That partly explains why Portland has also seen a spate of start-up food companies in the last few years, like Beaverton-based Ariko Foods, a producer of gluten-free snacks. (“‘Gluten-free’ is a buzzword at the food trade-shows right now,” says Angela Ichwan, Ariko’s CEO.) Angeline’s, which began its gluten-free business in Sisters, now bakes its line of breads, cookies and snack bars in town, and Portland grocers (including Fred Meyer, Whole Foods and Wild Oats) stock its products. “Gluten intolerance is the most common thing people ask me about,” says Christi Reed, a New Seasons nutritionist, who regularly fields calls from newly diagnosed celiacs. New Seasons even hosts monthly “gluten-free tours” of its stores to help people identify pie crusts, breads and grains that they can eat.
Portland is also home to one of the only fine-dining restaurants in the country to offer a fully gluten-free menu. Grolla, on NE Killingsworth, regularly hosts diners from as far away as New York who fly into Portland to dine on Mediterranean-inspired meals that were prepared in a gluten-free kitchen. Even the bread pudding on the dessert menu is made from gluten-free rolls. “We have some customers who are so sensitive to gluten that they’ve been hospitalized just from exposure to trace gluten in other restaurants’ air,” says chef and co-owner Chris Lachmann, whose wife was diagnosed with celiac disease in 1993, as were his two daughters in 2004.
He may not have a lock on the market for long. Gluten awareness is about to get some governmental boosterism in the form of Food and Drug Administration regulations that will set federal standards for products identified as gluten-free, just as the agency did with the organic label. That should contribute to gluten-free businesses’ bottom lines: When the FDA released its new food pyramid recommending more whole grains in 2005, Bob’s Red Mill saw increased demand for its whole-grain products. The new regulations will do the same for gluten-free goods. That’s great news for celiacs, who soon will have even more cakes to choose from—and be able to eat them, too.