While it's great to point out chains and restaurants that have gluten-free menus (oh the ecstasy of choice!), every now and again I like to pay some attention to those restaurants that are especially accommodating despite not being GF. This weekend, we went to a place that had the perfect balance of romance, “safe” food, and interactivity: The Wine Cellar in Boston.
The wine aficionado in me was overawed by the extensive wine list; even my husband couldn’t resist stating “A guy could get in some serious wine trouble here” several times as the night (and the drink tab) progressed.
But as seductive as the wine list was, it was the fondue that provided the real entertainment of the night. I’m the first to admit that when I think of fondue, images of my parents in their 1970s garb of polyester plaid and gargantuan shaded glasses huddled around a pot of bright yellow cheddar cheese come to mind. Okay, so maybe the only used their fondue set once or twice in their early years, but they are the point of reference I had for fondue at all.
Who knew food on sticks could serve as the perfect date night for a celiac girl and her foodie husband? The appetizer course was cheese (naturally), in our case a queso made of cheddar, cilantro, white wine, roasted red peppers, and onions. In addition to the bread, they served potatoes and, by request, steamed veggies. They made our queso with cornstarch, assuring us the only difference was that this GF version might break apart sooner. Our solution? We basically inhaled the entire pot before it even had time to separate.
“We just ate a bathtub of cheese,” I groaned, holding my stomach. “We’re disgusting.”
“Yeah we did,” countered my husband, clearly proud of our prowess, who lives by the motto that there is no such thing as enough cheese.
To our pleasant surprise, the entrees and their assorted dipping sauces were naturally gluten-free. Well technically, my first surprise was that fondue entrees involved anything other than cheese, but once I figured out that we got to select four meats and that everything they came with I could actually eat, our date night got even sweeter.
I’ve talked recently about how much my attitude towards preparing and consuming food has changed—I like everything fresh and healthy, I don’t take shortcuts or eat anything processed or artificial, I am deliberate about what I eat, when I eat it, and how it will make me feel. Part of this is a direct result of getting diagnosed with celiac disease, but part of it is because I married a man who taught me to savor taking things slow, to enjoy cooking as an activity and not merely as the means to supply and end to hunger.
For people who have been working seven days a week for a few months now and needed night to decompress, fondue was the perfect choice. There is nothing more deliberate or conscious than selecting which piece of meat to skewer and place in the steaming pot or broth and deciding how long to let it simmer. Eating a meal piece by slowly-cooked piece like that is an experience that magnifies this approach towards food, and it was fun. Yes, fun. We experimented with all different meat/sauce combinations, we realized that chocolate covered grapes were as delicious as chocolate covered strawberries, and we also realized that when you’re really paying attention to what you eat and who you’re eating with, three hours can elapse and you’d never know it.
The wine didn’t hurt, either.