As 2014 looms on the horizon I thought I would wax nostalgic and compile a list of my Top Five Favorites of 2013. 2013 was a great year for this Celiac and there were so many wonderful products, restaurants, airlines, and hotels that I came across – proving that living with celiac disease is always an adventure, never boring, and the gluten-free landscape continues to grow and evolve.
There are truly so many wonderful gluten-free experiences out there that it was tough to select a handful as favorites (and in no way dilutes all the other great gluten-free services I wrote about throughout the year). I chose my five favorites of 2013 based on: (1) Innovation; (2) Service Offered; (3) Awareness; and (4) Taste (in the case of a product or beverage).
I had always heard good things about Turkish Airlines service but of course wondered how they would handle gluten-free at 35,000 feet. In a word – perfectly. I tried them in September on the New York-Istanbul-Geneva-Istanbul-New York route. The gluten-free offerings were amazing with everything from grilled lamb chops to gluten-free bread. The European legs even included printed gluten-free menus which made traveling more than 10,000 miles in a single journey a treat. Not to mention their lounge in Istanbul was among the finest I have come across in my travels and had tons of gluten-free options for the weary traveler. Get the full flight details here.
As a self-proclaimed lush, I am always on the hunt for great tasting spirits and vodka is hands-down my spirit of choice. Spud is a potato-based vodka (hence its moniker) that is one of the few that come in a range of flavors. Their seasonal blends were real standouts and the taste of their vodka is smooth but more flavorful than others I regularly drink. I liken their plain vodka to a fine gin as it is wonderfully aromatic with subtle flavor notes that do not distract from its truly smooth drinkability – perfect on its own over ice. Here’s my take from October.
This was a bit like choosing a favorite child so I decided to pick three — one local, one national, and one international.
NYC: Tommy Lasagna
This was a real surprise because I am a bit of a food snob when it comes to eating Italian food out. Where Tommy Lasagna shines is with its amazing fresh homemade pastas. Fresh gluten-free pasta is often hard to find and fresh gluten-free pasta that is perfectly prepared and paired with delicious sauces is even more elusive. The restaurant also have a firm commitment to providing a safe experience for Celiacs and food-allergic diners that is truly second to none. Here’s the full review.
United States: Company Café (Dallas)
This was a standout not only because of its gluten-free menu and attention to detail but for one item that became the object of my gluten-free dreams – Chicken Fried Steak. Yes, this was the first time since my diagnosis that I was able to indulge in what was once one of my favorite guilty food pleasures. The staff at Company Café are well-trained in providing a safe experience and the food was a more modern take on classic dishes using locally-sourced ingredients.
International: Auberge de la Cergniaulaz (Switzerland)
This is a hidden gem high in the Alps outside of Montreux (over 4,200 feet to be more precise). It may be a challenge to reach but trust me, it is well worth any steps you need to take to get there. Everything is flawless from the service to the food. While not a gluten-free restaurant per se, it focuses on fresh and local ingredients that are prepared to order so it is extremely gluten-free-friendly. Truly an experience not to be missed. You can find out why exactly this restaurant rocked my world (and what I indulged in) in the food section of my Guide to the Swiss Riviera.
Fairmont Le Montreux Palace
My annual go-to hotel while in Montreux. Not only does it provide the most amazing service overall but as part of the Fairmont chain offers their Lifestyle Cuisine Plus menu that cater specifically to a range of dietary restrictions — including gluten-free. The Palace is also home to the most amazing gluten-free breakfast I have ever had anywhere in the world that is best summed-up in three words — gluten-free croissants. Explore the full gluten-free decadence. If there is a Fairmont where I am visiting anywhere in the world — you know where I will be staying. Their overall commitment to dietary restrictions is second to none.
Favorite Food Product
Grandpa’s Gluten-Free Encrusting Mix
As a lover of all things fried this mix made gluten-free breading super-easy – not to mention it tasted great. What I really liked about this mix was its versatility and the ability to bread and fry-up anything from meat to vegetables. It is one of the few that I have come across that provided consistent browning always yielding perfect results. Here’s my full review.
So, as 2013 draws to a close I am definitely looking forward to finding some new favorites in 2014. Wishing everyone a Fabulous Gluten-Free New Year. See you in 2014!