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.
Main Line Pizza, Grandma's Grotto, Rudi's - with its "PB&J Snack Attack" - and Shabtai Gourmet drew large crowds there.
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.
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.
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.
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 Exchange, Philadelphia 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.