Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The Gluten Free Expo...Exposed!

Well, from that juicy title, you better believe this is a full post. I'm so sorry about the delay...I started writing this post in a very timely manner and then proceeded to leave for a six-day trip to Disneyland with six people, most under the age of 12, so admittedly it fell behind in the order of things. But it's still going to be an awesome post, late or not! I attended Utah's First Ever Gluten Free Expo sponsored by Smith's Grocery Stores last Saturday and took my camera, as promised, so I could bring my dear readers the breaking news like a good cub reporter. Just kidding, my photos are far from newspaperly and not so viewable, in some cases. This is what happens when you try to photograph in a bustling expo hall. In any case, I did make some interesting finds and I got to meet (and re-meet) some lovely people.

But before I get into the nitty gritty of the booths and the food, I have to explain that I went to the expo with a whole new respect for food allergy. Sam's test results came in: NO celiac disease, no stomach problems, no allergy cells or infection. Great! But he does have esophageal irritation (an -itis of some kind) probably caused by a dairy allergy. So a no dairy diet for a few weeks to see if he feels better. No butter, no mac and cheese, no chocolate milk, no fishie crackers, no pancake mix. Pretty much all his favorite foods. So going to the expo with dairy-free in mind definitely put a new layer of detective work into my research. And I also found out how difficult it is to keep a six-year-old out of foods he really really wants to eat.

First of all, thank you to Smith's for making this event affordable ($6 at the door, I paid $3 at 2:00), easy to maneuver (free grocery bags for stuff) and easy on those of us with kids in tow. The giant bouncy house was quite the hit with my kids.

I got to meet some of my favorite people in the whole world, some of them for the first time. Like the lovely lady who makes the French Meadow Bakery products that I can't keep my fork out of.

I saw my old friend Joyce at the Grandpa's Kitchen booth,(who I apparently love so much I can't do her the justice of taking a non-blurry picture of her) where she was handing out gluten free pumpkin bars. Little did she know that pumpkin was Sam's favorite. (I think he ate 7 of her little tasters. Ooops.)She showed me her new cookbook, which is one of my favorite kinds of cookbooks: the ones with all the secret recipes from real cooks out there, otherwise known as the Ward Cookbook. Check back on her website to see where you can buy one.I saw David from Tree Street Grains and they even had a pancake with no butter on it for my little Sam. I think he ate three of those, as well. Sheesh. I just love these two people. They are what my husband calls salt of the earth types. This is my favorite hearty gluten free pancake/waffle batter.



There were booths from my old standbys, like Kinnikinnick, (where would I be without your Oreos? In a sad, sad place, that's where.)Glutino (thank you for the crackers to make fried chicken with! And the wafer cookies! I have issues with cookies, it seems.) 123 Gluten Free (best EVER gf biscuits, and look how empty their plates are...apparently everyone else likes their stuff, too.)And Mary's, whose crackers have kept me from certain death several times late at night. It was so great to see those products represented and a whole bunch of people becoming fans of them.


But there were also booths with some newcomers, and welcome newcomers at that. First off was Christina Davis (plus husband--so supportive), with her bee-youtiful new gluten free cookbook called Irresistibly Gluten Free. It's a gorgeous, full-color cookbook with photos of every single one of her 32 delicious recipes, like a cream soup mix (how often have I wished I had a recipe for that come dinnertime!), doughnuts, chicken nuggets, graham crackers, orange chicken, I could go on and on. So needless to say, I'll be interviewing Christina soon and posting all about her and how to get a copy of her book. (She's a girl after my own heart: 6 kids and 3 with celiac along with herself. Sista, we need some time together!)

I also was happy to see showings from King Arthur's Gluten Free line, a welcome addition to any celiac pantry's shelves, Nana's cookie bars, which is both gluten free and dairy free and I really wanted to try, and not just because they have my favorite cartoon monkey on their package, *love Curious George so much* but couldn't try because every time I stalked, er, walked past their table the samples were gone,
and Veggie Slices, cheese made from vegetables. It's not necessarily dairy free, but not completely un-cheesy...I tasted it! Not bad!

I also saw the cute people from Eleanor's Bake Shop in Sandy, where I happened to eat the most delicious gluten free lunch and CAKE POP, yes I said gluten free cake pop, just two weeks ago. The post on that little bit of heaven is forthcoming, but they are located at 9495 South 560 West in Sandy. Go there. Order the Arepas. Eat a cake pop. We'll talk later. And by the way, can you say gluten free wedding cake? I didn't think so. But Eleanor can.



And last, but of course not least, as I was rounding the corner to go down the last aisle I smelled something completely heavenly. I mean, we're talking fancy date night delicious. I saw someone handing out something that looked like this:
And I nearly died. I nearly died right there in the middle of the Expo Center. The delicious red pepper alfredo penne pasta was coming from a restaurant at the Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City called Biaggi's, and I nearly tipped the poor man over grabbing for the yummy alfredo-sauced pasta.
I don't know how they did it, and I don't really care, but it could have been my favorite gluten free pasta EVER, including my own. It's my 10th anniversary tomorrow, and I'm forcing my husband to take me there, because I feel a fancy date night dinner coming on. Creamy, delectable, with vegetables and al dente gluten free pasta...it made me think I had made it big in Vegas and this was how I repaid myself. And get this: they have an entire gluten free menu including salads, appetizers, chicken parmesan, other pastas, and PIZZA that sounds just as fabulous as this pasta. Definitely delicious. And it made me think about how smart that restaurant is to market themselves this way. Do you know how many people who ate that little sample are going to tell their families when they have a get together, "Let's go to Biaggi's!"? Tons. Smart, smart, smart. Hopefully next year for the Second Annual Gluten Free Expo more restaurants will come. Good ones. With yummy food. And bigger portions.
After all those photos and all those links, if you're still reading, you deserve a gold star. Leave me a comment if you attended the Expo and let me know what your favorite taste was!
Happy eating!

2 comments:

  1. Did you get a chance to stop by the Udi's Gluten Free booth (http://udisglutenfree.com)? I consider their gluten free bread to be the greatest discovery I made at the expo! When i picked up a sample piece I looked at it and had to ask, "are you sure this is gluten free??" I think I'll be a customer for life because it is the best tasting non-crumbling no-toasting-needed gluten free bread I've ever tasted!

    Other welcome discoveries I made at the Expo were:

    Pacific Natural Foods - Amazing Tomato Soup!
    Gluten Free & Fabulous - Fantastic thin crust pizza!
    Sweet Cake Bake Shop - Incredible cakes!

    Thanks for your post!

    http://jgwaters.com

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  2. Just so you know, Biaggi's is EXCELLENT, however it has been my experience that the chef's there don't really know about putting non gluten free food with gluten free. There have been times when I and my Celiac friend have eaten there and they put breaded chicken right on top of and next to the GF pasta so we ended up sick anyways. It's great to have a GF menu but if they don't adhere to it then it doesn't benefit anyone. Just sayin'.

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