choices by shawn

Jess and I had dinner together on Saturday night, with our good friend Courtney. It’s not often that we can just meet for dinner given that I live in DC and she in Charlottesville. But lucky for me, she attended a course in Chantilly over the weekend, so we met in the middle. The three of us ate, laughed, and thoroughly enjoyed each others’ company. We talked about our husbands and families, jobs, Jess and Courtney’s beautiful toddler girls, and much more. Before we knew it, we had been sitting there for three hours! Those are the best kinds of dinners.

The restaurant was Choices by Shawn in Fairfax, Virginia. We chose it because I knew they had a gluten free menu and it made geographical sense. When we walked in the door, the host greeted us and said, “Does anyone in your party have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease?” WHAT! Have you ever been asked that question immediately upon entering a restaurant? I certainly have not. How wonderful it was only to have to say “yes”, and have all of our dietary needs taken care of. Wow. Our host brought us to the table, and put down a red card that said “Gluten Free” in big letters just to be sure the waitress would know. He also explained that all of the gluten free meals are served on red plates as opposed to the usual white. Wow, this was really something! And we didn’t have to ask whether this or that contains wheat, or whether the fish is floured, or whether they cook the meat on the same grill as everything else.

Now, if you have been gluten free for a while, you have probably gotten used to opening a menu, asking what can be made gluten free, and having 2 or 3 items to choose from, maybe 4 if you’re really lucky. And of those items, the first one comes without the bread, the second comes with steamed vegetables instead of the truffled mac & cheese, etc. You get the point. There’s usually not a single thing on the menu that is completely gluten free. You might just end up with a piece of dry chicken or a lettuce and tomato salad with oil and vinegar, because you can’t even be sure the salad dressing is gluten free.

At Choices, Jess and I opened our menus and our eyes grew wide. Everything that was GF was marked as such, and many other items had asterisks indicating they could be made GF (and that doesn’t mean without the bread, but with the fresh baked gluten free bread instead of the usual baguette. I can live with that.). It took us literally 20 minutes to decide what to eat there were so many choices (now I get the name)!

We started with the hot crab and asiago dip, which came with multi-grain gluten free bread. I took a bite and said, “Jess, don’t eat it! This is regular bread.” But then we noticed the red plate and decided it must be gluten free! It was wonderful to be able to eat that dip on top of bread instead of a rice cracker or carrot stick. Then we had our soups or salads (of which there were many GF options). And for the main course, Jess had chicken and asparagus carbonara, and I had a tilapia filet with avocado strawberry salsa. It was all wonderful.

Oh, and dessert! There were two desserts that were GF, plus a myriad of homemade ice cream flavors. Jess and I shared the two GF desserts – chocolate fudge cake with vanilla ice cream and carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. Now, I have to admit these were a little on the dry side and not the best I’ve ever had, but to be able to eat CAKE at a restaurant was blissful.

We left the restaurant all smiles with full, happy bellies.

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