Where everything is gluten-free…

Nope, not some utopian world. I’m talking about Gluten-Free Expo, this year re-named as Nourished Festival.

It gives me something to look forward to in February. No offense to those who celebrate, but Valentines Day is not my thing. Couldn’t care less. And after the holiday season and then a couple of family birthdays in January, February has nothing that I’m particularly excited about.

Last year’s festival

This will be my third time going to the Fest. Last year V came with me and loved every minute of it. It’s not often that she has an opportunity to be somewhere where she can eat EVERYTHING. And we don’t have to worry about asking any questions or double checking. And for people with other allergies, this year’s Fest is going to be even easier to navigate because of better signage and ingredient/allergens indicators.

Happy sampling

Diabetes management during an event like this is tricky. We have to SWAG (scientific wild ass guess) carb count on everything. Last year we failed. V started in good range and despite what we thought was aggressive guessing and dosing still ended up with high BG. This year I expect that we will fail again. But whatever! It’s totally worth it.

I’m looking forward to discovering and sampling new gluten free products, getting new ideas and inspirations, and spending some time in a setting where EVERYTHING is gluten-free.

Join me and save 20% with code ADVANCE if you purchase tickets by 2/8/19.

Get your tickets here

DISCLAIMER: Nourished Festival is providing me with free entry. I am not compensated in any other way, nor am I asked or expected to review or promote any products or companies associated with Nourished Festival. All opinions are my own.

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A Tale of Three Jersey Mike’s Restaurants

It was V who noticed a big sign on the window of one of the Jersey Mike’s restaurants: “Gluten-Free Bread Available.” Do you have Jersey Mike’s near you? They make yummy sandwiches. And let me tell you, it’s not common that a sandwich place will have gluten-free offerings. Naturally, we had to check it out.

We have a few locations near us. I was rather skeptical as V insisted we visit one of them. As we got in line, I noticed this sign!

Photo is a little blurry, but you are looking at very clear and detailed instructions on how to prepare a gluten-free sandwich in a way that would minimize chances of cross-contamination.

As we placed our order, our expectations were met and exceeded. Without us even asking, staff informed us that they would be preparing V’s sandwich in the back using fresh ingredients that were not part of the “buffet” set up at the counter. They had a couple of different sizes of bread available. They knew very well what ingredients were gluten-free and uncontaminated.

We had to wait a little bit longer for V’s sandwich but it was completely worth it. It was delicious. We went back to this location several times and had excellent experience every single time. Instant winner, shiny A+!

When sometime later we came to a different location, we assumed that we would have a similar experience. We proceeded with our order without asking any questions. Big mistake.

The staff started preparing V’s sandwich right at the counter. “Don’t you do it in the back, separately?” They looked puzzled by our question. “No, we change gloves and put a clean piece of paper on the counter.” Oh crap. They were rather clueless about cross-contamination. V was very hungry, so we decided to risk it but were watching them closely. On at least one occasion, the staff set the sandwich on the counter, then immediately realized it, picked it up right away and placed it on the paper. If my looks could kill he would have dropped dead on the spot. This was not safe. We really should have walked out, and if V had a history of getting sick after ingesting gluten, we would have walked out. I felt extremely uneasy and unhappy. I debated going back in and talking to staff but decided against it. It was not their fault that they did not receive proper training. Needless to say, we will not be returning to this place again. Instant looser, big fat F!

By the time we visited a third location, closest to our home, we adjusted our expectations. I scanned for a sign that we spotted at the first location about safe handling of GF orders. It was nowhere to be found. There was a different sign by the counter, a standard disclaimer that while GF ingredients are available, they may come in contact with gluten and that safety is not guaranteed. We asked the questions about ingredients, preparation and cross-contamination. First time ordering, staff seemed reasonably well-informed. They made V’s sandwich in the back; however not all ingredients were safe for her. Bacon was grilled on a shared grill. And they did not have uncontaminated avocados. On a second occasion, staff were less informed, though receptive to my requests. I had to ask them to prepare sandwich in the back. And when I noticed they used avocado out of a container at the counter that is used for all breads, spreading it with the same utensil, they had to start over with a different piece of bread. While I do appreciate that overall staff were more informed and accommodating here compared to the second restaurant, I think it’s completely worth it for us to drive just a little bit farther out to the first restaurant. This third restaurant gets a passable C+.

Three branches of the same chain, three very different experiences. And moral of the story is to never assume and to always ask questions before ordering. Sometimes it ain’t easy being gluten-free.