Posts tagged ‘dining out’

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: Communication is Key

What an exciting time for GREAT Kitchens and gluten-free dining! I can truly say I just had the trip of a lifetime representing the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) on the GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chefs Table tour. Portland, Oregon and Seattle, Washington were my destinations and the food and conversation were both exceptional and intriguing. I had the pleasure to work along the side of GREAT Chef Ambassador Chef Jehangir Mehta who is a master with spices and showcasing gluten-free ingredients. My favorite dish that he prepared was… well, all of them. But if I had to narrow it down, the halibut with beets and fried onion ring was primo DELISH!

Halibut with gluten-free onion ring

If I could only pick one favorite, I think the halibut dish would be it.

As a true foodie, having the pleasure of tasting some extraordinary gluten-free meals prepared by some of the top chefs in the country was a thrill. In Portland, my favorite dish by Chef Naomi Pomeroy was the quince gallette and Chef Vitaly Paley’s icebox cake… crazy good. Plus, he made me banana bread for a special treat when we arrived for an early morning TV shoot.  How sweet is that?

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: Icebox Cake

This gluten-free icebox cake was to die for!

Chef John Howie’s tortilla soup’s spicy broth hit the spotand Chef Holly Smith’s cuttlefish ink risotto had such a mild fish flavor and striking presentation. What a contrast! These dishes celebrated fresh, local ingredients and honored key gluten-free ingredients like tapioca, chickpea flour, sorghum and infused flavors proving that gluten-free options should NOT be boring, bland tasting, or blah-looking – EVER!

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: cuttlefish

Perfectly delicious

All of the host chefs had a keen understanding of celiac disease and many had personal connections. Their interest was sparked by friends or family members that had a need for safe gluten-free meals which generated interest and intrigue in preparing their creations in a gluten-free manner to meet the same exceptional standard and quality as all of their offerings. During their presentations to the guests, they explained that when a “GF” request is made, serving gluten-free foods safely is always top of mind and caution in the kitchen is heightened.

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour Update from Portland & Seattle: Beckee Moreland

That’s me – talking about GREAT Kitchens.

However, I think the GREATest message from the tour was the importance of communication. GREAT Kitchens training emphasizes the importance of communication from taking the order to the serving of the plate. This is an important component in the training for the foodservice community to ensure safe preparation of gluten-free meals for our community. The training stresses continuous communication from host, server, manager, chef and server to get that order right with no mistakes along the way. But the communication doesn’t begin with the host greeting the guest; it really begins with the gluten-free diner. We really need to make our needs known and be clear to the restaurant and chef about what they are. People are eating gluten-free for all kinds of reasons from medical necessities such as celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’) or maybe other medical conditions, but it’s quite possible the diner is eating gluten-free for the perceived health benefit brought on by the gluten-free fad diet. This muddles the message that we need to ensure restaurants receive. Chefs have requests for all kinds of allergies, diets, substitutions, and even requests from plain old picky eaters.

When you go out to eat, make it clear. Communicate. Use NFCA’s Dining Tips Sheet as a guide. Say “I have celiac disease and I must eat gluten-free for my health. This is not a choice. Can you serve me safely?” See what sort of response you get – you might be pleasantly surprised.

How do you handle dining out gluten-free? What has your experience been like? Tell me in the comments section below or on NFCA’s Facebook page. The GREAT Kitchens Chef’s Table Tour stopped San Francisco today and we’re hitting Los Angeles on Wednesday, so be sure to check for updates on Facebook, Instagram or follow NFCA (@celiacawareness) and Chef Mehta (@jehangir_mehta) on Twitter. Be sure to search for the hashtags #GREATKitchens or #GFChefsTable!

Safe and delicious dining to you all!
- Beckee

November 11, 2013 at 4:46 pm Leave a comment

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community

After a wonderful kickoff in New York City, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ (NFCA) GREAT Kitchens team headed to Portland this week for the second leg of the Gluten-Free Chef’s Table tour.  Upon entering the city, Beckee Moreland, NFCA’s Director of Gluten-Free Industry Initiatives and Chef Ambassador Jehangir Mehta, were greeted with unseasonably warm weather and a full schedule of activities.

The first day began Monday, October 28 at the International Foodservice Editorial Council’s (IFEC) Annual Conference.  IFEC brings foodservice media, communicators and retail food product companies together to discuss food trends, what food topics will be written about in 2014 and provides companies with a chance to introduce their brand/product/service to some of the foodservice community’s most influential individuals.  As a part of the conference’s welcome reception, the GREAT Kitchens Chef’s Table Tour presented a delicious gluten-free dish, masterfully created by Chef Mehta, to attendees as they arrived.  The dish, an onion-seed shrimp wrap, proved to attendees that safe, gluten-free food can be complex, full of flavor, delicious and prepared properly with no cross-contact worries.

Guests from publications like Nation’s Restaurant News and Campus Dining Today stopped by the table to discuss the GREAT Kitchens gluten-free training program for both restaurants and universities, as well as the purpose of the educational tour. Also, organizations like the National Pork Board and brands like Chobani stopped by to discuss gluten-free options and recipes.  As NFCA engaged in ongoing conversations with media/organizations in Portland, the GREAT Kitchens team encountered that Portland restaurants/individuals have increasingly embraced serving customer’s dietary needs, including a booming interest in gluten-free offerings.  With that, the team set out to educate Portland restaurants/foodservice establishments on the need for proper gluten-free training to ensure that those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity have access to safe gluten-free options when dining out.

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Chef Jehangir Mehta speaking at IFEC

Chef Mehta explaining the importance of safe gluten-free food preparation.

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Shrimp

This shrimp was amazing!

On Tuesday, October 29, the GREAT Kitchens team headed to its first restaurant event, held at Beast in Portland.  Beast is owned by Naomi Pomeroy, a chef you may recognize from Top Chef Masters.  Chef Naomi opened her doors for a private luncheon specifically for Portland/national food and health media and bloggers, including Portland Monthly and the Portland Business Journal to name a few.  The luncheon began with a brief introduction to GREAT Kitchens and the NFCA before heading into a four course gluten-free meal, prepared exclusively for the group by Chef Naomi and Chef Jehangir.

The meal began with butternut squash velouté with fried herbs and creme fraiche created by Chef Naomi, followed by a delicious chicory and apple salad with a brown butter & sherry vinaigrette. While guests sampled their meal, Chef Mehta prepared a cumin red snapper with shishito, beet and a chickpea onion ring.  For individuals with celiac, often they go without food like onion rings because of ingredients and access to a dedicated fryer.  For this meal, Chef Jehangir created a dedicated frying pot and used a chickpea flour to make the batter gluten-free. For dessert, Chef Naomi created Quince and Frangipane Galette with lemon verbena ice cream. The full meal was a great opportunity to showcase to media that creating delicious gluten-free food does not mean you have to compromise on flavor or technique.  In addition, some of the best feedback that was received was how receptive attendees were to supporting NFCA’s mission of making safe gluten-free food for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity in Portland.

Throughout the meal, Chef Naomi and Chef Jehangir both went into detail about exchanging ingredients in their restaurants to serve a gluten-free customer safely. The event truly was a great success and provided the opportunity for media/bloggers in Portland to ask one-on-one questions about celiac disease and accessibility for gluten-free foods in restaurant and retail environments.

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Chefs Naomi Pomeroy and Jehangir Mehta at Beast

Chef Naomi Pomeroy and Chef Jehangir Mehta at “Beast”

The second event on Tuesday was a media/blogger event at Imperial by Vitaly Paley.  Chef Vitaly is very well-known in the Portland community, particularly because of his interest in keeping menu items truly farm-to-table, enabling the opportunity for guests to try new items based on seasonality or availability of produce.  National foodservice media such as Plate Magazine and Portland media/bloggers came out to celebrate and learn about the tour and indulge in a gluten-free tasting menu.  Chef Vitaly overdid himself but creating unique dishes like puffed sorghum (sourced from Bob’s Red Mill), a slow-braised veal and a delicious icebox cake.  Chef Vitaly also provided the group the unique opportunity to taste a limited offering of sorghum whiskey that he was commissioned to create earlier in the year.  The stop garnered more 20 guests, all of which are influencers in the Portland market. Chef Paley recently released a new menu with gluten-free menu items, as well as added a new grill that will remain free of gluten, and believes executing the proper training is the only way for staff to truly understand the proper protocols for serving the gluten-free guest.  It was a GREAT night!

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community:Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Chefs Paley and Mehta

Chef Vitaly Paley of Imperial and Chef Jehangir Mehta discussing gluten-free food preparation.

The two restaurant events were a huge success.  We look forward to reading the recaps of the evening in the blogs/publications in attendance.

October 30th started off with the opportunity for NFCA to participate in a KATU-TV segment that addresses the gluten-free diner in Portland.  Beckee Moreland talked to KATU’s Valerie Hurst about her experience as a gluten-free consumer at a restaurant and went through a menu, discussing questions she asks during a restaurant experience, including ingredients and kitchen protocols.  Chef Vitaly also participated in the segment, showcasing his gluten-free menu and sharing his thoughts on the importance of serving all customers in his restaurants, including those with dietary restrictions or celiac disease.

The last event we participated in was a trip to Portland State University.  With students and the foodservice staff equally excited for gluten-free options, Chef Mehta cooked alongside Chef Matt Kemp from PSU. Jehangir created a shrimp wrap that was a huge hit by students, who lined up outside his station beginning at 11:00 a.m., with some grabbing 2-3 for their plate.  While on campus, the NFCA team had the opportunity to speak with Portland State students with celiac disease and were excited to hear the strides that Portland State are taking to serve these student’s needs.  With a “worry-free” station that includes gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free items, students are given the opportunity to have safe, gluten-free dishes.  Although a limited selection according to students, the university is making strides in increasing its offerings and the staff is passionate about being accommodating to all students. We look forward to the opportunity to work with Portland State in the future through our GREAT Kitchens training program.

Portland: A Booming Foodie Community: Chefs Kemp and Mehta

Chef Matt Kemp of Portland State University preparing gluten-free dishes for the PSU students with Chef Mehta.

Overall, Portland was a great example of a city taking the right steps in serving the gluten-free consumer, including businesses like Petunia’s and Tula’s, two gluten-free bakeries that NFCA visited while in the city. With dedicated bakeries and other restaurants increasing gluten-free offerings, NFCA found that Portland is in the forefront of making the necessary steps to increase options for people living with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

On to the next stop: Seattle!

- The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour team

P.S. Follow the tour on Facebook or by following the hashtags #GREATKitchens or #GFChefsTable on Twitter.  We’re posting lots of photos from the road on Instagram, too!

November 5, 2013 at 9:48 am Leave a comment

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour: Stop #1 at Mehtaphor in New York City

The GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour has officially started! The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) kicked off the tour at Chef Jehangir Mehta’s New York City restaurant, Mehtaphor, yesterday afternoon.

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour: Stop #1 at Mehtaphor in New York City: Arriving at Mehtaphor

Arriving at Mehtaphor

Gluten-free bloggers, food bloggers and reporters from the New York area came out to enjoy a 100% gluten-free lunch with us at Mehtaphor. And while I was excited to eat all of Chef Mehta’s gluten-free dishes (which, by the way, were fabulous), I was even more excited to have the opportunity to talk about the need for safe gluten-free food preparation. We even proved one of my favorite points – gluten-free does not mean taste free! There were no gluten-free bread or pasta substitutes on the menu, but rather Chef Mehta focused on serving a Mediterranean-style meal that left everyone completely satisfied (quite to the surprise of some of the attendees!). If ever there was a perfect meal to satisfy gluten-free and non-gluten-free eaters, this meal was it.

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour: Stop #1 at Mehtaphor in New York City : Dessert

The best way to describe Chef Mehta’s dessert… wow!

While we enjoyed Chef Mehta’s dishes, we all had the chance to chat about celiac disease and the medical aspect behind the gluten-free diet. Most of the attendees had some sort of connection to celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (‘gluten sensitivity’). Some had a deep understanding of gluten-related disorders while others were still learning, which made for an incredibly diverse conversation. If there’s one thing I love, it’s raising awareness of an autoimmune disease that is still vastly underdiagnosed.

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour: Stop #1 at Mehtaphor in New York City: Chef Mehta and Alice Bast

Me and Chef Mehta before the event kicked off

I have to admit, I was truly touched by the interest of the folks who attended yesterday’s luncheon. Sure, there was delicious gluten-free food to enjoy, but everyone was genuinely interested in learning about celiac disease and the GREAT Kitchens program. They wanted to understand why this online gluten-free training program exists and how much of a difference training makes for people living with celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders. Everyone was engaged with the program, asked a lot of questions and, to put it simply, they cared.

Chef Mehta explaining gluten-free

Chef Mehta did an amazing job of explaining why safe gluten-free cooking is a must for our community!

To all those who attended the luncheon – thank you so much for recognizing the need for people living with gluten-related disorders to have access to not just gluten-free meals, but meals that are safe and free from cross-contamination.

Today, Chef Mehta and I hung out at New York University (NYU) to serve gluten-free dishes to students in the Weinstein Dining Hall. There are some photos from the event on NFCA’s Instagram account you can check out now. Keep an eye on the blog for more updates from today’s stop and the rest of the tour. If you are on Twitter, follow NFCA (@CeliacAwareness) and Chef Mehta (@jehangir_mehta) to get the play-by-play of the tour. You can follow me as well at @abast. We’re using the hashtags #GREATKitchens and #GFChefsTable, so feel free to jump in the conversation!

- Alice

P.S. You can find more pictures from the tour on NFCA’s Facebook page.  We’ll be updating the album at each stop on the tour.

October 24, 2013 at 3:57 pm Leave a comment

GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour – Coming to a City Near You!

Alice BastThe National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) is proud to call Chef Jehangir Mehta, a finalist on the popular Next Iron Chef series, a partner in creating safe gluten-free options in restaurants so people living with gluten-related disorders can eat without fear.

NFCA team members and Chef Mehta will be taking NFCA’s online gluten-free cooking program on the road over the next six months. Introducing the GREAT Kitchens Gluten-Free Chef’s Table Tour! The tour will cover 10 cities with the goal of educating chefs nationwide on the need for gluten-free menu items that go beyond just using gluten-free ingredients. It is amazing to see gluten-free options popping up on menus across the country, but unless restaurants are educated on the importance of safe gluten-free food preparation, our community cannot dine safely.

Many things have changed in the 20+ years that I have been diagnosed with celiac disease. When I was diagnosed, gluten-free food was not even available in the U.S. Today, we have access to a wide range of gluten-free food, but the next step on our journey is ensuring all gluten-free food is safe for our community. A gluten-free diet is the only treatment for people living with celiac disease; there are currently no pills, vaccines or cures for celiac disease. Research is taking us closer, but for now, we have to ensure the people living with this autoimmune disease can have access to the food that is our only medicine.

It has been 10 years since NFCA first opened its doors and set out on its mission to raise celiac disease awareness and improve the quality of life for those on a lifelong gluten-free diet. In that time, I have met many chefs and foodservice industry professionals eager to understand celiac disease, the gluten-free diet and our need for food to be free from gluten-containing ingredients and the gluten that can enter our food through cross-contact (commonly referred to as cross-contamination by the gluten-free community). These professionals are eager to accommodate their guests, but first they have to know training and resources are available to help.

NFCA’s GREAT Kitchens program gives restaurant employees from the wait staff to the chefs the tools they need to serve safe gluten-free food. Our ten city tour will help spread GREAT Kitchens logo the message that for the 3 million Americans living with celiac disease, a gluten-free diet is not a fad, but the only way to restore their health and reclaim their lives. Ranging from cities like New York, Chicago and San Francisco, we will be working with executive chefs in some of the best restaurants – complete with gluten-free cooking demonstrations, of course!

Stay tuned as we start the journey at Chef Mehta’s Tribeca restaurant, Mehtaphor on Tuesday, October 22.  Follow the tour by liking NFCA’s Facebook page and following NFCA on Twitter (@CeliacAwareness) and Instagram (@CeliacCentral).  Chef Mehta will also be live tweeting from the road.  Follow him at @jehangir_mehta.

To our GREAT health,
Alice

October 18, 2013 at 4:51 pm Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour & GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to NOLA

I knew when the Mardi Gras parade came down the main aisle of the exhibit hall with the band playing Dixieland and masked characters throwing beads that this was not going to be your typical food show. With lots of revelry and champagne, the 60th “Toast to Talent” Louisiana Restaurant Show was a full three days of fun, southern hospitality and amazing aromas and tastes. Fortunately, my husband Dave and son Cole agreed to come along. Since we are all in the foodservice business, we could learn a few things at the show and explore the city together at night.

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour & GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to New Orleans: Toast to Talent Poster

Louisiana Restaurant Association Show 2013

When Sandy Riddle, Louisiana Restaurant Association (LRA) Exhibitors, called to invite me to speak at the LRA show this year I was so excited, but a bit sad too. I hadn’t been to New Orleans (NOLA) since my 20’s, before my celiac disease diagnosis (or as I like to call it “pre-CD”). I remembered all the amazing food like gumbo, etouffee, jambalaya and beignets, which of course all contain gluten, and all but the beignets contain roux. (Roux is a mixture of flour and butter cooked together until bubbly and brown. The desired color depends on what you are preparing and sometimes it can take a good long time of stirring and waiting to get the perfect color and taste.) But I was hopeful that I would find some new flavors and gluten-free foods while exploring the city.

I’ve met some really nice people at various shows across the US and always enjoy that first day when I’m able to meet fellow vendors setting up in the same aisle. It’s also a good time to check out which spots will have safe food choices when you need a nibble to keep up the energy and pass the time. Luckily, I happened to be smack dab next to one of the most popular exhibitors, Your Way Cuisines, a gluten-free roux company. Kristie Buford and her husband Chad are brand new to the gluten-free industry and saw a need and decided to fill it. They have created two roux bases made from corn and sorghum and they’re delicious. I have not had gumbo in 20 years and the gumbo they prepared with their product was full-flavored with a nice, smooth back heat.

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour & GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to New Orleans: Beckee Moreland at GREAT Kitchens Booth

That’s me! I truly love getting restaurants to understand safe gluten-free food preparation through the GREAT Kitchens program.

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour & GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to New Orleans: Presentation Poster

Speaking at expos like the LRA Show are amazing opportunities to raise awareness of celiac disease and the reason so many of us need gluten-free options.

Evenings consisted of strolls through the French Quarters from Bourbon Street to the Riverwalk. We tried to get the full NOLA experience, a concert at Preservation Hall, a ghost tour, shopping and people-watching on Bourbon Street.

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour & GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to New Orleans: Ghost Tour

The start of the ghost tour – spooky!

Of course my guys had to find the bar, “Spirits” from the TV show Bar Rescue and purchase some kind of voodoo potion.  We did find some tremendous restaurants that offered gluten-free options. Red fish was a popular entrée at many spots especially at Redfish Grill. The chicken with jambalaya risotto was succulent and spicy at Bourbon House and the service was impeccable. We really loved the music, atmosphere and Caribbean flavors at Rum House in the Garden District.

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour and GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to NOLA: Dave and Cole with Spirits

My husband Dave and son Cole at “Spirits,” enjoying their “voodoo” potions.

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour & GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to New Orleans: Dave and Cole

Dave and Cole

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour & GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to New Orleans: Concert at Preservation Hall

The Concert at Preservation Hall

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour & GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to New Orleans: Tacos and Black Beans

Gluten-free tacos and black beans. Yum!

By day, I enjoyed meeting many of the chefs and restaurateurs from some of the famous and well-known establishments. We talked a great deal about the increasing demand and requests for gluten-free options, and how GREAT Kitchens, an online training course from NFCA, would be a valuable tool for staff to learn about safe preparation. When I was able to take a break from the exhibit, I found some tremendous booths showing off their gluten-free spice blends and recipes to create Cajun cuisine so I’m looking forward to putting my samples to good use. But by the end of the week, I was feeling a bit crabby; swampy heat can take its toll on a woman from Nebraska! NOLA certainly delivered new flavors, new recipes and new friends – even on a gluten-free diet.

Gluten-Free Gumbo, a Ghost Tour & GREAT Kitchens: My Trip to New Orleans: Beckee and the Giant Crab

By the end of the trip, I was a tad crabby…pun intended.

- Beckee

September 4, 2013 at 11:00 pm Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Food for the Soul

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!

Liddy Lindsay's Art Studio

Liddy Lindsay’s Art Studio

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.

Group Photo

NFCA Founder Alice Bast (center) with her daughter Linnea (left) and artist Liddy Lindsay (right)

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!)

Gluten-Free Food for the Soul: Nanny Vogt and Alex

Nanny Vogt and her guest Alex at the event.

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.

- Kim

April 30, 2013 at 5:45 pm Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style

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.

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style: Gluten-Free Pizza in Oven

Gluten-free pizza has certainly come a long way in the past 20 years!

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.

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style: Willy O

Willy O himself with his delicious corn-based gluten-free pizza.

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.

Elizabeth Falkner

Iron Chef Redemption challenger Elizabeth Falkner doing her kale demonstration.

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.

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style: Venice Bakery

Me and the Venice Bakery Team

Gluten-Free Pizza: Las Vegas Style: Beckee and Joel

Me and Joel from RW Bakery

Eiffel Tower

Our view from our gluten-free-friendly restaurant.

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.

- Beckee

April 15, 2013 at 12:48 pm Leave a comment

Gluten-Free, Miami and Me

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.

- Kimberly

March 18, 2013 at 11:48 am Leave a comment

Traveling Gluten-Free: What I’ve Learned in 3 Years

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.

Gluten-Free Travel: Udi's Gluten-Free Products at the KeHE Show

Udi’s Gluten-Free had lots of products on display at the KeHE Show.

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.

Gluten-Free Travel: Enjoy Life Staff

Enjoy Life staff were at the KeHE Show too.

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
  • Fruit
  • 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)
Gluten-Free Travel: Poster Cut Out with Park Jae-sang

Did I mention I “meet” some interesting characters on my gluten-free travels?

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!

- Beckee

February 25, 2013 at 4:55 pm 2 comments

Healthy Times Ahead

[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.

Nadina and Michael wedding photo

Jennifer Childress Photography

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.

Tuna rumaki with wasabi on pineapple and lox on gluten-free rice cracker.

Tuna rumaki with wasabi on pineapple and lox on gluten-free rice cracker. (We paired the tuna with a gluten-free rice cracker for our wedding day.)

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

 First Course:

  • Spring vegetable soup with rice noodles

Intermezzo:

  • Alternating strawberry kiwi and lemon sorbet

Entrees:

  • Herb crusted baby lamp chops
  • Grilled sea bass with mango salsa
  • Vegetarian Napoleon

Accompaniments:

  • Baby carrots and green asparagus
  • Roasted russet potatoes
Herb crusted baby lamp chops, accompanied with baby carrots, green asparagus and roasted russet potatoes

Herb crusted baby lamp chops, accompanied with baby carrots, green asparagus and roasted russet potatoes – Jennifer Childress Photography

Grilled sea bass with mango salsa, accompanied by baby carrots, green asparagus and roasted russet potatoes

Grilled sea bass with mango salsa, accompanied by baby carrots, green asparagus and roasted russet potatoes – Jennifer Childress Photography

About Nadina:

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 info@celiaccentral.org.

February 7, 2013 at 3:46 pm 1 comment

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