Food allergies are in the spotlight a lot these days, and sometimes it feels like we’re a bunch of paranoid hypochondriacs, with constitutions far weaker (and more high maintenance) than previous generations. But as much as there’s an instinct to poke fun at all the culinary malaise permeating the universe, the reality is that allergies to such staples as peanuts and wheat can lead to debilitating conditions (infertility, neuropathy, dental and bone disorders) and, certainly in the case of peanut allergies, death.
Clearly, this isn’t about being finicky. Constantly having to make special requests and worrying about a miscalculated order or list of ingredients—and the bad physical reaction that could ensue—starts to feel a little like dining purgatory and zaps the fun out of eating out.
I still lament the banning of peanut butter at my boys’ school, particularly the PB&J, the ultimate lunchbox win, be it with J or without. However, gluten allergies take things to a whole new level, eliminating even more foods and causing a myriad of chronic conditions. I don’t know that the risk of immediate mortality is the same as with peanut allergies—I know of several kids, now older, who had to be monitored like jailed inmates on suicide watch because, if they even touched a peanut, the reaction would be life-threatening—but people with celiac disease who are left untreated can develop complications like autoimmune and thyroid diseases, osteoporosis, and even some cancers.Â
Celiac disease is triggered by consumption of gluten, which is found in wheat, barley and rye—and so, countless foods and beverages. If you don’t know much about celiac disease, there are a number of resources out there, and both stats and support continue to grow. Locally, the movement to increase awareness and raise funding for research has gained a lot of steam. Now, events like “Appetites for Awareness” on Wednesday, Sept. 30, have become as high profile as Alex’s Lemonade Stand.
For those with celiac disease, this year’s event is a must. It takes place at the Wachovia Center from 7-9:30 p.m., with a VIP reception from 5:30-7 p.m. Attendees will have the chance to taste plenty of gluten-free products—including beer—and hobnob with local celebrities like culinary icon Christina Pirello, sportscaster Marc Zumoff, Ed Snider and honoree John Binswanger.
To me, the highlight of the event is the Iron Chef-style cooking competition that pairs area chefs in a challenge to create the ultimate gluten-free dish. You can find out who’s participating at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’ website, CeliacCentral.org. Also visit the website to purchase tickets ($250/VIP reception, $100/general admission, $35/students with valid ID).
By the way, gluten-free dishes are made/sold regularly at Iron Hill Brewery (all locations), Christopher’s (Wayne), Elevation Burger (Wynnewood), Sola (Bryn Mawr), Burlap and Bean (Newtown Square), Margaret Kuo’s (Wayne), Teikoku (Newtown Square), Main Line Pizza (Wayne), Mom’s Bake at Home, and the Spice of Life stand at the Bryn Mawr Farmer’s Market (Saturdays). Contact information for these businesses can be found in either our online Restaurant listings or our Food & Drink listings.
With October just two days away, I’ve opened up several e-mails touting Oktoberfest-like festivities. One that surprised me is set for Wednesday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. at Georges’ Bar & Restaurant in Wayne.
The event is a week off, but the energy is already high for the collaboration between Victory Brewing Company brewmaster Bill Covaleski and Georges’ chef. The menu consists of four Oktoberfest-inspired courses, paired with—you guessed it—Victory’s unique brews. On tap: House-made smoked salmon with Prima Pils, pan-seared halibut with Victory Festbier, duck magret with Moonglow Weizenbock, and apple-spiced cake with Baltic Thunder.
Savona’s wine—and beer—savvy sommelier, Melissa Monosoff, will lead her own interpretation of Oktoberfest Sept. 30 at 6:30 p.m., guiding guests through a comparison of classic German beer styles and their local counterparts. Along with hops and barley, the evening features a four-course, eight-beer tasting dinner, done Chef Andrew Masciangelo-style. Here’s the menu (subject to change, based on availability):
â€¢ Duo of Scallops: Coriander-crusted scallops, micro pepper cress; day-boat scallop cevichÃ©, cucumber, daikon (Helles Lager Weinstephaner, “Original,” Munich, Germany; Stoudts, “Gold,” Adamstown, Pa.)
â€¢ Roasted Quail Farcis: Pearl barley, quail jus (Oktoberfest-MÃ¤rzen Hacker-Pschorr, MÃ¼nich, Germany; Victory, “Festbier,” Downingtown, Pa.)
â€¢ Braised Pork Shoulder: Fennel sausage, pickled red cabbage, cranberry compote (DÃ¼nkel Lager HofbrÃ¤u, Munich, Germany; Sly Fox Brewery, Phoenixville, Pa.)
â€¢ Chocolate Semifreddo: Manchego, almond macaroon, with tequila reduction (Doppelbock Ayinger, “Celebrator,” Aying, Germany; TrÃ¶egs, “Trogenator,” Harrisburg, Pa.)
$55/person (plus tax and gratuity). Savona Restaurant, 100 Old Gulph Road, West Conshohocken; (610) 520-1200, savonarestaurant.com.