So a customer walks in yesterday to place a to go order. She said her friends wanted Avocado Milkshakes. Seriously, I asked? As a heart attack, she replied. Considering I’m here to please, I rang it in and proceeded to the kitchen to have the whole conversation over again with the staff back there. Mash a whole ripe avocado, I told them, then blend it into a Vanilla Milkshake. The shakes, once made, where a beautiful pistachio green color. But was it nasty tasting? Absolutely not, it was crazy good! Which kind of makes sense considering avocados are a fruit and fairly neutral tasting. Plus, the creaminess and natural fat in the avocado made one of the smoothest, creamiest shakes I’ve ever had. If you ever get a chance, give it a try!
I wish I could say that the search was exhaustive but honestly, it wasn’t. The truth is, there just aren’t many gluten free bread products available commercially. I tried a total of three. One of them sucked so bad I couldn’t get past the first bite. The next two were great, if not entirely different.
First, I’d like to congratulate Happy Campers Baking out of Tigard, OR, runners up in our search. Happy Campers Baking is run by a great young couple and they have awesome products. I’d wish them luck but I don’t have to because I firmly believe that what they make is superior to many gluten free bread products our there. Their buns have a good flavor, had a nice chew to them, were substantial and extremely healthy, their buns are packed with stuff that’s good for you and that was nice to see. Not only are Happy Camper buns gluten free but they’re also free of dairy and eggs AND vegan to boot! Now listen, coming up with a palatable bread product void of gluten is one thing but to do so without the benefit of dairy or eggs is extra challenging so kudos to Happy Campers for figuring out a way to overcome those enormous challenges! But ultimately we had to choose one and in the end we selected a bun also produced locally but by Jensen’s Bread and Bakeries.
Dave Jensen is a great guy who has many years of research behind him in his preparation for and production of gluten free baked goods. And while Jensen’s buns aren’t loaded with the same healthy ingredients as Happy Campers nor are they vegan, they do most closely mimic the buns we currently use and are quite tasty. All of us who sampled the Jensen buns thought they were tasty and soft without falling apart in your hands. We all agreed that theirs was a bun we could all enjoy regardless of whether or not we were trying or had to avoid gluten. An added bonus for us was the fact that Jensen’s also makes a hot dog bun, just in case we ever considered offering our hot dogs in a gluten free version as well.
I have to say, I learned a lot during the search for a gluten free bun. I learned that it would suck to be gluten free but there does exist far more food options now than even five years ago and those suffering from celiac disease are keenly aware and truly appreciative of this. I learned that gluten free is most probably not a mere food fad. Regardless of individual gluten tolerance we probably all consume far more gluten than our bodies were designed to ingest and we can thank modern processing methods for that which is a blessing and a curse all at the same time. Lastly, I learned that innovation is often the result of frustration, the frustration experienced by people who the rest of us fail to take seriously so they set out and create something we doubt they need…and then eventually find out that yes, they do in fact indeed need it.
Gluten-free. Annoying fad or here to stay? That was the question I posted on our Facebook page the other day. I didn’t get a ton of responses but of the few I did receive, most where of the opinion that it’s here to stay.
Now, I understand that even those that don’t suffer from celiac disease could very well benefit from a diet lower in gluten. Simply put, we probably do eat too much of the stuff. But just because something isn’t necessarily the best thing to eat on a daily basis, does that mean restaurants should give up valuable menu real estate in order to accommodate the latest food trend? After all, some 70% of people would like healthier restaurant menu options yet only 10% actually order them. It doesn’t take reading too many statistics like that before even the most successful restauranteur takes a wait-and-see approach to the latest diet fads.
Another problem with jumping on the latest food fad is product quality. The problem with most gluten-free products is that they suck. Sure, people talk themselves into how good certain gluten-free products are but the truth of the matter is, gluten is actually pretty good. You can’t taste the stuff but gluten is what gives baked good their texture, elasticity and chew. It’s also what allows you to store your favorite breads, cakes and buns without them turning into inedible hockey pucks. Basically, gluten serves a very good purpose and trying to bake without it is easier said than done.
The good news for gluten-free fanatics is that this latest food fad appears to have legs. Bakeries have put resources behind gluten-free offerings and, I must say, of the few gluten-free products I’ve tried, most weren’t all that bad. As good as their gluten laden counterparts? Absolutely not but if I HAD to avoid gluten they’d be an acceptable alternative.
Here at Joe’s Burgers we’ve been taste testing various gluten-free buns. Suffice it to say, we serve more burgers than anything else so putting a gluten-free bun option on our menu would be huge and if I can believe customer comments, a welcome addition to our offerings. Yes, we’ve always offered a lettuce wrap for those avoiding baked goods for whatever reason but not everyone likes their burgers wedged between two layers of iceberg. Sometimes, gluten or not, you just want your burger served on a bun.