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 ( 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: