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.
Comment using:

1 comment:

  1. Sounds wonderful...thanks for the recap. Must try to get down to PA for that next year!