Sunday, March 30, 2014

DeLand Bakery's Bagel Review

DeLand Bakery, located 45 minutes north of the Orlando area, offers a full range of gluten free breads, buns, rolls, cookies, and more.

However, this hasn't always been the case. I first became aware of the bakery through That Deli, a Lake Mary deli that offers gluten free sub rolls from the company. While talking with the staff, they excitedly informed me about the bakery and their plans to build a gluten free expansion, but told me that the bakery still used a shared line for their baked goods. Their breads are available at many local outlets such as Whole Foods Market, Hoover's Market, Chamberlains, and Earth Origins Outlet, but the label clearly read "contains wheat/gluten." Because they had no apparent effect on me, I consumed the bagels, buns and bread on a regular basis. However, after going without them for a while, I found that I did have a slight reaction when I went back to eating their products.

Which is why I was pleasantly surprised to find DeLand's bagels at Whole Foods Market in Doctor Phillips with a entirely new packaging featuring the Gluten Intolerance Group's (GIG) "gluten free" certification. Although hesitant to give them a second chance, I ultimately missed eating them so decided to take the leap. 

Side Trip: Blue Moon Pizza, R Rice and Souper Jenny Review (Atlanta, GA)

Although I'm mainly Orlando-based, every so often, I get to travel around. Being a high school senior who has a complex medical condition, most of my recent travel has surrounded college visits or medical appointments out of town. Such is the case that brought me to Atlanta recently. This visit was of medical nature, which involved appointments and procedures- not fun. However, what softens the deal for me is finding unique restaurants which allow me to have a little bit of fun. Atlanta, as it turned out, proved to be rich with gluten-free opportunities, and I left wishing I had more time to explore the city's culinary landscape. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Save the Date: Gluten Free Living Conference!

As March is quickly coming to a close, I am eagerly looking ahead to next week's Gluten-Free Living Conference at the Doubletree hotel by Universal Studios on April 4-6. This three day event will be jam-packed with seminars, food sampling, and opportunities to mix and mingle with experts, bloggers, and fellow gluten-free attendees.

Registration for one or two day passes, as well as the exclusive Blogger U seminar is open now and rates will go up on the day of the conference. 

I hope to try new things, meet new people, and relish in a weekend dedicated to being and living gluten free. I hope to see you there! 

All information can be found on the conference's website.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mellow Mushroom Winter Park Review

As I've said in other reviews, Winter Park is one my favorite sections of Orlando. Funky, familiar, and fresh, there's never a dull day on Park Avenue or the many amazing small business that populate the area. 

Of course the main attraction in my book is Winter Park's food scene. So many wonderful restaurants are located within city limits and provide a colorful kaleidoscope of options. 

To add a touch of "funk" in one's day, there's no better place than the Mellow Mushroom on Aloma Avenue. While a couple minutes from Park Avenue, the restaurant's out-of-this-world pizza creations are a definite draw for gluten-free, and non-gluten-free diners alike. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Le Macaron Review

Although a mere two years out of French classes in school, it would be fair to say that my ability to speak the language has all but evaporated as other classes and concerns have asserted themselves. However, my interest in all things French... specifically the food, has been revitalized thanks to little cookie that has a huge impact for those with gluten and dairy free diets.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Black Bean and Salsa Soup Recipe

Black bean soup is one of my favorite staples of the gluten/dairy free diet. It's easy, nutritious, and not a prime target for cross-contamination or "hidden" ingredients. Local Orlando restaurants Black Bean Deli and Columbia Restaurant set a perfect example of a perfect black bean soup, but replicating the taste and texture of the soup at home has been a trial and error process. However, I came across a recipe that hit it out of the park while scouring the web. I found my perfect black bean soup and it didn't require obscure ingredients and was a quick and simple to make. As far a gluten-free eating goes, this is the tri-fecta. 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Jason's Deli Review

Among the many types of cuisine that are off limits to gluten and dairy free diners, it's almost unheard of to walk into a deli for simple comfort food like a deli sandwich, fresh-made soup or a salad. After all, cross-contamination runs rampant when salad bars and sandwich-prep stations are the main feature of a typical deli. As easy enough as it is to prepare a sandwich, soup or salad at home, it's nice to be able to get out an enjoy the simple pleasures of comfort food. Jason's Deli, a national chain recognized this fact, and wanted to ensure that those of us "living without" could share in the true deli experience. While not as authentic as the most traditional eateries, they definitely have found their niche. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Bosphorous Turkish Cuisine Review

Far from the hustle and bustle of the more "tourist-y" areas of Orlando, Winter Park is a not-so-hidden gem that is not to be missed. Restaurants, artisans, and shops populate this community with the epicenter being Park Avenue. Along the pedestrian-friendly main street and adjacent side streets, new experiences are waiting at every turn- from doggie boutiques to restaurants serving every type and style of cuisine. There's always something new to try with over 140 shops, restaurants and museums.

In the mood to venture out and try something completely new for my recent birthday, I explored the expansive roster of restaurants who call Winter Park home. In delving in, each one sounded better than the next, but on first glance, it became more and more challenging to determine what was and was not gluten and dairy free. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

California Pizza Kitchen Review

Being on a gluten and dairy free diet basically means that pizza should be my arch enemy. After all, a perfect wheat crust topped with perfectly melted cheese could probably make me sick for a month or longer (this is not an exaggeration!). 

However, thanks to a collaboration between dedicated diners, suppliers, and restaurants, gluten-free options are increasing almost every day. 

One excellent example of a restaurant getting it right for those requiring gluten-free meals is California Pizza Kitchen (CPK). Their first foray into the gluten-free world came in 2010, but this trial ended on a sour note as cross-contamination issues plagued the pies. Not to be deterred, they went back to the drawing board to ensure their second attempt was successful and safe. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Tokyo Dining (Epcot) Review

There are very few restaurants that can create an experience that can transform an ordinary meal into an exotic escape into a foreign culture. Tokyo Dining at Walt Disney World's Epcot park is a perfect example of this rare, but immersive experience. 

Located in the Japan pavilion in the World Showcase, Tokyo dining is a retreat from the hustle and bustle of the park. To enter the restaurant, one checks in to a kiosk outside the Mitsukoshi department store. From there, a short elevator ride whisks diners to the dining room, which opens into a contemporary-styled room with traditional Japanese design elements. The vibe is very calming and serene, which perfectly compliments the panoramic view of the World Showcase lagoon that is supplied by the floor to ceiling windows on one wall of the restaurant. Coming in for an early lunch, I was one of the first guests for the day, and was seated along the panoramic window.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Banana Breakfast Cookies Recipe

When it comes to gluten and dairy free baking, things can get complected pretty quickly. Because gluten provides the "binding" property of wheat and gives wheat products the "chewy" texture associated with them, taking the a glutenous flour out of a recipe completely changes the chemistry of the ingredients and results in baked goods that barely resemble their off-limits peers. To compensate for this, most gluten-free recipes call for a blend of multiple types of flours and gums to replicate the gluten effect. 

When I was just starting out on the diet, I readily admit that these complex recipes intimidated me. Besides the sheer cost and hassle of locating these specialty goods, I just wanted to bake quick and easy creations that didn't take a chemistry textbook to comprehend. With some research online, I found many versions of simple oat cookies that fit the bill perfectly and experimented to create my own twist on them. Now, almost three years later, I almost always have these on hand in my refrigerator for an easy go-to for breakfast, snacks, or really any time I need a pick-me-up. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Babycakes NYC Downtown Disney Review

Update 3/15/15: Babycakes NYC has rebranded as Erin McKenna's Bakery and since reopened in Downtown Disney/Disney Springs. See my review here.

Before becoming hyper-aware of everything I eat thanks to the constant vigilance of maintaining a gluten and dairy free diet, I couldn't tell you the difference between veganism, vegetarianism, and all of the varying strands of each dietary faction. 

Classic veganism consists of avoiding all foods and ingredients derived from animal products. Some items such as meats, cheeses, eggs, and dairy are clearly not in accordance to vegan guidelines, but others such as beeswax and honey are not as obvious. Few would guess that such a restricted diet could lead to a colorful and varied culinary culture, but most would be surprised to find that veganism has become mainstream and even has a place at the table at the "Happiest Place on Earth"- Walt Disney World. Enter the Babycakes NYC bakery. 

Hawkers Street Fare Review

To kick of the blog on a high note, I figured I'd write my first restaurant review for a local eatery that definitely knows how to deliver gluten and dairy free food that doesn't hold back on flavor or variety. 

Located in the Mills 50 district of downtown Orlando, Hawkers is a funky fusion eatery offering a wide variety of pan-Asian fare. In advance of my visit, I reached out to the service manager, Vince,  to see what options were available sans gluten and dairy. With well over 50 items on the menu ranging from stir-fries and noodles to wings and soups, I knew I wanted a running head start pondering what I would order. He responded with an comprehensive listing of what was naturally gluten-free and what could be modified to accommodate my needs. It really makes a difference when I can confirm ahead of time that a restaurant will be able to cater to my special dietary requests because it only adds to my confidence and puts me at ease that I won't have to stand vigil to ensure a safe meal. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

An Introduction

I absolutely love food. I always have and always will. There's something about the joy of finding new and unique experiences to share with friends and family. 

However, seeking out these new experiences can be frustrating and downright scary when one has to be cognizant of food allergies or intolerances. Around every turn, there is the possibility that things could go wrong and one wrong bite could wreck havoc an entire day- or longer. Going into my third year of eating gluten and dairy free, I know how hard the adjustment can be and overwhelming it is for any person to gather their confidence to venture out and try new things. 

I hope that this blog will become a resource for those new to the "G-free/D-free" table as well as those who've been "eating without" long before me. I hope to discover new gems, highlight old favorites, and never let the fear of all I can't eat deter me from living and eating well. 

It can only get bigger and better from here, so buckle up and stay tuned!