Nuts for Nuttzo

I met Nuttzo in October.

I was in West Virginia at Revolution Why and Julia Hanlon, the blogoddess behind RunningOnOm, brought it for us to add to breakfast bowls, toast, whatever…

She brought multiple flavors, so I got to try all of them and was hooked.

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What’s great about Nuttzo is everything:

  • It’s healthy: as in 1 gram of sugar, no added oil, non GMO and vegan. One serving gives you 12% of your daily fiber and it has Omega-3.
  • It’s gluten-free: notice, healthy and g-f are not (always) the same.
  • It’s a gift: proceeds of purchases go towards orphans and neglected children around teh world through Project Left Behind.
  • You can’t go wrong: every flavor rocks in it’s own way. The Seven Nut & Seed Butter (crunchy) has so much texture; it’s super filling, and I love that. I just ordered the chocolate one, because well, duh.

However if you love what most people think of when they hear “peanut butter,” the super smooth, sugary and slightly sweet tasting spread, you’re not going to find Nuttzo to be a replacement.

If you’re ready to switch away from that Nuttzo is the best alternative.

I especially enjoy it in breakfast bowls.

The breakdown of the best breakfast bowl I’ve ever made is*:
*don’t quote me on measurements because I don’t do that in the kitchen anymore

  • Bob’s red mill gluten-free oatmeal already cooked (1/2-1 cup)
  • gluten-free granola brand of choice (1 cup)
  • Nuttzo (4 tbsp)
  • crushed pecans (handful)
  • dried cranberries (handful)
  • sliced banana (1)
  • almond milk poured over

Do you have some kick ass gluten-free recipes to share with me?

Leave them in the comments below!

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The g-f diet vs. the military

Did you know that the United States military won’t accept you if you have Celiac disease?

I only recently found this out, and it was from a new friend (Tom) that I recently met. Tom and I started chatting about health and wellness, and I mentioned that I follow the gluten-free diet. He mentioned his friend Matthew who also was on the g-f diet and even prevented from serving because of it.

ashley-matthew2I froze hearing that. Then I got pissed and knew that I’d have to connect with Matthew to hear his story:

Q: Did you start following the gluten-free diet because of a sensitivity to gluten, or do you have Celiac?

A: Celiac disease. I was diagnosed as an infant. When I was 3 weeks old, I suddenly grew bloated and my abdomen ballooned out. My mother, having been a Neonatal nurse in the Navy, knew to take me to the hospital immediately.

The doctors found that I had an intestinal malrotation and severe inflammation of my small intestine. I had to have a very serious surgery with a high possibility of mortality. The procedure was successful, though, and I went home after a brief NICU stay with the newfound diagnosis of Celiac disease, which was assumed to have been the cause of the episode.

Q: Oh wow, that’s really interesting. I’ve never heard of such a severe reaction. Do you think that your mom working as a neonatal nurse in the navy influenced your desire to serve? 

A: My mom has definitely influenced me, and still continues to. (She’s in her early 60’s and still going strong as a veteran ER nurse.) She has been the main driver influencing me to go into the healthcare field.

I come from a family with a long history of military service. Hearing the stories of family members who have served really makes you proud of your roots.

Q: That’s really interesting. So, have you been following the gluten-free diet forever? 

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A:  I followed the diet off and on since the surgery in ’88. My parents kept me pretty gluten-free while I was younger, but living in the 80’s/90’s in a small town, gluten-free food was hard to come by. Awareness was very low.

My symptoms were also minimal, since the surgery removed a large portion of my intestine that normally would be damaged by gluten. Wanting to be a normal kid in the school lunch line led me to deviate from the diet between the ages of 6 to 20.

During undergrad, I studied health sciences and got back on the gluten-free diet for good. I’ve been pretty strict for 8 years now.  I’m not a “freak” about everything being “certified GF” but that’s kind of luxury due to my minimal symtomology. I still make every conscious effort to be gluten-free.

Q:  Have you seen/can you speak to the increase in availability and/or quality of gluten-free products since you first starting following the diet?

A: We’ve come a long way in my lifetime. My mom would drive 45 minutes away to buy gluten-free, cardboard-tasting bread in the past.

It was tough in the 90’s and early 2000’s. It can still be tough in rural areas, but around 2005 I started to notice increasing awareness, labeling efforts and some mentions on menus at restaurants in Michigan.

Between 2006 and 2010 is when I saw the biggest increase in g-f friendliness (however my perception may be skewed because I spent those years in Ann Arbor).

Now, I live in Flint for school and it feels like I’ve regressed a half decade in terms of g-f friendliness, but I still get by. To put it simply, the days of driving 45 minutes to get a loaf of sand are long gone, but the majority of Michigan still has a way to go.

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Q: What is the best gluten-free friendly place you’ve got around you? Any favorites?

A: Michigan has never quite been on the culinary cutting edge, but within the past 5 years I’ve seen some interesting changes. My opinions are slightly skewed having lived in Ann Arbor (which is foodie heaven, and very accommodating).

With the advent of social media, the microbrewery boom here, an increasingly farm to table/organic focus, and the whole Detroit youth culture revival, I’ve seen Michigan come a long way.

Local Favorites include: Buddy’s (Detroit Metro) has the best  gluten-free pizza in the WORLD and g-f beer/ciders always on. Jolly Pumpkin (In Ann Arbor) has a gluten-free menu and a g-f IPA ON TAP! Flint is still in the dark ages when it comes to gluten-free, but the foodie culture is slowly picking up speed.

Q: Thanks for sharing! Buddy’s sounds awesome. Tom mentioned you’ve experimented with brewing your own g-f beer. That’s pretty admirable! How’d that go? Is that still something you dabble in?

A: I did get into home-brewing during undergrad. I bought a 5 gallon pail of sorghum malt, and got about 12 brews out of it before getting too busy with school to keep up the hobby.

My initial brews were awful but as I refined my skills, while living with Tom (his excellent taste in beer rubbed off on me), I began to brew lighter ales with heavy dry hopping and minimal “interesting” adjuncts.

What ensued were mostly IPA style. I even decided to enter a contest with a brew I called “Celiac Soda”. It was my attempt at making a gluten-free beer to replace the tailgate “versatility” of light American party beers.

I was amazed when it got ranked into the “Very good” class. I plan to pick the hobby back up after I finish my Master’s next year.

Q: That’s awesome, you totally should! It’s not easy to make a good g-f beer. So, I know you had your heart on serving in the military but you were rejected due to your dietary restrictions. Can you explain how that process worked? How did you feel finding this out?

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A: This is a complex and personal subject for me. I entered the Army ROTC while in undergrad. I wanted to be a Ranger Medic. These valorous dudes and chicks are like guardian angels for our nation’s grim reapers.

Ironically enough, I currently train side by side with them.

Q: Cool! In what capacity?

A: I currently am training in nurse anesthesia. We’re the majority of the providers who put you to sleep and keep you safe and comfortable during surgery; we also provide safe pain and sedation medication therapy and take charge in emergency/code blue situations.

These are skills that the Ranger and Seal medics must also become proficient at. In an ironic twist of fate, the Special Ops Command has chosen the very same hospital where I am undergoing my training to train their medics (1 of 2 hospitals in the nation).

I even coached one of them through his first intubation a few weeks ago. Here’s a quick read about it.

(Back to story)

I needed to successfully pass DODMERB (Department of Defense Medical Exam Review Board) for medical clearance. At the time, dodmerb listed “any current or history of malabsorption disorders” as a dis qualifier of military service. (They have since adjusted wording to directly state “Celiac disease”.)

I had to apply for a medical waiver. Meanwhile, I was taking this ROTC thing to heart and getting very entrenched in the culture. The people I met were my new found brothers and sisters.

It took 2 waiver applications and 7 months total before I found out I was forever denied. I was heartbroken. The fact that I wouldn’t be there for the exemplary young men and women who might end up wounded on the battlefield in need of help… It was gut wrenching.

It wasn’t until a few days later that I began to realize that, for the first time in my life, I had a physical disability which prevented me from pursuing my dreams. I had never considered myself handicapped until that moment. It was like an aftershock.

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No longer could I fulfill my duty to serve and protect those new-found brothers and sisters fighting bravely for each others’ lives. It was a rough year, and it still bothers me every-time I see soldiers or hear the national anthem. Like a chip on my shoulder with nobody to blame.

Q: It doesn’t seem fair. I feel like we could get a petition going… or something. Do you think there is a solution at all? 

A: There is no solution. What it boils down to is that the military operates in the most efficient way possible. The brilliant minds behind our military have purposefully cut us out because of multiple reasons: liability, selectivity and MRE chowline.

The only way to get Celiacs in the military would be to get the MRE manufacturers and chowline food/aid conglomerate contractors (Sara Lee, ConAgra, Aramark, etc) to convert to gluten-free options. (In other words, about a snowball’s chance in hell.)

Cider and beer you autumn know

Maybe it’s just me but when I think of fall, aside from pumpkins and golden leaves, I immediately think of football, sweaters, boots and beer.

For those of us with Celiac, coping with the loss of drinking beer can be quite the challenge, especially in the fall (and the summer. And maybe the winter too).

Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means a big drinker or anything close to a beer connoisseur. I enjoy my fair share of wine and whiskey, but ever since going gluten-free I have come to miss beer.

beer 1Gone are the days of grabbing a Labatt at Thursday at Canalside or sipping on a cold Flying Bison at Thirsty Buffalo while watching the Bills game.

While many a beer lover will say that gluten-free beer just doesn’t taste the same, there’s no doubt that it has come a long way in the past few years.

While the craft beer and hard cider markets have been growing, breweries have been catching on to the prevalence (dare I say trendiness) of the gluten-free diet by brewing kick-ass beverages to suit the varying preferences of the ever-expanding Celiac community.

To kick off the season and help you get through those Buffalo winter blues (aka the Buffalo Bills blues), I have compiled a list of gluten-free beers and ciders that you can enjoy without making your stomach fumble. (see what I did there?)

Beer:

The first step to drinking gluten-free beer is developing an understanding of the beverage. Beer is made using water, starch (typically derived from malted barley and/or wheat,) fermented sugar and hops.

Since barley and wheat are both gluten-based grains, gluten-free beer can be made in two different ways: the first way is to use a wheat base but remove the gluten through processing. The second way is to skip the wheat all together and use an alternative such as sorghum, millet, buckwheat or rice.

RedbridgeSorghum-based beer is by far the most popular due to its close resemblance to generic, gluten-filled beer. While sorghum-based beer can be delicious, it’s usually hard to forget that you’re drinking a gluten-free alternative. Many people remark that sorghum-based brews have a “slickness” that seems to be a dead giveaway to its gluten-free nature.

To test the theory, I had a guest taster (without Celiac) sample beverages with me to provide both the glutenous and gluten-free perspectives on locally available gluten-free beer and hard cider. We gathered at my stomping grounds, the Hotel Lafayette, and got to work.

Here’s what we tried:

Estrella Damm Daura: The Daura, Estrella Damm’s gluten-free beer, contains the lowest gluten levels of almost any beer with less than 3 ppm, making it compliant with the FDA’s latest standards for gluten-free product labeling.

This light, crisp, non-sorghum lager is made using barley malt and has won numerous awards for its quality taste. In 2011 the Daura won gold medals at both The World Beer Championships and the International Beer Challenge. It also won the World’s Best Gluten-Free Lager Award at the World Beer Awards.

daura beerThe Daura’s non-sorghum base results in a beer that smells and tastes like a regular beer. “It’s light, not too hoppy and tastes just like a wheat beer,” remarked my guest taster.

Verdict: Personally ranked as No. 1, guest-ranked at No. 2 of the seven beers tasted.

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Omission: Owned by the Craft Beer Alliance and brewed at Widmer Brothers Brewing in Portland, Ore., Omission beer is specifically crafted using a proprietary process that removes gluten.

While the brand is known for being gluten-free friendly, it is worth noting that the beer is still brewed with malted barley meaning that outside of Oregon, Omission isn’t legally allowed to label its beer as gluten-free since barley is a “prohibited grain.”

Regardless, Omission’s use of a malted-barley base is exactly what makes the beer stand out as being one of the best tasting gluten-free beers.

Both Omission’s Lager and their Pale Ale received awards in the 2012 Great International Beer and Cider Competition in the Gluten-Free Beer category.

For those who are extremely sensitive to gluten, I’d recommend taking caution when trying Omission beer for the first time to ensure it doesn’t cause a negative reaction. You can find where Omission is served locally here.

Verdict: We sampled Omission’s Pale Ale and I ranked it at No. 2, but according to my guest taster, “This one is the best of the bunch. It tastes just like a regular beer. I’d buy this.” He ranked Omission at No. 1

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Bard’s Tale Beer Company: Brewed and bottled in Utica, Bard’s is made by creators who felt that the lack of gluten-free beer options was an injustice that must be corrected. Bard’s made it their mission to provide beer for the over 2 million people who are gluten intolerant.

Brewed with malted sorghum, Bard’s has succeeded in producing a medium bodied beer that is rich and similar to Newcastle in its mildly hoppy yet bold flavor. The beer leaves no lingering aftertaste, unlike other gluten-free beer. You can find Bard’s in the following local restaurants or stores.

tweasonaleVerdict: Ranks in at No. 3

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Dogfish Head Craft Brewed Ales: In January 2012, Dogfish released its first and only gluten-free ale, Tweason’ale. Tweason’ale is a seasonal sorghum-based beer made with hints of molasses and fruit.

This labor-intensive beer was created to provide a healthy, safe and delicious option for gluten-free lager-lovers. The result is a fruity smelling and tasting beverage. The strawberry flavor is not overwhelming and leaves you with a fruity aftertaste.

Worth noting is that Tweason’ale is only released between seasons. Check out Dogfish’s “Fish Finder” to find Tweason’ale in a store near you.

Verdict: Ranks in at No. 4

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Redbridge: One of the more popular when it comes to gluten-free beer, Anheuser-Busch’s Redbridge is a light sorghum-based beer with a slightly fruity aroma, a sweet toasted grain flavor and a moderately hopped finish. The beer is sold year round and is one of the most locally available.

While Redbridge is well-known due to its placement in the Anheuser-Busch family, the beer itself is a little flat when it comes to flavor. “There’s not much going on here,” my guest taster remarked.

redbrige2Verdict: Ranks in at No. 5

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Green’s: Imported by Merchant du Vin, Green’s specialty Belgian ales are full-bodied and crisp.

All varieties of Green’s beer have a five-year shelf life and are made with millet, sorghum, buckwheat and rice making them safe for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dieters.

Green’s distinct line of beer includes their Endeavor Dubbel Ale, Quest Tripel Ale and the Discovery Amber. The Discovery Amber won the 2011 Foodie Award from Vegetarian Times and is medium bodied and well-balanced.

We sampled Green’s Amber Ale, which was dark in color and had a lot of head or foam at the top of the glass. “It’s okay but I wouldn’t buy or drink it again,” said my guest taster.

Verdict: Ranks in at No. 6greens beer

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New Planet: Based in Colorado, New Planet is a family-owned and operated company that was started by fellow Celiac supporter and sufferer Pedro Gonzalez. As stated on its website, New Planet’s purpose is to help everyone “celebrate life with a great tasting beer and to do good things for the planet.”

New Planet is known for producing a variety of sorghum-based beers for those with varying preferences. Their five flagship beers are: Pale Ale, Amber Ale, Blonde Ale, Raspberry Ale and Belgian Ale. We tried the Raspberry Ale and the Blonde Ale, which were both light in color and taste.

While I commend New Planet for donating a portion of its proceeds to helping improve the planet, I personally think they might benefit more from improving the taste of their beer.

“This is kind of nasty. It sort of tastes like furniture polish,” remarked my guest taster. While I can’t confirm that statement, as I’ve never tried furniture polish, I have to admit that New Planet didn’t sit well with either of us.

Verdict: Ranks in at No. 7

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Ciders:

gf ciderFor me, fall and cider go hand-in-hand.

Unlike gluten-free beer, which some dieters are wary of due to the processing involved, hard cider is one alcoholic beverage that is naturally made without any gluten ingredients since it is derived from apples.

Seeing how the Buffalo.com team weighed in on cider during the Hard Cider Challenge, I decided to focus my efforts on the three most popular and widely available cider brands: Woodchuck, Angry Orchard and McKenzie’s.

Woodchuck Hard Cider: As one of the top-selling hard cider brands in the U.S., Woodchuck is well known for its quality product and commitment to providing the Celiac community with safe beverages.

“We take Celiac Disease seriously, and since Woodchuck has always, and only, been made from apples (not wheat, barley or rye) none of our cider varieties have ever contained gluten.”

In addition to safety, Woodchuck is dedicated to variety; they produce a number of different flavors including core flavors, limited seasonal releases and private reserves. The six core styles are: Amber, Granny Smith, 802 Dark & Dry, Pear, Raspberry and Crisp.

Woodchuck’s limited release collection contains four varieties available by season and the private reserve collection includes: Pumpkin, Belgian White, Barrel Select and Pink.

woodchuck ciderNot only is Woodchuck committed to providing gluten-free dieters with a beverage proven to be safe, but Woodchuck has one of the most expansive lists of cider varieties that I’ve found. Check out Woodchuck’s calendar for cider availability.

Two of their best flavors currently available are Pumpkin and Fall. We sampled Fall and it was one of the best drinks we tried; the hints of nutmeg and cinnamon make it a perfect fall drink.

“This is awesome! It sort of tastes like apple pie or something. I’m going to buy some of this on my way home,” remarked my guest taster.

Verdict: Woodchuck’s Fall cider ties with McKenzie’s Seasonal Reserve for No 1.

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Angry Orchard: Hailing from Ohio, Angry Orchard has produced ciders since 2011. The brand gained recognition early on, making them the second best selling hard cider brand in the North East food region after Woodchuck.

Angry Orchard produces four different cider varieties available all year round: Crisp, Traditional, Ginger and Green Apple. They also have a seasonal flavor which currently is Cinnful Apple, a crisp and refreshing cider with a hint of apple tart and cinnamon spice.

Of all the ciders we tried, Angry Orchard definitely has the strongest apple flavor.

We sampled the Crisp flavor and it tasted just like sparkling apple cider. Click here to find the local spots which serve Angry Orchard.

Verdict: Ranks in at No. 3

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McKenzie’s Hard Cider: McKenzie’s, my favorite brand of hard cider, was founded in Buffalo in 2011 by husband and wife Lenny and Julie Ciolek.

I had the pleasure of interviewing the Ciolek’s over lunch at MacGregors’ on Sept. 26 and was blown away by their enthusiasm, humility and excitement to share their story with me.

McKenzie’s came to market in 2011 after Lenny, who had been working for Woodchuck, saw an opportunity to get into the hard cider market. Ciolek approached the Mayer Brothers in 2010 (who he credits for producing “the best sweet cider in the world”) to help make the product.

mckenzies tapsThe Mayer brothers joined the team and within a year the product was booming and available on tap at MacGregors’.

“It usually takes a while to notice how one product affects sales, but we saw cider sales skyrocket as soon as we started offering McKenzie’s,” remarked Chris Spillman, general manager of MacGregors’.

By July 2013, the brand had grown so much that McKenzie’s decided to take another partner outside of Mayer Brothers.

While Mayer Brothers still produces McKenzie’s, Lenny Ciolek remarked that at the time, “Mayer Brothers wanted to focus on their core business which is sweet cider and water, whereas we wanted to expand to make a national and even global brand.”

McKenzie’s currently produces five different flavors: Original, Black Cherry, Green Apple, Seasonal Reserve and Lazy Lemon. All are made using local ingredients and Western New York’s apples; the result is a fresh, crisp and very flavorful cider.

McKenzie’s is widely recognized and applauded for their true gluten-free good neighbor status. “We’re very active in the local community,” said Julie Ciolek.

“It’s important to us that people know that we’re made in Western New York,” added Lenny Ciolek.

Not only is their product locally owned and produced, but the Cioleks are extremely friendly, passionate and dedicated to their brand and customers.

“Our hands-on approach is what makes us who we are,” said Lenny Ciolek.

And this isn’t just talk. The Cioleks commitment to the brand can be seen on their website; Lenny’s direct cell number is listed on the site’s ‘contact’ tab.

“We get out there and talk to our customers,” remarked Julie Ciolek.

Now available in 13 states, McKenzie’s is rapidly catching up to the high-profile status of its two main competitors, Angry Orchard and Woodchuck. They have received several awards including Double Gold Medal for Black Cherry and Silver Medals for Original and Green Apple at the 2012 New York Wine & Food Classic.

They also won ‘Best Specialty Beverage’ at the Buffalo Zoo’s Wines in the Wild and Polar Bites events.

CioleksIt’s exciting to see McKenzie’s rapid growth right in our own backyard. Not only have the Cioleks succeeded in creating a quality product, but they have done it using local ingredients.

While all of their flavors are delicious, my personal favorite is the Seasonal Reserve which is available from September until late February and tastes like apple pie in a glass. (Seriously. I don’t joke when it comes to pie.)

McKenzie’s is widely available at local bars and restaurants; click here to find a list of places where you can get it.

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There is no doubt that as Celiac disease becomes more prevalent, gluten-free drink options will become increasingly available at local stores and restaurants.

So, treat yourself to a nice fall drink by visiting one of the stores listed below:

Wegmans: While the availability and quantity of gluten-free beer and cider varies by location, Wegmans is usually stocked with almost every variety of hard cider. In terms of beer, they usually have Green’s, Estrella Damm Daura, Omission, New Planet, Redbridge and Tweason’ale. Even better is that Wegmans offers a “craft pack”, allowing shoppers to mix and match by choosing six different beers for $9.99.

Tops: After calling a number of different locations, I was surprised to learn that the only gluten-free beer available is Redbridge. However, Tops does have a number of different hard ciders available including Woodchuck, McKenzie’s and Angry Orchard.

Village Beer Merchant: With locations on Elmwood and Hertel, the Village Beer Merchant is always stocked with at least two brands of gluten-free cider and beer each. They have incredible customer service and let you buy by the bottle, which is great for those of us which like to sample different kinds of beer. When I last visited on Sept. 22, they had Dogfish’s Tweason’ale and multiple varieties of Angry Orchard, Woodchuck and Blackbird. Worth noting is that they usually carry Omission but were sold out due to popularity.

gf beer aisleConsumers Beverages: Consumers has a wide selection of gluten-free beer and hard cider. Although you can’t buy by the bottle, the majority of the gluten-free offerings come in four or six-packs and can be purchased for around $5 to $10 per case. Consumers typically carries New Planet varieties, Tweason’ale, Estrella Damm Daura, Bard’s, Redbridge, and varieties of both Green’s and Omission. Similarly, they always have Woodchuck, Angry Orchard, Crispin and McKenzie’s varieties.

Dash’s Market: While availability varies depending upon the store, Dash’s typically has Redbridge, McKenzie’s, Woodchuck and Angry Orchard.

Premier Gourmet: Located on Maple Rd., this place is fully stocked with virtually any beer or cider you might be looking for. In terms of gluten-free beer, they have New Planet, Bard’s, Redbridge, Tweason’ale, Omission, Estrella Damm Daura and Green’s varieties. Premier Gourmet also carries around 30 different cider brands of which McKenzie’s, Woodchuck and Angry Orchard are the most popular. When I visited for my first time, I was shocked by the enormity of the place. I also appreciated the clearly labeled rack of non-alcoholic and gluten-free beer. Like the Village Beer Merchant, Premier Gourmet sells their gluten-free beverages by the bottle and they are very reasonably priced.

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In my experience, the availability of gluten-free beer and hard cider can change quickly depending upon the season and the popularity of the specific brand. I recommend calling places beforehand to see if they have what you’re looking for.

Regardless of what type of beer or cider you like, or where you live in the city, there is something out there for everyone.

Don’t be afraid to sample and try new things. I guarantee there will be at least one beverage that you’ll fall for this season.

[Green’s beer photo courtesy of Flickr/allaboutgeorge. Redbridge and Bard’s photo courtesy of Flickr/sanbeji.  Redbridge bottle top photo courtesy of Flickr/rachelpasch. Daura beer bottles photo courtesy of Flickr/dearbarbie. Woodchuck hard cider photo courtesy of Flickr/nikokaps.]

The Archer: comfort and confidence to Buffalo’s gluten-free diners

As someone with Celiac disease, going out to eat has always been challenging.

Not only do you have to do research beforehand to find out if there are gluten-free offerings, but you have to clearly communicate your allergies to the server, cross your fingers and hope they understand what you’re talking about.

However, I recently discovered a restaurant (within walking distance of my apartment; bonus!) that alleviates all of those concerns.

Meet The Archer, one of the most gluten-free and allergy-friendly eateries in Buffalo.

the archer scenaryEstablished in 2013, and located right in between Buffalo’s Theater District and HarborCenter, The Archer is a place for people to come to enjoy downtown and grab a bite to eat.

I had the pleasure of meeting the owners, Gladys and Josh Archer, during my first trip to the restaurant on Friday, July 31.

I walked in and was surprised by the decor and ambiance; soft music filled the room and the hostess was extremely friendly.

Gladys came over to welcome us and immediately made me feel at home, as she detailed the restaurant’s passion and dedication to providing an incredible dining experience for eaters with severe allergies.

Three things I noticed, and loved, upon first glance:

  1. About 90 percent of the menu was naturally gluten-free.
  2. The menu was extremely eclectic; you can order seafood, wild game, pasta, wings or pizza.
  3. Both gluten-free buns and pasta are available.

The Archer’s ability to cater to the classy and the casual is just one of the things that sets it apart from other eateries in downtown Buffalo. Come dressed in jeans and grab some wings and a beer before the game. Or feel just as comfortable in a dress, demanding a filet.

the archer 2It is clear to see that both the menu and ambiance at The Archer were crafted with care.

With 90 percent of the menu being naturally gluten-free, The Archer is known as an eatery where even those with a laundry list of allergies can go and have a normal dining experience.

“We wanted to create a place for friends and families to come together to enjoy a hearty and healthy meal. We wanted people with allergies to feel comfortable and cared for when dining out,” said Gladys Archer.

The Chef, Josh Archer, got his Gluten Free Certification at a program sponsored by a national food distributor at the Chautauqua Institution. He takes great care in catering to a variety of allergies by preparing all meals separately.

gluten-free fish fry

gluten-free fish fry

If you think that’s dedication, you won’t believe this: The Archer has a designated gluten-free frier.

I repeat: The Archer has a frier solely dedicated to gluten-free food!

Why make an investment like that?

Because the Archers wanted their friends and family to be able to enjoy some deep-fried options – including a fish fry during Lent!

Hearing that was music to my ears.

After getting a number of canker sores in recent months (my typical reaction when I ingest gluten,) I have been hesitant to go out to eat recently out of fear of getting immediately sick, or developing a painful sore a few days later.

“Try alum,” suggested Gladys. “It’s a spice and if you just mix it with some water, you can make a paste that you can put on your sore to make it dry up.”

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A delicious meal and advice on how to shorten the lifespan of my killer canker sores? I felt like I had died and gone to heaven.

…Then the food came out.

We started with the Venison Sausage (which was featured in Step Out Buffalo’s 21 Favorite Dishes in 2014) and the Black and Bleu Clams Casino.

As someone who prefers fish and vegetables to meat any day, I was nervous to try the venison.

However, Gladys quickly convinced me after informing me of the health benefits that wild game has when compared to regular meat such as beef and chicken (both which are available at the archer as well.)

Venison Sausage

Venison Sausage

Wild game, a huge point of differentiation for The Archer, has incredible health benefits; it is generally lower in fat and cholesterol and, depending on the meat, typically has a greater percentage more protein when compared to beef.

The Venison Sausage (made with free range Axis Venison) was served over a flavorful bed of braised, sweet, red cabbage. It was cooked to perfection and tasted lean and clean.

The Black and Bleu Clams Casino is described on the menu as  a “bleu cheese twist on Cajun dusted classic clams.” It was served with a slice of lemon and scoop of basmati rice, and was rich, creamy and flavorful. I considered licking the plate, but didn’t want to offend Gladys.

We finished with the Scarlett Cupcake which is free of gluten, egg, dairy and nuts, and was created with Josh and Gladys’s daughter in mind.

Black and Bleu clams casino

Black and Bleu clams casino

When you remove all of those ingredients, you’re not usually left with something as flavorful and fluffy as this cupcake; I was pleasantly surprised.

Throughout our meal, I found myself taken aback by Gladys and Josh’s passion and knowledge of food allergies, wild game and the restaurant industry.

The Archers are a couple who have committed their life to creating a safe space for families and friends to eat and enjoy.

The Archers are also a couple that feels strongly about showing the Buffalo community that wild game isn’t something to fear.

“We wanted to make it approachable, so that you can make some indulgence a part of your lifestyle,” said Gladys.

the archer cardThey’ve clearly succeeded, as evidenced by the fact that the elk and venison are the most popular dishes.

“And the antelope burger,” Josh chimed in.

So, if you’re looking for a new and adventurous dining experience, or suffer from severe allergies, make a reservation at The Archer today!

One thing worth noting: you might have to wait a little longer for your food since the Archers take extra precautions to ensure there is no cross contamination.

“With the increase in the number of people who need or prefer this diet, I think a lot of diners need to understand that it changes the dynamics in the restaurant… There are certain steps that are taken in the kitchen,” explained Gladys.

It’s completely worth the wait.