The Gluten-Free Guidebook Goes to Stockholm

Late this summer, I spent a week in Stockholm and fell in love with the city. Several people asked me if there was “enough to do” in Sweden’s capital to justify that long a stay (most seemed to think of Stockholm as a weekend destination for those en route to Copenhagen). I can happily report that a week was barely enough to scratch the surface. Stockholm is blessed with great museums (the Vasa was my favorite); several palaces, including the historic castle in the Old City and the UNESCO World Heritage Site of  Drottningholm, where the Swedish Royal Family now lives; and it has gorgeous architecture and parks and public art installations. Even the subway system serves as a kind of roving art gallery, at least in the downtown stations I saw. The fact that Stockholm is spread across a series of islands gives it a physical beauty that is simply breathtaking.

And then there’s the food.

To say that Stockholm is a haven for those who eat gluten-free is an understatement. Everywhere I went, people were familiar with celiac disease, aware of potential cross-contamination issues, and willing to help. It was, quite possibly, the most relaxed I’ve felt traveling since I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2004. I didn’t use any of the Swedish-translated cards I brought along; everyone I met spoke at least some English, and the Swedish word for gluten-free — glutenfrei — got an immediate reaction everywhere I went. Here are some of the places I recommend:

Hotel Birger Jarl: This was my home away from home in Stockholm. Located where the neighborhoods of Vasastan and Norrmalm meet, the hotel was on a quiet street, but close to every amenity I could want and only a 10-minute walk from the busy city center. It served the most satisfying buffet breakfast I’ve ever had at a hotel, with signs indicating what was gluten-free and steps taken to prevent cross-contamination (for example, GF bread was on a separate table from wheat bread). I had dinner at the Birger Jarl’s restaurant one night and was impressed; several menu items are indicated as gluten-free, but others could be modified.

Tranan: This historic restaurant in Vasastan opened in 1929, and it’s not hard to understand why it’s perennially popular. The setting is elegant, the food is excellent, and the service is superlative. When I told the waiter that I have celiac disease, his face lit up. He carefully went over the long menu with me, then brought me some of the most delicious bread I’ve ever tasted, served hot. Tranan serves classic bistro fare with a Swedish twist (there’s plenty of herring on the menu). My steak tartare was paired with truffles, Parmesan, and almonds, and it was perfect.

Hemma Vasastan: “Hemma” means home in Swedish, and this charming restaurant wants diners to feel as comfortable as if they were dining at home (minus the work, of course). The server brought me my own gluten-free bread basket, which contained both a warm toast and a traditional crispbread. My goat cheese starter salad was delicious, as was my Arctic char with asparagus risotto. This was also the spot that introduced me to Briska pear cider, one of my favorite finds of the trip.

Lilla Ego: This tiny spot in the Vasastan neighborhood was the trendiest spot I visited. It’s featured in a Michelin guidebook and is often booked a month in advance, but I was lucked into a reservation for two by being flexible on dates (I ate there on a Tuesday night). The service is friendly but casual, which belies the ambitious, innovative cuisine. My favorite dish of the evening was actually dessert, a goat-cheese creme brulée that had hot and cold layers, plus macadamia nuts for good measure. It was a perfect mix of savory and sweet.

Vurma: This casual spot seemed to be very popular with locals, judging from the number of people dining on the open-air patio with their dogs). It’s located in Ostermalm, which had some of the most stunning architecture in the city. I dined here my first night in town (after failing to sleep on the overnight flight), so I have to trust my notes instead of my memory: “Salmon with potatoes & mint sauce = perfection.”

Da Peppe: The small island of Gamla Stan is Stockholm’s historic heart, but that doesn’t make it any less of a tourist trap. I was warned in advance about how hard it can be to find good food here, and I struck out on my first two attempts. Then I lucked out by finding Da Peppe, which stocks corn pasta for gluten-free guests, as is happy to make any other required accommodations. My chicken penne was served with a chili-infused cream sauce that turned up the heat in a rich but tantalizing way.

McDonald’s: It’s been 13 years since I’ve eaten at McDonald’s (I was diagnosed with celiac disease back in 2004). I was curious when I heard that many Swedish McDonald’s restaurants offer gluten-free Big Macs. I tried one at a busy kiosk in the city center on my first day in town, and I was impressed by the steps taken to avoid cross-contamination. And yes, the Big Mac tasted just the same as I remembered. (PS to McDonald’s: If you can manage this in Stockholm, why don’t you give it a try in some North American cities?)

Gluten-Free at Ste. Anne’s Spa

Back when I worked for Frommer’s, writing travel guides about Canada, Ste. Anne’s Spa was a favorite day trip. Just ninety minutes east of Toronto, in Grafton, Ontario, this luxurious retreat is surrounded by some 400 acres of scenic countryside. Those grounds include an apiary, rolling hills where cattle graze, and extensive gardens filled with herbs, greens and vegetables. All of this farm-to-table bounty made the spa a popular destination for gourmands, and I’m delighted to learn that Ste. Anne’s Bakery has just been given the official seal of approval by the Gluten-Free Certification Program (GFCP).

This is not to say that Ste. Anne’s only recently started baking sweet gluten-free treats. For the past four years, they have offered gluten-free cakes (such as lemon cheesecake, Devil’s Food, and Opera cake), cookies, pies, jams, chocolates, fruit butters, and butter tarts. (The Kawarthas Northumberland Butter Tart Tour — yes, there really is such a thing! — includes Ste. Anne’s as its only gluten-free stop.) There’s also a savory quiche of the day as well as a long list of breads (including basil focaccia, lavash, cinnamon raisin, and five-seed bread). What’s new is the GFCP’s certification, guaranteeing celiac safety. The bakery is 100% gluten-free, so there is no risk of cross-contamination.

I always thought the main attraction of Ste. Anne’s was its elegant spa and hotel. But the next time I visit, I’m making a beeline for the bakery!

 

 

Reader Report: Gluten-Free in St. Maarten

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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!

LIISA’S REPORT ON ST. MAARTEN

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.

Scottsdale Is Delicious

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.