By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — Going gluten free is about to get easier for Upper West Siders.
G-Free NYC, a store catering to people who follow gluten-free diets — no pasta, bread, crackers or cereal made with wheat, barley or rye — will open in a few weeks on West 85th Street between Columbus Avenue and Central Park West. The store's opening was first reported by neighborhood blog My Upper West.
Owner Lynn Shuter says G-Free NYC is the first store in Manhattan devoted exclusively to gluten-free foods. She'll sell dry goods such as pasta, crackers and chips, as well as frozen gluten-free entrees and freshly-made gluten-free baked goods from Tu-Lu's Gluten Free Bakery.
Shuter, who lives a few blocks from the store, was inspired to open G-Free NYC because of her own experience with celiac disease, an allergy to gluten, which is a protein in wheat, barley and rye.
People with celiac disease can't eat most breads or pasta because gluten irritates their stomach. The disease can lead to serious health problems if a gluten-free diet isn't followed, Shuter said.
In recent years gluten-free diets have gained popularity, even among people who don't have celiac disease. Some take the gluten-free path because they feel forgoing gluten gives them more energy and relieves minor stomach problems.
But the diet is difficult to follow because gluten pops up in a range of foods, not just breads, but beer, salad dressings and some potato chips, according to WebMD.
Shuter, who's been gluten free for 20 years, says she knows the challenges firsthand. Gluten-free breads and crackers are often dry and flavorless, Shuter said.
"It's a science," Shuter said. "You can't just throw some rice flour together." (Rice flour is used as a wheat flour substitute in some gluten-free foods.)
Shuter said she or one of her employees will taste every product sold at G-Free NYC so she can be sure she's stocking her shelves with "delicious" food, she said.
"My whole mission is to make it easier for people to be on a gluten-free diet and make it taste good," Shuter said.