Vacation Planning for Celiacs: Cruises


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.

Reader Reports for Celiac Awareness Month


October is Celiac Awareness Month, so there’s an uptick in coverage about the disorder and generally about gluten intolerance. A couple of the better pieces that have been published lately: “Gluten-Free: Is It for Me?” by Daphne Oz on and “Why Common Foods May Hurt Your Health” by Dr. Jon LaPook on The Huffington Post.

Everyone knows it’s Halloween at the end of this month, but parents of children with celiac disease and/or food allergies need to hear about the Halloween candy list that’s available from Sure Foods Living. Keep in mind that this list was compiled using American sources. Canadian parents, when you read that Smarties are free of gluten, know that this is not true of the popular Nestlé treat, but of an American candy that is unrelated but shares the name. Also this month, the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness hosts a Gluten-Free Cooking Spree in San Francisco. It will take place on October 30th; check the NFCA site for details and ticket information.

Some Gluten-Free Guidebook readers also have advice to share. Carolina, who lives in Buenos Aires, Argentina, recommends one gluten-free spot:

There is a place called CeliGourmet here in Buenos Aires that sells food to take out. It has all sorts of things, such as crepes, tarts, pizzas, sandwiches, empanadas (typical local food). There are also many kinds of cake, like cheesecake, chocolate cake, tiramisu, etc., and a variety of breads. There are two stores: one in General Paunero 1927 – Martinez (like half an hour out of town) tel, 4798-2990, and one in Thames 1633 – Palermo Soho, in town, tel 4831-5162.

To my ear, Buenos Aires sounds more and more like a gluten-free paradise. Reader Silvia Basualdo Róvere shared some local restaurants in this post and in this one. If you visit Buenos Aires, check out Oleo, a website that allows you to search for city restaurants that serve gluten-free meals (“comidas para celiacos”). There are currently 300 places on the list!

Another reader, Sybil, left an incredibly helpful comment on my post “Gluten-Free Fast Food at the Eaton Centre.” In it, she mentioned that the Druxy’s Famous Deli in Toronto’s Commerce Court kept gluten-free bread in its freezer. I’d never heard about Druxy’s offering gluten-free options, but Peter Druxerman, the company’s vice-president of marketing, confirmed it. Right now it’s just a test program — the only Druxy’s with gluten-free bread is the one in Commerce Court — but it’s one that Druxerman says the company would like to expand.

Next summer, if you’re visiting Ontario’s spectacular Stratford Festival, take a tip from another reader, Marilyn, who shared this:

We twice visited the festival last summer, and we were able to order ahead, by phone or online, for a gluten-free picnic lunch that we picked up from the Festival Theatre lunch bar. We found the food and beverage supervisor very helpful in discussing options, and the food was excellent!

If you go, the Festival Theatre Café is located at 55 Queen Street, Stratford, [tel] 1-800-567-1600 or 519-271-4040. According to the website, picnic lunches need to be ordered at least 48 hours in advance.

Many thanks to Carolina, Sybil, and Marilyn for their terrific tips. Please keep them coming!

Reader Reports: Gluten-Free Paris and More


I often get questions from readers looking for recommendations about where to dine gluten-free in destinations that I haven’t visited (or, at least, haven’t visited since being diagnosed with celiac disease). I make the same suggestion to all of them, which is to check out the Gluten-Free Guidebook Group on Facebook. The great thing about this group is that it has a discussion board where people can ask questions and share recommendations. I’ve been impressed by how helpful people are, and I’m grateful to everyone who has contributed their time to the group.

One popular destination that people often ask about is Paris, a place I haven’t visited in the past five years. Fortunately, reader Ellen Maycock has, and she shared her very helpful suggestions with the Facebook group. She was enthusiastic about one Parisian restaurant in particular:

I’m just back from Paris. I highly recommend a totally GF restaurant, in Montmartre! It is Des Si et des Mets, located at 63, rue Lepic in the 18th. Metro stops Abesses or Blanche, phone I had two excellent meals there. What a treat to be able to order *anything* from the menu! Our waitress one evening said she was a celiac. I don’t know if they speak English, but they were extremely friendly. (You might want to bring a small dictionary to translate the menu.) The *entire* restaurant is gluten-free, so you don’t need to worry about cross-contamination. The prices are moderate for Paris — you can get a very nice 3-course meal for 26 euros.

Ellen also had some helpful general recommendations for celiacs who visit Paris:

If you have any cooking facilities, you’ll be in good shape. There’s a great organic market every Sunday morning on the Blvd. Raspail. I found GF items in the Monoprix (major grocery chain), and in some health food stores. I was told about good bread in Naturalia, but didn’t try any.

I was anxious about dealing with GF in Paris — my first trip there after my diagnosis in January — but I felt very well (better than in the States).

Other readers have written recently to share their gluten-free discoveries. One couple, Lynne and Ernie, passed along a terrific recommendation for the Niagara region:

Cafe Amore (211 Martindale Road in St. Catharines, Ontario) is our favorite restaurant. They have rice pasta and all the sauces are gluten-free. They have gluten-free desserts and amazing dinner rolls. They are all very aware of cross-contamination issues and are more than helpful when it comes to ordering a safe gluten-free meal. This is a place that is worth spending time at while visiting the Niagara area.

Another reader, Nadine, wrote to share a couple of discoveries she’d made:

I have a recommendation for a restaurant in La Jolla, California: George’s at the Cove. I had a fish taco that was out of this world delicious. It was one of the restaurant’s specialties and my server told me it was gluten-free. Also, there is a bakery in the small town of Bristol, New Hampshire: Cornucopia Catering and Bakery. It bakes gluten-free breads and pastries. It’s the only bakery for miles and their products are worth the trip. I’ve had their cinnamon buns and a pecan bread, which were fantastic.

One more recommendation came from my friend Danyael Halprin, a journalist who lives in Calgary. She told me about a dedicated gluten-free restaurant called A Tasty Menu. Its offerings include plenty for vegans and vegetarians, and the lactose intolerant. There’s also a special menu for kids.

A heartfelt thank you to everyone who has contributed suggestions and recommendations. Please keep them coming!

All About Joe’s

The news across the U.S. seems to be all about guys named Joe these days. Average Joes, Joe Six-Packs, and — of course — Joe the Plumber are dominating headlines, thanks to the imminent presidential election. I know I’m contributing to Joe-overload by writing this, but I wanted to share a new discovery: Not Your Average Joe’s.

A few months ago, I mentioned visiting my brother-in-law and his family in San Diego and the great gluten-free restaurants he found for me there. The family has since moved to Acton, Massachusetts, and for my first visit there, my brother-in-law went through the research process again. The city of Boston has many options for gluten-free dining, but Acton, a town roughly 21 miles west-northwest of Boston, is a quieter spot. Fortunately Not Your Average Joe’s Creative Casual Cuisine has an outpost there.

The restaurant is part of a chain that has 15 locations in Massachusetts, in towns such as Needham, Watertown, and Hyannis. There is also a location in Leesburg, Virginia (two other locations are slated to open in Virginia in the next few months). Not Your Average Joe’s has a lengthy regular menu that includes pizzas and pastas. However, for celiacs, it offers a short gluten-free menu that features salads (Cobb salad, grilled chicken salad), fish and seafood dishes (grilled salmon, rosemary-skewered scallops), meat and poultry dishes (flank steak with garlic mashed potatoes, grilled chicken breast), and a bun-free burger. The options are limited, but the food is good and the service is thoughtful. Everything on the menu is available for takeout.

The restaurant is also very much a child-friendly zone. Not Your Average Joe’s offers a separate menu for children (with a couple of gluten-free options), crayons to decorate placemats, and high chairs for the littlest diners. It was a hit with my three nieces, so we’ll be back soon.

Not Your Average Joe’s [web]; 15 locations in Massachusetts and one in Virginia, including:

Acton: [address] 305 Main Street, Acton, MA [tel] 978-635-0101

Hyannis: [address] 793 Iyannough Road, Hyannis, MA [tel] 508-778-1424

Leesburg: [address] Lansdowne Town Center, 19307 Promenade Drive, Leesburg, VA [tel] 571-333-5637

Needham: [address] 109 Chapel Street, Needham, MA [tel] 781-453-9300

Watertown: [address] 55 Main Street, Watertown, MA [tel] 617-926-9229

Great Egg-spectations at New York Diners

After I was diagnosed with celiac disease in 2004, I started eating a lot of omelettes. I wasn’t on an Atkins diet, but eggs seemed like a safe bet. It turned out that this wasn’t always true. Some restaurants use a pre-mixed egg replacement product instead of real eggs, and that can contain starch. Some add pancake batter to eggs, but don’t mention this fact on the menu. Not all omelette ingredients are safe: for example, the ham in a basic ham-and-cheese omelette might be more wheat than meat. And of course, there’s always a risk of cross-contamination.

I was grateful when a friend introduced me to Peters’ Gourmet Diner/Restaurant. She doesn’t have celiac disease, but she lives near the diner and had already discovered it as a great brunch spot on New York’s Upper East Side. Peters’ (yes, the apostrophe is in the right place — the restaurant walls are covered with photographs of famous Peters, from Peter Parker to Peter Sellers) is a member of the Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program, working in cooperation with the Westchester Celiac Sprue Support Group. The menu is laden with low-fat and low-calorie options, which I pretty much ignore (I mention them because I know others aren’t as careless as I am about this). I’m only interested in the many gluten-free options, which include great omelettes (served with a side of rice bread), Eggs Benedict, pancakes, hamburgers, sandwiches, salads, and pasta dishes. There are also “Blue Plate Specials,” which include chicken marsala and London broil with mushroom gravy. I’ve visited a dozen times for lunch or brunch and have always been impressed.

Another Manhattan member of the Gluten Free Restaurant Awareness Program is Bloom’s Delicatessen Café. Located two blocks south of Grand Central Station, it’s got a great location and a short list of gluten-free options. The menu is a mix of deli and diner — think smoked fish, omelettes, and steaks, plus burgers with gluten-free buns and French fries cooked in a dedicated gluten-free fryer. While I’m more partial to the food at Peters’, I appreciate Bloom’s central location and its commitment to celiac awareness.

Peters’ Gourmet Diner/Restaurant [address] 1606 First Avenue (between 83rd & 84th sts.), New York, NY [tel] 212-734-9600 [web]

Bloom’s Delicatessen Café [address] 350 Lexington Avenue (at the corner of 40th Street), New York, NY [tel] 212-922-3663 [web]

A Taste of History in Atlantic Canada

One reason I love to travel is because it helps me learn about history. A couple of summers ago I went to New Brunswick for the first time. Before that trip, I had little idea how much this corner of Atlantic Canada had been transformed by America’s War of Independence. The territory — part of Nova Scotia until 1784 — was sparsely populated until 15,000 Loyalists fled here in the aftermath of the war. Their sudden arrival led to the creation of the province.

A sense of history is pervasive in New Brunswick, and some of my most memorable lessons came from Kings Landing. Located in the St. John River valley, the “settlement” contains a beautifully restored collection of 70 historic buildings from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Many of the structures originated in other stretches of the river valley; they were brought to Kings Landing to prevent damage from flooding. Costumed actors depict the daily life in a small 19th-century town, but with a twist: All of the stories they tell are true. The families who lived in the original buildings have been thoroughly researched and their tales are retold in great detail. One of the most moving is recounted in a single-room cabin that housed a family that fled Ireland’s Great Famine.

Kings Landing also has a theater festival that runs from early July through Labor Day, presenting musical comedies and dramas appropriate for the whole family. Kids fall particularly hard for the site, since they can dress up in period costumes, help out the local blacksmith, and feed the farm animals. (For adults, there are workshops in rug hooking and braiding and in 19th-century medicine.)

For me, the biggest surprise was at the King’s Head Inn, an old-fashioned public house that serves as the main restaurant on the site. Several dishes on its short and historically accurate menu were celiac-safe. The staff explained that buckwheat has long been a favored crop in the region (in spite of its suspicious-sounding name, buckwheat is safe for the gluten intolerant). Not everything on the menu is safe, since barley, malt, and oats are also used (and because the menu changes frequently, call or e-mail in advance to ensure that there will be gluten-free options during your visit). The buckwheat is actually milled at Kings Landing, in a building that dates back to 1885 — and visitors can buy a pound at the gift shop to take home.

Kings Landing [address] 20 Kings Landing Road, Kings Landing (near Fredericton), New Brunswick, E6K 3W3 Canada [tel] 506-363-4999 [e-mail] [web]

Reader Report: Gluten-Free Buenos Aires

Gluten-Free Guidebook will be one month old on April 15th, and I’ve already received dozens of e-mails from readers around the world. Some have wanted to share their own experiences of traveling with celiac disease, while others have made specific recommendations about where to eat in a particular city. Thank you for all of your messages.

One incredibly thoughtful reader, Silvia Basualdo Róvere in Buenos Aires, sent me a list of local restaurants willing to prepare gluten-free meals. Silvia has celiac disease and is a member of Ley Celíaca (Celiac Law), an organization working to promote the welfare of Argentina’s 400,000 celiacs. She invites Gluten-Free Guidebook readers to visit the group’s website at www.ley-celí; Ley Celiaca also has an online forum. The site and forum are in Spanish and can also be read via Google.

Argentina — and particularly Buenos Aires — is a destination that I’m longing to visit, and after reading Silvia’s list, I’m even more intrigued. Silvia has also graciously allowed me to include her e-mail address here (, so that readers can contact her directly. Below is Silvia’s list. You can find more details about these restaurants on Oleo, a Buenos Aires restaurant guide that is available in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. (By the way, Oleo also allows you to search for more eateries that serve “celiac food,” a feature I’d love to find on Open Table).

Thanks so much to Silvia for providing this list.

Boomerang RestoBar [address] Montañeses 2814, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4782.2688 [email]

Casimiro [address] Av. Rivadavia al 6075, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4634-3333 [web] — Silvia notes that this is a family-friendly restaurant with a playroom for children; there are five locations in and around Buenos Aires

Celigourmet [address] Charcas 4784, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4776 5448 [email] [web]

Comer en Compañia [address] San Martín 951, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4312-3433

El Patio del Farol [address] Alvarado 2296 (esq. Corrientes), Ciudad de Mar del Plata [tel] 0223-494-5125 or 0223-155-285985 [email] [web]

La Angostura [address] Urquiza 5020 casi Juan B. Justo, Ciudad de Mar del Plata [tel] 0223-480 5528

Mezzo & Mezzo [address] Chile 362, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4300-9419

Mole Tacos Fonda Mexicana [address] Av. Cabildo 1368, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4896-0803 [email] [web]

Pepino [address] Del Libertador, Av. 14475, Ciudad Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4792-2570 or 54-11 4733-4460 — Silvia says they serve burgers with gluten-free bread

Sensu (Japanese “fast food”), eight locations in Buenos Aires, at shopping centers including Abasto Shopping, Galerias Pacifico, and Solar de la Abadía; [tel] 081077-73678

Sette Bacco [address] Aguero 2157, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4808-0021

Simona Ristorante (Italian cuisine) [address] Humbold 1551, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4772-2008 [email] [web]

Tablas de Buenos Aires [address] Perón 7819 Ituzaingó, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4621-7081 [email]

Tea Connection (café) [address] Uriburu 1597, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4805-0616 (second location at O. Cossettini 1545, Loft 3, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4312-7315) [web]

Zona Natural [address] Tucumán 433, Ciudad de Buenos Aires [tel] 54-11 4312-9333 [email]

La Dolce Vita in San Diego

It’s no mean feat to find a restaurant that offers something for everyone, but Barolo Ristorante Italiano in San Diego manages. Our dinner party looked like a mission impossible: one gluten-free diner (me), one vegetarian (my husband), two small children (our nieces, three-year-old Eli and two-year-old Zoe), and one pregnant diner (my sister-in-law). The only person at the table who didn’t have a particular dietary issue was my brother-in-law, the genius who found the restaurant in the first place.

He discovered Barolo on Gluten Free in SD, a site that everyone on a gluten-free diet who lives in or travels to the San Diego area needs to know about. Gluten Free in SD is the brainchild of Roxie Johnson and Ken Loomis, and it’s not affiliated with any particular group. It is filled with information about restaurants, shops, and events, and there are links to news articles about celiac disease as well. The site mentions that one of Barolo’s owners has a son with celiac disease, and that the restaurant is well-versed in the condition and conscientious about following the rules.

Barolo lived up to its press. My brother-in-law called ahead to check on the gluten-free status (always a great idea, since menus – and owners – can change). The restaurant reassured us on the gluten-free front; though they were out of gluten-free pasta, they would be able to make risotto or meat/seafood dishes that would be celiac-safe. By the time we arrived that evening, the news was even better: Barolo had a new supply of rice pasta available, so my menu options doubled. I started with the Insalata di Mediterranea, a delicious spinach salad with feta, tomatoes, and onions in a fig-infused balsamic dressing. For the main course, I had the Penne all’Amatriciana, with prosciutto and dry ricotta cheese in a tomato sauce. My only regret was that by the time I was finished, I was too full for dessert (the gluten-free lemon sorbet is imported from Italy… just one more reason to return).

The restaurant’s website doesn’t mention its gluten-free offerings, unfortunately, but take a look to get a sense of the offerings (the staff told me that, except for the ravioli, gnocchi and lasagna, any of the pastas can be made in a gluten-free version, and some of the meat and fish plates are already celiac-safe without modifications). Barolo is an elegant restaurant with thoughtful service and plenty of variety. In addition to its gluten-free offerings, it was nice to find an upscale eatery that provides booster seats and a special menu for the ragazzini.

Barolo [address] 8935 Towne Centre Drive, San Diego, CA 92122, [tel] 858-622-1202 [email] [web]

Gluten Free in SD [web]