Chicago Gluten & Allergen Free Expo Review Part 1

The Gluten and Allergen Free Expo is the best thing ever. Seriously. Imagine being able to visit over 150 food vendors and know that ALL of them are gluten free. They even go one step further and separate the booths that are peanut free as well!

But really, this expo is about WAY more than the food. This is a chance to not only try the food, but meet the people and hearts behind the products. I fell in love with so many products not so much for the product, but because of the people behind them. These are the people who work and strive so hard to make sure that we can eat safely again!

For example, the men behind Gluten Free For Men barbecue sauce rock! Their enthusiasm is contagious!
Nichole Thomas from Virtuous Living has such passion and genuine love in her heart that you could just sit down all day and talk to her. Talking to Monique Prato from Bumbalooza was a blessing as well, and I loved hearing about her family and the mission of her company. What she's doing is worth buzzing about!
Then there's the founders of Lia P's Gluten Free, who let me take a seat to rest my tired feet, and told me the story behind the name. Totally touching and memorable. (Her chocolate brownies are great too!)

Plus, I had a chance to interview two companies, Smart Flour and Grab the Gold. I will be sharing separate blog posts later to highlight these two wonderful companies.

It was also great to see Michigan companies get some larger press. Ethel's Edibles was a huge hit (and rightly so!), and I know I LOVED the Gluten Free Delights Stuffed Sandwiches. It's always a pleasure to see Mr. Mattison from Cecelia's Marketplace Gluten Free Grocery Shopping Guide. So honored that he actually remembered my face and name. (But seriously, everyone needs one of these books. They even have an IPhone App!)
And I LOVE the Swanson family from Full Flavor Foods. Seriously, I do. They feel like family, and treat you like you are! (And their mushroom sauce is PERFECT for green bean casserole!)
So looking forward to seeing them again at the Grand Rapids GF Fair on May 17th.

As if the food wasn't enough, then there are fellow bloggers who all combine in one place and open their hearts and arms to embrace you. People from all over the country who unite to bring about gluten free awareness and to help so many people while they're at it. I was so honored to be in their presence.

But there are definitely some foods that you need to hear about. While I sampled pocket sandwiches, cookies, cakes, chips, breads and so many more foods than I can totally recall, there are some that made me do my happy dance. Literally. In the middle of the aisle. Like a dancing fool. :) I must have been so in awe of their amazing "ness", as I failed to take any pics of the food or of the amazing team. So any of the following pics are taken from online sites.

I think pretty much everyone one I know thinks Hope Foods were the best thing since sliced gluten free bread at the expo. Seriously. The may three different items: lentil dips, hummus dips, and chocolate dips. You may be thinking, yeah I've had hummus before. Not these you haven't, and not in these flavors. Thai Curry, Jalapeno Cilantro, and Red Pepper Balsamic are just a FEW of their creative flavors. And the Lentil Dips, wow. I bought the Rosemary Olive Oil, but would love to try their other flavors like Curry and Miso Ginger, plus more.
And the Chocolate Dip. There are no words in the English lexicon to totally sum up the deliciousness that is their Dark Chocolate Dip. And it comes in three different dairy free, low glycemic flavors. Three lovely, voluptuous and  scrumptious flavors. Nutella, you have been officially dismissed.

I love Coconut Bliss. I was a frequent visitor to their booth this weekend, hoping that each time I came by they were sampling another flavor. And they were! At first, I wasn't sure how I would like this dairy free "ice cream" made from coconut milk. It tastes EXACTLY like ice cream. I don't know what they do to get that wonderful texture, but I'm willing to say goodbye to regular ice cream for the rest of my life. Their Ginger Cookie Caramel, which is made with Pamela's Ginger Snaps. Their Cappuccino is delicious and their Salted Caramel & Chocolate is "Shut  The Front Door" amazing. The cream portion is light and airy, allowing the flavor to come through. I have a feeling I may be a much more frequent customer to my local health food store now that I know that they are there!

Honey Acres is a business located in Wisconsin that is family owned and operated since 1852. But this company doesn't just sell honey. Their pot of gold is their Honey Mints. Imagine a York Peppermint patty, but one made with only 3 simple ingredients, all which you can pronounce, and dairy free. I bought a box and am keeping it in my freezer. Their great cold, plus if their out of sight I might prevent myself from eating the whold box in one sitting. And not only are the chocolates great, so are the people working for them. They are the type of people that I could hang out with, and someday I hope to go to Wisconsin to see their facilities in person!

There is so much more to share, but it will have to wait until another day. Stay tuned for another installment in a few days. In the meantime, #eatfreely!