Saturday, February 22, 2014

Austin Has A Huge Gluten Free/Allergen Free Texas Heart

Beth, myself and the rest of the Gluten Free & Allergen Free Wellness Event gang returned to our homes from Austin a couple weeks ago. I had only been to Houston for events and had always wanted to visit the Lone Star State jewel of a city. Austin is well known for good music, lots of great Tex-Mex food, and we must not forget golf. But there is a deep undercurrent of progressive thoughts and culture that beats strong in their food.

We were joined by Pam Jordan, the best Blogger Coordinator/Speaker/Cookbook Author I have ever worked with! She also did an excellent job of putting together some great videos for her contribution to My Life Without Food Allergies. Please take a look at them and see for yourself.

My favorite pic of Pam, she is on the far left grinning 
from behind her vendor booth in Raleigh, NC

The night before the Austin GF/AF Event, we all met at Garrido's downtown. This restaurant is well known for having local, seasonal, and fresh Mexican inspired dishes. Their seafood is out of this world yummy and their menu items can easily be gluten free in most cases. The staff was knowledgeable and one blogger shared that she didn't get sick with such excitement that it made my heart melt.

Blogger dinner sponsored by Andrea and Jay from Red Apple Lipstick

And I am officially in love with Red Apple Lipstick, Rallye Balm, & eye colors! Andrea, thank you!!

Seared Salmon with a Mint Sauce, Roasted Brussel Sprouts and Quinoa at Garrido's

FACT: It does snow and sleet in Texas

Well, I remember looking at the weather forecast once someone commented on the Facebook page, but I had no idea that we were about to get an Arctic blast felt once every 10 years.  Austin was spared, but the upper half of the Lone Star State was covered in it. The morning of the event it was 30 degrees! The wind is something not to fight with in Texas either. When it gets windy and cold, it's bitter. And Texans just don't deal with it as well as some of us from the Northern half of the US.

Even so, we had wonderful people travel in from Dallas, Corpus Christi, Galveston, and Houston. No one was in an accident that we know of, thank goodness. Everyone filed in with eager faces and smiles. They came to hear informational speakers and share in warming up with some New Planet Beer, Tito's Vodka Kombucha Punch, Leprechaun Cider and Gatti's Pizza made by Smart Flour Foods. They also had hot food at My Fit Foods booth, with Lemon Pepper Chicken and Brown Rice with veggies and a Say CheezZ warm cheesy brazillian bite to go with it. Green Plate Foods is always a favorite for us when in Texas as well.

The snack foods like Veronica's Health Crunch, Boundless Nutrition, Bakery On Main & Kind Healthy Snacks (Dark Chocolate & Sea Salt, need I say more?) were full of goodness and showed the growing trend in people taking an interest in healthier alternatives to sugar laden gluten free foods.

Our favorite sponsors were there as well, Udi's/Glutino with Udi's new peanut butter(yum), Enjoy Life Foods bars, Kinnikinnick cookies (chocolate fudge cream, need I say more?). Delight Gluten Free Magazine had a great booth and we got to try the new Australian Noosa yoghurt!

However, everyone deserves a treat! Better Bites Bakery fooled people into thinking their treats were not filled with healthier organic and natural ingredients, As did Ebenezer Foods, Freedom FoodsNamaste Foods, & Little Herds...Little Herds had some interesting chocolate chip cookies going on , made with roasted cricket flour? Yes you read that right!

Little Herds is a charity organization whose mission is to educate the population in America on the more sustainable protein source of insects and the growing trend of people trying Entomophagy (the eating of insects) as a dietary novelty that may just be the best thing to happen to our environment, but not the cattle farming industry.

Nothing is funnier than reading Tweets that say, "I just ate a cricket and washed it down with some Tito's Vodka #BOSS"

On left Roasted Crickets and on right cookies made with their milled flour

How did we become the first GF/AF Event in the country to offer cricket cookies to our attendees? Because we're just that crazy about education!
To back that claim, we invited the founder of Gluten Free School herself, Jennifer Fugo, as our keynote speaker. And we are so glad we did! I just love Jennifer and love her passion! Her no nonsense approach to helping those in need of easy and cost effective gluten free dietary regimes was highly motivational.

Thanks for sharing your big warm heart Austin, Texas! 
We'll see you all next year :)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

How We Started a Journey Down Allergy Free Back Roads

Gosh, is it really almost the 6th year of the Charlotte Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event? Time flies by in the blink of an eye! It seems like not that long ago, we were planning the first Charlotte event at Johnson & Wales University with the much needed help of their event staff. I had never even been to a food show, but I had been a hair designer in hair events and figured I could tackle the task.

Charlotte NC Event Team 2009 (L to R:Janet, Decol, Tim Hunt, Nikki Everett, Leah)

The idea for an event originally began when we were discussing an event we had read about that featured the best of what was new in gluten free foods. My daughter was 7 and had been diagnosed with celiac disease. Because of her grief over her dietary change, I chartered and became the Chapter Leader for R.O.C.K.(Raising Our Celiac Kids) Charlotte.

My family remembers me spouting on about how we should have an event in Charlotte for the support groups. The rest is a history spanning six seasons of events from Nebraska, down to Texas, across to Florida and back to North Carolina. It has been a wild and interesting ride that we are now going to be sharing with you.

I have met, spoken with, and worked with some amazing people throughout these past six years of events:
Dr. Fasano & the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment, Carol Kicinski, Jules Shepard, The Lagasse Girls, Chef Peter Reinhart, Chef Peter Pollay, Jennifer Esposito, Mrs. Northwest Brandy Wendler, Robyn Ryberg... There are absolutely hundreds of people I could name that I have worked with and am in awe of their accomplishments.

Raleigh NC Event 2013

People ask us how we differ from other events.
We believe that:

  • Most of the time, the best in gluten/allergen free starts in some small kitchen somewhere. 
  • Supporting local and fresh whenever possible betters our economies and environment. 
  • Scouting out amazing products and companies to showcase their accomplishments keeps raising that bar ever higher. 
  • Supporting people mentally who are going through dietary change is equally important in addition to product knowledge
  • Education and betterment of ourselves through knowledge is a win-win for everyone

In November of 2013, we held an event in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was our second attempt to hold an event in Louisiana. The first one was in New Orleans, but I will save that story for another post...

Chicken Orleans (minus the bread for gluten free) at Jasmine's On The Bayou

Before every event, we host a Blogger Dinner Party at a local restaurant that does gluten free right. At the Baton Rouge event, we found ourselves in this tiny little Cajun restaurant, Jasmine's On The Bayou located in a strip mall on a side street. While we ate our Rocket Shrimp appetizer, Jodi Stewart of Know Gluten told me that she thought a blog about our adventures in setting up gluten free events would be interesting.
So, if you love this blog, Jodi is the woman to thank.