Making the decision to go gluten-free doesn’t seem to be a hard one. There’s obviously a psychological hurdle, in which you can no longer treat yourself to that delicious pizza or pasta on the weekend, but identifying what you need to cut out seems to be a straightforward process. Basically anything flour-derived can be safely ruled out.
However, gluten lurks in food in more insidious ways. It’s in less obvious things like thickening and flavoring agents used in otherwise safe foods that makes going gluten free harder than you might have thought. Soy sauce, for instance, is not just made of soybeans–there’s wheat in there. Malt vinegar is another tricky ingredient that is made from barley. Veggie burgers, which sound healthy, have gluten in them to hold their circular patty shape. And wheat also goes by a lot of other obscure sounding names like bulgur, farina, semolina and spelt, which might not raise any red flags initially when you come across them in the ingredients list.
Sometimes it’s just easier to buy a product that is explicitly labeled gluten free just to be on the safe side. At last week’s Food Fete, a press event that showcased the latest in gourmet food and beverage products, gluten-free snacks were well-represented, and I was pretty pleased by the quality and flavors of the brands on display. Here’s a list of some of my favorites ones that both the gluten tolerants and intolerants can enjoy!
Breads from Anna® – Founder Anna Sobaski was on hand to offer samples of her gluten and allergen free bread mixes. Sobaski, a food lover who suffers from diabetes and celiac disease, made it her mission to develop gluten-free bread that was both tasty and delicious. It’s mission accomplished for Sobaski, whose pumpkin and banana breads in particular were fantastic. Gluten-free bread can be a strange experience. With a lot of brands, the bread loses its chewy springiness and retains more of an offputting spongecake-like quality. The sweet bread mixes from Breads from Anna® tasted very much like the real thing, which is a very commendable and impressive feat. The sweet and moist banana bread was hands down my favorite food item at the event.
Santé Specialty Foods – Santé offered samples of their all-natural, kosher, roasted and flavored nuts at Food Fete. Nuts are obviously very friendly to a gluten-free diet (along with Paleo, low-carb, vegan, vegetarian, the list goes on!) What struck me about the nuts from Santé was how plump, crisp and well-seasoned they were–the quality control here is pretty amazing. My personal favorites were the Garlic Almonds and the Candied Pistachios, two flavors that blended the savory and the sweet to perfection.
BARE – I love eating dried fruit, but the calorie and sugar content in a small serving can be really shocking. The 200 calories in Bare’s delicious baked apple chips allow you to indulge in your dried fruit craving with much less guilt. Previously I’ve only tried the Granny Smith, Fuji Red and Apple Cinnamon chips, but at Food Fete I was able to try newer offerings like Sea Salt Caramel and Chile Lime. I absolutely loved the Sea Salt Caramel–it really captured the essence of eating a caramel apple on a fall day. I found the heat in the Chile Lime chips very interesting, but ultimately I like my dried fruit on the more mild side!
Noosa – I’ve been obsessed with Noosa yogurt ever since I first stumbled upon the brand at a post-wedding hangover brunch in Colorado. You can imagine my frustration when I tried to search for the brand in the city, only to find its distribution quite lacking. Gourmet Garage in Soho at the time was the only place that seemed to sell it, and I would diligently walk from east to west to buy a few precious tubs at a time. What makes Noosa yogurt so amazing? It tastes like it’s been freshly made from delicious whole milk and sweet cream. The end product is almost like a rich custard, making eating yogurt a slightly more sinful experience. The fruit purees look and taste like they’re made of real pieces of fresh fruit and blend into the surrounding yogurt quite effectively. My personal favorites are the strawberry rhubarb and blueberry, but I quite enjoyed the more tart flavors like cherry and lemon that were offered at Food Fete. Looking to add some yellow and red lids to my grocery cart sometime soon!