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.