One of my favorite things about New York City is the wide variety of food available from around the globe. You don’t have to go far to find safe gluten-free Mexican, Italian, Spanish, Colombian, Venezuelan, Asian, or Indian food. Sometimes these restaurants are just steps from one another and your hardest decision to make that night is what exactly you are in the mood to eat for dinner. You can literally travel the globe through food with nothing more than a Metrocard and a subway map.
I would like to note that New York City has a very high turnover of restaurants. Be sure to call ahead to make sure your destination restaurant is still open. In addition, menus sometimes change. Talk to your server and the manager about eating gluten-free safely at your restaurant.
Here are some of my personal gluten-free global suggestions for dining in New York City.
Risotteria: extensive gluten-free menu including risotto, panini, pizza, and the best GF breadsticks in the world! (NOW CLOSED)
Bistango: gluten-free pastas, stuffed pastas, pizza, bread, desserts, and beer
Keste: brick-oven pizza senza gluten (gluten-free)
Pala Pizza: extensive gluten-free menu including antipasto, pasta, pizza, and vegan options
Pappardella: typical Italian cuisine featuring gluten-free Schar products
Del Posto: very gourmet restaurant that is perfect for a special occasion
Davio’s Steakhouse: a northern Italian steakhouse that serves fish, meat, and gluten-free pastas
Rosa Mexicano: gluten-free menu and table-side guacamole preparation (Union Square location is most gluten-free friendly)
Ku Ku Canteen: Asian fusion restaurant featuring gluten-free bulgogi, a traditional Korean dish, and bibimbap, “a Korean dish consisting of rice topped with sautéed vegetables, chili paste, and beef or other meat, sometimes with the addition of a raw or fried egg”
Lilli and Loo: featuring traditional Chinese food and sushi with a full gluten-free menu
Rhong Tiam: authentic Thai food with all gluten-free menu items clearly marked at the restaurant (website doesn’t show GF)
Les Halles: Anthony Bourdain’s typical Parisian brasserie with gluten-free items clearly marked on menu
One of the top questions I get from gluten-free readers coming to the United States is how they can easily find gluten-free products on the shelves. Unfortunately, this isn’t always so easy.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) passed gluten-free labeling regulations in August 2013. This new ruling will help define what gluten-free now means in the United States and will help enforce labeling in this country. You can read more about the US FDA guidelines here.
In the meantime, the labeling here in the United States can get very confusing. There is no one way to tell what is gluten-free. There are some icons that can help you with your grocery shopping but it varies from product to product. See below for the pictures and links to the organizations that back that particular labeling.
Look for these images when you are shopping in the United States.
Please note: Until the FDA passed regulations this year, gluten-free labeling is not required or monitored. In addition, not all gluten-free products choose to register with any of these certification programs. Be sure to read ALL of the ingredients before purchasing anything. The icons above are only meant to be a guide.
It is also important to note that each of the above certification programs each test to a different Parts Per Million (PPM) number when it comes to measuring gluten and each use different testing methods. This gets quite confusing, especially for those of you that are familiar with the EU Codex labeling or the The Board of Food Standards Australia / New Zealand.
I really wish I could make this easier not only for those of you traveling to the United States but for those of us that live here as well. I hope this visual guide is somewhat helpful!
When I travel to Portland, I eat a lot. Portland is such a gluten-free friendly city that the problem I have when I am there is deciding where to eat. I have so many options and love that I can eat safely throughout this beautiful Northwest city. I have my favorite gluten-free friendly restaurants but always try to eat at one new place each business trip. Last month, I had my best meal in Portland since I started going there for work in 2012. This meal was at Imperial at 410 SW Broadway inside the historic Hotel Lucia.
At the beginning of the summer, I attended an event in New York City launching Bob’s Red Mill Grains of Discovery. This event was slightly surreal. It was bringing my corporate Portland world to my hometown. All of the chefs at this event were from Portland and it was at this event I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Vitaly Paley from Imperial. Chef Paley is a native New Yorker that relocated to Portland in the 1990s. In 2005, he was awarded the James Beard Award for Best Chef in the Pacific Northwest. Now, Chef Paley owns three restaurants in Portland including Imperial, Paley’s Place Bistro & Bar, and the Portland Penny Diner. At the NYC event, Chef Paley was friendly, chatty, and extremely generous. (He handed me a gift card for Imperial in Portland before I left the NYC event). I knew where I was going to eat on my next business trip!
From my first communications via email with the PR company for Imperial, followed by several emails from Chef Paley himself I knew I was in good hands. The Chef told me his wife as well as a few of the servers on staff at Imperial were gluten-free. He also mentioned that many dishes on the menu were gluten-free and even marked on the menu itself with a “GF”. He did add a disclaimer that Imperial is not a gluten-free or shellfish-free kitchen. Chef Paley said “Even though we do attend very diligently and wash all our wares and counters between every use we can not promise there will be absolutely no cross contamination.” Not only did he reassure me but he also gave me his personal cell phone number.
PAUSE. A top chef gave me his number. This would never happen in New York City. But I digress…
I appreciated Chef Paley’s honesty, his understanding about gluten-free dietary restrictions as well as my shellfish allergy, and I made a reservation for a seat at the chef’s counter at Imperial for a Wednesday night in August.
When I arrived at Imperial, I immediately was treated like gluten-free royalty. (Get it?) Garrett, the general manager, met me at the front of the restaurant and quickly escorted me to the chef’s counter right in front of the wood-burning grill and kitchen. My waitress Autumn came over and walked me through the menu, answering all of my questions. Chef Vitaly then came out and we chatted for a few minutes. He remembered me from NYC and spoke to me about the menu and the safe, gluten-free options. The Chef also remembered from my emails that I was allergic to shellfish and made sure to point out the safe dishes on the menu
My Imperial menu for the evening:
Drink: Sleight of Hand: pisco, lillet rose, pamplemousse liquer, flamed negroni mist Appetizer: Kale and raw vegetable salad with sunflower seed brittle and goat cheese dressing Bonus dish: Ocean caught salmon belly Main dish: Tails and Trotters Barrel Planked Pork Secreto with smoked hazlenut romesco sauce and grilled leeks Dessert: Coffee Toffee Icebox Cake
This meal was decadent, delicious, and most importantly, gluten-free. Also, Chef Paley tries to use all local ingredients, which he explained when I asked about “Tails and Trotters“, the Pacific Northwest hazelnut, finished pork.
There were three major highlights of this meal: the salmon, the sunflower seed brittle, and the coffee toffee icebox cake. First and foremost, I ate fish. I need to focus on this because I never eat fish. But when a James Beard Awarded Best Chef puts an off-menu dish in front of you, YOU EAT IT! When the salmon is caught by a Native American fisherman by hook and line in the Pacific Ocean on the morning you are eating it, YOU DEFINITELY EAT IT. This salmon belly was lightly cooked right in front of me over the wood fire and seasoned with local olive oil, sea salt, and vinegar. I had to turn of my fishy aversions off and eat this dish, and I am thrilled that I did. This salmon tasted like the sea. It was smoky and salty and melt-in-your mouth delectable. I think I was spoiled for life. I will never get fish that is this good, this fresh, and this well-prepared here in New York City.
The second memorable bite was the sunflower seed brittle. Instead of croutons on the kale and raw vegetable salad, there was crushed sunflower seed brittle. This is exactly what it sounds like. Like a nut brittle, this sunflower seed brittle added a nice crunch and an interesting and safe alternative to gluten-laden croutons on my salad. If Chef Paley served me a plate of this brittle, I would eat it as dessert!
Finally, just when I thought I could not eat another bite, I had dessert. The Coffee Toffee Icebox Cake dessert was a gluten-free cake with toffee bits, local hazelnuts and toasted meringue. I was so full from the dinner that I was unable to finish the cake but it was so good at every bite. I wanted to bring it back to my hotel to finish but since it was frozen, I knew it would melt by the time I got back.
Throughout the meal, I chatted with Autumn, Garrett, and Chef Vitaly. The Chef reminded me that his wife is gluten-free so he is now more aware of gluten-free dietary needs than he was ever before. All three of his restaurants highlight gluten-free options on the menu and his staff is aware of cross-contamination concerns in the kitchen. The entire staff at Imperial seemed very well-versed in gluten-free dining and chatted with me about this throughout my meal. One of the hardest parts about business travel is dining alone, but the staff kept me engaged the entire meal.
Chatting with the chef at his counter, watching the behind-the-scenes of the kitchen, and enjoying such a decadent meal made the whole experience beyond memorable. It is safe to say, that out of more than 6 weeks in Portland over the past 18 months, Imperial and Chef Vitaly Paley made for my favorite Portland meal ever.
Thank you to Chef Vitaly Paley for making a safe, gluten-free, and delicious meal for me and for the entire staff for being so welcoming and friendly throughout my time at Imperial.
410 SW Broadway
Portland OR 97205
While I did receive a complimentary gift card from Chef Vitaly Paley, I paid for the balance of my meal on my own. Opinions expressed here are my own.
I find Twitter to be an awesome resource for planning gluten-free meals while both at home and abroad. All you have to do is Tweet where you are going and that you want to eat gluten-free and someone is bound to tweet you back. Here’s an example:
I sent a similar Tweet when look for places to eat in Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. Twitter did not disappoint. I got a number of responses for each city that helped me put together a map of places to eat while in the UK. I also connected with a few restaurants and cafe owners who were eager for me to come in and try their gluten-free food while I am in the UK. While I cannot go everywhere, I am going to do my best to eat safely, and obviously 100% gluten-free, while overseas.
A special thanks to these fine Tweeters who gave me some awesome gluten-free tips:
Just yesterday, a fellow blogger and Gluten-Free Globetrotter reader sent me a link to one of her most recent posts on the blog Culture Shock Toolbox. I really enjoyed her post because so much of my favorite travel memories revolve around food. For me, one of the best ways to learn about a new culture is through their interaction with food. From the markets, to the restaurants, to even how and what people eat, I am so intrigued about such a simple yet universal thing. Everyone eats, but not everyone eats the same. Whether in the United States, Prague, or Thailand, food has been an integral part of my travel experiences and lingers in my memories. Being gluten-free has not stopped me from traveling the world and learning about food and culture along the way.
With permission from author Helene, of Culture Shock Toolbox, I am reposting her blog that really struck a familiar chord with me when I read it. Thanks Helene!
Eat your way through culture shock
Eating your way through culture shock is effective in many ways.
In Mumbai, a local saw us browsing through our guide and heard us talking about food. He approached us and said: “you know what you MUST try?” He named the dish, the restaurant and explained how it should be eaten!
We ended up going to that place 3 or 4 times and I will be eternally grateful to this man for introducing me to a delicious local specialty that was so much fun to eat! Hello, fingers!
So how can food help us deal with culture shock?
Food is a part of culture and a very tasty way for us to get an insight into a country’s culinary world. How does that help? Well, a full belly isn’t the wrong way to start…
Food is a source of comfort, obviously. On a primal level, it keeps us alive. On an emotional level, a hot bowl of yummy soup can work wonders. This is true at home and abroad.
Taste is dynamic, constantly changing and developing. Trying out new dishes and ingredients helps develop our taste and incorporate a bit of that new country into our lives. It bridges a gap.
Showing interest in another country’s food tradition is a way of showing interest for its culture and getting to know it a little better, again bridging the distance between us and our new environment.
Showing interest in another country’s culinary specialties is a way to communicate with locals too. If you’re shy, not sure what to talk about or how to approach people, why not start with food? You’ve got to eat anyway, so you might as well ask questions: what’s your favorite local dish? Where’s your favorite restaurant? What do you recommend I try? What’s the best way to eat this? Where do you recommend I eat [insert name of dish]?
Being interested in local food is also a way to bring us out of our shell. When we’re dealing with culture shock we might feel completely overloaded and ‘shut down’. In that situation, food is a way for us to be in that new culture, to get to know it while taking care of ourselves, because eating well equals care and therefore comfort.
Food is powerful in many ways, so don’t be afraid to eat your way through culture shock!