Friday, December 23, 2016

Happy Anniversary to me again

Today marks the sixth anniversary of my celiac diagnosis.

That was a day of panic, of course. I had no idea what a gluten-free diet would look like, and it was compounded by the fact that I received this diagnosis as Christmas weekend was beginning.

But a lot has changed in six years. We still have a lot of work to do on education, and it's mind-boggling to me that so many people don't understand the gluten-free diet and still think it's a fad diet.

But we have so many more food choices than we did six years ago, both in grocery stores and restaurants. Just this week, another significant burger chain announced it was offering gluten-free buns when Shake Shack said it now has them.

We don't have any Shake Shacks yet in Jacksonville but it's a growing, popular brand that does have restaurants in Orlando. I'm going to have to try it on my next visit there.

A couple of years ago, I was begging burger joints to start offering gluten-free buns, instead of forcing me to bring my own bun. It's becoming more common.

Unfortunately, we still need to work on getting these places to ensure their french fries are gluten free. I noticed Shake Shack says its fries have gluten free ingredients but it can't assure they are free from contamination. That's also, unfortunately, a common trend.

So that will be my cause for 2017: gluten-free fries. And burritos. I still don't know of any taco place that can offer a gluten-free burrito. I realize it's hard, because gluten-free tortillas almost always crumble in your hands. But I think it's time that somebody comes up with the formula.

I hope this is the year.

Friday, December 9, 2016

A lot of GF stuff at Lucky's, but nothing special

When a new grocery chain arrives in the Jacksonville market, I'm of course curious to see what kind of gluten-free offerings it brings.

So I visited the new Lucky's Market in Neptune Beach today.

My quick take: they do have a lot of gluten-free stuff but if you don't live in the Neptune Beach area, it's not worth a special trip.

Most of the gluten-free stuff is familiar brands that you'll find in other local stores. However, I did notice a couple of things: there seemed to be a lot of gluten-free bake mixes available and there was also a nice choice of Katz gluten-free goodies, including several varieties of pie which I have never seen. Katz products are generally pretty good but I didn't buy any because I'm trying to avoid sweets.

There also was nothing special about the prices. There were some items on sale but this is definitely not a discount store.

So, if you're in the Neptune Beach neighborhood, you may want to check out Lucky's. But don't go out of your way.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Some encouraging gluten-free developments

Just a few notes of things I discovered last week.

First, and at least to me most important, I talked to Jaguars President Mark Lamping on a completely unrelated matter but of course took advantage of the opportunity to talk about gluten-free concessions at EverBank Field.

I told him I was disappointed that the new vendor wasn't offering gluten-free beer this year and he seemed receptive to the idea of offering it in the future. Between that and my previous contact with the vendor, I hope the gluten-free offerings will be better next year. Because of the limited gluten-free options and the Jaguars' performance on the field, I haven't found any reason to go to a game this year, but I'm more optimistic about next year.

Secondly, on a visit to Ruby Tuesday's, I discovered they've now added a gluten-free pasta option to their menu. I didn't try it, but I am pleased to see this chain continuing to expand its gluten-free options.

You may recall several months ago I posted that Ruby Tuesday's offers a gluten-free bun option for burgers, and has some other gluten-free entrees. No, they don't have a dedicated gluten-free cooking space but I still consider this good news.

Finally, Uno Pizzeria & Grill announced it is offering a new gluten-free pizza crust at its restaurants. We don't have Uno's restaurants in Jacksonville but I have written about how disappointed I was when I tried the gluten-free pizza at its restaurant in Kissimmee.

This change tells me that Uno must have realized how bad the previous gluten-free crust was and decided to do something about it. I'm sure I'll get around to revisiting Uno at some point.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Allergy labeling for holiday meals

As we approach the holidays, here's an interesting idea from to make sure everyone can eat safely at a holiday meal:

Put an allergy label alongside every dish so everyone knows what's in it, and whether they need to avoid it., which provides food safety and other consumer product safety information, has a link to a printable allergen label in this column on the issue:

The column also has a link to a consumer survey about food safety and recall issues.

The food label is a great idea if you're hosting a holiday meal. Hopefully, if you're visiting someone else, you can convince the host that it's also a good idea. I think it should be easy when the host gets sick of us pestering them for ingredient information before we eat anything.

Friday, October 28, 2016

M Shack has gluten-free buns

I don't know how long this has been going on, but M Shack is now offering gluten-free buns for its hamburgers.

I had talked to one of the owners a few months ago about this and she said it was under consideration, so I was surprised to see it added to the menu. The restaurant, which has four locations, is charging $2 extra for a gluten-free bun.

I visited the Atlantic Beach restaurant to check it out and unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed. It was a very good tasting burger but the bun, like so many other gluten-free buns, crumbled in my hand.

Also, the French fries are not gluten free. In fact, there is no gluten-free side option to go with your burger.

The M Shack menu does mark burgers and other items that are gluten free with a "GF." Besides burgers and a chicken sandwich, the gluten-free options include shakes.

So anyway, I'm not rushing back to M Shack anytime soon. But it's good to know if you're with a group that wants to go there, you can actually eat a burger.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Burrito Gallery worth a try

Before the storm, I visited the new Burrito Gallery in Jacksonville Beach last week. And since it remains intact and is back in business, I figured it's time to write about it.

I had been to the downtown Burrito Gallery B.C. (before celiac) and liked it, but I seem to remember checking the menu after I went gluten free and not seeing anything we could eat there.

When the new beaches location opened at the corner of Beach and 3rd, I figured it was worth checking again. I didn't see any indications of gluten-free food items on the menu, but I did see a gluten-free beer on the beer list.

As I've said before, it doesn't matter if you drink beer or not, but it's worth checking out gluten-free beer websites to find restaurants that sell the beers. If a restaurant does offer a gluten-free beer, I have to believe the restaurant is at least somewhat gluten-free friendly.

I did see on the menu that tacos are offered with a choice of flour or corn tortillas, so I figured I could give it a try.

The server seemed knowledgeable about gluten-free issues and while she wasn't sure about all of the items, she did help me order a couple of tacos on corn tortillas that seemed to be gluten free. She did point out that the teriyaki taco wouldn't be gluten free because of soy sauce.

So I had two tacos and they were good. They seemed similar to the kind of tacos you would find down the street at TacoLu.

So yes, you can probably eat at Burrito Gallery. You'll want to ask a lot of questions before ordering, but I don't think you'll be disappointed.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Here's a gluten-free emergency food option

It may be too late to get to the store now but if you're trying to find a quick gluten-free item for a hurricane evacuation, here's a good option I found recently.

They're called ThinkThin bars, and they are available in several varieties at Publix for $1.50 each. They are high protein bars that are certified gluten free and have the additional bonus of being sugar free.

I discovered them a couple of months ago when I was stuck in airport desperately looking for something I could eat to get me through the trip, and I've been buying them ever since just to keep around the house. And they were the only specific hurricane-prep food I went out and bought.

If you can get to Publix today, you might want to check them out.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Favorite breakfast item: Glutino English muffins

Glutino sent me a box of goodies to celebrate fall and the back-to-school season. The goodies include several varieties of pretzels, which I like, but I was most happy to see it included my absolute favorite gluten-free breakfast item: Glutino's English muffins.

I've written this before but there are several varieties of gluten-free English muffins and they are mostly quite awful. But Glutino's seem no different that any standard gluten-filled English muffin, at least as far as I can remember what a regular English muffin tastes like (I've been gluten free for almost six years now). I really enjoy them.

This box was delivered at room temperature, which is somewhat unusual because you will usually find the English muffins in the freezer section of your supermarket. Since you have to toast them anyway, that's fine. I generally buy them at Walmart because they seem to be cheaper there than at other stores.

The only product that was new in the goody basket, at least to me, was a box of vegetable crackers. The box says the crackers have "a hint of tomato, oregano and garlic."

I like the crackers. I found them to have a sort of pizza taste, which is always appealing to me.

It was nice to receive the package on a day when a new tropical storm hit the area, even if this storm is completely benign. Since we're at the height of hurricane season for a couple of weeks, I'm now well stocked with snacks if I need shelter from a storm.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

New Jaguars vendor open to gluten-free suggestions

The Jaguars have a new food service provider this year, Delaware North Sportservice, so I was of course very interested to see what gluten-free concessions they have to offer.

They did send me a thorough list and seem to be aware of gluten-free issues, but I have to say I was disappointed. The one thing I really want to see on the list is gluten-free beer, and there isn't any. You can get McKenzie's cider, but no beer.

Now in fairness to Delaware North, a spokeswoman asked me to give them a chance because they are new to the market and are open to suggestions. One of their executives is a celiac so they are attentive to our needs.

So yes, I'll give them a chance but I am suggesting they offer gluten-free beer.

You'll notice on the list that they have gluten-free buns available at the hot dog stands but if you've been reading my blog for several years, you'll remember the horrible experience I had with the previous vendor when the workers at the stands had no idea about the difference between gluten-free and regular buns. So I'm not going to have a hot dog at the stadium unless they have a dedicated gluten-free cart. I'll have to make that suggestion also.

The most interesting item on the list is French fries. If they have a dedicated fryer, that could be an appealing snack.

Anyway, here's the complete list provided by Delaware North:

2016 Gluten Free Items and Section Locations
Kayem Hot Dogs with Bun* – 104, 115, 131, 142, 414, 442
Slaw Dog - 131
Popcorn – 104, 115, 119, 131, 142, 146, 150, 405, 414, 431, 442
Peanuts –All portable stands throughout the stadium
Pumpkin Seeds – 133
Sunflower Seeds – 133
Kettlecorn - 133
French Fries – 105, 114, 128, 132, 141, 146, 409, 410, 435, 436
Caesar Salad – US Assure Clubs 110, 137, 208, 235
Shrimp Cocktail – US Assure Clubs-Upper 210, 237
Fresh Oysters - US Assure Clubs-Upper 210, 237
Ceviche - US Assure Clubs-Upper 210, 237
Mister Softee Soft Served Ice Cream – 119, 128, 408, 439
Gatorade – All stand locations
McKenzie’s Hard Cider – 119, 127
*can request gluten free bun

2016 Gluten Free Items created in a facility with Gluten and Section Locations
Nacho Grande - 104, 115, 125, 131, 142, 414, 442
Garlic Tater Tots – US Assure Clubs 107, 134
Guacamole with Chips – US Assure Clubs 108, 135

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Famous Toastery offers GF pancakes and French toast

When Famous Toastery revealed plans to open its first Jacksonville area location, I Googled, didn't see anything about gluten-free options, and basically wrote it off as another place I would never visit.

So I was quite surprised to read a review of the new Jacksonville Beach restaurant in the Times-Union last weekend and see it had gluten-free pancakes and French toast available. I was surprised because I never expect to get any useful information out of the TU.

No, seriously, I was surprised to find Famous Toastery is gluten-free friendly. I looked it up again on the Internet and found the gluten-free items on the menu, so of course I had to check it out.

They seem to be taking gluten-free dining seriously. The menu does have a disclaimer that the kitchen is not 100 percent gluten free but they are aware of the issues and take what precautions they can. The staff did seem knowledgeable during my visit.

I ordered French toast -- it's harder to find gluten-free French toast than gluten-free pancakes -- and it was delicious!

The menu doesn't say anything about gluten-free sandwiches but of course I had to ask -- if they have gluten-free bread available for French toast, they must also have it available for sandwiches, right? They told me yes. A man who appeared to be a manager said he plans to actually put together a separate gluten-free menu that will list all the options.

The regular menu, in addition to the pancakes and French toast, also lists a gluten-free flourless chocolate cake.

Famous Toastery is a bit pricey but I really enjoyed my meal, so I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Trader Joe's gluten-free "rye" bread rates as mediocre

One extra note on my trip to Chicago was the purchase of Trader Joe's gluten-free rye-less "rye" bread.

There's a long story here so I'll cut to the chase -- it did taste good but the texture was awful. It absolutely has to be toasted and even then, the texture is still bad. So I'd have to rate it overall as mediocre.

Here's the story. There is a Trader Joe's in the neighborhood I usually stay in when I'm in Chicago. Several years ago, I went in figuring I'd be able to find something to eat for breakfast. But I was extremely disappointed to find a lack of gluten-free options in the store.

So, when Trader Joe's announced it would open a store near home in Jacksonville Beach, while some people were excited, I was less than enthusiastic. When the store opened, my feeling was confirmed because I found few gluten-free items to make a trip there worthwhile.

I have to say I've warmed up to Trader Joe's in the last couple of years as they have expanded their private label gluten-free offerings, particularly a line of hamburger buns and bagels that are decent and reasonably priced, as far as gluten-free stuff goes. So now I visit fairly regularly to stock up on buns and bagels. They seemed to have resolved their inventory problems -- they aren't running out of the gluten-free stuff like they used to.

Trader Joe's has also come out with gluten-free hot dog buns, which aren't as good as the hamburger buns. Of course, as I've said many times, there is no such thing as a good gluten-free hot dog bun.

Anyway, when I was in Chicago, I decided to visit the store again to see what they had, since Trader Joe's does vary products by region. And I came across the Trader Joe's brand of gluten-free "rye" bread. The Trader Joe's in Jax Beach has several types of gluten-free bread but I have not seen the rye.

Rye bread was my bread of choice before I went gluten free. So, whenever I see a brand of gluten-free rye-less rye, I give it a try. So far, none have been worthwhile, including the Trader Joe's brand.

One more note I discovered with my bread purchase. Packing a loaf of bread will absolutely get your carry-on bag flagged by the TSA. As I was pulled out of line so they could open and inspect my bag, they pointed to the big rectangular lump that showed up on the x-ray. What could it possibly be?

So if I'm going to take a loaf of bread on an airplane, it better be worth it.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

I found it: gluten-free deep dish pizza

For six years, I've been craving deep dish pizza. Pizza places have a hard enough time making decent thin-crust gluten-free pies, so I understand why even the best deep dish Chicago-style restaurants can't make deep dish gluten free.

But I learned of one Chicago restaurant that does make deep dish gluten-free pizza, and I was determined to get there and try it.

And boy, was I glad I did. It was fantastic.

The restaurant is the easy to remember Chicago's Pizza, which actually has three locations on the Northside.

I went there late in the afternoon on my way to a night game at Wrigley Field, which turned out to be fortuitous timing because they offer a "Baby" stuffed pizza from 11 to 4, and I got there a little before 4. I was ready to order a regular small pizza which I would have been unlikely to finish but I was able to order the Baby pizza.

But first things first. When the hostess sat me, she asked if I was gluten free (what, is written on my forehead?) and then said something about bread, which I took to mean she would have brought out bread if I wasn't.

Then to my big surprise after I had ordered my pizza, she came back with a small plate with a hot slice of gluten-free bread on it! I wasn't expecting that at all, and it was very good.

As I waited for my pizza, I enjoyed Prairie Path beer on draft, which is a gluten removed beer. I know the jury is still out on whether these beers are completely safe but I feel comfortable ordering them in a restaurant. There is also the issue I've dealt with before about making sure a beer coming out of the tap is in fact the gluten-free one and the wait staff doesn't make a mistake, but the Chicago's Pizza staff seemed so attuned to gluten-free needs that I didn't worry. I get the impression they get a lot of gluten-free customers, which is why the hostess asked me if I was gluten free.

Then my stuffed gluten-free sausage pizza came. It was wonderful. I would have a hard time imagining people eating regular stuffed pizza could tell the difference. It was that good.

Stuffed gluten-free pizza and then drinking gluten-free beer at a Cubs game (they sell Redbridge there). What could be a better evening?

I should also mention on my second night in Chicago, I decided to give Pizzeria Uno a shot. If you're not familiar with it, this is the original Chicago restaurant which spawned the nationwide Uno Pizzeria & Grill chain.

I visited the Orlando Uno's restaurant a while back and thought its gluten-free pizza was pretty awful, which was a major disappointment. But the original Pizzeria Uno  is different than the chain so I figured I'd give it a shot.

I knew there wouldn't be deep dish gluten-free pizza available but all the other iconic Chicago deep dish places do offer a thin-crust gluten-free pizza. But when I walked in and asked the hostess, she said no, they don't have gluten-free pizza. I couldn't believe it.

So, Uno's in all its forms is now permanently off my list.

But it doesn't matter. I have a new favorite place: Chicago's Pizza. I can't wait to get back for more.

I found it: gluten-free deep dish pizza

For six years, I've been craving deep dish pizza. Pizza places have a hard enough time making decent thin-crust gluten-free pies, so I understand why even the best deep dish Chicago-style restaurants can't make deep dish gluten free.

But I learned of one Chicago restaurant that does make deep dish gluten-free pizza, and I was determined to get there and try it.

And boy, was I glad I did. It was fantastic.

The restaurant is the easy to remember Chicago's Pizza, which actually has three locations on the Northside.

I went there late in the afternoon on my way to a night game at Wrigley Field, which turned out to be fortuitous timing because they offer a "Baby" stuffed pizza from 11 to 4, and I got there a little before 4. I was ready to order a regular small pizza which I would have been unlikely to finish but I was able to order the Baby pizza.

But first things first. When the hostess sat me, she asked if I was gluten free (what, is written on my forehead?) and then said something about bread, which I took to mean she would have brought out bread if I wasn't.

Then to my big surprise after I had ordered my pizza, she came back with a small plate with a hot slice of gluten-free bread on it! I wasn't expecting that at all, and it was very good.

As I waited for my pizza, I enjoyed Prairie Path beer on draft, which is a gluten removed beer. I know the jury is still out on whether these beers are completely safe but I feel comfortable ordering them in a restaurant. There is also the issue I've dealt with before about making sure a beer coming out of the tap is in fact the gluten-free one and the wait staff doesn't make a mistake, but the Chicago's Pizza staff seemed so attuned to gluten-free needs that I didn't worry. I get the impression they get a lot of gluten-free customers, which is why the hostess asked me if I was gluten free.

Then my stuffed gluten-free sausage pizza came. It was wonderful. I would have a hard time imagining people eating regular stuffed pizza could tell the difference. It was that good.

Stuffed gluten-free pizza and then drinking gluten-free beer at a Cubs game (they sell Redbridge) there). What could be a better evening?

I should also mention on my second night in Chicago, I decided to give Pizzeria Uno a shot. If you're not familiar with it, this is the original Chicago restaurant which spawned the nationwide Uno Pizzeria & Grill chain.

I visited the Orlando Uno's restaurant a while back and thought its gluten-free pizza was pretty awful, which was a major disappointment. But the original Pizzeria Uno  is different than the chain so I figured I'd give it a shot.

I knew there wouldn't be deep dish gluten-free pizza available but all the other iconic Chicago deep dish places do offer a thin-crust gluten-free pizza. But when I walked in and asked the hostess, she said no, they don't have gluten-free pizza. I couldn't believe it.

So, Uno's in all its forms is now permanently off my list.

But it doesn't matter. I have a new favorite place: Chicago's Pizza. I can't wait to get back for more.

Monday, August 1, 2016

A Mother Truckin' gluten-free pizza

I finally found the Mother Truckin' Pizza truck this weekend, and I'm glad I did.

I went to the food truck event in Jacksonville Beach which featured, I think, 36 food trucks. I looked around to see if anyone mentioned anything "gluten free" on their menu boards and didn't see any. My experience with food trucks has told me that while they may actually have gluten-free food available, the people working there are reluctant to say that, yes, you can eat gluten-free there.

Mother Truckin's menu also does not list gluten-free pizza but I had heard that they do have it, so I walked up and asked. Not only do they have a gluten-free pizza but they also asked me if I have a gluten sensitivity, because if so they would bake it separately from the other pizzas. I never expected that from a food truck!

The pizza was pretty good, but more than I needed. While the truck sells slices of regular pizza, they only offer a complete 10-inch gluten-free pizza. Even I couldn't finish the whole thing (it doesn't happen often with me and pizza) and because I was too far from my car to take it home, I had to throw out the excess.

But on the bright side, the pizza with up to 3 toppings cost $11, and they were charging $5 and $6 for slices. So I'd have to say I got my money's worth.

I also need to compliment them for having a pop-up tent with stand-up tables to eat on, on a hot summer afternoon. That was more than a lot of other trucks offered at this event.

My only complaint is, they need to put the gluten-free pizza on the menu board. I'm sure a lot of people would love to stumble onto it when looking for gluten-free in a sea of food trucks.

Friday, July 29, 2016

A significant study on gluten sensitivity

I get a lot of alerts about celiac and gluten-free studies that look like a waste of time but today I read about a reliable new study that basically confirms the science behind non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

This study comes from Columbia University researchers including Peter Green, director of Columbia's Celiac Disease Center. As I posted a couple of months ago, he recently published a comprehensive book on celiac disease (click here for my post on that). He's a trustworthy source (there are so many "experts" out there that you can't trust).

You can read more about the new study at Beyond Celiac's webpage.

Friday, July 15, 2016

This Chick's Kitchen is gluten-free friendly

I made my first visit this week to This Chick's Kitchen, a tiny but very gluten-free friendly restaurant in Jacksonville Beach.

This Chick's Kitchen is a farm-to-table restaurant with a lot of interesting dishes, and nearly everything is gluten free. I had a chicken stir fry dish that was really good.

I had a chance to talk with the owner who is very gluten-free aware. I mentioned I was celiac and she asked me a lot of questions about possble additions to the menu. For example, she wants to bring in regular bread for customers who are not gluten free and asked if I would have a problem with that. I said no, it's only a problem when restaurants make their own bread and flour could contaminate gluten-free dishes. She said other customers have told her the same thing.

The restaurant is hard to find if you're not looking for it, at 353 6th Ave. South, just east of Third Street. It's closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

It's also pricey. To me, that's the drawback of farm-to-table restaurants that offer food produced by local farms. It's great in theory, but it's not a place I can visit a lot because it's just too expensive.

However, I love finding local gluten-free friendly restaurants that offer something different, so I'll be back.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Panera: Are you kidding me?

Allow me to rant about Panera Bread for a few minutes.

I've eaten salads at Panera a number of times in the past few years. Now I know there is a risk of cross-contamination and some people will feel differently about this than I do, but I believe the risk in a salad is minimal if all the ingredients of the salad are gluten free -- by minimal, I mean below 20 ppm.

Anyway, I haven't been to Panera in quite a while so I was checking its website to see what salads are gluten free, and I found this on a page titled "Avoiding Gluten" which listed several menu items that don't have gluten in the ingredients:

It talked about the cross contamination risk but said you can eat these items "if you want to avoid or reduce gluten and do not have celiac disease, a heightened gluten sensitivity or a wheat allergy."

In other words, these items are for people who don't have any reason to avoid gluten but are under the ridiculous illusion that gluten-free food is a healthy option. The people I have been complaining about for five years.

Panera, you may recall, is test-marketing a gluten-free bread. What for? Fad dieters who think it's trendy to order gluten-free bread? Are they going to introduce this bread nationwide and then tell us we shouldn't eat it?

So basically, Panera's gluten-free program is absolutely useless. I guess that's one more place to cross off my list.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Got to love Maggiano's gluten-free program

I spent the weekend at a family function in Washington D.C. Of course, we all know the stress of attending any kind of banquet-type event where we don't know if the food will be safe to eat.

Fortunately, this event was held at a Maggiano's in Washington.

Now if you've been to Maggiano's Little Italy in Jacksonville or anywhere else, you've probably experienced this: when you tell the server your have celiac or a gluten allergy or whatever term you use, their policy is to have the chef come out and discuss the menu with you. A good number of the dishes on the menu can be made gluten free, including gluten-free pasta, and they will make sure they can accommodate you with a safe meal.

So, even though I had never attended a special event at Maggiano's (just regular dinners), I was reasonably confident they'd be able to provide something I could eat. As it turned out, it was even better than I expected.

Sitting at a table with a cousin who also can't eat gluten, I told the server about this and asked what in the meal we'd be able to eat. And just as with a regular visit to the restaurant, they brought out the chef to talk to us.

She explained that the meal would be served family style with a choice of chicken picatta and rigatoni that could both me made gluten free and one other dish that wasn't gluten free. So, when they brought out the entree bowls for the entire table, they also brought bowls of the picatta and rigatoni that were both gluten-free for my cousin and me - and anyone else at the table. I did explain to the others that they could eat portions from our bowls.

Actually, before the entrees, they brought out big salad bowls with croutons for the table but brought individual gluten-free salads for my cousin and me. And when it was time for dessert, they brought special fruit plates for the two of us.

So, for once, I was absolutely thrilled with a banquet experience for a change. I look forward to my next visit to Maggiano's.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Redbridge beer makes the movies

I was watching Ted 2 on HBO over the weekend and I saw something absolutely shocking:

Ted (the Teddy Bear who came to life) with a couple of bottles of Redbridge beer on the kitchen table.

I was waiting for the offensive joke about drinking gluten-free beer (the movie is of course filled with offensive jokes) but it never came. In fact there was no mention at all of the word "gluten."

So why put gluten-free beer on the table? Hard to say, but my Google search did find one reference to Mark Wahlberg (the human star of the movie) as the "King of Product Placement" on a website called Brandchannel. It listed dozens of products, including Redbridge, that found its way into Ted 2.

Most of those product placements don't faze me. But it did stop me in my tracks to see a gluten-free beer on the screen.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Fresh Market has branded gluten-free items

I don't shop at The Fresh Market a lot, because I've never really found anything special there, as far as gluten-free items go.

However, this week, as I was in the neighborhood, I decided to stop in to a Fresh Market and I was surprised at what I found: Fresh Market-branded gluten-free items. I had never seen that before.

Of course, what really caught my eye was their gluten-free frozen pizzas, which were on sale in several varieties for $5.99. And at 14.6 ounces, it was bigger than most frozen pizzas. Given my pizza obsession, I had to give it a try.

And it was really good, as good as any frozen gluten-free pizza I've tried. The package recommends heating it on a baking pan or directly on the rack for a crispier crust. I used my pizza stone and the crust was very crispy.

The $5.99 sale price remains in effect through next week so if you like frozen pizza, I'd recommend stopping in. I'm going to go back for more while they're on sale (I think the normal price is $7.99).

I also picked up a package of Fresh Market chocolate chip cookies, which were also on sale at a dollar off for $3.99. This wasn't worth it. There's something like 14 cookies in the package, so even on sale I consider it way overpriced.

Anyway, I checked with Fresh Market and found they do have a whole line of gluten-free items. Here is the complete list:

TFM Gluten Free Sesame Garlic Sauce
TFM Gluten Free Teriyaki Sauce
TFM Gluten Free Thai Peanut Sauce
TFM Gluten Free All Purpose Flour
TFM Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix
TFM Gluten Free Chocolate Brownie Mix
TFM Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix
TFM Gluten Free Sugar Cookie Mix
TFM Gluten Free Vanilla Cake Mix
TFM Gluten Free Gingerbread
TFM Gluten Free Pumpkin bread
TFM Gluten Free Breadcrumbs
TFM Irresistibly Good Gluten Free Choc Chip Cookie
TFM Irresistibly Good Gluten Free Coconut Mac Cookie
TFM Irresistibly Good Gluten Free Caramel Sea Salt Cookie
TFM Gluten Free Cheese Pizza
TFM Gluten Free Pepperoni Pizza
TFM Gluten Free Pizza – Margherita
TFM Gluten Free Pizza – Sausage Pepperoni
TFM Gluten Free Stuffing Mix

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Where are the gluten-free ice cream cones?

On Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial start of summer, I found myself craving an ice cream cone.

This should have been simple except for one thing: I couldn't find gluten-free ice cream cones anywhere.

For the last couple of years, gluten-free cones had been relatively easy to find in just about any grocery store, so I didn't anticipate any problems. But I went to Publix and didn't find any in both the ice cream cone section and the gluten-free section. The same thing happened at Winn-Dixie.

I also tried Target and Walmart: no luck.
Found at Native Sun

I finally went to Native Sun and found gluten-free cones, but unfortunately this was several days after the holiday weekend ended.

But this all left me wondering if something had happened with the gluten-free ice cream cone supply. I'll admit when stores were well-stocked with them, I wondered if there really was that big a demand. Maybe they weren't selling and the stores decided to drop them from inventory. Gluten-free cones really don't seem any different than regular cones, in my opinion, but why would anybody buy them if they didn't have to be gluten free? And maybe there weren't enough of us who are celiac or gluten intolerant who buy them all that often.

So I checked with Publix and Winn-Dixie. Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens says yes, Publix is still stocking gluten-free ice cream cones in all stores. I guess I'm going to have to ask for help in hunting them down next time I need them.

A Winn-Dixie spokesman is also checking into this for me and I'll let you know his response when I hear back.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

'Gluten Exposed' is a comprehensive look at gluten and celiac

Dr. Peter Green, director of Columbia University's Celiac Disease Center, and medical writer Rory Jones have written a book caled "Gluten Exposed" that takes a serious and comprehensive look at gluten and associated effects of eating gluten such as celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity.

Which means the people who need to read it probably won't.

This isn't an exciting book. It's not going to be a best-seller like "Wheat Belly" and the like that erroneously convinced thousands, if not millions, of people that everybody needs to drop gluten from their diet.

It's a completely trustworthy and thorough description of medical issues by a recognized expert on celiac. It's full of information, not hype.

Among the important points in the book are:

1) if you think you may have issues with digesting gluten, get yourself tested by a medical professional before going on a gluten-free diet. You might just try out a gluten-free diet and think you feel better, so it must be gluten, but your diet could be masking some other serious conditions that need to be addressed.

2) If you don't have celiac or a non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there's nothing healthy about a gluten-free diet. Gluten-free diets can be low in certain vitamins and minerals while high in sugar and fat.

3) Be careful about what you read on the Internet. Unless you can verify that the information is coming from an informed source, don't accept it as gospel. Green debunks a lot of Internet myths about gluten in his book.

In my case, of course, Green is preaching to the choir, and I'm sure most of you feel the same way. As I've been saying for years, if you don't have a medical need for a gluten-free diet, don't do it and you're making things difficult for the rest of us by treating gluten-free as a fad diet.

One interesting point in the book is that while there are a number of non-dietary treatments under development for celiac disease, there are currently no drugs that would allow you to eat gluten and any claims about certain drugs that can minimize the impact of eating gluten are not proven. You may actually be doing harm to your body by taking them.

Food for thought.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Gluten-free bakery at FreshJax

Looking for some gluten-free baked treats for your holiday weekend? Check out FreshJax.

I was kind of surprised to find this. FreshJax is located in a new strip center at the end of Baymeadows Road near Gate Parkway. The signs for the shop say "food" and "yoga." There's nothing there that would have made me check it out.

However, I met the CEO of the business and he told me that the place is run by a celiac and has a gluten-free bakery.

So, I stopped in this week. It's a small shop with a glass case full of baked goods. I asked the people working which of the goods are gluten free and they said, "all of them."

What a nice surprise. I got coffee cake muffins, which made for a really good breakfast.

For some reason, the shop's website ( doesn't even mention the gluten-free bakery. I don't know why. But I do know I'm going to visit again for more gluten-free goodies.

Monday, May 23, 2016

North Beach Fish Camp is gluten-free friendly

My visit to this place was long overdue, but I finally went to North Beach Fish Camp in Neptune Beach yesterday and I can confirm that it's a gluten-free friendly restaurant.

North Beach Fish Camp is located at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and First Street, a high-traffic area with difficult-to-find parking. That tends to keep me away but I'm glad I made the trip.

I had actually stopped in a couple of days before my visit to ask about the menu. North Beach Fish Camp doesn't have a gluten-free menu but it does have a dedicated gluten-free fryer, so you can get fried dishes on the menu gluten free. They also told me that just about anything on the menu can be made gluten free.

I actually had a broiled fish platter, which was excellent. I also had an Omission Beer which is on the menu.

So if you're near the beach in Neptune or Atlantic Beach and looking for a good spot to eat, check out North Beach Fish Camp.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Pieology the latest gluten-free pizza option

I visited the new Pieology restaurant in Nocatee yesterday. This is the first restaurant in that chain to open in Northeast Florida and I noticed it does have gluten-free pizza on the menu, so of course I had to check it out.

Pieology is one of those places where you walk up to the counter and you watch them make your pizza. I was immediately impressed because when I said I wanted a gluten-free pizza, the guy asked me if I wanted him to change gloves. Pieology doesn't have a dedicated gluten-free prep area and its website has warnings about cross-contamination, but this told me that they are at least aware of the issues.

I also noticed that he went to a different area to get a gluten-free crust than the other pizza crusts. There is a $2 surcharge for the gluten-free crust.

According to the nutrition information on its website, the only topping we need to worry about for gluten is the meatballs.

I got a barbecue chicken pizza, which I liked. The crust was nothing special but it tasted pretty good.

So yes, I would go again to Pieology. It's a little out of the way for a lot of people in Nocatee but hopefully, they'll be adding new Jacksonville area locations soon.

Monday, May 16, 2016

A lot of gluten-free products made in Jacksonville

I went to an interesting event today, a showcase for the North Florida Food Alliance.

The alliance is a group of 10 small, local food companies who have banded together to help their businesses grow. What I found fascinating is how many of these businesses are producing products that are gluten free, and how much awareness there was about keeping gluten-free products safe for those of us how need it.

For example, one company called Olive my Pickle makes "lacto fermented pickle products." One of the owners, Charlotte Tzabari, explained why that process makes healthier products, which I didn't quite follow. But she did get my attention when she told me they have tested their pickles for gluten to confirm that they are gluten free. That was nice to hear.

Another interesting product was a line of natural dog treats by a company called Pawfection Bakery. Owner Amy Gorman told me that her products are wheat free. Since I know some dog owners want to keep gluten away from their dogs before dogs start licking their faces, that could be helpful.

I also enjoyed some really good gourmet toffee products from Topsy Toffee that are gluten free.

The originator of the food alliance is Mark Patterson, who started a frozen dessert company called Naturally Smart Foods. Its frozen concoctions are gluten free.

Many of these products are available in local grocery stores, particularly Native Sun. It's just nice to see so many gluten-aware small businesses offering gluten-free products.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Celiac Awareness

I know I'm preaching to the choir here, but my Celiac Awareness Month column appears in today's Times-Union:

Unfortunately, it's my final Times-Union column. The newspaper has decided to cancel it. There are a lot of things I could say about the Times-Union, but I'll leave that to others.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

More great gluten-free stuff at The Players

I complain a lot about how difficult it is to find gluten-free stuff at sporting events.

But once a year, we arrive at The Players Championship and a fantastic array of gluten-free choices. Probably better than you'll find in a lot of restaurants.

Just take a look at the menu board at the regular refreshment stands sprinkled throughout the course. The "gf" in a circle indicates you can get a burger, chicken sandwich or hot dog on a gluten-free bun (for $1.50 extra).

However, the real fun is the specialty booths set up by local restaurants, where you can get some really interesting gluten-free fare.

Of course, The Players has featured the Tacos on 12 tent run by TacoLu for the past few years. But I got to take a tour of some of the new food booths yesterday and found some appealing stuff.

Without a doubt, my favorite stop was the Wine & Dine on 9 area along the 9th fairway, which this year features food by Vernon's, a restaurant in the Sawgrass Marriott.

Vernon's offered a dish that I was vaguely familiar with, arepas, which featured pulled pork in a wrap made of corn. It was absolutely delicious, and the sous chef preparing it told me she herself is gluten free so she completely understood our concerns. If I make it to actual golf this weekend, I'm going back for another one.

Actually, as I talked to the people running the booths, I was very pleased to see that they were very familiar with gluten-free concerns, not only at the golf course booths but also in their restaurants.

Mojo's has a booth this year offering barbecue sandwiches. Of course, we can't get a sandwich but we can get a small plate of meat with barbecue sauces that are gluten free.

Likewise, the Candy Apple Cafe offered me a hot dog without a bun covered in candy bacon, which they said was gluten free.

So yes, this is the one sporting event where you can go hungry and not worry about eating before you leave. Have fun!

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cookie Momsters closes

I learned some very disappointing news over the weekend: Cookie Momsters has closed down.

If you weren't familiar with it, Cookie Momsters was a gluten-free bakery on San Jose Boulevard that offered an array of bakery products. I found out it closed when I went to Larry's Giant Subs, which had been getting its gluten-free sub rolls from Cookie Momsters.

I then checked and found a note on the Cookie Momsters Facebook page that they had closed on April 15. It's sad to see any local business close, but in this case it's especially disappointing for us because this was a dedicated gluten-free bakery. And it was run by a couple of very likable Moms who worked hard.

Larry's is still offering gluten-free subs with an alternate roll from its vendor. I also checked with European Street Cafe, which had been serving its gluten-free sandwiches with Cookie Momsters rolls, and they are also getting a different gluten-free roll from its vendor.

The Facebook note didn't say why Cookie Momsters had to close, but I'm sorry to see it go.

Friday, May 6, 2016

More good stuff at Aldi

I wish Aldi would open a store closer to my home, because it's becoming my favorite store for gluten-free products.

Aldi has its own line of gluten-free products under the brand liveGfree, and they're generally good and also relatively cheap, as far as gluten-free products go.

I was already impressed with the liveGfree brand but Aldi seems to have added a bunch of new gluten-free products, at least products I hadn't seen before. And it's a very impressive lineup.

First of all, when I walked into the Southside Boulevard store, the first thing I saw was a display of new gluten-free chip products. Of course, I picked up a couple of bags of those.

But the really interesting stuff is in the freezer case, which includes liveGfree General Tso's Chicken and a cheesecake sampler.

I was very interested in the General Tso's Chicken because it is so hard to find gluten-free Chinese food. I had it for dinner last night. Unfortunately, the sauce was too sweet for me -- I prefer a spicier sauce. So I would say it was just okay.

On the bright side, I was very happy to see it came with two packets of sauce for a 22-ounce package, which it says has 4.5 servings. Usually these frozen meals come with only one sauce packet, meaning you basically have to cook it all at once. But in this case, I was able to cook half the package and save the rest.

The cheesecake sampler is probably the most appealing package, offering two slices each of four different varieties. After having a triple chocolate slice for dessert last night, I'm going to enjoy sampling the other varieties in the coming days.

Now between the cheesecake and the chicken dish, I consumed way too much sugar last night and I won't be doing this all that often. But I really like the choices we can find at Aldi. There were some other new liveGFree products that I didn't buy but will probably go back and get sometime in the near future. I just hope they build an Aldi closer to me.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Happy Celiac Awareness Month

It's May, and you know what that means....

It's Celiac Awareness Month, that time of the year when we try to convince the public that has somehow not gotten the message that the gluten-free diet is not a fad and is a serious issue for many of us.

So, you can start by pointing people to this 60-second video from Beyond Celiac:

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

My new favorite pizza crust

I now have a new favorite pizza crust.

If you saw my Times-Union column a couple of weeks ago, I talked about making pizza at home and mentioned that Udi's is my favorite pre-made gluten-free crust.

That prompted an email from Victoria Wolf, who started a gluten-free artisan baking company in Denver called the Gluten Free Explorer that features pizza crusts. She just won the gluten-free division of the International Pizza Challenge at a pizza expo in Las Vegas last month and offered to send me some of her crusts to try out.

And you know what? She was right. Her crust was fantastic, probably the best pizza crust I've had in a long time (including gluten-free pizzas at restaurants).

Hand-tossed crust
Victoria's crusts come in two types, hand-tossed and deep dish. The hand-tossed crust made a great traditional pizza.

The deep dish crusts are a little different, coming in a rectangle. That crust had to be baked longer and as you can see, that resulted in the cheese and sauce baking longer and it came out looking more like a calzone than a pizza. But it tasted great.

Deep dish crust
The deep dish package mentions that it would be good for garlic or cheese bread, and I'm thinking that might be a better use for the crusts. But whatever you use them for, I'm sure it would be great to eat.

The instructions say to put the pizzas directly on the oven rack but, given that I try to avoid messes, I always cook pizzas on a pizza stone. The instructions do say that pizza stones or a baking sheet are suitable options. I think they worked great on my pizza stone.

Unfortunately, Gluten Free Explorer products are only available in stores in the Denver area but you can order them online ( Victoria also makes baguettes, hamburger buns and sandwich bread.

They are expensive, especially when you add in the shipping costs, but I sure did enjoy those pizzas.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Chicken sausages from a celiac-friendly company

A Gainesville, Ga., company called First Fresh Foods sent me samples of its chicken sausage products this week to try out.

The company is touting its chicken sausages as a healthier alternative to traditional pork sausages, and for us it has the added benefit of being naturally gluten free. The company CEO's wife has celiac disease, so he is very much attuned to our issues.

The only drawback to this product is that it's not available in stores in the Jacksonville area. According to the company website, it is available at Publix stores in Atlanta and Charlotte. As the company grows, maybe we'll see it here.

Anyway, there are two varieties of the sausage. One is a breakfast sausage that First Fresh says contains 58 percent less fat than pork sausage. I really liked it. It has a good flavor and makes for a nice breakfast, I thought.

The other product is a mild Italian sausage that the company says contains 78 percent less fat than Italian pork sausage. This is where I wish there were decent gluten-free hot dog buns out there, because it would make for a good sausage dog. I put two sausage links on a hamburger bun, which made a decent sandwich. But these sausages would probably be better suited for people with cooking skills who could incorporate them into more interesting recipes.

But anyway, it's always good to find products from companies that are celiac sensitive. Hopefully First Fresh's market area will expand to Northeast Florida.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Chick-fil-A testing gluten-free bun

I wrote about this a couple of months ago but Chick-fil-A wouldn't confirm it, but now it's official: Chick-fil-A is testing a gluten-free bun.

The gluten-free bun is being tested in select restaurants in Idaho, Seattle and Jackson, Miss., with no guarantee that it will be rolled out to other markets, Chick-fil-A spokeswoman Leigh Jackson said by email.

But not in Jacksonville
"The bun is being tested in response to customer inquiries about gluten-free menu options," she said.

Chick-fil-A has several gluten-free options on the menu at all of its restaurants, including grilled chicken nuggets and waffle fries. The grilled chicken patties are also gluten free, giving the opportunity of a regular sandwich with a gluten-free bun.

However, Jackson cautioned that the kitchens are not gluten-free environments, meaning there is a risk of cross-contamination. Because of that, the gluten-free buns are individually packaged and sealed by the supplier before they arrive at Chick-fil-A restaurants.

You can get more information on Chick-fil-A's gluten free options at all restaurants here:

It will be interesting to see how this works out. I've been disappointed by tests at other restaurant chains that didn't work out, such as gluten-free rolls at Subway and gluten-free doughnuts at Dunkin' Donuts. I'm hoping for better results here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

My pizza crust experiment

My Times-Union column this morning details my efforts to make a pizza using Glutino's pizza crust mix.

I'm not going to rehash the laborious process here but I did want to share some photos of the process.

I made one thick crust and one thin crust. Here is the thick crust before I put it in the oven:

And here is the thin crust:

And here are the finished products:

Thick crust

Thin crust

One more note. I mentioned that I like using Udi's pre-made crusts to make my own pizza. I received a note from a reader this morning saying she uses Udi's crusts as bread for sandwiches, cutting the crust into four pieces. That sounds like an interesting idea that would work pretty well.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A gluten-free Passover e-book

With the Passover holiday coming up, kosher chef Jamie Geller, in partnership with Winn-Dixie, has published an e-book on gluten-free recipes for Passover and other occasions.

You can download the e-book here:

Winn-Dixie Passover eBook

Geller is the founder of Joy of Kosher magazine. You can find more information about her and the magazine here:

Winn-Dixie also has info on Geller on its website:

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Still seeking a good hot dog bun...

Since we can't always get a gluten-free hot dog at the ballpark, I've been celebrating the opening of every baseball season by having hot dogs at home while I watch on TV.

Most hot dogs themselves are naturally gluten free but the problem continues to be the bun. There has been tremendous improvement in gluten-free hamburger buns, in my opinion, but for some reason the technology for gluten-free hot dog buns continues to elude us. They are generally awful.

I bought a package of Udi's buns, which were the only hot dog buns I could find in local stores this year. I checked Publix and Winn-Dixie, which both had them, and Walmart and Target, which didn't.

Gluten-free hot dog buns just seem too big and somewhat stale, which makes them overwhelm the actual hot dog meat. I microwaved these buns for about 15 seconds to soften them up, and it did seem to improve them a bit. But I still didn't like them.

But, I was determined to have hot dogs on Opening Day, and I did. Play ball!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Good news/bad news at Suns games

The Jacksonville Suns open their season next week under a new management team, and I've got good news and bad news.

The good news: they will have Omission beer available, if you want a beer.

The bad news: no gluten-free hot dog buns. But the hot dogs themselves are gluten free, and you can bring in a gluten-free bun if you want (although there is no such thing as a good gluten-free hot dog bun).

I went to a media food tasting event today at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, which gave me an opportunity to meet with the Suns' food officials and find out what's available.
View from Sundowner Lounge window

I was happy to see that Ernest Hopkins, the chef and director of food and beverage, is knowledgeable about cross-contamination issues, which is basically why they are limiting the gluten-free options.

Hopkins even went out of his way, with no prompting from me, to bring me a hot dog on a plate that had not touched a bun so I could at least try the hot dogs at this event. The only other food available that I could try was oven-baked chicken wings, which are available in suites at Suns' games.

Mary Nixon, assistant general manager for food and beverage, said you can bring your own food to the ballpark if you have a medical necessity, such as those of us with celiac disease. She suggested you call the team before you come to the park to let them know you're bringing food, so there were won't be any problems at the gate.

The Omission beer, as has been the case with gluten-free beer at Suns games for the past few years, will be available only in the Sundowner Lounge inside the park. The lounge has always been a strange place because it was away from field but as part of a ballpark renovation this year, the lounge was expanded with a window so you can actually look out and watch the game while you're there.

Nixon and Hopkins are open to suggestions about more gluten-free offerings. I said they could possibly offer gluten-free buns with hot dogs at one location (the Suns had been doing this in the Sundowner Lounge). While that wouldn't be completely free from possible cross-contamination, it could be a reasonably safe bet.

So maybe we'll get some updates from them on gluten-free offerings during the season. I'll be waiting to hear.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A gluten-free substitute for deep dish pizza

Of all the "regular" foods I miss on my gluten-free diet, at the top of the list by far is Chicago-style deep dish pizza. There are very few restaurants even attempting to make gluten-free deep dish pizza.

However, I did discover an interesting substitute on a visit to Giordano's in Orlando.

Giordano's, which specializes in stuffed deep dish pizza, has been one of my favorite spots in Chicago, and I was thrilled when it opened its only restaurants outside of the Midwest in Orlando. It currently has three restaurants in the Orlando area. Before my celiac diagnosis, I would go out of my way to stop there several times a year.

Of course, I can't eat the stuffed pizza I used to love but Giordano's does have a gluten-free pizza on the menu. Okay, they actually just call it a "made without gluten" pizza with disclaimers about possible cross contamination, but it works for me. It's a thin pizza, like all the other gluten-free pizzas out there, but it's different and I really like it.

Basically, it has a very thin crust but the cheese is just piled on top of it. It was so cheesy that I had to eat it with a knife and fork, which almost never happens with gluten-free pizza. But to me, it sort of had the same flavor as Giordano's stuffed pizza.

It's not quite the same experience as eating deep dish pizza but it still makes for a very enjoyable pizza experience. If you're like me and have a yen for deep dish pizza, you may want to check this out on your next visit to Orlando.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Still hungry at spring training

One more note about my trip to Tampa was still finding very little to eat at spring training ballparks in Florida.

It shouldn't be a surprise, since these ballparks seat 10,000 people or less, but I was hoping to see more gluten-free offerings this year, for some reason.

I was particularly disappointed by the Yankees ballpark in Tampa. They have a Boar's Head booth that used to have a chef salad. Since basically everything produced by Boar's Head is gluten free, that used to be an option. But they don't offer it anymore.
Bright House Field in Clearwater

In fact, it's hard to find a salad at all at these ballparks. It occurred to me that vegans would also have a hard time finding something to eat.

I accidentally met a fellow celiac at the Yankees game when her friend spilled beer on me (no big deal) and offered to buy me a beer, and I told her I couldn't drink it anyway. The other celiac and I laughed as we discovered we both ate a bag of peanuts for lunch.

The Phillies ballpark in Clearwater does have Redbridge and Omission beer available at their Beers of the World booth. It would have been hard not to have gluten-free beer there, since it listed about 50 beers available. But that booth didn't have gluten-free beer during my last visit there a couple of years ago.

On the downside, the Phillies used to have gluten-free hot dog buns available, but apparently not any more.

As a general rule, when you ask a concession stand worker about gluten-free buns and they have no idea what you're asking about, it's probably better to not go any further because you never know what you're going to get even if somebody eventually tells you they have gluten-free buns. That's how I was glutened by the Jaguars a couple of years ago.

I made my first visit to the Red Sox ballpark in Fort Myers and did see Redbridge for sale. The pizza booths have a "gluten-friendly slice" available, which I didn't try (I wasn't very optimistic that it would be any good). And all of the concession booths have signs about food allergies, so I was hopeful I could find a gluten-free hot dog bun there. But no such luck.

So, if you're going to a spring training game, here's my advice: eat before you go.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

A gluten-free doughnut in Tampa

For the second time in the last five years, I was able to find a doughnut shop that offers gluten-free doughnuts.

This place near downtown Tampa is called the Mini Doughnut Factory. It's an interesting place where, apparently, people go in and order large quantities of mini doughnuts in mixed varieties and the staff puts all the icing and everything on freshly made doughnuts after you order.

The downside to that is I had to wait a long time for my one gluten-free doughnut. I saw that coming when I walked in and saw a bunch of people sitting there with no doughnuts, obviously waiting for theirs to be made.

They have a wide variety of toppings, but a lot of them aren't gluten free. I played it safe with a chocolate-iced doughnut. You can never go wrong with that.

The only other place I've found since going gluten free where I can eat a fresh doughnut is a place in Chicago called Do-Rite Donuts.

The Mini Doughnut Factory is on South Dale Mabry in Tampa, a tiny place in a small strip mall. It's hard to find and the wait was long but if you're like me and you crave a doughnut once in a while, you should stop in on your next visit to Tampa.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Food allergy group plans day camp

The Food Allergy Families of St. Johns is planning a day camp Saturday for kids to educate them about nutrition and cooking with allergens.

The event is being organized by a local teenager with celiac but is open to all children who are interested, regardless of whether or not they have celiac.

The event is from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Mandarin United Methodist Church.

For more information, check out the Food Allergy Families website at

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Red Robin finally coming to Jacksonville

It's been rumored for months and now it's finally official. Red Robin is coming to Jacksonville.

As I wrote in my Times-Union column, I've been waiting for a Red Robin to come here because it's probably the most gluten-free friendly large hamburger chain. You can get a burger on a gluten-free bun with french fries.

The Shopping Center Group today announced Red Robin will be part of a new shopping center across Town Center Parkway from the St. Johns Town Center (the parkway is the main road through the Town Center).

The center will also include an Aldi grocery store, which is great because as I've written before, Aldi has a wonderful line of proprietary gluten-free products at reasonable prices. While we already have Aldi stores in the Jacksonville area, they are sporadically located and the more they build, the merrier.

They hope to open the new shopping center in the spring of 2017.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Different take on gluten free at Seachasers

I visited the new Seachasers restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, which is an appealing destination because of its location right on the beach.

I of course asked if they have a gluten-free menu, which they don't. But the hostess did have a printout of menu items that have gluten in them. That was a different take than I've seen at other restaurants -- instead of telling me what I could have, they told me what I couldn't.

So, I ordered a grilled fish dish and told the server I had a gluten allergy. She understood my issues and said she would alert the kitchen with my order.

It was a good meal. Like I said, the best part of the restaurant is its location. It's a big new building with several different bar areas. From our table in the second floor dining room, we had a great view of the ocean.

So yes, I would visit Seachasers again.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Nothing new at new Winn-Dixie

I got to visit the new prototype Winn-Dixie store on Baymeadows Road, off of I-295, and didn't really see anything new -- from a gluten-free perspective anyway.

The new store is trying to emphasize fresh foods and has a more appealing display of its produce, but it's nothing you can't find at other Winn-Dixie stores.

The "allergy friendly" section is convenient, because it groups the frozen and non-frozen gluten-free items together in about the same spot. But I didn't see any new gluten-free products there.

The new store is also offering some new fresh items made in the store like barbecue and bakery products but, of course, this is nothing for us to eat.

So, there's no reason to make a special trip there to find any gluten-free items.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Finally: gluten-free pasta at Carrabba's

I've been waiting for five years for Carrabba's to offer gluten-free pasta and it's finally happened.

I just discovered this last week and when I checked with the company, they said it's been available at all Carrabba's Italian Grill restaurants since October.

When I was first put on a gluten-free diet, I read several surveys which rated Carrabba's as one of the best chains for gluten-free dining. But I always wondered why people seemed to like it when they didn't offer gluten-free pasta. The menu seemed very limited without it.

The restaurant's new menu includes a pretty good selection of items with a "GF" label, indicating it can be made gluten free.

The gluten-free pasta options are made with casarecce pasta, which spokeswoman Elizabeth Watts described as "a short pasta similar to penne or rotini made with corn, rice and quinoa flour."

I went last night and had a shrimp dish with a weesie sauce, which is a white wine lemon butter sauce. I really enjoyed it.

So yes, Carrabba's is finally high on my list of restaurant chains that offer satisfying gluten-free meals.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Gluten-free buns at Chick-Fil-A?

I saw a blog post out of Atlanta yesterday saying that a local Chick-Fil-A there was having a gluten-free bun tasting event.

Of course, I found this very interesting because you don't see fast food places offering gluten-free buns. Chick-Fil-A is generally gluten-free friendlier than other fast food chains. Their waffle fries are gluten free and you can also get grilled chicken nuggets that are gluten-free, so you can have a full meal there.

I contacted the company to find out more about the gluten-free buns, to see if this was something that might be rolled out nationally soon. I haven't heard back yet but I will let you know if/when I do.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Could the Jaguars have a gluten-free cart?

I had a chance to talk with Mark Lamping, president of the Jaguars, yesterday and I used the opportunity to make a pitch for the Jaguars to have a dedicated gluten-free cart somewhere in EverBank Field.

The Jaguars have had various gluten-free offerings over the last few years and I've run into a lot of problems with them, which I've detailed in the past and won't rehash. I really think the best solution is a dedicated cart with only gluten-free items.

I've been to many major league sports venues that have this, including Tropicana Field and Marlins Park in Florida. It works.

Lamping seemed amenable to my suggestions and convinced me that he would at least consider the idea. He asked about the market size for gluten-free concessions and I told him, as I've said before, that if 6 percent of the population has some type of gluten intolerance, that would be a potential customer base of 3,600 in a crowd of 60,000 football fans.

He also told me that the Jaguars are changing their food service vendor for next season, so there will be changes in the concessions. Let's hope for a gluten-free concession stand.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Glutino's 'Big' pretzels not really much different

I got a box of snack food samples from Glutino last week, consisting mostly of pretzels. The one new item was a bag of "Big" pretzels.

I really didn't think the Big pretzels were that much bigger than their regular pretzels. And as far as taste and texture, I didn't really notice any difference from Glutino's other pretzels.

Actually, Glutino makes several varieties of pretzels that I like. My favorite is their honey mustard pretzels.

The big problem with Glutino pretzels is the price. They are pretty expensive, so I generally wait to see them on sale before I'll buy them.

The snack package also included tortilla chips for dipping. This is one product we really don't need from a gluten-free manufacturer, because there are a lot of varieties of tortilla chips out there that are naturally gluten free, and you'll see many of those with a certified gluten-free tag because the manufacturers are following the proper procedures.

One other item in the box was a couple of packages of animal crackers. They tasted like, well, animal crackers and if you happen to like that, you will like Glutino's animal crackers.

I've written this before, but my favorite Glutino product is their English muffins (which were not part of the snack samples they sent last week). They are far above any other gluten-free English muffins and have become probably my favorite breakfast food. They seem harder to find in local stores than some other Glutino products, but you can get them at a pretty good price at Walmart.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Dr. Fasano on gluten-free myths

My Times-Union column which is scheduled for tomorrow's paper again addresses misconceptions about the gluten-free diet.

To prepare for emails telling me I don't know what I'm talking about, I'm sharing this link to an excellent op-ed piece about gluten-free myths that appeared in the Washington Post last month.

The piece was written by Dr. Alessio Fasano, director of the Center for Celiac Research & Treatment at Massachusetts General Hospital. He is considered by many people to be the nation's leading authority on celic disease.

If you're trying to learn the reality about the gluten-free diet, this piece is very enlightening:

Five myths about gluten

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Food truck rally promises gluten-free options

One of those frustrating trends has been the explosion of food trucks, because they all look so enticing yet most don't seem to have any gluten-free options.

However, there will be a food truck rally this Saturday at the Earth Fare/Academy Sports shopping center at Atlantic and Kernan Boulevards, and the organizers are promising gluten-free options will be available.

The event benefits the HealthUNow Foundation, which supports children with autism.

I can't find a list of food trucks that will be there but I do know of at least two that will have gluten-free options.

One is called Mother Truckin' Pizza, which has gluten-free pizza available and definitely looks interesting. Even if I don't make it to this event, I want to find this truck and give it a try.

Also, Jen Eccleston, who makes gluten-free Jen Tilly Tea cupcakes, will have her cupcakes for sale at the Le Petite Cheri Cupcakery truck.

If you do go to this event and have never been to Earth Fare, you'll want to check it out. It's one of my favorite grocery stores for gluten-free items.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Ruby Tuesday adds gluten-free bun option

Ruby Tuesday doesn't have a gluten-free menu but does have an allergen guide on its website that it updates every month (allergen guide link). If you're concerned about cross-contamination, you may not want to risk it but I do eat there from time to time.

I was checking the allergen guide the other day and I noticed that Ruby Tuesday now has a gluten-free bun option for its burger and chicken sandwiches. I don't think they've publicized it but I checked with the company and they said they've been offering the gluten-free bun since November.

So, I gave it a try last night. I just got a regular hamburger and it was a decent burger. It's not something I'd go out of my way for but if you're with a group of people eating at Ruby Tuesday, it gives you an option.

One note of concern with my visit to the restaurant. The allergen guide says the French fries are not gluten free. I ended up with steamed broccoli for my side item.

When the waiter took my order, he was unaware that the fries are not gluten free. Again, while there are gluten-free items available at Ruby Tuesday, I do think there are risks for people who are extremely sensitive to gluten.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A gluten-free find in Clearwater Beach

I spent New Year's weekend in the Tampa Bay area and I stumbled onto an interesting gluten-free friendly spot on Clearwater Beach called Tate Island Grill.

Basically, I was walking on the beach with some friends enjoying the beautiful weather, and they wanted to grab a bite to eat at a beachfront spot. I had actually eaten lunch at a Pei Wei near my hotel (because it's gluten-free friendly), just to be safe, before we headed to the beach. So I wasn't planning to eat but expected to just hang out while my friends ate.

But I was very surprised when we walked to the Tate Island Grill on the beach at the Sandpearl Resort. I looked at the menu and found it had a number of items market as GF, indicating they were gluten free. The menu also said you can substitute a gluten-free bun on a number of sandwiches.

I wasn't really hungry but I just had to order some gluten-free chicken wings, because I couldn't pass up the opportunity. But next time I'm in the area, I'm going to make a point of getting back there for a sandwich.

I had actually used the findmeglutenfree app to search for gluten-free friendly places on Clearwater Beach and this wasn't listed. That's why this was such a surprise.

One other note about my trip. On the way home, I stopped in the Disney complex looking for a relatively new gluten-free bakery called Erin McKenna's which is supposed to be in Disney Springs (formerly Downtown Disney). This was the second time in the last couple of months I went searching for this place, which apparently offers some good gluten-free stuff. However, I absolutely can not find it. It doesn't show up in the spot where Google Maps tells me it should be.

I really didn't want to pay to park my car and then search for it. I was hoping to find it driving along. But now I just give up. If anyone knows where the place actually is, please tell me. I may try to give it another shot on my next drive through Orlando.