Recently, in honor of my boyfriend’s birthday, I shared Naturally Smart’s gluten-free frozen dessert with some of my friends. Unfortunately, because I am gluten-free and dairy-free, I cannot indulge in this gluten-free dessert so I thought I would share some of the comments from others, many of whom are not gluten-free. Our sponsor provided us with Chocolate and Vanilla (these are their current flavors, other flavors are coming soon). Each pint holds 4 servings and each serving has 10 grams of protein and only 150 calories. Almost everyone was shocked that there were 10 grams of protein in each serving (that is 40 grams per pint!). After the birthday boy blew out the candles on his glutenous Oreo cake, it was time to pass out the Naturally Smart and see what the crowd thought:
“Tastes like a Fudgesicle you had as a kid but a healthy version”
Recently Healther Crawford, a reporter for First Coast News, asked me to help identify some area chain restaurants that have gluten-free menus to test the EZ Gluten test strips’ ability to detect gluten in food. EZ Gluten test strips are created by Eliza Technologies. According to their website, these test strips are easy to use and help detect the presence of gluten in foods and beverages.
I had so much fun, it was like a progressive dinner with friends you just met.
Heather and the videographer, Ed, were so fun and I really enjoyed their company.
Spicy chicken and beef and broccoli at PF Chang’s.
Loaded baked potato soup, spicy chicken and sausage soup, margarita chicken with rice and beans and mashed potatoes at Chili’s
Bards beer and gluten-free pepperoni pizza at Mellow Mushroom Jacksonville Beach.
The results: the mashed potatoes at Chili’s tested positive for gluten. To the credit of Chili’s, they do have a disclaimer on their gluten-free menu.
After our testing, we made our way to my kitchen!
Ed and Heather actually came to my house, tested food in my pantry and took a look inside my fridge.
My thoughts on the night:
1. Each test takes 20 minutes. I seriously doubt many people will have the patience to wait 20 minutes to eat their food while they are waiting on the test results to come in. Their website states 10 minutes, but each kit we used took 20 minutes from start to finish.
2. The kits are quite expensive. You can purchase 2 for $25 or 5 for $60 off the website.
3. There may be some testing errors. This was the first time any of us have ever used the kits and we only sampled one part of the food. The kit allows for a small sample, so to test multiple parts of the food would take the use of multiple kits. For the purposes of the report it was not practical to use multiple kits to test more than one part of the food. However, every effort was made to include as much of the food in the small testing spoon that came with the kit.
4. If you are using these test strips in a public place, you will get some interesting looks. The kit has a few stages you have to complete that involves mixing and letting things sit for certain amounts of time.
5. There still may trace amounts of gluten that the kit doesn’t account for. It tests as low as 10ppm.
Today, after being told over and over to check this place out, I finally made my way to Sweet Theory Baking Company. Sweet Theory Baking Company is a bakery near the heart of the Park and King District near Little Five Points/Riverside area. It is located between Park and Post on King not far from where you can get a gluten-free beer at Kickbacks or Beer:30.
I was greeted by the cutest little store front on a chilly yet sunny day. I went during my lunch hour so I did not have time to linger long. I quickly found the items designated with a (GF) on them and was overwhelmed with the options.
I asked the manager what she thought the most popular items were and she pointed me in the direction of doughnuts, cupcakes, cookie sandwiches and whoopee pies. All of these items came gluten-free except the doughnuts. I was a little sad, I have heard so much about these doughnuts but my mind was put to ease when the manager explained that the owner (and head baker) was still working on the right recipe. Good enough for me.
In addition to the cakes and cookies and such, I noticed that they had some gluten-free savory garlic and herb biscuits. I can’t tell you the last time I had a biscuit. I decided to try that and a cookie sandwich.
The place was a bit quiet, it was a Wednesday during lunch time. I decided to enjoy my gluten-free garlic and herb biscuit in a cozy spot near the front windows and just chill. They had warmed the biscuit up for me and put on some soy free earth balance vegan butter. The biscuit was so satisfying. The consistency was different than a real biscuit, but the taste was awesome. It was flaky and at times crumbly, but not dry (definitely a mess to eat if you are on the go.) This southern girl was happy (can we get a gf/df biscuits and gravy?:)).
So I guess I should have eaten a real lunch before my visit, because after the biscuit I was wanting more. So I dug into the chocolate chip sandwich and before I knew it had eaten almost half. Very moist, chewy and HUGE.
While the biscuit was not a regular on the menu, the cookie sandwich is along with numerous gluten-free cupcake flavors from peach to root beer. In addition they had blueberry and raspberry flavored muffins as well.
As I was finishing up my biscuit and half of the cookie sandwich the manager explained that they also make ice cream (they only have vanilla for now, more flavors to come as the weather warms up) and they make a special treat called a Brooklyn Egg Cream which she described as a chocolaty and unique cold beverage.
Everything at Sweet Theory Baking Company is egg, dairy, soy and peanut free. They have some items (a lot actually) that are gluten-free and made in a designated gluten-free area with designated utensils. There is absolutely no dairy in this store. Even when ordering coffee (which is local-Bold Bean), your coffee creamer options were almond or rice milk.
Sweet Theory Baking Company’s sweets were delicious. I like them as much as Cookie Momsters. However, Sweet Theory Baking Company offers what I have suggested to Cookie Momsters numerous times, a place to linger. Sweet Theory is a place I could meet up with friends for an afternoon coffee and have a snack. I felt at home and as if I belonged. Sometimes when I leave Cookie Momsters I feel like I am doing something in secret because I go in, order and leave (usually enjoying my treat at the next red light as I drive back to work or home). I still love you Cookie Momsters but it is nice to have options in different parts of town. Now my wish is for a gluten-free/dairy-free bakery at the beach…
I will be back Sweet Theory Baking Company. Thank you for a lovely dessert lunch J
On May 21st, I tried out my first Celiac Support Group. I have never been to a support group of any kind and was a little curious about how I would feel about it. Thanks to Mark Basch’s blog Gluten-free Glutton, attendance has grown. There were about 9 people there with experiences that ranged from someone newly diagnosed, diagnosed many years ago, diagnosed with Celiac but showing no symptoms to those diagnosed in the last year or so. It was a nice dynamic and best of all, there were tons of gluten-free foods for all of us to try and take home- FREE! While I may act like a know it all sometimes, I learned some new things at the group and thought I would share:
5. A lot of people make their own bread in bread makers. The favorites of the group were Pamela’s and Bobs Red Mill.
6. Smoothie King has listed items as gluten-free on their menu in stores.
7. There is currently some research being done in Australia for a vaccine.
The group meets the third Saturday of the Month at Sunrise Assisted Living of Jacksonville (4870 Belfort Road; Jacksonville, FL 32256) from 11am-12pm. The next meeting is Saturday June 18th. For more information contact Kristin Green 904-332-0774 or Nicole Wolfson 904-994-9906.
Come join us!
Update As of September 2012: The group now meets the 3rd Tuesday of the month at Sunrise Assisted Living (same as before). Email email@example.com to RSVP to each event.
In honor of National Celiac Awareness Day which was September 13, I thought I would share my opinion of Jacksonville Restaurants that Get it and Don’t Get it when it comes to accommodating the diets of those of us with celiac disease. This is completely my opinion based on my dining experiences. The restaurants that Don’t Get it, are not bad restaurants, actually almost all of them are some of my favorite places to eat back before I knew I had celiac disease. I am sad that I can’t get a full belly at these places anymore without getting sick. My hopes are that these establishments will hopefully become aware of the needs of those of us with annoying, I mean, special, diets.
Restaurants that do a great job at accommodating those with gluten intolerance and celiac disease ranked in order favorite, 2nd favorite, etc.:
Restaurants that “GET IT”:
Bonefish Grill– Bonefish Grill is my all time favorite. They have a special gluten-free menu that mimics their regular menu but has GF next to those that are Gluten Free. At the Bonefish Grill in Mandarin, they also offer gluten-free bread which is fantastic and goes so well with their herb olive oil blend (just make sure you get a separate dish from those who have the regular bread). I have heard that the bang-bang shrimp sauce is Gluten-Free and if you get the shrimp grilled with the sauce it is safe. I have yet to try it though.
Taverna-Taverna is located in San Marco near Square One and the San Marco Theater. It is locally owned and opened about a year ago in 2009. I happened upon this place not long after my diagnosis and was surprised that they could easily accommodate a gluten-free diet. One of the head chefs has either celiac disease or gluten intolerance and was well aware of what I could eat. Most of their dishes are made with fresh ingredients and include meats and veges (except for their pasta dishes of course). They were so knowledgable that they were able to discourage a dessert that is gluten-free, however, the pan was dusted with flour. So nice to go to a restaurant that knows how to accommodate a gluten-free diet. They also have the coolest wine glasses in Jacksonville, in my opinion.
PF Changs– One of the biggest no no’s of a gluten-free diet, other than pasta and breads is soy sauce. PF Changs, not only has their gluten-free menu been added to every menu in the restaurant on the back, but they also have gluten-free soy sauce as well. PF Changs also has gluten-free desserts and a recent new dessert, a Triple Chocolate Mousse Mini Dessert. I had it this week and it was AMAZING! It includes three sinful layers of Chocolate Ganache, Milk Chocolate Mousse and Flourless Chocolate Cake.
Outback steakhouse– Much like Bonefish Grill (they are owned by the same people) Outback Steakhouse has a special menu that looks similar to the main menu with items listed as gluten-free with all of the proper substitutions. Another plus, the Chocolate Thunder from Down Under is gluten-free!
Tommy’s Brick Oven Pizza and Mellow Mushroom– TIED! It is hard to pick between these two, because where Tommy’s has been providing gluten-free pizza for a while as well as appetizers, beer, salads and cookies; Mellow Mushroom has just recently hopped on the bandwagon. A lot of my friends like to hang out at Mellow Mushroom so the addition of gluten-free pizza and gluten-free beer in a fun environment helps me feel normal while watching football, socializing and etc.
Now for those that need some work:
Those that “Don’t Get It”
Bahama Breeze -As much as I love this restaurant and as much fish and vegetables they have on the menu it is impossible to get fish or chicken here that is gluten-free because most of their stuff is already pre mixed and premade.
Bahama Breeze Lunch Item- no gluten free
Mama Fu’s– recently the organization had a promo for items on their gluten-free menu yet the Jacksonville store (located in Mandarin) does not have a gluten-free menu. They said it is coming soon, but I am still waiting.
III Forks– I love the ambiance of III Forks, however, I cannot have their steak. It is marinated in broth/aus jus, which means it contains gluten.
European Street– while they have done a great job at getting gluten-free beers and gluten-free bread; nothing that goes on the gluten-free bread is certified gluten-free and their vegan/gluten free options are very expensive and very small. The Vegan/Gluten Free burrito was terrible and $11. *Since my original post they have begun using new gluten-free wraps that are actually quite tasty. They are trying.
Burrito Gallery– I love this place. It has done wonders for downtown and the owners are very involved in reviving art downtown, however the cooking staff is not educated enough about needs of those of us with celiac disease.
All of these are debatable and could change at any moment. Please, restaurants, if I am wrong or if things have changed I would love to learn more. I would recommend every restaurant on this list for people without Celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but for those with, the bottom five should be explored with caution.
About a week ago I submitted a blog about dining gluten-free in Denver Colorado at Vesta Dipping Grill. I want to share my experience at a few other places we visited that left me stunned and realized Jacksonville needs to step it up! After dining at Vesta Dipping Grille, we walked next door to 9th Door. More than one person had recommended this place to us and it was well worth the hype. Dark lighting, flowing drapery, candles and India inspired techno-esque music playing over head. I was still suprised Vesta Dipping grill had gluten free beer so I thought I would ask the bartender at 9th door if they had gluten-free beer. Sure enough, he brought out a Spanish beer that was gluten-free. I could not read a thing on the bottle, but the bar tender assured me it was and I could kick myself for not getting the exact name of the beer. Instead of having the beer I opted for the recommended blueberry martini. It was amazing, it had real blueberries in it and had a hint of vanilla. SO GOOD!
The next morning after our dining experience and 9th Door drinks, we headed to Steamboat Springs. As usual, I had done my homework and had saved a link I had found about eating gluten-free in Steamboat Springs from the blog No Gluten, No Problem. That night for dinner, I suggested Rex’s, because I heard they had gluten-free hamburger buns and gluten-free pizza. GLUTEN FREE HAMBURGER BUNS? Do you know how long it has been since I have had a sandwich, much less a gluten-free hamburger. I was so excited, and they had bison burgers at that. The bun was awesome. It looked a little like sourdough but much like regular gluten containing breads it was actually chewy and doughy. It was the best hamburger I have ever had (since being diagnosed with Celiac). It was a little odd that the restaurant was connected to a Holiday Inn, but there seemed to be a lot of locals and their back patio seemed to be the place everyone was headed. According to the blog, the restaurant is locally owned along with a few other restaurants as part of the Steamboat Restaurant Group. Their names are: Big House and Mazzola’s.