One of the many great things about New York City in the summertime is that we have so many food festivals — Smorgasburg, DeKalb Market, New Amsterdam Market, Hester Street Fair. If you know me in real life, then you’ve probably seen me at all of these spots before. I’ll usually try just about anything once, but now that I’m gluten-free, it’s a bit different. My thoughts are more like, “Hmm, what’s in that?” This post isn’t meant to be a guide to gluten-free street eats, but more just some thoughts. My first thought… Mexican food. My second thought… ask questions. I saw these yummy pupusas for sale at Smorgasburg the other day, and although I know they’re made with cornmeal, I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask if there was any flour. I was in luck. No flour, and this is some very yummy gluten-free food.
My next thought… Vietnamese food. Vietnamese has to be one of the most naturally gluten-free cuisines out there, and lucky for me, there seem to be a lot of vendors selling this kind of food. This was from a stand called Noodle Lane at Smorgasburg.
These summer rolls were made by a vendor called Best Summer (the folks behind Lonestar BBQ). They’re made with bits of smoky bacon and served with an addictive dipping sauce.
And here is a carton of rice vermicelli with grilled pork on top, with plenty of veggies, peanuts, toasted shallots (I think) and fish sauce from BEP Vietnamese.
I wish all Asian food was that easy but, you know, soy sauce is risky territory. I took a chance on this bbq pork from the Maharlika stand at DeKalb Market. Luckily I didn’t have a reaction, but I definitely let my eyes do the thinking. That’s too risky though — better to be smart and ask questions.
Desserts can get really tricky. My friend Emily of Nomnivorous was selling her marshmallows at the Bust magazine Craftacular, and she was quick to tell me that all but one flavor (one spiked with beer) were gluten-free.
My buddy Dan of Danny Macaroons takes it one smart step further and puts “gluten-free” right on his menu. Now that’s smart business (and very considerate).
But just because a menu doesn’t look right for you, don’t give up so quickly. Though I’m a long-time fan, I’d all but given up on Cinnamon Snail’s amazing vegan food because nearly everything they serve has wheat in some form or another (seitan, wraps, bread, pastries, you name it). Sure, it’s a truck, and it might seem like they have limited resources on the road, but I waited for the crowd to die down a bit and asked them what they could do for me. Maple-mustard tempeh served as a salad instead of a sandwich sounded perfect! So what’s the lesson of the story? I’ll say it again — ask questions. Of course you know your body best, and if you’re much more sensitive than I am and likely to have a reaction to even trace amounts of wheat, then you’re going to avoid some of these vendors altogether. But I probably don’t have to tell you that. That being said, I’m looking forward to a long summer of trying new foods at NYC’s great festivals, and I’m not going to let my dietary restrictions hold me back.