Friday, March 22, 2013

News & Notes: March 22, 2013

If you like Mediterranean and Middle Eastern food, you hit the jackpot today. Norma's in Cherry Hill (995 Rt. 70 E., 856-795-1373) marks gluten-free options on its menu. About half of the items on the vegetarian-friendly menu are gluten free, including falafel (grilled or fried in a separate fryer), soups, salads, combo platters and entrees.

Reader Drew L. let me know via the GFP Facebook page that Firinji, a Middle Eastern spot in Ardmore (54 E. Lancaster Ave., 610-658-6246) has gluten-free items, including kumpir, a baked potato stuffed with various fillings.

King Tut Restaurant in the Washington Square West section of Philadelphia (401 S. 13th St., 215-735-8111) can accommodate gluten-free requests, says reader Brian K. Nearly all items are gluten-free save for the falafel and sandwiches, and many are vegetarian friendly.

Gluten-free falafel prepared in a separate fryer is available at Saad's Halal Restaurant in West Philly (4500 Walnut St., 215-222-7223). The owner is gluten intolerant and can guide guests through the menu. (Thanks Tom P.)

Also in West Philly, Aksum Cafe (4630 Baltimore Ave., 267-275-8195) has updated its dinner and brunch menu to reflect items that are or can be made gluten free.

A fourth Zoe's Kitchen is coming to the Philly suburbs, this one in Bryn Mawr (763 W. Lancaster Ave.) that's slated to open June 6. The Collegeville location opened two weeks ago, while the Marlton opening date is set for April 25 and Newtown planned for May 2. Reader Maria T. wrote on the GFP Facebook page that she ate at the Collegeville spot and found the food "very fresh and tasty" although the kitchen seemed to lack training on the gluten-free menu and preparation.

Next door to the Bryn Mawr Zoe's will be the area's first Pinkberry. The famed southern California frozen-yogurt chain is opening at 761 W. Lancaster Ave. in April and will follow that with a spot at Philadelphia International Airport. All flavors are gluten free, as are the fresh-cut fruits and many toppings.

The GREAT-trained Ugly American in the Pennsport section of Philadelphia has closed, as has Fish in Washington Square West.

Fresh gluten-free pasta is a thing, as I wrote in Tuesday's review of RP's Pasta.

Joe's Eat At Home, a frozen-entree line offshoot from the Joe's Crab Shack chain, has three gluten-free varieties: Salmon with Sesame Ginger Sauce, Salmon with Honey Dijon Mustard Sauce and Mahi Mahi with Tropical Salsa.
The West Coast healthy-lifestyle restaurant Lyfe Kitchen has frozen meals that are available in local supermarkets. The gluten-free options are Chicken Chile Verde, Farmer's Market Frittata and two soups: Sweet Corn Chowder and Organic Carrot Ginger.

Coming soon are three varieties of gluten-free and dairy-free burritos from EVOL Foods, made with multi-grain tortillas: Chicken + Guacamole (cilantro lime white-meat chicken, black beans, brown rice and a tomato & roasted corn salsa with a packet of guacamole), Chicken (chicken braised in a sweet guajillo chile sauce, pinto beans, rice and a tomato & roasted corn salsa) and Shredded Beef (beef, pinto beans, rice and a tomato & roasted corn salsa). The suggested retail price is around $3-$4.

For those celebrating, have a joyous Passover and Easter. I'll be back the first week in April.

- Michael

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Breath of Fresh Air

When it comes to gluten-free pasta, I am solidly in the corn flour camp; Le Veneziane from Italy is the best dry pasta brand around. Most brown rice versions we've tried turn out more like pad Thai noodles than Italian pasta. So when I saw that the fresh gluten-free pasta from RP's Pasta Company is made with brown rice, I wondered whether I'd change my mind.

RP's, based in Madison, Wisconsin, makes refrigerated gluten-free fusilli, linguini, fettuccine, spinach fettuccine and lasagna sheets sold locally at Wegmans ($3.99 each) and via FreshDirect ($4.99 each). The pasta is made in a dedicated area and is GFCO-certified.

Those of you that make dry gluten-free pasta know that there's a fair amount of trial and error in cooking the pasta "just right." The RP's products are no exception. Although the package recommendation is to cook the fresh pasta in boiling water for two to three minutes, we found on two occasions that the noodles had to bathe for about five minutes to get to a slight al dente texture.

Am I swayed? Not quite. But for slightly more than the average price of dry brown rice pasta, you'll save around 10 minutes of prep time and get a sturdier, more flavorful pasta with RP's fresh counterpart.

Friday, March 15, 2013

News & Notes: March 15, 2013

I can't think of any better news to share today - four years to the day I launched Gluten Free Philly - than the fact that Phillies games will be a whole lot more enjoyable this season, win or lose. Citizens Bank Park will have an all-gluten-free kiosk located on the main concourse at section 136, between third base and left field. The menu will consist of hot dogs, cheese steaks, pizza, snacks and beer, with some other items in the works.

Nectar's soy wrap roll with tuna,
striped bass, avocado and cucumber
(Photo courtesy of Nectar)
The well-regarded pan-Asian Nectar in Berwyn (1091 Lancaster Ave., 610-725-9000) has added a gluten-free menu that includes chicken, shrimp and lobster pad Thai, fried rice, a seafood hot pot with rice noodles, sushi and sashimi.

Penndel's Steak and Hoagie Factory (313 W. Lincoln Hwy., 215-741-6555) has gluten-free rolls for $2 additional. (Thanks Ina M.) A separate grill is in place for prep of the gluten-free sandwiches and the owner has plans to add other items.

Reader Jaime L. let me know that Piatto Grille in Conshohocken (410 W. Ridge Pike, 610-825-1300) can make most dishes gluten free.

P.F. Chang's new Shaking Beef dish
P.F. Chang's has two new dishes that can be made gluten free. One is Shaking Beef, a traditional Vietnamese favorite with sliced beef, broccolini and potatoes tossed together and served over a cool salad with lime vinaigrette. The other is from the limited-time "Inspired" menu: Thai Basil Sambal Noodles - rice noodles, fresh vegetables and Thai basil tossed in a spicy coconut sambal sauce

Thai Basil Sambal Noodles from P.F. Chang's
In last Tuesday's post, you can read about which local pizza chain turns out the best gluten-free pizza according to GFP contributor Jason. The post prompted a friendly debate on the GFP Facebook page.

At last week's Expo East natural-foods showcase, Uncle Wally's, a Long Island bakery founded by chocolate chip cookie entrepreneur Wally "Famous" Amos, debuted GFCO-certified gluten-free chocolate chip and blueberry muffins under the Pillsbury brand that will be available nationally.

Glutino's newest product, unveiled at Expo East, is gluten-free pretzel chips.

We haven't heard from Glutenfreeda for a while, but the company, which makes burritos, pizza wraps and ice cream sandwiches, has unveiled another niche product: all-natural "Hot Pocket"-like Pocket Sandwiches made with gluten-free whole grain bread wrapped around "delicious, gooey, savory fillings" that cook in under one minute. Varieties include nitrate-free Bacon & Fluffy Eggs with Cheddar Cheese, Savory Roast Beef with Caramelized Onions & Provolone Cheese, nitrate-free Hickory Smoked Ham with Cheddar and Monterey Jack Cheese and Southwest Chicken Chipotle with black beans and corn.

The company is also extending is instant-oatmeal line with Instant Gluten-Free Oatmeal Cups with resealable lids. All Glutenfreeda products are  produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility and certified gluten-free at less than 5 ppm.

GFP has been nominated in the Best Blog category in the Triumph Dining Best of Gluten-Free Awards this year. Voting is open through March 31 and you can vote once daily per computer or mobile device. If you're pressed for time, just jump ahead to the Stores and Resources voting page, where you can show your support for the blog. There's no need to enter any contact information.

Don't forget that you can follow GFP on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and, as always, tips and comments are welcome via email.

I hope to see many of you at the CHOP celiac event on Sunday. Have a great weekend!

- Michael

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Takin' It to 'Za Streets

By Jason Hewett

It’s a testament to the tremendous growth in Celiac Disease awareness that in one of the area’s best college towns – Newark, Delaware – I’m able to walk along Main Street and choose from three gluten-free pizza options. That’s a decision that I never thought I’d be able to make. Since the three chains behind those pies have outposts throughout the greater Philadelphia area, I decided to conduct a taste test to see which one came out on top. Although a fourth chain, Nino’s, doesn’t have a location on Main Street, I included them in this extremely difficult challenge since they have locations nearby. One word of caution if you try to replicate this test on your own: Don’t eat them all on the same day.

Gluten-free pizza from Seasons Pizza
With 13 stores in the Delaware Valley, the gluten-free pizza at Seasons Pizza is the most widely available. (It’s even sold at Citizens Bank Park and PPL Park.) The medium-sized pizza is reasonably priced (I paid $10.50 for it, plus a fountain soda) and it was ready in about five minutes.

What impressed me most with this pie was that it tasted like a traditional pizza, with the same type of cheese and sauce. The crust was on the thin side but it held together like wheat-flour dough. My non-gluten-free friend thought it tasted better than conventional frozen pizza – similar to a thin-crust style – and commented that it was one of the better gluten-free foods he’s tried.

The only downside with Seasons is you can’t customize your gluten-free pizza – just one size and one style, with tomato sauce and cheese.

Peace A Pizza's gluten-free
bacon cheeseburger pizza
At Peace A Pizza (seven area locations), you’ll find the most expensive gluten-free pie, but will also get your money’s worth. I paid $15 for a 12” pie (same price as a conventional 14” pie) and was able to customize my toppings; I went with the bacon cheeseburger this time, but I recommend the buffalo chicken based on experience.

Another non-gluten-free friend told me it was the best pizza she had in a long time, gluten free or otherwise. The thin, pliable crust made this pizza even better.

The odd thing about Peace A Pizza is that they don’t have any information about the gluten-free pizza on its website, but walk inside and you can’t miss the signs. I found the staff in Newark to be friendly and knowledgeable (they used a separate pizza shovel for the gluten-free pie).

Don’t feel obligated to eat the entire pie in one sitting. Peace A Pizza’s gluten-free pizza tastes great right out of the fridge the next day.

Grotto Pizza's boardwalk-style pizza, gluten free
Grotto Pizza is a downstate mainstay, but has several locations in New Castle County. At $9.99 for a one-size-only 9” personal pie, it was the one pizza I surveyed in this test (did I mention that this was an extremely difficult test?) that has a crust most like a traditional pie – airy and tender. Grotto is known for its signature sauce swirl, similar to boardwalk-style pizza. The staff at Grotto took care to make sure I got what I ordered.

While I wouldn’t make a pilgrimage to try this pizza, It’s a solid option if you’re traveling in Delaware since you’re bound to be near one.

A gluten-free pizza from Nino's Pizza
To mix things up a bit for this extremely difficult taste test, I ordered a gluten-free pizza delivered from Nino’s Pizza’s Middletown location. (Others are scattered throughout northern Delaware and there’s one in West Chester.) I was a bit uneasy placing an online order for the gluten-free pizza since I didn’t speak to anyone before it arrived at my parents’ house and feared that something would go awry on the gluten-free front. All was fine, however, and I dutifully dug in.

The gluten-free pizza was relatively small and only comes in one size ($9.99 including toppings). I found it to be average but I liked the idea of having a choice of toppings and the convenience of delivery. My mother thought it tasted similar to a frozen pizza.


1. Peace a Pizza – Best taste, size, and customizable
2. Seasons – Great taste; can’t customize toppings
3. Nino’s – Average taste; can customize toppings
4. Grotto – Good taste; small, can’t customize toppings.

Despite having the most expensive gluten-free pizza, Peace A Pizza won out on taste for me. But I’m spoiled with all of these options close by. You won’t go wrong even if only one of these four shops is an option.

Friday, March 1, 2013

News & Notes: March 1, 2013

The menu at Beaver Creek Tavern in Downingtown (1350 Bondsville Rd., 484-593-0481) is annotated with gluten-free listings, which include all soups, fries, and various salads and entrees. The restaurant has two gift-certificate deals at

The Main Street Bistro & Bar in Princeton (301 N. Harrison St., 609-921-2779) notes gluten-free items on its menu, which changes monthly.

Dubh Linn Square, with locations in Cherry Hill (482 E. Evesham Rd., 856-520-8312) and Bordentown (167 Rt. 130, 609-298-7100), has a section of its menu carved out for gluten-free options, including a pesto chicken platter, grilled portabella mushroom and Magners cider.

Also in Cherry Hill, La Terrazza (1401 Rt. 70 E., 856-354-1888) has gluten free pasta and entrees prepared separately.

Gluten-free Sweet Note Bagels are now available at two more Philadelphia locations: The Quick Fixx (1511 South St., 267-273-1066) and South Street Philly Bagels (613 S. 3rd St., 215-627-6277). The bagels are being sold on a trial basis at The Kibitz Room in Cherry Hill (100 Springdale Rd., 856-428-7878) and will be added permanently if the sales are there. (Thanks to readers Jared G. and Pam V. for the tip.)

Bobby's Burger Palace at the Cherry Hill Mall will soon have some competition nearby. Red Robin Gourmet Burgers has signed a lease to open a location at the Plaza at Cherry Hill shopping center next door.

I've linked to the current gluten-free menus at Jose Garces restaurants Tinto, Amada, Chifa, Garces Trading Company and Distrito and on my restaurant list.

Another area gluten-free-friendly chef, Peter McAndrews, was featured in my Tuesday post this week.

Two gluten-free-friendly restaurants have closed recently: Buds & Bowls in Lawrenceville and Buonissimo in Blue Bell. Meanwhile, Ciabatta Pizza in Malvern no longer offers gluten-free pizza.

Saffron Road has changed the recipe for its Chicken Pad Thai frozen entree so that it's now gluten free. You can find it and other gluten-free products from the company at Whole Foods.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael