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

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.