Friday, April 27, 2012

News & Notes: April 27, 2012

Peter McAndrews just keeps 'em coming. Not long after opening Popolino in Northern Liberties, the chef is about to debut his fifth Italian concept - the first outside of Philadelphia. La Porta in Edgmont (1192 N. Middleton Rd., 610-358-5104), due open on May 1, will have pizza sensa glutine prepared and baked in a separate area.

Lots of additions in the First State this week (the home of tax-free shopping, you know). FireStone in Wilmington (110 S. West St., 302-658-6626) has a gluten-free menu with appetizers, salads, entrees, bunless sandwiches and sides.

Mad Mac's in Newark (801 S. College Ave., 302-737-4800) has gluten-free mac & cheese, prepared separately from other kinds. Living Social is currently running a deal for Mad Mac's: $10 for $20 worth of mac-&-cheese delivery or $15 for $30 worth of dine-in fare.

The PureBread chain of cafes, with locations in Wilmington (500 Delaware Ave., 302-421-9866; 4801 Limestone Rd., 302-239-9866), Greenville (4001 Kennett Pike, 302-426-9866), Newark (1309 Churchmans Rd., 302-455-9866) and Glen Mills, Pennsylvania (100 Evergreen Dr., 610-358-9866) has gluten-free bagels and lists gluten-free soups and salads on its menu.

To promote a greater level of food safety, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is introducing a tiered credentialing system for restaurants that will enable gluten-free diners to understand restaurant practices through a voluntary and transparent disclosure process. The GREAT Kitchen's Green Designation means that a restaurant has verified ingredients and has undertaken comprehensive training and strict cross-examination controls. An Amber Designation means that a restaurant has verified ingredients and undertaken basic server training, but kitchen practices may vary widely.

Toté in the Italian Market (1024 S. 9th Street, 215-551-5511) has been renamed Taffets, as chef Omer Taffet and his wife are now co-owners of the bakery.

Free Is For Me Desserts (609-920-3086) bakes gluten-free cheesecakes exclusively, out of Hainesport, New Jersey. Delivery is free within Burlington County, with a $1 charge to Camden and Gloucester counties.

On the other side of the Delaware, Sensational Soiree in Bensalem (215-964-3805) specializes in gluten-free wedding cakes (and wedding planning). The cakes are made with coconut flour.

Crocodile Catering in Wayne (610-971-9993) can prepare gluten-free salads and other meals for events in Philadelphia and the western suburbs. (Hat tip to Molly H.)

Sesame Place in Langhorne (100 Sesame Rd., 215-752-7070) offers Conte's bake-in-bag gluten-free pizza at Elmo's Eatery and Captain Ernie's Bistro. The park continues to have 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.

This May, in honor of Celiac Awareness Month, Davio's in Center City Philadelphia (111 S. 17th St., 215-563-4810) will be offering a special four-course tasting menu. Executive Chef David Boyle will be serving up this gluten-free menu all month long for $65 during lunch and dinner (tax and gratuity not included). Here's the menu:
Caprese Salad with Heirloom Tomatoes, Baby Basil and Balsamic Reduction

Gluten Free Pasta, Applewood Smoked Chicken, Spinach, Sundried Tomatoes in a Walnut Cream Sauce

Grilled Fillet Mignon, Jumbo Sea Scallops, Barolo Sauce, Shellfish Butter

Vanilla Panna Cotta
Thomas Jefferson University Hospital and the NFCA are sponsoring an educational event on Wednesday, May 2 at 5:30 p.m. at the hospital. Dr. Anthony DiMarino, the director of Jefferson's Celiac Center will be speaking about causes and treatments, and Chef Gregg Ciprioni of Garces Trading Company will be conducting a food demo and sampling. Call 1-800-JEFF-NOW or register online.

As I reported on Tuesday, the long-awaited return date for the NFCA's Appetite for Awareness is on the books. Tickets are now available for the event, which will be held in Center City Philadelphia on Sunday, September 23.

I hope to see you at the Celiac Awareness Tour tomorrow - I'll be at the NFCA table from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Many Happy Returns

Barring an extension, last Tuesday was the deadline for filing your tax returns - for most of us, an unpleasant task if there ever was one. One return date that is welcome, though, is Appetite for Awareness. The signature event of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness will take place on Sunday, September 23 at the historic Strawbridge & Clothier building at 801 Market Street in Center City Philadelphia from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. I'm proud to share the news that I will be honored at this year's event.

As in the past, a highlight is the Gluten-Free Cooking Spree, where the city’s top chefs work with local physicians to serve their creative gluten-free dishes. There will also be cooking demos in front of the Grand Staircase, a Children’s Pavilion with kid-friendly gluten-free food and activities, dozens of vendors, a Beer Garden with flat-screen TVs to watch the day's sporting events, and the opportunity to win a one-year Mercedes lease. (You can read my recaps of the 2009 and 2010 events.) Guests can also participate in an attempt to set the record for the world’s largest gluten-free Rice Krispies Treat.

For one admission price, you'll have unlimited gluten-free food and drink and a reusable shopping bag to take all of those free samples home. Early-bird tickets are now available and are $50 for adults, $25 for students (ages 12 and up) and $20 for children ages 5-11. A discounted family package (two adults and two children) is $125. (The cost of admission may be tax-deductible as a charitable donation; check with your tax advisor.) Non-discounted tickets will be sold at the door. At the same time, you can also purchase raffle tickets for a one-year lease of either a 2012 Mercedes GLK350 or C300. The venue is easily accessible via public transportation and there is free on-street parking in nearby Chinatown on Sundays.

Friday, April 20, 2012

News & Notes: April 20, 2012

Appetite for Awareness, the Delaware Valley's signature gluten-free event, makes its return on Sunday, September 23. You can enter to win one of two pairs of admission tickets by dining at Pasta Pomorodo in Voorhees (700 Haddonfield-Berlin Rd.) this Sunday.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Reservations can be made for seating anytime from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Call chef-owner Pasquale Masters at 856-296-1268 or email him with the time and number of your party.

In Tuesday's post, I chronicled our recent road trip to Pittsburgh, which - aside from watching the Pirates beat the Phillies - was delightful. On the subject of the Phillies, a limited number of tickets are still available for Celiac Awareness Night at Citizens Bank Park on Friday, July 20. Use code CELIAC to support gluten-free awareness efforts. The Phillies have donated a gift basket, which you can enter to win by visiting the NFCA table at the game.

There's yet another gluten-free option joining the likes of Sweet Freedom Bakery, The QUICK FIXX and Pumpkin on Philadelphia's venerable South Street. The recently opened Rex 1516 (1516 South St., 267-319-1366) has a gluten-free menu that includes a burger on a house-made bun and a delectable-sounding dark chocolate torte for dessert. (Thanks to reader Elise L. for the tip.) General manager Heather Rodkey was kind enough to share pastry chef Seamus Moriarty's gluten-free burger bun recipe.

Ramona A. let me know that The Washington Inn in Cape May notes gluten-free items on its dinner menu.

The Bertucci's Italian restaurant chain updated its gluten-free menu and added 11 new items, including a tapas-size baked polenta with pomodoro plate, grilled salmon and baked cod.

I updated the restaurant list with the newest gluten-free menus from Center City's Tinto (114 S. 20th St., 215-665-9150) and Distrito (3945 Chestnut St., 215-222-1657). I've also added two other Jose Garces restaurants: Garces Trading Company (1111 Locust St., 215-574-1099) and Tinto's next-door neighbor Village Whiskey (118 S. 20th St., 215-665-1088). Look for the Iron Chef's Atlantic City versions of Amada, Village Whiskey, Distrito/Guapos Tacos at the new Revel resort (500 Boardwalk, 855-548-0500).

Casa Bella Trattoria in Haddonfield (51 E. Kings Hwy., 856-429-2885), which plates gluten-free pasta, has a lunch-for-two deal running with MyTown VIP through Sunday for $19. You can save an additional 10% off with code GLUTENFREE1.

Gluten-free friendly kosher spot Max and David's in Elkins Park has closed, as has Long's Gourmet Chinese in Center City. (Thanks, Tom P.)

The Grain Exchange's Caramel Delight Bars are now available at the Marlton Whole Foods. The gluten-free bakery will also be offering apple, peach and blueberry pies by special order.

The Gluten Free Dynasty market at Water To Go has moved from Pennsauken to Audubon (226 S. White Horse Pike, 856-547-4025). Thanks to Miriam B. for the heads-up.

Reader Eileen A., a communications and marketing professor at West Chester University and Immaculata University, has been researching the popularity of gluten-free foods in the marketplace. Her article about these foods, titled "Gluten Free: Friend or Fad?", was recently published at industry website

Gluten-free/egg-free English muffins are the newest products from Katz Gluten Free. Katz has free shipping for all orders over $30. (Purchases made through these links net me a small commission as an affiliate, but cost you nothing extra. Thanks!)

Sweet Freedom Bakery will be featured on the next Unique Sweets episode on the Cooking Channel, debuting this Sunday night at 10:30 p.m.

If you haven't yet made it down to the Italian Market to try Toté's tasty breads, co-owner and chef Omer Taffet will be at Williams-Sonoma (200 S. Broad St.) tomorrow from noon to 2 p.m. with samples of his tomato pie.

Atlantic Gastroenterology Associates in Egg Harbor Township (3205 Fire Rd., 609-407-1220) is sponsoring a celiac support group meeting on Tuesday, April 24 at 7 pm.

You can check out the full list of upcoming events (and there are a bunch) at the blog.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Gluten Free Road Trip: 'Burghers and Flies

"Pittsburgh?" My wife looked at me incredulously. "Pittsburgh over Spring Break?" I smiled. "Ah, it's the Phillies," she said. I had scanned the Phillies' 2012 schedule as soon as it came out last fall and made a mental note that the Phillies would open on the road there. "The season starts that weekend," I countered. Co-workers in Pittsburgh - the same ones that boasted how great the Penguins are, mind you - told me that the Pirates ballpark, PNC Park, is one of the nicest in the country, so I certainly didn't need much arm-twisting. With three sports-crazy males in the house, my wife was hardly in a position to put the kibosh on my suggestion.

I realized how expensive Phillies seats are when I went to buy tickets for the two Pirates games we planned to attend. While I paid $35 apiece for seats in the lower level for the Easter Sunday game, I picked up upper-level tickets for the Saturday night game for the kids for just $10 (the adult tickets were $16).

Beyond going to the games, though, we had no itinerary planned except that we wanted to visit architect Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece Fallingwater. As the weekend drew near, I realized that the Flyers would end the regular season in Pittsburgh against the Penguins. It looked for a bit like that game would decide seeding for the playoffs and would be an exciting game to attend. As it turned out, the seedings were decided earlier in the week so the game wasn't going to have any significance. To boot, the cheapest seat on StubHub was $115 for standing room.

We left early on Saturday morning and traversed much of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. We stopped for breakfast in King of Prussia at Ruby's Diner, where my son savored an Awesome Egg Sandwich served on a Udi's gluten-free burger bun.

Our lunch was further west in Somerset. Eat'n Park, a neighborhood restaurant chain with more than 75 locations in Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, has a surprisingly large gluten-free menu. It was there that our son opted for a Black Angus hamburger, which came on a French Meadow sandwich roll.

By late afternoon, we rolled into the Steel City, crossed into the city's North Shore via the Andy Warhol Bridge, and arrived at our hotel, which was across the street from PNC Park. There were thousands of Phillies fans in town already, hanging out at the hotel and tailgating in nearby parking lots.

The ballpark, now in its 12th season, is indeed magnificent. It stands along the Allegheny River and provides a fantastic view of downtown Pittsburgh. The vista was even more impressive that night when the post-game fireworks show began. (Turns out there really isn't a bad seat in the house.) As for the games - well, let's just say the Phightins' continued their struggles at that ballpark. They failed to hit the ball consistently and dropped both weekend games.

PNC Park added a gluten-free concession stand called Just4U this season. On the menu are hot dogs, nachos, salads, grilled cheese and grilled veggie sandwiches (made with Schar bread), potato chips and Redbridge beer. Gluten-free fries from dedicated fryers are also available at the Chickie's & Pete's stand (nice to see a familiar Philly brand in enemy territory) and the Primanti Brothers stand.

Before the Sunday matinee, we drove over to the popular Duquesne Incline, a century-old inclined plane railroad that scales Mount Washington. Once at the observation deck, we took in the gorgeous view of Pittsburgh's skyline.

There were a few gluten-free spots in the city that were closed for the holiday (including Gluuteny bakery), so we ended up having dinner Sunday at the BRAVO! Cucina Italiana in the Galleria Mall. The chain just added a gluten-free menu that features pasta. Our son opted for the grilled salmon served with penne (cooked, intentionally or not, al dente) and I ordered the gluten-free pasta pomodoro with chicken. Although the menu was new, the staff and kitchen were knowledgeable about proper prep. We also appreciated that, for a change, none of the places we ate upcharged us for ordering gluten-free bread or pasta.

Fallingwater, a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s for a well-to-do Pittsburgh family, is an architectural marvel located about 90 minutes southeast of the city in Mill Run. The house, a National Historic Landmark, looks like it's built right over a waterfall. We took an hour-long guided tour of the house's interior Monday morning and were able to snap some spectacular pictures of the iconic building.

Guided by our GPS, we tracked down the address for the Flight 93 National Memorial and then drove to the Somerset County field where the heroic passengers and crew members on that plane lost their lives but saved countless others. The first phase of the Memorial was dedicated last year, and construction has begun on other features, including a larger visitor center and memorial groves. Our oldest was a toddler on 9/11 and our youngest wasn't even born. It was important for us - and for them - to fully appreciate what those 40 people did and to pay respects.

As I finished the drive home, my wife told me that she enjoyed the trip much more than she expected. When we travel with the kids, we're often trying to cram in so many activities and visit certain places that it's exhausting. Our long weekend in western Pennsylvania reminded us that it doesn't have to be that way.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Goodies Giveaway: Celiac Awareness Tour Tickets

Later this month, the 2012 edition of the Celiac Awareness Tour makes its only East Coast stop in King of Prussia. The Tour is a series of national events dedicated to providing education and entertainment for those on a gluten-free diet. (The Tour is not affiliated with the NFCA's Appetite for Awareness event, which will be held this fall with a date and venue to be announced shortly.)

On April 28, the Tour will be at the Crowne Plaza Valley Forge Hotel in King of Prussia (260 Mall Blvd.) from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Besides meeting medical experts, you can watch live cooking demonstrations on the Rudi's Gluten Free Bakery Stage and enjoy gluten-free food samples from dozens of local and national companies. Through this Saturday, April 14, early-bird tickets can be purchased for $9 per person online; thereafter and at the door, it's $10. Kids under 12 are admitted free.

NFCA founder Alice Bast and local health coach Jennifer Fugo will be among the speakers, and there will be raffles and prizes. I'll be at the NFCA booth from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Participating vendors include Mim's Kitchen, Nature's Path, Blue Diamond Growers, French Meadow Bakery, Natural Nectar, Lisanatti Foods, Kinnikinnick, Rudi's Gluten Free Bakery, Turtle Mountain, Bloomfield Farms, Cabot Creamery, Food For Life Baking Company, Glutino Food Group, Udi's Gluten Free Foods, Conte Pasta, Lizbeth Lane, Mediterranean Snack Food Company, New Planet Beer, Philadelphia Gluten Free Pasta Company, Posh Pop Bakeshop, Quest Nutrition, So Delicious, Vermont Hard Cider and Taza Chocolate.

The Tour organizers are offering a pair of general admission tickets to one lucky Gluten Free Philly reader. To enter up to three different ways, follow the instructions below. Entries are being accepted through Sunday, April 15. You must enter a valid email address so that I can contact you if you're the winner.

Good luck and see you there!

Friday, April 6, 2012

News & Notes: April 6, 2012

Brio Italian Grille's gluten-free Pasta BRIO
Bravo! to two Italian restaurant chains for adding gluten-free menus this week. Siblings Bravo! Cucina Italiana in Willow Grove (2500 Moreland Rd., 215-657-1131) and Brio Tuscan Grille in Cherry Hill (901 Haddonfield Rd., 856-91-8166), Marlton (500 Rt. 73 S., 856-983-0277) and Newark (305 Christiana Mall Rd., 302-368-1448) are serving gluten-free penne as one of the new selections. The Bravo! menu and the Brio menu are the same.

In Wilmington, Harry's Savoy Grill (2020 Naamans Rd., 302-475-3000) has raw bar options, appetizers, salads, entrees and sides on its new gluten-free menu.

The Roman Delight location in Doylestown (1456 Ferry Rd., 215-348-2222) serves gluten-free pizza, pasta and entrees. According to the manager, the kitchen uses separate cookware, ingredients and utensils.

Reader Gina L. let me know that the Jersey Mike's chain of sub shops offer a gluten-free Sub in a Tub. There are New Jersey spots in Cinnaminson, Forked River, Hamilton, Little Egg Harbor and Manahawkin. Gina says that she has ordered with success at the Cinnaminson location (195 Rt. 30, 856-786-7827), where the staff will change gloves and get the cold cuts and toppings from the back.

As I mentioned last Friday, P.F. Chang's has added five new items to its gluten-free menu and brought back the popular Dali Chicken and lemon chicken dishes.

In addition to getting gluten-free grilled cheese sandwiches at The Pop Shop in Collingswood (729 Haddon Ave., 856-869-0111), diners can now enjoy gluten-free chicken tenders and fries since they are prepared in a new dedicated fryer.

Melt Down Grilled Cheese has opened its second location (thanks Katrina S.), this one in Wayne (522 W. Lancaster Ave., 610-293-6988). Sandwiches can be made with gluten-free bread.

Essene Market & Cafe (719 S. 4th St., 215-922-1146) has prepared gluten-free sandwiches. (Hat tip to Jackie P.) reports that Collingswood's gluten-free friendly IndeBlue is opening a second location in the Washington Square West section of Philadelphia (205 S. 13th St.).

Coming in May from Anheuser-Busch is gluten-free Michelob Ultra Light Cider. According to Advertising Age, the company is touting the beverage as a "less sweet, lower calorie, all-natural alternative" to traditional flavored malt beverages and ciders. The drink has 118 calories and 4% alcohol by volume.

New from Natural Nectar are ChocoDream rice sticks - crisp rice sticks filled with creamy cocoa spread. There are three two-stick packs per box, and each pack is a modest 115 calories and 4 grams of fat. I found these at Whole Foods in Marlton for $3.69 a package.

The Delaware County Gluten-Free Meetup group will break bread at Sweet Christine's Bakery in Kennett Square on Saturday, April 14 at 10 a.m. You can RSVP at the event page.

A reminder that on Sunday, April 22, Pasta Pomodoro in Voorhees (700 Haddonfield-Berlin Rd.) will host a gluten-free fundraising dinner to support the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Diners will be able to choose from Pasta Pomodoro's extensive gluten-free menu in its entirety. Call chef-owner Pasquale Masters at 856-296-1268 to RSVP or email him with the time and number of your party.

If you missed my other recent posts, you can read about the gluten-free concessions available at all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums, including our own Citizens Bank Park, as the 2012 baseball season gets underway.

Just across the street from the ballpark is XFINITY Live! All of the restaurants at the new dining-and-entertainment complex have gluten-free options listed on their respective menus.

For those who observe the upcoming holidays, have a happy Passover and Easter and safe travels if you're hitting the road!

- Michael

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Hungry Games

The Spectrum was the site of many great Philadelphia sports moments. But by the turn of the century, the building had seen better days. It was torn down with great fanfare in 2010, but in its place is a complex designed to entertain the masses before, during and after sporting events in South Philly and even on non-game nights - the newly opened (if awkwardly named) XFINITY Live! Philadelphia. The best news is that all of the restaurants at the complex have gluten-free menu options.

The expansive outdoor area of the dining and entertainment district is centered around the XFINITY On Demand Theater, a 24-foot wide, LED video board, which will show both sports games and family-friendly movies. Adjacent to the theater, the NBC Sports Field, an outdoor miniature artificial turf field, will host numerous activities and free concerts.

Artist's rendering of Philly MarketPlace
The Philly MarketPlace serves as a central gathering place for groups and grants guests access to each of the venues. The MarketPlace will showcase many local institutions including Goodnoe Ice Cream.

Created in the essence of the Spectrum itself, the Spectrum Grill features prime steaks, chops, and seafood, and will host cocktail parties nightly. A gluten-free menu is available on request.

In partnership with Philadelphia’s Victory Brewing Company, the Victory Beer Hall features elongated, beer hall-style tables, a stage for live indoor entertainment, and a 2,000-square-foot patio complete with a fire pit and a unique panoramic view of the Philadelphia skyline. Gluten-free options noted on the menu include poached pear salad, brat bites and sausages.

The NBC Sports Arena offers fans a one-of-a-kind sports viewing experience, featuring a 32-foot diagonal, 6mm Sony LED HD television and high impact LED Rings displaying the NBC Sports Ticker. The menu features gluten-free choices such as salads and chicken wings.

PBR Bar & Grill (that's Professional Bull Riders, not Pabst Blue Ribbon) serves Tex-Mex cuisine and hosts a country and southern rock party at night featuring a mechanical bull. You'll find gluten-free ribs and chicken on the menu there.

Broad Street Bullies Pub features authentic memorabilia from the legendary Flyers teams of the 1970s. The pub will serve lunch and dinner and often feature live acoustic entertainment at night. Wings and chicken are notable gluten-free choices on the pub menu.