Wednesday, April 30, 2014

GFAF Expo Recap

I can watch zombies maul countless people without batting an eye. I've been able to steel my nerves so I'm pretty much immune to the heartwrenchingness of those Sarah MacLachlan sad animal commercials. But give me a sample of gluten-free deep-dish pizza and I cry like a toddler.

That pretty much sums up all of my feels after the Chicago GFAF Expo.

I look forward to this weekend all year, not only because I love free stuff (who doesn't?), but because it really makes me feel like I'm a part of the GF community, and gets me excited about products I can see using in my day-to-day life. Plus, when you're used to never being able to eat anything, ever, it's nice to be in a safe-food bubble for a little while.

I spent Saturday repping Udi's/Glutino and Sunday working with my friends at Red Apple Lipstick, so while I didn't get to spend as much time on the floor as last year, I got a totally different perspective. I knew there were some "must-sees," and I picked my friends' brains for what they thought rocked.

Here are my fave finds:
Kiki's: I'm not exaggerating - when I tried the GF deep-dish pizza that Kiki's was demoing, I cried. I don't know what kind of deal with the devil these folks have, but this was the un- gluten-freest tasting GF pizza I've ever had. We're talking golden, crispy crust with just a bit of softness on the inside. Holy balls. For those of you in the Chicago area, these bad boys will be available through Artizone at the end of May. I don't know if I can wait that long, though, and Kiki and company might just find a wayward blogger hanging out on their front stoop begging for scraps.

Pamela's: I went in with a mission to find the Figgies & Jammies, and find them I did. I got to try the Mission Fig and the Strawberry & Fig, and they did not disappoint. I kept joking with my weekend roommate that she'd better put hers on lockdown so I didn't go rummaging.

Coffecake Connection: Growing up, Entenmann's coffee cake was a staple in our house. Not to mention, it appears at every work & conference breakfast, holiday brunches, etc. I'd not yet found a good GF alternative, until this weekend. Coffeecake Connection is based in West Chicago, ships all over the country, and has an amazing array of flavors. Plus, if you're not up for a whole cake, they sell these adorable little cake-a-lettes that are like a muffin, but better. I tried the Triple Berry, which was nice and fruity.

Freedom Foods: This Australian company stole my heart last year with their Tropic-os, so this year, I went in with plenty of cash. Since cereal tends to be my default food (oh, hey, now the blog title makes sense, no?), it's great to find a gluten-free one that I don't feel guilty eating. Expo price on these were about $2/box. I won't embarrass myself by telling you how many boxes I bought.

Ethel's Edibles: My sweet tooth tends to be overpowering, so I was really happy to find Ethel's on Sunday. Their Pecan Dandies are freaking amazing. I've been on a real pecan kick lately, and this was a perfect dessert. They're based in Michigan, but ship all over.
 
Leo's: My mom actually pointed me in the direction of Leo's on Saturday, urging me to try "the best gluten-free ravioli ever." With a pitch like that, I couldn't resist. Whaddya know, it was true. Great pasta, perfect texture. We liked it so much, we ran out and bought some after the expo, and my mom's taken to keeping a bag of it in her freezer for when I visit. Not bad, Leo's. Plus, they're in a lot of local grocery stores, so the convenience factor is icing on the cake (cheese on the ravioli?).

I Heart Keenwah: This delectable little snacky has had a place in my work desk drawer for a while. I already knew I like the chocolate, so getting to try the other varieties was great. This is a perfect pick-me-up for when you need something sweetish, but also want to get a punch of protein. And who doesn't love the phonetic spelling of quinoa?

Products are great, and I'm no stranger to swag pirating, but I also love the people aspect of Expo weekend. I'm pretty much a hermit in real life, so it's always nice to get the opportunity to be social, on my terms. And hanging out with some fellow special GF snowflakes is always wonderful. If you don't already have them in your blog feed reader, you should check out Gluten Free Betsy, Frannycakes & Tower of Mel. I finally got to meet Sarah of Celiac in the City, who might just have inspired me to finally make the trek to Milwaukee. And I got to meet several folks I know only via the Interwebs (hi, Allie, Abby & Melinda!), and got to hang with Andrea and Jay of RAL. It doesn't get much better than that.

Did you attend the Expo? What was your favorite booth? And does anyone want to place a wager on how many GF pizzas I order from Kiki's in May?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Three Things Thursday: GFAF Countdown

To say I'm psyched about this weekend's GFAF Expo is a dramatic understatement. Other than the fact that the event itself rocks, I get to spend a whole weekend with lovely folks who I don't get to see very often. Folks like Betsy, Mel, Mary Fran, Andrea and Jay - plus getting to meet a slew of new GF friends (like contest winners Allie, Abigail & Roseanne - stop by and say "hello!"). For little ol' sort-of-reclusive me, it's kinda the social event of the season.

I'll stop geeking out pretty soon, but here's three things I'm looking really forward to trying this weekend:

1. Pamela's Figgies & Jammies - Fig Newtons have always reminded me of my Nana, since she's the only person I know who always had them in her pantry. Many a summer day was spent chilling on her back porch, drinking iced tea by the gallon and noshing on Fig Newtons. Ever since I heard these were a real thing, I've been salivating. I'm trying to NOT turn back into a cookie monster, but I'd love to try them to see if they compare to the Fig Newtons of my past, gluteny life.

2. Kiki's pizza - Kiki's won me over last year with their spinach pocket, and this year, they are supposed to be sampling their new deep-dish style pizza. I don't even think I need to expand on that. Deep-dish pizza. Yes.

3. Udi's frozen dinners - So new they aren't even on the Web site yet, Udi's has started offering a slate of frozen dinners. This could be problematic, as I will be spending Saturday working the Udi's table with Betsy. I'm really hoping that it doesn't turn into a gluten-free re-creation of the I Love Lucy episode at the chocolate factory. But honestly, I think it helps sell your product when your own reps can't keep their hands off of it.

If you're going to be expo-ing this weekend, what are you most looking forward to?

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Three Things Thursday

It's April, which should mean spring around these parts, but I'm still sporting my winter coat. Blerg. But whether or not the weather cooperates, there's some awesome things in the pipeline this month, including:

1. GFAF Expo: In just over a week, some of the greatest gluten-free fun will be happening right here in Chicagoland. My ticket giveaway ended yesterday, but some of my friends' are still going strong, so go visit Gluten-Free Betsy and Frannycakes to enter. Or, to buy tickets, just head to www.gfafexpo.com and use the code BLOGCHI to get 35% off. All sales pitches aside, this is a great chance to get to try a lot of cool GF food before purchasing, to hang out with some fun folks and to get to wander aisles of safe goodies. I'll be hanging out at the Udi's booth on Saturday, and with my friends at Red Apple Lipstick on Sunday. Come say hi!

2. Easter: We don't do a religiousy celebration, but we do decorate eggs, watch old Easter cartoons and do a Mystery Science Theater-esque viewing of Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments. And did I mention Peeps are gluten free? Even the new flavors? Like Orange Creme and Chocolate dipped? I'm just going to leave that right there for you all.


3. C2E2: I can't believe it's time for C2E2 again already. It feels like I was just strapping up my holsters to cosplay as Black Widow, and now it's upon us again. I plan on going at least one of the days, but probably not dressing up at all. Who knows, though, I do love a cosplay. This year, I'll be spending all of my money on Doctor Who t-shirts, I fear.

Bonus: No colonoscopy or EGD this year. Woooot! Hope your April is shaping up to be as awesome!