Tuesday, November 23, 2010

News & Notes: November 23, 2010

The supermarkets were buzzing this weekend with shoppers loading up their carts for their holiday dinners. For our older son, I picked up a Moondance mini pumpkin cheesecake, along with an apple pie and cornbread, at Whole Foods in Marlton on Saturday. Alas, the gluten-free stuffing was already gone from the shelf.

Meanwhile, in this space last week I featured locally made Better Butter, a peanut butter spread that is lower in fat and calories than typical nut butters because it's made with banana or pumpkin.

Bucks County seems to have taken the lead in the number of restaurants serving gluten-free pizza. In addition to pizza, Carlucci's Grill in Yardley (1633 Big Oak Road, 215-321-9010) has an entire gluten-free menu that includes pasta. The restaurant is participating in the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program. In neighboring Newtown, La Nuova Vita (12-14 Cambridge Lane, 215-504-0888) has pizza as well as pasta.

The Pop Shop in Collingswood has added to its menu gluten-free cupcakes (made a block away on Haddon Avenue by DiBartolo Bakery) and ice cream cones.

Also in Collingswood, Casona is now accepting New Year's Eve reservations, with separate seatings at 5 p.m., 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. The regular menu will be replaced with a specially prepared prix fixe menu featuring both gluten-free and vegetarian options. Separately, the restaurant is offering a $25 gift card to any customer that purchases $100 worth of gift cards during the holiday season.

Until January, Sazon in Northern Liberties is offering a traditional Christmas dish featuring Venezuelan corn meal tamales known as hallacas. Stay for dessert too, as the flan and exotic hot chocolates are sinful.

Charlie Brown's Steakhouse has closed 20 restaurants along the Eastern seaboard, including local spots in Langhorne and Blackwood.

Mt. Airy's Food For All Market has added My Dad's Cookies and Jovial brown rice pasta to its shelves. My Dad's Cookies, which are made by the owners of Mozzarelli's in New York City, are also sold at area McCaffrey's markets and Big Bear Natural Foods, The Market of Lafayette Hill, Water to Go in Pennsauken and Health Haven in Hainesport.

Edy's new limited-edition Touchdown Sundae is now available locally. It's vanilla fudge ice cream studded with caramel-filled chocolate footballs.

Schar's gluten-free panettone cakes can be ordered for the holidays from Quattrobimbi. If you place an order from that site, I highly recommend also getting some Le Veneziane corn pasta - it's the best gluten-free pasta we've tried so far.

To date, Schar's gluten-free products have been imported to the United States from Italy and Germany. Now, some of them will be produced right here in the Delaware Valley, according to the Gloucester County Times. The company will construct its first American manufacturing facility in Logan Township. The planned 60,000-square-foot complex is scheduled to open in early 2012.

By the way, Black Friday deals at Amazon.com are already up and running. There's no reason these days to wait in line outside the mall at 3 a.m. - unless, of course, you're into that sort of thing. Purchases made through that link will help support this site.

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Start Spreading the News

I could eat a jar of Nutella in one sitting. Only problem is that I may not be able to get up after doing so. Marina Levtov must have thought about this, since her gluten-free Better Butter has about half the calories, total fat and saturated fat per serving than the typical nut butter spread.

Levtov makes three varieties of Better Butter - Nutty Chocolate Chip, Honey Nut Banana and seasonal Maple Pumpkin - in Philadelphia at Greensgrow Farm's Kensington Kitchen Space. While the main ingredient is dry roasted peanuts, these spreads are lower in calories because they also contain ripened fruit or vegetables.

Better Butter is available at Philadelphia specialty markets such as Almanac, Green Aisle Grocery, Milk & Honey and Pumpkin, among other stores. The product can also be found at the farmers markets in University City (Wednesdays) and Fairmount Park (Thursdays).

Friday, November 12, 2010

News & Notes: November 12, 2010

Readers who weren't able to attend Appetite for Awareness last month can get a (virtual) taste of the event by reading my recap posted earlier this week.

Although not posted online, T.G.I. Friday's has introduced a new allergen supplement menu at participating restaurants. Using icons, the new allergen menu breaks down what food groups/categories may be found in each menu item, including eggs, wheat, soy, peanuts and shellfish. I'm not prepared to add Friday's to my celiac-friendly restaurant list at the moment, given that I don't know whether the kitchens have a protocol for avoiding cross-contamination. However, I'm sharing this information because the chain might be the only potential option for diners in certain instances.

A couple of reader restaurant recommendations (say that quickly five times) this week. Richard S. has had good experiences at London Grill (2301 Fairmount Avenue, 215-978-4545). Although the New American restuarant doesn't have a gluten-free menu, "the kitchen and service staffs are informed and up to date," he writes. "Best of all, the menu items that are gluten free (or that can be prepared gluten free) are always fun and delightful."

Kirstin J. shared news that Indian restaurant Palace at the Ben in Philadelphia (834 Chestnut Street, 267-232-5600) does not use gluten-containing ingredients in any menu items except for its breads. Owner Nick Mankeshaw told me via e-mail that the entrees are freshly made to order and dietary preferences can be accommodated.

In Delaware, the Smyrna Diner (99 South Cory Lane, 302-653-9980) has gluten-free menu options and offers bread, while Blackstone's Irish Pub in Newark (401 Louviers Drive, 302-266-0880) serves gluten-free crabcakes.

The Whip Tavern in Coatesville (1383 North Chatham Road, 610-383-0600) offers Green's Dubbel gluten-free beer and four varieties of hard cider.

Reader Diane let me know that Trader Joe's is selling advent calendars filled with gluten-free chocolate. The calendars sell for the low, low price of 99 cents.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Appetite for Awareness Recap

"I don't want dinner tonight," my older son proclaimed as we rolled out of the Philadelphia Cruise Terminal, the site of this year's Appetite for Awareness. That sentiment was a common refrain among many of the 1,600 attendees, who recently spent a gorgeous Sunday afternoon sampling gluten-free dishes from 20 area restaurants and products from dozens of vendors. This year's event, held on October 24, raised more than $225,000 that will help support the mission of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Our day began with a late-morning brunch at 10 Arts Bistro, located at the Philadelphia Ritz-Carlton (where our boys chatted in the lobby with several players for the San Francisco Giants, who were waiting for a ride to the airport fresh off their series win over the Phillies). The "gluten-free blogger brunch" was sponsored by Rudi's Organic Bakery, whose marketing director shared with the group the story behind the company's development of its gluten-free breads. (Shameless plug - check out the blogs from other guests, such as Hold The Gluten, Celiac Advocate, Gluten-Free Fun, Gluten Free Mike, Gluten Free Long Island and Renegade Kitchen.) 10 Arts pastry chef Monica Glass, who has celiac disease (read my recent Q-and-A with her), prepared wonderful petite pumpkin macarons and brownies to top off the meal.

The Cruise Terminal was a new venue for the event, and it was much easier to navigate the terrain there than at the former location, the Wells Fargo Center. At the riverside end of the hall was the Children's Pavilion, with face-painting and other activities. With a hungry group of parents and kids nearby, vendors such as Main Line Pizza, Grandma's Grotto, Rudi's - with its "PB&J Snack Attack" - and Shabtai Gourmet drew large crowds there.

The Biergarten at the other end of the terminal provided a spot for football fans to watch the Eagles-Titans game on several large-screen televisions while enjoying adult beverages and munching on turkey and Italian hoagies. The sandwiches, piled high on party trays, were made with Dietz & Watson cold cuts and Grainless Baker rolls. Bartenders mixed cocktails featuring Boyd & Blair potato vodka, distilled in western Pennsylvania.

Other restaurants and a smattering of vendors were situated toward the main entrance. Chefs from local eateries like Pasta Pomodoro, Buddakan, El Rey, Rouge and Zahav prepared gluten-free dishes for sampling. Attendees were able to vote for their favorites, and The Palm won the "People's Choice Award" for its crab cakes.

Chef demonstrations were scheduled throughout the afternoon, with Monica Glass, Le Bec Fin's Georges Perrier and cookbook author Silvana Nardone showcasing their gluten-free recipes and cooking skills before rapt crowds.

The highlight for me was the vendor tables, where I could try the latest additions to the gluten-free marketplace. This year, the two best new products I sampled were the soft pretzel bites from Tonya's Gluten Free Kitchen (based in Lebanon County, Pennsylvania) and Ian's Chocolate Wafer Bites.

How cool it was to see a warmer stuffed with gluten-free soft pretzels rather than the glutenous version. The salty, buttery nuggets were addicting: I was embarrassed to keep going back to the table to get another, then another. Tonya's products, which also include cinnamon sugar soft pretzels and bites, whoopie pies, frosted banana bars and breads, are available locally at the Great Pumpkin in West Chester, Kimberton Whole Foods and Nature's Garden in Reading.

Ian's wafer bites resembled bite-size Kit Kats, coated with smooth milk chocolate. I'm not a fan of most of the company's other products, but this is one is a winner.

Popular gluten-free bakery Udi's made its A4A debut this year, playing to the home crowd by serving slices of cheese steak pizza made with the company's crusts. Other newcomers included Wynnewood's Main Line Bakery (where I just had a delicious slice of lemon-frosted pound cake),The Grain ExchangePhiladelphia Gluten Free Ravioli Pasta Co., Glow Gluten Free, Bye Bye Gluti, O'Dough's and Gluten Free to Go.

I began attending A4A when the event was in its relative infancy, hosted the first few years by several NFCA supporters at their homes. It has grown into the region's largest gluten-free vendor fair and restaurant showcase. More importantly, over time it has attracted the attention of medical professionals and restaurant chefs who previously had little to no awareness of celiac disease.

To see more event photos and read recaps from other bloggers, visit the NFCA's event page.

Friday, November 5, 2010

News & Notes: November 5, 2010

Located within shouting distance of Pennsylvania Dutch country, the Delaware Valley is none too far from the home of many snack-food companies. Following the lead of Snyder's of Hanover, regional purveyor Bachman has intro'd a gluten-free pretzel, the proceeds for which will support autism research. As I wrote this week, the company's gluten-free Puzzle Pretzels are made in a dedicated gluten-free facility.

Congratulations to reader Martha L., the winner of the last week's Live Gluten Freely giveaway. Readers suggested a bunch of different restaurants as their favorites - check out the comments to see if yours made it.

In restaurant news, The Capital Grille in King of Prussia (236 Mall Boulevard, 610-265-1415) will open for business on Monday, November 8. The steakhouse has other area locations in Center City and Cherry Hill.

The Bottle Shop, a new craft beer store in South Philadelphia (1837 East Passyunk Avenue, 215-551-5551) has Woodchuck cider and beers such as Estrella Damm Daura and New Grist.

The new Philadelphia Gluten Free Ravioli Pasta Company has begun taking orders on its website. The company's gnocchi and cheese, spinach, mini and rice-breaded raviolis will also be available soon at their storefront in Media. The pasta is certified gluten free by the Celiac Sprue Association.

Jason's Deli in Willow Grove, which offered Udi's gluten-free bread for sandwiches, has closed.

Sports fans interested in catching a Nets or Devils game up the road at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey can now eat gluten free there. The concessionaire, Centerplate, now offers gluten-free sausages and hot dogs served on The Grainless Baker's buns, garden and Caesar salads, packaged gluten-free snacks, and Redbridge beer. The gluten-free location is situated on the main concourse between Sections 5 and 6.

The research-and-development team at Ian's Natural Foods apparently has been working overtime. The company will be launching onion rings that are free of gluten, dairy, eggs, soy and nuts.  They will be available in January 2011, and have already been picked up nationally by Whole Foods.

The new (4th) edition of Triumph Dining's Gluten-Free Grocery Guide ($21.95) has been released, listing over 30,000 brand-name and store-brand gluten-free products at grocery stores across the United States. Through December 7, Triumph is offering free standard shipping on all of its products, which include the Grocery Guide, Restaurant Guide and Dining Cards. Use code SB868N at checkout.

This month's Amazon Grocery sale items are posted, and there are a few gluten-free products listed. Add an additional 15% savings when combining the instant rebates with a Subscribe & Save order.
Thanks to those readers who have supported Gluten Free Philly through Amazon.com purchases that originate from my blog.

Have a great weekend!

CORRECTED: The original version of this post incorrectly noted that The Capital Grille won the "People's Choice" award at the recent Appetite for Awareness event. It was The Palm for its gluten-free crab cakes.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A Piece of the Puzzle

The Bachman Company has introduced a new gluten-free Puzzle Pretzel in the shape of the Autism Speaks puzzle piece logo. The product, packaged in 10 oz. bags, is free of casein, wheat, soy and eggs and is produced in a dedicated gluten-free facility. Five percent of net proceeds from the new pretzel are donated to Autism Speaks.

Bachman, headquartered in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania (near Reading), has partnered with Autism Speaks, the largest non-profit organization dedicated to increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders, funding research into the causes, prevention and treatments for autism, and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. Bachman's partnership with Autism Speaks began in 2007, with the placement of autism information stickers on the bags of their most popular snacks.

Bachman products can be found in supermarkets throughout the northeastern United States; in addition, the new pretzels can be ordered online through the company's store. The company's other gluten-free snacks include Jax cheese twists, potato chips, tortilla chips and popcorn.