Last year my health took a toll and I was told by medical doctors to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet due to my diagnosis.
Being gluten free at first felt like my world had been turned upside down. I always considered myself a foodie and I would eat everything and anything. I loved going to food festivals, building my vacations around where I was going to eat and experiencing top restaurants and eateries all over the world. Suddenly, I could no longer eat some of my favourite foods and dining out seemed like an insurmountable challenge.
Instead of feeling sorry for myself and pouting in a corner, I had to accept that my dietary change was for the sake of my health and future. I had to rediscover food and think of it not as the enemy,
but as a friend that I was starting to get to know all over again.
While gluten-free dining at restaurants seemed challenging at first, I quickly found it helped me make healthier and more nutritious choices. I was also surprised to find the number of restaurants on Grand Cayman that offer gluten-free options that are just as delicious as the rest of the menu.
One of my favourite restaurants on island is Jessie’s Juice Bar in Camana Bay. Besides its house-made fresh fruit and vegetable juices and smoothies, its homemade veggie flax wraps that are made daily and filled with fresh produce are gluten-free. One of my favourite items at Jessie’s was always the Avocado Tomato Toast served on marbled rye sourdough. Now I just eat this tasty dish on Jessie’s “Life Changing” flourless nut toast, which is just as divine.
Some of my guilty pleasures of the past included bread and pasta, neither of which I can eat any longer. I was pleasantly surprised to find that The Brooklyn Pizza + Pasta offered both gluten-free pizza and pasta options, served with sauces that were also sans gluten. I have learned that it’s not just the bread and pasta I have to be concerned about, but also other bonding ingredients in a dish that might contain wheat, barley and rye. The one thing I have learned is not be afraid to ask the waiter or chef if a dish is gluten-free, even if I feel it is being annoying — my health comes first!
Last month, I had another challenge — going on a special Slow Food edition of the the Flavour Tour at Camana Bay. The Flavour Tour stops at four different eateries and highlights fresh ingredients purchased at the Farmers & Artisans Market earlier on in the day. I thought I would be limited with my dining options that evening, but the reality was the complete opposite. I had a flavourful and delectable food experience and I didn’t feel as though I was missing out on anything different from the rest of the guests just because I had a gluten-free option. I started off with a tomato and mozzarella salad served with local basil and truffle honey from The Brooklyn Pizza + Pasta. It was followed by a local red snapper fish served with local bok choy and tomatoes in a green curry sauce at Mizu Asian Bistro + Bar, and then with the jerk pork tenderloin served with pumpkin purée and garden greens from Abacus. All of it was delicious and gluten-free.
Dessert is probably the one course that is the most difficult to find gluten-free options when dining out, but thankfully for me, ice cream is gluten free, so when the Flavour Tour ended with two scoops of gelato from Gelato & Co, I enjoyed it just like everyone else.
Sushi is one of my favourite foods. I can eat it any day and at any time and I especially enjoy the sushi at Taikun, located at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. In my opinion, Taikun offers some of the most amazing maki rolls, with layers of flavours unlike anything else that I’ve tried in the world. Although many Japanese dishes contain soy, which contains gluten, it doesn’t mean I can’t eat and enjoy in this cuisine. I have replaced soy sauce with tamari, a type of soy sauce that is made with no wheat. I actually prefer the flavour of tamari as it contains less sodium. While I have to stay away from everything tempura, the sushi at Taikun is so fresh and the flavour profiles of the maki rolls are such a work of art that I don’t miss having the battered options. However, I always make sure to tell my server that I am gluten-free so the chef can modify any of the sauces used containing soy.
I have found that being gluten-free isn’t about being restricted from eating delicious food; it is about taking care of my health and living a fuller, more enjoyable and wholesome life.