Celiacs in the Triangle are enjoying more gluten free options after the first annual Raleigh Gluten/Allergen Free Expo was held Sunday, August 12th at Cobblestone Hall in City Market. Seven hundred attendees packed the hall seeking tasty products, allergen free restaurants, valuable information, and camaraderie. Highlights of the day included cooking demonstrations, guest speaker Mrs. United States 2011 Shannon Ford, and a prize-packed raffle.
The weekend kicked off Saturday night with a sold-out gluten free wine dinner hosted by Bella Monica Restaurant. Gluten free foodies hung out with the team from Delight Gluten Free Magazine, enjoying a 4-course meal of assorted bruschetta, caprese heirloom tomato salad, Portobello mushroom lasagna, lobster risotto, veal meatballs with fontina polenta, and tiramisu crème brulee, all prepared by Chef Corbett Monica. Diner Nikki Everett declared “The wines were scrumptious!”
Featuring 40 vendors, Sunday’s showcase of gluten-free flavors offered up samples of a wide range of products including pizza, Indian food, laundry products and beer. After three years of a gluten free lifestyle, I was thrilled to find some of my favorite items on display, but also delighted by the number of good tasting, healthy gluten free foods of which I was not aware. What I found very helpful, besides being able to sample the new products, was that each brand representative could tell me where to buy their product, making my life just a little easier.
Wendy Perry, a native of Zebulon who has developed a multi-faceted culinary business, conducted cooking demonstrations using products provided by gold sponsors Bone Suckin’ Sauce and Earth Family. The menu featured Bone Suckin’ Beans Under Fall-Off-Your-Fork Ribs, These are NUTZ Sweet ‘Tater Pancakes, “Lettuce” have some YAKI Wraps!, and No Fret Fritters. My taste buds were in heaven! Everything was not only delicious but easy to make, and Wendy assures me that the recipes will soon be posted on bonesuckin.com.
Shannon Ford-Mrs. Florida 2010, Mrs. United States 2011, and a former Miami Dolphin Cheerleader-was diagnosed two years ago with celiac disease and is proud to promote her platform: 1 in 133 Raising Awareness for Celiac Disease. Her goal is to bring more attention to the illness and advocate for better labeling of the United States food supply. Shannon has joined Delight Gluten Free magazine as a columnist (“Ask Shannon”) beginning this fall (firstname.lastname@example.org) and is now blogging about her Paleo diet journey at “Contemporary Cavegirl”. During the expo she shared tips on traveling and exercise and discussed the Paleo Diet that she follows.
Bone Suckin’ Sauce also sponsored a $3000 gluten free chicken pickin’ which, along with several baskets of goodies sponsored by various other vendors, was raffled off with the proceeds going to support Camp Weekaneatit in Georgia, a gluten free camp for children and teens.
ECHO Event Solutions, host of the Raleigh event, was founded by Nikki Everett and will host 7 celiac awareness events this year in 6 states. When asked what she hoped to accomplish Nikki stated, “I hope to provide more communities with the best gluten and allergen free brands that have received excellent reviews for their products, while keeping the events low-cost and as “green” as possible, using paperless ticketing and minimal printing.”
I spoke with Nikki after the event. “The Raleigh event was a wonderful turn out for a first time event. We were thrilled to have the support of the Triangle community and one of the best parts was the ability to raise funds for Camp Weekaneatit.”
Celiac disease, an autoimmune disease that damages the villi of the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of vital nutrients, and gluten intolerance/allergies can be isolating disorders but, through events such as this, adults and children can network, find new products, and receive beneficial information on how to manage day-to-day life without sacrificing enjoyment.
According to celiaccentral.org, one in 133 or an estimated 3 million Americans have celiac disease, approximately 95% of celiacs are undiagnosed or misdiagnosed with other conditions, and it takes an average of six to 10 years for a person to be correctly diagnosed.
Learn more about celiac disease at the U.S. National Library of Medicine.