Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event Recap (Charlotte, NC)

My spring break was pretty darn good on the gluten-free front. Homecooked meals erased my week-to-week college survival struggles, and the opportunity to attend not one but two gluten-free expo events made me eat well and be super happy.

The second of these two expos was the Charlotte Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event. Promising to bring together local and national brands, local practitioners, and expert speakers to educate and inspire, the event really excited me and was the perfect way to finish off my break with a bang.

As an official blogger team member, I was excited to partake in the event to cover the myriad of vendors present, as well as enjoy cool perks such as a pre-show dinner the night before. As it happened, I got glutened the night of the dinner, so had to miss out on the fun. Not wanting to let my angry stomach hold me back, I was determined to make to- and enjoy- the show itself. As it happened, I did just that and more as local and national vendors alike made quite the impression.

First up is the first vendor I visited: Luna's Living Kitchen. This Charlotte-based restaurant serves up "living" cuisine which includes a 100% plant-based menu prepared fresh and raw every day. I sampled their chocolate chip, zesty lemon, and ginger cookies which I really liked. Minimally sweetened and "healthy" tasting, but still decadent, the cookies were delicious and simply made you feel good eating them. My favorite was the zesty lemon, which bursted with bright lemon-y flavor. My aunt, who has transitioned to a gluten-free diet as well, bought one each of all of their varieties because they are that good. I made a note in the back of my mind to pay the cafe a visit next time I'm in town.

For more info on Luna's Living Kitchen, and order goodies online, click here.



Although not new to me, I was happy to see Freedom Foods in attendance. Australia's leading maker of "free-from" cereals, I love how each batch is tested for allergens, their facilities are free from top allergens, and all products are non-GMO. Beyond that, they make awesome cereal that tastes good without too much salt and sugar, and appeal to kids and adults alike. Already a super fan of their corn flakes and ancient grain flakes, I loved tasting their newest variety, tic tac toe cocoa crunch which packed a rich chocolate flavor with only 7 grams of sugar- not bad for a full cup of cereal. While at the booth, I snapped up six boxes of cereal and two of their easy pancake mixes. Can you tell I'm obsessed?

For more info about Freedom Foods, click here. I have found their cereals at Wegmans, Hoover's Market (Altamonte Springs, FL), and Amazon.



No gluten-free expo is complete without baked goods, and thanks to Gluten Free with Sarah B, baked goods abounded. Offering an array of brownie bites, banana bread, and pumpkin doughnuts that were gluten, wheat, soy, nut, and dairy-free, I loved the nice taste and texture of the doughnuts and banana bread. I ended up buying a banana bread loaf for a quick and easy breakfast option during my first week back to school. 


For more information about Gluten Free with Sarah B, click here.



Roots Hummus was a dark horse of sorts for me because I do not like hummus. I've tried- several times- to get into this Mediterranean dip, but have never fallen head over heels. However this company, which claims to be the "microbrew of hummus," stole my tastebuds and heart with their lima bean hummus, using one of my favorite bean varieties. Thick, creamy, and delicious, I could have easily eaten a whole container right then and there without second thought. My mom, a hummus devotee, loved their chickpea-based varieties, and we both practically begged Roots to bring their awesome small-batch dips to Orlando. Until then, I'll have to make a trip to Jacksonville's Earth Fare Market to load up! 

For more information on Roots, check out their website here.


Redemption Brew Works proved to make my glutened stomach the happiest throughout the morning with their fermented, naturally carbonated, gluten-free, vegan, and non-alcoholic brews. I tasted their ginger beer and lemongrass brew and was blown away by the distinctive tastes of both.  While strong at first, I quickly grew to the unique drinks and liked how they were a good source of active cultures, something I don't often get not that yogurt has disappeared from my diet. While their distribution remains local to North Carolina, I hope to see them do big things and expand to either Florida or Maryland... or both!

For more information about Redemption Brew Works, click here.


Jane's Gluten Free Bakery was another local vendor whose baked goods called my name. Never one to turn down bread, I was eager to get my hands on her delicious looking variety of loaves, buns, pizza crusts, and muffins. Knowing space in my suitcase was limited and the chocolate chip muffins were off limits due to milk fat (bummer!), I opted for her hamburger buns which came in a four pack. Jumbo-sized, I loved their flaky texture which reminded me more of a breakfast pastry than a bun. Slightly sweet and sourdough tasting from the honey and apple cider vinegar, I found them to be a luxurious breakfast with a schmear of almond butter.

For more info, check out Jane's website here. You can also find her products at local markets, restaurants, and even Dean and DeLuca! 



Breaking away from the foodie finds, I want to give a shout out to the app Yo Dish, and its founder Justin. This app allows users to set their dietary restrictions and browser others' reviews and enables them to rate restaurants they visit. There's nothing like getting expert knowledge from locals, and Yo Dish enables travelers by placing all of the information at their fingertips. I've linked several of my reviews to the app, and hope that they may come in handy for those seeking good gluten-free and dairy-free eats in Baltimore, Orlando, and beyond.

For more information on the app, click here. It is available on the Apple app store.


Another company that completely changed my outlook on a particular food variety was Rice Wrap Food Corp. Never one to partake in this Japanese delicacy due to gluten concerns and raw fish aversion, Rice Wraps are a game changer for home cooks who want to make sushi at home. Each package holds a rectangle rice sheet, which can be easily rolled into a sushi roll in mere seconds. Simply stuff, roll, and enjoy. It's as easy as that, and the wraps themselves are sturdy and delicious.

For more information on Rice Wraps, click here.




Last, but not least, are two foodies after this foodie's heart by creating delicious and easy-to-make pizza crusts from a mix. Two Foodies Gluten-Free Kitchen allows at-home chefs to make a crust, using a few simple ingredients, that's chewy, flavorful, and the antithesis of the cardboard that so often passes for gluten-free pizza crusts. I bought a box on the spot, and loved the sincerity and energy of Chris and Jen; it's great to see people so passionate about making gluten-free foods fun, flavorful, and accessible for all.

For more information, check out Two Foodies' website here. You can also order their crusts on Amazon.



Overall, the Charlotte Gluten and Allergen Free Wellness Event was a great experience for my aunt, mom, and me. We loved the awesome mix of local and national vendors and that not all of the offerings were sugar-laden baked goods. Kudos to the event's staff for throwing together a great event that was engaging and informative. This event makes several stops across the country, so definitely check out when it's coming to your neck of the woods. The Raleigh, NC stop is the weekend I'm diving up to college in the fall, so I'm already formulating a stop-by on my way through. For more information about these events, click here.

Disclaimer: I was provided all samples free of charge (I did purchase several products independently). I was not influenced or compensated in anyway, and all opinions reflected are mine, and mine alone.

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