Thursday, March 31, 2016

Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Favorite Products: March 2016

In this edition of my monthly round up of my new favorite product discoveries I bring to you, my readers, four new products that have tempted my taste buds and won me over. From frozen food to crackers, these products are definitely going to be incorporated into my collegiate diet and are great gluten-free finds. 

From both familiar and new-to-me brands, I love keeping my eyes opened now whenever I venture on a grocery run, because Baltimore has so many different grocery store chains and independent stores. Planning my weekly grocery run has become a treasure hunt of sorts, which makes the chore something I look forward to every week. 

Do you have a favorite product you spotted this month and want to share? Do comment below to share because I am always looking for tips about what to seek out next.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sotto Review

On my final night in Cincinnati, I sought out a nice place for my family to enjoy dinner out all together before we parted ways. Because it was my birthday, I really wanted to find someplace special to dine. As I scoured restaurants in and around the city, I came across Sotto, which drew me in with accolades from Find Me Gluten-Free and local food critics alike. 

Italian food typically is not the most gluten-friendly of world cuisines, but Sotto's menu focuses on crafting nuanced, delicious dishes without too much of a reliance on breads and pastas. Even where pasta is present, gluten-free pasta made in house makes for an easy swap. 

As it happens, Sotto is a member of the Boca restaurant group, which manages nearby restaurants Boca and Nada, the latter of which I also visited on my visit to Cincinnati (review link). Although I did not know it when I made reservations, it was cool to nab a table at two of Cincinnati's most lauded restaurants. After a great experience at Nada, I couldn't help but put my expectations pretty high for Sotto.

Mazunte Review

After a busy morning attending the Gluten-Free for Cincinnati Expo and visiting grocery wonderland Jungle Jim's (see that recap here), my mom and I were hungry, but could not really articulate what we were hungry for. After all the carb and sugar-heavy fare at the expo l knew I wanted real food, so I turned to my Find Me Gluten-Free app to see what peaked my interest.

From the list of local restaurants, Mazunte caught my eye, which a Mexican taqueria located in the Madisonville neighborhood of Cincinnati. With glowing reviews, and an opportunity to get one of my favorite foods- tacos- I knew that Mazunte would be a perfect stop on the drizzly, dreary day.

What's cool about Mazunte is that it was founded on the belief that Mexican food is so much more than the bland, apathetic tacos found at "Tex Mex" places. In was fresh ingredients and bold flavors and out was sub-par ingredients and an uninspired menu.

Arriving to the restaurant after noon, a moderate crowd was already assembled, hinting that Mazunte really is the real deal. Because I have extensively reviewed taco restaurants in recent months, I couldn't wait to see where Mazunte measured up.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Chubby Bunny Bakery Review

While at the Gluten-Free for Cincinnati Expo, one of the booths that really drew me in was Chubby Bunny Bakery, a gluten-free and vegan bakery that had an array of picture-perfect baked goods that tempted my taste buds.

Founded out of the food allergy journey of "Baker Bunny" Allyson Moore, Chubby Bunny uses quality organic ingredients free from gluten, egg, dairy, nuts, and preservatives.  Proving that baked goods can be as good for your body as they are delicious, I definitely made sure to purchase a few goodies to try 

At the Expo, I brought home two of the treats displayed and the event, and after enjoying both really regretted not purchasing more. It was truly amazing how much I fell for this little bakery! 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Jungle Jim's International Market Overview

Whenever I have the chance to travel, my favorite form of tourism is exploring local grocery stores. While that might not sound too exciting, it's amazing what you gluten-free finds you can uncover, which always leads me to bring home way too much food from wherever I travel.

When I knew I would be headed to Cincinnati for spring break, I knew a stop to the Jungle Jim's International Market would be in order. This outlandish, larger-than-life food bazaar brings together an unbelievable assortment of American and International foods, making this less of a store than a destination. Almost theme park-like in it's theming, Jungle Jim's definitely is fun for kids and adults alike. 

With two locations (Fairfield and Eastgate), Jungle Jim's is definitely a must-do attraction, and I ended up visiting both during my couple days in the area. What I discovered is that Jungle Jim's goes beyond the kitsch and really is a great resource for gluten-free eaters, as it has the "largest gluten-free section in the Midwest."

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

2016 Gluten-Free For Cincinnati Expo Recap

Although I did not plan my trip to Cincinnati around the Gluten-Free for Cincinnati expo, it certainly was incredible timing for it to take place during my birthday week while I happened to be in the city. 

Organized by a local non-profit founded by a Cincinnati family whose young kids were diagnosed with celiac disease, this expo promised to bring together local and national vendors for a day of education, awareness, and gluten-free foods. 

Despite a drizzly start to the day, the turnout for the event was great, with each classroom packed with attendees. Although I recognized the national brands that were sampling items, what was really cool was getting to know the local companies, which really opened my eyes to local companies I will definitely be a patron of whenever I am in the city again. 

This post is a sampling (pun intended) of the vendors that caught my eye and definitely deserve a shout-out. Some I will be providing extended reviews on (links will be posted once the reviews will be published), so watch out in coming days for more from this amazing event.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Arepas & Co: Columbian Comfort Food Review

Although my stay would be short in Cincinnati, I knew I could not leave town without heading north of the city to the Dayton area, where I spent several years of my childhood. After spending the morning in and around Centerville, I looked to Find Me Gluten Free for a place to stop for a quick lunch before heading back to Cincinnati.

All reviews pointed to Arepas & Co in Kettering, OH, north of Centerville. Already a huge fan of any kind of South American food, I was sold when I realized gluten-free arepas and empanadas were on the menu. Although I've had the former, I have never found a safe version of the latter, so I needed no further persuasion to stop by.

Why I love South American food much is that for the most part all of the specialities are corn-based, not wheat-based like most American food. Although I have to watch out for dairy, gluten is largely out of the picture.

Nada Review

After a week of foodie adventures and fun in North Carolina for the first part of my spring break, I now begin the second leg of my journey- Ohio. Flying from Charlotte to Cincinnati to visit my grandparents, I couldn't wait to get my second chance to explore around the city and see what delicious eats I could find (see past reviews from Cincinnati here).

Arriving mid-day, I searched for an interesting place for dinner, and was directed towards Nada from a family friend and Find Me Gluten-Free. Located in a prime location downtown, Nada is easy to get to, and made for an ironic choice to dine at on Saint Patrick's Day. 

Lured by the promise of tacos, guac, and chips, some of my favorite foods, I decided Nada would be the perfect entryway into the Ohio stretch of spring break. Arriving early into the dinner hour, we were greeted by friendly staff and shown to a table on the restaurant's second level- with a great view of the city below. Settling in, I was excited to see what gluten-free eats were in store.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Coyote Kitchen Review

After several amazing foodie finds in Charlotte and Asheville, I couldn't wait to see what delicious eats awaited me in Boone, the down-to-Earth college town nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains where I spent the summer several years ago. When I knew I would be heading back to the town for a day trip, I was excited to get back on the campus of Appalachian State University and explore around the eclectic shopping and dining area boarding the campus. 

Like Asheville, Boone has an quite a few gluten-free friendly eats to choose from, which made selecting a restaurant to eat at rather difficult. However, my aunt suggested Coyote Kitchen, a restaurant specializing in "Southwest Caribbean soulfood." 

With a can-do attitude regarding food allergies and special diets and a menu that makes choosing an entree practically impossible, I needed no additional cajoling to settle on Coyote Kitchen. 

Arriving around noon for a lunch, the absolutely perfect spring day proved to be the perfect opportunity to eat lunch outside to enjoy the warm sunshine, fresh mountain air, and incredible scenery.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Maddy's Fattys Bakery and Cafe Review

When I knew I would be spending my birthday and part of my spring break in North Carolina, the search began for a gluten-free and allergen-friendly bakery. Realizing that I could not remember the last time I had a birthday cake, my aunt and I went to work to vet Charlotte area bakeries to see which we felt most comfortable with. After all, getting a gluten and dairy-free cake is no small order. 

On a past tip from a gluten-free friend who's local to the area as well as gluten-free know-how demonstrated by the staff via phone, I decided upon Maddy's Fatty's Bakery in Cornelius, north of Charlotte. 

With an impressive resume of accolades from Cupcake Wars and locals alike, Maddy's Fatty's strives to make top quality baked goods in supersized portions. As I discovered, Maddy's Fatty's might be off the beaten path but well worth the side trip. 

Monday, March 14, 2016

King Daddy's Chicken and Waffles Review

Although my childhood was spent in the Midwest, I really grew up when my family moved to Florida late in my elementary school career. Despite moving to the part of the country where sweet tea is as readily available as water and it's normal to pair fried chicken with waffles, I must admit I was never, and am still not really, a fan of Southern cuisine. Cornbread I am a-okay with but most other delicacies just don't really appeal to me.

What I am a fan of is gluten-free restaurants that showcase local delicacies or allow me the rare luxury to enjoy foods that I never thought I would eat again after cutting gluten and dairy from my diet. Using these two specific criterion, I began a lengthy search to narrow down a place to eat when my aunt and I road tripped to Asheville during my spring break.

Routinely lauded as one of America's great foodie cities, Asheville has no shortage of gluten-free friendly eats. With each passing day, I jumped from restaurant to restaurant, unable to make a firm commitment to where I wanted to get my foodie fix. Luckily, the night before we were to head up to the mountain city, I discovered King Daddy's, whose allure of gluten-free chicken and waffles tempted my tastebuds and awoke my curiosity. 

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Luna's Living Kitchen Review

After passing through Charlotte, North Carolina several times in the past year (see reviews here), I have grown to love discovering new places to eat in this Southern city.

When I began to make plans for my week-long spring break, I knew I would be passing through the city once again on my way to my aunt and uncle's house in Hickory, North Carolina. Because I would be flying in late in the morning, my aunt suggested lunch at Luna's Living Kitchen, a 100% vegan restaurant in Charlotte's South End neighborhood. After a stressful pre-break week at school, I couldn't wait to try Luna's plant-based, real food focused menu.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Arepa Zone Review (Union Market)

As a gluten-free blogger, I've learned to never miss the opportunity to taste food when it's concentrated in one area. As I explored around Union Market in DC, I knew that I had limited time but didn't want to leave without trying DC Dosa and Arepa Zone, the two most gluten-free friendly vendors I found. 

After eating the larger-than-expected dosa from the first stand, I decided to still order from the latter, but take my arepas to go. After all, I had to get back across town to Foggy Bottom to check out of my hotel then head back to Union Station to catch the train back to Baltimore. 

Arepas are a Venezuelan street food that consist of corn cakes stuffed with assorted veggies, meats, and cheeses. All of the arepas served up at Arepa Zone are gluten-free, and can be made dairy-free by holding the cheese. Vegetarian options are also available, so this spot is definitely one not to pass up on when visiting Union Market. 

What's really cool about this stand is that it is a brick and mortar location for a tried and true food truck that has earned accolades from critics and Washingtonians alike. As business has boomed, this brick and mortar stand allows for fans to access arepas throughout the week to get their Venezuelan food fix. 

Saturday, March 5, 2016

DC Dosa Review (Union Market)

I absolutely adore non-Americanized ethnic food. With so many other cultures' cuisines designed around wheat-free ingredients, ethnic foods are often a wonderful relief from the American staples of wheat, dairy, and all things processed.

Although I have already posted an overview of Union Market and all of the gluten-free finds to  be had there, I wanted to throw the spotlight on DC Dosa, one of the restaurants I visited while exploring the market. 

Started by Priya Ammu, a Bombay native whose dosas have accumulated quite a following over the years. Because her own family has dietary restrictions, Ammu has mastered the art of gluten-free, meatless cooking. The food offerings at her Union Market stand is entirely gluten and vegan, a true foodie oasis where all thoughts of cross contamination and accidental glutenings can be left behind.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Silk Nutchello Review

For a college student who doesn't do coffee, gluten, or dairy, I seem to find myself at Starbucks frequently to work on group projects and meet up with friends. Although they have a few safe options (bottled water and herbal tea), I often find myself pining for one of their signature blended beverages, all of which are either unsafe for me or severely prone to cross-contamination.

Luckily, the nut milk masterminds at Silk have a new product out that is the perfect answer for your 3:00 pm cravings for something smooth and sweet to perk up the afternoon. Enter Nutchello. 

In three coffeehouse inspired flavors, Nutchello is perfect served as is for an indulgent treat. Because I am not a coconut fan, I skipped toasted coconut and cashew beverage but definitely brought home a bottle each of the caramel almond and cashew as well as the rich dark chocolate and walnuts to review. Hoping that the drinks would fill the void of not being able to have other fancy coffee drinks, I couldn't wait to put them to the test.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Chaia Review

If you have spent any time following this blog, you might have caught on to the fact that I am a huge fan of the humble taco. It's simple, unassuming, and is naturally gluten-free, if made with corn tortillas. 

In my travels, I have reviewed quite a few gluten-free friendly taco places that have impressed me. In discovering Chaia online, I was impressed by their farm-to-table focus and commitment to creating food that is not only good to eat, but is good for you. 

With an entirely gluten-free menu that's also entirely meatless, Chaia is a must for gluten-free foodies, vegans, and other "conscious eaters." Nestled in a side street in Georgetown, the picturesque restaurant is off the beaten path but worth your while to pay it a visit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Little Beet Review (Washington D.C.)

This review has been updated (click here), since this post was published the menu has changed and The Little Beet no longer serves breakfast.

When it came to planning a weekend excursion into DC, topping the list of places to visit was The Little Beet, a 100% gluten-free export from New York City. With locally-sourced menu items, a full menu of possibilities, and philosophy that aspires for food that is as nutritious as it is delicious, it's easy to see why it's become a serious hot spot on the DC food scene. 

During my last visit to DC in November, I had hoped to be one of the first customers to give The Little Beet a try because I visited around the time of their grand opening. However, between their irregular soft opening hours and my limited schedule, I was not able to give them a try. 

What's great about The Little Beet is its optimal location. Nestled in the heart of downtown near Dupont Circle, the restaurant is easy enough to get to on foot and by Metro from any part of the city. After taking the MARC train in from Baltimore in the morning, I made a bee line to the restaurant determined to make it my first "sightseeing" stop before I visited anywhere else. With many recommendations from friends and fellow bloggers, I could not wait to see if The Little Beet was worth the hype.