On September 23rd the NFCA held their annual Appetite for Awareness food show. A busy event, I would coin it a food frenzy, as people swarmed tables to try samples of dishes they didn’t think possible. Restaurants, caterers and businesses promoted new gluten-free options, and provided hearty samples so the flavors could truly be enjoyed.
What starts out as a sample here and a sample there quickly turns into an undeniable fullness. You are immersed into a wonderful world were you can’t possible pass up a chocolate brownie, a soft pretzel or a crab cake (yes – real crab not the gluten-laden artificial kind!). Your eyes run wild while trying to process all the food you can eat without questioning the ingredients or food preparation. Each business had such an artistic and flavorful fusion that it was difficult to like just one, and the list of restaurants that attended now offers anyone with a gluten-free restriction a fabulous dining experience.
Eventually I sampled my way through the different restaurants and caterers and found my way to the local shops and companies. I quickly noted a few stand-out companies and was able to talk briefly with the owners directly. My first find was Caesars Pasta and they were promoting new line extensions of their already convenient and authentic Italian gluten-free pasta dishes. The staff of Caesars Pasta couldn’t keep their product on the table long enough, and were constantly cooking samples for a ready-to-eat experience. I was able to grab a chicken lasagna dish that was bursting with Italian seasonings, cheese and sturdy noodles. A great option for when you don’t have the time to cook dinner or even an easy lunch option for the office.
Nothing pairs better with meat and cheese, or any dinner, than a nice cold beer. Yes, I tried multiple types of beer:) New Planet Beer and Redbridge were supplying the masses with whole portions and different flavors. New Planet offered a Raspberry Ale, a Tred Lightly Ale and an Off Grid Pale Ale for those that wanted a brew to wash down the dinner samples. It was the first time I was able to try a flavored beer, and the raspberry ale had the distinguishable taste of raspberries and a slight beer after taste that wasn’t too hoppy. Many thanks to New Planet Beer because I can happily say I know the difference between a hoppy and not-so-hoppy beer. Of course you had to be 21 for legal purposes.
Following dinner it’s common to eye up desserts. My journey led me to The Little Bakery that boasts decadent gluten-free desserts, and they live up to their ‘Best of Philly’ honor. Their raspberry iced chocolate brownie was rich, smooth and satisfying. Others around me were raving about the other brownies and lemon bars that were offered too. The owner, John Rorer, mentioned they will be expanding their product to supply the Rittenhouse Market on Spruce Street.
Making my way through the lines of people I found another crowd-pleaser. Tonya’s pretzels won the hearts of many Philadelphia residents as they could have the pleasure of biting into a soft, warm pretzel that was as close to the original that a celiac could get to. You even had the option of a salt or cinnamon and sugar-coating. Of course I opted for the cinnamon sugar, and without a doubt it exceeded any expectations. There were many people hopping back in line for another round!
To accompany the love for bread, Sweet Note Bakery has successfully crafted a gluten-free bagel that is worth eating. The bread had the consistency of a regular bagel and it comes in multiple variations. I sampled an everything bagel which I never thought would be possible again. Not only was the taste and texture evident, but so was this size. For once a gluten-free product was a portion that would fill you up, and not be half the size of a gluten version. You would only need one for breakfast!
By the time you make your way to each table and learn about new products coming out or restaurants that are now offering a gluten-free menu, you are bursting. Your stomach is so full yet you want to grab another cupcake, and your mind is busy making mental notes of the next place to take the family. There is a ton of information to be learned and it is wonderful to have these events taking place. I can only anticipate the next one!