Tag Archives: Gluten-free

Celiac in DC? Don’t eat here.

I typically try to put a positive spin on living and eating out with celiac disease. But there’s nothing that gets my blood boiling more than a restaurant trying to take advantage of the gluten free trend by offering a gluten free menu without putting in place the proper measures needed to make the meal actually gluten free.

These restaurants have all either gotten me sick, have told me about practices I believe are dangerous, or have been negatively reviewed multiple times for their mistakes or bad service. While they may be okay for those trying out the gluten free “trend,” I wouldn’t recommend them for anyone with celiac disease or a serious need to avoid gluten.

  1. Pizzeria Paradiso - While Pizzeria Paradiso offers gluten free pizza, they have told me that none of their ingredients or preparation is separate from the regular pizzas. That means shared utensils and surfaces. I’ve voiced my concerns to their manager and walked out of their restaurant.
  2. Jackson’s 20 – It saddens me to add this place to the list, but they were misinformed and rude when I asked for a simple brunch meal of scrambled eggs and grits. They claimed that flour in the air would get me sick just sitting in the restaurant (?), and that real celiacs just shouldn’t eat out. A comment on Facebook confirmed this attitude for me.
  3. Masa 14 – A lot of people pat Masa 14 on the back for their gluten free menu, so this might just be my experience. Not only did I feel like a burden to my server, but they brought out a sauce containing gluten on my plate. I ate the sauce before the server came over to inform me that it had gluten, and that was the reason they had put it on the side. I got sick and won’t eat there again.
  4. Ping Pong Dim Sum - This place is widely known for being on DC’s most wanted list for bad gluten free menus. Actually, their menu isn’t gluten free, it’s “gluten friendly,” meaning that it’s only about 75% gluten free, and you have to grill the server for what is actually in everything. I wound up ordering the most plain things I could in an effort to not get glutened. See reviews on Yelp confirming.
  5. Domino’s - Another confirmed no-no for celiacs. Because they use the same ingredients, pans, and utensils as the regular pizzas you can bet there will be gluten all up in your pizza. Check out the FAQs from the NFCA for more information.

While Yelp and other online reviews aren’t always to be trusted, here are a few that I have put on my radar.

  1. Nature’s Table“I explained to her that I asked for it as a bowl as I have a gluten intolerance. So what does she do? She tries to pour the contents of the burrito into a container rather than making it again!”
  2. Silver Diner - “Be very careful with their GF breakfast options. No separate griddle.” “Staff didn’t get the cross-contamination piece of things. Brought me my GF meal with a biscuit on the plate.”

Do you have any restaurants on your “never again” list? Tell me about them!

DC Gluten Free News Round Up

Now that the weather is warm, there’s plenty of reasons to get out and explore some new gluten free options in the District (and beyond). Here are some of my latest discoveries:

1. You can find Happy Tart Bakery AND Stumptown Coffee at Killer E.S.P. in Old Town Alexandria

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I spent two glorious hours reading in an oversized leather chair at Killer E.S.P yesterday. With an Americano made from Stumptown Coffee, and a chewy and buttery chocolate chip cookie from Happy Tart Bakery, I couldn’t have been happier! They carry tarts, cookies, and Nutella pastries (pictured above), all gluten free and wonderful indulgences. As long as they keep the sugary treats coming, this will be my favorite coffee shop.

2. Skinny Girl “Tasty Nutrition Bars” are all gluten free, and actually tasty!

I picked up a box of the Chocolate Peanut Butter and Sea Salt bars at Target, and was surprised at how tasty they were! Usually I brace for the worst when trying a protein bar, but these are chewy, sweet, and a great on-the-go breakfast option.

3. DC Dosa at Whole Foods Foggy Bottom

Dosas are a great healthy and gluten free alternative to a burrito or wrap sandwich. Made out of lentil puree, you can get it filled with everything from potatoes to spiced vegetables. Now you can find a DC Dosa stand in the prepared foods section in the Foggy Bottom Whole Foods.

Happy eating!

Come play trivia with me! Have fun and raise funds for Food Allergy Research & Education

What could be better than drinking cheap booze, playing trivia, eating snacks, challenging your friends in free shuffleboard and pool, and possibly winning sweet prizes?

Making a difference in the lives of 15 million Americans. That’s what!

That’s right – 15 million Americans are living with food allergies, many life-threatening. I hope you’ll join me in supporting a cause that affects me and my family every day.

Event details: 

Drink deals: $4 Beer of the Month Drafts; $4 Glasses of Wine; $4 Champagne, $4 Rail Cocktails; $4.50 Pounder Cans; $3 PBR Cans; $5.50 Rails

How much it will cost you: $8 if you RSVP and pay ahead using Eventbrite, or $10 in cash at the door, which allows you to play trivia and get a wristband for drink deals.

Proceeds donated to: Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), www.foodallergy.org

Please invite friends and family. Rocket Bar has generously donated their back bar for this event, and I hope to fill it to capacity.

Find the event on Facebook here! https://www.facebook.com/events/222899177898677/

Remember to bring cash to buy food and raffle tickets!

Stop saying cross-contamination – I beg of you.

I’ve had this topic on my list of things to write about, but I just can’t take it any more. As a community, us celiacs need to stop saying the phrase “cross-contamination when we’re referring to a gluten free food coming into contact with gluten, thereby rendering it unsafe to eat.

That’s called cross-contact, people!

It’s not just semantics, it’s a matter of communicating in an accurate way what we’re trying to prevent. Using the wrong word can confuse kitchen staff, waiters, and anyone else cooking for you.

Any trained cook or chef is taught that cross-contamination refers to food borne bacteria and diseases. They are taught to properly handle foods like raw meats by storing them correctly and heating them to a high temperature to prevent food-borne illness.

So if you ask a cook, “You know how to prevent cross-contamination, right?” They might think that as long as they wash their hands and cook your food enough, they’re all set.  If they use the same tongs/utensils, they might think it won’t matter if they used it for something with gluten in it as long as they cook it enough then the gluten will “burn off” or something.

Cross-contact occurs when a residue or trace amount of an allergenic or gluten-containing becomes incorporated into another food not intended to contain it, according to the FDA.

You’re probably thinking, “Fine, that’s the correct definition, but everyone says cross-contamination!” I thought that myself at one point as well.

I’d venture a guess that we are getting glutened more for that very reason. You have to talk the talk to be taken seriously. Being able to explain the difference between cross-contamination and cross-contact can help clear up people’s questions about how to safely prepare meals, and can help keep you from getting sick.

So, get with the program – start saying cross-contact. Even if it’s just to make me happy.

Who’s Who in DC Gluten Free Blogging

Me with Gluten Free Foodies Review’s Sean Dillon and Kelly Sajonia.

Last week I attended The Hour happy hour event for the second time and met a few new gluten free bloggers based in DC - so I thought it would be a good time to put together a listing!

City Life Eats (Valerie) - “I am passionate about thriving in all aspects of life – professional and personal. For me that means working long hours as an attorney and strategizing to balance the demands of job with my interests in food, healthy and mindful living.”

Glutie Foodie (Shira Kraft) -”This blog is a place to critique my dining out experiences in Washington DC and beyond and to provide a platform for conversation. Knowledge, experience, and outreach are the best defenses for us gluten-challenged. With your help, my mission is to reclaim fellow gluties’ culinary freedom, one reservation at a time.”

Gluten Free D.C. (Lauren Katz) - “Follow along as I discover gluten-friendly (and some not-so-friendly) spots in the District.”

Gluten Free Foodies Review (Sean Dillon and Kelly Sajonia) - “Here you will find reviews of restaurants, products, GF-focused websites, and travel. Additionally, articles with tips for living a gluten-free life are published. Our goal is to enrich the lives of those who are gluten-free.”

Gluten Free Goodness (Cheryl Harris) - “This is the spot for my recipes and musing on food and self-care.”

Gluten Free Jet Set (Anna) - “Gluten-Free Jet Set is your resource for locating the most delicious gluten-free food around the world. Here you’ll find tantalizing food photography, thoroughly researched restaurant reviews, and tried-and-true advice on staying healthy by eating right while traveling. Don’t let your gluten-free lifestyle hold you back from traveling anywhere or tasting [nearly] anything!”

Jules Gluten Free (Jules Shepard) - “Jules is one of the top experts on gluten-free living in the Washington area; Time magazine, ABC, and other major media outlets line up for her advice. The Celiac patient got her start five years ago by sending out a newsletter that featured new gluten-free recipes and products; now she has her own blog, website, and line of gluten-free flour, and has penned three books.”

Tayler Made (Tayler Lofquist) - “I started Tayler Made in 2011 to share my experiences in living with food allergies. Since then, I have been fortunate to reintroduce some of those once-forbidden foods back into my diet, but I will always have a passion for good, allergen-friendly cooking.”

It’s crazy how many blogs have come and gone in the last few years. All of these blogs have been updated recently so you should be able to count on them for updates! Let me know if I missed anyone! 

The Hour* DC: Gluten Free Entrepreneurs Start Monthly Happy Hour Event

A long, long time ago, I met up with a fellow DC blogger, Katelyn Sornik for lunch at Cafe Green. She gave me a couple of bags of vegan granola bars that she had been experimenting with as a side project.

Fast forward two years and Cafe Green has closed down, but Kate and her bars are doing anything but. Her “Kate Bakes” bars are getting rave reviews on blogs, showing up on shelves in markets around DC like Society Fair and MENU, and having her on a plan to rapid expansion/world domination in the near future.

As fate would have it, Kate has teamed up with another of DC’s great gluten free bakers! She and Emily Robins of Goldilocks Goodies (and LivingSocial baking class/farmer’s market fame) hosted their first happy hour in their The HOUR* gluten free happy hour series in February. This monthly event combines fashion, art, music, food and drink in a whiz-bang combination of fun-inducing genius.

Last month the event was at Meeps in Adam’s Morgan, where I stuffed my face with goat cheese-stuffed dates, drank Omission Beer, and bought a fantastically tacky Hawaiian print jumper.

the hour dc

This month the event will be on March 26 at Hemphill Fine Arts on 14th Street. Get your ticket here! I plan on being a regular at these events, and I hope you’ll join me!

Check out their next event here!

My Posts in The DC Ladies

This summer I began contributing to the blog “The DC Ladies,” which is a compilation of great articles by women in the Capital Area. I contribute one article a month on a gluten-free topic I think would be of interest to all the ladies of DC. Whether that’s a recipe, restaurant review, or tips for eating healthy, I’m so excited to be a part of such an inspiring group of women.

Here’s a list of my posts thus far:

Lazy Girl’s Guide: Healthy Take-Out Lunches

Try These 5 Easy, Healthy, and Gluten-free Snacks

Soup for Two in 5 Minutes Flat

Gluten-free Holiday Gift Ideas

The DC Ladies Guide to a Healthy (and Gluten-free) Thanksgiving

How to Plan a Gluten-free Wedding

Tasty Ideas for a Gluten-free Tailgate

Where to Find DC’s Best Gluten-free Pasta

A Beginner’s Guide to Being Gluten-free in DC

The best way to find out about new posts is to follow The DC Ladies on Facebook and Twitter. They have lots of great posts on fashion, home decorating, fitness, and more!

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)

pingpong

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?