Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Nature's Own gluten-free breads hit more Atlanta area stores!

Two Sam's Club locations in GA and several Ingles stores now carry the shelf stable gluten-free breads from Nature's Own. Actually, the Ingles locations picked it up first and then Sam's came aboard later. To find the store nearest you, please review this list. PLEASE go out and buy at least one of these breads to see how you like it. If you don't like it, don't buy it again. Most people who buy it either like it or love it and very few report not caring for it at all.

Remember these breads are NOT in the freezer as they are shelf stable. They are located in the health food areas in most stores. These breads can roll out nationwide eventually if the Atlanta gluten-free crowd makes it happen by supporting the items here.

To those of you who've contacted me to complain that the stores on the list are always out of the bread, please call your store manager and ask them to hold the bread for you. That is the best way to make sure you can buy it when you get there. It's selling out faster than the truck can get back to south GA to pick up more!    

Monday, June 28, 2010

Gluten-free chicken noodle soup review

When Health Valley changed their tune about some of their soups being gluten-free, I knew something was up, but had no idea what it was. Finally, when Gluten-free Café announced that they were bringing out a line of gluten-free soups, I made the connection.

Health Valley and Gluten-free Café are both owned by Hain Celestial. The company line is that from now on, they will not state anything is gluten-free unless they test the products for gluten. Fair enough. I asked if anything had changed in the Health Valley soup I’d been eating for years (cream of celery to be specific) and was told no, there had been no changes in the ingredients or suppliers for them. I’m so glad to still be able to enjoy that soup today as I use it in a chicken casserole recipe.

One thing I can’t have from the Health Valley line is chicken noodle soup. As with most mainstream versions of that soup, it contains regular wheat pasta noodles. How exciting to find out that the new Gluten-Free Café soups finally hit store shelves in my area. The only version I was interested in trying was the Chicken Noodle soup and it was almost always out of stock at the store I shop at.

Even though it’s been over 90 degrees every day for weeks now, I simply had to try the new soup as soon as I found it in stock. The ingredients are pretty – if not completely – clean. In other words, I can pronounce all of them and know what they are. There is no added MSG in the soup and they are certified by GIG’s rigorous CFCO program. OK- so, how was the soup? Overall it was pretty tasty, but the broth was a little bit cloudy for my liking. I like clear broths and this one doesn’t offer that at all. It does offer  great flavor and decent size tender chicken chunks, unlike the famous chicken noodle soup with the red and white label. The chicken in the Gluten-Free Café soup resembles that in Progresso’s Chicken with Rice gluten-free soup.

It seems like every month a new item is introduced that fills in the gluten foods replacement puzzle even more. Maybe in the future we’ll be able to find some powdered doughnuts (like those from Celiac Specialties) in the grocery store. Having a gluten-free version of chicken noodle soup is another piece of the puzzle. Actually, the Gluten Free Café soup is just the first canned version in the U.S. (that I’m aware of); Kettle Cuisine’s wonderful frozen gluten-free Chicken Noodle soup was introduced a few years ago. The soup from that line is the better of the two in my opinion, but it’s great to have a canned version as well!

The soups from Gluten-Free Café and Kettle Cuisine are sold at Natural Foods Warehouse and Return to Eden in Atlanta, and possibly at other stores around town. Gluten-free Cafe soups will soon be available as well. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Gluten-free tasting event at Rainbow Foods

On Tuesday, June 29th, Rainbow Natural Foods in Decatur will host a gluten-free event. Everyone living gluten-free in the area is invited to drop by and taste house made gluten-free items. Rainbow Foods is really upping their gluten-free game and it's a great place to shop for gluten-free foods. The event runs from 6-7:30 pm.  The store has a pastry chef that trained in Italy and recently returned from learning about gluten-free baking in Colorado. Stop by and learn about all the new gluten-free offerings at Rainbow Natural Foods! 

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Gluten-free kettle corn made in Georgia

Recently, I stumbled on yet another interesting gluten-free find. Though most packaged kettle corn (and versions I've had at festivals) is gluten-free, not all of them are labeled as such. The Ike & Sam's brand is labeled gluten-free and it's totally addictive. If you heat it in the microwave for a short time, it will taste like someone just scooped you up a bag of freshly popped kettle corn at a county fair!

It's nice to support local companies when possible which is why we buy White Oaks pastures beef and Springer Mountain chicken. We try to get out to local farmers markets for fresh veggies and herbs as often as possible too. There are many fine food companies based in Georgia, but I have not even heard of the town where my latest gluten-free find is made. The town is called Chickamauga and the kettle corn company there is called Old Mill General Store. I was so excited to see the words "GLUTEN FREE" on the front of the bag of kettle corn that I quickly dropped it into the shopping cart. The corn contains only real ingredients, but I did miss a tiny bit of useful info on the bag. There is a large white sticker on the front of the bag that says "Kickin' Korn". Yes, this version of the kettle corn is VERY spicy. It contains Cajun seasonings and cayenne pepper.

I absolutely love kettle corn but sadly, this hot version was too hot for me. After checking out the company website, I am very interested in finding the original version that is not spicy at all. The texture of the spicy corn is perfect so I know I'll love the regular version if I can find it. If anyone has seen this product in the Atlanta area, please let me know. I got my bag at Earthfare in TN and will be checking that store on our next visit if I don't locate the product here.      

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Udi's Double Chocolate Muffins take the gluten-free cake!

By now, anyone who follows the gluten-free diet and lives in the U.S. has heard of Udi's Gluten-Free in Colorado. I guess people who are not online might have missed the news that Udi's Gluten-Free has turned the gluten-free baked goods world upside down. Think all gluten-free bread has to be heated in order to eat it - or even just to make it palatable? Wrong. Enter Udi's fantastic breads, muffins, pizza crust, granola and bagels!

I recently had the chance to try the Double Chocolate muffins and plain bagels from Udi's. Well, the muffin isn't really much like a muffin to me. It's like a fabulously decadent chocolate chip cupcake! All you need is some frosting and you've got a perfect tasting gluten-free treat for a kid's birthday party. I think all the muffins (and most of Udi's gluten-free items) are now available at Natural Foods Warehouse (both locations) and Return to Eden.      

The Udi's bagels are wonderful, quite like their white bread shaped into a bagel form. I put garlic powder and onion powder on half of an over-sized bagel before toasting to a golden brown. Then I add cream cheese and I've got a wonderful gluten-free breakfast. But the most perfect way to enjoy an Udi's bagel for me is to use it for open faced cold sandwiches. I won't be leaving  home without them ever again. My next experiment will involve making a gluten-free version of Panera's cinnamon crunch bagel...if all goes well, I'll post the instructions here later.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Gluten-free hotdogs at Gwinnett Braves

The ballpark out in Gwinnett County where the Atlanta farm team plays now offers gluten-free hotdogs with gluten-free buns. They were actually out of them when I called to find out where to get the gluten-free dog at the park but the Aramark manager went to Whole Foods to pick some up. They don't usually get the buns there but they are having difficulty getting the buns from their supplier (which I think is Kinnikinnick). Anyway, the bun I had (which no one could tell me the brand of) was not very good. I ended up eating mostly just the hot dog and 1/4 of the bun. It was nice to have a gluten-free beer to wash down the dry, cardboard tasting bun. There is a possibility that the gluten-free bun the park normally has is better then what I had. There is also a chance it's even worse so I doubt I'll risk finding out one way or another.

Knowing we'll be back at the park soon, I decided to ask if the hamburgers were gluten-free - without the bun, of course. I'd much rather have a burger without a bun than a hot dog with an inedible bun. Unfortunately, the hamburgers at the Gwinnett Braves park are not gluten-free, according to the Aramark manager. Rather, the hamburger patties are not gluten-free. They didn't order in gluten-free hamburger buns so now that makes sense. Aramark is really stepping up and heeding the call of their allergen free customers. However, there is not enough of a call for gluten-free items at the Gwinnett Braves games for them to worry too much about accommodating our crowd. From now on I'll make sure and have dinner before I head to the ballpark and then I'll stick to peanuts or popcorn. I don't care for Dippin' Dots but they are also offered at the park. At last check, that brand of ice cream was gluten-free.
You really can't beat the experience of enjoying a minor league baseball game. It's super easy to get in and out of the park and you can hear everything that happens on the field. It is so much easier (and much cheaper!) than heading into town to see the major league game. However, the gluten-free food cart down town at Turner Field is one of the most impressive in the country. If you do get out to see the G-Braves play, Redbridge is sold only at Neikro's inside the park and that is where I got the gluten-free hot dog as well. We asked for a take-out order but they messed up and served it in baskets you can't take to your seat.

Now that the weather is unbearably hot in Atlanta, it's strange to think of the night we went to the G-Braves game just a few weeks ago. It started raining in the 5th inning and the wind kicked up like crazy. All of a sudden it was freezing cold. I had to buy a Braves Snuggy at the gift! I've always sort of wanted one anyway (though not the Braves version) and I'm happy to report that the Snuggy is VERY warm.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Best Gluten-free Burger in Atlanta

If you live in Atlanta and follow the gluten-free diet, you are likely aware that Shaun’s Restaurant in Inman Park has “Celiac Dinners” one weekend each month. The next one (on June 27th) looks really fabulous and if we were not already booked that weekend, we might head into town to enjoy it. Gluten-free diners can always order gluten-free options at Shaun's, but the Celiac menu is a special treat!  

Almost a year ago, Chef Shaun told me he was working on a new concept restaurant that would be very gluten-free friendly. Later on I learned it would be a burger joint. I assumed a gluten-free friendly burger joint would have to offer a gluten-free bun and obviously, it would be nice if the fries were gluten-free as well. Last week, Shaun’s new place opened in the Westside Provision district on Howell Mill Rd. and the menu indeed offers both gluten-free buns and French fries.

We headed down to YEAH! BURGER for a bite on Sunday afternoon and it was well worth the trip. It's a very hip space with tall ceilings and environmentally friendly design touches. The menus are printed on recycled paper, much of the food is organic and the beef is grass fed beef from Oak Pastures in Georgia.
Since we arrived at 2:30 in the afternoon, we thought we’d find a fairly empty restaurant but that was far from the case. The place was jam packed and it was quite loud inside. There is a large patio that offers a more peaceful dining experience. 

We ordered two burgers (one with cheese), two gluten-free buns ($1.25 upcharge), one side of fries, one Coke and a milkshake. Our bill came to just over $26 with tax. You order and pay at the counter, where a large tip box is prominently placed. So, after spending almost $30, we found a seat and waited for our meal. The regular sodas are self serve, but Boylans all natural sodas are sold by the bottle for only $2. Bard’s gluten-free beer runs $5, which is $1 less than most places here sell it for. The bar area overlooks the open kitchen and was almost full of patrons just like the dining room was when we arrived. Our order came out surprisingly fast, considering the place had only been open for four days. The concept is good quality fast food, but not all places that make that claim live up to it, especially in the first week of business. 

The place was so busy that I wanted to look around at other buns to see what they looked like before I dove into mine. Sure enough, the other buns on various tables didn’t look anything like ours and the server that delivered them stated they were gluten-free before I could ask her about them. Good enough. The burger, bun and fries were all exceptional. The burger really tasted a lot like the burgers at Five Guys to both of us and so did the fries. But Five Guys doesn’t serve gluten-free buns (that I know of) and that fact makes YEAH! BURGER the place to go for gluten-free burgers and fries in Metro Atlanta.

The GIG approved gluten-free buns held together to the last bite and had no funny taste or texture. The buns go from freezer to oven in a closed container and are toasted in a dedicated toaster oven. It was a little more toasted on top than I prefer, but being able to have a gluten-free bun that actually tastes good at a restaurant outweighs that minor issue. It tastes like a “real” bun if you will, and no other bun I’ve had when dining in Atlanta fit that bill for me. The company that makes the hamburger buns is based in Atlanta and is currently offering her unique product only to restaurants.

The fries come with one sauce, but we didn’t order one. By the time we saw them on the menu, we'd already ordered. It is not noted on the menu they gave me to take home which sauces are gluten-free, so gluten-free guests should ask before assuming anything not noted as gluten-free actually is. YEAH! BURGER also serves grass fed beef hot dogs, but presently there is no gluten-free hot dog bun available. Like the staff at Shaun’s, the Yeah! Burger team is very concerned that their gluten-free offerings make it to the table gluten-free. There is a disclaimer at the bottom of the menu about the dedicated fryer being next to regular fryers and suggests that people with severe reactions to gluten might want to skip the fries. The fries I had were both delicious and gluten-free and I would gladly order them again.

Five Guys will continue to be our “go to” burger place because it’s four miles from our home. When we’re in the proximity of YEAH! BURGER and need a quick bite, we’ll definitely pop in for a quick and delicious meal! Hopefully, the gluten-free set in town, and those visiting the area (including those from the burbs) will take advantage of this new gluten-free dining experience offered by YEAH! BURGER.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Support the Braves & the Gluten-free Food Cart!

That's right! There is a gluten-free food cart at Turner Field in Atlanta. Now you can support the Bravos and enjoy a gluten-free beer and hot dog again! Also, there are gluten-free hot dogs at the Gwinnett Braves stadium as well. People continue to report that they can't find the gluten-free beer at the park. It's there - you just have to know where to look. You might even want to choose your seats based on the location of the food cart. You can read the details here.

Gluten-free Food Shopping in Atlanta

There are many health food stores in the Atlanta area that stock gluten-free products. However, there are two that really stand out from all the others - Natural Foods Warehouse (in Duluth and Alpharetta) and Return to Eden in town. Both of those stores stock a tremendous amount of gluten-free products. In fact, non gluten-free shoppers might be a bit put off by all the gluten-free tags that line the shelves there. If you like to buy items by the case, you can get a discount by ordering from Return to Eden. We shop mostly at Natural Foods Warehouse for gluten-free items, even though it's over 12 miles from our house. Both Trader Joe's and Whole Foods have decent gluten-free product selections, though Whole Foods prices are on the high side. Publix and Kroger have some gluten-free products, including the gluten-free bread being test marketed by Nature's Own! If you haven't yet picked these great breads yet - you might want to give them a try.

Here is my thorough review of the shelf stable (that's right - not frozen!) gluten-free breads that are currently being test marketed in the Atlanta area.
Ingles is really stepping up their gluten-free game as well. In fact, their buyers are outdoing their competitors (Publix and Kroger) in terms of the quality of gluten-free products they are bringing in. All and all, the gluten-free set in Atlanta is really quite fortunate to have so many options for great food these days!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Finding Gluten-free Joy

Today, my doorbell never seemed to stop ringing. Danna Korn's new book "Living Gluten-Free For Dummies 2" arrived. I'll be reviewing and giving away a copy after I've had time to read it. Then came the cereal and fab tote bags from Nature's Path for my event in Chattanooga this weekend. Finally, my order arrived from Katz Gluten Free. I like fluffy hamburger buns with sesame seeds and their Challah rolls do the trick perfectly! The owners of Katz Gluten Free are some of the nicest people I've met since I started getting contacted weekly about reviewing gluten-free items.

Sometimes I get overwhelmed by all the PR firms and companies contacting me to promote their wares. When I say I need an assistant just to manage my e-mail, I'm being dead serious. However, presently that is not an option. So I go about getting back to everyone as timely as humanly possible for me, right now. There are limits to how many gluten-free items I can taste in a week! And my low carb diet isn't going so well, with so many fab new items coming out like King Arthur Flour mixes and Udi's bagels.

In the end, I have to stop and remind myself that it's a good thing - no, make that a great thing - that there is so much gluten-free goodness available these days! It was not like this ten years ago (from what I've heard) or even four years ago when I was diagnosed with celiac. What did people do 20 years ago without the internet? We are incredibly fortunate that things are so great for so many of us these days. There are many reasons to be joyous about gluten-free living. All and all, things could be much more stressful. People could be asking me to review a bunch of food that tastes like cardboard. It seems like forever since I've had a bad experience with a nasty tasting food. Yes, remembering dirt like cookies makes me glad for Gltuenfreeda cookies. More gluten-free joy....keep it coming!

Gluten-free in a pandemic? No problem!

Not to make light of the current situation the world finds itself in, but I'm so thankful that I learned to self isolate when I was diag...