Tuesday, December 28, 2010

2010 in Review

With this last post of the year, I'll hit the rewind button on 2010 and recap the news and features that made their way to Gluten Free Philly over the past 12 months.

I led off the year in January writing about the many gluten-free products from Schar, which recently announced that it would be building its first U.S. manufacturing facility in southern New Jersey. The Delaware Valley is fortunate to have many gluten-free bakeries close by, and I profiled two of them in January: Cookies...For Me? and Sweet Freedom Bakery. I also wrote about the return of gluten-free snacks to Starbucks, the removal of gluten from Nathan's hotdogs, and new Snikiddy snacks.

For a short month, February was a busy one. I featured The Greenwood Kitchen, purveyor of "raw" snacks, and local pizza chain Seasons Pizza, which added gluten-free pies to many of its locations. Also that month, I broke the news that Whole Foods was discontinuing its branded line of gluten-free baking mixes; as if on cue, King Arthur Flour soon unveiled plans for its own line of gluten-free mixes. P.F. Chang's announced that it would be adding beef dishes to its already extensive gluten-free menu. I reviewed Stephen Starr's Asian restaurant Pod and announced plans for a local gluten-free dining event at Casona in Collingswood. New products mentioned were Glenny's fruit-and-nut bars, new flavors of Liz Lovely cookies, Glutino rice cereals, Annie's Homegrown cookies and deluxe mac-and-cheese, and Pamela's individual-size brownie and pancake mixes.

March brought news of new brownie and pancake mixes from Simply Organic, Peeps-flavored Italian ice from Rita's, Blue Horizon crab cakes and fish sticks, Food for Life English muffins, Glutino multigrain bagels and yogurt- and chocolate-covered pretzels, and Passover products like fudge-stripe cookies. I also featured the locally-made quinoa burgers from Asherah's Gourmet.

In addition to showers, in April came word that Snyder's would be introducing gluten-free pretzel sticks, Hain Celestial's Gluten Free Café line would include soups, gluten-free Bisquick and Hamburger Helper mixes from General Mills were on the way, and Pure Tacos would open an all-gluten-free taco stand on the Boardwalk in Ocean City. All of this was tempered by the news the area's original gluten-free bakery Mr. Ritts would be closing its doors. Featured this month were baked goods from The Grain Exchange in Doylestown, now available at many area markets. I also wrote about the snack-factory tours offered by Utz and Snyder's in York County and Herr's in Chester County and Udi's gluten-free bagels.

May was a light month, but I did review the Snyder's pretzels and featured gluten-free bakery Tesori's in Medford, which has unfortunately since closed.

I redesigned the Gluten Free Philly website in June and led off the month with a review of breads from Canyon Bakehouse and a mention of new soups based on recipes from longtime Philadelphia restaurant Old Original Bookbinder's. I also resumed my ongoing Road Trip series, writing about a Mother's Day weekend trip to New York City. Mid-month, I wrote about a newly imported gluten-free Spanish beer, Estrella Damm Daura lager, which has since rolled out more broadly in the United States. Later in the month came word that Food For All, an allergen-friendly market, would be opening in Philadelphia's Mt. Airy neighborhood. New products mentioned included Ian's animal crackers and Whole Foods cupcakes.

In the midst of a run to the division title, the Phillies held their annual celiac awareness night in early July. Another Road Trip entry detailed a shore excursion to Ocean City. Main Line Baking Company rode into town at the Wynnewood train station, offering gluten-free treats. I started a occasional series called Dishing With, and my first interview was with celiac Monica Glass, the pastry chef at 10 Arts.  I also passed along information on MI-DEL's new mini S'mores cookies, Goldbaum's waffle cones and Harry & David's cookies.

News that Dock Street Brewing Company brought back its Sudan Grass Ale, made with sorghum, surely slaked the thirst of many patrons in the heat of August.  Making their debut that month were Schar's cheese crackers, baguettes and hoagie rolls, burritos from Amy's Kitchen, Handy's crab cakes, Heartland pasta, and Immaculate Baking's chocolate-chip cookie dough.  I reviewed Rx in West Philly, which hosted a dinner from the Philadelphia Gluten-Free Supper Club.

The spotlight shone in September on more new gluten-free breads, these ones made by Rudi's. I also profiled The Naked Cookie in Montgomery County and wrote about Ian's new chicken tenders and pepperoni french-bread pizza, Woodchuck's pumpkin-flavored hard cider and Hol-Grain's onion ring batter and tempura batter mixes.The another installment of the Road Trip series chronicled our summer vacation to Toronto, Niagara Falls and Cooperstown.

The year's last Road Trip was posted in October, when I wrote about our day at Citi Field in New York to see the Phillies take on the Mets. Reviewed were products from gluten-free bakery O'Dough's and Philadelphia restaurant Adsum. Lots of new foods garnered a mention then, including Kinnikinnick pumpkin donuts, Purely Elizabeth cookie mixes, Coleman chicken nuggets, Glutino donuts and Ian's chocolate-covered wafer bites.

In November, I posted my roundup of the NFCA's Appetite for Awareness, the largest gluten-free event in the area. New products figured in both features and News & Notes posts, including locally made Better Butter, Bachman pretzels and Ian's - yes, Ian's again - with onion rings on the way early next year.

The many kinds of My Dad's Cookies, which I reviewed in December, prompted raves from readers. I also shared word that Philly's own Sweet Freedom Bakery would be appearing on Food Network's Cupcake Wars show. (The episode debuts tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern.) Perhaps the biggest product development this month was that gluten-free soft pretzels will soon be coming to Whole Foods freezers, courtesy of Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels.

Time doesn't permit me to list all of the new area restaurants that added gluten-free menus this year, but there were lots of them. My list of the accommodating restaurants was constantly updated, as was the catalog of local markets, caterers and bakeries.

I can't be everywhere, and so I appreciate reader emails letting me know about new finds in the greater Philadelphia area. Don't be shy about dropping me a line or posting a comment. I'm also open to suggestions on how to improve the site and for topics to write about in the coming year. Thanks to everyone for tuning in, and have a happy and healthy 2011!

Friday, December 17, 2010

News & Notes: December 17, 2010

I won't refer to punny headlines like "Merry Cliff-mas" and "Unbe-Lee-vable" (looks like I just did, didn't I?), but with the Phillies' signing of Cliff Lee I am more impatient than ever for the start of the baseball season. As I mentioned last week, the Phillies will have another Celiac Awareness night in July, but I'm hopeful that on the strength of the strong turnout for the one this past season that more gluten-free options will be available all season long.

I posted a DVR alert on Tuesday. The December 28th episode of the Food Network's "Cupcake Wars" will feature Philly's own gluten-free Sweet Freedom Bakery will be one of the combatants.

Congratulations to reader Amy C., who was the winner of the recent holiday giveaway hosted by Gluten Free Philly and nine other gluten-free blogs.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but word came on Monday that Ninety Nine Restaurants has closed its remaining Pennsylvania locations in Audubon, Bensalem and Warrington and its outlet in Deptford, New Jersey. The chain was an outlier in that it actually had gluten-free buns for its burgers. Elsewhere, reader Rich S. reports that Cafe Monterosso in Yardley, which offered gluten-free pizza, pasta and desserts, has closed. According to an outgoing phone message, the owner plans on relocating the restaurant.

On a brighter note, Sonata in Northern Liberties has updated its gluten-free menu.

Warminster's new BRE Bakery has picked up several varieties of My Dad's Cookies, which I reviewed last week. The bakery currently is carrying the Black & White, Raspberry Linzer, Chocolate Fancy, Chocolano and Italian Chocolate & Raspberry cookies.

Since Philadelphia is, of course, the home of the soft pretzel, I'm thinking that the new gluten-free Bavarian Pretzels from Kim & Scott's Gourmet Pretzels just have to be sold in this area. The company announced this week that beginning in January the pretzels will debut at select Whole Foods stores, although information on ingredients and manufacturing protocols wasn't mentioned. Thanks to Gwinnett (Ga.) Gluten-Free Examiner Jennifer for the info.

Here's another first-to-market gluten-free product: a lemon-bar baking mix. Introduced by Marion's Smart Delights, the new mix is not only certified gluten-free, but also allergen-free, Kosher certified and made with all-natural ingredients. The mix is not yet available in the Delaware Valley but can be purchased directly from the company for $6.49 per box.

Made with gluten-free oats from Finland, instant apricot oatmeal is the first of several oatmeal products to be introduced by Simpli. The instant oatmeal is certified gluten-free and sells for $4.95 a box, which contains five servings. You can read about the company's harvesting and processing of its gluten-free oats at its website.

More Udi's goodness, spotted at Wegmans: cinnamon raisin bread and bagels and whole grain bagels. These new products will be more widely available in the new year.
Fans of Snikkidy snacks can enter to win a product box from the company. Just fill out the form here between now and January 15, 2011 and write in Gluten Free Philly as the referring source. Two entrants will be randomly selected to win, and the blog that refers the most readers will receive snacks to award to a lucky reader. Also, 25 readers from the winning blog will receive a Snikiddy Snack Pack box, which will include three snack packs and a coupon.

Our older son, who turned 10 this week, is a big fan of the Food Network and probably knows more about cooking and baking than me and my wife combined. Among the birthday presents we got him was a brand-new gluten-free dessert cookbook called The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free by Anne Byrn. The book contains 76 recipes, from Caramel Melted Ice Cream Cake to Southern Sweet Potato Pound Cake. The cool part is that all of the recipes call for packaged gluten-free cake and brownie mixes like those from Betty Crocker and Gluten Free Pantry. Using the Betty Crocker Yellow Cake Mix, he and my wife made the Fresh Orange Bundt Cake drizzled with an orange juice glaze - it was amazing!  Amazon.com has the book on sale for just $8.69, a 42% savings off the cover price.

If you're looking for a fun parent-child activity for some upcoming school off-days, it may be worth a drive to Monmouth County, New Jersey, not too far off of Exit 8 of the New Jersey Turnpike. The Young Chefs Academy in Morganville is hosting allergy-free cooking workshops on January 17 (Gluten-Free National Candy Month) and February 21 (Gluten-Free Famous Dishes of the Presidents). There are other great-sounding workshops scheduled on Monday and Friday nights throughout the winter and spring seasons.

With the holidays approaching, I'll be posting less frequently through the end of December. Look for my year-end roundup highlighting the many good finds from the past 12 months. Keep e-mailing all your great restaurant and product finds and upcoming events. You can also follow me on Twitter @gfphilly, where I tweet items of interest, sometimes before the information gets posted here.

Thanks for joining me throughout 2010! I wish everyone a happy and healthy holiday season and a prosperous new year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

This Means War!

The just-premiered second season of the Food Network series Cupcake Wars will have some local flavor this month, as one of the contestants will be Philadelphia's own gluten-free Sweet Freedom Bakery.

On the prime-time competition, four cupcake bakers face off in three elimination challenges each week. At stake: $10,000 and the opportunity to showcase their cupcakes at a featured event. 

As part of the "Hard Rock" episode, premiering on Tuesday, December 28 at 9 p.m. Eastern, Alison Lubert (who co-owns Sweet Freedom with Heather Esposito) will battle three other cupcake bakers to have their creations on display at a Melissa Etheridge concert. Other contestants include Bruce Zipes of Bruce's Bakery (Brooklyn, N.Y.), Dorothy Tong of web-based Cupcake and Cookie (Los Angeles) and Christa Kelso of web-based Mini Baker (Los Angeles).

Here's a preview video for the series:

Friday, December 10, 2010

News & Notes: December 10, 2010

Judging from the emails I received and comments to this week's post, many readers concur with my rave review of My Dad's Cookies. For guests attending next week's Supper Club dinner at Buca di Beppo in Center City, I will have samples courtesy of the company. (Must. Resist. Temptation.)

The "Gluten-Free Holiday Giveaway Galore x10" announced last week continues through next Wednesday, December 15. As part of the giveaway, one entrant at this blog will win prizes that include a copy of Katie Chalmers' new gluten-free book for children and lots of food items. Just go to the original post and add your comment.

Thanks to reader Murray K., who emailed me about Manna, a New American BYO in Margate (8409 Ventnor Avenue, 609-822-7722). The restaurant notes gluten-free items on its menu and also has several safe dessert choices.

I've lived in the Philadelphia area all my life, but I'd never heard of Kemblesville until this week. It's in southern Chester County, and it's the home of Village Pizza and Subs (1765 New London Road, 610-255-0300), where you can get gluten-free pizza as well as linguini and ravioli. The kitchen uses separate equipment and ingredients for those items.

Also in Chester County, Anthony's Wood Oven Pizza, located in Exton (410 West Lincoln Highway, 610-524-6666), serves gluten-free pizza.

Extreme Pizza in downtown Wilmington (201 North Market Street, 302-384-8012) now offers Still Riding's gluten-free pizza. Check out the varieties there - choices like Ragin' Rooster, The Screamin' Tomato and Yard Sale! There are plenty of salads too. Big ups to reader Beth, who pens the Wheat Nothings blog, for first sharing this news.

With advance notice, The Palm in Center City can prepare gluten-free crab cakes, bread and pasta.

Le Castagne in Center City now offers brunch and early family-style dinner on Sundays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Any menu item except the french toast can be made gluten free.

Butterflies Healthy Food in Skippack is now JayBee's Cafe, still serving gluten free-friendly fare.

Sweet Freedom Bakery has prepared a holiday menu that includes treats such as Mint Chocolate Cupcakes, Holiday Magic Bars and Triple Chocolate Crumb Cake. Orders are accepted through December 19.

Redbridge beer and Strongbow cider can be had at Teri's on 9th at the Italian Market (1126 South 9th Street, 267-761-9154).

Natural Harvest Market is new to Mullica Hill (45 South Main Street, 856-417-3812), and carries gluten-free products from Udi's, Mrs. Crimbles, Purely Elizabeth, Katz, Glutenfreeda, Conte's and more.

ShopRite in Cherry Hill now stocks gluten-free products from French Meadow Bakery, including the pizza crusts, tortillas, brownies and brownie bites, chocolate chip cookie dough, breads, cupcakes and cakes. All of the bakery's products are made in a gluten-free facility. You can get get a dollar-off coupon at this link.

Look for a special holiday-themed version of R.W. Garcia tortilla chips at Wegmans markets.

I hardly ever pass up an opportunity to discuss baseball, so I'm happy to pass along a "save the date" for the 2011 Celiac Awareness Night at the Phillies. It will be held on Friday, July 8, when the Phils take on the Atlanta Braves. I'll post ticket and event information when it becomes available.

Have a great weekend and stay warm!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Happy Father's Day

This review was tough for me to write. Not because the gluten-free cookies from My Dad's Cookies weren't good - far from it. I struggled with it because I couldn't decide which variety deserved the most praise. Was it the mini Black & Whites, with their pillowy yellow-cake centers coated with vanilla and chocolate icings? Or the raspberry jam-filled Linzer cookies dusted with powdered sugar? The Chocolanos were a contender too - how could a facsimile of a Pepperidge Farm Milano cookie not be?

Well, I still haven't reached a verdict. What I can say is that the sampling of sweets I recently tried from My Dad's Cookies were among the best gluten-free cookies I've ever had. The product line also includes light and chewy chocolate chip biscotti, chocolate-dipped graham crackers, delightfully soft almond-flavored Italian cookies and seven other varieties.

My Dad's Cookies come from the owners of Mozzarelli's Italian restaurant in New York City, which serves 18 different gluten-free pizzas and 14 gluten-free cakes. (Tiramisu, I hear you calling my name!) The daughter of one of the owners has celiac disease, and the cookies are produced in a separate area of the restaurant to avoid cross-contamination.

The cookies, of course, are available at the restaurant, but you don't have to go to Manhattan to get your hands on them. Locally, they're sold at area McCaffrey's markets and Big Bear Natural Foods, Food For All in Mt. Airy, The Market of Lafayette Hill, Water to Go in Pennsauken, McFarlan's Market in Merchantville and Health Haven in Hainesport. The cookies can also be ordered online.

DISCLOSURE: While My Dad's Cookies provided product samples for me to review at no cost, such compensation did not influence my review. Neither I am nor any immediate family member is an employee, officer, director or agent of My Dad's Cookies or its respective parent, subsidiary and affiliated entities, advertising and promotional agencies. Click here for my complete Disclosure.

Friday, December 3, 2010

News & Notes: December 3, 2010

As I mentioned on Wednesday, I am one of 10 bloggers participating in the "Gluten-Free Holiday Giveaway Galore x10." As part of the giveaway, one lucky reader of this site will win prizes that include a copy of Katie Chalmers' new gluten-free book for children and lots of food items. You have until December 15 to enter; just go to the original post and add your comment.

Last week, I mentioned that Carlucci's Grill in Yardley added a gluten-free menu. Well, I overlooked the fact that its sister location in West Windsor (335 Princeton-Hightstown Road, 609-936-0900) also added the same gluten-free menu with pizza and pasta, among other items.

Harvest Seasonal Grill & Wine Bar in Glen Mills (549 Wilmington-West Chester Pike, 610-358-1005) serves gluten-free bread from Amaranth Bakery.

The long-in-the-making Agiato in Manayunk (4359 Main Street, 215-482-9700) has finally opened, according to the Inquirer's Michael Klein. The restaurant participates in the NFCA's GREAT restaurant program.

New reader Todd C. emailed me about Manayunk's The Ugly Moose (443 Shurs Lane, 215-482-2739), which can accommodate a gluten-free diet. Also available there are Redbridge, New Grist and Shakparo beers.

Midatlantic in University City (3711 Market Street, 215-386-3711) can serve gluten-free diners and, in addition, offers Samuel Smith Organic Cider and a rotating gluten-free beer selection.

Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar are offering a holiday gift card deal. Buyers will receive a $20 Bonus Card for every $100 purchase of gift cards. The gift cards and Bonus Card can be used at any of those restaurants; the Bonus Card is valid from January 1, 2011 to February 10, 2011.

The Grain Exchange's products are now not only gluten free, but also nut free. In addition, the bakery will be producing biscotti - starting with chocolate chip - using Mr. Ritt's recipe. Caramel delight bars and several cookie varieties from The Grain Exchange are now available at BRE Bakery, located at the new 263 Marketplace in Warminster (700 York Road, 215-821-8462). Thanks to reader Marcella P. for the tip.

Main Line Baking Company in Wynnewood will offer online ordering and nationwide shipping of its gluten-free items starting December 13, and is working on developing some vegan/gluten-free baked goods.

Udi's awesome breads and bagels are now carried by Trader Joe's markets in the area for $4.99 a package.

Back in June, I mentioned that a local company had introduced gluten-free New England Clam Chowder and Southwestern Clam & Corn Chowder under the label of Old Original Bookbinder's, the famed Philadelphia seafood restaurant. New to the product line are ready-to-serve vegetable soups in four flavors: Brandywine Mushroom, Butternut Squash and Mushroom, Sweet Burgundy Onion and Zesty Tomato. They will be sold in natural and specialty food stores across the country. 

This month's Amazon Grocery sale items are posted, and there are a few gluten-free products listed. Add an additional 15% savings when combining the instant rebates with a Subscribe & Save order.

Reader Jackie P. let me know that St. Peter's School in Queen Village (319 Lombard Street), is holding a Holiday Sale this weekend that will include a selection of gluten-free baked goods. The sale will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday.

The Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Mt. Airy will host a book launch party on Sunday, December 12 for Genevieve Sherrow, a nutritionist, food writer and natural foods chef based in South Philadelphia. She will discuss her new self-published book, Gluten-free Warrior, a therapeutic whole foods cookbook for individuals with gluten, wheat and soy allergies. The book includes a collection of recipes inspired by Indian, East Asian and contemporary American cuisines. Food from the book will be available for sampling at the event, which begins at 2 p.m.

Finally, a reminder that the next Philadelphia Gluten-Free Supper Club dinner is scheduled for Tuesday, December 14 at Buca di Beppo in Center City. For more information about the club or plans for the dinner, e-mail reader Adriana Z.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Goodies Giveaway: Holiday Giveaway Galore x10

Katie Chalmers’ new children's book, Mommy, What Is Celiac Disease, grew out of personal experience: she was diagnosed with the disease in 2007 and, after having her children tested, discovered that her daughter Morgan has it too.

Katie's book, which is neatly illustrated with drawings atop colorful photographs, relates a conversation between a mother and her young daughter who learns that she has celiac disease. In the exchange, the little girl understands that while her diet will be changing, her youthful enthusiasm will not be diminished. The book is available locally at Wegmans for a discounted price of $11.16 and is being carried in the Nature’s Marketplace area of the stores. For more information about the book and to view sample pages, visit Katie's website (the book can be purchased there as well); you can also "like" her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.

Gluten Free Philly and nine other gluten-free blogs - Accustomed Chaos, Adventures of a GF Mom, Be Free For Me, Celiac Family, Gluten Free Betsy, Gluten Free Easily, Gluten Free is Life, Gluten Free Taste of Home and Simply Sugar & Gluten Free - are participating in the “Gluten-Free Holiday Giveaway Galore x10!” through Wednesday, December 15. Readers can win one of 10 holiday gift bags loaded with gluten-free goodies and treats for celiac children. The gift bag includes: 
  • A signed copy of Mommy, What is Celiac Disease? 
  • Schar 123 Milly PlayMais dice game & biodegradable natural toy activity brick set
  • Schar products: Cheese Bites, Chocolate -or- Vanilla Sandwich Creme Cookies, Hazelnut Wafers
  • Pamela’s Products: Single Serve Pancake Mix, Single Serve Brownie Mix, Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookie two-pack, tablespoon/teaspoon measuring spoon, kids-sized t-shirt - color will vary
  • Nature’s Path: Peanut Butter Panda Puffs & crispy rice bars- flavors will vary, $1-off coupons
  • Mary’s Gone Crackers: one of the following: box of cookies -or- crackers -or- Sticks & Twigs
  • Snyder’s of Hanover: bag of gluten-free pretzel sticks
  • Chebe: pizza crust mix -or- all purpose bread mix
  • Bob’s Sweet Stripes: one bag of soft peppermint candy sticks
  • Stuffed teddy bear: colors may vary
  • Holiday pencils, eraser, holiday notepad & plastic snowman cereal bowl
  • Large holiday gift bag & small holiday gift bag & tissue paper - will need to be assembled to give as a gift
To enter, leave a comment to this post about the best gluten-free grocery item you discovered in 2010.

Make sure your comment provides a way for you to be contacted. If your comment does not link back to an email address, blog or website through which I can get in touch with you (some past entrants have blocked their Blogger profiles), post your email address in the comment in the following format: "name[at]domain[dot]suffix."

Here are the rules:
  • All 10 giveaways are open to residents of the United States. The Accustomed Chaos and Gluten Free Easily giveaways are also open to Canadian residents. The entry period begins on Wednesday, December 1, 2010 and ends on Wednesday, December 15, 2010 at 10 p.m. EST.
  • Entry requirements will vary between bloggers. Please follow the site-specific directions to enter.
  • Entrants can only win once total within all 10 giveaways. If anyone is chosen more than once as a winner, another winner will be chosen so everyone only wins once.
  • One winner per household.
  • Winners with valid entries will be selected at random. The winners will be announced and notified via email and must reply within 24 hours to claim. Otherwise, another eligible entry will be chosen, in order that all prizes will arrive before Christmas. So please remember to check your email on Thursday, December 16.
  • If any of the 10 prizes do not arrive before Christmas because of any unforeseen holiday mail rush problems, the United States Postal Service, Katie Chalmers and hosting bloggers will not be held accountable.
 Good luck!

DISCLOSURE: Katie Chalmers has provided me with a review copy of the book and is offering the prize pack. Neither I am nor any immediate family member is an employee, officer, director or agent of hers or affiliated entities, advertising and promotional agencies. My full Disclosure Policy can be found at the blog's Disclosure page.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

News & Notes: November 23, 2010

The supermarkets were buzzing this weekend with shoppers loading up their carts for their holiday dinners. For our older son, I picked up a Moondance mini pumpkin cheesecake, along with an apple pie and cornbread, at Whole Foods in Marlton on Saturday. Alas, the gluten-free stuffing was already gone from the shelf.

Meanwhile, in this space last week I featured locally made Better Butter, a peanut butter spread that is lower in fat and calories than typical nut butters because it's made with banana or pumpkin.

Bucks County seems to have taken the lead in the number of restaurants serving gluten-free pizza. In addition to pizza, Carlucci's Grill in Yardley (1633 Big Oak Road, 215-321-9010) has an entire gluten-free menu that includes pasta. The restaurant is participating in the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program. In neighboring Newtown, La Nuova Vita (12-14 Cambridge Lane, 215-504-0888) has pizza as well as pasta.

The Pop Shop in Collingswood has added to its menu gluten-free cupcakes (made a block away on Haddon Avenue by DiBartolo Bakery) and ice cream cones.

Also in Collingswood, Casona is now accepting New Year's Eve reservations, with separate seatings at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. The regular menu will be replaced with a specially prepared prix fixe menu featuring both gluten-free and vegetarian options. Separately, the restaurant is offering a $25 gift card to any customer that purchases $100 worth of gift cards during the holiday season.

Until January, Sazon in Northern Liberties is offering a traditional Christmas dish featuring Venezuelan corn meal tamales known as hallacas. Stay for dessert too, as the flan and exotic hot chocolates are sinful.

Charlie Brown's Steakhouse has closed 20 restaurants along the Eastern seaboard, including local spots in Langhorne and Blackwood.

Mt. Airy's Food For All Market has added My Dad's Cookies and Jovial brown rice pasta to its shelves. My Dad's Cookies, which are made by the owners of Mozzarelli's in New York City, are also sold at area McCaffrey's markets and Big Bear Natural Foods, The Market of Lafayette Hill, Water to Go in Pennsauken and Health Haven in Hainesport.

Edy's new limited-edition Touchdown Sundae is now available locally. It's vanilla fudge ice cream studded with caramel-filled chocolate footballs.

Schar's gluten-free panettone cakes can be ordered for the holidays from Quattrobimbi. If you place an order from that site, I highly recommend also getting some Le Veneziane corn pasta - it's the best gluten-free pasta we've tried so far.

To date, Schar's gluten-free products have been imported to the United States from Italy and Germany. Now, some of them will be produced right here in the Delaware Valley, according to the Gloucester County Times. The company will construct its first American manufacturing facility in Logan Township. The planned 60,000-square-foot complex is scheduled to open in early 2012.

By the way, Black Friday deals at Amazon.com are already up and running. There's no reason these days to wait in line outside the mall at 3 a.m. - unless, of course, you're into that sort of thing. Purchases made through that link will help support this site.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Start Spreading the News

I could eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting. Only problem is that I may not be able to get up after doing so. Marina Levtov must have thought about this, since her gluten-free Better Butter has about half the calories, total fat and saturated fat per serving than the typical nut butter spread.

Levtov makes three varieties of Better Butter - Nutty Chocolate Chip, Honey Nut Banana and seasonal Maple Pumpkin - in Philadelphia at Greensgrow Farm's Kensington Kitchen Space. While the main ingredient is dry roasted peanuts, these spreads are lower in calories because they also contain ripened fruit or vegetables.

Better Butter is available at Philadelphia specialty markets such as Almanac, Green Aisle Grocery, Milk & Honey and Pumpkin, among other stores. The product can also be found at the farmers markets in University City (Wednesdays) and Fairmount Park (Thursdays).

Friday, November 12, 2010

News & Notes: November 12, 2010

Readers who weren't able to attend Appetite for Awareness last month can get a (virtual) taste of the event by reading my recap posted earlier this week.

Although not posted online, T.G.I. Friday's has introduced a new allergen supplement menu at participating restaurants. Using icons, the new allergen menu breaks down what food groups/categories may be found in each menu item, including eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts and shellfish. I'm not prepared to add Friday's to my celiac-friendly restaurant list at the moment, given that I don't know whether the kitchens have a protocol for avoiding cross-contamination. However, I'm sharing this information because the chain might be the only potential option for diners in certain instances.

A couple of reader restaurant recommendations (say that quickly five times) this week. Richard S. has had good experiences at London Grill (2301 Fairmount Avenue, 215-978-4545). Although the New American restuarant doesn't have a gluten-free menu, "the kitchen and service staffs are informed and up to date," he writes. "Best of all, the menu items that are gluten free (or that can be prepared gluten free) are always fun and delightful."

Kirstin J. shared news that Indian restaurant Palace at the Ben in Philadelphia (834 Chestnut Street, 267-232-5600) does not use gluten-containing ingredients in any menu items except for its breads. Owner Nick Mankeshaw told me via e-mail that the entrees are freshly made to order and dietary preferences can be accommodated.

In Delaware, the Smyrna Diner (99 South Cory Lane, 302-653-9980) has gluten-free menu options and offers bread, while Blackstone's Irish Pub in Newark (401 Louviers Drive, 302-266-0880) serves gluten-free crabcakes.

The Whip Tavern in Coatesville (1383 North Chatham Road, 610-383-0600) offers Green's Dubbel gluten-free beer and four varieties of hard cider.

Reader Diane let me know that Trader Joe's is selling advent calendars filled with gluten-free chocolate. The calendars sell for the low, low price of 99 cents.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Appetite for Awareness Recap

"I don't want dinner tonight," my older son proclaimed as we rolled out of the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal, the site of this year's Appetite for Awareness. That sentiment was a common refrain among many of the 1,600 attendees, who recently spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon sampling gluten-free dishes from 20 area restaurants and products from dozens of vendors. This year's event, held on October 24, raised more than $225,000 that will help support the mission of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Our day began with a late-morning brunch at 10 Arts Bistro, located at the Philadelphia Ritz-Carlton (where our boys chatted in the lobby with several players for the San Francisco Giants, who were waiting for a ride to the airport fresh off their series win over the Phillies). The "gluten-free blogger brunch" was sponsored by Rudi's Organic Bakery, whose marketing director shared with the group the story behind the company's development of its gluten-free breads. (Shameless plug - check out the blogs from other guests, such as Hold The Gluten, Celiac Advocate, Gluten-Free Fun, Gluten Free Mike, Gluten Free Long Island and Renegade Kitchen.) 10 Arts pastry chef Monica Glass, who has celiac disease (read my recent Q-and-A with her), prepared wonderful petite pumpkin macarons and brownies to top off the meal.

The Cruise Terminal was a new venue for the event, and it was much easier to navigate the terrain there than at the former location, the Wells Fargo Center. At the riverside end of the hall was the Children's Pavilion, with face-painting and other activities. With a hungry group of parents and kids nearby, vendors such as Main Line Pizza, Grandma's Grotto, Rudi's - with its "PB&J Snack Attack" - and Shabtai Gourmet drew large crowds there.

The Biergarten at the other end of the terminal provided a spot for football fans to watch the Eagles-Titans game on several large-screen televisions while enjoying adult beverages and munching on turkey and Italian hoagies. The sandwiches, piled high on party trays, were made with Dietz & Watson cold cuts and Grainless Baker rolls. Bartenders mixed cocktails featuring Boyd & Blair potato vodka, distilled in western Pennsylvania.

Other restaurants and a smattering of vendors were situated toward the main entrance. Chefs from local eateries like Pasta Pomodoro, Buddakan, El Rey, Rouge and Zahav prepared gluten-free dishes for sampling. Attendees were able to vote for their favorites, and The Palm won the "People's Choice Award" for its crab cakes.

Chef demonstrations were scheduled throughout the afternoon, with Monica Glass, Le Bec Fin's Georges Perrier and cookbook author Silvana Nardone showcasing their gluten-free recipes and cooking skills before rapt crowds.

The highlight for me was the vendor tables, where I could try the latest additions to the gluten-free marketplace. This year, the two best new products I sampled were the soft pretzel bites from Tonya's Gluten Free Kitchen (based in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania) and Ian's Chocolate Wafer Bites.

How cool it was to see a warmer stuffed with gluten-free soft pretzels rather than the glutenous version. The salty, buttery nuggets were addicting: I was embarrassed to keep going back to the table to get another, then another. Tonya's products, which also include cinnamon sugar soft pretzels and bites, whoopie pies, frosted banana bars and breads, are available locally at the Great Pumpkin in West Chester, Kimberton Whole Foods and Nature's Garden in Reading.

Ian's wafer bites resembled bite-size Kit Kats, coated with smooth milk chocolate. I'm not a fan of most of the company's other products, but this is one is a winner.

Popular gluten-free bakery Udi's made its A4A debut this year, playing to the home crowd by serving slices of cheese steak pizza made with the company's crusts. Other newcomers included Wynnewood's Main Line Bakery (where I just had a delicious slice of lemon-frosted pound cake),The Grain ExchangePhiladelphia Gluten Free Ravioli Pasta Co., Glow Gluten Free, Bye Bye Gluti, O'Dough's and Gluten Free to Go.

I began attending A4A when the event was in its relative infancy, hosted the first few years by several NFCA supporters at their homes. It has grown into the region's largest gluten-free vendor fair and restaurant showcase. More importantly, over time it has attracted the attention of medical professionals and restaurant chefs who previously had little to no awareness of celiac disease.

To see more event photos and read recaps from other bloggers, visit the NFCA's event page.

Friday, November 5, 2010

News & Notes: November 5, 2010

Located within shouting distance of Pennsylvania Dutch country, the Delaware Valley is none too far from the home of many snack-food companies. Following the lead of Snyder's of Hanover, regional purveyor Bachman has intro'd a gluten-free pretzel, the proceeds for which will support autism research. As I wrote this week, the company's gluten-free Puzzle Pretzels are made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

Congratulations to reader Martha L., the winner of the last week's Live Gluten Freely giveaway. Readers suggested a bunch of different restaurants as their favorites - check out the comments to see if yours made it.

In restaurant news, The Capital Grille in King of Prussia (236 Mall Boulevard, 610-265-1415) will open for business on Monday, November 8. The steakhouse has other area locations in Center City and Cherry Hill.

The Bottle Shop, a new craft beer store in South Philadelphia (1837 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-551-5551) has Woodchuck cider and beers such as Estrella Damm Daura and New Grist.

The new Philadelphia Gluten Free Ravioli Pasta Company has begun taking orders on its website. The company's gnocchi and cheese, spinach, mini and rice-breaded raviolis will also be available soon at their storefront in Media. The pasta is certified gluten free by the Celiac Sprue Association.

Jason's Deli in Willow Grove, which offered Udi's gluten-free bread for sandwiches, has closed.

Sports fans interested in catching a Nets or Devils game up the road at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey can now eat gluten free there. The concessionaire, Centerplate, now offers gluten-free sausages and hot dogs served on The Grainless Baker's buns, garden and Caesar salads, packaged gluten-free snacks, and Redbridge beer. The gluten-free location is situated on the main concourse between Sections 5 and 6.

The research-and-development team at Ian's Natural Foods apparently has been working overtime. The company will be launching onion rings that are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and nuts.  They will be available in January 2011, and have already been picked up nationally by Whole Foods.

The new (4th) edition of Triumph Dining's Gluten-Free Grocery Guide ($21.95) has been released, listing over 30,000 brand-name and store-brand gluten-free products at grocery stores across the United States. Through December 7, Triumph is offering free standard shipping on all of its products, which include the Grocery Guide, Restaurant Guide and Dining Cards. Use code SB868N at checkout.

This month's Amazon Grocery sale items are posted, and there are a few gluten-free products listed. Add an additional 15% savings when combining the instant rebates with a Subscribe & Save order.
Thanks to those readers who have supported Gluten Free Philly through Amazon.com purchases that originate from my blog.

Have a great weekend!

CORRECTED: The original version of this post incorrectly noted that The Capital Grille won the "People's Choice" award at the recent Appetite for Awareness event. It was The Palm for its gluten-free crab cakes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Piece of the Puzzle

The Bachman Company has introduced a new gluten-free Puzzle Pretzel in the shape of the Autism Speaks puzzle piece logo. The product, packaged in 10 oz. bags, is free of casein, wheat, soy and eggs and is produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. Five percent of net proceeds from the new pretzel are donated to Autism Speaks.

Bachman, headquartered in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania (near Reading), has partnered with Autism Speaks, the largest non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Bachman's partnership with Autism Speaks began in 2007, with the placement of autism information stickers on the bags of their most popular snacks.

Bachman products can be found in supermarkets throughout the northeastern United States; in addition, the new pretzels can be ordered online through the company's store. The company's other gluten-free snacks include Jax cheese twists, potato chips, tortilla chips and popcorn.

Friday, October 29, 2010

News & Notes: October 29, 2010

A record 1,600 attendees celebrated gluten-free living at last Sunday's Appetite for Awareness, held at the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal. I've been attending the event for the past five years, and this one was the biggest and best to date. I'll have more to share in a recap coming soon.

This Sunday, October 31, marks the end of the fiscal year for the Ambler-based National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, which organized A4A, trains local restaurants on gluten-free cooking protocols, sponsors awareness events throughout the area, and is a rich source of information about celiac disease. A generous donor has agreed to match contributions to the NFCA made through Sunday dollar for dollar, up to $10,000. If you are able to make a contribution (which may be tax-deductible), I encourage you to do so by then so that it can be doubled - no donation is too small!

Sunday also is the deadline for entering my latest giveaway - a variety of gluten-free groceries from General Mills, including Bisquick, Betty Crocker cake mixes and Chex cereal. To be in the running, post a comment to that blog entry noting your favorite gluten-free-friendly restaurant in the area. Reading your restaurant favorites has prompted me to consider creating a "Readers' Choice" poll in the near future on favorite restaurants for specific cuisines (like Italian and Mexican), markets, pizza, bread, beer and so on. I'm open to suggestions for other categories, so drop me a line to let me know what you want to see.

Los Amigos, with longtime locations in Berlin (461 Route 73 North, 856-767-5216) and Atlantic City (1926 Atlantic Avenue, 609-344-2293), has a gluten-free menu, though no dedicated fryers for chips.

In Milmont Park out in Delaware County, Carmen's Pizza (MacDade Boulevard & Milmont Avenue, 610-532-2300) has gluten-free pizza. The shop uses dedicated cookware and utensils. Thanks to reader Travis, who pens the Trav's Gone Gluten-Free blog, for the tip.

Reader Robin F. recommended modern American restaurant Supper in Philadelphia (925 South Street, 215-592-8180), saying the kitchen was "extremely accommodating" and the pastry chef was able to modify a dessert to make it gluten free.

The Beer Outlet (77 Franklin Mills Boulevard, 215-632-5035) and The Craft Beer Outlet (9910 Frankford Avenue, 215-632-2722) in Northeast Philadelphia stock bottles of Redbridge, New Grist and Estrella Daura as well as many varieties of hard ciders.

Food For All Market in Mt. Airy will have gluten-free items for Thankgiving, including stuffing, gravy and pies. Holiday orders are due by November 11.

GoPicnic just unveiled two more ready-to-eat gluten-free meals: Tuna + Crackers, featuring lemon-pepper tuna, multi-seed crackers, unsweetened applesauce, fruit & nut mix, and an organic dark-chocolate square; and Hummus + Crackers, with hummus dip, multi-seed crackers, dry-roasted edamame, fruit & nut mix, and a chocolate square. The products retail for $4.99 each and are available for ordering direct through the company. Sign up for the company's newsletter and get 10% off your first order. There's also free shipping for orders over $99.

Several readers asked last year if I was aware of any gluten-free fruit cakes available for Christmas, and unfortunately I knew of none. Kinnikinnick Foods will produce one this season that can be ordered as of November 4.

Amazon.com's gluten-free deals for October are almost done. This month's offers, which last only until Sunday, include:

Gluten Free Delaware's next meeting will be held on Sunday, November 7 at Christiana Hospital (Room 1000) starting at 3 p.m. There will be an open discussion and group knowledge share.

The Bucks/Montgomery R.O.C.K. chapter is sponsoring a fire station tour on Sunday, November 14. The event, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. will include a tour of the Horsham Fire Company (315 Meetinghouse Road), demonstrations and a potluck lunch. All family members are welcome; bring a main meal, side dish or dessert to share. To RSVP (with the number of attendees and childrens' ages), contact Holly and Steve Staugaitis at 267-664-6425.

The next Philadelphia Gluten-Free Supper Club dinner is tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, December 14 at Buca di Beppo in Center City. For more information about the club or plans for the dinner, e-mail reader Adriana Z.

Hope everyone has a great weekend and happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Goodies Giveaway: Live Gluten Freely Product Box

Live Gluten Freely is an online community created by General Mills that offers gluten-free product news, articles and real-life stories from participants. The site also provides recipes, ranging from breakfast treats like Blueberry-Corn Muffins to dishes like Favorite Chicken Nuggets to desserts like Brownie Ganache Torte with Raspberries and Carrot Cake.

General Mills offers more than 300 gluten-free products, available in grocery stores nationwide. Keep up with new additions to the gluten-free list by subscribing to the Live Gluten Freely Newsletter. Every month, you'll receive recipes, tips, coupons for gluten-free items, new product information and more delivered directly to your inbox. Click here to sign up. Also, be sure to visit Live Gluten Freely on Facebook. "Like" the page and check out recipe ideas, product news and tips about living without gluten.

MyBlogSpark is offering one Gluten Free Philly reader a Live Gluten Freely product box, which includes an assortment of gluten-free products from popular brands like Betty Crocker, Bisquick, Chex and Larabar. The product box, a $24.99 value, contains the following items:

  • Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownie Mix
  • Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix
  • Betty Crocker Rich & Creamy Chocolate Frosting
  • Honey Nut Chex Cereal
  • Bisquick Gluten Free Original Pancake and Baking Mix
  • Betty Crocker Fruit Flavored Snacks Variety Pack - Fruit Roll-Ups, Fruit Gushers, Fruit by the Foot
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Lärabar Snack Bar
  • Betty Crocker Potato Buds Mashed Potatoes
  • Betty Crocker Red Serving Spoon
  • Coupons and More
To enter the giveaway, leave a comment to this post about your favorite gluten-free friendly restaurant in the Delaware Valley (southeastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey and northern Delaware).

Some brief guidelines: (1) please do not enter unless you or a family member is on a gluten-free diet; (2) one comment per person; (3) U.S. residents only. Most important is to make sure your comment provides a way for me to contact you. If your comment does not link back to an email address, blog or website through which I can get in touch with you (some past entrants have blocked their Blogger profiles), post your email address in the comment in the following format: "name[at]domain[dot]suffix."

The giveaway runs now through Sunday, October 31 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. I’ll randomly select one winner the next day and will contact him or her by email. If I don’t hear back from the person with his or her mailing address by the following Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern, I’ll select another name.

Good luck!

DISCLOSURE: MyBlogSpark has provided me with product samples, product information and is offering the prize pack. Neither I am nor any immediate family member is an employee, officer, director or agent of MyBlogSpark or its respective parent, subsidiary and affiliated entities, advertising and promotional agencies. My full Disclosure Policy can be found at the blog's Disclosure page.

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    News & Notes: October 22, 2010

    Make sure that you come hungry to Sunday's Appetite for Awareness event at the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal. In addition to the dozens of area restaurants and local and national vendors sampling food, there will be cooking demonstrations from Le Bec Fin's Georges Perrier, 10 Arts' Monica Glass and cookbook author Silvana Nardone. Tickets will be available at the door, but you can save money by ordering online today or tomorrow. Even if you can't make it, you can follow the action in real time on Twitter using hashtag #A4A10.

    I've posted to the restaurant list updated gluten-free menus from two Jose Garces restaurants, Chifa and Amada. His new place at Philadelphia's Cira Centre, JG Domestic (2929 Arch Street, 215-222-2363), doesn't yet have a similar menu, although requests can be accommodated.

    Good Eatz Green Cafe in West Reading (701 Penn Avenue, 610-670-4885), the sister business of Rick Allebach's Good Eatz Bakery, offers plenty of gluten-free options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch.

    If you're flying in or out of Terminal E at Philadelphia International Airport, you can grab a quick bite off the gluten-free menu at Cantina Laredo in Terminal E (215-492-1160).

    Connie at The Pop Shop in Collingswood let me know that the restaurant now uses bread from Miller's Gluten Free for its grilled cheese and other sandwiches. We stopped in last Saturday night, and our older son gives it a thumbs-up. The bread is now sliced thicker so that there's one large sandwich rather than two smaller ones.

    Philadelphia's all-gluten-free Sweet Freedom Bakery is now taking orders for Thanksgiving goodies, including pumpkin and apple pies and pumpkin chocolate chip cupcakes. Order before November 18 by calling 215-545-1899.

    The Mag Bar, located at Maggio's in Southampton (400 Second Street Pike, 215-322-7272), serves New Grist beer and two varieties of Woodchuck ciders.

    Acme Markets is offering customers with gluten sensitivity a tool to help them shop for gluten-free foods. The new program will begin in this month and roll out in phases during the next three months. As part of the program, select stores will have signage and special merchandising sets to help make it easier for customers to find gluten-free products. Shoppers can also stop at the customer service desk at any Acme to pick up an in-store shopping list/guide to gluten-free products. More extensive gluten-free shopping lists as well as recipes and snack and meal solutions are available at Acme's gluten-free website page.

    Allergen-friendly Ian's Natural Foods keeps the new products coming, and this one looks particularly promising. Now available are gluten-free chocolate-covered wafer bites, similar to Kit Kat candy bars. The treats are available at glutenfree.com ($4.99 a bag) and will soon be in stores.

    Shabtai Gourmet Gluten Free Bakery has just won the Kosherfest Best New Passover Product Competition for the fourth time. The winning product this year is Yidels Mini Swiss Chocolate Rolls, which will be available in time for Passover next Spring. The bakery will be participating in A4A.

    The gluten-free muffins and cakes from Butterfly Bakery, which until recently were available at Wegmans, have been discontinued.

    Tomorrow at Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Mt. Airy (551 Carpenter Lane, 215-844-1870), author Jae Steele will read from her new cookbook, Ripe From Around Here. The book, which emphasizes the importance of local, sustainable eating, has many gluten-free recipes for meals like Polenta Spice Pudding, Love Muffins and Springtime Tabouleh. The event begins at 3 p.m.

    The next Chester County Gluten Intolerance Group meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 1 at Paoli Hospital, with guests Keith J. Laskin, M.D. (medical director of the hospital's Celiac Center) and dietitian Nancy Patin Falini (author of Gluten-Free Friends: An Activity Book for Kids) set to speak. The event will be at the hospital's Potter Room (Zone B, Level 1) beginning at 6:30 p.m. Register by calling 1-866-CALL-MLH.

    Finally this week, here's a preview video for Appetite for Awareness featuring Sixers TV play-by-play announcer Marc Zumoff:

    I hope everyone has a great weekend, particularly if you're attending A4A!