Friday, January 29, 2010

Local Product Spotlight: Custom Choice Cereal

This post is a little overdue so I apologize but I'd like to finally introduce you all to an awesome brand new local company called Custom Choice Cereal. Custom Choice Cereal debuted last summer and has since received a ton of press. See here & here & here & here & here & here & here & here... well you get the idea! I could go on, there are > 50,000 Google search results.

The company offers Gluten Free consumers a unique breakfast option, you're very own customized-exactly-to-your-preferences cereal. As of now there are over 165 million different combinations of custom cereal you can come up with - talk about custom. The company is always looking to expand the offerings of cereal bases and add-ins which would just create that many more choices. The point - a Gluten Free cereal EXACTLY the way you like it! Let's admit it, there is only so much Chex you can eat, right? There are some other custom cereal companies out there, but Custom Choice Cereal is the only one who caters directly to GF consumers by producing the product in a dedicated Gluten Free facility. And luckily for us, it's in our backyard!

I recently had the pleasure to meet the company's founder - Hajo Engelke - a German born transplant inspired by the hugely popular MyMuesli German-based company. Hajo is a recent graduate of the MBA program at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School. The business plan is quite simple: through an intuitive online platform, you can choose a base mix and add any combination of your favorite dried fruits, nuts, and seeds to your cereal.

I had the opportunity to see the cereal mixing facility and witness the hand mixing customization magic first hand. I actually sat in Hajo's office and used his laptop to create my very own custom cereal so creatively dubbed "Gluten-free Raleigh mix" using the company's Web site. The entire process took about 2 minutes.

Through 3 simple steps, you're custom cereal is created.... 1) Choose your cereal base of either cinnamon granola, corn flakes or good morning flakes 2) Add in any number of dried fruits (apples, apricots, banana chips, blueberries, cherries, goji berries, cranberries, pears, pineapple, raisins or strawberries) and 3) Add in any number of nuts or seeds (almonds, coconut, hazelnuts, macadamia nuts, pecans, pistachios, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds or walnuts) and voila. A nice touch is the instantly updated ingredients listing and nutritional statement right on the Web site as you add/remove ingredients.

The Gluten-free Raleigh mix shown above included the Corn Flake base with banana chips, cherries, blueberries and pistachios added in. An absolute delight of a snack and cereal option. I pretty much ate about half of the 12oz. bag on the way home from meeting with Hajo, I had missed my normal lunch time and this really hit the spot. The remainder of the bag was munched on by my family that evening and then polished off the next morning at breakfast (actually in a bowl with milk - happy to report no soggy-ness either). Hajo told me that I wouldn't have to worry about the bag lasting very long and he was right. Although it's nice to finally have a resealable bag for cereal - this product honestly doesn't last long enough to need it!

Another nice feature is that you get to name your custom creation and the name is displayed right there on the package. You also are provided with a Mix ID which is a unique number given to your custom mix that you can use again in the future to recreate the exact same cereal with minimal effort. Another thing to note, the cereal actually has a shelf life of 3 months unopened which provides a nice addition to your Gluten Free emergency kit (how many of you have one of these?) Imagine what the Red Cross or some food shelter could provide a Gluten Free consumer in an extreme time of need? Water maybe?

I'd like to also mention that the product can be shipped anywhere in the USA and that each incremental bag purchased costs only $1 extra per bag ($4.50 for the first bag). Luckily for us, Hajo allows for customer pick up days at the facility (located at 4220 Apex Highway, Suite 160, in Durham, North Carolina 27713. Exit 278 on I-40) each Thursday from 1PM to 5PM. This way you can save a little cash and pop in on Hajo and say hello.

Custom Choice Cereal also has a product testing policy which involves the rigorous testing of cereal ingredients using EZ Gluten testing stripes. Samples of each incoming shipment of each ingredient are tested and Hajo works hard with his suppliers to gaurantee Gluten Free ingredients. I feel very comfortable eating this product safely after seeing the testing process and the facility with my own eyes. Gluten Free Raleigh did not need to perform any other testing per my new Product Testing Policy.

There is also a 20% off your entire order Coupon Code available for GFR readers! Hajo has agreed to discount all GFR reader orders by 20%. All you need to do is email me with your entry in the GFR T-Shirt Design contest and I'll respond to you via email with the 20% off coupon code. This discount runs from now until the end of the T-Shirt design contest at the end of February. Custom Choice Cereal is also partnering in that project and will also provide the winner of the design contest with a $15 gift certificate for free cereal. Thanks Hajo!

Web site -
Blog (somebody who writes almost as much as me) -
Facebook -
Twitter -

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Rosie's Plate Winter Storm Sale

A good marketer takes advantage of all opportunities... Threat of an upcoming winter storm here in the Raleigh area has prompted Rosie's Plate to roll out a Winter Storm Sale.

Stop in Rosie's Plate today (1/28) and Friday (1/29) for 10% off of your entire order of in-stock baked goods and deli case items.

Gluten Free Charlotte Update

Allow me to introduce a brand new blogger over at Gluten Free Charlotte. Surprisingly enough, I've had a little trouble finding guest bloggers for the Charlotte blog despite the cities size and active Celiac support group. Regardless, allow me to introduce Rachel Bastarache who has been a Charlotte resident for a year and has been Gluten Intolerant for quite awhile. It will be interesting to follow Rachel as she learns living GF in a new city.

Welcome aboard Rachel and thanks for sharing your experience in the spirit of helping others. If anyone is interested in contributing Gluten Free news for their city, please see Gluten Free North Carolina and let me know via email which blog you are interested in. I have set up numerous blogs for every major city in NC and will assist you in any way possible.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

GFR T-Shirt Design Contest

I've been thinking about doing this for quite awhile now but have just had a problem coming up with all the details. So I figured I would turn this idea over to you, the readers of GFR. You've demonstrated in the past that you are a creative bunch! My idea is to put together a Gluten Free Raleigh T-shirt that will feature some kind of catchy slogan on the front and will feature logos on the back (free advertising) of the many great local GF companies we are lucky to have cater to us. The point is to sell the new GFR t-shirt as a fund raiser and send 100% of the profits to a valued charity. I usually send funds from GFR events to either Camp Kanata (they do a Gluten Free week of summer camp and are sponsored by GIG) or The University of Maryland Celiac Research Center. I try to keep the funds raised as local as possible (like Camp Kanata) but also believe there are many great things coming out of the UM Celiac Center. Of course, we could put this up to a vote like anything else. The T-shirt will be on sale on GFR all the time and can be worn around town to raise awareness for Celiac Disease, Gluten Free lifestyle and the trusted businesses involved. Rather than waiting for the next event to raise funds, this T-shirt can provide constant fund raising while raising awareness and promoting our local GF companies – a win-win for everyone involved!

Anyway, first things first… the front of the T-shirt needs a cool, catchy, Gluten Free and Raleigh-centric slogan and I need your help to come up with one.

I'm starting a new design contest for all readers of GFR to come up with this slogan that will help raise funds for our cause. If you have any ideas, please submit them to me via email. The contest winner will receive a free T-shirt! UPDATE - The winner will also receive a $15 gift certificate to Custom Choice Cereal.

The contest will run from today until the end of February. If I receive multiple slogans of interest, I'll put them up as a poll and let the readers pick the slogan via popular vote. During this time, I'll be working with the area vendors (many of whom I've already discussed the idea with) to work out the details. If you are interested in having your GF company being involved in this project, please let me know.

Click here to submit your slogan.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Raleigh CSA Support Group 1-21-2010 Meeting Recap

Special thanks to Gail for taking meeting minutes during the last North Raleigh Celiac Support Group meeting on 1-21-2010. Below is a recap for those of you that could not make the meeting.
North Raleigh Celiac Support Group
CSA Chapter 108
January 21, 2010 7:00-9:00 PM
Rex Hospital Private Dining Room, Raleigh, North Carolina

Three representatives from the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Food and Drug Protection Division (4000 Reedy Creek Road, 1070 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1070) addressed the group. Daniel L. Ragan, RPh, Director, Anita M. MacMullan, Food Compliance Supervisor, and Jim Melvin, Assistant Director of Regulatory Programs, discussed the temporary restraining order issued against Great Specialty Products on 1/21/2010 after several consumer complaints of adverse reactions were received. They are investigating the sale of products labeled gluten-free but have test results that indicate gluten. The North Carolina Attorney General is also participating.

Complaints are being accepted by the department and anyone can submit a description, including the name of the product, where it was purchased and date, to the address given above, via fax (919) 733-6801 or e-mail to Nationwide the FDA still has not finalized gluten-free labeling, but our local officials are committed to protect citizens especially those dependent on a medically prescribed diet. Our group was advised to always ask for a list of ingredients to be sure you understand what you are consuming (Zach's note - Great Specialty Products did provide me an ingredients listing - click here to see it and all the other information on this subject).

Pat distributed the schedule for 2010. No meetings will be held in July and August. She also shared an article from Reuters Health News regarding antibody testing. While the antibody blood tests are only a screening tool, they have lead to a greater number of celiac cases being diagnosed, especially in patients with atypical symptoms. Several members reported on the presentation Celiac Disease: New Diet Options given at the Teer House of Duke Medicine’s Department of Clinical Education and Professional Development. Another digestive health talk with be held on September 28, 2010.

There is a local meetup group known as Gluten-Free in the Triangle. Their website is

Meeting guest Maria Hopper presented a gluten free pizza tasting to introduce a new crust. Her company, Happy Tummy Baking Company, has developed a wheat, yeast, dairy, egg and soy free product. The prepared frozen crusts should be available for sale at Whole Foods Raleigh by March (Zach's note: More to come on this very soon!). Baked goods from Katz Gluten Free were also distributed. Retail locations can be found on their website.

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 18, 2010 in the private dining room at Rex Hospital. Custom Choice Cereal, a local company, will be invited as special guest.

Submitted by,
Gail Harris

Monday, January 25, 2010

New Poll Question Added

I've added another new poll question to the long list of existing polls already out there on the Poll Questions page.

This time, I'm looking for your opinion on whether or not you would buy from a Gluten Free company that previously made you sick. With all that has happened recently with this situation, I'm wondering if any company out there had a chance to regain your trust once they made you or others sick from Gluten contamination.

Click the poll questions page and the new poll will be at the top. Feel free to take the other polls that are already out there.

Gluten Free Cary Update

Allow me to introduce a brand new blogger over at Gluten Free Cary. We've had a little hiatus in content on the Cary blog but I look forward to some new and exciting information from a new blogger. Read Joanie's introduction post here. Joanie's 9 year old daughter was diagnosed with Celiac Disease a few weeks ago and their family is experiencing drastic and vast changes. The first year after going GF is very difficult but you definitely learn the most. Joanie can share all this great knowledge with you and hopefully help you out some.

Welcome aboard Joanie and thanks for sharing your experience in the spirit of helping others. If anyone is interested in contributing Gluten Free news for their city, please see Gluten Free North Carolina and let me know via email which blog you are interested in. I have set up numerous blogs for every major city in NC and will assist you in any way possible.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

State of North Carolina: Bread sold as gluten-free wasn't

Just a quick update on this topic from today's News & Observer. If you are not aware, the NC Department of Agriculture has filed a lawsuit against Great Specialty Products for selling/marketing regular bread as Gluten Free.

Click here to read the lawsuit.

If you were poisoned by this company and have not already spoken with the NC Department of Agriculture, please give them a call ASAP @ (919) 733.7366 to have your information added to the case.

You should also contact Anne Brown @ (919) 716.6891 or John Corne @ (919) 716.6869 at the NC Attorney General Office.

UPDATE 4PM 1/21/2010
A 10 day temporary restraining order was issued (and consented to by the defendant) at today's hearing. Another hearing will be held on February 1st during which the NC Dept. of Ag. will be seeking a Preliminary Injunction against the defendant from selling fraudulent Gluten Free products. I think evidence and witnesses may be presented at the next hearing. The case may also be taken to the point where a Permanent Injunction is sought.

Click here to read the TRO document.

What does this all mean?
Basically, at a high level, it means that the state of North Carolina is enforcing Gluten Free product claims/labeling (via fraud) when the FDA won't. It's great to know that our state is actively protecting it's citizenry, especially Celiacs who are often left fighting for themselves at every turn. I've not heard of a previous case of this nature anywhere in the country.

Also, be sure to tune into NBC 17 news tonight at 6pm and 7pm for a story on this topic as well as more from the N&O. You may also be seeing some more from the national Celiac organizations at some point in the near future. I think this case will be held up as a standard across the USA as a warning to con-artists and folks interested in making money at the hands of the hot Gluten Free market. You have been warned.

UPDATE 8AM 1/22/2010
The News & Observer has an update on the situation here.

If you missed the 6pm and 7pm NBC17 news broadcast, the link to that story and video is here.

UPDATE 2PM 1/22/2010
The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) has picked up on the story. Click here for more.

UPDATE 1/25/2010
WRAL picked up on the story, read their article here.

Great Specialty is run out of a house on Cardinal Lake Drive in Durham, said Brian Long, a spokesman for the agriculture department. He said the company didn't bake its own bread but purchased items from bakeries and packaged and sold them under its own label, claiming the products were gluten-free.
Also, the next hearing will be held at 10am on Tuesday, February 2nd 2010 at the Wake County Courthouse in Downtown Raleigh, Courtroom 5B.

UPDATE 1/26/2010
Click here to see the Ingredients statements and here for Product list presented to customers by defendant.

UPDATE 2/1/2010
A new article from the News & Observer discussing the reaction from the Gluten Free community to this case.

UPDATE 2/2/2010
Click here for the recap of the Preliminary Injunction hearing where Great Specialty Products was shut down.

I'll post any updates here as they come in...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Restaurant Review: Firebird’s Rocky Mountain Grill

Looking for a "Taste of Colorado" here in the Carolinas? Whatever a Taste of Colorado is, it is indeed tasty. If you have not had the opportunity to check out Firebird's Rocky Mountain Grill and their Gluten Free menu, here is a review of my recent visit which might help. Firebird's was started in the Charlotte area in 2000 by a restaurateur who regularly traveled out west and wanted to bring that experience here to NC. The exposed kitchen and massive open fireplace bring to life the rocky mountain lodge feel. The food also represents the same aspects of the West by using a wood fired grill for cooking most entrees. Firebird's now has 17 locations which include Raleigh, Durham, Charlotte and Winston-Salem. The Raleigh location is at North Hills near Six Forks and I-440 Beltline.

Luckily for those of us who are Gluten Free, Firebird's offers a Gluten Free menu so we can also experience the ambiance. The GF menu can be found here. As you can see, it contains a pretty decent selection of items. There are three salad choices with numerous dressing options and each salad can have wood grilled chicken, salmon, tenderloin or tuna added for a little extra punch. The menu also has a handful of entrees from the Wood Fired Grill like Aspen Sirloin, Filet or Chile Rubbed Delmonico steak. There are also a few other seafood, chops and ribs choices available as well as a handful of sides to round out the menu. There is even a kids menu available which is pretty rare to see.

During my lunchtime visit, I ordered the Mixed Greens salad (diced tomatoes, sugar roasted pecans) and added wood grilled chicken and Honey Mustard Dressing. For a lunch option, it was really light, yummy and refreshing. I look forward to going back and trying one of the steak options, prime rib or baby back ribs for dinner soon - yum. You can also join their mailing list and receive a free gift as well as a yearly birthday gift here. Firebird's was definitely a good GF experience.

Firebird's Rocky Mountain Grill
4350 Lassiter North Hills #118
Phone: 919-788-8778

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Gluten Free 101 Class - January 23rd

Just wanted to put out a quick reminder to those of you who are recently diagnosed with Celiac Disease or have gone Gluten Free for one reason or the other. I will be teaching a Gluten Free 101 class this coming Saturday at Rosie's Plate in downtown Raleigh. Please call Rosie's Plate @ 919-833-0505 today if you are interested in attending. There are a few spots remaining and best efforts will be made to accommodate all who wish to attend. It is important if you are learning how to be Gluten Free that you attend this class or one like it. The class really fills the void between your diagnosis and beginning to get healthy again. A portion of the class fee will be donated to Gluten Free Week at Camp Kanata as well. I am trying to teach this class once per quarter since there are so many new GF folks in the area.

Gluten Free 101 Class
Saturday, January 23, 1 - 3:30 $35
If you've just been diagnosed with celiac or wheat allergies this class is for you. Learn firsthand from someone who's been there. Taught by Zach Becker from the Gluten Free Raleigh Blog, you'll learn how to easily segue into a gluten free lifestyle.
We'll cover practical topics including:

* How to transition your kitchen into a safe gluten free kitchen
* What every gluten free person needs in their pantry
* How to read labels & find hidden ingredients
* Tips on how to eat away from home
* What to watch for with personal care products & medications

We'll also discuss the many resources available including

* GF friendly grocery stores & restaurants
* GF knowledgeable Dieticians
* GF Support Groups
* GF Cookbooks & Magazines

This is a wonderful introduction to living successfully, and happily, without gluten!

Reminder - Greater North Raleigh Celiac Support Group Meeting

Just a friendly reminder about this month's Greater North Raleigh Celiac Support Group meeting. The meeting is Thursday, January 21st at 7pm at Rex Hospital. This month, area resident, Maria Hopper will be our guest and will be offering a Gluten Free & Allergen Free pizza tasting. For those with diary allergies/sensitivities, she will also have pizza made with dairy free soy cheese. Maria was mentioned here on Gluten Free Raleigh last summer.

Please email Pat Berger to request more information about the group or if you are interested in attending this month's meeting.

You can also check out the Support Group's Yahoo Web page here.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Restaurant Review: PF Chang’s

I recently had the pleasure of visiting P.F. Chang's China Bistro, a real Gluten Free destination, for dinner. I've been contacted by quite a few readers letting me know that this place really knew what they were doing when it came to catering to GF customers. For one reason or the other, I just hadn't made it over there yet. A reader (thanks Denise) then recently put me in touch with the Operating Manger of the Crabtree location, Glyn Jones. I was invited to experience their Gluten Free dining options and to get some more detailed information from Glyn.

Of course, I first did what I always do, internet research. I found P.F. Chang's Web site which mentions Gluten Free right on the home page. They boast 17 menu items available for Gluten Free diners and even have a link to a recent USA Today in depth article on Celiac Disease. You really just don't see that too often. I also read numerous reviews and message boards from successful P.F. Chang's experiences around the USA. I made my reservation and mentioned that I was Gluten Free due to Celiac Disease and that I would require their GF menu. The hostess I spoke with told me the GF menu is now included in the normal menu – also nice to see.

You can see the online GF menu here. Click the Gluten Free link at the top.

I was really blown away by the sheer number of choices available on this GF menu. The only other place that offers this much is Bella Monica. I'm usually pretty happy to go to a restaurant and be able to eat ONE thing, let along nearly 20 menu items that range from Starters, Soups, Sides, Entrees and Desserts. It was also very nice to see some of the normal menu items that were already Gluten Free or easily modified to be GF.

Our dining experience was top notch, our server was excellent and I was greeted and checked on by the manager on duty (thanks Nate) numerous times throughout the meal. We had the opportunity to sit at the "Captain's table" which is actually located in the kitchen area and provided a front row seat of the operations of the kitchen staff (nice when you are on a special diet so you can keep an eye on things). Our server went over all the Gluten Free menu options and was available to ask any questions that I had. The manager (Nate) also took the time after our meal to show me a few things in the kitchen and to explain the process of preparing a Gluten Free meal as safe as possible. He let me know that the restaurant at a franchise level does an enormous amount of training around GF and other special diets. They take a lot of precautions to ensure safe meals. Some of those precautions involve using designated dishes and cooking utensils and thorough cleaning of shared cooking spaces (Wok) when GF menus are prepared. The order tickets used by the kitchen staff are specially marked GF and special sauces are created used GF soy sauce throughout the process. He said they are always looking for ways to modify or create new menu items to further expand the GF menu – awesome! I was pretty impressed with how they are doing things. Nate let me know that they take safely preparing GF meals very seriously and feel like they have a pretty sound process for doing so. I think the success and growth of their GF business and menu are proof of that.

On to my order… of course I was happy to see RedBridge on the menu so that was definitely a tasty treat (or three). Our party also had the Chang's Chicken Lettuce Wraps appetizer (Quickly cooked spiced chicken served with cool lettuce cups and gluten free sauce) which were amazing. For my meal, I ordered the Chang's Spicy Chicken (Lightly dusted and stir-fried in a sweet Sichuan sauce, a.k.a. General Tso's) with brown rice. Some of the other members of my party also ordered from the GF menu even though they are not required to eat that way. There were just so many enticing choices. The GF food came out on special round plates with red P.F. Chang's logos (which my server told me to watch out beforehand). This is nice to know that your meal is standing out throughout the cooking/serving process. The food was delicious! I also had some Moo Goo Gai Pan (P.F. Chang's version of the classic Cantonese dish with chicken, shrimp, mushrooms and vegetables) which was also very yummy! The food was so good that I pretty much stuffed myself to the point where I almost didn't have any leftovers. Somehow, I still found room for the GF Dessert menu item; Flourless Chocolate Dome (Served with fresh berries and raspberry sauce). This dessert was also amazing and provided a nice finish to the excellent GF experience.

Overall, this was one of the best Gluten Free dining experiences I've had to date. I will definitely go back in the future and strongly encourage you to do the same. If you have not had the opportunity to dine Gluten Free at P.F. Chang's, now is your chance. The more we visit, the more we will reinforce their decision to cater to us. A win-win. You can also sign up for a Warrior Card and get 10% off your bill.

P.F. Chang's China Bistro
4325 Glenwood Avenue (Crabtree Valley Mall) – there is also a Durham location (Streets @ Southpoint).
Phone: 919-787-7754

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

New Poll Questions Section

Check out the new Poll Questions link at the top right of this blog. I've brought back to life the many poll questions that have been previously posted here on Gluten Free Raleigh. Most of these polls were up for around 30 days but I got to thinking that they are pretty good questions and topics, so why not leave them up all the time. Feel free to look at the list and submit your answers.


Fast Food Updates

You may or may not eat at fast food places (I usually don't) but at least these places are making an effort to release a Gluten Free menu and cater to us. See below for updates on Burger King and Hardee's. I've updated my Gluten Free Raleigh Fast Food Listing with this information.

Burger King
Burger King released its BK Positive Steps Gluten Sensitive Listing in December 2009. Click here to see the information. The list is based on BK's suppliers ingredients listing before the products enter the restaurant. Of course, like any restaurant (especially a fast food place), the risk of cross-contact is high. The menu offers some entree options like the Whopper patty, or Tendergrill Chicken Breast filet as well as fries and numerous dippings/sauces, drinks and condiments. Be sure to ask if the fries and apple fries are made in a dedicated fryer. “We understand that our guests have individual dietary needs, and as part of our ‘Have It Your Way’ brand promise, Burger King Corp. offers menu items for individuals with gluten sensitivity,” said Cindy Syracuse, senior director of cultural marketing for Burger King Corp. “With our Gluten-Sensitive list, we’re making it easier for our guests to identify these choices.” BK has 10 Raleigh area locations and more than 12,000 nationwide.

Hardee's came out with a new "Indulge" menu last year which includes Gluten Free, Low Carb, Low Fat and Veggie options. "Gluten Free-ing It" involves ordering a side salad (fresh iceburg lettuce, shredded cheddar cheese, diced tomatoes, red onions and any dressing), 1/3 pound Low Carb Thickburger (a charbroiled 100% Black Angus beef patty, cheese and all the fixings packed in a fresh whole-leaf Iceburg lettuce wrap) or a Breakfast Bowl (folded eggs topped with a sausage patty and Swiss cheese, piled with a loaded omelet, and finished with shredded cheddar and bacon bits). Three regular menu options that need no modifications at all. There is also a couple coupons on the Gluten Free It menu page. There are 10 Raleigh area locations and over 3,000 nationwide.

Please see Hardee's disclaimer at the bottom... "All of our products are prepared in the same kitchen area. Persons with food sensitivity, allergies, special dietary needs, or specific dietary inquiries and/or concerns should consult a medical professional of their own selection regarding the suitability of our food products." I'd also be concerned with ordering their fries - make sure to check that nothing else is made in the same fryer.

Friday, January 8, 2010

2009 Year In Review

Overall, 2009 was a pretty great year for being Gluten Free in Raleigh. The year was indeed very busy as I put up 311 posts and had 69,225 page loads (5769 per month on average) with October peaking at 6603. We also raised $1,890 in fund raising efforts that went to various Celiac Disease or GF organizations. Lots of new and exciting information is always coming in, and I'll keep you up to date as best I can. With that being said, I'd like to recap 2009 and share my highlights and lowlights (really only just one of these - see bottom of post). I sincerely hope you enjoy reading GFR and find the information useful. I do put a lot of my spare time into this project (read: addiction) and hope the efforts are really helping you out there. This recap will also be helpful for those new readers or newly diagnosed to see what went on in 2009 and what kind of information you can count on from GFR.

Let's start off by looking at my 20 goals for 2009 post which was written at the end of 2008. I worked on some of these more than others I guess... there is always room for improvement. I'll be posting a 20 goals for 2010 write-up soon - stay tuned. If you have any ideas, please email me.

2009 Highlights (click link to read original Post)
-1st post of 2009, intro of Bella Monica Flatbread Company.
-Expansion of the Health Network, this could use some 2010 updates.
-Introduction to Jules Shepard who is featured throughout 2009 and hopefully 2010 on this blog.
-The birth of Gluten Free Durham (72 posts in 2009) and Cary (40 posts in 2009) blogs.
-The birth of the Gluten Free City Guide.

-First Jules Shepard GF Cooking Class @ Earth Fare (raised $500 - 40 participants).
-Bella Monica Italian Restaurant launches GF menu.
-The birth of Gluten Free Chapel Hill blog (36 posts in 2009).
-Delight Gluten Free Magazine publishes first issue.
-ZPizza rolls out new GF pizza.
-Gluten Free North Carolina blogs launched for various cities throughout NC .
-I am diagnosed with DH.
-Rosie's Plate launched GF Pizza.
-Interview with Bard's Beer.
-Interview with Lee Tobin of Whole Foods GF Bakehouse.
-The first rumblings of new Gluten Free products from General Mills.

-My Celiac Antibodies are normal level after 9 months on GF Diet.
-Harmony Farms Grocery Store Review.
-Gluten Free Play doh launched (Soy-yer Dough). My kid is still playing with this stuff and the creator was later featured on the ABC show "Shark Tank" where he received $300,000 to grow his company.
-Interview with NFCA Director/Founder Alice Bast.
-First boxes of GF Corn Chex and Honey Nut Chex start showing up in test markets around the USA - These products plus Chocolate Chex, Strawberry Chex and Cinnamon Chex to be widely available on June 1, 2009.
-Gluten Free Betty Crocker mixes start hitting store shelves around the US - General Mills also makes these widely available June 1st, 2009.
-I determine my estimate of the number of Celiacs in the Triangle.
-Uno Chicago Grill debuts its brand new Gluten Free pizza.
-I create my petition to the Raleigh City Council (later to Wake County) about a food allergen poster for all restaurants to educate kitchen staff about food allergies (including Gluten). Over 400 people have signed the petition to date.
-Raleigh CSA Support Group launches Yahoo Group site.
-Whole Foods holds an awesome GF Vendor Fair - I met a ton of people living GF.

-I become an official NFCA GREAT Guide and can train restaurants to properly serve GF patrons.
-Rosie's Plate store redesign and expanded weekend hours.
-Raleigh Kerr Drug store near Six Forks & Strickland becomes nations first to include "Naturally Kerr" section featuring GF foods. A second store opens later in Asheville and a third in Chapel Hill.
-First rumblings about the new GF pastry coming from Starbucks on May 1st, 2009. This product was awesome but was later discontinued by Starbucks and replaces with KIND snack bars - bummer.
-Registration opens for a fund raising run/walk event to benefit GF week at Camp Kanata. Event held in June raised over $900.
-Carolina Hurricanes end 2008-2009 hockey season (their first offering Redbridge GF beer) and serve 106 during the season.

-Celiac Vaccine is being studied which could end the need for the Gluten Free Diet treatment.
-Our most famous Celiac, Elisabeth Hasselbeck releases new GF book, gains a lot of press for Celiac and is later sued (case dropped) for plageurism.
-Interview with Enjoy Life Foods CEO Scott Mandell.
-Study shows that Celiac Disease drugs will be a $8 Billion market by 2019.
-Starbucks officially releases GF Orange Valencia Cake to rave reviews. I probably ate about 20 of these things during their short lifespan. I know I did my part.

-Official Review of new GF Pizza @ Uno Chicago Grill.
-I discover "Celiac Crack in a bag", a.k.a Riceworks snacks.
-All the new General Mills GF yummies are officially released.
-Local resident Maria Hopper begins developing totally allergen-free pizza crusts. Hopefully more to come on this in 2010.
-Much delayed Raleigh Trader Joes' announces they will open in the fall 2009.
-My 1 year anniversary of Celiac Diagnosis.
-Ug99 threatens global wheat crop - would force everyone to eat GF?
-My day at GF Week @ Camp Kanata - one of my personal highlights of the year.

-Jules Shepard returns for another GF Cooking Class @ Earth Fare - raised $300 and had another 40 attendees.
-New At-Home Celiac DNA test available.
-Gluten Free Raleigh Dispatch publishes first issue (this will return soon in 2010).
-First ever GF Product Giveaway - hope to do more of these in 2010.
-Starbucks kills GF Orange Valencia cake.

-Gluten Free Raleigh turns 1 year old!
-Due to huge demand, Jules Shepard returns for her 3rd GF cooking class @ Earth Fare on Aug 1st.
-Rosie's Plate debutes new GF Donuts.
-Campbell's launches new GF website -
-Invited as a Wellsphere Top Health Blogger - GFR posts are republished on's Celiac page.
-GFR accepted into the Triumph Dining Affiliate Program.

-New redesign of Gluten Free Raleigh launched on September 1st after a year with the standard ugly Blogger theme. How long will this current design last? Who knows.
-Gluten Free City Guide gets an update (now includes nearly 200 Google map placemarks) to further help you in your travel to other cities in the USA/Canada.
-Moonlight Bakery debuts. More to come in 2010 I hope.
-I work with the fine folks over at the RBC Center to get Gluten Free options expanded during Carolina Hurricanes games.

-I teach my first class (Gluten Free 101) @ Rosie's Plate on 10/3 (and raise $175 in the process). I'll be teaching another one on January 23rd as well and hope to continue to do this quarterly. Call Rosie's Plate to sign up.
-A local company (This Is Beautiful) develops an awesome Food Allergen Poster to go along with my petition to the Raleigh City Council.
-Raleigh Trader Joe's opens on 10/30/09 to much fanfare.
-I appear before the Raleigh City Council to present my Food Allergen Poster petition (with nearly 400 signatures). They refer me to Wake County. Stay tuned on this, there is more to come in 2010 on this topic I promise.
-Whole Foods has another great GF Vendor Fair this month. In talking with the marketing department there, they plan on having one of these per quarter. I can imagine these are huge $ sales days for their GF products (the shelves are usually empty).
-Juno Nutrition (online database of foods) is launched.
-A second Raleigh Whole Foods is approved by the Raleigh City Council and should open in early 2011 near Six Forks and Strickland.
-I skipped the NC State Fair this year but will hopefully be able to work with Fair organizers next year to get more GF options (or at least have vendors provide ingredients statements).
-2010 GF Week @ Camp Kanata date is released... sign up now.

-Jules Shepard comes back for a 4th time to put on a GF Thanksgiving cooking class @ Earth Fare. Hope Jules can come this many times in 2010!?! Class raises over $100 for Celiac research.
-Gluten Free Triangle Meet Up group is launched by Durham resident Beth Reeves. Group now has nearly 50 members and has already had 6 meetups with 7 more scheduled. Looks like this will also turn into the birth of a Durham CSA chapter. Great job Beth!
-NC FACES and FAAN hold a run/walk fund raiser to find a cure for food allergies in Cary. The race raises over $16,000 for the cause.
-Rosie's Plate expands to Durham.
-My Osteopenia (lowered bone density) improves after being Gluten Free.
-New Commenting Policy is enacted. GFR strives to be a positive force for being GF in Raleigh.

-General Mills (you rock) launches new GF Web site and now boasts over 200 Gluten Free labeled products.
-New FTC policy for bloggers is published and will be followed here at GFR.
-New Product Testing Policy is enacted. Any products mentioned on this blog that are not packaged and labeled as GF will be subject to this policy. This will ensure that my readers get the most reliable GF information.
-Elisabeth Hasselbeck hits the Dr. Oz show and spike Celiac Disease searches on Google up nearly 400%. Love her or hate her, she is raising awareness.
-Mellow Mushroom goes Gluten Free in 2010?!?

2009 Lowlights
I usually try to make it through life without any low points, but hey they happen to everyone, right? No avoiding it. I'll be as generic as possible about this situation but I feel like I at least need to address it a little. Hopefully most of you will know what I am talking about. The situation has been discussed on other blogs that can be easily found. Thanks to those folks for sharing. In 2009, I was forced to create a Gluten Free Raleigh Scumbag of the Year Award. Hopefully we all know who this is being given to and hopefully, this is the only time the award is ever given out. I am utterly shocked and upset about what has transpired and am still having difficulty believing the situation.

I want my readers to understand one thing here - what is currently published on this blog is exactly what I want you to read and trust. If something is not written about here or is written about and then removed, there usually is a reason (although sometimes I just haven't gotten around to talking to some folks). In some cases, I may not be able to share the reason for removal but the removal itself is what is important. Never in a million years do you think you'd be duped into believing something is GF when it really is not. Hopefully, my new Product Testing Policy will prevent this in the future. I have though, lost a little trust in people now which is a little sad.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

ZPizza Gluten Free Pizza Update

If you have not had the chance to try ZPizza's Gluten Free pizza (debuted about a year ago), then you are missing out. If you didn't try it because it was not Dairy Free or Soy Free, now is your chance to dig in. I received word from the franchisee of the Raleigh and Cary stores recently letting me know about the change in the GF crust. Very commonly, Gluten Free patrons are also Dairy Free and/or Soy Free. Celiacs often have multiple issues including lactose intolerance due to intestinal damage. The new GF, DF and SF crust is now available in both stores. The crust is also Cholesterol free and comes in at around 250 calories (of course that doesn't include your toppings). Top off your pizza with a Redbridge - now being served at both locations as well.

Crust Ingredients: Rice Flour, Tapioca Flour, Water, Potato Flour, Potato Flakes, Olive Oil, Sugar, Yeast, Salt, Seasonings.

I've included a picture of the crust's packaging to the left.

I was also told that both ZPizza locations combined are selling on average 100 GF crusts per week. That's a huge number of pizzas. The GF crusts themselves (only available in size small 10") are $10.25 each without toppings. Sell 100 of those bad boys per week for the entire year and that's $53,300 without toppings. Lots of dough (pun intended).

Regardless, looks like ZPizza is very dedicated to GF consumers and we thank you for that. For more information on ZPizza including my original review, click here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gluten Free Cooking Class Featuring Lee Tobin

Just wanted to let you all know about an awesome upcoming Gluten Free cooking class featuring Lee Tobin from the Whole Foods Gluten Free Bakehouse. If you are not familiar with Lee (shame on you), then check out this interview I did with him in February 2009. Lee Tobin is a great guy and has really been a pioneer in the Gluten Free world which has led us to the marketplace we enjoy today. If you get the opportunity to attend this class, you definitely will learn a lot from Lee.

Cooking Class Details...

Supper in a Snap Chef Series with Lee Tobin
Date: Monday, January 25, 2010
Time: 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm
Location: UNC Wellness Center, 100 Sprunt Street Chapel Hill, NC
Cost: $10 for members; $15 for non-members

Description: Chef and baker Lee Tobin will be presenting Gluten Free Italiano! Lee Tobin has worked as a chef and baker for several hotels and restaurants in Pennsylvania, California, and Canada. Lee moved to Chapel Hill, NC in 1993 where he worked for Whole Foods Market in the bakery and prepared foods departments. After a diagnosis with celiac disease in 1996, Lee began an in store gluten-free baking program to serve the growing number of customers on a gluten-free diet. In 2004 he founded the Whole Foods Market Gluten Free Bakehouse in Morrisville, NC, which provides over 30 products to Whole Foods Market stores across the US and Canada.

Lee has spoken and given cooking and baking demonstrations at several regional and national gluten free conferences and events sponsored by the Gluten Intolerance Group, Celiac Sprue association, Gluten Free Expo, Gluten Free Culinary Summit, and Whole Foods Market stores across US.

Lee’s Menu:

  • Grilled polenta appetizer
  • Herb Focaccia
  • Caesar salad
  • Hand made ravioli
  • Chicken and eggplant parmesan
  • Tiramisu
Please contact the UNC Wellness Center for more information or to register for this program at (919) 966-5500. Registration is REQUIRED for this program.
Contact: Liz Watt or Judy Hinderliter

Monday, January 4, 2010

Raleigh CSA Support Group 12-17-09 Meeting Recap

Special thanks to Gail for taking meeting minutes during the last North Raleigh Celiac Support Group meeting on 12-17-2009. Below is a recap for those of you that could not make the meeting.

North Raleigh Celiac Support Group
CSA Chapter 108
December 17, 2009 7:00-9:00 PM
Rex Hospital Private Dining Room, Raleigh, North Carolina

The primary focus of the December meeting was a question and answer session regarding basic information for the newly diagnosed celiac. In fact, the majority of those in attendance had only recently learned that they need to follow a gluten free lifestyle in order to restore and maintain their health.

Pat shared that she started our current group in 2004 and the list of members statewide has grown to over 130. There is renewed effort to get additional support groups established in Durham and Wilmington, NC.

The support group meetings offer a place to both share personal experiences as well as to learn new things. Staying gluten-free can be a moving target with continually changing ingredients in processed foods and misunderstanding about celiac disease widespread in the restaurant industry. All celiacs need to speak up when eating outside their own kitchen and always read labels when shopping. It is important to insure safe ingredients while keeping in mind the very real issue of cross contamination.

One of our group members shared that the following website is a wonderful source of additional, accurate information:

There is a new, local, online company that offers gluten-free cereal from a dedicated facility. Custom Choice Cereal allows you to order from a variety of dried fruits, nuts and seeds with your cereal order. They can be found on the web at

The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, January 21, 2010 in the private dining room at Rex Hospital. Meeting guest Maria Hopper will offer a gluten free pizza tasting.

Submitted by,
Gail Harris