Anyone forced to give up gluten has a list of foods and drinks they miss the most. For our own movie and museum critic Stephanie Merry, it's good pizza and good beer. No more Coliseum from Pete’s Apizza or 2Amy’s Margherita; and goodbye to Kasteel Tripel at ChurchKey and Warsteiner Dunkel at Biergarten Haus.
But good news is coming: We’ll be co-hosting a gluten-free beer dinner with Pizzeria Paradiso on June 17, and two of the six courses are pizza. Better yet, after a little sneak peek last night, we can report that the food and drinks pass the taste test for both a gluten-free adherent and an eat-anything omnivore. The goal is to show everyone that there are great gluten-free drinks out there, as long as you know what to order.
The menu will pair six drinks with the food: four beers, a cider from the new Millstone Cellar north of Baltimore and a hoppy mead from Colorado's Redstone Meadery. The cider is new to D.C. and we were impressed with its dry apple flavor -- sweetened with raw wildflower honey -- and effervescence.
The pizza crust isn't Paradiso’s usual recipe, but one designed by owner Ruth Gresser for her upcoming pizza cookbook. Anyone accustomed to gluten-free crusts has probably lamented that they are generally flavorless, cracker-like or both. Not so with this recipe that gets a hearty and nutty kick from buckwheat flour. The pizza was designed to taste like a "real" pizza, with a spicy tomato sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms and onions, and it went down really well with Omission Pale Ale, a hoppy beer from Oregon. It's a very drinkable ale, with plenty of malt and caramel -- enough to satisfy the resident beer critic.
We need to point out that two of the beers we're serving, Omission and the Belgian Brunehaut Blonde, don't boast of being "gluten free" on the label. This is because they are brewed with malted barley, like typical beers, before the breweries use enzymes to break down the gluten, and leave the beer with under 10 parts of gluten per million. The World Health Organization and celiac groups say anything under 20 parts per million is low enough to be considered gluten-free. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, on the other hand, says that any product that is made with any "forbidden grain," such as barley or rye, cannot be labeled or sold as gluten-free, no matter how much gluten it contains, or if the gluten was taken out later.
Two things that might soothe a sensitive celiac's fears: Every bottle of Omission has a brewed-on date on the label. Enter this date on the Omission Web site, and you can read an independent lab report about that particular batch of beer. (For the one we tried, it was "<10 ppm.") It should also be noted that Stephanie didn't have any reaction to the Omission or the Brunehaut. But at the same time, people who have problems with even minuscule levels of gluten might want to be careful.
The dinner is at 6:30 p.m. on June 17 at the Georgetown Paradiso. It costs $65, including tax and tip, and includes full pours of all the beers. (E-mail email@example.com or call 202-337-1245 to make reservations.) Pizzeria Paradiso beer director Greg Jasgur will introduce the beers and take questions about them.
The full menu:
Sundried tomato chips, paired with Redstone Nectar of the Hops mead
Crispy parmesan chicken, paired with Millstone Blossom Cider
Baby greens with strawberries, herbs and feta in a balsamic vinaigrette, paired with Dogfish Head Tweason’ale
Gluten-free pizza #1: Topped with red pepper sauce, eggplant, olives, fennel and pine nuts, and paired with Green’s Endeavor Dubbel
Gluten-free pizza #2: Topped with spicy tomato sauce, pepperoni, mushrooms and onion, paired with Omission Pale Ale
Grilled pineapple topped with banana, honey and lime, and paired with Brunehaut Blonde.