Gluten-free Travel Sans Dining Out

saraseakitchenTraveling is something many people on restricted diets avoid doing at all costs. They change jobs if work requires frequent business trips, stop attending family reunions and give up family vacations. Even if people don’t feel comfortable eating out anymore, there is no reason for them to give up travel for good. Gluten-free travel is easier than ever these days. Like anything else we do that involves food, it does take extra work in order to do it safely.

In the past, we always chose travel destinations that had great dining options. So now we just choose places that have great gluten-free dining options. Since so many people living gluten-free don’t care to eat out anyway, they might want to focus on traveling to places that have stores with abundant gluten-free product offerings. That way they don’t have to pack everything but the kitchen sink in order to eat safely when away from home.

Larger metro areas are likely to have a Whole Foods and/or a Trader Joe’s and both retailers offer many trusted gluten-free products. However, many smaller markets now have health food and even mainstream grocery stores with gluten-free food sections. For most people in the U.S., the days of having to visit five stores in order to grocery shop are over. Here is a general rule of thumb about gluten-free shopping. If there is not a gluten-free or celiac support group in the area, there might be limited shopping opportunities for gluten-free products. The larger the gluten-free community, the better the shopping options there.

We tend to travel by car many times a year and never leave home without a cooler. It’s usually  a large one because I rarely go somewhere without finding new gluten-free products I’ve not seen in our stores before. And it’s tough for me to pass such items up, if I find them intriguing. I found the best gluten-free biscotti, made by Sorella’s Bakery, at a store in FL. Since then, we rarely travel without the travel friendly snack. Since most “free” breakfasts tend to be heavy on the gluten, I can always have coffee, fruit and my own terrific biscotti. If you keep these “Italian cookies” in an air tight container, they will stay fresh for many months!

People who aren’t going to eat out during trips can rent a fully equipped condo or rental property. Most such places tend to have stainless steel cookware so there is no reason to worry about what’s been cooked in it previously. Washing the items thoroughly before using them will keep you from having to pack your own pots and pans. Having to do that would take some of the fun out of vacationing, no doubt. I always pack handy Toast-It bags as well, so that I can safely use toasters no matter where we go. The amazing bags are reusable which makes them well worth the investment.

Usually, the first thing we do after unpacking the car and unloading the cooler (with any cold food we packed) is head to the nearest store to stock up on supplies for the trip. We buy fresh fruit and whatever other staples we need. Because I’m always concerned that I’ll end up without gluten-free crackers to snack on, I take my own whenever we travel anywhere. One can live without gluten-free crackers, but we tend to dine out every night and are huge fans of gourmet cheese plates. More often than not, I have to go without crackers or bread unless I take my own. Small thin crackers are much less conspicuous to pack in a handbag than a bulky roll or pieces of bread.

People who prefer to cook their own meals on vacation can find fresh meats, starches, eggs, veggies and fruit at any grocery store in this country. Even though we don’t eat dinner in while vacationing, we rarely eat breakfast out. Most breakfast places don’t offer gluten-free toast, waffles or even a gluten-free muffin. For me, eating just eggs and hash browns or grits for breakfast gets old after a couple of days. Therefore, we pack things like Udi’s muffins and buy other breakfast staples upon arrival at our destination.

No one should eat out if they don’t want to, but staying close to home all the time isn’t really necessary these days. Gluten-free travel is not only possible – even if you don’t eat out – it can actually be fabulously fun. Order some gluten-free meals from Go Picnic, pack some safe snacks and hit the road. Don’t let being gluten-free keep you from enjoying the things you enjoy – even if it’s traveling the world!

Remember to pack our grocery guide to help with food shopping. If you decide to venture out to eat (in the U.S.), the restaurant guide can help with that as well.

New Redbridge Beer Rolling Out to Stores Now!

other_middle_bgMany People from different parts of the country have been complaining for a couple of months that they can’t find Redbridge beer in stores anymore. In some cases, that is due to the fact that the local distributor dropped the beer from it’s line up. In the case of Publix stores, the grocery chain dropped the only gluten-free beer they carry system wide, even though their local distributors still sell it. Reportedly, this was due to poor sales. They got rid of poor performing gluten beers as well.

Rumors about Anheuser-Busch discontinuing the only mass produced gluten-free beer in the U.S. have run rampant for a while now. Finally, last week the company admitted that the beer might not be available temporarily because it was being reformulated. However, no estimated time line was given for the reformulated Redbridge. That news wasn’t comforting for fans of the beer – or the people who drink it because it’s the only gluten-free beer option in their area.

Finally, someone from the corporate communications office of Anheuser-Busch contacted me with good news for Redbridge fans. The newly reformulated, slightly lower alcohol content version of Redbridge has rolled out of production facilities and is on the way to a store near you. At least, it has if your distributor carries it. Even if your distributor stopped carrying it, you might want to contact them and suggest they give the new beer a try. It is said to have a smoother taste that might appeal to more beer lovers. According to the AB representative I spoke to, the beer is still gluten-free and safe for people who can’t tolerate gluten. It can also be sold in more states now that the alcohol content has been slightly lowered.

Since all major sports stadiums that offer gluten-free beer sell Anheuser-Busch products, there should not be any shortages for Redbridge for the MLB season this year. If your local stadium does not sell Redbridge yet, they should be offering it soon. At many parks, you have to find out where the beer is sold because it’s not stocked at every beer cart. Calling to get this information before you head out to a ball game is encouraged. Many people told me that there was no Redbridge at Turner Field last year, even after it was stocked there at several locations. You have to know where to find it and can’t count on a seasonal employee at a beer cart to know where that is.

Who knows? If the new Redbridge performs better than the old version, maybe Publix will add Redbridge back to their beer schematic for 2011!

Other companies making gluten-free beers include Bard’s Tale Beer, Green’s, Lakefront Brewery, and Sprecher Brewing Company.

Review and Give-away: New Gluten-Free Cookbook

cook51SoHkxTsKL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_Next week, a new gluten-free cookbook by Vanessa Maltin will be available. Fans of her first book “Beyond Rice Cakes”  will be blown away by this elegant, more sophisticated and perfectly delightful cookbook “The Gloriously Gluten-free Cookbook : Spicing up Life with Italian, Asian and Mexican Recipes“. Vanessa started her gluten-free career working with the NFCA and is now the Food & Lifestyle Editor at Delight gluten-free magazine.

When my review copy of Vanessa’s new book arrived, I immediately noticed that it is quite a different publication than “Beyond Rice Cakes”, which is geared more for young adults on the gluten-free journey. The beautiful new cookbook is definitely for gluten-free cooks of all ages. Heidi Collins, previously of CNN, wrote the forward, which is quite touching. The Doctor’s Note that follows the forward was penned by Dr. Aline Charabaty from Georgetown University Hospital.

The book chapters are divided by different types of cuisines, including Italian, Asian and Mexican, as the title implies. There is also a chapter just for desserts! In each cuisine section, there is a list of ingredients that are most often used in dishes from that region. Additionally, suggestions about what product lines offer gluten-free pasta and soy sauce are mentioned.  Gluten-free flours are covered and oats are explained.

Also, in the different cuisine sections, a “Chef’s Note” is included. Keith Brunel, Executive Chef of Maggiano’s Little  Italy, wrote the Italian note.  Katie Chin of Thai Kitchen wrote the “Chef’s Note” in the Asian section and and Edgar Steele of Cafe Atlantico took care of the same in the Mexican section. Each Chef takes time to truly explain this history of the cuisine. It’s a quite enlightening  part of each cuisine section and gets the reader excited to try some of the book’s fabulous recipes!

Here are just a few recipes in the book, listed in no particular order:

  • Artichoke Parmesan Salad with Dijon Mustard Dressing
  • Grilled Chicken with Asparagus and Cheddar Risotto
  • Crunchy Vietnamese Spring Rolls
  • Gluten-free Potstickers
  • Mango Chicken Quesadillas
  • Carne Asada and Creamy Potato Puree
  • White Chocolate-Mango Cheesecake
  • Apple Fried Ice Cream

Staples like various pasta sauces, enchiladas and egg drop soup recipes are also included in the creative cookbook. While some of the recipes are more involved than others, most of them are really easy to understand and implement. In other words, most of the recipes don’t have 15-20 instructions, but about 6 or so. The easier the better is my motto about cooking of any kind. This book proves you can follow that rule and also enjoy incredible gourmet restaurant quality gluten-free meals!

In addition to the array of interesting recipes in the book, Vanessa also explains what celiac disease is and how she learned to make lemonade out of the sour lemons that many perceive a celiac diagnosis to be. She talks about various celiac testing methods, including the new finger prick test from Biocard – now approved in parts of Europe and Canada. That test, or something similar, might make diagnosing celiac easier than ever one day.

If you are in search of a gluten-free cookbook to spice up your kitchen, please leave a comment below for your chance to win one of three copies being offered to our readers by Wiley, the publisher. Deadline to enter a comment is April 20th. Winners will be posted on April 21st. *Shipping address for books must be in one of the 48 contiguous U.S. states.

UPDATE 4-21-10: Congrats to Katie Hartsell, elicia and Steve Wilbur who won the fab new cookbook from Vanessa Maltin!

Jason’s Considers Offering Gluten-Free Sandwiches

glutenfreegraphicOne of the things most people living gluten-free can’t order when dining out is a sandwich. People in NYC can have gluten-free deli sandwiches at several places and the zpizza locations in Atlanta now have gluten-free sandwiches. In Denver, Udi’s Cafes offer gluten-free sandwiches and so does The Little Aussie Bakery in San Antonio. Other cities have various options as well, but generally speaking, gluten-free sandwich options in restaurants are far and few between.

Jason’s Deli is a national chain with locations all over the U.S. The company uses healthy products in their restaurants and none of their deli meats contain MSG. Jason’s Deli is always striving to offer even more healthy options and recently began investigating the option of bringing in gluten-free bread for sandwiches. We’ve never been to a Jason’s Deli before but if a location near us offered gluten-free sandwiches, I’d certainly check it out!

The following information is from the Jason’s Deli website –

At Jason’s Deli, we’re all about healthy food. We’ve even been named “One of the 10 Best Restaurants in America!” in the July 2009 issue of Parents Magazine. You won’t find high fructose corn syrup, trans fats or MSG in any of our food – just healthy, fresh and even organic foods. From sandwiches to salads, Jason’s Deli offers healthy food that everyone can feel good about. And it’s not only healthy food – it’s delicious food.

The people in our area who have eaten at Jason’s Deli report that the gluten-free options are presently pretty limited. Even so, they also report that managers really seem concerned with making sure that gluten-free meals are safely prepared. This is not always the case at this price point restaurant, regardless of the existence of a gluten-free menu. Like I always tell people – the most important part of the Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide to me is the section explaining how to dine out safely.

So, here is our chance to be heard by a company that is carefully considering getting into the gluten-free market. Jason’s Deli is asking potential gluten-free customers to weigh in on their decision about offering gluten-free sandwiches. Please take a moment to vote on this poll. It takes less than a minute and the actions of our community might greatly impact the decision that the powers-that-be at Jason’s Deli ultimately make. Not many mainstream companies ask for our feedback before they enter the gluten-free market place so we need to take full advantage of this great opportunity being offered by Jason’s Deli. Make your voice count and vote now if you haven’t already. What a great way to start the week!

GIG Confirms Contract with Snyder’s of Hanover

gfco2There has been a lot of buzz about the new gluten-free pretzels from Snyder’s of Hanover. If you missed the buzz, please take a moment to read this interesting post about the new Snyder’s pretzels from Teri over at News of the gluten pretzel king of mainstream food companies getting into the gluten-free market should be good news, of course. However, the company took a while to finally decide that the new product should be certified gluten-free. The good news is that the ink is finally dry on the contract between the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America and Snyder’s of Hanover. You can read the press release here.

Snyder’s of Hanover has been in negotiations with GIG since September 2009. However, they have not had a signed contract since then. As Cynthia Kupper, GIG’s Executive Director, explained to me “as you know contract negotiations take time and during the process sometimes people walk away from the negotiations to do further research. At times this process can take months. We are thrilled that Snyder’s has certified their new gluten-free pretzels and is helping this community live healthier.”

Snyder’s checked into different certification programs that were available and chose to go with GIG’s extensive GFCO program. It’s really exciting news that the pretzels were able to be confirmed gluten-free, since they are made on lines that also process wheat. It’s a myth that products not made in a dedicated gluten-free facility can’t truly be gluten-free. As always, people can make up their own minds about what to eat or avoid. I am certainly going to look for the new Snyder’s item when it hits the Whole Foods stores in mid May.

Snyder’s of Hanover hopes to roll out their new gluten-free products to mainstream grocery stores, that already carry their other snacks, in mid summer 2010. The company might also introduce some “no gluten ingredients” snacks, which will not be certified gluten-free. It’s unclear why consumers would buy such a product but there are trendy shoppers out there that might pick up something marked gluten-free to try something different.

Though I’ve personally tried some items labeled “no gluten ingredients” before, they were from companies like Amy’s that does test products for safety. Several gluten-free companies when through a phase where they changed their labeling while waiting for the magic FDA labeling law that never materialized. Maybe if the certified gluten-free pretzels sell really well, Snyder’s will consider having some of their “no gluten ingredients” products tested for gluten as well.