Friday, March 29, 2019

News & Notes: March 29, 2019

Cascadian Farm's newest cereal is gluten free. Honey Vanilla Crunch is made with corn, sorghum, sweet potatoes and chickpeas.

Against The Grain Gourmet is coming out with its first plant-based gluten-free pizza, a cheddar-style version. The company has also announced a Veggie Vegan variety of its traditional gluten-free pizza.

Sonoma Flatbreads and Udi's Gluten Free are also getting into the plant-based pizza game. Sonoma has several new varieties, including a crust made with broccoli and cheddar and topped with Chicken & Kale, while two others use a cauliflower crust: Uncured Pepperoni and Harvest Vegy & Portobello. This summer Udi's will launch two sweet potato-based pizzas: Barbeque Chicken and Four Cheese.

Coming soon from Bubbies Homemade Ice Cream are gluten-free Cookie Dough Ice Cream Bites. The combination of premium ice cream wrapped in edible cookie dough will be offered in four flavors: Chocolate Chip, Brownie Batter, Sugar Cookie and Birthday Cake.

New from Pop Chips is Yes Peas, a line of popped snacks made with yellow and green peas, sunflower oil and salt. Flavors include Himalayan Salt and Farmhouse Ranch.

Brazi Bites is introducing a line of gluten-free empanadas, Varieties include chicken & cheese, beef & bean, black bean & cheese and chickpea veggie. The company is also coming out with a cinnamon churro flavor Brazilian cheese bread.

Trader Joe's has several new gluten-free products in stores, including quick-cook brown rice & quinoa mini elbows and a fudgy chocolate quinoa loaf & cake mix.

Primo Hoagies recently created their own brand of gluten-free potato chips. The flavor profile uses Italian hoagie spices with notes of sesame, and Primo’s signature meats and cheeses including prosciutto, provolone cheese, hot capicola and natural casing genoa salami. The chips are now available throughout the East Coast at numerous supermarkets, drug stores, convenience stores and independent liquor stores.  Locations include Acme, Shoprite, CVS, Redner’s and Rite Aid.

Aye Caramba Taco in Pottstown (300 E. High St., 484-524-8611) is the area's newest all-gluten-free restaurant. The menu includes tacos, avocado fries and churros.

The new kid-friendly Craft Hall in Northern Liberties (901 N. Delaware Ave., 267-297-2072) is an experiential dining, drinking and entertainment concept at the old home of Yards Brewing Company. Gluten-free options are noted on the menu and the kitchen has a dedicated fryer for fries and wings. (Thanks to reader Scott H. for the tip.)

District Taco's second area location is now open in Center City Philadelphia (1140 Market St., 267-861-7880). The flour tortillas are the only items on the menu that are not gluten free.

Another all-gluten-free restaurant, Gangster Vegan, is opening its third suburban Philadelphia location any day now in Media (14 W. State St.). Other outposts are in Norristown and Phoenixville. (Thanks to reader Chris B. for the tip.)

Fogo de Chão Brazilian Steakhouse, which has Pennsylvania locations in Center City Philadelphia and King of Prussia, has added new gluten-free items for the spring season, including pork picanha and linguica sausage, carrot & ginger soup, roasted cauliflower salad, Brazilian kale & orange salad and a creme de coconut dessert. Nearly the entire menu is gluten free, including the pão de queijo cheese rolls and fried polenta.

Around the area, The Rachel Way gluten- and dairy-free food pantry in Plymouth Meeting (500 W. Germantown Pike) is hosting a free Easter-themed kids' cooking class on Saturday, April 6th at 1 p.m. Registration is still open.

Beyond Celiac has two local events in the works. The 3rd Annual Research Symposium will take place on Thursday, May 30th at 6 p.m. on the Penn campus in University City. Admission is free but registration is required. The event will also be live-streamed.

The organization's second function is the inaugural Step Beyond Celiac 5K run/walk at the Philadelphia Zoo on Sunday, June 9th. Early-bird registration is still available. Join "Team Gluten Free Philly" at registration to help me raise money for Beyond Celiac.

Registration is also open for NJY Camps' annual Gluten-Free Family Camp, scheduled this year to take place from Friday, May 31st to Sunday, June 2nd in Milford, Pennsylvania.

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, March 26, 2019

Philly Fizz

"Big Beer" behemoths have stakes in the rapidly growing hard-seltzer space with brands like Anheuser-Busch's Bon & Viv Spiked Seltzer. (Caution: Some, such as MillerCoors' Henry's Hard Soda line, are made with barley malt and aren't gluten free.) As with beer, though, there's certainly room for local, craft-made alcohol-infused seltzer.

Philadelphia's own entry in the low calorie, hard fizzy-water category comes to us from Two Robbers. Founded by two brothers whose Rittenhouse Square apartment was twice broken into by robbers who left their hard-seltzer recipe behind, Two Robbers' three varieties are naturally gluten free.  All flavors - Orange and Mango, Pineapple with Ginger, and Watermelon and Cucumber - are made with cold-fermented cane sugar and all-natural flavors from real fruit, and each clocks in at 110 calories, 2 carbs and 5.2% Alcohol By Volume per serving.

Two Robbers' official launch party is on Saturday, April 27th, but you can find the beverages around town now throughout Philadelphia - places like Rybrew and Bella Vista Beverage - and the western suburbs. (A full list of locations can be found here.) Two Robbers is also coming to New York City later this year. Follow Two Robbers on Instagram for real-time updates.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Out In Front

By Sara Blank

There are some activities a card-carrying Celiac learns to do without - activities that are staples of twenty-something culture and the benefits of living in a bustling city with lots of food options. Thankfully, though, there are restaurants in Philadelphia willing to go against the grain. With the safe haven of Snap Custom Pizza's Rittenhouse Square location open until 3 a.m. on weekends and the plentiful selection of gluten-free bagels and a dedicated toaster at Schmear It in University City (admittedly I’ve only ever ordered to my bed via UberEats), gluten-free patrons have more morning and late-night comfort food options.

Front Street Cafe's chicken tenders, mac 'n cheese and fried mozzarella
Add to that list Fishtown's Front Street Cafe (1253 N. Front St., 215-515-3073), where the dinner selections exceeded my expectations of what’s available to gluten-free diners. A plentiful number of dishes on the menu are punctuated by a “GF,” including usually elusive offerings such as mac ‘n’ cheese, chicken tenders, crab cakes and - most important to me - fried mozzarella. I couldn’t remember the last time I was able to order my once-favorite appetizer in a restaurant, and Front Street’s crunchy, dippable fried squares did not disappoint.

A friend and I visited Front Street this past Sunday, when we were excited to order dishes that would help soak up the remnants of St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. We shared the chicken tenders, mac ‘n’ cheese, fried mozzarella and, for good, green measure, the Harvest Salad. The portions were sizeable, but not overwhelming, and definitely flavorful. If you didn't look closely at the menu, you may not have known that these dishes were not only gluten free, but also vegan, with creamy, stretchy cashew cheese in place of standard cheddar and mozzarella.

The Harvest Salad at Front Street Cafe
Our server told us that items marked “GF” were already gluten free, but that other choices, like sandwiches, could be prepared with gluten-free buns or bread. She also let us know that the kitchen utilized a dedicated fryer and that their dedication to gluten-free options (and other restrictions and allergies in general) was an important point of pride for the restaurant. Front Street’s largest selection of gluten-free food is offered on their dinner menu, but they also have options from breakfast to late at night.

Front Street Cafe feels like many different restaurants glued together, yet it doesn't have an identity crisis. The variety ensures that your experience conforms to any occasion, rather than shaping your evening. For candle-lit romantic dinners, groups of friends meeting to enjoy the abundant selection of cocktails at the bar, or a fun meal before a concert at the Fillmore, Front Street is an excellent gluten-free option. Despite its cavernous space (there's outdoor seating in the summer) and out-of-the-way location, Front Street’s popularity makes it an appealing go-to spot, so be sure to snag a reservation. And don't forget to get two orders of the mozzarella squares just in case one member of your party eats all of them when no one else is looking. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

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

Friday, March 15, 2019

Happy 10th Anniversary!

On March 15, 2009, the Number One pop song in the country was "Gives You Hell" by The All-American Rejects. (Who?) "Race to Witch Mountain" starring The Rock was the top-grossing movie in the U.S. The average price of a gallon of regular gasoline was $1.91. And while you won't find it on a list of historical events, on that date - 10 years ago today - the Gluten Free Philly blog was born.

As many of you know, my idea for the blog was inspired by our older son's diagnosis of Celiac Disease at age 3. When he was 8, I decided to channel all of the knowledge we had accumulated during our gluten-free journey and share it with others who could benefit from it, not only in the Philadelphia area but around the country. Our son is now 18, starting a new chapter of his life this fall in college. While we are melancholy about him leaving the nest soon, we can't wait to see what lies ahead for him. We are so proud of the assertiveness, confidence and independence that he acquired, at least in part, from having Celiac Disease.

Though it's been 10 years now, I still have things to say - so I'm not going anywhere just yet! I love learning about new restaurants and products, posting about it at the blog and on social media, and reading your reactions and feedback. Sure, the Philadelphia area could always use more dedicated gluten-free restaurants, but overall it's a pretty darn good place to be. We are fortunate that there are hundreds of places in the region to eat safely and many fine supermarket and natural-food store options for groceries. We are fortunate that we can go to professional sporting events of all kinds locally and grab a hot dog and a beer. We are fortunate that we have excellent medical facilities here that focus on Celiac Disease.

I thank you for letting me into your lives over the past 10 years. Your emails, messages, comments, tips and suggestions have been invaluable in helping me do what I do and are always welcome.

- Michael

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

What's New For Passover 2019

While the Jewish holiday of Passover has not lost its religious meaning, it has in recent years become an unofficial gluten-free holiday. This year, Passover begins the evening of Friday, April 19 and ends the evening of Saturday, April 27. It's a time when many more gluten-free products are available at supermarkets. This grew out of the observance of certain segments of the Jewish population refraining from eating any wheat products during Passover. The packaging of many gluten-free products is expressly labeled as such, while others have a "non-gebrokts" notation. (As always, read the ingredient label before buying and consuming a particular item.)

I've been chronicling new gluten-free Passover items for many years (you can read prior posts here), and this year brings many additions to the Seder table. Locally, many of these products can be found at ShopRite markets, particularly the one on Route 70 in Cherry Hill (Garden State Pavilions) and Wegmans stores.

Kosher food manufacturer Kayco will be introducing new gluten-free products under various brand names (you can find all of Kayco's gluten-free products here.) The best-selling gluten-free matzo brand, Yehuda, returns with Original, Everything, Egg, Onion, Unsalted and Fiber Enriched varieties. Yehuda also has gluten-free matzo meal, cake meal and crackers.

New from Kayco's Gefen brand are soft baked cookies in three varieties (double chocolate chip, chocolate chip, and vanilla with colored sprinkles) and sandwich creme cookies in two versions (vanilla and vanilla & chocolate).

Under its Heaven & Earth label, Kayco is introducing veggie croutons made with plantains.

This year, Manischewitz has refreshed its packaging but continues to produce a variety of gluten-free matzos and cake mixes. For 2019, the company has converted its entire line of biscotti-like mandel bread and egg kichel cookies to be gluten free. Each of the cookies come in three varieties (marble, chocolate chip nut and plain for the mandel cuts; sweet, jumbo and sugar free for the egg kichel).

Manischewitz is also adding a new birthday cake-flavored macaroon flavor this season. A new line of Passover Collection cookies (above) includes Milano-like ladyfinger, almond meltaway, chocolate chip, double chocolate chip and sandwich creme varieties.

Like Manischewitz, Streit's has made its mandel bread and kichel gluten free, but also its soup nuts, or "mandlen."

Lieber Foods is expanding their Passover baked-goods line with several kinds of cookies, including frosted animal crackers and "Aleph-Bet" cookies.

Also check the frozen-food section of your local market for gluten-free Passover pizzas and pizza bagels, blintzes, knishes and other items.

About a week or two before the start of Passover, supermarkets receive their shipments of fresh gluten-free cakes and cookies from New York bakeries such as Oberlander'sLilly's Bake Shoppe and Schick's. Look for sandwich, black-and-white and rainbow cookies, cake rolls, decorative and layer cakes.

If you want to try "Mexican Coke" (made with sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup), Passover Coca-Cola will be available in the Philadelphia area and other regions. Look for bottles with distinctive yellow caps.

Prices of some Passover foods tend to be higher than their non-holiday counterparts, so I suggest buying one of a particular item to see if you like it before stocking up. Keep an eye on Passover sections after the second night of the holiday, when markets tend to cut prices on whatever products are left.

Friday, March 1, 2019

News & Notes: March 1, 2019

Annie's Homegrown has added to its line of organic gluten-free crispy rice bars with a peanut butter variety.

Crepini has introduced a gluten-free ingredient version of its Egg White Thins, a low-carb, high-protein wrap that’s made with about 90% egg whites, flax meal, non-GMO canola oil, salt and pepper. The wraps are sold in Costco stores and about 2,200 Walmart stores nationwide.

Pamela's Products has announced several new gluten-free products that will hit stores this year. The company's line of gluten-free ramen comes in three flavors - Spicy Beef + Veggie, Savory Chicken + Veggie, and Vegan Very Veggie - and will be available in August with a suggested retail price of $3.39 per pack.

New to the pasta meals line are two new Mac N’ Cheese products: Vegan Mac and White Cheddar. These new varieties will be available starting in May with a suggested retail price of $3.79 for a 5 oz. box. The Vegan Mac N’ Cheese will also be available in a family-size 10 oz. box, with a suggested retail price of $5.99.

Pamela’s Grahams will be available in July in a new chocolate chip flavor, with a suggested retail price of $4.99. All of the new products will be available on and at participating retailers.

Saffron Road unveiled their latest gluten-free additions to its globally-inspired frozen entrée product line: Thai-Style Green Curry with Chicken, Coconut Curry Chicken, Vegetable Biryani and Madras Curry with Chicken Meatballs. The new dishes will be available beginning in June for the suggested retail price of $4.99 per package.

Gluten-free snack purveyor From the Ground Up is expanding its product line later this year with cauliflower-based stars, stalks and tortilla chips as well as new butternut squash pretzel sticks and twists.

From Lakefront Brewery, which crafted the very first gluten-free beer granted label approval in the United States, comes another certified gluten-free brew. New Grist Gose-style with lime is 5.1 ABV and is crafted using rice, sorghum, lime and sea salt. It features Zeus and Willamette hops with an IBU rating of 15. Its release date is set for April 15.