First of all, thanks to Triumph Dining for sending us out some review copies (please see our new disclosure policy). I have to say that during the time I’ve worked on this blog, I’ve gotten used to thinking of the gluten-free community as being very grassroots. There are a lot of people with small businesses and I think that I get used to having to go to a lot of different places to get all the information I want about a particular topic. So for me it was almost overwhelming to get these three items in the mail and open them up.
Triumph Dining publishes The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide, The Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide, and The Gluten-Free Restaurant Rescue Pack. The book titles are self-explanatory. The “rescue pack” is a set of cards you can give waiters or waitresses at restaurants that explain gluten-free cooking in very clear language.
The Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide
Sienna and I tend to travel a lot and one of our favorite things to do when we travel is eat. (Actually, I don’t need to be traveling to love eating, but that’s another story.) The Triumph Dining Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide is a listing of over 5000 restaurants in all 50 states. As of this writing, the guide is in its fourth edition and it shows. It’s exactly 500 pages long.
Basic information about each restaurant is given:
- What kind of restaurant (American, Seafood, Thai, etc.)
- Pricing ($, $$, $$$)
- What meals they are open for
- Web address, if available
- Address and phone number
- Notes (call ahead, dedicated or not, alert your server, gluten-free pizza crusts, etc.)
- GF menu or no GF menu
Restaurants are split into four groups depending on whether or not they have a gluten-free menu and whether or not they are a chain. The listings also have icons to designate the following:
- Gluten-free menu available
- Gluten-free specialty items available (beer, pasta, etc)
- Dedicated gluten-free establishment
- Chain Restaurant with a gluten-free menu
One thing that I’ve seen in other guides like this and that is missing here is driving directions from local highways. This makes it really easy to find your way to the establishment if you’re driving through a town or city.
At the end of the gluten-free guide is a section of lists and menus of 80 national and regional chains. Almost all of these have notes as well. Some of the notes are quite extensive and informative on their own. The real jewel in the crown of this book, however, is the first few chapters. These contain very helpful information about how to best deal with restaurants and waiters. Besides giving tips on how to convey information in a way that people will understand, the authors also talk about building short and long term relationships with restaurants.
The Gluten-Free Grocery Guide
This aims to be a guide that you can carry along with you to the grocery store so that you can look things up to see if they’re gluten-free or not. It is in its second edition and covers over 1,000 brands and 30,000 products.
The front section begins with an index, and continues with an introduction, a section of tips for grocery shopping, an overview of food labeling laws, and information on how best to use the guide. The guide itself is broken up into sections like most grocery stores are. So there’s a produce section, a baking supply section, a soup section, etc. At first I didn’t understand this way of organizing the book. I thought that there should be a master index at the end of the book where you could look something up. I still kind of think that there should be something like that.
However, I decided to test the book and thought of a couple of different things I might want to look up as if I were in a grocery store with the book in hand. I was able to find tamales very quickly (Prepared Meals, Trader Joe’s, Tamales, Chicken Tamales). And likewise, canned pears were easy (Canned Goods, Fruit). Bacon was just as easy (Meat, Bacon). Though I’m sure that sooner or later I would be able to stump the book, it does seem to be organized well.
The book ends with a list of common ingredients so you can see what is safe and what isn’t. The list looked pretty complete to me.
Although it’s an impressive book, I feel a lot more excited about the restaurant guide. Once you get used to reading ingredient lists and looking for all the different indicators for wheat, I think you get pretty good at it. A book like this would end up being a great supplement for people who, after reading a label, still find themselves unsure, or people who would rather consult a book than a list of ingredients.
The Gluten-Free Dining Cards
These cards are in English on one side and in other languages on the back. There are ten cards and the languages covered are: English, Chinese, French, Greek, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Thai, and Vietnamese. As I mentioned earlier, the cards lay everything out very clearly. They are broken out into three topics: I Cannot Eat, Please Check, and I Can Eat. I think the I Can Eat section is an especially great idea because often times at restaurants, when a waiter or chef is presented with a food allergy limitation, it’s like they suddenly get amnesia and can’t think of anything they could ever feed you. Most people really want to be helpful and are happy when given some advice about what would work along with being told what won’t. At the end of each card there’s a nice “Thank You” and a box with instructions about cross-contamination. The cards are awesome. I definitely plan to have one on hand when we go to Italy in September.
We are simply stunned at the amount of information and level of organization of these guides. They are very high quality and provide a lot of helpful insight and advice on how to be gluten-free. The information is organized in a thoughtful manner and helpful icons are sprinkled throughout each book. Although we’re kind of on the fence about the Essential Gluten-Free Grocery Guide, we’re unabashedly excited about the Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide and the Gluten-Free Restaurant Rescue Card Pack. (Later Note: We are giving away these Gluten-Free Guides here. Enter to win!)
We want to know: Have you used either of these guides? Can you think of any uses for them that I missed? Let us know in the comments!
Times we have visited: n/a
Overall rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Price compared to “regular”: n/a
Final note: We find it a little uncomfortable to be advertising a product that we’ve reviewed, but we really think we gave Triumph Dining a fair review.