Tuesday, December 27, 2011

2011 in Review

Each passing year brings an exponential increase in gluten-free awareness. More and more chefs annotate their bills of fare with safe items, if not create dedicated menus. New - sometimes novel - gluten-free products consistently populate supermarket shelves. Let's revisit some of the highlights from 2011, as showcased on these pages.

January brought news of gluten-free Asian dumplings from Feel Good Foods. (The company's line of egg rolls is coming early in 2012.) I also wrote about various gluten-free products that were to debut for Passover, including a new matzo that is now available year-round. Post made its Marshmallow Pebbles cereal gluten-free, while Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles were sold as marshmallow treats. In addition, Kikkoman announced a new gluten-free soy sauce.

Word came in February about several new gluten-free stores in the area: the Little Bakery in Blue Bell and the Philadelphia Gluten-Free Pasta Company in Media. New products featured that month included a gluten-free version of Kellogg's Rice Krispies, Glutenfreeda's pizza wraps, Udi's cookies, and house-brand butterfly shrimp sold at Genuardi's.

Philadelphia's own Tastykake put its gluten-free cookies on the market in March, while New Planet announced Pop Tart-like toaster pastries that are about to hit shelves next month. Udi's and Rudi's showed us their (hamburger) buns and hot dog rolls, while Annie's added to its gluten-free cookie line. Featured were local companies Wellshire Farms and Lizbeth Lane, which produces cooking sauces, as well as a review of Elevation Burger.

April showers brought reports on Tonya's Bakery's soft pretzels and Philly's own Bassett's Ice Cream. Plenty of new products were announced then, such as Organic Bistro single-serve microwaveable bowls, Amy's shortbread cookies, Moondance sweets and Herr's sesame-rice tortilla chips.

I kicked off May with a review of Center City Brazilian restaurant Fogo de Chao and a post about locally brewed Revolution Cider. I also wrote about my addiction to Bachman's sweet potato tortilla chips, which I also discovered along with Joy ice cream cones and Julian's pancakes.

My "Dishing With" Q-and-A series continued in June with Flyers owner Ed Snider. We celebrated my wife's birthday with an excellent dinner at Modo Mio in Northern Liberties, which I reviewed. On the (spicy) product front was news about Guy Fieri's gluten-free barbeque sauces and salsas and Old El Paso's Tortilla Stuffers meals.

Our Memorial Day weekend trip to the nation's capital and Baltimore was the focus of a July post. I also featured locally-made Peanut Chews and even duck ravioli. Among the new products mentioned were Saffron Road's frozen chicken meals, baking mixes from Simply Organic, and Glutino's bagel chips.

I announced the winners of the first annual Readers' Choice Awards in August, and also featured El's gluten-free snack mixes. Williams-Sonoma's baking mixes and Gorton's Seafood grilled fish entrees were among the product mentioned that month.

Another Philadelphia ice cream company - Jack and Jill - garnered a September feature, as did Dogfish Head's hugely anticipated gluten-free ale and a review of the Rainforest Cafe in Atlantic City. I discovered delicious mozzarella sticks from Russo's, Mi-Del's gingerbread cookies, and Applegate Farm's corn dogs as well.

Kozy Shack's new chocolate rice pudding and refrigerated Indian meals from Cafe Spice merited mention in October.

I hope many readers had the chance to get to Wegmans in November, when the markets began selling gluten-free holidays sweets like panettone cakes and spekulaitus cookies. I reviewed the newly opened Bobby's Burger Palace at the Cherry Hill Mall and raved about Tate's chocolate chip cookies.

With December came word of a new Pure Tacos location in Center City and an excellent dinner at University City Mexican spot Distrito. Annie's announced that its gluten-free mac and cheese would be sold in microwaveable packages and Butterfly Bakery made a return to the marketplace.

Throughout the year, I also mentioned dozens of restaurants and bakeries that are able to accommodate gluten-free diets.

Of course, much of the information shared here wouldn't be possible without the growing number of Gluten Free Philly readers who let me know about the goings-on in their own neighborhoods. Thanks to everyone for reading the blog, and for following @GFPhilly on Twitter and liking the Gluten Free Philly Facebook page. I'm sure that 2012 has lots of excitement in store, and I can't wait to share it with all of you. My family and I wish you a safe and prosperous new year.

Friday, December 16, 2011

News & Notes: December 16, 2011

First (State) things first this Friday: Two Stones Pub in Newark (2 Chesmar Plaza, 302-294-1890) notes gluten-free items on its menu and serves four different gluten-free beers.  Thanks to reader Lindsey T. for the tip.

In Manayunk, the Tomato Bistro (102 Rector St., 215-483-2233) also IDs gluten-free items on its menu - primarily salads.

Carola Family Pizzeria in Woodbury Heights (564 S. Evergreen Rd., 856-579-4844) serves gluten-free pizza, pasta and other items that are prepared using dedicated cookware and utensils.

Marathon Grill
's location at 10th & Walnut Streets in Center City is closing, while the spot at 13th & Chestnut Streets has already closed.

If you missed Tuesday's post, you can read my review of modern Mexican restaurant Distrito at this link.

Coming this month to Wayne is So Fun! Frozen Yogurt (315 E. Lancaster Ave., 610-707-3597), offering 60 flavors of frozen yogurt, with a rotating selection of 16 featured daily. Most flavors are gluten free. The store will regularly offer at least one no-sugar-added flavor and one flavor for the lactose intolerant customer.

The deadline for ordering gluten-free holiday treats from Sweet Freedom Bakery (1424 South St., 215-545-1899) is December 21. Seasonal items include mint-frosted cupcakes, vanilla snowballs and holiday Magic Bars.

Readers may remember Butterfly Bakery's gluten-free cakes, muffins and cookies, which were briefly sold at Wegmans last year. Well, they're back. Made in a dedicated facility, those products - along with mini cupcakes and muffins - are sold online at Amazon.com. If your local market carries the bakery's sugar-free products, ask the store manager to order the gluten-free sweets.

DeLiteful Foods in Lawrenceville (4110 Quakerbridge Rd., 609-799-7756) will host a sampling of Italian-made Agluten pastries and shelf-stable breads tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Join "Gluten-Free Warrior" Genevieve Sherrow on Saturday, January 14 at COOK (253 S. 20th St., 215-735-COOK) for a collaborative class on gluten-free baking. Genevieve will teach you how to prepare treats like Old Fashioned Gingerbread with Homemade Whipped Cream, Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies and The Warrior's Jewish Apple Cake. The class fee is $95 and online registration is available.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Takin' It to Distrito

Distrito's first-floor bar (Photo credit: Distrito)
Despite his growing culinary stature, Jose Garces hasn't forgotten that those with gluten intolerance enjoy dining out too. The Philly-based Iron Chef has created dedicated menus for many of his restaurants, and even those that don't have a standalone bill of fare are able to accommodate gluten-free patrons. Distrito - the chef's chic Mexican restaurant in University City (3945 Chestnut St., 215-222-1657) - rose to the occasion at our recent dinner there.

Chicken and chihuahua cheese enchilada
Distrito's glowing, pink-hued interior projected a modern feel from the moment we entered - Chi-Chi's this is not. We were originally seated in the rear of the second-floor dining room, but because it was drafty in our section, we moved downstairs to the more vibrant first floor alongside the bar.

Knowing that we were going to order a variety of dishes - most are served tapas-style that foster sharing - we passed on the guacamole and stuck to the entry-level tortilla chips and a pico de gallo salsa. Complimentary spicy peanuts also ready the palate.

Flat-iron steak tacos
With the weather on the chilly side that evening, I opted to start with the spicy chicken tortilla soup, while my wife and kids settled on the fabulous costillas, short ribs atop corn masa flatbread with a three-chili barbeque sauce.

Everyone ordered tacos of their choosing; for three of us, it was a trio of flat-iron steak tacos seasoned in a tomato-horseradish marinade with truffle potatoes. Our younger son - he of the less adventurous palate - played it safe with chicken. We also rounded out our protein quotient with a large chicken-and-chihuahua cheese enchilada and roasted pork tamales.

"El Fuerte" dessert
We just couldn't pass up dessert. Notwithstanding the name, the four of us shared the "El Fuerte for Two." The sinful flourless chocolate cake was served a la mode with espresso ice cream and vanilla mousseline.
Distrito on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 9, 2011

News & Notes: December 9, 2011

The Gluten Free Philly clan made the rounds in the last few weeks, devouring pancakes at Haddonfield's British Chip Shop, a gourmet cheesesteak at Paesano's at the Italian Market, and cinnamon crullers at Sweet Freedom Bakery - all of which were amazing.

A stop on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia will soon be a part of our rotation. As I wrote earlier this week, Ocean City's all-gluten-free Pure Tacos will be setting up shop in Center City in late February or early March. There will be seating for up to 30 customers.

Family-owned T.J. Smith's in Warrington (1585 Easton Rd., 215-343-1140) has a variety of safe options, including BBQ baby back ribs, potato skins, salads, clams casino and a chocolate torte dessert. The gluten-free items are prepared with dedicated equipment.

Toté, the new gluten-free bakery and market in South Philly (1024 S. 9th St., 215-551-5511) that I wrote about last month, opens today. According to an item at City Paper's Meal Ticket blog, the shop will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day but Monday.

An update on Dogfish Head's gluten-free Tweason'ale: the Delaware brewery is hoping to have approvals to ship the beer to wholesalers this month for a January release.

Hanukkah got a bit sweeter with the arrival of Chozen's Chocolate Gelt all-natural ice cream, with chocolate coin pieces. Other gluten-free flavors include Apples & Honey, Coconut Macaroon and Coffee Talk. The dessert is sold locally at the Ravitz ShopRites in southern New Jersey.

Congrats to Jackie H., who won the recent Tate's Bake Shop gluten-free giveaway. Tate's gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are also available at Jonathan's Best in Chestnut Hill (8229 Germantown Ave., 215-248-4344) and Mount Airy's Food For All (7127 Germantown Ave., 267-297-7122).

Coincidentally, reader Karen Z. mentioned on the Gluten Free Philly Facebook page that Trader Joe's now stocks gluten-free chocolate chip cookies. Although the TJ's cookies are a bit smaller than Tate's, I suspect Tate's makes them for the private-label grocer since the list and order of ingredients are nearly identical - and the taste is indistinguishable.

A quick word from a sponsor (sorta): If you're still in the midst of your online holiday shopping, show your support for Gluten Free Philly by accessing Amazon.com through this link or the retailer's ads at the blog. I get a small commission on purchases at no cost to you. Thanks to all of you who have done so in the past.

For those who have the time and money, there's a cool gluten-free tour of Italy's Tuscany region planned for May, leaving from New York. I'm requiring that any reader who goes has to write a review of the trip for this blog!

See ya next week.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Pure Joy

The owners of Ocean City's all-gluten-free taquería have settled on the site of their Philadelphia location. Plans are for Pure Tacos to build out the space at 1935 Chestnut Street in Center City West - the former Christian Science Reading Room - in time for a February opening.

Pure Tacos debuted on the Ocean City Boardwalk two summers ago to critical acclaim, and its urban foray is the first in a planned expansion. Unlike the original Jersey Shore location, the Philly outpost will have seating. The tacos-and-nachos menu will be brought over, but also look for a flavored guacamole concept at the new spot.

Friday, December 2, 2011

News & Notes: December 2, 2011

There's been lots of interest in the latest Goodies Giveaway: delicious gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and brownies from Tate's Bake Shop. You can enter through Sunday - just read Tuesday's post for details.

The New Skippack Pizza (4038 Skippack Pike, 610-584-4998) has gluten-free pizza (thanks, Lisa M.), while Empire Pizza & Grill in West Chester (1316 West Chester Pike, 610-436-1234) serves pizza and pasta.

In Wilmington, Harry's Seafood Grill (101 S. Market St., 302-777-1500) now offers a gluten-free menu. Meanwhile, on the Restaurants page, I've updated the gluten-free menus for Distrito, Amada, Chifa and Tinto, four of Jose Garces' Philadelphia eateries.

Philly.com's Michael Klein reports that a new fast-casual concept with gluten-free options is coming to Center City in the spring. Honeygrow (1601 Sansom St.) will serve, among other items, stir-fry with rice noodles and housemade sauces.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill will open its third area location in March 2012 at the Providence Town Center in Collegeville. The spots in Chadds Ford and Newark have gluten-free menus.

Through the end of 2011, Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Fleming's Prime Steakhouse are offering a $20 bonus card with the purchase of every $100 in gift cards. The bonus cards are valid for use from January 1 through February 10, 2012.

Water to Go in Pennsauken (3501 Haddonfield Rd., 856-910-8881) will be sampling gluten-free wares tomorrow from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Among the items are products from the National Gluten Free Alliance, which distributes O'Doughs, GlutenOut, Agluten and Italian Gluten Free Foods.

Reader Kristen T. let me know that Wegmans markets now carry gluten-free pizzelles, made by Bella Lucia Gluten Free Cookies.

Annie's Homegrown is coming out with two new gluten-free mac & cheese varieties this winter - a white cheddar version and microwaveable yellow cheddar.

The new Wegmans Wine, Liquor and Beer - just across the parking lot from the supermarket in Cherry Hill (2100 Route 70 W., 856-488-8948) - carries Greens, Bards and Redbridge beers and a variety of ciders from Woodchuck, Original Sin and Magners.

A reminder that the Philadelphia Gluten-Free Supper Club will reconvene for dinner and a holiday cookie exchange at The Silverspoon in Wayne on Thursday, December 8. For more information, email reader Daria D.

On Sunday, December 11 from noon to 2 p.m., CHOP's Specialty Care Center in Voorhees (1012 Laurel Oak Rd.,) will host a kids' holiday gluten-free cookie exchange. RSVP by December 8 by email or call 215-590-2985 with your last name and number of children. Email your cookie recipe in advance so that it can be printed and shared with guests.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Goodies Giveaway: Tate's Bake Shop Gluten-Free Cookies and Brownies

The Hamptons have long been known as a summer getaway spot for New York's elite. I predict they will soon be famous for being the home of the best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies around. Based in Southampton - on New York's Long Island - Tate's Bake Shop is the vision of Kathleen King, who began baking cookies at age 11. Consumer Reports just rated Tate's chocolate chip cookies the best in a recent taste testing, noting the "big butter and chocolate flavors and smooth chocolate chips. . . . like a really good homemade cookie."

After being beseeched with customer requests, Tate's introduced gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and brownies earlier this year. The gluten eaters in our house conducted a "Pepsi Challenge" of sorts (for those of you old enough to remember that ad campaign), and actually preferred Tate's gluten-free cookies to the bakery's conventional ones. The ingredient profiles are practically identical, with semi-sweet chocolate chips leading the way in the thin, snappy cookies. (The gluten-free version contains rice flour.) The gluten-free sweets are made in a facility that processes gluten-containing foods, but are made separately from the bakery's other products.

In Philadelphia, Tate's gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are sold at Klein's Supermarket (2401 Pennsylvania Ave., 215-232-1120) and at Di Bruno Bros. (1730 Chestnut St., 215-665-9220). Young's Produce in Havertown (170 W. Eagle Rd., 610-449-2122) also carries the cookies. Both the cookies and brownies are available for online ordering directly from Tate's. Readers can save 15% on online orders through December 15 (at midnight Eastern) with discount code BLOGGER.

Tate's has offered one lucky Gluten Free Philly reader a prize pack consisting of three packages of gluten-free cookies and three gluten-free brownies. To enter, leave a comment to this post or on the Gluten Free Philly Facebook page about what other kind of gluten-free cookie you'd like to see from Tate's. Follow Tate's Bake Shop on Twitter or like the bakery's Facebook page (and mention that you've done so in your comment) and you'll get an extra entry.

Some brief guidelines: (1) please do not enter unless you or a family member is on a gluten-free diet; (2) one comment per person; (3) U.S. residents only. Most important is to make sure your comment provides a way for me to contact you, if not entering via Facebook. If your comment does not link back to an email address, blog or website through which I can get in touch with you (some past entrants have blocked their Blogger profiles), post your email address in the comment in the following format: "name[at]domain[dot]suffix."

The giveaway runs now through Sunday, December 4 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. I’ll select one winner the next day via random.org and will contact him or her by email or through Facebook, depending on method of entry. If I don’t hear back from the person with his or her mailing address by the following Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern, I’ll select another name.

Good luck!

DISCLOSURE: Tate's Bake Shop is offering the prize pack. Neither I am nor any immediate family member is an employee, officer, director or agent of Tate's Bake Shop or its respective parent, subsidiary and affiliated entities, advertising and promotional agencies. My full Disclosure Policy can be found at the blog's Disclosure page.

Friday, November 18, 2011

News & Notes: November 18, 2011

If you're not making your own gluten-free desserts for Thanksgiving, be sure to get out this weekend and grab your favorites before the stores sell out. Local Whole Foods Markets have a variety of pies, stuffing cubes and cornbread along with delicious pumpkin cheesecakes from Moondance Heavenly Desserts.

Staying with the turkey theme (work with me here), the new Bobby's Burger Palace in Cherry Hill, which I reviewed this week, serves up gluten-free turkey, chicken and beef burgers. We brought our own gluten-free bun to sandwich the patty, but hopefully the chain will consider having them on hand in the future.

Square 1682, the New American eatery at the Hotel Palomar in Center City Philadelphia (121 S. 17th St., 215-563-5008), has a gluten-free dinner menu.

The area's only Roly Poly, in Mount Laurel (4070 Dearborn Circle, 856-231-0615), offers sandwiches made with La Tortilla Factory's gluten-free wraps.

Gluten-free items are noted on the menus at Doylestown's Knight House (96 W. State St., 215-489-9900). Thanks to reader Richard S. for the heads-up.

Levittown residents, Fiore's Paesano's Pizzeria (1253 Woodbourne Rd., 215-547-5353) has brought gluten-free pizza to your nabe.

Cheese ravioli and other gluten-free options are available at Romanelli's Garden Cafe in Galloway (279 S. New York Rd., 609-652-0179).

Marc Vetri's Amis trattoria in Philly's WashWest section (412 S. 13th St., 215-732-2647) now has a gluten-free menu.

In addition to pizza, the Seasons Pizza location on Route 202 in Wilmington (3901 Concord Pike, 302-478-2009) has expanded its gluten-free menu to include chicken and eggplant parmigiana, lasagna, baked ziti and cheese calzones.

Reader Dan let me know that the J.B. Dawson's location in Drexel Hill has closed.

Through the end of 2011, Sweet Christine's Gluten-Free Bakery in Kennett Square is offering free shipping on online orders of $25 or more.

Wegmans will be giving the Whole Foods in North Wales some competition for the gluten-free dollar, although it may not be until 2013. The family-owned supermarket chain plans to open at the Montgomery Mall at the site of the former Boscov's department store.

Amy's Kitchen has several new gluten-free products hitting stores next month: three vegan wraps made with rice flour and a broccoli & cheddar bake bowl.

The Philadelphia Gluten Free Pasta Ravioli Company will debut its new gnocchi mixes at Di Bruno's (1730 Chestnut St., 215-665-9220) with a sampling this Saturday, November 19, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. A gnocchi shaping tool is free with purchase.

After you've finished all of the Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, head to The Bards Irish Pub on Rittenhouse Square (2013 Walnut St., 215-569-9585) on Sunday, November 27 for a gluten-free dinner event beginning at 3 p.m. Brian Kovalchuk, the president and CEO of Bard's Beer, will be on hand for a meet-and-greet.

The Philadelphia Gluten-Free Supper Club will reconvene for dinner and a holiday cookie exchange at The Silverspoon in Wayne on Thursday, December 8. For more information, email reader Daria D.

Have a great weekend and a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The Sultan of Sling

The Cherry Hill Mall has come a long way from the days when Houlihan's was the signature restaurant. The oldest indoor shopping center east of the Mississippi River is now ringed by eateries of many stripes, from a high-end steakhouse to a faux Caribbean hideaway.

The newest addition to the mix is Bobby's Burger Palace (2000 Route 38, 856-382-7462), serving comfort food from celebrity chef Bobby Flay. The Cherry Hill location is the chain's eighth (a spot in University City opened last year) and sits alongside Seasons 52 and Bahama Breeze.

As customers snake their way through the ordering line, an oversized menu on the wall provides the list of options. Burgers, whether beef, ground turkey or chicken, can be made "topless" - without bread - and fashioned with cheese, vegetables and condiments of choice. Ordering a sandwich "crunchified" nets you kettle-cooked potato chips atop the burger.

Despite pleas from other members of our Philadelphia sports-loving family, our older son went for a medium-well Dallas Burger ($7.75), crusted with spices and crowned with coleslaw, Monterey Jack cheese, BBQ sauce and pickles. (Rest assured there is a Philadelphia Burger, made with provolone cheese, grilled onions and hot peppers.) We brought along an Udi's gluten-free burger bun, and he simply ported the ingredients onto the bread. The manager we spoke with assured us that the kitchen is familiar with gluten-free food preparation and takes care to avoid cross-contamination.

The partially open kitchen has three separate fryers, one each for the gluten-free, thin-cut french fries and sweet potato fries ($3.00) and one for onion rings. The sweet potato variety is served with a spicy honey-mustard horseradish sauce, while the old standbys come with a ramekin of creamy fry sauce.

While the Palace also serves up milkshakes to chase the burgers, they're made in the same blenders as malteds, so we stayed away from those.

Seating was at a premium when we went - less than a week after opening day - and given that the food is both tasty and relatively inexpensive, I expect that to be the case for a while. I recommend that if you're in a party of multiple people, at least one group member should stake out a table while others stay behind to place the order.

Bobby's Burger Palace (Cherry Hill) on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 11, 2011

News & Notes: November 11, 2011

To market, to market to buy a . . . gluten-free bread? The target date is December 1 for the opening of the region's newest gluten-free bakery, located at Philadelphia's venerable Italian Market. Toté (1024 S. 9th St., 215-551-5511), taking over the spot formerly occupied by Mexican luncheonette Loncheria Lupita, will focus at the outset on items like fresh breads, rolls and pizza pies. The owners also plan to offer hard-to-find packaged gluten-free products. To boot, it's a few doors down from Paesano's Philly Style, where you can grab a gluten-free sandwich.

Earlier this week, I shared the news that Wegmans markets will carry gluten-free Christmas sweets from Schar, including panettone. Several readers set me straight that spekulatius - the spiced windmill cookies also being offered by Wegmans - are Dutch, not German. The windmill part should have clued me in, but in my defense Wikipedia distinguishes between German Spekulatius and Dutch Speculaas. The German variety is made with baker's ammonia, which is used in the Schar product.

Redstone American Grill in Marlton (500 Route 73 S., 856-396-0332) and Plymouth Meeting (512 W. Germantown Pike, 610-941-4400) now has a gluten-free menu. My wife and kids ate at the Marlton spot yesterday and had a great meal there.

In West Chester, i-Pasta (134 E. Gay St., 484-887-0760) has gluten-free pasta.

Mama Palma's is the latest restaurant to bring gluten-free pizza to Center City Philadelphia (2229 Spruce St., 215-735-7357). Hat tip to reader Kathryn M. for posting the news on Facebook.

Jules Thin Crust, which makes a phenomenal gluten-free pizza in Jenkintown, Newtown and Doylestown, announced that a new location will open on the Main Line in Wayne next Spring.

Gluten-free cookies and cupcakes from allergen-friendly bakery Sweetness are now available at Christopher's in Wayne (108 N. Wayne Ave., 610-687-6558).

Princeton Soup & Sandwich Company (30 Palmer Square E., 609-497-0008) has picked up The Grain Exchange's gluten-free desserts.

InFusion Coffee & Tea in Mt. Airy (7133 Germantown Ave., 215-248-1718) has gluten-free baked goods from Main Line Baking Company and The Little Bakery. Thanks to reader Annsley K. for the tip.

Reader Shari S. let me know that gluten-free sugar cones are now at Benjamin's Best in Old City (401 Chestnut St., 215-829-9510).

Philly's own Monica Glass, the pastry chef at Center City bistro 10 Arts, is leading a gluten-free holiday cooking class at Sur La Table in King of Prussia on Monday December 5. The menu includes brown butter bourbon biscotti, chocolate crinkle cookies, shortbread thumbprints and gingersnaps. Registration is available on the store's event page.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Holiday Cheer

Now that the monthly calendar is turned to November, neighborhood jack-o'-lanterns have been replaced with signs commemorating the next major holiday . . . Election Day. I kid, I kid. (Do go vote today, though.) Soon enough, many of us will be decking the halls with boughs of holly and shopping for the perfect Christmas tree.

If you grew up celebrating Christmas with relatives from "the old country," then you probably remember homemade sweets like Italian panettone bread or German Spekulatius cookies. Wegmans markets are now exclusively featuring gluten-free versions of these and other European holiday favorites made by Schar:
Customers can find them in the Nature's Marketplace section of the store while supplies last.

Friday, November 4, 2011

News & Notes: November 4, 2011

The Delaware Valley's gluten-free bakeries got some great publicity in the Philadelphia Inquirer's Food section yesterday, with a feature on the improving variety of breads and gourmet sweets available in the area.

The logical extension to putting your favorite design on a birthday cake is having it on your pizza. As I wrote on Tuesday, Pizza Prints that feature cartoon characters, NBA teams and holiday images are available for gluten-free pies at several local pizza shops.

Congrats to reader Kate M., who was the winner of the recent Robert Mondavi Wine Tour giveaway. I'll have another giveaway - a tasty one at that - coming up soon.

Naked Pizza in Ewing (1400 Parkway Ave., 609-771-6100) and soon in Princeton (180 Nassau St.) has gluten-free pizza. A video on the chain's website shows the prep methods to avoid cross-contamination.

A stone's throw from Rittenhouse Square in Center City is Pure Fare (119 S. 21st St., 267-318-7441). All of Pure Fare's salads are gluten free except wheatberry and falafel, and most soups are safe as well. Also gluten free are the quinoa skillet bread, veggie quiche, quinoa porridge, all pastries and the soft-serve frozen yogurt.

Comings and goings: Reader Rich S. let me know that Bonefish Grill is opening soon in Langhorne at the Plaza at Oxford Valley (500 Oxford Valley Rd., 215-702-1312). The debut is set for November 14. Celebrity chef Bobby Flay has opened his newest Bobby's Burger Palace location at the Cherry Hill Mall (2000 Rte. 38, 856-382-7462). Meanwhile, gluten-free-friendly JayBee's Cafe in Skippack has closed, as has L'Oca, an Italian BYOB in Philadelphia's Fairmount section that offered gluten-free pasta.

Look for Udi's gluten-free burger buns at participating Red Robin locations. Reader Jodi F. posted on the Gluten Free Philly Facebook page that the Langhorne location has them.

Pei Wei Asian Diner is offering a buy-one-get-one entree voucher redeemable through November 15 by watching a video at its new Pei Wei Market website and submitting your email address.

Philadelphia's own gluten-free Sweet Freedom Bakery (1424 South St., 215-545-1899) has plenty of items for fall, including pumpkin pies, cookies, cupcakes, donuts and more. The bakery is taking advance orders for the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday by phone.

Finally, an ice cream cake without those gluteny chocolate crunchies. I spotted an M&Ms-themed cake with no gluten ingredients at ShopRite in Marlton.

Trader Joe's has added some new gluten-free products since my last visit there. Among the offerings are packages of masala dosa, chicken tikka masala and beef pho soup.

The CHOP children's celiac support group will next meet in Princeton on Sunday, November 13 to celebrate Thanksgiving. The meeting will take place at the CHOP Specialty Care Center (707 Alexander Rd., Suite 205) from noon to 2 p.m. Guests can RSVP with their last name and number and ages of children by November 9 by calling 215-590-2985. Bring your favorite gluten-free side dish along with the recipe.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Top This

Most people don't need much more of an incentive to dig into a slice of piping hot pizza than the aroma of tomato sauce, melted cheese and spices, or maybe some green peppers or sausage to boot. For those that do, though, there's something unique to put on your pie.

Featured in Food Network magazine, gluten-free Pizza Prints are edible designs that are applied to baked and sliced pizzas. The prints come in lots of different images, from pro basketball and college teams to Nickelodeon characters. There are also more generic designs to celebrate birthdays, holidays and other occasions. A number of local eateries that offer gluten-free pizza carry Pizza Prints, including Mannino's in Morrisville, Kembleville's Village Pizza & Subs, Giuseppe's in New Hope, Tony's Pizza in Haddonfield and Pietro's Pizza in Manahawkin. Various prints can be ordered directly from the company by calling 1-800-806-2595.

Friday, October 21, 2011

News & Notes: October 21, 2011

While readers in Bucks County lament the recent closing of Cheeseburger in Paradise near the Oxford Valley Mall, they'll be happy to know that Miller's Ale House - which has locations in Langhorne (2250 E. Lincoln Hwy., 267-572-0750), Northeast Philadelphia (9495 E. Roosevelt Blvd., 215-464-8349) and coming soon to Mt. Laurel at the Aloft Hotel - offers gluten-free options.

Tony's Pizza in Haddonfield (419 Haddon Ave., 856-795-4200) has gluten-free pizza.

Reader Jaime L. let me know that the Metropolitan Diner in North Wales (750 Upper State Rd., 215-361-1603) has an wide-ranging gluten-free menu.

Patty Mac's in Berwyn (814 Lancaster Ave., 610- 644-8275) can use gluten-free challah from Main Line Baking Company to make french toast. Thanks to reader Heather K. for the tip.

The soups and salads at vegan restaurant Wildflower in Millville (501 N. High St., 856-265-7955) are gluten free, as is usually at least one dessert.

I scored a copy of the gluten-free menu at El Rey (2013 Chestnut St., 215-563-3330), the newer of Stephen Starr's two Mexican restaurants.

Tuesday's post featured Cafe Spice fresh Indian meals, available at Whole Foods. All six varieties are gluten free.

The Gluten Free Delaware support group has organized a potluck meal on Sunday, October 23 in Landenberg, Pennsylvania. For more information and to RSVP, click through to this page.

On Thursday, November 3, the Celiac Center at Paoli Hospital will have a presentation on gluten-free holiday entertaining. There will be samples and a chance to win prizes.

I won't be posting next week due to a busy work schedule, but keep the tips on new restaurants and products coming, either through Facebook or directly by email.

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Spice of Life

When Americans think of their favorite ethnic foods, Indian cuisine isn't at the top of most lists. (Italian is, actually, followed by Mexican and Chinese.) More than others, however, Indian-influenced foods - made with less familiar seasonings like curry, cardamom and cumin - are extremely gluten-free friendly. Cafe Spice, an East Coast-based casual chain with an outpost at the food court at Liberty Place in Center City Philadelphia, now provides prepared meals sold at area Whole Foods Markets. Varieties include Chicken Vindaloo with Lemon Rice, Vegetable Korma with Saffron Rice, Channa Masala with Lemon Rice, Chicken Tikka Masala with Saffron Rice, Chicken Curry with Lemon Rice and Saag Paneer with Saffron Rice, all of which are gluten and preservative free. (The gram flour in the Chicken Tikka Masala has no gluten; it's made from ground chickpeas.) The dishes are priced between $5.49 and $6.49 each. You can also find the Cafe Spice products at Whole Foods hot bars.

Friday, October 14, 2011

News & Notes: October 14, 2011

If you've ever imagined a restaurant dedicated to the humble, yet delicious, grilled cheese sandwich, your dream has come true. The former Peace A Pizza location in North Wales has been converted into Melt Down Grilled Cheese (111 Garden Golf Blvd., 215-368-1113). Gluten-free bread is available, and I'm told that gluten-free sandwiches are made separate from other items.

Several readers alerted me to some other new restaurant additions via the Gluten Free Philly Facebook page. (Come like it, won't you? It's over 700 people strong.) Lara W. let me know that the Black Salt Cafe in Ridley Park (20 E. Sellers Ave., 610-521-1162) can use gluten-free wraps for any of its sandwiches.

Bethann S. ate this week at Aperto, a American BYOB in Narberth (232 Woodbine Ave., 610-660-0160). The restaurant notes gluten-free items on its menu, including two kinds of pasta.

Elevation Burger, where the bunless burgers (or patties wrapped in lettuce) and fries are gluten free, just opened shop in Willow Grove (3900 Welsh Rd., 215-659-1008).

You can still enter my latest Goodies Giveaway through Sunday - swag from the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour that's coming to the Philadelphia Food & Wine Festival in King of Prussia next weekend. Just add a comment about your favorite variety of wine to the giveaway post or on my Facebook page.

The Greater Philadelphia Celiac Support Group's next meeting is set for Friday, October 21 at Abington Memorial Hospital. The meeting starts at 7:30 p.m., with a vendor fair beginning at 5:45 p.m. Those interested in attending and joining the group can call Karen Dalrymple at 215-757-1233.

The Tortilla Press Cantina in Pennsauken is hosting a gluten-free cooking class on Thursday, October 27 starting at 6:30 p.m. The cost is $34.95 exclusive of beverages, sales tax and gratuity). For reservations, call Lydia at 856-979-3333.

Team Celiac is participating in an upcoming fundraising walk for juvenile diabetes. The JDRF Walk in Camden will take place on Sunday, October 23. If you're interested in supporting Team Celiac, visit their page and make a donation in the name of team captain Evey Bell.

Kozy Shack's latest sweet-tooth satisfaction: chocolate rice pudding. All of the company's flavored puddings (not the bread puddings), gelatins and flans are gluten free.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Goodies Giveaway: Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour

The 2011 Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour with special guest Ted Allen will be wrapping up at the Philadelphia Food & Wine Festival on October 21-23 at the Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia.  To celebrate the tour, Robert Mondavi Winery is offering a prize pack giveaway for one lucky Gluten Free Philly reader.

Now in its sixth year, the Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour is an interactive event that brings the Napa Valley wine country experience to wine lovers across the United States at various food and wine festivals. On Friday, October 21, the festival will feature cooking demonstrations and tips by Food Network Chopped host Ted Allen, a Robert Mondavi Private Selection Food & Wine Ambassador. Along with Ted at the Robert Mondavi Winery’s Napa-inspired tasting pavilion will be educational seminars and other interactive events. Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour highlights include:·    
  • Educational Seminar – a Wine 101 class to help learn the basics on what to look for (and taste) in every bottle
  • Wine & Cooking Stage – demonstrations and tastings by local chefs and wine experts
  • Essence Station – put your senses to the test and learn how to appreciate wines' subtle aromas
  • Interactive iPad – email recipes and wine pairings, see photos, sign up for Winery news, and view tasting notes all at the touch of a button
  • Mondavi Theater – watch a short documentary film showcasing how Robert Mondavi revolutionized the American wine industry
The Philadelphia Food & Wine Festival will take place on Friday, October 21 from 4 p.m. – 8 p.m., Saturday, October 22 from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sunday, October 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tickets are available starting at $30 in advance ($40 at the door).  Children 6-12 are $5 and children under 6 are free. (Seminars, Chefs on Stage series and VIP Cocktail Party are additional.)  Tickets for all events can be purchased online. You can also learn more about Robert Mondavi wines by liking the winery's Facebook page. Robert Mondavi's wines are gluten free.

The prize pack includes a Robert Mondavi chef’s apron, Sigg Steel water bottle, keychain, and copy of Ted Allen’s The Food You Want to Eat cookbook. To enter, leave a comment to this post or on the Gluten Free Philly Facebook page about which variety of wine is your favorite.

Some brief guidelines: (1) please do not enter unless you or a family member is on a gluten-free diet; (2) one comment per person; (3) U.S. residents only. Most important is to make sure your comment provides a way for me to contact you, if not entering via Facebook. If your comment does not link back to an email address, blog or website through which I can get in touch with you (some past entrants have blocked their Blogger profiles), post your email address in the comment in the following format: "name[at]domain[dot]suffix."

The giveaway runs now through Sunday, October 16 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. I’ll randomly select one winner the next day and will contact him or her by email or through Facebook, depending on method of entry. If I don’t hear back from the person with his or her mailing address by the following Tuesday at 8 p.m. Eastern, I’ll select another name.

Good luck!

DISCLOSURE: Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour is offering the prize pack. Neither I am nor any immediate family member is an employee, officer, director or agent of Robert Mondavi or its respective parent, subsidiary and affiliated entities, advertising and promotional agencies. My full Disclosure Policy can be found at the blog's Disclosure page.

Friday, October 7, 2011

News & Notes: October 7, 2011

Although Germany's famous Oktoberfest beer festival just ended, you can still celebrate locally. That's because Brauhaus Schmitz (718 South St., 267-909-8814), Philadelphia's own German bierhall and restaurant, offers gluten-free St. Peter's sorghum beer, Magners cider and wine. The restaurant also has a menu full of gluten-free-designated items such as potato pancakes, salads, sausages, bratwurst and other traditional Bavarian favorites.

New reader Sheila C. let me know that Erawan, Philadelphia's first Thai restaurant (123 S. 23rd St., 215-567-2542), can accommodate gluten-free diets.

The British Chip Shop in Haddonfield (146 E. Kings Highway, 856-354-0204) has expanded its gluten-free options to include pancakes at Sunday brunch and a veggie burger for lunch and dinner.

Philadelphia's recently opened Fare restaurant (2028 Fairmount Ave., 267-639-3063), which offers an organic, mostly gluten-free menu, has begun serving weekend brunch.

Delaware pizza chain Grotto Pizza now has two sizes of gluten-free pizza, in 9" and 12" varieties.

Cheeseburger in Paradise's Langhorne location at the Oxford Valley Mall has closed; the other area outlets in Exton and Newark remain open.

The holiday that October is best known for is Halloween, of course. The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has posted its 2011 list of gluten-free candy.

Planning to make a purchase at Amazon.com? Support Gluten Free Philly by using this link or those below. It costs you nothing but earns us a small commission. Amazon Grocery has the following gluten-free items on sale throughout October (combine with a Subscribe & Save order for an additional 15% off):
The Mercer Free School offers a class on gluten-free living the first Wednesday of every month from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Ewing branch of the Mercer County Library System (61 Scotch Rd.). Registration is free.

Finally, a reminder that next Tuesday, October 11, Davio's Italian Steakhouse in Philadelphia will be hosting a gluten-free beer dinner. Reservations are being accepted at the restaurant by calling 215-563-4810.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 30, 2011

News & Notes: September 30, 2011

Today's post is an all-products edition of News & Notes, but I first wanted to thank the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and its campaign to make gluten-free pizza available at schools nationwide. As a result of this effort, I contacted our school district's food-service provider to see if it could order the gluten-free pizza for our son's elementary school. It took some time, but I learned earlier this week that the pizza would be available in time for the weekly "pizza day" in the cafeteria. It made my night when I came home from work on Wednesday and my son told me that he felt "normal" to have to wait in line with his friends and get lunch on a tray like other students. For more on Schwan's food-service gluten-free pizza, visit the company's website and share the information with your own child's school.

On Tuesday, I posted a review of a recent meal at the Rainforest Cafe in Atlantic City.

The Ravitz ShopRites in southern New Jersey, particularly those in Marlton and Cherry Hill East, have greatly expanded their gluten-free sections. New to those stores are Mi-Del Gingerbread Men cookies and Glutino's new Genius bread. The Genius bread, in White and Multigrain varieties, features full-size slices.

Wynnewood's Main Line Baking Company has lined up more stores to sell its gluten-free products, including the Marlton ShopRite and Whole Foods in Wynnewood.

During a recent trip to Water to Go in Pennsauken, my wife discovered Russo's mozzarella sticks (delicious!), Kim & Scott's Bavarian soft pretzels (meh), and Joan's calzones (haven't tried yet).

Lots of new products were announced at the Expo East natural-products food show in Baltimore last weekend. Erin at Gluten Free Fun reported that Udi's will debut gluten-free muffin tops and three kinds of frozen pizza in January 2012.

Gluten Free Living tweeted from Expo East that Feel Good Foods will soon offer gluten-free egg rolls to complement its dumplings, while Sandra at the Gluten Free Optimist blog reported that the egg rolls will come in chicken, shrimp and vegetable varieties.

Have a great weekend and go Phils!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Let It Rain

Admit it - theme restaurants are kitschy fun, especially for kids. Places like Hard Rock Cafe, Planet Hollywood and Medieval Times serve up overpriced portions of food alongside slices of nostalgia, memorabilia and other eye candy that can keep children occupied while waiting on their meals.

While in Atlantic City over a late summer weekend with the boys, we wanted to try someplace different for dinner without spending outrageous amounts of money at a casino-restaurant. (I'm talking to you, Bobby Flay Steak.) We settled on the Rainforest Cafe (2201 Boardwalk, 609-345-5757), on the Boardwalk adjoining Trump Plaza. I knew that the restaurant didn't have a gluten-free menu, but my wife called ahead and was assured that the kitchen could accommodate dietary requirements.

As the name suggests, Rainforest Cafe is a restaurant that features a faux rain forest, complete with waterfalls, mist, trees and animals - robotic, of course; I doubt the health department would allow real ones to roam the kitchen. A walk-through aquarium separates the lobby from the dining room, where a simulated thunderstorm occurs every half-hour. We were particularly impressed with the ape (or was it an orangutan?) that swung from the branch right above our table.

After being seated, we advised our server of our older son's diet, and the chef soon came out to provide suggestions for ordering. Safe options included many salads, bunless burgers, and several seafood choices.

Our son settled on the Bamba's Barbeque Wrap, a shredded chicken wrap with spicy barbeque sauce and cheese that came with a side of cole slaw. The chef personally brought out the dish to the table, substituting three smaller corn tortillas for a two larger wheat flour wraps. He also prepared a side of french fries in a pan instead of a deep fryer.

We opted not to have dessert, but ice cream is available.

Chain restaurants - and themed ones in particular - can be hit-or-miss in preparing gluten-free meals. It's always nice when we can go to one where special requests are easily handled, even if it's a place where more than just people hang out.

Rainforest Cafe on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 23, 2011

News & Notes: September 23, 2011

As many of you know, the area's premier gluten-free event, Appetite for Awareness, has been a fall affair in years past. However, due to venue and scheduling considerations, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is considering holding Appetite in Spring 2012. In the meantime, the NFCA is hosting a major donor event at a private home on Tuesday, October 18 honoring Dr. Ritu Verma of the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, a familiar name to the Philadelphia gluten-free community. Chef Marc Vetri (Vetri, Osteria, Amis) will be the special guest, with chef demos by Brad Spence (Amis) and pastry chef Monica Glass (10 Arts Bistro & Lounge) and gluten-free fare by Wolfgang Puck Catering accompanied by a wine tasting. If you would like to learn more about becoming a sponsor or purchasing a ticket, please contact the NFCA's Nancy Ginter.

Earlier this week, I wrote about Dogfish Head's new gluten-free beer that will be available in bottles by the end of the year.

All menu items at Cantina Diablos Mexican Grill in Ardmore (2330 Haverford Ave., 610-642-1370) can be made gluten free.

The area's second Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is now open in Chadds Ford, at the Garnet Valley Plaza Center (91 Wilmington West Chester Pike, 484-785-6880). The restaurant has a gluten-free menu.

Seasons 52 Fresh Grill's two area locations - at the malls in King of Prussia and Cherry Hill - have set their Fall 2011 gluten-free menu.

Reader Kelly R. let me know that Fuel's Center City Philadelphia location (1225 Walnut St., 215-922-FUEL) is serving gluten-free chocolate fudge cake in addition to panini.

Some recent restaurant closings: Philadelphia's Adsum and Ry's Bagels in Berlin, New Jersey.

Deliteful Foods' new location is in the Quakerbridge Village Commons in Lawrenceville (4110 Quakerbridge Rd., 609-799-7756)

Sweet Christine's gluten-free baked goods will be available at Eagles home games this season. They can be found at the concession stand behind Section 117 at Lincoln Financial Field with other gluten-free fare.

Now at Whole Foods stores are Annie's new Organic Orchard Fruit Bites. Available in grape, strawberry, apple and cherry, the Fruit Bites contain one serving of fruit in each pouch. The fruit snacks are naturally gluten and gelatin free, are vegan, and contain no artificial colors, flavors or preservatives.

JD's Best Pizza is now available at Martindale's Natural Market in Springfield. Thanks to reader Dana M. for the tip.

Food for All Market in Mt. Airy will have Feel Good Foods' gluten-free dumplings available for sampling on Sunday, September 25 between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.

Have a great weekend!