Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Two days before the nation bore witness to Elisabeth Hasselbeck and Rosie O'Donnell swigging Redbridge on The View, members of The New York City Celiac Disease Meetup Group gathered to schmooze and enjoy the brew at East Midtown's Hook and Ladder Pub (611 2nd Ave between 33rd and 34th Streets).

Here's to Meetup member Liz (pictured, with many Redbridge empties that--I swear--she did not drain all by herself), who wrote that she approached the bar's owner about adding Redbridge to Hook and Ladder's offerings. That's what I call initiative! And here's to the Hook and Ladder Pub for obliging!!

According to the Redbridge website, the beer seems to be available for onsite enjoyment at two other Big Apple locations: The Hangar (a gay bar at 115 Christopher St.) and Risotteria. Via a post from Ed on the Meetup message board, I understand that Redbridge can also be found in Long Beach, Long Island at Shine's Bar (55 California Street) as well as the VFW.

Photo: David Marc Fischer

Friday, January 26, 2007


Update: Click here for GFNYC Hasselbeck coverage

Yesterday there was some question as to when The View would cover celiac disease in more depth. The question was answered on today's pre-taped episode, when Elisabeth Hasselbeck spent about three minutes discussing her condition with her co-hosts during the "Hot Topics" portion of the show. [Update: You can view the segment here, though you might need to download a plugin to access it.]

The much-anticipated segment began when Barbara Walters switched the Hot Topic from Angelina Jolie to Hasselbeck's health. Walters, who seemed to have trouble remembering the name of her co-host's condition ("What do you call it?"), mentioned that people had been writing in about it.

Then Rosie O'Donnell chimed in, saying "Explain to people what this is, because a lot of people have said to me, 'Elisabeth never eats the food. What does she have--an eating disorder?' I said, 'I've seen her eat. She just has this thing.' Tell the thing."

So Hasselbeck told the thing--"It's called 'celiac disease'"--and went on to give an informal description of it as an autoimmune disorder in which the body has an intolerance of gluten found in wheat, barley, rye, and some oats. She noted that the damage caused by the reaction to the food puts one at high risk of diabetes, infertility, stomach cancers, and thyroid disease.

As the conversation opened up, Walters pointed out that people very often have celiac disease without realizing it. Hasselbeck agreed, saying that 3 million people in the United States alone have it but only 3 percent of them know it. She also noted that sometimes it's misdiagnosed (say, as Irritable Bowel Syndrome or colitis), resulting in patients getting ineffective treatments.

Hasselbeck, who first came to national attention as a fourth-place finisher on Survivor: The Australian Outback, spoke about how she herself had been miserable for about four years ("nothing was helping me") but then took note of how much better she felt on Survivor's extremely restricted diet. "I went to Australia on Survivor and everyone else there was complaining they felt awful. I felt great. It was the first time....

"All we were eating were fish that we caught...and rice...and I thought, 'Why am I feeling great here? I'm either allergic to the United States or it's something that I'm eating.'"

Then Walters brought up the hereditary aspect of celiac disease. Hasselbeck said that she was going to check her own child for the condition at about two years.

Hasselbeck added that one could could have malnutrition and bone loss as a side effect of undiagnosed celiac disease, "but if you know about it, it's awesome. There are tons of products out there, and for the first time I can drink beer! Today!! Because I have not had a beer...."

And that's when Hasselbeck and O'Donnell pulled out bottles of Redbridge and drank it as the crowd cheered along. O'Donnell: "Let me just say: I consider myself a little bit of a beer expert...and this gluten-free beer is fantastic!" And that, more or less, brought the segment to a spirited conclusion.

It was good to hear Hasselbeck tell her story while making important points about celiac disease on a show with The View's large audience. I hope the attention will result in more of the undiagnosed and misdiagnosed getting correct diagnoses--and feeling "awesome" as a result. They should know, however, that self-diagnosis through dieting or genetic testing is not definitive. If you have a negative genetic test for celiac disease, you are unlikely to have it, but if you have a positive genetic test you might or might not have it. The classic diagnostic routine for celiac disease is to undergo a set of simple blood tests while still on a diet including gluten. Based on the results of the blood tests (which measure one's reaction to dietary gluten), a physician will decide whether to go ahead with an upper endoscopy. (For more about testing, click here.)

It was good that Walters brought up family testing because it can be helpful in identifying the many cases that have gone undiagnosed or misdiagnosed. First-degree relatives of people with celiac disease should be tested and monitored for the condition even if they don't show symptoms or test positive, as the condition can develop at a later date or seem to go away for a time.

In fact, something that might've been helpful for The View's audience to hear is that, years ago, many doctors would mistakenly claim that children diagnosed as celiac had been cured when they were actually experiencing a remission of noticeable symptoms. So people told that they'd permanently recovered from celiac disease (and could go back to eating wheat, barley, etc.) should see informed doctors in order to be checked again for the condition.

Finally, a note about gluten-free beer: As readers of this blog are well aware, Hasselbeck could have had her first gluten-free beer much sooner than this week. Ramapo Valley Brewery's Passover Honey Lager, Bard's Tale Beer's Dragon's Gold, and Lakefront Brewery's New Grist all preceded Anheuser-Busch's Redbridge. Bottles of imported Toleration can also be had in New York City. And other gluten-free beers are available beyond the borders of the United States.

IRONY ALERT Later on the show, cake decorator Duff Goldman of Food Network's The Ace of Cakes presented a cake in the form of a full Winter '07 View mug--but there was no word as to whether it was safe for Hasselbeck. Maybe The View can invite the guys from Mr. Ritt's to the show for Hasselbeck's birthday (May 28).

Top photo: David Marc Fischer

Thursday, January 25, 2007


By now you've heard the buzz: The ABC morning talk show The View will cover celiac disease soon--perhaps on Friday, perhaps next week. I've had trouble confirming when the momentous event will occur, but I'm working on that.

Almost from the moment that Elisabeth Hasselbeck became a View co-host late in 2003, there has been talk about her being on the gluten-free diet. CeliacChick Kelly posted about a related exchange she had with Hasselbeck on March 31, 2005. In December 2006, there was this exchange at Celiac.com. Then, on Tuesday, came word of the upcoming coverage: next week or this Friday.

Among the relative few TV personalities who have already disclosed that they have celiac disease are Keith Olbermann and Heidi Collins. Whenever Hasselbeck talks about being gluten-free and/or having celiac disease, public awareness is likely to increase significantly. Handled well, the publicity could have a huge positive impact on public health, leading to more diagnoses and a better of understanding of the gluten-free diet.

Photo: David Marc Fischer

Monday, January 22, 2007


It seems like yesterday (but it was actually November 2, 2006) that twenty-or-so members of the New York City Celiac Disease Meetup Group gathered at Heather's (hidden away at 506 E. 13th Street between Avenues A and B) and enjoyed the rare pleasure of ordering gluten-free beer and cider at an honest-to-goodness bar. At the time, Heather's was the only bar in the entire city to offer such choices (though a few restaurants also obliged in their own ways). Today, I believe that no other city bar is more celiac-friendly.

The sad thing is that Heather's Bar seems to be having some trouble. Yesterday's New York Times included an article (cited in today's Gothamist) that describes a conflict between bar owner Heather Millstone and her upstairs neighbors and some other community members.

One of the problems is that Millstone's upstairs neighbors don't like the noise and vibrations emanating from the small bar. That's a very understandable complaint, but Millstone deserves credit for investing in soundproofing and otherwise trying to maintain her business and make good her investment without disturbing her neighbors, longtime residents who (it seems from the article) might not even have tried using floor coverings to muffle the sound--a typical requirement of many New York City leases. I'd like to think that there is room for sensible arbitration here.

Another problem might be a lack of understanding of Community Board 3 toward the plight of people on medical gluten-free diets. Judging from the article, it seems that Millstone successfully made the case with the State Liquor Authority that providing gluten-free imbibements constituted a "public benefit" but that leaders of Community Board 3 reject that judgment and plan to mount a challenge against it.

From the article:
"Bars have taken a heavy toll on the community,” said Alexandra Militano, chairwoman of the subcommittee of Community Board 3 that oversees applications for liquor, beer and wine licenses in the bustling East Village and Lower East Side. “We are oversaturated. A lot of residents in this community are subjected to really horrible conditions....

"Her rationale for being a public benefit to the community," Ms. Militano said, "was that she had a gluten intolerance and was going to open a business, albeit a bar, that was 20 or 30 percent, a small percentage, gluten-free."
I'm concerned that Community Board 3 may be underestimating the rarity as well as the "public benefit" of a Heather's, perhaps out of a lack of appreciation of celiac disease. Even though it is estimated that 1% of the population has celiac disease, almost no bars or restaurants in all of New York City offer a single gluten-free beer. That makes Heather's a very special attraction, one of the only commercial establishments in New York City where the gluten-free can enjoy a beer. That's why I specified Heather's as a recommended destination--and the only recommended bar--in my travel tips for last year's International Celiac Symposium. And that's why I made a 30-minute detour the other night in order to quietly pass some time over the gluten-free cider at Heather's before going to a show at Mo Pitkin's. I am not aware of any other bar in the community that offers what I could get at Heather's--I certainly didn't find gluten-free beer or cider at The Nuyorican Poets Cafe when I attended a storytelling slam there earlier this month.

Judging from the article and my own experience at Heather's, it appears to me that Millhouse is sincerely trying to be a good, accommodating neighbor--to those in her immediate community as well as those in the international celiac community. (To date, it seems, very few bar owners in the country have given much thought to including one gluten-free beer among their otherwise exhaustive--and, to a celiac, redundant--collections.) That makes me suspect that Heather Millstone is precisely the type of person one would want to run a business in one's community. I'd like to think that the complaints about her bar can be resolved in a spirit of compromise and cooperation, not conflict.

Saturday, January 20, 2007


I'm about to indulge in yet another Risotteria cupcake, but before I do, here's Tony Tantillo with a WCBS-TV Dining Deals segment on that very restaurant.

Not enough for you? Here's a second helping--similar yet different.

Thanks to Catherine of Gluten Free Guide for the lead--wahoo-wah!

And now for that cupcake....

Photo: David Marc Fischer

Friday, January 19, 2007


Asia de Cuba is the one GFRAP participant in this winter's restaurant week(s)--January 22 to January 26 and January 29 to February 2. As in the past, the upscale midtown restaurant, which specializes in family-style portions, offers a three-course lunch deal (for $24.07) and allows you to switch the dessert choice to the elaborate Latin Lover, above). Call to make reservations, confirm that you will be satisfied with the available options, and talk to your server about your needs to make sure that the kitchen makes any and all necessary modifications to your order. (For dessert, you might also be able to order sorbet instead of the Latin Lover.)

Even though the GRAP restaurant Tropica appears on the online list of participating restaurants, I've been told that it is actually not offering any deals to anyone this time around.

I strongly feel that GFRAP restaurants should be supported, but I do note that Gramercy's upscale BBQ joint Blue Smoke--which ordinarily offers its own non-GFRAP-approved gluten-free menu--says it can accommodate gluten-free dieters with its restaurant week lunch and dinner ($35) menus. (Once again, call to make reservations and ascertain that you'll be able to take advantage of the menu, and make sure you communicate your dietary needs when you're at the restaurant.)

The CeliacChicks just posted a note from a Blue Smoke fan who wants to encourage the restaurant to go with GFRAP--it'd be great if the club-restaurant were to do so. It's run by Danny Meyer, so there's a chance that GFRAP could gain several other Meyer establishments as a result.

Photo: David Marc Fischer

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Simply Recipes just ran a post having to do with Gluten-Free Recipes--and it includes a link to this very blog! I'm so flattered I don't know what to say...but hold on a second while I pull out my prepared remarks....

Well, first, I'd like to thank Simply Recipes for the nod.

Second, I feel obligated to inform the recipe hunters that, while there are many great sources of gluten-free recipes out there, this blog--amazing though it may be--is not one of them. But wait--don't go!

Still there? 'Cause I'd really like to be helpful. For example, I want to second Suzanne's recommendation of the blog Cooking Cute. And I note that the recently launched blog Gluten Free Guide is already bursting with recipes. Also, if you hunger for pix of gluten-free food, check out these two Flickr photo groups: Coeliac - Gluten free living! and Gluten-Free Goodness.

Finally, if you're unfamiliar with why so many people care about gluten-free cooking, I encourage you to learn more. Why not start here?

Music wells up as I'm escorted from the podium by two former heavyweight wrestlers wearing white uniforms....

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I get the feeling that someone wants to know more of my thoughts regarding Risotteria's gluten-free cupcakes.

Let me put it this way: After an early love affair with the restaurant's chocolate chip cookies, my favorite Risotteria dessert has, to my surprise, become the carrot cake...and it still might be the carrot cake...but the cupcakes are my current gf dessert obsession. Last week I paid a special visit to Risotteria just to sample a couple more of them. They're cakey with borderline-drippy topping and sprinkles--and don't be surprised if you find a creamy surprise inside!

Now I have a better idea of what the whole cupcake craze is all about. Come to think of it, I like the Risotteria cupcakes even more than the cupcakes I used to eat at Cupcake Cafe. (Pre-diagnosis I ate them and, I now recall, often felt lousy afterward.)

And now I'm getting all nostalgic over the yummy pumpkinny gf cupcake I had at Soul Dog last year. It's pictured below.

Photo: David Marc Fischer

Saturday, January 13, 2007


Do you have a favorite, delicious gluten-free (no spelt!) cupcake recipe that you'd like to share with the world?

Rachel Kramer Bussel (self-described "Writer, Editor, Sex Columnist, Reading Series Host, Cupcake Lover, Comedy Fan, Smutmonger, Total Dork") is pitching a cupcake cookbook and looking for "original recipes" by January 15, so consider lending her a helping hand while making sure that the gluten-free contingent is represented. (This is for a general, not a gluten-free, recipe book.) Here's part of her callout:
If you have a super duper original recipe that we could reprint in our book (with credit given to you), please get in touch with us at cupcakestakethecake at yahoo.com with full recipe, notes, name/credit, and any other relevant information.... If you have any questions, you can contact us at that address; we will let you know as we progress if we plan to include your recipe in our proposal. (At this time, we do not plan to renumerate recipe providers, but we will be able to provide you with a free copy of the book when it comes out, but right now this is all in the planning stages, though we think it'll be a fabulous book!)
And uh, if you've got any erotic crossdressing stories, Rachel's looking for those, too. For a very different book.

In related news, I just treated myself to one of Risotteria's new gf cupcakes! (That's related to the cupcakes, not the crossdressing. I swear!)

Friday, January 12, 2007


Teens and parents take note: As of last Monday there was still room to participate in the skating session run by the Club Celiac Teen Workshop Series.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


The song is "Mushaboom" by Feist. And as far as I'm concerned, the bread is gluten-free--whatever type you happen to like the most. Enjoy!

Source (3:29)

Friday, January 05, 2007


I dropped by Whole Foods Chelsea yesterday and decided to share notes on a couple of products there.

The store remains a reliable source of one of my favorite breads: Genuine Bavarian Gluten-Free Whole Grain Bread. It's in the "normal" unrefrigerated bread section, on a shelf close to the floor, with the rest of the Genuine Bavarian product line (which is not gf). Insider tip: Make sure it's rung up accurately at the register! Also: Separate the slices with a knife and toast 'em!

I also spotted one bottle of Toleration ale for $6.99--significantly less than the price at Ninth Avenue Vintner's. It was on the non-refrigerated shelves, across from the stand where the six-packs are kept.

Two other gf beers were in stock, in the six-pack section: Bard's Tale and New Grist. No sign of Ramapo Valley and Redbridge.