gluten-free dining out and holiday socials

Tis the season to be eating out more frequently - holidays mean gatherings of groups from the office, associations, teams… it's a time when larger groups book dinner out in restaurants you've never eaten at before. 

Today with so much hoopla about gluten-free… there are options. What frightens me, is that in many cases the establishment hasn't actually learned what gluten-free really means. Serving rice pasta that's cooked in the same pasta water as the wheat pasta (beware!), risotto made with the same pasta water (yes, this is common practise!), or fries cooked in the same oil as the battered onion rings, samosas etc. is par for the course. That's just for starters. There's the soy sauce in the marinade or the dressing, the bouillon used in the soup or sauce…. Those of us who live on a strict gluten-free diet know. Those serving a population that they believe to be following the latest trend - typically, do not. 

Don't get me wrong - I'm delighted that gluten-free living is being embraced and is helping more than just those with celiac disease. I'm very happy to live in a society that is starting to take healthcare to the level of diet before chronic illness requires stronger remedies. I love my gluten-free diet. It's just that today, I'm less trusting of the cavalier use of the term gluten free. I feel the need to throw around "celiac" in a restaurant while looking the server in the eye that pleas for them to take me seriously.  

A couple of weeks ago I ate in a restaurant for the first time and asked if the burger was gluten-free. The waiter responded by saying that it was provided I didn't have the bun. When I asked about fries, he said that they were made in the same oil as other gluten items. I immediately felt safer about the burger I'd just ordered (with a side salad). 

This weekend we were out in another new establishment which largely served pizza and pasta. They had risotto, so I asked about how it was made. The girl looked confused when I asked about the pasta water. When she came back she told me not to order it - not because of the water, but because even the kitchen didn't know what was in the bouillon. In the end I ordered the chicken - it was the only option on the menu. When in doubt, opt for simple (grilled or broiled, no sauce and clarify that something isn't dredged in flour first when it comes to meat and fish). Scare them with the thought that you might be ill right in the restaurant if you must :)

In the next two weeks I have at least 3 events that I can think of where I'll be dining with a large group in a restaurant I've never eaten at before. I will be perusing the menu on-line in advance and making a call before going to save getting lost in the shuffle of a big group. No one wants to get sick over the holidays… and this is one time of year where you're bound to find yourself outside of your comfort zone. I've written more extensively on holiday socializing HERE

Wishing you a safe and Happy Holidays!!