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DINING: Free to be gluten-free 

Gluten-free sesame chicken at Chen Garden.

PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN

Gluten-free sesame chicken at Chen Garden.

While eating gluten-free is a necessity for many — specifically those suffering from Celiac Disease or a gluten-intolerance — an increasing amount of people are choosing a gluten-free lifestyle for healthier eating. Gone are the days of the gluten-free products being tucked in a hard-to-find corner of the grocery store's "health food" aisle. Gluten-free products are now out and proud on our supermarket aisles and in a growing number of bakeries and specialty stores. Inspired by the recent boom of businesses that are exclusively offering gluten-free baked goods and products, I decided to explore gluten-free Rochester. A good friend who has Celiac Disease came along for the ride and provided tips for eating gluten-free in Rochester.

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye, and those with a gluten intolerance have an especially hard time processing the substance. This can lead to unpleasant gastrointestinal issues and also symptoms like joint pain and fatigue. Take a moment and think about all the foods made with wheat, there's a ton of them, mainly bread and pasta. Fortunately, there are more products now, including bread and pasta that are made with other ingredients that are compatible with gluten-free living.

click to enlarge A rising trend in gluten-free dining has made it easier to find a variety of dishes like gluten-free Italian bread from Ellie's Gluten Free Bakery - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • A rising trend in gluten-free dining has made it easier to find a variety of dishes like gluten-free Italian bread from Ellie's Gluten Free Bakery
click to enlarge Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter cookies from Ellie's. - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Chocolate chip, oatmeal raisin, and peanut butter cookies from Ellie's.

The bakeries and restaurants featured here are in no way meant to encompass the only establishments to enjoy gluten-free food in Rochester. Because the gluten-free lifestyle has gained such popularity and press over the lsast few years, many restaurants you visit will most likely have gluten-free options, it's just a matter of asking. Greater Rochester Celiac Support Group has a thorough listing of gluten-free friendly restaurants in our area. More information can be found at rochesterceliacs.org. And leave us your favorite gluten-free spots in the comments.

When looking for gluten-free baked goods in Rochester, you will not come up short. Ellie's Gluten Free Bakery (1000 Turk Hill Road in Fairport) offers products that are not only gluten-free but soy-free and dairy-free as well. Scouring out loaves of gluten-free bread can be a serious challenge, but Ellie's does it right. The shop's cookies are a real stand out as well. If you don't want to take the trip to Fairport, Ellie's offers products online as well as at the South Wedge, Fairport, and Brighton farmer's markets. Other options to satisfy your sweet tooth include Donna Marie's Gluten Free Bakery (164 Newbury Street) and The Gluten Free Chef Market & Bakery (181 Monroe Avenue).

click to enlarge Gluten-free sesame chicken from Chen Garden - PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • PHOTO BY MARK CHAMBERLIN
  • Gluten-free sesame chicken from Chen Garden

Chen Garden (1750 Monroe Avenue) is already a standard in Rochester for first-rate Chinese food — they have been a CITY Best of Rochester winner multiple times. But not many people know the restaurant can make most of its menu items gluten-free if asked? Gluten-free Sesame Chicken is a rarity, and Chen Garden makes a tasty one. Other items to try are the Crispy Shrimp with Bacon and Chow Fun noodles. Shui Asian Fusion (236 University Avenue) can also make anything on their menu gluten-free, but I've been told its Pad Thai, Spring Rolls, and Satay have that "wow" factor.

Finding a sub shop that carries gluten-free bread can be burdensome, enter Harry G's (678 South Avenue) to the rescue. Try the Park Avenue (turkey, bacon, lettuce, tomato, provolone, and basil mayo) on gluten-free bread. My gluten-free insider told me to get the bread toasted to reduce serious crumbling, an unfortunate side-effect of gluten-free bread. If you're in the mood for pizza, Nick's Deli and Pizza (1098 Chili-Coldwater Road) makes an appetizing gluten-free pie as well as other Italian favorites like meatballs, chicken parmesan and pasta.

Quick Bites

Two more restaurants in Rochester have climbed aboard the brunch train. Restaurant 2 Vine (24 Winthrop Street) will feature brunch starting at 11 a.m. on Sundays. More information can be found at 2vine.com. Paola's Burrito Place (1011 Culver Avenue) has started serving brunch on Saturdays and Sundays starting at 11:00 a.m. More information can be found on its Facebook page.

Fire up the limo bus, it's officially wine tour season. The annual Wine Symposium of the Finger Lakes takes place on June 13 and 14 at the Geneva Visitor and Events Center at Seneca Lakefront and the Scandling Center on Hobart and William Smith Colleges campus. Events include the Finger Lakes AVA Riesling Challenge and wine tasting with international experts. Tickets range from $35 to $150 and can be purchased at winesymposiumfingerlakes.com.

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