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.