FOOD: Going Gluten Free

By Kathleen Nixon
July 27, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff

At a recent Falls Church Farmers Market Chef demo, a program favorite Willow Restaurant demonstrated something different – gluten free products.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grain species such as rye and barley. Unfortunately there are many people who are sensitive to gluten and have to restrict their diets to not ingest any gluten. For some, the gluten sensitive is so severe due to having Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine.

Willow has always been sensitive to their patrons who are sensitive to gluten and have provided many of their dishes gluten free. At the Farmers Market Chef demo, the team prepared potato gnocchi topped with sautéed zucchini, roasted tomatoes topped with parmesan cheese and toasted quinoa. The response was overwhelming to not only the recipes and the tastes but also to the other products the team had baked earlier in the morning to include chocolate chip cookies, granola bars and bread. All items sold out very quickly.

A few weeks before the demonstration, chef and co-owner Tracy O’Grady answered a few questions about why she and her partners have decided to provide more gluten free items including retail items.

Why Gluten Free?
Our business partner Julie Mounts’ husband was very ill due to Celiac disease and we’ve noticed that many other people have gluten issues. There are not a lot of choices for folks that suffer from this so we thought we could develop something that is very high quality.

Why develop another line of business during a down economy?

We feel there is a strong need for this line of business and not many chefs are doing this kind of work.

What have you been doing to create these recipes? Who are your local sources for the ingredients?

We’ve been making changes to our existing menu to make some of the products gluten free so that other people will not even recognize the difference.  Part of our goal is to make these products so good people who can eat and enjoy gluten products will like our gluten free products just as well.  We do use many local ingredients but unfortunately many of the special flours needed for gluten free baking are unavailable locally, this may change we are not sure.  The most important thing right now is sourcing the flours from certified gluten free facilities.

You have always had gluten free in your restaurant, haven’t you? What have you had?

We have always had some gluten free options like our crispy quinoa and quinoa cakes.  Now we are very close to having gluten free bread (not brick heavy) and an excellent flatbread that is not laden with chick pea flour.

What are your plans for the mixes? Will they be available for purchase at the restaurant or anywhere else?

We are still in the process of developing our gluten free mixes so home cooks can make something tasty and not have to rely on a restaurant. These mixes are probably 2 months out and we will begin by selling them at farmers markets as a test market to see how they work for the general public.

What are the different gluten free products that you will be producing?

We will be trying to make most of the items gluten free for people who have given up on items like breads, biscuits, pastries, breading’s, etc.  Many people I’ve spoken with have told me that options have been so bad they just have given up on many things they once enjoyed.

Willow Restaurant has a booth at the Ballston Farmers Market on Thursdays from 3pm to 7pm and will be offering their gluten free items there weekly.


July 27, 2012 


Feel free to leave a comment. Please increase the credibility of your post by including your FULL NAME and CITY. All comments are subject to editing for courtesy and content.