Tag Archives: gluten-free products

A superlative GFAF Expo Roundup: Part 2

So, you read Part 1, but you’re still wondering who had the best donut? Never fear, Part 2 is here.

Remember, I’m giving out a package of some of my goodies to one lucky winner. I decided to extend the giveaway through the end of the day today, in case anyone gets excited about one of the products below and decides to enter. Have at it!

By the way, there are many great vendors I haven’t explicitly recognized. Product reviews aren’t a major focus of my blog, so I don’t want to overload you with them. Suffice it to say that all of the vendors were great people, selling great food, doing great work (besides that one brand that’s in the doghouse).

Most represented superfood

quinoa

Quinoa as far as the eye can see
Photo © Flickred! | Flickr

Neck and neck winners:
– CHIA, in Holy Crap cereal (which I will likely not be eating as cereal but am looking forward to baking into something) and in Chia Moxie peanut butter, plus several energy bars
– QUINOA, in many baked goods and bars, and the star of I Heart Keenwah, one of the most addictive supersnacks I’ve ever come across. I’m fond of the ginger peanut, but be careful: according to cofounder Ravi, this flavor is polarizing.

By the way, I just learned that the I Heart Keenwah founders all met at my alma mater, the University of Chicago! I had no idea there were so many quinoa lovers running around the quad. But it makes perfect sense that U of C alumni would be annoyed enough about the mispronunciation of their product’s name to spell it out phonetically. Because, English majors and business students alike, that’s just the way we are.

Also ran:
Spirulina
(a B12-rich algae) popped up in one Raw Revolution bar. The bar is an alarming shade of green but tasty nonetheless. (All their bars were good, similar to Lärabars but more interesting, in my opinion. Though I like Lära, sometimes the bars are a bit dry, which I didn’t notice here.)

Most simultaneously adorable and practical

A close runner-up in this category was me, wearing my Red Apple Audrey lipstick sample, but I figured I’m not really that practical, so I gave it to Gluten-Free Labels instead. Throw a couple of these babies on your colanders and spoons, and throw your masking tape and Sharpie in the trash. (Well, no, don’t do that; they’re still useful for other things, and that’s wasteful.)

Mark your territory in style, and support a really nice person, too—I’ve met the maker, Kelly, twice now, and she’s great.

Gluten-free beer most likely to please someone who never liked beer that much in the first place

New Planet. Some of their beers tasted more like cider, which is great because I prefer cider anyway. The ones that did taste like beer were more mild and accessible than some of the heavy hitters (Glutenberg, for example, which I could tell would be great if I liked hops). New Planet’s Belgian and amber ales got the thumbs up from this would-rather-drink-a-margarita girl.

Jeff of Basic Batters, with the prize-winning donut holes to his left

Jeff of Basic Batters, with his prize-winning donut holes

Best donut

I liked both Kinnikinnick’s and Basic Batters’ cinnamon-sugar donuts, for different reasons. Kinnikinnick’s was lighter and more traditionally donuty, but Basic Batters’ had pumpkin purée and pie spice mixed in, and it was so dense and autumnal, and man, am I ever ready for fall. They sold out before we could buy any, sadly. This family company is brand-brand-new and off to a killer start. Watch out, Dunkins.

Most generous vendor

This one is too tough. So many of the vendors I met were so outgoing and nice, and so (rightfully) proud of their wares, and so eager to share them with us. Most of them were gluten-free themselves, and I could see they recognized themselves in our shining faces as we swallowed that bite of brownie, baguette, or “rye” bread that tasted just the way it should.

Althea wins gluten-free coffee cake from The Cake Over bakery

She always was the lucky one in the family.

At the end of the day on Sunday—which, by the way, is the best time to be at this kind of event if you’re in it for the freebies—many of them gave away food they had brought with them, in portions much larger than a bite. For example, we lugged home two bulging bags of rolls from Local Oven (local not to NJ/NY but to Texas, though I believe they ship nationally. Try the onion rolls).

However, if I had to choose a winner, I’d give it to the Cake Over, a brand-new, not-even-quite-opened bakery in NJ, whose owners ran several giveaways over the course of the weekend. The prizes included a whole frosted champagne cake (very tasty—I had a sample), a two-foot-long tray of chocolate cake bites, and a chocolate-swirled coffee cake…which went to us! Yesssss.

Most hoping to see at the next Expo

No, you hipster, not a cronut. (Or a townie, either.) The other day, I had the sad revelation that peanut butter-stuffed pretzel bites exist…but GF ones don’t. Sure, you can dip your GF pretzels into peanut butter, but that’s not the same. I would love if this would come down the pipeline (ideally in a sunbutter-filled form, too, as the Gluten-Free Idiot suggested on Twitter, for the peanut-allergic), because no way am I attempting to make my own. I will for sure blog about them, though. Here’s looking at you, Snyder’s.

Best part of the experience (or, most likely to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside)

Colette Martin with her book, Learning to Bake Allergen-Free

Colette Martin with her book Learning to Bake Allergen-Free

Nabbing all the leftovers at the very end of the day on Sunday. Just kidding.

The best part by far was the people. I met several writers and bloggers who had previously existed for me only as a voice on a phone, emails, pixels, Tweets, and blog posts. (For example, I finally got to say hi in person to Colette Martin, whose book I helped edit at work and who is a real dynamo and super nice. Great book, too, if I may say so.)

Some of the vendors I’d met earlier this summer, but many of them (and many of their products) were totally new to me. All of them were smart, forthcoming, and passionate about their products.

Some attendees were parents of gluten-free kids, some were newly diagnosed themselves, some were old hands with years of experience to share. I loved getting to know them.

I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again, maybe at the next Expo, and I can only hope that one day I’ll also be lucky enough to meet and talk to all of you, face to face, over a gluten-free treat or two.

Note that there was absolutely no “committee” or “voting” involved; all opinions are strictly my own. For these “reviews,” I was not compensated with anything other than free Expo tickets, huge amounts of free samples and a sugar high. Thank you, once again, to everyone who made this event possible, particularly the vendors and other bloggers who made it a fantastic weekend.

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A Superlative GFAF Expo Roundup: Part 1

As many of you know, I spent Saturday and Sunday at the Gluten-Free and Allergy-Free Expo in Secaucus, New Jersey. I found the experience so rewarding that I wanted to give out a few awards of my own.

Speaking of which…don’t forget: Today’s the last day to enter my giveaway! I’m sending out a package full of sample-size treats from various vendors. Take my celiac personality quiz (you don’t have to have celiac disease!) and report your results for a chance to win.

The event was enormous, with both large, well-known companies and smaller companies local to the NJ/NY area or working to expand to it. Despite the size of the crowd, the venue itself was large enough that I rarely felt claustrophobic and had to wait in line to speak with a vendor. I tasted about a million great things, and there were about a billion things I wanted to say about the event, so I’m going to split up my report across a couple posts. Without further ado, here’s Part 1.

Cleverest name

Sevierly Good Gluten-Free logoWhat’s in a name? Plenty, when it comes to branding (notwithstanding the incredible ability of Rudi’s and Udi’s to coexist comfortably in the same market with such ripoffy-sounding names). My favorite was “Sevierly Good Gluten Free.” I love it because it’s a play on the owners’ last name (Sevier/severe) that connotes both really good food and strictness/seriousness—an important quality to most gluten-free consumers.

I’d be severely remiss if I didn’t also mention this Washington State–based company’s standout product: their cinnamon roll mix, which they’d made without eggs or dairy for samples and which blew a certain GF behemoth’s version out of the water.

Most accidentally convincing sales pitch

This goes to El, of El’s Kitchen. She was selling bagel chips, both plain and mixed in to what she called “Chex mix without the crap.” She elaborated, “No gluten, no MSG…,” but all I could think was, “I can take this home and put Chex in it.” I was sold.

P.S. The mixes are super good, even without Chex.

Best photo opp

Althea and me with "seedlings" pins

One photo was blurry, one had a fingertip…whatever, just pretend it’s a pumpkin.

After sampling every flavor of “Super Seedz” sold by Kathie’s Kitchen, my sister and I got stickers and were told that we were now Seedlings (which, like Sevierly, is a great name, because it suggests that we are being scattered to the wind with the germ of their success hidden within us, ideally to land somewhere fertile and sprout, spreading the word about their brand…am I taking this metaphor too far?).

Every flavor was good (e.g., Coco Joe, mmm), but on the second day, when we returned with cash, we decided we’d had enough sugar and went for the Tomato Italiano (two for one on Expo day—a deal!).

Most disappointed not to see there

Krumville Bake Shop, of Williamsburg. I met the owner, Antonella, at this summer’s NYC Celebrate Celiac event, and I really can’t sing her praises enough. She sent me home with several of her apple-ginger muffins, which include whole grain flours and shredded apple throughout—so although still an indulgence (with the taste and texture to match), they’re at least a little virtuous. We froze the muffins and enjoyed them, reheated, over the following weeks (sometimes with peanut butter…swoon).

If you live in the New York area, you can find Krumville at Smorgasburg on Saturdays through November 23rd, selling sweet and savory goodies. I know I’ll be making my way there myself!

Best brownie

Without a doubt, this goes to Whipped Pastry Boutique. Not only was it the best brownie at the Expo, but it may be the best brownie I’ve ever had. Like the Krumville muffins, I tried these first at the Celebrate Celiac event, and I also carried home several for the freezer. Fresh or reheated, these are chocolatey, moist, sitting at the most perfect possible intersection of gooey/dense and light/cakelike. No frills, no mix-ins, no nuts: just brownies.

Better than Betty? Dunno, haven’t tried hers yet. But my money’s on Whipped. We got to take home a bunch of samples again, but I’ll definitely be scouting them out around the city once our supply runs dry.

Most likely to be recreated in my home kitchen

Okay, maybe this is a bit mean, but the Kitchen Table cheese crisps struck me as an ingenious idea not quite worth the price tag for someone, like me, who prefers to make my own when possible. They’re just Parmesan cheese and seasonings, baked into chips, like the crispy bits you’d scrape off your baking sheet after making a pizza. Now, don’t get me wrong: they’re awesome. If you’re looking for a ready-made salad or mac & cheese topper, or an especially decadent cracker, and you aren’t prone to sticker shock, definitely buy a pack or two. Every flavor was good.

Best bread

Everybody Eats. Hands down. The co-owner, Pedro, was terribly nice, although he did seem to like me less once I told him, after he’d rhapsodized about the smoked salmon and prosciutto topping possibilities, that I was a vegetarian. He bakes in Red Hook (Brooklyn), and I’ve meant to try his bread for ages. Both the multigrain and baguette were out of this world. When we decided to buy a baguette, Pedro urged us to “choose our own—they’re all different.” I felt a couple up (through the plastic) and selected the one that felt right. Next time we have company, we will be pulling it out of our freezer to make some (meatless!) crostini.

Most embarrassing moment

At the New Planet stand, my sister and I did a full flight of beer tastings. The rep there, by the way, was also the only one to card us. He also read my birth year aloud, prompting a fellow taster to comment, “Since when does ’89 mean 21?” Guess we look young. But that’s not the embarrassing moment.

Breakfast Stout bottle

Not gluten-free…just seemed appropriate.
Photo © Andrew | Flickr

That was when a rep from the Freedom Foods stand came by to barter for bottles. He and the New Planet rep had twin Aussie accents and got to talking about it. Eventually, the cereal rep turned to Althea and me and told us that in Australia they eat cereal with beer, for breakfast.

“Like, in the beer?” we wondered.

He nodded earnestly, stringing us along until he couldn’t help but laugh. He also called us idiots, which you’d think would be bad salesmanship, though we still bought two boxes of Corn & Psyllium Flakes later (we think he was joking).

Anyway…apparently people don’t substitute beer for milk in Australia. And apparently I’m incredibly gullible.

On a more serious note, and speaking of being gullible: I left many of my usual food suspicions at the Expo doors, leaving it up to the event’s organizers to have sufficiently vetted everyone in attendance. I asked fewer questions and read fewer labels before sampling.

Then, on the way home from the event, I pulled out a full energy bar I’d been given. Though the label says “gluten free” on the front, on the back it says “manufactured on equipment that also processes peanuts, tree nuts, egg, and wheat.” I never would have eaten the samples had I known that.

In many cases, I did check the back of the box before sampling, mainly out of curiosity about the other nutrition info, since I was assuming everything was gluten-free. This time, I’d already chowed down on samples of two different flavors before finding out this critical info. Not cool. And not my wisest moment. We have to be the keepers of our own health. And, for me, that means NO POWERCRUNCH BARS.

Do you relax your guard at gluten-free events and gluten-free-friendly restaurants, or do you stay as strong as ever?

Note that there was absolutely no “committee” involved in the making of this post; all opinions are strictly my own and entirely dictatorial. For these “reviews,” I was not compensated with anything other than huge amounts of free samples and a sugar high. Thank you to the organizers who made this event possible, and particularly the vendors and other attendees who made it a fantastic weekend.

P.S. Find Part 2 here.

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“You don’t need this one, do you?”: A tale of the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo

Today I have a story for you about my spam filter.

I get a lot of email, so the little guy really gets put through his paces. (Yes, my spam filter is a little guy. He resides inside my Gmail apparatus, where he sorts desperately through the onslaught of slush, never recognized when he does something right but always excoriated for his errors…sort of like the stereotypical publishing intern.)

Email spam onslaught

Photo © Jean Pierre Gallot | Flickr
Looks like someone’s little guy has been on vacation.

If you’re wondering why I get so many emails, it’s because:

  1. I have a giveaway addiction. If you follow me on Twitter, you may already be aware of this. (If you don’t follow me on Twitter, join me! You’ll never miss a Kinnikinnick giveaway again.) This wouldn’t be a problem except that, to get extra entries, I sign up for all kinds of newsletters that I never have time to unsubscribe from, much less read.
  2. I love deals. So I always sign up when Express wants to email me updates on their end-of-season sales, and I can’t bring myself to quit Groupon Goods or Blackboard Eats (someday they’ll post a passcode for Risotteria). Plus, I’ve joined all the gluten-free-specific deals sites now, too. So many delicious, edible goodies to completely ignore.
  3. I’ve posted my email address on my site. Therefore, the bots are all over me.
  4. I’m very, very important. Thus, I receive important correspondence. I’m sure you guessed this one already.

Given all of the above, I can’t possibly be expected to sort through my emails myself. Gmail’s new “promotions” tab helps somewhat, but my spam filter must do the rest. And, occasionally, out of spite or exhaustion, he flubs it. He shows me something I never wanted to see, or he hides something I really, really wanted to see…such as the email welcoming me to attend the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in Secaucus, NJ, as a blogger this September 7th and 8th.

No, little guy, no! What’s wrong with you?

I’ll sort him out later. But because of his hyperactivity, I didn’t find out until just a couple days ago that I get to go to the Expo to see, to taste, to learn, and to report back to all of you.

GFAF Expo Blogger Badge (Gluten Free and Allergen Free Expo, Secaucus, NJ)Still, I’ve managed to pack several weeks’ worth of excitement into those days. I’ve never been to a gluten-free expo before, and this one looks like it’ll be a blast. They’ve got an awesome lineup of classes (I’m looking forward to the presentation on turning glutenful recipes gluten-free by Chef Richard Coppedge, Jr.), and I know all of the vendors will be distributing samples and swag. (See above re: love of deals and giveaways.)

I’m sure my mind, strained as it is by my mountains of email, will be even more boggled by the array of gluten- and allergy-free choices available today. I feel lucky (-ish) to have been diagnosed at a time when the gluten-free market is exploding. And I feel lucky (-er) to be able to go and check some of them out in a couple of weeks.

Do you want to feel lucky, too? You can get in for free by volunteering, or you can buy tickets here (including special “early bird” tickets if you want to beat the crowds). And if you don’t live in the area, you can check for another location near you—they’ll be in Dallas in October.

And, of course, if you happen to be as into giveaways as I am, you’d better believe I’ll be doing one. Check back next week to enter, and after the event I’ll send a bundle of Expo surprises your way.

Want to be sure you don’t miss it? Ignore everything I said about clogged inboxes and sign up to follow me by email below! (Or, if Facebook or Twitter float your boat, I’d also love to see you there.)

Photo © Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo | Flickr

Photo © Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo | Flickr

Tell me your best stories of spam filters gone awry or bursting email inboxes. Will you be at the Expo, or have you been to a similar event? Which class looks best to you? Any vendors I should be absolutely sure to check out?

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Turns out Dunkin’ Donuts ain’t no fool

Looks like the top donut dunkers at a certain nationwide pastry shop got word of my April Fools post and decided to make it a reality. Thanks to my friend Jessica for tipping me off to the Bloomberg article saying so.

mall-334-e1359140947345According to the article, Dunkin’ Donuts “will sell gluten-free cinnamon-sugar doughnuts and blueberry muffins across its U.S. stores this year.” That’s confirmed by real spokespeople at the company, and it beats my prediction of a 2015 nationwide rollout by two years. Not too shabby. (Given my stellar forecasting abilities, I hope that all you GF Cancers are getting ready to heed my predictions when I roll ’em out in a few days. I promise to have everything right, give or take two years.)

No word yet about going all gluten-free by 2020, but I’ll keep my fingers crossed if you keep yours.

I’m excited that there will be more opportunities for all of us to try a Dunkin’ Donuts GF treat very soon, and it’s nice to see our “needs” being recognized by such a large industry player. By the way, the Bloomberg article claims Dunkin’ Donuts will have “the fast-food industry’s first gluten-free pastries nationwide,” which I imagine might have Au Bon Pain a little annoyed, considering that they partnered up with GG’s Original back in 2012 and have been serving gluten-free congo bars and other goodies since then. (Then again, Au Bon Pain may not be quite “fast food,” and congo bars may not be quite “pastries.” Webster tells me pastries are “sweet baked goods made of dough having a high fat content”…but what does that mean? Discuss).

Whoever came first, it seems other national chains may soon follow their lead. Stay tuned. My crystal ball tells me Starbucks is next.

Alongside breaking the good news and highlighting the recent rise in demand for gluten-free products, the Bloomberg article also quotes some buzzkills who point out the false health halo surrounding gluten-free goods. If you happen to have stumbled across this post in search of a miracle weight loss trick, I must warn you that donuts—gluten-free or otherwise—probably aren’t it. (And, at 350 calories and 36 grams of sugar, neither are congo bars.)

Gluten-free Cronuts, on the other hand…those will take inches off your waistline in seconds. Just as soon as someone gets around to developing some.

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