Archive for July, 2011

Whenever I feel like taking a nice drive out to the middle of nowhere (and retriving the wedding cake topper from the garage of the farm where we got married three years ago) I tend to find myself driving up Interstate 83 to the cute little town of Freeland, Md.  If I’m going to go that far I might as well have a place to stop and gorge myself for a good half hour.  Good thing I found such a place (thanks to my cousin and partner in gluten free gluttony, Holly – who I miss, by the way.  Hint, hint, nudge, nudge)!

Hopeful Foodie’s Review Number Two:

The Red Cafe

Cows.  Rolling hills.  Farmland.  Ah, Northern Baltimore County.  When you think of the previous bits of scenery and picture them in your mind, the last things you expect to hear next are the words “allergy-friendly environment” much less “gluten-free (optional) café.”  But this is Baltimore, people – where anything can happen (and usually does in the most unlikely places).

My newest unlikely place is most truly in the middle of nowhere.  Think Middletown Road – where there are more horses than people and you’re more likely to see a field of growing (insert your local crop here)  than the newest housing development.  Out here, plunked down in a little spot of freshly mown grass surrounding a tiny concrete pad is The Red Café – home of what I call the best “slap your mama cheese steak” south of the PA line and the only place I know of that far north that will serve it to you gluten free.

Yes, that’s right.  Gluten free.  Sans the very wheat that is practically growing across the next field and boy, people, is it good! I had my first little adventure here about a year ago with my cousin who gushed over the freshly-made allergy-friendly sub rolls.  I decided to bring my husband with me this time to finally meet the mastermind behind the counter, Dawn Wilson, and chat with her between bites of tender beefy goodness.

Dawn and her family have been running The Red Café for about 10 years now (minus one year that she was too sick with severe IBS to step into the kitchen).  The inspirations behind the allergy-free options were ones she drew from her own personal experiences in the food department. After years of symptoms and no solid diagnosis, the prescription was an Elimination Diet – basically a total cutout of the 5 main food allergens (dairy, soy, eggs, wheat, nuts, plus corn and rice) for a total of 4-6 weeks followed by the slow reintroduction of said foods. In realizing her trigger foods, Dawn decided that if she was going through this, then others were as well.  Thus the start of the revolving menu – and what a joy it is!

Some of the specialty dishes you can order on any given Thursday through Saturday when The Red Café is open aren’t really specialties at all, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t special in the least. For instance, Dawn makes homemade buckwheat pancakes that she uses as wraps for almost any sub and sandwich on the menu and one of every three soups is always vegan and gluten free.  If you call ahead, she’ll even whip up a gluten-free desert for you and your party (her cheesecakes, I was told, are the gem of the shop).  Of course, there is always pizza (and there aren’t too many places around that make them totally homemade like Dawn does).  Like she says, “Can you imagine being five and never being able to have a pizza?” Feggitaboudit.

The motherload, however, are the cheese steaks.  Sure, you can get almost any sub in the shop served on a wheat-less roll, but really?  Give me the beef!  Dawn’s freshly baked gluten-free sub roll is more like a hot-out-of-the-oven slab of Italian focaccia.  You can not only smell the herbs (basil, oregano, and rosemary are my guesses) wafting from the crusty surface, but actually see them, too.  It’s not overly-crumbly, either, like some half-baked attempts at wheat-free bread.  The cut of steak used is a superb choice and goes nicely with either the roll, or my choice, the whole wheat wrap, which was toasted to an almost toothy texture that had me wailing “Al Dente!” to any stray farmer who happened to stumble in. If that wasn’t enough, the lettuce and tomato wedged in this culinary creation were at the peak of freshness.

After talking each other’s ears off for way over 2 hours (including some very colorful topics brought up by Dawn’s hilarious mother, Pat), ranting about the American food culture and writing down more contact emails than I have in a long time, we finally forced our satisfyingly bloated selves out the door and back into Rural Town, USA. The Red Café is more than worth the drive -the atmosphere being so laid back and friendly and of course, the menu which has a little bit of allergy-friendly goodness in a very unlikely place.


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This is my review of Frank’s Pizza and Pasta that first appeared in The Valley Times column, The Gluten-Free Glutton and has now officially been adopted (and branded) by and as The Hopeful Foodie!

For those of you in the Baltimore area, you know how good this place is.  Now, it’s even better being that the lepers of food-allergy-affliction like you and I can finally say yes to croutons yet again!

Mangia to you, my friends.

Cellina – The Hopeful Foodie

Frank’s Pizza and Pasta

Gluten-Free Heaven

By: The Hopeful Foodie

I remember the first time my husband, Tim and I did the walk of shame down to our most favorite Italian pizzeria – it was a few weeks after we both found out we had some serious food allergies (me – yeast and mold, him – gluten) and we just couldn’t get ourselves to break the news.  Imagine our delight when we discovered we could still enjoy some of the best Italian food in Overlea – slightly modified, but as good as ever.

I’m talking about Frank’s Pizza and Pasta on Belair Rd – a 26 year old neighborhood staple run by Armando Buontempo and his wife, Jo Ann. They just introduced a new gluten-free pizza crust to their customers six weeks ago, but the healthy modifications and accommodating atmosphere have been a long time running.

Jo Ann Buontempo says she and her husband started looking into gluten-free options when a friend of hers was diagnosed with Celiac disease (what is said to be a product of the genetic marker that separates the gluten-tolerant from the gluten-repellant).

“I felt bad that she couldn’t enjoy something as simple as pizza,” says Jo Ann. That’s when she noticed many of her customers had the same complaint and decided to up the ante on her research, since she simply felt that “people should have an option.”

And options they will get at Frank’s, who will also serve their well-known pasta fagioli soup minus the noodles, hold the Parmesan cheese from any dish, and make a superb steak salad with gluten-free croutons (my personal favorite) upon request. Every dish is also made with non-hydrogenated oils, which Jo Ann discovered stopped her then-young children’s chronic acid reflux in its tracks years ago.

But back to that crust.  Topped with the shop’s signature sauce, and blend of Italian cheeses, the slightly buttery-tasting shell (which they special order from Canada) more than holds its own next to the rest of the shop’s traditionally-made pizzas (and this coming from a company who resides on the ironically-named Wheat Road).

Frank’s won’t stop with pizza, however.  In the future, the Buontempos plan on bringing in gluten-free pasta (they already have a whole wheat option) and a few wheat-free desserts, something I’ll be waiting in the wings for with fork in hand.  In the meantime, though, reserve me a steak salad – hold the parm, please.


Frank’s Pizza & Pasta

6620 Belair Rd, Overlea Plaza

2 topping gluten-free pizza (ten inch): $14.99

Steak salad: $7.50

Pasta fagioli soup, cup: $4.69

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The Valley Times?  Yeeeah. 

The Hopeful Foodie (on the other hand)? Oh, hells yeah!

The gist of the story: after one column as The Gluten-Free Glutton (which I found out was already taken as a domain name) I decided that home is really where the heart is.  The Hopeful Foodie has been the love-child of my digestive little heart for the past three years.  Through bouts of disillusioned dips in enthusiasms, lack of proper comment volume, the good times and the incredible times, THIS is where I am really meant to be.  Not that I would mind actually being in a paper ( please send all offers for a possibly paid bi-monthly allergy-conscious  foodie column to justcellina@yahoo.com!) but I will always be who I am:

Cellina Taormino – The Hopeful Foodie. 

So consider this the first declaration to the start of an empire.  Revel in the highlights and reviews of restaurants around the state, country and even world that accommodate allergy-sensitive foodies like you and me!  Bathe in the light deliciousness that is rice, bean and tapioca flours!  Dance delightfully in the presence of delicious desserts and battered things that you can actually eat!  Or just read……and be happy.  You might find that you, too, have found your home.  Actually, I guarantee it.

With love and light,

(tempura battered, deep-fried and served on a platter just for you)

Cellina – The Hopeful Foodie

PS: My first article (that I thankfully saved on my hard drive long before it was taken down from the interwebz) will be the first full restaurant review on this site.  In the meantime, you can check out  mini reviews of some of my favorite allergy-friendly restaurants  Here.

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