On Tour for ONE SMALL SACRIFICE (Part 1)

My fifth novel, One Small Sacrifice, won’t be out until June, but it has been selected by Amazon for its First Reads program for May! If you live in the US, UK, or Australia—and you have Amazon Prime—you can download my new book for FREE right now. (If you don’t have Prime, the Kindle edition is on sale for $1.99; if you want a hardcover, it’s on sale for $9.99 this month.) The book just got a starred review from Library Journal; I hope you’ll check it out.

A new novel means it’s time to hit the road again. So far, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Vancouver for a conference, Denver’s Tattered Cover, Scottsdale’s Poisoned Pen, and Houston’s Murder by the Book. Here are some of the restaurants I found along the way:

Nightingale (Vancouver): Reading this hot spot’s menu in advance made me nervous, because it stipulates, “We politely decline all requests to modify menu items.” I wondered what this would mean for anyone dining with food allergies or intolerances, but local friends promised that it was terrific. They were right! Our waiter took the time to create an annotated menu for me, marking all of the gluten-free offerings (a friend I was dining with is lactose intolerant, and they were able to accommodate this easily, too). My mushroom risotto with truffle oil and pecorino was the stuff of dreams.

Watercourse (Denver): This restaurant bills itself as Denver’s first vegan restaurant. The menu carefully notes GF (made without gluten), GFO (gluten-free optional), SF (made without soy), SFO (soy-free optional), CN (contains nuts), and NFO (but-free optional). I highly recommend the Brussels Sprouts Salad (GF, NFO), with kale, pomegranate, grilled apple, maple dijon, balsamic reduction, and candied walnuts. The Smoky Rose cocktail was also fabulous.

Irma’s Southwest (Houston): I have to credit my wonderful editor for finding this spot. I hadn’t heard of Irma Galvan before, but her restaurants are a Houston legend (Irma opened a tiny sandwich shop in 1988, switched to Mexican cuisine, and never looked back). This delicious outpost doesn’t have a long menu, but what they do, they do really well (chile con queso, fajitas, enchilandas…).

I’ll be at the St. Louis County Library on Tuesday, May 14th at 7pm, and at Ben McNally Books in Toronto on Thursday, May 16th at 6pm. If you’re in either place, I hope you’ll come say hello!

On Tour in Beautiful British Columbia, Part 2

Last week, I told you about a few of the restaurants I found while I was on a book tour of British Columbia earlier this summer. Here are some more spots I discovered while I was out west. All of them take excellent care of their gluten-free guests!

Sylvia Hotel: This 1912 landmark couldn’t have a more stunning location: it’s nestled next to Vancouver’s gorgeous Stanley Park in English Bay. Its dining room is a perfect mix of formal (wood paneling, low light, and a medieval-looking wrought-iron gate) and casual (cozy seating, friendly service). Even better: the menu is annotated with gluten-free options. Choices include starters such as mussels in a spicy broth; salads like a classic Cobb; and main courses of bean ragout, slow-braised short ribs with potatoes, and crispy salmon with a citrus vinaigrette. [address] 1154 Gilford Street, Vancouver, BC [tel] 604-681-9321

Blue Canoe Waterfront Restaurant: Normally, I’m leery of restaurants in places as scenic as Richmond’s Steveston Village; after all, the view is such a phenomenal draw that the kitchens don’t have to work hard to lure you in. But the waterfront setting of the Blue Canoe is just one facet of its charm. The staff is celiac-aware and willing to modify most plates (I had the pan-roasted pork chop, which I highly recommend). There’s also a wine list featuring an excellent selection of locally produced vintages that are available by the glass. [address] 3866 Bayview Street, Richmond, BC, V7E 4R7; [tel] 604-275-7811

Yew Restaurant: One of the distinct pleasures of my week in B.C. was catching up with my longtime friend Mika Ryan. We met for lunch before my event at the Chapters store at Robson & Howe, and she took me to the Yew Restaurant at the Four Seasons. It’s a spectacular spot with towering 40-foot ceilings. Still, as impressive as the digs are, my main memories are of great conversation, thoughtful service, and excellent food. Many items on the menu can be prepared in a gluten-free version, such as the wonderful seared Haida Gwaii halibut (complete with lemon, spinach, crème fraiche, spring peas & pickled heirloom carrots). Sadly, I didn’t have room for gluten-free “Quinoa Passion” dessert (panna cotta with passion fruit scented red quinoa plus fresh blueberries and mint). Next time! (PS to vegan friends: the restaurant has plenty of options — and distinct menus — for you.) [address] In the Four Seasons Hotel, 791 West Georgia Street, Vancouver, BC, V6C 2T4; [tel] 604-692-4939

On Tour in Beautiful British Columbia, Part 1

Last month, I spent a week on a book tour of British Columbia’s lower mainland with three fellow crime writers: Robin Spano, Deryn Collier and Ian Hamilton. We had a couple of events in Vancouver, as well as readings in Burnaby, Richmond, and Squamish. While we were there, we were interviewed for CBC-Radio’s Sunday Edition (you can hear the podcast online). The combination of friendship and fun that week made for wonderful times. Truth be told, so did the food.

Whenever I visit the West Coast — in the US and in Canada — I feel that there’s a solid awareness of food allergies and intolerances. I know that’s not necessarily true everywhere, but it was certainly my experience in BC. Here are some of the restaurants that impressed me:

The Watershed Grill: Situated on the banks of the Squamish River, this low-key, casual spot is accommodating and celiac-savvy (I visited twice, and on each trip, a different staff member went over the menu with me, explaining what I could have and what modifications they could make). The food is simply prepared with very fresh ingredients. Let me recommend the Watershed Salad, a combination of greens, chicken, cranberries, sunflower seeds, tomatoes, carrots and cucumber in a balsamic vinaigrette. [address] 41101 Government Road, Brackendale, BC, V0N 1H0; [tel] 604-898-6665

Olive & Anchor: There’s something wonderful about walking into a restaurant, asking the staff about gluten-free options, and being told that there’s actually a gluten-free menu. That’s what happened to me at this elegant restaurant on Horseshoe Bay. Celiac-safe choices include oysters, grilled chicken, and steak, but since this is a spot renowned for its seafood, I went with the (excellent) snapper. [address] 6418 Bay Street, West Vancouver, BC; [tel] 604-921-8848

Cats Social House: Located on Granville Island (which was gorgeous, even in the rain), this is a lovely spot with a long cocktail list. I didn’t get to try any of the drinks (I was there for lunch), but I did enjoy the gluten-free pad thai. [address] 1540 Old Bridge Street, Vancouver, BC, V6H 3S6; [tel] 604-647-2287