Friday, January 4, 2013

Turner Fisheries: Gluten Free Dinner

Due to a surge in food allergies, responsible restaurants are working to ensure their patrons can safely dine, no matter what allergies they might possess. For example, celiac disease is an autoimmunue disorder, essentially an allergy to gluten though there are others, without celiac, who are also allergic to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and other grains though it can also be found sometimes as a food additive. It seems to be a significant issue and dining out for such individuals can be a problem.

Fortunately, a number of local restaurants now offer gluten-free menus and a recent survey by the National Restaurant Association named Gluten Free Cuisine as one of the top ten trends for 2013. I recently dined at Turner Fisheries (as a media guest) to assess their gluten-free menu. I don't have a gluten allergy but was curious as to whether the various dishes would still possess compelling flavors, or if their gluten-free nature would diminish the taste. What would be the effect of the substituted ingredients? Someone with a gluten allergy might not be able to enjoy battered fish and chips but that doesn't mean they don't have other delicious options.

What are the differences between the Turner's regular menu and gluten-free menu? In fact, many of the dishes are similar with minor adjustments for gluten free. First, the two Soups are similar. Second, there are two less Starters, the Crispy Calamari and Jonah Crab Cake. Third, the three Salads are similar. Fourth, there is one less Starter, the Taylor Bay Scallop Meuniere. Fifth, there is one less Turner's Classics, the Baked Long-Line Scrod. Sixth, all of the Sides are similar. Seventh, only three of the six Dessert options are available gluten free, including Mocha Creme Brulee, Hot Chocolate Peppermint Semifreddo Float and Sorbet/Gelato.

As can be seen, there is little on the menu which cannot be prepared gluten-free except for the Dessert category. That might be an area where other restaurants also see a challenge and if so, it is an area where they need to create more tantalizing options. I have eaten gluten free cookies, brownies and other similar treats and if done well, they can be quite tasty and you would not even know they were gluten free.

Chef Armand Toutaint prepared a variety of seafood preparations for our dinner, showcasing just some of the possibilities of a gluten-free menu. He also came to our table to discuss the menu and answer our questions. Based on some prior research I did, there appears to be a potential issue of farmed fish being given feed that contains gluten. Some claim that such seafood can be tainted and cause problems to those with gluten allergies while others allege it is not the case. Chef Toutaint didn't know much about the issue and it might be an area that needs more study. If anyone knows more about this matter, I would like to hear about it.

The dinner began with a couple heaping platters of cracked/shucked shell fish, including Little Neck Clams, Rope-Grown Mussels, East Coast Oysters, Maine Lobster, Jonah Crab Claws, Gulf Shrimp, and Taylor Bay Scallops. A smorgasbord of simply prepared food sure to satisfy any shellfish lover, with or without gluten allergies.

Next up was a sampler of menu choices, including a Grilled Wellfleet Oyster (with a maitake mushroom riesling cream), Beet Carpaccio (with rainbow swiss chard, cider glaze, pistachio dust), Seared Diver Scallop (with a brandy black mission fig reduction & plantain chip), and a bowl of Clam Chowder. The chowder, thickened with rice flour, is absolutely delicious, creamy with a pleasant clam taste. It is neither too thick nor too thin, and doesn't suffer in the least for not possessing gluten. In fact, this is a clam chowder that stands as one of the best in the city.

As for the other dishes, the Scallop was perfectly seared with a tasty and lightly sweet reduction, as well as a crisp plantain chip. It was my second favorite of the four. The briny oyster was covered by a flavorful cream with hints of umami from the mushrooms. As I am not a fan of beets, I didn't eat the Beet Carpaccio but those who like beets seemed to greatly enjoy that preparation.

We next received a sampling of entrees including Rockport Merluza Filet ($28), Lobster Thermidor (Market Price) and Grilled Salmon ($29).

The Lobster Thermidor is prepared with a cured tomato hollandaise and gruyere cheese, quite a rich and decadent preparation. A good-sized piece of sweet lobster tail meat with nutty elements from the cheese and umami elements from the tomato. You are not missing any flavor in this gluten free dish and it would appeal to everyone who loves lobster.

The Rockport Merluza Filet (merluza is also known as hake) is made with Pernod, crispy bacon, and creamed brussel sprouts. A slightly sweet white fish, with a firmer (yet still flaky) texture, and a salty element from the bacon. A nice substitute for cod or haddock. Another delicious choice.

The Grilled Loch Duart Salmon is prepared with roasted garlic, baby potatoes, and wild mushrooms. Salmon is a delicious fish, with its firm, meaty texture and the sauce enhanced its rich taste. The mushrooms also added an umami element and the crisp potatoes were a nice addition.

For dessert, we had Mocha Creme Brulee ($8), which is similar to the usual brulees you can have at most restaurants. It is good but nothing really exciting. The dessert options are the weakest part of the gluten free menu.

Overall, Turner Fisheries has crafted an impressive gluten free menu and the savory items should satisfy most any craving. The dishes do not lack in taste in any way and are as creative as anything on the regular menu. I would like to see more unique gluten free dessert options but with all of the savory options, you might not have room for dessert anyways.

Turner Fisheries on Urbanspoon


Samuel Harris said...

Good Post,Because of this reason not added hygienic item in Dinning menu

Anonymous said...

That food looks amazing! Thank you for sharing. Salmon is my favorite. Have you ever tried Bavarian's gluten free breads?