Thursday, March 31, 2011

CLOSED: Restaurant Review: qba: a cuban kitchen (Montclair, NJ)

I went last night with my Spanish club to qba (128 Watchung Ave, Montclair, NJ).  I had checked out their menu online first and it looked like there were some safe options.  The cuisine is Cuban and since I can usually navigate Latin American cuisine I wasn't too worried.
Chicken Mojito with Maduras and Guacamole at qba

When I got there I confirmed with the staff what was and wasn't gluten free and dairy free.  They were much more confident on the gluten free items but double checked with the chef for the dairy free items.  (In their defense, they've only been open about a month and a willingness to ask and make sure is better than you get in most established restaurants!)  It turned out that most of the gluten free items were also dairy free.  (Note: the chips are made from wheat which is sadly common in Latin America - one night in Peru I asked at a dozen restaurants before giving up on having chips made from corn that night.)

The restaurant is quick serve in the style of a Chipotle so you get to watch everything assembled in front of you.  They aren't a chain yet but hopefully they'll be expanding soon as it is always nice to have more dining options.  I had a bowl with rice, black beans, and pieces of steak in a citrus-garlic marinade.  I also had an order of maduros (sweet plantains) for dessert!

When I was leaving I noticed a sign on the front door that noted that their entire menu was gluten free with the exception of the wraps, chips, sandwiches and Empanadas.

I really can't wait to go back!

qba A Cuban Kitchen on Urbanspoon
Update 4/27/12 - unfortunately qba has closed.

If you are looking for other options try NJ Gluten Free Restaurants and/or GF Fast Food and Chains.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Traveling Gluten Free / Dairy Free in Buenos Aires, Argentina

I just got back from a week long Spanish immersion class in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Although I encountered very little specifically laid out for those following a gluten free and/or dairy free diet, I did get by ok.  Most restaurants / waitstaff understood my concerns, however, please keep in mind that I speak passable Spanish and only have severe reactions to dairy cross contamination (I wasn't sick at all).  Also, like the U.S., quite a bit of their food is breaded and fried, and dairy features in their cuisine as well so you do have to be careful.

I did visit two 'dieteticas' (argentinian for 'health food store') and also found gluten free cookies easily in most supermarkets.  Unfortunately, a lot of gluten free options there contained dairy, including all of the bread products!  I had cookies in normal flavors: vanilla, chocolate, as well as an interesting thumb print cookie with something called Quince.  I saw but did not purchase gluten free / dairy free Jamon (ham) flavored cookies and Pizza flavored cookies!

Bread products "con Gluten" or "with Gluten" in English!
I also had a lot of false starts in the supermarkets.  Here in the U.S., when you see the word 'Gluten' on a product it is usually followed by the word 'Free'.  There however, quite a few bread products said "con Gluten" on them which translates as with Gluten.  I have no idea why they felt a need to point out their bread product contained gluten (just like all the others!)  Perhaps, they add extra gluten?!?!?

The only eatery where I saw gluten free prominently displayed was at an ice cream shop in a mall. (They had two dairy free options lemon and strawberry.)  Overall, I just stuck to simple meals - grilled meat/chicken/fish mostly.

If you are going to Buenos Aires, I would recommend checking out these articles and sites as well:

Gluten-Free Guidebook - Gluten Free Buenos Aires

Gluten-Free Guidebook - Buenos Aires Restaurants

Gluten Free Buenos Aires

You may also want to review these tips for traveling with dietary concerns: Traveling Dairy Free / Gluten Free

Updated - 5/24/11

Argh, Laura from Gluten Free Traveller did a much better job of finding all the best GF options in B.A. than I did.  You can check out all of her Buenos Aires posts here: or if you're going farther afield her South America posts:  I only wish I had started following her blog sooner!