Friday, November 23, 2012

Gluten Free Gift Ideas

Now that Thanksgiving is over for another year, it is time to think about the next big holiday season!  (Yes, most stores have been 'decking the halls' since September which is why I avoid them in the fall - one holiday at a time please!)

A couple of months ago I put together a Gluten Free Gift Idea Page.  It is full of ideas of what to get someone who is gluten free but also it may trigger some ideas for what you can ask others for (or how to answer the "What would you like for Christmas/Hanukkah/your Birthday/etc?" question).

Most of my suggestions are available offline but in case you'd like to avoid the malls, I've included links to where you can find them online as well.

Happy Holidays!

p.s. Oh, and in case you are wondering what you can get your favorite blogger . . . the best gift would be to share a link to this blog with others you think would benefit from it!  There are dozens of recipes, restaurant reviews, and other helpful articles here you could link to or you could simply share the main page.  Thank you!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Roast turkey on its own should be gluten free. Just be careful as some brands inject broth and that broth may contain gluten. Also, assuming you aren’t cooking for yourself, a turkey stuffed with gluten containing bread will be seriously contaminated – if there is going to be gluten containing stuffing, it has to be outside of the bird.  [Generally speaking it is now generally considered unsafe to cook stuffing inside a roasting bird anyway.]

Gluten Free Stuffing, Gluten Free Gravy
and Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes
I’ve posted seperate articles on gluten free gravy, gluten free stuffing and dairy free mashed potatoes to aid in searching.  Technically, although I’m writing this first, I’ll post the others first so on the main page they’ll read correctly top to bottom.

Roast the turkey according to the instructions on the turkey being sure not to add gluten containing stuffing, seasonings, and/or basting liquids.  Be sure to use a meat thermometer to the correct temperature (170 for a turkey breast, 180-185 for a whole turkey measured in the thickest part of the thigh). 

Figure on ½ - 1 1/2 pounds of turkey per person (use the lower end if just making a turkey breast, more towards the upper end if roasting the whole bird).

Have a Happy and Safe Thanksgiving!

Gluten Free Gravy (Dairy Free)

This is how I make gluten free gravy. The final amount will depend on the amount of pan drippings you start with although I never measure these. I'd rather have too much gravy than not enough! You can easily scale this up as needed.  Some people strain the pan drippings and skim the fat which you are certainly welcome to do.

Gluten Free Gravy

1 cup water + gluten free bullion or 1 cup gluten free chicken broth
1/2 cup water
Salt and Pepper
Pan drippings
1/4 cup gluten free flour mix

How to prepare gluten free gravy:

After removing the turkey / chicken from the roasting pan, tent it with foil and let it sit for 15 minutes. This makes it much easier to carve. While the bird is resting add 1 cup of water+bullion / gluten free broth to the pan juices for every four people and scrape up the roasted on bits.

In a container combine a gluten free flour mix* and 1/2 a cup of water. Seal the container and shake vigoursly.  Slowly whisk this mixture into the pan.  (Shaking in the container keeps lumps from forming, whisking in the mixture keeps it from solidifying immediately).  Bring to a boil and continue whisking until the gravy reaches the desired consistancy.  Season to taste.

*I usually combine what ever I have left over, usually, 1/3 cornstarch, 1/3 sorghum and 1/3 brown rice.

Depending on the amount of pan drippings you started with, this should make about 2 cups of gravy.  I figure on needing at least ¼ cup per person.

[One final note, the green flecks in the photo above is finely chopped spinach.  I can't digest green leafy vegetables so I run them through the blender and add them in in small doses where I can.]

Other gluten free / dairy free recipes:

Gluten Free Stuffing

Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Gluten Free Stuffing (dairy free / vegan depending on bread)

I figure on two slices of bread per serving and just like gravy, I'd rather have too much stuffing than not enough.  (I can't believe I just typed "too much stuffing", as if that's possible!)

Gluten Free Stuffing

8 slices gluten free bread, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
olive oil
1 tsp ground sage
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup almond milk + more as needed

How to prepare gluten free stuffing:

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. 

Cube 8 slices of fresh gluten free bread.  (I save the ends of my gluten free loaves for just this purpose!)  Place the cubes on a cookies sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, turning once.  [They should dry out, not brown.]  Allow to cool. [This can even be done the night before, just be sure they are totally cool before storing in a sealed bag.]

Saute the chopped onion in olive until starting to brown.  Toss the onions, seasonings and cooled cubes in a large bowl.  Moisten with almond milk (or any other nondairy milk or even chicken stock) stirring as you go, until bread is moist.

Heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Bake, covered, in a greased caserole dish for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for an additional 15 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!

Other gluten free / dairy free recipes:

Gluten Free Gravy

Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes (Gluten Free / Vegan)

The secret to really good mashed potatoes is to fully cook the potatoes and whip them until past the point you think you should stop!
Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes


1 pound potato peeled and quartered
2 tbsp olive oil
Almond milk as needed (about 1/4 cup)

How to prepare dairy free mashed potatoes:

Boil the potatoes until fork tender (about 25 minutes).  Drain the pan and begin to mash the potatoes either with a hand masher or with a mixer (turned off for now).  Moisten the potatoes with the olive oil and a small amount of the almond milk.  Begin to mash more vigoursly (or turn the electric mixer on) adding almond milk as you go until the potatoes reach the desired consistancy.  Remember you can always add more liquid, but you can't remove any! [Note: if you can't have almonds then try hemp milk. Rice milk will also work but it is thinner so you'll use less.]

I find that a pound of potatoes to start yields about 3 servings so adjust as needed.

Other gluten free / dairy free recipes:

Gluten Free Stuffing

Gluten Free Gravy

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Product Review: Luce's Gluten Free Bread Mixes

I first met Charles Luce a couple of years ago at a Celiac Disease support group meeting.  That evening he was giving a talk on the techniques he had perfected for making a sour dough starter for gluten free sour dough bread (traditionally, sour dough starter is grown in a mixture of wheat flour).  He had brought along numerous loaves of fresh baked gluten free sour dough breads in various flavors.  These breads were good, hearty, crusty breads that didn't fall apart and are sorely lacking on the gluten free market.  He couldn't cut the sample loaves fast enough when it came time to try them!

Luce's Gluten Free Sour Dough
and Gluten Free Italian Breads
I next saw Charles at a gluten free dinner in Jersey City at Uno's Chicago Grill. At this point he was starting to work on pre-made mixes of his breads that you would bake at home.  He had brought along some test samples that we enjoyed with dinner and chatted about the hurdles of getting a gluten free business off the ground.

Well, I'm thrilled to announce that that business has now taken off.  Charles was at last night's Northern NJ Celiac Disease Meetup sampling his breads and selling mixes.  So far he's perfected two varieties: Classic Sour Dough and New Italian - both are amazing.  The breads have a perfect crust and aren't dry or crumbly like so many other GF breads.  The best part?  They couldn't be easier to make.

Each package comes with a pre-mixed gluten free flour blend.  Both are made in a gluten free facility, are dairy free, egg free, nut free, soy free and vegan with no added oil or sugar (the italian bread contains gf oats).  You simply add warm water and mix in a bowl, form the loaf on the included parchment paper, seal in the included oven bag, heat the oven and cookie sheet while the loaf rests, then bake for 85 minutes at 400 degrees!

For now the mixes are only available online at Luce's Gluten Free Artisan Bread.  Considering how good the bread is, it shouldn't be long before they start appearing on store shelves everywhere.

So just how good is the bread?  When the meeting was over and everyone filed out of the room last night, it appeared as if most were carrying a bag (or two) of Luce's Gluten Free Bread Mix home with them!

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Restaurant Review: My Thai (Frederick, Maryland)

Based on the recommendation of two different online Gluten Free restaurant guides I decided to try My Thai (193E Thomas Johnson Drive, Frederick, MD 21702) during my recent trip.

Gluten Free Garden Rolls at My Thai in Frederick, MD
Both sites stated that My Thai has a gluten free menu. Unfortunately this is the issue with user submitted GF restaurant sites, you are trusting a user who may not be as concerned about cc and staff knowledge as you are. My Thai doesn’t have a GF menu and the host really didn’t seem so sure.

Since most Thai food is naturally gluten free I figured I'd stick it out and talk with the waitress. Luckily, the waitress I had knew exactly what was already gluten free and what could be made gluten free. This turned out to be about 60% of the menu.

Gluten Free Chicken Pad Hima Parn at My Thai in Frederick, MD
I had the Garden Rolls (rice paper wrapped steamed shrimp and veggies) with a sweet chili sauce as an appetizer. (The hoisin-peanut sauce is not gluten free.) My lunch entrée was Pad Hima Parn (chicken, bell peppers and cashews).

The food was excellent and not too spicy. It is certainly nice to have a gluten free appetizer option when dining out. This is definitely somewhere I would eat again if I didn’t live so far away!

My Thai on Urbanspoon

Other Maryland Restaurants with Gluten Free menus/options:

Gluten Free at Isabella's Taverna

The main trip page is here: Gluten Free Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Restaurant Review: Isabella’s Taverna (Frederick, Maryland)

This restaurant was the highlight of my trip and, while I ate here twice, I do regret not finding time to eating here even more! Isabella’s (44 North Market Street, Frederick, MD 21701) has flagged all of the items on their menu that are naturally gluten free as well as those that could easily be made gluten free. Not only that but their waitstaff is incredibly attentive and willing to double check each item. All of their paellas are gluten and dairy free and most of their gluten free tapas are also / can also be made dairy free.

Gluten Free Tapas: Judias con aceite de trufa,
Pollo de Cacerola y Gambas al Pil Pil at Isabella's Taverna
One my first trip, my waitress took a list of gluten free tapas that I was considering and confirmed with the chef which were dairy free. I then ordered the Gambas al Pil Pil (shrimp with carmelized onions and garlic), Pollo de Cacerola a la Gallega (a slow cooked chicken stew from the north west of Spain), and judias con aceite de trufa blanca (baby green beans with a white truffle oil).  

When I returned a week later, I sat in a different section but this waitress as well double checked everything with the chef. This time I went with the Ceviche (shrimp and scallops in lime juice and cilantro), Langostinos del Golfo Asados (Grill shrimp over Black rice sans the saffron butter), Escalivada (eggplant with onions, peppers, garlic and capers) and Pimientos de Padron (grilled small green peppers). Again the food was amazing!

Gluten Free Ceviche at Isabella's in Frederick, MD
I’m actually getting a little depressed thinking about how far away Isabella’s Taverna is! When I visit spain I tend to stick to grilled meats (a la plancha) when eating out and avoid anything more interesting so it was amazing to have some many options!  It is so rare to have a long list of gluten free / dairy free items to choose from, especially items that you can’t get anywhere else.

So, who’s up for a road trip?

Isabella's Tavern & Tapas Bar on Urbanspoon
Other Maryland Restaurants with Gluten Free menus/options:

My Thai

Glory Days Grill (review coming soon)

The main trip page is here: Gluten Free Maryland

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gluten Free Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia

I recently got back from a whirlwind trip trough Maryland, Northern Virginia and the eastern tip of West Virginia. I had gone down for the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Antietam and extended the trip to tour a number of other national parks (I ended up visiting 13 of them, 10 I had never been to before).

Antietam National Battlefield
Before leaving on the trip, I took my own gluten free travel advice and mapped out the places I would be able to eat as well as the grocery stores along the way that cater to the gluten free community. I even brought along my toaster (although I ended up having Kinnikinnick donuts for breakfast most mornings).

My route took me from NJ through southern PA to Hagerstown, MD, I was in that area for three days then headed down to Manassas, VA for three days, before heading to Harper’s Ferry, WV for a day and finally back to the Hagerstown/Frederick area of MD.

I’ll be writing restaurant reviews over the next couple of days but wanted to list out some of my finds, including a handful of places I didn’t get to go:

Maryland / Virginia / West Virginia Gluten Free Supermarket / Grocery options

Common Market (Frederick, MD) – great GF selection and they even had Bavarian Toast Bread (which I haven’t seen in years!)

The Natural Marketplace in Warrenton, VA
Eden’s Natural Market (Gainesville, VA) – large health food shop with a good GF selection.

Healthway (VA/WV) – I didn’t get to stop here but this chain has a handful of locations across these two states.

Martin’s (MD, PA, VA and WV) – fairly sizeable GF section at this large supermarket chain.

MOM’s Organic Market (only in MD/VA) – good selection of GF products.

Natural Marketplace (Warrenton, VA) – small natural food store with a second floor juice bar/sandwich shop. Review coming soon.

Wegmans – I didn’t stop here but I suspect they are much the same all over.

Whole Foods – I also never stopped in a Whole Foods (they're only in eastern MD but I was near some in VA as well)..

Independent Gluten Free Dining options

Alcacia (Frederick, MD) - Bistro that flags GF items on their menu. Unsure on DF options. I almost ate here but they fell victim to me traveling alone. I decided to not eat out alone again that night and instead got take out. It looks like a great restaurant though.

Gambas al Pil Pil at Isabella's in Frederick, MD
Castiglia’s (Winchester, VA) – Italian restaurant with extensive GF menu, including GF bread crumbs, GF bread (manufacturer states bread may be contaminated), GF pizza, and GF pasta. Review coming soon.

Isabella’s Taverna and Tapas Bar (Frederick, MD) – the absolute highlight of the entire trip! Review: Gluten Free at Isabella's Taverna.

My Thai (Frederick, MD) – listed on other sites as having a GF menu. They don’t. However they were extremely accommodating. Review: Gluten Free at My Thai.

The Wild Tomato (Harrisburg, PA) – great GF menu at this Italian takeout restaurant. Sadly, no DF cheese.  Review coming soon.

Maryland/Virginia/West Virginia Gluten Free Chain Restaurants

Chick-fil-A – ate here a couple of times I needed a quick meal. (See my previous review here: Eating Gluten Free at Chick-fil-A)

Glory Days Grill – A mostly gluten friendly menu but they do have a dedicated fryer for gluten free fries! Review coming soon.

Logan’s Roadhouse – gluten friendly menu. Review coming soon.

Red Robin – serving GF / DF hamburger buns and some locations have a dedicated fryer. Review coming soon!

zPizza – pizza chain with both GF pizza crusts and DF cheese. I one night I was going to try them, it got too late for me to get there before they closed. I think they just opened (are about to open) a location or two in NYC. I’ll have to check them out soon.

There are also numerous locations of major chains we have here in NJ that I didn’t try during the trip (but it was nice to know they were there if I needed them): Bonefish Grill, Boston Market, Buffalo Wild Wings (almost nothing here is both GF and DF), Don Pablo’s, Longhorn, Outback, Pei Wei, Ruby Tuesday, and Uno Chicago Grill.

Gluten Free Bakeries

Better Choice Bakery (Brunswick, MD (small town on VA border, near Harper’s Ferry)) – small dedicated GF/DF bakery. Review coming soon.

Jireh Bakery Cafe (Centerville, VA) – I didn’t get to try here.

Triple Oak Bakery (Sperryville, VA) – dedicated GF bakery. No mention online of DF options. I didn’t stop here.

Ok, time to start cracking on those nine new reviews!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Event Review: Appetite For Awareness (Philadelphia, PA)

I just got home a short while ago from Appetite for Awareness. [Note, I wrote this last night, added the photos and published this morning.]  I drove down down with a friend of mine (also gluten free, but not fully dairy free) and had a great time sampling the products and restaurant offerings, viewing two cooking demos, watching the NFCA award ceremony for Michael from Gluten Free Philly [if you live in south Jersey, the Philly area or Delaware you should be following his blog], and meeting Erin who writes Gluten Free Fun [an NYC GF blog], writes Gluten Free Globetrotter [a world travel GF blog], and organizes the NYC Celiac Meetup

Michael from Gluten Free Philly
accepting his award from the NFCA
There were over 40 vendors and  almost 30 restaurants.  I'll touch on some of the highlights below but keep in mind, since I am dairy free as well I skipped those vendors/restaurants that didn't have anything both GF and DF.  I good number of those I skipped do have dairy free products or menu items (they just didn't have them with them).  As always it was nice to see Udi's and Pamela's but neither had their new product lines with them - once I see those new items in stores I'll be sure to review them.  The full list of vendors and restaurants is on the NFCA website here:  On to the highlights:

  • The show highlight: dense crusty bagels from SweetNote Bakery.  Sadly these aren't in stores (yet?), but they are available commercially to deli's and other restaurants that want to offer their diners a gf/df bagel option.  Their website has a list of where around the Philadelphia area you can get these.
Gluten Free / Dairy Free Bagel samples from SweetNote Bakery

  • Casona of Collingswood, NJ was serving an amazing tuna ceviche on a round corn tostada.  Amazing!  This is one of the restaurants on my GF Restaurant list that I have been dying to try.  After tasting this, I need to make an excuse to drive two hours to Collingswood!

  • Pasta Pomodoro (Voorhees, NJ) had an amazing GF (and mostly DF) spread as well.  They had a crepe with sweet potato filling and a crab guacamole.  They are also on my short list of must try NJ GF restaurants!

Vegan / Gluten Free Cheesesteak and
GF/Vegan Pizza Crackers from Jar Bar
  • Imagine a 100% gluten free and dairy free restaurant and you'd have Jar Bar (ok, technically they're vegan and raw as well but since I can't really handle egg that works for me!)  They had an amazing chocolate mousse (made with avocado which you'd never taste) and both a gf/vegan cheese steak as well as a gf/df pizza (both served at the event on Jar Bar's own flax crackers).  This is a restaurant I'd love to try next time I'm in Philly (even though I love tasty animals)!

  • Grandma's Grotto (Horsham, PA) had six different types of cookies (only two were DF), gf meatballs (sadly with dairy) and a pasta dish with chicken and vegetables (dairy free and without tomato sauce).  The snickerdoodle I had was great and I'm glad I picked up a menu.  They offer a tri-fold gluten free menu at their restaurant and even have pre-made frozen items available. 

PB&J bites on Gluten Free Quinoa Bread from Taffets
  • Taffets All Gluten Free Bakery and Shop was sampling a number of their breads and cookies (all breads are DF as well).  The bread was really good; and this is another spot I'll try the next time I'm in Philly.

  • I also got to catch up with Christine from Sweet Rubino's.  Her specialty Italian cookies are gluten free, corn free, dairy free, soy free and refined sugar free (some are vegan as well).  I'm looking forward to these being available in stores.  (Which hopefully will be soon!)

  • 1-2-3 Gluten Free mixes aren't new but I was interested to find out that each of their mixes has dairy free modifications / recipes printed inside the box (the mixes themselves are already dairy free).  (I also like that they prepared one of their four samples using that recipe so those of us who are DF could try them too!)

  • Sadly, Pure Tacos wasn't serving anything dairy free today but I did want to mention them since both their Ocean City, NJ and Philadelphia, PA locations are 100% gluten free!

You'd think at this point I'd be in a food coma and wouldn't want to think about more GF food but I'm already gearing up for Sunday's Colin Leslie Walk for Celiac Disease (both the outdoor walk, and the walk around the vendor's hall)!

If I missed any GF/DF options yesterday, feel free to share what I missed in the comments below!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Colin Leslie Walk for Celiac Disease Awareness: 2012

While I'm looking forward to attending Appetite for Awareness this weekend, and the CSA conference in October on Long Island, the one Gluten Free Event I most anticipate every year is the Colin Leslie Walk in Rye, NY!  Colin Leslie started this walk in 2005 and to date has collected over $335,000 for the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia.

Again this year, the walk will be held at Rye High School in Rye, NY.  The date has moved up a bit, this year it is on Sunday, September 30th.  The walk runs along Long Island Sound (your choice of 2 or 4 miles), and after the walk there is a guest speaker (this year is Dr. Peter Green), lunch available for purchase (from Wild Westchester BBQ / Opus 465 of Armonk, NY), and the highlight of the event – a gymnasium full of gluten free vendors (40 have signed up so far, last year there were so many they filled two gyms)!

I’ll be walking again this year and I highly recommend that you attend and walk as well. The registration page is here: Colin Leslie Celiac Walk Registration Page.

If you can’t make the walk and would still like to contribute, my donation page is here: Jason's Donation Page for the Colin Leslie Celiac Disease Walk.  Any amount is greatly appreciated.

I hope to see you all there!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Happy National Celiac Awareness Day!

I hope everyone has had a wonderful summer and is ready for the fall.  Today is National Celiac Awareness Day and while I don't officially have celiac disease, I certainly realize that dealing with my gluten sensitivity would be infinitely more difficult if not for the efforts of the celiac community.  In celebration, I'll be eating out gluten free for both lunch and dinner (lots of reviews will be forthcoming next week as I've eaten out quite a bit this week). 

Friday, August 31, 2012

Daiya vs Vegan Gourmet Dairy Free / Vegan Cheeses

I’ve been dairy free for over 20 years now. I had tried DF cheeses in the past and found them terrible. They all suffer from at least one of three problems: 1) they were lactose free not dairy free*, 2) they didn’t melt, 3) their taste and texture when not melted is terrible. (* most alternative cheeses still contain casein (the protein found in milk). I assume this helps them melt as those without it tended not to.)

Vegan Gourmet Dairy Free Cheddar Cheese
A couple years ago, I decided to try an Amy’s Gluten Free Dairy Free Spinach Pizza. The instructions include a couple minutes at the very end under the broiler. The pizza came out great and a light bulb went off in my head. Perhaps that was the secret to getting casein-free non-dairy cheese to melt.

I bought a block of Vegan Gourmet and gave it a shot and . . . it worked beautifully! I did originally slice the cheese but have found it is much better/easier to shred it (by hand or in a food processor). Warning: if the cheese is layered too thickly the bottom will liquefy and not melt properly, you need a thin layer exposed to the broiler.

I also found a hint online to microwave the cheese on high, 30 seconds at a time, until it melts. I recommend cutting it up as small as possible first and mixing/stirring as you go so it doesn’t separate out. This allows you to use the cheese as a topping without having to broil whatever it is on. The downside to this tip is that the cheese re-hardens quite quickly and then doesn’t really re-melt so you have to work super fast.

Daiya Dairy Free Havarti Cheese Shreds
Vegan Gourmet comes in four flavors: Mozzarella, Cheddar, Monterey Jack and Nacho. I really wouldn’t eat it cold or expect it to melt without broiling or constant stirring (it separates out otherwise).

In the last two years, I started to see Daiya Dairy free Cheese shreds showing up in supermarkets and even a handful of restaurants. It claims to melt like cheese but I found that while it melts better than the Vegan Gourmet it still isn’t the same as dairy cheese. It comes pre-shredded which saves a step but, I found it doesn’t microwave well (although Amy’s GF/DF Mac and Cheese uses Daiya and it microwaves up perfectly). It is also extremely sticky, sticking to bowls, plates, utensils anything it comes in contact with while in its melty form.

Daiya comes in three flavors: Cheddar, Mozzarella, and Pepper Jack. It is passable cold but is much better eaten hot/melty. The real advantage it has over Vegan Gourmet is that it is both vegan and soy free.

Daiya Dairy Free Cheese Wedges (cubed)
Daiya also has launched dairy free cheese wedges (Cheddar, Mozzarella, Havarti). These small blocks of cheese are perfect for cubing up for a salad or cheese platter and capture both the taste and texture of cheese. In all the DF cheeses I’ve ever had they are the first to accomplish this! I have not yet tried cooking with these.

In the end, I think Vegan Gourmet is slightly better. As long as you follow the steps above it melts fine. Daiya is a close second however so if you can’t have soy or can’t find Vegan Gourmet it is a ready alternative.

One final thought: actual dairy based cheese is high in protein and calcium while these non-dairy substitutes are not. I use them as a garnish/to add flavor not for their nutritional content (or more accurately lack thereof)!

Dairy Free Recipes using these cheese replacements:

Dairy Free Lasagna (vegan)

Dairy Free Baked Ziti (vegan)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Restaurant Review: Joe’s American Grill (Paramus, NJ, Short Hills, NJ, and locations in CT, FL, MA, NH, and RI)

A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with gluten intolerance. We decided to get together for dinner so I sent him a list of restaurants I still wanted to try and he chose Joe’s American Grill.

Hamburger on Gluten Free / Dairy Free Bun
with Gluten Free Fries at Joe's American Grill
A couple of months ago when I tried Papa Razzi’s gluten free menu (read Review of Papa Razzi here  ), I had started out at Joe’s American Grill. They had believed their new gluten free hamburger buns contained dairy so I decided to go with Papa Razzi instead. [Note: Joe’s and Papa Razzi share the same parent company and at least here in New Jersey are built next door to each other.]

Having eaten at Papa Razzi, I wasn’t surprised by the level of knowledge and care the staff at Joe’s showed us. Our waitress double checked the hamburger bun ingredients and found that while they contain a bit of egg they do not contain any dairy ingredients (she was concerned that they are manufactured in a factory that produces products containing dairy – yes, Joe’s is that careful!).

In addition to gf/df buns for their sandwiches, Joe’s also offers GF pizza crusts (for those who can have dairy), gluten free pasta, and best of all, they offered to pan fry some potatoes for us so we could have gluten free French fries!

As is Joe’s policy, the manager stopped by to discuss our allergies/intolerances with us but it was completely unneeded: our waitress was extremely thorough and knowledgeable and we had full confidence in her.

So how was the burger? The burger was great and the bun was good. It was toasted but did start to come apart towards the end of the burger. The pan fried gluten free fries were out-of-this world.

Joe’s is definitely somewhere I’ll return to and consider when traveling.
Joe's American Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Other recent restaurant reviews:

Gluten Free at Legal Sea Foods

Gluten Free Buns and Gluten Free Fries at Cheeseburger in Paradise

Restaurants serving gluten free fries

Other chain restaurants with gluten free menus

And as always, click here for my full listing of NJ Restaurants offering Gluten Free Dining

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Updates for Gluten Free Fast Food / Chain / Quick Serve List

I'm planning a trip to Maryland / Virginia in September and in preparation I've been scouting out my gluten free dining options.  Along the way I found a number of chain restaurants offering gluten free dining options.  Most of these are chains that we just don't have here in NJ.  After I had found all I could in the area I am heading, I was on a roll and expanded my search to nationwide.  When I'm back from my trip I'll be sure to post some reviews of the restaurants I've tried.  

(I've added all of these to my Gluten Free Chains / Fast Food / Quick Serve Restaurant List already.)


99 Restaurants (CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, RI, VT, only NJ location is closed) – has a number of gluten friendly entrees and gluten free hamburger buns. No gf fries but they do have potato chips instead. Lists eight major allergens (gluten instead of wheat) and MSG on their nutrition page.

Abuelo’s (AR, AZ, FL, IN, KS, KY, MI, MO, OH, OK, SC, TN, TX, VA, WI, no locations in NJ) – this Mexican restaurant chain has an average sized gluten free menu including soft corn tortillas for fajitas and soft tacos.

Austin Grill (DC, MD, VA) – this tex-mex chain has a small gluten free menu. Dairy free may require extra care.

Biaggi’s (CO, IA, IL, IN, NE, MN, MS, NC, NY, OH, UT, WI, no locations in NJ) – has gf spaghetti and penne. Has a number of non-pasta GF entrees as well.

Big Bowl (IL, MN, VA) – has a good sized Asian gluten free menu.

BJ’s Restaurant and Brewhouse (AZ, CA, CO, FL, IN, KS, KY, LA, NV, OH, OK, OR, TX, WA but none in NJ) – extremely small gf menu but also lists 8 major allergens (+ sulfites and MSG). DF might require extra work here as well.

Bugaboo Creek Steakhouse (CT, DE, MA, MD, ME, NH, NY, PA, RI, no NJ locations) – good sized gluten friendly menu.

Claim Jumper (AZ, CA, IL, NV, OR, TN, WA) – has a gluten free menu but take caution as they butter their grilled items.

Don Pablo’s (15 mostly eastern states + 2 in NJ: Deptford and Moorestown) – has multiple warnings on their site and gf menu about expected cross contamination, shared fryers and untrained staff.

Eddie V’s Prime Seafood & Steak (AZ, CA, TX) – large gluten friendly menu.

Glory Day’s Grill (MD, VA, WV only) – has a gluten free menu and dedicated gluten free friers.

The Greene Turtle (DC, DE, MD, VA) – bar/restaurant with a gluten friendly menu.

The Grill (CA, FL, IL, TX) – this chain has a good sized gluten friendly menu.

Hoss’s Steak and Sea (PA and WV only) – lists gluten friendly items on website.

Mama Fu’s (AR, FL, NC, TX) – gluten free sauce not in all locations yet (check with your local restaurant before going. Has a nice sized GF asian menu.

Mitchell’s Fish Market (CT, FL, IN, KY, MI, PA, OH, WI) – can prepare any of their fresh fish in four different gluten friendly ways (grilled, blackened, in a salad, and steamed with ginger and scallions). Has a good number of other gluten friendly options on their GF menu as well.

Mon Ami Gabi (MD, IL, NV, VA) – fairly large gluten free menu including gluten free french fries at this French Bistro. (Note: dairy free may be a bit of a challenge.)

O’Charley’s (18 states across the mid-west, great lakes and south) – they offer an allergen menu that list six allergens (they combine nuts/peanuts and fish/shellfish) and MSG.

Ocean Prime (AZ, CO, FL, GA, IN, MI, PA, OH, TX) - offers gluten friendly menus.

The Old Spaghetti Factory (AZ, CA, CO, HI, ID, IN, KY, MN, MO, OH, OR, TN, UT, WA none on the east coast) – offers gluten free pasta for $.75 more. Has limited GF menu.

Stir Crazy (FL, GA, IL, IN, MI, MN, MO, NY, OH, WI) – offers two gluten free sauces for make-your-own stir fry with rice or rice noodles but make sure wok is thoroughly cleaned between stir fries. May have other GF options but they aren’t listed online. I’ve eaten at the NY location once but am not overly sensitive.

Ted’s Montana Grill (CO, CT, FL, GA, IL, IN, KY, MA, MT, NC, NY, PA, OH, RI, TN, VA, but not in NJ) – has a gluten friendly menu (order without bread, etc) and gluten free fresh cut fries!

Village Tavern (AL, AZ, CO, FL, GA, NC) – has a good sized gluten free menu with numerous grill items, gf pasta and gluten free pizza (but no df cheese).

White Chocolate Grill (AZ, CO, IL) - They have a good sized GF menu and even have gluten free French fries. I ate at their AZ location years ago and enjoyed it quite a bit.

Wildfire Steaks, Chops, & Seafood (IL, MN, VA) – offers full gluten free menu including gluten free hamburger buns (unknown other allergens), gluten free pizza (no df cheese) and more. Fries are not gluten free.

Wildfish Seafood Grille (AZ, CA, TX) – large gluten friendly menu.

Z’Tejas Southwestern Grill (AZ, CA, TX, UT, WA) – gluten free is listed on the specialty menu.

Quick Serve / Fast Food:

Burger 21 (FL, coming soon to NJ) – uses French Meadow gluten free hamburger buns and lists gluten free French fries and sweet potato fries on their menu.

Costa Vida Fresh Mexican Grill (AZ, CA, CO, ID, MO, NM, TX, UT) – no gluten other than their tortillas.

In-N-Out Burger (AZ, CA, NV, TX, UT) – will serve their burgers ‘protein style’ wrapped in lettuce. Their only fried item is French fries so there’s no cross contamination (and their fries are already gluten free).

Jason’s Deli (28 states but none in NJ) – has a limited GF menu mostly containing soups, baked potatoes, and salads.

Noodles & Company (locations in 23 states, but not in NJ) – the list the eight major allergens but very few items are both gluten free and dairy free.

Rubio’s (AZ, CA, CO, NV, UT) – This fish taco/mexican chain has a chart of the 8 major allergens. DF will require a little special ordering.

zpizza (AZ, CA, CO, DC, GA, HI, MD, MN, MO, NC, NV, NY, OH, SC, TX, VA, WA, no NJ locations) – offers gluten free pizza crust and vegan cheese. Crust is vegan too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Restaurant Review: A Taste of Asia II (Chatham, NJ)

Paper Shrimp at A Taste of Asia II
in Chatham, NJ
I recently met a friend of mine for dinner at A Taste of Asia II (245 Main Street, Chatham, NJ 07928). I had walked past them a couple of years ago and noted the sign in the window advertising a gluten free menu but never found it online. (As a matter of fact the site doesn’t even acknowledge the menu exists!) But, it does indeed and it provides quite a number of choices.

The first half of the menu contains about a dozen soups, salads and actual appetizers. The other half is 15 different gluten free entrees. Before ordering, I asked our waiter about dairy free and like almost all other Asian cuisine, nothing on the dinner menu had dairy.  I also asked where the fried items were fried. He let us know that they have two fryers, one is dedicated gluten free!

With that we ordered the Paper Shrimp appetizer (pictured at right). Most of the entrees can be made spicy on a five point scale, but the one I ended up deciding on was a minimum of 3 – which was actually perfect for me and mostly mild with a slight kick. I had the Chili Chicken and my friend had the Borneo Orange Chicken. To avoid cooking a couple of nights, before we left I ordered the Curry Chicken Malaysian Style and the Ayam Basil to go (I had only eaten half my dinner and each take out portion served me twice). All four dishes were quite good but the Chili Chicken was by far my favorite.
Chili Chicken at A Taste of Asia II in Chatham, NJ

There weren’t any desserts on the gluten free menu but after perusing their standard dessert menu, I think next time I need to inquire what if anything can be done gf/df. It certainly appears that quite a few desserts are naturally gluten free and probably dairy free as well.

This is definitely somewhere I would go back, especially given all of the options.
Taste of Asia II on Urbanspoon

Other restaurant reviews:

Gluten Free at Bangkok Kitchen

Gluten Free at Pandan Room

Click here for more NJ Gluten Free Restaurants

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Which Gluten Free Hamburger Bun is Best?

Well barbecue season is in full swing again (or so I hear; I live in an apartment). For me the two main hamburger bun competitors in NJ are Udi’s and Canyon Bakehouse.   Kinnikinnick just launched a new soft bread, hot dog bun and hamburger bun. I’ve included them in the comparison below even though they are still hard to find.

Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Hamburger Bun
[There are a couple of other competitors that I've excluded: Rudi’s hamburger buns are hard to find and don’t hold their shape well, Ener-G are a little dry, and Schär’s Small White Roll (used as a hamburger bun on the package photo) falls apart completely (although I hear they reformulated so I may need to try them again).]

All three buns (Udi's Canyon Bakehouse and Kinnikinnick) are about the same size (perfect for the average sized burger) and hold up well. All three contain egg and corn.

Canyon Bakehouse’s bun is more of an artisanal hamburger bun. It is flavorful and hearty and a little denser. It is also a bit more expensive and harder to find. (I get mine at Whole Foods.)

Udi's Gluten Free Hamburger Bun
If on the other hand you are looking to recapture the standard 10-12 pack hamburger bun you remember, then Udi’s has it down. Like their gluten free hot dog bun, I don’t recommend letting them defrost naturally, but rather keeping them frozen until needed and then microwaving wrapped in a paper towel on medium for about 30 seconds. They are less expensive and easier to find than the Canyon Bakehouse (I get mine at Fairway but have also seen them at Whole Foods and at Shoprites.)

Kinnikinnick has the texture of a squishy potato bun and it also holds up nicely. The only minor downside (other than finding them) is that they aren’t pre-cut. Sometimes for a bbq, I just take a bun out of the freezer and go, figuring it will defrost by the time I need it (again, microwave is best, but some places preclude that).

Kinnikinnick Gluten Free Hamburger Bun

In the end it is hard to pick the best. Udi’s and Kinnikinnick have the advantage on price and nostalgia. Udi’s has the best availability of the three and Canyon Bakehouse edges them all out in flavor. In the end I think it depends what you are looking for in your bun. I use and enjoy all three.

If you can't find these buns locally they can be purchased online.  Udi's is available from the Gluten Free Mall, here: Udi's Gluten Free Hamburger Buns.  Canyon Bakehouse is available from the Gluten Free Mall, here: Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Hamburger Buns.  Kinnikinnick is available directly from Kinnikinnick, here: Kinnikinnick Online Store. [And in case you want to try them: Schär is available from Gluten Free Mall, here: Schar Classic Gluten Free Rolls (Hamburger Buns). Ener-G is available from in a pack of 6 packages (24 total buns), here: Ener-G Foods Brown Rice Hamburger Buns, (Pack of 6). And finally, Rudi's is available from the Gluten Free Mall, here: Rudi's Multigrain Gluten Free Hamburger Buns.]

Other Best of articles:

Best Gluten Free Hot Dog Bun

Best Gluten Free Pasta

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Restaurant Review: Via Roma (Toms River, NJ)

People have been mentioning Via Roma (2360 Route 9, Toms River, NJ 08755) to me for a while now. Since it is over an hour away, I put it on the list of restaurants I'd like to try at some point. The reality was I should have rushed there right away!

Gluten Free / Dairy Free Philly Cheese Steak
at Via Roma in Toms River, NJ
Via Roma has a full published gluten free menu (it is a tri-fold menu with small print, just like their regular menu). After pondering over the menu for 10 minutes, I started to ask about specific items to see if they were/could be made dairy free too. The owner shook his head and said, “oh, you’ve got the wrong menu.” “You want our Gluten Free / Dairy Free menu.” Um, there’s a gluten free / dairy free menu? Well, at Via Roma, there is! Any items that are gluten free/vegan are also clearly labeled on this menu. Oh, but wait, they're not done – there are also a number of gluten free / vegan cakes from Papa Ganache Vegan Bakery (review: Papa Ganache Vegan Bakery) for dessert!

Overall the GF/DF options are amazing. There are plenty of appetizers, a whole list of GF/DF sub sandwiches (courtesy of Three Bakers’ rolls), entrees, pizza and more. I really couldn’t decide what to have but finally settled on a GF/DF Cheese steak with peppers and onions. The roll was light and fluffy and held together as well as a gluten containing roll would have being that overstuffed.

Gluten Free / Vegan Chocolate Banana Peanut Butter Cake
from Papa Ganache at Via Roma in Toms River
After dinner I was truly stuffed but remembered that they offer four different gluten free / vegan cakes from Papa Ganache. It would have been a shame to go all that way and not have dessert! I ended up with a cake that Elvis Presley used to love: peanut butter, banana and chocolate. I had a couple of bites, then packed the rest up for a day I wasn’t about to burst!

Via Roma is quite a drive for me but one that is well worth it. I can’t wait to go back!
Via Roma on Urbanspoon

Other recent restaurant reviews:

Gluten Free at Pizza Fusion

Gluten Free at Europa South

Click here for more NJ Gluten Free Restaurants

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Product Review: Turkey Pork Roll (pork free, gluten free, dairy free)

While my two main food issues are gluten and dairy, I am also pork free and coffee free and have lesser issues with tomato, green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit and eggs. I’ve been able to substitute Jennie-O turkey ham for ham and beef cervelat in place of salami. Oscar Meyer (formerly Louis Rich) makes a great turkey bacon. The one pork item I was still missing was Taylor ham (known to some unfortunate souls as pork roll). 
Godshall's Turk Roll (pork free pork roll)
on a Canyon Bakehouse Roll

On a recent trip to Shoprite, I discovered Godshall’s Turk Roll an obvious Taylor ham substitute. I had to wait until I confirmed their lactic acid starter culture wasn't sourced from dairy (it isn’t) and bought a package on my next trip (my next trip being as soon as I found out it was dairy free!).

The Turk Roll is sold in a small box with eight pre-cut slices. (For those familiar with Taylor ham, there is no outer cloth to cut and peel back.) I scored the edges and fried them up on my pancake pan.

Both the taste and texture were great. The flavor was slightly ‘spicier than mild’ which based on my recollection is spicier than Taylor ham was. I had the slices on a Canyon Bakehouse hamburger bun. Once I find a good scramble egg substitute I look forward to making a (pork free) Taylor ham, (egg free) egg and (dairy free) cheese all on a gluten free roll!
This is definitely a product I will purchase again!

Frying up some turkey pork roll!
Other product reviews:

Gluten Free Product Review: Udi's Sub Sandwich Rolls

Gluten Free Product Review: Kinnikinnick Donuts

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Gluten Free Map of NJ and Latest Restaurant List updates (15 Restaurants, 2 casinos, 3 chains, and one quick serve)

I’ve made two big changes to my Gluten Free NJ Restaurant List. First up, the list has grown so big that I decided to split it into two pages. All of the independent restaurants stayed on the original page whereas the second page is for Gluten Free Fast Food, Quick Serve, and Chain Restaurants.

The second big change is at the bottom of the original restaurant list. I’ve created a map of all of the independent restaurants, small markets and gluten free bakeries! I did include a handful of chains/quick serve restaurants. Mostly those that have actual gluten free items (i.e. aren’t just gluten friendly) and are small enough that I wasn’t adding too many locations. The map is still a work in progress but hopefully you’ll find it useful.

So without further ado, here are the updates!

Independent Restaurants:

6 Brothers Diner (475 Route 46E, Little Falls, NJ 07424) – they have a gluten free menu but it is not online. I stopped in late on a Tuesday evening when they would be less busy and the waitstaff had very little GF knowledge and even less interest in being helpful. Most of my dairy free questions went unanswered.

Biddy O'Malleys (191 Paris Avenue, Northvale, NJ 07647) – flags GF on their menu. Has eight menu items that are naturally gluten free and many others that they can modify to be so.  Everyone I've spoken to who's eaten here raves about it. I just ate here tonight and it is great.  DF required a little extra work but well worth it.  Review coming soon.

Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa (One Borgata Way, Atlantic City, NJ 08401) – they've added gluten free menus to a number of their restaurants: izakaya, Fornelletto, The Metropolitan, Bobby Flay Steakhouse, Roma, and N.O.W. (Note: a hand-full of their other restaurants can accommodate but don't have specific gluten free menus.)

Castalia (997 McBride Avenue, Woodland Park, NJ 07424) – has gluten free pasta.

Crust and Crumble (658 Cookman Avenue (or 633 Lake Avenue), Asbury Park, NJ 07712) – has both gluten free pizza and dairy free cheese for said pizza!

Double S Diner (Rt23, Wantage area) - to re-open in summer of 2012.

Harrah’s Resort (777 Harrah’s Boulevard, Atlantic City, NJ 08401) 7 eateries at Harrah’s have been certified via the GREAT program. These are Bill's Bar & Burger, the Diamond Club, Dos Caminos, Luke Palladino, Sammy D's, The SteakHouse, and the Waterfront Buffet. Unfortunately, all this means is that their staff has been trained to deal with gluten free diners. As of yet, none of the seven have created a gluten free menu, nor have they posted the specifics of how they accommodate.

Jefferson Diner (5 Bowling Green Parkway, Lake Hopatcong, NJ 07849) - has very brief, combined gluten free / vegetarian menu and not all of the vegetarian items on it are gluten free.

Kind Burgers (coming soon) (1064 Ocean Avenue, Sea Bright, NJ 07760) – pre-opening articles promise gluten free fries and gf/df buns.

La Bottega (14 Oak Street, Ridgewood, NJ 07450) – offers gluten free soups, salads and panini’s (panini’s $2.50 more). Menu items have small gluten free symbol on them. WARNING: Panini’s made with bread that contains dairy.

Puzo’s Family Restaurant of Ridgewood (16 West Ridgewood Avenue, Ridgewood, NJ 07450) – has both gluten free pasta and pizza.

Red's Jersey Mex Café (11th Street and Haven Avenue, Ocean City, NJ 08226) – has an extensive gluten free Mexican menu. Dairy free may require some care. I haven’t been yet.

Rocca (203 Rock Road, Glen Rock, NJ 07452) Lists gluten free pasta.

Rudy’s Italian Restaurant (300 South Avenue, Garwood, NJ 07027) – Garwood location ONLY has gluten free menu. Menu offers pasta and many gluten friendly choices.

Salute Bistro (173 Glenridge Avenue, Montclair, NJ 07042) – has gf pizza and gf pasta both for an additional $3.

Serpico's (307 Main Street, Allenhurst, NJ 07711) - has a gluten free menu with pizza and pasta. Dairy free is fairly tough, but they do offer a gf/df brownie and pasta with garlic and olive oil.

Washington Inn (801 Washington Street, Cape May, NJ 08204) GF flagged on menu, DF might be a bit of a challenge here.

Gluten Free Chains:

Bertucci’s – (10 Mid-Atlantic/New England States plus 7 in NJ) has a good sized GF menu which they recently expanded. Interestingly they don’t offer gluten free pasta or pizza. It’s hard to tell from the website how difficult or easy dairy free would be here. Now that their menu is a bit larger, I may just try them out.

Brio Tuscan Grille (19 states plus NJ: 901 Haddonfield Road, Cherry Hill, NJ 08002, 500 Rt. 73 South, Marlton, NJ 08053 and coming soon to 3710 Route 9, Freehold NJ 07728) - has separate gluten friendly menu on website; unknown other allergens.

Chevy’s - (AZ, FL, IL, MD, MN, MO, NV, NY, SD, VA + 3 in NJ:Clifton, Morris Plains, and Linden) - has added a gluten free menu. They have corn tortillas for soft tacos, enchiladas and fajitas. Sadly, their chips are not gluten free.

Ground Round (IA, ME, MI, MN, MO, ND, NY, OH, PA, SD, WI + NJ: Bradley Beach and East Windsor)- announced they are adding a gluten free menu soon.

Iron Hill Brewery - will open a location in Voorhees winter 2012/2013.

Miller’s Ale House will be opening a location in Paramus.

P.F. Chang’s - added 7 more menu items. (Review coming soon.)

Pei Wei - recently opened a third NJ location near Paramus (83 West Spring Valley Avenue, Maywood, NJ 07607)   Read my: Pei Wei Review from their Moorestown location.

Season 52 - will open a second NJ location in Edison in spring 2013.

Gluten Free Fast Food / Quick Serve:

Fins Tropicali (120 Main Street, Bradley Beach, NJ 07753; 1930 Route 88, Brick, NJ 08724; 2100 Route 35, Sea Girt, NJ 08750) - has a gluten free menu with soft corn tacos/tortillas. Sadly, their chips are fried in a shared frier.

Fresh City is now inside St. Barnabas Medical Center (94 Old Short Hills Road, Livingston, NJ 07039).

As always, if you see a restaurant in NJ that I'm missing and they have their gluten free menu online, please let me know via the Contact Me form on the left.  Thanks!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gluten Free Travel Tips, part 2

This is part two, click here for Gluten Free Travel Tips Part 1.

Air Travel:

  • Most international flights offer a gluten free meal although you may need to pay more for it, or inquire about it. Do not count on it being there or being correct [have a backup plan]. (With multiple food allergies I don’t even try this. I always just bring my own lunch/dinner avoiding anything liquid.)
Coast of Norway at Sunrise

  • Always double check the latest TSA regulations. Carrying a note from your doctor wouldn’t hurt either.

  • When traveling internationally it is generally forbidden to carry food across borders. This almost always refers to agricultural products [unpackaged fruits, vegetables, meats, etc.]. I’ve never had issues with sealed gluten free processed foods but I do avoid fruits and vegetables [I take them on the plane but eat them before arriving].

  • Don’t forget to pack food for the flight back as well. (I usually polish off whatever cereal bars I have left.)

General tips:

  • Ask at the hotel. They may have no idea what gluten even is but they may be able to recommend a local health food store and/or super market. (And it doesn’t hurt for them to know. On a recent trip to Oslo I never said anything to the hotel about being GF/DF. They had gluten free crisp bread for the breakfast buffet and there were plenty of naturally gluten free and dairy free items to supplement it. However, on the last day, they restocked the gluten free bread they were out of! Had I mentioned my issues before hand it is likely I would have been enjoying hearty Norwegian gluten free bread the whole time!)

  • Be prepared for people that have no clue. Use your trip as an opportunity to educate them.

  • It may also be easier to stay in a central location and take day trips from there rather than staying in a new place every night. This is especially true if you rent an apartment.

  • Eat at odd times. Find out when the locals eat and eat slightly before or after. It is easier to get the attention you need at less busy/crowded times. (Heck, I even do this here in the U.S. for the same exact reason!)

Santiago Island in the Galapagos, Ecuador
  • Make friends in safe places. They may be able to recommend other safe restaurants or even deviate from their menu so you don’t have to eat the same thing every night. (I read an account online from someone who mentioned there was only one local restaurant with a gluten free option and even then it was just one dish. He ended up eating it multiple times and got tired of it. I can’t help but think had he talked with the restaurant that the chef wouldn’t have been willing (or even excited) to put together something different for him given some advanced notice.)

  • Not every illness is from gluten. Don’t mistake food poisoning / travelers’ diarrhea for exposure to gluten. (For days, I thought I was being exposed to dairy or was super seasick in the Galapagos Islands. Hours after starting the antibiotics that all faded away!)

International Tips:

  • Overall the hardest place I have found to travel is right here in the United States! Most countries are much less wheat-centric than we are and are much less likely to bread and deep fry their food or smother it in gravy. There are still some additional tips that can help you through:

  • Be polite and gracious. People are much more likely to help if you approach the situation as a request to help rather than a demand for service.

  • Learn a couple of words in the local language [remember many countries have more than one language so make sure you learn the correct one for the area you are in]. (With a month of study I was able to learn 100 words of Norwegian for a trip to Oslo. Yes, everyone spoke English and all I ever got to say was “I don’t speak Norwegian, do you speak English” but everyone thought it was great that I tried.) No, you don’t need 100 words, but things like “please”, “thank you”, “celiac”, “gluten free”, “allergic”, “I’m sorry, I don’t speak local_language, do you speak English?” are all incredibly helpful. [There are numerous free online resources for this.]

  • Learn the local customs before you go. Most travel guides have a section on local customs including how to dress and behave. Blending in a bit and not expecting things to work the same way they do here will go a long way toward endearing you to the locals.

(Using these tips in Paris resulted in my wondering why anyone ever complains about the French. Everyone I spoke to was nice and helpful –they would even go and find me someone who spoke English if they didn’t!)

Kayaks on the beach we paddled to in Bonaire
  • Restaurants in hotels and tourist areas are much more likely to have English speaking staff.

  • Pay attention to local business hours. Things aren’t usually open as late as in the NY/NJ area. (I found most establishments in Ireland opened at 9am, closed an hour for lunch, then closed for the day at 5pm.)

  • Use travel cards to get past the language barrier. I prefer the allergen dictionary at since I have multiple intolerances and can therefore print a whole list. Others have also used the Celiac Travel cards from Triumph Dining to great effect.  (You can buy threm from here: Gluten Free Dining Cards(With my multiple food issues, I’ve never used them.)

Roll with the punches:

And my final tip is to roll with the punches. Things will go wrong at some point so focus on the good parts of the trip and work past the others.

  • On a trip to Machu Picchu in Peru, I had a craving for chips and guacamole. Chips in Peru are made either from wheat or a blend of wheat and corn. I asked in every single restaurant in Agua Calientes [Machu Picchu Village] before giving up and eating something else for dinner.

  • I’ve found restaurants that have gone out of business, entire towns closed for a particular holiday (I’m talking to you Spain!), and arrived in many towns after closing time of the local shops.

In every case I still managed to have a great trip, and so can you!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Gluten Free Travel Tips

Last week I gave a talk at the Northern NJ Celiac Disease Support Group Meetup on traveling gluten free. People I meet are often most surprised by the amount I travel and think it impossible or overly difficult on a gluten free diet. Yes, it takes extra planning, extra effort, and an extra positive attitude but it is doable and certainly well worth it!

I’ve decided to share these same tips here as well. As I pointed out to the group, not all of these tips will apply to everyone or every situation. But hopefully you’ll find quite a few that will work for you.

This article got so big I decided to split it in half. Today’s tips are more focused on the planning, tomorrows will be more on the trip itself. [But there is lots of overlap between the two!]

You should start any trip off with some internet planning:

Outside of Phoenix, Arizona
  • Use the global map at the Gluten Free Registry to see if there are any nearby restaurants and stores. Use other gluten free travel sites as well but these tend to not have a searchable map [Travel Gluten Free].

  • Search both “Gluten Free” destination and Celiac destination [be sure to use the quotes around gluten free, and try both the city and state/country as the destination]. For example, if going to Atlanta, GA search “gluten free” atlanta, “gluten free” georgia, celiac atlanta, and celiac georgia.

  • Repeat those same searches just this time add the words support group and/or blog to them. [Note the lack of quotes on support and group this time.]

  • Go past just the first 10 search results as these often belong to larger sites covering a wider area, and you want to get to the locals.

  • Reach out to the local celiac support group(s) and/or gluten free bloggers for recommendations if you haven’t found enough on your own through reading their sites. (A couple of weeks back I got an email from a woman in Canada planning a trip to Cape May County and looking for gluten free options. I emailed here a list of local restaurants off of my Gluten Free NJ Restaurant List, found her a local health food store, and even pointed out which local supermarkets were chains that carried a lot of gluten free products!)

  • In Europe at least, the Association of European Coeliac Societies [AOECS] maintains this list of member states/organizations: So member country sites are extremely informative, others not so much but it is worth a shot.

  • Try these gluten free travel bloggers: Gluten Free Traveller is one of the best. Laura {the author} [and her then boyfriend, then fiancé, now husband] have been all over the world and she manages to find some amazing gluten free options everywhere she goes. Gluten Free Globetrotter is written by Erin from the New York Celiac Meetup group. Her travel site is newer but I expect it to fill out as she travels more (p.s. if heading to NYC she’s got an awesome map of GF restaurants in NYC). Gluten Free Kids Travel has actually lived in different parts of Asia and traveled extensively elsewhere with her young celiac daughter. Finally, there is Gluten Free Mrs. D. Based in England she recently has traveled mostly in Europe but has found GF options in places where I searched and could find nothing online.

Mana the dediated gluten free shop of
the Association of Celiacs in Madrid
  • List the restaurants/stores you find on a map of your destination and carry that map with you. This way, as you are planning your day you’ll know where you can eat lunch/dinner without having to search somewhere out once you are hungry. This will also help you to plan your flexibility. It’s easier to head out and explore if you’ve got a map of where you can eat when the time comes. (I’ve taken maps of Oslo, Buenos Aires, Phoenix and others with me on my travels. I even picked my hotel in Madrid one trip based on it being in walking distance to the Association of Celiacs Madrid’s Gluten Free store!)

  • Email / call the hotels and/or restaurants before your trip to make sure everything is as you expect.

Be Flexible in your Planning:

  • The more general you are with your destination/vacation the easier it will be to find somewhere easy to travel to. For example, selecting a general destination of the gulf coast may be easier than a specific town along the gulf coast. Then when you begin to research that general area, if you see a community with a lot of gluten free options you can restructure your trip to take advantage of that opportunity.

Plan your vacation around something other than food: 

  • Be prepared to eat a diet of plain grilled meats and vegetables and concentrate on the experiences of where you are. (Back when I was in college, I was speaking with someone at a barbecue who had just come back from Hawai’i. He house sat for someone and brought along bread, peanut butter, and jelly. When someone belittled him for it, he was quick to point out all of the amazing things he saw and did, that he would not have been able to afford had he not packed PB&J. He focused on the experience, not the food!)

La Casa Rosada in Buenos Aires, Argentina
  • Consider staying at a vacation rental rather than a hotel [search vacation apartment rentals and the destination]. You’ll then have your own kitchen [give it a thorough cleaning first and/or cook using foil] for the trip. Consider as well bringing your own small thin cutting board, sponge, and / or other utensils. (I even saw a discussion online about bringing a magic bullet!) (On a recent trip to Buenos Aires, Argentina I had planned to buy local bread for breakfast but found that all gluten free bread there contains dairy. I was staying in an apartment with a kitchen and ended up eating left over roast chicken, rice and green beans for breakfast!)

  • I’ve seen more than a few people online discuss ordering GF products [ or Gluten-Free Mall] and having them shipped to their destination. Personally, I’d rather explore the local GF options but I do see the advantage to doing this from a time perspective.

  • Pack non-perishable compact snacks – cereal/nut bars, nuts, dried fruit, carrot / celery sticks [if not flying internationally], tuna packets, gf crackers, gf pretzels, hummus, etc. These are great not only for a long flight but also for quick snacks while sightseeing. Hot GF cereal packets would be great anywhere you can get a cup of hot water [i.e. almost anywhere serving tea]. Frozen fruit works great as an icepack to keep other foods cool. [WARNING: sealed packets may burst from change in air pressure on a plane.]

Plan to be flexible:

Waterfall in Costa Rica
  • Leave a free day at the end of your trip. This way, if you have any gluten related disasters during the trip and need a gluten recovery day mid trip you can move things around. You can always find something to add that final day if you don’t need it. (Sadly, I missed the last day of a bus tour through Costa Rica due to an unexpected recovery day. Certainly would have preferred to have a make-up day built into the trip!)

  • Carry some snacks with you each day to tide you over before meal time.

  • Small convenience stores / fruit stands can do in a pinch. (I don’t eat a lot of banana at home but they are a go-to snack when traveling.)

Traveling with others / being a house guest:

  • Be reasonable and flexible.

  • Have a sit down with your traveling companions before the trip and educate them on your needs and concerns. Be prepared to explain your symptoms and what you need to be safe. Include what you can do and eat. [Think back to how overwhelming this was for you at first, they’re going to be overwhelmed too.]

Gluten Free / Dairy Free Samoa Donut from Babycakes NYC
  • Be prepared to spend some time alone. If there is an activity on the trip you aren’t overly interested in that is a great time to break off and check out the local health food store(s). (Some cousins visited from Spain in December and while we were touring Chinatown in NYC we decided to split up. I checked my map (thanks Erin!) and made a beeline to Babycakes for some gluten free / vegan cupcakes and donuts. I then headed back, toured Chinatown quickly and met up with them at the agreed upon time.)

  • If taking a tour, make sure you are discussing your dietary concerns with the ‘in country’ tour operator and not the people you are booking through [these are not always the same company].

  • If homestaying, Laura from the Gluten Free Traveller has a great article on cooking for a Celiac that you may want to share or use at the starting point for a conversation.

Gluten Free Travel Companies:

There are a number of companies that now cater to gluten free travelers:

Bob and Ruth’s - One of the earliest gluten free travel groups. I find their trips a bit pricey but they arrange everything and even welcome travelers with multiple food allergies.

Colibri Culinary Travel - They plan small groups and bring along their own chef so they can easily handle gluten free, vegan, and any other food issues.

Cruise lines. Consider a cruise but again be flexible as some cruise lines are much more accommodating than others. Make sure you inform them of your needs well in advance and double check closer to your departure.

Disney Land. The mother of all gluten free vacation locations. Truly the happiest place on earth . . . even for celiacs!

Other amusement parks. Each one varies in their offerings and awareness level so check before you go. (Growing up my parents left a cooler in the car and we got our hands stamped at lunch time, returned to the car and had a picnic. They did this to be able to afford a trip to an amusement park but the same technique applies to ensure that you have safe food.)

Tune in tomorrow for part two!  [Gluten Free Travel Tips, part 2]