Rash Decisions

Before I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease in 2004, one of the symptoms that plagued me was an eczema-like rash that flared up on a regular basis. It was most common on my arms, legs, face, and neck, but it could show up anywhere, anytime. Doctors prescribed skin creams, but nothing took it away until I eliminated gluten from my diet.

I had a blissful respite for about a decade. Then, a couple of years ago, the rashes started coming back.

At first, I assumed I’d been accidentally glutened at a restaurant. But on those rare occasions when I have accidentally ingested gluten, the first symptom that popped up was ulcers inside my mouth, and that didn’t happen. Still, clearly I was ingesting something that was making me sick, and I took a closer look at my diet. Everything I ate was gluten-free, as far as I knew, but that didn’t guarantee safety. (Some readers will remember the Wellshire Farms debacle in 2008; in that case, the company sold products labelled “Gluten Free” that weren’t. It was horrible, particularly because several of these products, like the Wellshire Kids’ Dinosaur Shapes Chicken Bites, were marketed for children. To this day, I refuse to buy anything made by Wellshire Farms.)

I started playing detective, trying to identify the culprit. When I found the cause, it was entirely by accident: I tried an eye-makeup remover made by Rimmel, and my eyelids cracked open. The good news was that my reaction, and the rashes, had nothing to do with gluten. The bad news was, I’d developed a contact allergy to methylisothiazolinone, a chemical widely used in toiletries, household cleansers, and other sundry goods.

Methylisothiazolinone is used as a preservative and a biocide. It has the dubious distinction of being named the American Contact Dermatitis Society Contact Allergen of the Year for 2013. Here’s how another source describes methylisothiazolinone:

It is a cytotoxin that may affect different types of cells. Its use for a wide range of personal products for humans, such as cosmetics, lotions, moisturizers, sanitary wipes, shampoos, and sunscreens, more than doubled during the first decade of the twenty-first century and is proving to be a concern because of sensitization and allergic reactions as well as cell and nerve damage.

Search online for methylisothiazolinone — or its close relative methylchloroisothiazolinone — and you’ll find a lot of anecdotal accounts of its frightening effects. You’ll also find an increasing number of medical journals sounding the alarm, especially in Europe. In the US, the National Institutes of Health’s Library of Medicine has abstracts of these articles. Check out “Methylisothiazolinone Outbreak in the European Union” to see how ongoing exposure to the chemical is moving beyond eczema-like rashes and causing lichen planus-like or lymphomatoid reactions. Don’t be put off by the snoozy title of “Methylisothiazolinone in Selected Consumer Products in Belgium,” which shows that many companies are far exceeding the legally allowed concentrations of methylisothiazolinone in consumer products.

So, why talk about methylisothiazolinone on a blog devoted to living gluten-free? A couple of months ago, I got a message from a reader who was suffering from rashes, and she wanted to know if I had any advice. I told her about my experience with methylisothiazolinone and suggested that she stop using any product that contained it. This is no small thing to do: I found the chemical in Pantene shampoo and conditioner, Crabtree & Evelyn bath gel, Murad facial toner, and a host of other products running the gamut from inexpensive drugstore staples to expensive boutique brands. Methylisothiazolinone is everywhere. I just heard back from this reader, who told me that, by avoiding the chemical, her rashes had cleared up. That was when I decided I had to write this.

Get ready to hear more about methylisothiazolinone over the next few months. It’s already part of the basis for a class-action lawsuit against The Honest Company; details begin on page 16 of the filed complaint. (The Honest Company has previously responded to the Environmental Working Group’s criticism of its use of methylisothiazolinone on its blog.) The European Commission is currently reviewing a proposal to restrict the use of methylisothiazolinone, and to ban the chemical in any “leave-on” product, including wet wipes; the public consultation period is open until October 23, 2015. (Want to participate? Click here.) The UK’s BBC One Watchdog has covered methylisothiazolinone allergies — read this and this — and caused Johnson & Johnson to reformulate one problem product. (Vaseline, Brylcreem, Huggies, and Nivea also announced plans to reformulate… at least in the UK.) The New York Times has written about it. There’s a very helpful Facebook group, “Allergy to Isothiazolinone, Methylisothiazolinone and Benzisothiazolinone,” that has constantly updated information, but brace yourself for some frightening photos of victim’s reactions if you visit. In the meantime, you might want to check out your own medicine cabinet.

Dining on the Book Tour


My first standalone thriller, Blood Always Tells, just came out in paperback. (It’s actually my fourth novel, but it’s the first one that isn’t part of the mystery series I also write.) When Macmillan’s Tor/Forge division first published it last year, I went on a whirlwind tour across North America, which gave me the opportunity to suss out some celiac-safe places to eat… though no time to write about them! But I kept notes and want to share a few favorites that stand out in my memory.

Pizza Fusion in Denver, Colorado

The restaurant’s tagline is, “You like pizza. We have pizza. Let’s be friends.” And Pizza Fusion is ready to be friends with everyone — including celiacs, vegans, and lactose-intolerant types. Ingredients are organic and locally sourced, whenever possible. In addition to exceptional pizzas, there are gluten-free salads (I recommend the pear and gorgonzola) and desserts. In addition to wonderful food, Pizza Fusion is ecologically aware (here’s a list of its impressive eco-initiatives), and the Denver outpost I dined at is operated by the Coalition for the Homeless. Food that tastes good and does good? That’s the best. (Plus, it’s not far from the Tattered Cover!)

Bistro 241 in Delray Beach, Florida

The truth is, I ended up at Bistro 241 because it was a few doors down from Murder on the Beach, a terrific independent bookstore, and there was a terrible storm raging the night of my event. I was literally looking for the first indoor spot that was open for dinner, and I lucked into this one. There’s no gluten-free menu, but the restaurant’s owner is familiar with the GF diet and willing to make modifications wherever necessary (substituting a variety of veggies for the pita bread in the Mediterranean Plate, for example). A number of dishes, including the delicious chicken paillard, require no modification at all.

Sauce Pizza & Wine in Phoenix, Arizona

I should be embarrassed to admit that I like eating at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, but I’m not. Sauce Pizza & Wine is phenomenal. The gluten-free pepperoni-and-porcini pizza is so good that I’m already looking forward to my next visit. (Take note: Sauce has several locations throughout Arizona, including Tucson, Chandler, Mesa, and Scottsdale.)

Old Town Tortilla Factory in Scottsdale, Arizona

I have plenty of reasons to recommend the Old Town Tortilla Factory. Great Mexican food? Check. Dedicated gluten-free menu? Check. Neon-bright margaritas? Check. A short walk away from the fabulous Poisoned Pen Bookstore? Check. What more could you want?

Cafe Zuzu at the Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale, Arizona

On my first first to the fabulous Hotel Valley Ho in 2010, Cafe Zuzu didn’t have a gluten-free menu, though it did have well-trained, thoughtful staff who were able to make recommendations and accommodations (which I wrote about previously). While the staff is still terrific, I’m pleased to say that the restaurant now has a dedicated GF menu, complete with roasted cornish hen, grilled lamb, and blackened shrimp. Best of all, my beloved tomato burrata is now served with rice bread.

Z’Tejas in Austin, Texas

Yes, it’s a chain (with outposts in California and Arizona as well), but its proximity to BookPeople and solid Southwestern food (and margaritas) make it a must-visit in Austin. Z’Tejas‘s dedicated gluten-free menu isn’t large, but it includes several vegetarian options (not always easy to find in these parts).

Il Fornello in Toronto, Ontario

This local Italian chain always stocks rice pasta and gluten-free Quejos pizza crust at all of its locations. Il Fornello also offers great salads (the naturally gluten-free Roma salad is a solid bet, with its mix of greens, goat cheese, walnuts, and roasted peppers), and a reasonably priced list of wines by the glass, including several from Ontario wineries.

Reader Report: Gluten-Free in St. Maarten


One of the most amazing things about creating the Gluten-Free Guidebook is that it’s introduced me to so many terrific people. A case in point: my friend Liisa P., a reader who lives in Arizona. I had the great pleasure of meeting her in person for the first time when I was on tour for my debut novel, The Damage Done, and I’ve been lucky enough to see her on each book tour since (my fourth novel, Blood Always Tells, came out in April). Liisa has written a Reader Report about Hawaii for the Gluten-Free Guidebook in the past. Here, she shares her experience in St. Maarten. Thanks so much, Liisa!


We all know that eating Gluten Free can be hard and no one wants to be limited while travelling. So that’s why we share and connect in a network of bloggers, readers, and travelers to make it easier! I’ve been gluten free for 10 years and am lovin’ it!

972898_10152239155959279_1301815938_nDutch St. Maarten is more Americanized and friendly (imho) than the French side (Sint Martin) so you’re going to have more luck there. My advice… stay somewhere with a kitchen. We stayed at the beautiful Divi Little Bay Resort. Full kitchen. Go to the grocery store and to cut down on your meals out. Grocery stores have mostly the same food we do… just less of it. It’s not a gigantic Costco… it’s a regular grocery store.

The *BEST* place to eat on the island for gluten free, hands down, is Pizza Galley. They offer gluten-free crusts and a harbor view. Hard to beat! They don’t open till dusk and are open seasonally but have great pizza options (try the Jamaican).

Everywhere else on the Dutch side tried to be accommodating and salads ended up being the name of the day.  The French side… 10313936_10152239155909279_1587506073_nfuhget about… the one bright spot would be the small family restaurants, harbor side, in Marigot such as Le Chanteclair in the SXM Marine.  These provided knowledgeable and accommodating staff.

I never went hungry and never needed my emergency protein bar. Safe and happy travels!

All photos courtesy of Liisa P. She is pictured at the top (second from the right) with friends at the Pizza Galley.

Breaking the Language Barrier

On the Mount of Olives

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease in 2004, I felt like I’d never be able to travel again. Just communicating my dietary needs in English seemed daunting enough, so how was I going to manage it in a foreign tongue? Fortunately, I’ve had a lot of help. In the past decade, I’ve visited plenty of places where I didn’t speak the language — including Peru, Chile, Argentina, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Turkey, and Israel — and I’ve been able to arrange for gluten-free meals along the way. Eating at a restaurant is always an exercise in trust; for the gluten-intolerant, it feels especially risky. Here’s what’s worked for me:

  • Visit the Celiac Travel website, which provides an impressive selection of cards in many languages. The list is constantly growing, but currently features 54 languages, including Arabic, Basque, Greek, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Italian, Malay, Portuguese, Russian, Urdu, and Vietnamese. There are several companies that charge money for celiac translation cards, but none of them are better than what Roger and Lyndsay offer on Celiac Travel. If you use their cards, they appreciate a donation, but it’s not required.
  • Check out the list of “Celiac Societies Around the World” compiled by Nancy Lapid on About.com. Often, these societies will have information about restaurants and shops that cater to celiacs. While you’re at it, Google “celiac” or “gluten free” and the names of the cities you’ll be visiting; often you’ll find local groups with plenty of information to share.
  • Ask for advice on the Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Facebook Group. You’ll probably find a fellow traveler who’s been to the place you’re planning to see; occasionally, you’ll connect with a local.
  • If possible, learn a few words or phrases in the local language before you go on your trip. Knowing how to say “Tengo la enfermedad celiaca; No puedo comer harina o trigo” (I have celiac disease; I can’t eat flour or wheat) made my travels to Peru and Chile easier. Still, I have to admit that I never managed this in Hungarian.

Does anyone have other ideas for breaking the language barrier? I’d love to hear your suggestions.

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In other news, my first stand-alone thriller, Blood Always Tells, will be published on April 15, 2014, by Tor/Forge. According to Library Journal, “You can’t help turning the pages in anticipation of yet another twist.” You can win an advance copy via GoodReads before February 15th. If you order the hardcover or eBook before the release date, you can win a prize

What I Wish I’d Known When I Was Diagnosed With Celiac Disease

On 9 de Julio Avenue

The main focus of the Gluten-Free Guidebook is about traveling and dining out. But, in the past few months, several friends have been diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, and that’s made me think about how tough the transition to a gluten-free diet can be. When I was diagnosed, back in 2004, I remember thinking that my career as a travel writer was over, and that I’d never be able to eat at a restaurant again. I was wrong on both fronts, but it took me a while to learn that. I wanted to share some of the things I wish I’d known when I was first diagnosed.

  • Finding out you have a problem is a blessing, not a curse: For years before my diagnosis, I was plagued with medical problems that ran the gamut from migraines to joint pain. Post-diagnosis, my first thoughts were all about what I was losing, like the freedom to eat whatever I wanted. In reality, I was gaining a tremendous amount: freedom from the pain and suffering I’d gone through for years. Freedom from prescription medications that I didn’t actually need. Freedom to eat and not be harmed by food. It took me a while to see that the diagnosis gave me more control over my life and my health, but that’s what it did.
  • There are cheat sheets: Reading most ingredient labels is a confusing exercise early on. Is ethyl maltol safe? (Yes.) What about carrageenan? (Yes.) And couscous? (No. Some people mistake it for a type of rice, but it’s actually a gluten-containing grain.) Here’s a list of safe ingredients for gluten-intolerant people. Here’s a list of unsafe ingredients. Pass these easy-to-consult lists on to concerned family and friends who ask for information.
  • The Internet is your best friend and your worst enemy: I’ve done a lot of research on the Web, and it’s a valuable resource. It’s connected me with gluten-free people and groups around the world and provided me with plenty of useful information. But it’s also given me some misinformation along the way. There are a lot of confused people online who will write blog posts that claim things like “Vinegar contains gluten!” (Not true, except for malt vinegar). Some will tell you that you can’t have maltodextrin. (They’re wrong; by law, all maltodextrin in the US and Canada is made from corn. The fact that maltodextrin starts with “malt” doesn’t mean it has gluten.) Others will try to sell you gluten-free shampoo. (Unless you eat shampoo, you don’t need it. Note: please don’t eat shampoo.) Some very trustworthy resources I recommend: the Celiac Disease Center at Columbia University, the Center for Celiac Research and Treatment, the Celiac Disease Foundation, and the Canadian Celiac Association.
  • If I could recommend just one book: It would be Gluten-Free Diet: A Comprehensive Resource Guide by dietitian Shelley Case. If you look for books about gluten-free eating, there are about a million cookbooks that come up, and 90% of them are about making baked goods. But Shelley Case’s book contains valuable information about living with gluten intolerance, and she does a great job of explaining everything.
  • The devil is in the sauces: It’s easy to spot — and avoid — things like pasta and pastries made with wheat. But gluten sneaks into all kinds of foods, such as soy sauce. After I started eating gluten-free, an editor took me out to lunch, suggesting a Japanese restaurant. That seemed safe to me, since I knew I could eat fish and rice. It never even occurred to me that soy sauce might be a problem until I got sick right after that meal. I learned to question absolutely everything.
  • Cross-contamination is also the devil: Some restaurants will have a product that’s gluten-free — such as french fries — but that product is boiled in the same vat of oil as their beer-battered fish. It can be a heartbreaking moment when you realize that cross-contamination issues have limited your five choices on the menu to one. It doesn’t matter; you’re still coming out ahead. Restaurants are becoming increasingly aware of this issue, with a growing number of kitchens getting training from the Gluten Intolerance Group’s Restaurant Awareness Program.
  • Join a gluten-free community: I’m biased, because the Gluten-Free Guidebook has its own Facebook group — now 2,300+ members strong! It’s a fantastic resource whether you’re traveling or have a general question about gluten-free dining. But there are also lots of groups on Facebook and Yahoo Groups.
  • Don’t trust someone just because they’re selling a gluten-free product: There are shameless hucksters out there who will sell you $10 tubes of gluten-free toothpaste. Unlike shampoo, it’s important that anything you put in your mouth is gluten-free. Guess what? Toothpastes made by Crest, Colgate, Aquafresh, Sensodyne and other companies are already free of gluten. Take a second look at anyone who’s trying to separate you from your money for a gluten-free product… unless that product is Kinnikinnick’s gluten-free donuts, which are divine.
  • Be assertive: At another early post-diagnosis restaurant meal at an over-priced and over-rated NYC restaurant, a server told me he couldn’t “bother” the chef with my questions. I felt embarrassed, but fortunately, I was with a very assertive public-relations exec and she reamed him out in the middle of the restaurant. It was an important lesson: never feel bad about speaking up for your medical needs.
  • Tip extra for good service: If you’ve had to ask your server 101 questions, and your server has done a great job of answering them, make sure they’re properly rewarded. The next gluten-free patron will thank you.
  • It gets easier, honest: Over time, the label-reading, product-hunting, and restaurant-questioning becomes second nature. People are usually incredibly helpful when they find out you’re avoiding gluten for a medical reason, and not because you’re on a fad diet.

Are there other resources that newly-diagnosed gluten-intolerant people could benefit from? Please add them in the comments!

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I have a new book out: my first-ever short story collection, The Black Widow Club: Nine Tales of Obsession and Murder. It’s available as an eBook for $2.99 for Kobo, Kindle, Nook, and Apple e-readers. Unlike my novels, which are available only in the US and Canada, this is available worldwide. It’s also been getting some wonderful reviews. I hope you’ll enjoy it — just don’t read it before bed!

Reader Report: Burleson and Fort Worth, Texas

I’d like to say a huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who entered the Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Fifth Anniversary Contest. It means a lot to have readers sharing their own expertise with traveling and dining out gluten-free. This one from Cynthia Ross is particularly terrific. Thanks so much, Cynthia!

Burleson and Fort Worth by Cynthia Ross

What can be more stressful than moving halfway across the country? Leaving everything you know and soon after learning you must also entirely change the way you eat. After relocating to Texas from California, I was already skeptical that I could find the fresh organic vegetables and free-from junk food that I was accustomed buying. Then I learned I had to give up gluten and dairy. The only place these things were available when I left Texas 14 years ago was in Whole Foods Market and that is quite a drive from our little town. Fortunately we do have some options.

HEB in Burleson has a reasonable selection of gluten-free, organic, and natural products. However, their organic fresh produce section is not up to par in my opinion. Their organic fruit is often not fresh enough to last more than a day or two and the selection of organic fruits and vegetables is slim. There is also a small 24-hour market called Tiger Farms, which has a good selection of gluten-free food and stocks fresh organic vegetables purchased from the Dallas Farmers Market each week. Their produce tends to be much fresher, better quality, and less expensive than HEB.

Eating out is a little tougher. Although there are restaurants with gluten-free menus in the area, they seem to cater to those on the diet by choice. The responses to my queries about the prevention of cross-contamination make me very leery of eating around here. But hope is not lost! Fort Worth is a mere 25 minutes away.

After living without sushi for over a year, we discovered Shinjuku Station near downtown Fort Worth. Not only do they have a dedicated gluten-free menu (delicious!), they only choose fish that are sustainably fished and use very fresh ingredients. The owners, chef, and wait staff is very knowledgeable, completely understanding of our food issues, and never make us feel like we are a bother. They always make us feel welcome and I know I am safe eating there.

A couple of other places we enjoy are the Mellow Mushroom near TCU and Cantina Laredo in downtown Fort Worth. The Mellow Mushroom has a dedicated gluten-free pizza menu with a gluten-free vegan crust. It is better than most gluten-free pizzas that I’ve tried but I quickly get bored with it. I’m sure it would be much better with cheese but I can’t have it and cannot stand vegan cheese. Sorry, but there is no substitute for real cheese. If you do eat here, make sure you confirm that your pizza is gluten-free when they bring it to your table. Mistakes have happened.

Cantina Laredo in downtown Fort Worth has upscale Mexican cuisine. It is delicious. The prices are decent and they are very accommodating. The chips, salsa and guacamole are gluten-free and they have a dedicated gluten-free menu. If you are also dairy intolerant, the chef can make those items without the dairy products. I especially enjoy their steak or chicken fajitas. A bonus is that margaritas, champagne and wine are half-price on Thursdays during happy hour.

That said, my favorite gluten-free place is my own kitchen. My husband and I are both good cooks – he has only accidentally poisoned me once. I can eat our cooking without fear and my “limitations” have forced me to become more adventurous in my food choices. By taking our own food with us, we can eat whenever and wherever we want which can lead to some interesting adventures. Just this weekend, we popped into Luckenback, TX on a whim to eat our lunch and discovered there was a Waylon Jennings birthday celebration. If we had gone to a restaurant, I would never have learned what “Chicken-poop bingo” was or met that cool steer named “Tumbleweed.”

Gluten-Free Around NYC’s Grand Hyatt

DSCN3460.JPG - 2009-05-08 at 21-54-06

There’s not a lot of good I can say about a New York City summer, but one highlight is always ThrillerFest. It’s been described as “summer camp for thriller readers, fans, writers and industry professionals.” Every year, it brings some of my favorite writers to the Grand Hyatt in Midtown Manhattan for several days. In the past, other gluten-free attendees have asked me where to dine in the area, and I wanted to share my list, since there are a lot of conferences at the Grand Hyatt throughout the year. I’ve also mapped out the locations with Google Maps. If you find spots to add, please let me know!

S’mac: There’s now an outpost of this delicious, reasonably priced mac-and-cheese restaurant in Murray Hill. It’s a nine-block walk south of the Grand Hyatt, or you can hop on the 6 train at 42nd Street and travel one stop downtown to 33rd Street. It’s well worth it. Given that conference meals can take place at weird times, this is a great spot to keep in mind, since it’s open from 11am to 11pm daily (closing time is 1am on Friday and Saturday nights).

Dig Inn: This health-focused local chain has a few tables, but mostly it does a take-out business. Its 275 Madison location starts serving breakfast at 7am, then switches to a combined lunch/dinner menu for the rest of the day (until 9pm). Check out this chart for GF and allergy information, as well as vegan options.

Chipotle: This is my go-to fast-food spot. Avoid the tortillas, which are made with wheat flour, but the burrito bowl and all its potential ingredients are gluten-free. The chain provides some helpful food-allergy information on its site. There are three locations within a stone’s throw of the Grand Hyatt: 150 East 44th St. (between Lexington and Third), 274 Madison Avenue (between 39th and 40th), and 9 West 42nd Street (between Fifth and Sixth).

Hale & Hearty: I know it’s hot out, but if you’re still craving soup for lunch, this chain has an outpost in Grand Central itself. Daily options change, but you can usually count on a gluten-free broccoli cheddar and the GF and dairy-free Thai chicken.

4Food: Usually, I only mention spots I’ve visited, but this one was just recommended to me. 4Food makes everything from scratch, including its gluten-free pressed-rice bun. I’m looking forward to checking it out!

Bloom’s Deli: I have to be honest: while I love basic diner food, I’m not thrilled with what’s served up here. Still, I appreciate that the place offers a gluten-free menu, which includes omelets, pancakes, burgers and sandwiches.

Bistango: Almost every item on the menu of this Italian restaurant in Murray Hill can be prepared in a gluten-free version. There’s plenty of gluten-free pizza and pasta dishes, as well as meatier offerings like  rack of lamb. What really makes a meal at Bistango stand out is the graciousness of its staff. The owner, Anthony, goes back and forth between the dining room and the kitchen, talking to everyone and making sure that diners are comfortable. This is a gem.

Blue Smoke: If you love rich, smoky barbecue flavors, you’ve found your heaven. This spot offers special gluten-free, nut-free, and vegetarian menus. It’s a little far to go for lunch, but a great spot for a post-conference dinner.

Dos Caminos: If I’m having dinner with a group that includes people with various food allergies and intolerances, this is one of my favorite spots. The cuisine is modern Mexican, and the service is incredibly accommodating.

Pip’s Place — The Gluten-Free Cakery: I’m not going to recommend that you have a slice of banana layer cake, a chocolate cupcake, or a raspberry pinwheel cookie for lunch… but if you need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, this dedicated gluten-free bakery is just the spot, especially since it’s only three blocks south of the Grand Hyatt.

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The Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Fifth Anniversary Contest is open until July 15th. Enter now!

Reader Report: Lucifer’s Pizza in Los Angeles

While I was in Los Angeles in March on my book tour, I heard about a great gluten-free pizza place called Lucifer’s, but I didn’t have time to check it out. Fortunately, reader Laura Smith did, and she wrote this report for the Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Fifth Anniversary Contest (which will be open to entries until July 15, 2013, so send yours in soon!).

Lucifer’s Pizza by Laura Smith

I visited Los Angeles, California, for 2 weeks in April and went for pizza to Lucifer’s. It is one of the best pizzas I have ever eaten, including pre-gluten free! The crust was crispy and sooo very flavorful. Many people order it instead of the regular because it tastes so yummy. I had the Hot Chick (chicken, black pepper, pepperoni, green bell pepper, garlic, onion, tomato & hot chili sauce) personal size and ate it all! The flavors were so perfectly matched with the meat,carmelized onion, peppers and sauce and after four years of going without a good pizza I was in heaven. I cannot recommend it enough. Lucifer’s also offers dairy-free options for the cheese. Their gluten-free crusts are from Venice Bakery and you can order them online. 5 stars for this pizza!

Reader Report: A Gluten Free Adventure in the Junction (Toronto)

I was so excited to read Helen Nelson’s contest entry for the Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Fifth Anniversary Contest (now extended to July 15, 2013, since I disappeared down the rabbit hole while editing my fourth novel…). I’ve known Helen for several years through an amazing group called Sisters in Crime, which I highly recommend to anyone interested in crime fiction (in spite of the name, it’s just as welcoming to men as it is women). Helen is a talented writer, and I really appreciate her using her talents to share information about gluten-free spots in the Junction, a gentrifying neighborhood in Toronto. Many, many thanks, Helen! (PS Contest rules are here. A big thank you to all who have entered the contest so far. Looking forward to reading more reader reports!)

Helen Nelson: Toronto — A Gluten Free Adventure in the Junction 

In the Junction?

Yes, indeed the Junction has changed. No longer hosting the last remaining Woolworth’s store, a hodge podge of strange little stores and donut shops, it now hosts many of the things that make a neighbourhood fun and funky and dare I say even trendy?

My young niece and I embarked on our gluten free breakfast, lunch and treats hunt at around 10 on a Saturday morning. We started off at Bunner’s Bakery, just a little west of High Park Avenue and Dundas. Bunner’s is a vegan and gluten-free bakery. So for me that’s a bonus as in addition to no gluten, there is also no dairy! There we picked up a pumpkin and chocolate chip muffin, a couple of cinnamon buns, some butter tarts, some chocolate chip sandwich cookies and a loaf of bread that was still hot out of the oven. And we liked it all! OK, the cinnamon bun was too much for me. I couldn’t finish it. Although my husband ate his, we decided that next time we’ll get one and split it! A word of warning — get there early! They were selling out of the bread at a rapid rate. Another word of warning — their Supersonic Gypsy Cookie (which gets huge raves), has oats. So glad I asked before I bought and chowed down! They do have a book you can look at that lists their ingredients. And they are promising a recipe book soon!

For lunch we ventured out again to Gabby’s — right at High Park and Dundas. We eat here often. They have a huge menu with lots of selections and a separate menu that is gluten free. Yes!!! Sadly for me a lot on that menu has dairy, but there are a few things that I can have. In the past I’ve had their burger, ribs, a salad plate and sweet potato fries. Today I had a chicken sandwich (on a GF bun). The chicken and the stuff inside the sandwich is great. The bun, well its a bit dry and crumbly, but I’ve found that is all too often the case since I’ve found I can’t really do gluten (or most grains anyway) any more, a few weeks back. Too bad Bunner’s doesn’t actually make buns! My niece had macaroni and cheese and a bunch of my sweet potato fries. Decidedly NOT GF! But she enjoyed her meal! They have a few too many TV screens for my tastes, but the varied menu with GF items and the food quality makes up for that.

Then we walked back a few steps west along Dundas to Delight Chocolates. They sell some unfriendly stuff — like ice cream and brownies. But mainly they sell chocolate! And they offer many chocolate options that are completely dairy free and soy free. No flour or grains either! Its all fair trade and organic too! For those who can have dairy they also sell hot chocolate that apparently is to die for! For those who are able to do dairy (and others too) they also sell fair trade organic coffee.

There is also The Beet, an organic food café, and The Sweet Potato, an organic grocery store, both within about a block. I haven’t checked these out in a while, but I’ll venture to guess that they have lots of GF options as well!

The Gluten-Free Guidebook Turns Five!

EVIL launch party March 5 2013

I’ve been so busy on my book tour for my new novel, Evil in All Its Disguises, that a certain significant date slipped right by me. March 15th, 2013, marked the fifth anniversary of the Gluten-Free Guidebook. Creating this site has introduced me to a lot of incredible people over the years. I know, from the messages I receive, that so many people have found the information helpful; a few have told me that the site gave them the confidence to travel again, when they believed a diagnosis of celiac disease meant they’d never eat out again. Working on this site has been a labor of love for me.

The site has also spawned a vibrant Facebook group, which I love because it helps readers share restaurant recommendations and travel tips. If you’re planning a trip and wondering what your gluten-free dining options are at your destination, it’s the perfect place to start.

To celebrate this site’s fifth anniversary, I’m hosting a contest. I want to hear about your favorite gluten-free places — restaurants, bakeries, shops, hotels, or destinations. Write a Reader Report about them, and you’ll be entered in a draw to win one of my three mystery novels (The Damage Done, The Next One to Fall, Evil in All Its Disguises). Examples of Reader Reports are here.

The fine print: By entering this contest, you automatically give me the right to publish your entry on the Gluten-Free Guidebook, and to edit it as necessary for clarity and length; however, I am under no obligation to publish it. Your entry must be your own original work and cannot infringe on anyone’s copyright. You hold the copyright to your own material and can publish it elsewhere, in print or online. Entrants need to send me their full names and their mailing addresses (the mailing address is only for the prize draw; the information will be kept strictly confidential).

The deadline for entries is May 31 July 15, 2013. Entries must be e-mailed to glutenfreeguidebook [at] gmail [dot] com; please put “Anniversary Contest” in the subject. This contest is open to readers around the world, except where prohibited by law.

Here’s to another year, and many more discoveries on the road!