Tuesday, March 9, 2010

WHAT THE *F* IS GOING ON IN MILWAUKEE?


First of all, let's start this off right:






Now we can get right to the meat of the matter: I was back in Milwaukee last week and as I've mentioned before, I cannot get over how gluten free friendly it is! Now, I live in Los Angeles which is a very health conscious city, but I still really have to seek things out. Just the other day, I struck up a conversation with a woman behind me in line at Whole Foods whose basket was packed with gluten free treats. She was on vacation from Colorado and couldn't believe what a hard time she was having eating gluten free in L.A. I immediately pointed her in the direction of L.A. based Gluten Freeways blog, without who, I swear I would starve!

So what gives? I sent an email and was fortunate enough to hear back from Nancy Linneman who with Bev Lieven founded the Milwaukee Celiac-Sprue Crew in 1982, and here is what she said, "I think it is just that celiac is not easily diagnosed, and Milwaukee is a big city, so many people demanding gluten free food makes store owners and restaurants have to have it available".


Um, that's it? I don't know what I was expecting, maybe giant statistics of celiacs living in Milwaukee or a crazy spike in the rate of autism in the area - but it's pretty simple - you just need to let people know what you want. I've only lived 100% gluten free for about a year now, and already I find myself just shrugging my shoulders and happy to find one item on a menu I can eat - instead of putting forth the extra effort to talk to a manager, or sending an email to let them know how much I would like to see more gluten free options on their menu. Why am I suddenly so afraid to be a pain in the ass? That has never been an issue for me before - so why now?


I'm grateful that some of the larger more "corporate" restaurants are offering gluten free menus - it's given us a lot more options for dining out. But personally, I would rather support a local business. I was really inspired to see this take shape in Milwaukee; now it's glaringly apparent what an organized community not afraid to speak up can bring about.



My first night out, we went to a local restaurant called Transfer Pizzeria which offers gluten free pizza AND beer!!! Not only that, but they use local and organic produce when in season and can actually tell you which farm it comes from - imagine that! It was Saturday night and it was packed, which is always a good sign of good food to come. We sat at the bar while we waited for a table and -- pardon me if I get emotional for a minute - to sit down at a bar and order a beer was a HUGE moment for me. I ordered a gluten free New Grist, and the bartender asked me if I had tried the Redbridge yet. I'm sorry, but to have a bartender give me a choice of gf beer, much less know what the hell a gluten free beer even is almost knocked me off my stool.


So let's be honest, I was already sold on this place. And then there was the pizza. Oh dear God, it was so good! I wish I was more of a prolific food writer so I could give you a better sense of how tasty this pizza was, but I'm afraid I'm a little more caveman-like in my descriptions. It's either food good, or food bad with me. I will devise my own rating system - I give it five out of five cavemen - food good!






The next day, it was off to Stack'd, a groovy neighborhood burger bar. Stack'd sources everything locally, from grass feed beef, to Wisconsin artisinal cheeses, to Miller bakery gluten free buns... hold up! that's right - gluten free buns!!! Ok, so the bun fell apart a bit - but it was a bun on a burger! Frankly, this was best hamburger I have ever had. I was really taken aback at the difference in the quality of the meat since it was grass fed – a topic covered in the great movie Food Inc. - if you haven't seen it yet - do it!






And did I forget to mention how well it paired with my gluten free New Grist beer? An easy five out of five cavemen!









Next stop was Saz's. They are famous for their ribs and their very own gluten free BBQ sauce - which I am now kicking myself for not buying a bottle to bring home. Another amazing gluten free dinner was had in Milwaukee. I was also pleasantly surprised by my server's knowledge of what was gluten free on the menu - I really felt like I was in good hands here and didn't have to worry. That alone is priceless. Plus, it was $5 Ketel One martini night... woohooooo! Five drunken cavemen!





And no trip home would be complete without a trip to my favorite - Eddie Martini's.


A gluten free friend on Twitter recommended I try Marchese's Olive Pit, but I wasn't able to go - next time! Also on my gluten free to do list is a visit to Tess, which is an almost entirely gluten free restaurant, and supposedly they bring gluten free bread to the table - in the words of my friend Micah, "shut up, I know!"


I also found this great article on eating gluten free in Milwaukee with a list of restaurants - click here.


It wasn't just the restaurants that were rocking my world, it was also the grocery stores. I could not believe how many gfree items were available at regular stores that I can't even get here at Whole Foods in Los Angeles. And then there was the glory that is the Gluten Free Trading Company. If you haven't heard, it is a store where EVERYTHING is gluten free - no label reading required! They also have an online store, be sure to check them out.


I gained more than a few pounds on this trip, I obtained a new awareness that simply asking for what you want and need can generate a significant amount of change, and that there is true power in numbers. I'm learning it's ok to be a bit of a pain in the ass, as long as you are a polite one. And I love that each time I go home, I discover more and more reasons to love Milwaukee!


Until next time... may the gluten free force be with you!


Love your,

GFF


P.S. Oh yeah... I "attempted" another video blog!