Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Brazi Bites coming to Whole Foods

I've never heard of Pão de Queijo, or Brazilian cheese bread (and I've visited Brazil). But when a company called Brazi Bites offered to send me samples of these, of course I said "yes."

These are sort of like soft cheese balls made with tapioca starch and other ingredients. Brazi Bites says they are naturally gluten free, and its products are also certified as gluten free. They come frozen and you pop them in the oven for 20 minutes.

The snacks come in three varieties: original, bacon and fire-roasted jalapeño.

I liked all three. I was afraid I would like the jalapeño version, which was quite hot, but I did. They make a great appetizer for a gluten-free meal, in place of dinner rolls.

Brazi Bites were started by a Brazilian native, Junea Rocha, in Portland, Ore., and have been rolling out across the country over the last three years. The company said they will be available at Whole Foods stores in Florida in February.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

South Beach Diet gluten-free bars relatively low in sugar

As part of my never-ending search for gluten-free treats that are also sugar free or at least low in sugar, South Beach Diet sent me samples of three snack bars that are all certified gluten free and, while not sugar free, are at least relatively low in sugar.

I received two varieties of South Beach Diet's Chewy Nut bars: chocolate chunk and nut crunch. The chocolate chunk bar has 140 calories and 6 grams of sugar, and the nut crunch bar has 150 calories and also 6 grams of sugar.

They also sent me their dark chocolate Good to Go Bars, which have just 120 calories and 6 grams of sugar.

All three are pretty good, although I prefer chocolate because I've always been a chocoholic. The important thing is that I've found them perfect to satisfy a night time hunger pang without needing to eat anything else.

According to the company's website, the products should be available at various Publix, Winn-Dixie and Walmart stores, as well as other retailers.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Glutino's latest is honey mustard pretzels

I've enjoyed Glutino's pretzels, but today I received a product from them that is even better: gluten-free honey mustard pretzels.

Not only did I find them to be delicious -- they also seem to have a better texture than other gluten-free pretzels. I felt like these could pass for regular pretzels, if I can accurately remember what regular pretzels actually taste like (it's been more than three years now).

Anyway, Glutino is giving me the opportunity to share these -- they will send along a bag to one lucky reader. Obviously, this isn't as good as last month's giveaway when they sent a full basket of goodies. But trust me, these pretzels are great, so why not see if you can get a bag for free?

If you're interested, just send me an email at and I'll pick one out at random for the free pretzels.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Cheesecake Factory now has gluten-free menu

The company doesn't seem to be talking about it, but The Cheesecake Factory now has a gluten-free menu, at least at the Jacksonville restaurant.

People have told me that Cheesecake Factory does a good job handling gluten-free customers, and they even had an allergen list available at one point. But the menu is so long that it seemed like too much work to go through it, pick out a meal, and see what the allergens are. And I hate going into a restaurant and questioning the server, who may or may not be knowledgeable.

So, I wasn't going to visit Cheesecake Factory until they actually had a gluten-free menu. I read some blog posts about this a few months ago but when I contacted the company, they said the gluten-free menu wasn't ready yet.

Then last week, a friend told me that they now had a gluten-free menu in Jacksonville. I contacted the company and got no response, and the menu isn't posted on their website. But I called the local restaurant and they told me that yes, they do have a gluten-free menu.

I visited the restaurant last night and was surprised at how extensive the gluten-free menu is. It's actually an eight-page booklet with a lot of choices.

Notably, they have hamburgers with gluten-free buns and french fries on the menu. They also have several pasta dishes with gluten-free fusilli.

I ordered a shrimp and fusilli dish with a kind of garlic and marinara sauce. The taste was excellent, although the texture of the pasta wasn't great.

Now there is a downside: the menu states that Cheesecake Factory does not have a gluten-free kitchen and cross-contamination is possible. It also states that some dishes may have up to 20 ppm of gluten, which is of course the new FDA standard.

So yes, there is a very enticing gluten-free menu, but those of you who are sensitive to any bits of gluten may not want to try it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Column coming next week

It's the second Thursday of the month, which is normally the time for my monthly column for The Florida Times-Union. However, because of an editor's error, the column won't appear until next week.

Sorry about that. I hope you enjoy it -- when you finally get to see it.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Barilla pushing its gluten-free pasta

The Financial Times today has a story on pasta-maker Barilla, including a look at its push into the gluten-free market.

By coincidence, I found Barilla's new gluten-free spaghetti in Publix a few days ago and tried it out last night. It was pretty good, coming out very tender. I would recommend it.

The 12-ounce package of Barilla cost $2.39. That makes it comparable to the 12-ounce packages of Heartland ($2.18) and Ronzoni ($2.12) gluten-free spaghetti I bought recently at Walmart.

Heartland used to be my favorite brand. But I recently tried the Ronzoni brand and found it similar to Barilla in taste and tenderness. Both are more tender than Heartland.

It's good to know we have several choices.

Barilla is marketing its pasta as "a gluten-free pasta that tastes like real pasta."

Barilla CEO Claudio Colzani told the Financial Times that gluten-free pasta "already existed in the market, but we made it affordable, top quality and available everywhere for everyone."

You can read the full text of the article here.