Thursday, October 25, 2012

Fat and Sugar: Are Gluten-Free Treats Really Worse?


Have you ever heard a warning along these lines: "In order to make up for their lack of gluten, gluten-free baked goods often contain extra fat and sugar to make them tastier and more palatable."

It's becoming a popular mantra. I read it in the popular media (in stories cautioning readers about the potential nutritional pitfalls of the gluten-free diet) and I read it in blogs. I'm embarrassed to admit it's a party line I've repeated as well. But is it true?

Statements like the one above get repeated enough (and not questioned enough) that they become conventional wisdom and accepted as truth, even when there may be no grounds for it.

To be honest, I've been mildly suspicious of that warning for a little while now. For one, our recipe for chocolate chips cookies in Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking is no different gluten-free than if we were to make a "regular" version with wheat flour. No added fat. No added sugar. If our baked goods are no different from their "normal" counterparts (save for making them gluten-free), then what about others' gluten-free baked goods?

We decided to investigate using some hard and fast numbers, to see if there was any truth to the statement or if it instead turned out to be a myth. If you've bought into the party line up until now, the results of our "investigation" may surprise you.

We focused our inquiry on chocolate chip cookies—and the results speak for themselves—though you could certainly repeat the effort with other categories of baked goods: cakes, breads, donuts, whatever. We compared three versions of gluten vs. gluten-free chocolate chip cookies: crunchy, chewy, and box mix. Since various brands have different serving sizes, we scaled all nutritional info to a common 100g serving size, and looked at calories, fat (in grams), sodium (in mg), protein (g), carbs (g), and sugars (g).

Crunchy

For the crunchy chocolate chip cookie comparison, we looked at Nabisco Chips Ahoy and Pamela's Chunky Chocolate Chip. Here's how they compare:

Brand Calories Fat Sodium Protein Carbs Sugars
Gluten Nabisco 475 22.5 350 5 67.5 32.5
GF Pamela's 522 26.1 348 4.35 60.9 30.5

As you can see, Pamela's—the gluten-free offering—has more calories and fat, but less sugars and overall carbs, plus nearly identical levels of sodium and comparable levels of protein.

Chewy

For the chewy chocolate chip cookie comparison, we looked at Entenmann's Original Recipe and Udi's Soft & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Here's how they compare:

Brand Calories Fat Sodium Protein Carbs Sugars
Gluten Entenmann's 466.2 23.3 266.4 3.33 66.6 36.6
GF Udi's 466.2 22.2 266.4 4.44 66.6 35.5

As you can see, Udi's—the gluten-free offering—had 1g less fat and 1g less sugar, with identical levels of calories, sodium, and overall carbs, and 1g more protein.

Box Mix

For the box mix chocolate chip cookies, we looked at Betty Crocker's regular vs. gluten-free chocolate chip cookie mixes. Here's how they compare:

Brand Calories Fat Sodium Protein Carbs Sugars
Gluten Betty Crocker 428.4 10.7 374.9 3.6 75 46.4
GF Betty Crocker 407 7.4 462.5 3.7 85.1 45.1

As you can see, the gluten-free version of Betty Crocker's box cookie mix had less fat, less calories, and 1g less sugars, with comparable protein and more sodium and overall carbs.

Conclusions

If one thing becomes immediately apparent, it is this: the myth that gluten-free baked goods have more fat and sugar than their conventional, gluten-ous counterparts is thoroughly busted. You simply can't make such a global statement. As the numbers in these comparisons demonstrate, gluten-free baked goods might have more, similar amounts of, or less fat and sugar than the gluten-ous versions.

What's the take-home lesson? Apart from the obvious "has gluten" vs. "doesn't have gluten" difference, gluten-free baked goods, treats, and junk food aren't inherently different nutritionally from the "regular" stuff, at least as measured by fat and sugar content on a macro level. Junk food is still junk food. A treat is still a treat. But let's stop mindlessly repeating the mantra that "gluten-free foods have added fat and sugar to compensate for their lack of gluten." The numbers don't lie. That statement is just plain bogus.

–Pete

Image courtesy stock.xchng / pixaio.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Recipe: Beef Stroganoff


For us, recipes usually have a story behind them. Whether it's based in family heritage, a source of inspiration, our travels, or the region and seasonality, every recipe starts somewhere. But in today's instance, the intrigue is not the story behind the recipe, but rather, the story behind the photo.

Food photography is a creative process. Like many bloggers, we take all our own photos. We also shoot all the photos for our cookbooks. Suffice it to say it's been a steep learning curve, and we've come a very long way (and are continuing to learn).

Often, we'll shoot a dish in many different ways - different lighting, different angles, different plating and staging. In a perfect world, we'd shoot with beautiful, diffuse natural light. The reality is that since I work a full-time day job, most of our food photos are taken at night. We've invested in some modest lighting setups with special fluorescent bulbs "calibrated" to daylight "temperatures" and various umbrellas and reflectors to control that light. Combine that with some careful white balancing on our DSLR camera, and most of the photos you see here on the blog are shared with zero post-processing. You see them exactly as they come off our camera.

With this particular photo, we only had three exposures from which to choose, because after that, the scene fell apart ... literally. What you don't see in the photo is our older daughter holding a large white foam board to bounce light back onto the scene. The girls love to participate in the process, and we're happy for them to help. But then our younger daughter—who's just a few months past two years old—decided to assist as well. No sooner had she come alongside the scene with her own white foam board that she fell ... directly into the beef stroganoff, her foam board toppling both the glass of red wine and the bottle of red wine.

Such are the "hazards" of the job! The recipe, by the way, is rich and flavorful. It's a perfect option for a cold fall night when you want to warm your body from the inside out.

Beef Stroganoff
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients
1 pound beef, sliced thin
3 tbsp butter
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 pound mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cup GF beef broth
2 tbsp Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend
2 to 4 tbsp sour cream

Steps
1. Heat 1 tbsp butter in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the beef slices and brown. Remove from the pan and set aside.
2. In the same pan, add the remaining 2 tbsp butter and the olive oil, and saute the onion until soft, about 2 minutes.
3. Add the mushrooms, and cook for an additional 4 minutes, until soft.
4. Return the beef to the pan.
5. In a separate bowl, whisk the wine, beef broth, and flour to combine.
6. Add the liquid to the saute pan, and bring to a simmer.
7. Simmer for about 1 hour, until the sauce is reduced and the meat is tender. Remove from the heat.
8. Add the sour cream, as desired, and stir to combine.
9. Serve over cooked gluten-free pasta noodles.

Notes
The beef you choose to make this recipe can be a roast, strip steak, ribeye, etc. We usually use leftover beef from a previous dinner, where it was probably grilled to medium doneness. Depending on if you are starting with raw or previously cooked beef, step 1 can take anywhere from 1 minute to 10 minutes.

Degrees of Free-dom
This recipe is: gluten-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, soy-free.

To make this recipe dairy/lactose/casein-free, substitute additional olive oil for the butter and omit the sour cream.

Depending on the flour you use to thicken the sauce, this recipe is also easily made corn-free.

Enjoy!

–Pete

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Recipe: Veggie Burgers


Though fall has officially been here for several weeks, it's only more recently that I've noticed a change in the air. It gets colder at night. Mornings are crisp. I've been wearing a long-sleeve shirt on my early trail runs, and I can feel that running tights for my legs—as opposed to shorts—are not far off, either.

I notice it when we're grilling, too. I have to turn the burners up just a little more than usual for the grill to hold a given temperature. Which brings me to one of our latest grilled dinners: from-scratch veggie burgers with their own signature sauce.

We've been working on a veggie burger recipe for a while now. We tried putting the ingredients in a food processor for a smooth consistency—that was never too successful. We tried a number of versions that simply turned out too wet, and would never hold up on the grill. Instead, they got pan-seared on the stovetop in our kitchen ... not exactly the intended method of cooking.

And then we came up with this version. At last, success! You can mold the patties in your hands, and cook them directly on the grill grate, just like traditional beef burgers. Plus, taking a lesson from Colorado's Larkburger and their secret burger sauce, we've developed a companion sauce that gives these veggie burgers extra moisture and flavor.

Add some of your favorite toppings—say, lettuce, tomato, and a gluten-free bun toasted over the grill—and dare I say you have a recipe for one tasty, vegetarian, gluten-free dinner!


Veggie Burgers
Makes 4 burgers

Ingredients
Olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
~1/4 medium onion, minced (~3 tbsp)
~1/4 green bell pepper, minced (~3 tbsp)
1 carrot, grated (~3 tbsp)
170g (1 cup) navy beans*
170g (1 cup) chick peas (garbanzo beans)*
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ancho chili powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
75g (3/4 cup) quinoa flakes
2 eggs

Steps
1. Saute the garlic, onion, pepper, and carrot in a splash of olive oil over medium-high heat until soft, about 3 minutes.
2. Roughly mash the beans. (We used a potato masher to do the job...)
3. Mix all ingredients together.
4. Form the burger patties.
5. Grill as you would any other burger.

Notes
* For the navy and garbanzo beans, you could work directly with canned beans, or—as in our case—start with dried beans, which you'd then soak, boil, and strain before beginning this recipe.

Degrees of Free-dom
This recipe is: gluten-free, dairy/lactose/casein-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, soy-free, corn-free, vegetarian.

Veggie Burger Sauce

Ingredients
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup ketchup
1 tbsp yellow mustard
2 tsp GF Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp GF hot sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
Dash salt
Dash pepper

Steps
1. Mix all ingredients together until smooth.

Degrees of Free-dom
This recipe is: gluten-free, dairy/lactose/casein-free, shellfish-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, corn-free, vegetarian.

Confirm the ingredients in your Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce to determine if the recipe is also soy-free and fish-free (since either sauce may contain a soy sauce, and Worcestershire sauce commonly includes anchovies).

Enjoy!

–Pete

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Seeing the Light

First light over the Hudson Valley, having left the clouds, fog, and mist below
Seeing the light. It's a powerful metaphor. You can take it in one of several ways. On the one hand, there's seeing the light, as in having an epiphany, a revelation, an "aha" moment. You—or your thinking—were once in darkness, but you're now in the light. It's akin to that moment—experienced maybe in a doctor's office, or at home, or reading something on the Internet—when you realize that gluten has been causing your health problems. You are in darkness no longer. You have answers; you have a clear direction before you. Welcome to the light. (The gluten-free light!)

On the other hand, there's seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, which is similar to simply seeing the light (both transition from metaphorical darkness to light). But it's also different, because seeing the light at the end of the tunnel also implies a feeling of hope. It's wrapped up in expectation, and a belief that although things are dark now, you see brighter days ahead in the future. Maybe that's how you feel if you've gone gluten-free, and you're starting to feel better but you're not 100% there. Yet. You feel your health returning; it's coming. You see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sunrise from the summit of Skytop, illuminating the cliffs of the Shawangunk Mountains
I'm in just such a place with my ankle recovery. After the Virgil Crest ultramarathon late last month—and the doctor visits and MRI that followed—I gave my ankle rest. Then my recovery reached a plateau. The pain was better, but not nearly gone, and though I continued to give the ankle more rest, it felt like it was making little, if any, further progress.

I grew impatient. If giving it further rest didn't seem to be helping the situation, then why was I still resting? Cabin fever and I do not make good friends. I decided to start running again. But rather than jump directly from relative inactivity into a 50-mile ultra on a still-compromised ankle, I decided to return to trail running the smart way.

First, I committed to running within the limits of my ankle. If the pain returned, increased, or I otherwise felt that I was doing damage and prolonging or even regressing my recovery, I'd stop.

Second, I committed to returning to running in three phases:

1. Rebuild distance (increase the mileage as my leg permits)
2. Rebuild elevation (increase the ups and downs as my leg permits)
3. Rebuild technicality (increase the difficulty of the trails, shifting from flat, even footing to uneven roots and rocks, again as my leg permits)

The road ahead (and back to the trailhead)
Overall, these strategies are working marvelously. My ankle is not 100% yet, and I suspect it will take a good bit longer to fully get there, but I've returned to running while continuing to make slow, steady progress in the recovery. Meanwhile, it feels amazingly good to be running again.

In 10 days I've logged about 40+ miles of trail running (compared to just 16.5 miles in the month leading up to Virgil Crest). As planned, I started modestly—with a flat, even, 4.5 miles on a gravel farm road. Next came runs of 6.4 and almost 9 miles. Most recently, I've logged runs of just under and just over 10 miles each. Each of those runs has included 2,800 to 3,200 feet of elevation change, and the most recent run also included some semi-technical trails, which I took tentatively but without incident. My legs have plenty more to give—they're ready to run longer distances—but I've purposefully been sticking to my phased recovery strategy to make sure I don't overdo it with my ankle.

Along the way, I crossed a threshold never before achieved personally: 1,000 miles of trail running in a single season. That's a good long way to run. And for the most part, they've been quality miles spent in some of my favorite landscapes: the Shawangunk Mountains, the Hudson Highlands, the Catskills, the Finger Lakes, the Greenbelt of Long Island.

Looking ahead, there's one more chapter to write in the story of my 2012 gluten-free ultra-running season. In just under two weeks, I have my last ultra of the season: the Bimbler's Bluff 50k in Connecticut. I told Kelli I would only run the race if I had near-100% certainty that I would finish, that I wouldn't be forced to DNF because of the ankle. Long story short: I fully plan to toe the starting line and avenge last year's DNF.

Thanks again for all your support, and for joining me on the journey of the 2012 ultra season. There are plenty more gluten-free endurance and mountain adventures to come, starting with the approaching winter. I do believe some ski mountaineering racing is in my future. (And what better way to stay in shape for next year's ultra season?!)

–Pete

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Dining Out Need To Know: Japanese

As evidenced by our review of Kobe earlier this week (not to mention past reviews of Bull & Buddha and Hapa), we love sushi... and Japanese cuisine... and much Asian cuisine in general. Which is why, for example, we have a recipe for gluten-free tempura in our cookbook Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking, and why we're over the moon for Laura Russell's fabulous The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen.

But if our most recent trip to Kobe serves as an example, safely dining out at a Japanese restaurant often requires two important elements: 1) knowledgeably ordering and 2) vigilantly double-checking your order when it arrives at the table before you ever take a bite.

Much of Japanese cuisine—based on rice and fresh fish—is naturally gluten-free, or can be prepared as such. But there are a number of places where wheat/gluten can hide ... some obvious, and some much more subtle.

While you can give your server the standard line about "no wheat, barley, and rye..." or hand over a wallet-sized dining card that can be delivered to the kitchen, to a large degree you're trusting that they know how "gluten-free" and "no wheat" translates in their kitchen. Sometimes, things get lost in that translation. Plus, there can exist a more literal language barrier between you and the servers and/or kitchen staff.

I learned in high school sports long ago the mantra "A good defense is the best offense." That's sound advice when it comes to safely dining out. Be your own best advocate; have a good defense. That starts with knowing the cuisine—where gluten might hide, how to order dishes, and what to look for when your food arrives at the table.

Here's what you need to know, with some handy mnemonic devices to help you remember:

Oh Boy, Hold the Soy
"Regular" soy sauce is one of the most common places to find wheat/gluten in Japanese cuisine, for the simple reason that "soy" sauce is actually a combination of soy and wheat. Ask for tamari wheat-free/gluten-free soy sauce, or bring your own from home (either in a small bottle or in individual packets).

Suspect Sauces
Be suspicious of any sauces, especially dark sauces that are likely to contain regular soy sauce. This includes teriyaki, ponzu shoyu (sometimes called simply ponzu), and eel sauce. The one exception is the orange spicy sauce often used on sushi, such as in a spicy tuna roll. It's typically little more than mayo and Sriracha chili sauce, and so is gluten-free.

Panko, No Thank You!
Despite occasional rumors to the contrary, panko bread crumbs are not gluten-free. Panko is a Japanese bread crumb made from wheat. Avoid it.

Beware Buckwheat
If the menu includes noodle bowls with noodles such as soba or udon, hold on. Even if the menu specifies buckwheat noodles, it's likely that they're actually made from a blend of buckwheat and wheat. Double (or even triple check) that the noodles are 100% buckwheat (pretty rare to find at a restaurant) before ordering. If they are 100% buckwheat, then start asking questions about the water/broth the noodles are boiled in.

Tempura Trepidation
Tempura dishes are usually shrimp or vegetables that have been battered and deep-fried. In addition, tempura "crunchies" are sometimes added inside or on top of sushi rolls for texture. Some Japanese restaurants use rice flour for their tempura batter, but many use wheat flour. Double check before ordering. And if they do use gluten-free rice flour, confirm whether or not the fryer is shared with gluten-ous foods (especially if you have celiac disease or are otherwise very sensitive).

Accept No Imitations
Imitation crab meat in your California roll? Many (though not all) imitation crab meats contain wheat as an ingredient. Stay safe and avoid the imitation stuff. Request real crab meat (which will often raise the price of the sushi) or substitute shrimp. Going the shrimp route can be a good option, because it gives you an immediate visual cue that they prepared the roll according to your specifications. Imitation and real crab meat may look similar in a sushi roll, and you won't know until you've eaten the first roll whether or not it's correct, and by then it's too late.

Dump the Dumplings
No matter what they're called on the menu—dumplings, gyoza, pot stickers, whatever—they're almost certainly prepared with a wheat flour dough. Skip 'em.

With these seven "caution" zones in Japanese cuisine, you're now equipped to knowledgeably and confidently order gluten-free food the next time you're out. There's always a risk of cross-contamination when you're talking about a restaurant kitchen, but if you keep these tips in mind, you've stacked the odds heavily in your favor. Sushi, anyone?

–Pete

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Gluten-Free Ratio Rally: Tarts


Welcome to another fabulous edition of the Gluten-Free Ratio Rally! When we saw that this month's theme was tarts, we faced a familiar conundrum: our cookbook Artisanal Gluten-Free Cooking already has a (in our opinion) pretty tasty tart (filled with rich pastry cream and topped with fresh fruit), so how would we challenge ourselves with something new for the Rally?

As evidenced by last week's recipe for cider donuts, it's peak apple season here in the Hudson Valley. Not surprisingly, then, we did what we often do when it comes to developing new recipes: we went for flavors and ingredients that were seasonally and locally inspired.

The result is this fabulous tart. We started with our usual pastry crust, but added cinnamon. In lieu of pastry cream, we opted for a cinnamon custard. During baking, much of the cinnamon bubbles to the surface, giving the tart a wonderful rustic look. And for the piece de resistance, we added sliced apples that had been poached in spiced cider.


Let me tell you: I'm a guy who loves his apple pie every fall. In fact—I'm almost sure I've told this story before—on special occasions each fall, my grandmother used to make an apple pie for the family and a smaller personal apple pie for me, because I loved it so much. Now hear this: this Spiced Cider-Poached Cinnamon Apple Tart just may be better than my grandmother's apple pie. Or at least my memory of it. And that's not a claim I make lightly.

Next, an apology: we didn't calculate the ratio for this recipe, as we normally would for a Ratio Rally post. Life has just been too hectic lately, and we were simply focused on delivering a delicious recipe, ratio or not.

But if you're craving more Ratio Rally goodness (and who isn't?!), head on over to Charissa at the Zest Bakery blog. She's hosting this month's Rally, where you'll find links to about a dozen other tarts, ranging from sweet to savory.


Spiced Cider-Poached Cinnamon Apple Tart
Makes one 9-inch tart (10-12 servings)

For the apples:
5 cups cider
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
1 inch ginger, peeled and sliced
1/2 lemon, sliced
3 granny smith apples, peeled, halved, and cored

1. Mix all ingredients through the lemons in a 4-quart saucepan.
2. Add the apples, cover, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
3. Once it comes to a boil, remove the lid, turn down to medium-low heat, rotate the apples, and summer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the apples are soft.
4. Remove from the poaching liquid, let cool, and cut each half apple into four slices.

For the crust:
84 g (6 tbsp) softened butter
75 g (1/2 cup + 2 tbsp) powdered sugar
3 egg yolks
1 whole egg
188 g (1 1/2 cups) Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground cinnamon

5. In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and powdered sugar until fluffy.
6. Add the egg yolks and egg, one at a time, mixing until incorporated.
7. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, xanthan gum, and cinnamon and whisk.
8. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and mix until smooth.
9. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
10. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Meanwhile, press the dough into a 9-inch tart shell.
11. Baked weighted for 15 minutes. (Line the dough with parchment paper, and fill the tart with rice, beans, pie weights, or similar.)
12. Remove the weights, and bake an additional 5 to 10 minutes, until light golden.
13. Remove from the oven.

For the custard:
1 cup heavy cream
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

14. Whisk all ingredients together.

To finish the tart:

15. Arrange the sliced apples in the baked tart shell.
16. Pour the custard over the apples.
17. Bake an additional 30 to 35 minutes at 350 deg F, until the custard is brown and just set. (It should jiggle a little, not a lot.)

Degrees of Free-dom
This recipe is: gluten-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free, soy-free, vegetarian.

Notes
You can use a spoon to core each apple half.

Enjoy!

–Pete

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Restaurant Review: Kobe Hibachi Sushi & Asian Cuisine, Poughkeepsie, NY

One of the exciting things about moving to a new place is discovering the good local restaurants. Though we've been living in New York's mid-Hudson Valley for nearly two years now, that process is still going on. We thought we'd found our go-to place for sushi, and for a while, that was true: Bull & Buddha on Poughkeepsie's Main Street.

But three things have nagged us about it: 1) it's expensive, particularly for the area, 2) their special rolls come with only six pieces, versus the typical eight, and 3) on more recent visits, the sushi has tasted a bit fishy, not of the same quality we experienced the first several times dining there. So we've been on the hunt.

Happily, that hunt has been very successful. I'm just sorry we didn't find this place sooner: Kobe Hibachi Sushi & Asian Cuisine, also in Poughkeepsie. It's set in an average, unassuming strip mall; the kind of place you'd easily drive by and not give a second thought. But would you be wrong.

A long hallway transports you deep into the restaurant and far from thoughts of the strip mall parking lot. From there, the restaurant splits—the front half is the hibachi room, where we've never dined, and the back half is the dining room, which includes the sushi bar. Kobe offers gluten-free soy sauce, and with a bit of communication with one's server, the best sushi (gluten-free or not) we've had in the Hudson Valley.

We've dined there on three occasions (so far) in recent weeks, twice in the restaurant and once as take-out. Our litmus test for any sushi restaurant is the hamachi (yellowtail) with scallions. If something's going to taste fishy, this one is the canary in the coal mine. Kobe's tastes clean and fresh.

But while Kobe offers up many of the usual standards: tuna roll, California roll, etc., the sushi menu really shines with the house specials, some of which have become some of our all-time favorite sushi rolls. Take, for instance, the Fried Mountain Roll.

Normally, it would be prepared as follows: shrimp tempura and avocado wrapped in seaweed and sushi rice, generously topped with spicy tuna, a piece of grilled shrimp, drizzled generously with spicy sauce and eel sauce, then topped with tobiko and shredded scallions.

We, naturally, modify the roll to make it gluten-free: swap plain shrimp for the shrimp tempura, omit any tempura crunchies (which are often added to spicy tuna) and omit the eel sauce (which contains regular soy sauce). It is nothing short of divine.

Another similar roll we also enjoy is the Crazy Roll, which includes spicy tuna, shrimp tempura, avocado, and cucumber, wrapped in seaweed and rice, and topped with white tuna, yellowtail, and tobiko. Again, swap plain shrimp for shrimp tempura, omit any tempura crunchies and eel sauce, and enjoy!

Overall, we've been pretty impressed with Kobe's attentiveness to gluten-free dietary restrictions. Not once have they batted an eyelash when we've asked for the gluten-free soy sauce, or flinched when we explained that we need to order our sushi rolls gluten-free.

On our first visit, our server keyed in the sushi roll modifications into our order ticket and also spoke with both sushi chefs directly, to make sure everything was prepared appropriately. The one snafu—due to a miscommunication—was that they omitted the shrimp tempura, instead of replacing it with plain shrimp. That was easily corrected on our second visit.

On our third visit, we ordered the rolls just as we had the previous two times. This time, the rolls came out drizzled with a second sauce that hadn't been on the rolls the first two times. It was a dark eel sauce that immediately screamed "regular soy sauce." We double checked, and they confirmed that it was a mistake. To Kobe's credit, the restaurant remade the entire tray of sushi—soup to nuts—easily $50 or more of sushi.

You can bet we'll be back for a fourth visit. With a little personal attentiveness to "watch your own back" (a good habit to get into if you're gluten-free) and always double check your order when it arrives, Kobe promises to offer up superb sushi at a great price, with in-house gluten-free soy sauce. You can leave your packets or tiny bottle at home.

–Pete