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!