Traveling and Eating Out Safely
Sometimes living in Vermont can be difficult to find gluten free options. I seem to go to the same places all the time to find gluten free options and start to feel bored by the limited options.
This week I had to go to the Albany, NY area and had some time to eat out and explore the gluten free options. It was surprising to me how many more options could be found in a more densely populated area.
My uncle had made plans for a large group of family to eat at a restaurant called O’Tooles on Central Avenue in Albany. I had looked at their menu and found several red flags. They had gf markers next to an item with teriyaki sauce, which has soy sauce in it, which contains gluten. I tried contacting the restaurant through their website, but they never got back to me. I thought I was going to have to run to Chipotle and get a rice bowl and bring it back to the restaurant! However, the restaurant turned out to be fine! They had a separate gluten free menu, bread and rolls from Sherry Lynn’s Gluten Free bakery, a dedicated fryer, and a dedicated space on the grill. I ordered a grilled chicken sandwich on a Sherry Lynn’s bun with french fries. I also ordered a gluten free Celia Saison beer which they served in a frosted glass. It was all delicious and SAFE. I had to interrogate the poor waiter to tease out the information and I am sure that I sounded a bit off as I questioned him. O’Tooles should advertise and proclaim to the world that they have an allergy safe kitchen, educated kitchen staff, put their gluten free menu on their website, make sure they are listed on findmegf.com and other gluten free restaurant finder apps. Their waitstaff needs to be as educated as the kitchen staff so that they can put their customers minds at ease.
Yesterday morning I got to go to Sherry Lynn’s gluten free bakery for the first time. It was like a gluten free mecca with many freezers filled to the brim with prepared foods, baked goods, and breads. They also have shelves filled with gluten free products. I bought apple fritters, glazed donuts, carrot cupcakes, bagels, rye rolls, and cheese danishes. From the packaged food, I purchased animal crackers and apple toaster pastries. They bake everything off site and then bring it to the store. Traffic in the store is slow midweek so they focus on filling their freezers. What fun it was for my mother and I to roam around the store saying, “Look at this! Look what they have!” I spent $50 in there and put most of the food in the freezer to eat over the coming months. Overall, I like everything, but the bakery items tend to have a dense texture. I am not sure if she uses a lot of eggs or what causes it. The texture reminds me of Against the Grain‘s products, especially the rolls.
We stopped in Saratoga on the way home to grab lunch. Hattie’s Chicken Shack has opened up a new restaurant in a strip mall near Wilton Mall, right next to Chipotle and Five Guys. Their original location is in downtown Saratoga and is famous for their southern food. They even beat Bobby Flay in a “Throwdown” episode a few years ago. They had a nice “exhibit” of the restaurant’s history on the wall over the tables. I was so impressed by the knowledge, confidence, and information provided by the front counter staff. They have a dedicated fryer to make gluten free fries, sweet potato fries, a fried half chicken, or fried chicken tenders. I opted for the chicken tenders and fries with a side of coleslaw. It was all delicious and such a treat after not eating like this since going gluten free over three years ago. The staff told me that it takes a good fifteen minutes for the gf fryer to heat up and they would prefer you to call ahead before coming in, but our wait was not bad at all.
All that and I didn’t get sick at all! This trip made me realize how we need to advocate and raise awareness to restaurants to convince them to provide more safe gluten free foods in Vermont. I struggle finding places to go and end up getting sick all the time. How do we get local restaurants to take us seriously and stop thinking that gluten free eating is just a fad?