Jersey Mike’s Subs are Awesome

Been five years plus since I ate a hoagie straight off the counter at a sub shop. Just didn’t find any place I could trust.  The other week I heard about this place called Jersey Mikes, a small chain originally from New Jersey.  This past weekend we went there for a quick supper. I normally eat meals full of produce and clean proteins.  But for once I wanted to indulge my cravings for an Italian hoagie full of good meats and cheese. Don’t forget the lettuce and tomato!

So when I asked for a gluten free roll they started cleaning; after finishing the last customer before mine they washed, cleaned and changed their gloves after washing their hands.  A big piece of sub wrapping waxed paper and they started to build my sandwich.  Full of three or four kinds of ham and the like. Three slices of provolone, lettuce, tomatoes and a good sprinkle of oil and wine vinegar later it was ready. Sliced in half and wrapped tight.  I splurged with a bag of chips: the full surrender to oinky food!

13-italian-reg

Their photo; not a gluten free roll but you get the idea!

It was glorious! Meaty with ham, prosciutto, capicola, salami and pepperoni and that creamy provolone cheese. They topped it with lots of the green stuff: shredded lettuce and there was pretty good for February tomatoes sliced nicely. The Udi hoagie roll was okay; not great but not bad, a touch dry; I pulled off some of the surface as I just don’t enjoy eating a lot of bread. I like it balanced by the meat filling and the light dressing.  I couldn’t quite finish the entire sandwich so I wrapped up the remaining bites and had them the next day.  Still yummy.

The staff was very friendly and totally accommodating. The counter girl even asked me how I liked it after I had eaten about half of the hoagie. They made me feel comfortable in my request for safe gluten free food and that was huge.

So, I didn’t get glutened, I got fed. I conquered my fear of eating in a fast food sort of chain restaurant that serves gluten rolls in the same location as my gf meal was prepared. Perhaps that seems small to some of you but for me it was a big leap of faith and I did feel rewarded. Success: a safe meal that I didn’t have to make, it satisfied a real craving and I conquered a fear I had been struggling with for a long time. Success.

There are lots of other menu choices at this friendly little eatery: next time, a steak sandwich sounds perfect!

The Perils of Eating Out…

Everyone loves to eat out.  So nice to have someone cook for you, no dishes, right?  Well, if you have celiac disease you must avoid even tiny amounts of gluten. So eating out is sadly a huge problem in this geographic area as there are very few restaurants that have a real gluten free menu.  If we were in California, that’s another story; most every restaurant there has a gf menu and they know what they are doing.  Here in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania it is not like that.  Most of the times I get glutened I am eating in a restaurant, food that was allegedly prepared for me knowing I have celiac.  And yet I get sick sometimes. Why is that I wonder?

I was glutened just recently and since this place has a gluten free menu I felt it shouldn’t have happened. I have eaten there several times safely in the past three years. Great food generally. I know the chef was in so it wasn’t like someone was subbing for him.  I have asked and am told they have separate pots for gluten free pasta.  I didn’t get desperately ill; call it medium sick so I know it’s not like they served me regular pasta.  But there must have been some form of definite contamination. Bummer.  The thing is, when restaurants go to the trouble of having a gf menu and serving great safe gluten free foods they are providing an important service.  People with celiac celebrate birthdays, events, anniversaries, have dates or just get sick of eating at home. There are so few places one can eat dinner out; it would be a shame to no longer go to my once favorite restaurant.  It took me six days to get over this moderate illness from my dinner out.  Six days of tummy pain and not feeling myself.  It is something I take seriously as the problem is not just the pain, it is the damage to my digestive system.  It can cause cancer and a whole host of diseases when you get glutened again and again.

So, I want to go over a few basic facts to remind folks who say they serve gf food what that should be like.  Maybe that place will read it and take some notes!

Pasta: If you have gf pasta on your menu you need a separate pot for boiling the pasta, separate strainer, separate colander and separate spoons.  You can NOT use the same water for gf pasta that you were making regular pasta in.  You can not use the same colander or strainer; tiny gummy bits of pasta stick in the holes and it is incredibly difficult to get them completely clean.  You can’t use the same baking dishes to make gf baked goods like muffins or cake; the tiny crumbs that remain even after a good washing are a major source of contamination.  Twenty parts per million, yes I said Million are considered contaminated food that a person with celiac disease cannot tolerate.  We are not exaggerating, we really, really need you to be careful.

Spices and Herbs: You can’t use spice blends as they often have flour in them.  But you can use single spices like cinnamon, paprika, ginger, etc.  I find much gf menu choices to be incredibly bland and lacking in any spices or herbs.  How drab.fresh herbs All fresh herbs are safe, so are typical dried ones like basil, oregano, thyme, sage, etc. Just skip the blends, or make your own, I do. All single McCormack spices are all safely gluten free.  I have  made gf homemade taco seasoning, garam masala and other blends.  Garlic is safe and adds a lot of flavor. Sometimes I am served a bone plain tomato sauce with not a single kind of herb or garlic.  That is just not appetizing. For anyone.  Why should folks with celiac have to eat drab boring bland food? Shouldn’t!  mcCormick spices

Misc. Ingredients: You can’t use butter from a common stick or dish; the knife that dips there might have touched regular bread.  Not safe for anyone with celiac. You can’t use the same mayo or mustard jar for the same reason.

Meats and more : Avoid meats that are sold in a marinade solution.  Ditto for poultry like whole turkeys or chickens. Unless the label says gf don’t get any meat in a marinade as they are more often than not unsafe for someone with celiac.

breadcrumbsMisc. Stuff: No regular bread crumbs; they sell gf ones, get some or grind up dry gf bread.  The canned broth stores sell is a contamination issue; wheat is in them for some darn reason.  But, there are safe brands; find one and stick to it. Or make your own which is far cheaper and there is no real reason for wheat flour in broth.

Okay, Restaurant Chefs: now that I have covered the basics; you know what you need to do.  Just stick to these simple rules for cooking your gluten free menu items. And do it every single day you are open.  So I don’t get sick again. Plus, you will be rewarded with repeat gluten free customers who tell all their gf friends to come to your place for a safe gluten free meal.  I know I share great eating places with others on social media and so do others.   Just please make it actually safe if you say it is gluten free on your menu.

I feel like sending a copy of this post to every restaurant within 40 miles of Hellertown.  Maybe I will!

 

Musikfest Update Friday 8.14.15 GF Brownie Alert!

Eating gluten free at the Musikfest is sure challenging and when you are volunteering with only 30 minutes for a meal break it can be tough.  Snacks might be easier.  Last year I had some great kettle corn and some super Creamery ice cream up by the Hotel Bethlehem.  I am guessing you can still get those treats this Fest.

hempzels

I did find some incredible brownies, up on the edge of Leiderplatz; right at the back of the Sun Inn.  Hempzel Pretzels has a small stand there.

hempzel signI used to eat their tasty soft pretzels years ago at the fest, when I could still eat wheat and gluten.  They still have many great pretzel products for sale but there are also some certified gluten free brownies.  I didn’t get a picture of them but the stand has a big basket of them.  The flavor is outstanding, creamy and very chocolaty.  Well worth the trip up to Leiderplatz.  They also sell a garlic jam, didn’t get a taste of it but it is gf and looks like it might be great on a sandwich.

garlic jam  I didn’t find anything else at Leiderplatz that was gf and safe for me other than ice tea. I like the one that is half lemonade. Thirst quenching…

Saturday I plan to trek down to Voltzplatz on my break for their crazy good baked potato with pulled pork topping.  It was incredible at last year’s fest, lots of tender meat topping a creamy baked spud. Can’t wait!

Musikfest 2015 Food Notes For First Weekend

It is Musikfest time again here in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.  I volunteer every year.  This year I am a cider server and an alcohol site supervisor.  I know…put the cat in charge of the mice!! Hahaha. Seriously, just kidding!

musikfest 2015

Anyway, I am there for like six hours each shift so of course I get hungry and food has to be in the equation.  My first shift I cheated; I brought a Wendy’s style chicken sandwich I made myself and a piece of fruit.  I ate it on my break, un-warmed but it was terrific. Probably the healthiest food to eat there… Today I ate festival food.  It was a bit of a gamble but I survived, unglutened! I had a plate of rice, red beans and chicken from the Hogar Crea stand. I had some last year or the year before and didn’t get ill so I took the chance and it was pretty good, 8 tickets equals $8.  Lot of money for rice, beans, and about a half a chicken thigh but it is a worthy cause and the rice/beans part was particularly good. I think I need to make some myself!

aw shucks corn

Then I went to the Aww Shucks corn stand.  I gambled a bit again, getting butter and Parmesan cheese.  The cheese was something I hadn’t tried before since my diagnosis.  It added a lot of flavor and I sure enjoyed that ear of corn, $4 for it; actually one of the cheaper things to be had and relatively good for you. Warning, do NOT get the spice topping, it is not gluten free. I did not get ill from either offering. Not really the best way to find out but I was kinda desperate due to low blood sugar.  You can do better by planning ahead as there are a few other gluten free things around the fest; you might want to check my posts from last summer. All of these vendors are here again; the tacos can be had on the north side too.

https://myworldwithoutwheat.wordpress.com/2014/08/07/tasty-taco-salad-southside-musikfest/

https://myworldwithoutwheat.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/sensenigs-meats-comes-through-with-safe-yummy-bbq-pork-for-gf-festing/

https://myworldwithoutwheat.wordpress.com/2014/08/05/musikfest-gluten-free-not-easy-but-possible/

Enjoy some cider; it is to be had at the Cider stand next to the Beer at FestPlatz, 4 varieties, all very tasty and all gluten free.

If you go to the fest and find some great gluten free food message me so I can check it out. Fest away!

Legal Sea Foods….Another Lovely Meal (and GF)

My favorite restaurant to eat out at is Legal Sea Foods.  I try to always make it there when I am in Boston visiting family.  This July’s vacation was no different.  I was looking forward to the great service and even greater seafood and their menu has a number of gluten free items.

legal sea foods

We were seated promptly and ordered a bottle of delightful white wine.  The server was knowledgeable and selections were made.  For starters we three shared a dozen oysters on a bed of ice; made up from three different varieties.  They came with two sauces: a champagne vinaigrette and the traditional horseradish cocktail sauce.  I had several, they were small and succulent and I tried both sauces.  Loved them; should say I am only in the last couple of years learning to like raw oysters. I like the really small fat ones; easier for me to swallow.

oysters

Then we shared an order of deep fried calamari.  Gluten free of course! It came with a large dish of tarter sauce and was very tasty; the three of us ate most of it, my sister and her hubby are not celiac although my sister often eats gluten free.  I had a pair of gf tasty muffins which disappeared quickly.  Elaine ate half of a muffin and declared it quite good.

calimari

Then our entrees showed up; all at once and in the arms of our young server.  My sister, being quick on the uptake, queried her; normally gluten free items are delivered by a separate server, usually a manager. The server’s pretty face fell and she admitted she had forgotten to put my entrée in as gluten free.  So I had to wait while they remade my meal. Our server was very apologetic. All their staff is very friendly and helpful as to eating gluten free.

My meal was pretty tasty when it showed up ten minutes later; a surf and turf consisting of a 6 ounce fillet mignon, four sautéed scallops and four shrimps.  The beef was utter perfection, had a sauce on it that really added to the flavor and my scallops were delish!  The shrimps were kinda dried out.  I did eat some of them but not with much delight.   This was the first time they messed up my order in like 4 or 5 visits there and the first time any seafood was even a bit less than perfect.  Every place is allowed a few glitches; don’t let that stop you from heading to Legals.

My sister’s chowder and salad was tasty; chowder gone in a flash!  My brother-in-law enjoyed his fish and chips; it smelled wonderful. Made with haddock and a very healthy serving. We shared a chocolate parfait which was delightfully light and disappeared in moments.  We were all content and quite full when we left Legals.

All in all a very nice dining experience and I thanked my sister for catching their error before I could taste my food and get ill.  Moral of story; double check to make sure your gf food comes via a separate server when you eat at Legal Sea Foods.  Legal has locations all over the mid-Atlantic; two in NJ, two near or in Philadelphia and a couple in New York State as well as two in the Boston area and others in a few more states.  Well worth a drive for the legendary seafood and safe gf food.

Delicious Safe GF Meals for That Special Night Out

When you want to eat out for a special celebration it can be tough to find safe gluten free choices in the Lehigh Valley.  One place I like is Hotel Bethlehem,  I have eaten safely there three times.  I agree it is a tad pricy but if you eat in the Tap Room as opposed to the fancy restaurant on the next level it is a bit more affordable but the atmosphere is still comfortably upscale, the servers are very pleasant and the food is excellent.

tap room

We recently went there for our anniversary.  I was thrilled with every single moment of our visit.  The hostess placed us at a romantic table for two right at the huge windows that look out on Main Street.  It is right there in the picture I added to this post, courtesy of tripadvisor.com.

We were attended to immediately by a young man pouring cold water and our server showed up within a couple minutes.  The menu had several options clearly marked gluten free.  This marking on the menu is reassuring that they know what they are doing and are providing safe food for people like me.  I told our server I had to have only gluten free food, she said they served lots of people who requested gluten free meals and that it was not a problem at all. Sounded reassuring.

I ordered the short ribs with potatoes and kale and we shared an appetizer of mussels in a balsamic and bacon vinaigrette. Joe got to eat the grilled bread that came with that but I did enjoy the tart little mussels. The house salad was pleasant and my white wine was even better.  Then our entrees showed up and I was thrilled with the lovely beefy taste of my tender short ribs in a red wine sauce and how delightfully they went with the nice slab of creamy gratined potatoes and some still bright green sautéed kale.  I was fearful that the potatoes might not be safe – that flour was used to thicken the sauce and we immediately doubled checked with our friendly server.  She assured me that she had alerted the kitchen of my special needs when she placed my order and that my food was indeed gluten free.  Her calming words allowed me to enjoy every mouthful of that meal.  Joe enjoyed his salmon but I could see he was envying me the delightful short ribs and gratin.  I didn’t rub it in and even gave him a bite of my meat.  True love; sharing my short ribs!

We both had dessert.  Mine was a scoop of Penn State Creamery mint ice cream studded with flecks of dark chocolate.  Great flavors and mouth feel and so creamy….ice cream perfection! Joe had a chocolate mini cake with a berry sauce and some whipped cream– nice but I think I came away the winner.

tap room 2

There was a wedding going on in the ball room but it only occasionally slightly intruded with some boisterous cheering.  The service was excellent; the manager even stopped by to ask what we ordered and how we enjoyed our meals. Tasty and safe (read gluten free for us celiacs) food in a lovely setting.  Keep it in mind next time you need a special place to eat out safely.  I’m still reliving that wonderful combination of short ribs and gratined potatoes.

PS: sorry no pictures of my meal, I was not in writing mode and didn’t think of writing about the restaurant until dinner was long over.

Sensenig’s Meats Comes Through With Safe Yummy BBQ Pork for GF Festing

Another day, another search for a safe gluten free meal at Musikfest. Today I volunteered down under the bridge, near the Bethlehem Dairy Store braving the gluten demon pouring beer at the Beer Caddy spot not far from FestPlatz.  For my meal break I wanted to try something totally new so I passed by the corn stand where I could order an ear minus the seasoning mix.

I kept going all the way to Volzplatz.  There I located a BBQ stand near the very end of the food stands, Sensenig’s Meats & Catering that said they had a safe choice, a loaded baked potato.  It was topped with barbequed pulled pork and served with a squeeze tube of sour cream.  The manager assured me his pulled pork and his BBQ sauce were both GF.  He wasn’t sure about his shredded cheese that normally tops the potato so I skipped that at his recommendation.  It cost me 9 tickets a/k/a $9.

Worth every penny considering the cost of other food there and the quality of what I ate from their stand.  The bbq sauce was rich and flavorful. The pork meat was well roasted and very tasty.  I put on some regular bbq sauce on top of my bbq but didn’t try the hot sauce.  They had a couple of other sauces to pick from.  The potato was decently baked and the sour cream went really well with the barbequed pork.  Winner in both flavor and in filling my tummy.  Give it a try.

FYI: I asked at the Vietnamese stand at VoltzPlatz but their food was not safe for celiacs.  Up on Main Street there is a Vietnamese restaurant you can go in and eat inside and they do have safe food.  It is tough to fest GF but it can be done if you ask polite but essential questions and be very careful in your choices.