Thursday, July 11, 2013

oregonian options: a gluten free guide to traveling and eating in oregon

It's easier to find gluten free options in a large city, but what about when you're on the go, road tripping? We had some hits and misses while traveling.

After Portland, we headed to the beach. We found a restaurant in Tillamook (Pacific Restaurant) via the Find Me Gluten Free app, and decided to try it out. Typically, I call a restaurant ahead of time to confirm they have gluten free options, ask about possible corn free options, and to ask what precautions they take to keep cross contamination to a minimum. In this case, though, we didn't have signal and were not able to call ahead.

The restaurant was easy to find, and when we walked in, I asked all of my questions to the busboy. He was not positive of the answers and went to ask the chefs (always a good sign in my book - asking the chef means they are taking me seriously). He came back a few minutes later and said that there were some options that would be safe for me, so we got a table and a menu.

Our server, on the other hand, did not take the same care and consideration. She tried to convince me that the fish and chips were gluten free since they were rice flour, and then argued with me when I mentioned that cooking them in the same oil vat as regular food means there will be cross contamination. She acted as if I were the highest maintenance person in the world when I asked her to check and see if their salad dressing contained any corn syrup, and if it had not been for the busboy who already had answered my original questions, I would have gotten up and left right then.

Luckily they had a few things that were truly gluten/corn free. I ordered clams in a cream sauce with a small side salad. While these were not nearly as filling as a regular meal would have been, I was grateful to be able to eat anything there without getting sick. The clams and sauce were delicious, but the salad was sparse and the dressing (small containers with olive oil and vinegar) left much to be desired. If you are visiting Tillamook and are eating at Pacific Restaurant, I recommend speaking to a chef personally to make sure the food you are ordering is truly gluten free and is not cooked in the same oil or on the same pan as gluten containing food.

During our stay at the beach, I only ate the food I had brought with me, purchased at the Whole Foods in Portland and the Fred Meyer in Tillamook. Traveling back to Reno, though, we had to stop a few times along the way. Before we left, I researched restaurants within a hundred miles of where we had planned to stop for lunch. After talking on the phone with all three, Thai Bistro in Medford seemed like the best bet. The woman on the phone said they handled people with food allergies all the time and it wouldn't be a problem to make my food gluten free.

We arrived and were at the halfway point between Portland and Reno. We were glad to have a place to stop for a while, and walking inside, it smelled delicious! I went through my spiel with the server, and as nice as she was, she (like the server at Pacific Restaurant) just didn't seem to understand the effect of cross contamination. After stressing that my food had to be prepared on clean surfaces and with sanitized utensils, she asked me if I wanted to get a side salad from the salad bar. I explained that I could not eat from the salad bar because other people may have touched the tongs to their food and contaminated them, and she looked at me like I was crazy.

Honestly, this should set off warning bells in my head, but I had had such good luck so far that I figured it was just me being paranoid.

The food was delicious and well-priced. I got pad thai and chicken satay. It hit me the next day, though, and I was sorry that I hadn't listened to my gut and opted out of eating. There was definitely not gluten IN my meal, because the effects would have been much worse, but there was cross contamination that was bad enough to cause a panic attack, migraine, nausea, and a plethora of other symptoms.

If you are only gluten sensitive, I highly recommend Thai Bistro because of the price and great tasting food, but if you are anywhere near as sensitive as I am to cross contamination, I'd steer clear!

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