1. What options do you have for vegetarians?
All of our breakfast dishes can be made without meats; most are already meat-free. Our gumbo has ham, sausage, and shrimp, but most of our other soups are vegetarian. Our pipirrana salad can be made with a selection of cheeses instead of tuna if you choose not to eat seafood. We have a four-cheese panino to which we can add grilled onions or other vegetables, if you want a heartier version. Our butternut squash, Margherita, and Emily’s pizzas are all vegetarian. We use lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with dried beans and other sources of vegetable protein.
2. What options do you have for vegans?
Our oatmeal is a treat you’ll appreciate. Beginning in June, we will offer a vegan version of our wonderful baked French toast. In addition, we have a great selection of milk-free hearty breads from the Crooked Tree Breadworks, mixed fresh fruits, and oven-roasted potatoes. Leonardo Da Vinci’s soup is vegan, and our salads can all be prepared without meats and cheeses. Our dressings are made from olive, canola, or hemp oil; none of them contain milk products. We’d be happy to whip up an all-veggie panino. Our pizza crust is made without milk products as well, so pizzas can be made with vegetables and herbs and no cheese. We add the Parmesan cheese to our pesto just before serving it, so you can order that on a pizza or sandwich without concern. Finally, we have soymilk on hand, to put in your fruit smoothie, your coffee or tea, or on your oatmeal. We can replace pastas with rice, so you can avoid eggs.
3. Is your food safe for people who have an allergy to nuts?
It is really important that you let us know about any allergies you have when you order. Our chefs know exactly what’s in each of our dishes, and can ensure that your food is safe for you. We can also make sure we wipe down cutting boards so small amounts of foods you’re allergic to don’t get in your food.
We are especially concerned about nuts. We use nuts in many of our foods. We do not use peanut oil; the only oils in the restaurant are olive, canola, hemp, and butter. Our pan spray, which may be used on the grill or baking pans, contains soybean oil and lecithin. Peanut butter is served only in individually-wrapped portions, which are on the tables along with jellies. There is no peanut butter in any of our dishes or baked goods. The fruit and nut mix we put on oatmeal, yogurt, and in some baked goods does not contain peanuts, but does have almonds, pecans, and occasionally walnuts. If you ask for dried fruits only, without the nuts, we will give you a small bowl of the mixture. That way, the separating is up to you, and there’s no misunderstanding about whether the fruits have been in contact with nuts. Our basil pesto contains pine nuts, and if we’re out of pine nuts, may contain walnuts We occasionally use pine nuts in pasta dishes, or special pizzas. The walnuts on Eve’s salad and the pecans on our French toast can be omitted. Just let us know when you order.
4. What do you have on your menu for someone who is lactose intolerant?
We do not carry milk-free cheeses, but we do have soymilk. In June we will begin to offer a lactose-free version of our baked French toast. We can omit the cheese from the Alcove burrito. Our whole-grain pancakes have just a touch of dried milk. Beginning in June, we’ll whip up a batch of cakes with soy milk — just ask. We ordinarily cook eggs in butter; let us know if you would prefer canola or soybean oil. Our roasted potatoes have olive oil, but no butter. Best bets for breakfast: eggs, French toast, fruits, potatoes, meats, and oatmeal.
Our tomato-basil bisque contains a small amount of cream. Most of our other soups do not. Be sure to ask before you order a soup special. Any of our salads can be made without cheese; just let us know. Sandwiches and pizzas can also be made without cheese; the shrimp tostada is lactose-free already. Many of our meal-in-a-bowl specials are lactose-free, but be sure to ask before you order.
Most of our breads are lactose-free. Cheese breads and homemade scones and muffins contain milk. Beginning in June we will have a lactose and egg-free scone of the day. You can ask us to add soymilk rather than yogurt to your fruit smoothie, and of course you can use soymilk for your coffee or tea.
5. I am allergic to wheat gluten. What can I eat?
We are investigating no-gluten breads, but we don’t have them yet. The Alcove burrito (without the tostada), omelets, eggs, and yogurt are good choices for you. Our oatmeal plus contains wheat, so ask us to make cream of rice cereal for you if you have a few minutes to wait (we make it from scratch). Our sausage contains no fillers; eat it with confidence. And of course our fruits and potatoes are gluten-free.
Gumbo and Leonardo Da Vinci’s soups are both based on a flour and oil roux, so don’t order those. Our tomato-basil bisque is wheat-free, as are many of our other soups, including the southwest chicken soup. Salads are all wheat-free; tell us you don’t want croutons and bread. Also tell us if you would like to top a salad with cheeses or meats, such as a roasted chicken breast, smoked whitefish, or smoked salmon. The meal-in-a-bowl special is sometimes gluten-free. We can sometimes substitute polenta for pasta in bowl specials.
For children who follow a gluten-free diet, we suggest chicken and rice (instead of noodle) soup or eggs. We are also happy to grill a chicken breast and serve it with a side of fruits or vegetables. We’ll even stir-fry chicken and vegetables for your gluten-sensitive child or prepare a salad, or any other gluten-free adult dish in a child’s portion.
6. Do you serve alcohol?
We do not have a liquor license, and cannot serve alcohol. But we do use white wine, sherry, burgundy wine, and brandies in some of our dishes. The alcohol is cooked out of the food, and only the flavor remains.
7. I’m allergic to shellfish.
Don’t eat the gumbo, or the shrimp tostada! Occasionally we have a shrimp meal-in-a-bowl, or use some other shellfish in a bowl. Please let us know if you are allergic to shellfish so we can make sure knives, cutting boards, pans, utensils, and gloves used in the preparation of shellfish are carefully cleaned or discarded before we prepare your food.
8. I have some other allergy you haven’t talked about yet. How do I handle that?
Let us know! Our chefs will make sure your food doesn’t contain what you’re allergic to.
9. Do you have sugar-free sweeteners?
We have several different beverage sweeteners, including Splenda. Call us the day before and we’ll make our French toast for you with Splenda instead of sugar. We do have a sugar-free pancake syrup; it’s a commercial brand, so it has a few additives.
Our grapefruit sections are slightly sweetened; none of our other fruits are. Our balsamic vinaigrette has a bit of brown sugar in it. Our apple vinaigrette is sweetened with honey and apple juice. Our orange-fennel-hemp oil vinaigrette is sweetened with orange juice. The fruit puree we use for our smoothies is mostly that – fruit puree. But it does contain a bit of corn syrup. If we’re not busy, we’d be happy to make an all-fruit smoothie for you, and sweeten it with apple juice, Splenda, or honey. Flavors will be limited, however.
10. Do you use trans fats?
We use only the following fats in the restaurant: olive oil, canola oil, hemp oil, butter, and 0 trans fat shortening (used for some tart crusts). Cheeses and meats, of course, have their own fats. Trace amounts of trans fats come with these foods, but that’s it. We do not have a deep fryer in the restaurant, so nothing we serve is deep-fried. We oven-roast most meats and vegetables; poach our shrimp; and saute a few items, mostly in olive oil. We can generally reduce or change the fats used to finish any of our dishes – again, just ask.
11. What about preservatives and other additives?
We take great care to avoid preservatives other than ascorbic acid, and various additives. We buy organic and locally-grown whenever possible. A few items must contain preservatives: bacon, andouille sausage, and tasso ham, for example. Otherwise we could not assure their safety. The few “artificial” items we have – sweeteners and sugar-free syrup, for example – do contain additives.
Our seasonings are all natural. We use salt, pepper, fresh herbs, dried herbs, and spices. We use real, not artificial, vanilla, almond extract, and peppermint extract. We make our vinaigrettes from scratch. We make our stocks from scratch, and use a few natural soup bases to intensify the flavor.