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Gluten-Free Lunch at Grumpy’s

By September 27, 2012 Gluten Free in Toledo, Gluten-Free Restaurants
Grumpy's pizza

You all now how amazed I was during my first visit to Grumpy’s, with all of the gluten-free bread, buns, cookies, and cheese cake…[mouth begins to water]…so of course I had to return.

Being that this downtown Toledo establishment is only open between the hours of 8am and 2pm, I am not able to stuff my face there as much as I would like. I suppose that is good for the figure though. But a girl can only hold off for so long, so this past week I scheduled an extended lunch, made my way downtown, and shared a gluten-free feast with my friend and fellow g-free’er, Elaine.

I walked in the restaurant and was greeted with, “Are you the gluten-free girl?” by Co-Owner Dustin Hostetler. Yes, Sir, that would be me!

I was seated at a table for two and waited for Elaine’s arrival. Looking at the menu literally excites me at this place. Why? Because you can basically have everything made gluten-free! Any sandwich, any burger…even the pizza! All Grumpy’s does is substitute that wheat-filled junk with some fresh gluten-free gloriousness.

This time around I decided to try the Hot Texas Chili for an appetizer because I like a little spice in my life. The chili was very tasty, and of course had that kick I was looking for. It was so good in fact that I didn’t realize I forgot to snap a picture to share with you all until the bowl was half gone. Woopsie daisies.

Being that Grumpy’s has a gluten-free pizza and I had not tried it yet, Elaine and I decided to split one. Of course to any normal human being, half of a pizza would suffice as their meal. Well, not me. I also ordered the Jennifer’s Special sandwich [because I am basically obsessed with the sandwich], and Elaine ordered a nice, healthy, low-cholesterol gluten-free grilled-cheese sandwich.

When the pizza came out it was one of those Is this really the gluten-free crust? kind of moments.

It was indeed.

We ended up eating all of the pizza except for two slices, leaving one for each of us to take home. I also ate half of my sandwich, because it is just TOO darn good to NOT eat, even if your stomach is telling you Hey, I’m full, you can stop now? I usually just reply with a Hey, I know. I’ll just run an extra mile later to make up for this whole fat-cell expansion thing.

Yes, I did just talk to not only myself, but to my stomach. Totally normal.

Elaine enjoyed her grilled-cheese, which looked really amazing. We opted for no dessert this time around since we had already done so much damage to every other portion of the menu.

As we boxed up our pizza [one slice each], and the second half of our sandwiches, I knew in my heart that not all of my leftovers would make it home. It takes hard work and dedication, but yes, I did eat my final piece of pizza in the car, on my way back to the office. That’s what good gluten-free food does to you. I can’t help it.

So what do I want you to take away from this post? 1) The urgency to visit Grumpy’s and give yourself the best gluten-free lunch ever, and 2) If you are not gluten-free, I want you to take another look at those pictures of the food and realize that we don’t live a life full of bland flavors. Time to break the myth!

 

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Gluten-Free in Columbus, OH

By September 15, 2012 Gluten Free Vacation, Gluten-Free Restaurants
Chicken Parmesan

On a recent trip to Columbus, OH I stumbled upon a gluten-free gem that goes by the name of Marcella’s Ristorante.

While staying at the Hyatt Regency hotel on North High Street, I was on a mission to find a restaurant that 1) was within walking distance and had gluten-free options, and 2) had gluten-free options that would actually fill me up after starving on convention style food for 2 full days.

How did I accomplish this mission? A little thing I like to call a Google search…keywords: Gluten-Free Restaurants in Columbus, OH. It was really THAT easy. Thank you technology.

So after walking three blocks on North High Street, I stepped through the double doors of the cutest restaurant ever. Wine bottles lined the walls, candles were lit on every table , and a deli counter [circa 1960] decorated the back of the restaurant. I immediately told my friend that I wanted to move to Columbus just so we could visit Marcella’s on a regular basis [and this was before I even tasted the food].

We were greeted by our waitress and I explained that I would be ordering off of the gluten-free menu [which was huge by the way]. But, first things were first – I had to order a glass of sangria.

When our sangria was brought back to the table, I was ecstatic to order since I had skimmed the menu in the meantime. I asked whether or not they provided gluten-free bread baskets, and the answer was yes – and it was homemade. I then asked about getting gluten-free CHEESE bread, and the waitress said she could work something out for me…and that she did.
Best gluten-free cheese bread ever.

After falling in love at first bite with the bread, and then inhaling it all at lightning fast speeds, I knew that my entrée would be ballin. I ordered the Chicken Parmesan and penne noodles, and was confident the second round of carbo-loading would be something to write home about.

When the plate was set in front of me, my heart melted.

The large piece of cheese-covered chicken next to the hearty serving of noodles were my dream come true.You may think that the large serving size would result in a take-home box, but you are wrong. I ate every last bite. We won’t talk about how full I was after-the-fact, because that doesn’t really matter. All that matters is how good Marcella’s can serve up a plate of gluten-free Italian gloriousness.

I actually liked the meal so much that I actually came back the next night…for pizza.

 

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The Power of Twitter

By September 9, 2012 Gluten-Free Experiences
tweet

It’s amazing what 140 characters can accomplish.

If you are an avid Tweeter, you know this social media site is the new CNN, Weather Channel, and TV Guide. You can basically find anything you want on your newsfeed and always be connected.

I myself am a Twitter addict, and have all of my other social media profiles linked to my Twitter @GFreeLaura. So when I was at a conference recently, Content Marketing World, I of course tweeted the entire time…about everything. Most of my tweets were very positive, as I am a marketing nerd and was in marketing nerd HEAVEN. But, I did have some negative tweets go out in regards to my gluten-free accommodations.

I noted on my registration that I was gluten-free, and was very excited to not have to worry about arranging my own options with the hotel and convention center. If you read my post Eating Gluten-Free at a Conference, you know that this was not the case.

Due to the almighty Twitter, word got out and my disapointing thoughts were heard. Just 24 hours after posting the review of my experience, I  received the following email from the conference event manager –

Hi Laura,

I’m the event manager for CMW. I saw your message on twitter following the event.

I wanted you to know that I take these things very seriously and  I heard your feedback and we will fix it for next year!

I definitely understand that gluten-free and vegan are NOT the same. I think we simplified the “special meals” too much!

I already have it in my improvement notes for next year.

My most sincere apologies that we did not more specifically address the needs of our gluten-free guests! Rest assured it will be different in 2013.

Kelley

Now how awesome is that?! I am very impressed that the conference staff reached out to me and genuinely want to make sure things change next year. I am also happy that us gluten-free folks are on the up and up. We will only continue to have more and more options as time goes on, and won’t be afraid to travel and maintain our diets!

Big things are poppin in the g-free world.

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Gluten-Free Guest

By July 24, 2012 Gluten-Free Experiences
pork chop

Treating a gluten-free guest is not rocket science, even though many gluten-eaters believe it is a foreign concept they cannot comprehend. For instance, the other day I enjoyed an impromptu dinner at my friend’s house. The original dinner menu was NOT meant to be gluten-free, but my friend’s mother made a few quick changes to my portion of the meal and I was A-Okay!

Let me give you the back story of the evening –

When I walked in the door of my favorite family’s house, I was greeted with a warm welcome. Although I was not expected [as my friend failed to notify her mother of my invitation], I was assured that they would cook something up for me that was gluten-free. So what did the original, gluten-filled menu consist of that evening?

  • Pork chops (coated in flour & marinated in balsamic vinaigrette sauce, cranberries, & a few other yummy ingredients)
  • Broccoli casserole (with some breadcrumbs, aka poison, crumbled on top)
  • Beans + chunks of bacon
  • Cupcakes (straight up gluten)

Any gluten-free person takes a look at this menu and immediately knows how to alter it to be gluten-free. Often times, the staple ingredients of dishes are naturally g-free and your host just doesn’t realize. It is the so-called “extra’s” that ruin it for us. Luckily I had arrived during the preparation process and was able to help out by notifying my host of what I could and could not eat in the meal. The pork chops had not all been coated with flour yet, so my wonderful host immediately set two aside for me [yes, I eat two chops, I’m a hungry girl, alright]. After finishing the flour-coating process of the gluten chops, my host washed hands [VERY IMPORTANT], got a separate dish out, and coated my chops in Sweet Baby Ray’s BBQ sauce. See, isn’t that easy? BAM, gluten-free entrée!

Although it was too late to make the broccoli casserole gluten-free (the breadcrumbs had already been sprinkled), it would have been easily fixed. The only thing the dinner host had to do was put a separate portion in a smaller dish, sans breadcrumbs, and pop it in the oven.

The beans + chunks of bacon were in fact gluten-free, but unfortunately I personally don’t like beans as a side. I know, I am quite picky, aren’t I? I actually got made fun of for this during dinner since I have such picky taste, yet I am allergic to so much. But haters gon’ hate.

Now, the dessert portion of the meal was entirely off-limits. The cupcakes another guest brought did look amazing, but there was no way around all of the gluten inside them. However, there are a few easy ways to provide gluten-free dessert to a guest. For instance, have ice cream or sherbert included as well! Even if all dessert options aren’t gluten-free, the important/comforting part is that there actually ARE other options.

Moral of the post, if you are going to a dinner party, or hosting one, it is easier than you think to make a gluten-free meal even if the main menu is chock-full of it. Just a few simple modifications here & there and you are living in a g-free paradise!

 

 

 

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Gluten-Free at Grumpy’s

By June 6, 2012 Gluten Free in Toledo, Gluten-Free Restaurants
Image

It’s pretty much common knowledge that local, home-town restaurants always beat the stuff of chains. For being a native of the Toledo, OH area since the age of 6, I’m pretty disappointed in myself for not experiencing the gloriousness of local lunch-time hot spot, Grumpy’s, until just recently.

Having heard about the restaurant from a few people here and there, then realizing they had gluten-free selections after visiting Gluten-Free Glass City, the time had come for me to schedule myself a lunch date.Being that my mom works in downtown Toledo, would appreciate the gluten-free options, AND would foot the bill, she was obviously the perfect candidate.

[[Disclaimer: If you choose to dine at Grumpy’s, which I highly recommend, they are only open Monday – Friday between the hours of 8am-2pm.]]

The first thing that rubbed me the right way about Grumpy’s was the abundant parking [if there before the lunch rush]. There is a parking lot alongside the building, making the stress and anxiety I get from having to park on the streets nonexistent. Once my mom and I arrived, we walked in and were immediately seated at a table for two. I told the server that we were gluten-free and she then explained to us that they had a selection of gluten-free bread, buns, and pizza crusts that are all homemade each morning. We were instantly ecstatic.

There were many things I was thankful for as we geared up to order our lunch – the gluten-free selections, the handmade bread, the friendly staff, my mom eventually paying for my meal…BUT the number one thing I was thankful for – the fact that I am NOT on a diet. HOLY MOLY we ended up ordering a lot of food!!!!

My mom and I started off by sharing the soup of the day [chicken & rice] as we tried to strategize the rest of our meal. Wanting to have a little taste of everything, we decided to alternate selections and share bites with one another. Being that Grumpy’s is known for their Garbage Salad, my mom decided to order the size small, telling me I would be able to try a bite. This was kind of “whatever” to me since you all know I am not a salad kind of gal. BUT, when the plate came out containing the mixed greens, grilled chicken, onions, raisins, four cheeses, and homemade poppy-seed dressing, I kinda-sorta decided I had to at least try it. After one bite I immediately alerted the media [by tweeting and instagramming] that I officially like salad now!!! The poppy-seed dressing Grumpy’s makes is to DIE for!

After being impressed by a salad [which is very rare for me], I couldn’t wait to experience the rest of the meal. For maximum gluten-free meal optimization, I ordered a hamburger [because I wanted a big yummy gluten-free bun], and my mom ordered the Jennifer’s Special sandwich. Once the plates came out, I was awestruck. There was NO way that the bun on that hamburger was gluten-free, because I had never seen a gluten-free bun that looked so light, puffy, warm, and inviting [to my taste buds]!!!! I was honestly telling my mom that I was afraid they mixed up my order with a regular person’s because the bun tasted too good to be true!

My mom’s Jennifer’s Special sandwich was just that – SPECIAL. Made with Grumpy’s Veggie gluten-free bread, it was unlike anything I have ever tasted. You could tell by looking at it that it would taste amazing…not to mention the yumminess that was between the slices of bread! We started cutting off portions of our sandwiches for one another, with countless “oh my gosh this is good” and “I can’t believe this” comments coming from our table.

After cleaning my plate, and helping my mom to clean hers, we were greeted by our server. Seeing that the words “self-control” do not exist in my vocabulary, I promptly asked what gluten-free desserts they had. We were then happily informed that the chocolate cheesecake along with the chocolate chip cookies were gluten free, so of course we ordered both.

When the cheesecake was set on the table, we were speechless. Had I not been in public, I would have unbuttoned my pants right then & there to make room for my food baby. After taking one bite the only words coming out of my mouth were “Oh my gosh, this is amazing“. I also devoured my gluten-free chocolate chip cookie as well. Part of me is not proud of this moment, but the other part of me is perfectly fine with the way I behaved, because this was honestly the best gluten-free lunch I have ever had.

I fully plan on returning to Grumpy’s to report my findings on their gluten-free pizza, as well as a variety of other sandwiches on the menu. I will do so for the sake of this blog, not for my taste buds. I am a selfless human being as you can see.

For those of you that may be in awe of the sounds and sights of these gluten-free bread products, Grumpy’s does sell by the 1/2 loaf [$5], as well as by the bun [$2]. The pizza crusts, which will be reviewed after my next visit, are sold in packs of 3 [$9]. Visit the Grumpy’s website, or call (419) 241-6728 for more information.

Now go plan your lunch date at Grumpy’s so you can give your taste buds the gluten-free ride of their life.

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Gluten-Free at PF Changs

By June 4, 2012 Gluten Free in Toledo, Gluten-Free Restaurants
collage

PF Chang’s is without a doubt my favorite gluten free, chain restaurant. I often say if you want to impress me on a first date, take me to this fine establishment and you’ll instantly get a few [gluten free] brownie points!

My favorite thing about PF Chang’s is that the gluten free menu is rather large, so you actually feel like you have options. The gluten free options are included within the regular menu, so you don’t have to jump through hoops to get a list of gf menu items like you sometimes do at other restaurants. The gf menu consists of everything from appetizers to desserts, so there’s no sitting on the bench during this meal! Another good thing is that the items only differ slightly from regular to gluten free, so those gluten-eating individuals you may dine with are more apt to share an appetizer or entrée with you, which can also help you to not burn [as big of] a hole in your wallet.

The way that PF Chang’s distinguishes their gluten free dishes from regular dishes are the plates the food is served on. This is reassuring to us g-free’ers, as I often worry that things get mixed up in the kitchen, especially when I dine with a large party. The server also brings out a separate soy sauce mixture for gluten free diners, in a different colored dish, ensuring that there is no confusion or cross-contamination occurring at your table.

I usually like to start my PF Chang’s dining experience off with Chang’s Chicken Lettuce Wraps. These are hands down one of my favorite gluten free appetizers. I could honestly eat the entire plate myself, and I wouldn’t be the least bit ashamed. I also enjoy getting the gluten free Singapore Street Noodles. These differ slightly from the regular Singapore Street Noodles, but I wouldn’t know the difference as I think they taste bangin’!

The list of entrees to choose from is pretty long, but the creature of habit I am usually likes to stick with Chang’s Spicy Chicken. As you know, I am a bit of a spicy gal, so this dish definitely ranks high up on my list. This entree never ceases to amaze me, as I have yet to have a compalint. They know what they’re doing at this place!

After going through the usual medley of lettuce wraps, street noodles, and Chang’s Spicy Chicken, I am a bit full by the end of the meal. But the one thing you have to remember about PF Chang’s is that they actually have gluten free dessert!!!

There are two dessert options, and both are absolutely to die for. The first is a flourless chocolate dome served with fresh berries and raspberry sauce. Word to the wise on this one – you have to share it with someone! It is very rich, and if you try to conquer it on your own, you’re going to feel like one big chunker. The other gluten free dessert is the triple chocolate mousse mini, which is just straight up wonderful. It is in one of those rather large looking shot glasses, and is the perfect amount of sweetness to end your gluten free meal.

In conclusion, if you like asian food, you’ll be on cloud nine while dining at PF Chang’s. I recommend it as the ultimate treat for your taste buds.

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