Although Julie Moreno has always had a love for baking, her decision to switch to making her homemade cakes, breads, and pies gluten-free (wheat-less) came about not by choice but by necessity.
"Two years ago, my daughter became very sick and nobody could tell us what was wrong," Moreno tells me. "After several months, we finally figured out it was an allergy to gluten. We tried buying gluten-free stuff, but a lot of it wasn't very good. That's when I decided to make my own."
Moreno's decision proved to be not only a healthier way of eating for her daughter, but a successful business venture as well. In August 2011, Moreno launched Jewel's Cupcake Shop, an online store offering gluten-free baked goods like breads, rolls, pies, pastries, and cupcakes -- all made with her signature flour blends.
And this August (most likely late August) Moreno will bring her gluten-free creations to her first brick-and-mortar space: Jewel's Bakery & Cafe at 4041 East Thomas Road, in the former home of Kitchen Classics, in East Phoenix.
Moreno says her new counter-service restaurant, which seats 40 inside and 40 on an outdoor patio, will, to start, be open for breakfast and lunch. In addition to pastry cases filled with sweet treats, Moreno says customers can also pick up fresh-baked breads (think an olive and rosemary baguette), hot dog and hamburger buns, and take-away meals like frozen pizzas.
"Because there's not a lot of choices for people eating gluten-free, I want to always be doing something new," Moreno says. "Like a specials menu featuring themes like Italian foods, grilled cheese sandwiches, and build-your-own pizza."
And because a lot of folks with gluten allergies also can't eat eggs and dairy, Moreno says her abundance of vegan items, "just come with the territory."
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Although one may think Moreno's daughter might be the one giving the stamp of approval on her dishes, Moreno tells me it's actually her husband who's the taste-tester.
"He doesn't like gluten-free foods and is the pickiest eater," she says. "I know if he likes it, it's good. The trick is getting it past him."
Jewel's Bakery & Cafe 4041 East Thomas Road www.jewelscupcakeshop.com