Monthly Archives: March 2016

MadeGood Foods: Granola for the wealthy

MadeGood granola bites

I like granola bars, but it’s tough to find brands that don’t put nuts in every other one of their products. Most of the companies without “may contain” warnings on their labels are those with decidedly nut-free facilities—and in my experience, most nut-free facilities that handle granola are free of the rest of the top 8 allergens, too. That’s great, of course, for those with lots of food allergies, but it isn’t quite ideal for those who are only allergic to nuts. Foregoing nuts doesn’t tend to make a product taste funny—but sacrificing wheat, dairy, egg, or soy? Another matter entirely.

In case you can’t tell where I’m going with this: MadeGood‘s granola is free from the top 8 allergens, so it wasn’t as though I had the urge to drop everything and run to the store the second I heard about their granola. Still, a granola bar is a granola bar—and I do like to support allergen-free companies—so when I came across their logo on a trip to Whole Foods, I figured I’d give MadeGood a try.

They make granola bars and granola minis (basically bars in ball form) in five flavors: chocolate chip, mixed berry, strawberry, chocolate banana, and apple cinnamon. I ended up with the chocolate banana minis—I would’ve gone with strawberry, but there were none in sight—and they were better than I expected, which says approximately nothing, seeing as it’s typically a bad idea to expect much at all from allergen-free products. They were all right, though—chewy with a nice banana flavor—but definitely overpriced, at almost $5 for a box of 4 small pouches, each containing maybe 10 bite-sized granola balls.

Really, all I can say is that they’re passable. They aren’t egregiously gluten-free, but they do have a bit of that tellingly dusty wheatless texture to them. I did like their chewiness, though, and the banana didn’t taste artificial in the slightest—so maybe I’ll buy them again one day. (Probably not. They’re overpriced.)

Find them at Whole Foods and maybe Costco, if you’re lucky.

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Trader Joe’s Blondie Bar Baking Mix

Blondies, from Trader Joe's Blondie Bar Baking Mix

Safe baked goods are really, really tough to come by. Tough enough, in fact, that I’ve been trying to get my hands on a good blondie for years now. I have this memory of eating the world’s best blondie at an all-school picnic in the first grade—and while I can’t be sure of whether that actually happened, I can be sure of this: I’ve needed a blondie for a while now.

Two problems, though. I can’t find a good blondie I’m not allergic to, and…I can’t bake a batch of my own. It’s not even that I can’t bake; there are plenty of treats I can make from scratch, but for some reason, blondies aren’t one of them. No matter how closely I follow the recipe, they always come out terribly, and I’ve had no luck in figuring out what I’m doing wrong. I’d started to wonder whether blondies just aren’t as good as I’d hoped (and whether my 6-year-old self was just easily impressed by anything that contained sugar)—that is, until I tried these.

A while ago, in a more general post about Trader Joe’s, I mentioned their boxed blondie mix. Honestly, though, this stuff deserves a post of its own. It’s incredibly easy to work with (it is a mix, after all), and the blondies it makes are delicious. They don’t taste like they’re straight out of a box, and if you look at the mix’s ingredients, you’ll see why (spoiler: there’s no weird shit in it). Honestly, if you told me these blondies were home-made from scratch, I’d believe you.

I like to strain out about half the chocolate chips, but you can, of course, leave them as they are (and add more mix-ins, if that’s your thing). As with most baking mixes, the instructions are absurdly easy to carry out: preheat the oven, grease a pan, combine egg and butter, add mix, bake…and that’s it. I just might be one of the laziest people on this planet—I’ll sleep with the light on rather than getting up and turning it off—but this blondie-making process doesn’t deter me in the slightest.

Best of all, there’s no allergen warning on the box, and at Trader Joe’s, that tends to mean the product is safe. (It isn’t a guarantee—some Trader Joe’s manufacturers don’t label for cross-contamination—but it’s a good sign nonetheless, and I’ve never had any trouble with this mix, nor with any of their others that don’t come with “may contain” warnings.)

Anyway, I highly recommend giving this mix a try, especially if you are a) lazy, b) unable to bake, or c) of the opinion that brownies should be less chocolatey, dammit. Find it at Trader Joe’s.

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Let’s Talk Five Guys

Two nut-free Five Guys burgers

First things first: If you have a peanut allergy, Five Guys is not the place for you. There are free peanuts everywhere, and they fry everything in peanut oil. But if tree nuts are your only issue, Five Guys just might be the burger joint for you.

Their burgers aren’t anything to die for, but they’re certainly a few (large) steps above those of the McDonald’s/Burger King/Wendy’s ilk. I actually really like Five Guys—and I’ve never had any sort of allergen-related issues with their food.

For some reason, their allergen chart doesn’t have a column for tree nuts, so I sent an email and received the following reply:

The only nut allergen at our stores would be due to the presence of peanuts. There are no products containing tree nuts in our restaurants, nor are they used in our cooking process in any way. Though please remember that there is always a risk of cross contamination, so definitely use caution. For your convenience the kitchens in all of our restaurants are always kept open so our customers may watch their food be prepared.

I asked for a bit more clarification about the risk of cross-contamination, and this was the reply I received:

It remains correct that we don’t use any tree nut products however we must always assume there is a possibility of cross contamination and advise our customers of this as a precaution. Some of our products may be processed in the same facilities as tree nuts are or as another example, an employee may come into contact with tree nut products during a break, etc. We certainly do our best to stress the importance of food safety with our employees however know there is always a risk.

Not bad, as places that aren’t nut-free go. A lack of intentional nuts and nut products in a restaurant goes a long way toward making me comfortable—and the fact that Five Guys is sensitive enough to acknowledge those risks they can’t quite control is encouraging. For some, though, that isn’t enough—and you should, of course, always decide where to eat based on your own level of comfort. Still, for me, Five Guys works.

Anyway, in case you’ve never been: Five Guys has burgers, fries, hot dogs, a few sandwiches, and (as of a few months ago) shakes. That’s it. They don’t freeze their beef, and they fry only in peanut oil—so already, we’re out of theMcDonald’s territory. (Plus, as I mentioned above, they don’t have any salads or desserts that contain nuts, as most fast food joints tend to.)

Their burgers are definitely decent—I have no complaints there—but I do have a confession to make: I’ve never understood why so many people seem to love their fries. Seriously—Five Guys’ fries have an evangelical following, and I don’t get it. They’re mushy and flavorless—two deal-breakers, in my book—but to each his own, I suppose. (Though to Five Guys’ credit, they do give you a pretty hefty portion. Maybe that’s the appeal.)

My final verdict: If you’re a) comfortable with peanuts and b) a fan of burgers, you should give Five Guys a try. At the very least, it’s nice to have another reliable chain to fall back on when you’re in a bind.

My favorite locations are the one in Greenwich Village (296 Bleecker Street) and the one the one in Brooklyn Heights (138 Montague Street), though that’s probably just because I like the surrounding neighborhoods. There are Five Guys locations all over, and there’s probably no real advantage of one over the other, seeing as part of the appeal of any fast food chain is the fact that they’re all, you know, the same.

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Enjoy Life Foods

A bowl of Enjoy Life Sea Salt Plentils

I’ve been hearing talk of Enjoy Life for years, but it wasn’t until today that I got around to actually trying their products. Everything they make is free from wheat, dairy, peanuts, tree nuts, egg, soy, fish, shellfish, sulfites, crustaceans, sesame, and mustard—which is perhaps why I’ve never really sought out their food. My only allergy is to tree nuts, so brands like Enjoy Life tend to be a bit overkill for me. I like my wheat, my dairy, my eggs—but you know what? Allergy-friendly companies are wonderful (and hard to come by), so I figured I should give this one a try, at the very least.

With Enjoy Life, there’s virtually no chance of cross-contamination—so if your allergies are severe, they’re definitely a good company to add to your list. The way they handle allergens is truly impressive; if you don’t believe me, check out their page on free-from living, or their FAQ. I’d quote from their website, but I’d basically end up reproducing the whole thing, as it’s absolutely filled with information about food allergies. Seriously. Go see for yourself.

But onto the food! Enjoy Life was generous enough to send me three products to sample (a box of chocolate chip soft-baked cookies, a box of Cocoa Loco chewy bars, and a bag of sea salt Plentils), though their generosity won’t keep me from being honest. Fortunately, though, I don’t have to say anything bad, because everything I tried was pretty tasty—especially given that it’s all free from so many ingredients.

My favorite product, by a significant margin, was the sea salt Plentils (pictured above). They’re lentil chips—though they don’t taste anywhere near as boring as the words “lentil chips” would have you think—and they come in a bunch of other flavors I’m now dying to try: dill & sour cream, Margherita pizza, and garlic & parmesan.

I was genuinely surprised at how good they were. The real test for allergen-free products comes down to the question of whether you’d still want to eat the product if you weren’t allergic to the alternatives, and in my experience, very few products pass that test—but Plentils do, and with flying colors. I could easily see myself downing a bag of these (and it took some serious self-control to stop shoveling them into my mouth as I was about to start cooking last night’s dinner). For real: They’re great—light, airy, salty, and even a little buttery, somehow—and I highly recommend them.

The soft-baked cookies are way better than I expected them to be, too. Actually, they’re the only tolerable soft-baked cookie I’ve ever eaten out of a box. Unlike the Plentils, they did have somewhat of a distinct allergen-free taste—but perhaps that’s just because I was really expecting them to. Still, these are worlds ahead of most packaged soft-baked cookies—mostly because they taste way less artificial. They have a nice chewy texture and a decent flavor, which were both pleasant surprises.

[Edit: A few days later, I went out and bought a box of the snickerdoodle soft-baked cookies. Way, way, way better than the chocolate chip ones. They don’t have any sort of allergen-free taste to them (I think it was the chocolate chips that were doing it) and they have a really lovely texture. They, like the Plentils, pass the allergen-free-product test with plenty of wiggle room, and I highly recommend them.]

Finally, the chewy bars. They come in a few flavors: mixed berry, caramel apple, SunSeed Crunch, and Cocoa Loco. I tried the Cocoa Loco, and it really did taste like cocoa powder. They’re not terrible, and I could certainly imagine children loving them, but they were definitely my least favorite of the three products I tried. To me, they tasted like imitation brownies—but perhaps I’d love them if I were five years old. Or if I had more food allergies.

Still, overall, I would certainly recommend Enjoy Life to anyone with any of the relevant dietary restrictions. To my surprise, nothing I tried was bad; in fact, I was pretty impressed with how good (most of) it was. And that’s coming from someone who can’t get through a Divvies cookie.

…Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go hunt down the rest of those Plentil flavors.

(Find Enjoy Life’s products at Whole Foods, Food Emporium, Fairway, Stop & Shop, and Rite Aid—or on Enjoy Life’s own website.)

[Edit, from the distant future (um, September 8th, 2016): I have a new favorite Enjoy Life product, and I’m so into it that I straight-up needed to revisit this post and mention this stuff. It’s the Beach Bash Seed and Fruit Mix, and it’s to die for. It’s made up of sunflower kernels, pumpkin seeds, dried pineapples, dried apricots, and dried cranberries—so nothing that has the potential to take on that free-from taste—and though it’s not at all easy to find, it’s definitely worth the hunt.]

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Skippy P.B. Bites: an astonishingly decent snack

Two packages of Skippy P.B. Bites, one pretzel and one peanut butter

Quick post, because a) this is unimportant, b) these aren’t guaranteed to be nut-free, and c) a bunch of you are probably allergic to peanuts anyway. But I’ve finally found these elusive P.B. Bites after looking just about everywhere for weeks, so you’re going to have to hear about them.

Allergen information first. P.B. Bites (obviously) contain peanuts, but as far as I can tell, they don’t contain nuts. The allergen information on Skippy’s product information page is as follows: “Milk ingredients present, Peanuts (groundnuts) ingredients present, Soy ingredients present, Wheat ingredients present, Gluten present.” I reached out to Skippy to make sure their products were free of all traces of tree nuts, but they never got back to me. Anyway, I know this isn’t much of a guarantee—but I’ve been eating Skippy’s peanut butter for my entire life, and I’ve never had any sort of allergic reaction.

[Edit: I ended up hearing back from Skippy a few days after publishing this post. I was told that tree nuts are present in the facility in which P.B. Bites are made, but that they aren’t processed on the same equipment, and that Skippy has a HACCP program in place to prevent cross-contamination. Their actual peanut butter is made in a peanut-only facility, though.]

Anyway, I apparently become extremely impressionable the second any sort of food shows up on my TV. I’m not even that into peanut butter, but for some reason, when I saw the ad for these, my pupils turned to spirals and I figured I just had to have them. I used Skippy’s product locator (well, it’s Hormel’s, but whatever), but none of the stores I went to had the stupid things, so I gave up and ordered some from Walmart. Of course, within a day of stopping my search, I spotted them—on a routine trip to Fairway. Go figure.

The anatomy of the P.B. bite is very simple—it’s just a little ball of either pretzel or peanut butter, covered in a layer of smooth peanut butter. Both varieties are fine, really, though the pretzel may be a bit better, due to the added salt and crunch factors. Honestly, I was expecting both varieties to be terrible (though that didn’t make my search any less urgent), but terrible they are not. In fact, they’re astonishingly decent.

That’s about all I have to say, really. I’m just a sucker for new (junk) food products—especially when I can eat them. And these just happen to be all right.

(I’m not even going to pretend I know where you can get your hands on some P.B. Bites of your very own; Skippy’s product locator was decidedly unhelpful—probably because these things are so new. Amazon has them for an absurd price of $12 per 6-ounce cup, and you can order them from Walmart for $3.13 per cup, though the shipping costs more than the P.B. Bites themselves. If you can find them, though—and if you like peanut butter—they’re worth a try. Good luck.)

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Domino’s Pizza

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I know, I know—Domino’s is just plain bad. But it’s dependable, and it does the trick when I’m feeling extraordinarily lazy or hungry (or reclusive…or masochistic). And the ability to order from basically any device I’ll ever own is a plus, I guess. Nothing like being able to respond to a “hey, pizzas are half-off this week!” ad by whipping out my phone and ordering one of said terrible pizzas—and some wings and, regrettably, some Cinna Stix—all without ever, you know, budging.

But you know what? If eating Domino’s is the worst decision of my week, I’ve probably had a pretty good week.

My real point, though: In my experience, Domino’s is pretty allergy-friendly. According to their website, they only have one item on the menu that contains nuts (the Chicken Apple Pecan Salad) and one that’s made in a facility that also handles nuts (the Chocolate Lava Crunch Cake). Everything else, though—pizzas, sandwiches, pastas, wings, breadsticks, even the weird-ass “marbled cookie brownie”—seems to be safe.

To be sure, I reached out to Domino’s. I received the following reply:

There are no peanuts or peanut oils or tree nuts in our pizza crusts, pizza sauce, pizza cheese, core pizza toppings (beef, green pepper, ham, mushrooms, black olives, onions, pepperoni, pineapple and italian sausage), chicken kickers, chicken wings, bread side items or salads.  Soybean oil is used in all of our dough formulas. There may, however, be special promotional and/or test products present in the store. Therefore, we cannot ensure that all of the products present are completely free of peanuts/tree nuts.

Their response was about what I expected—though there is a salad on their menu that contains pecans, which informational inconsistency doesn’t exactly leave me inclined to trust them blindly. In my experience, though, their food has been safe. (Obviously, they aren’t a nut-free establishment, and you should, as always, look into what you’re eating and use your own discretion.)

Anyway, as if this post isn’t already embarrassing enough, I suppose I should probably reveal the details of my regular order, which is pictured above. I like to get a hand-tossed with white sauce, triple (yes, triple) pineapple, and light ham—because if I’m going to order bad pizza, I might as well get something shameful, right? (I’m kidding; unfortunately, I just like Hawaiian pizza. And white sauce.) I’ve also been known to gorge myself on their bread bowl pastas—though my strategy for those pretty much ends at clicking on whatever random ingredients sound tolerable at that particular inappropriate hour and hoping for the best. It never ends well—but hey, it shows up.

Seriously, though: Don’t get the Cinna Stix. They’re bad, even by Domino’s standards.

Find Domino’s…everywhere. Oh, and by the way, if can be bothered to forego delivery and carry out (or eat in, I guess), do it. Your meal will probably cost a whole lot less—and that’s not just because you won’t have a delivery guy to tip. For some reason, everything just ends up costing more when you order online. (I happen to think that’s by design, but whatever.)

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Raaka Chocolate: for the adult in you

One of Raaka's (nut-free) coconut milk

You know, I was really beginning to think the day would never come that I’d enjoy a piece of dark chocolate. (I’ve been known to walk around Trader Joe’s and sneer at all the goodies they insist on ruining with dark chocolate—on principle alone, since I’m probably allergic anyway.)

…That is, Until I found Raaka: a small-batch craft chocolate company based in Red Hook, Brooklyn. (Think Mast Brothers, but allergy-friendly.) They don’t roast their cacao beans—which is apparently an unconventional move in the world of chocolate-making—in order to showcase the beans’ natural flavors, and all of their chocolate is dark (which is to say that it’s above 60% cacao). It didn’t sound good, but boy, was I wrong.

First things first, though. According to their FAQ, Raaka is pretty allergy-friendly:

We take allergies very seriously at Raaka. None of our products contain gluten, dairy, soy, or nuts. Additionally, we ensure that no nuts ever enter our factory. However, we are not certified nut-free: we cannot guarantee that all our suppliers also maintain a nut-free environment. Please shop responsibly.

Very, very, very few companies can guarantee nut-free suppliers—but I find Raaka’s policy pretty promising. The fact that they don’t allow any nuts into their facility is especially reassuring, so I’ve categorized them as truly nut-free. Still, as they said: please shop responsibly.

I especially like the Coconut Milk bar, which is pretty creamy at only 60% cacao. I was skeptical when I read (on the wrapper) about the alleged “tasting notes” of strawberry and caramel, but Raaka isn’t kidding. The strawberry flavor is subtle, but it’s definitely there. Honestly, I’ve spent my 19 years rabidly hating dark chocolate—but this bar was the first step in my conversion.

The Cabernet Sauvignon bar (67% cacao) is lovely, too. Apparently, they steam cacao nibs over simmering wine before grinding those nibs to make the bar. Again, the “tasting notes” of grape and oak are real (though I refuse to stop putting “tasting notes” in scare quotes—if only so I can continue to live with myself). The bar is part of a limited batch that Raaka’s subscribers singled out as one of their favorites from 2015. (Raaka offers a monthly subscription called First Nibs; for $24.95/month, they’ll ship you three chocolate bars—two new flavors, and one classic—on the 15th of each month. Perhaps if I were rich…)

I’ve also tried the Mint & Nibs (56% cacao) and the Pink Sea Salt (71% cacao)—but that’s where I stopped, because at $7 each, these chocolate bars have me well on my way to the poorhouse. Still, both were good. The Mint & Nibs is refreshingly light in comparison to the others, and the Pink Sea Salt is…well, salty. Nice.

Anyway, from what I’ve tasted, Raaka’s bars are consistently good, and I highly recommend you give them a try, even if you aren’t into dark chocolate. Find Raaka most reliably at Whole Foods—or at their factory, located (in Red Hook) at 64 Seabring Street. They also offer tours and classes, which I haven’t had a chance to try, but which are both at the top of my weekend to-do list.

(By the way: If you’re interested in reading more about Raaka’s mission and methods, check out this article from Edible Brooklyn.)

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It’s Sugar (sorry, IT’SUGAR)

Candy bins at IT'SUGAR

Okay, this is probably (read: definitely) a bad idea—but where else am I going to find such a wide selection of fresh gummy candy? Still, you probably shouldn’t go to IT’SUGAR if your allergies are very severe or sensitive—but if you can generally handle a bit of uncertainty, or if you’re sometimes a bit irresponsible…well, read on.

IT’SUGAR (no idea why they insist on stylizing their name like that; I always read it as “it’s Ugar,” with Ugar being some sort of green, dripping swamp monster) is a rather expensive, tourist-packed bulk candy store—with nut products present in legions. They don’t have any allergen information posted, though they do have ingredients listed for all of their loose candy (and, of course, for their packaged candy—almost all of which comes with some sort of “may contain” statement). Not exactly a safe haven for the food-allergic, but hey. I’m going to write about it anyway—and maybe insist that you not take this post as any sort of suggestion to drop what you’re doing and make your way to the place.

Anyway, the store. It’s made up of a number of platforms I’m going to refer to as islands, each with around 25 bins filled with candy you’re meant to scoop into your little bag, which you’ll be charged (a lot) for by weight. There’s usually a chocolate island and two or three gummy islands—and a bunch of extra candy lining the walls, too. A lot of it is their own brand (which, like I said, is covered with “may contain” warnings), but they have plenty of other candy, too: retro candy, giant candy, novelty candy—and in general, stuff that can be pretty hard to find elsewhere. (For example: They have Charleston Chews, which are kind of awful, but which I decided I absolutely needed to try one night—long after It’s Ugar had closed. Long story short, I didn’t get my Charleston Chew.)

A price-fixed container of candy from IT'SUGAR

I avoid the chocolate island (actually, let’s go with Chocolate Island) like the plague—too many nuts, not enough allergen information, and too high a chance of cross-contamination—but I’ve never had any trouble with the gummies. The employees refill the bins straight out of these sealed plastic bags stored under the islands, and the content of the bins seems to stay pretty consistent (by which I meant that there aren’t almond clusters in a bin one day and gummy bears in it the next).

Still, I haven’t spoken to anyone at It’s Ugar about any of this, nor do I claim to know much at all about the safety of the place. So again: you shouldn’t take this post as any sort of call to action—for now, I’m just sharing my experience.

The reason I keep going back, though, despite It’s Ugar’s apparent allergy-unfriendliness, is simple: the candy is really good, and I’m a sucker for good candy. Staleness is make-or-break with gummies, and theirs are almost never stale. Major points. And the selection is really wide, which is always a plus.

If you do end up going, I have one tip (other than to avoid Chocolate Island): Get the price-fixed takeout container (pictured above, $14.99), and stuff it as full as you can manage. Seriously—really mush those gummy frogs in there. The employees won’t judge you for it; in fact, they’ll probably judge you if you aren’t actively trying to get more for your money, because the place is really, really overpriced. Plus, with the takeout container, you avoid the risk of losing track of the weight of your bag and inadvertently spending like $28 on pineapple gummy bears and red Finnish licorice. (No, I’m not speaking from experience. How dare you?)

Don’t go. Seriously, don’t. But if you do: there are a bunch of locations in the city, but my favorite is the one on Broadway between Bleecker and 3rd—although if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, you might be better off at the smaller location in Brooklyn (210 Joralemon St).

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Bagel Town: nut-free bagels (or so they say)

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Another trek—this time, to Long Island. And boy, was it an adventure.

Nut-free bagels are really tough to find. Good nut-free bagels are, as far as I know, impossible to find—that is, unless you’re willing to make your way to West Hempstead, where you’ll find Bagel Town: a nut-free, sesame-free, dairy-free, kosher bakery.

To my surprise, Bagel Town isn’t all that hard to reach from the city. My boyfriend and I took the LIRR to Hempstead, walked for 30 seconds, and got on a bus straight to Bagel Town. 40 minutes on the train, 15 on the bus—not too bad, really. Especially for a good bagel. Right?

I got an everything bagel with lox and dairy-free cream cheese, and it was surprisingly good. It was no Donut Pub bagel—that’s for sure. And it definitely blew the artisan bagels at Trader Joe’s out of the water. No complaints, really. (Actually, one complaint: dairy-free cream cheese. Not my thing.)

As I tend to when I’m eating somewhere so far from home, I ordered way too much: a cake pop, a rainbow cookie (one of those tricolor layer cake whatsits—not sure why they get to be called “cookies”), and two more bagels for the road (one everything, one plain).

I also got what I was told was a chocolate croissant (but which was neither chocolate nor croissant). I didn’t eat much of it, but that was just because each bite felt like a theft from my future self who’d undoubtedly want to reheat the thing at home. (It was an acute feeling. I’m not kidding. I wish I were.) Regardless, it was really tasty—even cold.

The cake pop was decent (honestly, it’s the only one I’ve ever had, so I have nothing to compare it to) and the untoasted bagels (which I couldn’t stop myself from picking at) were good, too. Things were going well, and I found myself wishing Bagel Town were nearby so I could stop by for breakfast—you know, like a normal person.

Now, the first words on their website are “nut-free,” and the same words are printed in big-ass font on their awning. There are signs inside that say the same, too. They seemed confident—and so was I. Until I bit into that rainbow cookie.

I spit it out (not because I knew I was allergic, but because it tasted like cough medicine), and immediately my mouth began to itch. I don’t need to describe the reaction—if you’re reading this blog, you’ve probably had a few—but suffice it to say it was wholly unpleasant.

Originally, I thought my reaction was probably to some sort of fruit in the jelly (I’ve had mild reactions to some unknown type of fruit once or twice before), but it didn’t feel like a fruit reaction, nor have I ever ended up with a lip the size of your typical NYC bagel because I’d eaten a goddamn berry.

[Edit: Since writing this, I’ve gone to the allergist, and it would appear that I am not allergic to any fruits. Instead, it seems like I have oral allergy syndrome—but OAS reactions generally aren’t systemic (and this reaction was), so I think I can safely say that whatever it was I reacted to wasn’t a fruit.]

When I got home, I did some Googling, and sure enough, I couldn’t find a single recipe for rainbow cookies that didn’t call for almond paste or extract. Huh. I can’t say for sure that there were almonds in the cookie—perhaps there was some sort of cross-contamination at play, or perhaps it was some sort of almond substitute that caused my reaction—but it certainly seems like there were.

I’ve still gone ahead and categorized Bagel Town as truly nut-free, because that’s how they categorize themselves. I’m not sure I trust them, given the cookie—but they’re still ostensibly a nut-free establishment. One that I don’t quite recommend.

Although there is a pharmacy next door.

…The things I do for bagels.

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Who knew Utz was nut-free?

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Quick post, because I realize safe chips and popcorn aren’t all that hard to find. But I bought some Bachman popcorn today and noticed that the bag says they’re manufactured in a nut-free facility, so I did some research, and according to Utz’s website, a whole bunch of their products are nut-free as can be:

Peanuts and other nuts are one of the most common food allergies. All of Utz’s manufacturing facilities are both peanut and tree nut free. If there is a product that we distribute that could contain peanuts or tree nuts, you will always see a separate allergen statement on each package. Refined, bleached and deodorized oils (RBD) such as peanut oil, are not considered an allergen by the FDA. Below is a list of products to avoid if you have sensitivities to peanuts and other nuts.

Utz Gourmet Caramel Popcorn Clusters
Utz Pub Mix
Utz Poker Mix
Utz Chocolate Flavored Covered Special Pretzels
Utz Chocolate Flavored Covered Bite Size Pretzels
Utz Milk and White Chocolate Flavored Covered Special Pretzels
Utz Milk Chocolate Covered Special Pretzels
Utz Butterfinger® Flavored Covered Bite Size Pretzels

Everything else, though, should be totally fine (and well-labeled, according to their FAQ). So although most of their chips are sub-par, they’re certainly an allergy-friendly company.

(Utz brands include Bachman, Zappo, Dirty, and, of course, Utz. Zappo and Dirty do use peanut oil, but it’s a highly-refined, processed peanut oil that doesn’t have any peanut protein left in it, so it’s supposedly safe for the peanut-allergic. No tree nuts, though.)

Find their products literally almost everywhere chips are sold.

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