Last week we went to Cheers on 84 Beacon Street in Boston Massachusetts. The restaurant, formally known as the Bull & Finch Pub, is best known for being the exterior of the Cheers TV show that ran from 1982 and 1993 on NBC.
We stopped in at a very busy lunch hour. The wait time for three people was about 45 minutes. Luckily we hung around the bar and were able to get some seats within 10 minutes of waiting.
We asked for a Gluten Free menu and was given a short menu with five options - they didn't have any kids size menu options.
Cheers Gluten Free Menu Options
Here are the items on the Cheers Gluten Free menu:
Beef Chili - Our Traditional recipe
Garden Salad - A seasonal blend of lettuce, cherry tomatoes, radishes, carrots, peppers, and cucumbers. Served with vinegar and oil
Bunless Burger - Served with our garden salad, oil and vinegar. Covered with artichokes and red peppers.
Gilled Salmon Filet - Farm raised salmon on a bed of garden vegetables, artichokes, and fire-roasted red peppers.
Grilled Chicken Breast - Served with rice and roasted vegetables
I ordered the Bunless Burger for my daughter. I asked if they could substitute the oil and vinegar with ranch dressing only if it was gluten free. The bartender checked and ensured us that the ranch dressing that they had was indeed gluten free.
The burger arrived pretty quickly and the burger was on its own plate and the salad was on a separate plate. It seemed to be a weird kind of presentation:
I cut up the burger into bite size pieces so that my daughter could enjoy it. When the bartender asked how the order was, I asked for some cheese so that she could enjoy it a more.
I asked her what she thought of her lunch, and she gave me a thumbs up.
After we paid for our order the bartender said that the pen that I was using to pay for the order matched my daughter's dress and that she could keep it. That made my daughters day and put a big smile on her face. She used the pen to take notes when we went on the Swan boats a bit later.
Today we spent the day having fun at Canobie Lake Park in Salem, New Hampshire.
Canobie Lake Park is a fun amusement park featuring over 50 rides, including roller coasters, a log flume, a hand-painted antique carousel, a steam train, a Ferris wheel, the "Starblaster", "Dodgems", "DaVinci's Dream", over a dozen kiddie rides, a variety of foods, prize games, three arcades, live entertainment, Saturday night fireworks, and more.
Food service at Canobie is provided by Sodexo. There are twenty-one permanent food stands and multiple mobile carts throughout the park. There is also a catering area that large groups can rent out and prepay for their food.
The park is very strict about bring outside food, going so far as saying:
Canobie does not allow food or beverage to be brought into the Park. The Park offers a wide variety of foods and dining options for guests to enjoy inside the Park. Guests can also take advantage of our re-admission policy for lunch. There are no picnic tables or shaded places to sit in our parking lot. No grilling or alcohol is allowed in our Parking lot. Sodexo, our food service provider, has prepared a Food Allergy Guide to assist in planning your visit for those with particular food allergies. ~ From their FAQ section of their website.
Sodexo Allergy Guide
You can download a copy of Sodexo 2016 Food Allergy Guide. This is somewhat helpful but it doesn't answer the basic question, can I get a gluten free hot dog at Canobie Lake Park? If so where? Basically, you have to read through all the different food venues to see if they offer anything. Seems like a lot of work to answer a basic question.
In addition, some places say that the Hot Dog is contains gluten, is it because that it's served on a roll? Can I get it without a roll?
We decided to stop in the Portofino to try some of the gluten-free pasta. When we walked in we thought they had more gluten free options since they are "A touch of Italy at Canobie Lake Park." We were told that the only gluten free option they had was pasta and that they would have to make it. The pasta cost $7.99 and they only had one size - which means that my daughter would get a lot of pasta that she wouldn't eat.
We tried to reach out to Canobie Lake Park and Sodexo to explain what happened since the email bounced back, I'll just finish this post on our lunch experience:
For lunch we went to Portofino. I asked if they had gluten free pizza and they didn't, they told me I would have to go to Pizza Ria for gluten free pizza. I then had to ask ok do you have gluten free pasta. The girl helping me at the counter was not sure so she got someone else to help me. The next girl told me she could get me gluten free pasta, we would need to wait for it.
I asked if we could have sauce on it and she said no because the meatballs were in the sauce and there was cross contamination so it was not gluten free (there is no sauce without cross contamination in an Italian restaurant?). I said ok can we have butter and cheese. She said she could give me some butter and cheese was on every table. She then disappeared into the back. I let another girl know this was for an "allergy" and she reassured me that there would be no cross contamination. I asked if the pasta would be brought to our table and she said no I would need to come and wait for it because she has no idea where I am sitting.
I got up a few minutes later to see if my pasta was ready. I received two plates of cold gluten-free pasta and some baby carrots. The girl said I could grab some ranch dressing and she handed me one pat of very hard butter for each plate of cold pasta. The worst part of this entire situation is that I paid $7.99 x 2 for a horrible, horrible meal and I am not even sure I trust it was gluten free pasta.
As a mother and especially a mother with a child who has an autoimmune disease like Celiac, I plan ahead. I think it is disgraceful that I would pay $15.98 for terrible food, terrible service and at the mercy of your park because I cannot bring my own food in. While we had a great day, I don't believe we can ever come back because of the food situation. Your allergy guide is very detailed but far too complicated and overwhelming to read.
I think it is important in this day and age that a park like yours learns to be sensitive to those with food "allergies" and learns to either be more accommodating or allow those with an allergy to bring in their own food and not have to hide it in the parking lot and run out during the day to eat.
Have you hear about the portable Gluten Free tester from Nima? They are currently developing a portable, highly sensitive gluten sensor that lets diners know if their food is, indeed, safe to eat.
Nima is the fastest gluten tester on the market, letting you know if there is 20ppm or more of gluten in food in just over 2 minutes. The 20ppm is the maximum concentration for "gluten-free" foods as determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Basically you use the Nima sensor to see if the food might have any accidental cross-contamination.
The Nima sensor is scheduled to ship this fall.
You can find more information and pre-Order Nima on their website. The starter kit is currently on sale for $199, there's a special starter kit with 12 capsules for $247.
Not so sure how this device will work out. For now, we'll just stick with restaurants that we know of that offer Gluten Free foods and are Celiac friendly.
This past weekend we stopped at Framingham Beer Works for a nice dinner. The restaurant was fairly quiet because it was Independence Day weekend. We didn't have to wait for our table when we arrived.
We asked for a menu that had gluten free options, the door hostess informed that just about anything on the menu could be made gluten free.
When we placed our order we mentioned that our daughter needed to eat gluten free. The waitress was very helpful in letting us know what are options are.
Nachos Not Gluten Free
My daughter was really hungry and we wanted to order an appetizer. We thought that the corn nachos would be good option, but were told that we couldn't order it because the nachos are fried and there could be cross contamination issues.
It was nice to hear a waitress say "cross contamination" clearly they understand allergy concerns. We were impressed with that.
Gluten free pasta
We asked if they had any gluten free pasta since my daughter loves mac and cheese. We were told that they didn't have any. Which was a bit surprising since they told us that just about anything on the menu could be made gluten free.
My daughter got a cheeseburger and asked for chips. We didn't get a chance to ask if they had a dedicated fryer for french fries.
The food was very good and I asked my daughter how her dinner was and she said yummy. She would give it two thumbs up but had the hamburger on the other hand. The kids burger was $6.50, which was reasonably priced.
We would certainly be going back again. I think Smash Burger makes better burger, but at least she can go to a nice restaurant when we have company.
Yes, it's possible to enjoy the great outdoor treat - Smores - gluten free!
Thanks to Kinnikvnnick Foods, you can have a yummy summer night treats by the fire. Kinnikvnnick Foods manufactures gluten-free graham style crackers - called S'moveables. You can find these in just about any major supermarkets, Stop & Shop, Wegmans and Whole Foods for about $4.99.
The S'moreables graham style crackers don't have that much as much flavor in Smores comes from the chocolate and marshmallows. The graham size is a bit smaller than the Nabisco brands. We recommended not to use the jumbo size marshmallows as it will make a big mess.
Try a little variety to your Smores by making Reese's Peanut butter cup s'mores:
Cook the marshmallows until they are browned outside, and soft all the way through, approx 2 to 4 minutes. Place the marshmallows on top of one of the S'moreables graham cracker squares. Place the peanut butter cup on top of the marshmallows. Top with the last S'moreables graham cracker square. Enjoy!
Think about other candies that might make a great compliment to your summertime treat. York Peppermint Patties and Snickers are good to try.
S'moreables vs Nabisco Honey Maid Cinnamon
I was checking the nutritional value of S'moreables vs Nabisco Honey Maid Cinnamon and was surprised to find out that S'moreables has more calories and sodium than Nabisco Honey Maid Cinnamon per serving.
This past weekend we visited Fenway Park and got a good hands-on view of all the gluten free options.
The best place to get gluten free foods is from a cart near Fenway Park Gate D entrance. This is important to know if you have bleachers seats. Gate D is right behind home plate, this is otherwise known as the Home Plate Concourse.
At this location, you will find gluten free hotdogs, cookies, and brownies. Other concession stands around the park will have naturally gluten free foods such as peanuts and popcorn.
There isn't a visible marking for the gluten free hot dog stand. You can find it directly across the HomePlate store. There is a small beer stand right next to it.
The gluten free cart only accept cash! Just about every place in the park accepts VISA/MasterCard.
There is a Bank of America ATM inside the park. The ATM will charge you a $3 "convenient fee" if you don't have a Bank of America card. (Make sure to bring plenty of cash) there are 5 Bank of America ATMS inside Fenway Park. ATMs are located at (1) Gate E/3rd Base Concourse; (2) Gate A/Yawkey Way; (3) Gate D/Homeplate; (4) The Big Concourse; (5) Gate C.
The gluten free hot dogs cost $5.25, the same price as regular Fenway Franks.
The Gluten Free brownie cost $5 and the gluten free cookie is $4.75.
At the regular concession stands you can get souvenirs drinks for $8 with free refills throughout the game. Get a couple of refills to get your money worth. Not drinking that much soda? Share the container with someone in your party. They are great cups for water at your desk.
At one of the concession stand, we saw black bean dip by go picnic, which is gluten free. Didn't see how much that cost.
Independent Street Vendors
Be sure to support the street vendors! In particular the peanut cart on Yawkey Way. The cart has been run by the same family since 1912. If your Grandfather visited Fenway chances are he got peanuts from the same cart.
My daughter's favorite morning breakfast is the Van's Gluten Free French Toast Sticks with a small dab of Nutella on the side. She asks me to make the French Toast for her while she slowly wakes up to whatever is on the Disney Junior Channel. It's a great morning routine.
Van's Gluten Free French Toast Sticks are really good. Usually, one French Toast Stick is just enough for my daughter, there are 6 french toast sticks in the box. The only time that she doesn't have them is when she wants leftover scramble eggs.
She loves to dip the French Toast sticks in the small pile of Nutella that I put on her plate.
There are 95 calories in 1 slice of Van's Cinnamon French Toast Sticks. You'd need to walk 25 minutes to burn those 95 calories. She'll easily burn off those calories before her class starts.
We buy the large size container of Nutella. We go through a lot of it. I am very careful to make sure that there's only a small amount of Nutella on her plate. Anything she doesn't eat, I enjoy as a morning snack.
You can find the Van's Gluten Free French Toast Sticks in the specialty frozen food section in most supermarkets. Usually, they are with the other frozen gluten free foods. They are available at Stop and Shop and at Wegmans. We'll stock up when they go on sale since they are a bit expensive - about $3.99 for the box.
A good gluten free replacement for Kraft Deluxe Macaroni and cheese is Sam Mills Deluxe Mac and Cheese. Sam Mills is available in most major supermarkets. In our area, Wegmans seems to be store that has it in stock.
Its very simple to make a great tasting Mac and Cheese meal. The total cooking/prep time is about 20 minutes. While the microwave versions might be quicker, at least with the Sam Mills version, I know that there will be leftovers.
This bigger box size (11-Ounces) is a bit deceiving, as you don't get as many elbows as a standard 7-Ounce box. What you do get is large soft cheese packet. The extra cheese does make the meal taste a lot better. It's certainly a hit in our household.
<2>What about Kraft Macaroni and Cheese?
Did you know that the cheese mix in Kraft Macaroni and Cheese is Gluten-free? Did you also know that you can buy the cheese packets separately on Amazon?
You can simply buy a box of gluten free elbows - we recommend the Barilla Gluten Free Pasta variety. Then make your own version of Mac and Cheese. This is a good option if you have a Mac and Cheese addict in your household.
Since Mac and Cheese last a while, We have found that you can never have enough Mac and Cheese in stock.
Uno Pizzeria & Grill has a great selection of Gluten free foods. While they might be known for their pizza, their gluten free pizza didn't always equal in taste. That is until we ate at the Westboro location.
We have always eaten at the Framingham location since it's very convenient to our house. The place is always busy and the food has been so so. The Westboro UNOs was better.
When we arrived at 5pm on Sunday, we were surprised that there weren't many cars in the parking lot. As this was our first visit to this location, we thought that it was because people didn't like to eat here.
We told the server that our daughter needed to eat gluten free and ordered the Gluten free pizza. We did ask that the to be cooked a bit longer, as our past experience with UNOs is that it tends to be a bit soggy.
The pizza arrived a few minutes later. It looked and smelled very yummy. It was nice and crispy. The pizza also tasted way better than the one we get at the Framingham location. While the pizza was cooked longer than normal, there was something else different that told us that we will be going back to this place again.
Important Side Note
At each table is a Ziosk Tablet where you can request drink refills or call your server to the table. There's also a bunch of games that kids can play. However, there is a $1.99 surcharge to play the games.
We didn't know about the surcharge before our daughter took control of the machine. Before, the surcharge only applied to certain games. There might have been a warning but my daughter must have clicked 'ok' to approve it.
We noticed the charged on the food bill. We didn't dispute the charges because we did see the sign on the device but didn't take any action until its too late
Ziosk should require a credit card swipe in order to approve the charges. This way an adult would know about the charges.
Uno Pizzeria & Grill
Westborough Uno Pizzeria & Grill is located at 225 Turnpike Rd, Westborough, MA 01581. They are located right in front of the Westborough AMC theater, making it a perfect place to have a dinner and a movie.
Popcorn is a great snack since for the most part it's free from the top 8 food allergies - soy, milk, eggs, citrus fruit, nuts, fish, peanuts, shellfish and wheat. The following suggested recipe does contain nuts (coconut) and milk (butter).
Healthy Disclaimer: The following recipe is awesome for those times when you want an extra special movie night. This isn't a healthy solution for everyday snacking.
Orville Redenbacher's Popcorn - Sure you can get the store brand for slightly cheaper, but if you want the best tasting popcorn it starts with the right popcorn kernels. Store brand popcorn contains generic kernels that don't have much flavor. Orville Redenbacher's has strict quality control, which means you get a better batch of popcorn. Newman's Own kernels is another brand that produces excellent popcorn. If you haven't had good popcorn at home, it's probably because you been using cheap popcorn kernels. (3/4 cup)
Coconut Oil - Popcorn tastes better with Coconut oil. Movie theaters had used it before the lawyers at the "Center for Science in the Public Interest" forced them to change in 1994. There's no particular brand to use here, get whatever is available in the store. (3/4 cup)
Red Palm Oil - Use this if you want your popcorn to have a little yellow look - just like it came from the movie theaters. This has an added benefit of some additional vitamins to your snack. (One Tablespoon)
Powdered Salt - Don't use table salt, use a more refined salt. This way most of the salt doesn't end up on the bottom of the bowl. Salt to taste.
Kerry Gold Butter - A naturally soft Irish butter and has a great taste. Forty-five seconds in the microwave is all you need to melt it down. (1/2 stick)
Cooking with WhirleyPop(TM) Popcorn Popper
I use the WhirleyPop Popcorn Popper as I find that it makes the best popcorn at home. Someday, I hope to have a Classic stand alone Popcorn Machine. You can find it at Bed Bath and Beyond and online at their store.
Turn the stovetop on to medium. Add the Coconut and Red Palm Oil first. Wait until it starts to bubble, then add five popcorn kernels. Stir slowly. Once it starts popping, add the remaining kernels.
The whole process should take less than 10 minutes.
After the popping is done, I take the popcorn and pour it into a bowl and add butter and salt to taste. I take a table knife and stir the popcorn around.
I let the popcorn sit for a bit before serving. This is so the butter has a chance to be absorbed by the popcorn. Then it's time to sit and watch the movie.
Popcorn is a great naturally gluten free snack! Try the above recipe and make it the way you like it.
This series of posts will cover some tips and tricks that I have learned about my twelve-year-old daughter's gluten-free lifestyle in the Boston area. Gluten-free eating can be challenging in any big city, but especially in Boston due to the high number of restaurants and availability of options. I've been learning what I can to make sure my daughter can still enjoy eating out, and I want to share what I've learned so that other families in the same situation can benefit.