I have visited the better part of all European countries, and my favourite one is Italy, which gives numerous opportunities to people following gluten-free diet. However, unlike in the USA, I have never seen such a variety of products and public eating places for people suffering from gluten intolerance in whole Europe.
I would like to start my story of gluten-free lifestyle in America with supermarkets. On the very first day of my staying in the US, I went to a nearby town called Milford (Connecticut) in order to do my shopping in a food chain store «Big Y». There I found everything from organic gluten- and dairy-free hot-dogs to a wide variety of gluten- and dairy-free ice-cream, yogurts and, of course, vegan cheese. I discovered that one could always get something gluten-free to grab a bite even in some small corner shops. However, even in New York City the food choice in such places is likely to be limited to only a couple of gluten-free packets of biscuits, granola and chocolate bars.
«Guido’s», a large supermarket of organic food located in Great Barrington (Massachusetts), was my favorite one among similar others. The shelves there were piled with gluten-free food: from different kinds of flour to maraschino cherries and preserved artichokes. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to drop into some gluten-free specialized shops. But next time I would really like to visit «G-Free NYC», one of the most famous New York City supermarkets.
What I’d like to mention is that I managed to order some gluten-free food from iherb.com, amazon.com and vitacost.com to the place of my staying beforehand, and the latter web-site had the widest range of gluten-free products. Nonetheless, judging by my own experience, supermarkets in the Northern part of the USA offer far more gluten-free options if compared with online-shops. All in all, examining food prices in the US, I arrived at the conclusion that organic food (for instance, meat, vegetables, etc.) is quite cheaper there than, say, in St.-Petersburg (Russia).
And now let us pass to restaurants… What I’d like to warn you about in case you happen to be in the Northern part of America is that restaurant food there is usually too expensive and tastes awful (New York City is the only exception). Service leaves much to be desired as well. In Russia, or in some other countries, I feel much safer when ordering a simple steak (to avoid gluten ingestion). In the US the thing is that no matter how hard you try to explain to a waiter the kind of a steak you want, you’ll never get it. And you’ll end up eating it «well done» instead of the desired «medium raw». This is exactly what happened to me three times in a row. The steaks were definitely overdone and for this reason absolutely tasteless.
Restaurant dishes in the US mostly resemble homemade ones, and cooks themselves seem to overestimate their abilities. But Americans are not very particular about what they eat. They regard their own time as the most precious thing, and for this reason they’re more apt to eat out or order takeaways rather than cook at home. Furthermore, here’s a noteworthy fact: complaining about the dish that was served to you is absolutely alien to American culture, and on the contrary, praising the cook and leaving generous tips sound more typical of Americans.
It should be pointed out as well that Americans is a quite cold-resistant nation: a cold tiled floor at home doesn’t prevent them from walking barefoot, they carelessly go out right after having taken shower, thinly-clad, with wet hair regardless of subzero temperatures. They’ve been used to having all their drinks iced since the early childhood, and for this reason every other restaurant and cafe offers you only iced water. I visited dozens of such places, and again no matter how hard I tried to get some lukewarm water, they would always bring me it right out of the fridge.
In the Southern part of the country the situation is a little better: plenty of restaurants serve well-cooked fresh seafood dishes, and one in five places offers a gluten-free menu, like in Charleston (South Carolina), for example. Domestic tourism is highly developed in the US; in the south restaurant business competition is much tougher than in the north, that, in fact, underlies better quality of service.
In Charleston it was a chain restaurant «Mellow mushroom» that became my favorite one. There they offer their visitors special pizza cooked on a gluten-, dairy- and eggs-free base and a good choice of vegan pizza toppings. The restaurant’s staff claims that all their cooks are specially trained to provide the purity of gluten-free ingredients. Before cooking they wash their hands, put on clean gloves and an apron. All the kitchenware is used for cooking only gluten-free dishes. Gluten-free pizza is made in a separate zone in order to avoid any possible gluten contact.
Turning to gluten-free specialized shops, I ought to say that they were found in New York City mostly. Actually, a note on this very city deserves a different publishing, which I’ve already been working on. So, I hope «Gluten-free guide to New York City» will be posted before long. There you’ll be introduced a whole list of gluten-free public eating places I’ve visited.
What concerns gluten-free pastry shops, there are plenty of them all over the States. Every gluten-free cafe provides vegan options as well. However, if you just drop by without making a preorder, then the choice of dairy- and eggs-free sweets may be quite limited, but still you’ll be able to get something to eat. I didn’t succeed in finding such cafes in Charleston, but while staying in the North, I went around to a gluten-free bakery «Swoon» located in Danbury (Connecticut), and “Tu-lu’s” in New York City.
I wish you all safe and nice gluten-free journeys! I’ll be glad to get your feedback.