I was so happy when I received an invitation about two months ago to attend a Schär luncheon and presentation here at Espace here in New York City.  I have long been a tremendous fan of their products and quite honestly when their products appeared at my local grocer, it opened up a new world of taste for me.

The event was really very lovely with a gluten-free cocktail hour that gave attendees time to mix and mingle.  I met some extremely interesting fellow Celiacs as well as a host of medical professionals, journalists, and food industry folks.  The entire afternoon would feature recipes that included items from the Schär product portfolio.  The cocktail hour kicked it off with passed antipasti that included: Mixed Mezze (Tapenade, Caponata, Baba Ghanoush, Feta, and Haloumi cheese); Assorted Bruschette with heirloom tomato, green olive, and cucumber dill; and Mini Artisanal Pizza with goat cheese and pest, roasted artichoke with Manchego, and Margherita with buffalo mozzarella.  It was an absolute dream to have passed hors d’oeuvres and being able to indulge without having to worry about gluten.

After the initial mix and mingle we headed into the main room for lunch.  Again, it was great to finally put real faces to names that had until then only existed online.  I was seated with a fascinating mix of people, from a fabulous health coach to a cookbook author to representatives from the Long Island Celiac association and even GFSoupmom (who works for a fabulous company that makes GF soups I must try).  Each table also had a representative from Schär USA.  The group could not have been nicer and the conversation was so engaging.

I know, you want to know what was for lunch?  Well, Espace and Schär did not disappoint.  The first course was a baby arugula salad with goat cheese crostini in a citrus white balsamic dressing.  It was funny that someone made the comment these are the first thing I normally have to remove referring to the cheese-topped crostini – so true.  For the main course there was a choice of herb crusted fluke with fusilli in a heirloom tomato/basil sauce or Stuffed chicken breast with ricotta and red peppers over penne and mixed baby vegetables.  I had the chicken which was really very good.  It was breaded with Schär bread crumbs (as was the fish) and the stuffing was actually very good.  For dessert there was an amazing Tiramisu and the table was presented with a selection of Schär cookies and chocolate covered strawberries.  The Tiramisu was out of this world.

Now the afternoon was not just about eating – though it definitely was a major part.  There were four very informative presenters throughout the afternoon.  First up was Dr. Alessio Fasano who many of you already know as he’s the Director of the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland.  He gave a truly informative presentation that started with the history of Celiac disease which, I personally found to be amazing.  He then presented some of his research which was equally as interesting.  The sheer numbers of both total Celiacs and the cost associated with properly diagnosing across a range of risk categories was staggering.

Next up was Schär USA’s Director of Nutritional Services Anne Roland Lee who talked about living a balance (and delicious) gluten-free lifestyle.  We all know that as Celiacs we miss out on some of the fortification that others get from gluten-rich foods.  She pointed out that traditional gluten-rich breads are fortified and essentially regulated by the F.D.A. – there are no such standards for gluten-free products.  Schär actually uses alternative gluten-free grains in their products to help provide a more well-balanced option for Celiacs and those with gluten intolerance. Schär is committed to providing Celiacs with great tasting and healthful options which is most appreciated because being Celiacs often presents enough challenges.

Hannes Berger, the president and CEO of Schär USA address the group next and gave insight into the history of the company and some future development plans for the company in the United States.  Donna George, vice president of Schär USA also spoke briefly on where the company was looking to expand.

The final speaker was perhaps the most riveting.  Colin Leslie is an 18 year old with Celiac disease who had what can only be describe as a horrific road to diagnosis that was riddled with misdiagnoses for a host of conditions he never actually had.  His story was not that different from many, who after sometimes years of misdiagnoses, finally meet the one doctor who puts it all together and changes your life.  What makes Colin so remarkable is that he has been a Celiac advocate since he was 13 starting his own walk for the disease to raise money and awareness for Celiac disease.  I highly recommend that you head over to his Web site to learn more about him and his walk.  Truly inspiring.

When we left we were presented with a fantastic swag bag of Schär product and there was one surprise in there – their new par baked Mini Baguettes which I have not seen in the United States.  I cannot wait to pop them in the oven and give them a try.

The fantastic Tiramisu

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