Wednesday, September 5, 2018

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 always been able to order an omelet and grits, hashbrowns or fruit), I wasn't concerned about the place we were going.  And, for the record, it came up on the list of gf friendly places on Trip Advisor anyway.

We arrived to a bustling restaurant and had to wait about an hour to be seated.  Since we had time to kill, I asked the hostess about gf options.  She was nice enough, but clearly knew nothing about what I could and could not order.  She said she'd get back to me and after asking her again later, I was finally told they can't do an omelet (yes - they serve eggs).  OK - I'll have to order scrambled eggs and I'll just ask for cheese and bacon in it.  At least I won't starve to death.

The server takes my order and he's pretty knowledgeable.  He knows I can't have b'fast potatoes and isn't sure about the grits.  I tell him I'll have scrambled, well done eggs with bacon and cheese mixed in.  And, if I can't have grits - I'll have fruit.  Nope - they don't have fruit. The poor server looked so concerned as he continued to try to help me find something suitable to eat.  By now, everyone in our party of six was on the verge of being "hangry"!

I'm told before the food comes out I can have the grits.  Well, that's good news, at least.  Then the food is delivered and my plate looks fine (no unwanted toast on it).  For reasons not explained, the bacon is on the side - not in the eggs.  And the scrambled eggs are very runny...and have to go back for more cooking.  I ate the grits (very good) and bacon and eventually my eggs. 

My food was fine, if nothing special.  Being spoiled in the ATL is great as long as you're in the ATL!  I wasn't expecting to order gluten-free pancakes or a cinnamon bun, like we can easily do here, after all.  The rest of the party really enjoyed their food, though my husband thought his sandwich was small for the price.  If you're wondering where we went - it was the Flying Squirrel.  In their defense, they have pretty decent gf reviws for dinner - not brunch.  My bad.

The good news is that if you want an omelet for brunch or lunch when in Chat, you can have an amazing option at Frothy Monkey (the same chain as in Nashville).  The gf bread and muffins there are nothing to get excited about, but they're decent enough.  They do bake those in house so please keep that in mind before ordering.  Either way, the omelets are amazing there!

GF food for thought:  don't assume you can order an omelet at brunch...apparently, not everyone can make one ;)


Friday, August 24, 2018

The best gluten-free bread on the market is not sold in USA

Anyone who loved bread when they could have gluten might still be looking for that perfect, normal tasting, I-can't-believe-it's-gluten-free-bread...and hoping the next brand they try will be it.  Over the years, I'd pretty much given up ever finding the all-elusive perfect gluten-free bread.  Carbs are really not my friend these days so I didn't feel I was missing anything.  Recently, with the discovery of Jersey Mike's amazing sandwiches and my favorite freshly baked scones from Seven Sisters, I've enjoyed bread items more than in recent years.  However, I still find myself letting sliced bread sit in the fridge too long....until it's almost petrified and has to be thrown out.  Throwing out food of any kind is terrible and I try very hard not to ever do it.  So, I rarely buy bread, but do splurge on bagels every now and then.  Those freeze well and can be taken out the night before you need one and for me, that means much less waste than sliced bread.

For my birthday last year, we went to Scotland for the first time.  To say the trip was amazing is an extreme understatement.  We went in the warm season - July - making sure to pack like it was winter in the ATL.  Yes, we needed gloves, hats, coats, scarves and of course - heavy duty umbrellas! More about the trip later.  The point of this post, which is dragging on unnecessarily, is to share the best gluten-free find I've had - EVER!

Rumors about Genius bread surfaced many years ago, but it was the brand of the bread sold in many parts of Europe.  What I didn't realize at the time, is when it was introduced in the US, it was not (in any way shape or form) the bread that everyone who'd had it in Europe had raved about. In fact, I could not believe anyone would think the bread was any different than your standard, oddly textured, frozen bread we've all become accustomed to.  Eventually, I found out all Genius bread is not created equal - to say the least!

Fast forward several years when I walked into a Sainsbury's in Edinburgh and found Genius bread sitting on the shelf - NOT in the freezer, mind you - in the 'free from' section.  Strangely enough, because the bread was as light as a feather AND it was a huge loaf, I immediately assumed that it was regular, gluten containing bread. Seriously - that went though my mind even though the bread was in the 'free from' section.  That's where allergen-free products are found in many countries in Europe.  They don't mix everything up like so many stores here do.

OK - so there is a light loaf of bread that is labelled gluten-free. The size of the slices is "normal" making it all the more confusing.  It's hard to wrap your brain around something you didn't know could, or did, exist.  It was...well, it was a gluten-free miracle of sorts.  We picked up some basics like eggs, cereal, fruit, cheese, wine, milk and various 'free from' snacks like mini tarts (yum!) and made our way back to our fantastic Home Away apartment.  Our plane had arrived just a few hours before so it was time for lunch.  Naturally, I decided to have a piece of bread with butter on it along with a grilled chicken salad.

It was love at fist bite for the REAL Genius bread.  Even still - I literally ran into the kitchen to read the label on the bread bag again!  At this point, you feel as though you're losing your grip on reality.  How many times do I have to read a label to believe the bread, as inconceivably delcious as it is, is in fact, GLUTEN-FREE?  Enough already - get over it and enjoy it!  And that is what I did for the entire trip, even savoring the last slice at the Edinburgh airport, before heading home.  It wasn't until after I got back to reality - the one where no amazing gluten-free bread is on the shelf at my local grocery store - that I began to question why that was.  More on that another day.

For now, please know that if you are anywhere outside the U.S. that sells Genius bread - BUY IT!!!  You won't like it - you'll love it and then you'll be dissappointed that you can't find it anywhere in this country.  The only upside is that if this bread was at the store around the corner, I would have a very hard time sticking to my self-imposed low carb!

At the time of this post, the original Genius gluten-free products are NOT sold in the U.S.  Maybe if we all request they sell the REAL Genius bread in the U.S. - by contacting the company, we'll get it here eventually ;)



Thursday, August 9, 2018

What happened to Burger 21?

Over a year ago, we started picking up take-out from Burger 21.  They have gluten-free buns as well as gluten-free fries (regular and sweet potato) made in a dedicated fryer.  And if you dine in, they have a nice gluten-free cider.  Since the bright indoor lighting is rather jarring if you're sensitive to light, we went from dining in to picking up take-out fairly quickly.

However, over the last six months or so, our orders often haven't been made right.  Thankfully, my meal was still gluten-free, but the bacon we paid for was not on the burger.  This happened three consecutive times.  Finally, we complained (via phone) and the next time my husband went in, they gave him a free burger on our take-out order.  Unfortunately, even though my burger had the bacon ordered on it, it also had lots of condiments and other stuff I do not eat on burgers.  It was completely gross so we had to go back and exchange it for another burger.  We got more coupons for that mistake, but by then I was thinking I don't really care about saving on an order if the restaurant can't seem to prepare it correctly...over and over again.

Finally, another take-out order and again, it was prepared incorrectly.  But this time my husband knew to check the order BEFORE he left and sure enough, there was stuff on my burger which was not supposed to be on it...and the order taker definitely confirmed the other back correctly before sending details to the kitchen.  So, now we assume someone in the kitchen can't read the tickets....or they're snap chatting with someone or taking selfies...whatever kids do these!  Whatever the issue, they're absolutely not concentrating on getting orders prepared correctly.

Now my husband won't go back and since he's the official take-out guy at our house, I'm kind of out of luck.  By the way, Burger 21 burgers are fine and the fries are very tasty.  But the gluten-free buns and burgers at Cheeseburger Bobby's are better.  I can't have fries there due to no dedicated fryer..hence our past tendency to get burgers from Burger 21, unless I'm not in the mood for fries. 


AUGUST 2019:  Just wanted to update how this location of Burger 21 is doing.  They have now been preparing our orders correctly about 75% of the time.  My husband's order has been wrong for the most part, but he can eat anything so he just deals with it.  We've almost stopped going there completely, as I'll make baked fries at home to go with Cheeseburger Bobby's burgers - they have the better burger and gf bun anyway! 


Friday, August 3, 2018

Want a gluten-free Twinkie?

I didn't grow up eating Twinkies (thank goodness), but I know many people love them and for those that get diagnosed with celiac or a wheat allergy, it's bye-bye to this nostalgic ooey gooey treat.  Since I've had so few twinkies, I could not tell a real one from an imposter even if I could eat one.

Even though I don't care anything about having a Twinkie type treat, I coudn't resist the version offered by Katz Gluten-Free.  There was a vanilla creme filled cake and a chocolate creme filled cake from this line in the freezer at Sprouts.  They were on sale so I could not pass the oportunity to try at least one version up.

The first thing I noticed was how small the little cakes were...I think they're smaller than Twinkies, but I could be wrong about that.  Then you have to let it defrost on the counter before eating it.  So right off the bat, this is a miss for me.  I don't want to have to think two hours ahead of time "I think I'll have a gf Twinkie like treat today".

Eventually, the cake was ready to try.  I'm a huge fan of Katz so it was a bit surprising that this cake didn't taste very good to me.  The cake and the creme filling (of which there was very little of) were a total miss for me.  Even my husband who enjoys pretty much anything baked, including things I think are super horrid, didn't care for it. 

We'll stick to the amazing apple fritters and small apple pie (not the mini pies) from Katz from now on ;)

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Beware of gluten-free menus - even more than before!

The amount of restaurants that now have gluten-free menus is staggering and many offer incredible options that are safely prepared (as much as is possible in a mixed kitchen).  But the number of menus that list fried items that are not made in a dedicated gluten-free fryer seems to be on the rise.  Forget chips and fries - I'm talking about even gluten-free breaded items in some cases.

The good news is that many places will denote on the menu that the items are cooked/fried in a regular gluten fryer.  The bad news is that most of us can't take the risk of getting sick, and therefore must avoid those items.  In some instances, avoiding those items will leave you with few safe choices on the menu.  And at least in my case, that's not a place I'd bother patronizing.

So when you're doing your homework, looking for gluten-free options at your neighborhood or on your dream vacation, pay great attention to the little things regarding food prep, etc.  It's not only about the ingredients.  It's not even about those and the preparation methods.  It's about the plating after everything has been done to prepare the meal correctly.  One line cook tossing a piece of bread ruins the whole darn thing.

Years ago, I watched someone throw a roll on my plate at Ted's Montana Grill.  Someone yelled "no bread gluten-free" quite loudly.  The roll was quickly removed and they brought out the plate as though nothing happened.  They had no idea I'd seen the whole thing from our table.  I explained that I could not eat anything on the plate now and I'd take just a baked potato.  We didn't have the time to wait on another steak...and I really had no trust in the place at that moment.  I think Ted's has improved greatly since then, but it's not a favorite because of the incident years ago.

What many companies don't understand is that it's hard to forget simple mistakes, because those mistakes can take us down for the count.  If you get the feeling a place doesn't take gluten-free orders, or food allergies, seriously, it's hard to shake that feeling no matter how much you'd like to.

Restaurants that don't understand how to feed us safely would be better served to do away with their gluten-free menus altogether.  And the places that do get it, and care about our business, are the places we all need to support as often as possible!. 


Monday, July 23, 2018

Best fresh gluten-free bagels ever!

OK - I'll admit that I've had VERY few fresh gluten-free bagels, period.  Even so, I'm reviewing what I think is the best gluten-free bagel, of any type, I've ever had.  It was the kind of amazing experience  that makes you say "I can't believe it's gluten-free!" and "I think I might cry" when you taste a chewy, real-tasting bagel the first time.

I was recently in the Washington, DC area for work so I got to sample some amazing gluten-free things specific to that area.  While pretty much everything I tried was astonishingly delicious, the Everything Bagel from Rise Bakery was good enough to be fearful that it was not gluten-free at first bite!  Of course, everything at RISE is in fact, gluten-free.  Therefore, there was nothing to worry about.

Rise offers many wonderful things (like eclairs and croissants!), most of which I was not able to sample this time around.  This gluten-free gem will be my first stop on my next visit to DC...but I'll likely be ordering some of their amazing bagels well before then! 

Rise Bakery gladly ships to all 50 states in the USA!


Gluten-free and the living is easy....not so fast

Everyone who has to follow a gluten-free diet has someone (or multiple people) in their life that is under the impression that doing so these days is super simple...or at least, it's not that hard.  Why would anyone think such a thing?  To understand, all you need to do is take a look around your basic grocery store and it will become clear.  Companies have slapped gluten-free on pretty much everything they can think of - canned pineapple, salt, cornstarch - you get the drift.

Let's go back a decade (yikes! no one knew what gluten-free meant back then in the USA) and think about how much has changed.  From dressings to marinades to spice packets - it seemed everything contained gluten in the form of wheat.  Nowadays, many such items are not only gluten-free, many are labeled as such.  You can't get too far down the shopping isle without seeing a gluten-free product - or ten.  Even mayo has fallen into the ridiculous items that are marked gluten-free, when the exact product I'm referring to in fact, never ever contained gluten.  I even had a friend remark years ago that since X brand of mayo was now gluten-free, she was going to switch brands.  Yes - that really!

While there are many more gluten-free replacement items available, that doesn't mean we have many delicious choices for any of them.  Have any decent, soft, flavorful, fresh (not frozen) gluten-free bread lately?  Not if you didn't get it from your local gluten-free bakery.  Think that bread you found on the shelf was not previously frozen? More often than not, if you're in the USA, you'd be wrong about that.  The same goes for the cupcakes, brownies or anything else you might find in a "traditional" bakery area of a store.  Just ask the staff and they'll tell you those items come in frozen.  There are a few things you might find that are fresh like fudge made in-store.  But most people are too sensitive to eat fudge made in a bakery with gluten flour flying around.  Even the items in the refrigerated bakery section were sent in frozen. 

People are always telling me about some place that has gluten-free pizza.  They're usually excited to share this news, but not once has the place shared had decent gluten-free pizza.  Who wants to eat pizza that tastes like cardboard?  Same goes for pasta.  Don't get me wrong, I appreciate friends (or acquaintances) that are thoughtful enough to tell me about a gluten-free menu they found out about, etc.  It's great that people are kind enough to do it.  And of course, they have no idea that said place possibly has terrible food and/or service regarding gluten-free options.

We decided to grill hot dogs recently and I had to go to THREE stores to find gluten-free hot dog buns.  And, I had to buy a brand that was not my first choice at that.  Starbucks just dropped their gluten-free breakfast sandwich and we were all in tizzy over it.  It wasn't any good to start with so this was understandable.  We were likely upset because we always feel like we're being dissed for having to be gluten-free because...well...we are.   

It's just not true that being gluten-free is as easy as least, not in this country.  And if anyone you know thinks that's the case, you might do well to inform them that they are quite mistaken.  Many companies churn out gluten-free replacement products that are not good (some are literally inedible) on a regular basis, and think we should be happy to have them.  Additionally, we live in a country where food allergies and intolerances are made fun of on a daily basis and it's simply disgusting.  Let's all do our part to set the record straight. 

We can all appreciate how far we've come in the last decade, of course, but we're far behind many other countries on this issue.  And as far as I can tell, history tells us that will continue possibly forever. 




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 my guess is that the gluten-free consumer's disgust over the taste of the rock hard crust 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 than 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 playing 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!

Friday, January 26, 2018

Review: Chick-Fil-A's gluten-free bun

The one fast food chain I frequented (at least, when traveling) before my celiac dx was Chick-Fil-A.  Loved the fried chicken sandwich....simply loved it!  So when I had to start ordering grilled chicken tenders when making a pit stop on the way to FL, it was disappointing.  The tenders were good enough, and the fries (made in dedicated fryer) were yummy so it was fine.

Eventually, someone made an unfortunate decision to change the grilled tenders by putting them in some horrible marinade.  It is so bad, in fact, that I thought I got a bad batch...thought I was going to get sick after eating one nasty tasting tender.  It didn't occur to me that the product was supposed to taste that way...seriously, it was gross!  The second time I ordered the tenders (after the unfortunate experience) I realized the tenders must have been changed (for the worse!) and I confirmed this with the restaurant.  Thus began my quest to find suitable quick, safe food when traveling.  No more Chick-Fil-A for me since all I could get was the grilled chicken sandwich, sans the bun, and that didn't seem fair since I was paying for a sandwich.  I can be cheap in the most silly!

Fast forward a few years (to 2017) when Chick-Fil-A introduces a gluten-free bun!  I was so excited by this development that I realized I was going to have to try it before taking a trip that would lead me there for a pit stop.  After reading reviews of the bun, I braced myself for the bread to have a sweet flavor - something I'm not looking for a in bun unless cinnamon and sugar are involved.

The gluten-free bun was a total miss for me.  Didn't like the flavor, texture or the overtly sweetness of it.  I'm glad the company introduced a bun, and I'm sure that many people enjoy it.  I'm just not one of them.  I'd much rather be able to order fried chicken tenders that are gluten-free.  Oh well, at least we have Bantam+Biddy in the ATL ;) 

UPDATE: The Bantam+Biddy at Avalon closed several weeks ago (as did the location at Lenox).  The original location at Ansley Mall is still open and the location in Chattanooga should be open soon! 

Monday, January 22, 2018

Gluten-free in 2018

It's hard to believe that it's been 12 years since I started following the gluten-free diet due to my celiac diagnosis.  Within that first year (2006), three in my family, including me, were gluten-free so at least holidays with them have been a breeze.  Back then we didn't have all the wonderful things now available at your local grocery store - or at Whole Foods, Sprouts and Earthfare. My first pizza crust, pasta, cookies and cake mix experiments had me thinking I would not be enjoying any of those things ever again!  Talk about wonder people generally think all gluten-free food is horrid.  For many years, much of it was exactly that.

I remember reading a grocery report that stated by the end of 2010, gluten-free items would disappear from store shelves and the gluten-free craze would be over.  Isn't that a hoot?  That particular paper was partially funded by the wheat industry, by the way.  Almost a decade later, the gluten-free label has been slapped on the most ridiculous things like canned pineapple, coconut milk and sea salt.  And there are more cookies, crackers, cake mixes and pasta brands than the gluten-free market should be able to support.  Yet, almost weekly I come across something's a bit overwhelming even to me.

From talking to people who are gluten-free for various health reasons, which are not related to a celiac or gluten intolerance diagnosis, it seems that the gluten-free market is going to continue to thrive much longer than anyone anticipated.  All indications are that there will likely be people that continue to order gluten-free buns, etc. just for the heck of it - who would not know if they ate food containing gluten.  That's really not a problem unless you can't get a bun because one of those people took the last one.

The biggest concern I have (the same one as hoards of gluten-free folks) is that eventually many trend diet followers will fall off the gluten-free bandwagon, so to speak. When that happens, some of the larger food companies will discontinue some items on their gluten-free roster.  Business is business and if they didn't do that, it would not make sense.  What we'll be left with in terms of product selection, quality ingredients and of course, wonderful taste are the unknowns in that scenario.  Let's hope there are enough great tasting, quality replacement foods left after the gluten-free frenzy dust settles down.  

Friday, January 19, 2018

REVIEW: Pampas Steakhouse in Johns Creek

Obviously, most steakhouses are fairly gluten-free friendly.  Sauces and some side dishes might contain gluten, etc., but it's relatively simple to get a safe gluten-free meal at a steakhouse - if you order steak and baked potato, for instance.  However, I'm not a huge fan of steak anymore, and neither is my husband so we rarely eat at steakhouses.

Enter Pampas Steakhouse in Johns Creek, GA.  One of my gluten-free friends told me about this place as she went with in-laws for a birthday celebration.  After hearing about the Truffled Potatoes Au Gratin - yes they're gluten-free(!) - I went about planning a b-day celebration of my own - or rather, for my husband - at Pampas.

The online menu denotes which items are gluten-free, except for in the dessert section.  Thankfully, the sweet treat we wanted, bananas foster, is indeed gluten-free.  Several other options are as well. With most of the meats and several seafood dishes being gluten-free as prepared, the Chef at Pampas is happy to accommodate other requests, when possible.  Therefore, I inquired about having a crab cake appetizer and, to my delight, was told that was doable!

The atmosphere at Pampas is quite lovely with warm, inviting decor.  We sat in a comfortable booth and our well informed server knew it was my husband's birthday (noted on reservation) and that I was getting a gluten-free crab cake.  We ordered salad and the (non gf) lobster bisque as starters.  My husband enjoyed the bisque and we both enjoyed the salad.  However, the star of the show for me was the amazing almost all crab meat crab cake.  The presentation was lovely and the taste was even better!  As there was no breading, or filler of any kind besides minced veggies, it was a refreshingly light crab cake.  I've had similar crab cakes before, but this was the best version without breading that I've had out in over a decade!

My husband said his Center Cut Filet, with au poivre sauce, was wonderful and we were both impressed with the side dishes we chose.  Those are meant to be shared and even then, we took some of each one home!  The basil fried corn seemed very fresh, as if it had just been shucked off the cob, and was delicious.  The Truffled Au Gratin Potatoes were the main reason I wanted to go to Pampas and were more dreamy than I could have imagined!  The only issue I have with it is that when I make my own version of the dish at home, it will never compare to the amazing option at Pampas!

The icing on the cake, so to speak, during our amazing meal didn't involve cake at all.  We ordered a dish my husband makes a wonderful version of - meaning we're super picky about it - Bananas Foster.  Once again, this dish, which is prepared table side as it always should be, didn't disappoint.  Like most versions of this decadent treat, eating just half the generous portion will put you in a sugar coma, but it was well worth it!  I actually had a quarter of it (they nicely split the dish for us) and my husband enjoyed the rest.

It's honestly worth going to Pampas Steakhouse for the sides and desserts for me, but for most people, it's about the steak.  Aside from my husband's lovely filet, I'm happy to report that friends (who've had other steaks there) have been quite impressed with the quality of meats offered at Pampas!

Other notes worth mentioning: valet parking is available and we saw no children during our visit.  To my knowledge, there is no rule about kids, but we appreciated the "adult atmosphere" we enjoyed during our fabulous visit to Pampas!


Monday, January 15, 2018

Impressive meal at Evergreen Conference Center

For the most part, I've had good luck getting safe, and even tasty, gluten-free meals at office holiday functions. It's still annoying to have to research who you need to speak to re: getting a safe meal, and  disheartening to find out you're the only person attending with this request - seriously?

Anyway, when the lovely snowstorm hit Atlanta recently, we assumed the holiday party that was set for the same weekend would be cancelled. It was not. After confirming the roads were clear, no black ice that day/night), we decided to attend the party as planned. The person in charge of planning the event at Evergreen Conference Center Stone Mountain knew I needed a gluten-free meal. I was informed ahead of time that I was not to eat anything off the buffet line. Fine with me - no line, no problem!

Once we decided we were ready to eat, I informed one of the ballroom staffers that I was ready for my meal. Shortly thereafter, a hot plate of food was delivered to me, as well as a cold salad. The salad was fine, nothing special and the dressing of oil and vinegar uninspired, but it was in fact, gluten-free. The "hot plate" however was very impressive. Three of the buffet entrees were included (salmon, chicken and steak) as well as mashed white and sweet potatoes and roasted winter veggies. Once I finished my meal (or rather gave what I could not finish to my husband), the staff quickly showed up with a velvety slice of flourless chocolate cake.  I could only get two bites of it down (I was stuffed already), but it really was quite lovely!

Overall, the experience was very positive and we were glad we decided to attend the party in spite of the frigid weather. Well, it wasn't quite as frigid as it's been here of late, but for mid-December, it was quite cold to these Florida born party!           

Monday, January 8, 2018

Popular questions in the gluten-free world

So, I'm asked gluten-free related questions all the time.  The bad part is that there are some questions I can't answer - even when I go to extra trouble to do so.  I thought it might be fun to list some of the ones I can answer here, since I get some of the same questions over and over again.

Is bleu cheese gluten-free? 

We're out to dinner with a party with another celiac. They want to know why Red Robin's gf menu doesn't list bleu cheese as safe.  Likely answer - someone on the corporate side read some very old, outdated and untrue info about bleu cheese containing gluten.  It was once thought that was the case, but later on, very extensive studies (mostly done in Canada) proved the theory about the mold used as a starter for bleu cheese containing gluten was never accurate. I'm a bleu cheeseaholic, so there.

At a very popular place in Ashville, NC (no, not the fabulous Posana Cafe), I'm told I can't have the strawberry salad unless they leave the bleu cheese off.

Tom + Chee's nutritional data stated (at last check) that their bleu cheese contains gluten...and so forth and so on.

Bleu cheese is the most common thing I've come across as being listed as containing gluten, when there is likely no bleu cheese to be found in any commercially available bleu cheese. At least those found in the U.S and Canada.

Is movie popcorn gluten-free?

At one time, there was supposedly some gluten in some movie popcorn ingredients, but these days, that doesn't seem to be the case.  Since going to the movies is still one of the best entertainment values out here, I made sure to check on the popcorn safety at the chains I frequent.  Both AMC Theatres and Regal Cinemas serve gluten-free popcorn - at least without the fake butter.  Since I've not had any interest in eating whatever they call "butter" (it's in no way, shape or form butter, by the way) at movie theatres in over thirty years, I didn't bother to check on the ingredients in it anywhere.

Going to the movies is the ONLY place you can go and just walk up to the counter, order popcorn and a soda and enjoy it while watching a movie like everyone else. No zillion questions about ingredients, preparation methods, etc. Just make sure to skip the Twizzlers, which for reasons I'll never understand, do contain gluten!

Is mayo (or mustard or ketchup) gluten-free? 

Until recently, I thought this question was put to bed. And then, of all people, a doctor said to me "you can't even have mayo, right? It has gluten in it"...! I almost fell over, seriously.  Thankfully, this doctor has nothing to do with celiac, but still - it's 2018. It's been well over a decade since there's been much confusion on this topic.  Let's just say that while I don't like mayo (except in deviled eggs) and I can't even have a ketchup bottle on a table when dining out (it so grosses me and my husband out!), I might not be here anymore if mustard, or anything with distilled vinegar in it contained gluten.  Keep in mind that malt vinegar is almost always made from barley and therefore, it is NOT gluten-free.

Why would Twizzlers (lemon curd, cream of mushroom soup or barbeque potato chips) contain gluten?!

There is an exclamation point above because that is how people ask those questions. As if I am surely confused or have a serious learning disability and I don't know what does and doesn't contain gluten.  That's right - I've been gluten-free for over a decade so how would I know such things....DUH! The answer is that I have no idea why those items can, and often, contain gluten. You'd need to ask the companies that make the products about that. Thankfully, many lemon curds, and at least three brands of cream of mushroom soup (including one condensed), is gluten-free.

You can eat most anywhere these days since everyone knows what gluten-free means, right?

The answer to that comment-turned-question is simple. No, no and no!!!! Many places with printed gluten-free menus (especially large chains) don't have a clue about how to serve gluten-free customers safely.  So, we can't just go out and eat anywhere.  And if someone means I can have a plain salad, that just plain insulting.  Who wants to go out to eat at a place where the only gluten-free option is a boring salad?! Certainly not me.

There are more annoying questions than room to discuss here, and I guess we'll all be dealing with them for years to come...possibly forever.  Especially if we live out our days in the USA.

Friday, January 5, 2018

Best chicken fingers in the ATL!

We've been going to Bantam + Biddy for several years now.  Mostly we go to the Avalon location,  but when visiting to the HIGH Museum, we like going to the Ansley Mall location for brunch.  The owner, Shaun Doty (who also owns Chick-a-Biddy and YEAH! Burger) has been serving up gluten-free specialty items for many years now - most of which are exceptional. 

Though I'd love to be more adventurous when dining out, I'm more likely to get the same dish at a place once I know I love it, than to risk trying something unknown.  Therefore, I almost always (or at least, 95% of the time) order the fried chicken fingers at Bantam + Biddy.  The dish comes with two gf sides, plus a gf corn muffin - what's not to love?!

To explain how amazing the chicken fingers are, let me share a funny story about a lunch outing with a very good friend of mine, who does not eat gluten-free. I ordered the chicken fingers as usual, and my friend ordered the same thing. She didn't mention she needed them gluten-free - assuming there were two versions of the item.  There are not.  During the course of our meal, my friend commented on how good the chicken fingers were, which made sense to me, since many people think all gf food is either horrible or not so great. As our conversation progressed, it became clear that my friend thought she had ordered "normal" (aka not gf) chicken fingers - different than what I had. It was pretty funny, but also kind of sad, to think that someone could be so surprised that there is such a
thing as delicious gluten-free chicken fingers.

Though I'm a faithful B+B customer, I've always thought it was odd that there wasn't anything gf for dessert. Eventually I think they had macaroons (or something like that), but never anything I was interested in.  That was until my last visit last week.  To my surprise, there were cakes in the front case (Avalon location) marked gluten-free! We were on our way out and our server (who knew three in our party of 6 were gf) didn't offer us dessert. Our friends had already left before we confirmed the cakes were gluten-free so we took a piece of Butter Pecan Cake to go. It was both gluten and dairy free and the frosting was insanely delicious. The cake was fine, but it did seem dairy free - if that makes sense. The frosting didn't seem anything free - I could eat it by the spoonful!  I think the other cake they had that night was German Chocolate so I might try that another time.

Also, during the visit noted above, the chicken fingers and corn muffin were both better than I ever remember them being. My friend agreed that each item was more moist than in the past which made them even more delicious than you'd imagine.  Now the chicken fingers are among the best I've had ever - with or without gluten!

Looking forward to trying The Federal, Doty's latest venture, sometime soon! Now all we need in this area is a YEAH! Burger at the Halcyon complex....think about it, Shaun!

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Gluten-free means never not having to question everything

Remember the movie Love Story?  In it, there's a somewhat ridiculous line, though it's sweet in the film, "love means never having to say you're sorry".  I told you it was ridiculous.... Anyway, I was thinking recently about what gluten-free really means.  Of course, it means different things to different people.  There are some, or rather, many of us that are gluten-free because we have celiac, a gluten intolerance issue or worse, a wheat allergy (gluten-free is wheat free, but wheat free doesn't mean gluten-free, BTW).  Then there are hoards of other people that couldn't explain what gluten-free actually means for a million bucks.

I think we've all been guilty of being glad that so many people have jumped on the gluten-free bandwagon in the last several years. It's hard not to get excited when you can find a gluten-free version of apple fritters, battered fish and even "fried onions" at your local supermarket.  Today in fact, there are more gluten-free versions of things I can have than I can't.  Over a decade ago, I never thought I'd be able to say that.

Recently, I attended a charity event (which I didn't buy tickets for, but went as a guest) and beforehand I checked to see if any of the "finger food" served at the venue would be gluten-free. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly based on the town I was in, I found out I could eat something from the saute station and nothing else.  I didn't realize until we arrived that some cheese grits with spinach dish was the ONLY thing at the saute station.  Oh well, that's why I had cheese crackers, almonds and yogurt pretzels in my!

We were going out to dinner after the event so I just needed something to nibble on while tasting many delicious wines. But my husband, who gets way more annoyed about me not finding safe food at such events than I do, was determined to find something else for me to enjoy. In checking out the mostly gluten-filled buffet station options, he noticed individual servings of what looked like a berries and cream dessert. Surely, he thought, this must be gluten-free. He excitedly told me about what he'd found and decided we should find out if I could enjoy this lovely treat.

Mind you, we're in a hotel ballroom so there aren't servers and employees running around just anywhere. We had to wait for a while until we finally found someone to ask.  The guy dressed in kitchen garb, including a "chef's jacket", that I decided to ask about the dessert seemed put off by being disturbed. That's fine by me - I just had a quick question that he could answer easily with a "yes, no or I don't know". His answer didn't bring much confidence that the dessert was gluten-free.  In the end, he determined that it was.  And if I was new to the gluten-free game, I would have made myself very sick away from home - not cool.

Trusting my instinct instead of the questionable (and somewhat questionable) answer from the restaurant staffer, I asked my husband to eat the dessert first.  If he determined that it tasted like berries and cream (all that was supposedly in it), then I would have gladly tried it myself. But guess what?  There were TINY pieces of cake in the dessert!  That's right - cake - and it was NOT gluten-free cake, obviously. How ridiculous is that?  I honestly had a hard time believing it happened!

I felt really badly that I let this incident pretty much ruin the rest of my night.  Not because I ate something that made me sick - I was vigilant enough to keep that from happening.  Not because I wanted the dessert either.  It just infuriates me that so MANY people in the U.S. still DO NOT get what food allergies are or - or know what gluten-free means.  Honestly, only third world countries are behind us on this issue.  It's completely embarrassing how misinformed (or totally uninformed) the majority of food service workers are in this country.   



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