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If you look at the list of our reviews, it's pretty clear that overall, the gluten-free options get better reviews than their more mainstream counterparts. It's a pretty sad state of affairs when the frozen meals designed for people with special dietary needs are so overwhelmingly better tasting.
Today is no exception. We have two meals from Gluten Free Cafe, a brand that has gotten uniformly good reviews from us here at Dr. Gourmet. The first we tried is a new variety: Savory Chicken Pilaf, which is described as "marinated white meat chicken with almonds, sweet raisins and red peppers with rice pilaf."
This meal smells terrific while cooking and the white rice has a bright curry flavor without being too spicy. The added almonds give the rice a nice crunch and the raisins add a little burst of sweetness that rounds out the savory rice. The one drawback to this meal is the chicken. Marinating is intended to impart both flavor and tenderness, and it might well have been marinated, but you certainly can't tell. The pieces of chicken have acceptable flavor, but they're so dry as to be off-putting. Both surprising and a little disappointing. The numbers on this one are just so-so: 310 calories with 4 grams of fiber, but the sodium is higher than I like to see at 670 milligrams. Interestingly, the meal doesn't taste salty. Between the dry chicken and the higher sodium, I'll give this a thumbs' up but only because it's still so much better than many mainstream meals.
Their Fettuccini Alfredo, on the other hand, is a revelation. I can say without reservation that this is the best Alfredo sauce we have ever had from a frozen meal. It's rich, thick, creamy and has a fantastic Parmigiano flavor. "It really tastes buttery," said one reviewer. The one drawback to this meal is the rice noodles. When rice noodles are overcooked, they get mushy, as do these. This doesn't necessarily detract from the overall experience, according to some of our testers, but I would have liked to see them using quinoa pasta, which would have held up better to the sauce and lent the meal some more fiber. With only 2 grams of fiber, it could certainly use a little help in that regard. On the other hand, this amazing sauce is achieved with only 390 milligrams of sodium in a 400 calorie meal. Another thumbs' up for the exceptional sauce in spite of the gooey noodles.
Whether you're allergic to wheat gluten or not, you could do far, far worse than choosing your frozen meals from the gluten-free section of your grocery's freezer case. Chances are good that what you choose will be better than your options elsewhere.