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May 2012

Wow! Guess what appeared in our family's mailbox this past weekend (no, not email Inbox...actual black metal mailbox at curb)? A flyer advertising Wegmans new line of Gluten Free products -- with FREE COUPONS enclosed, no less! I haven't made it to the nearest Wegmans yet (seems there is now one about 25 minutes in every direction from us!), but from the looks of the flyer -- and their website -- private label "Wegmans" products include four gluten free pastas and four gluten free baking mixes (Sugar Cookie mix, Double Chocolate Brownie mix, Chocolate Cake mix, and Vanilla Cake mix). The FREE COUPONS they sent in the flyer were for a free pasta AND a free baking mix (any variety). It was also reassuring to read that, like many of their other private label products, there is a "G" icon (or, as they call it..."Wellness Key") right on the box, which means they have verified the ingredients do not contain gluten, and there is no risk of cross-contact with gluten. Whew! For gluten free recipes, new product info, and to sign up for their FREE Fresh News email for monthly gluten free updates, visit the gluten free area of Wegmans... Read more →

BLOG HOP, DAY 10: At GlutenFreeTravelSite, our goal is to make it easy for anyone following a gluten free diet to find safe places to dine -- both in their area and when they travel. Since partipating in Holy Communion is such an integral part of most Christians' lives, we wanted to help visitors to our site also find churches that offer gluten-free (or low gluten) wafers/hosts. We recently began encouraging users of our site to submit “reviews” of churches offering gluten-free communion. You can find these reviews mixed in among the other reviews on our site, which are organized by location. So, for example, if you're traveling to Chicago and want to find a church where you can safely participate in communion, search reviews for the Chicago area. We don't have many churches reviewed on our site yet, and we need help spreading the word. If you or someone you know attends a church that offers gluten-free communion wafers/hosts, please submit a review to our site. The procedure is the same as it is for submitting a review of a restaurant or other establishment. Simply go to Submit Review, choose the location where the church is located, and follow... Read more →

BLOG HOP, DAY 9: So your son or daughter is starting the college search process. This is a stressful enough time for him or her -- and for you. Now add to it the fact that you'll have to put colleges through an extra filter: which ones can best serve gluten free students. The question any of them really know what they're doing? And if so, are there ample choices to make mealtime an enjoyable experience, not just another boring meal of the same "safe" options? It is with these questions in mind that our sister website, GlutenFreeTravelSite, recently began welcoming reviews of college dining services, submitted by students on gluten-free diets. Gluten free college students follow the steps for Submitting a Review as they would for a restaurant, store, hotel, or resort, but they choose "college" when prompted for the type of establishment they're reviewing.

 By adding colleges as a choice of venues to be reviewed, GlutenFreeTravelSite gives college students a way to share their feedback -- both positive and negative -- with current and prospective students who follow gluten-free diets. You can view the colleges reviewed thus far on our Gluten Free College Reviews page, which is... Read more →

BLOG HOP, DAY 8: I know some of you may shy away from "chain" restaurants, preferring more "unique" or "sophisticated" fare. But “chain” doesn’t have to have a bad connotation. Just because a restaurant company has multiple locations -- either in a particular region or nationwide -- it doesn't mean they can't provide some of the best gluten-free meals around. In fact, some of our family’s favorite places to dine are the more sophisticated and fun concepts that have taken off with the gluten-free set: Burton's Grill, Biaggi's, and Glory Days Grill. Even BJ's Restaurant and Brewhouse, originally known for their deep-dish pizza, now has a wonderful and extensive gluten-free menu, which includes gluten-free pizza and tons of other tasty options. The main advantage of these restaurants is that they have printed gluten-free menus, so you know exactly what’s safe and what’s not, or if any substitutions need to be made. Because of this, the wait staff (and kitchen staff) are typically well-trained about the gluten-free offerings, but it’s still wise to be vigilant when ordering, as I've mentioned in past posts (staff turnover can be high in the restaurant business, which leaves the potential for slip-ups in even the... Read more →

BLOG HOP, DAY 7: Much has already been written on the subjects of gluten free dining and "gluten free friendly" restaurants by those of us who provide gluten free dining resources on the web. However, many gluten free dining tips bear repeating, especially since all of us can be lulled into a false sense of complacency when dining out. Now that gluten free awareness has advanced beyond the point where people look at you like you have three heads when you bring up the words "Celiac Disease" or "gluten free," it is getting easier to find restaurants that understand our dietary requirements. However, there is a wide range of knowledge among restaurants...those that are simply trying to capitalize on the "gluten free trend" to those that know the important intracacies (like avoiding all the potential risks of cross contamination) and train their FULL staff (both front and back of house). And just because a restaurant offers a formal "Gluten Free Menu" doesn't mean the people in contact with your food are properly trained. The GF community learned that first-hand with the boggled introduction of a GF Menu at California Pizza Kitchen last year. So...even if you're a seasoned veteran of... Read more →

BLOG HOP, DAY 6: Having wanderlust but wondering if you can successfully venture overseas while maintaining your gluten-free diet? Leaving the relative comfort of the U.S., with its growing awareness of Celiac, to travel into uncharted territory can spook even the most seasoned travelers. And it's no wonder...there are international destinations that consistently get high marks from gluten-free travelers -- and there are those you probably want to shy away from. Do some more detailed online research, and you'll see that... Ireland gets top marks, due to its higher incidence (2%, vs. 1% for the U.S) of Celiac Disease. And Italy — ironically the land of pasta! -- has a high awareness and therefore a higher rate of diagnosis, even though their overall rate of Celiac is equivalent to ours (1%). Reviews are mixed, but it seems many restaurants understand the needs of their gluten-free diners and are able to offer plenty of gluten-free options, including GF pasta. Australia and New Zealand are very aware and accommodating to people on gluten-free diets, and the many GF-friendly choices there make finding a “safe” restaurant easy. We have a good number of reviews from this part of the world on our website,... Read more →

Great news! Chuck E. Cheese's has announced in a Press Release that they will be test marketing a gluten free pizza and gluten free cupcakes at their Minnesota locations -- and will consider a nationwide rollout if all goes well. Unlike Domino's Pizza, which has been met with VERY mixed reactions over the past week based on the introduction of their own gluten-free pizza (which, by their own admission, is NOT Celiac safe, due to the very real potential for cross-contamination), Chuck E. Cheese's will use gluten-free pizza by Conte's Pasta, which comes frozen in a pre-sealed bake-in-bag that remains sealed when cooking and will be served with a personal pizza cutter at the family's table. Done correctly, this reduces any potential for cross contamination. Gluten free chocolate cupcakes from Fabe's All Natural Bakery will also come in pre-sealed, single serve packaging. I, for one, am thrilled. While I can only tolerate the noise level at Chuck E. Cheese's so often (!), it is great to know my husband and I might be able to take BOTH our sons there -- or send them to birthday parties there -- knowing our younger son with Celiac Disease will have something safe... Read more →

If your idea of the perfect vacation is a cruise with multiple ports-of-call, you're in are fast becoming one of the better options for gluten-free travelers. Most of the big cruise lines have policies in place to serve people with special dietary needs. If you've never cruised and have been hesitant for one reason or another, consider vacations are mostly inclusive (excursions and alcoholic beverages are usually extra, as are spa treatments), and it gives you the opportunity to visit many destinations, while only unpacking once! On our website, GlutenFreeTravelSite, we have links to many of the cruise lines and their GF policies on our Travel Resources page. Most cruise lines recommend noting your gluten-free needs at the time you — or your travel agent — makes the reservation. It’s a good idea to meet with the Maitre d’ upon arrival on your first day on the ship, too. That should enable you to articulate any preferences to the chef — and find out a bit more about the GF options on board. Some cruise lines may even tell you more about the gluten-free staples they stock on their ships when you first make your reservation — and... Read more →

BLOG HOP, DAY 4: In my post a few days ago I talked about choosing a condo or hotel that comes equipped with a kitchen, kitchenette -- or at the very least, a mini fridge and microwave -- when traveling. But there will be times this isn't possible -- like at some resorts. Then you'll need to spend a little more time in advance of your trip ensuring you'll be able to safely eat at the restaurants available to you. First, call the resort (or hotel) and ask to speak with the Executive Chef to asses his or her gluten-free knowledge. Ask what type of choices you’ll have for meals — and if they don’t offer some of your favorite staples (a certain type of gluten-free pasta, bread, or pizza, for example), ask if you can ship some things on dry ice to arrive a few days before your stay. There’s a pretty big range of gluten-free knowledge when it comes to chefs. If you’re okay with “the path of least resistance” that some chefs take (serving you some form of protein — like plain, grilled chicken without sauce — and a baked potato and steamed veggies), that’s fine. But... Read more →

BLOG HOP, DAY 3: Yesterday, I recommended some top cities in the U.S. for gluten free travel. I touched on the Orlando area of Florida, noting how "gluten free friendly" Disney World and its parks, hotels, and resorts are. (To read peer reviews of Disney's restaurants from a GF perspective, enter Lake Beuna Vista into the search box on our Search/Mapping page of GlutenFreeTravelSite). In fact, whether you are a fan of "the mouse" or not, it's hard to argue with the fact that Disney World has become somewhat of the “gold standard” for “gluten-free friendly” travel destinations. They were early to embrace special dietary needs of all sorts, likely due to the rising prevalence of Celiac Disease, dietary intolerances, and allegies -- especially in children. They know that family travelers are their bread and butter, and no family destination wants kids to feel left out for any reason. So instead, they make kids (and adults) with special dietary needs feel like rock stars. Their attention to detail and desire to accommodate all diners has earned them an especially devoted following in the gluten-free community. When you dine at a sit-down restaurant at any of Disney World’s hotels, resorts, or... Read more →

BLOG HOP, DAY TWO: In this second installment of my Gluten Free Dining and Travel Series, I wanted to cover the subject of gluten free DOMESTIC travel opportunities. I'll be covering international locales in another post. When it comes to locations in the U.S. that afford gluten free travelers plenty of safe dining options, there's no better place to start than our annual contest winners. Each year, GlutenFreeTravelSite awards one particular location the title of “World’s Most Celiac-Friendly Destination.” The contest recognizes locations that offer a wide range of dining choices for people following gluten-free diets. The results are determined by tallying the number of user-submitted dining and travel reviews received throughout the year for each location on GlutenFreeTravelSite. Here's what I'd recommend if you want to if you want a true "vacation from worry." These destinations have so many GF dining options, you'll want to extend your trip! 2008 Winner: New York Not surprisingly, New York was the winner in the first year of our contest. New York -- especially Manhattan -- is a great place to visit if you have Celiac Disease. Awareness is good, and restaurants are eager to cater to the increasing number of local and... Read more →

BLOG HOP, DAY ONE: When planning a gluten-free trip, it’s a good idea to keep the Boy Scout adage in mind: BE PREPARED. In my opinion, you can't do too much advance planning. Do as much as time will'll thank yourself on your vacation when you have more time to relax...which is why you're there in the first place! A great place to start -- for either domestic OR international travel -- is by contacting the local chapter/support group of a Celiac association in the state or country in which you are traveling. Reaching out to these “locals” is a good idea, because you’ll be getting advice first-hand from people living in the area you’re traveling — and who probably know better than anyone about the safest places to eat in the area. And believe me, they love to share their knowledge — they are great “ambassadors.” Links to many Celiac associations (and their local chapters) can be found at the top of GlutenFreeTravelSite’s Travel Resources page. Of course, the review area of our website, GlutenFreeTravelSite is also helpful when planning any successful gluten-free trip. You can find GF-friendly places to dine and shop at your destination by searching... Read more →