April 28, 2013

Chicago Gluten Free Expo Recap!

It's been a crazy week! I would have posted this GFAF Expo recap sooner, but I'm in the midst of moving (!!!!!) and have been spending all my free time packing instead of blogging. This expo couldn't go unmentioned, so I took a break to fill you in if you didn't have the chance to attend.

New Planet Beer, Blogger Booth, Sweet Ali's Salted Caramel Cupcakes, Schar Kid's Table making S'mores, with the Gluten Free Bar Sweater (and Biebs), She-Liac, Van's Natural Foods new gluten free cereal, Kyra of Crave Bake Shop, with Blogger Sponsor, Holy Crap cereal.

Last weekend started off with a fabulous pizza party hosted by Schar at D'Agostino's and ended up with me in bed at 8:30pm on Sunday night. I've been having a rough time with my fibromyalgia and was having flare-ups earlier in the week and the expo completely tuckered me out. Don't get me wrong, I had a blast meeting so many awesome bloggers, discovering new gluten free companies, eating delicious food, and reconnecting with old friends. I just wish I had more energy to enjoy it to the fullest.

Here's what was totally awesome about this year's GFAF Expo:

Alissa of Breaking Up with Captain Crunch and Mel of Geekily Gluten Free

Alissa, Mel, and myself. Charlie's Angels style.

These girls rock the house. I met Alissa via our blogs about a year ago and then in real life a few weeks ago at a Chicago Gluten Free Meetup at Tweet for some seriously amazing gluten free brunch. Then we hung out the entire weekend at the expo. First off, her blog is hilarious and a great one to be reading. Second, we get along famously. You'd never know that we just met, it feels like we've been friends forever.

Mel is another Chicago celiac friend that I met last year briefly at a group dinner at Senza. Then again briefly at the Gluten Free Calendar White Sox game. I finally got to spend some quality time with her last week since we split a hotel room. Just like Alissa, Mel rocks! She writes a blog, rocks heels while being six feet tall, and is also a gluten free superhero, She-Liac. Plus she's super sweet and fun.

New Gluten Free (and non-Gluten Free) Discoveries

Gluten free products have taken the market by storm. Years ago a new sandwich bread that was tasty and wouldn't crumble was what one could dream for. Maybe a cupcake or some cookies. Nowadays there are numerous soft and delicious breads on the market. Tons of cookies and plenty of cupcake mixes. Today we think outside of the box in writing up our gluten free wish list. Croissant? Pita bread? Phyllo dough? Gluten free companies are starting to make everything possible.

There were a couple vendors that announced that their gluten free bread was the best ever (no, it wasn't) or their cookies were amazing because all the other gluten free cookies taste like cardboard (Really? have you tried Wow Baking Company's gluten free cookies? Or a bunch others that are really good and not at all like cardboard?) Regardless of those false claims, I did find some new "Shut UP! I can't believe it's gluten free!!!" products. Which are:
  • Kiki's Gluten Free Foods - Their tag line is "Simply Awesome!" They couldn't have written truer words. I was blown away at just how awesome their Spinach and Feta pockets were. So much so that on Day 2, Alissa and I immediately walked into the expo and headed right to their booth. Their desserts were out of this world as well. Blueberry FreakCake and Malibu Madness were most definitely freak-out madness incredible. Four restaurants in Chicago carry their products, and you bet I'll be visiting them soon.

  • Teri's Gluten Free - I know Teri from way back when her business was Mixes From The Heartland. She started up a new company, Teri's Gluten Free, and I'm thrilled that her products haven't changed in taste. She's still delivering one of the most amazing gluten free desserts on the market today. I sampled her Sweet Potato Brownies and Coconut Cream Pie which I immediately bought. She has everything from soups and casserole mixes to breads and dessert mixes. She also carries Gluten Free Emergency Kits which I think is the most genius idea ever. With kits prepared for 24 hours to 1 year, this is a wonderful life-saver. Look at events such as Hurricane Sandy, which left many gluten free people struggling to find safe food to eat. Even for a quick one day getaway, a kit could have you prepared.

  • The Eating Well - Their veggies burgers were really good. Alissa and I each ordered one fully cooked and ate them for lunch on Sunday. 
Veggies Burgers from The Eating Well.
  • Red Apple Lipstick - I met Jay and Andrea of Red Apple Lipstick at the previous GFAF Expo and love their lip gloss. I couldn't wait to get my hands on more makeup, since they now have eyeshadow! I picked up a new tube of lip gloss and some eye shadow in blue and purple. Colors I wouldn't think I could rock, but apparently I do! I even got my first compliment (ever in my entire life) on my eyeshadow yesterday, so thank you, Red Apple Lipstick. This booth was constantly mobbed during the expo, but luckily Sunday morning Mel, Alissa, and I got to play with make-up and make our purchases.
  • CNB Naturally - OK, there were a lot of weird booths going on at the Expo. There was a psychic and a few window salesmen. Then there was a booth with these wooden boxes. Alissa and I were very skeptical and joked about them all Saturday. Then Sunday we bit the bullet and tried them out. Whoa. I take back every snarky comment I said the day before. They were Far Infrared Thermal Therapy (F.I.T.T. System) boxes. AKA...a sauna seat. And I want one. Badly. It was amazing. After my week of aches and pains from fibromyalgia, this was a welcome relief. I'm saving up for one.
Alissa and me in "the wooden boxes"

The Bloggers

I love meeting bloggers, especially gluten free bloggers. We obviously have something in common and I love hearing their stories of being gluten free. Picking each other brains about blogging is always interesting. I met several new bloggers at the Expo. Here are a few of them:

Another favorite of mine, Kyra from Crave Bake Shop was at the expo. If you're not familiar with Kyra, she has celiac disease and opened an entirely gluten free bakery in Portland. She's a two time champion of Cupcake Wars.  She recently launched a line of boxed cake mixes so you can make her award winning cupcakes at home. She was selling them at the expo and they were selling out like hotcakes. I quickly snatched up three boxes of Snickerdoodle cake mix (the only variety available since the chocolate and vanilla sold out).

Kyra and her amazing Snickerdoodle Cake Mix!

Did you attend the Chicago Gluten Free and Allergen Free Expo? What was your favorite find?


Caryn Talty said...

Don't forget to mention your table mate, lol! Great recap. You managed to include the psychic (who I was meaning to sit with all weekend long) and the booth selling the gluten free windows. Made me chuckle. I wish I had written it! I really hope to win the Crave Cake mix because I never even made it over to her booth! So bummed! Love your Charlie's Angel's pics. My favorite dessert? Lately it's a coffee cake but I could totally see myself eating snickerdoodle cupcakes.

jeegs said...

Well..a favorite dessert in our house is French vanilla ice cream with warm, melts caramel sauce! We try to limit the chocolate because one CD daughter is susceptible to migraines and can't eat a lot of chocolate.

Love your posts from the expo :-)

Alissa said...

Great recap! I could go for some Kiki's right now ... omnom. I had so much fun hanging out with you:) I like it when interwebz friends become IRL friends!

Betsy Thompson said...

Duh! I was planning on doing a separate post on your mission!

gooseberriesandpawpaws said...

We have fibromyalgia and Celiac in common. Yay!! or not! Loved seeing all the great gluten-free items on the horizon. It may take awhile to get them at stores here in KY, so thank goodness for the internet. Thanks for a great giveaway, especially since my favorite cookies are Snickerdoodles. Can't wait to try a Snickerdoodle cupcake and I love Kyra too. Lisa

SmileGirl said...

My favorite dessert is chocolate chip pudding cookies. :) I would love to try the mix. I had fun at the expo... excited for the "hot Pocket"-like sandwiches. They were very tasty. :) By GlutenFreeda. Also the flaky spinach stuffed pastries were delish!

Smiles, Tanya
tanyasmiles at gmail dot com