Monday, May 23, 2016

North Beach Fish Camp is gluten-free friendly

My visit to this place was long overdue, but I finally went to North Beach Fish Camp in Neptune Beach yesterday and I can confirm that it's a gluten-free friendly restaurant.

North Beach Fish Camp is located at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and First Street, a high-traffic area with difficult-to-find parking. That tends to keep me away but I'm glad I made the trip.

I had actually stopped in a couple of days before my visit to ask about the menu. North Beach Fish Camp doesn't have a gluten-free menu but it does have a dedicated gluten-free fryer, so you can get fried dishes on the menu gluten free. They also told me that just about anything on the menu can be made gluten free.

I actually had a broiled fish platter, which was excellent. I also had an Omission Beer which is on the menu.

So if you're near the beach in Neptune or Atlantic Beach and looking for a good spot to eat, check out North Beach Fish Camp.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Pieology the latest gluten-free pizza option

I visited the new Pieology restaurant in Nocatee yesterday. This is the first restaurant in that chain to open in Northeast Florida and I noticed it does have gluten-free pizza on the menu, so of course I had to check it out.

Pieology is one of those places where you walk up to the counter and you watch them make your pizza. I was immediately impressed because when I said I wanted a gluten-free pizza, the guy asked me if I wanted him to change gloves. Pieology doesn't have a dedicated gluten-free prep area and its website has warnings about cross-contamination, but this told me that they are at least aware of the issues.

I also noticed that he went to a different area to get a gluten-free crust than the other pizza crusts. There is a $2 surcharge for the gluten-free crust.

According to the nutrition information on its website, the only topping we need to worry about for gluten is the meatballs.

I got a barbecue chicken pizza, which I liked. The crust was nothing special but it tasted pretty good.

So yes, I would go again to Pieology. It's a little out of the way for a lot of people in Nocatee but hopefully, they'll be adding new Jacksonville area locations soon.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A lot of gluten-free products made in Jacksonville

I went to an interesting event today, a showcase for the North Florida Food Alliance.

The alliance is a group of 10 small, local food companies who have banded together to help their businesses grow. What I found fascinating is how many of these businesses are producing products that are gluten free, and how much awareness there was about keeping gluten-free products safe for those of us how need it.

For example, one company called Olive my Pickle makes "lacto fermented pickle products." One of the owners, Charlotte Tzabari, explained why that process makes healthier products, which I didn't quite follow. But she did get my attention when she told me they have tested their pickles for gluten to confirm that they are gluten free. That was nice to hear.

Another interesting product was a line of natural dog treats by a company called Pawfection Bakery. Owner Amy Gorman told me that her products are wheat free. Since I know some dog owners want to keep gluten away from their dogs before dogs start licking their faces, that could be helpful.

I also enjoyed some really good gourmet toffee products from Topsy Toffee that are gluten free.

The originator of the food alliance is Mark Patterson, who started a frozen dessert company called Naturally Smart Foods. Its frozen concoctions are gluten free.

Many of these products are available in local grocery stores, particularly Native Sun. It's just nice to see so many gluten-aware small businesses offering gluten-free products.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Celiac Awareness

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but my Celiac Awareness Month column appears in today's Times-Union:

http://jacksonville.com/entertainment/food-and-dining/2016-05-11/story/gluten-free-glutton-celiac-disease-no-laughing-matter

Unfortunately, it's my final Times-Union column. The newspaper has decided to cancel it. There are a lot of things I could say about the Times-Union, but I'll leave that to others.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

More great gluten-free stuff at The Players

I complain a lot about how difficult it is to find gluten-free stuff at sporting events.

But once a year, we arrive at The Players Championship and a fantastic array of gluten-free choices. Probably better than you'll find in a lot of restaurants.

Just take a look at the menu board at the regular refreshment stands sprinkled throughout the course. The "gf" in a circle indicates you can get a burger, chicken sandwich or hot dog on a gluten-free bun (for $1.50 extra).

However, the real fun is the specialty booths set up by local restaurants, where you can get some really interesting gluten-free fare.

Of course, The Players has featured the Tacos on 12 tent run by TacoLu for the past few years. But I got to take a tour of some of the new food booths yesterday and found some appealing stuff.

arepas
Without a doubt, my favorite stop was the Wine & Dine on 9 area along the 9th fairway, which this year features food by Vernon's, a restaurant in the Sawgrass Marriott.

Vernon's offered a dish that I was vaguely familiar with, arepas, which featured pulled pork in a wrap made of corn. It was absolutely delicious, and the sous chef preparing it told me she herself is gluten free so she completely understood our concerns. If I make it to actual golf this weekend, I'm going back for another one.

Actually, as I talked to the people running the booths, I was very pleased to see that they were very familiar with gluten-free concerns, not only at the golf course booths but also in their restaurants.

Mojo's has a booth this year offering barbecue sandwiches. Of course, we can't get a sandwich but we can get a small plate of meat with barbecue sauces that are gluten free.

Likewise, the Candy Apple Cafe offered me a hot dog without a bun covered in candy bacon, which they said was gluten free.

So yes, this is the one sporting event where you can go hungry and not worry about eating before you leave. Have fun!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cookie Momsters closes

I learned some very disappointing news over the weekend: Cookie Momsters has closed down.

If you weren't familiar with it, Cookie Momsters was a gluten-free bakery on San Jose Boulevard that offered an array of bakery products. I found out it closed when I went to Larry's Giant Subs, which had been getting its gluten-free sub rolls from Cookie Momsters.

I then checked and found a note on the Cookie Momsters Facebook page that they had closed on April 15. It's sad to see any local business close, but in this case it's especially disappointing for us because this was a dedicated gluten-free bakery. And it was run by a couple of very likable Moms who worked hard.

Larry's is still offering gluten-free subs with an alternate roll from its vendor. I also checked with European Street Cafe, which had been serving its gluten-free sandwiches with Cookie Momsters rolls, and they are also getting a different gluten-free roll from its vendor.

The Facebook note didn't say why Cookie Momsters had to close, but I'm sorry to see it go.

Friday, May 6, 2016

More good stuff at Aldi

I wish Aldi would open a store closer to my home, because it's becoming my favorite store for gluten-free products.

Aldi has its own line of gluten-free products under the brand liveGfree, and they're generally good and also relatively cheap, as far as gluten-free products go.

I was already impressed with the liveGfree brand but Aldi seems to have added a bunch of new gluten-free products, at least products I hadn't seen before. And it's a very impressive lineup.

First of all, when I walked into the Southside Boulevard store, the first thing I saw was a display of new gluten-free chip products. Of course, I picked up a couple of bags of those.

But the really interesting stuff is in the freezer case, which includes liveGfree General Tso's Chicken and a cheesecake sampler.

I was very interested in the General Tso's Chicken because it is so hard to find gluten-free Chinese food. I had it for dinner last night. Unfortunately, the sauce was too sweet for me -- I prefer a spicier sauce. So I would say it was just okay.

On the bright side, I was very happy to see it came with two packets of sauce for a 22-ounce package, which it says has 4.5 servings. Usually these frozen meals come with only one sauce packet, meaning you basically have to cook it all at once. But in this case, I was able to cook half the package and save the rest.

The cheesecake sampler is probably the most appealing package, offering two slices each of four different varieties. After having a triple chocolate slice for dessert last night, I'm going to enjoy sampling the other varieties in the coming days.

Now between the cheesecake and the chicken dish, I consumed way too much sugar last night and I won't be doing this all that often. But I really like the choices we can find at Aldi. There were some other new liveGFree products that I didn't buy but will probably go back and get sometime in the near future. I just hope they build an Aldi closer to me.