Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A Very Pomegranate Passover

A Seasonal Visit to a Kosher Supermarket in Brooklyn

I learned about Pomegranate, a kosher supermarket in Brooklyn, thanks to a tip on a message board at the New York City Celiac Disease Meetup Group (NYCCDMG). When I read about the many gluten-free Passover (a.k.a. Pesach) foods available in its aisles, I just had to check it out for myself.

I took the Q train to Avenue M and then proceeded northwest to Pomegranate, which is at 1507 Coney Island Avenue just north of Avenue L. Sure enough, I found many gluten-free items as I prowled the Pesach aisles established at this time of year.

If you're accustomed to shopping in the same places and seeing the same products over and over again, there's something surreal about going into a supermarket that's well stocked with gluten-free Passover products. It's almost like being in a Bizarro universe where the shelves of gluten-free cereals look strangely familiar...yet different.

I recognized many products and brands from my visits to the Shoprite at Morton Village in Plainview on Long Island: Klein's Hoo-Lachmu Passover Flats, Kedem's Passover Style Gefilte Fish, Frankel's blintzes and knishes, Shabtai Gourmet baked goods (including Chocolaty Coated Coconut Macaroons), and Oberlander's baked goods (including cupcakes), just to reel off a bunch of examples.

I happened upon three types of faux matzoh ball mixes—not just Lieber's Knaidel Mix and Gefen's Kneidel Mix but also the boldly named Paskesz Matzo Ball Mix (above). I call it "boldly named" because it doesn't contain matzo, which traditionally contains gluten—although Pomegranate does carry at least one brand of newfangled (and expensive) gluten-free oat matzo. (See Gluten-Free Bay about shopping for oat matzo; see I Am Gluten Free for some cooking ideas.

But there were also some foods that were new to me, including chow mein noodles from Paskesz (right) and many types of break crumbs and coatings. Paskaez also makes Ultra Crispy Potato Thins (that, oddly enough, remind me of shrimp chips but with potato instead of shrimp—so they might go well with fish such as salmon) as well as junk foods called Nibblers and Diddles (shown on display below).

If that isn't enough chazarai (junk food) for you, there's also gluten-free cotton candy-in-a-bag from Smunchies Inc. of Spring Valley.

For many people a visit to Pomegranate may offer an unusual glimpse of Brooklyn's Orthodox Jewish and Chasidic cultures. It is open until at least 9pm most evenings, but don't even think of going on Friday evenings and Saturdays, when it is closed for Sabbath. (Call 718-951-7112 to confirm that the supermarket will be open when you want to go there.)

Passover 2009 starts on the evening of Wednesday, April 8, so go before then to see the most goods for sale. Discounts might or might not be available after the holiday.

Shelf photos by David Marc Fischer

Sunday, March 29, 2009

"Hospital Stays Made Safe"

GIG Offers an Online Dietary Guide

I continue to feel that "there ought to be a law" when it comes to providing medically appropriate food to people in institutions such as hospitals, nursing homes, and prisons. It just seems to be common sense that people on medical gluten-free diets receive gluten-free food in medical institutions—or anywhere else where they have little or no ability to control food procurement or preparation.

So far there's no such law, but at least the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) recognizes the problem. As has been reported, including Nancy Lapid's Celiac Disease Blog, GIG recently created an online guide called Hospital Stays Made Safe [PDF]. It's not a cure-all, but at least it's a step in the right direction.

And it's one of numerous online publications offered by GIG. Check 'em out!

For an idea of what we're up against, here's a glimpse of some "normal" hospital food. (The footage comes from across the proverbial pond, where Prince Charles and Coeliac UK have also advocated on behalf of hospital patients.)

Source (00:35)

Friday, March 27, 2009

Breaking: GFRAP Adds Gustorganics to Roster

I just got word that the downtown "Latin/organic" restaurant Gustorganics (519 Sixth Avenue by 14th Street in Manhattan) is now a participant in the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP)!

The restaurant serves meals from morning 'til night every day of the year. Its membership is not coordinated with an area support group.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

General Mills Expands GF Chex List!

As has been noted elsewhere, General Mills is in the process of adding more Chex cereals to its gluten-free product list. As always, be careful to check your Chex to make sure the label clearly identifies it as GLUTEN FREE and the ingredient list does not mention the dreaded barley malt.

On a recent visit to a Food Emporium in Midtown West, I found gluten-free Honey Nut Cheerios Chex (above, in case you didn't notice) and gluten-free Corn Chex...

...in addition to gluten-free Rice Chex! General Mills is offering a great example of how sugar and/or molasses can replace the sacred barley malt to make popular products gluten-free. Its Chex cereals are fortified, so you can get a load of vitamins from them, though you might want to take note that the cereals aren't very high in fiber and protein.

And you thought I only shopped on Long Island!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Passover Product Watch 2009: Return to ShopRite

Yesterday I stopped by the ShopRite at Morton Village in Plainview, Long Island, and saw that a good number of gluten-free products had arrived! Near the customer service counter are boxes of gluten-free baked goods from the likes of Shabtai, Mendy's, and Oberlander's. Many of the contents overlap—lots of rainbow cookies—but there are some unusual items such as Oberlander's sugar-free kichel, which is something like a very plain-tasting, airy breadstick (that certainly might not be to everyone's taste, especially without some sort of tasty embellishment).

In one of the central aisles you can find an assortment of gluten-free Passover groceries including Lieber's Knaidel Mix (suitable for making faux matzoh balls) as well as Geffen's Kneidel Mix (which I imagine is also suitable for making faux matzoh balls).

Attractions in a frozen foods aisle include gluten-free blintzes from Frankel's...

...and the Hoo-Lachmu flatbreads as well as two types of pizza. (The Hoo-Lachmu pizza seems to be a repackaging of last year's Manischewitz appetizer-sized mini-pizzas, as one might see from the reference to Manischewitz that remains on the back of the box.)

The company Klein's Real Kosher, which has a hand in the marketing of the Hoo-Lachmu brand, also has its label on Italian ices that look very similar to the Manischewitz product from last year. You can see them in the group shot below, along with a jar of Kedem's Passover Gefilte Fish (at a very reasonable price and definitely worth a taste) and Osem's bagged cakes.

This is just a sampling of the gluten-free Passover foods available at the Morton Village ShopRite. There were more last year—and there's still time for additional items to show up at this supermarket. Just keep in mind that not all Passover food is gluten-free: Matzoh is wheat, so anything with matzoh should be avoided in favor of food marked gluten-free or non-gebrokts. And if you're in the vicinity of Plainview, remember that you're also close to much gluten-free grocery shopping at Dr. B. Well Naturally, Eat Healthy America, Fairway, and Trader Joe's.

If the Plainview ShopRite isn't convenient to you, look for products online at places like kosher.com, and also look out for Passover Stores as well as kosher grocers in your area. (The more grocers understand that there's a demand for good gluten-free food year-round, the more likely it is that they'll build the market for those foods.) A visit to the Jewish community of Monsey, New York, might also be productive.

Photos: David Marc Fischer

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Elisabeth Hasselbeck Plugs Book on Tonight Show with Jay Leno

Elisabeth Hasselbeck recently plugged her forthcoming book The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno—but she made her pitch only at the very end of her interview. You can find it at the 4:20 mark, after anecdotes about baby changing in the Oval Office and her involvement in the recent Presidential election.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coeliac Awareness Week

Motto: Is Your MOJO Missing?

Did you know that this is Coeliac Awareness Week in Australia? It is!

Here's a big chunk of the media release from The Coeliac Society of Australia and the Coeliac Research Fund:
Coeliac disease is the most common hereditary autoimmune disease in the world today, affecting one in one hundred people. Untreated, it can lead to life threatening illnesses such as liver disease and cancer. It can also result in severe osteoporosis and infertility especially among men.

Unfortunately, diagnosis is rare, even though the condition is nearly twice as common as Type 1 Diabetes and breast cancer and on a par with stroke rates. In fact in Australia, 75 per cent of sufferers are not diagnosed and don’t even know they have it.

To improve awareness and diagnosis rates, a cheeky new campaign called: ‘Is your MOJO Missing?’ is being launched during Coeliac Awareness Week from 13-20 March by The Coeliac Society and the Coeliac Research Fund.

The campaign urges anyone with typical symptoms of coeliac disease – unexplained tiredness, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation – to ask their doctor for coeliac tests to either confirm or eliminate the presence of the condition.

The MOJO message is simple. If you suffer from unexplained coeliac symptoms:

Make an appointment with your doctor
Organise coeliac tests
Judge the results with your doctor
Omit gluten from your diet if your doctor advises it

Coeliac disease is caused by a total intolerance to gluten in food (found in wheat, barley, oats and rye).

In the short term, the symptoms are extremely debilitating. In the longer term, untreated coeliac symptoms can worsen with many sufferers becoming housebound and unable to participate in normal, everyday activities.

Mr Graham Price, media spokesperson for The Coeliac Society, said: “With typical coeliac symptoms often mistaken for gastroenteritis, chronic fatigue or irritable bowel syndromes or put down to ailments which ‘have always run in our family,’ thousands of undiagnosed coeliacs suffer needlessly year in and year out.

“This is one of the most common hereditary autoimmune diseases in the world and yet it remains one of the most under diagnosed conditions of our time, with the average age of diagnosis being 40 years old. That’s a long time to feel unwell when simple coeliac tests can detect the condition on the spot!

“We hope to improve diagnosis rates dramatically across Australia with the MOJO campaign.

“Correct diagnosis by a medical doctor is very important because by following the proper treatment plan of a strict gluten free diet, most coeliacs can live a healthy, pain free, active life again in no time at all.

“So remember, if you suffer from unexplained tiredness, bloating, diarrhoea and/or constipation, make an appointment with your doctor today for coeliac tests.

“Your MOJO will thank you for it!”
And here's how that sounds....

Source (7:00)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Erin Gone Gluten-Free!

Have you been gluten-free in Ireland? I haven't—yet. At some point I'd like to pay a visit to the Emerald Isle and get a taste of the gluten-free food there.

Ireland has a reputation for having a high proportion of people with celiac/coeliac disease, but studies seem to suggest an overall rate of 1:120—perhaps slightly higher than average, although some localities might have significantly higher concentrations.

The Coeliac Society of Ireland (CSI) serves gluten-free people from its base in Dublin and its branches throughout the country. It offers lists of accommodating restaurants and lodgings, but so far it does not "vet" those places.

The Balleymaloe Cookery School, located on an organic farm in County Cork (the home of Delicious Foods) offers short healthy gluten-free cooking classes for people with coeliac disease. Owner Darina Allen co-authored the book Healthy Gluten-Free Cooking with Rosemary Kearney.

Getting back to Dublin, I still remember a profile of Roly's Bistro chef Colin O'Daly that appeared in the Fall 2002 issue of Gluten-Free Living, before the magazine went glossy or had a blog—which offers a St. Patrick's Day blog post featuring recipes for Irish Soda Bread and Irish Potato Candy.

Want more recipes? Nancy Lapid offers links to Irish (and Chinese?) dishes here.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Shameless Sticker Promotion

The Gluten-Free NYC Boutique sells stickers. Put 'em on your car...

...or stick 'em somewhere else—like a stranger's car!

Just kidding, of course. Just like "stand-up economist" Yoram Bauman, in this classic routine recorded at the Gotham Comedy Club back in '07. Seems a long time ago, but the comedy still holds up pretty well!

Source (5:53)

DISCLAIMER Yoram Bauman has absolutely nothing to do with the Gluten-Free NYC Boutique. As far as I know.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Gluten-Free Pasta Twirling

Pamela Silvestri of the Staten Island Advance posted a short item, called "Petty Over Spaghetti" (March 9, 2009), about the etiquette of eating spaghetti.

Illustrating the story: an image of "Spaghetti and meatballs at Tuttoriso, a gluten-free restaurant in St. George."

Silvestri asks readers, "Do you have any rules when it comes to your strand pasta?" Sure: It must be gluten-free. And avoided during dates and business lunches. And eaten while wearing washable clothing that matches the color of the sauce. And that's about it, I think.

How about you?

Here's a lesson on the "spoon" method (not to be confused with "spooning"). Warning: The spaghetti in this video probably contains gluten.

Source (00:25)

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

CeliaCalendar: Upcoming Events!

Hm. Looks like there's a lot to do!
March 12, 2009 Fundraiser at City Center featuring gluten-free desserts plus some group called the Paul Taylor Dance Company!

March 13, 2009
Meet up for a gluten-free dinner special at Friedman's Lunch!

March 22, 2009 Bowl on Long Island to raise funds for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University (CDCCU)!

March 29, 2009 Westchester Celiac Sprue Support Group meeting at Phelps Memorial Hospital Center in Sleepy Hollow with informational panel including WCSSG founder Sue Goldstein, WCSSG and Catholic Celiac Society president Chris Spreitzer, GFRAP founder Pat MacGregor, author Rory Jones, and young fundraiser Colin Leslie. Vendors include Jake Bakes, Curious Cookie, Kettle Cuisine, DeCicco Marketplace in Ardsley, Katz Gluten Free, Glow Gluten Free, and Miller's Gluten Free Bread Company (MGFBC)!

April 26, 2009 Long Island Vendor Fair (LIVF)!

May 11, 2009 Cooking by the Book (CBTB) fundraiser for the CDCCU! (I've been a guest at two of these, including one where I helped prepare two-tone quinoa and one where I recently stirred red wine risotto (right), and enjoyed both.) RSVP by April 27 by contacting Cynthia Beckman!

May 31, 2009 L. Lodico Celiac Disease Walk in Little Bay Park, Queens!

Blurry Photo: David Marc Fischer

Monday, March 09, 2009

FDA Wants Input on Gluten-Free Labeling

"The FDA is charged with ensuring the safety of $417 billion worth of domestic food and $49 billion worth of imported food each year. That's no small task," observed a recent Chicago Tribune editorial ("Peanut Peril," March 7, 2009).

One part of the FDA's big task involves examining issues related to labeling food as "gluten-free." Here's info on a proposed study, garnered from a FDA web page on the project:
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is announcing an opportunity for public comment on the proposed collection of certain information by the agency.....Federal agencies are required to publish notice in the Federal Register concerning each proposed collection of information and to allow 60 days for public comment in response to the notice. This notice solicits comments on a voluntary consumer study entitled "Gluten-Free Labeling of Food Products Experimental Study."

* * *

The Gluten-Free Labeling of Food Products Experimental Study will collect information from both consumers who have celiac disease or gluten intolerance and those who do not have either condition. The purpose of the study is to gauge perceptions of characteristics related to claims of "gluten-free" and allowed variants (e.g., "free of gluten," "without gluten," "no gluten"), in addition to other types of statements (e.g., "made in a gluten-free facility" or "not made in a facility that processes gluten-containing foods") on the food label. The study will also assess consumer understanding of "gluten-free" claims on foods that are naturally free of gluten, and gauge consumer reaction to a product carrying a gluten claim concurrently with a statement about the amount of gluten the product contains.

The data will be collected over the Internet from samples derived from two sources: (1) A membership list from a celiac disease special interest organization and (2) an online consumer panel. Participation in the study is voluntary.

* * *

FDA invites comments on these topics: (1) Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of FDA's functions, including whether the information will have practical utility; (2) the accuracy of FDA's estimate of the burden of the proposed collection of information, including the validity of the methodology and assumptions used; (3) ways to enhance the quality,
utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and (4) ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, including through the use of automated collection techniques, when appropriate, and other forms of information technology.

* * *

DATES: Submit written or electronic comments on the collection of information by May 5, 2009.

ADDRESSES: Submit electronic comments on the collection of information to http://www.regulations.gov. Submit written comments on the collection of information to the Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. All comments should be identified with the docket number [FDA-2009-N-0083]....

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Jonna Capezzuto, Office of Information Management (HFA-710), Food and Drug Administration, 5600 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20857, 301-796-3794.
So be sure to check out the FDA web page devoted to this project, put together your thoughts, feel free to air them here, and make sure you hit the May 5 deadline!

I'll offer my two cents eventually.

Thanks to Shelley Case for promptly spreading the word online.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

New Gluten-Free Baked Goodie at Risotteria

If you Google "gluten-free bakery manhattan" there's a good chance you'll get hits for Babycakes NYC, the Lower East Side bakery that advertises various gluten-free goodies in addition to various bakery items that are not gluten-free due to the use of spelt.

What doesn't Google up as readily is Risotteria, in the West Village. But you shouldn't count out this restaurant when searching Manhattan for gluten-free cupcakes, cookies and other bakery items. Risotteria, which was one of the first restaurants on the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program (GFRAP), offers cupcakes, carrot cake, pies, cookies and other yummy bakery treats in addition to its famous breadsticks.

A Black & White cookie was a recent Risotteria addition; more recently, I've noticed an "Orio Cakester" added to the bakery counter. A "creme sandwich" made with two discs of chocolate cake, the Orio has a taste and texture similar to a Devil Dog, even though the shape is not the same. Or so I thought when I ate my first Orio last night. When I had the second one today (there are two per pack) I thought it was more like a marriage between a Devil Dog and an Ore...well, let's say a Hydrox cookie.

On the right you can see an intact Orio (above) and a cross-section of said Orio (below). In case you're interested, it's the one that I ate today.

PS I forgot to mention that Risotteria and Babycakes NYC will be among those supplying desserts at next Thursday's (affordable) modern dance fundraiser at City Center!

Photos: David Marc Fischer

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Passover Product Watch 2009: Hoo-Lachmu Passover Flats

Hoo-Lachmu Passover Flats, from Israel, are frozen planks of perfect-for-Pesach potato bread that I enjoyed heating and eating last year. The box claims they're great for sandwiches, pizza, French toast, and even "Etc." I'm not sure about how they'd work for French toast, but I got a kick out of baking them and figuring out ways to use them. Sometimes they puffed up a bit, so I could slice them open like pita bread and stuff them with cheese and other sandwichy stuff. Other times they remained flat and dense, so I could just top them or create a sandwich by breaking them into halves.

I know what you're wondering: "What the heck is a 'Hoo-Lachmu'?" According to Steve Levin of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "Its name is a play on the Aramaic phrase 'ha lachma anya' from the haggadah used during the seder, which says of matzo, 'this is the bread of affliction.'" Levin also writes of a rabbi joking that "Hoo-lachmu is part of Passover Technology Inc., a fictitious company dedicated to developing new Passover foods so that 'people don't whine as much because they don't have pizza.'"

Speaking of pizza, here's a take from a blog called The Presence, back in '06:
The Presence team tried them as pizza, and, we must admit, they are pretty good! Of course, with a whopping 254 calories per slice (only 74.7 from fat!), we'll probably be dead long before these make it all the way through our digestive tracts. Hoo Lachmu weighs in quite respectfully in all the other areas of "ingredients that will kill you quickly." But they sure are tasty, as far as Pesach food goes. So for this year, Hoo Lachmu wins both the coveted "Best New Pesach Food Attempting to Imitate a Chametz Product" award and the "Best Pesach Product Name Thought up by Three Chassids in Borough Park Five Minutes Before Yontif [the holiday]" award. Congratulations!
Look for this product and have fun figuring out how you'll like it best!

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Passover Product Watch 2009: Blintzes and Knishes

Last Passover I found a few brands that offered gluten-free blintzes but, if memory serves, only one that offered gluten-free knishes (the "stuffed bread" type as opposed to the "fried breadcrumby" type). Potato was a significant ingredient in those products.

One of the standout brands was Spring Valley...

...and another was Frankel's Homestyle Products...

...which also makes the knishes!