Monday, April 20, 2015

Disappointment...again

Okay, I've been complaining a lot lately about places and events that don't have anything gluten-free available. Maybe I've been expecting too much and I'm overreacting.

But when a venue has signs saying it has gluten-free beer, but doesn't actually have it...now that's something to complain about.

I went to see The Who last night at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena. As I wrote last spring, the arena now is supposed to have gluten-free available. Don't take my word for it -- it's right there on the menu board. (You may not be able to see it in my poor quality photo but it's there on the right side of the menu under "beer": "Gluten Free Beer 8.00")

So I go up to the stand and ask for a gluten-free beer. Of course, the guy doesn't understand what I'm asking for. I point to it on the menu board. He goes and gets somebody else, who goes to talk to somebody else. Finally, they come back and say they don't have any. Maybe I can try another location.

So I do go to another stand that also has "Gluten Free Beer" on the menu board. This time, at least the guy knew what I was talking about. But he tells me they sold out of gluten-free beer last night and didn't restock.

Okay, they had arena football on Friday night, Guns N' Hoses on Saturday night and The Who on Sunday night. I guess it's plausible that they could have sold a lot of beer at those first two events, even gluten-free beer. But if you're running the arena and you know you have all these events coming up that are going to draw good crowds, can't you properly stock your concessions?

So yes, I'm frustrated. And I revoke my endorsement of going to events at the arena that I gave last spring. The arena is just another place that a gluten-free glutton can't depend on.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Not looking good for Blues Fest

I was just walking through the grounds at the Springing the Blues festival (the three-day event that opens tonight in Jacksonville Beach) as they were setting up, looking to see if anything appeared to be gluten free.

I was encouraged to see the list of beverages at the beer tents includes Redd's Apple Ale. At least until I got home and Googled it.

I've never tried Redd's but since most ciders are gluten free, I figured there was a good chance Redd's was too. Sadly, I was mistaken. Even though it has "Apple" in the name, Redd's isn't a cider. It's not gluten free.

So tell me Redd's, why do you put "Apple" in your name? And tell me Springing the Blues, why even bother making this available? A couple of years ago, they had gluten-free Woodchuck cider available, which was nice to see. What's the appeal of Redd's?

The food booths were still a work in progress as I walked through and not all of them had signs up, but I didn't immediately see anything gluten free to eat.

Another disappointment came when I stopped by a new restaurant, Surfing Sombrero, which just opened in the oceanfront spot once occupied by Bukkets. Several restaurants have come and gone quickly since Bukkets.

Anyway, it's a taco place, so I was hopeful that there might be gluten-free options there. But when I asked, the staff said no. Oh well.

But there is a bright side to all of this. Thinking about Mexican food, I realized I had totally forgotten about a downtown Jacksonville Beach restaurant that is gluten-free friendly: Campeche Bay Cantina.

I guess I never thought of Campeche Bay as a walk-in-off-the-beach kind of place, so I didn't think of it when I was writing in the TU about places to go during a day at the beach. But Campeche Bay does have a gluten-free menu and seems to be knowledgeable about cross-contamination issues.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

More good GF food at Players Championship

I attended media day for The Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass this morning, and it looks like the food options will be pretty much the same as last year. As far as I'm concerned, that's great news.

The Players has been making an effort in recent years to broaden its food offerings, and that has included many gluten-free options that will be back this year. That will include Corner Taco's food truck, in the food truck court near the 10th hole, and the Winn-Dixie Fresh Cafe, which featured gluten-free sandwiches last year in its booth in the food court behind the 17th tee.

Perhaps the most popular gluten-free friendly venue is the Tacos on 12 stand run by TacoLu near the 12th hole. Players Executive Director Matt Rapp said they are doubling the size of the seating area there because it was so popular last year.

I've complained before about trying to find out gluten-free info for major events, like One Spark last week and Springing the Blues this weekend. I'm not going to events if I don't know I can find anything to eat.

The lack of any information about One Spark basically removed any thought I had of going. I also haven't been able to find any gluten-free information for the Blues fest, but if you read my Times-Union column last week, you know that there are a couple of places within walking distance of the downtown Jacksonville Beach festival. I'm planning on going to V Pizza when I get hungry.

But anyway, I'm so happy to see The Players promoting gluten-free food options.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Moxie hosting special gluten-free dinner

Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails at the St. Johns Town Center has an extensive gluten-free menu on a daily basis, but the restaurant is planning a special gluten-free dinner and demo on Monday night, April 13.

The dinner is expensive, at $69 per person. But if you're interested, here's the link to check out the menu and sign up:

http://moxiefl.ticketleap.com/gluten-free-dinner/details

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

At least the Corner Taco truck will be at One Spark

Watching local TV news this morning, I was irritated by the excitement they showed over the Food Village at One Spark in downtown Jacksonville.

Now I didn't expect the TV station to talk about gluten-free options, but I was irritated because I've had such a hard time finding out what will be available to eat at One Spark.

The good news is the Corner Taco truck is scheduled to be there, so at least you should be able to get something gluten free there. I also see a couple of gluten-free friendly restaurants, BB's and Bistro Aix, are on the list of vendors, but I wouldn't count on necessarily finding gluten-free options at festival food booths.

The other irritating thing is the talk about the "beer village." I guarantee you there will be no gluten-free beer there.

As I've said before, I won't go anyplace if I don't know for sure in advance if I can get gluten-free food and drink. If I worked downtown, it might be a different story, but the hassle of driving through the I-95 construction zone and trying to find downtown parking makes One Spark very unappealing for me.

I hate to be so negative about an event some people really love, but these are people who will grab a beer and walk around with lots of food options and have fun. I have a feeling that if I went, I would just feel left out.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pizza disclaimer is standard operating procedure

You may have seen the review in today's Times-Union on Uncle Maddio's Pizza Joint that talked about the disclaimer with its gluten-free pizza, which says you shouldn't eat it if you have celiac disease.

The fact is, just about every pizza place that offers gluten-free pizza has that disclaimer. Basically, it's impossible to guarantee complete safety with a gluten-free pizza unless the restaurant is a completely gluten-free establishment. In a pizza joint, there will always be wheat-based pizza dough flying around somewhere.

My personal opinion is that as long as the restaurant takes all the possible precautions to make your pizza as safe as possible, it's unlikely that your pizza will be contaminated and even if it is, the contamination will likely remain well below the FDA's 20 ppm standard.

Others will disagree with me, but I've never had a problem with gluten-free pizzas in places where I can see the workers making the pizza in front of me.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Pizzeria Uno pizza a disappointment

A couple of notes about my trip through Central Florida last week...

I stopped in Pizzeria Uno in Kissimmee to try its gluten-free pizza.

Pizzeria Uno is a national chain, although we don't have any in Jacksonville. The original Pizzeria Uno is one of Chicago's iconic deep dish pizza restaurants, so even though its gluten-free pizza is thin crust, I have been wanting to try it.

When I got to the restaurant and asked about a gluten-free menu, the hostess very excitedly pointed out an entire page within the regular menu listing gluten-free options. I wasn't actually expecting that so I was surprised to see it. It not only has pizza, but also hamburgers with Udi's buns, as well as seafood and chicken dishes. I definitely felt that I was in a gluten-free friendly place.

Of course, I ordered a pizza and -- I'm sorry to day -- it was disappointing. It was just okay, which basically wasn't good enough because I was expecting better.

Oh well. I did have a very good gluten-free experience at a relatively new place in Tampa called Burger Monger. I had seen someone raving about it Facebook and when I found it offered burgers on gluten-free buns, and the fries are gluten free, I had to try it.

It was pretty good. The place is very gluten-free friendly. I noticed a sign advertising some hot dog special on Thursdays, so I asked and they said, yes, they have gluten-free hot dog buns too. That was interesting (although I didn't try the hot dog).

There are four Burger Mongers in the Tampa Bay area. Although we have gluten-free burger places sprinkled around the Jacksonville area, I'm really getting jealous because there seems to be a lot of burger options in Tampa Bay. Oh well.