Product Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product: So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert – $6.99+

God bless So Delicious!  Because after swearing off the regular ice cream I used to indulge in each weekend (I miss my local ice cream parlor, but the dairy was too much for this stomach, even with supplements to help with the lactose intolerance), I can now have my indulgence back.  Yes…yes I can.  And in so many different varieties for a base.  Soy milk, coconut milk, almond milk, cashew milk…they have a little bit of everything.

But I’m currently on the biggest cashew milk kick.  Seriously.  It’s the companion to my cereal in the morning…a creamy addition to my overnight oatmeal…a key component to my dairy free (and creamy) gluten-free and vegan macaroni and cheese.  I love it more than soy milk, more than coconut milk, more than almond milk…and it seems to be holding true for the frozen items as well.

Then again, So Delicious has yet to really disappoint me with any product I have ever ventured to try of theirs.  It is one very trusted brand in my book.

So, with temperatures soaring outside this weekend, my roommate and I were cooking in and treating dessert as our cool down.  So, Saturday evening, after a simple and delicious dinner (after a long day of shopping and buying groceries and other such weekend sundries), I pulled the pint of So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert out of my freezer.  It was the other flavor of the new cashew milk frozen desserts that my roommate and I splurged on one day while out grocery shopping.  I already reviewed the Snickerdoodle flavor. While we ate, I allowed it the 10 minute defrost time, which is common with non-dairy frozen treats, so that it was scoopable.  Then, after clearing and washing dishes up…it was time to unveil the ice cream that awaited us.

I eased off the lid and pulled back the white plastic that sealed in the freshness.  I saw an amazing looking white ice cream, speckled with dark chocolate chunks and swirls of golden caramel.  I got out the ice cream scoop and easily dished up two servings into the ice cream bowls I had dug out of the cabinet.  Delivering one to my roommate, I returned to the kitchen to tuck the pint back into the freezer.  By the time I took up my own bowl, Cathy had already taken a taste of hers.

“How is it?”

“Mmmmmm.”

Well…that was all I needed to hear.  MY spoon touched the scoop in my bowl, dug in, getting a little bit of everything, and then was introduced to my taste buds.  It tasted like a smooth, creamy, rich…butter pecan (minus the nuts) base with a burst of amazing sweetness from the dark chocolate covered cashews.  Those, I think, were my favorite part.  But this ice cream definitely enhanced all the taste senses.  Salty and sweet, it was a perfect blend of flavor and richness.  I loved how the caramel ribbons were soft and accented the cashew milk base and the dark chocolate covered nuts that were scattered throughout the pint.  They were little bites of joy, for sure.  And I happily devoured each bite.  My only complaint, and this is a personal one, was that there weren’t enough of the dark chocolate covered cashews for my liking.  If these “clusters” are going to be significant to the name of the ice cream, be sure you load your pint down with them.  It was a hide-and-seek game with the scoop…but I managed to get these tasty morsels into each serving for both myself and my roommate.

Let’s talk about what So Delicious Dairy Free puts into their Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert, shall we?  This ice cream flavor is made from cashew milk (water, cashews non-GMO canola oil), organic dried cane syrup, chocolate coated cashews [coating (cane sugar, coconut oil, cocoa (processed with alkali), chocolate liquor, natural vanilla flavor), roasted cashews (canola oil, safflower and/or sunflower oil, salt)], caramel sauce [organic tapioca syrup, water, molasses, pea protein, natural flavors, organic cocoa butter, sodium citrate, salt, pectin], natural flavor, sea salt, fair trade vanilla extract, gum acacia, and guar gum.  It is gluten-free, vegan, cholesterol free, free of trans-fats, and non-GMO.

As far as nutrition goes…aside from being a dessert and an ice cream treat at that, this is actually quite impressive and not half bad as far as the data goes.  One serving is 1/2 cup and there are 4 servings in each pint.  One serving will provide you with 180 calories, 9 grams of fat, 130 mg sodium, 18 grams of sugars (YIKES…but then again…ice cream!), 24 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram of fiber, and 3 grams of protein.

As tempting as it is to devour the entire pint in one sitting, definitely savor it and eat only the serving.  It’s okay to treat yourself to a nice, cold, delicious treat and when you do…if you can’t handle dairy like me…then So Delicious has you covered for sure.  And…I am a HUGE fan of the new cashew milk frozen desserts.  I can’t wait to try the three other flavors!

BIG YUM!

Oh…yeah…it was polished off Sunday night.  Didn’t last long.  Never does.

A serving of So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

A serving of So Delicious Dairy Free Salted Caramel Cluster Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

 Product: So Delicious Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert – $6.99+

A life without ice cream isn’t a very happy life.  But, where I used to be able to take something to help me digest milk proteins, my lactose intolerance has only become a little stronger.  Sadly, I have said goodbye to my dairy-filled favorite treat in life.  Ice cream and I just don’t get along like we used to.

But…thanks to So Delicious Diary Free…ice cream isn’t gone from my life.  It’s just…well…a little different.  And not a sorbet.  Sorbets are all fine and good, but sometimes you just want something rich and creamy and sinful.

Cashew milk is, honestly, my latest obsession.  It is my go-to milk of choice these days.  Over coconut milk and almond milk.  Why?  It’s creamier.  It’s thicker.  It just, to me, tastes better.  I love the nutty flavor that comes with it and it just tastes amazing.  It’s all I want in my refrigerator these days.

So…talk my favorite beverage of the moment and combine it with…one of my favorite desserts…

That’s what So Delicious did.  They have created a new line of non-dairy frozen desserts that are made with cashew milk, instead of soy, almond, or coconut milks.  Currently, these ice cream pints come in five different flavors: Cappuccino, Creamy Cashew, Dark Chocolate Truffle, Salted Caramel Cluster, and Snickerdoodle.

You know my first purchase would have been Salted Caramel Cluster…but my Kroger store didn’t have that particular flavor when I was shopping and treating myself.  So…my next favorite thing after salted caramel anything (especially ice cream) is Snickerdoodle cookies.  Therefore, Snickerdoodle was the pint I purchased.  I also have the Salted Caramel Cluster in my freezer now…but Snickerdoodle came first…therefore it gets consumed first.

After dinner tonight, as the week has been crazy stressful and I’ve been on this roller coaster of emotions.  Ice cream seemed like the perfect way to wrap up the day.  I took out the pint of So Delicious Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert and let it thaw slightly on the counter while I ate dinner.  That way it was scoop-ready by the time dessert rolled around.  I opened it up, spooning out beautiful servings of the ice cream treat and serving it up to myself and my roommate.

Snickerdoodle anything has a lot to live up to, as it has always been my most favorite cookie.  Ever.

So, when my roommate dug in first while I was dishing up my serving and I hear, “Holy crap! That tastes just like a snickerdoodle!” I knew I was about to experience dessert magic.  I stuck the pint back into the freezer and settled in with my own bowl of ice cream.  I ran my spoon through the serving and lifted my first taste to my mouth.  As it began to melt against my tongue it was love.  Sheer, pure, happy love.  Meant to be love.  Because, YES, it does taste just like a snickerdoodle cookie.  We’re talking a cinnamon infused ice cream that is infused with generous bites of actual gluten-free snickerdoodle cookie dough.  This just happens to make this THE BEST ICE CREAM EVER!  It reminded me of the holidays, as that was when my mom always made her famous snickerdoodle cookies.  It reminded me of growing up, of old friends, of home, and of happy places.  THIS…was one fantastic scoop of ice cream.  It is, by far, the best ice cream (dairy and non-dairy) that I have ever consumed.  In my life.  If Cookie Monster and the Good Humor Man had children…it would be weird…but it would probably introduce something like this to the world.  I almost want to dive in for another serving.  But I will resist.  For now.  I must.

Or not…

Let’s talk ingredients.  The So Delicious Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert is made from cashew milk (water, cashews, non-GMO canola oil), organic dried cane syrup, snickerdoodle dough (dark brown cane sugar, natural oil blend (palm fruit, canola and olive), natural flavor, sunflower lecithin, lactic acid, annatto rice flour, potato flour, tapioca flour, cane sugar, invert  sugar, cinnamon, salt, vanilla extract, guar gum, baking soda) cinnamon, gum acacia, guar gum, and sea salt.  It is verified non-GMO, vegan, kosher and gluten-free.

As far as nutrition goes…well…it’s basically ice cream without the dairy that hurts my tummy.  It isn’t going to be a powerhouse of good things…but it’s tasty.  And, sometimes, that’s all you need.  A serving size of the So Delicious Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert is 1/2 cup.  In this serving you will be provided with 190 calories and 10 grams of fat (much of which is the healthy fat that comes from the nuts themselves!).  You will also be taking in 45 mg sodium, 24 grams carbohydrates, 1 gram fiber, 20 grams sugars, and 2 grams of fiber.  It’s a dessert, so you won’t be feeling full after a serving, but it should fill you up after a meal.  This ice cream has no cholesterol.

And…it’s basically a cookie on frozen crack.  Frozen cashew ice cream crack.  It’s…amazing, is what I’m trying to say.  If you are like me and LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Snickerdoodle cookies…then this ice cream is going to satisfy your love of the cookie and your crave for the ice cream.  It’s creamy and rich and perfect.  Yes…I said perfect.

I’m in love.

A serving of So Delicious Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

A serving of So Delicious Dairy Free Snickerdoodle Cashew Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product Review: So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product: So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert – 6.99+

Twas the holiday season and stress was high.  I mean…at the top level of high stress.  Why?  Holiday season…I just told you.  People were everywhere, gifts weren’t bought yet, and I had a grocery list to get purchased.

And so…I began working my way through the crowded aisles of Whole Foods.  I don’t normally buy much in the freezer section there, but I always make a point to go down the aisles.  This time, however, as I was going through the frozen dessert treats, some bright (and new) So Delicious treats seemed to wave at me.  I pulled open that freezer door and spotted coconut milk ice cream treats in the shapes of snowmen and stars.  The snowmen were vanilla with a chocolate layer forming the hat.  The stars…peppermint.

HELLO!

Unfortunately, the budget was tight as it was the holidays, but my roomie and I insisted that the following week we’d come back and pick them up…because we’d make some more room by then.

And so…we did.  And the Snowmen treats were there…but the Peppermint Stars (the ones I really, really, really wanted to try) were gone.  I got upset, and we bought the “boring” (they were anything but boring, they were delicious!) Snowman treats and devoured them later that week.  We kept returning, week-after-week, to Whole Foods, but the Peppermint Stars spot always was empty.  They were either really popular…or weren’t ever restocked.

Until something magical happened soon after Christmas.

I was back in Whole Foods and walking down that frozen food aisle.  At the frozen treats, I looked toward the So Delicious Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert area and spotted the red, white, and pink box I had been searching for.  I pulled open that freezer door and pulled it out, showing it to Cathy.  It was the very last box.  THE LAST ONE.  We had so many errands to run that day, so we asked the Customer Service desk if they could put it in the freezers in the back until we came back.  They were happy to do so.  And I was happy that I was finally going to have these in my freezer.

However, it seemed my roommate wasn’t as eager to consume them as I was.  Every week we polished off another dessert (usually cookies of some sort) and I would list off other dessert options to follow…and the ice cream we had in the freezer was never even considered.  BUT…this past week, I asked “Do you want the chocolate cookies from Cuisine Cube or do you want the ice cream bars?”

“Are those the Peppermint Stars?”

“The ice cream I have been referring to all this time that you never want to eat has been the Peppermint Stars.”

“OH!  That’s what I want.”

Sometimes…she needs to be smacked.  HA!

So…it was Friday night…and it was time to finally dig into the frozen dessert bars that I had coveted since before Christmas and, the dessert gods blessed me with the final box of the season at Whole Foods.  I couldn’t wait.  So, I got them out of the freezer and pulled out the box.  I tore into it, handed one to my roommate and then tore the wrapper off of mine.  I had waited three months to finally dig into these.  One taste…and I knew it was worth the wait.

The So Delicious Diary Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert was absolutely amazing.  For the first time ever, I didn’t feel as though the peppermint flavor overwhelmed the treat at all.  It was subtle…but the highlight of the actual flavor in the ice cream.  The bar itself was nice and frozen…but melt-in-your-mouth good.  It was so delicious (ha…see what I did there?).  I mean…it was light and creamy and just…yum.  I loved having a little taste of the holidays in April.  I really did.  So, maybe the wait was worth it.  Well, it was.  I just wish I could have enjoyed more of these.  I’m so thankful I found that one last box before they disappeared for the season.  I will be on the hunt for these this next holiday season and hopefully can have more than two nights worth.  Because, sometimes, a treat is just worth it.  These were beyond worth it.

Let’s talk about ingredients, shall we?  The So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert is made from organic coconut milk, organic dried cane syrup, inulin, natural flavor, organic beet juice, guar gum, carbo bean gum, and annatto.  YUM YUM!!  These bars are free of trans fat, cholesterol, sodium, gluten and dairy.  They are also kosher.  They are perfection in peppermint form.

As for nutrition, you’ll love how these add up.  The So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert has a serving size of 1 bar.  Four bars come in the box.  One delicious star-shaped frozen dessert bar will serve up 100 calories and 5 grams of fat (much of that will be from the coconut milk), 14 grams carbohydrates, 10 grams of sugar, 5 grams of fiber and 1 gram of protein.  Not bad.  Not bad at all.

Talk about a dessert you can feel good about indulging in.  I am a huge fan of So Delicious, and having the chance to try one of their limited-edition seasonal ice cream treats was amazing.  Totally in love.  It’s like a frozen candy cane in ice cream format.  How can you not love that.  I hope they bring these back next year.  I’ll load up my freezer with them for sure.  DELISH!

So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

So Delicious Dairy Free Peppermint Star Coconut Milk Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product Review: Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel & Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Luna & Larry's Organic Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel & Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel & Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Product: Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel & Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert – $5.99+

It finally happened.  I gave up on ice cream.  Seriously.  It had been months…months…since I have had any sort of dairy based ice cream.  My stomach just can’t handle it.  No matter what sort of supplement I take to offset the reaction to the lactose…it was no longer helping.  And I was suffering.

And it makes me sad.

But…thankfully, one day I was at Whole Foods and spotted a pint of Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert that really caught my eye.  I’d seen and even had some of the Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss products before.  But this was a brand new flavor.  And it was my favorite flavor to boot.

Yes, friends…we are talking Salted Caramel.  Not just salted caramel though – for Luna & Larry’s took it to the extreme (which is good!) and added…CHOCOLATE!  So, you can imagine the worlds Salted Caramel & Chocolate on a dairy-free ice cream pint would grab my attention, right?

You bet your coconuts!

And that’s how this pint of frozen non-dairy goodness ended up in my freezer.  True story.  And, as I’m working my way through the stuff I’ve stockpiled in my freezer and pantry, this dessert was up tonight.  As I am quite familiar with non-dairy ice creams needing a bit of time to thaw in order to scoop the stuff, I went ahead and set it out while my roommate and I partook of the dinner I cooked up (a delicious meal of green beans and almonds).  Once dishes were done and the kitchen was cleaned up…dessert was up next.

Prior to this pint of ice cream, I have only tried the Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Dark Chocolate Bars…and I loved them.  This brand is a bit pricey, which means I don’t treat myself to it very often.  That being said, they have won numerous awards for their ice cream treats.  All of which, mind you, are dairy-free, soy-free, and gluten-free.  Award winning ice cream in numerous magazines and food awards?  Yes…I needed these in my life more often.  And so…a pint of the actual non-dairy frozen dessert (ice cream) made it to my freezer.

Let me just say this…WOW WOW WOW WOW WOW!!  Seriously, wow!!  I loved this ice cream at first bite.  First, you get this toasted coconut flavor, followed by this rich salty caramel tone.  And throughout the entire spoonful are little bits of chocolate.  It makes for the ultimate and perfect bite.  The dessert itself is cool and refreshing.  And creamy!  So often non-dairy desserts like this get flaky and overly frozen, but this was smooth and decadent.  I was beyond impressed.  In fact, if I had my way, I’d eat the entire pint without sharing.  But I did…share.  And my roommate (who loves ice cream and can have regular stuff) absolutely loved it.  She agreed, the coconut-caramel base really makes this dessert shine.  I am in love!!

Let’s discuss the ingredients that go into this pint of Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel & Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert.  This ice cream is made from organic coconut milk, organic agave syrup, organic caramel, organic caramel swirl, organic fair trade dark chocolate, organic coconut cream, organic coconut oil, and sea salt.  This delicious dessert is cholesterol free, soy free, gluten free and vegan.

Now, let’s talk about nutrition.  Welcome to the world of coconut milk.  You will see a few more calories and a bit more fat.  But it is a healthy fat, so try not to freak.  That being said, this is a dessert and should be treated as a treat.  Don’t eat the entire pint (even if you want to!).  A serving of Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel & Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert is 1/2 cup.  This serving will dish up 210 calories and 14 grams of fat.  This serving will also give you 200 mg sodium and 18 grams of sugar.  You will be taking in 21 grams of carbohydrates, 1 gram of protein, and 1 gram of fiber.  It’s ice cream…it’s not going to fill you up.

Looking for a new way to shake up your dessert?  I highly recommend the much acclaimed Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss line of non-dairy frozen desserts.  Especially the Salted Caramel & Chocolate pint…because it doesn’t get much better than salted caramel and chocolate.  For real!

Luna & Larry's Organic Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel & Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

Luna & Larry’s Organic Coconut Bliss Salted Caramel & Chocolate Non-Dairy Frozen Dessert

 

Restaurant Review: Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.), Charleston, South Carolina

Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.), Charleston, South Carolina

Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.), Charleston, South Carolina

Restaurant: Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.), Charleston, South Carolina

With every marathon I run, there is also a celebratory meal.  Usually it is on the same day of said race, but Charleston is an odd duck in that it’s marathon runs on Saturday.  And we already had eating plans on Saturday.  So, instead of changing everything around, we just decided to have the fancy, special meal on Sunday night.  And, after scouring a list of places that Amanda sent me (all of which had gluten-free items), it came down to two options – Poogan’s Porch and Slightly North of Broad.

Cathy chose in the end…opting for Slightly North on Broad because of one item on the menu that caught her eye.  This was fine with me…there was this amazing honey drizzled fruit plate dessert on their menu that sounded beyond amazing.  So…when Amanda came over to help with the planning session…this was decided.  And, to make the occasion even more special, Janet (Cathy & Amanda’s mom), offered to pay for our big meal out this trip.

The best part about where we were staying was that Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) was literally right across the street from the hotel.  Seriously.  So, this meant we could stay out and explore until we absolutely had to return to our rooms.  Then, we could all clean up and head out to eat, then come back to change and go out for some more exploring!  Of course, when Cathy chose this restaurant, we had no idea this was the case.  Amanda enlightened us.  Odd, how when it came to eats the only one we really ventured out further than the immediate area of our hotel was Brown Dog Deli.  And we were over that way anyway as I was shopping for spices, tea, honey and other local goodies.  HA!

So Sunday morning and afternoon was spent walking the streets and cemeteries of Charleston.  Honestly, if you ever get to visit this amazing city…just walk it, duck into places, explore.  You can take tours, yes, but sometimes it’s just fun to get out there and just find something that intrigues you.  I was fortunate enough to have Richie and Amanda with me, to act as the local tour guides.  They might as well be locals.  They know where everything is…how to get there…and come to Charleston often enough it’s second hand.  But, even if you aren’t traveling with your own walking guide books…try something new.  We returned about an hour and a half before dinner so we could clean up and get ready to make the walk across the street.  I took a shower and changed and then we met Amanda and Richie at their room before hoofing it over to S.N.O.B.

We only had a brief wait while they prepared our table for our 6:15 p.m. reservation.  And once we were seated and water (and Coke for Richie) was poured, we were left to peruse our menus until our waitress came over to the table.  We immediately informed her that I was a gluten free vegetarian, and she immediately opted up with the Vegetable Plate that they serve.  She also said she could see what else could be done for me, but a big plate of seasonal and local vegetables sounded absolutely delicious to me.  My decision was made.  Now the rest of my dining party needed to ponder what they were going to have.  The server gave us a few more minutes to decide.

So, let’s discuss S.N.O.B. here, while we are deciding on food, eh?  Because this seems like as good a place as any.  S.N.O.B. is described as “an eclectic Lowcountry bistro that brings together an abundance of local ingredients and thoughtful, expert presentation with a friendly, contagious energy.”  In other words, very big on farm to table.  Love that.  They have a nice open kitchen, which I absolutely loved since I love being able to glance over and see what is being prepared as it is being prepared.  The food they make is the product of the local farmers, fishermen, and producers.  So…very Sean Brock.  And I love Sean Brock.  And if you don’t know who Sean Brock is…Google him now and learn!  The setting is low-light, candles, white table cloth, and soft conversations.  You get the sounds of the kitchen…the sizzles, the flames, the dishes clinking, all mixing with the pouring of wine and water, and the clink of silverware as it scrapes up that last bit of food from a pristine white plate.  This is S.N.O.B.

So…there it is.

When our waitress returned we all had finally settled on what we were going to eat.  Richie opted for the Pan Seared Duck Breast ($27.00), which includes savory blue cheese bread pudding, fig jam, Brussels sprouts, and a honey thyme reduction.  He saw duck…he knew what he wanted.  Amanda ordered the Grilled Pork Chop ($27.00), which is served with crispy confit potatoes, cabbage, and topped with a sorghum and whole grain mustard glaze.  Cathy was the foodie of the group and wanted to try something more than just a large appetizer plate, so she did a medium plate with an appetizer, which is recommended on the menu.  For her appetizer, she went with the Herb Crusted Eggplant ($12.00), which is topped off with buffalo mozzarella, green heirloom tomatoes, some sprouts, and pesto.  For her entrée, she opted for the Carolina Quail ($16.00), which comes with braised greens, tasso cornbread stuffing, Muscadine glaze (that’s from a particular grape, FYI), and quail jus.

As for me…I did go with the Vegetable Plate ($20.00), which is described on the menu as being “a variety of the best vegetables we can find.”  Hey…I’m a vegetarian.  There are very few vegetables I don’t like.  Very few.  So…our order was in and we fell into the din of conversations, discussing everything from our events that day to the other people in the restaurant, to wine bottles we could see from our seats, to how much fun we were having.  Lots of laughter and lots of fun going on.

Cathy’s appetizer was up first and we all cast out our appreciative ooohs and ahhhs at the tower of eggplant, cheese, tomatoes, and greens, all soaking in a small pool of pesto.  She sliced into it, and said that the eggplant was actually really well cooked and that the cheese was amazing.  However, as she went on eating, she got tired of the sprouts getting caught in her teeth, and eventually that herb crust got completely mushy with the mix of the eggplant juice, the pesto, and the juicy tomatoes on top.  So, it started off really well…but in the end…all went to mush.  She polished it off, save for those greens on top though.

A little after her plate was cleared away, the main courses arrived.  Amanda had the largest pork chop I had ever seen in my life.  It was only polished off with some help from Richie and Cathy.  But…she did eat all her potatoes.  Richie’s duck was cooked perfectly and I had never seen him clean a plate until this meal.  Cathy was less impressed with her entree, finding her favorite part of the quail to be the pan seared area where it was crispy.  She hated the greens with a passion (and she eats greens…I cook them at home).  And her favorite part of the plate…the tasso corn bread.  Everything else left her rather…unimpressed.

S.N.O.B.'s Vegetable Plate

S.N.O.B.’s Vegetable Plate

As for me…when they said a plate of vegetables, they weren’t kidding. Upon further looking at the menu, what I have found is that this plate is a compilation of every vegetable in house and offered as a side on the menu.  This plate was mounded high with high fiber vegetables that were cooked however the side was to be cooked, and paired with three different starches.  It was beyond filling.  This plate included grilled eggplant, heirloom tomatoes, green beans, portobello mushrooms, grilled okra (on the list of vegetables I hate with a passion, so these got left behind!), broccoli (with a sprinkle of Romano cheese), sautéed spinach, caramelized onions, caramelized Brussels sprouts, maverick potatoes, Charleston gold brown rice with some butternut squash, yellow grits (with cheese), some sprouts on top, and some sweet pepper jelly mixed in.  The plate was a mish-mash of vegetables, no real plating flair…just piled high.  In fact, I didn’t realize I had an heirloom tomato until I moved the eggplant.  It was hidden below.  That being said…the green beans were…well…green beans.  I thought the potatoes were that weird overly-whipped consistency, and ate them by mixing them with one of the vegetables…like green beans or some eggplant just to give it a better texture.  The spinach was delicious.  I didn’t eat the okra because…GROSS.  The eggplant was grilled and good enough…though a touch under-seasoned.  The tomato was messy, but fresh and delicious.  I love that little hit of sweetness.  My favorite things on the plate were the grits, the Brussels sprouts, and the rice.  All of which I saved for the last things I ate.  And when I was done, I wasn’t sure if I was impressed or not…but it was a massive plate of food that was very filling indeed.  I mean, I didn’t dislike it…it was just…okay.  They definitely give you $20 worth of vegetables.  All local and fresh…so I will give them credit for that.

Afterwards we were asked about desserts.  I already had my heart set on something, even though I was filled up to the max.  You only get to celebrate once, right?  So…to hell with it…desserts all around.

Amanda and Richie decided to split the Crème Brûlée ($7.00), which was a creamy vanilla custard with caramelized brown sugar topping.  Cathy went with the Vanilla Ice Cream with a Shortbread Cookie ($6.00) for her dessert.  It also came dressed with fresh strawberries.  As for me…I went with what caught my eye originally on the menu in the first place…the Fresh Fruit Plate ($7.50), which came drizzled with local honey.

Desserts are a must for me.  I love trying desserts when I can.  And fruit is one of my favorite desserts to polish off a meal with.  The whole drizzled with local honey was an added bonus.  Our desserts arrived.  Richie had never had a Crème Brûlée before, so this was his first foray into that.  Cathy’s ice cream looked fantastic and she crumbled the cookie over it and dove in, enjoying the fresh berries for that added bit of sweetness.  My fruit plate consisted of grapes, strawberries, sliced apples, sliced bananas, spear slices, and chunks of fresh pineapple.  All of it, as promised, was drizzled with local honey, adding to the sweetness of the plate.  But it worked. I mean, it was a plate of fruit, but I couldn’t be happier with it.  Everything was perfectly ripe, juicy, and amazing.  Delicious and perfect way to end the meal.

While I certainly enjoyed my meal at S.N.O.B., when I return to Charleston next time, I will definitely investigate other options.  I am happy for the experience, and loved the company, but the food was just okay to me.  Maybe it’s my dietary restrictions…but I wasn’t overly impressed.  Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike S.N.O.B. by any means.  The food was cooked well and tasted good for the most part.  But…there is so much more to taste in Charleston…so while the dinner was nice, I’m eager to go elsewhere next time.

S.N.O.B.'s Fruit Plate dessert

S.N.O.B.’s Fruit Plate dessert

Restaurant Review: Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria – Epcot – Disney World

Via Napoli - Italy Pavilion - Epcot

Via Napoli – Epcot – Disney World

Restaurant: Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria – Epcot – Disney World

It was Epcot Day!  YAY!  I love Epcot Day.  I don’t know why…because so much of it features the World Showcase…which during the Food & Wine Festival…features foods from all over the world.  Even the regular pavilions that are standard in the showcase don’t offer much for a gluten-free vegetarian.  But I still love Epcot Day.

Since we were in Epcot, on our final night, we wanted to go somewhere in the park for dinner.  It took a little bit of back and forth, but we finally decided on Via Napoli Ristorante e Pizzeria.  It had gluten-free pasta on the menu, so we were good.  Something I could eat.  Which, definitely was important on Epcot Day…as our morning actually started at the Magic Kingdom…where we at Dole Whip for breakfast.  Pictures were taken for proof.  I am not ashamed.

But…let’s fast forward.

The entire day was spent doing a few rides and exploring the World Showcase.  My friend, Jenn, was having a difficult time on the last day.  Her feet…her poor feet…had blisters in places I didn’t know one could get blisters.  It was a slower moving day, but I was fine with that.  Take in the showcase.  Stop and watch the new Lumberjack Show.  I miss Off Kilter though…I’m not going to lie.  Cathy snagged a lunch in Morocco (she had to have her lamb shawarma!), while Jenn and I toddled over to Brazil for the (naturally gluten-free) Pao de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread).  I later had one of my protein bars and half of a clementine (Jenn had the other half) because dinner reservations weren’t until 7:45 p.m.  Late.

But, we made use of our time…checking out different things along the way, resting when Jenn needed to get off her feet, exploring the different countries, and shopping.  Of course.  We got in line for the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros at the Mexican Pavilion…and that sort of ate up (see what I did there?) the rest of the evening down time before food.  It was a bit of a stroll back to Italy in Epcot…but Jenn was a trooper…and she got there.

I went up to the hostess desk in the very crowded lobby and let her know we were there for our reservation.  She asked me some questions, it was hard to hear her over the din of the lobby.  But we got it worked out.  And, of course, my food allergy thing.  So, there was a short wait…but after about 5 or so minutes, the lobby was emptying and we were up next.  The really nice hostess took us all the way to the back for a table with a bench and two chairs.  Cathy and I sidled up on the bench.  Jenn took the chair this time.

We. Were. Starving.

I perused the menu and noted that, yes, gluten-free pasta was the only option for me.  The downside…none of the listed pasta dishes on the menu were vegetarian.  Yikes.  As I was just starting to look at the menu, the customer liaison came over to speak to me about my food allergy.  He noted the gluten-free and pointed out that they do not have gluten-free pizza but any of the pasta can be done gluten-free.  And then he was off.

Which left our poor waiter to be the one who would have to seriously help me out.  Not that he minded.  And as I am the tricky one…I ordered first.  And my first statement was…

“Well, I am a gluten-free vegetarian…so…”

He came over to my side of the table to look at the pasta dishes.  “Gluten-free…it’s easy,” he said.  “The vegetarian…”  He looked at all the pasta options again and finally said, “I tell you what…we will have the chef prepare some mushrooms and vegetables with our marinara sauce.”

Works for me.  Order in.

Jenn opted for the Lasagne Verde, which is a white lasagna that is stuffed with spinach, parmesan, ricotta, and a besciamella sauce ($22.00).  Cathy went for her go-to when we first go to an Italian restaurant…the Spaghetti e Polpettine, which contained hand-crafted veal meatballs in a tomato sauce ($21.00).  I have to say, I usually giggle a little when Jenn orders something with cooked spinach or vegetables in it…because most of those veggies get tossed to the side of the plate.  But…she is Italian…and she knows her Italian food.

We waited for a bit…no gluten-free rolls or any bread at all at the table.  We watched a woman at the table next to us devour an entire pizza on her own, while her dining companions watched her.  And as she was taking her last few bites, their food arrived.  It was weird.  We couldn’t figure out if they were just there to watch her eat (like some crazy Disney World food challenge or something)…but…who knows.  She then got to watch all of them eat so…turn around is fair play…or something?

But, soon our attention turned to our own food as our dishes arrived and were delivered before us.

Pasta with Veggies and Marinara

Pasta with Veggies in Red Sauce

I have to say, my bowl of pasta was beautiful.  A good helping of marinara sauce (which would have been awesome with a gluten-free bread product of some type!) with a variety of vegetables cooked in.  I spotted zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms immediately.  And the gluten-free pasta was fusilli…so twisty and perfect for capturing delicious sauce.  I will call this dish…”Pasta for the strange gluten-free vegetarian at the table in the back.”  Or…more simply…Pasta and Veggies in Red Sauce ($22.00).

Now, this is the second Italian restaurant I have visited at Disney World.  Normally we just head over to Hollywood Studios and enjoy our food (complete with gluten-free dinner rolls and gluten-free dessert!) at Mama Melrose’s.  But since were were in Epcot…we figured it would be easier to eat there than park hop.

I sort of wish we park hopped…

It’s not that Via Napoli was bad.  It wasn’t.  The food was actually quite good.  It was just…average though.  The pasta in my dish was actually cooked to perfection.  A lot of gluten-free pastas, especially when crafted from rice flours, tend to get gummy and fall apart.  These were a perfect al dente and held up to the marinara and the vegetables.  But…there was a lot of pasta in that dish and I ended up picking out the veggies at the end and leaving the noodles alone.  I ate about 3/4 of the dish…and that was it.  I was done.  The marinara had a lot of flavor to it.  And the vegetables were a nice touch and I appreciate the chef at Via Napoli for doing that to accommodate my dietary needs.  I just…had better.  Elsewhere.

Jenn enjoyed her lasagna…after she picked out most of the spinach.  And Cathy made sure to eat all of her meatballs.  They were much smaller than what she normally gets in a spaghetti and meatball dish, so she appreciated that too.  But she too had to soldier on and leave some of her pasta noodles behind.

No dessert here for us…we had plans.  Cathy wanted her chocolate cannoli from one of the gelato carts in the World Showcase, and I headed to France to get some Salted Caramel Gelato from an ice cream shop there.  Yummy!

So, as it stands, Via Napoli put out good food.  I can’t think of anywhere at Disney where I have had bad food.  It’s just…Mama Melrose’s had more options for me…and a bit more to offer.  So next time…I think I’ll return to Mama Melrose’s.  But, thank you, Via Napoli, for the fine cuisine.  A little taste of Italy never goes wrong with me.

Restaurant Review: Red Rooster, Harlem, New York

Red Rooster, Harlem, New York

Red Rooster, Harlem, New York

Restaurant: Red Rooster, Harlem, New York

I totally broke tradition.  I did.  I was in New York City to run the TCS New York City Marathon…and so far I had managed really amazing gluten-free pizza the night before the race.  Normally, after I race, my friends and I go to a pub to celebrate the occasion.

Not. This. Time.

But, it was of my own doing that we ended up in Harlem just after 6 p.m. on Sunday evening.

How?

Well…since we were going to be in New York City, I thought it might be fun to check out a restaurant that belongs to one of my favorite chefs of all time.

The venue: Red Rooster.

The chef: Marcus Samuelsson.

After all, we were celebrating my finish at the marathon earlier that afternoon.  Why not make it special.  So, yeah…I broke tradition and decided to forgo the pub for something…a little different.  And I have never made a better decision in my life.

Prior to heading to New York City, I had told Cathy that I really wanted to go into Harlem and eat at Red Rooster.  She knows how much I adore Marcus Samuelsson.  And, honestly, we’re both foodies…she was right there with me.  So, she went ahead and called the restaurant and talked to them about reservations on marathon eve.  She mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian and they said that food for me would not be an issue.  With that done, Cathy set up a reservation for 6 p.m., giving me plenty of time to run, shower, walk around, come back and change, and get there with my group of friends.  We had reservations for 4 people…me, Cathy, Heather, and my good friend Marisa.

So, that night, I dressed up in this elegant vintage dress…but kept on my recovery compression socks (and wore them with my heels, HA!), and my three friends and I went down to the subway and hopped the train to Harlem.  We emerged steps away from Red Rooster.  Literally.

And about 10 minutes late.  Whoops.  But…we got there…before they handed our table away.

We were seated near the kitchen, which was fantastic for me because I could see the people bustling around in there, working hard at the various stations.  I loved the feel of Red Rooster…very chic casual.  A fun, vibrant, laid back, but classic vibe.  It was the kind of place I would want to return to and bring everyone I know…at least once.  Totally my style.

Our server, Ryan, came over to greet us.  He said that if we had any questions regarding the menu to let him know.  I mentioned that I was a gluten-free vegetarian, and he said that wouldn’t be a problem.  In fact, he would go and talk to the chef and see what they could do for me.  I thanked him and we all studied the different menu options.  At one point, I know Cathy was trying to convince Marisa to try the soup with tripe in it, but that wasn’t happening.

Ryan returned, and said that he mentioned that I had run the TCS New York City Marathon and was a gluten-free vegetarian, to which he said the chef would like to create a dish for me.  I was thrilled and thanked him for checking.

Glasses of Brotherhood Riesling

Glasses of Brotherhood Riesling

With that said, Cathy took one matter into her own hands.  We were, after all, celebrating.  So, she ordered a bottle of wine for the table.  We went with a sweet wine (Heather prefers dry…but she was a good sport), opting for a local Riesling – the 2013 Brotherhood from Washingtonville, New York ($48.00).

We were ready to order, it seemed.  Ryan already had mine.  He said the chef was going to do up a Vegetable Plate ($21.00) for me.  So, I was excited to see what would emerge from the kitchen.  Cathy went with Marcus Samuelsson’s signature dish – Helga’s Meatballs, which are served with lingonberries, braised green cabbage, and buttermilk mashed potatoes ($23.00).  Heather ordered the Triple-Double Burger, which is served with bacon, jarlesburg, and rooster sauce ($19.00).  Marisa did a little picking and choosing, and went with the Upstate Farms Squash Soup, which includes yogurt, honeycrisp apples, and lentils ($12.00) with a side of the Cornbread ($4.00).  And, because they sounded good…Heather and I split a side of the Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts ($8.00).

Red Rooster Entrees: Helga's Meatballs, Upstate Farms Squash Soup, and Triple-Double Burger

Red Rooster Entrees: Helga’s Meatballs, Upstate Farms Squash Soup, and Triple-Double Burger

Ryan went to put or order in and we all got down to talking about New York, about work, about life, about the race, about food, about events…whatever we wanted to talk about.  We were in no rush and the restaurant was not rushing us.  I loved being able to just drink in the atmosphere.

Just before the food arrived, Ryan returned with our Riesling bottle, pouring a little bit into Cathy’s glass.  Cathy lifted the glass and took a sip.  And it was love at first taste for her.  So he poured some in each of our glasses, and I made sure to keep drinking my water too.  No dehydration here.

And then…our entrees arrived, each one settled down in front of us carefully.

The plates…were gorgeous!

Chef Creation: Vegetable Plate - Curried Black Eyed Peas, Charred Broccolini, Berbere Carrots and Parsnips, and Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Chef Creation: Vegetable Plate – Curried Black Eyed Peas, Charred Broccolini, Berbere Carrots and Parsnips, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts

The chef created a fantastic dish for me.  In a bowl on my left was Curried Black Eyed Peas.  And on the platter beside it…Charred Broccolini, Berbere Carrots and Parsnips, and Roasted Brussels Sprouts.  Oh…I will note, these Brussels Sprouts tasted different than the side that Heather and I were splitting.  It was chef magic.  And it was a beautiful and gorgeous plate.  One that I looked forward to eating.

Let’s start with the Curried Black Eyed Peas.  Just…WOW.  WOW!  So much flavor.  Lots going on.  And yet…simple.  I like to traditionally have black eyed peas on New Years Day…and this is how I would want them this year.  For real.  Just this incredible depth of flavor with the curry spices.  Not hot…just simply bringing out more of the peas themselves.  One of the best dishes involving peas of any sort I have ever had in my life.  And, trust me, I’ve eaten plenty.

The vegetables that the chef prepared were a delicious and filling treat for me.  The broccolini was gorgeously cooked and vibrant green.  It had the right amount of crisp to it, yet, still soft and easy to bite through.  I love broccolini, and this was just as it should be…simple and delicious.  The Brussels Sprouts were roasted to perfection, giving that outer layer some depth of flavor, yet keeping the vegetable itself soft on the inside.  Fork tender perfection.

My favorite thing, however, on that plate was the Berbere Carrots and Parsnips.  HOLY COW!  This side is exactly why I rushed out to a spice store in order to purchase berbere.  This spice is awesome.  It has this great flavor to it, followed with a little bit of heat at the end.  It paired beautifully with this root vegetables.  In fact, these were what I saved for my last bite.  Completely in love with a plate of vegetables.  How amazing!  My compliments to the marathoning chef.  My meal was sheer perfection.

Red Rooster's Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Red Rooster’s Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts

And I know you’re wondering about the Hearth Roasted Brussels Sprouts that Heather and I split, right?  Of course you are!  These were different from the ones that were on my plate.  These sprouts had this amazing char to them, but also hit up with a bit of a lemon or citrus flavor.  Sprinkled on top were macadamia nuts.  It was a combination that I hadn’t had before with Brussels sprouts…and I liked it.

But, wait…there is more!

Because when we celebrate we get dessert too!  We were handed the menus so we could peruse the options.  Ryan was taking care of another party at that moment, so I asked the new server about gluten-free options.  She highly recommended The Green Apple Viking Delight ($11.00).  I was game.  Heather actually ended up doing that too.  Leave it to the Scandinavian Minnesotans to order something with the word “viking” in it.  HA!  Cathy knew she wanted to have cheesecake in New York City, so her choice was the obvious one…Vanilla Cheesecake, served with yogurt, a granola crumble and pomegranate sorbet ($11.00).  Marisa went for the signature dessert of the restaurant, the Red Rooster Doughnuts, which are filled with sweet potato and coated in cinnamon and sugar ($12.00).  It came with an icing to dip them in as well.

Red Rooster's Vanilla Cheesecake and Red Rooster Doughnuts

Red Rooster’s Vanilla Cheesecake and Red Rooster Doughnuts

 

Red Rooster's Green Apple Viking Delight

Red Rooster’s Green Apple Viking Delight

Desserts arrived shortly after and…yeah…we were quite happy with our choices.  I thought The Green Apple Viking Delight was like a cold crème brûlée.  It was a green apple sorbet set on top of a white chocolate fennel cream.  On the side was chopped apple and fennel.  And a little tuile was set on top, giving it a little crunch and texture.  I was totally in love with the flavors, even though I wasn’t completely certain, at first, that they would work.  They complimented each other perfectly and each bite was a burst of sweetness, with a bit of richness from the white chocolate.  Divine.

Cathy loved her cheesecake (it looked deconstructed…so cool!) and Marisa was more than pleased with the doughnuts.  Needless to say…we are girls.  Desserts are awesome.  But these…these took awesome up to the next level.  Which I guess is phenomenal.  Or, in the culinary world, a sweet note to end the night on.

We left the restaurant completely satisfied with the meal.  The ambiance of Red Rooster was like no other restaurant that I have been in to date.  A live jazz band had started to play during our desserts and we really just took a moment to not only savor the food, but savor the experience as well.

I have been a Marcus Samuelsson fan for years…being able to eat at his restaurant was a dream come true.  Having a dish created for me, and having a careful and very caring staff made it unforgettable.  I was congratulated so many times on finishing the marathon.  It was an amazing day, but that night really just sealed it as one of the best days of my life.  Good race…good friends…good food…good times.

Thank you, Marcus Samuelsson and Red Rooster.