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 celiac.com 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.