Posts tagged ‘events’

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

Snapshot of the 15th International Celiac Disease Symposium

Last month several members of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) team participated in the 15th International Celiac Disease Symposium (ICDS), the most comprehensive celiac disease meeting in the world. Held September 22-25, 2013, in Chicago, ICDS was a whirlwind conference with a chance to meet with NFCA’s distinguished Scientific/Medical Advisory Council and catch up with fellow colleagues from all walks of the celiac disease field. We also enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and, finally, put faces to names of individuals we regularly work with remotely.

In her October 2013 newsletter note, NFCA President Alice Bast shared some highlights from NFCA’s experience at ICDS 2013. But this was just a sneak peek! Some of our NFCA staff have compiled an informal list of discussion topics and statistics that resonated the most. To give you an idea of individual interests, we’ve categorized the meeting highlights by staff member.

Head to NFCA’s Research News Feed on CeliacCentral.org to get all the highlights!

- Kristin

October 14, 2013 at 1:04 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

Be Well Philly Bootcamp – The Gluten-Free Way!

It’s summertime and lots of women are thinking about how we look and, after that, how we feel. On Saturday, June 8th, Philadelphia magazine hosted their annual Be Well Philly Boot Camp at the well-equipped Recreation Center on the campus of Drexel University. The goal was to motivate, educate, and empower women to get healthy and fit.

And, did they ever!

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) was there to participate and cheer everyone on! After all, our mission is based on empowerment and education.

The 500 gals attending this amazing event checked out all manner of health and fitness items. Penn and Drexel medical teams were there with health tips and on-site screening. There were cooking demos hourly and delicious food sampling, plus group fitness classes — Zumba, yoga, and spinning. If learning how to climb a rock wall is on your bucket list, this was the place to be. Some attendees even grabbed a massage!

And, there was a chance to talk to the experts. All during the day, there were panel discussions on a wide variety of subjects from advice about the right running shoes to how to have more energy. Representing NFCA, I joined a panel called “Gluten Free Guide”. Our moderator, Cass Bailey from Slice Communications, has celiac disease and has embraced the gluten-free diet. Joining me on the panel were Michael Savett, publisher of the Gluten Free Philly blog, and Jennifer Fugo of the Gluten Free School.

It was fascinating! The audience had great questions and was eager to learn the “ins and outs” of the gluten-free diet. Plus, there was real interest in what celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders are all about. We talked about the difference between celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), along with getting tested and what to look for in restaurants as you begin the gluten-free journey. Getting family members tested was an important point for a number of audience members having relatives with celiac disease.

The big question was… “Is it a diet fad, a real medical issue or just a good thing to practice?” This panel did a great job of making sure everyone left with an understanding that there is such a thing as a medically necessary gluten-free diet. For real!

The overall point of the story is that there is no time like right now to start paying more attention to your health. No kidding, it actually does boil down to exercise and diet — perhaps a gluten-free diet!

- Nancy

June 12, 2013 at 9:15 am 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

A Great Gluten-Free Day!

Two northwestern sections of Philadelphia were jumpin’ on Saturday, January 26th.  Weavers Way, the fabulous community owned co-op that has made a name for itself in the Philadelphia region, held its annual Gluten-Free Day from 12 until 4 p.m.

This year, the savvy folks at Weavers Way expanded the event to include both their Chestnut Hill and Mt. Airy stores.  Bettina de Caumette, Outreach Coordinator at Weavers Way, put the day together to everyone’s delight.  Frigid weather aside, the day seemed just right to explore the wonderful world of gluten-free goodies.

A Great Gluten-Free Day: Bettine de Caumette, Weavers Way Outreach Coordinator

Thank you Bettina for putting together such an amazing day!

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) was on hand in both locations to discuss the gluten-free diet and to go beyond that to the underlying need for this special approach to the menu: celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders.

The NFCA team was pleased and proud to have two long-time, stalwart and extremely knowledgeable volunteers distribute literature and answer shoppers’ questions. Becky Lownes Urbano  returned to the post she manned last year in Chestnut Hill.  Annsley Klehr took a brisk walk from home to spread the word in Mt. Airy.  Tema Esberg, a new member of the NFCA volunteer team, joined Becky in Chestnut Hill.

A Great Gluten-Free Day: Becky Urbano, NFCA Volunteer

Big thanks to Becky and all of NFCA’s volunteers for supporting us in raising celiac disease awareness!

Chestnut Hill store manager Dean Stefano and Mt. Airy store manager Rick Spalek each donated an enormous basket of gluten-free products for a raffle benefiting NFCA. One lucky winner from each store went home with a bounty of delicious treats that will have them trying out new items and enjoying old favorites. For our part, NFCA is grateful for the donation that will go toward our educational programs.

On a normal Saturday, about 1,100 people pass through the doors of Weavers Way in Chestnut Hill. That number swells significantly on Gluten-Free Day and this year was no exception. I don’t know how many came to the Mt. Airy store but it certainly was a steady stream of eager shoppers, many with questions about gluten-free food and celiac disease.

In short, it was great!  The NFCA team is looking forward to Gluten-Free Day 2014 at Weavers Way!

- Nancy

February 4, 2013 at 4:55 pm Leave a comment

Gluten-Free Campus Carnival: A Success Story

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.

October 16, 2012 was a great day for Gluten Free My Campus, University of Pittsburgh’s Gluten Free club. With tons of planning since the month of May, the club was able to host a wonderful Gluten-Free Awareness Carnival for the entire UPitt campus. The carnival consisted of more than 20 gluten-free related companies/organizations either in attendance or providing materials, and several gluten-free related carnival games for the students to enjoy while learning what gluten-free means! Between learning about various gluten-free companies, gaining gluten-free knowledge from the games, enjoying the free food and earning raffle tickets for our wonderful raffle prizes, the carnival was a great success with more than 500 Pitt students and faculty in attendance.

Gluten Free My Campus Carnival

The officers of Gluten Free My Campus

Planning started with brainstorming a list of companies and organizations on and off campus that we thought would enjoy being a part of our event and would help our goal to spread awareness – and of course, those companies have great gluten-free options! After contacting all of these companies/organizations, we got many replies and of course some rejections as well. It was a great honor to have all of these companies trusting a club on a college campus to host this kind of event, and we were glad to build contacts with such people, too. Susannah Faulkner from Udi’s Gluten-Free Foods was also a great contact who put us in contact with several other gluten-free companies that helped us out greatly.

Gluten-Free Carnival on UPitt Campus

Our first Gluten-Free Awareness Carnival was a big success!

This event could have not been such a great success without the support of other campus organizations and the members of the club. Getting companies to attend is one very important aspect, but getting people to come and enjoy the carnival is the biggest and most important part of this kind of event. We were able to get many organizations and companies to post our carnival’s flyer on their website along with local companies posting the flyer in their stores. We also posted flyers all over UPitt’s campus and had club members spread the word in person and through texting. We also had a Facebook event inviting much of Pitt’s campus. We had many campus organizations helping us out, specifically Sigma Gamma Gamma, a service sorority that provided us with most of the volunteers needed for the event.

Gluten-Free Carnival Prizes

Thank you to all the companies that donated prizes for our raffle!

For the future, we hope to expand our array of companies/organizations, and of course increase our attendance by spreading the word even more! With the support of these companies, campus organizations and of course all of our attendees, we were able to host our first Gluten-Free Awareness Carnival of hopefully many, and it was a great success. This was a day that Gluten Free My Campus will never forget!

- Dhanu

November 14, 2012 at 8:40 am 1 comment

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