Monday, May 2, 2011

Charlotte, NC Gluten Free Allergen Free Expo 2011

On Saturday April 30th I had the pleasure of attending the 2011 Gluten Free/ Allergen Free Expo in Charlotte NC. This event was organized primarily by Nikki Everett, a member of the Charlotte gluten free community. Nikki's 10 year old daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease several years ago and ever since Nikki has lead the way to offer the community a yearly gluten free expo to share the gluten free & allergen free products that are available. This year's event had incredible speakers such as Dr. Alessio Fasano, Director of the Celiac Disease Research Center at the University of Maryland,  Dr. Peter Osborne, Founder of Gluten Free Society & Town Wellness Center, Chef Peter Reinhart from Johnson and Wales University, Chef Pamela Roberts, and Jules Shepard celebrated gluten free cookbook author and creator of Jules Gluten Free Flours. Please make sure to watch Channel 14 Carolina's story on the GF Expo!

Saturday morning Michael and I drove into downtown Charlotte for the event. It was an absolutely gorgeous day. While I've lived in North Carolina since 2000, I don't often have the chance to visit the beautiful city of Charlotte! This was a treat!

On Thursday night (before the Expo) I baked 8 dozen of my signature gluten free chocolate chip cookies to give away at the event. While I was not a vendor, I looked forward to meeting people in the Charlotte community and hopefully introducing my blog to them! Next year look for my booth where I'll have lots more gluten free cookies in tow!!

Handing out cookies at the Expo. I can't believe how fast they went!

The entrance to the gluten free allergen free vendor's hall at the Expo. For a full list of vendors please visit the Charlotte GF/AF Expo website complete with links for more information and to purchase gluten free products!

My favorite gluten free "store bought" bread Rudi's was there, along with Udi's, Joan's Great Bakes (yummy English muffins!), and even Luce's beautiful gluten free artisan bread. A local bakery in Charlotte Polka Dot Bakeshop was there with lots of mini-cupcakes and other delicious gluten free products!

One of my favorite finds at the Expo was a local pizza restaurant called "Fuel Pizza" which has several locations in Charlotte and in surrounding South Carolina cities. They served several different flavors of gluten free pizza and it was absolutely the best "gluten-free-restaurant-pizza" I've ever had. It tasted like thin crust "fair" pizza. If you ever have the chance to try out Fuel Pizza, I highly recommend them! I also had the opportunity to try Redbridge gluten free beer for the first time. As you know, I don't drink and it just tasted like "beer" to me, but for those who like to enjoy a cold one every now and then, it's great to know this product is available!

One of the major highlights of the Expo for me: Meeting gluten free cookbook author Jules Shepard of Jules Gluten Free and new blogger Pam of  I'm a Celiac. Pam was such a sweetheart and it was so much fun to meet a fellow gluten free food blogger from North Carolina! I look forward to getting to know Pam in the upcoming year to discover more gluten free options in the piedmont area of NC!  Jules was absolutely adorable and just so friendly! As Pam said in her post, it was like meeting old friends!  I don't know how Jules does all that she does! She was sharing gluten free muffins and fresh focaccia bread along with selling her awesome cookbooks and she even had a gluten free cooking lesson nearing the end of the Expo.  Make sure to check out Jules big event this weekend: and please sign the petition to encourage our law makers to require companies to test their products for gluten if they want to label them gluten free.

There were fantastic restaurants represented at the Expo such as Posana; a completely gluten free establishment in Asheville NC! Another place cool place was Nothing But Noodles, which is available at several locations in Charlotte NC. They serve up really creative gluten free dishes using thai rice noodles!

A really lovely product at the Expo was Luce's Gluten Free Artisan Breads. The breads were so beautiful and rustic that at first I had a hard time believing they were gluten free! Make sure to check out their website for information on ordering!

Lindy's Gluten Free Goodies was a new discovery to me, thanks to Pam of I'm a Celiac. Lindy has a gluten free bakery in the Greensboro area of NC and also offers a cookbook, gluten free cooking classes, and more!

One of my favorite parts of the Expo:  The awesome variety of demonstrations and talks offered. We attended Chef Peter Reinhart's demonstration of low carb, gluten free baking.

2nd row seats!! :-) We sampled Chef Reinhart's gluten free low carb breadsticks which were made with almond flour, sesame seed flour, almond milk, eggs, a tiny bit of xanthan gum, and garlic. They were delicious!

Chef Reinhart is currently working on writing a low carb, gluten free cookbook with fellow author Denene Wallace, founder of Proseed Flour Mix (a high protein/ low carb gluten free flour). The book should be available in the spring of 2012! I'm looking forward to having a copy!

More vendors at the fair included Canyon Bakehouse breads, based out of Colorado. Walden Farms gave out samples of gluten free, sugar free chocolate syrup and pancake syrups. Against the Grain shared gluten free pizza, baguettes, and rolls. Gluten Free By Beverly also shared delicious gluten free pizza!

Other amazing vendors included (please Google them for more information): 1-2-3 Gluten Free, Allerenergy (pretzels! Yum!), American Key Foods Products, Bakery on Main, Bath Nook, Beth's Acupuncture, Bone Suckin' Sauce, Brain Balance, Carolina Digestive Associates, Cecilia's Marketplace, Celiac Disease Research Center, Charlotte Gastroenterology, Chebe, Clear Allergy Labels, Cupcakistry, Custom Choice Cereal, Delight Gluten Free Magazine, EarthFare (including a variety of GF products they carry), Elle Palmer, Farmo, FFarms, From Scratch, Full Flavor Foods, Gallolea Organics, Garden Spot Distrubutors (including a variety of GF products they carry), GIG Piedmont Triad, Glutino/Ian's, Healthy Home Market (including a variety of GF products), Bob's Red Mill, Healthy Meals from Home, Healthy Priorities, Jason's Deli, Juice Plus+, Katz Gluten Free Bakery, Kettle Cuisine, Kinnikinnick Foods, Labrems Cookies, Lake Norman Health & Wellness, Living Without Magazine, Mary's Gone Crackers, Matthews Family Chiropractic, No Nuttin', Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Pro Pack Group, Resves INC, Tasty of Sunrise, Tasty Yo LLC, The Thoughtful Baker, Total Nutrition Technology, Twin Cakes Bakery, Whole Foods Market.

Last but not least, one of my favorite vendors was Judy of Coconut Treasures, Inc. I'll share more about Coconut Treasures in another post, but these little bites of coconut, hemp, and honey goodness are truly delicious! They are mostly organic and are made locally in Charlotte and are highly nutritious!  I bought a package of these coconut treats home with me and honestly wish I had bought several more to put in the freezer! I had one last night as my "dessert" and it was such a satisfying sweet treat that met my chocolate & sweet craving head on!

Next year I plan on being a vendor at the 2012 Charlotte GF/AF Expo and I would love to hear your thoughts on this truly incredible event if you attended this year! Many, many thanks to coordinator Nikki Everett and all of the Charlotte area volunteers who put so much time and energy into this event! It made me very proud to be gluten free in North Carolina!
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