Friday, November 30, 2012

News & Notes: November 30, 2012

Town Center Boulevard in Voorhees is fast becoming Gluten-Free Restaurant Row. Joining the recently opened Catelli Duo outside the Voorhees Town Center (née Echelon Mall) is Rodizio Grill (13109 Town Center Blvd., 856-770-8300), a Brazilian steakhouse that's set to open on Tuesday, December 4. Nearly all of the proteins, sides and salad bar items are gluten free (as noted on the menu), including pao de queijo cheese bread. Opening in the spring along the same strip are gluten-free-friendly Iron Hill Brewery and Burger 21.

East of Market Street in Center City Philadelphia is Eat-A-Pita (128 S. 12 St., 215-925-7482), where guests can order sandwiches on Amaranth Bakery's gluten-free flatbread. Upon request, the sandwich maker will prepare the gluten-free order using ingredients from back-up bins. Soups and salads are also available.

Foxfire, a New American BYOB at The Stone Barn in Kennett Square (550 Upland Rd., 610-347-2414), notes the gluten-free items on its farm-to-table lunch and dinner menus.

At Shere-E-Punjab in Drexel Hill (5059 State Rd., 484-452-8140), Media (208 W. State St., 610-891-0400) and Glen Mills (301 Byers Dr., 484-841-6345), all of the gluten-free items (about 80 percent of the menu) are labeled. Thanks to reader Matt B. for the tip.

Dessert's on at Center City's Pure Tacos (1935 Chestnut St., 215-496-9393) - flan served in a parfait cup with orange-infused dulce de leche sauce, dried cranberries and a house-made mocha-mole powder (made with coffee from Nook around the corner).

The kitchen at the recently opened Growlers Bar in Bella Vista (736 S. 8th St., 267-519-3242) can accommodate gluten-free diets and usually has adult beverages on hand.

Nearby, the former chef at GREAT Kitchens-trained Terra, Eric Paraskevas, is now working the stove at Bainbridge Street Barrel House (625-27 S. 6th St., 267-324-3553).

Wegmans has added to its self-branded gluten-free product line with homestyle and blueberry waffles. The waffles come eight to a box and sell for $1.99 each, as compared to Van's version, which only come six per box and cost one dollar more there.

As I wrote on Tuesday, you can find locally made Pure Gourmet premium sorbets and gelatos at Whole Foods and Giant markets throughout the Delaware Valley.

Join the Chester County GIG chapter on Monday, December 3 at Floga Bistro, a BYOB in Kennett Square (826 E. Baltimore Pike, 610-444-6500), for dinner. (Arrive between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. and mention that you are with GIG of Chester County; reservations aren't necessary.) Floga Bistro has an extensive gluten-free menu with pastas, pizzas, lava cake and more.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Gluten Free Lipstick & Lipgloss

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sorbet Watch

Although French chef Georges Perrier is no longer in the kitchen at Philadelphia's famed Le Bec Fin, one of the desserts served during his tenure can still be enjoyed today.

The chef's wife, Andrea Perrier, founded Pure Gourmet with two relatives in 2009 to create a retail version of the premium sorbets that were a part of the restaurant's lavish dessert menu. Today, the lineup includes Pear Ginger, Chocolate Caramel, Tropical (passion fruit, banana, mango and pineapple) and Mojito (lime and mint). The sorbets are accompanied by four varieties of gelato – Bananas Foster, Coconut Almond, Apple Pie and Hazelnut Cappuccino.

"The sorbets are made from water and fruit, allowing the fruit’s succulent flavor to dominate, and the gelatos are made with only 10% milk fat, making them one of the healthiest on the market," says Perrier, a food industry veteran of more than 20 years who was formally trained and educated at the Philadelphia Restaurant School and in France. All flavors are gluten free and kosher and contain no hormones, artificial colors and flavors, or preservatives. Most of the sorbet flavors are fat free and dairy free.

Pure Gourmet's all-natural sorbets and gelatos are available at more than 30 Giant retail locations across the Philadelphia region, more than 75 Whole Foods locations in the Eastern U.S. and a select number of independent markets in Delaware and other states.

Friday, November 16, 2012

News & Notes: November 16, 2012

Not one, not two, but three Camden County Italian BYOBs are now catering to gluten-free guests. Tullia's in West Berlin (589 Rt. 73 N., 856-767-7761) has pizza and pasta and can adapt other menu items. In Voorhees, Viana's (300 White Horse Rd., 856-627-3800) offers pasta and can modify many dishes. Collingswood has yet another option in That's Amore (690 Haddon Ave., 856-869-5683), where items like risotto and polenta (which can be served with a variety of sauces) are marked on the menus. All of the kitchens are knowledgeable about safe preparation.

In nearby Haddonfield, gluten-free wraps and juices are available at Animo (113 E. Kings Hwy., 856-427-9070, a juice-and-burrito bar. (Thanks DeAnn O. and Tom P.)

Back in July, I mentioned that Burger 21 - a Florida burger-and-fries chain from the founders of The Melting Pot - is opening its first area location in Voorhees. I learned this week that it'll be joining the likes of Iron Hill Brewery and Catelli Duo on Town Center Boulevard, near what was once known as Echelon Mall, in Spring 2013. Burger 21 has an extensive gluten-free menu that includes burger buns, fries, salads and shakes.

Speaking of the mall, Deux Au Naturel, which offered gluten-free wraps in the Voorhees Town Center food court, has closed.

Reader Maori H. recommends The Mildred, a New American restaurant with a Continental influence in South Philadelphia (824 S. 8th St., 267-687-1600).

With the opening of the Wursthaus Schmitz stand, there's finally a go-to option at Philadelphia's historic Reading Terminal Market (51 N. 12th St., 215-922-2317). All of the sausages and deli meats are gluten free, as well as the potato and cucumber salads and red cabbage.

A couple weeks ago, I mentioned that Center City pan-Asian restaurant Aqua has a gluten-free menu. Contributing writer Alice reviewed a recent meal there in Tuesday's post.

New to Elkins Park is CreekSide Co-op (7909 High School Rd., 215-557-4480), where gluten-free products are stocked and available by special order. Non-members are welcome.

With apologies to the Eagles, the only area sports team in action these days is the Sixers. (If you don't believe me, read The Onion's funny-as-usual take.) Gluten-free items are sold at the Wells Fargo Center at the concession stand located in Section 122. Options include hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, nachos (no cheese), cookies and brownies, popcorn and peanuts, and beer and hard cider.

All of the gluten-free-friendly restaurants, markets, caterers and attractions mentioned at these pages can be found at my new "Where to Eat and Shop" tab at the blog. There, you'll be able to sort listings by state and cuisine and get full contact information and weblinks. Hope you like it.

I'm off next week but you can still keep up with Gluten Free Philly on Facebook and Twitter. Have a great weekend and wonderful holiday!

- Michael

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Aqua Teen Hunger Force

By Alice Ozma

On a recent cold Thursday night, my friend Sunny and I visited Center City Malaysian-Thai restaurant Aqua (705 Chestnut St., 215-928-2838) without reservations. We were surprised to find we were one of only three parties there. The lighting was rather bright, too, emphasizing the emptiness of the space.

Tom Yum Lemongrass Soup
Happily, the food and service were a different story. We were greeted and seated immediately, and had drinks almost as quickly. The refreshing iced lychee drink I ordered was juice-like but lighter and less sugary. The gluten-free menu is a section of the traditional menu, so everyone receives it. As soon as our waitress saw us looking it over, she asked if we’d be ordering gluten free. She then confirmed this after each item we ordered, which I appreciated.

We started with soups: I had the Tom Kha coconut soup and my friend ordered the Tom Yum lemongrass soup. He really enjoyed his, noting many layers of flavor, a little kick, and lots of vegetables. While mine was sweet and creamy, it was otherwise undistinguished.

Mango Chicken
For the main course, Sunny ordered the Thai Basil Chicken while I went for the Mango Chicken. My dish was a bit spicier than I’d have liked (despite having asked for mild preparation) but was flavorful and was presented beautifully in a carved-out mango. Sunny also enjoyed his entrée, with crisp, bold flavors and basil in each bite. There wasn’t a ton of chicken in either dish, but we didn’t feel cheated.

Vegetable Fried Rice
The true star of the meal was the fried rice. This is the one dish I miss most as a celiac, and Aqua’s version was pitch-perfect comfort food: a little greasy, a little salty, a lot of vegetables. It was a great complement to our spicier entrées.

The only gluten-free option on the dessert menu was ice cream, but we passed since I am lactose intolerant. Given our other courses, we were too full to eat another bite anyway.

Although we loved the food, the prices didn’t fit the casual atmosphere. Had Aqua been fancier, the expense would have felt right. Yet the fried rice is calling me back, so a return visit is in order.

Alice Ozma is a young professional in the publishing industry. She lives in Old City and loves the adventure of finding good gluten-free food almost as much as the food itself.

Aqua on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 9, 2012

News & Notes: November 9, 2012

In Chadds Ford, Brandywine Prime (1617 Baltimore Pike, 610-388-8088) has a gluten-free menu that includes steaks, entrees, appetizers, salads and raw bar choices.

At Fountain Restaurant, located at Center City's Four Seasons hotel (1 Logan Square, 215-963-1500), gluten-free items are noted on the menus.

Miller's Ale House, with local spots in Northeast Philadelphia (9495 E. Roosevelt Blvd., 215-464-8349), Willow Grove (2300 Easton Rd., 215-657-0515), Langhorne (2250 E. Lincoln Hwy., 267-572-0750), and Mt. Laurel (554 Fellowship Rd., 856-722-5690), has updated its gluten-free menu, which now includes pizza.

Also updating its gluten-free menu is Uno Chicago Grill, which has added Udi's gluten-free burger buns to go along with three kinds of pizza and other items.

New items on the gluten-free menu at full-service Legal Sea Foods locations, such as the one in King of Prussia (680 W. Dekalb Pike, 610-265-5566), include fried fish-and-chips, shrimp, oysters, calamari and French fries.

Not to be left behind, P.F. Chang's is adding new desserts to its menu starting next Wednesday, and this includes a flourless Chocolate Torte topped with a ganache and served with fresh mint and raspberry sauce. No word yet on whether this replaces the flourless chocolate dome currently on the menu.

Pure Tacos in Center City (1935 Chestnut St., 215-496-9393) just introduced Taco Tuesday Social Networking specials with the limited-time Steakhouse Taco: achiote-marinated steak, topped with pepper-crusted mushrooms, house-made scallion cream, and crunchy, Cajun-spiced frizzled onions. Up next: a Thanksgiving-themed taco. Those who follow Pure Tacos on Facebook and Twitter will get word of the newest varieties.

Melt Down Grilled Cheese is opening its newest location in Delaware, at the former Post House site in Newark (145 E. Main St.), on November 26. Like those in Wayne and Montgomeryville, the First State outpost will prepare grilled cheese sandwiches using gluten-free bread.

The "Dishing With ..." segment returned on Tuesday with a Q-and-A with reporter Diana Rocco of CBS3 Eyewitness News. Read about how she manages eating gluten free on the road and her favorite restaurants in the city.

The Little Bakery, the all-gluten-free bakery out of Blue Bell, will be sampling its products this weekend at B'tween Friendz in Dresher (today and Saturday), the Landis Supermarkets in Telford and Harleysville (Saturday) and Rittenhouse Market at 18th and Spruce in Philadelphia (Sunday).

Sampling in New Jersey this weekend is PJ's Beef Steak. You can try the company's gluten-free beef steak slices and tenders this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the ShopRite on Evesham Road in Cherry Hill and at the Mt. Laurel ShopRite on Union Mill Road. On Sunday, PJ's will be sampling at the Marlton ShopRite and the Garden State Pavilion ShopRite, both on Route 70, during those same hours.

As a reminder, there are two fundraising events next week to benefit the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, one on each side of the Delaware River. Present the special voucher at dinner at the Chestnut Hill (Philadelphia) Iron Hill Brewery on Monday, November 12 and the restaurant will donate 20% of your food bill to the NFCA. Iron Hill has extensive gluten-free menus for adults and kidsThe Pop Shop in Collingswood will host a fundraiser on Thursday, November 15. When you bring this flyer and dine in for any meal that day (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.), the restaurant will donate 15% of your total check to the NFCA.

The Children’s Celiac Support Group's next meeting will be on November 18 from noon to 2 p.m. at the CHOP Specialty Care Center in Voorhees. Children of all ages are welcome. Each family is asked to bring a gluten-free Thanksgiving dish and recipe to share. RSVP by November 15 via email or by calling 215-590-2985.

For those who live or work near Medford, Raynor Electric is coordinating a donation drive (food and personal items) all this month for those affected by Storm Sandy. Gluten-free food is welcome.

Wow, that's a lot of info for one week. Enjoy what should be a relatively mild weather weekend!

- Michael

* * *

I'm in the running for Writer of the Year at the Philadelphia-area food-and-wine blog Epikur. Please vote for me, Michael, with much thanks. No registration or login required to vote.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Dishing With ... Diana Rocco

Diana Rocco, right, with the NFCA's Alice Bast
(Photo credit: Pictures by Todd)
While Diana Rocco is a newcomer to Philadelphia, she's no stranger to the news. Before joining the CBS3 Eyewitness News team as a general-assignment reporter in February 2012, the award-winning journalist reported for stations in Boston, Washington, D.C. and New York. In this "Dishing With..." segment, she talks about how she manages to eat gluten free on the road, her favorite places to eat, and how Philadelphia compares to other cities when it comes to gluten-free options.

When were you diagnosed with celiac disease?
I was medically diagnosed in November 2005. I actually diagnosed myself after reading an article in Self magazine about celiac disease. I had never heard of it before but as I read the list of symptoms realized that I had nearly all of them. I knew I hadn't been feeling well but had learned to live that way and dismissed the symptoms as job stress.

As a general-assignment reporter, you're called on to travel throughout the Delaware Valley. How do you manage your diet on the road?
I try to always bring my lunch or dinner to work or at least a snack. I never know where I'm going to end up and if there will be a gluten-free option available for me. On the days I do find myself stuck, I'll usually pop in a grocery store and get some veggies and hummus - that's always safe. I've found Wawa can be a huge help when I'm in a jam. They always have pre-packaged veggies, cheese sticks, eggs and Greek yogurt.

Have you had to change anything about your lifestyle since your diagnosis?
Everything has changed! I lead a very normal life but my approach to my health is so much different. I didn't know how sick I was until I went gluten free and started feeling well again. I had more energy and I found it even affected my mood. It was like a fog had lifted and the world went from black and white to color again. I exercise more now; I cook more; I take more time preparing my foods. I'm definitely a label reader. I'm not afraid to ask questions at restaurants. I have a different outlook on life and I think I'm an overall happier person to be around.

How does Philadelphia compare to other cities you've worked in with the amount of gluten-free options available?
Philadelphia is the best! In fact, Gluten Free Philly is one of the things that sets Philadelphia apart from other cities. Starting a new job in a new place can be tough and this is an amazing resource when you don't know where to start. New York and Boston definitely have gluten-free options but restaurants are not as well-versed as they are in Philadelphia. I was surprised with just how many restaurants have gluten-free menus and how many options I had. There are so many gluten-free bakeries and even entire cafes dedicated to gluten free that I don't feel I miss out on anything I once took for granted.

Do you like cooking? 
I love to cook. Sauce is one of my favorite things to make, and for the most part it's naturally gluten free. I also love making pizza at home, but you can't do that every night so I usually keep it simple with grilled chicken, veggies and quinoa. Quinoa is quickly becoming one of my staples.

Where are some of your favorite places to dine out?
Amada has to be one of my favorite restaurants in the city. I'm a big sushi person and I love Zama too. Whenever I have friends or family visiting from out of town, I make sure we stop at one or both of them. I've also found Pure Fare to be a great resource when I need to grab a pre-made meal on the run. Pure Fare is all gluten free and they have some wonderful desserts.

Have you had time to explore Philadelphia since you started at Eyewitness News?
I've spend a few weekends walking around the city exploring. I love the Art Museum area - it reminds me a lot of D.C. The Barnes Museum is one of my favorites. The farmers' market on Rittenhouse Square on Saturdays has also become a regular weekend destination for me.

What do you like most about your job?
I love that I have the ability to impact people's lives. I really enjoy getting to know people and to hear and tell their stories; if you can help someone in the process then it's a rewarding and fulfilling day. It's a privilege to be able to serve my community in that way. I enjoy going to work and seeing where each day takes me, and I know every day is going to be different. It's never boring!

When did you develop an interest in becoming a journalist?
I've always been interested in the news and had a general curiosity about the world around me. From the time I entered high school, I knew this is what I wanted to do. I saw it as a way to make a difference in people's lives.

Have parts of your job changed since the Internet has essentially created a 24/7 news cycle?
In the 10 years I've been in this business it has changed immensely. Information is much more rapidly available and changing by the minute, so there is more pressure to stay up on it. There are also more avenues to get information. Five years ago, I didn't even know what Twitter was; now I'm tweeting more than I ever thought I would and staying on top of other people's tweets to make sure I don't miss a thing.

What was it like to emcee Appetite for Awareness?  
It was an honor and a pleasure. I had so much fun! It was really amazing to see so many people in one place bringing awareness to a cause that has impacted my life so greatly.

Friday, November 2, 2012

News & Notes: November 2, 2012

Aqua, a Malaysian and Thai restaurant on the east side of Broad Street in Center City Philadelphia (705 Chestnut St., 215-928-2838), has a gluten-free menu that features several noodle dishes. The owner, Vickie Chung, is familiar with appropriate food preparation.

Marrone's Pizzeria in Ardmore (2744 E. County Line Rd., 610-642-9567) now serves gluten-free pizza using Still Riding's crusts.

Also with gluten-free pizza is Fino's Pizza in Philly's Germantown section (6784 Germantown Pike, 215-844-1188).

Reader Samantha M. let me know that Collingswood's Indiya (612 Haddon Ave., 856-858-0020) lists gluten-free options on its menu.

Pei Wei's new Sriracha Chicken (PRNewsFoto/Pei Wei)
The newest featured dish from Pei Wei Asian Diner, Sriracha Chicken, is gluten free, as is the version made with shrimp.

The Bards Irish Bar near Rittenhouse Square has discontinued its gluten-free menu, at least for now.

New at Trader Joe's markets is a gluten-free three-cheese pizza with Roma tomatoes. The 11-oz. pie is made on a rice-flour crust with provolone, mozzarella and Manchego cheeses and sells for $4.99.

In the freezer case at most other markets is a new line of breakfast bakes from Bob Evans. The three microwaveable varieties - sausage, egg and cheese, bacon, egg and cheese, and meatless Southwest - are mixed with hash browns and are baked, not fried.

In case you missed it due the storm, on Tuesday I announced a Goodies Giveaway for dinner at The Pop Shop in Collingswood. The prize includes dinner entrees for four guests. (The Pop Shop has gluten-free grilled cheese, chicken fingers, fries and more.) You can enter here now through Sunday.

Speaking of The Pop Shop, the restaurant will host a fundraiser to benefit the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness on Thursday, November 15. When you bring this flyer and dine in for any meal that day (8 a.m. to 9 p.m.), the restaurant will donate 15% of your total check to the NFCA.

Also on the calendar is a fundraiser at the Iron Hill Brewery in the Chestnut Hill section of Philadelphia. Present the special voucher at dinner on Monday, November 12 and the restaurant will donate 20% of your food bill to the NFCA. Iron Hill has extensive gluten-free menus for adults and kids.

This being election season, I'm in the running for Writer of the Year at the Philadelphia-area food-and-wine blog Epikur. Please vote for me at this page, with much thanks. No registration or login required to vote - just three mouse clicks and you're done.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael