Gluten-free

Staunton now has a certified gluten-free restaurant in town. And true to the Queen City’s reputation for great independent businesses, it’s the only one in Virginia that’s not a chain. Cranberry’s Grocery & Eatery, located on New Street downtown, received its certification late last month, according to Kathleen Stinehart, owner. “It took us weeks of combing through our menu with the nutritionists at the Gluten Intolerance Group of North America, but we did it,” she says with pride.

Gluten, which is found primarily in wheat, barley and rye products, can trigger a variety of medical symptoms in what appears to be an increasing number of individuals. The sensitivity can range from a mild intolerance for wheat to full-fledged Celiac disease.

“We’re a health food café and catering service, so we need to accommodate the health needs of our customers,” says Linda Taylor, Cranberry’s restaurant manager in explaining the motivation to move in this direction. “We now have dedicated utensils and a dedicated section of the kitchen for preparing gluten-free entrees, to protect them from cross-contamination with other foods we’re also serving.

“We can make any sandwich on gluten-free bread and we’ve added gluten-free cookies to our dessert menu. We also serve gluten-free cinnamon raisin toast for breakfast and occasionally a scrumptious cheesecake with a gluten-free crust that’s so good, everyone eats it!” Taylor laughs.

“Actually, though, eating less gluten is good for all of us,” Taylor and Stinehart agree. “Many of today’s foods have been so refined there’s hardly any nutritional value left; this is especially true of processed white or wheat flour. You avoid that when you eat gluten-free. Plus a lot of gluten-free foods are also free of preservatives, hormones, and chemical additives.”

The staff at Cranberry’s – both sous chefs and grocers – recently completed in-house training using materials from the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program. “We want everyone here to be able to respond well to gluten-free customers’ questions,” Stinehart said. Cranberry’s also sells gluten-free groceries and even gluten-free personal care products.

The certifying process was quite detailed. For example, Cranberry’s uses miso paste – a fermented soy product fairly obscure in itself – in its brown rice to add flavor and protein. But miso can be fermented using rice or barley, and barley contains gluten. “So we had to let the nutritionists know that the miso we use is definitely brown rice miso, and we had to make sure our own staff also understood the difference,” Taylor explains.

Cranberry’s credits three of its regular customers with a lot of the success of the project. “Jim Ward from Charlottesville was the first to suggest we add gluten-free bread to our sandwich options. That was about a year ago and proved to be very, very popular,” Stinehart says.

“Then it was Maggie from Maggie’s Beads downtown who knew about the gluten-free restaurant website (www.glutenfreerestaurants.org). She suggested we find out how to get listed there, as a lot of tourists check that site before they plan their travels.”

“And then Joyce Cline helped with spreading the word. Joyce knows everybody, and she’s been going around telling people she only eats at Cranberry’s now because she knows she can get gluten-free food there that will leave her feeling good. You can’t get better advertising than that!”

More information is available from the gluten-free restaurant website above or www.goCranberrys.com.

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