Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ordering Breakfast Gluten Free

This past weekend, Mike and I were up in New Hampshire with my parents. When we travel, I either eat Larabars and Coffee for breakfast or we grab some quick, cheap grub at a random diner. We had a pretty lazy weekend of hiking and hanging out so we indulged and went to breakfast all three days we were there. Each day we chose a different location to see how they handled someone needing gluten free food. I never really noticed that I had unintentionally come up with a system of how to order breakfast gluten free. This became apparent when I found myself asking the same list of questions each day. If you're out and about and need to get breakfast, but you're in an area where the restaurants have no idea what gluten is... here's my method of ordering.

Amrhein's Brunch Omelet

Most standard issue breakfast places & diners have the same things on the menu:

French Toast
Eggs, Toast, Breakfast Potatoes, Breakfast Meats

Right off the bat we can rule out the obvious, unless they have gluten free substitutions. This leaves you with a much shorter, but still workable list.

Eggs, Toast, Breakfast Potatoes, Breakfast Meats
Fresh Fruit

Here's how to order those items from a server and waitstaff that may or may not know what gluten is. Before placing your order, please make sure to tell your server that you are asking the questions below because you have a food allergy not a dietary preference. There are a lot of people out there who think people eat gluten free like people eat low carb... because it's a fad weight loss diet. Ha. If only...

1. Are they cooked in their own area or are they cooked in the same spot on the grill that they cook pancakes?
2. Are they real eggs or a mix?
You can order them scrambled, poached, over easy, sunny side up, egg white only... whatever you want.

Breakfast Potatoes:
1. Where are they cooked? In their own area of the grill or are in the same exact place as the pancakes? Or are they deep fried?
2. Are they made with just salt, pepper and a few spices?
3. Are they real potatoes or Ore Ida style hash browns from the freezer?

If they are deep fried, you probably shouldn't eat them unless they've been prepared in a dedicated gluten free fryer. A lot of places that deep fry their breakfast potatoes also deep fry onion rings, chicken fingers and other wheat flour battered items. These foods flake their coating off in the fryer and it can contaminate the potatoes.

Breakfast Meats:
This one is tricky. I've asked many a place if they knew what was in their breakfast meats or if they knew the brand of the product so I could look it up. The sad and disconcerting fact is that most places don't know where their food comes from. The bacon comes in a twenty-five pound unlabeled pack that gets delivered by the Sysco truck. Sysco is a major food supplier to restaurants, dining halls and the like. They supply so many different products that they won't even tell you which products they supply because there are so many.... Anyways, that shouldn't stop you from asking. Every once and awhile, you'll get someone that knows what they're serving or who is kind enough to show you the package and let you decide for yourself.

In my opinion, this is by far the safest and easiest thing to order gluten free at a restaurant that doesn't understand gluten free. Omelets are almost always cooked in their own pan away from potential cross contaminants. Fill your omelets with veggies and cheese for a safe and easy breakfast out. If you want to take the chance on filling it with ham, salsa or other potential gluten containing items, it's up to you. Occasionally I will throw caution to the wind and get a western omelet, (contains cut up ham), because I've honestly never come across a ham that contains gluten. I know they're out there, but I haven't found any yet.

Almost all breakfast places have fruit cups. The only thing you really need to ask is whether or not the fruit cup is made with fresh fruit or canned fruit? I learned the hard way to ask this question. Otherwise, you might wind up with canned fruit. This shouldn't be an issue... I just think it's gross.

The places we tried for breakfast in North Conway, NH this weekend were:

Potatoes are cooked on their own area of the grill. Gluten free toast available!

Potatoes are cooked on their own area of the grill. 

Bea's Cafe (50 White Mountain Highway Conway, NH)
Standard diner, not as many gluten free options, potatoes are not safe to eat. Fruit cup is made up of canned fruit. I got a plain omelet, (eggs and veggies). Make sure to ask for cheese if you want it. Cash Only.

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