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

When “Gluten Free” Means “Danger”

By now, you’ve probably heard that Domino’s rolled out a gluten-free pizza a couple of weeks ago. It was a clever marketing ploy, since May is Celiac Awareness Month, and the demand for gluten-free products is growing; the new pizza crust was covered by news organizations including ABC, CBS, NBC and USA Today. Unfortunately, Domino’s move was nothing but a cynical attempt to cash in on gluten-free consumers. Its “gluten free” pizza isn’t actually safe for celiacs or gluten-intolerant people.

If you want to read an account of the debacle, check out these articles from The Consumerist and Nation’s Restaurant News, and this particularly perceptive piece from Daily Finance. At the core of Domino’s problem is that, while they developed a pizza crust that is gluten-free, the company’s sketchy kitchen practices mean that cross-contamination with wheat is pretty much a given. As a result, Domino’s claims the pizza is for people with “mild gluten sensitivity.” Yes, you read that right. Even Daily Finance was stunned: “Seriously? Is this a tease? Why even offer gluten-free crusts without reorienting kitchens to cook them separately from crusts slathered in flour and wheat dough — exactly the ingredients that keep most celiac sufferers from even thinking about ordering a pizza? No wonder the Center for Celiac Research is recommending that those with gluten-related disorders avoid the new Domino’s crusts.”

This isn’t the first time a national chain has marketed a “gluten-free” product that was unsafe — remember California Pizza Kitchen? But to me, the most disheartening part of the Domino’s story is that its gluten-free pizza received a seal of approval from the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness. Specifically, Domino’s received something called an “Amber designation” from the NFCA. What’s an Amber designation? It’s a bizarre middle ground between Green (safe) and Red (unsafe) in the tiered credentialing system the NFCA launched in April 2012. Basically, it means that the NFCA was well aware that Domino’s “gluten-free” pizza wasn’t safe for celiacs, but the organization gave it a seal of approval anyway.

I’d be the first to say that the NFCA has done good work in the past. The organization has a terrific program to educate restaurant staffs about celiac-safe practices. But I will never again be able to look at anything that has received the NFCA’s seal of approval without suspicion. I trusted that an NFCA seal of approval meant a restaurant or product was safe for celiacs; I will never make that mistake again.

Thanks to a tremendous outcry from the celiac and gluten-free community (people like Shirley at GFE) — and a petition organized by the terrific people behind @1in133 — the NFCA has suspended use of its Amber Designation. In its public statement, the NFCA said: “Given the public response and recent developments in this field, NFCA is suspending the use of “Amber” designation to describe a restaurant or foodservices establishment. We will conduct a review to determine the most effective and clearest way to warn the community of the risk of cross-contamination and the use of the phrase ‘Gluten Free.'”

A big part of the problem is that, in the US, there is still no official designation of what gluten free means (the FDA is still working on that). The implications are frightening; to quote the American Celiac Disease Alliance: “Almost everyone with celiac disease or a related gluten-disorder knows that currently there are no gluten free labeling requirements in the United States, and that consumers are routinely misled by inappropriate labeling.”

It seems that Domino’s, and the NFCA, are determined to keep on misleading consumers. When I checked Domino’s updated FAQs about its “gluten-free” pizza after it lost its NFCA “Amber” designation, here’s what I found:

Q: What are the NFCA’s “Great Kitchen Standards” and how is Domino’s rated?

A: The NFCA supports Domino’s efforts to provide a Gluten Free Crust to a national audience and has given Domino’s a “Gluten Free Ingredients” rating. The NFCA granted Domino’s this rating because of our verified ingredients, consumer education approach and customer service training. This means the NFCA and Domino’s do not recommend this pizza for people with celiac disease. However, because the risk for gluten exposure is low, this product may be an option for those with mild gluten sensitivities. While the Gluten Free Crust contains no gluten ingredients, a risk of gluten exposure can occur due to the handcrafted nature of the pizza and the variety of procedures in the kitchen.

I searched the NFCA’s website to find out what a “Gluten Free Ingredients” rating is, and I couldn’t find any mention of it. However, I did find this NFCA statement about Domino’s:

The National Foundation for Celiac Awareness supports Domino’s efforts to meet the needs of the gluten-free community. However, we want to make sure all customers are fully informed about Domino’s practices and the potential risks of cross-contact.

Please be advised all of Domino’s menu items, including pizza made with Gluten Free Crust, are prepared in a common kitchen. While the Gluten Free Crust contains no gluten ingredients, there is a risk of gluten exposure. NFCA supports the availability of Gluten Free Crust at Domino’s, but CANNOT recommend the pizza for customers with celiac disease or any gluten-related disorder.

Working with NFCA, Domino’s recognizes its current operational model cannot – beyond all doubt – provide the environment needed to assure those with celiac disease that its pizzas are 100% gluten-free. Domino’s would rather be honest and transparent with what this product is and is not, than risk a consumer ordering this product under false pretenses.

“Honest and transparent” is not at all what I’d call this mess. Not by a long shot.

Sweet Passover, Happy Easter

When I was in Berkeley, California, for a Mystery Readers International literary salon earlier this week with fellow author Brad Parks, a lovely lady named Laura-Kate Ruska baked a gluten-free chocolate cake for me. My friend Janet Rudolph, who runs the Dying for Chocolate blog (and who hosted the salon), has posted the recipe. Not only is the cake absolutely delicious, but it’s perfect for both Passover and Easter celebrations. Bon appétit (and thank you, Laura-Kate!).

I’ve written about gluten-free Passover treats before (in 2010 and 2011), but I haven’t mentioned the gluten-free Easter candy list. It’s a great resource, especially since we’ve learned that a “gluten-free” label doesn’t always mean that a product is celiac-safe (in particular, I’m thinking of Jelly Belly’s Peter Rabbit Deluxe Easter Mix, which is NOT gluten-free, in spite of an erroneous label that claims it is; the product has been recalled). Here’s to a healthy, safe spring for everyone!

(Photo above: Janet Rudolph and her husband, Frank, thoughtfully prepared special wine bottles with the cover of my new book, The Next One to Fall, and Brad’s latest, The Girl Next Door. Glad to say my bottle made it home safely from California, thanks to an invention called the WineSkin!)

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!

The Next One to Fall

If you’ve followed this blog for any time at all, you know I’m not just a travel writer with celiac disease — I’m also an award-winning crime novelist! My second mystery, The Next One to Fall, is being released today in the U.S. and Canada. I’m thrilled to say the early reviews have been fantastic. According to Publishers Weekly, “The rich history and geography of Peru add depth to an engrossing mystery that constantly keeps the reader guessing.” Library Journal says, “Davidson’s follow-up to her Anthony Award-winning debut (The Damage Done) will leave you breathless.”

My book tour will take me to Houston (Feb. 17th), Austin (Feb. 18th), Scottsdale (Feb. 21st), Glendale AZ (Feb. 22nd), Huntington NY (Feb. 28), Hamilton ON (Mar. 7th), Toronto (Mar. 8th), Denver (Mar. 23rd), Los Angeles (Mar. 25th), San Diego (Mar. 26th), Thousand Oaks CA (Mar 28th), and San Francisco (Apr. 2nd). Here’s the complete schedule. If anyone has suggestions or recommendations for restaurants that serve good gluten-free meals in these cities, I’d love to hear them. Also, please come out to say hello if I visit your city!

By the way, if you’re in the New York City area, consider yourself invited to my launch party at The Mysterious Bookshop. That’s this Wednesday night, Feb. 15th, at 6:30pm. All are welcome!

One more thing: THE NEXT ONE TO FALL is set entirely in Peru, which I visited in the fall of 2007. It was that trip that convinced me to start the Gluten-Free Guidebook early in 2008. It’s amazing how much it influenced me. Peru still stands out in my mind as the most incredible place I’ve ever visited. Check out my slideshow to see some of the reasons why.

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 celiac.com 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!

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.

Shopping in Southwestern Ontario

It’s starting to feel as if a gluten-free grocery store opens in Southwestern Ontario every other week. I used to make a trip to the Specialty Food Shop each time I visited Toronto, but with the number of options expanding, I’m checking out a wider range of places offering gluten-free groceries:

Cabbagetown Organics: The sign in the window advertising fresh bread from Aidan’s Gluten Free is what lured me inside. As the name suggests, the store’s strength is organic produce, but the gluten-free section is substantial. [address] 499 Parliament Street, Toronto [tel] 416-913-7296

Goodbye Gluten: This combination grocery store, bakery, and caterer opened this summer. Everything you’ll find here is gluten-free, and there are also nut-free, dairy-free, egg-free, and vegan options. [address] 2066 Avenue Road, Toronto [tel] 416-781-9191

Nut’n Gluten: This is a large store, especially when you consider that almost everything on the shelves and inside the fridges and freezers is gluten-free (there are products for people allergic to nuts, too). My impression — based on a single visit — is that some prices are higher than what I’m used to paying, but there are also brands here that I haven’t seen carried at any other shop. [address] 3120 Rutherford Road, Vaughan, Ontario [tel] 905-553-7901

Remark Fresh Markets: Whenever I visit my aunt in London, Ontario, this is where she goes to stock up on celiac-safe foods for me. Lots of choice, with both Canadian and international brands featured here. [address] 1190 Oxford Street West, London, Ontario [tel] 519-474-2561

Specialty Food Shop: Not everything in this shop is gluten-free — there are products for people with food allergies, metabolic disorders, cystic fibrosis, and other conditions. It’s small, but it stocks great staples and snacks and has registered dietitians on staff. [address] At the Hospital for Sick Children (main floor), 555 University Avenue, Toronto [tel] 1-800-737-7976 or 416-813-5294

A few other stores with plenty of celiac-safe options: Whole Foods, which has its own Gluten-Free Bakehouse products as well as items made by other brands; Noah’s Natural Foods, a small, health-oriented local chain with several locations; and Ambrosia Natural Foods, just north of Toronto in Thornhill, which offers some of the best prices on gluten-free goods that I’ve found anywhere. Also, a couple of websites offer shop listings (and, frequently, a lot more): Gluten-Free Ontario and Celiac Canada.