Last week I was invited to attend The Great Kitchens' Gluten Free Chef's Table sponsored by The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness at BEAST and Imperial in Portland, Oregon. The luncheon and dinner are apart of a 10-city national educational tour focusing on the importance of creating menus with gluten-free items while partnering with executive chefs in fine dining locations.
With more than 30 percent of Americans avoiding or eliminating gluten from their diet, GREAT Kitchens TM is working with Chef Jehangir Mehta to offer an exclusive gluten-free dining experience, gluten-free cooking demonstrations, and an interactive educational experience with local universities.
My first stop was a 3-course gluten free luncheon with Next Iron Chef finalist Chef Jehangir Mehta and James Beard nominee Chef Naomi Pomeroy of Beast. I had been to Beast before for their highly talked about 6-course prix-fixe dinners, so I knew, this was not a luncheon to miss.
The luncheon began with Butternut Squash Veloute with fried herbs and crème fraiche. Followed by a lovely Chicory & Apple Salad with brown butter and sherry vinaigrette. With each course, Chef Jehangir Mehta and Chef Naomi Pomeroy walked us through on how they prepared this gluten-free meal.
My favorite course of the luncheon was Chef Jehangir Mehta's Cumin Red Snapper with Shishito, Beet, and Chickpea Onion Ring. When eating a gluten-free meal, one of the most missed elements is the "crunch". The onion ring coated in chickpea flour made up for that loss with its flavor, texture, combined with the perfect crunch. And let's not forget the red snapper, which completely melted in my mouth. The event ended with a delicious Quince & Frangipane Galette topped with Lemon Verbana Ice Cream. The dessert was fruitful, flavorful, and extremely light.
I had a lovely time with the Chefs and all of the lovely guests that attended the luncheon. There was amazing food combined with interesting conversation about food and how easy one can adapt their recipes to support gluten-free. And while BEAST normally does not accept substitutions for their 6-course dinners, you can call ahead and let them know your needs. If you have not been to BEAST in Portland, it is a must, period.
After having one of the best lunches of my life, I worked out (4-course lunch followed up by a 5-course dinner, 3 workouts were needed) and took a long nap before the next GREAT Kitchens gluten-free experience.
The dinner was held at James Beard Award & Iron Chef America winner, Chef Vitaly Paley's restaurant, Imperial. On a separate occasion, I attended another tasting with Chef Vitaly Paley, but was excited to see how he would transform his courses to reflect a gluten-free meal. Together, Chef Vitaly Paley and Chef Jehangir Mehta created an exclusive 5-course meal that left me not only extremely full, but excited to experiment with new gluten-free recipes. Each plate was thoughtfully prepared and creatively designed, that you would never know that gluten was missing, it simply was not needed.
The evening was started with Curried Squash & Goat Cheese Fritters, Spiced Popped Sorghum, and Shrimp & Chickpea Pancake. Over the evening, they filled our tables with delicious gluten-free meals and drinks, but my favorite item were the fritters. The squash and goat cheese were spiced with curry, and I am slightly desperate to try my best and recreate this meal. The perception that I have had on what a gluten-free meal looks like was completely washed away after my evening at Imperial. Chef Jehangir Mehta and Chef Vitaly Paley did a lovely job of walking us through every course and explaining the substitutions that they made to create a certified gluten-free meal.
Next up for the evening was Oregon Albacore Tuna Sashimi with orange yogurt and tapioca scales followed up by a Slow Roasted Breast of Veal. Dessert was a beautiful Milk Chocolate Icebox Cake with roasted bananas, walnuts and toasted meringue. Every course was absolutely amazing and the restaurant did a great job of keeping our tummies happy and full.
For more information on Celiac Disease please visit their website and learn how to safely make a gluten-free meal. Thank you to GREAT Kitchens and Chef Jehangir for a great day of food and educational conversation.