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Turtle Mountain Ice Cream: Thanks For Not Taking the Easy Way Out!

24 May

It happens all the time. You go to buy some item of food, or someone offers you something to eat, and the label says, “May contain traces of ___.”

You have no way of knowing if the company is saying that just to cover their behinds in case of a lawsuit when in fact there’s hardly any chance of cross-contamination, or if they really mean it and there is a large chance.

Some virtuous allergic foodies (like my little sister), stop there and walk away. Some dumber allergic foodies (me) then wage an internal battle. How lucky do I feel today? How much do I really want to risk it? How much do I really want those cookies? How close is the nearest hospital? (That last one is a joke. Kind of.)

The smart answer is never to risk it, we all know that. But with every other product you see these days carrying that warning label, it can get really frustrating.

Therefore, I was so excited to come across Turtle Mountain products. Instead of just slapping a “may contain” label on there, they go out of their way to make sure their products don’t contain any non-ingredient allergens.

Their package states, “Turtle Mountain applies strict quality control measures in an effort to prevent contamination by undeclared food allergens. To assure our preventive measures are effective, we sample test our products for the presence of dairy, gluten, peanut, soy, tree nut (almond, coconut, pecan, walnut) using state of the art testing methods.”

Their allergy page has a lengthy description of these state-of-the-art testing methods (check it out, it’s really impressive how thorough they are), which include validating the cleanliness of the processing line by collecting samples of the post-cleaning rinse water from each machine and belt, water which is then tested for allergens. “When the line is deemed to be free of allergens the product is produced,” the website says. The site also provides a comprehensive allergen chart for each product and each allergen.

As if that wasn’t enough, most of their ice creams are dairy-free—made from coconut milk instead of regular milk—so they have significantly less fat and calories than regular ice cream (½ cup of the vanilla bean ice cream has 150 calories and 8g of fat, while a ½ cup of Ben & Jerry’s vanilla ice cream has 230 calories and 14g of fat).

Their products range from milk and creamer to yogurt and “ice cream” (technically called “frozen dessert”), and they offer both coconut-based and soy-based versions, plus some gluten-free options. Check out the column on the left-hand side of this page for the full list of their products.

The flavor I tried, Vanilla Bean (coconut-based), tasted more like coconut gelato than vanilla ice cream. It was delicious, but very sweet—almost like it was missing a creamy finish and stayed with the same note throughout. When I left some in the bowl to melt a bit, it tasted exactly like a marshmallow.

Photo credit: TurtleMountain.com

I paired it with Frog Hollow pear sauce, though, and it made a huge difference. (I’m guessing even chocolate sauce would do the same, it just needs a complementary flavor.)

To pick some up for yourself, check out their store locator.

On the Delights of Green Garlic (and BLTs on Brioche with Green Garlic Aioli)

23 May

Today I’m going to take a brief interlude from restaurant reviews to tell you about my new favorite ingredient—green garlic.

For those who have yet to discover its wonders, green garlic is essentially young garlic. When garlic plants grow, the bottom white bulb splits off into cloves and becomes what we know as traditional garlic, while the top grows into these long, scallion-like green stalks called scapes (which also have their own culinary merit). Green garlic is uprooted before it matures, before the bottom splits off into cloves. It looks like this:

Photo credit: SFGate.com

Green garlic has this really wonderful mild garlic flavor, which gives dishes a great depth but without the potency of mature garlic (I still love you, though, garlic!). You can even slice up a little bit and scatter it on a slice of ciabatta bread with butter and a pinch of sea salt, that’s how mild it is.

I discovered green garlic for the first time when trying out a CSA, and fell in love. It’s great for flavoring oil before you sauté vegetables, scattering on a sandwich with prosciutto and tomato, or in the following amazing (and super easy, and super nut-free!) recipe…

[Note: It’s nearing the end of green garlic season (this may even be the last week) so if you want to give it a try, hurry!]

For green garlic storage and selection tips, check out this article from The San Francisco Chronicle.

BLTs on Brioche with Green Garlic Aioli

Courtesy of the August 2006 issue of Bon Appétit magazine

Photo credit: Epicurious.com

Makes 6 sandwiches

Aioli

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons chopped green garlic or 1 regular garlic clove, blanched
  • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or coarse kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise, divided [NOTE: This was way too much mayo for me. I would use your discretion about how much you want to add, observing the thickness of the aioli as you make it]
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

Sandwiches

  • 2 (3-ounce) packages thinly sliced pancetta (Italian bacon; about 30 slices)
  • 12 (1/2-inch-thick) slices brioche or egg bread, lightly toasted
  • 1 large bunch mizuna or arugula, torn into 2-inch pieces
  • 3 beefsteak tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch-thick rounds

For aioli: Blend olive oil, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel in processor until garlic is minced. Add 2 tablespoons mayonnaise and blend well. Transfer to small bowl; whisk in remaining mayonnaise and lemon juice. Can be made 1 day ahead—cover and then chill.

For sandwiches: Preheat oven to 450°F. Arrange pancetta slices in single layer on 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Place toast on work surface. Spread with aioli. Divide mizuna among 6 toast slices; top with tomatoes, then pancetta, dividing equally. Top with remaining 6 toast slices, aioli side down. Cut each sandwich in half and serve.

H/T to Saveur.com and Love & Olive Oil

Welcome to The Allergic Foodie!

16 May

My name is Jenna, and I love food.

Let’s be clear: I really, really love food. I love cooking it, eating it, writing about it, thinking about it, dreaming about it, learning new things about it… you get the point.

Consequently, I really hate my food allergy. I have an anaphylaxis to all nuts, which means even one rogue sliver of a nut could kill me. What’s a devoted foodie to do?

I started this blog because I believe having serious food allergies and having a wonderful, adventurous food life do not have to be mutually exclusive. This blog is for all the food-lovers out there that refuse to be prisoners to their food allergies (yet still understand the importance of eating responsibly).

My restaurant reviews are not entirely allergy-centric (so non-allergics are just as welcome, you lucky ducks), but there is a component of the rating system that takes into account allergy-friendliness. The rating system is as follows (each rating ranges from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest score possible):

  • Food: overall deliciousness
  • Presentation: composition and design of the dishes
  • Menu: diversity and appeal of menu
  • Service: attentiveness and friendliness of service
  • Ambiance: restaurant decor and design
  • Allergy-friendliness: how attentive, knowledgeable, accommodating and transparent the staff was about the allergy; presence of any allergy incidents (cross-contamination, allergic reaction)
  • Cost: $ is really cheap, $$ is moderate, $$$ is pretty expensive, and $$$$ is you better have just won the lottery or made CEO.

Since I’m based in San Francisco, most of my reviews will be centered on the Bay Area. But I left my heart back in Boston where I was born and raised, so you may see some Boston reviews in there as well, joined by any of my other travel destinations.

I will also post some of my favorite recipes, as well as reviews of allergy-friendly products (when I can find them!).

If you have any suggestions for restaurants to review, recipes to publish, products to investigate, or any other comments, suggestions or feedback at all, I’d love to hear from you!

Happy (and safe) eating!

~Jenna

Nothing like a quick oyster break at an early morning farmers' market!