Tag Archives: gluten-free restaurants

April Fools! 6 Gluten-Free Pranks to Play Today

I’ll be back soon with more absences of answers to ever-present questions about celiac disease and other gluten-related disorders, but I thought I’d take a break for April Fools Day.

This day last year, I convinced a few people that Dunkin Donuts would be going all gluten-free by 2015 (sorry!). Between then and now, the chain announced that, although it wouldn’t be dropping wheat from its pastries entirely, as I’d “predicted,” it would introduce wheat-free goods to every store nationwide in 2013.

The gluten-free community got pretty excited about that. But sadly, the joke was on us: Dunkin Donuts reversed the decision months later, with little explanation, before I even got to try one of those shrink-wrapped muffins. A lot of people were disappointed, and truth be told, I felt a bit responsible, as though I’d jinxed it. So this year, none o’ that.

However, superstition aside, there’s no reason not to get what laughs we can out of our chronic disease. If you haven’t yet decided what jokes to make today, here are a few you could try:

“Guess what! I don’t have celiac disease after all.”

Just as it’s good to have an all-purpose GF flour blend (if such a thing really exists), a good all-purpose trick comes in handy, too. Play this prank on just about anyone. Take it to the next level by whipping out a sandwich (which should of course be made with a reasonably uncrumbly gluten-free bread, unless you’re a truly dedicated prankster) and taking a big bite.

Girl eating sandwich

This “gluten” sure is good!
Photo © Jessie Jacobson | Flickr

“Soooo . . . celiac disease is contagious.”

Said with a bit of a wince and an “oopsie” expression, this is handy for that annoying coworker who’s always sticking his gluteny hands into your gluten-free snacks. To kick it up a notch, come up to him later, stare intently at his elbow, and when he asks what you’re doing, say, “Oh, I thought I saw some dermatitis herpetiformis. It’s probably nothing, though.”

“Bad news. They just found out potatoes contain gluten.”

This joke has limited utility. Most people with celiac won’t believe it; most non-celiac people already do.

Mr. Potato Head and family

Personified potatoes: Creepy? Yes. Glutenous? No.
Photo © Jeremy Page | Flickr

“I’m going back to school to become a [dietitian/gastroenterologist/celiac disease researcher].”

This is another good one to use at work, though probably not on your boss. If your parents are still paying off loans from your undergraduate English degree, maybe you’d like to try it on them, too. To really go for it, forge a letter of acceptance to display to the skeptics.

“Turns out, gluten is bad for everyone.”

Several savvy authors have made a killing off of this classic, so why not get in on the fun? Arm yourself with statistics and direct your chosen fool to the library to learn more. If it’s in a book, it must be true.

girl eating bread and yelling

Breeeaaddddd. It’s coming for you!
Photo © Eltjo Poort

“Hey, did you hear about that new gluten-free and vegetarian restaurant opening in Washington Heights next month?”

That’s not funny.

gluten-free restaurants in New York - Gluten-Free Fun map

See this map of gluten-free-friendly NYC establishments created by Erin of Gluten-Free Fun (interactive version here)? Cool, right? See how many are north of Central Park? …yep. But hey, it’s home.

Happy April Fools Day! Hope the jokes are on everyone else and not on you.

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Gluten-free food: Two chefs get it. Let’s get through to the rest.

“What’s your favorite gluten-free restaurant?” A group of NYC bloggers answered this question during introductions at dinner on Tuesday night. When my turn came (too soon! Wasn’t ready!), I said, abashed, “I don’t eat out much anymore, so I don’t have one yet.”

According to the National Restaurant Association, 93% of people (and, I bet, even more in New York) enjoy eating out, but I’m generally no longer among them. The service is always too brusque, the food too suspect, the assurance too absent. Instead of relaxing, I worry through the entire experience, from ordering (oh God, I’m taking so long) to paying (does the waiter really deserve 20% after dropping crumbs into my meal? But what kind of person doesn’t tip?). Admittedly, my so-so experiences may be partly a function of my restaurant selection and neurotic personality. But it’s also true that a lot of places just don’t get it.

Recently, though, I visited two that did. Check out my reviews, then let’s discuss how to make experiences like these happen more often for us all.


When I attended the launch of the GREAT Kitchens Chef’s Table luncheon tour at MehtaphorChef Jehangir Mehta (who also owns Graffiti) served us elegant, inventive tasting courses inspired by Asian (especially Indian) and French cuisine. Standouts, for me, were the grilled tofu topped with a chickpea flour-breaded onion ring and cilantro chutney, and dessert—a rum raisin ice cream sundae topped with sweet pappadum-inspired crisps. The food made me think differently about some of my favorite (and least favorite—see: cilantro) foods, which is exactly what a restaurant should do.

More importantly, the chef and his waitstaff were pleasant, articulate, reliable, and accommodating. Mehta seemed passionate about the idea of serving everybody who entered, and he did it well. He said his dream was to one day own a restaurant serving just one person at a time, which I found pretty cool.

MORE chickpea flour!!!

MORE chickpea flour! It’s everywhere.

Tommy Lasagna

Chef Tommy Mosera is new to the gluten-free business, but it doesn’t show. At Tuesday’s blogger dinner at Tommy Lasagna, our server Zach and the chef himself were so personable, informed, and forthcoming that I almost want to say the service was the standout—except that that’d be unfair to the housemade focaccia and mozzarella, farmers market lasagna, flourless chocolate cake, and light-as-air cheesecake.

Chef Mosera explained he phased in gluten-free items a few at a time to get his staff used to taking precautions—and, my, the precautions! The pasta is made in-house, but in its own equipment, in the morning before any gluten molecules might be in the air to drift into our lasagna like so many acid snowflakes. Mosera also names the gluten-free menu items differently from gluten-containing items (not just “GF such and such”) to avoid confusion at the point of order—an inspired idea. His work seems to have paid off, since afterwards we all felt great (if a tad overstuffed). The restaurant is launching its full gluten-free menu this weekend.

Whatever the omnivores were having sounded good, too, but give me two slabs of fresh mozzarella and I am o-k-a-y.

Whatever the omnivores were having for their first course sounded good, too, but give me a few slabs of fresh mozzarella and I am o-k-a-y.

My compliments to the chefs!

Both chefs also contended admirably with other restrictions thrown their way, including my vegetarianism and a smattering of allergies. If you’re in the New York area and eat gluten-free (or don’t), Mehtaphor and Tommy Lasagna are both well worth a visit.

What inspired these chefs to give us an experience so out of the ordinary? Chef Mosera created his gluten-free menu after his business partner’s wife (the person who suggested he open a restaurant) became gluten sensitive. Chef Mehta feels that serving people food they can eat is why he opened a restaurant in the first place.

So now I wonder: How can we get other chefs to follow their example?

I tried to answer that question this week on My Life With Food Allergies. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to stop by and let me know if you agree.

And, in the spirit of trying new things, check out these blogs by the folks with whom I had the distinct pleasure of sharing these meals. Some of these bloggers, I already followed and was excited to meet in person; some I’d met before and was thrilled to see again; and some were new to me; but all of them are smart, fun folks whose blogs you ought to read (if you don’t already!).

Barbara of About.com IBS, Mike of Gluten-Free Mike, Anya of Another Gluten-Free Blog, Judith of Fooditka and We Heart Astoria, Carolyn of Gluten-Free Bird and the Brooklyn Gluten-Free Meetup Group, Candice of London to NYC, Katie of Gluten-Free Blondie and the hilarious When I Went Gluten-Free, Kristen of Pasta’s Kitchen, and Erin (who organized the Tommy Lasagna dinner) of Gluten-Free Fun, Gluten-Free Globe Trotterand the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup Group.

Have you discovered any new favorite blogs or restaurants recently?

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Meda ase, Ghana Cafe! (Gluten-free in DC)

I’m not going to make a habit of reviewing restaurants on this blog, partly because I almost never go to them. I swore them off on January 29th until I’m feeling better, per standard recommendations. However, I admit that I’ve “cheated” and gone out to eat three times since then, at three different restaurants.

One was Sacred Chow near NYU (where I was sad to learn they’d changed their menu from the previous small plates format). I was dining with a gluten-free companion who swore up and down that they were good about cross-contamination, and our waiter made similar assurances. Lack of tapas aside, the meal was tasty as always, but I still didn’t feel right about it. After that I renewed my vow to pass on restaurants that weren’t strictly gluten-free until the time is right.

The two restaurants I’ve made exceptions for since then both claim entirely gluten-free menus: the newish Hu Kitchen near Union Square (paleo and veg-friendly, not so easy to pull off) and Ghana Cafe in Washington, DC, while I was visiting my brother Patrick (warning: their website plays drums at you).

I was excited to learn that the cuisine of Ghana traditionally uses cornmeal and rice rather than wheat (or other gluten-containing grains) as staples, meaning the food is naturally gluten-free. When I called in advance, the staff member assured me that everything was gluten-free. In person, our waiter (who I believe was in fact the owner, though he didn’t introduce himself as such) reassured us that everything was gluten-free, and also volunteered that it was dairy-free and GMO-free. Fine by me!


This sauce (which we didn’t get to try on its own, though I think it was in Pat’s dish) is available for sale on their website in terrifying bulk quantities.

He also let us know that select products of theirs are available at their local Whole Foods (so far, only their hot sauce, but they’d just dropped off samples of other dishes, including the peanut soup that I had, and were hoping they’d get picked up—good luck!).

I had a rice and black-eyed pea pilaf-style dish (wakye, I think) with peanut soup, and Pat and I split a dish called banku, made of fermented corn, which was a slightly sour polenta-bready thing. I liked it plain; though it was quite bland, it struck me as great comfort food. It became magical when dunked in the peanut soup or spread with the incredible spice mixture that came out with it. This mix was their housemade shito, which is normally based on seafood but which they make vegan. They didn’t want to give away their recipe, but I got confirmation that it was “just spices.” Have you had it?

Me with my new favorite condiment, shito. ("Pull up your shirt!," says my Mom.)

Me with my new favorite condiment, shito. (I know, I know: “Pull up your shirt!,” says Mom.)

Big brother Pat ordered the jollof (tomatoey, spiced) rice with snapper. I think he was a bit surprised when his entrée came out as an entire fish, head and all . . .

HTC PI86100_000094

. . . but that didn’t stop him from eating it. I didn’t stop him either, despite staring at it with perturbed fascination and commenting, “You can still see its little teeth!” and “It’s frowning at me!”

Yeah, I’m that vegetarian.

Anyway, it was a wonderful meal, and the restaurant, I think, is an underappreciated gem, which is why I wanted to be sure to write a review. Atmosphere-wise, it was fine—brightly colored tables, not-too-loud music, and large windows to the street that we sat by. Our waiter and busboy were friendly and forthcoming. Somewhat pricey, but very good food.

I was sort of nervous to go, though, because so few gluten-freers were talking about it online. I found one Yelper who spoke (yelped?) highly of it (others didn’t even mention the gluten-free menu, and many complained about slow service, which, to be fair, we also experienced—Pat and I agreed to term it “relaxed,” but we could’ve gone for a water refill or two, especially with the smallish glasses). A DC Celiac Support Group member also wrote a favorable review, but the restaurant didn’t make it into the most recently updated version of their GF-friendly restaurants list.

Where’s the love, DCers?

Here it is:

HTC PI86100_000096

Another reason I can’t do restaurant reviews: I don’t think to take pictures until the food is gone, and then I beg my dining companions to take them with low-quality cell phone cameras.

Given that my “stuff” isn’t under control, I suppose I shouldn’t have eaten out yet, even with all the reassurances, but I’m not beating myself up over it. I was on vacation, the world didn’t end, and I enjoyed my food. It was also nice to have three different dishes without having to do any dishes after. Best of all, my meal was free. (Thanks, Pat!)

Of course, if you don’t have your big brother there to pick up the tab, your food won’t be free, but it will be gluten-free (and dairy-free, and GMO-free) and tasty. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, I definitely recommend Ghana Cafe. And if you get your hands on a decent banku or vegetarian shito recipe, let me know, because I’ll be all over that shito.

Tell me: What’s your favorite underappreciated/hole-in-the-wall/under-blogged-about restaurant?

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