Monthly Archives: July 2009

Taste Test: Starfish Gluten-Free Fish

Starfish Gluten-Free Halibut

When I was a kid, fish sticks were the bane of my existence. Even when breaded and fried, I still didn’t have the stomach to eat fish. Its flakey, unsweetened texture couldn’t keep up with my sugar–oriented pallet. It tasted like strips of cardboard, and I spit it out every time.

But nonetheless, I grew older, and fish lost its repulsiveness. Pacific Seafood’s Starfish line of breaded cod, halibut and haddock makes for an excellent gluten-free substitute for battered fish, especially when served with dipping sauce.

Starfish Gluten-Free Fish

The first thing I noticed when I removed the fish from the oven was the color. The pieces shone golden-yellow, with patches of brown staining the outsides. There seemed to be less breading than I would expect, but the breading that was there tasted excellent and not too greasy. Each bite I took captured a large chunk of fish, which, though a bit dry, was tasty and flavorful – highly recommended as a family dinner or even as an appetizer at a get-together or birthday party. As with most other types of battered fish, I felt like I needed some condiments to fully bring out the flavor of the product.

I drizzled some gluten-free thousand island dressing as well as some gluten-free horseradish onto the fish, and both complemented the texture very nicely. The combination tasted even better when I mixed the two sauces together to create the ideal dip. For those traditionalists out there, gluten-free tartar sauce also tasted great as a condiment.

All three varieties of fish I tried tasted and looked very similar, with only a few slight variations, from what we could tell.

We did receive free samples of all three varieties from Starfish, whose products can be found at Whole Foods. Also be sure to check out these reviews from Gluten-Free Steve and Gluten-Free Food Reviews.

Have any of you tried Starfish’s gluten-free products? Any other brands of gluten-free fish you’d like to recommend? Let us know!

Afternoon Tea, Gluten-Free

I love reading old British novels; they make my mouth water. Invariably an impeccable butler serves afternoon tea on a gleaming silver platter piled high with scones, crumpets,and three kinds of cake. Sounds like just the sort of meal a celiac should avoid! However, if you happen to be in Atlanta, Georgia, you too can stop by Park 75 in the Four Seasons Hotel for a classic British afternoon tea. Read a review here.

Expect the works: GF scones, luscious Devonshire cream, lemon curd, cucumber watercress sandwiches, egg salad with truffle mayonnaise, smoked salmon with caviar…is your mouth watering too? Just make sure to give them two days’ notice of your need for gluten-free service. Visit them for tea any day of the week, 2 to 4 p.m., and be sure to let us know how it went!

Contact Information:
75 Fourteenth Street,
Georgia, 30309
Tel. 1 (404) 253-3840
Park 75 webpage
To learn more about over 5,000 other gluten free restaurants, don’t forget to check out our gluten free restaurant guide.

Uno's GF Pizza Offers Nostalgic Return to Crust

Closeup of Uno's Gluten-Free Pizza

Eating gluten-free isn’t about what you gain. It’s about what you leave behind. Maybe you could go without Fruit Loops, pancakes and pretzels, but sandwiches? Cake? Pizza?

A handful of companies are now attempting to replace those foods so many with celiac disease must forgo. Uno Chicago Grill (better known as Uno’s), a restaurant chain with over 200 locations nationwide, has made the best attempt yet to mimic one of America’s central gluten-containing staple foods with its gluten-free pizza.

Uno's Chicago Grill

Upon entering this Midwest-themed pizzeria, ask your waitress for a gluten-free menu. Colorful and comprehensive, this gluten-free menu shines with taste and variety, much like the gluten-free menu we found at Wildfire Grill. Steak, ribs, fish, chicken, salads, burgers (no bun), smoothies and of course, a delicious gluten-free pizza are all available for your enjoyment.

What most impressed us about Uno’s was its service. Upon ordering the gluten-free pizza, the manager came to speak with us about our constraints. He reassured us that he himself will cook our meal and that he has received training on how to properly handle gluten-free food to prevent cross-contamination. According to the DC Gluten-Free Examiner, French Meadow Bakery makes Uno’s gluten-free dough, which is based primarily on rice flour and is certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization (GFCO).

Uno's Gluten-Free Menu

For Uno’s to go that strenuous extra mile meant a great deal to us. Not only are they offering gluten-free items, they’re offering them as we would want. They cut no corners, from as far as we can tell, and it’s evident that they’re trying to be among the first major chains to capture the gluten-free market, which, as I wrote in a previous post about General Mills, is an excitable and active community. The news about any launches of gluten-free products spreads rapidly, with little marketing effort involved. It’s clear that Uno’s may be taking advantage of this phenomenon.

Uno's Gluten-Free Pizza

The pizza itself, which the manager carried out to us, didn’t quite match Uno’s traditional, gluten-containing pizza, but was excellent nonetheless. Many with celiac disease probably haven’t tasted pizza since being diagnosed, and Uno’s pizza offers an excellent substitute. Its crust was greasy, its cheese delicious. But it felt a bit too thin, and when inside my mouth, it melted apart, almost like ice cream, as gluten-free items so often do. But the thickness and richness of the cheese more than made up for it, and we strongly recommend Uno’s gluten-free pizza to anyone on the gluten-free diet.

Uno’s gluten-free menu can be found on page 496 of the fourth edition of our gluten free restaurant guide. Also check out these reviews from Gluten-Free Homemaker and Kat’s GF Kitchen.

For more pictures and information about our trip to Uno’s, check out our Flikr stream.

Have any of you tried Uno’s gluten-free pizza? Was it your first experience with pizza since being diagnosed with celiac disease? How did it taste? Let us know!

Bhuja gluten-free snacks

Mm mm mm! I just enjoyed the tastiest taste test ever. May I introduce you to the delicious and unusual Bhuja snacks that I picked up at my local Stop and Shop? Made by Majans, Bhuja snacks come in four flavors: Original, Cracker, Fruit, and Nuts. I tried Original and let me tell you, I have no regrets. The first bite snapped me to attention. One flavor and texture strongly reminds me of pappadums at my favorite Indian restaurant. No wonder: the chips are made out of yellow peas and chick peas. Other ingredients danced on my tongue—rice, potato, tapioca, peanuts, sultanas, chilies, cumin, and coriander.  The texture of flat chips, long crispy noodles, and crunchy peanuts never bores. At the bottom of the bag a hint of anise refreshed me.

If you like Indian food and you like crispy snacks, you’ll probably adore the Bhuja mixes. They have no unholy ingredients, no cholesterol, and no trans fats. Please comment if you’ve had any experience with this brand!

Wall Street Journal Explains General Mills’ Foray into Gluten-Free

Have you been as fascinated as we have by the recent influx of gluten-free products from General Mills? First there was Chex, then Betty Crocker, Kix and the newly-released Sprinkles Cookie Crisp cereal. (Disclaimer note: Kix and Sprinkles Cookie Crisp Cereal aren’t labeled as gluten-free, but they have no gluten-containing ingredients).

According to this morning’s Wall Street Journal, these products are all part of a broader marketing strategy aimed at capturing the gluten-free food industry. Usually when General Mills creates a new product, they spend a great deal on marketing, said the article. However, with gluten-free products, General Mills can spend much less, since they’re reaching an excited group of consumers who follow product launches such as these very closely; it doesn’t take much effort for General Mills to get the word out.

Furthermore, the Betty Crocker Baking Mixes, said the article, are the only mainstream brand of gluten-free cake mixes available in grocery stores. Therefore, General Mills is also among the first to reach this burgeoning market, one that implores name-brand companies to manufacture a broader range of more widely available products.

General Mills plans to launch more than 50 new products, including many that are gluten-free, in the first half of this fiscal year, said the article.

ConAgra Mills, one of the largest food manufacturers in the United States, also just unveiled a new gluten-free flour under its Eagle Mills brand. We’ll be sure to post a review of the flour once we find it in stores.

Click here for the full General Mills story (may need to be a Wall Street Journal online subscriber to view).

What do you all think of this? Any hunches on what new gluten-free products General Mills has in the works? Let us know!

All You Need to Know: A non-invasive diagnostic test?

As you well may know, the biopsies the determine whether or not a patient has celiac disease are very invasive. These biopsies are not a practical long-term way to monitor the state of the small intestine, so doctors have been trying to come up with easier and quicker ways. In one line of research, doctors monitor FABP levels in the person with celiac disease. FABPs, or fatty acid binding proteins, come in several varieties. Researchers found that intestinal FABPs and liver FABPs circulate in much higher concentrations in people with untreated biopsy-proven celiac disease than in healthy people.

The articles on this research do not say which non-invasive method detects FABP levels, but urine tests are about as bad as non-invasive procedures get. All you need to know? A non-invasive type of celiac disease diagnosis is not yet available, but in the future you can expect that diagnosis will be a lot less painful.

Wildfire's GF Menu Gleams with Taste and Variety

When I think burgers, I think fire. The kind of flame that leaps through steel, charcoal-encrusted grates with its heated embers. Fitting, then, is the name of this 1940s-themed steakhouse, Wildfire.

And by themed, I don’t mean there’s music from the era playing overhead, but everything else is Applebee’s. I mean the chandeliers, the décor, the menus, even the booths; it all emanates that 1940s glow.

Nonetheless, how do I even know what the 1940s looked like? If you told me to describe to you anything about the dress, mannerisms and culture from the time period, I simply couldn’t do it. But when I stepped inside this restaurant, I knew I was part of a different age. Whoever designed its interior did such a convincing job that they could draw upon whatever impressions I had ever come across of that time 70 years ago, and convince me that I was there.

Of course, I did find one minor discrepancy before I sat down for my meal. But let’s just say it didn’t quite ruin the entire experience. Wildfire, it turns out, is gluten-free.

Just ask your hostess for a gluten-free menu, or crack open the fourth edition of our Restaurant Guide, and you’ll find a generous listing of items, from steaks, sandwiches, salads, even hamburgers, served on Kinnikinnick buns. The wait staff was very knowledgeable about the concerns of people with celiac disease. I ordered a gluten-free burger and requested fries, but my waiter stopped me. “Our fries actually aren’t gluten-free,” he said. “We don’t have a dedicated fryer.”

Oh. A burger without fries. Elevation Burger, a classic-style fast-food chain I reviewed a few weeks ago, maintained a gluten-free fryer. So I certainly expected this moderately-priced steakhouse might. In spite of this one setback, however, I was glad this restaurant’s allergen and gluten-sensitivity training for waiters matched its atmospheric detailing. Safety is more important than French fries, I decided.

Wildfire Burger

The Kinnikinnick bun was a bit too small and tough against the teeth, but it still performed exceptionally as I wolfed down my delicious burger, whose thick edges jutted two inches outside the circular, undersized bun. The meat was juicy and tender; it left me, a self-described burger aficionado, well satisfied.

Wildfire Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake

Next, I ordered a gluten-free chocolate cake, which was also excellent. Its texture reminded me more of a brownie, as most gluten-free cakes do – sweet, thick, and exceptionally moist. The ice cream on the top was a nice touch and blended well with the cake, still warm and freshly-baked from the oven.

Cupcakes and Wildfire 039

Kay ordered a salad off the gluten-free menu, which she highly recommended. These salads also appear on the regular menu, except the gluten-free versions remove croutons and narrow your selection of salad dressings to only those that do not contain gluten.

All in all, Wildfire makes for a fantastic gluten-free meal, and certainly shines as one of the highlights of our Restaurant Guide.

Check out these reviews from Glad to be Gluten Free and Gluten Free Betty. Gluten-Free Girl also included Kinnikinnick hamburger buns in her Gluten-Free Girl Recommends section.

And be sure to check out other photos from our trip to Wildfire in our all-new Flikr stream.

To learn more about over 5,000 other gluten free restaurants, don’t forget to check out our gluten free restaurant guide.