Connie’s kitchen: in search of gluten-free

GLUTEN FREE STAMP_18338414_xxlBy Connie Emmons

In preparing for a special request I found that there is a lot to learn about gluten-free foods. Not to mention the fact that the special request also became dairy-free and egg-free. The research involved can overwhelm you. The packaging on some labels are clear and concise while others are ambiguous. I found that many recipes that claim to be free of the products were also varied in the debate on butter. Luckily, there are many companies that answer questions online as to their status. This became immensely helpful in my quest to come up with a good tasting recipe that would not make the individual have any reactions other than yummy!

One of the easiest to read labels is Smart Balance buttery spreads. I looked them up on my phone while at the store to see which ones were gluten-free, egg-free and dairy-free. I had a few options in their product line. After choosing one I took my new product home. As I began to empty the container I discovered that if I had only turned them over at the store the information I needed is plainly printed on the bottom. If you need to have the information look at the bottom and save yourself search time. It was nice to see that they had taken the time to try and help answer questions but never had I thought before this to look on the bottom of the tub.

Then my brain went into a tizzy wondering how hard it would be to go out to eat especially as a family if you had special dietary restrictions. In my own restaurant, when we are notified of a special dietary restriction I personally attend to that meal alone so that there are no issues for the guest. We are in the process of compiling an allergen menu to make our guests visits less stressful.

I began calling or visiting top-rated restaurants in the area and was in for quite a shock. Many of them were unable to suggest any food items, let alone have a menu prepared for guests with allergies. A few restaurants suggested they only have grilled meats and not anything breaded.

Some were unable to give a response other than “don’t eat bread.” This lack of knowledge or perhaps compassion was astounding. The Restaurant at Buckberry Creek suggested that in our reservation we would need to request gluten-free and then the meal would be chefs choice (hoping it would be something the guest likes). Nino’s Pizzeria and Eatery and Two Brothers offer gluten-free pizza.

Then I finally found some solid responses that made me smile. Yes to gluten-free menus, not suggestive “don’t haves.” Some of these restaurants include: The Old Mill, Thai Basil, J.T. Hannah’s Kitchen, The Chop House and Holston’s. Saving the most accommodating for last was The Applewood Farmhouse. Not only a gluten-free menu, but also dairy-free and egg-free menus. They are very versed in the realm of special dietary needs and kudos to them for a job well done.

My next task was to find dinner shows that can accommodate customers with food allergies. The Grand Majestic Theater was limited to what you find on their buffet. The following list accommodate with reservation notice: Lumberjack Feud, Dixie Stampede, Hatfields & McCoys and Biblical Times Dinner Theater. So with a little planning your next visits can be less stressful and more enjoyable. Hats off to those that are working to accommodate the growing number of guests with food allergies.

(Connie Emmons is the owner and chef of the popular restaurant, Connie’s Kitchen, in Seymour, Tennessee. She appears as the frequent guest chef on Knoxville’s Channel 10’s top-rated afternoon show, Alive at Five at Four. She is also known as the creator of unusual and delicious recipes.)

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