Just one of the countless reasons I heart NY...
Why am I smiling in this picture? Because I'm holding a bag contaning two boxes full of yummy gluten-free baked goods from the infamous Babycakes on Manhattan's Lower East Side (at the start of the big snowstorm that blew through in December).
New York has lots of easy gluten-free eating. I can't tell you what a treat that is.
Listen, I'm lucky to live where I do, where great food is plentiful and chefs and restaurant staffers have some familiarity with food allergies* and how to handle them. But here's what I have to do when I dine out here, especially when considering a new eatery: I check the restaurant's menu online** to see if there are at least a couple of dishes that sound like they could be gluten-free, or easily modified to be safe for me.
Once I get to the restaurant, I alert my server and ask them about the dishes I'm interested in, and then they go to the kitchen to see if I can have any of them. I've only encountered one server who didn't handle this well (and in that case, once he alerted the kitchen, they took great care of me - even made a special amuse bouche just for me, yay). I've never been glutened accidentally, and I try to be really pleasant when quizzing my servers, so it works. Often, these folks will bend over backwards to take care of me, and I really appreciate that (and make sure I show it in my tip). Again, lucky.
But it's beyond wonderful to have an entire menu of gluten-free items to choose from, as I do at several places in New York. It takes me forever to make a decision because I'm not used to having so many options when I dine out. And many of these places are ITALIAN, meaning lots of gluten-free pasta and pizza! There's even a place that's doing gluten-free Chinese, which means I get to have potstickers again....yay! And now, a Mac & Cheese place that's ohhhh soooo good. They even put gf breadcrumbs on the mac...OMFG. There are so many places in NYC with gf menus that I haven't even had a chance to try them all yet.
Yeah, I know... it sounds silly to get so excited about this, but it really is a treat to be able to eat freely in so many places, especially when it's in a city I already adore. Living gluten-free isn't as hard as you might think, but it does require attention and planning, and dining out can be the most challenging part of it. With awareness - and diagnosis - of Celiac disease and gluten intolerance growing, I look forward to more restaurants jumping on the bandwagon and doing a better job outlining what they're serving.
*It's not a food allergy, actually, but an auto-immune disorder...but it's far easier to explain in a restaurant as a food allergy...!
**I don't know how anyone managed this without the internet. So many resources out there, and some great gf food bloggers, namely Gluten-Free Girl and Celiac Chicks. Also, check out the Gluten-Free Restaurant Awareness Program.