living gluten-free: dining at senza

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Dining out gluten-free can be a pain.  Since being diagnosed with Celiac about a year ago we’ve established a pretty good base of good restaurants with gluten-free options in the neighborhood, places where I could eat and not worry about anything being contaminated or accidentally prepared with gluten.  And I can almost always relax at those placed and generally enjoy eating out.  But there’s still the bread basket I can’t eat, the fact that I have to say “no, I can’t” when someone offers that I try their delicious dish (which is inevitably pasta or breaded or dredged in flour or marinated in soy sauce or the bacon crumbles on the top are fried in a deep fryer that also fries breaded items…).  I can’t try any of the fancy locally brewed beers and I worry about ordering cocktails.  In the end, it’s not so bad that I have to stick to wine and whatever gluten-free meat/veggie option there it, but mostly I just don’t like being the annoying person at the table.

So, as part of our birthday celebration this year, I booked a table at Senza, a restaurant I’ve heard about from many people whenever the fact that I have Celiac comes up (and it always comes up 😉 ).  The restaurant is entirely gluten-free but it doesn’t advertise itself as such.  Instead, the experience at Senza centers around Executive Chef Noah Sandoval’s unique take on new American cuisine, focusing on fresh, local ingredients and a blend of modern and classic techniques.”  He just happens to not use gluten in anything.

It was a truly wonderful experience and a really great birthday present for me.  I started the evening with an amazing cocktail that included a combination of tequila, mole and rosemary.  Since there were two of us, we opted for the four course menu and decided to taste a bit of what each other ordered.  I wouldn’t be able to describe each course in detail, but can say that the experience overall was so delicious and so much fun.  The service was absolutely incredible and each course brought out to us was fun, creative and deliciously complex in flavor and texture.  And for those that are wondering – there was bread served – and it was really good – a small loaf for the two of use to share, sliced and grilled just for a moment to warm it.  But the best part of the whole experience – even if you take out the delicious food – was the fact that I didn’t feel different and I didn’t have to ask for anything special.  I just sat – and drank & ate & enjoyed a fancy dinner out without a worry in my mind.

If you’re in the Chicago area, gluten-free or not, Senza is a restaurant worth trying.

a saturday at the farmer’s market

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Last Saturday morning, instead of rushing off to the hospital around 5:30am, I slept in – until 6:30 (!) – then headed straight to our local farmer’s market.  Wow, was it a beautiful morning.  It was still a bit cool, the sunlight still soft, and the tables upon tables of August’s best were nothing short of stunning.  With my camera in tow, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity for some extra practice.

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