Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Encouraging gluten-free talks with local restaurants

I went to a second media food tasting event at The Players yesterday (sometimes it's good to be in the media -- free food), and the most interesting part of it was I got a chance to talk to representatives of several local restaurants that I don't normally visit.

The conversations were very encouraging because I really felt these people understand what the gluten-free diet is really about. It's a good feeling during Celiac Awareness Month.

The first place I visited was the tent for Indochine, the downtown Jacksonville Thai restaurant. They told me that a good number of dishes on their menu can be made gluten free and while they don't have a gluten-free menu, they said the staff is very knowledgeable about gluten-free issues. We discussed the fact that the big problem with Asian foods is that most soy sauces contain wheat. That told me that they do know what they are talking about.

Then I went to the Metro Diner tent. I was actually surprised to see Metro Diner on the golf tournament's gluten-free list and, in fact, they said that only one of the dishes at their tournament tent is gluten free: stuffed tomato with chicken salad.

The Metro Diners in Jacksonville don't have a gluten-free menu either but Mark Davoli, one of the owners, told me that several dishes on their regular menu are gluten free and they are talking about providing a gluten-free menu because they realize that so many people need it.

Next to the Metro Diner tent is Pele's Wood Fire, which is offering pizza at The Players but, unfortunately, not gluten-free pizza. However, they did tell me that the restaurant in Five Points has gluten-free pizza and from what they described about the process, it seems that they are taking the proper precautions to prevent cross-contamination as well as possible.

On the other side of the Metro Diner tent at The Players is the 4 Rivers Smokehouse barbecue tent. They assured me that all of their barbecue sauces are gluten free (which is always the big question at a barbecue place).

All of those restaurants are located in an area at the golf tournament called Taste of Jax between the 11th green and 12th tee. We also visited a food truck area between the 10th and 11th fairways and the 15th green that included another barbecue place called Up in Smoke BBQ.

What I liked about Up in Smoke is that they warned me that their sauces for their pulled pork are not gluten free. They did offer me some brisket and said they could put coleslaw on top, but they admitted that there has been some debate over whether or not the coleslaw is gluten free. I considered all of this a positive because they clearly understood the problem and were open and honest about it. That's all I ask.

So, I came away feeling good about some local restaurants that I haven't been going to, and I also have to say that there are some awesome gluten-free choices at the golf tournament this week.

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