Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Jersey Mike's Subs Introducing Gluten-Free Rolls Nationwide

I can report exclusively that after receiving positive reviews in several test markets, Jersey Mike’s Subs is introducing gluten-free sub rolls at all 1,300-plus U.S. locations beginning Dec. 4. Jersey Mike’s has partnered with Udi’s Gluten Free after testing the bakery's sub rolls in several markets, including stores in Denver, Los Angeles and West Palm Beach.

“The idea of offering gluten-free rolls came from a franchisee whose daughter had celiac disease,” explained Michael Manzo, Jersey Mike's Chief Operating Officer. “Before going national, we decided to try a pilot in several markets and we are happy to report success: customers loved the taste and they were excited to be able to eat a Jersey Mike’s sub sandwich again - or for the very first time.”

Gluten-free rolls from another company, Wild Flour Bakery, had been tested in the Philadelphia region, New Jersey and North Carolina as part of the pilot program. Manzo said that while many customers responded well to Wild Flour's version, which came proofed and were baked in house, from an operational standpoint it will be easier for stores to serve the Udi's product. (Locations that had been using Wild Flour rolls have already switched over to Udi's.)

To prepare for the national launch, Manzo said the company has produced an instructional video for employees and is training staff how to carefully incorporate the new product into sandwich preparation. The Udi’s rolls arrive at each store individually wrapped and fully baked. Because the packaging is not opened until the sub is ordered, Manzo says there is little risk of cross-contamination with other subs. Additionally, employees wear new gloves when handling the rolls and use dedicated knives and other utensils that haven’t touched other bread products. They also prepare each sandwich on parchment paper to avoid contact with gluten and will utilize separate condiment containers. Customers can request that toppings such as lettuce, tomatoes and onions be taken from stock in the stores’ walk-in refrigerators. Jersey Mike's is working with the Gluten Intolerance Group to obtain certification. The company is also considering adding a gluten-free dessert option.

The Udi’s roll can be used for most hot or cold subs on Jersey Mike’s menu (some contain gluten, such as Meatball and Cheese, Chicken Parmesan and Teriyaki Chicken). The additional charge for gluten-free sandwiches may vary from store to store, but is likely to be between $1 to $2 for regular sizes and $3 to $4 for giant sizes.


Friday, October 27, 2017

News & Notes: October 27, 2017

The Philadelphia region can finally claim its own gluten-free brewery. Blueprint Brewing Co. opened last weekend in Harleysville (1571 Gehman Rd., 267-649-7006) with its hoppy Blue Skies IPA on tap and cans in the near future. Read more about Blueprint in my April 2017 post.

Not to be outdone, Original 13 Ciderworks in Kensington (1526 N. American St., 215-765-7000) has just opened Philly's first cider tasting room. The menu there lists a number of gluten-free options, including duck fat fries prepped in a gluten-free fryer. Incidentally, the Gluten Free Philly restaurant app [iOS/Android] now has a cuisine category for "Breweries" that includes Blueprint, Original 13 and other adult-beverage makers in the region.

Pizza Hut's certified-gluten-free cheese and pepperoni pizzas can now be found at stores in Mt. Ephraim (710 N. Black Horse Pike, 856-219-3323) and Clementon (1448 Blackwood-Clementon Rd., 856-346-2104).

White Elephant, a Thai restaurant in Huntingdon Valley (759 Huntingdon Pike, 215-663-1495), can prepare many items on its lunch and dinner menus (any dishes not noted with a "G" noted can be made gluten free). Thanks Mom!

In Cherry Hill, Hong Kong Fusion (1998 Marlton Pike E., 856-751-3888) can prepare gluten-free mei fun noodles, as well as many protein dishes with white sauce or gluten-free soy sauce. I highly recommend the sticky-rice cookies, one of several gluten-free desserts.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Hand On My Pocket

The trusty microwave. It's a time saver for meals in a snap yet a shortcut for truer-tasting meals. That quandary arose recently when I prepared the latest creations from GeeFree Foods. The company's newest novel products - which are just now making their way to stores and online outlets - are sandwich pockets. The pockets come in three savory varieties, Sausage, Egg & Cheese, Buffalo Chicken and Cheese Pizza, with each package of two having a suggested retail price of $6.99.

Baked Buffalo Chicken pocket sandwich
If you're not familiar with GeeFree Foods, you should get to know it. The company created a niche with its initial offerings, which include gluten-free puff pastry dough, pigs in blankets and spanakopita - all of which are unique to the gluten-free marketplace. The sandwich pockets are made with the same flaky pastry dough used for the other products.

Microwaved Sausage, Egg & Cheese pocket sandwich
So how are these gluten-free counterparts to Hot Pockets? It depends. Each pocket comes wrapped in a microwaveable wrapper. If you want to save time, snip the corner of the casing and heat for 2 minutes, 15 seconds. It's quick, but we found the pockets to be "doughier" out of the microwave. The better - and tastier - option is to bake one in the oven at 350ºF for about half an hour. The dough comes out crispy and flakier, and the pocket has a more consistent taste from bite to bite out of the oven. We thought the Buffalo Chicken and Sausage - with a bit of zing cooled with a hint of cream cheese - and the Sausage, Egg & Cheese were the top two. I'd definitely keep a box or two in the freezer for lazy weekend days when there's more time to prepare these in an oven and enjoy an occasional splurge.

GeeFree's products are available in supermarkets and specialty stores throughout the country (product locator) and can also be ordered online directly through the company ($9.99 flat-rate shipping for six or more items) or through Gluten-Free Mall.

DISCLOSURE: While GeeFree Foods provided product samples for me to review 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 GeeFree Foods or its respective parent, subsidiary and affiliated entities, advertising and promotional agencies. Click here for my complete Disclosure.

Friday, October 13, 2017

News & Notes: October 13, 2017

Choolaah's Chicken Tikka Masala Bowl
Indian food is extremely gluten-free-friendly, so it comes as no surprise that many area Indian restaurants can accommodate special diets. The fast-casual Choolaah Indian BBQ recently opened its first Pennsylvania location at King of Prussia Town Center (155 Main St., 484-674-6316). Guests can choose from dozens of gluten-, dairy- and egg-free options (sortable via the online menu), anything from BBQ bowls to dishes, salads and sides - even dessert.

Monsoon's second New Jersey location is now open in Cherry Hill (1409 Rt. 70 W., 856-528-2526) offers many gluten-free menu items. The restaurant maintains a list of gluten- and nut-free options on site.

Manam Indian Cuisine in Malvern (124 Lancaster Ave., 610-400-1133) lists gluten-free items on its menu.

Angeline's Michael Symon
In Atlantic City, Angeline - the new Italian restaurant at the Borgata from celebrity chef and "The Chew" co-host Michael Symon - has a stand-alone gluten-free menu that includes pasta dishes (1 Borgata Way, 609-317-1000). At Bally's (1900 Boardwalk, 609-340-2000), Guy Fieri's Chophouse has a number gluten-free options, noted on the menu. They also include the Black and Blue Burger and Tatted Up Turkey Burger with buns and Caesar and wedge salads without croutons.

Reader Tania F. let me know that most of the menu at New Habana in Narberth (232 Woodbine Ave., 610-660-0160) is gluten free.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Going for the Gold

Saturday saw two repeat winners and a local newcomer triumph in the gluten-free beer category at the 2017 Great American Beer Festival in Denver. For Ground Breaker Brewing, Saturday was another "dark" day in its history. That’s when the Portland gluten-free brewery was awarded a gold medal for its Dark Ale for the second year in a row at the Festival, the largest commercial beer competition in the world. While the popular event is now in its 36th year, the Gluten-Free Beer category was added just 10 years ago. Since then, the number of entrants in the sector has grown significantly - this year, 33 beers were submitted for consideration, up from eight in 2007. Here are the three award winners:

Gold: Ground Breaker Brewing’s Dark Ale
For their Dark Ale, Ground Breaker’s brewmasters use espresso-like roasted chestnuts and lentils along with dark Belgian-style candi for a roasty flavor and aroma with notes of chocolate and dark fruits. This is the sixth consecutive year that Ground Breaker has medaled at the Festival, though its first two awards came under a different name. Previously known as Harvester Brewing, the brewery changed its name to avoid a dispute with a California winery several years ago. (Read more about Ground Breaker's offerings in our beer review column.)

Ground Breaker offers its beers at the Portland gastropub next to its brewery on an all-gluten-free menu that features the likes of pizza, Cubano sandwiches and brownie sundaes. Outside of Oregon, Ground Breaker beers are distributed elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest as well as in New England and California. The Dark Ale and other varieties are also sold online through Bring on the Beer to residents of 34 states (including New Jersey and Delaware) and the District of Columbia.

Silver: Ghostfish Brewing Co.'s Meteor Shower Blonde Ale
Seattle's Ghostfish, which took bronze a year ago for its Grapefruit IPA, won for one of its two year-round beers introduced in 2017. The Blonde Ale is brewed with malted millet and California-grown brown rice, with Noble German Perle hops added for a light bitterness and floral aroma. (Read more about Ghostfish's offerings in our beer review column.)

All of Ghostfish’s beers are sold at its gluten-free taproom in Seattle, where the current menu includes mac-and-cheese, fish and chips, and pretzel-crusted strawberry cheesecake. The beers are also available at retailers throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho. Many of the company’s beers, including Meteor Shower Blonde Ale, can be ordered online from Marina Market and shipped to 28 states, plus the District of Columbia (though not Pennsylvania, New Jersey or Delaware).

Bronze: Revelation Craft Brewing Co.'s Co-Conspirator Apricot Sour
Revelation, from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, collaborated with Ghostfish to produce a sour with a base of quinoa, buckwheat, millet and rice. Co-Conspirator has a smooth, honey-like malt character, a bright sourness, and a hint of fruity hop aroma from Palisade hops. Kettle-soured with cultures from Goodbelly coconut probiotics, apricots were then added at the end of fermentation. Co-Conspirator is available on tap at Revelation's Rehoboth Beach taproom as well as at Ghostfish's Seattle brewpub.

The festival’s Gluten-Free Beer category includes only beers made from fermentable sugars, grains and converted carbohydrates. Gluten-reduced beers are not considered part of this grouping because their gluten levels - derived from malted barley - have been reduced by enzymes or other processes.