This past weekend, April 28th, I had the pleasure of attending the Celiac Awareness Tour. A newbie to the tour, I quickly realized I walked into a fantasy world where I didn’t have to question everything that was put in front of me. I predicted I would sample some treats, but I had no idea I would be munching on pizza, muffins, cinnamon rolls, breads, chicken fingers, fried ravioli, lasagna, and beer; oh the list goes on! The complement to the savory and sweet foods I sampled were the vendors and hosts of the event. They were enthusiastic about their products, and were well-informed of what constitutes a gluten-free food. They understood safe ingredients and safe procedures such as cross-contamination, and you could socialize as you ate instead of asking question after question.
As I made my way from table to table, I realized I wanted to take away more from this event then simply eating till I reached my bursting point. How could I incorporate some of today’s products into my gluten free lifestyle? I decide to focus on three areas: bread, dessert, and a restaurant. My first stop was the sweet portion of the day. I tried everything gluten and wheat free including macaroons. The macaroons were mouth-watering, and they were an instant hit by those swarming the table. Created by Jennies Gluten-Free Bakery, I sampled all three versions: the original, the chocolate drizzled, and the all-chocolate. They had a delectable texture from the coconut, and a melt-in-your-mouth sweetness that made you go back to try the other varieties. What amazed me the most was the consistency – you felt like you were eating a decadent dessert that satisfied your sweet tooth. I’d like to say which one I liked the best, but sadly I am unable to. All three were amazing and I would highly recommend these as your daily indulgence.
Next I stumbled upon an old favorite luncheon spot, The Couch Tomato. Located in Manayunk I recall being served huge portions of fresh ingredients comprising a unique salad. Adding more bliss to the day than I thought possible, the owner Craig Mosmen, informed me the company expanded their product line and introduced a gluten-free pizza crust. They did a demo showing how they make the pizza followed by cooking and serving it to the drooling audience. When I tell you there was a line at the booth, I mean there was a line that wrapped down to the entryway, with growling stomachs ready to pounce. My first bite was nothing but exceptional, and I have the burnt pizza mark on the roof of my mouth as evidence. The dough stole the show. With the first bite you penetrate the crunchy outer- crust and reach the soft inside. It had the right amount of spices and herbs, topped with melted cheese, and tomato sauce that brought together the three main components of a pizza. Seconds anyone?
My last quest was the bread. Growing up in Philadelphia everyone knows you have to have a good hoagie. Queue Arize. Never before have I been satisfied with a bread, nonetheless one that has the consistency and texture of a good old hearty Italian loaf. Sure, I may have only sampled a piece topped with a cinnamon-butter spread, but that bread spoke volumes. It had the softness and consistency of its gluten counterpart; with your first touch you could feel the freshness and it bounced back to retain its shape. No crumbling upon biting, no doughy texture when chewing, just a wonderful piece of white bread. This bread was made from an Italian for an Italian. Unfortunately, it hasn’t reached the store shelves of PA, but in time I hope to find it!
Overall, this event was satisfying in multiple ways. A plethora of delicious foods, eager business owners ready to present the gluten-free world their amazing creations, and best of all the entire event turned into just a food show. Everyone there understood the purpose of the event, and eventually after the initial wow factor of realizing you could eat everything there (unless you couldn’t do oats), the conversations were focused on taste and texture. As a personal highlight I was able to bring home with me three new ways I could diversify my gluten free style of cooking and eating.