Lessons From the Road

I’m back from my book tour for THE DAMAGE DONE! The past couple of months have been a whirlwind. My debut novel came out on September 28th, and I had a party that night in New York City. Since then, I’ve attended two conferences (Bouchercon and Noircon), had bookstore and/or library events in a dozen cities (including Houston, Los Angeles, Scottsdale, Pittsburgh and Toronto), and had six events in New York City alone. Also, I was writing my second novel, THE NEXT ONE TO FALL, which will be published by Forge in fall 2011 (I turned the manuscript in to my editor last Wednesday). There’s been a lot of work on the publicity front, too. This past weekend, I was honored to discover that the Los Angeles Times featured THE DAMAGE DONE as one the the books the paper is recommending for the holidays. Reviews of the book have been wonderful. There are also a number of interviews with me (many include coverage of the Gluten-Free Guidebook as well).

As tiring as it is to be on the road so much, there was a lot that was wonderful about it, too. I’ve had the chance to collect information about a lot of great restaurants, bakeries and shops, and I’ll be writing about those over the next few weeks. I also had the chance to meet some Gluten-Free Guidebook readers, and for that I’m incredibly grateful. Some observations from the last few weeks:

  • Phoenix/Scottsdale Is a Great Destination for Gluten-Free Foodies: I was expecting to find terrific Mexican cooking here (and I found it), but I didn’t realize just how diverse and sophisticated the dining scene is in Phoenix and Scottsdale. One tip-off: Phoenix Magazine, which had its “Best New Restaurants” issue on newsstands while I was in town; its list of hotspots included the Pomegranate Café ([address] 4025 E. Chandler Blvd., Suite 28, Phoenix [tel] 480-706-7472 [web] www.pomegranatecafe.com), which offers vegetarian, vegan, and raw dishes. Not everything there is gluten-free (there are spelt tortillas, for example), but most of it is, including a decadent cheesecake.
  • People Are Very Kind: I was surprised, over and over again, by how thoughtful people were. Just after I arrived in San Francisco, a writer friend (Joshua Corin, author of WHILE GALILEO PREYS) sent me a message about a gluten-free bakery he’d found in the Ferry Building (the wonderful Mariposa Baking Co., which I’ll have more to say about later). Before I went to Los Angeles, another writer friend (Rebecca Cantrell, author of A NIGHT OF LONG KNIVES) recommended a restaurant across the street from The Mystery Bookstore, where I was reading. A friend of a friend passed along recommendations for Houston. In Pittsburgh, the lovely couple that owns Mystery Lovers Bookshop researched gluten-free restaurants in the area so that they could take me out to dinner while I was in town. While I was in Phoenix/Scottsdale, I got to meet the lovely Liisa (who wrote a Reader Report about her trip to Hawaii a while back), and she gave me a list of very accommodating local restaurants.
  • Still, Never Travel Unprepared: My hotel in Houston, the Four Points Sheraton, left a lot to be desired. That was especially true on the food front. As one employee said to me, when I started to ask about gluten-free options: “What, do you want me to explain what’s in a steak to you?” I was very glad I had protein bars, pistachios, and fruit along with me.
  • Fast Food Chains Are Catching On: At Houston’s Hobby Airport, my only dining option turned out to be Wendy’s, which offers gluten-free salads. At Philadelphia’s Central Station, I was able to pick up dinner at Cosi. At Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport, I was able to have dinner at Paradise Bakery Café. To tell the truth, the employees at each of these places didn’t know what gluten-free was and had to get a manager, but each turned out to have a list (in Cosi’s case, a giant binder) of nutritional information for people with food allergies or gluten intolerance.

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If you’d like to read THE DAMAGE DONE, the first three chapters are available for free online. The book is available from independent mystery booksellers across North America, as well as from IndieBoundAmazonBarnes & NobleBordersPowell’s, and — in Canada — Indigo/Chapters. Signed copies are available from The Mystery BookstoreMurder by the BookThe Poisoned Pen, and The Mysterious Bookshop.

San Francisco Food, Las Vegas Style

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Las Vegas has been called many things, but I like to think of it as the world’s biggest theme park. Where else could you visit a pyramid with a Sphinx in front, soar to the top of a scale version of the Eiffel Tower, and take a Venetian-style gondola ride in one afternoon? There are representations of New York City and Monaco, hints of Southeast Asian colonial style (at Mandalay Bay), and scenes of ancient Roman decadence (at Caesar’s Palace, of course). But there’s one great city that doesn’t figure into the design of any of the resorts, and yet dominates Las Vegas’s haute culinary scene: San Francisco.

Having visited the City by the Bay in the spring of 2008 — and discovering places such as Fish & Farm, Le Colonial, Millennium, and Regalito Rosticeria — I’d already experienced some great gluten-free cooking. But while I was aware that many Vegas restaurants are outposts of New York spots (including some that are known for their gluten-free-friendliness, such as Smith & Wollensky and Dos Caminos), I had no idea that San Francisco chefs had taken the city by storm.

One of the highlights of my visit to Vegas was dinner at Bradley Ogden’s eponymous restaurant in Caesar’s Palace. It sits on the edge of the casino, but it’s a world apart. Caesar’s Palace was one of my favorite gambling spots (not that I’m a high roller — slot machines like Gold Fish are more my speed). While the casino’s got sweeping ceilings, over-the top decorations and plenty of distractions, it’s also filled with smoke, noise, and bright lights (like every casino on the Strip).

The Bradley Ogden restaurant is an oasis of clean lines, neutral tones, and serene quiet. (Like all indoor Las Vegas restaurants, it is smoke-free.) From the start, the incredibly charming server, Alexis, made it clear that I could have most of the items on the menu, since everything is made from scratch on-site and the kitchen would be happy to make whatever modifications necessary for a gluten-free meal. I ended up ordering from the prix fixe menu, which offered three courses for $59. I had a Caesar salad to start, followed by pork loin for my main dish and ice cream for dessert. The food was simply incredible, and the service was sublime.

What really amazed me was that the thoughtfulness didn’t end with that night. Before I ordered, I talked with the server about why I often can’t get a gluten-free Caesar salad (it’s not just an issue of holding the croutons; many chefs use a Worcestershire sauce that contains wheat in the dressing). When I filled in the comment card at the end of the evening, I mentioned how much I enjoyed the meal and the attentive service. The next day, I received an e-mail from the restaurant, giving me their recipe for a perfect Caesar salad. Now that’s what I call service.

Bradley Ogden at Caesar’s Palace [address] 3570 Las Vegas Blvd. South, Las Vegas NV 89109 [tel] 877-346-4642 [web] www.caesarspalace.com or www.chefbradleyogden.com.

Reader Reports for Celiac Awareness Month

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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 Oprah.com 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!

Roundup: Gluten-Free Bakeries

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I tried all of the gluten-free baked goods I could find… and I wasn’t very happy with what was out there. I remember rice breads that crumbled into bits with the first bite and pastries that seemed to have a substantial styrofoam content. Now, five years later, I’m amazed by how much the quality has increased and how much choice there is. (I’m speaking primarily of what I see in New York and Toronto, and online; I know that there are plenty of places where it’s hard to come by gluten-free baked goods.)

Several bakeries that offer gluten-free treats have contacted me — and some readers have forwarded suggestions — so I wanted to pass along the information. I haven’t had the opportunity to visit any of the spots below, so I would love to hear from any readers who have tried them. For the record, I am a fan of Babycakes in New York City ([tel] 212-677-5047 [web] www.babycakesnyc.com). I’d love to hear about your favorites.

Bewitching Elegance: San Francisco-area artist Diane Rinella specializes in wedding cakes, which are available in gluten-free, vegan, and diabetic-friendly versions; [address] 1170 Broadway, Burlingame, California [tel] 510-469-6976 [web] www.bewitchingelegance.com

Cinderella Sweets: I’ve never used this company’s free mail-order service, but I have purchased their gluten-free Passover treats, sold under the name Shabtai Gourmet, at supermarkets in New York. The selection includes traditional almond macaroons, sponge cakes with raspberry filling, and delicate “lace” cookies topped with chocolate. The products are also free of dairy, casein, and soy, and they are certified kosher; [tel] 516-652-5671 [web] www.cinderellasweets.com

Coffee Plant: There are two Coffee Plant cafés in Portland, but one is entirely gluten-free. The husband-and-wife team who run the business bake the fresh muffins, scones, cookies, cakes, quiches, and breads on a daily basis; [address] 5911 SW Corbett, Portland, Oregon [tel] 503-293-3280 [web] www.coffeeplant.net

GF Patisserie: This dedicated gluten-free bakery set up shop last August in Cochrane, Alberta, a short drive from Calgary. Owner Victoria Edlinger told me that they started by offering three types of quiche, but their product range now includes cream puffs, sacher torte, Italian flatbread, and butter tarts; [address] 122 3rd Ave West, Cochrane, Alberta [tel] 403 990-9565 [web] www.gfpatisserie.com

Rose’s Wheatfree Bakery: This Chicago-area bakery and cafe is entirely gluten-free, and it also offers dairy- and egg-free options. Rose’s bakes up everything from snickerdoodles to chocolate-cherry-hazelnut biscotti, and from breads to pizzas; [address] 2901 Central Street, Evanston, Illinois [tel] 847-859-2723 [web] www.rosesbakery.com

Swirlz Cupcakes: Located in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood, Swirlz offers gluten-free cupcakes in flavors like chocolate grasshopper mint (I’m not sure what that means, but I’m curious); [address] 705 West Belden, Chicago, Illinois [tel] 773-404-2253 [web] www.swirlzcupcakes.com

Triple Oak Bakery: This dedicated gluten-free bakery opened in Virginia’s Rappahannock County in the fall, after owner Brooke Parkhurst found that demand for the treats she was baking in her home kitchen just kept growing. Offerings include carrot cupcakes, mocha dream cake, and cream puffs, and they are also available at The Natural Marketplace in Warrenton and Better Thymes in Front Royal; [address] 11692 Lee Highway, Sperryville, Virginia [tel] 540-675-3601 [e-mail] tripleoakbakery@gmail.com.

San Francisco’s Natural Wonders

San Francisco is a city of natural wonders. Even the much-maligned tourist trap Pier 39, which locals would have you believe is roughly equivalent to the third circle of Dante’s Inferno, has as its biggest attraction a colony of sea lions. They started arriving shortly after the 1989 quake, apparently taking over the docks in January 1990. At this point, their population swells to 900 in the winter, and a small group chooses to remain at Pier 39 throughout the year. They may smell a little… fishy… but they’re hard to resist.

Another wonder is the city’s commitment to locally sourced produce. On almost any day of the week there is a farmers’ market somewhere in San Francisco. The most famous is the Ferry Plaza Market, which takes place every Saturday at the Embarcadero. (“Tasting the Bounty of San Francisco Markets” by Sharon Otterman ran in The New York Times a few days after I left San Francisco; it covers the Ferry Plaza Market, the Alemany Market, the Heart of the City Market, and the Crocker Galleria Market.)

Organic local produce was on many menus I sampled in San Francisco, but the offerings at Fish & Farm really stood out. This elegant yet low-key restaurant, adjacent to the Mark Twain Hotel, sources almost all of its ingredients from within 100 miles of the city. All of its produce is organic, and the seafood and meat are sustainably farmed. The staff was well-versed about celiac disease and the gluten-free diet, and they were able to quickly point out the few dishes on the menu that couldn’t be prepared in a gluten-free version. I started with a simple green salad, made memorable by the addition of Asian pears and caramelized almonds and drizzled with a cabernet vinaigrette. My main course was leg of duck with lentils and endive in a sweet-and-sour sauce. Even the house cocktails were made from organic ingredients (I enjoyed the sweetly tart Huckleberry Friend, which mixes house-infused huckleberry vodka with citrus sugar). If you’re not already familiar with the Locavore movement, Fish & Farm will definitely convince you of its worth.

Fish & Farm [address] 339 Taylor Street (adjacent to the Mark Twain Hotel), San Francisco, CA 94102 [tel] 415-474-3474 [web] www.fishandfarmsf.com

Just How Strict Is That Gluten-Free Diet?

While I was consistently impressed with the willingness and ability of San Francisco restaurants to accommodate my gluten-free diet, there was one strange issue that came up during my stay. At several spots, including Millennium, a vegan restaurant located in the Hotel California, the staff asked me how much tolerance I had for gluten. “I have celiac disease — that means I can’t have any gluten at all,” I explained (I didn’t get into a discussion of the European Union’s standard for gluten-free products, or the proposed standard that is currently under review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration). The staff said that they just wanted to be sure, since some diners have told them that they’re on a gluten-free diet, but when they’re informed that there’s a little soy sauce in the dish they want to order, they claim that isn’t a problem for them.

My husband and I debated what this meant. Doesn’t everyone diagnosed with celiac disease know that they can’t have any gluten at all? But a post I recently read on another blog helped give me some perspective. On Gluten-Free NYC, David Marc Fischer wrote about an article, “The Top 10 Functional Food Trends,” published by Food Technology, a publication of the Institute of Food Technologists. The article discusses how the market for products catering to food allergies and intolerances continues to grow, disproportionate to their true medical base. It’s a depressing story to read, because while the demand for gluten-free products is growing, it isn’t driven by a sudden upward spike in the rate of celiac diagnosis. As the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness points out, 97 percent of people with celiac disease in the US have no idea they have it. A lot of people consuming gluten-free foods are doing so for reasons unrelated to celiac disease. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s terrible to give restaurants the impression that the gluten-free diet is just another lifestyle choice, rather than a medical necessity for 1 in every 133 people.

At Millennium, I ended up having a long conversation about safe and unsafe ingredients with the staff. (Couscous? Definitely not. Spelt? Fine for those with a wheat allergy but dangerous for celiacs). I started with the red quinoa timbale, which is constructed of toasted pine nuts, pickled clamshell mushrooms, peas, and avocado. I followed up with the Injera Crepe, made of chickpea flour and filled with Savoy cabbage, English peas, and pea shoots, and served with a carrot chutney. Millennium also offers some very fine cocktails, including the sweet Tamarind-Grapefruit Margarita and the unusually spicy Fire & Ice. In addition to an excellent meal, I got a reminder of why it’s important to be well-informed about the fine print of the gluten-free diet.

Millennium [address] 580 Geary Street, San Francisco, CA 94102 [tel] 415-345-3900 [web] www.millenniumrestaurant.com

Dramatic San Francisco Dining

San Francisco has a setting that is unlike any other American city I know. Its hills are vertigo-inspiring (is it any wonder that Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo was set here?), and its shoreline is breathtaking. The many neoclassical and Beaux Arts-style buildings, some of which bear keystones that date them to the years following the 1906 quake, add a layer of manmade beauty to a natural wonder. The massive Grace Cathedral (pictured above) atop Nob Hill, with its stained glass windows depicting Albert Einstein and Thurgood Marshall, is a prime example.

It seems fitting, then, that one of my best discoveries on my recent trip to the city was a restaurant with a superb setting. Le Colonial, an elegant Vietnamese restaurant, is decorated to bring to mind the days when the nation was still part of French Indochina. Located on the second story of a building on an easy-to-miss alleyway called Cosmo Place (it runs off Taylor Street between Post and Sutter), the restaurant’s entryway holds an interior patio filled with bamboo furniture, wrought-iron pillars, and flower-laced trellises. Inside, the dining rooms are decked out with Oriental rugs and slow-moving ceiling fans.

The waiter was familiar with gluten-free dining, and double-checked everything I was interested in ordering with the chef. I started with the Banh Cuon, an appetizer of steamed rice noodles stuffed with ground chicken and shredded mushrooms, topped off with bean sprouts and chilies. My main dish was Ca Chien Sup Tom Hum, a pan-fried filet of striped bass served atop a rich ragout of lobster, mushrooms, and peas in a hot and sour lobster broth. I was also able to sample the main dish Ca Ri Tom So Diep, shrimp and scallops in a coconut curry sauce with potato, mango, eggplant and basil. That was the entrée my husband ordered, and as luck would have it, it was gluten free as well. I miss the days when I was able to taste food from his plate, so my visit to Le Colonial was particularly delicious. (I wonder if my husband shares that opinion…)

Le Colonial [address] 20 Cosmo Place, San Francisco, CA 94109 [tel] 415-931-3600 [web] www.lecolonialsf.com

Mexican Brunch in the Mission District

My favorite way to get to know a town is through the eyes of a local. On my recent trip to San Francisco, my cousin Wendy Rein introduced me to her neighborhood, the Mission District. The area is renowned for its Latin character and cuisine, colorful murals, and the palm trees that mark graceful Dolores Street. Most of all, the Mission is famous for its namesake house of worship, Mission Dolores, the oldest building in San Francisco (pictured here). It was built in 1776 and has survived the city’s notorious earthquakes largely intact.

The Mission is also where Wendy and her dance partner, Ryan T. Smith, founded RAWdance, their innovative and experimental dance company, in 2004. RAWdance frequently performs at the nearby James Howell Studio, and this July the company will be performing in the Jewels in the Square Series in San Francisco’s Union Square and at CounterPULSE for their Home Season (in December, RAWdance will be touring the East Coast of the US).

For brunch on Saturday, Wendy introduced me to Regalito Rosticeria, a Mexican restaurant that recently opened in the Mission. A tiny spot — there are just a handful of tables, plus seats at a counter where you have a great view of the kitchen — the restaurant is inspired by a Mexican market stall, where chefs cook right in front of their customers. The ingredients are fresh and the staff is friendly and accommodating. Much of the menu is naturally gluten free. I started with the mildly spicy guacamole, served with crisp corn tortillas. For my main dish, I tried the delicious chile relleno, in which mushrooms and cheese are stuffed into a roasted poblano chile. The menu is reasonably priced, and if you visit on a weekday between 11am and 3pm, you can take advantage of the Comida Corrida (the Worker’s Lunch), which offers an entrée, dessert, plus agua fresca to drink, for $9.95.

Regalito Rosticeria [address] 3481 18th St. (at Valencia), San Francisco, CA 94110 [tel] 415-503-0650 [web] www.regalitosf.com

Celiac-Friendly San Francisco

I just got back from a short trip to San Francisco, my first visit there since I was diagnosed with celiac disease. I’ll be reviewing some of its restaurants over the next several weeks, but I’m thrilled to report that over the course of a four-day stay, I found that local eateries were very accommodating of the gluten-free diet. The San Francisco dining scene is diverse, but one common trait is a commitment to organic produce that is, for the most part, locally sourced. It makes it much easier to discuss what’s in an entrée when each ingredient is a point of pride.

My arrival in San Francisco didn’t have an auspicious start: my flight from New York was 90 minutes late, which meant that my husband and I were looking for dinner after 9pm on a Friday night. We ended up in Belden Place, a pedestrian alley in the downtown financial district. From the street it looked like the quintessential tourist trap, with restaurants sitting cheek by jowl and canopy-covered al fresco tables. Belden Place’s website claims that the alley is frequently compared to New Orleans’ French Quarter and that the atmosphere is like “the most intimate restaurants in Europe.” I can promise you that it’s like neither, but it has a low-key charm of its own.

We chose Café Tiramisu after talking to a couple of its serving staff, one of whom was particularly well-informed about celiac disease. I had a simple green salad with a honey-infused vinaigrette, goat cheese, and walnuts to start, and peppery seared tuna atop vegetable risotto as my main dish. The meal was good, but even better was our conversation with the couple at the next table. They were San Francisco residents, one of whom has celiac disease, and they were kind enough to share the names of some of their favorite celiac-friendly local haunts, including Boulevard, The Fly Trap, and The Butler and the Chef. I didn’t end up at any of those restaurants (Boulevard is a particularly tough reservation to get on short notice), but it was a wonderful start to my stay to be able to pick up some celiac-friendly San Francisco spots from a local.

Café Tiramisu [address] 28 Belden Place, San Francisco, CA 94104 [tel] 415-421-7044 [web] www.cafetiramisu.com

Boulevard [address] 1 Mission Street, San Francisco, CA 94105 [tel] 415-543-6084 [web] www.boulevardrestaurant.com

The Fly Trap Restaurant, Bar & Piano Lounge [address] 606 Folsom Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 [tel] 415-243-0580 [email] flytrap777@hotmail.com [web] www.flytraprestaurant.com

The Butler & the Chef Bistro [address] 155A South Park Street, San Francisco, CA 94107 [tel] 415-896-2075 [web] www.thebutlerandthechefbistro.com

On the Road With Vanessa Maltin

Vanessa Maltin is an inspiring person to talk to. She’s the Director of Programming and Communications at the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness, and also the author of Beyond Rice Cakes: A Young Person’s Guide to Cooking, Eating & Living Gluten-Free. She is currently at work on a second book, which explores how to cook Latin, Italian, and Asian cuisines for a gluten-free diet. Take a look at Vanessa’s blog, Beyond Rice Cakes, for more information (the book will be published by Wiley in the fall of 2009). Diagnosed with celiac disease in 2003, Vanessa has plenty of practice traveling gluten-free, and she shared her experiences and advice with me in an interview last week.

How often do you travel? I travel for work at least once a month, and usually a lot more. I just got back from Bentonville, in northwest Arkansas, which was great. They had all of the chains with gluten-free menus there, like Red Robin, P.F. Chang’s, and Mama Fu’s.

Where have you traveled since being diagnosed with celiac disease? I’ve been all over the country. So far this year I’ve been to New York, San Francisco, St. Louis, Boston, Philadelphia, Hagerstown, MD, Lynchburg, VA, and Florida. Internationally, since I was diagnosed, I’ve been to Ireland, Italy, and Prague — all places where I ate like a queen!

What foods or snacks do you pack when traveling? I always bring bags of nuts with me. I also take Pure Fit bars and Zone bars — most of them are gluten-free. Sometimes I’ll bring gluten-free Thai Kitchen soup mixes, or small packets of peanut butter, which I’ll eat with an apple.

What other things do you bring with you? My iPod and my laptop! I also take Triumph Dining cards with me wherever I go.

How do you prepare for a trip? Since most of my travel is for work, I try to get a really detailed itinerary, because you have to plan ahead. It’s not like I can stop and grab a Big Mac. Sometimes I’ll look at the local celiac support groups and see what they recommend. Normally, when traveling for work, I’m eating with non-celiacs, so I tell people I’m meeting what I can and can’t eat. I have a lot of meetings where an office provides a catered meal, so it’s really important to let them know in advance that they need to have gluten-free options.

Any favorite restaurants? I absolutely love Bistango in New York City. In D.C., my favorites are Café Atlántico, where I helped the chef develop the Latin-fusion gluten-free menu, and Zaytinya, a Mediterranean restaurant. In San Francisco, I go to Max’s Opera Café, which doesn’t have a gluten-free menu but is very accommodating. I love Brick and Solstice, which are both in San Francisco, too. In Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, I like the Yard House, and I just went to a place called Pizza Fusion, which has gourmet gluten-free pizzas. My standby place, wherever I go across the country, is Chipotle.

Any favorite hotels? The Hyatt hotels are amazing.

What’s the most memorable city you’ve visited? Bruges in Belgium. Every other store there was a chocolate shop. I had a shrimp and goat cheese salad there that I’m still craving. It was such an incredible place, and the only thing I couldn’t eat there were the croissants.

What’s your dream destination? The Amalfi Coast in Italy. I’ve read about cooking trips there where you stay in a villa for seven days and just cook every day. I’d love that.

Do you have any other advice for gluten-intolerant travelers? Keep an open mind about traveling, because it really can be done!

Photograph provided courtesy of Vanessa Maltin.