Tuesday, January 29, 2013

S'no Problem

By Dori Molozanov

A frigid winter weekend in the mountains is a great way to relax, exercise, and spend time with family and friends. But for some of us who hit the slopes, even a short ski getaway requires thorough meal planning. Thankfully, several resorts located within a few hours of Philadelphia offer gluten-free options for sensitive diners.

The terrain park at Shawnee Mountain Ski Area
At Shawnee Mountain in the Poconos, skiers can enjoy gluten-free foods in all dining areas. Shawnee works closely with gluten-free purveyors, including OMG...It’s Gluten Free, to build a special menu that features sandwiches, burgers, pizza, pasta, sweets and snacks. “We have families who come here every weekend because they know there are safe things for them to eat,” says Shawnee Mountain food and beverage director Tamy Galfo.

Camelback Mountain Resort, also in the Poconos, has seven dining locations and addresses common food sensitivities with gluten-free and other itemsJack Frost and Big Boulder don’t have regular gluten-free menus, but are able to accommodate groups with gluten-free options such as salads and chicken strips, using dedicated equipment and utensils. Although Montage Mountain Ski Resort in Scranton only offers a gluten-free menu in the summer during water-park season, they are flexible and allow families to bring their own food and supplies for birthday parties.

In the Lehigh Valley, Blue Mountain is able to serve gluten-free diners, while The Grille at Bear Creek Mountain has a gluten-free version of its traditional menu.

Over in New Jersey, Mountain Creek now offers gluten- and lactose-free choices at The Market, its cafeteria-style dining location.

For skiiers looking to venture outside Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Hunter Mountain in New York is accommodating to gluten-free guests. The resort has over a dozen dining locations and many options for gluten-free customers, including pizza at VanWinkles Restaurant. Hunter Mountain’s kitchens take precautions for various dietary restrictions and also provide customers with copies of manufacturers’ ingredient labels upon request.

Friday, January 25, 2013

News & Notes: January 25, 2013

New to Mt. Airy is Goat Hollow (300 W. Mt. Pleasant Ave., 267-428-5672), an American brasserie that serves burgers and sandwiches on gluten-free bread. Other dishes on the menu are or can be modified to be gluten free, and New Planet's pale ale and Magners cider are available in bottles.

Keating's River Grill, the house restaurant at the Hyatt Regency on Penn's Landing (201 S. Columbus Blvd., 215-521-6509), notes gluten-free items on its menus, including almond yogurt pancakes served at breakfast.

Dice's Creative Cakes in Boyertown (30 N. Reading Ave., 610-367-0107) bakes gluten-free sweets on different days using washed utensils and bakeware. Options include sugar and chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin and zucchini breads and apple dumplings. Cakes can also be made to order.

Those hungry for a nostalgic Philly nosh can go to Levis Hot Dogs in Abington (966 Old York Rd., 215-572-1895) for a frankfurter on a gluten-free bun and Champ Cherry soda.

I Got Chills, They're Multiplyin': Another Shake Shack is coming to town - this one on the campus of Drexel University at 3200 Chestnut St. It should be open in time for the fall semester. Meanwhile, Jules Thin Crust will be bringing its gluten-free pizza to Ardmore at a location to be announced soon.

Panera Bread has a double-secret "hidden" menu - six protein-centric, low-carb options that are prepared without gluten ingredients. According to the company's blog, "you won't find these items on banners in our cafes, or even on the menu board. Here's how you get the dishes - just tell one of our associates that you're ordering from the "Hidden Menu," and they'll take care of it from there." Of course, there is lots of bread-baking going on at Panera, so cross-contamination is something to keep in mind.

Feb. 14 is the last day of operation for Ralic's Steakhouse in Haddonfield.

On Tuesday, I wrote about Sweet Megan, an allergen-friendly bakery in the suburbs that just debuted a creative mini dessert called MegansSpoonfuls.

Three of Contessa's new World Cuisine frozen convenience meals are gluten free: Chicken Fried Rice, Shrimp Fried Rice and Paella.

Registration is now open for CHOP's annual pediatric Celiac disease event on Sun. March 17 in Philadelphia. Breakfast and lunch will be provided and kids of all ages are welcome. The event is free but space is limited.

If you haven't already done so, please cast a vote for me in the Epikur magazine writer's competition. Voting closes Feb. 1.

Also, don't be shy about emailing me with information on accommodating restaurants, new products and the like, and follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)

"Silver Linings Playbook" star Bradley Cooper isn't the only Philly-area presence at Hollywood's award ceremonies this year. Sweet Megan, a gluten-, dairy- and soy-free bakery in suburban Philadelphia, debuted its MegansSpoonfuls treats in the swag bags for the Golden Globe Awards attendees last week. The bite-size sweets will also be among the gifts for stars at the upcoming Screen Actors Guild Awards, Grammy Awards and the Oscars.

Sweet Megan's Vanilla Cupcake
Sweet Megan is run by Pattie Lerner and her daughters Cara and Dana, and was started last year to honor the memory of Pattie's niece Megan Griffith, who lost her fight with brain cancer in 2008. Recently, Cara developed allergies to gluten and, out of concern for her daughter's health, Pattie began to develop gluten-free desserts made with all-natural, healthy ingredients. Her gluten-free baking led to the creation of a family business.

MegansSpoonfuls brownie
Pattie makes birthday and any occasion cakes and cupcakes in three flavors plus a flavor of the month. Her newest creations are the MegansSpoonfuls, which are bite-size truffles, cakes and brownies each attached to a spoon.

The Lerners plan to donate a portion of the proceeds from sales to charities such as the Dream Foundation, which helped Megan fulfill her wish to meet comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

Sweet Megan products are sold at Bunn’s Natural Foods in Southampton, Grapevine Natural Grocery in Newtown, and Just Loaf'n at the Newtown Farmers Market; they'll soon be available at Sara's Homemade Sweets in Langhorne and the Richboro Shop n Bag. All of the sweets are available for online ordering.

Friday, January 18, 2013

News & Notes: January 18, 2013

There are two more weeks left in the voting for Epikur food-and-wine magazine's Best Writer competition; please vote for me and spread the word to friends and family.

Down on the farm, Bob Evans Restaurant now has a gluten-free menu that includes breakfast, lunch and dinner options. The chain has nine locations in the Delaware Valley and hundreds of others throughout the Midwest, mid-Atlantic and Southeast U.S.

South Philly Mediterranean Kris (1100 Federal St., 215-468-0104) serves an eggplant parmesan with an egg and parmigiano batter (no breading) with fresh mozzarella and tomato basil marinara. It's accompanied by polenta gnocchi, also gluten free. Other menu items either are or can be prepared gluten free.

Add the Nino's Pizza locations in Wilmington, New Castle, Middletown, Bear and Smyrna to strengthen my belief that Delaware has the most gluten-free pizza options per square mile of any state. Nino's outposts in West Chester, Pennsylvania and Cecil County, Maryland also have gluten-free pies. The pizzas come on their own tins and are prepared with separate sauce and cheese. Several locations offer gluten-free ravioli as well.

Also in Delaware, The Greene Turtle Sports Bar & Grille has opened a location in Newark (250 Elkton Rd., 302-454-1592) with a gluten-free menu.

Reader Jared G. let me know that Chez Elena Wu in Voorhees (910 Haddonfield-Berlin Rd., 856-566-3222) has gluten-free soy sauce and can prepare many protein and vegetable dishes gluten free.

Nearby, Marlton's Ragazzi (44 Rt. 70 E., 856-810-8810) offers gluten-free ravioli, gnocchi, grilled eggplant and wraps.

As I wrote on Tuesday, there are gluten-free options at Lucky Strike, Dave & Buster's and North Bowl, boutique bowling centers in Philadelphia.

Udi's Gluten Free has announced several new products: three varieties of granola bars (Cranberry Almond, Chocolate Chip and Ancient Grains), 6" and 9" plain tortillas, Spinach & Feta pizza and personal-size three-cheese pizza.

One more addition to the new Van's gluten-free products I mentioned a few weeks ago: Ancient Grains waffles, made from brown rice, millet, teff, buckwheat, amaranth, sorghum and quinoa. The waffles are also egg and dairy free.

Natural-foods chef Heather Esposito will be teaching a gluten-free and allergen-friendly cooking class called "Cooking For Detox" at Food For All in northwest Philadelphia (7127 Germantown Ave., 267-297-7122) on Sunday, Jan. 27 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Cost is $50. RSVP by Jan. 23 by calling Food For All.

Be sure to check out the Events page at the blog for a list of kids' and adult support group meetings, meet-ups and cooking classes.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Bowls and Dishes

Bowling has become - dare I say it - hip, as the drab neighborhood relics of youth have been superseded by flashy, urban digs. The food landscape associated with bowling alleys has changed as well. Staples like hot dogs, fountain sodas and vending-machine candy have been displaced by creative small plates and craft brews.

Lucky Strike's Green Chili Tacos
Philadelphia is no exception to this "boutique bowling" trend. Steps from City Hall in Center City is the multi-level Lucky Strike Lanes & Lounge (1336 Chestnut St., 215-545-2471), one of 18 U.S. locations. Many choices on the dinner menu are gluten free, including Grilled Jerk Skewers and Spinach & Artichoke Dip appetizers, grilled wings (with buffalo, BBQ and garlic parmesan glazes and all dipping sauces), and three kinds of tacos. A manager told me that the tortilla chips and fries are prepared in a separate gluten-free fryer; I recommend confirming upon your visit.

Northern Liberties' North Bowl
Opened in July 2006, North Bowl in Northern Liberties (909 N. 2nd St., 215-238-BOWL) is situated at a former mechanics' garage that was transformed into a 21,000-square-foot nightlife spot. The bi-level structure includes a cafe, bar and lanes downstairs. Upstairs offers four additional lanes, a second bar, pool table, arcade games and lounge. The menu features three varieties of gluten-free mac-and-cheese dishes and Spanish import Estrella Damm Daura in bottles.

The Northeast Philadelphia outpost of entertainment center chain Dave and Buster's (1995 Franklin Mills Circle, 215-632-0333) has an 18-lane bowling alley. D&B's gluten-free menu includes two under-600 calorie options (Mango Citrus Shrimp Skewers and Cajun Sirloin) along with Black Jack BBQ Chicken, Fire Grilled Salmon and the unusually named Lawnmower Salad. D&B's other locations in South Philadelphia (325 N. Columbus Blvd, 215-413-1951) and Plymouth Meeting (500 W. Germantown Pike, 610-832-9200) don't offer bowling, but do have billiard tables and plenty of arcade games.

Friday, January 11, 2013

News & Notes: January 11, 2012

Before I get to this week's news, I have a small favor to ask of all of you. I'm thisclose to taking the lead in Epikur magazine's Writer of the Year competition, which runs through the end of this month. Please cast a vote for me (Michael) at the voting page, then come back and finish reading this column.

'Yunkers rejoice! The Manayunk Brewery and Restaurant (4120 Main St., 215-482-8220) now offers a gluten-free menu that includes burgers and chicken sandwiches with buns, ribs and new desserts from "Best of Philly" winner The Little Bakery in Blue Bell - flavored mousses sandwiched between gluten-free ladyfingers-style circles. Alas, no gluten-free beer yet, but there are wines and cocktails.

Despite the similarity in name to a well-known, lasciviously-named sports bar, Racks Restaurant & Sports Bar in Atco, New Jersey (286 White Horse Pike, 856-719-1500) offers more gluten-free options. Everything from chicken tenders and wings to burgers and sandwiches are noted on the menu. Racks' weekend breakfast menu includes a gluten-free breakfast sandwich and omelets.

Most items at Ole Tapas Lounge & Restaurant in Newark, Delaware (1126 Capitol Trail, 302-224-9378) can be prepared gluten free.

PBandU has closed its original location in Wayne, but is still operating at the Moorestown Mall. The store can prepare sandwiches on gluten-free bread.

Buca di Beppo's location in Wynnewood has closed; spots in Exton and Reading are the remaining area restaurants.

Earlier this week, contributing writer Jason Hewett shared his thoughts on the gluten-free burger and fries at the Red Robin chain, which is opening its newest area location at the Deptford Mall next month.

While doing some grocery shopping earlier in the week, I spotted a new flavor from Turkey Hill: baklava Greek frozen yogurt. Out of curiosity, I checked the label and the only ingredient that gave me pause was "corn cereal." I called the company's consumer relations line the next day and a rep confirmed that the dessert is gluten free. So enjoy!

Wegmans has added to its house-brand gluten-free product line with a Honey Cornbread Mix and an All Purpose Baking Mix. These, like the dessert mixes, are priced at $3.49 each.

The Little Bakery in Blue Bell (921 Penllyn-Blue Bell Pike, 267-708-0984) is hosting a gluten-free cooking workshop on site this Tuesday at 7 p.m. Topics include flour mixes, substitutions, breakfast menus, soups, salads, dinner menus,desserts and party hors d'oeuvres. Cost is $40 and space is limited; call to RSVP. The bakery's sweets are now available at new locations, including George's Shop n Bag in Dresher and the Coventry Deli in Center City Philadelphia.

If you're a car buff, check out the 2013 Philadelphia Auto Show's Black Tie Tailgate on Friday, Jan. 18 at the Philadelphia Convention Center, where you can dine and dance among the vehicles on display. The event will feature a top-shelf bar and cuisine by Stephen STARR Events, with gluten-free options available. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which includes the Center for Celiac Disease.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Rockin' Robin

By Jason Hewett

The first time I went to Red Robin, I ordered a salad because I didn’t feel like having yet another burger without a bun or, worse, bringing in one of those giant tapioca-flour bricks as a substitute. Since then, Red Robin, with locations across the U.S., has become more aware of gluten-free sensitivity than most restaurants, offering the “go bunless” option - a gourmet burger wrapped with lettuce – as well as a gluten-free bun option for an additional 79 cents. 

It’s impressive enough that Red Robin offers a gluten-free bun option, whereas Five Guys and the big fast-food joints don’t. Most remarkable is that its gluten-free substitute actually works. For the first time in a long time, I enjoyed a hamburger much like a diner without food intolerance might.

The novelty of eating a hamburger on a bun is something to savor for those of us who haven’t done so in years. I still remember the rituals I performed trying to get homemade and store-bought buns soft and moist enough to eat a burger without the bread falling apart in my hands; even when I got it right, it tasted different. Trying to dine out using gluten-free buns was a disaster since no one could prepare them right or the buns would fall apart before they made it to the chef. It was always easier to order without the bun and be the kid awkwardly eating my burger with a fork and knife.

Red Robin’s gluten-free buns, made by Udi’s, look and feel just like conventional buns. You don’t have to be careful with how you hold your burger because the bread is as spongy and absorbent as the wheat version. 

While it doesn’t taste exactly like a conventional bun, it came close, and it’s certainly the closest thing I’ve ever had in a restaurant or at home. My non-gluten-free friends who ate with me recently at a Red Robin in Lancaster, Pa. also ordered their burgers on gluten-free buns. Although they weren’t as enthusiastic about the buns as I was, they still enjoyed their burgers.

My server in Lancaster was extremely knowledgeable about gluten-free needs, while the server at my “home” location in Glasgow, Delaware a bit less so. As soon as I mentioned the gluten-free bun in Lancaster, my server let me know about having the steak fries without the seasoning and the kitchen's separate prep methods. (Red Robin posts an allergen menu at its website that provides more information on gluten-free options, such as identifying salad dressings that don’t contain malt vinegar.)

In providing bun and fry options, Red Robin sets the baseline as to what other burger restaurants should be doing to satisfy gluten-free customers. Gluten-free buns are pricey, so I don’t mind paying a small upcharge for a quality gluten-free meal. For Red Robin to raise the bar, it would ensure that all sauces and dressings were gluten free, but it’s already done a great job catering to a small but growing customer base. The unlimited fries tasted just fine without the signature seasoning and are as good as you’ll get anywhere else.

Delaware native Jason Hewett is an undergraduate at the University of Delaware, where he writes for several student publications. He may be contacted at jhewett@udel.edu.

Friday, January 4, 2013

News & Notes: January 4. 2013

Happy 2013 to everyone! With the start of the new year comes new food. There are so many items to write about today that I'm bumping mention of restaurant news to next Friday's post.

Van's Natural Foods has entered several new product categories, all GFCO-certified, whole-grain items. (The new items contain gluten-free oats.) The company adds to its existing gluten-free breakfast line - waffles, French toast sticks and pancakes - with the introduction of its first cold cereals, Honey Nut Crunch and Cinnamon Heaven.

In addition to the cereals, Van's has also rolled out several snacks. New all-natural, high-fiber snack bar varieties are Peanut Butter Chocolate, Cranberry Almond and Chocolate Chip. There are also three kinds of baked crackers, made with oats, brown rice, millet, quinoa and amaranth: Say Cheese, Lots of Everything and Multigrain.

Chung's Gourmet Foods has reformulated its line of microwaveable Asian dishes with a switch to gluten-free soy sauce. The Chung's For 2 entrees come in eight varieties: General Tso Chicken, Chicken Fried Rice, Pork & Chicken Fried Rice, Shrimp Fried Rice, Vegetable Fried Rice, Sweet & Sour Chicken, Sweet & Sour Pork and Teriyaki Chicken. I bought a few of these at Wal-Mart in Somerdale, New Jersey for $3.48 each. They are high in sodium, so stick to the recommended "for two" serving size unless you want to siphon water all day.

Hain Celestial's Gluten Free Cafe brand has added to its portfolio with a new line of baking mixes. The products, which bear the Gluten-Free Certification Organization seal, include mixes for chocolate cake, brownie, pancake and all-purpose baking. These sell for around $4 each at the Somerdale Wal-Mart.

I thought after my last News & Notes post that I was done posting for 2012. However, that changed when I learned that Dunkin' Donuts is testing out a gluten-free cinnamon sugar donut and blueberry muffin in Miami and the Boston area. If all goes well, look for these sweets to be available nationwide by summertime.

Katz Gluten Free's new glazed donuts
On that note, Katz Gluten Free has introduced glazed and powdered donuts and corn muffins. Orders over $50 include free shipping; otherwise, the flat rate is $7.99. Customers can use promo code FACEBOOK for 25% off their orders. (You can support Gluten Free Philly by purchasing through this link.)

Upcoming events include the monthly meeting of the South Jersey celiac support group in Voorhees on Sunday. A representative of Bob & Ruth's Gluten-Free Dining & Travel Club will be sharing information about upcoming trips.

On Wednesday, January 9, the Woodlawn Library in Wilmington will host a free "Gluten-Free Cooking at Home" class at 7 p.m. Registration is required. Area gluten-free events through April are listed at the blog.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Gluten Free Eyeshadow from Red Apple Lipstick