Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Gluten Free at the Food Shark in Marfa, TX

On a recent road trip, I was bemoaning the fact that I never got to eat at "cool" restaurants like a normal person. Well, I'm not sure how "normal" it was, but I was definitely accommodated at the Food Shark in Marfa. Since they operate out of a truck, they only fry one thing in their oil, gluten-free falafel. They hooked me up with three falafel on a bed of lettuce with some GF dressing and hummus. Quite a feast and worth a stop!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Baatar in Bedford

Baatar - 1925 Airport Freeway, Bedford, TX

Last night I ate at Baatar for the third time and felt no gluten symptoms, so I feel confident in recommending it even though a shared grill is a risky situation. Baatar calls itself a Mongolian BBQ, but it's one of those places where you put whatever you want in a bowl and they stir fry it on a huge griddle for you. I was able to go on their website and figure out which sauces are gluten free.

I've eaten their Sweet and Sour sauce and Peanut Sauce. Whenever I go there, I tell the cook that I have a serious food allergy and that the grill needs to be cleaned before my food gets put on there. For simplicity sake, I tell them my problem is soy sauce.

Then, I watch while they clean it. They are always very nice about it. They also have some vegetarian options, which is nice.

The buffet, which costs about $8 also includes a salad bar, fresh fruit and Blue Bunny ice cream for dessert. On the Blue Bunny website it says all Blue Bunny products are GF unless they contain an obvious wheat-containing ingredient like cookie dough or cookies and cream.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

BJ's Restaurants

BJ's Restaurant Brewhouse offers good food in a fun atmosphere and, most importantly, has an easy-to-read allergy menu that will quickly point you in the right direction to a satisfying meal even if you have multiple allergies.

I had a stuffed baked potato with grilled chicken and it was quite tasty. There are BJ's in the DFW area and they are popping up across the country!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Starbucks - the new Gluten-Free plan

After a fairly unsuccessful attempt at launching a gluten-free line of baked goods mainly consisting of a packaged piece of sponge cake soaked in orange flavoring, Starbucks has made what I think is a brilliant decision to carry a wider array of prepackaged gluten-free snacks including 150 calorie packs of Lucy's cookies.

I've written about Lucy's before and I think they are one of the best bang-for-your-calorie-buck, gluten-free cookies on the market. I am very pleased that Starbucks is now carrying them.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Eating Gluten-Free in Thailand, Part 3

If things go awry...

Hopefully, this will not happen to you. I did not "get glutened" except by my own fault one time when I ordered an american-style hamburger in Thailand without double-checking the ingredients and on my way home when I ate a questionable dessert at the Tokyo airport and then on the plane, I ate some cornflakes.

However, here are some things that are helpful to know about bathrooms.

  • Always bring your own toilet paper and hand sanitizer if those items are important to you.
  • Do not throw toilet paper away in the toilet, most facilities will have a trash can for that purpose.
  • If you are using a more rural toilet that has to be flushed manually make sure you scoop a good amount of water from the barrell next to the toilet for that purpose into the bowl or porcelain hole in the ground as the case may be several times.
  • If you are on a train, do not go to the bathroom when the train is stopped. All of the waste is voided right onto the tracks. You'll get yelled at if you go at a station.
  • Train toilets are some times flushed with a foot pedal.

Eating Gluten-Free in Thailand, Part 2

Eating in restaurants is different in Thailand in a few, notable ways.

  • Learn to say hello - sounds like So-wa-dee-ka if you're a woman or So-wa-dee-ha if you're a man. Thank you is Ka-poon-ka if you're a woman or Ka-poon-ha if you're a man.
  • Most parties share food so splitting the check is unusual. You can avoid a lot of headaches by figuring the money out amongst yourselves.
  • Often service is very slow by American standards. Imagine the worst service (time-wise) you've ever had and then multiply it by 3. The food is often worth the wait, but eating out is a leisurely affair. Don't wait until you're starving to sit down and order.
  • Bring your patience. You are probably making some special requests. Be polite to the waiter even if there is some initial miscommunciation. Your future gastrointestinal happiness is in his or her hands.
  • Tipping is expected in Thailand. Tip generously, especially if they have checked ingredients for you.
  • Don't expect everyone's food to be served at the same time. They usually just bring it out when it's ready.
  • Although most places will automatically give you less-spicey food, you can ask for mild by saying "Mai Ped Ka" if you're a woman or change the Ka to "Ha" if you're a man or ask for it to be even spicier by saying Ped or "Ped, Ped."

Eating Gluten-Free in Thailand, Part 1

I was intimidated to try travelling to SE Asia for the first time on my own, so I signed up with GAP Adventures because they promise to cater to special culinary needs. I had travelled with them to Peru and hiked the Inca trail and been blown away when they made me quinoa pancakes from scratch on the trail.

I was similarly accomodated in Thailand, even on a 3-day hike into the hill tribe region when our guides packed in all of our food. Although at first, my tour leader tried to talk me out of it.

"Are you sure you can't have soy sauce? Maybe just a little?"

I was pretty firm that I was not willing to try that. Frowning, she asked me, "What do you eat at home?"

Flabbergasted I answered, "Thai food!"

I ended up eating copious amounts of green curry on the trip because that and sweet and sour chicken wer often the only things we knew for sure were gluten free.

Here are some tips I learned about eating safely in Thailand while still getting to experience the local flavor.

  • At restaurants you can almost always have green curry, yellow curry, masaman curry or sweet and sour. Also, coconut lemon grass soup with chicken (Thom khao gai.)
  • Fruit shakes with or without yogurt are a delight and are offered on many street corners and also at restaurants.
  • Fresh fruit is readily available almost everywhere and quite tasty.
  • Rice porridge is a traditional SE Asian breakfast dish that is normally gluten free. You can get this with or without chicken.
  • You can make a good breakfast out of two fried eggs over white rice with butter and jam. It's better than it sounds.
  • If it's hard to tell at a street market what you can eat, look for fried eggs, white rice and fruit.
  • Mango sticky rice is often available on the street or at a restaurant and is a wondeful GF dessert.
  • Grilled bananas on their own or swimming in sweetened coconut milk make a great snack and are sold on the street.
  • If you are going to take an overnight train, your best bet is to get food ahead of time to take with you. The only thing I could find that was gluten free was the green curry and it was lackluster and expensive.
  • Convenience stores routinely carry a variety of gluten-free snacks including pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, the Original Lays Potato Chips, Fritos, dried fruit, etc.
  • 7-11s in Thailand are a treasure trove of gluten-free eating. They almost all carry ready to eat boiled eggs in two or four packs. Just don't eat the soy sauce included in a small packet. Also, there is the most wonderful yogurt in the world. It has small cubes of young coconut in it and is incredibly rich. When you get to the checkout, they'll give you a small plastic spoon to eat it with.
  • I had cards from Select Wisely printed in Thai and they worked fairly well, but lots of people aren't familiar with hidden sources of gluten. For instance, one cook didn't know soy sauce was an ingredient in plum sauce.
  • Bring any protein bars you want to have, I never found any the whole time I was travelling.
  • I always poke my head into any food store just to see what they have and one day in Ao Nang - in the southern tip of Thailand - I found a tourist specialty store that sold gluten-free cereal and peanut butter. What luxuries! So, keep your eyes open.