I mentioned in Wednesday's blog (Going Out to Eat) that there are many restaurants that will make accommodations for special diets, however some cities do a much better job of this than others. I was in San Diego last year for a conference, and was also able to explore the city and take in the sights. The weather was beautiful as we walked down the streets lined with shops and restaurants. Although I had done my research of gluten-friendly establishments prior to the trip, we ended up eating in random restaurants that we came across on our walks. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the staff in EVERY restaurant we ate at were all familiar with gluten-free requests.
The San Diego Zoo and Balboa Park are both probably places you don't want to miss when visiting this great city, but when you do make it to San Diego, make sure to add these restaurants to your list and enjoy the food!
It is that time of year... the grocery stores are filled with food for Passover and many items are gluten-free (be sure to check the labels)! I wish I could find gluten-free blintzes and knishes like those mentioned on Gluten-Free NYC, but if you are lucky enough to have a large selection, these may be in your store. A few years ago, I came across gluten-free Ring Tings from Shabtai Gourmet. They were incredible, and they brought back so many memories of eating Ding Dongs and Rings Dings as a kid, but I haven't been able to find them lately. I do however have a large variety of Passover cookies at my local grocery store, and this year I discovered another blast from the past... black and white cookies from Oberlander's. I had to try them as soon as I got home, and they tasted just like I remembered. Passover is still a few weeks away, so I think I may need to go back and pick up a few more boxes before they disappear!
Although my gluten-free diet has gotten much easier over time, eating out was very scary at first and still requires some planning. However, making every meal in the comfort of my own kitchen was just NOT an option. Going out to eat is a part of life and being on a gluten-free diet shouldn't stop us from living. Of course I was scared about the "secret ingredients" they use and the cross-contamination, but it is just about making smart choices. There are so many restaurants that actually have gluten-free menus (the list keeps growing) and so many more that will make accommodations for special diets.
The information is everywhere... individual restaurant websites, magazine articles, gluten-free forums and blogs, and the list goes on. The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide (Triumph Dining) is also great if you do any traveling at all. I have actually packed this in my suitcase on a few trips! But don't stop there... if you are planning on going out to eat and aren't sure they will have something for you, just call ahead and speak to a manager.
Brazilian steakhouses are one of my favorites that don't necessarily have special gluten-free menus, but always have plenty of tasty options. Some of the more popular chain restaurants with gluten-free menus include P.F. Changs, Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish Grill, Chili's and Legal Sea Foods. However, be sure to check the menus frequently as ingredients may change. I usually order the Original Baby Back ribs with mashed potatoes when I go to Chili's, but recently noticed that only the Honey BBQ ribs are now listed as gluten-free. They even removed the mashed potatoes from the list of gluten-free sides. So it is important to check the menus and ask questions!
I have definitely gone to a few restaurants and simply ordered a plain salad after looking at the menu or talking to a server who seemed completely clueless (sometimes it is better to be safe than sorry), but that is not the norm. I have enjoyed so many wonderful meals at restaurants and it just seems that more and more places are becoming familiar with gluten-free diets. Again, it is all about making smart choices and doing a little research.
Welcome to my world... living gluten-free in South Florida!
I've been on a gluten-free diet for a few years now and it has gotten much easier over time. When my doctor first said the words gluten-free diet, visions of my favorite foods that I would no longer be able to eat flashed through my mind. Donuts, egg rolls, pasta, garlic bread, and the list went on... I jumped on the internet to look for all of the information that I could find, including gluten-free replacements to all my favorite foods, and wondered how I was ever going to eat out at a restaurant again. I found a few websites that had a ton of information (www.celiac.com and www.celiac. org) and several with gluten-free products including Gluten Solutions. I also bought a few books. Many of the books out there were also filled with valuable information (what I could and couldn't eat) as well as great recipes. Being that I am just the average cook and not into gourmet cooking, some of the recipes were too elaborate for me. Two of my favorite books are Against the Grain and Wheat-Free Worry-Free. They covered everything about living without gluten, including supermarket basics, reading labels, eating out, traveling, nutrition, as well as the emotional aspect that comes with this new lifestyle. These 2 books are must-haves for anyone starting on a gluten-free diet! However, for those really into cooking, also check out The Gluten-Free Gourmet books.
I was very surprised how much information was out there and just how many gluten-free products were available. I initially bought a lot of my new food online as I began experimenting with different products. This quickly became expensive and I started to look for other options. Luckily, I have a Whole Foods close by that carries a large supply of gluten-free products (the selection continues to grow over the years). I also stop off at a few other health food stores nearby on occasion to buy items that I can't find anywhere else (Nutrition Smart and Tunie's). I even still buy a few items online once in a while (my favorite tapioca dinner rolls from Ener-G Foods). However, over the years I have changed my mindset somewhat from simply looking for "gluten-free" specialty products to eating simple and healthy. There are so many options that are naturally gluten-free, that the question is no longer what can't I eat, but rather what should I eat? Don't get me wrong, there are still a few gluten-free items on my shopping list each week (gluten-free pasta included), but I now buy most of my food in the regular grocery store. My weekly shopping list includes more fruits and vegetables, and a simple dinner may be grilled chicken and asparagus.
Every now and then, dessert consists of a special gluten-free treat. Last night was a chocolate cupcake I just discovered at Whole Foods!