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Gluten free entertaining

I have learnt that one of my guests has celiac disease. What food and wine are best?

Food and Wine World Sun, 12/29/2013 - 01:04

Once upon a time anyone with a severe dietary restriction found him or herself facing many lonely nights. It was difficult to go out to dinner with "ordinary" people. Bringing your own food and drink or sitting by and consuming nothing could lead to awkward moments.

Those days are gone. People can go gluten free and still socialize all they want.

In some ways the pendulum may have swung too far, with gluten free diets becoming just one more fad. But to those who suffer with celiac disease and must avoid it the new products available are a godsend. You can now find good gluten free substitutes for just about everything and they're very often delicious.

If you want to serve wine, you can probably serve your favorite for almost any dish. Wine itself has no gluten; you just need to be a little cautious about additives. In the case of wine, that's pretty rare.

More common are flavor additives to vodka and other hard liquor that forms part of cocktails. Scotch is fine and, somewhat surprisingly, so are certain malt whiskies. You would think the malt would contain gluten and it may have initially. But in many cases distillation makes the drink safe again for those with celiac disease.

Beer is a little trickier, but there are now so many gluten-free commercial brews on the market you should have little trouble finding something safe. Note that word "safe" rather than the phrase "safe and tasty." There are just as many mediocre brews of gluten-free beer as the regular sort, percentage wise. Considering the glass half full perspective, though, there are many good ones too. That's life. Making good beer is still a relatively rare art.

Finding gluten-free foods need be only slightly more difficult.

Pasta is usually off the menu. Still, that situation is changing fast and alternatives do exist. Rice flour has no gluten. Corn pasta is a possibility. There is pasta with a chickpea or lentil flour base, gluten free.

If you have ordered food from a caterer or restaurant, it can be tough to find a non-wheat pasta dish ready made. Fortunately, more and more caterers and restaurants are catching on to the gluten-free craze and offering them on the menu. You just need to tell in advance about gluten restrictions. That's one advantage of something becoming a fad. Entrepreneurs are constantly looking for ways to differentiate themselves. You benefit.

Once you get into other categories the options become much wider.

Many unexpected foods contain gluten, like some stock cubes or salad dressings. But all manner of fruits and vegetables that go into making soups and salads are gluten free, virtually all of them in fact. Just exercise caution to avoid those little croutons, bread, or pasta toppings; and choose a safe dressing.

When it comes to meats the selections are almost unlimited. The only tricky part is making sure they're not prepared with or accompanied by gluten-containing products. Fried chicken, for example, is sometimes coated with bread crumbs. Breaded veal is an obvious no-no. Fish is also perfectly safe, with the same caveat about add-ons. Naturally, you need to be careful of the gravy. Other than that, serve your with friends just about any meat or fish and enjoy the protein!

There's no question that watching everything you cook is an added effort. Fortunately, there's no reason why you would not be able to serve a creditable dinner while keeping your friends safe.