Tag Archives: NJ

{ The 2013 Gluten Free Expo – Seacacus, NJ }

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I LOVE food trade shows, it’s all about shootin’ the shit with people and sampling free food!! And if a particular vendor really takes a liking to you, you might just get some party favors to take home with ya (…l’m considering an investment in a rolley suitcase for the next show!).

This past weekend was the 2013 Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo in Seacacus, NJ and I had the opportunity to attend with my friend and co-worker, Liz, who happens to be gluten intolerant. Although I have not been diagnosed with any sort of gluten intolerance, I have been trying to omit gluten from my diet over the past couple of weeks, in an attempt to resolve some chronic stomach troubles. Unfortunately, I am still struggling with tummy troubles, but I have noticed a significant decrease in joint/back pain since cutting back on my gluten intake. I am also not nearly as bloated and who doesn’t want that?!

My experience at the GFAF expo was thus kind of unique because I was unfamiliar with many of the products since I was new to the gluten free community, but since I had consumed gluten products in the very recent past, I had something to weigh these gluten free substitutes up against. Liz on the the other hand, was very knowledgeable about the different vendors product lines and really there on a mission to research egg-less gluten free products (her pet project is to make a vegan pizza crust for Jules!).

So what vendors were the highlights for Liz and I?!?!

{No. 1}   HAIL MERRY - Pre-packaged desserts

Most Knowledgeable About GF Baking & Best/Biggest Samples

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Like I mentioned earlier, Liz was on a hunt for egg substitutes in gluten free baking. Majority of the vendors used egg in their products, but the woman working the Hail Merry table, Claudia, was so knowledgeable on egg alternatives….and not only was she knowledgeable, but she was willing to share a wealth of information on the topic with us! She told us that chia seeds and flax meal are both good binding agents to use in place of egg, but that chia seeds are better for breads that you want to rise like banquettes, while flax meal is a firmer binding agent that is better for flat breads, crackers, and pizza crust!!!

She also gave each of us a bag of delicious macaroons to take home with us, as well as a super cute tee shirt with their logo on it! The caramel sea salt macaroons were my favorite out of the four different flavors , followed by the chocolate mint miracle tart, which was melt in your mouth goodness that I will certainly be buying in the near future!

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Merry, I hail you as my favorite vendor at the the GFAF Expo!

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{No. 2}   OMISSIONGluten-Free Beer

Best Brand Ambassadors & Best Gluten-Free Beer

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After working our way around the large room of vendors, Liz and I arrive at the final aisle of tables. We are stuffed, we are tired, we are five seconds away from calling it a day, and then we realize we are at the gluten-free beer aisle!!! Suddenly we perk up because it is time for happy hour!

Beer has never been my drink of choice, and I have absolutely zero experience with gluten-free beers, but Liz loves a good cold one and is rarely satisfied by the variety available in state-controlled Pennsylvania (as I am rarely satisfied by the wine selection!). She was all sorts of excited for this aisle and definitely hit it off with the sales rep at the Omission Beer table. She was so passionate about the brand and knowledgeable about the product. We learned that the beer is made with traditional beer ingredients, including malted barley, which is specially crafted to remove–or shall I say, omit–the gluten. It actually breaks the chains in the protein bonds, making it safe for gluten intolerant people to consume.

The company offers two different brews: a Pale Ale (5.8% ABV) that is bold and hoppy, and a Lager (4.6% ABV) that is much lighter but still very refreshing and crisp. Between the two, I definitely preferred the pale ale, although the Lager is the one that took the gold medal in the 2012 International Beer and Cider Competition for the Gluten Free category.

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Liz said that this beer tasted the most similar to real beer that she can remember. She noted that it didn’t have a funny after taste, which is her most frequent gripe with GF beer.

{No. 3}   THE CAKE OVERGluten-Free Bakery

Best Tasting Gluten-Free Desserts

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Liz and I ate a lot of sweets while at the expo, but I think we both agreed that the desserts sampled by The Cake Over, were by far the best! They had cookies, and cupcakes, and brownies and all of them were equally as delicious. The owner, Allison Teperman, is originally from Moscow, Russia and her bakery which is located in Lake Hiawatha, NJ, specializes in gluten-free, dairy-free, and low-fat desserts.

The stand out treats for me were the almond crescent cookies, which my grandmother always makes during the holidays. I would have never known that these European bad-boys were gluten-free if someone hadn’t told me!

Of course, Liz instantly reached for the chocolate stuff, as she is a self-proclaimed choco-holic (and I am her witness!).  The chocolate brownies were incredibly rich without being too dense or overly sweet.

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And I loved the chocolate fudge cupcakes topped with chocolate mousse!! They were outrageous and dairy free, might I add!!

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If I ever needed a gluten-free specialty cake, I would definitely go out of my way to get it from The Cake Over. Not only is the product amazing in it’s flavor and texture, but the bakers are tasteful in their cake decorations as well!

{No. 4}   GLUTENBERG – Gluten Free Beer

Best NEW Gluten-Free Product

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All of the household names in the gluten-free market were at the expo (i.e. Udis, Glutino, Glutenfreeda, ect…), but Glutenberg is a newer addition to the market….well, the US that is! Proving successful in the Canadian market since 2011, Glutenberg is available for purchase in the United States, and has already won the gold, silver, and bronze awards in the “gluten free category” at the World Beer Cup!

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There are three different brews available: (1) a Blonde Ale (4.5% ABV) with notes of pepper, floral hops, and fruity citrus, (2) an American Pale Ale (5.5% ABV) with hints of apricot, grapefruit, orange, and caramel, and lastly (3) the Red Ale (5% ABV) which is the winner of the gold medal and much more like a stout beer, with notes of coffee, caramel, and toasted nuts.

My favorite?

The Red Ale without doubt. And best of all, Glutenberg is 100% gluten free. May sound shocking that this a bragging point, but most other gluten free beers do in fact contain very small traces of gluten, at less than 5 PPM.

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{No. 5}   EVERYBODY EATS – Gluten free & Nut free bakery

Best Gluten-Free/Nut-Free Breads

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Gluten free desserts are no longer that hard to find, but good gluten free bread is another story. Heck, it’s even getting hard to find good artesian bread with flour these days! But the tides are a changing, thanks to Everybody Eats bakery in Brooklyn, NY.

The multi-grain high-fiber loaf  that they sell is a-m-a-z-i-n-g. Not amazing because you’re thinking of it as a gluten free product, but amazing because its just a top quality bakery product. In fact, it was so good that I couldn’t help but buy a bag of the deli rolls to take home–6 come in a bag for just $10! And each roll serves up a whopping 6 grams of fiber and 6 grams of protein!

Check out their website to order bread online if you can’t locate a good gluten free bakery near your home. Apparently, they freeze great too!

{No. 5}   OLA GRANOLA - Gluten-Free Granola

Best Gluten-Free Breakfast Cereal

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I eat Greek yogurt at least once a day, whether it be for breakfast or as a snack, but either way, I like it to have a little crunch which means granola! Finding a delicious granola is easy–who doesn’t love oats roasted in honey with clusters of nuts and dried berries?!? But finding a healthy, low-calorie granola that still tastes good is a bit more challenging. Now tack the gluten free requirement onto that list, and you’ll be reading package labels at the super market all afternoon! But Ola Granola has filled the gap in the market, providing a delicious Gluten-Free, 100 calorie per saving, low glycemic, non-GMO, Vegan, soy-free, kosher, 0 trans fat, whole grain granola that is 100% all natural!

They offer four different flavor varieties, but my favorite is the Chocolate Banana Chip, which is a tasty combo of crunchy banana chips and semi-sweet chocolate chunks melded with oat clusters. 1/3 of a cup is 100 calories with only 15 calories from fat!

I will say that although I was impressed with the product, I was very disappointed by their sales rep at the show. She was rude and apathetic about the product. Fortunately for the company, their product is good enough to sell itself.

My other favorite granola that was NOT at the convention (sadly) is Living Intentions Superfood Cereal in the Raspberry Detox flavor. It is all organic, raw, gluten-free, vegan, non-GMO and is fortified with Zeolites, milk thistle, hemp, cranberry, artichoke, and red beet root. You can order it online or buy it at Wegmans or Whole Foods.

{No. 6}   San-J - Gluten Free Salad Dressings & Sauce

Best Gluten Free Cooking Sauces

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It comes as a surprise to many that soy sauce contains gluten, but it is true that regular soy sauce contains about 40%-60% wheat! Thankfully, there is an alternative sauce called tamari, which is a richer, smoother sauce composed of 100% soy beans. Personally, I find tamari to be saltier in flavor than regular soy sauce though, so I’d use caution when putting on sushi!

The San-J company has been making traditional tamari sauce for nearly 200 years, but they have more recently introduced a line of gluten free cooking sauces in their product offering. Many other Asian cooking sauce brands will use soy sauce as their base instead of tamari, since it is cheaper, but San-J keeps all of their sauces tamari-based.

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My favorite of their cooking sauces, in order of preference are: (1) Thai Peanut Sauce — perfect for grilled meats or pad thai noodle dishes (2) Spicy Szechuan Sauce — a spicy but delicious sauce that would be great on skewered beef and (3) Orange Sauce — which begs for some grilled chicken and fried rice!

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Overall. the expo was a success and I look forward to attending another one in the future! As for the egg-less pizza crust….well, Liz and I experiment with Flax Meal on Thursday. I will keep you posted on our findings!

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Filed under Bakery, Food Expos, Gluten Free, Tradeshows

Trattoria Toscana *****

 
553 State Route #1
Whippany, NJ 07981
973.386.0303

CHECK OUT THE MENU!

Everyone knows that New York is host to wealth of fantastic Italian restaurants–Marea, Babbo, Del Posto, Scalini Fedeli, Patsy’s, Carmine’s (just to name a few)–but outside of the city, off of route 1, lies a “hidden gem” by the name of Tratattoria Toscana. I use quotes because although it has a very inconspicuous location, it is well known among foodies, locals, and Italian’s looking for a proper pasta with gravy. This place is always jam packed and the delicious food being served is worthy of such loyal patronage.

Rodolfo Monti and his son, Giacomo (with names as authentic as their food), are the owner and chef of Trattoria Toscana, and although their menu offers a variety of well-loved Italian classics, their culinary speciality is certainly from the Tuscan region.

To start, I suggest the Sliced Pears, Prosciutto, and Shaved Parmesan Cheese ($13) or my personal favorite, Mussels cooked in Spicy Tomato Broth with White Wine and Garlic ($11). Another great way to sample the menu is to split a pasta dish or two between the table as an appetizer. The Amatriciana cooked with pancetta, onion, tomato, and pecorino cheese is very flavorful red sauce with a delicious hearty bacon flavor.

For my main dish I ordered the Braised Short Ribs in a Chianti Wine Reduction, served with Parmesan Risotto and Garlicky Broccoli Rabe. As if all of these plate components aren’t already my favorite things to eat, they were also cooked to PERFECTION! The meat just seemed to fall apart each time I poked it with the fork, and the risotto was a perfect creamy compliment to the flavors of the Chianti wine reduction. The pair was like an upscale, Italian version of mashed potatoes and gravy. And the broccoli rabe, which can be a hit or a miss for many restaurants, was out of this world good. The garlic seasoning was just right and it was cooked without being too mushy. This dish certainly makes my list of Top 10 Food-gasm experiences.

My mom ordered the Tilapia Livornese topped with capers, black olives, caramelized onion, and tomatoes and served with oven-roasted potatoes. Stealing a small forkful from her was a challenge, thats how much she enjoyed it. The fish was light and buttery and the sauce was incredible.

My dad, on the other hand, opted for something a little bit richer–the Lollipop Lamb Chops in an aged balsamic reduction, served with risotto and roasted potatoes (see photograph at top). As you can see in the photograph, the lamb is cooked to perfection with a bright pink hue in the center of the meat. The balsamic reduction had a nice flavor but thankfully was used sparingly, so as not to take away from the quality taste of the meat. And the potatoes–although just a side component on the plate–were also very nicely done with a crispy outer shell and piping hot center.

After finishing with our main courses, we ordered a round of cappuccinos and a large piece of Homemade Ricotta Cheesecake to share as a table. The coffee was nothing special but the cheesecake was very delicious. It was not too dense or too sweet, and the fresh berries and whipped cream around the edges of the plate were great addition to each bite. A perfect way to end a fabulous meal!

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Filed under Cocktails, Italian Restaurants, New Jersey Restaurants