Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Sweet 27 Restaurant and Bar Review

Nestled a few blocks away from Johns Hopkins University is a gluten-free safe haven that is 100% dedicated to serving fare free from gluten. While I love finding restaurants that offer safe options using cross-contamination prevention procedures, it's a real treat to eat an establishment that I know without a doubt will not make me sick. 

Although Sweet 27 is free from gluten, almost all of their menu offerings can be easily adapted to accommodate those with soy and dairy free diets as well as vegans. Music to my ears, I eagerly looked over their extensive menu online unable to decide what I wanted to try from all of the tasty possibilities. When my mom and I solidified plans for her recent visit, I was sure to include Sweet 27 as an entry on our itinerary. 

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Peace A Pizza Review

After a week full of Expo East recap reports, I was more than ready to put my restaurant reviewer cap back on and indulge in food that wasn't made by either myself or my school's culinary outlets.

As it happened, my mom came up to visit me this weekend, which perfectly coordinated with my desire to leave my dorm room longer than a couple hours. Since I don't get off campus often to run basic errands such as stocking up on food and cleaning supplies, we decided to center our weekend in Columbia, MD which conveniently was home to many stores I needed to visit: Costco, Wegman's, Whole Foods, Petsmart, Target, and others. 

Naturally, a weekend full of shopping and catching up required selecting a couple restaurants to indulge on. After browsing through the abundance of options on Find Me Gluten Free, my first stop on our culinary tour was Peace A Pizza in Catonsville, MD which promised great gluten-free pies and funky flavors.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Expo East 2014: Top 5 Products

This is part four of my four part series covering the 2014 Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD. Each post will be divided into four categories: sweets, snacks, miscellaneous, and my top five. To check out the other parts in this series, click here.

Naturally, after sampling and tasting my way through dozens of products at the Natural Products Expo some made a bigger impression than others. Just as the cream always rises to the top, the following five products rose above the rest and have earned a place on my top five list of the best products at Expo East. This list is not arranged with one product ranked higher than the other because all five products featured deserve equal kudos and regard. They break the mold and give those of us with dietary restrictions something to celebrate as we regain the ability to eat once-forbidden foods. In fact, I dare say each of these products are an improvement on their traditional gluten and dairy laden counterparts which pale in comparison.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Expo East 2014: Miscellaneous Picks

This is part three of my four part series covering the 2014 Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD. Each post will be divided into four categories: sweets, snacks, miscellaneous, and my top five. To check out the other parts in this series, click here.

While many of the products I tried at the Natural Products Expo fit into defined categories (snack foods, sweets, etc.) some defied categories which is why I've assembled a "this and that" list of finds. From breads and beans to soups and cereal, each product made the list because they caught my eye and impressed my taste buds. Especially given the deluge of products I tried over the course of the two days I made it out to the show, this list is the tip of the iceberg of sorts showing off the best of what I sampled.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Expo East 2014: Snack Time

This is part two of my four part series covering the 2014 Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD. Each post will be divided into four categories: sweets, snacks, miscellaneous, and my top five. To check out the other parts in this series, click here.

Snacks: the little meals between meals when our craving for sweet, spicy, and salty foods lead us to pretzels, chips, and other staples. At Expo East, the snack variety is dizzying and comes in every shape, taste, and form. I saw chips made out of potatoes, beans, lentils, seaweed, and kelp, and in every flavor imaginable from siracha and simply salted to caramel and BBQ. To sample each and every variety of snack food would take a lot of taste bud tolerance. I didn't make it to each and every offering, but did make a point of stopping by and sampling a decent variety. I winnowed my favorite snack items down to nine, but the no two selections are alike. 

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Expo East 2014: Sweets and Such

This is part one of my four part series covering the 2014 Natural Products Expo East in Baltimore, MD. Each post will be divided into four categories: sweets, snacks, miscellaneous, and my top five. To check out the other parts in this series, click here.

When it comes to sweet treats, there was no shortage of options when it came to cookies, candies, baked goods, chocolate, and many more iterations of dessert on the show floor. Indulging in way to much sugar for the sake of "scientific" testing, I took in desserts of all shapes and sizes and took note of which ones rose to the top and impressed me. Through sampling, I discovered new brands, learned more about ones that I'm less familiar with, and reunited with ones that I've already fallen in love with. This assortment of sweets is broken down into three subcategories: chocolate, cookies, and fruit- nature's dessert. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Cheezy's Pizza Review

If you look around my favorite dining hall on campus, it's easy to spot the "danger zones" that are a gluten-avoider's nightmare. The pasta station, the pizza station, the sandwich station, and the "fried" station (fried chicken, french fries, grilled cheese, etc.). I've quickly discovered that the most popular item on people's plates any time of day is pizza. While I am finally among a population that loves pizza as much as I do, my opportunities for pizza are slim to none as I haven't really worked out an accommodation that is both gluten and dairy free in that area. Nevertheless, I've made due by stocking my micro-fridge with pizza crusts, my food supply with pizza sauce and getting pizza toppings off of the salad bar. When I have the time and energy to cook, I can have self-made pizza night using the stove in my residence hall. 

As great as this is, there come times when I'm simply too hungry and tired to brave navigating the dining hall or dorm cooking. Enter delivery pizza: the tried and true solution to many a hunger craving for college kids. While delivery pizza is a rare find, some quick research rendered a couple options that could deliver on-campus. I selected Cheezy's pizza after reading of their gluten-free safeguards and placed my order online via a food delivery service. Eagerly awaiting my foray into delivery dining, I waited with baited breath.

Preview: Expo East

Although I can hardly believe it, I'm almost a quarter of the way through my first semester in college. If I thought time was flying this summer, I've come to realize that it's flying at supersonic speed now! Juggling classes, the dining hall, and learning how to balance all of my commitments is the name of the game and I know I'll be working hard to make sure I keep my head above water and stress levels low. 

Part of working hard and keeping my stress levels low has limited my blogging time and availability. While I am not as active as I hoped to be, I am still committed to writing and posting quality restaurant and product reviews and share my experiences navigating the allergy-free dining scene in college which has proven to be a mixed bag of ease and frustration. 

This week has a big event in store that I've been looking forward to for a while that will allow me to return to full-on "blogger mode": The Natural Products Expo East. Billed as "the leading trade show on the East Coast in the natural, organic, and healthy products industry," this gathering of 25,000 attendees and 1,400 exhibitors is a meeting of the minds of sorts where the state of the industry is assessed. I cannot wait to discover and share new gluten and dairy free products and companies that spark my interest and maybe even get firsthand look at what's coming down the pipeline in the future. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Shiny Spoons Buckwheat Pudding Review

September means back-to-school and for kids young and old. For those who are dealing with food sensitivities and allergies, the return to classroom often means forgoing the cafeteria fare for a home-packed lunch. As a kid, one of my favorite surprise treats that my mom would periodically slip into my lunchbox was chocolate or vanilla pudding. Now that I'm older and can no longer enjoy the conventional dairy-laden form this schoolkid treat, I figured that my pudding eating days were all but over. 

When stocking up my dorm food supply at Whole Foods Market Harbor East in Baltimore, I came across Shiny Spoons, a local company that makes gluten-free buckwheat pudding in four tempting flavors: dark, dark chocolate, vanilla bean cashew, salted caramel mocha, and organic blueberry jasmine. Ever the traditionalist when it comes to pudding, I loaded up with the chocolate and vanilla varieties and eagerly awaited my first taste. All of Shiny Spoons' flavors are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free vegan and paleo which means that they can be enjoyed by diners with a wide variety of dietary needs. In addition, these impressive puddings are free from GMOs, artificial ingredients, and preservatives. 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Thai One On Review

A couple weeks into the semester now, I've finally got my routine down with studying, dining, and having fun. While I relish the wide-openness of weekends, I must admit that the campus empties out a bit and is a shadow of its weekday self. On one such weekend after being cooped up in my room all day, I knew I just had to fly the coop and break away for a study break and venture off campus. For this excursion, I selected Thai One On, a restaurant located in pedestrian-friendly downtown Towson. Located literally next door to previously reviewed Havana Road Cuban Cafe, I had no problem locating it using public transit.

Having only recently developed my taste for Thai cuisine after visiting Orchid Thai in Winter Park, I have quickly grown to love green curry as my go-to dish at any Thai restaurant. Quickly becoming one of my favorite foods (besides) pizza, I wondered how Thai One On's version would compare to the others I've tried.  

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Side Trip: Fuel Pizza (Washington, DC)

After departing ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen on my Labor Day D.C. adventure, I took another quick trip on the metro from Dupont Circle to the Farragut Square stop which is mere blocks away from the White House and start of the national mall. Given my limited time in the city, I had to prioritize what I wanted to see as well as consider how far away from the National Zoo I was willing to travel. The White House fit the bill perfectly as it was easily accessible, near public transit stops, and close to another restaurant I wanted to try out: Fuel Pizza.

I was first introduced to Fuel's delicious pizza while in residence at summer camp at Davidson College in North Carolina. Although I was gluten and dairy eating back then, the pizza left an impression and I remember it fondly as the centerpiece of our final day at camp in which the dorm transformed into one big party until midnight. In the back of my mind, I always thought I'd like to go back, but thought my window of opportunity had all but shut when pizza's prime ingredients got put on my "no-can-do" list. Luckily enough, I rediscovered this North Carolina based chain while researching gluten-free eats near the White House and was excited to see the gluten-free and vegan options noted on their menu. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen CLOSED

All ShopHouse locations are closed as of March 17, 2017.

If I didn't know any better, I would have thought that ShopHouse Asian Kitchen was custom-designed for my quirky tastes and favorite flavors. After all, this restaurant, which is the brainchild of Chipotle founder Steve Ells, merges the brilliance of Chipotle's commitment to accessible "food with integrity" with the rich culinary heritage of Asia all while serving up a menu that is 100% free from gluten and dairy. That's right. There is no gluten or dairy in ShopHouse's kitchen. The reason why I haven't talked about ShopHouse before now? The inconvenient truth is that they only have locations currently in California, Maryland and D.C. (but they are growing!). While there are no convenient locations where I am in Baltimore, I knew that sooner or later that I'd have to sneak down to D.C. for some sightseeing- both food-based and landmark-based. My window of opportunity presented itself this past weekend as my university offered a D.C. bus trip in honor of the Labor Day holidays. Once hitting the city and getting dropped off at the Smithsonian National Zoo, I made a beeline to ShopHouse's Dupont Circle location which was a short metro stop away on the red line.