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.

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.

Reader Report: Gluten-Free in Italy

I’m in work overdrive right now, preparing for the launch of my first novel, The Damage Done. (Publishers Weekly has called it a “razor sharp mystery debut”!) In the meantime, the very thoughtful Alice — who reviewed Machiavelli Restaurant in Montreal for the Gluten-Free Guidebook — has written another report, this time focusing on her trip to Italy. Thanks so much for sharing all of these places with us, Alice!

Alice’s Report on Gluten-Free Dining in Italy

Siena
Osteria Il Campino, Via Vittorio Veneto 29, 53100 Siena (Tel: 0577-236545).
The restaurant had a wonderful selection of gluten-free dishes, but I was excited to see a GF pasta dish on the menu and a couple of desserts that I could enjoy. They even provided me with GF bread to accompany my meal. Our waitress spoke English and was very helpful indeed. I enquired where I could purchase some GF bread nearby and she told me that the main distributor of glutenfree products in Italy is a pharmacy. Before we left the restaurant she packed up the remainder of the loaf and gave it to me. I was  truly touched by the gesture. I highly recommend this restaurant. Prices were very reasonable.

Todi (Perugia)
R
istorante Cavour, Viale Angelo Crtesi, 91 A, Todi.  Tel: 075-8943730
Beautiful restaurant, serving typical Umbrian dishes, with a beautiful garden and panoramic views from their windows, located in the historical center of Todi.  They have a gluten free menu. Prices very reasonable.

Florence
In Florence we tried the following gluten-free restaurants:
Il Portale Trattoria & Pizzeria, Via Luigi Alammani 29, 50123 Firenze, Tel: 055212992
I enjoyed their gluten-free pasta dishes. It was a real treat. The restaurant has a casual atmosphere and is located close to the main train station.

If you desire a classier décor, beautiful presentations, good food, but higher prices, then I recommend:
I Quattro Amici, Via degli Orti Oricellari 29, Firenze, Tel: 055-215413

Mestre (Venice)
Trattoria Dall’Amelia, Via Miranese 113, 30174 Mestre VE, Tel: 041-5441111 (www.dallamelia.it)

This restaurant has a wonderful ambiance,  great selection of seafood, and a broad selection of gluten-free dishes, including pasta. It opens only at 8 PM. It is a bit pricey but wonderful food. The restaurant is located in a residential district on the mainland of Venice, so I recommend going there by taxi.

For anyone travelling to Venice, it is a must to visit a wonderful shop called “Mea Libera Tutti!!” The shop consists of two rooms filled with a wonderful array of products and everything is gluten free. I wish I could find a shop like this in North America. The owner is very charming, helpful & knowledgeable about all her products. Her young son has celiac disease and that inspired her to open this shop. I actually purchased an extra suitcase to be able to bring home some of her delicious products.

Mea Libera Tutti!!, Cannadegio Calle Racchetta – Calle Priuli 3803, Venezia  Tel:041 5210454

Please also inform your readers travelling to Italy that the majority of gluten-free products are sold at the local pharmacy. They may not be displayed in the store because of shortage of space. You must ask for “senza glutine” products and they will bring them out for you from their storage room.

On the Road With Author Rebecca Cantrell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reader Report: Austin, Texas

Every Reader Report that comes into my mailbox is a welcome find, but Susan Mack’s report on gluten-free Austin is extraordinary. While I knew that the capital city of Texas was a paradise for music-lovers (Asleep at the Wheel, one of my favorite bands, is based there), I had no idea it was a mecca for gluten-intolerant people, too. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to use the information in Susan’s report when I visit Texas on my book tour in October. (I’ll be discussing and signing my debut mystery novel, The Damage Done, at Houston’s Murder by the Book on Saturday, October 30th at 5pm; I’m hoping to add an Austin event to my schedule soon.) A huge round of applause for Susan’s incredibly helpful report, and a heartfelt thank-you to her for taking the time to share so much information!

Susan’s Report on Austin, Texas: Gluten-Free Mecca

I’ve lived in Austin for seven years, and have had to go gluten-free in the past six months. In talking to friends from other cities, I have to say that if you have to be gluten-free, Austin seems to be the place to do it.

If you’re looking for a vacation spot – Austin is famous for our Austin City Limits music festival in October (where you will find carnival food stands with GF options) and our SXSW music, film and interactive festival in the spring. But any weeknight of the year, you will find at least 75 live music events, several local theatre production, some UT sporting event, or a great organized athletic group. Plus, in the spring, we have wildflowers in the Texas Hill Country.

We have a plethora of good, locally owned restaurants in a wide variety of price ranges. Almost every one of them is sensitive to gluten intolerance.  There is no reason to go to a restaurant that doesn’t have a gluten-free menu. If your waiter doesn’t understand your needs – walk out.  You can find a perfectly good option within a couple blocks. And although I’ve picked out several places that I think are particularly good or sensitive – I’ve even gone to food trailers that had gluten-free lists. Almost any restaurant is going to have safe options.

We have a strong locavore culture. We’re the headquarters of Whole Foods. And until recently, the local Whole Foods was dwarfed by another store: the HEB chain flagship – Central Market. In addition, we’ve recently gotten Sprouts, the Natural Grocer, and Sunflower Farmer’s Market – all of which join the local People’s Pharmacy in delivering gluten-free options.

So, without much ado, here are some gems that you can find in Austin.

Entirely Gluten-Free Restaurants:

  • Wild Wood Art Café — 3663 Bee Caves Road, #4A Austin, Texas 78746. Wild Wood is an entirely gluten-free bakery and café. Imagine walking into a restaurant and ordering a sandwich or lasagna! But really, it is their tamales, salads and desserts that shine. Their gluten-free ding dongs are to die for — even if you didn’t want to eat ding dongs in your gluten-eating days.
  • TalkHouse — 1221 W. Sixth Ave, Austin, TX 78703.  This small café connected to a beauty salon serves food that tastes so good, you might not even notice that it’s good for you!  A raw food restaurant that is entirely gluten-free, TalkHouse is shocking. Their ‘pizza’ and chile rellenos are so good that my gluten-eating, meat-eating husband wants to eat there more often!  No gluten comes through the door.
  • MyFitFoods — Various locations. This place serves single serving meals that you can reheat in the microwave. They specialize in supporting a 21 day cleanse — but they have many quick meals that are worth saving for a hotel-room breakfast or lunch on the go. No gluten or soy enters their facilities.

Diner-ish Restaurants With Good Gluten-Free Selections

  • Galaxy Café — Various locations — A local chain run by an owner sensitive to gluten intolerance. You can get breakfast wraps in gluten-free rice tortillas and a wide variety of menu options. They can’t utterly promise to avoid cross-contamination, so they don’t claim their flourless chocolate cake is gluten-free. But if you can risk a few grains in your food it is to die for.
  • Kerby Lane Café — Various locations — One of the more extensive GF menus in town. Open 24 hours. They are sort of like a Denny’s that offers enchiladas and local produce selections. Salads are incredible, as are their enchiladas.
  • 24 Diner — 6th and Lamar — A new ‘locavore’ restaurant. They don’t have a GF menu, but can tell you what is safe. They make their own sausage in house and can tell you which farm the produce came from.
  • Counter Café — 626 N. Lamar Blvd — “Counter culture” reigns here. A small diner that serves local produce while you sit at the counter. Their eggs are absolutely to die for – as is their quail salad on the lunch menu. The hipster staff is completely aware of food intolerance issues and will very carefully cook your food separately to take care of you.

Mexican

  • Maudie’s — Various locations — Ask for the gluten-free corn chips and they will help you out. A wide variety of gluten-free options and utterly conscientious.
  • Torchy’s Tacos — Various locations — This place will make you rethink your definition of taco. They raise tacos to a gourmet form of art. And they have a list at the register of which items are and are not GF. You might have to skip the fried avocado taco, but the grilled fish, barbacoa, or green chile pork are all safe when you eat them on one of the best corn tortillas you will find.
  • Zocolo — 1110 West Lynn Ave, 78703 — Fresh Mexican? Really? This place offers goodies like vegetable stew, jicama salad and an amazing black bean soup in addition to fresh tacos and amazing enchiladas. As long as your corn tortillas stay out of their deep fryer, you have a lot of great GF options — and they are aware of cross contamination issues.

Burgers, Pizza and More

  • Terra Burger — 10611 Research Blvd. — Organic burgers. Gluten-free buns. Organic shakes made from real gluten-free ice cream. Unbreaded fries made from real potatoes. And a playscape. And a water park. Need I say more?
  • Austin’s Pizza — Various locations — Gluten-free pizza delivered. And the toppings are amazing.
  • Brick Oven on 35th — 1608 W. 35th St — This Italian restaurant advertises and offers a wide variety of gluten-free pastas and pizzas. If you want to go out, sit down and eat — this is a great option!

Four- to Five-Star Dining

  • La Condesa — 2nd and Guadalupe — If the menu is not gluten-free, they will make it so. This is one of the best restaurants in Austin and a huge part of the local food movement. They do a Mexico-City inspired Mexican Fusion cuisine that is not to be missed. And their pastry chef can put together gluten-free treats if you are interested.
  • Olivia — 2043 S. Lamar — Rated one of the best new restaurants of 2009 by Bon Appetit, this place is worth a splurge. Home-made ice cream, home-made charcuterie and just good food. They will prepare something special if you challenge them with GF.

Grocery Shopping

  • Whole Foods Corporate Headquarters — Lamar between 5th and 6th — If Whole Foods married Costco, you might get the impression of the sheer floor space of this place. With an entire grocery store aisle and an entire frozen food aisle dedicated to GF products, you can find most of what you want from cookies, to breads to beers. If a flour isn’t in the GF aisle, it might be in the standard cooking aisle. And you can find pure buckwheat soba, and GF cooking sauces in the Asian aisle. If it can be done GF, you can probably find it here.
  • Central Market — 35th and Lamar — The major competition for Whole Foods and possibly the inspiration for their floorspace. There is a full aisle and frozen section with GF goodies. They frequently host GF cooking classes for the uninitiated.
  • Fresh Plus — 12th and West Lynn — If you don’t have time for a big store, and just want to pick up some staples, this neighborhood market is very impressive. With high end cheeses, goats milk ice cream, kambucha tea and a gluten-free aisle — you will be pleasantly surprised. It looks from the front like a convenience store, but the selection is incredible. And you can get in and out in five minutes!
  • Sprouts — 2 locations — New to Austin, Sprouts Natural Foods is giving the big guys a run for their money. They recently ran a 25% off all gluten-free products special, and most of the store had GF signs all over it. Several bargains to be had from this natural foods competitor.
  • Wheatsville Co-op — In Austin for more than 30 years, this small co-op ‘gets it’ about GF. In addition to the standard products, they do ‘Wheat-free Wednesday’  where their bakery goes GF and they sell home-made goodies.

Reader Report: Machiavelli in Montreal

When I read this Reader Report, I realized that it’s been more than six years since I visited Montreal. I’m long overdue for another trip to one of Canada’s most beautiful — and historic — cities. When I do, the first place I will have to check out is Machiavelli, which Alice writes about below. Thanks for sending this in, Alice!

Alice’s Report on Machiavelli in Montreal, Quebec

Machiavelli Restaurant is a wonderful restaurant that serves delicious fusion cuisine dishes. Machiavelli’s talented chef Raymond is very knowledgeable about dietary restrictions and prepares all his soups and gravies from scratch (no pre-packaged bases). They are able to offer delicious gluten-free meals as well as cater to other allergy restrictions.

Machiavelli offers a varied dinner menu with choices of beef steaks, pork, chicken dishes, fish and pasta.  Unfortunately, they do not keep gluten free pasta in stock. Machiavelli offers a different menu every day, with their special offerings listed on a black board. Their daily menu consists of a choice of soup, escargot, Caesar or garden salad.   For a main course there is always a choice of different meats, fish and a pasta dish. The chef uses local produce and fresh herbs from the nearby Atwater Market. The dishes are presented very attractively and with flair. Their prices are very reasonable and include both courses, as well as all local taxes. In other words, the price you see marked on the menu is the price you will pay, plus the customary tip to the waiter, of course.

Machiavelli is a “bring your own wine” restaurant, so do not forget to bring your own wine or beer. Machiavelli has a charming décor & in the summer offers outside garden dining, weather permitting. The restaurant has three small dining rooms so it makes it an ideal place to host a small party. Machiavelli Restaurant is situated at 2601 Centre Street (corner Charlevoix), Montreal, Quebec, Canada H3K 1K2.  Their telephone: 514-315-9981; fax: 514-315-9979; machiavelli.mtl@gmail.com. Machiavelli can be easily reached by subway from any downtown hotel, as it is situated right across the street from the Charlevoix subway station.  On the South East corner there is a liquor store where you can purchase a good selection of wines, but unfortunately the liquor store is open late in the evening only on Thursday & Friday evenings, weekdays it closes at 6 PM and Saturdays at 5 PM. Machiavelli Restaurant is open every day for dinner, except on Mondays.

Reader Report: São Paulo, Brazil

I love getting Reader Reports for a variety of reasons. It’s always wonderful to have people share what they’ve found on a trip, or in their hometown. Reader Reports also reinforce my belief that gluten-intolerant people can travel anywhere and eat well. And they give me previews about places that I’m dying to visit. This report, by Fernando de Barros Pereira, is a perfect example. São Paulo, Brazil, is the largest city in South America, and one of the most dynamic cities in the world. Friends who have visited all come back raving about it. I’m not sure when I’ll get there — especially because the next few months are going to involve a lot of travel in the US and Canada for my book tour — but I know I will soon. In the meantime, a heartfelt thank you to Fernando for this wonderful report!

Gluten Free in São Paulo, Brazil

Since 2003 there is a national law that obligates the food companies to declare whether their products contain gluten or not. It is written on the label: Contém Glúten (this product contains gluten) or Não Contém Glúten (does not contain gluten). This law is extremely helpful, making it easier to buy food in any supermarket in Brazil.

In São Paulo, there are a lot of places you can buy gluten-free products like pasta, bread, cookies, snacks or cereal. The best one is called Mundo Verde. It has many locations and their website is www.mundoverde.com.br. In www.specialgourmets.com there is a wider selection of stores that sell gluten-free stuff.

Although there aren’t many restaurants with gluten-free menus in São Paulo, our cuisine isn’t really based in wheat/gluten. The following list is based on my own experience, since I eat in restaurants frequently:

  • Eau French Grill (Av. Nações Unidas, 13.301 – www.eau.com.br): Definitely one of the best restaurants in São Paulo. It is located inside the Gran Hyatt Hotel. The staff is extremely well trained and familiarized with the gluten-free diet. Although it can be a little expensive, dining there is a memorable experience for sure.
  • Wraps (Several locations – www.wraps.com.br): They are one of the few restaurants that have a gluten-free menu. A very nice place with reasonable prices.
  • Steak Houses: The Traditional Brazilian Barbecue is served in the Rodizio Style. It’s similar to the all-you-can-eat system: you pay a price and can enjoy the salad bar and the different types of meats that the waiters offer you. Our barbecue only has salt as seasoning, so it is definitely a safe place to eat. There is a “Rodizio” Steak House on every corner, but I can say that Fogo de Chao (www.fogodechao.com.br) is one of the best.
  • Japanese Places: In São Paulo there are a lot of sushi restaurants, that could be a safe option for a nice lunch or dinner. Just talk to the waiter and stick to the traditional choices like sashimi, sushi and temaki. The majority of our soy sauce brands use corn instead of wheat, making it safe for celiacs, but it is prudent to ask the waiter/manager about it. Some places I can recommend: Aoyama (www.aoyama.com.br) and Gendai (www.gendai.com.br), a franchise that is available in many shopping centers and in São Paulo’s two airports.
  • Baked Potato (www.bakedpotato.com.br): Fast food place that serves baked potatoes with different stuffings. The only stuffing that I know for a fact that is gluten-free is the Requeijão (it is like a cream cheese, but a lot more flavourful).
  • Galeto’s (www.galetos.com.br): Great chicken, has a great salad bar too with 95% of the foods there being gluten free. The chicken has a “secret” seasoning and it is gluten-free (I talked to the manager and he showed me the ingredients, mostly herbs and olive oil).

Reader Report: Gluten-Free Melbourne, Australia

Australia is one place I’ve dreamed about visiting for years. Whenever I do finally make it there, Stuart Holding’s advice about Melbourne will come in very handy. Thanks so much to Stuart for writing this wonderful report!

Stuart’s Report on Melbourne

Travelling to Melbourne? Perhaps you live here and crave for that perfect pizza?

Well, I’ve been living as a diagnosed coeliac (celiac) for around 5 or 6 years now and have noticed a marked increase in both awareness and understanding in recent years around Melbourne. I’m no expert on the topic, but I’ve spoken at length with Australia’s leading dietician, researcher and cookbook author on the subject in Sue Shepherd from Shepherd Works. The first thing I can recommend is to get a hold of her cookbooks. They have wonderfully simple recipes and have taken me back to the tastes of some of my old favourite dishes that were once forgotten (post diagnosis).

Most wait staff in restaurants in Melbourne will understand exactly what you mean when you tell them you have coeliacs disease and require a gluten-free meal, and more and more are indicating on their menus which dishes are gluten-free. However, some places I’ve come across show some dishes as gluten-free yet omit some that are naturally gluten-free, so don’t necessarily just order what they say is gluten-free.

Some of my favourite restaurants around Melbourne are below, but I’ve had to keep the list quite brief. If you’re visiting Melbourne as a tourist you’ll likely find a great place to eat in one of Melbourne’s famous laneways that will happily cater for your needs. Just be sure to remind the waiter and don’t assume they know!

Quite simply the best pizza in Melbourne (and that includes all of the famous Lygon Street Italian eateries) is Pizza Farro in Thornbury about 20 minutes on the #86 tram to the north. Vince and Evette are the proprietors and specialize in spelt (non GF) and gluten-free pizzas. They are traditional Italian pizzas in a quaint family-run restaurant setting. Tell them I sent you — they mightn’t give you any discount, but they’ll look after you.

A recently opened “forward thinking answer to the emerging popularity and awareness of authentic Mexican food and beverage” in Melbourne Central Business District (CBD) is Mamasita’s. It’s a Mexican restaurant that serves more traditional tacos, quesadillas, tostitas, etc. Everything on the menu is gluten-free! And the sangria isn’t half bad either.

One of the things I miss most since eating gluten-free is a good “Parma and Pot.” An Australian pub meal at its best! Mrs Parma’s in Melbourne’s CBD specialize in “Parmas” (chicken, veal or vegetarian parmigianas) and offer their entire menu in a gluten-free option. They also stock locally brewed beer O’Briens Pale Ale or O’Briens Lager to help wash down the meal. It’s a must-try, but it’s not the cheapest Parma you’ll find at around $20-$25.

A favourite breakfast treat is located in North Melbourne called Fraus. It’s a creperie and hot chocolate café and all of their gallettes are gluten-free and make for a great substitute to traditional bacon and eggs on toast.

Reader Report: Orlando’s Disney World

The Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Reader Report Contest didn’t get very many entries (there ended up being six in total), but every one was a terrific read and will add lots of valuable information for travelers. I will be publishing them all on the site, starting with the very first entry that came in. Many thanks to Deb for this terrific report!

Deb’s Report on Disney World

Last spring my daughter was diagnosed with celiac disease less than a month away from our trip to Florida, including two days at Disney World.  I learned the folks at Disney are fantastic at accommodating guests with celiac, gluten/wheat sensitivity, or any other food allergies.  We returned to Disney again this March and had a second wonderful experience.

Contact SpecialDiets@DisneyWorld.com at least two weeks before your trip to Disney.  We were sent a guest allergy form to fill out and return.   Then we received a confirmation email verifying that the pertinent allergy information was included on our dining reservations.

Here are reviews for the restaurants we dined at.  To make a reservation at any of the sit down restaurants at Disney World, call 407-WDW-DINE.

Crystal Palace (Magic Kingdom)

Crystal Palace provides an upscale buffet for breakfast, lunch and dinner.   We’ve had lunch at Crystal Palace two years running.  The chef walks the line with you, showing you which foods are safe.  During our visit, gluten-free foods available on the cold line included several fruit salads, a black bean and corn salad and a spring greens and tomato salad (dressing and croutons were further down the line, so the salad was safe). On the hot line there was flank steak, salmon, and a rice dish — all delicious.

The chef also prepared gluten-free chicken fingers and fries for my daughter.  The gluten-free chicken fingers were rated ‘amazing.’ For dessert there is ice cream, or if you can’t have dairy, Rice Dream.

The culinary team at Crystal Palace was very welcoming. We will continue to dine there on future trips.

Coral Reef (Epcot)

Coral Reef diners order from a menu, so the chef comes out and discusses options with you. Grilled Mahi Mahi and a grilled chicken breast were two of my daughter’s choices. While we waited for our entrees, our server brought out warm gluten-free rolls as an alternative to the bread basket.

The grilled chicken breast served with a side of fries was rated ‘great’ by my daughter.  Fresh fruit, Rice Dream or a gluten-free brownie were offered for dessert. If you do not have an issue with dairy, regular ice cream would also be an option.

We’ve eaten at Coral Reef twice and will return again.

Brown Derby (Hollywood Studios)

Like Coral Reef, the chef comes out and discusses options with you. Disney menus at the sit-down restaurants feature a fair number of grilled meat and fish dishes, which are easy to modify. Warm gluten-free rolls are provided here as well.  My daughter had a delicious flank steak, new potatoes with olive oil and herbs and steamed broccoli. Fruit, Rice Dream and gluten-free brownies were again available for dessert.  While service was a bit slow, we’d dine there again if we ever return to Hollywood Studios.