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.

Gluten-Free Aloha

Considering how far I’ve traveled around the world, it seems strange that I have yet to visit Hawaii. Lately, I’ve been hearing so much about the rising level of gluten-free awareness there that I’m tempted to head out to the Hawaiian Islands and do some first-hand research. (It’s a tough job, but someone has to do it, right?)

A while back, my friend Liisa wrote a report for the Gluten-Free Guidebook about celiac-safe spots she’d found in Oahu and Kauai. Her list includes Sweet Marie’s — the first dedicated gluten-free bakery in Kauai — Smith’s Tropical Paradise in Kauai, and Down to Earth in Honolulu. Last month, another friend sent me a photo to show off a delicious-looking gluten-free sandwich she was enjoying while on vacation in Hawaii. It turned out she was at Living Foods Market & Cafe in Poipu, Kauai, a combination grocery store and café featuring specialty gourmet goods (including many gluten-free items), organic products, and an extensive wine selection.

Next, my friend and fellow travel writer Lucas Aykroyd passed along a list of gluten-free restaurants and shops in Hawaii, with notes on each spot from the Hawaiian Tourism Board:

  • Chrysalis Foods (Oahu) – Looking for a gluten-, dairy- and nut-free spot to eat while shopping at Ala Moana Center? Break away from the food court and visit the Vim ‘N Vigor store for the Chrysalis foods counter. The menu changes every week, offering local favorites such as mochiko chicken and mochi treats.
  • Up Country Bakery & Cafe (Hawaii Island) – Satisfy your breakfast taste buds with gluten-free mixed berry muffins, gluten-free banana bread slices or gluten-free pancakes. On your way to see the volcano? Grab a sandwich on gluten-free bread and take it on the road.
  • Maui Brick Oven (Maui) – Located in Kihei, this restaurant initially gained popularity for its gluten-free pizza. Locals and visitors frequent this eatery for its impeccable service and menu selection that also includes pasta and salads.

I’m almost ready to buy a ticket. Has anyone else discovered some great places to eat in Hawaii? Let me know and I’ll add them to the list!

Photo courtesy of the Hawaiian Tourism Board

Cleveland Rocks!

Last month, I was in Cleveland, Ohio, for Bouchercon, the massive, magnificent crime-fiction conference that takes place in a different North American city every autumn. It was my first visit to the town known as both The Rock ‘n’ Roll Capital of the World (thanks to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, which was a joy to visit) and The Forest City (a truly apt name — from the plane, Cleveland looked like a forest with gorgeous buildings nestled under the foliage).

Truth be told, I wasn’t sure what to expect on the food front, so I was thrilled to discover that gluten-free awareness has hit Cleveland big-time. One restaurant that absolutely wowed me was Lola Bistro, which fans of “Iron Chef” may already have heard of; I don’t watch the show, so the name Michael Symon didn’t mean anything to me. Fortunately, I was hanging out with better-informed people! My friend Katrina Niidas Holm (whose husband is terrific crime novelist Chris F. Holm) is an “Iron Chef” aficionada, and she sussed out the spot and made reservations.

Lola Bistro has very low lighting, so it took a little while for my eyes to adjust and pick out the “GF” notation next to many, many dishes on the menu. (Unfortunately, this isn’t reflected on the version of the menu that’s currently online, but — trust me — there are plenty of gluten-free choices.) I had the root vegetable salad with feta, red onion, dill, Marcona almonds, and mint, followed by the smoked Hampshire pork chop accompanied by a decadently cheesy polenta. You’d better believe Michael Symon is now firmly on my radar.

Lola Bistro [address] 2058 East 4th Street, Cleveland, Ohio [tel]  216-621-5652 [web]

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News on the crime-fiction front: I was at Bouchercon to talk about my second novel, The Next One to Fall, a thriller set in Peru. It’s out now as a hardcover and an e-book; in February 2013, it will be released in paperback. On March 5, 2013, my third novel, Evil in All Its Disguises, will be released by Tor/Forge in the United States and Canada. Want to win an advance copy? There are 10 up for grabs over at GoodReads. Enter the giveaway now.

On Tour in Beautiful British Columbia, Part 2

Last week, I told you about a few of the restaurants I found while I was on a book tour of British Columbia earlier this summer. Here are some more spots I discovered while I was out west. All of them take excellent care of their gluten-free guests!

Sylvia Hotel: This 1912 landmark couldn’t have a more stunning location: it’s nestled next to Vancouver’s gorgeous Stanley Park in English Bay. Its dining room is a perfect mix of formal (wood paneling, low light, and a medieval-looking wrought-iron gate) and casual (cozy seating, friendly service). Even better: the menu is annotated with gluten-free options. Choices include starters such as mussels in a spicy broth; salads like a classic Cobb; and main courses of bean ragout, slow-braised short ribs with potatoes, and crispy salmon with a citrus vinaigrette. [address] 1154 Gilford Street, Vancouver, BC [tel] 604-681-9321

Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant: Normally, I’m leery of restaurants in places as scenic as Richmond’s Steveston Village; after all, the view is such a phenomenal draw that the kitchens don’t have to work hard to lure you in. But the waterfront setting of the Blue Canoe is just one facet of its charm. The staff is celiac-aware and willing to modify most plates (I had the pan-roasted pork chop, which I highly recommend). There’s also a wine list featuring an excellent selection of locally produced vintages that are available by the glass. [address] 3866 Bayview Street, Richmond, BC, V7E 4R7; [tel] 604-275-7811

Yew Restaurant: One of the distinct pleasures of my week in B.C. was catching up with my longtime friend Mika Ryan. We met for lunch before my event at the Chapters store at Robson & Howe, and she took me to the Yew Restaurant at the Four Seasons. It’s a spectacular spot with towering 40-foot ceilings. Still, as impressive as the digs are, my main memories are of great conversation, thoughtful service, and excellent food. Many items on the menu can be prepared in a gluten-free version, such as the wonderful seared Haida Gwaii halibut (complete with lemon, spinach, crème fraiche, spring peas & pickled heirloom carrots). Sadly, I didn’t have room for gluten-free “Quinoa Passion” dessert (panna cotta with passion fruit scented red quinoa plus fresh blueberries and mint). Next time! (PS to vegan friends: the restaurant has plenty of options — and distinct menus — for you.) [address] In the Four Seasons Hotel, 791 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC, V6C 2T4; [tel] 604-692-4939

On Tour in Beautiful British Columbia, Part 1

Last month, I spent a week on a book tour of British Columbia’s lower mainland with three fellow crime writers: Robin Spano, Deryn Collier and Ian Hamilton. We had a couple of events in Vancouver, as well as readings in Burnaby, Richmond, and Squamish. While we were there, we were interviewed for CBC-Radio’s Sunday Edition (you can hear the podcast online). The combination of friendship and fun that week made for wonderful times. Truth be told, so did the food.

Whenever I visit the West Coast — in the US and in Canada — I feel that there’s a solid awareness of food allergies and intolerances. I know that’s not necessarily true everywhere, but it was certainly my experience in BC. Here are some of the restaurants that impressed me:

The Watershed Grill: Situated on the banks of the Squamish River, this low-key, casual spot is accommodating and celiac-savvy (I visited twice, and on each trip, a different staff member went over the menu with me, explaining what I could have and what modifications they could make). The food is simply prepared with very fresh ingredients. Let me recommend the Watershed Salad, a combination of greens, chicken, cranberries, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, carrots and cucumber in a balsamic vinaigrette. [address] 41101 Government Road, Brackendale, BC, V0N 1H0; [tel] 604-898-6665

Olive & Anchor: There’s something wonderful about walking into a restaurant, asking the staff about gluten-free options, and being told that there’s actually a gluten-free menu. That’s what happened to me at this elegant restaurant on Horseshoe Bay. Celiac-safe choices include oysters, grilled chicken, and steak, but since this is a spot renowned for its seafood, I went with the (excellent) snapper. [address] 6418 Bay Street, West Vancouver, BC; [tel] 604-921-8848

Cats Social House: Located on Granville Island (which was gorgeous, even in the rain), this is a lovely spot with a long cocktail list. I didn’t get to try any of the drinks (I was there for lunch), but I did enjoy the gluten-free pad thai. [address] 1540 Old Bridge Street, Vancouver, BC, V6H 3S6; [tel] 604-647-2287

On the Road — Again

My second mystery novel, The Next One to Fall, came out on Valentine’s Day, and I’ve been on the road for my book tour almost constantly since then. That’s good news, because I’ve been visiting terrific bookstores, meeting wonderful people, and discovering some great restaurants with gluten-free menus. But I’ve been editing my third novel at the same time, so I’ve had little time to report back (yet) on what I’ve found.

Yesterday, I spoke at Mysteries to Die For in Thousand Oaks, California, which I highly recommend checking out if you’re in the area. Afterwards, my friend Anissa suggested a place called Hugo’s Restaurant for dinner. Hugo’s has been around for some time in Studio City and West Hollywood, but its location in Agoura just opened.

The menu at Hugo’s is overwhelming because there are so many gluten-free options. Many choices are naturally gluten-free, while some require modification. The kitchen is well aware of cross-contamination issues and isolates products that contain gluten from those that don’t (they have a similar policy regarding animal products, since many of Hugo’s offerings are vegan or vegetarian).

I had a Caesar salad and a tortilla-encrusted chicken breast with a black-bean salsa (all of it delicious). The menu made me wish I could stay longer. The gluten-free options start with breakfast items — such as pineapple-coconut pancakes — and include sandwiches, salads, soups, and a wide variety of Mexican- and Indian-inspired main courses.

Reading at a terrific store like Mysteries to Die For, followed by dinner with friends at a great restaurant? It doesn’t get better than this. Next stop: Sacramento for the Left Coast Crime conference, then an event at Book Passage in San Francisco on April 2nd and with Mystery Readers International in Berkeley on April 3rd!

On the Road With Author Avery Aames

I first met fellow mystery author Avery Aames a couple of years ago, but I didn’t discover until quite recently that she eats gluten-free. (Since then, we’ve had meals together at a couple of my favorite restaurants in New York, Bistango and Rosa Mexicano). Avery is the author of a series called the Cheese Shop Mysteries: the first book, The Long Quiche Goodbye, won the Agatha Award for Best New Novel. Since then, she’s released Lost and Fondue, and her third novel, Clobbered by Camembert, is about to come out. If you haven’t encountered Avery’s work before, here’s your chance: she is giving away a copy of The Long Quiche Goodbye and a copy of Lost and Fondue. To enter the draw, all you have to do is comment below by February 7th — and have a US address for her to mail the books to. You can also check out Avery’s website, follow her on Twitter and on Facebook, and read her two blogs, Mystery Lovers Kitchen and Killer Characters.

First, tell us a bit about your books. For people who haven’t encountered the Cheese Shop Mysteries yet, how would you describe the books?

Tasty.  No, just kidding. First, let me thank you for asking me to join you! Great questions. The Cheese Shop Mysteries are cozies. Each book is set in the quaint, fictional town of Providence, Ohio with a cheese shop owner as the protagonist. Why set a mystery in a cheese shop? This particular one, Fromagerie Bessette, is a hub. It draws in tourists and locals and is a great place for gossip. Charlotte, who owns the cheese shop, is a caring, family-oriented person who is a fixer by nature. In the first novel, her grandmother is accused of murder. How can she not get involved?

How long have you been on a gluten-free diet, and how difficult was the transition for you?

Fifteen years. Luckily, I am a cook, so when I found out I had to eat without gluten, I did everything I could to get started that day. [It turns out I was probably celiac my entire life but misdiagnosed.] There wasn’t a lot written at the time, but there was on the Internet, so I studied the site religiously. It took almost six months for my system to resolve. It is still touch and go because of the hidden gluten in so many foods, but I’m very alert too all items.

You travel frequently for writers’ conferences and book events. How do you prepare for a trip? Do you do any gluten-free research in advance?

I always make some gluten-free banana bread so that I can have something sweet and “bready” on the trip. It packs well and stays well, even if not refrigerated. I like my carbs, but I won’t eat them at very many restaurants, even if they assure me they’re gluten-free. When I go to conferences, I call ahead to the hotel and talk to the banquet managers. I also check out the restaurants where we have reservations and ask if they are familiar with gluten-free needs. And when I’m at the conference, I always contact the dining room manager as I enter. With a big smile, of course.

Are there any restaurants and/or hotels that you found did a really great job at taking care of a gluten-free guest?

Well, Bistango in New York is heaven!  [Thank you for introducing me to it.] I don’t mean to be a food snob, but I’ve found that many of the upper-end restaurants are better at doing on-the-spot gluten-free because the great chefs are so well-trained in substitution. They know how to remove nuts, dairy, and now gluten. Also, they love a challenge. However, I will give kudos to chain restaurants like PF Changs (excellent), Outback Steakhouse (they have a GF menu), and others. They are getting educated and bringing that to the customer. Maria’s Kitchen in Los Angeles does a terrific job.

What is the toughest thing about traveling gluten-free?

The toughest thing going to places where friends want to dine but they feel “guilty” because I can’t eat what they’re eating. I do my best not to let them feel guilty. I’m fine. I’m not starving. I am not invested in food.  Except cheese, of course. And chocolate. And ice cream. I adore ice cream!

What things do you always bring with you when you travel?

I always bring the banana bread, as I said. Then I bring my sound machine, a book (whatever is highest on my night stand, usually a mystery or thriller), and accessories. That’s the last thing I say to myself before I close the suitcase. Do I have accessories…jewelry, purses, a scarf. I wear a lot of black to conferences, but I love those dashes of color.  And, yes, a pashmina is a must. In those cold conference rooms, brrr. A pashmina helps keep me warm and feeling loved.

You live in Los Angeles, which is a popular destination. Have you found any restaurants, bakeries or shops near you that you’d recommend to gluten-free travelers?

I have found a number of great places that know about gluten-free. Two of my favorites are Playa and Rivera, both owned by the same team. One is downtown and the other is halfway between Hollywood and Beverly Hills. They serve tapas-style cuisine. Everything in the restaurant can be tailored to my needs. The other fun place that is family style is Maria’s Kitchen, as I mentioned above. It’s an Italian place, but they offer risotto and gluten-free pizza, which are fabulous!  I don’t frequent bakeries. I find they are highly overpriced when it comes to gluten-free items and, like I said, I bake myself. I’m a good baker. (Buffing fingernails on my shirt front and laughing)

What’s your own dream destination to visit?

I would love to go back to Italy, the Tuscany region. I visited Italy briefly as a student in college, but I haven’t been back. I’m a little nervous about the gluten-free thing there and the language barrier (I speak broken Spanish to communicate), but Italy is one of the foremost countries in exploring gluten-free items. Did you know that the children in Italy are tested at the age of two for gluten-free allergies? Soon. Soon.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Also, any readings or conference appearances coming up?

I think the biggest thing when traveling is to prepare ahead. Know the territory. Call the restaurants. Call the hotels. And make sure you bring snacks. For the airplane, too. [Sounds silly but protein travels well on an airplane: hardboiled eggs and turkey burgers are easy and not too messy.]

As for my schedule, my next book comes out February 7th. I’m very excited. I’m having a book launch at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach on the 7th.  Then I’ll be traveling to Houston (Murder by the Book) and I’m trying to arrange a signing in the San Francisco area for mid-February. I just found out that my favorite bookstore in San Mateo closed. {Major sigh!!!} The book industry has been hit hard by e-books and Internet shopping. I have an event calendar on my website, so I hope readers will take a look.

Again, thank you so much for letting me join you today. I’m thrilled to have you as my friend.

Next Stop: Israel

I’m leaving for Israel tomorrow. It’s a whirlwind trip, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I’ll be there for just under a week with a group of journalists from the Society of American Travel Writers, and over the next few days, I’ll get to see Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Haifa, and a few other spots. I asked for advice on the Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Facebook Group, and I got a wonderful reply from a woman named Marina Novikov, who is currently planning a trip to Israel. She gave me permission to pass along her findings on the blog, with the caveat that, since she hasn’t visited Israel yet, she can’t confirm that the information is entirely accurate. Here’s what she’s found so far. Thanks so much, Marina!


1. Ben Ami, 38 Emek Refaim St. in the German Colony; tel 02 6510070 (a lot of cakes and biscuits, maybe full gf menu).

2. Pera e Mela, 6 Safra Square; tel 02-6230280 (Italian – gluten free pasta – have to call them in advance)

3. Black Bar ‘n’ Burger, 18 Shlomzion Hamalka St.; tel 02-6246767

4. Tito Bravo Italian restaurant, 12 Shamai St, Jerusalem; tel: +972-2-6255585 (pizza, gluten-free menu)


1. Dapei Rimon, 15 Yehudit Avenue; tel 077-7107007 (gluten free pasta & pizza)

2. Hudson Brasserie, Habarzel 27, Tel-Aviv; tel: +972-3-6444733  (Specializes in meet dishes;  gluten-free menu)

3. Falafel Baribua Falafel, Homos, Shakshuka — multiple locations (gluten-free menu)


1.  Masho… Tov etzel Josef and Louis (translates to – Something Good at Josef and Louis’ Place), 48 Ben-Gurion St, Herzelia; tel: +972-57- 9442783 (Vegetarian health food, variety of Mediterranean, French and Italian dishes, gluten-free menu)


1. Ototo Pizza Pizza & Pasta, 86 Hatichon St, Neve Sha’anan; tel: +972-4-8228060 +972-4-8322366 +972-4-8228080  (gluten-free menu, pizza, kosher)

2. Black Bar & Burger, Cinemall, Lev Hamifratz; Tel. 04-8422400

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Have you traveled in Israel? I’d love to hear your experiences with dining gluten-free!

Viva Las Vegas!

Las Vegas’s official motto is “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” but I was there for a few days in December, and you wouldn’t expect me to keep secrets about where I dined, would you? I’m thrilled to report that the Strip is filled with an ever-expanding array of gluten-free options. Here are some of of the places I enjoyed:

Mon Ami Gabi: This Parisian-style bistro is directly across the Strip from the Bellagio’s fountains, so you get a spectacular show every half-hour. The gluten-free menu was just as impressive to me, and I ate at the restaurant twice: once for dinner (with decadently cheesy French onion soup and lovely steak frites) and once for lunch (for a savory burger with a gluten-free bun… and more frites). Every gluten-free guest is automatically served warm GF bread, which was a delight (that was something Mon Ami Gabi didn’t offer the last time I was in Vegas, in 2009). In Paris Resort & Casino [address] 3655 Las Vegas Blvd. South [tel] 702-944-4224.

Border Grill: Located at the south end of the Strip, this restaurant also offers a separate gluten-free menu. The dishes are on the heavy side, but you didn’t come to Vegas for health reasons, did you? The queso fundido was served up as a starter, but it almost made an entire meal, with its gooey mix of melted manchego, panela, asadero, and Oaxacan string cheeses, served with chorizo and roasted poblano peppers. Don’t ask me how, but I still found room for the Kobe beef tacos, too. In Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino [address] 3950 Las Vegas Blvd. South [tel] 702-632-7403.

Bartolotta Ristorante di Mare: Located at the Wynn, this was a break-the-bank kind of meal, but the incredible fish is worth it (the “catch of the day” is literally flown in fresh each day). On the phone, I was told there was a gluten-free menu, but I was disappointed when I first saw it, because what I saw was a small booklet with all of 10 dishes listed inside. However, that turned out to be simply a list of the plates that are naturally gluten-free, and the chef was happy to modify almost anything on the menu to make it celiac-safe. The restaurant overlooks a private lagoon, making for an exceptionally romantic setting, too. In Wynn Las Vegas [address] 3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South [tel] 702-770-3463.

Aria Buffet: I’m a little afraid of buffets, to tell you the truth. There’s so often a risk of accidental cross-contamination — all it takes is for a careless guest to use the same serving tongs on a mix of gluten-full and gluten-free different dishes to ruin the latter ones. That’s why the Aria was such a pleasant surprise. I was there for brunch, and the fresh omelette station was a welcome find. Overall, the buffet was well organized, so that fruit salad was far away from cereals, lessening the risk of cross-contamination. Located in the Aria [address] 3730 Las Vegas Blvd. South [tel] 877-230-2742.

P.F. Chang’s: I’m still wishing a P.F. Chang’s would open in Manhattan. The restaurant has an Asian-inspired gluten-free menu with plenty of choice for starters and mains, and two options for dessert: rich chocolate mousse or a dark-chocolate-and-raspberry cake. Located in Planet Hollywood [address] 3667 Las Vegas Blvd. South [tel] 702-836-0955.

Maggiano’s Little Italy: My first time dining here, and I loved it. Gluten-free guests automatically get a visit from a sous-chef at their table, so their (many) options are clearly pointed out. I’m officially a fan of the “Rigatoni D” (with chicken, caramelized onions, mushrooms and a marsala cream sauce). Located in Fashion Show Mall [address] 3200 Las Vegas Blvd. South [tel] 702-220-4185

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I have book news: my debut novel, The Damage Done, is now out in paperback in the U.S. and Canada! You can see its beautiful new cover, watch a video interview with me about the book, and enter a contest for a signed copy.

My second novel, The Next One to Fall, will be released on Valentine’s Day 2012. It’s a murder mystery set in Peru, and it’s already getting wonderful reviews. There’s a special contest for people who pre-order the book, and for every copy that is ordered before the release date, I’m donating a dollar to Heifer. I’m also planning a book tour that will take me back to Houston, Phoenix/Scottsdale, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, and that will introduce me to Austin, Denver, and San Diego. Hope to see you while I’m on the road!