Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Aldi coming to Southside

This won't help you with your gluten-free holidays, but here's some good news: Aldi is going to open a supermarket in Jacksonville.

According to a story in the Financial News & Daily Record, Aldi filed plans with the city to open a store next to the Target store on Southside Boulevard, near The Avenues mall. This will be its first store in Jacksonville.

As I wrote in my November Times-Union column, I was very impressed with my visit to Aldi's first Northeast Florida store in St. Augustine. The company has a great line of gluten-free products under its own brand, LiveGFree, that are reasonably priced. I've been hoping they would open a store closer to my home.

I don't know when the Southside store will open, but I'm looking forward to it.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Cabana Grill offers gluten-free choices

Cabana Grill, a fast-casual Mexican restaurant which opened this week at 10422 San Jose Blvd., has a large variety of gluten-free options.

Cabana Grill is a new concept created by Fiesta Restaurant Group, which operates the Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana chains. The Jacksonville restaurant is the second Cabana Grill, after the first opened in April in Snellville, Ga.

I haven't visited the restaurant, but its press materials included a list of gluten-free items. It did say that a common fryer is used for fried foods, so there could be cross contamination issues with the items market with an asterisk. But here is Cabana Grill's gluten-free list:

Menu Items
Any taco substituting the 4.5” street taco corn tortilla
Any nachos*
Street tacos
Any Tostadas*
Any Bowl (without fried bowl and chipotle corn topping)
Chips* and Salsa, Guacamole, or Queso

Individual Items
Steak Fajita Meat
Chicken Fajita Meat
Shrimp Tampico
Street Tacos (Steak)
Beans – Black, Refried Black, Charro, Refried Pinto
Rice – Cilantro Lime & Mexican
Mexican Potatoes with Asadero Cheese
House Salad (without the Chipotle Dressing)
Sour Cream
Cheese - Asadero, Shredded, Queso (cheese sauce)
Poblano Cream Sauce
Salsas – Fuego, Roja, Verde, Salsa Ranch
Pico de Gallo
Grilled Onion & Pepper
Sliced Jalapenos
Produce – Lettuce (Romaine or Shredded), Tomatoes, Onions, Jalapenos
Tortilla Chips*
Tostada Shells*

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

No Ragu sauces for me

I haven't bought any Ragu sauces for a long time, but I noticed yesterday that they were on sale at Winn-Dixie at a pretty good price, so I decided to check them out.

I looked at the labels to try and figure out if they were gluten free. Unfortunately, I saw a long list of ingredients but didn't see any allergen information.

So, when I got home, I found Ragu's website and looked to see if it had any information on which of its sauces are gluten free. To make a long story short, I found this:

"We do not publish a list of gluten-free flavors. Therefore, we suggest reading all ingredient labels carefully. As always, if you cannot determine whether the product contains the ingredient in question, we recommend that you don't use it."

Well, thank you Ragu. I guess I won't be buying any of your products.

It kind of reminded me of Kraft salad dressings. Just like Ragu, all it tells you on its website is you should read the (lengthy) ingredient list, with no guidance on whether any of its products are gluten free. So, I refuse to buy any Kraft sauces.

Meanwhile, Campbell's, maker of my preferred Prego sauces, publishes a list of its products that are gluten free. The latest list (updated in June) lists several variety of gluten-free Prego sauces. Interestingly enough, none of Campbell's soups are on that list.

Also, Barilla, which makes gluten-free pastas, also says that all of its pasta sauces are gluten free.

So there are plenty of choices for gluten-free pasta sauce. I wish all manufacturers could be so helpful.

Friday, December 12, 2014

You can skip Udi's burritos

My Times-Union column yesterday focused on my search for gluten-free Chinese food, but another food I really haven't been able to find at all for the last four years is a gluten-free burrito.

You'll never find a gluten-free burrito in a restaurant, but I have seen some frozen burritos in grocery stores. Unfortunately, they are never any good.

But I keep trying. This week, I found frozen gluten-free burritos made by Udi's in Walmart, which are apparently new. So of course, I gave it a try.

My expectations were low, and the chicken burrito lived up to them. That is to say, it wasn't very good. I'm not going to try this again.

The Walmart had three varieties of Udi's burritos, and Udi's website shows eight varieties. I really don't think I'll be trying the other seven.

I've tried to make my own burritos at home using the various gluten-free tortillas you can find in stores. But of course, the problem is they always fall apart in my hands.

So, I'm still searching

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bard's beer missing from Jacksonville market

One of the interesting things I learned on my Native Sun tour last week is that they haven't been able to get Bard's Tale Beer from their distributor.

It hadn't really occurred to me but when I thought about it, I realized I hadn't seen Bard's in any stores recently. Also, the restaurants that had been offering it seemed to be selling different gluten-free beers instead.

So, I went to the locator on the Bard's website, which will tell you stores and bars/restaurants that offer the beer, and confirmed that Bard's beer is not available anywhere in the Jacksonville market.

I called and emailed the company and got a very quick email response from Bard's CEO Brian Kovalchuk:

"We are currently looking for a new distributor for the market and hope to be back in the stores in the first quarter of next year," he said.

Since we have such a limited selection of gluten-free beers, it is disappointing to find one of the few major brands is not available. Hopefully, Bard's will in fact get this resolved soon. At least the quick response from the CEO tells me that the company is responsive to customer needs.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Gluten-free shopping app

Here's an interesting shopping app that could help you find foods that are safe in the supermarket. I haven't tried this myself so I can't vouch for it -- I know I'm behind the times, but I'm just not one of those people who carries my phone everywhere I go -- but it may be worth checking out.

It's called Content Checked and apparently, you use it to scan bar codes and it will tell you if the product has allergens that you can't eat. You store your allergens in the app so it knows what to look for.

Anyway, it looks interesting, so here's the website if you want to check it out:


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

If you see the tag at Native Sun, it's definitely gluten free

I've been shopping at Native Sun and finding gluten-free products throughout the store for the past few years, but I got a new look at the store and its gluten-free program yesterday.

Ginny Nehring, director of research for Native Sun, took me on a tour of the Baymeadows store to show me how they take care of people of people on a gluten-free diet. Of course, Native Sun has a dedicated gluten-free bakery in that store, but its program goes well beyond that.

What I really learned yesterday was the extent of its shelf tagging system. Native Sun's shelves have color-coded tags that help shoppers not only identify products that have "no gluten added," but also no casein, no peanuts or low in sodium.

However, thanks to Ginny, to get a no gluten added label, the store has a much more stringent requirement than the shelf tag indicates. Ginny's son was diagnosed with celiac in 1998, so she's been checking up on this stuff for years. She checks on every company that produces products on Native Sun's shelves to see not only that there's no gluten in the ingredients, but also that the company is using correct procedures to ensure that the gluten-free products are free of contamination from other products.

Even if the product is labeled "gluten free," she won't give it the red "no gluten added" shelf tag if she can't verify that the product is completely safe for a celiac. So you should feel safe if you buy a red tagged product off the Native Sun shelves.

I don't know of any other store where I'd feel as safe as I do buying products there. For example, Publix has green "gluten-free" tags on its shelves, but I really don't think it goes to the same level of verification as Native Sun for products from outside manufacturers.

Native Sun currently has stores in Baymeadows and Mandarin, and is planning to open a third store in Jacksonville Beach early next year. I'm looking forward to that.

By the way, Native Sun is holding a holiday cookie decorating event for kids on Dec. 11 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at both its Baymeadows and Mandarin stores, and Ginny assures me that they will have gluten-free cookies available for kids who need them.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Gluten-free pancake at Another Broken Egg

I made my first visit to the new Another Broken Egg Cafe in Tapestry Park yesterday.

I've been waiting for this to open. Every time a restaurant chain announces it is coming to Jacksonville, I check out the menu to see if it will be gluten-free friendly. And when I saw Another Broken Egg's menu, something jumped out at me: a Gluten-Free Jumbo Pancake!

I don't know of any other restaurant in Jacksonville that offers gluten-free pancakes.

So of course, that's what I had. It was one large, kind of thin pancake. I would rate it as just okay, not great. There was nothing wrong with it, but nothing great about it either. Except the fact that I could order a gluten-free pancake in a restaurant.

The menu also has several omelettes, all of which can be made gluten free "friendly," it says.

The menu warns that the restaurant does not have a 100 percent gluten-free kitchen, which is no surprise. That's why it refers to items as "gluten-free friendly."

So, I wouldn't call this a must-visit place for a gluten-free breakfast. But if you're looking for a place to go with family and friends for a gluten-free breakfast, this is a good choice.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

More gluten-free spots coming to Jacksonville

A couple of notes I picked up at the Gluten Free & Allergen Free Wellness Event about new gluten-free spots coming soon to Jacksonville.

One is a gluten-free coffee shop coming to the Avondale area called Southern Roots Filling Station. Owner Mariah Goelz had a booth at the event and said the shop will offer quick, healthy food options.

While there will be some non-gluten-free items available, "everything we make in house will be gluten free," she said.

Goelz currently markets products under the brand Southern Roots Apothecary, so I was able to sample a double chocolate chip cookie. I think she'll have some good stuff at the shop.

Another local shop coming soon is Sweet Pete's, which as you probably know is renovating the old Seminole Club building in downtown Jacksonville for a candy shop and a full-service bar and restaurant.

The Financial News & Daily Record has reported that plans filed with the city indicate the restaurant will be a gluten-free cafe.

Sweet Pete's had some candy samples at the event -- according to its website, most, but not all, of its candy is gluten free -- but didn't have anyone there to talk about its plans. A promotional card offered with the candy said the restaurant is coming soon, but didn't say anything about it being gluten free. This will bear watching.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Good stuff at gluten-free event

I hope a lot of you found your way to the Gluten Free & Allergen Free Wellness Event in Jacksonville yesterday. There was a lot of good stuff to see.

I'll be writing about some other stuff in the coming days but perhaps the most interesting news for me came from a representative of the Celiac Support Association who is interested in starting a support group in Jacksonville.

Of course, we have had a Celiac Support Group of Jacksonville, which I have been heavily involved in, but the group has been dormant in recent months for a number of reasons, including a lack of a venue.

With this national association interested, as well as interest from the Mayo Clinic of possibly getting involved, I'm confident that we will get a support group going again in 2015. If you've never been to a celiac support group, it's an opportunity to not only get information on the disease and the gluten-free diet from other celiacs, but also just to commiserate about our condition. I don't like to whine about it, and I'm sure a lot of you don't like to either, but sometimes you just need to whine and everyone in the group understands.

I'll keep you posted on further developments but in the meantime, if you're interested in joining a support group, please send me an email.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Reminder: Gluten-free expo coming up Saturday

Just a reminder, if you haven't made plans already, that the Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event is coming up this Saturday at the Hyatt in downtown Jacksonville from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The event will feature speakers, as well as an exposition of vendors showing off their gluten-free products.

This is the first event of this kind in Jacksonville. I've been to gluten-free expos in other cities and they are always a lot of fun and very informative. I'd encourage anyone on a gluten-free diet to attend. If I can give up a few hours of football on a Saturday afternoon in the fall, anyone can.

For more information, visit the event's website: http://gfafwellnessevent.com/

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mayo Clinic studying celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitivity

I recently met with Dr. Maria Vazquez Roque, a gastroenterologist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville who specializes in celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

She told me about two studies going on through Mayo that you might be interested in. One is on gluten sensitivity for people who do not have celiac disease. This study is centered on understanding gluten sensitivity and how symptoms develop.

If you are interested in possibly participating in that study, you can call the study's coordinator, Jonathan Wright, at (904) 953-2014.

The other study is an ongoing examination of celiac disease done by Mayo and other organizations. This study focuses on celiacs who have been on a gluten-free diet for more than 12 months but continue to have symptoms.

You can find more on that study through its website, www.celiactionstudy.com, or by calling Verna Skinner at (904) 953-0703.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Extend Nutrition's new bars are gluten-free AND sugar free

Extend Nutrition sent me samples of two new bars which are not only gluten free, but also sugar free.

I've been complaining forever about the sugar content of gluten-free snacks and have wondered why more companies don't offer sugar-free products that are also gluten free. If I only had any baking skills myself, I would probably be trying to sell a line of gluten-free, sugar-free cookies.

Anyway, Extend's products are promoted to stabilize blood sugar, but all of the company's products are also gluten free.

The new sugar-free bars come in two varieties, Cookies & Cream and Chocolate & Caramel. They're both great, although I liked the Cookies & Cream bar better.

The 1.48-ounce bars have 130 to 140 calories.

I haven't seen these particular bars on the shelf, but Extend products are available in Publix and Winn-Dixie stores, among other places. If you're looking for a sugar-free snack, you might want to give these a try.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Hungry Howie's offers gluten-free pizza, with a warning.

Hungry Howie's Pizza this week became the latest chain to offer a gluten-free pizza crust, but with a warning.

The company said if you have celiac disease, this pizza "is not for you."

"Because Hungry Howie's Pizza prides itself on making pizza dough fresh in-store daily, the new gluten-free crust is not suitable for those with celiac disease, as trace amounts of gluten can be found in kitchen areas where the crust is made. However, those who prefer gluten-free food items because of dietary choice or mild gluten sensitivity can enjoy the brand's new crust," it said.

This sounds like Domino's Pizza's gluten-free disclaimer. I've had Domino's pizza with no problems, and an independent company tested Domino's gluten-free pizza in several cities a couple of years ago and found no gluten or less than 20 parts per million. But I still wouldn't recommend it for people who have more severe gluten-free sensitivities. Proceed with caution at Domino's and Hungry Howie's.

As far as Hungry Howie's goes, I'm not going to try it because there are no locations near me. It seems like there used to be a lot more Hungry Howie's restaurants in the Jacksonville area, but now there are only a handful left.

Hungry Howie's gluten-free crust is available in a six-slice small pizza. The crust is made with rice flour, rice starch, potato starch, water and olive oil.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Gluten-free event coming up

Just a reminder that the Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event is coming up at the Downtown Hyatt on Saturday, November 15, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

If you've never been to one of these events, it's not only an opportunity to get the latest information on your gluten-free diet but also a chance to sample a lot of gluten-free products from vendors who will be exhibiting at the event. That's always a lot of fun.

Tickets are $10, but I have two free tickets to give away. If you are interested, send me an email at basch.mark@gmail.com and I'll pick a winner at random at the end of this week.

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Aldi offers a strong selection of gluten-free products

I visited the new Aldi grocery store in St. Augustine yesterday and found an impressive assortment of gluten-free products, at very good prices.

Aldi has its own gluten-free brand called LiveGfree, and you can find these products all over the store. The gluten-free products include the standard stuff like pasta, frozen pizza and frozen chicken nuggets. But I also found a couple of products that are hard to find from other food manufacturers.

These included cans of gluten-free chicken noodle soup that I bought for $1.69 each. There is a brand of gluten-free chicken noodle soup from the company Gluten-Free Cafe that I've bought at Publix which was much more expensive, even when it was on sale.

The other unique products I saw were gluten-free stuffed sandwiches, including a pepperoni stuffed sandwich that looked like Hot Pockets. Since I was far from home in St. Augustine and didn't want to transport anything frozen, I didn't buy it, but it sure looked interesting.

Aldi also has LiveGfree brands of bread and sandwich wraps.

The only product I've actually tried so far was a package of crackers that looked kind of like Crunchmasters and basically tasted like a Crunchmasters cracker. But at $1.49 for a 4.25-ounce package, it was of course much cheaper.

The store is very sparse looking, intentionally so. For one thing, it doesn't offer any grocery bags -- you have to bring your own. But that's one reason the prices are so good.

The St. Augustine store is Aldi's first in the Jacksonville market and the company is talking about opening more stores in Northeast Florida. I hope they do open one closer to my home, because I really liked this store.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Gluten-free options at Hurricane Grill and Wings

I've eaten at Hurricane Grill & Wings a number of times in the last few years, always ordering a salad. But I saw something on the Internet about a gluten-free menu, so I had to check it out.

Actually, Hurricane Grill has a "gluten sensitive" menu and as the manager told me last night at the restaurant at Baymeadows and I-295, it doesn't have a gluten-free area in the kitchen. So there is a risk of cross-contamination.

However, the menu, which has been available since about July, the manager said, does have some appealing options, including sandwiches on a gluten-free bun. It also has several entrees and salads.

Interestingly for a restaurant chain with "wings" in the name, chicken wings are not available gluten free, but there's enough on the menu to satisfy me. I had a pretty good grilled mahi sandwich on a gluten-free bun.

Hurricane Grill is known for its wide variety of sauces, and the gluten sensitive menu does list the sauces that are gluten free.

Unfortunately, like wings, the french fries are not gluten free. But the menu does list several gluten-free side items that you can have with your sandwich. I had cole slaw.

I considered my visit a good experience, and I will definitely be going back again.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

A gluten-free Chicago weekend

A few gluten-free observations after a three-day weekend in Chicago...

Visiting Chicago for the first time since last fall, I was looking forward to going to Do-Rite Donuts, where a year ago I got the only fresh-made doughnut I've had in four years.

When I checked the Internet before I left I found that not only is Do-Rite still operating on Randolph Street in the Loop, they've added a second location on Erie Street a couple of blocks east of Michigan Avenue. This location happened to be just one block from my hotel!

So, I had a fresh doughnut for three straight mornings. Not exactly the healthiest way to eat, but these were probably the last doughnuts I'm going to eat until I return to Chicago again (likely next fall), so I wasn't going to pass up the opportunity.

Then there was the pizza. I visited a couple of my favorite haunts from the old days when I indulged in deep-dish pizza, which of course I can't eat any more. But my friends love it and both these places -- Gino's East and Giordano's -- do offer a thin gluten-free pizza. So it was no problem for me to join the party there.

The Giordano's pizza was excellent but the Gino's pizza was extremely disappointing. It was very bland. Since Gino's deep-dish pizza used to be my favorite food in the world, this was a huge disappointment.

One place I visited for the first time was Harry Caray's restaurant. We were looking for a lunch place and I just wanted a salad (because I was overindulging everywhere else), so it didn't matter where we went. But I was surprised and pleased to see that Harry Caray's has an extensive gluten-free menu, and gluten-free beer available.

Speaking of beer, my favorite moment of the weekend came at our pregame tailgate before the Northwestern-Nebraska game. The game was very disappointing but at the tailgate, a Nebraska couple stumbled into our area as they got lost looking for their friends. We offered them a beer and the woman said, "I can't, I have celiac."

Well, guess what? I think she was quite surprised when we pulled out a Bard's for her. Since I wasn't intending to drink the whole six-pack, I was very happy to be able to share. Always willing to help a fellow celiac.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

More gluten-free restaurant choices

We can never have enough gluten-free restaurant options in Jacksonville, as far as I'm concerned, so I'm happy to see more gluten-free friendly restaurants on the way.

Karen Mathis reports in today's Financial News & Daily Record that V Pizza, which opened in San Marco earlier this year, is planning to open a second restaurant in downtown Jacksonville Beach before the end of the year, and the owners are also looking for two more area locations.

I've been wanting to visit V Pizza, because its gluten-free pizza looks really good, but I never seem to make it to San Marco. So I can't wait for the Beaches location to open.

The main focus of the Daily Record story is that Rock & Brews, a chain founded by KISS rockers Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons, is looking for a Jacksonville location.

Rock and Brews' menu has gluten-free pizzas and a number of other gluten-free items. I'd love to see this chain come to Jacksonville.

Also of note is the new restaurant Bazille that opened in the new Nordstrom's store in the St. Johns Town Center. Bazille's menu has gluten-free items marked on it.

There aren't a lot of gluten-free choices at Bazille, from what I can tell, but it's nice to see that this restaurant appears to be attentive to gluten-free customers.

Friday, October 10, 2014

A second try at Trader Joe's

I made a second visit to Trader Joe's, when it was less crowded than opening day but still pretty well packed, and found a few gluten-free items I didn't see on my first visit.

I found the gluten-free cheese pizza in the pizza section that I didn't notice the first time. I also found gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and chicken nuggets.

I guess my disappointment with this store is that I'm not really finding anything I can't get anywhere else. I was looking at a package of turkey burgers and by the list of ingredients, it would seem that it was gluten free. However, it's not on Trader Joe's list of products that are gluten free, which you can find on its website (http://www.traderjoes.com/lists/no-gluten.asp).

According to the website, if the product has been validated to have less than the 20 parts per million standard, it will be labeled gluten free. That means I can't assume that other products that seem to have all gluten free ingredients are actually gluten free.

So anyway, that's my take. For my money, Earth Fare is a much better place to go for a gluten-free selection.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Gluten and Allergen Wellness Event coming to Jacksonville

I've been to several gluten-free expos in other Florida cities in the last few years, while hoping we could get one of these events to Jacksonville.

Well, my wish is coming true next month. Echo Event Solutions is presenting a Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event on Saturday, Nov. 15, at the Hyatt Regency Riverfront hotel in downtown Jacksonville.

The event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. will include educational presentations, but also an opportunity to sample gluten-free products from a number of vendors.

"Availability of high-quality gluten-free and allergen-free breads, baking mixes, pizzas and restaurant menus has exploded over the last few years, making it much easier and more satisfying to live gluten/allergen-free, but not all products are easy to find and are costly. Our events give attendees a chance to try before they buy," says event director Nikki Everett.

National sponsors of the event include well-known gluten-free food companies Udi's, Glutino and Enjoy Life Foods, as well as Delight Gluten Free Magazine and Simply Gluten Free Magazine.

Admission is $10 for adults and $8 for military and senior citizens over 55. Children under 13 get in free.

If you've never been to one of these events, you should enjoy it. It's a lot of fun to sample products you may have already had, while also finding some new gluten-free goodies. You may even learn something.

For more information, visit the event website: http://gfafwellnessevent.com.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Still underwhelmed by Trader Joe's

When we first learned that Trader Joe's was coming to the Jacksonville area, I wrote how unimpressed I was with my visit to a Trader Joe's in Chicago.

But with the new store opening right in my neighborhood, of course I had to visit as it opened up today.

And...I'm still completely underwhelmed by Trader Joe's.

I kind of expect a specialty grocer like this to have an interesting selection of gluten-free products, but Trader Joe's doesn't even compare to the great selection I found at the new Earth Fare store. Actually, it doesn't even compare to what you can find at Publix. Or even Walmart.

I wasn't about to stand in the long lines today and buy anything and it was difficult to get around through the crowds, but I tried to examine every shelf. I noticed three Trader Joe's-brand gluten-free products: frozen mac and cheese, frozen pancakes and Oreo-like cookies.

I've read somewhere about a Trader Joe's frozen gluten-free pizza but while the Jacksonville Beach store had plenty of Trader Joe's pizzas in the freezer case, I didn't see any gluten-free varieties.

The bread aisle is particularly disappointing. They have Udi's breads and bagels. I can buy those anywhere.

I visited the Chicago store because it is near the hotel I usually stay in there and I was hoping to find something for breakfast like gluten-free muffins or breakfast bars, but there weren't any. There aren't any in Jacksonville Beach either.

At least I got something out of my visit today. They were giving out free wine samples.

If you haven't been to Earth Fare, it's worth the trip, even if you don't live in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for Trader Joe's.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Biscottis now has fantastic gluten-free sandwiches and pizza

I recently learned that Biscottis in Avondale, along with sister restaurant BB's in San Marco, began offering gluten-free sandwiches and pizzas. So I contacted co-owner Barbara Bredehoeft, who invited me to visit Biscottis and try them out.

I'm glad I went.

Biscottis now has a full gluten-free menu which includes several sandwiches and pizzas, in addition to salads, soup and a couple of appetizers. Barbara said she wanted to create a gluten-free menu that looked just like any other menu, so people with gluten issues can enjoy a meal there.

I got a simple smoked turkey sandwich and I have to say, this may have been the best sandwich I had in four years. The sandwiches are made on sub rolls which are provided by food service vendor Cheney Brothers, meaning that these aren't rolls which we can buy ourselves. And that's unfortunate because I thought the roll was fantastic. I just loved the sandwich.

I also got the smoked chicken romesco pizza, which was also great. The only reason I'm not raving about the pizza as much as the sandwich is because I've found a number of great gluten-free pizzas recently. I can't remember ever having a sandwich this good since I started eating gluten free.

The only thing missing at Biscottis is gluten-free beers on the menu, but Barbara is working on it.

In the meantime, enjoy the sandwiches and pizza.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

U. of Chicago expects to find celiac cure

I received a copy of "The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten-Free," a new book by Beth Hillson that really is a "complete guide."

There is a lot of information stuffed into this book on a wide range of topics, which I think would be an excellent resource for newbies on the gluten-free diet. But I also found some new information that piqued my interest.

Beth seems somewhat optimistic that current research will lead to a cure for celiac -- well maybe not an actual cure but at least a medical treatment that would allow us to eat normal foods.

The most interesting thing, which I didn't know, is that the University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center has changed the URL of its website to www.cureceliacdisease.org.

Yes, one of the top celiac research centers in the country expects to cure it, and they've even set a target date: "we seek to cure celiac disease by 2026," the website says.

That sounds like a long way off, but it does make me more optimistic. And I'm hopeful the cure will come some time before then.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Papa Murphy's passes all the tests

I just had to try a Papa Murphy's pizza over the weekend, and I'll cut right to the chase: the pizza was great, and it seemed like the staff did everything possible to prevent cross-contamination.

I've never been to a Papa Murphy's before so I don't know if every store is the same, and I especially don't know if their gluten-free precautions are the same in every store. But I was very pleased with the response I got at the store on Hodges Boulevard, in the Publix shopping center just off of Butler Boulevard.

When I ordered a gluten-free pizza, they asked if I had an allergy. When I said yes, they not only went to the back to get a gluten-free crust, they also brought out fresh containers for all the ingredients, to make sure I was not getting any ingredients that might accidentally contain gluten.

This is basically the same procedure I've seen at chains like Your Pie and California Pizza Kitchen, which have documented gluten-free procedures.

Yes, they put this all together in the same space where other pizzas are prepared, but I really don't see how any gluten could have reached my pizza. Maybe there were specks of wheat flour in the air, but I felt pretty good about it.

Remember, Papa Murphy's pizzas are made to take home and bake in your own oven, so I didn't have to worry about cross-contamination there.

The pizza tasted great too, ranking as high (in my mind) as any other gluten-free pizza I've had.

My pizza with two ingredients cost $13, which I think was $11 plus $1 each for the toppings (it's not detailed on my receipt). This is a 12-inch pizza, so I thought it was a decent price for what I got.

So yes, if you were wondering, Papa Murphy's is a gluten-free pizza worth checking out.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Papa Murphy's now has gluten-free pizza crusts

As rumored last month, the Papa Murphy's take-and-bake pizza chain confirmed today that it now has gluten-free crusts available.

The stores will be offering a 12-inch par-baked crust made by Udi's.

Unfortunately, Papa Murphy's does warn that there is a risk of cross-contamination, because the gluten-free pizzas will be prepared in a kitchen that also has gluten-containing pizzas. If you are interested in these pizzas and have concerns, I would encourage you to contact the local store to ask about possible precautions.

Papa Murphy's said that, beginning tomorrow, you can check the store locator at the www.papamurphys.com website to see if the gluten-free crusts are available. But the company does say it will be available in more than 1,000 locations this month.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Glutino offers good breakfast options

I received a box of Glutino breakfast bars to sample the other day but as it turned out, I happened to find another Glutino breakfast product in a store that same day that I liked even better: English muffins.

I've been on something of an English muffin kick lately for some reason and I don't think I ever saw Glutino's brand before, but then I found them in, of all places, Walmart. My local Walmart (Beach and San Pablo) suddenly has a really good gluten-free frozen food section, as well as a gluten-free shelf section, so I was able to try the English muffins for the first time, and I really like them.

I've actually had the breakfast bars before and I like those too. Glutino is promoting them now as a back-to-school item, but I like them as a travel item. I will pack breakfast bars for a quick and safe gluten-free breakfast when I'm staying in a hotel for a few days.

Breakfast bars are also serving as my hurricane prep food. Before going gluten-free, I used to store a couple of boxes of Pop-Tarts every year through hurricane season as something filling that didn't need to be cooked if we were hit by a major storm. Fortunately, that's never happened, and we haven't even been threatened this year, but it's still nice to keep the breakfast bars around. Hurricane season isn't over yet.

Along with the breakfast bars, Glutino also sent a product I hadn't tried, pretzel chips. I enjoyed those too. I've always thought Glutino makes the best gluten-free pretzels, so I wasn't surprised I liked the chips.

All good stuff.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gluten-free beer options widening

I found a couple of new gluten-free beers -- at least new to me -- at Total Wine to help me enjoy the first full weekend of football.

I went to Total Wine specifically to find something new, for a change of pace. I found these in the beer singles section, where there were several gluten-free beers available. I really liked the selection there and the fact that they make single beers available, to give me a chance to try out new beers.

I picked out two new beers.The first is Fox Tail beer, which is made by Joseph James Brewing Co.

The interesting thing about Fox Tail is that I bought a can of it. This is the first time I've been able to find gluten-free beer in a can, so I just liked the experience of it.

As it turned out, I wasn't crazy about the taste. According to the Joseph James website, Fox Tail is made from rice and has a "solid hop bitterness" which is "complimented by pear like esters reminiscent of dry cider."

The second beer is a German import called Lammsbrau, that I really liked. I probably liked it because this is one of those beers made from barley. Lammsbrau says on its website that it "uses a unique proprietary technology to remove gluten during the production of this beer."

I know that's controversial. A lot of celiacs are rebelling against beers like this and Omission that are made from barley with a process to remove the gluten, and the brewers say that they fall below the 20 ppm standard. Questions have been raised about the testing of these beers.

I've been drinking them with no problem, but I know other people say these beers make them sick. So I can't really make a recommendation one way or the other.

Speaking of beers like that, I should also mention that I finally returned to Mellow Mushroom over the weekend and had a Prairie Path beer.

You may recall my note a couple of months ago that I was served the wrong beer at Mellow Mushroom when I ordered a Prairie Path, which was a very dangerous situation.

I thought the staff handled it well when I realized I was served the wrong beer, and it was confirmed when I walked in to the restaurant yesterday for the first time in more than two months. The bartender immediately remembered my last visit and assured me that Prairie Path was available and that he would make sure I got the right beer.

So, I feel pretty good that nothing like that will ever happen again at Mellow Mushroom.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

No gluten-free beer at EverBank Field

Just got some very discouraging news from the Jaguars: there apparently won't be any gluten-free beer available at Jaguars games this year.

The team will be selling a gluten-free cider called McKenzie's, but that's not the same. I want to be able to drink beer at the games.

I could care less about the giant scoreboards and the swimming pools. All I need to enhance my gameday experience is a gluten-free beer.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Papa Murphy's working on gluten-free pizza

Papa Murphy's appears to be the next major pizza chain that will be coming out with a gluten-free pizza.

A spokeswoman for the "Take 'N' Bake pizza chain told me that they are not ready to roll out the gluten-free pizzas just yet, and they won't give me a timetable, but they are working on it. It seems like it will be sooner rather than later.

Of course, the big issue with Papa Murphy's will be cross-contamination. Dominos is the other major take-out chain that offers a gluten-free crust, but Dominos warns that it can't necessarily protect against gluten cross-contamination in its small kitchens and that celiacs may not want to risk it. In all likelihood, Papa Murphy's will have similar issues.

I've never had a Papa Murphy's pizza at all -- they started expanding in Jacksonville after I went on a gluten-free diet. But I am interested to see what they have to offer.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Not excited by Walmart's gluten-free pretzels

I had heard that Walmart had come out with a line of gluten-free products under the Great Value brand, and I finally found them this week at my local Walmart (Beach and Hodges).

The Great Value gluten-free products include several pasta dishes and cookies. I decided to try their pretzels, since the price was right: $2.58 for an 8-ounce bag.

Unfortunately, I was less than thrilled with the taste. They had very little salt and no real flavor. I guess they may appeal to people who want less salt in their diet.

I was disappointed because I was hoping this could be a go-to snack. Glutino makes the best gluten-free pretzels, as far as I'm concerned, but they tend to be ridiculously expensive and I only buy them when they're on a really good sale. Snyder's pretzels are also usually overpriced.

I will give some of the other Great Value gluten-free products a try.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Every time I think the public is learning...

Everytime I think we're making progress, I'm reminded how much work we have to do to educate the general public about the gluten-free diet.

Two things happened today. The first was when I was buying a loaf of Udi's bread at Costco (the best deal going on gluten-free bread, as far as I'm concerned -- a 30-ounce loaf for $6.79).

As I was picking up my loaf, a couple was looking at the Udi's shelf and decided they wanted to try it because it was a whole grain bread and it might be good. I told them there was no reason to buy a gluten-free bread unless they are restricted to a gluten-free diet. They appeared to be very confused but took my advice and put their loaf back on the shelf.

The second happened when Channel 4 news at 5:00 had a report about lupin in gluten-free foods.

If you missed this story last week, the FDA was warning people about a legume called lupin that is causing an allergic reaction for some consumers. The FDA said it is found in many gluten-free products as a substitute for wheat flour, but many people are not aware of it. If you have a peanut allergy, lupin could cause a reaction.

Anyway, Mary Baer teased the story by talking about a potential problem for people who have turned to the "latest trend in health-concious eating," a gluten-free diet.

I wanted to scream.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Impressive gluten-free selection at Earth Fare

I visited the new Earth Fare store on Atlantic Boulevard near the intersection with Kernan Road and I have to say, I was very impressed with the gluten-free selection.

I found a number of products I've never seen before, including some gluten-free bread products. I bought English muffins by a company called Foods by George and "rye style" bread by a company called Three Bakers.

There were also breads by familiar gluten-free companies like Udi's and Canyon Bakehouse. In fact, Canyon Bakehouse products are on sale through Sept. 2, so there's an opportunity for good deals there.

I also bought gluten-free frozen onion rings by Ian's, which makes a number of gluten-free products. The only gluten-free onion rings I'd ever seen before are at Epik Burger (which happens to be nearby).

There were a lot of other products I wanted to try, including a wide range of frozen pizzas and some Oriental foods. They also have a good gluten-free beer selection (which was actually the first thing I saw when I walked in the store).

The only area of the store where I didn't find anything new was a snack shelf that had a big "gluten-free" label on it. There was nothing there that I couldn't find at Publix.

The prices were basically comparable with regular supermarket prices. I had been anticipating upscale prices there, so I was pleased with that.

The location may not be convenient for everyone, but the good news is that the company wants to open two to three more Earth Fares in the Jacksonville market, according to a story in the Financial News & Daily Record.

I know a lot of people are looking forward to Trader Joe's opening at the beach in a couple of months, but based on the extremely disappointing gluten-free selection I've found on visits to Trader Joe's in Chicago, Earth Fare is a much better store. Remember, I only look at these stores on a gluten-free basis.

I'm hoping Earth Fare opens a store nearer to my home.

When I get a chance to try the new products I bought today, I'll let you know what I think.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Gluten-free cafe in Dunedin

Wouldn't it be nice if you could find a place where every time you ask "is it gluten-free," you get a response like "of course?"

During my trip to Tampa Bay over the weekend, I visited the Serendipity Cafe, an all gluten-free cafe in downtown Dunedin (north of Clearwater).

I visited there for breakfast a couple of years ago and got gluten-free french toast, which is the only time I've eaten french toast in the past four years. I haven't been anywhere else where gluten-free french toast was even available.

This time, I went for lunch and ordered a buffalo chicken wrap, another item I used to eat frequently in my B.C. era (before celiac) but haven't had since. This was the first time I've seen it available.

When the server gave me a choice of sides, I reflexibly asked, "is it gluten-free?" What a stupid question in an all gluten-free cafe, but that's a habit that's hard to break.

Anyway, the chicken wrap was great. It held together, much to my surprise, because it was very greasy and I figured for sure the wrap would fall apart. And it was really good -- and spicy. The menu did say it would have hot sauce.

There's a lot of interesting things on the menu. Serendipity Cafe may be a little hard to find, in a small building on Main Street in Dunedin. But if you're in the area, it's worth the trip.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Gluten-free at Tropicana Field

I made my first visit in three years to Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg last night, and I was glad to see the the gluten-free concession stand is still there.

The Tampa Bay Rays offer gluten-free hot dogs, Redbridge beer, salads, and some other gluten-free snacks at the stand.

I looked up what I wrote three years ago, when the gluten-free stand was new, and I complained about the "predictably awful" gluten-free hot dog bun, but I was so happy to be able to have a hot dog and a beer at the ballpark that I wasn't so upset. That was the first time after being diagnosed with celiac that I was able to have a dog and a beer at the ballpark.

So three years later....the bun was again predictably awful. Actually, I was hoping for better because they've had three years to go find a better bun. Maybe there just isn't a decent gluten-free hot dog bun out there anywhere, because I sure haven't found it.

What really bugged me was that the hot dog, which cost $5 three years ago, now costs $8. I noticed that a neighboring regular concession stand was selling the same hot dog for $5, so they're charging us $3 extra for the awful gluten-free bun.

The Redbridge was $8, which may sound high but it's in line with other ballpark prices, and it's the same as it was in 2011.

One interesting thing is that the gluten-free stand is located behind center field and was a long way from my seat in the second deck behind third base. At least it kept me sober because it was way too far to walk for more beers, at least after I finished my second beer. I asked the guy at the gluten-free stand if they sold Redbridge anywhere else in the ballpark and he said no.

But I'm not upset about having one dedicated gluten-free stand. After my horrible experience at a Jaguars game last year, I'm convinced that having a single dedicated gluten-free stand is the way for sports teams to go. I'm going to be talking to the Jaguars soon to see what they're doing to make their gluten-free concessions safer this year, and I'm interested to hear what they have to say.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Gluten-free pancakes can be easier

If you read my column in The Florida Times-Union today, you may have noticed a recipe for gluten-free pancakes at the bottom of the page (in the printed newspaper of course, not the online version).

My mother pointed out to me that this recipe (which is obviously not mine) has 12 ingredients. She has made very good tasting pancakes for me with gluten-free Bisquick that only requires 4 ingredients.

Speaking of easy pancakes, I recently tried Van's frozen gluten-free pancakes when they were available in a buy one-get one free sale at Publix. They were mediocre, at best. I won't be buying them again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Hard to go 'Way Back' with gluten-free pizza

I got an e-mail from Mellow Mushroom yesterday wanting me to write about its "Way Back Wednesday" celebration next Wednesday, Aug. 20.

The pizza chain is celebrating its 40th anniversary by offering prices from 1974. Unfortunately, Mellow Mushroom, or anywhere else for that matter, wasn't offering any gluten-free menu items 40 years ago so there's no Way Back pricing available for that. At least I'm pretty sure there was nowhere to go for gluten-free pizza in 1974.

Anyway, these are the specials Mellow Mushroom is offering:

Small Cheese Pizza- $2.50
PBR, Michelob and Budweiser- 75 cents
Coca-Cola Products- 30 cents

So, maybe your friends can go and enjoy the cheap pizza and beer. And you and I can go and order an expensive gluten-free pizza which a 30-cent Coke.

Monday, August 11, 2014

A simple gluten-free quiz

Here's a simple quiz from the author of an upcoming book called "The Complete Guide to Living Well Gluten-Free."

I got a 100% on the quiz and those of you who have been living with the gluten-free diet for any length of time will probably get a perfect score as well.

But it's a short quiz, so try it just for fun:


The book by author Beth Hillson is due out next month.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

A look at gluten-free air travel

I've pretty much given up on the idea of eating on an airplane, even on the rare flight where a meal would be served. What are the chances you can find a gluten-free meal?

Fortunately, I found this great summary of gluten-free options on airlines from the web site Gluten-Free Jet Set. This is the most comprehensive list I've ever seen on the topic:

I've found that my best bet is to eat before I travel, or bring my own food. Even when you have a layover, it's difficult to find gluten-free options in airport terminals.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Smart Flour pizza products can be found in Jacksonville

I recently got an email from a representative of Smart Flour foods asking if I would like samples of their gluten-free products. I was expecting to receive bread, so I was surprised to find a box of frozen pizzas packed in dry ice at my door.

Smart Flour sent me both their classic cheese and uncured pepperoni pizzas. They were both pretty good, as frozen pizzas go.

I haven't been able to find these pizzas in stores, but Smart Flour tells me the pizzas should be available in the two Native Sun stores in Jacksonville.

Another interesting thing about Smart Flour is that the company is providing its gluten-free pizza crusts to Mellow Mushroom restaurants. As I've written before, the crust at Mellow Mushroom seems to have definitely improved, and this seems to be the reason why.

Smart Flour does sell the crusts retail, so I'm really hoping to find the crusts available for sale. Although, as I've said many times, I'm not much of a cook, I really do enjoy making my own pizza at home with ready-made crusts.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Happy FDA Day!

In case you weren't aware, today is the day that the FDA's gluten-free labeling regulations officially take effect.

This means, basically, that if a food product you buy is labeled as "gluten free," it had better actually be gluten free, or the FDA can take action against the manufacturer.

The definition says a food can be labeled as gluten free if it contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten.

If you have questions about the safety about that definition for celiacs, you may want to read the column I did on this in the Times-Union last year. I am absolutely confident that food is safe if it falls below 20 ppm.

I'll have more on the labeling rules in a Times-Union column next Thursday, the 14th.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Larabar introduces gluten-free granola snacks

Larabar, which offers a wide range of gluten-free snack bars, is introducing a new gluten-free granola snack called Renola.

The company said Renola is made from non-GMO ingredients and is not only gluten-free, but also grain-free, soy-free, dairy-free and kosher. It comes in three flavors: cinnamon nut, cocoa coconut and berry.

The company sent me a cinnamon nut Renola pack to sample and it was pretty good. The most appealing aspect of it, for me,  is that the 1.25-ounce pack only has 8 grams of sugar. Many of its Larabar snack bars, which range from 1.6 to 1.8 ounces, have more than 20 grams of sugar.

The Renola bars are available at select Target stores and a number of grocery stores, with a suggested retail price of $1.79.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A weekend of gluten-free sweets

I normally try to avoid sweets but this past weekend, as I was spending time with family, I indulged and found a couple of interesting gluten-free items.

First was a cake in the Whole Foods bakery. I rarely visit Whole Foods but we were in the neighborhood so I wanted to stop in and see if I could find something for dessert.

This was called Chocolate Confetti Cake, and was basically a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting and sprinkles. The label said "gluten free" but gave no other information, and certainly didn't carry a certified gluten-free label.

Even though I was leery, I really wanted to eat the cake so I went ahead and had a piece. Actually, I had two pieces. I haven't had cake like that in a long time and it just seemed so good.

After I finished, I looked into this on Whole Food's website. I know the rational thing to do would have been to look this up before I ate but, come on, how many of us are completely rational on our gluten-free diet?

Anyway, I found that Whole Foods does have a dedicated gluten-free bakery in North Carolina started by a baker who has celiac himself. So it all sounds pretty good. I don't know why they don't have more info on the label.

That brings me to my second indulgence of the weekend. The following morning I had gluten-free cinnamon sugar donut bites that I found in the bakery section of Native Sun. The label on this package said it was "made in a gluten-free bakery" but didn't say exactly where. And just like the Whole Foods cake, it was not certified gluten free.

I've been looking for fresh gluten-free donuts for a long time, so of course this sounded good, and it made for a good breakfast.

All this stuff is of course delicious, but I know I shouldn't be eating so much sugary stuff. Hopefully, this will be my fill of sweets for a while. And I plan to find out more from both stores about their gluten-free safety procedures for the baked goods.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Top gluten-free colleges

Here's an interesting list from Udi's: their top 10 gluten-free colleges.

Actually, I think most colleges are becoming more accommodating to celiacs, especially after the U.S. Justice Department got involved in 2012 when one college wasn't doing its job.

I wrote about that and the gluten-free programs at JU and UNF last year in a Times-Union column. I felt like JU and UNF are doing a pretty good job, and I hope it's continuing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Drinking beer at the arena

As I mentioned in my Times-Union column last month, the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena now has gluten-free beer. And as I also mentioned in that column, now that there is gluten-free beer, I was more interested in attending a Jacksonville Sharks game.

So I went to my first Sharks game Monday night and I am able to confirm that, yes, you can get Omission or Dogfish Head Tweason'Ale. But like everything else, it wasn't simple, even though the menu boards at the concession stands prominently displayed "gluten-free beer" on the signs. The signs were even flashing photos of Omission beer.

I bought two beers at two different cashiers and both times, the cashier didn't know what I was talking about when I asked for a gluten-free beer, even when I pointed to the signs. This was basically the same problem I encountered last fall at EverBank Field, which I described in a previous column.

That debacle, when the concession workers didn't understand and served me gluten, was potentially dangerous. This was just annoying, because I could clearly see what bottles of beer they were looking at (trying to figure out what a gluten-free beer is) and when they showed me the Omission and Tweason'Ale bottles, I was able to say "yes, that's it."

I'd worry about this if they were serving gluten-free food items. But other than gluten-free JimmyBars!, which are prepackaged (and also displayed on the menu boards), there isn't any. So they can't really poison us. Considering how much work it took to get the beers and how appalling the service was last year at EverBank Field, I'm not sure I want the arena to offer gluten-free food.

But at least it's nice to have a beer at the arena.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Several gluten-free items at Latitude 360

I made my first visit today to Latitude 360 today. And by the way, don't let the signs outside which say "Latitude 30" fool you; the restaurant and entertainment venue on Philips Highway near The Avenues mall is officially known as Latitude 360, but they haven't changed the signs yet.

Anyway, I was there to write a business story about the company, not to eat. But since I was there, naturally I asked about gluten-free options and was surprised to see they actually have a gluten-free menu. It's not posted on their website.

The menu has several appealing gluten-free items, including chicken wings and pizzas. There is also a gluten-free spaghetti option for pasta dishes.

Now I can't tell you anything about the quality and preparation of the gluten-free items, but it was nice to see that they have them. The gluten-free menu even discusses celiac disease, so they know this isn't a fad diet.

I told them they should post the gluten-free menu on their website (latitude360.com) so people will know it's there and they said they would do that.

I also asked about gluten-free beer, which they don't have, but they promised to look into it.

I guess I'm going to have to visit Latitude 360 again as an actual customer one of these days.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A gluten-free place in San Francisco

I don't normally recommend places I haven't visited myself but if you're going to be in San Francisco, you should check out Kawika's Ocean Beach Deli, where you can get a sandwich on home-made gluten-free bread.

I learned about Kawika's because it's run by a college friend of mine, who is gluten intolerant, and her husband. She says they make white bread and a dark multi-grain bread in dedicated machines. In my experience, it's rare to find a place with home-made gluten-free bread.

They also offer gluten-free desserts, salads and beer.

The deli is located at 734 La Playa St., which looks like it's near Golden Gate Park. I wish I was planning a trip to San Francisco because I'd love to check it out.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Some new gluten-free finds

A few words on some recent gluten-free finds....

I've already written about Prairie Path, a craft beer from Illinois which has made its way to Jacksonville. Forgetting about the recent screw-up at Mellow Mushroom that caused me to get glutened, I was happy to see Prairie Path available on tap. And just last week, I found six-packs of bottled Prairie Path available at Total Wine.

It cost $9.99 for the six-pack (although I had a $1 off coupon), comparable to other gluten-free beers.  I really enjoyed it and it seemed to make a perfect beer for the 4th of July barbecue I attended (bringing my own gluten-free buns, of course).

Prairie Path is similar to Omission. It is brewed with a process that removes gluten and the brewer says it falls under the 20 ppm standard. I know some people are uncomfortable with that, but I've been drinking Omission and now Prairie Path with no problems. I just like having more gluten-free beer choices.

Secondly, I want to follow up on the news that Canyon Bakehouse breads are now available at all Target stores. I did find a couple of varieties of Canyon Bakehouse at my local Target, but I found an even bigger selection when I went to the larger Super Target at Beach and Hodges Boulevards. There were five varieties of Canyon Bakehouse bread there, which I think represents its entire line.

Unfortunately, I didn't find Canyon Bakehouse buns there. Also, there were no discounts but since it's Target, maybe we'll find them on sale one of these days.

Finally, I want to mention the latest samples I received from Glutino, which were Wafer Bites.

Wafer Bites come in three flavors and were all pretty good: hazelnut, chocolate and lemon. What I liked about them is that the small size made portion control very easy. I know portion control is something we can do on our own, but somehow the small wafer bites made it easy.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Smashburger now has gluten-free buns

I learned last week that Smashburger is offering Udi's gluten-free buns for its burgers throughout its 30-state chain, so I made my first visit to its Neptune Beach restaurant yesterday.

Smashburger actually made the announcement two months ago but I missed it. I'm glad I finally found out about it because I had a pretty good hamburger there.

There was a $1 surcharge for the gluten-free bun, but that's okay because other restaurants generally charge $2 to $2.50 for them.

Of course, the big question is, beyond the bun, what is actually gluten free at Smasburger. You can check out the allergen information on its web page.

You'll notice that some items, particularly the french fries, are gluten free but the company warns they are prepared on shared equipment, so there is a risk of cross-contamination.

I asked the girl at the counter who took my order about the french fries and she immediately told me the fries are cooked in gluten-free oil. There was something in the way she answered that made me feel confident that she knew what she was talking about. There was none of that confusion that you sometimes see, particularly at a fast food restaurant. So I felt confident enough to order the fries.

I don't know if I can recommend Smashburger to people who are very sensitive and have cross-contamination concerns. I continue to recommend Epik Burger, which actually isn't very far from Smashburger on Atlantic Boulevard, for people with cross-contamination concerns, because Epik Burger does everything possible to accommodate celiac customers.

The Neptune Beach Smasburger opened in 2011, and the franchisee has announced plans to open more in the Jacksonville area. But no other locations have been announced yet.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Virtual gluten-free expo

This is kind of interesting: a virtual gluten-free expo.

Once you log in (you'll need to register with your e-mail), you can click on pages of a number of familiar and not-so-familiar gluten-free vendors for product giveaways.

I only looked at a few of the pages but it's worth exploring. Check it out:


Monday, June 30, 2014

Glutened again....lesson learned

I was glutened over the weekend. I didn't get seriously ill or anything, but of course it was a bad situation and taught me a lesson about being more careful.

It happened at Mellow Mushroom in Jacksonville Beach, which is normally a reliable gluten-free place. I wrote a month ago about how happy I was to see that they had a gluten-free beer on tap, Prairie Path.

So I went there and ordered a Prairie Path with my pizza. As I was finishing the pizza, I ordered another Prairie Path and was informed that they were out of Prairie Path and had given me a different beer.

Of course, I was horrified and let them know that. The short story is, there was miscommunication among the bartenders which resulted in them serving me a normal beer.

To their credit, the restaurant handled it well. The manager came to talk to me and was very concerned and gave me his card to call him if I did require medical treatment. I knew that wouldn't happen, and I told him that I would probably feel lousy but I wouldn't get seriously ill.

He picked up the tab for my meal and gave me a $20 gift card to come back again. And he said he would call me when they got Prairie Path back in.

This is the first time I've been glutened since the awful incident at a Jaguars game last fall. If you didn't read my account of that, check out my Times-Union column about the incident here. Jaguars management also took that seriously and I hope they will have a better gluten-free program this season.

Here's the lesson I took away from the Mellow Mushroom incident. Everywhere else I go to drink beer only has gluten-free bottled beer. So, I never have to worry about what I'm being served. I can see what the bottle is.

With a draft beer, we really have no idea if what's in the glass is exactly what we ordered. I should have double-checked when they handed it to me: "This is a gluten-free Prairie Path, right?" I've had to ask questions like that when I was served food and wasn't so sure it was gluten free. I really can't take anything for granted.

So, I'll take that lesson away, and hopefully Mellow Mushroom also learned a lesson about being more careful with its gluten-free clientele.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Italy sounds like gluten-free heaven, according to the NYT

I visited Italy about 10 years ago and I would love to go back one of these days, but of course my gluten-free diet makes me hesitant to go any place where I'm not sure I can find anything to eat.

I've heard anecdotally that there are many Italian restaurant with good gluten-free programs, but this story today in the New York Times clinches it. Now I have to find a way to get back there.

It really makes Italy sound like gluten-free heaven.


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Canyon Bakehouse breads coming to Target

Canyon Bakehouse announced yesterday that its gluten-free bread line will be available in all U.S. Target stores.

This is good news because Canyon Bakehouse products, particularly its hamburger buns, have long been a favorite of mine but aren't always easy to find. I've bought them mostly at Native Sun.

I'm also hoping to find good prices on the products at Target.

Canyon Bakehouse buns were basically the first hamburger buns I found that didn't crumble in my hands. Udi's buns have gotten a lot better recently, but I still rank Canyon Bakehouse at the top.

Canyon Bakehouse's full line of bread varieties include: 7-Grain bread, Mountain White, Deli Rye Style, Cinnamon Raisin, Hamburger Buns, and Hot Dog Buns.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Gluten-free cookie warning

I saw a couple of blog posts last week about a supposed gluten-free cookie brand called Bart and Judy's, but I didn't worry about it because I had never seen them for sale around Jacksonville.

However, I stopped by The Fresh Market this morning and I did see Bart and Judy's cookies on the shelf, so I guess I should pass this on.

Basically, Gluten Free Watchdog, a company that tests products for its gluten contents, found that Bart and Judy's cookies exceeded the 20 ppm standard set by the FDA to determine if foods are safe for celiacs.

You can read more about it on this report from celiac.com:


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Great burger at Moxie, but the bun crumbles

I finally made it to Moxie Kitchen + Cocktails at the St. Johns Town Center to try its gluten-free burger.

I've been wanting to try it since Tom Gray, the chef who runs Moxie, told me about it a few months ago. A couple of things held me back: one is that Moxie is pricey; the second is that I was told the fries weren't gluten free.

However, I finally went yesterday, prepared to have a side salad or whatever with my burger.

I got the gluten-free menu at the restaurant and was surprised to see it listed the burger with fries. I asked the server, who didn't seem very knowledgeable about the gluten-free menu. So I asked her to check with the kitchen.

She came back and said, yes, the fries are gluten free. So I was happy to order my burger and fries.

There are actually a lot of options on the gluten-free menu. I'd love to tell you more about it but I was basically fixated on getting a burger, so I didn't really look it over. The gluten-free menu is not posted on the Moxie website.

The burger was absolutely delicious. According to the menu, it's a beef-pork-bacon blend. It worked for me.

However, the bun didn't. I ran into that age-old gluten-free problem. The bun crumbled in my hands.

I've had a lot of good luck with gluten-free buns lately, both at restaurants and even in the Udi's buns I buy at Publix. I was pretty optimistic that the general state of gluten-free buns was improving, so I was disappointed in this bun.

The burger cost $14, which is a lot for a burger, obviously. The good news is, when I sat down, they offered me a bottle of complimentary sparkling water which they said is made in-house. So I didn't pay for a beverage. That brought the total bill to $14.98 with tax.

Anyway, despite the bun problem, I did enjoy the burger and the gluten-free menu looks very good. So I would recommend Moxie.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Glutino recalls Rosemary and Olive Oil crackers

Last month, I told you how I liked some Rosemary and Olive Oil crackers that Glutino sent me. However, today I got some bad news: Glutino initiated a voluntary recall of those crackers because of possible salmonella contamination in the seasoning.

Glutino assures me that the batch I got was safe. It says those crackers with a "best buy" date of Oct. 26, 2014, stamped on the box are subject to the recall.

The company said the recall was initiated because the seasoning supplier, Kerry Ingredients, recalled the seasoning blend used in the crackers because of possible salmonella  contamination.

If you have a package with that date, you can return it to the place of purchase for a full refund.

Hey, at least they weren't recalled because of gluten.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Gluten-free beer at the arena

Here's some good news: The Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena is now offering gluten-free beer.

I learned this while working on my next column for the Times-Union, which will focus on gluten-free offerings at sports arenas. Unfortunately, there's not much to choose from in the way of food at the arena, but at least you'll be able to get a beer.

The arena is testing gluten-free beer to see if there's a demand for it, so I hope everybody drinks up.

The beer should be available at the next Jacksonville Sharks home game on June 7.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Gluten-free beer on tap at Mellow Mushroom

On a trip to Chicago last fall, I was very excited to find a gluten-free beer on tap and have my first draft beer in three years.

The beer is called Prairie Path and when I checked it out, I found it is similar to Omission. It's a barley-based beer, but the brewers say most of the gluten is removed in the brewing process. When they test the beer, it falls well below the 20 ppm standard, they say.

The beer is made by an Illinois company called Two Brothers Brewing, so I figured it was just a regional thing that I couldn't get again until my next trip to Chicago.

But last week, a friend of mine (who is not gluten free) told me that Mellow Mushroom in Jacksonville Beach has a gluten-free beer on tap. I hadn't been to Mellow Mushroom in a while because it is so expensive and because I've found a lot of other gluten-free pizzas that are much better than Mellow Mushroom.

I did read recently that Mellow Mushroom changed the recipe for its gluten-free crust so I had been meaning to try it, and the possibility of gluten-free beer on tap made it a must visit. So I went yesterday and found, of course, Prairie Path. I had no idea the beer had made it to this part of the world.

So I ordered a Prairie Path, which was great, and a pizza, which I have to say was better than the previous gluten-free crust I had. But yes, there are still other gluten-free pizzas I prefer to Mellow Mushroom.

However, what really will prevent me from frequenting Mellow Mushroom is the price. My tab for a specialty gluten-free pizza and two beers: $33!!!! Before the tip.

I'll try Mellow Mushroom again on trivia night, when hopefully I can win some bar cash to actually afford my visit.

Monday, May 19, 2014

I couldn't stomach 'Grain Brain'

A few months ago in my Times-Union column, I took a look at the popular book "Wheat Belly."

I've been saying for the last three years that there is no reason to go on a gluten-free diet unless you have celiac disease or some other type of gluten intolerance, and I kept getting e-mails from people saying I'm completely wrong and I need to read "Wheat Belly."

So, I read the book and found that it basically says the same thing I do about the gluten-free diet.  You can decide for yourself is wheat is bad for everyone (it's certainly a debatable point) but "Wheat Belly" author William Davis does say in his book that gluten-free alternatives to wheat are not necessarily healthy. That's exactly my point about the gluten-free diet.

Which brings me to the latest fad book, "Grain Brain." This book by neurologist David Perlmutter argues that grains are bad for your brain.
People started telling me that I need to read "Grain Brain," so I put my name on the waiting list at the library and finally got it and tried to read it this weekend. I couldn't get past page 51, where Perlmutter wrote about celiac disease.

His facts were so wrong that I couldn't come up with any reason to read any further, because I have no faith in him at all.

First of all, before page 51, he was writing about getting his patients tested for gluten intolerance. The problem is, there is no test for non-celiac gluten intolerance. If you want to know more about that, read this entry from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness.

Then there's this long paragraph on celiac disease that actually starts on page 50:

To quote from the book: "although many experts estimate that 1 in every 200 people has celiac disease, this is a conservative calculation."

No, most expects say 1 in 133 have celiac -- wait, let me correct that -- EVERY expert says it is 1 in 133, which is based on a comprehensive study. It's not a guess.

To continue from the book, "the number is probably closer to 1 in 30, since so many individuals remain undiagnosed."

No, many of the 1 in 133 are undiagnosed. That's the issue.

To continue, "as many as one in four people are vulnerable to the disease due to genetics alone... what's more, people can carry genes that code for mild versions of gluten intolerance, giving rise to a wide spectrum of gluten sensitivity."

No, the actual expects (the ones that use the 1 in 133 stat) say there is no genetic marker for gluten intolerance.

If you're comfortable with his ignorance of celiac disease, fine, go ahead and read "Grain Brain." I can't stomach it.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Campeche Bay has gluten-free menu

Thanks to Jennifer of Gluten-Free Jacksonville, I learned that Campeche Bay Cantina in Jacksonville Beach now has a gluten-free menu.

I haven't been there since going gluten free but it is a restaurant I liked in the past, so I'm looking forward to trying it out. The gluten-free menu, which you can find on the Campeche Bay website, has a pretty big selection.

It sounds like they are well aware of cross-contamination issues. A note at the top of the menu warns that the corn chips are fried in the same oil as flour tortillas. It also says "when ordering from this menu please ask for Manager assistance." They don't even want us to rely on servers.

It all sounds good.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Gluten-free menu changes

I noticed a couple of changes on gluten-free menus at restaurants I visited in the last few days -- one positive and one negative.

The negative was during my visit to P.F. Changs China Bistro. Now don't get me wrong, I still love P.F. Changs and the efforts they make to prevent cross-contamination. However, I did not notice that the gluten-free menu had shrunk a bit. There were fewer items available than on my last visit.

I asked the waiter about that and he told me that the menus change seasonally, and that may be why some items were removed from the menu.

I still have a very enjoyable meal and would still highly recommend P.F. Changs, however.

The positive change was during a visit to Jason's Deli. It's menu, which it calls "gluten sensitive," includes a build-your-own sandwich option on gluten-free bread, which is what I always get there. In fact, that's why I go there -- to get a sandwich on gluten-free bread.

The new item was actually on the kid's menu, which I probably wouldn't have noticed except for a sign promoting it near the door. It's called "J.D. Nuggetz" and is a gluten-free chicken nuggets meal breaded in cornmeal and baked. It looks like a pretty good option for kids.

If you've never been to Jason's, you may be scared off about their warnings that their gluten-free menu is not recommended for people with celiac disease because they are concerned about cross-contamination. However, I've made numerous visits to both Jason's restaurants in Jacksonville and if you tell them you have a gluten allergy, they seem to make a good effort to try and prevent cross-contamination. I have no issues eating there.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Final word on gluten-free options at The Players

Well, as I said in my Times-Union column today, I did get my TacoLu gluten-free taco at the Tacos on 12 tent at The Players this morning. But it's not the only gluten-free taco available at the golf tournament.

I really wanted to get a second taco from Corner Taco, which brought its food truck to the Trucks on 10 area near the 10th hole. Unfortunately, they weren't going to be ready to serve until after noon, and it was just too hot to stick around the tournament. I liked it a lot better when they held it in March.

Anyway, according to the sign on the Corner Taco truck, they are offering a fried mahi taco that is "always gluten free." I did get to ask them if their fried mahi was really gluten free and they assured me it is.

The other area I visited this morning, which was not part of the two media food tours I had before the tournament, was the food court behind the 16th green. The best option there is the Winn-Dixie tent where they are serving sandwiches with Dietz & Watson deli meats -- they probably could have just called it the Dietz & Watson tent.

Most if not all Dietz & Watson deli meats are gluten free and at the Winn-Dixie tent, they are offering the option of getting a sandwich on gluten-free bread for $1 extra.

The other gluten-free option in the food court is the MShack tent, where they have a burger with a lettuce wrap option, instead of a bun. Unfortunately, they told me the french fries are not gluten free.

I should also mention that the tacos are some of the best-priced items, at least as far as gluten-free items go at the tournament. TacoLu's tacos are only $4 and Corner Taco's is $5.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Jimmy Kimmel takes on non-celiac gluten-free dieters

Great bit by Jimmy Kimmel, which basically illustrates why I get so irritated with people who eat gluten free and have no idea what they are doing:

Encouraging gluten-free talks with local restaurants

I went to a second media food tasting event at The Players yesterday (sometimes it's good to be in the media -- free food), and the most interesting part of it was I got a chance to talk to representatives of several local restaurants that I don't normally visit.

The conversations were very encouraging because I really felt these people understand what the gluten-free diet is really about. It's a good feeling during Celiac Awareness Month.

The first place I visited was the tent for Indochine, the downtown Jacksonville Thai restaurant. They told me that a good number of dishes on their menu can be made gluten free and while they don't have a gluten-free menu, they said the staff is very knowledgeable about gluten-free issues. We discussed the fact that the big problem with Asian foods is that most soy sauces contain wheat. That told me that they do know what they are talking about.

Then I went to the Metro Diner tent. I was actually surprised to see Metro Diner on the golf tournament's gluten-free list and, in fact, they said that only one of the dishes at their tournament tent is gluten free: stuffed tomato with chicken salad.

The Metro Diners in Jacksonville don't have a gluten-free menu either but Mark Davoli, one of the owners, told me that several dishes on their regular menu are gluten free and they are talking about providing a gluten-free menu because they realize that so many people need it.

Next to the Metro Diner tent is Pele's Wood Fire, which is offering pizza at The Players but, unfortunately, not gluten-free pizza. However, they did tell me that the restaurant in Five Points has gluten-free pizza and from what they described about the process, it seems that they are taking the proper precautions to prevent cross-contamination as well as possible.

On the other side of the Metro Diner tent at The Players is the 4 Rivers Smokehouse barbecue tent. They assured me that all of their barbecue sauces are gluten free (which is always the big question at a barbecue place).

All of those restaurants are located in an area at the golf tournament called Taste of Jax between the 11th green and 12th tee. We also visited a food truck area between the 10th and 11th fairways and the 15th green that included another barbecue place called Up in Smoke BBQ.

What I liked about Up in Smoke is that they warned me that their sauces for their pulled pork are not gluten free. They did offer me some brisket and said they could put coleslaw on top, but they admitted that there has been some debate over whether or not the coleslaw is gluten free. I considered all of this a positive because they clearly understood the problem and were open and honest about it. That's all I ask.

So, I came away feeling good about some local restaurants that I haven't been going to, and I also have to say that there are some awesome gluten-free choices at the golf tournament this week.

Monday, May 5, 2014

No need for special tortilla chips

In anticipation of Cinco de Mayo, Glutino sent me a bag of their Tortilla Dippers, a bag of tortilla chips shaped for dipping.

They were good but the truth is, there is no need for gluten-free food companies to produce their own brand of tortilla chips because most tortilla chips are naturally gluten free. There was nothing to separate Glutino's chips from any of the others out there.

I'm much more interested in gluten-free crackers, and there are more and more of those out there. Last month, Glutino sent me samples of several of their cracker brands. The best of the bunch was their Rosemary & Olive Oil crackers, which I thought had a really good taste.

As far as tortilla chips go, I just look for bargains. It's pretty much hard to go wrong in the supermarket, unless there is some special flavoring involved.

Restaurant tortilla chips are a different matter, because they are often fried along with other gluten-containing food and can't be trusted.

That can be disappointing. At a place like TacoLu, you need to ask the server for gluten-free chips and they will replace the fresh chips with some commercial brand of chip. It's nice that they offer that option, but you know the fresh chips are better. Just another thing we have to miss out on.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Happy Celiac Awareness Month

It's May 1, and that means it's the first day of Celiac Awareness Month.

It's a month when hopefully we can tell the world why we're on a gluten-free diet -- not because we think gluten-free food is healthier but because with celiac disease, we have no choice. The world needs to know that gluten-free is not a fad diet.

As Alice Bast, president of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness said, "gluten-free has taken over celiac disease." I'll have more on that in my Times-Union column next month.

Anyway, I'll be doing my part to try and spread the message this month.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Jaxon Social marks gluten-free dishes on the menu

One other note about my tour of The Players Championship food venues last week.

I was able to pick up a menu from Jaxon Social, the restaurant that took over the KC Crave spot in Jacksonville Beach.

The menu had several dishes marked with a "GF" tag that indicates "this dish can be prepared gluten-free upon request."

I haven't actually been to the restaurant, so I can't tell you more about it, but I thought that was a nice touch that you would all want to know about.

Jaxon Social is one of the restaurants that will be providing food in The Michelob Ultra Blue Room VIP Lounge, which is a pricey ticketed lounge that is being targeted toward a younger crowd at the golf tournament. Jaxon Social will be there on Sunday of the tournament, which is next week.

I see that Mellow Mushroom is scheduled to be the food provider on Thursday of the tournament, but I'm betting that gluten-free pizza probably won't be on the menu.