A Gluten-Free Guide Visits Chicago

Cupcakes make people happy. A simple mantra, but absolutely true. One of the items I really struggled to recreate after going gluten-free was the gluten-free cupcake. Luckily, after many attempts, I finally reached a solution – hence my call to celebrate love with a gluten-free cupcake. While it’s not always feasible to make your own cupcakes, fortunate people in Chicago can get many types of gluten-free cupcakes with a visit to Swirlz.  Swirlz is not an exclusively gluten-free bakery, but the owner has Celiac so extra care and attention is given to keeping the gluten-free cupcakes free of cross-contamination.
Swirlz Gluten-Free Cupcake
Swirlz is just one of the many gluten-free options I was able to sample during a trip to Chicago. After an unremarkable diner at the W hotel, I ate well the rest of my time there. Lou Malnati’s pizzeria boast a completely gluten-free pizza. Rather than use a crust of gluten-free flours, they use Sausage as the base. This unique approach gives an added benefit to those on a low-carb diet. The staff at Lou Malnati’s is trained on how to prevent cross-contamination, using separate pans and even using separate tongs when removing the gluten-free pizzas from their ovens.
Lou Malnati's 1
My favorite meal of the trip, however, was a dinner with LeaAnn at Naha – a fusion restaurant with California influences. I discovered it when looking for chefs in Chicago who were James Beard Award recipients.

We started with a salad featuring Spanish ham, garroxta cheese and white anchovies.
Hearts of Romaine with spanish ham garroxta cheese and white anchioves
The scallops scented with vanilla bean, citrus and spices were a surprising delight.

My favorite small plate was a coddled egg chorizo salad. Such an incredible combination of textures and flavors.
Naha Coddled Egg chorizo sausage and salad
For a main we split a monkfish loin with Maryland crab and caramelized fennel. The sauce and spices were subtle and close to perfection for my palate.
Naha Monkfish Loin with Maryland Crab and Caramelized Fennel 2
LeaAnn and I struggled to decide between a cheese plate and a sorbet and ice cream sampler so we elected to get both. We always get the Robiola during our trips to Ecco, so that was just one of 8 cheeses we enjoyed at Naha (with some passionfruit curd I requested as an additional pairing.)
Naha Cheese Course
The Coconut sorbet and Macadamia Nut and Hazlenut ice creams were served atop balsamic cherries. We did not regret our decision to indulge in cheese and dessert.

So if the latest season of Top Chef has you itching for a trip to Chicago, rest assured that the city will welcome you with open arms and numerous gluten-free options.

For those of you already in Chicago, Bistro 110 launched an allergy-friendly dinner series this year. The Sans-Gluten Dinner is on May 12, 2008 and will include dough-less quiche lorraine and gluten-free tagliatelle pasta with a ragout of mussel, clam, shrimp and tarragon. The first in the series was a nut-free dinner and after the gluten-free dinner it will continue with dairy-free and shellfish-free options. The Chef’s children have allergies so you can appreciate the legitimate concern in the kitchen for your needs.

I’m sure there are other fantastic gluten-free finds I didn’t have a chance to visit. Where are the other hidden gluten-free gems in Chicago?

Bistro 110
110 E Pearson St
Chicago, IL 60611
Phone: 312-266-3110

Lou Malnati’s – multiple locations

Naha
500 North Clark street
Chicago, IL 60610
Phone: 312-321-6242

Swirlz
705 W. Belden Ave
Chicago, IL 60614
Phone: 877-794-7594

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Sheri said,

May 10, 2008 @ 11:59 pm

Shauna & I, along with 2 of her readers, went to Vinci when she was here in November. It was my first experience eating out since going GF and it was wonderful.

Gluten Free Steve said,

May 12, 2008 @ 2:23 am

We were in Chicago back in December and I hit Swirlz up a few times. Good cake, but the icing was too greasy – not enough sugar, too much Crisco. As for Lou Malnati’s – this pizza was great! I had to have it a few times as it was so darn good!

Shannon B. said,

May 13, 2008 @ 4:50 pm

They have gluten free cupcakes at Kickass Cupcakes in Boston, too — I think it’s exceptionally cool considering it’s not an exclusive Bakery of Gluten-free products — great to see other bakeries are doing the same in other big cities :D

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