Friday, January 11, 2008

Gluten-free dining...

So yesterday I went out for our staff holiday meal. Its always a challenge finding a restaurant that people like, and that is safe for me. It usually involves much perusing of menus beforehand to be able to find something safe that is not a salad.

I had a wonderful meal. I had ossobuco with amazing mashed potatoes. It was heavenly.

Here are my tips, if you have to eat out for work:

Let your boss know, ahead of time, that you have an issue. If you can work with him or her to find someplace to eat, do the research in advance. Most places have menus posted on websites these days. If you can go ethnic, do so. You have more chance of getting good food that is safe in an ethnic place. Particularly Indian, Mexican, South American. Thai and Ethiopian can be safe. Chinese usually isn't. The restaurant we went to was Italian (gasp!) but not chain Italian.
Chains are usually not safe. Too many pre-frozen items. Small family-own restaurants are usually best, although I wouldn't suggest Southern fare. Too many deep-fried this and floured that.

If possible, tell them when you make your reservation, that there is a celiac coming to dine.

When you order, have two options for the waitstaff to ask about. Be sweet about it, explain that you have this horrible problem, and could they please check for flour, breadcrumbs, any type of wheat or gluten. And bat those big brown eyes at them. (ok, guys, this might not work so well for you, unless the waiter is a cute gay boy). Above all, be polite, charming, apologetic. "I don't want to be any trouble, but if I get anything with wheat I will become horribly sick".

I have had waitstaff suggest items that they know are safe. I have had them suggest desserts that are safe. I have, in general, had wonderful service.

And when you leave, leave a big tip. If you don't have a reaction, go back and frequent them. If you do have a reaction, go back and tell them. I have raised a fuss in the past, when I got something I thought was safe, and it wasn't. I did end up getting my money back, then I went home and died.

But by doing a little homework, being clear, you can get a wonderful, gluten-free meal. Even in a pizza parlor. And yes, even in a chain.

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