You’d think in a biggish Northern California city like Sacramento, it wouldn’t take eight phone calls to find a gluten-free, dairy-free birthday cake. And it shouldn’t have, if I had just looked in the gluten-free resource guide we had purchased recently. Instead I called several bakeries, raw food places and elsewhere, to no avail. To be fair, Whole Foods had some cupcakes that would have worked, while Trader Joes and The Sacramento Co-op apparently had some items in their frozen section.
But if I’d only looked in the book, as Joy eventually did, I would have quickly spotted the Farmer’s Kitchen Café in Davis. This is an entire (though small) store and café that sells only gluten-free items. A couple of phone calls later, I convinced proprietor Rose Anne DeCristoforo to sell me the carrot cake (Joy’s favorite)—which would have normally been cut and sold in individual pieces—for the quite reasonable price of $25.
I should probably mention at this point that we’ve been trying out reducing the amount of gluten in our diets as part of ongoing effort to improve our general health. Gluten is the complex protein found in wheat and several other types of grain. Even for those who aren’t gluten-intolerant, it can be hard to digest. It’s everywhere, not only in obvious places like bread but in many processed foods, and can be really hard to avoid.
So we’ve been checking out various places that offer gluten-free fare. Farmer’s Kitchen’s offerings are also free of casein, from the Latin word for cheese, which provides most of the protein in milk and cheese. Which is a complicated way of saying their stuff is dairy-free as well. Many people who have issues with gluten also have problems digesting casein.
The place has been operating for six years, but it still has an atmosphere that’s a combination of laid back and seat-of-the-pants. Service is, you might say, relaxed. It’s more of a store than a café, with the shelves filled with numerous items, many made on-site and most lacking marked prices—though these proved to be quite sane, especially for anyone already used to shopping at The Co-op or Whole Foods. DeCristoforo walks around, answering visitors’ questions, talking to her staff in Spanish, and taking orders.
So yes, there was a wait, but it was worth it. We started with the roasted half chicken ($12.95). It was lightly fried, with gluten-free breading. Soon we were dipping the chicken in the excellent ginger dressing that we put on the salad that came with it. Even better was the potato salad—and I normally don’t care for potato salad. It was amazing, actually, perfectly cooked potatoes suffused with dill. When asked the secret, DiCristoforo essentially said “Start with really good potatoes.”
We followed with a smoked salmon sandwich ($9.95), our first choice of the halibut sandwich having sold out. The star here was the slices of heirloom tomatoes, and especially the bread—thick, light, crusty, made with cornmeal. We finished with a rice pudding ($5.95), sweet and creamy with raspberries. The cake, which we had at a family picnic/party the next day, was amazing—spicy, super-moist, with a thick creamy frosting. The proprietor of the Gluten-Free Specialty Store, a year-old Midtown establishment I’ll bring to you soon in another column, said the curries here are also excellent.
As befits a jack-of-all-trades business like this, DiCristoforo also has a blog, filled with information and discussion about gluten-free dining, and a buyer’s club. This is a system that allows people to pay $100 at a time, then order food online for a discount. If we actually lived in Davis, we’d probably take her up on it.
Farmer’s Kitchen Café
624 Fourth St., Davis, CA
530 756 1862
Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.