Monday, October 10, 2011

Gluten Free at Taco Loco Philadelphia

I can't tell you how many times I drove past the generator powered culinary hot-spot known as Taco Loco, without even knowing it existed!  Located near the intersection of 4th street and Washington Avenue in South Philadelphia, Taco Loco operates out of a camper parked on the side of the road.  Tables are set up on the nearby sidewalk, but most people seem to just use the fold-down counter-tops or take their food to go.

I hear that Taco Loco is not located in the safest of areas.  So just to be safe, the earlier you go, the better.  Regardless, you shouldn't let anything stop you from sampling this little Mexican-American foodie gem! There were lots of options, but I kept it simple and asked for the tacos with shredded pork.  Don't get the fried pork, since cross-contamination will be likely.  Actually, go with the chicken to be extra safe.  I asked to read the corn-tortilla package to assure myself that there were no "gluten" ingredients included. None found!

The smell of the cilantro, and the spices, and the pork were too much for me to stand.  I took a few bites a bit too early, and burned the top of my mouth.  Soooo worth it:)  My take-away meal included sides of green and red chili sauce, which were both excellent.  So when you're in Philadelphia, and you're looking for some great Mexican-American cuisine, stop by Taco Loco and be prepare for some good eats!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

A GF Battle of the Big 3 Burger Joints!

When I'm short on time and money, yet big on appetite, I'll typically go to one of the 3 three main burger joints: McDonald's, Burger King or Wendy's.  Each has its own challenges related to keeping things gluten free. For example, did you know that McDonald's has wheat ingredients in its fries?  Unfortunate but true.  Wendy's fries are gluten free, and if you make sure by asking, are sometimes fried in their own designated fryer, making them gluten free. Burger King's fries are gluten free, but they are always fried in the same oil as wheat-battered food = off limits!

I decided to document the way that each of the big 3 serve their burgers minus the buns.  Although I love Wendy's burgers, their staff never seem to be knowledgeable about gluten issues, and always look at me like I have an additional alien head growing out the side of my head.  The presentation of their bun-less burgers is typically less than spectacular. Here's what a few burgers with lettuce and tomatoes looks like served up.  Wendy's came in THIRD in my little secret shopper GF competition.

Burger King actually has a button stating "Carb-Free" that they use when people order burgers with out buns.  Burger King staff also seem to know a little about gluten issues and never make me feel like I'm some kind of neurotic picky food person.  Although I'm always happy with the service and the product, their presentation could use a little improvement.  Here's what their GF burger presentation looks like. Burger King came in SECOND PLACE.

Finally, the champion of GF Burger presentation is McDonald's by a mile!  Every time I order bun-less burgers from McDonald's, I'm treated with courtesy and the presentation is often exceptional.  McDonald's does GF burgers the best, which is why they've earned FIRST PLACE in my secret shopper GF competition.  Here's their burger presentation.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Gluten Free Banana Walnut Pancakes at Atiya Ola's Philadelphia!

I started out my day with a very special treat!  My good friend Brianna told me a few weeks back about a little place near her apartment in West Philadelphia that offered gluten free pancakes at any time of the day.  The little restaurant is called Atiya Ola's Spirit First Foods, and specializes in vegan, vegetarian, raw and organic foods.  They also offer blueberry, banana walnut, and fried apple gluten free pancakes!!

It has been over 5 years since I've ordered pancakes for breakfast, and I am so glad the drought has ended:)  I love going to diners for breakfast, but am always jealous when I see people enjoying their steaming stacks of flapjacks, drizzled with maple syrup and topped with dollops of melting butter:)~

Atiya Ola's is a small and personable place with a lot of character.  It's located on Baltimore Ave, a handful of blocks away from the Green Line Cafe.  When my plate of banana walnut pancakes were placed before me I experienced a moment of zen.  Brianna and I were told that the GF pancakes were thin, but the flapjacks on my plate were far from thin... they were thick, dense and absolutely yummy!!  Atiya Ola's did not have any maple syrup on hand, but they did have bottles of agave nectar on each table, which actually turned out to be a great substitute.  However, next time, I'm bringing some of my Aunt Vicky's homemade maple syrup:)

For those of you who can't remember the last time they ordered pancakes, you have to visit Atiya Ola's!  I'll be back for sure!!

Atiya Ola's Spirit First Foods
4505 Baltimore Ave
Philadelphia PA 19143

Gluten Free in Roma Italy

Rome was a beautiful place.  The final part of a three-week international journey... Rome proved to be an excellent ender. I was excited to arrive in Rome, not only because it was what it was, but because  I've read that Italy is a sweet place for living gluten free.  From what I've read, it is common to find restaurants offering a variety of gluten free pasta, breads and desserts.  Soon after arriving in Rome, we met a friend, who had a friend with Celiac Disease; and said he would be happy to bring us to a nearby restaurant that specialized in gluten free options called Il Maggiolino. So we said "let's go!"... and we did.  My very first meal in Italy was completely gluten free.  It was pure heaven!

I started with a small bottle of local red wine and gluten free focaccia bread drizzled with olive oil
and dusted with freshly chopped herbs. Yum!  The menu was loaded!  It took me a while but I finally settled on the gluten free gnocchi.  I have not had gnocchi for more than 5 years.  The last time was a gnocchi and Gorgonzola cheese dish I put together in our little dorm kitchen at Buffalo State. That was real good, but this was even better! I ate my gnocchi slowly and deliberately, not uttering a word for blocks of time.  Awesome...

For dessert I ordered the gluten free tiramisu.  It was drizzled with a cream cheese sauce and covered in cocoa powder.  I thought the presentation could use a little work but the taste was out of this world.  When I left the restaurant I was drunk with food more than wine.  It actually heart to move for an hour or so.  The remainder of my stay was filled with being a tourist, going to some of the historical areas, eating great gluten free meals, snacking on gelato, sipping cappuccinos and watching the world do its thing.  Italy...  We're far from done... I'll be back.

Here's all the information off the card from the restaurant "Il Maggiolino": Ristorante - Pizzeria Forno a Legna Pesce e Carne. Specializzati anche in PRODOTTI FRESHI Pizza - Pasta - Pane - Dolci - Gelati SENZA GLUTINE.  (Address) Via Alessandro Cruto, 9 - 00146 Roma. Tel. 06 557448.

Gluten Free Pizza at Carmen's!

About a week ago a fellow graduate assistant, Maria, told me about a small pizza place around the corner from me that sold Gluten Fee Pizza.  I asked her if it was any good, and she gave rave reviews.  Since I usually have to drive into Philadelphia to order gluten free pizza, the discovery of a local venue was exciting. Less than a week later I took my partner Mindy on a pizza date.

Carmen's is a nice little BYOB tucked between Ridley Park and Chester on Macdade Blvd. We ordered a gluten free pepperoni  pizza.  It cost about $10, and was 10 inches round. Both Mindy and I were very impressed, not only by how good it was, but also by the kindness and attentiveness of the staff.  The pizza crust was both crispy around the edges and soft beneath the cheese... just how I like it!

Here's a direct quote from Carmen's website: "Carmen's now offers a 10" gluten free pizza, available in red, white, or tomato pie. Since we make our own dough fresh every morning, we could never guarantee our equipment to be sufficiently flour free to make our own gluten free products. Therefore we purchase this dough from and outside vendor, and it contains both dairy and egg. We use separate and sterile smallwares for baking and slicing the gluten free pizzas. Please don't order meatballs as a topping, since we use our own breadcrumbs when we bake our meatballs and they are not gluten free."

Biting into a hot slice of gluten free pizza, located just minutes from where I live was a blissful experience I didn't think would be possible anytime in the near future.  Another good day in the life of a celiac sufferer:)

Carmen's is located at the corner of Mac Dade Blvd. and Milmont Ave. in Milmont Park, PA, a Delaware county suburb just ten minutes southwest of the Philadelphia International Airport. They are centrally located on Mac Dade Blvd. between Rte 476 (the Blue Rte) and Rte 420, within easy reach of I-95, Chester Pike (Rte 13, the Industrial Highway (Rte 291) and Baltimore Pike.

Gluten Free Sandwiches and Beer at the Foodery, Philadelphia!

I know I've posted a lot about the Foodery, but their efforts at making my life as a celiac disease sufferer easier and more enjoyable deserve recognition:)  Not only does the Foodery offer a wide array of gluten free beers, but now they even offer gluten free bread for all their sandwiches!!  I couldn't believe my eyes when I first read the poster exclaiming the option of gluten free flatbread that could be substituted on any sandwich for an additional dollar.  It seemed too good to be true... but it was!  And I am so happy about it:)

I ordered the Roast Beef and Swiss on GF bread, which comes with romaine, cucumber, tomatoes and horseradish sauce.  The sandwich originally cost $6.00, so with GF bread it was $7.00.  I watched the deli-man make sure to cover his working area with paper before constructing the sandwich in order to avoid cross contamination.

As he was finishing up, I wandered over to the gluten free beer section and picked out something I had yet to try, the St. Peter's Sorgham Beer.  It was light, smooth, and the perfect companion to the spicy horseradish sauce in my sandwich.  Once again, I found myself in pure gluten free heaven:)

According to their website St. Peter's Sorghum beer, also known as "G-Free Beer" was launched in August of 2007. It's accurately described as a clean, crisp gluten free ale with a pilsner lager style finish and aromas of citrus and mandarin from American Amarillo hops.

The Foodery is located at 2nd and Poplar in Philadelphia.  If you're GF, and you live anywhere near Philadelphia, it's a must visit!  Yet another example of how much easier it's getting for us celiac sufferers.   Good stuff!

Gluten Free Restaurant Review: Tortilla Press Cantina

Collingswood, NJ has it going on for GF dining choices!  Not long ago I was asked by Lydia and Chef Mark from Tortilla Press Cantina to stop by for a complimentary dinner to discuss their new GF-friendly menu.  There were four of us Celiac sufferers present, including one other GF blogger, Michael, from Gluten Free Philly.  On top of being served some amazing food, we were allowed to communicate our opinions about what would make Tortilla Press Cantina as GF friendly as possible. Some of our suggestions were: Advertise the fact that they have a designated GF fryer; place a "GF" next to every gluten free item on their menu; advertise on the outside of their restaurant that it's a GF-Friendly establishment; and educate the waitstaff about gluten sensitivity issues.  They were more than happy to work on all of our suggestions:)

This is Chef Mark

Although I don't have any good pictures of the food I ate that night, I've got to tell you, their Coffee Rubbed Braised Baby Back Ribs "slow simmered in our famous rub and served with mango bbq sauce and maple glazed sweet potatoes" were out-of-this-world!  And although they contract out for the GF dessert (Boston Cream Pie) I picked out, it was absolutely mouth watering scrumplicious! I'm sooo happy they have that on their menu:)

Not only have they taken our suggestion to list all their gluten free menu items with a (GF), they even went so far as to create a special GF Valentines Day menu! How cool is that!  Below I've pasted their menus for you to check out.  If you're ever in the area, I highly suggest you take the 15 minute trip from Philadelphia to chow down at Tortilla Press Cantina.  The prices are fair, the food is delicious, and the GF-friendly atmosphere is like an Oasis in a desert of unsympathetic, GF-ignorant eateries!

Here's the link:  Tortilla Press Cantina