In 2011, my mother took us all to California Pizza Kitchen to celebrate Veterans Day. She spoke at a Scottsdale celebration, telling the audience about her service as a nurse in Desert Storm. Her unit's mobile hospital set up on the Kuwait/Iraq border and treated more than 100 wounded people.
She was excited to learn the CPK was discounting veterans' meals for the day, and that they had gluten-free pizza that I could eat. So off we went, our mouths watering.
What we didn't know then was that CPK's first foray into the gluten-free realm had ended in disappointment, with customers complaining about cross-contamination. CPK had pulled the gluten-free crusts.
I ordered a salad and counted myself lucky to be able to eat a meal with my mother, because I had been sure she would not return from the war.
We should have tried again.
In October, CPK reintroduced gluten-free pizzas, this time getting advice and a stamp of approval from a national gluten-free organization. And for Veterans Day in November, they offered free pizza for every veteran or active-duty service member.
I was always a big fan of CPK. I adored the pear and Gorgonzola pizza and frequently stopped for lunch to have the two-in-a-bowl soup with tortilla and split pea.
Once I was diagnosed with celiac disease, both of those items were off-limits, the pizza crust had wheat, and the split pea soup contained barley.
I didn't get a chance to try the new gluten-free pizza until this week, and it was great, crispy and tasty.
The restaurant is offering four pizzas on certified gluten-free crusts: BBQ chicken, with smoked Gouda, red onions, cilantro and bacon; pepperoni, with rustic and spicy pepperoni and fresh mozzarella; mushroom pepperoni sausage, with crimini mushrooms; and Margherita, with Italian tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and parmesan.
I chose pepperoni, and the two different meats, rustic and spicy, were a great combination. I've always loved the CPK sauce, and I was thrilled to be able to order a pizza and know I was safe.
CPK worked with the Gluten Intolerance Group to institute procedures to ensure that the pizzas are not cross-contaminated in the kitchen.
They have separate prep areas, segregated toppings in color-coded containers, color-coded tools, and aluminum pans with rims that prevent the pizzas from bumping into wheat crusts in the oven.
In addition, CPK has substituted rice flour in all the pizza prep stations, even for the wheat crusts, so no wheat flour is floating around in the air, contaminated things.
They will make any of their pizzas on a gluten-free crust, but because of kitchen space, only the four listed can be prepared using the Gluten Intolerance Group guidelines.
I'm thrilled to once again be a big fan of CPK, in part because of the gluten-free pizzas and, in part, because of the love they show veterans.
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I'm already marking the calendar for November 11, Veterans Day, when I plan to be enjoying pizza with my mother, once again marveling at her survival.
The next battle: de-gluten the split pea soup.