and one of the greatest days of my life! I’ve been thinking about this blog post since I got home from Appetite for Awareness, Sunday night, and I haven’t been able to get my thoughts together enough to write. I’m not even sure my thoughts are together enough now.
I went to A4A, camera in hand, ready to take pictures of everything to put on my blog. Within five minutes, I was so overwhelmed that I probably didn’t even know my own name. There were cookies, cakes, brownies, bread, Mexican food, Italian food, raw food, soups; I could go on forever. There was hard cider, and beer, and Cabot cheddar (a personal favorite). Needless to say, I did not get many pictures. I was too busy asking questions and stuffing my face.
While there were over 30 wonderful restaurants, there was a handful that stuck out to me:
Pure Tacos wins my vote for best food. They were serving chicken nachos with home-made tortilla chips, pico de gallo, cheese and shredded chicken. I’m not kidding when I say I went back for seconds and thirds of the nachos.
Jar Bar stuck out to me because they were the first raw food bar that I had ever heard of. The owner was one of the nicest women I’ve met, and truly dedicated to the cause. They had a chai drink made with home-made almond milk and spices. It was delicious; as was their chocolate mousse. I’ve never eaten a completely raw meal, but her dedication made me interested to go in and try.
Ristorante Panorama gets a shout out because they had seriously one of the most delicious pesto sauces I’ve ever had. My mom talked to the chef about his recipe it was so good.
Casona of Collingswood had a ceviche as their dish. I don’t do seafood, but my dad does, and he was raving about it. Collingswood is also pretty local for me, and their menu is huge. The best part is there is no need for a separate gluten-free menu. Everything that is gluten-free is marked already, and the chef knows which dishes are to be safe. I’m thinking about dragging my parents there for Sunday brunch one week. Breakfast is one of the hardest meals to eat out, I’ve found, and their Casona Breakfast with Cuban shredded beef and arepa sounds like something I need to try.
Last but without a doubt not least, there was Pasta Pomodoro. Located in Voorhees, NJ, I’ve eaten there and blogged about them before. It was great to finally meet the owner and dedicated chef of Pasta Pomodoro. My mom and I had eaten there about 3 weeks ago, and she’s been telling my dad they need to go back. It was great that he could try some of the options, even if he doesn’t have to eat gluten-free, before going to eat there. Naturally, Pasta Pomodoro won the fan favorite award at the event. Dining there is one of the best experiences you can have at a restaurant as a Celiac, and their dedication to gluten-free cooking made them deserving of the fan favorite award.
On to the sweets:
Sweet Freedom Bakery was there. They had both brownies and blondies that were delicious. It was cool to meet the people from Sweet Freedom after having watched them on Food Network’s Cupcake Wars. Ironically, I saw their episode before being diagnosed, and had no idea about gluten-free and what a challenge it was. Looking back, it’s awesome that a company refuses to change their ideals, especially when competing on a national stage.
Get Fresh Bakehouse may have been my favorite bakery. Their decadent brownies were heavenly, and I may have to make the trip up there. Jeff, the owner, was a great guy, and it was awesome to meet him.
Sweet Rubino’s gets a shout out for having pizzelles. A favorite in my family and a Christmas tradition, it was nice to have a real anise pizzelle. They also get kudos for their upcoming Sweet Noise benefit CD, from which 100% of the profits go toward research and awareness of Celiac Disease.
There were a ton of other bakeries, and I’m sorry that I’m forgetting some! One had these killer salted caramel brownies; I just can’t remember which place it was.
Obviously the beer and cider were a hit with my family. I didn’t realize that my dad had never tried Woodchuck Cider before and we had a blast sampling all the different flavors that they had brought with them. I also wound up winning a 12 pack of cider during the raffle! New Planet Beer was also there, and my dad seemed surprised that gluten-free beer could taste so much like real beer. Redbridge, a staple in the gluten-free beer world, rounded out the alcohol vendors.
Other exciting highlights included:
Meeting the developers of the Find Me Gluten Free app: I haven’t used the app yet, and I promise to review once I do, but the two guys who developed the app were just the nicest people. I also love the premise of the app, it’s going to make traveling much easier (once I can afford to do it) and it gives me options that I may not have previously thought of when looking to eat locally.
I also got the pleasure of meeting Whitney from Bakery on Main. I previously did a review of their oatmeal (still the best I’ve found that is gluten-free), and will hopefully be doing a review of their new Truebar’s soon. It was great to finally put a face to her name.
Finally, and this was possibly the highlight of my day, I got to meet Michael Savett of Gluten Free Philly and this year’s honoree at Appetite for Awareness. I was like a star struck little girl finally getting to meet him. His blog has made my journey, and I’m sure thousands of others, more bearable. His activism for gluten-free needs and his dedication to make Philly a safe city to eat in is admirable. There was no one more deserving of being this year’s honoree, and I am honored to have met him.
Appetite for Awareness made me aware, for the first time, how much community there really is in the Philly area for people who have Celiac Disease. It has made me slightly more confident going out, knowing that there are so many places that do cater to gluten-free dining. I have never felt more welcomed, and at home, surrounded by people who understand. I cannot thank the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness enough for hosting this event, the restaurants for coming out, and all the other vendors for just making this one of the best days I have ever had.
A thank you also goes to my parents for their support over the past year while I have struggled through diagnosis and taking control of my disease, and for paying for the tickets.
I’m sure I’ve forgotten a million things, so expect lots of flashbacks over the next few weeks!