Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Is celiac a disability?

Here's an interesting story from LegalNewsline.com about celiac disease and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Basically, it seems the law is very murky about where celiac falls in this, despite some legal decisions recently, and says celiac may not be classified as a disability in all cases.

You can read the story here:


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

A big anniversary approaches

Tomorrow marks my fifth anniversary of my celiac diagnosis, which threw me for a loop just before Christmas weekend in 2010.

And I just got an email reminding me of how maddening that weekend was. It was a general message from Mellow Mushroom reminding customers that its restaurants will close at 3 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

I spent Dec. 24, 2010, frantically visiting every grocery store in the area before they closed for the holiday, looking for anything with this mysterious "gluten-free" label to make sure I would have at least have something to eat over the weekend.

Meanwhile, I had learned on the Internet that at least one restaurant in the area, Mellow Mushroom, had gluten-free pizza. So I figured I could at least keep my tradition of Christmas Eve pizza alive.

Assuming that the restaurant would likely be closing early, I headed to Mellow Mushroom in Jacksonville Beach shortly before 5 p.m. planning to order a pizza to take home. Of course, I arrived to find the parking lot empty and the doors locked. I was crushed -- the perfect ending to a perfect 24 hours.

Five years later, I'm much more knowledgeable and there are a lot more options available, so I'm well prepared for Christmas without gluten. And while I resolve to not whine too much about our gluten-free diet, I can't help but reflect about how difficult and frustrating it can be at times.

Hopefully things will continue to get better for those of us stuck on the diet.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Beware of eggs at IHOP

Not that I had any intention of visiting the International House of Pancakes anytime soon, but I just read this fascinating nugget in a story about surprising fast food facts posted on the CBS News website:

"IHOP adds a bit of its signature pancake batter to both its omelets and its scrambled eggs. So, contrary to popular belief, customers who are trying to eat gluten free or watch their diets should beware the egg section of the menu."


Of course, if you went to a place like IHOP and ordered something you thought was safe, like eggs, you would probably have major concerns about cross contamination. But pancake batter in the eggs?

So there's now no chance that I'll ever visit an IHOP again.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

NFCA becomes 'Beyond Celiac'

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness today announced it has changed its name to Beyond Celiac.

The foundation said the name change reflects its evolution from an organization focusing on awareness to a broader role in advocating for care and research, including a goal of finding a cure for celiac by 2025.

“As we listened to the community, it was clear their unmet needs extend far beyond raising awareness. By changing our name to Beyond Celiac, we’re emphasizing the evolution of our programs, services and mission to ensure that celiac disease is known as a serious, genetic autoimmune disease needing an early diagnosis and better treatment options,” said Beyond Celiac Founder and President Alice Bast.

The foundation also changed its website URL from celiaccentral.org to www.beyondceliac.org.

Since being diagnosed five years ago, the NFCA -- and now Beyond Celiac -- has been my go-to organization for information about celiac, although there are other advocacy organizations that also do good work. But I've always enjoyed talking to Alice and support her efforts to make life better for celiacs. If they are committed to finding a cure, I feel good that they will achieve that goal.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Gluten-free perceptions are getting worse. Sigh.

Well, the more we talk about the gluten-free diet, the more people just don't get it.

Despite our attempts to educate the public that gluten-free foods are not always healthy but are absolutely necessary for those of us with celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, a new survey by Mintel shows that a large number of people don't take it seriously.

Mintel reported that "nearly half (47 percent) of consumers agree that gluten-free diets are a fad, compared to 31 percent in 2013."

All I can do is sigh.

There are some other interesting nuggets in the report, such as the distrust of gluten-free claims and the fact that 28 percent of celiacs "are less strict" about their gluten-free diet when they eat out. I'm wondering what that means: do people eat foods that they know are dangerous or are they more willing to take risks with cross-contamination when they eat out (I admit to being in the latter category)?

You can read Mintel's full press release on the survey here:


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

No difference in gluten-free latkes

Check out these two plates of potato latkes in the photo. One is gluten free and one isn't. Can you tell the difference?

Neither could I, if I didn't know (for the record, it's the plate on the left).

My mother made latkes last night for a Hanukkah dinner and, for my benefit, she made one batch of gluten-free latkes.

It wasn't complicated at all -- well, that's easy for me to say because I didn't cook them. It actually does take some effort to make potato latkes from scratch. But the point is, to make them gluten free, all she did was substitute gluten-free Bisquick for the regular flour in the recipe. Everything else was the same.

They tasted great. I can't imagine the other batch tasted any different than the gluten-free batch.

That's the good thing about the holidays. I don't think there's anything about a holiday meal that can't be made gluten free. Of course, it helps a lot of if you have understanding family and friends who will accommodate you at big gatherings. But hopefully, you'll have happy gluten-free holidays.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Disappointed by bb's menu

I visited bb's restaurant and bar in San Marco for lunch this week and I was disappointed. I was expecting more from its gluten-free menu.

About a year ago, I visited and wrote about Biscottis in Avondale's gluten-free menu, which included terrific gluten-free sandwiches. Since bb's has common ownership with Biscottis, I was hoping for the same.

However, I was disappointed to find bb's doesn't have gluten-free bread. It does have gluten-free pizzas and many of its other dishes can be made gluten free, but I was hoping for a sandwich.

The gluten-free menu lists sandwiches and says you can substitute field greens for bread, which I guess means you get meat and field greens. I actually call that a salad.

I did order a salad -- from the actual salad menu -- and it was very good. I could tell when I ordered that the waitress understood my need for a gluten-free meal (meaning no croutons, among other things), so there are positive things to say about bb's.

But I wish bb's did have the same, or a least similar, gluten-free sandwiches as Biscottis.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

New gluten sensor looks interesting, but pricey

I saw something interesting in Time Magazine's roundup of the "25 best innovations of 2015" - a new sensor product called the Nima that will allow us to test food for the presence of gluten in just two minutes.

As you probably know, there are a lot of products out there that would allow you to test your food, but they take a while to produce a result and by the time you know for sure that your food is safe, it's gone cold. A test time of two minutes is a big improvement.

The Nima is relatively small (3.5 by 3.1 inches) and its maker, 6SensorLabs, says it's easy to use. It will give you a little smiley face or a frown to let you know the results.

The downside is the price, which will probably prevent most of us from using it. A Nima starter kit, which includes the sensor and three disposable test capsules, is $249, although the company is offering it at a pre-order price of $199. The company isn't shipping the products until mid-2016.

Additional 12-packs of test capsules are $47.95 during the pre-sale.

I actually thought the most promising news from the company is that it will also offer a smartphone app that will let users see test results from other users, so they can learn about restaurants that are safe or unsafe for celiacs and others with gluten intolerance. The company did not say if you have to buy the Nima to get the app.

Anyway, despite the price, this is an interesting step forward for gluten testing. We'll have to see how well this product does once it actually does hit the market.

You can get more information at nimasensor.com

Monday, November 16, 2015

SmartBun an interesting new gluten-free product

So I went to the gluten and allergen free wellness event in Jacksonville on Saturday and realized how unhealthy my diet is.

Okay, I knew that already. But I have to say, listening to the speakers talk about their diets that go well beyond just being gluten free, I was feeling guilty. In fairness to me, those people had health problems well beyond celiac disease and had to take more precautions with their diet to get healthy.

My main goal was to find new gluten-free products in the expo portion of the event. As you can see on the photo on the right, I tried to take a picture but people kept moving and on my cheap phone, all the photos came out blurry. Sorry about that.

But there was good news. I found one really good product that I hope makes it onto Jacksonville store shelves soon.

The product is a hamburger bun called SmartBun. If you know anything about gluten-free buns, they tend to be very heavy and overwhelm the meat in the sandwich, I guess because that's the only way to keep them in one piece. Lighter gluten-free buns crumble in your hands and make a mess.

However, the SmartBun is a light bun with only 76 calories. I found when I took home samples and tried it with a chicken burger, it held together well and was so much less filling than other gluten-free buns.

The SmartBun is made by a company in Sanford called Smart Baking Co., which is also promising to come out with a healthy SmartCake soon. According to its website (smart-baking.com), the products are available at a number of Central Florida stores but haven't made it to Jacksonville yet. Hopefully we will see them, because you'll want to try them.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Gluten-free wellness event coming Saturday

If you weren't planning on going already, here's a reminder that there will be a Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event this Saturday at the Prime Osborn Convention Center near downtown Jacksonville.

This is the second straight year for the event, which will feature several speakers and a chance to sample some gluten-free products.

The expo will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is $10, or $8 for military members and senior citizens over 55. Admission is free for children under 13.

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

Monday, November 9, 2015

Tampa Bay Bucs have gluten-free options, but risky

I made my first visit yesterday, since becoming gluten free, to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa to see the Giants play the Bucs. I discovered that the Bucs do have gluten-free options and do a slightly better job than the Jaguars with gluten-free hot dogs, but it still is risky.

First of all, I was frustrated before I made the trip because I couldn't find anything on the team or stadium website about gluten-free options, so I sent an email asking about them and received no reply.

My friend who has contacts in the stadium office was able to get a link to a concession list that did indicate gluten-free hot dogs are available at Bucs games, so I decided I would try to eat at the game. Since it was a 4:00 start, I knew I would get hungry before the game ended and would need something.

Just like they do it at EverBank Field, instead of having a dedicated gluten-free cart (which is how I think every team should do it), the Bucs offer gluten-free hot dogs at their regular concession stands. Unlike the Jaguars, it appears the people working at the concession stand actually have some knowledge about what a gluten-free bun is, so that's good.

The gluten-free options are not listed on the menu board but there was a note on the board that said "ask about our selection of gluten friendly items." So I walked up and asked the guy at the cash register, and I noticed he actually had a button on the register for a gluten-free hot dog, so there was no mystery. Then I watched him go to the back of the stand and yell out "gluten-free hot dog," so I felt like I would get the correct hot dog.

Sure enough, I did get a hot dog on an awful bun that could only be gluten free. The bun was so bad that I only ate about a third of it and then removed the hot dog and ate the rest bunless.

The down side to all of this is that there is undoubtedly a risk of cross contamination, because I see no reason to believe the Bucs have any procedures to prevent that. Not everyone will want to take a chance, but I was hungry and I did.

I should also mention that the list my friend received said the Bucs sell Angry Orchard cider but no gluten-free beer. But I didn't even see Angry Orchard on sale anywhere in the places I looked.

So yes, you can survive a Bucs game but if you have options, you probably want to consider eating before or after the game to be safe.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Jimmy John's gluten-free update

Two years ago, I posted an item on gluten-free options at Jimmy John's restaurant. Of course, Jimmy John's is a sub place, but you can get an "Unwich," which substitutes a lettuce wrap for bread.

Anyway, I noticed people keep clicking on that two-year old post and occasionally comment on it. I can see why: if you Google "Jimmy Johns gluten free," my blog post is the first thing that pops up.

So, if people keep reading it, I felt an obligation to update it. So, I asked Jimmy Johns for the current list of gluten-free food available. So here is their response, current as of November 2015:

Avocado – It is gluten free.
Bacon - It is gluten free.
Beef - It is not gluten free.
Ham - It is gluten free.
Capicola - It is gluten free.
Salami - It is gluten free.
Turkey - It is gluten free. 
French bread - It is not gluten free.
Wheat bread - It is not gluten free.
Tuna – It is not gluten free. 
Cheese - It is gluten free. (Based on the FDA proposed ruling saying that product with <20 ppm gluten can be labeled as gluten free)
Mayo - It is gluten free. 
Regular Chips – It is gluten free.
Thinny Chips - It is gluten free.
BBQ Chips - It is not gluten free.
S & V Chips - It is not gluten free.
Jalp Chips - It is gluten free.

Personally, I do prefer places that do offer subs on gluten-free rolls (like Larry's Giant Subs in the Jacksonville area). But I do occassionally find myself in a strange place looking to grab a quick gluten-free bite, and I'll stop in a Jimmy John's for an Unwich. So, it's nice to have this list.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Another try at Feel Good Foods' Chinese dumplings

I've written several times about my longing for Chinese dumplings and my inability to find them gluten free. The only gluten-free dumplings I've been able to find anywhere in Jacksonville are a frozen variety made by a company called Feel Good Foods (which I've only been able to find in Earth Fare)

That would seem to solve my problem, but I've been disappointed because they never seem to come out right when I cook them, as I've been writing.

Well, Feel Good Foods found my recent Times-Union column when I brought this up and sent me a couple of coupons for a free box of dumplings, asking me to try again with their new, simpler microwavable cooking instructions.

When I first bought these dumplings, the only cooking instructions were for pan frying, which ended up being way too complicated for a non-cook like me (I really did try hard).

I actually had tried the new microwavable dumplings a couple of months ago and still wasn't satisfied. However, when Feel Good Foods offered me the opportunity to try again (for free), of course I took them up on it.

So I was determined to follow the instructions to the letter, which consisted of putting the dumplings in a microwave-safe bowl with a half-cup of water and covering them with a damp paper towel. For some reason, I've always found the "damp paper towel" to be challenging, like I can't seem to get the right amount of dampness. I really am that bad in the kitchen.

But, I think I got it right this time and I have to say, the dumplings were better. They weren't as good as they could be if I pan fried them (and the package does include instructions for pan frying), but they were worth trying.

I probably should say, they weren't as good as they could be if a real cook pan fried them. I wouldn't even presume to try. But I'll bet if you have cooking skills, you could probably do well with these dumplings.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Schar's new bread is pretty good

As far as I'm concerned, Schar makes the best gluten-free rolls out there, but I never found anything special about their regular gluten-free bread.

However, Schar introduced a new style of gluten-free breads a couple of months ago which it calls "Artisan Baker" breads, so I decided to give it a try.

The verdict: yes, I liked it. The bread held together completely with my sandwich, which you know you can't always count on with a gluten-free slice of bread. But I was also pleasantly surprised by the taste. I really wasn't expecting anything from the taste, but it was very good.

According to Schar, the bread is made with ingredients that include agave syrup, buckwheat, sunflower seeds and "ancient grains."

So far, I've seen it for sale at Earth Fare and Walmart, but even at Walmart it is a little pricey. That's the downside of Schar. I really like their products -- they also make some good cookies -- but I don't buy them often because of the price. At least I had a $1 coupon for the bread (which I actually found in Gluten Free Living magazine).

So keep on the lookout for specials on Schar products.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Gluten in alcohol

Here's an interesting summary of gluten content in various forms of alcoholic drinks, published by the popular Gluten Dude website.

Just one thing I want to add here about the controversy over Omission beer. Nobody has actually come out with evidence that it is not safe for celiacs. The issue is lack of confidence over the testing procedure.

If you're not familiar with the issue, there are several beers on the market that say they are made from barley but have a process that removes the gluten, so that they meet the standard of gluten-free (less than 20 parts per million of gluten). These brewers say they test the product, but some people question the accuracy of the testing process.

Omission is the most popular "gluten removed" beer. I do like Omission and I still drink it when I'm in a bar or restaurant and there are no other gluten-free options. But I drink it less than I used to and won't go out of the way to buy it if there is a certified safe gluten-free alternative.

There really is no definitive answer one way or another on the question of Omission's safety. I've never had an issue drinking Omission but if you have any concerns at all, you should probably avoid it.

Here's the full posting from the Gluten Dude:


Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Trader Joe's brings out gluten-free pretzels

I went to Trader Joe's last week to buy bagels and hamburger buns, and again I was disappointed.

Trader Joe's has very good gluten-free bagels and buns at a good price but as I've complained in the past, way too many times I go there and can't find them. On this trip, they had the bagels but were out of buns. It's frustrating.

But I did take a quick walk through the store and found a new product: Trader Joe's brand gluten-free pretzels.

Of course I decided to try them. I found they have a very good texture (you can't always count on that with gluten-free pretzels) but had little to no salt, and had little flavor. I'm not in any hurry to buy them again.

My favorite pretzels are Glutino's. I've had them in the past and Glutino was kind enough to send me a box of pretzel samples recently, which I enjoyed again. However, when I have to buy Glutino pretzels, they are usually pricey, so I don't buy them often.

The Trader Joe's pretzels cost $3 for an 8-ounce package, which is the same price you would pay for a package of Snyder's of Hanover gluten-free pretzels when they are on sale at Publix or Winn-Dixie. While I prefer Glutino over Snyder's, I prefer Snyder's over Trade Joe's, so I'll probably just wait to see Snyder's on sale again before I  buy more pretzels.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Panera testing gluten-free bread

Here's an interesting story posted by Yahoo today. Panera Bread is now testing a gluten-free rosemary focaccia roll.

According to the story, the roll is being tested in the Detroit area with plans to roll it out nationally in the second half of 2016.

You can read the full story here:


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A great homemade gluten-free pizza

I don't normally talk about food I cook myself, but I made a great pizza at home last night so I felt a need to share. It even looked good coming out of the oven, so I had the foresight to take a photo.

The real point is, if I can make a pizza at home, anyone can do it. I basically started doing this because the cost of restaurant gluten-free pizza is so ridiculously high and they almost never offer bargains (I get sick of watching TV commercials with chains advertising their great pizza deals, which never apply to gluten free).

Homemade pizza also has the extra benefit of having no risk of cross contamination.

I use Udi's pre-made crusts. I've tried some others but as far as what's available in Jacksonville stores, these seem to be the best. And I usually buy them at Walmart, where they tend to be cheaper than in other supermarkets.

I use Publix pizza sauce, which is also usually pretty cheap, and I generally use either Publix or Sargento shredded cheese. The cheese I buy depends on what brand of cheese is on sale, and there always seems to be one brand on sale.

I sometimes make plain cheese pizza, but I also happened to find Hormel pepperoni on sale, so this was a pepperoni pizza. My experience tells me that higher-class pepperoni isn't any better than this.

I cook the pizza for 12 minutes at 375 degrees. The Udi's crust package says to cook it for seven minutes, but it seems to come out better at 12. And I cook it on a pizza stone that I put in the oven.

This pizza costs me about $5 to make usually, although it was probably a little more this time because of the pepperoni, but not much more. And it tasted great. If you like pizza, you should try this some time.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Mixed bag of new gluten-free breakfast items

Well, gluten-free Cheerios turned out to be a disappointment, as we learned definitively this week that we can't trust the safety of them.

But on the bright side of breakfast, I did find a couple of new microwavable breakfast items at Target in the last couple of weeks, with mixed results.

The first was a line of gluten-free breakfast sandwiches made by Udi's. Now if you saw my post last week, you know I had a fantastic gluten-free breakfast sandwich in Chicago at a place called Lyfe Kitchen, and that was the first time I can remember even finding a gluten-free breakfast sandwich. So I was naturally intrigued by Udi's selections.

Of course, I didn't expect this frozen sandwich to equal the fresh breakfast sandwich at Lyfe. But unfortunately, the Udi's breakfast sandwich didn't really live up to my low expectations. I would rate it as mediocre.

On the brighter side, I also found some new breakfast cups made by Evol Foods. Now Evol is not a 100 percent gluten-free company and I don't think all of its breakfast cups are gluten free, but the two I tried do have a certified gluten-free mark on the label. And they were pretty good for a quick breakfast, I thought. I'd recommend them.

As I said, I stumbled onto these products at Target and haven't seen them anywhere else. But if you find them and are looking for quick breakfast products you can keep in the freezer, you might want to give them a try.

Monday, October 5, 2015

General Mills recalls some of its 'gluten-free' Cheerios

As you may have already heard, General Mills today announced it is going to have to recall some of its new Cheerios cereals that were supposed to be gluten free, because an error at a plant in California resulted in wheat getting into the products.

With all the problems I've been reading about the new gluten-free Cheerios, I wouldn't try them myself. And just a couple of weeks ago, a doctor at the Mayor Clinic told me that Mayo is not recommending celiac and gluten intolerant patients eat Cheerios because of questions about General Mills' testing methods for gluten in the product.

But if you are interested, here's the full press release from General Mills about the latest problem:


Thursday, October 1, 2015

Beaches gluten-free shopping options growing

For Beaches residents, the gluten-free shopping options just keep growing and growing.

Native Sun opened its Jacksonville Beach store last month, and today's Times-Union reported that another organic and natural foods chain called Lucky's Market plans to open its first Jacksonville area store in Neptune Beach next year.

I finally visited the new Native Sun and I liked what I found. It seems like the cafe area is bigger than the cafe in the Baymeadows store and the grocery shelf space is smaller. However, as I walked through the aisles, it looked like all the gluten-free products I've previously found in Baymeadows are available at the Beaches store.

They even have their gluten-free bakery products available, including the doughnut bites.

As I've written before, Native Sun's director of research, Ginny Nehring, does a great job checking on products that claim to be gluten free. If you see the "no gluten added" tag on the shelf at Native Sun, you can be extremely confident that the product actually is safe.

We'll have to see what Lucky's Market brings next year. But I checked its website and it says its deli offers gluten-free items and as far as the grocery section goes, it said "we’re also working hard to expand our already large selection of gluten-free items."

So we're getting a lot of good shopping options at the Beach. Trader Joe's opened last year, and even though that store frustrates me at times, you can still find some good gluten-free stuff there at a good price, particularly their hamburger buns and bagels.

And of course Whole Foods is planning to open a Jacksonville Beach store sometime before the end of this century.

Okay, they actually say it will be in 2021, but I'm betting Whole Foods opens before that.

Now if we could just get an Aldi at the Beach, I'll be fulfilled.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Gluten-free ramen noodles ranking

Looking for gluten-free ramen noodles? Well, I can't help you but CeliAct posted a roundup of the best gluten-free ramen noodles, so check it out here:


Monday, September 28, 2015

New gluten-free favorite: breakfast sandwich at LYFE Kitchen

I spent the weekend in Chicago, visiting mostly places I had gone on previous visits that served some great gluten-free options. But I did discover a new favorite on this trip.

Now one of my Chicago favorites is a doughnut shop called Do-Rite Donuts that makes gluten-free doughnuts. Since its so hard to find fresh gluten-free doughnuts, I made it a point to eat breakfast there on all three days of my last visit.

This year, after my chocolate doughnut breakfast on Friday morning, I decided that maybe I shouldn't eat doughnuts for three straight days. Another place I noticed near my hotel was a restaurant called LYFE Kitchen, which has a very extensive gluten-free menu for breakfast and lunch. So figured I'd give that a try on Saturday

LYFE Kitchen is a relatively small chain with restaurants in Illinois, California, Colorado, Nevada and Texas. It features locally sourced ingredients and socially responsible practices. I appreciate socially responsible restaurants but the truth is, just give me great-tasting gluten-free food and I'll be a loyal customer.

I ordered a gluten-free turkey sausage and egg breakfast sandwich on a gluten-free English muffin. I think that may be the first time I've seen a gluten-free breakfast sandwich on a menu, so it was an easy choice.

And guess what? It was fantastic! I absolutely loved it. In fact, it was so good that I scrapped my plan to go back to Do-Rite Donuts (no offense to them) and instead got another turkey sausage and egg sandwich on Sunday morning.

Yes, it was that good that I preferred that sandwich over a doughnut.

I should also mention that it came with a side of fruit, which I didn't even notice on the menu.

So next time I'm in Chicago, or anywhere else with a LYFE Kitchen, I'll be back for more. And I may even try a gluten-free lunch there on my next visit.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Red Robin finally looking at Jacksonville

It looks like Red Robin will finally be coming to Jacksonville.

A report today in the Financial News and Daily Record says that the hamburger restaurant chain is looking at sites for a restaurant in Jacksonville, particularly, of course, in the St. Johns Town Center area.

I consider this good news because Red Robin is one of the most gluten-free friendly major chains out there, and I've been waiting for them to come to Jacksonville. I've had good experiences eating there in other cities.

You can get a burger on a gluten-free bun and the "bottomless" French fries are also usually gluten free, but I would advise checking with the restaurant staff to be sure about that.

I recall when I got my bill at a Red Robin in Tampa, I noticed it had "ALLERGY ALERT" in big letters printed three times. So yes, I do believe they were paying attention when I told them I have a gluten "allergy."

Of course, it will probably still be a while, but I'm looking forward to Red Robin opening here.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Gluten and allergen free event scheduled for November

I don't have all the details yet, but there will be a Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event in Jacksonville in November for the second straight year.

Last year's event was held at the Hyatt downtown, but this year's event on Nov. 14 is scheduled for the Prime Osborn Convention Center, so it looks like it will be a bigger event this year.

If you're never been to one of these expos, it can be a great opportunity to hear from a variety of speakers and also to sample a lot of gluten-free products. Generally, there will be rows of vendors offering samples.

You can read more about it here: http://gfafwellnessevent-jacksonville.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

No, the fresh beer at EverBank Field will not include Redbridge

You may see on the news today that the Jaguars and Anheuser-Busch have an agreement to bring the "freshest beer ever" to this week's Jaguars game at EverBank Field. Basically, Bud Light made at the Anheuser-Busch brewery in Jacksonville on Sunday morning will be delivered straight to the stadium for sale that day.

Now, the Jaguars are also selling gluten-free Redbridge beer at the stadium, which is made by Anheuser-Busch. But in case you're wondering, we won't be able to get "fresh" Redbridge beer on gameday. Anheuser-Busch does not brew Redbridge in Jacksonville.

As an Anheuser-Busch executive once explained to me -- and it makes perfect sense -- the company only brews Redbridge at one location (I forget which city it is). The reason is that they need a completely uncontaminated gluten-free only beer line to brew Redbridge, to assure that the beer is safe for us. So they have to brew it at a dedicated gluten-free facility.

That's all fine with me, as long as they continue to have Redbridge available in the Bud Zone...no matter how old the beer is.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Yes, there is gluten-free beer at EverBank Field

Yes, I was able to get a Redbridge beer at the Jaguars game today.

If you happened to see my column buried in the Times-Union today that was supposed to run Thursday and for some reason has not been posted on line, I wrote that the Jaguars haven't really improved their gluten-free food offerings but they promised me that Redbridge beer would be available in the Bud Zone.

In past seasons, despite promises that gluten-free beer was available, it has been very hard to find at EverBank Field. However, today, I went right to the bar at the back of the Bud Zone and asked the bartender for a Redbridge or other gluten-free beer, and she pulled one out right away and served it to me.

She couldn't actually find it on the cash register so she charged me the same price as a Bud. It's $8, but we're just being treated like everyone else. She also gave me the glass bottle to carry, which I think she was not supposed to do.

But anyway, I was able to get a beer at the Jaguars game like a normal person, and it felt great.

Now about the Jags' performance on the field....

Oh, and I will try to get them to post the column online tomorrow.

Friday, September 11, 2015

TacoLu going to Web.com Tour Championship

The Web.com Tour is the secondary professional golf tour to the PGA Tour, so you wouldn't expect the Web.com Tour Championship to have the same level of gluten-free food available as the Players Championship, one of the PGA's signature events.

But at least TacoLu is available at both of the events at TPC Sawgrass.

I went to a press conference today for the upcoming Web.com Tour Championship, which will be played Oct. 1-4 at Dye's Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass. So naturally, I asked about gluten-free offerings at this event. And TacoLu, one of the best spots in the Jacksonville area for gluten-free dining, will have a tent at this event, just like at the Players.

Unfortunately, I'm not sure what else will be available gluten free. Obviously, The Web.com event draws a much smaller crowd than the Players, so you wouldn't expect to find the wide variety of gluten-free stuff available at the Players in May. Tournament officials couldn't tell me if there will be another gluten-free option.

So if you go, come ready to eat tacos.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Celiac Awareness Day coming up Sunday

Sunday is Celiac Awareness Day.

I know that's confusing because May is Celiac Awareness Month, and Sept. 13 is Celiac Awareness Day. I think one of these days we have to get it together and narrow it down to one or the other (I personally vote for May as Celiac Awareness Month).

But anyway, here's some suggestions on how to commemorate Celiac Awareness Day from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. For me personally, Sunday is the opening day of the NFL season for most teams. So I'm hoping to celebrate by actually finding a gluten-free beer at EverBank Field. We'll see how that goes.


Thursday, September 3, 2015

A frozen find at Aldi

Ever since Aldi opened its first Northeast Florida store last year in St. Augustine, I've been gushing about its gluten-free products under the LiveGFree brand.

However, I wasn't able to try all of those products. I noticed some interesting frozen food LiveGFree products but I figured it was too far to buy them and drive home from St. Augustine without them defrosting.

But with the new store on Southside Boulevard in Jacksonville, I'm close enough to buy its frozen products, so I decided to try the pepperoni pizza stuffed sandwich.

The stuffed sandwich is sort of like a Hot Pockets sandwich, which I never really ate before going gluten free. But I had never seen a gluten-free variety of this, so I was determined to try this one. Actually, it may be the closest thing to a gluten-free calzone that I'm going to find.

But anyway, I did enjoy it. Actually, I have to say it was even better than I expected it to be. I'll be buying more.

Hey, I never said I'm the healthiest eater. I'm just looking for good tasting gluten-free food, and there's a lot to eat at Aldi.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

More gluten-free resources for schoolkids

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about students eating gluten free at local schools. Just to follow up, here's another resource for schoolchildren from the Gluten Intolerance Group, which has a program to educate children on a gluten-free diet called Generation GF:


Monday, August 31, 2015

Chex discontinuing gluten-free oatmeal

Just a little more than a year after introducing it into the market, General Mills is discontinuing its line of Chex gluten-free oatmeal products.

While Chex has apparently been successful with its line of gluten-free breakfast cereals, sales of the gluten-free oatmeal didn't live up to expectations.

The Chex website still lists three varieties of gluten-free oatmeal available: original, apple cinnamon and maple brown sugar. However, those products will only be available for another couple of months.

I've never tried them myself, because I've never been an oatmeal fan. But if you do like them, you'd better stock up now.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Jags promise GF beer in the Bud Zone

If you're going to the Jaguars game tonight, you should be able to find Redbridge gluten-free beer in the Bud Zone.

At least the Jaguars intend to offer it, but actually finding gluten-free beer in EverBank Field has been a constant battle. I won't rehash all my past problems trying to find it, but suffice it to say it has never been easy to find. In fact, the bartenders who supposedly have gluten-free beer stocked in the refrigerator cases in front of them often don't even know it's there.

I'm not going to the game myself, so I won't be able to tell you if it actually is available.

Beyond beer, the gluten-free offerings at EverBank Field will be basically the same as last year, which is disappointing. You can get a hot dog with a gluten-free bun at the regular hot dog stands, but I wouldn't recommend it because I honestly don't have faith that the people working the concession stands know what they're doing.

If you're hungry, a safer bet will be the packaged snacks you can find at the Daily's stand.

The good news is the Jaguars say they are likely to have a separate gluten-free cart next season, as part of an overall revamp of their concessions. But for this season, you'll need to think about eating before you go in the stadium.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

New Aldi good news for Southsiders

If you live on or anywhere near the Southside, you should be happy that Aldi is opening its store today at 9041 Southside Blvd.

That's because you're going to love Aldi's brand of gluten-free foods, called liveGfree.

The liveGfree products I've tried are great, and they generally cost less than competing brands. Aldi is a no-frills grocer (you're going to have to bring your own bags when you shop there).

Aldi opened its first area store in St. Augustine last year and opened a second store in Middleburg. Those aren't very convenient locations for me, so I haven't shopped there often. The Southside store is also not the most convenient for me, but at least it's better than the other locations, so I'm sure I'm going to be making frequent trips there.

Hopefully, Aldi will continue opening stores in Northeast Florida and give everyone in the area a chance to explore their gluten-free products.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Marlins to rename the 'Fit Cart'

I had an interesting talk yesterday with Miami Marlins executive chef Vince Navarrete.

If you recall, I wrote about my visit to Marlins Park a couple of months ago and was pleased to find a dedicated gluten-free cart in the ballpark, but a little irritated that the cart is called the "Fit Cart."

So, I asked Navarrete about that. He explained that the Marlins started the Fit Cart when the ballpark opened three years ago and it included not only gluten-free items but other food as well.

Eventually, they realized the importance of having a dedicated gluten-free cart and this season, they decided to offer only gluten-free food at the Fit Cart, ensuring there will be no cross-contamination issues.

They didn't get around to changing the name but he said they will have a new name for the cart next year that will stamp it as a gluten-free cart.

I came away from the interview feeling pretty good about Navarrete's understanding of gluten-free issues and that the team sees the importance of maintaining a gluten-free section for fans who need it.

I was talking to Navarrete for an upcoming Times-Union column that will see if the Jaguars are going to do a better job with their gluten-free offerings this year. I will be talking to the Jaguars next week.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Back-to-school gluten-free toolkit

Just as my Times-Union column today talks about gluten-free options in school cafeterias, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, along with Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery, is offering a back-to-school toolkit with information to help parents of celiacs deal with school issues. You can check it out here:

And while you're at it, here's another interesting post from the NFCA this week that deals with issues of medication, including the new pill under development in Canada that would supposedly let us eat anything we want. I think most of us should be skeptical about this, as this post points out:

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

One person's gluten-free cruise experience

I thought I should share this message from the daughter of a friend who is gluten intolerant, following their cruise on Royal Caribbean:

They had many options at the buffet for breakfast and many options for dinner and they brought me gluten free bread every meal! Lunch and late night snacks were more limited. Fruit and salad for lunch and my own snacks I brought for late night.

I have no first-hand experience with a cruise myself.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Time Out spotlights gluten-free flatbreads

Time Out Sports Grill on the Southside has been my go-to sports bar for two basic reasons: beer and wings.

They not only have Redbridge beer available but also have a dedicated gluten-free fryer for chicken wings. It's actually quite rare to find any establishment with a gluten-free fryer (and you can also get gluten-free french fries in that fryer).

Now there is another option at Time Out, in a strip mall on Beach Boulevard just east of Hodges: gluten-free flatbreads.

Actually, they've had flatbreads on the menu for quite a while but when they recently revamped their menu, they decided to only offer gluten-free flatbreads because they seemed to be better than than the regular ones.

So, I tried one over the weekend and it was pretty good. The crust seemed basically the same as a gluten-free pizza.

So yes, I'll be spending a lot of Sundays this fall at Time Out for football with beer and wings. And an occasional flatbread.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

NFCA says test could determine if we've eaten gluten

Here's an interesting bit of news from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness: Researchers have come up with a urine test that could determine if we've ingested gluten.

This test is apparently still preliminary, but this could be a big help for us. How many times have you started feeling ill and wondered if it's because your were glutened, or if something else was to blame. It would be nice to have a test that could give us the answer.

I don't know if the researchers are thinking about a take-home urine test. It seems the only practical use of this is if there is a home test, because we're not going to run out to the doctor every time we're worried that we've been glutened.

Anyway, you can read the full story from the NFCA here:


Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Food Should Taste Good offers new gluten-free bars

I received a couple of samples of a new product from Food Should Taste Good called "Real Good Bars."

You may be familiar with Food Should Taste Good from its gluten-free chips and crackers, which are pretty good.

The Real Good Bars are described as "wholesome snack" bars. They come in two varieties: Hazelnut Sea Salt, made with whole hazelnuts and almonds, Madagascar vanilla and Fair Trade Certified cocoa.

The other is Macadamia Chai made with whole almonds, chopped macadamia nuts, slivers of coconut, Fair Trade Certified cocoa and a dash of Chai.

They were both good, although I preferred the taste of the Hazelnut bar. If you like these kind of snack bars, you'll probably like these.

You can check out more information here:


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Report says P.F. Chang's lawsuit dismissed

According to a report on website EmaxHealth, the class action lawsuit against P.F. Chang's over its gluten-free menu pricing has been tentatively dismissed.

The class action lawsuit contends that increased prices for gluten-free menu items are a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, because those of us with celiac have no choice but to eat gluten free.

A lot of people, including me, were disturbed by this lawsuit. I'm pretty sure the response of the restaurant industry would be to just not offer gluten-free menu items if they had to offer them at the same price. Yes, it's irritating that we pay more for gluten-free meals, but I've met a lot of restaurant owners and they've convinced me that they have to charge more because their suppliers are charging more for gluten-free ingredients.

It's a little unclear what the ultimate resolution of this lawsuit will be from the story. I'll be looking for more details, but you can read the EmaxHealth story here:


Sunday, July 26, 2015

Gluten-free bakeries on the road

Here's a really good list from the Gluten-Free Travel blog of gluten-free bakeries in various cities, with a good number of them in Florida. I know I'll be making a point of visiting them when I'm in those cities:


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Gallup poll: 1 in 5 Americans avoiding gluten

Gallup, one of the best-known polling organizations, actually did a poll this month on gluten-free eating and found that 21 percent are trying to eat gluten-free foods.

You know how I feel about that. Other than the 1 percent of us with celiac and the other 5 percent with non-celiac gluten intolerance, there's no reason that anybody should be trying to eat gluten free. But on the bright side, I thought the number would be much higher. I've seen previous polls suggesting it would be more like 1 in 3 people who are trying to avoid gluten.

It's an interesting survey. You can read the full results here:


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Still looking for gluten-free dumplings

Last fall, I wrote about how happy I was to find gluten-free Chinese dumplings at Earth Fare. That's one of those foods I really miss and hadn't been able to find in a gluten-free version anywhere. So I was hoping these frozen dumplings made by Feel Good Foods would fill my craving.

They were okay, but not as good as I hoped. I thought the problem was my lack of cooking skills. The only way to cook them was to pan fry them, and they just didn't come out quite right.

So I was happy last week on another visit to Earth Fare when I checked on the dumplings again and found they added new cooking instructions for a microwave. I'm guessing I'm not the only one who had trouble cooking them. Maybe I'm not so inept after all.

So, I bought the dumplings again and microwaved them and ... they were just okay, not great. And this time, I know I cooked them perfectly.

Oh well, I guess I'll keep looking.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Gluten-free ice cream lists

Here's a handy list of Breyer's gluten-free ice cream varieties from the Gluten Away blog:


As you'll see, this page also has links to gluten-free lists for Edy's, Haagen Dazs and So Delicious ice cream.

Ice cream is generally gluten free, although some varieties may  have added flavorings that include gluten. So in the dog days of summer, these are are nice lists to check.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Another possible pill for celiacs?

I'm very skeptical about this, but there have been several reports the last couple of days about a pill being developed in Canada and possibly available soon that would allow celiacs to eat gluten.

There are a lot of pharmaceutical treatments in various stages of development, but I haven't seen anything that's been embraced by the leading celiac researchers.

Anyway, if you're interested, check out this report on the Canadian pill from Popular Science:


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Tolerant offers a different kind of gluten-free pasta

I was recently contacted by a company called Tolerant to see if I wanted to sample their gluten-free pasta.

To my surprise, I received a big box with six different varieties of pasta. I haven't been able to try them all yet, but here's what I can tell you so far.

Tolerant's pastas are certified gluten-free and made from either red lentils or black beans, as opposed to other gluten-free pastas made from ingredients such as corn or rice.

Tolerant says the advantage of its ingredients is that it makes its pasta much higher in protein and fiber.

So far, I've tried two varieties of red lentil pasta and one black bean variety. The red lentil pasta tasted basically the same as other pastas. I really didn't like the black bean pasta all that much.

Normally, I don't spend a lot of time thinking about the taste of pasta. I figure the sauce will make or break the dish, and the only thing I worry about with pasta is its texture. I can't really describe it, but there was something about the black bean pasta that I didn't like.

Tolerant's pastas are available in a variety of stores, according to its fact sheet. I did a search on its website and found the only stores in Jacksonville carrying it are Native Sun and Grass Roots.

I haven't seen it myself on store shelves but according to the fact sheet, Tolerant pasta can be expensive at $2 to $3 "per serving." The company says the higher cost is due to the difficulty of finding a supply of lentils that have "no chance of cross-contamination."

You can check out more information at www.tolerantfoods.com.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Djokovic: Wimbledon grass is gluten free

Did you see what Novak Djokovic did and said after winning the Wimbledon men's singles championship yesterday? He decided to eat a blade of the grass court and then said this, according to the London Daily Mail:

"I was assured it was gluten free, it's not processed, completely organic and natural and I could eat it ... So I had no reaction."

I thought that was a pretty good joke, but I've been disturbed about the coverage of Djokovic's gluten-free diet over the past few years. Sportswriters are always writing about how his game improved after he started going gluten free, suggesting the myth that a gluten-free diet is some kind of fitness program. But they never mention his history.

Djokovic used to feel very sickly all the time and while he was never diagnosed with celiac (I have never been able to find out if he's been tested), he at least was diagnosed with non-celiac gluten intolerance. So he went gluten free and started feeling much better, and his tennis game improved.

I would cut him some slack, but Djokovic wrote this book two years ago: "Serve to Win," subtitled "the 14-day gluten-free plan for physical and mental excellence."

It makes me want to scream.

By the way, if you watch the baseball all-star game tomorrow night and Mark Teixeira gets in the game, I'm sure you'll hear the announcers tell you how his turnaround season has been helped by his new gluten-free diet. I have not seen anything indicating he went gluten free for any kind of intolerance.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

More gluten-free adventures at Trader Joe's

Okay, if you haven't been following my recent quest at Trader Joe's, let me summarize: first I go and find gluten-free bagels, but no hamburger buns. Then I go and find gluten-free hamburger buns, but no bagels.

So this week, I go and find: no buns or bagels.

Trader Joe's introduced its gluten-free breads in April and I keep talking about it because I do like their hamburger buns and bagels, which are very reasonably priced -- at least compared with other gluten-free products. Unfortunately, you can't rely on finding them when you actually visit Trader Joe's.

This time, I decided to ask the check-out clerk and she actually seemed to know the full story. She said the demand for the new gluten-free products was greater than Trader Joe's expected, so its supplier has been unable to keep up with demand. She said they are hoping to resolve the issue soon and have a steady supply of the new gluten-free products.

Oh well, wait and see.

Meanwhile, I decided to try Trader Joe's soft corn tortillas, which are gluten free. Since going gluten-free, I've been unable to find any soft tortillas to use at home. They always crumble in your hands.

Sure enough, Trader Joe's gluten-free tortillas were just as bad as all the others. At least they were priced right, at $1.49 for a pack of 12.

Someday, someone will figure out how to make a gluten-free tortilla. And Trader Joe's will find a way to have its gluten-free products readily available.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Another thought on celiac testing

During Celiac Awareness Month in May, I wrote about the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness' renewed push to encourage our relatives to get tested for celiac.

Since celiac disease is a genetic condition, if you have it, there's a good chance that some family members also have it, or at least have the gene for it. Remember, the gene can be dormant for years before something triggers it and you develop celiac disease, and researchers still don't have a solid handle on how the trigger works.

Over the weekend, I was reading an article in Gluten Free Living magazine about celiac testing written by Amy Leger, who writes one of the best blogs out there (thesavvyceliac.com).

Amy doesn't have celiac herself but because so many family members have it, including her daughter (which is why she started the blog), she kept getting herself tested to see if she did have it.

Recently, she decided to take the testing a step further and have a gene test to confirm that she carried the celiac genes, even if they hadn't been triggered. She was quite surprised to find she didn't. I don't completely understand the science but apparently, the celiac genes are actually a combination of genes, so it is possible for parents to pass the right combination on to their children without having the combination themselves.

Anyway, the point of the story is that if you have relatives who are concerned that they may develop celiac later in life, it might be worth their while to get the genetic test (although it can be expensive). As Amy said, now that she knows she doesn't have the genes, she doesn't have to get any more tests to determine if she has celiac. She won't ever have it.

For more information, read the full story in Gluten Free Living.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Next gluten-free cereal: Lucky Charms

The next long-time cereal to come out in a gluten-free form will apparently be Lucky Charms.

According to a story by financial website MarketWatch, General Mills announced plans to come out with gluten-free Lucky Charms today as the company announced its quarterly earnings. You can read the story here:


General Mills also makes several varieties of Chex cereals, which are gluten free, and has already said it will introduce gluten-free Cheerios to the market this year.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Bard's beer returns to Jacksonville

Here's some good news: Bard's beer is back in Jacksonville.

Bard's CEO Brian Kovalchuk tells me that the company finally has found a new distributor to get the beer back to the Jacksonville market. Sure enough, I found it available at Total Wine.

Bard's had been out of the market since late last year as the company searched for a new distributor.

With so few gluten-free beers available, it is disappointing when you can't get a particular brand. Without Bard's, the only pure gluten-free beers that were widely available in Jacksonville have been Redbridge and New Planet.

Yes, beers that are processed to remove gluten like Omission are widely available, but a lot of celiacs won't drink it because of the continued questions about the testing process. Although Omission says its beers test below the 20 ppm standard, many people say the test for gluten content in beers is not reliable, so we can't know for sure.

Bard's is made from sorghum and is safe for celiacs.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Reevaluating Trader Joe's....again

When Trader Joe's first opened its Jacksonville Beach store last fall, I was less than impressed because I didn't see enough gluten-free products.

But as time passed, my opinion changed as Trader Joe's seemed to get more and more products. When they introduced their line of gluten-free hamburger buns and bagels in April, I was sold. Their buns and bagels are generally cheaper than any other brands, and the quality is pretty good.

So when I needed to replenish my supply of gluten-free buns, of course I went to Trader Joe's on Monday. And what did I find? Nothing. Not only were there no gluten-free buns available, there wasn't even a shelf tag for them, so I wondered if they still even existed. There were gluten-free bagels on the shelf.

When I got home, I went to Trader Joe's website to see if I could find any information on this, and I found they were still promoting the gluten-free buns. So now I was wondering what happened.

I went back this morning intending to find a manager to talk to about this, but I was surprised and pleased to find a shelf full of gluten-free hamburger buns this time. So I got what I needed.

On the other hand, I noticed there were no gluten-free bagels (and no shelf tag for them) but since I didn't need bagels, I let that slide.

But here's the problem: I live pretty close to Trader Joe's so it was no big deal for me to make two trips this week. But since this is the only Trader Joe's in the Jacksonville area, what about people who make a special trip from a longer distance to buy their gluten-free products? It's quite irritating to not find what you need.

So I'm back to where I was in the beginning, not willing to recommend Trader Joe's as a gluten-free shopping destination. If you're in the neighborhood and want to stop in, you'll probably find something you like. But you can't count on this store.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Segregated dining halls: Good or bad?

Here's an interesting story about two colleges in the Philadelphia area that are offering segregated dining halls for gluten-free meals:


I'm kind of torn whether this is a good or a bad thing. On the one hand, this would seem to provide an absolutely safe meal environment for students who need it, free from gluten contamination.

On the other hand, are these students ostracized for being different? I hope not.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Is coffee a problem for celiacs? Probably not

I've noticed a hot new topic in the celiac Facebook group is an article from some website called the "Healthy Home Economist" warning that celiacs and others with gluten sensitivities shouldn't drink coffee.

I assumed this was complete junk, but I didn't have any evidence to support that. Fortunately, someone on Facebook posted a link to the University of Chicago's Celiac Disease Center's view on dangers of coffee and other drinks for celiacs. This leading research center says these fears are "devoid of any scientific basis."

Yes, coffees can possibly be dangerous if you order a flavored coffee that contains gluten. But basic black coffee itself is gluten free. I don't have any plans to stop drinking it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Blaze Pizza is different

The new Blaze Pizza restaurant at the River City Marketplace looked interesting, so I decided to check it out.

Blaze tries to set itself apart from the crowd with its "blazing" hot oven that it says can bake a pizza in 180 seconds, and it does have a gluten-free option. I did find this caution on the chain's website about the gluten-free pizzas:

"Please be aware that our folks work with wheat-based flour and pizza dough all day long, and we use the same oven and dough press for both gluten-free and standard dough, so there is a good chance of some cross-contact in our restaurants. If you would like us to change our gloves or use a separate pizza cutter, we would be happy to do that at your request. If you are celiac or highly sensitive to gluten, we encourage you to carefully consider your dining choices."

Most pizza places warn about cross-contamination because they don't have separate prep areas or ovens for gluten-free pizza. The big difference at Blaze is that it takes pizza dough and presses into a crust when you order the pizza. Most places with gluten-free pizza use pre-made gluten-free crusts, rather than rolling their own gluten-free dough.

When I ordered my pizza, the Blaze people did ask if I have an allergy and seemed to understand the need to take precautions. In addition to changing gloves, they also told me they would clean the dough press before putting my gluten-free dough in. The worker even apologized to me for the delay, but I said not to worry and that I appreciated the effort to make it clean.

After the crust is pressed, they assemble the pizza in front of you, like they do at a lot of pizza places these days.

I have to say it took a lot longer than 180 seconds to bake my pizza, although unfortunately I didn't time it. I get the feeling that the gluten-free crust takes longer to bake.

When the pizza was done, it was somewhat disappointing because it was extremely thin. Gluten-free pizzas are generally thin, but this may have been the thinnest one I've had. It did taste good.

The price was right. I ordered a one-topping pizza, which normally goes for $6.50, but they have a $2 surcharge for gluten free. Fortunately for me, the checkout girl didn't seem to realize I was getting a gluten-free pizza so she forgot the surcharge, and I got my pizza for $6.50.

So, there is a cross-contamination risk at Blaze, mainly based on how confident you are about them cleaning the dough press. Otherwise, the risks are about the same as they are at other pizza places.

I did feel comfortable enough, but I'm unlikely to go back because of the thinness of the pizza. There are plenty of other gluten-free pizza options out there.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Maggiano's special gluten-free menu benefits Make-A-Wish

Maggiano's Little Italy is offering a special gluten-free menu through July 8, with a promise to make donations to Make-A-Wish for every order off the special menu.

Maggiano's is a gluten-free friendly restaurant that can customize a lot of dishes on its regular menu for people who can't eat gluten, but it is using its "Eat-A-Dish for Make-A-Wish" campaign to highlight the availability of gluten-free offerings, as well as benefiting the foundation.

The special menu includes a dish called Patricia's Cheese Ravioli to honor a 15-year-old girl named Patricia, who is battling cancer and planning to visit Italy this summer.

Other dishes on the special menu include a shrimp and avocado lemonette salad, grilled jumbo shrimp and flourless chocolate cake.

Maggiano's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish for every one of these dishes ordered and 50 cents for its special "Wish Lemonade."

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Marlins 'Fit Cart': Good thing or bad?

I made my first visit to Marlins Park in Miami yesterday, and I'm not sure if I feel good or bad about the gluten-free experience there.

On the one hand, they have a dedicated cart serving nothing but gluten-free fare, including hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, nachos and two varieties of beer. That's great.

On the other hand, they call this thing the "Fit Cart." Seriously, the Fit Cart, like this food is for people looking to stay fit!!!!

Have these people never tried a gluten-free hot dog bun? They're awful (including the buns at Marlins Park), and when you finish it sits in the bottom of your stomach like you just swallowed a pillow.

Of course, I still eat them anyway because I'm determined to have a hot dog when I go to the ballpark. But that's not the point. The point is, after all the progress I thought we were making during Celiac Awareness Month, the Marlins still think the gluten-free diet is a fitness regimen. Sigh.

Oh well, I'll focus on the bright side. At least they have a dedicated cart, where you know everything you get is gluten free, even if they don't know why they are doing it. I wish the Jaguars would learn this already.

Of course, it is expensive, but what do you expect? My $7.50 hot dog was $1.50 higher than the price of a hot dog with a regular bun at the regular stand, and my $9 bottle of Redbridge was $1 more than a Budweiser. Ballpark prices are always bad, gluten-free or not.

The grilled chicken sandwich or wrap might sound appealing, but not at $14.

Oh, and then there was my adventure finding the cart. I asked at the Guest Services desk where they had gluten-free food (I was aware that they had it somewhere), and I was told I'd find the booth at Section 2. So I go to Section 2 and the only food venue there was a dedicated Kosher stand.

Geez, I hope the guest services people don't think that all specialty food is alike.

Fortunately, a flashing sign at the Kosher booth suddenly told me there was a gluten-free cart at Section 26. Sure enough, that's where I did find the Fit Cart.

Despite the annoyances, I have to count this is a positive gluten-free experience.

Monday, June 1, 2015

A positive Celiac Awareness trend?

One last note as Celiac Awareness Month came to an end.

Over the weekend, I visited Larry's Giant Subs, which I often do on a beach day. When I order my sub on a gluten-free roll, they usually ask me if I have an allergy.

However, this time, the girl at the cash register asked "is it celiac or an allergy?"

That's never happened to me before! I don't know if it really makes a difference -- I have been satisfied that they were taking precautions in making my sub when they thought I had an "allergy." But it was so nice to hear.

Maybe Celiac Awareness Month is making a difference.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Carrabba's 'testing' gluten-free pasta

Carrabba's Italian Grill posted an FAQ "in honor of" Celiac Awareness Month and what caught my eye was a note that they are testing gluten-free pasta in "select markets."

I've been complaining about this for years. Carrabba's has a gluten-free menu and brags about its efforts to provide safe gluten-free meals for people who need it. So why haven't they offered gluten-free pasta?

Most of the entress on their gluten-free menu are steak and chicken dishes. When I go to an Italian restaurant, I expect pasta. Maggiano's Little Italy has gluten-free pasta as an option (and is reportedly coming out with a separate gluten-free menu for the first time). At least a couple of local, family-owned restaurants offer gluten-free Pasta: Enza's and Joseph's Pizza. So what's the problem at Carrabba's?

Pasta is one of the things I can actually cook myself at home. All a restaurant needs is one dedicated pot for gluten-free pasta.

"We have been searching for the best gluten-free pasta for our menu and guests," Carrabba's says in its FAQ

"Thank you for your patience as we conduct this research, and please stay tuned."

Yeah, OK. Now finish the test and offer gluten-free pasta at all your restaurants.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Canyon Bakehouse my new favorite gluten-free bagel

I've been a fan of Canyon Bakehouse for a long time, since I first tried their hamburger buns. They were the first good gluten-free buns I could find when I started on my gluten-free diet more than four years ago.

So, when Canyon offered to send me samples of their new gluten-free bagels, of course I couldn't wait to try them. And they lived up to my expectations.

When I opened the box, I immediately caught the aroma of their Everything bagels, and it was the first time I can remember a gluten-free bagel smelling like the fresh-baked bagels I used to eat.

These turned out to be the first gluten-free bagels I've tried that taste good without toasting. My general rule with other gluten-free bagels is that I have to toast them almost to the point of burning them to get them to taste good.

Canyon also sent me their new plain bagels, which are also good, but it will be the Everything bagels that I will be eating in the future.

I haven't seen these in any stores yet. Target is carrying Canyon Bakehouse products, but I was in my local Target and didn't see them. Hopefully, we'll be seeing them on store shelves soon. These are now my favorite gluten-free bagels.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Milton's Craft Bakers offering some tasty gluten-free crackers

I received samples of some excellent gluten-free crackers from a company called Milton's Craft Bakers.

The gluten-free crackers come in four varieties: Multi-Grain, Everything, Cheddar Cheese and Crispy Sea Salt. They were all good, with a good texture. My favorite were the cheese crackers, but I tend to be partial to cheese when it comes to crackers.

I'd love to be able to find these on Jacksonville-area store shelves, but I haven't seen them yet. When I did a search on the company's website, it didn't show me anything within a 20-mile radius of my home. A Milton's representative told me that they are available at the Harris Teeter store in Fernandina Beach.

The company's website does say that they are available in some other stores that have outlets in this area, including Costco, Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Walmart. I'll need to start looking for them. They are also available at amazon.com.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lots of gluten-free stuff at Brick Oven

I finally made it to the Brick Oven Pizzeria & Gastropub on Fleming Island yesterday, and it was well worth the wait.

I should have gone sooner, but it is a 40-minute drive for me. But after having a great hamburger and fries yesterday and looking at its other gluten-free options on the menu, I really want to go back soon.

I'm going to write more about the Brick in my Times-Union column next month. But for now, let me tell you that the restaurant, which is owned by a celiac, not only has gluten-free buns available -- and a dedicated fryer for gluten-free french fries -- but also has gluten-free wraps and bread available for sandwiches, and gluten-free pizza.

It also has gluten-free pasta available for pasta dishes. And, they don't charge extra for gluten-free alternatives, like just about every other restaurant does.

I can't wait for my next visit.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Forget the Corner Taco truck

I've visited the Corner Taco restaurant in Five Points several times, but I had never had anything from the Corner Taco truck because I've never been in the same neighborhood.

But for the last few days, the truck has been parked in the St. Johns Town Center during lunchtime, so I decided to check it out today. And it was a complete disappointment. There was nothing gluten free available.

I was under the impression that you could get gluten-free tacos from the truck, and I know that most of the menu at the Five Points restaurant is gluten free, which opened after the truck was established. Maybe you could get gluten free tacos when the truck started operating, but I guess they stopped doing that.

The Corner Taco truck was parked at The Players Championship, so I went to check it out there, but then I saw the menu board said all tacos are served on flour tortillas. The line was too long for me to go up and talk to the people, and the truck wasn't parked very far from TacoLu's tent, which did have gluten-free options. So I figured maybe the Corner Taco truck was offering a limited menu at the golf tournament and I went on to TacoLu.

It was more discouraging today to see the "flour tortillas" sign again when I found the truck at Town Center. This time, I went up and asked and was told, no, they didn't have any corn tortillas.

I went instead to Chipotle, which does have gluten-free taco options, but it wasn't what I was hoping to eat for lunch.

I guess we have to forget about the Corner Taco truck.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

French fries are risky in a non-dedicated fryer

I received an interesting email from a reader after my Blind Rabbit review saying that you can't burn off the gluten in a fryer, no matter how hot it is.

The server there told me that their fryer is not dedicated to gluten-free foods, but it is hot enough to burn off the gluten. But he did say people who are very sensitive to gluten shouldn't try it.

As I said, I wasn't comfortable ordering the french fries after his explanation, and I wouldn't recommend a celiac trying them either.

But it's an interesting question: can french fries -- which are otherwise gluten free -- be made safe if they are cooked in a fryer where other gluten-containing food was cooked?

I found a really good post by the Gluten-Free Dietician on this topic. Her blog is very reliable, and she says no, you can't burn off the gluten, but there is still a question about whether french fries cooked in this oil will have less than 20 ppm of gluten anyway. She hasn't tested that, and I can't find any other source that tested that.

So, it is possible that these french fries are actually safe, but most people would recommend that you don't eat food that is cooked in a non-dedicated fryer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Gluten-free burgers at The Blind Rabbit

I visited The Blind Rabbit for the first time last night. I was invited to a friend's birthday celebration there and I almost didn't go, thinking that there wouldn't be anything gluten-free there. However, the friend who invited me told me that she checked and they have gluten-free burgers.

Sure enough, I checked the menu online and it says you can get a gluten-free bun as an option for a burger. I had no idea.

I went to the Jacksonville Beach Blind Rabbit, but they also have a location in Riverside.

The Blind Rabbit calls itself a "burger and whiskey bar." I didn't want whiskey, but my friend said they have the best burgers in town, so that's what I wanted.

I was very pleased to find out, when I started asking questions to the server, that he was extremely knowledgeable about my gluten-free concerns. I asked about gluten in the various ingredients of the BBQ Bacon Burger I wanted, and he quickly pointed out that the crispy tobacco onions had gluten but everything else would be gluten free.

I also asked about the sides, which include french fries and hand-cut chips. He explained to me that the ingredients are gluten free but the frier is also used for gluten-containing items. He said the heat of the fryer seems to remove much of the gluten contamination and people with mild gluten issues have been able to eat the fries and chips, but people who are very sensitive should probably avoid it.

I was very happy that he gave me a detailed explanation, which was enough to convince me to skip the fries and have the vegetable medley as my side instead.

So I got my burger with a gluten-free bun (which held together well), and it was an excellent burger. I'm not sure if I'd agree with my friend's assessment that they are the best burgers in town, but I will definitely be back for more.

The one drawback to The Blind Rabbit is that they don't have any gluten-free beers. They do have a couple of gluten-free cider options, which I had.

But I'm glad I went and found this place. If you're looking for a gluten-free burger, you'll be glad too.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Time is right for Udi's meals

Udi's introduced a line of gluten-free frozen meals last year, which I had been reluctant to try because they cost too much. But Publix this week is offering them with a buy one, get one free deal, so I figured the time was right to give them a try.

So last night, I tried Udi's chicken alfredo meal. It was pretty good, as far as frozen meals go.

I know some people will just not eat processed frozen meals but as someone who isn't much of a cook, I had been eating them for years before I was diagnosed with celiac. I consider them a good option for a quick meal.

The Publix deal lasts through Wednesday, so I'll probably be back to buy a couple of more before they go off sale.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Celebrating Celiac Awareness Month

On the back of the box of Glutino's Decadent Chocolate Cake mix, you'll find this message:

"The bad news: there is no cure for gluten sensitivity.
The good news: this cake is therapeutic."

Yes, those of us with celiac or non-celiac gluten sensitivity do have a lot to complain about but to mark Celiac Awareness Month, Glutino sent me a box filled with goodies to remind us that the gluten-free diet is not all that bad. The fact is, there are so many tasty products out there, and you'd never be able to tell the difference between the regular version and the gluten-free version.

My care package from Glutino included cake, cookie and pancake mixes, ready-to-eat cookies, pretzels and English muffins. All good stuff.

No, these are not a prescription for a healthy diet (and are a reminder that people who think it's healthier to eat gluten free are delusional), but they are a reminder that we can still have fun eating gluten free.

Some people's food blogs are about healthy eating. I refer to myself as a "glutton" for a reason. Yes, I do watch what I eat but I also indulge myself on occassion. Actually, on a lot of occassions.

So during Celiac Awareness Month, keep your spirits up. And eat well.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Brucci's has gluten-free pizza on its Players' menu

I went to a food tasting event today at The Players, before the course at TPC Sawgrass opens to the public. And the most interesting part of the tour was a booth that wasn't even open yet: I peeked inside the Brucci's pizza food booth and saw its menu board, which included a 10-inch gluten-free pizza.

Brucci's, of course, has gluten-free pizza in its restaurant, but I wasn't expecting to see it at the golf tournament. It is pricey, listed at $15, but considering the price for a 10-inch gluten-free pizza at most restaurants, it's really not out of line.

The nice thing about The Players, as I've written before, is that it has gluten-free food options all over the course, as part of its program to enhance the fan experience. We stopped at a food truck called Mama's Food and they had several items to offer. I asked if any of them were gluten-free and they quickly responded with a chicken rice bowl. They didn't seem surprised by my request for gluten-free food.

We also stopped at the popular "Tacos on 12" booth run by TacoLu, and they already had corn tortillas available to provide gluten-free tacos. If you go to that booth, be sure to specify you want the corn tortillas.

We also stopped at the Metro Diner booth, adjacent to Brucci's, in an area called "Taste of Jacksonville." They didn't have this available today, but they did say they will have a gluten-free stuffed tomato with chicken salad dish available for the tournament.

Adjacent to Metro Diner was 4 Rivers Smokehouse, where I was able to eat some brisket. I was a little taken aback when I told them I wanted the meat only, and not the sides, because I have to eat gluten free, and they responded by asking if I wanted it on bread. Oh well.

But anyway, if you're going to The Players, you're going to find a lot of gluten-free options. Enjoy.

Friday, May 1, 2015

It's Celiac Awareness Month

It's May 1 and you know what that means -- it's Celiac Awareness Month!

This is the time of year we try, try again to explain to people that we eat gluten free because we have to, not because of some misguided notion that gluten-free food is healthier for everyone.

If you haven't seen this already, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness is using the month to launch a campaign called Seriously, Celiac Disease to encourage everyone with celiac to encourage family members to get tested for celiac.

Remember, celiac is a genetic condition so if you have it, someone related to you has the gene also. So all of your family members could be at risk for having celiac, even if they don't have any obvious symptoms (like me when I was diagnosed).

Undiagnosed celiac disease can lead to more serious problems later in life, including various forms of cancer. So it is important to get the diagnosis.