Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy anniversary to me

Today marks the two-year anniversary of my celiac diagnosis. Ugh.

At least I won't spend Christmas Eve day in a panic visiting every supermarket I can to find anything labeled gluten free, like I did two years ago.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Some Loops have gluten-free buns, but...

A representative of The Loop confirmed that the restaurant chain does have gluten-free buns available for burgers at three of its locations.

However, it's not all good news. The restaurants do not have separate preparation areas for gluten-free food, so it seems that there is a big risk of contamination.

Cathy Manzon, director of marketing at The Loop Restaurant Group Inc. said gluten-free buns are available for burgers and other grilled sandwiches at its restaurants in Neptune Beach, Amelia Island and Orange Park. Those restaurants also have gluten-free pizza crusts available.

But I'm not sure if I want to try them out, given the high possibility of cross-contamination.

Another drawback is that these restaurants don't have gluten-free french fries.

I think I'm still pinning my hopes for a GF burger and fries at the new Epik Burger restaurant.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Yes, a GF burger is coming to Jacksonville

The news gets even better.

I got an e-mail today from someone who's planning to open a new restaurant called Epik Burger at the corner of Girvin and Atlantic. And yes, he will be offering gluten-free buns.

The owner Korey Konopasek, said his mother is celiac so he understands our needs. The french fries will not have any coatings and no gluten will be cooked in the frier.

This restaurant is probably a couple of months away, but I'll keep you posted.

I should also tell you that another reader tells me the Loop on Wells Road has a gluten-free bun. I don't know if any other Loop restaurants have it, but I plan to investigate this further.

The Loop has a gluten-free menu for the chain posted on its website and it looks kind of risky, because it says they don't have separate cooking areas for gluten-free. So I'm not sure what to make of this.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A gluten-free burger on Amelia Island

Thanks to one reader, I can report that you can get a gluten-free burger on Amelia Island.

The Falcon's Nest, a bar and restaurant at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, does offer a hamburger with a gluten-free bun, according to its menu. It doesn't say if the french fries are gluten free.

That's a long way to go, for me anyway, to get a burger. But you may want to check it out.

You can find more information and a link to the menu here:

Monday, December 10, 2012

A celiac's experience at the Chart House

Now I've never been to the Chart House and probably wasn't going anyway. But I thought I'd share this interesting blog post about another Jacksonville celiac's experience there:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Larry's gluten-free sub passes the test

Just had my first sub in two years -- at Larry's Giant Subs.

Larry's is now offering subs on gluten-free rolls produced by the Cookie Momster's bakery at four Jacksonville locations. I visited the restaurant on Southside Boulevard across from Tinseltown.

I enjoyed it immensely. I really can't imagine Larry's regular subs are any different than this, since most of the ingredients available are gluten free.

I talked to Larry yesterday. He told me he is testing the gluten-free sub rolls at four company-owned locations. If successful, the company will roll it out to other franchised locations.

In addition to the Tinseltown restaurant, gluten-free rolls are also available at Larry's locations on Baymeadows Road, Roosevelt Boulevard and in Five Points.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Larry's offers gluten-free subs at five locations

Here's some sub news we've been waiting for: Larry's Giant Subs is now offering subs on gluten-free rolls at five of its Jacksonville locations.

This news was announced by Cookie Momsters (which is supplying the rolls) on its Facebook page, and I was alerted to this by Jennifer Gornto at Gluten Free Jacksonville.

Here's the information as supplied by Cookie Momsters:

"Larry's Subs (Southside Blvd, 5 Points, Roosevelt Blvd, Baymeadows by I 95, and Palatka Locations) will be offering gluten free subs using Cookie Momsters' rolls! Our rolls are gluten, casein, soy, nut, and egg free vegan options for great sandwiches! We can only verify that there is no cross contamination in our bakery. Each Larry's location can tell you their handling process."

I'll hopefully have more information on this soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Chuck E. Cheese gluten-free pizza goes national

A few months ago, I wrote about Chuck E. Cheese test marketing a gluten-free pizza. Now, according to pizza industry website, Chuck E. Cheese is offering the gluten-free pizza nationwide.

The website reports that the restaurant chain offers an individual-sized gluten-free pizza for $5.99 and also has a gluten-free chocolate fudge cupcake for $2.99.

I couldn't find an official announcement from the company so I would suggest calling ahead before visiting a Chuck E. Cheese to make sure the gluten-free items are available.

I should also mention that I've never been to a Chuck E. Cheese and probably never will, so I won't be offering a review. But if I see a good one, I'll pass it on.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Some new gluten-free bread finds in Jacksonville

A made a couple of interesting bread finds in the last few days.

The most exciting was finding Schar's parbaked baguettes at Native Sun. About a year ago, I got some free samples from Schar's of their parbaked rolls and they were the best gluten-free rolls I've had. You pop them in the oven for five or ten minutes and you have great fresh rolls. I've been waiting for these to become available at stores in the Jacksonville area.

I really liked the sub sandwich rolls. I felt that this was a product that all sub shops should have to accommodate gluten-free customers. The rolls come in individual plastic packages that have a long shelf life, so you can keep them around for a while. The baguettes I bought have a Feb. 22 freshness date.

There was a space marked on the shelf at Native Sun for the sub rolls but it was empty. Hopefully, they will be restocking because I really want to get my hands on them.

Unfortunately, I don't get to Native Sun that often because I don't live near there. That's why I was happy about my other find, finding Rudi's gluten-free bread at my local Publix. I know Rudi's has been available at Native Sun, but Publix is more convenient for me and probably a lot of other people.

Publix has been stocking Udi's for quite some time and I don't know yet if I prefer Rudi's to Udi's, but it's nice to know I now have a choice.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy gluten-free Halloween

If you're worried about Halloween, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness has some tips, including a link to a lengthy list of gluren-free candy. You can find it here:

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Omission finally reaches Jacksonville

I've been waiting and waiting, and now Omission Beer has finally made it to Jacksonville.
Thanks to a tip from Ed Stansel, co-author of the Times-Union's Amber Waves column, I found that Omission was on sale at Broudy's in Jacksonville Beach.
Unlike other gluten-free beers, Omission Beer is made from traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley.
The brewer, Widmer Brothers of Portland, Ore., claims it has a proprietary process that removes the gluten. The company says every batch of beer is tested and that it meets the proposed FDA standard that something can be labeled gluten free if it has less than 20 parts per million of gluten.
Interestingly enough, Omission says nothing on its label about gluten. The Omission website says it can't legally claim that the beer is gluten free until the FDA standards are approved.
Anyway, the beer comes in two varieties, lager and pale ale. I bought the pale ale.
Omission's selling point is that, because it is made from traditional ingredients, it tastes more like regular beer than other gluten-free beers.
I did enjoy my pale ale but frankly, it's been two years since I've had a regular beer and I think I've really forgotten what that tastes like. So I can't tell you how it compares with regular beer.
I can compare it with other gluten-free beers. I really don't think it was any different than New Planet's pale ale.
Still, it's nice to have more gluten-free options out there. I'll have to try Omission's lager.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Winn-Dixie promotes gluten-free items

Winn-Dixie Stores has been taking steps recently to promote gluten-free items in its stores. The latest move is to offer a special sales circular for gluten-free items.
The circular is available in stores and also on its website, which you can view here. Price in the ad are effective through Oct. 23.
Before it merged with Bi-Lo earlier this year, I had many opportunities to meet with former Winn-Dixie CEO Peter Lynch and pestered him with questions about gluten-free products. He seemed to recognize the importance and even told me a year ago that Winn-Dixie would be putting stickers on the store shelves to indicate products that are gluten-free, just like Publix does.
With the merger, that program seemed to be delayed and I haven't seen the stickers in my local store. But Bi-Lo has a gluten-free sticker program, so I'm hoping that will happen eventually. At least we know that Winn-Dixie is interested in serving gluten-free customers.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Celiac Support Group meets next week

The next meeting of the Celiac Support Group of Jacksonville will be Tuesday, Oct. 16, at 6.p.m.
The meeting, as always, will be held at Sunrise Assisted Living of Jacksonville at 4870 Belfort Rd., just south of Butler Boulevard.
If you haven't been to one of our meetings before, please come. There is no need to RSVP. The support group is a chance to exchange information or just commiserate about dealing with celiac and the resulting gluten-free diet.
If you need more information, drop me a line at

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Petition to finalize gluten-free standards

We're still waiting for the federal government to finalize standards for labeling foods as gluten free. A celiac advocate has started a petition on the White House website to urge the administration to get it done.
I don't know whether this petition will do any good, but it sure can't hurt. You can sign the petition yourself online here.
You have to create an account on the White House site to sign the petition, but that only takes a few seconds.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chicago: my kind of gluten-free town

I spent the weekend in Chicago and had a couple of fantastic gluten-free experiences.
The first was pizza at Lou Malnati's, one of Chicago's famous deep dish pizza restaurants. They make gluten-free deep dish pizzas with a base made out of sausage, instead of a regular crust.
I went there last year and they made a mistake with my order, so I got a vegetarian pizza on top of the sausage crust. Since they gave it to me for free, because of the mistake, I ate it and it was okay. But it wasn't what I really wanted.
This year, I got a pepperoni pizza. I realize this was a lot of meat and that may not appeal to everyone, but I found it to be absolutely delicious, easily the best gluten-free pizza I've ever had. My only regret is that I don't know when I'm going to get there again.
Unfortunately, it was too dark in the restaurant so I don't have a photo to show.
The next day, I had another wonderful experience at Wrigley Field. The Cubs offer gluten-free hot dogs at a place called the Sheffield Grill, sort of a small cafe under the right-field stands.
They seemed very excited to serve me. When I ordered my two GF hot dogs, the cashier exclaimed "Ooooh, gluten free!" And then I ordered a Redbridge to go with it and she said "Ooooh, Redbridge."
She explained to me that the french fries are not gluten free so they would have to give me chips. I didn't even know that I was supposed to get fries or chips with my hot dogs, so of course I was fine with that.
I was actually planning on taking my dogs back to my seat in the bleachers. But then they called out my number and handed me two big paper plates with hot dogs and a big pile of chips on each plate. There was no way I could carry all this (and my beer) back to my seat. So I had to take a seat in the cafe and eat them.
This was way more food than I anticipated (considering the amount of chips included), and pretty reasonably priced for ballpark food. The hot dogs (with fries or chips) normally sell for $6.75 each, the same as regular dogs, but I was there in time for the 25% early bird discount which brought them down to $5.05 each.
The Redbridge cost $7.25, which is in line with ballpark pricing.
Although the hot dogs were apparently only available in the Sheffield Grill, Redbridge was available at other stands in the ballpark, which made things more convenient once the game started.
I also was able to get a Redbridge at my favorite postgame Wrigleyville bar, the Full Shilling (on Clark Street). And later that night, I found that my favorite downtown Chicago bar serves New Grist: Streeters Tavern on Chicago near Rush Street. When I visited Streeters last year, it didn't have any gluten-free beers.
So yes, Chicago is my kind of gluten-free town.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Company starting clinical trials of celiac vaccine

Ever since I was diagnosed with celiac disease, I've been hopeful that medical research would lead to some type of vaccine or pharmaceutical treatment.
Of course, we all know the only current treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. But I'm even more hopeful today that we're getting closer to a medical treatment that will allow us to eat normally.
I've been following a Boston-area company called ImmusanT which has been working on a vaccine for celiac disease. The company says its product, called Nexvax2 "is designed to re-establish patients' tolerance to the toxic effects of gluten, a protein in wheat, barley and rye, and allow them to return to a normal diet."
ImmusanT announced today is testing Nexvax2 in clinical trials in Australia and New Zealand. It expects to also launch a clinical trial at four U.S. sites, but it doesn't say where. If it's in Jacksonville sign me up.
This is a development worth following. You can get more information on the company here:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Bakery with gluten-free products coming to Riverside

There's a new bakery that will feature gluten-free products coming to the Riverside area in Jacksonville.
You can read all about it in my colleague Karen Mathis' column in today's Financial News & Daily Record:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Jaguars seem committed to accommodating gluten-free fans

One final note on my Jaguars gluten-free experience Friday night. I e-mailed Hussain Naqi, the Jaguars new senior vice president for fan experience, to tell him about the minor problems I encountered and I received this almost immediate response:

"We are committed to making sure we have a robust gluten-free offering."

I really do feel good about what the Jaguars are doing to accommodate gluten-free fans.

I wish I felt as good about Comcast customer service. I know this has nothing to do with gluten-free dining but this is my blog so I feel like venting about it.
To make a long story short, let's just say that I wish the customer service representatives who take calls about problems with my cable TV service actually had some knowledge about cable TV service.
I felt like I was in a DirecTV commercial where my frustration with the cable company would trigger a chain of events that ended with me waking up in roadside ditch.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Gluten-free at EverBank Field

It wasn't perfect but on balance, I have to say I was very happy with my gluten-free experience at last night's Jaguars preseason opener.
The first thing I did upon arrival was to go straight to the Bud Light Party Zone to order a beer. I asked the bartender for a gluten-free beer, and she gave me a strange look. Then I asked for Redbridge or Bard's and she understood and began looking through the coolers.
She found a Redbridge and told me there was only one left. It was loud and I really couldn't carry on the conversation any further so I was not able to find out if they also had Bard's, or why they only had one Redbridge left. But I was happy to get a beer.
Then things got even better. She held up five fingers to tell me it was $5. I paid $11 for a bottle of Redbridge at the stadium last year!
If you've ever had a beer of any kind at any stadium, you know that $5 is a remarkable price, so I was very excited. But I'm wondering if this was some kind of pre-game happy hour special in the Bud Zone. I'll have to check into that further.
Also, she just handed me the glass bottle of Redbridge. I thought fans were not supposed to have glass bottles in their hands (because drunk fans tend to throw them). Last year, they poured my 12-ounce Redbridge into a 32-ounce plastic cup.
After finishing my beer, I went off into the stadium concourse to look for a gluten-free hot dog. I stopped at the first Stadium Classics stand and asked if they had hot dogs on gluten-free buns.
The guy looked a little puzzled but he immediately asked someone else, and she produced a package of Udi's buns. I was going to get my dog! I was even more excited.
And there was no extra charge for the gluten-free bun. The hot dog was $5, the same that everyone else pays.
Also, the bun was fresh! My last major stadium experience with gluten-free hot dogs was a Tampa Bay Rays game at Tropicana Field, and the buns were notably stale.
I was so anxious to eat my hot dog that I forgot to take a photo of it, which I had planned to do. Oh well.
I probably should have asked if they could change gloves before handling the gluten-free bun, but I didn't.
After I finished the dog, I decided to circle the lower concourse to see if the other beer stands that were supposed to stock Redbridge had Redbridge available (I was also curious about the price). I stopped at a couple of beer carts that I thought should have had it and asked if they had Redbridge, and the answer was no.
So that was the one glitch in the system. But it was the first game, and I am confident that the Jaguars will fix that once I tell them about it. I really do get the impression that they want to do things right.
Overall, it was a very good gluten-free experience.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Gluten-free baking conversions

I don't bake, and I don't anticipate doing any baking anytime soon, so I can't say for certain that this chart is useful. But it sure looks useful, so I thought I'd share it with anyone who is interested. It's a gluten-free baking conversion chart from a restaurant and kitchen supply company called the Orson H. Gygi Company.


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Gluten-free hot dogs and beer at Jaguars games!

The gluten-free world is taking another step forward in Jacksonville.
The Jacksonville Jaguars tell me that they will have gluten-free hot dogs and beer available this season at EverBank Field.
I know they had Redbridge available last year, but it was nearly impossible to find, as I detailed last year ( But I get the feeling that the new management will make it easier. For one thing, the beer will be available in the Bud Zone (which was not the case last year). And in addition to Redbridge, they'll also be selling Bard's.
Meanwhile, they also tell me that there will be gluten-free dogs and buns available at the "Stadium Classics" concession stands!
I'll be writing more about this in my monthly Times-Union column next week in the Taste section. And I'll be going to the first exhibition game to see how well everything works.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Celiac Support Group meets Tuesday

The next meeting of the Celiac Support Group of Jacksonville will be held next Tuesday evening at 6 p.m.

The meeting will be held, as always, at Sunrise Assisted Living of Jacksonville at 4870 Belfort Rd., just south of Butler Boulevard.

We've moved the meetings from Saturday mornings to the third Tuesday of every month to see if that is a more convenient time for everyone. I hope you can make it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Celiac Support Group meetings moved to Tuesday

We're trying something new with the Celiac Support Group of Jacksonville. We're moving the meetings to Tuesday evenings.

The next meeting will he held next Tuesday, June 19, at 6 p.m. at the same old location: Sunrise Assisted Living of Jacksonville at 4870 Belfort Rd., just south of Butler Boulevard.

Basically, a number of people have been unable to attend out meetings on Saturday mornings for one reason or another, so we're hoping that the Tuesday evening time will work better. I hope many of you can attend. And if you have celiac disease and have never attended one of our meetings, please come. No need to RSVP. The meetings are generally informal sessions in which we discuss the trials and tribulations of living with celiac disease and the gluten-free diet. We do bring in guest speakers on occasion also.

If you have any question about the support group, drop me an e-mail at

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

CeliAct finds Domino's pizzas pass its gluten-free test

Here's an interesting twist on the Domino's pizza controversy...
As you may recall, Domino's last month announced that it is now offering a gluten-free pizza, but it also said that it can not guarantee that the pizzas would not be cross-contaminated with gluten from other pizzas made in the same kitchen.
Some celiac advocates jumped all over Domino's, but I gave the company credit for at least being honest about its pizzas.
And yes, I tried the pizza and found it to be very good, and I didn't get sick. But of course, I normally don't get sick if I ingest gluten like many other celiacs do. My only complaint about the pizza was the price ($11.99 for a small pizza with two toppings).
But last week, a company called CeliAct, which sells nutritional supplements for celiacs, announced that it has independently tested Domino's pizzas. It bought pizzas from three restaurants in Boston, New Orleans and Washington, and found that the New Orleans and Boston pizzas had less than three parts per million of gluten. The Washington pizza had 7 parts per million.
Remember, the proposed FDA standard for labeling a product gluten free, which researchers assure me is a sound standard, is 20 parts per million. So these Domino's pizzas all could be considered gluten free.
Obviously, gluten contamination will vary by Domino's location. And I realize that some people can't tolerate even minute particles of gluten without getting sick. But I think I'll continue to order Domino's pizzas from time to time without worrying about it.
You can read the full report from CeliAct here:

Friday, June 1, 2012

Smart Balance acquiring Udi's

Smart Balance Inc. yesterday announced an agreement to acquire Udi's Healthy Foods. This comes about 10 months after Smart Balance acquired Glutino Food Group.
As a business writer, I can always see the logic in a merger and I normally don't take mergers personally. But as a gluten-free writer and eater, this deal worries me. I think it's a lot better for us if there are more companies competing to put out better gluten-free products.
Businesses always talk about "synergies" after a merger, which means they're going to find a way to cut costs by eliminating overlapping operations. So I worry that this merger reduces the variety of gluten-free products out there.
My personal opinion is that Udi's bread products are better than Glutino, so I'm particularly hoping that the different Udi's products (bread, buns, bagels) continue to be produced after the companies are merged together.
We'll see what happens.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Frito-Lay advances its gluten-free program

Frito-Lay has always been a gluten-free friendly company. Not only are a lot of its products, like Fritos corn chips and Lay's potato chip,s naturally gluten free. But the company has a complete list of its gluten-free products on its website:

The company today announced it is taking further steps in its gluten-free friendliness. It has developed a program to validate that its gluten-free products have less than 20 parts per million of gluten, which is the proposed standard by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Frito-Lay said products that are validated will have a "GF" icon and/or a statement on the bag of the bag indicating the products are gluten free.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

bb's has a gluten-free menu

I hadn't been to bb's Restaurant and Bar in San Marco since going gluten free. I knew they had a reputation for being gluten-free friendly. But I was also pleasantly surprised to find out that they do have a gluten-free menu.
The gluten-free options are mainly salads, which I was planning to get anyway before I knew about the gluten-free menu. It also listed three of their "little b's" appetizers as gluten free:

yellowfin tuna tartare
meze platter with hummus
almond crusted calamari

I don't know why bb's doesn't have its gluten-free menu on its website. I always feel better when I go to a restaurant if I see a gluten-free menu, even if the place has a reputation for being gluten-free friendly.
Anyway, I've always liked bb's and would probably go there more often, but it's a bit pricey. But I would say it's a good gluten-free lunch spot near downtown.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Celiac researcher says no to Domino's

In case you're still undecided about Domino's, Dr. Fasano of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland says it's unsafe:

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Disclaimers and price aside, I liked my Domino's gluten-free pizza

Despite the disclaimers, I had to try Domino's new gluten-free pizza last night. As you know, Domino's announced the availability of its gluten-free pizza on Monday but also said that it could not guarantee that it's safe for celiacs, because of cross-contamination issues in its kitchen. In fact, when you order online and click on the gluten-free crust, a disclaimer pops up on the screen. I give them a lot of credit for honesty.
I'm a bad example for other celiacs because I never really get sick from eating a small amount of gluten. But I was fairly confident I could eat the Domino's pizza and, of course, I didn't get sick last night.
Anyway, I really liked the pizza. I hadn't eaten Domino's in a long time even before getting diagnosed with celiac, but I've seen all those TV commercials with the CEO claiming they've improved the product. I have to say my pizza was very tasty, with a good crust.
But speaking of the Domino's commercials, how about giving us a break on price? Domino's says the pricing of its gluten-free pizza varies by store, and my small pizza (the only size available for gluten free) with two toppings was $11.99 plus tax.
When I went to Domino's to pick up my pizza, I saw the big sign on the window about its Monday through Wednesday carry-out deal of a large three-topping pizza for $7.99. And when I got home with my pizza and turned on the TV, I saw the commercial for that $7.99 carry-out special twice within 15 minutes.
Talk about rubbing it in ... just how much price gouging is a celiac supposed to take? Oh well, let's face it, we're used to it.

By the way, Domino's wasn't the only national chain to make gluten-free pizza news this week. Chuck E. Cheese announced it will begin testing a gluten-free pizza and chocolate cupcake in its Minnesota restaurants, with the hope of rolling it out nationally if all goes well.
All I can say for Chuck E. Cheese is, it's about time. Gluten free is irritating enough for adults but I've long realized that it has to be awful for kids, who have to feel left out at birthday parties when they can't enjoy the treats that the other kids are eating. I would have thought that Chuck E. Cheese would have realized this a long time ago and taken steps to come up with gluten-free options.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Gluten free at The Players Championship, and maybe at Jaguars games

Once again, you will be able to find some gluten-free concessions at The Players Championship golf tournament this week. And as far as Jaguars games go this fall...we'll see.
For at least the second year in a row, the Players Championship will have gluten-free bread available for sandwiches at some of its concession stands, according to Matt Rapp, executive director of the tournament. He did not know the exact locations and said not all of the stands will have the gluten-free bread, but it will be available. The stands also have garden salads available as a gluten-free option.
I met Rapp this morning at a Champions for Education breakfast at the TPC Sawgrass Clubhouse. Among the attendees of that breakfast was Jaguars owner Shahid Kahn, so I introduced myself and told him I wanted to put a bug in his ear about getting more gluten-free items at Jaguars games. They did have Redbridge beer last year, even if it was difficult to find, but I personally think it's about time they offer gluten-free hot dogs.
I got that same kind of blank look from Kahn that we often see from people who don't know anything about gluten-free food. I asked him if he had heard from any other fans asking about gluten-free items and he said no.
So I don't know if I made an impression on him or not. But also at the meeting was Bill Prescott, the Jaguars official who I started bugging last year about gluten-free food and who made sure that at least Redbridge beer was available. I told him I'd be bugging him again this year as we get closer to the season.
Let's hope for the best.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Domino's introduces gluten-free pizza, with a disclaimer

Big pizza news today. Domino's Pizza is becoming the first national delivery chain to offer pizza with a gluten-free crust. But the announcement does come with a caution.
The company is also saying that while the pizza is made without gluten, it will be made in the same kitchen as its other pizzas. So it can not guarantee that the pizza will be free from gluten cross-contamination.
The pizzas should be available today in local Jacksonville stores.
Domino's has consulted with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness about the gluten-free pizzas. It has even prepared a video online to discuss the issues of how safe or not safe it is for people with gluten-related disorders.
I give them credit for honesty. Unlike when California Pizza Kitchen introduced its gluten-free pizzas last year, Domino's does recognize the issue of cross-contamination and is giving us all the information it can. Basically, it says to use our own judgment in deciding whether this pizza is safe.
Personally, I'll give it a try. I know I probably won't get sick because I generally don't get instantly sick from ingesting gluten, as a lot of other celiacs do.
The gluten-free pizzas will be available in a 10-inch size only, and Domino's says prices vary by store.

Outback's Chocolate Thunder as good as it looks

It seems like when you look up the list of gluten-free restaurants in any city in America, Outback Steakhouse always shows up. The restaurant chain has a pretty good gluten-free menu with a number of steaks, as well as chicken and seafood dishes, on the menu.
But probably the most intriguing item on the menu is the gluten-free version of its Chocolate Thunder From Down Under dessert. It's described as a flourless brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, chocolate sauce, chocolate shavings and whipped cream.
As good as it looks, I generally avoid desserts. But on my last visit to Outback, we got extremely slow service (long story), prompting me to complain. In response, the manager came over and offered a free Chocolate Thunder From Down Under. How could I refuse?
Bottom line: it was delicious. I felt sick afterward because I was already full before I started, but it was well worth it this one time. Maybe some other time if I starve myself all day, I can order one.
And let this be one more item debunking the myth that a gluten-free diet is a weight loss regimen.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

May is Celiac Awareness Month

Today is the first day of Celiac Awareness Month. It's time to teach the world that a gluten-free diet is not for weight loss but is a treatment of a medical condition.

I'll have more on this next week in my monthly TU column, but I just wanted to mark the occasion.

Monday, April 30, 2012 posts gluten-free reader's choice results

Here's something to peruse to kill time on a Monday morning (let's face it, it's hard to start working on a Monday).'s celiac disease website recently published the results of a survey of readers on their favorite gluten-free products and restaurants:

It's nice to see that all the restaurants on the list have outlets in Jacksonville. But it still boggles my mind that Carrabba's always ends up on these lists of gluten-free favorties. How can you enjoy an Italian restaurant that doesn't offer gluten-free pasta? If I'm going to an Italian restaurant, I expect pasta. I'll take Enza's in Mandarin, a local family-owned restaurant, as my choice for Italian food. And if I want to visit a chain, Maggiano's has gluten-free pasta. I won't set foot in Carrabba's until they make pasta part of the gluten-free menu.

One other note on pasta. My favorite gluten-free pasta brand, Heartland, didn't make the About.choice list. As I've said before, Heartland's spaghetti seems just the same as regular spaghetti. And it's available at Walmart stores at a reasonable price.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Tweason'ale doesn't do it for me

I finally found Dogfish Head's new gluten-free beer, Tweason'ale, a couple of days ago at Broudy's in Jacksonville Beach. I'm always interested in trying a new gluten-free beer and I've been waiting for three months, since the company said it would begin distributing the beer in Jacksonville.
Dogfish Head says this beer is brewed with strawberries and buckwheat honey. I've never been a big fan of flavored beers, but I figured I'd give it a shot.  It was selling by the single bottle at $2.75 each, so it was no big risk.
So I took a sip and my initial reaction was, "Ugh!" I thought it was awful.
Somehow, it seemed to get better as I drank through the bottle. You didn't think I was going to waste any beer, did you?
But that's probably the last time I'll be drinking Tweason'ale. I give Dogfish Head credit for trying and maybe some of the rest of you will like it. But I'll stick with the regular gluten-free beers.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Forbes spotlights Bold Organics' frozen gluten-free pizza

Interesting story posted by Forbes magazine today on Bold Organics' frozen gluten-free pizza. I got to try this at the gluten-free expo in St. Petersburg last month and I agree, it was pretty good.
It's available in the Jacksonville area at Whole Foods and Native Sun.
Here's the story:

Friday, April 20, 2012

Hidden Valley adding gluten-free labels

Hidden Valley Salad Dressings announced this week that they have added a "gluten free" logo to their salad dressing bottles that are gluten free. That's something I consider good news.
A good number of salad dressings are gluten free, but I'm never quite sure unless the company confirms it. I generally buy Ken's salad dressings because the company provides a complete list of its gluten-free products on its website:
I've also found Ken's Buffalo wing sauce, which is on the gluten-free list, to be pretty good.
On the other hand, I refuse to buy any Kraft products because they make it so difficult. On Kraft's website, it tells you to read the list of ingredients on the label, rather than telling you which products are gluten free. And in my opinion, they make it as complicated as possible:
In it's press release this week announcing the gluten-free labels, Hidden Valley said its manufacturing plants have "stringent allergen control programs to prevent cross-contamination and all of the products listed as gluten free undergo scheduled testing to ensure that the quality of the claim matches the quality of the products."
Thanks, I think I'll give Hidden Valley a try.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Local Oven gluten-free buns pass the test

As we well know, one of the challenges of eating gluten free is finding suitable bread. Even the best brands tend to crumble in your hands when you try to pick up a sandwich.
So I was quite pleased to receive a sampling of breads from a Dallas area company called Local Oven. I received hamburger buns, hot dog buns (which I actually used as a sub roll), baguettes and pitas. And they were all good.
What sets these products apart are their texture. I don't know anything about baking bread but one of the problems with gluten-free rolls is that when you cut them open, you can basically see holes in them. That explains some of the flimsiness.
But the Local Oven products had a very thick texture, which probably explains why they hold up so well. Todd Fitzerman, Local Oven's director of sales, hopes that will appeal to those of us who had to give up gluten.
"We created a product with the same texture and taste of what people remember eating," he said.
Local Oven sells its products in individual wrappers and recommends keeping them in the freezer until ready for use. After thawing, it recommends toasting or putting them in the oven.
But I also found the hamburger bun held up well without toasting. That's important, because I like to take my own bun to a place like Five Guys, which has gluten-free burgers and fries but no buns.
So yes, the Local Oven products passed all my tests.
The company's products are available at a lot of restaurants in the Dallas area and are also available for sale through its website (
Fitzerman said the company is looking to expand the products into other markets. So maybe we'll be seeing them at restaurants in the Jacksonville area soon.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Suns' gluten-free experience everything I had hoped for

I hope you've read my latest Times-Union column that provides more detail on gluten-free ballpark eating.

As it turned out, I made my first visit of the season today to the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville to check out the Jacksonville Suns' new gluten-free menu. It was too late to add any of those details to the column, which you can read here.

But just to update everyone, the gluten-free ballpark experience was everything I hoped it would be.

The hot dogs are a bit pricey, like everything else gluten-free, at $6. But it was a good hot dog. The bun, which they tell me is from Rudi's, crumpled just slightly in the middle but otherwise was a very good bun.

The other gluten-free sandwiches, including chicken, burgers and pulled pork, are a bit higher.

But the Redbridge beer is priced at $6, which is not outrageous for a ballpark beer. So I'm happy about that. Remember, the Jaguars charged $11 for a Redbridge.

So yes, it looks like a good season of gluten-free hot dogs and beer with the Jacksonville Suns. Enjoy.

Monday, April 9, 2012

TacoLu adds Redbridge to gluten-free options

How can a gluten-free friendly restaurant get even better? When it adds gluten-free beer to its inventory.
TacoLu in Jacksonville Beach was already a favorite of many of us and on my last visit over the weekend, I found they now have Redbridge beer available. Yes, the margaritas are great, but sometimes you just want a plain old beer with your gluten-free tacos.
It also added Woodchuck cider as a gluten-free option.
TacoLu doesn't have a separate gluten-free menu but it says on the regular menu that if you need gluten-free, just ask. The staff is ready to help you.
TacoLu features a number of specialty tacos that can be served on soft gluten-free corn tortillas. Some of the tacos on the menu can't be made gluten-free because of the ingredients, but there are still many to choose from them. And they're all delicious.
And don't forget to ask for gluten-free chips when your server puts the chips and salsa on the table. The regular chips are not gluten-free, but they'll be happy to bring substitute chips.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

P.F. Chang's expands gluten-free menu

A favorite restaurant of the gluten-free crowd is expanding its menu. P.F. Chang's on Monday announced a number of new menu items, including new gluten-free items. Here is the list of new gluten-free items, according to a company press release:

Vietnamese Crab Salad
Crab Fried Rice
Asian Tomato Cucumber Salad
Lemon Scented Brussels Sprouts
Caramel Mango Chicken
Dali Chicken
Philip's Better Lemon Chicken

P.F. Chang's already had a good gluten-free menu. You can find it on their menu page here.
But in addition to a wide range of choices, the chain is also committed to preventing cross contamination by providing a separate preparation area for gluten-free items and also separate plates.
It's easily one of the best if not the best chain for gluten free.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Jacksonville Suns will have gluten-free hot dogs and beer

Big news for Jacksonville baseball fans. The Jacksonville Suns will be offering gluten-free hot dogs and beer this season at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville! And some other gluten-free stuff.
Jamie Davis, the Suns' general manager for ballpark foods, told me the gluten-free items will be available in the Sundowner Lounge inside the ballpark. In addition to hot dogs, you can also get a half-pound Bubba Burger, chicken sandwiches and pulled pork all on gluten-free bread.
They will also have Redbridge beer and Woodchuck cider available in the lounge.
The Suns also have a variety of gluten-free snacks and salads available at other concession stands throughout the stadium, as they did last year.
Davis said the Suns will see how much demand there is for the gluten-free items in the Sundowner Lounge and if there is a lot, the items could be made available at other concession stands in the future.
The Suns' season opens on April 5. Now I can't wait.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Looks like a good gluten-free season for major league baseball

I've gotten used to going to spring training games without any gluten-free ballpark fare. Last week, I went to Steinbrenner Field in Tampa and had a chef's salad. It didn't inspire me to sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame."
But for regular season games, things are looking up for celiacs, as more and more major league ballparks are offering gluten-free fare.

Michael Savett posted a great summary of gluten-free options at all the major league ballparks today on his blog, Gluten Free Philly, which you can read here.

Looks like I'm going to have to plan out-of-town trips to the ballpark this year.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pizza everywhere at the Gluten-free for Life Expo

If you can't find any gluten-free pizza to eat, you're just not trying.
At least that's what I was thinking when I attended the Gluten-Free for Life Expo in St. Petersburg on Saturday.
There were informational sessions at the expo but if you've ever been to one of these, the main attraction is the tables and tables of free stuff to sample. And I found plenty of pizza, all of which was pretty good.
I made the mistake of eating breakfast before I went, not thinking about how much I would eat when I got to the expo. Somehow, I found my way to the pizza tables first and I was stuffed within 20 minutes.
Gluten-free for Life Expo
I'm not sure I would have enjoyed this 15 months ago before I was diagnosed with celiac disease, because pizza was a major part of my diet. And I never thought frozen pizza could live up to the real thing. But after eating gluten-free pizza for all this time, I've adjusted my tastes. And I liked all five pizzas I tried.
One of the pizzas is a new frozen offering from Udi's, which has previously been selling pizza crusts but not full pizzas. Udi's is a favorite gluten-free brand for a lot of people, including me, because it's breads and other products are widely available in Publix stores. I haven't seen the new pizzas in my local Publix yet, but the Udi's representative told me that they are rolling them out in Publix stores as we speak.
Three other frozen brands I found were Against the Grain Gourmet (, Gluten Free by Beverly ( and Bold Organics (
I particularly liked the Bold Organics pizzas, which are available in Jacksonville at Native Sun and Whole Foods.
I also enjoyed a pizza made from scratch from a crust mix by Taste of Gluten Free (, but I'm not likely to make a crust from scratch myself. I'd rather use the pre-made crusts, or some of these frozen pizzas, if I'm going to cook pizza at home.
There were of course other products available, including some wonderful goodies from local bakeries in the Tampa Bay area. But If you've read my blog, you know I'm pizza-obsessed. So I left, again, with pizza on my brain.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Taco del Mar will be a gluten-free option

Here's some good news: Taco del Mar, which is planning to open its first Florida restaurant on Jacksonville's Southside, has a gluten-free menu.
The company's gluten-free menu admits that the restaurants are not a 100 percent gluten-free environment, but it does offer a lot of information about what we can and can not eat.
The only other fast-food taco chain I know of that operates in Jacksonville and offers gluten-free options is Chipotle. So I'm looking forward to seeing what Taco del Mar has to offer.
Taco del Mar will be located at 7159 Philips Highway, in a former Quiznos Subs site.
You can see its gluten-free menu here:

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More varieties of Redbridge could be on the way

I was sitting at a bar last night drinking a Redbridge when the guy next to me started asking me why I was drinking it.
It turned out the guy was an Anheuser-Busch representative. And here's the good news: he told me Anheuser-Busch, which makes Redbridge, is working on expanding the brand with new varieties of gluten-free beer. He said the company recognizes that celiacs want to have more beer choices and it's looking to respond.
I don't know when these beers will hit the market, but this is encouraging news. Ever since I was diagnosed with celiac, I've been advocating more bars and restaurants to at least carry Redbridge if they don't have any other gluten-free beers.
Every establishment that serves beer has a relationship with Anheuser-Busch, so it's a simple process to get Redbridge from their distributor and keep at least a case in stock. It will keep in the refrigerator for awhile.
So when the new varieties of Redbridge come out, I'll be advocating for these same bars and restaurants to carry the new lines.

Monday, March 12, 2012

No gluten-free joy in Mudville, or any other spring training site

While more and more major league ballparks are offering options such as gluten-free beer and hot dogs on gluten-free buns, I found last year that gluten-free refreshments are hard to find at spring training parks. And it's not looking any better this year.
I went to the Atlanta Braves' spring training home at Walt Disney World Saturday and I was thinking that if any park had gluten-free stuff, it would be this one because 1) Disney has a reputation as a very gluten-free friendly place and 2) the Braves were leaders in putting a gluten-free concession stand in their home park in Atlanta.
But alas, I found nothing. All I ate at the ballpark was a full bag of peanuts. And of course, there was no beer.
It's understandable that we can't find gluten-free goodies at spring training sites, because the games are played at minor league parks that seat 10,000 people or less. So the economics aren't there.
I guess I have to look forward to the regular season. Last year, the Tampa Bay Rays put in a gluten-free stand with beer and hot dogs. And while the hot dog buns were awful, I was still happy to eat hot dogs and beer at the game.
I'm curious to see what the Miami Marlins do with their new ballpark. But apparently, the Marlins haven't even addressed major parking issues at the new stadium, so I'm not getting my hopes up that they've gotten around to gluten-free.
I'll be checking on the Marlins and making sure the Rays still have their gluten-free stands before the season starts. And as I did last year, I'll check in on the Jacksonville Suns. The Suns weren't offering gluten-free beer and dogs last year. Could this be the year?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Winn-Dixie still working on gluten-free stickers

A lot has happened since Winn-Dixie CEO Peter Lynch told me in November that the company would have gluten-free stickers on its shelves to help shoppers find gluten-free items.
Basically, Winn-Dixie agreed to a merger with South Carolina-based supermarket chain Bi-Lo in December. But as the merger is completed today, Lynch told me that he still hopes the company will get those gluten-free stickers up.
Bi-Lo's gluten-free tags
"It's very important for Winn-Dixie. It's important for the industry," he said. "I've always been an advocate of that."
Lynch admitted that the merger has sidetracked him from working on gluten-free issues. And Lynch is leaving the company now that the merger is done. But he still would like to see the company follow through on the program.
He doesn't know about Bi-Lo's plans, but Bi-Lo already has a program in place with gluten-free tags. So hopefully we'll see them soon at Winn-Dixie.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

My latest Times-Union column

My monthly column for the Florida Times-Union focuses on the quest for gluten-free subs. It's not very promising, but at least we can get a gluten-free sandwich in a couple of places:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

New celiac research group formed

A group of physicians and scientists last week announced the formation of the North American Society for the Study of Celiac Disease.
Membership in the society is open to researchers in the field of celiac disease and gluten sensitivity in the U.S., Canada and Mexico. The group has scheduled its first general assembly for May 20 in San Diego.
"The NASSCD’s overall mission is to advance the fields of celiac disease and gluten-related disorders by fostering research, and by promoting excellence in clinical care, including diagnosis and treatment of patients with these conditions," it said in a press release.
Dr. Stefano Guandalini, founder and medical director of the University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center, was elected as the NASSCD’s first president. I met Guandalini at the Gluten Intolerance Group's conference in Orlando last year, and he is recognized as a leader in celiac research.
Research into celiac disease is growing, and the formation of this organization is a positive development. I'm very hopeful that within the next decade, we're going to see some form of medication that will allow celiacs to eat anything they want.
You can find more information the group at

Thursday, March 1, 2012

My great gluten-free pizza experiment

I've found several good places for gluten-free pizza around Jacksonville, but unfortunately none are conveniently located near my home. Since I don't always feel like taking a drive to satisfy my pizza cravings, I decided to take drastic action.
I decided to try making my own pizza.
My own freshly-made gluten-free pizza
Cooking generally scares me and for some reason, I thought pizza would be very complicated. But once I actually researched how to do it, I found it extremely easy.
I started by buying a pizza stone at Target. I don't know if this is absolutely necessary, as opposed to a regular pan, but I wanted to give this my best shot.
So I put the stone in the oven while it preheated and prepared the pizza. I went as simply and cheaply as possible with the ingredients. I bought an Udi's prepared gluten-free crust, Publix pizza sauce, Publix shredded mozzarella cheese and Hormel pepperoni.
I spread the sauce and cheese on the crust, not really sure how much I was supposed to put on. And then I smothered it in pepperoni and put it in the oven at 375 for 10 minutes and....
It worked! I had pizza that was actually pretty decent.
My great pizza experiment worked. If I can do this, anyone can do it.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Heartland a good gluten-free spaghetti option

Long ago, I recommended a gluten-free spaghetti brand called Heartland as the best brand around. It's one of the few spaghetti brands I tried that cooked and tasted like regular spaghetti. And unlike other gluten-free brands, it's reasonably priced. You can buy it at Jacksonville area Walmart stores, in the pasta aisle.
Heartland Pasta put out a press release today encouraging people to try its products. It's offering a 55-cent coupon if you "like" Heartland on Facebook.
If you haven't tried it, here's a good opportunity. I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Celiac Support Group of Jacksonville meets this Saturday

The monthly meeting of the Celiac Support Group of Jacksonville will be held this Saturday, Feb. 18, at 11 a.m. at Sunrise Assisted Living of Jacksonville at 4870 Belfort Rd. It's just south of JTB, past the Borland-Groover Clinic (where many of us have gone to get tested for celiac).

The support group meets on the third Saturday of every month at Sunrise. For those of you who haven't been there previously, it's a very informal gathering that lasts for about an hour. We discuss the trials and tribulations of the gluten-free diet and share any tips that can help others. We sometimes have guest speakers and also sometimes have free gluten-free goodies to take home.

Please join us.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Check out my column

In case you missed it, my new monthly gluten-free column debuted today in the Times-Union:

And in an interesting twist in the print edition, after my column on page 1 of the Taste section, there's a story extolling the virtues of barley on page 3! Oh well.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A gluten-free Super Bowl

That was a great Super Bowl, and not just because the Giants won. It was also great because I was able to enjoy it with wings and beer.
Last year, as a newly diagnosed celiac, I had no where to go because there were very few places that served gluten-free beer and I couldn't find any place that served gluten-free chicken wings.
But I was able to spend this year's Super Bowl at Time Out Sports Grill, which has Redbridge beer and also has a few gluten-free offerings on the menu, including chicken wings and french fries.
I do take some credit for Time Out's gluten-free menu because I was the first one who first brought it up with them about a year ago. But I give all the credit to manager Claudia Starus who took an interest in gluten-free possibilities and ran with it. She put a separate gluten-free fryer in the kitchen to handle wings and french fries. And she also added a few other items, like flatbreads with a gluten-free crust.
I don't know of any other sports bar in Jacksonville serving gluten-free wings. But with the growth in gluten-free menu items in restaurants over the past year, hopefully we'll have even more choices next year...when the Giants repeat!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

An awkward situation with gluten

I hear a lot about the problems celiacs encounter at events where food is served. I've somehow managed to avoid them in the 13 months since I went gluten free. But I found myself in a situation this week that I didn't know how to handle.
I was attending a business luncheon at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Jacksonville branch. I went to one of these last year where they served a buffet featuring lasagna, which I couldn't eat. But I just helped myself to a large portion of the salad. So I went to this luncheon anticipating I'd do the same thing.
But when I went up to the serving line, I found it had a large salad bowl with croutons already mixed in. Grrrrrrr. Maybe it's more common that I thought, but that's the first time I've ever seen that. I wasn't sure what to do or who I could complain to. I mean, when I order a salad in a restaurant I make sure to say "no croutons." And if the salad then comes with croutons (which hasn't happened to me), I would send it back.
But what do you do in a buffet line? I really wasn't about to make a fuss in the middle of this luncheon. So I picked at the big salad bowl to try to get around the croutons. But I'm sure I must have gotten gluten contamination.
Anyway, just wondering, what should I have done?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Dogfish's gluten-free beer hitting the market

A new gluten-free beer should be appearing on Jacksonville area store shelves in the coming days.
Dogfish Head is introducing a bear called Tweason'ale that will be shipped to Florida distributors next week, the company told me.
Tweason'ale is a bit different than other beers, brewed with strawberries and honey. But it's always nice to find more choices.
“It seems as if lots of folks who have gluten- tolerance issues are pining for an interesting beer,” Dogfish founder and president Sam Calagione said in a pitch for Tweason'ale. “While there are a few well-made examples that mirror traditional beer styles, there aren’t any off-centered offerings.”
Here's Dogfish's description of Tweason'ale:
"We replaced the classic barley foundation of beer with a mild sorghum base. The hints of molasses and pit-fruit are balanced by vibrant strawberry notes and a unique complexity that comes with the addition of a malty buckwheat honey."
Tweason'ale will be sold in 12-ounce four-packs.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Joseph's now has gluten-free pizza!

Nothing makes my day more than finding out that another Jacksonville restaurant has added gluten-free pizza to its menu. I've found some good places for pizza, but I was getting bored with them.
So when Jennifer of posted on Facebook this morning that Joseph's Pizza now has gluten-free pizza, I had to go right away (I guess Facebook is actually useful). And I'm glad I did.
My pepperoni and sausage pizza had a nice crispy crust and a good flavor. I will definitely be going back for more.
Joseph's has only been offering the gluten-free pizza for about a week. I asked about gluten-free beer to go with it and they don't have any, but they do have Woodchuck cider, which is gluten-free. The server told me he didn't know there were gluten-free beers, so I told him about Anheuser-Busch's Redbridge. He said he'd tell the owners, so hopefully we'll be able to get pizza and beer there soon.
Joseph's has two locations in Atlantic Beach (where I went) and on North Main Street.