The Bread from Ipanema

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cheesebread.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

A wave of anti-gluten sentiment is washing over wine country... everywhere you look, foods trumpet their gluten-free status, chefs dole out gluten-free recipes, and South American-Americans hawk their pão de queijo.

I first encountered Brazilian cheese bread at the Napa's farmers' market, where Alex Fochi of Sampas was handing out samples of her company's miniature versions behind a huge GLUTEN FREE banner. She makes her pão de queijo the size of Swedish meatballs or Asian fish balls, perfect for wine tasting snacks... or really any kind of snack. The traditional tapioca flour in pão de queijo means there is no gluten in the finished product, although the "bread" is puffy and chewy and much like a tender pizza crust in snack form. Since the cheese is completely incorporated into the dough, every mouthful has a smooth, sensual texture worthy of the Brazilian title. Napa-based Sampas does both the traditional plain (cheese) version, as well as rotating weekly specials like roasted garlic or black olive.
Two weeks after my introduction to the product, Pica Pica in the Oxbow Market started selling crispy fried pão de queijo (again, in miniature). Then it seemed everyone around me was telling me they'd been diagnosed with some sort of gluten sensitivity, and the reasons for the new trend began to make more sense. Some internet research revealed another family-run business in Vallejo called Brazilian Cheese Bread Company that makes a small line of gluten free products built around... you guessed it, Brazilian cheese bread. Cheese bread pizza crusts, cheese bread chicken tortes, and just plain cheese bread rolls are just a click away.

On Saturday September 12, Whole Foods Napa is hosting a "Gluten Free Extravaganza," which apparently involves a talk (by a nutritionist) and a demonstration (by a chef) about gluten sensitivity and foods that fit within that nutritional limitation. I'm also hoping for a bossa nova band and some Carnaval dancers, but haven't confirmed with the store. Yet.

Sampas
Products available online or at Downtown Napa Farmers Market Tues. & Sat. 7:30 am - 12 noon
McKinstry Street (next to the Wine Train Parking Lot)
Napa, CA

Pica Pica Maize Kitchen
610 1st St (in Oxbow Public Market), Napa
(707) 251-3757

Brazilian Cheese Bread Company

Whole Foods Market-Napa
3682 Bel Aire Plaza, Napa 94559
(707) 224-6300
Gluten Free Extravaganza September 12, 2009, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. (free)

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1 Comments

I'm not at all gluten sensitive, but if that's what I have to claim to get somma'dat
well, sign me up!

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