Dining out gluten free can be challenging to say the least. And, dining out gluten AND dairy free can be downright frustrating. In the last couple years, gluten free awareness in the restaurant industry has increased and so have their gluten free offerings. Many restaurants, especially those that make most, if not all of their dishes from scratch, don’t need to have a separate gluten free menu because they can adapt so much on their regular menu to meet gluten free and other dietary requirements. Such was the case with Lower 48 Kitchen, a contemporary American restaurant at 21st and Lawrence in Downtown Denver.
Rich and I were at Lower 48 last week attending “An Evening of Scotch Whisky” with Master of Whisky, Robert Sickler. Okay, I mentioned whisky and I know some of you reading this will be saying “she can’t drink whisky, it is made from “gluten grains” and I would say, whoa, hold on, I am getting to that. So, it seems that now is a good time to give a little background about alcohol and gluten free.
According to many Celica organizations, distilled spirits, even if they start with “gluten grains” are gluten free because the distilling process removes all the offending gluten proteins. There are those that do not agree with though and here is a great article explaining both sides.
Last year, I toured Denver’s Leopold Brothers distillery and asked the Master Distiller the “do spirits that start with a gluten grain become rendered gluten free because of the distilling process” question and his answer was yes. I personally do not have any reactions to whisky, gin or any other distilled spirit so I drink them, often. I must stress that this is a PERSONAL decision and I am NOT saying that those with Celiac or Gluten Sensitivity should drink spirits that started with “gluten grains”. I AM saying, do the research and decide for yourself.
Whew, okay, glad that’s out of the way. Now let’s get back to Lower 48.
The intent of the “Evening of Scotch Whisky” was to learn about and taste different Scotch Whisky’s in themselves and also paired with food. There were four courses served and each and every one was superb.
Course one was Sunchokes & Smoked Egg with kale, honey-poached cranberries and shiitake mushrooms. I had never eaten sunchokes before and was happy to try them. The dish was well balanced and had a lot of flavor. The smoked egg was absolutely amazing and added greatly to the dish. Rich does not NEED to be gluten free but is at home, however, when we eat out, he sometimes eats gluten, and this evening, he did. The only difference between my dish and Rich’s dish was the crema sauce. He said I was not missing all too much and that made me feel better. I didn’t think I was because was so amazing without it.
Between course one and two, bread was served with olive oil. I asked if they had a gluten option, and they did! The gluten roll I was served had an interesting flavor was a bit more crumbly than I like. It was moist in the center and had a bit of a nutty taste to it. I must say it was very nice to have bread like everyone else. Thank for that!
The next course was Whole Roasted Celery Root with mussels, parsley pudding, scallions, garlic and almond crumble. I was really looking forward to it, but, because the dish contained dairy, but not gluten, I could not have it. I was sad. My spirits picked up when I was served Ember-Charred Pumpkin with toasted almonds, swiss chard, shaved fennel and pickled quince. It was a very complex and satisfying dish that I thoroughly enjoyed. Yes, I still wanted what Rich had, but I got over it.
The third course was mouthwatering and oh so tasty: Smoked Salmon and Colorado Beef Brisket with confit carrots and pickled mustard seed sauce. I was really looking forward to the mustard sauce but again, it contained dairy (not gluten) so I could not have it. The salmon, brisket and carrots were so tasty and delightful, I really did not miss the mustard sauce after all.
I am not a dessert person so when I found out in advance that the dessert course was made in advance (a Lemon Posset Brown Butter cake with Blood Orange ice cream) and could not altered to be gluten and dairy free, I must say I was not too upset. I just assumed I would not have anything for the final course. And, the Oban 14 Year Old Scotch Whisky served during final course was all I really needed. To my surprise, a lovely bowl of fresh fruit, drizzled with honey was put down in front of me. My night was complete and I was very, very happy.
Much of Lower 48’s regular menu is gluten free or can be adapted to be gluten free. Same for those needing dairy free options too. I highly recommend this superb restaurant to anyone looking to not only eat out gluten free, but eat a hands-down delicious meal.