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Take your place at the table

This post appears in the Personal Touches in the Kitchen challenge.


Dining out extends beyond food on a plate. Emotions are evoked before the first dish arrives – by atmosphere, by attention to detail. Restaurant dining is a holistic sensory experience, etched on our memory, whether positive or negative.

For me, and countless others with special dietary requirements due to medical reasons, the restaurant experience extends beyond those boundaries, reaching into the realm of anxiety and even fear at times.

I’ve been met with more than one eye roll from a server when stating I have celiac disease and require a completely gluten-free diet. It’s no wonder, really, with fad-followers jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon in droves, demanding a specially prepared meal only to be “caught” digging into the bread basket before the meal ends.

For those of us with the autoimmune disease that sends our bodies into attack mode when gluten gets in, eating gluten-free is serious business.

The simplest solution is preparing meals at home, which I do as often as possible, but because travel is a large part of my work as an author, gluten-free living expert, food magazine editor, and recipe developer, there are weeks of the year when I’m in a new restaurant (or two!) daily.

When I find myself Out of the Kitchen, you can bet I focus on the details. From the servers’ reaction to my special request, to my meeting with the chef, to the way my plate looks when I receive it, I am constantly on alert for any morsel of gluten that may have made its way to my plate. The only memories I want to create while dining out are positive ones!

Although awareness is increasing regarding how a gluten-free diet is essential for those of us with celiac disease, it is always a pleasant surprise when I find myself in an establishment where the staff genuinely understands and pays attention to even the smallest details to meet my needs and sees to it that I safely enjoy my meal. Pair that with dishes of thoughtfully prepared fresh food, a great bottle of wine, and for me, those are the ingredients for a memorable food experience.

In eight years since my celiac diagnosis, I’ve learned there are hidden gems around the globe putting that special touch on food for diners with special dietary needs. Months after returning from working and exploring in Europe, my mind won’t let go of the Sunday brunch I had at a tiny Paris café where each course was prepared and presented as a masterpiece, all gluten-free, where I was given a peek into an open kitchen where the issue of cross-contamination was eliminated and each dish was explained in great detail before it was served. That experience, that food, it inspired me to create new dishes for my family at home and for my readers. My Cucumber Tomato Sprout Nests highlight the pairing of fresh mint with vine ripe cherry tomatoes, a new flavor combination for me until it was served on one of the selection of tartine during that memorable brunch.

Exciting the palate, opening the mind to new ideas, and making me feel as safe as if I were in my own kitchen at home, this is what takes dining out beyond the plate for me.

Try my new-found favorite flavor combo – tomato and fresh mint – inspired by the tartine at Thank You, My Deer café in Paris (pictured, top).

Refreshing Cucumber-Tomato Sprout Nests



1 Tablespoon olive oil

3 Tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice

2 teaspoon fresh mint, finely chopped

¼ to ½ teaspoon salt, to taste

1 cup cucumber, peeled and chopped

½ cup tomato, chopped and seeded

2 cups kale sprouts (You may also use alfalfa, pea, sunflower, etc.)


Combine oil, lime juice, salt and mint in a bowl; whisk to blend.

Add cucumber and tomato; toss gently.

Arrange ½ cup sprouts on each of 4 plates, and divide cucumber/tomato mixture evenly among the, spooning the mixture in the center of the sprout “nests”.

Makes 4 servings.

Want to meet purveyors who are making a difference with their customers? Check out BonAppetit.com’s “Out of the Kitchen”, an ongoing exploration of the relationships that build and sustain the food industry. See how hyper-local food markets operate and how their focus on quality and service keep customers coming back for more.

This is a sponsored post. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”


Read the original on: Gluten Free Gigi

Gluten Free Gigi, Gigi Stewart

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Atlanta-based Gigi Stewart is a science-backed Southern Belle with B.S. and M.A. degrees, including a degree in Behavioral Neuroscience with specialty in natural products research. Gigi’s unique fact-based approach to nutrition, combined with her personal experience living with celiac disease and multiple food allergies gives her insight into special diets nutrition and wellness that few are able to offer. A leading voice for the gluten-free, allergen-free lifestyle, Gigi is a published author, magazine editor and a featured chef for The Ingles Table. Gigi’s expertise as a professional recipe developer, nutritional advisor, science and health writer and public speaker is highly sought after in the health and nutrition community.