Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Schar deli bread good, but pricey

I've always liked Schar's products, particularly their par-baked rolls, which are some of the best gluten-free rolls I've tried.

So I was intrigued when I saw another Schar product in Native Sun, which it calls "deli-style bread." It looks really good in the package, like big slices of rye bread, which is something I really miss. The label says you can eat this bread right out of the package, without toasting.

But here's the problem. There are only 5 slices in the package, and I think the price was $5.76. We're used to paying ridiculously high prices, but this seems over the top. And why 5 slices? I mean, they couldn't put an even number in there? Or are we supposed to make a sandwich with one slice of bread?

Anyway, the deli-style bread has been on sale at Native Sun for $3.99 this month, which is still pricey for 5 slices of bread. But at that price, I decided to try it.

I bought some Boar's Head pastrami to see if this could make me feel normal again, like I was eating and old-fashioned pastrami-on-rye.

The verdict? Yes it made for a pretty good sandwich. It didn't taste like rye bread, but it had a good flavor and it held up well.

Is it good enough to keep buying at these prices? Well, once in a while. But it's not something I can afford to buy every day. That's pretty much the same as all of Schar's products. I like them, but I'll go broke if I keep buying them.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Kiddie TV show ridicules gluten intolerance

Okay, I found this even more infuriating than an ignorant bartender.

According to a story posted by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, on a Disney Channel show called "Jessie," other kids ridiculed a child who said he was on a gluten-free diet.

I never heard of Jessie, so I don't know anything about the show. But I didn't like what I read. You can see the story here:

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Some people still need celiac awareness

I was pretty optimistic in my recent Times-Union column about Celiac Awareness Month, saying that the word seems to be getting out. But I was reminded yesterday that not everybody got the memo.

I went with some friends to have a drink at Ragtime in Atlantic Beach. I was pretty sure there wouldn't be any gluten-free beer but I figured they would likely have Woodchuck or some other kind of cider.

So I asked the bartender if they had any gluten-free beer (no), and then if they had Woodchuck or some other cider (no). Then he rattled off a list of beers that they did have.

I explained no, I was looking for a gluten-free beer or cider. He got annoyed with me and listed off the beers again and said "I'm telling you what we have." He clearly had no idea what I was asking.

This is the first time in a long time that I got that kind of attitude from a restaurant server. Ragtime used to be a popular restaurant -- maybe it still is -- so I can't believe I'm the first customer to ever inquire about gluten-free beer there. Their food menu doesn't appear to be gluten-free friendly and that's fine, I don't have to eat there. But I really expect restaurant workers, especially at a place that aspires to be an upper-end restaurant,  to understand when we ask about gluten-free stuff.

I guess we still do need Celiac Awareness month.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Omission beer now at Publix

Here's another great find at Publix. They are now stocking Omission beer.

It's available at my local store and according to the Omission web site, at a lot of other local Publix supermarkets.

Besides the fact that we can buy it at the supermarket, rather than having to visit a specialty liquor store, there were a couple of other bonuses I found at my Publix:

1) It was actually available in the refrigerated beer section. Usually in my experience, gluten-free beers are not refrigerated, other than the ubiquitous Redbridge.
2) It was selling for $1 off, at least this week.

Omission has become a favorite of a lot of celiacs. The beer is made from barley, but the brewer says it has a proprietary process that removes the gluten. Each batch of Omission is tested for gluten, and you can check on the test results of your beer at the company's website.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mueller's gluten-free spaghetti now at Publix

Mueller's used to be my preferred brand of pasta, before I discovered that Publix brand spaghetti seemed to taste just the same and it cost a lot less.

That all became a moot point when I had to go gluten free. But since Publix doesn't have its own brand of gluten-free spaghetti, I was pleased to find that Mueller's has a new gluten-free spaghetti now available at Publix.

It costs $1.79 for an 8-ounce package, which is only 20 cents more than Mueller's regular spaghetti. Of course, the Publix spaghetti costs just 79 cents.

I tried it and it was good, but probably no better than the other gluten-free spaghetti I've been touting for the past two years, made by Heartland.

I've only seen Heartland spaghetti at Walmart, where a 12-ounce package costs $2.18. That makes it cheaper than the Mueller's on a cost-per-ounce basis.

But anyway, it's nice to have choices. I don't think you can go wrong with either Mueller's or Heartland. In both cases, you can find the gluten-free spaghetti in the regular pasta sections at Publix and Walmart.

In addition to spaghetti, Mueller's website says it is also coming out with gluten-free penne and fusilli products.

Here's what Mueller's says on its website about the safety of its gluten-free products:

"We follow the proposed rule in the Federal Register (72 FR 7295) that tests for gluten at the 20 parts per million level. While we do not have dedicated equipment for Mueller's Gluten Free Pasta, we have a very detailed protocol in place to prevent cross contamination and ensure safety for consumption. The gluten level of the product is verified to ensure that it does not exceed 20 parts per million."

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Unfortunately, no gluten-free subs at Firehouse

I attended a presentation last week by Firehouse Subs CEO Don Fox, and it gave me an opportunity to talk to him and Dough Reifschneider, the company's head of marketing, about the possibility of gluten-free subs at Firehouse.

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

It is a disappointment, but I can't say I blame them. There are two issues with sub shops. One is getting fresh gluten-free sub rolls. But probably the biggest issue is finding a clean area to prepare subs that are not cross-contaminated with gluten.

With the relatively small sub preparation space in Firehouse, it would be difficult to ensure the restaurants could provide a gluten-free sandwich, Reifschneider told me.

We can't expect Firehouse to reconfigure the restaurants to accommodate a small percentage of its potential customer base.

At least we do have Larry's Giant Subs providing gluten-free subs in the Jacksonville area. They're getting their sub rolls from the Cookie Momsters bakery in Jacksonville.

The staff there has been trained to try and avoid cross-contamination, but they also have a small preparation area. I haven't heard any stories about people getting sick from a Larry's gluten-free sub but if you have a severe reaction to gluten, you might be taking a risk at Larry's and any other sandwich shop that offers gluten-free options.

Friday, May 3, 2013

P.F. Chang's and Mellow Mushroom pass gluten-free test

This is good stuff. First Coast News took Jennifer Gornto of Gluten-Free Jacksonville out to three restaurants to test if their gluten-free food was actually gluten free.

I was very pleased to see that P.F. Chang's passed the test. Considering all the precautions that P.F. Chang's takes with its gluten-free menu, it would have been very disheartening if it failed.

A Mellow Mushroom pizza also passed the test.

However, mashed potatoes at Chili's failed. Since I never had any plans to eat mashed potatoes at Chili's, I really didn't care about that.

You can see the full report here:

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May is Celiac Awareness Month

It's May, and you know what that means. It's Celiac Awareness Month.

This is my third awareness month since being diagnosed with celiac disease, and I think a lot of progress has been made in educating food preparers about the disease and the need for the gluten-free diet.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is starting a campaign this month called "Fuel the Family." Celiac disease is a genetic disorder so if you have it, there's a good chance that other members of your family have it (although it's not a guarantee).

The NFCA's program is encouraging family members of celiacs to get tested to see if they may have it also.

You can read more about Fuel the Family and other Celiac Awareness Month information on the NFCA website at