Category Archives: Gastronomy

Fine dining, cuisine, food, cooking, hunger, nutrition

Suggestions for restaurants interested in offering gluten-free items

This question recently came in via the Celiac Bay Area email group. I posted a response and figured it would be worth reposting that message here in case other restauranteurs were considering adding gluten free to their menus:

I think it’s great that you’re seeking out more feedback. I wish more restaurants would. Here’s some thoughts:

Of course the pizza process has to be careful of cross contamination. Flour can waft through the air, shared utensils, and doughy hands can carry gluten particles, and those are ways gluten can get in your product, so taking steps to minimize that risk will be very helpful. Separate area, separate equipment, separate toppings, etc., and be sure people are washing their hands before touching the gluten-free stuff.

Consider adding rice pasta as an option. Tinkyada is real good, and DeBoles isn’t bad either. Cook it in a separate pot with water that hasn’t been used for regular pasta. Identify which sauces are gluten free. Consider keeping uncontaminated sauces in a dedicated area too.

Some places keep perishable and pre-made items in the freezer so they don’t spoil, such as sauces and pizza crusts. You could even make a bunch of pre-made gluten-free garlic bread kept in the freezer, and throw them on a frying pan as needed. As we all know, pan frying toast is wayyyyyyy more yummy than broiling… 😉

If you have other entrees such as bisteca, roasted chicken, or salads, see if those can be modified to be gluten free as well. Again the process needs to be dedicated. Salads are usually easy, but they need to be mixed in separate dedicated bowls, check the dressing ingredients, and be sure no-one goes through all that trouble only to place a bunch of croutons on the thing at the end… 😀

If you put a little GF on the menu next to items that can be modified, the gluten-free customers will be very appreciative. Also put text on the menu stating that if customers are ordering gluten-free, to be sure to let the waiter know who in the party has issues so they don’t put the wrong thing in front of them.

Redbridge is a fine commercial gluten-free beer. Some places keep that in stock. Others such as Bard’s Tale and St. Peter’s Sorgham Beer are good too.

I also recommend finding a consultant to review and verify your gluten-free processes and help with training.

I can’t wait to try out your place sometime!

Hopefully this information will provide a bit of guidance in getting started with preparing a gluten-free restaurant menu. This information is by no means exhaustive; merely a place to begin research. For people with any food allergies or severe intolerances such as celiac, eating out can be risky and use the appropriate levels of caution.

At the very least this post might help build some awareness of what a pain in the ass I am to go out to dinner with. ¡Salud!

A gluten-free tourist in San Diego

I have had a couple of awesome trips as a gluten-free gastronaut into San Diego County this past year. San Diego has some excellent restaurants, and here are some things I experienced that should be of some interest to the celiac community at large when planning things:

First of all, the Gluten Free in SD website is a fantastic resource and should be your first stop when organizing your trip. There’s a ton of good resources pointed out on the website, and things are indicated with latest dates that things were confirmed. This was the site I used to look up restaurants with gluten-free options, and to know what to expect when walking into theme parks and other tourist attractions.

Last winter break we headed down for four nights at the Coronado Bay Resort. This is a good place to stay, because the restaurant there is excellent for handling gluten free options. The breakfast buffet had gluten free muffins every morning, which were great by the way, and the chef was able to explain what was safe to eat from the menu and cook things special order. We had dinner here several times on this trip, just because the restaurant was handling the gluten-free requirements so well. If you’re headed to the theme parks, eat a big breakfast here because the theme parks mostly don’t have much to offer.

Sea World, The San Diego Zoo, and the San Diego Wild Animal Park didn’t have many things to eat that were gluten-free, but there were fruit items, nuts, and chips to be found—enough to tide one over for the day if not staying too long, at least until dinner. The great exception to the theme park scene in San Diego for gluten free options was Legoland, which had gluten-free hot dog and hamburger buns at most of the tray service food booths. When I had inquired about getting a hamburger with a gluten-free bun, the nice person taking my order clearly had been trained well in protocol for handling such requests, but she had also obviously never had such a request before. She was good about it and checked thoroughly, and she made sure I stayed at the window so I didn’t have to hang out on the side of the building for a long wait not knowing what was going on. The burger was terrible, just like everyone else’s. Mmmmm….

San Diego has a number of excellent restaurants with gluten-free menus or options. Our first stop in our December trip was to Del Mar Rendezvous, a chinese restaurant with a dedicated gluten-free menu and knowledgeable staff. We had the Beef Chow Fun and Kung Pao Chicken, both of which were excellent. The chow fun was done with flat fettuccine-like rice noodles that were quite wide and worked very well.

After our Legoland trip in December, we went to Claim Jumper in Carlsbad. Not bad, but they did bring my plate out with a big giant piece of bread on it when I had specified that I was ordering gluten-free from the menu and reminded them to ensure that no bread or whatnot was to come into contact with my food. Our waiter, who wasn’t the one returning with our food, was horrified and started making a scene when he left our table to go fix it, which was fun to watch. A freshly-prepared plate came back soon, sans gluten, and all was well.

This past weekend, we were down in San Diego again to help my aunt get some of her paintings appraised at the Antique Roadshow. The paintings weren’t worth a fortune or anything, but we found some more excellent restaurants to eat at:

Our first dinner stop was to Uno’s Chicago Grill. Uno’s was the scene of Yingwen’s and my first date together back when we were student’s at New England Conservatory, and we haven’t been to one since the last Uno’s locations left San Francisco several years ago. I knew they had a new gluten-free pizza on a dedicated menu, but by now I’m actually sick of gluten-free pizza. There’s plenty of it in the Bay Area now – and I still had half an unconsumed pizza left in my refrigerator back home! I tried the stuffed chicken instead, and ordered a Redbridge to go with it. Delicious, actually.

The following evening, after convincing my two aunts on this trip to watch our kids so Yingwen and I could have a date, we went to Ki’s Restaurant in Cardiff-by-the-Sea. This spot had a beautiful view overlooking the ocean and the setting sun, and we had prime seats. Ki’s sports a dedicated gluten-free menu that is quite extensive, and I ordered spring rolls as an appetizer and the Jidori chicken breast entree. The atmosphere here was clearly more laid back California style than your usual restaurant, which I appreciated, and the vegetables tasted as if they were picked within minutes—really fresh and delicious. Watching the sunset go down with a couple good glasses of Shiraz and Yingwen’s pint ‘o Mai Tai was a great way to spend the evening together.

We finished off our dining experience in San Diego at BJ’s Brewhouse, which has a good gluten-free menu. Of course they had a pizza option, and I gave in and ordered one since they have been getting rave reviews. They were out of Redbridge, but wine always works well in these situations and is actually the preferred choice these days. My pizza came ordered with pepperoni, bacon, sausage, artichoke hearts, green peppers, and mushrooms. Toppings-wise, local favorites such as Extreme Pizza and Pennini’s in Moraga win, but the crust was certainly pretty good.

Well that’s it for my San Diego roundup. I love this town!

Accessing the Gluten Free Bay Area Google Map on iPhone

This post is specifically for the gluten-free community in the San Francisco Bay Area in the short term, and I expect this will become a more global effort soon.

Our goal for today is: Access the Gluten Free Bay Area Google Map on iPhone. This can now be accomplished easily using the iPhone Google Earth app.

Why is this cool you ask? Because dining out on a gluten-free diet can be a complicated and depressing experience. Most restaurants don’t get it. The few that do are often hard to find. Many of us in the Bay Area celiac community have lessened this pain by contributing to this map, pinpointing which businesses cater to gluten-free needs (i.e. might have a gluten free menu or a savvy chef or wait staff.) This has turned into a very useful database over the months and years.

But on those times when you need it most, like when you’re on the road, you might not have access to a computer to be able to look up a place for lunch. Now with Google Earth on your iPhone and in your pocket, looking up gluten-free restaurants is more convenient than ever.

Here’s how to get started:

Step 1: Add the Gluten Free Bay Area Google Map to your saved maps by navigating to it (a shortened URL for those that need it: http://is.gd/4YuBP ) and clicking on the link indicated:

Click the link "Save to my maps" circled in red

Step 2: Go to the App Store on your iPhone and install the Google Earth app.

Step 3: Launch Google Earth on your iPhone and tap the info icon in the lower right corner:

Tap the info icon on the lower right corner.
Tap the info icon on the lower right corner.

Step 4: Sign in and then tap on My Maps. Tap on Gluten Free Bay Area in the resulting screen. Now when you use Google Earth on iPhone, all the gluten free locations will show up on your map!

Gluten Free Bay Area map detail.
Gluten Free Bay Area map detail.

How cool is that?

Another excuse

If you need one more excuse to make the trip to visit Mariposa Baking Company in Oakland, here you go:

The Wine Mine, next door to Mariposa, now carries Green’s Beers. I have written about Green’s in an earlier post, and they are terrific (albeit expensive) choices for gluten-free beer lovers.

Mariposa remains the one spot in the Bay Area that I can sit and have coffee and a pastry and feel like a normal human. While there, I noticed three bottles of Green’s sitting on the counter with a note stating that they were available for sale next door. I asked about ’em and they said the Wine Mine would open at 11. I’d definitely wait around for that.

I’m a fan of good, cheap wine finds, and it just so happens that The Wine Cave specializes in this realm. Awesome – I now have two reasons to come to this part of Oakland now. Met Dave, the proprietor, and he gave me a brief description of where things were at in the shop. Saw some of my favorite Shiraz varietals and picked up a Cab/Shiraz blend from Jip Jip Rocks of Australia on Dave’s recommendation plus a few bottles of Green’s of course, and had a nice look around. The shop is full of great finds, and a quick scan found many of the excellent and inexpensive wines that I have identified through prior trials.

Apparently Dave is hosting wine tastings from 2 to 5 on Saturdays. This sounds like a good opportunity to discover some new wines and maybe grab a slice of gluten-free pizza and a week’s supply of bagels next door beforehand. Time permitting (cough, cough), I’m going to try and make some of these events.

It occurs to me that when one business advertises the relevant products for a business next door, both benefit. A symbiosis is created – a hyperlink from business A to business B – and I now have all the more reason to visit both stores. I think more of these “real world hyperlink” techniques should be employed in neighborhood business networks, because I think there is a model here to help small businesses thrive through active cooperation. Brick-and-mortar shops are almost by definition stovepipe solutions for commerce. Active cross-pollination of each others’ relevant products could rekindle the local small business concept. Even direct competitors could benefit: Highlight what each other is lacking and fill in the respective voids to build and refine your niche markets. [How’s that for a bunch of annoying, vapid marketing buzzwords?!? Get out your Bingo cards… ;-)]