My non-gluten-free companion for the evening was running late, so I sat at the bar and tried to ignore the bartender and host while on the phone. However, the staff at Pigalle makes another seemingly uptight French restaurant feel warm and inviting. The host was extremely accommodating and the bartender provided me with a drink menu despite my refusal; both were friendly and non-intrusive.

The crowd was older, the room dimly lit with candles, and the overall feel of the restaurant was expensive, yet not haughty.

Don’t try to get the eggplant timballo, because your heart will be crushed when you find out that it has gluten in it. Do tell your server that you have a gluten intolerance, as there are a lot of hidden ingredients containing gluten that aren’t listed on the menu.

The lobster cocktail appetizer was crisp, light, and refreshing with hearts of palm and citrus sabayon. The citrus was lovely, and the simplicity of the dish worked well.

Atop my entrée of braised shortrib were fried onions. The combination of the onions, shortrib, and corn provided a great combination of texture and flavor. The shortrib was immensely succulent and tasted as if it had been braised in a red wine. But alas, the Celiac diner cannot have the accompanying mushroom agnolotti and substitutions aren’t allowed. The truffled corn beurre blanc was rich, creamy, and delicious.

The best part of dinner was the chocolate mousse dessert. The mousse had a harder exterior and a softer interior. I normally hate nuts, but the tiny “crunchies” combined with the mousse and berries were phenomenal. I would return to Pigalle simply for this dessert.

The experience at Pigalle was enjoyable, but not mindblowing. Perhaps my expectations are too high during restaurant week, but I truthfully can’t imagine why none of these “top” restaurants are leaving me wanting more. I also had what I refer to as a “Celiac attack” afterward, so do with that information what you will.

Location: 75 Charles Street South, Boston, MA
As many of you know, my restaurant week hasn't been going well so far. I wrote about my confusion with Atlantic Fish Co on Monday with a new article in The Examiner, and now I'm sad to say that Top of the Hub didn't exactly knock me off my feet either.

My non-gluten-free companion and I started off with an "escarole, radicchio, and endive salad with icicle radish, candy striped beets, lemon vinaigrette, and crumbled blue cheese." I have to be frank and say that the escarole tasted dirty. The radicchio combined with the lemon vinaigrette tasted like orange-chocolate liquor, which was practically vomit-inducing for me, since that is my least favorite flavor combination.

Our second course was a bacon wrapped pork tenderloin topped with a fig and stuffed with Italian sausage, Fontina cheese, and Spinach resting in potato puree and sage jus. It read hit-or-miss, but was actually exceptional. My pork was a bit dry, but everything else about the dish was outstanding. The stuffing was a pleasant surprise inside of the pork, and dipping the pork and stuffing into the potato puree and sage jus gave you a pop of Thanksgiving in your mouth. The fig was fine, but the dish would've been great without it as well. The flavors were distinct, yet understated.

The last course was creme brulee. I need to rant here...I have a serious problem when I'm spending money at a high-end restaurant so that they can serve me a junior high dessert like creme brulee. Thanks for wowing me Top of the Hub; if I wanted creme brulee I would've gone to Finale.

Even though the pork tenderloin kept me happy, I think I'll only return to Top of the Hub for their cocktails.

Location: 800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA (52nd Floor)
My non-gluten-free companion had heard that The Blue Ridge Brewing Co. had the best brunch in Greenville, so we spent our Sunday morning under an umbrella on their patio.

We both got The Brewhouse Classic Bloody Mary with a bottle of hot sauce on the side. This was hands-down the best Bloody Mary that I have ever tasted. It wasn’t too spicy and had just the right amount of kick.

My non-GF companion had the Brunch Sammich, which was a ham, bacon, egg, and cheese on a toasted English muffin. He loved the sandwich and subbed the side of potatoes with grits. The grits were smooth and creamy, and definitely won me over.

I had the Low Country Shrimp Hash with potatoes, ham, shrimp, and spices. The ham was a standout ingredient and the potatoes were tender and spiced well. The presentation was enticing and every few bites got me a surprising jalapeno or pepper.

We also had their fresh orange juice, which didn’t have the same taste as European orange juice, but didn’t taste like bottled orange juice and was very refreshing after the Bloody Mary kicked in.

Blue Ridge Brewing Co. is definitely recommended if you happen to be in the Greenville area, and I’m sure that the rest of their menus are equally as appetizing as their brunch menu.
After a long day driving around in North Carolina, we headed back to downtown Greenville for dinner at The Lazy Goat. The Lazy Goat is nestled between the Reedy River and The Hampton Inn; the ambiance at night is seductive and tranquil with waterfalls and dim lighting.We sat on the patio and our server was kind and attentive. My non-gluten-free companion asked if they had a gluten-free menu, and I was surprised that they had a menu with highlighted and specific options detailing what I could and could not have. I was also surprised when I found out that they ran out of the meal that I wanted, and that a lot of the ingredients on the gluten-free menu hadn’t been updated on the current menu.
We started off with a braised octopus dish that had herbed tomatoes, shaved fennel, and arugula. The octopus was firm, and, although it was supposed to be the highlight of the dish, the tomatoes stole its thunder. The herbed tomatoes were ripe, natural, and divinely ascorbic, and paired well with the shaved fennel and arugula; the overall combination of tastes was well balanced.
My non-GF companion ordered the Nararre Style Trout, which was presented beautifully in a large, shallow, red bowl. The chorizo in the potato and chorizo filling was unrecognizable, and the filling was rather starchy overall. The fish was cooked well and the haricot vert and tomatoes complimented the fish nicely, but the fiery roasted tomato vinaigrette had more of a citrus than fiery taste.
As previously mentioned, they ran out of the Jamon Serrano wrapped flounder that I wanted, and when I tried to order the Butternut Risotto, I found out that it had been changed to a Primavera Risotto. I was ambivalent about the amount of ingredients in the Risotto, and unfortunately my instinct was correct. The lemon basil finish was overwhelming and the squash and fava bean combination didn’t exactly work with the mascarpone cheese; the tomatoes also seemed out of place. However, the risotto was cooked flawlessly, and the mascarpone was delicious.
The food at The Lazy Goat didn’t stand up to the ambiance. There seemed to be a lack of attention to detail, both in the menu’s descriptiveness and in preparing the food. We had a great time, but wished the food could’ve matched our experience and service.
A day trip to Asheville, NC resulted in a visit to The Laughing Seed Café I think I squealed when we found out that they had gluten-free options specified on their menu, as we unintentionally stumbled upon the restaurant via google.

We started our meal off with fried gluten-free Shitake corncakes. The corncakes were soft and fell apart when you cut into them. Although we couldn’t really taste the mushrooms, the corncakes were absolutely divine. The corncakes had an earthy and humble taste, and the creamy dressing drizzled over them had a nice hint of ginger.

I decided to keep it simple and stick to a Mediterranean salad, while my non-gluten-free companion chose a Tico Burrito.

The salad had “cherry tomatoes, red onions and cucumbers, feta cheese, a Greek Feta dressing, and was garnished with seasoned artichoke hearts, kalamata olives and pepperoncini.” All of the ingredients were extremely fresh, and the feta was definitely the standout ingredient. I couldn’t taste the dressing, but the vegetables were all so juicy that their combination provided a dressing of it’s own.

We ended our meal with a gluten-free chocolate chip and coconut cookie, which our server told us was the best gluten-free cookie around. Well, she fibbed on the cookie, as it was rather grainy and overtly sugary to compensate for the missing glutenous ingredients. It wasn’t a bad cookie, it was just far too sweet and crumbly.

Overall, The Laughing Seed Café was a unique and delightful experience. I truly appreciate any restaurant that takes the extra step to provide notification of gluten-free options. Every little step counts toward helping the GF community!

Location: 40 Wall Street, Asheville, NC

**the Shitake corncake picture belongs to
I write for The Examiner as the Boston Gluten-Free Food Examiner! You can read my articles here
I was considering ordering in bulk on Amazon before I saw that the Shaw's at 1065 Commonwealth Avenue had all of the gluten-free Betty Crocker mixes!

The package warned me that the mix might be grainy, and one of my twitter followers warned me that th
e cookies baked better as bar cookies rather than drop cookies, so I was prepared for a rather tedious experience.

However, I was pleased to see tha
t my mix was neither grainy nor crumbly, and in fact was quite smooth. I think it's because I used melted vegetable oil spread instead of butter.

I got about thirty-five absolutely delicious cookies out of my mix. I made these suckers on Saturday and they are STILL just as soft as they were when they came out of the oven.

There is no distinguishable difference betw
een non-gf box cookies and Betty Crocker's new gluten-free option. Even the raw cookie dough tasted "normal," and I obviously ate about six or seven cookies worth of raw cookie dough.

As many of you know from my tweets, I've been eating the cookies for breakfast over the past few days. Oops!..but yes, they are that good and you should buy them if y
ou can find them.
I had the pleasure of dining at Nebo restaurant the other night thanks to Regan Communications Group. The atmosphere was quiet and intimate, and we had a great time trying gluten-free pizza, pasta, and an excellent eggplant dish.

We tried the Christina pizza, which was a white pizza with corn, mozzarella, and sweet sausage. The crust was cake-like and unlike any other gluten-free crust that I've had before. It almost reminded me of corn bread, both in taste and consistency, which worked really well with the Christina pizza, but I'm not sure if it would work as well with a red sauce pizza. The sausage was definitely the standout ingredient in the pizza.

In addition to the pizza, we also tried the Amatriciana pasta with sweet onions, pancetta, and "spicy" red sauce. My non-Celiac companion for the evening couldn't tell that the pasta was gluten-free, and we both were in love with the suace. The sauce was zesty, rather than spicy, and had a great down home taste that distinguished it from most red sauces that I've tried. The pancetta was tender, tomatoes fresh and juicy, and the onions provided a subtle contrast in the dish.

Our final dish was the Timballo di Melanzana, an eggplant dish that blew us away. The baked mozzarella totally made the dish, and the eggplant had a nice smoky taste and was cooked perfectly. I can still taste the dish when I look at the pictures that I took.

We spoke with Carla, one of the owners, throughout our meal about ingredients, meal options, and the history of the restaurant. It was great to talk to someone who was so dedicated to a cause that didn't directly affect her own diet. The staff at the restaurant is dedicated to providing an enjoyable experience for gluten-free diners, and they are truly passionate about helping the gluten-free community.

My only complaint is that my Mango Cosmo was ridiculously acidic and didn't actually taste like mango. I didn't know that they had Redbridge beer or dinner specials until we finished our meal, but our poor server had broken his glasses during his shift and could barely see us or anything at all, so we were very understanding of the limitations that came with the service that night.

Overall, we had a great time at Nebo and I seriously appreciate all of the work that the staff has put into creating their gluten-free menu. Whether you're going on a date, or looking to have a quality homestyle meal with friends, Nebo is a wonderful place with an extensive gluten-free menu.

My heart melted the first time I ate an Enjoy Life snickerdoodle cookie. It was one of the first gluten-free cookies I tried, and it is still probably one of the best gluten-free cookies I've eaten in the past three years.

Enjoy Life snickerdoodles are perfectly round pieces of bite-sized gluten-free heaven, softly bedaubed in cinnamon sugar. If you have a sweet tooth like I do, you'll find yourself abandoning the two cookie serving size in less time than it takes to open the box.

I'm so addicted that I avoid buying them because I know that I will single-handedly kill the box in two days. My non-Celiac friends also love these cookies and are amazed that they are gluten-free, which is always a testament to how "real" a product performs despite it's gluten-free label.