Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. If a celiac consumes it, their immune system responds by attacking the small intestine.
In the past, we've talked about gluten-free-friendly restaurants such as Da Luciano's in River Grove, or chains such as Weber Grill, PF Chang's and Maggiano's - which offer gluten-free options. Now two new options up north are doing the same to the delight of gluten-intolerant eaters everywhere.
Imagine if you couldn't eat any pizza, pasta, bread or pastries? It's a daily battle for people who are gluten-intolerant, which means they cannot digest anything with wheat or flour. One of their safe havens, so to speak, is Rose's Wheatfree Bakery and Cafe in Evanston.
"Their first question when they walk in the door is 'Is it gluten free?' and we go 'Everything is gluten-free' and they go 'Gasp, everything?', so that's always nice," said Rosemarie O'Carroll, Rose's Wheatfree Bakery & Café.
Rosemarie O'Carroll has turned to a host of other flours, to help create a full line of delicious pastries and cafe items at her eponymous store.
From apple pie to chocolate eclairs, brownies and truffles to warm cookies -- there isn't that much of a difference, frankly, but it means the world to celiacs, or others who must stay gluten-free, to have these kinds of options on a menu.
"We are actually corn-free, gluten-free, trans-fat free and peanut-free here, because corn is another one of those grains that are problematic for a lot of people, so we do use primarily rice, potato starch, tapioca starch, sorghum, we also use uh, garbanzo bean flour and mungbean flour and then we also sometimes use millet or teff," said O'Carroll.
Just a few miles South of Rose's, all things vegan and gluten-free dominate the compact menu at The Balanced Kitchen in the Pulaski Park neighborhood.
"The idea is to take the four parts we've defined of sustainable eating, which is local, seasonal, organic and vegetables. Now you don't have to be obsessed vegans like we are, but every time you choose vegetables over other products, you're saving energy," said Joshua Alper, The Balanced Kitchen.
Raw beet ravioli is colorful, but a tofu-teriyaki sandwich is a bit more filling. Vegetable soup here is more like an edible garden while a fingerling potato pizza is thin and crisp.
A brown rice spaghetti with cooked veggies is dressed with an assertive tomato sauce. For dessert, chocolate peanut butter brownies arrive with soy ice cream - hard to tell the difference - and mini baklava squares are flecked with pistachio.
Alper says the restaurant's "G-free-V" philosophy is slowly catching on.
"Gluten is really the new trans-fat, it's just really starting, people are starting to recognize what an impact it is," said Alper.
It's not just up north. In Downers Grove, Stillwater restaurant has a lot of gluten-free options.
And in Westchester, the gluten-free grocery is attracting shoppers from all over the region. There's also going to be a gluten-free cooking expo at the Oakbrook Doubletree in September.
Rose's Wheatfree Bakery
2901 Central St., Evanston
The Balanced Kitchen
6263 N. McCormick Blvd.
Other good options for gluten-free:
8343 W. Rand Ave., River Grove
Stillwater Restaurant and Winebar
5141 Main St., Downers Grove
1922 S. Mannheim Rd., Westchester
(Gluten Free Menu Available)
1610 N. Wells St.
2005 W. Division St.
Shops on Butterfield
356 Yorktown Shopping Center, Lombard
Wildfire and the Weber Grill Restaurants offer gluten-free menus
Lou Malnati's offers a crust-less pizza with a sausage base as a gluten-free option
Cookies are available at all Sunset Foods locations, Nielsen's Bakery in Homewood and the Gluten-Free Grocery in Westchester, Ill.
Gluten Free Store
807 Waukegan Rd, Northbrook
Roh & Joh's Gluten Free Sweets
1732 N. Halsted Street
Offers a gluten-free menu
705 W. Belden
Offers gluten free cupcakes everyday
820 W. Jackson
Gluten Free Greek Menu
A resource for people with celiac disease that gives resources and shows you where to shop and what to buy.
CSA remains the largest non-profit celiac support group in America, with over 100 chapters and 60 resource units across the country, and over 10,000 members worldwide. A dedicated force of volunteer officers and committee members serve as the organization's strong backbone, affectionately calling themselves, "Celiacs Helping Celiacs."
Gluten Free Cooking Expo
Doubletree Hotel, Oak Brook