One of the most difficult parts of shunning gluten is saying goodbye to a whole lot of deliciousness: pasta, breads and the bulk of desserts. Fortunately, with more and more people going gluten-free — whether by choice or out of necessity — your options are increasing. Here are some of our favorite D.C.-area dishes that are naturally gluten-free or have been tweaked to omit wheat.
Rise Bakery, 2409 18th St. NW; 202-525-5204, riseglutenfree.com
At Rise, a gluten-free bakery in Adams Morgan, croissants come out of the oven light and airy. It took a lot of trial and error, owner Mike Koritko says: “The initial recipes tasted good, but the croissants were small and too dense.” The winning blend of rice flour and tapioca starch yields a buttery, light and flaky croissant. The almond variety ($3.95) is twice-baked, filled with sweet almond puree and topped with sliced almonds. Because the kitchen is gluten-free, there’s no chance of cross-contamination, a plus for those with intolerances.
Arepa Zone, Union Market, 1309 Fifth St. NE; 202-544-4742, arepazone.com
As the name suggests, the highlight of the menu is the arepa, a grilled corn patty filled with meats and cheeses native to South America. Owners Gabriela Febres and Ali Arellano use Harina P.A.N., a pre-cooked white cornmeal flour, as the primary ingredient in the patties. (“It’s the brand every Venezuelan uses,” Febres says.) The cornmeal contains no additives, making it suitable for gluten-free diets. The menu offers several variations of arepas, but purists stick with the classic $6 jamon y queso (ham and cheese).
Chaia, 3207 Grace St. NW; 202-333-5222, chaiadc.com
All of Chaia’s seasonal, vegetarian tacos are served in handcrafted corn tortillas that are made on-site and are naturally gluten-free. “We didn’t set out to be a gluten-free concept, we just happen to be,” co-founder Suzanne Simon says. Single tacos ($3.75) come stuffed with locally sourced ingredients such as creamy kale with potato and pepper jack, poblano crema and pickled onions. And don’t skip dessert — both the seven-spice chocolate bar and the caneta (a Mexican-inspired cookie) are also wheat-free.
Ice cream sandwiches
Firefly, 1310 New Hampshire Ave. NW; 202-861-1310, firefly-dc.com
Firefly’s ice cream sandwiches ($9 each) change seasonally but are a constant on the menu. Currently, the restaurant is serving a version made with house-made mint chocolate chip ice cream sandwiched between two slices of flourless chocolate cake. “The texture is denser than a traditional cake, as it does not have the traditional leavening,” chef Matt Hagan says. It’s made using 64 percent-cocoa chocolate, and there’s a drizzle of creme anglaise (a light custard of eggs, milk and sugar) spiked with Baileys Irish Cream for good measure.
Equinox, 818 Connecticut Ave. NW; 202-331-8118, equinoxrestaurant.com
The menu at this mainstay changes frequently, though you can always count on stick-to-your-ribs, gluten-free pasta dishes ($18-$34) from chef Todd Gray, who uses a blend of chickpea flour and xanthan gum to make the dough. The gluten-free noodles are more delicate than those made with all-purpose flour, but still hearty enough to stand up to rich sauces. Recent options have included spaghettini with Italian sausage and white bean ragout and bucatini with black trumpet mushrooms and black truffle sauce.
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