Macarons and More

Today should be Style Sunday. Should being the operative word there, because it is not actually Style Sunday. Although I had every intention of dressing someone up in something trendy, doing their makeup, and photographing it, I actually spent most of the weekend doing anything but looking cute. It was a tee shirt and yoga pants weekend as I thrift shopped for plates and cups for my food photography, took my brother too and from a County Fair, and met up with a friend to discuss our upcoming plans for our Disney trip.

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This is the face of an exhausted but happy spoonie who has discovered the perfect place to meet for serious travel discussions. While some people might suggest a library, a coffee shop, or even a Panera, I have a bit of a different idea. In my mind, there’s no better place to get some work done or have a serious discussion than the local chocolatier.

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Yeah, hot chocolate is fantastic. It was finally cold enough to have an actual hot chocolate (with cinnamon and hot peppers, just the way I like it.) Before this, I was having to make do with frozen hot chocolate, which is great but definitely not the same.

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But let’s cut to the chase. There’s a real reason I chose this place, and it has nothing to do with their namesake sweet. I am here for one reason, and one reason only: macarons.

Macarons are the standard by which I judge any bakery or restaurant that has them. The best are from Rice and Noodles Vietnamese restaurant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The worst won’t be named, but if you’re at overpriced French bakeries in St. Louis, Missouri- look out.

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I know I shouldn’t judge too harshly. Macarons are notoriously difficult to make. But if we’re speaking truthfully, while the best macarons taste like slightly crispy pillows around a creamy center, the worst ones taste like styrofoam Oreos. And that’s just not acceptable.

Every restaurant has the traditional flavors, like pistachio and strawberry. I give big points for any restaurant or bakery that goes above and beyond the usual offerings while still providing some quality, adorable desserts.

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So when I stumbled through the door of the chocolatier today and neon purple macarons greeted me, I couldn’t help but get excited. Recently, this chocolatier has had some delicious Earl Grey macarons, so I had high hopes. These turned out to be blackberry goat cheese.

I know what you’re thinking. “Goat cheese? In my macarons? That sounds absurd.” You’re right. It does sound absurd. But this was done right. So right. This was delicious.

So while these aren’t ready to knock Rice and Noodles out of the running just yet, I’m glad I have a solid place to snack on some macarons while I write blog posts like this one. I’ll take all of them, please.

Where’s your favorite place to get macarons?

A Southern Celiac is now on Facebook!

Heads up, guys! A Southern Celiac is growing! I now have my own Facebook page, here! Check it out and support me as I continue to improve my blog and share my story!

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On the Facebook page there will be tips, posts, and positivity exclusive to the Facebook page, so check it out if you’re interested. Thanks for the support so far!

Meskerem, St. Louis

If there’s one thing that I love, it’s trying new food. I love finding new restaurants, dishes, and cuisines to taste. When on a trip to St. Louis this week, my husband and I could not think of anywhere to eat. We’d tried the tourist attractions, restaurants off the beaten path, and St. Louis traditions. But nothing looked good.

So while we were driving around near Tower Grove Park, we spotted an Ethiopian restaurant. Neither of us had tried Ethiopian food before, and the place we had planned to go was closed on Mondays. (Is everything in St. Louis closed on Mondays? It always seemed that way when I went to college there.)

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When we walked into Meskerem, there were about three other families there. The waitress took our drink order almost immediately, and brought out our waters quickly. I noticed that the menu (which was listed as gluten free friendly on Urbanspoon) offered gluten free injera, made entirely of teff. Much of the food is gluten free as well, but be sure to ask. We ordered a platter for two and it was out, hot and fresh, in only a few minutes.

Ethiopian cuisine is eaten with the hands and pieces of injera, which was a new experience for us. The food was flavorful, slightly spicy, and definitely interesting. The platter we ordered contained two beef dishes, a chicken dish, and two vegetarian dishes made with lentils. I really enjoyed all of it, but was especially fond of the lentil dishes. My husband preferred the chicken dish, but we finished all the food, which is pretty unusual for us.

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After the meal, I checked out the drink menu and ordered a glass of “Ethiopian Honey Wine.” The waitress said most people can’t drink more than one glass of it, and I can see why. It tastes nothing like any other wine I have ever tried. It’s very sweet, with a bitter aftertaste, which was really interesting. The wine was almost “earthy.” I probably won’t order it again, but I’m glad I tried it.

Next time we are in St. Louis, we plan to try the Somalian restaurant we saw down the street, but when we get a chance we will definitely check out Meskerem again.

Mellow Mushroom, Chattanooga, TN

I love pizza. All pizza. Pepperoni, cheese, veggie, it doesn’t matter. Before I was diagnosed with celiac, I was eating a large Imo’s bacon pizza for every meal. And although I still think that Imo’s makes the best bacon pizza in the world (don’t talk to me, Provel haters), I just can’t do that anymore. Sadly, gluten-free pizza just doesn’t live up to it’s glutened counterpart.

Sometimes I suck it up and eat subpar pizza. Sometimes I just can’t bring myself to do that to my tastebuds, so I eat healthy salad bowls and pretend like they’re covered in cheese and bacon.

When I heard Mellow Mushroom had revamped their gluten-free crust, I was skeptical. Would it be soggy? Burnt? Just kind of weird? Well, I am nothing if not philanthropic, so I decided to try their crust before you did, so you would be prepared with the kind of information you need to make smart purchasing decisions.

At Mellow Mushroom, I found out that all the staff have been well-trained in preventing cross-contamination, the crust is made of ancient grains and not rice flour so it doesn’t break into an awful crumbly mess in your mouth, and that even if you don’t gluten yourself, eating an entire pizza is not a good idea.

To be honest, the only thing I didn’t like about the Mellow Mushroom pizza was the price. It’s only a 12″ pizza, as are most gluten free pizza crusts. Okay, whatever. But to charge the same price as a 16″ pizza, and then say there’s no upcharge because it’s priced the same as a medium pizza? Look, this pizza is missing four inches of medium. After being gluten free for two years, I’m used to ridiculous prices, and I still got sticker shock.

If you can get past the sticker shock, this pizza is good. We ordered a Kosmic Karma, a Mighty Meaty, a Gourmet White, and a House Special.

Image The Gourmet White is a white pizza, as you could guess by the name. Olive oil and garlic, sundried tomatoes, onions and mozzarella topped this one. Then the Kosmic Karma, my favorite, was a red based pizza with pesto, sundried tomato, Roma tomato, feta and mozzarella. The House Special is just Mellow’s take on a Supreme pizza, with meats and veggies. Then the Mighty Meaty, with five types of meat on a red base with mozzarella cheese.

Image The crust is thin and crispy. Since I’m a huge fan of Imo’s pizza, this wasn’t really a deterrent to me. (Can we please throw some Provel and bacon on one of these crusts? Please?) Mellow Mushroom uses top quality ingredients, which can disguise even the worst crust- and I know, I’ve been ordering their pizza since before they changed to a decent crust- but you really could tell that this was a good crust.

It had the texture and taste of a whole grain crust, which I’ve been told is because it is a whole grain crust. Just not the whole grains you’re normally used to. It’s also soy free, rice free, dairy free, and egg free, which means this is an option for vegans or people with other common allergies.

Image If you want to try the new and improved gluten free crust, there are two Mellow Mushrooms in Chattanooga. One is located on Broad Street in downtown Chattanooga, and is my preferred location. The building is older, the area is more interesting, and so are the decorations. It’s a pizza place with a lot of personality. The other location, Mellow Mushroom Waterside, is located near Hamilton Place mall. It’s in a brand new building complex, and seems much more “chain restaurant” to me when I eat there.

If you’re not near either of these locations, you can always search for the nearest Mellow Mushroom if you want a quality gluten-free pizza and have some extra spending money burning a hole in your pocket.

Image Have you tried Mellow Mushroom’s new crust? Where’s your favorite place to get gluten free pizza?