A Gluten-Free Brazilian Lunch in Astoria

If you’re wondering why there wasn’t a post on Thursday, it’s because I was in Astoria, Queens, for lunch with Christina Heiser, who writes Celiac Self-Care, one of my favorite Substack newsletters. We met at TAP, which calls itself Your Everyday Brazilian Café — and if I’m being honest, I probably could eat there every day.

TAP is 100% gluten-free, and its menu is simple and straightforward, yet filled with variety. Sandwiches are served in a tapioca cover, in a tapioca-and-egg wrap, or on cheese bread, and they range from spicy tuna to a lean steak club, and from Caprese (mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil) to vegan (tofu, vegan mozzarella, avocado, tomatoes, and baby arugula). I had the Organic Chicken Club served in a tapioca-and-egg wrap, and it was so yummy and satisfying. 

I also tried all three of the Pão de Queijo offerings. (Does that sound greedy? I call it research!) The traditional cheese bread was my favorite — it’s made with a blend of mozzarella, Swiss, and Parmesan cheeses), but the pesto cheese bread and the spicy cheese bread were wonderful, too.

Afterwards, Christina showed me around the neighborhood a little, and introduced me to a terrific boutique called The Brass Owl. Located on Ditmars Boulevard, it sells a bit of everything: clothing, jewelry, candles, books. It’s a beautifully curated collection and the shop also hosts events that include pop-up designer sales and tarot readings. 

I meant to sample one of the desserts at TAP, but Christina and I were so busy chatting that I forgot all about it. Next time! Fortunately, there are a couple of TAP outposts in Manhattan, and one coming soon to Miami.

News for Celiac Awareness Month

This is the month when celiac disease gets a lot of love. All of May is dedicated to celiac awareness in the United States, Canada, and Europe. The week of May 9th to the 15th is Coeliac Awareness Week in the UK. And May 16th is recognized as International Celiac Disease Awareness Day. Sadly, none of these occasions require gluten-free cakes to be delivered to celiacs, but maybe one day? In the meantime, please click the little ?? above — that helps the Gluten-Free Guidebook to stay out of overeager spam filters.

There’s lots of news to share this month, so let’s dive in! First, let me mention that the Gluten-Free Guidebook itself has a new look at its Substack home. Please check it out, and let me know what you think. Here’s some news from around the globe…

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Gluten-Free News You Can Use

How is it February already? I don’t know where January went, but I can tell you it was filled with some interesting gluten-free stories. Because these news items don’t fit into my regular posts, I love to do a roundup every so often. Here’s what caught my attention recently:

“20 Surprising Foods That Contain Gluten.” I’m always grateful when a mainstream magazine like Health deals with this subject. This article by registered dietitian Johna Burdeos covers plenty of territory that gluten-intolerant people already know (everyone reading this is aware that soy sauce contains wheat, right?), and some that you may not (couscous is frequently mistaken for rice, but it’s made from wheat).

“Best Gluten-Free Meal Delivery Services of 2024.” I’m a New Yorker so I’m veryfamiliar with the concept of ordering takeout, but I have to admit that I’ve never used a meal-delivery service. For anyone who does, this article by Tori Martinet in U.S. News & World Report should be an interesting read, complete with information about pricing, plus pros and cons for each service.

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Discovering Jennifer Lee’s Dedicated Bakery

I’ve mentioned before that my nieces have celiac disease, so whenever I see them, we have a gluten-free extravaganza. I don’t mean that we spend all our time eating — on my latest visit, they took me to their favorite rock-climbing gym! — but treats are definitely on the agenda. While I usually bring cupcakes from Erin McKenna’s bakery in New York, that doesn’t mean we don’t explore the options in Massachusetts, where they live. On my most recent visit, that meant discovering Jennifer Lee’s together…

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Hola, Miami Beach!

There are so many different reasons to fall in love with a place. I’m not a sun-and-sand type, so I didn’t expect Miami Beach to work its charms on me. Generally speaking, if I visit a sunny, sandy spot, it’s because there are ancient temples or ruins nearby. But Miami Beach lured me in with eye-catching Art Deco architecture and truly fabulous gluten-free food.

Before I talk about the food, let me say a word about the architecture. The Miami Beach Architectural District is located in South Beach, and it’s chock-full of glamorous buildings that were constructed during the 1930s and early 1940s. (Sadly, a hurricane in the 1920s destroyed a lot of real estate, which allowed the rebuild to take place.) The local style is known as Streamline Moderne, which was inspired by aerodynamic design with its long, sinuous lines. It’s a style that was inherently optimistic, blended with a belief that life would get better.

The temptation in Miami Beach is to head straight for the beach, but it’s worth taking the time to stroll along Ocean Drive and the surrounding streets. Most of the Art Deco buildings are well preserved and highly photogenic.

And then there’s the food. So much great gluten-free food! A few of my favorites from the trip…

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The Joy of Sharing Gluten-Free Food

Everyone who eats gluten-free has something they miss about their pre-diagnosis diet. For me, what I miss most is being able to freely share and sample all the dishes on the table. One of the great pleasures of going out to dinner used to be tasting things I hadn’t ordered. Growing up in Toronto, there were neighborhoods like Greektown on the Danforth and Chinatown on Spadina where dishes were mostly designed for sharing. For years, that was my default mode when dining out.

But it’s different when you have celiac disease, or when you’re managing a food allergy or intolerance. While I’m grateful for all of the restaurants that are expanding their range to accommodate people on special diets, it’s unusual for me to go out with a group and be able to share much of what’s on the table. There’s normally food I can’t eat and a risk of cross-contamination from utensils used in more than one dish.

This is a long way of explaining why one dinner I had last week brought me no end of joy. My husband and I had family visiting from out of town, and there were eight of us going out to dinner together. We needed a place that could accommodate both gluten-free and vegetarian, and we ended up at a restaurant that we’d never dined at before—even though we’ve eaten food from it many times.

Tigerlily Kitchen got its start during the pandemic as a ghost kitchen…

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Hello, 2024! Start the New Year Right

Happy New Year! While I don’t normally make resolutions, I like to take stock of how things are going at certain times of the year, and this is one of them. That’s also true of springtime (to me, it’s part of spring cleaning) and September (the back-to-school timing always feels like a great push to start new projects). But ringing in the new year is a natural time to consider where we’ve been and where we’re going.

The Gluten-Free Guidebook is all about dining out and travel, but to do that successfully takes a certain mindset, particularly when you need to follow a special diet. Part of the trouble is that following any diet never sounds like fun. It sounds like work, or even sacrifice. One of the most important adjustments I ever made after my celiac diagnosis was that I stopped thinking about the things I couldn’t have and embraced the things I could. It’s a subtle switch, but it makes all the difference in the world. Everyone has limits (whether they know it or not), and discovering what yours are is a blessing.

In that vein, here are some ideas to reflect on as we start a new year…

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A Few of My Favorite Things

It’s that time of year again when we all get to slow down a little and take stock of the past twelve months. Personally, I enjoy the Best Of lists that crop up in December, because they remind me about places I was too busy to check out earlier, and because I love comparing notes about the things I loved. 

For me, 2023 was a great ride — and also an incredibly busy one. A personal andprofessional highlight has been bringing the Gluten-Free Guidebook back to life on Substack. I started this project in 2008 on WordPress and it thrived until the pandemic hit and travel ground to a halt. It’s been thrilling to reconnect with people who’ve been reading the blog for years and to connect with a whole new audience. Here’s to traveling together into the new year and beyond! Remember, I love to hear about your travel experiences just as much as I enjoy sharing mine.

Now for some of my favorite places from the past year…

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Stockholm Revisited

I visited Stockholm before the pandemic and fell in love with the city. Everywhere I went, people were familiar with celiac disease, aware of potential cross-contamination issues, and willing to help. It was the most relaxed I’ve felt traveling anywhere since I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2004. I didn’t use any Swedish translation cards because everyone I met spoke at least some English, and the Swedish terms for gluten-free — glutenfri, glutenfritt, utan gluten — were everywhere I went.

It’s also a breathtakingly beautiful city. Sweden’s capital is blessed with great museums, glorious palaces, and gorgeous architecture. There are parks and public art installations all over. Even the subway system serves as a kind of roving art gallery. The fact that Stockholm is spread across a series of islands gives it a physical beauty that is simply thrilling.

Do I plan to go back? Absolutely. I’m still kicking myself for missing the ABBA Museum. I decided to check on the places where I ate while I was there. Not all of them are still in business, but these ones are and I recommend them highly…

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Prepping for Holiday Travel

I love the holidays. To me, there’s nothing like spending time with family and friends, and this season lets me reconnect with both. But that’s not to say I enjoy holiday travel. In fact, I hate it. Why? Well, last year, bad weather turned my hourlong flight from New York to Toronto into an eight-hour extravaganza at LaGuardia Airport. (And by “extravaganza,” I do mean hellscape.) While it’s arguably the most wonderful time of the year in terms of get-togethers, moving from Point A to Point B is often a nightmarish slog through overcrowded airports, train stations, and bus terminals… and that’s before you factor in freak storms.

It’s almost enough to make a body want to stay home. Almost… but not quite! Since I never learn my lesson about avoiding holiday travel, I’ve come up with some survival strategies, especially since travel is always that much harder when you have celiac disease and can’t wander into just any kiosk at a transit hub to refuel.

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