Monday, March 30, 2015

Pizzeria Uno pizza a disappointment

A couple of notes about my trip through Central Florida last week...

I stopped in Pizzeria Uno in Kissimmee to try its gluten-free pizza.

Pizzeria Uno is a national chain, although we don't have any in Jacksonville. The original Pizzeria Uno is one of Chicago's iconic deep dish pizza restaurants, so even though its gluten-free pizza is thin crust, I have been wanting to try it.

When I got to the restaurant and asked about a gluten-free menu, the hostess very excitedly pointed out an entire page within the regular menu listing gluten-free options. I wasn't actually expecting that so I was surprised to see it. It not only has pizza, but also hamburgers with Udi's buns, as well as seafood and chicken dishes. I definitely felt that I was in a gluten-free friendly place.

Of course, I ordered a pizza and -- I'm sorry to day -- it was disappointing. It was just okay, which basically wasn't good enough because I was expecting better.

Oh well. I did have a very good gluten-free experience at a relatively new place in Tampa called Burger Monger. I had seen someone raving about it Facebook and when I found it offered burgers on gluten-free buns, and the fries are gluten free, I had to try it.

It was pretty good. The place is very gluten-free friendly. I noticed a sign advertising some hot dog special on Thursdays, so I asked and they said, yes, they have gluten-free hot dog buns too. That was interesting (although I didn't try the hot dog).

There are four Burger Mongers in the Tampa Bay area. Although we have gluten-free burger places sprinkled around the Jacksonville area, I'm really getting jealous because there seems to be a lot of burger options in Tampa Bay. Oh well.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

No more Rice Krispies

Here's some bad news: Kellogg's is discontinuing its gluten-free Rice Krispies. You can read more about it here from the Savvy Celiac blog.

At least on the bright side, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness had a report this week on gluten-free Cheerios, which are coming from General Mills.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Going to Starke? Eat first

Apparently, you can't dine out gluten free in Starke, at least according to the Fine Me Gluten Free app.

I was driving home from Tampa on the I-75/301 route yesterday and I calculated that I would be in Starke around dinner time. So, before I left, I decided to check on the Find Me Gluten Free website on possible dining options. The app is something you can use on your phone to find gluten-free friendly restaurants in the vicinity of your current location, but you can also use the website to look up options for a particular area. I like to have information in advance when I'm travelling.

Anyway, when I checked on Starke, there was nothing listed. Find Me Gluten Free lists options by distance, and the closest gluten-free friendly restaurant was a Pizza Hut in Middleburg 17 miles away from Starke.

Because of that, I stopped at a Chick Fil A in Ocala and ate about an hour earlier than I wished. I didn't want to find myself hungry and unable to eat by the time I got to Starke.

In case you haven't tried it, Chick Fil A says their grilled chicken nuggets and waffle fries are gluten free, so that makes it a great fast-food dinner option.

When I did drive through 301 in Starke, I have to agree that I didn't see any restaurant that I would feel comfortable eating in. There is a Pizza Hut in Starke, but not all Pizza Huts are offering their new gluten-free pizza, which may explain why it doesn't show up on the app.

As I continued up 301 to I-10, I still didn't see any gluten-free friendly restaurants. So basically, there was nowhere to eat on 301 between Ocala and Jacksonville. Don't travel that route hungry.

Friday, March 20, 2015

A long day of basketball with few gluten-free options

I spent an entire day watching basketball yesterday at the Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, which is a fun event. But it's tough to be a celiac at an event like that.

Yes, there are a couple of snack items available at the arena, but nothing gluten free that you can eat for a meal. The problem is, this was a 12-hour day from the time I left home until the fourth game of the day ended, so I had to have a meal somewhere.

Besides the arena concessions, there was something of a festival in the street with a bunch of food trucks, and they opened up the baseball park across the street with a couple of concession stands. I looked at the menus on each of the food trucks and saw food that might be gluten free, but there was no way to know for sure, and the lines were too long for me to try and have a conversation with the truck workers.

My solution, and I think the only solution, was to bring my own food. I brought along a Go Picnic box as my dinner. If you're not familiar with Go Picnic, it's designed as a small meal you can carry along with you anywhere, and many of their meals are gluten free.

According to the arena's website, you're not allowed to bring food inside, unless you have a food allergy. Interestingly, when I got to the entrance, there was a sign that said no food allowed, but didn't list the exception.

Sure enough, a guy checking into bags at the door was ready to confiscate my food. I told him that the arena website says you can bring in your own food if you have an allergy, and I have celiac disease which means I can't eat gluten so I was bringing in my own gluten-free food, etc.

I've seen blank looks on people's faces before when I brought up gluten, but this may have been the most blank look I've ever seen. Fortunately, he seemed to decide he didn't want to hear anymore and just waved me in before I even finished talking.

So I ate my Go Picnic meal, which wasn't bad, but unfortunately wasn't really all that filling.

There was some great basketball yesterday, but I was pretty much feeling hungry all day. Sigh....the life of a celiac (yes, I will whine once in a while).

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Time for bartender gluten-free training

I think it's time that we establish a formal gluten-free training programming for bartenders.

Too many times recently, I've stopped in bars to ask about gluten-free beers and got answers which told me the bartenders didn't understand what I was asking. This is dangerous, because some of them were trying to offer beers which clearly aren't gluten free.

Today I stopped in the new Hoptinger Bier Garden & Sausage House in Jacksonville Beach. I wasn't planning to eat or drink there but since I was walking by, I thought it was a good chance to see what they have. You'd think a place called "Bier Garden" that brags about its beer selection might have something gluten free.

Unfortunately, they don't. They told me about a couple of ciders they have, which is fine, but then one of the bartenders said "We have Bud."

Seriously, he thought Bud was a gluten-free beer??!! Fortunately, the other bartenders corrected him. But then one of the other ones said there are no gluten-free beers except cider. Of course, that was wrong too.

And by the way, Hoptinger doesn't have a gluten-free food menu either.

This follows a check of the bar last week at the new V Pizza in Jacksonville Beach. When I asked the bartender if they had gluten-free beers, he said they tested all of their beers for gluten and they didn't have it.


To his credit, as I told him that was impossible, he said he'd text the bar manager, who did let him know they don't have any gluten-free beers.

I don't mind so much when a bar or restaurant doesn't offer gluten-free beers, but I do expect the people working there to know the difference. Maybe that will be my new profession: a gluten-free bartender training school.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Gluten-free expos coming to other Florida cities

If you happen to be travelling to West Central Florida in the next couple of weeks, you have an opportunity to visit a couple of gluten-free expos.

This weekend, there will be a Gluten-Free Food Allergy Fest at the Lakeland Civic Center. The expo runs both Saturday and Sunday. You can click here for more information, if you're planning to be in the area.

Then on Saturday, March 28, there will be the Gluten-Free for Life Expo in St. Petersburg. You can click here for info on that one.

I wouldn't make a special trip for either event, since it's a 3-hour drive to Lakeland and 4 hours to St. Petersburg, but these should be good events if you're in the neighborhood.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Plenty of gluten-free choices at World of Beer

With the return of beach weather the last couple of days, I finally made it to the new World of Beer that opened about a month ago in downtown Jacksonville Beach.

World of Beer is a chain, and there is one in Tinseltown in Jacksonville, but this was my first visit to one if its pubs and I was impressed with the gluten-free selections.

I asked the bartender about gluten-free beers and she guided me to the gluten-free "section" of its refrigerator case. Behind the bar, there are large refrigerator cases behind glass displaying countless varieties of bottled beer, and there was even one shelf dedicated to gluten-free beers. It included varieties of New Planet and Green's beers.

She also pointed out that World of Beer had varieties of Omission, but they were stocked separately from the other gluten-free beers.

I wasn't planning to eat there but I did peruse the menu and I was surprised to find a handful of items marked "GF" indicating they are gluten free. Good to know if I find myself drinking a day away in the place.

Actually, that probably won't happen because World of Beer seemed kind of pricey to me. But still, I was very impressed with the gluten-free selections there and I'm sure I will be going back soon.