I know that you know that gluten-free people are the awesomest people in the world. That comes, in part, from choosing a challenging lifestyle to overcome sometimes difficult health issues. However, gluten-free people (well, the kind I like to hang out with anyway), don’t see their diet as an obstacle, they see it as an opportunity for both personal and professional growth. They become educators, authors, pastry chefs, taste-testers, reviewers, and bloggers. They start websites, design t-shirts, open bakeries, start support groups, write cookbooks, and develop recipes. Gluten-free people are unstoppable in their quest to find, create, and share their knowledge. They are an inspiring bunch to be around.
I got to spend a whole weekend with an amazing group of gluten-free peeps at the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo in San Francisco. But before the expo started, a few of us met for a long lunch at the famed restaurant, The French Laundry in Yountville. Maybe you’ve heard of Cup4Cup Flour, developed by Lena Kwak who used to work there? We knew that not only was this arguably the best restaurant in the US, but that our dining experience would be a very safe one for our table of 6 gluten-free friends. Joining us was Mary Fran Wiley of Franny Cakes (who spearheaded the entire lunch and worked hard to snag our reservation), Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bake Shop, Charissa Luke of Zest Bakery, Brandy Wendler, former Mrs. Alaska and current Mrs. Northwest (whose platform is Celiac Disease), and Andrew Yeum of Taste Guru. It truly was a meal of a lifetime, but better than that, our hours of dining, chatting, and giggling forged friendships (and inside jokes) that will last a lifetime.
Saturday the Expo was in full swing. In the Blogger Lounge (hosted by Schar) I met the wonderful Maureen Stanley of Hold the Gluten who was in charge of a rather motley crew of bloggers, and of course chatted with Jen Cafferty who heads up the whole darn thing. Mary Fran gave an awesome cooking demo, as did Silvana Nardone (who gave out samples of her GF Thin Mint Cookies, along with a recipe). Kyra from Crave has an exciting new product line of cake mixes, and she gave a cooking demo, as well as samples of her chocolate cake with Italian meringue frosting (yum). I got to hold down the fort at her booth, much to the disappointment of star-struck folks hoping to meet the real deal…
Over at the blogger table I got to meet the lovely Sarah Hornacek from Sarah Bakes Gluten Free, and also Erica and Matt from Celiac and the Beast who were selling their t-shirts that are almost as cool as they are. I wish I could have chatted longer with Karen Morgan of Blackbird Bakery (have you tried her PIZZA CRUST MIX?! So yum) and Tammy Credicott of The Healthy GF Life (author of Paleo Indulgences).
Charissa and Patrick from Zest Bakery not only provided me with a maple doughnut for breakfast that was fabulous, but for lunch I ordered one of their turkey sandwiches on their special white bread that was some of the best bread (gluten-free or otherwise) that I had ever eaten. It was so good, in fact, that I stopped at their bakery on the way home and bought 9 more loaves to take home and put in my freezer.
Saturday night brought drinks (at a cocktail party hosted by Enjoy Life) and dinner with Kyra, Brandy, Mary Fran, Laura Russell (author of one of my favorite gluten-free cookbooks, The Gluten-Free Asian Kitchen) and Cybele Pascal (author of The Allergy Free & Easy Cooking). Also joining us were the adorable reps from Rudi’s (have you tried their tortillas…oh my goodness) and James Dorsey, the owner of Gluten Free Cutie, a bakery in Georgia. Later that night we played some games in the hotel bar with the dinner crew, as well as Erica and Matt, and Andrea from Celiac Hashi Girl.
Sunday I met Amy Fothergill, The Family Chef, then wandered around the Expo and visited with some of my favorite vendors including Jess from Kitch+Table, Simply Sprouted Way Better Snacks, Kind Bars, Elizabeth from Purely Elizabeth Granola, and Brooke from Oogies (try their yummy Hatch Chile Popcorn). I also learned, from Chiropractor Dr. Christina Meakim that my head isn’t screwed on straight (just like my mother has been telling me all along).
I left for the long drive home to Southern California feeling very full. Full of food to be sure (those samples were yummy), but also with a full heart from many new friendships, and a full head, spinning with ideas on how to move forward on my journey. It was a highly successful Gluten and Allergen Free Expo!
PS, check out KC Pomering’s website G-Free Foodie. I met her after-the-fact, via email and texts only. If she’s a friend of my friends, she’s a friend of mine too, and I cannot wait to meet her in person. Plus she’s freaking hilarious.