look ma two hands

After finally emerging from my apartment last Saturday afternoon, the doorman’s emphatic nod at his watch and the ping of another “are you seriously still asleep?” double text were enough to send me right back to the Lower East to continue the previous night’s antics. However, the grumble of an empty stomach urged me to prioritize more important things: brunch.

Following the results of a groggy yelp search for “aca bowl slash health nyc open now,” I hopped off the 6 at Canal Street and soon found myself face-to-face with a man’s camera. After a couple of seconds of “Oh my God, how can he…” while also making sure my good side was closer to the camera, I realized that my good side hadn’t been captured at all. Instead, I saw that this man was trying to get the best angle on a brightly colored bowl of food in front of him. Good sign for a food blogger. I was committed. And also about to pop in a third piece of gum to stave off starvation, so I approached the host stand while craning my neck to get a better look at my photographer’s grub.

An Aussie accent (good sign for even non-GF gfs) called me out for “loit-uh-rang” outside of the restaurant. I couldn’t muster the energy to clarify that I had been posing for man-at-the-window-bar, and instead followed my “mate” (jeez, buy me a bowl first) obediently through the threshold.

Inside, the decor is quite hipster. Waitresses sport an effortlessly chic uniform of high-waisted jean cut-offs and high-top converse reminiscent of the racks at the nearby Vintage Twin, sitting down next to customers or leaning on the table as mesmerized customers order rounds and rounds of matcha just to get more of the accent.  Giant cotton-ball clouds hang from the ceiling and abstract, colorblock paintings protrude from the north wall, while a glance at the room’s ubiquitously constricted napes had me happy that I had opted for the Urban choker.

While its cool decor sets the scene nicely for a new insta–at the end of the day–the promise of cotton orbs did not get me out of bed. Two Hands Cafe is a beacon of hope for celiacs situated amongst the shops and restaurants of Little Italy. While your friends stop by an old pastry shop for an eclair, you can elbow a preteen or two out of your way (I was there at 2 pm and I just barely squeezed into a corner table) and soon find yourself sitting in front of a menu that even codes for gluten free and vegan items. My waitress didn’t blink an eye at my allergy, and my acai bowl was soon delivered. Portions are medium-sized, and that–coupled with the deprivation I felt far from the Bare Bowls of Palo Alto–meant that my pretty, chocolate-y, well-balanced bowl was soon merely a picture on the camera roll.

IMG_0057.JPG

While on my next visit it may be hard to resist the urge to fill the pangs of deprivation I feel without acai bowls on the East Coast, I definitely want to try some of the other GF eats.

Order like a GF would:

Fruit bowl, granola bowl, acai bowl, dans chia pudding (which looked BAE), corn fritters, and all salads. GF Baked goods include almond vanilla, chocolate walnut, and chocolate chip cookies, and their signature banana/walnut bread! While there is no boozy brunch to help you forget about your failed crowd-surfing attempt at LPR, a large menu of coffee, tea, hot/cold matcha, smoothies, juices, almond milk, and kombucha will help to nurse your body back to health.

Bottom Line:

Two Hands’s is the best GF acai bowl I’ve had in the city. While small portions make this spot less than ideal for a date with your muscle-man bf (but apparently ideal if interested in man-in-the-window), it’s perfect for a shopping snack or a ladies’ lunch. And although they lack a GF bread option, you can’t beat the labeled menu and the tasty GF granola. Be prepared to wait if you go for brunch on a weekend or grab some of their raw GF baked goodies to-go with a matcha latte as you head to Nolita to spend window-shop with your (nonexistent) paycheck. Hipsters and insta-famous alike will flock to this mecca for trendy posts, while your GF gf will simply be back for the accents.

 

can I get a side of christian bale with that sushirrito?

Can’t agree with your date on the night’s fare? Feeling indecisive (and in need of a drink) after a day out sightseeing or excelling (or merely excel-ing) in your cube? Reach back to that middle school game, and take your GF to the food court.

Yes, you heard me. In recent years, NYC has seen the rise of the luxury food court. At places like Gotham West Market, Urbanspace, and the Plaza Food Court, good eats take  center stage of the shopping experience. No longer is the food court solely synonymous with Orange Julius or Cinnabon. Instead, gourmet street eats anchor down and fine dining restaurants try trendy, converging to form a mix-and-match “fast casual” experience that cannot be missed.

To check out this new scene, set your Google Directions to the Gotham West Market on West 11th street and you won’t be short of delicious options for your GFs, your foodies, and your boozers alike. The market boasts booths of gourmet street fare, from tacos to sushi to ramen to indian (100% DF GF–stay tuned for a review) to tapas to hot dogs and jerky. They even have your “dinner accessories” taken care of with a coffee shop, an ice cream shop, and expansive wine, cocktail, and beer varieties around the large, warehouse-like room. So for all you daters who struggle to plan, put on a little Hollister cologne for nostalgia’s sake and head over to Gotham West Market for a complete, one-stop date night!

One day after work, I called upon a celiatonic date to join me to check out Uma Temakeria‘s stand in this Hell’s Kitchen “food hall”. Yearning for the buddha bellies & lava nachos of my past life (brb, Sushirrito!), I was dying to try the NYC equivalent. Although not explicitly noted on their menu, a quick note to the owner before our visit helped guide me through the menu. The safest (and most fun) bet for a gf is to assemble your own bowl or sushi burrito, which is assembled as follows:

  1. Pick your base. | GFs can choose either white or brown rice for the bottom of their bowl. Kale is also offered, but be sure to explicitly inquire as to whether it is undressed (no soy sauce) before ordering.
  2. Pick your protein. | Yellowfin Tuna, Atlantic Salmon, Blue Swimmer Crab, Marinated Tofu, and Zesty Tofu are all safe! Again, just be sure to specify your allergy as to avoid contamination with soy sauce.
  3. Pick your veggies. | This is where it gets fun! All veggies are gluten free, and you can pick up to 4 in your burrito or bowl. I opted for the carrots, daikon, cucumber, and green apple (which was amazing). Pickled daikon and carrots, avocado, red pepper, and seaweed salad round out the possibilities for gfs.
  4. Pick your sauce. | While the California in me blocked traffic for the Avocado Lime, the Creamy Miso and Tobanjan Mayo are also non-soy sauce, gf options for those less crazed avocado fans…

While the picture below shows the bowl that I ordered, the seaweed-wrapped sushirrito is a totally valid option for the handsy gf in all of us. While I do recommend making your own burrito as the easiest way to ensure a safe and delicious gf meal, the staff seemed extremely willing to tweak ready-made rolls to avoid gluten. In addition to the bowls ($12) and sushirritos ($11), smaller tasting rolls can be ordered for $6 apiece. Just for an idea, I was content with a cider and a bowl, while my studly non-gf date (you’re welcome, bæ) regretted not ordering the deal of two smaller rolls + 1 side for $13.

For our young, responsible gfs, the void of Orange Julius can be filled with ginger iced green tea, lemonade, and coconut water. Although alcoholic drinks at Uma could not be tweaked for gf happy hour (menu items included sapporo, sake cocktails, and sake), a nearby restaurant boasts an expansive case of beers and ciders, the latter of which are mainly gluten free! As a newly legal GF, I rounded out my fruity green apple bowl with a fun, ACE pineapple cider which boasted gluten-free certification right on the label. Other options included wine, Crabbie’s ginger beer (another non-malted beverage), and a whole shelf of ciders.

The Bottom Line:

Although this food court experience is devoid of the scent of an overly saturated bag of Abercrombie clothes on the plastic chair next to you, I promise that Gotham West Market will take your junior high food court date to a whole new level. The atmosphere in the Gotham West Market makes for a hip, casual date night of fancy street fare and drinks (while you secretly swivel ever so slightly for Batman sightings). While your indecisive date wanders around the food court ogling the menus, GFs should head to the Uma Temakeria for a casual alternative to typical Japanese food. Its make-your-own style allows sushi-loving GFs to control for soy sauce usually rampant in sauces, rolls, and salads, while also offering yummy choices for any date regardless of allergy.

You can make your own, you can sit for hours without feeling pressured by a waiter to give up your table, you can go back for coffee or another round (of ice cream, what were you thinking…), and it’s extremely grammable. What more could you ask for?

So pull up a chair to a corner table, crack open one of the board games waiting on the tables, and take a picture of your super cool pineapple cider while your sushi chef goes to work. You’re sure to be happy and satisfied when you leave Gotham, whether or not you confirm if it’s your date or Christian Bale who flawlessly extracts a Jenga piece while you munch on your ‘rito (and sip a little too much cider).

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Pro Dating Tip: Can’t get enough of the Temakeria? Check out their stand-alone NYC location at 64 7th Ave, open 7 days a week from 11 am to 11 pm! Late nighters should stick with the Gotham West Market, open Sunday-Thursday 11 am to 11pm and 11 am to midnight on Friday and Saturday.

brexit or tex mex it

With two weeks of work (& a few too many microwaveable dinners) under my belt, I asked one of my celiatonic gfs to meet up for dinner tonight. As is usual these days, my amazing normie date put the power in my hands. I searched online for options in her neighborhood in Midtown, once again reveling in the sheer number of possibilities for gf date nights in my new home.

Sifting through my favorite search engines, I finally settled on the Mexican restaurant Toloache after looking through their menu–love you lots, nobread.com! I eventually arrived at the unassuming storefront after weaving through the Midtown jungle of suited financiers & ticketholding tourists. The host confirmed our reservation (very recommended, as the restaurant was full on a Monday night!) and led us to a cute table in the hoppin’ center of the bottom floor. Nearby, non-reservation holders enjoyed margaritas and ceviche at the full bar, while the couple next to us watched a chef at his station in the center back of the dining room.

My non-gf gf and I agreed on a guacamole starter. After initially picking the spicy “roja” option of the three possibilities, the waiter objected right away, citing its soy sauce content as the reason for the lack of gf symbol on the labeled menu. Without even allowing me to fumble for another option after my oversight, the waiter offered to spice up the mild formulation to make what he insisted would be equally tasty. The bus boy brought the corn chips (which he affirmed as GF) & the guac, and we ordered our food as we downed the entire bowl in minutes. When my date ordered a non-gf dish, the waiter even went above and beyond to reiterate that mooching was not an option from her flour-based plate.

But I could only focus on how good hers looked for a few seconds before my plate arrived. I ended up choosing the carne asada tacos (no cheese for GF DF), which come a la carte in a small but scrumptious set of two. In addition to this option, the restaurant boasts some very creative, Americanized Mexican food, with traditional dishes like tacos, carne asada, & paella receiving unexpected twists like cactus salad, Thai basil sauce, avocado fries, kale-jicama slaw, squash, quinoa, and potato gratin. I have to say I’ll surely be going back to try the menu’s expansive options for gfs, but will do so with an additional side of rice and beans.

Bottom Line: Although a little pricy for the serving sizes, the premium is worth it for the confident, knowledgeable staff & ability to alter menu items even if not inherently gluten free. The guacamole was a delicious starter, and the ambience could be equally doable for a date night with a foodie, after-work guac & margaritas, a girls’ night, or a client lunch or dinner. Take your GF gf here and she’ll choose from guacs (no, that plural is not a typo), ceviches, salads, tacos, paellas and more. Your dating life taking a back seat to Brexit? Minutes away from major banks and offices, this place would be perfect for a work lunch or dinner. You’ll be able to guarantee your non-glutened A-game while you seal the deal with your client over gourmet, quick grub! Offices across the city? Be sure to check out Toloache’s 2 other restaurants in Manhattan.

IMG_4799

pictured: gf corn chips, gf specially made spicy guac, and one v gorge guac background 

brunch for your dimes piece

Nestled in a quiet strip of Canal Street, Dimes Restaurant is an unexpected departure from its neighbors’ typical Chinatown fare. Dimes’s scant signage, lack of reservations, & retro, nondescript interior may have you skeptical, but I promise that this place is a fabulous find for a brunch with your gf. Boasting a health-conscious brunch and dinner menu (which doubles as a gluten-friendly menu), the chic café has the feel of a young, hipster Abbot Kinney eatery and will have you instagramming everything from your breakfast bowl to the quirky postcard that comes with your check. Eager to get the weekend started after a rough couple of days at the office? Dimes has you covered. The brunch menu is accompanied by a pamphlet full of hot-sauce laden hangover cures and sweet, fruity cocktails.

When I went to Dimes this morning, we only waited for a couple minutes to get in, just behind one young couple. Although seeming initially rather blasé, the waiter was very attentive to my allergy the second I ordered–immediately clarifying whether my gluten free selection was due to preference, intolerance, or allergy. He was also able to suggest numerous gluten free selections from the menu (which were also rather easily distinguished with the menu’s detailed descriptions) after delivering our bowl-sized coffees with sugar cubes and almond milk.

Curious for the unique take on a California favorite, I decided on the lavender acai bowl while my normie gfs ordered the magic toast & the big salad to share. The lavender acai bowl was an interesting flip on the classic acai bowl–flaunting a strong lavender flavor in the bowl’s slushy base with juicy blueberries and crunchy gf cornflakes to top. However, the big salad was my favorite of the two things that I tried, with super juicy mango, crunchy almonds, dijon-apple cider vinegar, and beautifully shaved carrot strips garnishing a bed of market greens and candy cane beets.

Other gf brunch menu items include the breakfast tacos (request corn tortillas) with spicy mango salsa, the salmon plate and the eggs any style (excluding toast), the chia pudding bowl, the carob acai bowl, and the mango pitaya bowl. The fall salad, simple salad, quinoa bowl, and all possible proteins (hard-boiled egg, avocado, chicken, pickled salmon, and seared tuna) are gluten free as well. Dairy free as well? Not to worry! As I mentioned, almond milk and coconut milk are available to mellow out your bowl of Dimes’s strong coffee blend and the fruity breakfast bowls are all made with coconut and almond milks!

Bottom Line: Find yourself one morning or early afternoon despairing because of the lack of gf options in NYC’s Chinatown? Head on over to the trendy, casual Dimes for a healthy brunch. You’ll find yourself leaving happy, caffeinated and comfortably full with your dreams of dim sum long forgotten & your instagram feed full of colorful plates and quirky cocktail menus. Will definitely be returning for a dinner with my gf soon.

IMG_4414

be careful not to miss this stellar spot because of its unassuming approach to curb appeal!

IMG_4411

pictured: lavender acai bowl (bottom) with big salad (top center) flanked by non-gf magic toasts

IMG_4413

our check, accompanied to our table by this postcard of a bull’s bad hair day with the restaurant’s contact info on the back (@dimesnyc)