Gluten-Free? Fancy That!
Last week, I rose at 5:30 a.m. and headed to Washington, DC, for The Fancy Food Show. The event gathers manufacturers, retailers and food-lovers alike, and with only 7 hours to consume as much information (and samples) as possible, there wasn’t a minute to spare.
Two swollen feet and a shopping bag full of info sheets later, I’m still recovering from the whirlwind. In addition to my favorites like Crunchmaster and Lucy’s Cookies, there were a number of new finds. Here’s the rundown on gluten-free surprises and stand-outs. Stay tuned to our Gluten-Free Hot Products blog next week for part 2: a round-up of what’s new from your favorite gluten-free companies.
Biggest Trend: Popcorn
Good old gluten-free kernels are moving up the ranks. Gourmet flavors, from hand-made caramel corn to organic Black Truffle and White Cheddar, have lifted popcorn out of its butter-slathered, overcooked slump. A word of caution, though: While popcorn is naturally gluten-free, the ingredients some companies mix it with (i.e. chocolate-covered pretzels) may not be.
Best Form of Hydration: MetroMint Water
With 2 floors of exhibition space, my tour up and down the aisles was more like a marathon than a stroll. Fortunately, there were plenty of drink samples to keep me hydrated. While I loved the new sodas that ditched caffeine and syrupy sweeteners for a lighter, more natural flavor, my favorite drink was MetroMint. The product is simply water infused with mint and fruit essences. I had the orange mint flavor, which was incredibly cooling and a welcome relief to my parched tongue. Plus, it’s naturally gluten-free.
Best New Flavor: Pink Grapefruit
My nose has fallen in love with the scent of pink grapefruit (it all started with hand soap), so I was curious whether my tongue would share the same affection. Ciao Bella makes a gelato flavor called Grapefruit Campari Sorbet, and it was delicious. Creamy yet light, and the perfect tartness for a summer treat. Unfortunately, it looks like the flavor is only available at gelato bars, not in store-bought pints. Here’s hoping it becomes more widely available soon. Note: Many flavors of gelato and sorbet are gluten-free, but there are risks of cross-contamination in facilities and shops that also handle gluten-containing foods.
Biggest Surprise: Bissinger’s Blueberry Acai Gummy Pandas
When I reached for a package of the Gummy Pandas, I half expected them to contain gluten. Fortunately, they said ‘gluten-free’ right on the label, and despite listing an allergen warning, the product has won rave reviews among gluten-free parents, according to the staff. Back at the office, I tore into the complimentary pack. Instantly, the room was filled with the smell of blueberries. The flavor was equally intense, like taking a big swig of blueberry acai juice. They’re the sophisticated gummy, fit for a kids party or society soiree.
Favorite Non-Food: Lunch Skins
Snack baggies – So convenient, but so not environmentally-friendly. According to the ladies at Lunch Skins, more than 20 million plastic baggies are dumped in landfills each day. These adorable snack bags are a way to reduce that imprint and look entirely stylish and sophisticated while doing so. The reusable bags are also a great way to distinguish your child’s gluten-free snacks from the rest.
Most Sinful Indulgence: Hot & Spicy Chocolates
Chocolate is seemingly innocuous, but add in some gourmet ingredients and suddenly gluten may be an issue. Fortunately, several vendors at Fancy Food reported their chocolates to be gluten-free. John Kelly Chocolates had a gorgeous display, including a line of spicy fudge made even more tempting when the booth attendant said it didn’t contain gluten. Being a fan of some kick, I opted for the hottest flavor they had: Dark Chocolate with Habanero & Jalapeno Chile. It was rich and delicious, with a delayed punch of heat. The tingle lingered long after I left the booth. Note: Ingredients may change, so call to ensure gluten-free status.
Most Creative T-Shirt: The Mediterranean Snack Food Company
OMG. It stands for “Oh My Gluten-Free,” and was emblazoned on a Mediterranean Snacks staff member’s shirt. Quite fittingly, it’s also what I thought when I tried the company’s Cracked Pepper Baked Lentil Chips. A light, crunchy texture, not the least bit mealy, and seasoned just enough to open your nose without hurting your sinuses. My shopping list just got bigger.
Best New Twist: Danielle Snacks
I’ve had plenty of dried apricots and banana chips, but Danielle Fruit and Veggie Chips take it to another level. The Divine Okra Chips were what immediately drew me to the booth. They were entire pods of okra, dried to a light crisp. My favorite, however, were Roasted Coconut Chips, which were real strips of coconut flesh, not the small flakes you buy at the grocery store. There were more flavors like Golden Durian and Sweet Jackfruit – I can only imagine the delicious results when blended together.
Best Dual Find: Flamous Falafel Chips
If the lentil chips didn’t tip you off, I’m always on the hunt new gluten-free snacks. The Fancy Food Show had a lot of them – hummus chips, plantain chips – and Flamous Falafel Chips were right up there. The chips are made organic corn and whole beans, then seasoned with everything from lemon grass to marjoram. It really tastes like an entire falafel in compact chip form. A unique taste and one that also caught the attention of NFCA volunteer Nadina. She blogged about it as her most recent gluten-free product find. Four thumbs up!
Most Variety: Seitenbacher Natural Foods
I had first heard about Seitenbacher when my dad tried some of their gluten-free samples at his local market. I bee-lined for their booth at Fancy Food and got the full rundown of their gluten-free products: soups, sauces, cereals, candies, energy bars – it’s a whole lot to explore. I took home a pack of their gluten-free Cherry Dolphins, which reminded me of Swedish Fish, but without the artificial taste.
Want to see more from the Fancy Food Show? Watch for Part 2 on GlutenFreeHotProducts.com next week.