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!

 

 

Dining on the Book Tour

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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

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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.

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

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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!

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.