Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Finally: gluten-free pasta at Carrabba's

I've been waiting for five years for Carrabba's to offer gluten-free pasta and it's finally happened.

I just discovered this last week and when I checked with the company, they said it's been available at all Carrabba's Italian Grill restaurants since October.

When I was first put on a gluten-free diet, I read several surveys which rated Carrabba's as one of the best chains for gluten-free dining. But I always wondered why people seemed to like it when they didn't offer gluten-free pasta. The menu seemed very limited without it.

The restaurant's new menu includes a pretty good selection of items with a "GF" label, indicating it can be made gluten free.

The gluten-free pasta options are made with casarecce pasta, which spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts described as "a short pasta similar to penne or rotini made with corn, rice and quinoa flour."

I went last night and had a shrimp dish with a weesie sauce, which is a white wine lemon butter sauce. I really enjoyed it.

So yes, Carrabba's is finally high on my list of restaurant chains that offer satisfying gluten-free meals.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Gluten-free buns at Chick-Fil-A?

I saw a blog post out of Atlanta yesterday saying that a local Chick-Fil-A there was having a gluten-free bun tasting event.

Of course, I found this very interesting because you don't see fast food places offering gluten-free buns. Chick-Fil-A is generally gluten-free friendlier than other fast food chains. Their waffle fries are gluten free and you can also get grilled chicken nuggets that are gluten-free, so you can have a full meal there.

I contacted the company to find out more about the gluten-free buns, to see if this was something that might be rolled out nationally soon. I haven't heard back yet but I will let you know if/when I do.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Could the Jaguars have a gluten-free cart?

I had a chance to talk with Mark Lamping, president of the Jaguars, yesterday and I used the opportunity to make a pitch for the Jaguars to have a dedicated gluten-free cart somewhere in EverBank Field.

The Jaguars have had various gluten-free offerings over the last few years and I've run into a lot of problems with them, which I've detailed in the past and won't rehash. I really think the best solution is a dedicated cart with only gluten-free items.

I've been to many major league sports venues that have this, including Tropicana Field and Marlins Park in Florida. It works.

Lamping seemed amenable to my suggestions and convinced me that he would at least consider the idea. He asked about the market size for gluten-free concessions and I told him, as I've said before, that if 6 percent of the population has some type of gluten intolerance, that would be a potential customer base of 3,600 in a crowd of 60,000 football fans.

He also told me that the Jaguars are changing their food service vendor for next season, so there will be changes in the concessions. Let's hope for a gluten-free concession stand.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Glutino's 'Big' pretzels not really much different

I got a box of snack food samples from Glutino last week, consisting mostly of pretzels. The one new item was a bag of "Big" pretzels.

I really didn't think the Big pretzels were that much bigger than their regular pretzels. And as far as taste and texture, I didn't really notice any difference from Glutino's other pretzels.

Actually, Glutino makes several varieties of pretzels that I like. My favorite is their honey mustard pretzels.

The big problem with Glutino pretzels is the price. They are pretty expensive, so I generally wait to see them on sale before I'll buy them.

The snack package also included tortilla chips for dipping. This is one product we really don't need from a gluten-free manufacturer, because there are a lot of varieties of tortilla chips out there that are naturally gluten free, and you'll see many of those with a certified gluten-free tag because the manufacturers are following the proper procedures.

One other item in the box was a couple of packages of animal crackers. They tasted like, well, animal crackers and if you happen to like that, you will like Glutino's animal crackers.

I've written this before, but my favorite Glutino product is their English muffins (which were not part of the snack samples they sent last week). They are far above any other gluten-free English muffins and have become probably my favorite breakfast food. They seem harder to find in local stores than some other Glutino products, but you can get them at a pretty good price at Walmart.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dr. Fasano on gluten-free myths

My Times-Union column which is scheduled for tomorrow's paper again addresses misconceptions about the gluten-free diet.

To prepare for emails telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, I'm sharing this link to an excellent op-ed piece about gluten-free myths that appeared in the Washington Post last month.

The piece was written by Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research & Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is considered by many people to be the nation's leading authority on celic disease.

If you're trying to learn the reality about the gluten-free diet, this piece is very enlightening:

Five myths about gluten

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Food truck rally promises gluten-free options

One of those frustrating trends has been the explosion of food trucks, because they all look so enticing yet most don't seem to have any gluten-free options.

However, there will be a food truck rally this Saturday at the Earth Fare/Academy Sports shopping center at Atlantic and Kernan Boulevards, and the organizers are promising gluten-free options will be available.

The event benefits the HealthUNow Foundation, which supports children with autism.

I can't find a list of food trucks that will be there but I do know of at least two that will have gluten-free options.

One is called Mother Truckin' Pizza, which has gluten-free pizza available and definitely looks interesting. Even if I don't make it to this event, I want to find this truck and give it a try.

Also, Jen Eccleston, who makes gluten-free Jen Tilly Tea cupcakes, will have her cupcakes for sale at the Le Petite Cheri Cupcakery truck.

If you do go to this event and have never been to Earth Fare, you'll want to check it out. It's one of my favorite grocery stores for gluten-free items.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ruby Tuesday adds gluten-free bun option

Ruby Tuesday doesn't have a gluten-free menu but does have an allergen guide on its website that it updates every month (allergen guide link). If you're concerned about cross-contamination, you may not want to risk it but I do eat there from time to time.

I was checking the allergen guide the other day and I noticed that Ruby Tuesday now has a gluten-free bun option for its burger and chicken sandwiches. I don't think they've publicized it but I checked with the company and they said they've been offering the gluten-free bun since November.

So, I gave it a try last night. I just got a regular hamburger and it was a decent burger. It's not something I'd go out of my way for but if you're with a group of people eating at Ruby Tuesday, it gives you an option.

One note of concern with my visit to the restaurant. The allergen guide says the French fries are not gluten free. I ended up with steamed broccoli for my side item.

When the waiter took my order, he was unaware that the fries are not gluten free. Again, while there are gluten-free items available at Ruby Tuesday, I do think there are risks for people who are extremely sensitive to gluten.