Gluten-free backlash?

Posted on April 1st, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Emotions, Restaurants/Stores, SF Bay Area | Read 9 Comments - Add Your Own »

The other night I went out with a group of people to a new restaurant called Salito’s in Sausalito, California. I hadn’t looked at the menu ahead of time, but rarely do I have a problem eating out gluten-free these days (unless it is a Chinese restaurant). Restaurant awareness has grown tremendously since I was diagnosed with celiac disease 10 years ago, and especially in the last few years. If you haven’t heard of gluten-free by now, you are living under a rock. But after this dining experience, I wondered for the first time if there could actually be a backlash happening in some places.

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Gluten-Free Clam Chowder at Hog Island Oyster Co.

Posted on January 9th, 2013 by Alison | Posted in Dining Out, Restaurants/Stores, SF Bay Area | ADD A COMMENT »

I often get asked for gluten-free food recommendations in the San Francisco Bay Area. Well, I got a nice surprise recently at Hog Island Oyster Co. Bar, which has two locations. One is in the Ferry Building in San Francisco and the other is in Oxbow Public Market in Napa. (The actual Hog Island Oyster Farm in located on Highway 1 in Marshall).

A friend had picked this spot and at first I was a little wary because it didn’t seem like there were a lot of gluten-free options. When we were told that the clam chowder was gluten-free, I was sold! Doesn’t it look fabulous, piled high with fresh clams, and surrounded by potatoes and other vegetables, and bacon? It was delicious. (For those new to the gluten-free diet, you should know that most clam chowder is made with flour.)

There are other gluten-free options on their small menu – the salad I had was really good and fresh. And there are, of course, the oysters. Other than raw, I was told that the steamers are sometimes steamed with beer, sometimes white wine, but it’s no problem for them to accommodate. The baked oysters and the oyster stew are also gluten-free. On Sundays, they serve a gumbo, which is NOT gluten-free and there may be other specials that contain gluten. As always, be sure to double check for yourself. Don’t forget to pair with some nice California wines, and if you go to the Ferry Building location, grab a gluten-free baguette from Mariposa Baking Company to dip in the chowder… heaven.

For more information, see the Hog Island Oyster Bar sample menu and visit their website.


zpizza – gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free

Posted on August 19th, 2012 by Alison | Posted in Dairy Allergy, Dining Out, Egg Allergy, Restaurants/Stores, Soy Allergy | ADD A COMMENT »

Most of America takes for granted the ability to go out for pizza or have it delivered. Most families I know have pizza at least once a week and it is the standard food for birthday parties and sports team outings. If you have to avoid gluten, finding pizza gets a little more challenging, but there are more and more options out there. If you also have to avoid eggs and/or dairy, however, it becomes almost impossible to find a good, safe pizza.

zpizza, a pizza chain started in southern California, offers not only a gluten-free, dairy-free and egg-free crust (made by Venice Bakery), but also offers Daiya cheese for those who want a non-dairy cheese option (it is also soy-free). They offer a gluten-free menu online and in the stores, as well as a vegan menu.

I really liked the pizza. The crust was crunchy but not crackery, and the toppings were really fresh. The meats are nitrate-free, the tomato sauce is organic and the veggies options are interesting, like arugula, shitake mushrooms, caramelized onions and capers.

But the best part of all was that my gluten-free egg-allergic daughter could order a pizza. It’s the little things!

Note: zpizza states that they are not a gluten-free environment. While I was at the Petaluma, CA location they seemed very careful and used dedicated pans in the oven, but please dine at your own risk. If you have nut allergies please note that they use peanuts and pine nuts in some of their sauces.

 


California Pizza Kitchen stops serving gluten-free pizza … for now

Posted on September 12th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Dining Out, Restaurants/Stores | Read 2 Comments - Add Your Own »

Two months ago I reported that California Pizza Kitchen had started serving gluten-free pizza and mentioned that I hoped they were fully trained in how to safely serve the gluten-free diner. Since then, there has been a firestorm of angry comments, accusations and blog posts surrounding the safety of the pizza for those with celiac disease. (I was even accused on Twitter of “purposely cpkmisinforming” my readers about CPK!) The crust itself was never the issue, but rather the practices of the individuals making the pizzas which led to cross-contamination. The training of the staff varied from store to store, according to gluten-free people who were sampling the crust all over the country.

Well, it seems that the complaints have resonated with California Pizza Kitchen, as they have now stopped serving the crust, according to their website (pointed out to me by a reader) and a phone call I made to their marketing department.

Here is the statement CPK has on their website regarding this issue:

“We sincerely appreciate the very valuable feedback we have received from our guests regarding our Gluten-Free pizza crust, which we have temporarily stopped serving in all of our restaurants. To assure our gluten-free guests that we are able to provide an enjoyable, safe dining experience, we are working closely with the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) to review our Gluten-Free pizza crust preparation processes, procedures and training materials. GIG’s experts have inspected our kitchens and are in the process of providing us their feedback. Once the review process is completed and any recommended improvements are fully implemented, we will once again offer the Gluten-Free pizza crust.”

Additionally on the phone I was told that it is still a goal of CPK to provide customers with a gluten-free crust option and they anticipate being able to do it — right this time — by the end of November. The marketing person I spoke with recommended that people follow California Pizza Kitchen on Facebook, Twitter or check back on their website for the re-launch of the gluten-free pizza crust.

I personally am pleased that they will still pursue the gluten-free crust and that they are working with GIG to make it safe for everyone.


California Pizza Kitchen offers gluten-free pizza

Posted on June 29th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Dining Out, Restaurants/Stores, Travel | Read 7 Comments - Add Your Own »

California Pizza Kitchen has officially launched a gluten-free crust. In an email sent to me today, it was announced:

“The wait is over! Today California Pizza Kitchen (CPK) has launched gluten free pizza crust, making 29 of their original pizzas available gluten free.

cpkCPK has taken notice of the increased demand with more than 3 million Americans affected by Celiac Disease and created a specialty menu with various gluten free items. Among the 29 different gluten free pizzas available is America’s favorite, The Original BBQ Chicken pizza, the Pear & Gorgonzola pizza and the Wild Mushroom pizza. CPK also offers other gluten free appetizers, soups, salads, specialties, kids items and desserts to choose from on their current menu.”

On their website, it states “Gluten-Free crust available upon request” and that the pizzas that not gluten-free are the Thai Chicken and Roasted Artichoke + Spinach.

There are over 230 CPK locations in the U.S., so hopefully there is one near you! I have no idea if they are fully trained in how to safely serve the gluten-free diner. Let’s hope so, and that they are aware of the emotions of the gluten-free diner! If you go, be sure to report back here about your experience!


The emotions of dining out gluten-free

Posted on June 15th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Dining Out, Emotions, Restaurants/Stores | Read 22 Comments - Add Your Own »

Dining out on a gluten-free diet can be challenging because gluten is present in a lot of foods, but something that doesn’t often get addressed with the topic of dining out is what is happening before the gluten-free diner even walks into a restaurant. I’m talking about EMOTIONS.

eat1Our emotions are something that set us, the gluten-free diners, apart from other diners. While other customers are thinking about their dates, or admiring the art on the walls, or taking in the smell of fresh bread as they walk in the door, I’m hoping there’s something at the restaurant I can eat. I’m wondering whether or not this restaurant is going to understand what gluten-free means. If I’m with a group, I’m dreading having to once again explain that I can’t share dishes with everyone.

Gluten-free diners come in to the restaurant with a variety of emotions:

  • Anxiety – Will there be something I can eat?,
  • Nervousness and Fear – Will I get sick (again)?
  • Embarrassment – Will my friends think I’m a pain? Will they say sorry to me every time they eat a bite of something I can’t have?
  • Sadness or Anger or Resentment, depending on when they were diagnosed or how well they are dealing with their new diet — Why can’t I enjoy the freedom that everyone else can? Why can’t the restaurant make this easier for me? Why me?
  • And let’s not forget Hunger! The hungry gluten-free diner may have to wait even longer if everyone at the table is eating bread. There have been times when I am so hungry that by the time my dinner comes, I eat everything on my plate — and people look at me at the end of the meal as though I’ve eaten so much! They’ve forgotten that they’ve eaten a half a loaf of bread before the meal even started.

All these emotions just to go out to eat! While most people find it easier to go out to eat than cook at home, the gluten-free diner often chooses to stay at home because it is easier than dining out.

Our love of good food and dining and socializing can triumph, however, and when we do find restaurants we trust, restaurants that have a gluten-free menu, and restaurants that understand our needs, we can begin to let go of the anxiety and those other negative emotions, and truly enjoy our food and our entire dining experience. This is what we want restaurants to understand about us: If they can make us feel comfortable and can earn our trust, we will be there and we will be loyal, and we will bring our family and friends too, and we will spread the word.

What emotions do you have when dining out gluten-free?


Gluten Intolerance Group of Marin June 2011 Meeting

Posted on May 17th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in GIG of Marin, Restaurants/Stores, SF Bay Area | ADD A COMMENT »

gigofmarinlogo21Discussing the Challenges of Gluten-Free Dining

Our next meeting of the Gluten Intolerance Group of Marin will take place on Tuesday, June 7 at 7:00pm.

Gluten-free is a hot restaurant trend, but how much do restaurants know about safely serving a gluten-free meal? Alison St. Sure of Sure Foods Living will discuss the issues surrounding, and the challenges of, gluten-free dining. You will also hear from a panel of restaurateurs, including the owners of Amici’s Pizza, Sol Food and Lotus Indian Restaurants, about what it takes to accommodate the gluten-free diner. They will share the difficulties they have faced and the strategies they employ for serving gluten-free meals. Bring your friends and your questions about eating out gluten free.

Whether you have celiac disease, gluten sensitivity, or are learning more about gluten free living for yourself, family or friends, we welcome you to the GIG of Marin. New members, friends, and loved ones are always welcome.

As always, we request that you RSVP to this event by emailing us at: glutenfreemarin@yahoo.com or on our Facebook page

The Gluten Intolerance Group of Marin will meet:

  • Tuesday, June 7
  • 7:00 to 9:00pm
  • Community Room at Corte Madera Town Center (upstairs at PF Chang’s end) 770 Tamalpais Dr. Suite 201, Corte Madera, CA, 94925

We look forward to seeing you!


Picco Restaurant does gluten-free right on a special night

Posted on February 20th, 2011 by Alison | Posted in Restaurants/Stores, SF Bay Area | ADD A COMMENT »

My dad turned 70… ten months ago. Celebrating a big birthday on someone’s actual birthday is so predictable (that, or perhaps I just didn’t get my act together to plan something on the real day). So when my sister flew out last weekend to help me surprise our dad with dinner and third row seats to Bill Cosby, it confirmed that procrastination has its perks!

Everything worked out perfectly. We surprised both my mom and dad with my sister’s unexpected presence in my kitchen (“We have a big Valentine for you!” my daughter told them). We spent the gloriously sunny winter day taking a walk in our neighborhood, seeking shade because it was too warm, much to the liking of my sister who came from snowy D.C. Then we headed out to dinner.

picco-restaurantI chose Picco Restaurant in Larkspur because each time I have been there, I have eaten delicious food. I like the atmosphere too — stylish, yet unpretentious. This night, my expectations were surpassed not only by the food, but by the attention of our server to our gluten-free needs (both my parents and I are gluten-free).

The first thing our waiter did after greeting the table was acknowledge that we were gluten-free (I always call ahead and let the restaurant know). He spoke with confidence, and assured us that almost any dish we wanted could be accommodated to be gluten-free, except the obvious pastas. When he later came to take our order, he showed that he was aware of cross-contamination issues by informing us that the french fries are in a shared fryer with gluten-containing items. He even went so far as to warn us that he wasn’t sure if the cornmeal used in the polenta was free of wheat contamination. At which point I said, “I love you — you are speaking our language!” (The wine may have already kicked in by then.) Well, turns out, his wife has celiac disease. When I asked if anyone else at the restaurant had the same knowledge about gluten that he did, he assured me that everyone in the restaurant is very aware and that they always check with the chef.

For the food, the service, the awareness, and the ambiance, I highly recommend Picco Restaurant, whether you must eat gluten-free or not. “Local, seasonal, ingredient-driven is the mantra for Picco’s cuisine.”

Here’s what we enjoyed (plates are meant for sharing):

  • hog island oysters on the half shell, chile-cilantro mignonette
  • hamachi crudo, blood orange, baby fennel, calabrian chili, radish, artichoke chips, olivestri olive oil
  • grilled romaine lettuce, market pear, toasted hazelnut, aged gouda, champagne vinaigrette
  • sautéed broccoli di ciccio, preserved lemon, garlic chili condiment
  • risotto made from scratch on the half hour (ours had leeks, calabrian chili, and asparagus — delicious)
  • mesquite grilled monterey bay squid, gigante beans, mandarin orange, oro blanco, green olive, paesano olive oil
  • braised short ribs (don’t have the other details on this one, but I am always happy to find short ribs that aren’t braised with soy sauce)

Oh, and in case you are wondering about Bill Cosby — he was great! His expressions (from the third row remember!) were priceless. Thanks to Picco and Bill, and my sister’s mileage ticket, it was a successful 70th birthday surprise!

Picco Restaurant is located at:
320 Magnolia ave.
Larkspur, California 94939
415.924.0300
Open for dinner only, seven nights a week


Where to Find Gluten-Free Pizza in California

Posted on November 8th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Restaurants/Stores, SF Bay Area, Travel | Read 9 Comments - Add Your Own »

pizza1A few years ago, gluten-free pizza was nowhere to be found, but now many pizza restaurants are catering to the needs of those with celiac disease and gluten intolerance. While there still isn’t much variety in the actual crust that the pizza places are using, at least there are a variety of places to go and get it!

Below are the names of restaurants that offer gluten-free pizza, the gluten-free crust they use (if I know), their location in California, and other products of interest they serve. Please let me know if there is another to add to the list, and please call the restaurant first and make sure they have gluten-free pizza available when you are going to be there.

Restaurants that offer gluten-free pizza in California:

Because so many places are using Still Riding pizza crust, here are the ingredients in case you have other sensitivities: Bean flour, rice flour, tapioca flour and starch, xanthan gum, salt, yeast, egg, cider vinegar, sugar, canola oil, calcium propionate.

Stay tuned for another post on store-bought pizza and making your own pizza!


New gluten-free store opening in Bay Area

Posted on October 17th, 2010 by Alison | Posted in Restaurants/Stores, SF Bay Area | Read 3 Comments - Add Your Own »

sans-logoI am happy to announce that Sans Gluten-Free Grocery located in San Rafael, California, is opening its doors on October 31st!

A message from its owners:
“Sans Gluten-Free Grocery is the Bay Area’s one-stop gluten-free grocery store offering the largest selection of gluten-free goods in a dedicated facility by a caring and knowledgeable staff.  Sister and brother owners, Marisa and Chad North, started Sans out of their lifelong commitment to a gluten-free lifestyle and desire to help others with gluten sensitivities.  To read more, please visit our website at www.sansglutenfreegrocery.com or find us on Facebook.
We hope to see you there!”

Sans will hold their Grand Opening on 10/31/10 from 12-5pm at 821 B Street in San Rafael, CA.