Diet Changes

The Best Foods at the DC Gluten-Free Expo

CRegal Jun 18th, 2012 (updated Nov 5th, 2014)
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The 2012 Expo
The 2012 Expo

In only its second year of existence, the Washington, DC Gluten-Free Expo featured 64 exhibitors and drew an estimated 1,300 attendees, up from 704 attendees from the 2011 Expo.  Most of the exhibitors were food manufacturers – some large, others very small – and almost all of the attendees were patients.  Most exhibits included product samples, looking to attract new customers.

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Gluten-free food troubles
Gluten-free food troubles

I do not have celiac or a gluten intolerance.  However, my sister does.  I know it's hard to find the perfect blends of gluten-free flours, and the extreme difficulty getting a "gummy" stickiness of baked goods.  Pizzas, cookies, brownies, cakes – anything that would normally require flour – comes out dense and crumbly.  With that in mind, we found the best products at the Expo for these problems.

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Sweetie Beans Bakery
Sweetie Beans Bakery

This was the best thing I ate all day.  Sweetie Beans is a bakery located in Port Jefferson, NY, and had three different baked goods: pumpkin, vanilla and chocolate cake bites.  They were fantastic – moist, flavorful, fluffy.  Unfortunately, Sweetie Beans products are not yet available outside of their Long Island bakery. But stop by if you're ever in the area! For more information, see SweetieBeans.net

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Canyon Bakehouse
Canyon Bakehouse

As close to "normal" bread as I have ever tasted for a gluten-free product, the cinnamon raisin bread sample wowed.  Located in Loveland, Colorado, Canyon Bakehouse products can be found in health food stores around the country.  Though I only tried the one bread (and was impressed), a number of breads, muffins and buns can be ordered through CanyonBakehouse.com.   

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Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery
Rudi's Gluten-Free Bakery

Rudi's was serving cheese quesadillas on their new gluten-free tortillas and did not have any problems often associated with corn tortillas. Though Rudi's increased the gumminess of the product, it worked.  Rudi's is widely available – Safeway, Costco and some WholeFoods carry the products – so keep an eye out for some. For more information, see RudisGlutenFree.com.

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Beer: Bard's and New Planet
Beer: Bard's and New Planet

Unfortunately, one of the base ingredients to making beer is malted grains.  "Grains" equals gluten.  Thankfully, some manufacturers have begun to break into the gluten-free beer market – Bard's and New Planet among them.  Every beer taster is different, so I will not pass judgment on either product, but both were quite delicious. 

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Udi's Gluten-Free Foods
Udi's Gluten-Free Foods

Just because someone is a gluten-free baker does not necessarily mean that the basic baking skills are there.  Thus, it always impresses me when a successful baker (or bakery) breaks into the GF market.  This is exactly the case with Denver-based Udi's.  According to those I overheard raving about the product, Udi's crust is the best widely-available gluten-free option on the market. 

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Nature Valley
Nature Valley

Not every gluten-free manufacturer is small or something that needs to be specially ordered off a website.  Take Nature Valley, famous for their granola bars and available in every grocery store across America.  Nature Valley was at the Expo featuring its new line of gluten-free products.  If you are looking to break into eating GF but are unsure of where to start, Nature Valley may be a good place to turn.

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Bella Monica Pizza
Bella Monica Pizza

The gluten-free pizza market is a tough one to crack.  Most manufacturers go with the crackerlike crusts, similar to thin crust pizza from a major chain.  Others opt for a thicker crust which suffers from the crumbles.  Some places have gotten it right. There were a number of pizza makers at the Expo, each with pros and cons.  The best of the bunch was Bella Monica from Raleigh, North Carolina.   

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Pete's New Haven Style Apizza
Pete's New Haven Style Apizza

Pete's Apizza, which has multiple locations in the DC area, has long been a personal favorite.  When my sister (with celiac) is in town to visit, she insists on going to Pete's for their GF pizza .  For the Expo, they brought gluten-free pasta served with either Bolognese sauce and pesto sauce.  These dishes were the talk of the Expo!