Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Goodies Giveaway: Rudi's Gluten-Free Prize Pack

Rudi’s Gluten-Free Bakery has been celebrating Celiac Awareness Month by giving back to the national celiac disease organizations dedicated to helping raise awareness. Through May 31, Rudi’s Gluten-Free fans can get and give some dough through Spread the Bread, a Facebook campaign with the goal of raising up to $30,000 for the leading celiac disease education and awareness organizations, including the National Foundation for Celiac AwarenessCeliac Disease Foundation, Celiac Sprue Association and Gluten Intolerance Group.

Rudi’s Gluten-Free Facebook fans are invited to select one of these four community partners to receive a $1 donation from Rudi’s Gluten-Free and then click for a downloadable coupon good for $1 off any Rudi’s Gluten-Free product. Fans can track the amount pledged to each organization and help encourage family and friends to donate to their favorite organization.

Breakfast wrap made with Rudi's Gluten-Free
Spinach Tortilla, eggs and cheese
Rudi’s Gluten-Free just introduced tortillas made with whole-grain flours. The new line - sampled at last month's Celiac Awareness Tour stop in King of Prussia - includes soft and pliable Plain, Spinach and Fiesta Tortillas.

Rudi's is offering one lucky Gluten Free Philly reader a prize pack that includes an apron, a T-shirt, a copy of the Gluten-Free on a Shoestring cookbook by Nicole Hunn, Rudi’s Gluten-Free coupons, a reusable shopping bag, and bread clips.

To enter up to three different ways, follow the instructions below. Entries are being accepted through Sunday, June 3. You must enter a valid email address so that I can contact you if you're the winner.

Good luck!

* * *
My new 'Gluten Free Philly' Delaware Dining Guide is available as an e-book download. The guide provides hyperlinked listings for restaurants, bakeries, markets and attractions throughout the First State, including the southern resort towns like Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach. Updated editions published within 30 days of initial purchase will be emailed to purchasers free of charge.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, May 18, 2012

News & Notes: May 18, 2012

The Philly outpost of New York City's acclaimed Shake Shack is set to open at the corner of 20th & Sansom on June 6.

The burger stand will have a gluten-free menu featuring bunless burgers and hot dogs, fries and frozen custard. Thanks to reader Emily D., one of the managers there, for sharing more details on the Gluten Free Philly Facebook page. She wrote that the fries will be prepared in a dedicated fryer that is not connected to the same oil line as other fryers. Staff will also use a separate shake spinner and designated tins (black for malted, red for peanut butter) for shakes with allergens. Special custard flavors with cake batter (Boston cream pie, for instance) will dispense from a separate machine and designated scoopers will be used. The staff will also change gloves and use a fresh bin for toppings such as lettuce and tomatoes when a ticket is rung through with an allergy modification; just inform the cashier of the gluten-free request.

Reader Marcella P. recommends New American Honey in Doylestown (42 Shewell Ave., 215-489-4200), which has a gluten-free menu that changes seasonally. The kitchen and staff are accommodating of dietary requests.

The Di Bruno Bros. market at the Comcast Center (1701 JFK Blvd., 215-531-5666) has an expanded selection of gluten-free snacks. You can find Tate's chocolate chip cookies, Cracklebred by Natural Nectar, Lentil & Veggie crisps by Mediterranean Snacks, Danielle Fruit Chips, and locally made Metropolitan Bakery granola and macaroons from Pure Sweets.

Last week I mentioned Wegmans' new gluten-free pasta and dessert mixes, which will be located in both the Nature’s Marketplace section of the stores and in regular aisles for pasta and baking. The baking mixes include a vanilla cake mix and chocolate cake mix (each mix makes one 8-inch round cake layer and sells for $3.49), a sugar cookie mix - which sells for $3.49 and makes 22 cookies - and a double chocolate brownie mix for $3.49 that makes one 8-inch square pan of brownies. Wegmans worked for nearly a year testing and tweaking the formulation for the four mixes before releasing them.

In Tuesday's post, I wrote about the many amusement parks in this area (and a couple in Virginia) that have gluten-free concessions this season.

Finally this week, I wanted to announce that I have self-published my first e-book. It's a dining guide to Delaware, including beach towns (the listings for which aren't on the blog) and New Castle County - that's Wilmington, Newark and environs. The book contains detailed listings for restaurants, stores and attractions with gluten-free options, and includes hyperlinks to the businesses' websites and gluten-free menus where available. You can buy the book (in PDF format) for just $2.99 via PayPal and you'll get an e-mail to download the link. It's readable in the iBooks app on Apple mobile devices and on most Android devices. Feel free to pass along comments and suggestions for future versions and other editions.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

For Your Amusement

With the school year winding down, amusement parks throughout the country will soon be packed with kids and kids at heart. In this neck of the woods, HersheyPark had no peer for the longest time when it came to offering gluten-free foods, but now others are catching up.

Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom in Allentown has added gluten-free pizza (at Patio Pizza, Coaster's and Typhoon Treats), fries from dedicated fryers (at Chickie's & Pete's, Coaster's and Just Chicken/Just Tacos), salads (at Coaster’s, Center Stage, Monster Grille, Patio Pizza, Game Day Grille, Clucks & Franks and Typhoon Treats), Dippin' Dots (all flavors except Cookies n’ Cream and Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough), soft frozen lemonade and cotton candy. The kitchens are also able to accommodate preparation requests such as hamburgers, hot dogs and chicken without rolls.

At Knoebels in Elysburg, Pennsylvania - advertised as America's largest free admission park - there are several options. The Alamo Restaurant has proteins and salads (without croutons), while you can order hard-shell corn tacos, salads and nachos at the Mexican stand in the International Food Court. Breakfast items at the Food Court include eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns.

The new Merlin's Restaurant at Lancaster's Dutch Wonderland, opening early this summer, will have a gluten-free menu. Ingredient lists for the park's restaurants will be posted at the Dutch Wonderland website.

This season, Sesame Place in Langhorne offers Conte's bake-in-bag gluten-free pizza at Elmo's Eatery and Captain Ernie's Bistro. The park also has allergen-friendly snack packs from Rebecca & Devyn’s Gluten Free To Go at Elmo’s Eatery, the Snack Cart in front of the Dine with Me building and at the Popcorn Cart located behind Elmo’s Eatery.

In the Poconos, Great Wolf Lodge - home of a huge indoor water park - has specially-trained chefs that can offer a variety of gluten-free items. Guests can contact the lodge directly at 570-688-9899 to speak with a Food and Beverage Management team member.

Camelbeach, another Poconos waterpark, has gluten-free pizza by request at the Cammello's Pizza concession.

Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey isn't particularly gluten-free-friendly. There's no mention of any safe foods at its website; a rep told me over the phone that guests can order salads and proteins without bread at various locations. [UPDATED 8/19/12: The park's Main Street Pub has gluten-free and gluten-free/dairy-free pizzas, gluten-free brownies and gluten-free blueberry muffins.]

HersheyPark continues to offer many gluten-free choices for the 2012 season, including Famous Famiglia pizza (stands located in the Hollow, Midway and Rhineland areas and at Minetown Restaurant), rotisserie chicken (at the Central PA Kosher Mart), burgers with buns (at Craftbarn Kitchen, Whistle Stop Restaurant, Shore Line Grill, Decades and Minetown Restaurant), chicken tenders (at Shore Line Grill and Minetown Restaurant), chicken sandwiches and grilled chicken salads (at Decades and Shore Line Grill), tacos and nachos (at Tumbleweeds Taco), wraps (at Crustano's Deli) and sandwiches (at SooperDooper Sandwich Shop and Crustano's Deli). The staff is trained to handle allergen-friendly food options with care; when an order is placed for a specialty item, kitchen staff will wash their hands, put on new gloves, and use all new utensils designated specifically for our specialty items. If more information is needed, email Guest Services or call 717-534-3855.

A bit further away is Kings Dominion in central Virginia, where guests can find personal-size cheese pizzas (at Tower Pizza, Victoria’s Pizza and Congo Grill & Pizza), nachos and cheese sauce (at Border Café), hot dogs (at Johnny’s Grove Grill), hamburgers (at Trail’s End Grill), french fries (at Border Café, Johnny’s Grove Grill and Trail’s End Grill), and salads with Honey French dressing, Dippin’ Dots, soft frozen lemonade and cotton candy throughout the park. Ask for a supervisor when ordering gluten-free nachos, hot dogs and burgers.

Williamsburg, Virginia's Busch Gardens advises guests to speak with a supervisor at meal facilities to determine a meal that will be safe. The park offers several allergen-friendly prepackaged items for special dietary needs, including Conte's gluten-free pizza. For inquiries in advance, email Guest Services.

Friday, May 11, 2012

News & Notes: May 11, 2012

Now you can get a gluten-free bagel and a schmear at Short Hills Restaurant & Deli in Cherry Hill (486 Evesham Rd., 856-429-6900). For now, the bagels, burger buns and sandwich bread are warmed in foil in an oven, but a new dedicated toaster is coming soon.

The Good Karma Cafe location in Philadelphia's Society Hill neighborhood (10th and Pine, 267-519-8860) sources bread from Whole Foods for gluten-free sandwiches. Thanks to reader Sherrie S. of Living Simply Gluten Free for the tip.

Center City Philadelphia's new Brodo (31 S. 18th St., 215-977-7766) has a variety of gluten-free soups daily (with appropriate signage) and salads sans croutons.

A new Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, which has a gluten-free menu, is now open in Collegeville (51 Town Center, 484-902-1850).

Also newly opened is the Wegmans market in King of Prussia is now open (1 Village Drive, 484-690-3500). It was there that reader Bill L. spotted Wegman's new gluten-free dessert baking mixes. The supermarket chain also has introduced a line of gluten-free corn pastas - elbows, fusilli, spaghetti and penne - selling for $2.49 each. Shoppers can download a dollar-off coupon for the pasta from Wegmans' website.

In addition to the news earlier this week that Domino's now has a gluten-free crust (which is not recommended for those with celiac disease and others due to cross-contamination), Chuck E. Cheese's is testing a bake-in-bag gluten-free pizza and a brownie at its Minnesota locations.

Thomas Jefferson University Hospital's Celiac Center is conducting research that aims to better clarify men and women's experiences with fertility and pregnancy outcomes. The hope is that this study will clarify inconsistencies in the current literature, increase physician knowledge of this issue and gain awareness for the celiac community. Adults ages 18 and older are invited to take the survey, which closes on June 17, 2012.

A new cooking game show will soon be casting in Philadelphia - wouldn't it be fantastic if they accepted someone cooking gluten free? Here are the details:
GSN (Game Show Network) and the producers of THE GREAT FOOD TRUCK RACE, are thrilled to bring you BEAT THE CHEFS, an exciting new cooking game show that celebrates REAL people who make great food! BEAT THE CHEFS gives talented home cooks the chance to go up against some of the best chefs in the business, battle it out in the kitchen, and win a BIG CASH PRIZE!
We are scouring the nation for passionate home cooks from all walks of life. Are you a great cook despite never having been formally trained? Whether you are a chili cook-off champion, the queen of the bake sale, or just a whiz in the kitchen, now is your chance to see if your signature dish has what it takes to compete with our professional chefs! Gather up two of your family members or best friends as your sous chefs and pick the dish that you know will leave the judges begging for more! 
We are looking for fun, outgoing teams of all ages. If you love to cook, have a competitive spirit, and think you have a winning dish, email us at BeatTheChefs@rrstaff.com. Please include your name, age, contact info, photo, two proposed teammates (and their photos), a description of your culinary background and your signature dish! Put the city/state where you live in the subject line for priority.
The Children's Celiac Support Group will meet on Sunday, May 20 from noon to 2 p.m. at the Bucks Specialty Care Center in Chalfont. (It's at 500 West Butler Avenue, but for GPS purposes it's 800 Manor Drive.) Children of all ages are welcome. RSVP by May 17, 2012 by emailing the CHOP Celiac Center or calling 215-590-2985.

Have a great weekend and happy Mother's Day!

- Michael

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Q&A with Domino's and the NFCA

Questions and concerns abound in the gluten-free community, particularly among celiacs, about Domino's Pizza's new gluten-free crust. (You can read my post from Monday for the details, which includes the press release, a video from the company, and a link to a Frequently Asked Questions page.) In short, the crust is not recommended for those with celiac disease.

Given what I know about this product, I will not be serving this to my celiac son or listing Domino's on my restaurant list. However, since there are different segments of the gluten-free community that read this blog regularly, I am continuing to share information here.

I've read many comments on Facebook, Twitter and other blogs on this topic in the last 48 hours, especially as to Domino's rationale for introducing a product that celiacs should not consume and the role of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness in working with the company. I asked Alice Bast, founder and president of the NFCA, and Chris Brandon of Domino's Public Relations Department by email to respond to some of the questions surrounding the introduction of the crust.

Why is the NFCA associated with Domino's roll-out of the new gluten-free pizza crust if it's not recommended for people with celiac disease?

Alice Bast: Our main goal was to keep those with celiac disease safe. When we first spoke with Domino’s, we thought we would be helping them launch a gluten-free crust pizza for everyone to enjoy. However, upon review of operating procedures, we realized that we could not recommend this pizza for those with celiac disease. Both Domino's and NFCA felt that it was important for us to play a role in this launch to ensure the safety of those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

We launched the GREAT Kitchens tiered system to provide a common language for restaurants to communicate their practices while being educated about the needs of the gluten-free consumer. [Editor's note: The NFCA's statement regarding GREAT Kitchens Designations was posted this morning.] We would love for every restaurant to have the Green designation, and that is our goal. But we also understand that the requirements can seem daunting at first. The Amber designation is designed to get restaurants started down a path to one day serving those with celiac disease. With the Amber designation, and in Domino’s case, we have started a dialogue, educated the company and trained their employees so they have a better understanding of celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity and a strong foundation to build from.

Isn't there a risk of confusing the consumer with Domino's having a designation from GREAT Kitchens?

Alice Bast: The GREAT Kitchens tiered system aims to combat the widespread confusion and a lack of consistent standards around gluten-free food preparation in restaurants and promote a common language to voice those discrepancies. The purpose of the tiered system is to guide those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity to fully understand a restaurant’s gluten-free practices.  In this tiered system, consumers will find two designations:
  • Amber Designation – This level requires ingredient verification and basic training of wait staff and managers. Kitchen practices may vary with this designation, level one of the tier system, meaning those with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity should ask questions and exercise judgment when dining at an establishment with an Amber Designation. 
  • Green Designation – Level two of the system is for restaurants with robust gluten-free protocols that meet the needs of diners with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. They have comprehensive training of wait staff, managers and kitchen staff, have verified the gluten-free status of incoming ingredients and have instituted strict cross-contamination controls. 
As we said, our goal is to one day have all restaurants at the Green Designation, and we believe that the way to encourage that is to enter a relationship that meets them where they are and provides education that will enable them to make a deeper commitment when they are ready. Through this system, we also want to ensure that all gluten-free diners have the information they need to truly make an informed decision.

Why is Domino's offering this new product when there are many gluten-intolerant people who won't be able to consume it? Isn't that limiting your customer base?

Chris Brandon: Our first priority was ensuring that the Gluten Free Crust pizza that we developed was safe and intended for the correct group of consumers who could benefit from it – which ended up being some of the approximately 18 million people who suffer from gluten sensitivity.

Why did Domino's involve the NFCA for this product?

Chris Brandon: We wanted to do our homework and consulted with the NFCA to ensure that the product we were developing ended up with the correct group of consumers. NFCA helped us realize that current store operations cannot guarantee a gluten-free pizza, but that our Gluten Free Crust addresses a large population of consumers who are interested in menu items made with gluten-free ingredients. While we acknowledge that we are not able to achieve the cross-contamination controls necessary to meet NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens Green Designation, we are pleased that Domino’s earned the NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens Amber Designation for the education and training we’ve completed.

Did the company consider taking steps to avoid cross-contamination before going this route? If so, why didn't the company pursue it?

Chris Brandon: Our store operations would not guarantee a gluten-free pizza that we could safely recommend for those with celiac disease.

There is a perception in the gluten-free community that the company is looking to capitalize on the trendy aspect of the gluten-free diet. How would you respond to that?

Chris Brandon: Domino’s is the first national pizza delivery chain to offer a Gluten Free Crust pizza. Our goal with this is to take the lead in developing a solution for these consumers that has nothing to do with a trend or fad, but has to do with helping many people who had previously not been able to enjoy a Domino’s pizza the chance to do so.

Is Domino's taking any steps beyond the initial announcement to inform customers at the store level that the pizza is not recommended for those with celiac disease?

Chris Brandon: Domino’s top priority is the safety of its food. To help make sure we are being as open and informative as possible, we have done the following:

  • Posted a video on YouTube
  • Created a tab on our Facebook page and FAQs on our website
  • We have a disclaimer that is present with in-store promotional materials
  • Also, if you order online you are prompted about the product before proceeding with your order if you choose the Gluten Free Crust option
Would the company consider selling the crusts to allow people to make gluten-free pizza at home?

Chris Brandon: No plans for that at this time.

Is the company exploring any options to make the pizzas safe for those with celiac disease, such as bake-in-bag pizzas or using separate ingredients and utensils?

Chris Brandon: With the help of NFCA, we explored all options for this product and determined that our current operational model does not make it feasible to offer a gluten-free option that is safe for people with celiac disease at this time.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The First Domino

Big news in the gluten-free world today with the announcement that Domino's Pizza now has a gluten-free crust. However, the company is being upfront about the fact that the pizza with this crust is not recommended for those with celiac disease. Given what I know about this product, I will not be serving this to my celiac son. However, since there are different constituencies of the gluten-free community that read this blog, I am posting the information here.

Here's the full press release:
Domino's Pizza is responding to the needs of choice consumers, today launching a Gluten Free Crust available in all of its nearly 5,000 U.S. stores and becoming the first national pizza delivery chain to offer such a product.

Domino's Pizza consulted with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to ensure its products and team member training meet the standards of the foundation's GREAT Kitchens Amber Designation. NFCA's GREAT Kitchens is an official credentialing program that has expanded to include restaurants offering gluten free products with varying kitchen practices, therefore suitable for those with gluten sensitivity under the Amber Designation.

Domino's new Gluten Free Crust provides a great-tasting option for consumers who previously could not enjoy pizza from the recognized world leader in pizza delivery because of sensitivity to gluten - a protein found in wheat, rye and barley.

"Many of our customers have asked for a gluten free crust, and Domino's is excited to offer a product to customers with mild gluten sensitivity - as well as partner with the NFCA, which has been instrumental to our learning more about how to take this step," said J. Patrick Doyle, Domino's Pizza president and CEO. "The prevalence of gluten sensitivity has become a real issue with significant impact on consumer choice, and we want to be a part of the solution. Now, the whole group can enjoy Domino's with the addition of our new Gluten Free Crust."

While Domino's new Gluten Free Crust is appropriate for those with mild gluten sensitivity, Domino's and the NFCA do not recommend it for those with celiac disease. Domino's and the NFCA found that while the crust is certified as gluten free, current store operations at Domino's cannot guarantee that each handcrafted pizza will be completely free from gluten.

"The NFCA is thrilled that Domino's Pizza has developed a product that will improve the quality of life for many of the estimated 18 million Americans who are gluten sensitive," said Alice Bast, NFCA founder and president. "Not only is Domino's Gluten Free Crust a huge win for much of the gluten free community who can now get pizza delivered to their door, it's also delicious. Customers aren't going to believe they're eating a pizza made on a gluten free crust when they try it. And the variety of fresh toppings that are available is a giant leap ahead."

In an effort to remain open and informative about Domino's Gluten Free Crust, Domino's has created a video on YouTube that allows customers to decide whether this product is suitable for their diet, found here: www.youtube.com/user/dominosvids.

"Offering Domino's Gluten Free Crust is a big step for us, and we wanted to make sure we were doing it right," said Doyle. "Domino's is doing that by partnering with experts at the NFCA and by empowering the gluten sensitive community with the information they need."

Domino's new Gluten Free Crust is available in stores across the U.S. in a small, 10-inch size only, and prices vary by store.

Domino's pizza made with a Gluten Free Crust is prepared in a common kitchen with the risk of gluten exposure. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness supports the availability of Domino's Gluten Free Crust, but cannot recommend the pizza for customers with celiac disease. Customers with gluten sensitivities should exercise judgment in consuming this pizza.
Domino's also has a frequently-asked questions page at its website about the pizza. Here's the video:

Friday, May 4, 2012

News & Notes: May 4, 2012

Center City Philadelphia is getting more gluten-free pizza. The new modern Italian restaurant Spiga (1305 Locust St., 267-273-1690), from the owners of GREAT-trained Le Castagne, will serve pizza and pasta for gluten-free guests. The chef intends to take precautions in preparing those items, but flour and glutenous ingredients are present in the kitchen.

Reader Daria D. let me know that French BYOB Bibou in Philadelphia's Bella Vista neighborhood (1009 S. 8th St., 215-965-8290) can accommodate gluten-free requests. Note that the restaurant is cash only.

Thanks to Lisa M., who shared the news that Trattoria Guiseppe in Edgmont (4799 West Chester Pike, 610-353-4871) has gluten-free penne pasta.

Readers my age or older who grew up in Philadelphia probably have fond memories of the Ground Round. Well, the chain is making a comeback. The first area location is in Langhorne (735 Middletown Blvd., 215-757-2323) at the site of a former Charlie Brown's Steakhouse near the Oxford Valley Mall. Gluten-free items are noted on the menus.

Matt F. recommends two accommodating Center City restaurants with knowledgeable staffs. At French bistro Zinc (246 S. 11th St., 215-351-9901), most items are gluten free and others can be modified. The kitchen now stocks bread from Taffets (formerly Tote) and usually has at least one gluten-free dessert on the daily menu. The majority of menu items at The Farm and Fisherman (1120 Pine St., 267-287-1555) also are gluten free.

The Fox's Pizza Den location in Kennett Square (347 Scarlett Rd., 610-444-6060) serves gluten-free pizza using Still Riding crusts.

New Hope vegetarian Sprig & Vine (450 Union Square Dr., 215-693-1427) notes gluten-free and soy-free options on its lunchdinner and Sunday brunch menus.

Landmark Americana, which has a gluten-free menu, opened its newest location in Wayne (629 W. Lancaster Ave., 610-995-1001) on Wednesday.

Through Sunday, you can order a one-year/four-issue subscription to Delight Gluten-Free magazine for $9, which is half off the regular price, through Gluten Free Works' deals page. (As an affiliate, I get a small commission on orders at no extra cost to you.)

General Mills announced this week its newest cereal - Apple Cinnamon Chex. It's made with whole-grain rice with "real apple and cinnamon" and has no artificial flavors or colors.

You can read about last Saturday's Celiac Awareness Tour stop in King of Prussia in my post from Tuesday.

As a prelude to June's Philly Beer Week, Hawthorne's Cafe (738 S. 11th St., 215-627-3012) is hosting its third annual IPA Block Party tomorrow, which is Cinco de Mayo. Each drink ticket is $5 (the event is cash only) that can be redeemed at the keg of your choice. Gluten-free Crispin Cider will be available. There will be burgers, hots dogs, tacos, popcorn and nachos, but no word on which may be gluten free.

World-renowned celiac expert Peter Green, M.D. will be speaking at Paoli Hospital on Wednesday, May 9 at 2 p.m. You can register to attend in person or via webinar

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Celiac Awareness Tour Recap

The two-year-old Celiac Awareness Tour came to town on Saturday, greeting hundreds of gluten-free guests at the Crowne Plaza hotel in King of Prussia. This was the first-ever East Coast stop for the event, which will visit Midwestern cities throughout 2012.

About two dozen vendors, both local and national, sampled their wares for the hungry crowd. Manayunk's The Tomato Bistro was the featured restaurant, with Chef Christian Gatti showcasing his cooking skills by preparing gourmet gluten-free pizza for the rapt audience. (The restaurant will soon have the NFCA's GREAT Kitchens designation.)

Attendees were able to eat lotsa pasta, with fried ravioli from Philadelphia Gluten Free Ravioli Pasta Company, gnocchi from Conte's, and lasagna from Caesar's. (How lucky we are to have three locally based gluten-free pasta companies.)

I got to try a number of items for the first time, including Taza stone-ground organic chocolates, Rudi's new gluten-free tortilla wraps, Glutino's cinnamon-and-sugar bagel chips, and Udi's soft snickerdoodle cookies. Perhaps the biggest treat was the debut of Sweet Megan's onto the gluten free scene. Delicious sugar cookies and chocolate-covered banana cake pops were some of the many treats owner Pattie Lerner shared.

The Tour representatives are looking to return to the area next year. If I had one suggestion to make for future tour events, it would be to add a vendor who offers non-alcoholic beverages. Many attendees were thirsty after eating the savory samples and, short of buying water or soda from the hotel vending machine or quaffing hard cider or beer at an early hour, there were no soft drinks available.