2018 Great American Beer Festival Gluten-Free Beer Winners

This year’s Great American Beer Festival in Denver saw a record number of entries in the gluten-free beer category, with several fresh faces and a perennial favorite atop the list.

Though the world’s largest commercial beer competition in the world is now in its 37th year, the Gluten-Free Beer category was added only in 2007, when there were only eight entries. For the 2018 event, 38 gluten-free beers were considered by the judging panel. Here are the three award winners:

Gold

High Hops Brewery’s Puckerberry Ale

Windsor, Colorado

A first-time category winner, High Hops Brewery impressed the judges with a kettle-styled Gose.made with millet and buckwheat. The addition of blackberries imparts the beer with a slight tartness. Head brewer Zach Weakland created Puckerberry Ale so that his wife and mother-in-law, who are gluten intolerant, could enjoy gluten-free beer.

While the 6-year-old High Hops also produces traditional beers on the same lines and equipment, a special rinse and wash is used before production of Puckerberry Ale. In addition, the grains are milled off site at a gluten-free malt house.

Puckerberry Ale currently is available at the brewery’s taproom, located about an hour north of Denver, and at several bars throughout Colorado, but Weakland is planning on packaging it for wider distribution.


Silver

Aurochs Brewing Company’s Blonde Ale

Emsworth, Pennsylvania

Another newcomer, Aurochs Brewing, took second place for its light and citrusy Blonde Ale. Brewed with millet and quinoa, the beer has tropical notes of melon, banana, papaya, pineapple and lemon.

Aurochs is an all-gluten-free brewery founded by two longtime friends, Doug Foster and Ryan Bove, who are on medically necessary gluten-free diets. Their Pittsburgh-area taproom offers Blonde Ale along with several other beer styles. Bottled versions of the Blonde Ale are sold through Western and Eastern Pennsylvania.


Bronze

Ground Breaker Brewing’s Dark Ale

Portland, Oregon

For their Dark Ale, Ground Breaker’s brewmasters use espresso-like roasted chestnuts and lentils along with Belgian-style candi for a roasty flavor and aroma with notes of chocolate and dark fruits. This is the seventh consecutive year that Ground Breaker has medaled at the Festival, though its first two awards came under its former name, Harvester Brewing. The Dark Ale was awarded a gold medal at the GABF in 2016 and 2017.

Ground Breaker offers its beers at the Portland gastropub next to its brewery on an all-gluten-free menu that features the likes of pizza, smoked brisket sandwiches and cashew custard pie. Outside of Oregon, Ground Breaker beers are distributed elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest as well as in New England, California and western Canada. The Dark Ale and other varieties are
also sold online through Bring on the Beer to residents of 33 states and the District of Columbia.

The festival’s Gluten-Free Beer category includes only beers made from fermentable sugars, grains and converted carbohydrates. Gluten-reduced beers are not considered part of this grouping because their gluten levels – derived from malted barley – have been reduced by enzymes or other processes.

Looking for more gluten-free beer suggestions? Download our FREE 7-page book filled with flavor profile, food pairing and distribution information for more than 65 gluten-free brews!

Gluten-Free Beer Roundup

The chances of finding a gluten-free beer other than Redbridge at your favorite restaurant, neighborhood beer shop or big-league ballpark have grown in recent years thanks to the boom in craft breweries. And there’s no end in sight: The global gluten-free beer market is expected to increase at a compound annual rate of 17 percent between 2018 and 2022, according to a recent industry report.

Other than Anheuser-Busch InBev’s widely available Redbridge, which has been sold since 2006, other gluten-free efforts by larger beer companies, such as Coors Peak and Dogfish Head’s Tweason’ale, have been discontinued. Instead, the gluten-free beer market primarily is supported by microbreweries, which produce fewer than 15,000 barrels a year, and even smaller nanobreweries, which manufacture several thousand or fewer barrels annually. (See sidebar for a list of bottled and canned gluten-free beers sold throughout the United States and Canada.)

From the Pacific Northwest

Americans comprise the largest group of gluten-free beer drinkers in the world—a 45 percent share, reports market research firm Technavio. Much of the gluten-free beer production in the United States is concentrated west of the Mississippi; Oregon alone is the home to four gluten-free breweries. The oldest and most acclaimed of the group is Portland’s Ground Breaker Brewing, whose beers are certified gluten free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization. Opened in 2011 as the first dedicated gluten-free brewery in the country, Ground Breaker has medaled at the prestigious Great American Beer Festival every year since 2012, with its Dark Ale winning gold in the gluten-free beer category in 2014, 2016 and 2017. Dark Ale is one of Ground Breaker’s four year-round beers, though the brewery is also known for seasonal and experimental varieties, such as Imperial Darkness and Cascadian Dark Ale. (Many are available for online ordering.) Ground Breaker’s beers are distinctive for the use of locally grown roasted chestnuts and lentils. The brewery also runs an adjacent all-gluten-free gastropub, offering the likes of pork belly tacos, pizzas, sandwiches and brownie sundaes.

Portland is also home to two-year-old Moonshrimp Brewing, whose owner, Dan McIntosh-Tolle, has celiac. Moonshrimp has three permanent brews in its portfolio: a hop-forward India pale ale (IPA), a dark ale and a lighter white ale. Moonshrimp also offers a seasonal Dubbel-style beer produced in collaboration with Bierly Brewing, another small gluten-free brewery in Oregon. Bierly itself bottles a fine Bohemian pilsner called Felix.

An hour southwest of Portland is Evasion Brewing, whose core bottled beers include an IPA, stout and blonde ale and a seasonal Belgian dark strong ale brewed for autumn. Other styles, like Peanut Butter Vibes stout and Commit to the Funk farmhouse ale, are served at Evasion’s taproom in McMinnville. Evasion’s offerings are not made with sorghum—a mainstay of many gluten-free beers—but, instead, with rice and millet.

Oregon isn’t the only state in the Pacific Northwest that’s home to a gluten-free brewery. In Seattle, Ghostfish Brewing Company produces some of the most unconventional beers around—the limited-release Ghost Pepper Saison and Gosefish Hibiscus-Cranberry Gose, for example. Ghostfish’s flagship craft beers include traditional and grapefruit IPAs, an American pale ale and a Belgian white ale. Its Meteor Shower Blonde Ale, brewed with malted millet, California-grown brown rice and Noble German Perle hops (adding a light bitterness and floral aroma), won a silver medal at last year’s Great American Beer Festival. Like Ground Breaker, Ghostfish also has a taproom and entirely gluten-free gastropub in its hometown, though its beers are also sold in five other states, British Columbia and online.

Between the coasts

Other out-of-the-ordinary gluten-free beers come from Burning Brothers Brewing, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. The dedicated brewery, which distributes throughout its home state as well as in Wisconsin and North Dakota, gives the summer seasonal category an unusual twist with its “PARCHED” Lime Shandy and counts a roasted coffee ale among its year-round beers.

Brewing in smaller batches allows dedicated gluten-free breweries like ALT Brew of Madison, Wisconsin, the flexibility to offer a more diverse range of beer styles. ALT Brew bottles a Kölsch, a light top-fermented German beer that’s a rarity in the gluten-free beer space, as well as several ales year-round. (The brewery’s winter seasonal Ravenswood Imperial Brown Ale was among the best-tasting beers sampled for this story.)

In Golden, Colorado, Karen Hertz started Holidaily Brewing Company in 2016 in the shadow of the mighty Coors after discovering she was gluten intolerant. Holidaily, which has a taproom and sells its beer in restaurants and stores throughout the Centennial State, started out canning a blonde ale and IPA but has since branched out with varieties such as the Blue Moon-like Buckwit Belgian wit-style ale.

In the Northeast

The northeast U.S. also is seeing growth in gluten-free brewing. Pittsburgh’s Aurochs Brewing Company, founded by two friends who avoid gluten for medical reasons, recently expanded distribution of its flagship blonde ale and Session IPA into the Philadelphia region. Several breweries, like Departed Soles in Jersey City, New Jersey, and Ipswich Ale Brewery in Ipswich, Massachusetts (north of Boston), brew both gluten-free and traditional beers, though they implement cleaning protocols prior to producing their gluten-free varieties. Departed Soles won a bronze medal for its gluten-free dark ale, A Dark Night, in the 2016 World Beer Cup. Ipswich Ale’s Celia Saison (reminiscent of Hoegaarden) won top honors at the 2010 event.

Brews from abroad

While most of the gluten-free beers in the U.S. are made domestically, a few imported brands have made inroads. Glutenberg, which was founded in Montreal in 2010, distributes its beers in 24 states as well as all of Canada and even parts of Europe. The brewery has won five medals at the biennial World Beer Cup, including top honors in the gluten-free beer category for its IPA in 2016. Glutenberg’s newest styles are a year-round witbier and a seasonal stout, which was popular among our taste-testing panel.

Another World Beer Cup winner is Green’s, whose gluten-free beers are brewed in Belgium. In 2004, the Enterprise Dry-Hopped Lager and Endeavour Dubbel Ale were awarded gold and silver, respectively. Green’s uses a combination of millet, sorghum, buckwheat and rice in all five of its beers.

*Top pick of the tasting team

Want information and tips for eating out gluten free? Visit our Eating Out section!

8 Lip-Smacking Gluten-Free Beer Alternatives

GF beer alternatives featured image

Beer is the drink of choice for many football fans—but not everyone enjoys the taste. If you’re not a beer drinker, check out these gluten-free alternatives to savor during the Big Game on Sunday.

Hard sodas

The hottest area of growth at the moment is the rise of “hard” sodas. While many of the popular alcoholic root
beers include barley malt, there are several that pass muster for those on a gluten-free diet. Louisiana’s Abita
Brewing Company offers an alcoholic version of its famous root beer. It’s the first product in the brewery’s line
of Bayou Bootlegger hard sodas and can be found primarily east of the Mississippi River. The flavor profile
delivers aromas of wintergreen, vanilla and sassafras, with hints of clove and anise.

Root Sellers’ Row Hard Root Beer
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Root Sellers’ Pedal Hard Ginger Beer

Root Sellers, based in Missouri with distribution
concentrated in the Midwest and New England,
brews its Row Hard Root Beer without grains.
Row Hard is made with pure cane sugar, molasses, spices and botanicals. The brewery
also produces gluten-free Pedal Hard Ginger
Beer, brewed with ginger root, molasses and
cane sugar.

Combining fruits and vegetables, the brewery’s Himmel & Erde Carrot Apple Ale presents another gluten-free beverage option. Based on a German dish with potatoes and applesauce, the ale is made from fermented carrot juice and added sweetener that is part apple juice.

Hard sparkling water

For a lighter fizz, look for gluten-free “hard” sparkling waters such as those from Truly Spiked & Sparkling
and SpikedSeltzer. Distribution for both brands is rapidly expanding beyond the companies’ New England
bases into the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic states.

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Boston Beer, the producer of gluten-free
Angry Orchard alcoholic ciders, introduced
its Truly brand in April 2016. This spiked
sparkling water with a hint of fruit is an
alternative to light beer, especially for
those seeking something refreshing
made with simple ingredients and no
artificial flavors or sweeteners. Truly’s
three flavors—Colima lime, grapefruit
and pomelo, and pomegranate—are
100 calories per 12-ounce serving and
have 2 grams of carbohydrates.

 

 

SpikedSeltzer's four varieties. Photo by Edward Garrity for SpikedSeltzer.
SpikedSeltzer’s four varieties. Photo by Edward Garrity for SpikedSeltzer.

The first hard seltzer brand, SpikedSeltzer
launched in 2013 and is available in four
flavors: West Indies Lime, Indian River
Grapefruit, Valencia Orange, and Cape Cod
Cranberry. The alcohol in SpikedSeltzer is
derived from cold-brewed sugar, resulting in
a low-carb, low-calorie drink. Even Oprah is
a fan, featuring it as The Find in the June 2016
issue of her O magazine on account of its
refreshing, fruity and just-sweet-enough taste.

 

 

 

 

 

Mead

While obscure, mead is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks in existence. Also known as honey wine, mead is
created by fermenting honey with water and, unless grains are added (a variety known as braggot), it is gluten
free. Like wine, mead can be dry or sweet, still or sparkling.

Photo by Kerry Trusewicz
B. Nektar Tuco-Style Freakout. Photo by Kerry Trusewicz.

Mead makers, which number fewer than
200 in the U.S. (compared to more than
6,000 wineries), tend to focus on local or
regional distribution given their size.
B. Nektar in Michigan, which opened its
doors on National Mead Day (who knew!)
in 2008, produces several varieties of mead
with fun labels and names, including Zombies
Take Manhattan, Kill All the Golfers and Dragons
Are Real. Give one a try for National Mead Day
on August 6!

 

 

 

 

Vodka

The producer of the famed Stolichnaya vodka released a completely new gluten-free recipe to meet the
needs of consumers. Made with 88% corn and 12% buckwheat, Stoli Gluten Free is available nationwide.
The vodka is labeled “gluten free” pursuant to the U.S. government’s labeling classification, which requires
alcoholic beverages to be made with naturally gluten-free ingredients.

Titos-FRAME

Tito’s vodka, produced at the oldest distillery
in Texas, is made with corn instead of potatoes
and certified gluten free by the Gluten
Intolerance Group. According to founder and
owner Tito Beveridge, “some producers add a
little bit of mash back into the spirit after
distillation, which would add gluten content into
an otherwise gluten-free distillate [if using wheat
as the base], but I don’t do that regardless.”
Made in batches using old-fashioned pot stills,
Tito’s has grown exponentially since the first
case was sold in 1997 and is now one of the
best-selling vodkas in the U.S.

 

Jersey Mike’s Gluten-Free Sub Rolls ‘Shore’ to Please

Jersey Mike's gluten-free roll

After receiving positive reviews in several test markets, sandwich chain Jersey Mike’s Subs is introducing gluten-free sub rolls at all 1,300-plus U.S. locations beginning Dec. 4. Jersey Mike’s will be using Udi’s Gluten Free rolls nationwide after testing them in stores in California, Colorado and Florida. The Gluten Free Philly blog first reported news of the planned roll-out. The Udi’s rolls were chosen over another company’s gluten-free par-baked rolls that were tested earlier this year in other markets like Philadelphia, New Jersey and North Carolina. Jersey Mike’s currently has locations in 44 states and Washington, D.C.

“The idea of offering gluten-free rolls came from a franchisee whose daughter had celiac disease,” explained Michael Manzo, Jersey Mike’s Chief Operating Officer. “Before going national, we decided to try a pilot in several markets and we are happy to report success: customers loved the taste and they were excited to be able to eat a Jersey Mike’s sub sandwich again—or for the very first time.”

According to Manzo, the company is in the process of training employees on how to incorporate the new product into sandwich preparation. The rolls arrive at each store individually wrapped and fully baked. Manzo says there is little risk of cross-contamination with other subs because the Udi’s packaging is not opened until the gluten-free sub is ordered. Employees will change gloves before handling the rolls and use knives and other utensils that haven’t touched traditional bread when slicing the gluten-free version. They will also prepare each sandwich on parchment paper to avoid contact with the counter. Manzo said that the company is working with the Gluten Intolerance Group to obtain certification.

The gluten-free sub roll can be used for most hot or cold subs on Jersey Mike’s menu because the majority of sandwich varieties don’t contain gluten. Giant-size sandwiches made with the Udi’s roll will cost $3 to $4 extra, with a regular-size offering (made on a giant roll that has been cut down with a clean knife) an estimated $1 to $2 more.

Gluten-Free Dining Halls

High school juniors and seniors following a gluten-free diet not only need to consider traditional factors when researching college options but also each school’s ability to provide safe, hassle-free dining. Several institutions of higher learning in the United States provide seamless opportunities for students to eat in gluten free at their dining halls. Beyond that, four universities have gone one step further by creating dedicated gluten-free dining halls.

Cornell University

Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, began converting its Risley Dining Room to an entirely gluten-free eatery two years ago, said Michele Lefebvre, Cornell’s director of nutrition management. Initially, small changes were made, like replacing lo mein with rice noodles and gluten-free tamari in lieu of wheat-laden soy sauce, according to Chef Manager Kevin Grant. Then polenta was used for pizza bases and pasta was phased out in favor of flavor-forward options such as huevos rancheros and roasted cauliflower graffiti, said Grant. In fall 2016, the school removed gluten from baked goods and items prepared in the grill area, substituting treats like gluten-free apple pie, banana cheesecake and Black Forest cake. Grant also launched new concepts for tostadas and smashburgers—patties made with beef and vegetables served on arugula with house-made aioli.

Cornell brought in one of its alumna, Amy Fothergill, to train the kitchen staff and develop a grand-opening menu comprised of gluten-free recipes from her cookbook, The Warm Kitchen. Fothergill, who also pens a popular gluten-free cooking blog, said she was thrilled to help the school formally launch the gluten-free dining hall in January 2017. “There was an amazing amount of energy in the room,” she enthused. “What was interesting was that not everyone was there because the food was gluten free. They were there because the food was good.”

Risley’s official change-over to its dedicated gluten-free status coincided with a formal certification from Kitchens With Confidence, said Lefebvre, adding that the dining hall is also entirely peanut and tree-nut free.

Kent State University

Ohio’s Kent State University become the first university in the country to feature an entirely gluten-free dining hall on campus in fall 2016. The school restructured Prentice Café after administrators noticed a yearly increase in the number of students arriving on campus with gluten-related dietary restrictions.

“It’s important for students who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance to be able to have a safe location where they can go eat and not have to worry,” explained Megan Brzuski, Kent State’s dining services dietitian. “There are many different menu items and options available for students to choose from at Prentice Café.” In addition to every item being gluten free, the menu also features a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes. For breakfast, students can choose from omelets, pancakes and French toast. Dinner options include flatbread pizzas, chicken tenders and grilled cheese sandwiches. Prentice Café earned its certification from the Gluten-Free Food Services Certification Program, a food safety program offered by the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America.

Liberty University

Liberty University, which has offered a Simple Servings allergen-free station at its highly ranked Reber-Thomas Dining Hall food court for several years, has expanded its distribution of gluten-free baked goods throughout the Lynchburg, Virginia, campus, including retail outlets and catered events. A dedicated gluten-free bakery on campus produces more than 100 different items, from muffins, coffee cakes and cereal bars to brownies, cookies and flourless chocolate cakes. “The response from the student body—those with and without a gluten intolerance—has been incredible,” said district manager Anthony Delligatti.

Penn State

This fall, Penn State University is set to open its first kosher and allergen-free kitchen on its main campus. At Pure, food will be served buffet-style on disposable dinnerware to prevent cross-contamination, and no outside food or drinks will be permitted.

 

Jersey Mike’s Subs Is On a Gluten-Free Roll!

Jersey Mike’s, the rapidly growing sandwich-shop chain, is looking to broaden its customer base by offering gluten-free rolls.

 

Jersey MikesPhiladelphians call their long, stacked sandwiches “hoagies.” Maybe you know them as “grinders” or “heroes.” At the Jersey Shore, where Jersey Mike’s started in 1971, they’re “subs.” Whatever the name, the rapidly growing sandwich-shop chain, with 1,200 stores in 44 states, is looking to broaden its customer base by offering gluten-free sandwich rolls.

In 2014, Jersey Mike’s began testing gluten-free rolls made by Udi’s at locations in southern Florida and, more recently, in Los Angeles, said Michael Manzo, the company’s Chief Operating Officer. This month, Jersey Mike’s expanded its pilot program to 63 stores in New Jersey and the New York and Philadelphia metropolitan areas using rolls made by Colorado’s gluten-free Wild Flour Bakery. That test is slated to run through April 2017.

“We hear from former sub lovers who are now gluten free that they miss their Jersey Mike’s subs as well as from those who have never eaten a sub sandwich,” said Jersey Mike’s President Hoyt Jones. Manzo added that the idea of offering gluten-free rolls came from a franchisee whose daughter has celiac disease.

While Manzo has been encouraged by customer response to the Udi’s test, he said that Jersey’s Mike’s CEO, Peter Cancro, pushed the company’s development team to pursue a bread that they could bake in the stores themselves. Wild Flour’s yeast-raised Tuscan Herb sandwich rolls, unique to Jersey Mike’s, arrive as dough and are proofed and baked fresh each day. The gluten-free roll size is equivalent to a traditional mini size, according to Manzo. There is a $2 surcharge for the gluten-free option.

The restaurants have dedicated pans for baking the rolls, and store employees wear new gloves when handling the rolls and use knives and other utensils that haven’t touched other bread products when slicing the gluten-free rolls. The gluten-free sandwiches are prepared on parchment paper so that there is no contact with the prep-area counter. Customers can request that toppings such as lettuce, tomatoes and onions be taken from stock in the stores’ walk-in refrigerators. Manzo said that the absence of loose flour in the stores’ kitchens and the custom slicing of cold cuts, all of which are gluten free, boosted the company’s confidence to offer sandwiches to those with celiac disease.

According to Manzo, company executives will evaluate sales data, customer comments and employee feedback during the testing phase and determine whether to offer a gluten-free roll option beyond the current regions. If the program is expanded, he said, it would likely be on a state-by-state basis rather than an immediate nationwide rollout.

 

 

Gluten-free beers shine at annual festival

 

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For Ground Breaker Brewing, the second Saturday in October was a dark day. That’s when the Portland gluten-free brewery was awarded a gold medal for its Dark Ale at the 2016 Great American Beer Festival in Denver, the largest commercial beer competition in the world. While the popular event is now in its 35th year, the Gluten-Free Beer category was added only nine years ago. Since then, the number of entrants in the sector has grown significantly—
this year 37 beers were submitted for consideration, up from eight in 2007. Here are the top three award winners:

 

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Ground Breaker’s Dark Ale

For their Dark Ale, Ground Breaker’s brewmasters use espresso-like roasted chestnuts
and lentils along with dark Belgian-style candi for a roasty flavor and aroma with notes of chocolate and dark fruits.

This is the fifth year in a row Ground Breaker has medaled at the Festival, though its first two awards came under a different name. Previously known as Harvester Brewing, the brewery changed its name to avoid a dispute with a California winery several years ago.

Ground Breaker offers its beers at the Portland gastropub next to its brewery on an all-gluten-free menu that features the likes of smoked brisket sandwiches, BLTs and peach-almond sticky buns with sweet corn ice cream. Outside of Oregon, Ground Breaker beers are distributed elsewhere in the Pacific Northwest as well as in New England and California. The Dark Ale and other varieties are available online to 36 states.

 

ALT Brew Copperhead framed

ALT Brew’s Copperhead Copper Ale

Wisconsin’s ALT Brew—previously Greenview Brewing—made its first appearance on the winners list this year, taking a silver medal for its Copperhead Copper Ale. The ale, brewed with roasted millet, is one of
three available at the brewery’s taproom in Madison.

According to its website, ALT Brew is hand-crafted one barrel at a time
and made entirely from gluten-free ingredients on equipment solely
dedicated to gluten-free production. When brewmaster Trevor Easton’s
wife was diagnosed with a gluten intolerance, they could no longer share
their love of beer in the same way. Finding that the available gluten-free
options did not hold up to the quality of craft beers—and that it was no
fun to raise a beer alone—Trevor began developing a gluten-free recipe
that would live up to the expectations of craft beer lovers.

 

Grapefruit framedGhostfish Brewing Company’s Grapefruit IPA

For the second year in a row, the festival judges bestowed a bronze medal upon Seattle’s Ghostfish Brewing Company for its Grapefruit IPA. This beer is crafted with grapefruit peel and bitter Washington state hops.

Ghostfish Brewing Company aims to elevate gluten-free beer to the forefront
of craft brewing innovation, according to its website. All three of its founders
are either gluten intolerant themselves or have loved ones who are, so they are acutely aware of the need for variety and flavor in gluten-free craft beers.

All of Ghostfish’s beers are sold at its gluten-free taproom, where the menu
also includes pizza, fish and chips, and ice cream sandwiches. The beers are
also available at retailers throughout Washington. Eight of the company’s beers, including the award-winning India Pale Ale, can be ordered online and shipped
to 28 states plus the District of Columbia.

 

What about gluten-reduced beer?

The festival’s Gluten-Free Beer category includes only beers made from fermentable sugars, grains and converted carbohydrates. Gluten-reduced beers are not considered part of this grouping because their gluten levels—derived from malted barley—have been reduced by enzymes or other processes.

 

Celiac Drug Moves Into Trial Stage

A drug to treat celiac disease moved closer to reality with the announcement that it will be tested in a large clinical trial later this year.

Innovate Biopharmaceuticals has announced that a compound known as larazotide acetate, or INN-202, will be tested in a Phase 3 clinical trial, the first time a celiac disease drug has gotten this far in the approval process.

Larazotide acetate has the potential to become the first approved medicine to treat celiac disease and has been granted “Fast Track” designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The medicine is not intended to allow those with celiac disease to knowingly consume foods containing gluten. Instead it works with the gluten-free diet to prevent so-called “leaky gut” syndrome in cases of incidental cross-contamination.

celiac diseaseLarazotide acetate belongs to a class of drugs called tight junction regulators. Tight junctions, which are located in the bowel, should remain closed except to shed dead cells. However, in patients with celiac disease, the presence of gluten causes the tight junctions to remain open. This starts an inflammatory cascade within the bowel that eventually destroys the absorbing lining, called the intestinal villa.

Early research suggests larazotide acetate may help keep the tight junctions closed when taken prior to a meal, thus reducing the inflammatory process in response to gluten.

In the Phase 3 clinical trial, the drug will be given to large groups of people to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used treatments, and collect information that will allow it to be used safely. If Phase 3 is completed successfully, Innovate can request approval from the FDA for marketing the drug.

According to the FDA the length of the study in this phase can last anywhere from one year to four years. If the trial shows that the drug is safe and effective for its intended use, Innovate can apply for marketing approval. From that point the FDA has 6 to 10 months to make a decision whether to approve the drug.

“There is a huge demand for adjunctive therapies from the celiac patient community, and I am happy to see larazotide acetate moving ahead with what will be the first Phase 3 trials ever conducted in celiac disease,” said Daniel A. Leffler, M.D., director of research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Alba Therapeutics, which conducted the initial research and development of the drug, previously known as AT-101, recently licensed the additional clinical testing and future distribution rights to Innovate.

—Michael Savett

New Sweet & Salty Gluten-Free Treats

The popular taste combination of sweet and salty continues to inspire food manufacturers to satisfy customers’ cravings, particularly when it comes to gluten-free products.

Perhaps the most hotly anticipated gluten-free candy of the year is the Best in Show award winner at the 2016 Sweets & Snacks Expo: Hershey’s Reese’s Pieces Peanut Butter Cup. This delightful confection combines the legendary peanut butter cup with miniature Reese’s Pieces.

DoveCapitalizing on the gluten-free trend, Hershey’s Brookside line has introduced Yogurt Flavored Fruit & Nut Bars made with fruit, nuts and seeds atop a yogurt-flavored cream. The bars come in three varieties: Cranberry Blueberry with Citrus, Vanilla Fig and Mango Pineapple.

For candy lovers who prefer another popular brand of chocolate, Dove offers its new bite-sized Chocolate Fruit & Nut snacks, available in Strawberry & Cocoa Almond, Blueberry & Vanilla Cashew and Raspberry & Honey Roasted Almond.

General Mills, long a proponent of foods for the gluten-free community, has launched Larabar Bites. The truffle-like bites, sold in the nutrition bar aisle, are made with six ingredients or less, including dates, fair-trade chocolate chips, almonds and coconut flour. Varieties include Chocolate Macaroon, Mint Chocolate Truffle, Double Chocolate Brownie and Cherry Chocolate Chip.

-Michael Savett 

All-Inclusive Resorts Include Gluten-Free Guests

 

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For gluten-free travelers, a vacation that doesn’t require extensive research to find accommodating restaurants at their destination may sound like a dream. But a growing number of all-inclusive resorts are making it a reality by catering to gluten-free guests.

At all-inclusive resorts, visitors pay one price for unlimited food, drinks and activities, without having to set foot outside the retreat.

The most familiar names among these resorts are family-friendly Beaches, with locations in Jamaica and Turks & Caicos, and couples-only Sandals in St. Lucia, Antigua and four other Caribbean islands. Each resort has more than half-a-dozen themed restaurants, which offer meals ranging from Southwestern tapas to pan-Asian cuisine.

Paul Bauer, group manager for food and beverage standards at Sandals Resorts International, the parent company of Beaches and Sandals, says virtually any dish can be made gluten free, including breads, pizzas, pastas and desserts. He notes that the menus at each resort’s restaurant have icons indicating which items are gluten free, and service staff members are trained to ask guests if they have any food allergies or special dietary requirements before taking orders.

Beyond that, Beaches and Sandals resorts offer culinary concierges, with whom guests may meet in a private, one-to-one consultation to discuss any food allergies or dietary concerns.

“They can peruse all restaurant menus and choose specific dishes to make allergen free as well as make special arrangements for the next day or entire length of stay,” Bauer says. “Those needs and preferences are communicated to managers and sous chefs directly to ensure that no information is missed.” He also points out that separate preparation areas and utensils are used to prevent cross-contact with gluten-containing ingredients.

With notice in advance of a guest’s stay, the resorts can also order specific items such as gluten-free beer, which is not readily available in the Caribbean.

Mexico’s all-inclusive Grand Velas Resorts also offer menus with gluten-free options. Seven restaurants at Grand Velas Riviera Maya serve gluten-free dishes, each marked on the restaurants’ regular menus, while all gourmet restaurants at Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit have gluten-free icons that guests can identify while dining.

Both resorts have several AAA Four Diamond-rated restaurants on site. For guests who choose to order room service, the resorts’ chefs can make the necessary accommodations for gluten-free diets.

At Grand Velas Riviera Maya gluten-free pancakes, waffles, muffins, cereal and bread loaves are offered, says Executive Chef Eric de Maeyer. Food stations throughout the resort have gluten-free hamburger buns, pizza crusts and French fries available daily, and the food service staff uses dedicated cookware and utensils to prepare gluten-free foods in a separate processing area, he says.

After a guest who is checking in advises the front desk of a gluten-free need, the information is entered into Grand Velas’ computer system. When that guest provides his or her room number to the restaurant the staff is automatically notified of the requirement, according to de Maeyer.

Guests staying at one of Wyndham Viva’s seven all-inclusive resorts in the Dominican Republic, Mexico and the Bahamas can contact a guest service representative two weeks before arrival to request gluten-free options. The representative will notify the resort’s specialty restaurants of the dietary requirement and advise the chef at the main buffet restaurant so that gluten-free choices are on hand.

A Gluten-Free Fairy Tale

Drug to Treat Celiac Disease Gets Closer

 

drug to treat celiac diseaseA drug to treat celiac disease moved closer to reality with the announcement that it will be tested in a large clinical trial later this year.

Innovate Biopharmaceuticals has announced that a compound known as larazotide acetate or INN-202 will be tested in a Phase 3 clinical trial, the first time a celiac disease drug has gotten this far in the approval process.

Larazotide acetate has the potential to become the first approved medicine to treat celiac disease and has been granted “Fast Track” designation from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The medicine is not intended to allow those with celiac disease to knowingly consume foods containing gluten. Instead, it works with the gluten-free diet to prevent so-called “leaky gut” syndrome in cases of incidental cross-contamination.

Larazotide acetate belongs to a class of drugs called tight junction regulators. Tight junctions, which are located in the bowel, should remain closed except to shed dead cells. However, in patients with celiac disease, the presence of gluten causes the tight junctions to remain open. This starts an inflammatory cascade within the bowel that eventually destroys the absorbing lining, called the intestinal villa.

Early research suggests larazotide acetate may help keep the tight junctions closed when taken prior to a meal, thus reducing the inflammatory process in response to gluten.

In the Phase 3 clinical trial, the drug will be given to large groups of people to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used treatments and collect information that will allow it to be used safely. If Phase 3 is completed successfully, Innovate can request approval from the FDA for marketing the drug.

According to the FDA, the length of the study in this phase can last anywhere from one year to four years. If the trial shows that the drug is safe and effective for its intended use, Innovate can apply for marketing approval. From that point, the FDA has six to 10 months to make a decision whether to approve the drug.

“There is a huge demand for adjunctive therapies from the celiac patient community, and I am happy to see larazotide acetate moving ahead with what will be the first Phase 3 trials ever conducted in celiac disease,” said Daniel A. Leffler, M.D., director of research at the Celiac Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston.

Alba Therapeutics, which conducted the initial research and development of the drug, previously known as AT-101, recently licensed the additional clinical testing and future distribution rights to Innovate.

Michael Savett is a frequent contributor to Gluten-Free Living. He blogs at glutenfreephilly.com.

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Archway Launching Gluten-Free Cookies

gluten-free cookies Archway Sugar
Archway, one of America’s oldest cookie manufacturers, is launching two varieties of gluten-free cookies.

The company  will enter the gluten-free marketplace next month with a nationwide roll out of two gluten-free cookies in  its Cookie Chips line: Sugar Cookie and Chocolate Chip.

The cookies, which are certified gluten free by the Gluten Intolerance Group, are Archway’s first gluten-free products. The company, which was founded in 1936, is best known for its soft oatmeal cookies and distinctive red packaging.

Both gluten-free cookies are crispy and styled like wafers. A serving of the Sugar Cookies, which consists of eight cookies, has 140 calories and 5 grams of total fat. A seven-cookie portion of the Chocolate Chip version has 150 calories and 6 grams of total fat.

Although Archway’s Coconut Macaroons are not made with any gluten-containing ingredients, they are not designated gluten free by the company. This may be because the company has not verified the gluten-free status of the ingredients or because of cross-contamination.

Archway is owned by Snyder’s-Lance, which recently focused on expanding its brands’ gluten-free offerings. This includes a variety of Snyder’s gluten-free pretzels, Lance gluten-free, mini-peanut-butter and cheese sandwich crackers and Cape Cod snack chips.

Gluten-free Honey Bunches of Oats Chocolate

cereals labeled gluten free

Post has just introduced Honey Bunches of Oats Chocolate, joining the growing number of mainstream cereals labeled gluten free.

The cereal is made with oats that are mechanically processed, a growing trend in the gluten-free cereal market prompted by Food and Drug Administration rules. FDA labeling rules allow the use of oats as long as the finished food contains less than 20 parts per million of gluten, the standard applied to any gluten-free product.

This new cereal is the first gluten-free variety within the Honey Bunches of Oats family. According to a Post representative, the company purchases oats from a grower who carefully monitors the growing, harvesting and processing of the oats to prevent gluten cross-contamination. The oats are certified through NSF International’s gluten-free certification program.

“Our grower uses the cleanest incoming raw oat shipments, which are then processed through a dedicated series of mechanical and optical sorters to isolate and eliminate any non-oat grains,” she said. “The resulting pure oat stream is milled and packaged using equipment that has been cleaned extensively prior to gluten-free production.”

Post has implemented rigorous testing processes and quality assurances to ensure that the cereal is gluten free and meets FDA labeling requirements, the company says. Although the cereal is not made in a dedicated facility, all ingredients, ingredient suppliers and production lines are evaluated to assure there is no risk of cross contamination, according to Post. Every lot of the cereal is sampled and held until test results come in.

“If any sample contains 10 ppm or more of gluten, we do not release that production lot for sale,” the Post representative said.

Honey Bunches of Oats Chocolate, which is available nationwide, is made with cereals labeled gluten freecocoa granola clusters mixed with honey covered flakes. In addition to rolled oats, the cereal is made with grains such as corn, rice and millet.

Though oats are naturally gluten free, most oats in North America are grown alongside gluten-containing grains rather than being harvested and produced in a wholly gluten-free environment. As a result they are highly likely to be cross-contaminated.

Prior to approval of the FDA’s labeling laws, only specialty gluten-free oats grown and processed in a precise way to prevent cross-contamination were permitted in foods labeled gluten free.

Due to the scarcity and higher cost of these specialty gluten-free oats, food manufacturers making gluten-free products are utilizing mechanical and optical sorting processes to separate stray wheat and barley from the oats prior to manufacturing. This includes General Mills’ Cheerios and Quaker’s gluten-free oatmeal.

U.S. cereal makers have been broadening their reach to gluten-free consumers in recent years. Post also makes gluten-free Fruity and Cocoa Pebbles. In addition to Cheerios, General Mills produces Lucky Charms and several varieties of Chex that are labeled gluten free.

Only the Honey Bunches of Oats Chocolate flavor is gluten free. Post also makes Honey Bunches of Oats Granola Protein Chocolate, which contains wheat and is not gluten free.

Award-Winning Gluten-Free Brewing

brewing-festIf the number of gluten-free entries in the annual Great American Beer Festival are any indication, craft brewing isn’t limited to traditional beers. At last week’s event in Denver—the largest commercial beer competition in the world, now in its 34th year—there were 24 beers entered in the gluten-free beer category.

ghostfish-brewingTaking both the Gold and Bronze medals was Seattle’s Ghostfish Brewing Company, whose production facility is entirely gluten free. The brewery’s Watchstander Stout, which took the top prize, is made from five different roasts of artisan millet malt. The third-place winner, Grapefruit IPA, is brewed with grapefruit peel and bitter Washington state hops.

All of Ghostfish’s beers are sold at its Seattle taproom, where the menu also includes gluten-free thin- and thick-crust pizzas, salads,and oat-free granolas. The beers are also available at retailers throughout western Washington. Four of the company’s beers, including the two award winners, can be ordered online from Marina Market and shipped to 28 states, plus the District of Columbia.

ground_breaker_brewing_ipa_number_5_fullThe Silver medal went to  IPA No. 5 from all-gluten-free Ground Breaker Brewing in Portland, Oregon. This India pale ale is brewed with roasted chestnuts, roasted lentils and Belgian-style candi sugar.

This is the fourth year in a row Ground Breaker has medaled at the festival, though its first two awards came under a different name. Previously known as Harvester Brewing, the brewery changed its name to avoid a dispute with a California wine company several years ago.

At the Portland gastropub next door to the brewery, Ground Breaker offers its beers on a menu that currently features gluten-free flatbreads, Cubano sandwiches and peach bread pudding drizzled with beer caramel. Outside of Oregon, Ground Breaker beers are distributed in Washington State and Idaho. IPA No. 5 and several other varieties are also sold online through Bring on the Beer to residents of 37 states.

The festival’s gluten-free beer category includes only  beers made from fermentable sugars, grains and converted carbohydrates. Gluten-reduced beers are not considered part of this grouping because their gluten levels—derived from malted barley—have been reduced by enzymes or other processes.

Michael Savett is the author of the gluten-free blog Gluten Free Philly. He’s also a regular contributor to Gluten-Free Living.

Gluten-Free Dining in Chicago

The only reason I turned down a second visit to Chicago’s Do-Rite Donuts during a recent trip to the Windy City was the awkwardness of navigating the plane aisle with a box of gluten-free donuts. Otherwise, I absolutely would have brought these round pillows of heaven home.

Chicago is one of my favorite cities in the United States, and when my wife and I had a chance to take our teenage boys there for a late-summer long weekend, we jumped at the chance. We took the kids to Wrigley Field for a Cubbies game, walked around Millennium Park and Navy Pier, toured the Art Institute of Chicago, and took a double-decker bus tour to explore other parts of the city.

But we also spent a fair amount of time savoring Chicago’s fabulous food scene, from the aforementioned donuts to (of course!) deep-dish pizza. You won’t lack for options for gluten-free dining in Chicago.

There are several pizza shops that offer gluten-free deep-dish pizza. Lou Malnati’s, which has eight locations in the city, makes its gluten-free deep-dish with lean sausage as the crust.

We were looking for a more genuine experience, so we went to Chicago’s Pizza in gluten-free Chicago  pizzathe Lincoln Park neighborhood, one of three locations in town). Gluten-free guests there have a choice of three varieties: deep-dish, thin crust and stuffed. The gluten-free dough is made from scratch daily with rice, sorghum and chickpea flours, and the pies are made with dedicated equipment in a separate oven.

Our son, who has celiac disease, went for the deep dish, and he wasn’t disappointed. Though the crust is a bit crispier than the traditional version, the gluten-free pizzas are just as gooey and filling.

Given its convenient geographical location, Chicago has long hosted national conventions and conferences. With business visitors often comes wining and dining at pricey steakhouses – and there are plenty of excellent ones in town.

However, one restaurant that is more approachable for those without expense accounts is Weber Grill, where all of the proteins are – you guessed it – grilled on authentic Weber-branded grills. The gluten-free menu includes baked onion soup and grilled honey Dijon chicken skewers, salads, burgers served on Udi’s buns and, of course, steaks.

gluten-free dining in ChicagoOur son opted for a combo consisting of lean brisket and pulled pork, both slathered in a sweet yet tangy BBQ sauce and served alongside Bourbon baked beans and sweet potato mash.

There have been rumors for years that Philadelphia, my hometown, would be getting a Eataly location, and I now see why there’s a clamor for one. What is Eataly?

gluten-free dinining in Chicago Part grocery store, part restaurant, all Italian. At one of the sit-down dining areas, La Pizza & La Pasta, our son had what he described as one of the best dishes he’d ever eaten. The Bucatini all’Amatriciana, made with imported Italian pasta and topped with red sauce, was dotted with crispy guanciale and spiced with chili flakes.

gluten-free dining in ChicagoOn a return visit, we headed over to Eataly’s first-floor pastry counter. Most of the mini plates – for example, the salted peanut tiramisu and sponge cake topped with layers of dark, milk and Bavarian cream – are gluten free. Because we couldn’t pick just one, we ended up sharing five different desserts. After that indulgence, we browsed the second-floor market and bought several packages of the Garafolo-brand macaroni that Eataly uses for gluten-free pasta entrees.

gluten free at Wrigley FieldDespite its age, the century-old home of the Cubs, Wrigley Field, has modern trappings. At the Decade Diner near Section 242, fans can order hot dogs and hamburgers on gluten-free buns, and Redbridge beer and Johnny Appleseed hard cider are sold any many concession stands.

We didn’t have a chance to eat at any of the more than two dozen Lettuce Entertain You restaurants in Chicago and its suburbs, but nearly all of the company’s brands offer gluten-free menus – from Wildfire steakhouse to Asian-influenced Big Bowl to West Coast-style Summer House Santa Monica.

gluten-free dining in ChicagoBack to the donuts. There are few cities in the United States where gluten-free eaters can walk into a bakery and get fresh donuts, but Chicago is one.

At its two locations, Do-Rite makes its traditional and gluten-free donuts in small batches. The gluten-free versions are made in a dedicated fryer and handled separately.

The flavors change daily, but on the morning we went to the original location on West Randolph Street, four different kinds were available: Birthday Cake, Valrhona Chocolate Glazed, Cinnamon & Sugar and Meyer Lemon Pistachio.

Once again decision-challenged, we bought one of each and divvied up portions for family sharing. While they were all excellent, the unanimous favorite was the Birthday Cake, which was dense and moist without being cloyingly sweet.

Chicago is a modern, beautiful and accessible city that is – weather permitting – the perfect locale for a long weekend. From biking along Lake Michigan to peering out from its skyscrapers among the clouds, tourists have much to do during their stays. That is, if there’s any time left after eating their way through town.

Michael Savett regularly contributes to Gluten-Free Living. He also blogs at glutenfreephilly.com.

Gluten-free Dining in Myrtle Beach

Scottsdale. La Jolla. Hawaii. I’ve vacationed in all of these golf-friendly destinations and haven’t so much as picked up a club. So what did I do during this summer’s vacation to Myrtle Beach? Watch baseball, of course. Oh, and eat a lot.

My family and I spent some time in the famed South Carolina resort town this summer cheering on our younger son’s travel team at a week-long tournament. This left us with plenty of time to scout out the best gluten-free dining in Myrtle Beach.

Besides its famous beach and golf courses, Myrtle Beach has lots and lots of

gluten-free dining
Pancakes at Sea Captain’s House

pancake houses. Some of them offer gluten-free pancakes but don’t make them safe for those who have celiac disease, including my older son. But the kitchen staff at Sea Captain’s House, which also has a gluten-free dinner menu featuring salads and entrees, prepares huge, fluffy gluten-free pancakes in a separate pan.

As a coastal city, Myrtle Beach also has its share of seafood buffet restaurants. The best for gluten-free eaters is Captain George’s, where a kitchen manager will point out safe options in the buffet area or have the chef prepare fresh entrees using clean cookware. Gluten-free choices at the buffet include blackened Mahi, broiled salmon, Cajun crabs, steamed seafood, side salads and puddings and fresh fruit for dessert.

gluten-free dining
A brownie sundae at Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville

Captain George’s is located near Broadway on the Beach, a lively shopping and dining destination about a mile from the shore. Gluten-free-friendly eateries there include Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville , where we shared gluten-free Volcano Nachos and a brownie sundae and our older son enjoyed a burger on a gluten-free bun), Landry’s Seafood and Planet Hollywood.

Landlubbers can get their protein fill at Tbonz Gill and Grill with baby back ribs and a variety of steaks that are listed on the restaurant’s gluten-free menu.

The best gluten-free pizza option is at Mellow Mushroom, a growing Southeast chain whose pies are made with Smart Flour ancient-grain crusts. We ordered from there twice, in fact. The kitchen staff will wash hands, put on fresh gloves and a fresh apron and only use dedicated cooking utensils and ingredients. Everything is made to order and prepared in a separate area. A screen pan is used during the baking process so the gluten-free crust doesn’t contact the pizza stone.

With two locations in the area, E Noodles offers the best local gluten-free Asian cuisine. Dishes with rice noodles and the fried rice can be made with gluten-free soy sauce. We took out an order of tasty shrimp pad Thai, pork fried rice and other noodle plates.

Besides the local, independent restaurants, there are plenty of reliable chains in the area. Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang’s, The Melting Pot, Bonefish Grill, Carrabba’s, Cheeseburger in Paradise, and Joe’s Crab Shack all have gluten-free menus.

Michael Savett is a frequent contributor to Gluten-Free Living. He blogs at glutenfreephilly.com.

A Super Market for Gluten-Free Shoppers

Food stores step up their gluten-free offerings to keep up with demand

 

Supermarket shoppers can hardly go to their local stores these days without spotting the term “gluten free” on products from fresh to frozen, from deli to dairy. Once a rare find, gluten-free foods from mainstream and specialty companies are getting more shelf space and attention all the time.

Many regional supermarket chains and even national big-box retailers are capitalizing on the gluten-free trend, adding gluten-free sections and aisles, stocking “fresh” gluten-free baked goods, employing in-store dietitians—even advertising gluten-free products in weekly flyers and circulars.

The increase in celiac disease and gluten intolerance, combined with a general interest in the gluten-free diet, in recent years has resulted in a greater demand for gluten-free foods, better tasting products and—importantly—wider availability for consumers.

The gluten-free products market is estimated to grow about 10 percent annually through 2019, according to consultant Markets & Markets, with North America projected as the fastest-growing market in the world. A recent report from market research firm Mintel projects that worldwide sales of gluten-free foods and beverages will exceed $14.2 billion by 2017.

“Overall the gluten-free food market continues to thrive off those who must maintain a gluten-free diet for medical reasons, as well as those who perceive gluten-free foods to be healthier or more natural,” says Amanda Topper, a food analyst with Mintel. She believes the category has a “health halo,” expanding to those who do not need to eat gluten free for medical reasons. She expects the market will continue to grow in the near term, especially as U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations make it easier foconsumers to purchase gluten-free products and trust the manufacturers who make them.

Mintel’s research shows that all gluten-free food segments increased in the past year, though the snacks segment increased the most. The three largest areas based on sales are snacks (mainly due to a whopping 456 percent increase in potato chip sales over the past three years), meats and meat alternatives, and bread products and cereals.

Over the last decade, the gluten-free category has become extremely competitive due to new and innovative products, observes Janet Little, director of nutrition for Sprouts Farmers Market, a 190-store chain operating in the Western and Central United States. She cites the recent introduction of shelf-stable gluten-free bread as an example.

The level of competition among bread manufacturers—large and small—for shelf space is fierce, according to Scott Owen, the grocery merchandiser at Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets. He says that ultimately it’s not the brand name that dictates whether a product stays or goes—sales numbers dictate the fate of all products. Sprouts assesses the sales data of gluten-free products more frequently than other store categories because of continued improvements, product selection and consumer demand, says Little.

The battle for shoppers’ dollars isn’t just among gluten-free food manufacturers. Supermarkets are adopting initiatives that were largely unseen until a few years ago.

publix-gf-section
Gluten-free sections at grocery stores are rapidly expanding.

A new look for markets

Many shoppers are seeking out stores with stand-alone gluten-free sections, and food retailers of all sizes are filling the need. At Sprouts, every location has a dedicated area that contains only certified-gluten-free products. “This is an important differentiator for people with celiac disease because it allows them to have a simpler shopping experience by focusing on this one aisle rather than having to search throughout the store for various gluten-free products,” explains Little.

Publix, a major supermarket chain in the Southeast, has added gluten-free sections to nearly 70 percent of its 1,100 stores, says spokeswoman Maria Brous. Top-selling products there include snacks such as cookies and crackers and convenience items such as mac-and-cheese. North Carolina-based Food Lion recently remodeled 45 stores in its home state to include dedicated gluten-free areas.

Wegmans, a Mid-Atlantic supermarket chain, was one of the first to stock gluten-free items all together. In a typical store, gluten-free flours, mixes, breads, cereals, cookies, snacks, pasta and more  fill several aisles and a freezer case in the Nature’s Market Place natural foods section.

Some stores, including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Kroger, still intersperse gluten-free products throughout the store, for example stocking gluten-free cereal, pasta and baking mixes in the aisles that carry gluten-containing versions of those products. These and other supermarkets compile and update gluten-free product lists, accessible in stores and online. Meijer, with locations in Michigan, Indiana and three other states, even maintains a list of gluten-free over-the-counter vitamins, cold medications and analgesics.

At his family’s five-store chain of ShopRite supermarkets in southern New Jersey, the number of gluten-free products has doubled over the past few years, says Brett Ravitz, the vice president of merchandising, stressing the importance of heightened product awareness at his stores.

“When seasonally driven displays go up, we make an effort to include gluten-free options that will work for those living this lifestyle. That’s a big win,” Ravitz says. Like many markets, ShopRite is receptive to customer requests for new gluten-free products.

Buying packaged gluten-free meats and cheeses avoids potential cross-contamination at the deli slicer but can be more expensive. Several Acme Markets in suburban Philadelphia have teamed with a local cold-cuts purveyor, Dietz & Watson, to offer more than 20 meat and cheese varieties in a dedicated setting. The gluten-free products are sliced with separate equipment, and deli associates wear special blue gloves when handling gluten-free products.

prepared-foods
Wegmans’ prepared food section marks items that are made without gluten ingredients.

None of the sliced deli meats and cheeses at Wegmans contain gluten ingredients, and a number of options at the hot-foods bar also omit gluten-containing ingredients. However Wegmans Nutritionist Trish Kazacos, R.D., cautions that there is a difference between “no gluten ingredients” and “gluten free” at the market. “We’ve analyzed the recipes and ingredient lists carefully, but we’re being honest about a risk of cross-contact in a supermarket setting,” Kazacos says.

“Suppose the Pizza area is next to the deli. It’s conceivable that some airborne particles of flour might settle on a slicer used for cold cuts. Or, in self-serve areas like the Fresh Food Bar, a bit of food that doesn’t belong could accidentally fall into or touch one of the ‘No Gluten Ingredients’ dishes.” She says that customers surveyed understood the difference between the two terms and encouraged the use of the “no gluten ingredients” option.

 

In-store dietitians and more

ashley-cully
Shop Rite dietitian Ashley Cully provides customers with free in-store nutrition counseling.

Some supermarkets are responding to customers’ dietary inquiries by hiring corporate and in-store dietitians and nutritionists. Their roles typically include providing guidance on food restrictions, reading food labels and organizing store tours.

ShopRite has dietitians in more than a third of its 250 supermarkets located throughout New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland—a number that continues to grow, says Santina Stankevich, a spokeswoman for Wakefern Food Corp., the retailer-owned cooperative that operates ShopRite.

In addition to hosting food allergy-themed store tours and two gluten-free vendor fairs each year, Ashley Cully, the dietitian at the Ravitz ShopRites in New Jersey, provides customers with free in-store nutrition counseling to help them accommodate their dietary restrictions. “The most common request I receive is for meal and snack ideas—especially for children in school,” she says.

Kazacos, the Wegmans nutritionist, has gluten sensitivity and has been living gluten free for seven years. In 2011 she began writing a gluten-free blog for the chain. Her monthly postings, which are now distributed to customers via email, often include links to coupons for gluten-free products.

Meijer’s team of five dietitians, assigned to the chain’s 200 Midwest stores by region, answer questions emailed by customers and update an online database of gluten-free resources.

In addition to providing access to dietitians, stores have other value-added offerings. PCC Natural Markets accommodates gluten-free shoppers in an impressive number of ways and was the first retailer to receive accreditation from the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG).

Each of PCC’s 10 locations has gluten-free shopping specialists along with Gluten-free Walk, Talk & Taste tours offered at no charge. An array of gluten-free cooking classes is part of the store’s PCC Cooks program.

Dorothy Lane Market hosts a monthly Gluten-Free Food Lovers’ Club at one of its Dayton, Ohio, stores and frequently posts recipes and new product arrivals on the group’s Facebook page. Sprouts stores host online educational events like Wellness Webinars. Three times a year the stores discount prices on products from leading gluten-free brands by 25 percent to 40 percent. Publix offers gluten-free cooking classes at its in-store Aprons Cooking Schools.

 

Better breads and baked goods

wegmans-gf-desserts
Gluten-free baked good options from Wegmans.

Sprouts’ Little has seen sales of gluten-free baking mixes declining nationally because companies are creating better tasting ready-made breads, muffins, cookies and cakes. One reason is the growth of “fresh” gluten-free baked goods. Traditionally grocers have sold gluten-free breads, muffins and the like out of the freezer case, where shelf life isn’t a short-term concern.

However, with the popularity of gluten-free foods, more retailers are moving toward a dual-placement model, stocking products in their bakery departments while maintaining the traditional placement in the frozen-food aisles, including shelf-stable varieties. Though they are sold at room temperature, most of the in-store bakery items are shipped frozen.

After testing the concept at selected Safeway and Target stores, Boulder Brands is rolling out an extension of its Udi’s Gluten Free brand called Florence Street Bakery that will be sold in the ambient bakery section of supermarkets. The line includes products such as seeded country bread, farmhouse white bread, chocolate cupcakes, vanilla cupcakes and chocolate chip sunflower cookies, all with different formulations than existing products.

“This is very exciting because people buy baked goods in the bakery,” remarked Boulder Brands Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Stephen B. Hughes during an investment conference last September. Hughes said the bakery loaf will be larger than typical gluten-free breads, addressing consumer concerns about the size of products currently available. “

Regional markets such as Wegmans, Giant Eagle and Jewel-Osco have begun stocking Goodbye Gluten’s line of shelf-stable gluten-free breads and wraps. The products, which are certified by the GIG’s Gluten-Free Certification Organization, are seeing wider distribution thanks to manufacturer Bimbo Bakeries USA. Bimbo is the largest bakery company in the United States, producing fresh baked goods from Sara Lee, Thomas’, Entenmann’s and Arnold, among others.

Whole Foods pioneered gluten-free baking for supermarkets when the company opened its Gluten Free Bakehouse in 2004. Based in Morrisville, North Carolina, the dedicated facility supplies Whole Foods stores in the United States and Canada with items like breads, cookies, muffins, biscuits, scones and pies, which are shipped and stored frozen.

Supermarkets are also partnering with local bake shops to sell gluten-free baked goods. Sprouts stores in Atlanta, for example, carry products made by the local all-gluten-free Dunwoody Bakery. Products from Sweet Ali’s Gluten Free Bakery in suburban Chicago can be found at area Whole Foods and Hy-Vee outposts, while about 100 H-E-B grocery stores throughout the Lone Star State carry baked goods from Taylor Made Gluten Free Bakery in Bryan, Texas.

Wegmans has taken that concept a step further. The chain recently partnered with a New Jersey gluten-free bakery, Get Fresh Bakehouse, to offer prepared cookies, cupcakes and brownies at all of its stores. In a twist, the bakery uses Wegmans’ private-label gluten-free baking mixes as part of its recipes.

 

Extensive product labeling

gf-grocery-section
The gluten-free section at Publix.

FDA regulations implemented last year allow products to be labeled gluten free if they test at less than 20 parts per million gluten and are either inherently gluten free or do not contain an ingredient made from a gluten-containing grain. Many supermarkets follow this standard when deciding which products to call out with “gluten-free” shelf tags or place in the gluten-free sections of their stores.

In 2001 Wegmans launched a series of Wellness Keys—circle icons that appear on the front packaging of store-brand products—and included a gluten-free category, according to corporate nutritionist Kazacos. She says that Wegmans’ Quality Assurance team, which regularly reviews ingredients to ensure that the products meet FDA guidelines, also maintains a list of gluten-free products that is posted at the chain’s website.

At Safeway stores the “SimpleNutrition” shelf tag program includes a gluten-free designation applicable to products identified by the manufacturer on the packaging.

Publix is starting to add a gluten-free mark to its private-label products using the FDA labeling requirement as a guideline, says spokeswoman Brous. She adds that gluten-reduced beers such as Omission and Estrella Damm Daura don’t have gluten-free shelf tags since under current government regulations beers that are derived from barley (a gluten-containing grain) cannot be labeled gluten free.

Despite these advances, shoppers shouldn’t abandon the time-honored practice of reading product labels. Ingredients can change without notice, shelf tags are subject to human error, and items can be incorrectly stocked in gluten-free sections. Some supermarkets are anxious to capitalize on the gluten-free boom but don’t pay as much attention to gluten-free products as needed.

 

National stores and big-box retailers

National stores including Wal-Mart and Target are making a push into the gluten-free market space, creating more options for consumers and competition for groceries and supermarkets.

Last year Target began selling 7-Grain and Mountain White breads made by Colorado’s Canyon Bakehouse at all of its U.S. stores. The gluten-free breads are stocked in the bakery department rather than the frozen section. In recent years Target has built up its gluten-free selections with items like frozen burritos and quesadillas from Boulder Brands’ Evol Foods label, Annie’s Naturals’ mac-and-cheese meals and Cherrybrook Kitchen baking mixes. The retailer’s own wellness brand, Simply Balanced, has gluten-free items such as sesame brown rice crackers and spaghetti.

Wal-Mart has expanded its private-label Great Value line with gluten-free cookies, pretzels, pasta meals and granola bars, many of them manufactured by Romanian company Sam Mills. All of the products are certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Program run by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Using distinguishable green product labels, the big-box retailer has also added gluten-free blueberry muffins, brownies and chocolate chip cookies to many in-store bakeries.

After testing a limited number of gluten-free products last summer, low-cost retailer ALDI made its exclusive LiveGfree brand a permanent addition in its nearly 1,300 stores in 32 states. The certified-gluten-free line features 17 items—from wraps, microwaveable stuffed sandwiches and pizza to cookies, baking mixes and chicken nuggets—that are produced by third-party manufacturers. “ALDI shoppers quickly embraced the great taste and affordable prices of LiveGfree products, with many requesting gluten-free products be made available in ALDI stores year round, which is exactly what we did,” said Chuck Youngstrom, president of ALDI. The LiveGfree line is priced up to 50 percent less than comparable products at national retail grocery stores, adds spokesman Andres Malo.

In an environment of thin profit margins and increased competition, supermarkets are striving to offer consumers a better shopping experience. With the need for gluten-free foods showing no signs of abating, shoppers are less likely than ever to see grocery shopping as a chore.

 

Michael Savett, whose son has celiac disease, is a regular contributor to Gluten-Free Living. He previously wrote about gluten-free travel to Philadelphia. He blogs at GlutenFreePhilly.com.

 

Resources

Many supermarkets maintain lists of their gluten-free products on their websites, updating them frequently due to the release of new items and ingredient changes. The lists include mainstream products and brands, specialty gluten-free items and store-brand products.Here’s where you can find them.

Dorothy Lane Market: dorothylane.com/Healthy/gf.pdf

H-E-B: heb.com/static/pdfs/Gluten-Free-List.pdf

Hy-Vee: hy-vee.com/meal-solutions/special-diets/default.aspx

Ingles: ingles-markets.com/inside/gluten-free

Kroger: kroger.com/asset/banner-glute-free-product-list

Meijer: meijermealbox.publishpath.com/meijer-brand-gluten-free-
product-list

Trader Joe’s: traderjoes.com/pdf/lists/list-gluten-free.pdf

Wegmans: wegmans.com/pdf/nutrition/GlutenFreeWegmans
BrandProducts.pdf

Whole Foods Market: wholefoodsmarket.com/service/gluten-free-products-list

 

More on Gluten-Free Supermarkets

 

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What’s in a Name? Private Label vs. Brand Name

These days, private-label products are big business. Total U.S. retail sales of the overall private-label food and beverage market were $102 billion in 2013, up about 2 percent compared to 2012, according to consultant Packaged Facts.

Responding in part to the higher prices commanded by gluten-free products, retailers are introducing their own store-branded gourmet, organic and gluten-free foods.

What consumers might not realize is that, in many cases, these products are made by name-brand manufacturers. Many companies don’t want to cannibalize their better-known products but want to add to their bottom line. So, for example, they produce the same cookie mix for stores, which sell the products at lower prices under their own brand name. Due to confidentiality agreements, merchants aren’t allowed to disclose the names of the manufacturers.

However, a check of ingredient labels can lead to some educated guesses. A few examples:

 

ALDI’s LiveGfree Cinnamon Raisin Crunch Granola vs. Enjoy Life Cinnamon Raisin Crunch Granola

Same ingredients, with the only difference being Enjoy Life lists “evaporated cane juice” instead of “dried cane syrup.” Both even have “sulfite-free raisins.”

 

Trader Joe’s Gluten-Free Crispy Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies vs. Tate’s Bake Shop Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

The ingredients are the same, with the only differences on the Tate’s label being “brown cane sugar” rather than “brown sugar” and “cane sugar” rather than “sugar.”

 

Wegmans Food You Feel Good About Gluten-Free Spaghetti vs. Sam Mills Pasta d’oro Gluten-Free Spaghetti

Ingredients for both are just corn flour and water. The giveaway is that both are made in Romania, home of Sam Mills.

 

Michael Savett, whose son has celiac disease, is a regular contributor to Gluten-Free Living. He previously wrote about gluten-free travel to Philadelphia. He blogs at GlutenFreePhilly.com.

Michael Savett is Thankful for the New World of Gluten-Free Options

Every Tuesday and Wednesday during the month of May, we’ll be hosting a gluten-free guest blogger from around the web in honor of Celiac Awareness Month.Today we’re hosting longtime contributor Michael Savett of GlutenFreePhilly.com, who welcomes the new gluten-free food options on supermarket shelves.

My family, like many of yours, celebrates Celiac Awareness Month not just in May but 12 months a year. There was no formal commemoration when our now 14-year-old son was diagnosed with Celiac Disease at age 3. Barely knowing how to swim, my wife and I were forced to jump into the deep end of the pool for a crash course on the gluten-free diet.

The learning curve has shortened significantly since then. Newly diagnosed patients as well as gluten-free veterans are no longer limited to one brand of pasta and shelf-stable bread so hard you could build a house with it. There’s no question the fad aspect of the diet has helped to expand our options. (Thank you Dr. Oz!) Traditional products that do not have a gluten-free counterpart are now the exception rather than the rule – egg rolls and dumplings, sugar cones and ice cream sandwiches, croissants and pizzelle, soft pretzels and pierogies all come in gluten-free versions. Even holiday meals have become easier – from Passover matzoh to Thanksgiving gravy to Christmas panettone.

The marketplace will likely shrink over time as those eating gluten free for non-medical reasons move on, but given the increased awareness and number of diagnoses there is no doubt demand will still be there. I’m certain that many food manufacturers will remain committed to providing variety. Back in 2003, I couldn’t imagine a company like General Mills would make most varieties of Cheerios and Chex cereals gluten free. It’s a bold new world out there – one that is much easier and better than ever for those with Celiac Disease and gluten intolerance.

Michael Savett, a contributing writer for Gluten-Free Living and the publisher of the award-winning Gluten Free Philly blog, is the father of a teenage boy with celiac disease.

Note: The views, opinions and positions expressed by our Celiac Awareness Month guest posters are theirs alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Gluten-Free Living or its staff.

 

Don’t forget about our special month-long subscription offer, where you can receive a one-year subscription to Gluten-Free Living for just $20 — $5 of which will be donated to support celiac research. You’ll also be entered to win a 10-piece cookware set with bonus tools from Swiss Diamond. Subscribe today.

 

Girl Scouts Go Gluten Free

gluten-free girl scout cookieTwo new gluten-free Girl Scout cookies will be offered in the group’s annual cookie sale in early 2015.

Girl Scout councils from Maine to California will be testing sales of peanut butter oatmeal cookies called Trios, made with chocolate chips, peanut butter and certified gluten-free whole grain oats. Other councils throughout the United States will be offering the Toffee-tastic, a buttery shortbread cookie with toffee bits. Trios will be produced in a dedicated gluten-free plant, and Toffee-tastics will be tested to make sure they meet gluten-free labeling standards.

In 2014, 20 councils throughout the country offered gluten-free chocolate chip shortbread cookies as part of a pilot program. According to Girl Scouts of the USA, the participating councils and consumers loved the new cookie. Ninety percent of consumers said they plan to buy gluten free again.

Looking for ways to improve the product offerings, ABC Bakers, which is overseeing the testing of the Trios, decided to offer a different gluten-free variety for the upcoming season. ABC will be conducting follow-up research to determine the effectiveness of the initiative and whether or not the gluten-free Trios will become a permanent part of the cookie program. The Toffee-tastic, which is being produced by Kellogg’s Little Brownie Bakers, is the first gluten-free variety offered by that bakery.

The Trios will be sold in re-sealable pouches since the bite-size cookies do not lend themselves well to traditional tray packaging, according to ABC. However, Trios will be slightly larger than the chocolate chip cookies, which were also sold in bags. The Toffee-tastic will be packaged in traditional boxes.

The gluten-free cookies will sell for about $5, though pricing will vary from council to council.

For information on when Girl Scout cookie season starts in your area, go to www.girlscoutcookies.org.

Philadelphia for Gluten-Free Foodies

As a native son, I’ve always felt that Philadelphia has been unfairly criticized from other quarters. Exhibit A: Whenever one of our sports teams is involved in a big game, sports columnists from the opposing city never fail to mention that Eagles fans once threw snowballs at Santa Claus. What they invariably leave out is that it happened in 1968. Apparently, there is no statute of limitation that applies to metropolitan rivalries.

Maybe the collective sensitivity stems from an inferiority complex. (I’m looking at you, New York City.) But the City of Brotherly Love has plenty to be proud of. The fifth-most-populous city in the United States, Philadelphia once served as the nation’s capital and is the home of Independence Hall—birthplace of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, as well as the Liberty Bell, America’s iconic symbol of freedom. As it turns out, it’s also at the center of a large collection of restaurants that accommodate gluten-free diners.

The city’s history and vibrant arts and culture scene have long enticed visitors from around the world, and its once-derided food reputation has begun to rival those of New Orleans, Chicago and San Francisco. As part of that revival, many restaurants in the region have embraced the growth of gluten-free dining. Traditional options, including pizza, pasta and burgers are plentiful. Yes, even the famed cheesesteak and soft pretzel are available in gluten-free versions.

There’s much to see, do and eat in Philly, but here are places that should be dog-eared in any guidebook, no matter the season.

 

Crowns of American history in Old City

elfreths-alley
Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

With apologies to Boston, Old City Philadelphia is America’s most historic neighborhood. Bordered on the east by the Delaware River, the area encompasses many of the city’s celebrated tourist attractions, most of which are free. If you work up a hunger as you trace the nation’s beginnings, you’ll find gluten-free options near popular sites.

The starting point, literally speaking, is Independence Hall, where representatives of the 13 American colonies, led by Thomas Jefferson, declared independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776. At the same site 11 years later, representatives from 12 states met to debate and draft what became the U.S. Constitution.

National Park rangers lead the guided tour of Independence Hall, taking visitors through the Assembly Room, arranged as it was during the country’s nascent years. It’s a scene that’s as imposing today as it was when I first visited in elementary school.

The Constitution itself is honored at the National Constitution Center, which opened a decade ago as part of a transformation of Independence Mall into a panoramic landscape. You’d think that a 4,500-word, 228-year-old document would be tough to illuminate, but the museum’s planners have succeeded. The main exhibit includes a grand multimedia production combining film, a live actor and video projection on a 360-degree screen.

The Center’s newest exhibit, Constituting Liberty, features one of the 12 surviving copies of the Bill of Rights alongside a stone engraving of the Declaration of Independence and a rare copy of the first public printing of the Constitution.

A stop at the Liberty Bell is another item to check off your bucket list.

As history tells the tale, the bell was sent to Independence Hall (then the Pennsylvania State House) in 1753. Spoiler alert: The clapper cracked the bell on its first use. Two local artisans recast it twice, but after it cracked a second time it was never rung again. In 2003 the bell was moved from a small pavilion to the modern Liberty Bell Center. In the shadow of Independence Hall’s steeple, the center allows for a much brighter and photo-friendly look at this American icon than its former home.

Founding father and legendary Philadelphian Benjamin Franklin is famously misquoted as having said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” (It’s actually “A penny saved is two pence dear.”) My two cents? Skip the local carriage rides and the lines at the Betsy Ross House and head over to the U.S. Mint.

Like today, money didn’t grow on trees in the late 1700s, but it did come from Philadelphia. The Mint was established in the city in 1792, and the Philadelphia location, now in its fourth incarnation, is the largest coin factory in the world. The Mint now churns out 1 million coins in 30 minutes. On the free, self-guided tours, visitors can view the actual coining operations from 40 feet above the factory floor, watching as large coils of copper and nickel are fed through presses that punch out smooth, faceless disks. Later the blanks are poured into the coining presses and become shiny pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

deck-the-alley
Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

 

America’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street is on full display at Elfreth’s Alley, where two adjacent houses, constructed in 1755, were converted into a museum that’s open year-round. Residents welcome the public into their homes twice annually—during Fete Day in June and December’s “Deck the Alley.” Visitors can purchase a guidebook with details about each of the 32 buildings on the block.

Many accommodating eateries are a cobblestone’s throw away from these sites in the eminently walkable downtown area.

city-tavern
Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

At City Tavern Restaurant, Chef Walter Staib offers his interpretation of 18th century colonial fare, reflecting the site’s history as military headquarters for George Washington when he was commander of the Continental Army in 1780. Staib’s hearty West Indies pepperpot soup, salmagundi (an English chef’s salad) and roasted duckling are diner favorites. Guests can even purchase the house china and pewterware as souvenirs.

The city doesn’t have too many sports championships to brag about, but Philly-based chef Jose Garces can boast of his Food Network Iron Chef title. Garces’s growing culinary empire includes Amada, a Spanish tapas restaurant with an expansive gluten-free menu. The lunch and dinner options change seasonally, but the kitchen usually offers an excellent paella and a large selection of protein dishes.

At the historic Penn’s View Hotel, the Northern Italian Panorama restaurant holds the Guinness World Record for the largest wine preservation and dispensing system; more than 100 wines are available by the glass. I suggest sampling the gluten-free penne as a half-order to allow for a taste of entrees, such as the seared veal medallions or pan-seared jumbo scallops. All salads and main dishes are gluten free, as are most appetizers and sauces. The two-dozen-plus wine flights lean heavily on Western European and American vintners but also include some from South Africa and New Zealand.

If you’re in Old City during a weekend, Farmicia and Race Street Café are fine brunch choices, with both serving gluten-free omelets and salads.

 

Arts & science treasures in Fairmount

Philadelphia isn’t just the home to revolutionary history. The city has time capsules chronicling art, science and even less traditional themes, including the American penal system, rare race cars and firefighters. The city’s Fairmount section near the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, designed to as a tribute to the Avenue des Champs-Élysées in Paris, is home to many museums.

Gluten-free options are limited or nonexistent in a surprising number of museums; at most you’ll find salad, fruit, yogurt and the occasional soup, but nearby restaurants take up the slack. So feed your mind in the museum and head out to fill your belly.

Philadelphia Museum of Art is famous not only for the riches inside but also for a classic movie moment outside. The museum was immortalized in pop culture by actor Sylvester Stallone in the Academy Award-winning 1976 film Rocky. His underdog boxer character triumphantly reached the top of the museum steps at the end of a thrilling training montage. Visitors can take selfies with a bronze statue of Rocky at the bottom of the stairs.

Even those unfamiliar with fine art, like me, will find something of interest inside among more than 300,000 pieces featuring the Renaissance, American, Impressionist and Modern eras. Featured exhibitions in 2015 include a showcase of 200 years of African-American art and the Kano-influenced Japanese painting legacy. On Wednesday nights and the first Sunday of every month, the museum allows guests to pay what they wish.

Another photo-op awaits in the lush garden of the Rodin Museum, where tourists pose alongside The Thinker, Auguste Rodin’s famous bronze sculpture. The museum’s collection of the French master’s work, which includes a tribute to Dante’s epic Divine Comedy poem called The Gates of Hell, is the largest outside Paris.

barnes-foundation
Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

One of the city’s newest art museums houses one of the area’s oldest collections. The gleaming Barnes Foundation building features an array of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, including Renoirs, Cézannes and Matisses.

Fans of the offbeat will appreciate the Mütter Museum with its anthology of anatomical specimens, models and medical instruments housed in a 19th century “cabinet museum” setting. I’m confident that there’s nowhere else in the world where you’ll find pieces of Albert Einstein’s brain, the livers of famed conjoined twins Eng and Chang, the skeletal formation of a 7-foot, 6-inch man, and a collection of 139 human skulls in one place.

While mobster Al Capone’s burial site remains a mystery, it’s a fact that he was one of the most famous inmates at Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary. The cell where he served his first sentence in 1929 to 1930 is re-created at this historic prison, once the most expensive in the world. Today the crumbling cellblocks and vaulted halls stand as testaments to a noble, if ultimately misguided, attempt to “cure” felons. Along with tours, the prison offers a scavenger-hunt activity guide, free with admission for children ages 7 to 12, and, during the Halloween season, hosts Terror Behind the Walls, a wildly popular haunted-house attraction.

If kids aren’t interested in roaming an abandoned prison, no doubt they’ll have a different take on two other museums: the Franklin Institute and the Academy of Natural Sciences.

For Philadelphia-area school children it’s a rite of passage to walk through the Franklin’s giant replica of the human heart. The two-story exhibit, which debuted in 1954, was renovated 10 years ago to accommodate its long-standing popularity.

In addition to permanent exhibits that feature the wonders of electricity and air travel, live science demonstrations and planetarium shows are part of the fun for kids and parents. A LEGO exhibition of more than 70 one-of-a-kind brick sculptures—including reproductions of the ancient Greek statue Venus de Milo and a 20-foot-long T. Rex dinosaur—will be at the Franklin through September 2015. The quick-serve Franklin Foodworks cafeteria has packaged gluten-free salads, fruits and vegetables.

academy-natural-sciences
Photo by J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

At the academy, the country’s oldest natural history museum, a fully constructed T. Rex in the Discovering Dinosaurs exhibit is a highlight. Butterflies! features a lush, tropical garden filled with colorful plants and dozens of live butterflies from Central and South America, East Africa and Southeast Asia that vary from week to week. For a quick bite, the Academy café offers yogurts, soups, salads and fresh fruit plates.

For a full meal, try Rembrandt’s, which draws its name from the nearby art museums. It’s among the gluten-free-accommodating restaurants in the area. The menu offers a wealth of gluten-free appetizers, from pepperoni-pizza tater tots to achiote pork tacos and shrimp tempura. They’re enough to tempt the hungriest of eaters to skip the main course. Executive Chef Nicholas Cassidy has taken the GREAT Kitchens training course offered by the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and uses a dedicated fryer in his food preparation. The restaurant serves several hard ciders at the bar.

Tacos are featured prominently at modern Mexican restaurant La Calaca Feliz, where most menu items don’t contain gluten. Start with an order of crispy chips and guacamole before settling on one of eight taco varieties made with corn tortillas. Lemon vinaigrette drizzled on slivers of plantain-crusted blue tilapia makes the fish tacos particularly tangy.

 

Cultural riches along the Avenue of the Arts

The artery just west of City Hall, known as the Avenue of the Arts, is the base for many of Philadelphia’s performing artists. Take in a concert at the Kimmel Center, home to the world-renowned Philadelphia Orchestra, or time your visit with an event at the Academy of Music or the Merriam Theater, which host operas, ballets, comedians, musicians and Broadway shows. (Dirty Dancing and Disney’s The Lion King are touring this year.)

giorgio-on-pine
Photo by Michael Savett

Many restaurants in the arts district offer pre-theater seating. Diners at Giorgio on Pine, with its traditional Italian dining room, can order from owner Giorgio Guiliani’s vast gluten-free menu. Guiliani, the first restaurateur in Center City to offer gluten-free pizza, serves standouts such as sweet sausage pie and Dr. Schär fusilli with mushrooms and pancetta tossed in a light cream sauce.

Nearby, James Beard Award winner Marc Vetri offers a more rustic take on Italian cooking. At his Roman-style trattoria Amis, the chef shuns gluten-free pasta and bread in favor of antipasti-like eggplant caponata, crispy lamb shoulder and pork chop entrees and homemade rice pudding. As Vetri wrote in a recent Huffington Post column about gluten-free diners, “With Italian cuisine I can make anything they want to eat.”

I like to patronize local restaurants over national chains, but I make an exception for Fogo de Chão. With more than 10 kinds of beef, pork and chicken; a 30-item salad bar; and side dishes of addictive pão de queijo (warm cheese bread); crispy hot polenta; garlic mashed potatoes; and caramelized bananas, the Brazilian steakhouse is a gluten-free paradise.

Diners begin their meals with the salad bar, which is loaded with vegetables, cheeses and sliced meats. Make sure the dining card you receive to signal your server (with green for “go” and red for “stop” designations) is red-side up. Otherwise, you won’t get to finish your starters before the meats come rapidly. My favorites were the tender filet mignon and the juicy picanha, but there are many other choices. Try dining here at lunch when you’ll get the same menu for half the cost of dinner.

 

Ethnic tradition in South Philadelphia

Before he ended his training run at the Art Museum in the original Rocky, Stallone’s hard-scrabble boxer rushed through the Italian Market. While many of the vendors at America’s oldest outdoor market are still Italian-owned butchers, cheese shops and seafood stores, the shops and eateries have expanded to represent Korean, Mexican and other cuisines.

taffets-pretzels
Photo by Michael Savett

For gluten-free visitors, there are two must-stops at the market. Taffets turns out the most glorious gluten-free breads I’ve ever tasted. I’m partial to the chewy baguettes, sweet challahs, nutty teff loaves and soft chocolate chip cookies. At this completely gluten-free bakery, owner Omer Taffet also kneads and rolls out a variety of bagels and twisted soft pretzels. You’ll even find ricotta-filled cannoli on occasion.

paesano
Photo by Michael Savett

Across the street, Paesano’s Philly Style offers a fresh take on the famous cheesesteak using Taffets’ freshly baked rolls. My sandwich of choice is the namesake “Paesano”—a fusion of beef brisket, horseradish mayo, roasted tomatoes, pepperoncino, sharp provolone cheese and a fried egg—chased with a Black Cherry Wishniak fountain soda. Motivated by his children’s celiac disease diagnoses, Paesano’s owner, Peter McAndrews, also has gluten-free alternatives nearby at his vibrant Sicilian-influenced Monsù.

So you’ve heard the story about Santa getting pelted with snowballs? Don’t let the reputation of Philly sports fans stop you from attending a game in South Philly’s Stadium District, home to the city’s four major professional teams.

phillies
Photo by M. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

It’s a friendly, if competitive, atmosphere. At baseball’s Citizens Bank Park, a gluten-free cart serves up hot dogs, soft pretzels, pizza slices and beer. Two dedicated kiosks were added to the Eagles’ Lincoln Financial Field last season; cheesesteaks, veggie burgers and falafel wraps are among the game-day concessions. The Wells Fargo Center, home to Flyers hockey and 76ers basketball, has a stand that sells chicken sandwiches and brownies.

New York may have the brighter lights, San Diego the better year-round weather, but to borrow a phrase from old-time comedian W.C. Fields, “All things considered, I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”

 

 

Philadelphia Attractions

Restaurants

Michael Savett, a contributing writer for Gluten-Free Living and the publisher of the award-winning Gluten Free Philly blog, is the father of a teenage boy with celiac disease.

Tackling the Gluten-Free Diet

On a typical fall Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor, Michigan, “The Big House” is awash in a sea of yellow and blue shirts, hats and other spirit wear. With the capacity to hold more than 109,000 fans, Michigan Stadium — the home of Wolverines football — is without peer in the United States.

But it is like many college and pro football stadiums around the country in making a greater variety of gluten-free concessions available.

At Michigan Stadium, traditional foods like hot dogs, burgers and nachos are served at two “Gluten-Free Grid Iron” stands. Fans can also find ancient-grains brownies from legendary Ann Arbor deli Zingerman’s and Udi’s muffins. David Ablauf, an associate athletic director at the school, says that concessionaire Sodexo intends to expand on the concept for this season after receiving an overwhelming amount of positive feedback.

For Anne Ellman, the addition of Michigan Stadium’s gluten-free stands last season was a pleasant surprise. “Trying to find gluten-free options can be difficult, especially when I’m away at college,” says the junior from suburban Philadelphia. “It’s really exciting and a huge relief to know that when I go to the stadium I don’t have to worry about trying to find something that I am able to eat.”

Schools in the Big Ten Conference, which counts Michigan as a member, are not only standouts on the field but on the concourse, too. At Purdue University’s Ross-Ade Stadium, fans can purchase gluten-free chili-cheese dogs, nachos, protein bars and gummy bears. Last season Levy Restaurants established a gluten-free cart at 102,000-seat Ohio Stadium in Columbus, known as “The Horseshoe,” where Ohio State Buckeyes faithful could order sandwiches and other items.

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, which has worked with many colleges on safe gluten-free food preparation, encourages schools to integrate their gluten-free dining hall options with their campus sport venues so students with special dietary needs can enjoy the same rituals and activities as their peers, says Alice Bast, founder and president.

With both college and pro teams as tenants, stadiums like those in San Diego and Atlanta have to keep plenty of gluten-free fare on hand, especially when hosting back-to-back Saturday and Sunday games. Home of the San Diego State Aztecs and the National Football League’s Chargers, Qualcomm Stadium has a “Gluten-Free Zone” cart with hot dogs, cookies and candy. The Georgia Dome, where the NFL’s Falcons and the Georgia State Panthers are based, offered gluten-free items like BBQ pork sandwiches and pretzel bites at three different stands last season.

There may be no more rabid fans in pro football than those of the Seattle Seahawks. On its way to the Super Bowl title last season, the team famously relied on its “12th Man” — the team’s boisterous crowd at CenturyLink Field. Throughout the Seahawks’ run, fans were able to order gluten-free franks, snacks and beer. “We are trying to listen to the demands of our gluten-free guests,” says Seis Kamimura, executive chef for Delaware North Sportservice at the stadium. In response to guest requests, he’s added hard cider and items from the Flying Apron Bakery, a gluten-free, vegetarian bakery in Seattle.

This season at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Aramark will add two gluten-free stands serving cheesesteaks, hoagies and other local specialties for Eagles home games. The gluten-free options at M&T Stadium in Baltimore, home of the 2013 Super Bowl champion Ravens, include chicken fingers and sweet potato fries. Gluten-free items are also available at NFL stadiums in Buffalo, Detroit, Green Bay and Jacksonville.

Michael Savett is the author of the gluten-free blog, Gluten free Philly. He’s also a regular contributor to Gluten-Free Living.

 

Photo courtesy Sodexo

Gluten-free Pasta Takes Flight

gluten-free pasta

Mark Ladner, an executive chef at Mario Batali’s acclaimed Italian restaurant in Manhattan, Del Posto, has developed a gluten-free version of every pasta dish on the menu there — even the popular 100-Layer Lasagna.

Now he’s bringing his creations to other parts of the country, launching a quick-serve gluten-free pasta concept called Pasta Flyer. He’ll begin with “pop-up” tastings along the East Coast this fall. He plans to open brick-and-mortar restaurants next year.

Think of Ladner’s brainchild as the Chipotle of Italian cuisine. In fact, the idea comes from the fast-casual ramen noodle shops that are prevalent throughout Japan. Relying on his expertise at Del Posto, Ladner has developed five varieties of gluten-free pasta (made with Cup 4 Cup flour) that can be paired with different sauces, proteins and sides and served in less than three minutes.

Diners in Boston, Providence, New York City, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., will get to try the pasta bowls as part of Pasta Flyer’s pop-up truck tour, which begins in late September.

“I’ve always been interested in the idea of inexpensive quick service,” says Ladner, whose resume includes two James Beard Foundation Award nominations for best chef in New York City. Pasta Flyer “started out as a hobby that got out of control,” he adds with a laugh. The idea for making the menu entirely gluten free came about after Ladner recognized that having a mix of gluten-free and traditional ingredients would reduce the efficiency that is a hallmark of the concept.

Pasta Flyer received support from 450 contributors as part of a successful Kickstarter fundraising campaign, which brought in nearly $90,000. Kickstarter is a website that connects creative projects with people willing to back them through contributions, so-called crowd-sourced funding. Contributors who want to see a project become a reality pledge amounts that can start as low as $1, and project creators often offer rewards as a way to thank contributors at various levels.

The money contributed for Pasta Flyer will go toward continued research and development, equipment, employee salaries and other business expenses. Rewards for backers ranged from microwaveable gluten-free pasta meals to collaborative dinners with the chef in the tour cities.

Ladner says proceeding with public funding, rather than early venture capital investment, has allowed Pasta Flyer to develop community support and compile demographics that will help to determine other pop-up locations and the planned expansion into restaurant sites in 2015.

In the short term, Ladner is focused on reaching areas with large college communities, whose student and professional populations are target groups for affordable and healthful food.

While the pastas and sauces will be made at a central gluten-free facility, Ladner plans to purchase vegetables, herbs and other ingredients from businesses near each Pasta Flyer pop-up location. In addition to a customized pasta bowl, each bento box-style lunch will also include a salad, snack and drink at a cost of between $10 and $15.

Michael Savett is the author of the blog, Gluten Free Philly. He is also a regular contributor to Gluten-Free Living.

 

Worry Free Vacations

Illustration by Daniel Vasconcellos, vasky.com.

How to plan for gluten-free meals while you’re seeing the world

Where to Go

We use Google, the Internet search engine, to start planning. Googling “gluten free” along with the name of a city or country usually yields a treasure trove of information. Results turn up links to blog posts, restaurant pages, dining review sites like Urbanspoon (urbanspoon.com) and crowd-sourced databases such as Find Me Gluten Free (findmeglutenfree.com) and Gluten Free Registry (glutenfreeregistry.com).
The Disney parks and resorts are huge playgrounds for all ages. Contact the company via email at least 14 days prior to arrival to obtain current information on gluten-free options: [email protected] for the California resort, and [email protected] for Florida.

For formal meals including character breakfasts where gluten-free Mickey Mouse waffles are served, advise the resort of dietary needs when making a reservation. No matter where you eat, it’s best to speak with a manager, who will often be supervising the preparation. Helpful websites include Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free at WDW (glutenfreedairyfreewdw.com) and Allergy Free Mouse (allergyfreemouse.com). (See page 24 for more on Disney.)

Great Wolf Lodge (greatwolf.com) is an excellent year-round family destination with 12 indoor water parks in the United States and Canada. Visitors to the all-suite resorts have unlimited access to rides, attractions and activities. Call the food-and-beverage team in advance (the phone numbers are posted on the Dining pages of each location’s web page) to arrange for gluten-free meals.

Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Carnival and other popular family-friendly cruise lines all serve gluten-free meals in their ships’ main dining rooms. By sitting at the same table each night for dinner, you’ll get the same servers, who will know your dietary requirements and walk you through the menus if gluten-free choices are not already noted.

Specify any dietary restrictions when you make reservations. Many galleys keep gluten-free pasta and bread on hand at all times. Guests can bring gluten-free snacks aboard, but there are so many options it’s probably not necessary.

If you’re starting with a blank slate and looking for suggested destinations, established blogs like Gluten-Free Globetrotter (glutenfreeglobetrotter.com) and Gluten Free Traveller (glutenfreetraveller.com) are fine resources. You’ll also find general travel tips on Gluten-Free Living’s website, glutenfreeliving.com.

Bob & Ruth’s Gluten-Free Dining and Travel Club (bobandruths.com) offers domestic and overseas group getaways. The owners take care of all arrangements, from planning itineraries to gluten-free restaurant meals, easing travelers’ anxieties. The club sponsors three to five excursions a year, including an upcoming Danube River boat cruise and tour of Alaska and Victoria, British Columbia.

How to Get There

However you travel, some advance preparation is always needed. Pack gluten-free protein bars, ready-to-eat meals like GoPicnic and dried fruits and nuts for use in a pinch.

My top pick for gluten-free-friendly fast food on the road is Chick-fil-A, which serves grilled chicken nuggets, salads, waffle fries (prepped in dedicated fryers) and fruit cups.

Airlines have largely cut out food service on short-haul domestic flights, and the snacks aren’t likely to be gluten free, so bring some food from home. Airport restaurants are getting better at serving gluten-free passengers, but you can’t always count on finding something safe right before departure. For longer flights and overseas travel, contact your airline in advance to arrange for gluten-free meals. Even then, it’s a good idea to have some food in tow.

What to Bring

We still use the set of gluten-free dining cards from Triumph Dining (triumphdining.com) that we purchased a decade ago. The laminated cards come in 10 languages and are customized to each cuisine. Particularly when eating in ethnic restaurants, the cards help convey safe food preparation and handling requirements to servers and kitchen staff.

Free mobile applications like Dine Gluten Free and Find Me Gluten Free are a starting point for locating restaurants in a given area, but it’s prudent to call the businesses in advance to confirm information.

Taking some small steps before your trip will make it easier to relax and enjoy your vacation. Bon voyage!

 

Michael Savett, a contributing writer for Gluten-Free Living, blogs at GlutenFreePhilly.com. He recently launched a mobile app that features gluten-free-friendly businesses in the tri-state Philadelphia region.