I don't like going out to eat as much as my husband does, but I do love to travel and traveling for any amount of time usually means eating out. Last February we took our first gluten-free trip to to Istanbul. I've always prided myself on packing ultra-light and being able to schlep my own bags on any mode of public transportation necessary so I was somewhat disheartened--I think I actually cried, silly as it seems--to have to take, what I considered, a large suitcase mostly full of rice cakes and peanut butter.
It turns out Turkey is a great place to go for gluten-free food, though. I took cards explaining my dietary restrictions in Turkish and handed them out wherever I ate. And eat I did. I ate broiled, whole, fresh-caught fish, I ate kebabs without pita, I ate simmered bean dishes. I ate badem (Turkish amaretti), lookum (Turkish delight), dried fruit, nuts, and lots of yogurt.
Dining in the U.S. is rarely as exciting. Case in point: my family and I went to an old favorite Lebanese restaurant in Washington, D.C. over the holidays. Normally the gluten-free options aren't bad: hummus, ful, stuffed grape leaves. I, however, had the flu. All I wanted was rice and OJ, which you'd think a Middle Eastern restaurant wouldn't have a problem supplying. They were out of orange juice. Not a big deal, I ordered the cranberry. But the rice? It was mixed with vermicelli. Wheat vermicelli. Sigh. I drank my dinner that night.
But D.C. does offer some fabulous gluten-free fare. Teaism, a D.C.-based tea house with three locations, does gluten-free well. Most of the food is Asian--bento box meals, ochazuke (Japanese rice and tea soup), seaweed salad, green tea ice cream--which makes it easier to find gluten-free food. But here's the clincher: on the wall near the cash register, there's a posted list of all of their dishes with columns indicating whether each dish is vegetarian, vegan, or gluten-free and how to adapt each dish, if possible (for instance, leaving out the soy sauce to make the food gluten-free).
What a great idea! I could read what was safe, instead of having to question a poor cashier who may have no idea what I'm babbling about, and the cashier could with confidence refer to the list. They even offer two versions of a classic afternoon tea. The traditional menu involves scones, crustless sandwiches, and tartlets, but the Asian menu is completely gluten free with rice balls, nori, salmon, tofu, pickles, mochi, green tea ice cream, and truffles. Yum. But remember to take your own bottle of wheat-free soy sauce...