Big City….Little City

I had an interesting time last week when I was travelling to Jefferson City MO.  I have traveled since my diagnosis,  I have been to Washington D.C. and a few other places; most of them bigger cities.  Jefferson City was my first trip to somewhere a little more out of the way and definitely a lot smaller.  I wish I could say that this trip was successful from a food stand-point but I ran into more problems than I have anywhere I have traveled.   I can count three times that I was “glutened” in one week; I know that you may say that that is not much but when you are diagnosed with Celiac Disease you are told that you need to be careful because even a small amount of gluten can start the damage to my finally healed intestines all over again.  A few of the things that I ran in to:

  • A restaurant that put flour in their mashed potatoes
  • A few restaurants that didn’t even know what a gluten free diet
  • The hotel where we (GFBill and GFJason) stayed did a great job of getting gluten free deserts but when it came to lunch it was salad for the first couple of days.  If you are going to say that you cater to the GF, then you need to understand that it has to be more than salad.

You know that you are in trouble when people start asking the “well can you have cheese?”  It really shows how much more education is needed for places where food is served.  With so many people (1 in 133) who suffer from Celiac Disease, I think it is very important that restaurants seek out allergen education.  I think it will take time for smaller cities to catch up but I think it is important that they do, in the meantime I think the next time I fly there or to any small city, I will stick to chain restaurants where I can be sure I will be safe.

But not all was bad…see this thing below.  This was a pork steak that I had from a small shack in Warrenton MO called Two Dudes BBQ; the owner’s wife spent time with me and Jason telling us all the ingredients and how things were cooked.  It was so amazingly good and made my week.

pork steak

 

 

Flatbread Company is Flat-out GF Good!

Tucked in the back corner of the Shoppes at Farmington Valley in Canton, CT is the Flatbread Company.  I’ve walked by many of times taking in the delicious smells wafting from the clay ovens.  The primary reason why I walked by was that I really didn’t think they had anything for me since I maintain a gluten free (GF) diet.  Well, this all changed last weekend when I saw a small sign out of the corner of my eye stating, “Gluten Free Pizza & Whoopie Pies Available”.  I turned towards my wife with a look of astonishment, also known as “chocolate-face” in my family, and said, “I’m going in to order a pizza to go!” 

I glanced over the menu, which primarily consists of pizza and salads made entirely with organic, local and free-range ingredients.  I chose the vegan pizza - GF style, added the whoopie pie, and waited in anticipation.  I’ve tried a lot of GF pizza along the way, including ones that you can make at home.  The ones I make at home never really hold up.  They ultimately crumble when you try to fold it in half to eat it – which is the correct method for eating pizza (I may get a lot of flack on that point – but that’s how you eat pizza!)  Other restaurants I’ve eaten at have excellent toppings and their sauce is good, but again, the crust falls slight short. 

A short while later, my pizza and dessert were in hand.  The smell was enough to make you want to tear into it immediately.  So, that’s what I did.  My intention was to wait till I got home, but who has time for that when  you have a deliciously smelling pizza in the back seat!  I took one bite and realized what I was missing – as it turns out Flatbread Company has been offering GF options to its patrons for quite some time – I never knew because I never saw it advertised until recently. 

I folded – yes, folded – the pizza in half and took a huge bite.  It was delicious!  My nose and mouth had finally agreed on a GF pizza worthy of scarfing (no, not the kind you put around your neck!)  I put a huge dent in the pie on the way home, with my wife sampling it too.  (I always have her taste GF items to keep me in check.  Having not eaten gluten for over 10 years now, my taste-buds can be askew and need some assistance in the “Is this really that good?” category.  She agreed that it was.)  I finished the rest of the pizza when I got home.  The sauce, the mushrooms, the olives – everything was fantastic.  It was all-in-all the best GF pizza I’ve had thus far.  The whoopiepie wasn’t all that bad either, trust me.  Two delectable pies in one night!

Through this, Flatbread Company is now on my list of preferred eat in/take out restaurants.  While they are primarily found in the northeast, there are a handful of restaurants as far as Hawaii and BC, Canada.  If you have one close to you, call ahead to ask if they serve their GF pizza – and if they do, pick up a pie or 2 or 3!  You won’t be disappointed.

Kay’s Naturals – A Welcome Addition to Gluten Free Snacking!

Kay’s Naturals was thoughtful enough to send us a generous sampling of many of their varied gluten free (GF) products.  We behaved like excited children opening gifts on a holiday when the large cardboard box arrived.  Having done online product reviews in the past for Qwowi.com, we were pleasantly surprised at how much Kay’s Naturals sent us; it was the most liberal product sampling we’ve ever been sent.  On that note, we can certainly understand how Kay’s Naturals must be very proud of their products.  They were excellent.

Dr. Massoud Kazemzadeh created these products with his own wife in mind, who happens to have juvenile diabetes. It is no secret that many tasty treats that happen to be GF or low in carbohydrates also happen to be of low nutritional value.  This fact concerned Dr. Kazemzadeh (Dr. Kay) and that is how Kay’s Naturals was conceived.  We appreciate Dr. Kay’s insights, because it is a noteworthy product line of high fiber, high protein snacks, which also happen to be GF.

For those of you out there who follow a GF diet, you know how agonizing it can be to approach a dessert buffet or tray at a restaurant or party.  While in one moment you are just praying that there is a fruit salad because you know it will be the only thing you can even eat, you would really rather have a gooey slice of chocolate cake.   Eating healthy is, well… eating healthy.  Snacking on fruit is not the same as savoring a piece of cake.  Kay’s Naturals strikes a balance in this notion of healthy eating.  Honestly, some of Kay’s snacks taste “healthier” than others, and we will be honest in our renderings.  Here’s the thing… Kay’s Naturals are healthy… some of the snacks are just “naughtier” tasting than others—and we mean naughty in the good way!

  1. Veggie Pizza Protein Puffs: Yum!  All of Kay’s Protein Puffs have a wonderful crunch and a nice texture.  The flavor in this one really comes out, and it’s a much healthier, yet still tasty version of “a Dorito meets a cheese puff.”
  2. Jalapeño Honey Mustard Pretzels: Surprisingly spicy!  I know, it says jalapeño, but it really does pack a punch!  For me, these didn’t feel or taste like pretzels, yet they were yummy all the same.  They were too crumbly and the wrong texture to be a true pretzel.  Overall, it was good flavor, but I could tell they were healthy.
  3. Honey Flavored, Almond Filled Cookie Bites: These little gems have wonderful flavor, in which the taste of cinnamon and almond really come through, yet the texture is airy.  While tasty and crunchy, they cannot honestly be called cookies; they are more like scrumptious cereal.
  4. Almond Delight Protein Puffs: As mentioned earlier, all of the Protein Puffs were a hit.  Their texture stands up to the non-GF snack world, and for anyone who appreciates a sincere almond flavor, these are perfect.
  5. Apple Cinnamon Protein Cereal, French Vanilla Protein Cereal, and Honey Almond Protein Cereal:  These products are lighter versions of Cheerios.  They are lighter in both texture and in flavor than Cheerios, although much higher in nutrients, so you be the judge.  For us, the flavor didn’t really come through as much as we would have liked, yet the cereal is good, and something we would purchase again.
  6. Cinnamon Toast Pretzel Sticks: These were a hit in our house, and this might have been our favorite product of the samples sent along.  To us, these pretzel sticks actually tasted like cinnamon toast, with a decent texture, and outstanding flavor.
  7. Lemon Herb Protein Chips: Let’s preface this aspect of the review by saying that we love lemon-flavored snacks.  It is rather easy to infuse a food with lemon flavor, too.  Unfortunately, we must be honest and say this snack was not our favorite and we can’t recommend it.
  8. Tomato Basil Protein Puffs: These puffs were surprisingly sweet, and almost tasted more like a sugary, tomato-y BBQ flavor.  We didn’t even notice the basil flavor coming through, which was disappointing.  They are yummy, though, and perhaps should be re-named.  Like all of the Kay’s Protein Puffs, they have nice texture and a great crunch.
  9. Nacho Cheese Protein Chips: If you are in the mood for a much healthier version of a smoky, chili-inspired version of a Dorito, these are the chips for you.  This chip is a fantastic example of a “naughty” tasting snack, which is actually delicious and healthy.
  10. Crispy Parmesan Protein Chips: Awesome!  The taste is perfect, they provide an excellent crunch and texture, and these chips are another example of a yummy snack that you would never believe is healthy, yet carries tremendous nutritional value.
  11. Sweet BBQ Snack Mix: This was another of our favorites.  This was simply great!  It provided a lovely BBQ taste, and varied, exceptional textures, which is rare in the GF snack world.  This was another hit in our household!

One last note—for anyone out there who follows a GF diet, and who is also desiring to lose weight, the Kay’s Naturals website provides a Diet Plan.  We think the Diet Plan is a realistic, affordable, healthy option for GF or non-GF folks to shed pounds.  For anyone searching for a convenient, scripted weight loss program, which is high in fiber, protein, and other nutrients, this may be a viable choice.  The program combines Kay’s Naturals cereals and snacks with other healthy, commonly-available items such as yogurt, lettuce, and canned soups, to make the diet an easy and quick way to step up one’s health, while remaining GF and low-carb.

As you can tell, we really enjoyed, and will continue to enjoy, Kay’s Naturals.  We are glad to have found some nutrient-filled GF foods!  We all know what can happen when you overindulge in GF goodies!

Ordering..He’s allergic to Gluten

Shortly after diagnosis I went to a small local joint in Cambridge called Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage to have dinner with my wife.  When I say small I’m talking in terms of physical size; not in popularity, this place has been in the movies (most recently the “Social Network,”) and in the news with a recent visit from Shaq and is one of the most popular places to eat in Harvard Square.

I have to admit I was a little nervous, as this place does not advertise a Gluten Free Menu and I had only eaten at one other “non-safe” place and not had the best experience.

Non-safe is my term so don’t read too much into it; in my crazy mind if the place does not have a dedicated Gluten Free menu it is a “non-safe” place and requires a little extra planning and a lot more questioning.  For example; PF Changs = safe, Boston Market = safe, Texas Roadhouse = non-safe, and Bartley’s = non-safe; remember these is strictly ratings by Bill, not endorsed by any of the Gluten Free associations or society’s.

So when we sat down I started asking questions, I planned on getting a turkey dinner,  no stuffing, mashed potatoes with no gravy and the vegetable of the day.  I asked, does the chef add anything to the mashed potatoes? (consequently I found out they add non-dairy creamer to make the potatoes smoother, which is gluten free by the way). I wanted to know if they added a sauce on the vegetables. Nope, just steamed carrots with a little sugar.  Being a former server myself, I know that this type of questioning can grate on you because you have a million things that you have to do and in this case your main concern is not my intestines. So being on the other side you start to get even a little more anxious…but the server we had that night was great, she answered all the questions and told me not to worry.

That’s where it gets a little hairy, at Mr. Bartley’s Burger Cottage the custom is that they yell out your order to the line (the cooks).  Ok I can deal with that until I hear her scream “Ordering…He’s allergic to gluten.”  Now as I said Bartley’s is small and the other thing about Bartley’s is that it is uber busy all the time so there had to be at least 50 people in this small restaurant at the time that she was yelling my life story to the masses.

I tell you at that point I wanted to crawl under the table, I felt that every pair of eyes were trained on me and they were all talking about my food allergy.  How snifty!! (this is a word that my son tells me means sexy and nifty and seemed appropriate to use here.)  But as I was under the table I started to think …

  • Her yelling meant that everyone on that line who touched my food knew to be careful because if they weren’t they were playing with someone’s health.  (Not that any chef in their right mind would ever trick a gluten free person into eating gluten.  That’s crazy… and I think as they would say in the olden days; he should be boiled in his own oil.)
  • This is not about who I am as a person, my diet does not define me, I have to think I am so much more than just a guy who can’t eat food with gluten (well at least I hope I am)

When we started this blog we decided it was important to let people know the trials and tribulations of having “by diet” to be a little different. We wanted to convey the truth of someone who has lived this life for quite a while and someone who was just beginning the journey.

Life is not always going to be as easy as it was, you are going to have to question more, you are going to have to plan more and going out to eat is going to make you more anxious. But in the end it is worth it, because you are taking responsibility for your own health and making it work for you.

So as Jason so aptly put it earlier in the week “It’s not who I am…It’s just how I have to eat!”

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