Friday, December 21, 2018

Gluten-Free Road Trip: Eating Safely on the East Coast

Holiday travel and vacations can be fun but stressful, even without factoring in seeking out gluten-free-friendly places to eat. The fact that the East Coast has so many restaurants and bakeries that are entirely gluten free makes the trip just a little easier. I’ve joined forces this week with Andrea Tucker of Baltimore Gluten Free, Erin Smith of Gluten-Free Globetrotter and Abby Kelly of Gluten-Free New England to give you a round-up of 100% gluten-free spots from Maine to D.C. Visit their websites for comprehensive information on these and other accommodating places in those areas.

Have a Merry Christmas, Happy 2019 and safe travels no matter where you're headed!

New England (CT, MA, RI, NH, VT & ME)
Contributor: Abby Kelly

Abby Kelly founded Gluten-Free Connecticut to spotlight all the gluten free food her home state had to offer. She soon realized there was more ground to be covered and now has the whole New England gluten-free scene covered! In addition to her comprehensive data base, Abby organizes curated Gluten Free Expos, showcasing large and small businesses throughout New England. For a more comprehensive list, visit her dining directory at Gluten-Free New England.

Abby’s Tip: “New England is full of amazing gluten-free dining! With seafood as our specialty, we’ve got plenty of places serving up celiac-safe (made in dedicated fryers) GF fish and chips, clam cakes, lobster rolls and more. Check out our dining directory for all the deliciousness we have to offer!”

Abby’s list of dedicated gluten-free establishments in New England is here!

New York City
Contributor: Erin Smith

Erin Smith is one savvy globetrotter. Diagnosed with Celiac at age 2, she hasn’t let that stop her from filling her passport and traveling the world. This year, she added a cross-country road trip to her impressive list of travel adventures! She’s passionate about sharing how she lives life without limits, even while living with Celiac, at Gluten-Free Globetrotter. Erin calls her native NYC home and her list of gluten free NYC-area restaurants has been carefully cultivated and regularly updated. If you’re visiting the City that Never Sleeps, makes sure you have her list of restaurants that Never Contain Gluten!

Erin’s Tip: “Do your research on where to eat before leaving home. Make restaurant research part of your itinerary planning!”

Erin’s list of dedicated gluten-free establishments in New York City is here!

Philadelphia Region (DE, PA and NJ)
Contributor: Michael Savett

Michael Savett, founder of Gluten Free Philly, is the gluten-free guru of the Philadelphia area. For nearly a decade, he’s galvanized the gluten-free community around his weekly posts about restaurant news, product releases and events. Michael has organized the Delaware Valley’s more than two dozen dedicated gluten free restaurants, bakeries and businesses in his Gluten Free Philly app and website. An even longer list, full of businesses with gluten-free offerings, is housed at the Gluten Free Philly app [iOS and Android] and on the Gluten Free Philly website.

Michael’s Tip: ”Dining gluten free in Philly doesn’t mean missing out on cheesesteaks and soft pretzels! The region offers celiac-friendly cuisines to suit every palate.”

Michael’s list of dedicated gluten-free establishments in the Delaware Valley is here!

Washington, D.C. and Maryland
Contributor: Andrea Tucker

For those who don’t know the person behind Baltimore Gluten Free, Andrea Tucker is a Health Educator, Celiac Advocate and gluten-free group leader. She founded Baltimore Gluten Free as a landing spot for vetted resources for the gluten-free community in Baltimore and beyond. As a lifelong foodie, when she's not reading about food, writing about it or taking pictures of it, she's eating at one of the gluten free restaurants on this list!

Andrea’s Tip: “Many gluten free businesses cater and sell family-sized portions. Whether you need help with food for your whole event, or just an entree or dessert, think about these businesses. Not only does it save you work but supports them as well. It’s a win-win!”

Andrea’s list of dedicated gluten-free establishments in D.C. and Maryland is here!

Friday, December 14, 2018

Now Arriving: Departed Soles

After being a gluten-free beer wasteland for years, the Philadelphia area is now a region with many local options. Harleysville's Blueprint Brewing Company has gluten-free beer "to go" in growlers, while Pittsburgh's all-gluten-free Aurochs Brewing is distributing its award-winning Blonde Ale, Session IPA and Amber Ale in Eastern Pennsylvania at dozens of outlets. Now comes Departed Soles Brewing Co., a northern New Jersey-based microbrewery that is expanding from the Garden State into Philadelphia (and also New York City).

Brian Kulbacki, the founder of Departed Soles, is a self-professed “beer nerd." By the time he moved to New Jersey in 2009, home brewing had become a serious hobby. He has since toured breweries around the world and completed the American Brewers Guild’s Intensive Brewing Science and Engineering course.

For Kulbacki, the decision to make gluten-free beer is personal. He resolved to make gluten-free beer seven years ago after he lost his best friend, who had Celiac Disease, in a car accident. “As a home brewer, I promised I would make good gluten-free beer for him, as we had always joked about starting our own brew pub," says Kulbacki. "After his passing, I became dedicated to the mission of making ‘his’ beer available for everyone that walked in similar shoes.”

After years of planning and searching for a home, Kulbacki set up shop in Jersey City in 2015. While the brewery also produces traditional beers, its gluten-free beers are fermented in dedicated vessels. Two of Departed Soles' gluten-free beers are now being distributed in Pennsylvania: GoodbIPA: Four My Homie, a floral and citrus IPA, and a blonde ale, New Jersey Ninja. Here's a current list of where the beers are sold:

Ambler Beverage (Ambler)
American Sardine Bar (Philadelphia)
The Barley Mow (West Reading)
The Beer Store (Malvern)
Big Top Beverage Market (Roslyn)
Blue Dog (Chalfont and Lansdale)
Cedar Point Bar & Kitchen (Philadelphia)
CJ's Doghouse (Lansdale)
Cold Spring Beverages (Newtown)
DJ's Westgate Beverage (York)
The Foodery (Philadelphia and Phoenixville)
Frank Smith Beverages (Pottstown)
Hunger & Thirst (Lancaster)
Kunda Beverage (King of Prussia)
McCaffrey's Food Markets (Blue Bell, Newtown and Yardley)
Park Towne Beverage (Royersford)
Pinocchio's (Media)
Tanczos Beverages (Bethlehem)

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Sizzle and Spice at Veda Modern Indian Bistro

By Sara Blank

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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