Gluten-Free Global Cuisines

If you're gluten free, it's hard to beat the sheer thrill of discovering gluten-free friendly destinations. It's absolute heaven to discover a destination where you can dine on gourmet gluten-free specialties for every meal without worry. If it's in Tuscany, Italy, it's even better…. Some of you may recall the week-long gluten-free culinary events hosted by Jovial Foods (maker of divine gluten-free pasta and sauces) at a historic 18th century Tuscan villa. They hold these events once or twice a year -- Fall and late Spring -- and every time I write about it, it's pure torture. That's because attending one of these unique gluten-free culinary weeks is on my own personal Bucket List. Unfortunately, however, these gluten-free getaways are typically scheduled during times of the year when our kids are in school. But someday, perhaps…. If you're lucky enough to have the flexibility to travel in October, a particularly beautiful month in Italy, you'll want to consider treating yourself to this special vacation. And, in fact, you may not need to treat yourself…Jovial Foods may just treat you to a complimentary visit. Between now and June 30, 2015, you can enter their drawing for a free week (airfare and... Read more →


I have to confess...French food has always been my favorite. Since I was a young teen and my parents took me out to my first truly French restaurant, I was in love with the food, the sauces, the bread... Ah...the bread. Well, that's not typically something you'll be able to indulge in at most French restaurants (unfortunately, I've found that too few offer gluten free bread), but you can still have a terrific meal while staying safe. Here are a few tips for dining gluten free at French restaurants, whether stateside or in France: 1.) Bring your own bread. To be honest, even if gluten free bread is offered at a French restaurant, I'm always nervous about where it's been baked and cut. There are just too many chances for cross-contact with regular bread and other sources of gluten. 2.) If you forget to bring your own gluten free bread (I always feel terrible if I forget to bring our son a gluten free roll), look on the bright side...you won't fill up on empty calories and will have more room for the wonderful French specialties (and maybe dessert!). 3.) Bring a gluten free dining card explaining your dietary needs,... Read more →


Welcome to my fourth post in a series on the topic of dining gluten free at ethnic restaurants. Today, I'd like to tackle Japanese cuisine, which can be a good and safe choice for gluten free diners, if you keep some key things in mind. To begin, Japanese restaurants will typically offer several styles of food: sushi, tepanyaki-style (grilled in front of you at your table), and tempura. Here's how to ensure a safe meal: 1.) Before dining at the restaurant, call and speak with the manager or chef. Ask them about what they offer for gluten free diners. Their knowledge of gluten free ingredients -- and how they avoid cross contamination -- should be readily apparent based on their answers to your questions. If they seem confused, uninformed, or misinformed, choose another restaurant. 2.) Ask them if they have a menu listing gluten free selections. Also ask if they have gluten free tamari to use as a substitute for traditional (gluten containing) soy sauce. (If not, ask if you can bring your own.) Our family likes San-J brand gluten free tamari, which is available in many varieties. I always try to purchase the organic and low-sodium version. (Travel-sized packets... Read more →


My husband and I have developed a real liking for Indian food over the past 8 years or so. We even take our kids to Indian restaurants on occasion. As long as we stick with relatively mild choices, they enjoy everything we order. It helps that the Indian style of cooking is, by nature, almost entirely gluten free. Of course, you can't have naan, roti, or any of the other breads, but there are plenty of other things that are so delicious, you won't miss the naan! As in China, there are many styles of cooking in India, depending on the region. Most Indian restaurants in western countries, like the United States, tend to focus on recipes of northern Indian origin like tandoori specialties (cooked in an oven) and curries, both shown in these photos. Indian cooking relies on spices for flavoring, all of which are gluten free, with the exception of something called "hing." Hing is a very potent spice, and a little bit goes a long way. The owner of Rangoli, the wonderful and highly acclaimed Indian restaurant in our neighborhood, said it is used more in recipes from southern India. He only uses it in one recipe... Read more →


As we all know, there's a growing number of people who are now following gluten free diets by choice. It's a double-edged sword. It has made restauranteurs more interested in offering gluten free options on their menus, but unfortunately, this is often driven by profit motives. Too many times, restaurants aren't properly trained (by organizations such as the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness or the Gluten Intolerance Group) in safe preparation protocol, and diners who must follow gluten free diets for medical reasons (Celiac or gluten sensitivity) can become ill. Italian restaurants can be among the trickiest types of restaurants to navigate, since there are so many wheat flour-based items on the menu...like pizza and pasta. If there is flour flying in the air from the pizza making, that poses another risk. As with dining out in general, everyone needs to personally assess Italian restaurant options and determine their own level of comfort before choosing a specific restaurant. But here are some general questions to ask, preferably before even walking in the door: Visit the restaurant's website. Is there a specific GLUTEN FREE MENU? While this doesn't mean you can let your guard down, it's usually a good sign the... Read more →


Each type of cuisine has its own potential pitfalls when it comes to dining out gluten free. That's why I've decided to start this new series of posts on dining gluten free at different types of ethnic restaurants. Almost every restaurant these days offers some sort of globally-influenced options on the menu -- even "All American" grills, sports bars, and steakhouses have a range of more sophisticated options. Knowing what questions to ask about certain types of food can help keep you from suffering the consequences of getting "glutened." For my first post, I wanted to cover Mexican food, since it can be one of the safer choices, from a gluten free perspective, when dining out. Most of the ingredients used in Mexican cooking are naturally gluten free, but there are a few potential pitfalls. Here's what to look for and to talk to the chef or manager about (notice I didn't say server...always ask to speak directly with someone who knows exactly how all the food is prepared): Request corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas. This should open up options that might not otherwise be available to you (like fajitas, which are typically served with flour tortillas). Verify the... Read more →


China. It has become a popular tourist destination in the past decade, but for those of us following gluten free diets, the thought of traveling to China can be overwhelming. The locals' knowledge of the meaning of "gluten free" and how to prepare safe gluten free meals is almost non-existant, so typical group tours leave you with few, if any, dining options. Planning a trip to China on your own is no better, unless you have inside knowledge of the few hotels and venues that do understand what's entailed in serving safe gluten free meals. But now I have great news... If China is on your "Bucket List," there is a travel agent who does have inside knowledge. She is gluten free herself and has worked closely with a high-end China-based tour company to find safe hotels that welcome gluten free travelers. Ellen Morse, of Gluten Free-Us Travel, was diagnosed with Celiac Disease decades ago and specializes in serving other gluten free travelers. She works with reputable local companies in destinations around the world to plan amazing itineraries. Her trips, including this one to China, are NOT group tours...they are suggested itineraries which incorporate hotels that understand the gluten free... Read more →


P.F. Chang's has always been one of our family's go-to restaurants for a reliable, safe, and delicious gluten free meal. So my son and I were happy when my aunt treated us to dinner at their Natick Mall location in the suburbs of Boston last Friday night, right after we concluded our annual week at Camp Celiac in North Scituate, Rhode Island (this was my son's fourth year attending, and I volunteer as a parent counselor). My aunt and her friend were craving the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken, one of our favorites, too. However, upon being seated, we quickly discovered the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken was no longer on the menu. It had been replaced by Cantonese Style Lemon Chicken, which is described as, "crispy chicken breast sliced and drizzled with warm lemon sauce and chilled broccolini." We asked our server if we could get the chef to make the Philip's Better Lemon Chicken instead, because I'd remembered they often honored customer requests for this dish during a brief period a couple years ago when they'd taken it off the menu. However, we were told they weren't able to do that, because they did not have all the ingredients required... Read more →


If you've missed the last few Gluten Free Culinary Getaways sponsored by Jovial Foods in Tuscany, Italy, you have another chance to experience their week of pure bliss...from October 11-18, 2014. Ah...the Fall in Tuscany...what could be more magical? Similar to their previous gluten free getaways, this week-long experience will find you staying in an 18th century villa in Lucca, Italy -- the heart of Tuscany. You'll learn how to cook traditional Italian specialties from Carla, the founder of Jovial Foods, who learned to cook from the older genration of Italians over the past 25 years. Best of all, everything you make and savor will be gluten free! Imagine learning to make authentic, artisan breads and pastas gluten free. You'll bring this knowledge back with you to impress your family and friends for years to come! The week is the perfect balance between Old World charm and modern amenities at the villa (like their state-of-the-art kitchen) and also the perfect balance between learning, relaxation, and exploring. For those interested, there is the option of day-trips by car, bus, or train to nearby favorites like Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terre, and Siena. Carla's hands-on cooking classes will make you feel like you're... Read more →


Do you like to cook? Would you like to learn how to cook traditional Italian foods -- including delicious pastas and breads -- GLUTEN FREE -- from someone who's lived in Italy for 25 years? What if I were to say this opportunity is availalble to you -- all while staying in a beautiful 18th-century Tuscan Villa in Lucca, Italy? Check your calendar for June 21-28, 2014. It promises to be the perfect gluten free Getaway...a travel opportunity where you can leave your gluten-free worries at the door! Jovial Foods, maker of fine gluten-free pastas, sauces, and other Italian specialties, is once again hosting a wonderful week of cooking classes and relaxation -- with the opportunity to explore neighboring towns like Florence, Pisa, Cinque Terra, or Siena (all accessible for day trips by car, bus, or train). It's really the perfect balance of "getting away from it all" in this beautiful part of the world...while also learning new skills you can take home and recreate in your own kitchen. Carla, the Founder of Jovial Foods, will personally lead three hands-on cooking classes and share her knowledge of the Italian lifestyle, seasonal foods, and traditional Italian recipes (without the gluten, but... Read more →


Travel agent Ellen Morse from Gluten Free Travel - Us has been gluten free herself for decades, and she delights in arranging gluten free tours for her clients. She has many suggested itineraries that can be customized depending on your group's size, interests, and desired travel dates. Her latest itinerary is a 6-night GLUTEN FREE tour of SPAIN, with stops in Madrid and Barcelona. The trip can be created for as few as 2 persons or as many as 6 persons. Pricing will depend upon number of passengers but includes 6 nights' accommodations in centrally-located hotels, round trip private transfers by English speaking drivers to and from the airport, tours with English-speaking guides, entrance to museums, many meals, two private cooking classes, and transport on a high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona. Call Ellen at 312-337-9235, anytime day or evening, for pricing. Highlights of this incredible trip include: A private half-day guided City Tour of Madrid with visits to the impressive buildings surrounding Plaza de Cibeles, Plaza de Colon and Puerta de Alcala. Visit to the Prado Museum, the largest and most important museum of Spanish masterpieces -- and one of the best museums in the world. Permanent exhibitions include... Read more →


For my Birthday back in August, my husband suggested we try Chima Brazilian Steakhouse. It's one of several restaurant groups that have expanded to bring a new Brazilian twist to dining out. We had never been to a Brazilian steakhouse before, although many friends raved about the experience. Basically, in Brazilian "rodizio" style dining, servers come to your table offering various slow-grilled meats that have been roasted on spits, and you can try as many types as you like -- for one fixed price. What piqued our interest was the rumor that almost everything is gluten free. Fortunately, the rumor proved to be true. I called the restaurant (their Tysons Corner, Virginia location) to make a reservation and inquired about whether they had a gluten free menu. While they don't showcase it on their website, they have a detailed printout of Gluten and Dairy Information they provide to interested guests upon their arrival at the restaurant. The person taking my reservation assured me that they accommodate gluten free diners frequently and that there would be many, many options we could enjoy. To say we were overwhelmed with the gluten free choices was an understatement...Chima Brazilian Steakhouse far surpassed our gluten... Read more →