Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Amazing gluten free cheese crackers!

Each time I tried one of the commercially available gluten free cheese crackers, I was disappointed over and over. One version literally tasted like dirt with a slight cheese flavor. The only excellent cheese cracker-like product is actually made from all cheese and herbs by Kitchen Table Bakers. It's not really all that much like a traditional cracker, but it's excellent tasting none the less. But a gluten free Cheeze-it type cracker has eluded me for over two years. Until last week. From a listserve post about graham crackers, I found out about Sunny Valley Wheat Free in Maple Valley, WA. Though the name doesn't imply it, this company is gluten free as well as wheat free. Maybe a name change is in order...















After perusing the website offerings, I ordered the cheese crackers and some cookies and scones. Both the scones and the cookies were quite good and everything held up well shipping all the way to GA, via priority mail. But the cheese crackers...well, they tasted a LOT like a Cheeze-it. They looked like them too. The only difference might be that they are slightly more 'cheesey' and they taste like real food. The gluten crackers contain perservatives and this product does not. I've frozen a few of these cheesy delights to see how they hold up that way. If they do well (hold their flavor and terrific crunch), I'll order enough for six months or so, to pro-rate the shipping cost per package.

Generally I don't post about all the new exciting gluten free products I discover. Everyone has different tastes and what appeals to me might not do the same for you. But this product is close enough to an existing gluten product that I feel comfortable saying that if you liked Cheeze-it crackers, you'll like (or more than likely LOVE) this cracker! It's quite a remarkable little treat and when I place my next order, I'm going to try their 'Better than Grahams' crackers. Apparently they can barely keep up with the demand for those. Happy snacking!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Finally - Gluten Free pizza in Atlanta!

Most of us agree that the number one thing we miss is being able to have pizza - either in a restaurant or for take-out/delivery. Yes, I make delicious pizza often with crust from The Grainless Baker, but I'd like the option of having one I don't have to make myself. It's true that a few lucky people are able to do this, but only in 1/4 of the states in the US is it possible. And in some of those states, there is only one town with gluten free pizza. So when I heard of a magical place called Pizza Fusion, in South FL that offered gluten free organic pizza, I tried to figure out a way to get down there to try it. That was over a year ago and I still haven't been but now I'm getting something even better. Pizza Fusion is opening in Atlanta this Fall! I've absolutely died and gone to gluten free Heaven....or at least I'm going soon!

Recently, I got the chance to interview Jeff Melnick - owner of the Atlanta location of Pizza Fusion opening soon in the Buckhead area. The company is so committed to being 'green', they only deliver pizzas in hybrid cars! But obviously, the best part (and only reason I'd be writing) about Pizza Fusion is that they make gluten free pizza, for those of us that large pizza chains choose to ignore. After seeing the You Tube videos about Pizza Fusion's gluten free pizza, I was sold. Any pizza that is good enough for picky gluten free teens (and even glutenoids) is surely good enough for me!

If you're familiar with this company, you know that they offer gluten crust pizzas as well. But as you'll see here, Pizza Fusion is doing everything possible to ensure their gluten free pizzas are just that - gluten free. Jeff's answers to my questions are shown in italicized text.

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You know Jeff, a lot of people with Celiac disease or gluten intolerance react to the tiniest bit of gluten. I heard that Pizza Fusion has a unique way of dealing with the cross contamination issue. Can you explain that process to us?

We prepare a batch of our gluten-free dough every day, morning and evening. Additionally, we instruct our staff to remember how important it is to avoid contaminating the dough with any gluten product. We also inspect our equipment and remove any traces of regular flour before starting the batch. In addition, our gluten-free recipe is proprietary and we follow it exactly. We take the preparation of our gluten-free products very seriously. Our gluten-free pizza and products are prepared in a designated “gluten-free” area on a clean and sanitized cutting board.

Also, we take extra steps to ensure that the utensils that come in contact with the pizza are sanitized and kept separate from the non gluten-free pizzas. We have designated the top shelf of our oven for gluten-free pizzas only. In other words, there is never any cross contamination between the gluten-free pizzas and the non gluten-free pizzas.

Is it true that you'll be offering gluten free beer there too? If so, what brands are you stocking?

Yes, we'll be stocking Redbridge gluten free beer (by Anheiser Busch) for our gluten free patrons to enjoy.

Someone from Florida mentioned that your brownies are gluten free and very delicious. Is it true that you only offer one (gluten free) brownie to all your customers?

Yes, we offer only one brownie. It's vegan and gluten-free and they ARE very delicious.

Needless to say - the gluten free community in Atlanta is excited to finally get gluten free pizza in our area! When is the estimated opening date for your Buckhead location?

We are shooting for a soft opening of September 9th, 2008 and we look forward to serving our gluten free friends. Keep an eye out for grand opening news...! We also plan to open two additional locations in 2009 in Vinings and Midtown/Edgewood.

Thanks so much for your time Jeff. We can NOT wait until you open here!

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So, there you have it folks. I hope everyone will give Pizza Fusion a chance to prove they care about making us safe, gluten free food. This company takes the gluten free market seriously and cares about courting us more than any other chain with a gluten free menu, that I've worked with anyway. We've got to support companies like this or else we'll never get to where we want (and deserve) to be in the US, regarding gluten free dining. There are gluten free, dairy free options here as well. Check out the complete allergen information from Pizza Fusion here.

Pizza Fusion
2233 Peachtree Road, Suite M
Atlanta, GA 30309 / 404-351-9334
Jeffrey Melnick
j.melnick@pizzafusion.com
`Saving the Earth, One Pizza at a Time`

Update: check out the lastest press release from Pizza Fusion!
http://www.pizzafusion.com/press-room/press-release-detail.aspx?id=39













Gluten Free week at the Four Seasons Hotel in Atlanta!

This post is a little late in coming, since the week long event was back in April. I was planning for vacation then and somehow never got around to posting about it. Chef Robert Gertenecker is the Executive Chef at Park 75, at the Four Seasons Hotel. He got involved with the gluten free community last October, when he participated in the Gluten Free Cooking Spree hosted by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. After that event, he added gluten free lobster chili and cornbread to his lunch menu. With two days notice, you can also enjoy Afternoon Tea there, complete with gluten free scones, sandwiches and desserts! Naturally when the Park 75 manager told me about Chef's gluten free week in April, I was overly excited. They came up with a gluten free dinner menu with choices for the starter, entree and dessert. For $45, it was quite the bargain for this caliber restaurant.

I got an early preview of the menu and though it looked great, I really miss ordering crab cakes out. And so I did what I urge everyone to do, all the time. I asked for what I wanted - gluten free crab cakes. As always, Chef Robert did not disappoint and gladly added Blue Crab Cakes to his gluten free dinner menu.

Our original plan was to have a romantic evening out but it turned out a gluten free friend was having a birthday that week. So we ended up with a small group of friends to enjoy this great evening together. We were seated at a prime location in the restaurant at a round table, and within a minute a bread basket appeared on the table. I recognized the gluten free cornbread muffins but there was something else in there. Oops...they must have put gluten rolls in the basket, rendering everything in it unsafe for us. No actually, they had made gluten free rolls just for us. They were fairly good, but could not compete with the cornbread...it's some of the best cornbread I've ever had, regardless of ingredients.













To keep things simple and worry free, the entire table ordered from the gluten free menu. My husband started with the gluten free mushroom ravioli with truffle cream sauce and I had Chef's signature white bean lobster chili. The crab cakes were actually offered in the appetizer section on the special menu, but Chef made an exception for us and gave us two cakes as an entree choice. They were some of the best I've ever had and certainly the best gluten free version I've tasted. This is probably because it was comprised mostly of crab...some of the best tasting I'd had in a while. All crab cakes should be this decadent....I could have eaten them continuously until morning. But we still had our dessert course coming.


My husband ordered the creme brulee and I had the berry parfait with a gluten free cookie. I wasn't crazy about the cookie part but the rest of my dessert was fabulous. The creme brulee was excellent and presented beautifully, with a caramelized sugar spray on top!
















Just as we thought our night would soon end, the server and manager appeared with a special birthday dessert for my friend...what?! Though I had asked for something special for her (at her husband's secret request), when they brought her dessert out with ours, I assumed they hadn't come up with anything special. Since the dessert offered is not available at present, I can't tell or show what exactly it was. But trust me when I say it was out of this world delicious and they should be offering it all the time. It was so unbelievable that as I stuffed a few bites down (very full from dinner), I kept thinking this could not possibly be gluten free - but it was. Pastry Chef Christopher Jennings really outdid himself this time. I can't wait to see what he'll come up with next!


So a very late but sincere thanks to Chef Robert, Managers Augustin and Mike, and the entire staff at Park 75, for making that night so wonderful for all of us. And an extra special thank you goes to Pastry Chef Christopher, especially from the birthday girl! None of us will ever forget the special treatment we received at the Atlanta Four Seasons Hotel! And seriously Chef Robert, you really should consider packaging the lobster chili and selling it retail....





































































Wednesday, June 4, 2008

One last stop on our gluten free tour of New York City!















We have to leave Wyman House today - our home away from home - we wish! But maybe we can come back one day. For now, there is the matter of deciding where to have our last meal in NYC, for now anyway. There are three diners in Manhattan (that I know of) with gluten free menus. By far, the one I've heard the most fabulous things about is Peter's Gourmet Diner on the UES. So we decided to enjoy our last meal of the trip there. A car was picking us up at 1 pm at so we had to eat a very early lunch. We set off around 10:30 am to catch the bus that takes us across town, within two blocks of Peter's. It's very cold, windy and rainy today. Needless to say everyone is taking the bus and so it's slow going....twenty people were cramped into the covered bus stop, trying to stay dry. Since the bus was packed, it stopped at every stop but we finally get off and practically sprinted to Peter's.


We enter the place to find we're the only ones there, except for three employees. We were seated and handed a massive menu, with things marked only if they are NOT gluten free...how neat is that?! I haven't been able to order pancakes out in over two years but when I asked what gluten free brand of mix they used, the server said he didn't know and didn't offer to go find out. He seemed like he was having a bad day so I ordered chicken fingers and onion rings - but they were out of onion rings. So I ordered potato skins instead my husband ordered a patty melt with gluten free bread. The chicken fingers were coated with a cornmeal batter that I didn't care for, but the skins were scrumptious! However, the patty melt was unbelievable....my husband assumed that they'd messed up the order and served it on gluten bread. But they hadn't so I got to taste it...I would not order anything but a sandwich if I ever went back to Peter's. I can't believe this place is baking their own bread so please tell me if you know what brand they use. It's fabulous and probably one of the many gluten free breads that I've heard great things about, which are not sold in the South. I left half my meal on the table because I couldn't eat it all, so we didn't inquire about dessert. But trust me, they have a LOT of them!
















The bus ride back over to our side of town took forever so we literally ran three blocks to get back in time for our car. We actually arrived about 12:50 but after we ducked inside, the Inn owner noticed our car passing by without stopping. She called the company immediately and the driver circled back to get us. We loaded everything in the roomy town car and headed to Laguardia. I was sort of glad it was cold and rainy, and that I was not super impressed with Peter's. I wanted to get home where it was warmer.....and I wanted to think we have it as good in Atlanta as the gluten free set in New York do. But of course, this is not true.


Atlanta probably ranks in the top ten cities to live in the US, if you're gluten free for whatever reason. But we've got a LONG way to go to compete with those lucky New Yorkers. I know we'll never beat them...probably won't match them either. But we'll have fun trying, and we'll make life easier for every Celiac that comes after us in the process!


There are way too many people to thank for making our gluten free tour of New York one of our best vacations ever. But I've got to mention several who went above and beyond to help us in every way they could. Bruce and Pedro at Everybody Eats - we'll never forget your gluten free pinata and we are so excited that some of your products now sold in the Atlanta area! Debra - your advice about everything was a home run - we agree with you about the bakery too - thanks for everything! Julie - thanks for telling us about two places that not one other New York Celiac seems to know about! To an unnamed listserve member - 'Cesca was amazing...you're lucky to have such a fabulous place in your neighborhood and happy anniversary! Jonah at PizzaBolla - I'd love your chocolate chip cookie recipe. Liz - thanks for organizing the pizza party for the Meetup group! Dave at Mozzarelli's - you should be selling your gluten free biscotti nationwide! Enzo at Tini's - thanks for making our anniversary so special...we hope to try Opus one day!



Finally, to my fellow (and much more professional) bloggers - Shauna, Catherine, Erin, Kelly and Jamie - you each helped me plan and enjoy this trip in different ways, and for that I'm very grateful. But most of all I'd like to thank each one of you, for everything you do for our community. You are all proving that together we can make a difference! Rock on gluten free ladies - rock on!!!!!

No omelet for brunch...seriously?!

When visiting in-laws recently, we went to brunch in Chattanooga, TN.  Since brunch is typically pretty easy to manage gluten-free (I've...