Monday, July 16, 2018

CPK's gluten-free pizza - third time's a charm!

Once upon a time, California Pizza Kitchen (aka CPK) introduced a gluten-free crust.  And, it was the worst I've ever had in a restaurant.  Eventually, it became evident that the crust was a HUGE miss for the company and they made the smart decision to 86 it....offering an excuse about retraining the staff, etc.  But it was the gluten-free consumer's disgust over the taste of the rock hard crust that was the real reason behind the dismissal of it.  The fact that no one went to the ER due to cutting themselves while trying to cut this horrid crust is honestly shocking.

Moving some point, CPK introduced a "new and improved" gluten-free crust.  It might have been new, but it wasn't exactly was just different.  The second crust was almost the complete opposite of the first offering.  Still with NO flavor whatsover, this crust was like soggy bread and nothing like a pizza crust.  As far as I know, that crust is still available and for those who enjoy it, that's great.  I would not eat it if it was free since to me, it's nothing like pizza should be.

Finally, due to a lunch outing with a non gf friend, I had to find out what I could order at CPK.  I was not planning on ordering a pizza, of course, but the salads at the place are usually quite delicious.  To my great surprise, I came across this review of the new gf cauliflower crust at CPK.  It peaked my interest enough to check out the pizza before the lunch outing with my friend.  That way, if I didn't care for the new crust, my husband would eat it.  He'll eat pretty much anything and is not a super taster (food snob) like me.

We ordered the BBQ chicken pizza on the cauliflower crust (you must specify if you want that crust since there are two gf options now) to-go and it was ready when we got to the restaurant.  It's a smallish pizza, like all gluten-free options in the ATL, but with a salad, it's plenty for two people.  The crust was thin and looked different than the gluten crusts at CPK, and different that the last gluten-free crust I'd had there.         

Well, shut the front door - the pizza was delicious!  The crust was like a regular thin crust pizza.  Seriously, I think you could serve it to your pickiest "gluten-free food is yucky" friend and they'd never know the difference!  My husband started wondering if the pizza we'd picked up and were eating was in fact, gluten-free - it was that good!

Please don't misunderstand - CPK's cauliflower crust pizza is in no way shape or form, the best gluten-free pizza I've had.  It's not as good as Blue Moon Pizza's gluten-free crust before they changed it (or the way they bake it).  And it can't hold a candle to the wood fired option at Don Antonio (Atlanta location closed, sadly).  But the new gluten-free pizza at CPK is not only edible - something neither of the first two options offered there were - it's actually worth eating!

The only complaint I have about the pizzas are the limited offerings on the gluten-free crust.  There are only four options, presumably due to cross contamination and/or ingredients used in the many other pizzas available to customers who can enjoy the regular crust.  That's annoying, but I must admit, CPK's third gluten-free crust is definitely a charm!

Photo above is the pepperoni gluten-free cauliflower crust pizza my non gf friend ordered.  She really liked it, and thought it might have been the regular gluten crust, by mistake...told you it was!    

Monday, July 9, 2018

Top 10 favorite gluten-free things 2018

As gluten-free products in the U.S. change and improve, the list of my favorite finds does the same.  Many of my past favorite things are no more - Glutenfreeda cookies and Amy's Potato Leek soup, for examples - but at least new and amazing items continue to roll down the gluten-free pipeline.  Please note this list is comprised only of items I can buy locally, though many fantastic products are sold online that are not available in the ATL.  The * denotes where I've found listed items.  Most are available are more than one place so be sure to find which store near you carries them, on the individual manufacturers' websites.  If something says one particular flavor "only", it just means that is the only flavor (or flavors) I personally care for. 

Image courtesy of Trader Joe's 

  1. Best Bagel - Canyon Bakehouse Everything  *Sprouts
  2. Best ready-made cupcakes - Lucky Spoon - lemon and zucchini only  *Sprouts
  3. Best whole grain bread - Schar Artisan Baker 10 Grains and Seeds  *Earthfare
  4. Best egg fettuccini - Trader Joe's  *TJ's (possibly made by RP's)
  5. Best fresh pasta - various types - RP's Pasta (now Taste Republic)  *Whole Foods
  6. Best fritters - Katz Gluten Free - apple only  *Sprouts
  7. Best cookie - Tate's Bakeshop Ginger Zinger (gf)  *Bed, Bath & Beyond
  8. Best cookie mix - Fresh Market Chocolate Chip  *Fresh Market
  9. Best frozen meal - Amy's Cheese Enchiladas  *Kroger  
  10. Best frozen pizza - Kroger Four Cheese  *Kroger
To find the above items (if you haven't yet, but would like to), there are a few things to keep in mind.    The Lucky Spoon cupcakes are shipped frozen, but put out in the "fresh" bakery section on a special dietary needs display in Sprouts.  Tate's cookies have their own display at BB&B, but you must pay attention not to grab the green (gluten) bag.  The gluten-free cookies come in a white bag.  Also, the chocolate chip version of these cookies are absolutely horrible to me...odd to say the least.  Sprouts stocks all Canyon Bakehouse goods in the refrigerated cooler in the bakery - not in the freezer.  

Lastly, the Trader Joe's Egg Fettuccine is stocked in the strangest place imaginable.  It's above the produce...yes, I said produce.  And due to the way it's laid flat, you can't even see the label.  At least, it's that way at our TJ's.  It's unbelievable how my friend, Jamie, ever found it and was able to tell me about it.  But, I'm really grateful that she did!  This pasta is also offers the most value since it's $3.99/pk for FRESH gluten-free pasta.   

Monday, July 2, 2018

South City Kitchen comes to Avalon

Almost four years ago, I wrote about the wonderful brunch options at South City Kitchen in midtown.  If you missed it, you can read it here.  South City Kitchen is part of Fifth Group, which I'm thrilled to report is opening another location of the amazing ECCO in Buckhead later this year!

Okay...back to SCK.  When some friends wanted to meet at Avalon for dinner recently, we discovered that there was a new SCK at the swanky complex.  I called to discuss a few things and get a read of their gluten-free knowledge and also contacted the company through their website.  We made reservations for dinner on a Friday night.  Though it's not ideal to try a new place on the weekend, SCK really knows their stuff.

The options on the gluten-free menu were fact, it was hard to choose what to order due to there being so many fantastic looking dishes!  Our friends settled on the meat and cheese plate, served with gluten-free bread, and we started with the deliciously creative scallop appetizer.  We all tried the she crab soup (yes - it's gluten-free!) which was quite delicious if a tiny bit scant on crab.  Everything else we had was also fabulous.

For my entree, I went with the Fried Chicken, though I knew from prior research, it had to be modified to be gluten-free.  My husband got his favorite BBQ sandwich (also available gluten-free) and enjoyed it as always.  The only questionable moment of the meal was when my chicken arrived and looked fried - like normal fried chicken.  I was told it would be modified and I mistakenly assumed that meant it would not be fried.  My husband insisted I ask someone to double check it was in fact, gluten-free.  The manager confidently assured me that it was.  While I can't explain exactly how the chicken was prepared, or how it differs from the gluten option, I know two things.  The dish was gluten-free and it was AMAZING!   

There were no interesting gluten-free dessert choices so we went elsewhere for that.  That's the only slight criticism I have for SCK at Avalon.   Many places there have very good dessert options so it's a bit odd that South City Kitchen did not.  However, it's a new location and I'm sure they will eventually wow everyone with an amazing gluten-free treat that everyone will love.  Can you imagine if they used Sally's Gluten-Free Bakery pound cake to make Strawberry Shortcake in the summer?!

We're looking forward to trying brunch at this location as soon as it's cool enough to sit other words, it might be fall before we make that happen ;)   

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Coke ad insults the gluten-free community

Remember back in January of this year, when Party City ran an incredibly offensive ad regarding gluten-free food - and the people who eat it?  Well, it looks like Coke missed that one and their current ad commenting on the topic is just as bad to me - if not worse.

It's not legal for me to tape the ad on my TV and post it here, and I'm not able to find it online.  I found a long version of it, but the point is missed if you only watch that one.  The one that is unacceptable is a short version which goes something like this.  Various customers are talking about how they like/want their pizza and one woman says "it has to be gluten-free" and joe shmoe behind the counter says "that's not pizza" very gruffly.  Again, the long version of the commercial doesn't take a swipe at gluten-free consumers - but the short version most definitely does.  This is an epic fail for Coke and they should NOT be paying the short version...ever....period.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Let's talk about gluten-free fritters!

For someone who used to avoid going to the grocery store at all costs, it still amazes me that I can entertain myself at even a regular grocery store - if I have the time for it.  You've probably noticed all the gluten-free signs popping up at even the basic grocery stores, not to mention Whole Foods, Sprouts, Trader Joe's and Earthfare.  And you've probably also noticed that there are products with those tags that are not gluten-free and many more items that are gluten-free with no such tag.

The only way to find something new when at the store is to be looking for it, to pay attention and lots of it, so that you don't miss anything exciting!  This brings me to the how I found gluten-free apple fritters when I had no idea they existed.  While I love many Katz products, all of which are gluten-free, I have honestly been cutting way back on processed carbs like bread, waffles, bagels, pizza and pasta.  So while perusing the freezer at Sprouts, actually looking for the amazing small gluten-free apple pie from Katz, I spotted their apple fritters.  I also found their mini pies which I decided to try as well.  For some reason, the mini pies weren't for me....they're nothing like the small pies from the same line.

*Image courtesy of Katz Gluten-Free

The apple fritters are shockingly delicious.  One might even say they're magically delicious!  Amazing, unbelievable, scrumptious, incredible - these things are the absolute "bomb"!  For best results, you need to heat them minimally - it's very important not to overheat them - in the microwave.  If you get it right, you'll think you just dumped the fritters out of the gluten-free fryer!  If you like ice cream, adding a dollop of vanilla to the fritters take this treat to a whole other level!



Friday, June 8, 2018

REVIEW: Jersey Mike's

This post is very late in coming, but my Jersey Mike's was one of the last in the area to roll out their gluten-free bread.  After I heard about some locations testing it, I started calling locations near me each month.... and each month they informed me that still didn't have the bread.  I got tired of asking so when I remembered months after I'd given up to check again, I delightedly found out they had the gluten-free bread.  That day I had a gluten-free Philly cheese steak sandwich and have been enjoying them regularly ever since.

The staff seems well trained on preparation for gluten-free customers which is not always the case.  The bread is from Udi's and it's very good!  In fact, it's so good that I didn't think I'd gotten a gluten-free sandwich the first time around.  It's soft and really not very gluten-free tasting at all!  While I enjoy amazing gluten-free items at home, I find many restaurants serve sub par items which is why I rarely heat pizza or pasta out anymore.  If it's not amazing, I'm not going to overpay for it when dining out, period. 

Jersey Mike's offers two sizes of gluten-free sandwiches, but the regular is large enough for two meals for me.  With the disappointing gluten-free bun at Chick-Fil-A and the now discontinued "not good at all" sandwich at Starbuck's, its so nice that Jersey Mike's got it right! 




Monday, June 4, 2018

Summertime gluten-free highs and lows

It should be noted that for summer functions, I've had both great and horrible experiences over the years. For a Scientific Atlanta event many moons ago, I contacted the caterer who literally scoffed at me when I inquired about what, if anything, was gluten-free.  I think his reply went something like this - "uh...of course the hamburgers, hot dogs a BBQ pork are can't have the bread, buns or cookies" In fairness to this extremely ignorant person, he did have to ask me what gluten-free meant, before he could answer.  Anyway, after pressing him for more info (well over half the hot dogs available at that time contained wheat), he finally said he'd "look into" the menu ingredients and get back to me.  What I didn't expect was for him to call me back and tell me that the hamburger patties, hotdogs AND BBQ meat - sans the sauce - did in fact contain gluten.  For some reason that I really can't remember now, we went to the event and I had a soda and some chips and nothing else.  We left fairly quickly and went out to eat.

As mentioned above, I've also had amazing experiences at corporate functions in the summer.  At an outing at Six Flags, in what seems forever ago, they rolled out the red theme park carpet for me.  I'd been informed ahead of time to ask for a certain person when I was ready to eat lunch (lunch was served in a certain time frame for the group we went with).  Thinking we should try to eat on the earlier side of the allotted time, we asked for the "contact" and she quickly got to the business of getting my meal delivered to the pavilion where the group was eating.

To my great surprise, a tray loaded down with food was set before me on the picnic table.  There were TWO fried turkey legs (yes, cooked in dedicated fryer), French fries and salad - all meant for just me.  I was impressed, to say the least!  My husband ate one of the turkey legs and half the fries, in addition to his very soggy BBQ sandwich which he was not the least bit impressed with.  What was really hysterical to me was the fact that several co-workers came up to our table to say hello - and then asked where we found the turkey!  It was probably the only event I've been to where I know for sure my food was hands down better than what the rest of the crowd was served.  To end the lovely meal on a high note, the ice cream treats offered as dessert included some gluten-free options.  What a simply glorious day at Six Flags Over GA!

It's been ages since we went to a large corporate event during the summer, but my guess is some of them are great and others are not.  Just as is the case at any not specifically gluten-free event.  If you need to attend one, you need to ask the right questions, educate the ignorant folks you might encounter, and do the best you can.  That's all you can do in the "still far behind when it comes to gluten-free knowledge" USA.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Stellar Gluten-Free Bakery - Sarasota's gluten-free gem!

Stellar Gluten-Free Bakery in Sarasota is churning out amazing gluten-free breads and goodies which live up to their name - to say the least!  Previously, the bakery was on the beach just over the bridge and was called Island Gluten-Free Bakery.  Below is some background for this amazing place in the Sunshine State.

We have been baking gluten free since 2006-three years prior to the boom of 2009. Our bakery began inside a small ice cream parlor which was owned by my sister Kim and her partner Vickie. Mrs. Stella Peters came into the bakery and requested we make something for her. The BIG catch was that she couldn't have gluten! After researching flours, gums, and starches we came up with our own proprietary flour mixes, which we are still using today.

Until the boom of 2009 we were the only gluten free bakery in Florida and one of three in the USA. Likewise we were the first to add whole grains to gluten free baking mixes and breads. Not only did we recognize the need for more nutrition in products that were made with white rice flour and tapioca starch, we also found it to add exceptional flavor and amazing texture. Although we have more competition than when we began we are still the best. Please read our testimonials from folks all around the world! 

We bake fresh, from scratch, daily. Approximately 80 percent of our products are also dairy free and the majority can be made vegan. We highly recommend placing an order especially if you are driving from far away as we do run out of product at times.


Karen, Kim, Vickie

My favorite breads from this amazing place include cinnamon raisin, French baguette and dinner rolls.  My favorite treats include key lime pie, carrot cake, apple pie, strawberry rhubarb pie, waffles and chocolate dream pie (not actual name - ask for the heavenly chocolate whip cream pie!) .  My husband is partial to the cinnamon rolls, but I'm not into traditional rolled cinnamon buns - if you are, you will enjoy them too.  I prefer the decadent cinnamon coffee cake from this place! 


Review: Shore on St. Armand's Circle

During a visit to Clearwater, FL, we took a day trip to pick up lots of stuff from the best gluten-free bakery in Florida - Stellar Gluten-Free Bakery!  You can read about it here if you missed it ;)

A quick Google search led me to a place on St. Armand's Circle - Shore - which interestingly sells clothes downstairs and gourmet fare upstairs.  The main draw of this place for me, besides the lovely open air bistro, was the gluten-free crab cake.  They serve one as an appetizer and it was so amazing (no filler!) that I would order two with a side and salad as my meal, if we go back.

Like many places in the U.S., Shore has many gluten-free options and the staff seemed well informed on the issue.  In fact, the server we had told us I could not have an appetizer we were considering due to the chips being fried in a shared fryer.  Score for the gluten-free service at Shore!  We enjoy a delicious salad and the crab cake app and waited on our entrees.  Mine came out with fingerling potatoes that looked almost black...they weren't burnt...but it looked as if they'd been fried.  But how could that be?  I've never heard of glutenous fingerling potatoes in my dozen gluten-free years.

Instead of diving into my meal, I obviously had to wait to catch a server to inquire about the potatoes and sure enough - they were FRIED - yes, in a regular gluten laden fryer!  My plate goes back to kitchen and I insist my husband eat his meal while it was hot.  The server did offer to keep it warm for him, but he was HUNGRY so that wouldn't help.  By the time my meal reappeared with risotto in place of fried potatoes, my husband was almost finished with his meal.

All the food was amazing and the lemon risotto was some of the best I've had in years!  Even so, not being able to eat together kind of ruined the experienced a bit.  The manager brought over a seriously delicious gluten-free chocolate dessert, which we expected would happen if they had any sense.  Because it's hard to find a gluten-free crab cake worth eating (one full of gf crackers and not much crab is of no interest to me), we would try Shore again.  But, next time, I'll be asking a LOT more questions before placing my order.  And...I'll be asking EVERY single restaurant that serves fingerling potatoes if they are fried...oh yes, I will!

TIP:  If you love shopping, but can't break the bank for a trinket, walk away from the main circle of St. Armand's....there are deals to be had!!


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Best gluten-free crepes in Alpharetta

OK - the title of this post might be a bit misleading because I haven't had any gluten-free crepes in Alpharetta or North Fulton County.  There was a place over in Cobb that had the best gluten-free crepes I've had in the area, but it's now closed.

When a friend told me about Au Pan Crepe, and invited me to have lunch there, I was excited.  Since I was headed to FL to visit family, a few days after returning to town, we hit up this cute crepe cafe for a late lunch.  The really cool thing about the place is that ALL the savory crepes are made with a buckwheat flour mixture - and therefore the crepes themselves are gluten-free.  The sweet crepes are made with wheat flour so if you want a sweet treat, you have to order it be made with the gluten-free flour.

The first buckwheat crepes I ever had were a quite tough and the second version was extremely delicious.  I had each of those crepes in Montreal.  Therefore, I realize you can find a tasty crepe made from buckwheat flour and you can find one that reminds you of shoe leather.  Thankfully, the version served at Au Pan Crepe are really good and they reheat really well!  I had a basic ham and cheese crepe and it was served with a salad (or soup which was also gluten-free).  It was so large that I took half of it home to enjoy the following day.

Now that I know the crepes are this place are so good, I will definitely go back to try a sweet version - made with the savory batter, of course.  I think they will also be tasty and I'm looking forward to reporting back on those in the near future!

Bon App├ętit!

*Proscutto crepe image courtesy of Au Pan Crepe 

UPDATE:  We tried the sweet crepes which must be ordered gluten-free (otherwise, the are made with wheat flour). The Crepes Suzette with fresh whipped cream was absolutely wonderful!  Will definitely be back for more sweet and savory crepes at this darling place!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Valentine's Day - worst day to dine out gluten-free

I'll never forgot my first gluten-free Valentine's Day.  It was 2006 and, back then, dining out was NOT easy - even at chains with gluten-free menus.  After exhaustive research that spanned the three weeks between my dx and Valentine's Day, I finally chose a place in Buford, GA to eat at on the big night.  The place has since closed so I'm not naming it here.  Since we could not make reservations, we arrived when they opened at 5pm.  I think we were seated in just under two hours, at which time we were both hungry enough to eat the table cloth.  No apps were safe for me so my husband wouldn't order anything for himself.  We did end up having a lovely meal, but that was my first meal out since going gluten-free and it didn't make me feel like doing it again anytime soon.

That night taught me to take emergency snacks when going out to eat.  Many years passed before I didn't feel the need for that safety net.  Everyone has their own faves for purse snacks and mine included nuts, dried fruit or crackers (to use with sans gluten cheese plate).

After skipping dining out on February 14th for several years, we finally went out again (to another place that has since closed) and had another bad experience.  This time around we had reservations, but since the place was jammed packed and fairly chaotic (they had clearly taken more reservations than they could handle), we agreed to sit in the bar area instead of the main dining room.  Our meal took a while to come out, but everything was really good.

The bad part was that the server informed me (after our order was put in) that I could not have the goat cheese on my salad...the exact salad I'd had many times without issue.  That's because there was NO gluten in the cheese.  Someone was confused in thinking gluten-free and dairy free were set a bad tone for the rest of the night and my husband suggested that I might mark the place off my list of safe places.  I didn't do that, but I did inform the restaurant that they might do a little retraining of the staff.  It should be said that this place was known for gluten-free service - one of the few such places in the area back then.
We've had a couple of other negative experiences on Valentine's day so a few years ago, we decided to celebrate the holiday early.  We're not the only people doing this, of course, but the difference in the atmosphere at restaurants on Valentine's day and the day (or so) before it is like night and day.  The staff is much more relaxed which lends itself to a diner with allergies being more relaxed as well.

Have a sweet gluten-free Valentine's Day - however you choose to celebrate!

CPK's gluten-free pizza - third time's a charm!

Once upon a time, California Pizza Kitchen (aka CPK) introduced a gluten-free crust.  And, it was the worst I've ever had in a restaura...