Gluten free restaurant review: Opa! Authentic Greek Koozina

Since returning to Rochester, I have been on a roller coaster of activity. Between balancing the precarious act of living with fibromyalgia+cfs, re-acclimating myself to living with four other people, and building this blog (and my fibro blog) I have had little time for much else. Last weekend, I devoted one day to bond with my best friend. Both of us made a vow to actually get out and try the amazing cuisine that our city has to offer since we agree that Rochester is a melting pot of culture and cuisine and now that I have left and returned; I can appreciate that more than I did before.

Living gluten zero means that the search for awesome restaurants that meet my various dietary needs is all the more challenging. But when have I ever backed down from a challenge? My friend suggested that our first stop be the relatively new Greek restaurant Opa! I eagerly perused the online menu (analyzing it like a PhD research assistant) to see if it was gluten zero friendly. Greek cuisine is certainly not my area of expertise, and I wasn’t expecting to find much that I would be able to eat. Upon arriving to the restaurant, I was surprised to find that the menu was beautifully labeled with (v) and (G) on several selections; a detail that I had overlooked during my online research. It is always nice to find restaurants that consider vegans and the gluten intolerant when creating their menus and going the extra mile to actually label these on the menu is even better.

The staff was friendly and very accommodating and the restaurant is spacious with plenty of booth and open seating. After being seated and ordering our drinks we received the expansive menu; that includes a plethora of salads, pizza, pannis, a fish fry, seafood dishes, and much much more. The waitress was very friendly and patient as my friend deliberated (and deliberated some more) over his selection.

After much deliberation (nearly 30 minutes to be exact) I chose the SPANAKORIZO which is meat free dish of sauteed spinach, rice, onions and tomatoes topped with a lemon dill broth. I subbed the rice with lemon pepper potatoes and added a side Greek salad. LB (my friend) chose the MOUSSAKA which is basically the Greek version of lasagna with beef, layered eggplant, zucchini, goat cheese, and potatoes. The food is prepared to order; meaning that it is fresh but takes time. We were in no rush and the extra time allowed us to catch up.

Once our food arrived and my Greek salad was retrieved which the waitress initially forgot, we were down to business. My dish was well seasoned with more than enough lemon and pepper. I would have preferred more spinach over potatoes but overall the dish was good. My friend enjoyed his Moussaka and meticulously inspected and savored every bite.

Since gluten zero desserts are a true anomaly; I didn’t even bother to ask to see the dessert menu. My friend however, is a dessert aficionado and as usual requested the dessert menu. I am not sure if authentic Greek cuisine excludes major desserts; but the selections at Opa! are very few. We opted to head over to Dairy Queen instead where I treated myself to a small Vanilla Dish and my friend got the Brownie Sundae.

Opa! gave us a decent Greek experience and even though I would have like to see more gluten zero and vegan selections; the dish that I selected was satisfying and I am not against returning. More importantly, I am happy that I was able to get out of the house and engage in a “normal” weekend activity, catch up with a friend, soak up the sun, and eat outside my typical fare.

Rating 3.5/5

Photo courtes of Closet Cooking (Spanakorizo)

Photo courtesy of Food Network (Moussaka)

Catching my breath

A whirlwind week and a whirlwind windy day. I met some amazing people and I am always blown away at how small our world really is and how we are more connected than we even know. Word of mouth is still the best form of networking, nothing compares to face to face real interaction with real people. Smiling faces, eye contact, delicious food this is what I love. I guess hospitality is just in my blood. Treated myself to a nice piping hot and fresh dinner this evening with my friends down at China Cottage. General Tso Tofu and Steamed Broccoli was in order. I thought one last good meal was in order before my week long protein and fruit flush. But for now this chef is tuckered out and ready for bed.

Signing Off,

the gluten free chef

What I ate today

qdobaSo, yesterday I got so tied up in life going from one doctor appointment to the next, that I forgot to take a photo of my rice bowl from Qdoba.  As far as I am concerned I do Tex-Mex far better and my rice and beans are well seasoned and flavorful. These “fast casual” places are just not worth the hype and are so overrated (if you ask me).  However, I had been sitting on a free meal coupon I got when I was double charged while eating there with a friend a while back, so I figured since I was in the area it was as good of a time as any to use it. By the time I got home , I was literally famished as I hadn’t eaten a thing all day and well, you know the rest.

Additionally, I was so fatigued and tired along with my starvation that I forgot all about Recipe Wednesday, so this week it will have to be Recipe Thursday. I actually did quite a bit of cooking  today. Since going full vegan about a year ago, I decided that I would not cook or prepare meat for other people. Typically, I follow this rule and if you eat with me, you to will eat vegetarian. But as the saying goes, rules are meant to be broken, and for special people in my life and on very rare circumstances, I will cook with meat. With cold and flu season in full effect, many of my friends have fallen victim to this nasty viral infection and flu (yuck) bug that has been going around. What better way to cheer someone up then with a bowl of hot steaming Chicken Vegetable Soup.  My version is a step up from the Campbell’s can, but just as simple to make. I decided that this was one of those rare circumstances that cooking meat for someone else was in order.

Right now, I am all things crock pot and  since I was low on energy and seriously fatigued once I returned home, I let the slow cooker do the heavy work. The thing I love the most about crock pots are that they do all the work so you don’t have to. The recipe is very easy and pretty much made up on the fly.  I used a store bought Rotisserie chicken, organic green lentils for depth, substance and iron, carrots, celery, onion and voila. Of course, in the crock pot the soup takes a few hours to simmer and set, but that’s ok, I conserved the energy I had left to whip up a Apple Coconut Coffee Cake and Ultimate Chocolate Cake. The apple cake was a test bake and the chocolate for a client. Both turned out yum- O and pictures will be posted soon. Ok so now let me post the recipe for my Rotisserie Chicken & Vegetable Soup, cause this fibro puppy is pooped out for the night

(Photo provided by)

#What I ate today: thai spicy rice

This will be a short post tonight since I am deeply fatigued and exhausted. I had a productive easy going day. Anytime, that I get out of the house and venture into the world, catch some natural vitamin D, and am able to stand at the end of it, is a good day. Anyhow, I was able to visit my favorite restaurant in Nashville, Ginger Thai. Tucked neatly away down a nondescript side street, Ginger Thai is one of those unassuming gems of a restaurant, the kind where you might pass it by without a second glance, but once you stop in, you are sure to return.

Instead of my usual (and by usual I mean, I have ordered the same meal every single time that I have been there save for one time and the second being today) of Pad Kee Mao (which I’ll rave over in another post) I opted for a lunch special of Thai Fried Rice with Crispy Tofu. Water with extra lemon is my drink of choice and as hard as I tried, I couldn’t resist an order of fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce.

Thai cuisine is my favorite cuisine for more reasons than one, the number one being that it easily caters to a Celiac like me.  I get a fresh hot gluten free meal that is both flavorful, fresh, and delicious! What are the odds. The staff is friendly, efficient, and easy going. They know me by name at this point and the atmosphere is simple and quaint just like I like it. I was salivating so hard when my meal was brought out piping hot, that I barely had time to photograph before I was blowing and heaving. They surely fulfilled my request to make the rice super spicy just like they always do. The spicier the better. My rolls came out a little later since I ordered them midway through my rice. Once again, by the time I remembered to take a picture, I had already eaten two of the four rolls. I still think I did pretty well photo wise. As you can see everything is tossed fresh and made to order.

Ok, so didn’t I say this post would be short? I just can’t help myself when raving about a meal. I hope everyone ate well today. Remember, be thankful for your food and your ability to have choice, as small as it may seem there is always something to be thankful for. Until tomorrow Friends.

Signing off,

the gluten free chef