On the Road With Daphne Oz

Last October, I was excited to find an excellent article on Oprah’s website about gluten intolerance. The author was Daphne Oz, daughter of Oprah’s favorite health expert, Dr. Mehmet Oz. Daphne, who graduated from Princeton in  2008, is an author in her own right: in 2006, she published The Dorm Room Diet, which is being re-released in an expanded and revised edition this September; in 2007, she wrote The Dorm Room Diet Planner. She is also co-author of the bestselling books You: The Owner’s Manual, You: The Smart Patient, You: On a Diet, You: Staying Young, and You: Being Beautiful. Last year, after experiencing health issues that ranged from sleep problems to weight fluctuations, Daphne followed the advice of a naturopathic, Ayurvedic doctor who recommended that she cut gluten from her diet. While tests have shown that she doesn’t have celiac disease, Daphne noticed her health improve on the gluten-free diet. She’s currently at work on a self-improvement book about conscious living.

How often do you travel? I am a total gypsy. In October and November, I was living in Chicago, but now I’m back in New York. Recently I’ve also traveled to Florida, Philadelphia, Maine, California, and England.

What foods or snacks do you pack when traveling? There are some staples that I always bring with me, like pistachio nuts. My dad has really drilled home the nuts issue! They’re a great snack. I also bring apples and soy crisps. Generally, I prefer to eat food I’ve brought with me, rather than what’s served on a plane.

What other things do you always bring with you? I’ve assembled a travel pack because I’m on the road so much. I bring hand sanitizer, facial moisturizer, lip balm, and a full-size pillow — those tiny pillows they give you on planes just don’t work for me. I bring my iPod and a bunch of magazines, like Oprah and Vogue.

Any favorite restaurants? I absolutely love a New York restaurant called Peasant. They serve fresh fish with just a little olive oil and sage. There’s no gluten-free menu, but the food prep is so simple that many dishes are naturally gluten-free. There’s another place in New York, Fatty Crab, that I really like. They serve Malaysian cuisine and have amazing coconut-milk broths. In Los Angeles, I always go to the Newsroom Café, which does great vegetarian food, and the LA Mill, a coffeeshop that serves food, including gluten-free crackers. In London, I just had brunch at Baker & Spice, where they had wonderful Mediterranean salads, like peppers and feta cheese, and roasted sweet potato.

Any favorite hotels? Staying at the Penninsula in Los Angeles was probably the most luxurious experience of my life.

Favorite city or destination that is not your hometown or current home base? I love Istanbul for many reasons. I have family there, the food is wonderful, and the city has this amazing union of Byzantine architecture and modern skyscrapers. I also love London, even though the weather is terrible.

What’s your dream destination? The place that immediately comes to mind is Thailand, because of the history and culture. I’d also love to see Bora Bora.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? When you’re traveling, one of the best things to do is to visit a local market, where you can get fresh fruit. Not only is that good for you, but it teaches you a bit about the culture of a place.

Photograph provided courtesy of Daphne Oz.

Vacation Planning for Celiacs: Cruises

Sunset

It turned cold very early this fall in New York, as it has in much of North America. Maybe that’s why I’m thinking of taking a vacation somewhere warm. One thing that I’ve never tried is a cruise. I’ve taken day-long boat trips in places like Newfoundland and Chile, but that’s just not the same thing.

My daydreaming may have been inspired by a reader, Barbara Collins, who wrote to me in July to share her fantastic experience onboard a Holland America cruise ship. You can read her letter in this post. It was extremely encouraging to hear that a cruise line would go above and beyond the basics to take care of a wheat-allergic and gluten-intolerant traveler.

What I’ve discovered so far is that many cruise lines seem willing to accommodate people on gluten-free diets and other special diets. Each cruise line seems to have a different policy on the subject. Most seem to have a special requests form that you must fill out, often weeks in advance of your cruise. While I haven’t tried any of the following cruise lines — yet — all of them sound pretty great.

Carnival: “Guests with special diets can be accommodated on Carnival Cruise Line,” boasts the company’s website. In addition to gluten-free, Carnival offers meals for a range of special diets, including vegetarian, low sugar, and low fat.

Disney Cruise Line: While advance notice is required to accommodate special diets — at the time of booking the cruise is strongly recommended — Disney is able to prepare meals for an incredible range of special diets. Vegetarian options are widely available on its ships, as a matter of course.

MSC Cruises: Given that Italy is a world leader in celiac awareness, it’s no surprise that this Italian cruise line takes special care of its gluten-free guests. However, there are different offerings on its different vessels. According to MSC’s website, “MSC Cruises works closely with the AIC-Associazione Italiana Celiachia (Italian Celiac Association) to provide gluten-free menus in the restaurants of MSC Fantasia, MSC Musica, MSC Orchestra and MSC Poesia cruising in the Mediterranean and in Northern Europe. On MSC Splendida, MSC Lirica, MSC Opera, MSC Sinfonia, MSC Armonia, [and] MSC Melody, guests can find pre-packaged gluten-free products like snacks, biscuits, croissants, plumcakes and muffins.”

Princess: This cruise line emphasizes “personal choice dining” so there are plenty of options. Gluten-free, dairy-free, salt-free, MSG-free, and vegan meals are all available — when arranged for in advance of sailing.

Royal Caribbean: Special diets this line accommodates include gluten-free, low-sodium, and low-fat. They are also happy to accommodate those with food allergies. These meals should all be arranged in advance. Note that vegetarian meals are also available without any advance notification. As Royal Caribbean says, “We make every effort to accommodate our guests’ dietary requirements whenever possible.”

I’d love to hear about your cruise experiences. Please let me know how well you were able to eat while at sea.

Landmark Dining in Istanbul

Before I left for Turkey, I e-mailed a friend for advice. Like me, Alison is a travel writer — her blog is called A Curious Mind, and she’s penned articles for everyone from The Washington Post to The Huffington Post — and she had visited Turkey a few weeks before me. It turned out that her trip was a whirlwind press tour — she only spent three days there in total. Still, she had plenty of suggestions for what to see and do. Her one restaurant recommendation was for Hamdi, an Istanbul restaurant that is close to the Eminönü ferry docks. “They had a pistachio kebab that I cannot stop thinking about,” Alison told me.

While I loved the places that she mentioned (including Topkapi Palace, home to many of the Ottoman sultans), I wondered whether Hamdi would work out. Perhaps I’d had good luck with restaurants early on in the trip, while I was in Selçuk, in part because I was visiting in November, technically the off-season for Turkish tourism. Restaurant owners and staff had taken good care of me, but on a couple of those nights, my husband and I had been virtually the only people in the restaurants. Hamdi is listed in every travel guidebook, and it’s popular with locals — everyone wants to enjoy its spectacular views of the Galata Tower and the New Mosque (otherwise known as the Queen Mother’s Mosque). Would a crowded, busy restaurant be up to the task of preparing a gluten-free dinner for me?

It turned out that I needn’t have worried. The night that we dined at Hamdi, the fourth-floor dining room was packed and we scored the last available table. I was amazed that, even in such a busy place, all of the staff read the Turkish celiac card I had with me. After a quick huddle, two waiters were assigned to my table — the one who was working in that section of the restaurant, and another who was serving a different section, but who spoke very good English and could translate my needs to the kitchen. I ended up having an incredible kebab, a mix of lamb and veal with pistachio nuts, served with a tomato salad. Because every dessert on the menu featured pastry (Hamdi is famous for its baklava), the kitchen prepared a fresh fruit salad for me. It was a luxurious meal, even thought the restaurant isn’t an expensive one. And now, like my friend Alison, I can’t stop thinking about that amazing pistachio kebab.

Hamdi [address] Tahmis Cad. Kalçin Sok. 17, Eminönü, Istanbul [tel] 90 212 528 03 90 [fax] 90 212 528 49 91 [web] www.hamdirestorant.com.tr

Finding the Unexpected in Istanbul

It’s hard to describe just how rich Istanbul’s history is. Everyone knows that it’s the city where East meets West, literally: part is in Europe and part is in Asia, with the Bosphorus Strait dividing the two. I was enthralled by Hagia Sophia — or Ayasofia, in Turkish — the great church built by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian in 537 (it’s now a museum). Across the street from it is the Sultanahmet Mosque (also called the Blue Mosque), built by Sultan Ahmet I in 1617, famous for its stunning tiled interior and six minarets. But the most surprising place, to me, was a treasure that was forgotten for centuries beneath the bustling city: the Basilica Cistern.

At roughly the same time Hagia Sophia was constructed, Justinian expanded and rebuilt the cistern, which had been created during Emperor Constantine’s reign. While its purpose was purely functional — the cistern served as a reservoir for the city, capable of holding 27 million gallons of water — its form was a work of art. Justinian’s builders reclaimed 336 columns from local Roman ruins to support the cathedral-like brick ceiling. It’s hard to believe, but this subterranean Byzantine treasure was forgotten in the Ottoman age. Rediscovered in the 20th century, it was repaired and opened as a tourist attraction in 1987 (after being used in the 1963 James Bond film From Russia With Love).

It seemed to me after visiting the Basilica Cistern (Yerebatan Sarnici in Turkish, literally ‘sunken palace’), that Istanbul was a rare city in being able to overlook such a gem for so long. But that’s the thing about Istanbul — there is an abundance of everything. This can be enthralling, as you wander through its historic places, or confusing, as it was in the case of restaurants. Sultanahmet is filled with restaurants, most of which have men in front who try to lure you in, often loudly and aggressively. The approach didn’t whet my appetite, and it made me seek alternatives. In a pedestrian alleyway off the crowded Divan Yolu, I found one restaurant, Amedros, where the host out front smiled and nodded politely. I showed him my Turkish celiac card and he became curiously excited. He showed the card to a waiter, who became equally animated. They assured me that the kitchen would be able to make a safe meal for me. One added, “This card, it is wonderful.”

I discovered over dinner why they were so thrilled with the celiac card. A few weeks earlier, a tourist who had a food allergy had dined at the restaurant, but she hadn’t told the restaurant staff about her issues and they watched, horrified, as she had a serious reaction to the peppers in her dish. The staff was relieved — grateful even — to find out what my dietary issues were and were happy to accommodate them. The menu at Amedros is available in English, and it offers detailed descriptions of each dish, but you can never count on avoiding an allergen by ordering something that just looks safe. My meal there was simple — a green salad, followed by grilled sea bass and veggies, all paired with a light, white Turkish wine — but it was safe (and delicious!). The staff actually thanked me at the end of the meal for telling them about celiac disease. It was a wonderful evening, and a reminder that Istanbul is full of surprises.

Amedros [address] Hoca Rüstem Sokak 7, off Divan Yolu, Sultanahmet, Istanbul [tel] 90 212 522 83 56 [web] www.amedroscafe.com

Turkey, Travel… and Thanksgiving

My fellow New Yorkers are preoccupied with turkey this week, since it’s Thanksgiving on Thursday, but I’m obsessed with an entirely different Turkey. My trip there was memorable for many reasons. The sheer volume of ancient Greco-Roman sites floored me, even though I’d previously read that Turkey has more Roman ruins than Italy. I visited a few (Ephesus, Pergamum, Aphrodisias, and Hierapolis) and was amazed again and again by their beauty and grandeur. I saw great museums (Istanbul’s Archaeology Museum was simply incredible), and magnificent houses of worship, such as Sultanahmet’s Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia (the latter was a church, then a mosque, and now a museum, but it’s a place of beauty whatever you call it). There is so much to see in Turkey, and I only scratched the surface by visiting the Aegean Coast and Istanbul in my 12 days there.

On the dining front, Turkey presents a challenge for the gluten-intolerant. Bread is such a staple of the diet, and wheat sneaks into a wide range of products (for example, the rice cakes I found in supermarkets contained wheat). Restaurant menus are filled with dishes that contain wheat, from stews and soups to kebabs that are wrapped in a wheat shell. However, there was one very important factor that made dining in Turkey possible for me: the Turkish people I met were wonderful hosts, and everyone — from the busiest restaurant to the simplest cafe — was willing to go out of their way to help me dine safely.

I also had the good fortune to correspond with — and later meet — Oya Özden, the founder and president of the Living With Celiac Association of Turkey. She sent me a celiac disease information card, written in Turkish, that I could show to chefs and other restaurant staff. She also gave me some general guidelines about dining in Turkey. Some of her tips:

  • Question everything you eat, because flour is used so much in Turkish cuisine
  • Mezes, or appetizers, are prepared in different ways in different restaurants; the simple artichoke and olive oil meze you had in one spot may have flour added to it in another
  • Rice pilav is common on menus, but beware — it often has orzo pasta mixed in with it (the pasta is sometimes much darker than the rice, but I also saw versions where the difference in color was subtle and would be easy to miss)
  • Grilled fish served without sauce is a safe choice, but beware of cross-contamination from kofta (small meatballs made with wheat) that could be cooked on the same grill

The lesson was to be vigilant, particularly because wheat is used so commonly that restaurant staff might overlook it. I learned that the hard way on my first night in Turkey, when I was accidentally ‘glutened’ by the dining room of the small hotel I stayed at in Selçuk. My mistake was in taking the word of a staff member who was a native English speaker (since my Turkish is very limited, I thought I was on safe ground explaining my dietary restrictions to someone who spoke the same language). She assured me that the rice pilav was just rice. When the plate was set in front of me, I noticed that the rice had slightly darker bits of… something… mixed in. “Are you sure this is just rice? There’s no pasta in this?” I asked, and was reassured that it was rice. One bite later and I knew that there was more than just rice in the dish. Orzo pasta, as it turned out.

It was a disappointing way to start the trip, but it was a good reminder to proceed very cautiously. Everywhere else I ate, for the rest of the trip, did come up with great gluten-free fare for me — and you’ll be hearing more about that in the weeks to come. In the meantime, happy Thanksgiving to my American readers. And for readers who are celebrating their first gluten-free Thanksgiving, check out this excellent post from Shauna James Ahern at Gluten-Free Girl.

Time for Turkey

It’s official: I’m traveling to Turkey this November. I’ve just started planning the trip, and all I have right now is a return ticket to Istanbul. I’ll be in Turkey for 12 days, and I’m still working on the itinerary. I know I want to spend the better part of a week in Istanbul and a couple of days in and around Ephesus; the rest of the time is still unaccounted for (I’m also thinking about visiting Cappadoccia, or taking a cruise to visit Troy — but with 12 days, not everything can fit into the plan). If you have already visited Turkey and have any recommendations for where to stay, what to see — and especially, where to get a good gluten-free meal — I’d love to hear from you.

In the meantime, let me tell you what I’ve discovered so far. Neither of my favorite translation sites, Google and BabelFish, offers Turkish-to-English translation at this time, so I’ve been using Babylon, which gets the gyst of things but seems to miss many words. The Celiac Association of Turkey (Colyakla Yasam Dernegi) has a website that is available only in Turkish. (I’ve e-mailed the association for advice, and I’ll let you know what I hear from them.) Fortunately, Celiac Travel, my favorite site for celiac translation cards, has one available in Turkish.

One great resource I’ve found is a website called the Turkey Travel Planner by Tom Brosnahan. I’ve met Tom several times (we’re members of the same writers’ organizations), but it was a pleasant surprise to discover his well-written and comprehensive site. Not only does it cover what to see and do, but there are specific pages of interest to celiacs and the food-allergic: “Gluten Intolerance (Celiac) in Turkey,” “Food Allergies in Turkey,” and “Food Allergy Awareness in Turkey” (there’s also a section for vegetarians).

My Frommer’s colleague Lynn Levine, author of Frommer’s Turkey and Frommer’s Istanbul, also runs a website called Talking Turkey. There’s no celiac-specific information, but there are good overviews about Turkish food and drink, as well as pages devoted to regions of the country, museums, spas, and shopping.

I’ve started reading the Turkish Daily News, a 47-year-old English-language newspaper that can be read online. An article from February 2008 mentions Saf, an Istanbul restaurant where “all dishes are low in salt and fat, raw, organic, gluten free and vegan.” I can’t wait to try it. In the article, Saf’s address is listed as: Akatlar Mah. Cumhuriyet Cad. No:4/6 Club Sporium, Akatlar; the phone numbers listed are 0212 282 79 46 and 0212 282 72 91.

On the Road With Gluten-Free Girl

Even before I interviewed Shauna James Ahern, I felt as if I knew her. That was because of the many incredibly warm, humorous, and inspiring posts she has made on her blog, Gluten-Free Girl, which she created after being diagnosed with celiac disease in 2005. The success of the site led her to publish a book, Gluten-Free Girl: How I Found the Food That Loves Me Back… & How You Can Too (Wiley, 2007), which was selected as one of Amazon’s best books of the year. Since going gluten-free, Shauna has met and married the man of her dreams, and in July 2008 she gave birth to a daughter, Lucy. Shauna and her husband, Daniel Ahern, a chef, are currently at work on a new book, Dancing in the Kitchen, about love and food and how they intersect. Shauna is also working on a book she calls Feeding Us, about eating during pregnancy and through a child’s first year of life.

How often do you travel? Normally, it’s at least three or four times a year. Last year I traveled much more because of the book tour, but now that Lucy has arrived I probably won’t travel as much, at least for a while.

Where have you traveled since being diagnosed with celiac disease? I’ve been to New York and Los Angeles many times; also Chicago, Portland [Oregon], San Francisco, Vancouver, Tucson. I also do a lot of local travel around Washington state. Danny and I went to Italy for our honeymoon. It was the biggest surprise to me — everyone thought you couldn’t go there because of all the pizza and pasta, but it was the best place in the world. People care about feeding you very well, and most food over there doesn’t even require gluten, it’s all about what’s fresh and in season. Every drugstore has gluten-free food, and you can bring gluten-free pasta to a restaurant that doesn’t have it and they will cook it for you. I also learned that Italians with celiac disease get two paid work days to go shopping each month!

What foods or snacks do you pack when traveling? We all know that on planes they don’t feed you. For example, on the flight to Italy they claimed they had a gluten-free meal but they ran out. When I fly I take a yummy grain salad, like a red quinoa or brown rice or millet, with goat cheese. I keep it cold in the fridge so it’s ready to go. When traveling with a baby, you need something you can hold in one hand, like a granola bar. [Editor’s note: For a gluten-free granola-bar recipe from Shauna, click here.]

What other things do you bring with you? I always travel with an iPod and a journal to write in. You get good writing time on a plane!

How do you prepare for a trip? I don’t like to overplan — it’s not like I map out day-by-day where to go — but I like structure, and I never walk into a place blind. I like Google Earth; before we went to Italy, we used to look at towns in Umbria, where we stayed for a week, and to see the road between towns. I research everything. I ask all my friends, and friends of friends, because I really believe in word of mouth. I love guidebooks. I also spend a lot of time Googling. The more you look for a specific town, or a specific neighborhood in a town, the more you find.

Any favorite restaurants? When we were in Umbria, we went to this tiny village, Gubbio. It’s a fortified 12th-century city where nothing has changed in 500 years. A friend told me about this place, a medieval banquet hall called Fornace di Mastro Giorgio, where we ended up having a 3-1/2 hour lunch with friends. It was incredible. [For Shauna’s post about her travels in Italy, click here.] Another of my favorites I found in New York at the start of my book tour: Gramercy Tavern. My husband used to work there, and the fall tasting menu that week was gluten free. We also went to Hearth in the East Village; it was really superb, and made us feel very welcome. In Portland, Oregon, there is a fish-fry place, Hawthorne Fish House, that is entirely gluten-free — you can have fish and chips, onion rings, everything. Portland is incredible for gluten-free food. Seattle is too — I can’t think of many places there where I can’t eat.

Any favorite hotels? A farmhouse-style lodging, Brigolante Agritourism, just outside of Assisi [Italy].

What’s your favorite city to visit? New York. I lived there for years, from 1997 to 2001. I love the Upper West Side. I go to Danal, Gray’s Papaya (where I get a hotdog without the bun), Babycakes, and Tea & Sympathy. Plus I always love discovering something new.

What’s your dream destination? My husband and I both have Irish heritage, and we want to go to Ireland together. I’ve heard it’s got the largest number of diagnosed celiacs in the world.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Don’t approach it with fear. You can’t approach travel that way, and you can’t approach eating that way. Do your research so you have some ideas where to go, but once you’re there, let go and enjoy the place. You can’t shut down your life. Be brave and try everything that’s gluten-free.

*     *     *

Editor’s note: While Shauna didn’t mention it by name, she knows of another great restaurant that takes excellent care of its gluten-free guests: Impromptu Wine Bar Cafe, where her husband is the executive chef. This well-reviewed spot is known for its romantic ambience, moderate prices, and sensitivity to food allergies.

Impromptu Wine Bar Cafe [address] 4235 E. Madison St., Seattle, WA 98112 [tel] 206-860-1569 [web] www.impromptuwinebar.com

UPDATE (10/21/08): Daniel Ahern is taking a break from the restaurant business, and is no longer cooking at Impromptu. However, he has trained its new chef to cook gluten-free and to keep the kitchen safe from cross-contamination. For Shauna’s post with this news, click here.

Photograph provided courtesy of Shauna James Ahern.

Celiac Travel 101

September 15th marked the six-month anniversary of the Gluten-Free Guidebook. I want to thank everyone who has made it such a success so quickly. Many of you have taken the time to write to me. Some of you have passed along the names of local restaurants or tips about places you’ve visited; others have shared stories about their celiac diagnosis. I love hearing from readers, and I really appreciate any suggestions about travel, restaurants, hotels, and shops that can be shared with other readers.

Some people have written with specific questions about destinations they plan to visit. While I don’t have the time or resources to give recommendations, I wanted to share the process that I go through to research a destination. This happens to be a great time to do it, because I’m currently trying to settle on a place to visit this fall. Here are the steps I take:

  1. Round up the usual suspects. There are several sites that I always refer to before a trip. One is Celiac Handbook, which has listings for restaurants that serve gluten-free meals in countries from Cambodia to Iceland. If I’m traveling in North America, I’ll consult the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program, which has a lengthy list of celiac-friendly restaurants. I also visit Clan Thompson’s Celiac Site, which has information about different cruise lines, links to travel sites, and other travel resources.
  2. Locate the local celiac association. If you’re planning a European trip, check out the Association of European Coeliac Societies. In addition to providing useful information about gluten-free products, there are links to celiac organizations across the continent. (Note that in some countries, such as Belgium and Spain, there is more than one association.)  If you’re traveling to South America, Israel, Turkey, South Africa, or Australia, you’ll find information about celiac associations on Clan Thompson’s Celiac Site. When I need an English translation of a site, I use Google or Babel Fish.
  3. Ask for more information. Once I locate a celiac association at my destination, I e-mail to ask for a list of recommended restaurants and shops (some organizations provide this information on their website). Don’t worry if you don’t speak the language; I’ve found that people are helpful, though it may take more than a week to get an answer.
  4. Line up your language cards. I’ve previously posted about how celiacs can communicate their needs in a foreign tongue. Some of the resources mentioned in that post have gotten even better: for example, Celiac Travel now has 42 translation cards (the latest additions include Flemish, Indonesian, and Korean). I print out several copies to carry with me when I travel.
  5. Work that search engine. It takes time to research the gluten-free possibilities at a particular destination. I type the name of a country plus gluten-free or celiac (also try coeliac); I repeat the process using the name of the region or the name of a city. Do this for Paris and, for example, you’ll find David Lebovitz’s Living the Sweet Life in Paris blog; try Italy, and you’ll find posts from the blog A Gluten-Free Guide.

The best thing that you can do is keep a positive attitude; wherever you choose to go, you will find a way to make it work. Before I went to Peru, I couldn’t find a single online resource in English or Spanish about traveling gluten-free in that country. When I went, I was armed with Spanish translation cards and was delighted to discover how easy it was for a celiac to dine out there. If anyone has a celiac-friendly travel resource that’s helped them plan a trip, I’d love to hear about it.

Barcelona’s Casa Calvet

Barcelona is a city that I find more beautiful the closer I get to it. There’s nothing particularly striking about its skyline when viewed from a plane or train. Even from Montjuïc, one of Barcelona’s two mountains, the view is more impressive for what it captures of the Mediterranean than for what you can see of the city itself (see photo above). But once you start walking through its streets, Barcelona becomes so stunning that it’s almost impossible to believe. Up close, Barcelona’s charms are irresistible.

Part of the city’s attraction is its unusual layout and architecture. For starters, once you’ve seen octagonal intersections, you wonder why anyone would plan them any other way. Then there’s the work of extraordinary architects, such as Antoni Gaudí. His inspiring Sagrada Familia, psychedelic Park Güell, and various otherworldly visions are an essential part of what makes Barcelona so dramatic and unique.

Casa Calvet is considered the most conventional of Gaudí’s buildings. Located in the Eixample district, it was built for a textile manufacturer in 1898. While the exterior is far more conventional than a typical Gaudí project, its interior is striking. Better yet, a restaurant (also called Casa Calvet) has been open on the premises since 1994, making fine use of the ground-floor rooms with their soaring, undulating ceilings. But this isn’t a dining spot that gets by on its good looks. While the menu at Casa Calvet changes frequently, I was impressed by the duck-breast salad I had as a starter, and the main-course grilled hake (a salt-water fish that’s similar to cod); both were already gluten-free and required no modification to make them safe for me. Almost everything was made from scratch on the premises (always a help when you need to identify every ingredient in a dish), except the rice cakes that were served to me in lieu of bread. Familiar with celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, the thoughtful restaurant staff made the evening extraordinary. I’ve learned not to expect anything less from Barcelona.

Casa Calvet [address] Carrer Casp 48, Barcelona, Spain [tel] 93-412-40-12 [web] www.casacalvet.es

Summer in St. Moritz

The town of St. Moritz, located in Switzerland’s Engadine Valley, is famous as a winter resort. It’s not just on account of the reference in the James Bond movie Goldfinger; the 1928 and 1948 Winter Olympics were held here. But when I visited St. Moritz, it was early September and the weather was still warm and summery. The town gets 300 days of sunshine a year (and it was sunny throughout my five days there), the valley was lushly green, and the lake was filled with sailboats. I know that winter is its most celebrated season, but I’d recommend visiting in summer, when the range of activities (golf, tennis, mountain biking) is wider. St. Mortiz is also a great starting point for day trips. From it, I took a train to Thusis, where I hiked through the Alps and saw Viamala, the place where Caesar made his historic crossing through the mountains. Closer to St. Moritz is the Valley of Fex, another great hiking spot (if you visit on a rare rainy day, you could visit the Nietzsche-Haus, where the German philosopher spent his summers, in Fex’s tiny town of Sils).

Because I was attending a conference in St. Moritz, I spent far too much time indoors. The conference meetings and events were spread among three hotels — the Kulm, the Kempinski, and Badrutt’s Palace — and all of them came through with celiac-safe meals for me. However, these are all top-notch luxury hotels with long practice in catering to their guests’ requests, and I had had advance discussions with them via phone and e-mail to ensure that they would be able to provide gluten-free meals.

One spot in St. Moritz that particularly impressed me was a place that didn’t have advance warning about my dining restrictions. The Hotel Misani is a three-star hotel that is a youthful, less-expensive alternative to the long-established local hotels. Its rooms are decorated in a mix of Asian, Indian, and Middle Eastern styles, and each one is unique. The Misani’s main dining room is decked out in rustic local style with wooden panels on the ceiling and the walls, typical of the Engadine houses that date back a century. I had an excellent gluten-free dinner here, served by the Misani’s friendly staff. It was a nice reminder that luxury exists at all price points in St. Moritz.

Badrutt’s Palace [tel] +41 (0) 81 837 11 00 [email] reservations@badruttspalace.com [web] www.badruttspalace.com

Hotel Misani [tel] +41 (0) 81 839 89 89 [email] info@hotelmisani.ch [web] www.hotelmisani.ch

Kempinski Grand Hotel des Bains [tel] +41 (0) [web] www.kempinski-stmoritz.com

Kulm Hotel [tel] +41 (0) 81 836 80 00 [email] info@kulmhotel-stmoritz.ch [web] www.kulmhotel-stmoritz.ch