Restaurants

'NoOodle' free of calories, fat, gluten

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The race to lower carbs and fat and calories might just have a winner in the form of a noodle produced by a Highland Park business.

It's called the "NoOodle," and the Hungry Hound headed up north to try it out. He says, despite the health claims, it does have great flavor.

Lots of flavor, actually, as long as you add those flavors to it. That's because it's a yam-based noodle, which, on its own, is pretty bland. But add sauces or vegetables or proteins and you've got an entree that not only fills you up, but does so at a fraction of the calories, with the added benefit of being gluten-free.

The Lincolnshire Gourmet is one of Highland Park's popular destinations for lunch and dinner. But one of the reasons they've been packed lately has been the addition of a new menu item. "The NoOodle" is the brainchild of owner of Terri Rogers, who got the idea from a loyal customer who brought in some Japanese noodles.

"And I was like wow, these are really good. They actually take on the flavors of whatever you cook it with," said Rogers.

These "noodles" -- made from Japanese yams -- have no calories, carbs, gluten, soy or fat.

"After the third day we sold 300 dishes. And it was all the women who didn't want calories, or carbs, that were buying the meals," Rogers said.

On their own, they lack flavor, so Rogers adds a lot to them: shrimp, white wine, garlic, chicken stock and fresh herbs are one example at her restaurant. They're also available in some local grocery stores as ready-to-eat meals.

"The food that's around it has calories and all that other stuff, but, you know, with the noodles you're eating a lot more food for less," she said.

Rogers hired a company to help her develop the product and bring it to market. One of the biggest hurdles was texture.

"The product was already developed. My job was to help Terri understand the space in the marketplace and to adapt it so that it was both safe and had good quality," said Kantha Shelke, Ph.D., who works for Corvus Blue, the company that helped Rogers with product design.

"So all you have to do is pair it with other foods or other ingredients that have a slightly more crunchy texture, or a slightly smoother texture, so that the contrast is such that it's an enjoyable experience," she said.

One of the local restaurants carrying the NoOodles is The Happ Inn, in Northfield, where it shows up in a large plate with seared chicken, cherry tomatoes and parmesan cheese.

"Well, you know, you really don't have to do a lot. It's very susceptible to pull in any flavors that it's given, so you can do a lot of different options with it," said Sam Luna, the chef of The Happ Inn.

It's especially significant for Luna to carry the item on his menu, since he is a diabetic.

"Having a noodle option that has no carbohydrates is really a godsend for somebody like me who is trying to continually eat healthy and look at other options as far as noodles and other things. So we're very, very excited to have it on," Luna said.

Lincolnshire Gourmet
675 Central Ave
Highland Park
847-432-6600
www.lincolnshiregourmet.com

Where you can find the NoOodle:

Ina's
Zed 451
Mity Nice Grill
The Pasta Bowl
Scoozi
Tuscany, Chicago, Wheeling, Oak Brook

Suburbs:

The Happ Inn, Northfield
Wild Fish, Arlington Heights, Deerfield
Antico Posto, Oak Brook
Cafe Central, Highland Park
City Park Grill, Highland Park
Jolane's, Glenview
Pinstripes, Northbrook, South Barrington

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