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

Roundup: Celiac Disease in the News

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Have you noticed an uptick in the number of news items about celiac disease this week? May is Celiac Awareness Month, so organizations such as the Gluten Intolerance Group and the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness are promoting their message in the media. But I’m also chalking up the sudden flurry of stories to the celebrity effect: Elisabeth Hasselbeck, one of the hosts of ABC’s “The View,” has just published a book about celiac disease, which she was diagnosed with in 2002. The G-Free Diet: A Gluten-Free Survival Guide is filled with advice about living with the disorder. There’s not much that’s new here for celiacs already familiar with the gluten-free diet and with potential non-food pitfalls (such as lipsticks that contain gluten), but this is a good resource for the newly diagnosed celiac/gluten-intolerant person who is still coming to terms with the diagnosis.

Also, the book’s introduction is by Dr. Peter Green (author of Celiac Disease: A Hidden Epidemic), and it’s terrific. In it, he addresses the issue of gluten-sensitive people who don’t test positive for celiac disease, but whose bodies are sickened by gluten nonetheless. I’ve met Dr. Green in person, and he speaks convincingly about the fact that many people are negatively affected by gluten, not just the 1 in 133 who have celiac disease. Food for thought — and an issue everyone should read about.

The Gluten Intolerance Group of North America is celebrating Celiac Awareness Month in a special way: its Chef to Plate International Awareness Campaign has restaurants in 30 states offering gluten-free menu options. Some of the participating eateries are chains, including Cheeseburger in Paradise, Garlic Jim’s Famous Gourmet Pizza, Outback Steakhouse, and P.F. Chang’s. In some states, such as Illinois, Indiana, and Kansas, the only restaurants listed are chains (GIG’s list isn’t meant to be a comprehensive listing of celiac-friendly restaurants, just ones that are participating in this particular program). In New York, most of the participants — including Bistango, Nizza, Lilli & Loo, GustOrganics, Friedmans Lunch, Sambuca, and Opus — are independent operations. One of the most impressive lists of Chef to Plate participants is for Victoria, the capital city of British Columbia. I haven’t visited lately, but remember The Noodle Box and the Canoe Brewpub from a while back.

One more thing: a new resource called Gluten-Free Maps caught my eye on Twitter. It’s a smart site that blends Google Maps technology with user-generated suggestions. You can go there to check out what’s in your neighborhood, or you can map the location of a restaurant you’ve dined at successfully. If you’re searching for a gluten-free meal at home or while traveling, it’s another place to look.