Pass the bread.
Or, if you’re like one out of every 100 Americans, pass the gluten-free Asian rice crackers.
In response to the recent national attention surrounding Celiac Sprue disease, the digestive disorder for which awareness is growing so rapidly that it’s almost trendy (like the Brangelina of diseases), local restaurants are scoring popularity points with the launch of gluten-free menus, educational dinners and other initiatives.
Before you write it off, sitting there smug knowing you can eat all the wheat, rye or barley you want, think twice. Some studies show that nearly half of the population carries some fraction of gluten intolerance. Since gluten-free menus rely on the freshest, cleanest ingredients, give your tummy a break (or maybe just pretend to be hip enough to have Celiac) and consider ordering off the special menu.
Crave Kitchen and Cocktails was one of the first to get on the anti-wheat/rye/barley train with the launch of its new gluten-free menu. With three members of its service staff suffering from Celiac disease themselves, Crave’s separate gluten-free menu hits close to home. The special menu covers all categories from appetizers to entrees, including a Mahi Mahi favorite, served encrusted with macadamia and coconut, accompanied by a spicy mango chutney sauce and steamed jasmine rice. Nothing restrictive about that. (We also love its Limited Calorie menu, displaying the exact calories and grams of protein and fat in each dish, but that’s another story entirely).
Oak Steakhouse is on its own “gluten-free journey” that began with its first gluten-free dinner, which turned into an educational support event with impromptu speeches by diners telling their Celiac stories. Chef Brett McKee has brought on renowned certified nutritionist Marti Chitwood to collaborate on future efforts, which will include more gluten-free dinners, educational trainings with the entire cooking and wait staff, strict instruction on purchase and storage of ingredients so there is no crossover in preparation, etc. Oak will also debut some new gluten-free menu items and desserts (perhaps a Celiac-inspired version of the famous chocolate cake slice and shot of milk?).
Fat Hen and Fish are among other local restaurants making it easy, starring menu items free of gluten. Ordering right off the main menu, you can be sly and not even let on that the little star had everything to do with your order decision.
For those with the real thing, the Charleston Celiac Support Group gets together every other month (next meeting: 4/20) to talk, learn, share recipes and dine around at local restaurants. To learn more, contact Sara Hinkle at 478-3777
It’s midnight and the party is just starting. Expert host extraordinaire and loved local personality Mickey Bakst has delicately shuffled out the general diners at Charleston Grill who thought they were the last thing on his agenda tonight. Little do they know he has other plans. Like a pro, he clears the way to give entrée to the top Charleston and visiting chefs for his signature private chefs’ party.
Most chefs are out of uniform and sporting civilian clothes tonight. It’s their night, after all, winding down after their full day of demos and dine-arounds. But they never really turn it off. We think they might, but then we overhear a passionate conversation about cumquats from New York and know we’re wrong.
We spot Richard from Bravo’s last season of “Top Chef” (hard to miss him with the mile-high spiked hair) and bee-line straight for him. We nearly shed a tear, telling him that he absolutely should have won, and the gracious TV star just smiles and says, “things work out.” He tells us about a new project he’s working on in LA and jokes about wanting lots of photos with girls this weekend. He’s nice as he can be and excitedly smiles for CHARLIE’s photographer. Click.
The room starts getting overly crowded for just a second and Mickey somehow miraculously corrects it immediately before anyone notices. If only we could see behind the curtain to discover this magician’s tricks.
Chef Bob Waggoner, sporting the traditional Food + Wine Festival white coat tonight instead of that racy black pinstriped one, was thoroughly entertaining all evening. First he’s schooling sweet-as-pie Chef Frank Lee on iPhone applications; then he’s sneaking behind CHARLIE’s reporter, playfully trying to grab the notepad she’s busily scribbling on out of her hand; then he’s snapping photos with our photographer’s camera; and then he’s giving out mouth-to-mouth kisses. A top chef with top personality indeed.
We look across the room and see a bearded Jimihatt hugging a mustached Mike Lata. That’s a hairy bunch of chefs.
The visiting chefs (in from some of the best restaurants in the world like La Bernardin) have wide eyes, excitedly taking in our city that many of them are experiencing for the first time. We get on the welcome wagon.
We tell Chef Ken Vedrinski how much we adore Lucca, and then his friend shows us how much she adores Grappa. We take a whiff and nearly pass out from the drink that can be something like 86% alcohol. But then we get a lesson on how to drink Grappa. She pours a bit of her drink on our open palms and we’re told to rub them together and then sniff. This apparently prepares your body mentally enough for your first sip. Just as we’re wondering who drinks something that you have to pour on your body first, Mickey’s voice bellows like a foghorn, “CLEAR OUT!” Time to go home already? Sadly, yes, but just a few more hours until the next one.
There are few things in life more worth loving than “Project Runway.” Nina’s tough criticism, Kors’ shades, Heidi’s “auf Wiedersehens,” and the popularity rise of words like “Fierce.” But the thing to love most about the show is the contestants. And this season, Charleston will get to root for one of its own.
Gordana Gelhausen, owner of King Street’s clothing boutique GOGA, just finished filming the upcoming season of “Project Runway,” in which she will compete with other talented designers from across the country for the coveted spot of America’s next top designer. Our local Charleston celeb talks with CHARLIE.
“America gives us so much opportunity. Apply yourself!” exclaims Gordana, who is originally from Yugoslavia and has lived in Charleston for 11 years. Only time will tell how far our Charleston friend makes it on the show, which moved the contestants to Los Angeles for the filming of this season. While the finale at New York Fashion Week has been taped, due to a pending law suit between Bravo and Lifetime, everyone remains tight-lipped. You’ll have to tune in to see how our local girl fares with guest judges including Christina Aguilera, Eva Longoria Parker and Rebecca Romijn. Air date of “Project Runway” is still TBD.
Dreaming the impossible is a way of life for Gordana, who has made a career out of doing what she loves, as we reap the benefits. She relates to the women of Charleston because like her, we “embrace femininity and want to be beautiful and unique.”
You’ll find Gordana originals coupled with other designers’ frocks in GOGA. Come for bold styles with a focus on subdued solids; she’s not a print or pattern kind of gal. With a unique ability to create texture through lines and draping, Gordana now focuses on carrying and designing pieces that can be worn from the boardroom to a benefit.
Gordana is currently opening her second store in the Gaslamp district of San Diego, CA, but don’t worry – she still sees Charleston as her home and fully intends to stay with us. So go be beautiful and unique, Charleston, just as the GOGA Gods intended.