Thursday, May 1, 2008

Eating Out and Gluten-Free in D.C. Part II: Java Green

The last time I was in Washington, D.C., I discovered Teaism and their gluten-free menu. We just returned from another visit--and, oh, were the azaleas gorgeous! No Teaism this time, as delicious as it was during my last trip. I was hunting for new gluten-free territory, and I found it at Java Green, a downtown cafe on 19th, near K St.

After a morning at the National Portrait Gallery, we headed over to Java Green. The Science Teacher raised his eyebrows when I told him, somewhat sheepishly, that it was a (mostly) vegan cafe. He has nothing against vegan food, but having worked summers at a camp with a not-terribly-good macrobiotic chef, he maintains a healthy skepticism towards it. However, he loves to eat out and loves it even more when I get excited about eating out, so he was game.

We arrived and the place was fairly busy, but it was around 1 p.m. so we were able to order and find seats without waiting too long. The menu is large and consists of paninis, wraps, noodle and rice bowls, salads, and huge selection of blended juices and smoothies. They also only use wheat-free soy sauce! Kaveat: nothing on the menu is designated "gluten-free," but there are a number of items labeled "wheat-free" (their online menu doesn't indicate the wheat-free options, but you can download their new menu, which does show the wheat-free dishes, at the bottom of their homepage). From what I can tell, beyond the obvious fact that a panini isn't gluten-free, some of the fake meat products or the sauces used on them contain wheat and some don't. The Science Teacher ordered sweet potato noodles with spicy mock chicken, which was not wheat-free; however, if he'd ordered it with the regular mock chicken, it would have been wheat-free.

I ordered the Silk Road (pictured above), a plate of baby spinach, steamed silken tofu, mock chicken in a sesame-soy dressing, carrots, cucumbers, and roasted nori. I was a little worried about the mock chicken, thinking about my favorite vegetarian sausage that I had to give up when I went gluten-free (isn't all of that stuff made with seitan??). I questioned the woman who took my order, and she went back to the kitchen to check. When she returned, she said it was only made of soy products. I was good to go! As you can see, the food was beautiful and fresh. It was also very tasty. I usually don't finish my restaurant meals, but I kept nibbling at the mock chicken until nothing was left on my plate. It was a pleasure to be able to order something "as is" from the menu.

Java Green also bills itself as an "eco" cafe. They compost the food waste and recycle their utensils, glass, and paper products. They use china dishes instead of disposable and biodegradable carry-out containers. They buy wind power to offset their carbon footprint and support a variety of eco-conscious, fair-trade organizations. You can eat gluten-free and support a business that's trying to act in an ecologically responsible manner!

The Science Teacher's sister told me that Java Green is also one of the few places that her kosher-keeping friends can eat downtown. Another plus!

Also, check out the DCGluties' post on Java Green and other information on their website about eating out gluten-free and finding gluten-free food in the D.C. area.

Stay tuned for reviews of gluten-free eating (in non-chain restaurants) in Vermont:

Kismet in Montpelier serves up gluten-free buckwheat crepes, wheat-free tamari, rice bowls, tamales, gluten-free bagels, and more. The owner's son has celiac so she knows what she's doing.

That's Life Soup
in Montpelier always has gluten-free options, and they're labeled on the menu. They also usually have vegetarian and dairy-free soups. Call ahead though because the menu changes daily and sometimes they run out of some soups by dinner time.

The Skinny Pancake in Burlington offers up a complete menu of gluten-free crepes to nosh on as you listen to their great line up of musicians.

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