Sunday, September 30, 2012

Restaurant Review: My Thai (Frederick, Maryland)

Based on the recommendation of two different online Gluten Free restaurant guides I decided to try My Thai (193E Thomas Johnson Drive, Frederick, MD 21702) during my recent trip.

Gluten Free Garden Rolls at My Thai in Frederick, MD
Both sites stated that My Thai has a gluten free menu. Unfortunately this is the issue with user submitted GF restaurant sites, you are trusting a user who may not be as concerned about cc and staff knowledge as you are. My Thai doesn’t have a GF menu and the host really didn’t seem so sure.

Since most Thai food is naturally gluten free I figured I'd stick it out and talk with the waitress. Luckily, the waitress I had knew exactly what was already gluten free and what could be made gluten free. This turned out to be about 60% of the menu.

Gluten Free Chicken Pad Hima Parn at My Thai in Frederick, MD
I had the Garden Rolls (rice paper wrapped steamed shrimp and veggies) with a sweet chili sauce as an appetizer. (The hoisin-peanut sauce is not gluten free.) My lunch entrée was Pad Hima Parn (chicken, bell peppers and cashews).

The food was excellent and not too spicy. It is certainly nice to have a gluten free appetizer option when dining out. This is definitely somewhere I would eat again if I didn’t live so far away!

My Thai on Urbanspoon

Other Maryland Restaurants with Gluten Free menus/options:

Gluten Free at Isabella's Taverna

The main trip page is here: Gluten Free Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Restaurant Review: Isabella’s Taverna (Frederick, Maryland)

This restaurant was the highlight of my trip and, while I ate here twice, I do regret not finding time to eating here even more! Isabella’s (44 North Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701) has flagged all of the items on their menu that are naturally gluten free as well as those that could easily be made gluten free. Not only that but their waitstaff is incredibly attentive and willing to double check each item. All of their paellas are gluten and dairy free and most of their gluten free tapas are also / can also be made dairy free.

Gluten Free Tapas: Judias con aceite de trufa,
Pollo de Cacerola y Gambas al Pil Pil at Isabella's Taverna
One my first trip, my waitress took a list of gluten free tapas that I was considering and confirmed with the chef which were dairy free. I then ordered the Gambas al Pil Pil (shrimp with carmelized onions and garlic), Pollo de Cacerola a la Gallega (a slow cooked chicken stew from the north west of Spain), and judias con aceite de trufa blanca (baby green beans with a white truffle oil).  

When I returned a week later, I sat in a different section but this waitress as well double checked everything with the chef. This time I went with the Ceviche (shrimp and scallops in lime juice and cilantro), Langostinos del Golfo Asados (Grill shrimp over Black rice sans the saffron butter), Escalivada (eggplant with onions, peppers, garlic and capers) and Pimientos de Padron (grilled small green peppers). Again the food was amazing!

Gluten Free Ceviche at Isabella's in Frederick, MD
I’m actually getting a little depressed thinking about how far away Isabella’s Taverna is! When I visit spain I tend to stick to grilled meats (a la plancha) when eating out and avoid anything more interesting so it was amazing to have some many options!  It is so rare to have a long list of gluten free / dairy free items to choose from, especially items that you can’t get anywhere else.

So, who’s up for a road trip?

Isabella's Tavern & Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon
Other Maryland Restaurants with Gluten Free menus/options:

My Thai

Glory Days Grill (review coming soon)

The main trip page is here: Gluten Free Maryland

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gluten Free Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia

I recently got back from a whirlwind trip trough Maryland, Northern Virginia and the eastern tip of West Virginia. I had gone down for the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam and extended the trip to tour a number of other national parks (I ended up visiting 13 of them, 10 I had never been to before).

Antietam National Battlefield
Before leaving on the trip, I took my own gluten free travel advice and mapped out the places I would be able to eat as well as the grocery stores along the way that cater to the gluten free community. I even brought along my toaster (although I ended up having Kinnikinnick donuts for breakfast most mornings).

My route took me from NJ through southern PA to Hagerstown, MD, I was in that area for three days then headed down to Manassas, VA for three days, before heading to Harper’s Ferry, WV for a day and finally back to the Hagerstown/Frederick area of MD.

I’ll be writing restaurant reviews over the next couple of days but wanted to list out some of my finds, including a handful of places I didn’t get to go:

Maryland / Virginia / West Virginia Gluten Free Supermarket / Grocery options

Common Market (Frederick, MD) – great GF selection and they even had Bavarian Toast Bread (which I haven’t seen in years!)

The Natural Marketplace in Warrenton, VA
Eden’s Natural Market (Gainesville, VA) – large health food shop with a good GF selection.

Healthway (VA/WV) – I didn’t get to stop here but this chain has a handful of locations across these two states.

Martin’s (MD, PA, VA and WV) – fairly sizeable GF section at this large supermarket chain.

MOM’s Organic Market (only in MD/VA) – good selection of GF products.

Natural Marketplace (Warrenton, VA) – small natural food store with a second floor juice bar/sandwich shop. Review coming soon.

Wegmans – I didn’t stop here but I suspect they are much the same all over.

Whole Foods – I also never stopped in a Whole Foods (they're only in eastern MD but I was near some in VA as well)..

Independent Gluten Free Dining options

Alcacia (Frederick, MD) - Bistro that flags GF items on their menu. Unsure on DF options. I almost ate here but they fell victim to me traveling alone. I decided to not eat out alone again that night and instead got take out. It looks like a great restaurant though.

Gambas al Pil Pil at Isabella's in Frederick, MD
Castiglia’s (Winchester, VA) – Italian restaurant with extensive GF menu, including GF bread crumbs, GF bread (manufacturer states bread may be contaminated), GF pizza, and GF pasta. Review coming soon.

Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas Bar (Frederick, MD) – the absolute highlight of the entire trip! Review: Gluten Free at Isabella's Taverna.

My Thai (Frederick, MD) – listed on other sites as having a GF menu. They don’t. However they were extremely accommodating. Review: Gluten Free at My Thai.

The Wild Tomato (Harrisburg, PA) – great GF menu at this Italian takeout restaurant. Sadly, no DF cheese.  Review coming soon.

Maryland/Virginia/West Virginia Gluten Free Chain Restaurants

Chick-fil-A – ate here a couple of times I needed a quick meal. (See my previous review here: Eating Gluten Free at Chick-fil-A)

Glory Days Grill – A mostly gluten friendly menu but they do have a dedicated fryer for gluten free fries! Review coming soon.

Logan’s Roadhouse – gluten friendly menu. Review coming soon.

Red Robin – serving GF / DF hamburger buns and some locations have a dedicated fryer. Review coming soon!

zPizza – pizza chain with both GF pizza crusts and DF cheese. I one night I was going to try them, it got too late for me to get there before they closed. I think they just opened (are about to open) a location or two in NYC. I’ll have to check them out soon.

There are also numerous locations of major chains we have here in NJ that I didn’t try during the trip (but it was nice to know they were there if I needed them): Bonefish Grill, Boston Market, Buffalo Wild Wings (almost nothing here is both GF and DF), Don Pablo’s, Longhorn, Outback, Pei Wei, Ruby Tuesday, and Uno Chicago Grill.

Gluten Free Bakeries

Better Choice Bakery (Brunswick, MD (small town on VA border, near Harper’s Ferry)) – small dedicated GF/DF bakery. Review coming soon.

Jireh Bakery Cafe (Centerville, VA) – I didn’t get to try here.

Triple Oak Bakery (Sperryville, VA) – dedicated GF bakery. No mention online of DF options. I didn’t stop here.

Ok, time to start cracking on those nine new reviews!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Event Review: Appetite For Awareness (Philadelphia, PA)

I just got home a short while ago from Appetite for Awareness. [Note, I wrote this last night, added the photos and published this morning.]  I drove down down with a friend of mine (also gluten free, but not fully dairy free) and had a great time sampling the products and restaurant offerings, viewing two cooking demos, watching the NFCA award ceremony for Michael from Gluten Free Philly [if you live in south Jersey, the Philly area or Delaware you should be following his blog], and meeting Erin who writes Gluten Free Fun [an NYC GF blog], writes Gluten Free Globetrotter [a world travel GF blog], and organizes the NYC Celiac Meetup

Michael from Gluten Free Philly
accepting his award from the NFCA
There were over 40 vendors and  almost 30 restaurants.  I'll touch on some of the highlights below but keep in mind, since I am dairy free as well I skipped those vendors/restaurants that didn't have anything both GF and DF.  I good number of those I skipped do have dairy free products or menu items (they just didn't have them with them).  As always it was nice to see Udi's and Pamela's but neither had their new product lines with them - once I see those new items in stores I'll be sure to review them.  The full list of vendors and restaurants is on the NFCA website here:  On to the highlights:

  • The show highlight: dense crusty bagels from SweetNote Bakery.  Sadly these aren't in stores (yet?), but they are available commercially to deli's and other restaurants that want to offer their diners a gf/df bagel option.  Their website has a list of where around the Philadelphia area you can get these.
Gluten Free / Dairy Free Bagel samples from SweetNote Bakery

  • Casona of Collingswood, NJ was serving an amazing tuna ceviche on a round corn tostada.  Amazing!  This is one of the restaurants on my GF Restaurant list that I have been dying to try.  After tasting this, I need to make an excuse to drive two hours to Collingswood!

  • Pasta Pomodoro (Voorhees, NJ) had an amazing GF (and mostly DF) spread as well.  They had a crepe with sweet potato filling and a crab guacamole.  They are also on my short list of must try NJ GF restaurants!

Vegan / Gluten Free Cheesesteak and
GF/Vegan Pizza Crackers from Jar Bar
  • Imagine a 100% gluten free and dairy free restaurant and you'd have Jar Bar (ok, technically they're vegan and raw as well but since I can't really handle egg that works for me!)  They had an amazing chocolate mousse (made with avocado which you'd never taste) and both a gf/vegan cheese steak as well as a gf/df pizza (both served at the event on Jar Bar's own flax crackers).  This is a restaurant I'd love to try next time I'm in Philly (even though I love tasty animals)!

  • Grandma's Grotto (Horsham, PA) had six different types of cookies (only two were DF), gf meatballs (sadly with dairy) and a pasta dish with chicken and vegetables (dairy free and without tomato sauce).  The snickerdoodle I had was great and I'm glad I picked up a menu.  They offer a tri-fold gluten free menu at their restaurant and even have pre-made frozen items available. 

PB&J bites on Gluten Free Quinoa Bread from Taffets
  • Taffets All Gluten Free Bakery and Shop was sampling a number of their breads and cookies (all breads are DF as well).  The bread was really good; and this is another spot I'll try the next time I'm in Philly.

  • I also got to catch up with Christine from Sweet Rubino's.  Her specialty Italian cookies are gluten free, corn free, dairy free, soy free and refined sugar free (some are vegan as well).  I'm looking forward to these being available in stores.  (Which hopefully will be soon!)

  • 1-2-3 Gluten Free mixes aren't new but I was interested to find out that each of their mixes has dairy free modifications / recipes printed inside the box (the mixes themselves are already dairy free).  (I also like that they prepared one of their four samples using that recipe so those of us who are DF could try them too!)

  • Sadly, Pure Tacos wasn't serving anything dairy free today but I did want to mention them since both their Ocean City, NJ and Philadelphia, PA locations are 100% gluten free!

You'd think at this point I'd be in a food coma and wouldn't want to think about more GF food but I'm already gearing up for Sunday's Colin Leslie Walk for Celiac Disease (both the outdoor walk, and the walk around the vendor's hall)!

If I missed any GF/DF options yesterday, feel free to share what I missed in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Colin Leslie Walk for Celiac Disease Awareness: 2012

While I'm looking forward to attending Appetite for Awareness this weekend, and the CSA conference in October on Long Island, the one Gluten Free Event I most anticipate every year is the Colin Leslie Walk in Rye, NY!  Colin Leslie started this walk in 2005 and to date has collected over $335,000 for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia.

Again this year, the walk will be held at Rye High School in Rye, NY.  The date has moved up a bit, this year it is on Sunday, September 30th.  The walk runs along Long Island Sound (your choice of 2 or 4 miles), and after the walk there is a guest speaker (this year is Dr. Peter Green), lunch available for purchase (from Wild Westchester BBQ / Opus 465 of Armonk, NY), and the highlight of the event – a gymnasium full of gluten free vendors (40 have signed up so far, last year there were so many they filled two gyms)!

I’ll be walking again this year and I highly recommend that you attend and walk as well. The registration page is here: Colin Leslie Celiac Walk Registration Page.

If you can’t make the walk and would still like to contribute, my donation page is here: Jason's Donation Page for the Colin Leslie Celiac Disease Walk.  Any amount is greatly appreciated.

I hope to see you all there!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy National Celiac Awareness Day!

I hope everyone has had a wonderful summer and is ready for the fall.  Today is National Celiac Awareness Day and while I don't officially have celiac disease, I certainly realize that dealing with my gluten sensitivity would be infinitely more difficult if not for the efforts of the celiac community.  In celebration, I'll be eating out gluten free for both lunch and dinner (lots of reviews will be forthcoming next week as I've eaten out quite a bit this week).