The Good: Of course P. F. Chang’s fits in this category when eating out (see previous posting about P. F. Chang’s). When eating at home, a new personal favorite is Udi’s G-Free baked goods. Udi’s delicious Gluten Free Cinnamon Rolls had the following right on the side of their package:
“We’re old-school artisan bakers – we bake for taste and that special joy that comes fresh from our ovens. Our wish is to share that satisfying, made-with-love happiness with others. We hope you enjoy the results. All of our gluten-free baked goods are made in our Colorado gluten-free bakery alongside breads, granolas, bagels and other goodies. All just part of our mission to make gluten-free delicious.”
How cool is that??? Imagine – foods made to be both nutritious and delicious and Gluten Free, too. Yes!!! That is good, really good!!!
Another “really good” is when dear friends and family honor me by recognizing my dietary restriction when planning for a shared meal or event. That makes me feel truly loved!!!
The Bad: All those restaurants that “say” they serve Gluten Free foods, but neglect to mention that their G-Free menu consists only of regular menu items minus the gluten-filled “tasty” part. No thanks!
Another “bad”, in my book, is when I pay to attend an event that includes a meal and the organizers or hosting facility cannot assure me that a Gluten Free meal will be provided for me. When I have paid like every other guest, my meal should be given the same consideration. Just like those who eat vegetarian or kosher, my meal should be delicious and still meet my dietary restrictions.
The Ugly: I was recently treated to a dinner out at a nearby Olive Garden. I had heard they had Gluten Free offerings and looked forward to enjoying their Gluten Free pasta. To say I was disappointed would be an understatement. First of all, it took them about 10 minutes to find “the” Gluten Free menu from which I could make a selection. There were six different selections to choose from. One included G-Free pasta and the others were basically meat and vegetables with little or no seasonings and olive oil. They were “ok”, but at the bottom of the menu was the following statement that just irritated me to no end. It showed how little Olive Garden really care for those of us who must eat Gluten Free. It said,
“Olive Garden created this menu for our gluten intolerant guests. Please be aware that the handcrafted nature of our menu items, variety of procedures in our kitchen, cross-contamination with ingredients containing gluten and our reliance on suppliers may result in variations in the ingredients of these menu items. We therefore make no guarantees regarding the gluten content of these items.”
This sounds to me like they really don’t care enough to establish connections with reliable suppliers or good kitchen procedures such that they can guarantee that I don’t get sick eating their foods, or they are merely trying to “CYA” in case “something” bad happens. Aren’t they required by law to guarantee that they will cook meats, for example, to the proper temperature to not make the masses ill? Why can’t they also guarantee I can dine safely and not suffer horribly for days after eating a meal that was “supposed to be” G-Free? P.F. Chang’s, Uno Chicago Grill, Boston Market, McCormick & Schmick’s, The Palm, and Bone Fish Grill are but a few of the places where I have thoroughly enjoyed a Gluten Free meal without worry whether I would be taking a risk, like at Olive Garden. If these other establishments can do it, Olive Garden could too… if they really wanted to, if they really cared enough about serving well their Gluten Free customers.
Clearly Gluten Free living still requires us to be vigilant in our ever checking labels and making wise choices – for our good health. Just like the bakers at Udi’s, we know eating should be a pleasurable experience both during and following a meal. Gluten Free can be both safe and delicious. I think more restaurants and venues will eventually “get it”; they will understand our dietary restrictions and work to provide us healthy and tasty choices. Some won’t. Those we have the freedom to avoid.