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Bakery free of gluten, but not of taste

For people with food allergies and digestive disorders, eating out can be risky. Even if assured the ingredients are safe for your system, your taste buds could be left disappointed. A business in Randolph is attempting to alleviate both of those concerns.

All Can Eat bakery and cafe opened in May at the former Zeppy’s Baigel site. Everything sold there is free of gluten, nuts, soy, sesame, and genetically modified organisms. It also offers products free of dairy, eggs, and sugar. Instead of high-fructose corn syrup, the bakery uses evaporated cane juice.

That’s all good, you may be thinking, but how does it taste?

We visited the store four times, each time buying a variety of products. Full disclosure: None of my taste testers have food allergies. The consensus is that most items taste like conventional products, and far superior to the cardboard-like texture of many gluten-free products on the market today.

Among the bakery items getting raves were the lemon poppy loaf cake ($4 small, $7 large), carrot cupcake ($2), and raspberry-filled doughnut cupcake ($1.35). Of the pastries sold by weight ($11 a pound), the macaroons and apricot shortbread triangles were outstanding. All were moist, rich, and sweet without being cloying. My only quibble is that none of the lemon offerings were lemony enough.

Customers can also buy breads by the loaf ($5.50 for white, $6.50 for multigrain). Instead of wheat, the breads are made with tapioca starch, and rice, amaranth, millet, sorghum, and teff flours. The slightly spongy texture distinguishes this from traditional bread, but there are no complaints about the taste. After being toasted and made into a sandwich, the unique texture was forgotten.

The cafe serves breakfast and lunch items, such as pancakes, omelets, sandwiches, and soups. We tried a pizza with feta cheese ($7.50), a meat loaf sandwich, and a roast beef sandwich ($6 each on multigrain bread). They were all excellent, if on the small side, but as good as any made with traditional wheat flour.

All Can Eat also sells prepared dishes such as stuffed grape leaves, chicken Parmesan, eggplant salad, quinoa pilaf, and tabouleh with quinoa. The eggplant salad ($6), enhanced with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and parsley, was fresh and tasty, but a bit oily. The tabouleh ($6), with parsley, tomatoes, onions, and a smattering of quinoa, was praised for its bright and vibrant flavors, but one tabouleh connoisseur noted that it was “more greens than grains.’’

Customers are enthusiastic about the business. Josephine Allen of Hingham has a grandson who is autistic and on a gluten-free diet, and learned about All Can Eat from one of his teachers.

“Even the fact that I can go home and make a cheese pizza for him is huge,’’ she said. “A place like this is going to add to his quality of life.’’

Lesley Wayler, 21, of Vermont was diagnosed with gluten sensitivity four years ago. She was visiting her aunt in Walpole, who introduced her to the Randolph store.

“I had a sandwich, and it was so good. I’ve had bread in other places that was terrible, dry and cement-like. But the bread here is definitely bread-like, fresh and soft.’’

Chief executive and founder George Moufarrej of Randolph and president Diane Sterrett of Wrentham hear these kinds of comments all the time. In fact, the idea for a gluten-free bakery was customer-driven.

Moufarrej had a bakery in Walpole, and “people started coming in asking for gluten-free products,’’ said Sterrett. “I didn’t even know what gluten-free was. George had done research in the past for diabetes, so he took that research and started making different recipes. In the meantime, we went out to the markets to see what was available and found that they didn’t taste very good. And it was very expensive.’’

So how do they keep their prices reasonable? Sterrett said, “Because we have space in the warehouse, we buy large quantities, so by buying in bulk we’re able to keep the costs down.’’

Customers who can’t make it to the Randolph store can buy All Can Eat products at such stores as Whole Foods, the Fruit Center in Milton and Hingham, and the Market at Pinehills in Plymouth. For more locations, or to buy online, visit www.allcaneat.com.

Wendy Chow  

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