Thursday, September 14, 2017

Jaguars gluten-free guide

As I said in the previous post, I was scheduled to visit the Jaguars this week to find out about gluten-free options at EverBank Field this year.

Needless to say, that visit was cancelled after Irma, but they did send me a link to a helpful new web page that tells you where you can find gluten-free options.

I expect to visit the stadium before the next home game in October to learn more about these items and -- importantly -- how safe they are for celiacs and others with gluten intolerance. Remember, I had a very bad experience a couple of years ago at EverBank Field.

So if you're going to the opener Sunday, you may want to ask questions before ordering anything. But you'll want to check out the webpage:

                                               Jaguars gluten-free guide

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Give Aldi hot dog buns a try

Before the storm, I visited the new Aldi at the Town Center. I like Aldi because of its in-house gluten-free brand, called liveGfree, which has a variety of products.

When I went to the new store, I found something I hadn't seen at the other Aldi stores in the area: gluten-free hamburger and hot dog buns.

I was particularly interested in the hot dog buns because, as you may or may not know, I have been searching for a decent gluten-free hot dog bun for more than six years. They don't seem to exist.

I picked up the liveGfree hot dog buns and they seemed soft -- usually, gluten-free hot dog buns seem stale, no matter what you do to them (toast, microwave, etc.). So of course I bought them.

Irma delayed my taste test but when I visited Publix yesterday after the storm, I found it well-stocked with hot dogs. So I figured this was the time to try the buns.

The verdict? They weren't great, but they were definitely softer and better than other gluten-free hot dog buns I've tried. I'd say if you're determined to eat hot dogs, these are buns you will definitely want to check out.

Speaking of Irma, with the first Jaguars home game coming up Sunday, the team had actually invited me to visit and try out their gluten-free items for the upcoming season. Obviously, we had to postpone that this week, and I don't know what they'll be offering. But hopefully, I'll be able to visit before the next home game and give a full report.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Papa Johns now offering GF pizza

Papa Johns is the latest pizza chain to introduce gluten-free pizza, so of course I gave it a try.

Now I know you probably saw headlines about how Papa Johns said its gluten-free pizza isn't safe. Here's my take on that, which you may or may not agree with.

Basically, Papa Johns' procedures are the same as every other delivery/carry out chain. None of them have facilities that can guarantee a gluten-free pizza absolutely free of cross contamination. That doesn't mean the pizza isn't safe, just that they can't provide a guarantee. This is what the company said in its announcement:

"Operationally, Papa John’s employs procedures to prevent contact with gluten, and while the crust is prepared in a separate, gluten-free facility before being shipped to stores, it is possible that a pizza with gluten-free crust could be exposed to gluten during the in-store, pizza-making process. Therefore, the brand does not recommend its Gluten-Free Crust made with Ancient Grains for customers with Celiac Disease or serious gluten intolerances."

I have celiac and I'm still going to try it. I really, seriously believe that any contamination, if at all, will be okay and be below the 20 ppm standard. Everybody needs to make their own decision about how comfortable they feel, but that's my take.

So anyway, what about the pizza? I would rate it okay -- not great. The crust (made of sorghum, teff, amaranth and quinoa) was decent, but the ingredients didn't have as much flavor as I would have hoped.

The best thing about Papa Johns is the price. They are charging $9.99 for a two-topping gluten-free pizza, but they have a lot of specials where you can get a pizza for 50 percent off. And in my case, Papa Johns is the closest pizza place to my home offering a gluten-free pizza.

And no, I felt no ill effects after eating it. I will probably try it again when I want a cheap, quick pizza.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Red Robin finally in Jacksonville.

I've been waiting for years for Red Robin to come to Jacksonville, and the hamburger restaurant finally opened a Jacksonville location a couple of weeks ago at the St. Johns Town Center.

There's two things that make Red Robin very appealing: they offer gluten-free buns as an option for $1 extra, which isn't too bad considering the surcharge at other places. And, they say their french fries are cooked in a dedicated fryer and are gluten free.

Also, the french fries are "bottomless," so you can get more if you want them.

You can also get an Omission Beer, which some people want to avoid but if you're okay with Omission, that makes Red Robin one of the few places you can go for a gluten-free burger, fries and a beer.

So I went last night to the new Red Robin and it was everything I hoped it would be, for the most part. The best part was when I ordered another plate of fries, it came almost instantaneously. It was very impressive.

The one drawback to the restaurant was trying to get allergen information. There are numerous burger options and I was interested in one called "Red's Tavern Double" that included "Red's Secret Tavern Sauce." I asked the server if the sauce was gluten free and he went to the kitchen to ask, but nobody had an answer. So I just ordered a conventional burger.

Your best bet is to check on the menu online (www.redrobin.com) before you go. The menu has a link to an allergen check, but it doesn't seem to work so well. I found the best way to get to the allergen menu is to go there directly at www.redrobin.com/allergen-customizer.html

Just click on "gluten" as your allergen (or whatever other allergens you need to check) and go to the menu from there to find out what you can eat.

I have visited Red Robin in other cities, and I'm glad we finally have one in Jacksonville.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Gluten-free paninis and more at Vitality Bowls

I visited the new Vitality Bowls cafe in Jacksonville Beach. It's part of a chain, but this is the first one in North Florida.

The "superfood cafe" features bowls which are blends of a lot of healthy ingredients, and it seems most can be made gluten free.

However, I was most interested in their gluten-free paninis. Gluten-free bread is an option on the paninis.

I ordered a sirloin panini. It was good, but unfortunately pretty small. I was hoping for something more filling. It's also pricey. The sirloin panini is $7.99, and they added a $1 gluten-free surcharge, which would have been okay if it was bigger.

You can order a panini for a cheaper price as an addition to another menu item. I think that may be the way to go next time, to order one of their juice bar concoctions and a panini.

On the bright side, the restaurant is very aware of cross contamination issues and told me about the process they go through to make sure my panini is not contaminated with gluten. I did like that.

Vitality Bowls is an interesting place that is probably aimed at the more health-conscious crowd, as opposed to us desperately gluten-free people. But it's always nice to find another gluten-free option at the Beaches.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Gluten free at the Omni

I was invited to a business lunch yesterday at Juliette's Bistro, the restaurant in the Omni hotel in downtown Jacksonville.

Since someone else was paying, I didn't say anything about my dietary issues. I figured I would just get a salad, if it came to that, and it would be fine.

When I got there, I asked the waitress if there was a gluten-free menu and she said yes and went back to get it. So I was pleased right away.

I was even more impressed when I got the menu. There was a pretty good number of gluten-free options, including sandwiches on gluten-free bread.

I always take advantage of the opportunity to order a gluten-free sandwich, so I ordered a grilled fish sandwich. It came on toasted bread with french fries, which I hadn't seen on the menu. I asked the waitress if the fries were gluten-free and she said yes.

Unfortunately, the bread immediately crumbled in my hand, like so many other gluten-free sandwiches. I had to eat it with a knife and fork. At least it was a generous portion of fish so it was a filling meal.

Despite the bread, I was pleased with the meal and the gluten-free choices. There really aren't a lot of gluten-free options downtown, at least restaurants which promote their gluten-free choices. Juliette's website doesn't mention its gluten-free menu.

Juliette's would be a particularly good option if you're looking for a dinner site before an event at the Times-Union Center, which is right across the street. It's pricey, of course, but at least it's there.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Chick-fil-A now has GF buns

Chick-fil-A yesterday introduced its gluten-free bun nationwide.

Of course, as soon as saw that, I went out to get my Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.

Chick-fil-A has long been, in my opinion, the best fast food chain for gluten-free options. Most fast food places basically restrict us to salads, but Chick-fil-A has been offering grilled chicken nuggets that are gluten free. Also, its waffle fries are gluten free. Unlike other chains, the fries are not cooked in the same oil as other gluten-containing stuff.

Of course, the grilled chicken patty is also gluten free. Before they introduced the nuggets, I used to order the grilled chicken sandwich without the bun at Chick-fil-A.

Because of concerns about cross-contamination, Chick-fil-A serves the gluten-free bun in a wrapper. They serve the chicken patty and accompaniments (lettuce and tomato) in a separate container, and you have to put the sandwich together yourself. No big deal.

I was quite pleased with the bun. The big test, of course, of a gluten-free bun is whether it will crumble in your hands as you try to eat your sandwich. This bun was soft and held together.

Chick-fil-A says the gluten-free bun is made from "ancient grains quinoa and amaranth" and is "enriched with vitamins and minerals and is lightly sweetened with molasses and raisins."

Chick-fil-A charges $1.15 extra for the bun.

I will be back for more.