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Gluten-Free and Glorious

June 21, 2010

By Pat Tanner

I have always pitied people who need to avoid gluten, especially those who are foodies at heart. These folks must preclude perfect dinner rolls, cast aside croutons, say sayonara to sandwiches (au revoir hoagies, wraps, and panini!), dread the word “breaded,” and pass up pastas perennially. Worst of all?  Bidding adieu to the holy trinity of dessert: cakes, cookies, and pies.

So I began to fret when I discovered that the female half of a generous couple whom I would be soon be dining out with has Celiac disease. The pair had placed the winning auction bid at this spring’s Share Our Strength Taste of the Nation benefit in Princeton on the opportunity to dine with me at Brothers Moon restaurant in Hopewell. Dinner for four had been donated by owner/chef Will Mooney, who has been participating in the event for years – even prior to opening Brothers Moon nine years ago.

I knew we were in for a delicious meal because from day one this talented chef has featured fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. In fact, Mooney was on the vanguard of that movement and his menu lists its many locally sourced ingredients in italics. But I worried that with only eight starters and eight entrees on the regular menu, the gluten-free choices would be limited.

I could not have been more wrong! In fact, this lovely lady had a decidedly hard time choosing between, for example, the bright green fresh pea soup with lobster and chive and the evening’s special Jersey tomato and corn soup. An inveterate fish lover, she had her choice of the menu’s three piscine offerings, and settled, at length, on sautéed striped bass in curried celery root broth surrounded by baby sugar snap peas, red peppers, and mashed potatoes, all garnished with crab. (In fact, only two entrees were off limits, and they could have easily been adapted.) At dessert time, she delighted in Mooney’s Belgian chocolate mousse topped with fresh berries – but only after vacillating between that and classic crème brulee.

Being the worrywort that I am, I had contacted the restaurant in advance, to give the chef a heads-up. As with those with food allergies, this is always a good idea. Chef Mooney was then able to (a) alert our server, Sean, to the issue at his table and (b) choose to make several thoughtful accommodations. The amuse bouche that arrived at our table, for example, was a ceramic spoonful of chickpeas roasted in Indian spices. And although the mousse routinely comes with cookies, he considerately omitted them and instead sent out a plate of assorted sweet treats for to our table to share.

Brothers Moon
7 W. Broad St.

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