Friday, August 23, 2013

News & Notes: August 23, 2013

The latest culinary import to the Delaware Valley is Whole Hog Cafe in Cherry Hill (2321 Rt. 70 E., 856-910-8060). Originating in Little Rock, Arkansas, the award-winning BBQ chain has gluten-free meats (pork, chicken, brisket, sausage and ribs) and two table sauces made without gluten - #1 (classic) and #5 (sweet). The salads, nachos, baked potato, potato salad and cole slaw are also gluten free. Whole Hog's pork took first place in the 2013 New Jersey State BBQ Championship.

In Paoli, Redhound Grille (128 Paoli Pike, 484-318-8047) serves burgers and sandwiches on buns, gluten-free wings and fries from a dedicated fryer, and other items noted on its lunch and dinner menus. Redbridge and Woodchuck are available from the bar. Dishes are made from scratch and the kitchen takes precautions in preparing, handling and serving gluten-free orders.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Instant Gratification

Philadelphians know a thing or two about pretzels. With that pedigree, I'm qualified to pronounce Gratify's gluten-free sea salt pretzel thins a satisfying snack and a deserving dip companion.

I sampled Gratify's GFCO-certified pretzel sticks and yogurt-covered twists at a natural foods show last year before they hit the market, but didn't have the opportunity to try its other snacks until recently. I found the thins at Walmart earlier this summer (at $3.99 a bag) but waited until my son came home from camp before trying these. Turns out the entire family has taken to these - they're crisp and light. A bit buttery, I'd liken them taste-wise more to Glutino's pretzels than Snyder's. They're also closer to Glutino as to total fat and calories (more than Snyder's).

Friday, August 9, 2013

News & Notes: August 9, 2013

Since The Cheesecake Factory is an immensely popular restaurant chain, there will be no shortage of people who are excited to learn that its gluten-free menu, which had been in test mode in California, is rolling out nationally beginning this week. Yet it comes with a number of caveats.

The chain discloses up front on the menu that its kitchens are not gluten free, cross contact may occur, and some items may contain as much as 20 parts per million of gluten (incidentally, the new FDA standard as to gluten-free products). What's not stated - at least not without asking a manager or server about it - is that the fries, which are on the menu, may be prepped in shared fryers. The gluten-free fusilli is generally heated in the same water as wheat pasta, though I'm told that it can be prepared using fresh water in a clean pot upon request. The inclusion of Godiva chocolate cheesecake is curious since Godiva chocolate itself is not considered gluten free. (UPDATE 8/9/13: According to a customer relations rep I spoke with by phone today, the cheesecake is not made with Godiva's retail chocolate and tests under 20 ppm.) So what are likely to be safer choices? Salads, shepherd's pie, burgers served on gluten-free buns, roasted chicken and grilled steaks and salmon, to name a few.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

This Little Piggy Went to Market

Is there a cuisine that restaurateur Stephen Starr hasn't taken on? From Cuban to comfort food, from steak to seafood, the one-time Philly concert promoter has developed a trendy-restaurant portfolio that spans four states and the District of Columbia. One of his newest eateries, Fishtown's Fette Sau (1208 Frankford Ave., 215-391-4888), is a BBQ concept imported from New York City.

Friday, August 2, 2013

News & Notes: August 2, 2013

If it seems as though every week there's another gluten-free-friendly burger bar opening in these parts, you're not dreaming. This time out is Benny's Burger Joint in Collingswood (712-714 Haddon Ave., 856-854-2874). Chef-owner Alex Capasso recently closed his new American bistro Blackbird at that address to make way for the kid-friendly Benny's. (He's looking to relaunch Blackbird in Philadelphia.) Not only are gluten-free buns on hand, but the veggie burgers are also gluten free. Make note that the fries are cooked in a fryer shared with breaded sides. Benny's has started as a dinner-only restaurant, but will add lunch and brunch service later this month.

Animo's specials include gluten-free fusilli
tossed with hummus and vegetables
Philadelphia has another gluten-free quick-serve spot, which is always welcome by a eager business lunch crowd. Haddonfield's Animo Juice has brought its wraps, salads, healthy drinks and baked goods to a second location, this one in Center City West (1701 Arch St., 215-501-7754). (Thanks to readers Heather H. and Amanda C.)

In Fort Washington, Zakes Cafe (444 Bethlehem Pike, 215-654-7600) offers gluten-free and dairy-free soups and can modify most dishes that aren't already gluten free.