TGIF Local Lunch Post – Gluten-Free at Last! Revenge is Sweet at Annie’s.

You’ll have to find your own Ferris wheel but this midway delight is the safest ride in town if you battle gluten.

If  you see most restaurant menus as being wrapped in yellow caution tape, then you may belong to a significant part of our dining population suffering from food-related allergies.

Louisville has come a long way in education and awareness of patrons who need a little extra attentiveness and understanding when it comes to enjoying a meal.

From Apocalypse Brew Works to Zen Garden, gulten-free, vegan, and other health-issues are recognized and menus and kitchens are accommodating.

You may want to drop in on the gluten-free dining thread at Robin Garr’s Louisville Hot Bytes as well this gluten-free friendly list on Urban Spoon.

As the Kentucky State Fair comes to a close this weekend, you might be one of those adult children who remembers munching your way through the midway. This may not be part of your fair-going experience any more as you have been dealing with a number of allergies or reactions to foods.

When I first heard Annie May McGill of Annie May’s Sweet Cafe was creating some fair favorites last week, I had to  spread the word that there is a seriously delicious funnel cake for anyone who is feeling exceptionally nostalgic or just needing to hone their sweet tooth.

To get you up to speed – Annie May’s Sweet Cafe is a gluten, nut, and soy free bakery that caters to those with all food allergies – wholesale, retail, pre-order, and catering. A popular destination for sumptuous vegan items including wedding cakes and ice. cream.

The menu offerings and going the extra mile for customers is much appreciated. The food is literally a lifesaver as well as enabling the health-challenged sweet tooth to partake in the simple joys of baked goods, pastries, and more.

This Friday, Annie May steps up to the plate to share her story as well as her yummy baked goods. It’s revealing and hopefully will serve to enlighten restaurant owners and wait staff. Here’s Annie:

I cannot have gluten, corn, parsley, mushrooms, or lobster. Corn and gluten are pretty much in everything, a lot of the GF pre-packaged foods contain corn, so I make most of the stuff I eat myself. Many people with Celiac have trouble with corn, which is not as easily recognized at restaurants because that’s the go-to grain after you eliminate wheat. I get offered GF pizza all of the time, but they typically use corn meal in the crust, so I always have to pass.

I am VERY sensitive to gluten and parsley, so even if my food touched something that touched these items I will get sick. Sometimes it’s terrifying to go out to eat. You can talk to the waiter and even the chef and still get sick because someone accidentally touched something you can’t have in the process of making your food. it’s hard to trust people in other kitchens because gluten-free has become a huge fad, so they have no idea if I am truly Celiac or just someone who is trying out a diet.

Here at the bakery, we take every order seriously, because I know how terrible it is when food makes you sick. No one wants to be afraid of food, but unfortunately, that is a reality for a lot of people.

I know many people with gluten allergies and going out to eat can be a challenge for them.  I’ve put a guide to a few Louisville locations that offer gluten-free items.

I feel like I can safely eat from Grind Gourmet Burger truck, Bonefish Grill, and when I went to Buffalo Wild Wings on Shelbyville Rd., the manager came out and made me something off the menu so it would be a safe meal. I typically shop at Whole Foods and Rainbow Blossom.

One of Annie May’s most satisfied customers is Courtney Sandora. She is a mom of infant twins and owner of Louisville-based communications agency,  Go Social, specializing in social media and public relations. With two new babies and a bustling freelance business under her roof, she can’t afford an allergic reaction when dining out or ordering in.

Courtney’s story should also resonate with anyone whose lifestyle has been altered due to health issues and she also offers a few of her favorite dining establishments.

I’ve had a life threatening allergy to peanuts my entire life. If I eat one I go into anaphylactic shock. I’ve traveled all over and can say that outside the US (in London specifically) I was impressed that they actually denote which menu items are nut free by placing the initial NF next to the menu item. Much like they would Vegan or Vegetarian here. A small step but for me it makes a huge difference as I know right away what I can and can’t order.

I can also let go of some of the anxiety that surrounds eating out when I know a restaurant is conscious of allergies. I think it is important staff knows the difference between a life threatening allergy and someone who just doesn’t care for nuts, so training is key.

For Louisville, I tend to stick to cuisines that are safe for the most part as they don’t tend to use nuts – Italian (Rocky’s), Mexican (Sol Aztecas), Japanese / sushi (Sapporo). If you go to a “nice” enough restaurant (aka expensive) the waitstaff is also more attentive usually and will make sure your meal is safe. I have full faith in the staff at a restaurant like Proof on Main for example.

Chains like the new Smashburger on 4th Street also tend to be good about putting food allergens on their menus online. I think the bigger you are the more you don’t want to be sued so you take precautions. Before I go to new restaurant, I’ll visit their menu online to see if they list which items on the menu have nuts. If they have three or more items with nuts I don’t even bother going. It’s too stressful and too risky.

Facebook foodies raised their forks:
Kathy Markham: Zoe’s Kitchen has a Gluten Free menu.

Robin Garr: Not a local and not my usual stomping grounds, but PF Chang’s has a significant gluten-free section on its menu. Taco Punk offers gluten-free options. And you might browse this discussion on HotBytes.

Rick Roderick: I do not need gluten-free items, but one place that I like that offers them is Great Harvest Bread.

Cynthia M. Matthews Gonzalez: Ghyslain’s Nicoise Salad passed the GF test for me and was delicious! Taco Punk has good options. Zoe’s Kitchen Rosemary Beans are my new comfort food and their hummus rocks! Slowly the restaurants are here coming around, but you still have to be hyper-vigilant when ordering anything anywhere.

Brian Bohannon: Ramsi’s!

Dan Rhema:

Thanks for supporting local independent business here in the ‘Ville! Stir it up this weekend!