Friday, January 18, 2008

Living Easy Gluten Free

Welcome to Living Easy Gluten Free,’s blog! While the focus of is providing centralized, easy access to gluten free accommodating restaurants and their menus, this blog’s purpose is to discuss all aspects of living gluten free. Going out to dinner or attending a friend’s party—these are commonplace events that may at first seem unblog-worthy. But those of us who have had to adjust or completely reinvent our everyday routines on account of a gluten allergy or Celiac diagnosis know that what were once stress-free activities now have the potential to be anything but.

Every week we’ll be looking at another aspect of life from the gluten free perspective. Whether it’s dining out, travel, health and beauty, social events, or gluten free current events, we’re here to share what we’ve learned from our experiences in the hope that we can make your gluten free lifestyle more enjoyable. If you’ve been recently diagnosed and don’t know where to start, or if you’re a seasoned pro and are just looking for a few tips, let us help you live easy gluten free!

Let’s start with the most basic of weekly activities: going out to dinner. Most people love eating out; it’s fun, it’s easier than cooking...or is it?!? Unfortunately, for those of us who have to worry about ingesting gluten, dining out can be anything but fun and easy. Sometimes waiters think they know what gluten intolerance is and try their best to help, but in reality their understanding is limited and the consequences of eating hidden ingredients that contain gluten can be disastrous. Then there are servers who don’t appear to care enough, resulting in having to send back your meal time and again, which can be frustrating and embarrassing, not to mention unappetizing. Too often what starts off as a promising night on the town ends with a gluten intolerant diner who is aggravated and hungry and in the worst case, ill.

I’ve painted a rather bleak picture, but the good news is that with some planning and practice, the above situation can usually be avoided. First, if this isn’t a spontaneous event and you have the opportunity to call the restaurant ahead of time, do so. After making your reservation, ask to speak with the manager and explain your dietary needs in detail, using your
gluten free restaurant card as a guide. Ask for a list of specific ingredients in any dishes you’re considering (if you have internet access to the menu, for instance) and inquire whether the chef has experience cooking for gluten intolerant diners. Ask that a note be included with your reservation if the same manager will not be present when you arrive. Calling ahead of time will answer your questions and alleviate the stress of having to explain your dietary restrictions in what can be a dark, loud and rushed atmosphere. By calling ahead, you are also giving the manager, the chef and the wait staff (if the manager is particularly vigilant) the opportunity to prepare—a generous gift in the often unpredictable and frenzied restaurant industry. Know that if you are able to call between the lunch and dinner rushes, you will have a much more relaxed and attentive listener.

When you arrive, ask to speak with the manager, announce yourself to him or her and request that they communicate the details of your earlier discussion to your server (always have your
gluten free restaurant card on hand to clear up any confusion). In doing so, you now have a waiter who has been briefed on your situation so that you have less explaining to do and more time to enjoy yourself. Moreover, your server is more likely to pay attention to detail and make a strong effort to succeed when getting instructions from their boss versus from you. You also have made an ally in management to assist with any problems that may arise that evening and with whom to touch base before or during any future visits. Be sure to always thank the wait staff and manager at the end of your meal if he or she was particularly helpful. Showing your appreciation can go a long way in securing future cooperation and hassle-free dining. Following this simple advice is a great way to establish a network of local places where you can dine with confidence and in comfort. The more you prepare ahead of time, the more enjoyable your experience should be and as you frequent particular spots, the more effortless the process should become for both you and the establishments.

Don’t be afraid of taking such an assertive approach. You may feel uncomfortable at the prospect of being a “fussy” customer, but doing so will benefit both you and the restaurant. Not only will you have a pleasant, healthy dining experience and be able to enjoy time with family and friends outside the confines of your gluten free kitchen, but the restaurant will also profit from having you as a satisfied customer. When a restaurant does an excellent job accommodating you, you will tell your friends, email a gluten intolerance listserv and maybe even blog about it, increasing the restaurant’s business and helping anyone in search of a non home-cooked gluten free meal. Feel free to add your reviews to the restaurant profiles on’s list of gluten free accommodating restaurants. If you’ve discovered a place that’s not yet on our list, send us an email and we’ll add it!

6 Tips for an Easy Gluten Free Night on the Town
• Call ahead
• Bring your
gluten free restaurant card
• Announce yourself to the manager upon arrival
• Have the manager speak directly to your server about your gluten intolerance
• Thank members of the staff who were particularly accommodating
• Spread the word! Tell your friends and about your find.

We hope you’ll visit again for more tips on Living Easy Gluten Free!