By Anni Caporuscio
Attention all celiac-sufferers, gluten-free aspirants, food allergists and all your friends who love food: Have I got some news for you! Sweet Marie’s Hawaii Inc. has got some great food — and I’m saying this with a serious face and a full belly.
Usually, there is a stigma about allergen-free food. But not so at Marie Cassel’s charming, old-fashioned restaurant in Hanama‘ulu, Sweet Marie’s Hawaii; the first dedicated gluten-free kitchen in the state of Hawai‘i.
Marie has been doing wholesale gluten-free cooking for at least 15 years. She first opened her restaurant exactly nine years ago in Kapa‘a, but has since moved locations twice, and is now at the old Hanama‘ulu Post Office building, across the highway from the Hanama‘ulu gas station.
It was many years ago when Marie returned home from a month-long trip to Thailand — and to a standard American diet — to be diagnosed with celiac disease, an immune reaction to eating gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye and barley. The condition causes inflammation that damages the small intestine’s lining, preventing absorption of nutrients and causing other medical complications.
However, a strict gluten-free diet can help manage the symptoms and promote intestinal healing. So rather than feeling depressed, Marie got creative.
All her recipes are her own renderings from years of experiments and tasting. She serves balanced entrees and delicious treats, all flavorful and thoughtfully prepared. Yes, all those cookies, cakes and fluffy muffins: all gluten free. The short ribs, the macadamia nut crusted chicken, the sweet potato ginger coconut soup: all gluten- and allergen-free.
Marie also likes to know her customers. Often, she’ll seat them, chat and serve them — and in between all that she’ll cook and bake.
Sweet Marie’s Hawaii also does mail-order treats and caters to weddings and parties.
And while we’re at it, May is Celiac Disease Awareness Month. Although about three million in the United States have celiac disease, only about 10 percent have been diagnosed, according to the University of Chicago, Celiac Disease Center.
Sweet Marie’s Hawaii is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visit www.sweetmarieshawaii.com or call 823-0227 or 635-8229 for more information.