Monthly Archives: April 2008

She’s Got a Crush on Gluten Free

ahern-and-the-chef.jpgHopefully, Obama girl won’t begrudge us her most infamous line for a post or two. We’re using it for a larger good after all.

Unlike the mini-skirt, halter top clad YouTube sensation, author/blogger Shauna James Ahern (a.k.a Gluten-Free Girl) of Seattle applies her crush to a broader mission.

A 38-year-old celiac, she shares recipes and life experiences on her blog, glutenfreegirl.blogspot.com and in her 2007 memoir, Gluten-Free Girl .

Ahern’s blog features commentaries about food and everyday life. Her entries include slice-of-life senarios and carry a conversational tone. Each post tells an engaging story infused with information, humor and a twinge of self-deprication. She covers everything from an intricate Strawberries, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Reduction Sauce to the excitement she feels when asparagus sprouts in Spring.

Ahern recently teamed with the staff at Ritrovo Italian Foods to help promote their gluten-free artisanal products, which include rice and corn pastas.

Ahern and Ritrovo’s co-founders gave their Seattle neighbors an opportunity to visit them at Metropolitan Market throughout the latter end of April (18 – 26), where they distributed samples and fielded questions about gluten-free cooking.

A Gluten Free Check for Chex

rice-chex.jpgThey rest atop an ivory liquid surface, like mini, window-tiled pillow cases kissing the shallow end of a pool full of white-out. Half soggy and half crunchy, they hasten to or away from your silver spoon.

“Gotcha!” You silently proclaim as you capture a few on your metallic scooper. Perhaps your eyes graze this product’s package as you chomp, taking note of the bright red and blue heading: Rice Chex Simply Nutritious.

Simply nutritious. Hmmm.

Well if you eat gluten-free, the word simple assumes an entirely different meaning. What some view as a perfectly innocuous snacking experience can translate into a crash course in Delightfully Dangerous Digestion for you.

General Mills, perhaps seeking to captialize on the free-from craze, now offers a gluten free version of this crispy favorite.

Gluten Free Rice Chex cereal is no joke. It is the real deal, the genuine article, and a whole slew of other nothing like the real thing baby cliches you can imagine. The barely-malt-filled Original Rice Chex, not to be confused with Rizchecks (Thank you, Miss Ringwald), of yesteryear now faces some mean competition. Gluten free Rice Checks cereal replaces barley malt syrup with molasses, a non-threat to celiac diets.

The brand still ensures 100 Calories per serving and promises no artificial flavors or colors. You can find the product at all major grocery store chains for a suggested retail price of $2.99.

How to Dine Gluten Free in Restaurants – Tip #6

Make Yourself a Familiar Figure.

As a gluten free diner, frequent visits to the same restaurant can have two impacts. First, working with you regularly reinforces for the staff the specific needs of your diet. Second, regular visits increase your value as a customer. And, the more valuable you are as a customer, the greater the incentive is for the restaurant to invest in providing a variety of delicious gluten-free options.

When I lived in Philadelphia, I used to visit My Thai on South St. once a week. The first time I visited, the owner invested the time to help make me a special gluten free meal. The food was good and the meal didn’t make me sick, so I went back the next week. And the week after. And the week after that. After about a month, I had established myself as a regular. At that point, during one visit the owner started asking me a bunch of very detailed questions about the gluten free diet. The next time I visited, he had a very pleasant surprise for me – he had gone through his menu and checked every single dish on it for gluten, and it turned out that there were only two dishes in the whole restaurant he couldn’t modify to be gluten free. It felt so good that he would put the effort in for me, that I’d still be eating there every week if I hadn’t moved to Virginia.

Letterman Livin’ it up Gluten-free?

images.jpegMaybe it speaks to a preoccupation with Walter Conkrite, too many cameras and bright lights, or 15-minutes-of-Andy Warhol-look-at-me, look-at-me heaven, but rightly or wrongly, people sometimes look to entertainers and TV personalities for cues on everyday living. The meaty fanbase of The Late Show host David Letterman offers little exception to this rule.

During the intro for Letterman’s April 1st program, his late night talk show’s announcer proclaimed, “And now…wheat and gluten-free…David Letterman.”

The buzz around the blogosphere has largely coalesced around the fact that Letterman’s announcer made similar proclamations in the past and so viewers should take the announcement with a salty grain of tentative truth.

It remains unclear whether or not David Letterman maintains a gluten-free lifestyle. Still, the beautiful damage remains done. Celiac blogger Suzanne Mangini asks in her April 3rd, Is Letterman gluten-free? entry, “So, is Letterman gluten-free? Even if it was a joke, it was still a mention of GF and that’s always a good thing in my book!”

I think Mangini might be on to something here.

Letterman, like most celebs, even those with the smallest followings, can tip the least known concepts.

Perhaps he can pump interest into gluten-free living with this announcement the same way Oprah Winfrey renews excitement in reading with her book club selections. (Sorry Frey “but he lied, he lied” bashers, but even in light of the controversy, A Million Little Pieces still retains its awesomeness.)

Perhaps any publicity works better than no attention at all. Gluten-free diets yield so many health benefits, even for non-celiacs.

Whether or not Letterman lives gluten-free then becomes immaterial. He, in all his superstar wonderment, has helped spread the word.

Beyond Rice Cakes

beyondricecakes.jpegVanessa Maltin is a rising star in the Celiac world. She’s the author of Beyond Rice Cakes (a groundbreaking book that includes first-person perspective on handling Celiac Disease as a teenager), the host of cooking show Alternative Appetites, and the director of programming and communications for the NFCA (a national non-profit focused on raising awareness of Celiac Disease).

Vanessa recently reviewed the new edition of The Essential Gluten Free Restaurant Guide. Check out what Vanessa had to say about our Restaurant Guide and learn all about the great work Vanessa and the NFCA are doing to raise Celiac awareness at Vanessa’s blog, http://www.beyondricecakes.com/blog/.

We’ll be attending the NFCA’s sold out (!) Gluten Free Cooking Spree in Bethesda, MD this Friday, and will provide updates.

How to Dine Gluten Free in Restaurants – Tip #5

Make it Easy.

Don’t just tell a waiter what you can’t eat. Instead, be proactive. You know more about the gluten-free diet than he does, so don’t make him guess the menu options that might be right for you. Scout the menu for choices that are likely to be gluten-free and present them to the waiter as starting points for further investigation. Let the waiter use his limited time to interface with the kitchen and to confirm that your choice is a safe one.

Twistedly Tasty

101001.jpg Pretzels remind me of crocheted hearts. Twist-tied, wood-colored and salt-dotted, these petite munchies reshape the traditional snack mold in that they easily traverse the chasm between health and junk food. Glutino Sans Gluten Free Pretzels continue this tradition by offering a wheat, barley, rye and oat-free version of a long-time favored treat.

I decided to give these celiac friendly pretzels, available at Whole Foods across the U.S. and online at Amazon.com among other places, a go last week. As my taste buds and expectations equally hightened, I ripped open the package with a wolf-like pursuit and a Speed-Racer-like alacrity. Upon taking my first bite, a surprising realization settled over me. “I know I have had these before.” An aha moment came, not quite unlike the one that comes to the Coyote in a Looney Tunes short the second he spots the Roadrunner.

Glutino pretzels rival their gluten-filled predecessors in that they offer the same taste without any of the grain-containing additives.

You can purchase Glutino Pretzel Twists by the bag for $5.99 at Whole Foods or through www.glutenfree.com . You can also order them by the case at www.amazon.com for a pricey $97.33.

How to Dine Gluten Free in Restaurants – Tip #4

Double Check.

This one’s an obvious one. When your meal is served, always confirm with the server that it was prepared gluten-free. Good restaurants will typically do this for you as a matter of course. But, when they fail, be proactive and ask — before eating. This simple step can potentially save you a catastrophe down the line.