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Gluten-free menus enter food chain

ASSOCIATED PRESS

NEW YORK (AP) - As a longtime chef in four-star restaurants, Joseph Pace had seen appreciative customers before. But nothing prepared him for the day that a well-dressed man walked into his Greenwich Village restaurant, ordered a pizza and a beer, and broke into tears.

That man, Pace recalls, had been diagnosed 10 years earlier with celiac disease - an incurable affliction that makes the body unable to take anything containing gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley and rye.

The pizza and beer that Pace serves in his restaurant Risotteria, like many other items on his menu, are formulated with substitutes for wheat and barley, making his place a magnet for people who have celiac disease. The customer told Pace that he hadn't been able to enjoy a pizza and beer for a decade.

"This is what the restaurant business is," Pace said. "Making people happy."

Not every customer may be as effusive as that one, but Pace says he gets tremendous amounts of feedback from customers, which also helps him try out new recipes. His latest experiment is a pasta made from white beans. Rice, the main ingredient in risotto, is naturally gluten-free.

Founded just five years ago, Pace's restaurant quickly became known among people with celiac disease, who make heavy use of the Internet and e-mail to share restaurant recommendations.

Several major restaurant chains are also reaching out to the celiac community. Outback Steakhouse, P.F. Chang's and other restaurant companies offer menus of gluten-free dishes, and more are joining them.

Last month, Mitchell's Fish Market, a 13-restaurant chain based in Columbus, Ohio, introduced gluten-free menus, and six months ago Boston-based Legal Sea Foods did the same in its 31 restaurants. Richard Vellante, the executive chef for Legal Sea Foods, said his company adopted a gluten-free menu after hearing requests from customers and also noticing that competing restaurants were doing it.

For people with celiac disease, dining out can become a source of anxiety because of the risk of unintentionally eating something that contains gluten.

Many consult pocket-sized Clan Thompson food guides published by a Maine family which has six members living with the disease. The Thompsons started making the guides in 1997 and now sell nearly 5,000 a year. Mother Lani K. Thompson, who does not have celiac disease herself, says she's seen a "huge jump" in awareness of the disease in the past year and a half.

Kevin Seplowitz, a former computer security expert who developed the first commercially produced gluten-free beer, Bard's Tale, was diagnosed with celiac disease almost four years ago. He even quit going out to dinner, fearful of inadvertently eating something with gluten in it.

"I think the most underappreciated aspect of being diagnosed with a chronic disease is the psychological impact," Seplowitz said. "You have to be very diligent about it. If we order something and say, a barbecue sauce had beer in it and they say it didn't, we get sick."

Outback Steakhouse, a major casual dining chain with 760 restaurants, has offered a gluten-free menu since 1998, and its Tampa, Fla.-based parent company Outback Steakhouse Inc. has also adopted gluten-free menus at two of its other chains, Carrabba's Italian Grill and Bonefish Grill.

"They're a very loyal following," Ben Novello, president of Outback Steakhouse, said of celiac patients. "The return goes beyond the sales that we generate from the loyal customers we get. It goes to goodwill."

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Wish I lived in Columbus, Boston or Tampa ... :P

There is a place with gluten-free-WF pies (cooked to order, about half an hour) near me but it plays a very loud sound track unfortunately ...

I read of several fish & chip shops that have a gluten-free-WF day a month and people drive several hundred miles for it ...

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    • Thanks for posting this Adrien, it's a great list and I and others will appreciate the effort and the thought behind it. I loved my time in Malaysia and I'm glad I sampled all the food I could whilst I was still on an unrestricted diet. The good thing is that, like you say, some of the nice Malay foods are still ok. As a backpacker I survived on a lot of nasi goreng and laksa, nice to think if I return there I could still do the same Terima kasih!
    • I have posted on here before. DQ2, brother with celiac, DGP iGA was the only mildly elevated test. Was gluten-free so did 6 week challenge last winter. Negative biopsy. I am gluten-free now but do go out to eat. Prior to the challenge my health was good. Since then I have: Chest pain, pain between shoulder blades, periods of shortness of breath, heart palpitations, one instance of a heart arrythmia episode, neck is tender to touch on one side (they kept saying sinuses or TMJ which my dentist vetoed) ear ache, bowels never sink. Numbness and tingling. Blood pressure variations. Could be doing chores and feel dizzy and it might be 84/52.  not super low, but not typical for me if I'm running around the house.While other days I am mildly hypertensive. Recently lost 5 lbs in 8 days without trying. Recently electrolytes were low, alkaline phosphatese was low. Ferritin started dropping so started liquid iron 2-3 times per day 4 months ago. Primary watching that, I am not anemic but we are nowhere near iron overload either.  GI doc was a dick. Did not even know DGP replaced older tests and he was very condescending When I begged him for help recently and told me to get a second opinion which is exactly what I plan on doing.  I now have pain in my upper GI area. It is tender to touch. I had my gallbladder out in 97 along with a stone and infection in my bile duct. It hurts in this area. Pancreatic enzymes look fine, liver enzymes fine. Pancreatic ultrasound fine. I will now be doing a EUS Soon to look at bile duct, pancreas and liver.   so a typical day for me is that I might feel fine for a while and then suddenly feel like I'm going to pass out. really dizzy, numbness in odd places, like my body has been hijacked. I will typically eat a bunch of food something high protein and in about an hour or so I start to feel better. However, then my upper stomach starts to hurt in place of the passing out feeling. blood sugars are also normal. After getting the " it must be panic attacks" and condescending looks a million times my primary finally ordered an ultrasound of my sore neck and there is an abnormality in my thyroid which she says looks like possibly Hashti's. Except for one time, all my serum TSH tests were normal. We have more blood work on Monday. As I have not put on any weight and there are other symptoms that are closer to Graves.  Has anyone else had any thyroid issues that followed doing a gluten challenge?  where is your stomach pain? Do you have it above or below your belly button? Mine feels like it's in the pancreas area, like 2-3 inches above the belly button and when I push on it it's tender, but not all the time. sometimes i feel it in my back. 
    • Thanks for sharing with me.  I really appreciate it.  Honestly, after a glutening last summer (still do not know what glutened me), I did not eat out for a year!  The risk was too great as my healing time took 3 months (for symptoms to subside) and six months to regain lost weight.  Our recent vacation to Europe was worth the risk  as we traveled with our entire extended family, but we were extra cautious and ate only at celiac-approved places.  Otherwise, we "dined" at markets or ate the food we brought from home.  Thankfully, we did not get glutened (at least we don't think so!)  
    • I do not struggle with this and I was brought up the same way as you. I don't struggle because for many years off & on we didn't have a bathtub, only showers as well as this being therapy or medicinal for the skin - heck even for the muscles as I age. I figure I've earned my right to luxuriate or medicate with baths any time I've a mind to. My husband saw just how bad my dh got & NEVER begrudges me a nice long soak in the big soaking tub we now have.
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