Thursday, August 25, 2016

Famous Toastery offers GF pancakes and French toast

When Famous Toastery revealed plans to open its first Jacksonville area location, I Googled, didn't see anything about gluten-free options, and basically wrote it off as another place I would never visit.

So I was quite surprised to read a review of the new Jacksonville Beach restaurant in the Times-Union last weekend and see it had gluten-free pancakes and French toast available. I was surprised because I never expect to get any useful information out of the TU.

No, seriously, I was surprised to find Famous Toastery is gluten-free friendly. I looked it up again on the Internet and found the gluten-free items on the menu, so of course I had to check it out.

They seem to be taking gluten-free dining seriously. The menu does have a disclaimer that the kitchen is not 100 percent gluten free but they are aware of the issues and take what precautions they can. The staff did seem knowledgeable during my visit.

I ordered French toast -- it's harder to find gluten-free French toast than gluten-free pancakes -- and it was delicious!

The menu doesn't say anything about gluten-free sandwiches but of course I had to ask -- if they have gluten-free bread available for French toast, they must also have it available for sandwiches, right? They told me yes. A man who appeared to be a manager said he plans to actually put together a separate gluten-free menu that will list all the options.

The regular menu, in addition to the pancakes and French toast, also lists a gluten-free flourless chocolate cake.

Famous Toastery is a bit pricey but I really enjoyed my meal, so I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trader Joe's gluten-free "rye" bread rates as mediocre

One extra note on my trip to Chicago was the purchase of Trader Joe's gluten-free rye-less "rye" bread.

There's a long story here so I'll cut to the chase -- it did taste good but the texture was awful. It absolutely has to be toasted and even then, the texture is still bad. So I'd have to rate it overall as mediocre.

Here's the story. There is a Trader Joe's in the neighborhood I usually stay in when I'm in Chicago. Several years ago, I went in figuring I'd be able to find something to eat for breakfast. But I was extremely disappointed to find a lack of gluten-free options in the store.

So, when Trader Joe's announced it would open a store near home in Jacksonville Beach, while some people were excited, I was less than enthusiastic. When the store opened, my feeling was confirmed because I found few gluten-free items to make a trip there worthwhile.

I have to say I've warmed up to Trader Joe's in the last couple of years as they have expanded their private label gluten-free offerings, particularly a line of hamburger buns and bagels that are decent and reasonably priced, as far as gluten-free stuff goes. So now I visit fairly regularly to stock up on buns and bagels. They seemed to have resolved their inventory problems -- they aren't running out of the gluten-free stuff like they used to.

Trader Joe's has also come out with gluten-free hot dog buns, which aren't as good as the hamburger buns. Of course, as I've said many times, there is no such thing as a good gluten-free hot dog bun.

Anyway, when I was in Chicago, I decided to visit the store again to see what they had, since Trader Joe's does vary products by region. And I came across the Trader Joe's brand of gluten-free "rye" bread. The Trader Joe's in Jax Beach has several types of gluten-free bread but I have not seen the rye.

Rye bread was my bread of choice before I went gluten free. So, whenever I see a brand of gluten-free rye-less rye, I give it a try. So far, none have been worthwhile, including the Trader Joe's brand.

One more note I discovered with my bread purchase. Packing a loaf of bread will absolutely get your carry-on bag flagged by the TSA. As I was pulled out of line so they could open and inspect my bag, they pointed to the big rectangular lump that showed up on the x-ray. What could it possibly be?

So if I'm going to take a loaf of bread on an airplane, it better be worth it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I found it: gluten-free deep dish pizza

For six years, I've been craving deep dish pizza. Pizza places have a hard enough time making decent thin-crust gluten-free pies, so I understand why even the best deep dish Chicago-style restaurants can't make deep dish gluten free.

But I learned of one Chicago restaurant that does make deep dish gluten-free pizza, and I was determined to get there and try it.

And boy, was I glad I did. It was fantastic.

The restaurant is the easy to remember Chicago's Pizza, which actually has three locations on the Northside.

I went there late in the afternoon on my way to a night game at Wrigley Field, which turned out to be fortuitous timing because they offer a "Baby" stuffed pizza from 11 to 4, and I got there a little before 4. I was ready to order a regular small pizza which I would have been unlikely to finish but I was able to order the Baby pizza.

But first things first. When the hostess sat me, she asked if I was gluten free (what, is written on my forehead?) and then said something about bread, which I took to mean she would have brought out bread if I wasn't.

Then to my big surprise after I had ordered my pizza, she came back with a small plate with a hot slice of gluten-free bread on it! I wasn't expecting that at all, and it was very good.

As I waited for my pizza, I enjoyed Prairie Path beer on draft, which is a gluten removed beer. I know the jury is still out on whether these beers are completely safe but I feel comfortable ordering them in a restaurant. There is also the issue I've dealt with before about making sure a beer coming out of the tap is in fact the gluten-free one and the wait staff doesn't make a mistake, but the Chicago's Pizza staff seemed so attuned to gluten-free needs that I didn't worry. I get the impression they get a lot of gluten-free customers, which is why the hostess asked me if I was gluten free.

Then my stuffed gluten-free sausage pizza came. It was wonderful. I would have a hard time imagining people eating regular stuffed pizza could tell the difference. It was that good.

Stuffed gluten-free pizza and then drinking gluten-free beer at a Cubs game (they sell Redbridge there). What could be a better evening?

I should also mention on my second night in Chicago, I decided to give Pizzeria Uno a shot. If you're not familiar with it, this is the original Chicago restaurant which spawned the nationwide Uno Pizzeria & Grill chain.

I visited the Orlando Uno's restaurant a while back and thought its gluten-free pizza was pretty awful, which was a major disappointment. But the original Pizzeria Uno  is different than the chain so I figured I'd give it a shot.

I knew there wouldn't be deep dish gluten-free pizza available but all the other iconic Chicago deep dish places do offer a thin-crust gluten-free pizza. But when I walked in and asked the hostess, she said no, they don't have gluten-free pizza. I couldn't believe it.

So, Uno's in all its forms is now permanently off my list.

But it doesn't matter. I have a new favorite place: Chicago's Pizza. I can't wait to get back for more.

I found it: gluten-free deep dish pizza

For six years, I've been craving deep dish pizza. Pizza places have a hard enough time making decent thin-crust gluten-free pies, so I understand why even the best deep dish Chicago-style restaurants can't make deep dish gluten free.

But I learned of one Chicago restaurant that does make deep dish gluten-free pizza, and I was determined to get there and try it.

And boy, was I glad I did. It was fantastic.

The restaurant is the easy to remember Chicago's Pizza, which actually has three locations on the Northside.

I went there late in the afternoon on my way to a night game at Wrigley Field, which turned out to be fortuitous timing because they offer a "Baby" stuffed pizza from 11 to 4, and I got there a little before 4. I was ready to order a regular small pizza which I would have been unlikely to finish but I was able to order the Baby pizza.

But first things first. When the hostess sat me, she asked if I was gluten free (what, is written on my forehead?) and then said something about bread, which I took to mean she would have brought out bread if I wasn't.

Then to my big surprise after I had ordered my pizza, she came back with a small plate with a hot slice of gluten-free bread on it! I wasn't expecting that at all, and it was very good.

As I waited for my pizza, I enjoyed Prairie Path beer on draft, which is a gluten removed beer. I know the jury is still out on whether these beers are completely safe but I feel comfortable ordering them in a restaurant. There is also the issue I've dealt with before about making sure a beer coming out of the tap is in fact the gluten-free one and the wait staff doesn't make a mistake, but the Chicago's Pizza staff seemed so attuned to gluten-free needs that I didn't worry. I get the impression they get a lot of gluten-free customers, which is why the hostess asked me if I was gluten free.

Then my stuffed gluten-free sausage pizza came. It was wonderful. I would have a hard time imagining people eating regular stuffed pizza could tell the difference. It was that good.

Stuffed gluten-free pizza and then drinking gluten-free beer at a Cubs game (they sell Redbridge) there). What could be a better evening?

I should also mention on my second night in Chicago, I decided to give Pizzeria Uno a shot. If you're not familiar with it, this is the original Chicago restaurant which spawned the nationwide Uno Pizzeria & Grill chain.

I visited the Orlando Uno's restaurant a while back and thought its gluten-free pizza was pretty awful, which was a major disappointment. But the original Pizzeria Uno  is different than the chain so I figured I'd give it a shot.

I knew there wouldn't be deep dish gluten-free pizza available but all the other iconic Chicago deep dish places do offer a thin-crust gluten-free pizza. But when I walked in and asked the hostess, she said no, they don't have gluten-free pizza. I couldn't believe it.

So, Uno's in all its forms is now permanently off my list.

But it doesn't matter. I have a new favorite place: Chicago's Pizza. I can't wait to get back for more.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Mother Truckin' gluten-free pizza

I finally found the Mother Truckin' Pizza truck this weekend, and I'm glad I did.

I went to the food truck event in Jacksonville Beach which featured, I think, 36 food trucks. I looked around to see if anyone mentioned anything "gluten free" on their menu boards and didn't see any. My experience with food trucks has told me that while they may actually have gluten-free food available, the people working there are reluctant to say that, yes, you can eat gluten-free there.

Mother Truckin's menu also does not list gluten-free pizza but I had heard that they do have it, so I walked up and asked. Not only do they have a gluten-free pizza but they also asked me if I have a gluten sensitivity, because if so they would bake it separately from the other pizzas. I never expected that from a food truck!

The pizza was pretty good, but more than I needed. While the truck sells slices of regular pizza, they only offer a complete 10-inch gluten-free pizza. Even I couldn't finish the whole thing (it doesn't happen often with me and pizza) and because I was too far from my car to take it home, I had to throw out the excess.

But on the bright side, the pizza with up to 3 toppings cost $11, and they were charging $5 and $6 for slices. So I'd have to say I got my money's worth.

I also need to compliment them for having a pop-up tent with stand-up tables to eat on, on a hot summer afternoon. That was more than a lot of other trucks offered at this event.

My only complaint is, they need to put the gluten-free pizza on the menu board. I'm sure a lot of people would love to stumble onto it when looking for gluten-free in a sea of food trucks.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A significant study on gluten sensitivity

I get a lot of alerts about celiac and gluten-free studies that look like a waste of time but today I read about a reliable new study that basically confirms the science behind non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

This study comes from Columbia University researchers including Peter Green, director of Columbia's Celiac Disease Center. As I posted a couple of months ago, he recently published a comprehensive book on celiac disease (click here for my post on that). He's a trustworthy source (there are so many "experts" out there that you can't trust).

You can read more about the new study at Beyond Celiac's webpage.

Friday, July 15, 2016

This Chick's Kitchen is gluten-free friendly

I made my first visit this week to This Chick's Kitchen, a tiny but very gluten-free friendly restaurant in Jacksonville Beach.

This Chick's Kitchen is a farm-to-table restaurant with a lot of interesting dishes, and nearly everything is gluten free. I had a chicken stir fry dish that was really good.

I had a chance to talk with the owner who is very gluten-free aware. I mentioned I was celiac and she asked me a lot of questions about possble additions to the menu. For example, she wants to bring in regular bread for customers who are not gluten free and asked if I would have a problem with that. I said no, it's only a problem when restaurants make their own bread and flour could contaminate gluten-free dishes. She said other customers have told her the same thing.

The restaurant is hard to find if you're not looking for it, at 353 6th Ave. South, just east of Third Street. It's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

It's also pricey. To me, that's the drawback of farm-to-table restaurants that offer food produced by local farms. It's great in theory, but it's not a place I can visit a lot because it's just too expensive.

However, I love finding local gluten-free friendly restaurants that offer something different, so I'll be back.