Archive for the ‘Accommodations’ Category

Scottsdale Is Delicious

Monday, March 25th, 2013

Hotel Valley Ho evening

I’m on tour right now for my third novel, Evil in All Its Disguises, which was released by Tor/Forge on March 5th, 2013. Evil is a crime novel that features my travel-writing, crime-solving heroine Lily Moore (who first appeared in the Anthony Award-winning The Damage Done); this time, she’s on a press trip to Acapulco when another journalist disappears. The book has been earning rave reviews, and articles about me have been featured in the National Post and the Toronto Star. I’ll be in Austin (BookPeople, March 26, 7pm), Houston (Murder by the Book, March 27, 6:30pm), Chicago (The Book Cellar, April 4, 7pm), Milwaukee (Mystery One, April 6, noon), Minneapolis (Once Upon a Crime, March 8, 7pm) and Toronto (Ben McNally Books, March 18, 6pm). Details about the events are online. If I’m visiting your city, I hope you’ll come say hello!

It’s been a whirlwind so far, but one thing I love about being on the road is discovering great places to eat. So far, Scottsdale wins the prize for best food. I was there for a couple of days after appearing at the Tucson Festival of Books and before speaking at the Poisoned Pen. Here are the places that impressed me:

  • Sauce Pizza & Wine: When I landed at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor airport, I was starving. Fortunately I discovered this spot before I started gnawing on a protein bar. The gluten-free pepperoni-and-porcini pizza I had was so good I pretty much inhaled it. Can you believe I’m looking forward to going back just to eat at the airport? Fortunately, Sauce has several locations throughout Arizona, including Tucson, Chandler, Mesa, and Scottsdale.
  • Citizen Public House: Nestled in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale, this spot was a little tricky to find, but it was worth the trouble. The menu is annotated with gluten-free labels, and options include a salad of local field greens with cashews, dried cranberries, goat cheese, grape tomatoes and mustard-fig vinaigrette, and smoked duck breast with creamy rosemary millet, spiced pistachios, and sauteed greens (I can personally recommend both). Next time I’m on tour, I’m trying the butternut squash chowder and the buttermilk roasted chicken.
  • Old Town Tortilla Factory: Neon margaritas and a gluten-free menu? What more could you want? The green enchilada with chicken is simple but perfect.
  • Cafe Zuzu at the Hotel Valley Ho: The menu didn’t mention gluten-free, but the restaurant’s staff is well-trained and thoughtful. They are able to quickly point out celiac-safe options and make modifications wherever necessary. I loved the tomato and cucumber salad in a balsamic vinaigrette and grilled bone-in pork chop.
  • Dottie’s True Blue Cafe: I’m not as enamored of this breakfast spot, since the kitchen placed wheat toast atop my gluten-free omelette. However, I’m including them because the staff was very responsive and helpful when I explained to them why I couldn’t eat the omelette, and they cooked up a fresh one for me. They also serve up excellent gluten-free pancakes. I’m hoping that they’ll be more careful going forward. If you eat there, please let me know!
  • Los Sombreros Cafe & Cantina: I’m cheating a bit by including this restaurant, since I was there last time I was in Scottsdale. Still, it serves up excellent Mexican cuisine, has a beautiful outdoor patio, and I meant to write about it already.

My friend Liisa has given me a list of gluten-free spots to try in Scottsdale next time. Let me know if you have any suggestions!

Things to Do in Denver When You’re Gluten-Free

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

I can’t believe my third novel, Evil in All Its Disguises, will be out in three weeks. I haven’t even finished writing about all of the places I hit when I was on my book tour for my second novel, The Next One to Fall. Case in point: Denver, Colorado. I’d never visited the Mile-High City before, and I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I found was a gluten-free mecca.

My stay in Denver was all too brief (when I’m touring, I often get only 24 to 48 hours in a city, sometimes less). But I was lucky enough to stay at the stunning Castle Marne Bed & Breakfast (pictured above), which gave me an incredibly warm welcome. Located in the historic Raymond House, a three-story stone mansion that dates back to 1889, the B&B is one of the prettiest places I’ve ever stayed. I’d told them in advance that I have celiac disease, and they assured me they’d have no trouble accommodating that. They weren’t kidding — they offered me gluten-free snacks and, at breakfast, had gluten-free bread and blueberry muffins ready. The staff are incredibly kind and thoughtful.

I wish I could recommend Encore, the fabulous restaurant where I had dinner before my event at the Tattered Cover Bookstore, but it closed about a month after I visited Denver. Naked Pizza, just around the corner from Castle Marne, closed up shop as well. Fortunately, the Tattered Cover itself is still going strong, and that includes its excellent café, which offers gluten-free and vegan treats. Denver overall has an abundance of dining options for the gluten-intolerant. Some places that were recommended to me (and are still in operation!):

  • 3 Guys Pies: Their claim to fame is their New York-style pizza, hand-tossed and baked right on the stone. Offerings include gluten-free pizzas, and they’ll deliver for free within a two-mile radius of their location on Capital Hill.
  • Cucina Colore: Contemporary Italian cuisine, complete with gluten-free pasta and other main-course options
  • Lime: a local chain with multiple locations, all offering Mexican staples, from corn-based flautas to ceviche
  • Modmarket: Another small local chain, health-conscious Modmarket offers a gluten-free menu, complete with salads, sandwiches, pizzas, and soups
  • Phat Thai: I love how this restaurant describes itself: “This isn’t a traditional Thai restaurant. We are not Thai. We’re not even Asian. Not even close. Hell, we’ve only visited Thailand!” I love the honesty, and their willingness to accommodate gluten-free diners (much of the menu is naturally gluten-free; some dishes require modification)

Denver also has several gluten-free bakeries, including:

  • Deby’s Gluten-Free: a dedicated gluten-free, peanut-free, and shellfish-free kitchen that offers cooking classes as well as a long list of products (more than a dozen different breads, English muffins, pizza crusts, hotdog buns, cakes, pies, cookies). Deby’s goods are carried by a number of restaurants and grocery stores in and around Denver (check out this list for more celiac-safe places to eat in the city)
  • The Gluten Escape: I love how the spot describes itself: “Our mission is to give people a place to find great food without unwanted ingredients! Welcome to choice, welcome to creativity, and welcome to a place where food differences are no big deal.” The Gluten Escape is also soy-free, dairy-free, and vegan, and can accommodate other dietary restrictions.

Next time, I need to spend more time in Denver. I’ll be back there on March 20th, reading from Evil in All Its Disguises at the Tattered Cover Highlands Ranch Bookstore at 7:30pm. If you’re in the area, please stop by to say hello!

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Evil in All Its Disguises will be published by Forge on March 5th, 2013 (it will be released as a hardcover, eBook, and audiobook that day). I’m giving away advance copies via my author newsletter; if you want to enter the draw, all you have to do is sign up. Book reviewers who are registered with NetGalley can download a copy right now. My second novel, The Next One to Fall, will be released in a paperback edition on February 12, 2012; there is a giveaway on GoodReads right now. Also, for a limited time, the eBook price of my award-winning debut novel, The Damage Done, is down to just $2.99. If you’re a mystery reader, I hope you’ll check out the series.

Spectacular St. Louis

Sunday, November 6th, 2011

In September, I attended the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention in St. Louis. I had an amazing time for many reasons, including the fact that my debut novel, The Damage Done, won two awards! At the opening ceremonies, I was presented with the Crimespree Award for Best First Novel; then at the close of the conference, I discovered I’d won the Anthony Award for Best First Novel. It was a dream come true for me in so many ways, and I want to say a heartfelt thank-you to everyone who has supported my fiction. I can’t tell you how much that means to me.

While I was in St. Louis, I had some memorable gluten-free meals. Bouchercon took place at the Renaissance St. Louis Grand Hotel (which did a fabulous job with the Anthony Awards brunch). Here’s a list of the restaurants I discovered while I was in town:

Rooster: If you’re looking for a gluten-free crepe in downtown St. Louis, you’re in luck. Rooster describes itself as a European-style cafe, and it has a lovely Old World ambiance in its design (plus sidewalk seating in warm weather). But the crepes are what I remember best, and I split two with my dining companion: the savory Bacon #2, which is made with Vermont cheddar and caramelized onions, and the sweet Nutella crepe with strawberries. Even writing about them now is making my mouth water. [address] 1104 Locust Street, St. Louis [tel] 314-241-8118

Copia Urban Winery: My publisher, Tor/Forge, hosts a dinner every year at Bouchercon — and the thoughtful editor who organizes it always asks me to check out the place in advance to make sure I’ll be able to find gluten-free options. Copia was a stone’s throw from the conference hotel, and it boasted a menu filled with fresh produce and a staff that was well-versed in potential cross-contamination issues. I had the Copia Salad (mixed greens with a red-wine-soaked onion, plus tomato, and goat cheese, hold the crostini), and a filet of beef tenderloin with grilled vegetables. [address] 1122 Washington Avenue, St. Louis  [tel] 314-241-9463

Mango Peruvian Cuisine: Having visited Peru, I know that authentic Peruvian cuisine is generally celiac-friendly (it’s based on corn, potatoes, and quinoa). Still, North American interpretations of Peruvian cuisine aren’t always as easy to navigate. Mango had a number of great options, though, including ceviche, salad, and spicy-yet-sweet chicken breast topped with mango and red pepper. The restaurant also boasted the best pisco sour I’ve had since I was in Peru! [address] 1101 Lucas Avenue, St. Louis [tel] 314-621-9993

Culinaria: Is it strange to include a supermarket? Not if it’s Culinaria. Its fresh-food department had a Greek salad that made for a quick gluten-free meal when I needed one (since it was conveniently packaged, I also brought one to the airport with me after the convention). There’s cafe seating upstairs (and in front of the store, in good weather). There’s also plenty of gluten-free food — crackers, cookies, etc. — in its grocery aisles. [address] 315 North 9th St., St. Louis [tel] 314-436-7694

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More book news: My second novel is called The Next One to Fall; it will be published in the US and Canada on Valentine’s Day 2012. It’s a mystery set in Peru, and it’s already getting some wonderful praise from novelists such as Laura Lippman and Meg Gardiner. There are 10 advance copies up for grabs in the GoodReads giveaway (entering the giveaway is free; all you need is a mailing address in the US or Canada). I’m already planning my book tour, with dates in New York City, Houston, Austin, Scottsdale, and other cities.

Reader Report: Dartmouth, England

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

I love it when Gluten-Free Guidebook readers share their travel and dining experiences. The Gluten-Free Guidebook group on Facebook has been a lively spot lately, with exchanges about where to dine in Ibiza, Oahu, and San Francisco, and even where to get a celiac-safe cinnamon sticky bun in Toronto (that would be Bunner’s, which I now know about thanks to Jay Brown). Even better, reader Mike Murphy wrote this report on his visit to Dartmouth last summer. A huge thank-you to Mike!

Mike Murphy’s Report on Dartmouth

“If a man wishes to eat well in England, he should have breakfast three times a day”

Somerset Maugham’s jaundiced advice (he was brought up in France) does not offer much hope to the gluten-tolerant, let alone the celiac. Breakfast is often a sticky time, whether it is the “continental” variety, with those wickedly tempting pastries, or the “full English” kind, gluten-enriched with black pudding and sausage, to say nothing of the toast and fried bread.

Well, if you have any reason to visit Dartmouth (like a son passing out of the Naval academy), look no further than the Churston Court Inn. We had not mentioned anything about my wife’s gluten intolerance when we made the booking; she finds it hard to have it talked about. So we were very happy when the hotel receptionist and management said “No problem – we shall have the executive chef attend to your needs”. Even more so because our appointment at the academy meant we needed a cooked breakfast half an hour before the kitchen officially opened. We were apprehensive after the waitress took our order – 2 full English, one of which adapted to the celiac regime. When it came, it was remarkably complete. Bacon, egg, mushroom, sausage, tomato. Mine had all of the above, plus black pudding, hash browns, and fried bread, of course. We paid the bill (in high season, a very reasonable GBP 70 for one night, including cooked breakfasts), and waited with some trepidation to see whether any problems would reveal that things had gone wrong in the kitchen. Not a sausage, so to speak!

Celiacs attending the passing out lunch at Britannia Royal Naval College should bring their own rations. None of the three main courses, nor either of the two puddings, were suitable. If my wife could have brought herself to eat anything, her lunch would have consisted of plain boiled rice and whipped cream.

Dinner the night before was at (Michelin starred) The New Angel [now Restaurant Angelique]. This restaurant had been recommended on the web as a celiac friendly place. In a way it was. Not in the way of having a menu of dishes specially cooked for celiacs. Not in the way of indicating which of the standard dishes on the menus were gluten-free. We could have the “menu dégustation” at GBP 50 each for the whole table. And the restaurant would prepare a special plate for my wife for each course, without any dangerous ingredients. We had a good bottle of Australian Riesling (perhaps a little overpowered by the sun), and a reasonable bottle of Nebbiolo. And 3 litres of mineral water, with 4 coffees. Total damage: GBP 344. My wife, who is fastidious for the same reasons as Somerset Maugham, thought the food was good, but not superlative.

So, if you don’t mind eating less than your non-celiac sisters or cousins or aunts, Dartmouth is a great place to go. But if you want to eat nearly the same, have breakfast at Churston Court!

Again, many thanks to Mike for sharing this. I’d love to hear from more of you about places you’ve visited, and about gluten-free finds in your own town. You can also share finds via the Facebook group, too.

Ulster County, New York

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

At the beginning of July, I had the good luck to spend a few days in a scenic spot a couple of hours north of New York City. New York State’s Ulster County is home to lovely hiking trails, gorgeous waterways — perfect for canoeing — and some truly fine food. I was pleasantly surprised to find how celiac-friendly local businesses are. Here are a few of the gems I visited:

The Big Cheese (402 Main Street, Rosendale, [tel] 845-658-7175): located on Rosendale’s main drag, next to its theater, this eclectic shop has an impressive assortment of cheeses from around the world. It also boasts hot sandwiches, and offers a gluten-free option (as the board on the wall says, “For gluten-free, we usually have corn tortillas available.” There are also fresh-baked goods that change daily — when I was in, there were gluten-free lemon coconut squares. At the back of the store is an eclectic collection of vintage clothing, accessories, books, and art.

The Alternative Baker (407 Main Street, Rosendale, [tel] 845-658-3355): Across the street from The Big Cheese is this sweet bakery, which offers a terrific range of desserts. There are plenty of gluten-free treats (the bakery is aware of potential cross-contamination issues and avoids them), as well as dairy-free and vegan options, and even a few sugar-free goods.

Saunderskill Farms (5100 RT 209, Accord, NY, [tel] 845-626-2676): Situated a ways outside of town, this small market offers a phenomenal array of celiac-safe groceries (from breads and bagels to snacks and frozen dinners). There’s also a fresh-baked gluten-free treat of the day — blueberry muffins, on the day I was there. There’s a wealth of fresh produce, too, plus a gorgeous greenhouse filled with blooming flowers.

The Arbor Bed & Breakfast (44 Mohonk Road, High Falls, NY, [tel] 845-687-9888): for two nights of my stay, I was at this pretty, well-maintained B&B. The owner, Nancy, was happy to whip up a gluten-free omelette for me at breakfast, which I really appreciated.

So, where are you traveling this summer? Let me know if you make any great gluten-free finds!

Fairmont’s Gluten-Free Initiative

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

Back in the fall, when I was on the road promoting The Damage Done, I had the good fortune to read at the Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA, and to stay at the Fairmont Pittsburgh. The latter is a gorgeous tower of glass and steel that opened last March just a stone’s throw from downtown’s trendy Market Square District and PNC Park. As much as I loved the hotel’s elegant, spare design, the best thing about staying there was hearing the news that Fairmont was very close to announcing a gluten-free initiative that would affect every hotel it owns.

That initiative has just become public: Lifestyle Cuisine Plus, a new menu that is available upon request to guests who have specific diet-dependent conditions. Celiac disease/gluten intolerance is on that list, as are diabetes and heart disease. The menu also guarantees options for macrobiotic, raw and vegan diets.

Here’s how Fairmont describes it in the company’s official release:

Fairmont chefs have been trained to prepare a vast array of special dietary and allergy-specific meals and are equipped with Nutritionist Pro™ by Axxya Systems (www.axxya.com), cutting-edge recipe analysis software to help customize entrees and menus to fit with guests’ requests for caloric and nutritional requirements.  Utilizing nutrient-rich ingredients, clean cooking methods and local food products, diners at Fairmont, whether in a restaurant, bar, banquet or in- room, can be sure dishes are wholesome, balanced and full of taste.
A typical Fairmont Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu includes a selection of appetizers, entrees and desserts to address diabetes, heart healthy, vegan, raw, macrobiotic and gluten-free diets and will contribute to guests’ well-being, vitality and energy. Guests with specific food allergies and sensitivities are invited to have a direct conversation with the chef in order to plan their food options during their stay.
While the same nutritional parameters guide Fairmont chefs across the globe, actual menu offerings reflect the distinctive style and unique food products of each destination.  A sampling includes Baked Tofu with Bean Noodles (gluten free – Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa); Arame with Sunflower Seeds, Chives and Mustard (macrobiotic – Fairmont Beijing); Zucchini, Carrot, Portobello and Cashew Butter Pave (raw – Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club); Cornish Crab Cake and Marinated Cucumber & Grapefruit Salad with Homemade Aioli (gluten free – Fairmont Bab Al Bahr); Chilled Pea Soup with Tomato and Key West Shrimp (DASH and heart healthy – Fairmont Turnberry Isle); Free Range Chicken with Quinoa (DASH and heart healthy – Fairmont Olympic Hotel, Seattle); and Chocolate Ganache Flan (vegan – Fairmont Hotel Vancouver).

So Fairmont hotels from Acapulco to Zimbali are now guaranteeing choices for gluten-free guests. In a move that I think is a particularly nice touch, the company has already posted some of these recipes online. If guests want to re-create the Cornish Crab Cake, Marinated Cucumber and Grapefruit Salad or the Chocolate Ganache Flan, they can. Recipes and more information about the program can be found at www.everyonesanoriginal.com. I’d love to hear from readers who stay at Fairmont properties about their dining experiences there. But in the meantime, bravo, Fairmont!

Lessons From the Road

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

I’m back from my book tour for THE DAMAGE DONE! The past couple of months have been a whirlwind. My debut novel came out on September 28th, and I had a party that night in New York City. Since then, I’ve attended two conferences (Bouchercon and Noircon), had bookstore and/or library events in a dozen cities (including Houston, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, Pittsburgh and Toronto), and had six events in New York City alone. Also, I was writing my second novel, THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, which will be published by Forge in fall 2011 (I turned the manuscript in to my editor last Wednesday). There’s been a lot of work on the publicity front, too. This past weekend, I was honored to discover that the Los Angeles Times featured THE DAMAGE DONE as one the the books the paper is recommending for the holidays. Reviews of the book have been wonderful. There are also a number of interviews with me (many include coverage of the Gluten-Free Guidebook as well).

As tiring as it is to be on the road so much, there was a lot that was wonderful about it, too. I’ve had the chance to collect information about a lot of great restaurants, bakeries and shops, and I’ll be writing about those over the next few weeks. I also had the chance to meet some Gluten-Free Guidebook readers, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. Some observations from the last few weeks:

  • Phoenix/Scottsdale Is a Great Destination for Gluten-Free Foodies: I was expecting to find terrific Mexican cooking here (and I found it), but I didn’t realize just how diverse and sophisticated the dining scene is in Phoenix and Scottsdale. One tip-off: Phoenix Magazine, which had its “Best New Restaurants” issue on newsstands while I was in town; its list of hotspots included the Pomegranate Café ([address] 4025 E. Chandler Blvd., Suite 28, Phoenix [tel] 480-706-7472 [web] www.pomegranatecafe.com), which offers vegetarian, vegan, and raw dishes. Not everything there is gluten-free (there are spelt tortillas, for example), but most of it is, including a decadent cheesecake.
  • People Are Very Kind: I was surprised, over and over again, by how thoughtful people were. Just after I arrived in San Francisco, a writer friend (Joshua Corin, author of WHILE GALILEO PREYS) sent me a message about a gluten-free bakery he’d found in the Ferry Building (the wonderful Mariposa Baking Co., which I’ll have more to say about later). Before I went to Los Angeles, another writer friend (Rebecca Cantrell, author of A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES) recommended a restaurant across the street from The Mystery Bookstore, where I was reading. A friend of a friend passed along recommendations for Houston. In Pittsburgh, the lovely couple that owns Mystery Lovers Bookshop researched gluten-free restaurants in the area so that they could take me out to dinner while I was in town. While I was in Phoenix/Scottsdale, I got to meet the lovely Liisa (who wrote a Reader Report about her trip to Hawaii a while back), and she gave me a list of very accommodating local restaurants.
  • Still, Never Travel Unprepared: My hotel in Houston, the Four Points Sheraton, left a lot to be desired. That was especially true on the food front. As one employee said to me, when I started to ask about gluten-free options: “What, do you want me to explain what’s in a steak to you?” I was very glad I had protein bars, pistachios, and fruit along with me.
  • Fast Food Chains Are Catching On: At Houston’s Hobby Airport, my only dining option turned out to be Wendy’s, which offers gluten-free salads. At Philadelphia’s Central Station, I was able to pick up dinner at Cosi. At Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, I was able to have dinner at Paradise Bakery Café. To tell the truth, the employees at each of these places didn’t know what gluten-free was and had to get a manager, but each turned out to have a list (in Cosi’s case, a giant binder) of nutritional information for people with food allergies or gluten intolerance.

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If you’d like to read THE DAMAGE DONE, the first three chapters are available for free online. The book is available from independent mystery booksellers across North America, as well as from IndieBoundAmazonBarnes & NobleBordersPowell’s, and — in Canada — Indigo/Chapters. Signed copies are available from The Mystery BookstoreMurder by the BookThe Poisoned Pen, and The Mysterious Bookshop.

On the Road With Author Rebecca Cantrell

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

According to her website, “a few years ago Rebecca Cantrell quit her job, sold her house, and moved to Hawaii to write a novel because, at seven, she decided that she would be a writer.” It turns out that was a very wise idea. Cantrell’s debut novel, A Trace of Smoke, was widely acclaimed when it was published in 2009, and it went on to win the Bruce Alexander Historical Mystery Award. Its sequel, A Night of Long Knives, came out in June (both novels are published by Forge, which is also my publisher). Thanks to Twitter, I discovered that she is also on a gluten-free diet, and since she was just on a book tour across the U.S., it seemed like a terrific time to talk to her about it. For more information about Rebecca Cantrell’s books, check out her website.

I read A Trace of Smoke and loved it. Your new novel, A Night of Long Knives is waiting in my TBR pile. For people who haven’t encountered the Hannah Vogel mysteries yet, how would you describe the books?
I’m glad to hear that you loved it! The Hannah Vogel books follow one woman through pre-World War II Berlin. Hannah tries to fight the Nazi Party, protect those she loves and bring out the stories of those being crushed by the rising regime. They are painstakingly researched literary historical mysteries. And they have some funny bits too.

You’ve written a book for young adults as well, under the name Bekka Black. Can you tell us about that?
I certainly can! My next project is called iDrakula. It’s a retelling of Bram Stoker’s Dracula using only text messages, voicemails, emails, photos, and web browsers—basically it’s as if you stole Mina Murray’s cell phone and read through it to watch her unmask and battle Dracula. It’s not just a new storytelling method, though, it’s also a brand new delivery system: iDrakula comes out first on the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch (in a week, I can hardly believe it’s finally almost here!) and then as a beautifully designed print book. The early reviews are quite positive, and Kirkus Reviews says: “Black brings Bram into the modern age with e-mails, smart phones and websites, all while preserving the brooding heart and vicious nature of Dracula, the literary ur-vampire….Mina’s heartfelt final e-mail to Lucy blends a traditional goodbye with the ephemeral nature of today’s digital technology.”

How long have you been on a gluten-free diet, and how difficult was the transition for you?
I’ve been on a wheat- and oat-free diet for about 13 months, and the transition was awful! The first two weeks all I did was mope around in mourning for bread and pastries. Then I got hold of myself and started trying to discover what I could eat, which must have been plenty as I’m still around.

You were on your book tour for A Night of Long Knives recently. Was that your first big trip since going on the gluten-free diet? How did you prepare for it?
It was my first long trip since I found out. I’ve done 4-5 day stints, but for the A Night of Long Knives tour I was away from home for a month. I stocked up on Zone bars (peanut butter) and made myself a few bags of my favorite snack food (dried apricots, pecans, and dark chocolate chips). Then I resigned myself to eating a lot of chicken Caesar salad, since most restaurants have it and so long as I skip the croutons I can actually eat it.

The thing that was the hardest was explaining to everyone I ordered food from that I was really allergic to wheat and oat and tomatoes (plus a variety of other stuff). It got very old, very fast and I constantly felt like Sally from When Harry Met Sally. Almost everyone was really wonderful about it, but I hate asking for special meals even though I pretty much have to these days.

Where did you go on your book tour, and were there any restaurants and/or hotels that did a really great job at taking care of a gluten-free guest? I seem to remember you tweeting about a castle in Colorado…
I hit 10 cities: Phoenix, Arizona; Encino and Westwood, CA (Los Angeles area); San Diego, CA; San Mateo and Tiburon (San Francisco area); New York; Chicago; Milwaukee; and Denver.

Au Bon Pain in Westwood (right across the street from The Mystery Bookstore) had a great quinoa salad that was quick, tasty, and filling. Bar Breton in Manhattan had tons of gluten-free items clearly marked on their menu (hooray!). And Castle Marne in Denver went out of their way to make me a tasty gluten-free breakfast: from my own scones to my own bread. It was all delicious and I was very touched! I also have to thank Jerrle Gericke who made me delicious gluten-free peanut butter cookies when I stayed with her. She gave me a box to take with me and that helped me through those hours I was stuck in O’Hare airport.

What was the toughest thing about traveling gluten-free?
Until I realized I was allergic to wheat, I never noticed how many events have only wheat foods. So, it’s tough when you go to your special debut author breakfast and they have a wide selection of muffins, croissants, and pastries you can’t eat. Often this gets followed up by lunchtime events filled with tons of sandwiches and then a few wraps that you can’t eat either. I ended up eating a lot of Zone bars and fruit. The worst experience was when I was stuck in the LaGuardia airport for several unplanned hours and the only thing I found I could eat was a boiled egg (man, was I ever grateful for that egg!) and I’d run out of my own snacks because it was near the end of my tour.

What things do you always bring with you when you travel?
My apricot/pecan/chocolate chip trail mix, my iPhone (cannot travel without it. I even dedicated iDrakula to my phone), my netbook, and a couple of pashminas.

You live in Hawaii, which is many readers’ dream destination. Have you found restaurants/shops near you that you’d recommend to others?
I like the Keei Café up in Kainaliu. Their buckwheat noodles are gluten free and tasty, but their open hours are odd, so it’s best to check before you go.

What’s your own dream destination to visit?
Berlin in 1931. Failing that, Berlin now. And Barcelona. And China. Also Japan. Really anywhere with good food and soft pillows.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Also, any readings or conference appearances coming up?
Pack a meal before you leave the house and be prepared to spend hours more at the airport and on the plane than you think (after I was delayed on my way to Chicago, I got delayed again on the way out and this time we were stuck in the plane for three hours with only those snack boxes full of wheaty treats to eat). Of the 10 flights I took, two were delayed by more than three hours.

As for appearances, I’ll be at Bouchercon in San Francisco from October 14-17 and also will be launching iDrakula at the Books, Inc. book store in the Laurel Heights area of San Francisco at 5 pm on October 17. Please come! If they let me serve food, at least some of it will be gluten-free!

On the Road With Crime Writer BV Lawson

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Book Cover
Thanks to the wonder that is modern technology (okay, it was Twitter), I discovered that crime writer BV Lawson is on a gluten-free diet. BV is a former classical musician turned radio announcer turned writer who also worked for the Discovery Channel for over a decade. Now a full-time freelancer based in Arlington, Virginia, she’s penned radio and television scripts, articles for various publications, and won awards for her more than two dozen published stories and poems. (Check out her delightful “Gun Love” in Plots With Guns.) Thanks to the influence of library genes handed down from her mother, she created the blog In Reference to Murder which contains over 3,000 links for mystery readers and writers. She’s currently working on a series of novels set in various locations in and around the mid-Atlantic; be sure to visit her author site.

How long have you been on a gluten-free diet? Unfortunately, I only discovered the problem relatively recently, was in denial for awhile, then finally settled in to the full gluten-free lifestyle about two years ago. It’s been quite an adjustment.

How often do you travel? As often as possible, which isn’t often enough! My husband is a private pilot, so we rent a little Cessna 172 and fly whenever we can.

Where have you traveled since going gluten-free? Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Vermont, West Virginia, the eastern shore on the Delmarva Peninsula, and other areas of Virginia. Would love to go back to Europe or the Caribbean someday soon.

What foods or snacks do you usually pack when traveling? When I was in Florida recently for a night shuttle launch, we had a little mini-kitchen, so I took gluten-free instant oatmeal, instant grits, individual applesauce containers, cereal, juice, nuts, fruit and some chocolate (natch!). Breakfasts are the hardest due to all those “free continental” things they have in hotels these days, which are basically gluten gluts.

What other things do you always bring with you? Laptop computer, books, a little writing pad that fits in my purse for story ideas, a heating pad (can’t live without that – it’s great for emergencies), and unfortunately compression socks, thanks to a couple of rounds with blood clots. That leads me off on a bit of a tangent, but I believe it’s gluten related:  because I lived with a gluten problem for so long and didn’t realize it (in hindsight, it was very easy to see), it led to a whole host of health “annoyances.” Gluten problems are often linked with autoimmune disorders like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (which I have), fibromyalgia (which I have); plus, an acquired autoimmune condition can also lead to blood clots. My unscientific (but valid, I think) hypothesis is that gluten caused all the immune problems, which in turn led to the clots. I wish we could develop a good reliable gluten test to give to young people to prevent things like this later on in life.

Any favorite restaurants you’ve discovered on the road? What about in your town? We ate at a wonderful little hole-in-the wall restaurant in Melbourne, Florida, called the Thai Thai. I love Thai cuisine because they don’t use wheat much at all, except soy sauce, and I ordered some gluten-free soy sauce travel packets off the Internet. I’m also a big sushi fan. We have a wonderful pizza joint in Arlington called the Lost Dog Cafe, which the hubster and I have loved for years. When I went gluten-free, I had to salivate while I watched him eat the pizza, trying to enjoy my salad. Recently, they added gluten-free crusts, and I am in heaven. Another popular area pizza restaurant, Z Pizza, also recently added GF crusts, and I’m looking forward to trying them.

Any favorite hotels? It’s a little silly to choose a hotel due to its breakfast options, but Hampton Inns generally have a larger GF choice in their complimentary breakfast bar. We stayed at the Doubletree in Melbourne and loved it – all rooms are ocean view and we could open the sliding glass door to the patio and let the surf sounds waft through all night. Wonderfully soothing. My secret dream is to stay in one of those ritzy island getaways with your own private infinity-edge pool looking over the ocean.

Favorite city/destination that is not your hometown or current home base? From my childhood/teen years, I still have fond memories of the Bay of Fundy area and Prince Edward Island, as well as Florence, Italy. My husband is a diver, so we’ve enjoyed places like Bonaire together. We took an astronomy trip to Arizona in 2003 and fell in love with the desert southwest, including Tucson, Phoenix/Scottsdale and on up through Sedona to Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon. It’s a beautiful state, that Arizona. And for guilty pleasures that make you feel like a kid again – it’s Disney World.

What’s your dream destination? There are so many places on my list, it’s hard to narrow it to just one. Places in the Caribbean we haven’t been to, Hawaii, Alaska, Ireland, Iceland (yes, I know – volcanoes, but they have lovely views of the aurora borealis, too), Egypt, Australia, New Zealand. The world, basically. And hopefully be like my parents some day and be able to say that we’ve been to all 50 states.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Try to avoid all packaged foods whenever possible (which is just about anything with over 5 ingredients). Definitely don’t be afraid to ask the waiter and/or manager about special food preparations, if you need them. If you have to, stick with chain brands with standardized food choices. Download as many GF restaurant menus as you can from their web sites online and take them with you (or transfer the info to your PDA/phone).

On the Road With Daphne Oz

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

Last October, I was excited to find an excellent article on Oprah’s website about gluten intolerance. The author was Daphne Oz, daughter of Oprah’s favorite health expert, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Daphne, who graduated from Princeton in  2008, is an author in her own right: in 2006, she published The Dorm Room Diet, which is being re-released in an expanded and revised edition this September; in 2007, she wrote The Dorm Room Diet Planner. She is also co-author of the bestselling books You: The Owner’s Manual, You: The Smart Patient, You: On a Diet, You: Staying Young, and You: Being Beautiful. Last year, after experiencing health issues that ranged from sleep problems to weight fluctuations, Daphne followed the advice of a naturopathic, Ayurvedic doctor who recommended that she cut gluten from her diet. While tests have shown that she doesn’t have celiac disease, Daphne noticed her health improve on the gluten-free diet. She’s currently at work on a self-improvement book about conscious living.

How often do you travel? I am a total gypsy. In October and November, I was living in Chicago, but now I’m back in New York. Recently I’ve also traveled to Florida, Philadelphia, Maine, California, and England.

What foods or snacks do you pack when traveling? There are some staples that I always bring with me, like pistachio nuts. My dad has really drilled home the nuts issue! They’re a great snack. I also bring apples and soy crisps. Generally, I prefer to eat food I’ve brought with me, rather than what’s served on a plane.

What other things do you always bring with you? I’ve assembled a travel pack because I’m on the road so much. I bring hand sanitizer, facial moisturizer, lip balm, and a full-size pillow — those tiny pillows they give you on planes just don’t work for me. I bring my iPod and a bunch of magazines, like Oprah and Vogue.

Any favorite restaurants? I absolutely love a New York restaurant called Peasant. They serve fresh fish with just a little olive oil and sage. There’s no gluten-free menu, but the food prep is so simple that many dishes are naturally gluten-free. There’s another place in New York, Fatty Crab, that I really like. They serve Malaysian cuisine and have amazing coconut-milk broths. In Los Angeles, I always go to the Newsroom Café, which does great vegetarian food, and the LA Mill, a coffeeshop that serves food, including gluten-free crackers. In London, I just had brunch at Baker & Spice, where they had wonderful Mediterranean salads, like peppers and feta cheese, and roasted sweet potato.

Any favorite hotels? Staying at the Penninsula in Los Angeles was probably the most luxurious experience of my life.

Favorite city or destination that is not your hometown or current home base? I love Istanbul for many reasons. I have family there, the food is wonderful, and the city has this amazing union of Byzantine architecture and modern skyscrapers. I also love London, even though the weather is terrible.

What’s your dream destination? The place that immediately comes to mind is Thailand, because of the history and culture. I’d also love to see Bora Bora.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? When you’re traveling, one of the best things to do is to visit a local market, where you can get fresh fruit. Not only is that good for you, but it teaches you a bit about the culture of a place.

Photograph provided courtesy of Daphne Oz.