Yesterday I went to the September meeting of the Westchester Celiac Sprue Support Group to catch up on all the local buzz in my gluten-free world. Before going into the auditorium (yes, auditorium; there were hundreds of people) to listen to a guest speaker from the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University give a medical update, I perused the vendor hall with the half-hearted hope that there might be a vendor I could be really happy about. I’ve learned not to expect much from food companies when it comes to gluten-free food. As a result, when the small gems do appear (Crunchmaster® Crackers! More Than Gourmet® Demi-Glaces! Aleia’s Gluten-Free Almond Horns!), they shine even more brightly than they might otherwise.
Even so, after nearly nine years of looking and tasting and hoping, I’m still surprised when out of nowhere, I’m caught off guard. And that’s what happened yesterday. Two new vendors at the meeting gave me hope that things really are getting better.
Homestead Gluten-Free, a new Nanuet, New York based company, makes a packaged mix called Soft’n Hearty™ “Easy Roll Mix” that allows home bakers to make a really good tasting, soft textured roll. In fact, you can use it to make rolls in a variety of shapes and sizes for sandwiches, hamburgers, hot dogs and even cloverleaf dinner rolls. It is available online at their website and at local stores in the New York metro area.
Although I am a big believer in do-it-yourself, this mix produces a hamburger bun that, if I wasn’t going to make it from scratch, I’d be happy to eat and serve my family. It’s a good product for people want to indulge in the occasional packaged mix, and for those who have absolutely no inclination to use a recipe and a gluten-free flour mix that they themselves have to mix and measure. I also think it’d be nice for people on vacations (when they have access to an oven) and they want to bake a few rolls without a lot of fuss and bother. And finally, it is the kind of mix I could gladly recommend to those kind-hearted souls who don’t typically bake gluten-free but want to make something fresh and delicious for a visiting gluten-intolerant guest.
On down the line I came across another vendor who made me smile. When Helene Godin offered up samples from her new venture, by the way Bakery in Hastings-On-Hudson, New York, I chose carefully, as I always do. I typically try to pick something that, if it’s made well, will showcase the baker’s palette and ability to finesse their way through a gluten-free recipe. I made my choice and gingerly took a taste. Godin’s Lemon Tea Cake was bursting with fresh lemon flavor. I stopped in my tracks. The texture was soft and delicate. To my great pleasure, I had come across a baked good from a gluten-free bakery that actually looked and tasted “real”. No need to compromise for it being gluten-free. I can honestly say it had no weird aftertaste, no discernable grit, and it had a clean uncluttered flavor. It made me happy and hopeful.
So today anyway, I think the gluten-free world is a little nicer place and a little easier to navigate because of these two companies. I’m starting to see more and more people who strive to produce gluten-free products that aren’t just about “making due”; they are raising the bar on the quality of the food available for us to buy. And that is what I’m talking about.