Friday, December 23, 2011

One year later

Today marks one year that I've been gluten-free.
I was hoping to come up with something insightful to say about this anniversary, but I really don't have anything. I've learned a lot about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, but I still have a lot to learn.
At least I learned I'm not going to go hungry. When I got the diagnosis a year ago, with two days before Christmas, I went into a panic over what I could eat over Christmas weekend, when everything would be closed. This year, I'm well prepared.
I find it amusing that people who don't have celiac disease think they can use the gluten-free diet to lose weight. People ask me all the time if I've lost weight. No, I've gained weight because I've replaced a lot of healthy glutenous food with gluten-free snacks like potato chips and Fritos. Those aren't part of a weight loss program.
My biggest concern is that my previous Gluten-free Glutton blog ended in August, for reasons beyond my control. I got a lot of feedback saying the blog was making a difference because of the information I was able to provide to people about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. I started that blog because I realized my position as a newspaper reporter would give me more access to information than a lot of other people could get.
Unfortunately, when I started this blog on my own, I found that without the backing of a newspaper, people are more reluctant to give me some of that information. So this blog hasn't been so successful. So for anyone who actually can find this blog (I can still find my old blog with a Google search but not this one), I apologize for that.
But anyway, I'll continue to pass on any new gluten-free information I can get.
Happy Holidays.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A gluten-free burger and onion rings! But not in Jacksonville, obviously

I finally made it to Yeah! Burger in Atlanta this week. I've been salivating over its menu for months, ever since Jennifer of first told me about it.
Not only can you get a hamburger on a gluten-free bun at Yeah! Burger, but you can also get gluten-free onion rings! This is the first place I've found that offers that.
So on a trip to Atlanta, I went out of my way to get to Yeah! Burger. And it was everything I hoped it would be. Good burger on a bun that held together fine. And the onion rings were quite tasty.
I liked the fact that when I ordered my burger on a gluten-free bun and gluten-free rings, the cashier asked me if I wanted a gluten-free beer with it (they have Bard's).
Yeah! Burger has two locations in Atlanta. I don't know if it's a chain that will expand.
Besides offering gluten-free options, Yeah! Burger also prides itself on its natural and organic ingredients and its eco-friendly environment. My friend who lives in Atlanta pointed out that those attributes are a big deal in Atlanta, but we agreed that it may not be important in a lot of other places, like Jacksonville.
One other note about my trip to Atlanta. We were looking for a place to have a beer so we stopped in a Mellow Mushroom, since the Jacksonville locations not only have gluten-free pizza but also gluten-free beer. But while the Atlanta Mellow Mushroom has gluten-free pizza, it did not offer gluten-free beer. That was disappointing.

Monday, November 28, 2011

How I finally got a Redbridge at EverBank Field

It wasn't easy, but I finally got to drink a gluten-free beer yesterday at a Jaguars game at EverBank Field. Just $11 for 12 ounces of Redbridge. But I wasn't going to be denied.
Here's a little background for those of you who haven't followed the story. It started during the summer when I convinced Bill Prescott, the Jaguars' senior vice president of stadium operations, that they should be able to offer gluten-free Redbridge beer at Jaguars games. Redbridge is made by Anheuser-Busch, so it is easily available from the distributors for any establishment that offers Anheuser-Busch products such as Budweiser.
In late August, Prescott told me that, yes, Redbridge would be available at four specialty beer stands and carts in the main seating area (it's also available in the club seat sections).
But when I went to my first Jaguars game this year, I couldn't find it. I visited several of the beer stands but nobody had it. And when I asked about it, I got that usual blank look from someone who didn't understand what I was talking about. With gametime approaching, I gave up and went to my seat, very unhappy.
So yesterday, I was determined to go early, before the crowds made the beer vendors frantic, to find my Redbridge. I got there an hour before the game and started my quest.
I circled the entire lower deck, visiting every beer stand. No Redbridge. And when I asked, of course, no one knew anything about it.
Not about to give up, and with plenty of time before the game started, I went to the upper deck. Still no luck.
Finally, I got to an actual bar tucked away in the northeast corner of upper deck that I didn't know existed. I asked a woman working there who said they didn't have Redbridge. But this time, I found someone who was very helpful. There were a couple of stadium operations people standing outside the bar and she said she would ask them where I could find Redbridge.
So we went to one of those guys who asked me what section I was sitting in. I told him Section 144 and he told me he would call the warehouse and get Redbridge delivered to the specialty beer cart in the tunnel behind Section 140.
I went back downstairs to that cart and, of course, they didn't know what I was talking about when I asked about Redbridge. But I figured I would give them a few minutes to get the beer delivered.
Ten minutes later, I returned and, sure enough, there were six Redbridges sitting there with the other specialty beers. The woman smiled and told me they just got them.
So I paid my $11 and they opened a bottle and poured the 12-ounce beer into a 32-ounce plastic cup, which looked quite comical (see the photo). But I had my gluten-free beer, 19 minutes before gametime.
I wish I had gotten the names of the woman at the bar and the stadium operations guy who made it happen. It didn't take much, but they made the extra effort to accommodate a fan, and they should be commended.
I was so happy that I spent another $11 to have a second beer in the second quarter (full disclosure: I got my ticket for free from a friend, so I could justify overspending for beer).
So yes, you can get gluten-free beer at a Jaguars game. But really Jags: does it have to be so hard?

Friday, November 25, 2011

NY Times magazine looks at celiac disease and gluten-free diet

The New York Times magazine this week has a lengthy story on celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, which you can read here.
Hopefully, more people are finding out that the gluten-free diet is a medical necessity to treat celiac disease and not a fad.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Another gluten-free pizza place, but not in Jacksonville yet

I got to try another pizza chain with gluten-free pies on a visit to Charleston last week. It's a build-your-own pizza place called Your Pie and the appealing thing about it is that there are so many options, with only a couple of ingredients listed as off limits for gluten-free customers. And when I walked up to the counter and said I wanted a gluten-free pizza, I was asked if I have an allergy and the pizzamaker immediately washed up and changed gloves. That's the kind of service I like to see.
I ordered a Thai chicken pizza, a variety that is typically listed as off limits at other places that serve gluten-free pizza because the Thai sauce has gluten. The flavor was a bit of a disappointment because the pizzamaker put the sauce on the crust first and then put the ingredients on top of that. So even though the chicken chunks on the pizza were plentiful, they didn't have much sauce on them.
I would still go there again because there were so many options available. I would probably try a conventional pizza (like pepperoni) next time.
According to the Your Pie web site, the company has recently opened its first Florida restaurants in Tampa and Tallahassee, so maybe it will make it to Jacksonville soon.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

First Watch alters gluten-free menu, and not for the better

A couple of months ago, I was quite pleased by the arrival of the First Watch restaurant chain to the Jacksonville area because it was the first breakfast place I had seen with a gluten-free menu. I've visited often since they opened their first local restaurant in Jacksonville Beach.
But this morning, I discovered they've altered the gluten-free menu, and not for the better.
Instead of listing all the menu items that are gluten-free, First Watch today provided me with a list of allergens. I don't know about the rest of you, but I find it tiresome to look at those allergen lists and try to pick out gluten-free items.
And not only that, but basically everything on the menu was listed as having wheat in it! Now on the previous gluten-free menu, there were a number of omelet options that it said were gluten-free, as long as you left out the english muffin that accompanied the entree.
I have to believe the omelets themselves are gluten-free, and the only reason that wheat was listed as an ingredient was because of the english muffin. I asked the waitress and she wasn't sure, so she asked the cooks and apparently they didn't know either. Since I was already there, I decided to just go ahead and order an omelet, figuring it should still be gluten-free.
But I don't know what I would have thought if I hadn't been to First Watch before and was handed that allergen list. And I don't know if I'm going to rush back there after that.
All I'm saying here is, I found this to be another disappointment in our gluten-free world.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Winn-Dixie adding gluten-free stickers

Just like the "GF" stickers you see on the shelves at Publix to indicate products are gluten free, Winn-Dixie is also planning to add gluten-free stickers to its shelves, CEO Peter Lynch told me this week.
Lynch said the stickers should be applied throughout the Winn-Dixie chain by January. He also said the company has already put the stickers in place at a Baymeadows store, but I checked both of its supermarkets on Baymeadows Road in Jacksonville and couldn't find them.
I do like the stickers at Publix. They're easily visible, and I've trained myself to look for them as I walk through the aisles at Publix and it's helped me find food items I hadn't tried before. So I'm looking forward to seeing a similar program at Winn-Dixie.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Hey Jaguars: Where's the gluten-free beer?

If there really is gluten-free beer at EverBank Field, they're doing a good job of hiding it.
I attended my first Jaguars game of the season last night and after the Jags promised me in August that Redbridge beer would be available, I was looking forward to having a beer or two.
So where is it???!!!!
They told me it would be available at two stands on the west side of the stadium called Good Libations and two carts on the east side called Big Bombers.
I checked two carts on the east side and looked at the beer inventory and didn't see any Redbridge. Both were way too crowded and loud to have a conversation with the workers there.
So I went into the Bud Zone, thinking I might find it there. But of course, that was even more crowded and loud, so I never even got close to the bar.
Finally, I went to a Good Libations stand on the west side. It was quieter, so I went up and asked if they had Redbridge. I got that familiar blank stare, the one you often get when you ask someone if they have anything gluten free.
By now the game was getting ready to start and I just gave up and went to my seat. At least a stirring Jags win took my mind off the disappointment of not having a beer.
I realize gluten-free beer is a specialty product that is not going to be made available at every beer stand. But if you are going to have gluten-free beer, is it too much to ask to post a sign somewhere telling us where it is? Of course, now I'm wondering if they really have it all. Hopefully I'll be able to find out.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

A gluten-free Halloween

As bad as it is to get placed on a gluten-free diet as an adult, I've often thought of how bad it would have been to be diagnosed with celiac disease as a child. It has to be tough to watch all the other kids gorging on glutenous treats at parties, knowing that you can't have them.
I hadn't even given any thought about Halloween. I'm guessing that very few households in the neighborhood know if their trick-or-treat candies contain gluten.
But today I found an excellent article on website about Halloween. It has a very thorough list of gluten-free candy, and also candies with gluten that you should avoid. You can read the list here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Publix's gluten-free gaffe

According to the Palm Beach Post, Publix made a serious error in a recipe in the fall issue of its GreenWise Market magazine. You can read the story here.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Celiac Support Group of Jacksonville meets this Saturday

The Celiac Support Group of Jacksonville will hold its regular monthly meeting this Saturday, Oct. 15, from 11 a.m. to 12 noon. The group, which provides celiacs an opportunity to meet and share information about gluten-free living and dealing with celiac disease, meets the third Saturday of every month at Sunrise Assisted Living of Jacksonville at 4870 Belfort Rd., just south of Butler Boulevard.
This month's meeting will feature a visit from a dietician and a bake sale with gluten-free goodies, with proceeds going to the Alzheimer's Association.
There is no need to RSVP. But for more information, contact Nicole Wolfson, director of community relations at Sunrise, at 994-9906.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Gluten Intolerance Group comments on FDA's gluten-free labeling standards

The Gluten Intolerance Group has weighed in with its comments on the Food & Drug Administration's proposals for labeling foods as "gluten free."
You can read GIG's letter to the FDA, along with with links to other letters sent by celiac disease advocates, here.
The groups are supporting the FDA's proposal to lable foods as gluten free if they have less than 20 parts per million of gluten in them. Medical research has found that foods that meet those standards are not harmful to celiacs.
Hopefully, the FDA will approve the standards soon. It's been seven years since a federal law mandated that the FDA come up with a set of standards and four years since the FDA first issued a proposal.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

An honest response to gluten questions

I really hate companies that give vague responses to questions about gluten in their products. So kudos to Dannon yogurt for its honesty.
I've spent the last few days in a hotel that offers free breakfast and one of the offerings is Dannon yogurt. I didn't eat yogurt in the past so I've never given much thought to yogurt and gluten. But since so much of the hotel breakfast spread is off limits, I figured I should check out Dannon, because I thought it might be gluten free.
But here's what you'll find on the company's web site:
"Dannon yogurt products are not formulated to contain gluten, but they can't be considered gluten free. The natural system for stabilizing flavor might contain ingredients derived from gluten sources. Since there is a current lack of consensus on individual sensitivity levels to gluten, and there are no accurate tests to detect the presence and amount of gluten, Dannon yogurt cannot be classified as gluten free."
So we can't eat it. But I do appreciate the honesty.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Gluten-free deep dish pizza

If you asked me a year ago to name my favorite food in the whole wide world, I would have said "deep dish Chicago pizza."
Actually, I would still say that today. It's just a little hard to find when you're gluten free.
But I'm in Chicago, so I figured if I could find it anywhere, it would be here. And in fact, Lou Malnati's, one of the iconic Chicago deep-dish pizza restaurants, does offer a crustless deep dish gluten-free pizza!
Lou Malnati's crustless pizza uses sausage as a base, so if you love sausage pizza, as I do, it's a bonus. It's not something you're going to pick up in your hands like thin pizza, but deep dish pizza is supposed to be eaten with a knife and fork.
Speaking of bonuses, they messed up my order and brought the wrong pizza - still gluten-free, but not what I ordered. So my pizza was free! What could be better? Well, we could get gluten-free deep dish pizza in Jacksonville. But I know I'm dreaming.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gluten-free pizza at BJ's? Maybe, maybe not

The worst thing that can happen to celiacs when we go out to dinner is to find out our food has been contaminated with gluten. The second-worst is to find out that the restaurant doesn't have its gluten-free specialty available.
Last night, I went to the new BJ's Restaurant & Brewhouse, which I've been touting as another venue we can go to for gluten-free pizza and beer. I had been there once before the first week it was open and they didn't have Redbridge beer. Disappointing, but I can handle that. I've had that same experience at Mellow Mushroom, which offers Bard's beer but has been out on several ocassions. I can eat pizza without beer when necessary.
But last night was ridiculous. BJ's was out of gluten-free pizza crusts, so they had no pizza available!
I was informed of this by the manager about 10 minutes or so after I ordered. He was very nice about it and said I could order any other entree on the house. But BJ's gluten-free menu is pretty limited without pizza. Beyond salads, it's basically a choice between steak and salmon. So I got a free steak.
That's fine, but it doesn't make up for not having pizza available. If I really, really had my heart set on pizza last night (I didn't, but often times I do), I would have been furious. And I should point out they apologized for not informing me they were out of gluten-free crusts when I placed my order. So I got the impression that if I was told there was no gluten-free pizza when I ordered, I wouldn't have received a free substitute. It would have been a completely awful experience.
I generally won't go to a restaurant if I don't know in advance what gluten-free menu options are available. I'm not smart enough about food to have discussions with the chef on how to prepare a certain item gluten free. So I choose my restaurants carefully.
The bottom line is, if you really want to go out for gluten-free pizza and beer, BJ's is not the place to go.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gluten-free chicken wings. Finally!

For nine months since being diagnosed with celiac disease, I've been searching for chicken wings. I've been able to find gluten-free options for a lot of my favorite food groups (some good and some bad), but I couldn't find a local restaurant that offered gluten-free wings. I put the word out several times in my previous blog that I was looking, but got no response.
Finally, last week, I got them. Time Out Sports Grill now has a dedicated fryer for gluten-free chicken wings! I've had wings there three times in the last five days, and they were great.
In fact, Time Out, on Beach Boulevard just east of Hodges, added several gluten-free items to its menu for the start of football season. It includes several flatbread pizzas, a hummus appetizer and french fries. And it also offers Redbridge Beer. Just about everything a celiac needs to watch football.
I actually wrote about Time Out's gluten-free efforts in my last column for The Florida Times-Union, which appeared in print after I left the paper but was never posted online, so many people probably missed it.
Time-Out's gluten-free options bring up two points:

1) It isn't so hard for a restaurant to accommodate gluten-free customers. I realize that some restaurants may not think it's cost-effective to come up with a gluten-free plan that will serve relatively few of its customers. But Time Out General Manager Claudia Starus looked into it and was able to find ways to make it work.
2) As many people say, when you're diagnosed with celiac, you should talk to the management of your favorite restaurants to see if they can find ways to serve gluten-free food. Basically, Starus began looking into this after I talked to her about it several months ago.

There may be more good wing news out there. I've been told that Hurricane Grill & Wings is offering gluten-free wings at some of their Jacksonville area restaurants. I hope to find out more about that in the next few days.
And if you're looking to make wings at home, Ken's Salad Dressings has a new buffalo wing sauce that is gluten-free, as are many of Ken's products (you can see a list here). I had been making wings at home with Ken's sauce, baking them in the oven. But it's not the same as getting them deep fried in a restaurant. I'm so happy that they are finally available in Jacksonville.

Friday, September 30, 2011

A few more of my favorite things

Completing my review of things I learned and wrote about with my previous blog, here are some of my favorite gluten-free items I've found in Jacksonville area stores.

Bread: We all know finding decent bread is a chore. The best I found came from the Cookie Momsters bakery on San Jose Boulevard.
But for those of you who can't make it to Cookie Momsters, from a convenience standpoint, my favorite choice is Udi's, which is available in most (but not all) Publix stores in the area. I was actually quite surprised this week to stop in Publix at the St. Johns Town Center and find they don't stock any gluten-free breads. But every other Publix I've been to has it.

Buns: By far the best hamburger buns I've had are made by Canyon Bakehouse, which are available at Native Sun.
Again, for convenience sake, it may be easier to find Udi's buns at Publix. Udi's offers both hamburger and hot dog buns.
I should also mention that Schar's makes a selection of par-baked gluten-free rolls. They sent me some free samples and they were fantastic, but I haven't seen them available in any stores. They are sold online.

Spaghetti: I have tried a number of overpriced gluten-free pastas that I didn't like at all. But surprisingly, the best spaghetti I found is a brand called Heartland which is sold at Walmart. It takes just like regular spaghetti, is reasonably priced, and is stocked with the other pastas on the shelf.

Ice cream cones: A company called Goldbaums makes gluten-free cones that have recently become available at Winn-Dixie stores. They seem just like regular cones to me.

Snacks: I've recently become addicted to Crunchmaster crackers, which has several varieties. And I've also been eating a lot of Fritos and way too many potato chips. But I'm looking for more variety and, in some cases, snacks that are less fattening.
I'm also particularly interested to see if anyone knows of any sugar-free gluten-free cookies. There are a lot of good gluten-free cookies out there but I try not to eat them because they are too sugary.
So I'm on the lookout for healthier gluten-free snacks, if anyone has any suggestions.

A few words on gluten-free beer

It's nice to know there are a lot of gluten-free beers available. But finding them sometimes...
I've spent a lot of time searching for beer since going gluten-free. The easiest to find is Redbridge, which is made by Anheuser-Busch and is available in just about any supermarket. But it's surprisingly hard to find in bars.
I've been contending that any establishment that serves beer should be able to offer Redbridge. Basically, any place that sells beer likely has a relationship with Anheuser-Busch, so it should be able to get Redbridge from its distributor.
I confirmed that early on by asking the management of my favorite sports bar, Time Out Sports Grill (on Beach Boulevard east of Hodges), to see if they could get Redbridge. They found it was very easy and have been stocking it ever since.
But few other Jacksonville bars offer it, according to Redbridge's web site. It's my goal to convince the world that everyone should be at least offering Redbridge, if not other gluten-free beers.
One of my last accomplishments before leaving The Florida Times-Union was convincing the Jaguars to stock Redbridge at EverBank Field. It is supposed to be available at a few beer stands during Jaguars games, but a Facebook report by's Jennifer Gornto said it was hard to find at the home opener. Hopefully, it will be there this Sunday.
After Redbridge, Bard's may be the next-most accessible gluten-free beer. It's offered at Mellow Mushroom and at at least two European Street Cafe's in the area.
European Street in Jacksonville Beach also has two gluten-free imports available, Green's and St. Peter's. That and European Street's sandwiches on gluten-free bread has made it one of my favorite spots.
I've tried a good number of other beers that I've found at Total Wine, which has a good selection of gluten-free beers: New Grist and New Planet. New Planet is also available at Broudy's Liquors. Broudy's in Jacksonville Beach has a nice gluten-free display stand with a number of beer choices.
The list of gluten-free beers keeps growing.  Hopefully the list of places that offer gluten-free beer will continue to grow as well. I can promise you I'll keep working on it.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

A few of my favorite places

For those of you who didn't read my previous blog, let me tell you about some of the favorite gluten-free places I've found in Jacksonville in my nine months of gluten-free living.

Pizza: I've spent a lot of time writing about gluten-free pizza, because I can't live without pizza. Fortunately, there are a number of choices in the Jacksonville area. I do frequent Mellow Mushroom, where you can not only get gluten-free pizza but also gluten-free Bard's beer.
Another place you can go for gluten-free pizza and beer (RedBridge) is the new BJ's Brewhouse in front of Costco on Gate Parkway. I've only been once but I liked it.
Tommy's Brick Oven Pizza on Southside Boulevard is another place to get a good gluten-free pizza, and Brucci's Pizza has has gluten-free at its three area locations.
I particularly enjoyed California Pizza Kitchen's gluten-free pizza, but it turns out the chain didn't quite understand cross-contamination issues when it launched its gf pizza menu in June. At last report, it had pulled the gluten-free pizza from the menu while it addresses the problem. Now that I'm blogging again, I hope to post an update on CPK soon.

Sandwiches: There are two places I go that offer sandwiches on gluten-free bread. One is Jason's Deli, which has a gluten-free menu that allows you to build your own sandwich. The other is European Street Cafe, which servces gluten-free bread from the Cookie Momsters bakery in Jacksonville. European Street has the added bonus of serving gluten-free beers. The beer selection seems to vary by European Street location, but I enjoy visiting the Jacksonville Beach restaurant because it has three different varieties of gluten-free beer.

Mexican: TacoLu in Jacksonville Beach has become a favorite spot of mine. You can ask for gluten-free tortilla chips and get many of their specialty tacos on a corn tortilla. The staff is well aware of the requirements of gluten-free diners.
Chipotle Mexican Grill is a good fast-food spot for gluten-free tacos in corn taco shells.

Chinese: P.F.Chang's China Bistro not only has a large gluten-free menu but also has a special area in the kitchen to ensure that the gluten-free dishes are separated from the other meals being prepared.

Seafood: Bonefish Grill in Mandarin hosted a gluten-free diner for myself and a group of celiacs several months ago, and it was thoroughly enjoyable. Not only can you get a good selection of appetizers and main courses, but it also offers gluten-free bread. It's the only restaurant I know of that offers gluten-free bread to accompany a meal.

Italian: At least two restaurants in the area offer gluten-free pasta dishes: Enza's Italian Restaurant and Maggiano's Little Italy.

Breakfast: First Watch, a chain that recently opened its first Jacksonville locations, is the only restaurant that I know of that has a gluten-free breakfast menu. There are no gluten-free pancakes or french toast, but there are plenty of omelet options and other dishes.

Burgers: Five Guys has become my favorite burger place. You have to bring your own bun, which I do, but the burgers and fries are gluten free.

All gluten-free: The Present Moment cafe in St. Augustine is an organic, vegetarian cafe, and everything on the menu is gluten-free! I only went once, but it was delicious.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

My gluten-free story

I was diagnosed with celiac disease in December 2010. As all of you know, the only treatment for celiac, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the small intestine, is a gluten-free diet. That basically means avoiding any food that contains wheat, rye or barley.
Of course, I immediately starting researching gluten-free foods and found an overwhelming amount of information available. But I was able to use my skills as a career journalist to sort through the information and find what was accurate and reliable. I realized there was an opportunity to share what I've learned with others in the same boat.
So, I started a blog called The Gluten-free Glutton at which focused on information about restaurants and food stores in the Jacksonville area that offered gluten-free products.
I received a lot of positive feedback from other celiacs who found my blog posts timely and useful. But unfortunately, I recently left my position at and the blog was discontinued. But I have no intention of discontinuing my efforts to inform the Jacksonville community about gluten-free dining options. So today I'm launching this new blog to continue the work I started several months ago.
You can still find my previous gluten-free blog posts here. And hopefully, I'll have much more to add on this blog in the coming weeks and months.