Monday, May 24, 2010

Gluten-Free information for the restaurant industry

The National Restaurant Association is meeting in Chicago right now and one of the big topics of discussion is gluten-free menus.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, a Philadelphia-based organization that promotes awareness of celiac disease nationwide, is sponsoring a gluten-free pavilion where about 30 gluten-free food makers are showing their products. That means the "tens of thousands" of attendees, all of whom are connected to the restaurant business, will get a chance to see what's available in gluten-free form. The NFCA says industry representatives can learn about everything from testing and menu investigation to gluten-free flour options.

The NFCA also conducted an educational session on Sunday, "Gluten-Free:Easy as ABCDE." The session was designed to dispel myths in the restaurant industry that gluten-free is a fad and that it is difficult to offer gluten-free options.

The panel for the session included Anne Roland Lee, MS, RD, director of food and nutritional services for Schar, USA, a gluten-free food maker; Jim McCurley, chef for PF Chang's China Bistro; Doug Radi, vice president of marketing for Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery, which will begin selling several types of gluten-free bread in July; Tom Herndon, owner and chef of Hipp Kitchen and Full Fridge; and Richard J. Coopedge Jr., a gluten-free baking expert from the Culinary Institute of America.

Gluten-Free Living has an interview with Chef Coopedge in our upcoming issue and Anne Lee writes a recurring column on nutrition for us.

Kelly Courson, well-known for her long-running blog, Celiac Chicks, is attending the show as a online media representative for the NFCA. She is posting photos and updates on Twitter and on her website. NFCA is also using Twitter to post continual updates from the show. Here are some highlights so far.

  • P.F. Chang's sales are up 130% since the launch of the gluten-free beef menu.
  • The loyalty of the gluten-free consumer is unprecedented, according to
  • It only takes 1/8 teaspoon of flour to damage the intestine of someone with
    celiac disease, Lee said.
  • Evidence builds trust and celiac trust build your business, Herndon

Hopefully, all the restaurant owners are taking notes and thinking about ways they can safely serve gluten-free customers. We have seen a lot of improvement in gluten-free dining in the last few years, thanks to efforts by the NFCA, the Gluten Intolerance Groups and others. Kudos also go to individuals who asked local restaurant owners and chefs to offer gluten-free items. But we still have a long way to go before those who follow the gluten-free diet feel safe and comfortable getting a gluten-free meal at any restaurant they visit.

My daughter, who has celiac disease, has had good luck and bad at both chain and individually owned restaurants. We had superb service at a Bahama Breeze outside Disney in Florida, as well as at the Moroccan restaurant in Epcot. We had a very diligent waitress at an individually owned restaurant in the town where she goes to college who checked menu items and let my daughter know there was unsuspected soy sauce in a chicken dish.

But not long ago one chain restaurant with a gluten-free menu assured her a Reese's peanut butter cup dessert was gluten-free. One bite revealed that the peanut butter cup had a cookie base. When my daughter eats in a restaurant the thing she appreciates most is a server who either knows what they are talking about when it comes to the gluten-free diet or double checks and asks the chef all the questions she asks about a particular menu item.

The NFCA on Twitter asked what is the one thing restaurants should know about serving gluten-free diners. I would say making simple changes, like using soy sauce that does not contain wheat, would create many new options for those who are gluten free.

What would you say?


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Fairway Market

I have been in a grumbling kind of mood about New York…the Times Square incident, the ridiculous taxes and our embarrassing accidental governor. But then something amazing happens and I think “wow” this is a great place to live.

This big “happening” was the grand opening of Fairway in Pelham Manor, NY. Fairway is this colossuses of a market with a huge organic produce section, the greatest fresh pickles, unparalled ethic selections, gourmet prepared foods, a fantastic butcher, fabulous fish and good prices. I did not allow myself enough time to fully explore the store.

The way they organized the grocery section was also a bit unusual. A center aisle divided traditional grocery selections from ethnic and organic selections. Any ex-pat missing foods from home should visit Fairway…I picked up Wine Gums, which are the most delicious gummy candy from the UK.

When I saw this arrangement, I held out hope that there might be a gluten-free section and Fairway did not disappoint. There was a large freezer area with the most diverse selection of gluten-free food I have ever seen under one roof.

There was also a huge selection of crackers, cookies, pretzels, snack foods and pasta in a grocery section that ironically was displayed next to the organic dog food. But, I digress, in all reality I don’t care what gluten-free food sits next to on a store shelf, if I can reduce my grocery store shopping to one stop per week, that is thrilling.

I am picky about my meat, fish, dairy and produce. I cook a lot of meals and I want fresh, unprocessed food. Pickiness plus food issues means that grocery store shopping is a multi-stop process and who has time for that? Fairway is a little out of my way, but for the first time ever there is a store that could be my true “one-stop-shop” market. For a working mom, that’s a fabulous gift.

Kendall Egan

Friday, May 14, 2010


All this time…all those bologna sandwiches…if I had only known about Sunbutter.

My celiac has two children in his grade with life threatening peanut allergies so peanut butter has been largely discouraged as a lunch item for the brown bag set. If a kid has celiac disease, pretty much every day is a brown bag day!

When I sit back and think about all the processed cold cuts he has consumed in his kindergarten through fifth grade experience, it makes me kind of ill. I have even gone out of my way to purchase the purest, nitrate free variety, but still. When I think about all those days when the pantry was under stocked, and I couldn’t resort to a PB & J, I caused much unhappiness by packing a dreaded yogurt instead of a sandwich. Even with the ice pack, a yogurt is runny and gross by lunch hour.

All this time, a great peanut-free, tree nut-free and gluten-free alternative was right there! Sunbutter is a sunflower seed spread that smells just like peanut butter. It doesn’t taste great straight from the jar the way peanut butter does, but it tastes great on bread with jelly!

I packed my celiac a sunbutter and jelly sandwich yesterday and he loved it. He was concerned because it does smell so much like peanut butter but he just told his friends what it is.

Learn more at Finally, a pantry staple for those in-between grocery shopping days when I am scrambling to put together a palatable, allergen-free, processed meat-free brown bag lunch.

Kendall Egan