I’m sorry, did you say “farinata”?

10 May

I know I haven’t written lately.  I’ve been busy complaining to people IN PERSON about how being gluten-free doesn’t get easier, or more fun, over time.  But Sarah and I love the comments that have been flowing in (okay, trickling — but still!),  so here I am, back again, with a whole new commitment to bitching out loud.

I’m going to start with a story about last week.  It is all about hope, and dashed hopes, and wine on an empty stomach.

My wine glass. Empty, for the second time.

My wine glass. Empty, for the second time.

But it starts a while ago, so I have to open with a little flashback:

Last fall, a cool new restaurant opened in town.  Even though Santa Cruz is (1) in Northern California, (2) a hip college town,     (3) relatively upper middle class, and (4) supposedly a coastal food mecca known (by a hopeful few) as “Berkeley on the Bay”,  good restaurants are few and far between.  Especially when you (by which I mean me) are a little high maintenance.  So we went.  Immediately.

The minute James and I walked in the door I was excited.  Bantam (note hip, bird-related name) had industrial metal windows and  funky light fixtures with Edison bulbs.  It had concrete floors and a bar made out of reclaimed lumber with flakes of paint still left all over it .  Most important, it had a fiery brick pizza oven out of which emerged, every minute or so, a crispy pie covered with fennel or heirloom tomatoes or fresh-pulled mozzarella.

I was sure they would offer a gluten-free pizza crust.

They did not.  They had “farinata”, topped with stinging nettles, and that was the sum total of their gluten-free offerings.   A farinata is a pancake-like thing made out of chickpea flour.  “Kind of like a fried polenta,” the waitress said, and then she told me, twice, that it would NOT be coming out of the pizza oven.  Apparently they prefer to cook their pancake-like things on the stove.

So, what did I do? I ordered the farinata (rhymes with intifada).  I ordered it even though (1) I do not like fried polenta, (2) I was a little nervous about the stinging nettles, and (3) the only reason I was there was for that rocking hot pizza oven.  But I am gluten-free and that means sometimes you have to be flexible.

James had the pizza, which arrived burned (hot HOT pizza oven) but still delicious, he says.

The farinata was hideous.  It tasted beany and it was soggy and, amazingly, the stinging nettles did nothing to redeem it.  I ate one bite.  But I had hedged my bets with a little salad and that was good, so my emotional take on Bantam was, overall, positive.  Not positive enough to warrant an immediate return trip, but good enough to file Bantam in my “sure, I’d go there” file.

Which brings me to last weekend.  James and I were trying to decide where to go to dinner and I (yes – this is my fault) suggested we give Bantam another try.  Surely by now they would have expanded their gluten-free options.  Surely by now  they would have gluten-free pizza crust.  I mean… Domino’s has gf crust (not that I go there, but I’ve seen the ads).

They did not.  The menu, amazingly, was exactly the same as six months ago, except for they had deleted the lovely salad and added pickled vegetables.

Our pickled turnips were not pink. They were white and sad.

Our pickled turnips were not pink. They were white and sad.

And this is why, last Saturday, my entire dinner consisted of a bowl of olives, a dish of pickled turnips, and two glasses of wine.

Also, our bowl of olives was a LOT smaller than this one.  And there was no flower.

Also, our bowl of olives was a LOT smaller than this one. And there was no flower.

What do you get when you take eight ounces of vino and a handful of  nibbles and add that to one hungry woman with a really crabby attitude?  A very short dinner, followed by a stop at 7-Eleven so she can buy herself a fistful of chocolate in a desperate attempt to salvage date night.

Oh, and a husband who suddenly remembered this really important work he had to do on his laptop right when we got home.

I suppose you could say that the point of this story is that, most of the time, I can find something delicious and gluten-free to eat.  And that would be true.

But last Saturday, all I could do was look at those cool Edison bulb chandeliers and the general Brooklyn-based decor, and say to myself, “We are never, ever, EVER coming back to Bantam.”

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6 Responses to “I’m sorry, did you say “farinata”?”

  1. akismet-415a3572d9d070bcd2c80dc0f90c46f9 May 10, 2013 at 4:38 am #

    This made me laugh. Especially the line, “farinata (rhymes with intifada).” I almost giggled out loud. But really, why did you go back after your first fiasco?

    • swoondesign May 10, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

      Thanks for your note! But I find myself wondering what you were doing up at 4:38 in the morning reading our blog. I’ve heard that insomnia can be a sign of celiac. Along with excessive sleepiness, weight gain, weight loss, crabbiness, skin eruptions, digestive discomfort, hairy palms, bizarre acts of strength, the stigmata….

  2. Louisa Eastman May 10, 2013 at 12:44 pm #

    This is frustrating! The restaurant should be closed (I wish that for all restaurants that are not with the times like this). I have been in a similar position at restaurants and I actually have left. I hope your next night out goes better.

  3. Kelly May 15, 2013 at 10:44 pm #

    Eating gluten free is a gigantic pain in the butt. I have celiac and have suffered some indelicate consequences by not abiding by the diet. But, why, oh, why, did you not call this restaurant to ask about their gf options or even look up their menu online. I have the same issues and even will not go if I cannot find anything. Just crazy.

  4. Rara May 23, 2013 at 6:14 pm #

    Must tell you! If you are craving Pizza the best fast food pizza chain to go to for gluten free is Pizza Nova, their crust is always the best… I always go to the same Pizza Nova and have never had a reaction from their food. I get tomatoes, feta cheese and mushrooms.. comes out being a pretty expensive medium pizza :|
    Another great place is swisschalet, their fries are suppose to be gluten free but I guess because they come in contact to things in the fryer you might get a reaction.. I did… so I get the chicken and house salad instead.

  5. NY EX-PAT January 8, 2014 at 5:14 am #

    Funny post — but I actually think Bantam is pretty awesome! I really liked the farinata (but the pizzas are probably a little better), too. I also love chickpeas so that may be the difference. It was like a greasy, tasty chickpea pancake to me. Also, their chicken liver toasts with pickled vegetables are awesome. I wonder if you could get them on something that’s not toast? Sorry you had a crappy experience there, though.

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