Posts tagged ‘dining out’
I really like to stay home. I’m not embarrassed by this statement but embrace the fact that I no longer feel pressure to “go out.” Not only have I had plenty of years spending countless nights and weekends making the most of my free time, but both mine and my husband’s jobs require that I attend events, dinners, receptions and every feasible sport played by college athletes possible. The added benefit to staying home is the control I have over my food. A perfect weekend night is eating an Amy’s gluten-free cheese pizza on the sofa, catching up on all my shows on the DVR. Now that’s indulgence! But, despite typically loving my weekends at home, I was super excited to head out last Saturday night with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) to the studio of Liddy Lindsay, local artist and friend of NFCA Founder and President, Alice Bast. It was such an amazing night!
NFCA brought lots of gluten-free goodies for guests to experience gluten-free food and ask questions about celiac disease and gluten sensitivity. Everyone was surprised that they were eating gluten-free; comments, like “this actually tastes good” were heard throughout the night. The studio was filled with this wonderful array of individuals from varied backgrounds and lifestyles. Everyone was inquisitive and curious about NFCA and celiac disease. While most people did not know what celiac disease is, they all have heard about the gluten-free lifestyle and most know someone with gluten sensitivity.
As the end of the party neared, it became apparent that no one wanted to leave (always the sign of a good party!). The evening continued for a number of us NFCA art-lovers once we arrived at Pod – a West Philly, Steven Starr, establishment that provides gluten-free options on their menu. So, while a night out typically means worrying about what I’m going to eat, this night was less worry and more “let’s eat!” (Post-party confession – I stashed a gluten-free pizzelle in the car for an after dinner treat and enjoyed it when we left the studio. What a nice way to end the night!)
While it may be a bit out of character for me now, I am looking forward to heading out with my NFCA pals for more events throughout May for Celiac Awareness Month. On May 7th, we’ll be shopping at C. Wonder in the King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania with 20% off purchases and 10% of sales going the support NFCA (isn’t that great?). After that, I’ll be heading on up to New York City for a very special evening with Chef David Bouley on May 9th.
All of the ladies at NFCA are buzzing with excitement for the upcoming month and the energy is contagious. As I’m catching on to their excitement of being out-and-about more often than usual this month, I can’t help but be reminded of a famous quote from the infamous Dorothy Day: “Food for the body is not enough. There must be food for the soul.” I’m so happy to be part of a team that helps people get diagnosed, restore their health and reclaim their lives, especially during Celiac Awareness Month – now that is food for the soul.
I LOVE pizza – cold pizza for breakfast, hot, gooey, cheesy pizza with thick or thin crusts and toppings of all kinds: pesto, pepperoni, olives, onion, even anchovies. So when I was diagnosed with celiac disease back in 1992, when very few gluten-free products existed, I concluded my love affair with pizza was pretty much over. Making gluten-free pizza was a chore I could handle, but it just wasn’t the same. Eating pizza out of the box and sipping an ice cold beer while watching a movie, and hanging with the family or friends seemed impossible or too depressing. During a pity party, I even told my husband, Dave, my last request before I died was pizza delivered to my death bed with a cold brew as my last meal. (What’s one last jolt of poison when your about to take your last breath anyway?) I’m so glad gluten-free has come so far that I can pick a more extravagant last meal….maybe chocolate croissants. Never in my lifetime, did I expect to live to experience gluten-free pizza so accessible and tasty.
Recently, I was honored to speak at the International Pizza Expo in Las Vegas on behalf of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA). Gluten-free pizza is a HOT trend and operators across the country want to know what it takes to include gluten-free as an option for their customers, so I was thrilled to be asked to attend. Over 7,000 pizza operators attend this show annually to taste the latest, greatest ingredients, find new equipment, and attend educational sessions to learn how to make their business more successful. The energy at this show is over the top and the events are show stoppers. These operators are serious competitors, too. The contests happening right on the “All Pizza, All-of-the-Time Show Floor” included Bake Offs, Freestyle Acrobatic Dough Tossing, Pizza Challenges, and Demonstrations for pizzas, salads, and beer brewing. What an amazing experience.
My educational session, “How Pizzerias Can Serve a Gluten-Free Pie” included 3 panelists. As moderator and speaker, I provided education about serving diners with gluten-related disorders, the importance of training and safe preparation. My panelists, GREAT Kitchens grads (a training course from NFCA on safe gluten-free food preparation) Adam and Debbie Goldberg from Fresh Brothers, LA area, and Willy Olunds, from Willy O’s in Michigan, gave the attendees real life experience in serving gluten-free pizza. These experts gave different perspectives since Fresh Brothers has 8 locations and Willy O’s is an independent operation.
Willy invited me to tag along during his pizza competition in the non-traditional category. (No gluten-free category yet, but maybe next year.) According to Willy and his wife, Carla, this is highly irregular to allow non-participants in the competition area. I felt honored and so impressed with the intense passion each competitor brought to their pie including Willy. His unique corn-based crust and decadent ingredients made for a pretty impressive entry.
Other GREAT experiences included hanging out with the staff at Venice Bakery. (Their booth was amazing and so was the pizza!) I also sat in the front row and watched Iron Chef Redemption challenger Elizabeth Falkner demonstrate kale salad (crispy, fresh, and blanched kale) and actually met her after the demo. She’s really cool. I had some time to check out the exhibitors, so I said “hi” to old friends like Joel Schut from RW Bakers, Pamela and Alison from Pamela’s, and the DeIorio’s team. Best of all I made a new friend, Denise San Filippo (a fellow gluten-free gal) from Schar. Denise and I hit the strip one night and had a fabulous gluten-free dinner at Mon Ami Gabi in the Paris Hotel. From our window, we could see the Eiffel Tower and watch the Bellagio fountain show. (Sometimes this job is grueling!) Our waitress was well-educated about allergens and gluten which gave us confidence in our restaurant choice especially when she answered all of our probing questions correctly. She even brought us toasted gluten-free bread and warm olives for our starter. Denise had the scallops and I tried the Lemon Chicken with shallow Pom Frites. (Shallow means fried separately in a pan not a deep fryer.) It was delicious, especially the fried potatoes.
With every expo and conference I attend, I have the opportunity to meet new people and can’t help but feel ecstatic over the progress we’re making. 20 years ago, I thought I would never eat pizza again. Now, there are people seeking information on how to make both delicious and safe gluten-free pizza. And, to be able to be a part of that is a GREAT feeling.
I don’t know how many of you are like me but when I travel, I pack most of my food with me so that I know exactly what I am eating at all times. That usually means one suitcase full of food including my handy Magic Bullet for my morning gluten-free shake. But a few weeks ago, I was off to South Florida with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team and there was no room for all of my food. This made me a little nervous, but I knew that I could manage this trip because of all the additional knowledge I’ve gained from working with NFCA. Plus, everyone I would be meeting would be gluten-free, so how hard could it be?
The flight down wasn’t too bad since I had armed myself with ThinkThin bars (there’s always 2 in my bag) and bottled water. By the time I checked into the hotel, it was so late there was no need to eat. The next morning, I took another bar and water with me for breakfast and was off to visit a member of our Gluten-Free South Florida Group. We spent time talking and sharing our stories of diagnosis- guess who else travels with food? Isn’t it a great feeling when you realize you are not alone in your pursuit of gluten-free food and desire not to be cross-contaminated? It’s like a big hug from the world telling you it will all be okay.
Dinner worked out well that evening at Seasons 52, a restaurant that had a gluten-free menu. Even though they are a chain restaurant, I went with another member of the South Florida Gluten-Free Group who has eaten there many times and felt safe in her recommendation. Plus, I was starving!
The following day was literally a GREAT day. Alice Bast, NFCA’s Founder, was invited to speak at a country club in Gulfstream, Florida. They were trained by NFCA’s Gluten-Free Resource Education and Awareness Training (GREAT) Kitchens program, so the entire meal was gluten-free and I felt confident the chefs understood safe gluten-free food preparation. If any of you have heard Alice speak, you know that she is dynamic in her presentation and her passion for celiac and gluten-sensitivity radiates from her inner core. The crowd of more than 100 was in tune with gluten-free and more than half knew about celiac disease or are personally affected by this autoimmune disorder. They all had such amazing questions and were engaged throughout the evening. Most of the guests were also shocked at how delicious the gluten-free meal was and the flour-less chocolate torte was exquisite! It was so great to be surrounded by people who understood the need for safe (and tasty!) gluten-free food.
My final day, I visited with a doctor who has non-celiac gluten sensitivity. We met at his home where he made me a fabulous gluten-free grilled cheese on Udi’s bread. Oh, and truth- we split a gluten-free chocolate bar. After talking for three hours about all things gluten-free and NFCA, I had to go or I would have made myself at home for dinner.
Now what is it that I want you to take away from my trip south? I survived and thrived without a full suitcase of food. We have an amazing and inspirational community that I am fortunate to meet on my travels and in the Philadelphia region. All of you teach me something new in our conversations and emails. I leave tonight for overseas…with just 3 bags of gluten-free food. I’m not scared, I’m confident. But I wouldn’t be if I hadn’t found NFCA and the amazing gluten-free community. Thank you for giving me my wings back.
I’ve become quite an expert at traveling. As Director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA), I’ve visited over 25 cities and worked in a dozen or more states within three years (my latest NFCA trip was to Atlanta, Georgia two weeks ago for the KeHE Summer Selling Show). I can maneuver through airport security with ease and efficiency, flipping off shoes and jackets and pulling out bags of liquids and my laptop in seconds. And since I have celiac disease, traveling means “always being prepared and aware” so I’ve created a list of “must-haves” snacks, which airports have safe choices and how to find gluten-free friendly and not so friendly restaurants anywhere in the country. (I use the Find Me Gluten-Free app to sort out potential eateries. This is a dining locator not an endorsement of gluten-free options. You still need to investigate by reading the reviews, making a call and asking questions.) I’ve also had to be proactive and advocate for myself and others with gluten-related disorders when it comes to attending business dinners, conferences and events by identifying my dietary needs on conference registration forms, plus notifying event coordinators, hotel hospitality and general managers.
This is all part of trip preparation. It takes a bit more time but I always feel it’s important to be an advocate for not only myself but for all people with gluten-related disorders. And while I’m traveling around the country, I feel it is my job and honor to be the voice for people with celiac disease everywhere by spreading education, awareness and understanding. (You may not want to sit next to me on a plane…you’ll get an earful.) I have learned that if we don’t politely ask, people may not think our dietary needs are necessary. If we don’t carefully express our needs, many may not think there are any. If we don’t calmly mention the mistake, serves and restaurants will never know there is a problem. If we don’t ask if they have completed NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens gluten-free training program, restaurant operators, chefs and servers may not think they need it. But, if we remain patient and plant the seed, the growth will come.
Here is my list of must-have gluten-free snacks to take with me on the go:
- KIND bars
- Gluten-free crackers (If you keep these in a tin, they’re perfect for packing in a suitcase)
- Individual servings of hummus and nut butter
- Jerky sticks
- Cheese sticks
- Mix nuts, dried fruit, gluten-free pretzels or chocolate chips
- Go Picnic boxes (Not everything by Go Picnic is gluten-free, so be sure to check before purchasing)
I’m always looking for new travel-friendly gluten-free foods. Comment below with your go-to travel snack to give me some fresh ideas!
[As you know, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness staff members are big Phillies fans. So when one of our volunteers, Nadina Fraimow, told us she shared the same passion for sports, wellness and all things Phillies, we had to get her on board. Nadina will be sharing her gluten-free experiences as she follows the Phillies year-round.]
Healthy Times Ahead
A Phightin’ to Be Gluten-Free Blog
There are many reasons to love February, but Phillies Spring Training definitely tops the list. While the excitement of team changes, athlete updates and ticket sales resonate for fans, the Phillies pitchers, catchers and position players are preparing for Clearwater, Florida in one week. If healthy teammates translate into prospective wins, it is imperative the lineup stay off the injured list this season. Be-Lee-ve it, healthy times are ahead for Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and the rest of the Phightin’ Phils.
For those of us Phightin’ to be gluten-free, the food we eat determines how healthy our season will be. When it came to our wedding menu, my husband and I made no exception.
Criteria: Kosher, gluten-free and lactose-free menu that incorporates our favorite foods and fresh ingredients.
Vision: Beautiful presentation, delicious flavor and variety that is reflective of us and our enjoyment of healthy, delectable dishes.
Experience: Romantic, festive, memorable and a gourmet gluten-free culinary experience for our friends and family.
Our lineup for the big day included Jannette Axlerod of Food Designs and her chefs. They had prior experience safely cooking gluten-free for affairs and were a great addition to our Fraimow-Bronstein all-star team. Practices were rigorous with menu tastings, ingredient changes and creative food pairings.
Outcome: Grand slam! With the support of our strong, loving management team, we pulled-off a perfect win. Our playbook now includes new dishes that we can replicate for healthy, fun times ahead. Read below for a taste of our wedding bliss and ideas for your next party.
A sampling of Butlered Hors D’oeuvres:
- Tuna rumaki with wasabi on a gluten-free cracker
- Lox on a gluten-free cracker
- Cherry tomatoes stuffed with quinoa
- Sushi rolls
A sampling of Stations:
- Portabella bar
- Carving station, including oven roasted turkey and prime rib
- Spring vegetable soup with rice noodles
- Alternating strawberry kiwi and lemon sorbet
- Herb crusted baby lamp chops
- Grilled sea bass with mango salsa
- Vegetarian Napoleon
- Baby carrots and green asparagus
- Roasted russet potatoes
Nadina Fraimow began volunteering with the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) in April 2011. In January 2013, Nadina was conclusively diagnosed with celiac disease by one of the nation’s leading gastroenterologists. Prior to her diagnosis, Nadina was living gluten-free for over three years due to what was originally thought to be non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Nadina enjoys having fun in the kitchen and creating recipes that are both tasty and healthy with her husband. She is a Communications and Marketing professional living and working in Philadelphia. Nadina is also a proud Penn State alumna and an avid fan of the Phillies. She will be happy to answer messages sent to her attention at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following is a guest post by Dhanu Thiyagarajan, a student at University of Pittsburgh and founder of Gluten Free My Campus, the university’s gluten-free student group. Dhanu is also a Campus Ambassador for Udi’s Gluten Free Foods.
Being gluten-free is difficult, but being a gluten-free college student is even harder. I found this out the hard way – from experience. I came to University of Pittsburgh unaware of the city, college-life and, worst of all, where to get safe gluten-free food.
I did come under one assumption that turned out to be very wrong; I believed that there would be a gluten-free club. So many people are gluten-free and especially on a college campus in the city, how could there not be a gathered group of people who know the best gluten-free restaurants and the inside secrets? Once I got there, I realized this club didn’t exist and that scared me a lot. I wasn’t sure why there wouldn’t be a group on campus. Was I the only gluten-free student? Was finding gluten-free food so easy that there was no need for a special group or club?
I gave the situation some time, but finding gluten-free options was terribly difficult. This led me to think there couldn’t be any other gluten-free students, but statistically that made no sense. So, I decided to form the club myself. It didn’t exist, but it needed to. The university needed improvements and I needed help finding gluten-free options. I talked to the nutritionist and the chef at the dining hall (among other people) and found ways that I could connect with other gluten-free people on campus. I was able to engage roughly 10 people and set up a casual meeting.
The day of the meeting came, and I was so excited to meet these other people and talk about the struggles of being gluten-free on campus. To my dismay, nobody came. Not a single person. I figured they didn’t have any problems being gluten-free, and that this didn’t matter to them.
Thankfully, my parents and friends convinced me to try again, so I did. This time, fellow gluten-free students came to the meeting! I am so glad they convinced me to give it a second try, because now Pitt has a fantastic gluten-free club: Gluten Free My Campus!
Have you had a similar experience, or do you know a gluten-free student who did? I’d love to know what their experiences are like on other campuses!
The following is a guest post by Dhanu Thiyagarajan, a sophomore at University of Pittsburgh and founder of Gluten Free My Campus, the university’s gluten-free student group. Dhanu is studying bioengineering and hopes to go to medical school to become an OB/GYN doctor. She has been gluten-free since December 2010.
Applying to college is a hard decision on its own, but it’s even harder being a college student on a gluten-free diet. These are five things that I found to be really important regarding the gluten-free diet when applying to colleges.
- On-Campus DiningThe dining halls and areas on campus should have safe gluten-free options available for you. It is very important to know that those who are cooking your food know how important it is to avoid cross-contamination. If the college can’t offer this for you, make sure you can cancel your meal plan.
- Student Health CenterTalking to the dietitian is helpful, so they can help with your diet and can inform you accordingly of any updates regarding the gluten-free options on your campus. Make sure the health center accepts your insurance and can help you in case you get sick from accidental gluten ingestion or in general.
- Living in a DormIt is good to know what appliances are allowed in your dorm room. A fridge with a freezer is your best friend!
- Campus SupportHaving a gluten-free club on campus is wonderful because you know there is support on campus, and people to help you with this adjustment. Also, knowing if there is a decent amount of people on a gluten-free diet will allow you to be more confident that gluten-free living there is possible.
- Off-campus restaurantsSocializing with friends is a huge part of a college lifestyle and a lot of that is done during meals. It is good to make sure that there are restaurants around where you can go, eat and socialize safely.
Different people have different needs for college, so it is important to prioritize your needs and choose your colleges accordingly.
In July, I had two golden opportunities to celebrate the generosity of personal friends and friends of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA).
We all love a party but some of us are really good at throwing one of the biggest parties in town. Meet Chris Auman, a member of the NFCA Team who has worked on our events since the day she walked in the door years ago. Chris has been a huge part of the energy and organizational power behind Appetite for Awareness as this fun-and-food-filled event has grown from an intimate evening in a private home to the festival that we enjoy today.
Right now, Chris is organizing the Marketplace for Appetite for Awareness 2012 being held on September 23rd at the Historic Strawbridge Building at 8th & Markets Streets in Philadelphia. If you want to have loads of gluten-free fun, come on down. Chris will be ready for you.
On July 27th, we held a party of a different kind when we celebrated Chris’ birthday. Alice Bast, Chris and I headed to Cantina Feliz in Fort Washington where we enjoyed a delicious gluten-free Mexican meal. The gazpacho with watermelon, tomato, cucumber, a house specialty, was a big hit at the birthday table.
On Sunday, July 29th, I made my way from my home in Blue Bell, PA to the absolutely fascinating home of Jennifer and Ken Arters in Downingtown, PA. Jen was holding an in-home shopping spree benefiting NFCA. Featuring jewelry from Stella & Dot, along with fabric purses and bags of all kinds from Thirty-One, this trunk show was like Christmas in July, as far as I was concerned. Temptation was everywhere. Yes, I succumbed!
Jen prepared delicious gluten-free treats from tasty miniature meatballs to fabulous mini red velvet cupcakes. And, yes, I succumbed.
Jen and Kenny showcased these delightful gifts in their 1850s house lovingly being brought back to its former glory. Restoration is hard work designed for talented and skilled people with a passion for making things better. Jen and Kenny have an equal passion for raising awareness of celiac disease. All of us at NFCA are grateful for their spirit of volunteerism and their dedication to the celiac cause. You will see them at Appetite for Awareness – helping out, of course.
Last February, I received a random phone call on my NFCA line. It was a mother, Jenny Tierney, who seemed pretty devastated. Her teenage twin daughters had just been diagnosed with celiac disease. (All of the staff at NFCA answer all kinds of calls from newly diagnosed patients and others in the food industry or healthcare field. It’s a great opportunity to walk them through the resources available at CeliacCentral.org.)
After a review of NFCA’s resources, Jenny felt a bit better and she agreed that she could handle adapting to the gluten-free diet at home and working with the school, but her biggest fear was sending the girls off to camp. The girls had gone every year since they were very young to this amazing camp for most of the summer. The solution was easy. I shared information about GREAT Schools, Colleges, and Camps and suggested she have the camp contact me.
A month later, I received an email from a college girlfriend Sara, who lives near Kansas City. Sara told me about her neighbor, Kathy Dix. Kathy and Sara had been chatting, and the topic of gluten-free foods came up. Sara is always telling people about her gluten-free college pal and my job with NFCA. She thinks it’s amazing how 20 years ago when I was diagnosed with celiac disease, it was considered a rare disease and food availability was scarce. Over the years, Sara has referred me to anyone interested in anything about gluten-free. She also cuts out articles related to celiac disease and gluten-free from newspapers and magazines and sends them with a note saying, “Reminded me of you,” or “Hey isn’t this cool?” or “Wow, this gluten-free stuff is everywhere.” Gotta love her for it.
Well, it just so happens that Kathy needed gluten-free training for her camp. She’s the director of a girl’s camp in upper Minnesota called Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe. A conference call was set up to talk to the staff to understand their needs and how NFCA’s GREAT Camps program could help. On the call, I perceived the compassion and love the staff seemed to have for their mission at the camp, and how vested they were in giving all their campers a complete experience. They were ready to sign up and complete the course.
Toward the end of the conversation, they revealed that their interest in learning about gluten-free protocol for the camp staff had to do with twins that returned every year. These twins had been diagnosed with celiac disease recently, and Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe wanted to live up to its “Strong Spirited” name and ease the girls’ mother’s concerns about sending them to camp while they were still learning the gluten-free diet. Kathy’s goal was to ensure that these young women would continue their “growth in self esteem, deep seeded friendships, and memories to last a lifetime,” and the first step in achieving this goal was becoming GREAT trained, allowing the girls to continue their summer tradition of attending Camp Ogichi Daa Kwe.
Small world, isn’t it?
A few years ago, I caught wind of a place called Pure Tacos that serves incredible food – all gluten-free. It’s based right on the boardwalk in Ocean City, NJ, and has become a hit among the general population and those looking specifically for gluten-free eats. Now, the beachside stand has an urban outpost, with a new location that just opened in Center City Philadelphia.
Kristin and I were there for the soft opening (like a dress rehearsal) of Pure Tacos in Philadelphia, which gave us the chance to taste the tacos before anyone else. There, we met up with Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly and Claire Baker of So, What Can You Eat? and enjoyed a carefree, finger-licking, tortilla chip dipping meal.
What’s on the menu? First, there’s your usual chicken, bean and ground beef option. Then it kicks up with Cheeseburger and Chicken & Bacon Ranch. But it’s the Premium Flavors like Orange-Chili Fish, Chipotle Beef Brisket and – my surprise favorite – Seared Mushrooms, that draw in the crowds. Each of these include two tacos on corn tortillas (you can also opt to have them over salad, nachos or rice) and topped with things like sour cream, citrus guacamole, cilantro and homemade salsa.
Now, what about that gluten-free claim? Well, one of the co-founders has celiac disease, so they went to great strides to ensure a safe place to eat. There is no gluten allowed in the facilities; in fact, employees are instructed to eat the gluten-free food that is provided at Pure Tacos or go out to eat lunch. And as is standard for restaurants, employees must wash their hands before returning to work.
When you’re used to asking question after question at restaurants, it’s a relief to find a place where you can just order what you want. For it to be tasty and under $10? That’s gold. Our group gave nods of approval as we worked our way through the tacos, dripping salsa and all. We even shared a side of guacamole, which had a light, creamy texture and a flavor I still have yet to put my finger on. Whatever, it was good.
I’ve already recommended Pure Tacos to a few local friends, and I hope to see them at Appetite for Awareness this September. I’ll remind them to bring the guac.
Tickets to Appetite for Awareness 2012 are now available. Get Early Bird pricing »