Sunday, December 23, 2012

Gluten-Free America to Run on Dunkin'

Dunkin' Donuts' new gluten-free baked goods
(Photo: Gluten Free South Florida Facebook page)
Ever since Starbucks pulled the plug on its short-lived gluten-free baked goods venture back in 2009, no national coffee-shop chain has filled that void. That's about to change, as Dunkin' Donuts is test-marketing a gluten-free blueberry muffin (priced at $2.39) and cinnamon sugar donut ($1.89) and plans to roll out the sweets nationwide by Summer 2013, according to an operator of several stores in south Florida. The packaged items, which are certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization, are being piloted at several Dunkin' Donuts locations in Miami and Boston. The company has more than 7,000 restaurants in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Florida franchisee Fred Guttenberg wrote on the Gluten Free South Florida Facebook page that "I am extremely proud to be able to offer this test. I have worked with Dunkin' Donuts on this ever since my son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease. This is an operations test only and limited to my two stores in Florida and a few locations in Boston. This will be moving to a larger test in February and full market roll-out closer to summer." According to Guttenberg, the baked goods have been in development for two years.

The participating Miami stores are located at 12930 S.W. 120th St. and 10754 S.W. 24th St.; in the Boston area, locations at 1316 Beacon St. and 1008 Beacon St. in Brookline and 209 N. Harvard St. in Alston are carrying the products.

Friday, December 21, 2012

News & Notes: December 21, 2012

Haute hot dogs are the new gourmet hamburgers, it seems. Opening in Media at noon tomorrow is My Three Sons Hot Dogs & Beer Emporium (300 W. State St., 610-565-3674), where gluten-free buns and beer will be available. Every hot dog is themed and several are named after cities, reflecting each town's personality.

The owners of Exton's Pronto have rechristened Ruffini's in Thorndale as Pronto Bistro Italiano (43 N. Bailey Rd., 610-380-8263), where they serve gluten-free pasta. Other items are designated on the menu.

The reincarnated Ground Round, with an area location in Langhorne (735 Middletown Blvd., 215-757-2323) and another coming soon to East Windsor (529 Rt. 130 N.), notes gluten-free items on its dinner menu.

McCoole's at the historic Red Lion Inn in Quakertown (4 S. Main St., 215-538-1776) notes gluten-free items on its menu, including pasta dishes. Also in Bucks County, Taormina's of Ivyland (880 Jacksonville Rd., 215-394-5523) serves separately prepared gluten-free pizza in a medium size. Thanks to reader Mike S. for the tips.

Gluten-free pizza is available at Wingers in Folsom (1001 Macdade Blvd., 610-532-5080).

The risotto dishes at That's Amore in Collingswood (690 Collings Ave., 856-869-5683) are gluten free, and other safe options from the Italian bistro are noted on the printed menu.

Center City's Honeygrow (110 S. 16th St., 215-279-7724) has two new gluten-free stir-fry sauces: Coconut Curry and Lemon Miso Tahini.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill plans to open a new location at the Moorestown Mall in the summer of 2013. The American grill chain, with area spots in Chadds Ford, Collegeville and Newark, has a gluten-free menu.

Raw-foods cafe JAR BAR has closed its Center City location on South 12th Street, but is still operating in Radnor.

Food For All Market in Mt. Airy (7127 Germantown Ave., 267-297-7122) is now manufacturing and distributing its own line of gluten-free breads.

CHOP's Children Celiac Support Group is planning a New Year's Eve celebration at Pasta Pomodoro in Voorhees (700 Haddonfield-Berlin Rd., 856-784-5647). Reservations are required from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m.; call the restaurant and also email the support group with the number of adults and children in the party.

I want to extend my thanks to everyone for reading Gluten Free Philly this year and spreading the word about the blog. Please accept my sincere wishes for a Merry Christmas and happy and healthy 2013.

- Michael

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Newtown, Our Town

In light of the tragedy in Newtown, writing about anything else at this moment seems inconsequential.

As a father, my heart bleeds for the parents who sent their young sons and daughters off to school on Friday morning, never to see the wonderment in their children's eyes again, never to see their dreams realized.

As a lawyer, I try to reconcile Americans' constitutional right to keep and bear arms with the ever-increasing number of crimes involving guns, particularly those that claim random lives like those in Newtown, Columbine and at Virginia Tech, to name just a few - a few too many.

As I spent a couple hours yesterday morning driving to a meeting in northern New Jersey, I was flipping around the radio dial. Reporters talked about the New York Stock Exchange observing a moment of silence, that "Saturday Night Live" opened its most recent show with a youth choir singing "Silent Night." This just made me sadder. 

Then, I heard a report about an anonymous donor who, over the weekend, funded a gun buyback event in San Francisco and Oakland that took more than 600 guns off the streets - guns that surely weren't going to be used for sport. No doubt at least one child's life would be saved as a result. That someone with the financial means was willing to enact a gun-control measure of sorts was a welcome sliver of holiday cheer. I can only hope that those with political means are willing to take similar action.

Friday, December 14, 2012

News & Notes: December 14, 2012

Near the famous Cowtown Rodeo in Pilesgrove, Salem County - the country's longest continuously running rodeo, by the way - is the Wagon Wheel Restaurant (1162 Rt. 40, 856-769-3200), which just debuted a gluten-free menu. The options include ravioli, stuffed shells, gnocchi, chicken parm and burger/sandwich buns.

Teresa Caffe in downtown Princeton (23 Palmer Square E., 609-921-1974) has gluten-free penne.

Nearby, New American bistro Patriots Crossing (1339 River Rd., 609-737-2780) can accommodate gluten-free guests. Thanks to reader Michele H. for the tip.

Since there are so many Penn State students and alums in the Delaware Valley that travel to State College, I thought I'd pass along reader Matt B.'s heads-up that Original Italian Pizza in nearby Burnham (105 S. Logan Blvd., 717-242-0143) has gluten-free pizza, chicken tenders, fries, potato skins and salads.

After more than 50 years in Trenton, the famed DeLorenzo's on Hamilton Avenue is moving out of the city. The owners, who serve Still Riding's gluten-free pizza, are relocating their shop to 147 Sloan Avenue in Hamilton Township early next year.

Cheeseburger In Paradise has closed its Exton location, leaving the Newark, Delaware outpost as the only one in the area.

The recently remodeled Acme market in Newtown Square (3590 West Chester Pike, 610-353-8018) has a dedicated Dietz & Watson gluten-free deli.

Acme and other local markets are now carrying Bold Organics' gluten-free/dairy-free pizzas, which I reviewed in Tuesday's post.

I've seen gluten-free tostada shells before, but recently spotted tostada bowls for the first time at the ShopRite on Evesham Road in Cherry Hill. Produced by Smokewood Foods under the Rio Rancho brand, the bowls are made with a blend of corn masa, navy bean and rice flours.

Products from the all-gluten-free Amaranth Bakery in Lancaster are now available at the Marlton Whole Foods market (940 Rt. 73 N., 856-797-1115).

Please thank the restaurants and bakeries featured on the blog's new "Where to Eat and Shop" page for supporting Gluten Free Philly by patronizing those businesses. Be sure to check back regularly for specials offered by them - right now, for example, diners can get $2 off a gluten-free pizza at The Tomato Bistro in Manayunk by mentioning or printing the listing. If you own a business listed on that page and would like more information on featured listings, please email me.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fortune Favors the Bold

While the only allergen I look for when buying food for my 12-year-old is gluten, avoidance of other ingredients - like milk, eggs and nuts - is equally important to many shoppers. Finding an tasty allergen-free frozen pizza is challenging, but a new product now fills that niche admirably.

Bold Organics is a New York City operation run by Aaron Greenwald, whose idea for a gluten-free/dairy-free frozen pizza started in college. Greenwald collaborated with award-winning chef Eric Brenner to develop a line of four organic, allergen-friendly pizzas: Vegan Cheese, Veggie Lovers, Meat Lovers and Deluxe. The 11 oz. pizzas are free of gluten, milk, lactose, casein, whey, egg, peanut and tree nut products, and are sold at Acme Markets (I bought the Vegan Cheese there for $7.99; the others were one dollar more), Food Lion and natural foods stores throughout the tri-state area.

Not being a vegan, I was skeptical of liking a cheese alternative - "cheeze," if you insist. I was impressed, however, with the Vegan Gourmet-brand faux mozzarella used by Bold on all of its pizzas. Although the imitation cheese wasn't spread evenly across the crust and didn't melt entirely, it was creamy. The crunchy base is made with a blend of potato starch, brown rice flour and yellow corn meal. The savory sauce made up for the absence of any additional toppings.

With this combination of tasty ingredients, then, is there a downside? The nutrition facts on the box provide data for half a pizza and most people wouldn't be satisfied eating just that amount. Start laying on the pepperoni and sausage and the calories, sodium and fat content escalate significantly. On the plus side, an entire Vegan Cheese pizza satisfies about half of a day's recommended fiber intake.

If I tried Bold's pizza without knowing it was dairy-free, I probably wouldn't have been able to make the distinction. That's the standard I often use in comparing gluten-free products to their traditional counterparts - and one I'm certain Bold Organics has aspired to meet.

Friday, December 7, 2012

News & Notes: December 7, 2012

Fette Sau, named New York City's Best BBQ by Zagat voters since 2009, has set up shop in Fishtown (1208 Frankford Ave., 215-391-4888) as part of the Stephen Starr empire. All of the smoked meats are gluten free (the rub contains coffee, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, garlic powder and black pepper), as are the potato and broccoli salads, baked beans, coleslaw, sauerkraut, pickles and all three table sauces.

Old City Irish pub The Plough & The Stars (123 Chestnut St., 215-733-0300) notes gluten-free items on its menus, as does Mi Lah Vegetarian near Rittenhouse Square (218 S. 16th St., 215-732-8888).

The Station Bistro in Kimberton (1300 Hares Hill Rd., 610-933-1147) serves gluten-free shrimp primavera at lunch and dinner, among other options noted on the menu.

Also in the suburbs, Kennett Square's Bite of Italy (847 E. Baltimore Pike, 610-925-2762) offers gluten-free pasta and other options are listed on the menus.

Previously on my "Where to Eat and Shop" list was Basil Leaf in Newtown (2808 S. Eagle Rd., 215-968-7505). The French-Vietnamese restaurant recently converted to a 100% gluten-free environment, so everything on the menu - from the spring rolls to the hoisin sauce - is safe. Basil Leaf is now part of GIG's Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program.

Mexican restaurant La Calaca Feliz is a welcome addition to Philadelphia's Fairmount section, as I wrote in Tuesday's review, with the fish and pulled pork tacos standing out.

Reader Leah J. let me know that Camp Green Lane, an sleepaway camp in the foothills of the Poconos, can accommodate gluten-free campers. The kitchen at the Montgomery County camp, which runs a seven-week overnight session, has separate cookware, utensils and the like and serves comparable meals.

Carlow Cookery in Doylestown (432 N. Main St., 215-489-2677) is hosting an intro-level gluten-free cooking class on Tuesday, February 5 at 7 p.m. On the menu is Pizza with San Marzano Tomatoes, Sausage and Caramelized Mushrooms; Stuffed Pork Chops with Apples and Mustard Glaze; Quinoa and Fennel Pilaf; and Chocolate Cake with Ganache Frosting.  The class is $45 and online registration is available.

Wegmans markets are now exclusively featuring gluten-free versions of European holiday favorites made by Schar: Panettone (Italian Christmas Cake), Chocolate Chip Panettone (Chocolate Chip Italian Christmas Cake), Fantasia (Yellow Cake), Cioccolini (Double Chocolate Cookies), Fior di Sole (Ring Cookies) and Spekulatius (Spiced Windmill Cookies).

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Don't Worry, Be Happy

Like a renowned scholar, Jose Garces, too, has disciples. After working for the Iron Chef at Distrito, chef Tim Spinner and manager Brian Sirhal went out on their own to open Cantina Feliz in Fort Washington in 2011. Their Mexican concept caught on in the suburbs and they came back into Philadelphia with an offshoot, La Calaca Feliz ("The Happy Skeleton" in Spanish), earlier this year . (A third location, Taqueria Feliz, is planned for Manayunk in 2013.)

It was La Calaca Feliz (2321 Fairmount Ave., 215-787-9930) that we checked out on a recent Sunday night. Coming from the Garces universe, Spinner is well versed in gluten-free cooking. The majority of menu items are safe for those avoiding wheat.

Chicken tinga sope
The freshly mixed Feliz Margarita, made with tequila from the bar well, was just what I needed after a long Thanksgiving weekend with my wife's relatives (Hi, sweetie!), though it didn't call for too many sips.

My 12-year-old and I began the meal sharing an appetizer special. The outstanding chicken tinga sopes were mini corn masa "bowls" filled with smoky pulled chicken and refried beans and topped with pickled red cabbage and cotija cheese. My wife and younger son opted for the non-gluten-free pork belly gordita. A bowlful of tortilla chips - at a small but nonetheless additional charge - went quickly among the four of us. (There are no gluten-containing items fried in the kitchen's fryer.)

Baja fish tacos
For the main course we shared an assortment of artfully plated tacos. The outstanding fish and pulled pork tacos more than offset the routine chicken. The lemon vinaigrette drizzled on the slivers of blue tilapia made the fish tacos particularly tangy. A side of brussels sprouts rounded out the filling meal.

Modern Mexican restaurants have staked out a middle ground between no-frills South Philly taquerias and bland Tex-Mex chains. Though not at the top of the list, La Calaca Feliz is a welcome addition to that sweet spot.
La Calaca Feliz on Urbanspoon