Avoid a Glutening: Bring Your Own Food to the Bar

In my experience, about 10% of bars with true “bar food” offer anything that’s gluten free. Even if there is something that’s edible, like chicken wings, bar food is one of the riskiest types of fare for celiacs. It’s typically fried, made in a rush, and kitchens are less likely to make substitutions. If I’m absolutely starving at a bar I typically order nachos, after checking that the chips come from a package and are made from corn, and any toppings are also gluten free. But who wants to go through that hassle when you’re at a bar trying to relax?

That’s why I’m all about going to bars that allow you to bring your own food. In DC, it’s possible for bars to get a “tavern license,” which allows them to sell booze and not food. Then you can order delivery from nearby restaurants that you know you can eat at safely, or bring in your own food, whether it be a bag of popcorn or a box of cereal and milk.

For celiacs, that means that you can 1) ensure that your food is completely gluten free and 2) avoid that whole rigmarole of talking to servers and chefs to figure out what you can eat.

Here are some BYOF options in DC:

Let me know if I’m missing any! Cheers!

The Worst Gluten Free Menu You’ll See Today

As I was updating my “DC GFree Eats” page of recommended restaurants in the District, I began thinking of all of the places that I did not and would not include on that list. Number One offender being Ping Pong Dim Sum (locations in Chinatown and Dupont)

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Look at all the options on the “gluten-friendly” menu!

Ping Pong Dim Sum has what they like to call a “Gluten-Friendly Menu.” When I asked the waitress upon arrival if they have a gluten free menu, she insisted that they do not have a gluten free menu, but a gluten friendly menu. Also note that when you scroll over the words “Gluten-Friendly” on their website, the tool tip magically changes to say “Gluten-Free.” Confusing much?

When I asked what exactly that means, she said that it’s just “pretty much” free of gluten, only they include items that are fried in a shared fryer,  and a “black squid ink PASTRY” that is possibly gluten “friendly” just because it’s not white in color? Couldn’t tell  you.

There are also multiple dumplings that are on the “gluten-friendly” menu, but they couldn’t tell me why. Did they use a different wrapper? Was the sauce different? No one knew.

I wound up having steamed broccoli, bok choy, and rice – because that sounds like an incredibly filling meal, doesn’t it?

Bottom line: If you can’t provide gluten FREE meals to customers, don’t pretend you can.

Celiac Disease: At Least it’s Not a Food Allergy

This weekend I’ll be attending the Food Allergy Blogger’s Conference in Las Vegas, so I thought it was about time that I wrote about a topic I spend a good portion of my day thinking about: the intersection of celiac disease and food allergies.

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Is one harder to manage? More severe? Easier to diagnose? It seems like the celiac and food allergy communities are caught in a constant back-and-forth over who’s got it worse.

First, let me say that having celiac disease is some serious business. No one knows that better than me. On average it takes 6-10 years for a person with celiac disease to be diagnosed. I was lucky to get a diagnosis soon after I started recognizing symptoms, but I still suffer health consequences on a regular basis even seven years later.

But, if I had to choose – I’d take celiac disease over a life-threatening food allergy any day.

Yep, I said it. While celiac disease can lead to serious health implications like infertility, certain forms of cancer, etc.

Food allergies can kill you. Like, today. Right now. At your next meal.

My mom and little sister both have life-threatening peanut allergies (my mom is also allergic to peas). If I could trade in their allergies for celiac disease, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Short anecdote: Growing up, I knew that no peanut dare cross the threshold of our front door. I didn’t have a peanut myself until I was about 8-years-old, when I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich at a friend’s house. I don’t know if I was sick, or why what happened next happened, but when I got home I threw up that sandwich all over our living room floor. My mom had me rinse out my mouth and hop in the car to go to the doctor, all without cleaning up the mess so she didn’t have a reaction herself.

So, back to my mom and sister – I would choose for them to have celiac disease over a food allergy because of what it would mean for their day-to-day: no more trips to the ER, no more expensive epinephrine prescriptions, no more fear while entering the lunchroom. No chance that a bite of a cookie could send them into anaphylaxis and kill them. 

Because, let’s be real – if I had a bite of a cookie that had gluten in it, I’m not going to die. Not a chance, not today. And I’m grateful that I don’t have to bear that burden.

There is still much more work to be done to bring awareness to celiac disease and food allergies – they are both widely misunderstood, under-diagnosed, and under-funded. More than anything, I’d like to see both communities focus on their similarities over their differences. We both got the short end of the stick when it comes to food, so we’ll need to work together to expand our options and move towards cures.

Thoughts? If you had to choose, which would you rather have: celiac disease, or a food allergy?

DC Gluten Free News Round Up

It seems like everything is coming up gluten free these days. Like this pizza from Faccia Luna in Alexandria. Here are some exciting gluten free events and food coming to DC:

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1. Tabula Rasa on Barracks Row will be hosting a gluten free biergarden event to benefit the Celiac Disease Foundation

Talk about a fundraiser I can get behind! Five gluten free beers and snacks, with all proceeds going to a good cause. October 5th from 6-10 pm.

2. Dough Bakery’s first pop-up stand

There will be gluten free pop tarts. Enough said. Go there! Saturday, September 21st and Sunday, October 3rd from 11:00am to 3:00pm at 731 8th St SE, Washington DC.

3. Urbana just debuted three gluten free pizzas last weekend

Finally, gluten free pizza in Dupont! While it’s not on their online menu yet, Eater reported that they are now serving margherita, quattro stagioni, and funghi pizza for an extra $2. You can view their new menu on Scribd.

4. Custom Fuel offers do-it-yourself gluten free pizza

You choose your cheese and toppings and they will slap them on top of a gluten free crust and bake it while you wait. You’ll have to pay an extra $2.50 for it, but it sure beats a frozen one!

5. One of my favorite restaurants, Lincoln, now has a gluten free menu

While there aren’t a ton of gluten free substitute meals (like pasta or bread) – you will not be disappointed getting shrimp and grits and their famous kale salad.

What did I miss? Anything else gluten free going on in the district?

5 Things Men Need to Stop Saying (Gluten Free Version)

This Thought Catalog post got me thinking about how certain things that men say affect women who are gluten free differently than they would your “regular” woman. Most of the men I know are extremely understanding and accepting of my diet, but there is still always the random jerk out there who has to ruin it for the rest of them. So, men, please do us gals a favor and stop saying these things:

“I want a girl who will order a beer over wine.”

I used to worry that men would think that I was high maintenance or not “one of the guys” because I can’t order beer or a burger at a restaurant. Sure I could order a burger with no bun, but in my opinion having your date eat a plain beef patty like a cave woman is not exactly a turn on. Now I’ve learned that what people choose to eat or drink is really blown out of proportion. Order a beer, order a fruity margarita with a twist, order whatever it is you feel like drinking that night. Same goes for food – girls who order burgers and girls who order salads have an equal chance of being “cool.”

“Reservations? Nah, let’s just play dinner by ear.”

Whenever any guy says that, I immediately assume that I’m going to be left starving in the middle of nowhere. Usually this of the carefree sentiment that you could just hop into a restaurant and grab a slice of pizza, or pull into a drive thru and order some sandwiches. That’s not an option for celiacs, though. I prefer to know when and where my next meal is coming from, or at the very least that there is some kind of plan for getting food into my belly in the next few hours.

“Do you want a bite?”

This is usually followed by an, “Oh, nevermind…you can’t have this.” Yes, thank you very much for reminding me. I know that usually the person just genuinely forgot that I can’t partake in whatever delicious donut or pastry they’re having, but every time I have to turn down a cookie it makes me die a little inside. Come on dude, just try to think a little before you speak.

“Don’t worry so much.”

Celiacs have to worry because if we don’t, gluten will get us. Seriously, it’s everywhere. I know it’s probably annoying that I have to ask the waiter 10 questions before we can eat, but if the alternative is dealing with me being grumpy and sick from getting glutened, I think you’ll pick the former.

“She could stand to lose a few pounds.”

This is true for all women, but I can see it happening to gluten free women who get that ever-so-attractive distended abdomen after getting glutened. Men are so hypercritical of women’s bodies, and then they wonder why we’re all so insecure. No man has ever said this to me, but if they did…God help them.

All my gluten free females out there – what do you think men need to stop saying to you?

Upcoming gluten free events in DC

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease I had never met anyone else who had it. Since then I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some awesome gluten free friends, and I love being able to talk about food/life in general without feeling like I’m boring them with my gluten free drivel.

That’s why I’m excited that there are a few events coming up in the DC area where I’m sure there will be plenty of time to talk gluten, while enjoying some great food and drinks.

1. The Washington Post is hosting a gluten-free pizza and beer party at Pizzeria Paradiso

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The dinner is at 6:30 p.m. on June 17 at the Georgetown Paradiso. It costs $65, including tax and tip, and includes full pours of all the beers. Pizzeria Paradiso beer director Greg Jasgur will introduce the beers and take questions about them. The menu looks awesome!

I also asked on Twitter about the cross-contamination precautions they take at Pizzeria Paradiso, and they said the restaurant uses different equipment and cutting surfaces just for gluten free pizzas and prepares the dough daily before the regular dough is made.

2. Some brilliant girl I haven’t met yet named Emily started a gluten free happy hour meetup group

The first meetup is on Wednesday, June 12 at one of my favorite bars, The Board Room in Dupont. There are already 15 people signed up to attend, and I’m looking forward to having a Brunehaut beer and playing games with some new people!

3. Dishcrawl is hosting a gluten free restaurant crawl on Barrack’s Row featuring four restaurants with gluten free dishes

Details are still forthcoming, but it will be held on July 16 and costs $45. I’ll have to miss this one, but it looks like it will be a ton of fun!

Hope to see some of you local gluten free folks at one of these events!

2013 DC Gluten Free Expo Recap

On Sunday I attended my second DC gluten free expo – this one at the Doubletree in Bethesda, which was a slightly bigger venue than last year. It still couldn’t contain the hoards of hungry celiacs and gluten-free friends who crowded the ballroom for free samples. I could barely move my arms above my head to get this snapshot:

dc gluten free expo

One of my favorite things I tried were the allergen-free bars and sugar cookies from T.G.I.G.F (Thank Goodness It’s Gluten Free). They were so chewy and buttery, even though they didn’t have butter.

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Some other highlights were:

  1. Seeing the fabulous ladies of Sweet Nuttings. The last time I saw them at the DC Grey Market they didn’t have packaging, and now they had a beautiful display, brochures, and a new hazelnut flavor!
  2. Meeting Pam Jordan from I’m a Celiac and buying one of her “Gluten makes me sick” t-shirts. Can’t wait to look super cool rocking that shirt out to brunch soon.
  3. The chocolate truffles from Dear Coco. I usually stay away from truffles since most have cross contact issues (Lindor and Godiva, for example). Dear lord these were good. And beautifully presented. The peppermint was amazing! If your wife or girlfriend is gluten free you should buy these for her immediately.
  4. Pete’s Apizza delivered again this year with a summer pasta dish with corn, cheese, and some kind of green sauce. My friend went back for a second bowl, even after we were stuffed to the gills.
  5. I finally got a gluten free Pop-tart from Glutino!
  6. The Bard’s Beer spokesman is my favorite. I met him last year and I’m convinced that he has the best job in the world. He bursts with passion for the product, and is generous with the samples ;)

After trying dozens of samples and loading up our bags, we headed over to Lilit Cafe to throw back a cold one and talk about the day.

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I met some great new people, and loved the energy in the room. I wish the expo happened more than once a year! I might have to start doing some road trips around the east coast to get to a few more.