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.