Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Out In Front

By Sara Blank

There are some activities a card-carrying Celiac learns to do without - activities that are staples of twenty-something culture and the benefits of living in a bustling city with lots of food options. Thankfully, though, there are restaurants in Philadelphia willing to go against the grain. With the safe haven of Snap Custom Pizza's Rittenhouse Square location open until 3 a.m. on weekends and the plentiful selection of gluten-free bagels and a dedicated toaster at Schmear It in University City (admittedly I’ve only ever ordered to my bed via UberEats), gluten-free patrons have more morning and late-night comfort food options.

Front Street Cafe's chicken tenders, mac 'n cheese and fried mozzarella
Add to that list Fishtown's Front Street Cafe (1253 N. Front St., 215-515-3073), where the dinner selections exceeded my expectations of what’s available to gluten-free diners. A plentiful number of dishes on the menu are punctuated by a “GF,” including usually elusive offerings such as mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken tenders, crab cakes and - most important to me - fried mozzarella. I couldn’t remember the last time I was able to order my once-favorite appetizer in a restaurant, and Front Street’s crunchy, dippable fried squares did not disappoint.

A friend and I visited Front Street this past Sunday, when we were excited to order dishes that would help soak up the remnants of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. We shared the chicken tenders, mac ‘n’ cheese, fried mozzarella and, for good, green measure, the Harvest Salad. The portions were sizeable, but not overwhelming, and definitely flavorful. If you didn't look closely at the menu, you may not have known that these dishes were not only gluten free, but also vegan, with creamy, stretchy cashew cheese in place of standard cheddar and mozzarella.

The Harvest Salad at Front Street Cafe
Our server told us that items marked “GF” were already gluten free, but that other choices, like sandwiches, could be prepared with gluten-free buns or bread. She also let us know that the kitchen utilized a dedicated fryer and that their dedication to gluten-free options (and other restrictions and allergies in general) was an important point of pride for the restaurant. Front Street’s largest selection of gluten-free food is offered on their dinner menu, but they also have options from breakfast to late at night.

Front Street Cafe feels like many different restaurants glued together, yet it doesn't have an identity crisis. The variety ensures that your experience conforms to any occasion, rather than shaping your evening. For candle-lit romantic dinners, groups of friends meeting to enjoy the abundant selection of cocktails at the bar, or a fun meal before a concert at the Fillmore, Front Street is an excellent gluten-free option. Despite its cavernous space (there's outdoor seating in the summer) and out-of-the-way location, Front Street’s popularity makes it an appealing go-to spot, so be sure to snag a reservation. And don't forget to get two orders of the mozzarella squares just in case one member of your party eats all of them when no one else is looking. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Sara Blank is a 26-year-old agency copywriter living in Center City Philadelphia. She was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at age 18, right when "gluten free" entered the zeitgeist. Follow her on Instagram at @SarBlank

Friday, March 15, 2019

Happy 10th Anniversary!

On March 15, 2009, the Number One pop song in the country was "Gives You Hell" by The All-American Rejects. (Who?) "Race to Witch Mountain" starring The Rock was the top-grossing movie in the U.S. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.91. And while you won't find it on a list of historical events, on that date - 10 years ago today - the Gluten Free Philly blog was born.

As many of you know, my idea for the blog was inspired by our older son's diagnosis of Celiac Disease at age 3. When he was 8, I decided to channel all of the knowledge we had accumulated during our gluten-free journey and share it with others who could benefit from it, not only in the Philadelphia area but around the country. Our son is now 18, starting a new chapter of his life this fall in college. While we are melancholy about him leaving the nest soon, we can't wait to see what lies ahead for him. We are so proud of the assertiveness, confidence and independence that he acquired, at least in part, from having Celiac Disease.

Though it's been 10 years now, I still have things to say - so I'm not going anywhere just yet! I love learning about new restaurants and products, posting about it at the blog and on social media, and reading your reactions and feedback. Sure, the Philadelphia area could always use more dedicated gluten-free restaurants, but overall it's a pretty darn good place to be. We are fortunate that there are hundreds of places in the region to eat safely and many fine supermarket and natural-food store options for groceries. We are fortunate that we can go to professional sporting events of all kinds locally and grab a hot dog and a beer. We are fortunate that we have excellent medical facilities here that focus on Celiac Disease.

I thank you for letting me into your lives over the past 10 years. Your emails, messages, comments, tips and suggestions have been invaluable in helping me do what I do and are always welcome.

- Michael

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What's New For Passover 2019

While the Jewish holiday of Passover has not lost its religious meaning, it has in recent years become an unofficial gluten-free holiday. This year, Passover begins the evening of Friday, April 19 and ends the evening of Saturday, April 27. It's a time when many more gluten-free products are available at supermarkets. This grew out of the observance of certain segments of the Jewish population refraining from eating any wheat products during Passover. The packaging of many gluten-free products is expressly labeled as such, while others have a "non-gebrokts" notation. (As always, read the ingredient label before buying and consuming a particular item.)

I've been chronicling new gluten-free Passover items for many years (you can read prior posts here), and this year brings many additions to the Seder table. Locally, many of these products can be found at ShopRite markets, particularly the one on Route 70 in Cherry Hill (Garden State Pavilions) and Wegmans stores.

Kosher food manufacturer Kayco will be introducing new gluten-free products under various brand names (you can find all of Kayco's gluten-free products here.) The best-selling gluten-free matzo brand, Yehuda, returns with Original, Everything, Egg, Onion, Unsalted and Fiber Enriched varieties. Yehuda also has gluten-free matzo meal, cake meal and crackers.

New from Kayco's Gefen brand are soft baked cookies in three varieties (double chocolate chip, chocolate chip, and vanilla with colored sprinkles) and sandwich creme cookies in two versions (vanilla and vanilla & chocolate).

Under its Heaven & Earth label, Kayco is introducing veggie croutons made with plantains.

This year, Manischewitz has refreshed its packaging but continues to produce a variety of gluten-free matzos and cake mixes. For 2019, the company has converted its entire line of biscotti-like mandel bread and egg kichel cookies to be gluten free. Each of the cookies come in three varieties (marble, chocolate chip nut and plain for the mandel cuts; sweet, jumbo and sugar free for the egg kichel).

Manischewitz is also adding a new birthday cake-flavored macaroon flavor this season. A new line of Passover Collection cookies (above) includes Milano-like ladyfinger, almond meltaway, chocolate chip, double chocolate chip and sandwich creme varieties.

Like Manischewitz, Streit's has made its mandel bread and kichel gluten free, but also its soup nuts, or "mandlen."

Lieber Foods is expanding their Passover baked-goods line with several kinds of cookies, including frosted animal crackers and "Aleph-Bet" cookies.

Also check the frozen-food section of your local market for gluten-free Passover pizzas and pizza bagels, blintzes, knishes and other items.

About a week or two before the start of Passover, supermarkets receive their shipments of fresh gluten-free cakes and cookies from New York bakeries such as Oberlander'sLilly's Bake Shoppe and Schick's. Look for sandwich, black-and-white and rainbow cookies, cake rolls, decorative and layer cakes.

If you want to try "Mexican Coke" (made with sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup), Passover Coca-Cola will be available in the Philadelphia area and other regions. Look for bottles with distinctive yellow caps.

Prices of some Passover foods tend to be higher than their non-holiday counterparts, so I suggest buying one of a particular item to see if you like it before stocking up. Keep an eye on Passover sections after the second night of the holiday, when markets tend to cut prices on whatever products are left.

Friday, March 1, 2019

News & Notes: March 1, 2019

Annie's Homegrown has added to its line of organic gluten-free crispy rice bars with a peanut butter variety.

Crepini has introduced a gluten-free ingredient version of its Egg White Thins, a low-carb, high-protein wrap that’s made with about 90% egg whites, flax meal, non-GMO canola oil, salt and pepper. The wraps are sold in Costco stores and about 2,200 Walmart stores nationwide.

Pamela's Products has announced several new gluten-free products that will hit stores this year. The company's line of gluten-free ramen comes in three flavors - Spicy Beef + Veggie, Savory Chicken + Veggie, and Vegan Very Veggie - and will be available in August with a suggested retail price of $3.39 per pack.

New to the pasta meals line are two new Mac N’ Cheese products: Vegan Mac and White Cheddar. These new varieties will be available starting in May with a suggested retail price of $3.79 for a 5 oz. box. The Vegan Mac N’ Cheese will also be available in a family-size 10 oz. box, with a suggested retail price of $5.99.

Pamela’s Grahams will be available in July in a new chocolate chip flavor, with a suggested retail price of $4.99. All of the new products will be available on Amazon.com and at participating retailers.

Saffron Road unveiled their latest gluten-free additions to its globally-inspired frozen entrée product line: Thai-Style Green Curry with Chicken, Coconut Curry Chicken, Vegetable Biryani and Madras Curry with Chicken Meatballs. The new dishes will be available beginning in June for the suggested retail price of $4.99 per package.

Gluten-free snack purveyor From the Ground Up is expanding its product line later this year with cauliflower-based stars, stalks and tortilla chips as well as new butternut squash pretzel sticks and twists.

From Lakefront Brewery, which crafted the very first gluten-free beer granted label approval in the United States, comes another certified gluten-free brew. New Grist Gose-style with lime is 5.1 ABV and is crafted using rice, sorghum, lime and sea salt. It features Zeus and Willamette hops with an IBU rating of 15. Its release date is set for April 15.

Friday, February 15, 2019

News & Notes: February 15, 2019

Trader Joe's has introduced two new gluten-free cereals: Neapolitan Puffs and Cocoa Crunch. The Puffs are made with a blend of bean and rice flours, while the Crunch is made with rice and sorghum.
Snyder's of Hanover's newest snack food addition is a cinnamon brown sugar version of their gluten-free pretzel pieces. We found these at Wegmans in Cherry Hill - they're in the chip and pretzel aisle - and they are amazing! Not too sweet.

Elsie's opens today in Haddon Township (803 White Horse Pike, 856-858-7041), offering gluten-free pickle sandwiches. Guests can build their own breadless sandwiches served on kosher pickles or roll-ups made with cucumbers or pickles instead of wraps.

Reader Bethann S. let me know that M2O Burgers & Salads, in the Queen Village section of Philadelphia (701 S. 5th St., 267-930-8388), has gluten-free burger buns and a dedicated fryer. M2O is opening a location at the former home of Elevation Burger in Wynnewood (50 E. Wynnewood Rd.) later this year.

In Aston, Wolf's Superior Sandwiches (4417 Pennell Rd., 484-480-3181) has gluten-free bread for sandwiches and lists on its website which sandwiches, burgers and tacos are gluten free. (Thanks to reader Mark K.)

Wahlburgers has finally opened its Atlantic City location at the Ocean Resort (500 Boardwalk, 609-783-8868). Gluten-free guests will find burger buns, fries and salad croutons.

Also in A.C., Hayday Coffee (131 S. Tennessee Ave., 609-350-6475) offers sweets from the all-gluten-free bakery Kizbee's Kitchen.

Sadia's Tea & Coffee in Egg Harbor Township (6106 E. Black Horse Pike, 609-277-7455) lists gluten-free options like salads, soups, wraps and sandwiches on its menu.

At Tonic Bar & Grille in Wilmington (111 W. 11th St., 302-777-2040), gluten-free options are noted on the lunch and dinner menus, though there is no dedicated fryer.

Everyone's favorite stand at the Reading Terminal Market, the entirely gluten-free Fox & Sons Fancy Corn Dogs, is hitting the road - literally. The RTM stand isn't going anywhere, but the owners hope to launch a 100% gluten-free food truck this summer that will serve up many of the same fried deliciousness that's is available in Philly.

The Gluten Intolerance Group of Chester County is hosting a meet-up at the all-gluten-free A&M Factory in Malvern (360 Lancaster Ave.) on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 6 p.m. RSVP by calling 484-798-5371 or 610-724-5497.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

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