Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Going to California

CPK's gluten-free BBQ Chicken Pizza
I'm giving credit where credit is due: California Pizza Kitchen has atoned for its botched attempt at gluten-free pizza back in 2011. They licked their wounds, retrenched and now, two years later, not only is the chain preparing those pies so that they're safe for celiacs, the end result is one of the superior gluten-free pizzas I've eaten.

CPK recently launched five gluten-free pizza varieties in its restaurants: Original BBQ Chicken,   Pepperoni, Mushroom Pepperoni Sausage, Margherita and an off-the-menu Untraditional Cheese. The chain partnered with the Gluten Intolerance Group on a comprehensive program to prevent cross-contamination, which includes:
  • removing all wheat flour from the pizza prep station (rice flour is used in its place for all pizzas, gluten free or not)
  • keeping all gluten-free topping ingredients within a designated area in blue containers with black lids and using blue gloves, special pans, designated cutting boards and wheels to prepare the pizzas
  • using a gluten-free crust and other ingredients verified by CPK’s suppliers as gluten-free
  • sanitizing prep areas
  • washing hands thoroughly and wearing designated gloves during preparation
  • using separate and designated pizza peels, spatulas, pizza wheels, utensils, plates
  • cooking the pizzas in a separate foil pan
On a recent Saturday night at the Cherry Hill Mall location, my son and I shared the gluten-free BBQ chicken ($15.25) and pepperoni pizzas ($14). While the main menu also notes gluten-free options like white corn guacamole and chips and Waldorf chicken salad, it's a pizza place after all - when in Rome, do as the Romans do. The Cherry Hill outlet had Crispin hard cider available at the time of our visit.

CPK "flags" its gluten-free pizzas
The pizza deliveries trailed my wife's and younger son's orders to our table by a minute due to the additional preparation. Both thin-crust pies had a crispy edge and a just-undercooked doughy interior and - importantly - the pliable slices folded without falling apart. It was the toppings that made the difference here; the meaty slabs of pepperoni were well done, while the tangy BBQ sauce paired perfectly with the smoked Gouda.

It's worth noting that any of CPK's pizzas can be made with the gluten-free crust for an additional $2, but the restaurant says that it can't ensure adherence to the procedures used to make the verified pies.

In addition to the Cherry Hill site, CPK can be found locally at malls in King of Prussia, Plymouth Meeting, Christiana and on City Avenue in Philadelphia.

DISCLOSURE: While California Pizza Kitchen provided a gift card for me to review the pizzas at no cost, such compensation did not influence my review. Neither I am nor any immediate family member is an employee, officer, director or agent of California Pizza Kitchen or its respective parent, subsidiary and affiliated entities, advertising and promotional agencies. Click here for my complete Disclosure.

California Pizza Kitchen on Urbanspoon
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