Friday, January 28, 2011

News & Notes: January 28, 2011

I've thrown in the towel and concede that winter has defeated me. Of course, no one can see the towel as it is buried somewhere under the piles of snow outside my house. On the bright side, though, Phillies pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in a mere 16 days from now.

With Spring comes Passover and, as I wrote this week, there are new gluten-free cereals, baking mixes and even matzo-style crackers that should be readily available when the holiday rolls around. Typically, Passover products begin trickling into markets about a month ahead of time, so I expect that these and other gluten-free items will first show up in mid-March.

Virtually the entire menu at Fort Washington's new Mexican restaurant Cantina Feliz (424 South Bethlehem Pike, 215-646-1320) is gluten free. In addition, the BBQ Chicken Huarache and the Cantina Wedge Salad can be made gluten free if ordered without the Cabrales blue cheese, according to executive chef Tim Spinner. The grouper used for the Baja Fish Tacos is battered with rice flour and coated with a plantain and nacho crust, and the fryer is 100 percent gluten free. For dessert, there's the Mexican Chocolate Crema (sans malted milk mousse) as well as assorted ice creams and sorbets.

Sampan, a pan-Asian restaurant in Center City (124 South 13th Street, 215-732-3501), now has a gluten-free menu. Just be sure to ask that the fries accompanying the filet mignon be pan-fried in clean cookware and not deep-fried (or request another side).

Ry's Bagels' second location in Glassboro (800 North Delsea Drive, 856-270-2575) has Udi's bagels.

I've added a link to the current gluten-free menu for Tinto in Center City on my restaurants page.

All Marathon Grill locations in Philadelphia serve Green's Discovery gluten-free beer, while Fairmount's Lucky 7 Tavern (747 North 25th Street, 215-232-7736) and Chelsea Tavern in Wilmington (821 North Market Street, 302-482-3333) have Redbridge beer.

Updating some earlier product mentions, Feel Good Foods' chicken dumplings are now sold locally at Water to Go in Pennsauken, $7.49 for a box of eight. They steamed up nicely in a skillet and tasted great. The dumplings need to be tended to in preparation so that they don't stick to the pan; just follow the directions on the package.

Ian's onion rings are now at Whole Foods, and on their way there are Kim & Scott's soft pretzels.

Look for Utz's new Rice Crisps at your local market. The brown rice tortilla chips come in three varieties: Sea Salt, Sweet Chili and Salsa Fresca.

Schar broke ground this week on its new gluten-free production facility in Gloucester County. The plant is set to be online in March 2012 and will turn out, among other items, bagels. Thanks to reader Mark M. for the heads-up.

Don't forget to join the new Gluten Free Philly Facebook page and follow my Twitter feed for late-breaking information. Have a wonderful (hopefully snow-free) weekend!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Gefen Records

As I've mentioned in prior posts, many kosher for Passover products are made gluten free. Also sometimes labeled as non gebrokts, those products are prepared without wheat, barley, spelt, oats and rye for religious reasons. New items are introduced every year, and some - like Shabtai Gourmet, whose gluten-free cakes and cookies at one time were made only for the holiday - satisfy demand all year long.

With that in mind, Kedem Food Products, in association with the Celiac Disease Foundation, has expanded their all-natural gluten-free products to include a year-round line of Gefen-brand cereals and cake, cookie and frosting mixes. In addition, the company will debut Yehuda-brand Gluten Free Matzo-Style Squares for Passover this Spring.

The new King Krunch cereals come in four varieties: Frosted Flakes, Fruity Rings, Honey Rings and Chocolate Rings. Although the brownie and chocolate cookies are not new, they previously were only sold for Passover. Premiering this year are a chocolate cake mix, chocolate and vanilla frosting mixes, and sugar-free coffee, chocolate and yellow cake mixes.

The matzo-style squares will be a new option for the holiday, and should make for a much less expensive option than the gluten-free oat matzos that have been available for Passover the last few years. The crackers are made with tapioca starch, water, potato starch, potato flour, expeller-pressed palm oil, natural vinegar, egg yolks, honey and salt.

The best bet for finding these products is in the kosher section of your local supermarket. If the store carries other Gefen products, chances are the manager can order these for you upon request.

Friday, January 21, 2011

News & Notes: January 21, 2011

If you didn't yet "like" the new Gluten Free Philly Facebook page, you missed out on posts about limited-time half-off deals at local establishments Sonata and Cupcakes Gourmet, which have gluten-free options, and one reader's experience at Kokopelli in Center City. Join the online community and contribute today!

Stay tuned for area locations where you can find the new vending machines from Snack Like a Local, which I wrote about this week. The machines will carry a number of regionally made gluten-free snacks and beverages.

Some tri-state restaurant info to pass along. In Wilmington, Domaine Hudson (1314 North Washington Street, 302-655-9463) can accommodate gluten-free requests. According to the chef, the kitchen has gluten-free crackers for cheese and charcuterie, and during prep and service all items are prepared and held with dedicated utensils. The restaurant also serves gluten-free beer and hard ciders.

Reader Daria D. recommends the White Dog Cafe in Wayne (200 West Lancaster Avenue, 610-225-3700), where she enjoyed gluten-free raisin French toast for Sunday brunch. For now, the bread is only available on Sundays and reservations are recommended so that the kitchen has notice of gluten-free requests.

The Ebbitt Room, located at the Virginia Hotel in Cape May (25 Jackson Street, 609-884-5700), can also cater to gluten-free diners with 24 hours notice.

I have two new bakeries to highlight this week. First, Aux Petits Delices in Wayne (162 East Lancaster Avenue, 610-971-0300) has a gluten-free pastry menu and can also prepare wedding cakes. The gluten-free items are made on a separate floor of the bakery using almond flour and potato starch.

Princeton's Moonlight Bakers makes a variety of gluten-free cakes and cookies. The company's chewy chocolate-nut squares are sold at Whole Earth Center in Princeton. Although the desserts are made in a shared commercial kitchen, the bakery's hours there are such that its gluten-free products are made when others are handling wheat flour. In addition, bakers Marilyn Besner and Piroska Toth use certain supplies and utensils just for the gluten-free items.

I'm not sure why Post Cereals didn't publicize this when it recently promoted the gluten-free status of Cocoa and Fruity Pebbles, but the company's Marshmallow Pebbles have been reformulated and are now safe. The new boxes proclaim that the cereal is "new and improved," so check the label at the store, as the old version (with wheat) is still floating around.

Reader Eve B. let me know that our family's favorite gluten-free Italian pasta, Le Veneziane, now comes in farfalle. It's available online from U.S. distributor Quattrobimbi.

With Chocolate Dips, Jelly Belly bean flavors of Very Cherry, Raspberry, Strawberry, Coconut and Orange have been drenched in chocolate. Another new product, Peas & Carrots mellocreme mix, is revived from the company's antique candy molds. The "baby carrots" are mellocreme candy in orange sherbet flavor and the "peas" are green apple flavor. They will begin to ship to stores nationwide by February.

The Giant supermarket in Kennett Square is celebrating the expansion of its gluten-free and natural foods section with samples and an information fair on Saturday, January 29 from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. A basket filled with gluten-free products will be raffled off.

The next Supper Club dinner will be held on Monday, February 7 at Joseph Poon Chinese Kitchen in Chinatown, where the group will celebrate the Chinese New Year with a multi-course feast. Seating is at 7:30 p.m. For more information about the club or plans for the dinner, e-mail reader Adriana Z.

Finally this week, I wanted to let people know that registration for Camp Celiac in Rhode Island opens on Tuesday, February 1; the camp will run this summer from August 7-12. For parents interested in a Jewish sleepaway camp, several New Jersey Y Camps in the Poconos will have a separate gluten-free kitchen beginning this summer, according to a recent article in the New Jersey Jewish News (thanks to Gluten Free Fun blogger Erin for tweeting this story). In fact, registration is now open for the camps' two-night Celiac Family Weekend on June 10-12. If the sample schedule is any indication, lots of fun activities are planned. The cost is $250 per adult; kids under 18 are free.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Welcome to the Machine

There's been a movement across the country of late to replace the junk food dispensed from vending machines with healthier fare. In Philadelphia, Meg Widholm aims to take this one step further. Her company, Snack Like a Local, plans as early as February to offer a diverse selection of snacks and drinks - including gluten-free ones - made in the tri-state area.

A computer programmer by trade, Widholm wanted to continue that work while helping local businesses flourish. "I was literally seeking a way to balance these and I saw a vending machine at the right moment and the concept struck me," she says.

No M&Ms, Cokes and Lay's potato chips here. Widholm intends to carry gluten-free items such as YC Chocolate confections, Fulton's Dairy lemonade, and products from The Greenwood Kitchen. The machines will include a "suggestion box" so that people can provide input and feedback on the snacks. Widholm is scouting locations now - salons, clothing outlets and furniture stores are possibilities - with plans to roll out as many as five machines at the start. The spots will be posted on the company's website and Facebook page.

Friday, January 14, 2011

News & Notes: January 14, 2011

It took a mid-week snowstorm to prompt me, but I finally created a Gluten Free Philly page on Facebook. Just "like" the page and join in the discussion. You can share your thoughts on area restaurants and favorite products, post topics in the forum, and more.

On Tuesday, I shared word of the new Asian dumplings from Feel Good Foods. The dumplings will be making their way to area markets shortly, but can be ordered as soon as next week from the Gluten-Free Mall.

In Center City, new Southwestern and tapas spot Kokopelli (1904 Chestnut Street, 215-557-7510) maintains a menu annotated with gluten-free items, ranging from soups and salads to seafood and sides. Just ask for the menu when checking in at the restaurant.

Giovanni's in Quakertown (224 North West End Boulevard, 215-538-2120) offers gluten-free pizza in a 10" size.

New reader John L. writes that Zinc Cafe, a New American BYOB in Medford (679 Stokes Road, 609-953-9462) is gluten-free-friendly.

Maize, a New American BYO in Perkasie (519 West Walnut Street, 215-257-2264) can accommodate gluten-free dietary requests. Thanks to reader Kathy W. for the tip.

Cafe Monterosso has relocated from Yardley to Fairless Hills (530 Lincoln Highway, 215-295-1311, near the Langhorne Ski Shop. The restaurant still offers gluten-free pizza, pasta and dessert.

Five Guys Burgers and Fries has opened new locations in Conshohocken (200 West Ridge Pike, 610-825-5557) and in Center City Philadelphia (1109 Walnut Street, 215-238-9955).

P.F. Chang's China Bistro has continued its Warrior Card program into the new year, offering holders 10 percent off their guest checks. To sign up for the card, go to the Warrior Card page of the restaurant's web site.

Reader Manisha A. let me know about two Hockessin, Delaware coffee shops that have gluten-free sweets: Bishops Coffee Shop (6949 Lancaster Pike, 302-239-7579) and Over Coffee Cafe (144 Lantana Drive, 302-239-5353).

To celebrate its first birthday, Sweet Freedom Bakery will be giving away mini cupcakes to the first 100 customers tomorrow, beginning at noon. Also find free samples from the bakery at Rescue Rittenhouse Spa on Saturdays throughout January.

The Handcrafted Cookie Company in Phoenixville, which bakes gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, will be closing February 28. On the bakery's Facebook page, the owners cite family priorities as the reason.

Reader Jackie P. wrote in to tell me that Post's Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles cereals have new packaging that trumpets their gluten free status. In addition, Post has introduced 90-calorie Pebbles-branded marshmallow treats that are gluten free.

You're probably not thinking about eating Italian ices at this time of year, but there are Rita's locations open year-round at area malls. The company's newly available Cheesecake Cream Ice is gluten free.

Kikkoman's new gluten-free soy sauce is a Tamari-style soy sauce brewed with rice instead of wheat. Take note, though, that the sodium content (960 mg per one-tablespoon serving) is high compared with reduced-sodium, gluten-free soy sauces produced by San-J, La Choy and Kari-Out

Ever imagine eating M&Ms without the candy shell? Hershey's has introduced new chocolate candies called Drops that, through the means of modern science, can help you attain that previously unachievable goal. Both the Milk Chocolate and - more significantly - the Cookies 'n' Creme flavors are gluten free.

HomeFree has just re-launched its soft-baked oatmeal cookies and mini oatmeal chip cookies as gluten free, using gluten-free oats. The company says it uses care in its facility to prevent cross-contamination, tests random batches, and utilizes a certified gluten-free facility. You can use the store-finder feature on Home Free's website or order directly from the company.

Adding to its seasonal varieties, gluten-free bakery Kinnikinnick Foods now has cinnamon-apple donuts. The treat is made with apple puree and cinnamon, topped with a cinnamon glaze and hot-pink cinnamon icing. The donuts are available until February 28 and can be ordered online or by phone at 1-877-503-4466.

The Viking Cooking School's "Gluten-Free Gourmet" class in Bryn Mawr next Tuesday is sold out, but there's a similar course at the Atlantic City location on Thursday, March 17.

The Cape May County Library will host a gluten-free cooking demonstration by chef James Harris on Saturday, January 29. Chef Harris, of Harrah's Resorts in Atlantic City, will prepare a menu consisting of gluten-free pizzas, wraps and pasta dishes. The event will begin at 1 p.m. at the main branch of the library, 30 Mechanic Street in Cape May Court House. Registration and a valid library card are required to attend. Register online or by calling 609-463-6350.

Also on January 29, local vendors and natural-foods companies will be sampling gluten-free products at Weavers Way Co-op in Chestnut Hill. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness will be there to answer questions and give out information. This event is open to the public and will run from noon to 4 p.m.

Finally this week, I wanted to give thanks to Amy Ratner, the associate editor of Gluten-Free Living magazine. Her recent blog post about the maturation of her daughter, who has celiac disease, really struck a chord with me and my wife. Even if you don't have kids on a gluten-free diet, it's a good read.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Using Your Noodle

It makes my day when I learn about a first-to-market gluten-free product. I experienced that  last week when I found out about Feel Good Foods' line of gluten-free handmade Asian dumplings, which come in four varieties: vegetable, chicken, pork and shrimp. The dumplings (eight per box) contain all-natural ingredients with no MSG, artificial flavors, preservatives or additives, and are accompanied by a wheat-free tamari dipping sauce.

The husband-and-wife owners of Friedman's Lunch, located at New York City's Chelsea Market, are the brains behind Feel Good Foods. (We ate at Friedman's during a visit last year to the Big Apple.) If you live in or are visiting Manhattan, the dumplings are now available for purchase at the restaurant (75 9th Avenue, 212-929-7100) and at natural foods stores in the city. Look for them soon at markets in the Delaware Valley and online at the Gluten-Free Mall.

Thanks to Gwinnett (Ga.) Gluten-Free Examiner Jennifer for the tip.

Friday, January 7, 2011

News & Notes: January 7, 2011

Happy new year to everyone. I'm kicking off 2011's first News & Notes with a proverbial bang, in what may well be my longest post to date.

On Tuesday, I wrote that legendary Chinatown chef Joe Poon is preparing gluten-free General Tso's Chicken as part of his Chinese New Year dinner menu, available now through the end of March.

Keith Taylor, late of Roxborough's since-closed Holy Smoke, plans to open a gluten-free-friendly dine-in/take-out offshoot of his Zachary's BBQ catering business next month. The restaurant will be located at 1709 Markley Street in Norristown (formerly the site of Boston Barbeque) and he'll offer many of the same meats currently available for catering. Chef Taylor underwent training with the NFCA's gluten-free food-service program.

Fuel, which serves light, healthful fare in Center City (1225 Walnut Street, 215-922-3835) and South Philly (1917 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-468-3835) can prepare gluten-free panini made with corn/flaxseed bread. I'm told that the kitchens take precautions to avoid mixing with wheat.

Reader Manisha A. was kind enough to let me know that Half Moon Restaurant and Saloon in Kennett Square (180 West State Street, 610-444-7232), which is known for its wild-game meats, serves burgers and sandwiches on gluten-free bread. The restaurant's gluten-free menu also lists beer and dessert, among other items.

Belzano Ristorante, located in West Windsor - call it Princeton - at the Shops at Windsor Greens (3495 Brunswick Pike/U.S. Route 1, 609-720-900), offers eight different pizza styles, panini, penne, appetizers and other entrees on its gluten-free menu. Separate pans and utensils are used for the gluten-free items. You can print out the take-out/delivery menu for coupons.

Tonight, I will be rooting on my Delaware Fightin' Blue Hens, who are playing for the NCAA Division I Football Championship against Eastern Washington. On the UD campus in Newark, you can now get gluten-free pizza at the Main Street Seasons Pizza. In fact, all of the Seasons Pizza shops in Delaware, Pennsylvania (Malvern and Aston) and New Jersey (Cherry Hill and Stratford) now serve the pizza. Register to get 10 percent off your first online order. The full list of locations is posted on the company's website.

Not to be confused with Seasons Pizza, Seasons 52 Fresh Grill in King of Prussia and Cherry Hill recently unveiled its Winter 2011 gluten-free menu.

Musical chairs in Collingswood: Blackbird is set to move from 619 Collings Avenue to 714 Haddon Avenue by mid-February (sharing an address with West Side Gravy), while on March 1 IndeBlue will relocate across the street to take over Blackbird's current location.

Whole Foods, which previously abandoned plans to open a market in northern Delaware, is in development to set up shop in nearby Concordville. The location will be at the Glen Eagle Square shopping center, site of a former Genuardi's store, according to the Wilmington News Journal.

Exclusive to Whole Foods are Late July's new organic multigrain snack chips. The chips come in three flavors - Sea Salt by the Seashore, Mild Green Mojo and Dude Ranch - and are certified gluten free. (The Dude Ranch variety won the Best New Product award in the food category at the Natural Products Expo East 2010.) The chips will be coming to other outlets soon.

Funny that from time to time I still see the original Doritos logo plastered to the sides of Frito-Lay delivery trucks. The company has now tapped into the "throwback" craze by not only reprising that emblem, but also its most popular, most requested flavor, Doritos Taco. (The product label lists no gluten ingredients.) The limited-edition bags will only be available through the Super Bowl in early February, but plans are for the company to keep this variety around. Not all stores will carry the product; check the Frito-Lay website's "Where to Buy" feature to locate one near you.

Amy's Kitchen has introduced several new gluten-free products. The Sonoma Burger is a combination of organic quinoa, walnuts, mushrooms, veggies and spices. The burger, which is gluten, dairy and soy free, will be available in stores beginning this month. The 240-calorie Light & Lean Black Bean and Cheese Enchilada contains organic black beans, tofu, brown rice, vegetables and cheese in an organic corn tortilla with a blend of tomatillo and ranchero sauces. Also part of the Light & Lean line is the 220-calorie Light & Lean Soft Taco Fiesta, a soft corn tortilla between a layer of brown rice, shredded vegetables and sweet corn and a layer of black beans and cheese, covered with a blend of our tomatillo and ranchero sauces.

The delish soft pretzel bites from Tonya's Gluten Free Kitchen that were sampled at Appetite for Awareness are now sold at Martindale's Market in Springfield. Hat tip to reader Dana M.

Whole Foods in Marlton now carries gluten-free frozen buttermilk biscuit dough from Virginia's 3 Fellers Bakery. Also spotted in the freezer there was StarBites' Brazilian-style cheese bread.

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

Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery is working with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness on the "Spread the Bread" charitable program. For every dollar coupon downloaded, Rudi's will give a dollar, up to $20,000, to the NFCA to help in its efforts to better educate physicians in the diagnosis of celiac disease. Coupons are available on the Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery website and Facebook page through February.

On Wednesday, January 12, the Celiac Center at Paoli Hospital will host "All About Celiac," a special presentation and interactive question-and-answer session with Peter H.R. Green, M.D., director of the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University. The one-hour event will be take place at 2 p.m. at the hospital's Potter Room (Zone B, Level 1), located at 255 West Lancaster Avenue in Paoli. Seating is limited, so you must register for live attendance. Registration for the online webinar also is available.

The Children's Celiac Support Group is sponsoring a "Supper Bowl" party on Sunday, January 23 at the Bucks Specialty Care Center in Chalfont (500 West Butler Avenue). Running time is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. RSVP at 267-426-6822 or by e-mail.

I mentioned in the last News & Notes that we savored the Orange Bundt Cake prepared from a recipe in a new dessert cookbook, The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free. Since then, my wife made the Toasted Coconut Pound Cake, Orange Cheesecake Squares, Chocolate Banana Cake with Peanut Butter Frosting and the insanely delicious Honey Bun Cake. (For the record, we shared most of these with friends over the holidays!) The book can be ordered from Amazon for under $10. On December 21, author Anne Byrn appeared on ABC's Good Morning America to showcase a couple desserts from the book, and you can view the segment below. Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

It's Tso Time

Don't put away those New Year's Eve party hats and horns just yet. The Chinese new year - the Year of the Rabbit - begins on February 3. Chef Joseph Poon, who opened Sang Kee, Philadelphia's first duck house, in 1979 and ran Joe's Peking Duck House for many years, is offering a 10-course feast at his BYOB Chinatown kitchen (1010 Cherry Street, 215-928-9333) to mark the occasion. Among the entrees is the chef's take on General Tso's Chicken, in which corn starch is used in place of wheat flour. The dinner includes salad, appetizers, entrees and dessert, and items can be modified to accommodate gluten-free guests; for example, lettuce leaves replace the flour wraps used for the Peking duck rolls and burgers.

The Chinese New Year banquet menu is available by reservation for parties of two or more now through March 31, with seatings seven days a week at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. The cost is $35 per person, cash or check only, plus tax and gratuity. When making reservations, advise of dietary restrictions and request stir-frying for the chicken dish.