Friday, December 14, 2018

Now Arriving: Departed Soles

After being a gluten-free beer wasteland for years, the Philadelphia area is now a region with many local options. Harleysville's Blueprint Brewing Company has gluten-free beer "to go" in growlers, while Pittsburgh's all-gluten-free Aurochs Brewing is distributing its award-winning Blonde Ale, Session IPA and Amber Ale in Eastern Pennsylvania at dozens of outlets. Now comes Departed Soles Brewing Co., a northern New Jersey-based microbrewery that is expanding from the Garden State into Philadelphia (and also New York City).

Brian Kulbacki, the founder of Departed Soles, is a self-professed “beer nerd." By the time he moved to New Jersey in 2009, home brewing had become a serious hobby. He has since toured breweries around the world and completed the American Brewers Guild’s Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering course.

For Kulbacki, the decision to make gluten-free beer is personal. He resolved to make gluten-free beer seven years ago after he lost his best friend, who had Celiac Disease, in a car accident. “As a home brewer, I promised I would make good gluten-free beer for him, as we had always joked about starting our own brew pub," says Kulbacki. "After his passing, I became dedicated to the mission of making ‘his’ beer available for everyone that walked in similar shoes.”

After years of planning and searching for a home, Kulbacki set up shop in Jersey City in 2015. While the brewery also produces traditional beers, its gluten-free beers are fermented in dedicated vessels. Two of Departed Soles' gluten-free beers are now being distributed in Pennsylvania: GoodbIPA: Four My Homie, a floral and citrus IPA, and a blonde ale, New Jersey Ninja. Here's a current list of where the beers are sold:

Ambler Beverage (Ambler)
American Sardine Bar (Philadelphia)
The Barley Mow (West Reading)
The Beer Store (Malvern)
Big Top Beverage Market (Roslyn)
Blue Dog (Chalfont and Lansdale)
Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen (Philadelphia)
CJ's Doghouse (Lansdale)
Cold Spring Beverages (Newtown)
DJ's Westgate Beverage (York)
The Foodery (Philadelphia and Phoenixville)
Frank Smith Beverages (Pottstown)
Hunger & Thirst (Lancaster)
Kunda Beverage (King of Prussia)
McCaffrey's Food Markets (Blue Bell, Newtown and Yardley)
Park Towne Beverage (Royersford)
Pinocchio's (Media)
Tanczos Beverages (Bethlehem)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sizzle and Spice at Veda Modern Indian Bistro

By Sara Blank

Veda, the two-year-old upscale Indian bistro in Rittenhouse Square (1920 Chestnut St., 267-519-2001), falls seamlessly into step with a slew of Philadelphia-area restaurants that combine predominantly gluten-free cuisine and reputations as safe havens for gluten-free diners.

Goan Shimp Curry (left) and Paneer Palak are two of the many
gluten-free entree options at Veda
With guidance from our knowledgeable server, my dinner companion and I opted for the Tandoori Mirch Murg Tikka, Paneer Palak and Goan Shrimp Curry. We were impressed with each dish, which were fresh-tasting, maintained a fine balance of spices and multiple flavors without being overwhelming, and were filling without being heavy. We ended the meal with Saffron Kheer (rice pudding) and Rasmalai, a dumpling which our server aptly described as similar to a spongy cheesecake. These were excellent complements to the appetizer and entrees - sweet and flavorful without being saccharine. (All but one of the desserts are gluten free.) The craft cocktails - Mumbai Mule and Maharaja Tonic - were original, delicious, and paired with the food perfectly. The warm, comforting vibe of the restaurant was reflective of the meal itself, making it an ideal occasion for a cold-weather night out.

The Mirch Murg Tikka appetizer at Rittenhouse Square's Veda
While the food itself was excellent, I found the experience as a gluten-free guest even more impressive. Generally, I tend to fear dining at family-style restaurants; I feel as though I am walking in with a "high maintenance" stamp across my forehead. In these scenarios, I am often bombarded with well-meaning, if exhausting, questions from non-gluten-free friends like,“What can you eat?” and “Why don’t you pick?” or “Do you think you’ll have enough to eat?” While I am grateful to not be at all a fussy eater, I am discerning in these situations, when I neither want to be difficult nor end up hungry.

I immediately felt at ease when I surveyed Veda's menu, which had clearly-labeled notations for gluten-free dishes. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available, but excited that I was able to choose from so much on the menu.

I told our server that while I am well-versed in dining gluten free, I could not say the same about Indian cuisine. She helped me navigate the menu, describing the flavors and textures of different types of dishes and how they could be altered to suit different spice or heat preferences. I asked whether dishes were naturally gluten free or needed to be altered, and she quickly explained that modifications are rarely needed. This is because Indian food is traditionally cooked in rice flour, rendering most of it gluten free from the get-go. The only variation, she explained, was that while there is gluten present in the kitchen, there is a dedicated gluten-free fryer as well as separate work stations.

All but one of the desserts at Veda - including the Rasmalai (top)
and Saffron Kheer - are gluten free
I enjoyed my experience at Veda because I felt that my dietary restriction had no impact on the quality of my meal. The most significant part about dining at Veda (among other restaurants that have placed similar emphasis on their gluten-free guests) is the normalization and integration throughout the meal. To become complete, I would love to see Veda include gluten-free beers and ciders on the drink menu, add the same gluten-free notations that are on the main menu to the dessert menu, and have the option of gluten-free naan, even if it is made off-premises. Beyond this wish list, though, I found myself extremely impressed by the inclusive experience of dining at Veda.

Anyone who has maintained a gluten-free diet over the last decade knows that among chefs and servers, familiarity of the diet ranges from nonexistent to vague awareness to intrigued curiosity to general accommodation to adamant necessity. Veda is a fine example of a restaurant at the positive end of the spectrum - one that other restaurants should look to as a model.

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

DISCLOSURE: Veda provided the writer with a complimentary meal. However, the opinions expressed in this review are those of the writer and were not influenced in any way by the compensation.

Friday, November 30, 2018

News & Notes: November 30, 2018

Conagra's Evol Foods brand recently launched two new lines, each of which includes meals made without gluten-containing ingredients. The made-without-gluten options in the Modern Nutrition Bowl lineup are the Warrior Bowl and the Balance Bowl. None of the Morning Bowls - Breakfast Sausage & Uncured Bacon, Spicy Chipotle Chorizo, Smoked Uncured Ham Benedict and Creamy Basil Veggie - are made with any ingredients that contain gluten.

Katz Gluten Free has four new Twinkie-like creme-filled cakes: Caramel Apple, Pumpkin, Peppermint and Gingerbread. By purchasing through this affiliate link, you'll be supporting Gluten Free Philly.

Thanks to loyal reader Jaime L., I can report that the just-opened Tank and Libby's in Drexel Hill's Pilgrim Gardens Shopping Center (1011 Pontiac Rd., 484-455-7527) is serving sandwiches on gluten-free bread. The owners of this breakfast and lunch spot are well versed in gluten-free food preparation.

Another longtime reader, Jessica N., let me know that Coyote Crossing in Conshohocken (800 Spring Mill Ave., 610-825-3000) has a dedicated fryer and lists gluten-free items on a menu that includes tortilla chips, quesadillas, enchiladas and flautas. The owner, Carlos, is often on hand to answer any questions about the gluten-free options.

Through December 30, Puyero Venezuelan Flavor in Society Hill (524 S. 4th St., 267-928-4584) is offering hallacas - traditional Venezuelan tamales wrapped in plantain leaves - in three varieties. Each one is made from corn dough and stuffed with a stew made from a meat of choice. The fat from the stew is also used to add extra flavor to the corn dough. It is then wrapped in plantain leaves, tied with strings, and boiled. Puyero's holiday menu additions include hallacas made with chicken, chicken and pork, and veggies. There's also a special Andes-style hot chocolate for the holidays, made with a hint of cinnamon and vanilla. If you'd like to trying making them yourself, Puyero is hosting a holiday-edition cooking class on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m.; ticket information is here.

In Moorestown, Maurizio's Bistro (33 E. Main St., 856-793-9884) offers separately prepared gluten-free pizza, pasta and entrees. Gluten-free items are noted on the menu.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Deck the Hall

Philadelphia's original commodities exchange has been transformed into an artisan marketplace in the style of New York's Chelsea Market and Washington, D.C.'s Union Market. Formally opening yesterday, The Bourse Food Hall (111 S. Independence Mall E.) will feature nearly 30 food and beverage tenants, including many with gluten-free selections. The list includes:

  • TaKorean: With four locations in metro D.C., TaKorean brings a combination of Korean inspired flavors with a Latin-American twist. In addition to their signature Korean tacos made with corn tortillas, the gluten-free options include Korean rice and salad bowls. They also offer a customizable menu comprised of two gluten-free proteins (tofu and cauliflower), romaine and spiced kale slaws, as well as several toppings and garnishes.
  • Prescription Chicken: The first brick-and-mortar location for this acclaimed D.C.-area soup purveyor offer its signature made-to-order chicken-based soups. All broths are gluten free and they even have gluten-free matzoh balls!
  • Mi & Yu Noodle Bar: This fast-casual spot based in the D.C. region offers artisanal bowls with gluten-free pho rice noodles and several gluten-free broths: spicy "kimchi style," vegetarian and savory miso. Avoid fried proteins since they are cooked in a shared fryer.
  • Abunai Poke: From Hawaii by way of D.C., this quick-service shop has a selection of poke and various Hawaiian dishes. The gluten-free proteins include plain tuna, plain and marinated salmon, lobster, octopus, shrimp and tofu. Also gluten free are the mixed greens, all mix-ins and toppings, chili pepper aioli, wasabi aioli and miso dressing.
  • Chaat and Chai: The Indian street food stand has gluten-free options like curries and soups.
  • Ka’moon: Fast-casual, Halal-prepared Egyptian cuisine from the folks behind The Taza Truck in Easton, Pennsylvania. Look for build-your-own gluten-free rice bowls.
  • Freebyrd Chicken: Freebyrd's pulled chicken and side salads are gluten free.
  • TAPS Fill Station: Philadelphia is the second outpost from the Baltimore-based concept specializing in draft booze with a solid focus on eco-friendly and sustainable practices. Virtually everything on the menu served is sourced from within a 250-mile radius. Five lines hold hard cider and mead, two are stocked with kegged cocktails, and six more are split between red and white wines.
  • Olive With a Twist: A gourmet pantry originating in Easton, Pennsylvania offering a curated selection of cheeses, pâté, charcuterie, olive oils, balsamics, sauces and more.
  • Scoop DeVille: A Philadelphia institution since 1989, Scoop DeVille offers several gluten-free ice cream and yogurt flavors and dozens of toppings.
  • Chocodiem: With the exception of certain seasonal varieties, the hand-crafted, artisanal truffles at this Easton-based Belgian chocolatier will be gluten free, as will all of the macarons. Also gluten free will be the house-made gelato, frozen chocolate drinks, chocolate cocktails and selected desserts and confections.
Coming soon to the Bourse are several other gluten-free-friendly eateries:
  • Rebel Taco: A Mexican taco purveyor from D.C.-based Social Restaurant Group, Rebel Taco will serve tacos made with gluten-free tortillas.
  • Bricco Coal Fired Pizza: The Westmont, New Jersey pizzeria will offer gluten-free pies.
  • Break Juicery: Boasting locally sourced and organic fruits and vegetables, Break Juicery will offer a variety of juices and smoothies as well as açaí bowls.

Friday, November 2, 2018

News & Notes: November 2, 2018

Green Giant Fresh has expanded its fresh vegetable offerings with its new gluten-free Vegetable Meal Bowls, available in the refrigerated produce section at grocers nationwide at a suggested retail price of $3.99 per bowl. Each bowl includes a 100% fresh vegetable base with sauces and seasoning packets, The line includes six varieties:
  • Buddha Bowl: featuring crumbled sweet potato, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, roasted chickpeas and tahini sauce
  • Burrito Bowl: containing crumbled cauliflower and ancho-chipotle pepper black bean sauce
  • "Fried Rice" Bowl: featuring crumbled cauliflower, carrots, onions, broccoli and teriyaki sauce
  • Pad Thai Bowl: featuring carrot noodles with peanut-flavored sunflower butter sauce
  • Ramen Bowl: containing butternut noodles, crumbled cauliflower, carrots, onions, broccoli, roasted edamame and ramen seasoning
  • Rancheros Bowl: featuring crumbled sweet potato, cauliflower, kale and green chili sauce
California Pizza Kitchen has added two new gluten-free cauliflower thin-crust pizzas to its line of frozen pizzas. One is Artisanal Style Cheese, the other an Uncured Pepperoni, Mushroom and Sausage pizza. Speaking of CPK, the restaurants are phasing out the rice-flour pizza crusts but are still offering five certified gluten-free cauliflower pizzas. (Thanks to Baltimore Gluten Free for the tip.)

I'm still searching for the new Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake ice cream from L.A.-based Coolhaus. The seasonal flavor made with pumpkin and cream cheese ice cream and a gluten-free graham cracker crust swirl. The company's website has a downloadable coupon.

Cheesecake Factory at Home is a new line of gluten-free refrigerated puddings that will hit stores early next year. These layered puddings come in four flavor combinations:
  • Vanilla Fudge Duet: creamy vanilla bean pudding over dark chocolate fudge sauce
  • Chocolate Black-Out: rich Belgian chocolate pudding over dark chocolate fudge sauce
  • Salted Caramel Delight: creamy salted caramel pudding over rich caramel sauce
  • Cake Batter Strawberry Royale: creamy cake batter-inspired pudding over a sweet strawberry puree

Mi-Del has two new gluten-free seasonal cookies: Snowflake Snickerdoodles and Snowman sugar cookies.

Trader Joe's is always adding new gluten-free products. Among the latest are blueberry and everything bagels, as well as a pie crust.

The Philadelphia area has seen lots of gluten-free-friendly restaurant openings of late. Today is the debut of Eddie V's Prime Seafood in King of Prussia (670 W. DeKalb Pike, 610-337-7823). The kitchen has a gluten-free menu that includes many traditional seafood and steakhouse options.

In Fairmount, the new Thirsty Dice (1642 Fairmount Ave., 215-765-2679) is a board-game cafe featuring more than 800 games to choose from. The menu is designed by the good folks at Fox & Son and includes gluten-free corn dog lollipops, French bread pizza and mac-and-cheese.