Saturday, May 11, 2013

There's a new store in town... and it's got lots of gluten-free stuff!

A few weeks ago, I got a flyer in the mail about a new store opening in Orchard Park (about 15 miles away from my house). "Orchard Fresh" on North Buffalo Road in Orchard Park. That particular store has changed hands a few times in recent years. I think it's been Bells, Quality, Jubilee, and Latino's in the last twenty years. I'm out in that direction a lot, so I figured I'd eventually get out there. They specifically mentioned gluten-free items in their ad, so I figured it was worth a visit.

I found them on Facebook and got a notice that they were going to have gluten-free test stations this weekend, from noon - 4, so I planned it into my Saturday schedule. I figured I'd stop there, scope things out, and pick up some ingredients to make Reubens for lunch once I got home.

The first thing I noticed was that the parking lot was PACKED! Apparently lots of people wanted to try out some gluten-free samples.

As soon as I walked in, the samples started, with some probiotic coffee. It comes in a little foil stick packet and you add it to a cup of hot water. Not too bad... Not something I would buy on a regular basis, but it was an interesting concept.

As I started to make my way further into the store, I noticed they had a huge selection of dried beans. There were bulk dispensers of dried beans, lentils and rice - quite a nice selection.

Then I found my first gluten-free sample station. Forget about the "saving the best for last" idea. They had gluten-free chocolate chip cookies, fresh out of the (toaster) oven. Just Ask Josh gluten-free baked goods was serving up cookies and brownies, and they were delicious! I walked over to the freezer section to find them and discovered one of the biggest assortments of frozen gluten-free items I've ever seen! Just Ask Josh definitely has a hit with their frozen dough. It was one of the best gluten-free chocolate chip cookies I've ever had.

Then I rounded a corner and tried some samples of some gluten-free crackers I'd never tried before. They were really good. I'd never head of the Absolutely Gluten-Free brand before, but I will definitely buy their flatbread crackers again. They had a great taste and texture, especially the roasted onion. I need to make some hummus when I get home, so I can dip the crackers in it!

Vin-Chet Bakery was there with a table of their delicious gluten-free baked goods. Carrot cake, brownies, raspberry coffee cake, cookies. So many delicious samples, and all of those products were available to purchase in the freezer case!

I got to chat for a while with a rep from U-Be-Livin-Smart, a company outside Toronto that specializes in natural, nutrient-dense foods. I sampled some muffins made without flour or sugar. They call them "Karma"ffins. They have lots of fruits and veggies in them, and the Chocolate-Banana muffin was pretty tasty!

I had seen Rudi's Gluten-Free Tortillas in the Orchard Fresh flyer that came in my mail, but couldn't find them in the freezer section, so one of the helpful employees tracked them down for  me. They were actually sold fresh in the bread aisle. When I went over there and looked, I found the biggest selection of ready-to-eat (not frozen) gluten-free bread I've ever seen in one place. Sorry for the poor quality of this picture... I forgot my camera and had to take a picture with my phone.

There were more than a dozen choices of gluten-free breads, plus a few mixes and bread crumbs. Nice. The next time the rest of the family is having Subway, I saw some Schar multi-grain rolls there that would  make a nice little sub... I used my new Rudi's Gluten-Free Tortillas to make myself a Reuben Wrap for lunch, and it was delicious! A bit messy, but soooo good!

The whole gluten-free sampling event was great. I was introduced to a lot of new gluten-free products, and will definitely be heading back to the store again. I just wish the gluten-free items were more consolidated. There are gluten-free items in the bread aisle, the baking aisle, the cookie aisle, the cracker aisle, the freezer case, and some end-caps. It takes a little more searching to find them!

The nicest surprise was when I finished shopping and headed back out to the parking lot. They were giving away hot dogs, too! Gluten-free hot dogs (Boar's Head) on G/F rolls from Three Brothers Bakery. 

The store had a huge selection of specialty items: oils, vinegars, cheeses, mustards. While many of the items were a bit out of the price range I would usually pay, if you're a foodie and looking for a special ingredient, you'll probably find it there.

The store is still pretty new, and they're still learning. The cashier couldn't figure out how to enter a coupon when she couldn't scan it. Once they get little bugs like that out of the system, and I get the hang of where my favorite products are located, I think I'll really enjoy shopping there.

I can think of somebody else who will really enjoy my shopping there... the store is only a few miles from Bethany's school. When I pick her up from basketball practice, I often bring her a snack to help tide her over until dinner. She's particularly fond of muffins. Orchard Fresh had a nice display of freshly-baked muffins (not gluten-free):

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