In Search of Gluten Free at the NE Food Show 2013

Thanks to good friends, today I attended the New England Food Show in Boston. Gotta love friends with connections who can get you into a great exhibition such as this one. The place was a foodie’s wet dream (sorry for being so crude) there were samples of absolutely every type of food and drink you can imagine all ready to be looked at, asked about and tasted. I think I ate my way up and down the aisles stopping for a moment or 2 to peep at some great commercial style appliances and serving options. The show is geared for those individuals who are in the restaurant business and looking to connect with vendors of all kinds but I was lucky to tag along with my friends who operate a catering business here in New England.

It is absolutely amazing to me how many big name brands are served under house labels in your favorite restaurants and delis. While my friends were seeking out ways to expand their growing business, I was a woman on a mission seeking out the best of the best in gluten free offerings. 

Finding gluten free options took a few minutes, there were pasta vendors, and a few bakers as well. One vendor had samples of gluten free lemon drop cookies available and lets just say I felt like I was tasting a piece of cardboard with lemon oil on it. All I thought was come on you think this stuff actually tastes good? There have been so many advances in making people aware of eating gluten free and like a few of these food vendors just did not get the message. The pasta vendor was excellent..in light of my recent discoveries of how to make tortillas at home I was quite excited to bend the ear of a natural tortilla maker who sold a gluten free option. The chef’s pitch was rather disheartened and his attitude was yeah we make them..but they are gluten free. Translation is they do not taste good but ours are the best available on the market that look white like your typical flour tortilla. If you ask me, being white and looking like a traditional tortilla is simply not enough. Just because individuals with celiac disease have no other choice than to eat a gluten free diet does automatically mean they have to sacrifice eating foods that are tasty and healthy as well. The secret to these particular gluten free tortillas was to hit them with steam vs dry heat to keep them pliable and not a hard brittle mess. Yeah so if steamed flour for effect and not taste is what you are going for these are the tortillas for you otherwise..there has to be another option.

Many of the chefs at the show were perfectly aware of what components of their foods did or did not contain gluten but most were not too keen on how the products taste or way too aware of cross contamination. I was surprised to see that Gillians breads are produced by a bread company that also produces many breads containing gluten. I will be interested to research to see if the gluten free breads are produced in a separate facility.

The other shocker for me was to walk up and down the aisles seeing all the very best in products available not only for lunch, dinner and breakfast but also for desert. The amount of cakes, cookies and ice creams available to supply to restaurants and catering companies is unreal. I sampled delicious lemon mousse cheese cake, chocolate cakes and frozen yogurt and then started seeing sprinkles and confections to decorate cakes with.  Once again I ran into the same issue I am finding with all of these types of confections, manufacturers are processing them on equipment that also processes nuts, gluten and any other type allergen out there. For as much awareness as there is about nut allergies and gluten intolerance why are there not more companies committed or smart enough to start processing their items like sprinkles, decorative sugars and sugar confections on dedicated machinery to prevent cross contamination? These items are fairly easy to make just incredibly time consuming. I do not know, it seems like there is a huge section of the population that they are neglecting and could be tapping for profits.

So I am hoping my friends hook me up again next year to tag along with them to the Food Show. I really enjoyed being the safety officer for Chef’s Cove for a day

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