Adventures in Gluten (and Sugar) Freedom from a southern blogger chick!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A Special GF Anniversary

This week marks the first anniversary of the Gluten-Free Bloomin' Onion (and other gluten-free delights) at the Outback on Crossville Road in Roswell, Georgia. Yes, I am their biggest fan. But Tom and Julie and the gang deserve appreciation and love and OUR BUSINESS for SO GETTING IT when it comes to gluten-free food.

Take tonight, for instance. I ate dinner at a lesser Outback and was handed a menu with items literally scratched out with ink. I didn't fret much, as both Randy and I were there for steak and a baked potato (with a gift card, to boot!)

But seriously, folks. Instead of ONE Outback that gets it and takes it seriously enough to draw customers from all over the United States (seriously...Julie told me she's had visitors from Maine come in for the GF Bloomin Onion), why not a short-term goal of oh, I don't know, 10 in big cities like Tampa (the mothership, for God's sake) and maybe a few others.

I know it costs money and takes training and time. And I once again send much love and kudos to Julie and Tom (and Victor, our waiter when I ordered this glorious onion a few weeks ago) AND all the great crew at Outback Roswell on Crossville Road.

Happy Anniversary to the Gluten-Free Bloomin' Onion. And here's to MANY more outlets like this! And Julie, you're a credit to the gluten-free food industry. I wish there was a special prize, because you deserve it for your service to the GF community.

If I haven't said it enough, THANK YOU.

Much love, and here's to the coconut shrimp, too~

Saturday, June 13, 2009

In praise of People who GET IT.

You've noticed my absence, I hope. I've been AFK (ok, AFWiFI) for about a week, and I haven't had the chance to update a post. A part of my vacation was a trip to Washington D.C. for the Edelman New Media Summit, which was incredible! I thought a lot about my role in social media this week, especially in light of this blog, my tweets on Twitter and my posts on Facebook.

All of this has made me think about the purpose of this blog. As most of my readers know, the last six months has been rough on me, as I've grappled with a new diagnosis and adjusted. Lately, I've seem myself go more toward product previews and reviews, and I've been honored by all the GF vendors who have sent me food to try. This has been exciting for me.

But it also signals a paradigm shift for me. I'm not the Gluten Free Paula Deen any more. I'm more the Gluten Free David Horowitz. I don't try to convert recipes because I don't cook much any more, and there's so much more I can't eat.

In a way, that is probably good. You see, we need a lot more attention out there to the gluten free diet and way of life. We need to be engaged in a conversation about our needs with the vendors who do -- and sadly, who don't -- GET IT. And we need to throw our love and money toward those who cater to our needs.

The rest be damned. Or, in my general case, excoriated. Or simply exposed.

A few examples I pulled from the conversation at Edelman: Did you know, for instance, that McDonald's has a team of bloggers who write to the different crews (their audience) about issues in the different Micky D's locations? Knowing this, I pulled the SM guy from McDonald's aside and told him it would be great if someone would plant a blog discussion with these crews about how to handle a gluten-free request in a store. I reminded him of the children out there who still want the Happy Meal Experience...without the bun. And how simple it is to just GET A MANAGER when a GF request comes into the shop.

I also met Starbuck's SM director, and I told her about my last blog post in praise of the GF Orange Valencia Cake. She told me more GF is planned (YAY) but best of all -- that idea came from the section on the Starbucks site. Starbucks in listening...

So are Austin Grill in D.C., McAlister's Deli, and Legal Sea Foods -- three places in the last 10 days I've gotten a safe, GF menu meal that was more than "leave off the bun." Kudos especially to McAlister's, which is rolling out its new menu in the next few weeks. Good stuff! And of course I had to stop by Roswell Outback -- more on them in a few days. They're coming up on an exciting anniversary...

We have to praise those who GET IT, because it will make more companies try.

Imagine, for instance, that the Chef at the Georgetown University Hotel and Conference Center was clueless to the needs of a GF person, offering fruits (just fruit) for a mid-day meal at a long conference. When I asked about protein (really, some cheese would have been fine) the chef's message through the server -- "there's plenty of meat on the sandwiches. Just take off the bread." WTF? A kind server named Tyrone made sure I got some plain cold grilled chicken, which was fine. HE GOT IT.

That chef, though, seriously needs some education. The next day, when I asked about dessert instead of the cheesecake, the response through the server? "Eat the top and leave the bottom." I truly pity any student or faculty member with GF needs at that location, I do. Thank goodness my university GETS IT.

To end this post, I want to give a really big shout out and thank you to the Simonds Family in Ellijay (and Talking Rock) Georgia. Jena, my dear, dear friend and former student, invited me up for a girl's weekend. I had no idea that her ENTIRE FAMILY -- her lovely Mother Beth, her talented Daddy Doug, her beautiful sister Krista and handsome husband Matthew -- had been researching how to feed me safely for weeks. There was GF bread, a delicious dinner (oh how wonderful it was -- deviled eggs, pork chops, squash casserole, all faves! PLUS make your own banana splits!) that I felt completely safe eating. I felt loved. I felt special. THEY GET IT and I love them all for it and will never forget that special feeling. MUCH LOVE!

Much love, and much praise, for People Who GET IT!