On Sunday, October 24, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness hosted their Appetite for Awareness event. In a new location for 2010, the event was held in the Philadelphia Navy Yard right on the Delaware River. As soon as you pulled up to this event, you knew that you were about to enter something special. Attendees were greeted with fun signs encouraging you to "go ahead and eat it" and to "Have your cake and eat it too." There were hundreds of people patiently waiting to enter to event to get their gluten-free groove on. What a way to start the day!
When you walked into the building, you were immediately greeted by the cheery NFCA volunteers and staff and given an empty reusable bag courtesy of Wegman's. From there, your gluten-free dream day could now begin. Attendees had the choice of turning left and sampling restaurant's gluten-free meals and heading towards the Children's Pavilion or heading right and trying more restaurants, going to the gluten-free Biergarten, or trying samples from more gluten-free vendors than you could ever imagine. All of this in a building the size of an airplane hanger is really quite overwhelming, even to the most experienced Celiac.
The restaurant area was a good place to start since it was directly in front of you when you walked in. There were more than ten restaurants from around the Philadelphia area preparing gluten-free dishes to sample. Every table was manned by the Chef of that restaurant and usually accompanied by a medical professional. These dishes were not your average gluten-free samples, these were mini gourmet plates. Veal, duck truffles, tacos, lasagna, and lobster rolls were just a small portion of what was available to try. Restaurants included Bar Ferdinand, Buddakan, Butcher and Singer, Chifa, City Tavern, El Ray, Grandma's Grotto, Jack Kramer's Catering, Le Bec-Fin, Le Castagne, The Palm, Main Line Pizza, L'OCA, Pasta Pomodoro, Rouge, Terra, and Zahav. Right next to the restaurant area was a bar area serving soft drinks, Redbridge beer, wine and Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka. Gluten-free hors d'oeuvres and cocktails! What could be better?
After trying all of the restaurant samples, it was time to move on to the gluten-free vendors. Over 40 vendors were at at the Appetite for Awareness event. To have this many choices for so many "normal" foods was just amazing. There were desserts, crackers, juice, grilled cheese sandwiches, to-go packages, hoagies, frozen food, condiments, and even gluten-free soft pretzels. All you could do was walk from table to table in gluten-free bliss. The vendors were offering samples of many of their products and many were also selling their gluten-free goods at a discounted price. It was great to not only try the new gluten-free food, but to chat one-on-one with the gluten-free vendors. Many of the vendors started their companies because either the owner has Celiac Disease or one of their family members required a gluten-free diet. The love and dedication behind the gluten-free vendors was very inspiring. Vendors such as Glow Gluten Free Cookies and Tonya's Gluten-Free Kitchen both started with gluten-free family members and now are amazing products for gluten-free people to enjoy.
The day was not over after sampling from the restaurants and the vendors. In the Drexel Education Center, attendees could watch live chef demonstrations by Monica Glass, Chef Georges Perrier, and cookbook author Silvana Nardone. Or you could head in the other direction and visit the Children's Pavillion for face painting, a bouncy castle, or gluten-free peanut butter and jelly sandwiches from Rudi's Gluten Free Bakery, and additional vendors or information booths.
The Appetite for Awareness by NFCA day was really more than anyone who is gluten-free and has Celiac Disease could ask for in an event. Being in a room of all of these wonderful gluten-free friends, family, vendors, restaurants, and medical professionals was really quite an amazing experience. All of the support and food made you feel quite normal for the day and hopeful for the gluten-free future. No one questioned your food choices, no one judged your additional allergies, everyone was smiling and praising the event. It really was a wonderful experience and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness did a wonderful job executing a perfect Appetite for Awareness. Here's to 2011.
More pictures and blog postings to come!
About the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness (NFCA) from their website
The NFCA drives diagnosis of celiac disease, imporves quality-of-life for children and families adhering to a gluten-free diet and advances science by facilitating collaborations within the healthcare community.
NFCA is a leading resource for celiac information. NFCA's website offers free, comprehensive information and support materials for celiac patients, their families and health care providers (including a comprehensive Symptoms Checklist and a Getting Started Guide), accredited training for healthcare and food industry professionals and the latest news, recipes, videos and blogs to promote quality of life without compromise.