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A blog about all things allergen-free and delicious

Entries in review (3)


REVIEW: Make Me Over Gluten-Free! (Mineral Fusion Make Up)


As seen in Women's Lifestyle Magazine's May, 2012 edition.  Photographs by Daniel E. Johnson of Wealthy Street Photography.

Believe it or not, I'm quite camera shy (really).  In this snap happy world of social media, and with my obligations as a blogger for The Tender Palate and writer for Women’s Lifestyle Magazine, my graciousness in front of the camera leaves a lot to be desired.  It’s rather unsettling to emerge from my somewhat secluded life and “let” perfect strangers document my secrets as they emerge on the map of my face, the turn of my posture, and through the self-conscious gates of my eyes.  Internally, I’m very comfortable with who I am.  But when the vacant lens of modern technology curves ominously toward me, I become the awkward stranger who can’t do anything right.

So for this article, I decided to buck up, accept my insecurities and flaws, and just get over it – right in front of you.  

Thanks to photographer, Daniel Johnson (of Wealthy Street Photography), and makeup artist and Women’s Lifestyle Magazine beauty columnist, Marianne Bockheim, I was able to repair my relationship with that dreaded device called “the camera” and get some tips on how to look better in front of it.   They both helped me feel incredibly comfortable.  Marianne worked her magic on my face with gluten-free makeover using Mineral Fusion ™, “Minerals on a Mission ™” make up.  She also offered some great advice on how to use these wonderful products.    


Mineral Fusion Makeup. Photo by Daniel E. Johnson, Wealthy Street Photography


I Chose Mineral Fusion™ for Three Reasons:

1.    It’s gluten-free status.  

“...all of our products are gluten free. However, no, our facilities are not certified as gluten free. We know our products are gluten free because we perform testing on our finished products. Those results have always resulted in undetectable levels of gluten, which indicates there is no cross-contamination occurring at our facility.  Moreover, our equipment is thoroughly cleaned between product runs, as required by the US FDA.”
~Tim Schaeffer, Mineral Fusion’s SVP of Marketing

Please visit for specific ingredient and processing information.

2.    Mineral Fusion has a low toxicity rating in the Skin Deep database from the Environmental Working Group ( 

3.    The products work.  They work well and are locally available.




Primer & ConcealeMarianne began with my naked face and applied the Face Primer.  This clear gel creates a smooth canvas for the foundation.  Use the lighter half of the Concealer Duo to cover up any discoloration, and the darker Concealer in the center of under eye puffiness to help “flatten” the puffy curve.  Use a thin application of the Concealer on the eyelid from lash to brow to prepare for the eye color.




FoundatioUsing a chubby brush swirl the Pressed Powder Foundation over the entire face.  This evens out your skin, and sets the Concealer.

Then, with a brush, sweep the blush along the cheekbones from ear to apple to define.  Since the apples of most cheeks already contain color, you may not need to apply much blush (or any) to this area.




Before using the liner, apply the lightest neutral eye shadow from lash to brow.  Apply the liner to the top lid starting from the outside corner of your eye.  Move inward with short, choppy strokes along the lash line.  This makes it easier to control how thick or thin your eyeliner is.  Buff the line with a brush to soften.  Use the same choppy eyeliner strokes (outside to inside) on the bottom lid, too, stopping about 1/3 of the way across the lid.  Using a brush, add a little copper eye shadow over the eyeliner to create a softer, different look.







Marianne used two medium toned eye colors directly on the lid (pink on the inside and copper on the highest point of the lid).  She swirled the darker brown around the outside “V” of the eyelid itself.  With a good brush you don’t need to work too hard at blending.  It just happens.





Take one swipe on top of the lashes (root to tips).  Then place the brush under the lashes, push at the lash base, and then wiggle the brush through the lash tips.  This is a great way to reinforce the eyeliner, or even give you the illusion of eyeliner if you choose not to wear it.










Outline the lips with a lip pencil or with a brush using the lipstick itself.  Then fill in your lips with the lipstick.  We used a little lanolin (my personal trick) to the lips to add a lasting shine.










Review first seen in Women's Lifestyle Magazine, May 2012, p. 30I wore the makeup for several hours after our session (I worked into the wee hours of the night) and it has some serious staying power.  The only thing that smudged subtly was the mascara, and it wiped right off without disturbing the rest of my face.  The colors are beautiful, and I am incredibly happy with how my skin looks and feels while wearing it.  It feels good and natural.  Just the way I like it.

Here’s what the expert had to say:

 “I really love the pigment and blendability of the Mineral Fusions make up.  Traditionally, mineral makeup wasn’t known for holding color.  But advances in technology have helped change that.  Mineral Fusion has a wonderful intensity of color and I love it’s luster.  The colors are really user friendly, it isn’t difficult to figure out how to apply it.  You have a great deal of control.  Even the most challenged of skin can wear this make up well. “  

~Marianne Bockheim,


According to a recent study (published in October, 2011), gluten (derived from wheat, barley and other grains) in cosmetics, shampoos and skincare products can pose a threat to people with wheat allergies and celiac disease.  Gluten particles are thought too big to be absorbed through the skin, but people may accidentally ingest small quantities of lotion, lipstick, or other products if they have the product on their hands or use it around their mouth. People with celiac disease and wheat allergies (IgE reactions in particular) can also react to topical application, and ingredients can be hidden.  Vitamin E, for instance is often derived from wheat.  The study cited one woman who started using a new lotion, then developed an itchy, blistering rash on her arms, as well as abdominal bloating and diarrhea - all of which disappeared once she stopped using the lotion.

I was excited to find Mineral Fusion Cosmetics and hope you will be, too!



Pictured with Makeup Artist, Marianne Bockheim (left)Writer, owner of Blue Pearl Strategies, and lover of all culinary delights, Elisabeth is a Tender Foodie. She started The Tender Palate, a website for foodies with food allergies where she consults with experts from every area of the Tender Foodie life. She believes that everyone should live deliciously and have a healthy seat at the table. Find her at  (Pictured with Marianne Bockheim)


Review: Bistro Bella Vita serves up a "Foodgasm" when dishing for patrons with allergies

Boeuf Bourguinonne. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hage, Green Frog Photo.


Some Background

I’ve dined at Bistro Bella Vita upon several occasions, twice, specifically for this review.  I have always been treated with respect and generosity by the Bistro Staff, even when I push my list of allergies and their accompanying strict instructions at my server; and even before I started writing reviews.

In my experience, Bistro Bella Vita has done their food allergy homework and they make it clear that they welcome special diets of any kind.  I know this because they told me as much, and they have gluten-free, lactose-free and vegan menus.  But it is also evident in the presentation of each meal, the tastes and textures on each plate, and the consistent care in the service I’ve received each time.  

The knowledge of the chefs, kitchen and servers are a fundamental, dining-out requirement for anyone with food allergies.  Personally, I also want my food to be made with whole, quality ingredients.  I want it to taste delicious, even if those ingredients are restricted.  There are several dishes on the menu that bring me back to Bistro.  In the case of one particular dish they serve, and according to my dining companion, it is “foodgasmic”.


The Food

That dish is the bœuf bourguignonne, a dish that I love, but one that I didn’t think a restaurant would serve to someone with dairy allergies.  French dishes are sometimes attached to their butter, and the balance of slow cooked flavors is what makes a this French stew so good.  Its advanced preparation can prohibit on-the-spot customization.  Unexpectedly Bistro said, “no problem” when I first ordered it, and I’ve ordered it several times since.

I was lucky to have Jeff Hage, a professional food photographer, with me during my most recent meal there.  I decided to “let” Jeff have the Boeuf Bourguignonne while I tried the sautéed duck breast for a second time.  As I scrutinized and enjoyed my duck, Jeff would make a few wordless utterances as he experienced his beef.  I asked him what inspired each reverent hum and he, a super foodie, started describing some tastes and flavors to me.  Here are two such verbalized hums:

“The mushrooms are roasted just perfectly.  Absolutely perfectly.”

“Oh, I just had a foodgasm.  A little piece of chard found its way in with a bite of the beef.  Oh.  So good.”


An Aside

ASIDE:  I looked up “foodgasm” – I thought it might have made it into the dictionary by now, but it hasn’t.  I did find a fun looking culinary web site, though (currently under construction).  Its called “  The Cherry Popping Experience.”   I thought that was hilarious.  And apropos.


 More Food

Duck with Steamed Summer Vegetables. Photo courtesy of Jeff Hage, Green Frog Photo.
My duck was also very good.  It came on a bed of perfectly steamed yellow and green haricot verts and summer squashes.  The balsamic reduction mingled with the duck juices that were seeping onto the plate and under the vegetables.  After watching Jeff photograph my dish, I then proceeded to enjoy that mingling.  The meat was nicely cooked to medium/medium-rare, though a bit chewy both times I had ordered it.  Jeff has more experience with duck than I, so I asked him why this might be.  He said that it usually has to do with the duck itself.  If you put two ducks side by side, one might cook into perfect tenderness, while another might be a little rubbery.  This didn’t stop me from enjoying the dish.  It almost didn’t stop me from literally licking my plate.  But alas, we do live in a civilized world with reputations to protect.

The Staff

I would be remiss if I did not mention Erica, our server.  Erica remembered that I tend to drink sparkling water with lime, made sure to get my food allergy card to the kitchen and then back to my wallet, and made my guests (and me) feel comfortable as we discussed my specialized menu.  Kyle, the special events coordinator worked with the Chef to get a recipe for the duck, including a cassoulet, which will be posted in a few days so you can try the duck for yourself.  He also worked with the manager, Brad, and the Chefs to answer questions about their food allergy practices.  I appreciate the time that each of them offered to help Tender Foodies take a comfortable and delicious space at their table.

Many, many thanks to Jeff Hage of Green Frog Photo for his delish pics.  

Bistro Bella Vita’s Food Allergy Practices

Food Allergy Training:  Developed our own internal process.

Menu Options:  Gluten-free, Lactose-free and Vegan Menus available.  

Gluten-free Options?   Currently no gluten-free pasta or pizza crusts but might develop one in the future.

Comfortable with Nut-allergic Patrons?
Yes, our staff is very well trained and very passionate about accommodating all guests and their allergies.

Dedicated Fryer?
  No, we only have one fryer therefore suggest against fried foods that must be gluten free.

Dedicated allergen-free prep area?  
All prep areas are washed with health department approved cleaners.
We use freshly washed equipment prior to cooking dishes with specific allergies. We change cutting boards, knives, pans and other dishes.  We make sure that all food is prepped on clean surfaces and is not within distance of foods that contain common allergens.  Staff members change gloves prior to preparing an allergen-free meal.  Our kitchen staff is always aware if there is gluten present in spices, and we don’t use tenderizers, caking agents, or roux’s. We do everything in our power to assure that there are no trace of allergens in dishes that require special attention.

Staff Training?

All employees are well trained and informed of the ingredients of all our products and our food allergy practices.  Our wait staff and management understand the potential for a severe reaction and know what to do if something happens.  If an allergen is mistakenly put on a plate, for example, our staff knows that a clean plate must be used and new dish must be made.  Regular refresher training is given to regular staff and new staff is trained.

How many allergen-free patrons do you see each month?

It would be impossible to give an exact number, but there are easily hundreds of people a month who dine with us who have allergies.

Local Sources?  Yes

Organic Sources?  Absolutely.

GMO Products?   We use non-GMO sources whenever possible.


44 Grandville Ave. SW • Grand Rapids, MI 49503 - CLICK HERE FOR OUR GOOGLE MAP

616.222.4600 (voice)
616.222.4601 (fax)




Amore Trattoria Italiana. A Taste of Eden for People With Food Allergies.


 Cured Beef & Arugula Salad

And There Was Light (At the End of the Salad)

In the fall of 2010, I had a Lunch and Learn at a charming little restaurant called Amore Trattoria Italiana.  I had never been there before nor did I know where its location at Alpine and 6 mile was, so of course, I got lost.  Go figure.  I snuck in, red-faced and after everyone was seated, comfortable and with a salad in front of them.  The speaker had just begun.  My RSVP for the event was, “yes, but please don’t include me in the lunch.” 


When I informed the waitress that I would not be eating, she let me know that this was nonsense.  Of course I would be eating.  She insisted that the chef would love to serve me, no matter what food allergies I had.  Gluten?  No problem, the chef makes her own gluten-free pasta and gluten-free pizza crusts.  Dairy?  She’ll wash the utensils and cutting boards and clean the grill before she makes my lunch.  Yeast?  Pizza won’t work, but how about a nice salad?  Black walnuts and parsley?  No problem.  I was so pleased.  The salad was big, nutritious and had artichokes and prosciutto on it.  I used to devour this sophisticated "ham" in the Italian restaurants of New York City when that was my home.  I was very satisfied, and happy that I could save those Tanka Bars stashed in my purse for the next emergency.


After lunch, I met the chef, Jenna Arcidiacono.  She struck me as down-to-earth, knowledgeable and simply charming.  I just had to come back.  It took a year, but return I did with my family and camera in tow.  (And yes, I need a new camera and a better way to light the food!)


What is a Trattoria?

The name itself, Amore Trattoria Italiana, gives the impression of Italian authenticity.  A "Trattoria" is usually one step below a “Ristorante” and one step above a “Hosteria” in formality, but not necessarily in quality.  In Italy, Trattoria are often family run and down-to-earth little eateries.  The external façade of Amore Trattoria belies the warmth within, where the chef and her husband are front and center.  Truly fond memories of Italy popped into my head as I entered the restaurant and as I ate.   It was the spirit of the place.  “Stay!  Eat!  Drink!  Enjoy!”  I love that.


The Tempation

 A partially consumed and delicious strawberry soup

I had emailed Chef Jenna a couple of days ahead to let her know that she might have a challenge on her hands.  Her response was warm, inviting and made me quite excited for dinner.  After we arrived, she came out to our table, showered us with attention and then visited each and every table in the restaurant before returning to prepare the next round of plates.  My sister and I shared the strawberry soup as an appetizer.  It was sweet and delicious.  I don’t eat a lot of sugar, so my mind would ask, “is it too sweet?”  Then I answered myself, “No.  Eat more.” 

For my insalata (salad), Chef Jenna suggested that I try the cured beef with arugula, but minus the parmigiano-reggiano cheese.    It was salty and just as delicious with the arugula alone. 

Both of my brother-in-laws had the meatballs.  When I asked them if they liked their dish, they simply looked up at me from their licked-clean plates and grunted.   I took this as approval.  My father’s beef was a bit dry, as was my Pollo alla Saltimbocca, which is chicken, wrapped in sage and “spek”, then seared in white wine (and usually butter, which was replaced in my dish).  Speck is a version of prosciutto that is cured, bone-in before it is sliced.  

As I roam the earth banning black and white pepper from my plate, I also find that chefs are afraid to use salt to season my meals as well.  Note to self:  tell all chefs that for me, salt is a good guy, please use it.  My mother’s Saltimbocca on the other hand was moist and delicious.  The asparagus was super fresh and cooked to perfection, as were the potatoes.  And my sister, who normally has an extensive vocabulary, simply grunted with a happily glazed look on her face when asked about her pizza.  The piece de resistance, the tirimisu that she and her husband shared, evoked only rolled eyes, moans and groans.  I told them both to go get a room. 

 The apparently, orgasmic tirimisu

The Limoncello

Because of an unpredictable yeast allergy, however, I have been hesitant to drink wine, something I really love with Italian food.  Some wines are fine.  Others are not.  So I choose very carefully and rarely these days, tending toward giant bottles of sparkling water.  Chef Jenna popped back out and noticed that I was without something from her list of purely Italian grape.  So she brought out her homemade Limoncello.  It is made with lemon zest and Everclear.  From what I understand from my research, Everclear is made from corn, however, I have a note into the company that makes Everclear with some specific questions and confirmation.  For several reasons, distilled grain alcohols do not mean that they are gluten-free, as some places on the internet claim.  More on that later.   I'll also post a follow up when I hear back from Luxco, the company that makes Everclear (and yes its legal in Michigan).  I did have a shot of this lovely forbidden drink (without reaction).  I don’t know if it takes her 6 days to make it or not, but it was created in a place that must be called Eden; and it was very, very good. 

 Watch her make Strawberry Tirimisu & Limoncello on WZZM13 - and Get the Recipes.

 Chef Jenna Arcidiacono (right) & my sister

I greatly appreciate Chef Jenna Arcidiacono’s genuine attention, care and excitement.  I was able to enjoy some truly delicious dishes.   Bravissimo!


Food Allergy Practices

Chef Jenna answered a list of questions via email about her food allergy practices.  Here is how they work it in the kitchen and with the staff.

Just let people know that we want every person who comes into our restaurant whether they have allergies or not - to feel like they ate something amazing!  _Chef Jenna Arcidiacono


Food Allergy Training:  I took a Servesafe and Sodexho test both of which involved allergens and allergies.  There is always someone on site at the restaurant who has completed this training, usually myself or my husband.   


Menu:  We have stars and other symbols on our menu to let people know what it gluten free or vegan. I am always available to speak to and work with the customer to make sure they are getting a meal that they enjoy! 


Gluten-free Options?   Gluten-& Dairy-free pizza crust, and gluten & dairy-free foccacia bread.  And chickpea and chestnut flours for breading.


Dedicated Fryer?  We do not have a separate fryer, but we can offer to pan fry items in new oil.  Nut-free and gluten-free oils.


Dedicated allergen-free prep area? 

  • We are very aware that any trace of the items can cause severe reactions. 
  • We wash and sanitize eveything before we use it. 
  • We prepare the gluten free items in a non-gluten space in our kitchen. 
  • Every staff member changes gloves before handling an allergen-free meal 


Staff Training?

  • All staff is trained and if they don't know the answers I ask them to refer to me and I speak to each person with food allergies personally.
  • Each staff member knows that if there is a rare mistake made to a dish that the entire dish must be remade and a clean plate used.
  • Some of my staff has food allergy issues, so we talk openly about any of their issues and concerns.
  • I check orders personally to make sure they are done right.
  • We refresh their training once a week.


Local Sources? 

We use local sources as much as possible and all year long with some who are hydroponic! 

Organic Sources? 

We love to use Earthkeeper farm in Kent City and organic free range eggs from a farmer in Kent City as well.

GMO Products? 

I don't use any GMO products.


Visit Amore Trattoria

on the web:

To Dine Out:

5080 Alpine Ave NW

Comstock Park, MI 49321