Gluten-free foods are expensive and their flavor profile, in many cases, is suspect. The Al Dente blog is going to work through the good and the bad from the perspective of a toddler who known for her picky eating and her parents. We’ll collect these, as well as the rest of our journey with The Kid’s Celiac disease diagnosis, under the Gluten Schmuten category tag. I love complaining about Syracuse, but I get a cold reminder of what could have been each year when we travel south. For as long as I could remember, Wegmans has been around the corner from my house. The Taft Road Wegmans was the store of my youth, the Fairmount store is where I shop now, and in between I have taken up residency at the John Glenn and Jamestown (yes, I would drive an hour to go grocery shopping in college) stores. And, if you know Wegmans, you love Wegmans (warts and all) for its selection and variety. So, it’s a tough reminder of reality when we go to a locale without a Wegmans. For the first few years of our Outer Banks trip, the only grocery option was Food Lion. Skeezy, dirty, crowded, dumpy Food Lion. Then came Harris Teeter, a Maryland-based upscale grocer that aspires to be something more than a grocery store. Now that we’ve moved to Rehoboth Beach, we’re stuck with the Lion or Safeway. Not great options, but livable.
So, circling back, I’m very happy to have Wegmans as my everyday grocery store. I’m particularly pleased with their attention to food allergies and sensitivities, such as Celiac disease. During our inaugural shopping trip for food, we tried the Wegmans Dewitt megastore, where we were greeted with aisles and freezer cases exclusive to gluten-free food. The chain, which rarely supports non hunger charities openly in its stores, was publicizing an upcoming Celiac awareness walk in the area. In one of those “no stone left unturned” scenarios, hard ciders and gluten free beer were stacked at the endcap. According to its website:
Most of our stores with Nature’s Marketplace have a dedicated aisle of gluten-free items like pre-packaged foods, baking ingredients, reference books, and cookbooks.
Wegmans has taken lengths over the years to mark its store-brand foods with labels indicating if it is vegan, lactose-free, or gluten-free. The G to the right appears on those foods carried under the Wegmans flag that are gluten free, of which there are 1,500+ items. If there is a point of contention, it’s with the store-to-store luxuries that seemed to skip my corner of the Wegmans world here in suburban Syracuse. For instance, during a trip to Wegmans Pittsford (the showpiece store in the chain’s hometown of Rochester) we found fresh baked bread, cookies and brownies.
Otherwise, the differences seem to be space. Fairmount’s gluten-free area is proportional to its store size, so there are two designated aisles and about three freezer doors. And, those spaces are packed. The Dewitt store, which is twice the size, has a spacious four aisles allotted, with multiple facings of each product. It’s tough to assign a rating to a store, as I probably won’t even waste the time writing about Tops or Price Chopper, my other grocery options. Frankly, there’s not much of an effort towards catering to the gluten free crowd. I was in Tops the other day and wandered through their organic and natural foods section. I say wandered because it was so small that I exited it without noticing.
I look at their efforts in the same way I view the depressing layouts and visuals of their stores. It’s almost like they have just given up.