maintain my normal, balanced diet. I don't want to do anything that's going to upset my body, to throw off my digestion. I simply want to maintain an even keel.

Friday night, however, things went south in what could have been a disastrous turn of events. Dinner was chicken and rice. I cleaned my plate and immediately headed out the door for the 30-45 minute drive to the race location for race packet pickup and an athletes meeting. I barely made it there before I had to disappear into the restroom. I knew the feeling all too well. Gluten cross-contamination. Dinner went straight through me. So did anything else I ate that night. This was decidedly not good.

Arriving at aid station #8, mile 40.6

I woke around 4:30am on race morning, planning to leave the house at 4:45, and arrive at the race around 5:30, half an hour before the 6:00am start. Breakfast - yogurt, GF cereal, some fresh fruit, and a slice of GF bread - also went straight through me. In fact, between the time I arrived at the race venue and when the race started, I had to run to the bathroom three times, including once just 3 minutes before the race started. I made it to the starting line 45 seconds before race director Ian Golden blew on a ram's horn to send us off. Just before I toed the line, I grabbed a handful of napkins from the finish line aid station and stuffed them into my Camelbak backpack, hoping I wouldn't need them, but worried that I might.

Apart from my digestive troubles, I approached the start of this race differently than most every other race I've done. Usually, I might listen to some psych up music, and get myself pumped up for the race. You know, get the adrenaline going. Which is exactly what I didn't want to do for this race. I wasn't nervous. Sure, I was excited and ready to race. But to the best of my ability, I tried to make the race start anti-climactic. Too much adrenaline at the race start would cause me to go out too hard, too fast. But the length and difficulty of the race demanded a different approach - a slow and steady mentality. You needed to be able to maintain your pace for the long-haul, or else risk bonking and dropping out of the race before the finish.

With the 6:00am start, it was still dark when we began running. Most of us ran with small LED headlamps or small handheld flashlights. Running in the dark, especially with other runners around you, is a funny thing. Because you don't see the terrain around you as well, your perception is off. You feel like you're running faster than you are. You lift your feet up higher instinctively to hopefully avoid tripping on an unseen root or rock. You struggle to find the right pace...not the pace of the people around you, or the pace you think you're going.

Changing into a fresh pair of socks and fresh trail running sneakers
(while Marin eats a GF chocolate chip cookie)

By the second leg of the race - miles 5.4 to 10.8 - I had to duck into the woods and make use of those napkins I had stashed in my pack. I lost several precious minutes as a pack of runners passed me by. I caught and re-passed them a few miles later, but my bigger concern was my own health. If I couldn't keep calories going in (and staying in), then I knew I was in for a very bad day, and almost certainly wouldn't finish the race.

Thankfully, my gluten cross-contamination episode was very mild. I experienced none of the acute abdominal pain, muscle trembles, or fatigue that usually accompanied such events. By the fourth leg of the race - miles 14.7 to 20.7 - food and fluids were finally going in...and most importantly, staying in. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, and as I kept the calories going in, I began to feel better and better.

My plan for race nutrition was pretty straightforward. Water in the Camelbak while running. Gatorade while moving through the aid stations. GUs and energy chews while running. M&Ms (for chocolate), oranges, bananas, GF bread slices, GF cinnamon scones, GF chocolate chip cookies, and bacon (for salt) at the aid stations. Kelli served as my support crew, baking all the GF stuff on Friday, and shuttling a bag with all the goodies from aid station to aid station. The GUs provided quick, easy energy while running. The solid foods helped to settle my stomach, and to moderate blood sugar spikes and dips that come with consuming only GU-like products. In hindsight, the only thing I'd change would be to bring more savory foods. So many of my foods were on the sweeter side, and as the miles ticked by, it became harder and harder to stomach the idea of eating another GU gel packet. For the first half of the race or so, I focused on eating every 45 minutes to 1 hour. But for the second half of the race, I took in calories every 20-30 minutes, which proved crucial for maintaining some kind of energy level.

The course itself was gorgeous. Most of the route followed the Finger Lakes Trail, which - despite being a New York native - I've never hiked before. Open forests of beech, oak and maple. Stands of hemlock. Fern-covered hillsides. Fall colors were already abundant in places. Streams and little glens and ravines. And of course, the never-ending hills, which totaled 10,000 vertical feet of ascent, and an equal amount of descent, over the length of the race.

Coming home to the finish line

By the fourth aid station at mile 20.7, the field - including 48 starting runners in the 50-mile race - had gotten quite strung out. (Fittingly, 50 runners had originally registered for the 50-miler, but 2 didn't start the race...) Every ultra runner has his or her own strengths and style of running. Some power up the uphills. Others bomb the descents. My strength comes in being able to maintain a given pace over a very long distance. In general, the longer a race, the more it benefits me, and the more racers I tend to pass (who had sped ahead of me earlier in the race).

Amazingly, though, I kept running into (sorry, couldn't resist the running pun...) two of the same people: my friend, Tom, from Boston, and Dan, a PhD student from Cornell (I later learned). Tom and I registered for the race on the same day, but had trained independently, since he's in MA and I'm in CO. A few weeks before the race, we did one long training run together while he was in CO for business, and during that run I got the sense that we were pretty evenly matched going into this race. Now, that suspicion was playing out. We overlapped at the first 7 (of 10) aid stations. We often were in sight of each other on the trails, sometimes me ahead of Tom, sometimes vice versa, and sometimes we ran together.

It was interesting to see our different approaches to aid stations. Tom treated them like triathlon transitions, moving through as quickly as possible, and doing more of his eating out on the trails. I treated aid stations more like gas stations, stopping to refuel, plus park your car and go into the mini-mart for some food. I would refill my hydration bladder, swig gatorade, restock on packets of GU, eat some solid food, and stretch my legs. I almost always left the aid stations a few minutes behind Tom, but miles later, I would always catch him, and then we'd repeat the cycle at the next aid station.

I could not have asked for better race conditions. Some 80% of the course was shaded. Skies were partly sunny, partly cloudy. A light breeze blew. The high temperature was in the low 60s. In other words, it was ideal weather for my body.

Done, in more ways than one, at mile 51.4, after 11 hours 43 minutes

Coming into the turn around - aid station #5 at Daisy Hollow, mile 25.7 - the out-and-back format of the course allowed me to gauge my place in the race. Anyone heading in the opposite direction in theory was ahead of me (unless they later dropped out of the race, which happened in at least one instance). I knew I was somewhere around the top 10 at that point, but there was a lot of race left, and anything could happen. After all, when I reached Kelli at aid station #6, mile 30.7, I was entering virgin territory. Every step I took from that point would be farther than I've ever run in a single push before.

As the miles ticked by, I grew more and more tired. More parts of my body began to ache. My quads and calved screamed. My knees dreaded the downhills. My feet hurt from constantly flexing over all the gnarled roots along the trail. And yet, I kept going. I found that running this kind of distance became a matter of sticking to my routine. Run the flats and downhills. Jog the gradual uphills. Power hike the steeper uphills. Eat every 30 minutes. Constantly sip water. Refuel at aid stations. You reach a point beyond pain and beyond exhaustion, where you simply keep on going, because that's what you've been doing for the last 40 miles and the last 8 or 9 hours. So you do it some more.

Leaving each aid station, race organizers had also posted "inspiring" quotes to help motivate you for the next leg of the race. Sayings such as: "Pain is temporary, but quitting lasts forever." And "Pain is inevitable. Misery is optional." Words of wisdom, huh?

Against all odds, especially in light of how I'd been feeling the night before and morning of, the race was going according to plan. I'd drawn up a spreadsheet for the race that listed a range of per mile pace times, split times for each leg of the race, and anticipated arrival times for each aid station. I gave the printout to Kelli, so she could chart my progress and give me feedback for how I was doing. By all measures, I was doing well.

Even so, I had to remind myself that this was a monumental effort, unlike anything I'd ever done. (Tom later commented that the Virgil Crest Ultra was harder than an Ironman triathlon, which he's finished.) I had to remember that - first and foremost - I was racing against myself, and racing against the course. I couldn't worry about what other people were doing. If I saw a runner ahead of me, I couldn't concern myself with catching and passing them. If I looked behind me and saw a runner coming, I couldn't concern myself with them catching and passing me. Of course, I did it anyway. I'm too competitive not to. As much as I say I'd like to just race for fun, or just finish, in any race I've ever done, I push myself as hard as I can.

With the hours and miles ticking by, my focus became three goals: 1) race within myself, so I wouldn't cramp up or get injured and have to withdraw, 2) finish with a sub-12-hour time, and 3) preserve a top 10 finish.

Marin, reminding me to keep drinking

During section 7 of the race, which involved a lot of steep elevation gain, my legs felt like lead weights. If I couldn't have looked down and seen my own two feet, I would have sworn someone had strapped 5 or 10 pound plates to each foot. Coming in to aid station #8, mile 40.6, Kelli was now joined by the rest of the family, who'd shown up to cheer me on for the final 11 miles. They also brought the camera, which we'd forgotten and left behind, so all of the pictures in this post are from aid station #8 and the finish line... (By now, Tom's legs had unfortunately cramped up, and he was forced to walk the last two legs of the race...but he still finished. Awesome determination.)

I took a longer break at the aid station than usual. My 3-4 minute transitions became a 7-minute transition, during which I changed into a fresh pair of socks and trail running sneakers, and really loaded up on the calories. Leaving the aid station for the second to last leg of the race, I felt as if I'd found another wind (my 5th or 6th?). I powered through leg #9, and at the 9th aid station, the spreadsheet Kelli carried showed that I was still remarkably on pace.

And then, there was just one leg of the race left to run, with a net downhill elevation change. I could sense the finish line growing nearer, which buoyed my spirits. Even throughout the race, and despite the pain and exhaustion, I was truly enjoying myself...Kelli, the family, the volunteers, the beautiful setting, the growing sense of accomplishment, the other runners - who were all mutually supportive and quite nice - made for an awesome race experience.

In the final miles of the race, I caught and passed 2 other 50-milers. It was then that the mutually supportive nature of the race really shined. I was running alongside a 100-miler, clearly 10 years or more my senior. When I reached my finish line, he was going to turn around and do the whole thing a second time. He turned to me and said, "Come on. We're going to pick up the pace and get you home in under 7 minutes. We can do it." He continued: "Those other two guys won't catch you." He clearly knew the course, knowing each turn, each subtle downhill or uphill. He told me when to open up my stride, when to pick up my cadence and leg turnover. If I began to slip behind, he encouraged me to catch back up to him, and each time I did, he told me "That's it. Nice job. Keep it up." As we rounded the final turn, with nothing but a straight stretch of green grass to the finish, he slowed up and simply said, "You've got it from here."

I crossed the finish line in 11 hours 43 minutes, in 7th place. I reached each and every one of my three goals. Thanks, in part, to that runner who brought more out of me than I thought I had in myself. I'm sure that last 3/4 of a mile was the fastest split of the day for me...at the end of a 51.4 mile run with 10,000 feet of elevation gain!

Kelli, Marin, Charlotte and lots of other family were there to welcome me across the finish line. Before I walked over to give Kelli a kiss and a hug, and to pick up Marin, I first turned around and thanked that 100-miler for his help, and then cheered as Dan - the Cornell geologist - crossed the finish line 3 minutes behind me. We'd seen each other all day, and it seemed only fitting that we finished the race more or less together.

At the end of the day, the race stats broke down as follows:

Miles: 51.4
Elevation Gain: 10,000 vertical feet
Registered runners: 50
Starters: 48
Finishers: 33
My place: 7th
My time: 11 hours 43 minutes
Fluids consumed: ~14 liters

About 20 minutes after the race, the adrenaline that sustained me across the finish line subsided, and my energy level and overall feeling crashed. I was done. Tom crossed the finish line a little while later. He, too, was now a 50-mile finisher.

As for the fundraising effort in support of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of support in the final days leading up to the race. Donations are still trickling in, but as of this morning, we've raised nearly $3,600 for the NFCA. Thank you to everyone who made it happen! It is our collective success.

Now, I'm in rest, recovery and healing mode. When I crossed the finish line, Marin looked up at me and said, "Daddy run?" Yes, Daddy run. But not again for at least a couple of weeks.

- Pete

P.S. Huge thanks this week go out to Debbie B., Levon K., Nancy A., Sally C., Kevin M., Kendra N., Jonathan A., Danny O., John F., Maureen S., Paula N., Patti S., Nancy P., David K., Lisa B., Beth E., Lisa S., Rachel W., Jessica M., Lou E., Mary G., Jan C., and Jackie R. for your generous donations!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Friday Foto: Cilantro Sauce

Today's Friday Foto was unabashedly inspired by Wahoo's Fish Taco, which we reviewed in January earlier this year. Their Wahoo fish bowl comes with grilled fish, rice and beans, pico de gallo, a side of fresh soft corn tortillas, and a cilantro sauce that Kelli just dies for. I'll admit, it's pretty tasty.

When we were planning our own night of fish tacos recently - complete with fresh corn tortillas, grilled mahi mahi, fresh salsa, and sauteed peppers and onions - we knew the meal wouldn't be complete without one thing: our own version of Wahoo's cilantro sauce. More than a year ago we did a Friday Foto recipe for Cilantro Dipping Sauce, which differs from today's recipe in important ways. Compared to the dipping sauce, which was intended for a dish such as yuca frita, today's Cilantro Sauce is more of a cilantro paste, perfect over fish, and with a different flavor profile thanks to the addition of cider vinegar and scallions.

Cilantro Sauce

Ingredients
3 scallions
1/2 bunch cilantro
1 garlic clove
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 lime, juiced
salt and pepper, dash each, to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

Steps
1. Blend all ingredients through and including the salt and pepper in a food processor until smooth.
2. Drizzle in the olive oil while the food processor is still going to incorporate.
3. Serve over your favorite fish tacos!

Simple, easy, fresh. Enjoy!

- Pete

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Restaurant Review: JiRaffe, Santa Monica, CA

JiRaffe Restaurant, Santa Monica, CA

When you visit a major metropolitan area with a thriving, vibrant restaurant scene - New York City, Denver-Boulder, and Los Angeles immediately come to mind - you expect to find many excellent restaurants. You also expect that, from among a long list of superb restaurants, you'll find a very small handful that stand out as truly exceptional. Something sets them apart. JiRaffe in Santa Monica is one of those places. I recently had the kind of transcendent, soul-satisfying dining experience there that has come to me on only a handful of other occasions.

First, some context. I was in Santa Monica on a media trip, and had arranged to spend two half days with Raphael Lunetta, the chef/owner of JiRaffe. During one day, he and I went surfing in the morning. Lunetta is a former pro surfer, and is known locally around town as "the surfing chef." On the other day, we toured the famous Santa Monica Farmers Market - which is just blocks from his restaurant - as he introduced me to all his favorite farmers, letting me in on little secrets about who grows the best tomatoes, and what's especially good this time of year. Then, to cap it all off, we returned to JiRaffe for lunch, where Lunetta and his talented trio of sous chefs prepared a multi-course lunch with produce and other ingredients almost exclusively sourced from the farmers market.

Potato-wrapped Asparagus

JiRaffe is perennially rated as one of LA's top restaurants, and Lunetta, one of LA's top chefs (in fact, he was a guest judge on Bravo's Top Chef in a previous season). It seems that everyone from Zagat to Food & Wine to the LA Times has heaped praise on Lunetta and JiRaffe. At the risk of joining the bandwagon, I add my voice to their chorus. If you eat only one meal in Santa Monica, make it JiRaffe. I'll explain why.

Lunch began with asparagus and tomato wrapped in what almost appeared to be phyllo dough. The "dough" turned out to be potato, sliced paper thin. The "wraps" were pan-fried in a little bit of olive oil (although Lunetta's primary culinary influence is French, Jiraffe notably uses much more olive oil than butter, and very little to no flour). Finally, the potato-asparagus wraps were lightly sprinkled with salt and a drizzle of balsamic reduction.

Tuna tartare

Tuna tartare followed next, with the tuna over a simply mashed avocado, and set within a fresh tomato gazpacho, complete with finely diced red onion, cucumber, and droplets of extra virgin olive oil.

Maiitake mushrooms

Maiitake mushrooms (also spelled "maitake") were prepared with restraint, having been sliced and sauteed in a little olive oil with nothing but salt and pepper. To my palette, they tasted remarkably like a mushroom version of a kettle-cooked potato chip.

Garden salad

To cleanse the palette, a garden fresh salad followed, featuring especially several varieties of tomatoes, including green zebras, as well as a variety of baby squash.

As each course was being prepared, I had a chance to pop back into the kitchen and chat with Lunetta about his background, which had some surprising ties to the gluten-free community. One of his two sons was diagnosed with autism, and responded remarkably well to a GFCF diet (as well as other treatments). Consequently, Lunetta is quite well-versed in cooking for the needs of the gluten-free community (something his style of market-fresh cuisine leans toward anyway...). And so my contentment with the meal deepened.

Let me recap where I'd been already:

Lunetta was and is a surfer. I grew up surfing, and still love to when I have the opportunity.

Lunetta cooks locally and seasonally with over-the-top fresh ingredients procured from his farmers market. I try to do the same, to the best of my ability.

Lunetta's son is gluten-free. I'm gluten-free.

Lunetta's food is divinely good. I like to eat food that's divinely good.

I was developing a serious food crush, and as if Lunetta knew it, he hit me with a one-two knockout punch next.

Halibut

The main course was halibut, so perfectly cooked - moist, flaky - over a bed of basil and fresh tomatoes so sweet they tasted like candy, topped with a tiny bit of bacon crumbs and chopped chives.

Chocolate creme brulee

And at last, a chocolate creme brulee that I struggle to adequately describe.

Chef Raphael Lunetta

My time at Jiraffe and with Lunetta came to a close, and I didn't have a single criticism - constructive or otherwise - to offer. This was no small thing. You've surely seen my restaurant, bakery and product reviews before. If I find fault with something, I'm not shy about telling you, the readers of NGNP. And yet, all I can do is wax poetic about Jiraffe and Lunetta.

Granted, my experience at JiRaffe certainly wasn't your typical customer-off-the-street dining experience. But what it did offer was a unique peek inside the kitchen, and a rare window into Lunetta's world, that made my experience at his restaurant that much more meaningful as someone who's gluten-free. I didn't just eat great food, and eat that food confident that I wouldn't get sick from gluten cross-contamination. I ate that food with the understanding that it was prepared by a like-minded soul who had personal ties to my particular dietary restrictions. For me, it makes JiRaffe the must-eat dining experience in Santa Monica and greater LA.

- Pete

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Physical Challenge: Week 19

Gorgeous waves at Gilgo Beach, south shore of Long Island, NY

Training Days: 3 (To Date: 66)
Rest Days: 4 (To Date: 67)
Body Weight: 148 (Net Gain/Loss: -12)
Running Days: 3 (To Date: 52)
Running Miles Logged: 24.8 (To Date: 549.2)
Average: 8.3 (Short = 6, Long = 11.6)
Cross-Training: None

Well, after more than four months of training, the end is very near. Week 18 marked the last week of intense training. With Week 19 began two weeks of tapering in advance of the race, gradually scaling back my training so that my legs and my mind will be fresh for the big day. After an 11+ mile run early in the week, I did an easy 6 mile and an easy 7+ mile run. In between, I'm resting. (This final week - Week 20 - I plan on doing only one 4 mile training run, tomorrow, which will bring my total trail running in preparation for the race over the 550 mile threshold. To put that number into perspective, that's the equivalent of running from Boston, Massachusetts to Richmond, Virginia along I-95, or just shy of running from Portland, Oregon to San Francisco, California.)

I recently learned that race organizers have changed the course...for the second time. If you remember from the first time around, the race went from 50.1 miles with 9,000 vertical feet of cumulative elevation gain, to 50.1 miles with 10,000 feet of gain. Now, the race has retained its 10,000 feet of vertical, but they've added mileage, so that the 50-mile race is now officially 51.4 miles. Lovely.

On the fundraising front, I'm happy to report more progress. I've now raised $2,200 for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, bringing me to 44% of my goal. Huge thanks this week go out to Ruth F., Elsa C., Kellie M., and Greg & Leah R. Thank you! For the rest of you, this is the last time you'll see me appeal for your donations for this race. Please visit my fundraising page and make a donation today! I would love to at least cross the 50% mark in my fundraising.

Finally, for those of you interested in following my race, I'll of course be posting a post-race report with photos next week, after the big event. But for those of you who want to follow the race in real-time, you have two neat options. For both, visit the Race Center page of the Virgil Crest Ultra website, and on the left-hand side of the page, click on the icon for the "VCU 50 Mile" race. Then, you can find my name (Peter Bronski) and 1) click on the brown icon to see an elevation profile of the course along with mileage and aid station checkpoints, plus my current location on the race course and my split times, and/or 2) click on the blue cell phone icon to receive text message updates each time I pass through an aid station checkpoint. Cool stuff.

In these final days before the race, I've been hanging out on Long Island visiting family, squeezing in a bit of surfing in the residual swell from Hurricane Igor, and doing some work. With the race just a few days away now, I'm trying to clear my schedule, rest my body, and relax my mind. Soon, it'll be time to really go to work. Wish me luck!

- Pete

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Foto: Italian Vegetable Medley

Italian Vegetable Medley

Ingredients
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 red onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 zucchinis, cut in half lengthwise, and then sliced into 1/4-inch cross-sections
1 cup whole grape tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar

Steps
1. Saute the onions in the olive oil, until they begin to soften.
2. Add the garlic and saute until fragrant.
3. Add the zucchini, grape tomatoes, dried basil and Balsamic vinegar, and saute until the zucchini are soft.
4. Toss and serve.

Today's Friday Foto is pretty much self-explanatory. Not much to be said about it. It's an easy and flavorful way to load up your dinner plate with a nice complement of veggies, and pairs well with a variety of meals. We recently made this Italian Vegetable Medley to accompany fish, but you can come up with all sorts of ideas... try tossing it with GF pasta, or putting it over some grilled chicken. You won't be disappointed!

- Pete

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bakery Review: Katz Gluten-Free Bake Shoppe

Chocolate Strip

Katz Gluten-Free Bake Shoppe - founded in 2006 and based in Monroe, NY - is one of the growing number of dedicated gluten-free bakeries across the country selling direct to consumers as well as through retail outlets such as supermarkets. Like Shabtai Gourmet (also based in NY), Katz seems to have found success first crafting Kosher gluten-free goods for the Jewish community, which then transitioned into a kind of mass appeal among consumers. Katz makes its line of breads, cakes, cookies and other baked goods in a dedicated gluten-, dairy-, and nut-free facility, and everything they make is certified gluten-free by the GIG, so you know you're getting genuinely gluten-free goods.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

The package of product samples they sent us included an assortment of cookies, cakes and cupcakes. The one glaring omission was their challah breads and rolls, which I'm very curious to try. For the most part, everything looked gorgeous. When it came to taste and texture, we had mixed opinions. Some things we loved. Others we could live without.

Cinnamon Rugelech

Cookies

The cookies were by far Katz's forte. Taste and texture were both superb. The chocolate chip cookies reminded us of a smaller, fatter Chips Ahoy cookie. We mean this as a compliment. The cinnamon rugelech had great cinnamon-sugar flavor, and while the outermost "ring" was slightly dry, overall the moisture and crumb of the rugelech was very nice. The apricot tart - a dollop of apricot jam in the center of a kind of sugar cookie - was divine.

Strips

Kats also makes a line of baked goods they call "strips," which are basically a rolled loaf with some kind of flavor between the layers of the roll. (See the top-most photo in this post.) Like the rugelech, the outermost layer was slightly dry, but the rest of the loaf was deliciously moist. We were impressed with how thin each layer of the loaf was, and - for example - the chocolate strip had the flavor of the dough and the flavor of the chocolate in perfect balance. Neither dominated too strongly.


Marble Cake

Cakes and Cupcakes

If Katz has an Achilles heel, it is the cakes and cupcakes. While they look great, their texture tended to be surprisingly dry, somewhat dense, and in some cases, bland. This was true across multiple flavors of both cakes and cupcakes. In the end, we turned much of the cakes and cupcakes into a kind of bread pudding - tearing them into pieces, and loading them up in a baking pan with vanilla, cinnamon, milk and eggs, and then baking the whole thing. That was our favorite way to eat Katz's cakes and cupcakes.

The Bottom Line

There's much to love about Katz, but it pays to know what to buy...and what not to. For our money, stick with the cookies and rugelech. You won't be disappointed.

- Pete

* When Katz contacted us and other gluten-free bloggers, they offered an incentive to bloggers, where the blogger that referred the most customers to Katz would receive compensation. We voluntarily declined to participate and opted out of this "incentive program," because a) it would compromise our objectivity, and b) goes against our policy of only accepting product samples from companies for the purpose of review. We do not accept any forms of compensation - monetary or otherwise - for the reviews we write.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Restaurant Review: Allred's, Telluride, CO

Perched high on the mountain at the St. Sophia gondola station between Telluride and Mountain Village, the view from Allred's alone might be worth dining here, even if you couldn't eat a thing on the menu. Fortunately for the GF crowd, the restaurant proves especially accommodating. They use no thickeners in their sauces and soups, much of the menu is naturally gluten-free, and perhaps most comforting of all, General Manager Carrie Smith is gluten-free. She and her staff can help you safely navigate the menu en route to an elevated GF dining experience. Granted, you'll pay for that experience. Allred's can be pricy. But the view plus the food make it a must-dine destination when in Telluride.

Olathe Sweet Corn and Montrose Tomato appetizer

Like many higher-end restaurants these days, Allred's is sourcing much of its menu locally. It doesn't necessarily market itself as farm-to-table, but it's in that spirit. Which is maybe best embodied by an Olathe sweet corn and Montrose tomato appetizer I had during a recent visit. Every ingredient on the plate was hit-you-over-the-head fresh and absolutely delicious. Now, keep in mind that by the time you're likely skiing in Telluride this winter, such local, seasonal ingredients won't be in season. So an appetizer like this won't likely be on the menu. But it will surely be replaced with something appropriately seasonal and tasty.

Olathe Sweet Corn soup with wild harvested local mushrooms

Asparagus. 'Nuff said

Sides, such as the asparagus, are served family style, which makes it great to order a number of things and share.

Elk loin

I never pass up an opportunity to have a truly great piece of elk, and Allred's didn't disappoint. The loin was perfectly seared on the exterior, while remaining raw in the middle, like a fine piece of sushi-grade tuna. Several sauces on the side complemented the meat, but didn't overwhelm the lean, delicate flavors of the elk.

Apricot panna cotta

Finally, to conclude a very long and leisurely meal (the best way, I'm convinced, to enjoy Allred's), dessert consisted of the apricot panna cotta with a white chocolate mousse. All I'll say about it was that it tasted like an apricot creamsicle. Heavenly.

In the end, Allred's was the kind of dining experience where - having fully soaked in the view, and having spent several hours making my way through numerous courses - I left with a single sentiment: delightful.

- Pete

Monday, September 13, 2010

The Physical Challenge: Week 18

The Fourmile Canyon Labor Day forest fire
from the corner of our street

Training Days: 5 (To Date: 63)
Rest Days: 2 (To Date: 63)
Body Weight: 150 (Net Gain/Loss: -10)
Running Days: 5 (To Date: 49)
Running Miles Logged: 53.4 (To Date: 524.4)
Average: 10.7 (Short = 3, Long = 29)
Cross-Training: None

What a week #18 was. On Monday morning, Labor Day, as we were preparing to head out for the day, we saw an unmistakeable huge, dark plume of smoke coming from the mountains just to our northwest. A forest fire. (It would eventually grow to roughly 6,500 acres and destroy nearly 170 homes, making it the most destructive wildfire - in terms of property loss - in Colorado history.)

Tuesday morning I had planned to do a 12 mile or so trail run in the mountains directly west of our house. The fire was staying north of Boulder Canyon, and I was planning on running to the south. But as I stepped out the front door, I immediately smelled the smoke, which had blown downwind to us. It was so thick I couldn't even see the rock formations on the mountain I was running toward. Less than a mile into my run, I bumped into my neighbor, Greg, who was out walking his dog. Greg had scrapped plans for his own run out of concern for the air quality and his lungs. Not 400 meters later, I bumped into another neighbor walking his dog...while holding a handkerchief over his nose and mouth. By the time I hit the 1.5 mile mark on my run, I could taste soot on my tongue. Enough was enough. I cancelled plans for the run and returned home after 3 miles, not wanting to damage my body by foolishly running in the smoke. (Turns out that was the right thing to do... later that day I learned about air quality and health advisories that recommended people stay indoors, citing lung problems from the smoke...)

As Wednesday and Thursday came and went, I squeezed in two more runs, each a moderate distance. (Thankfully, the smoke from Tuesday had lifted and blown north.) Friday was a rest day.

Then came Saturday. My last very long training run before the race. The loop I had in my head circumnavigated three mountains, and climbed at least 6,000 vertical feet. It was roughly 30 miles or so, I knew. For this run, I focused on running "within myself;" on not pushing too hard too early. This meant that I power hiked some of the steeper uphill sections (much like the way you'd downshift if you were on a mountain bike). The remarkable thing was, power hiking certain sections didn't affect my pace at all. The energy I saved not wasting effort trying to run a steep uphill allowed me to maintain a faster cadence on the flats and downhill. Very cool.

By the time I was circling back around to Boulder, I'd been out for 5 hours, and was faced with a literal fork in the trail. The left fork, I knew, was a more direct route home. The right fork would have added about 5 extra miles. I was already looking at a 6 hour total time, and wasn't keen on making it 7. So I took the left fork. I made it back to the house in almost exactly 6 hours. I knew the route was approximately 30 miles. Based on my mental accounting of the trail segments, I thought it might be slightly longer. But based on my running time, I was worried it might be slightly shorter. When I mapped it out, the result was in...29 miles. Grrr! I really would have loved to have crossed the 30-mile mark on that run, and I even considered going back out for another mile or two just to do it (but wisely reconsidered). It had still been an awesome run, which I completed right on my target race pace. And, I can't tell you how good it feels to know my last long run is behind me, and that I have only a few shorter runs and the race itself left!

Finally, on Sunday morning I went out for a very modest 4.7 mile run. The point wasn't the mileage, but rather to make my legs work again less than 24 hours after I'd completed the 30-miler. My quads certainly felt the uphill, but I was amazed with my lack of soreness, and how I was able to run a 7:43 per mile pace after having just cranked out 29 hard miles the day before. Good stuff.

Now, I'm entering the taper phase of my training. The race is just 12 days away. I'm only planning to do maybe 3 or so training runs between now and then. Mostly to keep my leg muscles "awake." For the most part, I want my legs to fully recover and be 100% fresh for the big race.

On the fundraising front, I'm delighted to report I've crossed the $2,000 threshold in support of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Huge thanks go out to Marilyn M., Nancy M., Carol S., Risa H., and Sandra P. for your generous donations! Thank you! If you haven't made a donation, please visit my fundraising page and consider making one today. Today - September 13, 2010 - is National Celiac Disease Awareness Day. What better day to step up and support a great organization with a great cause near and dear to all of our hearts. I can put in the miles training and racing, but I can't do the fundraising alone. I need your help! Thanks again.

- Pete

Friday, September 10, 2010

Friday Foto: Grilled Swordfish with Peach Salsa

It's been nearly 15 years since I've had a bite of swordfish. In fact, I can remember quite specifically the last piece of swordfish I ate. It was during the mid to late 1990s at Claudio's in Greenport, NY. About that time, there was a growing public consciousness about the precarious state of the swordfish fishery; that overfishing had decimated the population, threatening the collapse of the fishery, if not extinction of the species. I made a decision then and there to vote with my wallet and my appetite and abstain from swordfish.

A decade and a half passed by, and over the course of that time, a remarkable thing happened. Swordfish recovered. (For more on the status of swordfish, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch page on the subject.) When we saw Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable, wild-caught swordfish in our local Whole Foods, Kelli and I looked at one another. The fast was over.

At the same time, I've also been feeling a renewed commitment to eat locally and seasonally. Not that I ever abandoned that ethos. But over the course of the last two weeks, I went to the Telluride farmers market, ate at wonderful Telluride restaurants showcasing local ingredients, went to the Santa Monica farmers market, and ate at wonderful Santa Monica restaurants showcasing local ingredients. It was like receiving an injection of motivation.

And so, when Kelli and I were brainstorming what kind of salsa we might pair with our swordfish, we both thought the same thing...Colorado produce that's local and in-season right now. Which meant Colorado-grown hothouse tomatoes, Palisade peaches from the Western Slope, and an assortment of other organic, mostly local ingredients. This recipe is the result.

Grilled Swordfish with Peach Salsa

Peach Salsa
1 large yellow peach, diced small
1 small jalapeno, de-seeded, minced
1/2 medium red onion, diced small
2 hothouse tomatoes, diced small
1 lime, juiced
salt and pepper

Grilled Swordfish
1 to 3 lbs swordfish steak
olive oil
salt and pepper

Steps
1. To make the salsa: Combine all ingredients in a small to medium bowl. Toss to mix well. Season to taste with a dash each of salt and pepper.
2. To prep the swordfish: Rinse under running cold water and pat dry with a paper towel. Preheat your grill on high, turn the temperature down to medium heat, and well oil the grate or coat liberally with non-stick cooking spray.
3. Rub each side of the swordfish with a light coating of olive oil, and sprinkle each side with salt and pepper.
4. For a steak that's about 1.5 inches thick, grill 10-12 minutes on the first side without disturbing.
5. Then, using a very large/wide spatula (or two smaller spatulas) make sure the fish isn't sticking to the grill grate anywhere, and then carefully flip to the second side. Grill about 8 more minutes, or until the fish is opaque all the way through and flakes easily with a fork (but is still moist and tender throughout).
6. Plate the swordfish, and top with peach salsa.

Note: The peach salsa recipe makes enough salsa to go with about 3 pounds of swordfish, but you can also grill less fish and enjoy the surplus salsa with some corn tortilla chips (or reduce the recipe).

I can't think of a better way to have ended my long absence from swordfish. The moist, tender, yet firm meat was succulent. The fresh sweetness from the peaches, combined with the acidity from the lime and tomatoes, and the bite from the red onion and subtle jalapeno (not to mention the vibrant pop of color!), made for a perfect pairing with the fish, whose flavor still shone through. Enjoy!

- Pete

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Restaurant Review: Anisette Brasserie, Santa Monica, CA

It's no surprise that in a metropolitan area such as greater Los Angeles, a multitude of gluten-free dining options will abound. But what's less expected is to find those dining opportunities at restaurants that, historically, don't serve cuisine that's especially friendly to the GF crowd. Such as French. With the use of flour to make a roux, not to mention all the croissants, baguettes, and pastries, going to a French restaurant is probably one of the last places you'd think of if you're gluten-free. And yet, Anisette Brasserie, in Santa Monica, succeeds.

After explaining my dietary restrictions to my server, he - in turn - proved surprisingly knowledgeable, and was able to guide me through gluten-free dining options on the brasserie's decidedly French menu. He even knew, without needing to go back to the kitchen to confirm, that the french fries are gluten-free, because the only other thing the restaurant cooked in its fryer was the duck confit. Impressive.

My dinner was the Moules Frites, a truly massive bowl of PEI mussels with onions and parsley in a delightful sauce. The mussels were paired with an equally large paper cone of french fries. This dish could easily be shared by two people as a dinner.

Anisette also has a noted raw bar, not to mention a wealth of items on its menu procured from the nearby Santa Monica farmers market.

Dessert included a frozen vanilla custard, topped with chopped pistachios, and accompanied by an assortment of fresh berries. Anisette is also known for a divine, house-made lavender ice cream (which I highly recommend but devoured too quickly to take a photo of...).

Anisette makes all its stocks, sauces and soups nightly in-house, so confirming exactly what's in a dish to determine its gluten-free status is a pretty straightforward task. All in all, I was quite pleased with the service, the food, the atmosphere, and most importantly, the gluten-free friendly nature of Anisette. When in Santa Monica, I wouldn't hesitate to return.

- Pete

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Adobo Awareness

Chipotles in adobo sauce is an ingredient we sometimes use in our Mexican cooking. (For example, it's called for in the recipe for Chipotle Chicken Fajitas on page 146 of our cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking.) While the preparation can vary from country to country, in essence, it is chipotle chiles (smoked jalapeno peppers) stewed in a sauce made with tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt and a blend of spices.

In recent weeks, I've received a handful of emails from readers who were startled to find wheat flour listed on the ingredients of their chipotles in adobo sauce. Some preparations - especially Mexican - can include wheat flour in the recipe. It's a good reminder that, as with any prepared food product you buy in the supermarket, always read the ingredients list to confirm that the brand you're buying is indeed gluten-free.

That said, there are a number of widely available brands (and a few more obscure ones) of chipotles in adobo sauce that are gluten-free:

La Costena (We use this regularly in our cooking. It's sold in the United States as "chipotle peppers in adobo sauce" under the La Costena brand.)

* Of course, remember the rule of thumb above, and check the ingredients label, even if you're buying one of these "gluten-free" brands!

The bottom line, though, is that with the right awareness, and the right can of chipotles in adobo sauce, this ingredient can be a tasty and reliably gluten-free member of your cooking arsenal. (Or, you could always make your own chipotles in adobo sauce, but that's for another blog post...)

- Pete

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Restaurant Review: Cosmopolitan Restaurant, Telluride, CO

Cosmopolitan Restaurant, in the Hotel Columbia, steps from Telluride's gondola

After some 22 years in the restaurant biz, chef/owner Chad Scothorn opened Cosmopolitan in Telluride to rave reviews in 1996. Nearly 15 years later, his cuisine - with a heavy emphasis on local produce - is still justifiably popular. Porcini mushrooms from the surrounding mountainsides. Tomatoes from Montrose. Chicken from Indian Ridge Farms in Norwood. Palisade peaches. Colorado's bounty abounds on this menu.

So do gluten-free dining options. While Cosmo doesn't offer a separate gluten-free menu, much of the menu naturally tends in that direction, and the knowledgeable servers can work with the kitchen staff to accommodate gluten and other dietary restrictions.

Our dinner one recent evening began with tomato soup with basil and shredded chicken. Divine. My entree, the grilled beef fillet, was tender and cooked perfectly medium, with sour cream mashed potatoes and a porcini mushroom ragout. Kelli's entree was a special of Hawaiian fish (pictured) complemented by a medley of seasonal vegetables.

Dessert was as delicious as it is beautiful - triple chocolate flourless cake with fresh berries. The three layers of chocolate were more akin to a mousse than a flourless cake, which was just fine by us. A vanilla bean creme brulee was another delectable GF option.

Cosmo proves why it has remained a mainstay among locals, tourists and skiers alike for nearly a decade and a half, and based on our experience, that popularity can extend to the GF set as well.

- Pete

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Physical Challenge: Week 17

Hiking in Colorado's Indian Peaks headed for the old 4th of July Mine,
with Mount Neva in the distance

Training Days: 5 (To Date: 58)
Rest Days: 2 (To Date: 61)
Body Weight: 148 (Net Gain/Loss: -12)
Running Days: 3 (To Date: 44)
Running Miles Logged: 36.5 (To Date: 471)
Average Run: 12.2 (Short = 6, Long = 21)
Cross-Training: Surfing, Hiking

The weeks are drawing to a close, and race day is in sight! Week 17, like Week 16, proved atypical. For much of the week, I was in Santa Monica, CA on a media trip. Which was fun on a personal level, but challenging to fit training in. On media trips, the itinerary is often packed from when you wake to when you go to bed at night. As a result, one night I went out for my run from 10:45 pm until 12:15 am, running through the hills of Pacific Palisades. It took some dedication and some motivation. Which strangely enough, is a little hard to come by right about now.

Chatting with my friend, Tom - he's also running the Virgil Crest Ultra, and is a former IronMan - he talked about how in the last month of his IronMan training, staying motivated was the biggest challenge. Perhaps it's because you have to push hard for so long with training month after month. Or the looming date of the race causes you to slack a bit and scale back. But I know what he's talking about. With a 50-mile trail run less than 3 weeks away, I'm not exactly excited to head out for a 35-mile run next weekend. Earlier in my training, fear was a good motivator. But now that my body has pushed to new limits and achieved new levels of endurance, it's becoming easier to rationalize that what I've already done is enough to carry me through the race. We'll see about that...

I'm also in the homestretch fundraising for the NFCA. This week, a huge thanks goes out to Brian S. for your generous donation. Thank you! Of course, I still have a long way to go to reach my fundraising goal. Like digging deep to find a second wind to carry me home in the race, I'm hoping you all can also dig deep and find it in your hearts and wallets to make a donation to the NFCA in these last weeks. Please check out my fundraising page and make a donation today. Any amount helps...really! I appreciate your support deeply.

- Pete

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Friday Foto: Grilled Pesto Chicken

Yes, I know. Today's Friday Foto is two days late. Last week I was in Santa Monica, CA on a media trip and posting a Friday Foto actually on Friday just wasn't in the cards. But hopefully, today's post is timely enough for you to put it to good use tomorrow on Labor Day!

For us, Labor Day is a marriage of two beautiful things - signaling the unofficial end of the summer season with some serious grilling, and that time of year when so much fresh herbs and produce are in-season and ready for harvest. This recipe combines those two worlds...using lots of freshly harvested basil to make a pesto for grilling chicken.

The resulting flavors in the chicken are superb - smokiness from the grill, a crispy parmesan crust, and subtle basil flavors. (To kick up the herb flavors, we recommend topping off your grilled chicken with a dollop of pesto.) If you have the pesto already made, this is a super quick and easy recipe.

Here's how to make it:

1 batch fresh basil pesto (page 125 of Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking)
4 chicken breasts

1. Use 1/2 cup pesto to marinate the chicken. Set the rest of the pesto aside.
2. Grill the chicken over medium heat, turning halfway through.
3. "Dress" the grilled chicken with some of the remaining pesto.

Enjoy!

- Pete

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Restaurant Review: RootDown, Denver, CO

RootDown restaurant in Denver's Highland neighborhood

With the growing popularity of the locavore movement, the "farm-to-table" or "field-to-fork" trend in restaurants is all the rage. More than seemingly ever before, restaurants and their chefs are going to great lengths to showcase local foods on their menus. That philosophy is at the core of RootDown, one of Denver, Colorado's hottest farm-to-table restaurants right now.

As much as possible, RootDown tries to stay organic, natural, seasonal and local. On the menu you'll find more than 20 Colorado farmers, ranchers and other suppliers. Best of all, nearly the entire dinner menu can be prepared gluten-free. (On the current menu, about 75% - nearly 20 dishes - can be made GF.)

Rocky Ford Cantaloupe & Tomato Gazpacho

Last week I had the distinct pleasure of attending dinner at RootDown, not just to eat, but also as a guest (along with several other GF bloggers) to celebrate the launch of Rudi's new gluten-free bread line. (I'll do a separate post about Rudi's and their new GF breads, including a review, in the near future... For now, I'm focusing this post on the food at RootDown.) To honor the occasion, RootDown's chefs spiced up the standard menu by sprinkling in extra dishes that featured Rudi's bread products.

For example, dinner kicked off with a Rocky Fort cantaloupe and tomato gazpacho, with a lime crema and fig balsamic (with the crema conveniently shaped like a Rudi's "R"). Delicious. The gazpacho came out alongside a tomato grilled cheese on Rudi's bread. An organic beet salad followed.

Rocky Mountain "Never Ever" Bistro Beef Tender

My main course was RootDown's Rocky Mountain "Never Ever" Bistro Beef Tender, served with corn and fava succotash, mashed parsnips, parsnip chips, and Worcestershire-date molasses glaze/reduction. In a word, this meal was divine. The beef was perfectly cooked - flavorful, moist, tender. The glaze was bursting with flavor that complemented the meat. This was one of the best beef dishes - if not the best - I've had in all of 2010.

Coconut Macaroons

Between dinner and dessert, the chef sent out a sampling of coconut macaroons that had their "ankles" dipped in chocolate. This was the one part of the meal that didn't wow me. On the average, the macaroons were...average. Too dense for my preference, with nothing especially noteworthy about the flavor.

Rudi's GF Bread Pudding

Dessert was redeemed, however, by the piece de resistance: Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery Bread Pudding with Stranahan's Whiskey-Butter Sauce and Sour Cream Ice Cream. The texture of the bread pudding was nearly identical (as my memory goes) to a traditional gluten version of the dessert. The sour cream ice cream was surprisingly not all that sour, perhaps because it balanced the excessive sweet of the whiskey-butter sauce. This dessert was both decadent and delightful.

In the final analysis, whether you're a Denver local, coming to ski, or just passing through, you owe it to yourself to dine at RootDown. I'm hesitant to sound like I'm jumping on the RootDown bandwagon and feeding into the trendiness of one of Denver's hottest restaurants right now, but RootDown backs up its sizable reputation with superb food that's gluten-free.

- Pete