BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse’s Certified G-free Menu

I had received a flyer in the mail about BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse’s gluten-free for two dinner. I have been a fan of their restaurant for a few years now. It use to be the place where my friends and I would meet up for Friday dinners. They have a wonderful menu filled with pasta dishes, specialty salads, deep dish pizzas, and their super yummy pizookie (vanilla ice cream on top of a warm chocolate chip cookie). Oh, and did I mention their beer menu and large flat screen televisions? BJ’s is the kind of restaurant where you can take date or watch the game with friends.

The flyer sat in our “things to do” pile until  my husband and I finally went for our Friday date night dinner. We were able to get seated  before the dinner rush and asked for the gluten-free menu. It was interesting to see that one side of their menu was g-free offerings and the other was a chart composed of all their dishes and the most common allergies. Making it very simple to see what dish contained what food allergies. I had a verity of items to choose from including their version of a gluten-free pizookie! But I had my eye on the pizza!

My husband and I decided to share the barbe que chicken chopped salad (no onion strings), veggie pizza, and a pizookie for dessert. They didn’t have any gluten-free beer in-house but offered 3 different  ciders. After chatting with my husband and looking over the menu time passed and our food was on its way.

My eyes lit up at the sight of our thin crust pizza as my nose took in the wonderful aroma of my long missed friend. I was so taken by the pizza that I didn’t even look at the salad. Helping myself to a slice of and salad it was time for tasting! Trying the salad first I enjoyed the sweet BBQ ranch dressing against the crunch of the fresh lettuce. It was super tasty and I can image it to be quite filling had it been the only thing I ordered.

Next it was time for the pizza, after tasting a hand-full of mushy g-free pizza I wasn’t sure if it would hold up to my memories. Going into my first bite as a skeptic but after tasting I thought I was dreaming! It was delicious! Bit after bite I consumed my first slice quickly. I was happy to see that the middle of the crust wasn’t a mushy mess  and could hold all the toppings without wilting. Diving into my second piece I took care to enjoy it at a slower pace. I had finally found it! A gluten-free pizza that I didn’t have to make myself or lack in flavor and texture.

Noticing that they are certified GF I inquired about their g-free pizza production. Speaking to the manager, Rich C., he informed me that they have separate pans, refrigerator, bins, and utensils that are only for their g-free dishes. That the cooks are knowledgeable about cross contamination, changing their gloves and sterilizing any surfaces before use. The gluten-free items are stored in their own refrigerator and are covered with green caps. They even use separate cooking pans for the pizookie that are also green. Gluten free ice cream is only scooped with their gluten-free scooper and then booth are covered after use.

After we devoured the bar-b-q salad and pizza it was time for our pizookie. Out came a warm g-free chocolate chip cookie with two scoops of vanilla ice cream. Again BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse could have fooled me into thinking this was a regular cookie because it flavors were amazing.

I will gladly return to BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse for more of their gluten-free dishes. I would recommend stopping by and enjoying their gluten-free offerings!

Now that I am writing about it… if you’ll excuse me, I have a pizza to order.

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Hello Gluten-free Cosmetics

After coming across this question:

Celiac disease: Can gluten be absorbed through the skin?

I have celiac disease. Do I need to be concerned about sunscreens, shampoos and cosmetics that contain gluten?

on the Mayo Clinic site I decided it would be best to take a peak inside my own cosmetic bag. Even though I have been cutting gluten out of my diet I didn’t know it could be lurking in my lipstick! I’m not a fan of eating my lipstick but I do lick my lips so I must ingestion some of the product. Even when putting on my blush or face powder I could get some in my mouth or leave it on my hands. Gluten is even in nail polish! It seems to be everywhere and in everything. I could have been infecting myself this whole time without my knowing.

Grabbing my cosmetic bag and pulling out my body lotion I began the never-ending task of reading ingredients. And I thought  reading food labels was challenging… this was taking it to another level. Rather then checking out every single ingredient I decided to go brand by brand. Here are some of my findings:

Searching the Nars, Orgasm Blush which is my favorite, site and found this statement under customer care:

“DOES NARS CONTAIN GLUTEN (WHEAT, BARLEY, RYE OR OATS)?

NARS does not use any gluten or gluten derived ingredients in its products. Therefore we consider our products to be “gluten free.”

This was amazing news for me! I love NARS so the buck stopped here for me. Heading out to my local Sephora, store #0082, I went to pick up some new gluten-free products from NARS. While searching for the right lip color one of their wonderful associates approached me. Yvonne asked me if there was anything she could help me with. Providing her with some quick info on my search for G-free makeup she was ready and willing to help. She ended up being the perfect associate; listening to my concerns and understanding my need for a G-free product because her boyfriend is a vegan. Thus making her very familiar with reading labels. She suggested I try Too Faced eyeliner and went to double-check that it was G-free. We found this under their site’s FAQ :

“10.  Are your products gluten-free?

Actually ALL Too Faced products are gluten-free with the exception of our Borderline Lip Pencil.”

Great! Another cosmetic brand I am able to use. Next, time to find that perfect tinted moisturizer. Yvone suggested Hourglass‘s Illusion Tinted Moisturizer. It has SPF 15 and is labeled oil, fragrance, paraben, gluten, sulfate, phthalate-free and vegan. She also loves this product because it is not only a cosmetic but a skin care conscious “utilize clinical levels of anti-aging and sun-filtering ingredients“. Nothing like a little anti-aging to go along with my SPF.

An hour after walking through the door I was leaving, with the help of Yvonne, with a bag full of gluten-free cosmetics. It was really great how interested she was in helping me find gluten-free products and went above and beyond her customer service duties. She took a real interested in the subject and was going to further research and make a G-free list for the store. Now every time I put on my makeup I will not have to worry about being exposed to gluten. Thanks Yvone for all the help!

Here are some other G-free face, skin, and cosmetic products that can be found at local drugstores.

Suave sites statement:

“Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and processed oats. For ingredient labeling, our company follows the guidelines of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and uses the International Nomenclature for Cosmetics Ingredients (INCI).

If any wheat, rye, barley or oat-derived raw materials are in our products, they would be listed on the labels. This includes any hydrolyzed protein from wheat, rye, barley or oats which may contain gluten.

We recommend that you consult with your physician as to whether use of grain derivatives in personal care products will cause the symptoms of Celiac-Sprue Disease.”

Dove‘s site statement:

“Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and processed oats. For ingredient labeling, our company follows the guidelines of the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and uses the International Nomenclature for Cosmetics Ingredients (INCI).

If any wheat, rye, barley or oat-derived raw materials are in our products, they would be listed on the labels. This includes any hydrolyzed protein from wheat, rye, barley or oats which may contain gluten.

We recommend that you consult with your physician as to whether use of grain derivatives in personal care products will cause the symptoms of Celiac-Sprue Disease.”

I also found a number of different gluten-free lotions and body washes at my local health food store. They had a gluten-free cosmetics brand called Mineral Fusion, based in Denver. I didn’t purchase any of their products yet but am very interested in their Intense Hydration Facial Cream.

Wet n Wild:

Are wet n wild products gluten-free?

Most wet n wild products are gluten-free except for the following:
821A-827A Natural Blend Pressed Powder
745-749 Natural Blend Mineral Foundation and Mineral Veil
C641A MegaProtein Mascara
All other products are gluten-free.

e.l.f. email reply:

Thank you for your interest in e.l.f. Cosmetics. Our products do not contain gluten or beeswax. Please be aware, however, that we cannot guarantee that the machinery used to process our products are completely gluten free.

Sincerely,
the e.l.f. team
e.l.f. Cosmetics Affordable Luxury
Ph. 212-239-1530

Neutrogena® Naturals

Are Neutrogena® Naturals products gluten free?
Yes, Neutrogena® Naturals products are gluten free.

While continuing my search at home I came across The Celiac Diva. She has a wonderful site with plenty of G-free cosmetic information! I  would recommend checking her site out for more cosmetic information.

Living with a Non-Gluten Free Family?

My G-free kitchen island. With foil covering the top for extra safety.

Sometimes I stay with my parents or sister while my husband is at sea. Every time I go over I find it more difficult to keep a gluten-free space. This made me wonder how mixed gluten and gluten-free families do it.

During a recent stay at my moms we started talking over what we can do to keep the kitchen safe for my use. And we came up with the idea of buying a kitchen island. My mom always wanted to buy one but never got around to doing it. I told her that I would buy the island if she would let me use it for my G-free items. She thought the idea was great and mentioned how handy my own cutting board space would be. And to keep it covered with foil or plastic wrap, while not in use, to prevent accidental gluten exposure. I would have a space for all my own pans, dishes, bowl, utensils, and any other goods.

I immediately jumped on the internet and started looking into kitchen islands. They can run from a hundred to thousands depending on what you are looking for. I was able to purchase one from Target for $224. It was originally around $300 but was on sale and matched her kitchen perfectly!

Now when I stay at my parent’s house I will have my own gluten-free spot. I am really lucky to have an amazingly supportive family. Thanks Mom.

Celiac and Me

After waiting months (due to a busy schedule) I finally went in for my test results. And it turns out I don’t just have a gluten allergy but (drum roll please) Celiac Disease.  After reviewing different sites, checking into symptoms, and what my body has been going through, I had a pretty good idea I would be joining the percentage of people with Celiac. So this was not a shock for me. When having a gluten allergy or Celiac Disease the treatment is similar. NO GLUTEN. The difference between the allergy and disease is that Celiac is an autoimmune disease. The problem is my body is attacking itself. So, here I am with Celiac Disease and still gluten-free.

My doc prescribed me a variety of vitamins, a probiotic, and a gluten-free diet. EPA, DHA, malabsorption, deficiency, nutrients, autoantibodies, villa, intestines, vitamins, and gut were some of the words being crammed into my head. After reviewing everything I had clear idea of what was going on in my gut. What a mess! But on the bright side… I am still here alive and kicking! I have to go back in six months for more test to see if my vitamin’s have improved.

I walked out of the doc’s office singing, lyrics to a Puff Daddy song, “Can’t nobody hold me down… ohh no, I got to keep on movin” in my head. And moving I went… to the health food store.

Lesson learned: Don’t wait forever to get test results back! I will not be making this mistake again… EVER!

Hidden Charges?

My sister and her family came down to stay with us for the weekend. They really got lucky because the weather was amazing. Heading out for dinner we decided to go to my favorite pre-gluten free Italian restaurant, Filippi’s Pizza Grotto. We had planned go to there for dinner during our 4th of July vacation, but ended up eating else where. I know their pizza is not G-free but I figured I could order the anti-pasta salad (no dressing).

While waiting in line I went up and asked the hostess if they had any G-free options. She said that they offer a gluten-free pasta, alfredo cream sauces, and marinara sauce. She guided me to the gluten-free pasta section in their market (the front of the restaurant is an Italian market). Taking my name to inform our server of my gluten intolerance, when it was time for us to be seated.

After being seated I talked my order over with my server. I ordered the gluten-free rice pasta with alfredo cream sauce. My sister, brother-in-law, there kids, and my husband were having pizza (I could have cried when I saw the cheesy deliciousness)

Not to long after ordering our dinner was headed to the table. My pasta with alfredo cream sauce was not that bad. I have never rice noodles with pasta sauce before so I had to get use to the taste. I can’t see it holding up well enough to take home for left overs. I could smell the wonderful aroma of their pizza. But I made it through dinner without longing over it, breaking down into tears, drooling, or fighting myself to grab a piece. Which was an accomplishment for me.

Happy and satisfied with full tummies out came the bill. Now here is where I was confused. My pasta cost $15.45. Huh? Was I reading the bill right? When I looked at the menu I saw that fettuccine alfredo with cream sauce was $11.75 So where did my pasta go wrong? Did they charge me more for the special care? For using a different pasta? Not wanting to make a fuss over the extra $3.70 I went ahead and paid the bill.

And this brings us to today, I was thinking about my bill from last Saturday and wanted more information. I have been to other restaurants where servers have told me of price increases when ordering special items. Or I there would be an asterisk on the menu indicating and additional price.

The extra $3.70 was not putting me out, but I would have like to been aware of the price increase.

I decided to call Filippi’s Grotto this afternoon and get the info. I spoke with a very nice gentleman and proceeded to tell him my situation. That I was in with my family last Saturday night and ordered the gluten-free pasta with alfredo cream sauce. Asking him to confirm the price of their regular dish to my dish, inquiring about the difference. That I didn’t see anything on the menu informing me of the price increase and that our server (who was otherwise lovely) didn’t inform me. He said it’s not their policy for the server to inform of price differences unless asked. And that so many people have been coming with a gluten intolerance that they decided to carrying gluten-free pasta in their store. Stating that it is more of a specialty item not listed on the menu. I asked them if there was anything they could do to inform G-free customers of the price difference. He said that they reprint the menus ever few months and he would make a suggestion to add an asterisk. And that, is all I could ever ask for. Thanking him for his great customer service I hung up the phone very pleased.

This has been a great lesson for me. I am still learning so much about the G-free lifestyle and what restaurants have to offer. I know they work for the general public, but with so many G-free people out there, it doesn’t hurt to make a suggestion or ask a few question. So far every restaurant I have spoken with has been more than gracious.

Thank you Filippi’s Pizza Grotto for hearing me out. You are still my favorite Italian restaurant in San Diego. See you soon!

Dinner in Downtown

Photo taken at Yard House Downtown San Diego, California

After a long crazy week my husband and I decided to have dinner in Downtown, San Diego. Meeting up with friends we made our way to Yard House. Having three sailors in our party, happy hour at an establishment offering a variety of beers on tap made it an obvious pick. Walking through the door I was getting ready to jump, doge, and zigzag from gluten like in an obstacle course. As soon as our server came out take our drink order I informed her of my gluten intolerance. My fellow friends were still drooling over the larger beer menu, the server said she would get me their G-free menu. The menu listed plenty of options and what to omit if you have a certain allergy. I went ahead and ordered the chicken sandwich (hold the bun), side of veggies, and Wyder’s raspberry cider. I am a huge fan of cider and very happy that it’s gluten free! My husband and friends ordered half yard of dark beers.

While we were laughing over conversation the manager came out to speak with me. I was really suprised by this. She said that my server told her I was gluten free. She wanted me to know that my order would be taken care of to provide me with a safe meal. Also asking if I had tried some of the gluten free beer they offer. I told her that I was enjoying a lovely glass of cider but hadn’t tried the beer yet. She offered me a bottle free of charge so I could try it since it’s not on tap. We were all impressed with the amount of care they were taking with  my meal; making me feel very comfortable.

Moments later the manager came out with a really cute bottle of Brunehaut Amber Ale, gluten free beer. I was super excited to taste it. I use to love a tall glass of beer at the end of the week. After pouring I took a few sips and was delighted by the flavor! It tasted just like real beer! Pyramid Hefeweizen use to be my beer of choice. Since waving good bye I haven’t welcomed another beer to my glass. But I will now happily welcome Brunehaut. My husband and his friends were interested in tasting a G-free beer so I let them share a taste in my old cider glass. They are fans of darker beers and stronger flavors but were impressed by this little bottle. They said it was a little light for them but it did have a good flavor to it and would have never guessed that it was G-free.

A few beers later and out came out food. My chicken sandwich with bacon, cheese, avocado, wrapped in lettuce, and a side of steamed veggies found its way to me. My meal tasted wonderful; followed by a sip of beer you just can’t go wrong. Our server came out to make sure that every was alright with my order and if we needed anymore drinks. It was really great how much attention they gave my meal. I will gladly visit Yard House in San Diego again.

A special thanks to their wonderful staff for giving my meal a little extra love.

Gluten is like Raw Chicken

One of the biggest problems I deal with is cross contamination. It seems like it can happen everywhere and anyone can cause it. I am so picky when it comes to making my meal. And going into restaurants is like walking into one of those spooky haunted mazes during Halloween. You are scared and a bit reluctant because you don’t know what is going to pop out and get you.

I started think about how to explain to family, friends, and restaurants servers about how important it is for me to stay away from gluten contamination. I mean just telling someone I can’t have gluten isn’t always taken so serious. Some people think that I am on a fad diet to cut out carbs and lose weight. I could go into a long explanation about how gluten is a protein found in wheat, malt, barley, and it makes me blah blah and so on for days. I really don’t mind talking about being gluten free with anyone. But sometimes there is no time for a long explanation. If I am having dinner with new friends having a quick explanation would be great. So I thought up a quick and easy way to explain how serious it is to keep from getting contaminated.

During a  conversation about cross contanimation with my mom the light bulb in my brain went off. She was telling me how she cleans the counter tops after raw chicken touches them. And that is when it hit me! Raw chicken is just like gluten! We all know the dangers of uncooked chicken and how it can make you sick as a dog on Sunday. And how you have to be extra careful to clean your cooking station to prevent illness. Not just wipe the counters but CLEAN them. And that you can’t let raw chicken touch everything because it could infect other areas. That is exactly how I see bread crumbs or reading gluten on a label. It’s like little pieces of raw chicken just waiting to jump inside my gluten free dish. Especially after myself or family members have worked so hard to keep my food away from gluten. And that’s it… how to quickly explain the importance of staying way from cross contamination. Just how raw chicken can make one sick gluten will make me sick. I know that they don’t have the same symptoms but it does give a quick understanding. So the next time I need a quick explanation I will say… think of gluten like it’s raw chicken.