Tuesday, November 19, 2013


While in Chicago I was lucky enough to experience Senza! Senza is a dream come true to anyone suffering from Gluten Intolerance or Celiac Disease. It really doesn't seem real and its hard to believe how great this place is!

Susan and Amelia the owners of Senza, wanted to create a place for their gluten intolerant friends to enjoy as well as a place for the Celiacs of Chicago to feel safe while eating out. They take this very seriously. The entire restaurant is gluten free. No need to worry about cross contamination here, outside food isn't even allowed inside the kitchen. That means no subway sandwiches hanging around while prepping for the evening, nothing, no gluten anywhere! 

Not only are they very aware and educated on how to really serve gluten free food, but they are also incredibly helpful when it comes to other allergies and weird diet stuff as well. They offer two tasting menus. One with four courses and one with nine, all gluten free. 

Before I get into the food, because boy oh boy is the food amazing, I want to mention how great the experience itself it. The staff, the environment and everyone we interacted with was excellent. They did not miss a beat and everyone was very educated about the menu and knew what each person at our table needed at all times.

Oh, and there is a gnome in the bathroom. Senza for the win!

Ok, now to the food! I was so excited to try everything and not have to ask "Is this gluten free?" or "Are you sure this is the gluten free one?" a million times. I honestly thought that after going gluten free that I would not be able to truly enjoy a restaurant like this. I had no idea what was about to come, it was like an edible art gallery! Noah Sandoval is the executive chef and if standing ovations were a thing in restaurants, I would have been on my feet in seconds. 

We started out with the amuse. Salmon, and Hamachi with togarashi and cucumber bloom with the most amazing dashi foam on top. Gluten free soy sauce of course.

I got the scallops with cippolini onions, edamame, blueberries and oxalis flowers. These scallops were so incredibly tender and the flavors were amazing. The combination of the sauces made it outstanding. There was so much to this dish I had to take teeny tiny bites to try to experience every combination. 

My friend's got the pork belly and said it was the best they had ever had. It sure looked pretty. It was served with pomegranate, coriander, celeriac, and szechuan pepper.

Next up is probably one of my favorite courses. The  vidalia onion soup was absolutely amazing! Not only was is absolutely delicious, but the presentation was so fun to watch.  

I'm not sure why it is always more exciting to see your food finished in front of you, but it is, and I love it.

After my first bite of this I was already in love. I didn't get the duck prosciutto on  mine, but the truffle mahon curado and cauliflower was amazing. I immediately thought, "I am going to need some bread because licking this bowl will be wildly inappropriate."

Lucky for me, they were on it. They brought out some of their spectacular bread from the Wheat's End Bakery (also owned by Susan and Amelia). The bread was out of this world. I want to go back to Chicago just so I can take a visit to Wheat's End and have more of their bread. 

I'm not even ashamed to admit that I ate one with butter and stole another just to dip in the soup. I didn't even care if I had more than everyone else at the table, all bets were off. 

Next they brought out a delicious flaky white fish with carrots, grapefruit, curry and cardamom. For some reason the carrots were my favorite part of this course! Don't get me wrong I loved all of it but, those were magic carrots I swear.

I also had the ravioli. Wow, of course it was amazing. There were so many flavors, every time I took a bite I tasted something else. It made with Chanterelle mushrooms, tiny delicious huckleberries, and parmesan chips .

All the meat eaters at the table got the duck. It was served with hon shemeji, fig, mustard and black garlic. 

Everything besides the duck looked so amazing and I was a bit jealous that I didn't get to try it, but it all worked out in the end.

I got to try the same things with a seared cheese instead of the duck. I can't for the life of me remember what type of cheese it was but it was delicious. I didn't even care that I was eating a big old square of cheese. 

Thats wasn't the only cheese course I had though. Next up was a delicious creamy cheese with a fruit filled pastry. An aerated Raclette cheese with membrillo stuffed eclair with raisin gel and basil. It was so delicious and the pastry was so sweet it could have been the dessert. Gotta love it when the pastry chefs makes the cheese course.

Oh, did I mention it was served with an orange vanilla soda! I think I took about a 400 tiny little sips because I didn't want it to end. 

Ok, now for the best part of any meal. I was starting to get nervous at this point because I was so full from all the food, but dessert is my favorite part so I needed to finish it!

The pastry chef, Phil Rodriguez is pretty much an artist. Everything was as beautiful to look at as it was   exciting to eat. I say exciting because there were so many things incorporated in the desserts it was like an adventure in my mouth!

One bite of the oatmeal and I wanted to eat about three of them! The oatmeal had this tart apricot sauce that made the pine nuts, oatmeal, and orange ice cream really stand out. There were also these fantastic marshmallows. Oh man, I keep thinking about them! This was another course where different flavors kept popping out all over the place. So amazing, this was the best dessert I have had in, I don't even know how long.

There was one more dessert! This one typically came with banana, however, they were so great they knew no bananas for Bailey and brought out a delicious banana free version for me. Just imagine it, chocolate with coconut ice cream. If there was a night to prove my 2nd grade theory that I have a separate stomach for desserts, this was it!

When all was said and done I was so full and happy. But I think I kinda needed a nap! 
I honestly don't have a single complaint about this place. They even offered to get us a cab for the ride back. If you are in Chicago and have a gluten intolerance or Celiac, pick up the phone and make a reservation ASAP! If you are not in Chicago, I recommend planning a trip, even if it is just to eat here. How often do you get to truly enjoy yourself with absolutely no fear of getting a stomach ache or accidentally being served something you shouldn't not have.

Oh, and as if you needed another reason to go check out Senza, last week they won a Michelin Star. They are the only gluten free restaurant to win this prestigious award. You may be unfamiliar with the Michelin Star and think, "Isn't Michelin a tire company?" Yeah, I thought the same thing too, so I'll break it down for ya!

The Michelin Guide has been around for over a hundred years. It began in Europe in the early 1900s when cars were a new fun thing. Michelin wanted to sell more tires so they decided they needed to get people driving more, so more tires would be needed. A 1900's marketing genius came up with the idea of encouraging people to drive to highly recommended restaurants and hotels. Awards or recommendations ranged from one star meaning "a very good restaurant" two stars meaning, "excellent cooking worth a detour" and three stars meaning, "excellent cuisine, worth a special journey." This has been going on for over 100 years and they have been very carefully handed out. Senza is the only completely gluten free restaurant to get a star! 

Congrats Senza! Your star is well deserved! I'm counting down the days till I can return for round two!

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