When you have celiac disease, one of the toughest things about travel is finding the stamina to dine out day after day. At home, going to a restaurant can feel like a luxury, particularly when youâ€™re confident that the staff will take care of your needs. Itâ€™s tough to find places like that when youâ€™re on the road and you need to explain your dietary restrictions before every breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Before I went to Peru last fall I spent hours researching restaurants that could prepare gluten-free meals. I couldnâ€™t find a single place mentioned in a guidebook or online. When I got on my flight to Peru (which you can read about here), I was nervous about what I would be surviving on for the next three weeks.
It turned out that I had nothing to worry about. This was partly because the traditional Andean diet is based on three staples â€” corn, potatoes, and quinoa â€” that are all celiac-safe. More importantly, I found that the Peruvian people were incredibly kind and took painstaking care of me, sometimes checking ingredients three or four times before bringing my main course to the table.
This wasnâ€™t only true of the more expensive restaurants, but in the most casual eateries. A perfect example of this is the Moni CafÃ©-Restaurant in Cusco, the city that every traveler passes through on the way to Machu Picchu. Moni is an unpretentious, inexpensive spot thatâ€™s well away from the tourist crowds in the historic Plaza de Armas, and its specialty is vegetarian cooking. The recipes are very simple (my starter was a pumpkin soup made only with pumpkin, garlic, and cream) but the food is incredibly delicious. My main course involved all of the Andean staples: called the Sacred Valley Curry, it was a combination of giant-sized corn kernels with potato and quinoa in a tomato-and-onion sauce.
The staff was incredibly kind and helpfulâ€¦ so much so that I went back for another meal later in the week. Thatâ€™s the thing about finding a restaurant you feel confident about while youâ€™re on the road — it makes you feel right at home.
Moni CafÃ©-Restaurant [address] San Agustin 311, Cusco, Peru [tel] 51-84-231-029 [web] www.moni-cusco.com