Et tu, Glute

On July 27, 2013, in For Foodies, by celiacuniverse

Who knows how many times they tried to get Caesar before he met his Fate? I would bet every celiac knows that friend or foe, the next inadvertent exposure is around the corner. With a seemingly endless use of the word “gluten” these days, several issues come to mind.

Gluten-Free Menu or Caveat Emptor

Just because you have a few gluten-free options on your menu, doesn’t mean you should call it a gluten-free menu. Sorry Hula HutIMG_0628hula.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If your multi-page menu contains a couple entrees, but one is a burger without a bun or salmon without rice, you just aren’t trying. To be complete, the gluten-free menu of the restaurant in question offered four salads (two needed to be ordered without dressing), a guacamole appetizer, and a flan dessert. That sets the bar a little too low in my opinion. I typically have an 80/20 rule, if 80% of the items on the menu clearly contain gluten, it probably isn’t the best place to eat. Could you get a gluten-free option at a place like this, maybe, but there are always other options. What about Einstein’s, 99% gluten-free bagel. Nice try, but that would be 1 in 100, slightly higher than 20 parts per million. So again, trying to make a buck not helping those with celiac disease (to date the largest population in society that REQUIRES a gluten-free diet). I appreciate that they are warning those of us with celiac disease, but what about the new celiac or someone who doesn’t get enough education. In Einstein’s defense, they recognize that a bagel shop is full of gluten, so just trying to “protect”? And Domino’s, since Patrick Doyle, CEO seems like a decent guy, I will hold back my treatise on  their gluten-free pizza crust.

When in doubt, don’t risk it

A few catch phrases when dining out always make me squirm:

There is rice on that you can’t have…

It depends how sensitive you are to gluten….

Now I’m not so naïve to think that every restaurant is preparing my food in a gluten-free vacuum, but there is no such thing as “a little bit pregnant”. Even some top restaurants in Houston have collided with the Celiac Universe. The first, a restaurant with Italian boy’s name, where they go out of their way to provide gluten-free options, a chocolate soufflé’ was offered to me as gluten-free. I didn’t even get excited for a split second, as I have watched enough Food Network to know that a soufflé is made from, chocolate, eggs, and um, what’s that stuff called, oh yeah, FLOUR! So, I politely told the waiter that I didn’t think soufflé is gluten-free, and after he asserted it was and a few exchanges later, I asked if he would check. Sure enough, he came back to inform me that I was indeed correct. Big Shocker! It was also a bonus that my father-in-law who is learning about the diet, saw the conventional lack of wisdom in action. A waiter (at yet another male given name establishment) brought me a “yes, I will make sure it is gluten-free” seafood dish, on top of a pile of gluten-filled pasta. No, I can’t just move it aside. Maybe I should have washed it down with a gluten-free Shiner Bock (sorry, folks, not available). I was at a work dinner trying to recruit a colleague to come, and we had gone there because it was a top spot. Another challenge is one of the “greener” restaurants. They have a series of restaurants, and early on, came home with a to go order and some not-so gluten-free pasta. They also cook their wood-fired pizza with their gluten-free pizza, and think that turning up the heat gets rid of the leftover gluten. I wouldn’t eat the pizza, and not aware of any data that would have me suggest it to any reader or patient. A recent addition from this new chain, sent me home with takeout that when I got home to find another wanna be gluten-free, but clearly regular pasta. Think Leo Getz, in the Lethal Weapon series. The “take home” is that you should always be en garde.

Do it right, or don’t do it at all.

IMG_0453This poor cupcake on the right, has the sorriest icing decoration compared to its gluten-filled friend. This was taken at a cupcakery in San Diego. In 2013, the consumer wanting gluten-free foods should expect to pay a premium, but only for a premium product or at least equivalent to the “real” thing. Too many companies are putting a GF label or gluten-free wording on a product hoping to gain a little market share. I make it a habit to try as many new gluten-free items that I can and always adventure to a local bakery or restaurant in the area. I recently visited a bakery in Pittsburgh, and they offered cupcakes, cakes, cookies, sandwiches and even mixes. My sugar cookie was $2.50, and it was better than the similarly priced cake. Don’t get me wrong, it is nice to have dedicated gluten-free bakeries, especially when traveling. However, don’t buy things just because they are gluten-free, they should look good and taste good too. Aussie Bakery in San Antonio has some good items, but some are just pretty average.

I will start tracking my favorite gluten-free restaurant city lists and sites and my own restaurant thoughts and stories with a scoring system a la glutenfreeportland with a twist. I hope to improve the gluten-free options at the restaurants I try, and if I happen to tweet and get Matsu-ed only my wife will really care…..

Using a standard A,B,C to F system followed by a 1, 2, 3 or 4. So the first A1 goes to the amazing Merriman’s in Kapalua, Maui, and the A+ view at sunset isn’t bad either. I will go ahead and give Erik’s Gondolen in Stockholm, high marks for the view and the A1. It just isn’t fair to give them an A2, if my Swedish isn’t very good and felt the need to ask a few questions. Corbett Fish House in Portland gets an A1 for an everyday restaurant.

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http://www.glutenfreeportland.org/2009/08/24/site-news-new-gluten-free-restaurant-classification-system/

Gluten-free Mostly Safe (1), Gluten-free Friendly But Ask Questions (2), Gluten-free Friendly But Be Warned (3) and my addition,

A few Gluten-free options on the menu, beware (4). I don’t eat at 4’s. I order a glass of wine and probably not much else. Until next time.

 

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