Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sizzle and Spice at Veda Modern Indian Bistro

By Sara Blank

Veda, the two-year-old upscale Indian bistro in Rittenhouse Square (1920 Chestnut St., 267-519-2001), falls seamlessly into step with a slew of Philadelphia-area restaurants that combine predominantly gluten-free cuisine and reputations as safe havens for gluten-free diners.

Goan Shimp Curry (left) and Paneer Palak are two of the many
gluten-free entree options at Veda
With guidance from our knowledgeable server, my dinner companion and I opted for the Tandoori Mirch Murg Tikka, Paneer Palak and Goan Shrimp Curry. We were impressed with each dish, which were fresh-tasting, maintained a fine balance of spices and multiple flavors without being overwhelming, and were filling without being heavy. We ended the meal with Saffron Kheer (rice pudding) and Rasmalai, a dumpling which our server aptly described as similar to a spongy cheesecake. These were excellent complements to the appetizer and entrees - sweet and flavorful without being saccharine. (All but one of the desserts are gluten free.) The craft cocktails - Mumbai Mule and Maharaja Tonic - were original, delicious, and paired with the food perfectly. The warm, comforting vibe of the restaurant was reflective of the meal itself, making it an ideal occasion for a cold-weather night out.

The Mirch Murg Tikka appetizer at Rittenhouse Square's Veda
While the food itself was excellent, I found the experience as a gluten-free guest even more impressive. Generally, I tend to fear dining at family-style restaurants; I feel as though I am walking in with a "high maintenance" stamp across my forehead. In these scenarios, I am often bombarded with well-meaning, if exhausting, questions from non-gluten-free friends like,“What can you eat?” and “Why don’t you pick?” or “Do you think you’ll have enough to eat?” While I am grateful to not be at all a fussy eater, I am discerning in these situations, when I neither want to be difficult nor end up hungry.

I immediately felt at ease when I surveyed Veda's menu, which had clearly-labeled notations for gluten-free dishes. I was overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available, but excited that I was able to choose from so much on the menu.

I told our server that while I am well-versed in dining gluten free, I could not say the same about Indian cuisine. She helped me navigate the menu, describing the flavors and textures of different types of dishes and how they could be altered to suit different spice or heat preferences. I asked whether dishes were naturally gluten free or needed to be altered, and she quickly explained that modifications are rarely needed. This is because Indian food is traditionally cooked in rice flour, rendering most of it gluten free from the get-go. The only variation, she explained, was that while there is gluten present in the kitchen, there is a dedicated gluten-free fryer as well as separate work stations.

All but one of the desserts at Veda - including the Rasmalai (top)
and Saffron Kheer - are gluten free
I enjoyed my experience at Veda because I felt that my dietary restriction had no impact on the quality of my meal. The most significant part about dining at Veda (among other restaurants that have placed similar emphasis on their gluten-free guests) is the normalization and integration throughout the meal. To become complete, I would love to see Veda include gluten-free beers and ciders on the drink menu, add the same gluten-free notations that are on the main menu to the dessert menu, and have the option of gluten-free naan, even if it is made off-premises. Beyond this wish list, though, I found myself extremely impressed by the inclusive experience of dining at Veda.

Anyone who has maintained a gluten-free diet over the last decade knows that among chefs and servers, familiarity of the diet ranges from nonexistent to vague awareness to intrigued curiosity to general accommodation to adamant necessity. Veda is a fine example of a restaurant at the positive end of the spectrum - one that other restaurants should look to as a model.

Sara Blank is a 26-year-old agency copywriter living in Center City Philadelphia. She was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at age 18, right when "gluten free" entered the zeitgeist. Follow her on Instagram at @SarBlank

DISCLOSURE: Veda provided the writer with a complimentary meal. However, the opinions expressed in this review are those of the writer and were not influenced in any way by the compensation.

Friday, November 30, 2018

News & Notes: November 30, 2018


Conagra's Evol Foods brand recently launched two new lines, each of which includes meals made without gluten-containing ingredients. The made-without-gluten options in the Modern Nutrition Bowl lineup are the Warrior Bowl and the Balance Bowl. All of the Morning Bowls - Breakfast Sausage & Uncured Bacon, Spicy Chipotle Chorizo, Smoked Uncured Ham Benedict and Creamy Basil Veggie - are made with any ingredients that contain gluten.


Katz Gluten Free has four new Twinkie-like creme-filled cakes: Caramel Apple, Pumpkin, Peppermint and Gingerbread. By purchasing through this affiliate link, you'll be supporting Gluten Free Philly.

Thanks to loyal reader Jaime L., I can report that the just-opened Tank and Libby's in Drexel Hill's Pilgrim Gardens Shopping Center (1011 Pontiac Rd., 484-455-7527) is serving sandwiches on gluten-free bread. The owners of this breakfast and lunch spot are well versed in gluten-free food preparation.


Another longtime reader, Jessica N., let me know that Coyote Crossing in Conshohocken (800 Spring Mill Ave., 610-825-3000) has a dedicated fryer and lists gluten-free items on a menu that includes tortilla chips, quesadillas, enchiladas and flautas. The owner, Carlos, is often on hand to answer any questions about the gluten-free options.


Through December 30, Puyero Venezuelan Flavor in Society Hill (524 S. 4th St., 267-928-4584) is offering hallacas - traditional Venezuelan tamales wrapped in plantain leaves - in three varieties. Each one is made from corn dough and stuffed with a stew made from a meat of choice. The fat from the stew is also used to add extra flavor to the corn dough. It is then wrapped in plantain leaves, tied with strings, and boiled. Puyero's holiday menu additions include hallacas made with chicken, chicken and pork, and veggies. There's also a special Andes-style hot chocolate for the holidays, made with a hint of cinnamon and vanilla. If you'd like to trying making them yourself, Puyero is hosting a holiday-edition cooking class on Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m.; ticket information is here.

In Moorestown, Maurizio's Bistro (33 E. Main St., 856-793-9884) offers separately prepared gluten-free pizza, pasta and entrees. Gluten-free items are noted on the menu.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Deck the Hall


Philadelphia's original commodities exchange has been transformed into an artisan marketplace in the style of New York's Chelsea Market and Washington, D.C.'s Union Market. Formally opening yesterday, The Bourse Food Hall (111 S. Independence Mall E.) will feature nearly 30 food and beverage tenants, including many with gluten-free selections. The list includes:

  • TaKorean: With four locations in metro D.C., TaKorean brings a combination of Korean inspired flavors with a Latin-American twist. In addition to their signature Korean tacos made with corn tortillas, the gluten-free options include Korean rice and salad bowls. They also offer a customizable menu comprised of two gluten-free proteins (tofu and cauliflower), romaine and spiced kale slaws, as well as several toppings and garnishes.
  • Prescription Chicken: The first brick-and-mortar location for this acclaimed D.C.-area soup purveyor offer its signature made-to-order chicken-based soups. All broths are gluten free and they even have gluten-free matzoh balls!
  • Mi & Yu Noodle Bar: This fast-casual spot based in the D.C. region offers artisanal bowls with gluten-free pho rice noodles and several gluten-free broths: spicy "kimchi style," vegetarian and savory miso. Avoid fried proteins since they are cooked in a shared fryer.
  • Abunai Poke: From Hawaii by way of D.C., this quick-service shop has a selection of poke and various Hawaiian dishes. The gluten-free proteins include plain tuna, plain and marinated salmon, lobster, octopus, shrimp and tofu. Also gluten free are the mixed greens, all mix-ins and toppings, chili pepper aioli, wasabi aioli and miso dressing.
  • Chaat and Chai: The Indian street food stand has gluten-free options like curries and soups.
  • Ka’moon: Fast-casual, Halal-prepared Egyptian cuisine from the folks behind The Taza Truck in Easton, Pennsylvania. Look for build-your-own gluten-free rice bowls.
  • Freebyrd Chicken: Freebyrd's pulled chicken and side salads are gluten free.
  • TAPS Fill Station: Philadelphia is the second outpost from the Baltimore-based concept specializing in draft booze with a solid focus on eco-friendly and sustainable practices. Virtually everything on the menu served is sourced from within a 250-mile radius. Five lines hold hard cider and mead, two are stocked with kegged cocktails, and six more are split between red and white wines.
  • Olive With a Twist: A gourmet pantry originating in Easton, Pennsylvania offering a curated selection of cheeses, pâté, charcuterie, olive oils, balsamics, sauces and more.
  • Scoop DeVille: A Philadelphia institution since 1989, Scoop DeVille offers several gluten-free ice cream and yogurt flavors and dozens of toppings.
  • Chocodiem: With the exception of certain seasonal varieties, the hand-crafted, artisanal truffles at this Easton-based Belgian chocolatier will be gluten free, as will all of the macarons. Also gluten free will be the house-made gelato, frozen chocolate drinks, chocolate cocktails and selected desserts and confections.
Coming soon to the Bourse are several other gluten-free-friendly eateries:
  • Rebel Taco: A Mexican taco purveyor from D.C.-based Social Restaurant Group, Rebel Taco will serve tacos made with gluten-free tortillas.
  • Bricco Coal Fired Pizza: The Westmont, New Jersey pizzeria will offer gluten-free pies.
  • Break Juicery: Boasting locally sourced and organic fruits and vegetables, Break Juicery will offer a variety of juices and smoothies as well as açaí bowls.

Friday, November 2, 2018

News & Notes: November 2, 2018

Green Giant Fresh has expanded its fresh vegetable offerings with its new gluten-free Vegetable Meal Bowls, available in the refrigerated produce section at grocers nationwide at a suggested retail price of $3.99 per bowl. Each bowl includes a 100% fresh vegetable base with sauces and seasoning packets, The line includes six varieties:
  • Buddha Bowl: featuring crumbled sweet potato, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, roasted chickpeas and tahini sauce
  • Burrito Bowl: containing crumbled cauliflower and ancho-chipotle pepper black bean sauce
  • "Fried Rice" Bowl: featuring crumbled cauliflower, carrots, onions, broccoli and teriyaki sauce
  • Pad Thai Bowl: featuring carrot noodles with peanut-flavored sunflower butter sauce
  • Ramen Bowl: containing butternut noodles, crumbled cauliflower, carrots, onions, broccoli, roasted edamame and ramen seasoning
  • Rancheros Bowl: featuring crumbled sweet potato, cauliflower, kale and green chili sauce
California Pizza Kitchen has added two new gluten-free cauliflower thin-crust pizzas to its line of frozen pizzas. One is Artisanal Style Cheese, the other an Uncured Pepperoni, Mushroom and Sausage pizza. Speaking of CPK, the restaurants are phasing out the rice-flour pizza crusts but are still offering five certified gluten-free cauliflower pizzas. (Thanks to Baltimore Gluten Free for the tip.)

I'm still searching for the new Pumpkin Pie Cheesecake ice cream from L.A.-based Coolhaus. The seasonal flavor made with pumpkin and cream cheese ice cream and a gluten-free graham cracker crust swirl. The company's website has a downloadable coupon.

Cheesecake Factory at Home is a new line of gluten-free refrigerated puddings that will hit stores early next year. These layered puddings come in four flavor combinations:
  • Vanilla Fudge Duet: creamy vanilla bean pudding over dark chocolate fudge sauce
  • Chocolate Black-Out: rich Belgian chocolate pudding over dark chocolate fudge sauce
  • Salted Caramel Delight: creamy salted caramel pudding over rich caramel sauce
  • Cake Batter Strawberry Royale: creamy cake batter-inspired pudding over a sweet strawberry puree

Mi-Del has two new gluten-free seasonal cookies: Snowflake Snickerdoodles and Snowman sugar cookies.

Trader Joe's is always adding new gluten-free products. Among the latest are blueberry and everything bagels, as well as a pie crust.

The Philadelphia area has seen lots of gluten-free-friendly restaurant openings of late. Today is the debut of Eddie V's Prime Seafood in King of Prussia (670 W. DeKalb Pike, 610-337-7823). The kitchen has a gluten-free menu that includes many traditional seafood and steakhouse options.

In Fairmount, the new Thirsty Dice (1642 Fairmount Ave., 215-765-2679) is a board-game cafe featuring more than 800 games to choose from. The menu is designed by the good folks at Fox & Son and includes gluten-free corn dog lollipops, French bread pizza and mac-and-cheese.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Central PA Gluten Free Expo Slated for Sunday, Nov. 4

Over 1,100 people are expected to gather in State College this Sunday to enjoy a celebration of all things gluten free, with the goal of making their lifestyle easier to maintain. The 6th annual Central PA Gluten Free Expo will take place at the Penn Stater Conference Center (215 Innovation Blvd.) this Sunday. The event will include some 50 local and national vendor spaces, educational presentations and demonstrations, door prizes and gluten-free samples.

The expo will be open to the public from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. General-admission advance tickets are on sale now ($9.00) or can be purchased at the door ($12.00). Children ages 16 and under are free to attend the event with an adult. Parking is free.

Many companies represented at the event have carved out a niche by producing products that are difficult to replicate or find in a gluten-free form, such as the corn dogs and funnel cakes produced by Archer’s Gluten Free Cafe of Troy, Pa. Expo exhibitors will be sampling, selling, and discussing products and services at the event.  Gluten-free foods available for sample or purchase at the event will include breads, cookies, gravies, pastries, soft pretzels and baking mixes.

Keynote speaker Jules Shepard, known nationally as “gfJules,” will present the session “Seven Steps to Living a Healthy and Happy Gluten Free Life.” Jules has been highly visible in the gluten-free community since 2007 with the publication of her first gluten-free cookbook. Other presentations this year include a gluten-free cooking demonstration by a Wegmans chef, and a gluten-free funnel cake demonstration by Archer’s Gluten Free Cafe.

Look for details on the next Philadelphia area expo, slated to take place on Saturday, May 18, 2019 in Oaks, Pennsylvania, early next year.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Expo East 2018 Recap

Last month's Expo East natural-foods show in Baltimore featured new and emerging gourmet, natural and gluten-free products from across North America whose manufacturers are seeking wider distribution in supermarkets and grocery stores. (The annual event is headed to Philadelphia in 2020.)

In no particular order, here are some of the highlights among gluten-free products at this year's event (not all items are currently available in area stores):


Gorton's sampled a line of gluten-free allergy-friendly wild-caught seafood dishes called Hook Line & Savor. The frozen entrees will be test-marketed later this year with a possible nationwide roll-out in 2019. The Crispy Beer Battered Haddock is made with Glutenberg Blonde Ale; other varieties are Black Bean Crusted Cod and Citrus Ginger Salmon.


Wildscape is a new gourmet frozen-meals line from Nestle-backed Foundry Foods that includes two varieties made without gluten ingredients: Braised Brisket with Carmelized Sweet Potatoes, Sorghum, Red Rice and Pickled Onions and Gochujang Cauliflower and Brussels Sprouts with Chickpeas and Quinoa, Riced Cauliflower, Cashews and Pickled Onions

Smart Flour Foods, which unveiled a refresh of its packaging, is introducing two flavors to its lineup of ancient-grain gluten-free pizza. The Three Meat is topped with sweet Italian sausage, spicy uncured pepperoni and bacon. The Kale and Sundried Tomato with a Garlic White Bean Sauce starts with a sauce of pureed white beans and garlic, and is topped with green kale and sundried tomatoes. The new pizzas will be in stores in 2019 with a suggested retail price of $7.99.

Friday, October 5, 2018

News & Notes: October 5, 2018

Before I get down to business, I wanted to let you know that NBC10 Philadelphia will be featuring Gluten Free Philly in a two-party story on dining out with Celiac Disease on Monday's 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts. Set your DVRs if you can't catch it when it broadcasts in real time. The stories should be posted to the station's website shortly after they air.

(Photo Credit: Corinna V.)
(Photo Credit: Baltimore Gluten Free)
Trader Joe's has several new gluten-free products in stores. The new Crispy Quinoa Stars is a quinoa and rice cereal sweetened with cane sugar and honey. There's also a butternut squash pizza crust and a spinach & kale crust in the frozen section. (Thanks, Corinna V.)

(Photo Credit: The Impulsive Buy)
Though not up on its website, Udi's Gluten Free has introduced two new breads: Hearty Sprouted Grains and 7 Seeds & Grains.

At long last, the new gluten-free pretzel rods from Snyder's of Hanover are making their way into supermarkets. I picked up a bag at Wegmans in Cherry Hill.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Beyond Celiac Research Symposium Set for Oct. 10


Area celiac disease and other autoimmune disease patients can learn about the latest developments in research and treatment by attending the 2nd Annual Beyond Celiac Research Symposium on Wednesday, Oct. 10 in Center City Philadelphia, with others around the world able to watch live via webcast.

Leading celiac disease experts will explore the headline-making topic of the role of the immune system – the body’s defense mechanism – in celiac disease, the groundbreaking research into the gut microbiome, and breakthroughs in clinical trials. These experts will also answer questions submitted in advance from webcast viewers and live from the audience.

The Beyond Celiac Research Symposium panel includes:

  • Marie Robert, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer at Beyond Celiac and Professor of Pathology and Medicine at Yale School of Medicine (moderator). Dr. Robert is a nationally recognized gastrointestinal surgical pathologist, a celiac disease researcher, and has served as the director of Yale’s Program in Gastrointestinal Pathology and the Yale Fellowship in Gastrointestinal Pathology.
  • Ciaran Kelly, M.D., Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and Director of Gastroenterology Training at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (panelist). He is an internationally recognized expert in the diagnosis and management of celiac disease and a member of the Beyond Celiac Board of Directors.
  • Maureen M. Leonard, M.D., MMSc, Clinical Director of the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment at MassGeneral Hospital for Children and Instructor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School (panelist). She is part of a groundbreaking study of how the microbiomes of infants who have relatives with celiac disease contribute to celiac disease development.
  • Stephen D Miller, Ph.D., internationally recognized researcher on pathogenesis and regulation of autoimmune disease, and Professor of Microbiology-Immunology at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine (panelist). His research into nanoparticles engineered for immune regulation is on the leading edge of innovations for the future of celiac disease management.

The attendance and viewing via webcast is free, but registration is required. Visit www.BeyondCeliac.org/symposium to register.

Friday, September 7, 2018

News & Notes: September 7, 2018

Barilla has launched a line of one-ingredient legume pastas, made with chickpeas or red lentils. The pasta is available in four varieties - Red Lentil Rotini, Red Lentil Penne, Chickpea Rotini and Chickpea Casarecce - all of which are certified gluten free. They retail for $2.99 each and can be found at Amazon.com and select retailers nationwide


Trader Joe's new Almond Butter Cocoa bars are squares of gluten-free oat-and-rice-flour based chocolately dough, sweetened with fig paste and filled with almond butter.

This fall, Canyon Bakehouse introduces two English muffin options: Original and Honey Whole Grain. The Original variety comes in a pack of five and can be found in the freezer section, while the Honey Whole Grain comes in shelf-stable packaging. You can download a coupon here.

Goodie Girl Cookies' new gluten-free Birthday Cake sandwich creme cookies will be available this fall at Whole Foods markets and Amazon, while the returning, seasonal Caramel Apple cookies - with crunchy toffee and apple bits - will be at Bed Bath & Beyond. There's a downloadable coupon at the company's website.

Krusteaz has added a cinnamon swirl crumb cake and muffin mix to its gluten-free line.

Acadia brings a bit of New Orleans spice to South Philly (824 S. 8th St., 215-922-7200). Gluten-free options are noted on the menu; avoid fried items due to possible cross-contact. There are Sunday brunch options as well that include gluten-free shrimp and grits as well as waffles made in a dedicated iron.

Friday, August 17, 2018

News & Notes: August 17, 2018

Perdue Farms is converting its Simply Smart prepared-chicken brand to an all-organic line this fall. The revamped products will include certified gluten-free chicken tenders and nuggets.

Trader Joe's new gluten-free mac & cheese combines Cheddar, Swiss, Havarti and Gouda cheeses with a house-made gluten-free béchamel sauce. The corkscrew-shaped rotini pasta is made with a blend of corn, rice, lentil and quinoa flours.

The Girl Scouts will have a new gluten-free cookie in time for next year's cookie season. Caramel Chocolate Chip will be sold in select regions and replace Trios, while another gluten-free cookie, Toffee-tastic, will return in other markets. The new cookie features rich caramel, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and a hint of sea salt.

New this summer from Truly Spiked & Sparkling is Truly Rosé, a rosy-hued spiked sparkling water Truly Rosé takes its cues from rosé wine – it’s delicately sweet, a tad tart and fruity with a hint of California Chardonnay grapes.

Friday, July 27, 2018

News & Notes: July 27, 2018

Nestle's Lean Cuisine brand has introduced a new line of meatless dishes called Origins. Among the new varieties, the gluten-free Coconut Chickpea Curry is prepared with organic chickpeas, organic tomatoes and long-grain brown rice in a Malaysian-style coconut curry sauce.

Quest Nutrition's new Thin Crust Pizza has a gluten-free crust made with a dairy protein base, resulting in a high protein, low carb meal. The pizzas come in four-cheese, supreme and pepperoni varieties.
Caulipower has introduced the first-ever frozen paleo cauliflower pizza crust. This grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free crust uses cauliflower as the first ingredient.

The makers of thinkThin protein bars launched a new kids' line that gluten free. The bars contain 7 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 4 grams of sugar per serving. Flavors include Chocolate Chip, Cookies & Creme, Cinnamon Sugar Cookie, Peanut Butter Cup and Vanilla Cupcake.

Friday, July 13, 2018

News & Notes: July 13, 2018

Made Good Foods has debuted gluten-free, nut-free and vegan soft baked mini cookies in four varieties: Chocolate Banana, Apple Cinnamon, Chocolate Chip and Double Chocolate. You can print a dollar-off coupon good toward any Made Good product (including their crispy rice treats and granola bars) from the company's website.

If you like cheese on your sandwich, then you may be intrigued by the new Folios cheese wraps. Made with 100% cheese, these gluten-free wraps come in Cheddar, Jarlsberg and Parmesan varieties.

Speaking of wraps, General Mills' Old El Paso brand will introduce gluten-free tortillas to the American market later this year. The product is available overseas.

New gluten-free pretzel rods from Snyder's of Hanover will be making their way to supermarket shelves in September.


Based on popular demand, Glutenberg has introduced a non-alcoholic version of its Blonde Ale in its native Canada, with plans to bring it south of the border later this year.

Lucky's Last Chance in Manayunk (4421 Main St., 215-509-6005) has gluten-free burger buns, but does not keep a dedicated fryer for fries.

Pho-ever Yours in Narberth (106 N. Essex Ave., 484-800-1239) notes gluten-free options like grilled shrimp summer rolls, curry chicken and pho bowls on its menu.

In Ocean City, Fusion Plate Asian Cuisine (947 Asbury Ave., 609-938-2476) gluten-free menu options include summer rolls, pho, seafood noodle soup, fried rice, pad Thai and Singapore noodles.

Gluten-free items are noted on the menu at Cardinal Bistro in Ventnor (6525 Ventnor Ave., 609-541-4633), as well as at the nearby Enlightened Cafe (6414 Ventnor Ave., 609-594-5283), where the menu includes pancakes, bread, bowls, juices and smoothies. Request that the pancakes be prepared separately.

Most of the menu at Tierra Mexicali Grill in Wilmington (4710 Limestone Rd., 302-384-6657) is gluten free, including desserts.

Also in Wilmington, Liquid Alchemy Beverages (28 Brookside Dr., 302-438-0252) produces gluten-free hard ciders and meads (honey wines). The tasting room is open Wednesday and Friday evenings and all day Saturday and Sunday. Tours are also available.

Kurant Cider has opened in Fishtown (436 E. Girard Ave., 267-928-3630). In addition to a variety of gluten-free hard ciders, the kitchen serves hot dogs on gluten-free buns.

Have a great weekend!

- Michael

With the updated Gluten Free Philly app for iOS and Android devices, find more than 1,700 area gluten-free-friendly businesses on the go, search by cuisine or neighborhood, make reservations and more!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Gluten-Free Meals in a Snap

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post for Snap Kitchen, which has provided me with compensation, and contains affiliate links. All opinions are my own and I was in no way influenced by the sponsorship of this post. [Disclosure policy]

Walk-in selections at Snap Kitchen's Old City location
Despite the popularity of make-it-yourself pre-portioned meals, not everyone (yours truly included) has the time - or, frankly, the skill set - to cook meals all the time. With convenience in mind, Snap Kitchen has set out to make healthy, fresh gluten-free meals and sides available throughout the Philadelphia area. The company laid down roots in Philadelphia in 2016, having expanded here from Texas, and built a commissary in the Kensington section of the city. There, employees prepare all-gluten-free meals for sale at Snap Kitchen's seven area locations: Malvern, Villanova, Wayne and in Philadelphia proper (Bella Vista, Fishtown, Old City and Rittenhouse Square).

Snap Kitchen locations also have snacks, sides and drinks
While a variety of prepared foods are available daily at the stores, Snap Kitchen's new meal plans offer greater variety and flexibility. There are five plans, all entirely gluten free: High Protein, Low Carb, Balance, Whole 30,  Paleo and Camp Gladiator. The subscriptions are three-, five- or seven-day plans that reoccur on a weekly basis. You can build your plan by selecting which day parts – breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and drinks – work best and customizing which meals you want to make up each day of your plan. The plans can be managed through the Snap Kitchen iOS app or through the website and can be cancelled at any time.

Snap Kitchen offers free delivery for meal plan subscribers within a designated distance of each store and meals can also be picked up at a "home" location. First-time meal plan subscribers can use promo code GFPHILLY for $20 off their first order.

The company offered to let us try a three-day meal subscription, so we opted for the Balance plan, which is designed for those trying to eat healthier without eliminating specific foods or focusing on a macronutrient goal. Lunch and dinner options were stronger than those for breakfast that we tried. We heated the meals in the microwave, though oven preparation is an option. Here's what we thought of some of them:

Snap Kitchen's naked salmon entree
Naked salmon: Not fishy for the most part and was nicely complemented by the lemon butter on top. Both the salmon and the broccolini were flavorful and fresh.

Naked beef: Beef was tender with only one small fatty portion. The green beans were garlicky and well-seasoned, while the cauliflower was a little bit spicy and was a nice twist to an otherwise conservative meal.

Chicken Parmesan with spiralized squash: The chicken was tender, but the sauce was a bit underwhelming and dish could have used some more cheese. The squash tasted fresh, though slightly undercooked. Overall, we really enjoyed this dish.

Crispy salmon: It wasn’t crispy, but take the good parts of baked salmon and add shaved almond and that’s what you have. It was really good and the roasted carrots and zucchini were the best sides out of all the dishes we tried.

Chimichurri chicken: The chicken was tender though not very flavorful. The chimichurri sauce was good and though it was a little watery, the squash on the side was delicious. The inclusion of tomatoes seemed out of place.

Shrimp scampi dish from Snap Kitchen
Shrimp scampi: Shrimp were tender and not fishy. The asparagus was tasty, but we wish it was whole and not cut. The pasta was a bit mushy but the scampi sauce was delicious - equal parts lemony and buttery.

Breakfast sandwich: The star of the show was the biscuit: it was moist and didn't crumble. The egg white patty was standard but fit the sandwich well. While we weren't fans at first, the sausage patty grew on us. Cheese would have added a bit more flavor but wasn't an option.

Goat cheese scramble: The goat cheese was a nice touch, though there wasn’t enough of it. The egg whites were a bit watery and the tomatoes and spinach oddly felt out of place. The sweet potatoes were hard and nearly inedible.

Breakfast platter: We didn’t like the cheesy cauliflower at first but came around to it. The pork sausage patties were greasy, but the eggs were tasty though underseasoned and superfluously sprinkled with chives.

There were many options that we didn't try but looked tempting, including banana pancakes and chicken sausage breakfast tacos for breakfast, and chicken butternut macaroni, beef lasagna and dan dan noodles for lunch and dinner.

If we continue the subscription, we'll fiddle with some of the different choices to find the ideal combination. Overall, we applaud Snap Kitchen's food for its quality and freshness.