Review: Freshies Coffee Company, Fernie, BC

Freshies Coffee Company
Victoria Avenue
Fernie, BC, Canada

1-17-11

What a wonderful place for a coffee break, or for a cup of tea, and for a baked treat.  Freshies was clean, with an eclectic ambiance spurred by the music and the artwork on the interesting stone walls.  Not only was the staff super friendly, they were familiar with celiac disease and a light went on when I asked if there was anything wheat-free.  And there was!  The gluten-free cookies and goods were made on-site and were delicious.  So was the coffee.

Advertisements

Crab Classic Chunk Style by Trans-Ocean

Lunch is the most annoying meal of the day for me.  With the horrible selection of gluten-free breads, sandwiches are not an option.

Seafood salad is also normally not an option as most of the imitation crab products contain wheat.  So, I was glad to discover Crab Classic Chunk Style surimi seafood.  Because it doesn’t say gluten-free on the product, I contacted Trans-Ocean, and their consumer service department replied immediately with this:

“We do not add any gluten containing ingredients to the Lobster Classic Chunk or Crab Classic Chunk formulas.  However, we do not certify these products to be gluten free.  Certification requires specially designed lines which we do not have.  We take all reasonable precautions to avoid cross contamination however we can not eliminate all risk.”

Since I am not that sensitive, that response was good enough for me.  I mixed some canola mayonnaise, light sour cream, chopped celery and a little bit of relish with the Crab Classic to make a delicious seafood salad for lunch.

So, if you are interested in something different for lunch, give Crab Classic a try.  More information on the product, including ingredients is available at:  http://www.trans-ocean.com/cc_chunkstyle.html

Namaste Foods Gluten-Free Baking Mixes

Howdy all,

Sorry I’ve been scarce.  I’ve been writing articles for Celiac-Disease.com.  If you are looking for product suggestions and/or reviews, that site is extremely thorough.

Meanwhile, I’ve tried the Brownie Mix and Spice Cake Mix by Namaste Foods.  They are awesome:  moist, rich, and great flavor.  I didn’t even think the Spice Cake needed the gluten-free cream cheese icing I made.   Check out their website at www.namastefoods.com

That’s my tip for today…eat well!

Feeling Kind of ‘Nutty…Franz Macaroons

I was in the grocery store on the hunt for a Gluten-Free nosh.  I was out of my usual stash of snacks, and wanted something satisfying.  Trying to stay gluten-free makes that next to impossible, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.  The words ‘satisfying’ and ‘gluten-free’ are seldom used to describe the same item.

Curiously, Franz Macaroon Cookies jumped out at me.  I checked the package, and the ingredients:  Dessicated Coconut, Sugar, Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Corn Syrup, Potato Starch, Dextrose, Egg Whites, Artificial Flavor, Soy Lecithin (Soybean), Nonfat Milk.  Those ingredients certainly didn’t seem dangerous to me, so I decided to purchase the package and check the Franz web site to see if I could get further information about the gluten content.

Their web site, www.usbakery.com did not have the answers I sought, however, a spokesperson for Franz Family Bakeries did reply to my inquiry with incredible speed:  “These cookies are produced in a bakery with other cookies that do contain gluten and on shared equipment.  We do have an allergen washout between production of the other varieties and the macaroon cookies, but there is never a 100% guarantee that there is no gluten present.   At this point, we don’t make the claim that they are gluten free.”

I do not believe I am as sensitive as most people to gluten, so I dug right in.  They are chewy, loaded with coconut, moist, tasty and sweet.  They are, in fact, satisfying when that quick snack urge rears its ugly head.  There are none of the tell-tale drawbacks that normally accompany gluten-free cookies like dryness or grittiness.  These are like the macaroons I enjoyed during my childhood.

Franz’ slogan on the package reads “The Good Cookie.”  And their macaroons certainly are good!

Franz is the largest family-owned independent bakery on the West Coast.  Their products are available primarily in the Pacific Northwest.  For more information, please visit their web site www.usbakery.com

©  K. S. Brooks – Gluten-Free Gusto

Holy Mackerel! Gluten-Free Battered Fish!

What would you say if I told you that affordable, frozen, gluten-free crispy battered fish entrees are available nationwide in your grocer’s freezer case?  Just last night in the grocery store, I, for one, almost fell over when my gluten-mongering husband-type unit blurted “Look Honey, gluten-free!” and held up a box of Oven Ready Gluten-Free Cod by Starfish.  There were also boxes of Haddock and Halibut available.  The cod was priced under $5.00 for a 10 ounce box, so we decided to try that.

Now, you need to understand that in our current apartment, we have an extremely old gas stove, so the results may differ with a newer and/or electric one. 

We raced home and popped them in the oven.  14 minutes later, out they came.  On the box it states there are 3 servings – we felt it was more like 2 – which is what we were expecting anyway, so that is not a criticism by any means.  One side was a golden brown, the other side paler, again, I believe, due to the old gas stove. 

These golden medallions of batter-encased fish were crispy on the outside for certain!  The inside was a little doughy, but no more than a tempura-style batter.  The fish was somewhat flaky – definitely not spongy.  No grit, no strange taste and no mush:  they had a buttery flavor that even the non-Celiac at the table enjoyed.

Gluten-Free Cod by Star-Fish

This product is peanut-free, soy-free, milk-free, egg-free, wheat-free and has 0 grams of trans fats.  I thought the pricing was reasonable – and these products are available nationwide at your Whole Foods store, or at smaller local venues on the West coast.

If you’ve been missing fried foods – here is your fix!  Enjoy.

More information is available about Starfish and their gluten-free fish entrees at www.star-fish.com.

© 2009 K. S. Brooks, Gluten-Free Gusto

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownies

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownies Part One:  The Social Dilemma

Ever have a shock that just messes you up?  That happened to me last Wednesday while I was shopping at Wal-Mart.  I was in the baking mix aisle looking for the Jiffy Cornbread Mix for my gluten-mongering spouse when my sight unintentionally fell on something completely unexpected:  Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownies.

Say what?  Damn straight.  You heard me right.  I did a double-take.  I stood frozen in the aisle behind my cart.  No frikkin way…really?  Gluten-free brownies by…Betty Crocker?  I had to have read it wrong.  So I touched the box to make sure it was real.  It was, indeed.  $3.79 was the price.  I don’t tend to bake gluten-free brownies, but I had to try this out, so I gingerly placed it in the cart.

It was time to go to produce, but I still couldn’t move.  What exactly did this mean?  As mainstream as Betty Crocker, and as universal as Wal-Mart:  were Celiacs finally getting the service we have been asking for?  Or are the numbers of gluten-intolerant people becoming so staggering that a conglomeration as large as Betty Crocker saw a profit potential there?  Part of me was incredulous on a happy level, while another part of me was stunned by the possible gravity of it.

Then I started to feel a little badly for the companies who have supported Celiacs all along, producing gluten-free cooking mixes because they cared.  And now, here was Betty Crocker, jumping on the band wagon, getting prime real estate at Wal-Mart, and selling the mix for only $3.79 (compared to $5.00 and more for other brands).  How are the little companies who have supported folks suffering from gluten-intolerance going to compete with this?  What about Pamela’s, and Bob’s Red Mill, and all the other “little guys”?  These companies started producing gluten-free foods long ago.  How will they compete…and survive?

So, I will try one batch of these Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownies in order to review them.  I understand that many people do not have access to small health food stores which carry gluten-free products, or the internet, but do have a Wal-Mart in their town.  But my heart will be with the little guys who were there for me when I was first diagnosed and didn’t know what to do. 

Stay tuned for Part Two…The Product Review!

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownies Part Two:  The Review

Okay, it was time to try out the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownie Mix.  Part of me was reluctant, as I mentioned in Part One, because if this mix turned out to be good, that meant trouble for the “little guys” like Pamela’s and Bob’s Red Mill.  And since I have been eating more healthily with less gooey sweets, brownies were really not on my diet.  But the box had been sitting on the counter, staring at me, daring me to try it despite the horrendous stove in my apartment.  I accepted the challenge.

The directions are incredibly easy.  The mix requires only eggs and melted butter.  Betty Crocker’s web site even offers butter-free directions for non-dairy diets.  The directions state that the “batter will be thick.”  That is an understatement.  They offer three different size pans; don’t even THINK about doing anything larger than the smallest:  the 8×8 pan.  It is so thick and elastic-like that you couldn’t spread it any farther if you had to.  I’m not kidding.

31 minutes later, I pulled my little square pan of brownies from the oven.  I let them cool most of the way, then tasted a sample.  Honestly, I have to say, these brownies were incredible.  Thick, rich, moist, chocolately, and I really couldn’t tell that they were gluten-free.  There was no grittiness whatsoever.  They were crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.  I covered and refrigerated them, and they lasted for about a week between myself and my gluten-mongering spouse.  He actually found them to be a little too rich for his taste.  I did notice that I would cut 1 inch squares for a quick snack and that would more than fulfill any food or chocolate craving.  After being refrigerated for a few days, they did become somewhat fudge-like and if you don’t seal them tightly (as it instructs to right on the box), they will get pretty crispy/stale.

The three plusses are there:  inexpensive (compared to other gluten-free brownie mixes), easy to prepare, and delicious.

So, that is my verdict:  Betty Crocker’s Gluten-Free Brownie Mix is a winner. 

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownie Mix

Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Brownie Mix

http://www.bettycrocker.com/products/gluten-free/gluten-free.htm

© 2009 K. S. Brooks / Gluten-Free Gusto

White Box Pies Bakery and Café Review

I have two favorite food places in the world:  Lou’s Café on West 52nd Street in New York City, and White Box Pies Bakery and Café in Spokane, Washington.

What constitutes a favorite food place?  Quality of food, knowledge-level and courteousness of the staff, cleanliness and price should all be considerations.  But a favorite food place, just as any favorite anything, should give a person a feeling of comfort and pleasure.  Both restaurants provide those.  However, White Box also provides gluten-free meals and desserts. 

Only a person with food allergies can fully appreciate feeling “safe” in an eatery.  White Box is one of those safe places; everyone on staff knows about gluten.  You won’t find a couple of uninformed, not to mention uncaring, teeny-boppers behind the counter huffing at you when you ask for gluten-free. The staff at White Box is always happy to answer any questions about their creations.

Take feeling safe and add to it amazingly delicious desserts, many of which non-allergic people did not realize were gluten-free, and you’ve got a winning combination.  Cream pies, sugar cookies, brownies, pineapple coconut cake, cheesecakes, chocolate pecan cake, hazelnut cake, cream puffs…and the list goes on.  They are all heavenly.

But that’s not all!  White Box also features gluten-free sandwiches, soups, salads, quiches, and my favorite:  pot pies.  You can eat in or take out, and all these foods are reasonably priced.

Not only is the staff at White Box knowledgeable about gluten-free foods, they are friendly, courteous and all around nice.  It’s a small, family-run business and you can tell they take pride in everything they do.  The ambiance is bright and cheery, with the hum of satisfied patrons at their café-style tables.  And their bathrooms are super clean, too.

Not a Celiac?  Don’t worry, there are plenty of goodies at White Box for you as well.  Pretty much everything they make gluten-free is also available for wheat-eaters.

To top it off, their foods travel and store well.  I am always freezing their cakes and slicing off bits and pieces for snacks or dessert. 

The only problem with White Box Bakery and Café foods is that they are so good, that I usually take a bite out of them before I can get a photo.  When I ate lunch there last week, I did it again; I dove right into the bacon broccoli cheddar quiche without thinking!

And it was during that lunch last Wednesday that I sat at a table in the Café, savoring the piping hot piece of quiche, that the feeling of safety, comfort and pleasure came over me.  I realized I was in a favorite food place.  White Box Bakery and Café is truly one in a million.  Try it out and see if it doesn’t become one of your favorite food places, too.  You can find them at the corner of East Sharp Avenue and Ruby, Spokane, Washington, or on the web at http://www.whiteboxpiesbakery.com.  Check their site for coupons and specials. 

 © 2009  K. S. Brooks