Portland, OR: Gluten-Free Paradise

I sat down at the bar at Ground Breaker Brewing in Southeast Portland for dinner. The server approached with a menu and I immediately launched into my I-have-celiac-disease routine. She listened and promptly responded, with a smile, that they do not use gluten anywhere in their facility and that I could have anything on the menu. I was giddy. This never happens.

Next she said, “you don’t have to be afraid here.”

She got it.

Eating out for someone with celiac disease is scary. When food is what makes you sick trusting a stranger to take your condition seriously and make sure you are safe is terrifying. Eating dinner out is like rolling dice; you just never know whether you are going to be sick tomorrow or not.

In most restaurant kitchens wheat abounds and special care must be taken with my food to be sure my meal is truly gluten-free and to prevent cross contamination. This means that not only do I have limited choices of food when I go to restaurants; I have a limited choice of restaurants. In the town that I live I eat at 5 places because those are the only places where I feel safe.

I travel frequently and on occasion I happen upon a 100% gluten-free restaurant or bakery like Posana in Asheville, NC or Coffee and a Specialty Bakery in Seattle, WA. These, of course, are the exception and not the rule – unless you are in Portland.

In Portland I felt like I had been set free, at least in the culinary sense. I ate at multiple restaurants that were 100% gluten-free and others that were experienced serving patrons with celiac disease. It is such a pleasant experience to eat without fear that what you are consuming might hurt you tomorrow.

In my short stay I made the following gluten-free stops in Portland (there are others and I’ll get to them next time):

Ground Breaker Brewing – Ground Breaker is a cozy spot with super friendly staff. I had gnocchi with a venison ragout, fish tacos, and their version of Appalachian stack cake (it wasn’t so much Appalachian, but that is another post entirely).

Brooklyn House – This restaurant is in a former home and has lovely little nooks and crannies perfect for a date or small celebration. It has a 100% gluten-free kitchen with a diverse menu. I had sweet potatoes and the white fish over Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, and carrots.

Deschutes Brewery – Deschutes is a super popular Pearl District brewery with award-winning beers. They do a gluten-free beer, but more importantly they have a dedicated fryer. So, I had fries, with garlic and cheese, for the first time in forever. Worth the trip.

Prasad – This is a 100% gluten-free and vegan spot located inside Yoga Pearl, a yoga studio located in the Pearl District. They serve full meals and juices. I ate here twice for breakfast. Day one I had a green juice and a rice bowl. Day two I enjoyed the chili farmhouse scramble with tempeh, greens, and brown rice with another green juice. Both were fantastic. The space is small and is open, so you will see the yogis come and go.

Petunia’s Pies and Pastries – Petunia’s is 100% gluten-free and vegan bakery and was a two-stop spot as well. They serve breakfast, sweets, and drinks and it is lovely. They offer biscuits and gravy and while I was tempted to try I declined, I would rather remember biscuits and gravy the way my Mommy makes them (with lots of gluten). But I did have coconut yogurt with fruit and blueberry coconut pound cake. On the return trip I had a maple, pumpkin, carrot, and zucchini cupcake with maple icing. Also, worth the trip.

Verde Cocina – Also in the Pearl District, this Latin restaurant has a gluten-free kitchen and features house-made chips and tortillas from certified gluten-free masa. I had dinner and lunch here. At dinner I had a chili relleno and for lunch chilaquiles. Both were wonderful, but know these aren’t the cheesy, greasy version of Latin dishes you might expect; both entrees were light on the cheese and heavy on the vegetables. Good and good for you.

Andina – This was the event dinner of the trip. Andina is located around the corner from Verde Cocina in the Pearl District, and while not 100% gluten-free it has a robust gluten-free menu and well-trained staff. There was spicy tuna with potatoes and crab salad, marinated asparagus, paella, and espresso panna cotta. All amazing. The server was very helpful; she eats gluten-free and took the time to recommend a number of other places to visit.

I am looking forward to my next trip to Portland and hope that what is happening in the food world there quickly spreads. If keeping Portland weird means keeping it this gluten-free, then I am in.

Eating Gluten-Free on Carnival Cruise Lines

Traveling with celiac disease is a never ending challenge. Spending a week or more in a domestic or international location is difficult. You have to locate grocery stores, pack your food for the plane and beyond and research restaurants that have gluten-free menus or are rumored to cater to the needs of the gluten free. It is a lot of work.

Instead of requesting a gluten-free meal on the plane, I bring my own.

So, when my sister informed me that the 2014 family vacation would be an Alaskan cruise I immediately started spinning all the potential food-related nightmare scenarios. This was my first cruise.

We sailed on the Carnival Miracle for seven days out of Seattle with stops in Skagway, Juneau and Victoria. I shared the least dramatic of my worries with my sister and she assured me that she had made the necessary arrangements for me. I was to meet with Guest Services and then the maitre d’ to discuss my requirements. The Carnival representative assured my sister that they could safely feed me. My sweet sister then researched gluten free eating on Carnival cruises and she found a blog post by the lovely G-Free Laura. I felt better. I knew I would be worried until I was on the boat and talking to someone but this information helped.

I arrived in Seattle and enjoyed lovely gluten-free meals at Tom Douglas’s Lola, Anthony’s and Elliot’sOddfellow’s in Capitol Hill (I also recommend Elliot Bay Book Company while you are there), and Local 360, which is super awesome spot where everything on the menu is local. All these meals were lovely and gluten-free.

Then it was time to board the ship. The embarkation process took less time than I expected (considering there were over 2000 people aboard). We headed for Guest Services to request the partition between our rooms be opened and to talk about my dietary needs. Unfortunately, my record did not reflect that I needed a gluten-free accommodation, it only noted a special need. I took this as – they aren’t ready for me and I have to be perfectly honest, I was scared. Guest Services confidently advised me that all I needed to do was talk with the maitre d’ and it would be fine. I had packed enough food to eat one or two meals a day out of my bag, but I knew I needed at least one good meal a day from the kitchen. So, scared doesn’t really describe it, I had a minor meltdown.

We made our way to the dining room for our first meal. I met the maitre d’, Ken, at the door and explained what I needed. He promptly dispatched the lovely Jana to my table. I explained to her that I have celiac disease and would need a gluten-free meal. I went on to explain that I am medically required to have a gluten-free meal and that I am extremely sensitive. She was unflappable. She assured me immediately that they could accommodate my needs. In fact, because of my concern she offered to personally order and deliver my food herself since my server would be responsible for multiple tables of people. I happily agreed. She got me. To ensure that the kitchen would have time to specially (separately) prepare my meals I would need to order my meals a day in advance. So, every night at dinner I ordered my meals for the next day. It seems like it might be inconvenient, but I did not mind and it gave my family a preview of the next day’s offerings.

Our server, Damir, was helpful and a pleasure to be around. He understood my need and worked hard with Jana and the kitchen to make sure my meals came out at the same time as the rest of the table. This was a struggle on some nights, but they were aware and working on it. The kitchen is stocked with gluten-free bread and flour. So, many traditional items (sandwiches, French toast, pancakes, etc.) are available. I avoid all grains but rice when I am traveling, so I was slightly more limited and declined to eat the bread and flour-based items. Despite my more restrictive diet Jana was able to work with the kitchen each day to find something for me to eat that was interesting. I did eat a lot of steamed vegetables and plain meat – salmon, mahi mahi, flank steak, filet mignon and ribs. But I was also to have the seafood Newberg revised to meet my needs. Instead of the Newberg sauce they made a lemon butter sauce and put it over rice.

They were willing to go the extra step to help me enjoy my meal. As for dessert, the cream brulee and chocolate melting cake were my go-to items. Although, they did have other gluten-free choices. While dining room service was very good and accommodating, the room service and buffet offerings were off limits. I was specifically instructed not to order room service and as a rule I do not eat off buffets (too many changes for cross-contamination). So, on the ship my meals were restricted to what I brought onboard and eating in the main dining room. Know this ahead of time – eating is not a whenever-you-want-it-option unless you have a large stash of food in your cabin.

Chocolate Melting Cake

I was pleased with the attention and consideration that I was given by the dining room staff. They were genuinely concerned for me and they went out of there way to try to make my meals fun and interesting. It was not a perfect situation but the service was great and the food was better than expected. Tip your servers, maitre d’ and Jana. They deserve it.

Celiac Awareness Month: Ten Things Everyone Should Know

May is Celiac Awareness Month.

As you may have read, I have celiac disease and I talk (and write) about it a lot. It is a huge part of my life – it controls everything I eat, where I eat it, the medication I can take, and even what sunscreen I can wear. In my many discussions about celiac disease with friends, family, servers, colleagues, grocery store clerks, doctors, nurses, and others, I find that people are usually very interested in knowing more about celiac disease.

So, in the spirit of increasing awareness, I offer my list of ten things everyone should know about celiac disease.

  1. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease. When people with celiac disease eat gluten it causes an immune response and their immune system attacks and damages their intestines. This damage stops the body from absorbing nutrients properly. Celiac disease is not an allergy or an intolerance to gluten.
  2. Celiac disease is genetic. In order to develop the disease you must have the HLA-DQA1 and HLA-DQB1 genes.
  3. One in every 133 people has celiac disease. Many have the disease and do not know it.
  4. Celiac disease has more than 300 symptoms, affecting many different parts of the body, these can include chronic diarrhea, skin disorders, and infertility. These symptoms often subside after a gluten-free diet is instituted.
  5. Celiac disease diagnoses requires a blood test and biopsy. In order to properly diagnose a person with celiac disease the person should be eating gluten, have a blood test, and a biopsy of the upper intestine. If the blood test and the biopsy are positive the person has celiac disease.
  6. The only treatment for celiac disease is a gluten-free diet. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley.
  7. The intestinal damage caused by celiac disease can heal over time if gluten is eliminated from the person’s life. A person with celiac disease can never safely reintroduce gluten into his or her diet.
  8. Gluten is found in many products other than breads, crackers, and cereal. It can also be found in soy sauce, condiments, juices/smoothies, candy bars, processed foods, ice cream, beauty products, and alcoholic beverages, to name a few.
  9. Food is not gluten-free if it has come in contact with a surface, utensil, or other ingredient that contains gluten. That is called cross contamination and it can make a person with celiac disease sick.
  10. Not everyone on a gluten-free diet has celiac disease. There are many reasons why people may be on a gluten-free diet.


Celiac Awareness Month: Glutino Products Are Certified Gluten-Free

The gluten elimination process can often take a long time and be emotionally and physically challenging. You can read my story here. One of those challenges is finding food to eat. Many patients with celiac disease adopt a whole foods diet to great results. Fruit, vegetables, and most meats are naturally gluten-free (although you still have to inquire about packaging and other manufacturing processes to ensure safety). However, not everyone is willing or able to adopt a whole foods diet and sacrifice all processed foods. Many folks rely on processed foods for snacks, just can’t bear to give up breakfast cereal, or don’t have the time and resources to make every meal and snack fresh from scratch.

In the U.S. the term “gluten-free” is currently not associated with any threshold standards. This means that there is no definition for what gluten-free means on a food label in the U.S. This can make eating processed gluten-free foods extra challenging. One thing that makes it easier is seeking out foods that are certified gluten-free by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization. These foods are certified through testing to have less than 10 part per million of gluten in the final product. This provides some comfort to nervous celiac patients.


I was approached by Glutino to do a review of some of their products. I have tried Glutino products before, but I always noticed that the packaging lacked the certified gluten-free symbol, yet the website indicated that the products are tested to contain less than 10 ppm of gluten. I wondered why this was, so, I asked. This was the response I received from a Glutino representative:

Glutino products are certified by the Gluten-Free Certification Organization.   Though not currently stated on our packaging, we are in the process of adding this certification notification to our products. While the actual certification is a relatively new development for us, our stringent testing processes did not change. As a trusted pioneer and leader in convenient gluten free living, we’ve long supported the mission of the Gluten-Free Certification Organization to improve the health and lives of those living gluten-free and are proud to be adding the certification to our products for all consumers to see.

This information made me more comfortable eating their products. While I eat a very limited and carefully curated selection of processed gluten-free products I was comfortable trying these products and I recommend them to those looking for non-whole foods options for their diets. But remember, every person with celiac disease is different, what works for some may not work for others.

Here is what I found:

Glutino Table Crackers

I like these table crackers, a lot, but you should know up front that these are not going to give you the same cracker experience as a saltine or a Ritz. These crackers are flaky like a regular cracker, but they are much thinner and are larger in size allowing you to break them off into the size you prefer. They would be great with cheese or soup, but I like mine plain.

Glutino Mini Pretzels

A dear friend who has had celiac since he was a child give me some good advice early on, he said, don’t try to replace those things that you love with gluten-free options, because you will often be disappointed. He was mostly right. Except about these pretzels. If you are looking to replace regular pretzels with a gluten-free option then here it is. These mini pretzels (they also have pretzel sticks and pretzels covered in yogurt, fudge, or chocolate) are fantastic. They have the look, feel, and crunch of a regular pretzel. However, they lighter and in my opinion taste better than regular pretzels. I was worried that I was exaggerating so I asked friends, who are not gluten-free, to try these and they agreed: these are great and not great-for-gluten-free great, but legitimately great pretzels.

Glutino Bagel Chips with Cinnamon and Sugar

These little guys are nothing short of addictive. Again, they look, feel, and crunch of bagel chips, despite the wheat flour. I cannot tell any difference between these and regular bagel chips. But the addictive part is the sugar and cinnamon – this is dessert in a box. Try it, you will enjoy it.

Glutino has a whole host of other gluten-free products from breakfast pastries, to cookies and on to flavored crackers. The company has been around for 30 years and is openly committed to serving and advocating for those who live a gluten-free lifestyle. The company understands that gluten-free living is not a fad, rather it is a medical necessity for many. In response to my question regarding advocating for the celiac community, a director at Glutino responded by staying

Today, through our stringent testing process, Glutino’s products contain less than 10 parts per million of gluten — well below the guidelines expected to be announced by the FDA. Glutino has long been advocating for gluten-free labeling standards and is looking forward to the FDA’s decision to regulate gluten-free labeling. Standardized labeling will provide a safer environment in which consumers – especially those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities – can make safe and informed decisions about their diet.

I am a tough sell and the company’s openness to questions, their thoughtful responses, and the tasty food has made me consider them as an option for my diet.


While I did not receive any monetary payment for this blog post it was solicited by Glutino and I was provided with free samples of Glutino products. However, I selected the products that I would review based on my individual diet and needs.

Gluten-Free Labeling in the United States

Grocery shopping has become challenging for me, because large sections of the grocery are off-limits. I have celiac disease (CD). CD is a systemic autoimmune disorder caused by exposure to gluten in genetically-susceptible people. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. The immune response activated in celiac disease causes the body to attack gluten as if it is an antigen. Symptoms and other health problems associated with CD include including abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, psychiatric disorders, infertility, birth defects, osteoporosis, and life-threatening conditions such as intestinal cancer. According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center, there are approximately 300 recognized symptoms of Celiac Disease. CD affects 1 in 133 people in the U.S. — the number of people in the U.S. with CD could fill 4,400 Boeing 747 jets.

The only treatment for CD is adherence to a gluten-free diet. This means that I must avoid anything that contains or has come in contact with gluten (wheat, barley, or rye). The list of gluten-containing substances I must avoid is not limited to food. People with CD must find cosmetics, beauty products, cleaning supplies, and medications that are gluten-free. Exposure to gluten from these sources can also result in a CD immune response and its accompanying symptoms.

I learned quickly after my diagnosis that the easiest way to eat is to buy fresh food. You know, the food found on the perimeter of the grocery store. I have little use for the guts of the grocery store where all the tasty bagged, boxed, and canned foods live.

When I pick up an organic bunch of kale, I know what is in it. That is not true of food that comes in boxes, bags, and cans. Decoding the ingredients of processed products is tricky. In foods not labeled “gluten-free,” I avoid anything that includes the ingredients “natural flavors,” “artificial flavoring,” or anything else that is vague. Then, I have to spend time Googling or using my gluten-free phone app to see if I can determine the gluten-free status of any other ingredients.

I am that lady standing in the aisle, probably in your way, basket on the floor, can in one hand, and an iphone in the other. Even if the product I am looking at has the words “gluten-free” on the label, I still have to wonder if it is gluten-free. I cannot just sigh with relief and toss it in my basket.


In the United States, there is no legal definition for the phrase “gluten-free.” That is right; manufacturers can use that phrase as they choose without meeting any established, regulated standards. “Gluten-free” means whatever they say it means as long as, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is not “misleading.” There are instances of food products being sold with “gluten-free” labeling, and some products contain varying amounts of gluten, include “wheat” in the ingredients, and are exposed to gluten in the manufacturing process.

How can this be?

The FDA has failed to accurately define the term “major food allergen,” establish safe gluten thresholds for food products, and meet its legal obligation under the Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act of 2004 (FALCP) to create and implement final rules for gluten-free food labeling.

The phrase “major food allergen” under FALCP means “(1) Milk, egg, fish (e.g., bass, flounder, or cod), Crustacean shellfish (e.g. crab, lobster, or shrimp), tree nuts (e.g. almonds, pecans, or walnuts), wheat, peanuts and soybeans. (2) A food ingredient that contains protein derived from a food specified in paragraph (1), except the following: (A) Any highly refined oil derived from a food specified in paragraph (1) and any ingredient derived form such highly refined oil. . . . .” 21 USC 321(qq) (2012). The FALCP requires that manufacturers identify these allergens by their common names (i.e. wheat, milk, or soy) on labeling for easy identification by consumers.

In order for a product to be gluten-free, it must be free of all gluten: wheat, barley, and rye. Unfortunately, the current law does not meet that standard. The definition of major food allergen includes only wheat. It does not include rye and barley, both of which contain gluten. The FDA’s definition of major food allergen must include the term “gluten” or the words “wheat, barley, and rye” to safely protect citizens with CD or other non-celiac gluten sensitivities.

Additionally, the FALCP charged the FDA to have final standards for gluten-free labeling in place by 2008, no later than four years after the enactment of FALCP. In 2007, following up on the mandate from FALCP, the FDA issued a proposed rule “Food Labeling: Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods.” The proposed rule states that a food is gluten-free if the food does not contain any of the following:

  1. an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains;
  2. an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten;
  3. an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten; or
  4. 20 ppm or more gluten.

Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods, 72 Fed. Reg. 2795 (proposed January 23, 2007) (to be codified at 21 CFR Part 101).

The FDA’s notice described the currently-adopted analytical methods for gluten detection as being able to reliably and consistently detect gluten at levels of 20 parts per million or more in a variety of foods. Participation by food manufacturers would be voluntary if they wish to market products as gluten-free. The comment period for these rules passed with no action. No final rules were issued by the FDA.

In 2011, the FDA reopened the comment period on the same proposed regulations for “Food Labeling; Gluten-Free Labeling of Foods.” That comment period closed and, again, no action was taken. No final rules were issued by the FDA regarding the labeling of gluten-free foods.

Over a year later, on Dec. 14, 2012, the FDA issued a notice titled “Request for Comments and Information on Initiating a Risk Assessment for Establishing Food Allergen Thresholds; Establishment of a Docket.” The comment period on the notice will close on Feb. 12, 2013, and an advisory committee meeting of the FDA is scheduled for March 7, 2013 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Have you ever shopped for a gluten-free cookbook for yourself or a friend? Do you know anyone with CD? It is likely that you do. Please consider supporting them by taking time to help prompt the FDA to do something with the power provided to it by Congress. Commenting on proposed government rules is a way for us to directly impact policy making. Your comments can directly impact and in some cases be included in the FDA’s final rules. Let your voice be heard.

It has been five years since the statutory deadline for final rules on gluten-free labeling, and the FDA has taken no final action. Five years. It is time for the FDA to do something.

This post is featured on The Huffington Post Blog.

Gluten-Free Traveling: Compromises, Ziploc Bags, & Patience

“Ma’am, is this your bag?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

“I will need to run it through the scanner again.”

“Okay, thank you.”

This is the moment when, as an experienced traveler, I self-righteously wonder (to myself – I don’t talk back to TSA agents, please note me thanking her for holding me up) what in the world could she need to see again. My bag is fine. There are no contraband weapons, liquids, or matches in there.

Oh, wait, it is the food. Food, you say?

Yes, food. I bet they think it strange that my carry-on backpack contains gallon-sized Ziploc bags of KIND bars, bananas, apples, Glutino pretzels, tea-bags, cured meat, boiled eggs, and random vegetables.

That is right, due to my gluten house arrest, need to eat every three hours or so, and general distrust of most restaurants, I travel with food. Sometimes large amounts of it. This is not a problem when traveling by car. Obviously, road trips are manageable for traveling with your own kitchen. I can load up the passenger seat, take a cooler, and stop at grocery stores when I need to reload or refresh my stash.

Gluten-free snacks riding shotgun.

Gluten-free snacks riding shotgun.

Flying is a totally different story.

I try to take enough food so that I limit the amount of times I eat at restaurants, this decreases my risk of being exposed to gluten. However, traveling for more than 4 days is a challenge. Food is heavy and I hate to check bags (and I need to be able to take clothes with me), fruit doesn’t keep all that well in a suitcase or backpack, and I can only eat so many nut bars a day.

Make-shift hotel room kitchen.

Make-shift hotel room kitchen.

However, the biggest reason that gluten-free travel hard is that having fun and fabulous (according to me) food-related experiences is a big part of traveling for me.

Some of my most memorable travel experiences have been associated with food. I’ll never forget the tasting menu at Spoon in Kowloon while looking out at the Hong Kong skyline, lunching on tuna and foie gras with my best friend at Le Bernardin in New York City, eating squab at Le Louis XV at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo (while my handbag sat on its own fancy little stool), drinks at the Oak Room in the Plaza Hotel with my Mommy and Sister, or eating giant portions of everything at the Hash House A-Go-Go with my family in Las Vegas. I love food. Food is not just about sustenance. I enjoy sharing food with people who I love about as much as I enjoy anything.

So, as a foodie, I am trying to figure out a way to live and travel the way I want to and still be healthy. In the short time I have been dealing with this it has become clear to me that the life of a foodie with celiac disease is emotionally, socially, and practically frustrating. It is also adventurous and full of compromises.

I don’t want to eat every meal in my hotel room, but I need to be safe. So, I take enough food to cover breakfast and all snacks. If it is a short trip I take breakfast and lunch. My standard buffet includes some sort of nut bar, apples, bananas (on a short jaunt), crackers or chips of some sort, vegetables that keep (green peppers, carrots, etc), and pepperoni (Boar’s Head). On the travel day I take my standard breakfast with me – two boiled eggs and a bag-o-fruit. Ziploc bags are my friend. This compromise allows me to focus on making the restaurant experiences I do get fantastic.

Before the trip I research restaurants at my destination that have gluten-free menus or focus on farm to fork cuisine. These types of restaurants seem to be the easiest to manage because most of the staff understand what I need or are willing to listen and help. You are not going to get that at a chain place. I do not eat at chain restaurants any more. They make me sick, literally. While traveling in Richmond, Virginia recently I had the great fortune to stay near the Urban Farmhouse, a great spot for gluten-free support. I also safely enjoyed dinner at The Blue Goat. Both places feature locally sourced food. They get food.

Next, I find the closest grocery store to my hotel. This is a great way to make sure you have fresh and varied things to eat while on the go. Also, if you are in a super cool place like New York City you can hit a Dean & Deluca and really treat yourself to something you probably can’t find at home. This is also key if the room does not have a refrigerator or the mini-bar fridge is not usable (you know, the kind that has sensors and if I shove something in there and move a bottle I end up getting charged $8.00 for a Coke I won’t drink).

I love hot tea and I like to try all different kinds. Sadly, though, it sometimes is not safe and you can’t always trust what the coffee shop or restaurant is going to sell you. So, I bring my own. I am the person who drives through or walks up to Starbucks and asks for a grande cup of hot water . . . I am not ashamed. Sometimes they charge me a quarter and sometimes they don’t, either way I get my tea. Speaking of water, I could not live without my trusty green Nalgene bottle. I bought this bottle in preparation for Coachella 2012 and it is one of the best things I have ever done. I drink a gallon or more of water a day and the 32 ounce bottle allows me to keep up with that while not being tempted to drink other things. Drinks can contain gluten too (watch out for smoothies, juices, etc). In fact, you will find that airport bars, Starbucks, and other places will fill up the bottle for you if you ask. Yes, it does help the environment but I’d be lying if I said that was part of my plan. It’s a nice incidental benefit, though.

So far, these little compromises with my immune system are working out well. I get to enjoy my trips and have more confidence that I will feel well (even though I know nothing’s 100% safe unless I make it). Also, dealing with fewer restaurants decreases my stress level and allows me to better enjoy my dinner company (rather than fretting about whether the server understands or nervously googling the ingredient, restaurant, or dish on my iPhone). I still have missteps, problems, and get sick but I am learning.

I am growing to appreciate the quote “It is not about perfection, it is about progress” more and more these days.

Gluten House Arrest

The gluten drama continues.

You may recall that recently I droned on about how great I feel now that I am gluten-free. All that is still true. No bloat, thin is back, along with more energy. Great. So what can mess that up?

One blood test.

Blood Test

I had my first follow-up antibody test after my diagnosis. Not good. Four months later and my levels are still elevated. Now a non-perfectionist, rational person who did not have expectations built around this test would not have been devastated. That person would not be me. I fully expected to see a within normal range result (0-10). Nope, in four months I am still not “normal.”

My gastroenterologist has a kind and super competent nurse, Tina. She gets me. She knows that I will ask a 100 questions, so before she calls me back she always talks to the doctor so she can give me the best information possible. Love her. After this unfortunately blood test she and I had a chat and she suggested that I remove any gluten from my beauty regime and she scheduled an appointment with my doc in about 30 days. So, me being me, I made a complete and comprehensive list of everything that I come in contact with on a daily basis that could end up in my mouth and ultimately my guts. I called manufacturers (thanks a lot Clinique – I’ll never use you again), read labels, did research and in less than a week my bathroom, laundry room, medicine cabinet, and cleaning products were confirmed gluten-free. Fine. Surely this will help.

Thirty days later I went back to the doctor. He gets me too. He never rushes me, he answers all my questions, and always asks if I have more questions (God bless him). He also is not offended when I mock him. Like when I reminded him that when he diagnosed me he said in response to my reaction “no, this doesn’t suck, you can easily manage this with a gluten-free diet.” Oh, really? He has now conceded that for “most people” it is easily managed. Folks, I am not “most people.” When I have a condition I am always the 1% that has it the worst. I go all out. Thank the Lord none are life-threatening. Not shockingly, we seriously suspect that I am one of those celiac patients that is super sensitive to the smallest amount of gluten. An over-achiever once again.

How do we fix this? The doctor suspects I am eating out too often and that is where I am getting glutened. Who knew that eating out two times a week is a lot? The plan: stop taking all supplements and NO eating out for four months (until the next appointment). Seriously? Is this a joke? Yes, I can stop my supplements and work them back in one at a time to see if one of them is causing a problem even though they are allegedly “gluten-free.” But no eating out? That is too much. Not fair.

I am on gluten house arrest.

For those of you who think I am over-reacting here, stop a minute and think about it. I am single, have an intense need for being social, and I love food. Now, when I meet someone out for a visit I have to run home and eat first or have another KIND bar. I have to cook in bulk so I am never left with nothing to eat. I have to go to the grocery at last twice a week because now the food I have to buy is all perishable (when you are really gluten-free it’s basically a whole foods diet. The boxed and bagged gluten-free food is not good for you and real food rots). Oh, and I now always have a banana, apple, or pear in my purse. Next thing you know I’m going to have tissues stuffed up my shirt sleeves.

The doctor, in reaction to me spewing some version of what I just typed at him, calmly reminded me, as he looked at my evenly spaced and spell checked typed list of all my gluten-free products, that I am “doing everything I can do and I have to live.” He then said, if you have to travel and can’t eat at home just be extra careful and take your Imodium with you. Sage advice.

At the end of this appointment he sent me to have another round of blood work resulting in more bad news. After 30 days of no gluten-free product touching my skin Tina reported that all levels are still up and mostly unchanged. Sigh. She sweetly offered to have the doc call me and listened while I declared that this is “hopeless” and I “am giving up on the titres.” God bless her heart.

It took a couple days, but I have calmed down. My non-perfectionist, rational side has woken up and I realize that I am not killing myself and that this is a process. Not a contest. Having normal titres is just going to take time because, well, I am special. I have to stop looking at it like some sort of goal that if I don’t accomplish I am a failure or loser.

It is just a blood test is my new mantra, or something.

Ultimately, my little rule-following and people-pleasing (including my doctor) self will behave and do as told. So, it looks like the only answer for the next four months is to make my kitchen foodie-worthy, carry-in my dinners to restaurants (classy), and become smug about my super healthy food lifestyle (or not). Maybe my next career with be gluten-free chef . . . talk about unrealistic expectations!

Thank the Lord gluten-free house arrest doesn’t involve some sort of tracking bracelet.

Boston in Pictures

I just made my first trip to Boston. It is nothing if not charming. I stayed in the theatre district and spent two days walking the city. The location was perfect and Boston was easier to navigate than I expected. It was interesting, beautiful, and fun.

The Boston Common and Public Gardens were the perfect introduction to Boston. You get the history, the pretty, and, if you are lucky, nice enough December weather to be outside.

After a tour through the Common I wandered through Beacon Hill. It is a lovely urban community. A cross between Colonial Williamsburg and Manhattan with super cool doors.

Next, I picked up The Freedom Trail at the Massachusetts State House. It was getting dark at this point and I was hustling to see as much as possible before dark caught me, especially the burial grounds at the Park Street Church. This is when I punched myself in the stomach. Seriously. I was crossing the street from the Common to Park Street Church. Rather than watch where I was going I was taking a picture AND walking (see the picture below) and walked directly into a huge green rib-cage-level pole in front of two lanes of traffic. Full speed. I have never been punched in the stomach but I imagine that this is what it would feel like. I was embarrassed but could not be too concerned about the gawking bus driver and passengers since I could neither breath nor stand-up straight. So, for a time I sat at the foot of the Boston Common sign trying to decide if I was really hurt or if the pain would pass. I was not and it did. I just felt stupid. Live it, learn it.

My last day was spent wandering through Newbury and Boylston Streets doing some window shopping and taking in the view. This is where I learned that I sound Australian, at least to a sales representative at Brooks Brothers. Maybe she had talked with the taxi driver from the day before who asked me if I am British. Who knew the Appalachian twang was so hard to decipher?

The storefront used in Cheers made this leg of the tour as did the view from the Prudential Tower and the Boston Public Library.

No trip of mine would be complete without some food pictures . . . the eating is good in Boston. I planned dinners at Market by Jean-Georges and Nebo, but oysters at Neptune was an impromptu stop and by far the best eating I did the three days I was there and I just had oysters. Super good.

There is plenty more of Boston to see, but for this first trip I feel like I covered some serious territory in a day and a half. My muscles are still sore and my feet are still recovering. I will go back, if only to hear someone say “wicked smahhrt.”

Gluten-Free Fine Dining in Fort Wayne

I am over at the Fort Wayne Insider talking about eating gluten-free at The Oyster Bar and BakerStreet Steaks, Seafood, & Spirits. These two fabulous Fort Wayne spots are ready, willing, and able to serve up a great gluten-free meal.

The Oyster Bar impressed me with raw oysters and fish done on cedar. BakerStreet offers a full gluten-free menu and the best steak in town, oh, and a to-die-for flourless chocolate cake.

Check it out and enjoy.

Second Stop: Niagara-on-the-Lake

My meandering through Niagara wine country ended in the tiny little town of Niagara-on-the-Lake (“NOTL”). NOTL is a historic town that sits right on the Niagara River as it strays from or into (whichever it is) Lake Ontario. NOTL was the first capitol of Ontario, hosted battles in the War of 1812, and is home to the Shaw Festival. It is a wonderful spot for history buffs and theatre enthusiasts.

I arrived in the afternoon, just in time for lunch. I took up temporary residence at The Moffat Inn just east of the main drag in NOTL (Queen Street). The Moffat is small, quaint, and accommodating. Of course, immediately upon arrival I requested a different room. My original room was right next to the back door which stays unlocked all night. Um,no. The desk clerk was kind enough to move me (after calling to see if a sister hotel in town could accommodate me), very kind. I then set out to explore.

There is a town park is right across the street from the Inn that was filled with people, music, and children playing in the water fountain. On down was the grand Prince of Wales Hotel, where you can have high tea and dine in style. Passed the Prince of Wales is a street filled, I imagine everyday all summer, with tourists. It is a tourist town, which means it is required to be filled with random shops catering to the needs of tourists (needs that they don’t know they have until they get there). I was not in the mood to participate in tourist shopping (when you are traveling solo your budget tends to be smaller), but I was looking for food.

Doors of the Prince of Wales, which are constantly manned by a gloved gentleman.

I opted for something Greek at Yianni’s Mediterranean Cuisine. I enjoyed a full plate of stuffed eggplant, which the server kind confirmed was gluten-free. I know, the asking gets old but I have to do it. Sigh. I cleaned my plate and enjoyed the cool quiet back patio location.

One of the primary attractions in NOTL is The Shaw Festival. The Shaw Festival is an extremely active theatre organization that operates in four local theaters in NOTL and “produces and presents the work of George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) and playwrights writing anywhere in the world during, or about, the era of Shaw’s lifetime.” I immediately took the position that if I was going to have a NOTL experience I needed to see a show. I went to the box office at The Royal George Theatre and bought a ticket for 8:00 p.m. performance of His Girl Friday.

I took the rest of the afternoon off. I sat on my deck at the Inn, watched people, and worked on my pictures from Toronto. It was a lovely break followed by a much needed nap. My nap was followed by a walk down to the water and enjoy the view. You can see the Toronto skyline from NOTL and many folks were playing, resting, and visiting in the park. Very pretty.

The theatre features a 30 minute talk on each production prior to start of the play. So, I wandered over to the Festival Theatre in time for the talk. Luckily, the theatre has a little cafe in the lobby so I snacked and listened to the history of His Girl Friday. It was a nice preface to what was a fun show. The theatre was crowded with locals and tourists alike. Once the show began I understood why, the acting was outstanding. The female lead was especially charming and engaging. It was a great time. The theatre is worth a trip to NOTL.

Admittedly, I used a chunk of my time in NOTL to recover from the marathon of walking I did in Toronto. NOTL is a great place to relax. You can enjoy your quaint old hotel or Inn, lounge in the park and people watch, or pound the pavement shopping and visiting art galleries and restaurants. Either way, it is a peaceful time in NOTL.

It is a nice little town, but be advised that there will be tourists, and plenty of them. Some like me and some worse. My visit to NOTL was short, but enjoyable. Next, I made my way out of NOTL and down the parkway thirty minutes to Niagara Falls, where this story ends.