This weekend, I completely nerded out with the other gluten free folk in the DC metro area.
I attended the Washington, DC Gluten Free Expo, hosted by the Children’s National Medical Center. Ironically, this “DC” event took place in Bethesda. Still counts, I guess.
And yes, I attended by myself. I didn’t want to feel rushed. I wanted to savor the moment!
Plus, my friends all made fun of me for being so enthusiastic about the expo. When I explained the event to them, I gushed that all the “big names” would be there- big names meaning the most prominent gluten free brands. “Oh, all the BIG NAMES, huh?”, they retorted.
There was no place for haterz at this expo.
(Note: Despite some mockery like this every now and then, my friends are actually extremely nice and accommodating about my gluten free lifestyle. THANKS GUYS.)
So, I took the metro up to Bethesda and found the Doubletree Hotel. I was surprised to find a pretty chaotic line. I was signed up for the 2 pm time slot, but arrived early. They corralled all the other 2 pm-ers and I into a “holding room”, until it was time to be released into the expo. Everyone in line around me was so eager and starting to get a little rudely impatient. It was as if we were in line to see a big-time celeb. I took it to mean gluten free is now cool. That’s accurate, right?
When, we were finally released, I was basically herded by the crowd into the first room, with about 8 gluten free vendors. I was surprised when I didn’t recognize any of the brand names. As stated previously, I was expecting all the “big names” to be here! BUT, it was fun to hear about some other brands out there. I then realized it was kinda nice that I was on my own. I was able to nudge my way to the tables to grab a couple of samples. Then, I headed into the next room.
And the next room was marvelous.
Now, this is what I was expecting. A huge room, full of people and signs spread across the booths (the big names!). And samples GALORE.
Oh my goodness, you guys. There were sooo many samples. There were a lot of baked goods- cookies, brownies, etc., which had been made ahead of time. There were also samples of pizzas and pastas and salad- and the smells took over the room. My mouth was watering. But now for long, because I soon began shoving food into my mouth.
I also really enjoyed talking with the vendors, many of whom were the owner or had a personal connection to the owner. It was great to hear the stories of why people got involved in making gluten free mixes and packaged foods. They also talked about new products that were out, and urged me to keep my eyes open for them in Whole Foods! I may have gushed to a couple of them about how much I love their products (e.g. Against the Grain).
I took notes throughout, as I went from table to table. I will share what I tasted and my reviews of each sample. However, I must state that I did not sample absolutely everything. I visited almost every table. But several tables had so many samples out, that I could possibly grab one of everything (e.g. Schär). My hands were generally full with samples/note-taking, but I did manage to snap a couple of pictures of food.
Choice Batter– nice sales guys in matching polos, with quite an assortment of baking mixes. However, the cookie sample was mediocre.
Simply Sprouted– an array of chips, made from ingredients like sweet potatoes and black beans.
Goldbaum’s– they had ice cream cones! They also had several kinds of potato and quinoa crisps, as well as tasty flatbread crisps.
Lilit Cafe– a local Bethesda cafe, with close ties to Sweet 27 gf bakery in Baltimore. They were serving lasagna, and it was fantastic.
Let’s Dish– a place where you make meals for the week in a food prep class (gf options available). The black bean salad was pretty good.
Out of the Box Bakery– based in Northern Virginia, they sell their products in area coffee shops. I tried a cookie- it was solid.
San-J– the soy sauce people! They were showing off alll their many sauces, and sampling some crackers.
One Dish Cuisine– based in Elicott City, they have a nice assortment of menu items.
Feel Good Foods– as the owner explained it, they are literally the only gluten free egg rolls and dumplings out there (due to his gf wife’s wishes). And they were downright tasty. I gotta respect who fills in the gaps in the market like that.
Joan’s Great Bakes– from New Jersey, they have several kinds of English muffins which are hitting DC Whole Foods in the next couple of weeks. Keep your eyes open!
Full Flavor Foods- they were sampling many different kinds of sauces, made from starter packets.
Pamela’s Products– a staple in my kitchen. A trusty brand, that is one of the most prevalent gf flours in regular grocery stores.
Pete’s APizza– made the whole expo smell delicious, as they were cooking pizzas in portable ovens. They also serve gf pasta and desserts in their stores. I will certainly be hitting up their Columbia Heights location soon.
Schar USA- the brand that my family relies on during European vacations. They had quite a few samples. And a wide assortment of products. Another trusty brand.
Against the Grain- one of my favorite gluten free brands. They were also serving pizza, though not at the same volume as Pete’s. I had a pleasant conversation with them as I gushed. I love their pizza crusts and baguettes.
Wildfire- served chopped salad with cornbread poppers on the side. They are a trusty (though a little more pricey) gf restaurant. They also handed out coupons for their gf pizzas in store! I gotta say, the salad was nice to break up all the cookies and bread I was eating.
1-2-3 Gluten-Free- I recognized this brand from seeing it around, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually tried it. The sample was quite good though.
Kinnikinnick– I will always be so grateful that they make gf graham crackers, among many other delectables.
Nogii- Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s line of protein bars. I took a couple of samples, and have yet to eat them. I have high hopes.
Rudi’s Bakery- serving quesadillas on their gf tortillas. Loved getting a little cheese at the expo. Another trusty brand.
Lucy’s- the brand of gf cookies sold at Starbucks. Their cookies are surely crunchy/crispy, but reliable. I enjoyed sampling the new berry flavor.
Melting Pot- the fondue restaurant showed off their menu, which was quite impressive. They can do pretty much any fondue gluten free- and even have gf bread! Plus, I quite enjoyed the chocolate strawberries they were fonduing for us.
Bob’s Red Mill- handing out samples packets of gf steel-cut oats, my dad would have been pleased. I love all the different flours that Bob’s Red Mill has, and of course their certified GF oats!
Udi’s- the king of commercial gluten free as far as I am concerned. Since most people know what their bread tastes like, they were putting emphasis on their new Ancient Grain crisps. I gotta say, I did enjoy them.
Dough Bakery- based in DC, they are an online business for now. I have to say, this was one of the best chocolate chip cookies of the day (there were a lot).
Crunchmaster- my favorite crackers! I may have gushed to them a bit, as well. And I got a lil packet of their sea salt crackers!
Aaand by this time, my stomach was FULL.
All in all, what a wonderful Sunday afternoon spent amongst my people! It was soo wonderful not having to ask about the ingredients, knowing that I could trust all of the food to be gluten free. What a luxury for a Celiac!
I encourage y’all to get involved with your local Celiac organizations or look up gluten free events in your area. At the very least, you may get some great samples!