WIAW 114 – A Birthday Celebration!
March Warmth and April Flowers
Bring forth May Showers.
Or something… At any rate, after a warm and dry April, we now have a cold and wet first week of May. Whatever…
But, for a change, on What I Ate Wednesday, I’m writing about What I Ate on an actual Wednesday! Last Wednesday, specifically – Rich’s birthday. (With a few nods to things He ate that I did not. Like, you know – birthday cake. With all the gluten and sugar which he, after all, can eat without issues – and generally foregoes at home to make my life easier.)
For breakfast – waffles, and eggs, and ham. These are my waffles, with the eggs on top – he eats the eggs on the side with the ham, and adds maple syrup. The real stuff. None of that “pancake syrup” in my house, even if I’m not eating it. I grew up buying a local farmer’s syrup at the hardware store near my grandmother’s every summer, in Central New York – I know what it can and should be. On the flip side, we’d buy a quart and make it last all year for the four of us. Insist on the best, eat it rarely, and savor it…
And the waffles. This is a new recipe – I’m making it with kefir, but I’ll work up a recipe with buttermilk (I find they’re pretty much interchangeable in most cooking, but I do test before publishing with something I know you can get easily.) It’s one of those where I subbed one thing and forgot something else, and – oh, my! This is good! But now I’m trying to figure out exactly what I did, that half awake morning… I think I’m almost there.
But anyhow – he did seem to like waking up to waffles…
Lunch was more typical. Since it’s been cooler recently than it was a month ago, we’re back to soup. I had a bit more of that ham, and black beans, and I should have taken notes since this was a week ago and I don’t remember… LOL I did use a handy trick I’m not sure I’ve mentioned. I had a little broth but not enough, and a few vegetables but not enough – so I added V-8. I generally keep it (or store brand versions, this isn’t a sponsored post) on hand, because it can be handy for this, or aspic, or a quick gazpacho… any place I’d use tomato juice. Lots of flavor, and a quick vegetable serving, if nothing else is handy. And we’d picked up some tortilla chips – always a bit of a treat for me.
But dinner… OK, see, we hadn’t eaten out much at all for years, for a variety of reasons, but would for birthdays and the like (and an occasional Anne Just Can’t Cook – if I was recovering from a particularly vicious migraine, or an unusually exhausting gig, and needed a little cossetting as well as just food.) When I first went off gluten, I thought sure, no problem, I don’t usually eat bread or pasta anyway… But then I learned about cross contamination – and that I definitely react to it. And, well… that’s trickier… So last year, we stayed in and I made Rich a fancy Indian dinner. And then for my birthday, he bought me theatre tickets, so that was our night out. But now…
Well, I’m always told that our area has many, many gluten free options. And well – it does – if you are looking for cupcakes, or pasta, or (refined flour) pizza… all the things I haven’t eaten for years for other reasons. And I had glanced at Find Me Gluten Free and been a bit put off by some aspects of the crowdsourcing – glowing reviews of restaurants that I knew weren’t conscious of gluten free at all, simply because they served a few dishes with non-gluten grains… That’s all fine if you just think it’s Evil – but not if somebody using the same cutting board will make you sick. But that, and reading those reviews carefully, and some time on websites, was still my best bet.
We found a Vietnamese place, Sao Mai, right in the neighborhood, which we must have walked right past a few hundred times without really registering. It looked promising, but we also made a list of nearby fallbacks, in case it didn’t seem safe once we were there – I have learned to have Plan B (and C, and sometimes D… E is a cheese stick in my purse, but I wasn’t going to have to go that far – we could always just come home.) Most Vietnamese food is naturally gluten free, and this place, like some others, seems to have noticed the advantage of that – a little care and attention brings in a new group of customers.
I talked to the waiter when he brought the menus – and he said those three little words that I love to hear – “I”ll make sure.” He went back, checked with the kitchen, came out and told me which sauce to avoid, which was safe, that the chef was now aware that this was an issue for me… We then did another go-round about my seafood allergy (because nothing can be easy…) and ordered.
It was delicious. We actually ended up with a fairly simple meal, nothing all that fancy – and we know that this place will be an option for those Anne Just Can’t days… (our old Thai fallback no longer is, so that’s good to know.) Rich ate – something with noodles? They’re rice noodles, but the meal wasn’t specifically gluten free, so I didn’t try it. That’s been one of the things to get used to – we no longer taste each other’s meals in restaurants. He has offered to order gluten free so I can, but – partly I don’t want to limit him, and largely… I don’t want him to do that, and then eat bread or cake, and confirm the “it’s just a fad!” mindset. But anyhow – whatever it was (some sort of combination bowl?) – he enjoyed it!
I got a rice and seafood combination (with the sauce I can eat…) Between the gluten go round and the shellfish go round, I’m not sure if it was the waiter or I who forgot about brown rice – which was one reason I chose this dish – but since I wasn’t sure, I didn’t send it back… But the food was delicious! Beautifully cut squid, and shrimp, and some kind of fish cake (which had triggered the double and triple checking, but was fine.) Lots of vegetables. I have no idea what Vietnamese Sauce consists of, but it was tasty (and safe – I was warned away from Lemongrass Sauce.)
And – well – a week later (my reaction, unlike some, isn’t immediately obvious) I have been fine. None of my constellation of symptoms has appeared. Hooray (and sigh of relief…) We have a new Neighborhood Place.
Well, so far, Rich’s Birthday Dinner had been All About Anne – so now we moved on to the part that was for and about him.
Veneiro’s is an Italian bakery – pasticceria, if you know that word – here in the East Village since 1894. Italians, like the French, divide bakeries between the bread bakery and the pastry bakery – which this is. You won’t find an Italian loaf or calzone here, just as you won’t find cookies and cake at a bread bakery. Thirty years ago they expanded into the space next door, and opened a room to serve coffee and their wonderful pastry, and that has been a favorite with Rich’s family for years. When his parents still lived in Queens, they’d come into Manhattan for one reason or another, and then come down and meet us for espresso and cake, and a visit – in some ways, I really got to know them at first over these tables. (Now that they moved South, he puts together semi-annual care packages of Veniero’s cookies…)
So it isn’t a birthday celebration for us without a visit to Veniero’s. I drink cappuccino, which is a treat for me, and he has a piece of one of the more extravagant chocolate cakes. (We even do that on my birthday!) The coffee bar is set up enough away from the bakery that it doesn’t seem to be an issue for me.
And then, a pleasant stroll home, and the birthday was complete.