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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Panera: Are you kidding me?

Allow me to rant about Panera Bread for a few minutes.

I've eaten salads at Panera a number of times in the past few years. Now I know there is a risk of cross-contamination and some people will feel differently about this than I do, but I believe the risk in a salad is minimal if all the ingredients of the salad are gluten free -- by minimal, I mean below 20 ppm.

Anyway, I haven't been to Panera in quite a while so I was checking its website to see what salads are gluten free, and I found this on a page titled "Avoiding Gluten" which listed several menu items that don't have gluten in the ingredients:

It talked about the cross contamination risk but said you can eat these items "if you want to avoid or reduce gluten and do not have celiac disease, a heightened gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy."

In other words, these items are for people who don't have any reason to avoid gluten but are under the ridiculous illusion that gluten-free food is a healthy option. The people I have been complaining about for five years.

Panera, you may recall, is test-marketing a gluten-free bread. What for? Fad dieters who think it's trendy to order gluten-free bread? Are they going to introduce this bread nationwide and then tell us we shouldn't eat it?

So basically, Panera's gluten-free program is absolutely useless. I guess that's one more place to cross off my list.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Got to love Maggiano's gluten-free program

I spent the weekend at a family function in Washington D.C. Of course, we all know the stress of attending any kind of banquet-type event where we don't know if the food will be safe to eat.

Fortunately, this event was held at a Maggiano's in Washington.

Now if you've been to Maggiano's Little Italy in Jacksonville or anywhere else, you've probably experienced this: when you tell the server your have celiac or a gluten allergy or whatever term you use, their policy is to have the chef come out and discuss the menu with you. A good number of the dishes on the menu can be made gluten free, including gluten-free pasta, and they will make sure they can accommodate you with a safe meal.

So, even though I had never attended a special event at Maggiano's (just regular dinners), I was reasonably confident they'd be able to provide something I could eat. As it turned out, it was even better than I expected.

Sitting at a table with a cousin who also can't eat gluten, I told the server about this and asked what in the meal we'd be able to eat. And just as with a regular visit to the restaurant, they brought out the chef to talk to us.

She explained that the meal would be served family style with a choice of chicken picatta and rigatoni that could both me made gluten free and one other dish that wasn't gluten free. So, when they brought out the entree bowls for the entire table, they also brought bowls of the picatta and rigatoni that were both gluten-free for my cousin and me - and anyone else at the table. I did explain to the others that they could eat portions from our bowls.

Actually, before the entrees, they brought out big salad bowls with croutons for the table but brought individual gluten-free salads for my cousin and me. And when it was time for dessert, they brought special fruit plates for the two of us.

So, for once, I was absolutely thrilled with a banquet experience for a change. I look forward to my next visit to Maggiano's.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Redbridge beer makes the movies

I was watching Ted 2 on HBO over the weekend and I saw something absolutely shocking:

Ted (the Teddy Bear who came to life) with a couple of bottles of Redbridge beer on the kitchen table.

I was waiting for the offensive joke about drinking gluten-free beer (the movie is of course filled with offensive jokes) but it never came. In fact there was no mention at all of the word "gluten."

So why put gluten-free beer on the table? Hard to say, but my Google search did find one reference to Mark Wahlberg (the human star of the movie) as the "King of Product Placement" on a website called Brandchannel. It listed dozens of products, including Redbridge, that found its way into Ted 2.

Most of those product placements don't faze me. But it did stop me in my tracks to see a gluten-free beer on the screen.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fresh Market has branded gluten-free items

I don't shop at The Fresh Market a lot, because I've never really found anything special there, as far as gluten-free items go.

However, this week, as I was in the neighborhood, I decided to stop in to a Fresh Market and I was surprised at what I found: Fresh Market-branded gluten-free items. I had never seen that before.

Of course, what really caught my eye was their gluten-free frozen pizzas, which were on sale in several varieties for $5.99. And at 14.6 ounces, it was bigger than most frozen pizzas. Given my pizza obsession, I had to give it a try.

And it was really good, as good as any frozen gluten-free pizza I've tried. The package recommends heating it on a baking pan or directly on the rack for a crispier crust. I used my pizza stone and the crust was very crispy.

The $5.99 sale price remains in effect through next week so if you like frozen pizza, I'd recommend stopping in. I'm going to go back for more while they're on sale (I think the normal price is $7.99).

I also picked up a package of Fresh Market chocolate chip cookies, which were also on sale at a dollar off for $3.99. This wasn't worth it. There's something like 14 cookies in the package, so even on sale I consider it way overpriced.

Anyway, I checked with Fresh Market and found they do have a whole line of gluten-free items. Here is the complete list:

TFM Gluten Free Sesame Garlic Sauce
TFM Gluten Free Teriyaki Sauce
TFM Gluten Free Thai Peanut Sauce
TFM Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
TFM Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
TFM Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie Mix
TFM Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix
TFM Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Mix
TFM Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix
TFM Gluten Free Gingerbread
TFM Gluten Free Pumpkin bread
TFM Gluten Free Breadcrumbs
TFM Irresistibly Good Gluten Free Choc Chip Cookie
TFM Irresistibly Good Gluten Free Coconut Mac Cookie
TFM Irresistibly Good Gluten Free Caramel Sea Salt Cookie
TFM Gluten Free Cheese Pizza
TFM Gluten Free Pepperoni Pizza
TFM Gluten Free Pizza – Margherita
TFM Gluten Free Pizza – Sausage Pepperoni
TFM Gluten Free Stuffing Mix

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Where are the gluten-free ice cream cones?

On Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, I found myself craving an ice cream cone.

This should have been simple except for one thing: I couldn't find gluten-free ice cream cones anywhere.

For the last couple of years, gluten-free cones had been relatively easy to find in just about any grocery store, so I didn't anticipate any problems. But I went to Publix and didn't find any in both the ice cream cone section and the gluten-free section. The same thing happened at Winn-Dixie.

I also tried Target and Walmart: no luck.
Found at Native Sun

I finally went to Native Sun and found gluten-free cones, but unfortunately this was several days after the holiday weekend ended.

But this all left me wondering if something had happened with the gluten-free ice cream cone supply. I'll admit when stores were well-stocked with them, I wondered if there really was that big a demand. Maybe they weren't selling and the stores decided to drop them from inventory. Gluten-free cones really don't seem any different than regular cones, in my opinion, but why would anybody buy them if they didn't have to be gluten free? And maybe there weren't enough of us who are celiac or gluten intolerant who buy them all that often.

So I checked with Publix and Winn-Dixie. Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens says yes, Publix is still stocking gluten-free ice cream cones in all stores. I guess I'm going to have to ask for help in hunting them down next time I need them.

A Winn-Dixie spokesman is also checking into this for me and I'll let you know his response when I hear back.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

'Gluten Exposed' is a comprehensive look at gluten and celiac

Dr. Peter Green, director of Columbia University's Celiac Disease Center, and medical writer Rory Jones have written a book caled "Gluten Exposed" that takes a serious and comprehensive look at gluten and associated effects of eating gluten such as celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Which means the people who need to read it probably won't.

This isn't an exciting book. It's not going to be a best-seller like "Wheat Belly" and the like that erroneously convinced thousands, if not millions, of people that everybody needs to drop gluten from their diet.

It's a completely trustworthy and thorough description of medical issues by a recognized expert on celiac. It's full of information, not hype.

Among the important points in the book are:

1) if you think you may have issues with digesting gluten, get yourself tested by a medical professional before going on a gluten-free diet. You might just try out a gluten-free diet and think you feel better, so it must be gluten, but your diet could be masking some other serious conditions that need to be addressed.

2) If you don't have celiac or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there's nothing healthy about a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free diets can be low in certain vitamins and minerals while high in sugar and fat.

3) Be careful about what you read on the Internet. Unless you can verify that the information is coming from an informed source, don't accept it as gospel. Green debunks a lot of Internet myths about gluten in his book.

In my case, of course, Green is preaching to the choir, and I'm sure most of you feel the same way. As I've been saying for years, if you don't have a medical need for a gluten-free diet, don't do it and you're making things difficult for the rest of us by treating gluten-free as a fad diet.

One interesting point in the book is that while there are a number of non-dietary treatments under development for celiac disease, there are currently no drugs that would allow you to eat gluten and any claims about certain drugs that can minimize the impact of eating gluten are not proven. You may actually be doing harm to your body by taking them.

Food for thought.