Posts Tagged ‘New York’

Gluten-Free Around NYC’s Grand Hyatt

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

DSCN3460.JPG - 2009-05-08 at 21-54-06

There’s not a lot of good I can say about a New York City summer, but one highlight is always ThrillerFest. It’s been described as “summer camp for thriller readers, fans, writers and industry professionals.” Every year, it brings some of my favorite writers to the Grand Hyatt in Midtown Manhattan for several days. In the past, other gluten-free attendees have asked me where to dine in the area, and I wanted to share my list, since there are a lot of conferences at the Grand Hyatt throughout the year. I’ve also mapped out the locations with Google Maps. If you find spots to add, please let me know!

S’mac: There’s now an outpost of this delicious, reasonably priced mac-and-cheese restaurant in Murray Hill. It’s a nine-block walk south of the Grand Hyatt, or you can hop on the 6 train at 42nd Street and travel one stop downtown to 33rd Street. It’s well worth it. Given that conference meals can take place at weird times, this is a great spot to keep in mind, since it’s open from 11am to 11pm daily (closing time is 1am on Friday and Saturday nights).

Dig Inn: This health-focused local chain has a few tables, but mostly it does a take-out business. Its 275 Madison location starts serving breakfast at 7am, then switches to a combined lunch/dinner menu for the rest of the day (until 9pm). Check out this chart for GF and allergy information, as well as vegan options.

Chipotle: This is my go-to fast-food spot. Avoid the tortillas, which are made with wheat flour, but the burrito bowl and all its potential ingredients are gluten-free. The chain provides some helpful food-allergy information on its site. There are three locations within a stone’s throw of the Grand Hyatt: 150 East 44th St. (between Lexington and Third), 274 Madison Avenue (between 39th and 40th), and 9 West 42nd Street (between Fifth and Sixth).

Hale & Hearty: I know it’s hot out, but if you’re still craving soup for lunch, this chain has an outpost in Grand Central itself. Daily options change, but you can usually count on a gluten-free broccoli cheddar and the GF and dairy-free Thai chicken.

4Food: Usually, I only mention spots I’ve visited, but this one was just recommended to me. 4Food makes everything from scratch, including its gluten-free pressed-rice bun. I’m looking forward to checking it out!

Bloom’s Deli: I have to be honest: while I love basic diner food, I’m not thrilled with what’s served up here. Still, I appreciate that the place offers a gluten-free menu, which includes omelets, pancakes, burgers and sandwiches.

Bistango: Almost every item on the menu of this Italian restaurant in Murray Hill can be prepared in a gluten-free version. There’s plenty of gluten-free pizza and pasta dishes, as well as meatier offerings like  rack of lamb. What really makes a meal at Bistango stand out is the graciousness of its staff. The owner, Anthony, goes back and forth between the dining room and the kitchen, talking to everyone and making sure that diners are comfortable. This is a gem.

Blue Smoke: If you love rich, smoky barbecue flavors, you’ve found your heaven. This spot offers special gluten-free, nut-free, and vegetarian menus. It’s a little far to go for lunch, but a great spot for a post-conference dinner.

Dos Caminos: If I’m having dinner with a group that includes people with various food allergies and intolerances, this is one of my favorite spots. The cuisine is modern Mexican, and the service is incredibly accommodating.

Pip’s Place — The Gluten-Free Cakery: I’m not going to recommend that you have a slice of banana layer cake, a chocolate cupcake, or a raspberry pinwheel cookie for lunch… but if you need a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, this dedicated gluten-free bakery is just the spot, especially since it’s only three blocks south of the Grand Hyatt.

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The Gluten-Free Guidebook’s Fifth Anniversary Contest is open until July 15th. Enter now!

Ulster County, New York

Saturday, July 23rd, 2011

At the beginning of July, I had the good luck to spend a few days in a scenic spot a couple of hours north of New York City. New York State’s Ulster County is home to lovely hiking trails, gorgeous waterways — perfect for canoeing — and some truly fine food. I was pleasantly surprised to find how celiac-friendly local businesses are. Here are a few of the gems I visited:

The Big Cheese (402 Main Street, Rosendale, [tel] 845-658-7175): located on Rosendale’s main drag, next to its theater, this eclectic shop has an impressive assortment of cheeses from around the world. It also boasts hot sandwiches, and offers a gluten-free option (as the board on the wall says, “For gluten-free, we usually have corn tortillas available.” There are also fresh-baked goods that change daily — when I was in, there were gluten-free lemon coconut squares. At the back of the store is an eclectic collection of vintage clothing, accessories, books, and art.

The Alternative Baker (407 Main Street, Rosendale, [tel] 845-658-3355): Across the street from The Big Cheese is this sweet bakery, which offers a terrific range of desserts. There are plenty of gluten-free treats (the bakery is aware of potential cross-contamination issues and avoids them), as well as dairy-free and vegan options, and even a few sugar-free goods.

Saunderskill Farms (5100 RT 209, Accord, NY, [tel] 845-626-2676): Situated a ways outside of town, this small market offers a phenomenal array of celiac-safe groceries (from breads and bagels to snacks and frozen dinners). There’s also a fresh-baked gluten-free treat of the day — blueberry muffins, on the day I was there. There’s a wealth of fresh produce, too, plus a gorgeous greenhouse filled with blooming flowers.

The Arbor Bed & Breakfast (44 Mohonk Road, High Falls, NY, [tel] 845-687-9888): for two nights of my stay, I was at this pretty, well-maintained B&B. The owner, Nancy, was happy to whip up a gluten-free omelette for me at breakfast, which I really appreciated.

So, where are you traveling this summer? Let me know if you make any great gluten-free finds!

On the Road With Author Rebecca Cantrell

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Welcome to ThrillerFest

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

One of my favorite events of the year is about to begin: ThrillerFest, a conference that has been described as “summer camp for thriller readers, fans, writers and industry professionals.” It brings some of my favorite writers to the Grand Hyatt in Midtown Manhattan for four days, starting this Wednesday, July 7th. (The first two days are for CraftFest and AgentFest, targeted at writers who are working on thrillers; Friday and Saturday are for readers and writers alike). Featured authors include Linda Fairstein, Harlan Coben, Tess Gerritsen, Gayle Lynds, Joseph Finder, Sophie Littlefield, Rebecca Cantrell… well, you get the idea. It’s quite a line-up. This year, I’ll be on a panel, too: “How Do You Pack for a Thriller?” — about using international settings in your fiction — will take place on Friday, July 9th at 11am. (If you weren’t aware of ThrillerFest but want to attend, you can still register for Friday and Saturday.)

One writer who is attending ThrillerFest asked me — via Twitter — about where to dine gluten-free in New York. This seemed like a perfect time to mention some of my favorite Manhattan spots. If you’re visiting New York this summer, you won’t want to miss these:

Bistango: Almost every item on the menu of this Italian restaurant in Murray Hill can be prepared in a gluten-free version. There’s plenty of gluten-free pizza and pasta dishes, as well as meatier offerings like  rack of lamb. What really makes a meal at Bistango stand out is the graciousness of its staff. The owner, Anthony, goes back and forth between the dining room and the kitchen, talking to everyone and making sure that diners are comfortable. This is a gem. [web] www.bistangonyc.com

Rosa Mexicano: My favorite Mexican restaurant in Manhattan now has a separate gluten-free menu. (The gluten-free menus are available at all three of Rosa Mexicano’s Manhattan locations, though the one at the original First Avenue spot is a little different from the others.) There’s a long list of options, but my favorite main dish is the Budín de Pollo, a decadent tortilla pie filled with layers of chicken, peppers, and cheese. There are also amazing — and rather strong — pomegranate margaritas. [web] www.rosamexicano.com

Risotteria: The bad news is that Risotteria doesn’t do reservations. When the wait gets extremely long, sometimes the waitstaff comes outside with gluten-free breadsticks, guaranteeing that you’ll hang around. The food is stellar, and the many celiac-safe options run the gamut from Caesar salad to mushroom risotto, and from pizza to panini. All of the desserts are gluten-free, and they are divine. [web] www.risotteria.com

There are also two bakeries that I want to mention. Both of them deliver to addresses in the continental U.S., though not all of their products are available this way. If you can, check them out in person:

BabyCakes NYC: This Lower East Side bakery is famous for its organic, vegan, and gluten-free options, but keep in mind that the treats made with spelt are not safe for celiacs or the gluten-intolerant (though they’re a great option for wheat-allergic people). I’m wild about the cupcake tops, but other options include cookie sandwiches, crumb cakes, and banana bread. [web] www.babycakesnyc.com

Tu-Lu’s Gluten-Free Bakery: Formerly known as Tully’s, this East Village bakery is entirely gluten-free. I’m hopelessly addicted to their brownies, which are the best I’ve had in a long time. There are also cupcakes and a variety of cookies, including oatmeal, cranberry, and classic chocolate chip. [web] www.tu-lusbakery.com

Roundup: Contest and More Tips From Readers

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

The Gluten-Free Guidebook is having its first-ever Reader Report Contest (check out this post to enter). I’ve received questions about it from some readers, and I wanted to answer them here, in case others are wondering the same thing. It’s perfectly fine to send a list of your favorite celiac-safe restaurants and shops, without actually “reviewing” each one. Some Reader Reports that are already on the site are actually lists like that, and they’re very helpful to people. The Reader Report can be about anywhere in the world, and it’s perfectly alright to write about a destination already featured on the site. There’s always new information to share. I look forward to reading your entries!

Contest aside, several readers have sent me tips about gluten-free restaurants and bakeries via e-mail, Twitter, and Facebook, and I want to pass these along. I’m always grateful when people take the time to share information, and I know that these tips will help many others.

Kathy, a reader in Montreal, visited New York a few weeks ago, and wrote to tell me about a restaurant she’d enjoyed: Emporio. She described it as having a “great GF menu, helpful staff and wonderful atmosphere.” I haven’t tried it yet but plan to. ([address] 231 Mott Street; [tel] 212-966-1234; [web] www.auroraristorante.com)

Chelsea, a reader in Toronto, wrote: “The Starving Artist cafe/waffle bar in Toronto (near Bloor/Lansdowne) has really awesome gluten-free (and vegan) waffles. You can substitute the GF waffles in any of their waffle meals/desserts.” That’s another place on my list of places to try. ([address] 584 Lansdowne Avenue; [tel] 647-342-5058; [web] www.starvingartistbar.com)

My friend Henny Groenendijk, also based in Toronto, told me about a new gluten-free bakery in Oakville, Ontario. It’s called Voila Gluten Free Bakeree ([address] 22 Lakeshore West, Unit 6; [tel] 289-837-0110; [web] www.voilaglutenfreebakeree.com).

Another friend, Margaret Littman, told me about Fifth Group Restaurants, a company in Atlanta, Georgia, that recently launched gluten-free menus at each of its five restaurants: El Taco, Ecco, La Tavola Trattoria, and South City Kitchen (which has two locations). From the company’s official statement: “We are dedicated to giving our guests as many dining options as possible – and that includes options for those with dietary restrictions. It’s another step in striving to satisfy our current patrons and potential new diners, and with a rise in celiac disease diagnoses, I think it’s a big step that we absolutely must take.”

It’s always exciting to see more places offer gluten-free options. What have you found lately?

NYC’s Rosa Mexicano Goes Gluten-Free

Thursday, April 8th, 2010

I’ve mentioned Rosa Mexicano before: it’s one of my favorite restaurants in New York, and definitely a spot for a celebration. But on my latest visit, I wasn’t exactly celebrating. My husband took me there to cheer me up after I’d had some minor surgery for a possible skin cancer. When we had dinner, we were still waiting for the biopsy results.

I’ve never given much thought to melanoma, mostly because I am not a person who tans. Ever. I have pale Irish skin, and I wear sunscreen every day, even in winter. A few months ago, I noticed that I had a couple of new moles, and I went to a dermatologist to have them checked out. The doctor examined and measured them, and assured me that they weren’t a problem. Then she did a full-body mole check. She identified a couple of moles that were suspicious, and removed the larger of the two that day. It was biopsied and turned out to be fine. I only went back to have the second mole removed a month ago. Small as it was, it turned out to be filled with severely dysplastic cells, which the lab flagged as aggressive. The result was that I needed some minor, in-office surgery to remove the surrounding tissue over my left bicep. It wasn’t difficult or painful, but it required ten stitches to close.

My husband chose Rosa Mexicano for dinner because we’ve been there many times. He knew that there were a number of gluten-free items on the menu, even though they weren’t identified as such (forcing me to double-check on each visit that the dishes were still celiac-safe). On this most recent visit, I had a very pleasant surprise: Rosa Mexicano has introduced a separate gluten-free menu. Given how many options are on it, it’s a wonder that they didn’t do it sooner. (The gluten-free menus are available at all three of Rosa Mexicano’s Manhattan locations, though the one at the original First Avenue spot is a little different from the others.) I’m embarrassed to admit that, this time around, I stuck to my tried-and-true favorites, including the pomegranate margarita and the Budín de Pollo, a decadent tortilla pie filled with layers of chicken, peppers, and cheese.

The discovery made my evening. The next day, I found out that the biopsied tissue was given the all-clear. I’m still feeling very grateful about that. If you’ve never had your skin checked out by a dermatologist, please do.

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On March 31st, I was thrilled to learn that my crime story “Insatiable” is a finalist for a Spinetingler Award in the “Best Short Story” category. “Insatiable” originally ran in Beat to a Pulp in September 2009. Voting on the Spinetingler Awards is open to the public until April 30, 2010, and requires no registration. Links to all of the nominated stories are on the ballot. I hope that you’ll stop by, read the contenders, and vote.

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Speaking of crime, several writer friends decided to have a flash fiction challenge about how I really got that new scar over my bicep. I owe a huge thank you to everyone who took part: Eric Beetner, Chris F. Holm, A.J. Hayes, Naomi Johnson, Chris La Tray, Ellen Neuborne, Steve Weddle, and especially Dan O’Shea, who instigated the challenge in the first place (there was also one anonymous entry). I couldn’t have dreamed up a better get-well gift. Thank you all.

An Unexpected East Village Find

Thursday, March 11th, 2010

I’ve been spoiled lately. So many restaurants have started offering gluten-free options that it’s becoming increasingly rare for me to need to explain the diet when I go out. While I love the convenience, I realize that I’m gravitating to the same places, over and over again, rather than finding new ones.

This really hit home last week, when I was at a lounge, Three of Cups, in New York’s East Village. I was there because the lounge’s basement bar is home to the monthly “Sweet: Actors Reading Writers” events, a literary series created by Shelly Oria and Annie Levy. I’d been invited to participate because my debut crime novel, The Damage Done, will be published by Forge in October 2010. (I mentioned my two-book deal with Forge in a previous post; if you want to read more about my fiction, the terrific Steve Weddle of Do Some Damage recently interviewed me.) It was an exciting opportunity, particularly since a very talented actress, Maria Portman Kelly, would read from my book.

It turned out to be a wonderful evening. There were five different actors reading works by five writers, and the space was packed. (If you’ll be in New York anytime soon, I’d encourage you to check out the series; the next reading is April 1st.) My editor asked me and my husband to have dinner afterwards with a couple of other editors from Forge. They were planning to eat at Three of Cups, and I immediately balked at the idea. All I’d seen on the menu at the restaurant above the bar was pizza and pasta, and I was sure I wouldn’t find anything to eat.

I was wrong. It turned out that I had options — not a long list of choices, but a few dishes that were very simply prepared — and that the restaurant’s staff was very accommodating. For a gluten-free appetizer, there was grilled calamari (not breaded, just treated with a little salt and oil), a caprese salad (tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella, basil, and oil), and prosciutto with Parmesan (literally, just those two wonderful ingredients on a plate); we ordered all of them for the table to share. For my main course, I had roasted chicken, seasoned with rosemary, salt, and oil and served with potatoes and string beans. It was a wonderful meal for many reasons: great company, terrific food, and an important reminder that gluten-intolerant people have a wider range of options than it might at first seem.

Three of Cups [address] 83 First Avenue (at Fifth Street), New York, NY [tel] 212-388- 0059 [web] http://threeofcupsnyc.com

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Speaking of The Damage Done, the design team at Forge did an amazing job on the book’s cover. Also, I’m excited to announce that three of my short stories have been nominated for Derringer awards: “Insatiable” appeared in Beat to a Pulp,Stepmonster” in Thuglit, and “Family Man” in Crimespree.

On the Road With Daphne Oz

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

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.

The Best of 2009 for the Gluten-Free

Monday, December 28th, 2009

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One of my favorite things about the last week of the year is that it’s a good time to take stock of what’s happened over the past 360+ days. In 2009, I found that some posts got a great deal of feedback from readers — and I learned that sometimes it’s impossible to predict which ones will spark the most interest. Below are the posts that garnered the greatest responses, and if you missed them the first time around, you can still read them (and comment) now.

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to e-mail me, follow me on Twitter, join the Facebook group, or make a comment on the site. I deeply appreciate your support, and look forward to hearing more from you in 2010. Happy new year!

Vacation Planning for Celiacs: Cruises

The irony for me was that, after researching different cruise options, I ended up going to Las Vegas instead. But my research wasn’t wasted: because I looked at the gluten-free options onboard different cruise lines, I was able to share what I’d found about Carnival, Norwegian, Princess, MSC and other companies. Better yet, so many readers contacted me about their cruise experiences (mostly with positive reports about dining gluten-free) that it inspired another post.

New York City Day by Day… for Celiacs

When I wrote the New York City Day by Day guidebook for Frommer’s, I was a newly diagnosed celiac. Fortunately, the book didn’t require full-length restaurant reviews; since it was intended as a cheat sheet to the city, and mostly filled with walking tours, I could get away with short mentions of favorite eateries. Of course, that list included many great spots for the gluten-free, such as Rosa Mexicano, Rice, Blue Smoke, and Pure Food & Wine. The book is now available as a download from the New York Public Library; for details, check out the original post.

Philadelphia’s Great Gluten-Free Initiative

Bravo to the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness for training so many Philadelphia chefs via its Gluten-Free Resource Education Awareness Training (GREAT) program… to the wonderful chefs who took part… and to the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation for being savvy enough to recognize this as a terrific tourism initiative.

Smart Businesses Support Celiacs

This was inspired by Starbucks’ “now you see it, now you don’t” gluten-free Orange Valencia Cake. Remember it? But the post was about much more than Starbucks. It was about making smart choices to support businesses that are responsive to their customers’ needs. One of the things I wrote last July was, “At a time when we’re all watching our budgets, I’d like to make a case for spending even more carefully. If a major corporation isn’t serious about serving the gluten-intolerant, I see no reason to support them.” I stand by that position.

Gluten-Free Fast Food at the Toronto Eaton Centre

This post was an accident. While I was in Toronto last June, working on the Frommer’s Toronto 2010 guidebook, a business lunch was canceled at the last minute. Since I was stranded near the Eaton Centre, my hometown’s famous shopping complex, I decided to explore the fast-food options there. The response from readers was overwhelming. It turned out that just about everyone wanted to know more about celiac-safe fast food. This post had an unexpected result: a Toronto reader wrote to tell me that the Druxy’s Famous Deli in Commerce Court had gluten-free bread. When another reader saw that, she contacted Peter Druxerman, Druxy’s vice-president of marketing, to ask if the company could make gluten-free bread available at their outlet inside Toronto’s Princess Margaret Hospital. In the blink of an eye, Druxy’s responded, adding gluten-free bread to its offerings at PMH. Remember what I said earlier about supporting businesses that are responsive to their customers?

On the Road With…

I love finding out the secrets of great travelers. Both Alice Bast, founder of the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and Sloane Miller, who writes the delightful Allergic Girl blog and runs Worry-Free Dinners in New York, were kind enough to share many of theirs.

Mail-Ordering Gluten-Free Groceries

First and foremost, the Gluten-Free Guidebook is about travel and dining out. But even if you’re on the road a lot, as I am, you need to buy groceries sometimes. I’m lucky to have some great spots near me in New York, but there are also some companies that I order from online. And it still surprises me that Amazon consistently offers some of the best prices on gluten-free groceries.

A Celebratory Gluten-Free Lunch in New York

For those of you who know me mainly as a travel writer and celiac advocate, it came as a shock that I have a dark side. My debut crime novel, The Damage Done, will be published by Forge in October 2010. I have been publishing short stories for a while, but I’m still happily surprised about my two-book deal with Forge. What I didn’t expect was that some criminally minded fiction types would be interested in the Gluten-Free Guidebook, too. David Cranmer, editor of Beat to a Pulp (one of the best places to find contemporary crime fiction), asked me about both my novel and my gluten-free travels when he interviewed me. Jen Forbus, the book blogger behind the wonderful Jen’s Book Thoughts, was kind enough to ask me to take part in her Six-Word Memoir project, in which she asked crime writers — including Dennis Lehane, Linda Fairstein, Joseph Wambaugh, Sue Grafton, Lee Child, Megan Abbott, Ken Bruen, and Mary Higgins Clark — to sum themselves up in six words. Have you read mine yet?

On the Road With Allergic Girl

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Sloane_Miller_5

When I started the Gluten-Free Guidebook in March 2008, one of my role models was Sloane Miller. I admired her Allergic Girl blog for its charming style, thoroughly researched posts, and sense of adventure. Many people with gluten intolerance or food allergies focus on what they can’t have; Sloane’s writing inspires me with the sense of what’s possible. A tireless advocate for the food-allergic, Sloane has been featured in many national media outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNN.com, New York Magazine, The Huffington Post, and ABCNews.com. A New York State-licensed psychotherapeutic social worker since 2000, Sloane founded a private coaching practice, Allergic Girl Resources, for the food-allergic community in 2007. Part of her practice includes Worry-Free Dinners, an NYC-based dining club for adults and children with food allergies and intolerances. Here’s what she had to say about her recent travels.

How often do you travel? Not often enough. I fly 2-4 times a year domestically and I get away on weekends throughout the year.

Where have you traveled since going gluten-free? I’ve been gluten-free since 2004, and since then all of my travel has been domestic: Florida, Long Island, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania. Eastern seaboard mainly.

What foods or snacks do you pack when traveling? As someone with food allergies (tree nuts, salmon, some fruits and veggies; and I’m dairy- and wheat-intolerant) my family has been traveling with food for as long as I can remember. My standard complement includes: boxes of juices, packages of applesauce, dried organic fruit (raisins, apricots, dates), granola that I make at home (recipe here), rice crackers and organic cheese, fruit, Enjoy Life cookies and chocolates. Most of my bag is actually food when I travel. I also shop when I get to a new place. I find the local grocery or greenmarket and stock up on allergy-friendly local goodies.

What other things do you always bring with you? Medicines for environmental allergies, food allergies and allergic asthma, always in multiples, and all up to date. A travel pillow, check. Tea, check. (I like PG Tips from England so I always make sure to have some on hand when traveling. Also if I feel wheezy because of a new room, space or hotel, some caffeine helps to calm it down.) Magazines that I never have time to read otherwise: The New Yorker, Oprah, Lucky and Real Simple. Music and movies although I rarely get to those, too. There’s a lot of packing in my world that’s for a just in case scenario. Just in case there are delays and I need food or entertainment, just in case there are feather pillows only and I need something to sleep on. Clothing is always secondary to food because what’s better than shopping for new duds in a new place?

How do you prepare for a trip? Homework, homework, homework.  All the advance work makes getting there and being there so much more relaxing. Of course, you also need to prepare for the unexpected by remaining calm and flexible and that’s where your just-in-case provisions come in handy. I recently traveled for work to Boston and I had brought enough food with me for three days (dinners, lunches and breakfasts). Very quickly, I made friends with the hotel chef who cooked all of my meals for me, allergen-free. So then I schlepped all of the food home again. There were unexpected train delays because of a bomb scare. Was I concerned? Nope, I had enough food to feed half the line.

Any favorite restaurants? My favorite NYC safe restos are listed here. Now ask me, where do I think I and my dietary needs will be welcomed with open arms, delicious food and excellent service? I have that dream list too: Alinea in Chicago, IL, Per Se in NYC, Blue Ginger in Wellesley, MA, Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Tarrytown, NY, and Chez Panisse in Berkeley, CA, to name a few.

Any favorite hotels? I love small boutique hotels, ones that take an interest in each and every guest. I especially love returning to a hotel year after year, having a favorite room and overlook. The Standard Miami (room 32) is one fave. So is the St Thomas D’Aquin (room 15) in Paris. I’ve been invited to stay at the Winvian in CT for work. The property looks wonderful and like it may be a new favorite.

Favorite city or destination that is not your hometown or current home base? Drat. I do love New York. It is my hometown, my current home base and my favorite tourist spot. I love Paris and London, and Oxford, cities I’ve spent considerable time in. I also love the English countryside, I’d like to see more of it. I love the ocean; ocean towns are some of my faves.

What’s your dream destination? When I was little my dream destination was Hawaii. Probably because of too many reruns of the Brady Brunch goes to Hawaii eps. However, I think I’d still like to go there for maybe a month and explore.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Don’t be afraid to travel because you believe you may not be able to eat safely. There are many valuable resources out there to help you. Seek them out and use them. Here’s an article by Conde Nast Traveler that may help you get on your way. And of course, Gluten-Free Guidebook, which is an invaluable resource. Thanks, Hilary!

Photograph of Sloane Miller: copyright Kenneth Chen.