Thursday, September 27, 2007

Unpleasantries of eating out gluten free in the US

If you read my vacation post, you know how fabulous and easy it was to eat out all over London and Paris gluten free. I must say that the only bad part of the trip was coming home to servers with those perplexed looks on their faces, as I tried to explain I had an intolerace to gluten - or an allergy to wheat. No matter what terms you use - unless you're dropping $50 or so for dinner, you'll be lucky to ever get a server that knows what the heck gluten is. And I'm sorry to say that applies to all those famous chains with gluten free menus as well. Sure there are a few good ones and you might even catch an informed server but if you pry, you'll ususally find out they know someone with Celiac. It's not that they were trained by the restaurant they work at (that has a gluten free menu). I'll never understand why companies bother putting together a gluten free menu and then train no one in their restaurants about gluten.

I've been to all the national chains that have gluten free menus and the only excellent company is Wildfire Grill out of Chicago. The day I read they were opening here was a very good day indeed! I'd contemplated a trip to Chicago just to eat at Wildfire (there is a trade show my industry holds there yearly so it would have been a business trip) but now they were coming to me. Wildfire didn't dissappoint - both their food and service are exceptional. They've been open about a year now and no other chain has a better trained staff in regards to their gluten free menu and safe food preparation. Their gluten free chcolate cake is scrumptious! My hubby is allergic to dark chocolate so I have to eat the entire dessert by myself...poor! Actually the portion size is perfect for one. Do not miss this dessert if you like chocolate and can't eat gluten - or even if you do eat gluten - it's loved by all!

Please note - if you have to eat in a restaurant where none of the staff (including the chef and manager) know what gluten is, you can probably have a chicken breast (make sure it's not packaged in a wheat protien soloution as are many chain chicken breasts are), a baked potato and a salad. If you can't read the salad dressing ingredient label, use your own dressing or oil/vinegar (not malt vinegar). Many commercial dressings contain wheat. Packets of dressings are available at many online gluten free stores and

I once went to a very popular restaurant in Chattanooga where the only thing I could have was a salad. The place has about a six page menu but after the server spoke to the chef and manager, they decided the only thing they wanted to serve me was a salad. I'm sure there was more I could have had, but I appreciated them airing on the side of caution instead of making me sick. It was painfully clear that no one there had any idea what gluten was. To date, that was by far my worst dining out experience, and in fairness I should admit that my salad was actually delicious! Since then I've been able to avoid situations like that, by letting my friends know if I'm going to eat out with them, we're going somewhere that has yummy dishes for me - otherwise they can count me out. It's a simple concept and like most of those - it works!

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