Wednesday, February 5, 2014

San Francisco area Gluten & Allergen Free Expo Recap

Apologies for the delay in this post - I attended the expo both days - Saturday alone and then Sunday with the family. All in all it was a great experience. I met many interesting bloggers and vendors and wound up with a years supply of samples - quite overwhelming really, but well worth my time. If one of these expos is coming your way, definitely plan on attending!

Best New Products

Here are my 10 favorite products I'd never tasted before which I found at the expo:
  1. Luce's Gluten Free Artisan Bread Mix - I tweeted about this (@glutenfreetop10) - they had samples of Italian and Sourdough - both had wonderful texture- light and tasty on the inside, and an actual crust with chew on the outside - I can't even imagine what these will taste like when warm. I preferred Italian but bought 1 of each. Yes- frugal me actually made  2 purchases at the expo (the 2nd is coming up in #2...). I can't wait to try these mixes - they only require water and no rising. Stay tuned for a review once I try these out. 
  2. Hail Merry Miracle Tarts & Macaroons: These are something special. Clearly a true chocoholic is behind the chocolate and chocolate mint miracle tarts. Just a tiny bit gives you so much satisfaction!. The coconut vanilla cream was also yummy if chocolate is not your thing. My favorite macaroons are the salted caramel - very dense tasty little treats. You can order them online but the dream tarts are super expensive - 12 for $100 but that's because they include overnight shipping as the dream tarts require refrigeration.The vendor said these are in some Whole Foods but I checked my local one (Cupertino, CA) and no sign yet but I'll keep checking and when I get a chance ask the bakery manager why they aren't there.
  3. Smart Flour Frozen Pizza- A few weeks ago I blogged about how Freschetta gluten free pizza was the best I'd tasted - and it was, until I tried this stuff. OMG - FINALLY - frozen gluten free pizza which actually has enough sauce and cheese plus great taste. The crust was crisp and held the toppings well - I still prefer making my own with the Venice Bakery seasoned crusts but given this is all pre-made and I just have to pop it in the oven you will always find these in my freezer from now on. I tasted 3 flavors- all excellent: margarita, cheese and pepperoni. The pizzas themselves are on the smaller side so we'll need to make 2 for the 3 of us to enjoy versus only needing one of the Freschetta but that's OK. Price-wise they were on sale at Whole Foods for $7.99 versus $9.99 (also on sale) at Safeway. I'd expect regular price to be $1-2 more. Now these pizzas must be brand new because they re not mentioned on the Smart Flour web site so here's a picture to prove they really do exist. Definitely hunt these down at your local Whole Foods.
  4. Grains of Wellness Rice Chips - these remind me of Triscuits without the wheat. Sprouts Markets was a vendor at the expo and I sure hope they've signed a deal to offer these soon. Yum!
  5. Bacano Bakery Bread - This bread had something most gluten free breads lack - moisture. They are looking for a store front and I sure hope they decide on South Bay!
  6. Bread SRSLY - damn good sourdough- and authentic - baked in San Francisco! And available via local SF Bay area delivery via GoodEggs on Fridays - I have a feeling I will be ordering this for special occasions or more often if the Luce's mix doesn't work out for me. 
  7. P*DE*Q tapioca-based cheese bread - I tried making Pão de queijo before and I ended up with very tasty little blobs of mess. Not the case with P*DE*Q - they come frozen so they're available for a quick delicious hot bread with your meal. This stuff is very addicting! I tried the Original flavor which was great -I'm definitely curious about the Chocolate flavor. I hope to see these in a local retailer someday as I just don't like to order frozen foods - seems like a waste of energy and expense.
  8. Betty Lou's "Nuts About..." Energy Bars - especially the coconut macadamia flavor. (courtesy of Sprouts Market's booth) - yowza these are tasty. More a candy than an energy bar - I will be looking for these the next time I go to Sprouts. I also tried the Almond butter and Spirulina Ginseng flavors which were OK but I definitely preferred the coconut macadamia and look forward to trying both the peanut butter chocolate chip and cashew pecan varieties.
  9. The Real McCoy chips. Think lighter, tastier and more wholesome Dorito. My favorite flavor is the Sweet & Spicy rice chips. Just a hint of sweetness plus a little kick although the hubby thought there was too much seasoning on it. We devoured our samples as well as the larger bag we scored at the expo in minutes. I'll be keeping a look out for these at my local Whole Foods!
  10. Hornsby's Crisp Cider - now gluten free! Back when I first went gluten free, I had a bottle of Hornsby's Cider in the fridge and assumed it was safe - it wasn't. I had an upset stomach and other unmentionables 30 minutes after drinking it and then upon further research found it contained (barley) malt. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Hornsby's is now gluten free! Hornsby's is on the sweeter side of ciders but I like it. I will say though, I still dream about drinking Grower's Cider up in British Columbia which isn't available in the US so I always have a stash of my favorites (Wyder's Pear) in the fridge and will soon be adding Hornsby's to the mix. I did taste a number of the Woodchuck ciders at the expo which I must say was FUN! But in the end I'm still all about the Wyders, and now Horsnby's. I found the Woodchuck varieties good with interesting flavors, but they are not as fruity as I prefer. Note to self: plan vacation to Canada to get Growers Cider fix.


I only attended one class - Amy Burkhart's "The Latest on Gluten, Celiac and IBS: Separating Fact From Fiction". It was a great recap of the state of research and treatment for celiac and gluten sensitivity. Here are my key takeaways:
  • FODMAPS (fermentable, oligo-di and monosachcharides and polyols) sensitivity could be the root cause for folks who are sensitive to gluten. In some cases, eating a generally low FODMAP diet allowed folks to eat gluten w/o their usual symptoms. Foods which contain FODMAPS include lactose (cow/sheep/goat milk), fructose (some fruits have higher levels than others), fructans (wheat, vegetables, onions, garlic), Galactans (beans and lentils), polyols (sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol)
  • SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth) - I could write a long paragraph about this but just found Dr Burkhart's web site summarizes what she covered in the class. Click here. When I had my endoscopy years ago, hoping to find an answer to my issues in the form of flattened villi, instead I was diagnosed with SIBO which could have been caused by celiac.  I had gone gluten free a month prior to the endoscopy but then did a 2 week gluten challenge so the villi were super inflamed but not flattened.
  • Omission Beer - I haven't tried this but I never will - even though it is tested for gluten, it's brewed using barley so it sounds like it's hit or miss - some folks will have no reaction while others will. For me it's not worth the risk, especially since I'm a cider gal.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

6 days and counting to the Gluten & Allergen Free Expo... some last minute tips

The Gluten and Allergen Free expo will be in the San Francisco Bay Area in less than a week! I just took a look at the vendor list which reminded me of some tips I learned last year which I'd like to share:

  1. Don't eat before going. Last year we opted for a light breakfast and then came for the 9am opening Sunday morning. By 11am we were so stuffed we were taking a small bite out of a sample and throwing the rest away - as well as turning down countless other samples.
  2. Take a look at the vendor layout when  you arrive and decide on a plan of how you will systematically cover all booths. Trying to dash between different vendors who interest you will be exhausting and you'll never see it all.
  3. Bring your family members! Last year  I brought my husband and daughter. 3 entries = 3 expo bags = 3x the samples. We were eating those samples for months.
  4. If you tasted an item and did not care for it, don't take the take-home sample. You will have plenty of take home samples you like and the ones you don't like will be the last ones you end up eating (reluctantly) or you'll throw them away. Everyone has different tastes and it's very likely that product you didn't care for someone else loved and they'll appreciate the sample.
  5. Don't be surprised if a product sample is gone if you are at the expo late Saturday or into Sunday. I was really annoyed last year when we showed up at opening on Sunday morning and found out all the Glutino pop tarts had been sampled on Saturday. The product had been announced a few weeks prior and had not made it into stores yet- so after 5 years of no pop tarts I had to wait a few months more for them to show up at Whole Foods. Hopefully there will be enough samples for everyone but I'll be mentally prepared if there's not.
  6. Load up on coupons for the products you liked/buy on a regular basis. I'll bet we saved $100 on products we buy all the time by loading up on the coupons. Another benefit of tip #3.
  7. Give honest feedback. The vendors really want to know what you think - now is not the time to be a wallflower. If there is something you wish was different, tell them. If you have a new product suggestion for them, let them know. I am looking forward to talking to the folks at the Canyon Bakehouse booth (my #1 GF bread choice by far) to let them know about how 50% of the loaves of Mountain White I buy frozen are almost impossible to chip apart the frozen slices and I end up with a bag of shredded slices to make into breadcrumbs so now I only buy raisin and 7 grain. The vendors need and appreciate this feedback, trust me!
  8. Enjoy the experience. If you cannot eat gluten, this is the place where you can eat EVERYTHING there. Quite a bit different from your life outside the expo where it's all about finding ANYTHING to eat and when you do, much of the time you're afraid you may get glutened anyway.
Have a great time at the expo!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

deSIAM Peanut & Coconut Thai Sauce

I love peanuts - especially peanut curry's like Massaman and peanut dipping sauces for things like Chicken Satay. I often make a quick dinner which consists of shrimp, broccoli and red bell pepper over rice noodles with, you guessed it, peanut sauce. I've tried making peanut sauce myself many times but only rarely find a recipe that reminds me of the delicious sauce I find at my local Thai restaurants. I've also tried just about every bottled peanut sauce on the market and could not stand a single one, that is, until I happened upon deSIAM. Of course, now I can't recall exactly where I found it - but I can narrow it down to either Whole Foods or Cost Plus -more likely Cost Plus. It's a product of Thailand and is labeled "GMO Free" but note it is *not* specifically labeled gluten free, although I could not find any gluten ingredients listed, not even the ambiguous ones. I can say I have had no reaction and usually I start to feel queasy 30 minutes after ingesting a crumb of gluten. So use your best judgement to decide whether to try this. Here is the ingredient list:

The sauce is really quite delicious -just a hint of heat and lotsa fresh tasting roasted peanut. I'm looking forward to trying the other deSIAM products I found here. The bottle calls this a "dipping sauce" but I've been using a tablespoon or two over my shrimp/broccoli/rice dish and it's worked fantastically. I definitely still prefer the restaurant peanut sauce but this comes closer to any of the other brands I've tried.