Reader Report: Gluten-Free Hawaii

When I created the Gluten-Free Guidebook group on Facebook earlier this year, I wanted readers to have a place to exchange information about their travels and their upcoming plans. Several people have shared recommendations from around the world. Liisa, a reader in Arizona, took the time to report on her trip to Hawaii, where she visited the islands of Oahu and Kauai. With her permission, I’m including her suggestions here as a reader report — a must-read for anyone visiting the Aloha State. Thanks so much for sharing this, Liisa! And as they say in Hawaiian, mahalo.

LIISA’S REPORT ON HAWAII

Gluten-Free Oahu:

  • La Cucaracha in Waikiki: Fresh, delicious Mexican food and wonderful service; [address] 2130 Kuhio Ave, Honolulu, Oahu [tel] 808-922-2288
  • Duke’s Canoe Club in Waikiki: Good service — when I said I was gluten-free my server understood right away and made menu suggestions for me. Excellent buffet for breakfast and lunch; [address] 2335 Kalakaua Ave., Suite 116, Honolulu [tel] 808-922-2268 [web] www.dukeswaikiki.com
  • Down to Earth: This shop had lots of GF food to buy, as well as GF pizza, smoothies and salad bar; [address] 2525 South King Street, Honolulu, plus 4 other locations on Oahu and Maui [tel] 808-947-7678 [web] www.downtoearth.org
  • Polynesian Cultural Center: I went to a Luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center, again great service and yummy food. I reserved ahead and made sure they noted I was gluten-free on my reservation. When I got to the Luau food area the head buffet person showed me through the line and showed me what was safe to eat; [address] 55-370 Kamehameha Highway, Laie [tel] 808-293-3333 [web] www.polynesia.com

Gluten-Free Kauai:

  • Sweet Marie’s: This is a dedicated gluten-free bakery from a gourmet baker. Decadent desserts that I haven’t had in years, I had here. It’s reasonably priced and Marie herself really is a sweet person. She’ll even tell you where to eat and shop GF locally; [address] 4-788 Kuhio Highway, Kapaa [tel] 808-823-0227 [web] www.sweetmarieskauai.com
  • Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion: Absolutely wonderful. The first thing the server asked was “Does anyone have any food allergies?” Superb, but pricey; [address] 7 locations in Hawaii [web] www.roysrestaurant.com
  • Smith’s Tropical Paradise: This Luau is where I had the best dining experience in Hawaii. I emailed ahead to make sure they could accommodate GF. Sure enough they did, and they had the kitchen prepare an extra plate of gluten-free food to supplement what was available at the buffet. They also arranged for a staff member to take me down the buffet line to show me what was safe for me to eat; [address] Inside Wailua Marina State Park, Kauai [tel] 808-821-6895 [web] www.smithskauai.com

Photograph of a dessert at Sweet Marie’s courtesy of Liisa.

Roundup: Gluten-Free Bakeries

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I tried all of the gluten-free baked goods I could find… and I wasn’t very happy with what was out there. I remember rice breads that crumbled into bits with the first bite and pastries that seemed to have a substantial styrofoam content. Now, five years later, I’m amazed by how much the quality has increased and how much choice there is. (I’m speaking primarily of what I see in New York and Toronto, and online; I know that there are plenty of places where it’s hard to come by gluten-free baked goods.)

Several bakeries that offer gluten-free treats have contacted me — and some readers have forwarded suggestions — so I wanted to pass along the information. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit any of the spots below, so I would love to hear from any readers who have tried them. For the record, I am a fan of Babycakes in New York City ([tel] 212-677-5047 [web] www.babycakesnyc.com). I’d love to hear about your favorites.

Bewitching Elegance: San Francisco-area artist Diane Rinella specializes in wedding cakes, which are available in gluten-free, vegan, and diabetic-friendly versions; [address] 1170 Broadway, Burlingame, California [tel] 510-469-6976 [web] www.bewitchingelegance.com

Cinderella Sweets: I’ve never used this company’s free mail-order service, but I have purchased their gluten-free Passover treats, sold under the name Shabtai Gourmet, at supermarkets in New York. The selection includes traditional almond macaroons, sponge cakes with raspberry filling, and delicate “lace” cookies topped with chocolate. The products are also free of dairy, casein, and soy, and they are certified kosher; [tel] 516-652-5671 [web] www.cinderellasweets.com

Coffee Plant: There are two Coffee Plant cafés in Portland, but one is entirely gluten-free. The husband-and-wife team who run the business bake the fresh muffins, scones, cookies, cakes, quiches, and breads on a daily basis; [address] 5911 SW Corbett, Portland, Oregon [tel] 503-293-3280 [web] www.coffeeplant.net

GF Patisserie: This dedicated gluten-free bakery set up shop last August in Cochrane, Alberta, a short drive from Calgary. Owner Victoria Edlinger told me that they started by offering three types of quiche, but their product range now includes cream puffs, sacher torte, Italian flatbread, and butter tarts; [address] 122 3rd Ave West, Cochrane, Alberta [tel] 403 990-9565 [web] www.gfpatisserie.com

Rose’s Wheatfree Bakery: This Chicago-area bakery and cafe is entirely gluten-free, and it also offers dairy- and egg-free options. Rose’s bakes up everything from snickerdoodles to chocolate-cherry-hazelnut biscotti, and from breads to pizzas; [address] 2901 Central Street, Evanston, Illinois [tel] 847-859-2723 [web] www.rosesbakery.com

Swirlz Cupcakes: Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, Swirlz offers gluten-free cupcakes in flavors like chocolate grasshopper mint (I’m not sure what that means, but I’m curious); [address] 705 West Belden, Chicago, Illinois [tel] 773-404-2253 [web] www.swirlzcupcakes.com

Triple Oak Bakery: This dedicated gluten-free bakery opened in Virginia’s Rappahannock County in the fall, after owner Brooke Parkhurst found that demand for the treats she was baking in her home kitchen just kept growing. Offerings include carrot cupcakes, mocha dream cake, and cream puffs, and they are also available at The Natural Marketplace in Warrenton and Better Thymes in Front Royal; [address] 11692 Lee Highway, Sperryville, Virginia [tel] 540-675-3601 [e-mail] tripleoakbakery@gmail.com.

Majesty and Mystery at Machu Picchu

Of all the places I’ve visited, Machu Picchu is probably the one that fascinates me the most. It was an incredible thrill to see the lost city of the Inca (even if, according to some accounts, the place was never really “lost”). In any case, Spanish conquistadors never found it, so its massive stone walls and structures were left for centuries mostly to the llamas and other creatures who roam there.

One of the trickiest things about Machu Picchu is finding a place to stay. (Tourists who take the Orient Express train there and back in the same day don’t have to worry about this, but they usually end up with less than four hours to explore one of the most incredible sites on the planet). The Orient Express-owned Sanctuary Lodge, just outside the gates of Machu Picchu’s tourist entryway, is the most famous option (it’s one of the most expensive hotels in the world). At the base of the mountain is the town of Aguas Calientes, which hardly existed a decade ago; now it’s a collection of hostels and trinket shops that cater to travelers. And then there’s the Inkaterra Machu Picchu.

Inkaterra is an ecologically aware Peruvian company that operates three resorts. Its outpost at Machu Picchu is on the site of a former tea plantation at the foot of the mountain. The 85 cottages stand on 12 acres that overlook the Vilacanota river. The grounds include a top-notch spa (which my muscles were glad to find after hiking up and down Machu Picchu’s stone staircases), and an animal sanctuary that features almost 200 types of birds… and two Spectacled Bears (a species of bear that is native to South America).

The Inkaterra also features a gorgeous dining room. I’d let the staff know that I have celiac disease when I made the reservation, and they were incredibly accommodating — but the nicest surprise was that much of the restaurant’s menu is naturally gluten-free. For dinner that night I started with an appetizer of corn, olives, beans and cheese, followed by an alpaca steak with a gooseberry sauce and baked potato. In keeping with Inkaterra’s ecological commitment, most of the ingredients are from local farms; some are grown on the resort’s own property. The meal marked the end of one of the most fascinating days of any trip I’ve taken.

Inkaterra Machu Picchu [tel] 800-442-5042 in North America, +51 1 610 04000 in Peru [web] www.inkaterra.com