Experience tells us that traveling while Celiac can often be a wild-card experience. Made even more wild on any holiday weekend. Unless you're going to your Gluten-Free Gramma's house, you're taking your chances with any food stop along the way.
Seriously, I'm sure there's a mathematical equation laying out exactly the increased likely-hood of cross-contamination based on the number of fully glutanized diners within a certain radius of you. So I know many of us try to stay close to the home-base on weekends. But this Memorial Day Weekend I was invited by Sharna Kahn to join her Monterey Bay Gluten Free Living Support Group for a Gluten-Free Picnic. The picnic is sponsored by Rudi's GF Bread as part of their "Buns on the Run" Tour. Rudis continues to take their fabulous bus up the California Coastline on their way to Oregon and Washington. Sharna also mentioned that Pamelas was sending product. So far, Pamela's almond-based mix remains my family's favorite pancake.
And so, throwing gluten-free caution to the wind (not really), we got on the road yesterday afternoon. "Get Away Friday" they call it. It should be called: "Get out of my way you (@*&#*^%^!!!... " "Don't you know that I own the road?"
Along with millions of our new best friends we enjoyed a beautiful drive up the California Coast. And I think we all stopped in Santa Barbara for a snack. Even though Celiacs all travel with our respective big bag 'o snacks, the snack is always greener....you get it. And who wouldn't stop in Santa Barbara? It's gorgeous and Oprah's house is right next door, there might be a sighting.
Rick and I found a Chipolte with a resonable line. I've visited Chipolte in several states now and I find that their staff is always helpful - but often clueless. Like most restaurants, especially fast food stops, I believe that as long as I communicate directly to anyone touching my food, I can be safe. It is my responsibility to make sure they understand. They always listen carefully, willingly change gloves and utensils and wash hands. As I walked to the head of the line, I was prepared with my standard spiel. The server was ready to take my order. His gloved hands resting on a tall pile of large flour tortillas. And then the wild-card came into play. I went down my list waiting for the nod of recognition...nothing. "What is it, again?" "Wheat" I said patiently. "Oh, wheat. We don't have any wheat", he said smiled confidently, pumping his hands up and down on the pile of tortillas.
Really? Really? Yes, he was serious, and it went like this:
NEAC: "You are leaning on flour tortillas!"
Server: "Oh yeah, but we don't use any wheat"
NEAC: (wondering where the candid camera was hiding): "Flour is wheat!!!"
I might have been getting a little loud as just then another server stepped up, and in one quick move, she pushed Mr. Flour aside, taking off her gloves, starting to wash her hands she said that she understood completely. As he stepped off the line, Mr Flour mumbled to himself."Wow, flour is wheat. I didn't know that". Wow is right! Is there a chalk board in the back room where he can write that 500 times? But now I knew I was in good hands. My food made its way down the line.The new server communicating to each one at every station along the way. And that's the way you do it. I was very pleased with the outcome, but it could have gone very wrong. If they're going to enbrace the GF consumer, Chipolte needs to be sure every server is up to speed with what it means.
We all got back on the 101 FWY (except Oprah) and made our way to Monterey. It was after 10:00 when we arrived at PF Changs.(open til 11:00 on Fridays). As soon as the words "gluten-free and Celiac" came out of my mouth, the server never missed a beat. And as always PF Changs delivered delicious gluten-free fare. I told the manager, it's my experience, that PF Changs consistently gets a Gold Star from the Celiac community. Again, they have set the bar very high with the Monterey location.
Hope everyone has a relaxing Memorial Day. With time to remember all those who have put their lives on the line so that we can be free. And Gluten-Free too! And if you're lucky enough to be near Monterey on Sunday (5-29), stop by El Estero Park. I'll be surrounded by some of my favorite things: Rudi's GF Bread and Buns, Pamela's goodies, my laptop showing our Celiac Awareness PSAs, and like-minded GF foodies.
Disclaimer: I am not a Doctor, lawyer, rocket scientist or King. Everything on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for any diagnostic purpose. Always consult with your physician regarding your health concerns.