I had the opportunity to attend Washington, DC's Gluten-Free Expo last Friday at the Embassy Suites Convention Center hotel. It was a great success -- and an opportunity for me to meet new GF friends and re-connect with some old. Over 600 people attended this first-annual event, and proceeds went to the Celiac Disease Program at Children's National Medical Center.
Although I didn't have the opportunity to leave my own booth for very long, I did a quick lap through the hall of 60-or-so vendors, most of whom were sampling delicious sweet and savory gluten-free treats. Amie Valpone, of The Healthy Apple blog, was handing out samples of Rudi's delicious line of gluten-free breads. Glutino was also on-hand with samples of their new sandwich bread, which looks, smells, and tastes so much like "real" bread, you can definitely be fooled.
Bloggers Diane of The Whole Gang and Bernice from Wheatless and Meatless were there, as were some of my favorite local baker Marion of Marion's Smart Delights bake shop and Maureen of One Dish Cuisine (FANTASTIC gluten-free crabcakes!).
In the booth beside me was Tonya's Gluten Free Kitchen, sampling their amazing gluten-free soft pretzels and pretzel bites (worthy of ballparks!). Other favorite food companies included Pamela's Products (whose Pancake and Baking mix our family ADORES) and Kettle Cuisine, with a line of high-quality gluten-free soups that are delicious, quick, and healthy.
Wildfire Restaurant was sampling some new gluten-free items: cheese biscuits and chocolate pecan cookies, and Bella Monica was there with their delicious Artisan-syle gluten-free pizzas. Perhaps my favorite sampling experience, however, was Triple Oak Bakery, of Sperryville, VA. I'd been in touch with the owner, Brooke, recently but hadn't met her in person. Formerly a pastry chef at Four and Twenty Blackbirds in Flint Hill, Virginia, Brooke has nailed it when it comes to gluten-free baking. Really...probably the best GF baked goods I've had, and I've sampled A LOT. Her Smith Island Cake was addictive and like nothing else I've ever eaten. Her gluten-free cream puffs were to-die-for. She operates out of her retail bakery and also has some local distribution of her products and is trying to expand that distribution to shops and restaurants in the DC metro area. We would all benefit from that development! In the meantime, keep this bakery in mind for parties and special occasions.
And speaking of special occasions, I met a Stephanie Courtney, a lady specializing in Allergen Free Events in the DC and Baltimore areas. What a great service to keep in mind for help with big parties or events where some of the guests have special dietary needs!
Despite already being quite satiated from all the amazing gluten-free samples, I headed to the hotel's restaurant, Finn and Porter, for the "Globally Gluten Free" cocktail reception, featuring an amazing spread of Italian, Mexican, and other internationally-inspired gluten-free food. The presentation and taste of the food -- and the range of gluten-free options -- was incredible. Especially magnificent was the gluten-free cupcake display. Kudos goes to Executive Chef Aaron Flores, who is literally a legend within the gluten-free community.
My apologies for not including pictures with this post...my biggest regret was being so engrossed in conversations and tasting the food that I forgot to take photos!